Chapter 1: Dilectio Masculum
When the Chargers leave Qarinus after Wintersend, Fenris stays behind.
Third and final story in the "Magister Rising" series.
Unfortunately, it doesn't work very well as a stand-alone, so my suggestion would be to at least read "The Ghost of Seheron" first, if you haven't already.
I'm planning on going balls to the wall with the story. I will make every effort to kill you with my words. I'm hoping for crying, screaming, and cursing my name. But not yet. You are safe for now. This chapter is slow and sweet. Dorian and Fenris together at last!
As always, I love your comments and crits!
Illustration by lifeforce! (I don't know anything about the artist beyond the username, but yay! Fan art!)
9:45 Dragon Pluitanis
In the span of only a few days, everything in Fenris’ life changed completely.
First, on his fortieth name-day, he’d been given his freedom. He was officially – legally – no longer a slave.
Second, he’d said yes, when Dorian Pavus asked him to stay in Tevinter.
Third, he’d become the guardian of an orphan.
When the Iron Bull and his Chargers were preparing to leave Qarinus, Fenris handed Cynarel off to Dalish. Tevinter wasn’t the safest place for an elven child, so they’d decided that the Chargers would find a place for him down south. Except that the boy, deeply attached to the ex-slave, stretched little arms towards him, his large green eyes filled with tears.
Fenris looked stricken. Pale.
Dalish was dismayed. She tried to soothe the child, but her experiences with children, even elven ones, were limited, so she was at a loss.
The child’s cries turned to desperate, heartbreaking wails as he continued to reach out for Fenris and call his name.
Fenris was a warrior. Hard as the silverite of his blade. He’d murdered hundreds of men and women in cold blood, and had never felt remorse. But each time the child sobbed his name, it felt like a blow to his heart.
Fenris couldn’t take it anymore. Without considering the consequences of his actions, he stepped forward and took the child back.
Relief washed over Dalish’s face.
Cynarel, clinging tightly to Fenris with all his limbs like an elf-shaped starfish, immediately quieted, now sniffling into Fenris’ hair.
Fenris chanced a glance at Dorian, who looked thoughtful, but didn’t say anything.
After finishing their farewells, the Chargers mounted their horses. Dorian, Krem, Isabela and Fenris watched them ride off.
Then Fenris became aware that his three companions were looking at him. Krem and Isabela seemed amused. Dorian, still contemplative.
Dorian Pavus. His... lover.
He’d had sex – of his own volition – with another man before. Just once, with Hawke. So he’d never really had a lover before.
Isabela’s gaze floated from Fenris to Dorian. Then she reached out, hooking her fingers under Krem’s collar. “Come along, sweetness,” she purred. “Winter may be officially over, but I still have a few places that need some warming up.”
Krem’s eyes were bright as he allowed the pirate captain to drag him away.
As they slipped off, the head slave appeared, a stack of letters in his hand. “These came for you earlier this morning, Master Dorian.”
Dorian accepted them. “Thank you, Dasio.” As Dorian flipped through them, Dasio withdrew. Then Dorian’s eyes met Fenris’. “Perhaps Faviola could watch the boy,” he suggested. Then he smiled softly. “Come find me in my father’s office after.”
Later, after Fenris had handed Cynarel over to the governess – with little protest, fortunately – Fenris slipped into the office.
Dorian sat at the imposing desk, letters scattered upon it, writing. As Fenris entered, Dorian set down his quill. Then he rose, moving to stand before the desk.
He still couldn’t quite believe that Fenris had agreed to stay here. With him. Even on the condition that Dorian use his resources to track down Fenris’ sister for him.
“I was thinking...” Dorian said. “It doesn’t seem right for you to continue sleeping in the slave quarters.”
Fenris considered that. At the Pavus house, he’d always slept with the slaves. The men-at-arms had made it clear that knife-ears weren’t welcome in the barracks. He knew that Krem now slept in his own private room, just down the hall from Dorian, but Fenris having his own private room in this house didn’t feel quite right to him.
Two nights ago, he had fallen asleep in Dorian’s bed post-tumble. He hadn’t meant to fall asleep, but Dorian snuggling up against him had felt quite nice. However, this meant that he’d been noticed leaving Dorian’s room early the next morning by one of the maids. Which, despite the fact that he was a free elf now, meant that things in the slave quarters between him and the other elves had become incredibly awkward.
“Perhaps I could share your room.”
Seeing the trepidation on Dorian’s face, Fenris tensed. He wondered if he’d gone too far. Wondered if he was going too fast, making foolish assumptions about the exact nature of their relationship.
It took a moment for Dorian to move his tongue. “That would be... lovely,” he said. “Though it would make discretion, ah, difficult.”
Fenris relaxed. “Oh. If that’s all, then... everyone already knows.”
Dorian blinked. “Excuse me?”
Fenris gave him a twitchy smile. “Do you think that the slaves in the house don’t have eyes and ears? They see and hear everything.”
Dorian’s look was skeptical. “Everything? Really?
“Yes. I knew all about you, long before we met.”
“Oh, did you, now?” Dorian said curiously. “Such as?”
“I knew you preferred men. And that your father kept you prisoner here, after the scandal you caused with that Abrexis boy,” Fenris said. “In fact, I was certain that your father had given me to you to be your pet so that you wouldn’t cause any more scandals.”
“Yes, and then when you refused to marry, your father tried to use blood magic to change you.”
“Oh,” Dorian said, tone flat. “And?”
“And you lost your virginity in a brothel in the elven slums when you were sixteen.” Fenris cocked his head. “The same one you went to when we were staying with Varian.”
Dorian choked out another, “Oh?”
Fenris thought. “And none of the slaves were really surprised that you liked men, given the nature of the erotica under your bed – Dilectio Masculum having the most stained pages.”
He was dying now. Maker, kill me. “In my defense, I was fourteen!” he said. “Fourteen-year-old boys are curious.”
“Then, at your father’s name-day party–”
“No, please stop,” Dorian said quickly. “I beg you.”
Fenris looked at him curiously.
Dorian wasn’t entirely sure how comfortable he felt about Fenris knowing all the sordid details of his sexual history. “The slaves knowing is not the issue,” Dorian said. “Flames, I hate that I’m saying this, but... I don’t think my father would approve.”
Fenris made a small noise of what sounded like amusement. “Dorian. Your father knows, too.”
“He – what?!”
“It’s most likely that Dasio already ratted you out – Dasio tells him everything.”
Maker’s balls. Well, dinner with his parents now promised to be as comfortable as a night in a sandstorm in the Hissing Wastes.
Still, if everyone knew... Dorian cleared his throat. “In that case, I can’t think of any reason why you shouldn’t share my room.”
In Fenris’ eyes, a spark ignited.
Dorian watched, breath in throat, as Fenris padded across the floor to him.
Fenris’ hands slid over Dorian’s shoulders. Hips pressed to hips. Dorian’s hands fell to Fenris’ waist as the elf’s lips sought his.
Noses bumped. Fenris adjusted with a slight tilt of his head, then captured Dorian’s lips between his own. Dorian breathed in Fenris’ hot breath as his heart began to beat more rapidly, thundering in his chest.
Under the insistent pressure of Fenris’ mouth and hips, and the glide of his hands down Dorian’s chest, the enchanter felt as if a snake of fire were now uncoiling deep inside him, demanding to devour, and threatening to consume him. Unable to control himself, Dorian moaned into Fenris’ mouth. Fenris responded by rocking his hips against Dorian’s, and pushing his tongue into the enchanter’s mouth. As their tongues danced, Dorian moaned again. Through their pants, Fenris felt it as Dorian hardened against him.
Eventually, Fenris drew back. Noted Dorian’s expression, fiery with need. Considered their surroundings. Then considered how Dorian felt about his father, and how, once, he’d been a rebellious boy mage.
Green eyes glimmered. His voice was a husky promise of delights to come. “Do you want me to fuck you on your father’s desk?”
As Fenris’ voice vibrated in his ear, Dorian trembled.
Fire, devour. Fire, consume me.
Dorian murmured breathlessly, “Maker yes.”
Two weeks later, Dorian sat in his favorite armchair in the library, a book open on his knee. Except that Dorian wasn’t really reading. Instead, he was watching as Fenris played with Cynarel on the rug not far from Dorian’s feet.
Fenris had unearthed Dorian’s childhood collection of wooden animals. From the attic, perhaps. Horses, mostly, and a few dracolisks, though the pride of the collection was a high dragon, so intricately carved that one could count the individual scales. There were also a number of human figures, dressed in mage robes. When Dorian was a child, the scenarios he’d invented had mostly consisted of the mages defeating the dragon with powerful spells. In Fenris’ scenario, however, the dragon was eating the mages.
As they played, Cyn’s bubbly laughter was met by Fenris’ warmest and most unguarded smile.
Maker, when the elf smiled like that, he was more than lovely. He was beautiful.
Dorian suddenly realized that this was the picture of perfect domestic harmony. Not something he’d ever expected to have, and certainly not with an elven liberatus who was as prickly, brooding, and bossy as Fenris.
It was strange how good Fenris was with the children. First, he’d won over Dorian’s daughter, Alexandria, and now it was obvious that Cynarel was attached to him with unconditional love. Fenris really wouldn’t have struck anyone as the paternal type. It was one of the ways in which the elf continued to surprise him.
Maker, Cynarel was so cute. Briefly, Dorian tried to picture the boy in fifteen years. He’d probably be a rather pretty young man. Then his gaze flipped to Fenris, now wondering what the warrior would look like in fifteen years. He would be fifty-five. Practically an old man. And Dorian not far behind him.
Dorian Pavus, he told himself, stop it. Stop pretending this is something that it’s not. There’s nothing domestic about this. He’s not your husband. That’s not your child.
Cynarel laughed as the dragon ate another mage.
Still, Dorian was very much enjoying the rush of his romance with Fenris. For all he knew, it could end tomorrow. So it was better to savor it while it was still shiny and new and exciting. Both the moments of passion in Dorian’s bed, and the quieter times such as this.
Having lost interest in the game, Cyn climbed into Fenris’ lap, resting his sleepy head on Fenris’ chest.
Fenris glanced up to meet Dorian’s gaze.
“So,” Dorian said, as his fingers absentmindedly fanned the pages of the unread book in his lap, “have you thought about what to do with the boy?”
“I have,” Fenris said. “There aren’t many options. With the Inquisitor’s help, however, it may be possible to find him a foster family of some means. Or, if not, the Inquisition has established an orphanage that accepts all races.”
“You left out one other option.”
Fenris eyed him curiously. “Which is?”
“You know... we could keep him.”
In his chest, Fenris’ heart lurched. “We?” he repeated.
“Or you,” Dorian quickly amended. “He is rather attached to you.”
Fenris glanced down at the child, frowning slightly even as his fingers filtered softly through the boy’s dark, silky hair. “If I go back to the Chargers... I will not be able to take care of him.”
Dorian’s fingers stilled. He was quiet for a moment. “If that happens, then you could leave him here.”
Fenris regarded him with puzzlement. “And... what? You’d raise an elven child as your own?”
Five years ago, Dorian would have probably died laughing at the idea. Back then, he’d still believed elves to be physically and intellectually inferior beings, good only as slaves. Or whores.
Funny how completely his opinions on elves had changed since then.
“And why not? I think I’ve actually started to get a hang of this fatherhood thing.” Dorian then smiled, and added, lightly teasing, “Who knows? We know nothing about his bloodline. Perhaps he even has some magical talent that may manifest when he’s older. I could get him into any Circle.”
Fenris knew that Dorian was only teasing, yet he was still unable to keep the disgust out of his voice. “That’s... not... ugh. Not everyone has to be a mage!”
“I suppose,” Dorian agreed reluctantly. “Fine, then Krem could teach him the sword, if he shows aptitude for bashing things with steel. Or he could become an alchemist. A baker. Whatever he wants.”
Fenris considered that. He didn’t have to like the fact that Dorian was a magister, but he couldn’t deny that his lover possessed both great wealth and power. There are worse options.
He looked down at Cynarel again. He was a quiet child, not quick to laugh, but affectionate, attentive, and well-behaved. There was also something comforting about how the child’s weight felt against his body, and Fenris loved the innocently sweet scent of him.
“Very well,” Fenris said softly. “We will keep him.”
9:45 Dragon Nubulis
Rain poured down on Qarinus.
They were supposed to leave for Minrathous tomorrow, but the rain wasn’t promising to lighten, which meant that they were in for a damp and miserable voyage. Still, Dorian had arranged for Fenris to testify against the blood mages he’d recognized in Tilani’s circle. Not to mention that Dorian, to fulfill one of his obligations as a senior enchanter, had agreed to teach a course on Fade mechanics at the Circle, plus he’d need to attend the next assembly of the Magisterium. And, last but not least, Dorian had a lead on the whereabouts of Fenris’ sister, Varania. So they couldn’t really postpone the trip.
The rain had driven them inside. So they’d taken hot black tea in the atrium before Dorian suggested they retire to the library.
Fenris stared down at the parchment on the desk. Assessed his work so far. Dorian had given him the task of copying out the alphabet. About a week ago, Dorian had offered to teach him how to read and write. After all, Dorian explained, Fenris wasn’t a slave anymore. And, also, as he was technically in Dorian’s employ as a bodyguard, these skills would actually come in handy. Dorian and Krem had a long history of passing notes when whispering wasn’t safe, as there were spells that allowed eavesdropping from across a crowded room. So Fenris had agreed to it, even though – knowing Dorian – he suspected that the enchanter was ashamed to have a lover who was illiterate.
Fenris glanced over at the table on the other side of the library. So that Fenris could focus on his task, Dorian had offered to entertain the boy. At first, Cynarel had been shy around anyone who wasn’t elven, but Dorian had managed to eventually win him over with softly-spoken words, a warm smile, and a few simple magic tricks. So now they sat at the table with colors and black ink and parchment, drawing pictures together.
Fenris’ eye next fell on Krem, who sat in one of the armchairs, reading a trashy novel that Isabela had loaned him before leaving Qarinus. Happening to look up from his book, Krem gave Fenris a brief smile and a wink before returning his attention to the book again.
