This story covers Act II of DA2 and is a direct sequel to my previous story, 'Hurtled into Chaos' (which covered Act I). I wouldn't say it's mandatory to have read HiC for this one to make sense, but it'd be very helpful :)
You may or may not want to reference the map of Thedas for the various geographical references in this chapter. If you just Google 'Thedas map' you'll get to it right away.
"We stand upon the precipice of change.
The world fears the inevitable plummet into the abyss.
Watch for that moment... and when it comes, do not hesitate to leap.
It is only when you fall that you learn whether you can fly." - Flemeth
The door to The Hanged Man swung open just as another streak of lightning forked its way across the dusky sky. The accompanying boom of thunder came a moment later, hitting close enough to startle many in the crowded tavern. Wind gusted at the back of the weary traveler, pushing the door handle from her grasp. The door slammed against the interior wall, the loud crack getting everyone's attentions.
"Close the blighted door!" Corff yelled from behind the counter.
Misery stared at the half empty glove covering her right hand, briefly scowling at the offending appendage before grabbing the door and shoving it closed. As she made her way through the main room, a man sitting at a table reached out and grabbed her arm.
"You can't bring that stinkin' dog in here!" he chided.
Another man at the table immediately piped up, "Tell 'em! Dog lords think they kin take their stinkin' mutts anywheres they go."
Misery yanked her arm free. Red Iron… she mentally noted. One of the better organized merc groups in the Free Marches. That didn't scare her, but it did give her pause when it came to escalating the situation. She was tired and hungry and really didn't feel like mixing it up with this guy suffering from a case of overinflated self-worth.
Revas, on the other hand, snarled at the man. Misery laughed lightly.
"He does have a point, you know?" she told her mabari in a teasing tone. "You could really use a bath."
Without sparing the men at the table another glance even as they continued to heckle her, she strode towards the back and then up the stairs. She frowned, however, when she saw the door to Varric's suite was closed. She checked the handle anyway, finding it locked, and briefly thought about picking the lock before changing her mind. Unless something changed in the last… what was it, ten months? …his door closed and locked at this time of evening meant he wasn't home.
Sighing, Misery lowered the hood of her cloak and ran her gloved fingers through her black hair. She'd really hoped Varric would be here. She missed her friend and had thought about him often. More practically she also wanted a meal and a bit of rest before making the climb up to the Hawke estate in Hightown, and would rather do that in his company outside the bustle of activity and noise of the main room.
Revas barked, getting her attention. She thought for a moment and nodded. "I'll be surprised if Isabela is still around. I mean, surely she's been able to get herself another boat by now? We can go check though."
After striking out as well at what at least used to be Isabela's room, Misery and Revas went back downstairs. Seeing Norah busy with a large table, Misery ignored the hollers from the Red Iron tables and made her way to the bar.
"Seen Varric around?" she asked Corff.
The bartender returned her smile. "Haven't seen ya in a long time, milady. Yer lookin' well."
Misery shook her head. "Stuff the 'milady', that nobility crap doesn't suit me."
"If ya say so. Anyway, far's I know Varric ain't anywhere special, could be back any time. Get ya sumthin' to drink?"
"Please… and some food. No stew."
"Want me to have sumthin' whipped up for the pup too?"
Revas barked, causing Misery to chuckle. "He'll be your best friend if you do," she said to Corff, eliciting a laugh from him. He poured her a pint and walked off to get the cook working.
While Misery stood at the bar nursing her ale and waiting, a man sidled up next to her.
"You know, it's not polite to ignore someone when they're talking to you," he said.
Misery glanced to her right and then back down to her ale. She recognized the guy as the leader of the Red Iron mercs, though she couldn't place his name. He had a hunting knife in a leather strap across his chest and a longsword hanging in a harness on his back.
"I'm not in the mood to be friendly," she warned. "I suggest you move along now."
The man chuckled, the kind of dismissive laughter that said her objections were of no concern to him. "Why don't you let ol' Meeran put you in a friendlier mood?"
Misery sighed in exasperation. "Shove off. Go bother someone else."
"A woman like you is far too beautiful to be so cold. What would it take to win your heart, I wonder?"
"I'll save you the trouble of wondering – there isn't one to win."
