Varric Tethras is Dragon Age’s wry but poetic dwarf. Making his first appearance in Dragon Age 2, he’s not just a resourceful hunter and trap layer but also a famous writer. His novel “Hard in Hightown” is a best seller in the continent of Thedas and, it turns out, soon to be published in the real world.
Dragon Age: Hard in Hightown is due out in July compliments of Dark Horse Books with Penguin Random House distributing it. At $20 and just under a hundred pages, the illustrated novel will make Varric’s fictional masterwork readable in its entirety for the first time ever. This edition (co-written with Mary Kirby) is meant to be Varric’s retelling of a fictional struggle between rival cult factions in the city of Kirkwall where Dragon Age 2 takes place. Here’s the publisher’s description:
“Twenty years of patrols have chiseled each and every stone of the Kirkwall streets into city guardsmen Donnen Brennokovic. Weary and weathered, Donnen is paired with a recruit so green he might as well have leaves growing out of his armor. When the mismatched pair discover a dead magistrate bleeding out on the flagstones, they’re caught up in a clash between a shadowy organization known only as the Executors and a secretive group of Chantry agents–all over some ancient artifact.”
I’ll admit it’s an odd time for a Dragon Age book to be releasing, especially one that’s trying to be as meta as this. Varric’s writerly success is more of a punchline than anything else as evidenced by the title. In the games Varric also has a literary rival pushing a second book under the title “Hard in Hightown 2: Siege Harder,” and an unofficial third book called “Hard in Hightown 3: The Re-Punchening.”
Not content to just keep the trilogy as flavor text to fill out Varric’s biography, Dragon Age: Inquisition even gives them some extra attention through a series of War Table sidequests. “I need a favor. Actually, let’s call it a loan, since I’ll pay it back.,” begins a letter to the player from the dwarf. “I got a letter from my editor in Kirkwalltoday. She tells me that Hard in Hightown 3: The Re-Punchening appeared in print from an Antivanprinter a couple weeks ago. I’ll give you a moment to contemplate the horror that is that title.”
From there you send your advisers off to hunt down the source of the fanfic which ultimately ends up involving a lot of intrigue, muddled motivations, and even a murder for which Varric is framed. It’s one of the more memorable missions you get to direct from a BioWare menu system and yet probably not the kind lore Dragon Age fans are most curious to see expanded upon while they wait to hear about what’s next for the series.