The Old Guard

BY : anesor
Category: +A through F > Dragon Age (all) > Dragon Age (all)
Dragon prints: 1080
Disclaimer: The Dragon Age world, plot, and their characters aren't mine but belong to Bioware. Some characters may be my creations. I get no money for writing this sequel.

Kirkwall:

The tavern noise from below changed tones.

Not much, but he reached for Bianca even as he lifted his glasses off his brow. The coded report on ships and shipments lost in Blondie's war would wait. Heavy steps on stone stairs included the scrape of metal armor, and he shoved the satchel aside for a possible quick exit. Varric still hadn't gotten around to hiring bodyguards. He didn't want to be that kind of dwarf, unapproachable for storytelling. No one with a wall of guards seemed harmless, no matter how much chest hair they displayed.

The steps stopped outside his door and paused. A stranger, then, or sounded like several strangers. He called them to enter and scraped his chair back a little as the door opened.

He didn't recognize the cloaked dwarves that entered. Two carried worn shields of experienced grognards and the female had a gold clan pin, all marked with three waves. Which house was that again? “Lady Harrowmont! You didn't need visit my humble abode. The Merchant's Guild has council rooms for visiting deshyr.”

Calling her deshyr was a fifty-fifty chance, but safe. No surface dwarf ever really objected to being taken as an Orzammar noble. He wasn't stretching too much, her clothing was like what his mother had worn. She had the slightest cringing that a deep dwarva usually carried for years on the surface.

She frowned. “Are you Varric Tethras, the casteless with a sense of honor?”

“You wound me, madame.” Varric spread his arms, hoping to look harmless. “House Tethras has been very honorable, even up here amongst unruly humans and mad Carta. My family had many fond memories of the Diamond Quarter before my father's embarrassments, so we find ourselves where our trade contacts and business acumen serve us well. How may House Tethras serve you today?”

Her disdain increased. “Save me your grandiloquent words, I've seen your books. I require your connections for a safe place.”

He began to smile. That sounded interesting. “I'd need to know what kind of safe place you need.”

Her frown grew as her eyes got abstracted. Then she opened her cloak. “I require a safe place where I needn't worry about wars on the surface.”

For a moment he'd focused on her face and missed her gravid condition.

That almost floored him. He had so rarely seen female surface dwarves. Most were sheltered away like his mother. For her to be out like this... “Congratulations, my lady. May the Stone shelter you long and well.”

“I don't care about your flowery words. Safety is what I... we need.” She stopped herself suddenly.

Varric drummed his fingers twice, thrice. She needed safety and fled away from Orzammar. Even better, she didn't want to say who she feared. That stank of politics, and the damsel was obviously on a losing side and without friends. The only question was how powerful her enemies were on the surface. He laughed without a sound. Hawke would already have taken action, but he liked the spotlight less than the fugitive Champion.

She cleared her throat, but didn't speak.

“How angry is King Bhelan with you, Lady Harrowmont? Wasn't the throne settled years ago?”

“Yes, it was.” She looked at Varric with a little more respect. “But I refuse to allow my clan to be erased.”

Varric waved at her gravid belly. “Won't that be a little difficult now? The Shaperite overrides politics for some things.”

Her smile was a little grim. “Yes, most politics. But inheritance among deshyr has not changed, despite the loosening regarding the surface. I am barely a clan leader since father's run for the throne nearly destroyed us. Then my lover was Denek, Deshyr Helmi, a little too powerful for the king to offend.”

Varric leaned forward, wishing he could take notes. He waved her to a comfortably low seat. “And?”

“He turned me away after 'years of proven infertility,' to return to the gutted Harrowmont halls. Denek was reasonable; he didn't betray me to the king but he won't protect me either.”

The irony made Varric laugh and the noble caste woman joined in as she rubbed her belly. He had to know. “So who's the lucky father and why is that a problem?”

“I cannot claim Harrowmont for myself, and Behlan decreed my children take their father's caste. Any other clan would claim my child away with the king's blessing, but Wardens don't want children. If I don't produce the father, she will be casteless as part of my clan's punishment. My child won't be casteless if I can produce a father above Dusttown who won't take him away. Then I can claim the Harrowmont seat in the Assembly, but deshyr won't vote for me if the father is casteless.”

And the king would prefer his enemies fade away without issue. Child of a Grey Warden? That book almost wrote itself. “I can find you to a safe place to deliver.”

“Find me Arkun, Grey Warden Arkun Brosca. He came up here to the surface!

“Relax. Have your guards take a seat or go watch the hallway. I'll need to learn more about this Warden. How did you meet him? What mission brought him above?” This tale would take a while, so Varric opened a fresh bottle and poured a couple of glasses as her traditional guards moved to the hall.

“Arkun contracted to fight in Provings. It's nearly the only way for a duster to meet upper caste women. Warden-Commander Sigrun fights clean so Arkun likes fighting her. He survived when the human Wardens won their Proving. Arkun saw his chance to leave being casteless behind by becoming a Warden and took it. Then I discovered I wasn't really infertile...” Her voice slowed with emotion.

Rank at birth was more important and there was a good symmetry to her story about human Wardens. “I may know a Warden or two who can help. You'll stay right here and be careful.”

--- x ---

A/N: Challenge words in this story are grandiloquent, gravid, and grognard. Thanks to my beta reader who has been kind enough to read this and point out stupid flubs. Any typos that remain are not intentional... Reviews or a PM to let me know what you think would be very appreciated.



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