Roberta Hawke's life ended when Lothering was razed to the ground. She was young, a locksmith with a legitimate business, a marriage almost finalised, a loving family unit that had perfected the art of pretending not to be mages. She had it all planned out. Marry Ser Maron, the mage-sympathising Templar, and her family would be safe in Lothering forever. Expand into the trap-making business, and she'd have an excuse to keep both poison and lockpicks on hand. Everything was on its way to being perfect.
Then the cursed Darkspawn had to rear their ugly heads – no, perhaps the King was to blame for having her and half of Lothering conscripted into his army. If there had been anyone left to fight the creatures off, maybe her home wouldn't have been destroyed. When the soldiers came and picked out the best warriors, she'd been chosen, alongside her brother, Carver. There is no saying no to a soldier with a writ of conscription. Besides, it was better them than the cursed Grey Wardens.
As she'd predicted, Ostagar was a complete failure. The Darkspawn headed immediately North, on the heels of what remained of the army. Thankfully that remnant included her and Carver. They'd barely made it to Lothering in time, and then, barely made it out. Roberta made sure she grabbed a set of lockpicks from her old shop before leaving.
Now, all that remained of her old life was a painful scar where Carver had once been, and a hysterical contingent of females who'd lost everything. But Kirkwall… now, Kirkwall was a new start.
"What happens now?" Aveline asked, her strong jaw proudly lifted in defiance of her newfound poverty.
"We do what we must to get inside the city, and figure it out from there. Aveline… I never had the chance to say it before. But I'm sorry about Ser Wesley. My sister may be a prat about Templars, but I know you loved him." Roberta managed to offer, gently. She laid her hand on Aveline's arm as the knight who looked so like her namesake allowed a scatter of tears.
"Thank you, Robbie." The locksmith took that as a dismissal.
When Gamlen finally arrived to let them into the city, face all apologies masking lies, Robbie found her heart swelling with joy as she met her uncle. He was an old scoundrel, not the hoity-toity nobleman her mother had made him out to be. Robbie couldn't be more pleased.
"So, the mercenary or the smuggler, you say?" She mused aloud while her new-found uncle watched impatiently. "Where's this Meeran fellow, then?"
"Just over there, behind us in the corner. He's the head of the Red Irons, so you be careful and you mind what he tells you to do, alright girl?" Gamlen snapped. Leandra was fretting silently behind him.
"Of course I will. I'm no fool, uncle," she flashed the old man a winning smile. "We'll see what he says."
Meeran, of course, liked her the moment he laid eyes on her. He looked her up and down with a perverted grin and tossed her a casual wink. "Nice," was all he said, but Robbie knew he was doing more than just checking her figure. She casually drew a knife and began to twirl it about while they talked. Meeran… now here was a man she could speak plainly with.
"That's it then? Kill the little lordling, and you get me and mine into Kirkwall?"
"That's it. Then your arse is mine for a year – and your sister's, too," he grinned lecherously, but Robbie simply rolled her eyes.
"You sure about Bethany?" She took a step closer, holding the knife still now. "She's a mage. Could be more trouble than it's worth, for you,"
Meeran's eyes lit up. "A mage, you say? Well well well. Missus Hawke, you could be just the lucky charm I was looking for. Mage'll do wonders for business."
Robbie couldn't help but chuckle. She flipped the knife in the air and caught it gently by the blade, a little smile over her shoulder for Meeran as she casually strolled away.
Gamlen's house was a veritable nug-sty. She was glad Aveline had found alternate lodgings – she'd be ashamed to bring anyone here, grotty little hovel that it was. But, she reasoned, it was a roof over their heads. At least mother would be out of the cold and able to sleep in… some semblance of a real bed.
"Gamlen, I don't understand," Roberta heaved an exhausted sigh as she eavesdropped on her mother. That damned estate. Leandra was on it again. She was like a rabid mabari once she had an idea in her head.
