I told ye then he should prevail, and speed
On his bad errand; Man should be seduced,
And flattered out of all, believing lies
Against his Maker; no decree of mine
Concurring to necessitate his fall,
Or touch with lightest moment of impulse
His free will, to her own inclining left
In even scale.
But fallen he is; and now
What rests, but that the mortal sentence pass
On his transgression,--death denounced that day?
Which he presumes already vain and void,
Because not yet inflicted, as he feared,
By some immediate stroke; but soon shall find
Forbearance no acquittance, ere day end.
Justice shall not return as bounty scorned.
(John Milton, Paradise Lost, 10:40-54)
Dorian Pavus prided himself on being a bookworm first and an ass-kicker second.
The Inquisition included a vast number of ass-kickers, to the point at which the prowess at your elemental magic – or surprise beheadings, or throwing people into a brick wall and breaking the wall – had begun to devalue. Dorian supposed that it was that realisation exactly that ruffled the feathers of the dear, golden-haired, pouty-lipped Commander Rutherford. They were fully staffed on brute strength and deadly spells; there was hardly anything Dorian could kill that Cassandra couldn’t with half the time and double the amount of squirting blood. No, no, no; it was simply no use trying to out-brutalise the Southerners. Instead, Dorian knew, he was kept around for way more than ass-kicking. Way more than his dashing good looks, even.
He was kept around because the amount of consecutive hours he was willing – and happy – to spend in a library highly exceeded that of a standard literate human. In other words, Dorian Pavus was a bookworm.
The Inquisitor had ridden off somewhere, taking Solas, Cole, and Iron Bull along, and Dorian couldn’t pretend not to be happy that he had. Lovely lad that he was, there tended to be way too much commotion wherever he stepped. He simply did not understand that regardless of whether there was a war on or not, there was time in a man’s life where he would just sit down with a bottle of smuggled Tevinter whiskey, open an old tome on necromancy, and-
The click of the door echoed up from the rotunda, accompanied by some familiar murmuring, and Dorian let out a long-suffering sigh.
Right. There was two of them now.
Hawke walked into the library with a familiar swagger of a woman accustomed – expecting, almost – to draw the full attention of the room. She wasn’t mistaken either, as even the Tranquils looked up at the noise her leather books were making on the padded library floor.
Dorian liked Hawke, he really did. She was a deliciously mischievous mix of bad puns and headbutting destruction, and she had definitely added colour to Skyhold tavern scene ever since she’d arrived a couple of weeks ago, along with the legend of the most wanted apostate on this side of Thedas. But neither she nor the Lavellan lad ever, ever respected a man’s right to just sit down and remain unbothered for however long it took to finish off a book.
“Pavus,” she announced, waltzing right into his corner and throwing herself into the chair he’d prepared for his reading ritual. Dorian winced visibly. “We’ve got a bit of a situation on our hands.”
Dorian cast her a glance heavily weighed down by sarcasm. “Ah, a situation. What kind of primordial evil have you let loose from a Warden prison this time?”
Hawke pressed a palm to her heart. “That hurts my feelings. You know what I do when people hurt my feelings, Pavus.”
“Vacate their armchairs and disappear from their life forever?” suggested Dorian in a hopeful tone. Hawke grinned at him, a shark-like spark in her eye.
“Close, but no. It’s actually walk on without passing a dire warning that might pertain to the offender’s wellbeing and, slash, or survival.”
Something in her voice made him suppress a deep shudder. “Very well, Hawke, spill it. What did you do, and how lethal is it?”
“I didn’t do anything. Well, maybe I did, but that’s personal. He’s lethal enough, though.” Hawke chuckled to herself, and Dorian raised a single disapproving brow at her. ”You might need to work on your blending in for a while, Pavus.”
Dorian made a sweeping flourish at his own chest. “Does this body look like something that could ever blend in? Frankly, the very idea is revolting.”
“I’m serious. This attire of yours, this obnoxious accent, this… whatever caterpillar you’re keeping on your upper lip… is going to cost you a world of pain very soon.”
“And you, my dear, are just ignorant to the intricacies of Minrathous fashion. Woefully so.”
