Fandom: Dragon Age 2 canon with fusion of a character from Firefly
Pairing: Hints of Hawke/Anders
Summary: While in the wilds near Gwaren, Anders and a Chasind woman get inadvertently... attached. Isabela is left to figure out this mess, which swiftly becomes messier.
Notes: Written for trope_bingo for the squares "Accidental Marriage" and "Fusion".
Isabela woke to the world still spinning, and Anders in her tent.
This would not have been confusing, normally, but Anders was reading a book and a garland of strong-smelling flowers hung loosely around his neck. It must have been morning. Isabela stared at him, fuzzy memories returning of their night at the small Chasind village in the south of Ferelden. Dancing. A huge fire, Anders swallowing a potion, then the lights and the drink and the--
"Anders?" she murmured, then she vomited on the ground next to the bed. From the look and the smell of things, this was not the first time this had happened.
When she looked up, he was smiling at her. "I've never seen you fail to hold your liquor," he remarked.
"If you can call that swill they fed us liquor," she replied quickly, "it tasted better coming up than going down."
Anders laughed, a musical sound that Isabela found strange.
"Why the flowers?" she asked.
"I'm not sure," Anders replied, holding up the book he was reading. Isabela couldn't make out the writing on the title. "It's, ah, a book. It's on Chasind magic and Flemeth. I think I may have borrowed or bought it from them, but… I don't remember. This and the flowers are all the clues I have."
What had happened? Isabela's head swam with the flood of remembrance. The promise, once we're done with this delivery you can go visit the Chasind. A strange woman, her hair pale orange but kinky and dirty, her face earnest, whispering, You are a spirit-carrier. A legend of my people.
Your people? Anders had asked.
Hawke, not wanting to encounter Flemeth again, staying behind in Gwaren with the crew. Isabela had gone with Anders, they had walked to the Chasind village – if the collection of huts on stilts in the wetlands could be called such – and the orange-haired woman had greeted them. A feast. A celebration? Everything became fuzzy.
"Do you remember anything?" Isabela ventured to ask Anders.
"No," Anders replied, "but I think I—"
The flap of the tent moved, and Isabela reached for her dagger. Anders startled, but relaxed slightly as the familiar orange-haired woman's head appeared. "Where did you come from?" he asked.
She looked offended. "I made breakfast," she announced, bowing her head to Anders.
Isabela looked to Anders for any sense of what was happening, but got none "You... did?" he asked.
"Yes, as is my duty," said the orange-haired woman.
"Your duty," Anders repeated.
She looked at him strangely, an expression that reminded Isabela of Merrill. "Well, this tent is getting crowded," Anders announced. "Let's get out of here and have some of this breakfast."
The orange-haired woman backed up, allowing them exit from the tent. Anders went first, and Isabela followed. By the fire, sitting on a clean blanket, was a hunk of bread with the inside hollowed out, stuffed with eggs and what looked like sausage, and a steaming mug of tea. Isabela saw only one.
"Is this to share?" Anders asked.
"No," the orange-haired woman replied, "I made it only for you, my husband."
Anders looked confused for a bare second, and then shocked. Isabela could not help but laugh at his quickly-shifting facial expressions. "Your what?" Anders said.
"Is that not what I should call you?" The orange haired woman sank to her knees. "Have I displeased you? You seemed so happy about our marriage."
Isabela laughed even harder, watching Anders and his bewildered face. Anders glared at her, and Isabela hid her mirth behind her hand. "Kitten," she said as gently as she could, "I'm feeling a bit hazy about the past night. Remind me of how you managed to marry yourself to Anders?"
The woman fixed her eyes on the ground meekly, but answered the question, "I was given by the shaman to the spirit-carrier in marriage, to serve him as I may be permitted."
"I don't remember agreeing to this," Anders announced. "Hawke is not going to like this."
"You drank from the marriage goblet," the woman said, "if I have displeased you already, I have done great dishonor to my people and it is my shame to carry. Please tell me how I can better serve you."
"The marriage goblet?" Anders put his hand to his head, squinting his eyes. "I had no idea that accepting a drink meant accepting a wife."
