This was not at all what I intended to do, but my muse has been hijacked by the green-eyed elf with the lovely voice, who would not leave me alone until I came up with a story for him. This will hit the main plot points of DA 2 (so spoilers!) and the events of the Fenris/Hawke relationship (more spoilers!), but will also be tied in with a non-game plot that I suspect many of you will be familiar with. Dialogue will be mostly original, but with some in-game conversations. (Disclaimer: BioWare owns Dragon Age and all its people and places and plot points. The other plot is also not mine. I'm just putting them together and stirring!) I am a big fan of reviews - constructive criticism and suggestions are always welcome. (As are praise and cookies, but I think that goes without saying.) Edited to add my eternal gratitude to my wonderful beta, WellspringCD; to my husband, who has read everything I've posted (and more) with enthusiasm and support; and my special DA 2 beta and fellow Fenris enthusiast, NuitNuit.
An unusual flurry of movement on the deck above her head woke Evelyn Hawke. Curled up near her, clinging to sleep—one of the few distractions from the monotony of the long voyage—lay her companions: her sister Bethany, their mother Leandra, and their friend Aveline.
The hold was crowded with refugees from the Blight. The odors of unwashed people, poorly cooked food, and the fluids emitting from bodies both healthy and sick permeated everything on the ship. Hawke looked forward to getting to Kirkwall if only to smell something else. She worried particularly about Bethany, who had always been delicate, and her mother, whose age made her an easy target for all the ailments shared by their fellow refugees.
She lay listening to the shouting abovedecks for a few minutes before the repeated word "Land" sank in through the fog of sleep. Land! Were they finally arriving in Kirkwall? She got to her feet, careful not to wake the others. Treading carefully in the darkness so as not to step on anyone, she picked her way through the hold and climbed the ladder up to the top deck.
Normally it was a tightly run routine on deck, but today everyone was rushing. The captain shouted orders from the quarterdeck, the men shouted at each other as they got in one another's way. Hawke shrank back against the wall of the captain's cabin, trying to stay unnoticed. She stared up at the cliffs on either side, at the great bronze statues that hung from them. All the statues were of slaves. Cringing, frightened slaves. Not a particularly welcoming sight.
A sailor came over to Hawke. "You should be below."
She looked up into the black eyes she'd come to know so well over the course of the journey, smiling. "I just want to watch, Bram."
But Bram's eyes didn't change. He looked on her as though she was a stranger. "You'll see soon enough, dog-lord. Meanwhile, stay out of the way." And he walked off without another word.
So that's the way it was to be. Hot words and intimacy on the passage across, but here she was just another Fereldan refugee. Well, despite Bram's many attractions—he was a muscle-bound giant of a man about whom hung an almost palpable darkness, just the way Hawke liked it—she hadn't intended on a long-term affair with the sailor. He knew a lot about the fine art of taking a woman hard and fast in whatever corner was handy, but when it came to matters beyond the ship he didn't have two brains to rub together.
Hawke made herself as small as possible as the ship pulled the rest of the way into Kirkwall Harbor. By the time it bumped the dock, the others were awake, and a crowd of refugees waited with them on the deck.
"Kirkwall," Hawke's mother sighed. "I can't wait to be home."
"You still think of it as home, Mother, after all this time?" Bethany asked.
"It's where I was born. It will always be home to me. Just as Ferelden will always be for you," Mother said. She put her arm around Bethany's waist.
Hawke said nothing, but privately she disagreed. As far as she was concerned, home would be when they were all safe, with enough money to keep the Templars from taking Bethany away. Whether that home was in Ferelden or Kirkwall mattered little to her. All that lay behind was the Blighted land in which her father and her brother were buried. Without them, it could never truly be 'home' again.
"Look, Hawke," Aveline said quietly in her ear. "Look how many of them there are." She pointed to the docks, where a giant tent city sprawled wherever the eye could see. Fereldan refugees, one and all.
Hawke caught her breath. "I hope our uncle is able to help us," she whispered. "Otherwise, I don't know how we'll get in."
"Hawke …" Aveline began.
"No, Aveline, we've been over this. We've come this far together—you're one of the family, as far as I'm concerned. If my uncle won't help you along with us … well, I'll think of something." She smiled reassuringly at her friend. "I won't leave you behind."
Aveline nodded, a smile crossing her face. "I suppose there are worse things than being stuck with you." The two women shared an amused look. Hawke had found Aveline a kindred spirit through all these travels. She'd come to count on the other woman's strength and courage in the face of Bethany's homesickness and her mother's alternating grief over the losses she'd experienced in the Blight and fevered daydreams of the riches and honors awaiting her daughters in the Free Marches.
