It's been a year since Anders’ attack on the chantry and the collapse of the Circle. Kirkwall is rebuilding itself and thanks to the shrewd business sense of the city's Viscountess, Marian Hawke, it has been progressing faster than most were expecting. She's secured assistance in the form of donations, labor, and supplies. Her political prowess and negotiation tactics are described as 'awe inspiring.' While some debate her decisions, she logically defends her choices, and while she may not gain supporters they can understand her reasons. With her new position and hectic schedule she has almost no time to visit her friends who still drink at the rebuilt Hanged Man.
Night has fallen and a thick layer of clouds hides both the rising moon and twinkling stars. A pleasantly warm breeze pushes through Hightown and into an open window at the Hawke estate. The draft rifles a few pages and passes over the sleeping forms of Bethany and Fenris curled together by the fireplace. A soft pressure on his chest wakes Fenris and his eyes snap open ready to deal with the threat. Instead he finds Bethany, curled beside him, resting her head on his chest. What surprises him even more is that his arms are wrapped protectively about the dark haired mage. He looks around, his mind replaying the events just before he fell asleep. He’d come to Hawke’s home for help with his reading; however, Viscountess Hawke’s schedule leaves little time for personal freedoms so Bethany helped him. At some point they moved from the library to the sitting room where they both enjoyed their books, and had fallen asleep on the floor.
The elf slowly detangles from Bethany and rises to his feet with the thought of returning to his home. The next thought he has is that he can’t leave Hawke’s little sister asleep on the floor. Gently, he gathers her up in his arms and carries her up to her room, not knowing that Orana is watching him.
He gently lays her on the bed and removes her boots before covering her with a blanket. Fenris gently strokes her soft dark curls while watching her sleep and finds himself respecting this young woman. Despite the Templars executing every mage they happen upon, she not only remains, but has helped with some of the cleanup in Kirkwall. Three times a week she’s helping the Chantry with clearing-out some of the debris and charity drives. Twice a week she’s helping Lowtown and the Alienage, and once a week she’s offering assistance in Darktown, and neither he nor Marian are happy about Bethany going into Darktown. Since the battle, Darktown has become increasingly dangerous and inhospitable, even the Carta are reluctant to enter this area. Fenris has taken it upon himself to escort her to and from Darktown and his presence has been enough to ward of any attacks, so far. He’s also relieved to learn that she employs the use of a disguise when she ventures out into public, still hiding from the Templars, despite her sister’s lofty position. The mage uses a combination of theatrical tricks and magic to change her looks. With clothing and padding she adds on the appearance of five pounds and that she is just a humble peasant. She employs the use of makeup to alter her skin tone. Finally she uses magic to change her eyes to green and lengthy black curls to a short straight blonde bob. Even with her frenzied agenda, she still finds time for him. She makes him feel as if he could truly be happy and that thought scares him. It scares him almost as much as the realization that he’s developing feelings for a mage.
Marian Hawke quietly slips in through the front door of her home and is startled by the slender blonde elven woman suddenly appearing to take her cloak.
“Good evening Mistress. I hope all was well today.” The elf bows respectfully with the cloak bundled in her arms.
“Orana, you don’t need to wait up for me. We’ve talked about this.”
“Yes Mistress, I remember. But I wanted to wait for you. You work so hard for Kirkwall that sometimes you forget to take care of yourself.”
“Thank you for your concern, but I’m fine,” she makes her way into the front room where she sees Bethany’s book resting on the couch. The elf follows.
“Yes Mistress, I have a small plate of food and some drink set aside for you in the dining room.”
“Thank you. Where’s Bethany?”
“Mast…uh, Messere Fenris carried her to her room a while ago.”
“Fenris,” she can’t keep the shocked tone from her voice. “Why don’t you go to bed Orana and I’ll see you in the morning.”
“As you wish, Mistress.”
Hawke smiles at the woman and watches her leave for her bedchamber before she herself heads upstairs. She leans against the wall near her sister’s room, crosses her arms and waits. She doesn’t wait long before Fenris creeps out of the door.
