Maker have mercy- things had gone spectacularly wrong and it wasn't even noon.
The Chantry in Redcliffe had been unused for a good month or two, making it an ideal place for some illicit meet-ups. Nobody had said it was unused because of the giant rift just below the vaulted ceilings. Maybe he could have asked first.
Dorian would have turned and shut the door on this mess, especially when the first demon oozed out of a pile of green Fade goop splattered on the ground. Unfortunately, he was a curious man, and he had been meaning to dabble in the newest and strangest phenomena to grace all of Thedas. Rifts in the Veil! How novel. He just… wasn't expecting to do the dabbling right now before he was possibly meeting with the Herald of Andraste.
But the Herald could reject his offers and turn him away, making a chance like this harder to come by. As lovely as it may be given that the demons would not stop pouring out.
The Herald could also ignore his letter completely too. Which, as his battle against seemingly endless demons and wraiths dragged on, seemed more and more likely.
He could feel himself wearing down, sweat beginning to bead between his shoulder blades and his breath coming harder as he fought wave after wave of demons. He hadn't had this much exertion in years. He just hoped he could keep up. He might actually die.
That would certainly complicate a few things.
The doors creaked open and Dorian greeted without looking, "ah, good, you're here. Help me close this, will you?" He immolated one more wraith before turning to properly greet (and get a look at) who he hoped was the Herald of Andraste.
He was met by a Dalish elf instead.
The irony of it all was not lost on him, and it took more willpower than necessary to keep his face from revealing anything. Oh, my, the Chantry must love this-
"You did well, we'll take it from here," the Herald said with a cold smile, clapping a gentle and not glowing hand on Dorian's shoulder while the other more glowy one unsheathed an absurdly long claymore.
With a swing he cleaved a path to the rift and lifted up his hand, light arcing from it the same otherworldly green as the rift. A bright tether of lightning formed slowly between the Herald's hand and the core of the tear, humming and then screeching and then bursting apart into a smoldering fire, wisping away all traces of Fade. The only things remaining were the occasional pouches of… he'd rather not know what, as well as a faint burnt smell.
He was incredibly thankful the Herald brought company to deal with the demons, because he had never been so transfixed by anything in his life.
"Fascinating- how do you do that?" His fingers twitched, wanting to take the Herald's hand and inspect the glowing mark himself. Somehow he doubted he'd be allowed to get that close. At the sheepish look that passed over the elf's face he couldn't help but laugh, "you don't actually know then, do you? You just raise your hand, wiggle your fingers, and boom- the rift closes."
"There's less finger wiggling than you think," the Herald chuckled, but the mirth didn't quite make it to his eyes.
Now that he wasn't under the imminent threat of death, Dorian got a better look at the elf. Half a head shorter, a claymore strapped to his back that was just as long as him, lithe and lean, a shock of bright red hair in a neat if militaristic undercut, a tattoo- what was the name- over one of two glacial blue eyes. There was a thick and jagged scar across the full of one cheek and a sliver of it running through the bottom of his lips, which were quirked in an easy, diplomatic smile. He was a pretty thing in the way all elves seemed to be; wild and yet oddly regal in the way they carried themselves and elegantly sharp in the way all their angles met. His stoic face betrayed nothing, but Dorian could see that he was being appraised just as well.
He should have taken a moment to fix his hair.
"How rude of me to not introduce myself. My name is Lavellan, and you are?"
A woman scoffed from behind the Herald, the disgust clear in her voice, "careful with this one. He's a Tevinter mage."
"You have suspicious friends," Dorian muttered before attempting to return to something a bit more grandiose and friendly. "I am Dorian Pavus of house Pavus." He needed to make an impression, and a good one at that.
It was time to try to make an ally, after all.
An ally that he not only trekked all the way to the most miserable settlement in the land for (that they had the gall to call Haven), but had also accidentally fallen through time with not long after joining him in confronting the few friends he had left. Most people would stretch these types of things out, but he imagined there was no reprieve for the Herald of Andraste and anyone caught in the eye of the storm with him. Instead, he found himself in a dank, filthy dungeon with the man he'd interacted with only twice before and for a few moments each at best.
