For the first time since the duel, standing no longer required the aid of another person. There were no more Circle healers buzzing about her chambers, or Templars in the hall. There were only letters – stacks of them, piled up over three months of bedrest, all of which needed answering. In no rush to tackle the task, Hawke took a moment to hobble about the room, her bare feet padding back and forth in front of the fireplace. Walking was a chore, her sense of balance skewed by potions and salves meant to dull the pain. She had no doubt that the entire estate reeked of mint and elfroot – a petty cost for what she assumed to be a great relief.
It took time to gather resolve, but eventually, the woman made her way to the writing desk. On her way, she caught a passing glimpse of herself in the mirror, and the sight gave her pause. She was much thinner than before, almost frail at first glance, and her hair draped comfortably below her shoulders – longer than she had ever kept it since Ostagar. Three months of bedrest even dulled the definition in her arms and legs, and she was sure the healers had taken the time to soften the calluses on her palms. Out of sheer curiosity, her hands drifted to the hem of her shirt, and slowly, pushed the fabric up and over her pale belly, exposing the marred flesh of her abdomen. The scar forming there was still raw, a gleaming reminder of a duel she had very nearly lost; a city very nearly destroyed.
“The Knight-Commander was very kind to offer all of those Circle healers.”
The shirt dropped quickly back down to Hawke’s hips as she turned to face her mother. Leandra was already busy arranging all sorts of garments on Hawke’s bed, each a generous gift from the city’s finest tailors. ‘For our lady Champion,’ the notes had said, each tacked onto what Hawke assumed was a gaudy and, frankly, suffocating example of clothing.
“I'm still convinced she's insane."
"I never said I liked the woman. Only that I'm glad she took care of you."
"I wish I had been awake when Bethany was here.”
“She misses you.”
“I miss her, too. You’re not nearly as much fun to get in trouble with.”
Leandra shot her daughter a disapproving look, but Hawke caught the slight upturn at the corner of the woman’s mouth.
“I think you’ve seen enough trouble for a lifetime. Come, now, try some of these. Your banquet is tomorrow.”
Hawke had not been wrong about the dresses. She sighed as she looked upon the frills and lace and lavish embroidery, each an ill fit for a woman whose claim to fame was single-handedly stopping a Qunari invasion – and that was without considering her career as a mercenary and ill-fated vigilante.
“You don’t like any of them? What about this one?” Leandra said, indicating a pile of crimson satin that Hawke found rather indistinguishable from all the other piles of fabric on her bed.
“The one that looks suspiciously like one of my curtains? Hard pass, unfortunately.”
Leandra allowed herself an exasperated sigh as Hawke plucked at one of the gowns with her thumb and forefinger, barely lifting the thing up before letting it flop right back down.
“Well, what are you going to wear, then? The house robe? Your armor?”
Hawke laughed, ignoring the painful pricks her abdomen sent in response.
“Sure! Might as well give them the Qunari-slayer they expect to see.”
Much to Leandra’s relief, Hawke did not follow through on her promise to wear armor, no matter how tempting it was. There was no gown involved, either, but the Champion managed to look regal enough regardless. A dress shirt tucked itself comfortably into a pair of high-waisted pants, laces hidden below the cut of a crimson vest, traced with gold. Bodhan had polished a pair of boots she had yet to destroy, and Leandra insisted that, if not a gown, then her daughter was to at least do her the favor of letting down her hair. It mattered little – the dark locks barely stayed draped over one shoulder, but it seemed to make her mother happy enough to keep.
A knock at the door pulled Hawke’s attention away from the mirror, right to the shit-eating grin of her favorite partner-in-crime.
“I almost didn’t recognize you, Hawke. You could actually pass for a noble.”
“It’s been a while, Varric.”
“No one’s fault but the Knight-Commander’s. She had Templars posted outside your door right up until you opened your pretty little eyes. Aveline could barely get herself in here, let alone sneak in the elf, two apostates, a pirate, and a very handsome dwarf.”
“I heard the estate was busy for a while. Apparently, I lost a lot of blood getting stabbed.”
Varric’s laughter was nearly cacophonous in the quiet space of the estate, a welcome chaos in the wake of being treated like her bones were suddenly made of glass by everyone short of the dog.
“For what it’s worth, I’m glad you’re not dead. Now, as your cleanest companion, your mother asked me to be your escort to tonight’s festivities. My lady Hawke, honored Champion of Kirkwall, would you do me the honor?”
The dwarf offered Hawke his elbow in a flourish, which she took with overzealous grace and dignity.
“Why, Master Tethras, you’re making me blush. You even covered up your chest hair for me!" she said, nodding towards the scarf tucked into his vest. "The honor is all mine.”
Going down the stairs was a challenge all its own, but Hawke made sure to lean most of her weight on the railing and not her date for the evening. She was sure Varric could feel the difference in her stride, the way her weight wasn’t quite settled in the right place yet.
She would always be grateful for his silence on the matter.
Hawke found Leandra in the study, scribbling quietly away on a bit of parchment, all draped in navy and dripping with jewels. It was a rare sight, for certain; even since moving into the Amell estate, they had few occasions for which to really dress up, and Hawke attended even fewer of the ones they were invited to. Despite living in the mansion for nearly a year, the sight of her mother looking like a proper noble was still foreign to her.
“And here you promised me you wouldn’t put on airs.”
Leandra set her quill aside with a sigh, though she could not hide her joy for seeing her daughter up and out of bed again, let alone dressed for a party.
“Allow your mother her idle fancies, dear. It’s been a long time since I could dress like this.”
“You look lovely, mother. Shall we go?”
Leandra shot Varric a meaningful look, to which he replied with a nod.
“Actually, Hawke, we have a little surprise for you, first. You’re coming with me.”