When Dorian woke up for the third time that day, and Krem hadn't moved from his side; still curled around his body and holding him close, he sighed, somewhat unhappily. The sound caused a momentary hitch in the tune coming from deep in Krem’s throat.
"I've worried you both, haven't I?" Dorian asked, tilting his head up towards his human paramour. “Where’s Bull?”
Krem paused in his humming; a habit he’d taken up whenever either of his lovers needed comforting. The soothing vibration of vocal cords wasn’t easily mistaken for anything ominous, and it seemed to pull both of them out of their heads more often than not. Dorian once said it made their room feel more like a home, or the kind of home that children were supposed to grow up in. Bull told him that no one ever sang or hummed in Sehron. Between the two of them, he’d never had a reason to stop the small melodies he made up when the mood struck him. He glanced down, staring into Dorian’s tired eyes.
"He's gone to get you some Stitches-approved broth. The kitchen staff ratted you out, we know you're only eating during the evening with us."
“Time. Yes, I know,” Krem said, using his impressive arm strength to pull Dorian up towards him.
The mage squawked a little, struggling for the sake of struggling, but ultimately, letting Krem manhandle him. He was still only dressed in the smallclothes that they’d quickly pulled onto him much earlier in the day, but the feel of his skin against Krem’s was comforting. He enjoyed the visually pleasing contrast between their Tevene tans and Bull’s light grey, and even the subtle differences in their own colourings. Krem, having spent much more time in the forests of Ferelden, and hillsides that covered the south, had a slightly darker skin tone to his own, as he had spent most of his earlier years inside, researching, if he wasn’t training. He’d been paler before coming south; too much time nestled between books or hidden away in the faux-lighting of his room. Or just hidden away. A secret half-buried in the walls of his family home, where any semblance of light had been taken away from his sight, robbed by the darkness of the walls...
He blinked, seeing Krem looking down at him with concern, a frown tugging at the warrior’s lips.
“Where did you go, Amor?”
“Somewhere...” Dorian started, gaze shifting from Krem to the ceiling on their room, looking at the sunlight dancing across the wood and stone. “Somewhere the sun couldn’t reach.”
Dorian closed his eyes, and took a deep breath, taking in the scents that had grown so familiar to him. Krem let out a note of distress, moving one of his hands to lay across Dorian’s chest.
“You said something similar last night.”
“Did I? How very odd. I can’t say I make a habit of speaking in riddles,” Dorian said, a smirk pushing up the corner of his lips. A mask slipping into place.
"You were delirious, love. You said some things that worried us, yes, but you only need to tell us what happened if you want to. I know you haven't talked about it with anyone else. Not like you have with us," Krem said, running his hand through Dorian's hair, and pressing a kiss to the top of his head.
Dorian’s smirk fell away; the mask shattering before it’d had a chance to fully form. He patted the top of Krem’s hand twice, and then threaded his fingers through the other man’s, grasping them tightly.
“I believe I owe you both an explanation.”
“You owe us nothing, Dorian. Only tell us if that’s what you want,” Krem said, a fierce tone of protection seeping into his words.
Dorian smiled, small, but true. He gave Krem’s hand a light squeeze. “We’ll wait for Bull to return. There’s parts to the story you haven’t heard.”
Krem kissed his head again. “Only if you’re sure.”
“I am,” Dorian replied, leaning in to Krem’s touch.
Bull chose that moment to walk through the door, pushing it open with his hip. He carried a tray with a steaming bowl of broth, light in colour, with a mixture of white meat and root vegetables. Comfort food that was easy on the stomach, and perfect for recoveries. A cup of tea graced the tray as well, still steaming. Bull grinned when he saw that Dorian was awake.
“Afternoon, Kadan,” he said, his smile reaching his green eye. “Brought you some food, kitchen staff are worried ‘bout ya. Seem to think you’ve lost a bit of weight. Told them I agreed,” he looked down at Dorian’s form, scanning over parts of the man’s body that had slighted since he began his research on Corypheus.
Dorian waved him off, trying to escape the subject. “Yes, yes, I’m busy, I’ve neglected some things, I’m aware. But surely, it can’t be that–”
Krem’s glower cut him off.
“...Bad,” Dorian continued, sheepishly.
“Haven’t seen anyone make Krem do that face in a while,” Bull commented, sitting on the edge of the bed, and settling the tray on his lap.