“Fenris,” her voice is soft and carefully neutral.
“Hawke,” he looks back to room behind him and realizes that there is nothing he can say which will make the situation better.
“Come have a drink with me,” he knows this is not a request that he should turn down. He quietly follows his friend into the dining room where she pours two drinks and pushes the small plate of bread, dried meats and cheeses between them.
Fenris wraps his hands about his cup and watches her eat a few bits of food and sip her beverage. He thinks about saying something to break the uncomfortable silence between them, but cannot find anything that would not result in injury mostly on his part. Finally the stillness is unbearable and he opens his mouth to speak when Hawke talks over him.
“We had just settled in Lothering when the twins were born. We didn’t know anyone so I had to help Father with their delivery. Carver was first born. He was healthy and screaming his fool head off, but Bethany,” she pauses for a sip, collecting her thoughts. “Bethany was so still and so quiet.” Her blue eyes looked haunted at the memory. “I had to hold her while Father worked to heal her. I was the first one to hold her, and she was so tiny.” Hawke suddenly pulls her mind from the past and into the present her eyes are clear and focused as she looks at the white haired elf. “I don’t know what’s going on between you and Bethany, Fenris, but I know your feelings on mages,” she raises a hand to stop him from speaking. “I’m begging you; please don’t break my baby sister’s heart.”
Varric waves at Angelina, a new waitress at the Hanged Man, and signals for her to bring a round from his stash. The dwarven woman nods and heads into the back room which is still undergoing repairs. Tonight there is no diamondback game; an old friend of Varric's has been in town for nearly a week and tonight he’s at the Hanged Man drinking ale and sharing stories. Isabela raises a glass and joins in Varric’s toast is his friend Nico. The trio finish their drinks as Angelina brings up another round, she throws Varric a wink and sets down the mugs.
“I think she likes you,” Nico picks up one of the new mugs and hooks a stray strand of his golden hair behind his ear. Varric looks at the man sitting next to him, then towards the stairs. Each time he sees Nico he’s amazed at how that foul-mouthed, ill-mannered hooligan has grown into such a suave and sophisticated rogue.
“She’s sweet, but my heart is already spoken for.”
Isabela smirks and leans forward, emphasizing her impressive cleavage. “Your heart may belong to Bianca, but I think your trousers are up for grab.”
“Rivaini, my eyes are up here.”
“But the chest hair,” she sighs her eyes becoming glassy and dreamy. Nico laughs, and begins a tale about how Varric’s chest hair got him out of trouble with one of the Guards. Isabela glances down the stairs in time to see an unfamiliar skinny, tanned elf, with jet black hair walk in. She casually watches him move about the tavern speaking with staff and patrons alike. Finally the elf speaks with Corff who points towards the stairs.
“I think you’re about to have a guest Varric,” she warns.
“Looks like a messenger,” Nico adds. “At least it’s not from the Merchant Guild.” Nico prepares a dagger beneath the table…just in case.
“True, Corff knows all the Dwarven Merchant Guild messengers and hates each and every one of them,” Varric sets his tankard down and lovingly stokes Bianca’s outstretched arms. If a fight occurs he wants his lady close and ready for action.
“Varric Tethras? I have a message for you from the City of Nevarra.” The dark skinned elf says.
“Nevarra,” Varric takes the folded and sealed parchment, his curiosity piqued. “Who in blazes do I know in Nevarra?” He breaks the wax seal and a small, round, flat stone falls out and bounces across that table. Nico is quick to grab it before it falls to the floor. The dwarf reads the short missive, written in a hand he thought he’d never see again.
There’s a pink kiss mark is over the letter B. He quickly snatches the stone from Nico and finds himself staring at a Boon-Coin with the House Tethras rune on one side and ‘V+B’ poorly carved on the other.
“Where did you get this,” he loudly demands, aiming Bianca at the startled elf. “Where?!” His actions are so quick and so out of character that Isabela has readied her blades and Nico is on his feet.
