“Well, now, big girl, if you wanted to manhandle me like that all you had to do was ask. I’m sure Hawke wouldn’t mind lending me out for a night. If Donnic didn’t mind lending you out, of course.”
Isabela smirked up at Aveline from the squalid cell she’d just been tossed unceremoniously into. “The least you could do is unlock these shackles for me since you’ve got me sealed away safe and sound.”
Ignoring the pirate—could Isabela even be called such, after being landlocked for at least five years now?—the guard captain added a second lock to the cell’s bars. She doubted it would hold for more than five minutes after she was out of sight, but the action was reassuring even if not likely effective.
“Where is Hawke anyway, whore? I’d rather her come collect you sooner than later.”
“Lady Man-Hands, if I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times. A whore charges for her services. I simply cast my net and select the best of the catch for myself.” A lascivious smile lit the Rivani’s face. “Speaking of catches, how is Donnic? Exploring your Deep Roads thoroughly?”
“That’s none of your business, whore, and you didn’t answer my question.”
Isabela plopped unceremoniously on the single bench in the cell and sighed. “Hawke took Varric, Fenris, and Anders to investigate some problem or another with the Qunari. Not sure how long it’s going to take them, really.”
“Then I suppose you should get comfortable.”
“Bodahn has full access to Hawke’s accounts, you know. He could pay my fines and escort me back to Hawke’s place until she returns. Would save you a whole lot of trouble that way.”
“I’d rather wait for Hawke. She needs to collar and leash you when she leaves you behind during errands like this.”
Bela laughed. “Big girl, there’s no force on this planet that could keep me leashed if I didn’t want to be. Not even Hawke.”
“That’s the bit that worries me,” the warrior muttered under her breath. “I’ll be back when I get word from Hawke that she can come and retrieve you. Until then, I don’t want to hear a peep from you, do you understand?”
“Peep!” Isabela grinned at Aveline, and the guard captain stormed off, muttering under her breath as she left the holding cells to return to her office.
“She did what, exactly?”
“About a hundred sovereigns’ worth of damage to the Hanged Man, plus her actual fines. If she’d managed to destroy that pit completely I might have actually considered dropping all fines and charges, but most of the damage was little more than cosmetics, even if it is expensive.”
Hawke sighed and began to fish through her purse to see if she had enough coin on her. She had it, but just barely. “Make sure that if you see Varric before I do next that I consider paying for repairs as an equal trade for the Diamondback losings I owe him.”
Aveline smiled a bit; even she was better at the game than Hawke was, and she’d only been playing for about half as long. “I wasn’t aware that Varric had managed to obtain ownership of the Hanged Man,” she commented, and Hawke just shrugged.
“There’s nothing on paper from what I understand,” she replied as Aveline retrieved the weapons she’d confiscated from Isabela when they brought her in, “but he’s made some sizeable investments. Enough that paying for repairs is the same as paying him back.”
“Try not to let her have any of these back until you’re well out of The Viscount’s Way, will you?” she asked, handing the bundle to her friend. “And from now on, if you take Varric with you, take Isabela as well. He’s the only one other than you who seems to be able to keep her out of my hair. Don’t leave her here without him.”
Hawke nodded and promised as much, and Aveline returned to the holding cells to retrieve Isabela. The pirate was uncharacteristically quiet when she finally appeared with Aveline at her heel, but she had a look about her—more than a twinkle in her eye and less than a smirk—that spoke volumes.
Bela remained silent as she followed Hawke out of the Keep and down the street to Hightown’s central plaza. Stopping to stretch, she glanced behind her to make certain they weren’t followed and finally let herself grin.
“Alright, Bela, what did you really do?” Hawke asked, one eyebrow high as she crossed her arms and leaned against a nearby statue. “Because clearly there’s something about it all that Aveline doesn’t know yet.”
“Oh, it’s nothing, really. I just ran into Donnic while I was out at the docks today and we had a bit of a chat. Did you know today’s Aveline’s birthday?”
Hawke had a feeling she knew where this was going, but had to ask regardless. “I do, but what does that have to do with trashing the Hanged Man, or with having ‘a chat’ with Donnic?”
“Well, Donnic mentioned that Aveline was stuck in the Keep all day today and that it had her a bit ornery. Ornerier. One of those, anyway, because she wouldn’t be able to enjoy her day.”
“And we all know how much she enjoys the idea of throwing you in prison,” Hawke laughed, amazed by Isabela’s dedication to a woman she always pretended to hate.
“Come on, let’s get you cleaned up,” she said suddenly, putting an arm around the pirate’s hips and leading her across the square to her estate. “You stink like the dungeons, but we’ll get you a bath, and you can stay with me until your room at the Hanged Man is habitable again.”
“You know, I’ve always wanted to try out your bathtub,” Isabela purred. “It’s big enough for two, after all.”
“Is it?” Hawke asked with feigned innocence as she paused long enough to dig a key out of one pocket. “You know, we might just have to test that out.”