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The Cat and the Peacock

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Not again. Anders couldn’t believe he fell into the clutches of the Templars. Again.

They’d shot him down with a dart laced with magebane and a sedative. Once he began to come to, he was bound in magic suppression manacles, while the Templars were stripping him bare.

The Templars were congratulating themselves on catching such a handsome specimen when one of them recognized him from a scar on his back. He’d been a Templar at Kinloch Hold, transferred before the Circle had been overrun by blood mages and abominations during the fifth Blight. The Templar remembered this most infamous mage. The mage who ran. The mage with the deliciously tight ass.

“He’s the one who blew the Chantry in Kirkwall!” Another Templar provided. “We should take his head for what he’s done.”

“No!” Another argued. “He needs to be made tranquil. Then we can make use of him.”

The first one, the one from Kinloch Hold and clearly the senior of the group interceded. “No, first we make use of him, then we make him tranquil. I want him to suffer for his crimes first.”

Anders resigned himself to his fate. He was tired of running, tired of fighting. Justice was out of reach, blocked by the manacles he wore. He let Templars strip him of the rest of his clothing, and bend him over a log before they each took their turn taking their pleasure from him, raping him brutally. His ass soon leaked blood and cum, but he didn’t care. Not anymore.

He should have died in Kirkwall at the hands of Hawke. He’d loved Hawke. Ached for him for years, but Hawke chose the Tevinter elf. When Anders blew up the Chantry, he fully expected Hawke to execute him for his crimes. Yet, Hawke let him live, told him to run and never show his face in Kirkwall again. So he ran. He’d been running for nearly four years now and he was so tired.

Once each Templar had raped him, the senior Templar thought it would be a good idea to flog the apostate. Really teach him a lesson before they made him tranquil. Anders lay boneless over the log as one of the Templars took a belt and began to flog him mercilessly. Anders tried to stifle his cries but the blows came hard and fast and soon he was screaming for mercy, or death.

It was Anders cries that caught the attention of another, traveling nearby. He had been traveling with a purpose, with determination. He’d heard of Venatori activity near the town of Redcliffe and he was on the trail of his former mentor. He’d made camp for the night, not for the first time sleeping on the cold, hard ground of Ferelden. Then the night erupted in screams. Screams of pain. Screams of anguish. He rose and crept warily towards the heart wrenching sounds.

When he came upon the Templar camp he had to hold back a gasp. There was a group of eight Templars, each holding either a whip or a strap, taking turns cruelly lashing a naked man on his knees before them. The man screamed at every lash, his back wet with blood.

Dorian didn’t stop to think when he witnessed the abuse of what must undoubtedly be a fellow mage. He immediately went into action, laying down a barrier spell and then shooting fireballs at the Templars to disperse them before applying a spirit mark and following up with horror and immolation spells. Within moments all eight Templars lay dead, smoldering on the ground.

Dorian ran over to the naked and bloodied man kneeling over the log. Once he was close enough he noticed the poor wretch had also been raped, by the looks of the poor man’s posterior.

Anders looked up, blinking at his rescuer. “Who…who are you?”

“Dorian Pavus, most recently of Minrathous, at your service,” Dorian said. “Now let’s get you out of those bloody manacles, shall we? Where are the keys?”

“One of the Templars had them,” Anders croaked, his voice raw from screaming.

Dorian rummaged through the remains of the Templars until he found the set of keys, and went about setting the mage free.

“Th…thank you, Dorian,” Anders said, gratefully. “I thought I was finally done for.”

“It wasn’t a bother,” Dorian said. “These Southern Templars don’t seem very capable against a properly trained mage.”

“Do you have any lyrium?” Anders asked. “I would love to be able to heal all this before they become more scars.”

Dorian rummaged into his pack and handed the man a vial, which Anders drank greedily. He then set to work on repairing the damage the Templars had caused to his body.

“You’re a spirit mage I see,” Dorian observed. “That’s a rare talent.”

“So I’ve been told,” Anders said, sighing in relief as his healing magic closed wounds and eased his pain.

“So…since I’ve been kind enough to give you my name, would you care to return the curtesy?” Dorian asked.

“Oh, yeah, about that,” Anders said looking warily at Dorian. “I’m not sure I should tell you.”

“Why not? I’m a fellow mage,” Dorian huffed. “One that just saved your life, I might add.”

“True, but you may regret that,” Anders said. “If you knew who I was.”

“You are a mage, a spirit healer, and also quite handsome,” Dorian winked. “I doubt I could regret knowing you.”

Anders took a deep breath and looked Dorian straight in the eye. “My name is…they call me…Anders.”

Dorian’s eyes went wide. “You’re…the Anders? The infamous mage who blew up the Chantry in Kirkwall?”

Anders nodded. “See, I told you. You regret helping me already, don’t you?”

“Heavens no,” Dorian said. “All I really know about you is in regards to blowing up the Chantry, and some foul rumor that you are an abomination. You don’t look like an abomination to me. Quite the opposite in fact.” Dorian winked again at Anders.

