Old Friends, New Secrets
Elanna wasn't quite sure what to make of the news that Byron's betrothed from Antiva just showed up one day, unannounced, and broke into the palace.  Usually the arrival of a future spouse from another country, especially one that was supposed to become a queen, was something planned for long in advance.  It should have been the event of a generation with celebrations and diplomatic meetings for some time leading up to the wedding, which would be equally public and grand.  Between the strangeness around her arrival and the fact that Byron hadn't shown any indication of knowing she was coming Elanna was worried there was something of concern going on behind the scenes.

Given the nature of her sudden appearance, and the fact she knew very little about Franziska, she made it a priority to find out more.  She'd made a point of staying well informed as she began to play an active role in Ferelden politics.  It helped her identify and neutralize threats early, to know when to help and when to quietly intervene.  The future queen being such a blind spot was uncomfortable to say the least, and with her friend and country's future potentially hanging in the balance she was going to make sure it wasn't a blind spot for long.

It was a simple thing to reach out.  A scrap of parchment with symbols and numbers that the average person wouldn't understand placed in a location where only a select few knew to look.  The Red Jennies had remained active in the shadows of Thedas over the years, quietly taking actions to shape the world for the better, and Elanna had both contributed to and benefitted from that over the years.  This was sensitive enough she'd requested an in-person meeting rather than simply inquiring of the network; she didn't dare put name to paper in case something unexpected happened to its carrier.

A few days later she was heading the meeting spot, dressed so as not to attract attention to herself, when she felt a presence a few steps behind her.  A smile crossed her face.  "Hello, old friend," she said quietly to acknowledge his presence.
Zevran wasn't sure what he'd been expecting to happen after they'd finished dismantling the Eighth Talon, maybe part of him imagined he'd just float off into the sunset, but he was reminded it wasn't just the Eighth Talon that was a problem, no it was most of the Crows period. His work and goals might never be done, fuck he might die trying to bring down the Talons, but then he'd already considered his life forfeit back when he'd failed to assassinate Lana.

The Vultures kept him busy, and their alliance with the Red Jennies kept him even busier, but the upside he got to travel all around, which was something he enjoyed. He wasn't really the sit still in one place sort of person. He never had been, always enjoyed being on the go. When a good friend, Elanna, messaged him, he dropped everything he was doing and made his way to the meeting spot. There was a handful of people he would do that for, and she ranked high on that list.

He grinned as she spoke to him. He stepped out of the shadows.

Elanna, it is good to see you. Sorry I'm a bit late, I came as soon as I got your message, but had a loose end that needed to be tired up first. Not that he'd kept her waiting long, but still, just the same, he apologised any way.
She nodded in silent understanding.  "Of course, I hope I didn't rush you."  What she had to ask him was important, but it wasn't so urgent that he needed to cut something critical short.  He'd understand that, though.

"I trust things are going well?"  She continued to walk until they reached what seemed like a dead end.  The Jennies had a couple safe spots around Denerim that could be used as needed, and as this wasn't a conversation she wanted to have on the street she'd ensured this one would be available.  After a quick glance to ensure no one was the wiser, she pushed on a particular spot in the wall until a faint click signaled the locking mechanism's release.

From there it was just steps into a small, but comfortably appointed room with everything one might need for a short stay.  There was even a decanter of something waiting for those who wanted to drink, and while it was likely fine Elanna was just wary enough to avoid it all the same.  She instead produced her own bottle, holding it up to Zevran for approval.  "Care to join me for a drink?"

If he agreed, she'd lay out cups and pour, or simply set the bottle aside if he did not wish to partake.  Time to get down to business.  "What can you tell me about Franziska Lovette-Compana?"
Zevran smiled warmly and shook his head. Oh, no you didn't rush me, the job just took an unexpected turn, but you know how that can be. He said with a shrug. Plans rarely went as planned, though if they did, it would make his life a lot easier. He stretched his neck while they walked. Zevran had been busy the last month, so the only place he'd been sleeping was on the ground or in the occasional tavern room. He really needed a job with better hours, and perhaps better pay. 

Things have been pretty great since we took out House Arainai, though we don't want to stop there. On top of our work with the Red Jennies, we've been doing some work with the Rivaini rebellion as well, since our goals are somewhat aligned. He said with a grin and followed her into the room. When she produced a bottle, he nodded eagerly and took a drink. It tasted quite nice after his travels. Then it was time to get down to business. He couldn't say he was altogether surprised at her question, considering the position that Fran was now in within the Ferelden Kingdom. 