Not taking no for an answer, Meeran leaned in close enough for Misery to smell the whiskey on his breath. He slipped his hand inside her cloak and grabbed her rear. "Don't be li-"
Misery spun at the unwelcome contact, reaching across her body with her left hand and snatching the hunting knife from its sheath on his chest. What was left of her right hand grabbed his wrist and pulled it away and upwards. In the blink of an eye she drove the blade downward through the top of his hand, staking it to the bar counter.
Meeran screamed, as did several tavern goers standing nearby who witnessed it. Almost everyone within twenty feet of the bar scrambled to get away from the scene while the merc leader painfully worked the blade back and forth until it finally came loose from the wood and out of his bloodied hand.
In the commotion Misery didn't notice that someone entered through the tavern's front door right before a number of people made their hasty exit.
"You bitch!" Meeran shouted. "You don't know who you're messing with!" He grabbed a towel off the bar counter to stem the bleeding. The crowded tavern fell silent, with all eyes locked on to these two.
Misery dropped into a fighting stance, flicking her cloak off her shoulders and angling her body such that she couldn't be taken from behind by any of his men. The action also revealed the dagger strapped to her left leg and the knives on her belt above each hip, showing she was even more prepared than what the Nevarran shortbow and quiver on her back alone would indicate. Revas crouched low and growled while covering her side.
"I warned you to leave me alone," she hissed. "Next time you touch me it's your balls."
The merc leader scowled. "Who do you think you are threatening me, the fucking Queen of Blades?"
Knowing laughter came from off to the side. "Oh, just a little hawk named Misery," Varric answered while approaching. "Really, Meeran, you're getting sloppy."
Despite the flippant remarks, Varric was anxious. Misery had been away from Kirkwall for nearly a year this time, long enough that he'd finally stopped thinking about her on a daily basis. And when he did think of her, it was increasingly accompanied by negative emotions. He'd wondered quite a few times if he'd even ever see her again. But seeing her now stirred up a number of dormant feelings. He hoped this time she was back for good.
"You're Hawke?" Meeran asked, now sizing her up not as a potential sexual conquest but as a potential combatant.
Like many, he knew Hawke by reputation, though it was a reputation that had faded over time. Regardless, he wasn't going to accept being embarrassed in front of a crowd of tavern goers who were likely to repeat the story to anyone and everyone.
Misery's hard glare didn't falter. "I trust you don't need another demonstration."
Meeran sneered and stormed off, but not before offering a parting shot. "Don't think this is over." He motioned angrily to his men, who followed him out the door.
Varric shook his head. Some things never change. Without saying anything he started walking towards the stairs, figuring if she was here to see him she'd follow.
"When did you get back?" Varric asked as Misery entered the suite balancing two plates and a tankard.
She set one of the plates down on the floor for Revas and took a seat at the table where Varric was sitting.
"A couple of hours ago."
"Came in by ship I take it?"
Misery nodded. After taking a bite, she answered, "Yeah, hitched a ride from Antiva City on a merchant vessel. How did you know?"
"Saltwater," he answered, tapping the side of his nose for effect.
It was true that she carried the smell of the ocean, but also a convenient half-truth. Varric had plenty of spotters around the city, people not on his payroll and not directly linked to him, but who knew the kind of information he'd pay for. And the bounty he'd placed for reliable information on Misery Hawke was just as high as the one he had on Bartrand Tethras. She and Revas were barely off the dock before he knew she was in Kirkwall. And it was why he'd cut short a business meeting in order to hightail it back to The Hanged Man.
"Antiva though? That's a long way from home," he continued.
"I've been further," she answered with an indifferent shrug. "I was in Treviso before that. Across the bay in Dairsmuid, Rivain before that. Hit every major port on the way back. I've seen more of Thedas than I ever would have imagined."
Misery shook her head and sighed bitterly. "No, he's still out there. I came close a couple of times, even caught a glimpse of him in Dairsmuid maybe six months back. Unfortunately, the situation was such that I didn't have my bow on me and had no chance of physically reaching him. One of his mercs probably spotted me, because after that he was long gone."
"How'd you end up that far northeast? I thought when you left here you were on your way west to the Nevarran capital?"
