It isn’t until Varric arrives in Antiva on Isabela’s heels that he discovers his Wrinkles serial is wildly popular in the country. Dozens of pirated versions exist, and copies can be found everywhere from the laciest reading salons to the ramshackle lean-tos of the Leatherworkers District. Varric even learns of an assassination over a first print of The Tale of Wrinkles V: Mabari Crunch, which had a vulgar misprint on page 43 that once caused him no end of embarrassment. The book’s error, however, has made it now worth well over 100 sovereigns.
“Varric, I can’t see why you’re so miserable here,” says Isabela one night, eyes warm and serious. “Your stories are famous. You are famous.”
“Yeah,” he shrugs, staring morosely into his cider. “But it’s just not the same without the one I wrote them for. Who knows where she is right now? Where they both are?”
“You’re the writer,” she says with more lightness than she feels. “You tell me.”
When Varric doesn’t answer, Isabela sighs, long and low, like wind through a sail. “She’s alright, Varric. I know she is. She’s too stubborn not to be. And if she’s not, hell, Maker knows Carver’s stubborn enough for the both of them.”
“Yeah. Well.” He harrumphs, suddenly feeling very old. “At least she’s free now, I suppose.”
“We all are,” Isabela says sadly. She loops an arm around the dwarf’s shoulders. “Wasn’t that the point?”
“Not really,” grumbles Varric.
“Then what was?”
His smile is too sour, too brittle. “Life doesn’t always have to have a point, Rivaini,” he says, his voice crinkled around the edges. “It’s all just chaos and happenstance and one goodbye after another.”
Briefly Isabela recoils, then, after a moment’s consideration, she relaxes and kisses Varric on the top of his head.
“Sometimes you’re a terrible liar, old man,” she murmurs against his hair.
He leans into her embrace and smiles. “Even the best of us have our off days.”