This part of Nevarra is always too close to Tevinter for comfort, so it's not that much of a surprise to find their newest potential client comes complete with expensive-looking staff, expensive-looking hair, and a very expensive sort of attitude. Dorian Pavus, and he says his name like he expects it to be recognised.
The Iron Bull wouldn't turn down the coin without at least asking, and Hissrad certainly can't consider turning away the source of information, but that doesn't mean he's happy about it.
“I need you to help me track down my kidnapped fiancée.” is his introduction. Pretty calm guy, for someone whose wife-to-be has gone missing.
Still, at least it's not fucking blood magic. Probably. There's always time for 'vints to start in with the blood magic. “Right. When did she go missing?”
“Oh, she hasn't been kidnapped yet. That'll be about six weeks from now-- give or take, apparently I am at the mercy of the weather on this one.”
Why does mage shit always have to be so weird? “Wouldn't it be more efficient to stop the kidnapping before it happens?”
Dorian Pavus simply scoffs at this suggestion. “After all the time and expense I put into arranging the buxom pirates Livia insisted be involved? I don't think so.”
So, they're being hired to chase after a woman who is being kidnapped by her own request, said kidnapping being arranged and financed by her fiancé, apparently because neither of them are able or willing to just walk away from the whole business like normal people who don't want to marry each other.
This job seems like it ought to be a shit-show, but the sort there's a phrase for in Qunlat: like watching a qalaba stampede hit a stone wall. It's going to be a mess, and nobody wants to look away in case they miss it.
Even Skinner has given up pointedly sharpening her knives, in return for updates on How Dorian Pavus and Livia Herathinos Are Going To Ruin Their Own Wedding, With Pirates.
Dorian Pavus has some kind of magic crystal-onna-rope (actually a gold chain) that allows him to talk to his fiancée; it ought to be creepy but the contents of the conversations are hilarious. “I'm thinking the green and gold for the event itself,” comes the posh voice through the crystal Dorian's holding, “that fabric tears so nicely.”
“Am I to take it you have been conducting trials on the rending of your own garments?”
“My dearest husband-to-never-be, we can't all just swan around Nevarra looking for the largest possible Qunari to rub off on. Some of us are stuck at home and need a outlet for frustrations with complex and ultimately pointless wedding plans.”
Dorian's eyes flick up briefly. “He's right here, and that was not the selection criteria I used for hiring my mercenaries.”
“I'm sure.” The voice through the crystal gets a fraction louder. “Qunari fellow whose name Dorian hasn't told me yet, are you in fact the largest possible Qunari currently in Nevarra?”
“Can't say for sure,” he says, ignoring Dorian's hand motions which suggest do not reply, you asshole, “but almost certainly. They call me The Iron Bull, by the way.”
A peal of bright laughter through the crystal. “Oh, Dorian's outdone himself this time. How are you with knots, The Iron Bull?”
“Don't you have floral arrangements to be getting on with, Livia?” Dorian suggests, but he's not doing anything to cut the connection, so Bull decides to run with it.
“Pretty good with ropework, I reckon.” he answers. “Don't get many complaints, at least.”
“Good to know,” Livia says. “because I am entirely sure Dorian stole my cream silk rope before he left.”
“The colour's more flattering on me.” Dorian snaps, and breaks the connection. “Please don't read anything into Livia's wild fancies.” he adds, in a way that suggests please do.
“Still haven't quite worked out why you want me to rescue someone who's clearly so fond of the idea of being kidnapped.” he points out. “You going to let me into the second half of the plan?”
“Try to rescue,” Dorian says, “being the exact term. I considered having us both kidnapped by pirates but to be honest I don't do well on boats, so instead we're going to dramatically chase them down, only to be foiled at the last moment. Ideally at sunset; the light's more flattering. I may shed a single, manly tear.”
