Author: Lywinis PM
Lady Hawke keeps getting letters from a secret admirer.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance - Hawke (F) & Sebastian V. - Words: 5,465 - Reviews: 36 - Favs: 108 - Follows: 11 - Published: 04-12-11 - Status: Complete - id: 6897603
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Celeste could not remember when the first letter had arrived. She had been sore, aching, and covered in blood, a rough battle with a group of thugs leaving her exhausted and in want of nothing more than a bath. She had sunk into the hot water with a sigh of pleasure, all thoughts of the demands of her station flitting away with her relaxation. She had spared her writing desk a passing glance, but ignored it for several days, opting to recuperate instead.
She had skimmed over her other letters already, jotting replies and penning thank you notes. She was already irritated from the work, not liking the redundant paperwork. Why could she not just kill a group of bandits and be done with it? Aveline requires way too much paperwork for the pay she offers, she thought.
Her hand had passed over the letter several times, the lack of a seal dropping it into a mental stack of 'least important'. It was a small thing, a rolled piece of foolscap tied with a simple white ribbon. Unrolled, it was only about the length of a normal letter. The handwriting was blocky and strong, no-nonsense, but the words did not convey the sense of roughness that the script did.
I could not bear to refrain from penning this note to you. Please forgive the impertinence of this foolish heart, for I have been struck by your gentle manner. You are a beacon in the darkness that is Kirkwall, your hand one of healing and hope. I only wish that your kind hand had found the city sooner, for we would surely flourish under such an influence.
I wish nothing more than to see you safe, but I know that the works you do benefit the needy and the helpless, and so I must stay my hand. I must content myself knowing that you work for the good of the city, and that my esteem is purely in the interest of the common good.
Keep safe, my lady, and know that I think of you with great affection.
Her brows drew down in confusion. The language was archaic; there was no signature, no identifying characteristics. The letter could not have been for Leandra Hawke; her mother, though the thought filled her with a pang of sadness, had been dead for almost a year and a half now. She knew that the one sending out false admirer notes was long dead as well.
The letter had been meant for her.
Curious, she rang the service bell. Bodahn appeared, bearing a cup of hot tea for her. She took a grateful sip, gesturing towards the piece of foolscap.
"Do you know who sent this one, Bodahn?"
The dwarf shook his head. "No, messere. It was left on the table with the others when the messenger came about a week ago. Is aught amiss?"
"No, it just seemed odd that someone would write to me without identifying themselves."
"I have no idea why, messere. Shall I start screening your messages?" He twisted his hands together. "I remember what happened when I did not for your mother and – "
"No, Bodahn, it's fine, really. I was just curious." She was quick to reassure him, knowing that he worried. She rebound the rolled foolscap with its ribbon and placed it in her letterbox. "I'm sure that this will be a one-time thing."
But it wasn't.
I was relieved to hear of your triumphant return from the Bone Pit. I understand that you fought the drakes with a mixture of wit and grace that has yet to be matched, according to Serrah Tethras. I was thrilled to hear of your exploits, even as I trembled in fear for your life. Should your slender form be marred with the scars of battle, they would make you no less the gentle, sweet lady I have come to know from the stories.
My poor imagination has taunted me with visions of you in battle, no less beautiful for your grim task. Your hair is the color of flame, and flame it is, wreathing your head as you defend the innocent and protect the weak. I can see your eyes snapping in anger as you stop slavers and monsters alike. It is enough to set even the most hardened mercenary a-tremble, let me assure you.
Yet Serrah Tethras has reassured me that you are kind to those who deserve it. I can only hope that you will look upon my words with that same kindness; at the very least, dismiss their cheek as the ramblings of a smitten fool.
Should you need anything, you have but to request it of me. Simply bind a letter with a white ribbon to your garden gate, and know that I will see it and perform any task you give me with a glad heart. Though you no doubt have many more admirers with finer qualities than I, know that I will ever be your servant in all things.
