nagia: (da2; adder; hawke feels pretty oh so pre)
YOUR CHILDREN DESERVE LEXCORP JETPACKS ([personal profile] nagia) wrote in [community profile] terzarima2011-04-11 06:56 pm

Dragon Age 2; Rated M; "The Dreams Where You Fall" [4/???]

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.
WARNING: Crazily enough, the spoiler warning is still in effect. I wonder why that might be.

The Dreams Where You Fall
three: we have been blessed with certain thoughts

Varric sighs. "It wound up being a long night."

Cassandra stares blankly for a moment. At last, she finds words. "But the battle was over. Your part was done."

That startles a laugh out of him. "With the fanatic, maybe. But there were still buildings to clear, to make sure the gas couldn't spread. And there were survivors to drag out."

"She dragged out survivors?"

"We all did. Most of them were too weak from the retching to move on their own, so we dragged them out into the hex and let Anders try to heal them."

Cassandra's face softens for an instant. They're developing an understanding, at long last.

"How many made it?" The tone is a hair less sharp than all her other questions, as if she knows the answer already.

"Not many. Maybe a dozen. Maybe twice that, out of nearly a hundred. Anders worked himsef to exhaustion and Adder kept clearing rooms of the gas, but..."

"But to no avail. She failed again."

"She kept it from getting worse," he says. "That's no failure."

"The woman you describe could have seen it as no less."

He almost has to smile at that. That's true enough.

"And after the night was over? What did you do when dawn broke?"

"Why, we met with the Arishok, of course."

The Arishok's brows drew down. "So I was wrong about our thief."

"You'll get used to it," Adder replied.

The Arishok didn't appreciate the quip. His brows furrowed even more. The irritated wrinkle on the bridge of his nose deepened into an infuriated crevasse.

"They say we were careless with our trap, that this is our fault. But even without the saar-qamek, there would have been death."

Not nearly on this scale, Adder almost said.

"This elf was determined to lay blame at our feet."

And no blame rested there, of course. To blame the people who had allowed the theft of the saar-qamek recipe would be just illogical. Adder's mouth filled with the tang of copper and salt in the effort to say none of that.

The Arishok's tirade kept going: "Selfishness, want, denial — how do you allow this to continue?"

A lecture? From a man who bore just as much blood on his hands as that sodding elf? It was too much to take.

"If you won't talk straight," she found herself snapping as she turned away, "we won't talk."

She made it three steps, was just passing Varric, before the Arishok rumbled, "Hold."

Adder stopped. Her head jerked up, pride not letting her cringe in front of him. She turned, slowly.

"You've decided to spare the lecture, then? That was fast."

"Since we arrived, I have seen nothing but greed and weakness. Dwarves, humans, elves — just... festering. No order. No goal. You are one of the few I have met with any ability. And yet that, too, is random, a result of selfishness." He raised a hand, gesturing suspiciously vaguely for a race that seemed to thrive on mastery and precision. "I cannot fathom how a mire like this can be justified."

If she wanted to hear judgmental claptrap, she'd visit a Chantry. Adder raised one eyebrow, let her face show her impatience at the sermon for just an instant.

"You turned from me. Do you turn as easily from all this... chaos?"

She had to laugh. "Are you asking me if I want to change it? Why would anyone do that?"

"You," and here the Arishok paused, clearly revolted, "like it?"

"It's life. It's people, living their lives for good or ill. You can't change that. People are what they are."

The Arishok glowered at her for an instant, as if trying to translate her reply into Qunari so he could make sense of it. Or maybe he was just trying to make sense of it. He looked to his side, then sighed and stood, sweeping a hand out to indicate one of the painted warriors who stood on the side of the dais.

"Karasten are soldiers. The Qun made it so. They can never vary from that assigned path, never be other than they are meant to be. But, they are free to choose within that role. To accept and suceed, or deny and die. Glory is clear and defined."

Oh, just great. Now he was proselytizing. She half wanted to ask Varric to shoot her.

"You claim it is no different anywhere else. You say this is life for 'good or ill.' But one is clearly superior to the other. Would this certainty not benefit your whole city?"

"Maybe," she allowed. "But I find myself distracted by 'deny and die.'"

"You think this is a threat?" The Arishok's lips twitched, but whether it was an amused smirk or a sneer, Adder wasn't sure. "Your kind may force our role to change, if the Qun demands."

"Why aren't you more concerned about her supporters?"

