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Art by TriaElf9, used with permission
Beyond Heroes: Of Sunshine and Red Lyrium is an Alternate Universe retelling of Dragon Age: Inquisition by Lady Norbert.
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When Varric Tethras - rogue, storyteller, and occasionally unwelcome tagalong - is finally introduced to the only survivor of the explosion at the Temple of Sacred Ashes, he's horrified to discover that it's none other than Bethany Hawke. Confronted with the knowledge that his precious “Sunshine" is the Herald of Andraste, he resolves that he's not budging from the newly reborn Inquisition until she's released from her own obligations.

With her older brother Garrett in hiding as a member of Isabela's pirate crew, and her twin brother Carver serving with the Grey Wardens, Varric reasons that it's his responsibility to protect Bethany as much as possible. Together, they have to survive everything the Crapsack World of Thedas keeps throwing at them.

Being an AU rehash of Inquisition, there are spoilers here for material from throughout the Dragon Age franchise.

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  • 100% Adoration Rating: If Varric is to be believed, Bethany has achieved this by the time of the Exalted Council. He assures her that “everybody loves you, even if they don't admit it.”
  • Affectionate Nickname: Varric and Harding briefly discuss the subject when in the Frostback Basin.
    • Bethany occasionally refers to Varric as “my dwarf.” She also calls him her “one-man public relations team”.
    • Bethany herself is still “Sunshine,” but Varric also gives her a few others over the course of this story as well, including “Her Sunny Worship” and, in the last several chapters, “Lady Tethras.”
  • After-Action Report: Varric (in his head) critiques Cullen's storytelling ability near the end of the fic, though he acknowledges that "for an after-action report, it was serviceable."
  • Alternate Universe Fic: It's the story of Dragon Age: Inquisition with a twist; the Inquisitor is Bethany, Hawke's little sister. It's also an AU in another way - both Hawke twins survived the exodus from Lothering during the Fifth Blight, and Carver is a Grey Warden. He's Hawke's Warden contact. This naturally has devastating consequences during the siege of Adamant. The reader may notice that some events take place in an order which is a little different from the canonical event flags in the game; this is necessary for story purposes, but this trope can be blamed.
  • Angsty Surviving Twin: Averted, since both of the twins survived the prologue of Dragon Age II and are still alive in the story...until Adamant, after which Bethany plays the trope much straighter.
  • Animal Motif: Varric occasionally makes reference to the Hawke siblings' last name, pointing out things like “Hawkes are not easily grounded.” Cole does this a few times as well.
  • Bash Brothers: The way Varric describes his friendship with Hawke, and Carver to a lesser extent, indicates that they were effectively this. Overlaps with Family of Choice, since Varric's screwed-up family situation and the way that fate separated Hawke from both of his siblings led the two of them to lean on each other a lot.
  • Battle Couple: Varric and Bethany act enough like this in the field that even some of the story's reviewers invoke the trope in their comments. By the time they go to the Frostback Basin (for the events of Jaws of Hakkon), this includes Back-to-Back Badasses and even a little bit of Flirting Under Fire. Several of their companions are amused to varying degrees.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Varric grumbles this to Cassandra right after she remarks that the Inquisition will need new focus, since her comment immediately precedes the attack on Haven.
  • Bearer of Bad News:
    • First, Varric has to be the one to tell Hawke that yes, the Conclave blew up, and “I don’t know how to tell you this, but there was exactly one survivor of the disaster and she’s got the same name as you.”
    • Later, Cassandra has to be the one to tell Varric that all three Hawke siblings have fallen through a rift into the Fade.
    • After they return to Skyhold from Adamant, Varric sends letters to the Kirkwall gang, letting them know about the Hawke boys’ sacrifice.
    • Dorian gets a turn at the Exalted Council, trying to help Varric understand where Bethany went and why they don't know what happened to her.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Don’t ever threaten or disrespect the Herald of Andraste; Varric doesn’t allow anybody to mistreat his Sunshine. Even Cassandra checks herself when he gets between her and Bethany during a fight, because the expression on his face is so unsettling.
    • Flipped back around by Bethany, who gets incredibly angry if anyone threatens or hurts Varric. It only grows more pronounced as the story progresses. As Dorian puts it, “Touch the dwarf at your own peril.”
  • Best Friends-in-Law: A few chapters before the end of the story, Varric and Hawke become this.
  • Birthday Episode: The remaining inner circle members celebrate Bethany's birthday in the Frostback Basin. It's a very bittersweet occasion, all things considered, but she appreciates the intent.
  • Blah Blah Blah: Indicated to be part of what Varric hears a Chantry mother saying during his wedding.
  • Blue Is Heroic/True Blue Femininity: Bethany is partial to the color blue, and it shows in much of her wardrobe. Even when Empress Celene gives her a ballgown at Halamshiral, Varric wonders how she knew that blue is Bethany's color.
  • Book-Ends: Invoked. At the beginning (as in the game), the Herald's only companions are Varric, Solas, and Cassandra. Varric notes that they're also the only companions who manage to accompany her in her final fight with the Elder One, and he finds it thematically appropriate.
  • Breaking the Fellowship: It begins within a few days of the Elder One's defeat, as Blackwall goes to join the Wardens and Vivienne returns to Orlais. Eventually, most of Bethany's companions leave her, although they reunite a couple years later for the Exalted Council. Varric does not leave her; rather, she leaves him, in Kirkwall.
  • Broken Bird: Bethany veers dangerously close to this at times, and Varric's personal mission throughout the story is to keep her from becoming the trope.
  • Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: Played straight and gender flipped, as both of the leads do their fair share of (deserved) brooding and, consequently, also do their fair share of gently helping the other through it.
