hard in hightown

I just want to remind everyone that one of the reasons Varric was being brought to the Conclave was to autograph Divine Justinia’s copy of Hard in Hightown. The Divine.

Ive been thinking about creating a Dragon Age themed blog based around recipes, as if the author is travelling around Thedas like Brother Genetvi and writing a cook book based on his local discoveries. A Taste of Thedas, im thinking of calling it. The only problem is that I work nights, am often very tired, and so would not be able to keep up a regular schedule for posts. Do you think I should go for it anyway?

Here is an example of what I have in mind - 

A Taste of Thedas: Cullen Skink.

Despite sounding like a character from the esteemed author Varric Tethras's Hard in Hightown, Cullen Skink is a smoked haddock soup from the town of Honnleath, in South-West Ferelden. Somewhere between a fish soup and a stew, it is hearty, creamy, and wholesome, much like the Commander of the Inquisition it is named after. Locals consider it to be one of Ferelden’s national treasures, and, after sampling it, it is difficult to argue.

Originally simply known as, ‘Skink’, it was renamed, ‘Cullen Skink’ in honour of the Commander of the Inquisition, whose hometown this dish hails from. 

Cullen Skink, as it were, is a meal in a bowl and a very good one, too. I could push the boat out and tell you that you need Kinloch Haddock to really do it justice, but I wouldnt be so cruel. Any smoked white fish will do in a pinch. You could even use a mix of white and smoked cod. You do, however, need the smoked fish to give it it’s distinctive special flavour. It is a perfect winter warmer, or a good dish on a wet summers day. 

Keep left over mashed potato to make this. It’s a good use up.

Serves 4

Ingredients
750 mls / 1.6 pints full fat milk or a mix of milk and cream if you are feeling decadent.

A small handful of chopped parsley (reserving the stalks).

1 bay leaf.

12 black peppercorns.

450 gms /1lb Smoked haddock fillets or any firm white smoked fish or a mix of smoked and plain fish. Whatever you have or whatever you fancy.

5ogms/ 2oz butter.

1 medium onion chopped.

2 scallions finely chopped.

200gms/8 oz buttered mashed potato.

Salt and Pepper.

Garnish.

Chopped parsley and four poached eggs.

Method
Pour the milk into a saucepan large enough to accommodate the fish.
Add in the bay leaf, peppercorns, parsley stalks and fish. Bring to the boil and simmer for five minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to infuse for five minutes or more.

Remove the fish, strain the poaching liquid and reserve. Flake the poached fish removing any skin and bones.

While the fish is poaching heat the butter in another saucepan and fry the onion until soft but not brown.

Then stir in the strained poaching liquid, then the mashed potatoes until you have a thick creamy consistency.

Add the chopped parsley leaves, chopped scallions and the flaked fish and simmer for another 4-5 minutes. Season well with black pepper and salt if needed. Pour into serving bowls and garnish with chopped parsley and a poached egg.

Poached Eggs
You can of course poach the eggs in a saucepan of boiling water. A short cut is to put boiling water and a little vinegar into a microwavable dish. Make sure the water is enough to cover the eggs well. Put on a high heat in a closed pan for a minute to make sure the water is good and hot. Swirl the water and drop in the egg and cook for five minutes per egg. They will not cook a great deal after removal but will keep hot.

During a stopover in Skyhold I asked the Commander to add a few comments for the book, unfortunately the good Commander merely grunted, “I dont like haddock”, in a rather brisk tone.

Ah well,  c'est la vie, as they say in Orlais.

-

Admittedly im not a natural writer, and I have no artistic skills to speak of, so im a little unsure of proceeding with this. What do you think?


Hey, we think this looks amazing and should go for it!  Please either give suggestions in the comments or message them directly!

-the mods

Possible Titles for Dragon Age 4

-Dragon Age: Imperium
-How I Learned to Stop Caring and Love Red Lyrium
-Varric Owes Back-taxes
-Fuck Solas
-Iron Bullshit
-Hard in Hightown with a Vengeance
-Where’s the Goddamn Hero of Ferelden
-Mabari Party

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ATTENTION COSPLAYERS!  Or Dragon Age fans—

The amazing Ammnra creations is selling prop Hard in Hightown and Sword and Sheilds books!!
THEY ARE BEAUTIFUL!  I’ve been watching him make these and I think they should be more known to the fandom.

They’re actually quite cheap for such nice props – and he has limited stock so get them now!!

I kinda want a both copies just to put in the apartment!! 

Great for all you Cassandras and Varrics!