“That… is the problem,” said Hawke after a brief pause. “See… how much of the Tale of the Champion has Varric managed to feed you?”
Dorian reached in the bookshelves and, without looking, located the thick tome and tossed it onto Hawke’s lap. “Well-written, but rather… sensationalist, if I might say. You should try living less outrageously.”
“Uh. Thanks, I guess.” Hawke winced, picking up the heavy, leather-clad book and dropping it on the floor with a slightly haunted expression. That little tidbit of a reaction told Dorian a long and painful story including Hawke, the book, and an entirely too eager an audience. “So you’ve read about my, uh, romantic choices as well?”
“Ah, yes. The lyrium warrior. I’d be happy to examine that…”
A subtle shift in Hawke’s face told Dorian that it was a very unfortunate turn of phrase. He cleared his throat. “If, of course, I could obtain his consent for it. And yours, probably. Depends on how attractive I might end up finding him.”
“Let me say that again, Pavus. Fenris is here. And if he finds you, he’ll kill you.”
Dorian shot her a sideways glance, waiting for a punchline. Then, ascertaining she was actually serious, he laughed in earnest. “Here? In the library? In the middle of an Inquisition stronghold? Kill the personal favourite of the Herald of Andraste, Saviour of Thedas, His Inquisitorialness Fenriel Lavellan? Oh, Hawke. And first things first, whatever for?”
Hawke slowly shook her head. “You’re so dead.”
“Get out of my chair, Hawke. You’re making it hard for me to ignore you.”
“I’ll just… get yourself an alibi, Pavus, alright? Drop the accent at least.” Hawke stood up, casting him a glance that Dorian found difficult to process. If he had any desire to do that in the first place. “Try Antiva. You look similar enough to an Antivan at least.”
“So typical of you women! Dashing off, but not before twisting the knife!” he called after her as Hawke’s steps echoed down the stairwell, settling himself down on the armchair and finally taking a sip out of the thrice-forbidden whisky. He promptly ditched all thoughts about Southerner apostates and their bloodthirsty boyfriends out of his head. It had been entirely too long since he had last read Altus Ithlius’ stance on the technical difficulties in reanimation of corpses over fifty years old…
After entirely too short a time, the book became tedious. Ithlius’ solution to tissue rearrangement proved repetitive enough, and Dorian could point out at least three other tomes that laid out the same argument in vastly more eloquent ways. Focus on bone reconstruction first, really! What was he, an apprentice? It was not the bones that the modern necromancy had a problem with, it was the muscle tissue – a subject infinitely more complex and also one that, very conveniently, Ilthius chose to ignore in his slightly preachy prose. Scoffing, Dorian closed the book carefully, put it back, hid the Tevinter whisky in the stone niche behind the bookshelf, and ventured down to wash off the aftertaste of bad reading with something refreshingly more mind-numbing.
The tavern never disappointed.
Varric was already there, which was not news. Dorian had heard that before Skyhold, the dwarf lived in a tavern – a revolting thought, which nonetheless explained a lot about the colour of his writing. He slid down onto the bench beside the dwarf, begrudgingly admitting that Varric knew a thing or two about choosing the seat with the view; from their position, propped safely against the wall and close to a corner, they could watch everything without the fear of drawing attention.
“Any dreadful gossip I haven’t managed to catch?”
“Evening, Sparkler.” Varric nodded at him. ”Just that Hawke’s favourite elf is in town now. You should probably lay low for a while.”
“Oh, please.” Dorian rolled his eyes. He’d been told it gave quite an effect. “Being pounced at the moment men see me is a burden, but never before has it proven life-threatening.”
Varric gave a strange chuckle. “It might be the wrong kind of pouncing you’re thinking about.”
“Is there a wrong kind of pouncing?”
“You’ll tell me in a moment,” said Varric, his shit-eating grin betraying something that Dorian was suddenly very uncomfortable with. “See that elf with Hawke over there?”
Dorian’s eyes followed Varric’s, and there was indeed a dark-skinned elf at Hawke’s side on the other side of the room, close to the Chargers’ usual spot. Even if he couldn’t have discerned his face, the white hair and the silver lines of tattoos covering his neck and shoulders were enough to identify the famous Little Wolf. Dorian had been just a kid when Danarius had held his famous tournament for the right to bear lyrium marks, but he still remembered the way his father, uncles, and just about all the alti in Minrathous couldn’t shut up about it for weeks on end. It was hard to believe that half-starved, small elven slave only couple of years his senior had made it all the way to the South – and straight into the arms of the Champion.
