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The Griffon and the Raven, Chapter 26

Prompt: story
Note: 1) Varric was supposed to be Ravena's BFF, but Dorian went all stealth-friendship on me. Varric wound up sharing the #1 friend spot with him for this series. 2) Varric still winds up being the type of friend everyone needs when they need a shoulder to lean on. 3)spot the movie reference.


Ravena found Varric sitting by himself in a corner of the tavern’s second floor. He usually held court there when he couldn’t be found in the Great Hall, the scarred table littered with missives from the Merchant’s Guild, letters from his editors, and various drafts of his works in progresses. The chairs surrounding the table would usually be full, or at least have a handful of people sitting in them, all waiting to be regaled with one of his legendary stories. Tonight, the table was empty, as were the chairs. He had his customary glass of brandy in his hand, but it looked as if he were more concerned with staring into the contents of his cup than actually drinking.

“I ever tell you about the time Hawke was challenged by the Arishok?” he asked, not looking up when Ravena sat down next to him.

“Not apart from what you wrote in her book,” she replied.

He huffed a humorless laugh. “I had a time trying to write that chapter. Words can’t really capture the smell of Kirkwall burning, the feeling of the nobles’ sheer terror that buzzed around the Viscount’s chamber like a swarm of angry bees. I couldn’t find the right words to give just how much that damned place reeked of blood any sort of justice.” He stared at the tabletop. “There had been so much: the Viscount’s, the Arishok’s, but most of it had been Hawke’s. He yelled doesn’t really define the way Sebastian screamed her name when the Arishok ran her through either. We all had to hold him back or else he would have gone in there to fight at her side, which would have killed her for certain.”

“Varric…”

“That thing, that fear demon. It told me that I was going to be the reason Hawke died, just like I was the reason her sister…” He took a gulp of his drink. “We had to leave Sunshine in the Deep Roads. Fenris and I built a cairn over her to keep darkspawn and whatever other scavengers away. Poor Bethany, it was agony for her at the end. I volunteered to…to end her suffering, but Hawke insisted that she be the one.”

“She didn’t want anyone else burdened with the guilt of taking her sister’s life, no matter how humane the reason.”

“Heh. Too late for that one. It was my damned brother’s idea to go into the Deep Roads to get treasure. It was my damned fault that Hawke and her family got involved in the first place. It took months for me to finally work up the courage to step foot inside Hawke’s home and offer my condolences to Leandra. I don’t know about you, but most of the Fade that we went through looked a damned lot like the Deep Roads. I could go the rest of my life without going underground again.” He was quiet for a beat. “I killed him, you know. Bartrand. The idol drove him insane. I could have spared him, could have found him help, but…” He swirled his drink, not caring about how it sloshed out of his glass. “His death, that’s on me, too.”

“The fear demon knew how to push our buttons,” she admitted. “Get us good and scared and it would just get stronger and stronger. But we beat it.”

“Yeah. Too bad it cost us Stroud.”

Her face fell. “I know. He was a good man.” Her fingers twitched on the wooden tabletop and she suddenly wished that she had thought to bring a drink up for herself. “Abandonment.”

Varric finally looked up at her. “What?”

She took a breath, held it, and slowly let it out. “It told me that the only reason you all were still with me was because of the Mark. Had I not had it, you would be long gone by now.”

“Well, that’s just bullshit.”

“I know that now, but right then, in the moment…” she frowned. “It told me that I’d never be good enough, smart enough, strong enough to keep anyone with me, not without holding some sort of enticement over your heads to make you stay. That I’d be powerless to do anything but watch as you all walked away.” Then, there in the Fade, the threat of them leaving had been even more powerful than any threat of them dying. She had lied to Blackwall when he had asked her what had happened, failure slipping past her lips easier than an explanation on how the demon’s insidious voice had slithered past her ears. You think that love will be enough to keep your Warden, but he’ll turn his back on you like your Templar before him. He’ll cast you aside like your parents did and ignore you just like your brother is doing. It’s only a matter of time before he moves on to someone better and forgets you.

