Kirkwall – Hightown
Dances and Balls
"Can I just skip to the good stuff?" the dwarf sighs. "Seriously, this can't be very entertaining for you." The Seeker only glares in reply. "Fine, fine. Is there anything in particular you need to hear about? Otherwise I'm going to pick a random day again."
"Considering what happens later, I would like to hear of her interactions with the nobility," the Seeker answers calmly.
"Yeah, see, she didn't do a lot of that. Not until… well, you know that part already."
"Okay, okay. I can think of one incident, I think. Hawke hated that day, a lot. Said the hangover nearly killed her."
"I'm really sorry about the windows, Mother."
"Dear, I'm more worried about you! Are you all right?""
"Pretty sure the window took more damage."
"I don't give a damn! Now give me a straight answer. I know you're not allergic to them; I raised you!"
"So did Father. Maybe he passed it on."
"Mother, Anders and Aveline were here not two minutes afterwards. Do you honestly think I'd be standing here if I was injured?"
"Well… no, I suppose not. Anders didn't leave without taking that basket with him, did he?"
"Well, he might have, but only because he devoured the contents that quickly."
"I need to send him another basket, then. He eats far too little!"
I almost made a joke about her adopting him, but then decided against it. She was kind by nature, and no longer had the twins to mother. I honestly didn't mind her extending the mothering to my friends. Some, like Anders and Isabela, appeared to really need it. Isabela had nearly been in tears when Mother had given her that coat, and I knew it wasn't because of her covering up. "Don't you have to get ready, Mother?" I asked instead.
"Wait, we're still going?"
"Oh! Then yes, quite a bit! Oh, and I need to get that jewelry for you. Mother would've loved you to wear it." With a bright smile, Mother skipped off. She always did love a good party, and it was perfect to get her mind off of things.
"Serah?" I looked up to see Bodhan in the doorway. "You have another visitor," he explained. "One of your friends."
"I'll be right down," I replied. "Oh, I'll need someone to fix these windows."
"I'll have the best ready within the week." Probably the cheapest too. Bodhan was very good at maximizing skill and quality while minimizing costs.
"Thanks." Smiling, I went down the stairs to the… whatever it was called. There were too many rooms in this place and Fenris seemed to agree as he stood in front of the fireplace. …Wait, Fenris?
"Aveline is tearing through Hightown investigating," he told me. "I… was a bit worried."
"Aw, how sweet," I joked. "Worried for the assassin?"
"For you. Assassins use poisons, and it only takes a cut."
"Didn't even get one. The window took more damage."
"You shouldn't just dismiss it. You have enemies."
"I've had them for a while. There aren't many who like a Fereldan in the nobility."
"Milady!" I looked up to see Miriel, my seamstress, beaming down from the second floor. I recognized the mass of dark blues, light blues, and blacks. "I've your dress ready!" she laughed.
"Thank you!" I called up. And here was hoping I wouldn't feel like I was sewn into it. That outer corset… okay, yes, pretty, but…
"Who is that?" Fenris asked.
"Miriel," I answered. "You know how I went to the Alienage and hired an elf woman to be my seamstress. It was all over the gossips."
"Yes, it's all over how you lend money to Fereldans who are bad off and hire based on skill, not race or country. There have been many disgruntled nobles. I hear them." He glanced at the shards of glass on the floor. "Perhaps I should not have dismissed them. They were clearly idiotic enough to try attacking you."
"Well, they didn't go after anyone else in the house, so it's all well."
"…I'd rather they didn't attack this house at all. You deserve a safe place."
"Well, I'll have to make do with what I have while I prepare for that party tonight." He gave me a look. "What?"
"You were just attacked and you're going to a party?" he asked dryly.
"I promised Mother."
"The person who ordered the assassins could be there!"
"I promised Mother."
"I promised Mother."
He stared at me for a long moment, like he didn't really know what to make of me. Was it really that unusual? "Would you… permit me to be your guard, then?"
I… did I hear right? "You'd guard me?" I repeated, incredulously. "As in be my bodyguard? My bodyguard?" A mage's bodyguard? After his… after everything he suffered?
"I would… not mind," he mumbled awkwardly. "If it is you."
I felt my cheeks heat up. "Only if you're comfortable with it."
"I can for you."
Oh, Varric had better never, ever find out about this.
Fenris looked really nice in his armor. Like… really nice. I think he'd taken the time to clean it or something. It gave me something to focus on as the three of us entered the Viscount's Keep to gasps and applause.
"Well, seems we made a 'proper' entrance," Mother giggled, beaming at me as we made our way through the crowd.
"I would've preferred to not have been noticed," I muttered, squirming at all the people staring. I knew I looked odd in this dress.
"Then I know you'll make a 'proper' exit. That's how these things work. Everyone comments on your arrival, but no one knows that you left."
"Just be glad you don't have to wear a mask, Althea."
"Thanking the Maker for that one." I would've thanked him more if I'd remained unnoticed. "Let's find Saemus and wish him a happy birthday, yes? That's the whole point of this thing."
