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One Night In Kirkwall Makes A Hard Man Humble [Complete]

Celeste Monroe

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#1
((14 Firstfall, 35 Dragon; Night; @Nicolette O'Hara ))

The night was clear, with only a few wispy clouds drifting across the face of the waxing moon and stars glittering like diamonds overhead. It would have been a perfect night to be at sea.

But that would require a ship with – you know – sails.

Celeste sat on the quarterdeck facing the Wicked Grace's wheel, her back against the aft rail and her head tipped back so that she was looking at the sky, instead of the mastless deck of her ship. One knee was drawn up to her chest with an arm looped around it, the other stretched out before her. The bottle sitting open on the deck beside her was not wine, but twelve-year-old oak-aged Nevarran single-malt whiskey; she always kept at least one bottle in stock, though she only broke into it two nights a year.

She lifted the bottle to her lips, let the smoky flavor of the amber liquid roll over her tongue and down her throat, feeling the smoke flare into a gentle flame in her gut. Even sipping, she'd made a good dent in the level in the bottle, though she was well shy of her limits.

She wasn't brooding … not really. The crew knew what night this was, knew to give Celeste her space. Gideon was the only one that would have attempted to draw her out and had any real chance of succeeding … but he was in Antiva, and it would be another fucking month before they could ditch Kirkwall and get back to business – and play – as usual.

One month.

Celeste huffed a sigh and took another sip of the whiskey.
 
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Nicolette O'Hara

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#2
Nicolette had reached the docks just as the sun sank behind the horizon, her coinpurse a little heavier from a successful day of performing. She had chosen Hightown for today, which could go either way – nobles tended to be less likely to part with their money than the lower-born classes, but they tended to have larger denominations to hand when they did choose to share. She had apparently caught quite a few in a good mood today as she had made quite a bit more than she had done in a few weeks (apart from the windfall she had earned with Celeste), and then she had run into Alicia from the Teeth and had paused to talk to her. Their conversation had gone on for a while and by the time they parted ways, the stars were clear above them.

It was a beautiful night. Even though Nicolette kept a quick pace back to the ship in the hope of evading trouble, she kept her face turned skywards when she could to enjoy it. She reached the Wicked Grace in high spirits, thinking on the idea of tempting some of the crew into a card game with dares as the stakes. Most of them would not be asleep yet.

As she climbed the gangplank, a silhouette popped up by the rail, and Kali waved down at her. “I was wondering if you’d be back tonight. Good time?”

Nicolette grinned up at her. “It has been. Although relatively sedate, by my standards. I was considering stirring up a little fun once I get everything stowed away.”

“Good plan.” Kali’s voice had a strange note to it, and when Nicolette reached the top she realised the woman’s attention was elsewhere. Kali nodded towards the stern. “Captain’s just there. Maybe you could bring a little of it to her? I think she might have best of use it.”

Nicolette could not see Celeste at all, and Kali’s words struck a note of concern. She motioned for Thibault to head below, then headed up towards the wheel. The reason she had not spotted Celeste became quickly apparent. The captain was sitting in the shadows, eyes turned up towards the stars, and a bottle of what appeared to be whisky by her side.

Nicolette leaned on the rail and spoke to Celeste as she normally would have done if Kali had not made her nervous about whatever was happening, smiling at the captain. “It is a beautiful night for stargazing. May I join you?”
 

Celeste Monroe

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#3
Celeste could hear Kalindra and Nicolette's voices below on the main deck, so she wasn't too surprised when the minstrel climbed the steps to the quarterdeck. Kali could be a mother hen at times, though she was usually subtle about it. Celeste didn't mind, exactly …

In the month since she had first met Nico, she had spent more time in the minstrel's company – both in bed and out of it – than with anyone since Daniel had died. It was nothing she had consciously sought out, but neither had it been completely inadvertent. Nicolette was a playful and passionate lover, and gifted with an inquisitive and mischievous spirit that made her an appealing companion on either side of the sheets. That it had gone on for so long was simply because they were stuck in Kirkwall, and she wasn't complaining. Tonight, however -

“It is a beautiful night for stargazing,” Nicolette remarked as she approached, leaning upon the rail, giving Celeste a bit of space. “May I join you?”

“Be my guest.” Celeste tipped her head to indicate the deck beside her with a faint smile. The minstrel had been plying her trade in the city, and she looked lovely, her dress accentuating her curves sweetly without being overly revealing (not that Celeste would have objected were it otherwise, but it was hard to play the vielle with horny bastards trying to cop a feel). “Not sure I'll be much in the way of company, mind you.”

She turned her eyes back skyward, took another sip of whiskey and offered the bottle to her companion. “A month and a half,” she murmured. “I haven't been landbound this long since I was sixteen, when I met Daniel.”
 

Nicolette O'Hara

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#4
“Be my guest.” Nicolette could just see Celeste’s smile in a sliver of moonlight, and it was not her usual broad grin. Curiosity – and concern – now completely roused, Nicolette settled on the planks beside the captain. “Not sure I'll be much in the way of company, mind you.”

Celeste swigged from the bottle in her hand and offered it to Nicolette, who took it and breathed in the scent before taking a mouthful for herself. It was excellent quality, rich and full, well beyond that which Nicolette could usually afford. She savoured the one draught she took, but kept an eye towards Celeste, who eventually spoke again. “A month and a half. I haven't been landbound this long since I was sixteen, when I met Daniel.”

The previous owner of the Wicked Grace. Nicolette remembered that much, and also that Celeste had come to captain the ship thanks to Daniel. She had assumed they at least had a friendship but had yet to learn anything else of him – she had been too concerned with getting to know the present crew to think much on the past, beyond what Celeste had already chosen to share with her on the first day.

