Chapter 1: Time With Friends
It was her laughter he noticed first. Full of joy, a bit bawdy and loud, but yet it hung in the air like happy little bells. He turned to see where it was coming from and stopped as soon as he saw the woman half draped over a tall strapping young man whose shoulders were shaking with silent mirth. He glanced slightly at the other two, a surprisingly beardless dwarf and an elf with the strangest markings he'd ever seen, before sliding his baby blues back to the woman. He still hadn't seen her face, only the way her body filled out the tight leather pants and the skin peeking through the side lacings, and the way the corset hugged her slender frame, making the sleeves of the shirt seem impossibly billowy. A strange twist in his gut caught him off guard as he watched how she curled up against the man next to her.
"Damn, Carver, why do I let myself believe the stories that come out of his mouth?"
Her voice was as melodic as her laugh, a bit foreign to his ears, but that wasn't surprising with all the refugees taking up residence within Kirkwall. His fingers itched to touch the blue-black curls of her hair to see if their impossible lengths were as soft as they looked. He shook his head as he turned to stare up at the Chanter's Board, his heart heavy as he posted his notice.
"Shit, Hawke, I was there! I swear to you that's how it happened."
Hawke, that was her name. He let it roll through his thoughts before they were interrupted by the Grand Cleric ranting at him for his post to the board. Why she couldn't understand his need to go on the offensive, to get rid of those who had already killed the rest of his family before they targeted him, bothered him more than he cared to admit. As he turned away from the board, he noticed that the group was now watching him. He felt his face flame at the display they had witnessed… and at the reaction he had when he finally caught sight of Hawke's face. It was as if it were sculpted by the Maker himself with a bit of wickedness thrown in for good measure. Her eyes… Maker those eyes. The perfect shade of violet-blue and filled with more understanding than he'd ever expected to see along with a heavy dose of good-natured laughter - whether it was at his expense or left over from whatever the dwarf had been trying to lay on her. He nodded respectfully to the four of them before walking off, his back straight and proud, not letting his shoulders slump until he was far enough away that he was sure no one saw his grief.
"Hmm, that looks promising," Siobhann murmured as she walked over to the board, "One more way to earn some coin for that expedition of your brother's."
She snatched the parchment off the board, soaking in every word.
"Shit, Flint Mercenaries. Well this ought to be fun!"
"Hey, maybe Meeran will give us a bit extra for taking out some of his competition," Carver stated, looking over her shoulder at the notice in her hand.
Siobhann snorted in response as she leaned back against her brother's strength.
"I wouldn't expect even a copper from that tight-fisted bastard. If he wasn't paid for the job before hand, he won't part with a thing, even if it does mean more of a market for him to work in. Besides, we're no longer on his payroll now that our year is up."
She wiped her arm across her eyes and sighed.
"Damnit, I feel for this guy, y'know? His whole family murdered. We already lost Bethany, but if I ever lost the rest of you, Gamlen unfortunately included, I couldn't deal. He deserves justice. Everyone with me?"
"Don't have to ask me. Bianca's been bored lately."
"Right behind you, sis."
"My sword is yours to command," Fenris bowed to her respectfully.
Carver, Varric, and Siobhann snickered softly at Fenris's comment, earning a confused glare from the elf.
"His sword is yours, oh fearless leader!" Varric quipped, "What are your plans for it, messere? I'm sure it's quite mighty."
Varric waggled his brows at Siobhann, earning another round of laughter from her as they walked out of the Chantry courtyard, passing by the unseen Sebastian, Fenris trailing behind and scowling at their backs.
"If he unsheathes it, it'd better not be around me!" Carver interjected, causing Siobhann to trip over one of the cobblestones as she doubled over in laughter and fall into him, his arms wrapping around her to haul her up against his side.
"Maker, I'd hope he'd not do that around you. Sex isn't something I'd want to do with my brother in attendance."
As their voices trailed away, Sebastian shook his head then stilled as her scent whispered back to him on the light breeze - a sweet amber musk mixed with the memories of black cherries. He sent up a fervent whispered prayer as the smell of her lingered in his nostrils, causing a tightening in his loins he hadn't felt in years.
"Well, that's the last of 'em," Siobhann said as she collapsed her staff until it resembled a strange long handled dagger, shoving it into the sheath at her side.
"I say a round of drinks at the Hanged Man to celebrate another job well done!" Isabela grinned at Hawke and slung an arm around the woman's shoulder.
"Eh, why not? Too late to head back to the Chantry to give our man the good news anyway. Who's buying?"
"I'll put it on my tab, Hawke," Varric said as he stepped up to the other two and rested his arm companionably around Siobhann's waist.
"Why does it look like an almost orgy in progress?" Carver groused, though his tone held the underlying warmth of laughter.
"Why, wanting to join in puppy?" Isabela purred, glancing over her shoulder at the younger Hawke.
"Andraste's tits that's disgusting! She's my sister, y'know!"
Isabela threw her head back and laughed. The Hawke siblings cast glances between each other and rolled their eyes, their lips half curved in almost identical grins.
"I'm with Carver on that one. While there aren't many lines I wouldn't cross, that's one of the few exceptions."
"Yeah right, Hawke. The worst I've ever seen you do with someone is flirt them to death. I've never actually seen you make a move," Isabela let out a mock sad sigh.
"Just getting my practice in for when Bianca's willing to share Varric with me is all. She'll relent one of these days."
The four continued trading good natured insults as they entered the city's walls, making detours to invite Fenris, Merrill, and Anders to the tavern to join them in the night's revelry.
"I shit you not, Rivaini, it was this big!" Varric exclaimed, almost toppling out of his chair while trying to show the pirate the size of what he was trying to describe. Siobhann shifted in her seat on the padded bench, leaning her back up against Anders' side, her feet in her brother's lap. Her brow raised questioningly as she looked between the dwarf and Isabela.
"I've held hundreds of those in my hands and never saw one that size," Isabela rested her elbows drunkenly on the table as she stared the shorter man down.
"Do I even wanna know what you're talkin' 'bout?" Siobhann slurred as she looked between the two.
"Knives. Well tekally… technilly… hic… technically daggers… never get 'em straight, the diff'rence 'tween the two," Varric replied, his grin sloppy as he looked at her.
"Can't seem to get your words straight either, Varric," Anders laughed.
"Oh sod off, Blondie," the dwarf grinned, taking the sting out of his words, then looked over at Siobhann.
"What chu you think I was talkin' 'bout?"
"A man's sword as Bianca's not lettin' us women too close… figured's the only ones she'd let touch ye," she yawned, wiggling further down on the bench to find a more comfortable position to relax in.
"I'll drink to that!" Isabela quaffed down the rest of her tankard. Siobhann followed suit, her grin wobbily as she finished her seventh… or perhaps eighth… tankard in the last few hours.
"Mmm this is nice… all of us t'gether 'n relaxin'… feels good," she murmured and stretched her body, her movements reminiscent of a sleek predatory cat, even with how drunk she was. All eyes turned to watch her, unable to stay away from the unconscious sensual movements of her body.
"I think it's time we crawled back to Gamlen's, sis, before you cause a riot in here," Carver gently removed Siobhann's feet from his lap and stood, then leaned down to pick her up in his arms.
"Mmkay," she yawned, curling up in his arms and promptly falling asleep.
"I'll be by in the morning to help her with the hangover she's sure to have," Anders stated to the younger man.
Carver nodded then dipped his head to the others gathered around the table in Varric's room before heading out.
The party broke up soon after that even though most of them passed out where they sat.
"Maker's mercy, how much did I drink last night?" Siobhann groaned, her head in her hands as she sat on the edge of her bed.
"At least eight or nine tankards, sis."
"Feels like I've got the whole of Ferelden in my head dancing a jig and my stomach feels like I ate some of that cheese in Gamlen's room that smells like it's been there a few years."
"Just give it a bit. Anders said he'd be by to help and I sent Myrdin down there to poke him along."
"He did more than just that - grabbed my pack with his teeth then ran out the clinic like his ass was on fire," Anders laughed as he entered Siobhann's room.
"Oh quiet down would you? Every noise is making my stomach churn worse than it did on the boat ride over here."
"Drink this. It'll settle your stomach while I work on that stubborn head of yours," Anders' tone was soft as he handed her a vial of some off-smelling brew. He knelt in front of her and after she had ingested the potion, he lay his hands on either side of her head. Her body relaxed as the pain in her head subsided, replaced by the soothing warmth of the mage's spell.
"Better. Much better. Now I think it's time I get dressed and head to Hightown to tell our friend about his mercenaries. Hopefully the pay is worth it."
"How close are we to the fifty sovereigns we need for the expedition, sis?" Carver asked as she got up and began her morning ritual, not seeming to mind or care that she wasn't alone in the room.
"Hmm… not including whatever we get today, we're close. I've got fourty-four sovereigns hidden away where Gamlen can't get to them."
"Any clue who you're taking with?" Anders asked quietly from the side, trying not to stare as she went through the motions of cleaning herself before dressing, a bit shocked at how free she was with him and Carver there.
"Other than Varric, no idea. I know you hate the Deep Roads, and just knowing how mother would react if both of us went down there, trying to figure out whether or not to take Carver with. She's become so clingy since we lost Bethany and since she's still blaming me for her death, I don't want to think of how she'd react if something happened to Carver. Hell, I don't know what I'd do if something happened to him down there."
Siobhann sighed as she tightened the last lace on her corset and tied it, then turned to look at the men. Carver's eyes were intent on hers, Anders watching the both of them with a mix of curiosity and sadness.
"Sister, I'll leave it up to you, but I'm asking that you take me with. How do you think I'd feel if something happened to you and you'd left me here to babysit mother's feelings?"
Siobhann nodded as the three of them stepped out of the house into the bright spring sun. She stopped to let her skin soak up the warmth, chasing away the chill that always seemed to be a constant companion in Gamlen's shack.
"All right, I'll take you and probably Isabela," she stopped in her tracks, the men almost bumping into her, at the strangled sound that came from Anders.
"Anders, you've already made it very clear how you feel about where we're going. That's not the main reason though. Your clinic is a bright beacon to many of the refugees here. Who would step in if you came with? Merrill? She doesn't know the first thing about healing and would probably try to invoke blood magic to help someone. No, you're staying here."
"Good, now let's get going. I'm in the mood to shock some chantry priests, and the drool that starts to form at the mouths of the nobles at Hightown when they look at me is always a sight to behold!"
The men laughed and shook their heads at her back as they continued on their way.
Sebastian had to keep from swallowing his tongue as Hawke entered the dark confines of the Chantry. It had been a week since he had first seen her, long enough to think that she was just a figment of his imagination or perhaps a test sent by the Maker to make sure he stayed on the straight and narrow. Her hips rolled seductively as she continued in his direction, her scent teasing his nostrils as she stopped and stared at him with those strangely hued violet-blue eyes.
"Say, would someone try to smite me if I told you I killed the men who murdered your family?"
Her voice was pure sin in an angel's face. It took all of his concentration to keep his blood from pooling in his groin. The saucy grin and the wink that followed didn't help matters either.
"What? Oh… the Chanter's Board? Mother Elthina let that stay? I was so sure I'd be the only one who'd take up arms against their murderers."
"Well, it probably won't mean much to them now, but I hope they rest easier in their graves and you're able to sleep better at night."
"I'm sure they will," he couldn't help but chuckle.
"So, who is it I did this job for anyway?" her lips quirked into a half grin, half smirk.
"I am Sebastian Vael, prince of Starkhaven, though I'm sure Mother Elthina would prefer I introduced myself as a brother of the chantry."
"Ooooh a prince," she purred, the look in her eyes turning wicked, "and one who has decided to live a chaste life. Such a body and accent wasted, for shame."
"Oh Maker. Here… take this. Once I get my lands back, you'll be paid royally. Now… now if you'll excuse me I need to petition the viscount for aid to my lands," he stuttered, his face flushing at the predatory look in her eyes.
"Ta-ta! If this is what I get to look forward to if I step foot inside a chantry, I might start coming to services from now on," she grinned, giving him that damnedable wink again. He scurried off before he embarrassed himself in her presence, knowing that the rest of the day was going to be spent in prayer - a lot of prayer.
Chapter 2: Carver
Isabela's bet has some unintended consequences, bringing forth ideas that had not been initially thought of until the die was cast.
A few more jobs done, along with the pay they received for decimating the Flint Company, and they were finally on their way to the Deep Roads. Siobhann snickered at Bartrand’s description of deflowering their destination, her and Varric exchanging glances with rolled eyes.
“Well that’s an interesting image.”
“Your brother definitely doesn’t have a way with words as you do, Varric, though I think that was one of his better ones.”
“I guess some of me has rubbed off on him.”
Siobhann laughed as they trailed behind Bartrand, pointedly ignoring the look on her mother’s face as both her and Carver passed by along with the rest of the expedition.
“I wish mother would let me grow up,” Carver sighed as he slung an arm over his sister’s shoulder.
“If she clings any tighter we’ll end up like Anders, but with the spirit of Leandra inside us instead,” Siobhann shuddered.
“Hawke, I need a moment of your time,” Isabela drawled, extracting her friend from her brother and pulling her off to the side.
“What is it now, Bela?” she grinned up at her friend.
“I propose a bet,” Isabela looked down at the petite woman, a smirk curling her lips.
“Oh now this I have to hear.”
“Ten sovereigns says that something happens between you and puppy over there. I give it a month.”
“Oh by the Maker, I told you that would never happen. You’re on. Easiest ten sovereigns I ever made. If you want to bet on anything, it should be on that chantry brother. I bet you I could have him revoking his vows and eating out of my hand in no less than six months, depending on how pious he is.”
The pirate laughed and pushed her friend back toward Carver and Varric, the four of them bickering companionably as they left the gates of Kirkwall.
The group staggered through the deep roads, exhausted after many days of trying to find a familiar landmark. Food supplies were running low and their water canteens weren’t faring much better.
“Can we stop for a bit? I’m not feeling too well…” Carver mumbled.
“I think it’s time to make camp anyway. Varric, would you and Isabela scout the area out and make sure we’re clear while I set up and see to Carver?”
“Sure thing, Hawke,” Varric replied, patting Bianca lovingly. Siobhann set about warming up the stone beneath them before unrolling hers and Carver’s bedrolls, setting hers nearby so she could keep an eye on him overnight.
“What seems to be the problem, brother?” she asked, noting his pale features and clammy brow.
“Think that spider we fought earlier bit me…” he shivered, chills coursing through his body.
“Let me take a look,” Siobhann gently removed his armor, probing lightly at the skin beneath the tunic and trews he wore beneath. She hissed as she felt the swelling of the bite and tugged down the waistband of his pants, seeing the blackened skin around the poisonous bite at his hip.
“Hang in there Carver. This is going to sting a bit but I need to cleanse the area before I try to heal it, all right?”
He nodded, promptly passing out from the pain as she poured a vial of something yellow and foul smelling into the wound. She watched as it bubbled, laying her hands over his skin only when it ran clear. Her demeanor was of pure concentration as she sank into herself, feeling for any trace of the poison within his body, removing it while knitting together blood vessels and skin. Her world spun sideways as she came back to the present and half collapsed on Carver’s prone body. That his skin tone had returned to normal, as did his breathing, relieved her immensely and she stared down at her little brother, brushing a lock of hair off his forehead.
“Mama would have killed me if something had happened to you,” she whispered, “And I would be to blame this time…”
Before she could blink, his hand shot out and gripped the back of her neck, pulling her head down until their lips met. She stared down at him at shock and tried to lean back, but his grip was strong and his eyes were closed. Her thought that he must be deep in some dream dissipated as his lips moved beneath hers, coaxing a response from her. Hers moved of their own volition, her eyes closing as he deepened the kiss, his tongue teasing her lips requesting admittance that she gave. Her soft moan woke him up and they sprung apart, violet-blue eyes wide and fixed on chocolate brown.
“Sodding hell,” Carver whispered, “I’m so sorry.”
“Thinking of Peaches again?” she joked, trying to shake off what had happened.
“I don’t know… but I’m sorry.”
“Stop, Carver, stop. It happened, it’s over with. I’ll say one thing, you sure got some moves there, little bro,” she grinned, trying to ease the tension between them. She tried to sit up then collapsed back onto him, still too weak after healing him.
“You okay?” he whispered against the top of her head.
“Weak. Used my last lyrium potion while we were fighting that rock wraith a few days ago. Pretty much drained myself dry removing the poison from your system as well as fixing the damage it had caused. Should be fine after a good night’s sleep though.”
He sighed and stared down at the top of her head as he shifted them both so she’d be in a more comfortable position against him. He rested his hand along the side of her head as she fell asleep then looked up to stare at the ceiling of their rocky prison. He couldn’t believe what he had just done, no matter the fact that he didn’t realize who it was until he’d opened his eyes. He felt himself tighten at the forbidden images that kiss brought to mind and he forced them down, not wanting to let himself go there. He was saved as he heard Varric and Isabela off in the distance, signaling their return.
“Hey, what happened to Hawke?” Isabela asked, smirking at Carver.
“Drained. She used up what she had to heal me and didn’t have any lyrium potions to spare. “
“That’s it! Bianca’s just waiting to say hello to Bartrand when we get back to Kirkwall,” Varric growled.
“Good news is, while we were off scouting, looks like we’re a day from the surface,” Isabela stated, reaching down to pull blankets up over both Siobhann and Carver. Her eyes were assessing as she looked at the two then, to Carver’s shock, she winked at him before heading over to her bedroll.
“Ahhh, home at last! You think I’d be so lucky to find Bartrand still in the city?” Varric asked, looking up at Siobhann.
“Thanks to him our luck wasn’t exactly the best, so don’t hold your breath.”
“I wouldn’t say that. Think of what we found down there. We’ll be rich, you’ll see.”
“I’m holding you to that, Varric. Best be off to give mother the good news.”
The group split up, Varric and Isabela turning into the Hanged Man to celebrate their new found fortune while Siobhann and Carver continued on toward Gamlen’s house. The silence between them was awkward and their usual closeness wasn’t apparent. Siobhann hugged her arms around herself as they turned the corner, her foot stopping on the first step as Carver’s hand came down on her shoulder.
“Look, I can’t take back what happened down there but… I feel like I’ve lost you. I’ve missed you, I’ve missed the ease we had with each other.”
“That’s part of the problem, Carver. You keep dwelling on it and apologizing,” she murmured, turning to look at him. She lifted her hand to rest it on his cheek then dropped it at his flinch.
“How can we get back to what we were if you keep shying away whenever I get close?”
Siobhann ran her fingers through her hair, pulling the mass of long black curls up off the back of her neck to allow the breeze to dry the sweat on her nape and cool her off. While Gamlen’s shack would be cooler inside than standing out here, she didn’t want to go in quite yet. Too much was left unsaid between her and Carver, and the sense of freedom without her mother or uncle constantly looking over her shoulder had been a gift.
“Don’t want to go in either?” Carver’s hands rested tentatively at her waist as he looked up the stairwell, his eyes focusing on the same target as hers.
“No, but I know we have to.”
“Mother will be pleased at what we came back with.”
“And Uncle Gamlen will try to snatch some of it for himself to blow at the Blooming Rose or gambling,” she grumbled.
“Stash it where you hid the money we saved for the expedition.”
“I’ll keep it in my room for tonight and let Myrdin guard the door. Tomorrow I’ll see what I can do to exchange it for coin.”
He nodded and gently pushed her toward the door, two sets of eyes staring at the both of them as they stepped into the darkness beyond.
“Oh thank the Maker you’re back! I was worried that something had happened to you!” Leandra exclaimed, rushing over to wrap her arms around the both of them. Siobhann and Carver exchanged suffering glances while hugging her back, their sighs silent. Violet-blue and deep brown eyes focused on the calculating looks Gamlen was shooting their way.
“So? Bring back anything useful?” their uncle asked, his tone flat.
“Useful for us at least. Maybe for you because it means we’ll be out of your hair soon,” Carver ground out.
“If you’ll excuse me, I think I’m going to retire early,” Siobhann stated, kneeling momentarily to give the mabari a good rub and whisper in its ear before disappearing into her room.
The feel of her bed sinking down woke Siobhann and she rolled over, rubbing at her eyes before blinking and staring up at Carver.
“I thought an explanation was in order.”
“Hmm? Of what?”
“Why I wouldn’t let you get close to me after I kissed you.”
“Maker’s balls, Carver, I told you to drop it!” she hissed, trying not to wake the other occupants in the house.
“No. There’s a reason and I thought you should know. After I kissed you, after I knew it was you, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The thoughts, the images that came to mind are not what a brother should have of his sister. Every time you came close, every time you touched me, I wanted to slam you against a wall and take you!” he growled, leaning over her until their faces were only inches apart.
“Ohhh…” she whispered, her eyes wide in the moonlit room. She searched his face, her heart going out to him over his struggle. Unconsciously, she laid a soothing hand on his cheek, intending to comfort.
“I can’t stop… they overwhelm me…” he whispered, bracketing his arms on either side of her as he dipped his head to bury his nose in the crook of her neck. His teeth scraped over the cord of muscle there and he felt the light tremor that went through her body.
“C-Carver?” she squeaked out, her breath shuddering in her lungs. Her heart hammered in her chest as he rose back up to look down at her, his lips a hairsbreadth from hers.
“I’m right here.”
Two sets of eyes stared into the other before they closed, lips meeting then parting to allow the teasing of tongues. His hands sunk into her hair as his tongue played against hers, lowering his body until he was pressed against her, the evidence of his desire pressing through the thin cotton pants he wore, hot and hard against her bare thigh. She shifted beneath him until she cradled him between her hips, her hands sliding over the warm skin of his back. He broke the kiss to drag his teeth over her lower lip, eliciting a soft moan from her. His hands tugged at the loose shift she wore, pulling it over her head and tossing it to the floor beside the bed. Dark eyes stared transfixed at the nude form beneath him, his thumbs brushing over the pert nubs of her nipples. The way her body arched toward him, the gasp that escaped her lips spurred him on and he leaned down, capturing one in his mouth, laving his tongue over it while applying light suction. His other hand pinched and rolled the one he wasn’t tasting.