When a blind woman was named Inquisitor, none of her inner circle expected the task before her to be easy. Neither did any of them expect her to face it alone. Each of them has their own task, a duty they have assigned themselves to make Elera Lavellan’s life just a little easier, a role they carry out with stubborn dedication. None of them say it, but they all know that every one of them would rather die than see someone else take their place.

Solas walks with her in the Fade, drawing her into his memories, conjuring up images of the places they’ve been. Only her body is blind, and in the Fade, she can see the echoes he creates for her. They stroll the ramparts of Skyhold together, a smile flickering around her mouth as she looks out on the rolling mountains, and he helps her memorise every staircase and passageway so that she might navigate them more easily in her sightless waking world. He shows her the Emerald Graves, so that she can stand beneath the trees and gaze at the million different shades of green the sunlight creates as it falls through the leaves. He shows her, despite his scorn, the Dalish camp they visited in the Exalted Plains, so that she can remember her own clan and feel, for a time, at home. They walk the paths of his memories together, he her hahren, and she, a student and friend he is proud to teach.

Varric does what an author does best - he puts the world around them into words. When they reach the top of a slope and let out gasps of awe at a view that Elera can’t see, he steps up to describe it to her, painting every detail with the best words he can think of until she smiles and whispers, I can picture it. He does the same with the people they meet, telling her everything from the colour of their hair to how high she has to look to meet their eyes. Leave it to the others to do the basics, helping her to make it through the world. Varric’s duty is to make that world beautiful.

Sera is the one who climbs. Up the piles of rocks, balancing on beams and narrow ledges, clambering onto rooftops and jumping between gaps. She hates those creepy shards, but Elera says they’re important, and Sera’s damned if she’s letting a blind woman go hauling herself up those frigging rock piles to reach them. Elera would do it if someone else didn’t, stupid stubborn woman, and Sera doesn’t want to see her fall and get herself killed. Because even though she’s an elf, an elfy elf, a really elfy elf who wants those pissing elfy shards to open that elfy temple… somehow, they ended up as friends. Real good friends. And Sera was never one to let her friends get hurt.

Vivienne picks out her wardrobe, not only for all those soirees and balls that the Inquisitor is obliged to make an appearance at, but for day to day wear. Just because practicality is Elera’s greatest concern - finding something with few buttons she needs to fumble at and few fastenings to struggle with - doesn’t mean she should be forced to sacrifice fashion. Vivienne seeks out fine silk and velvet for her, fabrics that a Dalish elf could never have heard of or touched before. She finds tunics in rich turquoise to match her vallaslin, and, for special occasions, a ballgown in pale silvery-blue, so unearthly against her pale skin that she almost seems to be wearing moonlight.

Dorian reads to her. It starts with him making some remark about a book on spirit magic he’s been browsing through. That sounds interesting, she says, could you read that passage to me? And before long it’s a tradition. She comes to the library, he finds a book, they sit in chairs facing each other and Dorian reads. At first it’s mostly tomes on magical theory, but soon, he’s narrating a new chapter of Hard In Hightown every evening, and a little circle gathers around them to listen, all of them catching their breath in unison over the dramatic parts and groaning whenever Varric ends things with yet another cliffhanger.

Cassandra has always been at home on the battlefield, and right from the start, she appoints herself the task of making sure that Elera can feel at home there too. Two rage demons, approaching from the right, and three wraiths, she roars, as the rift splits open and pours the Fade’s denizens forward.  One Red Templar in heavy armour, one archer. Just the simplest things, the things that tell Elera where to stand and what spell to use. There’s nothing she can do to make the bellowing of demons and the clashing of weapons less chaotic - but she can try to bring some kind of order out of the chaos. That’s what she does best, after all.

Bull takes it upon himself to make sure she can indulge in all the things the others won’t let her. Honestly, they treat her like she’s made of glass sometimes, and he knows it infuriates her, knows that she doesn’t want to be coddled. She’s blind, not a child. So he’s the one who makes sure she drops into the Herald’s Rest like all the others, the one who buys her a drink and lets her vent. She rarely has more than one or two, but all the same, he walks with her back to her room afterwards. Leaders have as much right to let themselves go as anyone from time to time. The fact that this leader can’t see doesn’t make the damnedest bit of difference to that.

Cole helps. He appears from thin air to guide her up staircases and through passageways when she needs it - but only when she needs it, because he knows she wants to stand alone as much as she can. And since she can’t see the curl of another man’s lip or the twitch of his brow while she speaks to him, Cole reads people for her, telling her the things she can’t pick up from their words and their tone. To him, her lack of eyesight means nothing. She’s a person, like all the others, and her thoughts are the same as everyone else’s. 