“The former captain,” Nicolette murmured, if only to indicate to Celeste that she had been paying attention before despite various distractions at the time. “I take it he was important to you.” And demonstrably no longer present. Judging by Celeste’s current mood, Nicolette doubted that he had taken a relaxed retirement ashore somewhere. She wanted to ask what had happened to him, but she doubted Kali’s intention had been for her to worsen Celeste’s mood by forcing her to reflect on the bad. Instead she chose safer ground, something Celeste might like to remember. “What was he like?”

If he had been anything akin to Celeste, then he would have been something special indeed.
 

Celeste Monroe

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#5
Nicolette settled to the deck beside Celeste, accepting the whiskey when offered and sipping it with the reverence it was due. The minstrel was easy to be around, never pushy or clingy, and she accepted this rare introspective mood from Celeste as readily as she did the sailor's invitations to mischief, or to bed, showing no sign of surprise or discontent.

“The former captain,” she responded when Celeste mentioned Daniel. “I take it he was important to you.”

“You could say that.” Celeste quirked a lopsided grin at her. She wasn't sure one word existed to describe what she and Daniel had been to each other. Friends, lovers, partners, spouses … none of them expressed it completely.

“What was he like?” Nico asked her gently.

Celeste chuckled. “The dream of every rebellious rich girl,” she replied. “Tall and handsome; had his mother's brown hair and his father's blue eyes, with a smile that would loosen the legs of a Revered Mother. My father hired him to smuggle Antivan brandy past customs in Ostwick; I convinced him to take me instead.” She snickered. “I'm pretty sure that my father was just relieved that he left the brandy behind.” There was no bitterness in the statement. Reginald Cantwell had never been close to his daughter, and Celeste had accepted that early in life.

“I was lucky,” she added, a little more serious. “I knew my father was trying to marry me off, and I would have gone with just about any handsome face that had a ship attached to it at that point. I grew up on the ocean, traveling with my father, and I always knew that was what I wanted for myself. Another man might have taken me on board and sold me off in Llomeryn or Brandel's Reach, or put me ashore when he figured out that I wasn't exactly a biddable, well-behaved lady,” she glanced toward Nicolette with a wink, “hard as that might be to believe.”

“He'd been captain of the Wicked Grace for about three years then,” she went on, patting the deck affectionately, “but he grew up on this ship, and she was his first love. Mine too, from the moment I laid eyes on her, so that was all right. Not sure if I ran off with the ship or the man, to tell you the truth, but they were both one of a kind.”

She'd lost him and very nearly lost the ship, but still she could not conceive of anything but putting to sea again as soon as the Wicked Grace was fit to sail. She took another drink of whiskey, passed the bottle again.
 

Nicolette O'Hara

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#6
Celeste smiled a little more as she acceded that Daniel had been important to her, beyond the scope of being her captain. She seemed to relax a little as she wound out his description, how they had met and how they came together, as well as providing a little of Celeste’s own history. A rebellious rich girl, run away to sea with a handsome captain. A dozen or more stories could spring from that alone, and fortunately for Celeste, hers had been a happy one.

“I was luck. I knew my father was trying to marry me off, and I would have gone with just about any handsome face that had a ship attached to it at that point. I grew up on the ocean, traveling with my father, and I always knew that was what I wanted for myself. Another man might have taken me on board and sold me off in Llomeryn or Brandel's Reach, or put me ashore when he figured out that I wasn't exactly a biddable, well-behaved lady, hard as that might be to believe.”

Nicolette took her cue, laughing as she pressed her fingers to her breastbone. “You? No. I took you to be a vision of propriety. You even went to the Grand Cleric’s balcony so the Maker could hear your praises better.”

Not that they had been shouting, or they might have been discovered sooner, but there had been a few muffled noises that had escaped regardless.

She did not expand on her interlude, allowing Celeste to continue with her story. “He'd been captain of the Wicked Grace for about three years then.” Celeste’s fingers caressed the deck, bringing to mind a groom affectionately patting his favoured horse. “But he grew up on this ship, and she was his first love. Mine too, from the moment I laid eyes on her, so that was all right. Not sure if I ran off with the ship or the man, to tell you the truth, but they were both one of a kind.”

And then she had lost one of them. Considering that the ship had been his other love besides Celeste, it seemed less and less likely that Daniel had given up both of his own volition. Celeste took another sip of the bottle, and Nicolette accepted it again, her fingers lingering on the other woman’s for a brief moment before she took it and had another sip.

“Was he like you?” Nicolette set the bottle down, smiling at Celeste. “Fun and full of mischief?”

She could picture the man in her head already, handsome and bright, but she imagined it would take more than good looks to truly capture Celeste’s affections. And if she confirmed it, Nicolette had an inkling as to how she might offer Celeste a distraction, should she want one.
 

Celeste Monroe

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#7
Celeste was a good many things, but 'lady' had never been on the list, a fact that she was damn proud of. Those she kept company with generally tended to be of the same mindset, so it wasn't surprising that Nicolette responded to her droll aside with a fetching laugh.

“You?” she exclaimed, hand over her heart in a gesture of disbelief. “No. I took you to be a vision of propriety. You even went to the Grand Cleric’s balcony so the Maker could hear your praises better.”

Celeste chuckled. “I had some pretty good inspiration,” she reminded the minstrel with a wink. Very different from the kind of inspiration that Isabela had provided, but no less enjoyable.

The other woman listened as Celeste spoke of how she and Daniel had met. It was not something that she did often, particularly with those who had not known him. But talking about him with Nicolette felt right in a way that Celeste did not bother trying to examine.

“Was he like you?” she asked, taking a sip of whiskey when the bottle was offered and setting it down. “Fun and full of mischief?”

