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North and South

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Dorian had heard that the wild elves in the South were savages. He had heard that they were little better than animals, whispering to the trees in a bizarre, primitive language. He had heard that they knew nothing of how to function in human society, and that their mages were nothing more than hedge witches.

Everything that Dorian had heard was wrong.

In a small, windowless storage room of Redcliffe’s abandoned chantry, amongst dusty crates of spare robes and stacks of more recently arrived books on a wide range of magical subjects, Felix leaned against the rough stone wall. “So, do you think he’ll help us?”

Dorian was rooting through a basket of food, and he pulled out several small, slightly stale rolls as he spoke. “One can hope. He didn’t seem too keen on me, but then, I suppose that’s understandable given the circumstances.” He picked up a dark glass bottle, examined it, and sighed. “Really, Felix? Ale? You couldn’t have at least found some wine for me? I would have accepted brandy, even.”

Felix, used to his friend’s theatrics, ignored the question. “The circumstances being that he’s a Southerner? An elf? Or both?”

“Both, most like. Even more than that, he’s one of those wild elves. Who knows what they think of us?”

When he first met the Herald, the fact that the man was an elf and a mage was already well known. However, Dorian had been surprised to see that the man’s face sported extensive tattoos that marked him as one of the Dalish. They branched out over his forehead and cheekbones like a tree, the dark green lines delicate and flowing.

The elf had no reason to trust Dorian, and the Altus knew it. Tevinter mages didn’t exactly have the best reputation here in the South. He had known walking into Redcliffe’s chantry that there was a very real possibility that the Inquisition would turn him away, or worse. But the Herald had heard him out, questioned him, narrowed those huge green eyes of his and decided to give Dorian a chance. Dorian was cautiously optimistic.

“I imagine they think much like the rest of this dreary place does. Only, I don’t know, wilder, or something.”

“How precisely does one ‘think wilder’? The same thoughts, only in the nude?”

Felix chuckled, and Dorian smirked back at him before resuming his inspection of the food. “What is this meat? It looks dreadful.”

Felix heaved a long-suffering sigh. “You’re rather picky for someone who chooses to live on the lam. I can only grab so much before someone notices. If he thought I had a sudden increase in appetite, Father would be prodding at me for a week to figure out what he’d done right, and then you’d starve to death for want of dreadful meat and Ferelden ale.”

Turning away from his meager meal, Dorian instead looked over his friend. Felix did indeed look thinner than he had just a couple of weeks earlier. He frowned. “You’re not eating?”

“Don’t, Dorian.”

“I’m just trying to -“

“No. I’m fine, really. Well, as fine as can be expected. I don’t need you worrying over me as well. I get quite enough from Father.”

Dorian tossed a roll to Felix. “There. Share in my misery, then, at least. I can’t have you keeling over from starvation.”

Felix smiled weakly, and set the bread back in the basket. “I can eat at the castle.”

“Will you?”

Smiling again, he didn’t answer.

Dorian shook his head. He crossed to the small pile of musty blankets that was serving as a bed and picked up a sheet of paper laying on the floor next to the stained pillow. “I’ve had some thoughts as to how to possibly improve your powders. I don’t have the facilities here, of course, but perhaps you could get one of the Circle alchemists to mix it up for you.” He held out the paper to Felix, who simply shook his head.

“And how do you propose that I do this without Father finding out? No one here has your genius for these things, Dorian. It’s not as if just anyone could have figured this out.”

Shoving the paper into Felix’s hand, Dorian glared at his friend. “I don’t care how you do it. Tell him I wrote a letter or something. Felix, this is your life!”

“It is my life, Dorian,” Felix said quietly, “and I’m tired of being experimented on.” He carefully laid the paper on a crate, and looked Dorian in the eye. “Besides, you have other things to worry about. You should be leaving for Haven soon.”

“I assure you, I can worry about two things at once. I’m an expert at multifaceted thinking.”

“Dorian...”

The Altus rolled his eyes. “Very well. I shall respect your decision, regardless of the fact that it is a terrible decision.” Quietly, he added, “Just...please be here when I come back, yes?”

Felix reached out and squeezed Dorian’s arm reassuringly. “I promise. Now, focus on the Inquisition. Go, convince them that you’re on their side. And try not to be too much of an ass.”

“I shall be the picture of charm and persuasiveness,” Dorian assured him, forcing a smile.

“If all else fails, you could just seduce him. He’s not bad looking, after all.” Felix grinned mischievously, and Dorian laughed in earnest.

“Ah, yes, I have no doubt that he’s sure to fall for the tall, dark, mysterious Tevinter stranger.” The two men stood in silence for a moment, then Dorian pressed his forehead to Felix’s. “Take care of yourself, my friend. Thank you, for everything.”

“Be safe, Dorian. You’ve been like a brother to me. I’m sorry that I can’t come with you.”

Dorian pulled back, turning away to hide the tears gathering in the corners of his eyes. He coughed. “Yes, well, I suppose I had better pack. You should be getting back to the castle before your father comes looking for you. Oh, and Felix? Eat something.”

Felix grinned. “Yes, Mother.” He slipped out of the room, shutting the door softly behind him.

Dorian pressed his long, slender fingers to his temples, and stood that way until the throbbing headache creeping in behind his eyes faded a bit. Then he began gathering his books.