  • Buffy Speak: Varric indulges in a little of this when talking about Carver doing "Warden-y things.” He also refers to Solas "doing his Solas thing" during the final battle with the Elder One.
  • Call-Back: In addition to any and all references to Dragon Age II, there are a few nods to Varric's character trailer from prior to the release of Inquisition, to the multiplayer, and to the The Silent Grove/Those Who Speak/Until We Sleep comics. There's also a very small reference to one of the items available for purchase at the Wonders of Thedas shop in Origins.
  • Canine Companion: Dane, Hawke's mabari, comes to Skyhold late in the story.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: While in the throes of the siege of Adamant, Hawke takes the time to dryly criticize the fist-shaped battering ram being swung at the fortress doors.
    “That is the tackiest piece of siege equipment I've ever seen.”
  • Catchphrase: In Dragon Age II canon, Varric uses the expression “There's my Sunshine” just once - during the Mark of the Assassin DLC, if he and Circle!Bethany are the companions. In this story, he uses it fairly regularly, often when showing his approval of one of Bethany's decisions or succeeding in his efforts to make her smile.
  • Celibate Hero:
    • Bethany is this, to Varric's mild befuddlement; he keeps expecting her to enter a relationship with somebody, and is surprised when he turns out to be wrong each time. Eventually this changes.
    • Also Hawke, possibly. It's not explicitly stated whether he romanced anyone during the events of Dragon Age II; his relationship with Isabela is hinted to be either platonic or a Friends with Benefits situation. According to the author, it's open to the reader's interpretation what exactly Hawke was doing with whom.
  • Central Theme: The triumph of love over despair.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: There's implied to be an element of this on both sides when Bethany meets Bianca Davri. The two women do not like each other at all, though for wildly different reasons.
  • Cloud Cuckoolanders Minder: Bethany seems to regard Varric as being this for her oldest brother, saying that Garrett needs Varric to remind him to do things like put on pants. It's heavily implied that Hawke is of the "purple" personality, although he's not shown to be quite as goofy as his sister likes to suggest; it's just a family joke.
  • Commonality Connection: Seen after Adamant. Cassandra drops any lingering resentment she may have still had toward Bethany about hiding Hawke, because she understands all too well what it's like to have your brother taken away and she can appreciate how much Bethany is suffering.
  • Conflicting Loyalty: Varric develops this feeling with regards to Bianca, because of the “feed you your own eyeballs” line she delivers to the Inquisitor during the “Well, Shit” quest. Since Varric is loyal to the Hawkes above pretty much anything else, he realizes just how he's going to resolve that particular conflict.
  • Content Warnings: Unusually for this author, the AO3 tags warn the reader about major character death. Two, actually.
  • Coupled Couples: Cullen and Cassandra's background romances are this; their love interests traveled to Haven together to join the Inquisition, and are very close friends. As noted elsewhere, they're something of a Creator In-Joke.
  • Cruel Mercy: After learning of the guilt of the Mayor of Crestwood, who has fled, Bethany declines to use Inquisition resources to find him and bring him in. Her logic is that forcing him to live with what he's done is a worse punishment than anything she could do to him (and besides, they have more urgent concerns).
  • Cruel to Be Kind: The only reason Varric finally accepts that Bethany keeps leaving him behind, when she disappears from the Exalted Council, is because he realizes that she's trying to protect not just him, but Kirkwall. If something happens to Varric, Kirkwall will be left without a Viscount again, and it might never recover. He doesn't like it, but he understands her reasoning.
  • Crush Blush: To Varric's infinite amusement, Krem has this during his first few interactions with Bethany. He also observes, in a letter to Maevaris Tilani, that several other people in the Inquisition clearly have a crush on her too.
  • Cry into Chest: Bethany does this to Varric after losing her brothers at Adamant. It's all he can do not to cry along with her.
  • Dances and Balls: At the Winter Palace as in the game, but Bethany doesn't have a romantic partner with whom to dance. During Varric's conversation with Dorian, Bull, and Blackwall the following day, however, it gets confirmed that she had a dance after all. Most of those who witnessed it seem to be of the opinion that it was a Dance of Romance. It even rates a mention in the Randy Dowager Quarterly!
  • Deadly Decadent Court: The Imperial Court of Orlais and the Merchants' Guild are both described as basically this. Varric's not sure which one is deadlier.
  • "Dear John" Letter: An inversion appears after the Inquisition returns from the Arbor Wilds. Bianca sends it to Varric - not because she's found someone else (she's been married for several years), but because she's pretty sure he has. Humorously, the implication of her letter goes completely over his head.
  • Declaration of Protection: Once Varric knows just who survived the Conclave and has the mark on her hand, he point-blank states that he's not leaving the Inquisition as long as she has to be in it. Bethany doesn't exactly need his protection - he's Bodyguarding a Badass here - but she has it regardless.
  • Déjà Vu: When he first sees the Breach, Varric feels this very strongly, as it reminds him of what happened to the Kirkwall Chantry a few years earlier. This is taken directly from his character trailer from before the launch of Inquisition.
  • Delayed Reaction: When Bethany is invited to Vivienne's salon, she frets about not having anything appropriate to wear, and Varric reassures her by saying, simply, “Burlap sack.” (It's a Call-Back to the Mark of the Assassin DLC, in which they have party banter where he says that she “could make a burlap sack look good.”) Solas and Cassandra witness the exchange, but make no comment. Over a month later, Cassandra suddenly remembers him telling her about the compliment, and realizes what he meant. Varric finds this absolutely hilarious.
  • Didn't See That Coming: This is Varric's reaction to learning the identity of the would-be assassin at the Winter Palace ball.