"Mother! Andraste's tits, will you drop it and let us get some sleep?" Robbie yelled from her flea-ridden bunk, before jamming a pillow that smelt suspiciously like dog over her face. "He's still going to be here in the morning you know,"
"I wouldn't be so sure," Gamlen muttered as he walked past Roberta's doorway, and Robbie couldn't help but chuckle. "Here, girl," he had paused in her doorway, leaning on the doorframe with a small smile. "I got a letter from Meeran already." He tossed the scroll onto Robbie's bed, and she sat bolt upright immediately. "Glad you had the sense to accept his offer. He's not so bad of a man, really," chuckled Gamlen before sauntering off to his own bed.
Stop by the Hanged Man for a drink with me tonight, if you can. I'd like to discuss the particulars of our arrangement.
With an exhausted sigh, Robbie rolled out of bed and rummaged through her pack, pulling on a pair of tights and a tunic. She strapped a dagger to her thigh just in case, shoved her feet into her boots, and got to her feet.
"I'll be back in a few hours."
Meeran liked to watch her walk. She wasn't lewd, or trying to draw attention to her figure, and even if he'd spotted her half a mile away he'd have known her for what she was. Robbie was a thief, good and proper. Probably second-story work more than the pickpocketing type. Maybe she'd even dabbled in being a cut-throat. He didn't much care, though. She was easy on the eyes and she'd be handy with a knife when it came down to it. When she sat next to him, he went out of his way to play the letch.
"Looking tasty tonight, Hawke," he grinned, winking. "So tell me. Why mercenary work? You could have gone with Athenril. Seems more up your alley, figuratively speaking,"
Robbie laughed lightly, the freckles on her cheeks moving closer together as her lips curved into an easy smile. "You, and everyone else, has me pegged for a thief already, it seems,"
"It's the way you walk, girl. Light as a feather. Like your feet barely touch the ground. You make no noise, and you have this way of slipping through a crowd and not touching anyone at all. You'd make one hell of a pickpocket." Meeran dropped his lecherous façade for a moment, eyes narrowing to see how she reacted. The only hint he got was her eyes glimmering mischievously.
"What about an assassin? They'd need similar skills, I'm sure," she turned her grey eyes on his, locking onto his stare.
"So they would."
Robbie bit her lip and waved the serving girl over to their table. "Ale, thanks."
"Make that two, gorgeous. On me." He flipped a coin to the girl, but his eyes never left Robbie's. Hawke was testing his mettle, just as he was testing hers. When she refused to break his gaze, he cocked an eyebrow and looked away with a smile. This one would be a handful.
"Alright then, Hawke. Let's talk business. The Red Iron is a mercenary band. Generally speaking, we do things through legitimate channels – hunting outlaws, bolstering guard patrols when they're light on, et cetera," he scratched at his stubble. "But occasionally we're hired by some less than savoury types, if you get my meaning."
Robbie nodded. The serving girl returned with a jug of ale and two cups. "On the 'ouse, mister Meeran, Ser," she grinned, and Meeran looked up to wave at Corff.
"I've skirted around the edges of legality my whole life, Meeran. I spent years in Denerim and Highever stealing anything I could get my sticky little fingers on, and when you're in that industry, sometimes witnesses need to disappear. That won't be a problem for me. My sister, however, has a strong, albeit bloody annoying set of morals," she added with a grin, stretching in her seat before swinging her legs up onto the table and crossing them at the ankle. Meeran did not miss the flash of a dagger up under her tunic. Good, he thought. Prepared.
He tugged absently at his earlobe as he pondered the potential problem of Bethany Hawke. "She follows you, no?"
"What do you mean? Of course she does."
"Then what you say goes, right?"
She nodded slowly, catching his drift. "I suppose. She won't like it, but she'd never go against me."