“From my dispatcher,” with raised hands he backs into the wall. “I don’t know who wrote it. I swear. I’m just a courier.”
Nico studies the paper and sees the mark of the Couriers’ Guild of Nevarra.
“Varric, he speaks the truth. Couriers like him are common in Nevarra. The fact that he’s here means someone paid a lot of coin. Look, here’s the mark of the Courier’s Guild,” Nico tries to calm the dwarf with logic.
“It’s true! It’s true!”
Varric collapses back into his seat, staring at the one word letter in his hands. Nico calms the messenger and weaves a rather believable tale about the note being from a friend thought dead as he escorts the elf to the stairs. He even pays the man several silvers for the trouble and waves him on his way.
“By the Void Varric,” Nico takes his seat and lifts his mug. “What was that all about?”
“Bianca,” he answers still in a daze. “Bianca needs my help.”
Ale nearly shoots from Nico’s nose at Varric’s confession. He swallows quickly, the liquid sitting like a rock in gut. Isabela slams her mug onto the table and stares the storyteller. The dwarf mentally kicks himself for his honest answer.
“Wait, did you say Bianca? The Bianca,” Isabela asks in disbelief.
“Varric, it can’t be Bianca.”
“Wait a minute, you mean there really was a girl named Bianca?” Isabela continues her attempts to pry information from the stunned dwarf.
“I never said there wasn’t, Rivaini.” Varric throws Nico a quick look and the human hides his nod behind his tankard. If he ever wants his questions about Bianca answered he will keep his mouth shut. The dusky skinned pirate is clueless to what passed between the human and dwarf.
“I bet you know the story,” she turns her attention to Nico.
“Regrettably, my dear woman, it’s not my story to tell.”
“Oh, you’re no fun.” She suddenly stands, and places her hands on her hips. “Fine then, if you’re going to Nevarra then going by boat will save you at least a week’s time, and I’m your captain.”
“Rivaini,” Varric protests.
“If you’re going after Bianca, you’ll need someone to watch your back. It’ll be just like the old times with Hawke.”
“Rivaini,” Varric sighs, rubbing his brow. “I hate to point out the obvious, but you don’t have a ship. Remember, it was destroyed a year ago.”
“I know,” she groans. “And just after I finished getting rid of all the horrid, mustard yellow satin Castion seemed obsessed with. I’m sure Hawke can arrange something.”
“Well, she’s not arranging anything tonight. We’ll have to see her in the morning.”
“Fine, I’ll meet you at the Keep come morning,” she picks up her mug and heads towards the stairs.
“Where are you going,” Nico asks.
“I’m a pirate, sweetheart, I’m searching for booty.” She winks and heads downstairs.
“Nico, do you have any contacts in Nevarra?”
“I might have a couple. You need me to look into something?”
“Yeah, kid I do. Here,” Varric retrieves a small, but heavy coin purse from a hidden panel near the mantle. “You’ll need this.”
“Keep it. This one is on me,” Nico raises a hand to stop any interruption. “You saved my life Varric, the lessons you taught me allowed me to become more than just some everyday lowlife thug. I would not be who I am today if you didn’t encourage it. Between your spy network and mine we could find out what color small clothes the Divine is wearing. Tell me what you need.”
Viscountess Hawke sits behind her large desk reviewing and signing contracts, proposals, and amendments. Sebastian is standing near the door watching her. Since reclaiming the throne of Starkhaven he can empathize with her and offers her some advice. He’s also in Kirkwall on official business, to solidify some trade agreements between their two cities. As he watches her a question that has been nagging him for some time bubbles to the surface.
“Hawke, can I ask you a personal question?”
“After everything we’ve been through together, I’m surprised you feel the need to ask permission,” it’s a relief to him that she can still be humorous.
She pauses mid-signature and something crosses over her face. She quickly finishes her signature and hands the stack of papers to Bran with instructions for their delivery. Once the two are alone she looks up at him.
“What about Anders,” her tone is carefully neutral, but her body is tense as if preparing for an attack.