“Who do you think taught me everything I know?” Celeste smirked, then cocked her head, considering before amending. “Maybe not everything. I was pretty well versed in shenanigans when I came on board, but he definitely put the finishing touches on. He loved nothing better than making an utter fool of some pompous prig who thought they were better than the rest of the world, and he could pull it off so well that half the time, you'd swear it was a comeuppance from the Maker himself. He learned from his father to live his dreams without waiting for permission from the world, and that was what he did. What we did.”

She tipped her head back against the rail, staring up at the sky. “Two years ago, we were off Amaranthine when a storm blew up with no warning. We saw the wave take him over, but there wasn't a damn thing we could do about it; we had all we could handle trying to keep the ship afloat, and when it blew itself out a few hours later -” She shrugged, took another, deeper drink. She hadn't needed Gideon to tell her that life in the chill waters of the Waking Sea was measured in minutes, even in calm conditions.

She swallowed, letting the fire of the whiskey warm her belly and blood. “He died on the ocean; no sailor asks for more than that.” She tipped her head toward Nicolette, a wry smile quirking her lips, “And he'd kick my ass if he thought I was moping over him.”
 

Nicolette O'Hara

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#8
“Who do you think taught me everything I know?” Celeste smirked, before admitting that she had been wild enough even before Daniel had come into her life. “He loved nothing better than making an utter fool of some pompous prig who thought they were better than the rest of the world, and he could pull it off so well that half the time, you'd swear it was a comeuppance from the Maker himself. He learned from his father to live his dreams without waiting for permission from the world, and that was what he did. What we did.”

Nicolette’s ears had pricked up; the seed of an idea she had been nursing on her way back to the ship started to bloom, but before she could share it with Celeste, the captain shared more than Nicolette had expected her to. “Two years ago, we were off Amaranthine when a storm blew up with no warning. We saw the wave take him over, but there wasn't a damn thing we could do about it; we had all we could handle trying to keep the ship afloat, and when it blew itself out a few hours later -”

As Nicolette had told Sorscha on her first day aboard, she had experienced a storm at sea for herself. Every earthly worry had receded beneath the knowledge that she was absolutely at the mercy of her own luck, and she had never forgotten that since. Luck could be nudged in one direction or another through skill or good decisions, but sometimes it was what it was. Daniel would have known the sea and everything he could have done to improve his chances, and the sea had taken him anyway. She felt a sting of sympathy in her chest for Celeste. Seeing the man she cared for so deeply taken away like that would have been no small thing to live through.

Celeste took another draught of the whisky. Her eyes gleamed a little in the moonlight, but showed none of the watery quality that preceded tears. “He died on the ocean; no sailor asks for more than that.” She smiled. “And he’d kick my ass if he thought I was moping over him.”

Nicolette returned the smile, gently sympathetic for a moment, before quirking a brow at her. “Then maybe you could pay tribute to his memory in a way he might enjoy?” She had no idea if she was stepping over a line – for all she knew, this might be a sacred observation for Celeste. Nonetheless, she continued. “On my way back from town, I noticed a young man, very well dressed, laughing with one of his friends. From his conversation, he was on his way to the Hanged Man for a little ‘slumming.’ And to see if he could pick up a woman for the evening, using some quite derogatory terms as he did so.”

Nicolette had a smile that only appeared when she was actively planning mischief. It had been rarer in recent years as she had grown more cautious of courting trouble, but Celeste’s presence emboldened her and she grinned wolfishly at the other woman. “Perhaps he could use a lesson in manners, if you would be so inclined to help teach.”
 

Celeste Monroe

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#9
“Then maybe you could pay tribute to his memory in a way he might enjoy?”

Celeste regarded Nicolette curiously. “How so?” The gleam of mischief in the amber eyes was at odds with the carefully couched suggestion. The minstrel was a study in contrasts, her seemingly gentle and playful spirit offset by a penchant for shenanigans that rivaled Celeste's own, but thus far, she had been content to follow the sailor's lead.

“On my way back from town, I noticed a young man, very well dressed, laughing with one of his friends,” Nicolette began. “From his conversation, he was on his way to the Hanged Man for a little ‘slumming.’ And to see if he could pick up a woman for the evening, using some quite derogatory terms as he did so.”

The smile that appeared on that lovely face was a beautiful thing to see, and Celeste could feel the corners of her own mouth lifting in response as Nico went on. “Perhaps he could use a lesson in manners, if you would be so inclined to help teach.”

Celeste's grin widened to match that of her partner-in-mayhem. “That would be a very good start,” she agreed. Getting this delightful creature back to the ship and getting naked and sweaty had also just been added to the To Do list, but first things first. A final pull from the bottle, and after offering it to Nicolette, Celeste corked it and rolled to her feet without so much as a stagger, holding out her hand to her companion. “Lead on,” she invited.
 

Nicolette O'Hara

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#10
She had successfully caught Celeste’s interest, and won a smile in the process. Nicolette felt her nerves melt away when it became apparent that she was not going to be told off for disrespecting Daniel’s memory or intruding on a moment of observation, although she accepted the whiskey bottle gratefully one more time before it was stowed away. She was used to minor methods of payback when people bothered her – ignoring them outright, or emptying their drinks over their heads if they were persistent – and she suspected this was going to go a little over that. She did not have an exact plan but then, they had not had one at the Chantry either.

Improvising seemed to be the way to go. She accepted Celeste’s hand, curling her fingers around the captain’s briefly before starting to lead the way. As they left the ship, she caught Kali out of the corner of her eye, giving her a nod and what seemed to be an approving glance.

