[ Master Post ]
Title: Assing it Up – Chapter 27
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Artemis Hawke ♂, some Kirkwall mages
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Discussion of ‘smacking darkspawn into other darkspawn’ and other magical talents
Notes: Gossip from the Gallows and other magical conversation.
The assortment of cakes and sweets was surrounded by an equally broad assortment of mages, all snatching little slices of this and bits of that, like gulls after a shipwreck. One of them waved Artie over. "Hey, you were a free mage! Did you get to eat stuff like this, all the time?"
The mage draped over the top of one of the kegs, with a cup in one hand and a slice of something obviously marchpane and orange in the other hand snorted loudly. "He’d weigh a double sack, if that were true."
Another mage lit fires in the palm of her hand to lightly brown gummy wads of fluffed sugar and almond before eating them. "Don’t be stupid, Gilroy. You’d be sick to death long before that happened."
Artemis chuckled at the display but still felt compelled to rearrange the sweets now that they’d been poked at. He allowed himself to neaten two rows before picking up what looked like a small lemon cake. "I didn’t get to eat this stuff all the time," he answered. "Sometimes, on feastdays or our namedays dad would get us something sweet. Usually, though, my older brother would sneak me treats from Maker knows where." He wondered what Cormac was up to at this very moment and hoped he was safe. Or at least not pissing off the locals. "I… suppose you wouldn’t have much by way of cake and confections in the tower, would you?"
Gilroy stuffed his face with marchpane, chewing loudly before answering. "More examples of Meredith’s cruelty," he said dramatically. "So. Free mage. What’s your name? I see you around the building sites, but you’re usually with that dwarf and poking at drawings."
"Hawke, right?" said the woman before Artie could answer. When he nodded, she nudged Gilroy with her elbow. "You knew that, you idiot!"
"Artemis, really. Most people call me Artie." He shrugged, still holding a piece of cake and wondering if it would be rude to eat it whole in front of them.
"Some kind of nobleman, right?" Sheena asked. "Your… dad is the viscount?"
"His brother," corrected a yet-unnamed mage, around a mouthful of chocolate cake. "Murray," he introduced himself, pointing at himself with one sticky finger, between bites of cake.
"And what is with your amazing snarly elf bodyguard?" Gilroy asked. "Maker, what do you pay that guy? What do you feed him?"
Murray swallowed. "That’s his husband, you idiot. That’s something else free mages get to do — get married."
"No, that’s ridiculous," Gilroy scoffed, studying Artemis. "He’s kidding, right? You’re not allowed to actually marry elves, are you?"
"Or mages…" Sheena sounded as startled as she looked.
"The… snarly elf is very much my husband," Artemis replied, still awkwardly holding his cake. They made him think of Anders, of what he had once said about love and mages, and it made his stomach twist with guilt. He could have easily been one of them. "So… yes, we are allowed. That includes you, now, you realise." He assumed. If not, Artie was going to need to have a word with Cullen. Or at least with his brother who would have a word with Cullen.
Gilroy paused in his chewing, gaze turning inward. Then he smacked Sheena’s arm to get her attention. "Hear that, Sheena? Wanna get married?"
"Not to you, I don’t," Sheena said, reaching for another sweet. Gilroy shrugged at Artie as if to say ‘I tried.’
Artemis finally took that as his cue to eat his cake, only for Murray to address him again as he chewed.
"So you’ve never been part of a circle, right?" Murray asked, to which Artie hummed. "How’d you learn to do all that then?" With a jut of his chin, he indicated the construction site. "You flattened everything like it was nothing! Just… one gesture and fwoomp." He cut both hands before him to illustrate said flattening. "That was incredible."
It took Artie a moment to remember to swallow his cake. "It… what do you mean?"
"That power!" Gilroy enthused, before stuffing more marchpane and jam in his mouth.
"What he said," Murray agreed. "I mean, it’s Kirkwall. Force is a speciality around here. We can all move furniture or books, but that’s… I’ve never seen anyone do that. It’s intense. I’m really kind of impressed."
"There’s some clerical stuff from Starkhaven that I picked up from Alain," Sheena said, after a moment. "The force in that is tiny and precise. You can sort paper with it. On the other end, there’s people like… well, us, really. We can move blocks and assemble them according to the plans, but that’s still not… You move a block, that’s maybe two or three sack weight. It’s not that much. I can lift about one and a half, which is part of why those arches go so fast. But, you’re levelling the ground. You’re hitting an enormous area with enough force to compress the earth until it stops shifting. I heard it takes days to do that by hand, for even one building."
Artemis listened, quiet and disquieted. The cake felt thick against the back of his throat, and he washed it down with beer before letting himself say anything. Force mages. He’d known they were all force mages, like him, but less like him than he’d thought. Thanks to his father, he knew other force mages had better control, but his father’s magic had had no less strength behind it.
"And that is… a… desired trait?" The three mages looked at him like he was daft, and Artie ran a hand through his hair, tugging at the ends. "See, I can’t do that clerical work. I can’t lift those blocks. Or, I suppose I should say, I can lift them and move them, just… not always in the direction I want or as, er, gently as I want. There is nothing gentle in my magic."
Artie gestured helplessly at the new building Natia had been inspecting earlier. "Look at that stonework. Look at how precise and neat it is. I can’t… Maker, I can’t tell you how many times I accidentally sent my brother through the wall, back when we were sharing a room. I’ve knocked over statues, broken furniture. I’ve… um." It occurred to Artie that they didn’t need to hear his life story, and he intercepted more words with more beer.
