"Ah, good morning Seeker," Varric greeted from the kitchen the following morning, surprising the golden eyed woman.
Cassandra looked at him suspiciously. "What are you up to dwarf?" she questioned, noticing the food prepared and occupying the island.
"Why, dear Seeker, you wound me," he said, mocking being hurt, placing a hand over his heart. "I simply figured after a week, it was time for a change in location.
Plus, I'm hungry for real food, and whoever you had bringing me my rations everyday, makes feasting on a darkspawn corpse sound appetizing," grabbing his goblet and taking a long swig from it. "I prepared enough for both of us." He added, pushing a plate the Seeker's way.
She appeared uninterested. "I do not have time for your games dwarf," she said with a small frown. "Enough games. Return to the room and continue with your tale."
"Still at dwarf are we Seeker?" Varric inquired, remaining seated, as he continued drinking from his cup, arching an eyebrow at her. "And besides, I am a storyteller. I can tell my tales anywhere, as all great storytellers can." Giving a chuckle at the end of his sentence. "And I prefer to tell in here today.
I'm feeling sentimental."
"Explain yourself dwarf," she demanded, moving deeper into the kitchen. Coming to stand opposite of him, crossing her arms.
While her action who have intimidated others, Varric wasn't phased by the stance in the slightest. In fact, the marksman seemed to be amused, which only make Cassandra seethe internally. His presence in the kitchens also surprised her, making her wonder how he slipped passed the guards posted outside of his room.
A necessary precaution, as he was the only one available who knew the truth behind what had happened, behind the Champion and her companion the Shepherd.
"Patience dear Seeker. All in due time," he assure her. "Telling would be jumping ahead, and you would be left without knowing important facts.
Isn't that why you tracked me down?" came the question. "Because you wanted to know the whole story, and not misconstrued telling of my tale?"
He had a point.
"Fine," she admitted with reluctance. "So with the Champion and her family away with Shepherd, if you are to be believed, that left you and the rest of her companions here." The Seeker brought up. "Did anything happen while she was away?"
"Oh the usual. Smugglers here, bandits there, a crazy blood mage," he listed off dismissively. "That was cake. Tensions between companions however...a different matter entirely."
Her eyes narrowed. "Tell me."
"As you wish Seeker..."
Considering the type of people that we were: A guard captain, a pirate queen, a blood mage, a former Tevinter slave, a chaste chantry prince, a grey warden abomination, and yours truly...we would have never come together on our own. We were all drawn to Hawke's side in some form or another, and the only reason we managed to function and get things done was because of Hawke. She was the webbing that kept us together, while also keeping us from each other's throats.
But with her away helping Shepard, there was no buffer there to calm the tensions. Sure, on occasions, one would be able to take the other two down, but Hawke was gone for weeks. And, the longer she was gone, the more missions we had to undertake in her stead. The more missions we took, the more they involved templars and mages. And, the more they involved templars and mages, the more personal feelings and opinions came out on the matter.
Until it all came to a head under a bit of Pier Pressure...
"You're going the wrong way!" Aveline snapped as she pointed in the other direction. "The warehouse is over there!"
"And how would you know that?" Fenris growled back, stopping to give the ginger a glare, who gave him one right back..
"Because the letter said to keep your eyes inland," the Guard-Captain pointed out, tempted to bring back out the letter. Not that it would make much of a difference. She saw how quickly the former slave handed it off to Varric, and she knew why.
"Now, now...let's just keep our heads," the storyteller said, putting out his arms between the both of them. "There are quite a few not so abandoned warehouses down here, so who's to say which direction is the correct one."
Merrill turned her gaze toward him. "Then how do the bandits manage to find their hideout?" she inquired. "With it being night, and many of the doors looking the same, I can't image they don't get lost.
I know I certainly would."
"Like they would simply draw a map on the back of the letter." Anders quipped as he took the letter from Varric, looking at both sides before holding it up at the moon. "Well… I'll be.
These Redwater's are dumber than I gave them credit for," presenting the back side of the map for the others to see. A map to the hideout drawn on the back of the paper.
"They have to be dumb if they're seeking out Hawke," Isabela quipped, working on picking a lock to a strongbox left on the table of a closed business for the night. "And I simply love how we're disappointing them and showing in her stead." Smirking as she worked.
"Varric, you were the last to see them before they left," Sebastian brought up, turning his attention to the short blonde. "Did they say how long they would be gone?
I know you and Isabela speak much of this Shepherd," the prince said motioning toward the pirate who was interrupted by Aveline. "But I still do not trust your tales friend. More should be known about this woman who came from the sky."