She stuck to the main streets, assuming that the nobleman, if he was not in the Hanged Man already, would be wise enough to avoid the more dangerous roads. If they encountered him outside of the tavern, so much the better in terms of going unnoticed – but inside, there would be more people inclined to help ruin the evening of somebody with more money than sense.

While she kept an eye out for him, she talked to Celeste. “It has been a while since I pulled a prank of any magnitude on somebody who deserves it,” she confessed. “The last time was a chevalier in Monfort, who kicked Thibault when he rushed to defend me during an argument between him and a man I was in conversation with at the time. Between us and a helpful prostitute who saw the event, we enticed him into a compromising position, knocked him out, stole his clothing, draped a ferret over him and then she proceeded to bawl him out for non-payment in the middle of the street. Not all of that was my idea, I will admit, but it was very satisfying.”

Another few moments of walking would have them reach the Hanged Man. Nicolette scanned the road ahead of them and then pointed. “Ah, I think that is him. Yes.” She gestured to the man, who had a self-satisfied air as he strolled into the tavern, a smug smile curling his lips. He obviously saw this as his hunting ground.

He was about to get a shock.
 

Celeste Monroe

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#11
Celeste pretended not to see the silent exchange between Nicolette and Kalindra. The crew of the Wicked Grace looked out for each other, but nobody made a big deal over it; just the way it was. That Nico was increasingly accepted by the rest was good, as she would be along at least as far as Antiva.

“It has been a while since I pulled a prank of any magnitude on somebody who deserves it,” the minstrel told Celeste as she led the way through the Lowtown streets. The sailor knew perfectly well where the Hanged Man was at, but this was Nico's caper. “The last time was a chevalier in Monfort, who kicked Thibault when he rushed to defend me during an argument between him and a man I was in conversation with at the time. Between us and a helpful prostitute who saw the event, we enticed him into a compromising position, knocked him out, stole his clothing, draped a ferret over him and then she proceeded to bawl him out for non-payment in the middle of the street. Not all of that was my idea, I will admit, but it was very satisfying.”

“There is no better feeling than screwing over some prig who genuinely deserves it,” Celeste agreed with a laugh, already feeling a bit livelier at the prospect of pranking a noble asshole in the company of a most engaging accomplice. “The ferret was a nice touch, though. Those teeth are sharp.”

“Ah, I think that is him,” Nicolette announced, peering ahead of them and pointing to a gaudily dressed dandy strutting through the door of the Hanged Man. “Yes,” she confirmed, looking quite pleased.

'Pleased' didn't quite cover Celeste's reaction. “Andraste's blazing buttcheeks,” she breathed, a wicked grin spreading over her face. “The Maker is real and he really, really likes us.” How else to explain that Nicolette's mark was none other than Sterling Orland, the asshole of a big brother that Celeste had promised Adalaide to deliver a thorough comeuppance to? She tugged the bandanna out of her hair and tousled the blonde locks a bit with her fingers, tucking it and the other scarves away in the pockets of her vest as they closed the last of the distance to the door.

Inside, Sterling had already made it to the bar and was dropping coin for a bottle of whiskey. Not a complete fool, then, but he wore his arrogance like a second skin, looking about him with a visible disdain, eyeing the women like sides of beef.

Celeste slid up to him, keeping Nicolette close enough that it would be plain that they were together. “Well, hello there,” she purred, looking him up and down boldly. “You look like a man who knows how to have a good time.”
 

Nicolette O'Hara

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#12
Nicolette experienced a warm glow she more commonly associated with a well-received performance when Celeste praised her caper in Montfort. True, the idea to go after the chevalier had not initially been hers, but she had contributed a few ideas to his eventual humiliation. She considered herself to have a long fuse, but abusing Thibault was a guaranteed way to shorten it. Likewise, men talking about women in hunting terms, as prey, rather than as people. Tonight at least one noble would find that attitude turned against him, and as she enjoyed that thought she spotted their quarry.

Celeste knew him. There was no other way to explain her reaction. “Andraste’s blazing buttcheeks. The Maker is real and he really, really likes us.”

“How could he not? You put a far more interesting twist on blaspheming than most would bother to.” Nicolette personally tended to stick to curses that did not invoke a god – she had no idea what might be waiting for her after death, but in case there was something there she would prefer to avoid annoying it – but she enjoyed Celeste’s creativity. “So you know him, I take it.”

Celeste was already removing her various bandanas. As they walked in, Nicolette adopted the slow step of somebody just a few measures over the line of sober, her eyes heavy-lidded but her smile promising. Overtly drunk would not appeal to such a man, but he might go for somebody who appeared to have impaired judgement. She followed behind Celeste, and when the other woman reached the man she leaned a little against her.

The nobleman himself was well-dressed, while still showy, so he was arrogant enough to assume that even though he had clearly marked himself as well off, nobody would cause him trouble. Counter to that, he had ordered a bottle of whisky, so he was smart enough to get something in a sealed container rather than risking whatever Corff could dredge up from the dumping sink. The arrogance, however, extended to openly staring at anybody female who crossed his eyeline, and his lips had been curled in a sneer before he caught sight of Celeste and Nicolette heading for him. Now he was smiling, although it did not reach his eyes.

“Well, hello there. You look like a man who knows how to have a good time.”

Nicolette simply giggled, winding a lock of Celeste’s hair around her finger. The man appraised them, his gaze crawling from neck to knee and back, before he leaned back against the bar and smirked. “And neither of you look like the sort of women I would expect to be propositioning men in this tavern. Which I’ll admit is quite appealing." He reached forward and caught Nicolette's plait, running it through his fingertips before dropping it. Nicolette managed to not claw at his hand. "At the very least you both appear to have a passing familiarity with a bath.”