"Our enemies strike from the shadow because they cannot stand before us. This is no new revelation." He paused, sinking back onto his throne. "And it doesn't matter. I am not here to fight; I am here to satisfy a demand you cannot understand."

Adder raised an eyebrow. "It's certainly taking long enough."

"It will take as long as needed. There is no rescue from duty to the Qun. I am stuck here."

"You could have built a ship by now, you know."

"It is not about a ship! Filth stole from us. Not now, not saar-qamek. Years ago!"

His voice was a whipcrack, a roll of thunder, and she almost jumped.

"A simple act of greed has bound me. We are all denied Par Vollen until I alone recover what was lost under my command!" He stood again, pacing. "That is why the elf and her shadows are unimportant. That is why I do not simply walk from this pustule of a city!"

Adder reeled back. She'd guessed the Arishok would hate this town, but this was a little much. She found herself turning a little, to take in Fenris's expression.

He looked startled, even a little disturbed.

"Fixing your mess is not the demand of the Qun! And you should all be," his snarl turned into a roar, "grateful!"

That startled them all into taking multiple steps back. Adder fought to keep herself from shaking in the face of his anger. She'd walked blithely into a hexagonal courtyard filled with poison gas, and would have done so alone, had Varric and Fenris not outmaneuvered her. What was one Arishok to be afraid of?

Drained of his fury, the Arishok returned to his chair. "Thank you, human, for your service. Leave."

She left, practically pushing Anders and Varric out ahead of her. Fenris side-stepped so he could walk at her heel again.

The gatekeeper karasten slammed the gates to the compound shut behind them. Adder pushed forward, pressing past the throng until they were seaside. She settled alongside one of the stairwells covered by the ocean at high tide, peeled out of a glove, and dipped her hands in.

The ocean was a soothing murmur against her skin. Despite the dockside refuse and the scent of dead fish, it seemed cleaner, calmer than the ground beneath her feet.

"That's an oxman ready to charge. We need to tell the viscount," Varric said.

Fenris sucked in a breath through his teeth. "Oxman?" His tone was sharp. He was a step away from angry ranting.

"Forgive me if I'm not impressed with our horned friends. Considering they just let how many people die?"

"If it hadn't been saar-qamek, it would have been imitation Qunari blades, or supposed converts to the Qun."

"And if it hadn't been allowed it would never have been on that scale."

Adder snapped. "Why don't the two of you go mud-wrestle? It'd be a lot less annoying and a lot more likely to make one of you see reason."

Fenris turned to stare at her. His eyes looked wide, his mouth turned down.

"Varric, words like that just drag us down to the level of the fanatics. Fenris, Varric's got a point about some of that blood being on the Arishok's hands." She paused, considering. "It could just be me, but did he seem..."

"A little crazy?" Anders's eyes crinkled, his lip curving up for a moment. "The Warden Commander knew a Qunari. Said he kept his temper even better than she did. And that display was a tantrum she would rather have cut her own throat than lose control enough to throw."

"As much as I hate to agree with the abomination, the Arishok was ill at ease." Fenris paused. "The viscount should know."

"Understatment of the age, elf. Understatement of the age."

That startled a chuckle out of Adder.

"He is... unwell. Were this Seheron, I do not believe he would retain his post."

Adder couldn't keep her attention off the viscount's windows while she informed him of the developments. The sunlight was too bright, echoed the pull of the earth as she cast Tempest, would be too easy to transfigure to lightning.

The Keep stank of magic to her and always would. She sometimes wondered why.

Today, she wondered just what in the Void the viscount kept in his head. He certainly didn't use it to store any kind of brain.

"Years of nice, quiet anxiety gone. Along with a whole street!"

Did no one in this wretched town understand the concept of 'priorities?' Was it too late to go back to the Arishok and tell him she'd changed her mind — that she did hate all the chaos and selfishness?

Adder kept the thought to herself. "An accident on purpose, more or less."

"Right. A mad elf, pushed by zealots, likely hidden in the groups I have to appease." Dumar adjusted his iron crown with one hand. "The Maker has a grand sense of humor."

Yes, the Maker certainly must, assuming he even existed. Or gave much of a damn. After all, he'd saddled her with this buffoon for a viscount.

"And the Arishok — I suspected he had no plans to leave. I didn't know it was just as annoying for him."

'Annoying' would not have been the word Adder chose. 'Infuriating' perhaps. Or even better, 'maddening.'

