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Rose-y Cheeked Orlands [Closed]

Adelaide Orland

Noble
Noble
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
65
#1
[[OOC: 2nd Firstfall, past ten at night]] @Edwin Thatcher

Addie had started out of the window twice, only to shrink back again as her nerve failed. All her practice of sneaking out until this point had been made easier by whoever was waiting for her at the bottom of the trellis; tonight, there was nobody. She’d sent a note to Eddie promising to try and see him tonight, but him actually coming to the estate was too dangerous. If one of the guards who’d been around a few years ago caught so much of a glimpse of him and reported him to Father, he could be in serious danger. Addie suspected that the only reason he wasn’t yet was because Father had no idea they’d made contact.

However, going into Lowtown unaccompanied was also too risky. They’d arranged to meet in Hightown, somewhere reasonably out of the way of anywhere that Father might pop up even if he chose to go out at such a late hour. The final venue chosen was why Addie kept hesitating.
They were meeting at the Blooming Rose.

She’d never been inside, but from the occasional giggled conversation with a few friends and the more open-speaking of the servants, she had an idea of what went on there. That didn’t make it seem any simpler, but as far as she could work out it appeared to be the best place that fit the necessary criteria, and if anybody approached her with interest she could simply say she wasn’t interested and she definitely wasn’t required to be. Convincing herself of that took a bit of doing, though, and by the time she left she was running fifteen minutes late.

She passed through Hightown reasonably unimpeded. There were still quite a few people out on the streets, moving from one high-class drinking establishment to another, and while the occasional person shouted her way, her lessons from Celeste and Josc paid off. She made it to the Blooming Rose without trouble, screwed up her courage and walked through the door.

Right away, a woman just about as gorgeous as anybody she’d seen before, wearing a far more low-cut version of a respectable noblewoman’s garments, swept over and smiled at her. “Good evening! Welcome to the Rose; let me take your cloak.” She held out her hand, giving Addie an appraising look. “Well, aren’t you a pretty one? I’m sure we can find somebody who can accommodate your interests.”

Addie had planned to walk in and find a quiet corner until she spotted Eddie; this turn of events threw her for a loop. “Ah. Thank you, messere…”

“Ooh, such manners! They’re going to love you.”

Where was Eddie?
 
Posts
61
#2
When Edwin had suggested the Rose, he'd been thinking in practical terms. Their father was unlikely to visit--thank the Maker for that--and any business Sterling conducted there would probably be done out of sight, with all the privileges afforded to a young lord. Over the past five years, Edwin had conducted his own business at the Rose, though he was positive it was a far cry from whatever Sterling was doing. Despite offers, he'd never partaken in the, ah... entertainment. He'd just met with a number of people who were far more comfortable here than in the Hanged Man.

What he hadn't considered was the reality of suggesting his sweet baby sister join him at a brothel to catch up. True, she wasn't a baby anymore, and while she might be naive to that aspect of the world, so was Edwin. Somehow rationalizing all of that out in his mind really didn't help matters. As soon as he set foot in the Rose he was approached by the madame and offered a veritable buffet of pretty young women and men as company for the evening.

Imagining Addie being propositioned in the same way was, well... mortifying, to say the least. He almost found himself hoping she couldn't make it tonight, but that was a silly thought to have. While they'd covered a lot of ground the other night--most of it quite awful--he still knew very little about the life she'd led these past eight years. They were different people now, both of them older and wiser and perhaps more jaded than before, and he wanted to get to know her.

In that regard, meeting at a brothel seemed a small price to pay. So Edwin steeled himself and found an out-of-the-way booth that was generally regarded as off limits by the staff. He ordered a drink--wine for now--and waited, not realizing until several moments later that he didn't exactly have an optimal view of the entrance. He heard the madame's boisterous greeting, though, followed by a much softer response.

“Ah. Thank you, messere…”

Addie.

He was pushing himself out of the booth immediately, though a few of the people milling about got in his way. Fortunately his sister hadn't yet been swept up into anything just yet, as the madame was still making her case.

“Ooh, such manners! They’re going to love you.”

"I'm afraid she's not here to sample the local selection," Edwin said, mouthing an apology to his sister before the madame turned to face him.

She looked between the two of them, evidently catching the resemblance. A dramatic sigh followed. "No, of course not. She'll be the same as you, hm? Very pretty and very unattainable," she pronounced with a pout.

"The best ones always are," he winked, resting a hand on his sister's shoulder to help guide her toward the booth he'd secured. "I've always paid my way; I'm not about to get cheap on you now."

"Well, thank the Maker for that," she said with a huff, though her expression softened into a smile as she addressed Addie, "if you change your mind, do let me know, dear."

Avoiding the largest hurdle--for now--Edwin led her to the quiet booth and slid into the side he's previously occupied. A slight blush colored his cheeks, and he wasn't quite able to hide his chagrin. "Sorry about that. We shouldn't be bothered, but, ah... don't be surprised if a few less-than-subtle looks come your way." And that was certainly enough of that. He cleared his throat, then asked, "did you run into any trouble making it here?"
 

Adelaide Orland

Noble
Noble
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
65
#3
Mercifully, Edwin stepped in before Addie could try to explain that while she might have a passing interest in some of the ladies there, the thought of actually going through with it made her distinctly nervous. Everyone here would be so experienced and while Addie had drastically expanded the breadth of her horizons over the last year, she didn’t think she could get anything like as good as some of the workers. Although she knew it wasn’t supposed to matter whether the workers were satisfied at the end or not, she didn’t care for the idea of just getting…attention…and then not returning the favour.

The lady sighed dramatically. “She’ll be the same as you, hm? Very pretty and very unattainable.”

Well, it was a relief that was all the lady had to say about Eddie. Addie was not sure how she might have reacted had she started to detail her brother’s preferences in front of her, but she knew she wouldn’t have been able to contain her blushing.

“I’ve always paid my way; I’m not about to go cheap on you now.”

That seemed to work, although the lady got in one more offer before she left. “If you change your mind, do let me know, dear.”

Oh, Maker. Now she was of age, there were certain things that Addie was interested in trying, but she’d feel wrong if it was with anybody other than Josc. And even the thought of that made her nervous. She felt younger than ever as Edwin guided her to a seat.

“Sorry about that. We shouldn’t be bothered, but, ah…don’t be surprised if a few less-than-subtle looks come your way. Did you run into any trouble making it here?”