The woman fidgeted with obvious distress. "If I have displeased you in any way—"
"Calm down, take a breath," Isabela said, crouching down before her. She felt bad for the poor confused woman. "This has all obviously been a misunderstanding. What's your name?"
The woman swallowed audibly, then said, "S-Saffron, mistress."
"Saffron," Isabela said, "that's a nice name. I'm Isabela, and this is Anders. I'm afraid we didn't know what we were getting into last night. Maybe we can take you back to your village and—"
Saffron's eyes flew open. "Oh no! Please no, if you take me back and you are displeased with me, they will kill me for offending the spirit. Please give me another chance," she looked to Anders, pleading, and reached forward to grab his robes in her desperate plea, "I will be a good wife to you, spirit-carrier, I will serve you however you need."
"I have Hawke. I don't want a wife," Anders protested, and Saffron's face fell and she began to weep, burying her face in Anders's robes.
"Hush," Isabela rebuked him. "Be mindful of this poor girl's state." She put her hands on Saffron's shoulders and squeezed gently. "It's okay, sweetie," she said gently, "he's a good man, just confused. You can come with us and we'll find something to do with you."
Anders started to open his mouth, and Isabela silenced him with a glare. "Eat your breakfast, sparklefingers," she told him. Anders's expression softened, and he sat down on the blanket and picked up the breakfast that Saffron had made for him.
They camped the next night on the rough loggers' road through the forest midway between the Chasind village and Gwaren. Isabela taught Saffron how to set up the tent while Anders gathered what dry wood he could find for a fire.
"I will cook dinner for you, husband," Saffron announced, her head still bowed.
"Make some for yourself, too, and Isabela," Anders said, his voice gentle. "Your cooking skills are very good. If you'd like, that can be your job for us."
Saffron smiled brightly and bowed deeply to him. "If that would please you, I would be very happy to do this for you."
Anders sighed. "Yes, good." He rubbed his temples as Saffron set to unpacking the bag with the remains of the bread, carrots they had found growing along the road during the day, and the jackrabbit that Isabela had killed for their dinner just before they made camp. As she worked, Isabela finally got a chance to talk privately with Anders as she sat to sharpen her daggers.
"She's a poor, naïve girl," she said in a low voice to Anders.
"I know," Anders replied. "She reminds me of the children who grow up in the Circle. I feel bad for her."
"It's terrible, to be married off to someone you don't know, and forced into servitude." Isabela focused hard on the edge of her dagger to avoid the feelings that lingered underneath. "I'm not sure what status Chasind marriages hold in the rest of the world, but we should be kind to her."
Anders sighed and sat on the ground next to Isabela. She didn't look at him. "I hope she doesn't expect me to, er," he looked awkward, "consummate the marriage."
Now Isabela looked up at him. "Are you sure you haven't already?"
He shook his head. "I would remember. My body would remember." He smiled sheepishly at her.
Isabela had to laugh at him. "Well, maybe it would do you some good. Hawke hasn't exactly been terribly friendly with you."
"I know." Anders looked down at the ground. "He's upset, but we had something so good before, I don't want to do anything more to anger him. I'm not sure I'd want to lay with her anyway, even if I didn't have Hawke," Anders said, his voice staying low. "I don't feel like she entirely consents to this whole arrangement. I don't want to…"
Isabela found herself smiling at him. "You're a decent man, Anders, underneath the whole spirit possession thing."
His response was a dry laugh. "I once was," he said with what she thought was a wistful tone, "I'm not sure what I am now."
Isabela took the first watch, and Anders and Saffron retired to the tent together. She listened carefully, trying to discern what was going on.
I want to please you, my husband.
I have someone else.
I don't mind. You can have me too.
I don't think he'll approve.
I will be with him too, if that would please you, if that is what you desire of me.
No, that's not right. I don't want to hurt you or make you do things. I don't think you entirely consent to this arrangement.
It is my duty as your wife. Does my body displease you?
No, no. You have a very nice body. But I don't… I don't think that's right, to do it out of duty. You should love the person you're with.
I will love you if that would please you.
I'm not entirely certain you know what love is. When you do, maybe we can have this conversation again.
