My Shadow

Varric Tethras is an excellent fighter, but that's not what he's known for. It's rather his way with words (which is even better than the way he handles his crossbow, Bianca). He always tells the stories of others, which are questionable in some points but surprisingly detailed. It's quite probable that the dwarf can be connected to dubious cases, yet many people like him. And his most important trait is, being a loyal friend – it's almost like he's your shadow that never leaves.

Alena Cadash is also an excellent fighter, but that's not what describes her best either. She's a simple dwarf girl, whom the entire world is watching now, thanks to an accident. She sometimes curses the day she woke up with that green thing on her hand. For example, when she's running from one place to another, delivering insignificant messages, or collecting herbs, while demons are falling from the sky. At other times, though, she takes a hot bath after a long day, then crawls in her huge bed that is the fine work of Fereldan craftsmen, pulls the Orlesian silk covers on her body, and falls asleep with a smile on her face.

Considering all these, it's not a surprise that our two characters spend quite much time in each other's company. Alena is the perfectly imperfect hero, whose adventures must be eternalised by Varric, in the form of stories.

However, it occurs that our above mentioned main character is living her days uneventful, causing trouble to her storyteller.

Today, the Inquisitor seems to have bitten off more than she could chew. Hours of battling, she sweats blood struggling with the mission impossible. She can't accept any help. This is a war one must fight alone.

Keeping her patience wonderfully, she is maintaining eye contact with her opponent. But deep down inside, she's already suffering. She knows it's a battle she can't win.

Slowly, restraining the tremor of her hands, she dips the feather in the ink. With this, she's sealing her fate. Her face reflects resignation: she'll carry through, but it is doubtful that she'll come out alive. Ahead the Inquisitor is the enemy: a pile of paperwork.

After this sentence, Varric crumples the paper and throws it in the nearby bin.

Sitting back in his chair, he's wondering whether he's having writer's block. The fact that he wants to write about Alena by hook or by crook, must be a sign of the lack of creativity, as the topic is right at his feet. Well, not literally.

Varric's profession is romance, but he doesn't have inspiration for that lately. And his leader is great at hiding her personal life away, because you can never hear her talking about romantic feelings or one-night stands. But he won't be the one spreading such gossips about her, only for the sake of a good story.

However, this thought keeps bothering him. What if Alena escapes to meet her lover in the dead of night? Or meets the mysterious stranger when she disappears in her study for hours, asking everyone not to disturb her? If only he could follow her like a shadow, just for one day…

Bingo.


Varric knows that no missions are planned for this week. It was enough camping in the land of Dalish for weeks, and visiting houses that totally creeps one out. Varric isn't the type to judge, but he's soon having enough of elves. Good old times, when he was strolling the streets of Kirkwall with a mentally ill, glowing specimen… Beside his leader, Hawke (or a bit closer) walked the other source of light. Well, yes, the mages have done a thing or two. Lyrium destroys everyone. He's currently noticing this on Pretty Boy Commander.

Sometimes he misses his once-companions. However, he never wanted to leave anyone, it were people who simply disappeared from his side.

On his journey through Skyhold, Varric runs into various people, except the one he's looking for.

'What's up, Kid?' Varric shows a fatherly smile to Cole, who's now just across the tavern, sitting in the grass observing a rock.

'You worship an object similar to this. Yet a rock is not a prodigious thing.'

'I guess so, that's not easy to explain. But anyway it's fine, it's nature. See, it's pretty. Except when there are hordes of these and I have to climb my way through them. Well, that's shit indeed.'

'You know, Varric…,' he takes up a pebble from the ground and stands up to face him. 'That rock and you are quite alike. The rock stumbles and falls, down the hill, into the river, drowning with pain, coming back to life wounded inside. Spotless on the outer, sting in the heart.'

'I'm afraid I don't quite get it.'

Cole casually drops the gravel back to the grass, then staggers away talking to himself, kind of like chanting.

'Rocks and flowers: lusty and powerful, yet trembling lightly when no eye catches them.'

