Kirkwall, evening, the Hanged Man tavern.
The tavern Messalyn Tabris came into this evening was a trash pit: dirty, crowdy, filled with worst kind of people this city had to offer. And although the young elf was more than capable of defending herself some faces she saw here gave her the creeps.
As a Warden Commander of Ferelden she was assign on special mission here, in Free Marches. She and a couple more Wardens have been here for a week already and still no sign of any messenger. To provide better secrecy they were to disguise as refugees, which among many other unpleasant things meant living in low town.
Dim lights of candles and small fire place, dirty creaky wooden chairs, old and staggering tables so small that you had to choose whether to put your hands on it or your meal, `cause there was no room for both at the same time.
"Maker, what a piss hole!" Tabris sighed and moved forward o barkeeper trying to avoid any contact with drunken visitors as much as possible.
'I thought after defeating the Archdeamon and saving the entire country... twise I`d never have to leave in such miserable conditions... Ah, seems nothing changes!'
She was wearing simple clothing like many others people here her shiny Warden Commander armor would definitely attract too much attention. But still Messalyn didn`t feel herself completely vulnerable her skills, her reflexes and more importantly her wits were still with her.
One unlucky sailor accidently pushed her but instead of responding the young elf simply moved her shoulder back helping drunk guy continue his movement towards hospitable wooden floor. Sailor fell with groan sigh, then a few seconds after Messalyn heard his snoring.
With no more "accidents" she came by the bar table and took a seat literally, from another drunk into ass refugee who took his place on the comfortable floor as well.
"Nice hair, sweety!" Bartender commented her short snow-white pigtails, "Haven`t seen you around here before, new to this city?"
"You could say that
" Messalyn stretched her neck and put elbows on greasy bar table.
"So what will it be?"
The elven girl squinted looking on long faded menu which was curved into massive old wooden desk behind the man.
"I`ll take dwarven lichen ale
If i`m reading it right..."
"I wouldn`t if I were you, dear!" Bartender said while cleaning dirty wooden barrel, "The only dwarven thing in this stuff is that little runt that brings me this shit every day
The sailors here do not bother, but I`d hate to see you after you drink this muck."
Warden sniffed and chuckled.
"Well, thanks for honesty! I suppose Royal Brandy is not advisable either?"
"Not unless you want to wake up in nearby ditch with no pants on
Though I`d pay a sovereign to see that!"
The elf chuckled and looked at him sarcastically.
"So what would YOU drink?"
Bartender smiled sarcastically and shook his head.
"Water! But I think I have something for you, dear
" He took some wooden bottle with no sticker and filled the mug he just washed with some dark-red liquid.
"Plum vodka. Pricy but it`s much safer for your insides
Just don`t mix it with anything here..."
"Thanks!" Warden Commander took relatively clean barrel, "Why by the way - were there any accidents?
Man gave her cunning smirk.
"Remember couple of guys wanted to celebrate something here a week or so ago... They didn`t listen to me - and none came out of here looking pretty!"
Tabris laughed and sipped her drink. The brew turned out to be very good: not too sweet, not too sour, quite well made!
"My complements good man!" She said to bartender, "Very good stuff!"
She heard someone been hit behind, few sighs and groans and then another sound of fallen body, but didn`t pay any attention since it didn`t affect her.
Before she could take another sup she felt another push, stronger this time and
painful. She even lost her cup, which was even more painful.
"Auch! Watch it damn it!" she was ready smudge bastard over the wall, "You ruined my drink, asshole!"
The man who hit her was wearing long cloak with hood that hid his face almost completely.
"My apologies, madam. Let me compensate it
" He gave her small nod and turned to barkeeper, "Korf, as usual please! And give this young lady whatever she ordered before
"Hello Hawke! How are you today, still scouring around, hah?"
"Still prying about everything, Korf? The less you know the easier your sleep is
"Fair point! But if not you and Varric - I`d lost my job long ago: good gossip is best commercial! To your health!"
The mysterious man took his seat next to Messalyn and tossed a small sack of coins on table before her.
"This is yours by the way
Messalyn widened her eyes in surprise and checked her pockets indeed it was her valet
Where did you
"Don`t like pickpockets" Replied hooded man, "Be more careful next time, young one
He reached for his drink but stuborn barkeeper held the pint.
"Well, tell a joke at least?" Korf made such funny irritated face that Hawke couldn`t help and smirked.
"Very well... You know how many ways there are to control women?"
'Bah, typical men, figures...' Thought Messalyn, awaiting some vulgarity, but she was surprised.
Bartender thought a bit.
"No... How many?"
