"Well." Dorian says, fidgeting with his collar in the way that says I'm very nervous and am covering it with sarcasm. "This is going to be a lovely evening. I'm looking so forward to it."
"If you're going to vomit, get it on somebody's shoes." Sera suggests. "And if you change your mind about the bees--"
"As lovely as the mental image is, not helpful, Sera."
"I'm just saying, whistle twice." Sera grins. "You know, right? Everyone's on your side. If you need a jar of angry insects rammed--" She stops at Max's look. "Or I could let you two lovebirds have a moment."
The door closes behind her, a faint and worrying guess I should go take them out of the chanda-whatsit, then floating back. Max takes Dorian's hand, rubs his thumb over the palm. "We could say you're not feeling well. Or fake a demon attack."
"Months of planning down the drain because I can't stomach one night in the same room as my parents? Josephine would-- what is that quaint southern saying?-- ah, yes, 'murder-knife' me." Dorian shakes his head. "They can't exactly do much in public. No, we'll make polite small talk while the other members of the Tevinter delegation spend their time either being horrified by all this barbarism or making what they think are subtle digs at my reasons for bedding you, or your reasons for bedding me. Or both."
"I could make up a list. In the spirit of sharing information." Max smiles. "It would be a very long list."
"I do have many fine qualities." Dorian smiles back, a real smile which reaches his eyes. "You can enumerate them for me later."
A cough from the doorway. "Inquisitor." Josephine said. "I'm sorry to interrupt. It's about your mother."
Max frowned. "My parents aren't coming until--"
"Maxwell Francis Edward Christopher Trevelyan, did you really think you could invite the Pavuses to visit and not tell me?" Deidre Trevelyan did not so much stand in the doorway as fill it, swathed in green silk and righteous anger. "I understand that you're a busy man these days, but surely even the Inquisitor has time to write to his own mother. Oh, Dorian, you look lovely."
"As do you, Lady Tre--" Dorian caught himself at her look. "Deidre."
"It also appears that you've been helping our Max dress himself, which is kind of you." Deidre said, patting her sons arm. "You two must come to Ostwick again. Perhaps autumn? It's beautiful before the cold snap hits. Lovely time of year for weddings." This last with a significant and not particularly subtle look making both Dorian and the Inquisitor flush.
"I'm very sorry, Lady Trevelyan, but we really mustn't keep the other guests waiting." Josephine smiled, all sunshine and sweetness and light. Trevelyan knew that smile. It was the you have disturbed carefully laid party plans and will pay smile. "I have managed to rearrange the seating-- despite the short notice-- so that you can sit next to Magister Pavus. I'm sure you'll have plenty to talk about. Would you like to go down and mingle with the other guests?"
Dorian and Max watched them go. "I am not sure if this is the best or worst thing that could have happened." Dorian said, with a sigh.
"Want to go find out which?"
Dorian and he are announced together - it's something Max has started on insisting on, Dorian blustering about protocol and Max's reputation and what are you thinking in the way that says that secretly, he is actually rather pleased. Inevitably, the next half hour is a whirl of people who want to speak to him, Josephine or Dorian helpfully supplying names when he runs out of them.
He can hear his mother somewhere in the background. "Oh dear." he whispers to Dorian, when they get a moment. "I think she's started in on the 'wolf-wrestling' prank. Must be overjoyed to have a hall full of Orlesians to try it out on."
"Prank?" Dorian's eyes widen.
"It's an old Ostwick joke. Foreigners think we're all-- well, you know. So there's this sort of unofficial competition where you try to get people to believe crazy stuff-- you're not considered a man until you've punched a bear or fucked a mabari, that sort of thing."
"Right." Dorian frowned.
Max grinned. He could see the wheels turning there. "She got you, didn't she."
"It wasn't just her. There was an entire circle of your female relatives descending on me and cooing over my hair and then telling me I would have to skin a wolf with my bare hands before the wedding night oh and have you tried these little cakes." Dorian huffed. "So nice of you to warn me."
