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It's Not What You Know... [Closed]


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DAO/DA2 Timeline
(( Wintermarch, 9:33 - The Dragon's Flagon - Late Afternoon - Bernie ))

The trick to running a (mostly) illegal business was all in who you knew.

As it happened, Cam knew lots of people. She had a whole collection by this point, though some contacts were worth more than others. It might’ve been a mercenary take on things, but it’d gotten her where she wanted to be so far. Even better, it kept people like Val from ever getting their hooks into her again.

And yesterday, it’d gotten her a lead. Selling lyrium to the highest bidder was all well and good, but she didn’t have a lot of repeat customers. For as much of a pain in the ass as it was to secure, ship, and sneak past over-eager guards, Cam wanted a consistent return on her investment.

It’d taken some doing--calling in favors, leaning into the role of ‘discrete merchant with something to lose,’ and making Warrick actually work for once in his life--but eventually she’d been told about a tavern keeper who might be very interested in hearing what she had to say.

Rumor had it she was in the business of caring for apostates. If that was true, she wouldn’t be quick to turn down a supply of lyrium. She’d also be the cautious sort, because no one sheltered wayward mages in the middle of fucking Denerim without being choosy about who they trusted.

It’d be a tough sell, but it was like Matteo always said: “If you want to get at the best pearls, you need to do lots of prying.” Translation from Antivan was shit, but Cam had taken it to mean that the most lucrative deals were worth it… you just had to be ready for a fight.

So she’d readied herself for a fight, spending last night just getting a good look at the patrons that frequented the Dragon’s Flagon. She hadn’t wanted to give herself away too early, so she’d only glimpsed the owner during a few brief exchanges that’d happened in view of the windows, but it’d been time well-spent.

The Flagon’s usual lot were a motley sort. Unassuming men and women who seemed to gravitate to the warmth that emanated from the place. For a first meeting, Cam resolved to be the same. She wore a simple, belted linen tunic and trousers, completing the outfit with a pair of boots whose soles had recently been repaired. She wore no makeup save for some dark smudges beneath her eyes, and her hair was respectably styled--combed down straight, without the usual flair--and dyed a drab brown that was surprisingly close to her natural color.

She picked a slow time--late afternoon, before the evening rush began--but made sure she wouldn’t be the only patron present. When she finally entered the tavern, there were two others seated at a table, and one at the bar. Cam took a cursory glance at the interior, her gaze eventually falling on the woman who might give her a real chance of surviving without Matteo or Val or any of the people she’d had to rely on in the past.

“Afternoon.” She’d been in Denerim long enough to learn the way the average person spoke, and she used that knowledge now. “Been a long day, and I’m just looking for a hot meal and some ale that doesn’t taste like piss.”

She grinned at the woman, pulling out some coin to cover her request. “Wouldn’t say no to some conversation, either, if you’re not too busy.”
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DAO/DA2 Timeline
New faces were anything but new in the tavern business. There were the regulars that visited more days than not: Tate, a grizzled soldier who’d lost a leg in the battle of Denerim, showed up pretty much every day to sit beneath Gertrude, drink up his pension pay and swap tales with other veterans; Fred and Edgar, an adorable old married couple who had a tailoring shop near the Palace District; Margey, who had a bakery a few shops down. Bernie knew them all by name, along with the ones who dropped in once a week or so. Some had vanished during the Blight, only to reappear with some interesting - or harrowing - tales to tell, but most of the ones that disappeared hadn’t been seen or heard from again … or she’d found their bodies herself in the smoldering rubble after the final battle. Over the ensuing months, the empty spaces had been filled, and every one of the regulars had started as a new face.

Mind, when you ran a safe house for apostates in the cellar, it wasn’t quite that simple; every new face started with the templar test, and this one was no exception. No armor made it about ninety percent certain that the young woman - or perhaps a young man - who had just sauntered through the door was not a member of that order. Even the trackers, who might go incognito, generally might as well be wearing an ‘Apostate Hunter’ sign about their necks, if you knew what to look for. Only twice since she had started hiding apostates in her tavern had Bernie been fooled in that manner, and fortunately, neither time had led to an apprehension on the premises. Thus far, she had managed to attract no suspicion, which meant that the only templars who generally showed up were either on random sweeps or just looking for a drink and a bite to eat like everyone else in the place.

“Afternoon.” The newcomer bellied up to the bar, confident without being cocky. “Been a long day, and I’m just looking for a hot meal and some ale that doesn’t taste like piss.”

“Well, both of those are something of a specialty of ours,” Bernie replied with an amiable smile, the words touched with the Antivan accent that she'd found intrigued folk in these parts. She checked out the competition in disguise every now and then, so she couldn’t fault her (the voice decided the matter for the moment) for checking. Apparently, people really would drink anything if it was cheap enough, but she had never taken that as an excuse to cut costs at the expense of her customers; George would surely rise from his grave and repossess the Flagon if she did. “It’s a bit early for dinner, but we’ve always got stew and bread, if you don’t feel like waiting. Venison today.” One of the hunters who came through when he was in town had paid his outstanding tab with half of a plump doe. “What’s your preference on ale: lager, stout, pale? We’ve got ciders and meads, as well. Even some dwarvish brews, if you’re feeling brave.” One of the few benefits of the Blight had been a minor pipeline of trade with Orzammar, enough to have a few familiar flavors to draw the dwarven mercs who were in town.

“Wouldn’t say no to some conversation, either, if you’re not too busy,”
the woman added, laying her coin on the bar with a smile. Bernie deftly calculated up the likely cost, swiped the correct amount away and nudged the rest back across the bar.

“Chitchat is on the house any time,” she replied, giving no sign that she was now a bit more alert than she had been the moment before. Conversation was as big a part of a bartender’s job as serving drinks, but it was seldom requested up front. Most people just drifted into it. “Been in Denerim long?” She didn’t quite speak like a native, but she didn’t have enough of an accent to place her.
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