Still. "At this point, you could send him gold," she joked, "and he'd complain it was heavy. And probably think you were trying to insult him."

"And it's about to get worse." The viscount tugged on his crown again, as if it was too heavy for his bald head, or as if it'd brought him nothing but trouble. "There won't be any reparations for this latest."

"This latest?"

Dumar continued on, as if he'd made sense the first time around. "A shame. There were overtures of civility. Your influence, no doubt."

This was sounding worse and worse. Adder felt her stomach sink low enough to play diamondback with her toes.

"Do I want to hear what happened?"

"A Qunari delegate and entourage paid me a visit. It was civil, tentative. Hopeful, even."

"You really need to get over this suspense habit of yours," she said. She suspected she knew where this was going, and in response to her worry, her stomach played a Jack of trump against her big toe's Five.

"They left my chamber with precision, like ducks in a row, but were not reported by the outer guard. They are missing almost literally from my doorstep. What, do you imagine, will be the Arishok's reaction?"

Her big toe folded the hand. Her stomach did a victory flop before it took the pot and made a dash for her mouth.

Bright side, bright side. There had to be a bright side. A way she wasn't hearing what she thought she was hearing. A way to avoid the Arishok's head exploding, or declaring war, or... whatever that crazy man would do if his delegates turned up dead. Maybe actively unleash saar-qamek on the city, rather than just allow its theft.

"Do the Qunari generally keep you updated? They seem like private folk to me."

"Qunari do not disappear," Dumar snapped. "They know we watch, and they are not shy about their movements." He sighed, waving her out of the room with an exhausted hand. "Speak to Seneschal Bran. He has details that show how damning this is."

Oh, this was going to be good. Adder couldn't wait.

In addition to Fenris and Varric, Aveline was waiting for her just outside the door to the viscount's study.

Funny, how just seeing Aveline could make her feel a bit better about the situation. Aveline was as strong and stubborn as a mabari — which made her just as good to have on her side. Which, alright, was a proverb more frequently applied to Denerim, but somehow Aveline had become Ferelden itself in Adder's eyes.

Maker's breath, she must be tired to be so damnably sentimental.

"Good to see you, Avvs," she said. "Reconsider my offer of an Orlesian mud massage?"

Aveline chuckled, shaking her head. "After the night I hear you had, it sounds like you need it more than I do."

"Aw, Avvs, we'll go together! It will be fabulous! Just think of it, all those under-dressed boys mugging for our silver."

Aveline's brow furrowed. Her lips pursed. The righteous irritation of the guard captain — the very same righteous irritation that had once regularly scared the piss out of Varric — had been aroused.

"You haven't had any sleep yet," she accused, then sighed. "For Andraste's sake, Adder. Have you even broken fast?"

"Guilty as charged. How did you guess? And where are the other three?"

"Anders left in a huff the minute I arrived. Apparently I'm just a tool of the Templars."

"That's a laugh." Adder had to shake her head. She mostly agreed with Anders's assessment of the Circle situation. She'd spent her entire life outside the Circle and hadn't turned into a murderous lunatic, but his methods and his... intensity... Well. It sucked out any sense of humor.

He hadn't even seen the pun in Justice is righteous. Justice is hard.

Aveline's face softened into an ironic smile. "It was certainly news to me." She paused. "The other two are right outside this room. Apparently the Seneschal doesn't want elves and dwarves unnerving his viscount."

"I swear the viscount should just remarry Bran," she remarked. "They've both got dead wives, they're clearly both in love with the same thing, and they've got hat-racks rather than heads."

"And saying things like that, right outside the viscount's study, is how I know you're dead on your feet. You've got a bit more tact than that, usually." Aveline paused. "And you shortened my name."

"What can I say? Wickedness never sleeps, and I'm clearly the wickedest of them all."

Aveline rolled her eyes. "Let's just get you out of here before you get yourself stripped of all rights and moneys."

Adder let Aveline herd her out of the sitting room and into the Keep's main hall. She dug her heels in just outside. Varric and Fenris were both staring hard at Seneschal Bran, who looked anywhere but at them and kept shifting his weight on his feet.

Varric looked distinctly unimpressed. Fenris just looked suspiciously blank.

"Don't worry, Bran. Unless you lose half your height or grow pointy ears, they won't drag you into their violent elf-dwarf rivalry."