Keep safe, my lady, and know you are ever in my thoughts.
She twined the ribbon around her finger as she read the latest missive. She had never had a secret admirer, and this was something new for her. If she were honest with herself, she would admit that she hadn't had many admirers at all. Any and all boys showing any interest in the Hawke daughters were met with the combined displeasure of Malcolm and Carver. Both girls being mages, a suitor would have been an unnecessary danger as they were growing up.
She couldn't help but be a little thrilled by the thought; she had read countless tales her mother collected that detailed secret letters delivered by men who felt that their love was unworthy. Her mother would want to encourage this, ever the romantic. The question was: did she?
She chewed her lower lip in thought, and then pulled a sheet of parchment toward her, dipping her quill with a somewhat unsteady hand. She took a deep breath and penned a reply in her cramped, inelegant handwriting.
I am afraid I am at a loss as to how to thank you for your kind words, though I fear the reality is far from what you have heard. Master Tethras is not a dishonorable dwarf, but he does have the penchant for…stretching the truth, to put it politely. I hope that you will not be disappointed to find that I am a simple woman, like any other. I have just had the good fortune to be in the right place at the right time.
I need no services performed that I cannot do for myself, serrah, although it is kind of you to ask. If I am honest, I am fair overwhelmed by the attention your letters give me.
(Here she paused, the dry end of the quill brushing against her lips as she stopped to think. She did not know what the etiquette was for this. How was she to respond to this? She would be the first to admit that she had no idea. She thought a moment more, then replaced quill to paper, the words scratching out in unsure strokes.)
If I find I have anything that requires the services of someone as gallant as yourself, I shall be sure to write and ask you. I will admit I have never had an admirer before, so forgive my rudeness. Is it forward of me to be curious as to your identity? I know not the etiquette that one should use when speaking to one such as you.
The recent death of my dear mother has also made me loath to reply to your letter in haste. I mean no disrespect, but her memory is still fresh.
Celeste Hawke, Champion of Kirkwall
She hesitated only a moment before sprinkling sand onto the parchment to help the ink to dry. Her heart had begun to speed up, and she felt silly for feeling that way. Still, she took the white ribbon that had bound the foolscap and carried both it and the now-dry parchment to the gate in her garden. Feeling like a fool the entire time, she attached the note to the gate and made her way back inside.
The next letter came a week later. It looked to have been penned with more care; the pen strokes were less blocky and more elegant than they had been.
Know that you are far too modest when dealing with one such as I. I doubt very much that I am your only admirer; I hear tales of your beauty all around Kirkwall. My admiration for you does not waver for this, however. I am grateful you replied and were not offset by my bluntness. It has been quite some time since someone has moved my quill in such a manner, and I was afraid I would offend.
I would venture to say that your beauty alone moved me thus, but I would not be truthful. I have heard many things about you, and each new tidbit of information makes me long to hear more. I know that I would be unworthy to gaze upon you with any kind of fondness, but your favorable reply has made me bold. Were you here now, I would press a kiss to your knuckles to assuage your doubt that I do not find you as charming as I have written.
I had heard of the passing of your lady mother. That saddened many in the city, for Leandra Hawke was well-loved by the nobles of Kirkwall. May I offer my condolences to you on your loss, and my assurances that I mean no harm with my simple notes? Should you ever feel the need to end our contact, say so, and it shall be done with no complaint. I understand your reluctance, and I again beg your forgiveness for my forward approach.
As to my identity, I will simply have to remain your humble servant for now. I will say again that I think of you often, and with fondness.
Celeste felt her heart speed up when she finished scanning the letter. She bit her lower lip in thought, toying with the ribbon.
She was convinced he was, well, a he; the way he phrased things made it unlikely that he were anything but a man. It was strange, she thought, that she did not even know this man's name but that he would cause such a flutter in her stomach when she read over the part where he would like to kiss her knuckles. It wasn't near as filthy as Isabela's writing (or her reading material, for that matter).
