Ahh, The Blooming Rose. Kirkwall’s finest whorehouse. The aroma of sex and ale permeate the air. It is sad that this is the one place in Kirkwall I feel I can be myself. I don’t have to pretend. There is no front, or show I am tied to. No one cares that I do not take the mage/templar fight as seriously as everyone else. No one cares that I may just want to have a little fun. No one will judge me if I want to throw two fingers in the air and scream, “Fuck you all!” Of course, everyone here is lying to you, in one way or another, but I can handle the charade for a night of comfort.
I crave time away from the chaos that plagues this city.
“Hawke,” I turn to my left to find my old buddy Meeran, leader of the Red Iron and my former Mercenary captain, strutting toward me.
I miss my days as a mercenary. Life was simpler then. I just had to wait for someone in the city to fuck up, kill the bastard and get paid. Now, with the friends I have and my constant need to keep my family out of harm’s way, I am bound to take jobs of a more agreeable nature. Namely, this expedition to the Deep Roads. I don’t know how I let the dwarf talk me into earning the money to become a partner, but it seems there is no end to the ills of this city and someone is always looking for someone else to right them. Namely me.
As Meeran approaches he claps me on the shoulder, “Hawke, you must come back to the Red Iron. It’s been nearly a year and I have yet to find anyone as capable as you.” He smiles and I can tell it is genuine. “These new recruits couldn’t tell the right end of a dagger from their own asshole.” Meeran has always had a way with words and I can’t help but let out a hearty chuckle.
“Oh, Meeran. I told you, you would miss me,” his smile spreads across his rough face and he takes a seat at the bar beside me.
“I know, I know. So, how’s the straight and narrow working out for you? Can’t imagine you’ve been idle these last few months.” He leans against the counter and signals for two drinks to be brought over. “In fact, I hear you approached Bartrand about heading out on his expedition to the Deep Roads. Hard man, that one. Not one I’d like to tangle with.” That was something coming from a leader of assassins and mercenaries. “He’s approached me about taking some of my men along. Don’t imagine he’d really have a use for them with you at his side, but I won’t turn down the coin.” As his proffered drink lands on the table, he picks it up and takes a hearty swig.
“I’d like to say, I gotta pay the bills, but apparently I am to earn enough coin to approach him as a partner.” His caterpillar eyebrows raise at my revelation. “Yeah, not my idea. Been having to pick up any odd job that comes along.”
“HA! I’d heard you were in here not to long ago, working for the bleeding Templars. I know how much you love them.” He gives a friendly elbow to my side and I hardly feel it below my armor.
Dodging Templars had been a daily occurrence since our arrival in Kirkwall. The joys of having a mage for a sister. It’s my turn to pick up my drink and take a hearty swallow.
“But if it’s coin you are looking for, I’ll keep an ear out. I’m sure I could pull together an odd job here and there. If I find something I’ll just leave word at your place in Lowtown.”
I lift my own cup to my lips again, this time for just a sip, and am surprised to find it isn’t half bad, or maybe I’ve simply got used to the piss they try to pass off at The Hanged Man.
“Well, enough chat. I’m sure you came here for reasons other than to catch up with this old man. I will leave you to your pleasures.” His smile take on a devilish tilt. As he turns, he smacks the ass of the nearest serving girl. I can’t help but laugh to myself.
As I finish my drink I turn to find Madame Lusine approaching.
“Hawke.” She states my name as if it were a bitter thing on her tongue.
“Lovely as ever, I see.” I give her a slight bow but her glare tells me she doesn’t appreciate the gesture.
“Oh, save your flattery Ferelden. I assume you came here for Broderick. Maker knows he’s seen enough of you.” The last is mumbled under her breath, but she surely meant for me to hear it. She pulls out her ledger to mark down my name and allotted time.
“The Blooming Rose, the finest prostitutes, and service that will blow your mind.” I state with exaggerated enthusiasm.
My sarcasm isn’t lost on her.
“Keep it up Hawke, and I will give you something that will blow your mind.”
