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Varric Tethras

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#1
((Wintermarch, 9:41; Cullen ))

The good news was, Andvar and Ilsa’s baby boy wasn’t dead.

The bad news was, Varric wasn’t sure how long that was going to last.

The bigass hole in the sky had stopped growing, but it was still shitting demons with depressing regularity, and reports arriving from Ferelden and abroad had dashed any lingering hopes that it was just a local phenomenon. Whatever had happened, it had gotten its claws into the whole south of Thedas, maybe further. Rifts were scattered across the countryside, with demons popping out of them to attack anything in the vicinity. Some of them were in the middle of nowhere, easy to avoid, as the demons didn’t seem to wander far from the rifts.

Others … not so much. He’d heard plenty of nightmare fodder the last few days, every bit of it as real as the memories in his own head that he couldn’t stop seeing and hearing. The green flash and thunderous detonation that had filled the world for several heart-stopping seconds. Cassandra’s anguished shout as the smoke cleared to reveal the smoking ruin where the Temple of Sacred Ashes had been. The debris that had rained from the sky for a full ten minutes, some of the bits and pieces unfortunately not burned beyond recognition. The first glimpse of the Breach: eerie and immense and almost beautiful … until you realized that what looked like shooting stars radiating from it were actually demons hurtling toward the ground.

And then the demons themselves: tall and gangling, hazy and eldritch, spiky, fiery … pretty much anything you could think of and some that you never wanted to, all of them without fear, without mercy. Screams of terror, screams of pain, and blood - lots of blood, along with parts of bodies never meant to see the light of day on garish display. And the deepest fears of your life - the ones that you had admitted to absolutely no one - dragged out of the dark places in your brain and shoved down your throat.

Which was to say, the last week in the life of one Varric Tethras: merchant, information broker, and best selling author, had reached levels of suck that all the other weeks combined couldn’t match. And that was saying something.

And nobody still had any idea how it had happened, at least as far as he knew. He wasn’t exactly part of the inner circle. So far as he could tell, in fact, he was free to go, albeit without so much as a thank you for helping out on the venture two days earlier that had stopped the growth of the Breach and closed the only rift within the borders of Haven.

But where would he go? Assuming he could find a ship that would take him back to Kirkwall, he’d still wind up fighting demons there, and while having people he trusted at his back and his own cozy suite at the Hanged Man would be a vast improvement on a bunch of terrified and hostile strangers and the tent he’d managed to convince the grim-faced quartermaster to part with, unless they found a way to reverse what had happened, it would be a delaying tactic, at best.

And their best chance for fixing this mess was currently unconscious in one of the many cabins that had been left vacant by the explosion. Or feigning unconsciousness. Sati Adaar had gone from being the chief suspect in the deaths of the Divine and several hundred others to being the only hope of Thedas. Or maybe she was both, in which case he really couldn’t blame her for pretending to be in a coma. He’d seen her closing the rifts with that strange, glowing mark on her left hand, but closing the big one had nearly killed her … and it hadn’t sealed the Breach. Assuming she could ever do that, would all the other rifts just vanish, or would she have to close them one at a time? Talk about a lifetime commitment; it was a lot to ask of a Vashoth merc who he was willing to bet wasn’t even Andrastean.

Not that he thought they’d actually ask her, any more than he’d been asked, which was another reason he was staying. She’d seemed a good enough sort (bearing in mind that he’d thought the same thing about Anders at first), but she had also seemed sane, which made it even odds that she’d try to bolt when she realized just what was expected of her. It wasn’t entirely selfish on Varric’s part; he’d always had a soft spot for an underdog, and she definitely qualified. Josc would like her -

Nope, not going to even think about Joscelyn Hawke right now, because if a certain Seeker had had her way, Josc would have likely been at the Conclave when it blew sky high. She had been through enough, so for her sake, he was sticking to his story that he didn’t know where she was or how to reach her, which was at least half true.