She swallowed and pulled out a sheet of parchment.
I apologize for being blunt with you as well. I am glad you understand the reason for my hesitation.
I speak the truth when I say that I have not had many admirers. Growing up as we did, we were not encouraged in such things.
I admit you have me at a disadvantage. You know about me from stories and from what I have told you before, but I know next to nothing about you. Surely you would wish to tell me more about yourself? If one wishes to impress someone they hold in high esteem, it occurs to me that their accomplishments would be the first thing that they talk about. You seem to be a humble man; I will not press you for details you are not willing to give.
You always end your missives with the note that you think of me. I thank you. Perhaps you will leave me with something to think on in your next letter.
She smiled in the shadows of the garden as she tied the parchment to the gate. Perhaps she would learn more about her mysterious admirer this time.
Another week passed.
She would have sworn that Bodahn knew who her admirer was, but the dwarf claimed innocence each time she asked. She stopped just short of driving him batty, resolving instead to stay home and wait for the daily messenger so that she could accost him and ask where the white-ribboned foolscap came from.
This plan was ripped to shreds by Varric, who needed her help in town to clear one of Bartrand's old warehouses of a Coterie cell. She sighed and cast a longing look at her letter desk, but Varric had already rounded up Sebastian and Anders. She grabbed her staff, unhappy about clearing out thugs for the first time she could remember.
Her foul mood lasted all the way to the docks, where Varric called her out on her scowl and reluctant stride.
"Why are you so down?" Varric shrugged Bianca out of her holster, readying her for a fight. "I thought you lived to annoy the Coterie?"
"It's nothing. I was waiting on a letter." She waved her hand and walked on, conscious of his eyes on her back.
"Oh no you don't. A letter from whom?" Varric's face was a study in canny appraisal. Anders had perked up as well, much to her annoyance. Sebastian was tying up a stray bootlace and didn't seem interested.
"Nobody you know," she said. She glared at him. "It's none of your business."
"You realize I'll just send Isabela over with the knowledge that you're getting letters and telling me to shut up when I ask?" He grinned as her glare intensified. "You're the most honest person I know, Hawke. While that's a shame in some respects, I know when you tell me it's none of my business that it's something you'd rather not talk about. So, out with it."
She sighed. "It's really nothing, Varric. Someone has been sending me letters, and I have been waiting for a reply. I haven't yet figured out who it is, though."
"A secret admirer?" Anders pursed his lips. "Are you sure that's a good idea, after…"
She turned her glare on him, and he trailed off. "Of course it's a stupid idea. But his letters are nice, and he seems to just want to talk to me. He doesn't ask for any information. All he does is praise me." She felt her cheeks flaming. "It's…nice, to have someone who doesn't expect something of me all the time."
Sebastian, to her surprise, came to her rescue. "I'm sure Hawke will be all right. After all, she knows what to look for, and she wouldn't go to meet this admirer without some of us along for protection." He shrugged, his brows knotted in concern nonetheless. "You wouldn't, right?"
She shot him a grateful look. "Of course. Don't we have thugs to run out of your warehouse, Varric?"
"Right." And so they did.
She dragged herself home at dusk, the shadows falling over the roofs of Hightown as she and Sebastian wended their way homeward, he to the Chantry and she to her estate, which was on the way. He paused as she opened her door, bathing him in the firelight from inside.
"Hawke," he began, and she turned to him. He seemed to fumble with the words he wanted to say. He struggled for a moment more, then sighed. "Just be careful, all right?"
She smiled at him. "I'm a big girl, Sebastian. I know when I'm in over my head."
He nodded and said goodnight, moving back into the shadows of the evening. She watched him until he turned the corner to the side street that led to the Chantry and then went inside.
