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Sharp Dressed ... umm ... Man? [Closed]

Celeste Monroe

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#1
((4 Justinian, 35 Dragon; Morning; Kirkwall's Lowtown; after this thread; @Hanamene Thornecroft ))

The day dawned bright and clear, and Gideon whistled softly to himself as he left the Blooming Rose and headed toward the docks. The money he'd earned from the previous night's caper had been largely expended on sampling the Rose's many pleasures, but he considered it coin well spent. Life was for living and enjoying, and last night, he'd done plenty of both in very good company.

He garnered more than a few curious looks and outright stares as he strolled along. Qunari always got attention, even if they happened to be Tal-Vashoth, rather than followers of the Qun. It wasn't something that anyone could tell on sight, so Gideon didn't take offense when folk jumped to conclusions. Which was fortunate, because he'd have spent a ludicrous amount of time being offended otherwise.

The stares he got this morning, however, were likely due, at least in part, to the fact that he had donned his costume from the previous night before starting back to the ship. The reason for this was twofold: firstly, the emerald green satin dress was all he had to wear, and secondly, not having to carry the padding, shoes and wig kept his hands free for fighting.

So yes, a seven foot tall horned giant in an evening dress, with boobs and butt proportional to his size and a russet wig slightly askew on his head (the makeup had been washed off in an extended soak in the tub with two lovely ladies) was going to get a side-eye from more than a few. Gideon gave them little thought; the ones who knew him knew why he was thusly dressed, and the ones who didn't did not matter.
 

Hanamene Thornecroft

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#2
“Come here, girl, come on,” the first lad beckoned.

“That’s a good girl, come on now,” the second laughed, patting the side of his leg.

Hanamene left Lirene’s Fereldan Imports only to see the same group of young noblemen that had followed her to Lowtown from the Chantry earlier. Their morning antics had, unfortunately, become something of a regular occurrence - not just with herself, rather with any of the young Ferelden women they crossed paths with in Kirkwall. Hana made the mistake of filing a formal complaint with the city guard, only to find that no action would be taken given their high status and the collective influence their parents had in the City of Chains. The lordlings must have gotten wind of her complaint, because Hana found herself almost getting used to seeing them every other day. She did find, however, that ignoring them was not at all effective. Much as she did not hope to give them the satisfaction of acknowledging their presence, she found it usually helped to hurry them along. “Messeres, your mabari japes are in fine form - as usual,” she told them, her tone a veritable well of sarcasm, before turning to take the stairs.

To her annoyance, they’d not grown bored of her just yet. “She speaks?! The mongrel speaks?!” laughed one of the young, noble cretins. Hana would have loved to have smacked them each silly, but she would not have loved spending a fortnight or longer in a jail cell for doing so.

Had her eyes rolled back any further, Hana would not have been able to see which way she was headed - which, as it happened, was anywhere the noble spawn were not headed. Fortune smiled on her, it seemed, when Hanamene’s eyes spotted a pair of horns amongst the heads of those milling about Lowtown’s market. Her brow quirked, as much due to the sudden notion to have popped into her head as due to what the Qunari ahead of them was wearing. Hana wasn’t one for gowns herself, but had she been she might have been a little jealous.

“Fellas, as much as I adore these morning strolls, good mabari that I am, I’m afraid that I’m running a little late,” she told them, and nodded to the Qunari in question, “You see my dear…” Hanamene completely blanked. What in Andraste’s name could she refer to the Qunari as? Certainly blood relations were out of the question. Associate would have made the most sense, of course, but Hana was clouded by her own irritation with the young men that she finished with, Wife… is waiting for me in the market.”

The lordlings looked ahead, to the Qunari in the gown in question, and back to Hana with as much awe as utter disbelief. “Your wife?!” one of the young men said, incredulously.

The absurdity of Hanamene’s improvisation aside, locals were still fearful of Qunari - be they followers of the Qun or Tal-Vashoth, it did not matter. Given the gown, Hana presumed the latter. Hoped, rather, for her own sake. “Right, off I go then…” Hana said, trying to sound casual though her tone sounded more as one headed for the hangman. Stiffly, Hanamene made her very awkward approach toward the curvaceous Qunari.