As long as he was sticking around, he might as well get a feel for the place. He’d gone from knowing everything that was worth knowing in Kirkwall to flying blind, and he didn’t much care for the feeling. He’d spent much of the previous two days wandering around Haven, chatting up the people there, entertaining them with stories and listening to what they said … and didn’t say. Despite the Breach no longer growing, hope was in short supply and dwindling by the hour. He’d heard Sati Adaar referred to by turns as ‘murderer’, ‘horned devil’, ‘heretic’, ‘Maker’s chosen one’ and ‘Andraste’s herald’. The latter two seemed to be gaining prominence, but only because the proponents of the horned devil theory were slipping away from Haven in ones and twos. Definitely fewer people milling around today than there had been yesterday. You could only expect people to stay in place with no word for so long, and if Sati didn’t wake up soon, even the ones who wanted to believe in her would start jumping ship.

He was making his rounds now, stopping to chat here and there, considering heading to the tavern for a drink and letting people come to him for a while, because shit it was cold. He started to turn back to do just that, then paused, peering in the direction of the Chantry, which was where the Important People met for Important Business. Or just to get drunk together. Hard to know when no news was coming out, but if they were drinking, they were awfully quiet about it, which to Varric’s way of thinking not healthy. If you weren’t at least going to sing, what was the point?

He’d seen the man exiting the Chantry now at a distance and in passing a couple of times the last few days, but hadn’t been sure it was him. They hadn’t really been bosom buddies in Kirkwall, after all, and there was no shortage of serious-looking men in armor striding around Haven right now. Seeing him closer now left no doubt, and coming out of the chantry without a second glance from the posted guards, which made him one of the Important People. Interesting.

Deciding the drink could wait for a bit, Varric ambled up to the one-time Knight-Commander of Kirkwall. “Long time no see,” he offered by way of a greeting. “Did the Seeker arrest you, too?” It wasn’t exactly a long shot. Cassandra had been in a certifiable mood when she’d slapped the chains on Varric, and it seemed quite possible that she’d decided to increase her haul. Maybe Aveline was stashed around here somewhere. He’d have to ask.
 

Cullen

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#2
To say it hadn't been the homecoming Cullen had expected would have been a gross understatement. As for what he had actually expected upon returning to Ferelden, after ten years, a tear in the sky and the complete upheaval of every chain of command familiar to him was certainly nowhere on that list. "The choice is yours." Cassandra's words, uttered to him in Kirkwall - back when he was still Knight-Commander of what remained of the Templar Order there - echoed in his mind. What a choice he'd made, then.

Their Qunari prisoner had stabilized the Breach, for now, but with the death of Divine Justinia V, at what was supposed to be a peace summit, tensions between mages and templars remained anything but stable. The Commander spent the last two days mediating between those few of the two factions that yet remained at Haven. Patiently, to his credit, for the first day at least. By the second day, their squabbling had worn Cullen's patience razor thin. He came down hard on anyone seeking to sow further discord in the village, be they mage or not. A number of those of Cullen's former vocation, templars that presumed the Commander's concordance with the theory that mages were responsible for the Divine's death, ultimately found themselves in for a rude awakening when he threatened to have them thrown into the Chantry's cells.

At a time when tempers and anxieties were heightened and so much remained uncertain, Cullen would not humor hearsay over tangible facts. Haven was meant to serve as a refuge to pilgrims, those who'd come to visit the Temple of Sacred Ashes - and even without the temple still standing, the Commander was determined to maintain the village's sentiment as neutral grounds for all. Chancellor Roderick's relentless meddling, however, made Cullen's task at keeping the peace difficult. Especially given that the Commander had a mind to throw the up-jumped cleric into the frozen lake just outside the village himself. Rather than lose his own temper that day, after much squabbling within the Chantry, Cullen made the wise decision to excuse himself and instead stepped outside to clear his head.

“Long time no see,” said a familiar, even affable-sounding voice. All the same, as was his habit, Cullen turned with a hand casually rested upon the hilt of a sheathed sword, belted at his waist. “Did the Seeker arrest you, too?”