Teeth scraped over her nipple, spears of pleasure zinging through her system and pooling at her center. He sucked harder and she pressed her hips tighter against his, rolling them against the erection straining between them. His mouth released her breast and trailed kisses over to the other, teasing the nipple with the tip of his tongue, earning a whimper in response as her hands gripped at his hair. He slid his hand south, over her toned abdomen, to tease at her folds.
“Maker, you’re dripping,” he whispered against her breast, then sucked it into his mouth as he plunged a finger inside her. She pressed her mouth against the crown of his head to muffle her cry, her hips jerking up to try and pull his finger in deeper. He moaned against her breast and slid a second finger into her depths, responding to her body’s silent request. As he pressed his thumb against her clit, he lifted his head to watch her face, his breath quickening further at the pleasure written all over it. Pressing a third finger in, he thrust in and out of her slowly, teasing at her nub with his thumb, groaning softly as her mouth opened on a silent cry and her body bucked beneath him. Her hands dug into his shoulders, needle sharp where her nails pricked at his skin, urging him on. Her breathing hitched as he pushed deeper, pressed harder, and she yanked him down to sink her teeth into the cord of muscle at his neck as she flew apart in his arms.
“Carver…” she sobbed, her body trembling beneath him. Her eyes opened as he withdrew his fingers and watched him intently as he sucked her juices off his fingers.
“You taste so good,” he whispered. Her eyes were intent on his as she tucked her thumbs beneath the waistband of his pants and pushed them off his hips. He kicked them off and slowly lowered himself against her. He pressed his lips against hers as he took himself in hand and guided himself into her, then gripped her hips and thrust deep. He stopped suddenly as her body clamped down on his as he tore through her barrier. Her fingernails scored lines down his back as she rotated her hips up against him, trying to get him to move again. He let out a shuddering breath and buried his face in the crook of her neck as he sank into her, his movements smooth and sure.
“I love you, Carver,” she whispered against his neck. Her words spurred him on and he lifted her hips, angling them, and thrust deeper, harder. He shuddered at the feel of her, hot, wet, and tight, around him.
Her breath hitched at the intense look in his eyes as she leaned back on the pillows to watch him, her eyes moving down the length of her body to watch him slide in and out of her in the shaft of moonlight that highlighted where their bodies were joined. She watched, transfixed, a whimper escaping her lips as she rolled her hips in time with his thrusts. Her body tightened and Siobhann looked up at Carver, wetting her lips.
“This is so wrong…” he began, thrusting harder.
“But so incredibly right…” she finished, grinding against him, her head falling back as the tremors started again, her body tightening further. His fingers dug into her hips as he began to slam into her, his movements erratic. She bit down hard on her lip to hold back her cry as the pleasure exploded within her, her fingers gripping and ripping at the sheet beneath her. He let out a hoarse moan as he jetted himself deep inside, then collapsed on top of her, his arms wrapping around her and holding her tight to him. He rolled over, taking her with him, pulling the sheets up over their sweat soaked bodies.
“That was… incredible…” he whispered, kissing her lightly.
“Mmhmm…” she agreed, snuggling in close.
He rubbed light circles over her back, his eyes fluttering closed.
When she thought Carver was asleep, Siobhann removed herself from his arms and crept from the bed. She quietly dressed in the dark room, then slipped out of the house to stand at the top of the staircase, resting her hands on the half wall and looking down at the silent streets below.
“Did I disgust you?” his voice was soft as arms slid around her waist from behind, pulling her up against his bare chest.
“I’d have to be disgusted at myself as well, then. I could have stopped you but I didn’t want to.”
“She was right when she said all you did was flirt. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because it was a gift to us both.”
“Why me? Why not wait for someone special? Like a husband?”
She turned in his arms and looked up at him.
“You are special. Besides, I didn’t want just anyone to have it and I might never get married. Could you actually see me with one of those fops in Hightown once we are considered good enough to be a part of their crowd? Can you honestly imagine someone wanting to marry a mage, let alone an apostate? Face it, I could even end up tossed in the Gallows if they don’t make me tranquil first, just for living outside of their circle.”
He kissed the top of her head and hugged her tight.
“Come, let’s go back inside. It’s getting cold and I don’t want either of us to catch a chill.”
She nodded, letting him usher her back inside.
The men inside the Hanged Man stared as she walked in, every eye plastered to the curve of her hips as they swayed with every step. One hand reached out as she got close enough to try and touch, before she slapped it away.
“Looking is fine, touching isn’t unless you want every bone in that hand snapped,” her voice was good natured as she looked down at the offender before she continued on toward the table Isabela was sitting, playing a hand of Wicked Grace with Varric.
“Care to join, Hawke?” Varric asked as he looked up at her.
“Maybe later,” she grinned, tossing a small sack of coins in Isabela’s direction. The pirate caught it, opening it up to count what was inside, then looked up at her friend. Her lips quivered as she tried not to laugh, the realization finally hitting her as to why she was being paid.
“Naughty girl. Seems like some lines were crossed after all, weren’t they?”
“Oh stuff it, Bela. I still intend to win that back in regards to Chantry Boy.”
“Like Puppy will allow that now?”
Varric’s eyes widened as he looked between the two of them.
“Ho-ly shit. You didn’t, did you?”
“Too much alcohol. He looked like cotton candy and I couldn’t stop eating. I have this awful sweet tooth y’know, almost an addiction,” her eyes shifted to Isabela, “And yes, Puppy will allow it. We had a nice long discussion this morning, after last night’s events.”
Varric grumbled and tossed coins over at Isabela.
“Damnit, figured that would be the easiest ten sovereigns I’d ever make.”
“You’re not the only one. I was so sure I’d be the one winning that bet. Can’t complain about losing though,” she grinned, then started to turn her head to see what the others were looking at until strong arms folded themselves around her waist, one of them tossing another satchel of coins Isabela’s way.
“Shit, you too?”
“I blame her. I don’t think I’d ever have thought of it had she not brought the bet up to begin with,” Carver’s voice sounded in her ear. Three sets of eyes landed on Isabela and narrowed. She threw up her hands, a smirk on her lips.
“Not my fault. I can’t help it if he decided to start having fantasies over the bet or that he acted on them.”
“Isabela, what are we going to do with you?” Siobhann sighed, resting her hands on top of her brother’s.
“Love me? I’m just so lovable.”
She rolled her eyes and grinned at the pirate then removed herself from Carver’s grip.
“I need to head to see the Viscount about reclaiming our old home. Wish me luck that it doesn’t take until the next age to win a meeting with him.”
“You’ll need all the luck you can get. I’ve seen the lines of people waiting for just a glimpse of the man,” Carver snorted.
“I’ll also see if I can find a way to get you into the guard, now that Aveline’s captain, if you’d like?”
He nodded as he made himself comfortable at the table, picking up the cards he was dealt.
“Hawke,” his voice held a fine tremor as he quickened his pace to catch up to the woman.
“Oh, what do we have here? Heart stopping accent, breath stealing face, and if reality is anything like my imagination, a body to tempt even a saint to sin beneath that shiny armor. Looks like I have a Sebastian on my hands,” Siobhann’s eyes glinted with mischief then warmed immensely as she tugged her lower lip between her teeth, enjoying how he colored like an untried school boy.
“Oh d-dear. L-Look… can we talk for a m-moment?” he stuttered under the heat of her gaze.
“Only if you’re willing to keep me company while I try to see the viscount. I can find some pleasant ways to while away the time if I have to wait too long,” her grin was almost predatory as she looked him over.
“You’ll be the death of me Hawke,” he sighed then fell into step beside her, “But I’m hoping you can assist me once again.”
She dropped all pretense of being the seductress as he held open the door for her, slipping ahead of him as they entered the keep.
“They’re back, aren’t they?” she asked quietly, “A different company, but more mercenaries after your life?”
He was taken aback at her demeanor, the concerned woman in front of him doing more to damage his resistance against her than the siren she had been.
“No, thank the Maker. I found out who hired them and I don’t think it’s wise to go alone. I’m the last of my line, Hawke, or I’d do it myself. These people, the ones who hired the mercenaries, they were friends of my parents. I don’t understand how they could do this. I just want to talk to them, to find out why, but I’d like you there when I go.”
“You’ve my word, Sebastian. I’d suggest we do it as soon as possible, except I’m thinking the wait to see the viscount will be a long one.”
“Why do you need an audience with him?”
“The Deep Roads excursion turned out to be more profitable than expected. I’m hoping to have the Amell estate returned to us, now that I have the coin for its upkeep.”
Sebastian took her hand without a word and pulled her up the stairs, stopping as soon as they stood in front of Seneschal Bran.
“Tell the Viscount that His Majesty the Crown Prince of Starkhaven Sebastian Vael, and a friend wish an audience.”
Seneschal Bran bowed to them both, though the look he gave them was poisonous, before excusing himself to enter the viscount’s office. He returned a moment later and held the door open for them as they stepped through, shutting it behind them once they were across the threshold.
“I can’t believe it! You got me in quicker than I thought and I have my mother’s home back!” Siobhann grinned from ear to ear as they left the keep. Without thinking she leapt into his arms and kissed him, her eyes sparkling.
“Uhhh Hawke. I’m glad you’re so overjoyed, but could you please get off me?”
She grinned at him as she stepped back, then turned around and added a slight roll to the sway of her hips, snickering silently as she heard his quiet moan behind her.
“Perhaps we could visit the Harimann estate tomorrow? I have this sudden need to confess my sins. If you’ll excuse me?”
Her scent and soft laughter followed him as he turned toward the Chantry, haunting him during his waking hours as she did in his dreams.
Chapter 3: Gamlen
Siobhann's life takes a turn for the worst when Gamlen threatens her with tranquility.
She couldn’t help the shiver that coursed down the length of her spine. She was alone in the small house, trying to catch a quick nap, but she couldn’t shake the feeling she was being watched. Myrdin snuffled softly at the side of her bed, lost in some mabari dream, so it wasn’t as if he was playing canine voyeur. Muttering a soft curse, she swung out of the bed, making sure she didn’t wake the dog. Pulling her hair back into a loose ponytail, she padded barefoot out to the main room and shoved her feet into her boots, buckling them tight up the sides. As she began to sheathe her collapsed staff, the floorboards creaked behind her and she whirled around, a spell on the tip of her tongue.
“By the Maker, you scared the hell out of me Gamlen!” she breathed, her hand pressed to her heart.
“Pay me no mind,” his look was sly as he studied her. She suppressed another shiver at how his eyes seemed to caress her form from head to toe, as if he were trying to picture what was under her clothing, but with the undertone of violence. Offering up a small smile, she darted out the door, her chest heaving, feeling as though she had just escaped some sort of doom. Hands caught her above the elbows as she fled blindly down the stairs, almost causing her to trip over one of the cracks in the stone.
“Let me go!” she cried out.
“Hey, sis, it’s me. What’s wrong?” Carver stared into her wide violet-blue orbs.
“I… oh Maker… I don’t know, Carver. Just… Gamlen was looking at me so oddly. It set off warning bells in my head,” she glanced fearfully back up at the door, afraid that she might find him peering out.
“As if he were trying to undress me… but in a way that would cause pain…” her body shook like a leaf in a violent wind as he pulled her close.
“Shhh, I’m here now. I’m here,” he whispered, wrapping his arms around her, her hands clutching at his back, her face burying itself into his chest. He pressed his lips to his hair, his hands rubbing soothing circles along her back. Gamlen stood silently within the shadows of the doorway, a smirk flitting over his lips as he watched his niece and nephew.
Siobhann’s breath shuddered out as she composed herself, giving Carver one last squeeze before stepping back.
“We should probably get going. I want to relax a bit before trouble finds us or we find it.”
“Talking about relaxing, is it true that you told Isabela and Varric that I’m like cotton candy to you? A sweet addiction?” he grinned down at her.
She snorted out a laugh as they walked arm in arm toward the Hanged Man.
“You’re just asking me that now? Maker, I said that weeks ago when we lost the bet.”
“So you did tell them that! I thought they were screwing with my head like always.”
“What can I say? I’m the lucky one who gets to see your sweet, melt-in-your-mouth squishy side.”
He stopped her just outside the door to the tavern, his eyes heated as he looked down at her. Lowering his head until his mouth rested on the shell of her ear, he tilted her chin up gently with two fingers.
“Be careful what you say, sis. You just put the image of me melting into your mouth in my head, and it’s a sweet one.”
She batted her eyes coyly up at him as she stepped back, then added an extra kick to the sway of her hips as she disappeared into the darkened tavern. Carver bit back a groan as he hurried after her.
“Well if it isn’t the Messeres Hawke,” Varric intoned as the two of them plodded into his room, Siobhann making herself immediately at home by planting her butt into one of the comfortable high-backed chairs.
“I’ve got some information on your new digs up in Hightown,” he said as he leaned back in his chair.
“Oh? How’s the work coming along?” Siobhann asked, shifting so her feet were laying on the dwarf’s lap.
“They said it’ll be at least a month before it’s all finished. Guess the previous owners tore the place up.”
“Shit,” she whispered, her head thunking back against the chair at her dismay.
“What’s wrong, Kitten?”
“Uncle Gamlen’s been looking at her wrong. Scared her enough today she came flying out of the house like she had set her boots on fire,” Carver answered for her.
“How long has this been going on?” the edge in Varric’s voice was unmistakable.
“A few weeks now? Ever since… oh Maker. I think he knows, Carver…”
“If it gets bad enough, you have two options available to you, Kitten. You can either share my room since the others are full up, or you can let Bianca take a shot at him. She took a dislike to your uncle the moment she laid eyes on the man.”
“I might have to take you up on the first, but Bianca will have to wait for him to really step out of line before I’ll ask for her assistance.”
“Up to you, sweets.”
Siobhann rubbed her hands over her arms as she shivered. Both men exchanged glances over the table, their eyes then focusing on Hawke. Varric stood and rummaged through one of his chests, pulling out a soft, thick blanket, and placed it over her, tucking it around her to help her warm back up, even if it wasn’t a physical chill she was feeling.
“Not a problem.”
“Can I have a drink?”
“Sure, Kitten. Let me get Edwina.”
He shuffled out of the room, the silence immense as his footfalls faded. Carver slid out of his seat and made his way over to her, his gaze capturing hers as he tilted her face up to meet his.
“You actually think he knows?”
“He didn’t start acting strange until after that night. Today was just the worst out of them all. I couldn’t even take a nap because it felt like eyes were on me and now I wonder if it was him…”
“Andraste’s ass, why didn’t you say something?”
“What if it had all been my imagination? He’s no saint, but you know me well enough to know I don’t go throwing around unfounded accusations about people.”
“When have your gut instincts led you in the wrong direction?”
She sighed, nodding her head at his comment.
“You’re right, I should have trusted them. I guess since he’s the only blood I have left outside of you and Mama, I just didn’t want to believe it of him, y’know?”
“Well, on the bright side, Choir Boy blushes every time he lays eyes on you. I never knew a person without a speech impediment to stutter so horribly before.”
Siobhann laughed, the shadows of her earlier worries chased away by Carver’s good humor.
“M-Maker, I think I n-need to go p-pray. See you later H-Hawke! Andraste’s b-blessings upon you!” they heard Varric mimic from the doorway, three mugs of ale in hand.
“You really have that boy tied up in knots, Kitten. Keep it up and you’ll have him eating out of your hands and breaking his vows within a months’ time. Ten sovereigns says I’m right.”
“You’re on,” both of them said at the same time.
“Easiest twenty sovereigns I ever made,” he grinned as he set two of the mugs in front of her and Carver.
“Watch it, Varric, that’s what we all said in regards to Isabela’s bet and look at what happened,” Siobhann chuckled.
“Of which, I’m sure nothing would have happened if she hadn’t come up with the idea to begin with,” he grumbled.
“Damn, got a point.”
“You’re already working on trying to corrupt Mr. “I have Andraste on my crotch” so it’s not like I’m giving you ideas.”
Siobhann snorted the ale out of her nose and set the mug down, laughter and her cough warring with each other. Varric pounded on her back as she tried to regain her breath.
“At least I missed the blanket, but damn, Varric, couldn’t you have waited til I swallowed? I don’t like wasting ale, even if it is the swill they serve here!”
“So she swallows, eh?” he sent Carver a sly look.
“That’s something for me to know, and Bianca to keep you from finding out.”
“What’s this I’m hearing Bianca’s keeping him from again?” Anders slipped into the room, immediately crossing over to Siobhann to run his hand over her forehead, surprised at her curled up in a blanket with the heat outside.
“No fever, so what’s with the coverings?”
“To answer your questions - first, Bianca’s keeping him from finding out if I swallow. Second - had a scare and needed something to curl up with,” she answered, grinning at the look in the mage’s eyes at her first comment.
“To see if you… Varric!”
“Well she said that pup over there was sweet and sticky like cotton candy, so had to find out.”
“Wait… what? No… no I don’t think I want to know,” he looked at Siobhann, “You didn’t, did you? Don’t tell me I owe Isabella.”
“Better pay up, Blondie. Surprised you didn’t know since the rest of us tossed our coins at her a few weeks back,” Varric snickered.
“Been busy at the clinic, that’s why. Damn, thought I’d actually win one against her for once.”
“Yeah, well who wants to start up a bet as to when Gamlen finally gets the balls to do something about those looks he’s been giving me lately,” Siobhann sighed, picking at the blanket on her lap.
“I won’t let him touch you, sis,” Carver stated.
“Gamlen? Is he the source of the scare you had earlier?” Anders questioned, tipping her head up to look at him.
“He’s been looking at me wrong ever since… ever since what happened with Carver…” she shivered.
“There’s always a cot open for you at the clinic if you need to get away.”
Anders looked at the others, then back down at Siobhann.
“If it’s bad enough to scare her, then we don’t let her go into that house alone… ever. How long until the estate is ready?”
“A month, if we’re lucky. Varric said it sustained quite a bit of damage from the slavers that ‘you know who’ lost it to,” Carver grumbled.
“Varric, could I use your bed for a nap in a bit? I want to take Carver to the estate and look around. Maybe see what they could repair right away so we can get in sooner. Once that’s done, I need some sleep.”
“No problem, Kitten.”
She smiled and downed the rest of her ale. Upon standing, she folded up the blanket and set it on the trunk she had seen Varric remove it from.
“After my nap, we’ll see about collecting Choir Boy and playing bodyguard for his reunion with the Harimann’s. Sound good?”
“Hey, any chance I get to poke at someone wearing Andraste’s face where he’s got it planted is a good thing,” Anders grinned at her. Siobhann shook her head and laughed, resting her hand on Carver’s outstretched arm as they made their way toward the door.
“You two are incorrigible, I swear. We’ll be back in about an hour or so.”
“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do! No.. wait, you’ve already gone there, though I have to admit Carver’s a sight better looking than Bartrand any day.”
Her laughter rang out behind her as they left the tavern for the warmth of Hightown’s streets.
“Well at least that’s taken care of.”
“Two weeks is a lot better than a month. I don’t mind having them work around us for the more cosmetic repairs, just as long as we can get in and get you out of Gamlen’s sight,” Carver agreed.
“Took longer than expected, unfortunately, so no nap for me before we get a hold of… wait… get your hands off of me!” Siobhann growled as arms grabbed her from behind. Her eyes widened as two men appeared behind Carver, one of them delivering a sharp blow to the back of his head. She screamed as she saw him crumple to the ground.
“Leave him here. It’s the girl we came for,” one of them said. She began her struggles in earnest, trying to get off a fireball, until both of her arms were wrenched behind her.
“Might want to knock her out before her screams bring the guard down on our heads.”
Her world went black as pain exploded along her temple.
The room was dim, her vision fuzzy, as she came to. She tried to move her arms, only to find them tied to the chair she was on.
“What in the Maker’s name…”
“I was wondering when you’d come to. Damned mercenaries. I just told them to grab you, not knock you into the next age.”
“G-Gamlen?” she whispered, fear cramping her belly. She looked around the room, not recognizing the well appointed surroundings. The large bed in the center of the room caused a large greasy ball to form in the pit of her stomach.
“Where am I?” she asked carefully, every movement of her mouth shooting sharp pains through her skull.
“The Blooming Rose, m’dear. You’ll be getting quite accustomed to this place in the days and weeks to come, I’m sure,” he responded, slinking closer to her. She tried to hide in the back of the chair, her body screaming to get away from the approaching man.
“What is going on?”
“Well, my sweet niece, I know what you’ve been doing with Carver. I figured it’s my turn now.”
“That wasn’t supposed to happen!”
“That hasn’t stopped you from continuing to do it though.”
“Doesn’t mean I’ll sleep with you!” she spat out.
“Oh yes it does. You see, m’dear, if you don’t, the consequences won’t be pretty. I have some friends within the templar ranks and I’ll make sure they know there’s an apostate on the loose. Worse yet if they learn that she’s a blood mage,” he grinned down at her, his hands now gripping the arms of the chair, his thumbs stroking the skin of her hands. She tried to yank her hands away, but she was tied too securely to the chair.
“That’s a lie and you know it!”
“But they don’t, and with the Knight-Commander’s views on blood magic, do you think they’d care to test it? No, sweetie, you’d end up in their hands and tranquil the moment I contacted Ser Alrik. I’m sure you don’t want that to happen, so you’ll do what I say.”
She clenched her eyes tight, a tear trailing down her cheek. She’d heard of Alrik and his views on mages. It was Alrik who had made Anders’s friend Karl tranquil.