He snapped his fingers sharply at Nora. “You. Barmaid. Another two glasses.”

Nora acquiesced, glancing at Celeste and Nicolette with a look that implied she knew they were planning on causing trouble. That was likely the only reason she did not openly spit in the man’s drink. He poured them each out a measure. “I should probably warn you, I don’t pay, so if you’re looking for work you should relocate to the Blooming Rose. But if you’re looking for fun, I’m sure I can provide that.” He downed the first measure, then crooked a grin at them. Nicolette returned it, resisting the urge to grit her teeth.
 

Celeste Monroe

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#13
“How could he not?” Nicolette asked pertly when Celeste declared the Maker's favor was upon them. “You put a far more interesting twist on blaspheming than most would bother to.”

“I keep Him entertained,” Celeste agreed with a wink. She had long since decided, having never had a stray lightning bolt come anywhere close to her, that the Maker had to have a better sense of humor than the Chant gave Him credit for.

“So you know him, I take it.

Celeste barely caught that, her mind already engaged and moving forward. Nicolette followed her, her gait altering subtly once they were through the door to suggest more than a touch of inebriation, nestling up to Celeste and playing with her hair as she addressed their mark.

It was a good call. Some men got a thrill out of the idea of two women shagging, and Sterling Orland seemed to be one of them. His eyes crawled greedily over them, and Celeste returned the favor; he wasn't bad looking, but his entire bearing screamed 'asshole'. From the corner of her eye, Celeste saw Dax and Bailey sitting at a table; neither of them gave any sign that they knew her, and she returned the favor, but backup was close at hand, should it be needed.

“And neither of you look like the sort of women I would expect to be propositioning men in this tavern,” he responded to Celeste's opening line with a knowing leer. “Which I’ll admit is quite appealing." He reached out and took Nicolette's braid in his hand, running it through his fingers like a man inspecting produce, and Celeste felt a stab of something unpleasant in her gut. Not jealousy by any means; it was more akin to the protectiveness that had sent her into Darktown in search of Téo's friend. She took care of her own … but it was the first time since losing Daniel that someone she was bedding had qualified as that.

She was nothing if not a good liar, however, and covered the sudden disquieted churn with a smile that she kept bright by the mental image of flattening the Orland family jewels with her knee … repeatedly.

"At the very least you both appear to have a passing familiarity with a bath,” he remarked, before snapping his fingers at Norah like a dog and ordering two more glasses.

Celeste had never been one of Norah's favorite people – her idea of fun too often left the barmaid with a mess to clean up – but she knew what the sailor did, and in this matter, they were temporary allies. She brought the glasses without complaint, the look that she shot the two women completely missed by Sterling, who was busy undressing the pair of him with his eyes.

“I should probably warn you, I don’t pay,” he said as he poured three fingers of whiskey into each of their glasses, and two fingers into his own, “so if you’re looking for work you should relocate to the Blooming Rose. But if you’re looking for fun, I’m sure I can provide that.”

He tossed back his shot and smiled at them as though he'd just done something noteworthy.

“What kind of women do you think we are?” Celeste demanded, perfectly feigning feigned indignation, then giggled. “Of course we're looking for fun!” She took up her own glass and took a healthy swallow, let her eyes widen. “This is good!” she told Nicolette delightedly before downing the rest. “And of course we took a bath! We even scrubbed each other's backs.” She leaned over and teased at Nico's ear with teeth and tongue briefly, eyes gleaming wickedly at Sterling, watching the lust flare in his eyes and feeling surprisingly uncomfortable at involving Nicolette in this manner. She'd make it up to the minstrel later, she promised herself.

“Care to check and see how good a job we did?” she invited him, sliding her empty glass back toward him for a refill. If this ass thought that he could get her drunk before him, she would quite happily play along.
 

Nicolette O'Hara

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#14
People had textures. It sometimes took a little time to work out what, but within the course of a conversation Nicolette could usually find it; soft, spiky, rough surfaced but gentle, and those more subtle. Some people reminded her of the scent of hot stone beginning to cool in the evening, or the feel of being in a forest just as the first spatters of rain began to hit the treetops overhead. She could never work out what made those connections for her. It was just a feeling, but frequently it helped alert her to somebody who was pretending to be something other than they were.

This man was making no attempt to hide what he was, and he was like oil. While handsome in his way, the way his gaze oozed over them, the easy confidence with which he caught her plait – a move which, in any other circumstance, might have earned him a slap or a thorough dousing with whatever drink Nicolette happened to be holding at the time – and the sheer discomfort his smile caused Nicolette almost threw her off. Only by leaning slightly on Celeste was she able to continue mimicking somebody who enjoyed the attention, lips curling a slow smile.

He was forthright about the fact that he would not pay for their time, and Celeste pretended to be a woman pretending to be annoyed, carrying off the deception well. Nicolette would not have been doing something like this on her own, so she was doubly grateful for the other woman’s presence. “What kind of women do you think we are?” Celeste giggled. “Of course we’re looking for fun!”

Celeste took the lead in testing the drinks – at least it from the sealed bottle, so there was no chance the man had tampered with it – and declared it good. Nicolette took a hefty swallow from her own glass, and was immediately, immensely grateful for the flow of warmth into her stomach. Bolstered by the alcohol, she felt less of an urge to bolt away from the man, and then Celeste dangled out their bait a little further.

Teeth grazed lightly over Nicolette’s ear, then the sensitive skin was traced with the very tip of Celeste’s tongue. No matter the situation, Nicolette could not fail to respond to it, and her revulsion at the expression on their target’s face was almost completely swallowed by the sudden need that flooded her. She arched her head back towards the other woman and played it up by not censoring herself at all; she let a high, soft moan escape, eyes closing as she gave herself a moment to imagine that the man was not standing there and they were not in the middle of a crowded tavern.