Well, a lot of what I know is public knowledge. Who her biological paternal family is and such. There's also her connection to the Crows via her mother. I've heard some interesting rumours on that account, but I can't say for sure whether they are just rumours or more than that. He'd always been torn between feeling bad for the Antivan royal family and actually disliking them.
Elanna took a sip of her own drink as she considered what Zevran had to say.  She too knew what most knew, that was easy enough for anyone to find out, but it didn't assuage her concern.  The connection to the Crows worried her, but at the same time who with enough wealth and power in Antiva didn't have some connection to them?  The question was whether or not their influence would unduly threaten her country with Franziska around.

"Are these rumors something I should be concerned about?  I know some level of connection with the Crows is hard to avoid, but should I be concerned about their level of influence over her?"  She was worried about undue influence on her country, yes, but she was also worried about Byron.  She didn't like to see him just married off so... though the reasons for that were likely more complicated than she wanted to admit.
I’m not sure Franziska is the real problem, if the rumours are true. Though if they wanted Byron dead, he would be. There’s a reason Antiva doesn’t need a standing army, and the Merchant Princes are happy as long as they are getting wealthier. He didn’t like to speak of things that he wasn’t sure on the sources, he didn’t want to be responsible for spreading false intel and he hadn’t had time to check all his sources.

If you ask me they are overreaching and overstretching. They don’t have an army, if they do have their sites set on Ferelden as well as the Free Marches. They are going to need more than fear of assassination. Now if the Crows had someone that Byron cares about, that would perhaps be a different story entirely. Zevran said with a shrug and took another drink. But again, rumours are what they are. I’ve heard tons of rumours about monarchs in various kingdoms having bastards all over. Something people do love to gossip about, but whether those rumours are true is always an entirely different story.

He always imagined he probably had a bastard out there somewhere, considering the amount of one night stands and flings he’d had over the years, but then he wasn’t an easy man to pin down. He tipped his head for a moment, there were machinations in play that was for sure, staying on top of them wouldn’t be easy.
At first, his words started to assuage her concerns.  Antiva didn't have an army, and while threat of assassination was always a concern it wouldn't topple Ferelden.  They couldn't invade, and if they could simply profit from trade ties then all would be well.

But the dots that Zevran ever so delicately connected for her gave her pause.  It was entirely possible that Byron had bastards out there, likely even, but she'd never considered that the Crows would have control over one.  And knowing Byron, if they did and he knew about it...

The implications turned her stomach.  She wasn't sure if she needed to drink more or if she was going throw up.  The answer might very well be both.  Maker, had she been so blind as never to consider this possibility?  It would explain so many things that she had never thought too deeply on because of how much she trusted Byron, perhaps even how much she-

Her wine glass had mysteriously emptied itself and she poured herself another.  She didn't want to speak the words aloud because she was afraid of the answer, but now that the idea was in her head she couldn't get it out.  She had to know. "Are there whispers of Byron having a bastard under the Crows' control?"
Politics, something that Zevran never cared for. There of course had been a time in his life when the only thing he needed to know was who the Crows said needed to die. Of course, that all changed during the fateful year when he failed to kill one particular Grey Warden. He still enjoyed being an assassin, after all, he was good at it, but now he had a harder time ignoring the politics. He shrugged, it really all hinged on if the bastard child part was true.

Like all kings, there’s whispers of bastards, and if I were a crow that wished to control a king, I would find something he loved and hold that over his head. It would be far more efficient than simply ensuring a marriage between two parties. The whole situation was a shit show, someone needed to step up and put the Crows in their place, but that was easier said than done. It had been one thing taking out a single talon, but taking out the entire Crow establishment was another thing all together.

I’m sorry my information isn’t more concrete. I have spies in a few of the talons and cuchilos but they aren’t high up and their information isn’t always reliable. It just seems to me that there must be more going on than just a marriage, the Crows aren’t usually ones to put all their eggs in one basket. There were other rumours of course, some said he was enchanted under Fran’s spell and simply her puppet while she was the one really ruling Ferelden. Another that suggested they themselves had a child in secret and that it was the real reason for why the two were suddenly together. There were even rumours he had a mistress amongst the help and that he and Fran had poly leanings. Rumours he was sure Elanna had probably already heard, figuring out which were true and which were lies was another story all together.