nagia: (da2; adder; built this city)
YOUR CHILDREN DESERVE LEXCORP JETPACKS ([personal profile] nagia) wrote in [community profile] terzarima2011-03-22 09:30 pm

Dragon Age 2; Rated M; "The Dreams Where You Fall" [2/???]

Title: The Dreams Where You Fall
Fandom/Pairing: Dragon Age 2; f!Hawke/Fenris
Rating: ESRB Rating of M for Mature
Summary: They built this city on rock and roll. And now it's crumbling in the face of heathens, fanatics, and serial killers.
Notes: Details of Qunari language are totally made up self-revealed extrapolations. Please take with a grain of salt (but seriously, qamek, saar-qamek, I am smelling a connection here...)
Notes the second: Original summary was "They built this city on rock and roll. Too bad the Qunari want them all off the lawn."
WARNING: Spoilers for Act 2 abound. Seriously. Abound.

The Dreams Where You Fall
one: courtesy and grace

The first thing that always caught Adder's attention about the Viscount's office was the windows. Not the books, the decadent-looking upholstery, the desk strewn with papers — the desk that could be hers, easily, if she wanted it, if she worked at it — but the windows.

Sunlight streamed in through them. She could taste sky through the glass, even across the room.

The Keep was a good place to work Elemental magic.

"—not meant to permanent," Seneschal Bran was saying. "There are concerns the Qunari influence is... no longer contained."

Adder fought to keep from snorting. Contained? It hadn't been contained in three years, if it ever had. Just thinking of Saemus proved that!

The Viscount shook his head. "Was it ever? Kirkwall has tension enough between Templar and mage, but these Qunari..."

Adder half-tuned him out. City was a tinderbox, the Qunari were driving everyone crazy, they danced on the edge of the abyss. She'd heard it all before.

"Nearly four years I have stood between fanatics!" The Viscout actually sounded ready to tear out his hair, if he'd had any. "And now this."

Adder rolled her eyes. "Don't keep us in suspense."

But Marlowe Dumar was on a roll: "Meredith at my throat, Orsino at my heels, and a city running scared of heretical giants."

Adder closed her eyes, took in a deep breath, and did not start listing the ways in which he could settle the Meredith/Orsino dispute once and for all. She also didn't threaten to lose patience and shove her staff where he really didn't want it. That last took great restraint; the first only took thinking about Anders.

"Balance has held because the Qunari ask for nothing. Even the space in Lowtown was a gift to contain them."

She filed that away. We don't like you, we don't want you roaming around our city, you heretical giants you... so have a nasty, fish-smelling compound right by the ocean? Made sense, if a terrible sort.

Dumar finally looked over at her. He finally stopped pacing, too, which was nice. The man was wound tight as one of Bianca's strings.

"But now the Arishok has requested you." Dumar paused to let that sink in. "By name. What have you done to gain such influence above your station?"

Adder looked inward for a moment. Better to taste the sunlight and the sky, to feel the potential to transfigure one so she could pull lightning from the other. Far better to do that than point out that she was probably the only human who'd bothered with the Qunari in the past almost-four years.

She shrugged. "I can't help it if I make an impression."

That had her sent from the room with the instruction to "give the Arishok what he needs to keep the peace." Peace-keeping sounded more like Aveline's job than her own.

But there was no denying the Viscount. Not without even more money and position to hide behind. Her mother was a rich and returned Amell, but Adder was simply a well-to-do Fereldan refugee.

She couldn't afford to keep any illusions about her station.

Speaking of station! If she was going to speak to the Arishok she'd need people. Fenris had been helpful the last time she'd dealt with the Qunari. But then, taking him along was a given.

He'd been there, in the Deep Roads. Seen her at her worst. And he'd stayed.

But who else could... Aveline. Peace-keeping was her job, after all.

Adder veered away from the great doors, turning sharply back the way she'd come.

She was lucky enough to find Aveline in her office. She was unlucky enough to find Aveline in her office, arguing with one of her guardsmen.

Adder leaned against the door, listening in. Whatever it was, Seneschal Bran had his smallclothes in a twist about it. Then again, when didn't Seneschal Bran have his smallclothes in a twist?

"And here's where we come to the problem with second-hand sources," Varric sighs. "I don't know exactly what was said. I know they didn't argue. I know they were friendly enough that Aveline offered her something else, later."

Cassandra raises an eyebrow.

"Not like that, Seeker. A... case, I guess you'd call it. Aveline called it work, but Hawke never thought of it like that."

"She never saw herself as employed?"

Varric snorts. "She was stinking rich and Aveline was a friend. Hell, Aveline was an honorary Hawke. She saw it as a favor, if anything."

"What can you tell me about that conversation, then?"

Ah, rapid topic switchbacks; another thing he loves about the Seeker. He's pretty sure this is how she makes sure people tell the truth.

"I know she and Adder discussed the difficulties of guarding this fool city from itself. And I know Aveline tried to requisition a Templar."

