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

Chapter 4

Turns out, Garrett Hawke is a pretty sound sleeper. I managed to wiggle out from under his body and dress, stubbing my toe at one point and swearing like a sailor, all while he continued to snore softly in his bed. I watched him for a moment, realizing that he was drooling slightly, which made me smile just a little. With his face softenend in sleep he looked like a fuzzy eight year old, mouth hanging open, one arm draped across his stomach, the other resting in the space I had recently vacated, as though searching for my lost warmth.

I skipped down to the kitchen, grabbed a couple of leftover meat pies from the pantry and went out into the Hightown morning.

Shit! It's chilly today! First stop is a clothier so I can order some appropriate stuff!

I chewed on meatpies as I wandered, watching the market stalls open for business. I think the first might have been rabbit and wasn't bad. The second was some kind of fish and that one went straight into the hands of a mud covered little girl that was running past me. I found it disgusting, but the child gobbled it down cheerily before running off again. Soon enough I found what I was looking for- a small shop with ready made clothing in the display window, as well as a sign offering custom.

Jean-Pierre was terribly Orlesian and tutted over me for what felt like hours. But I was able to get out of there with enough clothing and undergarments to see me for a couple of weeks, as well as an order for two dresses and he had my measurements for anything else I might need. I even had a new wool cloak, dyed a deep forest green, that was warmer and more comfortable than any down-filled ski jacket I'd ever owned.

I dropped off my bundle at Hawke's -guiltily thankful that no one seemed to be there- then went off to wander the Merchant's Guild area. Dwarven statuary- as well as dwarves- filled every corner and I actually felt a little tall for once. I had noticed that this body was relatively small for a human, more on par with Merrill's height, and I had to wonder if one of my parents might have been elvehn. Not that it really mattered, of course, just a curiousity.

I wandered the square, not realizing that I had apparently begun to pilfer a few coin purses until I felt the weight of my own had becoming much heavier, at which point I figured it would be best to take my leave lest someone notice.

And there was more shopping to do!

I hit the Lowtown stalls next. I was going to need some weaponry, good ones, and I knew just where to go. Korval's Blades in Hightown was good, but expensive, and I wanted my ill-gotten booty to last. The shop had no real name, just the Weaponsmithy, but his blades were as good, or better, than Korval's. The old dwarf who ran the stall watched me for a bit, but when I was drawn to a couple of exquisite silverite blades, he smiled.

"You know blades, do ya?" he queried gruffly.

"Still learning," I answered, eyes lingering on the sheen of the fine edge. "Always learning. But I know what I like."

The dwarf barked a laugh, apparently happy with my answer. Then he bent down and pulled a long cherry wood box from beneath the table and set it before me with reverance. "Here. You'll like these even better."

Inside, nestled in a bed of red velvet, were two of the most beautiful daggers I had ever seen. They were of elvehn make, sinewy and sleek, and crackled with energy. I reached out carefully, certain I was about to be zapped, but it was as if the power caressed my hand instead, happy to have found me.

"They're called Speed and Agility. Some idiot traded me for them years back, said he found them on a dead guy, but I think maybe he stole 'em,'cause he knew their names, at least in Trade. Don't know the elvish words for 'em. Looks like they got lightning runes on them somewhere but I can't find 'em to take 'em off. Keeps electrocuting my apprentices, they do."

"How much?" I asked in a hushed tone. These blades were beautiful. Even if I never learn to use them properly, they were worth the expense.

"Ten sovereigns. They're worth more, but I can't get rid of them. They keep shocking people."

I rifled through my coin purse and presented him with the gold, as well as two more for proper sheaths. Beaming at my acquisition, I wrapped my new bundle in the oil cloth the dwarf supplied and wandered off to shop some more.

My last stop was Lirene's, a sort of thrift shop that used it's profits to help Fereldan refugees with food, lodging and emergency medicine. I knew that I wanted to spend coin here, even if it was just a donation and maybe hire a couple of street kids to run errands for me and the like.

"Welcome, Serrah. How may I help you today?"

Lirene was an older woman, early forties, but with little grey in her hair and a hard eye. I liked her immediately, or course. I knew that this was the woman that helped Anders with the clinic and fed him news on Templar activity and the like.

"I'm hoping you can help me with a bow. Shortbow to start, preferable in a yew or elm, and as many arrows as I can get my hands on. And a quiver, of course, nothing fancy but in good enough shape that I won't need to replace it for a few months."

Lirene stared at me, dumbfounded for a moment, then broke out in a grin. It was like I could hear thoughts about how much coin I was about to spend and how that money could be used flitting about in her mind. "Yes! Yes, I have just the thing!" she exclaimed, hunting about on the shelves behind her, pulling out three different bows for my inspection. "I have an elm, a yew, and a whitewood. I know you didn't mention whitewood, but I thought you might at least like to see the possibility. Let me just find some catgut string so you can test the pull"

I eyed each bow in turn. The elm was out. I could make out a tiny hairline fracture near the hand grip that would split over time, and that would be disasterous in a fight. The yew was solid, but was really not much more than a practice bow. I'd get it, if only to use it on training dummies. The whitewood, though, was perfect. I didn't even need the catgut to see that it would string tightly, with a seventy to eighty pound pull that would put an arrow through most men at twenty paces or more.

