So, this chapter has been a long time in the making. I'm sure that some of you thought that I had abandoned it, but that was not the case. For the last 7 months I've been agonizing over this chapter though it contains nothing but lots of filler for the next. I've complained and moaned and done just about everything aside from write. haha...go figure. There are a lot of people that I'd like to thank: parn akuma, LadyJamie178, Aurassarr, Regullus, xXthecatalystXx, Katrina-Cousland, EmbersOfAmber, RewindedMiracle, and TiraChan31. Thank you for reading, I hope that I'll be able to get more chapters out to you guys soon. I hope that you all enjoy and if you love it, don't forget to review!
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Last but certainly not least: Everything belongs to Bioware. They are the king of my mountain. They are the winner of red light, green light. They are the winner of the dodgeball tourney. Bow to them. BOW, dammit!
Anders frowned as they drew closer to the port.
"Why are we stopping in Rivain?" He asked, casting an annoyed sideways glance at the captain.
"We need supplies." Isabela answered simply.
Anders snorted. "You mean you're running out of ale." He remarked dryly.
Varric chuckled at the mage's irritation. "Relax, Blondie. Don't you like the idea of getting your feet on some nice dry land?"
"It's not the dry land part that bothers me," the apostate mumbled. "It's getting back on the boat afterward."
"You would think that with the other guy out of his head that he might have located his sense of humor. Seems like one was just as much of a wet blanket as the other." The pirate mused.
"Oh shut up, Isabela."
"And Hawke's sure that she wants to be tied down to that?"
"I can not speak for the beautiful Lady Hawke, but I am most certain that our adventurous mage friend would not mind being tied down for her in the least, no? Or was it you that liked to do the binding? I can never quite recall..." The Antivan trailed off with a sly grin.
Isabela smirked and raised a brow as electricity sparked from the mage's fingertips in response to the assassin's goading. "Oh, yes," she said in a sultry voice as she traced her bottom lip with her tongue. "I almost forgot about that. A shame that party favor will be off the market." She winked at him and he rolled his eyes in return.
The pirate shrugged. "Well, if the sex is good then I can't blame her I suppose."
"Not everything is about sex, Isabela." The apostate replied, clucking his tongue.
"Life would be so much more agreeable if it were, no?" Zevran said as he glided past the mage and took in the bustling port. "Ahhh...Llomerryn. Longing for a taste of home my lusty pirate queen?"
Anders snorted. "It's more likely that she's looking for a place to get us robbed to our knickers...or killed."
Isabela glared at the mage.
"That is far more likely to occur on the other side of the bay, my sparkle-fingered friend. Antiva City is but a swim away, if you would prefer that kind of fun." The assassin replied as he stared out over the water in the direction of his homeland.
Varric gave the apostate a good-natured slap on the back. "Blondie, I know exactly what you need. A seedy tavern, a big mug and a bar-maid that knows how to keep them coming. We're going to get off this boat and I'm going to buy you a drink!"
"Well, a seedy tavern shouldn't be that hard to find in a place like this." The mage sighed heavily as the docks drew closer and the stench of the city started to sting his nose. The sooner we reach Ferelden, the better.
** VARRIC **
Llomerryn was exactly what he had expected of a seaside town infested with pirates. It smelled of brine, rotted fish, piss and rum. Whores peddled their wares right on the docks, inviting sea-worn men and women alike to share in a good time. It was filthy and shady and it was a perfect place to fall through the cracks as long as one were dirty enough to blend in with the locals.
This was his kind of town...though he tended too prefer slightly less grunge.
Llomerryn had a particular kind of lawlessness that seeped into one's bones as soon as their feet hit dry land. It was the complete opposite of Kirkwall. When a person stepped off the boat in the Gallows there were eyes on them constantly. Here, the locals didn't seem to notice anyone or care about anything past their cup of swill. That, of course, was a ruse. Instead of the blatantly watchful eyes of the Templars you had pickpockets that could size up a mark with a subtle glance. These were the type of people that would normally give him pause...if their group were not accompanied by the apparently famous, Captain Isabela.
"You know...you won't win, Varric. Not this, not here. I've got the upper hand." The pirate said with a grin when she caught up with him.
"Don't start counting my coin yet, Rivaini. You can't sway this target with your normal assets." He replied smoothly.
She snorted. "I can get a rise out of any man so long as I'm backed by the right arsenal."
"Just remember, the bet is who can loosen him up first...not who can make him have a meltdown. Blondie's got enough problems right now."
