[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 394
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Anders ♂, Fenris ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂, Cullen ♂, Anton Hawke ♂, Aveline ♀, Isabela ♀, Zevran Arainai ♂, Cormac Hawke ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: A bunch of mouthy sods yapping, get the box of tissues now
Notes: Anders checks on Fenris. Cullen brings word to the people of the changes soon to pass. Some mages decide not to stick around, after all.
"Congratulations!" Anders cheerfully proclaimed. "You’re not dead!"
Leaning back on fluffed-up pillows, Fenris’s already sour expression only tightened further at this pronouncement. "I can see why your skills as a healer are so widely praised," he drawled. "But, now that we have established that I am not dead or in immediate danger of becoming dead, am I allowed to leave the house? Or at least this bed…"
And that was a first for Fenris, complaining because his mage wanted him in bed all day, but he might complain less if Artemis had wanted him there for their usual… activities.
"Can you stand without throwing up over my shoes?" Artemis asked him without any pity. "I don’t know about Anders, but that is my standard of measure." He loomed over the bed, arms folded.
Fenris dragged himself out of the bed, looking dazed and dizzy as he clung to one of the bedposts. His stomach, at least, seemed not to disagree with the idea nearly as much as his head.
"Give it a moment," Anders said, quietly, watching Fenris slowly catch his breath and his balance. "You’ve been lying down for a couple of days. You’re going to be a little wobbly. How are you feeling, besides that?"
"Angry," Fenris muttered. "Barely a scratch, and then days in bed."
"Barely a scratch with a red lyrium blade. You know what that stuff did to Varric’s brother, and he didn’t have any other lyrium already in his system. I think you just overdosed for a little while." Anders looked over the lyrium lines on Fenris’s arms. "You might also want to take off the runes for a little while, just to give your skin a rest. That much electricity isn’t doing you any favours, if you’re sick with something else. I just don’t want your body to start trying to reject the lyrium because it’s sparking — or, to choose the wrong lyrium to reject, really, if any of that’s still in you."
Fenris considered the pain he’d borne for years. It wouldn’t be pleasant, but he could handle it for a few days. "If you think it will help…"
"I’m afraid of what might happen, if you don’t, and I won’t be here to help you." And Anders did look afraid — fear, grief, and regret writ large upon his face.
Fenris paused in the middle of unstrapping one cuff and looked past Anders to his husband. Artemis looked sad, terribly sad, but not surprised. Fenris supposed he wasn’t surprised either. "You’re leaving," he said, throwing the cuff to the bed and starting on the next one. Already something shifted in the lyrium, and after years of barely noticing the current running through his lines, he noticed its absence now in the ache in his fingers.
Anders hummed, his smile not reaching his eyes. "Funny thing," he said. "When you blow up a Chantry, some people get upset. I thought it best to leave before said upset people showed up at my door. Your family’s door."
"Probably for the best," said Artie. "They probably wouldn’t knock and end up walking in on something emotionally scarring." The joke was a weak one to match his smile. He ducked his head, tried to straighten the rug with his toes. "I, um… And speaking of my family and doors… Cormac?"
"He won’t go without your permission," Anders said with a shrug. "I know him. I don’t really want to do that to him."
"You don’t want to leave without him." Fenris pointed out the obvious.
"And the two of you don’t want to come with me. That’s not a question, not an offer, it’s a statement. I know where I’m going, and it’s not somewhere you want to be." Anders’s hands closed, at his sides, his eyes still on the furniture rather than either of the men in front of him. "So, that’s up to you, Artie. I don’t want to take him away from you. The two of you…" Anders smiled sadly. "Besides, who’s going to take care of my cats, while I’m away?"
Artie’s throat was tight, but he forced an unhappy laugh through it, turning away to hide the way his eyes were brimming. His brother. He had three brothers but only one Cormac, and Artemis had never stopped to picture what life without him would be like. He’d never had to. "He doesn’t need my ‘permission’," Artemis finally said, addressing Anders over his shoulder. "You shouldn’t go alone, and he’s good about making sure you eat and sleep and do all those things mortals do."
Artemis wanted to offer to go with them anyway. Fenris, he knew, would go where he went, but they had a life here now. They had a home, and there was too much rebuilding to do. And he would be sure they’d rebuild it the right way.
