Varric Tethras had experienced quite a few things in his life so far. Lots of killing, bribing, writing and loving among others. Being a victim to kidnapping was something new, and he was being kidnapped right now! He just didn’t know who or why, and usually you had a sort of an idea who would want to kidnap you. All of the people who may have wished him harm over the last few years were in no position to do it. He had made sure of that.
Therefore he didn’t knew who was behind this abduction. He could only say that it seemed to be some sort of order or cult who was taking him away. He wasn’t sure if one or the other was better for him. There weren’t many differences between a cult or an order anyway, at least to him. The only difference was when he was gonna die, in the beginning or after they interrogated him.
“What are they after?” Varric wondered silently. “Are they after information about the town or the Champion, or both?”
He wasn’t that interesting, at least not to humans, to dwarves and the Merchant Guild maybe, but these were humans. Not the kind of people who usually wanted something from him. Therefore this couldn’t be about his dwarven dealings, but had to be about something in human affairs. Someone - or many someones - needed or wanted information. The question left was why?
Like usual he was own his own, at least since his old friends were gone Andraste knows where. Not even the Guard was helping, which was also no wonder. It was the middle of the night and the guards were thinned out and vastly outnumbered. The large number of people, disciplined and stoic, would have been a problem to the Guards even in their best days. The foreign people were all donned in the same armor with the same symbol engraved on it. The symbol looked familiar, almost like the chantry with some sort of embellishment.
“Great. An Order of the chantry. What did I do this time and how much time do I have now to save my own ass?” Varric thought to himself sarcastically.
Varric was pretty sure that the guard who had been left in charge had told the others to just observe for now. He wasn’t sure if he had done the same, but he could understand him or her right now. The odds were clearly against them. More than ever. And even Aveline would have thought thrice before she tried to free him without a good plan and backup. Which the Guard didn’t have at this time. Not with the majority of them out of town or ill or badly hurt.
The last two months hadn’t been nice to the Guards. Not at all.
The dwarven storyteller simply hoped that there were some guards available who could stealthily shadow him. Though if this order brought him out of town, things would get even more complicated. The Guards couldn’t afford to let him go but at the same time couldn’t afford to follow him out of town if they wanted to protect the city and the citizens at all.
But thankfully it seemed like his kidnappers didn’t want to bring him out of town, instead they brought him into a building and if his senses didn’t lie to him, he knew exactly whose house this was. The dwarf hoped they knew that they were playing a dangerous game. If not this game might end sooner than they hoped.
“I had gentler invitations.” Varric remarked as they finally let him down, very ruggedly on a hard chair.
“I am Cassandra Pentaghast, Seeker of the Chantry.” a female voice announced, who had been hiding in the shadows the dark room was providing. The fireplace was only flickering, meaning that she had to be here for a while. It also gave the room a feeling quite similar to a horror novel. Who knew who was hiding in the shadows?
Cassandra Pentaghast told her guards with a single movement that they should leave them alone. They saluted and obeyed.
“And just … what are you seeking?” Varric asked, who knew that he had to play her game. At least for the moment.
The dwarf sighed. He knew she wouldn’t appreciate the question but he simply had to ask it. “Which one?”
And like he expected, the Seeker didn’t like that answer. “You know exactly why I’m here!” she snapped and threw a book in his face and threatened him with a dagger, before she stabbed it into the book. “Time to start talking, dwarf. They tell me you are good at it.”
She looked him into the eyes for a few seconds and then stepped back, to let him catch his breath. Once she was a few steps away he dared to look at the book the Seeker had thrown at him and must have been reading here. “Of course” he thought. “This book had to get me into trouble.” He wasn’t even surprised about it. “What do you want to know?” he finally asked.
“Everything. Start at the beginning.” she demanded.
“Everything, huh?” he chuckled, despite the situation he was in. “Everything? Everything we can do even though I believe you won’t like what I’m about to tell you. I will even refrain from re-telling the stories you must have heard so far.”
“Much appreciated.” The Seeker remarked sarcastically. “And now start talking, dwarf!”
“Oh, I will, Seeker. Don’t you worry. I want this story be told, and not just the one I wrote down.“ He said and pointed at the book lying on his legs. “While this book shows what the world and this town thinks the truth is, I will tell you the real truth. It’s about damn time.”
“Wait a second, dwarf.” Cassandra stops him and takes the book into her hands again and waves it back and forth. “Are you telling me this is … just a lie?”
“Not exactly. The truth is in there, hidden beneath what isn’t said and what I lied about. You can see it ... as a sort of map of this town. But without a good tour guide - me in this case - you won’t ever see the real truth hidden beneath the lines.”
Varric could see that he was frustrating the Seeker with his short speech, but he had to play it that way. The truth was … complicated after all. More complicated than the Seeker thought it was.
“Is that so, dwarf? Then maybe it’s better if I ask questions to certain situations that are written in this so-called book.”
“If you wish, seeker.” Varric simply said and leaned back on the chair and observed the seeker who was now browsing through the book. He still didn’t know what Seeker was looking for, but he had a few theories.
“Marian Hawke.” Cassandra Pentaghast suddenly said. “Tell me how she got into Kirkwall.”
Varric winced, and the Seeker saw it. “Ah! Did I find a point you didn’t wanted to talk about?”
