“So…you can turn into a dragon?”
Bull had been missing from his spot in the tavern. Dorian had found him, of all places, in the garden.
“How many times must I repeat myself? ’Tis a wondrous thing indeed, but not so impossibly far beyond your grasp, surely.”
Bull didn’t even blink at the slight. “What does it feel like?”
This is…new. I knew she could shapeshift, but a dragon?
“I couldn’t possibly describe it to anyone who does not know how to wear another creature’s form—least of all to one who knows nothing of magic.”
“Oh, come on! Give me something! Does everyone look like tiny ants? Can you breathe fire? Can you feel it inside before you spit it out?”
Morrigan rolled her eyes and regarded the qunari nearly twice her height with amusement and disdain. “I suppose it feels like raw power incarnate—the pure, physical reality of glory in every inch of one’s body.”
“Damn…” Bull had that glassy, far-away look in his eye already. Dorian cleared his throat lightly and approached.
“You must forgive the Iron Bull, Lady Morrigan. We’re all entitled to our hobbies, naturally, but his fondness for dragons is more of a passion, really.”
An equally superior look. “Is that so. I had heard that you fit that role, actually.”
Without even a blush, Dorian maintained his polite smile and breezed past the subject. “How does one learn to become a dragon, if I may ask? I’ve never heard of such a spell before.”
“Shit yeah, teach it to him! Dorian would make a great dragon!”
Morrigan’s lips quirked briefly, but she maintained her bored expression. “I think not. ’Tis an incredibly rare power. Even I, with many years’ practice in the art of changing form, could not have learned this except…” She stopped, expression suddenly turned sour.
“Yes? How did you learn it?”
“I suppose you’ll all hear about it soon enough from your Inquisitor.” She sighed. “A rather powerful witch calling herself Mythal taught me. Now I have the power to use in the Inquisition’s service, to defeat Corypheus, and then…who can know.” Her voice became quieter toward the end. Then, sharp again, she added, “But you can hear all the details from your leaders, not I. If you’ll pardon me.”
Dorian bowed slightly, but Bull followed after Morrigan. “Wait! One more question! What color dragon do you turn into?”
Smiling, Dorian didn’t wait around to hear the rest. He left them to find Lavellan—allowing Bull to annoy Morrigan in peace. He hoped a little fishing would turn up an explanation of this new event.
The Inquisitor was in her room.
“Oh, Dorian. Perfect timing. Wine?” She stood from the papers at her desk with considerable alacrity and yanked a bottle of mild berry stuff out of a closet. Dorian would barely call her preferred drink “wine,” but he supposed that if his fondness for alcohol gave him a reputation that made him an ideal drinking buddy, he’d be that for her when she wanted one.
“So,” he began, after she rapidly drained her first glass and refilled, “I hear our new ally Morrigan has learned to turn into a dragon. In fact, I think that’s all I’ll be hearing about from Bull for a while.”
She managed a faint smile, too tight around the eyes to be real. “Yes, and we might stand a chance after all, thanks to that.”
“Excellent news. But how ever did she acquire such a skill?”
Lavellan frowned into her glass. “The voices…the elves from the Well of Sorrows directed her to an altar to Mythal. We went, and Mythal met us there…or the person who shares her existence now, I suppose. And she taught Morrigan how, I think.”
Wait… “You…let Morrigan drink from the Well of Sorrows?”
“I guess we haven’t finished reporting all the details of the Temple yet, but yes—she wanted to save whatever secrets the Well contained, she had no fear of paying the price…it seemed obvious.” Lavellan looked very unhappy about it—Not so obvious after all, perhaps? But that detail remained true.
Last time, the Inquisitor had been the one to drink. She had a jealous passion for her people’s secrets, and though she took the price very seriously, she apparently couldn’t bear to entrust such knowledge to a shemlen. She heard the voices ever after that, and even when Dorian left to travel back in time, she was still grappling with trying to understand them—and live with them.
“I rather thought you would have wanted to know whatever the Well contained yourself. It is your people’s history, after all.”