Now that Dorian could see it, he noticed the small pot that Bull had brought up alongside it, and a soothing, floral scene filled the air. It reminded Dorian of old books, crackling hearths, and the nights he spent nestled between his lovers. Bull placed the container on the bedside table.
“Stitches passed this to me on the way up, he said it should help keep you calm,” the Qunari explained.
“Crystal Grace incense?” Dorian queried, the inquisitive raise of his brow present on his face.
Bull hummed, motioning for Dorian to sit up so he could eat. Krem shuffled to move behind and keep him reclined. The meal was slow, Dorian’s hands trembling with fatigue. The moment he was done, Bull replaced the bowl with a cup of Elfroot and honey tea. Dorian blew on it, and sipped with a grateful sigh.
“You weren’t this bad a couple days ago, we wouldn’t have let you go out and run through your stances if you were,” Krem stated, looking uncomfortable at the idea that he may have misread Dorian’s state of health.
Dorian was quick to defuse the situation. “Fret not, beloved. Adrenaline doesn’t only apply in situations of fight or flight. I have been known to stay away and alert for days while researching; you couldn’t have known.”
Krem watched Dorian take a sip of tea, waiting for the man to continue. Bull stayed vigilant over them both.
“Some strands of research go cold without much warning, and they are days of terrible frustration. But others can lead you in hundreds of different directions, pulling at you for attention. It’s quite the reason that my section of the library is covered in books,” he laughed for a short while before sobering. “And some dreaded times... The things you find are not pleasant to learn about.”
“Like things that remind you of home?” Bull questioned, softly.
Dorian tipped his teacup to him – a mock salute. “Exactly,” he cleared his throat, the way he did whenever he was lecturing in a subject he knew well. “In this case, it was a lead on a branch of, what could possibly be, Corypheus’ family being involved in the practice of the darker magical arts. Namely, blood magic.”
The hiss that both Bull and Krem let out echoed in the room.
“Well, shit,” Bull said.
“Astutely put, Amatus,” Dorian said with a self-deprecating smile. “And so, you can see how... I would react negatively to that.”
“Fuck, Dorian, of course we can! Shit, why didn’t you come to us?” Krem asked.
“To what ends? I was in the middle of what was, and still could be, a huge breakthrough in my research. The key to finding out that... bastard’s name!” Dorian sighed, looking far too world-weary. “But, alas, sleep can only allude one for so long. And the less I could find rest, the less I could concentrate on my work. I had thought that I only needed a moment to reacquaint myself with my magic, to feel the touch of the world around me, as it were. Perhaps that was my mistake.”
“Dorian, how could that be a mistake? Magic is what is most natural to you. Beyond anything else,” Krem said, looking at Dorian with furrowed brows.
Dorian took another sip of his tea, letting its soothing effect wash over him. “Yes, but in this case, I caused fatigue to set in more quickly than usual, and, consequently, let myself dream of past times. Stitches would be correct in his thinking, I most certainly became ill due to a prominent stress factor.”
“Are you feeling any better?” Bull asked, his lone eye looking down at Dorian’s form.
“Much, thank you, Carissime,” Dorian smiled. “So much so, that I feel there is a story you both need to hear the rest of.”
“This the one that makes me want to bury my axe in a certain Magister?” Bull questioned, frowning.
“Indeed,” Dorian nodded.
The mage took a deep breath, steadying himself; a technique that had come to be very useful in varying circumstances.
“You are aware that my… father,” he paused, the word leaving a sour taste in his mouth. “Had me dragged home after my second attempt at leaving, and had me locked away. You are also aware he tried to…. change me.”
Both Bull and Krem nodded, and Krem’s arms wound around Dorian’s body tighter. Comforting, but not restricting.
“The, ah, circumstances of those events may have been somewhat… veiled,” Dorian continued, looking down into his tea as if it held the answers he seeked.
“How veiled, Dorian?” Bull asked, restraint clear on his expression.
There was a small growl that came from the back of Krem’s throat, the man immediately pressing closer to Dorian’s body, despite their current proximity.
“Not any small amount that you’d be comfortable with.”
Bull exhaled, dragon-like, a long breath leaving his nose. His eyes closed, expression changing to resigned.
“Tell us if you’re ready, Dracona,” Krem whispered, wanting to break the atmospheric tension that had built. (Dragon.)
