Part 2: New Hopes

“This is your idea of a safe place?” exclaimed Fenris, turning to Varric.  Áedán gave a small whine and looked up at me.  As I looked around the cellar I couldn’t help but agree with both of them.

It had been two weeks since our first meeting with Varric and while he had said that he knew the perfect place, I never would have expected this.

We were in the bottom most level of an estate in Kirkwall’s High Town, a section of the city where all the nobles and important people lived.  I had one of these estates when I was Champion.  They were large, roomy, bright and airy, so under normal circumstances this place would be perfect to have children and raise a family.

If it wasn’t for the fact that I knew it was haunted.

“Oh come one!” said Varric. “You wanted a place to hide, and here it is!” He opened his arms wide to take in the dark cellar.

“I figured having an abandoned estate would come in handy one day, so I kept up the rumors that it was haunted so people would leave it alone.  I spent the last few years digging out that tunnel to Darktown for quick and easy access so it’s perfect!  Keep to the inner rooms at night where no one can see the light, keep quiet, and no one will know you’re here.”  Varric smiled at me.

I looked back doubtfully at him.  Years ago before I left Kirkwall, Varric, Fenris, Anders and I went into the Deep Roads on an expedition lead by Varric’s brother Bartrand.  We found a red lyrium idol infused with the bad kind of sentient magic in an ancient dwarven settlement -a thaig- while we were there.  But Bartrand betrayed us, taking the idol and sealing us inside, leaving us to die.

Needless to say that didn’t happen.

We had to fight some demon-infested rock monsters, but we got out.  And once we caught up with Bartrand again, he had been driven stark raving mad by the idol.  We managed to save him, but unbeknownst to us a piece of the idol was left behind in the house and the spirit or whatever that was still trapped inside was wreaking havoc.

So once again, I came to the rescue.  We cleared out the idol, the ghosts, and left the place sealed up.  And apparently Varric found other uses for it.

“You’re sure it’s clear?” I asked.  “I’m starting to get too big to fight demons and spirits.” I patted my growing belly.

“I swear Hawke,” Varric raised his hands defensively.  “I’ve had at least one of my people in here almost every day since we cleared the house out the last time.  Nothing has been reported to me.  The only ‘ghosts’ in this house are the ones I created.  Now come on!” He waved us to follow him as he headed up the stairs.  “I’ve spent a lot of good coin these past two weeks fixing the place up nice and proper for you.  The least you can do is look at it.”

Fenris and I looked at each other before I lead the way up the stairs after the dwarf.

Varric lead us through the main floor of the house, and I could see that nothing remained of the old estate when it was Bartrand’s.  Instead most of the outer rooms were empty with heavy drapes over all the windows, while the inner rooms held a few crates, some stools, and one room had a series of cots.  Varric continued on, leading us through the great hall and up the stairs, where there were three rooms that were once used as bedrooms and a study.

Varric opened the door to the central room and stood aside for us to enter.  I walked in a looked around.  It was better than the last time I saw it, covered in blood and crazy dwarf.  The room was relatively square with a small jut off on the back left corner where a large four poster feather bed kept home.  The wall to my left leading up to the bed was lined with bookcases.  To my right there was a wardrobe, a fireplace with a fire already blazing, and a crib along the back wall across from me.  A few well padded chairs and sturdy end tables filled out the rest of the room quite nicely.

“Very nice Varric,” I congratulated him.  One thing concerned me though. “What about the fire?” I asked.  “Won’t people see the smoke?”

Varric laughed at me.  “You would think I didn’t plan for these things Hawke!”  He gestured to the fire place.  “I couldn’t count on people writing off the smoke as easily as they would the lights and noises, but neither could I count on my people not needing a fire once in a while.  So I hunted around until I was able to find someone to tie in the chimneys of this house with those surrounding us.”

“You can do that?” asked Fenris, surprised.  Varric shrugged.

“Cost me a lot of money, but apparently you can.”

“You spared no expense Varric,” I said.

“But you haven’t seen it all!” Varric left the room, motioning us to follow again.  We headed out to the room at the right of the stairs.

