The sun threw a pink glow over the white walls of the city. Stall vendors cried out last minute sales while people shuffled by, eager to be home before dark. No one between the sweaty beggars and the immaculately dressed nobles the guards changing shifts noticed the dwarf enter the Five Flagons. At least this city isn't as ridiculously huge as Kirkwall, he thought to himself as he walked up to the bar. If he had to do ANY more walking, by Andraste he was going to shoot someone. He swore under his breath as he observed a scratch on his beloved crossbow, Bianca. It would buff out. A fishing boat crew had been kind enough to bring him along as they headed back to the docks and point him towards this quaint little establishment. How many times had he, Varric Tethras, helped some poor sod who didn't know which end was up? He remembered the look Marian Hawke gave him, that 'tell me where to start' look. She needed his help but only a push in the right direction. Maker, he missed her. Marian wouldn't bat an eyelash at this situation. But he was alone now. Alone in a big city with no connections. This was going to be tough.
"Hail me good smiling friend!" grinned the small man behind the bar. He was even shorter than the dwarf, who cocked his head in puzzlement. That greeting was practiced, the stress of the evening was already beginning to show. "We have every drink available, what can I get you?"
"Actually I'd like a room first." The dwarf smiled tiredly.
"Aye, you do look like you could use a rest. We have ah..." The bartender studied something the dwarf could not see from his viewpoint "We do have one room left. Had a party of four come in earlier. Yes, the second door on your left upstairs. That will be eight gold please. "
Varric dragged himself up the stairs and washed the grime from his face. Ironically he had pondered to himself not a week ago that he could use a vacation. This wasn't quite what he had in mind. He looked at his reflection in a smudged mirror. It could take weeks or months to find a way home. Might as well make the best of it.
"I wonder what kind of booze they have here?"
Figuring he would spend whatever's left in the coin pouch he liberated from a group of thieves, he stepped out into the hall. They weren't counting on Bianca though, were they? He chuckled to himself. That was when he heard it. Crying. Someone in the hall was crying. She was getting louder, too. (Assuming it was a she. Could have been some fop who broke his gilded mirror.) Hoping he would have to listen to THAT all night Varric headed for the staircase, but the crying person decided to stop attempting to be quiet and started full blown sobbing, with quick gasps of air in between.
"Oh by the Maker, it's just a tavern!" Varric threw his hands in the air. He willed himself to walk downstairs and leave it alone but something compelled him to slowly walk down the hall and into the sitting area. He found no one, nothing but wagons used for decoration. He peered into the sobbing wagon and saw a small female hugging her knees. From the gloom she looked back at him. "Who are you? Go away."
"Miss, you are waking the customers. Why don't you stuff your feelings the old fashioned way? You ARE in a tavern." He tried to get a better look at her but she shrunk back.
"You mock my pain, sir. Please leave me alone."
"At least go bawl in your room or let me buy your a drink. Yes, I will buy you a drink, will that make you feel better?"
His answer was a leather bracer square in the face. "Ow! Miss, that's not very ladylike. I'm keeping this for that." Waving goodbye with the bracer he turned and left. He was scarcely four steps away before he heard a thump. Turning around he came face to face with a dwarven woman with long curly auburn hair, with two plaits on either side of her face, the rest gathered at the nape of her neck. Her cheeks were still damp with tears and her dark eyes were red and puffy.
"I need that back, please." She indicated the bracer and held out her hand.
"No. I have a strict policy to keep valuable things that are thrown at me."
She grabbed up a staff that had been propped against the wagon. "Back. Now."
"What happened to 'please'?"
"Huh. Maybe I should name my staff Discipline. Then I discipline you and you learn some manners. "
He hid the bracer behind his back. "Tell you what. You take it back from me and I leave you alone. Deal?"
She scoffed. "I will not partake in such a childish game. You sound like Imoen." That started up a new round of tears.
"Ah, so she does this;" He dangled the bracer over her head. "Keep away! Keep away! Nya nya! Nya nya! Must be a sibling. I bet you-..!"