Were he in better spirits, he might have snorted. Instead, Cullen took a deep breath of the frigid air outside the Chantry and exhaled, "Ah, Varric. It's just you."

"That is to say, it is good to see you without shackles," he amended, politely. More genuinely, the Commander continued, "Unlike your circumstance, I can't claim to have been brought here against my will - Cassandra presented me with a choice, back in Kirkwall. I volunteered." Cullen paused briefly, casting a dismissive glare toward an approaching cleric who then turned heel and hurried the other way. He was done dealing with bureaucrats for the day. "Truth be told," he went on to admit, "You and I were aboard the same ship that brought us here. I did not spend much time below deck, however."

"That said, I do... regret how you've been treated. It has been unworthy of us." Cullen meant to say that it was unworthy of Cassandra, but he felt it too delicate of a thing to say aloud. He had respected the Seeker's decisions, for the most part. Varric's treatment had been the exception. He would have voiced his concerns on the journey to Ferelden, had he not been so consumed by his own demons. The only upside to the world falling into disorder - again - was that it was a suitable distraction for the ex-templar, having only recently decided to cease taking lyrium. It was a decision he regretted making prior to boarding the vessel in question, however. The sea, and sea-faring vessels for that matter, did not agree with him.

"As far as it goes, our paths crossing again, I do wish it was under better circumstances," Cullen finished. He breathed in deeply a second time. Unlike the salty breeze of the Waking Sea, the brumal air of the mountainside village was of clear comfort to him. "I'm curious, Varric, what are your thoughts on our... guest?" he asked, gesturing toward the cabins. Cullen felt it prudent to cease referring to Sati Adaar as a prisoner, in turn. All the same, the worry in his tone was plain. After what happened in Kirkwall, Cullen had a hard time reconciling that their so-called Herald of Andraste could be a mercenary let alone a member of the Valo-Kas.
 
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Varric Tethras

Bullshitter Emeritus
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117
#3
Varric wasn’t expecting a back-slapping reunion. He and Curly hadn’t had that sort of relationship in Kirkwall. Prior to Anders blowing the Chantry sky-high, in fact, their ‘relationship’ had consisted of a handful of brief encounters in which Varric’s primary focus was on not inadvertently revealing that he knew about a blood mage living in the Alienage and an apostate-slash-abomination alternately healing the needy and dismembering templars from his secret hideout in Darktown. Yeah, he was still kicking himself for that last one.

But Cullen had been one of the better templars if sorely lacking anything resembling a sense of humor, and when push had come to shove, he’d stood up to Meredith and convinced most of the others to join him (the fact that she was plainly batshit at that point probably helped). And in the weeks after, he’d seemed to be doing his best to restore order and rein in the more vengeful minded among his brethren. He’d been in the Hanged Man a few times to retrieve those that were attempting to drown their sorrows, and had seemed appreciative of Varric running interference to keep them from getting their purses - or their throats - cut. So Varric was expecting something along the lines of politely worded surprise at seeing him.

What he got instead - after it was determined that he was not in need of running through - was, "Ah, Varric. It's just you."

Varric blinked, momentarily nonplussed. Before he could deliver a witty retort, Cullen seemed to realize he’d been less than diplomatic. "That is to say, it is good to see you without shackles." Varric blinked again. Interpersonal relations didn’t seem to be Curly’s forte. "Unlike your circumstance, I can't claim to have been brought here against my will -” he went on. “Cassandra presented me with a choice, back in Kirkwall. I volunteered."

“Oh, she gave me a choice, too,” Varric observed sardonically, watching as a functionary in Chantry robes was sent scurrying by a well-aimed glower. “Alive or dead.” To be honest, he’d probably earned her ire. He’d had one goal going into his interview with Divine Justinia’s Right Hand: keep her occupied and give Hawke time to get clear. They undoubtedly wanted someone to blame for the event that had tipped southern Thedas into chaos, and with Anders dead, the Champion of Kirkwall made a tempting target. He’d spun the story of his lifetime (at least, that was what he’d thought at the time), holding her spellbound for close to three days. And the shit of it was, most of it had been true, but that hadn’t made much difference once she figured out his strategy. “I guess you could say I volunteered.”