Addie shook her head. “A couple of men catcalled, but nothing scary. I’ve managed to make some friends, some good friends, who’ve taught me how to sneak around at night.” She gave a version of Josc’s quirked smile, topped up with a bravado that was pretty much entirely feigned. “And I’ve been down to the Hanged Man a few times, I can deal with being looked at.”

To say it out loud, so easily, was startling, and she giggled a little through her fingertips. “Maker, that makes it sound like I’m a regular. I’ve only been in with my friends, when they could sneak me out. But I quite like it down there. Everybody says what they mean. Except the liars, but I can spot those usually.”

The awkwardness she had expected to feel was still bubbling a little beneath the surface, but she didn’t let it rise up just yet. She was curious about Eddie, how he’d been passing his time since his arrival. “Have you been there at all?”
 
Posts
61
#4
“A couple of men catcalled," Addie answered, and Edwin made a face. It wasn't his place to protect his sister from idiots, and he'd do well to remember that before he went about challenging said idiots to duels, "but nothing scary. I’ve managed to make some friends, some good friends, who’ve taught me how to sneak around at night. And I’ve been down to the Hanged Man a few times, I can deal with being looked at.”

Oh, that attempt at a smirk was as interesting as it was endearing. Amusement shone in Edwin's eyes and he tilted his head curiously. Her assertion that she'd been to the Hanged Man "a few times" was of similar interest. These friends of hers were undoubtedly the ones who'd taken her there. Just what kind of reprobates was were accompanying his sister? With luck, they weren't anything like the reprobate who sat across from her.

“Maker, that makes it sound like I’m a regular. I’ve only been in with my friends, when they could sneak me out," she said, confirming his suspicions. "But I quite like it down there. Everybody says what they mean. Except the liars, but I can spot those usually.”

Speaking of the reprobate sitting across from her...

No, he wasn't going to let himself become mired in self-loathing. Not today. This was a chance to move forward, not to dwell on the things he'd done--or hadn't done--in the past.

“Have you been there at all?” she asked with an innocence Edwin almost envied.

"Oh, a few times," came the automatic response. Then, "I'm there a great deal, actually. I work with the, ah..." how did one refer to Varric, exactly, "well, one of the Hanged Man's most magnanimous benefactors, shall we say." He paused for a moment before cautiously asking, "Varric Tethras. Have you heard of him? Quite the gifted scribe, and... he helped me get back on my feet, some time ago."

Gone was the sarcasm, that wall Edwin had built cracking just a bit. Varric was one of the reasons he was still alive, and Edwin couldn't play that down if he tried.

A server approached, her neckline cut exceedingly low and her skirts quite high on her thigh. While he knew the madame of the Rose didn't offer the servers for any "off-menu" extras, they were certainly meant to entice. He kept his eyes on the woman's face, giving her a charming smile before he asked for some wine for now, allowing Addie the chance to order what she wished. Edwin didn't typically buy more expensive drinks--he'd gotten too used to drinking soldiers' brew--but every now and again it was nice to indulge.

When the woman left, he returned his full attention to his sister. "Tell me about these friends of yours. I should like to know about the people who've been risking their own safety to help you escape from Father every now and again."
 

Adelaide Orland

Noble
Noble
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
65
#5
When Eddie was amused, Addie recognised him. Of course, she’d already done that, but when his eyes crinkled he looked like her Eddie, the adored elder brother who had taken delight in making her laugh and pleasure in telling her how proud he was of her. She’d tried to do the same, although she hadn’t been sure it would mean much coming from her. He looked even more amused as she quickly explained that while she talked about the Hanged Man casually, trips there were still a novelty for her. She asked if Edwin had stopped by at all.

"Oh, a few times," he said, then amended himself. "I'm there a great deal, actually. I work with the, ah... well, one of the Hanged Man's most magnanimous benefactors, shall we say." He paused. "Varric Tethras. Have you heard of him? Quite the gifted scribe, and... he helped me get back on my feet, some time ago."

Addie was already beaming before he finished his sentence. “I was introduced to him the first time I went there. He’s really kind. He told me some stories.”

The smile faded a little as she realised that Eddie’s had done the same. For a moment, he wore the same expression of vulnerability that had taken the breath from her when he finally told her roughly what had happened after Father sent him away. She touched his arm, her voice softening. “I’m glad he was there to help you, Eddie. And I’m sorry I couldn’t.”

A server had approached, her clothes revealing…a lot. Addie tried not to stare. She was no stranger to clothing cut for suggestions, and of course she had met Isabela, who didn’t care one wit for skirts or trousers. But it was still something she was adjusting to, and more to the point, she didn’t want to be caught openly drooling like a man might. Especially not by her brother. He ordered wine and Addie quickly requested the same, although she looked up just in time to catch the server giving her a knocking wink before whisking away.

Was she truly that obvious?

Thankfully, Eddie didn’t seem inclined to comment even if he’d noticed. "Tell me about these friends of yours. I should like to know about the people who've been risking their own safety to help you escape from Father every now and again."

Addie was only too happy to do so. Even with the avenues of freedom she had been given, it never felt like she had enough time to enjoy them before she had to go back, and consequently when she felt safe around somebody, the words had started to come out in a rush. “Yes! Well, there’s Celeste, she’s a sailor. She taught me about picking locks and how to play pranks on Father and Sterling without getting caught. I found her sneaking into the kitchen one day and she comes to the estate sometimes to keep teaching me. I like her a lot. Varric, you know. And there’s another pirate, Isabela. She’s – something else, a little scary sometimes, but always nice to me. Calls me Duckling. And…”

Addie couldn’t stop her grin. “There’s Josc. Hawke, you might know the name, although she arrived in Kirkwall after you did. I met her at a party at the estate and we danced together. She made fun of the expensive but terrible wine Father had chosen.” Addie wasn’t looking at Eddie now – her fingers were wound in each other as she remembered how Josc had linked hands with her in the middle of the dancefloor, and she was smiling at them. “And she took me on my first trip to the Hanged Man, and a few ones since. She’s so nice, Eddie, and brave, and clever.” She looked up again. “Have you met her? She spends a lot of time at the Hanged Man too.”
 
Posts
61
#6
Addie's smile made it clear she had, in fact, met Varric before. “I was introduced to him the first time I went there. He’s really kind. He told me some stories.” He should be glad. Varric had a way of taking care of people who needed it. But Edwin's thoughts fixated on how much he'd needed it, and in turn how much he'd let his sister down. “I’m glad he was there to help you, Eddie. And I’m sorry I couldn’t.”