Fenris wobbled his way over to his husband and wrapped an arm around him. His mage, at least, was better than a cane at propping him up. To Anders, Fenris asked, "Did you just bequeath us your cats?"
"I… Well… I suppose if Artemis is going to grant me the extended loan of his brother, the least I could do was return something else fuzzy and cuddly," Anders joked, voice still a little flat, words still a little hollow. "He needs to hear you say it, Artie. And I promise you, we’ll send word every time we stop long enough to find a messenger. You might not know our names, but you’ll know us. Once we have somewhere it’s safe to bring someone, we’ll write. I’d really like it if you’d visit. It won’t be forever, but it’ll be a few years — need to wait until my face gets smeary in everyone’s memory, before I show up here, again."
"And why would we visit you?" Fenris teased, the corner of his mouth quirking up.
"I give it six months, and you’ll miss Justice."
There were more people than Cullen expected. Which was good, he reasoned. He wanted his message to carry, and for that to happen, it had to be heard. For the moment, however, he wished it didn’t have to be heard by quite so many people. The Lowtown market was brimming by the time Cullen took his place on the steps, the glint of his armour catching their attention, and the thought occurred to him that the market may not have been the best idea after all, what with the proximity of vegetables that could be thrown at him if this went poorly.
"Good citizens of Kirkwall," he began, pausing to clear his throat when his voice cracked on the last syllable. He caught his husband’s eye and tried again. "Good citizens of Kirkwall, if I could have a moment of your time. Please."
The ‘good citizens of Kirkwall’, it seemed, were a rowdier lot than an amphitheatre full of mages, but the crowd soon quieted enough to listen.
"Thank you," Cullen said. "I am Knight-Captain Cullen — er. Knight-Commander Cullen, now. Technically. It’s going to take a while to get used to saying that." A weak laugh followed that no one shared in.
"Where’s that dwarf?" someone in the crowd asked. "He said this was going to be good!"
"Maker, Varric, don’t get everyone’s hopes up!" Aveline shouted from the side of the impromptu stage.
The crowd laughed, then, and below them, tens of mages filed out of Darktown into the Docks, all headed down to one ship. Dockhands turned away from the solemn procession — they saw nothing, heard nothing, if anyone asked, but the taverns would be full of whispers by nightfall. The captain waited at the end of the pier, counting heads and calling instructions up to her crew. Most of the mages had come with nearly nothing, but two sat on the edge of a cart of baggage, waiting for the others to finish boarding, hoods pulled low, whispering to each other. They kept looking up the pier, obviously waiting for something else, as well.
"Anyway this… this is a time for change, for this city," Cullen went on, glancing nervously around, and wondering if he wouldn’t be better off getting on that ship, too.
"Gee, Commander, you think?" a woman shouted from the middle of the crowd.
"I do." Cullen finally had a focus. He could talk to her, but very loudly. "The City of Emerius was built by Tevinter for the purpose of dealing in slaves from Ferelden — not that it was Ferelden, then. A million slaves were kept in this city, at the height of the Imperium, and hundreds were sacrificed each year for blood magic rites that were built into the stones of the city." He knew this, because Cormac had explained it, complete with diagrams and maps, after they’d fought that demon, together. After they’d found the body of the last researcher to have pursued that line of study.
"Didn’t realise we were here for a history lesson," shouted the woman’s friend, but Cullen went on.
"This city was built on bloody foundations," he said. "Even if we cannot see those foundations from where we stand, we know they’re still there beneath us. The literal foundations, the stone under our feet and under Darktown, cannot be uprooted without destroying the city as a whole. But those other foundations, the foundations for our history, our way of life, a history of oppression and injustice… those we can uproot. Those we should uproot.
"Since I have come to Kirkwall, every day I have been a witness to and, I am ashamed to admit, complicit in another great injustice. As templars, we swear our lives to the Maker’s will, and we have been entrusted with a sacred duty. That sacred duty is to protect the Maker’s children, which is what we all are, men and women, nobles and peasants, templars and mages."