“What do you want me to do?” she asked hoarsely.
“Good girl. We’ll get started in a moment. Now just don’t think that screaming will do you any good. It’s why I brought you here - no one will think anything is amiss.”
He untied her arms from the chair, then yanked her up so she was pressed against him, her hands trapped between them. He slanted his mouth over hers, cursing when she bit his lip. He gripped her chin in one hand, smacking her across the face with the other.
“You don’t cooperate, I’ll have one of the girls send for Alrik!” he growled, then forced his lips on hers again. Closing her eyes, she complied, opening her mouth when he shoved his tongue against her lips. She stumbled backward when he pushed her away.
“That’s better. Now get undressed and get in the bed.”
With jerky movements, she quickly disrobed, wanting to get this over as soon as possible. When the last piece of clothing had been removed, she crawled on top of the bed.
“On your hands and knees, bitch!”
A tear trickled down her cheek as she rolled over, then shoved her head in a pillow and screamed as the first lash hit her back.
“This is what happens when you don’t listen, girl. This is what happens when you treat me like dirt under your shoe in my own house!”
She sobbed as pain lanced through her body, wondering if maybe being tranquil wouldn’t be so bad if it otherwise meant being away from this. She felt him lift her up and toss her on her back, and she cried out, bucking up against the agony of her raw back against the sheets. He took that moment to pry her legs open and shove himself inside. The moment he was fully hilted, he clawed at her breasts, squeezing them as he pumped inside her, the blood making it slick for him.
“You’re so tight sweetie. No wonder Carver enjoys it. Damn you feel good beneath me,” he panted.
She shut her eyes tight as he pummeled her, trying to claw her way into the Fade to get away from him. His hand across her face snapped her out of it.
“None of that. You’re going to look at me while I fuck you. I want you to see who’s taking you.”
His eyes bored into hers as he thrust into her, his hands moving down to dig into her waist as he lifted her against him. His breathing became more erratic, then he let out a hoarse shout as he emptied himself into her before collapsing on top of her prone body.
Carver wobbled as he stood, the pain in his head immense. He scanned the area, his heart hammering, looking for any clue of his sister. The people wandering near the estate turned their faces from him.
“Get your drunk self away from here, lowlife,” one of them growled at him.
“I was attacked and not drunk, so keep your comments to yourself, you ass,” Carver shot back. He tried to take a step forward and the world spun. Strong hands gripped him firmly, but gently at his shoulders.
“Serrah Hawke, did I hear correctly that you were attacked?” the unmistakable accent of Sebastian’s voice came from behind him.
“Not sure how long I was out. Someone took Siobhann… they took Siobhann,” he winced as he spun around, the world tilting again.
“The Maker will watch out for her. Now let’s get you to a healer, Hawke.”
“Take me to the Hanged Man. We were to meet the others there after assessing the estate. She was… she was going to take a nap but it took us too long here, so we were just going to collect the others then come for you.”
“Then let’s go. The more people we have looking for her, the better.”
The trip was slow, with Carver needing to stop every so often as waves of dizziness overcame him. As they stepped into the dark and cool interior of the tavern, Isabela rushed over to them.
“What happened? Where’s your sister?”
“Get me upstairs, will you? Sebastian, go back to the keep and see if you can get Aveline, please?”
Sebastian nodded and slipped back out of the tavern as Isabela helped Carver up to Varric’s room. Carver slid into one of the chairs and rested his forehead on the table, Anders and Varric quickly at his side.
“I don’t know. We were coming out of the house, just talking, when she was grabbed from behind. Before I could do anything, someone hit me on the back of my head and everything just went black. I don’t know how long I was out.”
“Shit, we were starting to wonder what had happened. You’ve been gone three hours, kid,” Varric sighed.
Anders probed the back of Carver’s head gently, eliciting a hiss from the young man when he found the large knot. Gathering his energy, he soothed the area as he healed it.
“Think Gamlen might be behind this?”
“Where would he get the coin to hire those thugs? Siobhann doesn’t keep it at the house, and with all the time he spends gambling and whoring, it’s not like he’s got anything saved.”
“A favor owed by Meeran maybe?” Anders’ voice was soft.
“They didn’t look like Red Iron, though anything is possible… Damnit! I need to go and see if he’s at the house,” Carver jumped up and rushed out of the tavern.
“Someone needs to stay here in case she shows up. Not that I wouldn’t love to go hunt with Bianca, my room would be the first place she’d come to. Why don’t you two grab Merrill and Fenris and see if you can find our Kitten?”
Anders and Isabela nodded, the group somber as they set about their business.
“Now remember, not a word, niece,” Gamlen stated, rolling over onto his side and propping his head in his hand as he watched Siobhann dress. His eyes trailed over her curves as she covered them quickly.
Tears trailed down her bruised face as she covered herself as fast as she could. She kept her back to him, not wanting to see the look in his eyes or the smirk on his face.
“As if they won’t be asking questions, between the blow your hired thugs gave me, or the ones you gave me when I wasn’t doing exactly as you wished. Not to mention, I already told the others how you were making me nervous with the looks you were giving me, so they’ll figure something is up.” She winced as her hair was grabbed from behind, gagging as he pressed his nude body against her, her head yanked back so he could look at her face.
“You even breathe a word that it was me, Alrik will be hunting the streets for a blood mage known by the name Siobhann Hawke. Now get dressed and remember you’re to be back here in two day’s time, or it’s the Gallows for you.”
The moment his hand loosened, she jerked her hair out of his grasp, leaving a few strands behind as she grabbed up her staff, then twirled to look at him, her eyes blazing dangerously.
“I’ll find some way to get out of this trap you’ve laid for me, uncle, and the moment I do, you’ll be nothing more than a pile of ash,” she retorted before striding out of the room, the door slamming behind her. The moment she was far enough away from the brothel to feel even a whisper of safety, she slid down against one of the walls and let the tears fall.
“Just go away, Sebastian. I can’t help you tonight,” her voice was strained.
“What’s wrong… oh holy Maker!” he exclaimed as he got a good look at her face in the moonlight.
“Please, please, leave me alone.”
Paying no attention to her request, he knelt before her and pulled her to him, gathering her up into his arms. The way she fell apart, the tears that fell from her eyes, the way she curled up into a small ball against him, concerned him greatly. He could barely tell that this was the woman who flirted with him until his ears turned red, or made him have such strong urges that were forbidden as a Chantry sworn brother.
“Let’s get you back to the tavern, Hawke. Everyone’s worried about you.”
She just nodded her head and buried her face against his armor. He held her trembling body tight against his as he began the long trek to the Hanged Man. Her sobs had finally abated by the time they reached the establishment, though she was curled up as tight as ever as he carried her in. Anders and Carver were the only ones who had returned from their search, the others still out looking.
“Maker’s breath! What happened to her?” Varric reached out to touch her leg, causing her to flinch away.
“I don’t know. She won’t tell me.”
“Put me down. Please, put me down,” she whispered.
“I’m going to have to ask everyone to leave the room. I need to check her for any other injuries she might have received,” Anders voice was stern yet gentle. The others complied, though Carver had to be pushed out of the room before the door was shut behind him. Siobhann kept her back to him, her arms folded over her chest as she stared sightlessly at the wall in front of her. Anders rested his hands on her shoulders, gentling his touch as she let out a pained whimper.
“Where are you hurt?” he asked softly.
“I need to see so I can do my job.”
She stiffened, then nodded, taking a step away from him to stiffly remove her clothing. Anders frowned at the bruising he witnessed, most of it in the shape of fingerprints. The lash marks on her back were enough that he had to concentrate to keep Justice from breaking out.
“Who did this? What happened?” he growled, his voice ringing with some of Justice’s authoritative tone.
“I… I can’t tell you. Maker I wish I could…” her voice caught.
“We can’t help you unless you tell us,” his voice was as gentle as his hands as he worked to heal her back, before turning her around, his gasp loud enough to echo around the room at the bruising on her chest and in between her thighs, as well as the full view of the handprints on her face and neck.
“The punishment is bad enough I don’t want to risk it, Anders.”
Her eyes were pleading as she looked at him, and the moment the last bruise was removed, he pulled her in close, burying his face in her neck.
“We can’t lose you, Siobhann. Please, let us help.”
She gently removed herself from his embrace and pulled her clothes back on. She stared over his shoulder as the tremors began anew.
“If I say anything, you’ll lose me anyway. I’d… I’d end up like Karl.”
“No… no! We’ll find some way around that!”
“Until I know I’m safe from that threat, I can’t say anything. I want to, but I can’t.”
A harsh knocking interrupted them, then Varric peered through the crack in the door.
“Can we come back in?”
“We’re finished in here.”
The group tumbled over each other, now including the others who had since returned, in their haste to check on Siobhann. She backed up a few paces and put her hands up as they crowded around her. She looked down at Varric as he came up beside her.
“Can I stay here tonight? I need to sleep and I don’t feel like going anywhere.”
“Anything, Kitten, you just have to ask. My bed is yours as long as you need it.”
Carver walked up to her and, ignoring the way she backed up, picked her up in his arms, holding her tight.
“Who?” he whispered.
She stayed silent, looking over his shoulders at the others gathered.
“Before you start asking questions, just know I can’t answer them… not yet. If… If I tell, and it gets out that I told, then I will be branded a blood mage and made tranquil. Please, don’t push me to answer.”
“But you’re not a blood mage!” Fenris stated.
“I know, but do you think the templars would listen if that accusation were made?”
“Damnit,” growled Carver.
“Please let me down. I just want to sleep…”
Sebastian approached her, his blue eyes filled with worry as he looked at the once vibrant woman in front of him.
“I can wait to visit the Harimann estate until you’re ready, Hawke. If you need to talk, you know where to find me.”
“Thank you, Sebastian. I appreciate it,” her smile was tremulous as she looked at him. She turned from the others and walked over to the separate room that housed Varric’s bed, stopping only to tug off her boots before curling up on it.
“I think you all should leave. I’ll stay here and keep an eye on Kitten. I won’t let anything happen to her while she’s here.”
When the room was empty, he approached the bed and pulled the covers over her.
“Stay with me?” her voice sounded impossibly small.
“Are you sure?”
“I need something, someone, to hold onto that I can trust. I… I can’t do this with Carver, not anymore.”
Nodding, Varric stepped away to turn off the gas lamps throughout the rest of the room, leaving it in darkness. As he returned to the bedroom, he stripped down to his shorts, blowing out the candle before slipping under the sheets. He shivered at the coldness of her skin as she curled up against him.
“I wish you could tell us, Kitten.”
“P-Promise you won’t say a word, that you won’t retaliate either? I don’t want the templars after me…”
“You have my word. I won’t say anything or go after the son of a bitch who did this. Not until we know you’re safe from any threat.”
He held her as she cried herself to sleep on his chest, his own eyes becoming wet. He pulled the covers more securely over the two of them before allowing himself to follow her in sleep.
Chapter 4: Truth
The truth comes out from a well meaning but naive friend, putting Siobhann's life in danger.
Her eyes opened slowly, the unfamiliar surroundings and the warm body beside her making her stiffen with fear until she recalled the events of the last evening. Varric's warm hand sliding up her thigh, her nude thigh, made her squeak.
"Mornin' Kitten," he mumbled.
"Where's my pants? I distinctly remember wearing them when I fell asleep."
"Took 'em off you. They were digging into your skin something awful, and something on them kept poking at me."
"Oh, okay then," she sighed, curling up closer to his warmth, enjoying the feel of his hairy chest against her back. His hand on her skin was making her drowsy, yet waking up parts of her that should have fallen dormant after Gamlen's assault on her the previous day.
"How're you feeling, hon?" he propped himself up on his other arm to look down at her.
"Better. Still scared, but better. Thank you for being here when I needed you," she turned her head so her face was mere breaths from his. He slid his hand up from her leg to rest it on her abdomen, the other gently moving her hair out of her eyes.
"You know I'd do anything for you. You're my kitten as sure as that crossbow over there is my Bianca," he grinned down at her.
"Speaking of which, think she's jealous yet?" she whispered to him in a conspiratorial manner.
"Eh, who cares? You need me more right now than she does," his eyes twinkled in the dim room. Siobhann reached up to touch his cheek, her eyes going misty. Without thought, they moved together, lips meeting. A soft sigh escaped her lips as he held her close, their kiss saying more than words how much they meant to each other. She rolled toward him as he pulled back, resting her cheek against his shoulder.
"I don't know if we should do this, Kitten. You had a hell of a day yesterday and you don't need this cluttering things up," he whispered, running his fingers through her hair.
"To have someone touch me and it not be with the intent of pain… to have it be someone who means as much to me as my own life… how is that going to clutter things up?" she sighed and turned over, propping herself up as she moved to leave the bed.
"Wait…" he gently pulled her back, until she was laying on her back beside him. He flinched at the look of fear in her eyes, his hand moving to rest on her cheek.
"Tell me what happened so I can help erase it?" he asked quietly. With tears in her voice, she recounted the horror she had suffered at the hands of her uncle.
"Maker's breath, Kitten. After all that, are you sure?" he asked moments later.
"I… after that, I just can't with Carver. I'd see Gamlen over his shoulder, and we shouldn't anyway. I don't want to walk around with this being the last time I was touched by a man. Carver was my first and Gamlen soiled that. If… if I can't get this out of my system, the next time I'm with someone, I'm afraid that I'll be too afraid for them to even touch me…" she sighed, curling up on her side.
"I can understand if you don't want to. It's not like we'd be going into this with any chance at a possible relationship. I'm just, well if I get lucky enough that Sebastian actually falls for me, oh nevermind."
Varric looked at the woman beside him, his heart going out to her. He brushed her hair away from her face, combing his fingers through it. The knowledge that she'd only had two men in her life, the second being a violent experience, surprised him with her usually bubbly personality. If he hadn't promised her to not touch Gamlen, the man would already have a bolt stuck in between his eyes for hurting his Kitten.
"None of that. Just don't let anyone know. I don't want my rep of being untouchable to get destroyed, all right?" he teased. He let out a breath at her laughter, then gathered her close.
His mouth found purchase on the skin of her neck, trailing kisses up and over her jaw until he turned her face towards him, letting him taste the sweetness of her lips. Her mouth opened up beneath his, almost shy, as she danced her tongue along his. He groaned, his hands sinking into her sable tresses as she rolled over until she was half laying on him. Her hands sliding through the hair on his chest sent bolts of lightning through him, causing his own grip to tighten. She pulled back to look at him.
"You're so warm," she whispered, rubbing herself against him as a cat would, almost purring at how her body seemed to soak it all in. His hands slid up under her shift, dragging it up and over her head and tossing it onto the floor. She tugged at his shorts, drawing them down his hips, her gaze fixated at what was revealed. As she slid down the bed to pull them off, she nuzzled her cheek against his member, placing kisses along its base.
"Mmm… while that feels good, Kitten, I don't want to finish before we start," he laughed softly as he pulled her back up to him.
"Weren't you wondering if I swallowed?" she grinned down at him, then threw her head back on a gasp as his fingers found their way under her smalls to the wet slit beneath. As he teased her, his other hand went to the ties that held them up, then pulled them off her as well.
"I'll find out some other time, Kitten," he murmured, sinking a finger in. She half collapsed on top of him, rolling her hips against his invading digit. Her moan was soft in his ear as he added a second. Her hands found purchase in the hair on his chest as she rocked against him, gasping as he slid them in and out.
"I can think of something better than your fingers…" she gasped out.
"I'm sure you can," he gritted out as she straddled his waist, sinking down on him. His hips bucked up, thrusting himself in deeper as she slowly took him in. She leaned down to kiss him as she rotated her hips up and around him, his hands gripping her waist to help her with the rhythm.
"Oh Maker," he groaned, jerking up into her as she found a roll to her hips that was devastating to them both.
"You feel… incredible," she whimpered in his ear as he shifted their angle a bit, causing him to hit that spot perfectly. He gripped her waist harder, forcing her into a faster pace, and her breath hitched as he kept bumping into that bundle of nerves.
"Like that?" he gasped as he felt her tighten around him. She nodded, panting, as she looked down at him. He thrust up into her harder, groaning as she clamped down on him more.
"Maker I'm going… I'm going to…" she cried out as she splintered around him, her breathing choppy as she buried her face against his neck. His cry was hoarse as he followed moments later. His arms tightened around her as she struggled to catch her breath. She wrapped her arms around his neck, tears leaking from her eyes.
"Oh, Kitten," he whispered, tilting her face up so he could look at her. He leaned forward to kiss away her tears. Her smile was crooked as she looked down at him. He brushed her hair out of her face as she curled up against his side. Leaning over to press his lips against her temple, he reached down to pull the covers back over them as they revisited the land of slumber.
Carver walked out of the room, boots in hand, to find Gamlen sitting in the shadows near the fireplace.
"Where's your sister? She never came home last night to my knowledge. Leandra's worried about her."
Keeping his eyes on the man, he crouched down to slide his feet into the well worn leather, then ruffled the fur of the mabari next to him.
"You deaf? I asked you a question."
"I swear, old man, if I find out you had anything to do with her disappearance yesterday, you'd better hope your legs can carry you as far and fast as possible away from me, because I will gut you."
Gamlen threw his hands up in mock defense.
"Whoa, whoa! What makes you think I have anything to do with anything?"
"I've seen how you look at her," he bluffed, "And I saw how scared she was when she ran out of here yesterday."
Gamlen felt his insides freeze, and the look his nephew was giving him chilled him to the bone.
"Not my problem if something spooked her."
"Watch your step, uncle. I'm watching you," he spat. Kneeling down, he rubbed his hands over the mabari again, whispering something in the dog's ear. Myrdyn licked his chin and whined, nodding his head slightly. Standing, he turned on his heel and, with one last look at his uncle, Carver exited the hovel.
Siobhann tried to keep herself busy the next couple of days. Every time her mind went back to that day, her gut twisted into knots knowing that she had to return. The morning of, she was filled with manic energy, unable to stand still. She paced the length of the table in Varric's room, arms hugged tight around her.
"Kitten…" he came up behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist.
"I… I need to do something."
"What's got you all tied up, hon?"
"I… I have to go back…"
"No, you don't."
"If I don't… if I don't, he'll call the templars down on me. I have to go back," she sunk down onto the floor, her body heaving with sobs.
"Shhhh, Papa Varric's right here," he whispered, kneeling behind her and holding her close. She leaned back against his strength, turning so her face was pressed against his chest.
"I wish there was something I could do."
"Let's grab the others and play bodyguard," she sniffled, wiping her eyes against her sleeve.
"If that's what you want…"
"It'll keep my mind off of things until I have to go."
"You should let me kill him, Kitten."
"He's probably got some backup plan in case he ends up dead."
"Gonna go grab Isabela. Carver should be here soon and then we can go."
The five of them stood outside the Harimann estate. She couldn't figure out why, but a sense of dread slid over her as she looked at the well tended building. Shaking off the feeling, she stepped forward and pushed at the door, surprised that it swung open with just a touch.
"This isn't right, Hawke," Sebastian murmured as they continued forward.
"Where are their guards? Their servants? It's too quiet," he added. Quietly the group passed through the foyer and down one of the side halls. Her and Varric exchanged amused glances at the drunken woman before pressing on into the next room. She watched in surprise as the normally staid brother knocked out one of the servants with an impressive right hook.
"Something is very wrong here. I've visited this house many times as a child and don't understand what's gotten into them."
"I'm sure there's an answer here somewhere…" she began as they entered one of the bedrooms, her eyes going wide at the sight before them.
"The feather! Use the feather!" the half naked man ordered the elf in front of him. She was sure, though her eyes were glued to the scene in front of her, that the others were staring just as intently as her.
"Where have you been all my life? Come, felicitate me!"
Siobhann broke down into giggles, leaning heavily against Varric.
"I don't know what's gotten into him! I know Ruxton Harimann and the man's a complete prude!"
"For a prude, he's sure my type!" Isabela laughed, "And I'll have to remember that line. Perhaps I should get it embroidered on my blouse."
"Midlife crisis maybe?" Varric added.
"I think we should go before they end up felicitating themselves even more and I see something I can't unsee more than this moment right here," Siobhann giggled as she started toward the door.
"I'll be the templar torturer and you be the naughty mage," she heard as she walked out, sending her stumbling into Varric as she bust out into gales of laughter. Isabela landed against her as she, too, was overcome.
"Do I even want to know what he intends to do with those cuffs?" Carver asked as he backed slowly out of the room.
"I could show you sometime, pup," Isabela grinned at him.
"I think we should stop. We're making Choir Boy blush, and if he turns any redder, his face might explode," Varric laughed.
Siobhann grinned at the others as they continued downstairs. After a few minute surprises, the group cleared out the catacombs beneath the estate with relative ease. As they entered the last room, she held her hand up to hold the others back as she stalked forward, her frown deepening as she spotted the desire demon with the matron of the household.
"Enough!" her voice thundered in the cavernous room, "Unhand that woman now. Back to the Fade you shall go!"
"Oh look, more playthings, and it seems that the son of the family you wished me to remove is one of them," the demon purred.
"You… you did this? My mother was your friend, how could you murder them?" he accused Lady Harimann.
"Murder? Such a harsh word. I prefer to say that I removed an obstacle from her path. But you, you and your friend here… such desires I see. Desires for power, and one for freedom," it tilted its head as cold eyes stared at Siobhann and Sebastian.
"I may have desires, but I am not so weak as to place them in your hands," Siobhann growled.