"Addie..." he swallowed the sudden rush of emotion that surfaced and shook his head. "You didn't know."

There were many thoughts that wanted to follow that statement. I didn't try hard enough to tell you was one. You wouldn't have been able to help me was another. Edwin silenced both, and instead just added, "It's alright. I'm... in a better place now. I have you back, haven't I?"

He managed a smile, feeling like a bit of a fraud. Why was this so difficult? Addie was the one constant in his life; the only good thing he'd had for so long. She was the reason he'd made it out of Starkhaven, so why wasn't he saying that? Why did he feel like a stranger to his own sister?

Because you are.

The server kept him from falling too deeply down that particular hole, and so too did Edwin's own curiosity. He was glad she'd made friends outside of the estate. Every one of them would likely be necessary when it came time to get her away from Barrett.

As soon as he asked, Addie's face brightened and those two perfect dimples made themselves apparent. It was impossible for him not to smile in return while she practically gushed about the myriad of people she'd met.

“Yes! Well, there’s Celeste, she’s a sailor. She taught me about picking locks and how to play pranks on Father and Sterling without getting caught."

That got a brow raise. Father and Sterling both deserved to be pranked, and what young lady didn't need to know how to pick locks? Still, there was likely some inhibition to work past. He'd not yet met this Celeste, but she must have been very compelling indeed.

"I found her sneaking into the kitchen one day and she comes to the estate sometimes to keep teaching me. I like her a lot." Or she was a petty criminal. Edwin couldn't help but laugh. "Varric, you know. And there’s another pirate, Isabela. She’s – something else, a little scary sometimes, but always nice to me. Calls me Duckling. And…”

He would have added that he'd heard of--but had not yet met--Isabela, if not for the change that followed. In his younger days, Edwin certainly could have been accused of wearing his heart on his sleeve. A certain Guard Captain had brought out those tendencies in recent weeks, and so it was easy for him to recognize that starry-eyed wistfulness; the deep and abiding admiration of someone who'd made an overwhelmingly positive impression.

Edwin expected Addie to start listing all the redeeming qualities of some dashing rogue she'd met at the Hanged Man. What he hadn't expected was--

“There’s Josc. Hawke, you might know the name, although she arrived in Kirkwall after you did. I met her at a party at the estate and we danced together. She made fun of the expensive but terrible wine Father had chosen.” Barrett Orland did have horrible taste in wine, but... what? What? It was probably a good thing Addie was looking down at her hands and not him, because he'd lapsed into just staring dumbly, certain he must be hearing things. “And she took me on my first trip to the Hanged Man, and a few ones since. She’s so nice, Eddie, and brave, and clever. Have you met her? She spends a lot of time at the Hanged Man too.”

He was caught so off guard that he couldn't even begin to school his surprise when Addie's gaze lifted again. Josc. His sister was friends with Josc. Oh, no. Not just friends. Unless Edwin was completely imagining it, that likely-not-exhaustive focus on one person meant there was more than friendship afoot, and that was... a great deal to unpack.

The person inside of him who still remembered Addie as an innocent ten-year-old was the first to balk, but Edwin quickly chased that foolishness away. Addie was a grown woman now, whether he'd been here to see her grow up or not. But Josc? Yes, she was nice, and brave, and clever. She even fit the description of "dashing rogue."

But she was also someone he knew well enough to know that attachment and commitment weren't exactly on her mind when she sought company. Hell, he'd helped her find that company on more than one occasion. The thought of his sister being just another in a long line of bed partners was so, so much more than he wanted to think about.

And what if she wasn't? Or rather, what if Addie believed she wasn't? That look in her eyes spoke of more than a casual fondness. If Josc was leading her on...

"I..." he began dumbly. "Yes, I have met her." She came onto me almost immediately. "Addie... Maker, how can I ask this without sounding like the stereotypical older brother," he hadn't meant to say that bit out loud, but it was far from the worst thing he could have let slip, "Are you and Josc... rather, is your friendship... oh, hell. Josc is more than just a friend, isn't she?"
 
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Adelaide Orland

Noble
Noble
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
65
#7
Eddie’s expression was…strange. He seemed to be somewhere between startled and worried, which in turn worried Addie. Honestly, she was not sure how Eddie might react to her new friends, but she had assumed he would be intrigued at the very least. He’d never been one to judge people for their social standing, so maybe his concern was because he’d only recently known her as anything other than his baby sister, barely up to his chest. Addie realised that they were almost of a height now. Another weird sensation to add to the list.
Then there was the way that he confirmed that he knew Josc. The words seemed to struggle out of his mouth. “Yes, I have met her. Addie…”

He’d never said her name like that before, except just before he’d left, before he’d asked her to promise that she’d never let herself be turned into the person Sterling and their parents wanted her to be.

“Maker, how can I ask this without sounding like the stereotypical older brother-” Given that Addie’s only other example of ‘older brother’ was Sterling, and Eddie couldn’t sound like him if he tried, she couldn’t imagine where this sentence was going, but her stomach clenched in trepidation anyway – “Are you and Josc…rather, is your friendship…oh, hell. Josc is more than a friend, isn’t she?”

Nobody had said it yet. Even Addie hadn’t put a name to whatever Josc was to her. The other woman had charmed her, been sweet to her, taught her many things that Eddie would approve of – and others that he likely wouldn’t. Oh, flames, and Eddie hadn’t even known about her preferences before he left. This might be coming as a double shock for him. She nodded, lip caught between her teeth.

“We are…something. I like her a lot,” she added. Lies could spin out of control fast, so she opted for honesty and hoped that Josc wouldn’t be paying for it later. Or rather, that Eddie wouldn’t make something out of it. “She is my friend, without a doubt. And she’s never pushed for anything I wasn’t ready for. I’ve only had a few occasions to meet with her over the last few months anyway.” Possibly she was overdoing the defence. Nervously, Addie brushed her skirt with both hands.

“Why are you concerned? Do you know something?”
 

Edwin Thatcher

Theater Major
Posts
61
#8
Edwin already knew the answer. He could see it in her eyes, hear it in her voice as she spoke of Josc. It was--quite frankly--the same way he spoke of Aveline, a thought that would have alarmed him a few short weeks ago and now just seemed second-nature. What did alarm him was the idea that Addie might not know the breadth of Josc's, ah... experience.

“We are…something. I like her a lot." Edwin realized after the fact that he was putting her on the spot, and he smiled in attempt to reassure her. “She is my friend, without a doubt. And she’s never pushed for anything I wasn’t ready for. I’ve only had a few occasions to meet with her over the last few months anyway.”