Varric continues his walk in the opposite direction, savouring the words just spoken by Cole. Ah, he never fully understands these meetings.

'Why, hello there, Seeker.'

'Nice to see you, Varric. Erm, I was actually wondering… Are you working on anything these days?'

Varric crosses his arms and looks at his number one fan curiously. He grins and watches her enthusiastic expression turn into a somewhat offended one.

'What is so funny?' she asks.

'Do you hope that the latest chapter of Swords and Shields is soon to be released, or are you eager for a new story?'

'If I want to be honest… Both.'

Varric chuckles and rolls his eyes. As he looks into the distance, he catches the glance of Inquisitor Cadash, and can't help but send her a shy smile. She returns it, and then turns back to Cullen, with whom she is discussing tactics.

'Alright, Varric: tell me what happens to them.'

'Them?'

'You know what I am talking about.' Cassandra points at the earlier mentioned book in her hand. It can be seen that she's read this story a few times – the back is slightly coming off, and those may be scratches on the cover.

'I could say I'd gladly tell you about the sequel, but that wouldn't be true. That ruins the fun. Also, I have no idea.'

'But… But you will write a sequel, won't you?'

'Sure. Don't worry. A sequel for the Seeker. I'll put that on my list, but I need to go now.'

And it's time for the master plan.


Varric slips out of sight, stopping somewhere further from people. Not that it was unusual to stealth, but one probably isn't used to the person next to them disappearing at once. In his invisible form, he goes back to where he was before, making sure that he doesn't bump into anyone. Varric is actually very familiar with the ability, so it's not a challenge to maintain this condition.

Back near the tavern, he's slowing down before approaching the Inquisitor.

'…then send the 7th unit to Crestwood. Since it's been cleared from the corpses, many herbs have grown there.'

'Certainly. What about unit 8?'

'Exalted Plains. That bridge needs to be repaired. And… That's pretty much all I've thought of for this week.'

Alena steps in the tavern with Cullen following her. Varric manages to slip in just before the door closes.

'Lady Inquisitor. May I buy you a drink?'

'Thanks, Cullen, but you don't need to. Varric just reminded me a few days ago that the Inquisition's having a game of Wicked Grace today. Haven't you heard about that?'

'Erm… Sorry, I can't make it. I have other duties.'

Poor Curly. Surely the memory of losing all his clothes in the game still haunts him… Varric is trying to hold back his laugh while listening to this conversation from the corner. Thank the Maker, mornings are not peak time in the tavern, so he doesn't have to watch his surroundings too carefully.

'So…' Alena starts, sitting down at one of the tables with Cullen. 'Have you talked to Cole recently? I saw him earlier, and he seemed fine. Apart from complaining about hunger, thirst, tiredness and such things, he's the same.'

'Still speaking nonsense?'

'Oh please,' she whispers as if Cole was around. 'It's not his fault that you're completely insusceptible to his words, Cullen. It takes time to get used to him, but I think I sometimes understand what he's saying. Or at least I have an idea.'

'Alright. But please, be careful with him. Even if he's more human now.'

'Okay. I'll be careful. And you trust him a little bit more.'

Cullen nods.

'By the way, how are you getting on with paperwork? You've been out on missions quite a lot lately.'

'Yeah, it's… Refreshing, you know. Always a new adventure. And literally refreshing, being out in the open air is much more amusing than sitting in my study for hours. I'm really struggling with that.'

'Don't do the puppy eyes,' he laughs. 'I can't help you. I have so many other papers to write.'

'Hmm… Then I might as well go and tell Dagna about all the excuses you're making when she's trying to spend some time with you.'

'I suppose I could help you out a bit. But please, don't tell her.'

'But I feel sorry for her.'

'She's kind and cheerful, really. Lovely personality. There's nothing wrong with her. It's just…'

'I know.' She says with a gravelly voice, eyes downcast, a slight smile.

