Kirkwall – Hawke Estate – 9:40
The Storyteller and the Seeker
The doors slam open with a loud crash as the two guards drag in their captured dwarf and throw him into a chair. It takes the dwarf a moment to recognize the chair, despite having been a frequent visitor to this Estate. Hawke would sit it in when she wrote and read her letters. It feels wrong for him to be sitting in it. Then again, everything about his current situation feels wrong.
"I've had gentler invitations," he cracks as he rubs his arms to stave off the unnatural cold. Hawke's house had always been a warm place, even when she had been in the depths of sorrow. The coldness shows that his friend was nowhere near. The darkness also shows this. Hawke's house had never been dark.
"We've found you at last, Varric Tethras," a voice says. A woman steps from the shadows of the room. She had short black hair that matches the black armor she clad herself in and two swords belted to her waist. She carries a book in her hand that she absently flips through. He catches glimpses of portraits of old friends on the pages. "You've caused me quite some trouble, trying to track you down. Your adventures with King Alistair and that pirate Isabela have been quite interesting to read."
"And who exactly do I have the honor of addressing?"
"I am Cassandra Pentaghast, Seeker of the Chantry."
"You've cut your hair since I last saw you," he notes calmly, recognizing her. "Hero of Orlais."
"I'm surprised you remember. We didn't talk at all then."
"Now that the politeness is done…" He notices the guards creep closer and chuckles off his nervousness. "What is it that you're seeking?"
"You know exactly which one," she snaps, throwing the book at him before holding a blade at his throat. "Start talking, dwarf. They tell me you're good at it."
"Few people are good at talking with something sharp at their throat," he points out nonchalantly. She takes the hint and sheathes her sword again. He glances through the book and is impressed by the details. "So…?"
"Tell me about her. Kirkwall's Champion."
"Oh, come now," he laughs off, leaning back in the chair and trying to get comfortable in it. He wonders briefly how Hawke had stood the chair. "Surely you know about the Champion. She was an Archmage beyond compare, a goddess among mortals. A shining example of how mages could be outside the jurisdiction of the templars and Kirkwall's most devoted protector." He studies the Seeker. "You met her once. It wasn't that long ago."
"Yes, I did. I find it amazing that such a conspirator could've hidden so well."
"Conspirator?" he repeats, suppressing outrage. "Oh, does this have to do with the Chantry incident?"
"She was just as shocked as any of us, you know. She never could've imagined that could happen."
"No, I don't know." She smirks and Varric fights the urge to groan as he realizes he's stuck. Well, he did always enjoy spinning a tale. "That's why you're here. Tell me."
"Oh, all right," he sighs. "Let's see… it all began in Lothering, the small farming village located in the southern part of Fereldan..."
Smoke and ashes drifted lazily through the air. The land had been ravaged. Now, the ravagers, the infamous darkspawn of legend, were patrolling the area, looking for survivors.
The poor fools. They hadn't counted on me.
One quick burst of silver-white magic called forth a cascade of lightning that devoured the darkspawn who dared walk upon my land. To my right, my younger sister, Bethany, summoned a wall of flame to cut off the cowards who tried to run. To my left, my younger brother, Carver, cleaved through the few who survived the storm.
Carver hooked his greatsword on his back when the last one died and kneeled over the corpse. The thin sunlight glinted off his griffon-imprinted armor. "Darkspawn," he confirmed. "Of course, they're here."
"We'd have to fight them sooner or later," Bethany pointed out, dusting off her sapphire blue robes with one hand. Her silver staff glowed in the other. "Look on the horizon. More come."
"Then we'll have to make our stand here," I sighed, drawing the sword at my belt. My armored arm shone in the light. I checked my other, not armored one to ensure the sigil I'd drawn early was still there. "Prepare yourselves."
These darkspawn were simple to dispatch, so I opted solely for my sword for the fight. I almost felt sorry for them. The poor things were just falling apart at a touch. A simple slash and they seemed to explode into pieces. Did they eat 'explodium' or something before coming here to destroy my home?
"We can't keep this up forever," Bethany informed us as more darkspawn appeared in the distance. We had only a slight breather before they arrived.
"Perhaps we'll be lucky and they'll run out of darkspawn," I joked. She gave me a stern look and I laughed. "Relax. We'll get through this together."
