Chapter 1: Tevinter Lies
Dorian had heard that the wild elves in the South were savages. He had heard that they were little better than animals, whispering to the trees in a bizarre, primitive language. He had heard that they knew nothing of how to function in human society, and that their mages were nothing more than hedge witches.
Everything that Dorian had heard was wrong.
In a small, windowless storage room of Redcliffe’s abandoned chantry, amongst dusty crates of spare robes and stacks of more recently arrived books on a wide range of magical subjects, Felix leaned against the rough stone wall. “So, do you think he’ll help us?”
Dorian was rooting through a basket of food, and he pulled out several small, slightly stale rolls as he spoke. “One can hope. He didn’t seem too keen on me, but then, I suppose that’s understandable given the circumstances.” He picked up a dark glass bottle, examined it, and sighed. “Really, Felix? Ale? You couldn’t have at least found some wine for me? I would have accepted brandy, even.”
Felix, used to his friend’s theatrics, ignored the question. “The circumstances being that he’s a Southerner? An elf? Or both?”
“Both, most like. Even more than that, he’s one of those wild elves. Who knows what they think of us?”
When he first met the Herald, the fact that the man was an elf and a mage was already well known. However, Dorian had been surprised to see that the man’s face sported extensive tattoos that marked him as one of the Dalish. They branched out over his forehead and cheekbones like a tree, the dark green lines delicate and flowing.
The elf had no reason to trust Dorian, and the Altus knew it. Tevinter mages didn’t exactly have the best reputation here in the South. He had known walking into Redcliffe’s chantry that there was a very real possibility that the Inquisition would turn him away, or worse. But the Herald had heard him out, questioned him, narrowed those huge green eyes of his and decided to give Dorian a chance. Dorian was cautiously optimistic.
“I imagine they think much like the rest of this dreary place does. Only, I don’t know, wilder, or something.”
“How precisely does one ‘think wilder’? The same thoughts, only in the nude?”
Felix chuckled, and Dorian smirked back at him before resuming his inspection of the food. “What is this meat? It looks dreadful.”
Felix heaved a long-suffering sigh. “You’re rather picky for someone who chooses to live on the lam. I can only grab so much before someone notices. If he thought I had a sudden increase in appetite, Father would be prodding at me for a week to figure out what he’d done right, and then you’d starve to death for want of dreadful meat and Ferelden ale.”
Turning away from his meager meal, Dorian instead looked over his friend. Felix did indeed look thinner than he had just a couple of weeks earlier. He frowned. “You’re not eating?”
“I’m just trying to -“
“No. I’m fine, really. Well, as fine as can be expected. I don’t need you worrying over me as well. I get quite enough from Father.”
Dorian tossed a roll to Felix. “There. Share in my misery, then, at least. I can’t have you keeling over from starvation.”
Felix smiled weakly, and set the bread back in the basket. “I can eat at the castle.”
Smiling again, he didn’t answer.
Dorian shook his head. He crossed to the small pile of musty blankets that was serving as a bed and picked up a sheet of paper laying on the floor next to the stained pillow. “I’ve had some thoughts as to how to possibly improve your powders. I don’t have the facilities here, of course, but perhaps you could get one of the Circle alchemists to mix it up for you.” He held out the paper to Felix, who simply shook his head.
“And how do you propose that I do this without Father finding out? No one here has your genius for these things, Dorian. It’s not as if just anyone could have figured this out.”
Shoving the paper into Felix’s hand, Dorian glared at his friend. “I don’t care how you do it. Tell him I wrote a letter or something. Felix, this is your life!”
“It is my life, Dorian,” Felix said quietly, “and I’m tired of being experimented on.” He carefully laid the paper on a crate, and looked Dorian in the eye. “Besides, you have other things to worry about. You should be leaving for Haven soon.”
“I assure you, I can worry about two things at once. I’m an expert at multifaceted thinking.”
The Altus rolled his eyes. “Very well. I shall respect your decision, regardless of the fact that it is a terrible decision.” Quietly, he added, “Just...please be here when I come back, yes?”
Felix reached out and squeezed Dorian’s arm reassuringly. “I promise. Now, focus on the Inquisition. Go, convince them that you’re on their side. And try not to be too much of an ass.”
“I shall be the picture of charm and persuasiveness,” Dorian assured him, forcing a smile.
“If all else fails, you could just seduce him. He’s not bad looking, after all.” Felix grinned mischievously, and Dorian laughed in earnest.
“Ah, yes, I have no doubt that he’s sure to fall for the tall, dark, mysterious Tevinter stranger.” The two men stood in silence for a moment, then Dorian pressed his forehead to Felix’s. “Take care of yourself, my friend. Thank you, for everything.”
“Be safe, Dorian. You’ve been like a brother to me. I’m sorry that I can’t come with you.”
Dorian pulled back, turning away to hide the tears gathering in the corners of his eyes. He coughed. “Yes, well, I suppose I had better pack. You should be getting back to the castle before your father comes looking for you. Oh, and Felix? Eat something.”
Felix grinned. “Yes, Mother.” He slipped out of the room, shutting the door softly behind him.
Dorian pressed his long, slender fingers to his temples, and stood that way until the throbbing headache creeping in behind his eyes faded a bit. Then he began gathering his books.
Chapter 2: Time
Hauled back through time together, Dorian begins to see why people follow the Herald.
Water seeped into Dorian’s boots as he considered his current situation. Charming, he thought to himself, toeing at the dead Venatori bobbing in the water next to him. The Herald chewed his lip, processing everything that Dorian had just told him.
“It just seems so insane. Time magic?”
“Well, truly, it’s all been theory until now, but I suppose that the rift may be allowing the amulet to actually mimic the fade’s ability to bend and stretch time. Fascinating, really, and I’m rather intrigued to see if...” Dorian trailed off as he realized that the elf was staring at him. “Ahem. Yes. Well, either way, it’s not something that should be played with in reality. We didn’t ‘travel’ through time so much as punch a hole through it and toss it in the privy. But don’t worry. I’m here. I’ll protect you.”
The Herald’s eyes narrowed for a heartbeat, then one corner of his mouth curled up into a lopsided, mischievous grin. He turned and led the way out of the flooded room, and Dorian quickly followed.
Dorian was not quite sure why he had promised to protect the elf. He was young, true, and there was no telling how well he could handle a staff, but it was not the man’s habit to run around being so spontaneously magnanimous. Perhaps he was falling prey to whatever it was that had already convinced so many people to follow the young man. Certainly, the advisors Dorian had met in Haven had been more than capable of running the Inquisition on their own, but none of them had seemed overly charming. Maybe there was something about the elf that simply inspired loyalty.
When they found the dwarf and the Qunari locked in cells, it became obvious that that loyalty was not one sided. Dorian could see the pain on the Herald’s face when the great ox man had stated that red lyrium was killing them. At one point, Dorian had noticed the elf staring at his companions, his back ramrod straight, a concerned look on his face. The man’s hands gripped his staff so tightly that his knuckles were white. The Altus became a little worried that the Herald was losing his hold on his composure. “They’re dying,” the elf whispered.
Sliding up next to him, Dorian said in a low voice, “It’s not real, you know...none of this is real. It’s just a possibility of a future.”
“It’s real for them,” the elf replied sadly. He turned his gaze on the Tevinter, and it was then that Dorian saw the fire in his eyes, the anger behind the sadness. “This will not happen. I won’t allow it. We have to get back.”
Dorian nodded resolutely, and the party continued on their way up through the castle.
As it turned out, Dorian’s earlier offer of protection was unnecessary. The elf was a mage of no small talent, bending the elements to his will with ease and unexpected grace. Lightning was his apparent specialty, and he wielded it not with the practiced, stiff motions of a Southern circle mage but with a natural flow and rhythm, as if magic were some exotic dance. He handled every confrontation with the cool poise of a seasoned magister. When they finally entered Alexius’s throne room, it was the Herald who gripped Dorian’s shoulder to steady him when he realized that the withered, pathetic creature that sat beside the throne was, in fact, Felix, and it was he who held the Altus back as Leliana slit the throat of the thing that used to be his best friend.
When they had finally defeated Alexius and gotten hold of the amulet, there was a terrible screaming noise outside, and the walls began to shake. The Herald’s companions offered to buy them time, and Dorian quickly got to work on unraveling the spell to bring them back to the correct time. The elf, however, was arguing.
“I won’t let you die for me! You’ve suffered here for a year because of me, isn’t that enough?”
“We didn’t suffer because of you, Herald,” the dwarf assured him. “We suffered because of him. Look at us, we’re dead already. You need to get back, stop the Elder One.”
“But I - “
“No buts,” the Qunari interrupted. “You go with the Vint. And when you get back, you kill that asshole before he can do any of this shit.” With that, the two ran out, Leliana and the Herald barring the doors behind them. Once the bar was in place, the elf punched the door in frustration, then marched over to Dorian to check on his progress.
Dorian was, admittedly, a bit surprised. The Herald couldn’t have known these people for long. The Conclave was only a few weeks past, and the Inquisition had only just become something more than whispers. However, he obviously cared for them a great deal. In the end, Dorian had to drag him back through time as Leliana held back a hoard of demons, the Qunari nowhere to be seen and the dwarf lying crumpled in a heap where a demon had thrown him.
Traveling through time, Dorian noticed, felt much like being pulled apart at the seams for the briefest of moments. His ears popped as they were deposited back into the throne room of the present. The Herald stood beside him, looking furious. Alexius stared at them, bewildered, and behind him stood Felix, just as he should be. Dorian grinned in relief.
“You’ll have to do better than that, Alexius!”
Chapter 3: The Herald
Now that he has joined the Inquisition forces in Haven, Dorian has a chance to better acquaint himself with the Herald of Andraste, Enderin Lavellan.
Dorian found that he respected the elf, and was curious to see what came next. And so he had stayed, pledging himself to this crazy, half-cocked cause they called the Inquisition. In his mind, though, he knew that he was truly only following one man: the Herald.
Sitting in the freezing cold town of Haven outside of what he had come to refer to as my quaint little hovel, however, his cloak wrapped tightly around him as he made a few notes in his grimoire, Dorian was beginning to seriously question his own judgement. Redcliffe had been bad enough with its dreary little buildings and overwhelmingly brown scenery, but at least he’d been able to get warm. With the impending arrival of the first of the rebel mages, most of the town had paid him little attention, though his two roommates had seemed less than pleased about the new living arrangements, and appeared to go out of their way to stay out of their cabin unless Dorian was away or asleep.
He was about to relocate back inside the cramped building in a vain effort to thaw his fingers by the fire when he caught on to the conversation being held around the corner from him.
“...that Tevinter mage. What is he doing here, anyway?”
“The Herald brought him back. Must have some reason for it.”
“Why would he bring back a Vint after all they did in Redcliffe? For all we know, he’s a spy. Could have the Herald under a thrall or something. They all use blood magic, after all.”
Making an inelegant snorting noise, Dorian was about to step out and hopefully revel in some embarrassment and scrambling, when he heard a third voice join in.
“I can assure you, I’m not under any other thrall than gratitude for that Tevinter mage saving my life. If it weren’t for him, I certainly wouldn’t be standing here. Now, doesn’t your Chant frown on gossiping?”
A grin spread across Dorian’s face as he heard two cowed voices mutter, “Yes, Herald,” in unison, and the shuffling noise as they beat a hasty retreat. A moment later, the elf himself strolled around the corner, frowning, and stopped short as he noticed the Altus leaning against the wood pile.
“Dorian! I didn’t realize...” he trailed off, glancing behind him. “Uh, guessing you caught that, did you?”
Tucking away the grimoire, Dorian flashed a charming smile. “Which part, the two biddies making assumptions about my motivations here, or your gallant defense of me?”
The elf’s ears turned red. “Ah, well, both, I suppose. I’m sorry about that.”
“There’s certainly no need for you to apologize, my dear Herald.”
The elf sighed. “Enderin. Please. Enderin Lavellan. I hate being called by some title. It makes me feel like a thing rather than a person.” He wrinkled his nose. “Besides, I’m certainly no herald for any shem- er, human prophet.”
“Ah, I see. Enderin it is then.” Something caught Dorian’s eye, and he cocked an eyebrow at the elf. “Are you wandering around barefoot? In the snow?”
Glancing down at his own feet, Enderin kicked at a pile of snow. “Yes? I mean, I guess it’s an elven thing. Or a Dalish thing, at least, though Solas doesn’t wear shoes either. The cold doesn’t bother us like it does humans, and I like to feel the earth under my feet.”
Dorian opened his mouth to question further, but decided against it. “I...yes, quite. In any case, I’m sure you didn’t come to my humble abode simply to play knight in shining armor against the gossipmongers. Is there something I can do for you, or were you just yearning to hear my voice once more? I could understand if that were the case.”
A smirk ghosted across the elf’s face before he cleared his throat and straightened his expression. “Yes, well, I was curious about a few things, if you have the time...” Enderin questioned Dorian about Tevinter, the magisters, and why Dorian had left his homeland, those wide green eyes boring into him, intelligent and analytical. Once again, the Altus was surprised. The younger man had surely heard all the nasty tales about Tevinter, and yet he asked his questions without judgement, simply gathering information and asking Dorian’s opinions. Were all the Dalish like this? If so, where had the stories of savages come from? Just another convenient Tevinter lie, it seemed.
Once it appeared that the elf’s curiosity had been sated for the moment, Dorian took the opportunity to turn the tables. “So tell me, my young elven friend, if you don’t follow the teachings of Andraste and the Chantry, why are you here? This is a religious organization of sorts, after all. Other than that fancy mark on your hand, what reason do you have to stay with the Inquisition?”
“We’re not connected to the Chantry. They don’t want anything to do with us,” the man huffed, crossing his arms defiantly.
“Perhaps, but you can’t be so blind as not to notice that all of your advisors were once part of the Chantry themselves, and they seem to believe that this is a holy calling. You may not like the title, but you’re known as the Herald of Andraste.”
Sighing, Enderin dropped his gaze to the ground. “Don’t remind me.”
“Not that I’m encouraging it, but you could have simply left. Certainly, you dislike the connection.”
Enderin chewed his lip for a moment, thinking. “I suppose I could tell you that I stayed because it was the right thing to do, that I wanted to help save the world. That’s partially true. Somehow, though, I don’t think you’d believe me.” Dorian smirked, confirming the elf’s suspicion. “More than being a big hero, though - I don’t know. It sounds awful, but it’s nice to be looked up to, for once. To have humans see me as an equal, or more. I want to show Thedas that a pair of pointed ears doesn’t make me any less of a person.” He sighed heavily, looking off toward the mountains. “It’s a terrible reason, I know.”
“There is nothing wrong in wanting to be respected for who you are,” Dorian said softly.
“I just hope I don’t screw it up.” Enderin shook his head as if clearing away his heavier thoughts. “Besides,” he added, “the company isn’t half bad, either.”
Dorian’s eyebrows raised in surprise. “Why, my dear Herald, was that a joke?”
The elf winked and turned to leave, calling back over his shoulder, “Enderin, Dorian. Please.” He strolled off in the direction of the Chantry, tying back his long hair as he walked. Dorian watched him leave, appreciating the view and pondering if that wink had meant anything. Sighing, he chided himself for even starting with those thoughts, and set off to find a halfway decent bottle of wine somewhere.
Chapter 4: Haven Falls
Haven burns, and Dorian fights.
Dorian sat staring at the pair of shapely legs lying beside him. They were quite obviously of the feminine persuasion, pale skinned and unmarred from the knees down. Above the knee, however, was another story. The skin was charred, blackened and peeling, the legs disappearing at the thigh beneath the rubble that had, until a few moments ago, been Dorian’s quarters in Haven.
Only half and hour earlier, Dorian had been celebrating, along with the rest of the Inquisition. Enderin, with the help of the rebel mages, had sealed the Breach. Once they returned to Haven, there had been music, and dancing, and copious amounts of alcohol. Then the templars had appeared over the mountain, led by that...thing. The Elder One.
The mage forced himself to look away from the legs, breathing through his mouth and willing himself not to vomit. It didn’t help that the templar he’d been battling had sent him sprawling with an elbow to the gut. At least it was an elbow and not a blade, he reassured himself. Fortunately, the giant Qunari mercenary had taken out the templar before he’d had the opportunity to finish Dorian off. Now Bull was offering his hand, and Dorian allowed himself to be pulled up to his feet.
“The boss and Cassandra grabbed Varric and Solas and headed toward the trebuchets. Told us to stay here and help the civilians.” Dorian nodded, and Bull ran off toward another group of templars that had breached the town. The mage steeled himself and, reaching out to the Fade, turned to assist the warrior.
The templars fell on Haven in waves, but Dorian, Bull, and the rest of the Herald’s motley assortment of recruits were able to keep them at bay. They sent anyone who couldn’t fight to the Chantry. The town itself was flagging, the buildings burning and collapsing around them, panicked people running in all directions. Disturbingly, the templars grew more and more monstrous looking as the evening wore on, red crystals sprouting from their skin and twisting their backs. Finally, though, Dorian heard a rumbling and turned to see that the snow on the Frostbacks was abandoning the mountains, rolling down in a massive avalanche. It swallowed the bulk of the templar forces that were still working their way toward the town.
Bull stepped up behind Dorian. “Guess they got the trebuchets working.”
Dorian grinned as the people around them began cheering. “Our Herald certainly has a sense of flair, doesn’t he?”
Guffawing, Bull slapped the mage on the back, sending him stumbling forward. “Ha! Right? Those assholes are gonna remember this for —“
Dorian never caught the end of the thought. At that moment, a deafening screech shuddered though the town. That noise...he had heard it before. Dorian’s blood ran cold as he remembered the walls of Redcliffe Castle shaking while he frantically worked out the time amulet’s spell. A massive beast shot past overhead in a blur of red and black, blotting out the sky and spewing magical flames ahead of it.
“Is that a fucking DRAGON?” The Qunari stood staring at the sky, dumbfounded. For once in his life, Dorian was speechless. His mind was spinning, trying to come up with a plan. What exactly does one do when a dragon appears out of nowhere to assist one’s enemies? People around him were yelling and running, but he remained still, scanning the sky for another look at the beast.
A strong hand grabbed him and whipped him around, and suddenly he was staring into the face of Commander Cullen. “The Chantry! Go!” He shoved Dorian in the direction of Haven’s main building and ran off toward the gates, shouting at his scattered troops. Dorian joined the crush of people crowding into Haven’s largest building. As if the noise of the people inside was not deafening enough, the dragon screeched again, adding to the cacophony. Scanning the room, he searched for someone, anyone, that he knew. As much as it pained him to admit it, he didn’t want to be alone in the sea of frightened people, because he was frightened too. Just a bit. Well, perhaps more than a bit. Maker’s breath, what he wouldn’t give to have Felix here. He spotted Iron Bull toward the back of the building, mostly because it was nearly impossible to miss the man, and, sighing, resigned himself to the fact that the Qunari was probably the best he was going to find in this mess. Pushing through the crowd, he made his way through and, with a nod to Bull, leaned against the wall and tried to act as if he wasn’t about to shit his smallclothes five minutes prior.
“Fucking shite, this is. Nobody said nothing about a frigging dragon.” A short, blonde elven woman had appeared at Dorian’s elbow. He had seen her before, in the small building that served as Haven’s modest tavern. She shook her head, crossed her arms, and blurted out “Piss!”
“Piss indeed,” Dorian agreed.
The din of the room had lessened as people began to calm themselves. There was quite a bit of muttering, and several folks were sobbing quietly. Bull was doing a head count, making sure that all of his mercenaries had made it in. It struck Dorian that the Qunari was acting a bit like a mother hen, checking on her chicks. Bull’s lieutenant reported that the Herald had arrived as well, and Dorian leaned in to join the conversation.
“What’s going on out there? Do our fearless leaders have a plan, or are we to sit here until that monster gets hungry?”
The lieutenant glanced up at Bull. The Qunari nodded, and the young man continued his report. “Dragon took out most of our defenses. Sounds a lot like we’re dead in the water here. The Herald’s arguing with Cullen about what we’re going to do.”
Dorian gripped his staff, twisting his hands over the smooth wood. There would be a plan forthcoming, certainly. They wouldn’t just sit here waiting to die. They couldn’t.
Just as Dorian was preparing to march up to the Herald and express his displeasure at the large possibility of death by dragon, Cullen’s voice rose up above the muttering of the crowd. “Clear a path! Make way!” The crowd split down the middle of the Chantry, and Cullen appeared, supporting a badly wounded chancellor, an odd looking young man assisting him on the other side. “There is a path that leads up the mountains! I need you all to gather any and all supplies and get on that path immediately! We need to move quickly!”
People began scrambling, and Dorian was jostled as the crowd surged toward the back of the building. He shoved his way forward, pushing soldiers and townsfolk out of his way, until he reached the commander. He caught hold of Cullen’s shoulder, forcing the man to stop and look at him.
“The Herald - Enderin - where is he?”
Cullen glanced toward the front doors, which were just slamming shut. Following his gaze, Dorian’s stomach twisted. He was going to face that dragon? Surely that wasn’t the plan. That was a terrible plan.
“Frightened, heart fluttering, flustered, feelings for...a friend...” Dorian’s breath caught in his throat. The young man on the other side of the wounded chancellor was staring directly at him. Surely, he wasn’t speaking about Dorian, was he? “You worry, but you wonder why,” the boy continued, “You don’t want to care.” Dorian gaped at the boy, at a loss for how to properly respond.
Ignoring the strange statements, Cullen looked back to Dorian. “Cassandra is with him. She won’t let him...she’ll...” Cullen sighed, trying to compose himself. “They’ll be back. I know it.”
Dorian threw his shoulders back indignantly. “You bloody well don’t know it! How could you let them go? It’s suicide!” He felt his cheeks flush with anger. People nearby stopped their scurrying and stared at him, but he didn’t care. He spun on his heel to chase after the Herald. “Fasta vass, I’m going to drag that insane elf back here by his ears if he thinks -“
He was jerked to a halt as Cullen grabbed his arm. Bringing his face in close to the mage’s, he growled, “You will not!” Dorian stared back defiantly, and Cullen dropped his eyes but maintained his grip. “It’s the only way. We have no chance otherwise.” He turned back to the chancellor, pulling Dorian a few steps until he was reasonably sure that the man would follow, and continued on his way out the back of the building.
Dorian started to trot after him, but then another thought struck him. “Commander!” Cullen turned back to face him. “Alexius! He’s still in the cells.”
Cullen gave a look of great displeasure, but then nodded. He grabbed a passing soldier. “Get one of our templars and fetch the prisoner from downstairs.” The soldier gave Cullen a look of mixed confusion and horror, but the commander shouted, “Now!” and the woman jumped to follow the order. Shaking his head, Cullen muttered, “Maker forgive me, but I’d have left him.” He adjusted his grip on the chancellor and trudged onward.
With one last glance at the front doors, Dorian cursed under his breath and joined the crowd.
Chapter 5: Buried
Dorian ponders what to do with himself now that the Herald has been buried under a mountain’s worth of snow and rock.
Dorian had never been so cold in his entire life.
The wind was howling outside the flimsy tent, the canvas flapping and straining against the poles. He had been allotted a single wool blanket, but there were no pillows to be found. Not wanting to remove any clothing to prop his head up, Dorian sighed heavily at the thought of resting his head against the cold ground for the night. His hands shaking, he struggled to scratch the correct symbols into the dirt to form heat runes, but his shivering caused wobbly lines and the runes were weak, letting off only a meager amount of warmth. It would have to do. The mage wrapped himself in the blanket and curled into a ball in the center of the tent, trying to will his teeth to stop chattering long enough for him to fall asleep.
He was exhausted, mentally and physically. He had marched with the rest of Haven into the mountains, following a winding path for hours until they reached a clearing with enough level ground to hold their camp. They had set to work pitching tents and building fires, tending to the wounded and corralling the animals that had made the trip. Soon, a cry had gone up through the camp that a small party was approaching. Cassandra, Varric, and Solas had arrived, sans Herald. Dorian had hovered at the edge of the conversation between Cassandra and the other Inquisition leaders, and so he knew. Enderin was gone, buried beneath a mountain’s worth of rock and snow. The dragon had left, however, and was nowhere to be seen. The elf had saved them all, but sacrificed himself. Damn him.
Now Dorian laid awake, shivering and begging for sleep to come, unable to stop the whirlwind of thoughts running through his brain. What would he do now? He had stayed with the Inquisition because of the Herald, but now the Herald was gone. What held him here now? Without Enderin’s mark, there was no way of closing the rifts, and the Inquisition was just as lost as the rest of Thedas. Perhaps even more so, as they were quite literally wandering the mountains at the moment. Should he stay, attempt to find a new method of closing the rifts? That was probably the right thing to do. At the moment, though, Dorian had little inclination to do anything simply because it was the right thing to do. Enderin had done the right thing, and where had that gotten him? Buried.
Dorian’s throat tightened. He cursed himself for his own damned emotions. He’d barely known the elf, knew next to nothing about him, and yet here he was, on the verge of sobbing. It’s simply exhaustion, he told himself. In the morning, I’ll decide where to go from here. Assuming, he thought wryly, I can even figure out where here is.
He had just closed his eyes when the shouting began. He recognized Cullen’s voice, calling for blankets and ordering someone to build up the fire. Venhedis, wasn’t everyone settled already? What was the emergency? Dorian was about to roll over and plug his ears when one word caught his attention: Herald! Immediately, he tossed his blanket aside and pushed through the tent flap, scuffing the shoddy heat runes in the process. Outside, Cullen was charging through the camp, Cassandra and Leliana by his side. The Commander was carrying someone, and the hand that lay draped over his shoulder gave off a faint green glow.
Suddenly, Dorian was very much awake.
Grabbing his staff, Dorian rushed to catch up with the Commander. The blonde man was making a beeline for the largest tent in the camp, which had been designated their makeshift clinic, and barking orders at everyone he passed. He whisked the Herald into the tent, shouting that no one else was to be allowed in but the healers. Dorian managed to slip in on Cassandra’s heels, walking as if he had been invited.
Cullen found an empty cot and laid Enderin on it. Peering over Cassandra’s shoulder, Dorian saw that the elf was, shockingly, awake, though he was shivering so hard that his entire body seemed to vibrate. Snow had caked in his long hair, hiding the chestnut color in ropes of white. His clothes were torn in several places, and completely soaked. The right side of his face was one giant, angry purple bruise. The mark pulsed sickly green light.
But Andraste’s ass, he was alive.
“You there! Gather more blankets! And you, heat some water! Lieutenant, I want you to clear my tent, we’ll move the Herald there as soon as we’re able. Mother Giselle, anything you need, we’ll find it, I swear.” As soldiers and healers alike jumped to follow orders, the Commander finally backed away, rubbing the back of his neck anxiously as he watched the commotion. Cassandra laid a hand on his arm.
“Come, Cullen. He is in capable hands now. We have much to discuss,” the Seeker said gently, guiding the man toward the tent flap. Dorian tried to appear as inconspicuous as possible as they passed, but they obviously had far greater concerns and paid him no heed. Leliana, however, winked in his direction as she passed, and he gave her a small smile. That woman missed nothing.
As the healers practiced their craft in silence, Dorian snuck to the foot of the bed. This close, he could see that the elf’s lips and the tips of his ears and nose were blue from the cold. One didn’t have to be skilled in spirit healing to see that the man had been desperately close to losing bits of himself to frostbite. Frowning, he coughed, and Enderin turned toward him.
“You, my fine young friend, are an idiot. A noble idiot, perhaps, but an idiot all the same.”
Enderin made a noise that might have been a laugh were his throat not completely raw from the cold. “I w-won’t ar-r-rgue that.” One of the healers, a middle aged elven woman with mousy hair and a stern face, prodded at his side, and the Herald hissed in pain. The woman tsked and continued her examination, ignoring Dorian completely.
From the other side of the tent, however, someone did take notice of the Altus’s presence. Mother Giselle moved swiftly to the head of Enderin’s cot and gave the Tevinter a wilting look. “Young man, you are not to be here. The Herald needs healing, not...” she searched for a word, finally landing on, “guests.”
“I assure you, my good woman, I certainly don’t want to delay Enderin’s recovery. I do, however, have at least one service that I can offer.” Kneeling, Dorian reached below the bed and began scratching symbols into the dirt there.
Mother Giselle’s sour expression deepened. “What are you - “
“Shush, and watch.” Dorian finished the rune, perfect now that his fingers were warm enough to cooperate, and willed the Fade into the grooves to activate it. The rune flared red, settling to a deep orange color, and a comfortable heat radiated out from it. Dorian rose, a smug smile on his face. “If you’ve no objections of course. I could set a few additional ones around the tent, if it wouldn’t offend your senses too greatly.”
The Mother hrumphed noncommittally and returned to her tasks. Dorian scoffed, grinning, then turned back to the elf. “Now, as I was saying...”
“Dorian...the d-d-dragon...” Enderin’s face creased with concern despite his shivering.
The Altus’s expression softened. “Gone, thanks to you. What you did was - well, it was foolish and ill advised and,” he sighed, “spectacularly heroic. I shall kill you myself if you ever do anything like that again, but in the meantime, I am incredibly grateful for my life.” He gave an elegant bow, and Enderin sank back against the pillows, exhaling in relief.
“Pardon, ser,” the elven healer interrupted, “but you really must go now. We need to get the Herald out of these wet clothes and tend to him.”
Dorian considered making a saucy comment, but thought better of it. Instead, he simply nodded and showed himself out. Back in his own tent, new runes placed and activated, he found that sleep came much easier than he had thought possible while stuck in the middle of nowhere in a flimsy tent with his head on the cold earth.
Chapter 6: Skyhold
Dorian and Enderin chat in their new home.
Note: You’ll notice that I’ve incorporated a bit of the game dialogue. I’ll do this occasionally in my story, though I’m striving to let my own voice shine through.
Enderin leaned against the stone wall at the top of the rotunda staircase. He had spent most of the day exploring the Inquisition’s new stronghold, assessing its fortifications and mentally cataloging the areas that would need repair. It was going to take work, but Skyhold could certainly prove to be an invaluable asset. When he had asked Solas how he’d found the castle in the first place, Solas had simply smiled and replied, “There are many hidden places in this world if one knows where to look.”
The Inquisition was quickly settling into its new home. Within three days, most of the main areas had been cleared of enough rubble to at least be functional, the soldiers had been assigned their barracks, a makeshift tavern had been set up in one of the outer buildings, and Enderin’s inner circle and advisors had all claimed their quarters. The newly-made Inquisitor had been pulled in one direction after another, with barely time to breathe, let alone look in on his friends.
Now, Enderin stood watching Dorian. The man was facing the other direction, and hadn’t yet noticed the elf, as he was too engrossed in the wall of books before him. The bulk of the rebel mages had arrived this morning, bringing with them carts full of books that had been rescued (or stolen) from the various Circles. They had claimed the second story of the rotunda for their library, as it was already equipped with an abundance of shelves. Enderin had spied his Tevinter friend slipping upstairs as the other mages left to sort out their sleeping arrangements, and he had followed. Not noticing his elven shadow, Dorian ran his hands lovingly over the leather spines of several tomes before pulling one out seemingly at random. He leafed through a handful of pages before returning the book to the shelf, only to repeat the entire process over again.
Enderin smiled, amused at the absolute reverence that Dorian showed the small library. The man was quite obviously back in his element. Not wanting to disturb him, Enderin turned to explore the other direction, but a floorboard creaked beneath his feet, and Dorian glanced over his shoulder and, once he realized who was there, grinned.
“If you’ve come to finish me off while I was distracted, you’ve chosen the perfect place for it. Nowhere I’d rather meet my end than surrounded by books. There are quite a few tomes here that I haven’t seen in ages. Librum di Nocturne? I didn’t think Southern circles allowed that one. Oh, and Gottori’s Guide to Useful Runework? Why would anyone think to save that one? Nothing more than a primer for toddlers. Sadly, I haven’t found one hidden dirty pictures book yet. I expected these poor saps to be much more depraived.” Turning to face the elf, he flashed an incredibly charming smile. Enderin realized that he was staring at Dorian’s mouth and quickly looked away, rubbing at the cuff he wore near the tip of his ear and looking much like a guilty child. “Am I speaking too quickly for you?”
“I was...distracted, that’s all.” Feeling the heat rise in his cheeks, Enderin inwardly cursed himself for getting so easily flustered. There was something about Dorian that threw him off balance.
“Distracted?,” Dorian teased, “By my wit and charm? I have plenty of both.”
Cocky bastard, Enderin thought, grinning. “Today, at least.”
“Oh, you wound me!” Dorian exclaimed, pressing a hand dramatically to his chest. “But speaking of wounds...how are we feeling today? I’m more than slightly impressed that you’re even alive after Haven.”
Enderin’s smile faded. Most of his injuries had been easily healed either through magical means or by simply letting time take its course, though his cracked ribs were still sore. Worse than any of his physical wounds, though, was the crushing feeling in his chest every time he thought too much about the attack on Haven. “I’m fine. Better than some.”
Sighing, Dorian shook his head. “You saved a lot of lives that day. Don’t go feeling unnecessarily guilty that you couldn’t save them all. The only one responsible for the people we lost is Corypheus.”
“I suppose,” Enderin acquiesced, unconvincingly. “He was certainly...unexpected.”
Dorian smirked. “Unexpected. Now that’s an accurate assessment if I ever heard one.” Crossing his arms over his chest, he rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet as he spoke, giving him an air of impatience. “Leave it to my countrymen to take every terrible thing you Southerners believe about us and prove it absolutely, horrifyingly true. You know that the Imperium denies that a magister began the Blight, yes?” He snorted. “A bit harder to dismiss that claim now.”
“Who does the Imperium say started the Blight?”
“Oh, you know how it is,” Dorian replied, waving a hand dismissively, “Not us. They say darkspawn were always there, that magisters and the Blight aren’t even related. Is that a surprise? No one wants to admit they shit the bed.” His nose wrinkled disdainfully. “But if Corypheus is one of the magisters who entered the Black City, and he’s darkspawn? What other explanation is there?”
Tilting his head to the side, Enderin considered that thought. “What if it isn’t true though? No one knows exactly what Corypheus is. He could just be some lunatic. A powerful lunatic, obviously, but not the man who broke into the Black City. I mean, for all we know, that’s just some story the Chantry tells, and it never happened at all.”
“True, he might be a convincing liar, or delusional, or insane, but he certainly seems to know what he’s talking about. And besides that, he tore open the Fade! That can’t be simple coincidence.” The Altus sighed. “I’ve been fighting against the worst parts of my homeland since I was old enough to know that they were wrong. I want to prove that Tevinter isn’t past saving, that we aren’t as bad as the rest of Thedas believes us to be. How can I defend the magisters now? Any positive light that I could bring will now forever be overshadowed by the truth. It was us all along. WE destroyed the world.” Those stormy grey eyes which had been gleaming with righteous anger a moment before dropped to the ground. Dorian’s shoulders slumped as the realization sunk in that the nation he was trying to redeem had doomed itself so completely.
Shifting in an effort to catch Dorian’s gaze again, Enderin offered a small grin. “Now who’s feeling unnecessarily guilty?” Huffing, Dorian rolled his eyes, and Enderin continued. “You didn’t do anything. Those men did, a thousand years ago. I think you can safely absolve yourself of that particular wrongdoing and lay the blame squarely on their shoulders.”
“True, except that one of them is up and walking around right now. And besides that, a large group of idiots from my homeland seem determined to play the villainous stereotype and are going along with whatever dastardly plan Corypheus has up his sleeve.” Dorian sighed, but straightened his back and squared his shoulders. Giving Enderin a sideways look, he said pointedly, “They won’t thank me back in Tevinter, whatever happens. No one will thank you, either. You know that, yes?”
Enderin shrugged. “Oh, I don’t know about that. I’ve already met a couple of good Vints. There must be more. Who knows, perhaps they’ll throw us a parade when this is all over.”