“Darling! There you are,” she said, as loudly as possible, in order for the lordlings to hear. Upon standing before the towering individual, Hana’s eyes widened further with surprise. Nevertheless, forcing herself to smile broadly, Hana spoke directly to the Qunari in a sotto voce tone. Speaking through her teeth, she said, “I will pay you twelve silver to kiss me right now.”

While the lordling hecklers still stood off to the side, dumbfounded, Hana hoped that the presence of her Qunari “wife” would send them running. Moreover, she hoped her would-be intended was not one for bartering given that Hana only had exactly twelve silver on her person at that very moment.
 

Celeste Monroe

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#3
Gideon liked women. All kinds: tall or short, plump or willowy, blonde or brunette or redhead. But he did have a special fondness for tall, strongly built women, so the woman striding toward him from the direction of Lirene's caught his eye immediately.

“Darling! There you are.” That was definitely not the usual reaction that he got from the woman on the street, particularly when he was wearing the dress, but the pretty grey-green eyes were definitely fixed on him, so Gideon rolled with it, composing his features into an expression of affectionate attentiveness and letting one hand drop to the curve of her waist as she reached him. Not so low as to be improper, mind you; he was a gentleman, after all, but the gaggle of noble whelps trailing behind her suggested a motive for her behavior, so a bit of theater seemed called for … and theatrics was his specialty.

One of them, anyway.

She smiled winsomely up at him, but there was more than a bit of apprehension in her eyes as she whispered, “I will pay you twelve silver to kiss me right now.”

Gideon didn't hesitate. “As my lady commands, so do I obey,” he purred, adding in a low voice, “Grab the horns,” before he bent her backwards. Kali was already going to flay him for the tear at the waist of the dress; he didn't need any other damage to the satin. And the horns did make good gripping points. For a number of purposes.

The kiss … well, to anyone looking on – and there were quite a few – it would have dispelled any questions about their level of intimacy. But Gideon left it to his mystery lady as to how real the kiss actually became, the press of his lips gentle, the light flick of his tongue invitation, rather than demand.

“No charge,” he murmured to her with a wink when he brought her back up, adding in a louder – and decidedly masculine – voice, “Sorry I'm late, dear. Got a runner in my stocking.” Massive shoulders shrugged in a 'what can you do?' gesture.
 

Hanamene Thornecroft

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#4
“Grab the horns.” No kidding, Hana soon thought.

Finding her unusual request granted Hanamene also found herself promptly tilted backward by the towering individual. She embraced the Void, as they say, and indeed held on to the Qunari’s horns. She had to, for the Qunari teetered her so far back that one of her legs kicked up and she feared she might fall. It made for quite a theatrical embrace, however. One that suited Hana’s circumstances well enough.

The young noblemen that had been harassing her stood their distance away, mouthes agape. Each young man seemingly trying to reconcile the sight itself, let alone each of their own personal biases or opinions about it. They weren’t the only ones, being that they stood in the very public place of Lowtown’s market. Unsurprisingly, Hanamene heard a few muttered curses given in reaction to seeing the elegantly garbed Qunari and unremarkably attired Ferelden refugee kiss so ardently. The competence of the kiss itself was largely the Qunari’s doing, being that Hanamene could count on one hand just how many people she’d kissed with any sort of intimacy in her lifetime. Nevertheless, it was as real a kiss as Hana ever had. It did, however, raise a suspicion for Hana that the Qunari was not such “wife” material after all - which, in a small way, helped her relax a little. Meanwhile, a little old lady who was either blind or blind to prejudice, or perhaps lived a very full life herself, clapped softly. “That’s nice,” Hana heard the old woman sigh, apparently one of the very few who did not find the public display unsightly or inappropriate.