"But we could be so powerful together, my dear. Me, in that luscious mage body of yours. We could rule, help your friend rule his lands, and get rid of that little ant who makes you so fearful. No templar could stop us, even if…"
"That's it, you die NOW!" she screamed, not wanting the demon to go any further and possibly name her uncle. Even as he concentrated on his task, Sebastian marveled at the mastery in which Siobhann took down the demon. Soon the battle was over and he knelt beside her as she slowly sunk to her knees, completely drained. As she rummaged through her pack, Varric tossed a blue vial at him which he then handed to her.
"Is this what you need?"
"Thank you," she smiled up at him, though a ghost of her usual curve of the lips. She uncorked it then downed the glowing contents, shuddering as it flowed through her body.
"Are you all right, Hawke?"
"Fine. Just get a bit of a power rush off of those things until it evens out. It's worse when I'm drained because it hits all at once."
"The way you handled that demon was impressive. You have my thanks for your help here today. Now I should probably get back to the Chantry to pray for Lady Harimann's soul."
She nodded, leaning into him as he helped her up. They trudged back up the stairs to the cellars, stopping as they saw Flora Harimann waiting for them.
"Oh Sebastian, I'm so sorry!" she exclaimed as she ran up to them.
"You were my friend, Flora, how could you?"
"You don't understand. When the demon took over, we couldn't resist…"
"So you get to have all the fun but none of the responsibility, is that it?" Siobhann said, folding her arms over her chest.
"Yes… I mean no… I mean… look, I'm sorry, all right? Mother made the pact with the demon long before we knew what was going on," the young woman whined.
"Why can't anyone ever say no to a demon?" she sighed.
"If you need any help taking back your lands, Sebastian, let me know. It's the only way I know of to show how sorry I am."
"I have an idea. Quit apologizing and just do, got it?" Siobhann sniped, walking away from the group, her body tensing with each step she took toward the cellar door. Stopping, she turned around and looked at the others.
"Since everything is finished here, I'll ahh… I'll meet you later," she shot Varric a look, her body crackling with fear laced energy, then disappeared through the exit. The others rushed after her, but by the time they were able to squeeze through the door, she was gone.
"What was that about?" Sebastian and Carver asked simultaneously.
"It has to do with the other night, all right?" Varric sighed, taking the lead and heading out of the house.
"You knew and you didn't stop her?" Carver stood over Varric.
"What am I supposed to do? Tie her up and hope that she's not accused as a blood mage in the meantime for missing her appointment? All we can do is get Anders and wait for her back at the tavern in case she needs his skills again."
Carver sighed and nodded.
"I'll be at the Chantry if you need me," Sebastian bid, giving them a slight bow before heading off.
Siobhann emptied the contents of her stomach the moment she left the Blooming Rose. As she exited the alleyway, the spires of the Chantry called to her. Hoping to maybe find some peace, she made her way through the light crowd milling in the courtyard in the warm afternoon sun. Bracing her shoulders, she made her way up the stairs, her heart growing heavier with each step she took. She stared at the door for a few moments then pushed them open and let the cool air laced with the smell of incense seep into her.
"Are you here for confession?" the voice of a young sister interrupted her thoughts.
"Oh… sure. Where do I go?" she asked, figuring that perhaps this might be a way to tell someone what was going on without fear of anything happening. What was said in the confessional was supposed to stay there, right?
The sister smiled and directed her to a curtained area in the back. Siobhann stood there, fear creeping back in, and she slipped beneath the curtain before it could get the better of her.
"Forgive me for I have sinned and seek repentance," she whispered.
"Release then, this sin that you carry, that you may be free," the voice on the other side of the curtain rasped.
"Where to begin? A few weeks ago I saved my brother from death by poison. When he was coming out of his unconscious state, he kissed me, and I don't mean a brotherly kiss. When we returned home, it progressed to something more and we ended up sleeping with each other. It wasn't intentional, hell I don't even know how it happened, but it did. My uncle found out somehow and…" she trailed off, a sob catching in her throat, "He's blackmailing me with something awful if I don't let him have me too. I just came from there… and I'm supposed to go back in a few days to let him r-r-r… I can't even say the word… and I slept with my best friend just to get the feel of my uncle off of me…"
"Hawke?" she heard Sebastian say from the other side of the curtain.
"Shit…" she quickly scrambled out from behind the curtain, her face flaming as she dashed through the chantry and out the door.
"Wait!" he called after her, chasing her down.
She ran down the stairs, her feet flying over each step. Just as she took a step to sprint off, his hand caught her upper arm and he swung her around to face him.
"Maker, let me go please, Sebastian, please!" she implored, mortification written all over her face as she tried not to look at him.
"We're going to talk, you and I," he said as he pulled her into an alcove and sat her down on one of the benches.
"You can't! What's said in the confessional stays there," she stared down at their booted feet. He watched her, his beautiful songbird turned into a frightened husk of her former self. The realization hit him that he missed her teasing banter, remembering back to when she had leapt into his arms and kissed him with joy just for getting her in to meet the viscount. The trembling woman in front of him was not she.
"So your uncle is threatening you with making you tranquil because he learned of an indiscretion you had with Carver and is raping you every other day?" his voice was soft, yet filled with shock, as he lifted her tearstained face to look at her.
"He thinks that since my brother got to have me, he should get his piece too," her cheeks flamed again.
"This needs to stop, Hawke, including what you're doing with your brother. It's wrong."
"I'm not doing anything with Carver, though I'm paying for it now…"
"So you slept with him, your uncle is using that to blackmail you into sleeping with him, and you ended up in someone else's arms to cleanse yourself of his touch?"
"Maker I sound like a whore," she sniffled, laying her head in her hands.
"I can pretty much give up my dreams of the man I'm falling for ever wanting anything to do with me now," she unfolded herself from where she sat and looked down at Sebastian.
"Don't tell anyone. Keep the silence that we're promised when we enter the confessional, please. I've already screwed things up with you so I don't think I'll be coming back. Not like confessing a rape every few days will help anyway," she sighed and turned from him, her steps silent as she walked away.
Sebastian watched her disappear into the crowd, his blue eyes taking in how her shoulders were slumped and her head wasn't held as high as it used to. It took him a moment to realize what she meant when she said she'd already screwed up with him, and it hit him that he was the man she was falling for.
"Maker, please give me a sign to let me know which path to take. Do I be the man she needs or do I remain the brother tending the sins of many?"
He looked up as he felt something fall on his head, his eyes then drawn downward to see a freshly cut peach rose laying at his feet. Crouching down, he picked it up, a smile forming at the corners of his mouth.
Siobhann entered the tavern as inconspicuously as she could, trying to slip around tables and reach Varric's room unseen.
"None of that, sis," Carver's voice was soft in her ear as he nuzzled her neck, "Why have you been pushing me away? I miss you."
"It can't continue, Carver. I'm sorry…" she turned to look up at him, her eyes drowning in the pain she knew she was inflicting on him.
"So am I. It has to do with what happened, doesn't it? Because I couldn't keep you safe?"
"It does, in a way, but not because you couldn't keep them from taking me. I'm sorry I can't say more."
"Just stop pulling away from me, all right? No matter what, you're still my sister and I don't want to lose that."
She nodded and squeezed his hand before making her way up to Varric's room. She stopped as she saw the crowd sitting around the table. She tried to back up but was stopped by the wall of Carver's chest. The face that shocked her the most in the grouping was Sebastian's and she stared at him wide eyed as she noticed the looks she was getting from the others.
"I didn't tell them, Kitten. You can blame Choir Boy for that," Varric said, his eyes sad as he looked at her.
"You told them?! Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit… I need to go. I need to hide."
Carver held her tight as she tried to dash out of the room.
"What did I miss while I was waiting on her?"
"Gamlen's been forcing himself on Siobhann. That's where she went after she left the Harimann estate. If she doesn't go every few days, he'll report her," Sebastian repeated for Carver's benefit. She cried out as her brother's hands tightened on her arms, painfully squeezing the bruises left there by their uncle hours earlier. His let her go as if she burned his hands and he tugged on her sleeve, rolling it up. There was a collective gasp at the mottled bruising on her arm.
"I trusted you! I trusted you…"
"I'm going to kill him," Carver snarled.
"Don't. He'll know I told and then he'll send Alrik after me."
Anders hissed at that name, his face tightening with anger. He crossed the room to her, his hands soothing, removing the bruising, as he looked down at her.
"We'll figure something out. As it is, I've been hearing things about Alrik and I might have a plan soon on how to neutralize his threat."
"I… I need to be alone."
Varric stood and began ushering the others out of his room. Sebastian stopped in front of her as he followed the others.
"They needed to know, Hawke. We need to be given the chance to keep you safe. I need the chance to prove myself worthy for you."
"Just go… please, just go…" her eyes were dead as she looked up at him. He sighed, and cupping her cheek, he leaned forward to kiss her forehead. She turned away from him and disappeared in the side room.
"You'd better get going, Choir Boy. She doesn't want you here right now, got it?" Varric's voice was hard.
"I won't apologize for telling them. What Gamlen is doing, it can't go on."
"I know that, she knows that, but it was up to her to let us know, not you. Now, before Bianca gets trigger happy, I think you should leave," he pushed Sebastian through the door, locking it behind him. He walked over to the bed where Siobhann was curled up and crawled in beside her, running his fingers through her hair as she lay her head on his thigh.
"Anything for my Kitten."
"I love you, you know."
"I love you too, Kitten. Vael doesn't realize how lucky he really is."
Chapter 5: Tranquil
Gamlen goes through with the threat on his niece.
She was so cold, so incredibly cold. She had set herself up for this. This was her fault. Had she not been so stupid as to go to confession for the first time since she was a child, none of this would have happened. The one she should have trusted most, the one who she'd foolishly placed her hopes and dreams on, was the one who broke the sanctity of the confessional and now it was all crashing down. She felt numb and let that sensation soak further into her soul. Her eyes closed from their sightless perusal of the wall in front of her, no longer hearing the voices that surrounded her. It was over.
"C'mon, Kitten, you have to eat," Varric pushed the tray of food toward her. She curled up tighter in the chair and nudged it away from her.
"You're not doing yourself any favors if you won't eat."
"What's the point? Eating isn't going to solve my problem."
"While I abhor the thought of doing this, do I need to get Merrill in here and have her force you to eat?" Anders asked.
Siobhann shrugged and pulled the blanket further over her shaking limbs. Sebastian and Carver entered the room moments later, a bit out of breath.
"He still hasn't returned home. Can't find trace of him anywhere," Carver gasped.
"Maker's breath! Has she not moved since the last time we were here?" Sebastian walked around to the chair she was sitting in and as he tried to capture her gaze, she turned her face away from his.
"She won't eat either," Anders sighed.
"Your fault, Choir Boy. I know Kitten well enough that from the first moment he had her in his clutches she was looking for an out and you took that away from her. Good job!"
"It needed to come out, Varric! How long was she to suffer until something was done? Now everyone knows and we can be more vigilant!"
"You broke the sacred trust of the confessional, Sebastian. I trusted you. Now look where it's gotten me," she sighed, her eyes fluttering closed.
"I will keep you safe, Siobhann, I promise this. With the Maker guiding my path, you will get through this!"
"Oh go stuff your Maker!" Carver growled, "I've never seen her like this before. Even when things seemed to be their worst, she found some way to find hope - and if she couldn't find it within herself, she looked elsewhere. She's not even bothering now."
Fenris looked around the room as he padded in on bare feet, his eyes zeroing in on Siobhann and he slipped around the others to kneel in front of the impossibly small ball of mage. Leaning forward, he whispered in her ear.
"When we find them, do you want me to do the deed? Do you want me to fist them to death?"
He pulled back to watch her for a reaction and her eyes just focused downward off of him as she nodded slightly. He sighed as it wasn't the reaction he was looking for, wishing for the woman who made perverted remarks about his lyrium abilities to return.
"Please?" her voice was soft and tiny.
"As you wish," he bowed to her, his eyes never leaving her pale face, even when he left her side.
The routine continued every day for the next week; Varric, Carver, and Sebastian being the only constants at her side - the others flitted in and out when their schedules allowed. At one point Merrill was even brought in, only to shake her head later with the reply that Siobhann's mind was so blank there was nothing there for her to grab a hold of to even try to control for something as simple as a meal.
"She's dying in front of my eyes and I can't do anything to stop it. I wish I could find my uncle and kill him for this," Carver whispered, kneeling in front of her, "I already lost Bethany. I don't want to lose her too."
"It's in the Maker's hands now, not ours," Sebastian sighed, resting a hand on Carver's shoulder.
"Would you shut up about the Maker? Siobhann's a real person, not some plaything for a god who could care less about those he abandoned so long ago," he hissed, standing and shrugging Sebastian's hand off. His body stiff and rigid, he stalked up to the brother until they were nose and nose.
"You caused this, you're going to help fix it, not leave it up to some mystical being to decide the outcome, if I have to stand there and make sure it's done. Now, you and I are going to get back out there and see what we can find."
He turned to place a kiss on Siobhann's forehead before pushing Sebastian out the door. Varric looked down at the woman curled up in the chair and sighed, reaching out to rub her shoulder gently.
"I'll be back soon, Kitten. I need to check on a few things. I'll make sure Nora and Edwina come up every so often to check on you until I return."
He slipped silently out of the room, Bianca strapped to his back, and gave the waitresses instructions regarding the mage prior to leaving the establishment. Siobhann shivered under the blanket, waiting a while until she was sure they were all far enough away from the tavern, then stood on shaky legs. Stretching, she padded over to where her staff and boots were stashed, slipping her feet into the worn leather and buckling them up. Sheathing her staff, she snuck out of the tavern, stopping a moment to let the heat of the day soak into her skin.
"I'm coming for you, uncle," she whispered as she slipped down the alleyways and side streets. She already knew that, thanks to Sebastian's betrayal, Gamlen would be aware that he was living his last few days. She wondered if he'd have templars waiting for her at the Rose when she came for their appointed meeting. Shrugging, she continued on her way. Unbeknownst to her, a shadow followed her as soon as she entered the alley leading to the establishment.
"You've missed our last two appointments, niece," his voice rasped along her skin. He stretched out in the chair, his arms crossed over his chest.
"I was under lock and key, uncle," she retorted, "Blame the brother who learned of our arrangement, not me."
"Secret got out either way, m'dear. And, oh look, our friend Alrik has arrived with his friends. You're not getting out of this so easily, sweets. I told you what would happen if anyone learned of this."
"I won't make it easy for them, or for you," she growled, unsheathing her staff and extending it to its full length. As she called forth lightning to spear the rushing templars, she was caught off guard by Fenris rushing into the room. Her attention elsewhere, Alrik and the others grabbed her and pulled her arms behind her, her grip on her staff lost. As she kicked and screamed to get out of their grasp, her only relief was in watching Fenris wrench the heart of her uncle out of his body. By the time he had grabbed her staff and run after the templars dragging her out, they had disappeared. Cursing, he ran back to his mansion to grab his sword before heading to the Hanged Man.
"I got it! I got what we need to neutralize Ser Alrik!" Anders exclaimed as he ran into Varric's room. He skidded to a stop at the sight of the empty room. Confusion wrinkled his brow. He looked over to where Siobhann had kept her things, fear mounting as they were missing.
"Shit," he whispered.
"What's up, Blondie?" Varric asked from the doorway.
"She's gone and so is her staff."
"Damnit! What do I bet you she decided to take care of him herself. Sebastian's blabbing probably forced her into a confrontation before she was ready," he sighed.
"We need to alert the others."
"Alert the others about what?" Carver asked, shoving a weary Sebastian into the room.
"Kitten's gone, probably after your uncle. Damnit, I should have just waited for one of you to return before I went off to do my business instead of leaving her alone."
"Not like you knew she'd up and run, Varric. With how she'd been acting, none of us would have expected her to bolt," Anders said.
"Probably felt she had no other choice. Not like we let her out of our sight so she could try and fix things before now, and she's missed what, two? three? visits with him and we're all over the city looking for him," Carver stated.
"What's going on now?" Isabela yawned as she walked into the room.
"They've got her! The templars have her!" Fenris gasped as he ran into the room. The others stared at him blankly, his words not quiet yet sinking in.
"What's that in your hand?" Sebastian asked as he looked at the blood dripping from the elf.
"Gamlen's heart. Didn't realize I still carried it. I have her staff with me too," he nodded his head back to where it was strapped next to his sword.
Varric blinked a few times then shook his head, staring at Fenris.
"Repeat that again?"
"The templars have Siobhann. By the time I had ripped into Gamlen, they were dragging her out. They were gone before I had a chance to do anything," he sighed, slumping against the doorframe.
"Damnit, we might not have enough time to get her before they do any permanent damage," Varric kicked the nearest chair, sending it crashing against the wall.
"I think I know where Alrik takes them. There's a tunnel we use to sneak mages out from the Gallows. We can use it to get to her," Anders looked at the others gathered.
"Lead the way. They're not making my sister tranquil."
"I'm with you," Sebastian stated.
"Damn straight you're coming with. You started this, you're going to help fix it, Choir Boy," Varric's voice was hard as he stared up at the man.
"Like I said, it needed to come out!"
"And now she's in the hands of the templars because of your big mouth! I don't know what it is she sees in you, I really don't," he shook his head.
"We should get going. It's not exactly a short walk from here to Darktown, y'know," Anders reminded them.
"Right behind you, Blondie."
"Not without me, you're not. I don't take the kidnapping of friends lightly," Aveline stood at the doorway, her arms folded over her chest.
"How did you…?"
"I saw them dragging her away. While I could not, officially, do anything at that moment, I'm doing something unofficially right now, got it?"
"What's going on here?" Merrill's cheerful voice broke through the crowd.
"Just follow us and we'll fill you in on the way," Anders answered as the group left the tavern.
"Do you know what we do to apostates, especially those accused of blood magic?" Alrik crooned to Siobhann.
"I have no idea what you're talking about, ser," her eyes blazed into his.
"Oh don't play games. We know what you are. And your uncle was unfortunately under your blood magic curse. Don't think we don't know that you tried to use sex to keep him from reporting you."
She began to laugh, a bit hysterically, her body shaking in its bonds, as the irony of the situation hit her. She looked up at the templar from the chair she was tied to, mirth in the violet-blue depths.
"Then shouldn't there be proof of my supposed blood magic? Scars and the like?"
"The really good ones don't leave markings behind, as you should well know. Even so, you're still an apostate who's never seen the inside of a circle. That right there is crime enough to make you one of the Tranquil."
"I'll take as many of you down as I can before you even think of trying to brand me."
"Oh and what can the little girl do with her hands tied behind her back, hmmm?"
Her grin was feral as she pulled at the power within her, then she let it explode, the men flying back, some of them smacking hard into the walls. The others staggered, dizzy from her onslaught.
"Not all spells require hands, y'know," she chuckled. As he stalked toward her, she brought a finger to her rope bindings, and began whittling it down with bursts of tiny flames. By the time he reached her, the rope had burned completely through and she brought her hands up in front of her, catching him and the others in a circle of ice.
"You will not touch me!" she screamed. She dashed out of the room just barely making it into the cavern below before she was grabbed.
"We can do it just as easily here as up there," he growled in her ear. She looked around at the group of templars surrounding her in the dank tunnel. One of the men twisted her arms and clamped them to her sides, earning a cry of pain that echoed through the underground passage.
"That's it! That's her! We're going in the right direction!" Anders whispered hoarsely as the others increased their pace.
She slumped in the templar's arms, the group so tight around her that she knew she had no means of escape. She hung her head, her eyes closing as Alrik stepped up to her.
"That's right, don't fight it. You know you can't escape," he whispered in her ear as he tilted her face up to his. He reached his hand out to one of the men, palming the brand, his eyes locked with hers.
"Interesting isn't it, how it's lyrium that you need for your spells, but that it's also the component used to lock you from the Fade," he smirked as he pressed the brand against her forehead with his thumb.
If anything was said afterward, she didn't hear it. Coldness seeped into her being. Tears slid down her cheeks as she was released. Her eyes stared sightlessly at the stone wall in front of her and her body crumpled to the soft moss beneath her feet. This was her fault. She wasn't strong enough to escape. She was the one who let emotion rule her actions, the one who trusted in the sanctity of confession. She was so cold, so incredibly cold. Numbness swept through her body as she curled up tighter, the laughter of the men surrounding her barely audible.
"Pick her up. We need to get back to finish the rite. The brand only does so much, but is reversible. This one is finally docile enough now that we can complete the rest without her fighting us."
"You will never touch another mage as long as I live!" Justice's voice rang out in the cavern. She could hear the sounds of the battle raging around her. One of Bianca's bolts whistled above her head as it connected with the man trying to lift her. Her eyes closed as she let the numbness overtake her, blocking out the shouts and clanging of weapons.
The last templar downed, Varric and Carver rushed over to Siobhann. Kneeling beside her, Varric brushed her hair out of her face and a low moan escaped him at what he saw. Carver's eyes hardened and he stood up, striding over to Sebastian, his fist connecting with the man's jaw before anyone knew what was happening.
"What was that for?" he asked, rubbing his jaw.
"She's fucking branded!"
"Shit," he sighed, his shoulders slumping.
"My sister is tranquil and it's your fault!" he yelled, drawing back to hit the man again then stopped by Fenris's grip on his wrist.
"Beating him to a pulp won't help matters. Let's get her out of here before we take the chance of anyone coming down here to see what's going on."
Carver sighed and nodded, then turned back to where Siobhann and Varric were. He stood, watching, as the dwarf sat there, her head pillowed on his thigh, as he ran his fingers through her hair.
"Let me have her, Varric. We're getting her out of here," he murmured, "And for what it's worth, I wish it was you she was so intent on, not Andraste crotch over there."
Varric nodded, standing as Carver lifted her into his arms. The group was somber as they trudged back the way they came.
"Anders's clinic or the Hanged Man?" the dwarf asked.
"Hanged Man would probably be safer. There aren't any templars skulking around there," Aveline answered.