Strangely, Fenris had already forgotten what Krem looked like before, when he still had his female body. He’d had a softer jawline, maybe. And now he tended to wear clothes that showed off his chest, instead of hiding it. More importantly, however, when Fenris had asked him how it felt to be different, Krem had admitted that he’d actually felt more at peace since Dorian had cast the spell that changed him.
Dipping his quill in the inkwell, Fenris returned to his task.
He hadn’t been working long before Cynarel trotted up to him, holding out a piece of parchment in offering. “Fenris! I drawed this for you!” he bubbled. “You’re the green one.”
Fenris accepted the picture. “Why am I green?”
The child pursed his rosebud lips, clearly thinking hard. “Because you’re green...?”
Fenris pointed to one of the other figures, this one a scribble of orange, and the only one which notably lacked ears. “And who’s this?”
“That’s Dorian,” the child said. Then added, “I’m the purple one.”
In the child’s picture, there were three figures. The two larger ones flanked the smaller purple one, each holding one of his upraised hands.
A child’s representation of family.
Fenris stared at the picture for a long time.
Then Dorian’s voice broke Fenris out of his reverie. “Cynarel? Come here, please.”
Fenris watched as the boy returned to Dorian. Watched as Dorian whispered in the boy’s ear. Then watched as Cynarel took the parchment from Dorian’s hand before trotting back to him.
Fenris accepted the picture that Dorian had drawn.
Looking at it, his heart stopped.
In black ink and various tones of gray wash, Dorian had drawn a picture of Fenris in profile, sitting at the desk, deep in concentration. He’d had no idea that Dorian could draw like this. All beautiful lines, Dorian had captured that moment in ink. And not only captured him, but had glorified him.
Cynarel scampered back to the table, climbing up on his chair and selecting a new color for his next drawing.
Fenris glanced over at Dorian.
He didn’t know what his expression was doing, but it caused Dorian to smile playfully. “You’re thinking about how pretty I am again, aren’t you?”
Green eyes fixed him like a butterfly on a pin. “You’re beautiful.”
Dorian lost his voice. He was used to compliments, but the serious way that Fenris had said it caused him to fluster. “I... ah... thank you.”
Krem glanced up from his book, silent and watchful. Lately, any time Dorian and Fenris were together, it was as if no one else existed beyond them. Krem might as well have not even been in the room. Still, he decided that he was amused by this development.
Fenris’ gaze lingered on Dorian for another moment before he picked up his quill again.
Dorian studied Fenris at work. Maker, he couldn’t keep his eyes off Fenris any time he was near. And then, whenever they were apart – Fenris off training with Krem, or Dorian actually working in the office, for example – the elf was constantly in his thoughts.
This isn’t good, he thought. Fenris made him feel things he hadn’t expected to feel. The elf hadn’t taken up residence in his heart, but Dorian could feel him skirting around it, and dangerously. The last thing Dorian needed was to fall in love again.
It’s just sex. Exceptionally amazing and mind-blowing sex, but still... just sex.
But, Maker – the sex.
The way they went at it, it was as if they were insatiable sixteen-year-old boys. Since the Chargers had left, hardly a single night had passed without them taking some pleasure in each other.
Dorian thought about last night. Fenris’ beautiful prick inside him. Moving slow. Moving fast. Fenris over him, under him, wrapping Dorian in his arms, his mouth everywhere, his breath colored by soft sounds of pleasure, the feel of his body – all distinct edges of bone and muscle under silky, hard-scarred skin. His beautiful eyes, heavy-lidded, as that hot velvet voice sang his name.
Dorian shuddered at the memory. And very much did not want to wait to do it again.
Dorian rose from the table and crossed the room. Leaned over the back of Fenris’ chair to whisper in his ear. “Fenris? Can you leave that task for now and come to bed?”
Fenris’ quill immediately stopped moving. He turned his head to look at Dorian over his shoulder with a twinge of surprise. “At this hour?”
Smiling, Dorian murmured huskily, “I want you inside me all the time.”
Fenris quivered. “I... yes. I can do that.”
Chapter 2: Blood Magic
Krem is concerned about trouble when Dorian and Fenris go on a spree hunting maleficarum. Then trouble arrives.
Or: Dorian says what is possibly the most romantic thing anyone could ever say to Fenris. (LOL) And then we resolve the cliffhanger from the last scene of the previous story.
Kudos to you if you catch the Jane Austen reference (Fenris). Triple kudos if you catch the Charles Dickens reference (Dorian).
Anyway, strap your seat belts on, because some shit is about to go down. *evil grin* I hope you enjoy the ride!
Dorian had gone up the two flights to pass the evening drinking wine with some of his altus friends in Varian’s quarters, leaving his bodyguards behind.
At the door, he’d smiled. “Don’t wait up for me, boys. And do play nice.”
As the door clicked shut behind him, Krem turned to Fenris. “Wicked Grace?”
Thus, Fenris and Krem spent the evening at the kitchen table, drinking and playing cards in companionable silence.
They’d been in Minrathous for a week. To his surprise, Fenris found that he missed being with Cynarel. The Chargers had rescued him from slavers only two months ago, but in that short time, Fenris had become attached to him. But they’d decided that it would be more practical to leave him behind in Qarinus with the governess while they conducted their business in the capital.
Perhaps, he mused, next time they could bring both the boy and Faviola with them. As Alex was off at the Circle of Carastes most of the time, the governess had little to do back in Qarinus. Of course, the quarters they shared in Minrathous only had two bedrooms, so there was no place to put them. Though, if they stayed in the Gilded Quarter with Dorian’s aunt...
Fenris mentally shook his head at himself. Assuming that there would be a next time... that was foolish of him. He didn’t have a lot of experience with relationships, but that didn’t mean he was naïve. Nor was he, by nature, an optimist. Despite how much Dorian enjoyed having sex with him, Fenris fully expected Dorian to get tired of him some day.
As they played, Fenris noted how Krem’s expression changed. And by his expression, he was fretting.
“Something’s bothering you,” Fenris said.
Krem glanced up from his cards. His lips twitched before he finally spoke. “Yeah. This business with the Templars. I don’t like it.”
As promised, Fenris had been testifying against maleficarum to the Templars at their headquarters in the Argent Spire. In Tilani’s circle, he had recognized three mages who had, at some point in his past, performed forbidden magics in front of him. At the party, he’d indicated each one to Dorian, who had been able to put a name to each face. Arrested, and put on trial, Fenris’ testimony had been enough to seal their fates. And in two of the cases, the Rite of Tranquility had been performed. Swiftly.
“Then – what?” Fenris asked with a scowl. “You think it’s better to allow blood mages to remain free?”
“Of course not,” Krem said quickly. “But Dorian... well, you know that word is already out about what you two are doing. It’s only going to put Dorian in danger. Do you really think that the magisters who use blood magic are just going to lie down and take it? Someone’s going to try to stop him. By any means.”
Fenris paused to consider that. Krem was right, of course. The danger was great, but sometimes doing the right thing was more important than the risks.
Fenris’ eyes flashed fiercely. “I won’t let anything happen to him.”
Krem considered the elf’s conviction. Krem had been mostly successful in keeping Dorian safe from weapon-wielding assassins, but if magic started flying... there was little Krem could do, other than pray that his sword was swifter than the staff. He didn’t have lyrium markings that made him resistant to magic. He could only hope that Fenris was enough of an edge to keep real trouble off their backs.
“Well,” Krem said. “Just don’t let your guard down. Not even for a second.”
Fenris spoke quietly. “Of course not.”
Fenris gathered up the cards, shuffled them, then dealt the next round.
They played for a while again in silence. Except that Fenris was having difficulty concentrating on the game. His thoughts lingered on how they were putting Dorian in danger. If something happened to him... Fenris didn’t know what he would do. The idea frightened him. And he could feel those feelings swirling inside him again.
I am his.
Krem cocked an eyebrow at him. “Now you look like something’s bothering you.”
Fenris’ fingers fidgeted with his cards. He frowned a bit. Then he glanced up to meet Krem’s gaze. “Do you love Isabela?”
The question caught Krem off guard. He opened his mouth. Then closed it again. He and Isabela had never talked about love. Or their relationship, really. So the topic of his feelings about her had never actually come up in conversation with anyone before.
“Umm... kind of...?”
Not the most convincing of love confessions, surely.
Fenris fretted in silence.
Krem cleared his throat. “Look, elf. If you’ve got something to say... just say it.”
Fenris turned away. His gaze unfocused. Then he stared down at the table. “I think I’m in love with him.”
Krem wasn’t entirely surprised. Well, given Fenris’ history and how much he hated magic, the fact that he could fall for a magister... that part was actually surprising. “You think?”
Fenris made a vague movement of his head that was neither a negation nor a confirmation.
Krem wasn’t very good with sentimental shit, but the elf obviously wanted to talk to someone about it. “Have you ever been in love before?”
Green eyes flicked up. “Once,” he said, then frowned again. “With Hawke.”
Hawke. Another mage. Who’d betrayed him.
“What Hawke did to you... Dorian would never do anything like that.”
Fenris spoke quietly. “I know that.”
“Does he know how you feel?”
Fenris shook his head.
“Maybe you should tell him.”
This wasn’t the first time that Krem had given him that advice. And the idea of confessing his feelings to Dorian was no less frightening now as it was then.
Strange, that. Fenris wasn’t afraid of anything. Even going into battle, he’d never been afraid of dying.
Krem watched Fenris fret. “Do you know how he feels?”
Dorian was both Tevinter nobility and a magister, which meant that he belonged to the ruling elite. Fenris was an uneducated elven liberatus – not even a true citizen of the Imperium – who owned nothing beyond the clothes on his back. Other than his body and his sword, Fenris had little to offer. And he wasn’t a young man anymore, so even those things – his sword skills and his looks – came with rapidly-approaching expiration dates.
There was really only one way Dorian could feel.
Fenris huffed. “I know that he’s a rich altus who likes to fuck elves.”
Krem raised an eyebrow. That was unkind, but, given Dorian’s past exploits... not entirely inaccurate. “I get your point,” he said. “But maybe you’re not giving the Peacock enough credit.” Krem cocked his head. “You do know that he was in love with the Inquisitor, don’t you?”
The Inquisitor... who was a full-blooded Dalish elf.
Fenris wondered how it was possible that he hadn’t known this. Then again, the only person at Skyhold who had ever mentioned Dorian’s name had been Varric, when he told his stories about the Inquisition. Fenris had been moderately certain that the dwarf had quietly spread the word that talking about Fenris’ ex-master in front of him was off limits. Though Sera had once made a cryptic comment about Dorian “barking up the wrong Inquisitor” which now, suddenly, made sense.
“I see,” Fenris murmured. And felt something new.
9:45 Dragon Eluviesta
It was just after midnight when Dorian, Fenris and Krem piled into their rented carriage and headed home.
Dorian was thinking. At the party, Fenris had searched the crowd for maleficarum. However, word of Dorian’s attendance must have already spread, which meant that any blood mages Fenris could have recognized had opted to stay away. They would need a new strategy.
Although he knew that Fenris hated being in the Magisterium when it was in session, Dorian could come up with no better way to root out more maleficarum.
He sat across from his bodyguards. Krem’s shrewd gaze was fixed out the window, on alert as usual. Fenris watched out the other window.
Dorian studied Fenris’ profile. Maker, he’s so... I wish...
He tried to stop that thought.
Dorian Pavus, you’re not going to fall in love again, he told himself. You couldn’t stand another heartbreak. You seriously need to stop having feelings for men who don’t want them.
Except, even as he tried to convince himself that he wasn’t in love with Fenris, he knew it was already too late. He was ruined. Another Rilienus. Another Inquisitor.
Dorian’s fingers restlessly trailed across the seat as he continued to study the elf. Better to not tell Fenris how he felt. Every time Dorian confessed his feeling to a man, the man ran like he had an archdemon breathing fire on his ass.
Of all the men in Tevinter to fall for. Fenris. Who bossed him around all the time, sassed him on occasion, and had no qualms about growling or snarling at Dorian whenever Dorian said something he didn’t like. No one else dared treat him this way. Because of his status, Dorian was accustomed to sycophantic ass-kissing whenever he entered a room. Or just fear. Only Fenris remained unimpressed by his magical prowess.
And yet, Krem was right. There was something below the elf’s hard and angry exterior. Often, Dorian would catch glimpses of Fenris’ sharp wit, his impressive intelligence, his fiery passion, and his heart as sentimental as a poet’s.
“You’re quiet tonight, Chief,” Krem remarked, without removing his attention from the window.
“Just tired, Cremisius.”
“Bed does sound good right now,” Krem agreed.
Fenris’ eyes glowed like veilfire in the dark shadows of the carriage.
Once at home, Krem wished them a good night and headed straight to bed.
Dorian and Fenris retired to their own room.
It wasn’t any larger than the room they’d all shared at Varian’s, with barely enough room for a wardrobe and a bed. The bed, though, was comfortable, and already possessed many wonderful memories of their passion. Dorian, undressing near the unlit fireplace, was somewhat surprised when Fenris just sank down on the edge of the bed, hands folded, mouth grim. Brooding.
“Fenris? Is something wrong?”
Fenris’ gaze snapped up to meet his. Moody. Unrelenting. “Would you free your slaves?”
Dorian’s fingers, which had been unbuttoning his shirt cuffs, abruptly stilled. “Would I – what?”
“You heard me, Dorian.”
Indeed he had. Dorian became thoughtful. “First of all, they are not my slaves. They’re my family’s slaves.”
“Your father would do anything you asked. Including freeing slaves.”
Well, that much was true. “Second of all... you know perfectly well how we treat our slaves. And you know what it’s like to be an elf – a liberatus – in Tevinter. And most of them probably wouldn’t even know what to do with their freedom, seeing as they’ve been slaves their entire lives.”
Fenris narrowed his eyes. Always a bad sign. “But if they wanted their freedom... would you release them?”
Dorian considered him. He was more angry and adamant than usual. He wondered what in the Void had gotten into Fenris tonight. “Fenris? If you don’t mind... tell me why are we having this conversation now?”
Moody green eyes cut into him. “I don’t care anymore that you’re a magister,” he growled. “But I can’t love a man who keeps other men chained against their will.”
Dorian choked on his heart, which had decided to leap up into his throat. It took him an eternity to swallow it back down. “If that’s what they wanted, of course I’d free them,” he said. “But... is that how you feel about me? You love me?”
