Chapter 1: Z is for Zevran
‘My dearest Isabela, of all my assignment, and I assure you there have been many, this was without a doubt one of the most pleasurable. In fact it may even have made the top five, certainly the top ten.’
‘Oh, you know me, I like being on top.’ Isabela smiled, briefly lifting her gaze from the map on the ageing wood in the captain’s cabin, her cabin. Five years she had been waiting for this moment, five years too many but they were in the past and this, this was her future.
The Crow flashed even white teeth of his own but like all of his kind, the smile didn’t quite reach the eyes which was a little sad given that they were so very pretty. She had had better but Zevran would always have a special place – in her bed.
‘Until we meet again, as friends I hope. Take care, Isabela.’ The elf said and was almost out of the door when she spoke up again.
‘Zevran, that’s Captain Isabela – even for you.’
This time the smile did reach his eyes before he disappeared out of the door, and that’s how she would remember him: the elven assassin who had given her a new life.
Chapter 2: Y is for Yearning
She stands on the quay, her eyes scanning the horizon.
It starts as a tiny speck, hard to see at first in front of the spectacle that is the rising sun. She has to squint until she can focus on it again. There is no mistaking this shape for anything else.
A tall ship with billowing sails headed her way. Fully rigged, three-masted, 26 sails. The Pride of Antiva. Completely unfit as a pirate’s vessel of course but it’s the sentiment the sight invokes that makes Isabela’s heart ache.
She closes her eyes and for a second she can feel the salty wind in her hair, the moving planks under her feet and the well-loved wood of the rudder caressing her calloused palms.
The moment slips away and she smiles sadly because this is just another beauty that she will have to admire from afar as she passes her by.
Chapter 3: X is for Xenon
‘Ahhh, cusssstomerrr.’ Our favourite proprietor wheezed as I sauntered into the Black Emporium. ‘Welcome… to the…’
‘I’m here to return an item.’ I interjected, hoping to cut this visit short. You know him well enough, otherwise it could take all day if I had to wait for Xenon to hiss and moan through his sales pitch and thinly veiled threats.
‘No refunds.’ He replied surprisingly sharp.
‘But it’s defective.’ I said in my most reasonable business voice.
‘No refunds.’ Xenon repeated as if I hadn’t heard him the first time.
‘Now listen, you sold me junk. This,’ I waved the vial, you know the one, in front of him before I tossed it into the vicinity of his lap, ‘is junk. Three hours minimum? He didn’t even last three minutes.’
‘Thaddeus.’ Xenon called but I wasn’t having any of that so I stepped closer.
‘There is no need to be rude. I just think that a fine and renowned establishment such as the Black Emporium would live up to and value its reputation.’ I felt quite proud of myself until…
It was as if all air had been sucked out of me. You know how it seems that his eye-sockets are empty? I swear that blackness pinned me as firmly in place as a pair of onyx daggers.
‘Thaddeus, take Urchinnn and guaaard the doooor. We are clooosed for the aaafternooon.’
A cold shiver ran up and down my spine but I couldn’t run, couldn’t shout only stare at him as Xenon held the vial in a surprisingly steady, crusty hand.
‘Thisss is not… junk.’
‘And?’ Varric asked completely transfixed by the sheer possibilities.
Merrill held her breath and even Hawke was frozen in place, half-raised mug forgotten in his hand.
‘And she is having you on, you gullible fools!’ Fenris chuckled, not even bothering to look up from his book.
The collective groan of disappointment was almost drowned out by Isabela’s laughter.
Chapter 4: W is for Wardens
‘So you’re a Grey Warden?’ Isabela asked Anders out of the blue on a fine morning on the slopes of Sundermount. No one had slept particularly well the previous night when a storm had forced them all to huddle together in a makeshift lean-to.
Under different circumstances Isabela would have enjoyed herself but not after three days of fighting spiders and undead, stomping through the countryside and no bath.
The sunshine playing through the leaves just seemed to add insult to injury and they were all a little cranky. It was time to lighten the mood.
‘The taint isn’t something you can swap like your smalls but other than that no, not really, why do you ask?’ Anders replied clearly annoyed like he always was when someone picked at that sore spot of his past. It was a bit hard to keep track of them all, he had so many.
But that’s what made this fun.
‘Such a shame you weren’t a Warden yet when I met you at the Pearl.’ Isabela remarked idly and pretended to study her nails as she fell in step next to him.