"Right, because the Hawke siblings are invincible," Carver sarcastically added. "They're almost here, you know."
"Then it's time to fight." As they approached, I had an idea. "So, shall we pick who gets the honors?"
"Blade or sorcery?" Carver grinned. "I vote blade."
"You can have them," Bethany agreed. "I'm not in a hurry to burn out my power quite yet."
"Leave it to me!" Carver cleaved through the approaching darkspawn like a war hammer. Unfortunately, more came from the sides to try and overwhelm us. The idiots. Were they really so desperate to die?
Again, I didn't bother using magic. Bethany was slinging enough to deal with the handful Carver and I couldn't reach with our blades. It was only a matter of minutes before the area was clear again and we got another breather. At least, that was what I'd assumed. As the last fell, I felt the ground shake underneath my feet. Something was coming. Something big.
The something turned out to be a giant, monstrous ogre with horns latter than horses. He bore his teeth and roared a thunderous war cry as a challenge.
"Finally, something entertaining," I noted with a grin. "I call this one, you two."
"You get to have all the fun," Carver complained as he turned to tear into the darkspawn that had accompanied the brute.
"Try not to get too injured," Bethany called as she called forth flames to help Carver.
Knowing the two would be fine, I focused on the ogre. Its attacks were incredibly basic. A charge forward to headbutt. A swing of the arms for a punch. A grab to try and squeeze. But one doesn't catch a mage with such simple tactics. If were that easy, then mages wouldn't be feared.
When he came to headbutt me, I called up a shield to make him bounce off and crack his skull. A punch was met with a stonefist or lighting. A grab was countered with fire and ice. While certainly more of a challenge than the darkspawn Bethany and Carver were slaughtering, he wasn't much of a threat, especially after one blow cracked and broke his horns and sent him stumbling back in pain.
Deciding to end this, I leapt onto it to drive my sword into its neck again and again and again. Then, as it fell, I jumped off and walked away, casually tossing a fire spell over my shoulder to ensure its death. No kill like overkill.
"The ogre is gone, but we're still surrounded," Bethany noted forlornly as we three siblings slowly clustered together in the center of the outcropping again, backs to each other to keep them guarded.
"There's no end to them," Carver confirmed grimly. "Is this our last stand?"
The roaring of a massive dragon of red and purples scales answered that question with a resounding 'no'. It launched into the air with its building-wide wings, spewing a stream of fire to-
"Bullshit," the Seeker suddenly interrupts. "None of that happened!"
"Is that not the story you've heard?" Varric asks in return, relaxing now. He is in control now. He knows that.
"I want the truth, dwarf," she growls with one hand hovering over one of her two blades. "If I wanted meaningless tales, I'd pull the first person I saw on the street and ask them!"
"Those stories provide hope for people," he counters. "They aren't meaningless."
"They are meaningless to me."
"That is your problem, not mine."
"I could kill you."
"But then you don't get what you want, do you?" She is silent, so he continues. "So, what do you want to know?"
He rolls his eyes. "Right, so you want to know about the time when Hawke spent two hours inspecting a piece of armor? How much sex she and-?"
"Enough!" she growls. "You're just being difficult."
"As are you."
"I am not here for stories. Tell me the truth!"
"What makes you think I know it?"
"Don't lie! You knew her! You knew her before she was the Champion!" She turns his back to him. "Do you have any idea what's at stake here?"
"Your precious Chantry has fallen into pieces," he answers bluntly. "All of Thedas dangles on the brink of war."
"Yes. All will be lost to war."
"And, let me guess. You're looking for the Champion because you need the goddess among humans, the only one who can put it all back together."
She whirls to face him again. "If you know this, then why are you being difficult? Why are you not helping me?!"
There is silence as the two engage in a staring contest, neither entirely willing to stand down. The Seeker's glare is accusatory. The dwarf's is searching.
"You're like the others," he whispers with a heavy sigh. He did not see what he'd hoped to see in her face. "You only see what she appears to be. You make assumptions based on that. But, you know what, despite my calling her a 'goddess', she's human. She's just a normal human mage. She was scared shitless half the time, weighed down by her failures, and often unable to see the real good she did. Tragedy followed her wherever she went. Yet she still held her head tall. She still gave the image of the graceful and powerful warrior, the calm and wise mage, the gentle and just noble. She gave the people hope. She still does. Most people can't imagine a mere human can be that, so they say she's not. That leads to people like you. You assume that there is something that can be done, could be done. You assume that she can just magically fix things. But she can't. No one can."