"Then it's simple. I just won't assign her jobs without you being there." He grinned, bearing yellowed teeth before filling both their cups with ale and taking a swig of his own. "So now you're in the city, you owe us a debt. You work with us for the year to pay it off. If you do your job well, you'll get bonuses, and there's always loot on corpses. You won't go completely broke. But, you might want to consider moving into the Red Iron headquarters. We have bunks enough for thirty-head, and a cook who does two meals a day. It'll be cheaper, and a might bit less pungent than living with your dear uncle," he added with a snicker.
"Generous of you," Robbie quipped with a roll of her eyes, but he knew she was taking it in her stride. His first measure of the woman had been rather accurate – pragmatic, witty, and more than a little insolent. With luck, they'd be on the same page most of the time. If their opinions ever differed though, Meeran suspected he'd have a little wildcat on his hands.
"Aye, it's more than most of you bloody Fereldens will get in this day and age," he grinned, raising his cup to her. She obliged and clinked her ale against his. "A toast to the year ahead then, eh girl?"
"To the year ahead."
The Red Iron base smelt like men and leather – a welcome change from wet-dog and old cabbage, Robbie grinned to herself as she tossed her belongings down on a bunk in the corner. It reminded her of Ostagar. She'd only been a soldier for a month or two but she'd loved every second of it. Well. Every second up until the Darkspawn had chased them from the ruins. She checked her daggers and her coinpurse before leaving her things in the dorm.
Bethany had refused to join her in the Red Iron dormitory, under the excuse of looking after mother. Robbie knew it was because Bethany was still a virgin, and she was afraid. A legitimate fear, Robbie noted as she felt the eyes of hungry men follow her around the room. She was used to it. Not that she was as overtly gorgeous as Bethany, but she was a woman in a man's job. Because of that, she'd always catch their eye.
"There you are, Roberta," Meeran greeted with a sly grin, knowing how much she hated her full name. "Have a seat by me, won't you?"
"I'd rather not, you letch," she smirked, but sat beside him anyway. "Nice place you have here. I won't say I'm not surprised. I expected it to be a bit of a dump."
"Hah! The only bit of Kirkwall you've seen is the Gallows and your lovely uncle's hovel. Wait til I show you around." Meeran clapped her on the back, and his hand lingered. Robbie shut her eyes. Maker, help me to not break this man's arm.
Meeran kept his promise and showed her around Kirkwall, especially the pubs and occasionally the brothels. The Blooming Rose made Denerim's Pearl look like some Chasind hut. Robbie was amazed. "This place is beautiful!" she remarked, her eyes barely skimming over the women as she admired the architecture. Such scale! And the walls – so intricately carved that there were handholds everywhere. This place would be a dream to burglarise.
"Keep your hands in your pockets, girl. The Coterie run this place and if I catch you thieving even one silver coin, I'll cut your fingers off myself." Meeran snapped, but he was smiling. Robbie couldn't quite figure out why he'd bought her here. He slipped an arm about her waist to guide her through the throng of whores and clients, and sat her beside him at the bar.
"Ales, thanks, Quintus," he slid some coin across the bar to the barman, who arched an eyebrow Robbie's way.
"Madam's not going to like that. This place isn't a Bring-Your-Own, you know," he snickered.
Robbie casually drew her knife and set it on the bar in front of her, flashing a smile for the barman. "Fear not, good Ser. I'm no whore, and I certainly don't like being called one,"
Meeran grabbed for the knife and sheathed it in his own belt. "Stop threatening the staff, Robbie. He meant you no harm. Did you, Quintus old boy?"
"Not a bit, was just a jest," the barman slid two pints of ale across the bar before hurrying, wide eyed, to serve someone else. When Robbie lifted her cup, she found Meeran's silver underneath. A peace-offering, she supposed.
"Well, would you look at that," She grinned, placing the coin in her purse.
"Oi, give that here you witch! I told you not to steal anything," Meeran snapped, grabbing for her hand.
"You said not to steal from the Coterie." Robbie beamed as she sipped her ale, free hand covering her coinpurse. He was such fun to wind up. When he attempted to remove her hand to get his silver back, she gripped his wrist and pulled him closer. The patrons had turned to look at the commotion, and the Madam was eyeing them suspiciously.