Even from a distance, Varric perceives the expression on her face. It's not hurt, not disappointment. Maybe it used to be, but a very long time ago. Now it's simply understanding, mixed with some old memories.

'About paperwork. Cullen, I really can't keep up with it. I know you are busy as well, but please, get someone to do part of it.'

'Right. We will hire someone; I don't know why we haven't yet. Probably we haven't realised how big the business has got,' he smiles.

'Well, you haven't realised it. Actually, I'm off to work now,' she says as she stands up from the table. 'Thank you, Cullen.'

He nods as an answer.

The two go different ways, and Varric continues his mission.


This plan is successful already. Perks of being a rogue, number one: you can stalk others. Well, in case you are actually good at what you're doing. Otherwise you may not know when the effect of invisibility wears off and you find yourself surrounded by those members of the merchant guild who have imposed a ransom on your head, all looking at you with a killer expression. True story.

Wondering about the things he's just heard, Varric almost loses sight of his target person.

'Burn the mages! Burn the Chantry!' A voice is running towards him, and they can't avoid the collision.

Varric slowly stands up from the ground, touching his stomach at the point where the man's elbow hit him.

'To Andraste's…' he mumbles.

'Andraste doesn't exist!' the man shouts at him, obviously not caring about the fact that there's no one to be seen in his place. Varric looks around and finds that people are giving this crazy person strange looks.

'Burn the Chantry!'

Only one of them steps next to them, holding the man by the arm. He seems to be used to such situations.

'Thallan… The Chantry was blown up years ago by a Grey Warden, and I advise you not to pursue the same path he did.'

Thallan's expression softens and lets the other man lead him away.

'Please, it's our first day in Skyhold, behave yourself…'

Luckily, Varric manages to remain hidden and it takes him only a few minutes to catch sight of Alena. He finds her by the stables, checking on the Inquisition's different mounts. Blackwall is nowhere to be seen, probably 'hanging out' with Josie.

Alena is feeding a nuggalope with some… who knows what. He never checks what those buckets contain, and he never will.

After all, the animal is really enjoying her company, and so is she. The nuggalope lowers its head a bit, so that Alena can stroke its forehead and ears. She then smiles at it.

'What a lovely creature,' Varric whispers to himself inaudibly.

Alena looks that way, as if she could see him. The nuggalope pokes her hand with its horn, so she just shakes her head a little and turns back to the animal. After looking at her gratefully, it takes the bucket from her hands, turns around with it and continues eating.

'Hi there,' a delicate voice with some accent welcomes her. She turns around to face Josephine. 'They are so cute, aren't they?'

'Indeed,' she sends her a smile. 'This certain nuggalope has really grown on me.'

'Oh yes, he is special.'

'Have you been seeing him a lot lately?'

'Erm… Yes, I have visited the animals quite a few times recently. Personally, I like the Orlesian Courser. She reminds me of home.'

'Do you miss your home often?'

'No, no,' she gestures with her hands while showing a reassuring smile. 'Orlais is… fancy. Too much. Skyhold is pretty as well, and it's a pleasure to work here. It's been years… Have you made Skyhold entirely your home?'

'Not entirely. I don't even want to. You know, Skyhold is something temporary. I have no idea what I'll do after this, but firstly, let's hope we can win this fight.'

'I have most faith, Inquisitor. Concentrating on something even closer in time: are you getting in the game tonight?'

'I wouldn't miss it for a thing.'

'Great. I will meet you a bit later, then.'

'Later!'

Varric decides to retreat. The effect may start wearing off soon. But anyway, he needs some rest; and it's not a good sign that she has noticed him. Of course, the Inquisitor can't easily be mistaken.


That rest turns into an hour of sitting around at his desk. No words come to him. Again.

He may or may not feel bad about following his Inquisitor around for a little while. Actually, he always suspected there was something between her and Cullen, but it turns out there was nothing significant. So he hasn't learnt anything new about her.

The night is still young, though. In fact, it's already entirely dark.

Perfect time for a game of Wicked Grace.