Another letter had arrived for her. It sat atop the others, as if mocking her. She forced herself to sort through all the others first, setting aside the ones that needed replies in the morning before snatching up the ribboned note and taking it upstairs with her. She prepared herself a bath before she allowed herself to read the note, wanting to relax a little of the sudden tension out of her shoulders. She sank into the water with a sigh, unrolling the parchment and settling herself against the back of the copper tub to read.
I apologize for the delay in my response to your letter. I have been remiss in my duty to you, and that leaves me distraught that I have offended. Were I a bolder man, I would kiss your palm in apology, perhaps your wrist as well. Bolder still, I would hope for a sigh of pleasure from your lips as I did so.
But I am not a bold man, though your letters would make me so. I imagine you think me foolish for taking such hope in the few lines of script you write, but they are the highlight of my cold evenings. Too often am I awake late, the thought of your letters the only thing to keep me from despair. The kindness you have shown me is too much to bear already, but know this: were it to come from another lady, it would not even be half as sweet.
I am sorry that I cannot tell you more, but my limitations are many. My current situation is in limbo; I have many hard decisions to make in the future, and I must count on the example you set to help me make the right ones.
Would it be forward of me to ask that you spare a thought for me? It is my hope that you think of my letters as I think of yours, but that surely cannot be so. I am ever your humble servant, and think of you fondly.
Celeste shivered, a delicious thrill running down her spine in an electric sizzle. She rolled the parchment back up and placed it on the side table next to the tub, out of reach of any splashing she might do. Her mind wandered as she bathed, an anonymous pair of lips settling against her wrist in her thoughts as she composed a mental reply. If he were a bold man, would he flick his tongue along her wrist, tasting her pulse-point before leaning back and smiling at her?
Something about this was so strange, and so wicked. The man hadn't even told her his name yet. She wondered how forward she should be with her reply. She thought about that as she toweled her hair and dressed, but still could not come up with a satisfactory answer.
She settled herself at the writing desk after dressing in her soft house robes. Her quill was stilted, hesitant, as she composed her letter.
I do not think that you have anything to apologize for; your duties must be strenuous if you can write but once a week. You must think me a harsh woman if you wish to soothe my temper with kisses. I would not ask that you pay me homage, though the idea has a certain appeal. I am a genial person, contrary to the wild stories Master Tethras weaves as he sits in the Hanged Man.
I do think of your letters, serrah. I keep them in a box on my writing table, so I may reread them at my leisure. They have become a high point of my week, something that I may enjoy that is wholly mine. The demands of the Champion are many, and require much of my energy; these letters remind me that I am also a person, a person that someone holds in high regard.
I will not pry into your private affairs, but know that I will keep the thought that you will find resolution soon close to my heart.
She sanded it and took it outside before she could think twice about what she had written, and her hands shook as she tied it to the gate with the white ribbon.
Another letter arrived four days later. She placed it in the box with the others straight away, determined to wait until the day's tasks had been finished before she read this one. There were books to sort through, the grocery list to plan, and Cambert was in dire need of a bath. She was intent on being productive before giving in to her idle fancies.
She made it through breakfast.
She took the note upstairs in her sleeve, loath to let anyone know she was reading it. Settling herself against the headboard, she undid the ribbon, unrolling the parchment. The first thing she noticed was that what she'd thought was a single page was actually two. A small poem was included, separate from the actual letter. She smoothed the parchment of the letter first and began to read.
I admit that you have undone me. Never would I expect a woman of your grace and beauty to respond to my bold words. In truth, I thought to leave them out; I meant to recopy my letter without those uncouth statements in them. I see, instead of scorning me as I thought you would, you encourage me with words that set my hopes afire. You say that you would not be adverse to me paying homage to you, but no doubt you would be insulted by what meager honor I could do you.