  • Dirty Coward: In a different vein than in the actual game. In Inquisition, Varric wonders if he would be in the Inquisition if Cassandra hadn't dragged him to the Conclave. In the narrative here, he wonders if he would have had the guts to sacrifice himself in the Fade so that all three Hawkes could escape or if he simply is the coward he's always suspected. He also surmises that he probably wouldn't like the answer even if he had the means of learning it.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending/Belated Happy Ending: It's implied that, after the events of the Exalted Council, Varric and Bethany will both finally go home to Kirkwall for good.
  • Emotionally Tongue-Tied: Varric has serious issues with the word 'love,' in the romantic sense. He very clearly loves his friends, his crossbow, and even his ex-girlfriend; he just is not fond of saying that he's in love with anyone, since The First Cut Is the Deepest. He does get a little better about it, at least in letter form, in the latter third of the story.
  • Every Man Has His Price: A harmless variant. When Varric commissions Bethany's engagement ring from a jeweler in the Merchants' Guild, he offers what is implied to be a lot more money than it might actually cost, and adds that it's also intended to pay for the jeweler's silence, since he doesn't want word getting out that he's buying any such thing.
  • Everyone Can See It/Oblivious to Love:
    • Implied. No one says anything to the pair, but several of them drop hints (even Maevaris Tilani, in letter form) and it's eventually revealed that they all saw it coming. A few of them even have side bets on the subject.
    • Varric himself even lampshades it, albeit quite unintentionally. “Nothing funnier or harder to watch than people who can’t figure out that they’re crazy about each other.” He's actually talking about Bethany being The Matchmaker for Cullen and Cassandra with their respective love interests, but several reviewers had a chuckle at his expense.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Dane, being a mabari, is extremely intelligent just like all members of his breed. When Bethany is faced with trying to figure out if she can trust the people before her in one very emotionally-charged scene, she calls on him to determine the truth. Everyone in the room acknowledges that the dog is the best choice for the task, since as Aveline puts it, “you can't fool a mabari.”
  • Family of Choice: How Varric sees the Hawkes, when he stops to think about it.
    When, he forced himself to consider, had there ever been anyone who had treated him more like family?
  • Fantastic Measurement System: Played for laughs when Varric meets the Iron Bull. He estimates that Bull is “at least two Varrics tall, probably closer to three.” The author admits that there was no logical reason for this; it just amused her.
  • Fighter, Mage, Thief: The Hawke siblings. Carver is a swordsman, Bethany is a mage, and Garrett is a rogue.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Varric being this with the Hawkes (from their previous adventures) is the chief reason he's determined to support Bethany in her strange new role.
  • The First Cut Is the Deepest: As in the game, Varric has this with Bianca, who is even flat-out identified here as the “sometime love of his life.” The fact that he's never told any of his friends about her makes it incredibly awkward when she shows up, especially when she ends up having a bit of a face-off with the other most important woman in his life.
  • First Guy Wins: Ultimately in play. Varric was the first man Bethany really got to know after her family moved to Kirkwall.
  • Five Stages of Grief: Bethany is shown going through the first two (Depression and Anger) after the siege of Adamant; she explicitly tells Varric that she's tired of being sad and she's decided to be angry instead. She seems to skip over Denial and Bargaining entirely, however, moving into Acceptance by the time she faces down the Elder One. Subverted when her reason for grieving gets turned on its head by her brothers' return.
  • Foregone Conclusion:
    • Given that it's an AU of Dragon Age: Inquisition, the reader can probably guess from the beginning that the Inquisition will triumph over their various adversaries. What's different here is the identity of the Inquisitor, and how that affects the way events play out.
    • The resolution of the Everyone Can See It subplot could also be regarded as this, since the story's tags don't exactly make it a secret.
  • Foreshadowing: Often, with varying degrees of subtlety.
    • While in Val Royeaux for the first time, Varric muses that he had assumed both Lord Seeker Lucius and Grand Enchanter Fiona had died at the Conclave, and he “was learning an important lesson about assuming people were dead when they really weren’t.” He completely forgets that lesson when he believes that Hawke and Carver are dead in the Fade.
    • Prior to the march to Adamant, Varric jokes that “I happen to be an extremely valuable commodity in the Inquisition, Hawke. I have to be protected.” Cut to the fighting in the Arbor Wilds, and it turns out that this statement is a lot more accurate than he realized.
    • Bethany reminds her oldest brother that, as he himself once said, the Hawke siblings all share “an excellent sense of dramatic timing and good hair.” Much later, her brothers put that sense of dramatic timing to some very good use.
    • Invoked by name in the narrative, when Varric notes that his line of thinking seems to have been a form of foreshadowing for Bethany coming to tell him that Blackwall has disappeared.
    • Just before they go to Kirkwall, Varric and Cole talk about Hawke wishing he could come back, and Varric realizes he never thought about whether Cole could sense Hawke in the Fade. As he and Bethany soon learn, however, Hawke is no longer in the Fade.
    • Throughout the back half of the story, Varric notes that Bethany's marked hand bothers her more and more; as seasoned players know, this becomes significant during the events of Trespasser.
  • Friendship Favoritism: Discussed when Varric is setting up a Wicked Grace game before they leave for the Arbor Wilds. He (somewhat hesitantly) invites Blackwall to join them, even though by this point Blackwall's true identity and past have been revealed and some of the companions are digging in their heels about accepting him. Blackwall thanks Varric for the invitation but declines, citing his respect for the Inquisitor and his unwillingness to “force the lady to choose between her friends.” Varric, in turn, thanks Blackwall for not putting her in that position.
  • Friendship Moment: Several, for Varric and Bethany and also for Varric and Hawke. There are also some implied for Bethany and Dorian, in the background.
  • Give Away the Bride: There is some mild contention for who will do this at the wedding late in the story.