Dorian threw back his head and laughed. Enderin couldn’t help but smile at the sight. “An optimist! Such a rare breed. I’ve stumbled upon a unicorn!” His expression quickly turned serious, and he looked the elf directly in the eye. “You will stop him, yes? I’m not one to throw my lot in with just anyone, Void-touched hand or not.” He shook his head in a way that said he didn’t expect an answer and, taking one last glance at the library behind him, sauntered past Enderin toward the stairs. “I suppose I should go arrange my quarters, as no one has yet volunteered to put sheets on my bed. Oh,” he said, over his shoulder, “and congratulations on that whole leading-the-Inquisition thing.”
Enderin was left alone in the library, feeling slightly confused as to whether Dorian actually approved of him, or was having him on.
Chapter 7: Felix
Dorian deals with the death of his best friend.
“Are you listening, my dear?”
It took Enderin a moment to realize that Vivienne was asking him a direct question. He had been distracted by a figure walking along the ramparts beyond the window while she lectured him on the importance of appearance and the many reasons why she disagreed with his decisions regarding the Inquisition. He shook his head quickly and returned to the conversation at hand.
“My apologies, Madame Vivienne. My mind seems to have wandered a bit.”
The courtier narrowed her eyes disapprovingly. “Perhaps it would be best if we continue this discussion at another time. There are so many demands for you attention now. Just be sure you can discern which demands can be dismissed, and which should be heeded.” She turned her back on the Inquisitor and walked out to the balcony. Enderin had a feeling that he had just been dismissed. He sighed as he retreated to the library. Vivienne had been displeased ever since Enderin had given the rebel mages their freedom. He knew that she was a valuable ally, but hard as he tried, he didn’t seem able to break past her icy veneer. Their views were simply too different.
Finding the nook in the library empty, Enderin made his way out onto the ramparts, nodding to the people he passed but walking with a purpose that he hoped conveyed his desire not to be disturbed. It seemed to work on everyone but one persistent young noblewoman, whom Enderin sent in search of Josephine to answer questions in his stead.
In a quiet corner of the ramparts, he found the hooded figure gazing out at the mountains, cloak clutched tight around him against the chill. Enderin slipped silently next to him, leaning on his elbows on the stone wall.
“I thought that my eyes were playing tricks on me when I saw you out here, but you weren’t in your library, so I had to see for myself. Are you all right?”
“Why shouldn’t I be?”
“Dorian, you’re outside. In the cold. Of your own volition. And I know for a fact that a new shipment of books arrived today.”
“Perhaps I just wanted some fresh air.”
“Or perhaps something is wrong.”
Dorian bent his head and rubbed his temples, face hidden beneath his hood. After a long moment of silence, Enderin pushed himself off the wall.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t pry. I’ll go.”
“No,” Dorian said softly. “Stay, please. I could use a- I could use the company.” He twisted to lean his back against the wall and slid to the ground, crossing his legs in front of him. He pulled back his hood, but didn’t raise his eyes to the elf. “I’ve had a letter from home. Felix went to the Magesterium. Stood in front of all those self-absorbed bastards and sang your praises. Oh, how I wish I could have seen that.” He gave a half-hearted laugh, then fell quiet. Enderin waited in silence until the Altus finally spoke again.
“He’s dead. The Blight finally took him.”
“Oh Dorian...I’m so sorry.”
Dorian looked up at him and blinked slowly. “Sorry...whatever for? It’s not as if it wasn’t expected. He had more time than most, really. I suppose I should be grateful for that.”
Enderin sat next to Dorian, their shoulders touching. “He was your friend, and a good man from what I could see. You can be grateful for the time he had and still regret his death.”
The Altus nodded, then stared down at his hands. “He and I used to get into all sorts of trouble. Well, more accurately, I used to get into all sorts of trouble and drag him along. He took more tongue-lashings on my behalf than I’d care to admit.”
“You two must have been quite the pair.”
“He looked out for me, more than I deserved. He used to sneak me food from the kitchens when I was working late, slipped me ridiculous notes when I was in the middle of a long research session just to make me laugh.” The ghost of a smile appeared, then vanished. “He was a terrible mage, you know.”
“Yes. That’s part of the reason Alexius took me on as his apprentice. Felix could barely manage to light a candle. Alexius had to have someone to assist with his research. He chose wisely, as my genius earned him a mountain of accolades.” The sides of Dorian’s mouth twitched in a quick mockery of a smile. “He did love Felix, though. It didn’t matter that he was barely a mage. Alexius sent him to school in Orlais, hired him the finest tutors. He did everything to make him happy. He would have destroyed the world to save him.” Dorian’s voice had started to tremble, and he coughed in an attempt to regain his composure. He appreciated that Enderin was generous enough to inspect the skyline while Dorian quickly blotted at the corners of his eyes.
“Does Alexius know?”
“No. Not yet.” Dorian pulled at the side of his mustache. “I suppose I shall have to inform him. Not something I’m looking forward to.”
“I can do it, if you prefer.”
Dorian sighed. “No. He deserves to hear it from someone he knows. Someone who cares...cared...for Felix.” Enderin nodded. They sat quietly, watching the banners flutter in the mountain breeze. Dorian was wrapped up in his own thoughts, but eventually his mind turned to the man next to him. The Inquisitor surely had better things to do than keep him company in his misery. And yet, here he was. And the silence between them was not uncomfortable. The elf didn’t speak just to fill the void, he simply stayed. His presence alone was a comfort.
“I never thanked you for sparing Alexius’s life. He probably didn’t deserve it, after all he’s done, but he was a good man once.”
Enderin shrugged. “His research has been helping us. Besides, he was your friend, your mentor. And you asked.”
Dorian nodded. A moment later, he stood, and the elf quickly followed suit. “No sense in putting off the inevitable. Do you think Josephine has any decent brandy stashed away? I know Cabot doesn’t keep any in stock, much to my great dismay.”
“We can go ask her.”
They walked together to the end of the rampart. At the door to the castle, Dorian paused, his hand on the door handle.
“I- thank you. For checking in on me. It was good of you.”
Enderin didn’t have the chance to reply before Dorian was through the door and down the stairs.
Dorian stood in the middle of the dungeon, a bottle of brandy in one hand, two glasses in the other. He took long, deep breaths, pushing down the slow waves of nausea that kept threatening his stomach. He didn’t want to be here. He certainly didn’t want to be doing this. He hadn’t visited Alexius since the man had been taken prisoner. Now he was seeing him for the worst of reasons.
The guard was talking in a low voice to a message runner in the corner. She kept glancing at Dorian, her eyes narrowed. He flashed her what he hoped was a charming smile, but she simply turned back to the messenger. After another few moments, she marched over to the mage, a look of suspicion still on her face. “Right then. Sorry for the wait, ser, but I had to check. We generally don’t allow prisoners alcohol, yeah? And I can’t have visitors coming in at all hours.”
Dorian didn’t feel that mid-afternoon qualified as ‘all hours’, but he didn’t argue. “Of course, my good woman. I assume that everything has been squared away now? May I proceed?”
The guardswoman grunted. “Follow me.” She turned and led him down a dim hallway. As she walked, she explained, “He’s ‘round the corner, to give him some quiet for his work. I can’t leave you completely alone with him, you see, but I’ll be right down the hall. He gives you any trouble, give a shout or bang on the door. Not that I expect him to, now, he’s mostly been a gentleman.” They turned the corner and headed for the single wooden door in this part of the dungeon. The guard unhooked the key ring from her belt and selected one of the keys. Turning it in the lock, she pulled open the door and stepped aside, gesturing for Dorian to enter.
Dorian found himself standing in a cell at least as large as his own room. Books were stacked everywhere, and a small writing desk in one corner was covered in parchment. There was a pile of rolled parchment sitting just inside the door, as if someone were expected to pick it up shortly. The bed, though simple, sported a thick, clean blanket and was neatly made. The cell’s inhabitant sat at the desk, his back to the door, hunched over, quill in hand. He didn’t turn when the guard unlocked the cell, but he stopped writing and set the quill in its ink pot.
“Inquisitor says you’ve got as much time as you need. Yell when you’re done.” With that final instruction, the door was slammed shut and locked once more.
Dorian listened to the retreating steps of the guardswoman, waiting until they faded around the corner. He felt incredibly awkward, standing in silence in the middle of the room, alcohol in hand, and he looked for somewhere to set the bottle and glasses down, but it seemed that every surface but the bed and floor was covered. He cleared his throat.
“Well, I must say, as far as cells go, this one isn’t completely terrible. Not that I’ve spent a lot of time in cells, mind you, but I can’t imagine that they’re all this...er...cozy.”
Dorian watched the man’s shoulders tense. “Dorian.”
Alexius finally turned to face him. Dorian fought to keep his expression under check while his heart dropped into his feet. Gereon Alexius, proud magister, professor, mentor, was gone completely. In his place sat a broken old man, his face deeply lined, his hands age spotted and gnarled. It seemed that the weight of the last few years had all come crashing down upon him in the months since his capture. He regarded Dorian with an accusatory look in his eyes. “Well. You finally come to look in on me? How kind of you,” he said wryly.
“Yes, well, about that. I did intend to visit. We’ve had quite an eventful time of things lately, though. And, quite frankly, I was a bit cross with you over that whole joining-the-Venatori-and-serving-the-Elder-One thing.” Dorian sat on the bed without being invited, setting the glasses down next to him. “But I’m not - “
“For Felix!” Alexius hissed, his hands clenched into tight fists. “Everything I did was to save him! And you, you who claim to be his best friend, you stopped it! You doomed him, Dorian!”
The Altus’s head snapped back as if he’d been physically slapped. Suddenly, anger broiled over every other emotion fighting within him. “I doomed him? In case you’ve forgotten, I was the one who managed to keep him alive! You didn’t see what I saw, Alexius! You didn’t see the future, where Felix was nothing but a ghoul, a husk of a man! You couldn’t save him, but you destroyed the world fueled by empty promises from some false god, acting the evil magister all the way!”
Alexius leapt to his feet, knocking over his stool in the process. Dorian jumped up as well, quickly reaching for the Fade and pulling fire to his fingertips. He didn’t want to fight, but he wouldn’t hesitate to defend himself.
The older mage smiled, a cold, cheerless grin. “You’d strike down a defenseless old man, would you? It seems I’m not the only one playing at evil magister.”
“You may be an old man, Alexius, but I’d hardly call you defenseless.”
“Wouldn’t you?” The former magister extended his hands before him, pulling the loose sleeves back to his elbows. Clamped on his wrists were thick iron cuffs worked heavily with runes that flashed randomly, green and red and blue.
“Vishante kaffas,” Dorian swore. He extinguished his flames. “Anti-magic, I presume?” Alexius nodded. “And they work? No spells at all?”
“Do you really believe I’d still be here if they didn’t?”
Dorian sighed. “No, I suppose not.” His anger slowly deflated, and he lowered himself back to the bed. “I can’t say that I’m sorry you’re in this position, not after all you’ve done, but it hurts me to see you this way, Alexius. You took me in after my father...well, you know. I admired you, respected you. Of all the damned stupid things to do.”
Alexius looked defeated. He remained standing, staring at the manacles on his wrists in silence for a moment. Finally, he spoke. “Why are you here, Dorian? Why now?”
“Felix is dead, Alexius. I’m so sorry.”
The old man’s face crumpled. He stepped backward, shaking his head, until his back hit the wall, and he slid down to the ground. Tears trickled down his cheeks, and he buried his face in his hands and wailed. Dorian sat awkwardly, not sure what to do, until he thought back to that morning on the ramparts. He moved to the other side of the cell, settling himself next to Alexius, shoulders touching, and waited, offering nothing more than his presence.
Eventually, Alexius quieted, and the two men sat together in silence for a long stretch, each lost in his own thoughts. After a while, Dorian patted the older man’s shoulder. “I’ve brought some brandy, my friend. Rather good stuff, at that. Shall we drink a toast to Felix?”
“Yes,” Alexius said, nodding. “Yes, I think we shall.”
“Just like old times.”
Dorian stayed with Alexius until long after the sun had set. When he left, despite the grief still settled in his heart and the fog of the brandy, he felt a bit lighter.
Chapter 8: Morale
Enderin is unhappy with his situation, and Dorian tries to help.
The first time Dorian was flung down, it knocked all the wind out of his lungs. He scrambled back to his feet as quickly as he could, trying to gather the Fade to him. Suddenly, his magic was ripped from him, an action that he could physically feel, as if he’d had his clothes torn from his body, and he was promptly knocked to the ground once more.
His face burned as he heard Blackwall laughing. Laughing! At him! He huffed in indignation. A hand was thrust in front of his face, offering to lift him out of the dirt. He pushed it aside (petulant, he knew) and got up on his own, brushing the dust from his leathers.
“Mages! Pay attention! Master Pavus here is one of the strongest amongst you, and even he can be taken down easily by a well-trained Templar,” Cullen was projecting into the crowd gathered around the training ring.
“Dirty tricks,” Dorian muttered. “Cancelling out magic. Barbaric!”
Cullen ignored him. “You are fighting against monsters, but they were once men, Templars, and they still have those abilities. The Inquisition is going to arm you the best we can, with knowledge of how to defeat them!” The mages in the crowd murmured, unsure. Cullen marched over to Dorian and lowered his voice. “Maker’s breath, I never thought I’d be teaching mages how to fight Templars. Right, so here’s what you need to do...”
Dorian listened intently, but he let his eyes wander. Opposite the huddled group of rebel mages, several of Enderin’s inner circle stood just outside the ring. Bull and Blackwall were talking, grins on their faces, eyes occasionally darting in Dorian’s direction. Varric was leaning against a low stone wall, Sera perched behind him. Even Solas had joined them, and was watching intently.
Above the training yard, Enderin stood on his balcony, leaning against the stone rail. That the elf had seen Dorian thrown flat on his ass was perhaps the most embarrassing of all.
Cullen finished his instruction. “Understood?”
Dorian nodded. He wouldn’t be humiliated again.
The Commander moved to the edge of the training yard, and the Templar, a young woman with dark hair that Cullen referred to as Lysette, stepped up again. To her credit, she didn’t look smug or amused that she’d managed to trounce Dorian so thoroughly in their first match. Instead, she only appeared focused. Dorian set his shoulders, readied his staff, and began pulling the Fade to his fingertips.
Before Lysette could raise her shield, Dorian sent out a blast of mental energy, causing the Templar to stagger and lose her footing. As she tried to recover, he focused a psychic cage around her, and she was rendered immobile. He knew the crushing prison would only last a handful of seconds, so he charged forward, sweeping his staff out in front of him and knocking the woman’s feet out from under her. She hit the ground on her back with a grunt, and Dorian flipped his staff around, aiming it directly at her face. She gave a wry smile and dropped her sword, showing her empty palm. “I yield,” she said, as the rebel mages began to whoop and holler. Now Dorian offered the Templar his hand, and she accepted graciously, rising and giving his hand a squeeze just before she turned and trotted to the Commander’s side.
Dorian bowed to his audience with a flourish as Cullen called for order. Glancing upward, the Altus caught Enderin’s eye. The elf gave Dorian a nod and returned to his room. Curious, Dorian thought, then he joined the rest of the inner circle on the sidelines, giving Blackwall and Bull a withering look.
Several hours later, freshly bathed and perfectly coiffed, Dorian went searching for the Inquisitor. He wasn’t in his bedroom according to the guards posted outside the door, and Josephine informed him that the advisors hadn’t seen him for most of the day. Scouring the library, the tavern, the courtyard, and the stables yielded nothing. He was about to give up when he spotted a door he’d never noticed before. He trotted up the stairs, pushing through the door into the stifling heat of what was obviously the kitchens. Several flushed faces, mostly elven, glanced up at him, then resumed their work. A stocky, angry looking human woman wiped her meaty hands on her apron and stared the Altus down. Dorian balked. “Er, I don’t suppose the Inquisitor has made his way though here recently?” The woman jerked her head toward a second door, crossing her arms over her chest. Dorian hurried through to the inner door, grabbing an apple from a bowl on the way. “Many thanks!,” he chirped, shutting the door quickly before the woman could object to his fruit snatching.
The inner door led to a regal looking room that Dorian had never seen before. The floor was covered with a plush red carpet, a bit faded but otherwise in very good shape. Paintings hung on the walls, paying homage to long-forgotten nobles. Behind one of the columns lining the room, Dorian spotted a bare foot. Circling the column, he found Enderin, sitting with his back to the stone, knees pulled to his chest, head resting in the crook of his arm.
“You can certainly be a hard man to find.”
“That was the plan,” Enderin muttered, head still down, his hair falling in a chestnut cascade over his arms.
Dorian leaned against the wall opposite Enderin, taking a large bite of his apple. He chewed it slowly, contemplating the folded form in front of him. “I saw you on the balcony earlier. You know, if you wanted to watch my spectacular performance, there are several places that would have offered a much better view. I would suggest staying to my right. It’s my better side, after all, though I suppose both sides are stellar.”
Enderin lifted his head, resting his chin on his forearms. “You really are in love with yourself, aren’t you?” The corner of his mouth twitched, and Dorian chuckled.
“What’s not to love? I’m a marvelous specimen.” He held out the apple to Enderin, offering a bite, but the elf waved it away.
“Yes, well, Cullen and the others have decided that I shouldn’t train with everyone else. They said that the Inquisitor shouldn’t be seen taking a fall.” He laughed bitterly. “As if I haven’t been bruised and cut and knocked down and nearly killed a dozen times each since this whole thing began. I’d never seen a Templar until the conclave. I’m even more lost than the rest of those mages.” Looking up to Dorian, he searched the Tevinter’s face. “You didn’t do so well that first time.”
Feeling his face flush, Dorian shifted uncomfortably. “Yes, well, one doesn’t gain much experience with actual Templars in Tevinter, either. The Order there is about as useful as diamonds to a nug. They’re all for show.”
“You learned quickly though. I was impressed.”
“Impressed?” Dorian tilted his head. “I’m honored to have caught the attention of the great Inquisitor.”
“Stop!” Enderin shouted, and Dorian jumped. “I’m not the ‘great Inquisitor’! I’m just an elf who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’m tired, and I’m lonely, and I just want to go back to my clan!”
Dorian stood in stunned silence. He’d never seen Enderin as anything but confident and fearless. Suddenly, he realized how young the man actually was, and what a terrible burden he’d been given.
Enderin buried his face in his arms once more. “I’m sorry,” he said, his voice muffled. “I just...I’m so tired of trying to be that person.”
The silence stretched between them. Dorian had never really been the comforting type. In Tevinter, to show emotion was seen as a weakness, and one would be eaten alive by their fellow mages for such a display. This wasn’t Tevinter, however, and he didn’t see Enderin as weak, simply understandably overwhelmed. After a few moments, Dorian cleared his throat and crossed his ankles. “I don’t particularly enjoy the spectacle of having my ass handed to me in front of the entire population of Skyhold. I would much prefer to learn my new tricks alongside someone else who’s in my same predicament. I’m sure Cullen wouldn’t object to one more person in your training sessions, if you’re of a mind.”
Enderin raised his head, looking confused. “You...want to train with me?”
“It was just a thought. If you’d rather not...”
“No! I mean, yes, I’d enjoy that, I think.”
“Good. That’s settled then.” Dorian started to leave, but paused on his way out of the room. He addressed the wall ahead of him rather than Enderin directly. “I’m...not good at this whole being part of something business. I’ve mostly kept to myself, honestly. But you...it’s a good thing you’re doing here, Enderin. Not just anyone could pull this off.”
Quietly, the elf answered, “Thanks, Dorian.”
The Altus nodded, taking another mouthful of fruit, and set off to find Cullen.
He found the Commander, unsurprisingly, back in the training yard, having a conversation with the Iron Bull and occasionally yelling at soldiers to raise their shields or to hold their swords like they knew how to use them. Dorian waited for a lull in the shouting, then made himself known.
“Commander, a moment, if you would.”
Cullen looked surprised. “Master Pavus...um, yes, of course. May we speak here, or...?” He trailed off and glanced at Bull, who gave Dorian what the mage could only assume was meant to be a wink, though it looked ridiculous considering the Qunari only had the one working eye.
“Here is fine. I simply wanted to inform you that I’ll be joining Enderin when he trains with you. I assume you’d be agreeable to this arrangement?”
Cullen’s golden eyes widened. “I...err...well, Master Pavus, I’m not sure if that’s...well, what I mean to say is...”
Waving his hand dismissively, Dorian shook his head. “Yes, yes, you and the other advisors want to keep Enderin sequestered away from us rabble. Is that it?”
“Rabble? No!” Cullen looked flustered. “That is, yes, we would prefer that he train privately, but it’s a matter of propriety, not...”
“Well, he’s miserable, in case you’d failed to notice,” Dorian scolded. “You can’t keep him locked away from everyone and simply march him out when it suits you. The poor man has been torn from his family and his home and been flung into this giant mess that had nothing to do with him. He needs friends.”
“As much as I hate to agree with a Vint,” Bull added, “he’s right. The kid doesn’t train with us. He doesn’t eat with us. Hell, he doesn’t even get to drink with us at the Rest. Only time he gets to have any fun is when he’s out on a mission, and even then he’s working. Anyone needs their morale up, it’s him. If he gives up, everyone does.”
“I suppose we hadn’t considered that,” Cullen said slowly, rubbing the back of his neck. “He’s never complained to us.”
“He wouldn’t,” said the Qunari, crossing his giant arms over his chest. “He’s a people pleaser. He doesn’t want to disappoint you.”
Cullen sighed. “I’ll address this with the others tonight. I still don’t think it’s right that he train with the regular troops, but I imagine there’s no harm in allowing you to be there, Master Pavus.”
“Good man. Oh, and Commander, I believe that we’re at the point where we can drop the formality, yes? Dorian will do.”
“Dorian then.” Cullen nodded, then excused himself to return to his troops.
Bull clapped a hand on Dorian’s shoulder, making him stagger. “That was downright nice of you, Vint.”
Groaning and rubbing his shoulder, the Altus scowled. “Yes, well, let’s not start spreading rumors around that I’m a nice person or anything. Wouldn’t want to ruin the evil magister image, would we?”
“Ha! Well, I might just drop by Inquisitor training myself, learn how not to get my ass set on fire. See you bright and early tomorrow.”
“Bright and early?”
“Yep. Inquisitor trains just after sunrise,” Bull said over his shoulder as he turned to walk away, grinning knowingly.
Dorian waited until the brute was out of earshot before he began cursing to himself.
Chapter 9: Desires
Much to his surprise, Dorian gets a late night visit from the Inquisitor.
“So, Dorian, enough beating around the bush. Do you find me attractive?”
Dorian looked up from his book, startled. He had thought he was alone in the library. The former circle mages and tranquil had long since given up their scholarly pursuits for the day and gone to bed. Only a few candles were left burning, including the ones in the candelabra next to Dorian’s armchair. Much to his surprise, Enderin stood before him, leaning on a shelf and looking down at Dorian expectantly. Even more intriguing was the fact that the Inquisitor had apparently discarded those appalling pajamas he wore everywhere since they’d come to Skyhold and had somehow managed to acquire a set of Tevinter robes, black and gold and perfectly tailored to his lithe elven body. The thin candlelight caught the metallic threads of the embroidery, Tevinter serpents, making them dance and shift. He was even wearing shoes, soft black leather slippers that allowed him to tread just as silently as he always did in his bare feet.
“I beg your pardon?”
Enderin casually picked an invisible speck of dust from the high collar of his robes. “I believe you heard me perfectly, Dorian. Let’s not play any longer. Do you find me attractive?”
Dorian closed his book and set it aside, never taking his eyes off the elf. He steepled his fingers under his chin. “Well, now that’s an interesting query. I do believe the fact that you’re here asking the question implies that you know the answer.”
The Inquisitor chuckled. He sauntered slowly toward Dorian’s chair, making sure the Altus was drinking in every step. The loose gold pants swished pleasantly as he walked. Leaning down, he breathed into Dorian’s ear, “Do you want me?”
His heart hammering in his chest, Dorian licked his lips. “My dear Inquisitor, I...”
The Tevinter’s thought was thoroughly interrupted as the elf suddenly leaned into him, his hand pressed against Dorian’s crotch. To his great embarrassment, Dorian moaned perversely, unable to form words. Enderin grinned, his tongue darting out to trace the outer edge of Dorian’s ear. “What would you give to have me, Dorian?”
Right now, all the gold in Tevinter, Dorian thought wildly as Enderin brushed his fingers over the growing bulge in his trousers. He raised a hand, twisting it through the elf’s long hair. Enderin sighed, pressing his body closer. Fasta vass, he certainly hadn’t expected the night to take this turn, but he welcomed it, his mouth searching out Enderin’s, his hands pulling the other man closer until the elf was straddled on his lap.
Dorian’s mind echoed Enderin’s last words. What would you give to have me. “What would I -“ His eyes flew open as alarm bells began ringing through his brain. “Wait!” He pushed Enderin off of him.
The elf hit the floor, his eyes huge, startled. “Dorian...”
“Stop it!” Dorian leapt up from the chair, forcing Enderin to scramble backwards. “No games now, you may as well show yourself, you bastard.”
Standing and straightening to his full height, the Inquisitor began to laugh. The sound was cold, humorless, and it made Dorian’s skin crawl. Enderin’s voice grew deeper and deeper as the library around them began to shimmer and shift. The black robes fell away, Enderin’s skin seemed to darken, his body lengthening. Dorian watched in disgust as the skin on the elf’s forehead split, the points of two horns forcing their way through as the delicate tattoo dissolved away.
“Hello, Dorian,” the desire demon crooned. Touching himself seductively, he moved closer to the Altus. “It’s been a long time. Did you miss me?”
“About as much as one misses an ingrown toenail.”
The demon tsk tsked. “Such vitriol, little mage. Is that really necessary? I thought we were friends.” His voice was like honey and wine, dripping with sweetness to mask the poison beneath. “After all,” he crooned, “I only want to make you happy.”
“Oh, that’s likely,” Dorian scoffed. “No ulterior motive at all? How magnanimous of you.”
The demon circled him, running long fingers over his own body as he moved. “Everything that gives pleasure comes at a price, my love. Do you truly think that you can win the Inquisitor on your own? He doesn’t care for you, you’re simply another toy soldier in his army. But I...I can make him yearn for you, bend for you, ache for your touch.” The demon pressed himself against Dorian’s back and wrapped his arms around the mage, but the hands that gripped Dorian’s chest were the Inquisitor’s, the long, strong fingers so familiar, and Dorian felt the press of stiff manhood against his ass, rocking softly, and he shuddered, his mind fighting his weak, willing body. Enderin’s voice spoke into his ear, “I can be yours, Dorian.”
“I refused you before, and I refuse you now,” the Altus hissed through gritted teeth. “Leave me be!”
The hands released him, and one again the demon stood before him, his face twisted in a mocking grin. “And what happened when you refused me before? He was lost to you forever, gone to marry some sweet, simpering girl, never speaking to you again. You’ll lose the Inquisitor just the same.”
“So be it.”
“Oh, you poor stupid man.” The demon sauntered forward, stopping with his face nose to nose with Dorian. “One day, when you’re old and sad and all alone, you will accept my offer. I may not want you by then, though. We shall see. Until that day, you will suffer in your own stubborn loneliness!” Sharp fingers plunged into Dorian’s chest, spraying hot blood over the demon’s laughing face, and tore at the mage’s heart.
Dorian woke with a shout, drenched in sweat. His sheets were twisted about his legs, and he was an inch from falling off the bed. Groaning, he realized his cock was rock hard and aching. That would have to be taken care of before he could go back to sleep. It was still pitch black outside...no sense in actually getting up for the day.
“Vishante kaffas!” Dorian couldn’t believe he’d been taking in so easily. The demon had been rather heavy handed, after all. The Tevinter robes, the obvious seduction, it was all so blatant. An idiot could have seen it coming. Why had it taken him so long to realize?
Because I wanted it.
Dorian sighed. That was it, exactly. He wanted it. And the demon knew it. It had been a long time since he’d wanted someone so badly. Not since Rilienus. And just like then, he couldn’t have him. Visions of blonde hair and full lips crossed his mind, whispered conversations in dark corners, soft touches, two young men testing their limits. And then, the emptiness left behind from rejection, from biting insults and accusations. Dorian shook his head. It had been a long time ago, and he thought that he’d buried that pain, but the demon had brought it back. Then the man in his thoughts changed, shifted, the hair turning long and dark, the features more delicate, and Dorian felt the sharp pang of desire that he’d experienced with the Inquisitor/demon sitting on his lap, breathing hot promises into his ear.
Cursing again, he dug around in his drawers for some oil. Nothing like desire demons and angry masturbation to ruin a night. Maker help anyone who crossed his path tomorrow.
Chapter 10: The Letter
Mother Giselle approaches Enderin with a letter concerning one Dorian Pavus of Tevinter.
Somehow, this chapter either failed to post correctly or was deleted, so I’m adding it in after the fact. Apologies to those who’ve read the story and experienced the odd jump between chapters where this one was supposed to be.
“My Lord Inquisitor, if you’ve a moment...”
Enderin sighed inwardly but pasted on what he hoped was a pleasant smile for Mother Giselle. The woman had been nothing but kind to him, but truth be told, he had little patience for the Chantry these days, especially considering they had more or less gotten him into his current predicament. While he certainly could never have hoped to have gained this level of respect outside of the Inquisition, life had been much simpler with his clan. “For you, Mother Giselle, I always have a moment.”
The Mother smiled kindly and nodded her head, her giant headdress bobbing almost comically. “It is good of you to speak with me. I have news regarding one of your...companions.” Her smile faltered a bit at that. “The Tevinter.”
Enderin caught the slight wrinkle of her nose on that last word. “Is that a note of distaste I detect, Mother Giselle?”
The Mother looked around at the nobles gathered in the hall and quietly steered Enderin toward an empty corner. When they were more or less alone, she resumed their conversation. “I admit, his presence here makes me uncomfortable, Inquisitor, but my feelings are of no importance.” Enderin doubted that was true, but the Mother continued. “I have been in contact with his family, House Pavus of Qarinus. Are you familiar with them?”
“He’s mentioned them. They aren’t on good terms.” That, perhaps, was a bit of an understatement. Dorian had gone on at length about the fact that he was the black sheep of his family, and that they disagreed with his choices and he with theirs, though what exactly those choices were, he hadn’t said. There had been mention of a spurned marriage, but Dorian hadn’t explained much else. Enderin had gotten the idea that it was a sore spot for his friend, and hadn’t pushed.
Mother Giselle nodded. “Yes, I believe you are correct. The family sent a letter describing the estrangement from their son and pleading for my aid. They’ve asked to arrange a meeting. Quietly, without telling him. They fear it’s the only way he’ll come. Since you seem to be on good terms with the young man, I’d hoped...”
Enderin narrowed his eyes. He didn’t like the sound of this. “Just what kind of ‘meeting’ do they have in mind?”
“I believe they just want to talk, to understand why Dorian felt he had to come here. Somewhere private, away from Skyhold, but not in Tevinter. You make them nervous, I think. They don’t understand why he’s with the Inquisition. They want him to come home.”
The elf scoffed. “I make them nervous?” Mother Giselle shrugged. “And if Dorian doesn’t want to go home?”
“Then hopefully that will be the end of it. If not...well, that’s why you should be there.”
Enderin played with the cuff in his ear, a nervous habit he hadn’t been able to break, much to Josephine and Leliana’s dismay. “They don’t want Dorian to know? That seems odd.”
“They believe the young man would refuse, and the letter implies he’d have cause. Yet they are remorseful for whatever came before. This is a chance for dialogue. There is deceit in bringing the young man to this meeting without his foreknowledge, I know. But...does it not lead to a greater kindness if there is potential for reconciliation?”
Enderin ran one hand though his hair and held out his other for the letter, which Mother Giselle quickly passed to him. She stood quietly with her hands folded as he read.
I understand that you feel inadequate to the task of bringing Dorian to a secret meeting. Even in the asking, I find it difficult to believe myself. Considering my son has rebuffed all contact, this is the only way. I know him; he would be too proud to come if he knew - even just to talk. That is all we wish to do. The thought of Dorian in the South, placing himself in the path of such danger, alarms us more than I can express.
If this somehow succeeds, we have a family retainer at the Vandral Hills watching for Dorian’s arrival. He will bring the boy to us, somewhere private. If Dorian utterly refuses to go with him, it ends there...and there is nothing we can do. We are at our wit’s end.
Magister Halward of House Pavus
He reread the letter, shifting from one foot to another, thinking. This all seemed off. The fact that Dorian’s family had contacted Mother Giselle, that they were sending a retainer, that they didn’t want him to be told...it didn’t sit well.
“Mother Giselle - I appreciate that Magister Pavus wants make amends. I’m glad you brought this to me.”
The Mother’s eyes lit up. “So you will bring Dorian to Redcliffe?”
“I will...if he agrees.”
“Oh. I see.” Mother Giselle twisted her hands. “Inquisitor, can I not convince you - “
“To deceive Dorian? No, you cannot. And quite frankly, Mother Giselle, I’m a bit surprised that you thought I would,” Enderin scolded. The Mother cast her eyes to the stone floor and had the grace to blush a bit. “I’ll do my best to convince Dorian to meet with his family though. We’ll just have to see what happens.”
“Thank you, my Lord Inquisitor. I pray that your judgement proves fruitful.” She bowed gracefully, and the Inquisitor took his leave toward the rotunda stairs.
Engrossed in a study on the effect of ambient temperature on barrier spells, Dorian didn’t notice the Inquisitor approach until the elf pointedly cleared his throat. Looking up from his book, Dorian remembered his dream from the night before and resisted the urge to pinch himself. After all, Enderin wasn’t wearing Tevinter robes this time, and they weren’t alone, and instead of looking sultry and seductive, the elf looked a bit concerned.
“Am I interrupting?”
“I do believe I can tear myself away from my reading for a moment or two,” Dorian teased, setting the scroll aside. “Something troubling you? Shall I light someone’s ass on fire?”
Enderin didn’t laugh. “No, nothing like that. Something to do with you, though. I’ve been given a letter.”
Dorian fell into his normal habit of deflecting any chance of serious conversation with sarcasm. “A letter? Is it a naughty letter? A humorous proposal from some Antivan dowager?” He hoped Enderin didn’t notice the bags that had formed under his eyes thanks to his interrupted sleep.
The elf fidgeted, his fingers rubbing at the cuff in his ear. It was rather endearing. “Not this time, I’m afraid. It’s from your father.”
Dorian’s brain froze and it felt as it someone had grabbed his heart. He blinked a few times to compose himself. “From my father. I see. And what does Magister Halward want, pray tell?”
His jaw tightened, and he stood and held out his hand. Enderin passed him the crisp piece of parchment with the Pavus crest pressed in wax in the bottom corner. He quickly scanned through the contents, his cheeks burning. He could feel Enderin watching him as he read, though the elf had the courtesy to stand back and give him space to fume.
Dorian’s hands began to shake, though he wasn’t sure if it was from anger or embarrassment. How dare his father track him down like a lost puppy? He was a grown man! He paced back and forth within his alcove, reading and rereading the letter, creasing the edges of the parchment in his hands. Enderin stood, silent, waiting. Finally, Dorian threw the letter aside.
“I can’t believe this,” he growled. “Oh, what a lovely sentiment, the worried father, tugging at the heartstrings of all involved. ‘I know my son.’ Ha! What my father knows of me would barely fill a thimble.” His hands were fluttering around his face like agitated birds, and he quickly curled them into fists and dropped them to his sides. “Oh, but he doesn’t fool me. This ‘retainer’ is more like than not some burly brute who’ll drag me back home by the hair so that my father can lock me in the cellar and lecture me on all the ways I’ve disappointed him.” It wouldn’t be the first time he’s had someone drag me back home, thought Dorian.