Dorian visibly calmed himself, shoulders slumping. “I was knocked out for the journey back to the estate. There would be no other way they could take me back there, I knew, on some level, what awaited me,” he laughed, the corners of his eyes crinkling. “When I awoke, they had slipped a collar around my neck, one that is used on slaves that have magic, so that they know they must obey, that there would be no escape for them.”
Krem kissed a point on Dorian’s neck, and immediately, he knew what was there.
“Yes, once I’d escaped, I had to remove it quite crudely, thus the small scars on my neck. I only had a small blade to hand, and well, it wasn’t particularly sharp, but my journey south called for the full use of my magic, and so,” he trailed off, giving an insignificant shrug. “Where was I? Oh, yes. They kept me in a small storage room near the cellar. It’s quite dark in that area of the house; if I recall correctly, I was placed in the one near the kitchens. It’s on the far end of the estate, you see. Much less likely anyone would hear me if I had been able to scream.”
“Is that why you don’t…?” Bull started, not wanting to finish his question.
“Why I don’t like being gagged? Yes. It’s also the reason I prefer rope to chain, surely you’ve noticed the scarring whenever we play?” Dorian filled in.
The clouds moved, allowing more light to shine into the room. From the hole in the roofing, the rays fell over them, seemingly lighting up the skin of Dorian’s wrists, and the white scars that twisted around them. Like metal had cut into him, and he’d struggled. Because he had. He had.
“We have,” Bull confirmed.
“Unfortunately, that’s why. Locked in a dark room, gagged, and tied to the wall with shackles tends to put a damper on some practices. It’s unfortunate,” Dorian explained. “I’m not entirely sure how long they kept me down there, but after a while, father stopped sending down food; if it could be called that. I’m not sure if he thought that forcing me to eat the same food we give slaves would get me to change my mind. It didn’t, and I didn’t eat anything after the first couple of days. It was all too obvious that they were dosing me with Magebane, and it was dark enough to hide some of the meals so they thought I had been eating them. Moronic, really. To think I couldn’t detect it.”
There was a subtle tremor in Dorian’s hands, only noticeable if you were looking at the tea inside the cup, which was steadily shaking.
“At one point, I recall mother coming to see me. I remember her looking down at me, and asking me to reconsider, that surely I’d rather come to my senses that submit to my father’s plans. I still refused. Even to her.”
“Dorian, please, give up this foolishness! Do not make your father go through with this, he has run out of second chances to give you,” Aquinea pleaded in the darkness.
Dorian shuffled on the floor, feeling the cold stone beneath him, and coughed, choking on nothing but the damp air.
“I’m sorry, mother, but no. Whatever father plans to do with me, he can try. I will not live a lie.”
“Dorian, please, he won’t let me see you again until after all this is over. He says you’ll be better, I fear he’s slipping into madness,” she continued, trying to reason with her beloved son.
“I cannot, mother. You, of all people, know that.”
Aquinea sobbed, falling to her knees beside her son. A light came to life in her hands, green and unearthly, but beautiful in its own right. Dorian stared at it as it reflected in his eyes, it was almost too bright, after days of darkness.
“Take this, take it. It should stay a few hours. Stay alive, my child,” she said, placing the light in Dorian’s chained hands, kissing his forehead, and turning to leave. “Stay alive.”
“Mother!” Dorian called after her, watching the door to the room slam shut. “Mother, please. Please don’t leave me.”
“She left me a light, in was small, and made to last mere hours. It gave me some semblance of hope, but then, it was gone. And the darkness seemed everlasting for a while. Until they came for me.”
Dorian took a deep breath, refocusing on his hands to see a green veilfire coating them, its ominous glow lighting up his skin. He concentrated it into a ball, letting it roll between both of his hands.
“I was weak, when they dragged me from the room, taking me through the estate towards one of the practice rooms. It was quiet, and the light from the dawn sun was too much, I felt very out of control, but I could feel my magic. Humming, just beneath the surface of my skin. Waiting. I didn’t know if I could use it, but I was going to try.”
The veilfire ran into the palm of his right hand, and he made a fist, extinguishing it with a cloud of green-tinted smoke.
“The scene that awaited me is not one I’m likely to forget.”
Forcing himself to remember each detail, Dorian’s eyes glazed over while he retold the scene to his lovers. He didn’t register their touch.