Alena steps in the room to find the Inquisition all together. What a lovely view, like a big family…

Although it seems there's a little bit of conflict going on.

'Dorian, that's… That's not how the actual rules are.'

'Oh, and who makes the rules, dear Lady Josephine… Did you make them? No. People make them. In my motherland, we play it this way. And Tevinter people are people, regardless of what some of you may think.'

'Alright,' Josephine sighs, smiling for a second as she notices Alena, 'but as long as I'm the dealer, accept my rules, please. Rather sit down, and let us all welcome the Inquisitor.'

People sitting on Josephine's side have already nodded to her as a sign of saying hello, while watching the two argue – except Sera, who showed her a grin and waved.

'Come on in,' Varric says. 'And never mind Sparkles, he's already drunk.'

'Am I late?' Alena asks.

'The Inquisitor's never late. We started early.'

There are a few extra chairs, and she takes the one next to Varric. Josephine hands her a set of cards. Picking them up, she looks around in the room.

Cole is sitting without his shirt on, looking a bit embarrassed (and cold). He looks even younger like this. Cassandra only wears a lingerie top, and probably trousers. Blackwall is very hairy. Bull is amused, Solas and Vivienne aren't. The latter two are cowardly giving each other's bodies disapproving looks. Leliana is deeply thinking. Cullen is scared.

To her surprise, Sera seems to be the winning one tonight: she has all her clothes on, even though she looks drunk as well.

'Hey, Varric. Is Sera such a mastermind?'

Varric laughs in response. 'My arse. She's terribly lucky.'

'What will you do, Inquisitor?' Josephine asks her.

'Hmm… I'll wait for the next round.'

'Deal me in,' Varric says naturally. Then he lowers his voice as he turns back to her. 'But give Buttercup some more drinks, and she'll fall off her chair in half an hour.'

Alena gives him a reproachful look, yet her face shows some amusement.

'Cruel,' she comments.

'No, you're pronouncing it wrong. It's stra-te-gy.'

'Well, I guess so. That's not something I have.'

'It's fine. As long as the others don't find out you have no plans.'

She looks down at her cards and smiles.

'So I've just messed it up.'

'Never mind. I won't tell anyone,' Varric winks.

'Deal, please,' she answers to Josephine with confidence.

As she checks her new cards, she immediately regrets this sentence. She has a pair of Serpents, which are worth the least. All the other cards are just mixed.

'And, the Angel of Death. Show your cards.'

Josephine is observing everyone's cards with curiosity. Much to the girls' pleasure, Cullen removes his trousers.

'Ugh, pfff,' Sera bursts out laughing. 'Look at those legs.'

'What's the problem, Sera?' he asks back.

'Ah, nothing. Just legs.'

Mixed reactions follow this conversation, but mostly laughter.

'You'll have to remove a piece of clothes, Inquisitor,' Varric points at Alena's unusable cards.

'I'm afraid so. But you as well!'

Varric takes off his other glove. Very tricky. Alena curses herself for not showing up in three layers of coats and jumpers, regardless of the heat in the room. So she removes her jacket, sitting in a tight long-sleeved shirt now.

'You totally failed this round, dear,' Vivienne says.

'And now you owe us a story,' Cassandra adds. She's always eager to hear new stories.

'Well, okay, you will like it. So, as you know, I used to be a Carta member. After the Blight, some of our people were moved to Kirkwall. I wasn't, but one of my friends was, and there's this one time I visited her there. I wore my nicest clothes and tried not to stand out from the crowd. I didn't at all enjoy being at the Carta, that's just what I had to do. So, I got a robe and a mask, thought it wasn't suspicious. Anyway, it was the middle of the night and I was hanging out… at the Hanged Man.' Alena laughed at her pun, and took a sip from the ale next to her.

'Really?' Varric asks with a smile. 'I never saw you around there.'