"The tip about Bartrand being in Nevarra City was good, but by the time I got there he'd already set sail. I hired a skiff and its crew and tried to follow, but stopping at almost every town along the Minanter River to ask after him made for slow going. In hindsight I should have raced ahead to the last port before the ocean and then backtracked if necessary."
Her expression turned to a slight glare. "If I didn't know better, I'd say our sources are supplying him with information as well. He's always on the run and conveniently manages to stay a step ahead of me. I don't know where he is now, but I will get him. He won't escape me forever."
Varric pushed away from the table. "Going for a drink…" he muttered while walking away.
While that was true, it was another convenient half-truth, an excuse to step away before he said something that would cause a fight. He was beyond frustrated at Misery's obsession with Bartrand. It wasn't that he himself didn't still want Bartrand dead. He hated his former brother more than he ever had. It was that he'd long realized the cost of getting it done had grown far too high, well beyond any mere coin spent on the process.
What was once a loose end to be tied off was now a prison that bound his friend. He'd watched Misery slide further and further into madness, until ending Bartrand was her sole purpose in life. In the three years since the betrayal, Misery had spent a total of four months in Kirkwall, most of that in the first year. In the previous sixteen months she'd been home for all of two weeks, with this latest almost eleven month excursion coming directly on the heels of a five month outing preceding it.
Varric returned with a tankard and sat back down, observing her in silence while she ate. Her face and neck were even thinner than he remembered, almost unhealthily thin, and he guessed that she wasn't taking very good care of herself. Her windswept hair looked much the same as usual from the front, though she was wearing it longer in the back now. Instead of being cut short at the bottom of her neck, the wave of locks cascaded on to the top of her shoulders. The length in conjunction with the natural black color reminded him of Sunshine, and made him wonder if Misery intended that or if she simply hadn't gotten around to having her hair trimmed in awhile.
He also noted the small gold hoops closely hugging her ears just above the lobes. Piercings were definitely new. Even though they were understated, he found them somewhat interesting in that he never saw her as the type to care for adornments that drew attention to her. Well, not positive attention anyway. She rather liked being adorned with enough weaponry to make people take notice and keep their distance.
The dwarf blinked, coughing uncomfortably as he realized he'd been caught simply staring at her.
"S-sorry… just haven't seen you in a long time. When did you get your ears done?"
She shrugged, missing his discomfort. "I kind of got adopted so to speak after helping a girl out of a predicament, and her mother insisted on rewarding me with these. I found out that piercings and tattoos mark social status and clan membership and such in Rivaini culture. So… you know the saying, 'When in Rivain, do as the Rivainis do'."
Varric laughed. "Is that how it goes? I thought it was 'What happens in Rivain stays in Rivain'."
"Yeah, there's probably that too. Dairsmuid is far less stuffy and uptight than Kirkwall, that's for sure. Someone there told me Llomerynn was even crazier, though I didn't go there myself."
"Well, Isabela is from Llomerynn, so that probably tells you all you need to know."
After the shared laughter faded, Varric said, "They look good on you though. The earrings I mean."
She smirked. "Yeah, well, I drew the line there. So I suppose no one will mistake me for a true Rivaini since I didn't take a tattoo."
"Right… because clearly the light skin wouldn't have given that away."
Norah came into the room carrying a mug that she set down in front of Misery. "Here, top shelf brandy, on the house. You made my night a lot easier by clearing out most of the riff-raff down there."
"On the house?" Varric asked. "Corff is rewarding her for costing him business?"
"Who said anything about Corff? My ass thanks her for giving that son of a bitch what he deserved, and Corff can kiss it if he has a problem with that."
Norah turned back to Misery. "Haven't seen you in forever. You finally back for good?" She knew enough to know Misery had been gone from Kirkwall for a long time, but not the reason for it.
"For a little while anyway, until I can get a solid lead on where to go next to find what I'm looking for."
Varric sighed. It was precisely the answer he hadn't wanted to hear.
A shout from downstairs drew a sigh from Norah for a different reason. "Well, impatient customers are impatient," she said, turning and leaving.
"So, what brought you by?" Varric asked after the barmaid left, trying to keep the frustration out of his otherwise neutral tone. "I mean, since you obviously haven't been home yet."
Misery started to smile and sincerely tell him that she'd missed him and didn't want to wait until the next day to see him, but the way the prior playfulness in his tone and expression had evaporated into a business-like one gave her pause. She held back the words she'd intended and instead offered a more restrained, practical explanation.