Typical of his profession, Zevran had ghosted up behind them without notice. "It seems that there is a small wager in the works, no? What is it that two rogues would bet on? Perhaps our paranoid mage friend?"
"Keep your voice down, elf!" Varric hissed. "If Hawke catches wind of this..."
"I imagine it wouldn't be pretty, no? Perhaps something with fire and unimaginable pain?" He said as he fell into step with them smirking all the while.
"Zevran, you wouldn't!" Isabela cried.
The elf shrugged. "I could be convinced not to breathe a word of it to her so long as the wager is open to a third player." The assassin said with a twitch of his golden eyebrow.
"Fine. Fifty sovereigns and you're in." The pirate said with a grin over her shoulder as she slipped away from them. "I can already feel your gold weighting down my coin purse."
** ISABELA **
Their bet aside, Isabela had other things to attend to in Llomerryn, namely getting her money from that slimy bastard Giuseppe. Normally she wouldn't have dealt with a creep like him, but she had needed a shipment to establish herself again once she had returned to Llomerryn. Luckily, he had a steady supply of lyrium...and Kirkwall still had a surprising amount of Templars.
Unfortunately, lyrium wasn't the only thing that he smuggled around Thedas. Like Castillon, Giuseppe also bought, sold and traded in slaves. The thought of it made her grimace and she was suddenly glad that Fenris had gone his separate way long ago. A shame really, it would have made for such an entertaining voyage.
She ducked into a side alley to apply poison to her blades. It wasn't that she thought that Giuseppe would betray her, he was a businessman above all else, but it never hurt to be prepared for any outcome. That mentality had kept her alive long before she ever met Hawke and company.
She waited for the thin layer of liquid to dry before re-sheathing the weapons and stepping back out of the alleyway...and nearly walked right into one of her employer's dirty henchmen, Calder.
"Well, well...if it isn't the famous Isabela. Back from Kirkwall so soon?" He questioned in a voice that was almost as greasy as his stringy brown hair.
"Suddenly I wish that I had stayed longer." She remarked dryly.
"That's no way to be now, is it?" He asked as his eyes drifted down toward her chest. "How about a little drinky then? That would be nice, wouldn't it?"
Her hands itched to put a blade in his eye but found purchase on her hips instead. "My rack says no." She deadpanned.
Calder's leering grin when he looked up said that he wasn't quite done, however, her patience was. "Shame. What about the rest of you then?"
In the blink of an eye there was a dagger pointed at the end of his nose. A fearful squeak escaped him, making him sound like the sewer rat he was...it almost made her chuckle. "Heartbreaker and Backstabber say that they would rather go see Giuseppe. Right now." She stated with a look of smug satisfaction.
"I...I...we'll go right away. I'll take you to him!"
"Look at you!" she said, not bothering to hide the sarcasm. "You have a use after all!" She slid the weapon back into it's sheath and gestured for Calder to lead her. "Let's just get this over with."
** ALANDRA **
"The Rusty Rudder? Tell me you're kidding."
Alandra frowned, wondering what had put him in this unusually grumpy mood. "What's wrong with it? It can't be any worse than The Flaming Door. Besides, we've only got to stay for the night, Anders. It'll be fun."
"Oh yes. Sounds fantastic. I'm sure that the rooms will have a lovely view of the prostitutes on the docks!"
She sighed heavily and yanked open the heavy weather-worn door. What she found on the other side was not quite what she had expected. Judging by the perplexed look on the other mage's face, he was at a loss as well.
For a tavern located so near the docks in a pirate town, the place was extraordinarily clean. There were no sailors swearing loudly, no wenches, no bar fights. A kindly looking matron stood behind the bar. Alandra was almost disappointed.
"Welcome to the Rudder, what can old Myra get you today?" The barkeep asked with a smile.
"I...uh..." Alandra's eyes darted around the room again and back to the old lady.
Myra gave a little chuckle. "Ah, I see now...not from around these parts. You were expecting more of a ruckus then? Don't you worry, it picks up in the evening but there's not a bit of fighting in my bar." With that, she twisted her wrist and the door snapped shut behind them.
Alandra gasped and shot Anders a surprised look as she felt the small shock wave pass through her. "You're a mage!"
The old lady gave a nonchalant shrug. "And so are the both of you. Something to be said for an elderly barkeep that can toss you out of the tavern on your arse without ever touching you. Keeps order in a generally disorderly business. So what is it that you'll be needing then? Drinks? A hot meal? A room? I've got plenty of all."
