Dorian adjusted his tie nervously as he looked up at the imposing building. Despite having been politely asked to consult on a case for the Ferelden Bureau of Investigations, somehow it still felt as if he were about to face the entire Magisterium on some trumped up charges.
Since fleeing to Ferelden five years ago, he’d made a name for himself as both an expert on Tevinter culture and as an irreverent playboy. He’d already published three books regarding Tevinter culture and was working on a fourth when his agent called to tell him that the FBI needed his expertise on a case.
Dorian took one final, deep breath and then headed into the building and approached the reception desk. Behind the desk was a rather harried looking elf who seemed busy taking and rerouting calls. As he reached the desk she put up a finger to indicate that he should wait a moment.
Dorian nodded and tried to wait patiently. The phone kept ringing and the poor elf looked at him apologetically as she kept answering and rerouting calls.
“Dorian Pavus?” a man asked, startling Dorian.
“Yes?” Dorian replied, turning to face a dashing blond man in a full three-piece suit.
“I must apologize,” the man said. “The phone has been ringing off the hook since the news broke this morning and we’re sadly a bit short-staffed today. I’ve come to fetch you and get you checked in.”
The news? Oh yes. There had been an attempt on the King’s life. Again.
“Charmed…um?” Dorian left he question hanging as he reached out to shake his hand, hoping the blond would properly introduce himself.
“Um? Oh, yes. I’m Cullen. Agent Cullen Rutherford, at your service,” he said with a dashing smile.
Dorian smiled back. For a brief moment, he thought there was a gleam of interest in Cullen’s eyes, until he noted the wedding ring on the man’s finger. Oh well, having an FBI agent as a lover would have been less than ideal anyway. Right?
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Cullen,” Dorian shook the man’s hand.
Cullen led Dorian back and took him through the various security check points. Nearly an hour later and Dorian had an official FBI badge which granted him limited access to areas within the building.
“Next up is to meet the agent you’ll be working with,” Cullen said as he led Dorian along another long corridor.
“I was rather under the impression I’d be working with you?” Dorian asked in confusion.
“This is one of several cases I am directing, but Agent Freeman is leading the investigation,” Cullen explained. “He also immigrated from Tevinter, but his perspective comes from a different angle than yours.”
“Freeman? That’s not a Tevinter surname,” Dorian sounded confused.
Cullen paused for a moment. “Look, I don’t want to throw you to the wolves, so to speak, but there’s something you need to know. Leto had it hard in Tevinter. He had no surname when he arrived in Ferelden because he had been a slave.”
“Oh!” Dorian understood now. “It would make sense that he leads a human trafficking case then.”
“He has openly objected on bringing you in to consult for this,” Cullen continued. “But our director insisted we approach the case from every angle. He has the perspective from the slavery side, and we’re hoping you will give us the perspective from the side of being a slave owner.”
“Well I hope he knows that I personally never owned any,” Dorian said defensively. “My family, of course, had a house full of slaves. I daresay that they were treated humanely. My father believed how one treated their slaves reflected a person’s true character.”
“Well, don’t tell Leto that if you value your life,” Cullen warned as he continued to lead Dorian down the hallway.
Dorian followed Cullen into a large room. There were several people working in various corners and along the far wall was a large digital display with a complex link chart displaying various pieces of evidence and how they linked together so far in this case. Dorian was suitably impressed even with the brief glance he had.
Cullen steered Dorian towards the center of the room where an elf with a shock of white hair stood studying something on the table before him.
“Agent Freeman,” Cullen said, getting the elf’s attention. “This is our new consultant on Tevinter culture, Dorian Pavus.”
The elf raised his head with a vicious snarl. “I told you I will not work with him!”
Dorian was initially a bit taken aback by the outward hostility of the man, but then in the next moment his breath was taken away by how absolutely stunning the man was. His dark complexion and pure white hair complimented each other perfectly. His eyes were a most remarkable shade of green, like two pale emeralds. Most extraordinary of all were the white tattoos that elegantly curved up his throat and over his chin.
“What are you staring at?” Agent Freeman growled. “Didn’t get your fill of elven slaves back in Tevinter that you have to salivate all over me as well?”
Dorian shook himself out of his reverie. “I must apologize, I was just surprised. I didn’t realize they allowed FBI agents to wear visible tattoos. Pleased to meet you Agent Freeman.”