"The question then is not where we are, but when. It's all quite curious."
"It sounds," the Herald frowned and glanced around. "Not good."
Dorian nodded, "it sounds terrible."
Lavellan was quiet for a few moments, worry beginning to seep past the blank mask, his posture tensing. "I don't know anything about magic. This all seems…"
Dorian gently touched Lavellan's elbow, "you have me don't you? No matter what, I will protect you. We will make it back to our original time, you can seal the breach, the Elder One can go mope as his plans are foiled, and we can all go celebrate, preferably with lots of alcohol."
He'd tried to be reassuring, hoping to share some of his bravado with his companion, give some hope to their situation. He was genuine with his sentiments, though he hadn't meant to be so forward, and Lavellan's blatant look of surprise had him feeling like he may have overdone it.
It was Dorian's turn to be surprised when Lavellan returned the touch, eyes set with renewed determination and his hand warm against his. The mask was gone and Dorian had removed it and Lavellan was smiling a real, genuine smile. "I'll trust you to get us through. You do have a plan to get us back, right?" It sent a light thrill up his spine.
Oh, he had so many ideas, mostly pertaining to the situation at hand, but a few involved the Herald in less dire scenarios and a whole host of other expressions. "I have some thoughts. They're lovely thoughts. Like little jewels."
Lavellan nodded and gave Dorian's hand a gentle squeeze before gesturing to the door. Together they walked through various winding and uncomfortably damp hallways, no other sound but the drip on the stone and the splash of their footsteps. They passed by piles of bones, ominous splatters of blood, and more torture devices than he'd even thought existed, and yet the passageways still stretched on. Things were taking a distinctly red tint the further they went, and Dorian couldn't help his wonder, morbid as it was.
"Have you seen this before? Red lyrium! I've only ever read about it. Not like there's really much to read, though. I knew it existed but it's another thing entirely to see it. And coming out of the walls, no less."
Lavellan hummed, "I'd seen it back at the Temple of Sacred Ashes. I've been told it's not the best thing to touch."
"Ah, yes, the Conclave, when you heroically walked out of the Fade, Andraste herself behind you."
"I prefer the phrase 'heroically stumbled and then fell unconscious'."
Thank the Maker the Herald had a sense of humor about this- or he was just very polite. It was all very refreshing regardless. It did occur to him that this was the first time he'd truly had a moment alone with the man, and likely the only one he'll ever have again. The glow of Lavellan's hand tugged at Dorian's latent and unquenchable curiosity like it was on a string.
"The mark on your hand," Dorian began, unable to resist. Lavellan grunted in acknowledgment and so he continued his question, "may I see it?"
Lavellan paused, then shrugged and held out his hand. "Why not?"
Dorian eagerly took the offered hand, inspecting it from every angle he could. The foreign magic in the mark thrummed and pulsed to a discordant beat opposite of Lavellan's pulse, thumping away faintly under his skin, under Dorian's fingertips. The mark itself was hard to look at directly, like a miniature rift in his palm, wisps of magic leaking from the edge like smoke, tiny arcs of lightning dancing along the edges. It was incredible up close, and without thinking Dorian trailed his fingertips along the edge of it.
It crackled softly, underlying magic whispering in a way he couldn't understand but all of that was lost in the way Lavellan jerked away. That pained look- "the mark hurts you?"
"No," Lavellan's reply was automatic, practiced, but as he looked away quickly he seemed to relent, "well, a little. It used to hurt worse, until Solas helped and the Breach was stabilized."
Dorian had no idea who this Solas was but was very interested in how he helped. "And now?"
"Now it just feels as though my hand is on fire."
"That… doesn't sound any better." He couldn't imagine what it felt like before.
Lavellan frowned, looked down at his hand, then shrugged again. "I suppose not, but there's not much else to do about it."