"Truth be told," Cullen said, looking at least a little discomfited. "You and I were aboard the same ship that brought us here. I did not spend much time below deck, however."

“You didn’t miss much,” Varric observed with a sour grimace. That had definitely been the worst part: chained in the ship’s hold like a common criminal (he’d concede the ‘criminal’ part if pressed, but common? No way.), secured to a bulkhead in a manner that guaranteed he’d be going down with the ship if it sank. There’d be a story or two out of that once he could revisit the memory without breaking out in a cold sweat. He wiped damp hands against his trouser legs; wasn’t happening today, obviously.

"That said, I do... regret how you've been treated,” Curly offered awkwardly. “It has been unworthy of us."

“Well, that’s more than I’ve gotten from Cassandra,
” Varric remarked, regarding the man curiously. “But what exactly is ‘us’? The Chantry?” He’d been watching the activity around the Chantry since the Breach had been stabilized. There was grief and despair, yes, and a fair amount of argument, some of it heated, if observations from a distance could be trusted. But there was purpose, too, in the comings and goings, and in the intent conversations between individuals that they took pains to conduct well away from the main pathways. They were up to something, and not everyone was on board. Lip reading had recently been added to his list of skills to learn; somehow, he didn’t think Nightingale was going to teach him. He had no doubt that she knew how, but ever since the explosion, her demeanor gave the distinct impression that she would kill anyone who crossed her without a second thought.

"As far as it goes, our paths crossing again, I do wish it was under better circumstances," the templar offered.

“I’d say it couldn’t get worse, but that’s what I thought in Kirkwall.” With the Chantry a smoldering pile of rubble, the Knight-Commander a red lyrium statue and the First Enchanter turned into the Mother of All Abominations, it had seemed a fairly reasonable assumption. Who knew?

Cullen drew a deep, slow breath, seeming to savor the clean, cold mountain air. Varric had always considered the whole fresh air thing to be overrated, mainly because it always seemed to be associated with being in the sodding middle of nowhere without a tavern in sight. At least Haven had the Singing Maiden, but Varric missed air with a bit of texture to it.

"I'm curious, Varric, what are your thoughts on our... guest?"

Varric snorted. “Is that what she’s being called now?” By that logic, Andraste had been the guest of honor at a barbecue … probably not the best company in which to make that comparison aloud, though. “I saw her seal those rifts,” he said after a moment’s contemplation, “and I believe her when she says that she doesn’t remember what happened. Other than that -” He shrugged. The mark was strange as hell, and suggesting that it wasn’t involved in some way with the explosion would be stretching credulity, but he hadn’t gotten any hint of malevolence from Sati Adaar, so either she was a criminal mastermind, or exactly what she claimed to be: a merc who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

He shifted uncomfortably, looking up at Cullen. “Did they tell you about the red lyrium?” Before now, he’d only seen it in the ancient thaig, in the idol that Bartrand had backstabbed him for, and in what remained of Meredith Stannard. Seeing it here and now was definitely not giving him a warm, fuzzy feeling.
 

Cullen

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#4
“Well, that’s more than I’ve gotten from Cassandra," the dwarf responded. Cullen empathetically tilted his head, though diplomatically said nothing more on that note. Neither man expected Cassandra to admit to her having been heavy-handed. For his part, Cullen knew that the Seeker believed - at least at the time - that her actions had been justified. That, in itself, was something the Commander could relate to. He'd done things he wasn't proud of either, for the sake of a higher cause, and had yet to seek forgiveness or atonement for them all the same.

“But what exactly is ‘us’? The Chantry?” Varric pressed, if subtly.

Cullen bristled, reminding himself to be on his toes when around the affable dwarf, answering in such a fashion that was unconvincing - even to himself, "Of course."

