Author's note: Once again, the Dragon Age setting and most of the characters belong to Bioware, except for the ones who are mine and big scary lawyers lurk in the Fade if anyone tries to make money from this stuff.
This is a more or less original story that takes place after the events in Dragon Age II, although I cannot yet decide on the exact timeline (i.e. how much time has passed since the ending). I'll leave it in the middle for now, along with some room for future content - but regardless of what may follow in the gaming universe, this will be my version of the Champion's adventures after Kirkwall.
Many, many thanks to Reflection Muse for editing, beta-ing and generally kicking commas into the right places; any silly mistakes that remain are mine alone.
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"Men's hearts hold shadows darker than any tainted creature."
"There is a recipe to a good hero. It's like alchemy; take one part down to earth, one part selfless nobility, two parts crazy fool and season liberally with wild falsehoods."
– Varric Tethras
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A small crowd had gathered on the pale, cream-coloured flagstones of Hightown. It was a scorching day and many of Kirkwall's rich and noble were taking refuge from the heat in their mansions, refreshed by chilled Tevinter wine. Still, some couldn't resist the temptation to see what the fuss was about or sent their servants to find out. At the command of a stern-faced nobleman wearing a cloth-of-gold doublet a nervous youth detached himself from the accompanying band of guards to pound on the door.
It swung open to reveal an elderly, grey-haired man in a roughspun shirt. "Yes?"
The young guardsman swallowed. "Citizen name of Amell?"
"You know who I am, boy," Gamlen Amell snapped irritably, "that's why you made such a point of not noticing me at the Blooming Rose last n-" he cut himself off when he caught sight of the audience that was virtually on his doorstep.
An attractive young woman in a powder blue dress appeared behind him, regarding the crowd with a curious look.
"Who is this, Amell?" the haughty nobleman demanded. "One of your whores?"
Gamlen drew himself up to his full modest height, his eyes glinting with anger. "This is Charade, my daughter."
The pretty brunette dropped into a mocking curtsey. "A pleasure, my lord."
"Yes, well..." The nobleman cleared his throat. This was not going quite as well as he planned. "This estate belongs to the property of the Champion of Kirkwall, now wanted by the laws of Chantry and man alike. As such, it shall be confiscated -"
"Are you mad?" Gamlen caustically interrupted him. "Your Champion is my nephew. With my sister – his mother – murdered in this thrice-blighted city, we are the only family he has left here!"
"Murdered by a crazy mage," came a voice from the back of the crowd. "Are you sure Lady Leandra's killer wasn't another of your nephew's pets?"
Charade placed a warning hand on her father's arm. Gamlen was now trembling with rage. "How dare you!" he spat. "Have you conveniently forgotten that he saved your hide from a bloody qunari invasion, that he put that lyrium-drunken Knight-Commander of yours down like the mad dog she was before she could raze this place to the ground?"
"He let that not-so-tame apostate of his destroy the Chantry with magic and start a war," another voice sneered, "and then fled the city with him!"
"They shall be named Maleficar, accursed ones. They shall find no rest in this world, or beyond. The Chant of Light is clear. They should both hang for this!" a woman cried.
"Really?" a lady with an Orlesian accent inquired sharply. "The templars were never going to loosen their crushing hold on mages, even good ones like my poor son! And the Chantry let them!"
"And so the Champion allowed his renegade mage to blow up a house of faith?" the first speaker scoffed. "If he cares so much for the apostate, let him share his fate I say."
The imperious-looking nobleman sighed. The Champion of Kirkwall had made many enemies. He counted himself among them for the man's common birth and inconvenient sympathies, but it appeared the troublesome Gaelen Hawke had made enough friends to cause a controversy even in his absence.
"Excuse me. Mind the elbows, thanks. Excuse me. Sorry."
A short figure dressed in a open-chested yellow silk shirt with a crossbow slung over his back shouldered his way through the assortment of Kirkwall's well-to-do, flourishing a document bearing many official-looking seals. "My apologies," said the dwarf, "pressing business elsewhere. Deals to make, people to shoot, you know how it is. Varric Tethras, at you service." He handed the document to the astonished lord, who gave it a brief glance at first, then a sharper one as his grey eyebrows knitted together.
"Bran?" he asked finally. A somewhat dishevelled looking magistrate with thinning red hair took a careful look at the scroll. "Estate and assets... renouncing ownership of the Hawke-Amell residence in Hightown in favour of Lavinia Amell and Gamlen Amell... managed by Varric Tethras..." he raised his head. "You?"
"You?" echoed the golden-clad lord.
"Lavinia?" asked Varric, staring at Charade, who shrugged noncommitally.
"Anyway," he continued amiably, "you'll find it's all there. Legit. Can't disown a man who already disowned himself."
"I cannot believe he would entrust all of this to... well, you're a... a dwarf."
"Amazing deduction on your part, my lord. Yes, I'm a dwarf. I guess that's why he did it. We dwarves are attracted to shiny objects. Not you, obviously. My lord." Varric helpfully pried the document from the seneschal's unresisting fingers. "Are we done then?"
Lord and magistrate exchanged unnerved glances. "Yes," Bran decided. "The seal is genuine. Even if a fair amount of the more liquid assets seems to have unaccountably vanished."
"Unfortunate," agreed Varric, who'd helped them vanish.
With the entertainment at an end and the heat still stifling, none of the nobles, servants or guards lingered for long. Varric offered a hand to Charade, which she took graciously, as the three of them made their way to Lowtown. "Hightown is rather pretty," Varric said pleasantly, "with the nobles out of the way. But once we get to the Hanged Man, I've got a bit of news for the both of you..."