“I won’t let that happen, Dorian. You’re not going anywhere you don’t want to go, not while I’m around,” Enderin reassured him.
Tilting his head, Dorian considered that. “You’d come with me?”
“Of course,” the elf grinned. “If you’ll have me, that is. I can’t have anyone kidnapping my friends.”
Dorian’s heart skipped for a moment, and he scolded himself. Friend, he said, nothing more. “Right, let’s go see what my father has planned for me. If it’s a trap, we escape and kill everyone. You’re good at that.”
Enderin laughed. “Thanks...I think.”
“If it’s not a ruse, I may almost be insulted. At least if that’s the case, I can send this retainer back to Tevinter with his tail between his legs and a message telling my father exactly where he can shove his mock concern. Getting Mother Giselle involved, really! As if I would ever travel with that woman.”
The elf peered at Dorian with those big green eyes in that piercing way, the way that made Dorian uncomfortable sometimes. He felt like he was being laid bare, inspected. “Dorian...you’ve never really told me, and I’ve never pressed, but...why do you hate your family so much? What did they do?”
Dorian balked. “I don’t...I mean to say, hate may be too fine a point. I do actually love them, despite it all. But the things they’ve done...” He considered just blurting it out, letting loose the torrent of heartache and betrayal and disappointment. Then he realized where he was, and how many prying eyes and ears were probably eavesdropping on their conversation. He bit his tongue and huffed. “Simply put, they don’t care for my choices, nor I for theirs.”
“Because you wouldn’t get married? Because you left?”
Dorian hesitated. “That too.”
Enderin opened his mouth as if he were going to push the subject, but thankfully he changed his mind. Instead, he rubbed the back of his neck, then said gently, “I think you should meet with this retainer...find out what your family wants.”
Dorian’s anger flared and he blurted out, “I didn’t ask what YOU thought, did I?”
Enderin’s eyes flew wide, and Dorian instantly regretted his outburst. The Inquisitor had been nothing but kind to him since they had first met in Redcliffe. Despite all the stereotypes and warnings and valid reasons to distrust Dorian, the elf had been good to him. Besides, he was young, and he didn’t know. Dorian felt like an utter cad. “That...was unworthy. I apologize. There’d be no harm in hearing what this man of my father’s has to say. If I don’t like it, however, I want to leave.”
Enderin relaxed. “Of course.”
Swinging his arm around the elf’s shoulders and steering him toward the stairs, Dorian mused, “I wonder how much my father paid this man to wait around just in case I showed? Ah, we’ll find out soon enough...”
Chapter 11: Confrontation
Dorian and Enderin travel to Redcliffe to meet the Pavus family retainer.
Redcliffe Village was a week’s ride from Skyhold. Enderin and Dorian went alone, though Enderin was sure that Leliana had some of her spies tailing them for her own reassurance. For the first few days, they chatted amicably about nothing in particular. Dorian didn’t feel like delving into anything more serious than opinions on fellow Inquisition members or thoughts on ways to improve Skyhold. Whenever the elf attempted to steer the conversation toward Tevinter, or Dorian’s past, or anything involving family, Dorian quickly deflected the attempt and changed the subject to something more benign. Soon, Enderin stopped trying. Eventually, the safe topics were exhausted, and they fell into a comfortable silence, only really commenting on their surroundings or thoughts on what to forage for supper. At night, they slept in their own separate tents. Dorian had grown used to sharing a tent while on missions, usually with Varric, occasionally the Bull. Now, laying in his small tent by himself in the wilderness, he felt very alone, despite knowing that Enderin was sleeping only a few feet away. He considered asking the Inquisitor if he’d mind a bunk mate, but his pride prevented him from ever broaching the subject. As the mountain paths turned to the rocky hills and craggy terrain of the Hinterlands, Dorian felt trepidation creeping in. What if his father really had sent someone to snatch him and bring him back home? What if he and Enderin were outnumbered, overwhelmed? His stomach knotted, and he ate little. The Inquisitor watched him with concern, but said nothing.
Finally, they found road signs showing that they’d reach Redcliffe soon. The men rode in silence for most of the day, Dorian deep in thought. Enderin kept the lead, and several times had to whistle to get the Tevinter’s attention when he nearly wandered off the trail, lost in his own mind.
Just after midday, they reached Redcliffe. Enderin suggested having their packed meal before venturing to the tavern, just in case there was trouble, but Dorian waved him off, nudging his horse into a trot through the town. With the mages shifted to Skyhold, life in Redcliffe had apparently returned to normal, more or less, and the town was filled with the bustle of fisherman cleaning their catches, women hunting for the best deal on vegetables, and shopkeeps calling out from market stalls.
At the Gull and Lantern Inn, they tied their horses to the post. The tavern seemed oddly quiet, and there were none of the usual layabouts lounging in front of the building. Dorian hesitated with his hand on the door, then took a deep breath, threw his shoulders back, and entered the inn.
Following him into the room, Enderin saw that the tavern was completely empty. Both men looked around, confused.
“Uh oh,” Dorian singsonged, “nobody’s here. This doesn’t bode well.”
Enderin heard footsteps coming down from the upper level. They turned to see an older man with dark hair, dressed in elaborate mages’ robes. He stopped at the foot of the stairs. “Dorian.”
Dorian tensed. “Father.”
Enderin looked back and forth between the two. There was no denying the resemblance. So much for the retainer...this was Magister Halward Pavus himself.
Looking around the room, Dorian laughed bitterly. “What did you do, Father, pay to clear out the place? Maker forbid we actually be spotted together in public after all the shame I’ve brought you. And this whole story about a ‘family retainer’? Horse shit.”
“Then you were told.” Magister Pavus shook his head. He looked to Enderin. “I apologize for the deception, Inquisitor. I never intended for you to be involved.”
“Of course not,” Dorian spat. “Magister Pavus couldn’t come to Skyhold and be seen with the dread Inquisitor! What would people think?” His anger was palpable, rolling off him in waves. Enderin shrank back from him without realizing it. Dorian’s hands balled into fists. “What is this exactly, Father? What did you expect to accomplish here? Did you think that I would fall on my knees, beg to be forgiven, become the dutiful son that you always hoped for? I think you’ll be sorely disappointed.”
The Magister sighed. Enderin thought he looked very tired. “Dorian, please. There is no need for theatrics.”
“Theatrics! He accuses me of theatrics when he tricked me here by some two-bit cloak and dagger scheme! Do you truly think I am overreacting? After everything you’ve done? Are you honestly so mystified by my anger?”
Neither spoke for a moment, Magister Pavus looking at a loss for words, Dorian simply fuming. Enderin wasn’t sure what was happening. He cleared his throat tentatively. “Um, maybe I should step outside. It seems you two have a lot to work out...”
Dorian whirled on him, his grey eyes dark as thunderclouds. “Oh no you don’t! You’re the one who convinced me to come here, and you’ll stay to be my witness. I won’t have him twisting this later, turning my words against me. He’s an expert at that, you know.”
Halward shook his head. “Dorian, there’s no need to -“
“I prefer the company of men. My father disapproves.”
There it was, out in the open. The Magister groaned and rubbed his eyelids, looking mortified, but Dorian ignored him. He was watching the Inquisitor’s face, his own features stony. He vaguely realized that his heart was pounding and his breath was coming too fast.
Enderin tilted his head, and replied slowly, “I’ll...need you to explain that.”
Dorian wrinkled his nose and raised his voice angrily. “Did I stutter? Men, and the company thereof. As in sex. Surely you’ve heard of it!”
His cheeks turning red, Enderin tried again. “That wasn’t what I meant, Dorian.”
Dorian turned to face his friend, and realized that his anger had once again been misdirected. However, he wasn’t willing to back down just now, with his father right here. Instead, he just set his face in a look that he hoped conveyed an apology.
It might have worked. Enderin continued. “Does that matter so much? I didn’t think it was an issue with you humans.”
“Perhaps not in the South. But in Tevinter? Oh yes. Anything that marks you as different is a flaw, anything that could be used against you is a weakness. Every Tevinter family is intermarrying to distill the perfect mage, perfect body, perfect mind. The perfect leader. My parents bred a brilliant mage, but a sexual deviant. I am their greatest shame.”
Magister Pavus made a disgusted noise. “Dorian...” he growled.
Turning back to his father, Dorian raised his voice again. “Am I incorrect, Father? By all means, correct me if I’m wrong. You’ve never hesitated in the past.”
“So that’s what this is all about?” Enderin interrupted. “Who you sleep with?”
“That’s not all it’s about,” Dorian hissed.
“Dorian, please,” Halward pleaded, “if you’ll only listen to me...”
“Why? So you can spout more convenient lies?” He stormed over to his father and shoved a finger at his chest. “HE taught me to hate blood magic. ‘The resort of the weak mind.’ Those are his words. But what was the first thing you did when your precious heir refused to play pretend for the rest of his life?” Dorian’s face crumpled. “You tried to change me!”
Dorian’s body shrank in on itself, as if he were trying to protect himself, and Enderin’s heart broke. He didn’t know how the Magister had intended to change his son, but he couldn’t imagine it was anything good. He wanted to grab Dorian, drag him out of that inn, bring him back to Skyhold and comfort him, but he knew he couldn’t. This had to finish.
“I only wanted what was best for you!” Magister Pavus insisted.
Dorian straightened, his fury returning in full force. “You wanted the best for YOU! For your fucking legacy! Anything for that!” He turned and stalked over to the bar, landing on a stool and hiding his face in his hands. The Magister turned away, closing his eyes and rubbing his temples.
Enderin looked from one to the other. They were a mess, both of them. Perhaps there was no way to fix it, but the fact that the Magister had arranged for this meeting had to mean something. The elf ventured over to Dorian and laid a hand gently on his friend’s shoulder.
“I can’t imagine what this is like for you, and I’m sorry. But if I can say one thing...” The Altus didn’t respond, and Enderin took the silence as permission to continue. “Just...don’t leave it like this, Dorian,” he urged. “You don’t know what he came here to say. If you leave without hearing it, you’ll always wonder. You’ll never forgive yourself. And you don’t need any more heartache.”
Dorian’s shoulders curled inward, hunching over himself. Much as he hated to admit it, Enderin was right. Angrily pushing the stool back from the bar, he rose and marched back toward his father. “Tell me why you came,” he demanded.
“If I knew I would drive you to the Inquisition...”
“You didn’t. I joined the Inquisition because it’s the right thing to do. Once I had a father who would have known that.” Dorian turned on his heel and headed for the door.
“Once,” Magister Pavus called, “I had a son who trusted me.” Dorian slowed. “A trust I betrayed. I only wanted to talk to him. To hear his voice again. To ask him to forgive me.”
Dorian’s step faltered, and he stopped before reaching the door. He looked at Enderin, unsure. The elf offered a small smile. “I think now is a good time for me to wait outside,” Enderin said softly, and he slipped out of the inn, giving Dorian’s arm a quick, encouraging squeeze as he passed.
Dorian turned to face the Magister. “All right, Father,” he whispered. “I’m listening now.”
The door of the Gull and Lantern slammed. Enderin’s head jerked up. He’d been dozing, perched outside the inn. He’d lost track of time. Now, Dorian was yanking the reins of his stallion loose, tears streaming down his face. Enderin jumped to his feet.
“You’ll excuse me, Inquisitor - “ Dorian’s voice hitched, “I shall meet you at Skyhold.”
The mage mounted ungracefully and kicked at the horse, who voiced its displeasure with a shrill whinny. Enderin watched as the Tevinter raced out of Redcliffe. He heard the door of the inn open and shut behind him, and sensed the older man come to stand next to him.
They stood in silence for a moment, watching the dust settle behind the departed mage. After a few moments, the Magister spoke, still looking off into the distance.
“He’s always been a difficult boy, you know. Always wanted to take the hard road. It made his mother crazy, but I was proud. I was the same way when I was young. Headstrong. We were both too smart for our own good.” He sighed, and looked down at the elf. “I love him. He’s my son. This choice he’s made, though, to be with men...I cannot support that.”
“Perhaps that’s not a choice, Magister Pavus. Perhaps that’s just who he is.”
“Everything is a choice. We may not like it, but we are in charge of the path we take.”
Enderin thought for a moment. “Would you choose not to be a mage?”
Magister Pavus turned to look at the elf, his eyes narrowing. “That is not the same thing.”
“Isn’t it? You could choose not to use your magic, to live like the majority of the world. You could spend your whole life pretending to be something you aren’t, but feeling it there, under your skin, every single day, trying to break free.” Enderin could see the Magister’s face softening. “Do you think you could ever truly be happy that way?”
“Sometimes, duty outweighs happiness.”
“Maybe. But I can’t imagine allowing duty to turn me into something I’m not. Sometimes I feel like this...role I’m in, being the Inquisitor, is changing me, but at the core, I’m still myself. It can’t change my values, my experience, who I love. Dorian is who is he is. He’ll love who he loves. Trying to change that...well, I don’t have to tell you how that will go for you.”
“He’s my child, my heir. Should I just give up on him?”
“Never. But give up on trying to make him what you want him to be. I haven’t known him for very long, but from what I’ve seen, he’s an intelligent, kind, talented man. Is that not enough?”
The old man’s shoulders sagged. “Not in the Imperium.”
“Then to the Void with the Imperium,” Enderin cursed. “Why should anyone tell you how to love your son?”
Magister Pavus opened his mouth, but shut it again quickly, clenching his jaw. He shifted his eyes back to the road, looking at nothing in particular. “You understand little about the Imperium, Inquisitor. How could you? This is how things are. He will never be accepted as he is.”
“By the Imperium, or by you?”
Silence. Enderin shook his head. “‘Everything is a choice’, Magister. Don’t make one that you can’t live with.” Still, the old man didn’t respond. After a moment, the Inquisitor shrugged. “I have to take my leave, Magister Pavus. Best of luck on your return to Tevinter.” He turned to fetch his mount.
Enderin turned back. Magister Pavus had turned to face him, and had dropped his nobleman’s stony facade. He suddenly looked very old, and very sad. With a pleading look, he nearly whispered, “Please, take care of my son.”
Smiling reassuringly, Enderin nodded. “I will. I promise.”
After the Inquisitor rode out of Redcliffe, the Magister remained on the front stoop of the inn for a long time, staring at the Frostback Mountains far in the distance.
Chapter 12: What’s In Your Heart
Enderin and Dorian return to Skyhold after meeting with Dorian’s father, and they discuss all that was revealed.
Enderin slouched low in the armchair he’d pulled in front of the fire. He was exhausted. His legs and back ached from the ride home from Redcliffe. He stank of horse, but he refused to call for a bath, settling for rinsing his face and hands. He didn’t want to risk missing Dorian’s return.
It had been a very long week. He had hoped to catch up with Dorian on the road, but had had no luck in that endeavor. For three days he rode and searched, and hoped for some sign of his friend. At first, there had been too many horse tracks for him to know which to follow. Then, there had been nothing. Finally, he had to admit that Dorian would find his way back if he wanted to, and Enderin had headed home to Skyhold alone. He had reached the castle nearly four hours earlier, immediately inquiring if Dorian had ridden in ahead of him, but the guards hadn’t seen him. Now, he waited.
He kept picturing Dorian’s face as his voice cracked out, “He tried to change me!” Strong, smart, sarcastic Dorian...looking so broken in that moment. Enderin never wanted to see him that hurt again. And now he was missing, and Enderin had a cold knot of dread in the pit of his stomach.
There was a knock at the door, and Enderin’s head jerked. He realized he’d been dozing, and wondered how long he’d been asleep. “Come in,” he called out, sitting up straighter and rubbing his hands over his face.
The door creaked open. “My lord? You asked us to inform you...there’s a rider approaching, ser. A dark haired man on a black horse. It may be Master Pavus.”
Enderin jumped up and trotted across the room. “Good! Thank you! I - thank you.” He rushed past the wide eyed scout and practically flew down the stairs.
He reached the courtyard just as Dorian was handing the reigns over to a stable boy. He marched directly to his friend and grabbed him by the arm. “I need to speak with you. Now.” Dorian’s eyes flew wide, but he followed without a word.
Enderin led him into the castle. They passed through the main hall, and Enderin pushed through the door leading to his quarters, tugging Dorian along behind him. He only let go once they’d reached his room, and he shut the door behind him.
“Inquisitor, I can explain...” Dorian began.
Enderin wheeled on him. “Mythal’s mercy, Dorian, I’ve been worried sick! Are you all right?”
“Am I...all right?” Dorian was confused. He had thought the Inquisitor was angry with him for his sudden disappearance, and yet here he was, emerald eyes wide with concern, asking if Dorian was all right.
“You took off, and I couldn’t find you! And then I get back here and you hadn’t arrived yet. You were so upset...Creators, Dorian, what happened?”
Dorian just stared at the elf for a moment in stunned silence. Enderin turned slightly pink beneath the green tattoos on his face and lowered his eyes.
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t pry.”
Dorian found his voice again. “No,” he said softly, “It’s fine.” He gestured toward the small couch. “May I?” Enderin nodded, and Dorian sank into the cushions. Enderin tugged a chair around to sit facing him. “My father...he says we’re alike,” Dorian stated quietly. “Too much pride. Once I would have been overjoyed to hear him say that. Now I’m not certain. I don’t know if I can forgive him.”
“Back at the inn, you said he tried to change you. How?”
Dorian sighed. “A blood ritual. There’s no accepted magic that can alter who a person truly is, but blood magic...well, that does offer the forbidden, doesn’t it? Apparently, if I wouldn’t act appropriately, then he would take extreme measures to make me acceptable. I found out. I left.”
“He would do that to you, just because you don’t want to be with women? Because you wouldn’t get married?”
Dorian scoffed. “Bloodline is everything in Tevinter. To not be able or willing to continue our esteemed lineage, it was unimaginable to him. He thought I should just stamp it all down, marry poor Livia and do my duty to House Pavus. Selfish, I suppose, not to want to spend my entire life screaming on the inside.”
Enderin wrinkled his nose, the vallaslin around his cheeks crinkling. “But blood magic...I can’t even imagine. Would it really have worked?”
“Maybe,” Dorian shrugged. “It could also have left me a drooling vegetable. It crushed me to think he found that absurd risk preferable to scandal. Part of me has always hoped he didn’t really want to go through with it. If he had...I can’t even imagine the person I would be now. I wouldn’t like that Dorian.”
“Are you all right?”
“No. Not really.” Dorian inspected his hands, not wanting to meet the Inquisitor’s eyes.
Enderin wrung his hands. “Fenedhis, Dorian, I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have pushed for you to go out there. I just thought...”
“You thought correctly. It wasn’t what I expected, certainly, but it provided, well, closure, I suppose. It’s better than never knowing and always wondering. Thank you for bringing me out there.” Dorian stood and walked to the large window overlooking Skyhold’s courtyard. He stared down at the small figures far below them, and he felt disconnected from them, like a separate creature altogether. His secret was out now, and there was no pulling it back in. “Maker knows what you must think of me now, after that whole display.”
Enderin stepped in close behind Dorian. “I don’t think less of you, Dorian. It would take a lot for that to happen. If anything, I think more of you. Leaving your homeland, your family...that’s incredibly brave.”
Glancing over his shoulder at the elf, Dorian chuckled. “You’re sweet. And probably lying, but that’s all right.”
Enderin gently tugged on the other man’s wrist, turning him away from the window. “I think, if you’ll let me, that I would very much like to kiss you right now.”
Dorian’s eyes flew wide, then narrowed with suspicion. He pushed past the elf, making a beeline for the door. “Inquisitor, it has been a very long and trying few days, and I would request that you not play with me, thank you very much.”
“Dorian!” Enderin was quick. He caught up to the Altus before he reached the top of the stairs, grabbing the man by the shoulders and spinning him around. “I’m not playing.” Enderin looked hurt. He took both of Dorian’s hands in his, intertwining their fingers. “I have wanted to kiss you since you told me you would protect me in the dungeons in Redcliffe. You were strong and beautiful and powerful and funny and, Creators, I wanted you.”
Dorian was shocked. He took a moment to process everything Enderin had just confessed, and his face softened. “The things you say. I don’t understand though. Why didn’t you say anything? Save both of us some heartache?”
The elf turned red under his vallaslin. “I...uh...wasn’t sure I was your type.”
Dorian threw back his head and positively cackled. “Inquisitor, I’ve been flirting with you since I arrived at Haven!”
“Dorian, you flirt with everyone! It’s like joke to you!”
“Ah, yes, well, that is true. In your case, though, what is the old saying? ‘Many a true thing was said in jest.’” His smile faded a bit. “My father never understood. Living a lie, it festers inside of you, like poison. You have to fight for what’s in your heart.”
Enderin pulled Dorian’s face down to his. “I agree.” He pressed their lips together in a soft kiss, running his thumb gently along the shell of Dorian’s ear, causing the hairs on the back of the Tevinter’s neck to raise up. Dorian pressed forward just a bit, wanting more, needing it, and the flames in the fireplace blazed up with his desire. Enderin pulled back with a shy smile and shook his head.
“I see you enjoy playing with fire, Inquisitor.” Enderin laughed, and oh, how Dorian loved that sound. He raised a hand to stroke the elf’s long hair, but pulled back before his fingers made contact. He longed to touch the elf, to pull him close, to explore every inch of him, but he also knew that in his emotional state, it was probably unwise. He sighed, smiled, and said, “At any rate, time to drink myself into a stupor. It’s been that sort of day. Join me sometime, if you’ve a mind.” He ran a thumb over the the elf’s cheek, and Enderin closed his eyes and leaned into the caress dreamily.
“Just remember, if you’re drinking to forget, you’ll lose this part, too.” He pressed another soft kiss to the Altus’s lips, and Dorian was left with a confusing mix of emotions and an overwhelming need to get exceedingly drunk.
Chapter 13: Pickled
Enderin gets a late night visit from a very inebriated Tevinter.
Wham! Wham! Wham!
Enderin cracked one eye open. His room was still pitch black, the sun not yet peeking over the Frostbacks. The only light in the room was the faint greenish glow that came from the mark on his left hand. He wondered blearily if he had been dreaming, but then he heard the noise again.
Wham! Wham! “Enderin!”
Enderin groaned. Rubbing his face, he rolled out of bed and pulled on a loose pair of pants that were thrown over a chair, then made his way to the door. The knocking began again as he reached for the latch.
“Fenedhis, I’m - Dorian! What in the?”
Dorian leaned on the wall outside the door, grinning madly. His hair was wild, he was shirtless, and he was missing one boot. He held a half empty bottle of wine in one hand, and the sickly sweet smell on his breath implied that this wasn’t the first bottle. “Hullo, Inquisssitor.”
Enderin sighed. “Dorian, you’re drunk.”
“Quite. And you’re pretty.” Dorian pushed past Enderin and stumbled onto the stairs leading up into the room. The fact that he’d made it this far was, quite frankly, a miracle. He would discover in the morning that his shins and elbows were covered in bruises. He made it halfway up the stairs on his feet, then stumbled and crawled the rest of the way, holding the bottle above his head. Reaching the top step, he turned, landing hard on his rear end, and offered the bottle to Enderin. “Care for a tug?”
“Dorian, I don’t think this is a good idea.”
“Suit yourself.” Dorian took a long swig from the bottle, then did his best to give a come hither look. “Soooooo...what’s an elf like you doing in a place like this?”
Despite himself, Enderin grinned. If this was what it took for Dorian to feel better about his family issues, so be it. Rolling his eyes, he climbed the stairs and sat next to Dorian. “You’re hopeless.”
“You said I was...what was it...beautiful and strong and...and...and...” Dorian leaned his head on Enderin’s shoulder and hiccuped.
Petting the drunken Tevinter’s hair down, Enderin laughed. “You’re also hopeless. And drunk. Where did you get this anyway? I didn’t think the Haven’s Rest served this late.”
“Mmm, they don’t,” the Altus whispered conspiratorially, raising a finger to his lips. “I have a secret stash.” His eyes half shut, Dorian clumsily tried to pull the elf in for a kiss. “I want you to take me to bed.”
Gently pushing Dorian back, Enderin sighed. “No.”
Dorian’s eyes widened, unfocused. His cheek twitched. “Why?”
“Because you’re drunk. Because the timing is terrible. Because you’ll regret it in the morning. Pick one.”
Dorian flapped a hand. “Psssh.”
“Believe me Dorian, I’d love to. But right this moment isn’t the time.” Draping Dorian’s arm over his own shoulders, Enderin pulled the drunken mage to his feet. “Let’s get you to your own bed. You need sleep.” He hauled him down the stairs, ignoring the noises of protest that the Altus kept making. In the hall, a guard came running toward them, a sheepish look on his face.
“My lord! I-I-I’m so sorry! I only stepped away for a moment!”
Dorian wagged a finger at the man. “Oooh, you naughty, naughty man! Cullen’ll...he’ll...he’ll rap your knuckles!” He laughed loudly at his own joke, and Enderin shushed him.
The guard wrung his hands. “It was only a moment, my lord, I swear. I needed to...well, I needed to relieve myself.” The man’s face turned a bright shade of crimson. “Please, ser, don’t tell Commander Cullen.”
“At ease, soldier,” Enderin said wearily, shifting Dorian’s weight. “Just don’t let it happen again.”
Relaxing, the guard thanked him profusely. Finally, he seemed to notice that the elf was struggling with his companion. “Can...can I help you ser?”
Dorian giggled, and Enderin shot him a withering look. “No, I think we’ll be all right, if Master Pavus here can manage to get his feet under him just a little. I’ll be back in a few moments.” The guard nodded and took up his post outside the lower door to the Inquisitor’s quarters.
Dorian successfully held the majority of his own weight across the main hall, but turned to jelly once more halfway up the steps to his own room. Enderin struggled to keep him upright. “Creators, Dorian, you’re heavy.”
“Never comment on a handsome man’s weight, my dear elf,” Dorian laughed, stumbling alongside him on the stairs.
As they reached the walkway that housed Dorian’s quarters, Enderin was breathing heavily with the effort of corralling the pickled Tevinter. By this point, the man was loudly extolling Enderin’s physical virtues. Further down the way, a door opened and a tall, dark figure in a long robe appeared.
“What in the Maker’s name is going on out here?”
“Vivienne!” Dorian shouted, raising the bottle in greeting. Vivienne curled a lip in disgust.
Enderin attempted to unlatch Dorian’s room with his elbow. “So sorry, Madame Vivienne...Dorian’s had a bit of a trying time of it lately. I’m getting him to bed now. I promise it won’t happen again.”
“See that it doesn’t, my dear,” Vivienne purred, and she glided back into her quarters.
Enderin was finally able to jiggle Dorian’s door open, and the two mages tumbled inside, landing in a pile just inside the door. The bottle rolled away to the far corner of the room. Dorian giggled and planted a sloppy kiss on the elf’s cheek, muttering, “My hero!”
The Inquisitor shoved the man off him and then dragged Dorian to the bed. Dorian, at least, helped to get up onto the mattress. Once there, he promptly flung his arms wide and refused to move further. Enderin pried off the single remaining boot from his foot and tucked his legs under the covers, deciding that removing Dorian’s pants would be too much trouble.
“Got you to take me to bed.”
Enderin chuckled and kissed Dorian softly on the beauty mark next to his right eye. “Good night, lethallin. You’re not completely hopeless. Close, but not completely.” Dorian didn’t hear him. He was already asleep, snoring softly. Enderin smoothed down the wild black tresses and watched the man for few moments, making sure he was sleeping soundly before slipping out of the room.
Back in his own quarters, Enderin crawled back into the cold bed, groaning as he realized the sky outside was beginning to lighten. Thankfully, Dorian had insisted on moving their combat training to the afternoon, but the elf knew he wasn’t likely to be getting much more sleep tonight. He pulled the covers over his head, begging the Creators to allow him at least another hour or so.
Dorian woke at midday with a raging hangover, a missing boot, and no idea how he’d made it back to his bedroom. Eventually, the boot was located at the top of one of the battlements. As for how he had made it back to his quarters, he never quite worked that mystery out, and Enderin decided to keep the details to himself.
Chapter 14: Rumors
Enderin is forced to intervene when Mother Giselle confronts Dorian.
Enderin strolled across the courtyard, rubbing at his temples. Checking in on Cole always made his head spin a bit...the boy was hard to follow. The fact that he’d been woken by a drunken Dorian in the middle of the night didn’t help things. Stepping into the sun had given him a headache, and it throbbed steadily behind his eyes.
As he started up the stairs toward the main hall, he spotted Varric at the doors. The dwarf leaned against the stone wall and waited for Enderin to reach the top.
“Afternoon, Varric. Were you looking for me?”
“That I was, Inquisitor.” Varric jerked a thumb in the direction of the hall. “You might want to go check on Sparkler. Mother Giselle marched up there a few minutes ago and the conversation has been getting progressively louder since then.”
“Oh. Fantastic. Why does this always land in my lap?”
Varric shrugged. “Perks of being the one in charge, I guess. That’s why I’m just the loveable sidekick.”
Enderin grinned. “Thanks for the heads up, Varric.”
He trotted inside, heading straight for the rotunda stairs that led up to the library. Even from the bottom, he could hear Mother Giselle’s voice.
“I don’t know what you think you’re doing.”
“I’m being clucked at by a hen, evidently,” came Dorian’s reply.
“Don’t play the fool with me, young man!”
“If I wanted to play the fool, I could be rather more convincing, I assure you.”
“Your glib tongue does you no credit.”
“You’d be surprised at the credit my tongue gets me, Your Reverence.” Creators, Dorian...Enderin thought, shaking his head.
By this point, he’d reached the top of the stairs. Dorian and Mother Giselle were faced off just outside the little alcove that Dorian had claimed. Several mages were unabashedly eavesdropping on the conversation, though they hastily returned to their research when they spotted the Inquisitor. The Mother had her mouth open wide for what was no doubt a strong retort to Dorian’s lewd comment, but when she noticed Enderin stepping up behind the Altus, she quickly composed herself.
“Inquisitor!” She dipped in a quick bow. “I...didn’t expect...”
“I’m sure you didn’t. What’s going on here?” The elf demanded.
“It seems,” Dorian mused, “that the Revered Mother is concerned about my ‘undue influence’ over you.” His cheeks were flushed, his arms crossed tight over his chest. The woman had gotten under his skin.
“It is just concern. Your Worship, you must know how this looks.”
“You might have to spell it out, my dear,” Dorian sneered.
Mother Giselle folded her hands primly in front of her. “Surely, Inquisitor, I do not have to tell you what the people think of Tevinter and its...practices. Your acquaintance with this man, it makes them nervous.”
Crossing his arms in a smaller imitation of Dorian, Enderin tilted his head to the side. “Ah, I see. So the problem lies in him being from Tevinter? Interesting that no one has voiced concerns about our other resident Vint. Have you met him, Mother? His name is Cremisius Aclassi. He’s one of the Bull’s Chargers.” He realized how agonizingly patronizing he must sound, but he didn’t particularly care. Mother Giselle had disliked Dorian from the start, and Enderin had had enough.
The Mother looked from one man to the other, realizing that she didn’t have an ally in this fight. The mages on the other side of the library were looking up from their books again. “I have met him. But young Cremisius isn’t a...”
“A mage?” Dorian finished for her.
Mother Giselle narrowed her eyes at him. “A member of the ruling class.”
“Who all just happen to be mages. Fancy that.”
“It seems to me that, until not too long ago, the people were rather suspicious of the Dalish as well, were they not?” Enderin raised his eyebrows at the Mother innocently. “I think, or at least I hope, that many of them have changed their opinion on that front. Is it possible to believe that Dorian’s presence here could be a good thing?”
“I’m fully aware that not everyone from the Imperium is the same,” Mother Giselle insisted, the strain in her voice betraying her thinning patience.
“How kind of you to notice,” Dorian scoffed, rolling his eyes. “Yet still you bow to the opinion of the masses.”
“The opinion of the masses is based on centuries of evidence! What would you have me tell them?”
“The truth?” Dorian replied, acting as if this were the most obvious answer in the world.
“The truth is that I do not know you, and neither do they. Thus these rumors will continue.”
“The truth seems to be that neither you nor they have tried to get to know Dorian,” Enderin stated. Mother Giselle’s eyes widened and her jaw dropped. Before she could object, he added in, “Tell me, Mother Giselle, what exactly are these rumors? If we’re to fight them, we should know what they are.”
“I...could not repeat them, Your Worship.”
“Repeat them? So you’ve shared them before?”
Beside him, Dorian snorted.
“I...see.” Dropping her eyes to the floor, Mother Giselle conceded the fight. “I meant no disrespect, Inquisitor. It is obvious that you trust this man, and I suppose that should be enough for those who follow you. I only wished to voice my concerns. If you feel he is without ulterior motive, then I humbly beg forgiveness of you both.”
“Very well. And next time, Mother, I would appreciate you bringing concerns about my companions to me, rather than to them. That way I can consider your thoughts in private, rather than in front of an audience.” There was a flurry of shuffling as the mages around them directed their attentions elsewhere.
The Mother dipped in a small bow, then backed away and opted to use the back staircase rather than pass by the two mages to use the closer front one. Once she had walked away, Dorian and Enderin looked at each other and grinned conspiratorially.
“Well, that’s something,” Dorian said incredulously.
“This sort of thing happens often, does it?”
Dorian laughed. “More than anyone tells you. No one knows their own reputation.”
“Until someone helpfully informs you.”
The Tevinter raised one sculpted eyebrow. “There is that. Much as it ruffles my feathers, I do have to admit that she meant well. Appearances are important in the political realm, and no one down here is very fond of the politics I represent. I should ask...do the rumors bother you?”
Sighing, Enderin leaned back against the wall. “Yes. Not for my sake though. They’ve no right to talk about you like that. You’ve earned your place here. They don’t know you.”
“They know you even less than they know me!” Dorian scoffed. “You had the right of it when you pointed that out to the good Mother. A Dalish elf? You’re a mystery to them. At least they know what the Tevinter magister is, or think they do.” After a quick look around to make sure that the mages had actually gone back to their studies, he pulled Enderin into the alcove and leaned in close. “I believe it is my duty to inform you, however, that the assumption in some corners is that you and I are...intimate.” The corners of his mustache twitched up in a sly smile.
Enderin offered a lopsided grin. “Intimate, is it? Well, isn’t that scandalous. Though I suppose that’s not the worst assumption they could have, is it?”
“I don’t know, is it?”
“Do you always answer a question with a question?”
Running his thumb along the edge of the elf’s chin, Dorian gave his best sultry look. “Would you like me to answer in some other fashion?”
It was too much for Enderin. He burst out laughing. “If you’re capable.”
Dorian caught him up in a kiss, cutting off his laughter. When he broke away, he shook his head and clucked his tongue. “‘If you’re capable.’ The nonsense you speak.”
“You’d best be careful. You keep that up and we’ll be proving the rumors true,” Enderin chided, grinning madly.
“Evidently. I wonder what depraived acts they imagine us performing,” he spoke, directly into the elf’s ear. Enderin shivered. “I shall have to determine what they are, so that we can decide for ourselves the truth of them, preferably somewhere much more private.” He bit lightly at the tip of Enderin’s ear, teeth clicking softly against the silver cuff. With that, the Altus turned on his heel and strolled out to lean on the banister, looking perfectly innocent.
“Fenedhis,” Enderin huffed under his breath, watching Dorian’s ass as he sauntered away.
Chapter 15: Birthright
Enderin learns that Dorian is trying to get something back that once belonged to him.
The day was mercifully warm, and Enderin was stretched out happily in the courtyard, his arms folded behind his head. He shut his eyes and reveled in the feel of the sun on his face and grass against his skin. He had at least an hour of freedom between training and meetings at the war table. Dorian had just left him to wash up, but had dragged him into a secluded corner and swept him up in a searing kiss before he left, and Enderin was still riding the high from the memory of the man’s lips on his.
