Thursday was Wicked Grace night at the Hanged Man. Nothing, not even Hawke's becoming Champion of Kirkwall only a few days ago, could stop everyone from dropping whatever they were doing and gathering to drink lukewarm, piss-tasting ale and cheat each other at cards.
Living in the tavern had its perks; Varric and Isabela were always there, so they were exempt from the last-one-there-buys-the-first-round rule, and they never had to worry about passing out before they got home. However, there were also some glaring disadvantages. The bloodstains, for example. And the food. And the permanent fug that hovered in the air, making everything smell subtly of liquor and vomit. And, worst of all, anyone could wander in, and you had to let them stay until closing.
"Hey, Isabela. Remember that guy with the bad poetry?" asked Varric, idly shuffling the cards.
"Yes. He finally went away for a few hours. Why?"
Varric's eyebrow went up. "I think he got a lute."
There was no way that could end well.
A few hours later, everyone had arrived and the-guy-with-the-bad-poetry had stayed blessedly silent. Isabela was winning, mostly because no one wanted to dive into her cleavage to retrieve the cards she had stashed there. All in all, a fine and uneventful evening, until from a corner by the bar came the ominous sound of strumming.
"Gather round," a tipsy voice cried, "and I will regale you with the Ballad of Serah Hawke!"
Hawke froze, unsure if she'd heard correctly. A song about her? From him? Oh, Maker, she'd never hear the end of this. She looked around the table, hoping that perhaps no one else had heard. From the looks on their faces, though, it seemed that they had. Bugger it all.
Then the voice began to sing.
Silence fell upon the hall
When Hawke came through the door.
The nobles crowded to the side
And the oxmen cleared the floor.
Hawke strode into the throne room.
Her gaze was sure and true.
With clear voice she asked the Arishok
Just what he planned to do.
"I'm looking for a relic," he said.
"It was stolen. That's a crime."
"We can find it," replied Hawke.
"Just give us a little time."
Then the door flew open and in she came,
The goddess of the plucked-wing lips;
No one there could look away
From the swaying of her hips.
"I have your tome," the goddess said,
"I've retrieved it. Now you must go."
"Unless you're with me, lovely one,"
Said the Arishok firmly, "No."
"Never!" cried the fearless Hawke.
"You've gotten what you want.
Now get on your ship and go on home,
Or you a second time I'll taunt."
"Take me instead!" cried the pirate queen,
"Surely I'm the prize."
But the Arishok would not accede
Despite her pleading eyes.
"You won't take her," Ser Hawke declared,
"Not unless you go through me."
The Arishok just shook his head
Rigid as an ancient tree.
"I challenge you," he growled at her
In fierce and murderous tone,
And Hawke knew that to save us all
She'd have to fight alone.
"I accept!" her voice rang out.
"Let's dance, you horn-head pig."
She knew she'd have to rely on speed
Since the Arishok was so big.
To and fro Hawke bobbed and weaved
And silver were her flashing blades;
The Arishok took many a cut
And blood flowed in cascades.
"Baldrick! Kill!" the lady cried.
Her hound came forth to lend her aid.
He skirted round the oxman's feet
Biting all the heels displayed.
But the Arishok ignored the might
of Ser Hawke's trusty hound.
Despite the nipping at his ankles
He faced the lady down.
What was brave Ser Hawke to do?
She changed her tack in but a trice.
Turning tail, she dodged his shield,
And did not pay the fatal price.
Round the pillars Hawke flew swift,
Leading her foe a merry chase.
The oxman ran and the nobles laughed
To see his furious face.
The Arishok was angry
For he could not land a hit;
Hawke's tactical retreats worked well
And she wasn't hurt a bit.
Soon her horned foe grew weak;
He couldn't keep up with brave Ser Hawke.
"This battle has to end sometime,"
Shouted the flagging Arishok.
"I can do this all day!" valiant Hawke cried,
Making a gesture with her hand.
The movement was one that even an oxman
Couldn't fail to understand.
With a mighty roar the Arishok
Made one last desperate thrust.
Hawke dove aside, and his great sword
Near made the floor combust.
Ser Hawke knew the end was near,
She rolled this way and that,
Ducking under his powerful swings
So she didn't get squashed flat.
Hawke's daggers punched into his side.
The blades grew slick with blood.
To his knees the Arishok fell.
The trickle became a flood.
He lay upon the throne room's steps,
Cursing with his final breath.
With one last slice of her sharp blade,
Hawke sent him to his death.
The city was saved, and high and low
The crowds cheered all around.
The Knight-Commander then proclaimed
A new Champion had been crowned!
As the last notes of the ballad faded, the table sat silent. Everyone looked at each other, incredulous, except for Hawke, who was very carefully not looking at anyone.
Aveline was the first to speak. "Tactical retreats?"
Hawke nodded, still not meeting her eye. "That's what I did. Yep."
"As I recall, you were running away like your ass was on fire," said Varric. He pulled a book from his pocket and flipped through the pages. "Here it is. The word I used at the time was 'fleeing'."
"I was definitely not fleeing."
"He was chasing you in circles. I'm pretty sure there weren't any tactics involved beyond don't get skewered," said Anders, openly smirking.
"It was strategic! Anyway, I'm not the only one who got a mention, O Goddess of the Plucked-Wing Lips," Hawke retorted, turning to Isabela.
"I can't help it! He always does that. I've tried everything except actually punching him, and that was only because he bought me a drink while I was winding up," Isabela protested.
Hawke patted her knee and allowed her hand to drift upward a bit. "I don't mind. Just as long as he knows that you're my goddess."
Isabela gave her a wicked grin. "You know it, sweet thing."