The agent just huffed in annoyance and went back to whatever it was he had been doing when they arrived.
Cullen sighed. “Leto, you know that Director Hawke is insistent on this. The traffickers are always five steps ahead of us. We need a fresh perspective.”
Leto stood, running his hands over his face in frustration. “I know we need a fresh perspective. I just don’t want the kind of perspective someone like him would offer,” Leto practically spat.
Dorian subconsciously backed away from the angry elf. He clearly had gotten himself into the middle of something he wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to be in. “Perhaps I’ve come at a bad time. Why don’t you call me when you get this sorted, if you still even want my input?”
Cullen reached out and grabbed Dorian by the upper arm. “Don’t go anywhere. You’re coming with me. Leto, you too. Follow me. That’s an order.”
Leto sighed and followed reluctantly as Cullen led them to what looked like a small conference room. “You two will sit here and get to know each other. I will have food and refreshments brought but Leto, you cannot and will not judge this man just based on where he was born. Is that clear?”
Leto nodded curtly. “Crystal, Ser.”
As Cullen left, Dorian heard the lock on the door snick.
Great he was now locked in a room with a bitter, angry elf. Clearly, he couldn’t win him over with his dashing looks alone.
“Look, for what it’s worth, I’m sorry,” Dorian broke the ice.
Leto looked up at him, a mix of anger and confusion crossing his face. “Sorry for what?”
“Cullen told me you were once a slave in Tevinter,” Dorian clarified. “I am sorry that you had to endure that.”
“Hmmpf,” Leto huffed. “How many slaves do you own?”
Dorian was stunned. Hadn’t Leto heard of him? “None at all. Don’t you know who I am?”
“You’re some wealthy douchebag from Tevinter,” Leto shrugged. “What more do I need to know?”
Dorian’s shoulders drooped. “I’m sorry…I sometimes forget that not everyone has read my books. I escaped from Tevinter five years ago myself. Yes, I was part of one of the upper-class families, but you have to believe me. I’m not like them. I could never be like them…” Dorian’s voice trailed off with a sad note.
“I thought they were bringing in someone from Tevinter,” Leto sounded puzzled. “You are also a refugee?”
Dorian nodded. “I’m afraid so. It’s a sordid tale. Perhaps I’ll tell you it sometime. Just know that I have probably been disowned and I suspect my father has most likely adopted a new heir by now.”
“Your family name is…Pavus?” Leto asked, his eyes narrowing. “I don’t recall that family ever attending my former master’s soirees.”
“Who was your former master?” Dorian inquired.
“Danarius. Danarius Elatus,” Leto replied, his voice barely a whisper.
“Oh, by the Maker,” Dorian breathed. “Now I understand. That man and his ilk are monsters. My father purposely avoided attending his parties because he refused to support anyone in those circles.”
“If your father was such a saint, why did you leave?” Leto prodded.
Dorian sighed. “That…is a long story. If you really wish to know, look it up online. It’s really not something I wish to repeat, again.”
“Hmm,” Leto acknowledged.
“So where does this leave us?” Dorian asked just as the lock on the door snicked again, the door opening to admit Cullen and one other agent, carrying cups of coffee and a box of donuts.
“How are you two getting along?” Cullen asked as he handed each of them a cup of coffee. “I’m glad to see you haven’t murdered each other yet.”
“I’d be more likely to flog him than kill him,” Leto deadpanned, making Dorian look up in surprise. Dorian felt a flush creep over his face as that particular image flashed in his head. Leto held his gaze for a second before smirking and Dorian realized that the broody elf had actually made a joke.
Dorian allowed himself a chuckle and sipped at his coffee. “I think we’ll get along just fine, Agent Rutherford.”
Leto stared at him for a moment longer and then nodded. “Fine, I’ll work with him for now…but if he steps out of line for even one moment, I want the right to throw him off the case.”
“You get to recommend throwing him off the case,” Cullen amended. “As long as you have a valid reason. An inappropriate slip of the tongue won’t cut it. Especially if he sincerely apologizes.”
“Agreed,” Leto said. “Now can we get back to work?”
“Have a donut first,” Cullen insisted. “You’re far too skinny and I know you’ve been skipping meals.”
Dorian and Leto both took a donut. Dorian smirked when he realized that they both selected the same kind; chocolate-iced. Leto merely rolled his eyes and quickly ate his confection.
Once they were back in the case room, Leto asked. “How much about this case do you know?”
