May 022016

[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 385
Co-Conspirator: TumblrMaverikLoki
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Carver Hawke , Cullen , Varric , Isabela , Aveline , Anton Hawke , Cormac Hawke , Artemis Hawke , Anders , Fenris ,  Ella , Keran , Ser Marlein , Merrill , Samson , Bethany Hawke ,  Sebastian , Nathaniel Howe ,  Meredith Stannard
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V2 D0)
Warnings: Canon-typical violence
Notes: The battle begins in earnest, one woman holding her own against many, secure in her arrogance.

Carver paled and whipped open a door, running down the stairs behind it without another word. His brothers followed in hot pursuit, and they came out onto the courtyard, where Meredith and Bethany circled each other like caged tigers. Meredith's sword painted their face and the stones with a red light, but Carver was just relieved to not see that sword sticking out of Bethany from any angle.

Behind Bethany, Nathaniel had his bow drawn, one foot still on Sebastian's chest.

"That's quite a sword," Bethany was saying, her voice carrying. For all her poise, Carver could hear the nervousness in her voice, something he almost never heard from his sister. "Extremely… red. The craftsman who made it must be incredibly skilled." Her spear darted for Meredith's face, and the red sword she was complimenting knocked it aside before making a similar jab for Bethany's face, which Bethy sidestepped. Meredith was toying with her, taking her measure. "Did you say it was lyrium? I thought lyrium only came in blue?"

"You don't recognise it, do you?" Meredith asked, holding the sword in front of her as though there weren't two weapons pointed at her face. And more at her back as the rest of the Hawkes and their entourage joined her. "Pure red lyrium, taken from the Deep Roads. The dwarf charged a great deal for his prize." She looked at it the way most mothers looked at their children.

"The idol?" Bethany asked, feigning surprise. "It seems a lot more sword-like than I remember."

"Commander," Cullen called out, as he came down the stairs, "this is too far. This woman has done everything in her power to ensure as few people died, today, as could be managed."

"I will not allow insubordination!" Meredith roared, turning on him. "Particularly from you, Captain! Have you forgotten everything that led you into that title? Have you forgotten what it feels like to turn away from our path, in a moment of weakness? This mage dies with all the rest! I want her dead!"

"Enough! This is not what the Order stands for. Knight-Commander, step down. I relieve you of your command!" Cullen's chin lifted, his shoulders squared.

"My own knight-captain falls prey to the influence of blood magic. All these children of Malcolm Hawke, and you brought me none of them. And now we know why." Meredith gestured at the gathered templars, with her sword, and Bethany rubbed her fingers together, waiting for the magic to return, after the last smite. "You're all weak, allowing the mages to control your minds. To turn you against me! But, I don't need any of you. I will protect this city myself!"

"You'll have to go through me," Cullen replied, raising his sword.

"Idiot boy. Just like all the others," Meredith hissed.

"I don't know," Isabela said, shifting her weight and twirling her daggers. "I've known a lot of idiot boys in my time. I think Cullen's got a bit more than that! I mean, he got Anton for keeps, didn't he? No stupid child could've managed that."

"The lady has a point," Anton said, pointing at her with the hilt of one dagger.

"She's clearly lost her mind," Anders said with a shake of his head. "Meredith, that is. Not Isabela. Well, a bit Isabela."

"Blondie, you'd be an expert on that, wouldn't you?" Varric cocked Bianca with a heavy clank.

Even with a small army against her, Meredith didn't flinch, didn't balk, didn't falter. Turning her blade over, she stabbed it into the ground, red lightning crackling off of her and off of the sword. With the ground sizzling, Meredith incanted a line from the Chant: "Blessed are those who stand before the corrupt and the wicked and do not falter!"

She wrenched the sword out of the ground with one hand as though it were nothing and sprang at the group in front of her, her sword sparking as it swung at Bethany's chest. Bethany brought up her spear and tensed to dodge, but Artie's spell hit before Meredith did, knocking her skidding back along the stones… as well as a few friendly templars. He expected the smite when it landed.

"Fuck." At least he got in one hit.

