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

Chapter 7

"Hello, Aveline. Can we chat for a minute?"

The Guard Captain was bent over her desk, writing furiously, as though the papers had offended her personally. Any second now the pen was going to begin ripping through to the other side. She looked up in momentary anger, then grinned as though we were her personal saviours.

She stood, throwing down the pen in apparent glee, and shook our hands. "Selena, Hawke, please come in."

We seated ourselves before her desk as she reclaimed her chair, tenting her hands and resting her chin on her knuckles. "What can I do for you two- that doesn't involve having to write anything."

Garrett chuckled and gestured towards me. This was my show after all. I huffed slightly and thought about how to go about this. "Aveline, you remember how I came here, right?"

The red head sat up straighter, frowning. "Of course. It's not exactly the average tale."

"Then you know if I tell you that something is going to happen, but we have the power to stop it, you can believe me?" I fidgetted slightly under her gaze. I'd hate to be a criminal right about now...or one of her kids...

"Yeeeees..." she drawled, dropping her hands and leaning forward.

"You remember Emeric? The Templar that claims there's a serial killer in Kirkwall?" Aveline nodded slowly. "Well, he's right. And I know who it is, and if we don't stop him a lot more women are going to die, including Leandra."

"What?" Aveline exclaimed, shooting up from her chair, leaning farther forward with her hands planted firmly on the desk in front of her. "Are you certain? I can't just-"

"She's certain, Aveline," Hawke piped up, still lounging somewhat indolently, as though none of this could possibly bother him. I'd noticed recetly that the more upset he was over something, the more relaxed he tried to appear. Any more upset and he'd look comatose. "She's certain and I'm going to find this man and stop him. I need you to be with me on this."

Aveline straightened and began pacing along the length of her desk, waving her arms in sharp, quick jabs. "All right, of course I'm with you. With no real proof though, I can't bring any other guards. Where abouts are we going so I can move some patrols around?"

"Lowtown Foundries," I told her.

"Where we found the bones? Okay, I can work with that." She paused and tapped her chin. "Who all is coming with us?"

I thought for a moment. "You, me, Garrett and Anders. If he has any victims with him, they may need healing, otherwise I would just make it us three."

"All right, we can work with that. When and where?"

Strangely, they both seemed to be deferring to me. "How about eight tonight, in front of the clinic. We'll come up from Darktown so we'll run into fewer guards."

Hawke stood, stretching langurously. Stop that! Keep your mind focused on the night ahead. Not on Garrett's oh so yummy body! I heard Aveline chuckle and looked up at her knowing grin. A quick glance at Hawke showed that he hadn't noticed and I breathed a sigh of relief. He'd tease me about it for ages if he'd spotted that. Not that I don't deserve it. Bad Selena! Bad!

Hawke and I made our way to the clinic, stopping briefly in the Market to pick up some foodstuffs, a couple of meters on unbleached muslin and a few small stuffed toys. The muslin was great for bandages and slings, while the toys distracted small children while they or their parent was being treated. I loved bringing these things down to the clinic, seeing as Anders never had the coin to splurge on things like that.

Thankfully, Anders wasn't particularly busy today, though the two small kids, barely older than toddlers, that ran up and hugged us while mom was being bandaged was a bit of a surprise. For Hawke especially, as he stood there in his splint mail, sword and shield strapped to his back. The little girl wrapped about his leg barely reached the height of his hip, and yet she had him completely frozen, concern and near fear apparent in his eyes. I giggled, which didn't help with his mood. I lifted my own little attacker into my arms and handed him a teddy bear, that he promptly hugged tight to his chest. A simple ragdoll went to the girl and she released Hawke quickly to show her mum her new prize.

"Now, try and keep this hand clean," Anders was saying to the woman, patting the little girl on the head. "I know that's not easy, but try."

Mom nodded and collected her wards, barely stopping long enough for me to press one of our larger meat pies from the basket into her hands. "I know it's not a lot, but you guys should have a good meal tonight."

She smiled and nodded, tears in her eyes. The refugee problem in Darktown made me ill. The Chantry here advocated giving to the poor, but they rarely followed their own advice. I'd have to have a long conversation with Sebastian about this sometime soon.

Anders eyes sparkled at what he considered my generosity. I just figured it was general human kindness. It's how I'd want others to treat me if the roles were reversed.

The healer took the muslin bundle I handed him with a wink and a smile and I laughed. Garrett was trying to brush away non-existant kid germs.Hawke was so cute in his discomfort!

"Hi! What are you two doing here? Not that I'm complaining mind you," Anders asked, setting the muslin on a shelf and reaching to pull food stuffs out of the basket.