“I’d say it couldn’t get worse, but that’s what I thought in Kirkwall.” Cullen sighed in a commiseratory manner. Kirkwall had been a hotbed of corruption and chaos. He didn't miss it - but what they were up against now was something no one could have fathomed. And as for the so-called Herald, the guest in question... “Is that what she’s being called now? I saw her seal those rifts-"

"That must have been a sight to behold," Cullen remarked. He hadn't seen the mercenary in action, first hand. Sati had taken the mountain pass, while Cullen did his best to hold down the frontline with the soldiers. His best wasn't good enough, however. They lost a lot of good men and women all the same. At least the scouts had been saved, he'd grant Sati that.

Varric went on, “And I believe her when she says that she doesn’t remember what happened. Other than that -”

"Out of the frying pan, then," Cullen murmured, quirking a brow.

Varric's disposition changed. “Did they tell you about the red lyrium?” he inquired, uneasily. The Commander bristled a second time.

Yet, as Cullen opened his mouth to respond, another voice could be heard nearing behind them; from the other side of the large Chantry doors. "You're not fooling anyone! Don't think I don't know what you're all up to! Do you really think - wait - did the Commander leave?" Chancellor Roderick's grating tone was unmistakable. As was its getting closer.

Promptly changing the subject, Cullen turned to Varric and mustered as much inculpability as he could. To say that he'd never make it as a thespian would be an understatement. "Varric, you seemed to have been on your way to the tavern when we ran in to each other. I've a mind to join you -"

The Commander was not known to be particularly inclined to drink. Or merrymaking. That said, and with that in mind, it stood to reason that Haven's tavern would be the last place Chancellor Roderick would look for him. He'd had his fill of the old codger's ranting that day. A testament to such, he took off without waiting for the dwarf's answer - making inconspicuous if long strides toward the Singing Maiden.

(OOC: Chancellor Roderick - 793C56)
 

Varric Tethras

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#5
Varric had never given religion much thought. His parents had worshiped the Stone and revered the Ancestors, even after their exile to the surface. Bartrand had worshiped money. None of it had helped them in the end. To his storyteller’s ear, the Chantry’s stories of Andraste and the Dalish tales of their gods had never sounded all that different from the shit he had been making up all his life. It served a purpose: some told people how they were supposed to behave, provided shining examples to follow - Paragons, if you will - and gave vivid accounts of the fates of those who didn’t follow the rules. Others tried to explain things like Blights. People, be they human, elf or dwarf, needed that sort of thing, and Varric had never been one to yank a rug out from under anyone needlessly.

But it was hard to escape the conclusion that it was the Chantry that bore primary responsibility for the present clusterfuck. Anders had simply provided the tipping point to a growing pile of wrongs that had been due to come crashing down any day, and the shit had just kept rolling downhill to this. A smidgen of humility seemed in order, perhaps even a change in course going forward. So far, all he’d seen was the Blame Game: the mages blamed the templars, the templars blamed the mages. For a while, everybody put aside their differences to blame the Qunari, but now that that theory had been abandoned (by most … there were a few die-hards), they were back to blaming each other, which was undoubtedly easier and more satisfying than actually doing something, though not nearly as productive.

But Curly had stepped up before, in Kirkwall, taking charge of the templars in the wake of Meredith’s death (as the Kirkwall Gazette had termed it, likely because “went batshit crazy and ordered the murder of all the mages before bringing the statues in the Gallows to life and being turned into a red lyrium statue herself” just ate up too much column space). Varric had seen signs of something brewing amid the infighting; he just wasn’t sure what. Judging from Cullen’s defensive and yet unconvincing reaction to the notion that he might be aligned with anything besides the Chantry, he wasn’t sure, either.

He did seem to be willing to give Sati the benefit of the doubt, which put him ahead of a good many of the surviving representatives of the Chantry, such as -

"You're not fooling anyone! Don't think I don't know what you're all up to!” Say shit (or think it in this case) and watch it come flying. Chancellor Roderick Asignon remained vocal in his opinion that the lone survivor of the explosion be bound over to Val Royeaux for trial, and the fact that few people seemed to be listening to him hadn’t dampened his zeal in the slightest. “Do you really think - wait - did the Commander leave?"

