There was a hiss of cold water poured over hot stones and thick clouds of steam filled the small chamber again. Zevran let himself lighten up a little, but his wary eyes never stopped scanning the surroundings in search of any potential threats. The simple wooden paneling on the walls seemed to hide no traps, however, and the four other men occupying the wide benches let themselves lounge lazily, obviously enjoying the hot and humid air seeping into their bodies and forcing the strained muscles to relax.
"Admit it, Hawke, it's all your doing," a tall blonde murmured, shifting a little to rest his head on the bearded man's broad shoulder. "You sent out those 'urgent summons' to get all of us naked in one place."
The black-haired mage smiled crookedly, his arm casually wrapped around Anders's waist. "I wish I was that brilliant, love," he replied, with just a hint of regret in his deep voice. "My bet is on Sebastian, though. A sauna is such a princely idea, after all."
"Not to mention that it's a perfect opportunity to perv all over us without breaking those blasted vows of his," the blonde agreed eagerly, barely stifling a naughty chuckle.
"You will leave the man alone, abomination," Fenris warned from his corner, folding arms on his chest, the eerie glow of his lyrium brands in the thick steam creating the most beautiful aura around the dark skinned elf.
A well timed, polite cough prevented the quarrel from erupting.
"Thank you, Fenris, but please, let us all be reasonable here." Sebastian shifted a bit, straightening his back and somehow managing to maintain a posture full of dignity and self confidence. "I assure you, Hawke, that if I wished for all of us to indulge in such a princely activity, I would have invited all of you personally, not via some cryptic letters."
"We should do something," Fenris grumbled.
"Ah, this is where you are wrong, my most handsome friend." The other elf pushed himself off the bench and poured more water over the stones. "We should simply enjoy the pleasure while it lasts, we can worry about everything else later." He eyed Fenris shamelessly from head to toe, and hummed appreciatively. "Much later."
The impish cat calls from Anders and Hawke were all the reply Zevran got, for the warrior elf gritted his teeth and kept his eyes closed, the furiously glowing lyrium being the only sign of his inner aggravation.
"Andraste guide us, or we shall all perish," the prince whispered, wishing he had his bow with him.
Hawke snorted. "Keep her holiness away, we wouldn't want her to crash this party."
"Oh, I wish Isabela was here," Anders murmured after a moment of uncomfortable silence.
Sebastian gasped and raised his hand to voice a most fervent protest, but he was interrupted by a hearty chuckle from the Antivan elf who had unexpectedly placed himself right next to him on the seat.
"Yes, my delightful pirate friend would sure know how to... ah, release all the tension that has accumulated here."
Suddenly there was the sound of heavy iron bars moving and the door opened briefly to let two more men inside. Both dark skinned and stark naked, they stood motionless at the entrance, looking around warily.
"What, by the merciless sun, is that supposed to mean?" The taller, muscular man turned to glare at his companion, a long scar running across his left cheek twisting in an angry grimace.
"Don't look at me, Skeev," the other man replied coolly, taking a more defensive stance. "It wasn't my idea to rush into it headlong just because someone told you it might be worth the effort."
"Well, you're the damned spy here, Tokmun, you should have--"
"Gentlemen, please." Unsurprisingly, it was Zevran who stepped forward with a flourishing bow that wasn't at all diminished by the fact he wore no clothes. "It seems to me we have all fallen prey to a most hilarious jest, there is no need to be angry."
"Yes, and we are all so very calm and peaceful here," Fenris hissed at that.
Sebastian moved to the edge of the bench and gestured for the newcomers to take a seat. "Please, do tell us how you have found yourselves here."
Tokmun approached slowly and gracefully dropped onto the bench. "This very morning, we both received rather unusual letters..."
Anders nodded. "Letters written in gold ink on black parchment, I bet."
"And signed with just the letter 'M'," Hawke added, his eyes narrowing thoughtfully.
"I assume the letters were invitations to a meeting with a rather secretive lady..." Sebastian began, then looked at Fenris expectantly.
"...who was supposed to know answers to all your questions," Fenris finished with a shrug.
Zevran tilted his head and shot an amused glance at Skeev, who was still standing by the door, his fingers clenched to fists, the entire body tense.
"Do you see now that we are all on the same side here, my big angry friend?"
"I am not your friend, elf... or whatever you are with those ears and dark skin," the muscular man growled and sat on the ground where he stood.
"Forgive him, he gets bitchy when his own elf is not around," Tokmun offered with a sly smile.
"His own elf?" Fenris bristled and was by Skeev's side instantly, the frightening hum of lyrium filling the sudden silence. "You keep slaves, then?"
The big guard jumped to his feet, unintimidated, his arms raised, ready to fight. "Princess is not my slave," he said calmly, bending down to keep his face just a breath away from Fenris'. "Though I wish he was, I could protect him better then."
Fenris blinked in confusion. "He? Princess?"
"Long story," Tokmun grumbled, getting up to stand by Skeev's side and refusing to move until Fenris finally stepped away. "Now, if we could stop with the aggression and focus on why, by desert, we are all here, it would be nice."
"Truly," Sebastian agreed. "Though I suppose there is little else for us to do than simply wait for the mysterious lady to show up at last."
"And give us all the answers, hopefully," Hawke added, pulling Anders closer to himself.
"Mhmm, and then she'd better help us with that tension Zev mentioned earlier," the blonde mage murmured wistfully. "It's all her fault, after all."
"Indeed." Zevran nodded and returned to his strategically chosen place opposite the door. "And she had better hurry or else we'll have to find our own way to deal with the problem, yes?"
"Oh, yes," Hawke and Anders said in unison, two pairs of brown eyes fixed intently on the newcomers, magic sparking in the hot and humid air around them.