Marble floors coated in blood, a swirling sigil with pointed edges, like a sunburst, too close to the symbol of the tranquil. Slaves, elves, ones he knew, half-dead on the floor, being bled out, their lifeforce running in rivets down the gaps in the flooring. Magister Halward in the midst of it all, standing tall and proud, his mouth set in a thin line, eyes hard as they looked at Dorian being dragged in, flanked on both sides by guards.
“Here,” Halward gestured, pointing to a spot in front of him, at the centre of the gore.
The guards dropped Dorian to the floor, and he landed hard, knees taking the brunt of the abuse. He raised his head, and glared up at his father definitely, struggling against his bonds.
“What is this? What have you done?” Dorian asked, looking around at the servants he’d spoken with, had spent most of his childhood growing up with. “Stop this, stop hurting them!”
“You would care for the life of lowly slaves?” Halward asked, a sneer on his face.
“I would care more for them than for you! I don’t remember you teaching me how to read or write!”
Halward gestured to another slave, who looked at Dorian with a sad smile, accepting of her fate. A blade was run across her neck, and she fell to the side, eyes blank, still staring at Dorian.
“No,” Dorian gasped out. “Do not do this, do not hurt them!”
“Your perversions and inclinations have gone on long enough. I’m putting a stop to it,” Halward said, smiling.
“With blood magic?” Dorian exclaimed, trying to struggle to his feet, furious and fearful.
“There is no other way.”
“Father, please, there is always another way!” Dorian cried, getting a leg underneath him to stand.
The Altus was kicked back down, falling into a puddle of blood, he spluttered, tasting it on his lips. He looked up, and seeing Halward’s arm stretched out, ready to cast, tears blurred his vision.
“I beg you, papa. Please, it’s me. It’s Dorian, it’s your son!”
Halward looked down at him with unseeing eyes. “You are no son of mine, but you will be.”
The sigil came to life, glowing, lighting up the room with a white that faded to red.
“No, please, no. I am your son, I am,” he begged.
The red spread across the room, reflecting the blood-soaked floor. Dorian felt the burning of his magic inside him, and with a scream that ripped its way up his throat, he let out a concentrated explosion, one that threw his father clear across the room, knocking the guards into the walls, and pushing away the lifeless bodies of dead slaves. In his mind’s eye, he saw the blank eyes of the elf killed in front of him; he’d known her, she’d kept him company when he was researching. Made sure he’d eaten during the day. Dragging himself to his feet, blood smudged down the side of his face and mixing with his tears, he looked around. He’d known many of them. And now, they were gone.
He let out another explosion, blowing a clear hole in the wall of the estate. As he cleared the gap, he put up a wall of fire behind him, and shot several energy balls into the mix for good measure. He ran south, lungs burning, covered in dust and blood. He had a stop to make first, a friend who would help. Mae.
“Suffice to say, Mae was rather shocked when I showed up on her doorstep in the state that I was in. But that woman, she is my oldest friend, and entirely the reason I was able to continue south to Haven. It was on the way that I was able to procure the information about the army that was only moments behind me.”
During his re-telling, Bull had migrated to sit behind both ‘Vints, encircling them both in his arms. Krem kept a firm grasp on Dorian, unknowingly becoming a very real anchor back from his thoughts. Story finished, Dorian lent back into their touch, finding comfort in the feel of their calloused hands against his bare skin. Dorian’s teacup was long forgotten, sitting next to the incense on the bedside table.
“I was not... well at the moment of my arrival. Mae had wanted me to stay with her, but I could not put her in danger. I found little rest on the road between her estate and Haven’s walls, and even less once I arrived. I spent a fair bit of time ill during the first weeks here at Skyhold. One of the healers that looked over me said that there was a dampness to my breathing, and some of the cuts on my wrists had become infected. It was a long, and frankly, tedious recovery,” Dorian said, knocking his head back to the feel of Bull’s fingers in his hair.
The mage lay atop his lovers like a feline, his legs entwined with Krem’s, and his head resting on Bull’s pectoral. He turned into their touch, nudging his head up to Bull’s hand, and twisting further into Krem’s hold. He blinked his eyes open, having shut them at the soothing feeling of fingertips against his scalp, and immediately met the copper irises that belonged to Krem. They held each other’s gaze, even as Krem reached up and stroked the back of his fingers against Dorian’s high cheek, just below his eye.