The last few days had been blissful. The two mages had slipped away to private spots and shadowed alcoves whenever possible, sometimes tangling bodies and lips with blistering heat, sometimes simply nuzzling together to learn the feel of each other. Dorian had found that any touch to Enderin’s ears would result in a full body shiver. In turn, Enderin had discovered that if he flicked his tongue in the small hollow in the base of Dorian’s neck, the man would go positively weak in the knees.
The elf smiled to himself thinking about it. His mind was just starting to daydream about where he could explore next when he heard someone clearing their throat in front of him. He cracked open one eye and found Varric standing at his feet, arms crossed but with a large grin on his face.
“Am I interrupting, Your Inquisitorness?”
Enderin opened the other eye. “What could you possibly be interrupting?”
“Well, the look on your face says it was something good. Who knows what goes on in that little elfy head of yours? Besides, you’re Dalish. For all I know, you were having a scintillating conversation with the grass.”
Chuckling, Enderin patted the ground next to him. “Come join me, Varric. You taking a break from your next book?”
The dwarf plopped himself down, leaning back on his hands and stretching his legs out. “I’m stuck on how exactly to describe Corypheus without repeating myself. How does ‘eight foot tall asshole with delusions of grandeur’ sound?”
“Ah, good. Wouldn’t want to disappoint my readers.” Varric glanced around, making sure that no eavesdroppers were hovering around them, and lowered his voice a bit. “So, you and Sparkler, eh?”
Enderin turned and propped himself up on one elbow. “And where exactly did you hear that?”
Smirking, Varric shook his head. “A writer never reveals his sources, Inquisitor. Besides, if I squealed, Tiny would never tell me anything again.” The elf laughed and rolled back down onto the grass. “Seriously, though, you’re taking up with the Vint?”
“Are you putting this in your book?”
“Depends. You two serious?”
Enderin sighed. “I...don’t know? We’ve only just started. And I think he doesn’t really want people to know yet. Things are different in Tevinter, apparently. Part of the reason he left.” He sat up and fixed Varric with a rather serious stare. “Listen, don’t make a big thing of this, okay? I don’t really know where this is going yet, and I don’t want to make it uncomfortable. For anyone.”
“Not to worry, Inquisitor,” Varric reassured him, winking. “I will be the very soul of discretion. For now, at least.”
Enderin shook his head, but he was grinning. “Thanks, Varric. For now. And stop calling me Inquisitor, will you? How come everyone gets a nickname but me?”
“I don’t know, somehow it just doesn’t feel right, you know?” The dwarf cocked his head and looked Enderin over. “I’ll think about it. Usually the name just comes to me, but with you, I’ve got nothing.”
“At least call me Enderin then, would you? Or Lavellan. Just anything but ‘Inquisitor’ all the time.”
“You got it.”
A flash of movement in the corner of Enderin’s eye caught his attention, and he turned to find a scout making his way across the yard, parchment in hand. The elf heaved a heavy sigh. “Well, it looks like my break is over.”
“Yeah, mine probably should be too.” Varric hopped to his feet and offered Enderin a hand. The elf accepted and was hauled swiftly to his feet. While he brushed pieces of grass from his shirt, Varric waved and trotted off. By the time the scout reached him, he was waiting expectantly.
“Inquisitor, I’ve a -“
“A message for me, I assume,” Enderin interrupted impatiently. “Very well, hand it over.”
The scout passed him the piece of parchment and then ran off, leaving Enderin alone once again in the courtyard. He scanned the note, his eyebrows knitting together as he read. The message was from Leliana. In her quick, slanted script, she wrote that Dorian had been arguing with a merchant earlier that day, something about an amulet. Why hadn’t he said anything to Enderin about it? The elf frowned. Dorian generally voiced his opinions on everything. It didn’t make sense that he hadn’t even mentioned this. He tucked the note into his pouch and set off to find the man himself in order to ask what was going on.
After checking the library, the next stop was Dorian’s room. Enderin knocked lightly on the door, and the Tevinter answered, hair still damp and slightly mussed, towel in hand, wrapped in a satin robe. When the man saw who was at his door, a sly smile played over his lips, and he quickly pulled Enderin inside, shutting the door behind him.
“A visit to my boudoir? In broad daylight? How very bold of you.” He pushed the elf back against the door and nuzzled their noses together.
“I...it wasn’t...Dorian!” Enderin sputtered as Dorian began trailing kisses down his neck. He shivered at the touch, but resisted the urge to melt into the other man. “I needed to ask you something!”
“Whatever it is,” Dorian murmured into the elf’s neck, “the answer is yes. A thousand times.”
Gathering what little willpower he had left, Enderin pushed the Altus away. Confusion flashed across Dorian’s face. He cleared his throat and began straightening his robe. “All business now, is it? Pity. Very well, what was it you came for?”
The elf ran his hands through his hair, sighing. “Dorian, really...”
“No no, I mustn’t assume that you’re always here to see me simply for the exceedingly pleasant company I provide. The Inquisition soldiers on.” Dorian waved a hand impatiently, planting the other hand on his hip. “By all means, please, continue.”
Enderin grinned, realizing that he was being teased. “You’re impossible.”
“I do try.”
“You succeed. But I really do have something to ask you about. I’ve been told something about an amulet...”
Dorian’s face immediately clouded over. “Oh? And who can I thank for providing you with that little tidbit of information? Let me guess, our esteemed spymistress?” Enderin opened his mouth, but Dorian shook his head and continued. “It doesn’t matter. It’s my problem, and I’ll solve it. I don’t need you getting involved in my personal issues.”
“Dorian, have you met me? Apparently, getting involved in the issues of others is my specialty. Besides, I don’t even know what this amulet is, only that you were arguing with some merchant about it.”
The Altus sighed. He crossed the small room and sat on the edge of his bed. “It’s the Pavus birthright. It doesn’t count for much in the South, of course, but back home, it’s the symbol that you actually mean something. All the great families have their own that they can flash to the peons to make them grovel. When I left Tevinter, I didn’t have much. I sold all the jewelry I had with me. Eventually, the amulet was the only thing left, and I pawned it to some slimy merchant in Val Royeaux.”
“And now you want it back? Why?”
“Because it’s mine. Because it’s not some piece of costume jewelry for just anyone to wear. Because I never should have sold it in the first place.”
Enderin cocked his head. “And it’s important to you again?”
Dorian pinched the bridge of his nose, squeezing his eyes shut. “Just...let it go, will you? I lost the damned thing through my own stupidity, and I’ll get it back somehow. On my own.”
“Dorian, you don’t have to -“
“I do!” the Altus shouted, slapping his hand down on the bed. Enderin jumped. Quieter, he added, “And I will. You have too many people asking you for everything under the sun. I won’t be one of them.” Dorian stood and clutched the robe at his chest. “I...I’m sorry for shouting. If you’ll excuse me, though, I need to finish getting dressed. I shall find you later.” He opened the door, not meeting Enderin’s eyes, and the elf left feeling very confused.
Enderin wandered through Skyhold, thinking. From what he could tell, Dorian had very little money with him. Not that it generally mattered, as the Inquisition provided everything that they needed, but the man had very few personal effects. Certainly, an amulet that an important Tevinter family would wear must be worth a fair bit of coin, if only for the metal or jewels. There was no way that Dorian would be able to buy it back, at least not anytime soon. Enderin had saved most of what the Inquisition provided him in coin. It wasn’t much, but it should be enough to purchase one piece of jewelry.
His meandering had brought him to the main hall, and he paused in front of the door to Josephine’s office. Suddenly, he had an idea. Josie had asked for his help with a family issue in Val Royeaux...why not kill two birds with one stone? He could bring Dorian along as part of his traveling party, and together they’d find the merchant and buy back the amulet. It would almost be as if Dorian had gotten it back himself, so he’d certainly be pleased. The elf smiled to himself and went to discuss travel arrangements with the ambassador.
Chapter 16: Appearances
Enderin returns Dorian’s amulet, and gets an earful.
“He’s not my friend, he’s - never mind what he is.”
Dorian’s words echoed in Enderin’s brain as he climbed the stairs to the library. He rubbed a thumb absently over the amulet as he thought. It was an interesting piece of jewelry, gold, with a twisted snake motif. The Pavus crest. It had been delivered to Skyhold that morning, just as that skeevy, grasping merchant had promised. Enderin had hoped that Dorian would be pleased, but after the scene in Val Royeaux...
“He’s not my friend...”
As soon as Enderin had learned from Leliana that Dorian was having trouble with a merchant, he’d wanted to help. When he’d discovered that the issue was that Dorian had had to pawn his family crest in order to get by after leaving his home, Enderin’s first instinct was to get the crest back. He and Dorian were just starting to navigate a relationship, after all...it was only natural that he should do Dorian this kindness, yes? Dorian’s reaction had been almost volatile, though. And when the merchant had suggested that the Inquisitor was a friend, Dorian had practically spat. The Altus had steadfastly ignored him the entire way back to Skyhold, and they hadn’t seen each other other than in passing since arriving home.
Enderin sighed and rounded the corner into the alcove that Dorian had claimed. The mage sat in a large, comfortable armchair, a huge tome open on his lap. When he spotted Enderin, however, he set the book aside and stood, looking at the elf expectantly.
“Here it is.” Enderin held out the amulet, the chain dangling. Dorian stared at it a moment, then snatched it away, draping it around his neck.
“And now I’m indebted to you,” he said sadly, finally looking Enderin in the eye. “Exactly what I wished to avoid. I asked you to stay out of it, but no, of course you wouldn’t. The mighty Inquisitor must solve every problem.”
Insulted, Enderin took a step back. “I didn’t do this so you would be indebted to me, Dorian. How could you even think that?” His cheeks burned. This certainly wasn’t what he’d expected when he’d set out to get the amulet back.
“It doesn’t even matter what I think! If you start jumping every time I even so much as hint at something I desire...”
“So what if I do?” Enderin shouted, his face hot. “You couldn’t get the damned thing back, so I did! That’s what people do for their...their...for whatever we are! Of all the stupid things to be angry about, this is what you choose to fight me on? A gift?”
Dorian gaped at him, his jaw working as he struggled to find a response. Snapping his mouth shut, he lowered his head and dug in. “I told you not to! You have no idea what this looks like! How could you, growing up in the wild and not caring one fucking whit for appearances?”
“Appearances? Dorian, it’s not as if you asked for Orlais. You were upset, and I wanted to help. I did this for you.”
“And that is exactly the problem!”
Enderin threw his arms in the air, utterly exasperated. “How is that a problem?” Had he misread the signals so badly? All of Dorian’s flirting, the kisses...had it all just been a joke? If this was how he reacted to a true sign of affection -
Dorian began to pace the small alcove. “Someone intelligent would cozy up to the Inquisitor if they could. It’d be foolish not to. He can open doors, get you whatever you want, shower you with gifts and power.” He stopped pacing and stared Enderin in the face, his grey eyes flashing with anger. “That’s what they’ll say. I’m the magister who’s using you.”
Enderin’s stomach dropped. So it wasn’t about the amulet at all. “Using me? Dorian, you didn’t even tell me about it, I found out from Leliana. How could someone possibly think that you’re using me?”
The Altus sighed heavily. His anger was slowly deflating, being replaced by melancholy. “It always starts with something small, with only hints at what could be given. I’ve seen it a thousand times in Tevinter. It never begins with asking for Orlais.”
“If anyone has any issue with you, I will tell them exactly where they can shove it.”
“I don’t care what they think about me. I care what they think about us.” Dorian squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head. His shoulders slumped and he looked down at Enderin, his face drawn and sad. “Whatever this is, it’s not some tawdry grab for influence or political gain. I didn’t expect to find someone here that I could truly be myself with. I won’t have them cheapening that.” He reached out a hand to stroke along Enderin’s jawline. “I...am apparently an incredible ass at accepting gifts. I apologize. And thank you. This is...well, it’s...it means a lot. I’m going to stop before I say something syrupy, but I won’t forget this...and I will repay you. Count on it.” He whipped his head up and, in a commanding voice directed over Enderin’s shoulder, scolded, “The show’s over now! You all can go back to whatever it is you do when there isn’t a melodrama playing out in the corner!” There was a lot of rustling as the other library visitors returned to their books, and Dorian rolled his eyes.
Enderin gave a small smile. True, Dorian needed to work on his method of expressing concerns, but this man, this beautiful man, for all of his bravado and charm, had been worried about people thinking that the elf was being used. “Next time, let’s have this conversation before I try to do something nice for you. I’ve missed you.” He pulled Dorian’s face down to his and kissed him gently.
Dorian pulled away first. His stormy eyes were softer now, his smile genuine. “You’re beginning to make this a habit.”
“Do you object?”
“Not at all. I just - “
“Inquisitor?” A scout stood at the entrance to the alcove, his eyes narrowed.
Enderin sighed and removed his hands from Dorian’s neck. “Duty calls, I suppose.”
Dorian flicked his hand dismissively. “Go, save the world. I’ll be here.” He settled himself back in his armchair and retrieved his book. As Enderin followed the scout out of the alcove, he glanced back to see Dorian wrap one elegant hand around his amulet and bring it to his lips.
I apologize for the length between chapters for the last couple of postings. This work is mostly a rewrite at the moment, but we’re moving into the territory where I need to do a few chapters here and there from scratch, so it takes me a bit longer.
As a reward for your patience, though, I promise smut soon.
Chapter 17: Gotten
Dorian surprises Enderin in his room with a proposition.
WARNING: Smut. So much smut. All the smut. NSFW
After nearly four hours in the War Room with only one short break for supper, Enderin’s head was pounding. It seemed like half the nobles in both Orlais and Ferelden wanted something from the Inquisition, and he had to address every request, no matter how trivial. Thank the Creators for Josephine. That woman was tireless, and had more tact than Enderin could even imagine mustering in the face of some of the more outlandish inquiries. He was inclined to agree with Commander Cullen that some nobles simply deserved a note that said nothing more than “No, this is ridiculous.” At this point, Enderin could think of only one thing that could improve his mood. He headed back toward the library.
Dorian was leaning against a bookshelf, flipping through a book without seeming particularly interested in it. Somehow, the man always looked like he was posing, as if he expected someone to paint his portrait at any moment. Seeing Enderin, he snapped the book shut and crossed his arms, a mischievous smile playing on his lips. “Have you been to your quarters lately, by chance?”
“Not recently, no.”
“Do, when you have the time. There’s something there that might interest you.” He opened his book again. Apparently, the conversation was over. After several days of not speaking, the elf had hoped for a bit more now that they’d finally gotten to the root of Dorian’s issue. Enderin looked at him quizzically, but walked away, turning back down the stairs. How curious.
When Enderin reached his quarters, he looked around, expecting to find a gift or trinket of some sort. Nothing on the end table, nothing on his desk. He had just started inspecting his bookshelves when he heard the door open and then shut again.
Dorian strolled up the stairs and into the room. He gazed at Enderin lustily, a cocky grin curling up one side of his mouth. “Soooo...” he drawled, “These past few weeks have been lovely and all, what with the kisses in dark corners and frustrating innuendo.” Approaching the elf, he smoothed his mustache while he spoke. “After this morning, though, I feel that if we’re going to have arguments, we should at least have a better way to make up afterward. So here is my proposal: we dispense with the chitchat and move on to something more...primal.”
Enderin put his hands on his hips and cocked his head. “Oh?”
“It’ll set tongues wagging, of course. Not that they aren’t already wagging.” Circling behind the elf, he dropped his voice to a husky whisper. “I suppose it really depends. How bad does the Inquisitor want to be?” The last words were spoken directly into Enderin’s ear, and Dorian’s warm breath on the side of his neck sent goosebumps down his arms.
“Well, that took longer than I had expected it to,” Enderin teased.
Dorian wrapped his hands around the elf’s waist. “I like playing hard to get.”
Enderin remembered how Dorian had acted while stinking drunk a couple weeks ago, begging to be taken to bed, and smiled a little. He vowed never to tell the man what he’d said while he was three sheets to the wind. Twisting to face Dorian, he asked, “And now?”
Fen’Harel’s teeth, he was maddening. Enderin wrapped his arms behind Dorian’s neck and pulled him into an urgent kiss. Dorian responded in kind, his fingers pressing into the elf’s waist. Enderin stepped backward, toward the bed, pulling Dorian with him without breaking the kiss. They fell onto the mattress together, all tangled limbs and hot mouths. Dorian pinned the smaller man down, pushing his wrists over his head against the sheets, straddling him.
“My, but isn’t this a nice view,” Dorian purred. “I do believe it could be improved, however.” He released one of Enderin’s wrists, trailing his hand down the elf’s arm and over his chest. He popped the clasps down the front of his shirt slowly and deliberately. Enderin arched his back to allow Dorian to pull the shirt free from his breeches. He pushed the shirt open, running his hands over Enderin’s chest, brushing his nipples teasingly. Enderin inhaled sharply and Dorian chuckled, moving down to unlace the elf’s breeches, a job made only slightly more difficult by the organ inside already straining against the laces. Having untied and loosened the cords, however, Dorian slid down onto the floor next to the bed.
Enderin groaned. “Tease...” he chided.
That earned him another chuckle. “Well, Inquisitor, I don’t intend to fuck you with your boots on.” He quickly pulled off the offending footwear, tossing it away. He stood, pulling Enderin up in front of him, sliding off the open shirt. As he reached for the loosened breeches, however, Enderin caught his hands.
“We’re on unequal footing here, don’t you think? It’s a bit unfair.” He knelt, undoing the buckles on Dorian’s boots and sliding them off his feet. He peeled off Dorian’s socks as well, and as he brushed past the man’s toes, Dorian twitched. “Ticklish?”
Dorian scoffed. “I’ll thank you not to test that.”
Laughing, Enderin straightened and tugged at one of the leather straps crisscrossing Dorian’s chest. It stayed put. Frowning, he tried another. No luck. “Erm, Dorian?”
Enderin could hear the amusement in his voice. Looking up, he saw that the Tevinter was smirking down at him. Cocky bastard. “I don’t suppose, in the interest of time and pleasure, that you could give me a hint here?”
Laughing, Dorian wrapped his long fingers over Enderin’s, guiding him. “It’s not as complicated as it looks. Belt first.” After some maneuvering, the belt fell free. “Now here.” Enderin pulled loose the ties at Dorian’s shoulder. “Pull,” he directed, baring his arms. Enderin tugged at the sleeves, and they came free. Apparently, the host of buckles was mostly decorative. “And this.” One last buckle on the side, and the leather fell open, revealing the undershirt. Dorian shrugged off his leathers, and Enderin slipped his hands beneath the shirt, brushing against smooth, warm flesh as he pulled it over Dorian’s head. “Better now?”
“Much.” Enderin pulled Dorian to him, finding his lips once again. He ran his hands over the mage’s muscular back, feeling the skin shiver at his touch. He slid his hands down, dipping his fingers into the waistband of Dorian’s leather breeches. Dorian pulled his body closer, their hips grinding together. Enderin’s lips traveled down Dorian’s chin, trailing down the length of his neck, and he nipped at the delicate flesh just above the collarbone. Dorian hissed, and then he was pulling Enderin’s face back up for another, deeper kiss. The Tevinter’s tongue plunged into Enderin’s mouth, claiming him. He tasted of wine, and spice, and the faint tang of lyrium. It made Enderin dizzy.
Dorian broke the kiss and pushed Enderin back. The elf fell against the bed. He lay there for a moment, admiring the view. Creators, Dorian was glorious, all brown skin and sleek muscle. He wore his amulet against his bare chest, the gold standing out brightly against his dark skin. Enderin had been told that human men were hairy beasts, but Dorian’s chest was smooth and beautiful and completely unmarked.
“Well, back to where we were, then.” Dorian winked, then leaned forward and hooked his fingers in the elf’s breeches and tugged. Once he had them off, he flung them aside and stood back, putting his chin in his hand to appraise the view. Enderin felt self conscious for a moment; he wasn’t nearly as flawless. Life with the Dalish was hard, and his own sun-browned skin was marked with quite a few scars, his body strong but somewhat slim. His fears were assuaged when Dorian whispered reverently, “Marvelous.” He slipped out of his own leather breeches, gracefully kicking them aside.
Enderin hummed his approval. Dorian’s cock stood ready, just as statuesque and proud as the rest of him. If not for his dusky tone, Enderin would have thought the man carved of marble. He was perfect, utterly unflawed.
Dorian crawled back onto the bed, prowling like a cat. He laid a path of kisses from Enderin’s navel to his collarbone, biting playfully at his neck. Enderin moaned his pleasure, thrusting his hips up to meet Dorian’s, pressing his cock against Dorian’s stomach. Quickly, he pushed his body up, flipping the Tevinter onto his back, the man’s grey eyes flying wide. Enderin slid his body down, settling himself between Dorian’s thighs. Running his fingers through the patch of dark hair there, he grasped the base of Dorian’s cock in one hand and then, slowly, ran the tip of his tongue from root to head.
“Maker - “ Dorian breathed, twisting his fingers through Enderin’s long chestnut hair. “And here I thought I was the one to be thanking you...”
All movement stopped. Dorian lifted his head and locked eyes with the elf, who was now staring at him with a look of bewilderment and, Dorian thought, a little bit of horror.
“Dorian,” Enderin said slowly, “are you here because you think you owe me something? Because of the amulet?”
Dorian propped himself up on his elbows. “I...well, it’s not that, entirely. I mean, I’ve been wanting this, Maker knows, it just seemed...kevesh, I’m making a mess of this aren’t I?”
Eyes still fixed, Enderin crawled onto the bed next to Dorian and took the man’s face in his hands. “You owe me nothing, Dorian. If all this is just because you think you have to give me something in return for the amulet, then I don’t want to. We can leave it for later, when it’s real.”
“No!” Dorian gripped the elf’s wrists, desperate to keep him. “Please, I...I’ve never lived in a world where a gift was given without cost, where a favor wasn’t meant to be repaid. So yes, I feel that I owe you. But I also need you, need this. This is real. Please, don’t make me go.”
The elf’s face softened. He stroked Dorian’s cheeks with his thumbs, and pressed a kiss to the tip of his nose. “You aren’t payment, Dorian, and I’ll never accept you as such.” Dorian nodded, pressing forward to meet Enderin’s lips.
Enderin pulled away, pushing Dorian back down onto his back. “Now that we’ve gotten all that straightened out, I believe I was in the middle of something.” He slipped between the Altus’s legs once again, running his hands over the sleek, muscular thighs that flanked him, over Dorian’s hips, through the dark patch of hair. Dorian let out a low whine, rolling his hips to press back at the sensation, one hand slipping down to comb through the elf’s hair, the other fisting at the sheets. Enderin purred, then took him into his mouth. The Altus gasped, his fingers tightening their grip. Enderin lowered his head, taking as much into his mouth as he could, pumping his hand in time with his lips. His tongue rolled around Dorian’s ridge, flicking at the sensitive underside where head met shaft.
“Kaffas, Enderin, your tongue...” Dorian was trying to control himself, to keep from bucking his hips. It had been quite awhile since he’d had this sort of pleasure, but his pride demanded that he not show how desperately he’d wanted this. The handsome elven man between his legs had certainly been an unexpected perk to this venture into the South. Enderin hummed as he took Dorian into the back of his throat, and the Tevinter felt his stomach clench. After luxuriating in that sensation for awhile, Dorian realized he was coming a bit too close to the brink. He clutched at Enderin’s arms, pulling him up for a kiss.
“You keep that up, you filthy man, and we’ll never get to the best part.” He grasped the elf’s cock, eliciting an appreciative moan, and began slowly pumping. “Now, tell me...how do you prefer to do this?” He slipped his other hand down to brush over the sensitive skin behind Enderin’s balls. Eyes fluttering, Enderin exhaled slowly, trying to compose himself enough to answer.
“Dorian, I need - oooh...” He shuddered as Dorian’s fingers fluttered over his hole. “You’re - evil - “
“Of course I am. Scary mage from Tevinter, remember? We’re all terribly wicked.”
Enderin pulled Dorian into a deep kiss. He probed his mouth with his tongue, and Dorian responded in kind. Pulling away, Enderin held the mage’s face in his hands. “I want - “ he started, his voice pleading. “No. I need to be in you, Dorian. This time, at least. Please.”
Dorian smiled. “Then take me.”
“I - oh, shit!” Enderin suddenly remembered something, and cursed himself inwardly. He hadn’t been expecting this, and now he regretted it. “Damn it, I don’t have any...shit!”
A confused look crossed Dorian’s face, then his eyes widened as realization dawned. Laughing, he gently pushed Enderin off him. “You think I come empty handed? I’m scandalized.” He slid off the bed and snatched his belt from the floor. Searching through one of the pouches, he produced a small vial and tossed it to Enderin. “Let it never be said that I let good foreplay go to waste.”
Uncorking the vial, Enderin smelled something like sandalwood. He tipped the container, spilling oil over his fingers. Dorian returned to the bed, lacing his fingers together behind Enderin’s neck and kissing the pointed tip of his ear. “How do you want me?” he whispered.
Enderin grinned and pushed Dorian gently down onto his back. Again positioning himself between Dorian’s thighs, he circled one oiled finger around Dorian’s hole. The Tevinter sighed, relaxing back against the pillows and shutting his eyes. Enderin slid one finger inside him, feeling the muscles clench around him. Dorian inhaled sharply and bit his bottom lip. Rocking his hand gently, the elf waited until he felt Dorian relax a bit, then added another finger. Dorian let out a small, strangled noise, his hips rolling against Enderin’s hand, his cock twitching against his stomach.
“Kaffas, yes...” Dorian hissed.
Enderin grinned. He massaged gently, spreading his fingers to open the mage up. Dorian clutched at the sheets, eyes screwed shut and head thrown back. Enderin thought he looked like sex incarnate.
“Please - “ Dorian begged. “I need - “
Sliding his hand free, Enderin crawled up the length of Dorian’s body and claimed his mouth again, rutting against him as the dusky mage twisted his fingers though the elf’s hair. Breaking free, Enderin tipped out more oil and rubbed it onto his own shaft. Sitting back, he arranged himself so that his slick head pressed against Dorian’s hole. “Please...” Dorian repeated, and Enderin entered him slowly, feeling the ring of muscle grip him eagerly.
Dorian groaned at the hot mix of pain and pleasure, waiting for the momentary burn to pass. Enderin stilled, giving him time to adjust. When Dorian had relaxed, the elf began to thrust slowly, hands on Dorian’s hips, pulling him close. The mage arched his back, pushing against Enderin’s thrusts, silently urging him to go deeper, harder, and the elf complied, his charges becoming stronger, surer. Dorian reached for his own cock, but Enderin grabbed his hand. Dorian grunted in frustration, but the elf leaned in, kissed Dorian’s wrist and then, with his still oil-slicked hand, began pumping Dorian in time with his own thrusts.
“Fasta vass, Enderin, you - ah, venhedis!”
“Does that men you want me to stop?” Enderin teased.
Dorian clutched at the other man’s arms. “Kaffas, you’d better not!” He writhed in pleasure, his body electrified. His eyes were screwed shut and he was panting.
“Dorian...look at me.”
Gasping, he opened his eyes. Enderin gazed back at him, hair falling over his big green eyes, muscles tensed and slicked in a sheen of sweat. “Creators, you are glorious,” Enderin whispered between thrusts. Dorian thought the same of him, but he found he couldn’t form the words. He tried to convey something, anything...
Oh. Oh no.
That word...he shouldn’t have said that word. Not yet. Oh, but Enderin didn’t know...he couldn’t. Dorian looked up into those beautiful eyes, those elven eyes that showed no understanding of that Tevinter word, and he relaxed and let the pleasure push out everything else.
Enderin slid a knee under Dorian’s hips, tilting them up, the change in angle hitting a new, wonderful spot inside him and sending sparks up Dorian’s body.
“Fuck, I’m - I can’t - “
“Come for me, Dorian,” Enderin pleaded, his voice husky.
Dorian’s stomach clenched, and he gave in to the wave of ecstasy, digging his heels into the mattress and spilling his seed over his own belly. The torches on the walls flared dangerously, scorching the stones. Enderin rode his release with him, groaning as Dorian clenched tight around his cock and reaching his own orgasm a moment later. Dorian felt the hot release deep inside him. He thrust twice more, shuddering, then bent and kissed Dorian lightly on the side of his stomach before slowly pulling out and collapsing on the bed next to him.
Dorian rolled onto his side. Enderin had his eyes shut, a blissful smile on his lips. Both men were still breathing hard, and Dorian realized that he was covered in sweat. Maker, he must look a mess. He hastily ran a hand through his hair, attempting to straighten it while the Inquisitor wasn’t looking. Turning toward Enderin, he reached out and began tracing the lines of the tattoos on the elf’s forehead. They branched out like a tree, and Dorian wondered at their meaning. He knew little about the Dalish, and he hadn’t wanted to pry too much before. As his fingers followed the lines down the elf’s nose, Enderin tilted his head up and kissed Dorian’s palm. It struck Dorian as being rather intimate, and he felt his chest tighten. I truly am gotten, he thought, then cursed himself. He rolled off the side of the bed and went to search for the washbasin in the small adjoining room. He cleaned himself up and rinsed his face, taking care to straighten his hair and mustache. He returned to the bedroom, bringing a clean cloth. Enderin was propped up on one elbow now, watching him with those intense green eyes, a contented look on his face. Dorian tossed him the cloth, and strolled around the room while the elf cleaned himself off. Finally, he couldn’t stand the silence any longer.
“I like your quarters.” Kaffas, small talk, really? Dorian was inwardly kicking himself.
“Do you now?” He could hear the hint of amusement in the elf’s voice.
“Don’t misunderstand. I’m not suggesting we venture into mutual domesticity. I just like your appointments.”
Dorian strolled back to the bed and sat on the edge. Enderin still payed there, his lithe body stretched luxuriously on the simple cotton sheets, rumpled from all the activity. Resisting the urge to curl up next to him, Dorian continued. “Not that I couldn’t suggest some changes. Your taste is a little...austere.”
Enderin laughed. “Austere? This is downright luxurious by Dalish standards. But you don’t really want to talk about my decorating, do you?”
Clever, thought Dorian. “I was going to suggest you buy Antiva,” he deflected.
A smile twitched at the corners of the elf’s lips. “Really?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Their rugs are completely overrated.” He felt his composure break suddenly under that probing gaze, and he gave up on his act. This was the part where things usually went south. Best to just get it over with. Enderin caught the sudden change in atmosphere and moved to sit next to Dorian, frowning. “I’m curious where this goes, you and I. We’ve had fun. Perfectly reasonable to leave it here, get on with the business of killing Archdemons and such...”
Enderin considered that for a moment. To Dorian, it felt like an eternity. Finally, he responded. “Is that what you want to do? Leave it here?”
“I...it’s generally not my choice, you see.”
Enderin sat up, watching Dorian’s face. “Well, now it is. So tell me what you want.”
Dorian sighed, staring at the floor. “I like you. More than I should. More than might be wise.” He shut his eyes, preparing for the finale he was so used to. “We end it here, I walk away. I won’t be pleased, but I’d rather now than later. Later might be dangerous.” He peered up at Enderin, whose expression was unreadable.
Dorian exhaled softly. “Walking away might be harder then.” And there it was, all out on the table. Suddenly, Dorian wished he’d put his breeches back on before having this conversation. He felt incredibly exposed.
The elf slipped his slim hand into Dorian’s, weaving their fingers together. “I’m not generally a one night stand sort of person. I don’t particularly want to walk away from what we have.” Dorian stared dumbly at his hands, processing those words. “Speechless, I see.” The flicker of a grin returned.
“I was...expecting something different,” he admitted. “Where I come from, anything between two men...it’s about pleasure. It’s accepted, but taken no further. You learn not to hope for more. You’d be foolish to.” He’d learned that lesson several times over, each time more difficult than the last. He thought it had finally sunk in, until the Inquisitor.
Enderin squeezed his hand, pulling it to his chest. “This is more, Dorian. Right here.”
Looking up, Dorian searched the elf’s face. He was serious, or at least he seemed to be. “Funny I didn’t recognize it then,” he said with a small smile.
Taking Dorian’s face in his hands, Enderin pulled him into a long, tender kiss. “Well, we’ll just have to make it easier for you to recognize.”
Dorian barked out a laugh. The elf smiled and placed a kiss on his lover’s beauty mark. “You’re an impressive man, Dorian Pavus. A bit infuriating at times, but impressive. I don’t intend on letting you go anytime soon.”
Grinning in earnest now, Dorian straightened his shoulders and puffed out his chest. “Well, my good man, you have impeccable taste.” He felt a weight lift off him. In this mad situation, he’d actually managed to find some happiness. “Care to, eh, inquisit me again? I’ll be more specific in my directions this time.”
“Showoff,” Enderin scolded, chuckling. He pulled Dorian to him and they tumbled back onto the mattress together.
Chapter 18: New Beginnings
Dorian wakes up in the company of Enderin, ready to begin his foray into the world of relationships.
Dorian woke slowly, confused at the weight on his shoulder and chest. Cracking his eyes open, he instantly squeezed them shut again. Maker’s balls, why is it so bright? Trying again, slower this time, his eyes adjusted to the light and he turned his face into a mess of chestnut hair. There was a tanned arm draped over his chest, which explained the weight. Ah, yes, Dorian smiled, the previous night coming back to him instantly despite his sleep addled brain, and he settled his head back onto the pillows and closed his eyes, trying to shut out the sun.
Last night, Dorian had been fully prepared to collect his clothing and retire back to his own quarters, but Enderin had wrapped his arms around him sleepily and whispered, “Stay.” Dorian had been more than happy to comply. This was new ground for him, a lover who actually desired a relationship rather than just a quick tumble and then gave you directions to the servant’s exit to the alley.
Next to him, the elf began to stir. Dorian ran his fingers lightly over Enderin’s arm, and the Inquisitor pulled back, rolling up onto his side. The huge green eyes opened sleepily.
“Good morning to you. Sleep well?”
“I did.” Enderin pushed a stray hair out of Dorian’s eyes. “You’re awake early. Don’t you usually sleep until at least ten or so?”
The Altus made a sour face. “I do, as it so happens. Speaking of which, I have a question. You have curtains in this room, yes? Why, in Maker’s name, do you not use them?”
Laughing, Enderin kissed Dorian’s cheek lightly. “I like the sun, it gets me up. Some of us have things to do in the morning.” When Dorian made a disgusted noise reminiscent of Cassandra, the elf slid from the bed, chuckling, and began tugging the curtains closed. “I’m sorry, I’ll remember to close them next time,” he said over his shoulder.
Next time. Those simple words brought a smile back to Dorian’s lips.
Slipping back under the covers, Enderin curled into Dorian’s side, draping a leg between his. He found Dorian’s hand and intertwined their fingers, holding their hands up in front of them.
Resting his chin on the smaller man’s head, Dorian chuckled. “You know, with all my brilliance and vast pool of knowledge, I’ve very little idea of how all this works.”
“All this? I believe we’re just laying in bed. It consists mostly of laying. In bed.”
“Hmm, aren’t you the clever one?” He poked Enderin in the ribs, and the elf twitched. “No, you ass, I mean this - us - together.”
Enderin leaned back to regard Dorian. “You’ve never been in a relationship, truly? Not once?”
Averting his eyes, Dorian busily arranged himself on the pillows. “Yes, well, I suppose I never really had the opportunity, what with all the fantastic social mores that Tevinter has to offer. Putting up a front keeps one so busy, you know.” He sounded a bit harsher than he’d intended, but truthfully, he was a bit embarrassed. Living one’s life from tryst to tryst wasn’t exactly the proudest accomplishment.
“I’m sorry,” Enderin said quietly, “but I’d just assumed, at some point...I mean, you’re older than I am...”
Dorian sighed dramatically. “Yes, yes, just rub salt in the wound, why don’t you?”
The elf shoved a knuckle between his ribs. “I didn’t mean it like that, and you know it!”