Cullen’s face looked like he’d found half a worm in his apple. "Varric, you seemed to have been on your way to the tavern when we ran in to each other,” he said, turning from the chantry. “I've a mind to join you -"

Varric opened his mouth to answer, but the taller man was already striding off, his last words carried away by the wind but easy enough to extrapolate. He never thought he’d see Curly in a full retreat, but having listened to Roderick’s strident pontificating over the last several days, he couldn’t really blame the templar. Nor did he really want to be standing there when the doors to the chantry swung open, as his Kirkwall origins and proximity to the events there (regardless of how involuntary) had evidently earned him a spot on the Chancellor's shit list, as well. On the bright side, Varric had a great idea for a new petty bureaucrat for Brennokovic to annoy in the next Hightown novel.

For now, however, he hustled away from the chantry, arriving at the tavern on Cullen’s heels. The interior was comfortably warm, the air richly scented with wood smoke and ale, and alight with the strains of Maryden’s singing. Varric held up two fingers to Flissa, then followed Cullen to a table.

“I’ve never seen him in here,” he offered by way of reassurance, though the same could have been said of Cullen up until thirty seconds ago.
 

Cullen

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#6
The Commander unceremoniously pushed open the door of the tavern, just as Varric had caught up with him. A number of individuals taking respite therein rose to attention, a spattering of templars and a number of Leliana's scouts. Most looked toward Cullen with worried or startled expressions, as if they were expecting some chastisement from the Commander. The last thing he wanted was for a conspicuous number of men and women at arms were to be seen taking flight of the Singing Maiden. The Chancellor would take note, assume Cullen was within ordering people about to return to their various tasks and duties, and come find him in turn. "As you were," he said, emphatically annoyed.

Varric, on the other hand, fit right in. He entered the tavern with as much suave as he was known for at the Hanged Man, back in Kirkwall, where the dwarf had been a longtime tenant there. The dwarf assured him, "I’ve never seen him in here."

"A welcome interlude, then," the Commander commented, following Varric to their table. The storyteller sat down first. Cullen appraised the other chairs left to him, before decidedly choosing the one with the best view of both of the tavern's two exits. He sat, eyeing the room and clenching and unclenching his fists until Flissa came by with two mugs of ale. The Commander made no gesture to claim his, but muttered a vexed thank you all the same. On edge and in need of some form of camaraderie, Cullen vented, "That man seeks to elevate his station beyond his damn merit. He'll sow dissent in the village and cause a mass panic if someone doesn't keep him in line." The Commander's tone bespoke of a resolve to be such a someone himself, if he had to be. Weary as he was with having to deal with Roderick the last couple days.

After a moment, he exhaled. "Varric," he told the dwarf, "I'm afraid it's for a small number of us to set an example. In the days ahead, I hope we can count on your way with words." Notwithstanding, the Commander conveniently left out what he meant or what role he hoped the storyteller might play.
 

Varric Tethras

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#7
The various patrons who had leaped to guilty-looking attention at Curly’s entrance were treated to an irritable “As you were,” before the templar strode to a table and waited for Varric to pick a chair before putting his back squarely to a wall with both doors in his line of sight. "A welcome interlude, then," he muttered in response to the dwarf’s assurance that Roderick did not visit the tavern. He fidgeted in his seat until Flissa brought their drinks, thanking her in a halfhearted manner, then staring down at the perfectly frothed head on the mug for a long moment. Varric admired it briefly before putting the ale to the only test that really mattered, finding the ale to be just the right balance of smooth and bitter, with a pleasant nutty touch.

"That man seeks to elevate his station beyond his damn merit,” Cullen growled. “He'll sow dissent in the village and cause a mass panic if someone doesn't keep him in line."