"According to a letter I found in his pack, Alrik was the only one who Gamlen was in touch with, so with him dead, no one else will be coming after her. Also looks like the threats of Tranquility against even Harrowed mages were all his idea and rejected by both the Divine and the Knight Commander. Good to know," Anders sighed in relief.
"I wish she'd open her eyes," Carver whispered.
"I wish we'd gotten there sooner," Fenris muttered.
"For what it's worth, I'm sorry this happened. None of this was my intent," Sebastian stated.
"You should have listened when she asked you to keep quiet. I might not like mages, but she's different. She didn't deserve this."
"No she didn't, but I still stand by my decision. I'm sure something can be done for her, but both Gamlen and Ser Alrik paid, didn't they?"
"You can't cure Tranquil, Choir Boy," Varric growled.
"It's like trying to heal a beheading. Can't be done," Anders shot back at Sebastian.
"Then we take care of her. It's not like she can't have a normal life. I've seen these Tranquil owning their own businesses, working jobs…"
"Perhaps that's normal to you, but how would you like to live out your life with no emotions? Unable to feel love, or joy, sadness, or anything else? That's the price a mage pays when they're cut off from the Fade, from their magic," Anders said sadly.
"You… you have no emotions as a tranquil?" Sebastian's eyes went wide.
"None at all."
"Maker, what have I done?" he asked.
"Enough," Carver spit out.
"I think I'll head back to the Chantry. Maybe I can find some guidance while there…"
"Good. We don't need you, she doesn't need you. We take care of our own," Carver stated, looking down at his sister. Sebastian sent one last sad look at the group as they entered the tavern before shuffling off toward Hightown and the Chantry.
"Put her down on the bed," Varric said as they entered his room. He helped remove her boots and tuck her under the sheets. His hand lingered on her hair, his thumb brushing lightly over the brand on her forehead, before he stepped back, his eyes downcast.
"I wonder…" Carver began, then sighed as he looked down at her.
"What?" Aveline's voice was gentle as she walked up beside him and rested her hand on his shoulder.
"Remember what happened when Justice came out as we were fighting the templars, the night Anders tried to help his friend Karl?"
"He came out of his tranquil state for a while," Anders breathed.
"If Justice could be called forth enough times, think it might help break her of what they did to her?"
"It might work…" Aveline murmured.
"Anything's worth trying, if it helps Kitten," Varric sighed.
Anders concentrated on his hatred of templars, of the sight of them surrounding Siobhann, the brand on her forehead, and Justice broke through.
"I will kill them all!"
"They're already dead, Justice, but they've damaged Siobhann," Carver said. Justice stalked to the bed and lay his hand on her head. She sucked in a breath and opened her eyes, the numb state retreating. Her gaze darted around at those surrounding the bed.
"Before… before I go back…it's not permanent. Heard them say brand can be reversed but they didn't do the whole rite. Fix it please!" she sobbed. Varric crawled up on the bed and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close.
"We'll fix it Kitten. Shhh, we'll take care of it," he whispered, his hand running down the length of her hair. She clutched at his back as she cried on his shoulder, her sobs weakening as she slipped back into her previous state.
"She speaks the truth. I can still feel a tie between her and the Fade," Anders said as Justice calmed, "It's faint, but still there."
"While I wouldn't trust going to the Knight Commander with this, think that Knight Captain Cullen, or perhaps Ser Thrask, might help? We've done them favors in the past," Aveline pondered.
"It's worth giving it a shot. Not like anything worse can happen," Carver replied.
"I'll send them a request to meet in the morning. Until then, all I can suggest is we all try to rest up and keep her comfortable. Anyone who wants to be there for the meeting, be at my office three hours past dawn."
Aveline squeezed Carver's shoulder gently before making her exit. Varric shivered as he lay Siobhann back against the pillows.
"I don't know if it's because they didn't finish the rite, but by the Ancestors her skin is like ice!"
"She's caught in an in-between place. They were in such a hurry to subdue her that they screwed up. She's not here but she's not in the Fade either. Not cut off, but not fully able to reach it. I think what she's dealing with is worse than being Tranquil, to be honest. We just need to keep her warm, body heat being the best."
"I'll take care of it," Varric said.
"I'll be in my room if you need me," Carver walked over to kiss his sister on the forehead one last time before turning toward the door.
"Other than myself, you're one of the few people I trust to be alone with her," he said before exiting.
"I've got it from here, Blondie."
Anders nodded before leaving the room himself. With a gentleness that would surprise most, Varric set about undressing her, then grabbed a few extra blankets from his trunk. Stripping himself, he curled under the sheets and piled the blankets around them. Gathering her close, he closed his eyes, but not before uttering a prayer of his own.
"While I might be a surfacer, if you're listening, Ancestors I ask that you be with her. She's the only good thing I have to hold onto in this life."
Chapter 6: Saved
Through the work of her friends, Siobhann is saved from living a life of Tranquility.
Absolute blackness. Fuzzy images in her subconscious but not close enough to bring light to the darkness. Words, voices, but so far away as if she were underwater and they were coming from the shoreline. She could sense the Fade but could not reach it. She could feel the bed beneath her but could not grip the soft sheets covering it. A hand was combing through her hair and she wanted to snuggle closer but her body would not comply. She had tasted reality the day before and she wanted it back. The more she struggled, the more she was held fast in this blackness, this in-between. Exhausted, she gave herself up to rest, quieting her mind and trusting in the voices that surrounded her.
"So who all is meeting with Aveline and the templars?" Carver asked, looking at those who had gathered in Varric's room.
"Having me there might not be the best idea," Anders sighed, "So I think I'm going to stay behind on this one."
"If Anders is staying, he can keep an eye on her while I go," Varric said, idly running his fingers through Siobhann's hair.
"I will go as well," Fenris bowed to Carver.
"Aveline and I aren't on the best of terms even on good days, so I'll stay with Anders and Hawke," Isabela said from the doorway.
"Do you think maybe the First Enchanter might be able to help as well?" Merrill piped up.
"Wouldn't hurt to ask, but who's going to ask him?" Varric replied.
"I'll go," Sebastian's voice was quiet as he stepped into the room. All eyes snapped to him at his response.
"Then when you talk to him let him know that she's not fully tranquil, but trapped in some in-between place, so he knows what he's dealing with. Also tell him that a strong Fade presence brings her back, if only momentarily ," Anders said. Sebastian bowed and turned to head back out of the tavern, his duty set.
"You're actually trusting him?!" Carver asked, shocked.
"Kitten needs all the help she can get. We can't exactly afford to be picky right now, even if he's the one who got this ball rolling to begin with," Varric sighed. Anders glanced out of the small window then back at the others.
"I'd suggest you think of leaving soon if you want to get to the Keep on time."
Varric gently removed himself from Siobhann, resting her head on one of the many pillows, then grabbed Bianca and followed the others out of the room. Merrill shifted nervously from foot to foot as she looked between those staying and those going.
"Oh I don't know what to do! What can I do? Is there anything you need me for or should I go with them? Or maybe I should go home? By the Creators I'm babbling again," she sighed.
"Why don't you see if you can get some broth from the kitchen? We need to try and keep her fed and hydrated," Anders smiled gently at the elf.
"I can do that! I'll be right back!"
Isabela took up Varric's vacated spot and resumed what he had been doing with the woman's hair.
"Do you think she knows we're here?"
"I honestly don't know, Isabela, I really don't. I'd like to think she can hear us and feel us, but I've never seen anything like this before. It's always been all or nothing where Tranquility is concerned, not a half completed rite."
"I like her…" she paused as she caught Anders' look, "and not the way you're thinking. She doesn't judge, y'know? She accepts us as we are, mistakes and all."
"She's wonderful like that," he sighed, brushing his thumb lightly over the brand on Siobhann's forehead.
"I hope that they can find a way to fix this. I think we'd fall apart if she weren't here to hold us together."
Anders nodded, then helped Isabela shift Siobhann into a sitting position once Merrill arrived with the broth. With much care, they began the slow process of feeding her.
"Who's taking point on this?" Carver asked. "Varric?"
"Pup, while I'd love to, my skills are more for bluffing my way into or out of situations. In this case, since it's Aveline's office we're using and she's coming in from a position of power, she should be the one to lead this off," he replied.
Aveline nodded her head in Varric's direction.
They all turned toward the door as Cullen and Thrask stepped through. Wary glances passed between the two as they noted the group awaiting their presence.
"Knight Captain, Ser Thrask," Aveline greeted the men, "I thank you for your swift response."
"Guard Captain," Cullen bowed, "May I ask the reason for the urgency of this meeting?"
"We have a… situation, if you will."
"A situation? Why call us instead of letting the guard handle it?" Cullen asked.
"Because it involves the templars - more specifically one of your own who stepped out of bounds. Not to mention, we've worked with each other on occasion and believed you to be the ones we could trust."
"This wouldn't have anything to do with Ser Alrik, the murdered templar we found in the caverns below the Gallows, or his subordinates?"
"Pardon me, Knight Captain, but you have to admit that something was clearly wrong with Ser Alrik. I even heard the Knight Commander state that he was going too far even by her standards," Thrask interrupted.
"You're right," Cullen sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose, "What can we do for you?"
"He kidnapped one of our friends and only completed half of the Rite of Tranquility on her. We need it reversed."
"What?! How are you so sure?" Cullen stared at Avenline incredulously. Thrask sighed and lay his head in his hands.
"We heard him telling the others that the brand had subdued her enough to get her back up into the Gallows and continue the rite. That right there seems to be proof enough," she replied, arms folded over her chest.
"Maker's mercy, the brand is usually the last part of the rite, not the first," Thrask sighed, "It's what completes the process, sealing off the mage's connection to the Fade."
"I truly don't know what we can do for her, but perhaps if we can see her, we might have some idea. Otherwise, the only thing I can suggest is to finish the rite. How is she acting?"
"Like she's in a permanent unconscious state. Unless something from the Fade touches her, she responds to nothing, no one. It's as if she's locked inside her own head," Fenris stated.
"Sweet blood of Andraste!" Cullen groaned.
"Knight Captain, perhaps we should bring the First Enchanter in on this," Thrask suggested.
"We already have someone talking to him right now," Fenris said.
Varric and Carver sat there silently, twin looks of worry crossing between them as they listened to the conversation. The dwarf awkwardly patted the young man on the arm as they watched the proceedings.
"Will you take us to her?" Cullen asked.
"Let me explain to my guards where I'll be and why, then we can be on our way," Aveline agreed.
"Excuse me, First Enchanter?" Sebastian called out from the open door after knocking on it lightly.
"Please, come in. I recognize you. Aren't you one of the brothers of the Chantry?"
"Yes ser," Sebastian answered as he took a seat in the man's office, his hands clasping and unclasping nervously in his lap.
"What can I do for you, son?"
"A friend of mine was taken yesterday by a rogue templar. While in his care he performed only half of the Rite of Tranquility on her and is stuck in an in-between place, I've been told. She still has a slight connection to the Fade, and a faint connection to the real world, but cannot touch either."
"What, did the idiots brand her first then decide to do the rest of the Rite later?" Orsino spat.
"Actually, that is what happened, serrah. I've been told that only a strong Fade presence can rouse her, but only for a brief period of time before she slips back to where ever her soul rests."
"Maker…" Orsino shook his head, "Let me grab some of the senior enchanters and see what we can do for this young lady. Wait for me in the courtyard, please."
Anders stiffened as the templars came through the door, though Cullen put a hand up in peace.
"We're not here for you. Has there been any change in your friend?"
"Where is she?"
Anders waved Cullen past the table to the bedroom set off to the side. He took a step back as the two men filed into the room, the others standing behind to watch. Isabela scooted out from her spot on the bed and watched as the men looked Siobhann over. Cullen and Thrask frowned at the mark on her forehead, exchanging glances, before they looked at the others.
"How long exactly has she been like this?" Thrask asked.
"Since we found her yesterday afternoon. Other than a brief moment when we were able to bring a piece of the Fade into the room, she hasn't responded," Anders replied.
"Brought a piece of the Fade into the room?" Cullen looked at Anders, eyes narrowed.
"Healing magic. I needed to see if there were any other injuries she might have received while in Alrik's care."
Nodding, the two men turned back to Siobhann. Cullen sighed while Thrask rubbed his forehead.
"Maker, I have no idea what to do. Tranquility isn't meant to be reversed so we've never come up with a cure. All I can suggest is completing the rite so she can at least have a semi-normal life," Cullen said.
"No! My sister will not become one of the Tranquil!"
"This may be the only way to bring her back to you, young man. I'm sorry," Thrask murmured.
"Let us see if we can do anything for the young woman," Orsino stated as he entered the room.
"What can you do?" Cullen eyed the mage.
"With the assistance of the senior enchanters, I can try to reach her from the Fade. Perhaps from there I can help her reconnect her power to both life and the beyond."
Cullen nodded and both him and Thrask backed out of the small bedroom to allow the mages entrance. Orsino crept up on the bed, sitting beside Siobhann, as the others placed themselves around the two. Chanting filled the air as the mages opened up a portal for Orsino to enter, his body relaxing as his spirit entered the world beyond. He followed her thin trail until he hit a wall of blackness. Confusion wrinkled his brow, both in the Fade and out, as he tried to find a way around or through it. He tried to weaken the barrier where her trail slipped through to no avail. Hours passed as he tried to find a way to find some access point with no luck.
Something was tugging at her. She tried to follow the direction of the pull, crying out as she hit the wall of the box that enclosed her. Her hands pummeled the surface as she screamed for release, unable to break through. Sobbing, she slid down into a ball, hoping that whoever was on the other side could at least feel her.
Orsino came back with a gasp, bracing himself with his hands so he would not fall on the prone body in front of him. Resting for a moment, he then opened his eyes and looked at the crowd gathered around them.
"She's blocked in. I couldn't get through the barrier but I know she felt me. I could feel her responding to my presence. There's nothing that we can do to break her free, but it seems as though she's held captive not only by what was done to her, but by her own mind. Unlike the templar's suggestion, I don't see finishing the Rite as a fix. She'd just end up fully Tranquil and still stuck in the box."
"Do you have any suggestions?" Anders asked.
"A shock of some sort, emotional would be best, or extreme pain might work. I don't know how she'd recognize anything that would tug at her feelings, though, due to the fact that she's as blocked from this world as she is from the Fade. That leaves pain," he sighed.
"I might be able to help…" Fenris began.
"How?" Cullen asked.
Fenris looked at the others and brought his hand forward, flexing his fingers. Those who had seen what he was capable of winced, while the others looked on curiously.
"You'd kill her," Carver whispered.
"Not necessarily. Remember what I did to that slaver in Darktown to make him talk? He was alive afterward, wasn't he? Until your sister had him executed so he could not sell another child," his voice was mild as he flicked a glance at Thrask.
"Do you think it would work?" Thrask asked.
"Only one way to find out, isn't there?" Fenris responded. He looked around at the others, gauging their reactions, then stepped up to the bed as they each nodded their consent.
"I would ask for some space please," he asked of those still surrounding the bed, his gaze fixed on the First enchanter, "because if someone were to step too close or try to interfere in what I am about to do, it could cause irreparable damage."
"I need someone to hold her please. It would be easier if she were sitting up, and if this works, help keep her from doing harm to herself," he looked at his friends, then back at Siobhann.
"Let me," Carver stepped forward, then slipped behind his sister on the bed, pulling her up against his chest. He slid his arms up under hers and gripped her shoulders, burying his face in the crook of her neck so he would not see what was about to come. Fenris took a deep breath then let it out, steadying his nerves. His skin flared along the veins of lyrium etched within and, without letting himself think more on what he was about to do, shoved a ghostly hand into her chest and squeezed her heart.
Pain, so much pain. The black box that had jailed her soul shattered, splintering into dust. Her body bucked and she let out a bloodcurdling scream. Her eyes flew open and she stared into the green eyes of the elf in front of her, trying to get away from the steel bonds that held her fast.
"Make it stop, please, Maker, stop!" she cried, tears sliding down her cheeks. Fenris relaxed and removed his lyrium grip. Her body shuddered as the pain receded, gasping for air. The others watched, waiting to see if she retreated back into her box. She relaxed as the pain finally disappeared, rubbing her hand over her heart.
"Shit, that hurt!" she groaned. Raising her gaze, she looked at the crowd that had gathered around the bed the moment Fenris had finished, and tried to crawl into Carver to hide from the prying eyes.
"Remind me to never piss you off, Fenris," she gave him a lopsided grin as she peeked at him over her shoulder. She raised her fingers to her forehead and frowned as she felt the raised ridges of the Maker's symbol there.
"Well hell, what am I now, a walking advertisement for the Chantry?"
A collective sigh of relief rippled through the room as a sliver of the old Siobhann snuck through. A laugh rumbled in Varric's chest as he watched her. She huffed her hair out of her face as she continued to sneak looks at the crowd.
"Ummm… this is a bit unnerving to say the least. I'm tired, I'm hungry, and I need to relieve myself like nobody's business. Do you all have to be here?"
"I think the lady will be fine, my friends. The show is over for today, but if you come back mid-afternoon tomorrow, we will have a repeat performance for your viewing pleasure. If you wouldn't mind leaving the way you came, that would be much appreciated. Leave your tips at the door," Varric announced, giving a courtly bow.
"And for what it's worth, your help in the matter was much appreciated. We can't thank you enough," he added in a soft tone. Siobhann breathed her own sigh of relief once the room was cleared out, minus Fenris, Anders, Varric, and Carver.
"Guys, I wasn't kidding when I said I needed some privacy…"
"Someone should be with you at least, even for that, just to make sure you don't accidentally hurt yourself," Anders retorted.
"Fine," she sighed, "but only one of you! When I'm finished, then the rest may come back in."
"You should do it, Blondie. This way you can check her over and make sure all's in working order."
"Good idea, Varric," Carver said as he released his sister, slipping out of the bed to make his way out of the room. The other two followed him, leaving her alone with Anders. With his help, she took care of her body's needs, then allowed him to scan her from top to bottom. He frowned as he concentrated on the mark in the middle of her forehead, then huffed in exasperation.
"I can't remove it, Hawke. Whatever they used as a brand, it's permanent."
"Before I went under, Ser Alrik was laughing, thinking it was funny that what we mages need most to cast our spells is the same component used in the brand to block us from our magic - lyrium."
"Andraste's flaming knickers! They use lyrium to make mages Tranquil?"
"For the mark at least."
Without warning, Anders scooped her up into a tight hug, his body trembling as he held her.
"We were so scared we were going to lose you, Siobhann. We almost didn't make it in time! What possessed you to run off like that?" he whispered hoarsely. The others crept back in quietly, curious about her answer.
"I didn't have much choice. I wanted to meet him on my own terms instead of having him search all of Kirkwall for me, possibly bringing templars to your clinic or to the Hanged Man. Like an idiot, I thought I could take him on myself. I'm sorry…"
"You're alive and back with us. That's all that matters now," Varric said as he approached. Anders let her go and she looked at them all, tears in her eyes.
"Thank you. There's nothing I could do or say to show how much I appreciate what you've done," she whispered, sniffling as her eyes filled. She hugged each of them, clinging to them for a moment before going on to the next.
"You don't have to thank us. That's what we're here for and we know you'd do the same for us," Fenris replied, shifting a bit uncomfortably.
"Before I turn into a water fountain, where's my staff? I remember dropping it in the Rose."
"It's keeping Bianca company in the corner," Varric grinned.
"And they haven't tried killing each other?"
"I think they're having a secret love affair behind our backs," Varric whispered, wiggling his brows.
"Oh Maker," she giggled.
"I didn't know how to collapse it like you do," Fenris said in apology.
"It's all right. Just as long as I know where it is, I'm fine. Now, is it possible for me to get some food? I'm as hungry as a starved bronto. After that, I want some sleep - real sleep. I don't think I've actually slept for days."
"Sure thing, Kitten. Anything for you, you know that," Varric said, gently pushing her toward a chair. His hand rested on her shoulder as he looked down at her, leaning forward to press a kiss to her forehead. She reached up to touch his cheek, her smile a bit shy as he pulled away.
"You're one of the best friends a girl could have, Varric. I don't know what I'd do without you."
His smile was a bit sad as he patted her shoulder before heading off to order her something to eat.
"Best friend?" he murmured to himself, "I plan on changing that to something more if the Ancestors are with me."
Anders slipped out with a wave, Fenris following with a salute. Carver looked down at Siobhann, his hand moving to rest on top of her head.
"He's in love with you, you know."
"Varric. He wouldn't leave your side the entire time you were drowning in despair over Sebastian's blabbering, nor when you were stuck in that dark place thanks to Ser Alrik."
"You're reading too much into it. While I will admit, the idea of it being the truth makes me feel all warm inside, he's always going on about not being able to find a good dwarven woman. That and his attachment to Bianca. I'm better off looking elsewhere instead of pining for what I can't have."
"Is that why you set your sights on Vael? Because you didn't think you could be anything more than a friend to Varric?"
She sighed, nodding.
"Maker's hairy balls, sis! Say something to him! I know I'm right when I say that he has feelings for you too."
"I'm just too tired, Carver. I've dealt with enough rejections and persecutions that the thought of laying it out on the line for someone who I'm so deeply in love with, just to receive a smile and a pat on the head, would shatter something inside me. Not only that but the possibility of screwing up the friendship we have isn't something I'm willing to risk," she murmured, staring down at her lap. Varric froze inside the doorway as he listened to their conversation, his lips curving into a mischievous grin.
"Dinner is served! We have a fine mutton stew along with a chunk of bread, a wedge of cheese, and your favorite honey mead."
Siobhann grinned at Varric as he approached with the food, tucking it in at an amazing speed. Varric and Carver stepped away, out of earshot.
"So she loves me, huh?"
"You heard that?"