"We need you for a job tonight," Hawke answered, sliding up next to Anders and giving his shoulders a quick squeeze. The boys affection for each other had been relatively chaste during the past month, not going much farther after the kiss in the hall, which was driving me nuts! But it wasn't any of my business if, or how quickly, their relationship would progress.

It didn't stop me from sighing in frustration. Anders blushed to the tips of his ears and Garrett wiggled his eyebrows, leaning heavily against his friend.

"I'm in," Anders replied.

I looked at him, somewhat surprised. "You don't even know what we're doing. You're just going to say yes? Just like that?"

"Of course," he said, matter of factly. "Hawke has done nothing but help me. I'm returning the favour."

Hawke threw himself down on a nearby cot, armor and all, covering his face with an arm. How in the hell is that comfortable? He's still wearing his shield for God's sake! Anders watched him for a few moments, then turned back to me. "What is it?" he whispered. "What's bothering him?"

"This job, it's...going to save Leandra's life. That's a lot of preasure to put on a guy." I looked from Hawke to Anders and back. "Watch out for him? Aveline and I will be back by eight and we can leave."

Anders nodded and I headed out ot the cellar entrance to the estate.

Eight o'clock seemed to come all too soon. We met, as agreed, in front of the clinic, armed for bear. Aveline was in her full Captain's Plate, Wesley's shield strapped to her back, longsword sheathed beside it. Anders remained in his standard robe and tatty feathered coat, a thick warped wood staff I had never seen before in hand. Garrett was still in his old plate mail, with his own longsword and kite shield a pair for Aveline's.

I was finally getting to try out my own leathers outside of a training yard. They were supple, vegetable-tanned black leather breeches paired with corset and sleeve/collar combo. Short fingerless gloves and ankle boots rounded out the ensemble. I admit it, I loved them! They made me feel super sexy, and the appreciative looks I got from the boys while wearing them made it well worth the coin I spent. Bow at my back, Speed and Agility at my hips, and we were all set.

The trip to the foundry was tensely silent. Aveline and I kept our eyes peeled for late night bandits or questioning city guards, while Anders watched out for a very focused Hawke. I was really starting to become concerned. He'd moved from feigning disinterest to steely reseolve, and I just wasn't used to that. This was a well and truly angry Hawke, and I prayed he never looked at me that way.

The foundry was as I expected- shades and demons galore. Anders and I hung back, taking out creatures on the perifery while Hawke and Aveline waded in. In silent agreement, we'd paired off- Anders covering Hawke while I took care of Aveline- and it worked well. And when the two warriors began to flag, Anders would send out a rejuvenation spell to bolster them. Quietly I thanked whoever had given me this body, with it's natural fighting abilities, so that my frineds had someone there to back them up.

In short order, I brought them to the secret entrance into the basement, and soon we were in the killer's private chambers. Another short fight- though this time I was forced to get up close and personal with a rage demon- and we were left staring up at the protrait of a beautiful, and very familiar, woman. I left the other three to ruminate while I rummaged through the man's chests. Some coin, a few potions, a small shield and a sack that I would go through later, and I was ready to proceed with the others.

In Varric's telling fo the tale, there was a large battle involving demons and abominations. But in truth, when we entered the workroom and Quenten was bent over the body of his latest victim, Hawke screamed in rage, rushing forward to lop off the mad man's head.

Anders tried to save the woman, but she was long gone. So Anders and I ended up helping a now deflated Hawke back to his home while Aveline insisted on taking care of the bodies. I thanked her profusely for staying behind.

"Just take care of him, Selena. He's going to need it."

It was now after twelve and I couldn't sleep. The boys were down for the count, though it took a few belts of good Antivan brandy to finally fell Hawke. I was fidgetty, still pumped from the fighting and couldn't seem to shut off. So I decided to go through the sac of stuff I had found at Quenten's.

It was a simple darwstring burlap bag, crusted with dried salt along the bottom and smelling faintly of the ocean. Another one that likes the Coast I guess. Peeking inside, I was dumbfounded for a moment, then hastily tipped the sac over and dumped the contents on my bed, heedless of the sand that came with it.

Spread out over my simple green blanket were the remnants of my life. My cell phone, long since made useless by saltwater. One of my sneakers, the one that didn't make it back with me to the Hawke estate. My mother's wedding ring, that I had worn everyday since her death when I was twelve. And my wallet.

I fumbled at the latch, praying Oh please let them be okay please please please. The worn leather was stiff with salt and I could see that most of my business cards were wrecked from the water. But, there, tucked away in a plastic sleeve, were what I was looking for.

Pictures. Photos of my kids, saved by a thin sheet of plastic. My neice as a baby. Even my ex husband, when things had been better between us.

When Anders came to check on me in the morning, I was still crying.

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