Anders huffed and blushed slightly, realizing the handsome mage was actually flirting with him. In another life…

“I am,” Anders said, hanging his head.

“You are?” Dorian asked, confused.

“I am an abomination, of sorts,” Anders confessed. “I harbor a spirit of Justice within me. A spirit that my own hatred has corrupted into a spirit of Vengeance.”

“You mean to tell me that a spirit possesses you?” Dorian asked, surprised. “How is that possible, unless…am I speaking with the spirit or with the actual Anders?”

“I am still myself, most of the time,” Anders explained. “Justice prefers to remain dormant, mostly just a voice in my head.”

“I see,” Dorian said. “How fascinating! Well let’s get you cleaned up, shall we?”

Dorian rose and tore part of the skirt off a Templar and went to the camp cook fire where some water had been set to warm. He soaked the cloth and brought it over to the battered mage, gently washing the blood off his back.

Anders just lay still, enjoying the gentle touch of another human. It had been so long…

Once he was done, Dorian gathered what he thought were what was left of Anders robes, handing them to him. “Here, you should dress and we should get out of here before more of these barbaric Templars come prowling.”

Anders nodded, putting on the remnants of his robes as best as he was able. There were large tears in the cloth but it would serve until he could get a new set. Soon they were both headed away from the Templar encampment.

“Why were you out here, if I may ask?” Dorian asked.

“I…I was heading towards Redcliffe,” Anders stated. “I was hoping to join the rebel mages there.”

“Well, I was heading towards Redcliffe myself,” Dorian laughed. “However my purpose is a bit different. I heard rumors of Venatori activity in the area.”

“Venatori?” Anders asked.

“They are a group of Magisters who wish to return Tevinter to its former glory days,” Dorian huffed in annoyance.

“Maker, that sounds like trouble,” Anders said.

“It is,” Dorian affirmed. “The worst of is that my former mentor and friend are somehow involved, which is why I’m here.”

“Well, it’ll be nice to have a traveling companion,” Anders smiled warmly at Dorian. “I’ve been on the run and alone for so long now.”

***

Dorian and Anders walked in companionable silence until they felt they were reasonably far enough away from any Templar activity before settling in to rest for the remainder of the night. They lay back-to-back in the dirt, not having any other provisions with them.

The next morning Dorian awoke with his arms full of Anders, the mage’s head resting on his chest. Dorian couldn’t remember the last time he awoke in another man’s arms. In fact he was pretty sure that had never happened, and they hadn’t even had sex the night before.

It actually felt…nice. Dorian decided to let Anders sleep a bit more and didn’t want to disturb him so he closed his eyes and thought about the night before. What those Templars had subjected Anders to, it was unconscionable, regardless of what Anders may have done in the past. Yet Anders hadn’t seemed extremely put off by it, as if he’d suffered similar abuses in the past. The scars Dorian had seen on Anders back spoke volumes in that regard.

Dorian had always known that mages had been treated very differently outside of Tevinter, but he wondered now how bad they’d actually had it. Clearly it seemed as if there really were just causes for the mage rebellion. He would have to ask Anders more when he awoke.

As if on cue, Anders began to stir and he sat up, mumbling apologies. “I’m…Maker, I’m sorry Dorian. I hadn’t intended to…cuddle with you.”

“It’s quite alright, no harm done,” Dorian smiled warmly. “I was quite enjoying the shared body heat, if truth be told. It’s dreadfully cold here in Ferelden.”

Anders laughed. “I’ve always thought it was rather balmy here. I’m originally from the Anderfels though, so I’m used to the cold.”

Dorian stretched and sat up. “We should be able to make it to Redcliffe today. Shall we?”

“We might as well get going,” Anders agreed. “Hopefully we can get a hot bath and a meal when we get there.”

***

They set out in the direction of Redcliffe and kept a brisk pace, eager for their journey to end. Along the way Dorian asked Anders about his experiences with Templars and Circles.

“So, I know mages outside of Tevinter were housed in Circles, but beyond that I don’t really know much beyond rumor and speculation.” Dorian began. “How were your experiences? Which Circle did you belong to, or were you always an Apostate?”

“I came into my magic late, at the age of twelve,” Anders explained. “I was dragged off by the Templars after I nearly burned my father’s barn to the ground. They shipped me to the circle here in Ferelden.”

“Maker, isn’t that the Circle that was infested by blood mages and abominations during the fifth Blight?” Dorian asked.

“Yeah, that’s the one. I’d escaped just before all of that happened, thank goodness,” Anders said. “I’d have been killed for sure if I’d remained.”

“You, escaped the Circle?” Dorian asked. “So they did literally hold the mages prisoner in the Circles here?”

“Yeah, it was very much like a prison,” Anders scowled. “It was so unfair to be imprisoned over something you’re born with and can’t do anything about.”

“Indeed,” Dorian agreed. “I honestly can’t imagine living like that.”

“So,” Anders said, “If you’re from Tevinter, you must be a Magister?”