"Every word, pup. Edwina was coming up to check on us just as I was leaving the room. I just waited on her to return with Kitten's supper."
"Am I right? That you love her too?"
"With every breath the Ancestors gave me."
"What are you going to do about it? She didn't believe me, y'know."
"I've got a plan, son. Papa Varric is always prepared."
"I wish you luck. She deserves to be happy."
"What are you two mumbling about over there?" Siobhann asked, her mouth full of food.
"Oh, just working on a plan to win our money back from Isabela."
"Mmhmm, and I'm the Queen of Ferelden. Just get your asses over here and keep me company while I eat, will ya?"
Varric and Carver shook their heads and chuckled, rejoining Siobhann as she finished her meal. As she drooped in her chair, drowsy from a full meal, Carver winked at Varric as he took his leave. He grinned in response then helped her undress and crawl into the bed. Shucking his own clothes, he lay down beside her and gathered her close.
"Be nice if Carver was right. Wish you did return my love," she mumbled as she drifted off to sleep, curled up against his side. Varric kissed her softly, his fingers trailing over her cheek.
"I do. Now just to get you to believe it."
Chapter 7: Varric
The story behind Bianca is revealed and feelings come to light.
She awoke to the sounds of laughter and cursing along with a muffled snore from the warm body pressed up to her side. Turning her head she spotted Myrdin curled up beside her, stubby tail wagging in his sleep. Yawning, she dragged her fingers through her hair as she sat up, her eyes landing on the wrapped package sitting on the bedside table. Pushing back her curiosity long enough to get dressed, she curled up next to the mabari and set the package in front of her. Myrdin lay his head on her thigh and she absentmindedly rubbed between his ears, her other hand reaching for the note attached.
This reminded me of you - naughty with undertones of sweet. I hope you enjoy it.
She stared at the note for a few minutes, trying to figure out its author as the handwriting seemed a bit unnatural - as if the writer were trying to hide their identity. Her eyes took on a wicked light at the description of her as she reached for the package. Her gaze shot to the main room as she heard Isabela's voice.
"Think she's awake yet? Maybe I should check on her."
"Leave Kitten alone. She'll sleep as long as she needs to. Besides, her mabari is right there so if something goes wrong he'll be able to alert us."
"I miss having her here while we're playing cards."
"I'm sure you don't miss her winning your coin. Sister is the only one who seems to be able to outsmart you," Carver's voice held a trace of amusement.
"I win it back easily enough from you, Pup."
"And the rest of us too, it seems," Anders groused.
Siobhann swallowed a chuckle as she listened to them, her fingers careful as she removed the wrapping so she wouldn't give away her conscious state. Opening the box, she stared at its contents for a long moment before gently lifting the glass bottle to bring it closer to her gaze. She recognized the label as belonging to a well known perfumist, a very expensive perfumist. Removing the stopper, she waved it under her nose to catch notes of amber and vanilla. Dabbing some on her wrists and behind her ears, she carefully replaced the stopper, her lips curving in a soft smile. She wished she knew who thought of her enough to give her such a gift so she could show her thanks. Stepping out of the bedroom into the view of the others, her heart warmed at the round of smiles that came from her friends.
"Maker, you're going to freeze your feet off if you keep walking around barefoot," Carver grinned.
"Hey, if Merrill and Fenris can do it, why can't I?" she laughed, wiggling her toes against the worn wooden floor. She approached the table and draped herself over Varric, studying his cards, contemplating whether or not to be dealt into this hand.
"Who's winning so far?" she asked.
Varric closed his eyes momentarily, enjoying the scent that flitted from her warm skin to tease his senses. The way it reacted to her body chemistry was spot on and he knew he had chosen the correct combination of oils for her. The amount it set him back was well worth it. It took all of his concentration to focus on the game instead of the weight and smell of her. Oblivious to his reaction to her, though the others had noticed, Siobhann kissed his cheek before grabbing a seat next to her brother.
"Isabela of course," Carver muttered.
"Oh don't be such a spoilsport, Pup," the pirate laughed, setting down her cards to a chorus of groans around the table. As she leaned forward to collect her take, Varric held up a hand to her and presented his own, earning a pout from Isabela.
"I think that's mine, Rivaini," he chuckled, sliding the coins away from her grabbing hands, "including the sovereign you're trying to hide."
"Sod it, and here I thought I was careful enough to not get caught," she grumbled, tossing it to him.
"One more hand and then I have to head back to the barracks," Aveline stated, leaning back in her chair as the cards were dealt. There was a chorus of agreement from the others and Siobhann wrinkled her nose in response.
"Oh don't tell me your cards are that bad," Isabela grinned, "though the thought of winning against you for a change is a nice one and might keep me warm in my empty bed tonight."
"It's not that but… shit, how long was I asleep?"
"All day, Kitten, but your body needed it. Like you said, you really haven't slept lately."
"Sod… well at least I'm awake and sober for this hand so I have a decent chance of walking away with something," she laughed. Good natured insults passed around the table as cards were discarded and replaced. Siobhann chuckled darkly as she spread out her cards, laughing as the others tossed theirs down as well amidst a chorus of grumbles, then grabbed for her winnings. She found herself smothered with hugs and kisses as her friends cleared the room, then helped Varric set it back to rights.
"Well this is a bit strange. I'm wide awake and everyone else is going to sleep. I have no idea what to do with myself," she said, stretching out in one of the chairs and propping her feet up on the table.
"I woke up just before the others arrived for the game so I'm with you there. I didn't get much sleep either these past few weeks," Varric said as he came up beside her.
"I'm so sorry. Had I known I would have found somewhere else to stay so I wouldn't have…" she stopped as he placed a finger on her lips and shook his head.
"If you'd have gone anywhere else I still would have been there, or haven't you realized that by now?"
She playfully bit his finger, then sighed and curled up in the chair so she was facing him. Looking around him to the corner, she raised a brow as she noticed her staff still situated with the crossbow.
"Oh don't worry about them. Bianca and Dominic haven't killed each other yet. In fact I wonder what's going on between the two of them," he stated as he noticed the direction she was looking, his mind more on her and her treatment of his finger than on their respective weaponry.
"Dominic?" she asked.
"He needed a name and I thought it rather fitting. A bit royal, definitely not common and…you know, Kitten, now that Bianca is being so hopelessly busy with Dominic, I guess you and I could cuddle a bit as well?" he joked though the look in his eyes was nothing short of heated.
Both of them stared incredulously at their weapons as her staff somehow extended itself without her help and brushed Bianca's cocking mechanism, springing her to life.
"What the…" she gasped, her eyes wide.
"Maker, these two sure aren't wasting their time!" Varric laughed.
"Holy Maker," she groaned, covering her face with her hands, as she shook with laughter.
"I think they are having a secret affair behind our backs, though not so secret now I'd say," Varric chuckled.
"Maybe Dominic will have a better chance at finding love with Bianca than I seem to be having with anyone else," she sighed, watching the dwarf from the corner of her eye. Her conversation with her brother from the previous evening still haunted her and she wished she had the courage to see if his words were truth.
"I thought you were set on Choir Boy," he murmured, watching her.
"I think he was more of a conquest. Y'know, just to see if I could get him to loosen up a bit. And after what he did, while I understand his reasoning behind it, I don't know if I could be with someone who might blab another secret."
"I can understand that. Have anyone else in mind? Someone you could actually see yourself with?"
"Yes… no… damnit I don't know, Varric. Even if I did, I'm a mage. Who would actually have the stones to tie themselves to me? Most people run at the first sign of magic and it doesn't help that I'm a walking oxymoron - a tranquil who can cast spells," she stared at the floor.
"Hey now, none of that. If someone can't look past your magic ability to who you actually are inside, then they've lost the chance at something great. You have people who care about you, Kitten. Don't forget that," his hand was gentle as he brushed it over her hair.
"I know, but having people who care about me is different than having someone to connect with, to be with, and knowing that they belong to me and vice versa. There are times I wish I was normal and this is one of them."
"Don't ever wish for that. If you were 'normal' as you put it, you wouldn't be you. Think about it - you might never have gotten out of Lothering, we never would have met, and you wouldn't have a group of people willing to drop everything just to spend time with you," he tilted her head up to look at him.
"You have a point…" she sighed and ran her fingers through her hair, "But even with all that, I get so damned lonely, y'know?"
"I know, sweetheart, I know. I've been there, hell I'm still there," he murmured.
"Well," she huffed, changing the subject,"if they're going to be going at it, I think I should know the story behind Bianca. It's for Dominic's own good that I find out the kind of woman he's with."
Varric cracked a smile, his fingers light as he brushed them over her cheek.
"You sure you want to know? It's not a pretty story."
"All I know is what I overheard you telling Merrill, that it was the one story you promised never to tell. I don't think the others caught it, but the sadness in your voice was enough for me to know it's not an easy memory," her voice was gentle as she looked at him.
"It's a story I promised myself I'd never share. I'd never found anyone I felt close enough to, cared enough about, to feel comfortable talking about. But, Hawke, if you really want to know… let's get out of here. Maybe a walk down to the docks or something…"
"But you hate the docks! All that water, y'know."
"I know, but it's quiet down there and there's less of a chance of being interrupted. Between the two of us, we should be safe enough if someone decides to be stupid."
"Are you sure about this, Varric?" she asked softly as she stood, her heart thumping wildly in her chest as she realized the possible implications of him telling her his story - that maybe Carver was right if Varric felt close enough to her, cared enough, that he felt comfortable letting her into this locked piece of him.
"I think you should know, Kitten."
Nodding, she made her way over to her boots, fastening them up, then grabbed for her staff and retracted it back to its dagger-like state before sheathing it. Varric reset Bianca then strapped her onto his back. The two of them stepped out into the warm night air, the dwarf taking her hand as they made their way through the winding streets. Just as they entered the docks proper, five men stepped out of the shadows to block their path.
"Oh look, a dwarf taking his pretty tranquil lover home, I bet," one of them giggled.
"Maker, the thought of having those legs wrapped around me… I think I'm gonna have some fun with her after we get rid of him," another grinned, grabbing his crotch.
"The stupidity of people sometimes," Varric sighed, shaking his head.
"Should we let Bianca and Dominic show them the error of their ways?" her grin was feral as she looked at the thugs.
"Wouldn't have it any other way, sweetheart," he said, readying his crossbow. Siobhann unsheathed her staff, letting it extend to its full length.
"Oh sod…" one of the men said as he started to back up from the others. She caught him, with whispered words, in a cage of pain, his body contorting as she clenched her fist.
"I thought tranquil weren't supposed to cast spells!" another panicked.
"It didn't take, I'm afraid. Guess my head's too hard or my skull's too thick for anything to get through," she laughed, her hand wreathed with flame as she threw a fireball at those remaining, Bianca taking out the one she had earlier enslaved with her crushing prison spell. As they walked away from the bodies, the two of them removing the threat quickly, she let a firestorm rain down to reduce them to ash.
"Nothing like fried thug after a long day, y'know? I wonder if it tastes like chicken…"
"Too late to find out now," Varric snorted out a laugh and shook his head at his companion.
"True, and not something I'm actually willing to test, but I've always wondered," she grinned.
"Good, then I won't come home one day to find you gnawing on the leg bone of one of our enemies," he joked as he sat down on one of the steps that led down to the water. She started to sit down beside him until he waved her to sit in front of him. Doing as he requested, she started a moment as she felt him slide down behind her and wrap his arms around her.
"So, about Bianca…" he started, his eyes closing as he sighed. Sensing his nerves, Siobhann lifted a hand to rest it on his and squeeze gently.
"Take your time, Varric. I'm not going anywhere."
"I know. It's just not easy to think about, let alone talk about," he rested his chin on her shoulder, near enough that every time he inhaled he caught her scent, letting it soothe him.
"Bianca came from Orzammar. She was a nervous little thing, always looking over her shoulder or waiting for the sky to suck her up. Her family had found her having relations with one of the casteless and threw her out, but rather than become casteless herself, she came to the surface. In the beginning I looked at her as one would a younger sister, but after a while things changed and next thing I knew we were sharing a bed and I was in love with her…"
His grip tightened around her waist. She leaned back against him, resting her head back against his shoulder. One hand idly rubbed his leg while the other slipped into his grip to hold his hand, her fingers threading through his.
"Go on," she whispered.
"We were both young, around twenty or so, and as most kids in love, we were inseparable. Bartrand had learned of a nearby cove that smugglers had once used. He wanted to check it out and see if there was anything of value in there. Bianca and I went with. She was all right with a blade, though better at making them than wielding one. It just so happened that, unlike what my brother had heard, the cove was not abandoned. As we were clearing out one of the holding caves, I saw a shadow sneaking up on my left. Without thinking I shot at it. It was… I shot her, Kitten. I shot Bianca," his voice was hoarse in her ear.
"We were too far from the city to get her help in time. By the time we arrived back to Kirkwall, she was gone. She died in my arms."
Her eyes closed as she felt his tears trickle onto her skin. She turned in his arms and held him close as he wept, her own tears falling freely. She ran her fingers gently through the hair at the nape of his neck, saying nothing. She let go as she felt him gently pushing her away, her eyes searching his.
"You apologized earlier for causing me to lose sleep. Sweetheart, there was no way I was going to leave your side and not be with you during that time. I already lost one love and there was no way I was going to take the chance at having another taken from me, especially if I wasn't there if I had to say goodbye."
She blinked owlishly at him.
He cupped her face in his hands, tilting it up toward him, his grip firm yet gentle at the same time. His eyes locked onto hers, his cheeks taking on a ruddy color as he looked at her.
"The thought of losing you scares me. Having it almost happen, watching you when you would bolt at the smallest noise or when you were locked away from us, it forced me to see the truth. When Bianca died, I swore to myself I'd never commit myself to another woman, but I've found that I can't keep that promise. You're it for me, Siobhann."
"Are… are you saying what I think you're saying?" her breath hitched as she looked at him, the sound of her name rolling off his tongue sending shivers down her spine.
"That I'm in love with you? Yes," he watched her. Her eyes filled as she looked at him and he brushed his thumbs over the few tears that escaped.
"I had planned on trying to court you, woo you if you will, but I don't know how. You know me, Kitten, I either shoot straight or crack wise ass remarks," his smile was surprisingly shy.
"Well at least I know Bianca won't be getting in my way, after Dominic showed off his length to her earlier," she joked.
"So, what do you think about all this?" he murmured, his thumbs tracing patterns over her cheeks.
"I think I'm very lucky to have a man who loves me, who has proven that he'll stay by my side when I need him most, and who knows how to make me laugh. Most importantly, that he loves me as much as I love him," she replied, her heart in her eyes.
"Ancestors be praised," he whispered, leaning in the last little bit to kiss her. She reached up to remove his hair from its tie then threaded her fingers through it as she pressed closer. He groaned as her weight settled on him, pushing him back into the hard cement of the stairs behind him. Pulling back, he looked at her, amusement sparkling in his eyes.
"Not the best place to be doing this. Damned stairs are digging into my back."
She laughed as she stood and held her hand out to him. As she helped him up, he brought her wrist to his mouth, tasting the skin there.
"Tastes as good as it smells."
"Which reminds me, was that from you or is there someone else I should be thanking?"
"It was part of my plan to try and woo you, until I decided to toss that to the wind and just be myself."
"Thank the Maker. With how expensive I knew something like that must be, there was only one way I could think of that would be an adequate way of expressing my gratitude," her smile was impish as she looked at him.
"I never did learn the concept of sharing very well, so just keep that thought in your head if someone else decides to grace you with something equally as expensive," he grinned at her.
"Oh poor Dominic," she let out an exaggerated sigh, her hand stroking her staff lewdly before she retracted and sheathed it.
"You little minx," Varric groaned, wrapping his hand in her hair and yanking her in for a kiss. Siobhann fisted her hands in his hair as he ravaged her mouth, her breath coming in short gasps. She stumbled on the steps as she tried to get closer and he grabbed her before she could fall backwards into the water.
"Tavern. Now," his voice was gravelly as he looked at her.
"A little impatient, aren't we?" she giggled as she dashed up the stairs. He grabbed her hand as soon as they were on stable ground and pushed it inside the front of his breeches. She moaned softly as she wrapped her fingers around him and he shuddered against her.
"What do you think?" he whispered hoarsely.
"I think I wish I were a normal robe wearing mage right about now," she shivered as he nipped at her jaw.
"And hide that delicious body of yours? No, I think I can wait until we get back," his chuckle turned into a gasp as she stroked him in the process of removing her hand.
"Good for you. I don't know if I can," she said, her legs unsteady as they took the shortcut back into Lowtown. The way he teased the skin of the palm of her hand with his thumb wasn't helping matters either. She could tell it was on purpose, the smirk on his face after it elicited a soft moan from her being proof. As soon as they entered the tavern, he dragged her up the stairs to his room, locking the door behind them. Clothing quickly flew around the room as they disrobed.
Slamming her into the wall, Varric devoured her mouth, his thigh pushing between her legs and pressing up against her. She bucked against him, her nails digging into the muscles of his shoulders, her whimper lost in his mouth. He moaned at the proof of her readiness soaking his leg. Grabbing her thighs, he spread them wide and surged up into her, the kiss broken as she arched toward him, her head smacking the wood behind her. Her cry echoed in the room as her body swallowed his impressive girth, his hands tight on her hips, her legs locked around his waist. Her cries became pleas as he thrust into her, his mouth fastening on the skin at the crook of her neck. The muscles of his arms flexed as she gripped them hard, her nails tiny pinpricks against his skin.
"Sweet Andraste, Varric… please… oh Maker, please…" she whined, her breath hitching and her body tightening around his. At the frantic tone in her voice, he shifted the angle of her hips, pulling them out from against the wall, and began to drive into her deeper, faster.
"Varric!" she keened as she convulsed around him, his own fingers digging into her hips as he thrust into her, growling against her skin as he spilled himself inside her. They collapsed into a boneless, sweaty heap on the floor and she draped herself over him as she ran her fingers through his damp hair.
"Next time, the bed," he gasped, his body trembling beneath hers.
"Wall wasn't so bad, though I think I might have wood burn," she chuckled.
"Andraste's tits, how are you going to explain that one to Anders?"
"Truth always works," she grinned at him, his answering laugh rumbling in his chest.
"Ahhh, Kitten," he began, his lips soft as he trailed them over her face, "I meant for this first time between us, the first time of being something real, to be slow and sweet."
"Mmmm, that sounds nice," she murmured, tilting her head as his lips moved to her neck, "but we can do that next time."
"Think you can make it to the bed?"
"If I can crawl there."
Laughing, he gently moved her off of him and stood, reaching down to help her up. Stumbling to the bed, they shooed Myrdin off of it prior to climbing under the sheets. Varric ran his fingers lightly over the skin of her back, kissing it softly as he pulled her back against him.
"No scratches and no burns, thankfully."
She rolled over in his arms, her eyes searching his, as she rested her palm against his cheek.
"Thank you for telling me about Bianca," she murmured, "and thank you for loving me and trusting me enough to share it with me."
"You're a bright light on a cloudy day, sweetheart. I feel more at peace with it now, and I have you to thank," he leaned forward to press his lips against hers. She smiled against his lips then yawned, her body curling around his. He tugged the sheets over them then rested his hand on her hip, pulling her close as they drifted off to sleep.
Chapter 8: The Fade
Siobhann and company are sent to the Fade.
Warmth surrounded her, infused her, made her limbs weak. She pressed closer to the source, her dreams alive with a bright, sensual sun, her body shuddering through its first peak as she awoke from the sound of her own breathy moan.
"Mornin' love," Varric's voice rasped behind her, teasing another moan from her as he scraped his teeth over her shoulder. She reached behind her to twine her fingers through his heavy blonde locks, finding her leg already resting up on his outer thigh as his fingers continued to work their magic within her.
"Maker… perfect way to… wake up," she gasped, rocking her hips against him.
"I thought you might like it," he chuckled against her skin, his fingers curving up inside her as his thumb teased the little bud. She turned her head into the pillow, biting down into its softness as her hands gripped both his hair and the sheets, a muffled scream escaping her as she rode another wave, clenching down on him.
"Maker you're responsive," his voice was a mixture of awe and heat.
"Don't stop," she whimpered, pressing down on his hand.
"I have a better idea, Kitten," he murmured in her ear as he removed his hand. As he pulled up a bit more on her leg, she moaned into the pillow as she felt him fill her, his lips gentle against her back. He took his time, his hands learning her curves, the spots that made her quiver, the areas that made her sigh. His mouth worshipped her skin. Her body felt boneless as he drew out their pleasure, their hips rocking together in a lazy motion. He took her over on a gasp and a sigh, his own release following soon after.
"Sweet Andraste I could get addicted to this every morning," he said as she rolled over to face him, her movements slow and languid.
"I wouldn't complain," she smiled against his lips as she leaned forward to kiss him, her arms wrapping around him as she curled up against his side.
"And I was able to give you the slow and sweet I promised," he smiled, kissing her nose which she wrinkled in response, grinning up at him.
"Definitely worth the wait," she looked at him, her eyes becoming serious, "and it made me feel loved and cherished."
"That was my intent, love."
He wrapped his arms around her, the two of them a tangle of limbs as they relaxed in the bed. Isabela and Carver found them in that position, half asleep.
"Well this explains why they weren't downstairs at the usual meeting time," Isabela laughed.
"The next time my door is locked, Rivaini, respect it, will you?" Varric growled, yanking the sheets over him and Siobhann.
"Oh but if I did, then I wouldn't come across such delicious scenes as this," she purred.
"You know, I just realized they're the perfect height for each other. Must make things a bit more interesting, and some positions a lot easier to accomplish," Carver chuckled.
"I swear on the Maker's hairy ass, Carver, I'm going to set your britches on fire," Siobhann mumbled against Varric's shoulder.