  • Gut Punch: Repeatedly. It's usually the result of someone pulling a Making the Choice for You on Varric.
  • Happily Ever After: Invoked in Varric's wedding proposal, in part because he Cannot Spit It Out in the traditional manner.
  • Happily Married: They have a Wedding Day while Bethany is still in Kirkwall, and by all appearances they actually are this... except that during the Exalted Council, Bethany's Anchor is going out of control and trying to kill her, something she's desperately trying to hide from Varric.
  • The Hero Dies: Varric has a few instances where he has reason to think this is the case, and he panics because this isn't the story he wants to tell. She comes back every time.
  • Heroic BSoD: Varric's reaction during the events of Trespasser, when Bethany goes to confront the Viddisala and leaves him a goodbye letter which says that she doesn't think she'll be returning because of the Anchor. He shuts down so completely, Bull compares it to someone who has been treated with the Qunari mind-numbing agent qamek.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Readers who have played the game can probably guess where. But instead of either Hawke or the Warden contact making the sacrifice, they both do... because the Warden contact is Carver.
  • Hope Bringer: Varric all but invokes the trope in the final chapter, reminding Bethany about all the good she's done as the Inquisitor.
  • Hospitality for Heroes: Implied in Haven, during an interaction between Varric and Flissa. Varric, prior to the Conclave explosion, defended the barmaid from the unwanted advances of a ruffian (a Call-Back to Varric's character trailer); because of this act and Bethany's status as the Herald of Andraste, Flissa insists that whatever they want is on the house.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Bethany is much, much smaller than her brothers. Cassandra comments on it after meeting Hawke and Carver, noting that they're taller than she anticipated because Bethany is so petite.
  • Hurting Hero: Bethany is this, for assorted reasons, and part of Varric's self-appointed duties is to help her deal with it. It's not easy, since he's one too.
  • I Just Write the Thing: As in canon, Varric is this with his books. He mentions it in one conversation with Bethany, when she asks when the Orlesian thriller will be finished, by saying that "I just do what the characters tell me to do, and they can be really annoying sometimes." (Overlaps with a bit of Leaning on the Fourth Wall, since Lady Norbert describes Varric the same way.)
  • I Was Just Passing Through: Varric occasionally makes remarks that suggest he would be at home if Cassandra hadn't forced him to go to the Conclave. Bethany isn't fooled, and tells him that she knows perfectly well he'd be helping even if she weren't the Inquisitor. (She offers more than once to let him leave, but he refuses.)
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The Beyond Heroes part of the story title and all of the chapter titles are taken directly from Varric's assorted dialogue in the series.
  • I'll Take That as a Compliment: This is how Bethany decides to respond to Varric telling her that sometimes “I think of you as just being an unusually tall dwarf.”
  • I'm Standing Right Here: Varric says this occasionally when other characters are referencing him as though he isn't present, most particularly Dorian and Carver.
  • Improvised Umbrella: During their initial meeting with the Iron Bull, Varric does his best to hold his coat in such a way that Bethany won't get quite as soaked by the rain as she otherwise would. It's a losing battle, the Storm Coast being what it is, but he tries.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: It's a matter of debate whether Bethany really has this, but she more or less gains a reputation for being incorruptible. Varric does what he can to encourage people to think this, as she herself implies in one conversation. On the other hand, it could also be argued that he sees her this way himself; he remarks on the fact that her conscience is cleaner than most, and comments to Blackwall at one point that everyone in the Inquisition is fundamentally flawed “except for the Inquisitor, of course.”
    • Lampshaded in a later chapter by Dorian. When Thane Sun-Hair compliments Bethany on her kindness and notes that the stories about it are true, Dorian comments that it's one of the only things Varric didn't see a need to exaggerate.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Varric tells Bethany that her brother has been approached by fishmongers wanting him to make a formal recommendation that he eats their smoked kippers every morning, so they can advertise it as “the breakfast of Champions.”
  • Insistent Terminology: Apart from pride and rage, Varric can't be bothered to remember what the different types of demons are called. For example, he describes terror demons as “evil walking trees,” and calls shades the “swoopy scrub brushers” because of the odd accoutrements on their backs and the way they move.
  • Interspecies Romance: Besides the obvious, there are a number of background pairings which fit the trope.
  • It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: The reason Bethany gives for being at the Conclave in the first place, in her own words. She was helping refugees in the Free Marches, as Varric states in Inquisition games where Circle!Bethany is alive, but the group she was aiding decided to attend the Conclave and see what the Divine had to say. Since she knew from his letter that Varric was going to be there, Bethany decided to go with them.
  • It's All My Fault: Varric, as in the game, maintains this mindset - especially when they go to Valammar and learn just how Corypheus found the thaig. The only thing for which he doesn't overtly blame himself is Bethany becoming the Inquisitor, and that's mostly because he's grateful she survived the explosion.
  • It's Not You, It's My Enemies: Varric wonders, in the Arbor Wilds, if this is the reason Bethany hasn't gotten romantically involved with anyone - to avoid putting a target on a love interest's back.
  • Jaw Drop: It takes Varric a few minutes to realize he's done this during his Love Epiphany, and he has to force himself to close his mouth.
  • Kill Steal: Varric does this to Bethany after she sentences Erimond to be executed. He feels like she's been through quite enough recently and this is a weight she shouldn't have to bear, so he sneaks up to the battlements overlooking the castle's execution platform and plugs Erimond with a kiss from Bianca before Bethany can get there to take his head. He even invokes the trope by name in his thoughts some time later. It's not discussed by any of the characters until after Halamshiral, when Josephine coyly brings it up in conversation with him.
  • Knew It All Along:
    • This is the reaction of a few members of the inner circle, during the Exalted Council, upon being informed that Bethany and Varric are married. The only one who hesitates to accept it is Cassandra, and that's mostly because she thinks Varric's lying to her again.