Fenris’ gaze continued to slash right through him. “You pierce my soul,” he said, voice strained. “I am half-agony, half-hope. I have loved no man as I love you.”
Fenris... loves me. No man had ever said those words to him before. Maker, it was... impossible. “Fenris... I...”
Fenris fixed him in his gaze. He spoke bluntly. “You don’t have to say it. It doesn’t matter. My feelings will be the same, whether you love me or not. It’s enough that you allow me to remain by your side.”
Dorian stared at him. His heartbeat ticked away the passing time.
“You," Dorian finally said. "You will be the ruin of me.”
Fenris blinked up at him with trepidation. “Dorian?”
The enchanter stepped forward. Took Fenris’ hands in his own, pulling the elf to his feet.
“Amatus,” Dorian murmured. At the term of endearment, Fenris blinked again. “You know what I am going to say. I love you.”
Fenris trembled. Then rested his head on Dorian’s shoulder, breathing in the familiar scent of him. His mother had loved him. And then, he’d been sixteen years old when he’d undergone Danarius’ ritual and lost her. Since then, he’d been unloved.
His voice was a plea. “Don’t say it if you don’t mean it.”
Dorian’s fingers slipped under his chin, tilting it up so their eyes met. “Fenris, I love you. I would do anything for you. Give you anything you command. Tevinter on a plate, basted with the blood of a thousand magisters.”
“Dorian... amatus...” Fenris began, but he was unable to speak. Instead, he wrapped his arms around Dorian. Then kissed Dorian tentatively, almost shyly, with lips as soft as butterfly wings.
Every time Fenris kissed him, Dorian’s heart raced. He could scarcely even breathe, as though there weren’t enough air in the room. And he could feel every nerve in his body, as if each ending were electrified.
Fenris loves me. And I love him.
It was beautiful. But it was terrible because it was so frightening.
Fenris stepped back. Eased himself down on the bed, drawing Dorian along so the enchanter was above him. Pale, shaking fingers unlaced Dorian’s shirt.
Oh, we’re doing this now, Dorian thought. He wondered if sex with Fenris would be different this time, now that they’d both confessed their love.
9:45 Dragon Molioris
His sister cried out once as Fenris ripped the wicked heart from her chest.
Dorian and Krem watched as her body fell to the floor, followed by her heart as it slipped from Fenris’ fingers. Then, at the same time, they both leaped up from their chairs and rushed to the elf’s side.
Dorian withdrew a handkerchief from his pocket, carefully wiping the blood from his lover’s hand. Fenris almost smiled when Dorian made a quip about the carpet.
“Let’s go,” Fenris said. “I need to get out of here.”
At first, they walked without speaking, giving Fenris space to brood about what had just happened. It had taken three months for Dorian to find Varania, and therefore fulfill Fenris’ condition. Fenris had started to believe that he would never have his revenge.
But now he had. A piece of the past he could put behind him. Danarius was dead. Hadriana was dead. Varania was dead. Did that mean he could finally move on?
“Nice day for an ice cream,” Krem remarked.
“If you want to stop at the seller’s on Vicus Ambrosia, you could just say so,” Dorian said. Then he smirked. “I do like watching Fenris lick things.”
“I’m changing my mind now, Chief.”
Dorian snickered. “I was thinking that perhaps it’s time to open that bottle of Rowan’s Rose I’ve been saving,” he said. “In honor of all the maleficarum we’re going to make Tranquil.” Dorian’s smile became devious. “Maker’s breath, Krem. You should have seen their faces when Fenris walked into the Magisterium this morning. A dozen blood mages all shitting their pants. He almost didn’t need to point them out. It was wonderful.”
“That must not have smelled too nice.”
Dorian laughed. “Better than the insides of a giant spider, at any rate.”
Fenris, still silent, listened as Dorian and Krem continued to banter. As he listened, he felt as though a weight were lifting, that his heart was becoming light. Then, despite himself, he was smiling. Dorian and Krem were laughing, the sun was shining, and even Minrathous didn’t seem so dirty or terrible.
Vivazzi Plaza was crowded as they turned into it, heading towards home.
Dorian smiled at him, his gray eyes sword-blade bright in the late afternoon light.
He’d never thought it possible to love someone this much. To be loved in return.
Fenris realized that he was happy. That this moment was perfect. That everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.
Then Fenris and Krem noticed a strange thing almost simultaneously.
There was a man in the crowd, dressed in mage robes. Strange because his face was hidden by an elaborate Orlesian mask.
He lifted and aimed his staff.
Straight at Dorian.
With horror, Fenris noticed something else. That blood was dripping from the masked man’s hands.
Oh, Maker. He’s using blood magic.
Fenris, shouting a warning, was already moving to defend Dorian. He was half-aware that Krem was also moving to do the same. Both of them willing to use their bodies as shields to protect the enchanter.
They were too slow. It was already too late. He knew this.
From the masked man’s staff, the spell burst out, manifesting as crimson light.
Except that, in the last moment, he’d flicked his wrist so that he was no longer aiming at Dorian. Instead, the magical energy shot to Dorian’s right, and struck Fenris full on.
It didn’t hurt, exactly. But it rattled him to his core. Fenris’ legs, suddenly weak, gave out on him and he dropped like a stone.
Dorian just barely managed to catch him. He glimpsed their attacker, turning to disappear into the crowd. Whipping his head about, he barked an order. “Krem! Go!”
Krem, already drawing his sword, gave chase.
Staggering under the elf’s weight, Dorian carefully lowered him to the ground.
As he did so, blood began to pour out of Fenris’ nose. His ears. His eyes. Blood sputtered out of his mouth. A quick glance down and Dorian saw that his pants were starting to darken with blood.
This spell had a name: Hemorrhage.
Terror was a knife plunging deep into Dorian’s soul. If he didn’t do something to stop the spell, Fenris was going to continue bleeding out from every orifice until he was dead.
The crowd had stopped moving to watch. No one came forward to help.
Dorian’s thoughts were racing. He didn’t know much about the healing arts, though he did have a few simple healing spells in his arsenal. Perhaps if he combined some spirit healing with a nullification enchantment to disrupt the blood spell... that could work. In theory, at least.
“Don’t die on me, amatus,” Dorian murmured, and reached for the Fade.
Unable to speak, Fenris could only cough up the blood filling and choking in his throat. The terror in his eyes was palpable.
Dorian used all his mana, drawing as much energy from the Fade as he could contain in order to power the spell. Focused now, he put his hands on Fenris and let the magic pour out of him into the elf.
Maker, please let this work.
He poured in almost everything he had. And then drew back.
His magic hadn’t been strong enough. On the ground before him, Fenris continued to bleed. Tears of blood streaked his face, rivulets of blood ran vibrant through his hair, bloody spittle rolled down his chin. Blood pooled on the ground beneath his hips.
Fuck no. The words rolled like a litany through Dorian’s head. Fuck no. No no no.
Fenris was dying. He was watching Fenris die, helpless to prevent it. They had just found each other. They loved each other. It wasn’t fair.
Death – you cannot have him. I will not let you take him from me.
He had only one recourse left.
That spell... he’d never used it. Never intended on using it. It would be a miracle if he remembered the steps, the incantations.
But it was there... on the tip of his tongue.
He didn’t have a knife. Instead he drew the sword from Fenris’ scabbard. Pushed up his sleeve. Wielding the sword was awkward and difficult, but he managed to position it just so, then steeled himself as he forced his arm violently down upon the blade.
Blood sputtered and gushed from the gash Dorian had just carved down the length of his forearm.
Krem had lost the masked man in the crowd. He’d rushed back to Dorian’s side in time to see a shimmer in the air – no, in the very fabric of reality – as Dorian’s blood spattered across the ground.
Dorian was on his knees, with Fenris’ blood-covered body on the ground before him. Maker, it was awful. “Dorian!”
A rift rippled open. A figure stepped through.
A golden man. Nearly naked, but for a swatch of silk that seemed to float about his hips. The most beautiful and desirable and perfect man that Dorian had ever seen. Such was how the desire demon appeared to him.
The demon’s voice purred inside Dorian’s head. You called, mage? Forgive me, I mean magister. What can I do for you?
The demon wanted him. Given Dorian’s power, he was a tasty prize. He could feel the demon trying to twist and burrow into his mind. This elf. You will dispel the blood magic cast on him.
The demon considered. And what will you offer me in return?
Funny how you think I’m actually giving you a choice.
Dorian cast the second part of his spell.
To bind a demon, it was the caster’s will against the demon’s. If a more powerful pride demon had appeared at Dorian’s summoning, he may not have been able to bend the demon to his will. As it was, Dorian just barely managed to overpower the desire demon.
A demon could be bound to an object. Or a corpse. Those actions were less risky, but not currently options. There was only one thing Dorian could bind the demon to in order to make use of its power.
Chapter 3: Possessed
Dorian had used blood magic. He was now possessed by a demon. Blessed Andraste, could things be any worse?
The next few chapters are pretty much like this:
Oh shit, we have a problem.
Hey, I have a solution to our problem.
Oh FUCK now the problem is WORSE.
Also, the only person talking sense in this story is Krem. Seriously, everyone needs to listen to Krem. :)
Krem shut the door to their quarters behind them, and then everyone just stood in the sitting room, still too stunned to speak.
Once Dorian had dispelled the magic causing Fenris to bleed, Krem and Dorian had pulled the elf up to his feet. Retrieved the elf’s sword, its edge still slicked with Dorian’s blood. Then they had hurried out of the Plaza as quickly as Fenris’ weakened state would allow.
Krem’s mind began to process what he’d seen. “Dorian. You used blood magic.”
Dorian’s expression was terrible. Dark, and plagued by guilt. He said nothing.
A few paces away, Fenris stood, equally silent. So covered in blood, he looked like he’d just massacred an army.
Krem tried again. “You... you summoned a demon.”
“Dorian...” Krem began, though he didn’t want to know the answer. “Where’s the demon now?”
Dorian stared down at the floor for a long time. When he raised his head, his gaze didn’t rise any higher than Krem’s chin. “It’s still here, I’m afraid.”
All of a sudden, Fenris became unfrozen. His face twisted in horror. “That demon’s inside of you?” he rasped. “You’re an abomination!”
Pain tightened Dorian’s features as he looked at Fenris. “I... no. Not yet, anyway,” he said haltingly. “But... promise me you’ll kill me if I ever do become one.”
Fenris staggered back. Caught himself on the back of the divan. “How... did you even know that spell? You, of all people?” Fenris growled, his voice rising. “Why do you even know how to summon a demon with blood magic?”
Dorian’s hand had crept up to his chest, and now he clutched at his robes, right over his heart. Where the pain radiated most strongly. He sighed. “I’m a mage. Every mage in Tevinter knows some blood magic, even if he or she never uses it. I... Alexius taught me a few things,” he admitted. “It is a last resort.”
“You fool!” Fenris shrieked. “You shouldn’t have done it!”
Dorian’s voice was barely more than a whisper. “You were dying.”
Dorian and Fenris stared at each other in the terrible silence.
“Dorian,” Krem said quietly. “You’re bleeding.”
Dorian glanced down at his left arm. Blood was steadily trickling out of his sleeve, down his hand, to puddle on the floor. He stared at it, unmoving, as if uncertain what to do.
Fenris was equally useless.
Krem took charge. “Dorian. Sit at the table. Do we have any healing potion left?”
“Ah... in the kitchen cupboard?”
“Fenris,” Krem said, already moving to the kitchen. “You look like murder and that ain’t helping. Go wash up. We can talk about this after.”
Fenris reluctantly staggered off as Dorian sank down in a chair at the kitchen table.
Krem found some healing balm. He brought that to the table, then proceeded to help Dorian out of the top half of his robes, letting the fabric pool around his waist. Then he examined the wound.
It was jagged and deep. How Dorian had managed to not cut an artery, Krem couldn’t figure. Blood was oozing out of it, but not at an alarming rate. “Maker, Dorian... doesn’t it hurt?”
Dorian considered the wound. “Strangely, I don’t feel anything at all. Though I suspect that might be an odd side effect of the binding.”
“Can you move your fingers?”
Dorian managed to wiggle his thumb and his index finger. The remaining three, half-curled towards his palm, didn’t move at all.
Krem sighed. “You’ve cut a tendon,” he said. “You’ll need a healer to fix that.”
Dorian grimaced. “No. Healers aren’t really an option anymore. Not with the demon inside.”
Krem reached for Dorian’s other hand, making him apply pressure to the wound. “Dorian. I can patch you up, but... you’ll never have use of those fingers again.”
Grim, Dorian stared down at his hand for a moment. He’d be permanently crippled, then. “I still have one good hand,” he said as lightly as possible. “Fortunately it’s the one I use to fix my hair.”
Krem tried to force a smile. Failed miserably. “I’ll fetch my kit,” he said.
A few minutes later, Krem returned. Threaded his needle. Dorian didn’t even flinch when Krem pushed it through his flesh.
Dorian watched as Krem painstakingly stitched his arm back together.
As Krem worked, Fenris returned, hair wet, and wearing a clean pair of pants, chest and feet bare. Ghost-pale, he slowly sank down into the remaining chair.
Krem glanced up at Dorian. “So. How do we get that demon out of you?”
Making the question academic made it easier to cope. “As far as I know, there’s really only one way to do it,” Dorian said. “The demon is still physically in the Fade. If we were to travel to the Fade, find the demon, and kill it there, that would solve the problem.”
Krem grimaced. Going into the Fade? No thanks. “That’s it? That’s our only choice?”
Fenris grunted. “If it gets the upper-hand, the demon could control him from the Fade. If that happens, he’d end up a mindless meat puppet. Or worse – if the demon crosses over to physically possess him, he’d become an abomination. Either way, the demon would use Dorian’s power to kill everyone it sees.”
Krem glanced at Dorian.
Dorian sighed. “Fenris isn’t wrong. That could happen. If I’m not...vigilant.”
Fenris frowned at him. “The sooner we confront that demon in the Fade, the better.”
Krem chewed on that. “How would we even get there?”
“Oh, we’d just need some mages and a pile of lyrium,” Dorian said. “I’m sure the altus army would be willing to help. I’ll talk to Varian tomorrow.”
“You’re not actually going to the Circle, are you?”
“I think I should. It would look... odd. If I didn’t. It’s probably for the best if we just go on, pretending that everything is normal.”
