Summary: Varric isn't the only character with a story to tell.
"Why stories, Varric?"
It's late in the Hanged Man. Late enough that it's actually incredibly early- most of the patrons have long since vanished off to their beds or more nefarious places. It's only Hawke and Varric, Hawke well on his way to being rascally drunk and Varric enjoying the sight of the Champion of Kirkwall slurring his words and cack-handedly building a pyramid of cards.
"I mean, you don't really get anything from it. You're a spymaster." Hawke pronounces the last word carefully, over-emphasising the 's'. "Why'd you spend your spare time telling lies about me, huh?"
Varric pauses long enough to see Hawke's latest attempt collapse, decided that the man is drunk enough that he won't remember, and begins.
"Have you ever heard the legend of Angvar the Crafty, Hawke? I don't suppose you would have- being a human and all. It's my favourite. You see, when I was a kid, my parents were often busy with their own separate interests, father with the merchants and mother with her... well, her hobbies. Not much for a young lad to amuse himself with, so I'd do what any younger son does- bug my brother incessantly."
Hawke smiles and nods at this. Carver was much the same.
"And one day Bartrand dredged up this from his memories of Orzammar. There once was a paragon called Angvar the Crafty. You see, in olden times, back when the Stone spoke and golems roamed the caverns, the king of Orzammar called all of the greatest dwarves to him and told them that he wanted to live forever. Kings are often concerned with things like that.
The dwarves all stroked their beards and thought, and one after the other they tried what they thought was best. Some tried to talk him out of it. They didn't last long. Some consulted the smiths and tried to enchant armour to preserve the king's life as long as they could, but who wants to spend eternity in a tin box? Some even turned to the mages of the surface, and mixed all kinds of potions with every ingredient imaginable. But nothing worked, and so at last the king turned to Angvar the Crafty, for there was no-one else.
And Angvar smiled, and beckoned the king closer.
And he thought of all the stories that ever were, and caught them like threads in his hand."
"And that's all the stories I know, Mister Wiggums."
The young mage's voice was hoarse with talking, but he knew he wasn't going to stop any time soon. The darkness in the tower was terrible and deep, but it was like any other darkness the boy had experienced- it was not so bad, as long as he kept talking.
Under his hand, the cat's fur was warm and soft, and gathered in clumps around the boy's fingers as he scritched the creature companionably.
"I suppose now I'll have to make up my own to amuse you."
The cat purred as encouragement to keep scratching, and the young mage obliged. "Well, seeing as you're such a hard taskmaster. I'll tell you the tale of Ser-" -It was always a Ser- "Ser Pounce-a-Lot, the gingeriest and furriest tiger there ever was, and the mage that was his pet."
Slowly, the darkness lightened with the approaching dawn.
Every night, there was the ritual. Benoit du Lac would come into Aveline's room, take down the book that was among the most precious things they owned, and turn to the contents page, presenting it to his daughter. She would solemnly inspect it and decide which story they would read together. Night after night they turned the pages of the tales of the chevaliers of legend, brave men who fought dragons as easily as breathing and rescued maidens by the dozen.
One night, however, she had a question.
"Father, all of these chevaliers are men."
"Are they?" Benoit cast an eye down the list and declared her correct. "But Aveline, you have never complained about it before."
Aveline frowned. "If it's a story for me, I'd rather read about a girl." She scrutinised the page intently. "But these are all man names."
Benoit stood up and replaced the fairy-tale book, taking down a history instead.
"Then I will have to turn to the real world, little one, and the tale of the knight who shares your name."
He held his breath, because Aveline was a stubborn little girl and ideas had to be introduced carefully. This had to be her decision.
"Would you like to read the Lay of Ser Aveline?"
Aveline nodded, just once, her pigtails bouncing. "I think I would."
Leto's favourite thing in his master's house, more than the kitchen with its delicious smells and scraps, more than the armoury with its exciting steel blades and shiny armour, was the huge map that hung in the study. Every week it was his job to dust the building from top to bottom, and every week the young elf would dawdle and drag his feet as he ran the soft cloth carefully over the glass that covered the parchment beneath. In his mind, he would fly over the seas and forests as if he was on the back of a dragon, far away from his mother and sister and the house he already knew he hated. Leto would spend as long as he could whispering rambling, made up stories to himself about where he was going and what he would do.
He could not read the names of the cities, so he gave them his own: there was Wolf-land, with a picture of a snarling dog, and Mountainhome far in the north. Leto went back and forth on what to call the city marked with a manacle. Sometimes it was Ironband, sometimes Slavery. In the stories Leto went there and freed all the other slaves, smashing their chains with a sword like the one that pointed up inside a circle in the corner.
He never told stories about home.
"And that's why we called him Three-Eyed George." Isabela concluded, as they rounded another stand of rocks almost exactly the same as the last three they'd passed. Merrill stepped delicately around a puddle and nodded.
"How interesting!" The elf sighed. "I've never known anybody with such a colourful nickname."
"You know Hawke."
Merrill looked at Hawke, confused.
"He doesn't have a nickname. Except Champion, and I know the story behind that one."
"Isabela." grunted Hawke warningly, as if that would deter her.
"You've never been to the Blooming Rose with him, have you?" Isabela grinned as Merrill shook her head. "Did you know that they call him honey-badger?"
A few feet ahead, Hawke put his head in his hands and started to plead with the Maker.
"Do they, now?" Merrill's tone was just on the right side of innocent- Marethari would have told her to stop being arch, but then Marethari would have told her to stop listening a long time ago. "And why is that?"
"My thick skin and ferocious tenacity." Hawke said loudly. "Oh look, I seem to have accidentally stepped on this clutch of giant spider eggs."
"I'll tell you the full story later, Kitten." Isabela winked as the mother spider descended, angrily spitting venom. "Our Hawke is a legend for more than one mighty deed."
"And Angvar the Crafty showed the king these stories and many more, but the king did not understand, for kings think only in gold and steel and power.
"How will the power of a story make me immortal, when it is such a simple thing?"
"Because, my king," Angvar replied, "If I can make it good enough- and oh, I will- your people will tell it forever."
And the king was satisfied, and never troubled his kingdom with talk of immortality again.
But Angvar the Crafty got the last laugh, for while the king lives when the story is told, it is only Angvar, the teller, who gets a name."
Varric finished and looked at Hawke. To his disgust, the human had contrived to maliciously fall asleep during the story.
"Charming." Muttered the dwarf, leaving Hawke where he was and climbing out of his chair. "Fantasy never does quite live up to reality, does it, Tethras?"