No, Josc wouldn't have pushed. Not without consent. In that he was at least certain, as his own experiences certainly reflected as much. Had he made his lack of interest clear from the beginning, he was sure she would have backed off completely. Addie wasn't disinterested--that much was obvious. But she was... inexperienced? She had to be, hadn't she? It was a struggle for her to even leave the estate, and she was still so young...

Not that age had any bearing on anything. He was eight years her senior and until very recently, he'd really only ever kissed another person.

“Why are you concerned? Do you know something?” she asked, looking up at him as thought his opinion--the opinion of someone who'd been almost as absent from her life as he'd been present--was the most important thing in the world.

You need to be careful, he reminded himself, as if he didn't already know that. But in truth, he hadn't expected his words, his thoughts to carry so much weight with his sister after such a long separation.

"I..." he hesitated, unsure what to say on the matter. Was it his place to say anything at all?

Before he could sort that out, their server returned with the wine. Edwin thanked the woman, thoroughly distracted by his own thoughts as he took a sip. The sweet liquid had a bit of sharpness to it that helped clear his mind, and his gaze returned to his sister.

"I... want to be honest with you, Addie, even if it's probably not my place to tell you this. I just don't want to continue where we left off," he said softly, alluding to the lies he'd told before he left for Starkhaven. Told with the best of intentions, yes, but still lies. "I met Josc about a year ago. She, ah... well, she wasn't shy around me, let's say, though it never went anywhere. But in that time I've known her to be nice, and brave, and clever, yes. She's been a friend to me, even if it took me too long to acknowledge that. As her friend, I've..." Maker, he was blushing. He could feel it, "helped her secure companionship? More often than not. She's very much struck me as someone who has no interest in being tied down."

Two things struck him. One was more obvious, and that was the fact that for all he knew, Adelaide wasn't looking for a commitment of any kind from the woman. She might be inclined to seek out partners the same way, were she able.

"Not that there's anything wrong with that," he quickly amended, making way for another thought to strike him.

A distant conversation resurfaced in his mind, and his brow furrowed. Had she meant...? No, that couldn't be right. But the details fit. Josc told him she'd met a younger woman at some stuffy party in Hightown. That she'd been smitten immediately, and she'd been out of sorts in a way he'd never seen before. Going on about how she didn't want to move too fast or mess up.

She hadn't been celibate during that time. Not in the slightest. Still...

"You know, some time ago I had a conversation with her about a woman she was quite taken with. I'm realizing now that she was talking about you, I think," he said with a small smile. "I just... I don't want you to get hurt, Addie. Expecting something that might never come to pass."
 

Adelaide Orland

Noble
Noble
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
65
#9
Eddie’s expression was doing nothing to soothe the jittering that had started up under her skin. True, she had known all along that Josc ran with people who were technically (all right, literally) criminals, but they were all nice as people! The only ones they hurt were people who had hurt somebody else. Although that might not be true of a couple of them. But that wasn’t Josc. Right?

He started out hesitantly, expressing a wish to avoid any more lies. "I met Josc about a year ago. She, ah... well, she wasn't shy around me, let's say, though it never went anywhere.” Well that was…a weird thought, but at least they hadn’t followed through on it. “But in that time I've known her to be nice, and brave, and clever, yes. She's been a friend to me, even if it took me too long to acknowledge that. As her friend, I've... helped her secure companionship? More often than not. She's very much struck me as someone who has no interest in being tied down."

Addie turned this over in her head. Besides being taken aback that her brother had – what did Isabela call it? – played wingman, she was more puzzled than anything else at the moment. Josc didn’t strike her as the type of woman who needed help getting anybody she desired. Why would she had employed Eddie to do that? All she’d had to do was smile at Addie and make a disparaging comment about pretentious wine.

“Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” Eddie added quickly, and Addie’s mind immediately conflated that with his most recent sentence about tying down and the colour rushed across her face. Yes, she knew she was misinterpreting that, but now the thought was in her head and she needed to move away from it quickly.

Thankfully, Eddie found an escape route. "You know, some time ago I had a conversation with her about a woman she was quite taken with. I'm realizing now that she was talking about you, I think.”

“She was?” That had come out a little bit too high-pitched.

"I just... I don't want you to get hurt, Addie. Expecting something that might never come to pass."

Josc had talked about her. As though she was taken with her. To other people. Addie knew she should be more worried about what Eddie was saying but she was a little too giddy to think on it for the moment. “I…well. I’m happy she’s saying nice things about me.”

Perhaps all that time with her family had left her a little starved for genuine compliments.

She fidgeted, trying to get back to the matter at hand. “Well. Um. I never asked her to not do anything with anyone else. I didn’t even think about it, to be honest.” Which was unlike her. One of the first things she had looked for in the prospective beaus Father had paraded her before was a propensity to cheat. But then again, she’d been seeking any possible reason not to be thrown to them.

“And it’s slow. It’s still new. I don’t know what’s going to happen, to be honest. But I’m enjoying my time with her, and she’s sweet to me.” She rubbed her cheek. “I’ll talk about it later with her. But at the moment…I just want to keep a good thing going. I’ve not had anything like this before, ever.” Her mouth thinned. “Father tried so hard to get me paired off even before I turned eighteen. It’s just good not to be struggling in every conversation with somebody because I’m terrified of them making a proposal.”
 

Edwin Thatcher

Theater Major
Posts
61
#10
His sister's response to Josc's likely genuine interest--which came out almost as a squeak--told him a great deal more than what she was saying herself. It softened his smile a bit, too. He'd known he should tread carefully, as it certainly wasn't his place to comment on Addie's choices as anything more than a bystander. But her investment was clear, and he still had enough empathy to know how he would take it if someone confronted him about his feelings.

“I…well. I’m happy she’s saying nice things about me.” He watched her fidget, and very nearly told her she didn't have to say anything else; they didn't have to talk about this. But they were being honest, weren't they? And he honestly wanted to know whatever she was willing to tell him. “Well. Um. I never asked her to not do anything with anyone else. I didn’t even think about it, to be honest.”

That was fair, and it saved him a very angry trip. He couldn't be angry at Josc for being unfaithful his sister when she'd done no such thing. Oh, he was still planning to talk to her, even if better sense told him he should let Addie handle it. He owed Josc one, besides, for the interrogation he'd gotten regarding Aveline.

At least Varric wasn't involved. That he knew of.