“Care to check and see how good a job we did?” Celeste’s voice pulled her back to the present and she opened her eyes again to see her companion pushing her glass back over for another measure. Nicolette smiled lazily and followed suit. Another shot or two would not go amiss.

The man grinned as he poured out the drinks. “I think so. I don’t suppose either of you lovely ladies has a room here? I’m not quite stupid enough to be lured out onto the street at this time of night, so if that’s your game, look elsewhere.” But evidently stupid enough to allow himself to be locked in a room with two people he had not met before. In fact, it would considerably reduce the chances of them being caught teaching him a lesson.

Corff had obviously been keeping one ear open. “We got one room left.” He jabbed his thumb upwards. “Upstairs, right to the front. One gold piece.”

A rip-off, but one that clearly didn’t bother the man. He wouldn't pay them for sex but he was find with covering the cost of the room, apparently. He flipped a coin towards Corff. “Perhaps we should take this upstairs now.” His gaze slid from Celeste to Nicolette, although he kept addressing the former. “Your friend seems like she can’t wait for further attention. You shouldn’t let her down.”

Now he spoke to Nicolette. “You don’t talk much, do you?”

Nicolette knew this kind of man. When she spoke, her accent came out a little heavier than usual.“Why talk, when there are so many better uses for our mouths?”

As expected, he grinned. “Oh, I like you. And I can think of several uses I’d enjoy seeing you put it to.” He grabbed the bottle from the bar, and then stepped between them, looping an arm around Nicolette’s shoulders and giving Celeste a heart slap on the behind before draping an arm over her shoulders too. Nicolette felt a surge of some ugly feeling she really did not like and quickly squashed down. “Come on. No time like the present.”
 

Celeste Monroe

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#15
Nicolette played along, but she was out of her comfort zone, and if this horny bastard wasn't currently thinking with the head between his legs, he might have noticed. Celeste could feel the subtle way that the minstrel pressed into her and felt a twinge of guilt. The other woman was not a Friend of Red Jenny, not part of the Wicked Grace's crew. She'd been game for the caper in the Chantry and other minor hijinks, but this was something different, and Celeste had charged ahead without any thought, focused on the prospect of pranking this prig.

She tried to put a bit of promise into her nuzzling of Nico's ear, to make it up to her later, and succeeded, if her lover's response was any indication. Nicolette leaned into the touch, closing her eyes and moaning softly, giving no sign that she knew – or cared – that the human pustule or the rest of the bar were even present. An answering wave of heat rolled beneath Celeste's skin, and for a moment, kicking this asshole in the nuts and dragging her lover back to the ship was a viable option.

She'd made another promise, though: to Adelaide, and having gone this far, there was no real choice but to keep going, so she signaled for a refill and tossed out the bait.

He took it. “I think so,” he replied with a smarmy smile as he refilled all three glasses – again giving more to the two women - and quickly downed his own. “I don’t suppose either of you lovely ladies has a room here? I’m not quite stupid enough to be lured out onto the street at this time of night, so if that’s your game, look elsewhere.”

“We got one room left,” Corff offered, motioning toward the ceiling. “Upstairs, right to the front. One gold piece.” There wasn't a room in this dump that would rent for a sovereign, but Corff had clearly figured out that a screwing (not of the carnal kind) was imminent and decided to get in on it. Sterling didn't blink, tossing said sovereign toward the barkeeper with a careless smugness that put the lie to his claimed lack of stupidity, since fully half the bar could see the gold changing hands.

“Perhaps we should take this upstairs now,” he suggested as he accepted the key, talking to Celeste but looking at Nicolette like a wolf sizing up a plump doe. “Your friend seems like she can’t wait for further attention. You shouldn’t let her down.”

“Oh, I won't.” Quite possibly the only thing she would tell him that wasn't a lie. Not that he would be around when she kept that promise, mind you.

“You don’t talk much, do you?” he addressed Nico now, his expression patronizing.

“Why talk, when there are so many better uses for our mouths?” she replied with a coy smile. If she was new at this, her instincts were solid gold. The Orlesian accent flowed like honeyed wine, and Celeste could all but see the bastard's remaining thoughts drop into his codpiece.

“Oh, I like you,” he said, managing not to drool when he smiled ... barely. “And I can think of several uses I’d enjoy seeing you put it to.” He snatched up the bottle by the neck, draped a possessive arm around Nicolette's shoulders and slapping Celeste on the ass before doing the same to her. “Come on. No time like the present.”

“Don't forget these.” Celeste quickly tossed back both her shot and Nicolette's, then made a show of fumbling with the glasses as she stacked them together and swaying as she leaned into Sterling. “Woo! Good stuff!” she announced again with a wide grin, reaching behind him with her free hand to brush her fingers along Nicolette's arm, hoping the minstrel realized that she wasn't nearly as drunk as she seemed to be. Dax and Bailey knew, keeping their gazes averted so he wouldn't guess that their grins had anything to do with him.

They made it up the stairs without incident, Sterling taking advantage of Celeste's swaying to cop a feel or three under cover of helping her stay upright, which was fine because hopefully that meant that he wasn't groping Nico.

He let go of them long enough to unlock the door, and Celeste careened inside, giggling and nearly upsetting the glasses as she set them up on the nightstand. “Don' know about you, but I could use a drink,” she proclaimed, sliding her vest off and tossing it over a chair, palming the tiny bottle of knockout drops on the way.
 

Nicolette O'Hara

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#16
When the man – who had not offered his name, or enquired as to either of theirs, it seemed unimportant to him – suggested heading upstairs and smacked Celeste on the behind, Celeste kept her cool well enough to finish off both her own and Nicolette’s drinks. “Woo! Good stuff!”