'It was years ago. But now that you say it, I might have seen you at some point. Or I must have heard about you. For sure, I met Hawke and Anders. They were so drunk! They seemed fun to talk to, so I did. What Varric's bestseller didn't mention was that the Champion is – under the influence of alcohol – very hospitable. After I greeted them, she walked closer to me, grabbed my arm and invited me over to her house.'

'She might have confused you with someone,' Cullen suggests, while drinking another glass of wine to warm his almost-bare body up.

'Not probable. She asked my name and about my background as well. I played along, in the role of Rose, the princess in disguise who was on the run.'

Blackwall chokes on his drink, but doesn't interrupt her talking.

'I told Hawke I had to spend every night in another city, so that the evil spies wouldn't find me. Of course I didn't sleep much as I had to leave early, before their disillusion, but that is the story of how I spent one night at the Hawke estate.'


An hour and six rounds later, Sera is sleeping on the table. She actually put a book, which she had borrowed from Leliana, under her head. Just to appear to be reading.

'See, I told you,' Varric points at her while whispering to Alena.

'Okay, she's knocked out. But she can't lose like this.'

'Right, but you have a higher chance of getting a pair now. In terms of cards.'

'I see. Strategy.'

'Exactly.'

There's a peaceful silence in the room. You can hear Josephine shuffling the cards, Sera snoring, Blackwall making awkward jokes to the ones surrounding him, Solas scratching his chin (probably combing through his non-existent beard, just like a philosopher).

'Uh-oh. Bad news for Curly.'

Cullen's just been declared the loser of the game. Again. He removes his underwear as his cheeks are turning red.

'I'm never playing again with you. You're cheating.'

'Of course they are cheating,' answers Josephine. 'There's no other way to play this game. You need to cheat a bit here and a bit there, right?'

He looks down and crosses his arms like a deceived child.

Varric looks at Cassandra's cards, which are on the table. Their owner is sleeping quietly next to them; Cassandra had a very tiring day, after all. She always has. Her shirt lies on her shoulders, enfolding her upper body. If she's out of the game anyway, she shouldn't catch a cold – thought Varric when he put the piece of clothes on her.

'What have you got?' Alena asks Varric, pointing at the cards in his hand.

No one noticed that they weren't his. Everyone's either drunk or tired, or both.

'Flush,' he answers with a smirk, laying down those pieces of paper which have brought him luck.

Alena's expression is rather worried. Then she gives everyone a mysterious smile, resembling Mona Lisa.

'Full. House.'

Josephine claps her hands in excitement and grins.

'I knew you could do it, Inquisitor! Now... We have you, Varric, Blackwall, Vivienne and Leliana playing. As Solas, Dorian and Cole left after their argument, Cullen has no clothes to take off, and Sera and Cassandra aren't awake.'

'I'm out,' says Leliana, picking up her clothes. 'Sorry, that was it. I have work to do.'

'I agree, darling,' replies Vivienne. 'Perhaps I should leave as well.'

Blackwall sends Josephine a wink, who then blushes like a school girl.

'I am exhausted, too,' she sighs. 'With the dealer out, the game has reached its end. However, it was entertaining.'

Fully-clothed now, Leliana, Vivienne, Josephine and Blackwall leave the room. Cullen takes his time to put on his trousers; he doesn't want anyone to see what they shouldn't. Then he joins them.

'Should we wake them up?' asks Alena, looking at the two girls.

'That wouldn't help. And Sera seems to be used to sleeping on the floor anyway.'

He drinks the last of his ale.

'Varric, you owe me a story.'

'Do I?'

'You know you do. I won the last round, so I deserve a story. Also, it wasn't nice of you to steal Cassandra's cards.'

'I shouldn't have thought I could play out the Inquisitor.'

'You really shouldn't think that. At anytime.' She gives him a sly look. 'I know more about you than you would think. But now, don't get away with telling the story.'