“No, I’m an Altus,” Dorian corrected. “My father is a Magister with a seat on the Magisterium. I was being groomed as a candidate for Archon.”

“Archon?” Anders asked. “That’s the title of the leader of Tevinter, isn’t it?”

Dorian nodded.

“Why did you say it in past tense? Can’t you still go back and become Archon?” Anders asked.

“Very unlikely, given the circumstances surrounding why I left,” Dorian scowled.

“Ah,” Anders nodded. “I guess we all have our burdens to bear.”

Dorian reached out and squeezed Anders shoulder. “Some of us, I think, have more than our fair share of them.”

Anders blushed at the touch, and reached over and squeezed Dorian’s hand.

“How long do you plan to stay in Redcliffe?” Anders asked.

“That depends on what I find there,” Dorian replied. “All I know for certain is that the Venatori are very interested in that large breach in the sky. I may end up having to head to the town of Haven next if I don’t find what I’m looking for here.”

“Why Haven?” Anders asked. He’d been on the run so much he’d barely even registered the breach, much less what its implications were.

“The town of Haven was the closest settlement to the Temple of Sacred Ashes, where the conclave was to take place,” Dorian explained. “The temple was destroyed by some otherworldly explosion, causing the breach.”

“Maker,” Anders breathed. “I’ve been so out of touch. I hope they don’t think I did that.”

Dorian laughed. “Somehow I’m sure it’s crossed some people’s minds, but no one really knows. For a while they were blaming this Qunari, but now they are praising him and calling him the Herald of Andraste, of all things.”

“A Qunari is the Herald of Andraste?” Anders laughed. “Now that’s not something I’d ever expect to happen. The Qun must be furious.”

“Hah, I suspect they are somewhat bothered by it,” Dorian nodded. “But the Qunari in question is actually Tal-Vashoth.”

“Hah! Even better,” Anders laughed.

“I’ve heard rumor that he may actually be heading towards Redcliffe as well, to meet with the mages,” Dorian said. “I hear tell he’s looking for assistance in trying to close the breach.”

“Is that even possible?” Anders asked.

“Apparently this Tal-Vashoth has some mysterious mark upon his hand,” Dorian elaborated. “They say with it he can close the many rifts that are sprouting up everywhere, and that he managed to stabilize the breach with it. He just requires more power in order to actually close it.”

“I hear Grand Enchanter Fiona is leading the mages in Redcliffe,” Anders said. “Do you know if that is the case?”

Dorian nodded. “Yes, I heard the same. In fact she has apparently been meeting with my former mentor Alexius. I’m very concerned about what that may actually mean.”

“Why do you say that?” Anders asked.

“Apparently, Alexius was recruited by the Venatori,” Dorian explained. “That is very unlike him. He has never sought power and never pursued blood magic. It’s one reason I took up with him in the first place. I had a great respect for him.”

“Had?”

“If he truly has become Venatori…” Dorian sighed. “I honestly don’t know what I will say when I confront him with the allegations. With any luck, his son Felix will be there as well. He is my best friend and perhaps he can help me talk some sense into his father. One thing I know for certain, he would never become Venatori. I think Felix would rather die first than to turn to blood magic.”

Over the next rise they finally were able to see the village of Redcliffe and Redcliffe castle beyond it. Anders whistled. “Wow, this place sure has changed since the last time I’ve been here.”

“You’ve been to Redcliffe before?” Dorian asked.

“Yeah, on one of my many escapes from the Circle. I escaped a total of 7 times,” Anders confessed. “Kinloch Hold is not far from here, North along the shores of Lake Calenhad.”

“I’d heard that Redcliffe was attacked twice during the last Blight,” Dorian said.

“Yeah, actually they were. First by an army of the undead, and later by darkspawn,” Anders acknowledged. “The Warden-Commander loved telling the story of how she and her rag-tag team of misfits saved the Arl and his family.”

“The Warden-Commander?” Dorian asked

“Elissa Cousland, also known as the Hero of Ferelden, and the Queen-consort to King Alistair,” Anders explained. “She recruited me into the Grey Wardens after I was recaptured after my seventh escape attempt.”

“So you know the Hero of Ferelden and you’re also a Grey Warden?” Dorian seemed impressed. “You are a very complicated man Anders. So why are you not with the Grey Wardens now?”

Anders laughed. “That, my friend, is a very long story.”

Dorian chuckled. “Alright, but it’s a story you owe me,” Dorian teased.

Anders looked thoughtful. “Alright, if we ever get an opportunity to share a meal alone together, I’ll tell that story, if you tell me why you left Tevinter?”

Dorian frowned and then sighed. “Alright. I suppose I owe you that much. If we get a chance to dine alone together.”

“Deal,” Anders said, as they began to reach the outskirts of Redcliffe village.

They walked together towards the inn, where they parted company when Dorian spied his friend Felix. Anders watched Dorian rush off to embrace his friend. As Anders entered the inn, he wondered if he’d ever see the charming mage again.