Then again, Danarius never came back from his business trip to the Marches…
“Alright, Varric, I see the elf. What now?”
“Now you shut up and observe. This should be interesting.”
Dorian opened his mouth to argue – mostly on principle, really – but then the raised voices reached him across the room. The elf was struggling to get himself out of Hawke’s grasp, with the awkwardness of someone trying very hard not to use his killer instincts.
“Let go of me, Hawke!”
“Like hell I will. You’re not starting another diplomatic incident after-”
“Don’t even try to bring this up. That was your fault! Let me go right now.”
“You having a problem with him over there, ma’am?” Krem’s voice cut through the quarrel. Hawke visibly paled at the sound of his voice, and her elf-
Dorian had never seen anyone move so fast before.
The elf was pressing Krem to the floor with an obviously murderous intent. Half the soldiers in the tavern reached for their weapons; the other half were already mid jump. The Chargers were the first to reach him; it took the elf a second to disarm one of Bull’s men – Grim, Dorian remembered hazily – and knock him over with the hilt of his own weapon. After that their view was blocked by the crowd of the entire tavern coming to up to beat up the elf and obviously failing, and Dorian started feeling a little bit uneasy-
“Stop!” Hawke’s shrilling voice cut through the mess.
And, unlikely scenario as it was, everybody froze mid step.
“All Inquisition soldiers, calm down. Sit back down and have a Maker-damned drink. Fenris, take your hand out of that man’s chest.”
With the now-cleared view, he had a front seat on the bone-chilling scene happening in the other corner. To the horror of everybody but, apparently, Hawke, every line of the lyrium tattoo on the elf’s skin was glowing. And his hand was very clearly and obviously wrist-deep in Krem’s chest.
“Fenris,” sounded Hawke’s insistent voice.
“What do you have to say for yourself, Vint?” growled the Little Wolf. Dorian felt a cold shiver travel down his spine. “You have ten seconds before I rip your heart out.”
“He got into the army because his family was forced into slavery!” said Hawke with chilling voice. “A magister got them out of business, and so his father sold himself for him to be free. He’s not even fighting for Tevinter anymore. Hand out of his chest, Fenris.”
Dorian was very aware of the rapid sound his own heart was making in his chest. He was suddenly very keen on keeping it there.
The elf growled, but obeyed. The wrist phased out of Krem’s chest, leaving the skin and leathers unharmed. The soldier coughed.
“What the fuck just happened, Hawke? Get your dogs under control.”
“One more word, and it’ll be my hand you’ll be worrying about,” replied Hawke, her voice a tone colder. “You’re lucky I like you, Krem.”
The Charger went back to his corner, muttering obscenities in Tevene – rather creatively, Dorian admitted. The Little Wolf retreated to Hawke’s table, where the Champion of Kirkwall was slowly stewing in her own brand of fury. He could not hear the rest, murmured as it was, but what he could discern sounded like just like the last time and not everything speaking with a Tevene accent is your mortal enemy. The elf, meanwhile, somehow succeeded at looking simultaneously sheepish and pissed.
Drawing a long breath, Dorian turned back to Varric. He suspected some of the shock was still showing on his face, because the dwarf was grinning in an entirely too disconcerting a way.
“Well, that was fun,” said the dwarf, and, Maker help him, he probably meant it. Sick bastard.
“Is that… a regular occurrence?” Dorian asked in a weak voice. He just thrust a hand into a man’s chest and threatened to rip out the heart. Just for having a Tevene accent.
“Normally, no. We tend to keep him away from Vints as a general rule. These we like, we warn beforehand.”
Dorian raised his head and immediately regretted it. Across the room, the Little Wolf’s eyes moved through Varric and fixed on him. They were not kind. They were the exact opposite of kind.
He had just enough dignity left not to swallow loudly.
“Antiva. Definitely Antiva.”
Varric chuckled. “Yeah. Thought so.”