Reading through this a few years after it was done I can properly tell I had no beta at the time. Still, can't ask her to work this so many years after the fact so I've gone through it myself. Bits re-written, grammar corrected, hilarious lines of dialogue added, likely a million mistakes still missed ;)
Chapter One - Of Summonses and Unfortunate Arrangements.
"Another letter for you, Hawke" Gamlen grumbled, shoving a gilt edged square in her face. "Anything else you need from me? Should I await your reply and courier it for you? Carry you to the sender personally?"
"If you truly wanted to be helpful a little light cleaning wouldn't go amiss, Uncle" she retorted, eyeing the loopy writing on the envelope with some dismay.
She waited until he'd stomped off, muttering, before perching on a desk. The return address was that of the Viscount and that was the main reason she was handling the missive like an unexploded flask. Contact with him never ended well although it did tend to fill her purse for a while. Still, it was better than sending the City Guard to her door demanding she accompany them to the Keep like he usually did. Marginally. Sighing, she ripped open the envelope and quickly scanned the contents. After reading though the missive she stared into space for several moments, mouth open, and then read it again.
Half an hour later Bethany bustled in to find her sister, arms folded and face tight, glaring holes in the already much abused floor.
Wordlessly, Hawke shoved the missive at her and stood up. "Aveline's got a job for us. I'm going to fetch the others. We'll meet you outside the Chantry in an hour."
"Er…all right." Bethany reached the end of the letter and grinned. No wonder her sister had her smallclothes in a twist- she hated these things.
A morning of fighting raiders on the coast put Hawke in a slightly better mood but she was still snappy and irritable. Bethany kept smirking at her which made things even worse and the rest of her companions were staying as far away from her as possible.
She kicked at a boulder viciously and howled in irritation at the sudden pain in her toe.
"Wha-!" The mage flinched at her sudden attention. "Um. Yes Hawke?"
"Stubbed my toe. Get over here."
Anders cast a pleading glance in the direction of the little huddle of companions eyeing her warily. As one they shrugged, Varric eventually prodding him forward with the business end of Bianca. He sighed and approached Hawke reluctantly.
"Purposefully, mind. A little pointless, don't you think? Taking your anger out on an inanimate object?" drawled a voice tinged with amusement and disdain. Hawke rounded on the tall elf standing slightly apart from the others and hopped towards him threateningly. Anders scuttled after her.
"I'm fairly sure you direct your foul moods at inanimate objects all the time. Remember that glowy thing in the cavern?"
"A creature borne of filthy magic-"
"It was a firefly."
"It was uncommonly large. However it was animate which renders your previous comment-"
"...and I don't believe I asked for your opinion!"
"My opinions are freely given," snapped Fenris, ignoring the resulting 'ooOOoohh!' which came from Isabela's direction. "Especially when your state of mind is affecting our performance. Your blades have been undisciplined today and you nearly threw me off a cliff earlier in your eagerness to maim one of the raiders. I do not appreciate being shoved."
By like someone like you is what you didn't say, thought Hawke darkly. I'll shove you off a cliff right now, elf. See if you bounce all the way down.
She eyed Fenris. Of all her companions he was the one she got on with least, even when she was in a good mood. He was sullen, taciturn and so…so snooty. She hated him looking down his nose at her, berating her over her sympathy for mages, her tolerance of magic. Her sister was a mage for goodness' sake. Was she supposed to just overlook how they were treated? She'd even caught him frowning at her attire once. Too peasant for him? Stupid, poncy elf! So what if he'd escaped a life of slavery and abuse? Did he want a medal? He could make something of himself, be happy - her mind tried to paint a picture of a smiling Fenris, surrounded by kittens and butterflies, and promptly folded in on itself - but no, she rallied. All he did was wallow in self-pity, whinge about the smell of the harbour and denounce all non-Tevinter wines as being inferior. An ex-slave! What gave him the right to be so superior-?
Anders finally got a hold of her foot which sent her crashing to the ground, swearing. He squeaked in fright, healed her quickly and shot back to the safety of the huddle which drew together more tightly. Hawke stayed where she was for a few moments, grinding her teeth and thinking of a million places a mage's staff could be rammed when a hand appeared in her field of vision. She took it grumpily, pulled herself up and fought down the sudden urge to punch the smirking elf on his perfect nose.
"What is the matter, Hawke?" ventured Aveline. "You really haven't been yourself all day."
"She got a letter this morning from the Viscount's son" said Bethany. "He's invited her as his guest to his birthday celebrations"
"But that's wonderful!" trilled Merrill, not noticing Bethany sidle behind her with a grimace. "There'll be music, dancing, oh I love balls!"
There was a short pause.
"You love balls, do you Merrill?" said Hawke slowly.
"Involving lots of people?" added Isabela slyly.