"He's over there," Fenris whispered in my ear, gesturing at a crowd. "Are you going to push through?"
"…Maybe not." Shaking my head, I smiled at Mother. "Why don't you go greet your friends, Mother? Fenris and I will just wait around here."
"Oh, I suppose so," she sighed, pouting slightly. "I'd hope to introduce you, though."
"Later." When I could figure out a fast way to bolt.
"Oh, all right." As Mother walked off with a slight pout, I found a convenient place on the wall to sit and wait and sigh.
Fenris thankfully kept by my side. "You… look nice," he commented after a moment. "In that dress, I mean."
"Really?" I laughed softly. "I wish I'd worn armor. Make me feel far safer than these mess of cloth and corset."
"Well, it suits you."
"Because I'm a mess?"
"No, it's elegant." What? "Never mind. The Visount is trying to get everyone's attention."
It took a moment too. The Viscount just didn't have a presence, like some of the other nobles here. "May I present the Circle of Magi?" the Viscount announced with a smile as a bunch of mages suddenly shuffled in. "They have volunteered to give us a dazzling show tonight." Wait, what?
"Magic as entertainment," Fenris grumbled as the mages began casting spells, timed perfectly to create interesting effects.
"Do they do something like this in Tevinter?" I asked softly. I couldn't decide if I was happy about the whole thing or not. While I adored seeing magic, it felt like they were just treating the mages as caged animals trained for entertainment.
"Of a sort."
"Would you prefer we stepped out for a bit then?"
"Huh?" Argh, why was I always surprising him?
"Would you prefer we stepped out for a bit?" I repeated. "Until the show is over? I don't want you uncomfortable, Fenris. You're keeping me quite safe."
"Strange, I've seen no threats yet."
"I meant from the noblemen." I smiled. "I've no intention of being verbally assaulted by their so-called successes."
"Glad to be helpful."
Giggling, I continued watching the mages perform when I noticed something. Or, rather, someone. "Fenris, mind confirming something for me?"
"There, next to the First Enchanter. That's Bethany, isn't it?"
"Huh. So it is."
"What's she doing here?"
"Well, she's one of the most talented mages in the Circle," Mother answered, appearing next to me with a secretive smile. "She was asked to."
"And suddenly your insistence on me attending makes so much since." I gave her a small smile. "Been a while since you plotted." Not since Father died.
"I know. I'd forgotten how fun it was." She laughed softly. "I… guess I've finally healed a bit from his death."
"Father's probably beaming right now."
"Yes. I know he is. He is always so proud of all three of you."
Right around then, the show ended and there was a sudden rush to go up to the mages and clap and congratulate. Despite being on the wall, I got caught in the rush, separated from Mother and Fenris. By the time I got out of the crowd, there was no sign of them. Not sure how. While Mother could hide, Fenris sorta stood out!
"Excuse me." And suddenly there was a noble, one I didn't know, next to me, holding two glasses of drink. "Lady Amell-"
"Hawke," I corrected immediately. "It's Hawke."
"…Lady Hawke." I did not like the slight sneer as he said my name. "Would you care for a dance?"
"I really need to find my mother, actually, so I have to decline. She doesn't like being suddenly separated from me." More like I had problems.
"Then perhaps a drink?" He handed me a glass. "I insist."
"Very well." I accepted it with a polite smile and turned away, taking only a sip. I felt sick and dizzy almost immediately. Oh, well that was brilliant, Hawke. Accept a drink from a stranger, knowing that people had sent assassins after me. Probably just got poisoned or something. Perfectly logical way of thinking. Absolutely brilliant!
"Oh, are you not feeling well? Perhaps-?"
"Get away from her." I knew that growl. That was Fenris. He had an arm around my shoulder, taking the glass from my shaking hands. "What did you do?"
"And who are-?"
"My daughter's bodyguard." And that was Mother. Boy did she sound mad. …Why was I finding that funny? "So, you have about three seconds to tell me what you did to my daughter."
"N-nothing! Nothing!" I was sick, dizzy even, but most things were seeming strangely hilarious. "Just… you know… slipped some aquae-"
I heard a slap. Mother had slapped whoever it was. It had to have been her. Fenris would've punched. "Get out of my sight. Rest assured, I will bring this up to your parents. I'm sure they'd be delighted." And the noble who'd given me the drink scrambled off. I wondered how Varric would describe it? Like a rat? "Oh, I don't know what I can't believe more. The fact that they still pull tricks like this or the fact that I didn't warn her that it might happen."
"I'll take her home." That low growl was Fenris's. It sounded nice. "Enjoy the rest of your evening."
"Oh, thank you, Ser Fenris. I'll explain to Bethany."
"It's no trouble."
Fenris got me out of the place with little trouble, despite the commotion and my own… well, antics. I was delirious and everything just seemed hilarious. I was giggling nonstop and probably scaring Fenris to death with the random bursts of laughter and pointing of the dragons flying overhead. Despite all that, though, he kept a careful arm around my shoulder, a gentle hand on mine, steering me to the Estate.
