"This is trash." The editor pushed Varric's manuscript back across the table towards him. She handled the document gingerly, as if bad writing was contagious.
"Aye, it's trash," Varric said. "Trash that sells."
The editor regarded Varric doubtfully. "Your sales figures are impressive," she admitted. "It's a pity you're such a hack."
"Pity I know it," he said. "Just read the fucking script."
The editor glared at the manuscript and then she glared at Varric. Finally she reached for a cup and a flagon. She poured herself a glass of wine and knocked it back with a grimace before she picked up the script.
"Paragons Prefer Blondes," she read. "A True Tale of the Warden's Amorous Adventures, as retold by Varric Tethras, author of Hard in Hightown and Hard in Hightown: Siege Harder!" She glanced down at him over the pages. "Varric Tethras being...you?"
He nodded. "I don't use a pseudonym."
She looked surprised."Why ever not?"
Varric shrugged. He had many reasons, chief amongst them being that he had no reputation to uphold, but he wasn't going to explain himself to her.
The editor reached for her cup and took another draught. "We'll have to change the title," she said. "The Warden's an elf. Your title says 'Paragon.' Don't you think the readers'll expect a dwarf?
"Then put an elf on the cover," Varric said. "That way we appeal to both races. The readers like elves."
The editor made a non-committal sound. She picked up the manuscript and began to flip the pages. Varric could almost taste the sale. He leaned back in his chair. "Which part?"
She peered down at him over the rims of her spectacles. "The wet Anderfels wizard has a problem he'd like the Warden to solve."
"Oh," Varric said. "That part."
He'd thought about leaving Anders out altogether, but the readers always liked scenes featuring wizards and their staffs. Varric disliked writing erotica about people he actually knew, but not as much as he hated poverty.
He listened to the editor muttering as she read aloud.
"Anders had to know," she murmured.
"This was the fifth night he had woken in a hot sweat, unable to sleep. Every time he closed his eyes he was been cursed with troubling dreams of a disturbingly naughty nature.
Every dream began differently. They all ended the same, with images of entwined, writhing flesh. They felt so, so real. Anders had had many fantasies before, but ever since the Joining, their intensity grew.
His flesh cringed from the bite of the frigid stone floor against his bare feet as he crept down the halls of Vigil’s Keep. The cold and his rising excitement quickened his pace.
It was well past midnight. Going to see Lex at this late hour felt strange, but she had told him if he had any questions about this whole Grey Warden thing her door was always open. Wide open, she had told him, giving him a significantly knowing look.
Anders thought Lex was gorgeous. She didn’t seem to have any problem consorting with humans, like most elves he’d come across had. Human, elfish, dwarfish, or all three at once, nothing was forbidden, or refused. She didn't care about his magic, either, and had taken pleasure in telling him that she'd had congress with many mages, including the beautiful and shapely Wynne, the Wild Sorceress of the West. Anders knew her type from his few stints in the Circle and it made his mouth dry. The stories that filtered up from Denerim and the other Banns were far more titillating, but Lex never talked about those days.
Much to Anders' disappointment.
Still, the Warden's refreshing, almost freeing attitude towards liaisons between different species was something he enjoyed. She never tried quoting Chantry dogma at him. Plus she’d given him a cat-and invited him to stroke the..."
The editor paused. "That's got to go. This is romance, not bad comedy."
"She did give the mage a cat," Varric said defensively. "That's one of the details I took from real life."
"Lose it," she said flatly.
Varric pulled a scrap of paper from his trouser pocket. He took a stub of pencil from behind his ear and scrawled a note to himself. The editor read on.
"Anders was not very experienced in the matters of the world but he suspected that the Warden was trying to seduce him. He doubted that she'd intended the cat as a just a sleep aid.
Outside the Commander’s door Anders knocked once and waited. No answer. He shrugged and let himself in. She had said her door was always open and, wouldn’t you know, it was.
He’d never been in the Commander’s boudoir before. A fire place with a fire crackling merrily along the wall, a mirror under the large curtained window across from the door and a carpet covering the wooden floor boards gave the room a luxurious and sensual feel.