"Mother would have never forgiven me for spoiling her fun." Max said. "I thought you'd figure it out eventually. Oh-- here we go."
"What-- oh. Joy."
The Tevinter delegation were coming forward for their turns at the introductions. The Pavuses went last-- Halward Pavus managed a semi-cordial "Inquisitor Trevelyan. Dorian." with a nod to each of them, while his wife merely dipped in an elaborate curtsy. Thin, carefully coiffed and dressed in black and gold, Lady Venetia Pavus gave her son a look so icy Max thought it a wonder the floor didn't freeze over.
Thinking of mothers made him realise he couldn't see where his had gone to-- "Max, sweetheart." Oh, of course. "Do introduce me." Now, that meant.
"Mother, this is Magister Halward Pavus and his wife, Lady Venetia Pavus. Magister and Lady Pavus, I would like you to meet my mother, Lady Deidre Trevelyan."
"A pleasure, I'm sure." Halward said, distantly polite.
"Now, now, let's not stand on ceremony." Deidre smiled broadly. "We're family, after all. You can't imagine how pleased we were to hear that our Max was finally going to settle down. He was always such an awkward child."
"The Trevelyans have been more than welcoming." Dorian said, apparently unable to resist adding something. "Everyone has been so kind. Deidre in particular."
"Honestly, I could not ask for a better son-in-law." Deidre announced, partly to the Pavuses but also using the voice that could bring a hall full of rioting Trevelyan children to a halt. It carried easily over the heads of a couple hundred nobles. "You must be very proud." Phrased perhaps less as a statement, more as an order. "So well-mannered, and clever, and as I understand it, quite the talented mage. It does my heart good to know that Max has got someone like your Dorian to look after him. As we say in Ostwick: strong in the fields, warm in the furs!" She finished her speech off with a raucous squawk of laughter that would have put Leliana's ravens to shame.
Dorian made a muffled, half-dismayed noise in the back of his throat; Max didn't dare look at him in case they both started laughing.
The Pavuses looked stunned; that was a not uncommon reaction, Max felt, to his mother, particularly when she was in this mood. "Yes, well--" Halward coughed. "It was very nice to meet you and we must speak again. Another time."
"Oh, don't worry about that-- that nice Josie girl put me next to you at dinner. We can talk dowries." Deidre smiled at Max. "For now, I suppose my boys have official business to be getting on with. Max, don't slouch. Dorian, I expect at least one dance. There will be dancing, right?"
"I think my first dance has already been claimed," Dorian told her with a bow, "But the second? All yours."
"I think I definitely hear Josephine calling us." Max told him. "Right now."
It wouldn't do for the Inquisitor to go into hysterics in the middle of his own ball, after all.
"So." Dorian murmured, wiping the tears of laughter from his eyes. "I want to check if I have it figured out right. When your mother says as we say in Ostwick, it means she's about to make something up."
"Usually." Max agreed.
"And the part about the dowries is just her messing with my father."
"By the end of dinner she'll try to have him believing she's going to pay for you in goats and nugskin."
"And the part about autumn in Ostwick?"
Max imagined his mother trying to arrange them what she considered a 'proper' wedding and winced. "We should probably elope."
He didn't quite realise what he'd said until he heard Dorian's breath quicken, met his eyes to see the hope there, unspoken, soft and vulnerable. "Max--"
"No, you're right, Mother would never forgive us." He takes both Dorian's hands in his own. "Dorian Pavus, would you do me the honor of suffering through an Ostwick wedding, filled with all those barbaric southern customs, including some my mother may decide to make up on the spot?"
"You really are the most awkward boy." Dorian leans in, a hairs-breath away from a kiss. "But yes. If only to spare myself from whatever 'romantic' proposal idea it is you've been plotting with Varric."
Codex: Further Customs of Ostwick
The Ostwick fondness for story-telling and exaggeration reaches its cultural peak in a singular custom which has ensnared more than one unwary traveler. Upon settling into the local tavern, he is likely to find himself in conversation with a local fellow who will endeavor to enlighten him as to some local tradition. The story is, however, nothing more than an outright fabrication. If the first lie is believed, others will join in, spinning progressively wilder stories to see what their victim might be willing to believe, given a convincing enough smile and sufficient ale.
