Cassandra and Varric were arguing over a game of Wicked Grace they were playing with a pair of the other Inquisition soldiers, but Sutekh was filled with a peculiar restlessness to be away from the protective circle of firelight. From what he could tell, things were getting pretty lively and the noise jarred his senses.
A glance toward Dorian’s tent informed him that the mage was possibly asleep already. Too bad. He could’ve used the company. By all rights, they shouldn’t even be speaking to each other. If Keeper Deshanna had any idea he harboured…affection…toward one Dorian Pavus. Tevinter, no less. Well…
Deshanna wasn’t here now. The old familiar hankering returned. Despite all that had happened, the disaster at the conclave and Sutekh’s unexpected heading of the Inquisition, it had all served to sever him from any expectations of his old life.
As if in response, the mark embedded in his left hand crackled, and flared with its lambent green glow. The damned thing was bearable, but the occasional bursts of activity set his teeth on edge and caused his bones to ache. It also served to remind him that there was no returning to his previous life.
With a sigh, he slipped between the tents, aware of the sentry keeping watch on an outcropping nearby. It was a simple thing for him to pass by unnoticed. The sandy canyon floor muffled his footsteps. Sutekh paused, and cast out with his senses. No hyena nearby. A local pack had taken a tusket earlier this evening. They’d all listened to the squeals and the hideous, mad cackling of the predators.
On any other occasion, he’d berate himself for slipping away like this, especially at night, in a foreign place – and especially with the threat of undiscovered Venatori encampments in the vicinity.
But a fey need to be alone drove Sutekh away from his fellows. He was never alone nowadays. Always someone needing something, asking something. Always one more rift to close. Disputes to settle. As if he held the answers to all their woes. It was only when they were away from Skyhold, traipsing through the wilderness, sifting through ruins, and staying one step ahead of Corypheus and his minions, that he could almost taste that wild freedom from his early days.
Before the yoke of responsibility had settled on his shoulders.
Here, alone in the night, beneath a star-dusted sky, he shrugged off some of that burden, and he was young Sutekh Lavellan again, a lone wolf prowling at the edges. Reckless. Hungry.
Though it was the height of summer, the night air nonetheless held a chill edge to it. The stone still held residual warmth when he trailed his fingers along the surface, and Sutekh’s route took him along the canyon wall, past clumps of black lotus unfurled and painting the air with their pungent sweetness.
Water. Surprisingly cool and clear in this wasteland. Sutekh was drawn to it now. When last had he made observances to his gods? They never responded to his prayers anyhow. Yet he felt a pang, wishing that he could summon that reverence for his culture that had seemed surprisingly easy whenever he had been among his clan.
He’d even caught himself using the human exclamation of “Maker’s breath” not long ago. Solas had raised one haughty brow at that. Sutekh allowed himself a smirk. Unpleasant creature that. Always so judgmental about him and his Dalish ways.
Damned apostate. Then again, he was surprised the Chantry hadn’t lost its collective composure about a Dalish mage in charge of the Inquisition. He bared his teeth at that. Oh, how he enjoyed riling up Mother Giselle. He could see her mouth now – all pursed like a dog’s bottom whenever she alluded to his unfortunate interest in the young Tevinter mage.
All courtesies and graces they were around him, the Inquisitor. But he could almost hear them grinding their teeth as they were forced to maintain a façade of pleasantness.
Yet if he thought too long and hard about the path that lay ahead of him, the chasm of despair yawned. He seemed to be a magnet for misfits and renegades, and somehow he had to hold it all together long enough to defeat an enemy who offered an insurmountable challenge.
More reason to seek out the remote, wild parts. He wasn’t hiding. Not at all. Just sometimes those ancient stone walls of Skyhold constricted, made it hard to breathe.
Which made it all the more pleasant to be leaning against the rock, his bare feet digging into the moist sand at the water’s edge. The distant falls provided an undercurrent rumble that never ceased, and the plinking and craaking of small amphibians provided a pleasing counterpoint. He shivered at an errant breeze, but the rock reassured him of its residual heat. All was as well as it could be in the night.
