[ Master Post ]
Title: Assing it Up – Chapter 31
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Anton Hawke ♂, Isabela ♀, Merrill ♀, Alistair ♂, Kirkwall’s Noble Council, Varric ♂,
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V1 D1)
Warnings: A swift kick and a couple pints of ale
Notes: Unexpected guests from the sea. The noble council is much less amused than Anton and Varric.
Across the table, Anton tried not to make eye-contact with Merrill. Lord Tolbert was off on another one of his rants, and Anton was determinedly keeping a neutral look on his face. He never would have thought all those year playing card games would make him a better politician. Yet he knew that if he saw his own boredom reflected in Merrill’s face, even he might not be able to keep up the facade.
In the end, Lady LeClair lost her patience first. "Tolbert, do sit down," she said. "We are going to need to open some windows if you are to introduce any more hot air into the room." She fanned her face with one hand while he blustered, his face turning tomato-red. "And none of what you say addresses the real problem, that monstrosity the elves are building on Sundermount."
Anton watched Merrill bristle out of the corner of his eye, and he readied to step in, either to calm her down or to back her up, depending on how this exploded.
But then the doors slammed open, startling the council, and Anton reached for the knife at his belt instead.
"Honey, I’m home!" Isabela bellowed into the collection of surprised nobles, as she swaggered across the room to lean on the back of Anton’s chair. "What no kisses for me? Your husband stealing all of those?"
"Remove your filthy hands from Viscount Hawke at once!" La Chapelle demanded, her eyes narrowing angrily. "Who are you!?"
"This is an old friend, Lady La Chapelle. Captain Isabela, of the Eastern Seas. She’s handled many shipping concerns for my family," Anton said, with a wink, pressing a kiss to Isabela’s cheek. "And you think my kisses for you are a limited resource, even after all this time? Maybe they are, but it would take more than Cullen to exhaust them. What are you doing here, and… why now?"
A pained sound came from the antechamber, and Anton twisted to look around Isabela’s arm. Bran clung to a wall, looking sickly, and a Warden hovered around him, looking concerned and apologising, every few seconds.
"And what did you do to Bran?"
"He wouldn’t let me in!" Isabela protested. "I’m sure he’ll be fine."
A prolonged and pain-filled wheeze said otherwise.
"I’m sorry," the Warden kept saying, hands palm-out but not landing. "I didn’t think she’d go right for — No man deserves that." He peered into the room and gave the table of appalled nobles a smile and a wave. "Hello! Sorry for interrupting. Just pretend we’re not here."
"This is outrageous!" huffed Lord Bonnaire.
"No, this is outrageous," said Izzy, taking off her new feathered hat and setting it on Anton’s head, "which is how I like it. As for what I’m doing here, are you not reason enough?"
"Generally, yes," Anton agreed. "But for you? I don’t know."
Then Izzy caught sight of Merrill’s beaming face and squealed, leaving Anton so she could hug the elf. "You’re right," she teased. "I’m here for Merrill."
"I feel so honoured!" Merrill laughed, ignoring the frosty glares from her fellow nobles.
"But really," Isabela went on, arms still clasped over Merrill’s shoulders, "We’re on our way to cause trouble in Antiva. Thought we might as well stop in and cause some trouble here too."
"No, no, we’re trying to fix trouble in Antiva," the Warden protested from the hallway. "Fix, not cause. I’m beginning to worry you don’t know there’s a difference."
"Is there really a difference?" Anton asked, laughing. "It always seems like nothing gets better around here until someone starts trouble."
"Everything was just fine here, until your family started fucking about where it didn’t belong!" Bonnaire snapped, waving a dismissive hand at Anton. "All the problems we’ve had since the Blight? There’s a Hawke in them somewhere."
"And somehow, you’ve stopped having most of those problems, haven’t you? And problems from before the Blight, too?" Anton smiled serenely. "Just needed a little shaking up."
"Literally, I’ve heard," the Warden remarked.