    • Varric himself has a less lighthearted incident of the trope regarding Bethany's Anchor trying to kill her. As he remarks to Dorian, from the moment he first saw her "with that thing on her hand", he knew it was going to be trouble.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Varric does this occasionally.
    • When Haven is invaded, and the Elder One and Samson are seen standing on a nearby hill, he thinks that it's pretty impressive that Cullen can actually make out someone's face from that far away.
    • At the culmination of the “Well, Shit” quest, he remarks that it's nice to not have to explain his history with the Primeval Thaig because Bethany knows it as well as he does. In the game, of course, he does explain it to the Inquisitor, who has no way of knowing (even if the player does).
  • Lessons in Sophistication: Bethany is a little nervous about attending the ball at the Winter Palace, because while she knows perfectly well how to do “Marcher” dances, she's not at all sure about the sort she'll need to know in the Orlesian court. Varric offers to teach her, explaining that he knows how to do the popular court dance on account of being in the Merchants' Guild. The final lesson, in which he dips her at the end, overlaps with Convenient Slow Dance.
  • Let Me Get This Straight...: The first line of the story, as Varric tries to digest what Cassandra is telling him about the situation.
  • Like Brother and Sister: As a female Inquisitor might in the game, Bethany develops this sort of bond with Dorian. Varric finds it amusing, but is also pleased by it; he reasons that she needs it, with both of her brothers being out of reach, and he appreciates the fact that Dorian obviously cares about her. He all but invokes the trope by name in chapter 39.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: Varric is something like this for Bethany, and it only becomes more pronounced as the story continues. It's hard to say at which point it becomes mutual, but it very much does. He lampshades it in one of his letters to Maevaris Tilani, admitting that he's not quite sure how he'll function without her.
  • Locked Out of the Fight: Repeatedly, in ways that players will recognize from the game.
    • Because of the nature of Alexius's time spell, to Varric and Cassandra it seems like Bethany's armor goes from perfectly clean to mysteriously filthy in the space of a few seconds. Versions of themselves were killed helping her in the Bad Future, but the 'real' Varric and Cassandra didn't time-travel with her and Dorian.
    • At Adamant Fortress, Varric and most of the other companions are not there when the Hawke siblings fall into a Fade rift and can't help them.
    • At the Winter Palace, Varric is unable to assist Bethany in her search for the assassin, and only finds out everything that happened after it's all over, because he spends most of the ball effectively trapped in the Council of Heralds' chamber under the gardens. They have him down there signing autographs and answering variously impertinent questions.
    • And then at the Exalted Council a couple years later, Bethany keeps leaving Varric behind for his own safety.
  • Lonely Together: It's not the only thing bringing them together, of course - they've been friends for years - but Bethany's unique circumstance as Herald/Inquisitor keeps her very lonely, and Varric is very out of his element. If they weren't sort of clinging to each other anyway, this trope would lead them to do it, especially after the siege of Adamant; Varric practically invokes it during their conversation at that point.
  • Longing Look: How Dorian interprets some of Varric's facial expressions.
  • Love Confessor: Dorian, following the Love Epiphany, serves this role. More accurately, he forces his way into the role, and is surprised when he's met with little resistance - which is only because “you wouldn't believe me anyway.” He acknowledges that this is true. Later in the story, it's revealed that he also acted as this for Bethany.
  • Love Epiphany: Well, shit. Somehow, watching Bethany seal a rift while they're in the Frostback Basin finally makes Varric figure out what the reader has known for at least the last several chapters.
    • The observant reader may catch the moment which is implied to have been hers - at the start of the Wicked Grace game.
  • Making the Choice for You: Bethany does this to Varric during the evacuation of Haven, and has it done to her by her brothers, in the Fade.
  • The Matchmaker: Varric persuades Bethany to indulge in a little bit of this with regards to Cullen and Cassandra - partly because he thinks they actually need the help, but mostly as a means of distracting Bethany from the stress of being Inquisitor. Whatever she actually does to help them takes place out of Varric's (and therefore the reader's) line of sight, but both romances are ultimately successful.
  • Meaningful Look: These are frequently exchanged by Bethany and Varric, who have to sometimes resort to Silent Conversation in order to do what needs to be done.
  • Mercy Kill: Invoked and discussed when the companions clear out Coracavus, and kill the dehydration-mad giant they find there.
  • Misplaced Retribution: Cassandra turns on Bethany after Hawke comes to Skyhold, accusing her of having lied about not knowing her brother's whereabouts. Varric doesn't appreciate it.
  • Mistaken for Romance/Romantic False Lead: Repeatedly. Prior to the events of the story, Varric expected Bethany to get romantically involved with Sebastian, when the prince was tasked with taking her out of Kirkwall; it never happened. At various points he thinks there's a possibility of her having a romance with Blackwall, Cullen, Krem, or Josephine, but he's wrong every time. The reader can probably guess why. Likely the only reason he never suspects the same of Dorian is the Incompatible Orientation, which Bethany herself lampshades teasingly by telling the Tevinter, “You weren't an option.”
    • No Loves Intersect: Despite Varric's puzzlement about the matter, there's no point in the story where there are ever any serious conflicts between any of the romances.
  • My God, You Are Serious: Varric imagines that Lord Shaper Czibor, in Orzammar, has reactions along this line every time he sends another letter detailing dwarven discoveries on the surface. He theorizes that the man starts drinking heavily whenever he realizes he has a letter from Varric.