"You can work on that, you know," Sheena offered, eyebrows raised.
"Yeah, maybe that’s not something you get outside the tower, but there’s all kinds of stuff they make us do to learn precision and control." Gilroy nodded and grabbed something chocolate coated. He couldn’t work out what it was, at a glance, but into his mouth it went. "I had to learn to dance flame up and down my arm."
"Those stupid ice bobbles," Murray muttered, and Sheena groaned.
"The ice was terrible. You know they had me do a series of dragons for my final test, before I could have my Harrowing? Dragons! Ten of them! Made of ice no bigger than my fist!" Sheena shook her head. "Still, it’s possible. I heard there was someone on our floor who had to light an entire chandelier with individual lightning strikes for each candle."
"Do you have any elemental skills, or is that something else they don’t teach outside the tower?" Gilroy asked, still trying to identify the filling of the sweet he’d eaten.
"A bit of stone and lightning," Artie replied with a shrug. "Primal magic." He tried to picture lighting just one candle with a lightning spell and bit back his hysterical laughter at the thought. "Mostly stone. I generally, uh… throw it around."
Gilroy hummed, licking the last of his sweet’s filling from his teeth before speaking. "But you can summon it too? And shape it?"
Artie nodded. "I summon it, shape it into a projectile, and then throw it around."
Sheena guffawed and slapped Murray’s hand away from the tart she’d been reaching for. "Well, at least you’re consistent. Either way, remind me not to piss you off. But — Artie, right? — have you ever tried just summoning and shaping it? Not so much throwing as holding?"
With a wave of his hand, Artie cast, pulling sheets of rock from the ground and the air, assembling them around him like a shield. "A… friend taught me this. Or something similar."
Murray eyed the rocks and nodded. "Rock armour. So, your go-tos have to do with repelling and protecting? Okay. I think I see the issue. You learned how to fight with magic, not how to control it."
Artemis blinked at them, letting the rock slip back away into nothing. "Do you not?"
"Oh sure we do," Gilroy cut in. "There’s quite a bit of that, but we’re in a tower. Not much space to throw things around in. We more learn how to fight in theory."
"I see." Artie moved around them to get to the barrel, filling his mug again. Last drink, he told himself. Limits. "We — my siblings and I — learned more than theory fairly early."
"Siblings? There’s more than one mage in your family?" Murray’s eyes rounded. "And you fought things together?"
Gilroy finally sat up. "Wait, wait, you’re from Ferelden, aren’t you. That accent… Did you learn to fight in the Blight? Did you fight darkspawn?"
"Andraste’s flaming knickers," Sheena breathed, the tart hanging loosely from her fingers. "No wonder you’re … different. You’d need that kind of power."
Artemis was glad he’d refilled his drink. "Four siblings, two of them mages, plus an apostate father," he answered. Just the mention of darkspawn made the air seem colder, and Artie rubbed at his arm. "We lived in Lothering, before it burned. My non-magey idiot of a little brother — the one who isn’t viscount — went to Ostagar, and I… followed. To keep him out of trouble, but also because I thought, you know, what’s the point of having magic like this if I can’t use it to smack darkspawn into other darkspawn?" His smile was too wide to be genuine.
"Smacking darkspawn into other darkspawn. And now we know how the Blight was defeated," Murray joked, trying to tilt the keg Gilroy was sitting on enough to get another drink out of it. "Is that how the Hero of Ferelden defeated the Archdemon, I wonder, by bludgeoning it with ogres? I heard she was a mage, too, from that tower in the lake, down there."
"Don’t be an idiot, Murray," Gilroy laughed. "It was some weird warden ritual about sacrificing a baby. I heard that’s why the King’s brother abdicated."
"What Twaddle and Horsefeathers, over here, mean is that you should probably try shaping stone, if you want to get good at something other than throwing it at things. It doesn’t have to be anything really detailed, first. Maybe just help out the stonecarvers with basic shapes, first, and then try making stone armour that looks like armour. I mean, nobody’s expecting you to do this, on your first try," she said, drawing ice out of the air in delicate swirls like a painted ocean on the side of an Orlesian cake. "But, with the power you’ve got, if you could control it, you’d… Tevinter might have cause for concern."
"And then you’d be smacking magisters into other magisters," Gilroy offered with a grin, rolling a ball of flame down his arm, without lighting his sleeve on fire, to catch it in his hand.
Artie glanced back at his husband, still deep in conversation with Varania and Paivel. He rather liked the sound of that. "As opposed to smacking the one magister into a wall," he said with an innocent smile between sips. "Happened. At my wedding. But that’s… an interesting thought. Dad was really more focused on teaching me to turn my magic off, when needed, than finesse. On the run from templars, with three mage kids, that was more of a priority."
"It will take time," Sheena assured him. "You’ll get frustrated and possibly throw a few rocks through a few walls, but it works. Hey, who knows, maybe you have a hidden talent as a sculptor! You could have garden ornaments for the elves."
Artemis didn’t want to know what sort of garden ornaments Theron would go for. And then Artie considered lining their own garden with naked sculptures of Fenris and decided this might be a worthy pursuit. "You have given me much to think about," he said.
"You’ve given us a few things to think about, too… A wedding!" Gilroy looked giddy at the idea.
"A wedding at which a magister was apparently smacked into a wall," Murray pointed out. "Any tips for smacking people into walls in ways that really make a difference?"
"Gentlemen, we have cake," Sheena pointed out. "And money. And that means we could go back to town and buy more cakes. Or that salad with the pickled olives that everyone talks about in those old Tevinter books."