Warm hands on her own brought her back to the present. “Hey,” Varric said, his fingers squeezing over hers. “I’m not going anywhere. The bar might not be seedy enough for my usual tastes, but the company is fantastic.”

“And after?”

He gave her a sympathetic look. “You know I love you, Dusty, but I love Hawke too. We both know where she’s headed once everything is all over. I’ve heard good things about Starkhaven in the springtime.” He bumped her shoulder with his. “But, as crazy as it sounds, I still want to see Skyhold in the winter. Besides, you can’t get rid of me that easily. I need to go on one of your digs to see if all the stories you tell are true or if you’re just pulling them out of your ass to impress me.”

Ravena let out a watery sounding laugh. “I love you too, Varric.” She gratefully leaned against him. “So, my stories really do impress you?”

“Yep. The one about taking the golden statue off a hidden pressure plate triggering that gigantic rolling boulder trap sounds like something straight out of one of my serials.”

She laughed. “If you ever want to take a break from the romance genre and head back into the adventure titles, let me know and I’ll see what I can do.”

He gave her hands one last squeeze before pulling back. “Feel better?”

“Yes. Thank you.”

“That’s what I’m here for. Well, that and to play the part of the loveable dwarf with a gorgeous crossbow.”

“And a heart of gold?”

“Absolutely.” His fingers nervously tapped on the tabletop. “I know we’ve only come back from Adamant, but I gotta ask you a favor.”

She sat up straighter. “Done. What do you need?”

He wagged a finger at her. “You know, you really need to start asking people what they want you to get into before blindly agreeing to things.”

“Please. Did we not just go through the touchy-feely friendship moment a few seconds ago? What can I do?” She listened as Varric told her of an old friend needing his help. She couldn’t help but be curious about this Bianca person, especially when Varric’s eyes softened and his mouth curved up into a nostalgic looking smile. She’d seen the same expression on Hawke’s face when she spoke of Sebastian, and Ravena was pretty sure that she herself had that same look whenever she talked about Blackwall. She didn’t ask Varric any personal questions about his friend, thinking that she would have plenty of time later on to observe them together and form her own opinion, but between the two of them, they planned out an excursion in record time. She was going to leave their list of goods needed for the trip with the quartermaster when Varric called out to her.

“Hey, Ravena?”

It was the first time that she had ever heard Varric use her given name. “Yes, Varric?”

“I don’t think any of us has said it, but thanks for getting us out of there.” He gave her a smile. “But from me personally, thanks for getting Hawke out. The letter I’m writing Choir Boy would have been a hell of a lot harder to do otherwise.”

She nodded. “You’re welcome.”

It was late by the time she climbed the stairs leading to the hayloft. She had to smile when she found Blackwall lounging on his bed, a pile of wood shavings at his side, a block of wood in his hands slowly turning into a Mabari pup destined for one of the children who called Skyhold home. When he first told her about making toys for the children in his spare time so they could have something to call their own in a new place, she had thought it was endearing that he would think of their smallest refugees when they could have easily been overlooked. When she got to see him deliver simple carved birds or dogs or the roughly made doll he had crafted out of twine and spare burlap and how much the children loved them, it made Ravena love him all the more.

“Here,” she said, sitting cross-legged beside him in bed and plopping a rag full of cookies on top of his chest.

“What’s this?” he asked, setting the dog aside.

“Sera made them, asked if I’d share.” As soon as she had left Varric, she had dropped in on Sera, who had sensed that Ravena had wanted to talk about anything other than the events in Adamant. Instead, Sera had dragged Ravena out one of her windows and onto the rooftop, where the two of them talked about cookies and family instead. Sera hadn’t been happy with how her newly-coined Inquisition Cookies had turned out, but brightened when Ravena offered to help her tweak the recipe until Sera was satisfied with their taste.

He picked up one and regarded it with a wary eye, which was always a good thing to do with anything that came from Sera. “Are these raisins?”