On the pier, mages elbowed each other and smiled up at the sun, struggling to believe they’d been granted this freedom. For many, it was the first time in memory they’d seen the sea or even the city. Many stopped to ask questions, crowding around the captain, heads full of wild stories from books. She assured them all that she was a real pirate queen, and she had ‘underground contacts’ in every city along the coast — surely enough to get them a fair start, wherever they wanted to go. And she had questions, too — did anyone know how to call the winds? They could go much faster, if that was so. And maybe, just maybe, if they wanted to stay, she could find a place for a few of them on the crew.
And still, the two hooded mages sat and waited, ignoring the shock and the glares of the others who passed them, at the sight of the two of them together, holding hands, a head rested on the other’s shoulder. These were not things mages were meant to have.
Finally, two noblemen, to judge by their clothes, appeared at the end of the pier, looking around as if they were lost, and the mages stared. Was the shorter one really an elf? Dressed like that? One of the hooded mages, the tall one, whistled and waved.
"You know this is the same shite the Chantry always said, for all the good they didn’t do," someone else called out.
"The Chantry has fallen under the weight of its failure," Cullen announced. He wasn’t really sure how he felt about the whole thing with the Chantry — actually, he didn’t much like it at all — but listening to Bethany and Anton explain the corruption that Sebastian had uncovered, he was hesitant to speak too well of what the Chantry had been up to, in recent years. "And it is up to the Revered Mothers to see to its repair and the repair of the faith of the people of Kirkwall, myself included, but all of you, most of all. And it is the duty of the Templar Order to guard this city from magical threats — from demons and mages of ill intent. But, it is not our duty to patrol the streets, or to invade the homes of the people of Kirkwall. It is not our duty to disrupt the lives of those who do not threaten others with magic. It is the duty of the City Guard, under the leadership of the dedicated Captain Aveline, to see to criminal disturbances of the usual sort. And if you see any of my men behaving poorly — if you are afraid to report them to me — go to the guard. Aveline has shown a particular fondness for packing up poorly-behaved templars, just as she would any other threat to the people of Kirkwall."
At the edge of the crowd, Cullen found Aveline by her red hair and armour, and the smile she gave him was both approving and terrifying. Seneschal Bran stood next to her, just as red-haired if less terrifying, and he tipped his head at Cullen to continue.
"Just as it is not our right to police your streets, it is not our right to insinuate ourselves into your politics… no matter how much you need a viscount, which you all know we do and badly."
The pair of noblemen caught up with the hooded mages, and the taller noble — the human noble — paused in front of the shorter mage, his stare as intense and aching as it was indecipherable to those around. Soft words passed his lips, and then the noble pulled the mage into a hug, knuckles white where they bunched in fabric.
"And so," Cullen went on, "in our quest for a new viscount, we must look to Seneschal Bran." He held an arm out in Bran’s direction, only to be met with a look of alarm and a frantic head-shake from the seneschal. "…by which, he wants me to remind you, I mean he will help organise an election."
Murmurs of confusion rippled through the crowd.
Down on the docks, the teasing and kissing went on until all the mages had boarded the ship and the cart of baggage had been loaded, leaving the captain to interrupt. From the deck, a golden-haired elf called down something filthy and Antivan to the taller noble, and the elven noble offered him a single finger in reply. The taller mage called up a crackling spell on the tips of his fingers and traced it along the white lines on the elven noble’s chin, a sad smile crossing his face. The shorter mage produced a small bouquet of flowers from the back of his belt and pressed them into the hands of the noble he’d been kissing. His eyes brimmed with tears as he forced himself to let go of the sleeve of that gold-embroidered shirt. Starkhaven strawberry blossoms and impatiens said most of what he meant, and after one final, longing kiss, the two hooded mages clasped hands and boarded the ship, leaving nothing behind but flowers and promises. And two very hungry cats.
"I put to you that the City of Kirkwall has been maintained at the whims of its conquerors for too long! You are the people who were born here, the people who will likely live here until you die, and pass this city to your children. You are the heart of Kirkwall, and it is time for the city to care for you! This was once a very important place, it is still one of the most important ports on the Waking Sea, and it is up to you, the people, to bring back the greatness of Kirkwall — this time without slavery, without demons. And if you are having demon problems, that is what the Templar Order is here to help with." Cullen looked out across the crowd. "Most of all, what I am doing here, today, is apologising for the mistakes of my predecessor and giving the City of Kirkwall back to its people!"