Isabela smiled and traced the patterns of stars in the sky. When she went into the tent to wake Anders for his watch, they were sleeping on separate sides of the tent but facing each other. As Isabela lay down to sleep, she felt Saffron edge closer to her.
Saffron's eyes went wide as they entered Gwaren. "This is a city?" she asked Anders.
"Somewhat," Anders replied. "There are cities bigger than this."
"Truly?" Saffron looked up at him hopefully. "Can we see them?"
"Maybe," Anders said, "it's complicated for me. I'm kind of on the run."
"Hush," Isabela said, shooting a glare at Anders. She didn’t want to draw attention to them unnecessarily. "We stop here for one night to resupply and look for jobs, then we take the ship and head north to see your friends in Amaranthine."
Saffron looked at Isabela now. "Will I be able to come aboard your ship?" she asked, her face earnest.
Isabela smiled. "You will be welcome, unless you find you want to stay in Gwaren."
Saffron's eyes went wider, which Isabela hadn't thought possible. "To be on the sea? To watch you captain your ship? I can think of nothing better, nothing more amazing to experience." She smiled bashfully at Isabela.
"It's not as amazing as it seems," Anders said, "especially not if you get seasick." Saffron's face fell, and Anders seemed to notice. "Fortunately, I know some remedies for that," he added quickly, and he touched her shoulder encouragingly.
"We go to the ship first," Isabela said. "Check on the crew, and we give them one more night of shore leave. We'll find Hawke, take a room in the city and set off at dawn, so collect any supplies you might need today before nightfall." She looked at Saffron, knowing that the woman had brought with her only the clothes on her back. "I'll get you some clothes, too, kitten."
"Who's this?" Hawke asked as they stood on the deck of Isabela's ship.
Isabela took the lead, seeing how pained Anders looked. "She's a Chasind wilder. She's coming with us."
Hawke raised his eyebrow. "What's your name?" he asked her directly.
"Saffron, master," she said to him, bowing her head.
"Master?" Hawke looked at Anders in confusion.
"She, ah," Anders started, "I, unwittingly, er."
"We'll explain later," Isabela said, interrupting this potentially disastrous conversation. "She's a good girl, and a fine cook. Meet us at the inn later, and we'll tell you the whole story."
Hawke looked skeptical, but shrugged. "At dinner, then."
They had gathered supplies, the ship was well-stocked, and they had arranged for rooms at the inn. Isabela was sharing a room with Saffron while Anders and Hawke planned to share a room. After dinner, Saffron said she was tired and wanted to go to sleep early, and so Isabela left her there and went down to have drinks with Anders and Hawke.
"She's my wife," she heard Anders say as she sat down at the table. Hawke was looking very, very angry.
"Anders unwittingly participated in some kind of Chasind bonding ritual with Saffron," Isabela helped. "The shaman gave her to Anders because they think he's some kind of spirit-carrier. They're married, according to the Chasind."
Another voice spoke up from the table next to them. "I've never heard of Chasind getting married," said the woman sitting there.
Isabela and Hawke turned their heads in unison. "What?" Anders said.
"The Chasind don't marry," the woman said, and from looking at her, Isabela could tell that she might know something. She looked well-traveled, like perhaps one of the loggers who spent time in the forest and often encountered the Chasind. "I stayed with them for an entire winter just after the Blight, when the darkspawn incursion made it impossible for my crew to get back to Gwaren. I learned something of their ways."
"What do you mean, they don't marry?" Anders replied.
The woman shrugged. "They don't. They pair off for times, but it's never formalized."
"There was a ritual," Anders said. "I guess we drank out of the same cup."
She shook her head. "Never heard of such a thing. They always drink out of the same cup." She shrugged. "Seemed kind of disgusting, sharing spit with a Chasind, but you get used to it."
Isabela shared a glance with Anders. Hawke shrugged. "Maybe it was what you drank, not the cup," Hawke suggested.
"Maybe," Anders said, looking skeptical. The woman stood from her table and went to the bar, and Isabela and Hawke turned back to look at each other. Anders continued, "She seems so earnest. Maybe it was something special for their 'spirit-carrier'. I bet that doesn't happen very often."