"Then tell me about her," the Seeker replies. Her words are surprisingly soft, as if she's aware she's failed some test. "Tell me what happened. I wish to know."
"You've said it many times. She gives hope. She's a powerful warrior. She is a wise mage. She is a just noble. She was the one stabilizing force in that city, the one that actually tried to make things better. Even as everything fell apart, when the rest of the world just watched and assumed the worst would happen and all of Kirkwall would die, she performed a miracle and made it so that the only casualties were mages and templars."
"Even then, there were fewer mage deaths than expected," he added softly.
"Precisely. Then you have the fact that she can talk to a wide range of people, and be heard. The mages will listen to her. The templars will listen. Even the Seekers will. Anyone with a brain knows that. But I need to find her. She is my best chance to end this war at the moment. I also need to know how this war came to be."
"Wasn't that because of the Circle dissolving itself and the Nevarran Accord being nulled?"
"That was how the war started, but that's not what triggered it. It all began in Kirkwall. It's fall was the spark that started the flame, a flame that the templars and Seekers tried to snuff out and failed miserably in doing so, due to harsh methods." She glances over her shoulder, as if looking at someone. But Varric is unable to see if another person is there or not. "I need to know the Champion's tale if I'm to learn anything and accomplish my objectives."
He is silent for a long while, but then he nods. "Well, I suggest getting comfortable, Seeker. This is a long, and not very happy, tale. It's a long struggle of one woman trying to keep things safe and, because of fanatics, all she could do was minimize the casualties."
"Considering the circumstances, I would consider that a miracle." The Seeker's voice is still soft as she sits across from him. He remembers that as a chair Leandra had liked to read in. "There is still shock that there were any survivors, despite it being three years since the disaster."
"Hawke always did see her failures more clearly than her successes." He shakes his head. "She changed the face of Thedas forever, simply by choosing to keep some people alive when they would've otherwise died. She was the right woman in the wrong place at the wrong time. Her tale wasn't kind to her. Are you still willing to listen?"
"And you're not worried that I'll make it up as I go?"
"Not. At. All."
He leans forward, smiling slightly. "Then let me tell you the whole story."
Author's note – This chapter, and the very last chapter, shall be the only times where framing device of Varric telling Cassandra the story are the bulk of the chapter. I'll be using them as a replacement for the Wardens' Tale's scenes at the beginning of chapters. Most times, they'll be used for clarification, or to poke some fun. Also, characterizations used for the tale segment won't necessarily be what's shown in the story proper. I was just having some fun.
Dragon Age 2 is… an interesting game. I personally like it quite a great deal, seemingly for the reasons that people hate it. I like that it's dark. I like that, in the end, you couldn't do anything. It really emphasizes the fact that the war between the Templars and Mages was inevitable. I do not, however, believe that makes the player completely inconsequential. It's implied, frequently, that many of the characters who play important parts in Kirkwall's story are only able to get to those parts because of Hawke. I do also think that Hawke's presence significantly reduced the number of casualties that Kirkwall's fall would've had otherwise, which I consider a huge victory, all things considered.
Some general notes about this story – Hawke is both warrior and mage (or rather a mage masquerading as a warrior). I will be keeping both siblings. Her love interest shall be Fenris (though there might be flirtations with others, particularly Isabela). Sebastian will not be in here (as I don't have his DLC still and I want to mirror Wardens' Tale which did not have Shale). Going ahead and getting those four points out of the way, since they could be make or break for people.
I will also try to keep it as a 'one quest = one chapter' story, for ease. This will be less firm in the beginning, considering how many quests can be done near simultaneously, or simply aren't long enough for one chapter, or have multiple parts that best make sense in separate chapters. Also, unlike Wardens' tale, there is only planned one point of view character throughout the whole thing. Let's see… oh, I will be 'friending' everyone by Merrill (this is based on my own playthroughs… where I always seem to do this without really meaning to). I will do my best to bring in notes from the 'rivalry' aspect (and Merrill's friend), simply to try and give a fuller picture.
Long Author's note is long. But, welcome to the Champion's Tale.
Next up – Escape from Lothering.