“Livia has connections in Rivain, as I understand it. We've agreed not to share precise details of our arrangements; Rivain and Nevarra are both popular choices for Tevinter mages looking to vacate our dear, blood-soaked homeland for more pleasant climes. We'll blend into the crowd, so to speak.”
“I don't see you blending into a crowd.”
“Why all this, then? Why not just leave?”
“What, and give the gossips nothing to do?” The smile fades in a moment. “My own reputation is, well, what it is, but Livia has family she apparently cares for. A strange thought, but she'd prefer not to have them saddled with reports of a runaway bride. A kidnapping, on the other hand, allows them to blame someone else – or, quite likely, me, for failing to protect her.” He laughs, sharply. “I've dueled the woman and lost on more than one occasion, so that's funny on several levels.”
“You dueled your own fiancée?”
“Not formally, but one is expected to send a certain amount of time in your intended's company before the wedding. Narrowly escaping having my balls frozen off is entirely preferable to yet another endless walk around the garden discussing our wedding and the raising of our theoretical children.”
“Hmm.” Clearly a sore point. “So. Rope.”
Dorian tuts and wags a finger at him. “Unlike my dear Livia, I insist on getting to know someone before I let them kidnap me and take thorough, thorough advantage of my poor helpless self. I won't be led astray by just any mercenary who happens to flex a little in my general direction.”
“But you have noticed the flexing.”
Dorian neither admits nor denies that one. “What I am saying is, you'll have to do better than that.”
Fair enough. Need to find an excuse to tie more knots in things when Dorian's around, clearly.
They know, of course, that the kidnapping has taken place before the frantic messenger turns up at Dorian's appointed rooms – a very nice set of apartments conveniently located close to the tavern where the Chargers are bunking, for ease of them being 'hired' by Dorian when he hears the news.
They know because a very satisfied-sounding Livia informs them via crystal. “That went very nearly perfectly.” she says. “The captain of this ship is a woman who knows how to tear a dress in a flattering manner, I must say. Very good service, all in all.”
“So glad to hear you're doing well,” Dorian says, with a smile that looks genuine. “Nearly perfectly?”
“The sun was a little harsh. I would have preferred a slightly gloomy, overcast day. And my shoes are ruined, damn saltwater. But all in all, nearly entirely to plan. Bosoms were heaved, threats were made, I tried to cast myself off the side of the ship in an effort to save myself from ravishing but eventually succumbed to the blandishments of the pirate captain. Isabela has a very eloquent tongue, shall we say.”
“Rendezvous at the planned date and time for our nearly-rescue?”
“Oh, I suppose so. I'll have to check, we were a little distracted for planning. She's left a couple of her crew to guard me, so if you'll excuse me, I have pirates to seduce and an escape attempt to make.”
“Have fun, although of course I could never marry a woman who has allowed herself to be sullied by base criminals.”
“Brokenhearted, bereft, disconsolate and despondent, all things I am not at hearing this news. Speaking of which, have you ridden The Iron Bull yet?”
“Some of us have standards, Livia.”
“Come now, take the bull by the horns. Don't give me any sort of cock-and-bull story about how you're not interested, either.”
“You're enjoying this, aren't you.”
“Nearly as much as I am the pirates, oh ex-fiance of mine. Tell me, is he at least hung like a--”
“Don't you dare finish that sentence.”
She laughs. “Bulls-eye.”
“Hey,” Bull interjects, “is that an eyepatch joke? Don't be like that, Livia, I was starting to like you.”
There's a long pause. “You have an eyepatch. Dorian, he has an eyepatch.”
“Exactly why I didn't tell her.” Dorian mutters.
“I knew you were sore about your seasickness keeping you from burly qunari pirates.” she adds. “An eyepatch. None of mine even have eyepatches, you know.”
“Don't you have pirates to seduce?”
“I'll get there. Right now, this is way more fun.”
In a small, filthy port city on the Rivaini coast, The Iron Bull 'tracks down' a pirate ship docked for supplies, and Dorian sends a message home saying he's hired the first mercenaries he could find (details of said mercenaries in the letter sounding nothing like the Chargers), and believes he has a chance to rescue Livia.