Krem finished his stitching, then applied the healing balm before winding a bandage around Dorian’s arm.
“You’ve both lost a lot of blood,” Krem said. “You should probably eat something. Preferably red meat.”
Dorian had no appetite at all, but passed his coin purse to Krem when the ex-soldier offered to go out to pick up something for dinner.
As the door swung shut, Fenris pushed back his chair. Stepped away. Let his hands grip the kitchen counter.
Dorian had used blood magic. He was now possessed by a demon. Blessed Andraste, could things be any worse?
After a few minutes of brooding, Fenris turned around. Dorian still sat at the table, only now he’d buried his face in his hands.
His shoulders were shaking with silent sobs.
Knife in his heart. All Fenris had been thinking about was his own fears. He hadn’t thought about what Dorian must be going through.
Fenris padded back to him, letting his hands fall on the enchanter’s shoulders. “Dorian.”
Haunted eyes, gray as stone, wet with tears. Dorian stood, turning, to gather Fenris into his arms. “Amatus,” he murmured. “Please tell me that you still love me.”
In Dorian’s arms, Fenris was shaking. But Dorian still felt the same. The same man he loved. The same man he would die for. Fenris clung to him briefly, then leaned back to meet his beloved’s eyes.
“Always and forever,” he said.
Dorian didn’t sleep that night.
He lay in bed, Fenris in his arms. Fenris dozed against him, all warm skin, his head on Dorian’s chest.
Dorian’s worst fear was that he would one day give in to temptation. That he was weak. And now his worst fear had come true.
In the dim light of the moon spilling through the window, Dorian tried flexing his left hand. Told himself that he could probably still cast most of his spells one-handed. That he could still hold Fenris. That he was lucky he still had enough use of those fingers that he had managed to undress himself without having to ask for help.
He tried to be grateful that Fenris had forgiven him. That his beloved didn’t hate him. After all, what he’d done – blood magic, demon summoning – was unforgivable.
Still, despite the fact that Dorian spent the night plunged into the depths of fear and self-loathing, he didn’t regret saving Fenris. And knew, if put in the same situation, that he wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.
In the morning, Fenris made them toast and coffee, which they consumed in silence.
Eventually Dorian spoke. “Krem? I think it’s best if only you accompany me to the Circle.”
Fenris frowned. “After what happened yesterday? Someone attacked us with blood magic. We should both go with you.”
“No,” Dorian said quietly. “Someone attacked you with blood magic. Whoever that man was, he was aiming at you. He wanted you dead.”
Fenris stared at him. “Because someone doesn’t want me to testify against them. Some magister who’s also a maleficar.”
“So, perhaps its for the best for now if they think you’re dead.”
Fenris, unwilling to concede the point, sat in silence. If he stayed locked in their quarters, he couldn’t protect Dorian. He glanced at Krem, who tried to give him a reassuring smile, one that said: Don’t worry. I will keep him from harm.
Dorian took his silence for agreement. Finished his coffee. Went to clean his teeth, put on his boots, and gather his lecture notes, which he carried in a satchel. Slinging his staff over his back, he met Krem at the doorway.
Fenris padded over to him. “You will come back, directly after class?”
Dorian smiled as he lifted his good hand gently to Fenris’ face. “Of course I will.”
Normally, whenever Dorian and Fenris became a little too public in their displays of affection for each other, Krem would berate them about it. Usually with the protest of Maker, get a room! But, this time, he waited silently as Dorian kissed Fenris once, deeply and languidly.
Then he and Dorian were out the door, down the magical lift, and then squinting in the bright light as they stepped into the street.
Krem was on edge as they made their way the few blocks to their destination. Only once they had stepped inside the front doors of the Circle did he finally relax.
Strange that – being inside the Circle, surrounded by dozens upon dozens of Minrathous’ most powerful mages, didn’t usually make him feel good.
Still, he trailed after Dorian as the senior enchanter made his way to the classroom, stopping to greet several students and colleagues along the way. Dorian smiled, made witty remarks, was even charming. Krem had to admire how firmly Dorian’s mask was fixed on his face. That, and how careful he already was to keep his damaged hand out of sight.
Then, once at the lecture hall, Dorian entered. As was his habit, Krem sat in a chair in the corridor just outside.
Krem watched as the last of the students trickled in. Then half-listened as Dorian started to lecture. It didn’t matter how often Dorian had tried to explain how magic worked to him, Krem still didn’t quite get it, beyond the basic things most non-mages knew.
All of a sudden, Krem wasn’t listening to Dorian’s voice as he heard a familiar noise coming from down the hall. A sound from his past in the Imperial Army. Hard boots marching in formation, the clink of metal armor, the slide of steel.
In a flash he was on his feet. In through the door. Down past the tables until he reached the enchanter.
Dorian stopped lecturing, eyeing him with concern. “Cremisius...?”
Before Krem could explain, a dozen Templars pushed in through the door.
In the south, mages feared Templars. Not so in Tevinter. The students weren’t frightened, but they murmured in confusion as the Templars marched their way down to the front of the hall.
One of the Templars held up a hand, stopping the advance. “Magister Dorian Pavus,” he announced. “You are under arrest for Abuse of Magic. Specifically – demon summoning.”
From the students came gasps, and more confused murmurings.
Krem stepped so that he was between Dorian and the soldiers, and put his hand on the hilt of his sword.
The leader’s gaze, sharp, briefly flicked down to Krem’s hand. “Don’t even think about drawing that sword, boy, or we will cut you down.”
Krem’s eyes darted about. Twelve swordsmen. Twelve Templars, which meant they were good swordsmen. Twelve Tevinter Templars, which meant they had no special ability – like the members of their Order down south – to suppress magic. Which meant that Dorian could still defend himself.
Under his breath, Krem murmured to the mage. “We could fight them. Then... run.”
Dorian considered that. He and Krem had fought groups of men before, but never as many as twelve. Even if he used necromancy... there was still a good chance that one or both of them would be killed. And he couldn’t allow his beloved Cremisius to die for his mistakes.
Dorian scanned the faces of his students. They were so young – even the oldest of them was barely half Dorian’s age. This is the next generation of enchanters in Minrathous, he thought. The generation that will change things. The ones for whom, by the time they are magisters, blood magic will only be mentioned in history books. They need to see that men who use forbidden magics are punished.
Dorian stepped forward and placed a hand on Krem’s shoulder. Holding him back.
He met the gaze of the Templar leader. By his insignia, a Captain. “I will accept whatever punishment I am due.”
In his head, the demon stirred and purred. Kill them. Kill them all. Or... I could do it for you. Just let me have control, treasure.
Dorian ignored it.
Krem’s eyes widened at him. “Dorian! You can’t be serious!”
Dorian’s lips twitched up in a bitter smile. “Did you think I didn’t know, Cremisius, what would happen when I cast that spell?”
Krem, speechless, just stared at him. Then his eyes flashed angrily. “You had reason,” Krem growled. “Damn it, Dorian, this isn’t a good time to get all noble!”
He’s right, you know. Come on, sweetheart. I know you want to live.
“And what would you have me do, Cremisius? Kill a dozen innocent men who are only trying to do their duty? Then flee my country as a fugitive, leaving Alexandria behind to live with my shame?”
“But...” Krem began, but was then pushed aside as the Templars advanced.
In one of the soldier’s hands, a collar.
Dorian flinched back from it. “I already agreed to leave with you peacefully,” he said. “Is that really necessary?”
The Captain’s expression was stone, no pity. “Knight-Commander Gentius’ orders,” he said. “Any refusal will be considered a sign of resistance.”
Gentius. Of course. The man had never liked him, so that was no surprise. He was aware that everyone was watching him, waiting for his response.
Dorian held his hands out to his sides, a gesture of submission. “Very well, Captain.”
The Templars stepped forward.
He could feel his magic being sealed away, like a door slamming between him and the Fade.
Collared by the Templars, Dorian Pavus was led away.
Chapter 4: The Fate of Dorian Pavus
“There are worse things than dying, Dorian.”
- Felix Alexius
Hello, my lovely readers. Would you mind putting your heart over here on the table?
*STABS IT WITH A KNIFE*
They weren’t getting anywhere with Knight-Commander Gentius.
He was an imposing man. In appearance, he reminded Krem a bit of Blackwall: broad and stout, with the grizzled muscle of a lifetime of sword-swinging, and a blunt, no-nonsense style of speaking. Where he differed from the Grey Warden that Krem had known was that Gentius’ beard and hair were mostly silver, and his right arm, from the elbow down, was missing.
He certainly wasn’t concerned by the threats and pleas of two bodyguards – one an elven liberatus, the other a soporatus. But he was equally unimpressed with the eloquent arguments of Magister Varian Prasinus.
For the past three days, they’d done everything they could. Varian had immediately sent a message by bird to Dorian’s family in Qarinus. And he’d sent messages to every one of Dorian’s high-ranking supporters in Minrathous. But, despite the clamor they had raised in the Argent Spire, Gentius hadn’t backed down an inch.
Even bribery hadn’t gotten them very far. The only success was that Varian had convinced one of the Chantry priests – who had seemed to take pity on Dorian’s plight – to deliver a letter to him.
Tempers flared on the third day.
Krem’s voice was nearly a shout. “You could at least allow us to see him! Prisoners still have rights!”
Gentius gave him a cold stare from behind his desk. “Boy, you will not use that tone with me,” he said. “Enough. I’ve wasted enough time on this. If you set foot in the Spire again, I’ll have you arrested.”
“On what charges?”
“Desertion from the Imperial Army.”
At that, Krem immediately blanched.
Gentius leaned back in his chair. He wasn’t smiling, but there was a hint of satisfaction in his voice. “Yes, I know all about you, Cremisius Aclassi. Clearly the rumors about you being a woman aren’t true, but the fact remains that you are a deserter.”
Krem’s gaze dropped to the floor.
Fenris growled. “I won’t let you touch this man. Try it, and you’ll regret it.”
Gentius’ gaze swung over to Fenris. “And you, elf. You’ve been useful to us. But if I see you again, I won’t hesitate to have you detained for questioning about the death of a certain Magister Bricio.”
Fenris made a low growl in his throat, but said nothing.
The Knight-Commander turned to Varian. “Magister Prasinus. I’m aware that the laws against which you are arguing, are the results of reforms that you yourself voted in favor of. Your friend resorted to blood magic, and now he is possessed by a demon. Do try to not follow in his footsteps.”
Varian met the old Templar’s gaze with an icy, unflinching stare of his own. He was tempted to say that he would never do such a thing, but he’d never, in a thousand years, expected Dorian Pavus – of all people! – to give in to that temptation. “Sound advice, Knight-Commander,” was all he said.
“Now. Are you going to leave peacefully, or do I have to call my men to escort you out?”
Without another word, the three men shuffled out.
Not until they were outside the doors of the Argent Spire did they speak again.
Krem swore. “Now what?”
“We break him out if we have to,” Fenris said.
Varian made a noise of disdain. “That would be impossible,” he said. Ignoring Fenris’ glare, he added, “However, I do have one more recourse.” He smiled, clearly pleased with himself. “An audience with the Divine himself at one o’clock this afternoon.”
Dorian spent most of his time locked in a prison cell, alone.
They only time he saw anyone, it was usually one of the Chantry brothers bringing his meals. In general, they didn’t respond to him when he spoke to them, except to offer to pray with him.
Dorian may have been desperate for company, but he wasn’t that desperate.
In truth, though, he did have company, though it wasn’t what he would call pleasant: the demon in his head.
They’d had this conversation early on.
Why can I even still hear you? With this collar on, I can’t even sense the Fade anymore.
Because I’m part of you, my love. Binding is strong magic. Too bad, though, that we can’t see each other in your dreams.
That... well, that was the only advantage to being collared. He couldn’t even travel to the Fade anymore in his dreams. Which meant that he didn’t have to fear sleep. Didn’t have to fear finding himself in the Fade, encountering his demon, and being overtaken by it.
The demon laughed. A rich, lyrical sound. You would enjoy being taken by me, darling.
How terribly forward of you. At least the last desire demon who tried to possess me fed me grapes first.
It was on the third day of his confinement that someone finally spoke to him. A pretty and waif-like young man in Chantry robes who brought his lunch.
Along with it, a letter.
“This is for you, Lord Pavus.”
Lord Pavus. Now, there was a title he hadn’t heard in a while. Particularly since he’d become an unwilling guest at the Spire. Nowadays, he was generally referred to in the generic and less-than-respectful “mage.”
Dorian thanked him, then greedily opened the letter.
Dorian, he read, Cremisius, Fenris and myself – we are here.
He swallowed down the lump in his throat and kept reading. In the letter, Varian described their efforts to save him. In the end, he mentioned that he would be presenting Dorian’s case to the Divine in order to acquire a reprieve.
Looking up, he realized that the little priest was still here. “Was there... something else?”
“Yes.” The priest reached under his robes, taking out a pen and ink, which he held out to Dorian. “I promised I would deliver your response, should you wish to write one.”
Dorian accepted the items. Fiddled with the quill. Looked at the priest. “In this letter... he said that he’s seeking a reprieve. Strangely, though, I don’t remember a trial.”
The priest regarded him for a moment with a twinge of pity. “I... I’m sorry, but that’s how things work here. Prisoners do not always have the opportunity to testify in their own defense. Your trial was concluded yesterday afternoon,” he said. “I’m surprised no one told you.”
Dorian blinked a few times. Then: “I don’t suppose you know the verdict?”
The expression on the priest’s face gave him the answer before he even spoke. “Half a dozen witnesses came forward, I’m afraid. And the healer confirmed that you do have a demonic presence within you. I’m sorry. They’ve invoked the Rite of Tranquility.”
Dorian’s blood ran cold.
Then he laughed – a choked, bitter thing.
“Forgive me,” Dorian said. “It’s just... well, I’ve been condemned by the very legislation that I wrote. Oh, the irony.”
The priest regarded him with pity again. “I cannot stay much longer...”
Dorian nodded. Then scanned Varian’s letter again. Whatever he wrote – if Varian didn’t manage to obtain a reprieve – would be his last words to his friends as the real Dorian Pavus. He considered what he wanted to say. Then he turned the page over, and, after dipping the quill in the ink, he wrote one short line before folding it up and handing everything back to the priest.