"Also explains what I was hearing last night when I was in my room. I thought I heard a woman wailing. Was that you, sis?"
Varric and Siobhann shook with silent laughter as they heard Bianca spring open and the muffled sounds of surprise from the other two.
"Son, sounds like Bianca doesn't like the direction your teasing is going. I'm guessing she's going to be as possessive of your sister as she is of me. Don't make her angry."
"We'll… ahhh… wait for you both downstairs," Isabela said in a rush, her and Carver quickly leaving the room.
"I knew there was a reason I liked Bianca. That just clinched it," Siobhann's laughter was muffled against Varric's shoulder. Varric's answering chuckle rumbled in his chest.
"While the thought of lazing around in bed with you holds a certain appeal, I think we should probably show our faces downstairs unless we want more visitors," he sighed, pulling her up for one last kiss. She nodded, rolling over and climbing out of the bed. His eyes trailed over every curve as she padded out of the room with no thought to her nudity.
"I'm surprised they didn't say anything about our clothes tossed every which way," her voice trailed out from the main room.
"We'll probably hear something once we set foot downstairs."
"Eh, let 'em talk," she said, returning with their clothes and a fresh change of undergarments. He dressed quickly, her movements a bit more languid as she donned her own clothing. A soft hiss escaped her as she wrapped her breast-band around her, having left it and her shirt for last.
"Did I hurt you last night?" he asked, his hands gentle as he ran them over her shoulders.
"No, it's not that. First minute is always painful after wrapping this damned thing. If I had the ability, I'd invent something a lot more comfortable for women who weren't blessed with flatter chests."
The pain having receded, she pulled her linen shirt over her head, tucking it into her leather breeches, then fastened the matching leather vest before sitting on the edge of the bed and pulling on her boots, buckling them up the sides.
"With the vest, why bother? It's not like you're going to fall out of it if you don't," he questioned, sitting beside her.
"Never thought about it, really. Something to try later, but we have people waiting on us or I'd do it now," she stood and walked over to the corner, sheathing her staff and resetting Bianca for Varric before handing the crossbow over to him, her hand lingering on the smooth wood for a moment.
"I'm having a bit of a selfish moment," she murmured.
"While I know mother and Carver are looking forward to moving into our Hightown estate, I'm finding that I'm hoping something sets them back a bit, holding off the moment when it becomes my official address."
Varric took a step up to Siobhann and reached out to rest his hands on her waist. Whiskey met violet as he looked into her eyes.
"Why not let them move in and you stay here?" his voice was quiet with just a touch of nerves. Her lips curved into a soft smile as she took another step closer and slid her arms around him.
"I'll take that as a yes?"
"Mmhmm," her eyes closed as she felt his lips on her neck.
"I think you've forgotten an essential part of your wardrobe," he whispered against her skin. She laughed softly and pulled away from his comforting embrace.
"I'm not used to wearing scents. You'll have to get me into the habit," she retorted, walking back into their room to pick up the perfumed oil and dab it on her pulse points. Her pulse jumped as he brushed his thumb over her wrist, his eyes hooded as he looked at her. Without a word, he clasped her hand in his and they left to join the others.
"I swear to you it's true! Their clothes were tossed all around the room like a strong wind had ripped through there and they were all wrapped up in each other in the bed," Isabela exclaimed as she leaned back in her chair.
"I saw it myself," Carver added.
"I don't know. I just can't see those two together for some reason. When he's not being a smart-ass, he seems more like a big brother," Fenris said, his fingers steepled in front of him.
"Maybe to you but if you had been there the times I was trying to get her to eat, trying to heal her, you would have seen that she meant more to him than a friend would. I can definitely see it," Anders murmured.
"Oh, they're in love! How sweet! They make such a cute couple, don't they? I think they do!" Merrill babbled.
"Sweetie, great sex doesn't mean love, and from what I saw walking into that room, it was definitely something hot," Isabela chuckled.
"I don't care what you say. I think they're in looooooove," Merrill smiled.
"And you'd be correct, though the sex was absolutely amazing. Paragon of Manliness indeed," Siobhann purred as they approached the group.
"So what was it like, getting to touch all that chest hair?" Isabela asked, a twinkle in her eyes.
"I'm addicted. It's warm, soft, silky to the touch," her eyes darkened as she looked at the pirate, teasingly running her fingers through it while the other woman watched, grinning as she saw Isabela licking her lips.
"It's also all mine," she grinned, laughing when Varric grabbed and squeezed her butt in response.
"Keep that up and I'm dragging you back upstairs, no matter if we have business to attend to or not," he growled in her ear. His eyes were deceptively calm as he looked at the others, though his arm slid possessively around her waist.
"It seems I was proved wrong," Fenris said, bowing his head toward the two.
"So, what do we have for today?" she asked, curling up on Varric's lap as they sat down at the table.
"These arrived for you, sister," Carver handed her two sealed pieces of parchment. She opened the first, Varric reading over her shoulder.
"Well, looks like the estate is ready to move into. Now we can get mother out of that shack," she said, her mind already on the other note, skimming its contents.
"Carver would you mind helping mother move into the estate while I take care of this? Isabela, Anders, would you mind coming with us while I talk to Feynriel's mother," she sighed, slipping off of Varric's lap as she headed toward the door. She disappeared into the bright morning sun, Varric and the others behind her.
"I wonder what it is now," she pondered as they made their way toward the Alienage, "I mean the last I checked, he was settling in surprisingly well with the Dalish, so why would his mother need me?"
"Maybe the nightmares came back," Varric suggested.
"Isn't that why I sent him to Marethari in the first place? What am I supposed to do against a nightmare? Swing Dominic above Feynriel's head and hope I hit it?"
"Dominic? Who's Dominic?" Isabela asked.
"My staff. Figured since he's getting it on with Bianca, Varric thought he ought to have a name," Siobhann grinned.
"Do I even want to know?" Anders raised a brow at the two of them.
"He likes to play with Bianca's cocking ring," Siobhann chuckled.
"Andraste's knickers, I didn't need to know that!" Anders groused, though a smile played along the corners of his lips.
"You asked, I answered," she grinned.
"More than I needed or wanted to know for once," Isabela said.
The group quieted down as they noticed Feynriel's mother standing outside her home, near the stairs leading to Lowtown proper. Taking a deep breath Siobhann approached the woman, shocked and a bit uncomfortable when she was gripped in a tight hug. Her arms flailing, she looked back at the others with wide eyes and mouthed "Get her off me!" No sooner did she do so, she was let go, the woman in obvious tears.
"My son, he needs your help. He went into a nightmare two days ago and hasn't come out!"
"What am I supposed to do, shake him until he wakes up?"
"Keeper Marethari has a ritual that can send you into the Fade. I was hoping you could find him and bring him back. His things here can be used as a grounding point for him," the woman answered.
"Fine, I'll do it," she sighed.
"Siobhann, if you bring any of us with you, be warned that I'm not sure what will happen once I step into the Fade like this," Anders said softly in her ear.
"We'll worry about that when we come to it. For now, let's just see what needs doing, ok?"
"I must admit, I'm a bit intrigued," Varric began, "I wouldn't mind going along. I'll get a bit more insight into what you deal with, Kitten."
"Sounds like fun!" Isabela grinned.
"Let's just get this over with, shall we?"
"Feynriel, that's not your father. It's a demon," she said, though the voice was his mother's.
"No! It can't be! I've always wanted this!" he cried out.
The image that had been his father shimmered, a desire demon taking his place. The young boy screamed and ran off.
"You took my play thing. I could have made him something!"
"Oops, I was trying to help, really!" Siobhann smirked.
"How strong is your friendship compared to the desires of your companions, I wonder. Perhaps this one here? She longs to be back on the water, the wind in her hair, the smell of the sea coating her skin. I could give her the fastest, biggest ship she could ever dream of and let her sail away."
"I like big boats, I cannot lie," Isabela grinned, her eyes alight with joy.
"I sure as hell can't compare to a ship," she sighed.
"Then you'll need to get to me through her!" the demon spat.
"Shit," Siobhann grumbled, quickly placing a paralyzation rune around the pirate's feet so she could gain some range. Tossing spells at the demon, she bounced between the two, petrifying the rogue the moment she broke free. Her and Anders ran through their repertoire of spells, Varric and Bianca working in tandem, before their friend's image wavered and disappeared. She leaned against the wall, catching her breath, as she looked at the two remaining.
"Glad I was never on her bad side. She's tough and quick," she gasped, chuckling a bit.
"Worries me about what we might find elsewhere," Varric sighed.
"We'll get through it. We always do," she smiled. The three of them exited the room, quickly dispatching a rage demon on their way to the other hallway. She felt herself materialize into yet another body as she walked into the newest scene. Her mouth quirked into a half grin as she noticed that this time her body was male and, had she not a demon to deal with, might have taken the time to enjoy it. She turned her attention to the now grown Feynriel and the Keeper, taking a few steps further into the room.
"That's not the Keeper, Feynriel, that's a demon," she said, her voice the cool and cultured tones of the First Enchanter.
"He's right! My mother's people have no circles! Begone, demon!" Feynriel said before disappearing.
"You stole my pet. His power along with mine would have made me a force to be reckoned with!"
"Have you ever seen an abomination? They are ug-ly!" she smirked.
"And would you pit your friends against the strength of their pride? The dwarf, do you honestly think he'd stay by your side?" the pride demon began before turning all of its attention on Varric.
"Aren't you tired of your brother always being on top? Always taking first place?"
"Hell, the bastard betrayed us and left us in the Deep Roads. I wouldn't exactly call that taking first place."
"But yet he remains the hero in your stories, wouldn't you want to change that?"
"So that's what it's got to offer? 'Become a backstabbing bastard and I'll give you the world?' What bullshit, if it thinks you'll actually agree to it," she said, looking at her lover.
"It would be nice to outshine him for a change," he replied.
"Then it begins!" the demon roared. Siobhann winced as one of Bianca's bolts caught her in the shoulder before she could bounce away. Tears in her eyes, she used all her strength to keep him petrified so he couldn't attack her again while she whittled away at the demon. At one point she felt her life ebb away as she had to hold completely still, pulling on the link to her spirit to bring Anders back to consciousness while Varric had his attention focused solely on her. Once certain that Anders was up, she quickly healed herself then concentrated on keeping the both of them alive while taking down the man she loved. She felt her heart shatter when his image wavered, then disappeared, as Isabela's had earlier.
"That can't have been easy," Anders said, taking control of his body, wrapping an arm around her waist.
"No, it wasn't. I don't blame him though. We both know how strong pride demons are - one of the strongest, if not the strongest in the demon chain," she sighed.
"I know that. You know that. He doesn't though. I have a feeling this is going to tear him up inside, Siobhann."
"I know," she whispered, "but all I can do is talk to him when we get out here. Talking about that, let's see if we can find Feynriel so we can go."
Anders nodded and the two left to find the young man.
"I'm sorry, but your son is Tranquil," Siobhann murmured gently to the woman.
"You're lying! My son said he'd never want to become one of those lifeless walking corpses! Oh what have you done?" she cried out, running from the room. Siobhann sighed, her heart going out to the woman.
"That cannot have been an easy decision to make, child," Keeper Marethari said, "I thank you for helping us."
Siobhann nodded then looked at the others.
"What do you say we leave and head back to the Hanged Man? I don't think our presence here is needed any longer."
The others nodded and they trooped outside. Siobhann stopped to let the heat of the day soak into her skin after the coolness of the Fade. Varric sidled up to her, hesitant as he placed his hand on her shoulder.
"Can I talk to you, Kitten?" he asked.
"Guys, we'll meet you back at the tavern, all right?" she called out to Anders and Isabela. Her and Varric followed, their pace slow enough to let the other two get further ahead before he felt comfortable enough to speak.
"I'm so sorry about what happened in there. You know I wouldn't turn on you, Kitten. It's just that place seemed like a dream, so unreal… which it was, I guess."
"So I don't have to worry about you running off on me unless you're passed out drunk?" she quipped, trying to lighten the mood.
"Don't worry, sweetheart, if I'm passed out drunk, I'm not going anywhere. Seriously though, I'd never leave you, never betray you like that. I don't know what happened. I love you, Siobhann."
She reached over and caught his hand in hers, lacing their fingers together, before stopping and turning to him, bringing their joined hands to her mouth.
"I know, Varric. I'm not upset with what happened. That demon is the top of their hierarchy for a reason - it's the strongest one anyone has to deal with. Pride overtakes all others when it comes to the dark sides of people."
She pressed a kiss to his fingers, her smile gentle, then continued toward the tavern.
"I wonder what Isabela has to say about what happened in there, if anything," Varric sighed.
"We'll see, won't we?" she replied as he opened the door for her. Stepping inside, she blinked her eyes a few times to get accustomed to the darkness after the bright afternoon sun.
"Hawke, a moment please?" Isabela's voice carried over the noise of the other patrons.
She turned and looked at Varric, her lips curving slightly, then kissed him lightly before turning to head over to the pirate. She took one step before her hand was caught.
"Come upstairs when you're finished, please?"
"Of course, Varric."
With that, he let her go and she weaved her way between the tables to where Isabela sat. At the woman's wave, she took a seat.
"I'm sorry about what happened, Hawke."
"I like big boats, I cannot lie? Really, Isabela."
"What can I say? It's the truth at least."
"Well at least I know that if I wake up one day and find you gone, it's probably because you found a nice big, fast ship to take you out of Kirkwall," she chuckled.
"Don't be so sure of that, Hawke. I never thought I'd say this but you've become a good friend to me. You haven't judged me and don't seem to care about what I've done before I came here. Not only that but you're one hell of a drinking buddy!"
"Talking about drinking, how about we take the tavern by storm tonight and just knock our asses out on the floor?" Siobhann grinned.
"Songs and all?" Isabela asked.
"Songs and all!"
"You're on, girl! Who's buying?"
"I think it should be on your tab, don't you?" Siobhann chuckled.
"Sod. True enough, though. Meet you back here in a few hours? Maybe a couple of hands of Wicked Grace beforehand? I'll need to win some coin if I'm to pay for our drinks."
"Sounds good. Gonna head upstairs now. Things are still hitting Varric a bit hard."
"Give the guy a big hug from me and play with his chest hair a bit, will ya?"
"Happily, though the chest hair adoration will be coming straight from me," her laughter trailed behind her as she made her way through the room and up the stairs. Calling down an order for some ale, she entered the room and shut the door behind her, though she left it open a crack. Her gaze zeroed in on Varric as she crossed to his 'throne', sighing as she took in his stiff posture.
"You might want to sit down for this, Kitten," he said, not looking up at her as his eyes were focused on the parchment in front of him.
"Whatever it is, it can't be that bad, can it?" she asked, nodding to Edwina as the woman set the mugs down beside her and Varric. The door shut quietly behind them and she picked up her ale, sitting down and propping a leg over the arm of the chair. Her gaze was intense as she looked at him.
"A few contacts came through and said they've spotted Bartrand back in the city. Seems he's been settling some old debts."
"I've missed Bartrand. We have a lot of catching up to do," her voice turned to ice.
"I agree. Bianca's been missing him something awful," he replied, finally looking up at her.
"We'll deal with him tomorrow, though. After today, I just want to relax and have some fun. Wicked Grace later with Isabela, by the way. Much drinking to do and songs to be sung."
"And drunken sex afterwards?"
"And drunken sex afterwards," she agreed, her lips quivering on a grin.
"Sounds perfect, Kitten."
"I thought it might."
Chapter 9: Daddy
Varric learns some interesting news and a blood mage is questioned.
"Maker's breath, Kitten, how can you stand it?" Varric asked as they left the estate, glancing up to catch Leandra watching them from a second story window.
"I love her and I know she's just trying to look out for me," she replied.
"You know she's going to hound you more when you take her shopping tomorrow, just as she has the past couple of months since you moved her into the estate. 'You two ought to get married.' 'You should move into the estate.' 'What are the neighbors going to think?' I like your mother, but she scares even me."
"I know, but since I don't spend much time with her, it's the least I can do, y'know? Even if it does mean putting up with her nagging," she said as they continued down the side streets towards Lowtown.
"She's lucky to have you. By the way, does she know what happened with…" he trailed off, not wanting to say her uncle's name.
"No, and I don't want her to know. As far as she's aware, he was killed by someone he owed too much money to. Oh… wait a minute Varric. I'm feeling… I'm feeling kind of dizzy…" she stumbled into him, promptly passing out. Panic sunk its claws into him as he lifted her into his arms, carrying her as quickly as he could back to their room at the tavern.
"Andraste's ass, what happened?" she groaned, waking almost as soon as she was laid down on the bed.
"You fainted, dearheart," Varric replied, his hands unsteady as he ran them over her.
"Hmmm, give me a moment then, will you?" she asked, closing her eyes and sinking into herself to see if she could find the cause of the problem. Smiling to herself as she found the issue, she opened her eyes and looked into the worried ones of her love.
"I just need food is all. We've been so busy lately I haven't been eating as I should, I guess."
"Let me see what I can come up with then. I'll be right back," he said, rushing off to the main room.
Chuckling, she removed her boots and made herself more comfortable as she curled up on the bed and promptly fell fast asleep.
Siobhann quietly crept down the stairs the next morning, smiling as she watched her friends bantering back and forth at their usual table.
"I swear to you, Blondie, almost scared the chest hair right off of me! All of a sudden we're walking along and the next thing I know, she's out cold in my arms. Said it was lack of food, but that just doesn't sit right with me, y'know?"
"Do you want me to take a look?"
"If you wouldn't mind?"
"She passed out?" Fenris's brows drew together in concern, almost meeting in the middle of his forehead as he noticed Siobhann's approach.
"I'm fine, really!"
"I still want Anders to check you over, Kitten," Varric responded.
"He'll have to wait until I'm finished shopping with mother. I'm already late as it is."
"Fine…" he sighed. She grinned and leaned down to press a kiss to his cheek.
"I have a gift upstairs for you, by the way," she whispered in his ear before pulling back and sashaying out of the tavern.
"Hmph, thinks she can get out of this with a present, does she?" he muttered, then turned to the others, "I'll be right back. Looks as if she's trying to find a way to buy me out of my concern."
"Seems as though she knows you too well, my friend. Aren't dwarves known for their love of money and possessions?" Fenris quipped. Varric grunted in his direction as he went back up to his room. He scanned the area, frowning as everything seemed in place. As he looked closer, he noticed something sitting over by Bianca. As he reached down to grab it, his hand passed through some invisible barrier and she popped open, flinging the item he had been reaching for in his direction. He looked at it curiously - it was a small replica of Bianca but with an identical reproduction of Siobhann's staff at the base. He picked at a small piece of parchment curled up next to the trigger and unfolded it.
Meet Dominica, Dominic's daughter. He's a father now! You will be too in 7 months time. Congratulations, papa!
Varric stared at the piece of parchment for a long while, the information finally sinking in. His eyes warmed as he realized the reason behind Siobhann's fainting the previous afternoon. Grinning, he rushed downstairs.
"Something must be going on to have you running around like that," Isabela cracked as Varric stopped at the table.
"Anders, no need for you to check on her now. I know why she fainted."
"Hawke fainted? When?" Isabela asked, shocked.
"Yesterday afternoon after we left her estate."
"And yet you just let her leave?"
"She's fine, Isabela."
"So why did she faint?" Anders questioned.
"Take a look at this," Varric grinned as he handed the miniature crossbow and note over to the mage. Anders skimmed the note, his eyes going wide as he looked back at the dwarf.
"Well that definitely explains things."
"Why? What's going on?" Isabela demanded.
"Out with it, friend," Fenris said, his eyes intense as he looked at the dwarf.
"I'm gonna be a daddy!"
"You're shitting me!" Isabela exclaimed.
"Why would I do that, Rivaini? There are some things even I wouldn't joke about."
"I wonder what it'll look like," Fenris pondered, "if it'll look like a human or be small and squashed together like a dwarf?"
"I don't give a bloody damn! I'm going to be a father… holy shit I'm going to be a dad…" Varric sank down into a nearby chair.
"We need a round of drinks over here! Varric's treat as a new dad!" Isabela called out to the wait staff.
Carver and Aveline skidded to a halt as soon as they entered the tavern, hearing Isabela's shout.
"What?" Aveline stared at Varric as they approached.
"My sister's pregnant?" Carver asked.
"According to the note she left Varric," Anders answered, the dwarf just nodding dumbly as the truth of everything finally sunk home. Varric's eyes were wet as he looked up at Carver.
"I'm going to be an uncle!" the young man shouted, clapping Varric heartily on the back, "Though I wonder how mother's going to take this."
"Maker's breath," Varric moaned, laying his head in his hands.
"Don't worry, everything will turn out all right. It's Hawke after all," Aveline stated.
"I'd love to be there for that conversation," Carver chuckled.
"And I'm glad I'm not," Varric said.
"Andraste's tits, mother, how many more shops are you planning on visiting today?" Siobhann sighed as they left yet another store.
"I need new curtains, carpet, bedding, and that's just the beginning, not including clothing. How are you and your man getting along?" her mother asked, switching topics.
"We're doing quite well as you saw yesterday. In fact, we're going to have a baby," she said, deciding to take the straight route to the matter at hand.
"A… what? You're pregnant?"
"Yes, mother. Found out yesterday in fact."
"And you're just now telling me this?"
"Like I said, I found out yesterday. Passed out on the way home, did some checking when I came to, and voila, baby!"
"Any idea how far along you are?"
"Well from what I was able to tell, about two months or thereabouts."
"You two really need to think about getting married now, sweetheart."
"If he asks, then we will. I won't use this as leverage to get him to propose, though, mother," she sighed.
"But what will the others think? We're nobility now, Siobhann."