Both men and women partake in this game, with some slight variations. For example, traditions relating to courting and marriage, as well as so-called fertility rituals are more popular themes in women's tales. Wild beasts, including some extinct or non-existent varieties, are often included either as a foe to be vanquished or a target of more vulgar behavior. The etymology of the term "trolling", sometimes used by locals for this custom, is said to originate in one such tale.
The only rule to the game, by apparent unspoken agreement, is that matters relating to cheese are off-limits.
Chapter 2: Ostwick Wedding Traditions
Just your standard Ostwick wedding. Nothing special.
Reminder: Guests are required to bring their own bear grease.
Dorian sits in a room containing Deidre, four of Trevelyan's sisters, three sister-in-laws, seven aunts, five great-aunts, six nieces and an indeterminate number of cousins, and tries not to panic.
At least he's gotten better at telling when she's joking.
"Now, the matter of the banners." Deidre says. "I would like to display the Trevelyan emblem combined with that of House Pavus."
"We don't use family heraldry in quite the same way as in the south," Dorian says, "But sometimes my family uses the owl as a symbol. Originally a reference to Lusacan, I believe, although these days we prefer to pretend it means something like wisdom, or swiftness in deed. One does not worship the Old Gods in public. It just isn't done."
Deidre nods. "The Trevelyan emblem is a stallion. It's said to represent many things."
"Strength!" yells a niece.
"Single-mindedness!" suggests a sister.
"The endowments of our manfolk!" calls the most ancient of the great-aunts, and everyone falls about cackling at the look on Dorian's face.
"You'd know about that, I'm sure." says one of the sister-in-laws, grinning.
The second-most ancient of the great-aunts leers at him. "Of course he does! Who buys a stallion without checking how it feels between your thighs?"
Dorian sighs, seeing exactly where this is going to go (has already gone, but will continue to go, undoubtedly). "Deidre, do you have any Ostwick traditions that involve me getting a drink any time soon?"
Max's side of the wedding planning appears to mostly involve occasionally letting the tailors at him and then hanging about with brothers, uncles, nephews, cousins, and so on, hitting each other with various things and then getting drunk.
Dorian only approves of the part of this where he gets to loiter at the sidelines watching.
"The night before the wedding," Deidre tells him, "We'll make them wrestle naked. In oil."
"I know you're joking." Dorian tells her, and pauses. "But thank you for the lovely mental image."
"You're welcome, dear."
"Your mother actually referred to me as the bride today." Dorian says, glaring at Maxwell. "Fun and games are all very well, but I will not have her forgetting I am a man. The minute there are skirts, I am calling this whole thing off."
"It's because you're the pretty one." Max tells him, and then, after dodging the pillow Dorian throws at him. "Okay, it's because she wants her fun, and you are sort of marrying into the family, I guess-- I mean, I haven't actually asked about that part yet, but--"
Dorian looks at the puppy eyes, and sighs. It's so hard to stay mad at the man. "Asked about what part? Because I don't believe for a moment your mother's stories about those fertility potions. There is no magic that does that."
"If you wanted to take my name." Maxwell looks sideways. "I mean, it is tradition. And I think would sound nice."
And here he'd thought he was prepared for anything Ostwick would throw at him. "I'll think about it." he manages, after a moment. "But I am telling your mother to stop calling me your bride."
"Good luck with that." Max tells him with a wry grin, and Dorian gathers up all the pillows on his bed and declares war.
The Skyhold representatives arrive a couple of days before the wedding, which is a welcome distraction from Dorian's imminent panic attack. He means, his outfit is done and it is perfect, the actual ceremony will be a simple Chantry thing followed by feasting and dancing, Deidre and her army of Trevelyans has ensured that all the planning has been handled perfectly, he's sure it will be fine, and yet...
Well, suffice it to say that watching a perplexed Bull surrounded by giggling Trevelyan girls is surprisingly calming.