"Now let's pretend you were simply getting closer to me, shall we? Wouldn't want the Madam removing us." She leant closer to him, whispering in his ear. At her words, Meeran visibly relaxed and placed his hand on her waist, complying with her plan as she wound an arm across his shoulders.
"Little minx," he grinned. "Was only a silver. You keep it."
Robbie laughed lightly, her breath on his neck as she pulled him closer to maintain the façade of sensuality. The patrons returned to their drinking and their flirting, and the Madam's eyes left them. Meeran, however, did not release Robbie. Instead, he slid his hand down to her hip, gripping her and pulling her very close, crushing their bodies together. She was lean, tense muscle under his touch, but malleable like clay. Not once did she fight him when he ran a hand down her arm, or when his breath threatened a kiss at her neck. She complied. No, she encouraged. Raising a hand to the older man's jaw, she drew his face closer to hers, let his lips hover over hers, barely touching, not enough to be any kind of kiss, but enough to have both of their hearts pounding, breath catching in their throats.
Robbie broke first, opening her eyes to dare Meeran to take it that one step further. As soon as their eyes met, he was on her, mouth covering hers, enveloping it, tongue intruding and teeth gently nipping. For the first time since Ostagar, Robbie felt her body relax. She melted into his form, back arching to press their bodies together, thighs parting to allow his leg to slip between them. He broke the kiss and slowly, purposefully slid his hand up her body, teasingly sliding his thumb past, but not over her nipple, and onward up to her neck. His hand stopped there, thumb under the corner of her jaw and fingers digging slightly into the back of her neck. A firm, controlling grip. Maker, was all she could think. Subtly flexing his thumb, he forced her chin up, allowing him access to her neck and throat. Without a word he bent his head to her, kissing her neck, sucking at it, all the while grinding her hips against his as he silently marked her as his own.
"Oi, I told you this weren't a BYO. Get out if you're not here on business, Meeran," Quintus snapped behind them, and Meeran shot him a glare that would freeze a Rage Demon.
"Shut your mouth, Quintus, and get Viveka over here right now." He snarled, a low growl that Robbie suddenly found impossibly arousing.
"Who's Viv -"
"Shut up," he snapped, kissing the words from her mouth. "I don't want another word out of you."
It was not a request. Robbie quivered with anticipation. She bit her lip as Viveka approached, a mousy, drab little creature who seemed to be in some kind of administrative position. Meeran pulled away from her completely for a while and Robbie felt suddenly naked, robbed of his heat. Her head would not focus as she tried to eavesdrop on their conversation – all she could gather was 'room' and 'loyal customer'. Finally, Viveka seemed to throw her hands up in frustration and accept the coins Meeran gave her, and gestured to the landing where the bedrooms were. Robbie silently cheered and when Meeran turned to her with a smouldering glare, she went to him immediately.
"Follow me." He instructed, and she obliged silently. Their room was small and grubby, a disused servants quarters perhaps, but neither cared. Meeran pressed Robbie against the door as it shut, his mouth on hers once more as he blindly fumbled with the lock. He'd barely locked the door when Robbie's hands were sliding up his chest and over his gambeson, hurriedly undoing the buckles as she kissed at his neck and nipped at his earlobe, the one he always toyed with when he thought. He let out a grunt at that, and she noted triumphantly that she'd found one of those tender zones.
Meeran all but threw her on the bed, tearing off his gambeson to reveal a lean, tanned torso, and muscular arms. It was all she could do not to swoon. He was older than her, much older, and she had feared he would look it under the armour – but it was not so. He was a swordsman still, and looked the part. He straddled her, and hungrily, she tore at his belt buckle. He swatted her hands away.