“And it’s slow. It’s still new. I don’t know what’s going to happen, to be honest. But I’m enjoying my time with her, and she’s sweet to me. I’ll talk about it later with her. But at the moment…I just want to keep a good thing going. I’ve not had anything like this before, ever.”

Edwin smiled at that, and reached across the table to rest his free hand atop hers briefly. "I understand the sentiment. Truly."

In his case, some manner of commitment had been made. And he didn't think he had to worry about that good thing just disappearing, at least not without a fight. Even if that wasn't the case, though, he would still be grateful for it.

“Father tried so hard to get me paired off even before I turned eighteen," she said, her distress almost palpable, "it’s just good not to be struggling in every conversation with somebody because I’m terrified of them making a proposal.”

"I can imagine," he muttered, pinching the bridge of his nose. "I didn't get as much of that. I guess I was the one who was expected to propose," he let out a dry laugh, "You should have seen Father's face when I told him I wasn't going to marry someone I didn't love. You'd think I told him I was going to run off and join a theatre troupe."

Of course, he'd been "in love" with his fencing instructor at the time, and had moped for weeks after she rejected him, so what had he known? Hell, what did he know about it now? Only the fact that Aveline had known Wesley a mere three months before they decided to marry, which was not something he should be thinking about in the least.

"You have a better view on it than most," he said, lifting his glass to his lips. "I suppose that's the perspective that comes with being forced into marriage, but still."

Edwin considered her for a moment. He knew what he wanted to say, but it felt a little too sentimental. A little too brotherly for what they were now. Then again, he was trying to be honest with her, and he could see no reason to hold back his thoughts in this instance.

"I'm so proud of you, Addie. When I came back to Kirkwall, I was afraid..." he swallowed, looking away briefly before his gaze returned to her, "I was afraid they'd worn you down. I can't imagine how difficult it was to grow up in that environment; to be alone." Sterling certainly wouldn't have been any help. "The fact that you know what you want and who you are, and that you're willing to fight for these things... well, it's really no wonder Josc is smitten, is it?"
 

Adelaide Orland

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#11
Eddie’s face was a picture. If Addie had been less anxious about how he would take her relationship with Josc, she might have found it funny. It when from angry, to bemused, to relieved, although she thought there might still be a twinge of crossness about his eyebrows. Or she could be reading into it because she hadn’t had a protective big brother in so long. Thankfully, once she’d told him her thoughts – that she was just going to enjoy things as they happened for now, and she and Josc could talk about it when they needed to – he appeared to relax. He also sympathised over Father’s expectations for her.

"You should have seen Father's face when I told him I wasn't going to marry someone I didn't love. You'd think I told him I was going to run off and join a theatre troupe."

Addie snorted. “You should have told him you were doing that too. Then he might have been too shocked to do anything ever again.”

Eddie lifted his glass. “You have a better view on it than most. I suppose that’s the perspective that comes with being forced into marriage, but still.”

“Not forced. Not yet.” Addie tapped the tabletop. “At the moment, Father likes me to have the illusion that it’s my choice. I know if I actually turned somebody down he’d earmarked for me, he’d destroy that without a second thought. So I…find ways around it. To make the potential husbands seem like unsuitable catches for the Orlands. It’s worked so far.”

Eddie was giving her an odd look. Almost sorrowful. "I'm so proud of you, Addie. When I came back to Kirkwall, I was afraid... I was afraid they'd worn you down.”

Well, it wasn’t an unreasonable thought, although Addie was faintly insulted. She didn’t interrupt, though.
“I can't imagine how difficult it was to grow up in that environment; to be alone. The fact that you know what you want and who you are, and that you're willing to fight for these things... well, it's really no wonder Josc is smitten, is it?"

Addie rubbed her cheek, feeling the heat on her fingertips. “Well. I don’t know if fighting for it is the right word. It’s a lot of subterfuge. And I think…maybe…if you’d seen me out of context, you might have thought I was like them too. I had to try really hard to blend in and make myself seem like the perfect daughter. I didn’t argue, always obeyed. Even with that I would sometimes say things that made Father and Sterling angry.” Her mouth thinned. “More than once, Sterling had one of the maids beaten instead of me. Because he knew that’d be more likely to keep me in line. Every terrible thing he did made me more determined to get out of there.”
 
Posts
61
#12
“Not forced. Not yet," his sister asserted. “At the moment, Father likes me to have the illusion that it’s my choice. I know if I actually turned somebody down he’d earmarked for me, he’d destroy that without a second thought. So I…find ways around it. To make the potential husbands seem like unsuitable catches for the Orlands. It’s worked so far.”

It would, wouldn't it. Father and Sterling thought most people were beneath them. And as a daughter could only be sold off for maximum profit once, he had no doubt she'd been able to convince them to preserve her market value. Maker, even thinking it with such venom made his skin crawl. The situation did, however, underscore the fact that Addie had not become the person he'd feared, and he told her as much, tossing in a comment about Josc for good measure.

It had the intended effect, bringing a slight blush to his sister's cheeks.

“Well. I don’t know if fighting for it is the right word."

He rather vehemently disagreed. Every day of existence in that household had been a fight--he just hadn't realized it until he was banished. But as Addie explained, he began to understand what she meant.

"It’s a lot of subterfuge. And I think…maybe…if you’d seen me out of context, you might have thought I was like them too. I had to try really hard to blend in and make myself seem like the perfect daughter. I didn’t argue, always obeyed. Even with that I would sometimes say things that made Father and Sterling angry.” Something in him that was wound very tightly was pulled even tighter at that. “More than once, Sterling had one of the maids beaten instead of me. Because he knew that’d be more likely to keep me in line. Every terrible thing he did made me more determined to get out of there.”

Edwin sucked in a sharp breath before he could temper his reaction. He might have tried after the fact, but what was the point? If there was one thing he didn't mind being known far and wide, it was what a contemptible person his brother was.

"He did what?" his anger was barely contained in a growl, and his hand clenched around his drink. And then--in the span of just a few moments--a rather curious thing happened. That anger was replaced by a deep wash of shame and responsibility. "Addie, I... I'm sorry you had to go through that. I should've been there to protect you. To get us both out before it ever reached that point."

Even as he said it, Edwin knew it would not have been some magical solution. He'd been weaker then; unable or unwilling to stand up for himself. He liked to hope he would have gone against Father and Sterling when they began associating his sister's worth with how much prestige she could fetch from being married off, but he just didn't know. Starkhaven had changed him; hardened him so much that he had no idea who he would have been.