Cremisius, Fenris and myself – we are here.
“I don’t suppose...” Dorian said. “That I could see my friends? As a sort-of last wish, or something?”
“I’m sorry. But Knight-Commander Gentius has ordered that you receive no visitors.”
I knew I hated that man for a reason.
“But, if you wish... I could pray with you.”
Dorian had a scathing remark on the tip of his tongue. But this young man had, at least, shown him genuine compassion. “If you don’t mind,” he said. “I’d rather if you recited something appropriate from the Chant of Light for me. In the Chantry.”
He nodded, solemn. “It shall be done.”
The Divine, although he was fifteen years older than Varian, was still considered rather young for his post.
Rumors said that the Divine, in his youth, had been as beautiful as he was ruthless. That he’d crushed his rivals to death, or subjugated them under his heel. That he’d seduced a large number of daughters – and sons – from Tevinter’s most noble houses. And that he managed to keep the Archon wrapped around his finger with blackmail.
And – this was important – he’d achieved all of this without resorting to blood magic.
The man sat on his throne as Varian sketched an appropriate bow.
“Varian of House Prasinus,” he drawled with a voice that was all melted chocolate – dark and rich. “The Archon’s most recently appointed magister. I will say, it’s good to have some young blood in the Magisterium for a change.”
“Speaking of young blood in the Magisterium...”
The Divine raised a hand, laden with heavy, golden rings, waving it languidly.
Varian stopped speaking.
“Yes, I do know why you’re here. About the Pavus boy.”
“He’s been changing things in Tevinter,” Varian said. “For the better.”
“Hmm. Some may argue the opposite. However, I am enjoying watching the maleficarum tremble in their pointy boots. How delightful.”
“He’s barely started,” Varian said smoothly. “So, if you are enjoying Dorian’s show, perhaps you’d be willing to give him a reprieve?”
The Divine paused. Considered Varian. What they said about his glib tongue was true. “I could, however... I shall not.”
Varian flinched. But he recovered quickly. “Surely, of all people, you are aware of how important he is to the anti-blood magic movement.”
“Oh, yes,” the Divine said. “I am aware of that.”
“Then... why not spare him?”
The Divine thought about Dorian. It was a shame to ruin such a powerful mage, especially one who was still so young, and so very beautiful. When Dorian had been presented to him as a newly-minted senior enchanter, and his tastes made known, the Divine had considered summoning the young man to the Spire. But, given the amount of scrutiny the boy was under, the Divine had decided that the risk of scandal outweighed any pleasure he might have gained from having Dorian Pavus in his bed.
But he could serve in another way.
“Because every movement needs its martyrs.”
Varian paused. The Divine did have a point. For Dorian – so young, handsome, powerful, and charismatic – to sacrifice himself for his own beliefs... it would make a lasting impression. And it provided a harsh lesson – that even the strongest of men could, at any time, give in to temptation. “Still...”
The Divine made the same languid gesture again, rings catching and casting off the light. “Yes, I know. He is your friend. You’d rather I be softhearted and spare him.” He smiled somewhat beatifically. “Rest assured, Varian Prasinus, that you have done everything in your power to help him. But the fate of Dorian Pavus is sealed.”
They came for him at twilight. Six Templar soldiers.
His head was anything but quiet. He knew why they had come. It meant that Varian had failed to save him.
Which meant that the demon knew, too.
Just let me out, sweetling. Together we can kill them all. Every single Templar in this building. We could set the Argent Spire on fire.
Dorian considered that as the Templars forced him along through the musty corridors, then up the stairs. He could let the demon take him over. Become an abomination. Then he would either kill the Templars, or force the Templars to kill him.
“If this is what it’s like to be Tranquil, I would rather die.” Isn’t that what you said once?
Damn this demon in his head. Being Tranquil meant being forever cut off from the Fade. Losing all his magical power. Never dreaming. And, as a delightful side effect of the lyrium being branded into his brain, never feeling an emotion of any sort again.
No ambition. No desire. No pride. No love.
Even so, becoming an abomination still seemed worse to him.
You! You’re just worried what will happen to you during the Rite. Back to the Fade with you, I suppose. Or maybe you’ll be made Tranquil, too? A Tranquil demon... now that would be something!
Dorian was halfway to hysterical by the time his Templar escort brought him into a room, where more Templars were waiting.
Also waiting, wearing the black robes of his office, was the Divine.
Inside him, the demon continued to purr. Think of all the power I could give you. Together, we’d be unstoppable. Or would you rather let these men make you dead inside?
No one knew exactly what the steps of the Rite of Tranquility entailed. Those who had undergone the Rite were forbidden from speaking about it. So Dorian didn’t know what to expect. Other than he’d somehow be branded with lyrium.
In the center of the room was a large wooden contraption in the form of a cross. His stomach roiled as the soldiers strapped him to it. One to each outstretched arm, another around his throat, almost tight enough to choke.
“To keep you still,” the Knight-Commander explained. “If you thrash too much, things will take a turn for the ill.”
Dorian ignored the demon who now raged in his head. Dorian Pavus, you are a coward!
In the old Templar’s hand was a thin metal rod, topped with looping metal in a familiar pattern.
“The sunburst?” Dorian said in surprise. “Is that what we’re still using in Tevinter? The symbol of the bloody White Divine?”
“All Tranquil in Thedas bear the same mark.” Gentius held the rod out towards the Divine, who then languidly spun a hand about it, causing the metal to glow. “It makes you Tranquil recognizable.”
You Tranquil. It was truly sinking in now. Dorian felt his knees grow weak. If he hadn’t been strapped in place, he probably would have collapsed in a heap of hysterics on the floor.
Keep your dignity, Dorian Pavus , he told himself. Don’t cry. Don’t scream. Don’t beg.
The Divine dropped his hand. The rod continued to glow with suffused magic.
The Knight-Commander suddenly was looking at him with something other than disdain. Pity? “Any final words?”
Let me out now, you stupid mage bastard!
“Just... be careful where you put that thing. If I’m going to be permanently scarred, at least make sure that it’s not crooked.”
Gentius’ expression became smooth as polished stone. Then he stepped forward.
The Divine stopped him by holding out a hand. “Allow me.”
The Knight-Commander looked at him with a hint of surprise, but passed him the rod.
The Divine stepped up to Dorian. He offered a kind smile. “I am sorry, Magister Pavus,” he said quietly. “It has to be this way. But know that your legacy will live on.”
He pressed the brand to Dorian’s head.
It wasn’t really a brand. It wasn’t hot. In fact, the metal against his skin, if anything, was frosty cold. And, as the Divine pressed the metal to his head, Dorian felt the magic of the instrument ignite.
Despite himself, he screamed as three spikes of lyrium-infused magic slammed into his skull, sinking deep into his brain. At the same time, he could feel the skin of his forehead turn to ice as more lyrium etched itself into his skin.
In Dorian’s brain, something strange happened.
The world was an explosion of color. A cacophony of music from strange lands. Everything was vibrant, all his senses filled. He could feel the air delicately caressing his skin, on his tongue he could recall the taste of all the sweetest fruits, and in his nostrils there was a heady scent of a field full of the most glorious flowers.
He’d never felt more alive.
Then, just as suddenly, the spikes withdrew from his head. As they withdrew, all of his senses began to fade. First the flowers. Then the feel of the air. Then the sweet taste of fruit.
Finally, all the color and all the music in the world disappeared.
The Rite was complete.
Dorian Pavus was Tranquil.
Chapter 5: The Fate of Fenris
"And down they fled into darkness and despair."
– Threnodies 8:28, The Chant of Light
Hello, my lovely readers. What's this? It appears that your heart is lying here on the table, and some terrible man has just stuck a knife in it.
*WHIPS OUT SHOTGUN, TAKES AIM, AND PULLS TRIGGER*
BTW, one of my lovelies did some art for this series, so I've added it to Chapter 1. Please check it out! (Lifeforce, you rock!)
After Knight-Commander Gentius’ threats to arrest Krem and have Fenris detained, they’d stopped their daily treks to the Argent Spire. Therefore, they didn’t even know what had happened until it was far too late. Not until they received the news that the Templars had already performed the Rite of Tranquility, and that Halward and Aquinea Pavus had come to claim what was left of their son.
This news had been brought by two of Dorian’s altus friends, Calix and Julian.
Fenris sank down into a chair in the sitting room, pale as a ghost.
Krem tried to process the information. “They... made him Tranquil? Just like that?”
Both enchanters were grim.
“We know what you meant to him, Cremisius,” Calix finally said. “If you want to see him again – well, you’d better hurry to the port. His parents have already booked passage on a ship called the Prata Neptunia back to Qarinus. It leaves at noon.”
Julian’s look was dark. “You don’t want to see him,” the other enchanter said, his voice bitter. “He’s not... him anymore. He’s just an empty fucking shell.”
In the sitting room, Fenris made a soft, strangled noise.
“Maker’s breath, Julian,” Calix said. “Do you have to be so damn callous?”
“I’m being honest,” he muttered, with an undertone of anger. “Dorian’s Tranquil. You know as well as I do what that means. It would have been kinder if the Templars had just killed him.”
In the sitting room, Fenris buried his face in his hands.
Krem finally found his tongue. “But Varian... he was supposed to meet with the Divine...”
“He tried his best,” Calix said.
“The Divine?” Julian spat. “Rumor has it that it was the Divine himself who branded Dorian.”
Krem’s thoughts were spinning. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. They were supposed to save him... “Where is Varian?”
Calix and Julian exchanged a glance.
“He went home,” Calix said. “To his parents. I imagine it can’t be easy for him, either.”
Julian grunted softly in agreement.
Krem stood still. Thoughts still spinning.
Calix gave him a sympathetic look. “Well, we thought you should know.”
Krem nodded. News of this kind... he couldn’t bring himself to thank them. He then shut the door behind them.
“Elf,” Krem said as he turned around. “What do you want to do?”
Fenris raised his head. His face was so pale, it was almost impossible to distinguish the lyrium markings from his unscarred flesh. Never seeing Dorian again – that was worse than anything else he could imagine. “I... I want to see him.”
“Then let’s go.”
Armor on. Swords strapped. The warriors descended to the street, where Krem flagged down a carriage.
During the ride, each man looked out the window, plagued by his own thoughts. Krem queasy. Fenris oddly numb. Neither speaking.
Fenris had encountered Tranquil before. Anders’ lover, Karl. Later, Meredith’s assistant, Elsa. Dorian will not be like them, he thought. His heart is too strong. He had to believe this. To think otherwise would have left him a worthless heap of despair on the floor of the carriage.
The carriage pulled up. Krem paid the driver. Then they were moving down the docks, only stopping so that Krem could ask a sailor where they could find the Prata Neptunia.
Approaching the ship, they came upon a small crowd of people. Among them, they found Dorian’s parents.
Dorian was nowhere in sight.
Krem slowed. At his side, Fenris, lingering, followed his lead. A moment ticked by, and then Halward Pavus noticed them.
Krem came to a halt. He’d never seen Dorian’s parents with such raw emotions on their faces before. As if they’d been rent asunder. “Lord Pavus...?”
“Cremisius,” Halward said, turning towards them. “I was wondering if you would come.”
“We only just heard...” Krem began, then trailed off, not knowing what to say.
Halward clasped his hands before him, clearly trying to maintain a modicum of control. “We will be taking Dorian home for now,” he said. “Given the situation... well, my son has no more need to keep you in his employ.”
Because Dorian is no longer a threat. Still, the words staggered Krem into silence.
As Dorian’s mother dabbed at her eyes with a black silk handkerchief, Halward’s gaze flickered over Fenris. “You are welcome, of course, to return to take the elf child, if that is what you wish. Though, if you are unable to care for him, we will find him a place in House Pavus.” Then he sighed wearily. “There is really nothing more to be said.”
Krem expected Fenris to speak. Yet he remained strangely silent. Didn’t he want to see Dorian? Didn’t he realize that they were being dismissed?
Krem spoke up. “We came here so Fenris could see Dorian.”
“There is no point in that.”
Krem glanced at Fenris. The elf’s neck was bent, his eyes down, as subservient as a slave. Krem knew that Dorian’s father had been his master for half a year once, but, Maker, did he really have to revert to slave behavior now? He’d seen the fire in this elf. He was full of fight.
But – wait. It wasn’t right to put all of the burden on Fenris. How many years had Krem spent, being put down for his class by men such as this? Krem had been down south. He knew his worth. He wasn’t going to let anyone try to put him – or Fenris – in his place.
“You may have not approved of it, but Dorian loved Fenris,” Krem said, hard as steel. “And Fenris loved him.”
Fenris raised his eyes to Krem in wonder.
“And they were happy,” Krem added, still cold and sharp as a blade. “Or maybe your son’s happiness meant nothing to you.”
Halward met Krem’s unflinching gaze for a moment. Then he sighed again. “My son is no longer capable of feeling anything,” he said. Then he glanced at Fenris. “But, if you truly wish to see him, then you will find him on deck.”
Krem exchanged a glance with Fenris.
Fenris nodded, then slipped away towards the ship.
There was nothing real about this.
Fenris climbed the gangplank. No one paid him any attention. Nor tried to stop him. In Tevinter, elves were invisible.
Even elves in armor, with swords at their sides.
Once on board, his eyes scanned the deck until they fell upon a familiar figure.
Dorian. His lover. His glorious, beautiful, fire spell-slinging love. The only man who had ever loved him, despite his past and despite his numerous faults.
Fenris rushed up to him. “Dorian...”
Dorian turned. Eyes dark as slate in the bright light of midday, and empty as spoons. “Fenris,” he said, his voice a lifeless monotone. “What are you doing here?”
“I came...” Fenris choked on the words. “I came to see you.”
Dorian regarded him. Empty-eyed, without the usual sparkle of life, of warmth, of wit. “Why?”
Fenris was lost. Sinking, drowning. “Dorian, please,” he begged. “Please tell me that you still feel something.”
Dorian cocked his head. Put on a placid smile – not because he felt pleasure, but because smiling put others at ease. “The Tranquil do not feel, Fenris. We are at peace. No more ambition, no more hate. And the Rite worked – the demon is gone.”
In his chest, a thousand daggers turned their points. He lunged forward, hands clutching desperately at Dorian’s robes. “Please, amatus. Tell me that you still love me.”
