Wow! The Hanged Man's a lot...noisier than I was expecting.
That was putting it mildly. The main room was filled almost to capacity with boisterous men, most likely there after a night shift at the mines since it was only mid-morning. I saw Corff and Norah working at full speed to keep up with the influx of patrons. If I was going to be staying in Kirkwall- in Thedas really- maybe I should talk to Corff about a job. I had waited tables in college and could probably do it again.
We made our way up the stairs to Varric's rooms, ordering bowls of stew and bread on the way, then sat at a long stone table that took up a majority of Varric's sitting room. I was placed along one long side, between Hawke and Anders with Fenris directly across from the mage. Izzy and Merrill sat next to the elf while Varric and Aveline took the seats at either end. No wonder they say that they feel like the parents of the group. They have taken the positions of the head of the family.
As bowl after bowl of stew was placed before me, I was peppered with questions. About where I came from, about the things I knew. I answered what I felt was safe, but very little else. I didn't know what would irrevocable damamge this group's future and that was the last thing I wanted to do.
By bowl three- something that tasted a little like beef stew but not really- my eyes had begun to droop slightly. By bowl four I was yawning. By bowl five- yes that's five bowls of Corff's mystery stew- I was leaning on Hawke's arm to stay upright. I didn't remember someone carrying me to Varric's bed, but apparently I had needed a few more hours rest.
I woke to an empty room. I could hear a couple of male voices speaking softly in another room nearby as well as patrons downstairs, but a quick glance around Varric's sleeping chamber revealed no one nearby. The perfect time for me to sneak out and go exploring!
I slipped out of the bed, nice and low to the floor for shorter dwarven legs, and quietly made my way to the exit and out into the- relatively- fresh air of Lowtown. I didn't even bother putting on the shoes that Merrill had found for me earlier. I was finding that I liked the way that the elves went barefoot everywhere, reading the cobbles beneath their feet as they moved. I had the urge to run, just let my legs take me wherever they wished. The Lowtown market was alive with vendors and conmen and shoppers all calling out to each other in a beautiful wall of noise that I simply loved! This is the kind of thing that was missing from the game- the real life of Kirkwall! Oh, I knew why they couldn't have possibly programmed this kind of thing in, but I still missed it all the same.
And the market was so much bigger as well! I found stall upon stall of food vendors and armorers and trinket shops. I perused a weapons merchant that had the most beautiful daggers imaginable. And bows! My fingers twitched to pull back on the string and sight down an arrow and I knew that that was probably going to be my favoured weapon. Goody! Maybe I could give Brother Vael a run for his money. Of course, if I was in the story line where I thought I was, Sebastian wasn't travelling with us yet. I wonder how well Hawke even knew the young prince.
Suddenly I felt a soft tug at my belt and a greasy wrist was clamped in my fist before I realized what I was doing. I looked down to find a young boy, preteens maybe, trying to filch my non-existant coin purse. He was dirty and obviously under nourished, sweating and scared at being caught. He was terrified and gasping, pulling slightly in my grasp.
"Well," I began, cocking a hip nonchalantly, "what do we have here?"
"Please!" the boy cried. "Please, Serrah, let me go! I promise not to do it again! Just let me go!"
"And just what will you do if I let you go, huh? Run back to your handler with nothing? Feed the other kids with air? No, I don't think so. Let's get you something to show for your trouble."
I dropped the kid's wrist and sauntered off to a nearby fruit stall, keeping the boy in the corner of my eye all the while. He stood dumbly, rubbing at where I had been clutching him, watching as I moved. I approached the vendor, a portly man that had obviously been partaking of too much of his product, and engaged him in a sprightly exchange about the horrors of today's economy. It was a ruse that worked in any world, really, while the vendor is preoccupied with the words coming out of your mouth, they aren't paying attention to what your hands are up to, as long as you keep your movements minimal and subtle. A few minutes later, I had a half dozen apples in a small burlap sack and the man's coin purse, filled with silver. I returned to the boy, passed him all but one apple and ten silver coins from the purse.
"Now, you will take these to your patron- don't tell me you don't have one, I'm not stupid- and you will do your best to get yourself out from under his thumb. If you need work, come to the Amell Estate in Hightown and ask for Hawke or Selena, or ask for Varric at the Hanged Man. Now, off with you, and if you try and nick from me again, I'll put you over my knee." I smile as the boy scrambled away. I didn't even get his name but it was all right. I was certain he'd come to me again, for real work this time.