Nicolette had yet to see Celeste drink much and while she knew that most sailors could take more than the average amount of alcohol, she felt a faint twinge of apprehension even as she returned the other woman’s now slightly sloppy grin. If her companion had a little too much, it would be extremely difficult to extricate both of them from this situation without a scene. The ease with which he had parted from a gold coin also did not help her nerves. He was well off, which potentially meant well-connected, and if he remembered them in the morning and decided they were responsible for whatever they ended up doing to him, it could come back to haunt them.

Celeste’s fingers brushed her arm, and Nicolette placed her faith in the other woman.

As they headed upstairs, the man was clutching the bottle in the hand draped around her, which prevented him from doing anything more than keeping her uncomfortably close, but did not prevent him from grabbing at Celeste a few times. Nicolette affected a sway of her own which put her foot squarely on the man’s, but only for a second and not nearly hard enough for him to think it deliberate. It made her feel marginally better, though.

The moment he loosened his grip to unlock the door, Nicolette slipped inside right after Celeste, imitating the other woman’s looser steps. She considered herself a fairly good imitator of body language but Celeste appeared thoroughly tipsy, giggling and nearly knocking the glasses over.“Don’ know about you, but I could use a drink.”

The man was happy enough to oblige, apparently, pouring with a loose hand that sent whisky splashing over the table and his fingers as well as into the glasses, his gaze roving between them like (and the phrasing would have made Nicolette giggle had she though of it in another context) a greedy boy eyeing two tarts, undecided which one he would take a bite from first.

Nicolette did not know how to incapacitate somebody, other than through getting them thoroughly drunk or a judicious application of a dagger pommel to the back of the head. Their target might remember if she started prowling around him with a knife and besides, she did not have her daggers with her. Hopefully Celeste would have some way, but she would need a distraction so she could do whatever it was she needed to do.

Leaning back towards the role of the tipsy, but not too inebriated, Nicolette swayed her way towards the middle of the room. “Do you know, I am a dancer?”

“Are you, now?” The man had picked up his drink but had not yet raised it to his lips. “Maybe you should perform for us. I’d be happy to make suggestions throughout.”

There was a chair off to one side of the room and he ensconced himself in it, whiskey glass in one hand and patting his leg with the other as he nodded towards Celeste. “Come and join me. I’m sure we’ll find your friend’s dancing…inspiring.”

Nicolette chose to ignore that, rather than throwing something at him, and closed her eyes as she imagined a beat to follow. The dance she began was based on one she had seen in Rivain, sensual without being overt, and she spun as she took a few fluttering steps across the room, her skirt whirling out and then pulling tight around her legs, fingers trailing suggestively over the exposed skin below her collarbone.

Hopefully, this would buy Celeste enough time.
 

Celeste Monroe

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#17
Orland readily acceded to Celeste's suggestion of another drink, his unsteadiness as he slopped whiskey over the top of the nightstand and his hand in the process of filling the three glasses very much not feigned (though the fact that his eyes were crawling over them rather than focused on his task might have had something to do with it, too).

“Do you know, I am a dancer?” Nicolette inquired languidly, stepping away from the bed to a clear spot on the floor with feline grace.

“Are you, now?” The glass of whiskey was forgotten in his hands, his gaze riveted on the sway of those hips (which was, Celeste had to admit, quite enticing). “Maybe you should perform for us. I’d be happy to make suggestions throughout.”

Dropping into the chair, he patted his leg with his free hand. “Come and join me. I’m sure we’ll find your friend’s dancing…inspiring.”

Clever girl. Celeste could have stolen his teeth while he was gawping; it was no trick at all to scoop up her own glass and plop down on his knee, draping one arm around his neck while her own free hand passed – seemingly randomly – over his drink, depositing a healthy dose from the vial into the whiskey as she tried to balance herself.

That done, she downed her booze in a single swallow; he obliged by tossing his own back with matching gusto. Now it was just a matter of waiting, and her accomplice was doing an admirable job of taking up the time. Eyes closed and lips moving to an unheard tune, every motion flowed as smoothly as water, the skirt alternately clinging to her curves and swirling away as she spun and swayed, fingers tracing seductive paths along the neckline of her dress. Celeste had seen such dances in Rivain, even learned a bit, but this was beauty in mesmerizing motion. Sadly, Celeste's appreciation of it was decidedly hampered by the evidence of just how inspired Sterling was poking into her hip.

“Faster!” he ordered Nico, leering, though his eyes were plainly having trouble focusing. “I wanna see that skirt go up!”

He lunged upright abruptly. “Keep dancing!” he slurred at Nico, pushing Celeste toward the bed and pawing at the front of her shirt. “I wanna watch you dance while I fuuuu -” His eyes rolled up in his head, and Celeste sidestepped, leaving him to faceplant on the bed.

“Right on time,” she announced smugly, letting the facade of inebriation slide away, straightening her neckline. “Help me get his clothes off.” That would do for a start, and they had plenty of time to come up with embellishments. And oh, did she feel like embellishing.
 

Nicolette O'Hara

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#18
Nicolette turned in enough time to see Celeste almost falling into the man's lap and then leaning heavily on his shoulder. Shutting her eyes kept her focused on the music she was playing in her head, but also spared her the slack leer on their target's face. Any approving thought she might have had regarding his appearance had long since gone, and as he bellowed instruction at her she was reminded once again why she was so reluctant about the idea of having a patron. For the moment, she obeyed, the skirt whipping out further as she stepped faster, praying that this part of it would be over soon.

