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It wasn't working.

Varric shoved his papers together roughly, capped the ink and shoved all of it into his satchel.

Not for the first time he considered tossing it all in, marrying some Deshyr his family chose and building his bank account rather than his bibliography.

Tale of the Champion had been an instant best seller, flying off the shelves. It was already in it's second printing. They'd even introduced an illuminated version, kidskin leather, gilded edges and all.

After that, nothing. Every idea petered away, most before he could even write them down.

His beloved city was a shadow of what she'd been.  Which, he'd grant, was a shadow of once she'd once been.  He'd once seen a body in dark town that had died of a wasting skin disease.  It's bones showing in places where the skin was ravaged. Kirkwall may have been a shit hole, but she'd had good bones.  Now they too were ravaged. By day he put his back into whatever project seemed like it would help the most, but by night, he drank, and tried to write.

It was harder since everybody left. 

Sunshine had been first, she'd given one backward look at Curly, raised a hand to Hawke and left surrounded by magelings like some sort of pied pier. She took the sun with her as she sashayed out of the gallows and right out of Kirkwall.

Hawke had followed not long after, leaving the key to her house down his shirt and her damnable naked lady dagger planted in Rivaini's door. The one she and Rivaini had laughingly referred to as "bodice ripper".

He couldn't really blame Killer anyway. She had been the Champion since she'd saved the city from the Arishok and after a few years of that shit, it was hard to be so reviled. She really couldn't deal with the treatment she was receiving, even though Curly and his Templars did their best to protect her.

After Hawke they fell like flies.

Choir Boy to take his throne, Rivaini and Broody. Varric smiled to think of the night they had disappeared together talking of the finer points of smuggling. Varric was pretty sure what they were smuggling too. 

He rubbed his face. Maker's teeth he was depressed.

His eyes caught a movement. Black eyes across the room fixed on him. She wore black as well. Black hair, black eyes, black tunic and trousers with some sort of wire boned bodice under a satin cloak. His eyes slid past her to a pair of drunken caravaners working themselves up to a fight.

She didn't seem impressed with what was clearly a contest for her attention. She stared through the louts for a second or two and then turned the page in a book that sat before her on the table.

He watched her read a few lines. intrigued by this dark stranger, sitting in a crowded pisshole bar reading a book of all things.

She had short black hair framing a vaguely heart shaped face. Not to mention cheekbones that could cut glass.

Those wide black eyes were set in skin roughly the color of ... buttered nutmeg? Now there was an image.

Varric frowned, adjectives were failing him now? Then it hit him. Toasted cinnamon.

He smiled to himself, fingers playing with his quill.

Brown was inadequate. Crass. Besides, this woman wasn't brown. Rivaini was brown, cafe au lait the Orlesians called it. Nor was she tan. Tan suggested a creamy undertone. Hers was... spicier. Not red, but not cream either. She was cinnamon, nutmeg, maybe some toffee.

Varric realized he was staring now, staring at one of the world's rare beauties, and thinking of, of all things, Pumpkin Pie.

Varric groaned. Here he was. Celebrated author of Tales of the Champion, of Hard in Hightown.

Varric Tethras is a thrice-damned hack he thought, closing his eyes Pumpkin pie for fuck's sake.

It was all academic anyway.  Humans weren't usually his cup of tea.  His eyes slid back toward her.  Humans had generally two responses to a dwarf.  They'd treat him like a child, or they bought into the stereotype that Dwarves pissed in golden chamber pots. Or ran a secret cabal that ruled Thedas from the shadows. Many of them resented it.  The rest wanted it.  Even Killer had had to be disabused of the idea that he was having her on when he suggested she finance the deep roads expedition.

Plus they were too tall.  The view was better with elves, where he was roughly tit high.  But there was nothing sexy about being presented with the asses, beer guts or navels of humanity.  Not to mention the jokes the cruder men made about what he could do while he was down there.  Humans.  Not Varric's bag.

Varric nodded, waving Norah over for another brew. 

Humans also got old too fast.  Something about Dwarves kept them young looking until the crinkles became wrinkles.  Something in the face he thought.  But humans lost that baby fat in their thirties.  This woman was on that cusp.  Somewhere between seven and twenty and seven and thirty.  Around his age. 

Varric pondered how he would cast her in his next book.  Dark Stranger? MacGuffin? Shadow? Red Herring? Maybe Mentor, though he hated putting strong women in a role that seemed like motherhood to him. Another sign of his depression was his inability to type a random person in his life, in his bar. Not even Norah evaded appearing in his taller tales.

This woman was too tangible, too vibrant to be just a love interest, but too mysterious, too dangerous to be the Hero.  Varic considered the anti-hero archetype.  Naw. She was too pretty to be an ass.  That was more Hawke's bag.

He was stumped.

She had an air of confidence and mystery about her.  

Without lifting her eyes from her book, she dodged a falling Teamster, then lifted her little black boots up and recrossed her legs so she wasn't touching the inert fellow. Varric looked away, he had a distinct impression her trousers were painted on.

He shifted, suddenly realizing he'd been sitting too long, he subtly re-adjusted his own trousers to relieve the strain, and finally stood and straightened his clothing. Daisy took that moment to walk in. He waved and grinned at the little elf.

She looked spooked. Shit.  Nothing spooked Daisy.  Largely because most things went over her head even if it did go poorly, she was both mage and hunter trained.  Even taking her magic wouldn't necessarily stop her. And then there was the blood magic.