“She’s not too keen on keeping raisins in the recipe.” Settling down beside him, she moved the cookies to an empty crate Blackwall was using as a bedside table. “What kind do you like? I’ll make sure to bake up a batch for you the next time the cooks let us in the kitchen.”

He raised an eyebrow. “I didn’t know you baked.”

She scoffed. “Please. If I wasn’t running around outside with my brothers or in my father’s study with my nose stuck in a book, I could be found in my family’s kitchens. Our cook taught me everything I know.” Ravena smiled and snuggled close to Blackwall. She hadn’t thought about Audrey in such a long time, but she had loved spending time with the older woman. She had been patient and kind as she taught Ravena how to make basic things much like she would have taught her own daughter. Like Sera, Ravena had missed the cookie lesson from her own mother, but she had been lucky enough to learn it from Mistress Audrey instead.

It suddenly hit her how very lonely her mother must have been. While Ravena had learned to embroider and paint china cups and a multitude of other ladylike pastimes from her mother, she had never really latched on to any for them to have a shared hobby to bond over, preferring to spend her time in her father’s study over her mother’s day room. When her oldest brother had married, her mother had gushed about René’s new bride, joyful that she finally had someone to spend time with. At the time, it hadn’t bothered her, but now…

Sensing her silent withdrawal, Blackwall wrapped his arm around her and tugged her closer to his side. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

She shook her head. “Nothing. I was just thinking that I owe my mother a long-overdue letter.”

They were both quiet for a while, content to listen to the world revolve outside the hayloft. “Chocolate,” Blackwall said, breaking the silence.

Ravena rested her chin on his chest. “Hmm?”

“I like chocolate,” he explained. “When I was little, it was too expensive to get but once a year, after the harvest and Da had been paid. He spent most of his money on seed for the next season’s planting, the rest on cheap booze. My mother would save what she could, and she would splurge by getting an ounce of dark chocolate at a market stall. Alone, it would have been too little to split between the four of us, so she would dice it up into the smallest of chips and add them to the morning biscuits with a bit of sugar she had bartered with a neighbor for. It wasn’t quite a cookie, but Liddy and I loved them. Ma would serve them with this heavy-handed Orlesian accent and mispronounce pain au chocolat on purpose to make Liddy laugh.” He closed his eyes, all but tasting the simple treat. He remembered that after he had won the Grand Tourney, he had sent his mother a basket overflowing with the finest Orlesian chocolates he could buy. Thinking back, he would have been better off sending her all the money he had pissed away on wine and whores instead, not knowing that back home his father’s field had gone unplanted for several seasons and that his father himself spent most of his days marinating in homemade hooch while his mother scrimped and did all sorts of jobs around the village to scrape up enough coin to keep a roof over their heads. They may have been poor growing up, but both of his parents had died paupers while he had the means to help, but had been too thoughtless and selfish to do so.

“Then I’ll be sure to let Sera know to add chocolate chips into her recipe, just for you.”

He smiled, shaking off the sad memories. “You spoil me.”

Leaning up, she pressed a brief kiss to his lips. “Someone has to.” Picking up the half-finished Mabari, she turned it in her hands. “Who’s this for?”

“Trevor, Scout Jim’s little boy. Jim keeps on going on about his son wants to get a dog, but with the war and everything, it’s impossible. I thought this might be enough to tide him over until later.”

“That’s thoughtful of you.” She kissed him again. “And incredibly sweet.”

“Don’t tell anyone. It’ll ruin my image of being this tough bear of a man.”

Ravena crossed her fingers over her heart. “You’re secret’s safe with me.” She arched her eyebrow. “Though I may need some bribery to keep my lips sealed after a while.”

“Ah, there’s that mercenary streak I was warned about.” He leered and rolled them over so that he loomed over her, his forearms braced on either side of her head. “I may not be able to keep your lips sealed, my lady, but I bet I could keep them busy.”

Below, Dennett shook his head as a peal of laughter drifted down from the hayloft. “Young love,” he said, patting one of the horses’ necks. Dousing the lanterns, he made sure that the barn door was closed and secured for the night. “It’s either irritatingly sweet or just plain irritating.” Still shaking his head, he left the stables and made his way to his quarters, where a letter to his wife was waiting to be written.