“No charge,” the timbre of his voice confirmed Hana’s suspicion about the Qunari. Hana was visibly flushed. “Sorry I'm late, dear. Got a runner in my stocking.” They looked the most gender-bent couple if ever there was one, for Hana, in trousers herself, had a penchant for less feminine attire and stood in contrast to the Qunari in drag. She could not speak for the Qunari’s reasoning behind his unusual choice of garb, but Hana simply opted for practicality. She preferred the lightness of leather to cumbersome mail or steel. Regardless, she gathered the Qunari would have been able to tip her back either way.

“Happens to the best of us, my... love,” Hanamene said, raising her voice as well, and despite knowing very little about stockings at all. As far as Hana had experienced, hosiery was just an uncomfortable clothing item she promptly took off and swung about whenever her grandmother had tried to dress her up in flowery dresses when Hana was a child. She once tied a pair to a stick and tried to catch fireflies with them.
Hana tried to wrap her arm around the Qunari’s waist, and looked up to see the young nobles having a very brief discussion on whether or not to pursue their mischief for the day. Hana and the Qunari’s display had left one of them quite angry, while the others looked a little pale. The majority of the small group were in agreement that it would be in their best interests not to pick a fight when there’s a Qunari suddenly involved. The group took a hasty leave, likely back to Hightown but Hanamene couldn’t be sure they weren’t simply waiting around the corner for her - ready to call her bluff.

Even so, once they were out of sight, Hana addressed the Qunari candidly, “That was…” Hana began, thinking a once in a lifetime experience but finishing instead with, Helpful. I appreciate your indulgence. I’m afraid they would have followed me around all day, otherwise.”

“May I… walk with you for a time?”
she asked in a low voice while straightening her attire, “To bolster the charade? Are you headed for the docks? In lieu of payment, would you at least allow me to buy my knight-in-shining-evening-gown a morsel or two from one of the dockside food vendors perhaps?”
 

Celeste Monroe

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#5
The girl did as she was bid and caught hold of Gideon's horns as he tipped her back. It was quickly apparent that she did not have a great deal of experience, so the Tal Vashoth did his best to make it both memorable and pleasant, as well as educational.

The effect on onlookers was predictable: Gideon felt the resultant gasp stirring the russet hair of his wig, and there were grumbles of disapproval and scattered laughter – more than a couple in the crowd likely knew of the previous night's shenanigans – punctuated by a single pair of clapping hands.

“That's nice,” the elderly lady cooed as they came up, beaming at them both. Gideon gave her a smile and dipped a flawless curtsy before offering up his apologies and a reason for his tardiness. Inexperienced or no, kissing a pretty girl was never an onerous task, so it never occurred to him to take her up on her offer of payment.

His new paramour took it in stride. “Happens to the best of us, my love,” she replied, wrapping her arm about his waist – as far as it could go, anyway.

The noble whelps still lingered, mouths ajar to varying degrees. Most seemed inclined to let the matter drop, but the face of one was flushed an angry shade of red as he berated his mates about 'not being made a fool of by a mabari bitch and a horned devil'. Gideon let his gaze fall upon them as though noticing them for a first time, a delighted smile (which could possibly have been mistaken for predatory, were one inclined to think the worst of a stranger) lighting his expression.

“And you've brought us playmates!” he proclaimed expansively – and loudly, looking them over like a gourmand surveying a buffet. “Which one is mine?”

The majority ruled shortly afterward, and they slunk off with their tails between their legs.

“That was… Helpful,” she offered once they were gone. “I appreciate your indulgence. I’m afraid they would have followed me around all day, otherwise.”

“The pleasure was mine,” he assured her, lifting her hand to his lips for a more courtly kiss, adding,

“Does Time cease to move,
Till her calm grey eye
Expands to a sky
And the clouds of her hair
Like storms go by?” *


Quite apt, though there was a touch of green in the grey of her eyes that was quite lovely; the lustrous fall of her ash-blonde hair did bring the billow of clouds to mind.

“May I… walk with you for a time?” she murmured as she corrected the slight mussing of her garb that their kiss had caused. “To bolster the charade? Are you headed for the docks? In lieu of payment, would you at least allow me to buy my knight-in-shining-evening-gown a morsel or two from one of the dockside food vendors perhaps?”