"I figured I'd get a meal and you'd catch me up on what I've missed, what's going on with everyone, and what I'm likely to walk into at the estate. I'll probably go see some of the others tomorrow."
It was exactly the wrong thing to say.
"Ahh… information. I see," Varric said, frowning slightly. His disappointment in her answer and knowing she intended to leave again fueled the anger bubbling to the surface. "You'll hear enough about current events just passing by the street criers on your way to Hightown, and you probably don't need me to tell you what your mother thinks of you not even bothering to send word that you were still alive in all the time you were gone."
He rose from his seat. "I have somewhere to be," he lied. "Lock the door when you leave."
Misery stared in disbelief as the dwarf moved to grab Bianca and his duster. "Wh-what just happened here?"
"Go home, Hawke. See your mother. I assume you remember where the estate is."
"Why are you being so pissy all of a sudden? All I did was ask what I'd missed. You know, making conversation?"
Varric's anger finally bested him. He whirled around and verbally unloaded on her.
"You want to know what you've missed?" he demanded. "Life! That's what! You waltz in here acting like you just got back from vacation up the coast, like the world has nothing better to do than stop and wait for you to catch up. It doesn't work that way! People give up waiting and move on."
"I was hardly vacationing, in case that point was lost on you!" she shot back.
"Like anyone knew where you were or what you were doing!"
"You may not have known where I was, but you damned well knew what I was doing!"
He scoffed. "Yeah, pissing your life away."
"Is that why you didn't go with me? Because you thought I was pissing my life away while you were doing something far more noble – raiding the Deep Roads?"
"I don't hear you complaining about the hundreds of sovereigns you have vaulted from those expeditions."
"There is more to life than coin!"
Varric let out a sarcastic laugh. "More to life… like the fact Sunshine was here for a month before moving to Ferelden and left bitter that the person she most wanted to see was nowhere to be found? Or that half of Hightown thinks the guard-captain is Leandra Hawke's daughter because they've never seen you? Or that a certain Dalish mage rarely leaves the alienage anymore because she's depressed that the human she cared most for abandoned her? That the others think you basically walked away from agreements to help them after they helped you? Is that the 'more to life' you mean, Hawke?"
Misery glared while getting up and gathering her cloak and bow. "Clearly I made a mistake thinking I'd find my friend here."
"Do you even remember who your friends are? Do you even remember what you're fighting for?"
"I live with what I'm fighting for every single day! I still remember what that bastard did!"
Varric shook his head. "And therein lays the problem. It's been three years! This obsession of yours with Bartrand is playing with madness. You're like the old ship captain wasting his life away chasing that damned whale across the ocean."
"Except this time the whale will not win!" she hissed in response.
"No, Hawke, you're wrong. The whale has already won. Look beyond the mirror and see what he's really done to you. You haven't lived a day in three years. He owns you, and all you know is this need for revenge. Around the Merchant's Guild it's called 'throwing good coin after bad'. At some point you need to simply accept your losses and stop trying to recover them by pouring even more into a losing venture. Look, when you finally get him, will it even matter? Will it be worth having pissed away what could have been the best years of your life? Or will you still be this bitter woman who is afraid to move forward?"
Misery didn't bother answering. Instead she stormed from the room and down the stairs with Revas quickly following behind.
Varric let out a low growl, angry at himself as much as at her. He'd vented those thoughts privately numerous times, enough that it was practically a rehearsed speech at this point. But actually getting to deliver it brought no righteous satisfaction or sense of resolution. Instead it only angered him further that he'd cared enough to bother trying to get through to her, and that it still amounted to nothing.
Spying the still full mug of brandy, he hung Bianca back on the wall and snatched the mug from the table, downing the liquor in a few large gulps. Then he slammed the empty mug back down on the table.
He took a deep breath when he heard footsteps from behind entering his suite, wondering if Misery came back to say anything else. But when he turned around it was Norah standing there, and in the moment he missed the pang of disappointment that shot through him.
"I can tell that certainly went well," Norah said sarcastically.
Varric waved a hand dismissively. "Doesn't matter, she got what she came for."
"Oh? She came here for a scolding and to be sent away on the verge of tears?"