Isabela and Hawke quickly steered the conversation away to other topics, discussing where they were heading next and how Saffron could improve their onboard experience with her cooking, until the last of their ale was drunk and they were all ready to turn in for the night. Isabela noticed several times that Hawke’s hand rested on Anders’s knee, and she could see the light of hope rising in the mage’s eyes; she encouraged them to go to bed together, hoping for the best for both of them.
Finally, she retired up to her room she was sharing with Saffron, and found the girl sitting on the edge of the bed weeping into a handkerchief.
Isabela closed the door behind her and crossed the room. She sat gingerly next to the girl and put her hand on her shoulder. “What’s got you so upset?” she asked gently.
Saffron sobbed into her handkerchief and mumbled something Isabela couldn’t hear. Isabela pulled her closer and let her rest her head against her shoulder. “It’s okay,” she whispered, resting her chin on top of that mop of orange hair.
Finally, Saffron said something intelligible. “You are so strong and beautiful.” She wiped her nose on the handkerchief again. “I want to be like you.”
Isabela shook her head. “No you don’t, kitten.” She brushed her fingers through Saffron’s hair gently.
“But you… you aren’t bound to a man, and one who…” She looked at the wall that bounded their room from Anders and Hawke’s. “…who lays with another man, to whom I must be so ugly and uninteresting—“
“No, none of that now,” Isabela said as reassuringly as she could. “You are beautiful, anyone would be lucky to be with you. You just had bad luck getting stuck with Anders.” She looked down to see Saffron looking up at her. “He’s a good man, but not the right kind of person for you.”
Saffron bit her lip. “I wish I could find that person,” she said, the tearstains glistening on her cheeks. “Someone strong, and who tells me I’m beautiful.” She looked aside momentarily, then back up at Isabela. “Maybe someone who is… more like me?”
Isabela was not shocked to see the girl’s hand creep up slowly to rest on her elbow, her fingers brushing the fabric of her tunic tentatively. “Hold on,” she said very carefully. It was tempting to take this poor girl and lay her down and show her some of the pleasure she was never going to get from Anders, but Isabela knew better than to sleep with vulnerable people. They tended to get clingy. “I think you just need to rest, and get your bearings, and—“
“I’ve always wondered,” Saffron said, interrupting her with a tentative voice, “what it was like to… be with a woman.” She looked away shyly in that way that Isabela found so endearing. “What it would be like to be touched in just the right way, to be kissed by someone who is so beautiful and strong…”
She tilted her head up, and Isabela had perhaps drunk too much ale to fight it this much. She leaned down and, promising herself just this one, she kissed Saffron gently. Saffron reacted at first by fluttering her eyes closed and exhaling gently against Isabela’s lips; then she seemed to become interested and leaned upward, putting one hand on Isabela’s shoulder.
Isabela felt Saffron improbably open her mouth, and then she felt a little touch of wetness from her tongue, and then Isabela blacked out.
When she woke, she was looking up into Anders’s face. “She’s awake,” she heard him say. Isabela felt woozy – worse than after she’d drunk the Chasind marriage festival drink or whatever it had been.
“What happened?” she thought she asked, but she couldn’t be sure. Her voice sounded a thousand miles away.
“Saffron,” Anders said. “She snatched… everything.”
“Snatched?” Isabela’s head swam. The kiss, and then what had happened?
“She tried to seduce me,” Isabela said, “that little vixen, she had the kissing poison on her.”
Anders nodded. “You were out cold,” he said, then added, “and she hit Hawke in the back of his head with the hilt of your dagger.”
“She knows her anatomy,” Hawke supplied, rubbing the back of his head and wincing.
“Why didn’t you stop her?” Isabela asked Anders.
“I, er, I tried,” he said. “She used some kind of magebane on me.”
“You have fists,” Isabela reminded him, and gestured to the knife at his belt, “and access to pointy things.”
“She knocked me out too,” Anders said too quickly, which made Isabela suspicious.
“He was on the floor when I woke,” Hawke said, apparently completely oblivious. “Passed out completely, only woke when I threw water on him.”
This was all sounding fishy to Isabela, but then something Anders had said caught her attention belatedly. “Wait, she hit you with my dagger?”