“It’s not like that.” Varric defended himself. “It’s more like Marian Hawke doesn’t exist. Or at least not in the way you think!”
“Start making sense, dwarf!”
“Marian Hawke is a pseudonym. One group of local nobles came up with that name. Years before the Fifth Blight, but that name didn’t become well-known until Sodia and Sophia Cousland came to Kirkwall. That’s when the magic started. That’s when Marian Hawke’s adventures started, or so the public thinks.”
“Halt.” Cassandra interrupted and narrowed her eyes. “Are you trying to tell me that Marian Hawke is Sodia or Sophia Cousland? That would explain a lot. I knew they fled Ferelden to be save from Rendon Howe, but it was always thought their ship sank or they were sold as slaves to Tevinter. But fleeing to Kirkwall and adopting a new name gives them both a feeling of safety and adventure, wouldn’t it? That would explain why they never went back to Ferelden, to Highever, after everything that happened. I wonder if their siblings knew about that?”
“Oh, I’m sure they knew. Sodia and Sophia never seemed to be the kind of people who would forget to write their siblings. Furthermore it’s not really possible to hide their survival for so many years. Not if they are that important and no. Marian Hawke is not Sodia or Sophia Cousland. Or at least not entirely. Sometimes the local nobles I mentioned earlier acted under that name and bloodied their hands.”
“Who?” Cassandra Pentaghast demanded to know.
“Why do people always ask ‘who’? To me it had always seemed to be a question of ‘why’. What do you think, Varric?” A new voice announced herself with a question that gave Varric shivers. He knew who that voice belonged to, but he hadn’t seen or felt her entering the room. The same was apparently also true for the seeker who had unsheathed her sword.
“Who is there? Show yourself!” she snarled at the room, looking for the owner of the voice and ready to attack at the slightest sign of danger.
“Varric, why don’t you start a new fire in the fireplace? It’s getting quite cold and dark in here and it seems our resident seeker is not that good at seeking in the dark.”
The dwarf just shrugged and did as he was ordered. He had a theory where she was sitting and that theory was proven right once the light from the fire was starting to shine stronger. A woman in a very well made dress sat on the balustrade, right before the Memento of the Assassin.
“I don’t care who you think you are, but this doesn’t concern you, so get out before I kill you!”
“Where are your manners, Seeker? And ‘this doesn’t concern me’ you say? In this point I’ve got to disagree, Seeker. You kidnapped one of my citizen, therefore this does concern me.”
“I’ve got to wonder, are you really a Seeker of Truth or are they just accepting anyone into the Order nowadays? You don’t seem to be a good seeker, or is that the influence of the orlesian bard outside? I mean that would explain why you didn’t know. They can’t be trusted after all”
“What?” Cassandra said again.
“Let me tell you a few things that might help you to come to the right conclusion, namely that you are out of your depth. You trying to get to the bottom of what happened in Kirkwall is understandable but the way you went about it will have consequences. Consequences you and your order will have to pay. And you will pay for them, mark my words. You are not above the laws.”
“Who do you think you are?” Cassandra finally demanded to know.
“Sophia Cousland, Ferelden nobility and Viscount of Kirkwall.” was the simple answer of the other woman.
“What?” The Seeker uttered once again.
“Varric did tell you that my sister and I survived. It’s not like you should be surprised about that. Or are you surprised that I’m the Viscount? While my sister and the others did have their adventures I had some of my own, even though they were less bloody, which culminated into me becoming Viscount a few weeks after Meredith was turned to stone. She would have never allowed me to become Viscount. I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have allowed anyone to become Viscount.”
“How?” Cassandra just muttered.
“How you didn’t know about that? I have no clue, Seeker, though I have my theories, but I won’t utter them here. But before I ask you to leave my home and my town, I will give you some of the answers you are looking for. My sister is dead and so is Sebastian Vale. Merril, Aveline, Fenris, Isabela and Anders are alive as far as I know. But knowing Anders and his tendency to live on the edge that might have changed. And I don’t know where Amindra Amell, Zerenia Arenburg or Vivacet de Launcet are. I haven’t heard or seen from them in the last two years, but knowing them they will re-appear wherever they feel they are needed. And in case you didn’t get the hint: Amindra, Zerenia and Vivacet are the local nobles Varric had mentioned. And now, shoo!”
Cassandra grinded with her teeth but did comply with the order and left the house. The dwarf and the noble born in Highever watched her go before Sophia addressed Varric again.
“You know, Varric, there was just one thing Meredith was right about me and my sister. One of us is a blood mage.” Sophia said and outed herself as one. “But you aren’t going to tell anyone that or are you?”
“I’m not suicidal, Sophia!” the dwarf replied. “I’m sure your bodyguard is somewhere nearby.”
“Clever dwarf.” The noble smiled at him. “And in case you were wondering: yes, I have been here from the start. I knew the seekers were in the town. They tried to be stealthy but an order that big can’t be stealthy for long. They didn’t come to the Keep and ask for me or for any help. Therefore I wanted to know who they wanted and what they wanted. You have never been in danger.”
“If you say so.” Varric commented and watched out of the windows and saw how all the Seekers started marching. And he started to wonder if that was really the last time he saw the Seeker or the others. Considering his kind of luck he doubted that.