"Thankfully, your place isn't far," Fenris sighed. "Honestly, what were you thinking, Hawke?" I just giggled. "Hawke, this isn't funny. That could've been poison." Still giggling. "Hawke!"
I slipped from his grip and twirled with another laugh, summoning tiny motes of light. "See, I can make the stars too!" I tried to say. The words seemed like mush, even to my own ears. "Are they pretty?"
"Hawke, we're in public," Fenris noted. "You shouldn't be showing your magic."
"But I don't wanna!" I kept spinning, summoning more and more sparks. "It hurts to hide! I'm tired of hiding who I am!"
"Isn't it pretty? Magic, isn't it pretty?"
"Yes, Hawke, you're beautiful. Inside before they lock you up."
"Flatterer." I was laughing. I was dizzy, delirious, and everything was just so much fun and hilarious. "You're very handsome, though. I wish you could see the pretty side of magic."
"Hawke, you're drunk."
"It's fun!" I was still laughing. "Fenris, come on! Dance with me!"
He stared a moment. "What?"
"Dance!" I took his hands and tugged him in around in a spinny circle! "Come on!"
Somewhere between one step and the next, I completely blacked out. I'd like to think it was a blessing.
I woke up with a killer headache, barely any memories of the night before, and the distinct feeling of wanting to vomit. A glance at my desk suggested that I had at least tried record what had happened in my journal. Not going back through that any time soon.
Groaning, I stumbled out of my room, intent on finding the bathing room or something. Instead, though, I crashed right into Fenris.
"You stayed over?" I asked, startled.
"You kept trying to escape your room," he explained, steadying me. "Something about the walls melting."
Oh, Maker. "I have no idea what I had, but I will never, ever have it again." I sighed, covering my face with my hands. "I am so sorry to be such trouble, Fenris."
"It wasn't trouble."
"Bull, I know what I'm like sober. I had to have been ten times worse while drunk. Especially since I can't remember much." …Now that I thought about it, one of the very few things I recalled was calling him handsome. Which, yes, he was, but… oh, my head didn't need to try and think through this.
"You just complained about hurting and hiding. For the most part."
Huh? "Drunk me makes up some weird stories. That's nice to know, I suppose. One more reason to not get…" Oh… oh, wait, the whole reason I avoided alcohol was… "Fenris, did… I didn't blow anything up, did I?"
"No, you… just created a lot of stars to dance in."
"Oh. Okay, not as bad as I thought. Must've been too dizzy." Ugh, my head throbbed at the mere thought. "What in the Void did I drink anyway?"
"Aquae lucidius. It's a favorite in Orlais."
"No wonder Orlesians are insane. I feel like I drank poison."
"Well, in a way, you did." What? "It's distilled from wyvern poison."
"…Scratch that, they were insane before then. Who thought that was a good idea? Ow…" I swayed, clutching my head.
To my surprise, Fenris steadied me. "Why don't you go back to bed, for once?" he suggested. "Kirkwall can survive a day without you. Maybe."
"Haha. I'm not taking care of Kirkwall. I'm taking care of Mother and the rest of you."
"Well, we can all survive one day. Go get some rest."
But… oh… "If anyone needs me…"
"Hawke. Go to the bed."
"…Oh, if Isabela overheard that…"
"Then head to sleep before she gets here. Bodhan said he was going to let the others know. Your mother went shopping by the way. She is… an odd woman."
"She wrangled you into breakfast tea, didn't she?"
"Yes, and made no comments on the markings." He looked down at the ground. "She mostly just kept thanking me. And offering to make me a coat."
"She does that. Haven't you seen that blue coat of Isabela's?"
"I don't need a coat. I've been through colder."
"Well, good luck, because she's probably already got the pattern planned out."
"I'll think of something. Go to bed."
"Oh, all right." I sighed and turned to head back to my room. As I did so, though, I turned towards him again. "Hey, Fenris?"
"Yes?" I caught him on the staircase. He sounded annoyed.
"Thanks. For putting up with me."
"Anytime, Hawke," he replied softly. "…For you, anytime."
…I had a sneaking suspicion why I blushed at the words, and why I kept staring at the door, even after he left. But that… wasn't something to think on, was it? First off, there was Mother to take care of and… and seriously, why would he love me? Me, a mage, a blood mage even.
There's no way. Not at all.
Author's note: Well, there's a way, but it takes a couple of years for Fenris to get his head on fully straight. Welcome to Hawke discovering that she likes Fenris. Based of a real life event! Friend of a friend of mine. Nice friend of hers invited her to prom partly so that she could have a date and partly because she was worried about this total jerk bothering her. By the end of the night, she realized she had a crush on him, and probably HAD for a while. The two got married at the end of the world (December 2012, for those not remembering)!
No, I did NOT make up the alcohol. It's mentioned in Mark of the Assassin, and is a popular in the Orlesian Empire. It's implied, based on dialogue, that both Carver AND Hawke have had it, if you play it in Acts 2 or 3. Varric knows the black market price, off hand, by the way.
Next Chapter – Blackpowder Courtesy. Hello, Act II.