"We'll get you out of there," he said, a firm conviction threading through his voice and a fire in his eyes to match it, "I promise. And once we do..."

Edwin looked away for a moment, less to see who might be listening in and more to collect his thoughts. No more lies. Not even the pretty ones that would serve to soften the harsher edges of what he'd become.

"I've been looking into the family accounts and business dealings over the past five years," he began, "trying to find something that would expose them and take away everything that matters to them. I'm close, Addie," he said in an almost desperate whisper. "I'm so close to uncovering something big."

He could feel himself slipping back into that all-consuming vengeance. Varric had warned him to let go of it, and he'd not needed it nearly as much in recent weeks, thanks to Aveline. But the thought of Sterling beating a member of staff because he couldn't beat his own sister lest her "market value" be damaged... it was enough to push him back toward that edge.
 

Adelaide Orland

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#13
She’d angered him. Or rather, Sterling had. The lightness that had come once she’d explained how she was taking things with Josc vanished again, hidden behind a dark cloud of anger. “He did what? Addie, I…I’m sorry you had to go through that. I should've been there to protect you. To get us both out before it ever reached that point."

“It wasn’t your fault you weren’t,” she pointed out, gently. “Father sent you away, and then you were…unable to come back.” The thought of what he might have been through in captivity still made her want to punch something. “You weren’t to know what was going on.”

“We’ll get you out of there. I promise. And once we do…”

Eddie glanced around the room, and then leaned forward with an air of subterfuge. "I've been looking into the family accounts and business dealings over the past five years, trying to find something that would expose them and take away everything that matters to them. I'm close, Addie, I'm so close to uncovering something big."

Something ugly was stirring in his eyes. Addie grabbed for both of his hands, and held them as tightly as she dared. “Don’t let it take over you.” Light on life experience she might be, but she’d read enough books and listened in on enough ‘casual’ conversations between bickering nobles to know how deeply that poison could go and how much damage it could do, unchecked. “They do need to be brought down, but don’t make that the only thing you think about. Otherwise, what will you do when you succeed? You need something else, as well.”

She’d just got her brother back. She couldn’t bare the thought of losing him to a vendetta, no matter how well-justified it might be. “And if Father finds out you’re poking around before you find anything solid, you’ll be in danger. You might have to run. Please, be careful. For me?”
 
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61
#14
Edwin could feel that poison seeping in. He'd let it run through his veins for years now. It sustained him in his darkest moments--gave him something to get out of bed for in the morning when he was certain his life would amount to nothing else. But it was also the thing that told him he had no future beyond his vengeance. The thing that told him he deserved no future beyond it.

When Addie grabbed his hands, her eyes imploring him, a war raged in his mind. He had to keep her safe. Safe from Father and Sterling and everyone else who would hurt her. But if he did this, he could just as easily be the one hurting her.

“Don’t let it take over you," she pleaded, and a frown etched into Edwin's features. “They do need to be brought down, but don’t make that the only thing you think about. Otherwise, what will you do when you succeed? You need something else, as well.”

He let out a breath, feeling some of that poison escape with it. He did have something else. He had friends now. People he cared about. One of them he cared about enough to want to build a future with her. And he had his sister back, something the most cynical side of him never thought would happen. They'd spent so much time apart; there was so much about her he didn't know. He needed to be here. He needed to know this person she'd become.

“And if Father finds out you’re poking around before you find anything solid, you’ll be in danger. You might have to run. Please, be careful. For me?”

He adjusted one hand to rest over top of hers and squeezed gently. "I will. I promise. And... you're right. I do need something else." Edwin gave her a soft smile. "If you'd told me that even a few months ago, I wouldn't have acknowledged it. I was so sure there was nothing else, but... there's more. A lot more." He squeezed her hands once more. "And I plan to be around for it."

Seeing his father and brother get their comeuppance wasn't going to bring back the years they'd stolen from him. But Edwin could stop throwing away more of those years himself.

Gently releasing her hands, he took a sip of his drink, then said, "I don't want to spend this time talking about Father or Sterling or any of it. It's been eight years, Addie, and you've somehow become even more brilliant than you were before. That's what I want to talk about. So. We've talked about your friends, and we've talked about Josc," he said cautiously, "what else have I missed?"
 

Adelaide Orland

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#15
Some of the tension drained away from Eddie’s face. Addie couldn’t help the relief she felt. While the thought of vengeance on Father and Sterling for the various cruelties they’d enacted over the years was satisfying – and especially so now that she knew the full story of what had happened to Eddie – she’d seen one too many light scraps between nobles turn sour in her short time mixing with the Kirkwall social circles. She had heard rumours of what happened to people who let their vendettas rule their actions. She would not see Eddie become a victim of their father all over again.

And Maker bless him, he promised to be careful. “And…you’re right. I do need something else. If you'd told me that even a few months ago, I wouldn't have acknowledged it. I was so sure there was nothing else, but... there's more. A lot more. And I plan to be around for it."

Addie squeezed his hands once more and then released him so he could drink. "I don't want to spend this time talking about Father or Sterling or any of it. It's been eight years, Addie, and you've somehow become even more brilliant than you were before. That's what I want to talk about. So. We've talked about your friends, and we've talked about Josc, what else have I missed?”

She chuckled. “Other than the usual petty squabbles between noble houses which spiral out of control every few months? Technically, very little. Although I have been teaching myself a few things, separate from the practice Celeste has been giving me for lockpicking and…other things.” She leaned it, smothering a giggle. “Fart bombs. I’ve smoked Father out of his study a few times. They’re harmless but potent.”

She settled back again. “I’ve managed to challenge him on a few occasions directly, by acting like an idiot who doesn’t know what she’s doing. He finds that extremely easy to believe. I still try to be careful though. Oh! And I’m working on something.”

She’d snuck the piece of parchment out with her, and now she untucked it from her pouch and unrolled it, revealing one of the tenement designs she had been working on that allowed for much better use of the space than the slums currently in existence. She still wasn’t sure if Celeste could actually help her do anything with this, but hopefully… “I started designing spaces. For all the people who have nowhere to go. I knew about budgeting and some draftsmanship from my lessons, but I had to teach myself about scale. I am still not sure if it is adequate.”
 

Edwin Thatcher

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Posts
61
#16
“Other than the usual petty squabbles between noble houses which spiral out of control every few months?" Edwin snorted softly. That was being generous. "Technically, very little. Although I have been teaching myself a few things, separate from the practice Celeste has been giving me for lockpicking and…other things.” When she leaned in, he arched a brow. What could possibly be more interesting than picking locks? “Fart bombs. I’ve smoked Father out of his study a few times. They’re harmless but potent.”