I stopped quickly at a metal worker's stall and purchased a small knife with my ill-gotten gains. I was going to need something small and sharp for my wanderings through Hightown. Some uppity nobles were about to be many coins lighter.
Nightfall found me in Hawke's garden, overgrown with vines and weeds that were going to need a lot of work. I had a new blanket spread out over the ground, an array of foods spread out before me. I had purchased- with a pittance of the many sovereigns I had pilfered throughout the day- a wide variety of fruits, breads, meats and pastries, some familiar, some so foreign I was a little afraid to put them in my mouth. I also had three bottles of wine, two reds including Fenris' favourite Aggregio Pervali, and a white, as well as a bottle of aged Antivan Brandy. I was sprawled out, back propped up on a thick oak, perusing a copy of Isabela's friend-fiction as I nibbled and sipped. Favourites so far were a small meat pie that was apparently made with nug- kind of like gamey pork really. Who knew?- and a small sweet berry that dribbled juice down my chin until I learned to bite down only when it was near the back of my throat.
When Garrett, Anders and Fenris walked in, I was well sated on food and more than a little horny from Izzy's very descriptive stories. Seeing the three of them approaching sent a deep electric jolt right the the center of me and I prayed they couldn't smell the arrousal that was suddenly filling the air.
"What in the Void happened to you?" Fenris growled, striding furiously up to my side and glaring down at me. The other boys just looked relieved, but Fenris was angry enough to spit nails.
"I wandered. I needed to explore and I didn't think you guys would let me go where I really wanted to, so I went on my own."
"Kirkwall is dangerous," the elf cried, dropping to his knees and gripping my shoulders. He shook them slightly as he yelled, "You could have been killed or...worse!"
I laughed softly, reaching up and pressing my hands to his upper arms. "I'm fine, Fenris. I'm learning that I can take care of myself just fine. Look! I brought food!"
It was then that the elf looked around, realizing that he was kneeling amidst an array of food stuffs and wine. Hawke and Anders were seating themselves on the ground at the edge of the blanket, perusing the morsels before them. "How-?"
"A little five finger discount." The boys looked a little confused so I explained. "I'm apparently a thief, and not a bad one. Managed to nick enough coin to fill the pantry, get my own blanket, and have about twenty sovereigns left over."
"Twenty sovereigns! After you bought all this!" Hawke cried. "It took me weeks to get that much together and you did it in a day!" He slumped in a mock huff and Anders reached out to pat him on the shoulder.
"It's all right, Hawke, we still love you." the mage reassured.
"Ooooh," Hawke smirked. "Could you?"
Fenris, in the meantime, had absconded with the bottle of Aggregio and held it aloft. "You bought this? It's almost ten sovereigns on it's own. How many purses did you snatch today?"
"Oh, I don't know, I wasn't really counting. But the nobles of Hightown are feeling a might lighter tonight, I'll tell you that!"
We spent several hours like that, late into the night, picking at the foodstuffs and pulling deeply from the wine. I found that I preferred the white with a bit of juice from one the sweet berries added to it, leaving the other bottles to the boys. I lay back with my head pillowed in Hawke's lap, watching the stars, foreign constellations in the sky making me just that little touch homesick. I wondered if my kids knew what had happened to me- but really, how could they? Was I dead? Did they have a body to mourn. Tears filled my eyes at the thought, though I didn't realize it until callused fingers brushed them away. Garrett was looking down at me in concern and I smiled up at him. "Sorry, just thinking deep thoughts."
"Anything we can help with?" Anders asked, reaching out for one of my hands and stroking my knuckles with his thumb.
"No, but thank you. It's just something I'm going to have to work through if this is going to be my life now." I shook my head, trying to dispell the weighty subject. "Let's not talk about it right now."
I sat up and began tidying the bowls and baskets of food still spread around us. "It's time for sleep boys. I don't know about you, but I'm beat."
The men helped me bring things into the kitchen, storing left overs in the pantry and coldroom, before Fenris and Anders bid us good night and sauntered off. Hawke remained, staring down at his feet in sudden nervousness.
"I thought your dog was going to be staying here tonight instead of you,"I said, shifting into what I was begining to think of as my cocky stance, hip out, fist perched on top.
"I thought you might be more comfortable with me in the manor instead. Spirit tends to fart in his sleep. Loudly. A lot."
I laughed and took his hand in mine. "That's very thoughtful of you Garrett. Let's head upstairs then."