Once Bartrand’s study, Varric had revived some of the room’s old purpose.  There was a table in front of us, with chairs for ten people.  Another fireplace on the left hand side contrasted with the fully equipped writing desk across from it.  More heavy drapery, the theme of the decor I was starting to guess, hung over the windows preventing light from getting in or out.

Varric obviously meant this room to be a meeting place when the old band came visiting, with enough chairs for more than all intended.

“Expecting a family reunion?” I quipped, gesturing towards the chairs.  I frowned as I saw a tenth chair, pulled back a bit from the table. Varric noticed and cleared his throat nervously.

“I uh…thought you might like it if we kept a place for Leandra,” he said softly.  My mother.

Tears pricked my eyes as a bent over to hug him.  “Thank you Varric,” I said as I kissed the top of his head.

“Motherhood is making you soft Hawke,” he grumbled as he turned to leave the room.  Fenris and I followed him once more and we stood on the balcony overlooking the great hall.

“You two are all set to play happy household,” said Varric.  He gestured to the third and final room to our left.  The door was closed, and the only one we hadn’t explored yet.

“That’s your dining room, and I’ll be bringing a girl in tomorrow morning to cook your meals and help out with whatever else you need done around here.  I’ve got an inner room set up for her downstairs so she can move in permanently with you two.”

“I thought this was going to be a secret?” Fenris asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Easy Elf,” Varric said with a smile.  “Remember that Elvin girl you saved from those ruins?”

“You mean Lia?” he asked, referring to a maid who had been kidnapped by the son of a magistrate.  The lad claimed demons were at work in his mind, urging him to kill Elvin children for being too beautiful, but I strongly suspected he was just plain crazier than a wolf on the full moon, and put him down as such.  I could not let him loose to wreck havoc on the lives of more innocents.  It wouldn’t do my reputation any good.

“No no, the other one.  The one Hawke hired after you rescued her from being a slave.”

“Oh!  Orana!” I exclaimed.  To be fair, we had saved a lot of Elvin maidens during my old life.  It was starting to get hard keeping track of them all.

When Fenris’ former master sent his apprentice Hadriana after him, we went on the offensive and hunted her down.  Along the way we found a young blonde elf maiden named Orana who would have been sacrificed to fuel her mistresses’ blood magic ritual, but we managed to free her.  I gave her a job in my household after that, and she proved to be diligent and hard working.  She was a sweet young girl, and when I left Kirkwall I had made sure she would be hired on and taken well care of in the estate of a friendly noble family.

I missed few people from my old life who weren’t my companions, but Orana was one of them.  It would be good to see her again.

“What about Aveline and the others?” Fenris asked.

“I sent the messages out to them this morning.  We’ll all troop in here together mid day this time next week.  Now,” Varric said as he turned and began heading down the stairs.  “If you’ll just see me off, I’ll leave you two lovebirds to your new nest.”

Once again we wandered through the house, minus Áedán who stayed behind to test the floor in front of the fireplace.  We wound up back down at the cellar where Varric pointed out one more feature of the new and improved haunted house.

It was a door a foot and a half thick, made of solid oak and banded with iron.  It could be locked from either side, by either one of the two key holders: Varric and myself.  The door opened into an excavated tunnel that lead into the poorest district of Kirkwall, a dismal place called Darktown.  Another door, twin to the one in the cellar, waited on the other end in a place few dared ventured: Ander’s clinic.

When I first met Anders, he had a clinic in Darktown where he tended to the city’s ill who couldn’t afford a doctor.  Few now frequented the area, whether they had legitimate business or not.  No one wanted to be caught in the lair of the mage who destroyed half of Kirkwall.

Fenris and I bid farewell to Varric, promising him good ale when next he came with the others.  After we had closed the door behind him, Fenris put his arm around my waist and began leading me back up the stairs.

“Still doubt trusting Varric?” I teased.  Fenris smiled at me.

“He has done a good job,” he admitted.  “I think with everything he’s done, we could be safe here.”  I stopped him at the top of the cellar stairs and put my arms around his neck.

“Well then love,” I whispered with a grin on my face.  “How about we break in that new bed of ours?”

Part 4: Family Reunion