Dorian’s empty eyes looked down upon him. “I cannot tell you what is not true,” he said.
Fenris’ fists squeezed the fabric of Dorian’s robes, as a whimper rattled his throat.
“You are distressed,” Dorian said in that lifeless voice. “But, do you not understand? It is better this way. Unlike those magisters you hate, I will never fall to temptations of forbidden magics ever again.”
No! Maker, no! Fenris released him. Stumbled back a few steps. “I didn’t want this!”
Blank-faced, empty-eyed, and feeling nothing, Dorian watched as the elf turned and fled.
At first, he felt nothing. Ice-numb. Blank. An empty space.
Gradually, he became aware of the hole inside him where Dorian used to be. It burned and bled every minute of the day.
At night, alone in Dorian’s bed, the pain was worse somehow. The very air suffocated him. He oscillated between rage and despair. Dorian was gone. Fenris, utterly heartbroken and miserable, wanted nothing more than to lie down and die.
He stayed in bed. There was no point in getting up. Everything was meaningless. There was only the sense of being lost in a sea of darkness and despair.
Krem sometimes came to talk to him, but neither one of them said much. What was there to say? The ex-soldier brought food and drink, and did his best to coax Fenris into eating. But food tasted like ashes in his mouth.
Krem didn’t like seeing Fenris like this. Didn’t like the sharp edge of pain that sliced through his heart whenever he thought about Dorian. Didn’t like that black, oily feeling of guilt for having failed to protect his best friend.
Krem wished that Isabela were here. But Isabela’s mainly living on her ship meant that Krem rarely knew where to find her and, even when he did know, letters to Isabela rarely reached her. Usually Isabela wrote to him whenever she was coming to Tevinter, or whenever she had some particularly diverting story about her adventures she felt compelled to share.
He knew that he should probably write to Varric to tell him the news, but he couldn’t bring himself to do so.
On the third day, Varian appeared at their door, looking more gaunt than usual.
“Hello, Cremisius,” the enchanter said. “I just wanted to give you this – Dorian’s reply to my message.”
Krem took the offered parchment. Read the four words inked in Dorian’s elegant script. “Yeah,” he said, throat suddenly tight. “I’ll pass the message along.”
“Good,” Varian said. “So, then... are you planning on staying in Minrathous?”
“Don’t know,” Krem replied truthfully. “The elf... well, he isn’t taking it well.”
Varian hummed thoughtfully. “None of us are.” He put on a fake smile. “Well. If you need anything, Cremisius, you do know where to find me.”
As Varian slipped off, Krem shut the door behind him. Wondered briefly if Varian had meant what he said, or if he was just being polite. Then he headed to Fenris’ room.
As usual, the elf was curled up in the bed, the sheet tangled around him.
“That was Varian at the door,” Krem said. “He gave me this.”
Fenris stared at the letter Krem held out for a moment before accepting it.
Krem waited. Dorian had spent the past few months teaching Fenris how to read. But he wasn’t sure how far they’d gotten in their lessons.
By Fenris’ crestfallen expression, it was obvious that he’d been able to decipher Dorian’s final words to them.
Tell Fenris I’m sorry.
Three more days passed before Fenris came out of his room.
Krem hadn’t seen the elf emerge. He’d been lying on the divan, half-asleep, when he’d heard the familiar sound of water filling up the tub. For a while he lay there, just listening. Then, eventually, he pulled himself up, went to the kitchen, and prepared tea.
Hot tea, as they no longer had Dorian to cast a cold spell to chill them.
Sitting at the kitchen table, he slid a cup towards Fenris as the elf appeared, hair wet, dressed in loose, but clean clothes. Fenris stared at it as he sat down across from Krem.
Krem knew that they couldn’t go on like this. Floundering without Dorian. Wallowing in pain. Two useless men with sheathed swords.
“Elf,” he said. “You up for some sword practice?”
There was no point to that. Fenris gave a shake of his head.
That the elf had crawled out of bed was a good start. But, Krem knew, that didn’t mean that he was okay.
“Diamondback?” Krem suggested. He figured that anything – even playing cards – was better than doing nothing. Plus, playing Diamondback – that was normal. And Krem desperately wanted to feel normal again.
Fenris ran his hands through his wet hair, pushing it back from his face. Despite the fact that he’d been in bed for nearly a week, his face looked pinched. Haggard. He stared at the teacup again before looking at Krem. “Do we have anything stronger than tea?”
Krem was certain that drinking wasn’t going to solve any of their problems. So he hesitated. But Fenris was old enough to make his own bad decisions, so Krem wasn’t going to mother hen him. He rose from the table, then returned momentarily with the deck of cards, the bottle, and two glasses.
Two glasses – because Krem was also old enough to make his own bad decisions.
They didn’t talk. They drank. Shuffled and dealt. Clinked coins down on the table.
Outside, the sun set, bathing the spires of Minrathous in a hazy orange light.
Eventually, several glasses down, Krem finally spoke. “You hungry?”
Fenris shook his head.
Inside, the two men drank. Tossed down cards. Flipped coins across the table.
Krem was winning. Then Fenris was winning. Then Krem again.
Outside, the streets of Minrathous were bathed in darkness. Murderers killed. Thieves stole. Rapists raped.
Eventually Krem spoke again. “There ain’t much point in staying in Minrathous,” he said. “What if we went to fetch the boy? We could take him down south. That would be better than leaving him here in Tevinter. Right?”
“I...” Fenris began, then stopped.
All of a sudden, Fenris was on his feet. As his chair skidded back, Fenris lifted the edge of the table, then let it slam back down again. Coins, cards, the empty bottle, and the half-full glasses slid and bounced, half of it scattering to the floor. Instinct had driven Krem to his feet, and he took a quick step back.
“I can’t do this!” Fenris’ voice was an wail, an ocean of misery and rage. “I can’t! Why the fuck did he leave me here alone?!”
Stepping forward, Krem placed what was meant to be a reassuring hand on Fenris’ shoulder.
Fenris, rage-fueled, jerked back. Reacted by lashing out blindly.
There was a resounding smack! as Fenris’ open hand landed on Krem’s face.
Any time a man hit Krem, Krem’s first instinct was to hit back, twice as hard. He barely managed to resist that urge. Instead, he furiously stabbed Fenris with his gaze. “Kaffas, elf!”
Fenris froze for a moment. Realized what he’d just done. “Krem, I’m...”
Then he staggered.
Krem, his reflexes still quick despite the fact that he was rather drunk, smoothly moved forward to catch Fenris before he fell. Into the elf’s ear, he grumbled, “If you were gonna finish that sentence with ‘Krem, I’m a punch drunk asshole,’ then, yes. You are.”
Fenris sagged in his arms. “I... I just want to lie down.”
Krem wasn’t exactly pleased that he’d just allowed another man to get away with striking him in the face – despite the circumstances – so tossing the elf’s crazy ass back into bed was fine with him. Tomorrow. They could try talking tomorrow, when they were both sober.
“Fine,” Krem grumbled. “I’ll put you back in bed.”
Fenris made a small noise of agreement and let Krem half-drag him back to his room, where Krem unceremoniously dropped him at the edge of the bed. Then muttered a “good night” before turning to leave.
Fenris’ hand on his sleeve stopped him. Krem glanced down at him. Head hung, the elf’s eyes were shadows.
“Please...” Fenris’ voice was a strained whisper. “Don’t leave me alone.”
Fenris’ pain was a claw, ripping open the own scab of Krem’s pain. But he knew that, no matter what he felt, the elf’s loss had to be ten times worse. Krem sank down on the edge of the bed beside him. “I’m here, Fenris.”
Green eyes met his. Then Fenris reached out, his fingers curling into the front of Krem’s shirt. “Krem,” he whispered. “Make me forget.”
Krem wasn’t sure what to say to that. Or even what it meant. But then Fenris shifted.
Fenris swung one leg across him so that he was now straddling Krem’s lap. Suddenly, the elf’s face was too close to his. Then, when Fenris’ lips brushed against his, Krem flinched back.
Not okay, Krem thought. Also, he was now certain that the elf’s pain had driven him mad. Krem certainly didn’t care what Dorian and Fenris did to each other in private, but he himself had never been interested in men. Which he’d known for certain when a boy named Lycus Aquila had stolen a kiss from him beneath the Pontem Florum when they were both twelve years old. Krem hadn’t liked it. And Fenris knew it.
Fenris shrank back. The look on his face was that of a man who was utterly destroyed. “I’m... sorry.”
That terrible look was enough to cause Krem to forgive him. This poor bastard... he just needed comfort. A distraction. Something.
Fenris was his friend. His best friend, now that Dorian was gone. Yeah, okay, he wasn’t into men or even elves, really, but... how bad could making out with your best friend be? And he was old enough and drunk enough to make a bad decision.
“Fuck it,” Krem muttered and then reached for the elf.
Lips met. Fenris froze in surprise briefly, but then sank into Krem’s arms as they tumbled down to the bed.
It was an exploratory sort of kissing, a bit awkward at first, and more than a bit weird for Krem. Fenris’ lips were firmer than a woman’s, but – being an elf – his skin was smooth, so there was no scratchy facial hair to contend with.
Krem knew that Isabela wouldn’t care. Actually, she’d probably be envious, as she’d always found Fenris attractive, but had never gotten anywhere with him.
After a few minutes, Fenris deepened the kiss.
That’s... his tongue, Krem thought. Okay. He was man enough to let another man stick a tongue in his mouth. Parting his lips, Krem allowed the elf better access.
Krem didn’t find kissing Fenris arousing but, judging by the strange little noises the elf made as he uncurled and swirled his tongue lustily against Krem’s, it was doing something to him.
Then Fenris broke off the kiss. Leaned back on his heels as he straddled Krem’s thighs. Then, without warning, slid a hand down between Krem’s legs.
A noise became stuck in Krem’s throat as the elf palmed him through his pants. Then fingers moved up and down, languidly stroking him to life.
It had been a while since Krem had enjoyed any sort of release. Not that he would ever admit it, but the way Fenris was touching him felt good. Clearly his treacherous dick didn’t care about the gender of the hand on it. In fact, it felt so good that, when Fenris’ hand actually slipped inside Krem’s now-unlaced pants to free his member, Krem didn’t stop him. Didn’t want to stop him.
Krem bit back a moan as Fenris began to stroke him with more vigor.
We shouldn’t be doing this. This is ten kinds of wrong. And yet, when Fenris pulled his own prick out with his other hand and began touching himself, Krem reached out and replaced Fenris’ hand with his own.
At that point, something changed. Mouths met again – this time, lips crushed painfully against teeth as tongues clashed. Hands clenched harder, moving faster, as they roughly and furiously jerked each other off.
This... it wasn’t about sex. It wasn’t about desire. Krem didn’t really know what it was. It was desperation and need and guilt and punishment, all wrapped up in the ribbons of despair. A distraction and a reminder that they could still feel something other than pain.
Maker... feels so damn good, Krem thought, as Fenris continued to yank him savagely. No woman – not even Isabela – had touched him so mercilessly. But – being a man – Fenris knew how rough he could make it before it became too rough.
With a yelp, Krem came first.
Floating back out of his haze, Krem renewed the motion of his fist.
Two minutes later, Fenris growled as he came.
For a moment, everything was fine. Well, everything except for Krem’s tunic, which had taken the brunt of their wank-a-thon. Krem considered it briefly before carefully pulling the soiled shirt over his head and casting it aside.
Then something dark flashed across Fenris’ face, tightening his features. He drew back, away from Krem, covering his mouth with his hand.
Vishante kaffas! What have I done?
He’d bruised his lips with betrayal. He didn’t know what in the Void he had been thinking, exactly, throwing himself at Krem like that. He loved Krem, but... Krem wasn’t Dorian. No one could ever take Dorian’s place in his heart. And this – it had felt good for a fleeting moment, but now all he felt was shame.
Fenris’ words were muffled by his hand. “This was a mistake.”
A moment ticked by.
Then, unexpectedly, Fenris found himself being pulled into Krem’s arms. Strong hands upon his shoulders, drawing him down, offering comfort.
Fenris sank into his embrace. Muscled arms encircled him, steady and protective. Krem’s hard chest was solid and warm, and his hair soft where it brushed against Fenris’ cheek. As he lay in Krem’s arms, he inhaled deeply, filling his senses with the younger man’s scent: light sweat and musk, with a hint of sword oil and soap.
“Don’t worry, elf,” he said softly. “As long as we stick together, we’ll be okay.”
Another moment ticked by.
No, human, Fenris thought. Nothing will ever be okay again.
Like a wolf in the shadows of the forest, Fenris lurked in the streets of the slums of Minrathous.
He passed by whores in Orlesian dresses. Casters of curses and vendors of magical trinkets. Lyrium pushers. A priest intoning, in a clear voice, the Chant of Light.
O Maker, hear my cry:
Guide me through the blackest nights
Steel my heart against the temptations of the wicked
He was near Vicus Penumbra, not far from the warehouse where they’d fought the Crimson Hands and found Cynarel. A turn down a side street brought him to a small, well-hidden night market that the Chargers had discovered while on the trail of the slave ring operators. Dark, narrow paths jagged among ramshackle shacks set close together, from whose windows shady individuals hawked their forbidden wares.
Mostly, Fenris felt desperate. Living without Dorian – it was torture. He’d tried to fill the hole inside him with rage, with sleep and dreams, with Krem. Krem, my beautiful Krem... And now he’d tried to fill it with drink. For a week he’d stayed drunk up to his eyeballs so that he wouldn’t have to feel this way anymore. Like he wanted to scream. Or vomit. Or just lie down and die again.
It hadn’t worked.
As he wove his way through the market, he received a number of stares for his white hair, his pointed ears, his long sword, and his lyrium scars. Finally he found the seller he wanted. Her wares were not cheap, but Dorian had insisted on paying Fenris for his service as a bodyguard, and Fenris – who was not an extravagant spender – still had most of his three months of salary.
He purchased one item. It came in a small, unmarked, brown glass bottle.
Tucking it away under his cloak, he turned and headed back the way he came.
My Maker, know my heart
Take from me a life of sorrow
Lift me from a world of pain
Intoning the Chant of Light in a clear voice, a priest. Pushers of lyrium. Magical trinket vendors and curse casters. Whores in Orlesian dresses. Then he was out of the slums again, and heading towards home.