"Pfft… whatever," he said, assuming her to be exaggerating about the tears. "She said it herself, she came to find out what she'd missed. And I told her."
Norah smirked. "Huh, so dwarven men are just as stupid as human men when it comes to women."
"Not really in the mood right now."
"Fine," she answered while picking up the plates from the table and floor. "But let me leave you with this. I don't know what she might have told you, but I saw that gleam in her eyes when she was asking Corff if you were around, and again when I came in earlier. She was here to see you, stupid. Though only the Maker knows why."
With that parting shot she turned and left Varric to contemplate that thought.
Misery took a deep breath, attempting once again to calm her rattled nerves. The hike to Hightown had done nothing to help since while inside The Hanged Man the threatening skies had finally opened up, leaving her and Revas drenched to the bone by the time they reached the estate.
Finding the front door locked and not having bothered to take a house key on her journey, she knocked and waited for someone to answer.
"Wish me luck," she muttered to Revas, who barked in reply.
It wasn't long before the small viewing panel slid back and a man asked in a formal but pleasant tone, "May I ask who is there?"
Misery shook her head, wondering why the old dwarf even bothered with the peephole when he was too short to see through it anyway. Though she also knew that even if he could, he would likely still need to ask her identity, as her dark attire blended well with the dark, stormy night.
"Revas Hawke," she answered, her tone laced with sarcasm. The mental image of how confused Bodahn must be was almost enough to make her crack a momentary grin.
When the silence from the other side of the door lingered, however, her patience with standing outside in the rain quickly ran out.
"Bodahn, open the fucking door already!"
The door cracked open slowly. "Messere Hawke? Is that really you?" he asked.
Misery pushed the door the rest of the way open and barged into the foyer. Revas came in with her and made a beeline for the front of the fireplace in the main hall.
"Messere! It is you! Oh, Mistress Leandra will be so pleased to see you've come home!"
"I doubt that, but thank you for saying so."
She took her cloak off and hung it over his extended arm. After a short bow he quickly scurried away to hang it and to let the elder Hawke know her daughter had arrived.
Even though Misery had always found Bodahn to be a busybody and didn't really understand why he'd sworn himself to her service just because she'd sort of but not really rescued his boy Sandal in the Deep Roads, she was grateful for him nevertheless. The dwarf's gentle demeanor and seemingly boundless energy for his age made him a perfect house servant for her mother. Misery didn't worry about the day-to-day busywork of keeping up the estate while he was around.
Misery went to stand in front of the fireplace with Revas, slipping off her soaked gloves and boots and setting them down to begin drying out. A minute later she tensed at the audible gasp from the top of the stairs behind her.
She turned her head slowly to see her mother practically running down the stairs. There were tears in the older woman's eyes as she wrapped her dripping wet daughter in an embrace.
"Oh, I can't believe it is really you… no one knew if you were dead or alive… or imprisoned somewhere… I didn't know if I would ever see you again… what happened?"
Misery sighed, cynically thinking that this would also turn into a scolding as soon as the shock wore off.
"I wasn't imprisoned. Though I'm wanted dead or alive in the Antivan city of Bastion, and have a fairly sizable bounty on my head up the coast from there in Salle."
"Antiva? Maker! What were you doing?"
"Mother… you should let me go put something dry on before you end up as wet as me."
"I am not letting you go. If I do you might leave again."
Misery raised an eyebrow curiously at the sense of desperation in the older woman's voice, but didn't press the issue.
"I chased Bartrand from Nevarra across the Marches to Antiva to Rivain. And in the end, despite me killing at least two dozen of his hired mercenaries along the way, he has still managed to elude me. For now he has gotten away, but I will find him."
Leandra pulled back but still held on to her daughter's shoulders. "You mean to say… you really do mean to leave again?"
"What else can I do? I swore I would kill that bastard, and I keep my promises."
"Promise me then that you will stop this foolishness… Promise me that you will stay here, where you belong."
Misery scowled. "What am I supposed to do? Just hang around playing at nobility and forget that the person responsible for everything I lost is still out there? I'm supposed to just let him get away with it?"
Leandra took a step back, feeling uncomfortable with the almost wild expression on her daughter's face.