His own laugh caught him by surprise. "What? I would've liked to have seen that... from a safe distance. Sweet Maker, but you've met the most interesting people by pure happenstance."

She'd always had somewhat of a talent for it, though. It was impossible not to adore Addie from the very first meeting, yet she was still humble enough not to exploit that gift. Generally, at least. It seemed like she had exploited a bit of assumed naivete in the interest of pulling one over on Father and Sterling. She certainly couldn't be faulted for that.

“I’ve managed to challenge him on a few occasions directly, by acting like an idiot who doesn’t know what she’s doing. He finds that extremely easy to believe." Of course he did. Father assumed everyone was stupider than him, including his own children. "I still try to be careful though. Oh! And I’m working on something.”

Her excitement was palpable as she pulled a rolled piece of parchment from her pouch.

"Were we supposed to bring props?" he teased. "I'm afraid I left all mine at home."

As she unrolled the parchment, Edwin was struck dumb by what he saw. It wasn't just the drawing, which was quite good and seemed akin to what an architect might draft, in his opinion. No, he was rendered speechless more because of what it represented. The labeling suggested it was a tenement, with ample space for a small family.

“I started designing spaces. For all the people who have nowhere to go. I knew about budgeting and some draftsmanship from my lessons, but I had to teach myself about scale. I am still not sure if it is adequate.”

Reaching out, Edwin traced a finger over the lines. It was easy to imagine the space as though it truly existed, and perhaps even the family that might live within it. Any one of the many families displaced by the inhumane hikes in rent pricing. The tenants that remained now were paying an exorbitant amount for a space not nearly half as functional as this.

"Addie, this is..."

When Father confronted him about what he'd been doing for their tenants, he thought that was the end of it. But this drawing presented a way for them to continue what he'd started, and the idealistic side of him he'd realized wasn't as dead as he thought clung to the idea like a lifeline. Had he been eighteen--had this happened before Starkhaven--he would have enthusiastically suggested they start working on it right away. But the man he'd become was far more cautious.

"This is amazing," he said, because it certainly was. "Is this something you wish to pursue? Building these tenements, making use of the existing space?"

A war raged in his mind between his pragmatism and the strong desire to plan for the future. They couldn't do anything until Addie was out of that house and Barrett and Sterling were removed from power. But this was something he could help with, when the time came, and coming to terms with that--rather than the bleak end he'd always assumed he'd have--was easier than he expected.

"I don't know what sort of permits we'd have to acquire, but I'm sure Aveline would help," he mused, looking at his sister once more. "Is this what you plan to do? Once we get you away from Father and Sterling?"

A month ago, there would be no "we" in that sentence. He would have placed the burden squarely on his own shoulders. Now, though... the reality of it became clearer every day, in large part due to the multiple people that made up that "we."
 

Adelaide Orland

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#17
Eddie teased her. He was well enough, himself enough to tease her. Addie felt a tiny clenching portion of anxiety loosen itself somewhere around her heart. When she had extrapolated from what he’d told her about his time in captivity, she’d worried that he might be permanently changed by it. There had been more scowls and more clenched jaws than she remembered, but the Eddie she’d loved as a child was still here. He’d been added to, but the cloth was the same. She smiled shyly at him as she unfurled the parchment and explained what he was looking at.

He looked at it properly, tracing lines, leaving a sentence half-finished as he examined her work. Addie realised she was hoping her breath, and let it out with a smile as he glanced up again.

“This is amazing.” A bloom of delight unfurled itself and turned Addie’s smile radiant. Eddie’s opinion had always mattered to her and that had only been when she was regurgitating facts, not coming up with her own things. “Is this something you wish to pursue? Building these tenements, making use of the existing space?”

Addie nodded, slowly. “Yes. There’d be a lot to get through, first. I only learned enough to cover building on land, not how to acquire it first, but I imagine it’d be tricky. Just persuading the landlords to sell up,” she knew how Father would do that, and she would not entertain it for a second, “then finding temporary housing for the residents while work’s going on – I need more time to research options.”

Simply obtaining permission would be a tricky thing in itself, but Eddie had a possibility. “I don’t know what sorts of permits we’d have to acquire, but I’m sure Aveline would help. Is this what you plan to do? Once we get you away from Father and Sterling?”

Addie’s nod this time was more firm. “My friend – Celeste – took one of my drawings the last time she visited; apparently she knows somebody who might be able to help with it, although whether she meant permissions or finance, I’m not sure. I doubt Father would put his backing behind it once I left, and I wouldn’t take his money anyway.” She fiddled with her drink. “I’m hoping to get out of there soon. Every day is another day Father gets closer to pressing a marriage on me, and I think he’s starting to get suspicious of the holes I keep poking in events. After a while I’m going to have to refuse outright, and then…I don’t think he’ll take that well.”
 
Posts
61
#18
Addie wasn’t exactly adept at hiding her emotional investment. Perhaps around Father and Sterling--that must have been the case, considering how she’d got on these past years--but not around him. For as much as they were still finding their way, that gave him some hope for the future.

“Yes,” she responded, expressing her desire to pursue this craft. “There’d be a lot to get through, first. I only learned enough to cover building on land, not how to acquire it first, but I imagine it’d be tricky. Just persuading the landlords to sell up, then finding temporary housing for the residents while work’s going on – I need more time to research options.”

Funds, as well. Father certainly wouldn’t pay for it. If all went to plan, he’d cut Addie out of the family fortune--such as it was these days, tied up in investments--and she’d need coin just to get by, let alone help other people. Perhaps he could ask Varric for help in that regard.

Though there was a distant hope within him that they could seize title, property, and wealth from the remaining Orlands. A very, very distant hope. So much so that it barely warranted thought. Instead he considered the dry but safe matter of building permits.

“My friend – Celeste – took one of my drawings the last time she visited; apparently she knows somebody who might be able to help with it, although whether she meant permissions or finance, I’m not sure. I doubt Father would put his backing behind it once I left, and I wouldn’t take his money anyway.” Her demeanor changed then. She became… less, somehow. Less confident. Less happy. Less sure of herself. “I’m hoping to get out of there soon. Every day is another day Father gets closer to pressing a marriage on me, and I think he’s starting to get suspicious of the holes I keep poking in events. After a while I’m going to have to refuse outright, and then…I don’t think he’ll take that well.”