“I am bound for the docks,” he confirmed. “My ship is there, and I would be delighted if you would accompany me. And I wouldn't say no to a snack.” Breakfast at the Blooming Rose was seldom the best meal of the day, as few of the staff were awake to partake. Stubby would have the stove fired up when he returned; half a dozen boiled eggs, wrapped in sausage and fried up, would hit the spot nicely, but something to tide him over until then would be welcome … as would the company.

“So, the whelps,” he began as they made their way toward the docks, linking his arm with hers as an alternative to having her try to walk with an arm about his waist. “They bother you like that often?”

*The Kiss by Robert Graves
 

Hanamene Thornecroft

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#6
Unaccustomed to poetry, specifically when it was directed toward her person, Hanamene responded with a mildly gracious, if awkward, laugh. The recitation had reminded her of her brother in fact, for it was just the sort of thing Caethan had done on the occasions that he fancied a lass. There was an endearing absurdity to the present moment as well, given the suavity of the individual wearing the evening gown. She was relieved when he agreed to her offer, however. The haste with which the young noblemen departed at the sight of her new horned friend had been a promising sign.

“So, the whelps. They bother you like that often?” he had inquired, linking his arm with hers for which she was furthermore grateful. She had barely been able to reach her arm around his waist previously. Qunari, Tal-Vashoth or simply Vashoth, it didn’t make a difference — they were large people.

Hana sighed in response to his query. “Unfortunately,” she conceded initially, while they wandered to the docks. “Although two out of the five aren’t as bad,” she admitted, then went on to explain, “Heath Dunview and Declan Hyll, followers of the pack more than anything. The Guile brothers, however, see Fereldans like myself as the true whelps. Mongrel strays, marking corners and begging in the streets.”

“Yet the worst of the bunch, the one reluctant to give up his morning entertainment? The young, and very short, Lord Northesker, whose family’s influence stretches beyond Kirkwall I’m afraid. As such, the City Guard has yet to put the pestering lot in their places,” Hana told him. Adding, “My name is Hanamene Thornecroft. Hana, rather. Unfortunately my family name carries very little weight in the Free Marches. Which is why I could only reward you for your gallantry with—” They strolled along docks, aside mongers and their carts or stalls. Hanamene motioned to the options before them: a father and son selling fresh clams and oysters, a much fatter man peddling fish cakes though in what manner he had fried them remained dubious, and a very old woman selling a variety of baked goods, to name a few. “Gentleman’s choice,” Hana said, then realizing aloud, “I never did get your name, did I?”

Hana felt her cheeks reddening. She wasn’t in the habit of kissing strangers, but it seemed that even despite the singular anomaly it would have been more appropriate if she had at least made a muttered introduction before their lips had met that morning.
 

Celeste Monroe

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#7
Some women loved the poetry, a few hated it, others simply didn't know how to respond. Present company seemed to be of the latter sort, giving an uncertain laugh as she accepted the offer of his arm.

“Unfortunately,” she sighed when he asked her if the unwelcome attentions she'd been receiving were the norm. “Although two out of the five aren’t as bad. Heath Dunview and Declan Hyll, followers of the pack more than anything. The Guile brothers, however, see Fereldans like myself as the true whelps. Mongrel strays, marking corners and begging in the streets.”

“They're bolder when they're in a pack,” Gideon observed with a scowl, “and most likely the first two don't have the balls to go against anything the leaders do.” It was a bad combination; one that tended not to end well for someone, sooner or later.

“Yet the worst of the bunch, the one reluctant to give up his morning entertainment?” she went on. “The young, and very short, Lord Northesker, whose family’s influence stretches beyond Kirkwall I’m afraid. As such, the City Guard has yet to put the pestering lot in their places.” Gideon nodded, mentally adding the name to the face of the pouting little popinjay. With a bit of luck, he might find him alone in a dark alley somewhere.

“My name is Hanamene Thornecroft,” his companion introduced herself. “Hana, rather. Unfortunately my family name carries very little weight in the Free Marches. Which is why I could only reward you for your gallantry with—” She glanced around at the stalls and their offerings. “Gentleman’s choice,” she told him.