"I suppose not." Dorian made a mental note to find whoever this Solas was as they lapsed back into their quiet trudging.
They found the Seeker Cassandra in one lonely cell, robotically reciting the chants while they found another elf, Sera as he was told, further in. Strange trails of red seeped from them like a sickly aura, burning deep in their glassy eyes, and neither he nor Lavellan understood what exactly it meant until they found Fiona. Encased in a living, singing crystal of red lyrium, managing to spare the date through the haze of pain. Lavellan left with a gentle promise, but his steps were thunderous, and everytime he looked back at his two red companions his hands would ball into fists and the mark would crackle. His stoicism was an oppressive blanket and no amount of conversation would break his silence, not that Dorian still didn't try his hardest.
The Nightingale Leliana wasn't faring much better when they found her further in, hanging from the rafters of a torture chamber, red lyrium and blood splattered like a twisted mosaic around her. She was prematurely aged and hardened, cold and distant. Much had changed in the single year in which they were gone and she was tightlipped about everything but the barest necessary details.
From the little she did spill, it was all much worse than they ever thought possible.
And it just got better the further in they went.
Alexius had been busy, and had fortified himself well. Of course, Dorian loved a good challenge, but he'd hit a standstill: a door that would not easily open without magical intervention. To think he'd be stopped by a door, and a magic one at that. Of course it wasn't just any old door, and he did have a few ideas on how to open it (or at least go around it), but the plan with the highest rate of success was short just a single shard of red lyrium.
Ah, but Dorian- he thought sardonically, kicking an empty helmet absently- there's red lyrium everywhere. It's coming from the ceiling and the walls and from the bare of Sera's arms and the edges of the Seeker's eyes. Singing a siren song into the depths of his brain, inescapable and utterly maddening. Who knows, it may be growing out of him too soon enough. Surely, there were no deficit of red lyrium crystal shards here.
Unfortunately, the shards they had found were different than the crystals forming throughout the castle and its inhabitants. The ones found on the bodies of casters emanated a magic pulse of their own. A volatile kind. An explosive kind. The kind perfect for opening doors that weren't easily opened by other means. He just needed one more to tip it all over the edge and blast the door right off its hinges.
But they'd hit a dead end.
Dorian stared at the smoldering fireplace and frowned, hands on his hips and fingers drumming patterns as he contemplated his options. He could hear people in the room beside them, mostly just screaming and diabolical laughter but still people sounds, and he was positive the last shard would be in that room, in the pocket of a caster who seemed to be having a grand time. The door was probably locked, not like it mattered with all the red lyrium spikes barricading it, and there were no other ways in.
They were so close, and yet…
"I'll have to find another method", Dorian sighed, raising his hands in defeat. Sera muttered something unintelligible as Leliana continued to ignore him. Lavellan made a distracted 'hm' but continued inspecting the dividing wall. Cassandra's face remained unchanged where she watched The Herald work. "Perhaps there is another way in, we can keep looking for a servants door."
"Uh huh," Lavellan said, still inspecting the wall between the rooms like it held all the secrets in the world. Maybe it did.
"We could go back to the main hall-" Lavellan's noise of surprised delight cut him off.
Dorian frowned at the interruption as Lavellan handed his claymore wordlessly to Cassandra. Planting his feet, he lifted his leg and in a smooth movement kicked the wall. Stones flew effortlessly and caused a sizeable tumble of masonry, leaving a hole big enough to walk through. He took his claymore back and stepped through, leaving Dorian to stand dumbly as the sounds of carnage replaced the evil laughter. He'd never seen such a display of raw physical strength like that, and from someone so-
Sera snickered at his expression before joining the two warriors and their bloodbath, and he found himself still floored by the time Lavellan returned, the first smile on his face after what felt like forever and a red lyrium shard in his bloody hands. "I hope this helps. I trust your skills, Dorian," Lavellan encouraged, a satisfied lilt in his voice, "let's go home."
Maker please , Dorian thought as his heart thumped a bit too heavily.