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It might have surprised anyone watching him glare at the reflection in his shaving mirror as if it had personally offended him, but Sebastian Vael was not angry.

'Angry' was too tame a word.

The worst thing about the whole situation, he thought as he carefully ran his razor down one cheek, was that he had no right to feel as furious as he did. He had no claim on Jenna Hawke. She was a dear and trusted friend, that was all. But when he had looked at that letter the previous day, some primitive, possessive part of him had screamed No! Mine!

That shamed him. Hawke was not a prize for anyone to take. She was a good, honourable woman who deserved to be respected as a person just like everybody else. The fact that she was intelligent, beautiful, compassionate and everything any sane man could hope for in a partner had absolutely no relevance to the situation.

Right, an inner voice that sounded suspiciously like his younger, much more wild self said. You keep telling yourself that. It's not like you've been daydreaming about kissing her instead of paying attention during chantry services or anything.

Silence, he growled at the voice. I was momentarily distracted.

Right, Inner-Sebastian replied, 'momentarily'. Of course. I didn't realise the entire length of a chantry service consisted of one moment. Anyway, didn't you take a vow not to do that kind of thing anymore?

Sebastian glared at his reflection. I'm only a man! And I haven't done anything!

Yes, but you really, really want to, Inner-Sebastian pointed out.

Oh just- "Argh!"

Sebastian's distraction caused his hand to slip, and he let out a frustrated cry of pain as his razor sliced into his skin. "Blast it," he muttered, reaching for a cloth to clean away the blood that was now trickling down his chin. He peered into his mirror, dabbing at the small cut with his cloth and continued to consider the situation his cousin's letter to Hawke had put him in.

The problem wasn't that he didn't believe Jenna's declaration that she wasn't interested in the implied offer of marriage in Goran Vael's letter. Another woman might have been tempted by the prospect of becoming royalty, but Hawke's quick out-of-hand dismissal had shown Sebastian that her casual disregard for the importance of titles was the same as it had always been.

No, the problem was that he had still not made up his mind if he was even going to return to Starkhaven. He might yet decide that staying in Kirkwall, in service to the chantry was the best action, both for himself and for the people of Starkhaven. If that was the case, did he have any right to object to Hawke entering an engagement that, on the surface at least, was extremely advantageous for her? It was different when the man was a political enemy. In that case it was absolutely against his best interests to let the Champion of Kirkwall associate with his rival. But if he was to stay in the Chantry, then it was, quite frankly, none of his business.

Sebastian turned what he remembered of his distant cousin around in his mind. That was another thing that made this all so difficult. Goran might have been a little simple-minded, but he'd never been, as far as Sebastian could remember, a particularly bad person. Whenever Goran had visited Starkhaven Castle with his parents, he'd spent most of the time tagging around after Sebastian's older brothers, like a lost puppy. He'd always been a rather shy, gentle boy who was glad to do what he was told.

"Which was presumably what made you such a good candidate to be Lady Harriman's cat's paw in the first place, Goran," Sebastian muttered to himself, cleaning away the last of the blood. He looked at his reflection and sighed. "And now your new master thinks that approaching Hawke is a good idea. What have you gotten yourself into, Cousin?"

One thing is certain at least, the prince thought. I need to make a decision one way or the other. And I need to speak with Hawke.


"Varric, you unbelievably attractive dwarf!"

Varric Tethras, professional blatant liar, squeezed his eyes shut at Jenna Hawke's cheerful greeting. He knew what that tone of voice meant. He could feel the headache coming on already.

Still, it was always nice to have his general fantastic-ness referred to.

"Hawke," he greeted her as she made her way across his room in the Hanged Man and perched herself on the table. "How have you been, O Mighty Champion of Kirkwall?"

Hawke's lips twisted in a brief scowl. "Please," she said, holding up a hand, "spare me. It's been Champion this and Champion that ever since I killed the Arishok. I'd like to just be Hawke again, at least for a while."

Varric grinned and gave her an extravagant bow. "As my Lady commands."

Hawke's scowl intensified.

"Uh, just kidding," Varric said hastily. "How can I help you, Hawke?"

"You have contacts in the Merchant's Guild who can get you information from other cities, right?"

"For a price, yes," he confirmed. "Why? What's going on, Hawke?"

The dark-haired rogue dug in her pocket, pulling out the letter from Goran Vael. Then she handed it to Varric. "This."

Varric scanned the correspondence quickly and whistled. "Well, well. Does Choir Boy know about this Hawke? Please say that he doesn't."

Hawke blinked at him in puzzlement. "Of course he does," she replied. "I made sure he knew about this first."

"Shame. I would've liked to see his face when he read it."

" Uh, why?"

"Er, never mind," Varric said. "I assume you want all possible information I can get on your prospective suitor?"

"If it's not too much trouble," Hawke said sweetly.

"For you dear lady, anything."

Hawke scowled again.

"By the way, this is going to require you to donate additional funds," Varric added.

"Of course it is."