"We'll take four rooms?"
"Very well." The woman answered. "Up the stairs and to the end of the hall. Take the last four."
Alandra walked forward and dropped a fat coin purse into the woman's hand. She seemed to weigh it but never opened it. "This will cover boarding and food. Enjoy your stay here. If you haven't already, I'll suggest that you take yourself to the marketplace. If your heart desires it, you'll find it there...for a price."
She stood there dumbly for a few moments before she felt Anders' hand on hers, gently pulling her toward the stairs. Still trying to puzzle out the weird moment in the bar, she allowed herself to be led. He stopped at the last door on the row, opened it and gestured for her to go inside.
"I'm sorry." He finally said with a heavy sigh as he closed the door behind him. "I know that I've been extraordinarily cranky these past few days. I'm letting fear control me, taking it out on you and the others. I feel like a complete arse."
She moved forward and pinned his body to the door with her own, smiling against his scruffy cheek as she planted a kiss there. "You are a complete arse, but your apology is accepted." She teased.
"I just don't know what's come over me."
Pulling back from him she turned and pointed at the bed. "You haven't slept soundly for weeks, there's your cure. Get some rest, love. You'll be right as rain, promise."
He gave her a weak smile and nodded.
"I'm going to find Varric and let him know about the rooms. He'll tell the others. I think I'll give this market a look as well. I'll wake you when I return."
** ZEVRAN **
"Truly, friend! I do not jest! It boggled my mind to think of where he might be keeping it! My Galenya, she had her suspicions."
"A dwarf's mind is a fragile thing the first few years on the surface. Too much sky, not enough stone. Bartrand was like that. I think he had a flask hidden in his beard." The dwarf laughed. "Galenya, she's your missing Warden Commander? Blondie seemed to know her well enough."
His eyes darted around the marketplace out of habit, scanning for threats before shifting back to the dwarf. "Si, she is mi amada." He answered evenly, though it pained him to think of it. "Our disgruntled mage friend was once under her command in Amaranthine. Of course, I have no doubt that you already knew of this, no?"
The dwarf raised an eyebrow at his cooler tone. "I've heard bits and pieces of the story, but I believe in hearing tales from the source. Or being around to see it first hand."
"Perhaps some other time." He deflected. "Besides...we have a bet to work on, do we not? How is it that you plan on making our sparkle-fingered friend smile?"
"Yes, do tell. Perhaps I can give you some pointers. Trinkets and flowers maybe...he's more womanly than Hawke at times."
"Isabela, you saucy wench!" The assassin exclaimed. "One must wonder what you have up your sleeve as well! This will be a game of intrigue to remember!"
"I hope that you're this excited about it when you're handing over your coin, it's adorable." The pirate said with a grin.
"There sure is a lot of coin changing hands in something that involves my womanly love interest..."
"Hawke!" The three rogues said at the same time.
"Well...you see Hawke, there was this..." Varric began, but she cut him off.
"Varric, I can smell a lie on you at forty paces!"
"You wound me, messere!" The dwarf cried, dramatically clutching his heart.
"I could wound you, but then I wouldn't be invited to participate in this little wager. I suggest a team effort. Varric and me against you and Isabela." The mage said giving the elf a nod.
"Oh ho! But the plot thickens! You, my dear, are a little minx! If my heart were not spoken for you would surely steal it!"
"You sure about this, Hawke? You think we've got the leverage to win this? It's a lot of coin." The dwarf asked.
"Absolutely, these two will be crying in their ale later while we're counting their gold." She laughed. "Rooms are in the Rudder...we'll see you there!"
** 8 HOURS LATER **
Isabela frowned as she cut her eyes toward Varric. "Did he just say Spicy Shimmy?"
Zevran groaned in reply as the dwarf leaned back in his chair with a triumphant smile.
"That he did," he said as he rubbed his hands together, "our bet. Pay up Rivaini."
"But he hasn't..."
"Wait for it...wait...three...two..." He started.
Isabela snorted. "There's no way..." She stopped mid-sentence as the mage began to dance. "Damn." The pirate sighed as she dropped her coin pouch into the dwarf's waiting hand.
"I don't know how you did it, dwarf, but you cheated." She chuckled as he tossed the coin purse into the air and caught it again. "Well played."
"Turns out that the trinkets and flowers were perfect." Alandra said with a chuckle as she gave Varric a wink.
Isabela's eyes narrowed on the mage and dwarf. "What did you two do?"
Varric shrugged. "How do you feel about cats?"