A huge bed with a single occupant sat in the centre of the room. Anders could make out sensual curves in the firelight. The side table had a scented candle, a coil of satin rope and a collection of sex aids which Anders noticed was both exotic and extensive. There was an open book beside the bed, which surprised Anders. He hadn't thought the Commander went to bed to read...
Closing the door softly behind him Anders turned towards the bed and whispered, “Lex, you awake?”
He saw the curvaceous shape beneath the covers rise and fall softly with each sensual breath. He hopped onto the rug and made his way closer to the bed. He froze as a low moan came from where Lex dozed. As he crept closer, his mouth went dry.
Apparently the Commander liked to sleep in the nude, despite the cold winter night. By day she covered her lithe and tanned body in a carapace of plate armour and chain mail. Now she lay bare for him to see. Dewy sweat beaded her shoulders and forehead. Her raven hair spread across her feather pillow and rippled down her lush flanks.
She had perky nipples. Even asleep. Maybe it was the chill in the air. Blood rushed to Anders's cheeks before he could even think of what to do next. Maybe he should come back later? Or maybe...she'd let him come now...
He blushed, wondering if he should touch her. The scabbarded swords by the edge of her bed made him think twice about that tactic. While Anders' own sword was more than ready to leave its scabbard, he really wasn’t keen on becoming a pin cushion in case she thought him a bandit or assassin.
She startled him as she moaned in her sleep. Her hips moved wantonly and another moan, this one almost sounding like a word, issued from her throat. Then she made a very intimate noise. She looked so vulnerable; nothing like the strong, confident Warden Commander, the Hero of Ferelden that everyone expected her to be.
She looked like a woman. A very desirable woman, at that.
Anders' fingers twitched at his sides as he contemplated running his hands through her tangled hair. To touch the tips of her ears, run his hands over her skin; to feel the taut muscles underneath…
Despite himself, he reached out and touched her shoulder. He wanted to wake her, to talk to her and hear that sexy voice moaning his name before he put thoughts to action and ran his fingers over her luscious charms. His warm fingers clasped her sweat slicked shoulder and shook it gently.
“Lex!” he whispered sultrily, leaning closer, “Commander, wake up!”
Violet eyes snapped open, piercing as amethysts. She gripped Anders hard. Slender fingers knotted in the front of Anders' nightshirt and Lex pulled him down to her."
Varric's pencil was already poised as the editor paused. "A night shirt?" she said. "Can't you think of something more appealing? Maybe a chain mail bikini?"
"There's no such thing." Varric's knowledge of chain mail was quite extensive.
She shrugged. "So? This is romance, not realism."
"I'll make a note."
"Do." She read on.
"Anders' lips were on fire as her warm, soft lips kissed his. Goosebumps rose on his skin as she ran her hands up his arms and on to his neck. He moaned slightly as she opened his mouth and darted her tongue against his lips, licking them like a cat. The taste of her tongue in his mouth made his knees give out and the blood raced through his body. She curled her fingers into his hair and whispered. "Alistair?"
The heat in Anders' loins subsided and he let out a frustrated sigh. “Maker don’t I wish…" he groaned."No, Lex; it’s Anders.”
"Alistair," she growled. "Anders...I don't care. You're here and I'm horny. Why don't you show me your wizard's staff?"
The editor's tongue dabbed her lips. "I don't feel comfortable reading this aloud with you here," she said. "I'm just going to read this part silently."
"I don't see why," Varric said; a little put out. "But you do what you want."
Her mouth moved silently for a moment or two before she resumed muttering.
"...Her face flushed, she detangled her fingers from his hair moaned softly, scooting her body back towards the head of the bed. She hadn’t bothered to cover herself. "I guess I should be sorry, but damn," she said languidly, "that was the best sex of my life. I guess wizards know how to handle their staffs after all. But you haven't explained what you were doing here in my room."
Anders sprawled upon the end of the bed. His hand stroked her shoulder as he said. "Well, you see, you said 'Come by any time. So I did." He gave a lame wave of his hand. "Was I wrong?"
Lex smirked. "I did say that. Didn’t think you would take it so literally, though."
Anders smiled. "Neither did I. I know you're really not interested in me. But I couldn’t look a golden opportunity in the mouth. "
She smiled and wrapped a blanket around her voluptuous body. Whether out of accident or design, the blanket titillated more than it concealed. Then she reached out and ran a hand across Anders' muscled bare chest. Her touch felt like living lightning. She smoothed her hair and smiled. “I suppose you’re having the nightmares.”