She opened her eyes again at the sound of sudden movement. The man had risen from his chair, and was pushing Celeste across towards the bed. Nicolette saw no fear on the other woman's face and it was only that which kept her from lunging across the room to drag him off as he started pulling at Celeste's shirt. "I wanna watch you dance while I fuuu-"

Mercifully, he did not complete that sentence. Celeste stepped neatly out of the way and he collapsed forwards, limp as a sack of wet fish. "Right on time."

Nicolette finished her spin and ran her hands over her hair, taking a moment to regain herself. While there was no doubt in her mind that the man deserved whatever Celeste had planned for him, the seduction had felt a little too close to bard work for Nicolette to truly be comfortable with it. But this would make up for it, without a doubt. When the relief had died from her eyes, she flashed the mischievous smile at Celeste again. She felt safe again, and came forward to start pulling his boots off.

"What do you have in mind?" The boots were off, and she hauled on the man's shoulders to pull him upright so they could start removing his shirt. If he were conscious, he would probably be having the time of his life right now. Thank goodness he was not. She tilted her head at Celeste."I take it he already earned your annoyance even before all of this."
 

Celeste Monroe

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#19
Relief washed across Nicolette's features as she saw Orland fall onto the bed, quickly followed by a mischief filled smile as it became apparent that he was well and truly out, and she readily responded to Celeste's summons, tugging the expensive, russet leather boots from his feet and dropping them to the floor with relish.

“What do you have in mind?” she asked as they rolled him over and propped him up to get his expensive silk shirt off.

“Well, for starters,” Celeste slipped the pouch from his belt and hefted it in one hand, the weight and clinking making it clear that most of the coins within were gold, “we're not going to rob him.” She tossed the pouch onto the nightstand for now. In addition to providing much less impetus for the guard to come looking for them, being left in such a state without having so much of a copper stolen would make it clear to anyone interested (like Adelaide) that what had happened had nothing to do with his wealth and everything to do with his status as an asshole. “Just have to make sure nobody else robs him while he's out.” Easier said than done in this place, but maybe a word to Corff …

"I take it he already earned your annoyance even before all of this." Nicolette's remark drew Celeste out of her musings.

“You could say that,” she replied, quirking a grin and deciding in the same moment that the minstrel had earned the whole of it. “You know the Friends of Red Jenny?” she asked. “I'm one of them, and pranking prigs like this is what we do. I was at his house a few weeks back while I was out and got caught by his little sister.” She gave a sheepish shrug. Happened to the best. “Cheeky little thing; she didn't scream or run for help, wound up helping me set up some pretty good tricks. But she was terrified of doing anything to him.” She jabbed a knee into Sterling's ribs none too gently. He grunted, then let out a snore. “Thought he might take it out on the servants … or her. So I promised I'd get him good, but away from the house where he couldn't blame anybody there." She tugged the shirt up and over his head, not minding the sound of the cloth tearing. “Just need to make sure she finds out about it.”

Her thoughtful gaze shifted to the window, then outside the window, where the Hanged Man's straw namesake dangled from a beam, and a grin spread from ear to ear. “I do believe it's time to redecorate,” she said to Nicolette, nodding toward the mannequin. “Trade one dummy for another?”
 

Nicolette O'Hara

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#20
Celeste had removed the pouch from the man’s belt. The audible sliding of the money inside made it clear that he had almost enough on him to buy the Hanged Man outright, and he had just been casually carrying it on his hip. Nicolette, while willing to turn a blind eye to theft when committed by people who needed money or food, was a little nervous about participating in it herself, so she was glad when Celeste confirmed that was not part of their plans. No matter how humiliated he would be when he came to, this man could not say he had been robbed and send a legion of guards after them.

Her curiosity as to how Celeste knew him was finally satisfied. The captain grinned at her as she put the question forward again. “You know the Friends of Red Jenny?” Nicolette nodded as she started unthreading the man’s belt. There were many tales surrounding the mysterious organisation that exist for little other purpose than annoying people with more power or money than sense. She had always enjoyed the stories of their exploits, although had never been entirely sure if they were real, and hearing that Celeste was one was more than a little thrilling.

“I was at his house a few weeks back while I was out and got caught by his little sister. Cheeky little thing; she didn’t scream or run for help, wound up helping me set up some pretty good tricks. But she was terrified of doing anything to him.” Which spoke even more poorly of the man’s behaviour at home than everything he had said so far tonight, which was saying something. Celeste punctuated that thought with a knee to the ribs, which elicited no response beyond a grunt. “Thought he might take it out on the servants…or her. So I promised I’d get him good, but away from the house where he couldn’t blame anybody there.”

Nicolette grinned. “No wonder you looked so pleased when I pointed him out. There is no chance he would think this would have been orchestrated by anybody related to him.” Probably he would think that nobody would dare. Certainly Nicolette would not have, had she not had company.

This was Celeste’s diversion from dwelling on Daniel, however, so Nicolette left the finer details of the humiliation up to her. Thus far she had enjoyed way Celeste’s exuberant, spontaneous mind worked in a variety of intimate fashions, and she was curious as to how she would apply it to this.

She did not disappoint. She glanced towards the window, grinning. Corff could not have placed them in a better room than if he had been in on this from the start. “I do believe it’s time to redecorate. Trade one dummy for another?”

“Oh, I think so. That mannequin could stand to be a little more anatomically correct.”

It would be a little work, rigging him up in the same fashion, but Celeste would know the load bearing practical sailor’s knots that would keep him from plummeting to the ground, and Nicolette had a little experience with rope that was less practical than pretty. She helped haul the man’s trousers off, casting them in a corner, and then leaned out of the window to start pulling the dummy inside. “How long until whatever you gave him wears off? I can decorate him a little, if we have the time.”
 
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