[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 389
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: M (L2 N0 S0 V3 D0)
Warnings: Canon-typical violence
Notes: The battle continues, and Cullen earns a scar that will stay with him a long while.
"Does he have an off switch?" Bethany asked Cormac, tipping her head at Anders. "Or should I give him a nap?" Assuming the spell would take hold this time, which was always iffy where Anders and Justice were concerned.
But before she finished speaking, Carver ran up to them with Merrill in his arms, his face almost as pale as hers. "Anders can wait," he snapped. "I need potions."
"Shit." Cormac sighed and dropped the barrier around Anders. Without the statues, he didn’t need it. Rolling up his sleeve, Cormac plunged his hand back into the flames surrounding Anders and extracted another potion bottle from his bag. The glass was warm, but not hot. The fire, on the other hand, had done away with most of the hair on Cormac’s arm.
"Here," he said, offering the bottle to Carver, and then realising he was going to have to do this, himself. "Just keep an eye on Commander Crazy, over there."
Cormac dribbled the potion down Merrill’s throat, while Carver shifted from foot to foot, impatiently, not watching Meredith at all. The pool of bronze had discovered the lay of the courtyard, and was now migrating toward lower terrain, which was, thankfully, away from where they were standing, but toward another group of templars, who scattered toward higher ground. Finally, after most of the potion, Merrill coughed and swatted at Cormac’s hand.
Behind him, the fire went out, and Anders lit up in blue, before collapsing into a heap, and thankfully not landing on the bag of potions. There weren’t many left, and without the healer… No, there weren’t any left. The rest of those were lyrium, Cormac realised, as they rolled out of the bag.
Down two mages, Carver thought, and looked his brother right in the eye. "We’re going to die, aren’t we?"
Cormac shrugged, expressively.
Over her shoulder, Bethany watched Meredith focus on her sword, more sparks skipping off the blade, but at least she was out of statues.
Back in the courtyard, Tranquil stepped over rivers of bronze to carry Anders out of the open, bringing him back to his makeshift clinic where bruised templars and an unhappy Sebastian waited. "Just set him down, there," Marlein said when the Tranquil looked to the templars for instructions. "Gently." Then she exchanged a helpless look with Keran, unsure what to do for him from there.
Nearby, Cullen counted them, compared the list of wounded with the list of those still standing, all while waiting for Meredith’s next attack, which would be a long time coming, judging from the look of concentration on her face. Samson was still up, as was Ruvena, albeit a little singed, and Carver was unharmed, if preoccupied. Marlein’s shield arm was out of commission, and so was Keran’s armour. The rest of his templars were out of the battle, and Cullen tried to keep the desperation off his face. How had one woman wreaked this much destruction?
Anton squeezed his arm. "We’ll get through this," he said. "We’ve been through stranger things." Stranger, not worse. "All part of being a Hawke, really."
"And that’s only counting the times you caused trouble by peeing on the wrong things," Cullen replied. Hawkes. The Hawkes were still standing, at least, which meant they were still a force to be reckoned with.
Then the ground shook, stones sliding and stopping, but the heavy way Artemis leaned against his column said he had no more magic to give. On the platform, Meredith grit her teeth.
Cormac made use of the pain from his burns to do away with them. Sort of. It wasn’t a very good job, but he just didn’t have the concentration for this shit, right now. "Artie? Bethy? Tell me you’re all right!" he called out, one eye on where Meredith strained against… the barrier, he thought, but that wasn’t right. The leaved tops of the pillars creaked, but nothing more tore loose.
"All’s well!" Bethany shouted from somewhere not immediately visible.
Artie lifted his head from where his cheek rested against stone. "There’s still dried puke on my shoes!" was his answer. A pause, and then, "Fenris says he’s fine too, thanks for asking."
"I figured you’d be screaming bloody murder if he wasn’t!" Cormac laughed, grabbing Anders’s bag and running across the courtyard. He’d get the last of the lyrium potions to the mages they had left, and then drop the barrier. Something had to be able to get through Meredith’s… whatever that was. The best chance they had was probably still Fenris, but after what happened the last time, that would take some doing.
That train of thought stopped cold as a smite whipped across the courtyard, and Meredith let herself out of the barrier.
Cormac ran harder, as templars surged past him, going the other way. "Keep her distracted! I think there’s someone who can get through!"
Fenris smiled awkwardly up from the ground, as Cormac approached. "Someone?"
"You look like shit," Cormac said, handing a lyrium potion to Artemis, even as he looked Fenris over. "Can you do it? I can get you close enough."
Fenris shrugged, gamely.
The sound of metal on metal rang out as hammers and swords collided with Meredith and did little damage. She seemed almost invincible, eyes glowing red, and the dull red glow that simmered just below the surface of her skin. Aveline’s shield slammed into Meredith’s face several times, providing an opening for several strikes, but none seemed to actually break skin.
"Keep hitting her!" Isabela insisted, slamming a hammer into Meredith’s back, like a battering ram, and driving her forward a few steps. "It’s magic, and magic gives out, if you just keep hitting it."
"Magic?" Samson looked up, gobsmacked, and took a backhand to the face. "But she’s a templar! That’s ridiculous!" he complained, staggering back and trying to get his balance again.
"Have you ever seen anything that wasn’t a mage do that?" Isabela asked, still trying to trip Meredith.
"No, but I’ve seen my brother do it an awful lot," Anton put in, dagger squealing across what should’ve been the skin of Meredith’s cheek.