"The nobility can eat their shorts for all I care. Can you see them approving me marrying a dwarf to begin with? Besides, I don't live here with you and Carver, so they won't see me enough to have anything to say about it."
"I need to have a word with your young man."
"Just drop it, mother, all right?"
"Fine, but you'll at least let me be a part of this, won't you?"
"Of course! Why wouldn't I?"
"Oh, my baby's going to have a baby!" Leandra exclaimed, pulling Siobhann close, her voice teary. Siobhann chuckled and hugged her mother tight.
"Have that Anders boy keep an eye on you. You're so slender and dwarves are so… massive, that you might need help when the time comes. Maker, I wonder if they even take a full nine months to grow?" her mother said as she pulled back, holding Siobhann at arm's length as she looked down at her.
"I'll make sure I have everyone around me when the time comes, I promise."
"Bring your man and your friends over tomorrow night. We'll have dinner together to celebrate."
"Sounds wonderful, mother. Do you mind if I head back now? I'm getting a bit tired."
"Of course dear. I love you, you know that?"
"I know and I love you too. I'll see you tomorrow evening," she leaned up to kiss Leandra's cheek before slipping out of the market place, her step light as she headed back toward the Hanged Man.
Siobhann laughed as Carver almost bowled her over in a hug the moment she entered the tavern. The others rushed forth to do the same, Varric hanging behind at the table and smiling as he watched the scene.
"Well hello to you too! I'm guessing you already know?"
"I'm going to be an uncle!" Carver cried out for the umpteenth time.
"We know!" the patrons chorused, sending her into a fit of laughter.
"Been bragging much, Carver?" she grinned up at him.
"Would you mind letting a woman get some air to breathe?" she chuckled, grateful when the crowd loosened up around her. Her smile turned blinding when her gaze found Varric and she put an extra swing in her hips as she made her way around the tables to him. The moment she was in reach, he grabbed her and pulled her down onto his lap, one of his hands resting on the flat of her abdomen.
"Interesting way you have, my dear, of letting a man know of his impending fatherhood," he said, his eyes sparkling.
"Oh, you know me. Creativity is my middle name," she grinned, then pitched her voice lower for his ears only, "in all things."
"And how well I know it," he whispered in her ear, his warm breath against her skin sending shivers down her spine.
"May I have a look?" Anders asked as the others returned to the table.
"Mother actually insisted that I keep you near throughout the entire pregnancy. As she put it 'Have that Anders boy keep an eye on you. You're so slender and dwarves are so… massive'. She was also fretting about whether they take a full nine months as humans do," she chuckled.
"And are they… massive?" Isabela asked, her grin wicked.
"Oh you have no idea, Bela, dear. You'll just have to find your own and see for yourself," Siobhann smirked.
"Maker's balls, I'm not hearing this conversation, am I?" Carver asked, laughing.
"Since I'm hearing the same thing, I'm afraid that you are," Fenris replied.
Anders approached her and Varric, his grin lopsided as he knelt down by their chair. Varric removed his hand so Anders could place his over her belly, his eyes closing as he gently probed. When he opened them again, they were shiny with unshed tears and his smile was incredibly soft.
"The babe, even being so small, already has a strong spirit. You two are very blessed."
She smiled, patting Anders on the shoulder.
"Hawke, when you have some free time, I need to talk to you. Find me at the barracks, please?" Aveline said.
"Of course, Aveline. Let me get some food in me and then I'll head out that way. With all the shops we visited today, I didn't get a chance to eat. By the way, speaking of food, you're all invited to the estate tomorrow evening for dinner. Mother wishes to celebrate," she grinned at the hoots and hollers that came from the others. Varric waved Norah over to the table, ordering some food for Siobhann as the others slowly filtered back out of the tavern, leaving them alone.
"So how did Leandra take the news?"
"The way you'd expect at first. 'Oh you need to get married now and move into the estate!' I told her that we were perfectly fine here, and that I wasn't using this to get a ring on my finger. She worried, as usual, about what the other nobles would think until I told her that they'd be just as aghast at the thought of me marrying a dwarf. Who cares though? It's not like I plan on walking among them. Can you imagine me a noble? 'That dress will not do! It doesn't match my eyes perfectly!' Maker…" she laughed. He grinned in response, his look then turning serious.
"I do have a question for you, Kitten."
"Hmm, what's that?" she asked, digging into the food as it was placed in front of her.
"What are you going to do now, what with all the errands the viscount and Arishok have you running around doing for the sake of peace between the two?"
"Same as always until I get too big to do more than waddle around. It's not like I wield a sword and am up front in the middle of the fighting. Besides, I'd like to think I'm damned good at neutralizing a target before they get a shot off at me."
"Are you sure about this?" he looked at her, his eyes dark with concern.
"Varric," she sighed, setting down her spoon before turning to look at him, "Just because I'm pregnant doesn't mean I'm not capable. Have you ever known me to just run into a situation without thinking? Not only that but it's not like I'll be alone. You're always there as well as at least a couple of our other friends."
"I know, sweetie, it's just… well will you do me a favor at least? If I think it's too much, will you at least consider stepping back? I don't want to lose you or the little one," he asked, his lips soft against her forehead.
"I promise I'll at least weigh your concerns against how I'm feeling. Will that suffice?"
"It'll do, for now."
She grinned and tucked away the rest of the food, leaning back against him once she had eaten the last bite.
"Y'know, if I hadn't promised Aveline I'd head up to the barracks after I ate, I'd be dragging you upstairs for our own little celebration."
She shivered as he nipped at her ear, his hands rubbing lazy circles over her abdomen.
"There's always later, when we get back here," he murmured in her ear.
"Mmm… true. Well, the sooner we get this over with, the quicker we can escape to our room."
He gently lifted her and set her on her feet before standing himself.
"Then shall we go, m'lady Hawke?" he asked, holding his arm out to her.
"We shall, m'lord Tethras," she grinned at him.
"So what needs doing, Aveline?" Siobhann asked as she stepped into the guard captain's office.
"Hawke, do you remember that templar Emeric whom you helped a while back in regards to the missing women?"
"How could I forget? Severed hands are not usually on my list of things I enjoy looting, though the look on his face when I made it twitch in his grasp was priceless," she giggled.
"Siobhann…" Aveline sighed.
"What? I needed something to get my mind off of what I had been carrying in my pack."
"Still… but that's neither here nor there. I need you to talk to him again. He's back on that crusade of his and it made the guard look like complete idiots. The ass-kissing I had to do after ransacking the home of the man he accused… well let's just say it wasn't pretty."
"Depending on the ass you had to kiss…" Siobhann began, her lips quivering as she tried to fight back a smile.
"Sorry! I couldn't help myself!"
"How can you stand that mouth of hers, Varric?" Aveline asked, though she herself was trying hard not to grin.
"Quite easily, actually. She's quite… inventive with it," he snickered.
"Damnit, dwarf," Aveline swore, though there was laughter in her voice.
"I'll go talk to him Aveline, don't worry. He did turn out to be right the first time. Maybe I can find something your guard missed."
"Just do whatever you must to get him off my back. My hands are tied, Hawke."
Siobhann nodded, then headed out of the office. As soon as they were out of the keep, she turned to Varric.
"Would you mind grabbing Fenris while I slip through the cellar to see if Anders wouldn't mind joining us? I'll meet you at the docks," she asked. At his nod, they split up, each going their separate ways.
"Messere Hawke, may I hope you've come to see me in regards to the missing women?" Emeric asked as Siobhann approached him.
"Oh, didn't you know that I'd jump at any chance to visit the Gallows? It's such an uplifting place, y'know."
"Your tongue is just as sharp as ever, I see. I should get to the point, though. I believe the murders were all done by the same man - a Gascard DuPuis."
"DuPuis? That's a funny name," she grinned. Emeric sighed and shook his head.
"Please, would you go to his estate and look around for me? Meredith has forbidden me to continue my investigation, though she did not forbid me from seeking outside help."
"Fine, fine, but why does it always have to be Hawke to the rescue?" she sighed.
"I don't know, but I ask your assistance in this, please. What if it were someone you loved?"
"I already said I'd do it, Emeric. Don't push your luck," she shook her head as she turned around to head back to Kirkwall proper.
"Is this what I think it is?" Siobhann asked, picking up one of the small vials of blood she had spied as they investigated the all too quiet estate.
"Yes, blood magic. Someone's been naughty," Anders answered.
"Why can't I meet any normal apostates? Every single one I've come across in Kirkwall has turned out to be a blood mage, present company excluded of course," she sighed as they made their way further into the DuPuis home. The four of them stopped suddenly as they entered the last room, Siobhann's hand gripping her staff as she saw the woman cowering away from whom she assumed to be Gascard.
"Please, he's trying to hurt me!" the woman cried out.
"No, no! It's not what you think, I swear!" Gascard exclaimed.
"So the wild-eyed hysteria is just for show then? I must say, it was quite entertaining."
"I think the killer is playing a game with us both. Please just… just let me explain!" his voice became an octave higher in panic.
"All right, I'd like to hear you try and talk your way out of this one."
"Twenty silver if he says 'It wasn't me, it was the one armed man!' " Varric grinned.
"Another twenty if, when that doesn't work, he tries to say it was some sort of sex game between the templar torturer and the naughty mage," Siobhann chuckled.
"Please, please! I swear to you I wasn't trying to hurt her. The man you're looking for, he killed my sister. He targets wealthy noble women with little social contacts. It starts with a bouquet of lilies…" he rambled, pinching the bridge of his nose when Alessa scrambled up onto her feet and dashed out of the room.
"Alessa was to be the next. I took some of her blood to track her, but now the bloody woman will go straight to the guard," Gascard sighed.
"Your story seems to ring true, so I'll let you go for now. If I learn otherwise…" Siobhann's voice grew deadly quiet.
"Do not worry. If you learn anything else of the killer, you will find me in Darktown. I have a score to settle with him," Gascard muttered as he left the room.
"Well, looks like neither one of us won that bet," Varric laughed as they left the estate.
"Eh, well, you win some and you lose some. Whether I bet with or against you, I always come out even," she grinned at him.
"True, true. My coin is yours, Kitten."
"He must truly be in love if he's sharing his sovereigns," Fenris chuckled.
"I need to keep my woman happy, what can I say? She will want for nothing while in my care, and neither will my child. At least she's not a greedy little wench," he patted Siobhann's backside, then pulled her close to his side.
"Hard to be greedy when I've got almost as much coin as you, Varric," she laughed, leaning up against them as they walked.
"Hanged Man for some Wicked Grace?" Fenris asked.
"Don't see why not. Too late to give Emeric the news. Old blighter is probably sleeping," Varric answered.
"Wonder how much I'll win tonight, seeing as how I'll be the only one, outside of Anders, to remain completely sober," Siobhann's eyes sparkled mischievously.
"Shit, Rivaini's in trouble," Varric laughed. Siobhann joined in, her shoulders shaking with her own giggles. The four of them meandered back towards the Hanged Man, discussing amongst themselves a plan to get Isabela back for all of the coin she'd won from them in games past.
Chapter 10: Cousins
Someone from Anders' past arrives in Kirkwall and family ties are made.
“Horn-headed oxmen and pip-squeak dwarven merchants,” Siobhann muttered under her breath as she, Varric, Fenris, and Anders trudged through the underground tunnels that led from beneath Kirkwall toward the Wounded Coast. Every time she thought she had a free moment, someone would come along and expect her to clean up their mess. In this case, it had been her honesty and unfortunate honor that had brought her to the attention of the Arishok once more.
“What in the Maker’s name did I do to piss Him or His wife off that I’m stuck acting as a liaison between the Viscount and the Arishok?”
Varric reached out to rub the small of his lover’s back, his heart going out to her. It seemed that as soon as they had learned of her pregnancy, the whole of Kirkwall decided to converge on her and beg her to fix their problems. At least their main worry, something that had woken her up in a cold sweat a few weeks prior, had been tended to. Anders had probed the little embryo gently with his magic and let the two nervous parents know that the babe was, indeed, half human and half dwarf.
Momentarily blinded by the bright sun the moment they had exited the caverns, the group almost found themselves cut down then and there by yet another mercenary band. Staying well behind and slightly to the left of Anders, Siobhann pulled out every trick she could think of against the wave that didn’t seem to want to end. Leaning against the stone wall, she fished out a vial of lyrium from her pack, as soon as the last mercenary had been cut down, and sucked the liquid down.
“You okay, Kitten?”
“Mmhmm. Nobody got through to me, Varric. Now, let’s go have a talk with the dwarf cowering behind that skinny bush down there.
“Right behind you, love.”
Stalking toward Javaris, Siobhann pulled up short, and shoved her staff, blade end first, into the ground near the man’s crotch.
“Figures she’d send you here. Guessing that bloody elf finally did what she had threatened to do.”
“Awww, what a sweet greeting from an old friend. I swear, though, if I find out you’ve created any of that poison stolen from the Arishok, things might end a bit painfully on your end.”
“What? You’re here scouting on that Qunari’s orders? Not sure what’s worse, having him or that damned elf on my ass,” Javaris muttered.
“Funny, I only see you in front of me. What’s this about an elf?”
“Skinny bitch said she was going to steal the explosive powder from the Qunari and blame it on me. I was trying to get my ass out of Kirkwall until you killed all my guards. Thanks for that, by the way.”
“You’re welcome. Where can I find this ‘skinny bitch’ of yours?”
“One of the back alleys in between the Alienage and the stairs down to the docks. Best time to catch her is at night,” he answered, picking up his pack. “Can I go now?”
“Sure. Have a fun time on your hopefully very long trip away from here,” she smiled sweetly, picking up her staff and retracting it before sheathing it.
“Yeah, no thanks to you, damned dog-lord in-roader,” Javaris muttered, trudging off toward one of the lesser beaten paths.
“Oh fuck this,” she growled, her hands glowing purple for a moment as she gathered spirit energy into an impressive looking ball. Slamming it into the back of the dwarf’s head, he fell, a sickening crunch sounding at the base of his skull. Looking over at her companions, she noticed the way they shook their heads at her.
“What? I’ve always been civil to the bastard but there’s only so many insults I can take.”
“Makes me glad that all I get is relegated to the floor when I piss you off,” Varric chuckled. Grinning at him, Siobhann planted a kiss on his lips.
“So, looks like we wait until nightfall and see if Javaris is telling the truth,” Anders commented, the group making their way back toward the city.
“Messere Hawke, the street is like death. First it was a mist that took the minds of the people, then a seeping poison that killed. If I let someone like you in there, I’m right stuffed,” the guard said, blocking the group’s entrance into the alley.
“Kitten, he’s got a point. We’ve got Anders so we’re not as much at risk but you, you’ve got the baby to think about,” Varric stated as he looked at Siobhann.
“Shit. I don’t like the thought of you going in there without me. I know you have Anders but we’ve had moments where two healers have been necessary and with what’s down there, this seems like it’s one of those times,” she began, stopping when Varric took her hands into his own. “But, I see your point. I’ll stay up here until you’re able to at least get those canisters closed.”
“No, I won’t spend the entire time down there, but damnit, I will come down once the mist has dissipated a bit because I want to know what the hell made that elf think this was a good idea,” she countered.
“Just… be careful.”
“You know I will, Varric.”
“Perhaps I can be of assistance, for now,” a woman’s voice floated out from behind them. Brushing past the group, the hooded figure withdrew a staff that was half vines curving up to hold an eerily glowing silver orb, the other half a blade of the purest onyx. Stopping at the bottom edge of the stairwell, she tilted her cowled head up at the group. “Well, are you coming or do I have to do this all myself?” she asked and the others ran to catch up, leaving Siobhann staring at the retreating figure curiously.
“Your voice… it’s familiar,” Anders stated as the small group stepped further into the green mist.
“Now’s not the time,” the woman replied, her staff already sinking into the body of a mercenary gone mad from the airborne poison.
The group, including the newest addition, cleared out the mercenaries with ease until a new wave converged on them, larger than those who had attacked previously.
“Maker forgive me for what I am about to do, but your children are insane with the poison that will surely kill them if I don’t,” the cloaked figure murmured into the wind, earning odd stares from the others. “Pull back, now!” she shouted to the three as the men and women tightened up on them. Pale hands twirled in the air, bringing in the swirling winds of a blizzard, the moment she noted the others were out of range. Once the spell took, she began backing up, setting a tighter spell of a lightning storm upon those who were intent on killing them. The two spells, added to the might of the woman’s spellcasting, converged into a massive tornadic storm, killing the last of the mob and clearing the air of the poison’s remnants.
“Storm of the Century,” Anders gasped. “There’s only one mage in all of Thedas who could wield that with such precision…”
“Not now, Anders!” the woman growled, her hood still surprisingly in place even with the wind that had whipped around them. Turning her head toward the top of the stairs where Siobhann stood, she motioned for the other woman to approach.
“The air is clear. Perhaps you…” she was cut off as another voice rang out in the alleyway, Siobhann already making her way toward the elf and her two bodyguards.
“The Hawke. This will make things all the sweeter. What happened here shouldn’t have happened, but you… your death will matter,” the slender blonde stated, looking down at the five people standing below her.
“You’re barking mad! That you planned this, killed all these people… it’s not funny. Mind explaining your reason behind this insanity?” Siobhann ordered.
“We are losing our people twice! First when they no longer care to know their heritage and then again when they give themselves over to the Qun! The Qunari must pay and you will be the bait that sets it in motion!”
“I don’t think so,” she growled. Before her companions had a chance to react, a wreath of flame fell from the sky, quickly setting the elf and her men on fire and almost instantaneously killing them as their lungs burned from the hot air surrounding them.
“There, problem solved,” Siobhan muttered, turning to the others. “Let’s at least get out of here before any introductions are done, if you’re planning on staying that is,” she said pointedly to the cloaked woman, “just in case there is any lingering poison. I am not going to take any chances with my child.”
“After you,” the woman replied, her hand stretching out as if to wave Siobhann ahead of her. Twirling her staff that semi resembled the woman’s, she stalked on ahead. She didn’t stop walking until she was sitting on the steps that led up to what had, at one point in time, been her uncle’s shack. Varric slid in behind her, his arms wrapping possessively around Siobhann’s waist, with Bianca at the ready on his love’s lap.
“Looks like I came to Kirkwall at the right time… cousin…” the woman said, finally letting the hood fall free to reveal her face. Eyes of the blackest midnight set into a pale, heart-shaped face that faintly resembled Siobhann’s, stared at the four. She tugged the tie out of her hair, letting the long, ruby colored locks fall free to rest at the small of her back.
“Fionna Amell!” Anders breathed. “I knew it was you the moment you set that last spell into motion!”
“It’s Commander to you, Anders, and when I’m finished catching up with Siobhann, you and I need to have a little talk… about my dead Wardens...” she snarled at the end.
“Oh shit. Looks like Blondie’s in trouble,” Varric quipped, looking between Fionna and Anders.
“Uh, about that…” Anders began, trailing off as he began to glow. Fionna’s eyes narrowed.
“What have you done, Anders?”
“He has done what was needed to see that the mages get the justice they deserve!” a new voice echoed out.
“You sonuvabitch,” she hissed, reaching out to fist her fingers in Anders’ hair and start to drag him away from the others. “Sorry cousin, I’ll find you later. It looks as if myself and Sparkle-Fingers here need to have our talk now.”
“I’ll be at the Hanged Man when you’re ready. Just don’t hurt him too badly. He’s actually needed around here.”
“Oh don’t you worry, I won’t kill him, just put the fear of Amell into his ass,” Fionna replied as she walked away with a now non-glowing mage stumbling in her wake.
“Fionna…” the others heard him whine as the two disappeared.
“I don’t think I’d want to be in his shoes right now,” Varric said.
“The abomination had it coming. Perhaps he will listen to his commander,” Fenris stated.
Siobhann sat there quietly for a moment, long enough that the two men began to look at her with concern.
“What is it you wonder, Kitten?”
“I wonder how well Isabela actually knows my cousin.”
“More than likely just sexually. That’s how she knows anyone,” Fenris replied.
“But, knowing Isabela as we do, there had to have been some pillow talk afterward.”
“I never slept with her, Siobhann,” the pirate said as she approached the group. “In this case, when I said I ‘met’ the Hero of Ferelden, I meant I met her. She wanted me to teach her rogue friends how to use my skills and won the lessons from me through a few hands of Wicked Grace. Smart enough to actually catch me cheat, too, just like you. So, Zevran and Leliana walked out of the tavern with new tricks and I left with much respect for that mage.” Isabela sighed softly. “But damn if I didn’t try my best to get her into my bunk. Unfortunately the sweet thing had eyes for some templar back at the Circle and wasn’t interested in me giving her the ride of her life.”
“Now that sounds like the Isabela I know,” Siobhann grinned.
“So where’s Anders? Did he go back home already? I know he left with you since his clinic was closed.”
“Actually my cousin dragged him off the moment she saw him go all glowy. I’d so love to be a fly on that wall right now,” the mage chuckled.
“And I’d love to be a fly on the wall in Varric’s room. The sounds that I hear coming out of that room on an almost nightly basis are enough to make me wish it were winter so I could dive head first into a pile of snow to cool off,” Isabela quipped.
“You’re just jealous that I’m getting some while Broodmire over here still won’t let you know what color his underwear is,” Varric snickered.
“Actually, if she’s interested, I thought tonight would be a good night for her to find out,” Fenris murmured.
“See you all later!” Isabela said, grabbing the elf by the hand and half dragging him back toward the Hanged Man.
“All in all, one hell of an interesting evening,” Varric stated, smiling down at the woman who curled up closer to him.
“You can say that again,” Siobhann replied, tucking her head under Varric’s chin. Slinging Bianca and Dominic over his back, Varric picked her up, his heart fluttering lightly as she wrapped her arms around his neck, and began his walk toward the tavern and their room.