The boat docked, and they surged forward onto the soil of Kirkwall with the other refugees. Hawke felt the weight of the others on her shoulders—all three of them looking to her for leadership. What if she failed to get them in? If this whole journey turned out to be for nothing? She felt the wood of the dock solid beneath her boots, and she made herself a promise: Here they would stay. Put down roots, make a life. And Hawke would do whatever she had to do to keep them together.
Her resolve was called upon earlier than she'd expected—their Uncle Gamlen, on whose noble status (and purse) they had staked so many hopes—turned out to be a drunken gambler who looked upon his nieces' battle prowess as an asset to be pawned. Athenril, the smuggler to whom he owed a massive debt, paid for Hawke's family and Aveline to be brought into the city in return for a year's servitude as hired muscle. Their mother was appalled, broken-hearted by the whole debacle, but Hawke couldn't have asked for a better introduction to Kirkwall. A year's worth of protection from the Templars for Bethany was boon enough, but the job was also essentially a guided tour of the inner workings of the city and a chance for Hawke to make all her initial mistakes under someone else's umbrella. She threw herself into the work with enthusiasm.
The year went by even more quickly than Hawke had anticipated. Athenril kept them hopping, protecting the smugglers' various interests, and slowly people began to know who Hawke was as she walked the streets. Fewer knew of Bethany, who preferred to stay out of the spotlight.
Aveline stayed with them for a while, but Gamlen's home was small, and his patience for his sister and her family smaller, so when a tournament was held to add to the ranks of the city guards, Aveline entered and won. She urged Hawke to join the guardsmen, as well, but Hawke couldn't leave Bethany on her own and unprotected that way. So she stayed. Before she knew it, the year was up. Athenril shook her hand, said "If I need you, I'll be in touch," and sent her on her way.
This left Hawke and Bethany on their own devices, hunting for something to do that would put food on the table and offer them enough extra to keep Bethany safe. But with Kirkwall teeming with Fereldan refugees, opportunities were few and far between. Eventually, Hawke heard a rumor in Kirkwall's seediest tavern, the Hanged Man, that a dwarf named Bartrand was putting together a Deep Roads expedition, looking for forgotten dwarven treasure. This, she thought excitedly to herself, was exactly the kind of opportunity she'd been looking for. She got up immediately, heading for the merchants' district of Hightown, and didn't notice the well-dressed dwarf who slung an exotic crossbow over his shoulder before he followed her from the tavern.
Bartrand proved easy to find, but harder-headed than an ogre. "You must be sun-touched!" he exclaimed. "Every blade in Kirkwall wants to join this expedition. Why would I take the chance on two unknown … humans?" He eyed them up and down unfavorably.
"We have experience," Hawke argued. "We've both fought darkspawn. I was at Ostagar!"
"Humph. If I had a copper for every Fereldan who claimed to have been at Ostagar," Bartrand grumbled. "Besides, didn't the darkspawn win the battle of Ostagar? If I wanted to be killed by the darkspawn, I could do it without wasting money on help."
"No." Bartrand turned on his heel, stalking away. Hawke stared after him helplessly.
"What now, Evelyn?" Bethany asked. "We haven't enough coin to pay off the next person who wants to turn us in. Maybe Gamlen might know someone?"
Hawke snorted. "I don't think Gamlen has any resources he doesn't already owe money to."
They walked through the busy marketplace without speaking. Hawke's thoughts were attuned to the problem facing her, so she barely noticed when a ragged red-headed boy cannoned into Bethany until Bethany cried out in dismay. "Evelyn, my coin pouch! He took it!"
Hawke turned immediately, chasing after the boy. From out of nowhere came a twanging sound and a crossbow bolt whizzed through the air, pinning the boy to the wall by his shoulder. A dwarf in a rich-looking velvet coat walked up to the boy. "Anyone from the pickpockets' guild caught you doing that, you'd have had your hand cut off by now," the dwarf said, plucking the coin pouch from the boy's clothes. "Get out of here now, and don't let me see you in Hightown again." He yanked the crossbow bolt out of the wall and the boy ran off, clutching his bleeding shoulder.
The dwarf turned to Hawke and Bethany, tossing the coin pouch to them. "Varric Tethras, ladies, at your service." He bowed deeply.
"Thanks." Hawke stowed the coin pouch away. "To what do we owe the pleasure?"