Cassandra makes a horrified noise. It doesn't surprise Varric; Aveline was right about the Chantry being too busy babysitting eternity to aid the people. Probably the reason neither Aveline nor Hawke ever had much use for it.

Well, Hawke made it a point not to set foot in any Chantry she didn't have to. Her life depended on it.

"Yes, terrible, I know. But Aveline thought it was a good idea at the time. It might even have been. Nothing ever came of it, though."


Varric shook his head. "Hawke got us all together and met with the Arishok."

"You were with them?"

"I was there for every meeting in the Compound, except the last. We were her go-to people, you see. After Carver."

"Then tell me what happened next."

Hawke walked into the Qunari compound. She walked slowly, deliberately, with her head held high. Her pride wouldn't let her do otherwise.

What pride she had left, anyway.

She stopped at the bottom of the stairs. The Arishok was already on his throne. She'd kept him waiting, apparently.

"Serah Hawke."

"Yes?" She couldn't keep the smile away, inadvisable as smiling around the Arishok probably was.

Behind her, Fenris's breath hissed. She snuck a look back at him, but he was expressionless. Whatever warning he'd been about to give, he'd decided against it.

The Arishok ignored her smile, her distraction. "Last we met, I did not know your name. Did not care to."

This would be a bad place to make a joke.

The Arishok talked over any joke she might have made: "You have changed your fortune over the years. The Qunari have not."

After three years, their ship still hadn't come in? It was just begging for a pun. She kept quiet. The Arishok might have shown a sense of humor, before, but he didn't seem in high spirits today.

"I offer a courtsey, Hawke. Someone has stolen what he thinks is the formula for gaatlok. You will want to hunt him."

Well, that explained the bad mood. "Excuse me, but this sounds like quite the feat."

Fenris drew in a sharp breath again. The tattoos pulsed once, as if he expected the Arishok to order a rain of spears. One did not compliment the Qunari's enemies or annoyances to the Arishok's face.

Silence from the dais. Loud, weighty, terrifying silence. Adder wondered just how badly she'd stepped in it.

The Arishok held his tongue until just after she thought the quiet would cut.

"It was allowed," he growled. "The stolen formula was a decoy. Saar-qamek — a poison gas, not explosives."

Allowed. She'd thought this was funny, the Qunari unable to protect their own resources. She'd thought this was sad, the Qunari forced into a horrible-smelling seaside ramble of shacks.

But they'd allowed the recipe for a poison gas to be stolen, probably by some idiot.

She opened her mouth. Behind her, she could hear Aveline's plate mail clink as the guard captain stood up straighter. Seemed they both wanted to give this man a talking-to.

But the Arishok went on talking. "A small amount is dangerous enough to your kind. But if made in quantity, perhaps by someone intending to sell it..."

"That merchant!" She turned to Varric.

"Javaris," he supplied.

"Would he be cautious, or would he assume success and make enough to threaten a district?"

A frightening question. One she knew the dismaying answer to. Whatever the Qunari's fault in this, she had to find Javaris.

"A courtesy, Hawke," the Arishok said, smooth as butter. "You will want to hunt him."

Hunt him? She'd do more than hunt him. The thought of this city's sky, so perfect for calling lightning from, filled with some Qunari poison gas... the thought of another slum, suffocated in its daily life, from the white-bearded old men to the tiniest infants —

The chokedamp was tragic enough. Saar-qamek couldn't be allowed.

"Varric! Any idea where we can find Javaris?"

Varric stroked his chin. "I heard about a sell-off of merchant territories and such. They don't do that unless someone left in a hurry." He paused. "But I'd have figured he rooked a noble. He's not the burgling type."

"Just tell me where he is!"

"I haven't kept up on the squirt," Varric snapped back. "Ask the Coterie."

Adder felt her fists clench. She hadn't saved Bethany. She'd been too late for Olivia, too late for Ninette, hadn't been able to save Ketojan.

She hadn't stopped Bartrand. She hadn't saved Carver.

She wasn't going to fail this time.

"Panahedan, Hawke. It will be interesting to see if you die."

Her pace was less deliberate and measured when she left the compound. More like stomping.

"So it was guilt that motivated her?"

Varric sighs. "No, Seeker, we've been over this. It's a connection, but it's not the connection you're looking for."

"Then what drove her?"

"Equal parts guilty reparations, stubbornness, and a sense of responsibility for that town. She saw a chokedamp tragedy in the first year after the Deep Roads." Varric shakes his head. "If we'd known what we were really dealing with... no, we'd have stayed. We'd have kept at it regardless. We were the only people who could have."

"Your arrogance is remarkable," Cassandra says. "What is a chokedamp?"

"Nasty, often fatal gas sometimes leaked up from deep in the mines. It kills whole slums, sometimes."

"And witnessing this...?"

"Shook her. They never had anything like that in Lothering. She was reading everything she could get her hands on about the mines for weeks, questioning people." He has to laugh, looking back on it now. "She wanted to know if there were warning signs. She never wanted to see it again."