“I did, but…” Her teeth clenched around the name, “Solas was wary, and I thought perhaps I was not free to take such a risk myself. It is a shame to let a shem hear my people’s ancient whispers, but after meeting Mythal, I regret it less.” She looked up at him, eyes wide and sincere—face flushing a little from drink already. “It wasn’t anything like I would have expected, but it was her. The soul of Mythal herself! I can’t believe I met her.” She went on to explain Morrigan’s relationship to Flemeth, Flemeth’s history with Mythal, and the Well’s role and Mythal’s will—all things Dorian knew from before, and none of which explained why Morrigan could turn into a dragon.
Dorian remembered a different outcome. He hadn’t been there, but he’d heard about the dragon fight, and he’d witnessed the Inquisitor’s ability to summon the dragon for their fight with Corypheus. But in her account now, there was no mention of a Guardian—only Morrigan’s mother, and a new ability.
It was comforting, at least, to know that the outcome was the same—either way, they had a dragon to match against Corypheus’ corrupt archdemon. And perhaps things would be easier for Lavellan, not being affected personally by the Well afterward.
“The elven gods are real, you know…or they were real.” Lavellan was mumbling into her empty glass, now. “I always believed it, but it’s different now…different after you actually talk to one. They were real, and they’re gone now…they left us…” Her voice cracked, and she sniffed, eyes watering. “Why would they leave us? We need them…we’re no good at all without them…”
Gently shushing, Dorian slid closer and pulled her in for a hug. She cried, and it was obviously not really about the gods. So Dorian held her and kept her company—the best apology he could offer for putting her through this again.
In the days that followed, Lavellan was less overwhelmed with grief; she took to releasing her emotions in bursts of anger, resulting in a great deal of kicking. Nearly everyone who tried to bring her less-than-wonderful news got kicked, including all three advisors.
Suddenly, Dorian was the mage of choice on every mission. Not that the Inquisitor came to ask him personally—but he didn’t take offense. She no longer visited anyone in the tower because she wouldn’t pass through the rotunda. So Dorian got messengers, or Lavellan caught him and Bull in the Rest and informed them of the next departure, and they spent plenty of time out of Skyhold altogether.
It was similar to before, although last time Dorian’s weeks and weeks of camping were largely spent becoming better acquainted with Cassandra, being there for Lavellan, and occasionally trying to coach Cole through the process of becoming a young man. Bull had joined them for two out of six missions, then—this time, it was Iron Bull for every mission, and Varric, Cole, and Sera were all equally favored. Cole was barely there when they camped, still flitting about invisibly, helping everyone from dying soldiers to the nearest wild nug.
Sera’s presence was a surprise. Dorian wondered, for a while, if Lavellan was still interested in her—perhaps wishing to be consoled? He decided, eventually, that that wasn’t it. Sera talked about Dagna constantly, and Dorian eventually realized that Lavellan wasn’t after her affections anyway. She seemed most comforted by Sera’s cheerful obscenity, and her complete disregard for the brokenhearted. Not in a bad way, either—Lavellan had others for support, such as himself and Bull. Sera helped by treating her normally, no more cautious of her feelings than she was of a beehive, and that, too, was a kind of support.
She needed all she could get. The Inquisitor was barely holding herself together. She threw everything into doing what needed to be done, pragmatic to core, but she was miserable. Everyone could see it, and to Dorian, it looked much worse than the last time. Half the time she couldn’t even summon her anger; sometimes, when they were following her through the countryside, he’d see her raise a hand to wipe surreptitiously at her face.
His best comfort was the foreknowledge that their dear commander was still waiting in the wings, ever-devoted, strong, and steady, and when she got through the worst of this pain, he’d surely make her happy.
So Dorian spent weeks camping—and sharing a tent with Bull. A small change. They had done it before, but in smaller doses, with enough time back at Skyhold in between that they could maintain certain camp etiquette, for the most part.
Weeks on end, camp became home; camp hygiene became the norm; and etiquette had to be redefined. A muffled fumble in the dark for relief was fine when they’d be behind thick stone walls again next week. After a month in tents, with no immediate return planned, sleeping beside each other was no longer restful, and hands were not nearly enough.
They were certainly not going to be enough tonight.