He was silenced when she quickly snatched it back. Putting the bracer back on the woman sighed. "Yes, Imoen is my sister. Unless by the odd chance you can tell me where the Cowled Wizards take their captives, we have no reason to continue speaking. Good evening." She gave him a stiff bow started to walk past him.
"Wizards, eh? " He asked. "Is she a mage?"
The woman stopped"Well, she knows a bit of magic...it's different from mine, though."
"But you're a dwarf!"
She pretended to studied him a moment. "YOU'RE a dwarf too. What an astute observation. Wait, where's your beard?"
He rolled his eyes then gasped "I'm a dwarf!?" Clutching his face in mock horror he cried "When I woke up this morning I was an elf!"
She couldn't help but laugh.
"Mission accomplished. Finally. So these mages. Do they know anything about sending misplaced dwarves back home?" He asked, crossing his arms.
The woman shrugged. "I don't know. They keep everything they do a huge secret. Magic is outlawed here in Athkatla. Anyone caught casting spells in the open is locked up somewhere. We're trying to find that out."
He scratched the back of his head. "Oh yes, the sister. Perhaps we can both find these wizards and present our queries."
She was about to answer when they heard an explosion downstairs.
"We're lookin' for a dwarf man with no beard! Anyone seen him! Last chance!" A voice bellowed and five or six men marched upstairs. Varric drew his immense crossbow.
"The dwarf with no beard...why am I always known as the 'dwarf with no beard'? Why can't I be the handsome dwarf, the charming dwarf with the amazing crossbow?"
"Well well, " said one of the thieves. "Thought you could get away with interfering with our smuggling trade, eh?"
The dwarf smirked. "No, I'm all for easy money. I just don't like being robbed. Hypocritical, I know."
Another of the men stood dumbfounded and pointed at the dwarf woman. "Her. She's-...she...I seen her at the Promenade when they took the mage!" The first man laughed.
"By the gods, a two for one deal! A sorry bastard AND a Bhaalspawn!"
Varric threw a quick glance at her "Bhaalspawn?"
The dwarf woman cast a spell, and the men froze on the spot, as though time itself stopped them and them alone. "We can take them!" She twirled her staff with more flair than expected, considering the thing was nearly twice as tall as she.
"Your magic won't work on me, dwarf bitch." Then with a slightly wet thump, he looked to see the crossbow quarrel in his chest and fell over dead. The final man ran out but ran smack into more thieves.
Taking a flask from somewhere in his coat, Varric said to his female companion"No time for a hilarious quip, RUN!" He hurled the flask and it shatted on impact, the fumes making the men disoriented enough for them to push their way past. Downstairs had turned into a good old fashioned brawl. The bartender was cowering under the counter as tables were flipped and chairs thrown.
"There he is! After him!"
"Time to go!" Varric headed for the door and he urged the female to follow.
"My friends are still upstairs!" She protested.
"I'm sure they'll understand, move it!"
(No sooner had they begun their escape they heard cries from the top floor calling for nature's wrath and to go for the eyes. )
They burst out of the inn with a dozen or so men following in their wake, spilling out into the night. Down the alleys and back ways, the Bridge District wasn't particularly big, and experienced thieves would know it like the back of their hand. With any luck though, they would simply give up. They got just as lost as Varric did! When a different set of thieves in the blackest of black showed up and attacked their pursuers, Varric jerked his female follower into an alcove. They were fast, efficient...brutal....these new thieves. Looks like their 'friends' were not welcome in the city...
"Shadow Thieves..." the woman whispered. "They're very...territorial."
The dwarf sighed and put away his weapon. "Well before we were so rudely interrupted...if I help you find your sister, will you help me find a way home?"
She just stared at him. "You didn't seem very helpful in a fight back there..."
He slapped his forehead" Come on, I'm lost here. I don't even know where I am or how I ended up here."
She studied him a moment. "You didn't even tell me your name."
"My name? It's Varric."
"Charmed. Let's go back, I REALLY need a drink now."