And Blackwall stands beside her. Where he’s meant to be. He’s the shield between her and everything that could ever possibly hurt her, the hand that flashes out to catch her when she stumbles and the weapon that cuts down the enemy who dared to get close. He’s the arm she rests her hand on as they go about their travels, the voice that tells her the path’s getting steeper or take it slow, there’s a sharp drop to the right. At first it’s an obligation, the duty of a soldier who’s seen men suffer a thousand different wounds from war, losing eyesight and limbs and sanity and Maker knows what else. He knows how to help someone whose body isn’t quite whole. 

But it becomes more than that, so much more. She is so strong, so capable, so determined to face all the trials thrown at her by a world she can’t see - but she can’t protect herself from everything. Just as he has needed her, needed her calm kindness and her dauntless faith in him, so she needs him to be her first and last line of defence. He knows, as the rest don’t (all right, Cole probably does, but all the normal rest don’t) that the one thing Elera Lavellan fears is oblivion. Being lost and alone with nothing to guide her.

She won’t have to face oblivion while he’s still breathing. She will always be able to reach out for him and find him there, to hear him tell her, I’m here, my lady. To which she responds with a smile and a murmur - I know, vhenan. Thank you.

She is his fortress, he is her shield, and nothing in the world can touch them.

Things You Might Have Missed in DA:I (War Table Edition)
  • Save Clan Lavellan: You can in fact save Clan Lavellan as an elven Inquisitor. Doing so not only has your clan find a home in Wycome, but puts them somewhat in charge of the city’s government. Also the Inquisitor gains a special, white Hart Halla from their clan, the Royal Sixteen. One order to keep Clan Lavellan alive (but not the only working order) is : Leliana, Josephine, Leliana, Cullen.
  • New to the Crew: A Young Hopeful/Sutherland and Company: You may or may not remember the young man that can be spoken to on the second floor of the Tavern in Skyhold? Leliana would have the Young Hopeful worked in the Kitchens, but give him a chance with Cullen and you could be well on your way to building up the Inquisition’s Personal Mercenary group (their second one at least, considering the Chargers). The string of War Table missions can be continued by talking to Sutherland after each one and getting to meet his own ragtag group as it builds.
  • A Present for Bianca: There’s nothing really special about this War Table mission…I just can’t believe Varric likes to refer to himself as Daddy.
  • Hard in Hightown/Revenge of the Merchant Guild: Within the line of the Hard in Hightown missions, you will run into mentions of two Dwarves from other games. One being Worthy, the dwarf with the unfortunate name who was Hawke’s rune contact and the other is Jerrik Dace, the Warden’s companion from the Amgarrak DLC
  • Reclaiming the Mage Rebellion: If the Inquisitor sided with the Mages during In Hushed Whispers, they will run across another familiar name. Sketch the Elf, who is actually the same elf from both Leliana’s Song and DA2′s Sketchy on the Details Quest.
  • Other Mentions: There are many references to past characters of course, more than worth noting individually. However, a few more are Maevaris Tilani from the comics, Rhys and Evangeline from David Gaider’s Asunder, and even Zevran from DAO
  • Measure Veil Strength: Solas’ artifacts don’t really seem to do much, but activating 10 of them will actually open a War Table mission and a quest where the Inquisitor must close a giant Rift. As far as I know you do need Solas for the quests to be available.
  • Source of the Darkspawn Attacks: Protect Val Gamord from Darkspawn War Table mission, after Adamant and assuming you have the Grey Warden, will open another quest line like Protecting Clan Lavellan. By which I mean: you can either save or kill off the Wardens depending on your actions. The best order seems to be Cullen, Leliana, Leliana, Josephine or Leliana, and then Cullen.
  • Send Skywatcher to Stone-Bear Hold: (Requires Jaws of Hakkon DLC) This mission becomes available if/when you recruit the Avvar near the Fade from Fallow Mire, after saving the Inquisition soldiers. Though the most…”interesting” thing about this quest is how you apparently send Thane Sun-Hair a booty-call at the same time…
  • From the Heart: Following the Alliances mission line on the War Table will eventually bring up a dilemma of marriage for three young people. Two men vying for a woman’s hand, one for love and one for status. Depending on how you handle the missions can mean a lot of different outcomes, but assuming you find one of the successful lines, then the Inquisitor can actually attend the resulting wedding in Val Royeaux’s upper levels and give their blessings to the couple.
  • The Big One?: This is probably one of the most known missions on the War Table, but it is possible to miss it if you don’t know. When exploring the upper levels of Val Royeaux, you will no doubt run into the man selling a Mystery Box for 10000 Gold. This opens a Golden Nug in the shop which then opens a War Table mission to acquire a new, strange mount. So definitely try it out, if you haven’t!
  • Throne Accessories: Many of the thrones can in fact be upgraded with small accessories, for example the Andrastian throne can be upgraded to have small fire pits framing it and incense at the foot of the throne. This is achieved by random chance when completing Resource missions on the War Table. So if you ever have idle advisors be sure to assign them to the small Gold or Resource missions, even if you don’t need them.
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You’re welcome, iceyfrog! glad to know that you’re playing the game too! It also flew off my radar (purposefully) until 2 weeks before gametime, so it was like Past Aimo gifted the present one with a belated xmas present ^o^