Krem had left a small lantern burning in the sitting room for him. Fenris picked it up, causing shadows to swing across the floor and walls as he made his way to his bedroom.
Fenris set the lantern down by the fireplace, dropped his cloak, then sat cross-legged in the center of the bed, studying the little brown glass bottle he now held between his thumb and fingers.
Echoes of Anders: Did you ever think about killing yourself?
The mage had been surprised when Fenris had said no. That to kill oneself was a sin in the eyes of the Maker.
But Fenris had lied.
And he was tired.
And there really didn’t seem to be any point in going on. Not without that happiness so pure that it had hurt. Not without that perfect love. Not with the unrelenting pain that continued to tatter his heart from the loss of it.
Fenris opened the bottle.
He thought, Dorian Pavus, may Andraste smile kindly upon you.
Then he drank.
Chapter 6: The Fate of Cremisius Aclassi
"It is dangerous when too many men in the same armor think they’re right."
Hello, my lovelies. What's this? Someone has been doing mean things to your heart?
*kicks your heart across the floor*
Krem refuses to lie down and give up without a fight. But his past finally catches up with him. Will he prevail?
That night, Krem had a strange dream.
It was one thing that Fenris was in this dream, naked against his back. However, what was not acceptable was that Dorian was also in his dream, all his bronze skin revealed, and up against Krem’s chest, making him a Krem sandwich.
Lips exploring, hands skimming, skin hot where it pressed against him.
He was breathless as hands seized him, tossing him down face first on the mattress. Someone twisting his arms, pulling so that his hands were behind his head, then a hand pinned both his wrists behind his neck. Quiet, submissive, he let himself be dominated. So vivid was this dream that he was aware of the acrid scent of the sweat in his underarms. He felt a weight against his backside. And then something slippery...
Krem woke, jerking in the bed. It took him a moment to catch his breath. Then he stared down at the raging hard-on tenting the sheet for a moment before he flopped back down to the bed with a heavy sigh.
Maker’s balls, Krem thought. They’ve finally turned me queer.
Dorian would have laughed at that. And enjoyed teasing Krem to no end.
Krem aggressively tossed the sheets aside. Pulled on a tunic and some pants before heading to the bathroom where he had some trouble with his aim. Then staggered to the kitchen where he proceeded to make coffee.
As he waited for the water to boil, he thought about Dorian.
He’d devoted himself to Dorian for over three years. Served him with near blind adoration. Of all impossible things, when forced to make a choice, he’d left Bull for Dorian. Bull – the man who’d saved him. Who’d given him a new life. Who’d made him stop hating himself whenever he looked in the mirror.
Dorian Pavus, vainglorious, yet brilliant. A good and noble man. Worthy of Krem’s admiration.
Worthy of his love.
Krem sighed, staring angrily at the teapot. It wasn’t right that Dorian had abandoned him and the elf. Especially the elf. Krem didn’t really know what, exactly, he was supposed to do with Fenris. He only knew that everything was fucked, and that he probably needed Fenris as much as Fenris needed him.
Fenris, though... he wasn’t capable of making a decision. Krem thought some more. Someone had to take charge of their fates, and it had to be him. He knew that lingering in Minrathous, in Dorian’s quarters, getting drunk and then feeling weird and guilty about getting each other off, wasn’t doing either one of them any good.
Strange how easy it was to make a decision, once he’d become willing to be the one to make it. He would send for Cynarel. Then, as he’d once suggested, he would take both Fenris and the elven child away from Tevinter, down to Skyhold. At least until he could find the Chargers again. They would piece their lives back together and start over somehow.
Once the coffee was made, he prepared a cup and brought it to Fenris’ room.
Krem rapped briefly on the door before opening it. “Fenris...?”
When a knock came at his door, Varian Prasinus wasn’t entirely surprised that his visitor was Cremisius Aclassi.
He rarely had visitors. In part, that’s why he had chosen to live here – none of his family and few of his friends wanted to even be seen entering or leaving a building where underprivileged mages lived. Varian treasured his privacy more than he liked luxury. Only Dorian – who’d become accustomed to “slumming it” while living at Skyhold – had been one of his visitors and his only guest. Along with his bodyguard and the slave, of course.
Varian gave Krem a quick once-over. The man was a wreck. Pale, and his eyes were red, as though he’d been crying. And he smelled atrociously of cheap liquor.
Curiosity, more than anything, compelled him to widen the door. “Wine, Cremisius?” he asked, though he imagined that the man was already deep in his cups. “I’ve just opened a bottle of something red from Antiva.”
Krem accepted the offer. A few moments later, they were seated in the sitting room – Varian on the divan, Krem in his favorite chair – with two glasses of wine.
Krem stared at the glass on the table for a moment, not touching it. “Fenris is dead.”
He’d said it so bluntly. “How?”
“He killed himself,” Krem said. “Poison.”
Varian’s arm stilled, his glass aloft, as he stared at Krem. “He... took his own life?” He made a noise of disgust. “After what Dorian did to save him?” Varian made the same noise again. “Dorian should have let that ungrateful prat die in Plaza Vivazzi.”
A muscle in Krem’s jaw twitched. “He wasn’t... ungrateful. He was broken.”
Varian lifted a questioning eyebrow.
Krem sighed as he ran a hand over his hair. “Shit. That elf – after all he’s been through... his master abused him. Tortured him. He then spent years being hunted, on the run, alone. And then he was betrayed by the man he loved. And his sister. But Dorian being made Tranquil – that’s the thing that broke him.”
Varian tried to be sympathetic. After all, Dorian had been his friend, and Varian loved him, too, so he was rather familiar with the pain of loss. “I don’t suppose you’re Andrastian, Cremisius?” he mused. “If you are, then perhaps you could find some small comfort in the thought that Fenris now walks at the Maker’s side?”
Krem’s hands clenched into fists. “Fuck the Maker,” he growled. “Fuck Andraste. Fuck everything.”
“Oh. I see.”
Krem stared at his glass, feeling like he might choke on his own throat. Or scream. Or just break down sobbing uncontrollably again. He swallowed several times before he lifted his gaze to the enchanter’s. “Look,” he said. “I know you don’t think much of me because I’m of the soporati, but... isn’t there anything we can do for Fenris? Or Dorian?”
Something shifted in Varian’s expression. It was same look that Dorian would get when he was trying to solve a particularly puzzling magical equation. “I know less about necromancy than Dorian did,” he admitted. “But I do know that even the most powerful necromancer in the world can’t revive someone from the dead once the soul has already departed.”
“As for Dorian... the Rite is permanent. He can’t be saved.”
Krem’s frown deepened. “I can’t just give up,” he said. “There must be something I can do. Some way–”
Varian laughed softly. “Cremisius, please. If I can’t think of a way to save Dorian and his elven lover, then I doubt you can. I mean – to be perfectly honest – you’re really not that intelligent.”
Krem froze, shocked into speechlessness. Did he really just call me stupid?
Varian regarded him coolly, calmly sipping his wine.
Anger blossomed in Krem’s chest, surging up. Okay, so maybe he wasn’t Varian’s intellectual equal. Or anywhere near Varian’s level when it came to wealth or class. But Krem was a man, which, by his own definition, meant that he possessed a strong heart, a code of honor, and, when faced with hardship, would not just lie down and give up.
“To the Void with what you think,” Krem said, his gaze fiery as he stared at the enchanter from across the table. “I will find a way to save them.”
Krem woke the next morning, head throbbing, vision blurry, recollection fuzzy, lying on Dorian and Fenris’ bed, surrounded by an ocean of papers.
Parchment crinkled as he sat up gingerly. Both his head and his stomach protested at the movement. The curtains were open, so he blinked several times in the bright light which was searing holes into his brain. Maker, he felt terrible. He doubted that contracting the Blight could feel any worse than this.
He didn’t want to move again, but the need to empty his bladder was too demanding. Somehow, he managed to crawl off the bed, and made his way to the bathroom. Once that need was met, he staggered into the kitchen, desperately praying that there would still be some of Dorian’s hangover cure left in the blue tin in the cupboard.
It seemed to take Krem an eternity to pry off the lid, spoon the herbs into the cup. Even longer to light the fire in the stove and set the water to boil. Then, after another eternity of waiting for the water to boil and the concoction to steep, he was finally able to sit down, alone at the table, with the bitter medicine before him, taking slow, careful sips.
The effects weren’t immediate, but, by the time he’d finished the cure and prepared a cup of coffee, his stomach had settled and the fog in his head was already starting to lift.
Alone, he drank his coffee slowly, as the events of yesterday began to resurface in his mind.
Fenris was gone. Dead.
There had been no funeral for Fenris. Krem had reported his death, and the Templars had taken his body away. No one cared about a dead elf, not even one who was a liberatus. By now, even his body was gone, cremated in a communal pit, his bones nothing more than ash.
Maker, that hurt.
After the Templars had left, Krem went out. There was a bar nearby called the Sickle, a place he usually didn’t frequent because it wasn’t good enough for Dorian. The Sickle was dirty and filled with shadow – even in the summer afternoon light of Minrathous – but the liquor was strong and cheap, and Krem – who’d never taken to dressing stylishly, despite Dorian’s attempts to doll him up – fit right in.
In no time, he’d drunk himself into a proper stupor.
Then kept drinking.
He’d almost gotten into a bar fight with a loud man in dark red armor, but the bouncer intervened, tossing Krem out into the street.
He’d stumbled to Varian’s quarters after that. Though he’d stopped along the way, because he’d no longer been able to hold back his emotions. In the shadows of an alley, Krem had sunk down into a crouch, face buried in his hands, his body wracked with sobs as the tears, hot, splashed down on the dirty ground between his feet.
Alone, crying in the alley. Fuck. Alone.
Once he’d left Varian’s, he’d come back downstairs.
This part of the evening was particularly hazy in his memory. He’d convinced himself that – despite what Varian had said – there was a solution to this problem, and that he’d find it in Dorian’s notes. Thus decided, he’d gone to Dorian’s bedroom. Taken all of Dorian’s papers out of the wardrobe, then sat down on the bed to sift through them.
Krem didn’t remember any of that. At some point, he must have passed out.
He was sober now, though. Pouring himself another cup, he returned to the bedroom and sat down again, and began sorting through Dorian’s papers on magic.
Dorian had been meticulous about keeping notes. As Krem flipped through the stacks, he found pages written in a less elegant hand – Dorian’s school papers – as well as notes on hedge magics, clearly written at Skyhold, and all of his current lecture notes on Fade mechanics. Because of the course he’d been teaching, he’d brought everything with him from Qarinus. Everything that Dorian knew about magic – everything was right here.
Krem picked up a page and started to read.
Dismay soon set in. Dorian had often tried to explain to Krem how magic worked. Even when the enchanter had explained things in simple terms, certain concepts had been difficult to grasp. In Dorian’s notes, however, things were even less comprehensible. Also, in many places, Dorian had written in a sort of shorthand, or had preferred to draw esoteric diagrams that made absolutely no sense to Krem.
He considered going back to Varian to ask for help with deciphering Dorian’s notes. But then he remembered Varian calling him stupid, and decided he would just muddle through somehow. Perhaps – if he found something promising – he could ask one of Dorian’s altus friends – Calix was his best bet – for help.
It was slow going. But, Krem discovered, with repeated readings, he could at least get the gist of things.
Time passed as Krem weeded through the pages. Eventually he stopped to make more coffee and a sandwich. Once he’d eaten, he returned to the bedroom.
Sipping his coffee, he picked up the next page. Nearly the entire sheet was covered with some of the most complex diagrams Krem had seen so far, drawn in red, green and blue ink. There was almost no writing, except for one short, cryptic phrase, inked in small, but elegant letters, near the bottom of the page: Qui transfigurare realitatem.
How to transfigure reality.
That... was promising.
Hopeful, Krem reached for the next page in the stack.
Krem gathered all the coin he could find in their quarters: his own money, Fenris’ pay, a few royals from Dorian’s purse. It was enough to buy a horse, and have plenty left over for the trip.
Before he left, he polished the metal plates of his armor. Sharpened his sword. Packed the belongings he’d brought from Qarinus. Simple acts that spoke to the ex-soldier inside him.
He would not return to Qarinus for the child. If all went well, there would be no need. And if all didn’t go well, then... well, there was no point in thinking about that. Krem had to believe that he would succeed.
Armor bright, sword sharp, pack slung over his shoulder, Krem lingered at the door, casting one final look at the quarters he’d shared with Dorian. He recalled Dorian studying at the kitchen table among the piles of dusty tomes. The flash of the enchanter’s white teeth as he won at cards. The soft looks of love Dorian exchanged with Fenris as they squeezed each others’ hands under the table.
Traveling alone, there was always the possibility of trouble. Being armed and armored, though, did give him an edge, sent a signal that he wasn’t a man to be easily trifled with. His sword may have been of the finest steel, but its scabbard was plain, and the horse he rode was far from noteworthy, one step up from a nag, so he wasn’t a tempting mark for bandits.
He had been in a hurry when he purchased the mare. So it was no surprise when the horse eventually threw a shoe. Unfortunately he was on hard ground at the time, which meant that he had to stop. And, even more unfortunately, his horse had become hobbled near Trevis.
Trevis: where Krem had been stationed when his secret got out.
Unfortunately, it was already late by the time he’d led his horse into town, and the only farrier was closed for business until the morning. Krem had no other choice than to find an inn for the night.
He didn’t have a hooded cloak, so he sat in the darkest corner of the tavern that he could find with a hot meal and a flagon of ale. It had been many years since his stint in the Imperial Army. By now, he was certain that all the men he’d known had moved on, stationed somewhere else. Or dead in the war. Or just retired.
But he was wrong.
The door of the tavern opened, and a group of soldiers poured in.
Despite the time that had passed, Krem recognized some of them. Men from his old regiment, including his commanding officer, Sargent Petra. Men he’d fought with. Bunked down with. Drank cheap whiskey and played cards with late into the night.
Krem had reserved a room upstairs, but now the soldiers were between him and the stairs. He did his best to shrink back and become invisible in the shadows.
It didn’t work.
Petra saw him. Recognized him. Krem rose from the table, intending to make his escape, but he was quickly surrounded by men, each wearing the shiny, hard metal armor of the Imperial Army.