"Dragons camping under the city," Isabela insisted, wiggling her fingers at the nobles. "Can’t blame that on the Hawkes."
"Poor Anton always did want a dragon," Merrill reminded her. "Maybe if he’d gotten one, we’d still have a Chantry."
"You see?" Anton asked, rhetorically. "The problem isn’t too much Hawke, it’s not enough Hawke."
"Speaking of not enough Hawke, Ali and I are going to … solve a problem creatively. Exactly the sort of thing the devastatingly handsome Anton Hawke used to be good at." Isabela wiggled her eyebrows suggestively at Anton.
And that sounded terribly tempting, given the level of boredom she had rescued him from.
"No," came Bran’s voice through the door. Just the one word, flat, simple, decisive.
"I assure you I’d still be good at it, Izzy," Anton replied. "But I’ve got a city to run. And as we’ve established, Kirkwall needs more Hawke, not less. Give my regards to Antiva."
Izzy pouted, but Anton didn’t change his mind. "Oh, you’re no fun," she teased. "All respectable and responsible now. When did that happen?"
"And we need Merrill here too, so don’t even try," Anton replied with a wink at Merrill. "Maybe Lord Tolbert could keep you company? He has his own charms, in theory."
Tolbert’s cheeks turned a mottled red as Merrill stifled a giggle.
"Lord Tolbert looks like he’d need six drinks and a splint before any of those charms would manifest," Isabela sighed, draping herself dramatically across Merrill. "But, fine. We’ll seek our excitement and adventurers elsewhere." She gave Merrill a quick kiss and made for the door. "Come on, Ali. Let’s see how many friends I have left in Kirkwall."
"Terribly sorry, Viscount," the Warden, clearly the ‘Ali’ spoken of, muttered, as Isabela led him away. "You might want to fetch a healer for your man, though!"
Varric was hunched over a table, in the back of the Hanged Man, rifling though a stack of reviews for recent books. There had been an uptick in non-fiction for mages, in the public sphere, in Kirkwall, in the last year, and he tried to include those just as often as any other type of book people were writing to him about. But, the words in some of these — he couldn’t tell, half the time, if these reviewers were even talking about real things.
When the floor creaked, he didn’t even look up. "How you doing, Rivaini?"
"What— aren’t you even a little surprised?" Isabela huffed, kicking over a chair and sitting down.
"Why would I be surprised? You sound exactly like yourself." Varric laid out four reviews on the table studying them.
Isabela tutted, leaning to the side to read what Varric was looking at. She got half a line into one of the reviews and lost interest. "And here I thought I would swoop in, all dashing, and sweep you off your feet."
"Sorry, Izzy, the swooping is really more Anton’s thing," Varric said, still reading. "And Cullen makes a much better swoopee." He finally turned a grin her way. "But what you can do is buy me a drink with all that pirate booty. The deeper the better. And possibly also a hat like that." He tipped his chin at her admiral’s hat, which sat on her head at a jaunty angle.
No sooner had he spoken than Edwina appeared with a pitcher and two mugs, which she set in front of the two of them. Izzy grinned, sitting back in her chair and folding her hands behind her head.
"Please. Like I’d greet you without getting drinks first."
"You saucy minx," Varric teased, pouring for each of them.
"Not half as saucy as Ali, here, isn’t that right?" Isabela winked over her shoulder at the Warden still lurking behind her.
"What? Er, yes, of course. What she said." Alistair surveyed the bar warily. Darkspawn were one thing. He knew what to do with them. People, though, still tripped him up sometimes. Particularly Isabela.
"The only way that man would be saucy is if you poured it on him," Varric scoffed, sorting the reviews into two piles, for later consideration. "So, what is it besides my unending charms that bring you to this dingy pit of booze and slightly less despair than when you left? Fancy a hand or two of cards?"
"I fancy your opinion of Antiva."