Hawke sniggered suddenly, breaking the tension. The group relaxed, Merrill looking perplexed at the change in atmosphere. Varric patted the elf girl gently on the arm.
"Why are you so tied up in knots about it then, Champion?" he asked curiously. "Are you afraid Saemus harbours naughty intentions towards you?"
Hawke flushed. "No. He's…you know, nice enough…" she sighed. "I just hate the whole ballness of it – shut up, Isabela! - the conversation, the dancing, the damn clothes. I'm a simple girl from Lothering-"
"She means," supplied Bethany. "She's an oaf in polite company, she's got two left feet and other than her birthing robe has never worn a dress in her life."
Hawke glared at her. "Expect all your robes to be in tatters tomorrow, sister."
"Hah! You'll have no eyebrows- "
"Quiet!" Varric held up a hand and they subsided, muttering. "Seems to me, Hawke, all you need is a little tutoring and you'll be fine. It'll be good for you to attend this sort of thing, raises your profile. Besides there's no harm in getting one of the gentry on your side."
"Or on your front, back-"
"Shut up, Isabela!" howled Hawke. She looked at Varric thoughtfully. "Might get some work out of it, I suppose. I don't fancy making a fool of myself in front of all those Lords and Ladies though. You're nobility, Varric, you can teach me how to talk to these people, do the dancey thing- "
"Nuh-uh. Sorry, Champion, I'm dwarven nobility. Not the same here. Dwarven balls mainly consist of drinking, singing songs about gold and throwing your tankard at whoever you want to take home at the end of the evening."
"Hawke's usual nights at the Hanged Man, then." muttered Anders in an undertone to Aveline who coughed and bit back a smile.
Hawke eyed them suspiciously before turning back to the dwarf who had schooled his expression into one of helpful innocence. "So what do you suggest?"
Varric rubbed his hands together and gestured expansively. "Now Fenris here," he grinned as the elf stiffened, expression darkening, "was the employee of-"
"You mean slave-"
"- let's not quibble terms now, lad. Was the employee of one of the foremost Magisters in Tevinter. Isn't that right?"
"Yes." Fenris scowled. "I can see where this is going and I-"
"-would be very interested in helping Hawke form, let's say, attachments which may potentially bring us more work. Yes? Who knows," he continued, winking at her and ignoring Fenris' thunderous expression, "Saemus may even decide to give her a little, ah, work himself and we could all do with connections in the Kirkwall gentry."
Hawke bristled. "And what makes you think I have any interest in Qun Boy?"
"He's hot!" said Isabela, grinning. "And he's interested. What else do you need to know?"
"Yes. Well. I like a little more information than that generally. Besides," she sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose, ignoring Anders' frantic coughing. "He'll lose interest very quickly after he sees me dancing."
"And this is where our esteemed elven friend comes in" said Varric smoothly. "So, Fenris. A few nights' work for a potentially huge reward. Could be enough for you to, say, set up somewhere else? Away from all of this?"
Hawke tapped her foot impatiently, waving away imaginary kittens and butterflies.
"And what would he know about ball- evenings involving dancing and conversation?" She folded her arms at Fenris' glower.
"He attended events with his master both at home and abroad. He was taught court etiquette in order to converse with foreign dignitaries whilst his master was socialising. He was sometimes called upon to dance when partners were scarce."
"Really? He possesses the ability to have entire conversations?"
Fenris' face darkened. "If you would prefer to attend this event and be seen as the clod you are, do, please, be my guest." He advanced on her. "Even given a year's worth of tutoring I cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's- "
"Did you just liken me to a farmyard animal?"
"Now, now," said Varric hastily. "Be reasonable, both of you. Hawke, put those away…"
"We need the money" piped up Merrill. They all looked at her. "You know we do. Can you two just try to get on for a few days? For us?"
There was a pause, punctuated by two sets of teeth grinding.
"Fine." Hawke spun on her heel and marched in the direction of Kirkwall. "I'll meet you later at your mansion," she tossed over her shoulder. "After you clear the bodies away there'll be plenty of space for us to practice in."
"Fine." Fenris stalked after her, fists clenched.
No-one moved for several moments and then Varric shrugged. "Best case scenario, Hawke performs and we all get paid. Worst case scenario, one or both of them ends up skewered by the other and not in the fun way."
Isabela smirked. "This could be interesting."
"Frightening, you mean," shuddered Anders. "What's the betting I'll get one of them turning up needing healing within the next few days?"
"I'll take that bet" said Varric, clapping him on the shoulder.
"I'm in too" added Aveline.
Isabela nodded and they started back to Kirkwall at a slower pace than the departing two, an unspoken consent between them not to catch up with either of them any time soon. Merrill remained pensive, twisting her hands together worriedly.
"I do hope Hawke doesn't get hurt," she whispered. "Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned how much I like balls…"