I have enclosed something for you instead of my paltry affections. Perhaps it will lighten your evenings as you rest from your toils as Champion of Kirkwall – for surely your days are busy indeed, righting wrongs and being an inspiration to all you meet. This poor soul of mine leaps with the knowledge that my letters can bring you joy in these tense times, when you are most needed. Perhaps you will tire of me after this letter, but the thought that I have made you smile will light my days forever more.
Know that you are in my thoughts often, and that I hold you there with reverence.
Celeste realized she was indeed smiling, rereading the letter once more before setting it aside and picking up the poem. It was written with more care – while the letters she had gotten were tidy, this piece of parchment was of high quality, and was illuminated with a forest scene of a doe being chased by an archer. She was enchanted, running a gentle finger across the delicate painting that scrolled down the length of the verse in bright blues and dark forest greens. While such things were not uncommon in texts, they were rare outside of a noble's most prized collection, because they were hand painted.
Were I a prince,
I would become a pauper
Just to taste the honey of your lips.
I would be a zephyr,
A finger-light breath,
If through your tresses I could slip.
Would that I were the sunlight,
For the chance to gaze upon your face,
This, I vow, would not be better,
But for my kisses in its place.
Celeste pressed her fingertips to her lips and read the verses again. She had never had someone do something like this for her, and she felt a giddy flutter start somewhere in the vicinity of her toes, working its way up to where it coiled in her belly like a living thing. She turned to her nightstand and opened the book that she had been reading to tuck the poem inside for safekeeping.
She rerolled the letter and slipped it back into her sleeve so that she could store it in her box with the others. She would have to think on her reply.
To my admirer,
I was not expecting a gift of verse. My smile has not faltered all day, and I thank you for the thought. If you claim that this gift is humble, I can only wonder what you consider 'paltry' about your affections. Perhaps I should encourage your boldness; I have been nothing but rewarded for my efforts so far.
Know that I am thinking of your letters and that my mood is brighter for them.
I wish you luck in your duties, no matter where they take you. Know that you have earned my admiration and my affection, and that I await your next letter.
She decided to forgo signing her surname. She wanted to see what he would do when he saw it. Humming a soft tune, she fastened it to her gate and went about her errands. When she next entered the garden, the letter was gone.
You are a temptress, though you are not aware of it, I am sure. I have been too bold already; you only inspire me to want things I have no right to claim. Would that I could rest with you in some secluded bower, your gentle fingers entwined with mine. Just the thought of your kiss would set me afire, but it is a foolish notion I should not entertain.
You deserve a far greater man than I. Please accept this small token, a pittance of what should be offered to you, and know that you consume my waking thoughts. I can but hope that you will continue to think of me with affection, as I think of you.
A pendant had been worked onto the ribbon of the note, a silverite chain holding a small songbird carved out of amber. The detail was exquisite; someone had taken great care with this. Whorls of dark caramel colored sap were shaped into artful feathers, and she would not have been surprised to see the eyes blink at her. She placed it around her neck, pleased to see that the necklace stopped just above the swell of her breasts. She shivered as the chain slid across her neck, gooseflesh rising where imagined fingers pressed. A flush rose in her cheeks as she brought her hand to the gift.
She pushed away her quill and ink and stood, tucking the necklace into her robes. She needed to think this through, and she needed advice.
She found Sebastian in the Chantry garden, his eyes closed as he sat in contemplation. She always sought him out when she needed solid advice; he seemed to be the one most concerned with what was best for her. She paused in the shadow of a towering rosebush, feeling bad for interrupting what looked to be an interesting chat with the Maker. His brows had smoothed out, making him seem younger, and he looked so peaceful that she almost didn't clear her throat.
He opened his eyes, smiling at her. "Hawke. Have a seat?"
She sat on the marble bench next to him, her hands clasped in front of her. Taking a deep breath, she launched right in. "I need an opinion."
He frowned. "Most of your group would rather I not give my opinion."
"Well, you were the one who decided to come to my defense when Anders was chewing on my ear over this. You remember those letters I was getting, right?"
