In relating the story of the Champion of Kirkwall's rise to glory, Varric may have...neglected to tell Seeker Cassandra a few unimportant details...
The young mage's head jerked up in surprise as her brother spoke; she hadn't heard him enter the Chantry. I don't even know what I'm doing in here she thought. Since arriving in Kirkwall a few months earlier, bound into a year-long period of indentured servitude thanks to dear Gamlen, she hadn't had much time to think about Carver.
Running errands for Athenril and doing her best to avoid the attention of templars made dealing with his death easier; mainly because she wasn't really dealing with it. Avoiding painful memories, yes. Slipping out of the family's Lowtown house in the middle of the night to escape Mother's quiet sobs, yes. Dealing? Not so much of that. Eventually guilt – survivor's guilt mostly – drove her to the Chantry. The family never had a chance to give poor Carver the farewell he deserved. Instead, they'd been forced to leave his body in the blight-ravaged lands beyond Lothering.
Bethany had arrived at the Chantry after the bulk of the faithful had said their prayers to the Maker and Andraste; she didn't want to draw unnecessary attention. The Hawkes hadn't long been in Kirkwall when they began hearing whispered conversations in the Hanged Man about mages in the Gallows made tranquil...seemingly for no real reason. And those were mages inside the Circle. If the templars learned of an apostate in their midst, they likely wouldn't hesitate to force the brand on her, cut her off from the Fade and her emotions. Though she'd often dreamed of not possessing magical talent, of 'being normal,' the thought of having the Rite of Tranquility forced on her...I think I'd rather be dead.
Kneeling before the altar and the imposing statue of Andraste, Bethany had prayed silently for Carver, for her mother and brother...even for Gamlen. Presently, she rose and faced Garrett, absently drying her eyes. "Is something wrong? Is it Mother?"
Garrett shook his head. "Are you all right? I've been trying to find you."
Bethany smiled, "Yes, I hadn't expected to find myself here, either." She sighed. "I was praying for Carver."
Her elder brother nodded, "I understand. I miss him as well." After a moment spent observing their surroundings – the Chantry here was much grander and more ornate than the one in Lothering – Garrett Hawke spoke quietly to his sister. "We have work."
Bethany nodded and, as she walked towards the doors alongside her brother asked, "Who does Athenril want worked over this time?" Something about her brother's appearance – the dark beard or more likely the greatsword – made him Athenril's go-to person whenever she wanted somebody straightened out.
The 'work' they were doing for Athenril – calling it work was more palatable than slavery – often left Bethany feeling conflicted. She liked to think of herself as a good and decent person; she donated to charities trying to help Ferelden refugees when she could afford to yet she was often called upon to collect 'protection money' from people barely able to afford it. "Tell me again why you decided Athenril was a better choice than Meeran?"
Slightly ahead of Bethany, Garrett pushed open the Chantry's large, heavy doors. He squinted against the bright sunlight. Outside now, he replied, "Something about Meeran struck me as...shady. Call it a hunch."
Bethany shook her head. "Right. Shady. And you'd describe Athenril how exactly? I understand we're in a difficult position here but sometimes I wonder..."
The swordsman shrugged. "How would I describe Athenril? She's the type of person who'd ensure you'd end up with a knife in your back if you failed her in some way. We should get moving." Without waiting for a reply, he strode off, forcing Bethany into a jog to catch up.
"You didn't tell me what the job was," Bethany pointed out as they headed down the Viscount's Way. "Debt collection? Shakedown? Pick up some slightly illegal cargo? Oh, I hope it's illegal cargo."
Garrett smiled. "An elf from the alienage owes Athenril some money. Gambling debt."
Bethany sighed. "Gambling. Always with the gambling. We should round up everybody in Lowtown and point out Gamlen to them. This is what happens when you can't pay your debts! You're forced to give up your family's estate and live like a beggar!"
Her brother laughed. "Don't forget selling your niece and nephew into indentured servitude."
If Lowtown was to Kirkwall the low-end of town, then the alienage was to Lowtown the really low-end of town. The majority of the city's elves congregated around the large tree dominating the centre of the sprawl of buildings. A few 'lucky' elves lived in Hightown, servants of the nobility there. Bethany wasn't so sure the trade off was worth it – living in a nice mansion but kept under the thumb of humans and treated worse than stray dogs. A male elf wearing clean though patched and faded clothing confronted them. "What's your business here, shem?"
"We're looking for Milos," Garrett stated, arms loose at his side.
The elf sighed, "Andraste's holy knickers, what's he done now?"
Smiling slightly, Bethany put in, "He owes some money. To Athenril."
Compared to the likes of the Coterie, Athenril was a relatively small player in Kirkwall's criminal underbelly but she had a reputation, especially among other elves. The elf turned and pointed out a house outside which a large tabby cat was sunning itself. "In there. And give Athenril the alienage's regards."