"Hawkes," Meredith spat, using her sword to lever herself back up. "I should have thrown your family into the harbour when you arrived!"

"Mages, back," Cullen said, motioning Artie and Bethany behind him. "Try to get out of her line of fire."

"You know, Warden, feel free to start doing that creepy glowing shit any time now," Samson muttered to Anders, stepping up next to Cullen.

Nathaniel decided this was enough posturing and politicking, for the day. He'd done his share back in Amaranthine, and he was probably going to have to do some more in Weisshaupt, when all this was over, but right now, he was going to make this over. He took aim and loosed an arrow.

His aim was spectacular, and the arrow splintered into bits instead of plunging into Meredith's eye, shards of wood raining down from the now extremely angry Knight-Commander's face.

"Justice? Now would be a really good time to pay back some favours!" he called out.

"Let me up!" Sebastian demanded. "I am not going to die because some idiot Arl's son was too busy posturing to dodge!"

"If I could trust you to act like an adult, Vael, I'd have you at my back already. But, I can't. So you'll have to settle for they'll have to kill me, before they get to you." Nathaniel really wasn't sure, any more, what, if anything he could be doing.

Cullen and Cormac held back Meredith's first attempt to rush the archer, Cormac tripping her onto Cullen's blade, with his glaive. Meredith, however, seemed little worse than breathless for the blows, and she came back up swinging.

"Bethy? A little help?" Cormac called.

"I can't get a grip on her!" Bethany sounded frustrated, but followed with a hail of hexes.

"Then allow me," Fenris growled. His tattoos glowed in blue counterpoint to Meredith's red sword as he leapt in, swinging. Her sword caught his, and there was something dissonant in the way they connected, in the screech of metal on lyrium. Their fight was brutal, a dance of blades, and Varric muttered a curse as he aimed. The damn elf kept getting in the way.

On a backswing, Fenris's hilt caught on Meredith's chin, snapping her head back, and Fenris seized the opportunity to reach for her chest… But she recovered sooner than anticipated, twisting away from his hand, and Fenris barely side-stepped in time to avoid a sword-shaped hole in his lung. Instead the red blade clipped him along the ribs, cutting through leather to draw blood.

The pain wasn't sharp, not in the way Fenris knew sword wounds to be. Instead it was gnawing, like acid, and it chewed its way along flickering lyrium lines. The ground rocked, and his vision narrowed, but Fenris saw the blade coming for him again. He managed to deflect the blow as he staggered back, but Aveline's shield caught the next one as Fenris's stomach heaved.

Meredith sneered. "You will all pay for your—" A stone fist slammed into her nose and shut her up.

"Just shut the fuck up," said Fenris's mage as he wrapped an arm around Fenris's waist, dragging him back and leaning him up against a column, out of sight of Meredith's rage. "Anders! You busy?" Artemis called out as Fenris threw up over his shoes.

Anders slammed down a bolt of lightning on Meredith, none too thrilled to watch it curve around her even as some of it obviously struck. She jerked nearly hard enough to drop the sword, but it stayed in her hand. "What the fuck? Cormac? Has she got a barrier rune in that tiara or something?"

He looked over his shoulder at where Artie was vomit-spattered, and holding up a sickly-looking Fenris. Healing, first, he thought, gesturing in their direction, and then maybe something for the nausea? He couldn't tell what had happened — the ring around Meredith was a constantly shifting mass of plate and blades, with an occasional opening for a polearm or a shot from Varric. Nate had stopped shooting after that first, and Sebastian was still down. With Artie out, that cut down on the likelihood of poor aim causing too many injuries on their side. No, all the had to worry about was what that sword would do to whatever it touched.

The sword. Fenris. Anders ran across the courtyard, still raining his wrath on Meredith, as he went.

Another bolt of lightning slammed against Meredith's crown, and Anton slipped in behind her, trying to slip a dagger between plates. He knew how this armour went together. He'd taken it off Cullen enough times. The blade slipped in, blood poured out, and then the pommel of that glowing blade took him right in the eye.