"Everything? No, Love… Bartrand was not responsible for your father, for Carver. He did not destroy our farm in Lothering, or even make Bethany a Grey Warden."
Leandra took a deep breath and stepped forward, taking her daughter's crippled hand in hers.
"I think you have turned Bartrand into this… thing that represents everything that has ever gone wrong in your life. Killing him will not bring anyone back from the dead. It will not heal your hand, or make up for anything else you have lost. So please… let go. For your own sake as much as for mine."
Misery closed her eyes briefly, resisting the urge to lash out in frustration. No one understood, or so she thought. She wasn't stupid, she knew killing Bartrand wasn't going to undo the past. That wasn't the point. It didn't even matter that killing him wasn't going to make her feel better about anything. She already knew that too.
What mattered was ensuring Bartrand never had a moment's peace, that betraying her wasn't rewarded. He wasn't going to cash in on a life of luxury paid for with her blood. How dare anyone suggest Bartrand owned her? Any fool could see that she owned him. His life was already forfeit, nothing but the fear and uncertainty of when she'd finally catch up to him and end it.
Besides, something else people didn't seem to understand was that there was no longer any emotion when she thought of Bartrand personally. She had no burning desire to carve him up into little pieces, to make his death as excruciating as possible. Dead was dead, and she would be just as content to take his life instantly by putting an arrow he never saw coming through his brain as she would driving a dagger through his throat up close and personal. Her emotions were tied up in the need to complete the task, not in the actual execution of it.
Finally Misery let out a slow breath and opened her eyes. "I will consider your words," she answered noncommittally. "I'm very tired, so if it is alright with you I'd like to get a warm bath and retire. Let me get some rest and we can spend tomorrow catching up."
Leandra nodded reluctantly. "Of course, Love. I… I will see you in the morning then."
Freshly bathed and changed, Misery closed the door to her room on the way in and flopped on the bed, sighing deeply while trying to will the stress away. After several minutes of absentmindedly staring around the room, her eyes settled on the desk, or more specifically the short stack of correspondence sitting on top of it.
She went over and thumbed through it, quickly realizing that almost none of the letters were something she cared to read right now. The lone exception was a folded sheet sealed with no other markings than the Hawke seal. Given what Varric had yelled at her, it was obviously something Bethany left for her.
With a sigh she grabbed the letter opener from the desk and slit the seal before moving back to the bed to read.
Should you ever actually see this, where in the Void have you been?
You know I would never wish anything bad on you, but thinking that something terrible happened would almost be preferable to thinking you broke your promise to take care of Mother. Taking care of her is far more than setting her up in the estate with coin and a servant! And it's more than relying on your friends to step in and do the things YOU should be here doing!
If you're reading this, I hope it means everything is done. I hope it was worth it to you, because you've made a mess of things here. I know it has been roughly two years since the last time I was able to visit you in person, but I didn't realize you'd spent hardly ANY time in Kirkwall since then. And I was shocked to find out how little our friends think of you now. You let things go too far, and have left a lot of broken pieces to pick up.
As for me, I am content with my life as a Grey Warden. There are a number of things about it to hate, but in hindsight I probably would still make the trade for what I have gained. I did something yesterday that would have been unfathomable in my previous life. With two other wardens I walked into the Gallows openly a mage, with nothing to fear, hide, or be ashamed of. I was untouchable even as I laughed in the knight-commander's face when she acted like she could prevent us from looking for recruits among the mages and implied I should submit myself to the Circle. The only thing that would have made it better would have been actually taking a mage with us. But even then, it was OUR decision not to recruit anyone and not hers.
I'm sure you know by now that I've moved to Ferelden, but there you go. Because the Grey Wardens in different nations are independent of each other, transferring is complicated and surprisingly political. I'd made myself almost too valuable here, so even though I wanted to go to Ferelden and they wanted to have me, the Fereldan Wardens had to both come up with adequate "compensation" in exchange and actually send a contingent to escort me back.
The latter caused most of the delay as apparently some complications in Ferelden made it difficult for them to spare anyone to come get me. I imagine I will hear more details on that once we are on our way.
The whole thing makes me feel like livestock being swapped at market, but it's done. And it makes me feel good that the warden-commander himself came from Ferelden. Funny though, the warden that Alistair brought with him, Nathaniel, once lived in Kirkwall for a year and actually knew Varric!