“Not sure why he’s even still here,” Varric mused aloud, setting the mug back on the table and wiping a bit of foam from his upper lip with the back of one hand. “All the asses he should be kissing are back in Orlais, aren’t they?” He hadn’t seen any revered mothers lingering about, and since one of their number was most likely to become the new Divine, it seemed logical that a petty bureaucrat like the chancellor would want to stay close to the seat of power.

Cullen huffed out a slow breath, hazel eyes coming to rest on his drinking companion. "Varric, I'm afraid it's for a small number of us to set an example,” he said heavily. “In the days ahead, I hope we can count on your way with words."

Varric snorted. “I hope you realize how screwed you are if you’re needing me to set a good example,” he quipped with a smirk before sobering. “That said, my wordsmithing skills are at your disposal, with certain restrictions. I’ll bullshit, but I won’t lie; I hope you appreciate the difference.” Nightingale did, he was sure; the Seeker, not so much. “And I’ll ask again: who is this ‘we’ that you are talking about?” It wasn’t the Chantry; he’d bet Bianca on that. Well … maybe not Bianca, but definitely the royalties on his next book.
 

Cullen

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#8
"Not sure why he’s even still here. All the asses he should be kissing are back in Orlais, aren’t they?" the author responded.

"Precisely my point," Cullen grumbled in turn, "Instead he's contented himself on being a thorn in my side. Maker guide me, Varric, I've half a mind to..." He didn't finished the sentence, but his dominant grasp firmly clutched the mug of ale put before him. He looked up and saw Flissa watching them from behind the tavern bar and, noting the concern on her expression, felt obligated to take a sip of the drink. Cullen didn't want Flissa to think his vexation rested with her, the poor girl. He raised the mug and offered a nod thereafter as if to indicate all was well. Flissa seemed pleased by the gesture, either way, for her attention returned to her other patrons. Cullen sighed and went on to vent further before Varric put in again.

"I hope you realize how screwed you are if you’re needing me to set a good example. That said, my wordsmithing skills are at your disposal, with certain restrictions. I’ll bullshit, but I won’t lie; I hope you appreciate the difference. And I’ll ask again: who is this ‘we’ that you are talking about?" the dwarf eventually said.

"Those whom the Divine trusted most. Her Left and Right Hands, of course," he said delicately, pushing his mug aside now that Flissa wasn't paying them much mind. Cullen wanted to vent further. Maker help him, part of him needed to. With everything happening, and everything that was about to happen, he could have used a confidante. Unfortunately, he knew, some news had to be delivered with care. While he supported Cassandra and Leliana's plan, patience was never the Commander's strong suit. He was a man of action, while plotting always filled him with unease. He sighed, admitting, "I'm sorry, Varric. There's only so much I'm at liberty to say, at present."

Yet, in a lower tone of voice, spoken quietly enough that only Varric would hear, Cullen added grimly, "This is bigger than anything either of us saw in Kirkwall." Given the last few days, that wasn't exactly news. "Speaking of," the Commander went on, straightening in his seat, "I know Seeker Cassandra's grilled you about Hawke's whereabouts already. Her methods of procuring that information from you aside, we could really use the Champion of Kirkwall in the days ahead. Unlike Cassandra, I'm not going demand of you Hawke's location. I respect that after Kirkwall, you may wish to protect your friend—"

His voice lowered again, his expression far more grave than prior, "But there's a lot on the line, Varric. If you've any way to do so... if you could at least get word to Hawke, somehow... have her on standby... that would help." It went without saying that Varric would have to do so without Leliana or her spies noticing, but Cullen knew that the clever dwarf had his own stealthy connections in turn. The Commander's broad shoulders slumped over, as though the weight upon them was almost too much to bear. Morosely, he stated, "I should have stood up to Meredith sooner. Had I, Kirkwall would still have a Chantry and the war between mages and templars might never have happened. The Divine might never have needed to call for a Conclave—" He clenched his fists, his shamefaced gaze cast downward. "We still don't know what happened at the Temple of the Sacred Ashes, Varric," he finished, "But Divine Justinia's blood might as well be on my own hands."
 