Varric was momentarily distracted when Norah appeared beside him with a tumbler of amber liquid.  Norah nodded toward the woman, and held the cup out toward him.  From the corner of his eye he saw Daisy look toward his admirer, then move out of his line of sight

He considered the barmaid.  She told him she'd poured it herself from a fresh bottle.  So, not poisoned.  However, humans weren't really something that interested Varric for more than a character sketch. He tended to prefer somebody he didn't have to climb up on a chair to kiss.

Besides, he was... something.  Wasn't he?  He shook his head, but Norah moved closer with it. 

"She is a good looking lady." Norah said, attempting to place the tumbler on the table.

"She won't pay for it unless I take it, will she?"

Norah was angry now and he realized he'd read it wrong.  "No Varric," she grunted "It's not that." She looked up at the lady, a soft look on her face "She is quite the lady.  Very well spoken.  A real lady, not like your Hawke."

"She's not my Hawke.  I'm pretty sure she had teeth... down there."

Norah glared at him.  "How long has it been, Varric.  Celibacy is not healty."

Varric laughed long and hard.  He wiped at a tear. "Norah, Peaches, you are in the wrong business.  You could give Madame Lusine a run for her money."

Norah gave him a dirty look.  Varric shrugged, remembering his own words to the wise when Broody had grumbled at the staff here. One does not anger the wait staff.  That is asking for spit, or worse, in one's food. Besides, I have to live here. 

Of course, he caved, taking the booze from Norah's hand and telling her to thank the woman, but not to encourage her.

He gave the tumbler a sniff and raised an eyebrow at the woman who was watching him with a slight smile.  She might be human, but she had taste. It was Stark Whiskey.  And not just any Stark, but Single Malt Stark. He took a taste, moving it around on his tongue while the fumes danced up his nose. It was perfectly balanced between fruit and peat.  No flowers, no bullshit.

Choir boy could get it to year and a five mile radius but Varric wasn't that kind of conniseur.  It went down fighting, so it was at least a 15 to 20 year old and probably Vael Reserve.  Not a cheap way to get a man's attention.

He held the tumbler up to the mystery woman and took a drink, then turned to look for Daisy.

She wasn't there.

"Hey Norah" Varric called "did you see where Daisy went?"

"She was here?" Norah asked

Shit.  He should go looking for her.  Bad things happened when Merrill got scared.

He stood up, to move toward the door but was intercepted by the woman in black. 

"May I ask, are you the author, Varric Tethras?" she asked.  Her voice was deep, sharply accented. Nevarran or Antivan he decided, which went with the skin, he decided.  It fit her. Not that it made a difference to him.  

Varric groaned inwardly why did you toast her, idiot!

Varric looked toward the door then back at the woman.  Linnea had told him to be more polite to his fans and while he might frequently argue with his editor, who wielded a red pen like a scalpel, one did not disobey the leader of half the Coterie.  Not if one wanted to keep one's testicles.

Daisy won't blow anything up for at least a day, right? He turned his best smile on the dark stranger how we have lowered the bar here in Kirkwall.

"What would you do if i said no?" he asked her, quirking an eyebrow.

"I would call bullshit." she said.  It amused him how she stressed the L and the T in the word. 

She placed her book on the table before him and he cringed inwardly.  The illuminated version of Tale of the Champion. 

She calmly flipped to the page with the kaleidoscope portraits.  Then she punched her finger toward the one of the broad faced rogue with the same hairstyle he was wearing. 

He whistled.  "The illuminated version.  That must have cost you a pretty penny."

She ignored his words and simply looked at him expectantly.

Varric caved.

"What can this simple storyteller do for you, My Lady?" Varric asked waving her to a seat at the end of the table and climbing up onto the one diagonal to her.

 She did not so much sit as fold into the nearly rotten wooden chair as if it were a throne. It might have been hot if he wasn't pre-occupied by Daisy.  And completely uninterested.  Completely.

"You can tell me more about yourself." She said closing the book and placing a protective hand on it.

"You want to talk about me?" Varric said lightly. "I'm flattered. Also inclined toward extravagant lies." 

The woman folded her hands and placed her chin on top.  She had long, thin fingers.  And long thin lashes highlighted by her expert eye makeup. The candlelight made her skin glow and her black... no brown... eyes glittered.  She smiled at him.  It changed her face. Andraste's ass she was sex on a stick.

"I do not believe that you will lie to me." she said with a smirk.  Her voice was low and sexy.  If he was into that sort of thing. Which he absolutely was not.

Won't I?

"Look, La..My lady, I'm not interested in..."

She put her hand on top of his on the table, stopping him.  The movement pushed her cape off her lapel.  His eye followed her hand up to her shoulder, taking in the fact that her clothes were expensive and well made and she had arms like, well, not tree trunks but very solid tree branches. His eyes continued on, an expensive brooch winked at him from the strap of her black leather corset bodice. He expected a coat of arms, or a pretty doo dad.  Instead the symbol stopped him cold.

The all seeing eye of the Chantry overlaid on the streaming light of the sun.  Post tenebras lux .  She was Chantry.

Varric gasped as everything he had assumed ran screaming out the window. She was not just Chantry, she was a maker-damned Seeker of Truth.

"Well... Shit." he said as the woman stood and smiled at him like she was about to eat him.  And not in the fun way.

He heard some of the clientele step behind him, leather armor squeaking. He was well and truly fucked. Luckily his ankles weren't all that far from his hands, because he'd be holding them pretty tight very soon.

She was what spooked Daisy, and here he was trying to put her in his novel. Composing descriptions like a poet.

She wasn't the MacGuffin, the Red Herring, the mentor or the love interest.

Nope. She was the Femme Fatale.  He was the patsy.

Varric closed his mouth and swallowed. 

Shit, Shit, Shit.

Well, he'd go down fighting, anyway.