Isabela, who looks suspiciously like someone Hissrad might have read a intelligence report on in the past, strikes a dramatic pose, and seems to be enjoying herself just as much as Livia and Dorian have been. “Your fair maiden is mine now, mwahahahaha.” She actually pronounces the laughter.
Livia, who is wearing an artfully ripped gauzy dress, struggles unconvincingly in the arms of two well-muscled women. “Alas!”
He can feel Krem rolling his eyes at his back, but ah well. On cue, he grabs Dorian's arm as he threatens to use magic to save his 'lady love'. “What are you doing, you brute?”
“Shouldn't have paid me up front, big guy.” he says. “Captain, I'll make you a deal. You keep your prize, I'll keep mine, and nobody has to fight.”
Isabela throws off a cocky sort of salute. “Deal. I always wanted to die of sexual exhaustion, anyway.”
“You have something in common with my former fiancé, then.” Livia says, forgoing struggling in order to grin at Dorian. “I do hope you realise, The Iron Bull, that you've got a very difficult captive on your hands. I do wish you the best.”
“I will not stand for this, I hope you realise.” Dorian says, although if anything his struggling is even less convincing than Livia's. Either of them could probably set the entire dock on fire at any moment, but no, posturing and complaints it is.
Experimentally, he tightens his hold. “You seem like a very uncooperative captive. Am I going to have to tie you up?”
“Oh, certainly.” Dorian tilts his head up, and smirks. It's quite effective. “I hope you brought the good rope, I think you'll find that nothing but the most luxurious of restraints will hold me. Farewell, my sweet bride, whose virtue is loose as her tongue is sharp. Enjoy your life of piracy.”
“Farewell, my lost love, and at least I remember the names of everyone who's been up my skirts. Enjoy trying to walk tomorrow.”
“This is the most touching story ever.” Isabela says. “I'm going to ask Varric to make it into a novel. Right, everybody back on ship, we need to get going if we're going to round the cape before dawn and have time for a celebratory orgy.”
It's an interesting trip back to Nevarra, that's for sure. Not only does Dorian insist on the best ropes, he'll make comments about the choice of bindings until you give him something to keep his mouth occupied. Which seems to be what he's aiming for in the first place, he's not just very good at asking for things directly.
“It'll be a change, working for a Mortalitasi.” he says, looking pensive. “There are a lot of rules if you want to become apprenticed, but not-- well, let's just say I can live with them, especially in return for arcane secrets and the right to fool around with handsome Nevarran soldiers. The accent's quite a draw, to be honest.”
“I'm sure you'll do fine.” And there's no way he can offer for Dorian to stay with them. That'd be a line too far for the Qun, letting a Tevinter mage get that close any longer than was needed for the job. He'd be hauled back to Par Vollen to check for blood magic messing with his head in no time.
“I do not do fine.” Lip curled in disdain. “I will do magnificently.”
In a week or two, depending on the roads, they will part. The Iron Bull will go on being The Iron Bull. Hissrad will write a report about the failure of a union between two noble families of Tevinter, that will absolutely not mention how good one half of the union looks in rope.
The job will be done, and life goes on.
Weird, to feel something like disappointment at a job well done.
“Since the Inquisitor has indicated an interest in specialising in necromancy,” Cassandra says, “I've arranged for a Mortalitasi tutor. He's very good, at least according to my uncle, although-- well, all Mortalitasi have a few personality quirks, I suppose.”
“You don't get along?”
“Not precisely.” Cassandra says, pulling an interesting face. Probably means yes. “I've only met him twice. He's from Tevinter originally, if that is likely to cause any problems.”
There were plenty of Tevinter mages hiding out in Nevarra, Dorian had said. What are the odds? “So's my second-in-command, remember? The sort of guy who leaves Tevinter isn't the sort of 'vint I have problems with.”