Fenris snorted. "If she even came from the sky at all," he said showing his skepticism. "For all we know, it could have been a ruse to get Hawke alone, and away from reinforcements.
She is making many enemies from the things she does."
Anders taking offense to his words. "Why? Just because she won't scream for the Templars every time she encounters a mage?
Better to make enemies doing the "wrong" thing, than have none at all by doing the "right" thing," taking the time to add emphasis on the words 'right' and 'wrong' to show how he felt about the views behind their context when it came to mages. "Bet you couldn't scream fast enough." The Grey Warden added, frowning at the tattooed elf.
"Shepard does seem a little… odd." Aveline interrupted the two of them. "But I assure you, what Varric has told you is true, although I cannot vouch for her ship." she looked at the pirate, the Dalish and the dwarf. "And given that two of the three who've seen it are liars, one a bigger one than the other, skepticism is a natural reaction."
"I assure you my god Guard-Captain, I speak nothing but the truth," the shortest among them assured the ginger. "Shepard's ship is made entirely out of star metal and flies, not on the waters, but the stars.
Why, I dare say, it could out fly a dragon."
"Still, I am not a fan of this Shepard and her companions," the former slave voiced. "The last thing we need are more mages. And, not only is this Shepard one, but she has several under her command along with other...abominations." Looking to the former circle mage when he said the word.
"How would you know she's a mage? That her companions are abominations?" Anders snapped at Fenris. "You haven't even met her." he waved a hand at the elf.
"Garrus and Liara were very nice." Merrill spoke up, even if they did look a little odd. "Tali too."
"Because they are spoken of!" the white haired man responded back, glowing blue in response, Anders doing the same.
"You know..." the Dalish elf spoke up slowly. "Now that I think about it, Fenris glows the same way that Shepard, and those like her, do.
They called themselves something other than mages. Oh I wish I could remember what it was," the doe eyed elf said, as she tried her hardest to think of it but to no avail. "It's odd, considering even I can't make my whole form glow with my magic.
And if Anders does it, it isn't really Anders anymore."
"Cheap talk from a girl who uses blood magic and makes deals with demons!" the Grey Warden pointed out. "I should be expecting the same of you any day now. Talking to your body, while the real you is no longer. And that's if you're lucky enough to not be turned into an abomination on the spot!"
"Shut up! All of you!" Aveline snapped. "Why should we speak bad of Commander Shepard when she isn't here to defend herself!" she looked at the groups. "If Hawke trusts her, so do I."
"The same reason why we talk bad about you over a game of Diamondback Lady Man hands," the pirate spoke up. "Because it's fun."
Aveline frowned. "Whore..." she said the insult in warning. Nerves worn enough already having to put up with this level of bickering on a near constant basis.
"It's not that I am speaking ill of the woman," the archer protested. "I am simply cautious as much about her is unknown, and what is known seems hard to believe.
The blight was easier to accept than the mystery of this woman."
"I agree with Sebastian, and I've met her," Anders said, calming himself down slightly, not wanting to lose control of himself. Unless Fenris pushed first. "I can't stand the woman and the feeling is mutual. She beds and abomination-" being interrupted by Fenris.
"And you allowed one into your body," he countered in his usual gruff manner. "Are you so quick to point fingers? You are an abomination yourself."
Making the heavily stubbled man frown. "Why don't you shout?" he encouraged the former slave, tossing his hands up. "I don't think it was loud enough to wake the people who live around here."
"Do you see yourself as harmless, then?" the dark skinned elf demanded to know of him. "An abomination who would never harm someone?" Sounding appalled at the mere thought of such a thing.
"Like ripping someone's heart out of his chest?" came the quick, jab of a counter, as Anders arched an eyebrow.
"I did that at the behest of no demon, mage."
"So we agree that it doesn't take a demon for someone to be a vicious killer? Good." Anders being purely sarcastic as the two glared harshly at one another, the tension thick between them.
"How the hell did we manage to be 'friends'?" Aveline shook her head as she rubbed her forehead. "We're just a violent explosion waiting to happen." she stared at them before looking at Isabela who was trying to pick the lock of another chest. "Can you stop stealing things for two minutes you pirate!"
Isabela hummed. "I don't know? Is it possible for you to take that stick out of your ass for two minutes?" she countered. "Splinters included."
Aveline snarled as her hand went for the hilt of her sword. "You bloody whore..." Glaring at the dark skinned woman, who seemed nothing but amused, as she removed herself from her task to focus on Aveline.