"Too many Crows." Varric took a long swig of his drink. "And what are you asking me for? Don’t you have some dainty little Antivan murderer to tell you all these things?"
"The dainty Antivan murderer got us started on this venture. I’ve had his opinion." Isabela leaned forward, elbow on the table.
"You’ve had a lot more than his opinion, and I had to listen to that," Alistair complained, finally dragging over a chair.
"What can I say?" Izzy said without remorse. "His opinions are very good. I think you could use someone giving you an opinion now and then yourself." She arched one eyebrow at Alistair, a lazy smile crossing her face.
"I don’t need anyone’s opinion but my own, thank you!" Alistair protested. His ears pinked as he backtracked. "That came out wrong."
Varric chuckled and gestured at the chair across from him. "Stop lurking and have a seat, Warden Boy, and maybe a drink if Rivaini’s still paying." Or at least as long as he wasn’t. He was surprised she hadn’t made a reach for his coinpurse yet, and Varric wondered if Ali’s pockets were getting lighter. While Alistair waffled over whether to get a mug for himself, Varric turned back to Isabela. "Are you planning a vacation to Antiva? Business or pleasure?"
"Is there a difference?" Izzy said, batting her eyelashes.
"It’s family," Alistair clarified. "Mine, not hers. I’ve got a problem with the Crows that was recently brought to my attention, and I intend to solve it."
"By stabbing people. He intends to solve it by stabbing people. But, Crows, so…" Isabela shrugged. "You understand our predicament."
"Wait, wait, you’re going to Antiva to take on the Crows? What could that possibly solve? Can’t you just buy out the contract?" Varric looked back and forth between them, baffled.
"It’s not a contract. It’s a prison break," Alistair said. "And—"
"You’re invited," Isabela finished, guzzling her beer and slamming the mug on the table. "Are you in, or what?"
"And what do I get out of this?" Varric asked, to buy himself a moment. Yes, he’d been thinking about leaving Kirkwall for a while — not permanently, but taking a bit of a holiday, just to get away from the pressures of … everything, really. His business ventures had spiralled out into the absurd, and he still had that ridiculous title to take care of. It was like inheriting a tiger — very pretty and very dangerous, to your enemies and yourself, if mishandled.
"Adventure, intrigue," Isabela said, draping an arm around Varric’s shoulders. "A great premise for your next book."
"Oh, what?" Alistair protested. "No. You are not writing a book about this. There are some things about my family the world could do without knowing. And by some things, I mean most things. All the things having to do with me, specifically."
"It’s not like he would use your real name," Izzy said, shooting an annoyed look at Alistair. "Or even necessarily all the real details. Varric does a wonderful job of… embellishing. You’ve read his Tale of the Champion, haven’t you?"
"No?" Ali said with a sheepish shrug.
"No? And I let you on my ship? Scandal!"
"Ignore her," Varric said, leaning his elbows on the table to address the man across from him. "As tempting as a holiday with Rivaini sounds, I’m going to need to know a little more about what, specifically, we’d be doing in Antiva."
"Breaking a man out of prison, essentially," Ali explained. "Well, finding the prison, first, and then breaking a man out of it. I have some idea of how to get directions and confirm a few things, before we go in, but I don’t know much. There’s a man in Antiva I’m told has the information I want — the information we’ll need to make this work — but that’s really all I have, right now."
"Who is this man we’re breaking out of prison, and what did he do to get in prison?" Varric asked, not sure he wanted to get involved with yet another lunatic revolutionary with a habit of dropping buildings on people and setting things on fire.
"From what I understand, it’s a matter of value, not crime. Someone needs him alive for something, and whether that’s something he is or something he knows, I don’t know. But, we’re closely related, and I’ve never met him. I’m afraid I was young when he disappeared, and now I have the opportunity to find him." Alistair shrugged and eyed the pitcher, debating how rude it would be to forego the glass entirely. It looked like there was only one glass of beer left in it anyway.