"Stop," he snapped, and she did so immediately. This bought a dark grin to his lips. It was as though he'd remembered that there was no rush. Slowly, he undid his belt, sliding it free of the belt-loops but keeping it on hand. Robbie's pulse quickened when she noticed. He studied her form beneath him, still dressed simply in a tunic, belt, and tight breeches. With practised, nimble fingers, he untied then unbuckled her belt, sliding it from beneath her body. He leant down and kissed her again, but this time it was gentle, almost tender, as she felt his fingers brush her thigh. He pulled the hem of the tunic up, up over her the waistband of her breeches, over her small breasts – she lifted her arms above her head so he could strip her of it completely.
"My, my, my, Roberta," he muttered as he tossed the fabric aside, eyes now drinking in her naked torso. His lips bore a triumphant smile, and Robbie had still not said a word. "Look what you've been hiding from me." He traced a line of kisses from her lips, across her jaw, down her neck, over her collarbone, and finally, to her breast. He nuzzled at her bust, cupping her little breasts in his hands and kneading them as his lips and tongue found her nipple. Try as she might to remain silent, Robbie felt an involuntary whimper escape her throat. As soon as she heard herself, she clasped a hand over her mouth and sought out Meeran's eyes.
"What was that, my pet?" he stopped instantly, hazel eyes piercing as he caught her looking at him. "I thought I'd asked you to be quiet,"
"In my defence, you said you didn't want to hear me speak… That was more of a whimper," she quipped without thinking, but soon cried out as she felt his teeth clamp down on her nipple.
"No. Sound." He reminded her sharply as he released the nipple, roughly rolling it between his fingers now. "Nothing." Robbie was honestly uncertain whether she was experiencing pleasure or pain. Robbie nodded her head and he smiled once more, releasing her breasts and resuming his trail of kisses down to the waistband of her trousers. He kissed along that line, untying the laces and loosening them just enough for him to slide them down her body… slowly. Robbie felt her sex pulsing in the most infuriating of ways. As her trousers finally bunched about her knees, she felt him kiss her, high on the inside of her thigh, skirting her most erogenous of zones, which only served to arouse her further. She was aching, almost painfully so, to be touched. When he stopped completely, she sat up, staring at him as he unlaced her boots in the most maddeningly slow manner.
"Andraste's arse, Meeran, what under the sun are you doing?" she snapped, but at the sound of her voice, he stopped unlacing.
With an arched eyebrow, he looked her over, and he couldn't help but smile as she desperately tried to hurry him along in silence. When her hand snaked between her own legs, Meeran's grin grew. He caught her wrist and looped it in his belt, tying the other end to the bedpost. The more she struggled against it, the tighter it grew around her wrist. With her belt, he did the same to the other hand. The burning lust in her eyes was nearly killing him, but he remained methodically slow in his approach. He returned to unlacing her boots, occasionally kissing her belly or hovering his lips just ever so barely above her sex. She was frenzied now, her whole lower body pulsing and twitching and begging to be satisfied.
Boots unlaced and pants finally removed, she turned her eyes to Meeran who was now on his feet. He pulled his boots off and languidly unlaced his own trews, eyes lazily tracing over Robbie's naked form. She'd grown slick with sweat. He slid his pants and smalls down slowly, as though it were any other evening, and there wasn't a beautiful, hungrily lustful woman strapped to his bed. The anticipation was almost the best part. Almost. He'd been hard since she placed her hand on his wrist – well, if we were being metaphorical, he'd been hard since Gamlen had introduced them. He wanted her more than he'd wanted any woman in the last few years. He stroked his cock firmly, and slowly, as he watched her squirm. The sight of him naked had lit a fire in her eyes, and she was breathing heavily already.
He sat on the bed beside her, tracing circles on her body with surprisingly smooth fingertips. He swirled across her stomach and finally, past her pubic mound and into her slick, wet heat. She gasped audibly as his fingers entered her, first one, then the next, and her eyes immediately shot to him to see if it counted as making a sound. His hungry smile told her no, and she relaxed, spreading her legs as his fingers moved slowly inside of her, thumb finding her clit and gently massaging in circles. He stroked his own cock as she ground her hips against him, biting her lip to keep from crying out.
