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Roaches


The way Uncle Gamlen kept house was expected. The worst kind of sloven: so self-righteous, so smug about his decline, wallowing in the pessimism. In a lifetime of poverty Marian had never cohabited with cockroaches, a point of pride for her mother - the Hawkes were itinerant, unambitious, but not disgusting. Leandra's current war to reverse her brother's disgrace failed to disrupt their many legged co-tenants. In the dark Marian could hear their feathered feet scuttling against straw.

The cockroaches did not force her out. It was usually Carver, catching her wrist when she would have made their scaly bodies pop from the inside out. His snide voice, telling her she should have learned by now how to exist alongside other mundane species. That was why the roaches ran rampant over their scant preserves, to teach her a lesson.

Damn Carver to the void, and along the way damn Gamlen as well, who told her that she was never in the house enough, that every day outside was a risk, that she was away too much, that she shouldn't close the bedroom door when the breeze could barely cool as it was. Every night when she returned she walked too heavily up the stairs; she woke him up; she threw herself into bed more like a weighty cow than a woman. Gamlen was so intense with his insinuations of how easy it would be for Marian to have a much nicer place to rest her ungrateful head than his crumbling, infested hovel. Half the time she thought he meant a brothel, or Meeran's bunk, or a protector of Meeran's ilk; anyone who wasn't Gamlen Amell. The other half of the time she thought he meant the Circle.

Leandra said very little about it. 'Do you have to work so much?' Plaintively, as if there was a choice. Marian was saving for the expedition. An offer out of nothing but her own hard work, and if she was going to make it work, well. Varric lived at the Hanged Man and ran some kind of syndicate from the shadows, and possibly the expedition was another kind of scam, but he was genial and clean. Marian never bought booze from the Hanged Man, but she accepted it from Varric's hand, let her expression of disgust warm him in the way that a woman's willingness to accommodate a man's particular idiosyncrasies usually did, all the time feeling like a traitor as she played to expectation.

Further along the hall from Varric's room was Martin, a legitimate poisons salesman, an old Raider with a slit throat who tested his wares on street dogs. The room opposite was Isabela's, who held some rank with the Felicisima Armada, although Marian thought 'Queen of the Eastern Seas' might be fabricated. Still, maybe Raiders let their captains call themselves whatever they wanted, so long as they kept a functioning ship and generally steered them within the boundaries of piratical governance.

That was it for nearly two years: around the Hanged Man, all of Lowtown roared - the Ferelden Lirene giving away blankets to the homeless and helpless with one hand and selling the labour of her fellow refugees to the first bidders, her commissions swiftly pocketed with the other. Drugs down another hex, the foundry pumping out poison worse than Martin's down the third. Elves down the last, bottlenecked in the worst of civic knots. Isabela bought Marian big jugs of something alcoholic with oranges in it, for nutrition she said, and Marian drank. The expression of disgust only made Isabela laugh and top her mug, nothing more. Marian only went back to Gamlen's house to masturbate, pay general daughterly dues to her mother, and mend her gear. Gamlen was right about one thing, there were better places to rest her head.


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