"Well. "Captain." Can I call you captain? You can call me captain," the golden eyed rogue began, crossing her arms, while placing one hand on her chest, pointing to herself.
Aveline snorted, taking her hand off her sword. It wouldn't be needed if she needed to knock the pirate clean off her feet. "I won't be doing that," she responded, not giving the Rivian woman the time of day, but Isabela was never one to simply leave things be.
"Neither will I. Because you're a guard captain," stressing the word. "No real authority. Not like on a ship."
"Well, you would know about having a large number of men under you."
A chuckle from the pirate, before she smirked. "You've been waiting to use that one. Did you practice?"
"I agree with Aveline," Varric voiced, before anyone could say more. "We should find this hide out and put the Redwater Teeths down. The sooner the better if the tension in the air isn't anything to go by."
"As always another mage, who turns to sacrificing victims in order to grow more powerful," Fenris said in disgust, putting his sword away, as he looked down at the body of Leech-the former leader of the Redwater Teeths. "This is what happens when mages are allowed the freedom they so desperately covet."
"That's not true," Merrill denied. "Not all mages would do what he did," referring to the now dead blood mage, who'd made it a difficult fight for the group. "I would never use my abilities like that."
"Believe what you like. In my experience, mages always find a way to justify their need for power," the warrior commented.
"Leave her alone Fenris," Isabela chided, coming to Merrill's defense.
Fenris growled but stopped when Aveline stepped in his way, looking straight at him. "The more and more I listen to us, the more I wonder." the redhead said. "What qualities do we possess that allow us to call ourselves Hawke's Companions if we can't even go a night without one trying to rip another's head off?"
Sebastian sighed, as he looked about at the fallen corpses of both men and women. "Draw your last breath, my friends, Cross the Veil and the Fade and all the stars in the sky. Rest at the Maker's right hand, And be Forgiven," he recanted, offering a prayer for the fallen souls, as he placed a fist over his chest, head bowed.
"I don't know...I mean, we do okay at the Hanged Man," the marksman pointed out, retrieving an arrow from a corpse. "A few pints of ale, cards, betting...an evening well spent.
Maybe it's just having to take on Hawke's full load of work that's wearing us thin?" he suggested. "She normally grabs a few of us, every few days or so, so as not to run us into the ground.
I think all the responsibility is getting to us. I'm sure it will get better."
"That old biddy, Elthina is nothing more than a spinless, hesitant-" Anders shouted only to be interrupted by Sebastian.
"Don't you dare speak about the Grand Cleric that way!" the prince shouted back. "She is what every sister should aspire to be!"
The Grey Warden snorted. "She takes no side, and cares nothing of the mages plight!" he countered.
"I do what I do in order to help my people regain what we have lost!" Merrill told Fenris, who now had a scowl on his face.
"All mages seek power," he repeated his mantra. "And will go to any lengths to achieve it. You think yourself so different from the blood mages we encounter nearly everyday? You are no different from they."
"Will you all! SHUT! UP!" Aveline roared at the bickering groups, already at her wits end. "For Maker's sake, I don't know how Hawke does it!" she rubbed her forehead again. "Hawke never told us how long she would be gone for, but it's only been a few weeks, she could be gone for nearly a year, in that time are we just going to burn this city to the ground with our fighting?"
"Again, big girl, you're no real authority," Isabela reminded, which was enough to get Aveline into a heated argument with the pirate.
The verbal jabs going on for near half an hour. Anders against Merrill. Fenris against Aveline. Isabela against Sebastian. Isabela against Anders. Aveline against Merrill. Sebastian against Fenris. Each argument crossing to all the companions, each fueled by personal experiences and beliefs.
Eventually Varric had had enough, and fired a smoke bomb into the fray which was enough to silence them all.
"I think, all of us need to go home." he said. "Cool off, spend a few day apart. I don't think the city will burn, and who knows? Maybe Hawke will be back with Shepard." the dwarf told them. "Tomorrow hopefully..."
"...I take it that didn't happen?" Cassandra guessed, as she folded her arms, cocking her hip out to one side.
"You would be correct Seeker," Varric responded. "It was two more months before she returned."
"Two months?" Cassandra hummed. "To most that would seem like a long time, but one can simply spend two months traveling. But it seems that the Shepherd had travelling quickly down to an art. So what was it that kept Hawke away from Kirkwall for so long?"
"Well, guess intermission time is over," Varric said finishing off his toast. "Back to the main story. You see..."