“Thank you for telling us, love,” Krem whispered, his voice no louder than a breath.
“You are significantly calmer than I expected,” Dorian commented. “Both of you are.”
“Nah, Krem’s mad, but he’s more worried about you, he’ll get mad later. With me. On the training fields,” Bull said.
“If I have learnt anything in the duration of all this, it is the undeniable truth in that statement,” Dorian said, giving a small smirk to his lovers.
“All this?” Krem questioned, a brow raised.
Dorian lifted a hand and gestured to the air above the three of them. “This.”
“Our relationship?” Krem asked, startled, mind whirling.
“Is that what we’re doing? I had not dared to hope,” Dorian said, quietly.
Bull purred, sounding all too much like a nesting dragon. “You said something similar when you were delirious with fever last night. You were speaking Tevene, and it took Krem a couple tries to get you to realise where you were.”
“You asked if we were a triad, even ill like you were, you had this gleam of hope and disbelief in your eyes,” Krem said, filling in the rest of the scene for Dorian.
“Kaffas, I did not mean to s–” the mage cut himself off, pressing his lips together.
“Say...?” Bull poked, trying to encourage Dorian to talk to them.
“I didn’t want to push any of my fantasies onto either of you, whatever you want to give me is enough, I don’t need anything more.”
“Dorian. Sweetheart, you may not remember, but I told you we were a triad. I thought you knew that’s what we were doing here,” Krem said, eyes wide, and frowning.
“...We are?” Dorian asked, the glimmer of hope mixed with disbelief present in his silver eyes.
“Yes, Amor, we are,” Krem confirmed, stroking a thumb under Dorian’s eye.
“If that’s what you want, Kadan. Then that’s what this is,” Bull said, cupping Dorian’s head and pressing it closer to his chest.
“Oh. That...” Dorian swallowed, eyes brimming with tears. “Yes. I want that... this. I want you, both of you.”
“You’ve always had us,” Bull rumbled, draping his arm loosely over Dorian’s waist, and letting the man hug it to his chest. “Get some rest, pretty mage. You’re still a little warm.”
“Unfortunate consequences of captivity, my dear Bull. I’ll be well again in a day or two,” Dorian said around a yawn. “The healer said... this would happen,” he continued, eyes blinking slowly; on the edge of sleep.
“Sleep, Dori. We’ve got you,” Krem said, watching Dorian’s eyes slip closed.
Once he was sure that Dorian was sleeping, Krem exhaled sharply.
“If I ever meet Magister Halward Pavus, he’ll be lucky if he escapes the encounter with his life,” Krem whispered, harshly, not wanting to wake Dorian, but too angry to keep the hiss from his voice.
“I’ll be right behind you if that happens,” Bull said, wrapping his arm more securely around Krem.
“Should we keep a better eye on him? If he gets ill this easily, maybe we should get Stitches to keep a stock of Elfroot potions on hand?” Krem asked, tilting his head up to look at Bull.
“Yeah, that’d be a good idea. Damn, no wonder he’s always cold. He probably can’t fight off illness the way we do,” Bull frowned at the idea, despite the evidence that said he was right.
“I’ll mention it tomorrow, maybe get him to give Dori a once-over too, make sure this fever’s going away like it’s supposed to. I’ll talk to the kitchen staff while I’m out, see if I can’t arrange something to be sent up to the library if he doesn’t make it down?”
“Good plan, I’ll stay and keep him company tomorrow, he sleeps better with one of us around,” the Qunari smiled, glancing down at the sleeping mage.
“Spar when Dorian’s feeling better? No weapons, hand-to-hand?” Krem asked, a hardened expression on his face.
“You’re on, Krempuff,” Bull replied, reflecting Krem’s expression, despite the teasing tone in his voice.
They both looked at Dorian, watching the small rise and fall of the mage’s chest, and listening to the soft exhales that came from his parted mouth. His hair fell across his forehead, and without the armour of make-up and fancy clothes that he put on every day, he looked vulnerable. His lovers vowed not to let his father anywhere near him. There was nothing wrong with the man in front of them, nothing that needed to be changed, and that was the last thing they’d tell anyone on the subject. Dorian was perfect to them, and it was up to them to make him see that, himself.