Also, happy that you enjoyed the Varric AU romance comic! And you do realise mentioning him in a PoE-related ask will result in a crossover, right?

Dohohonnnn

The Answer

It’d be a simple thing to answer Anders’s question, if Hawke didn’t know just how he’d make light of it.

Fenris knows things. Many things, about most things. He tells her of Rivain, and Par Vollen and Seheron and Nevarra, of the Fog Warriors and the Fog Dancers, the Orlesian nobility and the Antivan royalty, the Black Divine and the magisterium and the Circle in Minrathous. He tells her of Ashkaari Koslun and enough of the Qun to untwist the contemptuous curl of the Arishok’s mouth when she addresses him. “You hear much when people regard you as little more than furniture,” Fenris replies when she asks how he even knows all that, but that’s just him, she thinks: had it been her, she would have wasted away in idle fantasy, not learned foreign tongues or woven together the web of Thedosian politics from fragments of conversations.

After a lifetime of casting spells first and asking questions later, though, now she tries to understand instead—and when Fenris starts helping himself to her books after learning to read faster than she did the rules of diamondback, she cracks one open of her own for the first time since Lothering.

(Not a picture book and not a book about dragons. And not Hard in Hightown either, as far as Varric is concerned.)

Fenris never lies. He lied to Hadriana, if that can even be counted as such, but it’s because he broke his word that once that Hawke realises it’s only ever held true otherwise. Fenris only says what he means and always means what he says, and though his honesty has the sharp, serrated edges of rashvine nettle sometimes, once the welts have worn off she’s most often left having to admit that he has the truth of it—and when the entire Kirkwall nobility turns into lickspittles, trying to simper their way into the Champion’s good graces (or into her leathers), she comes to think of Fenris’s forthrightness as an uncut gem: perhaps not as pretty as a stone cut and set, but worth that much more.

Hawke, though? She’s—well, not a liar the way Varric is, but she skirts and shirks and twists the truth, maims and manhandles it, has perhaps even left it for dead a few times. At least with Fenris, though, truth comes to her a little easier.

(Anyway, she’d rather not suffer the smug look on his face whenever he pokes holes in her attempts at deceit.)

Fenris tempers her. With the city-wide revelation of her magic—now the Maker’s grace and not His curse—comes something that no title could ever match: the elation of being a known apostate yet untouchable, the unspeakable relief of the first breath after staying underwater a little too long, an intoxicating rush that she has to swim against lest it carry her too far from herself. It’s little things at first: her reveling in Cullen’s stammers and stutters, a casual mention of her magic to sway the nobles of the Keep her way, a misdirection hex cast to make some arsehole bumble off the pier for calling Merrill “knife ear.”

But when treading the line between freedom and excess becomes a balancing act worthy of an Antivan tightrope walker in the storm, when the line all but vanishes—then she has but to look at Fenris, branded with the hubris of mages, to be stirred away from the Void that sings to her.

(Alright—she can’t quite keep herself from teasing Cullen just to watch his nug-wheel brain run.)

The answer to Anders’s question is simple: Fenris makes her a better woman—perhaps even a good woman, when she wouldn’t be otherwise. “By being the perfect example of what not to do?” Anders would say, though, and it’s not that she doesn’t want to argue with him well into the next age—she just doesn’t have any breath left to waste when a certain elf keeps taking it away.

(She’d complain, but nowhere are her breaths, her heart and the truth of her answer safer than in Fenris’s hands, so she lets him have them.)

So—the sex, she jests instead. She’s with Fenris for the sex.