Never had his mind been so chaotically divided, so blissfully distracted.  He was dressed to the nines in comparably drab finery, any sign of his Grey Warden allegiance absent from his person.  His gaze and his thoughts dashed about from the kaleidoscope of dancers, the sounds of pompous conversation and forced laughter, the smell of odious perfume and overly expensive wine.  The sight of the Champion of Kirkwall, however, seemed to keep its hold.

Diverting his plans wasn’t going to work very well, as persistent as she was.


“Indeed, you do.  You’re among the last people I expected to see here.”

Her velvet-clad fingers arced near his face.  Had he not been wearing the mask he had, he’d have sneezed in cordial reply.  His focus was grabbed again for but a moment as the band paused to change tunes, the jaunty sound of an upbeat and still very posh waltz rising above the dancers’ blase applause.  Clearing his throat, he kept his smirk.

“Oh, come now, Milady.  Mustn’t show my hand until I know I’ve won.  You know how the Game works, don’t you?”

Barely suppressing a chuckle and a snort, he wondered if he’d spent too much time in Orlais in his life. 

They were starting to rub off on him…

The Game.

Marian’s eyes rolled behind her mask in distaste and she eased back into her own personal space. The offered hand retracted, found a wrinkle in her shirt to smooth. Hmph. Varric would oblige her a dance later, once the brandies came out. Atticus didn’t really strike her as the waltzing type anyway.

“Of course I do,” she answered crisply. “That’s why I don’t play it. Wicked Grace, Diamondback, even chess if you’ve got the time, those are games. This….” she jerked her chin at the balcony, gilded and crowded with the who’s who of half of Thedas. “This is a facade. And a dangerous one at that, but–” she sighed as if the whole notion was tiring to discuss. “I never cheat at cards and I’m not going to peek at your hand if you don’t want me to.”


“Now if you’ll excuse me…” Marian turned toward the dais. She still had to see the garden, taste the custard, and slide down the railings by the entrance before the tedious return journey to the mountains. “I passed a room with a fantastically large bed when I was exploring earlier. I think I’m going to steal myself a new pillow. I hear the Orlesians fill them with baby peacock down or some other frippery. Good luck with your–well, good luck Atticus.”