Tale of the Stranger (or How I Met Selena Hawke)

Chapter 14

Hawke and I were on our way to the Chantry to check on Sebastian when it dawned on me. There might be a way to find and deal with Varnell without resorting to waiting for Petrice or for the qunari delagation to go missing.

"Hawke?" I started, "If I were a disgruntled Kirkwaller, pissed that the Qunari were converting Andrastians into the Qun, where do you think I would find followers to help me weed out their threat?"

Garrett lurched to a stop and stared at me for a moment, first in horror, then brows drawn deep in thought. "I guess where the most devout Andrastians would be."

"Exactly. So do you think it might be possible to infiltrate their ranks?"

"Why would you- this is one of those future things again, isn't it? Something I should just nod about and say 'yes dear'?" he quirked his lips in a smile.

"Hey! You're learning!" I smirked up at him, reaching up to scratch at his beard. "You'll make a good husband yet!"

He leaned down, breath warm against my cheek. "I'd make an amazing husband if you'd let me."

A shudder of pure pleasure raced straight to my groin. The remembered feel of rough beard between my legs had me pale and shaking. I had to grip his arm to keep my knees from buckling with the impact of near orgasm just from the thought.

"Shit!" I heard him exclaim. "Are you okay? Do you need to sit down?"

I shook my head, more to clear out lascivious thoughts of Garrett lying on his back in the middle of the square, riding him like a damned thoroughbred. Remeber that one for tonight, you horny bitch. "No, sorry. I'm good. I'm good."

"You're better than good, love." he waggled his brows in that jokingly lascivious manner.

I slapped his arm in play. "Cut that out, or I swear I will strip you down and take you right here."

"Oooh! Take me, baby, take me."

I turned and began my ascent of the Chantry steps. "The Maker is watching you and shaking his head at a recalcitrant child."

"Oh, you love me and you know it."

The inside of the Chantry reminded me very much of the old Catholic churches I attended as a child. The smell of sandalwood incense and burning candles was pallatable, the light dim so as not to reflect too oppulently over the expanse of gilding everywhere. Huge statues of Andraste and her disciples filling any and every available space. There was soft murmuring by Sisters and parishioners and not-so-subtle Mother giving an acolyte a dressing down for spilling wine on the stairs.

I took a deep breath of heavy air and closed my eyes. Yep, it was like being eight at my first communion all over again. I spotted Sebastian right off when I opened my eyes, up on the second tier, leaning over the rail. His hands were clasped in prayer and his lips moved subtly in the Chant. Damn. I had hoped, since I ended up taking the brunt of Allure's power, that he might not be so....well, so Sebastian about the whole thing. Stupid thought, I guess.

We climbed to short flight of stairs, careful to avoid the spilled wine- and it was a lot of wine. What was someone doing carrying that much up a flight of stairs?- and approached the Chantry Brother slowly. He turned when he saw us coming, and his eyes were filled with such sadness, I just wanted to hold him and tell him it would be all right. I swear it's the mother coming out in me.

"Hawke! Mistress Selena, how are you?" he asked, reaching out to take my hands in his in greeting.

I could feel Garrett bristle at the contact though Sebastian seemed not to notice.

"I'm well, Sebastian. Thank you." I pulled back, resting my back lightly against Hawke's chest in reassurance. "How are you?"

"I had hoped that prayer would cleanse me of the desire demons touch, but it hasn't” he sighed, looking down at his clenched hands. “I'm surprised either of you want anything to do with me.“

“What are you talking about, man?” Hawke asked incredulously. “Nothing about that place was your fault.”

“You didn't see what the demon showed me, Hawke. I feel as though I've bathed in filth that will never come off.”

“Try washing behind the ears,” I said, as seriously as I could while trying not to giggle. “Evil usually gets stuck there.”

Sebastian's head whipped up, staring at me in confusion before finally smiling. Garrett, on the other hand, had no problem laughing as though it were the funniest joke in the world. He leaned down and kissed me on the cheek. “Keep making me laugh, Starlight. You know how I love it.”

I rolled my eyes at his antics. “Sorry about that, Sebastian. He's not much more than a giant child some days.”

The Chantry brother sighed as his smile eased from his lips, turning back towards the rail. “The demon wasn't wrong about me, you know.” I hadn't actually heard her prattling to Sebastian and the others, but I knew what he was talking about so I kept my mouth shut. “I used to envy my brothers, coveted what they had. Now I have everything and they lay in ashes.”

“All right, that's enough of that,” I said, slipping my arm through his and pulling him away from the rail towards the stairs. “I believe I lost the bet, Brother Sebastian, and that means that I am buying first round at the Hanged Man. And you're in luck! It's Wicked Grace night and you get to meet the rest of the gang.”

He tried protesting, he really did, but I just wasn't taking no for an answer. Even Garrett seemed pleased to get him out of the Chantry for a time, though he stayed closer to me than usual during our walk into Lowtown. A jealous Garrett is just adorable.

The Hanged Man was packed with it's usual rag tag assortment of Lowtown citizens, loud on wine and poor on coin. Corff waved and Garrett returned the gesture, turning towards the bar to order our drinks. I may have been buying but Hawke knew to do the ordering or Corff had a tendency to get distracted. I blame the boobs.

