Chapter 1: Why Does This Always Happen To Me?
Jean Luc groaned and pinched the bridge of his nose as he saw the bearded rogue and his entourage approaching. Not this; not again.
He couldn't very well refuse to barter with the Champion of Kirkwall. The man had, after all, single-handedly saved the city from being overrun by the Qunari. But the man was clearly insane. Perhaps he was too wealthy to be insane. Eccentric, then.
How and why the Champion managed to accumulate such a bizarre assortment of junk during his travels was a mystery. That he truly believed Jean Luc, one of Hightown's finest merchants, had any interest in paying for such rubbish was even more unfathomable.
Nevertheless, Jean Luc was a consummate professional. He plastered on a smile and proceeded to engage in the weekly ritual he had come to dread. "Good Afternoon, Champion. Can I interest you in some of my fine robes? I have several new amulets as well, they're--"
"Not today," the Champion shook his head. He then began to rummage through his pack, each item he whipped out appearing more worthless than the last.
"What have we there?" Jean Luc inquired, biting back a grimace.
"Two pairs of torn trousers, an empty stained bottle, a rusty metal spoon, a torn slaver invoice, a moldy ragdoll, and," the Champion said with a broad grin, as though about to reveal the pièce de résistance, "this rotten wooden peg leg! What's all this worth to you?"
"Twenty-one bronze?" Jean Luc offered weakly, hoping the amount was enough to seem accommodating, but not enough to tempt the man.
"You've got a deal." The rogue nodded, and handed over the items, much to Jean Luc's chagrin.
After exchanging the requisite coin, the Champion and his companions skipped merrily away, no doubt in search of more 'treasure'. Korval left his stand to wander over to Jean Luc for a moment.
"Peddling the usual garbage again?" Korval asked, sympathetically.
"Maker, yes. Why does this always happen to me?" he replied, chucking the newly procured items into a bin. "Why is it never you, or Olaf, or Hubert?"
"Bad luck, my friend." The weaponsmith gave the tailor a little pat on the shoulder. "Maybe you shouldn't set up so close to those steps."
Chapter 2: You Save Me
To most outward appearances, Hawke was in excellent spirits. He wore a jovial expression, quick to laugh and crack jokes. He lounged in his chair and drank and flirted the night away, seeming to find the company of his friends equally intoxicating as the ale he was imbibing.
But Varric couldn’t help noticing things that other people might miss. Things like the sallow hue and dark circles that betrayed Hawke’s exhaustion. Or the gray hair that salted his temples beyond what one would expect to see in a man of thirty. Or the worry, which could not be entirely disguised by his jaunty expression; it lingered behind his eyes.
With an abundance of cheap alcohol flowing through him, Varric finally decided to turn to his best friend and ask the question that he’d been wondering about for years.
“How do you do it?” Varric leaned in closer, so that his voice would carry above the din.
“What’s that, Varric?” Hawke raised an eyebrow, perhaps puzzled by the vague question or his friend’s uncharacteristically serious demeanor.
“I’m just wondering—you know, for the sake of keeping my story accurate—how do you stay sane? You dedicate your life to helping people. I’ve seen it take a toll over the years, physical and emotional. Still, no matter what happens, you keep on doing it. I guess that’s what makes you the Champion.” Varric paused before getting to the heart of his question. “But, here’s the thing, Hawke. I know how you save Kirkwall. What I don’t know is how you save yourself.”
Hawke’s jocular façade fell away for a moment and he gazed somberly at Varric before fixing him with a smile. It was a small, weary smile, but it was genuine. “You save me. All of you do. Every single day.”
Chapter 3: The One Time Bethany Didn't Like Hawke
Bethany knew her big brother fancied other men. There was nothing wrong with that. She also knew he was especially attracted to elves. Why not? She had even become aware that Garrett was rather indiscriminate when it came to sex. Although it shocked her sensibilities at times--being a romantic at heart--she reasoned that such actions weren't hurting anybody.
Normally, Bethany was perfectly content to mind her own business and let Garrett do as he pleased. But tonight... tonight was different.
They had been trying to track down a missing woman and their search had led them to the Blooming Rose. Bethany never imagined she'd set foot in such a place. She thought she was handling her dismay over the situation quite well.
Or at least, she had been handling it well, right up until the red-headed elven prostitute they had been questioning propositioned her brother and he agreed.
"Maker's breath! Can't you... do this when I'm not around?" she asked, horrified at the idea of having to hang around in the brothel while her brother did that.
"Run along and play, Bethany," Garrett replied with a smirk, his condescending tone harkening back to their childhood.