“A fish cake would be good.” After a lifetime at sea, Gideon remained fond of fish in just about any way it could be prepared.

“I never did get your name, did I?”
she asked him suddenly, a mildly mortified expression touching her face as a faint blush tinted her fair cheeks.

“Gideon Augustus Nicodemus Santiago Darius Monroe,” Gideon introduced himself as he always did to a new acquaintance, the syllables rolling smoothly from his tongue and accompanied by a courtly bow. “Normally, that comes before a first kiss, but -

“When a tender, young maiden, come running to me
“With arms outstretched, you've captivated me!
“As the warm sunlight glistens in your hair,
“I cry out, 'Fair maiden, I've become ensnared!'” *


*((OOC: Fair Maiden by Patricia Joan Polhans))
 

Hanamene Thornecroft

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#8
"They're bolder when they're in a pack and most likely the first two don't have the balls to go against anything the leaders do," Hanamene couldn't help but nod in agreement with Gideon's insight.

They'd found their way to the docks and were eyeing the street vendors there. Her escort, taking her up on her offer, made his selection, "A fish cake would be good."

Hanamene nodded again, this time holding up two fingers toward the vendor who exchanged the fish cakes in question with Hana for some coins. She handed Gideon his and stopped short of biting into her own, pausing a moment to sniff it. She shrugged and took a small bite as he introduced himself.

"Gideon Augustus Nicodemus Santiago Darius Monroe. Normally, that comes before a first kiss, but—" he told her, prompting a sidelong glance of muted amusement from Hanamene. Once more, though, he would catch her off guard with his poetic recitations.

"When a tender, young maiden, come running to me
With arms outstretched, you've captivated me!
As the warm sunlight glistens in your hair,
I cry out, 'Fair maiden, I've become ensnared!'"


"Oh, well I—" Hanamene began, nearly dropping her fish cake, "Can't say I've met many Vashoth, or Tal-Vashoth—" She paused a beat to allow Gideon to correct her as to which he personally identified with, before continuing, "In general, but certainly none so eloquent. Do you enjoy reading as well? I'm curious as to how you came to your education, Gideon. If you don't mind my asking?" She was curious about a lot of things by that point, actually. The gown, for example.

She also turned her sights to the vessels moored along the docks, asking, "Which ship is yours? I spent some time here, prior to taking up a commission with my current employer, guarding cargo for some of the importers and exporters docked here. Perhaps I might have heard of your vessel in passing?" Hanamene still remembered those days, shivering at her evening post. She was grateful to have met Hal, for she did not miss the first of her occupations after having left the Circle. "Have you been in Kirkwall long?" she would add.
 

Celeste Monroe

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#9
Gideon accepted the fish cake that Hanamene purchased for him and took a bite, giving an approving hum and a nod to the vendor. Not so good as Stubby’s, but decent, and not fried up in rancid oil. The fish was flaky, the seasonings enough to enhance the taste without overwhelming, and the outer crust nicely crisp. Very good, indeed. “Thank you,” he told his benefactress politely before introducing himself.

He was long since used to the looks that he got when he introduced himself; some thought it pompous, almost everyone found it eccentric. Gideon didn’t care. It was his name, not some label that would dictate what he would do with his entire life. He had chosen his name, just as he chose his own path in life, and he gloried in those choices. Fuck the Qun.

The poetry startled her again, and this time, she nearly dropped her own fish cake. "Oh, well I—" she stammered. Probably time to give it a rest; she didn’t seem offended, but neither was she blushing with pleasure. You couldn’t win them all, and Gideon won enough that he wasn’t going to have a crisis of confidence any time soon.

"Can't say I've met many Vashoth, or Tal-Vashoth—" She paused, looking up at him expectantly.

“Tal-Vashoth,” he supplied without rancor. That she was aware there was a distinction was a welcome change from just being called ‘qunari’ (or even better: bull-man).

"In general, but certainly none so eloquent. Do you enjoy reading as well? I'm curious as to how you came to your education, Gideon. If you don't mind my asking?"