Oh, before I forget… I mentioned Anders to them and got a rather unsettling reaction to that. They wanted no part of seeing him and catching up on old times. I'm hoping they'll tell me what happened once we leave Kirkwall, but for now all I have is a rather cryptic warning to be very, very careful with him. They know I know about Justice, so it must be something more than that. Anyway… if it's even relevant by the time you read this, be careful.
I'm running out of page here, so I should stop now. I pray this finds you well.
Your very disgruntled sister who loves you anyway,
Misery crumpled the page and tossed it in the direction of the desk before laying back and closing her eyes.
"This is a fucking conspiracy…" she grumbled out loud to no one in particular since she was alone.
"I will… do what I must…"
Misery spun and slashed with the dagger in her left hand, breathing loudly from the exhaustion of extended exertion. Her foe, another straw sparring dummy, absorbed the blow without complaint, holding itself together for now. Three other less fortunate ones were shredded, strewn about the floor of this part of the wine cellar that she'd converted to a training room.
Unbeknownst to the single-minded raging female rogue, she'd had an observer for the last several minutes. It wasn't the blend of grace and fury driving her movements that had halted him in his tracks and left his eyes wide and mouth agape. After all, he took her skill for granted at this point. What captivated him was her appearance.
Training alone in her wine cellar, Misery hadn't given modesty a second thought. She wore only a short white chemise that she'd inelegantly cut the sleeves off of, and her knife belt. The sweat soaked, nearly sheer garment clung to what little skin it covered given its low cut at the top in addition to only reaching down to the top of her thighs. She hadn't even bothered with footwear or gloves.
Maker's breath is she beautiful, he thought. Desire rapidly welled up within him, though as soon as he became consciously aware of the physical reaction she was unknowingly provoking, feelings of embarrassment and guilt washed over him even more heavily. He suddenly felt terrible for witnessing her like this without her permission, let alone knowledge that he was even there. He forced himself to turn his head and look away.
The clattering of a blade hitting the ground followed by a long string of expletives from Misery cursing her hand for dropping the knife it attempted to stab the straw dummy with caused him to jump slightly in surprise. The noise was enough to alert Misery to his presence, however, and she shrieked in surprise of her own.
He glanced in her direction to see the wrath in her eyes. She grabbed a small canister off her belt and shattered it on the ground in front of her. The smoky discharge quickly dissipated, leaving him facing Misery as she simply stared stone faced at him.
Or so he thought.
The air in front of him suddenly rippled, and before he could even blink he was in a headlock from behind with a knife to his throat.
"Why are you here?" she hissed in a low voice near his ear.
Varric gulped, though only slightly because too large of a gulp would result in being cut. He was still staring at a very stoic Misery nearly thirty feet away, yet she was also behind him with a knife to his throat.
"T-to talk," he said. "H-how are you-"
"Close your eyes and count to three before reopening them," she answered, interrupting his question.
The dwarf did as he was told and when he opened his eyes he saw the Misery in front of him was gone. However, the currently more dangerous one was still present.
"How?" he asked again, his tone filled with bewilderment. "Was that… magic?"
"Shut up and tell me what you want."
"Ummm… I'd ask how it makes any sense to both shut up and talk at the same time, but… you were both here and there at the same time and that makes no sense either."
Misery growled slightly. "Close your eyes again until I tell you to open them."
When he did, she let him go and moved away. This time his eyes were closed for half a minute, and when she finally told him he could open them, he did to see her standing in front of him wearing a maroon robe with gold trim.
"Ahhh…" he said sarcastically, "and here I was beginning to wonder if the whole fighting half-naked bit was just a Rivaini thing. Between you and Isabela, people might be too distracted to actually fight though."
He gestured to the destroyed sparring dummies on the ground. "So, which one of them was me?"
His playful tone sought both to lighten the mood and to delicately probe for how upset she was at him. Her glare intensified as she immediately pointed at one with its head and arms severed.
"Ouch…" he said, chuckling a bit nervously at the intensity of her reaction.
"What do you want?" she reiterated, folding her arms across her chest. "I thought you made it rather clear the other day where we stood."