As Anton reeled back, cursing and clutching his eye, Meredith staggered back, catching herself on one knee. For the barest moment, Cullen thought she might surrender, but then she looked up at him with glowing red eyes. "Maker," she prayed, pushing herself back up, "your servant begs you for the strength to defeat this evil!"

More lightning crackled around her, but it wasn't from the mages. As Carver drew back his sword for a finishing blow, she leapt up, straight up, in a way that should not have been physically possible. She flew — and flew really was the only word for it — over their heads, soaring in an arc until she landed with a slam on the platform across the courtyard.

"Maker's breath."

Slack-jawed, Cullen barely had the presence of mind to press a potion into Anton's hand, and, still choking out pained sounds between his teeth, Anton finally opened his uninjured eye to see what had garnered that reaction. He blinked at the empty patch of stone where Meredith had been. "Where did she go?" he asked before pulling out the cork with his teeth.

"Here I am, defending mages in a hopeless battle," Fenris choked out, before he threw up one more time. "You lead me to strange places, Amatus. And you, too, ab— h—" He paused, leaning against the column, and looked up at Anders. "Anders."

Artemis held Fenris upright, one hand rubbing his back. "I'll take you to stranger places than this," he said with a soft if despairing smile. "Just watch."

"A tempting offer." Fenris smirked and closed his eyes, resting his head against the pillar. "I might take you up on it, if we survive."

"Sit down, Fenris," Anders suggested. "Artie, you got enough in you to do the rock trick? Because now is the time for that. Keep you both safe — at least keep him safe until we get this sorted out."

Cormac extracted himself from the wall of people gaping at Meredith, and made his way over to Anders. "Hey, before I forget… In case I don't get the chance…" He pulled something out of his pouch and hung it around Anders's neck. "I don't think this says what I meant it to, when I got it. Tevinter. The Chantry… What I mean is Andraste was a mage, and the revolution's come again."

Anders squinted at the medallion around his neck. "That is… really sparkly." He shot a look at Fenris.

"Yeah, well… I couldn't think of a more appropriate gift than the shiny, compressed remains of my mother's murderer. I … I did that while you were… While we were… I was talking to Cullen. About the Tower in Ferelden. That happened." Cormac put his arms around Anders. "Part of my family. Don't you forget it. And don't you dare die on me, do you hear me?"

"Me? Don't be ridiculous. I couldn't die if I wanted to — trust me. I'd know." Anders pressed a kiss to the top of Cormac's head and reached out to pull Artie over. "Don't you die. Either of you. Fenris, I'm pretty sure, is going to be all right, as long as you get those rocks up. But, the two of you… You have shields, but she has smite. Don't make me have to put your insides back in."

Artie responded with a weak laugh. Past his brother, he could see Meredith lighting up the far half of the courtyard, running red lightning up the statues flanking the stairs. Not even the templars dared approach her. "The one time was enough for me, thanks," he said. He stretched out his fingers, and sheets of rock appeared out of nowhere, overlapping until they formed a shield. With a hand on his jacket, his new jacket, Artemis pulled Anders down to kiss his cheek. "Thank you. I don't know if I've said that often enough, but you've been a good friend, you know."

Then Artie's stare dropped to Cormac, and he tried to say something pithy, something flippant to hide just how terribly frightened he was, and not for himself. Instead of words, he stacked the shield high enough to hide them and pulled him into a desperate kiss, burying his hands in Cormac's hair, wrapping arms around his neck. Artie kissed him until he was breathless and then pulled back to press their foreheads together. "If you die, I'll kill you."

"Then I'd definitely be dead," Cormac joked. "I live for you. I would die for you. I'd really rather not, but… Better me than you. I was born to finish the work Dad couldn't start, because he was too busy teaching us to do it. So, I guess I'd better get started, huh? That demon was right, though, you know. I'd do almost anything to make the world safe for you to live in. I love you. I'm yours. Always, no matter what comes." He cleared his throat. "Please don't die, Artie. You know I'd follow you down. Couldn't send you off on a journey like that, alone."

"Ah, you two may want to start paying attention again, sometime soon…" Anders looked a bit pale, as he turned back from looking around the edge of the stone shield. "I'm pretty sure there's a statue over there that just blinked."

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