“She stole everything,” Hawke said. “Coinpurses, weapons, all that’s left are the clothes on our backs and Anders’s staff.”
Isabela could not help but to laugh; she laughed so hard that it nearly made her dizzy. “She played us,” she said finally. “The whole time. The shy girl act, the marriage, it was all a farce to get our coin. Poor girl, we didn’t have much anyway, probably wasn’t worth the effort.”
Anders sighed and looked at his feet. “This is my fault for believing her,” he said, “but at least we weren’t on the ship yet.”
Isabela’s heart stopped. “My ship.”
She had called in every favor she was owed by the sailors in Gwaren to commandeer a skiff to follow her ship, which was already partway out to sea. With a combination of Anders’s magic in the sails and determined rowing, she had caught up with her ship, much to the surprise of her crew.
“Captain Isabela?” her former first mate, Allan, called from the rail. “She said you were dead!”
Isabela stood in the skiff as Hawke rowed them closer. “Let me guess, she showed my daggers to prove it?” She folded her arms expectantly.
“She ain’t no captain, but she said she killed you and was taking your ship and trouble would come for the rest of us if we didn’t go with her.”
Allan threw over a rope ladder and Isabela leapt from the skiff onto the ladder and climbed up. “Where is that bitch?” she said, holding her hand out for Allan’s dagger.
The man complied and pointed, and Isabela stalked across the deck and underneath to what had been her cabin. She threw open the door and there was Saffron with one dagger held in front of her and a vial of something in her hand. Isabela squinted at the vial – poison?
“Wildfire,” came Anders’s voice from behind her. “If she drops that, your ship will be in flames in seconds. No water can quench the flames.”
“He does have a brain in him,” said Saffron threateningly. “Impressive.”
“You little liar,” Isabela said. “You pulled quite the job on us. Who are you working for?”
Saffron clicked her tongue and shook her head. “What a foolish question. I’m the one holding your ship hostage here.” She shook the vial and grinned.
“What do you want?” Isabela said.
“Your ship,” Saffron replied. “Your gold. Your crew.”
“Not going to happen,” Isabela replied.
“It will, or I’ll destroy it.” She lowered the vial closer to the deck, mimicking pouting motions. “You care too much, Isabela.”
“Do I?” Isabela said, grinning wryly. “I can always get another ship. You can’t get another life.”
“You’ll be in flames just as your ship will if you try it,” Saffron threatened. “If I’m going to die either way, I’ll take you and your pretty boys and your ship down with me.”
“No,” Isabela said, nodding and lowering her dagger. “You won’t.”
Just then, a single knife flew through the air from behind Saffron and into her shoulder. She crumpled in pain, and her hand let go of the vial –
And the vial stopped in mid-air before changing course and flying into Anders’s hand. “I knew force magic would come in handy sometime,” he said.
“Just kill me,” Saffron said, her hand over her bleeding wound in her shoulder. “Don’t make me go back to that hellhole.”
Isabela looked at Anders and gestured to Saffron. “Well, husband?” she teased him. “What should we do with your wife?”
A sly grin crossed Anders’s face. “Give her a ship.”
“I’ll find you!” Saffron shouted from the skiff several cable’s lengths off the starboard of Isabela’s ship. She struggled with the ropes that bound her – not too tightly, but just enough to keep her occupied while they sailed out of sight. “I’ll kill you!” she added, and then screamed in frustration.
Isabela sighed happily. “Well, she got what she deserves,” she said, putting a hand on her dagger, on her back where it belonged.
“I feel kind of bad for her,” Anders said quietly. “I wonder what’s so terrible that it made her try to pull this stunt on us.”
“I, for one, don’t want to find out,” Isabela replied. “It must have been bad for her to be desperate enough to marry you.”
Anders laughed good-naturedly and shook his head. “Well, you’re the one who kissed her,” he retorted.
Isabela raised her eyebrow suspiciously at him. “I’m not the only one, I think.”
Anders paled, and Isabela laughed at him. “Come,” she said, gently tugging on Anders’s elbow. “Let’s leave all this behind and pretend it never happened.”
“Until you need another good story to tell over ale,” Anders replied, but followed her lead anyway.