Anders nodded. “They’re never the same. I see images of congress. Women, men...elves, dwarves. It excited and disturbs me. Things I hadn’t thought of in years. Sometimes they’re tainted Templars…” He blushed. “Well, the fantasy of the penitent mage and the righteous Templar is just par for the course as a mage, but you see what I’m getting at, right?”
He could see understanding and arousal in her liquid violet eyes. “When I was first inducted into the Order, I dreamt of the Archdemon," she said. "I felt like it watched every move I made. It was difficult at first to get a good night’s sleep, but the dreams changed. Now all I dream of is sex.” She frowned. “Which is strange. I wonder if the dreams are trying to tell us something.”
Anders could see something bothered her by the lovely furrow in her brow. He turned to face her, concern in his gaze. "What's wrong?"
She shook her head, sending her luscious tumbling tresses cascading over her shoulders. “Nothing. Honestly, while I’ve been at this for far longer, I still have a lot to learn. Maybe loving one another will help us out of this mess. I don't know. I didn’t realize those outside the Order could facilitate a Joining ritual.”
"There's a lot of things you could learn from those outside the Order," he said and her lips quirked in humour.
“I bet there is," she said breathily. "I thought I had finished my Warden training, but I find I still have much to learn.”
They kissed again and..."
The editor took a deep breath. "There's more?" she said.
"Don't knock it," Varric said. "It's what the readers want. You're missing out the best parts."
The editor drained her second glass of wine. "I'm not," she said between mouthfuls. "I'm just not reading them aloud."
Her cheeks were flushed when she resumed her reading a few moments later.
"As the fire crackled, Anders could not contain his curiosity. “So, Alistair huh? You're screwing the mysterious bastard son of King Maric? That Alistair?”
Lex sighed. "I screw a lot of people. Don't tell me you've been listening to Oghren’s yapping, haven’t you?”
An awful thought struck Anders. "Oghren..." He paused. "You haven't?"
A sly smile played about her lips. "I'm an equal-opportunity commander. And height is never such an issue, when you're both lying down. You know what they say about men with long beards."
"They're long on...other things. There's a lot to be said for dwarves."
The editor broke off. She looked at Varric, and at the page, and back to Varric. "This is propaganda!"
Varric shrugged. "You can't blame a dwarf for trying."
She smirked at him before she began once more to read.
"Really?" Anders pouted.
“Oh Maker; never mind!” She shrugged. “You know that I've had many lovers. Luckily for me, Anora doesn't mind sharing.” She looked at him. "Do you?"
He considered his words carefully. “It’s up to you. Far be it from me to give you relationship advice. But maybe your dreams do hold some power. Maybe love is the key to beating the Darkspawn and saving this land."
Lex smiled. "Maybe." She straightened up. "I know there’s not much I can tell you to handle the dreams, but if they do get too much, you can come find me here. Just knock harder next time, ok? She winked.
"I will," he said. "Much harder."
She giggled. "I hope so," she said teasingly."
Varric's editor finished her recital as the scene ended. She laid down the manuscript and dabbed at her forehead with a crumpled handkerchief. She said nothing.
"Tell me what you're thinking," Varric said nervously. He needed to sell this manuscript.
"This is trash," she said.
"Yes," he said, "Of course. What were you expecting?"
"I'm thinking that it's a good job Ferelden is far behind Orlais when it comes to legal matters. We'd best change the names, just in case. It's not like that's just how it happened."
Varric shrugged. "You never know. Maybe it was."
"I'd be surprised."
"Yeah," he said. "Me, too."
She flicked through the rest of the manuscript while Varric watched. "I've heard that you really knew them," she said when she was finished.
Varric fidgeted. "Some of them," he said."It's not like anyone else was actually there, right? Good as, anyway."
"Good enough," she said, laying the manuscript down. "Tethras, I'll take it. You'll have some wine?"
Varric nodded and she drew out another cup from under her desk and poured them both a generous serving.
"Tell me," she said as their glasses clinked. "Is it true, that part about dwarves?"
Varric grinned. "Buy me another drink," he said, "and maybe you'll find out."