Dorian shook his head. “Not much I’m afraid. I had to wait until I received clearance first, which only happened today. I know this is a human trafficking case that involves the illegal capture, sale and importation of slaves from Ferelden to Tevinter.”
“Do you recall the slave ring that His Highness King Alistair broke up before he ascended the throne some years ago?” Leto continued.
Dorian nodded. “That was a huge scandal at the time. It was one of the first times a slaver had been caught and the slaves freed. All elves from the Denerim Alienage as I recall?”
“Yes,” Leto frowned. “As I’m sure you’re aware, the elite in Tevinter seem to prize elven slaves above all other races.”
“Yes, especially as bed slaves,” Dorian nodded. “It always surprised me how any of the brothels even stay in business when so many households kept bed slaves.”
“The brothels are also staffed with slaves,” Leto explained. “Surely you were aware of this?”
Dorian blanched as he shook his head. “All of them? Surely some of the brothels must employ willing staff?”
“With such a large supply of slaves in Tevinter? Highly unlikely,” Leto ventured. “Now some may have chosen to sell themselves into slavery in order to pay off a debt or something along those lines, but in the end, they are still slaves.”
Dorian felt a lump of guilt rise in his throat. All those years that he’d gone to brothels, thinking he was taking the moral high ground, instead of bedding one of his family’s slaves. Oh Maker preserve me.
Taking a breath, Dorian redirected his thoughts. “So, what exactly is the goal of this case?” Dorian asked.
“We want to take down the head of the biggest human trafficking ring in Thedas,” Leto explained. “We’re cooperating with agencies across Thedas but the ring has been difficult to crack. We think that the ring is being controlled from somewhere in Ferelden. We’ve sent in two separate undercover agents and so far, both have been found murdered. Every time we think we’ve closed in on the head of the organization, they are long gone. It has been most…frustrating.”
“How can I help?” Dorian wondered. “While my family did have a small staff of slaves, I’ve never actually purchased or owned one of my own.”
“We’re trying to identify the buyers and sellers in Tevinter,” Cullen joined in. “We want to get some undercover agents in place to interact with them, which we hope will flush out who in Ferelden they are buying from.”
“Hmm, alright,” Dorian thought for a moment. “Can I have something to write on?”
Cullen handed Dorian a pad of paper and a pen. Dorian began to write down some names. “These are the buyers in Minrathous and Qarinus that I know my father used. My father loathed the slave auctions. He preferred to buy direct from private sellers. The slaves they sold were healthier and in better condition.”
“Yes, this is exactly the information we’ve been after,” Cullen smiled. “The ones who run the public auctions were easy to track down but they don’t seem to be dealing much with slaves from Ferelden. It was the private buyers and sellers that we suspect most of the trafficking in Ferelden slaves, mostly from our Alienages.”
“Would you also be able to coach the agents going undercover on how to approach these buyers?” Leto asked.
Dorian nodded. “My father brought me along on a few of his dealings when we needed to add to our household staff. I could give your agents some of the finer points of negotiating with them.”
“Excellent!” Cullen smiled. “See, Leto. We’re making progress already.”
“Hmmpf, I suppose your right,” Leto reluctantly agreed. “Thank you for your contribution and willingness to help. I must admit I am surprised you are giving us these names so readily.”
“I have no love for the slave trade,” Dorian said. “I will admit when I first came South I was very naïve about it all. I had always assumed everyone kept slaves. Now I ashamed of it. My father had more than enough wealth. We could have simply hired paid servants, instead of spending all that money on slaves…so if I can help put an end to it? I’m more than happy to.”
A strange look crossed over Leto’s face as Dorian made that confession. It intrigued him that he could have such an effect on the elf.
“I have to check in on the other cases I’m supervising,” Cullen announced. “Can I count on you two to work together peacefully from now on?”
Leto nodded. “Yes, Ser.”
“No problem at all, Agent Rutherford,” Dorian agreed.
“Good,” Cullen said, sounding relieved. “Leto I want you to bring Dorian up-to-speed on all the details of the case so far. The undercover agents won’t be here until tomorrow for their briefing. I’d also recommend perhaps you both dine together this evening. Get to know each other.”
A flash of annoyance crossed Leto’s face before he took a breath and schooled his features again. “Alright, if you insist.”
“I do,” Cullen confirmed.
Oh my. Did Cullen just set them up on a date? How intriguing.