'I didn't mean to.' His face shows the same expression with a smile. 'Alright, it will be a good one. So this just happened today. It started out as an average day or even below that… I hadn't been in a great mood. I yearned for something but didn't know what. Then an idea struck me. I thought I could trick someone for my own interest, but it's turned out that it was me who got fooled all along. I was just struggling with artist's block and some curiosity, and so I believed that the end justified the means. These were not the right means.'

'As long as the means are recognised by that person, that's okay, isn't that? Like, if that person was angry when they found out you were tricking them, they would have made a scene.'

'Well, yes, that makes sense.'

'So what kind of curiosity brought you to this?'

'Just… the usual one. And I was actually wondering if this person had someone dear to their heart. Solely for literary purposes.'

Alena crosses her arms above her bra and smiles. Varric is trying to avoid looking down, which is not that difficult, as that smile deserves all attention.

'Skyhold is not a complicated place,' she says. 'You can pretty much find out everyone's love interest. It's obvious how Josephine and Blackwall are feeling for each other. And there's something going on between Solas and Vivienne as well… Even if I'd prefer to think there isn't,' she says with a disapproving expression.

'You're right about that. I think I can guess what they are up to just now.'

'Varric, please,' she laughs.

'Why, I should ask you about story ideas next time.'

'Yeah, sounds wiser than following me like a shadow. Kinda creepy, you know.'

'I promise I won't do that again. Or at least not invisibly.'

'Oh, that's much better. I know you're in my steps anyway.'

'Don't you enjoy my company?' he asks with an irresistible smile.

'Well, I need you, after all,' she answers like a princess whose head is in the clouds, but she's just playing around. She laughs and gives him an honest smile. 'Really. You're my personal advisor, always leading me towards the right decision; you realise I'm not special, but vulnerable just like everyone; you're the one who keeps me sane when I would gladly just tear someone's head apart – which is, well, not a common occasion, so you must be there always. Just in case, you never know when that happens. And that crossbow of yours can't be replaced by any other weapon.'

'Ah, yes, Bianca,' Varric says with a dreamy voice. 'Hope she won't be jealous,' he adds in a hushed voice, as he takes Alena's ordinary right hand. Her eyes widen, and she keeps covering herself with her other arm.

'Actually,' he says, 'I lied.'

'About what?'

Varric picks up his original cards and shows them to Alena.

'Is that a straight flush?' she gasps. 'Why didn't you use it?'

'I thought I'd be a gentleman. The winner must be the Inquisitor. Besides, you don't have many clothes on.'

That's right; she's wearing only her underwear. So is he.

'Which means, that, in theory… Varric Tethras, you're supposed to be naked now.' She blushes at the thought.

'Yes, Miss Cadash. But the game is over, and Cassandra is eager to hear the rest of this story.'

Cassandra has been pretending to be sleeping for quite a while. She woke up when Josephine raised her voice, but decided to stay on the table. Then the happenings made it difficult for her not to giggle.

'You called me by my name,' she says proudly as she stretches.

'That was a special occasion, Seeker.'

'And is this of your doing?' She points at the shirt carefully wrapped around her shoulders.

'No one wants you to drop out of fight because of an illness.'

Cassandra nods with a smile. Then she walks out the door, after giving Alena a meaningful look.

'So,' Alena says, 'I guess it's time we put our clothes back on.'

'It is. Then go and continue our conversation in the tavern?'

'Sounds like a plan.'

'Maybe this game is not for me,' she wonders. Looking around, she notices how the tavern is more crowded during the night than she would have expected.

'You weren't bad. And the Wicked Grace is just to bring people closer to each other. Most people get drunk enough that they forget how you looked in underwear, anyway. It's not even about drinking. Just sharing stories, having fun. And then cursing "that dwarf and his game" for the hangover the next day.'

'Oh, so that's what I'll be doing tomorrow.'

'It's up to you,' he laughs, as he shows the number two to the bartender. 'I'd rather at least someone didn't do this, but it's your choice. You don't have to worry by the way – you must be quite sober. I didn't see you drinking much.'

'Hm, interesting. People never notice how I'm fake drinking. Usually just watching them get drunk, so they can't think straight anymore. It's much more fun if you remember things the next day.'