Cassandra looks relieved. “True enough. Dorian's just a little-- abrasive, that's all.”
Well, this is going to be an interesting report to have to smooth the corners off of before he sends it. “I'm sure we'll get along just fine, Seeker. Don't you worry.”
He arrives, without fanfare, on an early morning, alongside a shipment of turnips. Rather toned down from what Bull remembers, although to be fair he's been travelling. Still has the best hair in the room, and holds himself like he knows it. “You were right,” he says, as a greeting. “You look magnificent.”
Dorian doesn't look that taken aback to see him. “Of course I do. You look fairly well yourself, for someone whose line of work seems to involve wandering about looking for trouble.”
Around his neck, a tell-tale gold chain. “How's the ex?”
“Oh, still having a splendid time. Taken to piracy like a particularly criminal duck to water. Said something about Antiva last time I heard, believe they're going to steal something from the palace, possibly the Queen.”
“Good to hear she's doing well.” He holds out a hand. “Welcome to the Inquisition, Dorian.”
Cole: He's not a pirate.
Dorian: I know that, also aren't you far too young to be looking in that part of my head?
Cole: Some parts of me are young and some are old. None of me understands why pirates.
Dorian: If I figure it out, I'll be sure to let you know.
Dorian: You know Isabela?
Varric: A good friend of mine. Surprised you'd have crossed paths with her, though. You and her don't seem like you'd run in the same circles.
Dorian: She kidnapped my fiancée the week before our wedding, actually.
Varric: That does sort of sound like Isabela. Is this awkward now? It feels awkward.
Dorian: Since I paid her rather a lot of money to arrange the kidnapping in the first place, you may safely assume I don't hold a grudge.
Varric: … wait, you're that guy? My editor wouldn't let me write that book, said the plotline was too farfetched.
The Iron Bull: So, I'm guessing you've heard about the 'actual Qunari spy' bit, huh.
Dorian: As much as anybody has. You're not shy about it since you joined the Inquisition, apparently.
The Iron Bull: Still mad?
Dorian: What gives you the impression I was ever angry with you? Not telling me at the time was a perfectly sensible decision on your part. Now if you'll excuse me, I believe the Inquisitor requires my presence.
The Iron Bull: … yep, definitely still mad.
Cassandra: I didn't realise you were engaged.
Dorian: In the very extremest of past tenses. I had absolutely no intention of going through with it. You can imagine how relieved I was when she was kidnapped by pirates.
Cassandra: What a terrible sentiment! Did you not consider her feelings on the matter?
Dorian: Oh, she was very relieved to be kidnapped by pirates, too.
Dorian: On a scale from one to ten, where one is quietly walking out the door and ten is arranging for your fiancée to be kidnapped by pirates, I will give you a seven. Surprisingly dramatic leaving behind all you've ever known, well done you.
The Iron Bull: That rating include the assassins?
Dorian: There were assassins?
The Iron Bull: That put my score up?
Dorian: Why wasn't I told about the assassins?
The Iron Bull: I'm figuring at least an eight and a half.
Dorian: Eight, and this discussion is not over.
Livia: ...but they'd forgotten about the eel.
Dorian: Please say no more, I think I can imagine the outcome. Unfortunately.
Livia: How are things on your end? And I do mean end. Inquisition politics bore me, tell me if The Iron Bull's been plundering your booty.
Dorian: I humbly request that you never say the word 'booty' again.
Livia: Entirely denied, and don't avoid the question.
Dorian: … I may have spent a few pleasant nights in his company, yes.
Inquisitor: So, I hear you might be staying with us a little longer?
Dorian: I'll admit I'm not in a huge hurry to get back to Nevarra. There's still plenty of work for the Inquisition to do and, now don't tell anybody I said this, but there is such a thing as too much necromancy.
Inquisitor: Nothing to do with The Iron Bull, then?
Dorian: I took all appropriate factors into consideration, and shirtless Qunari may or may not have been one of them.