"There are two!" Hawk stroked his short blowzy mustache, "But no one knows them!"
Barkeeper laughed and gave stranger large pint of some transparent drink, the very smell of it nearly knocked Messalyn out, she even sniffed. As she received another portion of Plum Vodka she couldn`t help but speak to this man.
The man took deep sip of his brew, then took his off his hood and turned his face to her, by his look he was very tired. He was human: about 30-35 year old with long brown hair plaited on his nape into knot and dim dark tattoos on his face in shape of fire leafs. His pale-brown eyes looked right at her.
"Thanks for heads up, human
and for the drink. Not many people would bother helping an elf in our times
The man nodded.
"True... But the Hero of Ferelden was an elf just like yourself, that`s a weight in the balance is it not?" He took a small pause and looked down on his worn dirty leather boots, "
Though I don`t need such examples to see that our differences are only skin deep
Messalyn smiled and smirked.
'If only he knew!'
But she was touched by this strangers words: she definitely started to like this guy.
He might be just the persone she was looking for...
"What are you doing here, lass?" He asked, "Such place is not safe for young girl of your age and... appearance!"
Messalyn turned her eyes towards barkeeper and waved this query away.
"Trying to relax mostly
Trust me I have seen my share of fights..."
"You don`t lie very well
" Hawke took another sip of his drink and turned to table side as well, "But I won`t doubt the second part, I can see it... Word of advice?"
Messalyn narrowed her eyes and looked at him with not a kind sight.
"I don`t remember asking you for one, shem!"
Stranger chuckled and shook his head, he then drank all his remained portion with one last sip and hoisted empty wooden pint on bar table.
Thanks for drinks Korf, see you!"
"Sure thing, friend!"
Stranger paid the bartender and stood up intending to leave.
" Warden Commander called him, Hawke stopped and turned to her, "You seem like a man who knows what happens here
I could use your expertise
"Sorry lass, but my charity ended with those drinks
" he yawned and stretched with light sigh of pain, "I`m not in a mood to share information freely, I have a family to feed
Messalyn took out her valet and threw it on table before him with cunning smile.
"Now we are talking
Hawke caught sack with his fingers and opened it, as he examined the coins his eyes became a bit... suspicious, to put it lightly.
"You are far too generous for simple refugee, my dear
" He signed her to follow him.
The young Tabris sipped her drink with one shot and came.
Hawke approached some dwarf, talked to him for a minute, then took something from him and continued his way upstairs. Messalyn followed him. She walked up, listening to creak of tacky stairs under her armored boots... She was not affraid - she has learned long ago not to trust people, and the dual blades and armor hidden under her tatters were the best proof to that.
In any case she knew she could defend herself from any aggression after all this guy no matter how skilled could hardly compete with an Arch Demon
As they both came by the room Hawke opened the door and stepped in. Messalyn didn`t go with him, preffered to wait until he ignited candles and she could see entire room one can never be too sure.
As she entered accommodation she noticed that it was VERY large room luxury even: massive and beautiful stone mosaic on the walls showing dwarven architecture, huge table in the middle, from the looks of it very comfortable double bed
Comparing to any other rooms or even houses of this district it was a royal suit!
Hawk took a seat by the massive table and offered her to do the same. Messalyn eyed room one more time then stepped forward and sat on curved wooden chair.
"So, I assume you are not just a refugee, you could buy a house on such coin you know?" Hawke put his elbows on stone table and leaned his chin oh his locked fists.
"You don`t need to know who I am!" responded elf crossing her hands on table before her, "Answer my questions and you may take the money I gave you
"And what if my answers would not satisfy you?"
"Try to satisfy, it is in your interests!"
The man before her chuckled and nodded.
"Okay, I`ll try to earn those then
"You know someone by the name "Anders"?"
Interlocutor sniffed with light smile.
"I have heard that name, yes
" He didn`t say anything more.
Messalyn narrowed her eyes, her fists clenched so knuckles crunched.
"Stop playing games! I need to find him!"
Hawke nodded with a light smile.
"You and a half of the Kirkwall... Need some itch oinment, it seems to be of a high demand recently?"
Tabris simply incenirated him with her glance, but she remained unruffled, at least outwardly.
"So you HAVE heard of him..."
"Rumors only" Hawke weary stretch his neck, scratching his bristly cheek, the day was tiresome. "People gossips, nothing more..."
That was smart of him, the rogue definitely knew something and even more definitely didn`t want to share his knowledge..., so Warden Commander decided to change her tactics.
"By your look I can tell that you are the thief..., or an assassin..."
