Character You’d Be Best Friends With: Varric Tethras
If I am Kirkwall, then there’s only one choice for my best friend.
Building on what I wrote yesterday, Bartrand’s St. Petersburg is Orzammar; he spends his entire life trying to chase a dream that never really existed except within him. But if Bartrand’s St. Petersburg is Orzammar, then Varric’s is Kirkwall: A city as damaged and complex as he is, whose twisted city streets he paints with such fondness you’d think it were a City of Serenity rather than the City of Chains.
To Varric, Kirkwall is so much more than a home – it is an idea, a promise, a narrative unfolding. It is the Janus head twin to Bianca, except that hers is the story he’ll never tell and Kirkwall is the story he’ll never stop telling.
Varric and Kirkwall; Kirkwall and Varric. It’s always the two, always together: the confident dwarf in the Hightown Merchant’s Guild; the trusty lush spinning tales in a seedy lowtown bar; the businessman making deals with Darktown thugs to protect his friends. He has his hands everywhere, in everything, because he owns this space, as much as anybody can own a story; and by the Maker, he’ll hold onto it as tightly as he can.
Separate one from the other and Varric will pine for Kirkwall like a lost lover. Remember how he complains about heights when you take him to Sundermount, or how he bitches about nature when you take him to the Wounded Coast – or even how he moans about the Deep Roads on the expedition? All that complaining hints at the real truth, which is simply that Varric hates to be separated from Kirkwall; he needs the place, just as surely as it needs him.
In some ways, I think the relationship between Varric and Kirkwall is DA2’s ultimate codependent relationship, one that overshadows anything you’d find between Garrett and Anders or Marethari and Merrill, but it’s so subtle and so deeply interwoven into the narrative that it’s easy to overlook. It’s the symbiotic relationship between storyteller and creation, between narrator and narrative; one cannot exist without the other.
Nobody will love a story quite like its author.
And Varric is the best kind of author: The kind who believes the best of his characters, even though he knows the worst. He acknowledges their faults, but sees them not as deal-breakers but as shadows that make the bright spots brighter. He knows the contrasts within them, the light and the dark, and he loves them anyway, because that’s what a writer does; he loves every one of his creations because they are part of himself. That Isabela (who nearly starts a war) and Anders (who does) come off as sympathetically as they do in DA2 should be evidence enough of this.
So if I am Kirkwall, then Varric is my best friend, because he sees deeper into me than anyone else; he’s walked my dank Darktown sewers and my sunlit Hightown promenades; he knows my secrets and my history, and the potential I have to become something more than I am.
He knows the fears that organize my faithful; he knows my chains and how to break them; he knows the lost and the poor and the dispossessed that inhabit my dark spaces, because he put them there, these reflections of himself, so that he wouldn’t be lonely either.
If I am Kirkwall, then Varric is my best friend, and I am his, because I will give him purpose and power; I will give him free reign to become the best version of himself; I will give him the assurance he needs that even in his darkest times, he is never, ever alone.