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
reconnoiterer
Aug. 23rd, 2015 05:55 pm (UTC)
Everyone must sit around and feel sad about Stroud. EVERYONE. Blackwall, you especially!

I liked the part about the Arishok battle - it reminded me of how intense it was, particularly the first time around. It was SO HARD! I mostly just remember running around in circles waiting for my mana to regenerate haha Oh, and my dog was there too? It was a crazy time for everyone.

I'd like to see more about this tension with the mom - I think there's some real potential there! We all know mom relationships can be complicated, even for heroes.
iceprincessd
Aug. 24th, 2015 04:49 pm (UTC)
Everyone needs to be sad about Stroud. I imagine that there was an off-screen wake where all the Wardens had awesome "remember when" stories and stuff.

But guilt monkeys all around: these were the same people who drove him away because "srsly dudebro, how can you NOT think turning ourselves into a demon army to stop the calling is a bad idea. We're so gonna kill you for that." on top of the winged army of guilt monkeys Blackwall normally has at his disposal.

I had thought to keep mom!trevelyan on the back burner since I have some bro!trevelyan angst queuing up in a few chapters, but what the hell. We might have an over 50 chapter story because I want to add in something with Henri too, but there might be a chapter where a girl and her mom get kidnapped, bearded boy goes with potential dad-in-law to rescue, girl kicks ass and asks them what took them so long. Bull and Varric rake in a ton of cash from the betting pool.
reconnoiterer
Aug. 27th, 2015 11:09 am (UTC)
I hope there was at least one that was like "remember when Stroud lost a bet and had to shave his mustache?" and no one believed him as no one could ever imagine him without it ;)

Hahahaaaaa okay yes, I think burly, bearded, sleeps-in-the-barn Blackwall and a sophisticated, noble, fancy wine drinking dadvelyan (Trevelydad?) would be an amazing buddy-cop duo with a generous helping of "what are your intentions toward my daughter" and "why do you know so much about fancy wines if you are just a woodsy warden?" just to sweeten the pot.

iceprincessd
Aug. 27th, 2015 02:54 pm (UTC)
Oh, Dadvelyan and Blackwall would be an awesome duo. There's all the trying to rescue girlfriends/wives, plus the what are your intentions talk. Someone breaks the ice with a really bad stress-induced dad joke and by the end of it all, Blackwall's pretty much family.

"But if you hurt my baby girl again, I'll take you out back and no one will ever find your body." Because Ravena is a total daddy's girl, no matter how old she gets.

A mustache less Stroud?? No one would recognize him! I feel bad for the guy because it's either some dude we only met for a scene or two or Hawke, who we played an entire game with. Even if we wanted to save him, I can't, because leaving Hawke would make Varric sad, and I just can't make Varric sad.
reconnoiterer
Sep. 3rd, 2015 01:51 pm (UTC)
My second time around I purposely imported one of my throw-away Hawkes just so I wouldn't feel bad leaving her behind to bring Stroud back... as he obviously, quickly became my fave. I'm not sure if you've ever done a playthrough with leaving Hawke behind (to spare Alistair, maybe?) but yes, it does make Varric VERY sad and you get the conversation option to hug him... which Bobby did with his tall strapping buffdude manquisitor and the animation was kind of amazing since Varric was only waist-high or so on him.
iceprincessd
Sep. 3rd, 2015 08:47 pm (UTC)
When I saw it was Hawke or Stroud, I purposely did not do a world save with Warden!Alistair. Must protect the Alibear! I made a decision that this Lavellan run I'm doing is going to be called The Bearer of the Angst Bunnies, so I made a Good Hawke who fell in love with Merrill and was bros with Varric, because if Lavellan has to deal with having the Dread Wolf as her boyfriend, then EVERYONE is going to be sad bears. I'm taking bets that no one likes her by the end of the game, which will probably screw her chances of survival with the DLC.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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