"Don't believe that worked. Again."
"Why should it not? These Orleasian nobles see what they wish to see. Would we be dressed so ridiculously if we were not part of the entertainment?"
"Heh." Beside him, Oghren tugged at the stiff ruffles of his collar and shot Zevran a lopsided grin. "How's it you're not trussed up like a spitted nug, though?"
"It is the Winter Palace, my friend. One of us must have a touch of class." Smiling at a passing serving girl, he plucked two glasses from her tray and handed one down to the dwarf. "Here. Have another drink."
Oghren gave the wine a dubious sniff. Then he shrugged, draining the cup. When the rumbling belch inevitably came, he at least had the decency to muffle the sound in his sleeve.
Zevran smirked. "Charming."
They made their way through the ball, savoring the sights and sounds of the nobility at play. A lively party, to be sure, but a more dangerous Game waited just beneath the surface. It was why they were here, after all.
As they passed a trio of giggling courtiers, Zevran lay a hand on Oghren's arm, slowing their pace to listen.
"...The Empress has certainly spared no expense. I hear she has even invited the famous Broma Brothers."
"A pair of tumblers from Antiva,” the third woman added. "But I had heard they were guests of Duke Gaspard."
Oghren elbowed Zevran in the ribs. "I'm no Antivan."
"Hush, my friend."
"Don't be silly," the first replied as Zevran steered the dwarf away. "The Duke wastes no time on laughter. And they are singers from Nevarra."
"I hear one of them is quite pretty."
Oghren grinned at that, grabbing another cup of wine as they made their way through the crowd and out of earshot. "Remember, I'm the pretty one."
They found Leliana in the main hall, standing against the wall with a tall, dark-haired woman who could only be the Inquisitor. When she spotted them, the fearsome spymistress was barely able to suppress a giggle.
Zevran turned to the other woman first. "Ah, the elusive Inquisitor Trevelyan. Tales of your beauty are not exaggerated." Taking her hand, he lay a kiss upon her knuckles.
The woman barely smiled. Instead she looked to Leliana and arched a brow. "These are your contacts?"
Sweeping his cloak behind him, Zevran dropped into a flourishing bow. "We, dear Inquisitor, are the famous Broma Brothers. Surely you have heard of us?"
Glancing behind him, he saw that the dwarf was nowhere to be found. "Ah... one moment." He found him slumped beneath a nearby sofa. Grabbing a fistful of beard, Zevran dragged him out and propped him into something like a sitting position.
Oghren stared up at the Inquisitor with watery eyes. "'Quisitor. Hey, Red."
"You will have to forgive my brother, Inquisitor."
"Your 'brother' is drunk."
"Naturally. It is rather a talent of his, particularly in these troubling times. Grey Warden business, you understand."
That did surprise her. "He's a Grey Warden?"
Oghren belched in reply. "It's that— whatsit? That Calling. Givin' me a bloody headache. I drink, it doesn't hurt so much."
Handing down his own cup, Zevran gave his friend a sympathetic smile. Leliana and the Inquisitor shared a look.
"We know about the Calling." The Inquisitor shook her head. "It wasn't real. Corypheus was controlling the Wardens. But we stopped him days ago."
"Eh?" Oghren blinked up at them. "Coryphy-what?"
Leliana laughed. "Tell me you were not so drunk that you did not notice? Do you hear it still?"
The dwarf thought a moment, then shrugged. "Guess I don't."
"If only we had known of this strategy sooner, we might have fought the battle from a tavern instead of the Fade." Folding her arms, the Inquisitor sighed and looked to Leliana. "You really think they can help us?"
"I do. You can trust them, use them to help you search."
"Search, hm?" Zevran pursed his lips. "Is it salacious secrets you desire? Perhaps you would like me to scour the royal bedchamber?"
The Inquisitor interrupted his reverie. "We are looking to find out more about the Empress's arcane advisor, a Ferelden apostate who has installed herself at court. Leliana knows her, seems to think she is up to something."
"She always is." Leliana gave Zevran a wicked grin. "Though sending you two may infuriate her enough that she will give something away."
Realization dawned. "Ah, Leliana, you wily little minx."
Oghren pushed clumsily to his feet. "What're we doin’?"
"Paying a visit to an old friend." Zevran put a steadying hand on the dwarf's shoulder. When he still looked confused, he bent to whisper in this ear. "Morrigan."
Oghren chuckled, scratching at his beard as he stared up at Leliana. "Rather wrestle a darkspawn, myself. We get turned into toads, that's on you."
She inclined her head.
"Come, my friend. The ladies have asked for our assistance. Let us not keep them waiting." With another bow for the Inquisitor, Zevran led his companion out to the garden. He had noticed a likely passage to the palace's forbidden corners as they made their rounds earlier.
He didn't fear Morrigan, not truly. Though as he pushed the dwarf up the garden trellis ahead of him, he did rather regret not going first. "The stench is even worse from below. How is that possible?"
Oghren laughed in reply, pulling himself up and onto the balcony with a fresh burst of stench. Zevran had to be helped up after him, gagging all the while.
When they were back on solid ground, the dwarf grinned up at him. "You did ask."
Zevran sighed. "That I did."
The chamber off the balcony no doubt belonged to their quarry. It was full of odd tomes and arcane artifacts. As Oghren poked at a statue, Zevran slipped the occasional book from its shelf, hoping to chance upon a hidden door.
"Shoulda brought some of that wine," Oghren muttered. "Better'n nothing."
"Which is more than we shall find here, it seems." Zevran turned from the shelf, but not before a particular volume caught his eye. Grinning, he pulled it free. "I had not thought our dear Morrigan a woman of such exotic tastes. This particular compendium was once outlawed by the Chantry, but the whorehouse where I was born was fortunate to have a copy. The illustrations alone are—"
A sharp clap of thunder echoed through the room and he suddenly found himself encased in a column of smoke. As he coughed and blinked to clear his eyes, he could hear Oghren's laughter.
"Booby-trapped, huh? Heh. Booby—" He cut off abruptly, staring down at Zevran.
Staring down at him. And from his vantage, the dwarf was enormous, a mountain of hair and stench. Looking down at his hands, Zevran let out a strangled shriek.
Oghren's laugh was booming. "Guess the witch wasn't lyin'."
"Pick me up and take me to Leliana now."
"Heh. It talks. Cute."
"Oghren!" Zevran hopped - hopped! - toward him. With a sigh, he dropped his head into his webbed hands.
Carefully, the dwarf bent and scooped the toad into his palm. "Aw, c'mon. It's not so bad. If ya want, I'll drop ya in that fountain we passed, let you have a little swim."
It did sound strangely appealing... He shook his head. "First Leliana. Then we find Morrigan."
"Or maybe I'll drop ya near some o' them pretty ladies, let you hop around under their skirts for a bit."
"That does sound more like it." Zevran stroked his slimy chin. "Perhaps this is not so bad. I may even be poisonous."
"Maybe, maybe not." Tucking the fiendishly handsome and deadly toad assassin into his pocket, Oghren made his way back toward the balcony. "Just you hope I don't get hungry on the way down."
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