It had been three days since she returned home. Varric, suspecting she wasn't going to be visiting The Hanged Man anytime soon, had decided to stop by on his way to the Merchant's Guild in Hightown.
He shook his head, though more as a physical reaction to everything he'd seen in the last few minutes than in response to her words.
"I… didn't want things to end the way they did. I'm not going to stand here and lie to you that I didn't mean what I said, but… I shouldn't have exploded at you the way I did."
His eyes shifted to his feet as he continued, "Look, it's just been a very frustrating last couple of years. I hate Bartrand for what he's done to you, and I don't just mean your hand. And I hate him for… taking my friend from me. I've missed her… a lot."
"I've never stopped being your friend, Varric."
"It feels that way. You know, I've found it rather ironic that for as much as you stressed about me not sticking with you after that first expedition, it ended up being the other way around."
"I wanted you to go with me. You refused. Don't forget that."
Varric closed his eyes briefly. "Let's not argue about that again."
"So, you want to argue about something else instead?" she asked matter-of-factly.
He shook his head. "No… I just thought…" He stopped and sighed. "Never mind. I guess I should go. For what it's worth, I'm sorry that I took my frustration out on you instead of telling you the other truth… that I was also so excited when an informant tipped me off to your arrival that I literally ran two dozen blocks back to The Hanged Man to see you. And you know I'm much more of a sprinter than a marathoner. Anyway, I was just so glad you were back. And I still am… even if it doesn't show because I don't like that you're leaving again."
Misery ran her fingers through her hair. "I couldn't figure out what had sent our conversation careening off the tracks. But that was it, wasn't it? When I said I was only going to be around until I found out where he was?"
When Varric merely nodded, she sighed in exasperation. "Don't think I haven't figured out this conspiracy you all have going to guilt me into staying put."
The dwarf laughed in disbelief. "Conspiracy? There's no conspiracy, Miz. Just people who want what's best for you… and are crazy enough to actually want you around."
"Crazy indeed…" she replied sarcastically before a more serious expression tool hold. "Anyway… I made The Hanged Man my first stop mainly because I didn't want to wait to see you either. You're kind of… important to me."
Varric took and released a deep breath. "Then prove it. Stop spending your life chasing Bartrand all over Thedas."
A sad smile took hold on Misery's face. "I'm not ready to promise that," she admitted softly.
He wondered if the way she phrased her answer meant that she was at least trying to get over her obsession.
"Can we at least agree that there's no more disappearing for months at a time? I mean, it's one thing if you know exactly where he is, go there, and come back. But the obsessive hunting is entirely different. You need to give that up. I need at least that much."
Her first instinct was to lash out angrily for him placing conditions on his friendship, and a younger Misery would have even though she'd done the same to him years ago. But for as damaged as the almost twenty-eight year old female was psychologically, she'd also matured in some ways from the girl whose existence was to protect and provide for her family. One of those ways was being in much greater touch with her emotions and with her connections to others.
So instead of lashing out at Varric, she recognized it as a compromise she could live with in exchange for something she wanted, and finally nodded slowly in understanding. "I can give you that much."
He let out a slow breath in relief. "Alright then, I'll take it. Sold."
After silence settled in, his thoughts drifted back to earlier. "Hey… when you did that thing before where there were two of you… are you… a mage now too?"
Misery smirked. "No, not magic, though the decoy is an illusion of sorts. It's a trick I learned from an old Crow in Antiva. The illusion doesn't last long and is easily broken if the victim knows what they're looking at, but not many do. It's one of a few new tricks I picked up in my travels."
Varric returned the smirk. "Probably for the best it isn't magic. The Chantry might collapse or something if someone was both a mage and a templar at the same time. I'm pretty sure Blondie's head would explode at least when he found out."
After their shared laughter died down, Varric said, "Hey, I need to run over to the Guild for awhile. How about you get cleaned up while I do that and I'll stop back by in a couple hours to get you when I'm done? There are a few things going on that might be interesting to look into. Or if you just wanted to go visit someone we could do that too."
It was his indirect way of saying he wanted to spend time with her if she was up for it.
"Interesting to look into as in work?" she asked.
"Possibly… it's not like we need to work, but if it's profitable while being fun, all the better, right?"
Misery laughed lightly. "Your love of coin will be your undoing, V. But sure, Revas and I will be ready to go."