"This is not why we came to Kirkwall!" she insisted in frustration as she and the other two companions were quickly escorted out of the room and the door slammed in their faces.
Bethany, Fenris and Anders stood there dumbly for a few moments, exchanging stunned expressions. When they began to hear noises coming from the room, a silent-yet-unanimous consensus was reached and they walked swiftly downstairs.
The trio spent Maker-only-knows how much time downstairs at the bar, simply waiting. Bethany was less than comfortable with the leers she was getting from some of the shadier patrons, but it was even more awkward standing between Anders and Fenris. Neither man uttered a single word, but they both wore surly expressions, alternating between glaring daggers at each other and shooting rueful glances upstairs at Jethann's door.
Bethany suspected that both men had feelings for her brother, but she didn't want to think about that any more than she wanted to think about--
"Andraste's Grace! Uncle Gamlen?" she spluttered, suddenly spotting her uncle across the bar. He mumbled a few words, ducked his head, and left hastily.
Well, that made for two traumatic mental images she'd never erase for as long as she lived.
Bethany loved her brother, but tonight, she did not like him. Not at all.
Chapter 4: When Side Quests Collide
One of these is technically not a side-quest, but I couldn't resist, because this happens to me on just about every playthrough. :)
Hawke took a deep breath and swung open the heavy door leading into the Hanged Man.
Aveline had talked him into inviting Donnic to the tavern, with the idea that she would secretly show up and reveal her romantic intentions to the man. After the 'copper relief of marigolds' incident, it was clear the woman needed all the help she could get, so Hawke had agreed. In order to lure Donnic there, Hawke had fibbed and said that a group of Guardsmen would be in attendance. Now, it would be a matter of keeping the ruse going until Aveline arrived.
When Hawke walked in, he was pleasantly surprised to find that there were, in fact, several other Guardsmen present. His lucky night. He wouldn't even have to come up with a cover story.
The guards were listening to a bombastic ginger-haired Guardsman who was ranting loudly at the bar. Donnic was seated by himself at a separate table, his back to the other men. It seemed clear they weren't friendly with each other, but Hawke saw that as a plus. It meant there would be no one to chase away, once Aveline finally arrived.
As Hawke approached Corff for a drink, he began to overhear the conversation. He slowly and uncomfortably came to the realization that red-headed braggart, Orwald, was the man Seneschal Bran had tipped them off about. The man involved in the Qunari disappearance.
"Bugger," Hawke muttered under his breath, slamming his fist on the bar. But priorities were priorities, so he tapped Orwald on the shoulder.
One violent bar brawl later, drenched in blood, Hawke had the information he needed. Aveline hadn't arrived yet, and Donnic--unbelievably!--remained seated at the table.
The man hadn't moved a muscle during the fight. Hawke wondered if perhaps it was against City Guard policy for him to attack another officer. But, it did seem odd that Donnic hadn't gotten up and left, at least. Instead he was covered in blood from the fighting that had taken place around him.
Hawke took a seat at Donnic's table and, hoping to salvage the disastrous situation, began to make small talk as best he could. Unfortunately, he was absolutely dreadful at small talk, so the next three-quarters of an hour passed in awkward silence. Incredibly awkward silence. And Aveline still hadn't arrived.
Several drinks later, still covered in blood and staring across the table at the only man in Kirkwall who looked even more uncomfortable than he was in that moment, Hawke knew one thing for certain: Aveline owed him. Big time.
Chapter 5: Your Mouth Is Talking. You May Want To Look Into That.
They dashed through Lowtown as briskly as their feet could carry them, following the fresh trail of blood until it led directly to an abandoned foundry.
Aveline had seen a lot of blood in her time, but somehow it had never looked so red before, had never glistened quite so sickeningly beneath the moonlight. Her stomach lurched when she allowed herself to consider the possible scenarios, things that could be happening to Leandra at that very moment--things that might already have occurred.
To make matters worse, Aveline had never seen Hawke so shaken, so frantic. The behavior was perfectly understandable given the circumstances, but to see the change was disturbing nonetheless.
Anders seemed to be rattled as well, a fact that became blatantly obvious the moment they entered the foundry and he blurted, "I wonder if we'll find more than a sack of bones this time."
Hawke turned for only a fraction of an instant, his mouth agape in horror. Even more panicked, he picked up speed and moved deeper into the foundry, with Fenris flanking his side.
Aveline fixed Anders with a warning glare. She wasn't entirely without sympathy. She had certainly put her own foot in her mouth more than a time or two. But never quite so spectacularly and at such an inopportune moment.
Before they moved ahead to join Hawke and Fenris, she grabbed the mage's sleeve and whispered sternly, "Anders, your mouth is talking. You may want to look into that."