The man was clearly avoiding some part of the question, but Varric couldn’t tell how much was not telling and how much was really not knowing. "That’s something I can sympathise with," he decided. "I may not like my brother very much right now, but I’d be pretty pissed if someone made him disappear. So, closely related? Is this your brother or something?"
"Or something," Ali muttered, looking up gratefully when Edwina set a glass in front of him.
Varric eyed the man in front of him, trying to guess his age, and watched him pour the rest of the beer into his glass. Too young for this imprisoned ‘man’ to be an illegitimate child or something of the like. Varric had his suspicions. Varric always had his suspicions.
"I admit, you’ve piqued my curiosity," Varric said, "though I’m not sure that’s enough of a reason to get involved in a mess with the Crows. Nothing spoils a good vacation like assassins on your tail. And speaking of on your tail, Rivaini…"
Edwina slipped them a refilled pitcher without being asked, and Isabela slipped her a wink. Varric busied himself with pouring and waited until she had left to continue.
"Speaking of on your tail, you should watch yours," he said. "There’s some Chantry lady hanging around Kirkwall who’s been asking questions. Right now, those questions involve Cormac and his means of transportation."
"She’s looking for our glowy, blond friend, I bet. Chantry’s probably got some questions about things here." Isabela laughed and took a swig of beer. "And she’s looking for me, because everyone saw them get on my ship."
"I don’t think anyone’s looking for Blondie, yet. She will be, if she starts talking to Choir-Boy, though. Of course, he sounds like a lunatic, and he’s also in Starkhaven. Do you know he’s threatening to invade, because of Blondie? Do you believe this guy?" Varric shook his head. "Like Blondie’s dumb enough to hang around after something like that."
"So, what could she possibly want with our very beary dog lord?" Isabela asked, pausing before she reached out and clapped a hand on Alistair’s shoulder. "No offence to any dog lords currently at the table."
"I thought I recognised the accent," Varric said, snapping his fingers. "I don’t know what she wants. All I know is she tried to get Stabby, first. She’s got a lot of questions about the Tale of the Champion. I told her it was mostly artistic license. The Hawkes can straighten her out about the rest."
"Stabby?" Izzy repeated, arcing one eyebrow. "She came here looking for the Champion, and now she’s after his burly brother? And not Blondie?"
Varric shrugged one shoulder. "I don’t know her motivations. I don’t want to know. What I do know is that her trail ran cold when she couldn’t find you, so it’s best to keep it that way."
Alistair looked between the two of them, shifting uncomfortably and making his chair creak. "Is she a threat? Do we need to be worried about this?"
"So far, all she’s done is glare and ask invasive questions," Varric said cheerfully. "But her glare is weapon enough. She’s not the kind of woman I’d want to mess with, even without the Chantry behind her."
Alistair frowned, but Izzy waved a hand and took another slow drink. "Please. After running from the Qunari all those years, some Chantry meathead isn’t about to frighten me."
"Well, whether she frightens you or not, I’m going to strongly advise letting yourself out the bathroom window right about now," Varric said, tucking his papers into his coat and leaving a couple of coins on the table, just in case. "I’ll continue this conversation on the docks, tonight, if you’re still here."
Without glancing in the direction of the street door again, he made his way toward the back, where the delivery door led out into an alley with Darktown access. Cassandra could question him all she liked — he knew nothing. Except that now he knew that Isabela was in town. That was going to be a little difficult to deny, since he’d been sitting with her, when Cassandra’s face appeared in the entryway. At least she’d headed for the bar, first.
But, what was he still doing in Kirkwall, anyway? He’d meant to take a holiday since long before Blondie’s final act of defiance, and he just kept getting distracted — by Hawkes, by the Merchants’ Guild, by the Gazette and the Tevinter elves and the not-a-brothel. That was what he’d do, he decided. He’d go turn over his interests to Elaiodora, for a while, and take a quick trip to Antiva. He’d be home in a month or two, refreshed and ready to do more business. The elf was practically his steward, anyway.