I continued to pull Sebastian up the back stairs up to Varric's room. I could hear them inside, bickering and laughing as they usually did. It was a warm and happy sound. Varric sat at the head of the the low stone table, Merrill to his right. Isabela was at his personal bar, a bottle of brandy already at ehr lips. Anders and Fenris were arguing, as always, fingers pointing into each others' chests, faces red and spittle flying.

“Oh, you're here!” Merrill exclaimed, jumping up to wrap herself around my neck. I patted her a couple of times, then peeled her arms away.

“Come on, Daisy. Off. I brought a guest.” I laughed.

“Oh! I'm sorry, forgive me!” she cried, jumping back and looking at Sebastian with wide eyes. “Aren't you shiny! Doesn't the light reflecting off your armor make you a target?”

“Sometimes,” Sebastian chuckled. “But the Maker is my armor.”

Varric and I both rolled our eyes and laughed. “All right, everybody, this is Sebastian Vael, late of the Chantry and Prince of Starkhaven. Sebastian, you know the fighting couple over there-” I motioned to Fenris and Anders”- and here we have the enigmatic Varric Tethras and his beauty Bianca, the lush pirate Isabela, and the sweetest Dalish, Merrill.”

I motioned to each in turn and they nodded and smiled, and Izzy gave a wolf whistle. Sebastian blushed but gave the proper greetings to each in turn. I motioned for him to sit next to Merrill while I took the other side of the table. “Garrett's coming with the drinks. In the meantime, I wanted to talk to you about something, Varric. Get your opinion.”

“Of course, Starlight. Whatever you need.” he replied, lovingly rubbing wood oil into Bianca's stock.

“I need to find a way to infiltrate a group bent on turning all of Kirkwall against the Qunari. The ringleaders are a Chantry Mother named Petrice and a Templar, Varnell.”

“Sweet Maker!” Sebastian exclaimed. “How is this possible?”

“If I start talking to you about that, Sebastian, we're going to come to blows and that's the last thing I want. What I want to know is how I go about doing this. I've never done anything like this before. And it has to be me.”

“What? Why?” Hawke cried, standing in the doorway, arms full of ale tankards. He approached and hurriedly placed them on the table, then placed his hands down flat to lean towards me. “Petrice is a fanatic. You can't go in there by yourself.”

“Oh, I have no intention of finishing this by myself, Garrett,” I replied with a smile. “But I need to get into their little group and find out where they're going to meet before they're able to get their hands on any of the Qunari. Unfortunately, Petrice knows you, Garrett, and elves and dwarves are a no no. Izzy's useless for subtlety-”

“Hey!” the pirate cried in mock indignation.

“-sorry, Iz, but it's true. Petrice knows Sebastian so he's out, and Aveline is too well known as the law-and-order Guard Captian.”

“Well, then, what about Anders?” I glanced to where the mage and elf were still arguing, a little more vehemently than before

“Didn't Anders go with you to deal with Ketojan?”

Hawke looked surprised for a moment, then smiled. “I keep forgetting that you know things. No, Anders got called away at the last minute for a difficult birth. I brought Merrill instead.”

“Okay, if he's willing I'll bring Anders with-”

“We're not all evil oppressors!” Anders cried, waving a finger in Fenris' face, which of course did not sit well. The elf had begun to glow, a deep growl reverberating throughout the room. Oh shit! This is not going to end well! “You can't assume all mages are magisters!”

I didn't think, just moved. I had to get between them before hearts were removed or the sparks flew. Back to Anders, face-to-face with Fenris, I didn't see his hand slide into my chest, only felt the vibrating heat, saw the sudden look of terror in the elf's eyes.

There was screaming going on around me, shock and frantic fear, but all I could hear was our dual heartbeats- mine and Fenris'. His fingers brushed against my heart and it stuttered, making the world go momentarily grey, but it wasn't pain that I was feeling. It was as though a warm tingling balm had been wrapped around the organ. It felt wonderful.

I stared into Fenris' eyes, reaching up to cup his cheek, stroking softly. I tried to tell him it was okay, that he didn't need to fear, but all I could seem to focus on was this delicious warmth. Why the hell do your enemies scream when you do this? I wanted to ask. This feels...

The hand was pulled slowly from my chest. There was no sound, no tearing or blood. Just the sudden cessation of that beautiful heat. The loss made me want to weep and my knees weak. If Anders and Garrett hadn't been there, I would have fallen, but all I cared about was that Fenris was turning, running for the door.

“Fenris, wait!” I cried, reaching out to his retreating form.

He paused, turning towards me, eyes filled with sadness and remorse.

“Please don't run. It was an accident and you didn't hurt me.” Anders scoffed but I ignored him. “I couldn't stand it if you disappeared.”

Fenris stared, expressive eyes moving from terror to self-loathing and into resignation. He sighed, shaking his head, “I am going to the bar, Selena. I will not run.”

I smiled. Maybe, just maybe, if I could keep him from running now, I could keep him from running later.

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