"This is insanity," Cullen muttered before raising his voice. "Do you hear that, Meredith? You profess the evils of magic, and now you’re using magic!"
The barest hesitation in her next swing told Cullen she’d heard him, but then she pivoted, sword cutting the air where Anton had been a moment before. "These mages have poisoned your mind, Cullen," she said, burning eyes spotting Anton. "This mage. Are you a mage too, like the others?" she asked Anton. "Or did they call on demons for you?"
Anton barked a laugh at that. Him, a mage? She truly was insane. "The only magic I have is in my winning smile." He bent back, the sword missing his nose by inches. "You’ve never been one for jokes, have you?"
Cullen’s sword struck her back and glanced off, and Meredith turned on him with a snarl. Three swings of her sword jarred his in rapid succession, herding him back until Aveline cut in with her shield, catching the red sword… and promptly breaking her arm, watching her shield split in half under the blow. Anton pulled her out of the way as she swore at the Maker, eyes wide and streaming. He started to call for a healer before biting off the request.
Fenris managed not to stumble as he made his way across the courtyard, the sword in his hand heavier and the ground at a different angle than they should be. Behind him, Artemis knocked back his potion, worry a cold grip on his stomach as he watched his husband.
"Stay behind them, Fenris," Cormac warned. "I’ll get you in." He whistled loudly, and when Bethany looked over, he lobbed the bag of lyrium potions in her direction, keeping one for himself. "Pinpoint hexes!" he called, and she nodded.
Fenris paused, looking sick and dizzy as he got closer to the battle. Whatever was wrong with that sword, with this magic, was that much worse, this close to Meredith.
Cormac downed the potion he’d held on to and raised a shield for Fenris. "My hands are free. Take my arm. Leave the sword — it’s not going to help you if you can’t lift it, and you know you don’t need it. One shot, straight through."
Breathing deeply, Fenris forced himself to embrace the fade, and promptly vomited again, though almost nothing came out. He clung to Cormac’s arm, retching.
"Shit. I’m saying that a lot, today," Cormac muttered, changing his grip and sweeping Fenris into his arms. "New plan! Don’t stop hitting!" He turned and ran back toward Artemis, as Fenris continued to retch weakly in his arms.
Meredith stopped moving, again, tilting her head back, fearlessly, as she tried to call upon some greater horror. Blades still skipped off her, but Samson landed a blow that put a tiny scratch in her armour, like someone had scraped it with a fork.
"It’s going down!" he crowed, swinging again and again, minuscule nicks appearing every several hits.
But, it didn’t last. As Meredith realised more help wasn’t coming, she turned back to her sword for defence, beating back the horde of templars, her defences once again solid.
"Fen…" Artemis took Fenris from his brother, eyes wide with concern as the elf shuddered in his arms, racked with more dry heaves. This was the part where Artie usually called Anders, but even if Anders were around to help, Artie wasn’t sure he could. "Shit. Let’s sit you back down. Breathe." Panicking was for later, he told himself. Panicking was for when Meredith was dead.
"Meredith… I can…" Fenris croaked out between heaving breaths as Artemis set him down, leaning him back against a column.
"If the rest of that sentence is ‘pee on her corpse once our small army has disposed of her’, then yes, you can." Artie offered him a tight smile and, still kneeling by Fenris, turned back to his brother. "This needs to end. And soon." Ignoring the burning numbness in his fingers, Artemis cast, throwing more stone and lightning that bounced off her. He didn’t quite bite back his growl of frustration, not with Fenris shaking and sickly next to him.
A blow from Meredith’s blade was like a hammer’s, which Samson found out the hard way, bent double over the dent in his plate shaped like her sword. And that? That was going to bruise.
"Meredith!" Cullen roared. She turned, and at that angle, his sword should have pierced her eye. Instead it glanced off, as expected, but she still shut her eyes on instinct. A punch from his pommel sent her staggering back.
Unfortunately, that blow left an opening, high, and Meredith swung back around, blade slipping in above Cullen’s elbow. Anton yanked his husband back, but the glowing red edge still cleaved through Cullen’s lip with enough force to wedge a space between his teeth. Cullen fell back, howling, tears in his eyes dried from the hot wind of the lyrium blade’s passing, as Anton lunged in, trying to shove a dagger up under Meredith’s chin.
Her head tipped back, but he couldn’t pierce the skin. "I will not be defeated!" Meredith roared. "Maker aid your humble servant!"
The sword lit brighter, red light spilling from it, as she heaved it up, with both hands, shoving Anton back with her clenched fists. But, what came next was obviously not what she had expected, to judge from the screams — it wasn’t what any of them expected. Meredith dropped to her knees, that same red crackling across her skin as if she were taken by some corruption of Justice, until she glowed with it, her eyes alone enough to light the ragged team of rogues and templars before her. And slowly, the stone crept in from her fingertips, blackening her flesh as it passed, that red glow still winding through it, as if she were a statue carved from the edges of a red lyrium vein. Finally, the screaming died out, but the light did not.
"Don’t touch her!" Carver called out. "She’s turned into that shit! It’s still dangerous!"
"He’s not joking," Bethany filled in, sitting slowly on the steps. "What that sword did to her, she’ll do to any of you. We’ll need to get the Merchants’ Guild to move her."
Cullen still struggled to catch his breath, blood running freely down his chin.