Varric Tethras

Bullshitter Emeritus
Canon Character
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
117
#9
Varric could sympathize with Curly’s frustration with the Chancellor; the man ignored Varric and still managed to grate on his nerves. Actually being the focus of his attention would be miserable. But having taken refuge in the one place that Rodrick wouldn’t be caught dead in (Haven didn’t have any whorehouses), Varric was more interested in the hints he’d been picking up on that suggested that the Chantry was no longer the controlling presence in Haven, which begged the question: who was?

"Those whom the Divine trusted most. Her Left and Right Hands, of course," Curly responded to his question, looking supremely uncomfortable and setting aside his barely-touched ale. He seemed for a minute on the verge of saying more, then heaved a resigned sigh. "I'm sorry, Varric. There's only so much I'm at liberty to say, at present. This is bigger than anything either of us saw in Kirkwall."

Varric snorted. The boy had a gift for understatement. If you had asked Varric a week ago, he’d have been hard-pressed to imagine anything could outdo Qunari on the warpath and a Chantry blowing sky-high, with a Knight-Commander turning into a red lyrium statue and a Grand Enchanter becoming the mother of all abominations thrown in as a garnish. He honestly couldn’t imagine anything worse than the current situation, but he wasn’t going to make any bets that it wasn’t possible. He definitely didn’t want to be an eyewitness to any more entries to the Clusterfuck Of The Age contest that nobody had informed him was in progress.

Cullen sat up, the sudden intensity in his gaze providing a bit of warning before he spoke. "I know Seeker Cassandra's grilled you about Hawke's whereabouts already.” Varric was shaking his head before the sentence was done, but Curly pressed on. “Her methods of procuring that information from you aside, we could really use the Champion of Kirkwall in the days ahead. Unlike Cassandra, I'm not going demand of you Hawke's location. I respect that after Kirkwall, you may wish to protect your friend—"

“I don’t even know where she is,” Varric countered, and it was true, if by design. He couldn’t reveal what he didn’t know, and he had no intention of revealing what he did know, especially now, and present company wasn’t nearly as compelling as Cassandra.

He was persistent in his own way, however. "But there's a lot on the line, Varric,” he protested. “If you've any way to do so... if you could at least get word to Hawke, somehow... have her on standby... that would help."

“Help with what?” Varric demanded, not bothering to keep the edge of anger from his voice. “You don’t think she’s spent enough time fixing other people’s fuckups?” She’d done it for years in Kirkwall, and all it had ever gotten her was more requests for help, along with the more-than-occasional complaint from people who thought she wasn’t doing it fast enough or the way they thought it should be done or -

Aww, crap. Curly had slumped, looking like the world’s biggest kicked puppy. "I should have stood up to Meredith sooner,” he muttered. “Had I, Kirkwall would still have a Chantry and the war between mages and templars might never have happened. The Divine might never have needed to call for a Conclave—" He broke off, hands curling into fists on the tabletop. "We still don't know what happened at the Temple of the Sacred Ashes, Varric," he admitted miserably. "But Divine Justinia's blood might as well be on my own hands."

Varric considered this for a long moment, choosing his own words. When you lived in a bar, being witness to a certain amount of soul-searching was just part and parcel of the deal. Sometimes, it was best to just let them get it out of their systems without interrupting. Sometimes - like the guy who’d been muttering balefully about his pet pigeon while stabbing the bar with a very big knife - you just made sympathetic noises and edged out of reach to give the bouncers room to work. And sometimes, you had something to offer.

“I knew that my brother was a greedy asshole,” he began, “but I trusted him right up to the point that he left us for dead in the Deep Roads. I knew that Anders was … not right, but he was the friend of a friend, and I never thought he’d do what he did.” He leaned forward, watching Cullen. “You want to trust somebody bad enough, sometimes you trust them too long, but in the end, what they choose to do is on them.”
 
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