"Thank you," Bethany answered. "We will."
Dodging around the resident elves and doing their best to ignore the distrustful glares, Bethany and Garrett arrived outside Milos' abode. The cat roused itself as Bethany knocked on the door. Perhaps sensing impending physical violence, the tabby rose, stretched and wandered away. "Smart cat," Bethany murmured. "Hello?" she called, rapping on the door once more.
The closed door slighty muffled the reply from within, "Whozit?"
Garrett replied, "Athenril sent us."
"Don't know any Athenril," the owner of the voice replied.
Garrett sighed, "This will go a lot smoother if you let us in, instead of us shouting at each other through the door." The Ferelden slapped the palm of his hand on the wood for emphasis. Bethany turned and surveyed the comings and goings of the elves behind them; most went about their business though a few eyed her with suspicion. Though Knight-Commander Meredith's increasingly harsh treatment of mages was well-known, Bethany didn't believe the elves of Kirkwall's alienage would sell her out; the templars were a symbol of humankind's dominance over elves. Still, the longer they lingered here, the worse the outcome would be.
Sounds of movement from the other side of the door returned her attention to the task at hand. A faint scraping of metal on metal as Milos turned a key in the lock presaged his appearance. The elf opened the door just enough to peer through the gap at his visitors. As he spoke, the smell of cheap liquor wafted on the air. "C'mon in, then."
The Hawke siblings waited as Milos opened the door wide and stood aside to let them in. The house had the much the dimensions as Gamlen's home and was cleaner. A rickety-looking table and chair set of splintery wood stood in the main room; an opened bottle of alcohol sat on the table. Milos himself was dressed similarly to the elf they'd met at the alienage's entrance. Neat house, clean clothes. Obviously takes pride in himself and his home, alcohol aside. Gamlen could learn a thing or two from him Bethany observed.
Milos waved a hand at the chairs. "Can I offer you a drink?"
Garrett eyed the unlabelled bottle and shrugged. "What's in it?"
Their host poured a measure into a dull pewter goblet and downed it, coughing. He wiped his mouth. "Don't rightly know. I get it from a fellow down at the docks. All I know is, it burns nice and good on the way down and doesn't make you go blind. Yet, anyway."
"Why not?" Hawke shrugged again.
"It's not even noon, yet!" Bethany replied as Milos took a second goblet from a shelf and poured another shot.
Garrett and Milos clicked glasses together. "It's noon somewhere in Thedas," her brother pointed out and downed the liquor. After a moment he coughed, eyes watering. "Andraste's bosoms, that's strong."
"Aye, isn't it just?" Milos smiled and offered another shot.
"Before you get my brother so drunk I have to drag him home by his ankles, perhaps we should get to the reason we're here?" Bethany suggested.
Milos reeled slightly on his feet as he replied, "Why's a pretty young thing like you working for Athenril in the first place?"
"Trust me, you do not want to know," Bethany answered even as her brother interjected, "Gamlen got us into indentured servitude. Truly a prince among men is our uncle."
Milos' blinked slowly, glassy green eyes widening. "Heh, and I thought I was bad off."
Garrett pulled out a chair and sat heavily upon it, laying aside his greatsword. "Bethie does have a point though." His voice hardened, "Athenril's gold, Milos. Where is it?"
The elf slumped into his seat. "Don't have it, obviously. Why else would Athenril have sent you after me? If I had the gold, I'd have paid up already."
Garrett sucked in the inside of his cheek, making a tck sound. "That's a problem. See, Athenril, she's getting tired of people, namely folks your good self not paying their debts Makes her look weak."
Bethany laid a gentle hand on the elf's slim shoulders. "Please, Milos. Help us to help you."
Looking up at her, Milos answered, "I would if I could, I really would. I got no desire to have my head kicked in as an example. Trust me."
Garrett sighed, stroked his beard. "Tell you what we'll do: I'm prepared to pay your debt myself."
Milos' eyes widened. "You'd do that? For an elf? Why?"
Bethany explained, "We're just trying to get by here in Kirkwall, avoid attention from...certain people. You're not a bad man, Milos, we can see that. How much money do you owe Athenril?"
The elf shifted nervously on his chair, fingers toying with his goblet. "Two sovereigns," he eventually answered.
Bethany blinked. "All this trouble for two sovereigns?"
Milos glared at her. "Girl, when you grow up dirt poor in a place like this, two sovereigns makes a man feel like a king!"
"I suppose you're right. I'm sorry," she said quietly. She turned to her brother, "Do we have two sovereigns to spare? I spent my last few silvers on some silks for Mother. I thought it might cheer her up."
Milos chuckled, "Ain't you a good one, looking after your mother." He paused, seeming to look through the walls of his house at another place and time. "I had a mother once."