“I do … enjoy reading, that is,” he answered, “and I do not mind you asking. My first father taught me to read when I was young and introduced me to poetry.” His smile was fond, tinged at the edges with well-worn sorrow. For all that Max had bought him at auction, he had been no master. He had purchased a youth who knew himself only as Maraas-Asala - literally an empty soul, a blank slate who had been taught that the Qun would write upon that slate. He had shown the boy how to write upon it himself, and given him his name … literally. Gideon would always consider Maximillian Nicodemus Darius his first father. “He always said that an appreciation of poetry was the true mark of a civilized man.”

"Which ship is yours?” Hanamene asked him, surveying the vessels tied at the docks curiously. “I spent some time here, prior to taking up a commission with my current employer, guarding cargo for some of the importers and exporters docked here. Perhaps I might have heard of your vessel in passing?"

“The Wicked Grace.” He pointed to her berth with more than a bit of pride. Even at this distance, the schooner was a beauty, all sleek lines and precise angles made to cut through the water like she was a part of it. “Fastest ship on the seas.” Not an idle boast; Old Torgun had researched meticulously before he ever laid the keel. They had known from the beginning that smuggling would be at least a part of their activities, and being able to outrun pirates and customs inspectors alike had been at the top of the wish list. Other ships could hold more cargo, but the Wicked Grace’s ability to get there first meant that she seldom lacked for cargo of both legal and contraband types. "You'd have remembered her if you'd seen her before ... and I'd have remembered you." He kept the wink playful; he had no intention of pressing a suit that was not welcomed, but she hadn't outright rejected him yet, and she was attractive.

"Have you been in Kirkwall long?"

“A few days.” Their legitimate cargo of Antivan silk had been offloaded, and hopefully the captain had found a way to hand off the lyrium stashed in the smuggler’s holes concealed throughout the ship’s structure. “Did you leave Ferelden because of the Blight … if you don’t mind me asking?” Sincerely meant, but also a gentle reminder that he'd answered her queries.
 

Hanamene Thornecroft

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#10
“Tal-Vashoth,” Gideon supplied. Hanamene bit into her fish cake, thoughtfully quiet in response, as she wondered upon the difference overall. “I do … enjoy reading, that is. And I do not mind you asking. My first father taught me to read when I was young and introduced me to poetry. He always said that an appreciation of poetry was the true mark of a civilized man."

That was unusual, Hana thought - but then she did so under the assumption that the Tal-Vashoth's father was likewise a Tal-Vashoth in turn. She felt it rude to say anything aloud, however.

Eventually Gideon pointed to a spectacular, two-masted schooner some ways ahead. “The Wicked Grace," he told her, “Fastest ship on the seas.” Had there been anything left of her fish cake by that time, Hanamene would have surely dropped it. Amongst the utilitarian merchant cogs and vainglorious-looking, and likely noble-owned, carracks, the Wicked Grace stood out like finely-cut jewel. "You'd have remembered her if you'd seen her before ... and I'd have remembered you."

The compliment went unacknowledged, as Hana appreciated the vessel no differently than her late, builder grandfather marvelled and systematically critiqued Chantries once upon a time. There were a number of newly constructed vessels in the harbour as well, but Gideon's still put them to shame. The Tal-Vashoth finished responding to her inquiries. Patiently, to his credit, "A few days. Did you leave Ferelden because of the Blight … if you don’t mind me asking?"

Hanamene frowned, her eyes falling away from the Wicked Grace in turn. "Yes. I hail from the Hinterlands of Ferelden, one of the hardest hit areas. My family has... had land. Nothing grand, mind you. We merely held tenancy in the Arling of Redcliffe. All of it overrun by darkspawn. I'm sure there's little if anything left of my childhood home now. All that's behind me." Hanamene's hands fell to rest at her waist, one upon a hip while the other upon the hilt of her father's silverite blade in its scabbard. A sword she would have happily unsheathed to scare off the lordling's harassing her a moment earlier, had she not wanted to deal with a serious rebuke from the City Guard afterward.