Dorian’s gaze had been wandering all day. Bull caught him at it more than once and grinned, flexing and winking with his one eye, but his gaze was just as hot in return. It had been damn near a month since they’d properly fucked, yet every night he had to try to sleep with Bull beside him, the rich, warm scent of him filling their tent, every inch of him right there, an easy arm’s reach away. Dorian was beginning to show bags under his eyes, to his utter and complete devastation.
Then they were trying to close a rift, and a terror nearly shredded Sera when Dorian’s barrier on her shattered early—his fault; he’d formed it badly due to his lack of focus. When Lavellan finally got the rift sealed, he apologized, but she gave him a Look that promised a little Talk would be coming, probably in camp that night. And so it was.
“So it’s lack of sleep?” Her expression was guessing at the entirely wrong reason for Dorian to be so tired.
“Lack of rest, I’m afraid.” Dorian cleared his throat. “To be quite frank with you, if Iron Bull and I were keeping each other up like that, you’d be kept up as well, as we demonstrated in the Western Approach. Thus, we’ve been…abstaining, as much as possible. Without becoming crass, the abstinence is beginning to make rest difficult for me. I can’t speak for Bull, but…”
“That’s…all right, I understand.” By the flash of pure sorrow in her eyes, Dorian had an idea who she was thinking of, and how well she might be able to relate. “All right, look.” She glanced around. “There’s something I can show you that will help. Come on.”
Curious, Dorian followed.
They were in the Emerald Graves, so after only a short walk, camp had vanished from sight. Lavellan found a spot between two hillocks, with a few ancient trees around. She stepped into the center of them, measuring the distance with her eyes, then pointing. “You need trees,” she began, “at least three. Six is better, if you can find a proper clearing with that many surrounding you.” She skipped over massive roots to touch one tree trunk. “You place an anchor spell in each.” Dorian watched her run through a quick Elven incantation, and a little silver shimmer threaded through the bark. “You do each one, and then there’s a glyph you place in the center—I’ll show you in a minute, let you practice the anchors first. Then you raise the glyph,” she motioned with her hand toward the sky, “high enough, but not too high or the barriers will break. Then you finish the spell—I’ll show you in a minute—and sulahn’nehn! You’re surrounded in a sound barrier.”
“A sound barrier…of course!” Dorian was fascinated. “Why didn’t I ever think of such of a thing? Naturally barriers can be fine-tuned to block some things and not others—why not sound?”
“It’s just sound, though,” she cautioned. “You still need a relatively private spot, and it doesn’t hurt to set a few regular wards against animals and such, because anything can still see you and wander in.”
“It would be perfect if it could be set up around a single tent…” Dorian mused.
“Well, you fiddle with it if you want. This is a Dalish spell, so it needs trees. I don’t know how to anchor it with anything else.”
Dorian pressed his lips together to stifle his smile. “The Dalish came up with this, you say?”
Lavellan actually grinned at that, rolling her eyes. It was almost the first Dorian had seen of the old her since after the Temple. “We live in close proximity in aravels, which are no more sound-proof than a tent. One of the less widely known duties of the Keeper and the First is to make a few of these barriers for the clan’s use, wherever we camp. They’re…always in demand.”
“Indeed.” He smiled broadly. “The things I’m discovering about the Dalish!” Then, “Thank you, my friend. This will be a great help.”
“Good to hear, and that’s all I need to hear about it,” Lavellan shot back. Dorian laughed, and the two of them went over the spell in every detail until Dorian could set up a perfect sound barrier on his own.
He would definitely be able to reconstruct the spell for use in camp—Dorian was quite brilliant, familiar with many forms of spellcrafting, and he knew just the book to consult, and it was waiting for him back in Skyhold’s library.
In the meantime, it felt so good to have the Bull again.
It wasn’t the first time they’d done it outdoors, if this even counted. Bull had gathered up the most massive armload of blankets and bedrolls that his ever-massive arms could carry, and he’d done his best to cushion away all bumpy roots and rocks. And it wasn’t like they hadn’t seen each other lately—they’d been constant companions for weeks. It wasn’t even really the silly stuff, like stars and moonlight and an early summer breeze scented with flowers.