Writhing, Dorian grunted, choking back laughter. “All right! Uncle! Uncle!” Enderin gave up his poking and instead rested his head on his elbow to watch Dorian. The Altus rolled on his side in imitation. “Incidentally, how old are you, my dear Inquisitor?”
“I’ll be twenty-three this Wintersend.”
“Twenty-three! My, but I am a cradle robber, aren’t I?”
“I doubt that. How old are you, twenty-seven? Twenty-eight?”
“You flatter me. However, I have recently reached the ripe old age of thirty.”
“Thirty...well, then, you’re practically ancient!”
Dorian flipped and pinned the elf to the bed, his wrists over his head. Enderin laughed and made no effort to escape, instead peppering his lover with playful kisses wherever his lips could reach. Dorian leaned and whispered into the elf’s ears, “Shall I show you what this ancient body can still manage?”
Enderin sighed. “I wish you could, but I need to get up. I’m leaving in an hour or two.”
“Leaving?” Dorian sat back, straddling Enderin’s waist. “On a mission? Where?”
“The Storm Coast. That’s what the meeting was about yesterday...well, partially, at least. There’ve been reports of darkspawn. I’m going out to investigate.”
Crestfallen, Dorian rolled off the elf and moved to the edge of the bed. “Ah. I see. And who is going with you?”
“Bull. Cassandra. Sera.”
“Bull? Why you keep that giant Qunari lummox around is beyond me.”
“Why I keep a mage from Tevinter around is beyond most people,” Enderin countered.
“Bull is a good man. He wasn’t too fond of you at first, actually...warned me to watch out for the pretty ones, or something like that, but he’s warmed up to you. I wish you’d give him more of a chance. As for the rest of the group, I wanted a little extra muscle, and Sera was getting antsy. Otherwise, I would have brought you. Dorian, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you yesterday. You didn’t exactly give me the chance.” He moved behind Dorian, sitting up on his knees and kissing the back of the taller mage’s neck. “I’ll be back soon,” he murmured, “and we can continue where we left off.”
“I shall await your return with bated breath.”
Dorian collected his scattered clothing as Enderin dressed and began packing for his trip. After arranging his hair and mustache the best he could without his combs and wax, he caught up the elf in one last, long kiss.
“I suppose, after I walk out that door into the hall downstairs, that there’s no keeping this a secret.”
Enderin’s face fell. “I thought you didn’t want that anymore.”
Dorian smiled widely and ran his thumbs over the tattoos on Enderin’s cheeks. “You misunderstand me. I’m pleased to finally be able to proudly walk out of the bedroom of a man whom I have so thoroughly enjoyed spending the night with, and hope to again. It’s quite the novel experience for me.”
“Ah. Well then...enjoy your new experience. I’ll see you when I get back, Dorian. Stay out of trouble.”
“Unlikely,” Dorian winked, and trotted out the door.
He felt like he was floating. He was so distracted that halfway down the stairs, he nearly bumped into Ambassador Josephine, who had her nose buried in a stack of letters. She looked up, startled, as he pressed his back to the wall to allow her to pass.
“Oh! Master Pavus! I wasn’t expecting...that is, the Inquisitor...” Josephine sighed. “Oh, dear.”
Dorian chuckled. It was so rare to see the Ambassador flustered. “Quite all right, my dear. The Inquisitor is awake, bright eyed and bushy tailed, and preparing for his mission. I’m sure he’s expecting you.”
“Thank you, Master Pavus. I’ll just...be on my way up, then.” She scooted by him, giving him a quizzical look as she passed. As he continued down the stairs, she called after him. “Master Pavus?”
He turned back and looked up at her.
“Congratulations. The Inquisitor is a fine young man. I hope you make each other happy.” She smiled at him genuinely.
He flashed her a dazzling grin. “Happier than I ever could have expected, my dear. Thank you.” He bowed graciously and pushed through the door into the main hall, where no doubt he was about to set loose a flurry of gossip. He didn’t care one bit.
Chapter 19: On the Coast
Bull and Sera learn some things about Dorian, and tell Enderin some things he wasn’t aware of.
“So, Boss, I’ve got a question for you...is Dorian as much of a talker in bed as he is the rest of the time?”
Enderin choked on his stew, coughing and sputtering as Sera laughed so hard that she fell off the log she’d been perched on. The evening had been somewhat calm up until this point. The group was settled in at their camp near the shoreline of the Storm Coast, lulled into a state of serenity by the regular crash and pull of the waves on the sand. Now, Bull pounded the Inquisitor on the back, grinning lopsidedly while Sera continued to cackle, kicking her feet in the air dramatically. Cassandra sat frozen, her bowl halfway to her mouth, her eyes darting from one companion to another. Finally, once it appeared that Enderin was breathing again, she spoke. “I beg your pardon?”
“Oh, hadn’t you heard, Seeker? The boss is banging Dorian like a back door now.”
Sera shrieked. “Ha! Ewww! Back door! Cause, you know, you’re...you know...ewww!” She rolled in the dirt, pointing at Enderin.
Cassandra made a guttural disgusted noise in the back of her throat, returning to her stew while staring daggers at both Bull and Sera. Enderin, meanwhile, had turned a brilliant shade of red from his neck to the tips of his ears, which made his vallaslin stand out even more than normal. He curled over his bowl, willing the heat in his face to dissipate.
The giant Qunari shook his shoulder, causing stew to slosh onto the ground. “C’mon Boss, give us all the the dirty details!”
“Urgh, not all the details! I don’t want to hear about boy bits,” Sera groaned, making a face.
“Bull, I’m not - How do you even know, anyway? It was one night, right before we left for the Coast!”
“Ben Hassrath,” Bull said, tapping the side of his nose. “I know everything. Except what Dorian’s like in bed.”
“Yes, well, I’m not going to enlighten you on that account,” Enderin sighed, returning to his stew.
“Thank the Maker,” Cassandra groaned.
Sera sat back up, folding her legs in front of her. “Two mages going at it, I bet there’s sparks flying, and explosions, and - oh! You’re not going to summon any demon-y thingies while you’re doing the nasty, are you?” The archer suddenly looked very concerned.
“Must we discuss this, really? You two are like children!” Cassandra scolded, exasperated.
“Aw, come on, Seeker...don’t you want to know if there were any fireworks?”
“Or demons?” Sera whispered, her eyes wide.
Cassandra stood. “I’m going to my tent, if anyone needs me.” She stalked away, leaving half of her stew uneaten.
“Sera,” Enderin said patiently, “so far as I know, no one has ever summoned a demon just by having sex.”
“‘So far as I know’ is just fancy talk code for ‘I don’t know, could happen, might happen’,” Sera muttered, returning to her stew and eyeing Enderin suspiciously. “Just don’t go having a quickie anywhere near my room or I’ll poke you full of arrows, awright?”
Bull chuckled. “So, back to the original question. Is the Vint a talker? I’ll bet he is.”
Rubbing the back of his neck, Enderin sighed. “You’re not going to let up unless I give you something, are you?”
“Nope,” Bull affirmed, giving that ridiculous one-eyed wink of his that somehow worked.
“Fine,” Enderin caved, fiddling with his ear cuff absently. He had a feeling he’d regret this.
“Yes!” Bull shouted, and both he and Sera leaned in closer, as if they couldn’t hear him perfectly well around the small campfire already. Enderin rolled his eyes.
“He...curses. A lot. In Tevene.”
Both Bull and Sera stared at him silently for a moment, then looked at each other and exploded into gales of laughter, Bull slapping his leg, Sera rolling onto her back once again, pounding the ground with her fists and heels. Enderin crossed his arms, waiting patiently for them to calm down. He didn’t quite see what was so hilarious about it, but he let them have their fun.
“Oh, that’s rich!” Sera wheezed eventually, wiping tears from her eyes. “I can hear him now, with his fancy pants ‘Pish-anty coff-ass!’”
“Fasta vass!” Bull shouted in his best Dorian imitation (which was rather terrible). “Kaffas!”
Enderin grinned. “There were a couple of new ones in there as well.”
Bull raised an eyebrow. “Oh? Don’t leave me hangin’, Boss!”
“Erm, ven- venhedis?”
“Yeah,” Bull nodded, “Know that one. Any more? I gotta keep up on my nasty Tevene, just in case.”
“Amatus?” Bull cocked his head. “He said that?”
“I’m pretty sure that’s what it was. Why, what’s wrong? Is it that bad?”
Bull snorted out a laugh. “Nah, not bad. It’s not even a curse word. You’d be better off asking Dorian about it, though.”
“Oh, come on, Bull, really? You make me tell you this stuff and then you won’t tell me what the stupid word means?” Enderin groaned. “We’re not going to be back at Skyhold for at least another two weeks!”
Sera giggled. “Ooh, I wonder if it’s something dirty. Maybe he’s a right perv, yeah?”
“Sorry, Boss, you’re just gonna have to wait. Speaking of waiting, though, you give Dorian anything to keep him busy while you’re gone?”
“What do you mean? He’s got his own research that he’s working on, I don’t give him projects. Why?”
Bull and Sera glanced at each other. That look wasn’t lost on Enderin. He stared pointedly at his two companions.
“Okay, what is it? What’s wrong?”
“Awright, look,” Sera piped up, “Your boy spends a lot of time in his cups when you’re not with him, and not in a fun way. More in a mopey, angry, don’t-talk-to-me-because-I’m-being-broody way.”
“He spends a lot of time at the Rest, does he?”
“No. Drinks in his room, alone. Wouldn’t be as bad if he were at the Rest, I think. At least he’d be with people. Drinking alone is shite. He stays up there until he’s good and knackered, and then sometimes he comes out an’ tries to go to the library or sumpin.”
Enderin contemplated that. He knew Dorian drank, perhaps more than he should, but if Bull and Sera were concerned enough to bring it up to him...and hiding away in his room to drink? “I’ll...talk to him about it. See what I can do.”
“Sorry, Boss, it’s just that Dorian seems like a decent enough guy. If he had something to keep him occupied while you were gone maybe, or even if you could convince him to drink at the Rest instead. My boys could keep an eye on him at least, make sure he’s okay.”
Enderin offered a halfhearted smile. “Thanks, Bull. I’ll work on it.” He rose and stretched, working out the kinks in his neck. “I think I’m going to call it a night. You’re on watch, yeah?”
Bull nodded. “Night, Boss.”
Enderin trudged over to the tent that he and Bull would be sharing. After settling in to his bedroll, he started mulling over this new information he’d been given, and any possibility of sleep left him. He was still awake, thinking, when Bull came off his watch several hours later.
I’m sorry that it was a bit of a long wait for a short chapter, but life has been busy this week. Hopefully I’ll have more time over the next few days and can pump out another chapter soon.
Chapter 20: Welcome Home
Enderin returns to Skyhold from the Storm Coast, and Dorian greets him with a small surprise.
Leaning against the stone archway that led up to the rotunda stairs, Dorian was doing his best to look as if he had no more than a casual interest in the return of the adventuring party. To the unobservant, he may have succeeded. He had even dressed himself casually, in a loose black sleeveless shirt and leather breeches. Anyone who offered him more than a passing glance, however, would most likely notice that he was positively vibrating with excitement. He fidgeted with his mustache, he brushed imaginary dirt from his linen shirt, he shifted impatiently from one foot to the other, crossing and uncrossing his ankles. He was embarrassingly desperate to see Enderin again, and he chided himself for acting like a schoolboy in love, all while still fussing and fidgeting and attempting to look nonchalant.
Five weeks. It had been five weeks since he had spent the night with the Inquisitor for the first time. Damn the Maker’s sense of humor for causing the elf to have business on the Storm Coast, causing him to leave the next day. After his months-long dry spell caused by traveling south, Dorian thought himself capable of putting off his pleasure when required, but now he’d had a fresh taste, and he ached for more. Even more than the sex, though, he missed Enderin’s company. It had been a very long five weeks.
“Sparkler, if you don’t stop twitching, you’re going to rub a flat spot into that wall,” Varric taunted without looking up from the pile of papers on the table in front of him.
Dorian scowled at the dwarf. “I’m not twitching. I’m simply trying to find a comfortable place to stand.”
Varric chuckled. “Sure. And I’m the Empress of Orlais.” Setting down his quill, the diminutive author gave Dorian a pointed look. “I know you’re excited, lover boy, but maybe you’d be more comfortable waiting up in the library?”
“I’m perfectly fine right here. And I’ll thank you not to refer to me as ‘lover boy’ in the future.” Dorian smoothed his mustache for perhaps the tenth time in the past half hour. “Besides, according to the Nightingale’s little birds, they should be here any moment.”
“They? Or he? Because I’m pretty sure you’re not all a-flutter at the idea of Tiny coming back.”
“Yes, yes, you’ve got me pegged. Bravo.”
“Well, somebody’s got you pegged, I’m sure,” Varric mumbled, returning to his writing.
Dorian was gearing up for a witty retort when the door to the main hall opened and the Inquisitor strode in, Cassandra at his side. The Altus’s face broke open in a wide smile, but before he could call out, Enderin was surrounded by a handful of nobles eager for his ear, and Leliana had appeared from Maker knows where and was stalking toward him, looking as if she were about to snatch him away into the War Room. Dorian knew he would have to move quickly if he wanted to see Enderin anytime this evening.
Marching over to the knot of chatty nobles, Dorian was about to elbow his way into the fray when he heard the elf saying, “You’ll have to excuse me, my lords, it’s been a long trip and I am in need of a good meal and a comfortable bed.” Well, thought Dorian, that was easier than expected. Enderin backed out of the crowd and, spotting the Tevinter, shot him a playful wink. He wasn’t out of the woods yet though; Leliana was closing in.
“Welcome back, Inquisitor. Josephine and Cullen are waiting for you in - “
Enderin held up his hand, interrupting her. “In the War Room. Yes, I’m sure. However, it’s late, I’m tired and hungry, and I don’t have anything to report that’s so urgent that it can’t wait until morning. I’m sure we can reconvene then, yes?”
Leliana opened her mouth, then spotted Dorian standing a few feet behind the elf. She offered a knowing smirk. “As you wish, Inquisitor. Tomorrow morning then. Have a good night.”
Dorian slid up behind Enderin. Just loudly enough for prying ears to hear, he whispered, “Inquisitor, I have some pressing matters to discuss with you...perhaps while you dine?”
“Of course, Dorian. Please, follow me.”
Enderin headed toward the door leading to his quarters, nodding to the nobles who greeted him, Dorian hot on his heels. Once they were safely in the stairwell behind the closed door, the Tevinter practically threw Enderin against the stone wall, pressing his mouth to the elf’s and twining his fingers in that long, chestnut mane. Enderin gripped at Dorian’s shirt, pulling him closer. When Dorian finally pulled away, both men were gasping.
Enderin chuckled. “Pressing matters, lethallen?”
“I consider this rather pressing, don’t you?” Dorian teased, nuzzling into Enderin’s ear. He bit at the tip playfully, tasting salt. Urgh, the Storm Coast, he remembered, thankful at least that he hadn’t had to contend with that dreary coastline. “Come,” he ordered, pulling the elf away from the wall and up the stairs.
Enderin followed willingly enough, but he began protesting as they reached the second door, which led into his quarters. “While I appreciate your enthusiasm, Dorian,” he laughed as they reached the top of the stairs, “I’m fairly certain you’re not going to want to touch me until I’ve had a - “
The elf’s eyes grew wide as they reached the last step. Dorian smirked.
A large copper tub sat in front of the fireplace, the heat runes worked into the metal causing steam to rise from the water despite the long wait for an occupant. An array of soaps and oils sat on a small table next to the tub, some of which had already been added to the water, filling the room with the aroma of vanilla and cloves. The desk had been cleared of the mess of papers, maps, and books that normally covered it, and instead held two covered dishes, two glasses, and a tall bottle of wine.
“Dorian, this is...” Enderin trailed off as he looked around the room.
“Fantastic? Marvelous? Just what your tired, aching body needs after over a month traipsing around that dreary Maker-forsaken coast?”
“...incredibly thoughtful, was my first idea,” the elf finished, pulling Dorian down into a soft kiss.
“Yes, well,” Dorian muttered, after they broke away, “let’s not make a big thing of it, shall we? If word got out that I was thoughtful, people may actually try to interact with me, and we can’t have that. So,” the Tevinter led his lover to the desk, removing Enderin’s battered traveling jacket and flinging it aside, “I think food first, yes?” He pulled out the chair with a flourish, and Enderin chuckled and took a seat. “I do hope the meal is acceptable...I tried to convince the cook to whip up something special for your return, but she doesn’t seem to be very fond of me. So, alas, roast chicken and potatoes it is.” He removed the covers from the serving plates, revealing the less-than-impressive meal.
Enderin offered a lopsided grin. “After weeks of jerky and trail stew, I’m sure this will be delicious.”
Dorian poured the wine, then settled himself across the desk from the elf. Enderin devoured his meal in short order, while Dorian mostly watched him and sipped his wine, occasionally asking questions about the trip or picking at his chicken. He was surprised at how content he felt, simply being in the same room as the elf once more. When Enderin had finished, Dorian covered the plates, refilled the wine glasses, and pulled the elf to his feet.
“Now, my dear Inquisitor, your bath awaits you. Shed those dusty clothes...unless you require assistance in that endeavor?” Dorian arched an aristocratic eyebrow.
Smirking, Enderin began to undress. “Somehow, I think that if I ask for help, I’ll never make it into the water.”
“You give me no credit, Enderin. I have some modicum of self control, you know.”
“Who says I was talking about your self control?” Shrugging out of his salt-crusted clothing, Enderin groaned as his muscles began to uncoil. Dorian nearly licked his lips watching the elf shed his layers, instead taking a slow sip of his wine. Even streaked in mud and sand as he was, Enderin was impressive, all tanned skin and lean muscle. Many in Tevinter found elves beautiful despite their perceived inferiority. Dorian had never personally found them overwhelmingly attractive, but then, most of the Tevinter elves were slaves, skinny and submissive. Life with the Dalish had toned Enderin’s body and forged his will, resulting in a man strong in both body and mind. That, Dorian found irresistible.
Enderin slipped into the bath, melting into the hot water. He inhaled the steam and leaned his head back, letting the tension in his body slowly drain away. Dorian set his wineglass on the small table that held the soaps, then pulled a chair up next to the tub so that he was situated behind the elf’s head. Enderin cracked one eye open and watched.
“Getting a better seat for the show? I must admit, I wasn’t really expecting to be observed this closely while I bathed.”
Dorian smirked. “Oh, I don’t intend to just watch you. Now, relax. That is the point of this little endeavor, after all.” Enderin looked confused, but shut his eye again just the same. Dorian grabbed a soft cloth from the table, dipped it in the water, then began running it gently over Enderin’s face, slowly taking away at least the first several layers of grime. The elf stiffened slightly in surprise at the first touch, but then relaxed entirely under Dorian’s ministrations, sliding down until his shoulders were completely submerged, letting out little contented noises. Once Dorian was satisfied that he could actually see skin again, he lathered some soap onto the cloth and began again, putting a little more pressure in this time. Enderin rolled his head, allowing Dorian to tend behind his ears and down the sides of his neck. Rinsing away the soap, the Altus leaned down and placed an upside-down kiss on the elf’s lips.
“There, now I can at least tell who you are. For all I know, you could have been some filthy stranger, masquerading as the Inquisitor.”
“Well, that would have made all those kisses rather awkward.”
“Good thing we didn’t start with the sex, then.”
Enderin stuck out his tongue, but kept his eyes closed. Dorian ran his thumbs over the tattoos that branched out across the elf’s forehead. “I know so little about the Dalish. The library is woefully unhelpful in that regard. Tell me about these.”
“They’re called vallaslin, blood writing. We wear them to honor the old elven gods. Mine pay tribute to Mythal. There’s a ritual, when we come of age. Some elves get them all over their body.”
Dorian scooped water over Enderin’s scalp, wetting his hair. It was a mess of small tangles, and he started working through those with his fingers. “Why did you only get them on your face?”
Enderin squirmed slightly, looking embarrassed. “Well...tattoos hurt.”
Dorian burst out laughing. “Fair enough, I suppose. Why did you choose Mythal to honor?”
“Around that time, our clan was having trouble with the humans. There were...well, a lot happened, and it wasn’t fair.” Enderin wrinkled his nose, though Dorian wasn’t sure if it was from remembering or because he’d just hit a rather nasty tangle. “She’s the Protector of the People, goddess of justice. I needed to believe that someone, somewhere, was looking out for us. I needed her.”
“Justice...it seems very fitting for you.”
Enderin sighed. “If I was being honest with myself at the time, I would have chosen Elgar’nan instead. He offers vengeance. That was what I truly wanted. I was angry. Angry at the shems, angry at the Keeper for not doing more...I didn’t truly understand the difference, not then.”
“I’m sorry,” Dorian murmured. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“It’s fine, I just...I’ll tell you about it some other time. Right now, I just want to enjoy this - you.”
“And so you shall. We’ll discuss something else.” Having worked through the worst of the knots, Dorian chose a different soap and lathered it in his hands, then began working it through the elf’s hair, massaging the back of his scalp as he worked.
“Oh, that’s wonderful,” Enderin whispered breathily, leaning into Dorian’s fingers. “Where did you learn to do this?”
“One doesn’t tour some of the finest brothels in Tevinter without picking up a few tricks.”
One green eye cracked open again, and Dorian grimaced. Venhedis, my big mouth, he cursed himself. “Another tale that we shall save for a different time. My apologies.”
Enderin reached up and caught one of Dorian’s hands, pulling it to his mouth and kissing the inside of his wrist gently. “No need to apologize, lethallen. The past is past, for both of us.”
They sat in silence while Dorian finished washing and rinsing Enderin’s hair, simply enjoying each other’s touch. Once all the soap was out, Dorian poured some oil into his hands and worked it though the elf’s long hair, then twisted the damp mane into a loose braid to keep it from tangling again, and encouraged Enderin to lean forward. The Inquisitor groaned in protest, but complied, pulling his knees up and folding his upper body over them so that Dorian could better reach his back. Grabbing the cloth again, Dorian rubbed small circles into the elf’s shoulders, feeling the muscles shift and relax beneath his fingers. “Enderin, what does ‘lethallen’ mean? You’ve called me that several times.”
“Ah, sorry, I forget to stay in Common sometimes. It’s...well, I don’t know the exact translation. We use it amongst those we’re close to, that we care about.”
“I like it...it’s a pleasant enough word. Rolls off the tongue.”
Enderin chuckled. “I’ll have to teach you Elvish. It’s a pleasant language. Much easier on the ear than Common.”
“Teach me then,” Dorian encouraged, working his way down the elf’s spine. “What else do I hear you say? ‘Shem’ - I’ve gathered that’s a term for humans?”
“Ah, I shouldn’t say that one. It’s...not really a nice word.”
“Oh ho! So I’ve caught you being naughty! I’m curious though,” Dorian prodded, “why isn’t it nice? What does it mean, exactly?”
“Well, ‘shemlen’ is the actual Elvish word for humans. It means ‘quick children’. It’s mostly a jab at short human lives from back when the elves were immortal, and for cursing us with mortality. It sounds a bit strange, I guess, when you actually try to explain it.”
“Well, either way, I won’t use it then. What else?”
Enderin thought for a moment. “There’s so much. Start at the beginning, I suppose. Try andaran atish’an.”
Dorian repeated the phrase, his Tevinter accent playing strangely with the words. “And that? What am I saying?”
“It’s a greeting. ‘Enter in peace’.” Enderin shifted as Dorian hit a tight muscle in his lower back, pressing against the mage’s long fingers. “Tell you what, you practice that one, I’ll teach you something else in a couple of days. What about Tevene? Are you going to teach me?”
“Well, it isn’t nearly as useful, since most of Tevinter speaks Common now, and most people only know a few choice phrases. I am fluent in cursing and toasts, however.”
“What does amatus mean?”
Dorian froze, his hands at the base of Enderin’s spine, elbow deep in the water. “Amatus?”
“Yes, you said it the other night. It’s not one of your usual words. Bull wouldn’t tell me what it meant.”
“Vishante kaffas, you asked Bull?” Dorian threw his head back, lamenting, “Maker help me, that brute is going to hold that over me now.”
Enderin twisted in the tub to stare at the Altus. “Hold what over you? Dorian, what does it mean?”
Dorian pinched the bridge of his nose, forgetting that his hand was still dripping wet. Water ran down over his mustache, and he made a face. “I...didn’t mean to say that. Forgive me. It’s not something one should say in so new a relationship.”
The elf turned completely around it the tub, resting his elbows on the edge, searching Dorian’s face. “And why not?”
“It means -“ Dorian winced, “kaffas, it means ‘the one I love’.”
Confusion crossed the elf’s face, quickly replaced by a wide grin. He began to laugh, and Dorian felt his face flush. He moved to stand, huffing, “Well, it was only a slip of the tongue, after all!”
Enderin caught his hand before he could make an escape. “Oh, Dorian...I’m sorry, I’m not laughing at you, not really.”
“Then what, exactly, is so funny?”
Placing another kiss on the inside of the Tevinter’s wrist, he explained, “That you thought you’d have to ask for my forgiveness.”
Dorian arched an eyebrow. “I thought it rather too soon to start using such heavy terms of endearment.”
Another kiss landed on his wrist. “Never apologize for how you feel.” The elf pulled Dorian closer, kissing his way up the arm he held. “Especially not this.” Dorian let himself be pulled forward as Enderin’s lips brushed their way up to his neck, leaving a warm, damp trail in their wake. “Shall I teach you another Elvish phrase?,” he whispered as he reached Dorian’s ear.
Dorian hummed an affirmative, his pulse speeding up with the caress of the elf’s warm breath on his neck.
“Ma vhenan,” Enderin murmured against Dorian’s mouth. “My heart.”
Chapter 21: Anchor
Dorian learns that the anchor still has some down sides for Enderin.
A loud crack...a grunt...the mattress shifting...a faint green light...
Dorian groaned and rolled over, nestling down into the covers. An odd dream, surely, one that had already faded...no reason to wake up...
The crackling noise broke into his consciousness once more, followed by a pained gasp. This time, Dorian opened the one eye that wasn’t pressed into his pillow. It took him a moment to recover himself after being pulled from a deep slumber. He was in Enderin’s bed, he remembered that much. Something was wrong though. It was the middle of the night, but the room was pulsing with a faint, sickly green light. He reached out a hand, finding nothing but empty mattress next to him, the sheets still warm.
“Enderin?” Dorian lifted his head, his concern quickly clearing the sleep from his brain.
The elf sat at the foot of the bed, his back to Dorian, his body curled over itself, rocking slowly. “Dorian...I’m sorry,” he whispered, his voice strained. “Go back to sleep.”
Dorian rubbed a hand over his face. Pushing the covers away, he crawled down the length of the bed. “Little chance of that. What is happening?”
“It’s nothing. The anchor, it - does this sometimes. I’m fine.” The mark cracked again, the green light flaring and silhouetting the elf in the dark room. Enderin clutched his hand to his chest and curled even tighter, groaning.
“You are many things, amatus, but a good liar is not one of them.” Dorian slid off the end of the bed and knelt in front of the elf, ignoring the bite of cold air against his bare skin. He rubbed his hands along Enderin’s arms, trying to coax him to unfurl enough so that he could get a better look at the mark. “What shall I do? I can fetch Solas if -“
“No!” The elf hissed as Dorian’s fingers reached his hand, but he didn’t pull it back. “No, don’t bother Solas over this. He’s done all he can about it.”
“You can’t know that if you don’t ask! Maybe he’s discovered something new, some new research...”
Enderin smiled weakly. “You think I haven’t asked him every time this happens? I woke him up the first few times, but not anymore. I’ll tell him about it in the morning.” The mark gave a small fizzle, and Enderin clutched Dorian’s hand until it stopped, squeezing his eyes shut. “You see?” he panted, once it stopped. “It’s nearly done.”
Dorian held his tongue, choosing not to push the matter. The elf’s fingers twitched in his hand, and he set about carefully massaging each of the fingers in turn. Enderin groaned, leaning forward to rest his head against Dorian’s shoulder as he worked. “I’m sorry I woke you. If you’d rather sleep in your quarters after this, I’d understand.”
“Hush,” Dorian scolded, not looking up from the elf’s hand. “You’ve nothing to apologize for. I’d rather be here to help.” He started rubbing on the small muscles of Enderin’s palm, being careful not to touch the mark itself lest he cause more hurt. “I didn’t realize this pained you so. You hide it well.”
“It doesn’t hurt all the time,” Enderin responded into Dorian’s shoulder, his body beginning to relax slightly. “Usually, it just...tingles. Like my hand fell asleep. It’s not exactly comfortable, but I can deal with it. This, though - it’s like one of my lightning spells backfired and went in instead of out.”
“Any idea what causes it?”
“No. Solas is trying to find out, but for now, it’s just something that happens sometimes.” He quieted while Dorian continued to massage his hand, pressing his face into Dorian’s neck. His breathing slowed, and Dorian thought that he had fallen asleep, but eventually the elf sat up, pulling his hand back and flexing his fingers. “Thank you. That helped. A lot, actually.”
“Good.” The Altus kissed the elf’s slim, tanned hand. “Shall we get back into bed? My feet are practically frozen.”
Enderin laughed softly, and pulled Dorian back onto the mattress. They crawled back under the covers, the elf curling into the Tevinter’s side. Dorian kissed the top of his head, wrapping his arms around the smaller man. “Amatus?”
“Hmm?” Enderin was already nearly asleep, drained from his ordeal.
“Wake me next time, all right? You’ve been here for me, more than I ever could have asked. Let me be here for you.”
“Promise,” Enderin murmured. Dorian listened until the elf’s breathing had fallen into the heavy, even pace of sleep before he allowed himself to shut his eyes.
The sun was peeking around the heavy curtains when Enderin finally woke the next morning. He was normally quick to rise, but today he felt sluggish, his eyes refusing to focus and his body protesting every attempt at movement. His left hand and arm ached, a dull, throbbing pain deep in the muscles. He rubbed at his eyes. It was always like this on mornings after episodes with the anchor. He was only surprised that he had been allowed to sleep so long. Rolling over to seek out Dorian’s sleeping form, instead he found an empty bed, a scrap of parchment perched on Dorian’s pillow. Confused, he grabbed the paper and read.
After last night’s ordeal, I have commanded your advisors to allow you to sleep under pain of death to anyone who dares disturb you. There is a lovely young lady just outside the door awaiting your call for breakfast. Take all the time you need.
P.S.-While you were gone, I discovered that you do, in fact, own garments other than those appalling pajamas that you insist on wearing around Skyhold. I have incinerated them. Choose something else.
Grinning, Enderin wrapped himself in the sheet and made his way to the stairs. Poking his head out the door, he did indeed find a very bored looking elven serving girl sitting cross legged on the landing, her head lolling back on her shoulders. When Enderin cleared his throat pointedly, she popped to her feet.
“Your Grace! Good morning! Master Pavus said I’m to fetch you anything you want for breakfast. So, er, what do you want?”
Enderin chuckled. “Just some fruit please. And maybe some toast. Thank you.” The girl bounded off down the stairs as the Inquisitor pulled his tousled head back in through the door and went to investigate what clothes Dorian had deemed acceptable.
An hour later, fed, combed, and clothed in a maroon shirt and floor length leather jacket (though still refusing to wear shoes), Enderin finally ventured out of his room. In the main hall, several nobles bowed to him, but no one demanded his full attention, and he was able to make his way to Varric’s little corner unmolested. The dwarf was leaning back in his chair, feet kicked up on the table, a stack of papers in his lap. Catching sight of the elf, he offered a quick wave.
“Morning, Inqui...er, Lavellan.”
Enderin smiled. The dwarf was trying, at least. “Morning, Varric. What’s new?”
“Nothing all that interesting. You looking for Sparkler?” Enderin nodded. Varric jerked a thumb toward the rotunda. “He’s in there with Chuckles. Been in there most of the morning.”
“Of course he is,” Enderin growled, and stalked away, leaving Varric looking slightly confused.
Solas sat at his desk with his back to the door, Dorian leaning over his shoulder. The men were engaged in a debate over something written in the open tome on the desk. Dorian was pointing and gesturing. Solas, of course, was calmer, but his voice had an edge to it that belied his agitation.
“As I have said, there is no way of severing the anchor’s connection to the Fade without losing the ability to close the rifts. Even if I had the ability, which I do not, I wouldn’t - “
“Solas, you didn’t see him last night! There must be something else, something you’ve missed. Let me see it again.”
“I haven’t missed anything, I assure you. We’re covering new ground here. I’ve had to piece together research from a hundred different sources. Xethorazi’s work comes the closest to what the magisters were trying to do, but it’s incomplete, and theoretical at best.”
“Theoretical is better than nothing. If it gives me any idea as to how to help him...”
Enderin laid a hand on Dorian’s shoulder. The Altus jumped. “Enderin! I - “
“I told you to leave Solas alone.”
Dorian looked sheepish. “You did, but I thought...”
“You thought you knew better than he did? Than I do?”
Pursing his lips, Dorian stayed silent.
Solas pushed his chair back from the desk and stood. “Inquisitor, if I may interject, while Dorian’s methods of persuasion are a bit...forceful, he has suggested a few new avenues of research that may prove useful.”
“I’m glad to hear it, but that isn’t the point. If you’ll excuse us.”
Solas nodded. Enderin turned on his heel and marched out of the room, headed back toward his own quarters. Dorian hesitated for a moment, looking sullen, then set his shoulders and followed.
When they reached the Inquisitor’s room, Enderin held the door open until Dorian passed through it, then shut it quietly, pressing his forehead against the wood. “I asked you not to bother Solas,” he muttered, almost to himself.
“You did,” Dorian agreed, “but seeing as it was a ridiculous request, I ignored it.”
Enderin turned and glared. “You’re new at being in a relationship, so I’ll let that pass, but in the future, part of this whole deal is respecting each other’s wishes.”
“When your wish is to continue suffering, I refuse!”
“Dorian, I don’t want to be experimented on any more than I have been!” Enderin shouted.
Something twisted deep in Dorian’s stomach as he remembered Felix saying something similar to him only a few months before. It’s my life, Dorian, and I’m tired of being experimented on. Enderin was clenching and unclenching his fist, the light from the mark blinking in and out like some sickly beacon. Dorian realized how much he must have missed at the beginning, when the Inquisition had first found the elf, when Solas had to keep the man alive, when no one had even known for certain that he could control the rifts.
“I - I’m sorry. I just wanted to help you. I didn’t think...I should have listened to you.” Dorian hung his head.
Enderin sighed. Pressing the heels of his hands into his eyes, he shook his head. “I know you were trying to help, Dorian. I do. But please, help in the ways that I need you to. Be there for me, like you were last night. Don’t go running off all half-cocked thinking you can find some new solution that no one else has seen.”
“I don’t like seeing you in pain, amatus.” Cautiously, Dorian reached for the elf, taking the hand marked with the anchor in his.
“Dorian, we fight for a living. Our whole world is pain. Ours or someone else’s. This...this is the least of it. This I can live with. I can’t have you worrying over the things that can’t be helped.”
“I may not be experienced in relationships, but from what I’ve seen, worrying over your partner seems to be a big part of them,” Dorian grinned.
Leaning into the taller man’s arms, Enderin allowed himself to be wrapped in a warm embrace. “Damn you and your skills of observation. I had hoped you wouldn’t notice.”
“The curse of shacking up with a quick learner. Forgive me, amatus?”
“Of course, vhenan.”
Chapter 22: Friends in Low Places
Enderin tries to convince Dorian that he needs to get out more.
“Let’s go, Dorian!”
Dorian jumped, sloshing a bit of wine onto the arm of his chair. He had been concentrating so hard on the book in his lap that he hadn’t heard the elf approach. Sighing, he set down the glass and shook a few stray droplets off his hand.
“Where, pray tell, are we going, amatus? I thought you were going to be with your advisors all evening. Again.”