Edwin bristled at that, his face losing the softness it’d had only moments before. It was hard to remember the promise he’d just made in light of such information. He knew, of course. Addie was little more than a commodity to their father, and he was determined to sell her off one way or another.

“I won’t let him do it again, Addie,” he promised, eyes lifting to meet hers. Whatever it took, he would get her out of there. “The fact that you’ve had to live in that house alone for the past eight years is bad enough. And you’re right, every day you remain is more of a danger to you. But it won’t be much longer.”

He didn’t know if he could even make that promise, but he knew it was time to shift his plan of vengeance to something else. Perhaps he should make contact with this Celeste. If she was truly interested in helping Addie, she likely also had an interest in getting her free of her circumstances.

There was one other… factor, though. Something he’d not truly thought to account for before, but might need to now.

“Have you… heard from Mother lately? Has she been pressuring you, as well?”

Last he heard, their mother was Maker knew where. Rivain? Nevarra? It’d always been difficult to keep track. Her letters arrived weeks after being sent. And while as a young boy he’d delighted in receiving them and hearing her colorful accounts of faraway places, now that he knew the truth of his own household, he was far less charmed.

His father was a monster, but his mother? She’d left them to suffer by that monster’s will, just to preserve her own. He wasn’t sure he could ever forgive her for that.
 

Adelaide Orland

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#19
She’d almost successfully distracted Eddie from the topic of family, but unfortunately hadn’t been able to prevent herself from falling prey to it. Her fears of Father, and Sterling, had amplified with every transgression against their rules, and meeting her long-lost brother, presumed dead, secretly at night in a Hightown brothel, was about as far from it as she could get short of getting herself pregnant. Not that that was going to happen, thank the Maker. Both of them were tight with tension as she spooled out her worry over what Father might do if he found out about the rest.

“I won’t let him do it again, Addie. The fact that you’ve had to live in that house alone for the past eight years is bad enough. And you’re right, every day you remain is more of a danger to you. But it won’t be much longer.”

Addie nodded. “I’m working on a plan to get out. I just need a little more money. Some more time. Then I’ll be out.” She could maybe stay with Josc, and sell her embroidery, and then…well, Father would try to claim her back, no doubt. There would be a legal battle, he might call in mercenaries to fetch her by force. No matter how she left, it would be difficult for everyone around her. Likely why she hadn’t got any further with her escape plan in a while.

“Have you… heard from Mother lately? Has she been pressuring you, as well?”

Addie snorted. It was an unusual noise for her, but apt. “That would imply she cared enough to make an effort. She writes to me once a month, filling her maternal duty and ensuring I fill hers here for her. She tells me that I must be an obedient daughter to Father in all things.” She sighed, softly. “I don’t understand her. I think she never wanted to be married, and that all her diplomatic visits away are just an excuse to keep her away from here, now she’s ‘done her duty’ as a wife.”

A startling thought occurred to Addie. “I wonder if she’s…like me? But she decided to go with convention, to avoid fuss. I can’t – imagine it. To be married to somebody I…I couldn’t…” she breathed out hard. “It doesn’t matter. I haven’t seen her in about six months, anyway. She was nice enough then. Kind. Doting. For the week she visited. She seemed to really enjoy playing at being a mother for that week. Until she got bored."
 
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61
#20
He wasn't surprised Addie had a plan of her own. She'd had years to get it together, after all. Years of her brother failing her. He should have come back earlier. Should have let her know immediately. Should have fought harder to stay...

No. None of that helped. His guilt was a selfish thing, and he would wait until he was alone to have it out with himself for his many shortcomings. Right now, she just needed him to be present, and to do what he could.

"I have some money," he offered. "I've been saving since I got back. Some of it's been put back into resources. Greasing palms to get information. But there's a good bit more. It's yours if you need it, Addie."

Edwin was a bit surprised with how easily he gave up the plan of investing that money to ruin their father. The desire for vengeance hadn't completely faded, but it shifted in importance. Every time he met someone who genuinely seemed to care for him in a way Father hadn't, it was taken down another notch. The ability to reconcile with his sister--something he'd been afraid to even dream about--had placed it firmly below his need to make sure she was safe.

Of course, their father and Sterling were only part of it. Their mother was unlikely to press for a claim--and unlikely was a nice way of putting it. But still he had to ask. He suspected deep down, some part of him still missed the woman she'd been for very brief periods of time.

Addie's snort likely said everything that needed to be said on the subject. “That would imply she cared enough to make an effort. She writes to me once a month, filling her maternal duty and ensuring I fill hers here for her. She tells me that I must be an obedient daughter to Father in all things.” Of course she did. “I don’t understand her. I think she never wanted to be married, and that all her diplomatic visits away are just an excuse to keep her away from here, now she’s ‘done her duty’ as a wife.”

"I imagine you're right. She's had times where she's faltered in whatever her plan has been. I don't know if you remember, but she was quite doting when you were very young. Then I suppose she got bored, as she did with Sterling, as I'm sure she did with me."

“I wonder if she’s…like me? But she decided to go with convention, to avoid fuss. I can’t – imagine it. To be married to somebody I…I couldn’t…” Edwin frowned at that, a deep furrow etched into his brow. “It doesn’t matter. I haven’t seen her in about six months, anyway. She was nice enough then. Kind. Doting. For the week she visited. She seemed to really enjoy playing at being a mother for that week. Until she got bored."

It seemed they agreed on their mother's faults. But Addie grasping at something to identify with... well, it was telling. "It's hard, isn't it? They're horrible, but they're family. We make excuses for them... until we can't any longer. Until the damage they've done completely overrules any blood bond." He let out a breath through his nose and shook his head. "I struggled with it so much when I was younger. I thought if I'd been a better son, a better brother... but no. They aren't going to change, and the emotional effort to hope for it... it takes too much of a toll."

He reached across the table again and put a hand over hers, giving it a squeeze. "Varric gave me some advice on that front, and I'll pass it along to you. Paraphrasing so as not to infringe on his creative property, of course," he said with the slightest smirk, "Blood means very little. It's not what binds you and I, and it shouldn't bind you to anyone else. Choose your family in the people who care about you; who see you for what you are and appreciate it."

Edwin let go of her hand and sat back, laughing a little. This was... exhausting. They needed to find another topic, and fast. "Alright, that's quite enough of talking about our horrible family. Annnnd I realize I've taken over the questioning... sorry about that. Do you have any for me?"

Not that it would be any less horrible. Maybe some of it would. She deserved to know what he could share, though.
 
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