"I want to write him and ask him to meet me tonight. You asked me, when I started writing back, to make sure that someone was with me when I met him. Will you…come with me tonight, Sebastian?"
"Are you sure this is the course you want to take?" Sebastian said, placing his hands on his knees and looking her in the eye. "You have not been writing to him for very long."
She squeezed her fingers together. "His letters have become, well, more ardent. Nothing graphic, mind you, but full of sweetness. With all the sadness in my life, I want to have something that makes me feel good. This does."
Sebastian was silent for a long moment, then reached out and patted her clasped hands. "Very well, I will stand with you. You are my friend, I could do nothing less."
She smiled at him, feeling hope flood through her. "Thank you, Sebastian. Can you meet me in my garden close to sundown?"
"As you wish."
The Amell garden was quiet, save for the rush of the fountain and the dulling roar of the markets closing for the evening. The sun was pasting its last hurrah across the skyline, drenching everything it touched in golden reds and oranges. She took a deep breath to calm her fluttering stomach, and smoothed her dress once again. It was a simple design, chosen to show off the amber charm on the necklace. She tugged again at the cuffs, willing herself into calmness.
She didn't even know if he was going to come, but she could at least say she had made the effort.
You wrote to me once that you would perform any service I requested, and would do it gladly. I find that I have only one such service that I could request of you. You know where my garden is, so my request is that you meet me there after sundown. If you choose to decline, I will understand, but you have piqued my curiosity to the breaking point, and I would see my admirer.
I promise that I shall think of you with affection even if you decide not to come.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the creaking of the gate, and she turned, her hands going to the necklace. Sebastian stepped through the entry, giving her a little wave. He melted into the shadows, moving toward the door where he could watch the entire garden for her. She smiled and returned the wave. Varric would have come had she asked, but she wasn't sure she could live this down.
The silence of the evening deepened, as did the shadows, painting the garden with deep purples as the sun set behind the horizon. Still she waited, her hands twisting together as she stood under the apple tree. Stars began winking into view, sprinkling themselves across the sky in clusters, and still she waited.
She gave in when the air began to chill her through her dress. She felt her shoulders slump a little, but straightened herself for Sebastian's sake. She moved to where he was standing, or where she had seen him last. He had taken his duty to heart; she could not see him in the darkness of the garden.
"Sebastian?" she called, squinting to look for him. "I'm sorry for making you come out here. Let's go inside and -"
A hand, warm and calloused on hers made her jump, and she stifled a squeak as she felt her hand being lifted, a warm pair of lips pressing themselves to her chilled knuckles. She turned and could just make out Sebastian's profile in the glow from the kitchen fire inside.
He turned her hand over and placed a kiss to her palm, then her wrist, his tongue flickering out to tease her pulse there that thundered in her veins.
"Would that I were the sunlight, for the chance to gaze upon your face. This, I vow, would not be better, but for my kisses in its place." His words were punctuated with a kiss to each of her fingertips until he finished. His lips were soft against hers, and she melted into his touch. Her hand slid up his chest to tangle in his hair as he placed a slower, more demanding kiss upon her lips. When he let her go, she rested her head against his chest.
"You?" She looked up at him, his blue eyes darkened by the shadow that enveloped them.
"Yes." He smiled and ran a hand through her hair. She arched into the touch, something nameless coiling into her belly. "Are you angry?"
"Never." She stood on tiptoe, bringing her lips to his again. She smiled against his mouth, her fingers tracing circles on his neck. Night-birds called, settling down for sleep in the apple tree as the stars spun overhead, watching over the two lovers as they embraced once more.
A/N: This is what happens when anons offer baked goods. You get terrible, terrible poetry. I'm really very sorry about that. I could not help myself.
Also, it's 7 a.m. and I haven't been to bed yet. Obeisance's next chapter is almost done, no worries, Constant Readers. I hope you enjoyed this interlude, and as always, thank you for reading!