Garrett looked at Milos with raised eyebrows. He told Bethany, "I still have some coin from that job on the docks last month. The one that went bad?"
Bethany rolled her eyes. "Don't remind me!"
Milos drew himself back into the conversation, eyes narrowed. "What's the catch? What's in it for you?"
"On the face of it, nothing," Garrett began. "But I'll sleep better tonight if I don't have to hang you upside down from that tree out there." He paused a moment. "I'll pay your debt. In return, you keep us informed of any goings on around town. Athenril has her own network of informants but I like the idea of somebody working for me."
Milos appeared to ruminate on this for several moments before coming to a decision. "So, all I have to do is tell you if I hear of something interesting? That's all?"
Bethany glanced at her brother who nodded. "That's all," she confirmed.
Milos raised his goblet. "Well, you have a deal. And you might as well know now, word on the street is a bunch of dwarves are setting up to take on the Coterie. I'd watch my back around town late at night. A lot of bodies are going to wind up in the harbour soon enough."
"So," Bethany said brightly, "Business as usual then!"
Garrett tossed the drawstring pouch containing the gold to Athenril. The elven smuggler deftly caught the pouch and weighed the contents. Seconds later, the pouch disappeared inside her clothing. "Nice work, Hawkes," she said, leaning back against a wall opposite Hightown's Blooming Rose. "You know what today is?" she asked, lips tilting up in a sly grin.
"Take-pity-on-refugees-fleeing-the-Blight-and-release-them-early-day?" Hawke suggested.
Athenril laughed loudly, drawing disparaging glares from well-dressed men and women passing by. "Ah, I'm going to miss your wit when this is done, Hawke. But no. Today marks the start of your fifth month of servitude. You're almost half-way there."
"Time flies when you're having fun," Bethany replied dryly, prompting another laugh from Athenril.
"Doesn't it just?" Hawke added.
Smiling, Athenril sighed, "Take the rest of the day off, you two. As for myself, a noted nobleman is about to find himself in a...compromising position in yonder brothel," Athenril nodded at the popular establishment. "I imagine he'd pay well to prevent word of his indiscretions reaching the Viscount."
"What if he doesn't pay?" Bethany inquired. As she watched, the doors of the Blooming Rose opened, admitting a pair of young men clad in templar plate-mail. "Oh...the Knight-Commander won't like that."
Athenril smirked, "They always pay, love. One way or another." The elf flicked a glance at Hawke, "You'd do well to keep that in mind."
Hawke ignored his sister's questioning look. "We'll be on our way, now," he said, gently ushering Bethany away.
On their way to visit Leandra and allay fears of her children spiralling into a life of crime, the Hawke siblings encountered Aveline Vallen patrolling the district. The auburn-haired guardswoman halted and nodded to each in turn. "Hawke, Bethany. Keeping out of trouble, I trust?"
Hawke offered a wry smile. "Mostly."
Aveline shook her head, "Since you threw your lot in with Athenril, I suppose I shouldn't have expected an honest answer."
"And how is life in the guard treating you, Aveline?" Hawke asked, silently praying to Andraste that his duty-bound acquaintance wouldn't decide to take him in for his part in any number of slightly illegal goings on.
"Well enough. Why?"
Hawke shrugged, "Just making conversation. That is what people usually do when they aren't killing darkspawn or upholding the law." Aveline's green eyes flashed a warning; Hawke made a peace offering. "I have some information you might find interesting."
"Go on," Aveline responded, armour creaking slightly as she shifted her weight from one foot to the other.
"We've heard of a group of dwarves making a push against the Coterie. The guard may want to increase their patrols at night. From what we've been told, things are going to get bloody."
"Moreso than usual," Bethany added.
Aveline nodded, "Thanks for the tip, Hawke. I'll take it up with the captain though I doubt I'll get anywhere. I've been pushing for weeks to have the patrols increased but he won't listen. Especially not to a Ferelden."
"The way the locals talk, all us filthy refugees are taking their jobs and stealing their women," Hawke replied. "Sometimes I feel like pointing out that it was a Ferelden who ended the Blight. A whole bunch of Fereldens, in point of fact."
"Hmm," Aveline answered. "I should continue my patrol. Thanks again, Hawke."
The former soldier-turned-guardswoman cut an imposing figure as she continued on her way. "She looks strong," Bethany quietly observed, "But I think she misses her husband terribly."
Brother and sister watched Aveline until she melted into the crowds. Hawke put an arm around Bethany's shoulders in a quick one-armed hug. "Come on, let's go home. Perhaps we can show Gamlen how to use that scrubbing brush."
Author's Note: As I played through Dragon Age II, I began to wonder what Hawke and company may have seen and done during the intervening years of Varric's tale and decided to write a sort of 'untold story' purely for the hell of it. More to come later.