Hawke folded his fingers into the lock and shrug.
"From time to time, some days both... That depends..."
"Depends on what?" Messalyn wove her fingers together and crossed her legs.
Hawke`s cunning eyes looked right on her.
"On my point of view on certain... issues, literally sometimes!" he then went silent and continued only after a minute or so, "I doubt I can help you in this matter, though..."
"You lie, we both know that!"
"You can barely lie yourself left alone catch me on it!" Assassin`s voice was calm, but... tense, "What makes you think I know this "Anders" at all - not to mention finding him?"
"Don`t lie to me!" Messalyn started to lose her patience, "I see you know something, start talking!"
Hawke gave her long cold look and stood up.
"You know the last thing I tell any arrogant bastard before my knife goes through his or her throat? DO NOT THREATEN ME!"
He took out ill-fated sack of coins and threw it on table before her, full valet jingled on cold stone.
"Our business here is finished, Warden
Messalyn stood up and blocked the way, her arm reached one of hidden blades.
But before she knew she felt cold sharp metallic blade near her throat, Hawk was much faster.
"I bear nothing but respect for Grey Wardens, but I will defend myself if I have to
Let me go!"
"Not a chance!" with blinding speed Messalyn took out her blade and hit opponent.
Hawke leapt back and dodged her attack, when he hit the ground both his hands were holding sharp daggers, one still bared dried blood traces.
"It doesnt need to come to this!"
"Then tell me what I want!"
Warden Commander took out the second blade as well and snapped her tatters showing him her shiny battle armor with Griffon Crest on chest plate.
Hawke flourished his weapons and rushed on her: one, two, three strikes and he was thrown back by her mighty counter attack. Assassin leaped back on his feet and spit bloody saliva, his eyes glimed with anger. He took out small knife and threw on her, but sharp reaction and blinding reflexes forged in numerous fights didn`t fail her with swift strike she deflected knife and it jammed deeply into nearby wall.
But it occurred to be just a distraction, nothing more, since the next second Hawke attacked her again but this time more effectively! Like he learned from previous fail his strikes were sharp and swift, Messalyn managed to fight back but in such small room assassin with short daggers had advantage and she knew it.
Another avenue of attacks was productive for Hawke he managed to cut Warden Commander twice while remained unharmed, armor saved Messalyn`s life but she knew she`d better not rely on it too much
Assassin parryed her last prick, rolled over his right leg and smashed her with left, Warden Commander was forced back by mighty strike and barely kept her balance.
Even if he stood his ground Hawke understood he could not hold it much longer - he was very exhausted for the day, and the girl seemed like she knew no tire! With all his agility Hawke was assassin - shadow was his verse: he simply wans`t prepaired or armed for long fight with heavily armored opponent.
Messalyn in the mean time rushed forward trying to charge assassin and knock him off his feet, but instead Hawke made an elegant flip back and his knee kick sent her on the ground. Messalyn have fallen but briefly recovered and rolled to the right to dodge an attack that soon followed, but this time she took initiative in her hands: three accurate strong swings shocked her opponent, she then rushed forward and disarmed him with blinding dual strike.
Hawke tried to hit her with his bare hands but was captured, locked and soon pressed against the wall.
"Now speak, maggot!" Messalyn hissed, "Where is Anders?!"
"Go to hell!"
Hawke pushed himself from the wall and hit Warden Commander with his elbow, he then ran over the wall and slipped her grasp. Before she knew assassin took her right arm into lock, grabbed out his throwing knife which was still jammed in the wooden prison and nailed her right palm to the wall.
Messalyn screamed of pain and lost her weapons, clenching for wounded palm. Hawke stood back breathing heavily, the dim lights of candles danced on his sweaty face: he then collected his lost daggers and looked at her, he felt foul stabbing pain in his heart...
"Do not follow me, Warden! ... And take my advice leave this city for good!" He pointed his dagger towards her face, breathing heavily like he was running from ArchDemon, "You have been warned...!"
Assassin threw the hood on his head and ran out from the room, holding his chest, and disappeared in the crowd. It took a few minutes for Messalyn to safely extract blade from her palm. She then threw away blooded knife and hastly bandaged her wounded arm with scrapes of her tatters.
"Damn it!" she sighed to herself, tightening the knot with her teeth.
Without a skilled Mage-Healer such wound would cure for a few weeks, whether this assassin knew it or not he just endangered her entire mission
"He is good, very good I`ll give him that..."
Messalyn sighed and moved downstairs towards the exit don`t bother to collect her lost swords, with such injury she`ll not be able to hold them for sometime anyways
Her mission here just became much more complicated