Soon, his tongue replaced his fingers. Robbie gasped, her lips framing a silent moan of pleasure as her fingernails dug against her palms. She tried desperately to free her hands. She wanted this. She wanted him. She needed to twine her fingers in his hair so he could never escape from between her thighs. With a helpless moan she writhed beneath his mouth, fighting her bonds and gasping wantonly – she wanted out.
He stopped after what could have been moments, or several cloudless nights… She barely had the sense left to tell. Her wrists were raw from her leather restraints. When she finally found the strength to lift her head and look for Meeran, she found him looming over her again, and with hungry eyes he kissed her mouth. She could taste herself on his lips, and far from being revolted, she kissed him back passionately, hunger matching, if not surpassing his. She wished her arms were free. She wanted desperately to grip his shoulders, to rake nails down her back, to take control and mark him with black lovebites from shoulder to hip. He growled a chuckle around her lips as he felt her bucking at her restraints.
"Relax, my pet. I'll let you loose soon enough." Meeran murmured around her earlobe. "As soon as you've learnt who's in charge here."
"Mmhh, Meeran… What more do you want me to do? You have me at your mercy," she breathed headily as his kisses progressed once again to her neck.
"You need to relax," he repeated. "To relax, and trust me."
She chuckled. "Trust you? Meeran, I wouldn't trust you as far as I could throw you."
"And that, my little hellcat, is the precise purpose of this exercise," he shot back, a hand sliding up to grip her throat. He pushed her back, holding her down. "We can't work together if you don't trust me."
"So you're going to tie me to a bed and torture me with sexual pleasure until I do?" Robbie had to push the words out, past the grip of his hand, but she was smiling as she did so. "Makes sense…"
Meeran shook his head with a laugh. "You don't get it, Roberta – and you won't, until you relax."
Taking the hint, Robbie let her body go limp beneath him. Systematically she relaxed her muscles from head to toe, until she was a puddle of naked girl beneath Meeran's muscled form. He ran his hands over her waist and hips as he sat back to study her, but when his eyes found her insolent stare he shook his head again.
"Robbie," he warned, a growl teemed with a wolfish smile that sent a lash of goosebumps across her skin.
"All right! All right. I'll relax. I'm trying!" Her voice was tinged with frustration, but to her credit she actually shut her eyes and began to breathe rhythmically. When her breath had found its own pattern, Meeran worked his way between her thighs again, caressing her every curve with his broad, smooth hands. His lips curved in a smile when Robbie did not open her eyes.
The rhythm of her breathing was interrupted by a sharp gasp as he eased himself into her, and her eyes shot unseeingly open for a moment. With a grunt, he entered her fully, and her mind went blank. She yowled like a wild thing, half triumphant, half completely animal. There was only the pleasure, the heat, the closeness of their bodies, and Meeran himself. He seemed to be a part of her, his lips, strong arms, crushing weight, manoeuvring her as though she were an inanimate object. She didn't struggle, or even try to aid him when he shifted her legs about, or lifted her hips once again. He was completely in control of the situation and in her mindless, ecstatic haze, she finally understood what he'd meant by trust.
After, he tenderly slipped her wrists from the straps, one at a time, kissing the chafed and red welts gently as he did so. Slick with sweat and numb to the pain, Robbie slid her arms around Meeran for the first time in what could have been days, for all she knew, and pulled him close. She was trembling. Smiling to himself, Meeran returned the embrace. She fell asleep in his arms.
When he woke, she was gone. From the look of the candle burning by the bed it had only been a few hours. He smirked as he hauled himself to his feet, slowly dressing as he relived the evening in his mind. It wasn't until he was nearly out the door before he noticed his coinpurse was gone, and a note was stabbed to the wall with a knife – no, her knife.
Ps: Catch me if you can.