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The Griffon and the Raven, Chapter 30

Prompt: bar
Note: Man, I love people watching. And if you catch the movie reference, you can see just what Henri looks like. Also making a brief appearance: Scout Aragorn, going by the name of Strider. He had to do something with his time before meeting the hobbits at The Prancing Pony, right?

“Okay, so how about that guy?”

Varric made a contemplative humming noise as he took in the stranger sitting at the end of the bar. “I’d say he’s a down on his luck assassin looking for a new target. He hasn’t found any work in over three months and if he doesn’t get anything soon, he’s thinking about opening up a tea shop.”

Cassandra huffed. “An assassin out of work, in this climate? Unbelievable.”

“Then, O Seeker, who is he?”

“Obviously he’s a bard, out searching for his true love. A fortuneteller told him that he’d meet her in a tavern, but they never told him which one, so he spends his days traveling from town to town hoping to meet her.”

Cole tilted his head. “Why can’t he be an assassin who’s looking for a lady? They could open the tea shop together.”

Ravena smiled. “I like that one the best, Cole. I knew an assassin once. Well, ex-assassin.” She looked around the tavern, at ease in her surroundings. For someone of a scholarly nature, taverns and inns had always called to her as a source of comfort almost more so than any library. She figured it was the hominess of them all: no matter where she ventured out to, she could count on stepping inside a tavern and being greeted by the scent of cooking meat, hoppy ale, and tobacco smoke that seemed to permeate every surface. When she traveled, no one knew who she was or where she had come from, and she found that air of anonymity highly appealing, even long before she had become the Herald of Andraste.

Out of all the places in Skyhold, the Herald’s Rest had to be one of her favorites. The first floor was usually full of patrons at any given hour with the second floor just slightly less crowded. The third floor was a favorite spot to curl up and read, the familiar sounds of the tavern below creating a pleasant background noise that calmed her nerves. Cole was usually present in the little space he had claimed for his own and made good company. On especially stressful days, she’d find his corner empty, but a cup of hot tea and a sweet roll would be sitting there waiting for her.

Bull raised an eyebrow. “How do you get to be an ex-assassin? They retire or something?”

She took a drink. “I don’t know if he was blowing smoke or not, but he said that he had fought with the Hero of Ferelden during the Blight. Nice guy, that Zev. I hired him to act as a bodyguard for one of the jobs I was helping my cousin with about five years ago. He used to break out into fluent Antivan in front of Chantry sisters, which irritated them because they didn’t speak the language. It was so difficult to keep a straight face: here he was, telling the dirtiest jokes I’ve ever heard and I couldn’t laugh until later.”

Varric stroked his chin thoughtfully. “You know, that sounds awfully familiar. Rivani knew a guy like that once.”

“I heard he got around. Maker knows he was always trying to get into either mine or Henri’s pants any chance he could.”

Bull laughed. “And did he?”

“Nope. As usual, when Henri gets involved in his work, he pays little attention to anything else and he was oblivious to Zev’s advances. While the flirting was appreciated, I had too much on my plate at the time to add a brief fling to everything.”

Cassandra took a contemplative drink and rested her elbows on the scarred wooden table. “Just how do you go about hiring people for your jobs? Doesn’t the Chantry provide protection?”

Ravena nodded. “Oh, they offer guards, but…” she made a face. “Let’s just say that the ones assigned to us normally don’t stray too far from the straight and narrow. It puts a hamper on what we can and cannot do in their presence, which usually meant that we were forced to sneak around behind their backs while they were sleeping to do what we needed to do.”

“Do you mean to tell us that you did something unlawful while in the Chantry’s employ?”

Ravena quickly took a drink. “I wouldn’t call it unlawful, per se,” she said, trying to evade Cassandra’s question.

“Then what would you call it, Dusty?”

“Protecting historical interests. We weren’t the only game in town and what we were after at the time was worth an extremely obscene amount of money. I would have gone with a private collector, but Henri insisted that what we were discovering belonged in a Chantry museum. I went along with it because he’s family.”

Bull slapped his knee in amusement. “I knew I liked that about you, Boss.” After a beat, he nudged her. “But back to Cassandra’s question: how do you hire people? I mean, us mercenaries don’t usually go around with a sign hanging around our necks saying we’re available for hire or anything.”

