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

Chapter 18

It was the night of the DeLauncet's dinner and it was the absolute last place that I wanted to be. I considered sneaking off to hunt slavers or bandits or...something, anything to keep from having to attend! But I'm pretty sure that Leandra sensed my intentions and stuck to my hip like glue. I couldn't shake the woman, even when I went to dress, insisting that with the ties and layers of the dress she had gotten for me, I was going to need help. And the boys were completely useless when it came to dressing a woman. “Undressing them is something completely different, but we won't get into that,” she whispered into my ear, making me snort with suppressed laughter.

And though the dress was made up of what felt like a hundred layers, it was actually quite light and easy to move in. Everything was in shades of purple “to bring out your eyes” as the Orlesian seamstress had deigned to inform me. Under dress, surcoat, over-corset, cape, even my new silk smalls were in varying shades of lilac to eggplant.

I even let Leandra do my hair, primping and pinning until the majority of the waves were swept up off my face, leaving a few wispy pieces to frame my cheeks. Some of the pins were adorned with small diamond chips, to compliment the tiny drop earrings and necklace that I wore, making it look like little stars were floating in my hair. I have to admit, Leandra is a dab hand at making a girl look good.

She left me in my rooms to wait for her and returned after a quarter hour in a gown of similar cut to my own, in shades of slate that made you wonder in it was blue or grey. She'd left her own hair hang down , held back from her face with a simple silver circlet. Damn, but didn't we look spiffy!

The boys weren't looking too shabby themselves, each with a small snifter of brandy, waiting for us at the bottom of the stairs. Anders, as Leandra's accompaniment this evening, was dressed in a black velvet doublet and leggings, with shiny black leather boots and crisp white linen shirt. With his shining golden hair and eyes, he looked beautiful.

Garrett had been dressed to match with my own outfit. Similar doublet to Anders, though in the darkest purple tone of my gown, with black leggings and boots. His own shirt was a paler lilac, and true to form, was undone far enough to show off just a touch of his very impressive chest chair. Leandra clucked and attempted to close the buttons, but Garrett just laughed and brushed away her fingers.

While this was going on, Anders leaned in and kissed my cheek. “You look exquisite tonight,” he whispered.

“Not looking so bad yourself there, handsome,” I giggled, happy that he had noticed. I felt like a kid playing dress up but I guess it was worth it. “Black looks good on you.” Then I remembered when and why he wears black in a few years and I paled. Anders noticed right away and turned concerned eyes on me. “Are you all right? Do you need to sit down?”

“What?” I said, turning my attention to him, and the now worried looking mother and son. “Oh, no. I'm fine! Just...not looking forward to this is all.”

“Nonsense!” Leandra declared, dragging her son forward and lifting my arm to rest on his. “This will be fun, I promise!”

“Famous last words,” Garrett whispered under his breath and I laughed.

I decided that if I had to murder every last noble in Hightown, I would not be attending another stupid dinner! It was absolutely horrible. The mingling at the beginning wasn't so bad, at least I could stay with Garrett and Anders while chatting with the few nobles that were worth talking to. Saemus Dumar stopped to speak with Garrett and I decided that he was definitely worth saving if at all possible. He had a quick wit that you never really got to see in the game and was a stalwart champion of the Qunari. And if given the chance, he might even grow to be a more capable Viscount that his father.

Sebastian chatted for a short time, though it was obvious that Garrett wasn't happy about it, pulling me even closer into his side when the prince approached us. I was just waiting for the moment when Hawke pissed at my feet, marking his territory. I did not understand how the large man could be so concerned about Sebastian Vael, where Anders and Fenris weren't an issue in the slightest.

When it came time to eat, I was sorely disappointed to learn that our little quartet had been separated to different sections of the table, and I had been placed between a very handsy old man and an Antivan ambassador that spoke very little trade. The man's interpreter was seated across from me with some nobleman's daughter I didn't know. I pushed the old man's hands away from me time and again, until finally, when the pervert had gone from my knee to my crotch, I grabbed his middle finger and twisted as I pushed him away. The crack was clearly audible by the entire table. The ambassador grinned and gave me a thumbs up.

After dinner the men went to the study to drink Antivan brandy, smoke cigars from Seheron and discuss politics. The woman retreated to the conservatory to drink too sweet cordial and gossip like a bunch of old hens. It was horrible and I'd have given just about anything to be able to sit with the boys and sip on a snifter, arguing policy with someone that knew what they were talking about. Most other Hightown women were apparently a bunch of idiots.

I excused myself to find a water-closet, not that any of them seemed to notice, and instead made my way to the Delauncet's garden. The night was clear, a little cool to be out and about without a coat of cloak, but there was no way I was going back in now. I wandered along the meandering path, enjoying the flowering bushes and fragrances that danced on the air. It reminded me of visiting a botanical garden when I was a kid. The kind of scents that made your head spin and your lungs filled to bursting.

I found a low wooden bench and sat, staring out at the moon and stars. I wished for a moment that Fenris were here with me to look up at the expanse of sky. It was the kind of sight that you could really only appreciate when it had been denied you. Even Anders would have appreciated the sky, having been locked away from it for a year at one time.

I started when someone cleared their throat behind me. I turned but the figure was hidden by shadow. “M'lady? Is all well? Is there anyone you would wish me to inform of your location?”

“No,” I sighed. “The boys and Lady Leandra are enjoying themselves, I'm sure. I wouldn't want to interrupt them.”

“That's good,” the man chuckled, moving into the light. He was not the servant I took him for, but dressed in thick leathers and brandishing paired blades. “Wouldn't want anyone to miss you too early.”

What the fuck! I stood and backed away slowly, wishing to hell that I'd thought to bring a blade, something, with me. I'd have been too tempted to stab Mr. Hands if I had. I glanced down briefly as I moved, hoping to spot a loose stone or discarded gardening tool, but found nothing, and my assailant was creeping up fast. I spun on my heel, hoping to maybe reach the house before the man was able to grab or stab me. Instead, another man blocked my way, hands now wrapped securely about my upper arms. I opened my mouth to scream for help, but a sudden blinding pain to the back of my head had me falling into darkness.

I have GOT to stop waking up in strange places, I thought to myself, blinking blearily at the light shining in my eyes. It was the sun, high overhead. Around me slick wooden walls that extended just above my eyeline, rocking back and forth, water lapping against them. A boat, small, more of a dinghy. Two men, one in front, one behind, were in the boat with me, and I was tied tightly by the wrist and ankle. God dammit! What the fuck is this? Nothing like this happened in the game!

I tried to wiggle into a sitting position, but the one behind me just kicked at my ass and toppled me over. Not that it mattered. Soon we were beached, the men jumping out to pull the skiff up a sandy beach. I could now see trees and cliffs in my eyeline and knew we were somewhere on the coast. If I was careful and lucky, I could probably make my way back to Kirkwall. I just needed to get away first.

Front guy poked his head over the side of the boat and leered. Ugh! The most disgusting dental work I had seen outside of a meth addict. What teeth were left were black with rot and his breath reeked of old garbage. He reached into the boat and began to yank and pull me out to the sand. When his footing slipped in the loose earth, I twisted, lifting my knee to catch him in the balls. When his hand released I ran, as quick as bound hands, ball gown and fancy slippers would take me.

It wasn't nearly far enough.

Mr.Teeth's partner caught up in short order and tackled me to the earth. I fought, I really did, but a simple growled threat undid me. “Stop, or I hit you again. And this time I will take you while you're helpless. Got it?”

I stopped. I could try again later, when I had a better chance, I could be patient and wait. And when I was free, I would come back and gut him.

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