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Out of the Wilds

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Passing through an Eluvian was not a terror Dorian ever wished to repeat. The eleven mirror spit them out into a side room of Skyhold’s garden, and it took all his considerable talent to land on his feet instead of his face. Morrigan, Sera, and Cassandra already stood there, and Karl was close on his heels.

As soon as his Amatus was through, Dorian could breathe again.

“The Eluvian should all be destroyed,” Dorian said.

Morrigan glared at him and raised a spell-filled hand to smite him, but Karl stepped between them, his face mere inches from hers, heart and lungs directly in the line of fire. Dorian’s breath caught in his throat.

“Morrigan,” Karl said sternly, “That’s enough!”

She lowered her hand, spell fading, expression simmering.

“I will place Lieutenant Aclassi and Hissera as guards here immediately,” Karl said.

“No!” The witch shook with outrage. “One is an agent of a Hissrad; the other a Saarebas—”

“And they are exactly who we need. Now lock it, Morrigan!”

With a huff, she clenched her fist and the mirror went dark.

“I’ll meet you in the library in an hour,” Karl told her. “I need answers. Be ready with them.”

She stormed out of the room.

Karl hung his head, hands on his hips.

Dorian hoped whatever magic Morrigan had consumed from the Well of Sorrows was worth all the death they’d left on the other side of the mirror. She may want to smite him, but he doubted she’d let Corypheus win. They were stuck working together. For now.

“Feckin’ elves,” Sera muttered.

“Sera,” Karl didn’t look up, “You really need to shut up right now.”

The elf blew a raspberry in his direction and strode off toward the tavern.

Cassandra remained behind, shifting from foot to foot with indecision.

Karl still didn’t look up. “Cassandra.”

“Yes, Inquis—Karl?”

“How long until we’ve word from Commander Cullen?”

“I am confident he and his guard still stand. He should send us one of Leliana’s birds by nightfall tomorrow. Shall I inform Leliana and Josephine?”

“Please.”

She nodded and strode for the door, pausing when Karl reached out and lay a hand on her shoulder.

He looked up. “Thank you.”

She nodded again, gave his hand a reassuring squeeze. It was the kindest gesture Dorian had seen her bestow on anyone.

She closed the door on her way out.

Dorian hadn’t moved since Karl stepped in front of him. Karl had blood from the battlefield spattered on the back of his neck. Grey Warden blood. Red Templar blood. The blood of ancient elves who were now all but extinct. Karl had let Abelas and the other surviving Sentinels leave the elven temple in peace.

“You’re here,” Karl said, voice hollow.

“What was that, Amatus?”

Karl turned, thick rivers of silent tears streaming down his face. Dorian’s heart cracked in two in his chest.

“You’re here,” Karl choked out, stumbling forward into Dorian’s arms. “Alive.” Heedless of their pointy, cumbersome, blood-covered armor, he clung to Dorian, sobbed into his shoulder. “I thought the mirror might eat you, or spit us in separate, random Crossroads regions. Doomed to wander as Fade ghosts until demons consumed us.”

He took a shuddering breath through his tears. “It’s a body-hopping Darkspawn that can’t be killed! He’ll destroy you!”

Ah, there was the rub. Destroy you. Not us. Not the world. You.

Karl had pinned everything on him. He should be flattered by such devotion, but guilt settled heavily in his chest. A scandalous affair was nothing. Distracting the man with the fate of the world literally embedded in his palm was a much larger crime. But it was too late for shame or restraint now. The damage was done. They would just have to fight all the harder to ensure the world had a future.

“Of course I’m here.” He barely kept his own tears at bay. One of them needed to be functional at the moment. And Karl had been the one holding them all, everyone in the entire Inquisition, together for all these months. “I love you, Amatus, and we’re so near the end of this. It will not be our end, but the end of Corypheus. I swear to you.”

Karl cried into his shoulder until he had no tears left, and still they stood there, in front of the dark mirror with no reflection, holding each other as his hiccupping, jerky breaths finally calmed.

The door slowly swung open. “Can we help?” Lace stood there, one hand on Leo’s hip, her other arm wrapped around him as he held her to his side. Leo watched his brother gravely.

Karl buried his face in Dorian’s chest.

“I think we need a bath and sleep before any more war meetings,” Dorian said. “If you would be so kind as to tell Lady Morrigan that the Inquisitor won’t be available until tomorrow . . .”

“I’ll do it,” Leo growled, clearly relishing the chance to go tell off the Witch of the Wilds.

“It’s okay,” Lace rose on her tiptoes to pull him down for a quick kiss, and his stormy expression immediately turned peaceful. “I will be the messenger and you can help them get settled. Back stairs are clear.” She slipped out of the room.

Leo led the way up the tower steps. Karl was too despondent to speak or move on his own. He allowed Dorian to guide him with an arm around his waist.

A large copper tub had already been placed in front of the Inquisitor’s fireplace and filled with steaming water. Josephine had probably mobilized bucket-hauling servants the moment they’d clamored out of the mirror. A platter of fresh fruit—in the winter!—fresh bread, and dried meats sat on the desk with a carafe of fresh water.

Dorian would be sure to find her fresh flowers in thanks. Antivans appreciated pretty things.

Leo helped remove their boots, weapons, and armor, and sat down in front of the fire to clean their equipment.

Karl let Dorian divest him of his clothes. Stood motionless while Dorian stripped. He stepped into the tub when guided. Sat there expressionless while Dorian scrubbed the blood, sweat, and tears off his skin. Allowed Dorian to towel him dry with neither help nor hindrance.

Dorian set towels on the seats by the desk and led Karl to sit on one.

He filled and offered him a plate. “Can you eat, Amatus?”

It wouldn’t be romantic, but he would gladly feed him each bite if it meant Karl would take in some nourishment.

Though his eyes were still dull, Karl nodded and took the plate. It was a relief when he started to feed himself. As he ate his own dinner, Dorian watched Karl closely without being too obvious about it—though, in Karl’s condition, he’d probably not notice if Mythal herself popped into the room and danced on the table.

“Your gear is good to go,” Leo rose from his seat by the fire, completely unperturbed by the two nude men silently stuffing their faces like barbarians. “You shouldn’t have any rust spots, and no blade looks nicked. Good night.”

Staring down at his empty dinner plate, Karl spoke for the first time since the garden. “You kissed Lace.”

Leo smiled. “Actually, I think you saw Lace kiss me.”

“Pshaw,” Karl’s lips twitched, flirted with amusement but didn’t quite get there. “We’re saving the world for her, you know.”

Leo shook his head. “We’re saving the world for us, too, Karl. All of us.”

Karl let out a shaky breath and reached for Dorian’s hand, linking their fingers together.

“Okay,” Karl said. “For all of us.”