“Well, I usually begin my search in a place very much like this. Taverns are havens for the sort of muscle I look for.” She slung an arm behind the back of her chair and scanned the crowd. “Sutherland’s company upstairs might be a good choice, as would any number of those rowdy Chargers over in the corner,” This earned an approving snort from Bull. “But…” Ravena’s eyes fell to the man who had just walked into the tavern. He hadn’t seen them at their table, instead intent on heading straight to the bar to order up an ale. He leaned against the bar while Cabot pulled him a pint.

“Target sighted?”

“And acquired. Excuse me.” Standing up, she smoothed a hand over her hair and made her way to the bar.

“Good evening,” she said, sidling up next to the man.

Blackwall turned at the sound of her voice. “Evening,” he replied, noting the catcalls from the table in the middle of the room. “Is there something going on that I should be aware of, Ravena?”

She smiled sweetly at him. “Not really. Cassandra just asked me how I went about picking up big, strong men to watch my back during digs.”

His eyebrow rose in interest. “Oh?”

She hummed in agreement. “My name is Ravena Trevelyan. I’m an agent of the Inquisition and I am in the process of organizing an expedition into the Exalted Plains. You look to be a man of great fortitude: would you happen to be available for hire for this trip?”

Blackwall grinned and leaned further against the counter. Taking the mug Cabot had left him, he drank deeply. “For hire, you say? How much are you paying?”

“It depends. How much coin are you worth?”

“Oh, I’m expensive, but worth every copper.” His eyes raked down her body and she couldn’t help but shiver under his stare. “I’m a man that’s good with his hands.”

She bit her lip, thrilled when she saw his eyes darken. “Are we still discussing accompanying me on this trip, or have we moved onto negotiating something else?”

His hand came up and brushed a lock of hair behind her ear. “See something you like, then?”

Both of them ignored the disgusted grunt Cabot gave them before moving into the back storage area for more bottles of mead. “I do indeed.” She stepped closer to him and put her hand on his arm. “The question is: are you interested?”

Blackwall’s hand was warm on her waist. “Very.”

“In the Exalted Plains job?”

“Hang the job, you know I’m in.” Ale forgotten, Blackwall took her hand and tilted his head towards the exit. “What say you and I discuss this something else somewhere more private?”

Behind them, the four companions Ravena had left behind looked at one another. “I don’t think that’s how she usually hires mercenaries,” Cole said, taking a sip of his drink. He had been curious about what the rest of his friends had been drinking one night, so Varric let him try his brandy. He disliked the way that it burned down his throat and stuck to his customary single glass of milk from then on.

“No, Kid, I don’t think it is.”

“Well damn, if it had been, I wish I had known her before Blackwall met her.”

Cassandra rolled her eyes. “Since we have lost our Inquisitor for the night…”

“You’re leaving? Aw, and here I was gonna break out the cards for a quick game of Wicked Grace, Seeker.”

“As I was saying, since we have lost our Inquisitor for the evening,” she pointed over in the corner where a lone man was sitting, hood obscuring his features and pipe smoke curling about him like a halo. “Who is he?”

“Ah, that’s easy. That right there is a scout with a mysterious past. It’s a mystery because he woke up one day without any recollection of who he is and he’s been searching for clues ever since.”

“Ugh. You think of the most horrible things, Varric. It’s a wonder anyone buys your books.”

“Hey, you happen to like my work, or was that some other Seeker who demanded that I finish Swords and Shields? You didn’t even have the decency to ask me for the latest chapter yourself, you sent Dusty in to do your dirty work.”



“Shut up and deal the cards already.”


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 23rd, 2015 05:48 pm (UTC)
I think commenting on a man's... fortitude... is a highly underrated compliment in this day and age haha

Also, excellent music choice - I love First Aid Kit!
Aug. 24th, 2015 06:07 pm (UTC)
I'm hooked on iTunes Radio right now. I put in an artist and they gave me a lot of new favorite music. The majority of this story is being written to moody indie-folk, which kind of seems appropriate for Ser Sad Warden.

It's also giving me a lot of upbeat tunes but then you listen to the lyrics and you realize that they're all sorts of depressing, which also fits in with Blackwall's theme of sounding like something you're not and upsetting people when they find out the truth.
Aug. 27th, 2015 11:02 am (UTC)
I don't know if you ever use 8tracks, but there are some pretty good Blackwall mixes on there... lots of moodiness, and a lot of southern gothic for that whole damned/seeking redemption vibe.
Aug. 27th, 2015 03:04 pm (UTC)
I got 8tracka to listen to a bunch of hunky Brits read poetry (and Richard Armitage reading an excerpt of North and South in character, swoon) so I'm going to have to check that out for some more music inspiration.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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