Fenris just gave her a sidelong look, while Varric rested his face in his palm for an instant.

"I'm sorry, what?" The seneschal stared at her like she'd lost her mind.

Come to think of it, where had she put the damned thing? She'd had it in the viscount's office...

Adder waved a hand. "Nevermind. Bad joke. Doesn't matter. The viscount tells me you have information about the missing Qunari?"

Varric sighed. "Just one damn thing after another with them. Can nobody in this town fix their problems anymore?"

Bran shot him a dirty look. Adder waved to get his attention. When he looked over at her, she faked a bright smile.

"Yes, I am to help you. Viscount Dumar would appreciate discretion in this matter. Personally, I would prefer you were not involved at all, but my desires are irrelevant."

Honestly. She'd got involved in one petty Dumar family squabble while just a lowly Fereldan refugee and Bran still hated her for it? Admittedly, she'd ended up calling both the viscount and his son hard-headed, but it had been just that once and three years ago, besides.

This town and priorities. Really.

"Right. Well, where would you start, if you were the starting type?"

Bran gave her a dour stare. "I would begin with the most obvious failure. It's clear the city guard has no excuse for allowing this, unless they were involved."

Aveline's eyes narrowed. "None of my lieutenants have mentioned any of their men failing to report."

What had been righteous irritation was going to flare into righteous wrath, pretty soon. Adder almost looked forward to it — but hopefully it could wait until she'd had two meals and an afternoon's sleep.

Bran drew himself up. "Several have. Though where you'd find a swordsman so eager to sell his honor and duty, I'm sure I don't know."

Fenris and Varric said, at once, "The Hanged Man."

"Got to be," Aveline sighed.

"Right. Then you know what to look for, and where the weak link will be found."

Aveline herded her away from the seneschal. Adder let her.

"Get yourself home now, Hawke. Leandra's probably worried sick."

Her mother. In all the fuss and clamor, she hadn't even thought about letting Mother know where she was.

"There you are," were the first words out of Leandra Hawke's mouth. "I'd thought you'd gone haring off to Sundermount again."

Adder kept going, breezed through the entrance halls to snag a seat at her writing desk. She folded her legs, rested one foot on one knee, to unlace her boots.

"I had an early day," Adder replied.

Her mother smiled at her. Bodahn brought in a tray laden with a teapot and two cups, saucers. Leandra assembled them on the tea-table.

Adder ignored her mother's busy-work. On another table, cups and saucers clinked, but she ignored it all in favor of untangling the snarl her bootlaces had become. A night of fighting and running and casting magic seemed to have bloody wrecked the knots.

Bodahn laid out scones, next. Fresh from the oven, so fragrant she all but tasted them, even from all the way over there.

Adder inspected her left boot. She tried the knot a few cursory times; fold this line this way, then tug… no, fold that line that way and pull through over here...

It went nowhere. Bodahn set out buttter and jam.

Adder drew her belt knife.

"An early morning, Adder, really, when you know we'll be having the seneschal's son over this week."

That gave her pause. "It's not today, is it?"

But Leandra waved a hand, placating. "No, later in the week. Don't even think of ambling off to the Wounded Coast for some fool request. At least try to stay in Kirkwall until the dinner."

"I promise," Adder replied.

Her mother poured steaming tea in her own mug.

Adder cut her boot laces. She squirmed, massaging her leg, and the muddy, blood-spattered boot hit the front room's new carpet with a thunk.

Leandra looked up and over at her at the noise.

"Where have you been?"

There was a smoment of silence. Adder debated telling her the truth and not worrying her mother any further; she'd hear about Dirkstreet Hex sooner or later — but did that mean it had to be sooner?

"Out," she said, simply.

"Out where? Doing what? Are the poor servants going to have to clean more blood stains off the carpet?"

"And mud. And probably vomit," Adder said, too tired to fight.

"You've been to that awful tavern in Lowtown!" Leandra gasped. "And it's barely noon!"

Well, best to head that idea off, before her mother started in on Fenris influencing her.

"I wasn't in the Hanged Man, Mother," she said, and sighed. "It wasn't so much as an early morning as a long night. In Dirkstreet Hex. You'll hear about it soon, I'm sure."

Her mother frowned worriedly at her as she collected her boots — one by the laces, the other by the tongue — and hauled herself out of the chair.

and in the darkness we will walk
until the day does make us stop
— Mirah, "(Exactly Where We're From)"

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