He followed me , but pulled back at the door into his chambers. "Shit, I forgot about the bed problem. I guess I can sleep in the chair."
"Don't be silly. It's a big bed and I don't bite...unless you ask nicely...though I might snore. I'm not really sure if I still have a deviated septum in this body." I pinched the bridge of my nose, pretending to feel for it.
Hawke laughed, falling for my trick to ease his nerves, and entered the room."I'll have to think up a way to ask nicely then, won't I?" He pulled off his boots and shirt, climbing under the knit blanket that had been left there.
Oh...my... Garrett Hawke was a beautifully built specimen of man. Broad shoulders, heavily muscled that tapered into a narrow waist and rippled stomach. A smattering of dark curls spread across his pectorals, thinned farther down until just bellow his bellybutton to thicken again as they dipped below his waistband. Normally I was not a fan of hairy chests but for this I could make an exception. My hands began to sweat slightly as I fumbled with the ties to my leggings. The tunic top was long enough that I could sleep in that comfortably, but leather pants were not meant for sleepwear. With my pants gone, I quickly covered myself with the blanket I had brought from the garden. And realized just how much delicious heat Garrett put out. This is going to be a long night...
It was a nightmare, that I knew right away. I was with my best friend Allison, freshly returned from another lecture circuit across Europe. She was a well respected author and lecturer on religious anthropology and while it ate up a lot of her free time, it paid enormously well.
We were trying out her latest acquisiton- a forty foot sailboat, beautifully kitted out with every possible amenity. She wanted to sail the coast of North America during her summer off and we were testing the boat's durability.
The storm came, literally, from nowhere. Calm waves and bright sun suddenly engulfed in rolling clouds and an ominous green light. We had no time to prepare, to fasten ourselves down, before lightning was hitting our mast, setting fire to the boat. We listed and I was underwater, slamming into the hull again and again, green fire licking at my arms and legs. I screamed, taking in lungfulls of water, drowning as I burned.
The pain was excrutiating, all consuming. I could think of nothing else but the burning green light.
"Selena! Wake up!"
The pain began to recede and I could feel hands, large powerful hands, wrapped carefully around my upper arms, lifting my body up off the bed towards a dark bearded face. I blinked rapidly, willing the green light to recede so that I could see, think. Hawke. That's Garrett Hawke. I reached up and cupped the side of his face. You aren't drowning. You're safe.
He wrapped his thick arms around me and held me close to his chest. "I've got you," he soothed, stroking my spine. "You're all right. I won't let anything happen to you, I promise."
Oh Christ! Did Alison die? Did I? What happened to us?Why can't I remember? I clutched to Hawke's chest, breathing deeply to try and calm my nerves. At least Hawke's scent was soothing, a mix of leather and sweat and sword oil. My heart was beating like a runaway steel drum musician and I couldn't seem to catch my breath. I knew I was close to hyperventilating, but I just couldn't seem to stop.
Hawke held me like this for what seemed like hours, though it was probably only a few minutes, before I calmed enough that I was certain I wouldn't pass out. I patted my trapped hands against his chest in a bid for him to release me. He groaned, just slightly, but did as he was bid, looking down at me in concern.
"I...I think I'm okay now, big guy. I'm sorry I woke you." I mumbled, rubbing my hands down my tear streaked face. Dammit! I'm probably a mess, and there's a gorgeous hunk of man in my bed. Typical.
"You want to talk about it?" he asked, reaching out to rub lightly at my back. Holy Christ, I'm getting horny from a back rub? What the fuck is wrong with me?!
"No, thanks Garrett. It's one of those things that might make for glowing and shit, you know? I think I'll just go back to sleep."
Hawke looked like he wanted to argue, but then slid back down under his blanket and pulled me down to be cradled against his chest. "Fine. But I'm here, Okay?" he said softly. After a moment he added, "Or I could make mad, passionate love to you and have you forget all your worries."
I slapped him on the chest and laughed. "Not tonight, dear, I've got a headache."
"Ah! The bane of all men everywhere!" he cried in mock pain, laughing softly. "I shall endeavor to find another time when your pain is much less severe!"
We lay like that for some time, Garrett's breath eventually deepening in slumber, while I rested lightly upon his chest, listening to his heart beat. Listening to him breathe, feeling his warmth and smelling that overwhelming scent of leather and oil, made me feel safer than anything I've ever felt before. I lay there until the dawn light began to filter through the clouds at which point I knew that I wasn't getting any more sleep this day.
Time to kit myself out for adventuring.