Sideline Wednesday: The Champion's Side, Chapter 1

A Shining Example

I first saw Sebastian Vael arguing at the chanter’s board. He had a stumbling, lilting accent like none I’d ever heard and piercing blue eyes that flashed as he insisted his point. And when the Grand Cleric tried to remove his request he almost pinned her hand to the board along with it, sending an arrow so quickly I hardly saw him draw the bow. I knew I had to have him.

I didn’t want him for myself, you understand. I was drawing together some people to help me effect a change in this most melancholy of cities, the former slave trade nexus, Kirkwall. Namely, that change involved me making a lot of money on an expedition to the Deep Roads with a dwarven crew so that I could move my family into some decent quarters. The altruistic, helping-my-fellow-man part came much later.

I’d fled Ferelden with hundreds of others, escaping the blight of darkspawn that was poisoning my home. Instead of welcoming and helping those of us who had already lost everything the citizens of Kirkwall had relegated my countrymen to slums and former slave pens. We were disdained and spat upon, treated like leeches, and hired for only the jobs that no resident wanted.

Luckily for my family, my mother had been raised in Kirkwall and her brother was known in the sleazier circles. Gamlen managed to find my sister and me a place with a band of hooligans who would bribe the guards to let us live in the city proper. To pay for that service we performed for the next year low tasks of their choosing, the sorts of things I’d once have scolded my little brother for even considering. But Carver and my father had been dead for weeks by then and if my mother was even to survive in the city where her parents had once owned an estate we had to make good that debt. Honest work was not to be found and other refugees mostly squatted in filth where the town’s sewers emptied in Darktown if they could not afford to pay their way past the walls.

We Hawke women took Kirkwall by surprise. My sister Bethany knew how to hide her power but when necessary she could call down a firestorm that lashed our targets while I cleaned up around the edges. Unlike Bethany, who played the demure maiden rather than be arrested by the Templars and confined to the Circle for the rest of her life, I wore my blade openly, my shield on my back even for a run to the market. It had gotten me a reputation for being aggressive but more than once I’d been attacked in a back alley and keeping arms with me had saved my life.

We settled in with Gamlen and Bethany and I started looking for people that wanted us do the sorts of tasks this Sabastian had posted on the chanter’s board. Indeed, we had been on our way to check the board when we saw him. His armor gleamed, enameled white over chain with shining buckles on the strap for his quiver. He was the white knight of fables, demanding justice, coins of light newly struck by his armor glittering about his feet. Bethany will never admit it but she swooned a little. He did make a very pretty picture, swept-back curls tossed in the morning sun and a stern look on a face just firming into manhood.

It wasn’t manhood I wanted from him but his coin. By the time he’d stormed out of the courtyard I’d revived Bethany and hauled her over to the board. Anyone with armor that clean and white had money and that meant we’d get paid. This one was right up our alley: a tale of revenge and a request not for a single assassination but the slaughter of a whole group of mercenaries. I all but rubbed my hands together. Bartrand, the dwarf who would lead the expedition, had been dismissive of my bodyguard proposal despite the Hawke reputation for mayhem and destruction among the lower classes but his brother had assured me that, given enough coin, I buy my way in and get a much heftier share of the spoils in the bargain.

Varric, the more open of the two, had actually offered to help me acquire the necessary gold. I admit to suspicion from the first but I could hardly turn down the assistance in the face of desperation. It was either this expedition or a job in the Bone Pit, a mine so badly run that only wretched Ferelden refugees would consider working there. We had a lot of contacts in the less-savory portions of Kirkwall and, though prim Bethany balked at some of the things I’d agreed to do, we’d scraped together enough of a living to keep us all from starving. But the kind of money Varric said we’d need meant venturing into Kirkwall high society.

Varric was the strangest dwarf I’d ever met. Rather than having grown up underground, carved and civilized though the cavern may have been, he’d lived on the surface his whole life. He swaggered and preened, chest hair showing through the only open collar in Kirkwall and the traditional beard naught but reddish stubble on his cheeks. His face jutted forward from his hair line down, the lumpy beak of his nose dwarfed by a jaw of massive proportions. Yet his eyes twinkled and he was always ready with a joke and a story. It seemed that was how he made his living: a bard of sorts but one who plied a crossbow rather than a lute between tales of derring-do. At some point he had moved into rooms at The Hanged Man in Lowtown and simply never been asked to leave.

He also dabbled in the black market, taking a cut from putting buyers and sellers together, smoothing the underground way while keeping his hands mostly clean. He must not have always been so far outside the filth, however. His crossbow, the one he’d named Bianca, was never far from his hand and, though lovingly maintained, showed the wear of heavy use. I never did get his own life story from him, despite how close we eventually became. He loved to be the center of attention but only when telling tales of other people’s exploits.

But I was talking about the shiny, clean Sebastian as he came into my life. When I read his posting I knew he was in pain under that crisp exterior. His request was not the usual “dispatch our rival” thing we generally ended up doing, the behest of one lowlife to eliminate competition. He sought revenge for the murder of his entire family, parents, siblings, and all. Though I needed the coin badly I would almost have offered to help him for free. The slashing hand in which he’d written his request, jagged letters at times punching through the parchment, betrayed the depth of his emotion.

It had been over a year since my father and Carver had been lost to us but not a day went by that mother didn’t mention one of them. Had I been able I’d have slaughtered the entire Darkspawn horde that had overwhelmed my father as he protected our escape. At least I’d had the chance to work with Bethany and Aveline to take down the ogre that Carver had so foolishly attacked. Nothing could have satisfied me more than the moment I had finally driven my blade into its skull. Yet mother and Bethany still blame me, as though I goaded him into throwing his life away. He had been a child still, drunk on fighting and the grief of father’s loss. I mourned my brother but I was not going to take on any more guilt for his death than I could heap on my own head.

Aveline—ah, what an amazing woman. She’d fought at the king’s side at Ostagar and escaped the slaughter to find her husband, a Templar who had been guarding the mages brought to join the battle. We’d found the pair on the road as we fled from our home, lost in the wilds and seeking to survive.

2 Response to "Sideline Wednesday: The Champion's Side, Chapter 1"

  1. Anonymous says:

    Well this is certainly interesting so far. It can be hard to write a 1st person of a well known/played story.


    Thanks! I have had a fantastic time warping the story for my own entertainment. I hope you enjoy it.

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