Enderin pulled Dorian to his feet, a lopsided grin on his face. Maker, Dorian loved that grin. “They let me escape early. We’re going to the Rest.”
“It may have escaped your notice, Enderin, but I already have a drink. A good one, unlike the swill they serve in the tavern.”
Taking the glass from Dorian’s hand, Enderin downed the remainder of the wine in one gulp. “There, now you don’t have a drink. Besides, we’re not going just to drink. We’re going to relax with our friends and have a good time.”
“I was also relaxed, until you barged in here, shouting like a barbarian.”
The elf slipped his arms around Dorian’s waist and planted a kiss on his chin. “Vhenan, please. You hide up here or in your room unless you’re with me. You need to get out, spend some time with people.”
Dorian huffed. “Generally, people don’t seem interested in spending much time with me, amatus.”
“And how much of a chance have you given them, here?”
“That’s...entirely beside the point.”
Enderin stepped back so that he could look up at Dorian. Searching the man’s face with his large, green eyes, he frowned. “Dorian, there are people here who care about you, other than me. Good people. Don’t push them away. All I’m asking is for you to come down to the Rest with me, and maybe put a little effort into being friendly.”
Dorian rolled his eyes, but he was softening under the elf’s gaze. “Very well, Enderin. I will go. I will make an effort. I will drink swill with our associates. I will do these things because I adore you, and because you have that look on your face that is designed to make me feel guilty.”
One side of the elf’s mouth curled up again into that irresistible grin. “Thank you, Dorian. And the word you’re looking for is ‘friends’. You’ll drink swill with our friends.”
“Don’t push your luck, amatus,” Dorian cautioned, motioning for Enderin to lead the way.
As Enderin entered the Herald’s Rest, a round of cheers went up. Bull’s Chargers were gathered in one corner of the tavern, already well into their cups from the sound of it.
“Hey, Boss! You made it!” Bull bellowed from across the room. He stood up, moving to make a place for Enderin, and spotted Dorian hovering behind the elf. “Shit, you got the Vint to come out, too?”
“What can I say? I’m very convincing,” Enderin joked, pulling Dorian past the Chargers with a wave, eventually settling himself on a stool next to the Bull. Varric and Sera were already seated, each with a mug on the table in front of them.
“Hey there, Sparkler, welcome to where us little people hang out.” Glancing at Bull, the dwarf added, “Figure of speech, of course, Tiny.” Bull chuckled and raised his mug in appreciation of the joke.
“Never thought you’d get him down here, Inky,” Sera chimed in.
“Inky?” Dorian asked, raising an eyebrow.
Enderin sighed. “It’s apparently Sera’s new nickname for me.”
“Right! Inky! Inquisitor, Inky, you get it, yeah?” The blonde waved her hands over her head, trying to catch the attention of the bartender. “Oi! Couple a mugs over here!”
“Er, what are the beverage options here? I’m generally more of a wine connoisseur, myself,” Dorian added, gazing suspiciously at the mugs already on the table.
“Well,” Varric smirked, rubbing his chin, “they’ve got ale, ale, and, oh yeah! More ale.” Dorian sighed, and Varric snorted a laugh. “Relax, Sparkler, it’s not gonna kill ya.”
“That remains to be seen,” the Altus mumbled, earning an elbow to the ribs from Enderin.
One of the tavern’s serving girls, a pretty red headed elven lass, sashayed up to the table, placing mugs in front of Enderin and Dorian. “Anyone else need a refill?”
“Nah, sweetheart, still working on this one. May need another in a few though,” Varric answered.
She sidled up next to Bull, placing her slim hand on his massive arm. “What about you?” she cooed. “Anything I can do for you?”
“Nah, I’m good. Definitely gonna need something later, though.” Bull gave her a wink, and she beamed at him, then trotted away. Varric chortled, shaking his head.
“Her too?” Sera demanded, her eyes wide. “Arse biscuits, all these pretty girls and they’re all crawling all over you! Leave some for the rest of us, yeah?”
Bull laughed. “I thought you didn’t like elves?”
“She wasn’t so elfy, that one. Less elfy than Inky here, with his fancy face.” Sera grinned mischievously.
“Hey!” Enderin protested. “I have made a conscious effort to not be too ‘elfy’ around you. I can’t help my face.”
“No matter. I happen to enjoy that fancy face of yours immensely, amatus,” Dorian teased, eyeing the drink in front of him suspiciously.
Bull leaned in over the table. “Amatus, eh? Guessing the Boss got you to tell him what that meant. Gotta say, Dorian, I had you pegged as someone who’d fall head over heels pretty quick, but I never thought you’d be the first one to actually admit it.”
“So it’s not something dirty then?” Sera pouted. “Boooooring.”
Dorian felt the heat rise in his cheeks. “Yes, well I guess your amazing Qunari spying skills let you down this time. I do like to keep people guessing.” He took an experimental sip of his ale, and made a face as the bitter taste hit the back of his throat. “Urgh, is this what they call ale in the South? I’ll have to write home and have someone send me a keg of something suitable.” Despite his protests, he took another swig. Enderin and Varric gave each other a knowing look and chuckled.
Bull relaxed back into his chair again, leaning back so that it tilted up on two legs and crossing his arms over his chest. “So Dorian, now that you’re banging the boss, you gonna come down here more often? I mean, we don’t see him much, but we see you even less.”
“I’d have thought that you, of all people, would be less than eager to spend quality time with the Tevinter mage,” Dorian said, his eyebrow arched in curiosity.
“You set fire to any Qunari lately?”
Dorian scoffed. “Not that I can recall.”
“Then I think we’re good. Besides, the Boss likes you, and he seems to have pretty decent taste.”
“Except for the whole magicky shite part,” Sera chimed in.
“Somehow, I think I’ll be able to look past the great flaw of ‘magicky shite’,” Enderin laughed. Sera stuck out her tongue at him.
“So why don’t you come down and mingle with us more often, Sparkler? You know damn well that the door’s always open. Are we not charming enough for you?” Varric winked and downed the last of the liquid in his mug, raising his arm to call for more.
Dorian widened his eyes. He glanced at Enderin, who smiled encouragingly. “Well, I...” He paused and cleared his throat. “I was rather unsure whether I was welcome, honestly.”
“Shit, Dorian, why wouldn’t you be?” Bull thumped his chair back down onto all fours.
“A myriad of reasons, I suppose. I haven’t exactly received the warmest welcome here in the South.”
Varric frowned. “In case you haven’t noticed, we aren’t ‘the South’. We’re your friends. Hell, even if we didn’t like you, anyone who watches my back against demons and red templars and Venatori is welcome to come share a drink at the very least. So far, though, you’re all right by us.” The serving girl arrived to refill mugs, and Varric nodded at her with a quick, “Thanks, sweetheart.”
Dorian was floored. He’d spent so long being a pariah that he’d become accustomed to being unwanted and inconvenient. He looked around the table at the odd gathering of folks that surrounded him. Beneath the table, Enderin gave his leg a reassuring squeeze. Slowly, a smile spread over his face. “Well. In that case, I shall endeavor to join you more often.” Raising his mug, he proclaimed, “Benefaris!” and took a long swallow. The others joined in to his toast. Wiping foam from his mustache, he added, “You all still have awful taste in alcohol, though.”
“Uppity tit,” Sera scolded, kicking his shins playfully under the table.
Chapter 23: Bad Ideas
Dorian can be convinced to do stupid things when he’s drunk. Like fight a dragon.
NSFW - Smut warning!
“Festus bei umo canavarum, Bull!” Dorian jumped to the side as another jet of flame shot toward him, just barely escaping being turned into a pile of ash. He cursed himself for ever being drunk enough to listen to the great Qunari oaf who was now laughing - actually laughing - as he rolled to avoid the snapping jaws of the great beast they were battling. The damned thing breathed fire, which meant that the majority of Dorian’s battle spells were useless against it, and he’d had to resort to flinging ice and lightning, elements that he was not nearly as skilled with. If he made it out of this alive, he told himself that he was going to mount Bull’s horns over his mantle.
A week prior, the Tevinter had been happily drinking to excess in the Haven’s Rest while waiting for the Inquisitor to escape his advisors. Bull, Varric, and Sera were keeping him company, as had become his new usual, though Sera had long since passed out beneath the table. It had been strange at first, spending so much time with people who weren’t constantly trying to find a weakness in him, and whom he felt no need to have to constantly impress. He was actually able to relax around them. He was slowly rediscovering himself, his true self, the person that he had last known only in fleeting moments on warm nights in quiet, friendly conversations with Felix and, more recently, with Enderin. It was freeing. On this particular day, Dorian had reached a state of inebriation where anything suggested seemed like great idea, and Bull, with his Ben Hassrath senses (or perhaps just by having at least one good eye), had picked up on that.
“So, Dorian, I was thinking...we need to do something fun.”
“I’m flattered, Bull, but I’m taken,” Dorian quipped, winking.
“Yeaaaah, anyway, when the Boss gets here, whaddaya say we suggest a trip? Call it, I don’t know, a team building exercise.” Bull chuckled, and Varric eyed him suspiciously.
Rolling his mug between his hands, Dorian leaned forward with interest and a slight lack of muscle control. “What kind of esser...essercise?”
“Let’s kill a dragon.”
Varric laughed. “Tiny, you don’t really think - “
“Tha’s a fantastic plan!” Dorian interrupted. Varric squinted at him. “I’ve never fought a dragon. They seem very...large.”
“Are you guys fucking with me? You want to fight a dragon. For fun.” The dwarf rubbed at his temples. “Maker, Tiny, you’re worse than Hawke. At least she didn’t go looking for the damn dragons.”
Bull grabbed Dorian’s shoulders, shaking the mage slightly. “C’mon, Varric, even the Vint thinks it’ll be great! Are you in or not?”
“I’m pretty sure the Vint would punch an archdemon right now if you suggested it,” Varric muttered. “Nah, you kids have fun. I’ll stay here and enjoy, well, living.”
Bull ducked his massive frame under the table. “Sera!” He shoved at the elf with his boot. “Sera! We’re gonna go kill a dragon! You in?”
Facedown on the floor, Sera mumbled something that sounded like “frigging nuts” and flapped a hand dismissively before rolling away from the offending boot and resuming her unconsciousness.
“I’d like to see a dragon.”
“Kaffas!” Dorian jumped and spilled his ale when the blonde boy suddenly appeared at his elbow. “Cole, use the stairs like a...like a...a person.” Cole cocked his head, his ridiculous hat tilting sideways, but said nothing.
“Great!” Bull exclaimed, clapping his massive hands together. “We’ve got a team together! Now, somebody just needs to convince the Boss.” He shot a look at Dorian.
“Convince me of what?” Enderin strolled over to Dorian’s side, having entered the tavern without anyone noticing his arrival. He signaled to the barkeep to send over another drink.
Dorian wrapped his hands around the elf and pulled him into a long, somewhat sloppy, drunken kiss. “Le’ss go kill a dragon!”
Wiping the sweat from his eyes, Dorian sent another shard of ice flying toward the beast. They’d been battling the creature for what seemed like forever, and the Altus was exhausted, his connection to the Fade slipping as his mana drained. He struggled to keep his focus and nearly tripped over the corpse of a mabari-sized dragonling, one of a horde of reinforcements that the dragon had called forth during the fight. He caught sight of Cole, darting between the creature’s legs, slashing at tendons as he went. Dorian attempted to cast a barrier on the boy, but he was barely a blur, moving too quickly for the spell to find its mark.
The dragon threw its massive head back and screeched as Cole hit something vital and apparently painful. The sound was deafening, and Dorian doubled over, his hands over his ears. Something grabbed his arm, and he spun to see Enderin at his side, yelling something that was drowned out by the dragon’s scream. The Inquisitor raced toward the beast as Dorian stared in horror. Stupid elf!, Dorian thought, shaking his head in an attempt to clear the ringing from his ears and summoning enough mana to cast a barrier on his lover.
Bull had drawn the dragon’s attention away from the two mages, so Enderin was running straight for the thick tail of the beast. Dorian watched in amazement as the elf leapt onto the tail and launched himself up the back of the creature. He made it to the space between the giant leathery wings before the dragon realized that it had been boarded and twisted its great head around, jaws snapping.
With the dragon’s shift in position, Dorian lost sight of the elf. Realizing that he was simply staring dumbly at the creature, Dorian let loose a torrent of ice, aiming low on the animal to avoid Enderin, wherever he was. Suddenly, the dragon’s skin lit up, flashing with electricity, as every muscle on the giant beast tensed. Its body writhed unnaturally, its scales beginning to smoke and crack with heat. As the lightning dissipated, the animal collapsed, dead.
The Iron Bull laughed maniacally. “YES! Taarsidath-an halsaam! Take that!” The Qunari was covered in blood, jumping around and pounding his chest.
“Savage,” Dorian muttered.
Cole appeared at Dorian’s side, his daggers dripping. “He’s happy that he killed the dragon, but he likes dragons. I don’t understand.”
Dorian sighed. “Honestly, I suggest you not try too hard to understand the Qunari. They’re absolutely...” he trailed off as he glanced around. “Wait. Where is Enderin?” A tight feeling of panic began rising in his chest. “Enderin! Enderin!”
“Here!” Atop the body of the fallen dragon, the elf appeared, using his staff to steady himself as he rose to his feet. His hair was wild, long strands plastered to his face and neck by sweat. The edges of his clothing were singed from the lightning he had summoned. His face was streaked with blood and ash, and he was still breathing heavily from the fight. Dorian’s breath caught in his throat. Standing atop his kill, despite being exhausted and disheveled, the elf looked magnificent.
“Hands in his hair, nails at my back, kissing, biting, what I would do to him if...”
“Thank you, Cole, that will be quite enough.” Dorian felt the heat rise in his cheeks. Maker, at least the boy didn’t actually understand what he was spouting. At least, it didn’t seem that he did.
Enderin slid down the side of the dragon, landing gracefully, a huge grin plastered across his face. He took three steps toward Dorian before he was swept up and spun around in the air by the whooping Qunari. “That was fucking amazing! You’re the best, Boss! Shit, can we find another one?!”
“Bull, I will thank you not to manhandle my - the Inquisitor,” Dorian scolded. Bull stopped spinning, looking over his shoulder at the Tevinter, then seemed to realize what he was doing. Sheepishly, he set Enderin down, making sure the elf was steady on his feet before he let go of him.
Marching over to the Inquisitor, Dorian proclaimed, “Enderin and I will check the area and make sure we didn’t miss any dragonlings. Why don’t the two of you go back to camp, and we’ll meet you there?” Enderin’s eyes widened, but he didn’t object.
Bull looked from Enderin to Dorian and back again, and the side of his mouth curled up in a knowing grin. “Yeah, sure, no problem. Meet you at camp, Boss.” He turned and waved Cole over. “Come on kid, let’s get back while the mages scout.”
“But that’s not what -“
“Never mind, Cole. Let’s just go.” Bull steered the rogue back out of the clearing toward where the Inquisition had set up a campsite.
Dorian turned on his heel and quickly strode off in the opposite direction, skirting around the edge of a giant outcropping of rock. Enderin trotted behind him.
“Dorian, what are you playing at? There aren’t any more dragons, what are - oof!” Enderin’s questioning was cut short as Dorian grabbed the lapels of his leather coat and wheeled him around, slamming his back up against a flat spot on the rocks.
“You,” Dorian hissed, “are absolutely mad!” Enderin opened his mouth to remind Dorian that this had been his and Bull’s idea, but any protest he had was cut off when the Tevinter pressed his mouth to the elf’s in a desperate, needy kiss, their teeth clashing together with the force of it. When they finally separated, both men were gasping.
“Vhenan?” Enderin panted, pinned against the rock by the larger man’s body. Dorian gazed down at him reverently, his pupils blown wide, nearly overtaking the grey of his eyes. He ground his hips against the elf, one hand wandering down to the front of Enderin’s soft leather breeches to palm at the swiftly hardening contents therein.
“You are positively spectacular, amatus,” Dorian whispered. “You, up there on that monster...you looked like a god.” He slid down to rest on his knees, fingers already working at the elf’s laces. “Let me worship you.”
If Enderin had any thought to protest, it was quickly silenced as Dorian roughly yanked down on his breeches and smalls, freeing the elf’s now-hard cock and immediately taking it into his mouth. A low moan escaped from the Inquisitor as he leaned his head back onto the stone, eyes rolling back in his head.
Dorian hummed as he pulled back, ignoring the salty tang of sweat in his mouth. Normally, he’d balk at the idea of any kind of sexual activity after such a hot, dirty battle, but the combination of adrenaline, relief, and just flat arousal made everything else irrelevant. He circled his tongue around the head of Enderin’s cock, making the elf shudder and grab at his hair. The elf’s fingernails dragged along Dorian’s scalp, and Dorian purred, taking in his length once more.
As Dorian fell into his rhythm, Enderin’s hips began thrusting forward involuntarily. The Altus spread a hand over the elf’s hip and pressed him back into the stone, rubbing small circles with his thumb while applying just enough pressure with his palms to still the man. He slid his other hand up under Enderin’s shirt, finding one hard nipple and pinching it, reveling in the way the elf’s breath hitched, his cock twitching in Dorian’s mouth.
“Ah, Dorian,” Enderin gasped, writhing at the Altus’s touch on his skin. Dorian looked up at him but didn’t slow his rhythm, pulling him to the back of his throat and hollowing his cheeks. “Vhenan...ar lath ma. Oh, vhenan...” When Dorian slid a hand down and cupped the elf’s balls, running a finger over the sensitive skin behind them, Enderin’s vision blurred. His legs shook.
In the short time that the two men had been together, Dorian had made a study of how to drive the elf over the edge, and he made use of all of that knowledge now. Enderin keened, one hand opening and closing on thin air, the other still fisted in Dorian’s hair. “Ir sumeil, Dorian! Sathan, ma’lath...”
Dorian didn’t know what the words meant, but he understood the urgency, and he took the elf as deep as his throat would allow. Enderin came with a shout, gripping Dorian’s hair and snapping his hips forward. Dorian drank him in, swallowing down the hot spend and then pulling away slowly, licking up the last few drops of the elf’s release. He leaned back, grinning up like the cat who caught the canary.
Suddenly, Enderin’s knees buckled. Startled, Dorian caught him and pressed him back against the rock, scrambling to his feet as the elf slumped against him. “Enderin? Are you all right?” His voice came out high pitched and panicked, and he searched the Inquisitor’s body frantically, looking for hidden injuries that he might have missed by choosing to leave the man clothed.
Face buried in Dorian’s chest, the Inquisitor began to laugh. “Fenedhis, Dorian, you’ve killed me.” He gripped the human’s arms and pulled himself upright again, leaning back on the flat stone behind him. Dorian’s concern turned to confusion, and when Enderin caught sight of his face, the elf groaned. “I’m okay, vhenan. I’m just...I was so drained after the fight, but I was running on adrenaline, I guess, and then you did that, and...” He closed his eyes and chuckled. “I’m completely spent, in more ways than one.”
Dorian let out the breath he’d been holding, and then began to laugh, pulling the exhausted elf into a tight embrace and kissing the top of his head. “Maker, Enderin, you’re going to give me a heart attack. Come, let’s get you back to camp.”
“Can I get my breeches back up first?”
Rolling his eyes dramatically, Dorian let out a pained sigh. “If you must, amatus. I suppose we’ll just have to deny our friends that spectacular view.” He helped Enderin tie up his laces, then stooped to help support the smaller man.
“Some god I am, eh? Still think I’m worthy of worship?”
“Even a god can’t be expected to walk straight after encountering my considerable talents, amatus.”
Festus bei umo canavarum - You’ll be the death of me
Vhenan...ar lath ma - My heart...I love you
Ir sumeil, Dorian! Sathan, ma’lath... - I’m close, Dorian! Please, my love...
Chapter 24: Family
Dorian begins to ask questions about Enderin’s past.
The party spent several more days in the Hinterlands, hunting down some bandit groups who were still lurking in the hills, preying on refugees. Bull spent most of their down time recounting the fight against the dragon, gleefully talking through every blow he’d landed, every spout of fire, every screech and gnash of teeth, until Dorian finally snapped and shouted that each and every one of the people Bull was speaking to had been involved in the fight, thank you very much, and if he could please refrain from boring them to death over it, they’d all greatly appreciate the silence. Bull took the outburst with his usual good humor, but he did at least stop rehashing the battle for the remainder of the trip.
On their final night of camping before heading back to Skyhold, Cole disappeared for the better part of an hour, returning with several fat rabbits in his pack. “You were hungry,” he explained to Enderin. “I helped.” So far as anyone could determine, the boy didn’t ever actually eat, but the rest of the party appreciated the gesture.
Long after the rabbits had been cleaned, cooked, and devoured, Enderin and Dorian sat side by side next to the fire, leaning against each other in a companionable silence. The elf stared at the stars through the trees while Dorian carded his fingers through the man’s long hair, twisting it back occasionally to better see the look of contentment on his lover’s face. Bull had retired to his tent, and Cole was off doing whatever it was Cole did in the night.
Dorian was leaning in to steal a kiss when the mages heard a rustling at the edge of the campsite, just beyond where the light of the fire reached. Enderin went stiff, tracking the sound, his eyes darting from one shrub to the next. Dorian began to reach for his staff, but before he could grab it, the elf placed a hand on his arm, silently signaling that there was no danger. They both watched as a small creature slipped into the light, its nose twitching at the lingering scent of cooked rabbit.
“What is it?” Dorian whispered. The creature stopped, eyeing the men warily, its large ears pricked forward. It held one paw in the air, as if unsure whether to continue forward or turn and flee.
Enderin held a finger up to his lips, then slowly reached down and found a scrap of rabbit meat on one of the plates that hadn’t yet been cleaned up. He made a clicking sound at the back of his throat, then tossed the meat toward their furry guest. The animal snatched it up, chewed and swallowed, then looked back at Enderin expectantly. The elf chuckled and found another scrap, throwing it over. This time, the creature picked it up and darted away, disappearing into the underbrush.
“Must have kits somewhere,” Enderin mused. “That’s a good mama.”
“That was...rather remarkable. She trusted you.” Dorian stared at the spot where the animal had fled, as if hoping for another glimpse.
“They’re not afraid if you don’t move too fast. Sometimes the kids in the clan would tame one, and it would follow them around. Friendly little things, so long as you keep feeding them.”
“What kind of animal was that?”
Enderin leaned back against Dorian’s chest and looked up at him, his hands finding Dorian’s. “It’s a fennec. You’ve seen them before...they’re all over the place.”
“Yes, well, I hadn’t seen one up close until now. Honestly, all the little furry things that scurry around the wilderness all look the same when they’re running away from us.” Dorian nuzzled his nose along the edge of the elf’s ear. “The nature-hating bastard in me is loathe to admit this, but it was...well, cute, I suppose. I like the big ears.” He nipped playfully, then teased, “Apparently, I have a type in that regard.”
“Hey, my ears aren’t big! They’re just, well, longer than yours.”
Dorian chuckled. “So did you ever keep one of those fennecs as a pet?”
“No, not a fennec. I had a bird once though, a jay that I found with a broken wing. Poor thing healed funny, never could fly again.” Enderin smiled and shut his eyes, remembering. “He liked to pretend, though. He’d sit on my shoulder, and if I ran, he’d spread his wings like he was soaring.”
“I never had a pet. Mother hated animals.”
“I don’t know how anyone can hate animals. They’re better than people, most of the time.”
“To be fair, Mother hated most people as well. Ah, well, just another dreary fact of my childhood. No kittens or puppies for little Dorian.” He was joking, but Enderin caught the hard edge to his voice. The man still had so much resentment festering inside him. Not knowing what to say, Enderin simply lifted Dorian’s hand to his lips and kissed his knuckles.
“You don’t talk about your clan much.”
Enderin shrugged, staring into the fire. Dorian’s fingers found their way into his hair again, creeping up from the nape of his neck to curl along the base of his scalp comfortingly.
“Do you miss them, amatus?”
“Yes,” he whispered, his voice cracking slightly. “Every day.”
“Would you tell me about them?”
“You’ve never asked about them before.”
“I’m asking now. If you’re willing, that is.”
Enderin gave a sort of sad little smile and leaned into Dorian’s neck. “What do you want to know?”
“Shall we start with the basics? Any brothers and sisters?”
“One sister, that I know of.”
Dorian’s fingers stopped. “That you know of?”
Sighing, Enderin sat up, pulling slightly away from Dorian. “You asked me to tell me about my clan, then you asked about my family. Usually, with the Dalish, that’s the same thing. With me, it’s...complicated. Because I’m a mage. You know that we don’t have anything like the Templars to control mages, right?” Dorian nodded. “Some humans think that means we just let mages run wild. We don’t, though. We don’t punish people for having magic, we just don’t keep too many mages in any one clan. I was born into Clan Faerellis. By the time I came into my magic when I was eight, they already had three fully trained mages in the clan, so I was given to Clan Lavellan.”
“Oh, amatus...” Dorian soothed, gripping Enderin’s hand and rubbing his thumb over the elf’s knuckles.
Enderin shrugged again. “It’s fine. It’s how it is. Lavellan clan was good to me. I became First to Keeper Istimaethoriel. She taught me everything I know about magic.”
“And your family?”
“My mother stayed with her clan, her family. My sister, Cienna, was only two when I left. I doubt she even remembers me. My father died in a hunting accident the year before I was sent away. He never even knew I was a mage.”
Dorian sighed. “I’m sorry, amatus. I always seem to ask you questions that lead to bad memories.”
“No, not entirely. You asked about my clan first.” Enderin brightened. “Should I tell you about Dairel, the absolute worst hunter I have ever seen, who managed to get caught in his own snare not once, but three times? Or about Fey’allah, who was convinced that she and I were going to be bonded from the time we were ten until she caught me in a compromising position with another boy when I was fifteen? Or would you like to hear about the joy and misery of sharing an aravel with six other men for weeks on end?”
Dorian laughed and pulled Enderin back to him, kissing the elf on the nose. “As intriguing as the second story sounds, I think I shall have to have you start at the beginning. Tell me about your keeper. And what is a First?”
“Ah! Well, that’s - “
Enderin was interrupted by a sharp little barking noise. The two mages looked over, startled, at the bold mother fennec standing at the far side of the campsite, now accompanied by her two small kits standing just behind her.
“Well!” Dorian exclaimed. “It looks as if we’ve gained a camp pet or three.”
Enderin laughed. “I think I have some ram jerky in the tent. I’ll have to go find it.”
Enderin and Dorian both jumped as Cole appeared perched beside them. The family of fennecs stiffened, but didn’t run, relaxing when the boy tossed the food their way.
“Vishante kaffas, Cole, one of these days, you’re going to give me a heart attack doing that!”
Cole regarded Dorian carefully. “Mindful, making missteps, mistakes, wanting more but not wanting to ask for it.” He leaned past Enderin to look into Dorian’s face from beneath the wide brim of his hat. “Sometimes, family is the people we choose.” Then he vanished.
Dorian’s eyes widened. Realizing that his mouth was hanging open, he quickly snapped his jaw shut. He turned to see Enderin watching him with a small, knowing smile on his face. Dorian shook his head and pulled the elf in for a kiss. “Damn that boy for always being right.”
Enderin laid awake, listening to Dorian’s slow, even breaths. The man slept like the dead, blankets swaddled around him, always clutched to Enderin as if he were afraid the elf would disappear in the middle of the night. Usually, he relaxed after an hour or so and Enderin was able to disentangle himself from the swarthy limbs and wrapped blankets and spread out enough to sleep comfortably. Tonight, he allowed himself to be held, as he had no real inclination toward sleep.
The two mages had talked about Enderin’s clan until late in the night, the Inquisitor explaining the hierarchy of the elves and the meanings of the different positions within the clan, how one trained as the keeper’s First, their day to day lives, and he had just started talking about their interactions with the humans when Bull had emerged from his tent to take watch. Dorian had yawned and promised that they would continue the conversation later, and dropped onto their bedroll like a stone.
He stroked Dorian’s hair absently, and the man made a small noise of pleasure in his sleep. Enderin smiled, but his mind wandered.
He remembered a day long ago. He was so small, skinny and long-limbed, and they had traveled such a long way. He had ridden on the back of the halla with his mother, his arms wrapped around her waist, his few possessions in a sack slung across the animals haunches, and the keeper had come with them on his own halla. They had left the rest of the clan behind with the aravels, safe deep in the forest.
When they reached the new clan, he remembered being afraid. Their aravels looked different somehow, smaller and sleeker, painted in different colors. Their hunters watched the new arrivals warily, whispering to each other as they passed. The Lavellan keeper, with her dark skin and wide smile, had greeted their keeper, and the two had talked for a long time while Enderin and his mother waited in silence. Finally, Enderin had been called forward.
“Enderin, I am Keeper Deshanna Istimaethoriel Lavellan, of Clan Lavellan. Your keeper has told me that you have magic in you. Is that true, da’len?” He had nodded sullenly, and the woman smiled warmly. “I know this is hard for you, but Clan Lavellan is in need of another mage, to be my apprentice, my First. Would you come stay with us, and train with me, and be a part of my clan?”
Enderin’s eyes had welled up, and his small hands had balled into fists, small sparks of lightning playing over his knobby knuckles. “I have to. My mother doesn’t want me any more.”
“Oh, da’len, that isn’t true.”
“It is!” he had shouted, and run into the woods. Not far, just far enough to be out of sight. His mother and Keeper Faerellis had left without saying goodbye. According to Keeper Istimaethoriel, his mother had been crying.
Now, Enderin pulled a sleeping Dorian close to his chest, letting tears fall into his lover’s hair. Not for the first time, he wished he could tell his mother that he understood, but it was far too late.
Chapter 25: Maraas-Lok
Bull takes Enderin out for drinks.
Having bathed, dressed in clean clothes, and eaten a good meal, Dorian had happily settled in to his comfortable armchair in the library, a glass of wine in one hand, a large tome on magical theory in the other. Bull had invited the entire Hinterlands party for drinks at the Rest to celebrate their dragon kill, but Dorian had had quite enough of the loud, raucous Qunari over the past several days, and had graciously refused, hoping that Enderin would follow suit and they could retire to the Inquisitor’s bedroom together. Unfortunately, the elf had agreed to drinks, promising Dorian that he would find him afterward. Having been denied his first choice of activity, or at least having it postponed, the Altus had decided that silence and a good book were at least a remotely acceptable substitute.
As the evening wore on, the sounds of pages turning, mages whispering to each other, and the rustling of robes eventually fell away, leaving only the occasional caw and ruffle of feathers from the ravens nesting in the rafters overhead. Dorian, engrossed in his book, hardly noticed that he was the only soul left in the library. The only time he’d even looked up was to refill his empty glass.
The sound of boots stomping up the stairs and a shout of “Hey, Vint!” broke the silence. Several ravens crowed their displeasure at being so rudely awakened, and Dorian let loose an irritated sigh. Why is that oaf even here? He’s supposed to be down getting drinks with Enderin. About to express as much, Dorian looked up and found his answer.
Bull stood at the entrance to the alcove, his huge frame nearly blocking the entire passage. He had something flung over one shoulder like a sack of potatoes. This particular sack of potatoes, however, had legs. Legs that wore familiar pants which had bare feet hanging at the end of them.
“Got a little present for you,” Bull stated, grinning from ear to ear. He wavered on his feet a little. Dorian had only half a moment to ponder how much alcohol it must have taken to get the Bull tipsy enough to be unsteady when an upside down face peeked out from behind the Qunari’s back.
In the entire time they’d known each other, Dorian had never once seen the Inquisitor drunk. He’d imbibed enough to be chatty on a few occasions, but never like this. Enderin was completely and utterly sauced, pink cheeked and limp as a noodle.
Dorian leapt up from his chair, the now-forgotten book tumbling to the floor with a loud thump. “Maker’s shit, Bull, what have you done to him?”
“I didn’t do anything except offer him a drink. Or three.”
Enderin giggled, one arm hanging limply while the other clutched at Bull’s massive belt to keep him steady. “It was...jusss three. Three
“Three drinks of what, precisely?”
The Qunari at least had the good grace to look slightly guilty. “Maraas-Lok.”
“Maraas-Lok!” Dorian shouted. “You gave him that oxman paint stripper? Three of them? It’s a miracle he’s still conscious! He’s an elf, for Maker’s sake!”
“A-taaaaa-shiiiiiiiii...,” Enderin hissed out, grinning madly.
“Ataashi!” Bull repeated, laughing. “Anyone who can take down a dragon can handle some Maraas-Lok!”
Dorian crossed his arms, frowning. “Yes, obviously. He’s exactly what I picture when I imagine someone who can ‘handle’ some of the most vile alcohol I’ve ever had the displeasure of encountering.” He sighed, and waved one hand toward the stairs. “Well, you’ve gotten him into this state, you can carry him to his quarters.”
The Bull grunted an agreement and spun on his heel, putting out a hand to steady himself against the wall when he wobbled.
“If you drop him, Bull,” Dorian warned, “I will set you on fire and shit on your ashes.”
They made their way to Enderin’s bedroom, passing through the mercifully empty main hall of Skyhold. It was late enough that most of the nobles had either gone to bed or moved on to more private activities. Thank goodness for small favors, Dorian thought wryly. He didn’t want to deal with the wrath of Josephine should their precious allies catch sight of the mighty Inquisitor drunk as a skunk and flung over the shoulder of a tipsy Qunari.
Once they reached Enderin’s quarters, Bull flipped the elf roughly onto the bed, nearly clipping him with one of his horns. Enderin hit the mattress and bounced, groaning at the sudden movement and flinging one arm over his face.
“You do know that if he vomits all over the bed in the middle of the night, I’m holding you responsible, yes?” Dorian chided, narrowing his eyes at the warrior.
Bull simply laughed. “He’ll be fine, right Boss?” Enderin grunted, followed by a soft burp. “See? Fine. You boys have a good night.” He shot Dorian his ridiculous one-eyed wink and stumbled toward the door.
“You’ve ruined any chance at that, you drunken lummox!” Dorian shouted after him. Once he heard the door latch, he turned back to the elf sprawled across the bed and sighed. “I must say, amatus, I’m generally not the one on the sober end of this situation.”
“S’okay, Dorian,” Enderin mumbled from beneath his arm, “there’s still some Maraas-Lok. You could have some.”
The Tevinter chuckled. “I think I shall pass. Come, my love, let’s get you undressed.”
The elf very helpfully lifted one leg off the bed, waving it at Dorian. The Altus managed to get Enderin out of his clothes and under the covers despite the fact that the man was mostly dead weight. After slipping out of his own clothes and extinguishing the candles, Dorian joined him in the bed. Enderin appeared to be asleep already. Dorian watched him for a moment, smiling to himself. As much as he acted irritated, he couldn’t truly be angry. The young Inquisitor carried far too much weight on his shoulders, and he deserved to let go once in awhile. He smoothed a few stray strands of long, chestnut hair back from the elf’s tattooed face, and Enderin cracked open one eye.
“Shhh,” Dorian whispered. “Go to sleep, amatus.”
“Vhenan, we killed a dragon. Ataashiiiii...”
“Yes, amatus. We killed a dragon. Now sleep. You’re going to have a nasty headache in the morning, I fear.”
Enderin sighed and closed his eye. “Nex’ time, I’m only gonna have two drinks...”
Dorian burst into laughter while Enderin groaned and burrowed into the covers.
Chapter 26: Secrets
Dorian is being secretive, and Sera comes up with a plan to find out why.