"But she did? In this saar-qamek fiasco?"

"Saar-qamek is worse than any chokedamp. Fenris warned us, but no path is darker, you know?"

Cassandra folds her arms across her chest.

And Varric tells the Seeker even more, like Shahrazad spinning her thousand and one tales.

MacTir always barked three times when someone was at the door. But his bark changed: gruff, angry at strangers and Gamlen, but excited for her mother and the friends she'd made these last three years.

Naturally, the instant MacTir started to bark, Sandal began to imitate him. At the tops of his considerable lungs, too. Adder put a hand to her head, fighting off the impending headache.

There had to be a way to get in touch with the Coterie without either getting suckered into even more craziness —

Or stepping on Athenril's toes. Athenril made noises, every now and again, about how much Adder owed her for keeping the magic quiet. All through that first year, until she'd finally made it out to the Deep Roads, Athenril had paid the bribes.

If she managed to piss Athenril off, there was no telling what she'd do.

Maker's breath, it could get even worse than that. If Athenril got wind that she was looking for something, the smuggler might see profit in it. Might give chase herself. If Javaris or his notes or his trail fooled her, she'd get her hands on saar-qamek and try to use it like gaatlok.

Sweet Maker, what a rat's nest.

There had to be a way around the Athenril problem. She'd find it! Or she would if she could only think past the racket downstairs.

"How do you stand it, I wonder?"

Adder's head snapped up. Fenris was leaning against the doorframe. He had an unopened bottle of wine in one hand.

"Massive amounts of that," she said, nodding at the bottle.

The barking and imitated barking finally quieted down. There was yet another ruckus as MacTir barrelled around the main room, while Sandal followed.

Adder groaned and laid her head against the desk.

Fenris stepped more fully into the room. He chanced another look back down the stairs. His lips curved up, but then he looked back to her and seemed to grow more serious.

He moved toward her. Prowled, really; everything about Fenris was wary, paranoid grace. He stopped just far away enough to lean against her desk.

"Hawke," he said. The word was just a bare breath in the sudden quiet.

His presence by her desk made her lift her head again. He had his back to her bed, thankfully; she'd thrown off the covers and pulled down the curtains in her search for old journals. Any leverage on the Coterie she had would be there.

"And you'd been doing so well at calling me Adder," she joked, but his eyes narrowed an instant before widening again.

He looked so sad, all of a sudden. She couldn't tell if the lines on his chin exaggerated that, or if he truly was that sad.


He shifted, looked away. First he looked at the window, then at the door. As if he wanted to be anywhere but her room. Maybe he even wanted to be anywhere but her house.

"Why don't we go down to the study?" She laughed, tried to throw a little evil in. "Unless you're afraid to venture deeper into the lair?"

That earned her a quick flash of a smile.

He relaxed a bit once they were downstairs, and even more when she was pouring his wine into two glasses.

"You know, I usually have to pry you out of your mansion. What are you doing in mine?"

"The saar-qamek," he said, accepting a glass. "I... Should tell you what I know."

She returned to one of her chairs, motioned for him to sit. It was the wine she'd just sipped that brought a flush to her cheeks. Clearly. Not the line of his cheekbone caught in the firelight, or the way he managed to hold a glass despite the clawed gauntlets.

"I'd assumed it would be like... like the chokedamp, turned into a weapon."

"Eventually." He looked down, into his glass. "It doesn't start that way."

She scoffed. "What, is it sweet smelling?"

"To some. Everyone reacts to qamek differently."

"Now you're just calling it qamek? I thought it was —"

"Qamek is the Qunari word for a substance that..." He paused, staring at her hand for a moment.

Adder raised an eyebrow.

"It means no mind."

"So, what, we'll wind up hallucinating if we get too close?" Adder waved a hand. She was a mage. Dealing with what wasn't real was what she did.

Fenris leaned forward. "Some do."

Adder took another sip of wine. "This sounds like a story I have to hear."

"If the saar-qamek is not contained, you'll have greater troubles than simple poison or hallucinations." He paused. "Some victims will claw out their own eyes. Others will kill their own children."

"Nice try, Fenris, but — Maker's breath, you're serious."

"Some will attack you." His voice was growing quieter and quieter. "Some will turn on each other... a few will hold each other's heads under the cloud. It is madness, concentrated and contagious."

"And then deadly. And Javaris is going to try to make enough to sell."

She felt ill. This would be worse than chokedamp. People turning on each other in their last moments...

—You say Bethany and I always held you back, little brother, but—

No. It wouldn't be like that. She wouldn't let it be like that.

"Fenris." She set the wineglass down on her reading desk, not even half-drained. "Help me find him."

He looked up from his glass, met her eyes. "Ask me anything, and it is done."

And now my heart stumbles on things I don't know
This weakness I feel I must finally show
Lend me your hand and we'll conquer them all
—Mumford & Sons, "Awake My Soul"

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