  • Mystery Meat: Varric and Bethany have a conversation over a private meal about the stew at the Hanged Man and how the stew they're eating is at least better than that. Varric's reasonably sure that the meat in the Skyhold stew is mutton... or possibly druffalo. Nobody was ever certain what meat went into the tavern stew.note 

    N-Z 
  • Never Found the Body: Varric points out, encouragingly, that “If anyone could sucker-punch their way out of the damn Fade, it's the Hawke brothers.” Doubles as foreshadowing, since that's exactly what they do.
  • Non-P.O.V. Protagonist/Supporting Protagonist: Bethany is quite obviously The Hero of this story, but it's Varric whose point of view follows the events.
  • Oblivious Guilt Slinging: A variant. Varric feels guilty about how much Bethany must be disappointed in him for keeping secrets from her (specifically, regarding the real Bianca). The fact that she gently accepts what he does tell her just makes him feel worse.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Downplayed, but rest assured that Seneschal Bran is as annoying as ever.
  • One Degree of Separation: This is what really makes Bethany as Inquisitor such a twist on the game - she has this with several characters in the story, not just Varric. Hawke and Carver are her brothers; she knew Cullen and Samson in Kirkwall because she was in the Circle; she knew Leliana as a girl in Lothering; she met Flemeth when her family fled during the Blight; and she was there when Corypheus awoke. She's also native to Ferelden, so the plight of Redcliffe speaks to her personally. As a senior enchanter of the Circle of Magi, she's at least acquainted with a number of the rebel mages, including Grand Enchanter Fiona. She and the Iron Bull have two degrees of separation because of the former Arishok's rampage through Kirkwall, which they briefly discuss during their first meeting. She even has a tenuous connection to Grand Duchess Florianne, whose visit to Kirkwall as a young woman prompted the banquet at which Bethany's parents first met.note 
  • The Only One I Trust: Inverted. Varric is well aware that, because of their pre-existing friendship, he's the only person in the Inquisition whom Bethany will trust completely and without reservation. This pricks his conscience at times, because he doesn't feel like he deserves that kind of blind faith, but he does his best.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Varric more or less worries constantly about Bethany, but particularly when she behaves in a way which is inconsistent with the “Sunshine” that he knows. He comments on the coldness she demonstrates toward Cassandra, and is a little freaked out by how calmly she deals with Alexius; more than anything, he worries that she's Becoming the Mask, and indulges in minor schemes to keep her duties from getting the better of her. After the siege of Adamant, he remarks to some of the others that the event has clearly changed her, maybe permanently, and that they don't understand how different she is from the girl she used to be.
  • Over-the-Shoulder Carry: Bull uses this to forcibly remove Varric from the Chantry in Haven, during the evacuation. Varric is, needless to say, not pleased.
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: Played for laughs; the elven librarian at Skyhold refers to Varric as “the most famous and only author who is a member of the Inquisition itself.”
  • Not Quite Dead: As it turns out, this is the case with Hawke and Carver. Naturally, they have to turn up to reveal themselves at the most dramatic possible moment.
  • Pair the Spares: Doubles as a Creator In-Joke. Both Cullen and Cassandra have background romances with Inquisition members who, as Varric puts it, “showed up to Haven fifteen minutes late with coffee” and were brought to Skyhold by the Chargers. This is an allusion to the author's major Inquisition fanfic; the other halves of the romances are based on the main characters from that series.
  • Pet the Dog: At the Exalted Council, Vivienne and Sera both do a bit of this after Bethany loses her arm. Vivienne invites the patient to recuperate in her personal suite of rooms inside the Winter Palace, where she can enjoy much more hospitable conditions, and Sera offers to speak to Dagna about a possible prosthetic.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Implied to be the case with at least some of the outfits at the Winter Palace ball, since Varric describes people as being dressed in “voluminous floof and fripperies.” The dress which Empress Celene gives to Bethany is suggested to be much more understated and elegant.
  • Post-Kiss Catatonia: A mild example, but Varric is left more than slightly dazed the first time Bethany kisses him. It doesn't last long.
  • Protectorate:
    • Varric effectively promises Hawke that he will make Bethany this, since, as he repeatedly puts it, “someone has to keep an eye on her.” Overlaps with Bodyguarding a Badass.
    • By the same token, Bethany isn't about to let anything happen to Varric either. Upon returning from the Bad Future, Dorian remarks to Varric that she's exceedingly fond of the dwarf, and had been worried about him. After the evacuation of Haven, Cullen admits that she enlisted his help in tricking Varric into leaving her. And during the Exalted Council, she keeps leaving him behind for his own safety.
  • Put on a Bus: Grand Duchess Florianne is sentenced to serve as the Inquisition's court jester, and - as is the case in the game - disappears from the main hall after the final battle. When Varric questions Josephine about it, she explains that, per the wishes of the soon-to-be Divine Victoria, the individual is being sent on a heavily guarded pilgrimage to a number of holy locations throughout Thedas.
  • A Rare Sentence: Bethany references the trope after meeting Dorian in Redcliffe, noting that “Grand Enchanter Fiona actually indentured the rebel mages to Tevinter” is not a sentence she ever expected to say.
  • Relationship Upgrade: They finally get there in chapter 37. Bethany herself lampshades it, teasing Varric that “I think I've been waiting long enough.”
  • Reluctant Ruler: Bethany doesn't seem to mind doing the actual work involved with being Herald/Inquisitor, but Varric notes that she really isn't very comfortable with people genuflecting to her. As she tells her brother, she can handle being saluted, but the bowing and kneeling are just too much.
  • Retail Therapy: Varric suggests that Bethany indulge in a little of this after the final battle with the Elder One, even offering to fund it. A later chapter shows that they do in fact go to Val Royeaux and he bankrolls a few Orlesian dresses for her, as well as a couple of thoughtful gifts for her war council.