Out of the corner of her eyes she could see Anders’ eye-brow twitch. ‘What’s that got to do with anything?’
‘Oh, you know. Alistair, that’s King Alistair now.’
Anders interrupted her with, ‘Yes, I know. We’ve met.’
‘Anyway,’ Isabela continued, ‘he certainly lived up to the reputation of the Grey Warden stamina.’ She made a show of purring the last word into the mage’s ear.
He swatted her like a noisy fly but the rogue easily avoided him before she closed in again.
‘He could go all night.’ Isabela counted backward from five under her breath and…nothing. Not even a twitchy eye-brow, or gnashing of teeth. She so loved to watch Anders’ impressive jaw work when he tried to reign in his anger but no, nothing. No reaction whatsoever.
The pirate stopped walking and gave Anders’ back a puzzled frown. ‘You’re no fun, you know that!’ She huffed unhappily until the mage stopped in his track, turned and strut back toward her with a creased brow and his mouth set in a grim line.
‘I knew you… oooohhh…’
The second Anders’ fingers touched her cheek, seemingly pouring bliss into her very being, Isabela tipped her head back and moaned. Her knees buckled and she unceremoniously plunked onto the wet ground.
‘You were saying?’ Anders asked with a deadpan expression that would give Fenris a run for his money.
It wasn’t what she had been looking for but, Andraste’s tits, she would take it. ‘Nothing, Sweet Thing, nothing whatsoever.’
And the day had just gotten a bit brighter.
Chapter 5: V is for Varric
Isabela chuckled as she watched the blonde head rest on the table top. The steady heaving of the dwarf’s broad back reminded her of a deck at sea and she sighed as she idly toyed with the coin she had won playing cards with the boys earlier.
Hawke and Anders had disappeared first. The healer was just a lost cause when it came to Wicked Grace but she had to give him credit for showing up anyway, giving his rebellion a rest and letting his hair down, sometimes literally. However he always left before he could get more than a little tipsy and predictably Hawke offered to accompany him home every time. They were so obvious and cute, it was giving her cavities.
Fenris excused himself shortly thereafter. The lanky elf was charming with his dry sense of humour and surprisingly filthy mind that he let her catch glimpses off once in a while. And it all came wrapped up in a delicious seemingly unattainable package, Isabela so loved to dance with him, metaphorically speaking. She would have him come time but it was the game that excited her most and it was still too much fun at this stage.
However of all her male companions, it was Varric who had captured her heart. To him she wasn’t the pirate hag, or the buxom slattern, or the captain, or any other disguise or role she would put on or act out for anyone else. When she was with him she could simply be Isabela, or Rivaini as he liked to call her. A kindred spirit. A mate. A friend. Isabela had had many lovers but people she’d call friend she could count on one hand with fingers to spare.
Of all the treasure she had ever dreamed of finding, she’d never thought that the most previous one would be a beardless dwarf with a gorgeous crossbow, magnificent chest hair and the most beautiful mind she’d ever seen.
Chiding herself for her besotted musing, she got up from her chair and stepped around the table to contradict her own thoughts by carefully draping an old blanket over Varric’s back and planting a tiny kiss on his temple.
She didn’t see how her friend smiled happily in his sleep as she walked out of the room.
Chapter 6: U is for Unmentionables
‘Oh, so you do wear knickers after all,’ Hawke grinned up at her from further down the ladder. Isabela just snorted and kept climbing until she reached the top.
‘That’s right. Need to give them something to unwrap, like a gift.’ The pirate replied, hands on her hips waiting for Hawke to catch up with her. ‘There is nothing quite like it. That feeling of hands, eager and warm. Thumbs hooking under the sides, slowly sliding them over my thighs, down my legs before they throw them against the wall with a flourish, crawling back up, placing love bites on the way until they reach what they’ve been thinking about every single second ever since that first kiss.’
‘Mmmh, if I were into women that would have been really, really hot.’ Hawke said with a lazy grin as he straightened up.
‘Just pretend it’s Anders,’ she watched as Hawke’s eyes lost all focus, and snickered. ‘You are too easy, Sweetheart.’
Hawke’s grin turned into a smirk. ‘Well, at least now another great mystery of Kirkwall has been solved.’
‘Why, did you guys sit around the camp fire and placed bets whether I go commando?’ Isabela asked with a raised eyebrow.
‘Perish the thought,’ Hawke replied with a fake wounded expression on his face. ‘We were at the Hanged Man.’