I don't own anything. Buffy is not owned by me. Nor is Dragon Age. It is owned by rich, talented people. I'm a nobody. Please don't sue me. Evening Shift at the Hanged Man
“When are you going to get to her, dwarf,” the Seeker said as she loomed over Varric. She looked very intimidating in black uniform, her fanatical intensity driving home just how dangerous she could be. Most people would have been terrified.
Varric Tethras was not most people. “Who are you talking about? There are a lot of 'her's in this story.”
“You know who I mean!” the Seeker said. “The Slayer. You have been talking for hours, and still you have not made mention of the Slayer.”
“Well, that's because you asked me for the story of Hawke,” Varric said reasonably. “They had only met at this point in the most technical of senses. We had no idea who she was... what she was. If we had, things might have gone very differently...”
Varric paused in thought for a moment, before shrugging. “Then again, they might not. She was a bit of a wild card in the whole situation, that's for certain. Still, if you want to know how she became involved, then you'll need to hear the tale of how I met the Slayer...”
* * *
Buffy carried another two mugs of ale across the smelly, filthy common room of the tavern. She hated her job. She hated Kirkwall. Actually, she hated all of Thedas. She had thought that being the Slayer was terrible, even before she had been forced to stab the love of her life through the chest with a sword and send him to hell. Then, somehow, the backlash of her closing the portal sent her to her own personal hell.
Kirkwall was a filthy, diseased city sprawling up from a busy harbor and extending to ancient quarries once mined by endless processions of slaves. When Buffy had fallen into the harbor, she had found herself in a world nothing like the one she had come from. The first night spent sleeping in a rat infested alley had made her willing to beg to be the Slayer again, even if she had to crash on Giles' couch for the rest of her life.
The next morning she had learned another lesson. The people of Kirkwall were superstitious, and a girl wearing clothing like they had never seen before was presumed to be dangerous, possibly even a blood mage. Even worse, asking questions to try and figure out what blood mages were only made you more feared. She had been forced to hide in Darktown, the cramped tunnel network under the city where the poorest of the poor lived, in order to avoid being burned at the stake.
One stolen outfit later, an itchy skirt and an off white peasant blouse, and she had spent another day searching for some way of getting food and shelter. Unfortunately, she didn't even know how to blend in with the crowds of unwashed renaissance fair rejects that populated Kirkwall, much less have any marketable skills. It was only luck, or maybe the Powers finally doing something for her after everything that had happened with Angel, that she had managed to land a job as a waitress at a cheap Lowtown tavern called the Hanged Man.
She dropped the drinks off with another customer, twirling away from the drunken dockworker's groping hands with the practiced ease of months of employment at the seedy tavern. She hated her job, but it came with free room and board – consisting of a straw pallet on the floor of a glorified closet that she shared with the other two women who worked the taproom. The only reason there was enough space for her to sleep was that the other women rarely used the room, preferring to find other beds to share in the inn at night. She still blushed when she thought of the things she had seen and heard since she had started rooming with the other barmaids.
“Wench!” a customer slurred. “More ale.”
Buffy held back a sneer as she continued her job, until eventually she was called over to the bar. Corff, the bartender, handed her a tray with a bowl of thick stew and a tankard of ale on it. “Take this up to Varric's room.”
Buffy rolled her eyes as she grabbed the tray, swiftly weaving through the crowd and up the stairs to the large suite the dwarven merchant had rented longer than she had been in Thedas. Knocking swiftly, she came inside, setting the tray down next to him as he wrote something in a book in front of him. “Thanks,” he said, giving her a suave smile.
Buffy smiled back at him slightly, and started to leave, when he spoke up again.
“You know, I've seen the way you look at me,” Varric said. “You don't have to leave.”
Buffy turned around, her large eyes dewy as she gazed at him. “You're right, I can't stop staring at you. It's the chest hair, so full and manly...”
* * *
“Bullshit,” the Seeker said, slamming her hand on the chair Varric was sitting on. “That did not happen.”
“Oh come on,” Varric said. “You know almost nothing about the Slayer. How do you know she wasn't won over by a man like me?”
“I will not waste either of our time answering that absurd question,” the Seeker said. “What really happened?”
“Fine,” Varric huffed. “I just thought the story could be spiced up a bit. Add a bit of romance before we got to the violence, but...”
“Just stick to the truth,” the Seeker said firmly. “No more.... exaggerations.”
“You should know better than to expect any good storyteller to give you any story completely straight,” Varric complained. “But fine. She didn't fawn over me or my chest hair. She just set the tray down and went about business as usual. It wasn't until later that night when I went down to the common room to talk to the Rivaini that I noticed something that would change everything...”
* * *
Buffy finally finished serving the last table, and after taking one last look around the room, gave a wave to Corff which he acknowledged with a nod. She then slowly walked to the door and out into the night. She took a deep breath and stretched, looking up at the stars. When she had been living on Earth she would have turned her nose up at the stench of Lowtown, but after living and working in the Hanged Man for so many months, any break from the smell of smoke, ale, and unwashed bodies was welcome.
She strolled casually through the streets, her mind elsewhere as she walked. While time spent living like the other people of Kirkwall had helped her begin to heal from the grief and guilt of killing Angel, she still felt lost. She had no purpose, no reason for existing.