"Let's just say Mama Tethras didn't raise two dumb sons. My brother may have turned you down, but I have a different view of the matter."
"You're part of the expedition?"
"I intend to go along and look after my part of the investment, sure. And I find the idea of having experienced fighters along with me reassuring. Your reputation precedes you, Hawke."
"How do you know who I am?" Hawke studied him with measured eyes. He dressed like an Antivan, the rich coat gaping over his bare chest and displaying an impressive amount of chest hair and a rich gold necklace. But the crossbow bolt had hit the boy in the right spot, and Varric carried himself with a confidence that indicated he knew how to handle himself.
"I know just about everyone there is to know in this town, and there's been a lot of discussion about you. Athenril is just about the only smuggler in Kirkwall who hasn't been edged out by the Coterie in the last year. Why? Because of you two. Matter of fact, I followed you here from the Hanged Man—I have a proposition for you."
"Really." Hawke looked at him skeptically.
"Evelyn, we should hear him out," Bethany put in. "It isn't as though we have so many other options."
Varric stepped a bit closer, lowering his voice. "Look, between you and me, Bartrand's sunk just about everything he has into this expedition. We can't actually afford to hire you on. What we need is a partner. Invest in the expedition, and the resulting profits will make us all rich. I'd say fifty sovereigns ought to do it."
"Fifty sovereigns? You must be daft! If I had that kind of money, I wouldn't need this job," Hawke hooted. "Thank you, but—" She started to walk around the dwarf, but he caught her by the wrist.
"I thought you had better sense than this, Hawke. You're never going to get a better opportunity. The Blight is over—the Deep Roads will be filling up with darkspawn again before you know it. There's this one tiny window to get down there and get rich enough that no one can touch you."
"Is that a threat?" Bethany asked coldly.
Varric chuckled. "My dear lady, your secrets are your own." His eyes never left Hawke's. "Think about it, Hawke. Kirkwall is teeming with work. We work together, save some coin from every job, we'll have the money before you know it."
"Why should I trust you?"
"Why shouldn't you? Ask around." He grinned. "Pity Bianca can't talk. She knows all my secrets."
He gestured at the crossbow. "She's a beauty, isn't she?"
"Indeed." Hawke found herself smiling back at him. She liked this dwarf and his brash approach. "Tell me something, Varric."
"Now we're getting somewhere. What do you want to know?"
"How do you know we're going to find something more in the Deep Roads than darkspawn and dust?"
"Bartrand's too tight with a copper to put all this money into anything short of a sure thing. And I wouldn't be descending to the Deep Roads if I wasn't sure it was worth it. Come on, Hawke," he cajoled. "What else were you going to do today?"
Hawke shook her head, her blue eyes twinkling. "I can't think of a thing. All right, Varric, I'm in."
"Excellent. Now, let's see what kind of trouble we can get in, shall we?"
Inevitably, they ended the night at the Hanged Man, toasting their newfound partnership. Bethany had left them hours ago, pleading a headache, but Hawke and Varric sat and drank, matching each other tankard for tankard. They laughed drunkenly, but their eyes studied each other over the rims of their mugs, waiting to see where the other's breaking point lay.
"Hawke, you're all right," Varric said eventually. "You drink like a dwarf."
"Or a soldier," she said.
"How was that? Ostagar."
"Who'd you name the crossbow after?"
Blue eyes met brown, the test of wills in the open, and Varric grinned. "Point taken. War stories are off limits, then."
Hawke smiled, nodding slowly.
"You know, I've seen you in here before, Hawke. Always alone."
"Making a suggestion, dwarf? Because you should know, short men just don't do it for me."
Varric laughed. "Hawke, I might want things from you, but that's not one of them. No, I think you and I are going to get along just fine without adding that into the picture. Just wanted to know if I should keep my eye out. Tie someone up and give him to you for Satinalia."
"Interesting thought. But no, thanks, Varric. Until I know my sister is safe and my mother's been taken care of, it seems best not to open myself up to that sort of … vulnerability."
"I always thought you had a good head on your shoulders." A slow smile spread across his face. "What you need, Hawke, is a reputation. An even bigger one than you already have."
"What kind of diabolical scheme are you concocting?"
"You have any objection if I tell people you flew into Kirkwall on a dragon?"
Hawke stared at him for a moment, then laughed. "If you think anyone would believe you, be my guest."
"Oh, no one will believe me … but that isn't the point, is it?"
"What is the point?"
"Stick with me, Hawke. We're going to write a new legend."