Her eyes lifted, returning to the ships berthed ahead of them. She gave a nod and stated, "I came to Kirkwall no differently than any of the other Fereldan refugees." Nonetheless, the late templar's sword housed at her waist suggested her time in the City of Chains played out far differently than most who'd come to Kirkwall seeking mere refuge. She turned to Gideon afterward, addressing him directly, "I ought not to monopolize anymore of your time, serah. My employer is expecting my return, besides."

Hanamene lifted her chin and offered the Tal-Vashoth a tight-lipped smirk in lieu of a broad smile, before presenting her farewell, "Thank you, Gideon Augustus Nicodemus Santiago Darius Monroe. I shall not soon forget your gallantry this day." Or the fact that they shared a rather public display, and that he donned a rather fabulous evening gown whilst it occurred. Hal wouldn't believe a word of any of it, which somehow made the event all the more amusing to her. Hanamene would linger only long enough for Gideon to say his farewell in turn. Following such, she would offer an expression of sedated amusement in tandem with a respectful nod ere she turned and went about her way. Perhaps their paths would cross again someday.
 

Celeste Monroe

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#11
Gideon had actually heard one landlubber claim that all ships looked alike, a near blasphemous assertion as far as he was concerned. With countless combinations of hulls, masts and rigging, ships came in forms very nearly as varied as women, and there were few ships tied up at the docks or anchored in the harbor that he did not recognize by name. Square-rigged barques, to fore-and-aft rigged schooners, to fully rigged galleons; admittedly, he was biased, but the Wicked Grace outshone them all, the graceful lines of her hull proclaiming the schooner to be built for speed, sails neatly furled and tied, wood and brass polished to a high gleam in the morning sun.

Hanamene seemed to appreciate the ship’s beauty; her grey eyes gleamed with approval before he doused that light with his query. He should have known better; few Fereldans in Kirkwall were there because they had suddenly developed an urge to see remarkably ugly statuary or be looked down on by the locals.

“I hail from the Hinterlands of Ferelden, one of the hardest hit areas,” she confirmed, turning her gaze downward with a frown. “My family has... had land. Nothing grand, mind you. We merely held tenancy in the Arling of Redcliffe. All of it overrun by darkspawn. I'm sure there's little if anything left of my childhood home now. All that's behind me."

“I am sorry,” Gideon told her. He’d heard dozens of variations of the same tale: whether they’d had little or much, they had lost everything. The lucky ones made it to Kirkwall with the clothes on their backs; the unlucky ones encountered the slave ships posing as transport. From the look of her, Hanamene had managed better than many, despite the whelps.

As if the same thought had occurred to her, she lifted her eyes to the harbor as though remembering the day she had arrived there. "I came to Kirkwall no differently than any of the other Fereldan refugees."

“Strength can surpass adversity,” Gideon observed. The quality of the blade at her hip suggested that she’d had a better start than most in her new surroundings, but that was far from a guarantee. Nor, to judge from the disgruntled lordlings, had she chosen to trade on her beauty.

"I ought not to monopolize anymore of your time, serah,” she said, turning to him in sudden resolution. “My employer is expecting my return, besides."

“I’ll not keep you, then,” he replied courteously. Whether that was true or whether he had stirred up memories that she did not wish to revisit, he would not seek to delay her further, though he had not minded being monopolized.

"Thank you, Gideon Augustus Nicodemus Santiago Darius Monroe,” she told him with an odd little smile, perhaps anticipating the grin that spread across his own face at her successful recall of his full name; few managed it after only a single hearing. “I shall not soon forget your gallantry this day."

“And I thank you, Hana Thornecroft, for enlivening my day considerably.” He dipped a flawless curtsy, then caught up her hand for a quick and chaste kiss. “Should you ever decide to return to the land of your birth, look for us at the docks. I can guarantee a fair price and a comfortable berth.” Leaving her to continue her day without the yapping of the whelps, he gathered his skirt in one hand and sauntered down the last steps to the lower docks, the picture of nonchalance.
 
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