"You are moving up in the world. This is rather more impressive then The Hanged Man".

Varric turned, a smile already on his face at the sound of a familiar voice, and Hawke returned the expression although her own was weary. He looked tired as well though, she noted - older as well. Had it been so long?

"Come on - I know a quiet place. Somewhere the Seeker won't find you" he said, gesturing and leading her inside the building. From outside, it was impressive, but Hawke noted the tumbling walls, the fact they were using collapsed stone rather then steps, the gaping holes wider then any window - it was not quite the fortress it seemed, but the sight was still impressive. She hadn't come to admire the Inquisition's home however, and up high above the courtyard, out of earshot of anyone else, she turned back to Varric and skipped pleasantries.

"Corypheus? And here I was thinking we left him a charred mess full of stab wounds down in the Deep Roads".

"You and me both" the dwarf murmured, his tone low and serious as he took a seat and Hawke sighed, perching on a partially collapsed section of wall.

"So...how?"

"Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe...the Wardens locked him away because he can't be killed".

"There's a chilling thought" she murmured, tilting her head back, closing her eyes in the pale winter sunlight and trying to find some small comfort in the weather because the situation at hand was too unpleasant to face. "I'm meeting Alistair soon. My friend in the Wardens. Something odd is going on, maybe it's connected...either way, I hope the Wardens still have time to deal with an ancient darkspawn".

"Something odd?" Varric questioned and she sighed, trying to explain what she barely understood.

"The taint in them seems to be...speeding up? Wardens are hearing their Calling, Wardens who should be twenty years away from that point, something very odd is happening". At his enquiring look she continued. "Aveline took Carver far away, she and Donnic will try to keep him safe...and sane. Alistair thinks the problem is based here, in Ferelden, either that or Orlais - they're trying to get Carver as far away as possible".

"And Blondie?" The question is not kind or concerned, his voice is sarcastic, annoyed almost, and Hawke frowns at first...before sighing. More than half the world hates her lover, she can hardly blame an old friend for having mixed feelings towards him.

"He is not here" she told him, keeping her voice calm and diplomatic.

"Is he nearby? Alone? Causing trouble?"

"Please...Varric - let's not do this" she pleaded softly. A silence fell and she watched the dwarf as he shook his head and turned away. "You know it's better if you don't know where he is" Hawke pointed out.

"I think it'd be better still if you didn't know where he was either. I told you before...I told you once Hawke, he'd be no good for you".

"I know, you warned me. As did my uncle, Fenris, Carver, Sebastian - everyone warned me. I still made my choice".

"Do you regret it?" He asks the question as though regretting the words before they even left his lips, as though expecting her to leave, but Hawke considers.

Does she regret it? Anders wanted to change the world...and he had. For better or worse, she suspected it was too soon to tell. He had wanted to free mages from the shackles of the Chantry, and he had - she knew, and Anders knew as well, that it would never be a peaceful transition, that you could not go from the confines of the Circle to all living together in harmony overnight. Hawke still hoped things would improve, the rebels would grow calmer and those mad with power would be defeated, the Templars and the Chantry would reconcile, and a new world could be built, one where those with magic had a place and a purpose and did not need to be locked away - it could still happen. Even in the chaos and turmoil, she still thought it could happen. Of course, Varric hadn't asked if she regretted what Anders did...just if she regretted choosing him.

Closing her eyes, she considered, and the dwarf studied her. For so long, Hawke had looked younger then her years, the heart shaped face and pale skin, the big blue eyes and mass of dark hair, her brother's colouring but finely wrought - short as well, shorter then you expected for a human, he suspected it was why she had gotten away so often, why she could surprise enemies in battle and escape trouble. Nobody had expected it from her. But age and exhaustion were beginning to show, new fine lines that had never been there before, wrinkles showing how often she frowned this days, dark shadows beneath her eyes - she was no longer slight, but too thin, she looked like times had been hard.

Which they had been. She and Anders had been on the run since the incident in Kirkwall, they had helped other Circles rebel and yet every time the rebels shunned them, fearful of what association with Anders would mean for them - he had started the revolution, and was shunned by it, because he was seen as a troublemaker, mages feared nobody would listen to them if he was among their ranks even if they sympathised with him. They ran from the rebellion, the Templars, the Chantry, the Wardens, from everyone - they ran from old friends and past allies, they hid from the world they created, and now...now Anders' sanity was threatened anew, not just by Justice, but by the taint. Did she regret it?

All she needed to think of truly was his hands, his slender fingers and the way they trembled when he touched her, as though she were a holy relic and he unworthy of being near her. Of his smile, so rarely seen, a ray of sunshine so often hidden by clouds but it lit his whole face when it appeared. His laugh, and the way it twisted her stomach still, after all this time. She thought of his eyes, so intense, the way he wore his emotions in his expression, he could never hide his feelings from her - she thought of his voice, his kiss...

"I don't regret it" she admitted, opening her eyes and looking to Varric, meeting his gaze steadily as she told the truth. "I'd choose him again in a moment. Even if it meant all this".

There was an awkward pause. Their friendship went back a decade, but this admission from her was so frank, and Varric wasn't sure how to handle it, coughing slightly and looking away. He knew what it was to love somebody you shouldn't...but the way Hawke loved Anders, that was alien to him.

"Tell me about the Inquisitor" she demanded, changing the story. "I don't know if I can help, though I'll try, of course - but what is she like?"

"Well, a little like you actually Hawke - incapable of a straight answer...and the sort of mage who might change people's minds" he said, offering a slight smile as though an apology for his previous question, and Hawke returned it.

"Careful - I'll be thinking you've replaced me" she teased gently. "Now I've double the competition - the Inquisitor and Bianca".

"Please Hawke - you know you could never compete with Bianca".