“Your…relationship with him. I never understood why you choose him.”
She sighs heavily and moves to the window, thinking it will be easier to answer him if she doesn’t have to look into his blue eyes.
“I was so ready to be in love. To have someone in my life who could accept me for who and what I am. And he was…there, and accepting.”
He crosses the room to stand near her. “But why him? Was there no one else who caught your fancy?”
“There was, but he was promised to someone else and I wasn’t going to ask him to choose.” She still is not looking at him.
“You’re a beautiful, intelligent and resourceful woman. Who could refuse you?”
She looks at him, her blue eyes holding the answer before her lips ever move. “A man of faith.”
“Hawke…Marian, I never knew. I…” he stutters, taken aback by this discovery.
“I know. I worked hard to keep it that way. If I couldn’t have you I at least had your friendship and that was a way of keeping you close.”
“Did Anders know?”
“Yes, and I think that’s what made it easier for me to,” she pauses to collect her words. “To do what needed to be done. He would have left you in the Chantry. The only reason you weren’t was because I had just happened to have asked for your help that day.”
He lifts her chin and looks into her eyes. “Marian, do you still have feelings for me?”
“Yes,” her voice is barely audible.
“Then take comfort in knowing that you’re not alone. I have dreamt of you many times.” He moves in to kiss her but stops when she places her hands on his chest.
“But your vows,” she protests.
“Elthina never allowed me to renew them.” Again he moves in to kiss her, this time she doesn’t resist. “Princes aren’t meant for chastity,” he whispers against her lips.
“I like how you negotiate with foreign dignitaries, Hawke.” Isabela’s voice shatters the mood and Hawke groans and rolls her eyes.
“Choir Boy is butter.”
Sebastian coughs and attempts to stop blushing.
“What do you want,” the frustration is evident in Hawke’s voice.
“I need a ship,” Isabela blurts. Varric groans as he was planning a more subtle approach to such a large favor.
“No,” Hawke sits behind the desk. “Just because I’m Viscountess does not mean the city’s coffers are at my disposal. I can’t use city funds however I please.”
“Yes you can,” Isabela protests.
“But I won’t. I have a lot of people looking up to me and I won’t let them down.”
“Hawke, we won’t keep it…we just need to borrow it for a bit,” Varric interjects.
“Give me one good reason why.”
“Varric got a letter from Bianca,” the pirate blurts. The dwarf glares her and again wishes he had said nothing about who wrote the letter.
“The crossbow?” Hawke asks, intentionally attempting to put Varric in an uncomfortable spot.
“No, the girl! You know the one he can’t talk about.”
“Wait, you mean to say that Bianca is real? A real, live breathing woman,” Hawke’s eyes move between Isabela and Varric.
“Yes, and I’m going to meet her…well, as soon as you give me a ship that is.”
“Isabela,” Hawke sighs. “I’m not giving you a ship.”
“Then let me borrow one.”
“You’re a pirate. Your definition of borrow is different from mine.”
“Look this time, I really will give it…all right I can’t say it with a straight face.”
“Where do you need to go,” Sebastian asks.
“Cumberland and from there we travel to Nevarra,” the pirate volunteers, Varric glares at the dark skinned woman and wonders why he agreed to let her accompany him to speak with Hawke.
“Varric, I’m sorry, but I can’t. Kirkwall has no ships in the harbor at the moment, the last left last night and I don’t think any are due back anytime soon. The ships that are there now are not mine to command. I’d pay from my own pocket to have a ship built for you, but that will take months.”
“Perhaps, I can help,” Sebastian says. “We have a ship in port that will be heading to Cumberland in a couple of days. If you like I could arrange something. But I want you to answer one question first, Varric.”
“I can’t tell you about Bianca.”
“I’ll not ask you to break your promise,” the Prince of Starkhaven assures.
“Then what do you want to know?”
“How did Bianca get you to keep her story a secret?”
“How does any woman get such a promise from a man,” he shrugs. “She had me by the balls.”