Finely honed instincts kicked in as she heard a light footstep behind her. Tilting her head subtly, she looked back, seeing several rough looking men and women wearing crude leather armor carrying bows and assorted blades. With a sigh she turned around, facing them.
“Look, do you really want to do this?” Buffy asked, her voice tired. “I just got off a long shift, and I barely make enough money to stay fed. Trust me, I'm so not worth robbing.”
“Maybe not,” a man with a ragged beard said with a disgusting leer. “But you're a right pretty one, you are. After we have some fun with you we can sell you to the Tevinters, make a pretty bit o' gold.”
“Yeah, that is so not happening,” Buffy said. “I'm not really sure I should let
you go after hearing that... but I'm really not in the mood. Last chance to run.”
The rough looking people laughed coarsely, before one woman raised a short bow and fired it at her. Buffy casually reached out and snatched it out of the air, looking down at it curiously. It was much cheaper quality than she was used to, but after giving it a quick twirl she was satisfied by its balance.
Buffy looked back up to see that her attackers had suddenly become far more wary. With a shrug she snapped her wrist forward, throwing the arrow threw the air faster than the archer could react, catching her in the shoulder with a cry of pain. “Does no one listen to me anymore?” Buffy drawled.
“Get 'er!” one of the men shouted raising a club above his head and charging.
“Guess not,” Buffy said before knocking the man out with a crescent kick to his temple.
The street was fairly narrow, and Buffy took full advantage of the barrels and other objects that cluttered its sides to funnel her attackers into small groups which she kept between herself and the archers. In a matter of minutes she had thinned the herd enough to cause the rest to hang back, unsure of what to do. With a huff of annoyance Buffy switched tactics, charging at the closest criminal and lifting him bodily from the ground, before throwing him into the cluster of archers, knocking them down like ten pins.
An arrow suddenly shot by her head, travelling much faster than the other. Looking back, she saw a man who had slipped past her when she had been distracted pinned to the wall by an arrow through the shoulder of his leather vest. Buffy turned around to see who had fired the shot.
At the end of the street was Varric Tethras, the dwarf she had seen often at the Hanged Man. He was holding the most complex crossbow had ever seen, a weapon even fancier than the best Giles had owned. When the last of the criminals scattered he operated a lever on the device, causing its four arms to fold down so that he could sling the weapon on his back.
“Well, that was invigorating,” Varric drawled as he approached, his eyes taking in the numerous downed thugs. “I get the feeling the Sharps Highwaymen won't be picking you out as an easy mark again.”
“The Sharps Who-now?” Buffy asked.
“They're a gang, been causing all sorts of trouble here in Lowtown lately,” Varric explained. “I was in the common room when you stepped out, saw a couple of them decide to follow you. Thought you could use a hand.”
Buffy shrugged and started walked back towards the Hanged Man. “I've got it,” she said.
“Obviously,” Varric agreed. “If you can fight like that, what are you doing working as a barmaid? I know a few dozen people in the city that would give good money to have you on their payrolls.”
“I don't kill people,” Buffy said firmly.
Varric took a moment to look around, raising an eyebrow as he realized that the people Buffy had subdued were only unconscious. “A respectable attitude. Still, it's one that will get you in trouble some day.”
“I can take care of myself.”
“You won't kill people,” Varric mused. “But what's your opinion on Darkspawn?”
“Darkspawn?” Buffy asked. “Why?”
“Well, they sure aren't people,” Varric said. “And I'm working on putting together a little expedition to the Deep Roads. I need some people that can handle themselves.”
“I don't do that sort of thing,” Buffy said.
“So, you're just going to be a barmaid forever then?” Varric asked. “Make a few coppers and sleep on straw for the rest of your life?”
Buffy paused, suddenly uncertain. Varric smiled and continued. “This expedition... if it works out, there'll be enough money you wouldn't have to work a day for the rest of your life.”
Buffy finally turned around. “Fine. I'm listening.”
* * *
“That's it?” the Seeker asked, her voice incredulous. “The Slayer, one of the most feared people in three Ages, and you found her working as a barmaid? One who wouldn't even kill criminals?”
Varric laughed mirthlessly. “She was just a teenager. A lost kid. I didn't know... none of us could have known what she was capable of. What she would do...”
Varric trailed off for a moment, lost in thought. “But that came much later. Best not get the story out of order. You wanted to hear everything, after all...” Author's Notes
I finally got around to playing Dragon Age 2, and ended up completely immersed. My new second favorite video game of all time. It has a very bad reputation, but the people that hate it, in my opinion, are mostly angry because they didn't get the game that they expected. It wasn't like Dragon Age: Origins. That game was a High Quest Fantasy in the style of Lord of the Rings. Dragon Age 2 was a Low City Fantasy like Fafrd and the Gray Mouser or Thieves' World. Both great genres, just very different from each other.
And the frame story of Varric as a very unreliable narrator telling the inquisitor (er, Seeker) the story? Brilliant. I had to use it for this, similar to the way the downloadables worked.
I don't plan to write any more about this, although I have a few ideas for other short sequels I could write. Probably won't actually do them though. This was just a short reaction to a great videogame that stole a week of my life.