Clouds hung low in the mountains over Skyhold, threatening snow. The afternoon had turned grey and dreary, which suited Enderin’s mood just fine. He trudged through the courtyard, waving half heartedly at the group of soldiers who called out to him from the training ring. Ducking into the Herald’s Rest, he was relieved to find that it was mostly empty, as the Chargers had been dispatched on a mission to investigate the Templar fortress of Therinfal Redoubt, and the Iron Bull had chosen to accompany them in order to spend some quality time with ‘his boys’. Whenever the mercenary company was gone, the tavern was remarkably quieter. Maryden sat tuning her lute by the stairs, and smiled warmly at Enderin when he entered, but quickly returned to her instrument. A few mages, workers, and pilgrims sat scattered about the room, alone or in small groups, and most ignored the Inquisitor. Sliding onto a barstool, Enderin nodded to the surly dwarf behind the bar, who grunted at him and shoved a mug his way without bothering to ask about drink preference. The offerings were slim, after all, and Enderin wasn’t that particular anyway.
Halfway through his second drink, the front door of the tavern was thrown open with a crash, and the skinny, plaidweave-clad form of Sera tumbled in, laughing hysterically. Someone outside was yelling, or possibly several someones. Sera made a rude gesture and slammed the door.
“Serves ya right, ya pissbag tosser!” she shouted at the closed door, and cackled again. Noticing that several of the sedate bar patrons were staring at her, she shrugged. “What?” As she trotted over to the bar, Maryden began playing, jumping into the merry tune that she had written about the mischievous elf, ‘Sera Was Never’. The title character herself jumped onto a barstool and made a face, calling over her shoulder, “Not gonna work, there, birdie! Not interested, right?” Turning her attention to the bartender, she piped cheerfully, “Cabot! What’s the good word, eh?”
Cabot slid a glass full of yellow liquid her way. “Indomitable.”
“Oooooh, that is a good word.” Halfway into her first gulp, Sera finally noticed who was seated at the bar two stools down from her, and snorted into her drink. “Inky?!? What’re you doing here? It’s the middle of the day! Shouldn’t you be up with the stuffed shirts, hobnobbing or diplomatting or blah blah my sword is bigger than your axe and whatnot?” She hopped stools to sit next to him.
Enderin offered up a small smile. “Not today. They’ve let me go a bit early.”
“Then why aren’t you with Ser Fancy Hair, rubbing bits or whatever? Seems like that’s what you usually do with a free minute.”
Rolling his mug between his hands, Enderin sighed. “It seems Dorian hasn’t been very interested in spending time with me lately.”
“Well, that was quick,” Cabot muttered as he wiped down empty mugs.
“Stuff it, Cabot!” Sera snapped. “Whatcha mean, he’s not interested? What’s he doing? He didn’t find somewhere else to sheath his sword, did he, cause I’ll poke him full of arrows, I will!”
“No! No, nothing like that!” At least, I hope not, Enderin thought dismally. “It’s just, I just came back from Val Royeaux, and normally Dorian’s thrilled to see me return, but the last couple of days, we haven’t seen each other much. He always seems to have something else that he needs to do.” It was more than that, though. The needs of the Inquisition always had them running around like ships passing in the night, but the two mages had always managed to find time for each other. For the past two days, Dorian seemed to be actively avoiding Enderin. He had spend the night in his own bedroom rather than the Inquisitor’s, sending a short written apology that claimed he was tired. He had skipped out on training with Cullen. They hadn’t even had a meal together in that time. On the few occasions when they had passed each other out of necessity, all that Enderin had received was a quick wave before Dorian had ducked into a doorway and out of sight. The elf was wracking his brain trying to think if he had done something to make Dorian angry with him, but so far, nothing stood out. He couldn’t even blame the trip itself, as he had offered to bring Dorian along, and the Altus had refused, claiming that he’d rather stay and work on his research. It was frustrating.
Sera tapped her chin thoughtfully. “Come to think of it, he has been acting weird lately. He came out to the yard not an hour ago, all sneaky like, with his hood up even, like we don’t know who he is anyways, and got some package. Ran off up to his room with it.”
“Really?” Enderin narrowed his eyes. “I didn’t know he was expecting anything. Usually he tells me.”
“Mmm. All secrets today, that one. Should we go find out what he’s hiding?”
Rubbing at his ear cuff, Enderin shook his head. “No, better not.”
Bumping his shoulder with hers, she grinned. “Awww, c’mon! I know you want to know!”
“I do, Sera, really, but...”
“But nothing! If he’s not going to tell you why he’s giving you the brush off, then you’ve got to take drastic measures, yeah?”
“I don’t think...”
“Then don’t think!” Sera laughed. “You think too much, anyway! All you do is think and talk and talk and think. Just do, for once!”
Enderin sighed and downed the rest of his drink, slamming the empty mug onto the bar. “Fine! Let’s do then!” Under his breath, he added, “I’m probably going to regret this.”
Sera whooped, and slurped at her drink, yellow liquid dribbling down the sides of her face. Enderin grimaced as she wiped her mouth on her sleeve. “Er, Sera, what are you drinking, anyway?”
“I definitely regret this already.”
Fat, wet snowflakes had started falling a few moments earlier. Normally, this wouldn’t have bothered Enderin. He was used to the snow. But now he and Sera were scrambling along the rooftops of Skyhold, where the footing was precarious in the best of circumstances, and the weather was now serving to make the situation worse. His bare toes gripped at any small hold in the shingles, hoping that nothing would break loose. Sera moved with a speed that told Enderin she had done this at least a few times before, and he struggled to keep up with her.
They passed the rookery tower, and Enderin could hear the ravens cawing inside. Winding their way around, they found themselves just outside an alcove window, where inside, two scouts were staring at them in a state of shock and in varying states of undress. Sera covered her mouth and began laughing, while Enderin turned bright red, averted his eyes, and stammered, “Er, ca-carry on!”
After carefully making their way out along the peak of one of the side buildings, Sera finally announced, “We’re here!” The snow was falling harder now, and was beginning to build up along the edges of the roof. The shingles were getting slippery, and Enderin was pondering whether to simply turn around and climb into the rookery when Sera produced a small grappling hook and a short length of rope from the pocket of her coat. She anchored the hook over the peak of the roof, then, looping the rope around her and Enderin’s waists loosely, slid down toward the edge of the roof, dragging the Inquisitor with her.
“This, erm, doesn’t actually look very secure.”
“Shut it, Inky, it’s fine.” Sera laid down on her belly and hung her head over the edge, motioning for Enderin for follow suit. He did, and he found that there was a window just under the ledge. Looking in through the slightly warped glass, he saw Dorian’s room, lit by a large, cheery fire in the fireplace. It was a bit odd, seeing everything upside down, and it took him a moment to adjust to the aspect change.
“Okay, so where’s Dorian?”
Sera rolled her eyes. “Well, I can’t promise you everything, can I?”
The entirety of the room wasn’t visible from the window. The bed was on the far side of the room, opposite the fireplace, and was out of Enderin’s view. He could see the small table near the window, covered in an odd collection of things, including a small pot of something being heated by candles, and a mirror was propped up next to it.
Suddenly, someone walked right in front of the window, and Enderin was so startled that he nearly yelped. He and Sera wriggled back so that only the top half of their faces hung over the ledge. Dorian was clad in only a long maroon silk dressing gown that hung open and black, satiny looking smalls that Enderin had definitely seen before and remembered fondly. He fussed with the contents of the pot for a moment, stirring them around, then shucked the dressing gown and threw it over the back of a chair. He pulled the stirring stick from the pot, still coated in a thick, gooey substance, and, to Enderin’s great confusion, began smearing it on his own chest.
“Oh, that great bloody fop!” Sera murmured, giggling.
“What is he...”
Dorian took what looked like a strip of cloth off the table and stuck it to himself, over where he’d placed the goo from the pot.
“Is it...a poultice? Did he injure himself somehow?” Enderin whispered, thoroughly befuddled. If Dorian was hurt, why wouldn’t he have just told him? Why all the secrecy? And why not just see one of the healers? Sera shushed him and pointed back at the window, where the Altus was now gripping the edge of the table with one hand and pinching the edge of the cloth with the other. He stared into the mirror, took a few deep breaths, and then tore the fabric from his skin with a curse that the two elves could hear through the thick glass.
Enderin started. “What in the Void was that?” he hissed, but Sera was too busy laughing behind her hands to answer him. In the room, Dorian appeared to be repeating the process, and was smearing more thick goo on his chest.
As Enderin shifted to try to get a better look at what was going on, two things happened simultaneously. The shingle that he moved his foot against worked itself loose and went clattering over the edge of the roof, and his hand hit an icy patch, causing him to lose his grip entirely. To his utter terror, he found himself careening off Skyhold’s roof, with only a loosely looped rope around his waist to save him.
“Sera!” he cried out into the snowy void, and his descent halted abruptly as the rogue managed to grab with both hands onto his ankle.
“Bloody Maker’s tits arsebag shit!” Sera wiggled as she held him, probably gripping the rope with her legs, the string of curses flying from her mouth eventually turning into just a long strand of “shitshitshitshit!”
Enderin frantically grabbed at the free end of the rope and wrapped it around his arm. He swung perilously from side to side, and he shut his eyes and prayed to whatever gods may be listening that Sera could keep her grip. He heard a scraping noise behind him, and then a familiar and very worried voice.
“What in the...Enderin?”
Mercifully, no explanation was demanded before strong arms wrapped around Enderin’s waist and pulled him in through the now open window. He was untangled from the rope and deposited, rather unceremoniously, onto the floor, where he proceeded to sprawl out and thank the gods, willing his racing heart to stop hammering against the inside of his chest. Dorian, meanwhile, was leaning out the window, twisting to try to see up beyond the edge of the roof.
“Damnit, Sera, I know you’re to blame for this! When I find you, I’m going to set your atrocious haircut on fire, you see that I don’t!”
From a retreating distance, Sera called back, “It was all his idea, I swear!” Snow slid off the edge of the roof, landing in Dorian’s hair and producing a blue streak of curses in both common and Tevene. Pulling his head back inside and slamming the window panels shut, Dorian turned his attention to the prone elf on his floor who was only just beginning to regain some of the color in his face. Donning his dressing gown and folding his arms coolly over his chest, he fixed Enderin with a glare that could have killed most weaker species.
“Well then, I’m assuming that you have some explanation as to why you nearly went flying ass over teakettle off my roof?”
Enderin sat up slowly, avoiding looking Dorian in the eye. “Not a good one, no.”
Tapping one finger on the opposite bicep, Dorian allowed some time in between his questions for Enderin to squirm under his accusatory gaze. “So, what exactly were you and Sera doing up on the roof above my room? Ballroom dancing? Political debates? Crochet club, perhaps?”
“Don’t ‘Dorian’ me. I’d like an answer, if you please.”
Staring at his feet, Enderin began fiddling with his ear cuff. “We were...well, I was...it’s just, you’ve been avoiding me since I got back from Val Royeaux, and - “
“Oh, no,” Dorian interrupted, “you don’t get to turn this around on me. All your pretty little speeches about how relationships are about trust, and you were spying on me, weren’t you?”
Quietly, Enderin nearly whispered, “Yes.”
“Did it ever occur to you that there are some things in my life that I’m not quite ready to share with you yet?”
Enderin stayed silent and twirled his feet, looking like a scolded child.
“Nothing to say for yourself, then?”
“Dorian, I’m sorry, truly I am. I knew it was a stupid idea, but...well, I missed you, damn it! You just completely disappeared from my life for no reason that I could fathom, and I thought I’d done something wrong!”
“I...just...I wasn’t...” Dorian stammered. Taking a breath, he started over. “Very well. I will concede that I did not handle my end of this situation in the best manner. But next time, I will request that you not solve the issue by swan diving off my overhang, are we in agreement?”
Enderin chuckled dryly. “I think I can agree to that.”
Dorian sighed and sank into a nearby chair. “So, that’s one secret in my life that’s out. Not that I thought I could keep it from you forever, but I was hoping to have some things hidden in my back pocket for at least a little while. It was only a matter of time, I suppose.”
Finally looking up from under long lashes, Enderin grinned sheepishly. “Well, truth be told...I have no idea what it is that you were doing, vhenan.”
Dorian cocked his head, then a slow smile spread across his face. “No, you wouldn’t, would you?” He offered a hand, and Enderin accepted, allowing himself to be pulled to his feet. Dorian slid the elf closer to him until the smaller man was straddling his lap, then the Altus guided Enderin’s hands up to his chest. Parting the rich fabric of the dressing gown, he pressed the elf’s hands to the skin beneath.
Enderin’s face twisted in confusion. Under one hand, the skin was as smooth and unblemished as it normally was, but under the other, he felt something odd. It almost felt like the stubble that grew on Dorian’s chin after several days on the road without a shave. Moving his hands, he found that it was true. There was short, coarse hair growing over most of the expanse of Dorian’s chest. Disturbingly, the small smooth area was red and angry looking, as if the skin had been slightly scalded. He pulled his hands back and looked to Dorian for answers.
Seeing the perplexed expression on the elf’s face, Dorian laughed. “Amatus, you can’t truly think that I’m this flawless with no effort, do you? Perhaps when I was younger, but at this point of my life, it takes some work to remain so! I’m not naturally so hairless as you, sadly, so I have to use wax to keep my skin smooth. It gets rid of the hair for much longer than shaving, you see, but the hair has to grow a bit first so the wax has something to grab onto. Your trip to Val Royeaux was the perfect time for me to let that happen, but then my shipment of wax was delayed, and you came home sooner than expected. A perfect conflux of unfortunate events, so far as my vanity was concerned. So I avoided you until I could rectify the situation. I did plan on apologizing excessively and erotically tonight, if it is any consolation.”
“So, you’ve been hiding from me...so I didn’t see your chest hair?”
Now Dorian looked sheepish. “Ah, in short, yes.”
The elf snorted out a laugh. “Creators, Dorian, you really are a vain little peacock, aren’t you?”
Huffing, Dorian pulled his dressing gown closed. “Well, I was doing it for your benefit as well, you know. I figured that you’d prefer a smooth chest on your lover. Elves aren’t used to much in the way of body hair, I imagine.”
“No, but I’m not so superficial as all that. I would love you even if you were as hairy as...as...as Blackwall!”
Dorian shuddered dramatically. “Maker preserve me, I’m not that bad! That man looks like he’s part bear.” Pulling Enderin close, he pressed their foreheads together. “In any case, it’s good to know that you claim you’ll love me even when I’m not looking my spectacular best.”
The elf pressed a kiss to the end of Dorian’s nose. “I do love you, no matter what. And I am sorry for spying on you.”
“Yes, well, I apologize for being so secretive. There, now, are we done with all the sappy sentiments for today?” He patted Enderin’s rump, encouraging the elf to stand and allow Dorian up from the chair. “After all, even if you would love every horrid hair on my marvelous body, I can’t leave this job half finished.”
Enderin blanched a little. “I’d rather not watch you torture yourself for the sake of beauty, if that’s all right. Dinner tonight?”
Dorian beamed at him. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world, amatus. I have missed you, truly. You have no idea how hard it was to put you off for the last few days, when all I wanted to do was grab you and take you to bed.”
“Tonight, vhenan. You can show me exactly how much you missed me.” With a mischievous grin, Enderin ducked out through the door, the weight on his shoulders completely lifted.
Ah, another long wait between chapters. I apologize, but life has been hectic. We’ve had to move into a temporary place for the next three months or so in preparation for our move back to the States. Also, my depression and anxiety hit a major low point for a bit, and I just did not have the energy to write. But I’m back, I’m feeling much better, and this chapter was a lot of fun. I hope you enjoy it!
Chapter 27: Surprise
Enderin surprises Dorian, and hopes that it will go better than the last time he arranged for a surprise.
“All I’m saying, amatus, is that they’re drab.”
“They’re soldiers, Dorian. Their uniforms don’t need to be flashy.”
“Yes, but they don’t need to be dull, either. Not that I think you need to go full Orlesian or anything, but at least no one can accuse those feathered fops of being boring. Throw in a touch of color or something! You’re the Inquisitor, they have to listen to you.”
Enderin rolled his eyes and returned his attention to the training grounds. Cullen was putting the troops through their pages, stalking through the ranks and shouting commands. He occasionally stopped and repositioned a shield or a sword arm, then continued his circuit.
“Now take our dear Commander,” Dorian continued, “He’s at least got some interest to his uniform. I’m not saying we deck the troops out in fur, but perhaps a splash of red, to match with Cullen...”
Dorian trailed off as he realized that Enderin was no longer listening to him. His attention had been caught by a flash of gold and blue trotting down the castle stairs. The Tevinter’s eyes widened. Josephine rarely ventured into the courtyard. She didn’t even have her board and quill with her. He would have been concerned that someone had died if not for the fact that she was sporting a large, lovely smile. She made her way over to the low stone wall where Enderin was perched, Dorian leaning next to him.
“Inquisitor, Master Dorian,” she purred in greeting.
“My dear Josephine, what brings you down here with the rabble? Enderin and I were just discussing the unfortunate nature of the Inquisition’s uniform choices, something that you could actually assist in rectify-oof!” The Altus was cut off by a quick jab to his ribs, administered by a bare toe. He shot Enderin a dirty look.
Josephine looked slightly confused for a moment, but quickly moved on. “Inquisitor, the...item you ordered has arrived from Val Royeaux. I hope you don’t mind that Leliana and I, um, inspected it for you.”
Enderin chuckled. “I assume everything is satisfactory?”
“Immensely, my lord. I had it sent up to your quarters.”
“Thank you, Josephine.” Enderin hopped down from the wall and grabbed Dorian’s hand, a huge grin on his face, pulling him up from the wall and toward the castle. Dorian threw Josephine a confused look, but followed the elf across the courtyard.
“So what is this item you ordered? From Val Royeaux no less...amatus, have you become so accustomed to life as the Inquisitor that you’ve acquired a taste for the finer things in life? Have you abandoned Dalish simplicity in lieu of velvet curtains and soft cheeses?” Dorian teased as he was dragged along.
“Ugh.” Enderin made a face. “Hardly. Just come, I think you’ll like this purchase.”
They made their way through the hall and up to the Inquisitor’s quarters, and all the while Dorian was wracking his brain. It was so rare that the elf actually requested anything material that the Altus truly had no idea what the item could be that would have the man so excited. When they reached the bedroom, they found that a fair-sized wooden crate had been placed in the center of the room, the lid laying atop it but no longer nailed down. Enderin squeezed Dorian’s hand.
“Well, ma vhenan, are you going to open it, or not?”
Dorian raised his eyebrows in surprise. “Me? Why me?”
“Because I got it for you. The last time I got you something, it didn’t go so well,” the elf said, poking at a small lump under Dorian’s shirt where his amulet hung. “Let’s try again, shall we?” He gave the taller mage a small shove toward the crate.
Thoroughly mystified now, Dorian looked back and forth from the box to his lover. The latter crossed his arms, grinning and watching. Turning to the crate, Dorian knelt down next to it and pushed the lid aside. Inside, curled in the corner of the straw-lined box, was a small grey and black creature with rather large ears. Dorian gasped, and the tiny fennec lifted its head, regarding the Altus with bright eyes.
“Amatus, you didn’t...”
Enderin’s grin widened. “Let’s see it, then.”
Reaching out a tentative hand, Dorian clucked his tongue at the creature. The fennec stood, stretched, then trotted over to sniff at the fingers held out to it. Satisfied that this was a friendly hand, the little fox headbutted Dorian, asking to be petted. The man obliged, scratching the animal behind its comically large ears, then gently picked it up and cradled it against his chest. Turning back to face the elf, Dorian looked up in awe.
“You did this for me? After the Hinterlands, I assume?”
Enderin moved to stand by his lover, reaching up to pet the fennec. “You said you’d never had a pet. It sounded like you wanted one. I talked to Josephine about it, and it turns out that the Orlesians actually breed fennecs to keep as house pets, so I had a look when I was there last. The woman I spoke to had a brand new litter, and they all looked like this. They call this color a ‘silver’, it’s rather rare in the wild. When I saw them, I thought it would be perfect for you. Matches your eyes and all, you vain bastard.” He looked up at Dorian, smirking over his teasing. “They were too young for me to bring one home right then, so I had to have him delivered once he was old enough. Do you like him? I hoped you would, but I wasn’t sure.”
“Do I like him? Amatus, he’s marvelous! It’s just...” Dorian trailed off, gazing down at the tiny creature he held.
Enderin frowned. “Just what?”
Taking a deep breath, Dorian pondered how to express himself correctly. “Enderin, I’ve never in my life been responsible for another living soul. I’ve only had to take care of myself, and even that I haven’t exactly excelled at. I don’t know the first thing about caring for an animal. What if I do it wrong?”
The elf’s smile returned, and he slipped his arms around Dorian’s waist, careful of the fennec between them. “You’ll be fine, vhenan. I’ll help you. Besides, fennecs are easy. The tame ones mostly like to eat and sleep. Take him outside a couple times a day. Also, Leliana offered to take care of him when we’re on the road. Did you know she has a pet nug? Not here, of course, but a nug! I didn’t know people kept those as pets.”
Dorian shuddered. “Ugh. Those creatures disturb me, with their odd little feet. Our Nightingale is a strange one, isn’t she?” Dorian leaned down and pressed his mouth to Enderin’s. The fennec, annoyed at the fact that he was no longer being petted, barked out a little high pitched yip. Laughing against the elf’s lips, Dorian murmured, “Thank you, amatus. Truly.”
Obliging the fox with a scratch under the chin, Enderin asked, “So what is his name?”
Dorian held up the fennec and inspected him. The little fox pricked his black-tipped ears forward and twitched his tail. “We need something commanding, yes? We can’t have people thinking that you aren’t important just because you’re small. I think...Dante. Yes, that will do nicely!” The newly-appointed Dante wriggled and attempted to lick Dorian’s cheek.
“I think he agrees,” Enderin chuckled.
“Come, amatus!” Dorian cried, tucking the fennec under one arm and wrapping the other around Enderin. “Let’s go introduce Dante to his new home. Perhaps we can train him to piss in Vivienne’s shoes when she’s being particularly irritating.”
The fennec as a pet is based off this piece of artwork. I think the idea of Dorian with a pet fennec is adorable.
Chapter 28: New Talents, Old Habits
Enderin ponders which training path to take, and finally confronts Dorian about his drinking.
“...and she doesn’t even remember her name! She just calls herself ‘Your Trainer’. It’s bizarre.” Enderin dropped a stack of papers onto his desk, adding to the already teetering pile. “I don’t know what to do. All three of them are just, well, strange.”
Dorian leaned back in his seat and regarded the elf over the rim of his wineglass. “If you don’t like them, Enderin, then tell them to shove their specialties in their fade rifts and move on.”
Sighing, Enderin ran his hands through his hair, tugging the long strands back into a messy ponytail. “I can’t, Dorian. Josephine went through a lot of trouble to get them here. Besides, I can’t entirely say that I’m not intrigued by what they may have to teach me. It’s just so foreign to me. Dalish mages don’t worry about specialties. We just explore, and then stick to what we’re good at.”
Dorian chuckled and moved to pour himself another drink. “Well, you certainly are good at zapping everything in sight, but I can see where your advisors would want you to utilize something a bit more unique. Any mage worth his salt can conjure up a lightning bolt. Kaffas,” he swore as he drained the last of the bottle into his glass.
“Yes, well, the trick is to be the first one to cast it,” Enderin said offhandedly as he gave Dorian a sideways look. More directly, he asked, “Did you drink that entire bottle just now?”
“My apologies, amatus, it seems I haven’t left any for you. You really should speak up sooner if you care to have a glass. I do have more in my quarters that I could fetch for us.”
The elf frowned. “That wasn’t why I was asking.”
Dorian paused mid-sip as he caught the look on his lover’s face. “Something you want to get off your chest, Inquisitor?”
Enderin opened his mouth, then shut it again, working out what he wanted to say. While he thought, he strode over to where Dorian sat on the small loveseat. Sliding onto the larger man’s lap, the elf straddled him, gently taking the wineglass from Dorian’s hand and setting it on the side table. “You know I love you, vhenan.”
Dorian wrapped his now empty hands around the elf’s waist. “I do, though I rather think that I’m not going to like where this conversation is heading.”
“I worry about you,” Enderin murmured, kissing Dorian’s forehead.
Narrowing his eyes, Dorian pushed the elf back slightly. “You worry about what, specifically? I’m a big boy, Enderin, I am quite capable of taking care of myself.”
Enderin sighed, pressing his forehead to Dorian’s. “Hawke sent word that her Warden friend is ready to meet up, in Crestwood. Varric and Cassandra have asked to come along, and Sera has something she wants to do near there, some uppity noble or some such thing that she wants help with. I don’t want to draw attention with too large a group, so I’m not bringing you this time. I just...I don’t want you, while I’m gone, to...well...”
“Out with it, amatus,” Dorian demanded, once again pushing Enderin back so that he could look the elf full in the face.
“I’m worried you’ll lock yourself away and drink the whole time,” Enderin said in a rush, his cheeks flushing pink.
Dorian stayed silent for a long moment, staring at Enderin even though the elf wouldn’t look him in the face. Finally, he sighed, shutting his eyes and slumping his shoulders. “I see. And who shall I thank for telling you about my habits when you’re away?”
“Several people. They’re concerned, Dorian, as am I. I know you’ve started spending more time at the Rest, and I had hoped that becoming closer to our friends would have helped, but I’m afraid that you’re going to go back to old habits while I’m away. I know that you spent a lot of time in your room while I was in Val Royeaux last, and it bothers me to think that you spent most of that time drinking by yourself.”
Dorian shifted Enderin from his lap to the cushion next to him, then stood and walked to the fireplace, staring into the flames. “It’s true, I suppose. I do drink more than I should when you’re away, and I do tend to hide away a bit. I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, but I am not exactly a stellar role model for healthy coping mechanisms.” He gazed over his shoulder at the elf. “You keep me grounded, amatus. Much as I hate to admit it, I do not do well on my own.” Quietly, he added, “Apparently, everyone else agrees.”
“I can’t be with you every moment, ma vhenan.”
“I know,” Dorian sighed. “And it’s unfair of me to expect you to shoulder yet another burden.”
“You’re not a burden,” Enderin scolded, joining the Altus by the fire and slipping his arms around the man’s waist. “You’re stubborn and sarcastic and impossible to deal with sometimes, but you’re never a burden.”
Dorian snorted a laugh. “I am most certainly all of those things.” Shaking his head, he reciprocated Enderin’s embrace. “I can’t promise to stop drinking, amatus.”
“I’m not asking you to stop. I’m asking you to moderate a bit, and not to drink alone.”
“But what ever shall I do at night if I can’t bed a handsome elf or drink myself into a stupor?” Dorian joked, but his voice carried an edge of uncertainty.
“I had an idea on that front,” Enderin answered. When Dorian arched an eyebrow in curiosity, the elf continued. “We have three strange but capable mage trainers at our disposal. Why should I be the only one utilizing them?”
“You want me to study a new talent?” Dorian cocked his head, twisting one side of his mustache between his fingers. “That’s...brilliant, actually. It’s certainly sure to take up a good bit of my time while you’re gone. It’s been quite a while since I’ve dabbled in any new schools of magic. Since I apprenticed with Alexius, actually.” Slowly, a smile spread across the Tevinter’s face. “Yes, I think I like this little plan of yours.”
“I thought you would.” Pulling away from his lover, Enderin returned to his desk and found the papers he’d most recently deposited there. “I figured I could let Solas and Madame Vivienne train as well, if they chose.”
“Ah, we wouldn’t want the others to think that I’m getting special treatment, would we?” Dorian teased, winking.
Chuckling, Enderin skimmed the papers. “Well, that, and it’s just practical to have all my people at their best.” Picking out a few pages from the stack, the elf held them out to Dorian. “Here are your options.”
“No need, amatus. I knew when you were telling me about them earlier which I would choose.”
Green eyes widening, Enderin set the papers back down. “Really? That simple, huh?”
“Simple indeed, and I’m actually surprised that you’re having difficulty with your own choice.” Dorian began meandering about the room, watching Enderin as he spoke. “Let’s examine the options, shall we? First, we could learn to master the power of the rifts. An intriguing field of study, to be sure, but impractical in the long run.”
“Yes, impractical. Your end goal is to close all the rifts, yes? So while it may be useful for now, if you succeed, it will be useless without any rifts to provide power.”
“If I succeed?” Enderin smirked.
Dorian paused his pacing to shoot the elf a withering look. “Yes, yes, I said if, you cocky bastard. If, when, either way, the end result is the same.” Resuming his circuit of the room, Dorian continued. “Besides, I think you’d get rather tired of hearing any more about rifts than you already do. Let Solas try that school, he’ll probably form a bulge in his breeches just hearing about it.
“So what is our next option? Necromancy. Let’s just rule that one out on principal. I don’t see you playing around with the dead. You’re far too Dalish for that.”
Barking out a laugh, Enderin interrupted, “What does that even mean? I’m too Dalish for necromancy?”
Dorian stopped again, right in front of the elf. “You, my dear,” he said, prodding Enderin in the chest, “are far too much nature and love and light to be a necromancer. I just can’t imagine you poking at a corpse and kindly requesting that it pop up and say hello.”
Wrinkling his nose, Enderin agreed. “You’re right. I don’t particularly like the idea of it.”
“Exactly! So that leaves us with the knight enchanter. Summoning swords, getting up close and personal with your enemies, charging into the fray despite the fact that you’re a mage and not a warrior...those sound exactly like the sort of idiot things that you’d love to do.”
“Hey nothing, amatus. You climbed up the back of a dragon, much to my dismay. I should think that if you’re going to do foolhardy things like that, you should at least be well armed, and that specialty will provide what you need to arm yourself.”
Enderin considered that. “I hate to admit it, but I think you’re right.”
“Of course I’m right. I am very nearly always right.”
“And what about you? I don’t envision you racing into the fight.”
“Ah, no. I’ll leave those particular heroics to you, amatus. I much prefer to stay well out of range.” Dorian approached the desk and stood looking down at the papers, as if considering his options there. “No, I think there’s a much more suitable choice for me.” He picked up one of the papers and examined it. “I shall start my training with Master Anaxas as soon as possible.”
Enderin made a small choking noise. “Anaxas? The necromancer? Why?”
Dorian smirked. “Because it looks challenging. And because I believe it would be quite useful, what with all the corpses you leave in your wake. And, not least of all, because I don’t think anyone else will want to study it, leaving me to have a trainer all to myself and a unique set of skills.”
Shaking his head, Enderin sighed. “You would choose the creepy school of magic just to be different.”
The Altus strolled back to the fireplace and landed a small kiss on Enderin’s forehead. “Different is good, amatus. All of this,” he gestured toward the windows that overlooked Skyhold’s courtyard, “is different, and incredible.”
Enderin nuzzled his face into Dorian’s neck. “Well, if going for different makes you more content while I’m away, then by all means, enjoy poking at corpses.”
“Can I poke at a warm body at least two or three more times before you leave?” Dorian teased.
The elf pressed against him, pushing him toward the bed. “Please do.”
Chapter 29: Weakness
Dorian struggles to keep his promise while Enderin is away, but he finds support in an unlikely place.
Dorian crouched low, chasing after the wine bottle that had escaped from his hand and was swiftly rolling toward the edge of the rotunda balcony. He grabbed at the glass, fumbling with clumsy fingers and catching only air each time, until he was forced to watch helplessly as the bottle careened over the ledge. The sound of it shattering was extremely loud in the late night quiet of Skyhold’s library, and Dorian dropped to his knees.
“Damn you to the Void, you cock-sucking Maker-fucked piece of demon shit!”
“Well, that was colorful.”
Dorian spun around in surprise, landing hard on his rear end, his head swimming and his stomach threatening to evict its liquid contents in protest of the sudden movement. Shutting his eyes against his swirling vision, Dorian groaned, running a hand over his face in embarrassment. Of course there would be someone else in the library tonight. And of course, it would have to be...
The elf stood a few paces away, a stack of books cradled in his arms, a look of disapproval clear on his face even in the dim light.
“I sincerely hope that you managed to avoid my desk with your drunken projectiles. I was in the middle of some rather important research.”
“Yes, well, I...I...” His brain groped desperately for a witty retort. When it came back with nothing, Dorian suddenly felt utterly betrayed by his own mind, and, to his great mortification, tears began burning in his eyes. “Maker’s breath,” he choked out, struggling to stand. “I’m sorry, I’ll clean it up in the morning.” In his attempt to make a hasty exit, he tripped over his own feet, and Solas caught his arm before he stumbled to the floor again.
Setting his books on the nearest table, Solas guided Dorian to a chair. Hot tears were streaming down the Altus’s face now, and he was gulping air in a vain attempt to keep himself from breaking down completely. Solas crouched in front of him, the look on his face altered from disdain to something verging between curiosity and concern.
“Care to explain?”
Dorian sniffed loudly. “Not particularly, no.”
Solas narrowed his eyes, tilting his head to the side. “Dorian, I - ”
“Four days!” Dorian exclaimed, throwing his hands in the air, exasperated. “I couldn’t even make it a full week! Four days, and I’m drowning myself in a bottle again. ‘Don’t drink alone’ was all he asked, and yet, here I am, a miserable, weak excuse for a man, dropping wine into your study like an imbecile, and expensive wine at that!” He crumpled in on himself, fully sobbing now, wrapping his hands around the back of his head and pressing his forehead to his knees.
“Ah,” Solas said simply, and sat quietly, allowing Dorian a moment.
Once the tears had slowed and Dorian was merely sniffling and hiccuping occasionally, his hands gripping and relaxing methodically in the short hair at the nape of his neck, Solas cautiously reached out and placed a hand on the man’s knee. Dorian’s head shot up. He had honestly expected that the elf would have long since walked away.
Gulping, Dorian wiped at his face with the back of his hand. “More sober, perhaps, which is not always better.” Looking down, he saw that his hand had come away streaked in kohl, and he sighed. “I must look an absolute fright.”
Solas chuckled. “Well, you’re certainly not at your best. Come, I’ll walk you to your room.”
The two men walked in silence, Solas keeping a hand hovering just under Dorian’s elbow in case he should stumble again. Fortunately, the library was not a long distance from the wing of Skyhold that housed the Altus. When they reached Dorian’s quarters, Solas lit a fire in the hearth with a flick of his wrist, and then hovered in the doorway.
“Take a moment and clean up a bit. I trust you can manage to find your sleeping attire without too much trouble?” Dorian nodded. “Good. I’ll return in a few minutes.” He slipped away down the dark walkway, his bare feet silent on the stones.
Making his way to his modest toilette in the corner, Dorian splashed cold water from the washbasin over his face, rinsing away the remnants of his ruined kohl and clearing a bit more of the wine from his brain. He stripped off his clothes and pulled on a loose pair of sleeping pants and his silk robe. As he was tying the sash, Solas pushed through the door, back first, his hands being otherwise occupied with a tea tray.
“Why Solas, you shouldn’t have! Honestly, you’re being terribly kind to me considering that I have probably made a complete mess of your study.” He pushed a handful of his grooming products off to the side of his small end table, making room for the tray. “Speaking of which, considering your habit of going barefoot, you probably shouldn’t go in there until I’ve had a chance to clean it up.”
Solas set the tray down and shrugged noncommittally, though at which part of the comment, Dorian was unsure. Gesturing to the chair, he asked, “May I?”
“By all means.” Dorian settled himself on the end of his bed, back against the wall, with his legs stretched out along the foot of the mattress. He watched as Solas opened several different pouches that were lined along the edge of the tea tray, took pinches of each, and deposited the contents into the small metal tea infuser, then hung it over the edge of the cup. It was then that Dorian noticed there was only a single teacup on the tray.
“None for you?”
Solas wrinkled his nose slightly. “I abhor tea, actually. So no, none for me. For you, however, a blend of elfroot to prevent any potential headache you might develop tomorrow, prophet’s laurel to cleanse the alcohol from your body, and chamomile to help you sleep.” He poured hot water from the kettle into the cup, then folded his hands in his lap, and turned his gaze back to Dorian. “Now, while we allow that to steep, I gather that the Inquisitor had a talk with you about your drinking habit?”