She takes my coin and I resume my seat at the bar, awaiting my well paid for prize. I order another drink and enjoy the sweet taste as it lingers on my tongue.
“Hey sweetness.” A low humming voice purrs in my ear. “When are you going to let the rest of us have a go at that taut body of yours?” Fingers graze the small bit of flesh exposed on my arm. “I’d really like to see what you’ve got hiding under all that armor.”
“Serendipity.” I greet the establishments resident transexual. She turns to stand before me. “You know I am here for only one thing.”
“You are aware, that Grey Warden of yours comes in here just as often as you do. And I’ve caught him looking.”
My eyebrows raise and I choke a little on my beer.
To my surprise she doesn’t seem offended. “Don’t knock what you have yet to try.” she saunters off and I have to admit, I’m a little curious. Just not enough to actually follow her up the stairs.
Speaking of stairs. My well paid for prize is standing at the top awaiting my presence.
I set my mug down and wipe the ale from my lips. Making my way up the stairs, I take in his svelte figure, his blonde curly locks and his come hither stare. My heart constricts and my palms become damp. To see it on that face makes me ache. Why does he have to have his face? For the millionth time I think myself such a fool.
Before entering the room he takes my hands and leans in, his mouth grazing my ear, “Take me now, Hawke.”
Every inch of my body responds. An eager wetness settles in my now encumbering armor.
As we enter the room, I am ready to settle our debt but he pauses and releases my hands. Instead of removing my armor he walks over to his side table. On it lie tiny cakes and liquors. He pops one of the tiny petit fours, given to him by some Orlesian Noble, into his mouth. Taking a seat on the bed he pats it in a come here gesture.
I reach for the straps on my armor but before I get the first one loose, he stops me.
“Listen Hawke, I know we aren’t exactly friends, but over the last few months I’ve come to know you quite well. I know it’s not my place to say this, but I like you and I’m going to say it anyway.”
By his tone I already know what is coming.
“Please, don’t.” I hold my hand up but it is ignored.
“Tell him.” He shifts to the edge of the bed and pulls me down beside him. “As much as I love your company, and let’s be honest, your coin, he’s eventually going to find out and then what will you do?”
He can see the heartbreak on my face and decides to drop it, for now. Not willing to sour my mood any further, he stands and removes his pants, the only thing he had been wearing to begin with, and approaches me. He lays a tender kiss on my lips and brings me to my feet, “I’m sorry, I won’t bring it up again.”
Snapping out of my semi-depression, I place my hands on my hips in mock frustration, “Yes, my friend, we cannot have you breaking character.”
He straightens and with a serious expression pretends to wield a staff, “Right… Death to the Templars! Mage Rights! Suck on a fireball!” His impression of the Mage is spot on and I can’t help but laugh. “Better?” his grin is devilish.
“Much.” I state with a slight smirk, and I pull him to the bed. “Brody, you are too good to me.”
He places a cool finger on my lips. “Shh, call me Anders.”
“How do you keep from crossing paths here? I see him as much as I see you,” Brody grins as he pulls his clothes on.
“I thought we were dropping this,” I growl out my frustration.
“No, seriously. How do you keep from running into him?”
His expression is quizzical, not the lecturing one from earlier and I can tell he isn’t going to drop this so I decide there is no harm in telling him.
“Isabella.” I state flatly.
He cocks an eyebrow waiting for me to continue.
I groan but continue, “I am paying Isabella to tip me off when he goes to The Hanged Man.” This earns me a hearty chuckle.
“What? It’s worked so far.” I start sliding my underclothes on and gathering up the pieces of my armor.
“So far, only goes so far, love.” He approaches me tentatively, knowing my ire has been raised, and takes the armor out of my hands, setting it on the bed. I wonder at what he’s doing but then he picks up my breastplate and slides it over my head. He continues to dress me in such a fashion, until even my gauntlets are in place. This act makes something well up inside me, something I didn’t realize I had been holding back until this moment, “He doesn’t want me.”