“You know, Cassandra is going to have conniptions once she realises you’ve sneaked off again,” Dorian said from behind him.
Sutekh’s breath caught and he jerked upright and turned to face the human. “Son of a bitch, Dorian! You’re as quite as an elf. You shouldn’t sneak up on me like that.” Yet his heart was racing, whether relief or pleasant surprise, he wasn’t sure.
There was still enough light from the nearby camp for Sutekh to pick up the details of Dorian’s smirk.
“I’m always full of surprises, amatus.” The mage leaned back against the rock, close enough to touch – but not quite. Tease. Since that first kiss in Skyhold, they’d been dancing around each other, and events had conspired to keep them from spending time in each other’s company – alone.
“Amatus – why do you call me that? What does it mean?” Sutekh took this as his cue to lean resume his earlier pose. Where his left arm nearly brushed Dorian’s the skin came alive. To feel those arms around him again…
Dorian gave a dry chuckle. “Who was the first that you loved? That very first time that you simply knew?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Humour a decadent old fart, will you?”
Dorian trailed a finger lightly up Sutekh’s arm. Up and down, until his skin prickled, and he wanted nothing more than to pin the mage against the rock and…
Sutekh sighed, and forced his thoughts away. They were too near camp. Someone might hear, investigate… He could allow no distractions. It was bad enough that he’d come out here on his own.
“You want a story then?”
“Of course.” That treacherous finger kept on stroking, and Sutekh’s breeches began to feel too tight.
He sighed. “Very well. His name was Tarek. He was born the same month I was, when the forest first starts to shake out her golden cloak. We were always close. Like brothers. More than brothers, if I would have had it. I wasn’t sure what to do with these…feelings at the time. He was beautiful. Limbs fine, like a halla’s. Eyes like flashes of obsidian. Hair like moonlight. But you see, there was one other, and I couldn’t compete with her. Faellan. Daughter of the Keeper. Tarek and Faellan were like twin flames; they often finished each other’s words, shared dreams.
“Always the three of us, of an age, ranging together, hunting. When we were younger, before the first blossom of adulthood, we swore we’d be inseparable. Me, the dark, awkward one drawn moth-like to their irresistible fire. There was one night, a feast at a gathering of two clans. We’d been drinking. Our mouths were stained with wine. The drumming, the dancing. We were all quite feral. The fire leapt, the flutes soared and our spirits were twining with the stars.
“I tried to kiss him; he drew away. Puzzled frown. He joined the dancers again, and the music swept us away until I could no longer see him. Or her. That’s when I found myself lured into the trees, into the shadows. They had slunk away and I followed. It was like their presence left bright crumbs for me to find, that drew me on.
“They were so beautiful, so perfect together. I couldn’t watch. I may have travelled some way from the camp, howled to the uncaring stars. It was to Fen’Harel that I foolishly called. ‘Bring me to my true love,’ I begged. Wishing, willing that I would give anything to have my heart’s yearning brought to me. I made a pact that night, an offering sealed in blood, that I would gift the Dread Wolf any boon should he grant me my wish.
“Stupidly, the next morning, I approached Tarek. I imagined that he might see reason if I but unburdened my heart. Only I discovered that he’d already gone to speak to the Keeper and her husband about the bonding.”
Dorian’s hand crept over Sutekh’s, his skin warm. His personal scent, somewhat wild, hinted at expensive musk. He gave a light squeeze. “It’s the first love that cuts the deepest wound. And then? What did you do?”
“Not long after their bonding, my Keeper made me her First, and my training began. No time for idle hands or hearts. Then the conclave… And you know the rest. I should have known better than expect the Dread Wolf to grant my wish.”
Dorian turned on his side, and placed that treacherous hand of his on Sutekh’s hip.
Sutekh couldn’t help but shudder at the contact.
“Perhaps your Dread Wolf moves in mysterious way, amatus.”