'Did you really sleep at Hawke's?'

'I did.' She raises an eyebrow. 'And I'll never forget it!'

It's pretty nice here. She's elbowing on the table, observing people around them. She can see Bull and Dorian drinking together in the other corner of the room. Bull's people are with them, and they are obviously having fun. Dorian notices her and raises his glass of wine, unnoticed by the others. It's great that they can all enjoy their time without thinking about why they are here, in Skyhold, in the Inquisition. Alena is glad to be their leader, also glad to be working with them. She kind of feels proud.

Two glasses of water appear in sight.

'Thank you,' she says, and takes a sip.

'Everything okay?' Varric asks her.

'Yes. I was just wondering about that. Like, how everything is perfect for now.'

'For now? You don't believe we'll win the fight?'

'I… I actually don't believe in either. I can only hope that we will, and I've promised to do all I can in order to succeed.'

Varric takes her hand delicately.

'Hey, the future is bright. I've seen you closing tears in the sky. Like… shit. I didn't believe my eyes. I didn't even know you, but one thing I was sure of: you can do everything you set your mind to.'

She smiles at him, and raises the glass with her free hand.

'Thank you, Varric. But at the moment, I'm starting to doubt I can reach my room. Maybe I should have drunk less, still.'

'Drink the water, that will help. And I'll accompany you to your room.'

With their hands almost brushing together, they are walking in the empty hallway.

'What did I look like when you saw me in Kirkwall?'

'For the hundredth time, I don't know,' she laughs. 'The same, probably. Elegant clothes, a crossbow, and chest hair everywhere. It's no fun playing Wicked Grace with you. You always display your chest to the public.'

'So why don't you?'

Deadpan unapprovingly, she shakes her head.

'You know,' Varric continues, 'it's not a bad idea. You would distract the enemy.'

'Sure, if demons are attracted to naked humans.'

They are only a few steps away from her room.

'You are indeed full of story ideas,' Varric says thoughtfully.

'Please, don't write a love story of a demon and a human.'

'Maybe once. A beauty and a beast might fall in love with each other as well.'

Alena rolls her eyes.

'Why did I get that?' he whispers as he leans in close to her.

She shrugs her shoulder.

'No reason?' she answers with another question.

'You know it well, that I'm not the beauty,' he says. 'You have a healthy amount of confidence, I must add. But you're actually… No, that would be detractive. You… You are wonderful. Magical. Ah, there's no other way to express it right. You're beautiful, Alena.'

'You can't even see me now,' she smiles mischievously.

'Ruin the moment?' he laughs.

'You can bet on it. Rather than on my card-playing skills. Anyway, you are really handsome, Varric. I've actually wanted to tell you that for a long time.' She blushes. 'Erm, no, that's a lie, I didn't want to tell you… But so I did.'

Varric strokes her cheek, and gives a gentle kiss on it. The moonlight coming in from the nearby window shines on his eye, and its dark brown colour glistens like whisky in a glass.

She turns to face him exactly and closes her eyes. In a moment, their lips touch, after so much time of longing. They don't overrun each other though. One small step after another, they deepen the kiss. Alena's hands wander on his neck, then shoulders, and back, and he's pulling her a little bit closer by the waist.

Then, as slow and calm as they started, the kiss ends. They save it for later, to get to know each other fully as time passes.

'Good night,' he whispers.

'Good night.'

The door opens – one more quick kiss – and it shuts.

Alena would think she can barely fall asleep after these happenings, eager for seeing, hearing, touching Varric more – but when she gets in her bed, she's peacefully sleeping in a few minutes.

And Varric?

He can't keep his thoughts to himself. These feelings are simply indescribable. He is inspired to write a beautiful love story. However, he keeps some pages private, to show them only to his beloved girl later on. The words just flow from his pen – such words he hadn't used before. Everyone, be aware: Varric Tethras is likely to release his new masterpiece soon.