Deidre has called a 'Ladies and Dorian' hunt before the wedding, and that's a welcome distraction too, despite the fact that Sera, Vivienne, Cassandra, Leliana and Josephine are all present, meaning he is covered for the full spectrum from elegantly snide remarks to sighs about romance to pure filthy commentary.
And then Cole appears, wanting to be part of it all, as if Deidre doesn't know enough about his relationship with her son already. By the time they have found sufficient game to make up Dorian's contribution to his own wedding feast, there is a heat in his cheeks that may never go away.
Deidre sends them all off to wash up for dinner, citing some additional preparations she needs to make, and there's a knock on the door as Dorian is dithering over which outfit to wear tonight.
Of course it's her. With a wrapped package clearly come straight from the tailors. "A little additional something."
It fits like a glove-- well, Deidre's tailors have his measurements, taken rather thoroughly. Rather more Ostwick in style than his usual, but as he examines it in the mirror-- it's not a bad look on him. "Is this wolfskin?"
"Wrestled it myself." Deidre says, and laughs at the rude gesture Dorian gives her. "Well, maybe not wrestled. This one's not a wedding tradition, as such, but I have noticed you don't dress for the southern weather so much, and this will take you through winter with the right boots and a good cloak. I won't have a son of mine going cold."
She holds his gaze for a moment, unwavering, and when he feels the tears well up and he steps forward her arms are open. It's like to the Trevelyans, hugging is as easy as breathing. He's never had so many people just casually embrace him-- men, women, and Mina Trevelyan, aged three, wrapping her arms around his leg and declaring him her new favourite the moment she meets him. "I still don't even know if they'll bother to turn up."
"Hmph." Deidre says. "Who says maybe to a wedding invitation? I'm putting them on the wobbly stools at dinner."
They do bother.
Dorian is standing with Deidre and Maxwell's eldest sister, Evelyn, at the entrance in his beautifully tailored wedding outfit, welcoming guests, accepting gifts and compliments, and trying to keep all the Trevelyans straight. Evelyn is helping. Sort of. "That's Eric. His mother is mother's second cousin and his father is father's third cousin so he's... well, we just say cousin. Makes a good cider. And his daughter is Erica. I know, not the most creative part of the family. She and her husband breed pigeons. Do not ask how she lost the hand. She won't be offended, but she also can't tell the story in under an hour. Her son is Eric, and the twin girls are Pompadella and Bellarina, but everyone just calls them both Erica. It's less hassle."
Then, among the hordes of Trevelyans and associated families, his parents, looking decidedly uncomfortable. Dorian can't find it in himself to work up much sympathy for them. They've brought gifts, of course, carried by a servant, elaborately wrapped.
"Ah, you finally made it!" Deidre says, cheerfully. "Such a pity you didn't make it for the pre-wedding festivities. Your son pulled off one of the finest performances in the Greased Bear Race I've ever seen."
Evelyn throws an arm around Dorian, grinning gleefully. "It's hard to believe you weren't born a Trevelyan, little brother."
"Such a compliment." Dorian tells her, because oh, the look on his mother's face, he sees why this game is so much fun. "I admit Max gave me a few hints. The trick is in the timing."
His father coughs awkwardly. "Dorian certainly seems to have taken to these southern customs."
"You know what they say," Deidre says. "There's a little Trevelyan in us all."
"Oh," Dorian replies, batting his eyelashes. "I wouldn't say he was little."
The look on his parents' faces, with the background of cackling Trevelyan ladies? The third best memory of his wedding day.
The second best is this; standing in front of a Chantry sister, Deidre having promised to round them up one who 'wouldn't go on for too long', and being told you may now kiss to seal your union.
It starts off sweet and slow, and then Deidre yells "Maxwell Trevelyan! Put some effort into it, you laggard!" and Max dips him to a round of rowdy Trevelyan cheers.
The best moment is-- despite what lies Deidre Trevelyan may tell about Ostwick traditions involving public consummation of the marriage-- entirely private.
So he really wishes all the Trevelyans would quit asking about it.