Dorian blew out a long breath. “He did,” he said, tugging at the end of his mustache as he spoke. “He was very kind about it, as he always is, and asked me simply that if I am going to drink, to do so at the Herald’s Rest with our friends so that they can keep me in good company, and I am a wretched man who cannot keep one simple promise to a wonderful person who means the world to me for four full days.”
The elf leaned back and steepled his fingers beneath his chin. “Dorian, you and I have not become so well acquainted in these past few months as you have with some of the other members of the Inquisition, so you will have to correct me if I am mistaken about you, but as I understand it, your adult life in Tevinter was made rather difficult due to your...sexual nature, is that correct?”
Dorian scoffed rather indelicately. “The only thing incorrect about that is that it’s quite the understatement. I was rather unwelcome in many ‘polite’ homes. If I wanted to be taken seriously, I had to keep my private life a secret. My misguided father had me imprisoned in our estate for a quarter of a year at one point, and nearly had me altered with blood magic. So yes, difficult seems a bit underwhelming as a descriptive.”
“I see. Well, though I cannot claim to have experienced your unique struggles, I do know what it is to be a pariah among your people. You and I, we wear it as a badge of pride, but there are still deep wounds that ache at times, are there not?”
Dorian rubbed at the back of his neck, staring into his lap. Solas studied him for a moment before continuing.
“Much as you tout yourself in jest as the embodiment of perfection, you are no god, Dorian. You are a mortal man, and as such, you make mistakes. As do I, as do all of us. Lavellan understands this. Anyone who has spent more than a passing moment in your combined presence knows that he loves you deeply. So long as you make an effort to rectify those mistakes, he will forgive you. The greater question is, do you wish to forgive yourself and allow your wounds to heal, or would you prefer to remain mired in your past, licking the cuts so that they never close?”
There was a faint clinking noise, and Dorian lifted his eyes to see Solas removing the steeper from the cup. He set it aside and handed Dorian his tea. As he accepted the cup, he opened his mouth to answer, but Solas shook his head.
“It was a rhetorical question, my friend. The fact that you lasted four days speaks great volumes. If you had no desire to change, you would have gone to the bottle the moment the Inquisitor left the gates. You give yourself too little credit. I am proud of you, and I am sure Lavellan will be as well.” Solas stood and gave Dorian a small but genuine smile. “Do not be too hard on yourself. The path to change is a long, difficult one, but you have a kind hearted travel companion to help you along the way, and many friends to support your journey. I would be pleased if you would count me among them.”
The elf padded softly to the door, and Dorian called out after him. “Solas?” Solas turned and waited. “Thank you. This was...unexpected, to be sure, but you’ve been a great help to me. I won’t forget it.” Nodding, Solas let himself out and shut the door quietly behind him.
Dorian sipped at his tea, the heat filling his belly and making him pleasantly drowsy. This was not at all how he’d expected the evening to end, but it was a much better alternative to passing out in a wine-soaked stupor, only to wake with a splitting headache and a heaping dose of shame and remorse. Solas has surprised him. He thought vaguely that he would have to find a way to thank him, but his mind was already beginning to fall into the soft fog of sleep, so he set his teacup on the table, crawled under his blankets, and drifted off to thoughts of long chestnut hair and pointed ears, and a warm body curled next to his.
Chapter 30: Making Magic Happen
Dorian has some suggestions to make things more exciting.
WARNING: NSFW chapter. All the smut.
Enderin smiled to himself as he watched Dorian pace excitedly in front of him, punctuating his speech with dramatic gestures. The Altus had been talking for nearly twenty minutes straight, and he seemed to care little if Enderin was actually following everything he said, which the elf absolutely wasn’t. Not for lack of trying, of course. Dorian was simply too riled up, chattering on about magical theory and spirits and new techniques. Enderin was content to sit back and watch the show. He was thrilled that his lover was enjoying his new studies. In fact, Dorian hadn’t even met Enderin at the gates upon his return, as he usually did, because he was in the middle of a lesson. Instead, Enderin had had time to bathe and relax a bit before Dorian had flown into his room, face flushed with excitement, and peppered the elf with kisses before launching into his verbal waterfall.
“...and the possibilities! I’ve already had some ideas on how to combine necromancy with some of the more basic schools to create some rather interesting effects, though of course it’s all speculation at the moment. I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of what Anaxas can teach me. Even the most basic spells are marvelous, amatus! I’ve been working on a fear spell that actually draws spirits from the Fade to assist the caster. I’m fairly sure that if I tweak the...” Dorian trailed off as he finally glanced in Enderin’s direction. “Amatus, why are you grinning like that?”
Enderin chuckled and held out his hand, inviting Dorian to join him on the loveseat. “I just don’t think I’ve seen you this excited since we were yanked through time.” Dorian shifted the sleeping fennec that had been curled next to the elf onto the floor, earning a small bark of disapproval, and draped himself on the cushion, legs hanging over the arm of the couch, head on Enderin’s lap. Running his fingers through the Tevinter’s dark hair, the elf continued, “I’m glad to see that you’re enjoying your lessons.”
Dorian hummed, reveling in the feel of nails on his scalp. “You’re an exceedingly clever man, my love. You know exactly how to keep me occupied.”
“And did it prove an adequate distraction while I was gone?”
Dorian paused for a moment. “Mostly,” he finally answered.
“I’m not going to scold you, Dorian. You don’t have to evade giving an answer.”
Slipping one hand up to cup the elf’s face, Dorian sighed. “I missed you terribly, amatus, as I always do. But I did try not to disappoint you too badly. A couple of nights, that’s all.”
Enderin smiled and leaned down to kiss Dorian’s forehead. “I’m proud of you, vhenan.”
“Ugh, let’s not get all sappy, shall we? Besides, I’d much rather we get down to the business of showing you all the dirty things I wished I could be doing to you while you were away.”
“You’re terrible,” Enderin laughed.
“Exceedingly,” the Tevinter answered, grinning wickedly. He sat up and pulled Enderin into a deep, lingering kiss. The elf sighed and melted into the larger man, pressing against him, his hands finding and loosing several buckles by pure muscle memory. When Dorian released his mouth, Enderin moved to his neck, kissing and nipping just below his ear. “I did have a bit of a query for you, my love.”
“Hmm?” Enderin hummed against his throat.
“I was just wondering...our sex life has been a bit more on the mundane side than I’m used to...”
“What?” The elf pulled back, giving Dorian a mortified look.
Realizing the implications of what he’d just said, Dorian burst out laughing. “No, amatus! You mistake me. I don’t mean mundane as in boring. I am exceptionally satisfied with our bedroom exploits. I mean mundane in the non-magical sense. We are both mages, after all. Have you never used magic with a partner?”
Enderin raised his eyebrows. “No? I mean, I mostly know combat magic. Unless you want me to electrocute you...”
Chuckling, Dorian slipped a hand beneath the elf’s shirt. “I assure you, amatus, just about any magic used to cause pain can be adapted for pleasure.” He brushed fingers that had dropped to the temperature of ice against Enderin’s nipple, eliciting a hiss of shock as the flesh there hardened at the touch.
“Fenedhis lasa!” The elf jerked, his eyes flying wide, as the hand beneath his shirt moved to pinch at the second nipple. His arms broke out in gooseflesh. Dorian slowly pushed the shirt up the length of Enderin’s torso, the man’s hands now pleasantly warm, the heat lingering behind his touch as he tugged the garment up and off.
“You see what I mean, love?” Dorian purred, trailing one ice cold finger down the center of Enderin’s chest, followed by a hot one. The conflicting temperatures made the elf shudder, and he pulled Dorian to him, frantically covering the man’s mouth with his own, fisting his hands through his short hair.
“More,” he panted against Dorian’s mouth. “Show me more.”
Dorian grinned. “As you command, Inquisitor.” He stood, pulling Enderin to his feet, and led the elf to the edge of the bed. “Strip, if you would.” Enderin obeyed in a heartbeat, dropping his soft leather pants to the floor and moving to unlace Dorian’s breeches next. “Ah ah ah,” Dorian scolded, pushing the elf’s hand’s away. “I don’t believe that was part of the instructions, was it?”
Enderin gave a crooked grin. “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?”
“Quite,” Dorian smirked. “Now, on the bed with you.”
The elf hesitated. “Er, Dante’s not going to interrupt us, is he?”
Dorian scanned the room for the fennec, and found him curled on a cushion in the corner. “Fast asleep, the dear. I think we’ll be all right to continue, unless you’re worried about offending the delicate sensibilities of our pet.” Enderin snorted, and climbed onto the mattress.
Once Enderin was settled to Dorian’s specifications, kneeling in the center of the bed with his wrists crossed behind his back, Dorian slowly stripped off his leather outer shirt, keeping his eyes on the elf’s face the entire time. “Have you ever been tied up in the bedroom, amatus?”
A slight pause. “Yes.”
“Did you enjoy it?”
“I don’t know. It was...different.”
Dorian chuckled. “Different. All right. Would you be adverse to trying something similar again?”
“No, I suppose not.”
“Good.” Dorian licked his lips. “Your mouth will be free. If you’re uncomfortable at any time, let me know and I will release you. Ready?”
Looking around, Enderin seemed confused. “Dorian, we don’t have any rope.”
“We are mages, amatus. We adapt.” The Altus gestured, and suddenly Enderin was caught in a modified version of the crushing prison spell. His breath caught in his throat as he realized what was happening, his heart starting to race. His body braced for pain, but it never came. Instead, there was just a slight but insistent pressure over most of his body. Dorian crawled onto the bed in front of him and cradled his face in his hands. “All right, love?”
Enderin swallowed loudly. “I...I think so,” he whispered.
“Good.” Dorian’s hands began roaming over the elf’s body, featherlight touches of alternating heat and cold. Fingers traced every line of muscle, each small vein, every tiny scar. Enderin groaned and closed his eyes. He couldn’t watch Dorian’s movements anyway, because he couldn’t lower his head, so he reveled in the randomness of sensation, his nerves singing as his body strained against the magical prison. Soon, fingers gave way to lips and tongue. Dorian’s mouth found the hollows behind his ears, the channels along his shoulder blades, the sensitive flesh on his wrists. He touched everywhere except where the elf ached to feel him the most, and Enderin keened each time he felt hot breath pass over his groin, his cock twitching as Dorian neglected it in favor of a thigh, a wrist, the side of his stomach.
“Sathan, vhenan...” Enderin begged, “please!”
From directly behind his ear, Dorian whispered, “Patience, amatus.” His teeth nipped lightly at the tip of Enderin’s ear, and the elf gasped, muscles jerking against their constraint. He felt Dorian leave him, felt the bed shifting and heard the sounds of a drawer opening and closing, of fabric rustling softly, he smelled the sweet sandalwood and vanilla scent of their oil, and then Dorian appeared before him again, completely nude now, kissing him, gently parting his lips with his tongue, and Enderin longed to press against him, to feel him fully, but the Tevinter kept just enough air between their bodies that Enderin could feel the heat of his skin, but not the skin itself.
Dorian lounged back onto the bed, far enough away that he was fully within Enderin’s range of vision. Grinning mischievously, he lazily stroked himself with an oiled hand. “You are marvelous, Enderin. Truly, I could simply stare at you all day. I should have you painted, just like this. Do you think that Josephine could commission someone?”
“Dorian,” Enderin hissed, “either touch me or let me loose!”
Dorian tsk tsked, but crawled his way back to Enderin. Agonizingly slowly, he ran one finger up the underside of the elf’s cock, swiping through the bead of liquid that had gathered at the tip and bringing it to his mouth with a chuckle.
“Ohhh, ma juea abelas, vhenan...” Enderin growled, gritting his teeth.
“That didn’t sound very nice, amatus. Very well, but only because I am a kind, wonderful man, I will lessen your suffering.” He leaned forward and took Enderin into his mouth, and Creators, the inside of his mouth was freezing! Enderin yelped, and slowly, the temperature circling his manhood rose, passing the normal warmth of Dorian’s body to a heat that verged just shy of uncomfortable. It was excruciating and incredible all at once. Dorian hummed, rocking himself slowly, and Enderin realized that he had reached one hand between his own legs and was fingering himself as he explored the ridges of Enderin’s cock with his tongue.
His nerves on fire, his body still bound by an invisible prison, Enderin could do nothing but pant and gasp. In all fairness, Dorian didn’t seem to be faring much better for his freedom of movement, his perfect body covered in a thin sheen of sweat as he moaned wantonly, rocking between Enderin and his own hand.
“Dorian,” the elf managed to choke out, “the sooner you free me...the sooner I can fuck you.”
The Altus released Enderin from his mouth, earning a disapproving groan from the elf. He sat up to stare his lover full in the face, and Enderin was taken aback at how beautiful he looked, with his hair mussed and pupils blown so wide that his eyes were nearly black. His lips were kiss swollen and slick, and he was breathing heavily. His mouth curled into a playful smile.
“Oh, was I unclear, love? I won’t be needing to release you for that, either.”
Enderin’s eyes widened, and he sputtered, but Dorian turned away from him. Grabbing the elf’s cock with one hand, he lined himself up and slowly, slowly, inched his hips back. Enderin felt the resistance, then the insistent pull, then that glorious soft wonderful heat, and soon he was fully seated inside Dorian, and his whole body itched to be able to thrust and touch and grab, but he was still at the mercy of the Tevinter’s teasing. Dorian rolled his hips, leaned forward nearly to the point where their bodies were pulled free of each other, then slammed back against the Inquisitor, who was as solid as marble behind him. He took his time like this, fucking himself slowly against Enderin’s imprisoned body. Heat pooled in the elf’s belly, and he fought against it, trying to last as long as possible. Arching his back and rolling his hips again, the Altus cursed softly, and suddenly Enderin felt the magic around him shift slightly. As Dorian rocked himself, the pressure on the elf’s body lightened by degrees, until he was able to twitch his head just a bit, roll his shoulders. Dorian didn’t seem to notice. He was entirely caught up in his own pleasure, head thrown back, a string of curses in both common and Tevene falling from his lips, until Enderin felt Dorian tighten around him as he reached his climax and, at the same moment, the magical prison broke.
Dorian collapsed, falling to his side, and burst into laughter. Enderin laid down at his back, panting, his muscles twitching.
“What is so funny?”
“Can’t hold you if I come undone myself,” Dorian explained, still giggling. He rolled to face his lover. “Come, amatus, you haven’t finished yet. How do you want me?”
Enderin’s lips curled into an evil grin. “Suffering.” He placed a hand on Dorian’s softening cock.
“I’m afraid I’ll have to suffer later, my love. As much as I’d love to claim to have that much endurance, I’m through for a little while, at least.”
“Oh, no you’re not.” A faint warmth spread from Enderin’s hand, and to Dorian’s surprise, he felt his energy returning, and his cock hardening. He looked down, then back to the elf’s face in confusion. That evil little grin was still firmly in place. “Regeneration spell. I’m not fantastic at healing, but I’m passable enough. Now, you lay back.”
Dorian did as he was told. “I’m a bit worried that I may have taught you too well, amatus.”
“You should be worried.” Enderin grabbed the bottle of oil from the nightstand and coated his hands with it. He flashed a quick heat spell to warm it, then, settling himself between Dorian’s legs, spread his hands over the Altus’s belly. “Just let me know if I go too far and it starts to hurt.”
“That is...not comforting, Enderin.”
The elf’s hands began to vibrate, then tingle. Small sparks played over the backs of his knuckles, and Dorian writhed. “Amatus!” he gasped, “That tickles!”
“Good. Serves you right.” His hands moved lower, one hand resting over Dorian’s twitching cock. The man hissed in a breath, pushing his hips up, begging for more friction. Enderin refused to comply, clucking his tongue. “Patience, ma vhenan.” His other hand ghosted over Dorian’s balls, buzzing over the sensitive patch of skin just behind them, and then he pressed his fingers flat to the tight ring of Dorian’s asshole.
Dorian jerked, cursing, his body conflicted as he both tried to escape the bizarre sensation and press back into it. Enderin pinned him back down, then swiftly pushed two tingling fingers into Dorian, aiming straight for the sensitive bundle of nerves inside. He found it immediately, and the reaction was everything he had hoped for. Dorian’s normal stream of curses was reduced to one stuttering “f-f-f-FUCK!,” as his back arched and his hands fisted violently in the sheets, the muscles in his arms and neck straining. Enderin began rubbing small circles with his fingers while his other hand finally fully gripped Dorian’s cock, and Dorian dropped back to the bed, his ankles drumming on the mattress, his words changed to nothing but a small “ah, ah, ah” noise, until he came with a shout, streaking across his own belly.
Enderin dropped the spell, pulling his fingers free, and quickly sheathed himself within Dorian once more. The Altus gasped and tightened around him with the aftershocks of his own climax, and Enderin pulled him up to kiss him as Dorian came completely undone. The man could only smile contentedly while Enderin petted him, thrusting into him, praising him and calling him beautiful, until he shuddered and gripped Dorian’s hips tight to him, then collapsed in a heap at his side.
It was a long while before either of them moved, content as they were just to lay bathing in the afterglow of the evening’s activities. Finally, though, Dorian spoke.
“What in the name of the Void was that?”
Enderin chuckled and rubbed his hand over Dorian’s back. “Very low level lightning. You said that anything that could cause pain could be used for pleasure, so I figured I’d give it a shot. It seemed to work out all right.”
“I must work on my lightning spells.”
Sathan - please
Ma juea abelas - You will be sorry
Chapter 31: Poison
Enderin is wounded.
Just a quick note: I was reading back through old chapters, and I realized that somehow one of my chapters either got deleted or never posted correctly, so I have added it in. If you’re interested, there is a new Chapter 10 (The Letter), which fills the weird jump that was there. Sorry for the odd storyline before, but there was actually a chapter, it was apparently just missing in action.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“If I never see another corpse, it will be too soon!”
Enderin rolled his eyes. Dorian had been complaining on and off for the entire journey back to Skyhold from the Fallow Mire. It had been an exceedingly long trip. “Dorian, you raise the dead. Regularly.”
Dorian huffed. “Yes, well, those are freshly dead, not plague-ridden, waterlogged alligator bait, shambling out from the swamp!” He sniffed dramatically, and scowled. “I smell like a sewer. You smell like a sewer. We’re taking week-long baths the second we get home.”
“And another thing -“
“Sparkler, you keep it up and Bianca’s gonna put a hole in your left ass cheek,” Varric interjected. Behind them, Bull guffawed. Dorian’s face colored in indignation, but he dropped the subject. Shifting a bit in the saddle, he nudged his horse into a trot, shooting daggers at Enderin with a glance as he passed.
Bull rode up next to the Inquisitor. “Your Vint’s getting a little uppity there, Boss. More than normal, I mean.”
Enderin sighed. “My fault for bringing him to a swamp, I suppose. Lesson learned.”
“If you’re interested, I’ve got a few ideas for how you could keep his mouth occupied and give us all a little peace.”
Grinning, Enderin watched Dorian move further ahead of the group on the rocky path. “I have several ideas of my own, Bull, but they’re hard to pull off from the saddle.”
Varric coughed. “Delicate dwarven ears, here!”
“Don’t worry, Varric, I’ll stop now so as not to sully your squeaky clean mind. Wouldn’t want you thinking about anything like the time that Dorian pinned me up against -“
“Andraste’s ass, Lavellan!”
Bull chuckled. “I don’t think it’s Andraste’s ass he’s interested in, Varric.”
“I can still hear you, you know!” Dorian called over his shoulder. He had reigned in his horse, and sat waiting for the rest of the party to catch up to him. The black Forder he rode shook its head impatiently. As the other horses drew near, Dorian gestured around him. “Forgive me, but doesn’t Leliana generally leave one of her little scouts done here? This is the first time I’ve ever passed this way without seeing one.”
Enderin surveyed their surroundings, his brow creasing with concern. Forked tree, boulder with a large section chipped loose...yes, this was where the scout usually stayed to greet them on their way into Skyhold. Leliana had set up several such posts along the way, so that the castle would have advance notice of visitors, and warning in case of attack. She would never leave a post unmanned. Either one of her people was slacking off, which seemed very unlikely, or...
“Boss, I think we need to move. Now.”
Suddenly, an arrow whistled past Enderin’s ear, missing him by only a hair’s breadth and slamming into a tree on the side of the path.
“Too late!” shouted Varric, as he freed Bianca from her harness and swung her toward the spot where the arrow had come from. Bull roared and jumped down from his massive warhorse, pulling out his axe on the way down.
Six men came crashing out of the brush. They wore leather armor, well made and obviously new, and were all well armed. Enderin suspected that there was at least one more man in the trees, the archer who had botched his chance at a clean assassination.
“Never a dull moment, amatus,” Dorian muttered, loosing his staff and sending a fireball at the nearest man. It seared his chest piece, knocking the man down. Enderin grabbed for his own staff, and the two mages quickly dismounted. The elf would have preferred to fight from the higher ground of his horse’s back, but close proximity to magic tended to make the animals skittish, and he didn’t want to be thrown mid-fight. The horses shot off up the trail to safety.
Bull was gleefully taunting two of their attackers, swinging his axe around like a madman and knocking away their sword thrusts with ease. “Who are these assholes? They fight like morons!” One of the bandits growled at that, and charged. Bull easily sidestepped him, and mule kicked him as he passed, sprawling the man into the dirt. Apparently bored of toying with his prey now, the Qunari buried his axe in the second man’s head, splitting his helm and skull like an egg. The prone man attempted to stand, and Bull knocked him hard on the back of the head, ordering, “Stay!”
Varric peppered another bandit with arrows, two of which buried into the man’s unprotected neck, dropping him where he stood. Enderin sent a bolt of lightning through the dagger-wielding brute closest to him. It shuddered through the man, leaving his eyes and mouth smoking as his body hit the ground. Meanwhile, Dorian had backed two bandits up against a boulder, trapping them between the stone and a wall of fire. Enderin saw the corner of Dorian’s mouth twitch slightly as, with a dramatic push of his arms, he sent the flames crashing into the boulder, leaving two screaming, smoking heaps in their wake. It always put Dorian in a better mood to kill people who truly deserved it, Enderin thought with a smirk as he and his lover put the two charred men out of their misery.
Bull grunted as he pulled his axe free from the mangled form before him with a sickening wet sound. “Well, that was a fucking disappointment. Who the fuck sends six shit fighters against the Iron Bull? Er, and the Inquisitor, of course.”
“Nice save there, Tiny.” Varric awkwardly flung his short leg over the saddle and dropped down from his pony. He shoved a boot into the ribs of the man that Bull had knocked to the ground, eliciting a groan. “Hey, we got a live one! We can find out who gave these jackasses all their pretty new gear and a suicide mission.” He set to work grabbing rope from his pack and tying their new prisoner’s hands behind his back.
Enderin chewed his lip as he strapped his staff in place across his back. He felt like he was missing something, like it had all been too easy. He turned in a slow circle, and spotted the arrow that had narrowly missed him. The archer! He turned back just in time to see the seventh bandit preparing to drop on Dorian from a tree branch, daggers drawn.
“Dorian!” Enderin shouted. He lunged as the rogue jumped, shoving the Altus out of the way and earning a quick slash across his right shoulder blade for the effort. He and Dorian tumbled onto the rocky path as the assassin landed, recovered his footing, and turned for a second attack. Just as he started to pounce, though, the man’s eyes widened, a look of horror crossing his face, and he froze in his tracks, his whole body shaking with fear. Enderin glanced at Dorian and saw that the Tevinter was staring at the rogue, muttering under his breath. In an instant, Bull rushed the would-be assassin, his axe slamming into the man’s side, cracking through ribs and crushing vital organs. The man crumpled to the ground, blood pooling beneath him on the path.
Bull extracted the axe and wiped it clean on the rogue’s hood. “Sneaky little shit. Sorry, Boss, I should’ve remembered about that one. Sloppy on my part.”
“Fasta vass, Enderin!” Dorian untangled himself from the elf and sat up. “You could have been killed!”
“So could you. You’re welcome, by the way.” Enderin reached over his shoulder to feel his wound. It stung like crazy, but fortunately, it wasn’t deep. “And vhenan? Those horror spells are just disturbing to watch.”
“Kaffas, let me look at you!” Dorian scooted behind the elf and peeled back the slashed edges of fabric around the wound. “Just this one cut, yes? Not deep enough to fuss over, thank the Maker. You were lucky this time.” He kissed the back of Enderin’s neck and stood, reaching down to help the elf up. “Now, shall we find out who wants us dead today?” He joined Bull in watching Varric, who was trying to wake the unconscious bandit by not so gently slapping his face.
Enderin took a step and winced. Creators, for as shallow as this cut was, it certainly stung. He rolled his shoulders, trying to work out a little of the pain, but it didn’t help. Instead, his arms started tingling. The anchor itched suddenly under his skin. Another step and his legs went rubbery. He felt the blood drain out of his face. Something was very wrong.
“Boss?” Bull sounded concerned, drawing the attention of the other two men. They looked over just in time to see the Inquisitor collapse as his legs gave out, falling hard to his knees.
Dorian bolted to his side, Varric right behind him. “Amatus? What’s happening?”
Enderin’s hands were shaking, and the anchor crackled faintly. “I - I don’t know. My legs won’t work...” A jolt of pain hit him from his shoulder, and he grimaced. Dorian took the elf’s face in his hands. Despite the pain he was in, it hurt Enderin’s heart to see the deep lines of worry on Dorian’s face. “I’m sorry, vhenan,” he whispered.
Dorian shook his head. “Of all the silly...sorry? Sorry for what? Don’t make me -“
“Shit,” Bull interrupted. He was standing by the rogue’s broken corpse, holding one of the man’s daggers and a small vial half filled with a thick black liquid. “Poison. On the blades.” He jogged over to his warhorse and began digging through the saddlebags.
“Shit,” Varric repeated. “We need to get to Skyhold, quick.”
“Skyhold is still half a day’s ride from here,” Bull said over his shoulder. “We need to do something now.”
Enderin cried out as pain cut through his body again, his back curling in agony, the mark throwing out sickly green sparks. Dorian gripped his arms, keeping him sitting upright.
Bull finally found what he was looking for. He returned to the group and crouched behind Enderin. “I’ve got something that should slow the poison down, but I’m not gonna lie, it’s gonna hurt like a sonofabitch.”
“For fuck’s sake, Bull, look at him!” Dorian hissed. Enderin had gone pale as a sheet, small beads of sweat beginning to gather around his hairline. His hands were trembling. “How could it possibly be worse than this?”
Bull grunted. “Just hold onto him, okay?” Dorian pulled Enderin’s head to his shoulder, leaning him forward. He placed one hand at the small of the elf’s back, the other behind his head. “I’ve got you, amatus,” he whispered.
Bull tore the Dalish robes away from Enderin’s wound, leaving the cloth in tatters. He pulled the cork from the small vial he held and poured a foul-smelling liquid onto a piece of loose cloth. “Ready, Boss?” Enderin closed his eyes and nodded into Dorian’s shoulder. The Qunari snorted as if steeling himself, then pressed the cloth into the wound.
Enderin shrieked and clutched at Dorian’s cloak. His shoulder felt as if it had been set on fire. Dorian held him tight, rocking him slightly and whispering supportive words into his ear until the worst of the pain passed. Tears streamed down the elf’s face. He had the brief thought that he should feel embarrassed for crying, but he didn’t have the energy to focus on anything but the agony wracking his body.
Behind him, Bull stood. “Stitches mixes that shit up, says it slows the poison down in the bloodstream. Should buy us some time. It’s not an antidote, though. We need to move, and fast.”
“Help me get him onto my horse. I’ll ride with him,” Dorian ordered.
“No,” Bull countered. “He’ll ride with me.”
“Kaffas, Bull, if you think I’m going to -“
“I’m not arguing this,” Bull growled, towering over Dorian and glaring. “My horse is stronger, and I can hold onto him better. You can play the prince later, Vint.”
Dorian’s face crumpled. “I’m not - I just meant -“
Bull sighed and put a hand on the mage’s shoulder. “I know. I’m sorry. We need to go now, though.”
“I’ll ride behind and bring our friend here,” Varric said, kicking at the still-groggy swordsman. “Err, that is, if you would be so kind before you leave, Bull.” The dwarf had fetched the mages’ horses while Bull had been tending to the Inquisitor, and he gestured to them as he spoke. The Qunari grunted, then hefted the attacker up with one hand and flung him over Enderin’s saddle. “Thanks. I’ll take care of the rest. Now go.” To Dorian, he added, “He’s gonna be okay. He has to be.” But Dorian had caught Varric’s slip. He never called anyone by their real name if he could help it. If he’d forgotten to call Bull ‘Tiny’, how worried was he?
The frantic ride to Skyhold was the worst of Dorian’s life. He felt utterly helpless. Bull rode with Enderin in front of him, the Qunari’s giant arm wrapped around him. Enderin looked small and frail, stark white against Bull’s dark grey skin. They had ridden as fast as the horses could handle on the rocky path, but it still seemed an eternity. For the first couple of hours, Enderin managed to grit through his pain, though his legs still weren’t cooperating and his hands shook. Soon after that, though, his muscles began spasming at random intervals. Once, he even head butted Bull in the chin when his head whipped backward. By the time Skyhold came into view, twilight had fallen, and the spasms were happening with alarming frequency.
Dorian hoped that the fortress was ready for them. They had passed by another scout area, this one thankfully manned, and briefly explained the situation. The young woman had promised to send a raven ahead to Skyhold. Now, as they approached, he saw that the gate stood open, Commander Cullen waiting for them on the bridge.
“Fiona’s got her best healers waiting for him in his quarters,” Cullen informed them as they came clattering into the courtyard and swiftly dismounted. “Solas is there as well. I only hope that - Maker’s breath...” He trailed off as he caught sight of Enderin. The elf was ashen, his hair plastered to his head with sweat, his entire body trembling and curled in pain against Bull’s arm. The Qunari grabbed Cullen’s shoulder, forcing him back to the situation at hand and hauling him along as he jogged through the courtyard.
“Steady, Commander. You get Stitches, too?”
“Did I - what?”
“KREM!” Bull bellowed. Had the lieutenant been fast asleep on the highest rampart, he probably would have heard it.
“Chief!” As it was, Krem’s face popped up over the wall that overlooked the courtyard from the training area.
“Get Stitches,” Bull ordered, taking the steps up to the hall three at a time. “We need him, pronto!” Krem disappeared into the tavern. “If anyone knows what this poison is and how to deal with it, it’s Stitches.”
Trotting behind the warriors, Dorian was wracking his brain trying to think of how he could possibly help. He had no aptitude for the healing magics, so he was useless there. He knew little about poison save that it was a popular method of ridding the Magesterium of its more troublesome or ambitious members. I don’t even know how to make him soup, he thought wryly.
The group rushed through the main hall, which someone must have ordered emptied as it was mercifully free of nosy nobles, and up the stairs to Enderin’s quarters. A handful of mages were gathered there, waiting for the Inquisitor to arrive.
Bull laid Enderin gently on the bed, placing him on his left side so that his wounded shoulder was more easily accessible. An elderly human mage stepped forward to examine him, flicking his wrist to further tear open the tattered shirt and robe. Dorian moved to sit by his lover, to at least offer comfort, but a hand landed softly on his shoulder, stopping him.
“Let them work, Dorian. You can help him more by allowing them to do what they must without getting in the way.” The voice was kind, but firm. Solas squeezed his shoulder, then stepped aside, directing Dorian to the desk chair. Dorian flapped a hand at him in frustration, choosing instead to pace along the edge of the room.
The healers worked frantically, casting small spells and whispering amongst themselves, going into a frenzy every time Enderin’s body spasmed. Solas was watching them carefully, frowning, but not interfering. Soon, Stitches appeared in the doorway, carrying a large clunky satchel. Bull called him over and quickly explained the situation in hushed tones, and the man nodded as he listened, already digging through his supplies.
Suddenly, there was shouting. Green light filled the room. Dorian and Solas both leapt forward as the healers retreated back from the bed. Enderin was twisted on himself, his muscles contracting, forcing his body to contort. His jaw was clenched, his back arching off the mattress. His left hand was splayed, fingers curled but palm open, and the mark was sputtering, flaring, tendrils of green smoke curling up through the unnatural light.
Solas climbed onto the bed. “Hold him down, you fools!” he shouted, and the healers reluctantly returned to Enderin’s side, desperately trying to keep his body still. Solas grabbed the Inquisitor’s wrist in one hand, muttering a spell. After a moment, he snapped his free hand into a fist, letting loose the magic, and the mark calmed, the green light fading.
Enderin slumped back on the bed, gasping. His eyes rolled wildly, but then he caught sight of Dorian, standing just past the foot of the bed. He tried to smile reassuringly, but it looked twisted and freakish, and Dorian bit his knuckle and choked back a sob. Enderin clutched Solas’s sleeve and pulled him close, whispering something frantically in Elvish. Solas nodded, and Enderin released him. He was breathing in ragged, rasping breaths now, his chest heaving with the effort.
Stitches darted forward and elbowed his way through the mages. He shoved a bottle in front of Enderin’s face, and he and Solas helped the elf drink from it. Once the bottle was empty, Stitches drifted back to Bull’s side. Dorian heard them speaking behind him. “It attacks the muscles. It’ll reach the heart and lungs soon. If these healers don’t get it quick, they’ll loose him.”
Dorian whirled around. “Why are you just standing there then? Do something!”
Stitches shook his head sadly. “Don’t know if you noticed, mate, but I just did something. Unfortunately, that poison had a lot longer to work than my antidote, and I’m not even sure it’s the right one. It’s up to his body and the spirit healers to fight now.”
Solas slid off the bed and rejoined Dorian, still watching the mages intently. Dorian looked from his lover to the apostate. “Solas...what did he say to you?”
Not taking his eyes from the scene in front of him, Solas answered, “Dirth’in is tel a’choire. Dirth’in ir abelas.”
“What does that mean?”
Solas sighed and shook his head, not taking his eyes off Enderin. Dorian grabbed his arm. “Solas, please! What - “
“He’s not breathing!”
Dorian’s heart jumped into his throat. His head snapped up, his fingers tightening their grip on Solas’s arm. “No,” he whispered, “no, nonono!”
Stitches shoved his way past Dorian and Solas, barreling through the knot of healers and launching himself onto the bed. “Right, my turn!” he yelled. He laid Enderin’s motionless body flat on his back, kneeling next to him, checking for a pulse.
The old man who seemed to be in charge of the other healers shook his head sadly. “His spirit has left him. There is nothing else to be done. He’s at the Maker’s side now.”
“No offense, but kindly fuck off and let me do my job,” Stitches growled. The mage looked as if he were about to argue, but the Commander grabbed him by the arm and whispered something in his ear, and they stepped back. Stitches leaned over Enderin, covering the elf’s mouth with his own, and blew out a breath hard enough that Dorian could see Enderin’s chest rise. Then the healer rose and pressed on the Inquisitor’s chest in a series of quick, hard blows, his palms flat, one over the other. He checked for breath, then repeated the process over again.
The room was silent except for the small huffing sounds of Stitches working. Dorian closed his eyes and prayed. Maker, Creators, whoever watches over him, please, PLEASE bring him back to me. I’ve only just found him. You can’t take him away from me now. I need him. We all need him, but damn it, I need him!
There was a ragged gasping choking noise, and the room exploded in activity once more. He was back. Solas patted Dorian’s hand gently, and Dorian realized that he had dug his nails deep into the apostate’s skin. He let go, and Solas joined the frenzy of people around the Inquisitor.
Dorian was rooted to the spot, trembling. Huge hands settled on his shoulders, strong and reassuring. He turned and looked up into Bull’s face, the Qunari’s normally grinning mouth set in a grim line. He nodded at Dorian, and the mage crumpled, burying his face in Bull’s chest and weeping. Bull patted him gently on the back and said nothing.
To be continued! This was an incredibly long chapter, so I decided to break it into two. Sorry if I have destroyed your souls with a cliffhanger. I will try to get part two up as soon as possible.