It was just…good to be together again.
They took full advantage of the sound barrier. Dorian let Bull know in his most vocal manner exactly how much he appreciated being speared on his quite considerable girth again. And Bull was neither quite nor sparing his praise of Dorian—nor gentle in his fucking. They went hard, and long, and very messy, as they had done before and would surely do again.
And when it was very late and they should have gathered everything up and headed back to camp to sleep properly sheltered in their tent, they lingered instead—lying close, sharing warmth, and talking of nothing.
“Apparently this is quite the norm for most Dalish. Of course, I shall soon have the spell modified for tent use.”
“Works for me.”
“This is still quite acceptable, in the meantime, however.” Dorian grinned. Bull smiled, his eye soft as he hummed in an agreeing tone.
“If you were Dalish,” Dorian wondered aloud, “and had to always have sex under the stars like this, where would you choose for your clan to live?”
“Where in Thedas? That’s a lot to choose from.”
“All right, I’ll narrow it down. Let’s say…choose from among the areas we’ve visited with the Inquisition.”
Bull laughed. “Can you do that? Isn’t everywhere we’ve been too cold for you?”
“Well, I certainly wouldn’t choose the Emprise.” Dorian shuddered. “But it was hot enough in the desert…”
“Not at night,” Bull pointed out. “And didn’t you say the Dalish need trees for this spell? Those are hard to find in the desert.”
“Hmm. Come to think of it, we’ve never encountered a clan in those regions. I wonder if that’s why?”
“Don’t know.” Bull shifted in what was probably a shrug, with the shoulder Dorian wasn’t using for a pillow. “Me, I’d probably go for the Emprise, though.”
“Maker’s breath, why?”
A slow grin. “Heard they have dragons, maybe out past that bridge we’re working on fixing…”
Dorian snorted. “You would find it erotic to imagine getting eaten while having sex.”
“Not that,” Bull defended. “Wherever my clan lived, that would be home. You don’t spend your whole life having sex.”
“Don’t you?” Dorian mumbled. “You’ve made a valiant effort to do so.”
Another chuckle. “Maybe, but even so, you need something to do with your days. I’d like a place with dragons to hunt. If I had to be Dalish, I mean. Nothing against them, but I’d probably get pretty bored with that life.”
“Hmm. I have to agree there.”
“So what about you? I’m guessing not the Emprise, and probably not the Fallow Mire…”
Dorian smirked. “Well, as a necromancer…”
“Yeah right, big guy. I remember what you had to say about that place and the weather when we were there.”
“I wonder if I could find a way to affect some sort of drastic change on that front,” Dorian mused aloud. “Crestwood, after all, is really quite pastoral now.”
“Bet they still get a rainy day now and then, though.”
“Hmm. I suppose it would have to be the desert for me, then. The first sand-dwelling Dalish clan, with this,” he waved at the sound barrier, “modified to use…oh, rocks or something, I imagine.”
“All that dry skin,” Bull hummed, glancing at him sidelong. “Your knuckles would start to get chapped again. The skin would probably even crack…”
Dorian winced. “Point taken. Perhaps a little cold could be tolerated for a more hospitable location.”
“Hey, I do a pretty good job of keeping you warm, don’t I?”
“Oh, but you’d be in the Emprise. Dragon hunting,” Dorian smiled.
“Mmm,” Bull grunted. “I don’t know…there’s a dragon around here somewhere too, right?”
“Among other things.” Dorian was fighting down a fond smile.
“Then, here is good. If you were here, I’d pick here, too. And if I were here, you wouldn’t get cold. You’re good now, right?”
Swallowing a lump in his throat, Dorian answered in a light tone, “Skin to skin with a walking furnace? Yes, I’m tolerably comfortable.”
Bull turned a gentle smile on him. “Good.” And Dorian felt like crying, so he leaned up on one arm and kissed Bull instead.
They didn’t put it in the sort of words that went in Cassandra’s books, but Dorian got the message, even if Bull wasn’t entirely sure why the sentiment was important.
If I could go anywhere, do anything—if I had the whole world to choose from—I’d go where you are.
I’d choose you.