  • Right Under Their Noses: Where Carver hides prior to the siege of Adamant. While Hawke returns to Skyhold to assist the Inquisition in getting there, Carver is at Adamant itself, counting on the generic appearance of the Warden uniform to disguise him. It works.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Invoked by Dorian in the Frostback Basin, when the group is searching for Scout Grandin.
  • Running Gag: Burlap sacks, which eventually have to be explained to an alarmed Dorian when he thinks Bethany's planning to actually wear one.
  • Sarcastic Devotee: Varric both plays the trope straight and averts it. He's still this to Hawke, just as he is in canon... but also just as in canon, he is never snarky with Bethany (unless she snarks first). Even though she's the Inquisitor and therefore technically the boss, “Sunshine” has snark immunity.
  • Say My Name: Bethany screams Varric's name when he's badly wounded during the final battle with the Elder One. Hearing the panic in her voice makes him realize that Cassandra's earlier warning was accurate and he needs to get up.
  • Second Love: During their quest to stop Hakkon Wintersbreath, Varric finally realizes that Bethany is this for him, although he still Cannot Spit It Out for a while longer. He's pretty much the last one to know, as he himself notes.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Implied by chatter Varric overhears at the Winter Palace, when Empress Celene's handmaidens obey her orders to give Bethany a ballgown after the conflict is resolved. He's not at all surprised.
  • Shining City: Invoked as Varric nears Kirkwall; he knows it isn't, but from a distance it looks like one to him because he's been so homesick.
  • Ship Tease: Apart from the obvious one for the reader, there are a few In-Universe examples.
    • Varric can't decide whether Renn and Valta's relationship is this, Best Friends, or Like Brother and Sister. He comes to the conclusion that he'll put them in one of his books and let the readers decide for themselves.
    • He also isn't sure whether or not Merrill reciprocates or is even aware of Carver's crush, which is still in existence. After the Hawke boys return from the Fade, it's suggested that it might get resolved.
  • Shipper on Deck:
    • It's hinted at various points that a few of the companions fall into this for the main pairing, with Dorian being the most overt about it. Eventually he states it outright.
    • In the Frostback Basin, Varric and Bethany themselves both support the possibility of Professor Kenric and Scout Harding.
    • Somewhat averted in the case of Dorian and the Iron Bull, as Varric is genuinely shocked to learn that they've become 'a thing' by the time of the victory party. (He doesn't find it objectionable; he's just astonished that he didn't notice.)
    • Bethany likes the idea of Carver's crush on Merrill leading them to be together.
  • Side Bet: Dorian all but outright admits that many if not most of the Inquisition members have one of these going about when Varric and Bethany would officially get together. Varric is amused by the development, and insists that Dorian owes him a cut of his winnings.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Bethany falls into this much of the time; she learned it in the Circle. Varric's comfortable with the silk, but the steel worries him because it's not always so well hidden.
  • Simple, yet Opulent: At the wedding late in the story, the bride's wedding dress is described this way.
  • So Happy Together: Varric's narrative at the Exalted Council observes that between his marriage, getting the Hawke boys back, and reuniting with his Inquisition friends, he's feeling unusually happy. Then he reads Bethany's letter saying that she won't be returning from the Darvaraad. As he says to Leliana, he never expected much, but he thought he'd at least get to say goodbye to his wife.
  • So Proud of You: He doesn't say it, but while watching Bethany greet the advisors following the final battle, Varric muses that he doesn't remember ever being prouder of anyone in his whole life. Dorian teases him about his “ridiculously dewy-eyed expression.”
  • Sole Survivor: As the Inquisitor is in the game, Bethany is this after the destruction of the Divine's Conclave. Later, she becomes the last surviving member of the Hawke family. She lampshades that one, calling herself “the last of the kettle.”
  • Sorrowful Stutter: Bethany is prone to this on occasion.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: In the backstory of this AU, both of Hawke's younger twin siblings survived the exodus from Lothering to Kirkwall, meaning that Varric has been long acquainted with Carver as well as Bethany. (It also means that Carver is less surly here than he is in the second game, since he never had to grieve for his sister but still had his Character Development as a Grey Warden.)
  • The Stations of the Canon: Being an AU retelling of Inquisition, the story at least mentions all the major plot threads, including the DLC campaigns. However, due to the nature of the plot and the way certain aspects are presented, the stations do not necessarily appear in the same order here as they do in the game.
  • Stunned Silence: Varric finds himself experiencing this on a few occasions.
  • Survivor Guilt: Bethany and Varric both suffer from this after Adamant.
  • Take Care of the Kids: According to Bethany, this is the gist of Hawke's final words in the Fade. “We love you, Bethany. I know Varric will look after you. Tell him I'm sorry.”
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork:
    • Varric and Cassandra have this here even more than they do in the actual game, on account of the Inquisitor's identity. He heavily resents a lot of the way Cassandra treats Bethany in the earlier parts of the story, although this mellows over time as the two women become friends.
    • This is also Bethany's initial reaction to learning that Cullen is the head of the Inquisition's military. She resolves not to let it show if she can help it, because she reasons that everyone deserves a second chance; but while she doesn't outright dislike the commander, she remembers being in the Gallows during his tenure as Knight-Captain and the things to which he turned a blind eye. She does try to give him the benefit of the doubt, since she acknowledges that he simply might not have been strong enough to defy Meredith, but it's an uphill struggle. When he helps her keep Varric safe during the evacuation of Haven, it goes a long way toward mending fences between them because she sees that he really can be trusted. By the time of the Exalted Council, they are genuine friends.
  • Throne Made of X: The Inquisitor has a throne of marble adorned with gold leaf.note  Varric observes that it looks incredibly uncomfortable and “rather larger than necessary.”
  • Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: Played with. Bethany's taller than Varric on account of his being a dwarf. However, he notes that the height difference isn't as great as it is between him and most other humans, and jokes that he sometimes thinks of her as just being an unusually tall dwarf. (Bethany is, canonically, one of the smallest adult humans in the Dragon Age franchise.)
  • Title Drop/Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each chapter is named for a piece of dialogue Varric actually uses in the games. Sometimes they also appear in the relevant chapter.
  • Together in Death: Implied near the end of the chapters in the Frostback Basin, when Cole's words suggest that Inquisitor Ameridan and Telana's souls are together again.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Bethany's has lasted for years. Varric at one point even lists everything she's survived which fits into this category. He then adds that despite all of that, “you're still the sanest and sweetest person I know.”
  • Try Not to Die:
    • Varric tells Bethany that this is the basic substance of his letters from Hawke.
    • Varric himself invokes this when they're in the Deep Roads, just after Valta saves Bethany from being crushed by a falling boulder. He tells Bethany to “please don't do that again,” and he keeps his tone light, but he's genuinely rattled by the near-incident.
  • Try to Fit THAT on a Business Card!: At the Winter Palace ball, of course. “Lady Inquisitor Bethany Leandra Hawke, senior enchanter of the Kirkwall Circle of Magi, sister to the Champion of Kirkwall, granddaughter of Lord Aristide Amell of Kirkwall, vanquisher of the rebel mages of Ferelden, crusher of the vile apostates of the Mage Underground, champion of the blessed Andraste Herself!”
    • Later parts of the story make it even longer, adding “Inquisitor First-Thaw of Stone-Bear Hold” and “Lady Tethras, Viscountess of Kirkwall” to the string.
  • Unbroken Vigil: When Bethany is left unconscious for three days after sealing the big rift at the Temple of Sacred Ashes, Varric posts himself at her bedside and almost never leaves until she wakes.
  • Undying Loyalty: As in the games, Varric has this to all three Hawkes, whom he observes basically made him a member of their family. To an uncertain Bethany, he notes that he actually doesn't care whether she's really been chosen to be Andraste's Herald or not, because “you're Bethany Hawke. You're my Sunshine. I know that for sure, so I'll follow you to the ends of the earth for that reason alone.”
  • Unreliable Narrator: It's Varric, so this is sort of par for the course. In this case, however, his lack of reliability has more to do with him not witnessing things firsthand than any actual attempt at deceiving the audience. For this reason, the narration skips over a number of incidents for which Varric isn't present (such as the search for the assassin at the Empress's ball), and instead shows what he was doing at the same time and/or shows him being brought up to speed by Bethany or someone else after the fact.
  • Unusual Euphemism: In the later chapters of the story, "having a conversation" doesn't necessarily mean talking.
  • Violently Protective Girlfriend: It's clear that Dorian thinks this is what Bethany is being during the battle in the Arbor Wilds, when she annihilates a couple of Red Templar behemoths who have Varric cornered.
  • Wacky Marriage Proposal: Well, it's definitely unorthodox. Varric's way of asking Bethany to marry him is to request that she “help me figure out this happily ever after thing so I stop writing tragedies”. As she herself delightedly notes, it's very appropriate to his personality.
  • Web Serial Novel: Over 170,000 words in 45 chapters.
  • Wedding Day: A portion of the cast attends one, several months prior to the Exalted Council.
    • There's actually a second offscreen one which happens around the same time, as is revealed in a letter Bethany sends to Varric.
  • Wham Episode: Varric gets hit with a few of these - the very start of the story, where he discovers that Bethany is the Sole Survivor, could be considered the first one. Of particular note are his reactions to the news that all three Hawkes fell into a rift at Adamant and Cullen giving him Bethany's goodbye letter at the Exalted Council.
  • Wham Line: Context withheld. “...we are not happy that we were not invited!”
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: In conversation with Varric at one point, Bethany repeats something Cassandra said to her. He notes in the narrative that her impression of Cass's Nevarran accent is “hilariously dreadful,” although it was probably meant to be.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Varric hates the Deep Roads, as ever. But considering what happened the last time a member of the Hawke family went into the Deep Roads, there's no way he's letting the Inquisitor go down there (for the events of the DLC The Descent) without him.
  • With This Ring: Varric puts Bethany's engagement ring on her right hand, because he remembers her mentioning that she doesn't like to wear rings on her left hand because of the Anchor. This gets referenced again near the end of the story, when she no longer has a left hand.
  • World's Most Beautiful Woman: Invoked; Varric refers to Bethany as “the prettiest woman in Thedas.” Of course, she's his wife at this point, so he's not exactly objective.
  • You Do NOT Want to Know: When Carver explains the Calling to Bethany and her companions, he tells them that female Wardens are given the option of ritual suicide rather than going to the Deep Roads, because of the risk of them being captured and turned into broodmothers. He then adds, “Trust me when I say that you do not want details.”
  • You Have Got to Be Kidding Me!:
    • Varric responds with this exact phrase when Lord Cyril de Montfort tells him just how popular Hard in Hightown is in Orlais.
    • Bethany has a similar reaction upon discovering that the Nug King is real. She even tells Varric that “I thought you were kidding!” Though to be fair, as he himself says, “So did I.”
    • Hawke takes just about everything in stride - but one thing manages to get this kind of a reaction out of him (though not with the exact phrase).
      Hawke: I’ve been in Skyhold for almost a fortnight and you never thought to tell me that Cullen has a girlfriend?
  • You Killed My Father: Bethany intends to make Corypheus pay for her brothers' deaths.
  • You Know the One: When speaking to Hawke in Skyhold about where the Elder One has been getting his red lyrium supplies, Varric refers to the thaig this way. It's partly because he doesn't want to talk about it in detail, but also just in case they're being overheard.
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