When Lirene returned, I went throught the motions of stringing and pulling each bow, informing her of the crack in the elm, then telling her that I would be purchasing both of the other two. She nearly squealed in delight, which caused other patrons to look up with curiosity. Apparently, Lirene was not normally a squealer. We looked over the bundle of arrows that she brought me, weeding out a few that were off center or cracked, found a good plain leather quiver, then dickered over the price. I only haggled with her because she seemed to expect it, though I would have paid the five sovereigns she requested gladly. As it was, I slipped the extra money into her donations box before I left.

It was past the noon bell when I stepped out into Lowtown's noise and sunshine and decided that it was high time that I went to visit Anders in his clinic. I went around, buying a pack and filling it with breads, fruit and cheese, since I knew that Anders would have nothing to eat and would not be thinking of it unless it was forced down his throat. I also donned my new blades at my hip and slipped quiver and bow at my back. I was going into Darktown. I'm not stupid.

Darktown was just as it sounded- and more. Little light except what was supplied by lanterns and firepits, the near overwhelming stench of bodily waste and the reak of unwashed masses and dog. To say it was disgusting was putting it mildly. I was happy to finally reach the doors of the clinic.

Inside was so much better, comparatively speaking. There were a few windows high up on the east wall, letting in an abundance of natural light. The room was clean, smelling of fresh linens and elfroot, with an underlying hint of blood. A fire burned cheerily in a hearth along the west wall, adding warmth to the space. It was a slow day, judging by the lack of patients. Anders himself was bent over a long table not far from the fire, using pestle and mortar to crush herbs for potions. He'd shucked his heavy coat and feathered pauldrons, working in nothing but breeches and worn linen tunic.

It is not fair that these men are just so damned beautiful! With the gold light of the fire reflecting off the line of Anders' spine, shining copper of his hair, the mage looked like nothing less than an angel come to earth. I admit that I stared, licking my lips at the thought of tasting that honeyed flesh. Yum!

His head suddenly whipped up, noting my presence, and I caught the telltale flicker of blue that announced Justice's presence. When Anders realized who it was, Justice receeded and Anders smiled at me. God, what a smile! It lit up the room even brighter than the sun.

"What are you doing here?" he asked, looking around the room. "Where's Hawke?"

"I'm by myself. I brought food."

He scowled as he approached. "What do you mean you're alone? Darktown isn't safe to walk around by yourself. There's Carta and Coterie and desperate people-"

"I know, Anders. Don't worry," I placated. "I was very careful and nothing happened, okay?"

Anders reached out to cup my face, face full of concern and I had to chuckle. Typical Anders, trying to take care of everyone but himself.

"Okay, Anders. All is good and I brought you food, so go sit while I pull it all out." I gently pulled back his hands and brandished the food pack. He grumbled but did as he was told, moving to a nearby cot and slumping down into it. He looked so tired. Dark circles beneath his eyes, a hollowness to his cheeks that screamed starvation. Well dammit, if he's not going to take care of himself, I'm just going to have to do it for him.

I pulled out the bread loaf and slipped it directly into his hands. "Eat," I commanded, continuing to put food in front of him. His eyes flickered from the bread to me and back before he tore into the loaf with vigor. I chuckled softly but said nothing, sitting on the floor at his feet.

Once he seemed to realize that the food was all for him, he set to like the starving man he was. It was gratifying to watch him finally take some care of himself, even if it was forced.

"So," he began, spraying crumbs as he tried to talk with his mouth full, "what have you been up to today?"

"Shopping mostly," I replied. "I figured, it looks like I'm going to be here a while so I picked up a few changes of clothes and a bit of weaponry, you know, in case somebody gets too handsy and I have to teach him a lesson."

Anders snorted, mouth too full to respond.

"I nicked a few purses, used the money at Lirene's shop, and after I get some leathers I'll be investing the majority of the rest, I just need to talk to Varric about it. But first, as soon as you're done eating, I'm taking you out of here. You need some sun and I need your opinion on furniture. I'm moving into Hawke's but I'm bound and determined to supply my own things, dammit!"

Anders swallowed the last morsel of food before turning on his brightest smile, a laugh in his voice. "Did you actually breathe at any point during that little speech?"

I flushed a little in embarassment. "Um...maybe...sometimes I lose control of my tongue and it keeps moving without my brain actually being engaged."

The mage stood, then reached down and took hold of my hand, pulling me up from the ground. I lost my balance slightly, tumbling against his chest as I did. I gasped in surprise, feeling his arms wrap around my back. He's stronger than he looks, my mage. He was staring down at me, eyes dark with desire and I had to smile.

Then they filled with blue.

I was flying before I knew what was happening and the sickening crunch of my spine hitting the rough hewn wall of the clinic was nothing compared to the pain of said crunch. I landed badly, on my left side and I felt the wrist break. Stars danced before my eyes and I could barely move, until I saw the crackling blue light of Justice stalking towards me.

Shit! I scrambled to get to my feet, dodging a bolt of magic aimed at my head. It scorched the wall and I knew Anders was going to be pissed at the damage. I managed to pull Speed with a cross draw from my waist and held it lowered at my side. I wanted to be able to defend myself if necessary, but I didn't want Justice to take it as a threat. Not that seemed to matter.

"Justice! What's wrong? What have I done?" I asked him softly, hissing from the pain in my wrist. Fuck! It's swelling already! Probably busted.

"You are here to destroy us!" the spirit bellowed.

Oh. Fuck.

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