“Aclassi,” someone said. “It is you.”
“You’ve a lot of nerve showing your face ‘round here.”
“Filthy deserter is what you are. You’ll get what’s coming to you.”
Krem growled, reaching for his sword. “Back off!”
The soldiers rushed forward. Ripped the sword from Krem’s side. Hands seized him by either arm. Then they were dragging him along, through the tavern door, into the black of night. His struggles were in vain as the men forced him around a corner to a dark alley behind the building.
They. fell upon him with fists. Outnumbered, he could scarcely put up a fight. They cracked bones with their kicks. Bloody spittle flew from Krem’s lips. The noises they wrested from him were barely human. Every blow was a new explosion of pain, weakening him.
He was a bloody rag by the time they stopped hitting him. Krem was in a world of suffering. He was vaguely aware that they’d knocked some of his teeth loose, and breathing was difficult as they’d broken several of his ribs. All he could do was lie on the ground and desperately wish that they would tire of their torments soon.
Their hatred was a palpable thing. Krem had fooled them, tricked them into thinking that he was actually a man. It didn’t matter to them that he had all the requisite parts now. He’d been a woman. A deceiver. A liar. Worthy of their scorn.
Another kick to his face. A sick, crunching sound. He was certain that his nose had just been broken. Again.
All the while, as they beat him, they spat names at him.
Deserter... scumbag... coward... pretty boy... bitch.... whore.
At some point, Krem knew how this was going to end.
Pinned down. Clothes torn. Pleas ignored.
The stars over Tevinter twinkled, indifferent, even as the soldiers took hold of Krem’s right arm, pinning it down across an empty wooden crate. Sargent Petra stepped forward, the moonlight glinting off the blade as he raised the ax high in the air.
No! Please, Maker, no!
The ax fell.
Chapter 7: Skyhold
Krem is dying. But then help arrives in a familiar, but unexpected form.
Thank you, my lovelies. Your tears sustain me.
Welcome to Skyhold. Iron Bull cameo. And we finally get to meet Dorian's beloved Inquisitor.
The very last sentence of this chapter may be the most satisfying sentence in the entire series. I hope it punches you right in the feels.
The soldiers left Cremisius Aclassi broken in a ditch on the side of the road near the south side of Trevis.
He’d known pain before, but never quite like this. Because of the broken ribs, each breath was a torment. His pummeled face was in agony. He was also moderately certain that they had badly broken one of his legs. And all across his body he could feel the scraped skin and tender, bruised flesh.
His right arm, though – that was the worst. Like all his nerves were on fire.
Suffering from blood loss and shock, he floated in and out of consciousness all night.
He woke after dawn, blinking and half-blinded by the blue sky above his head.
The light. Maker, even the light hurt him.
He heard voices, horses passing by. If anyone noticed him in the ditch, no one was curious or altruistic enough to approach.
Krem’s thoughts were cloudy things, strained and scattered by pain.
Maybe Dorian was lucky, not being able to feel anything anymore.
Maybe Fenris was right about death being preferable to pain.
As Krem lay, pathetic and dying, a shadow fell across him, and he became aware of the man who was leaning over him, peering into his face.
Strawberry blond hair pulled back. Mage staff strapped to his back. Too many black feathers.
“Wait,” the mage said. “Didn’t I save your life once before?”
“Anders...?” Krem’s voice was a raw croak. Speaking caused a cut in his lip to split open anew, dribbling blood. “What are you...?”
Anders reached up to unfasten his coat. “I was meeting a friend,” he said as he shrugged out of the heavy outer garment. “You do realize that you’re lying naked in a ditch, beaten bloody raw, don’t you?”
Anders covered him with his coat. Soft feathers tickled his neck and shoulders. It smelled like Anders: warm apples and Autumn leaves. Small comfort. The mage then rummaged through his pack, finally withdrawing a small flask, which he pressed to Krem’s mouth, forcing him to drink.
Krem sputtered, but managed to swallow most of the bitter elixir down.
“That should take the edge off the pain,” Anders explained as he tucked the empty flask away. “I’ll examine your injuries now. I’d prefer to do this somewhere more private, but there isn’t really much of a choice.”
Anders uncovered Krem in pieces. His examination was done in part with magic, by touch, and just with his eyes. Krem flinched at his touch, sometimes shuddering with revulsion, sometimes hissing in pain. But it couldn’t be helped. Anders had to know how bad it was. He had to know what he needed to fix.
Both bones in Krem’s left leg were broken. One of them, poorly angled, pierced out through his skin. Those would have to be set before he could even begin healing the leg.
Five ribs on his left side were broken. At least they hadn’t pierced his lungs. At least his vital organs were still intact.
His face. It had once been pretty, hadn’t it? So bruised, cut and swollen now, it was a wonder that Anders had managed to recognize him. Still, there would be little scarring. His nose was also broken, smashed to one side, but that could be easily fixed. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything Anders could do about the missing teeth.
He’d saved the worst for last.
Krem’s right hand was just gone, along with most of his forearm. Blood covered the ground. Blood-soaked bandages covered the stump. Someone – his attackers? – had tied a tourniquet around his arm, just above the elbow, which had kept him from immediately bleeding out.
Carefully unwinding the bandages, he examined the raw wound. It had been partially cauterized, but still seeped blood and yellow fluid. Nasty. He would need to fix this first. Once he got Krem out of the ditch. Anders may have worked in some seedy places in his time, but a filthy ditch was setting the bar a bit too low even for him.
He re-covered Krem. Who now had a glazed look in his eye, which meant that the painkiller was already working.
“Are you traveling alone?”
“Yeah... need to... get to Skyhold...” Krem wheezed. “Horse is... at the Sword and Anvil.”
Skyhold? Interestingly, Anders had met a merchant last night who was on his way to that very place. In his mind, a plan was already forming. If luck were with him, the merchant would still be here, concluding his business in town. But it meant that he’d better hurry.
“I’ll patch you up the best I can,” Anders said. “But there’s something I need to do first. So I’m afraid I’ll have to leave you here for a little bit.”
Krem made a small noise what Anders took to be agreement.
“Good,” Anders said. “Oh, try not to bleed on my coat, all right? And don’t go anywhere.”
The Iron Bull surveyed his old kingdom: the Herald’s Rest tavern at Skyhold.
He’d only been back for two days, but word had already gotten around that this corner belonged to him. It had been enough that he’d roughly chucked out a pair of insolent soldiers on the Chargers’ first night.
The Inquisition had changed over the years. At first, though it had been a chaotic, fly-by-the-seat-of-the-Inquisitor’s-tight-pants free-for-all, the danger had made everything more exciting somehow. More real. Now the Inquisition was like a hydra-headed but well-oiled machine that ran on paperwork.
A bureaucratic nightmare, really.
Thus Bull was nostalgic for the days when the Inquisitor would point at a dragon and, with a winning grin, tell Bull to “go for it.”
Word of Bull’s corner having made the rounds also meant that anyone knew where to find him. Such as Varric last night, who’d clearly been looking for a fresh audience for his stories. And now, one nervous young woman in Inquisition armor who regarded him with wide, dark eyes. “Serah Bull?”
“Merchant Farris was asking for you. Says you’ve got a special delivery.”
That was odd. He wasn’t expecting a delivery. Shrugging to himself, Bull stood with a lazy stretch. “Thanks.”
The young soldier hurried off.
Merchant Farris sold his wares down in the courtyard near the stables. Which is where Bull found him, unloading his wagon with the help of two youths. And sitting on the edge of the wagon bed, blanket wrapped around his shoulders, was a familiar man.
As Bull approached, he noticed the remnants of a somewhat recent beating: cuts healing into scars, and a yellowish tinge of fading bruises across his face. And dangling below the blanket, one leg in dark pants and an old, scuffed boot, the other in a splint.
As he came up to Krem, his ex-lieutenant glanced up and saw him. His gaze was guarded, almost vacant.
Not good. Bull spoke quietly. “What’s wrong, Krem Puff?”
From under the blanket, his left hand emerged. Within it, a makeshift crutch which he lowered to the ground before he slowly eased himself off the wagon bed, keeping his weight off the broken leg. As he did so, the blanket slipped from his shoulders, revealing a flimsy cotton tunic, the right sleeve tied in a loose knot just below his elbow.
“Chief...” he began, but his voice cracked.
Bull stepped forward.
Krem, unsteady on his crutch, crumbled and collapsed into him, chest heaving with shuddering breaths.
How easily the Qunari enfolded Krem in a gentle embrace. Solid chest comforting him, as large hands and strong arms supported him. Near Krem’s ear, Bull’s voice was a deep, soothing rumble. “It’s okay, Krem. No one will hurt you here. We’ll keep you safe.”
The world was anything but a safe place for Cremisius Aclassi. And never would be again.
“Krem – where’s Dorian?”
Krem shuddered again, throat choked with repressed sobs.
Bull waited patiently. Then listened as Krem began to speak, his voice raw with emotion, and on the verge of hysteria. He spoke of Dorian. Fenris. The trouble in Trevis. Anders.
“I’m taking you to the Inquisition’s healers,” Bull said once Krem finally quieted.
Krem found himself being lifted up in those massive arms, his head settled against Bull’s shoulder. He didn’t even protest, indifferent to the stares they gathered, as Bull carried him through Skyhold.
Three days later, the healer sent for Bull.
Bull trudged over to the infirmary. The Inquisitor, ever magnanimous, upon hearing of Krem’s condition, had delayed the Chargers’ mission. So Bull had mostly sat around, drinking with the Chargers, and waiting until the healers gave him permission to see Krem.
Of course, that meant he’d had three days with nothing much else to do but fret about Krem. Yeah, he’d seen the missing arm. The bastards who had done this to him... they hadn’t wanted him dead. They’d wanted him to suffer. Krem was mainly a sword-and-shield fighter. So, even if Krem eventually learned to wield a sword with his left hand, they hadn’t even left him enough of an arm to be able to strap on a shield. They could have just taken a hand. But, no – out of pure spite, they’d taken the swordsman’s entire sword arm.
So, for the past three days, worrying about Krem, and trying to digest the news that Dorian was Tranquil and Fenris dead – well, Bull hadn’t been the most pleasant of company.
One of the healers, a young woman named Merriweather, wouldn’t let him in immediately when he demanded to see the invalid. Even though he towered over her. Of course, Bull towered over everyone.
“He should be able to walk a bit,” she said. “But we’re suggesting that he remain in bed for a few more days at least. The bones are setting, but not completely healed yet.”
Bull studied her. “And... that’s good...right?”
“He’s insisting that he leave the infirmary,” she said with a frown. “If you could maybe try to talk some sense into him?”
Bull considered that. “Sure. I’ll see what I can do.”
The healer looked relieved. “Good.” Then she frowned again. “I feel like I should tell you something. Your friend... he was assaulted.”
Bull cocked an eyebrow. “Given the bruises and broken bones... yeah, that was obvious.”
Something dark flickered across the healer’s expression. “That’s not what I meant.”
Bull stared at her until understanding dawned.
Shit. Not my Krem Puff, he thought. That’s not okay.
In the near future, some soldiers of the Imperial Army were going to die slow, horrific deaths by Bull’s hands. Bones crushed. A sea of blood. Screams relished.
“Yeah, okay,” Bull said quietly. “I get it.”
“Do you?” the healer said coolly. “I hope you realize that your appearance is rather intimidating. Try to keep that in mind. And please try not to get too close or make any sudden movements.”
It took Bull effort to keep the anger simmering inside him out of his voice. “Yeah. I said I got it.”
The main room of the infirmary was lined with a dozen beds. Folding screens normally divided the rooms by gender, however, at the moment, Krem was the only occupant, lying in one of the beds near the door. Moving slowly, Bull sank down into the waiting chair beside him.
Krem smiled at him. But his gaze was still vacant, as if something in his eyes was missing. It took Bull a moment to realize what it was.
Those bastards had stolen the laughter from Krem’s eyes.
“Didn’t expect to see you at Skyhold, Chief.”
Bull made a decision. If Krem wanted to talk about what had happened, then he’d listen. Until then, though, he was going to pretend that everything would be fine. “The Chargers still do odd-jobs for the Inquisition, since it pays so well. Plus, it’s always good to see friendly faces.”
“Is Varric Tethras still here?”
“The dwarf comes and goes, but, yeah. He is.”
The fingers of Krem’s left hand traced over the hem of the blanket covering him. “I need to speak to him. Tell him what happened.” Krem grimaced. “But the healers don’t want me to leave.”
“They’re just trying to do what’s best for you,” Bull said patiently. “You should listen to them. And, if you want to talk to Varric, I can have him come here.”
Krem glanced away, thinking. Then he turned back with a sigh. “I’m not some fragile hothouse flower, Chief. I don’t need to be... coddled.”
“No, but you’re a man who’s been injured. You ain’t stupid, Krem – you know that injuries need time to heal.”
Krem grimaced again as Varian’s words floated back to him: You’re really not that intelligent. “Yeah,” Krem said, voice bitter. “I ain’t stupid.”
“Good. I’ll ask Varric to come see you.” Bull regraded him deeply and curiously for a moment. “Do you need anything else, Krem?”
No silly nickname this time. A question asked in earnest.
Krem thought. The men who had attacked him had taken everything he’d been carrying: his purse, his clothing, his enchanted armor, and his sword. The only thing they hadn’t taken was his horse – though Anders had bartered the mare to Farris in exchange for transporting Krem back to Skyhold. So he’d arrived with nothing except for the borrowed clothes on his back – Anders’ clothes, which were a little too small to fit him right.
By breaking his body, they’d stripped him of his strength. They’d taken his dignity along with his clothes. His identity – even that was in tatters. He was no longer a man – he was a victim. And his sword arm...
Krem glanced down at the stump of his arm. He mostly tried not to look at it. He didn’t like what it meant, or how it felt. And when he ignored it, sometimes he would feel an itch in his missing hand, and he could pretend, at least briefly, that it was still there.
He looked at his left hand. Strong, but empty. During the past week, he’d had to use it for everything, fumbling over tasks which had once been ordinary and simple. To be a swordsman again – that seemed nearly impossible. Still – for what he was about to do, he might need a sword.
“Can’t say I feel right being unarmed,” Krem said.
Then he laughed bitterly at his unintentional choice of words.
Bull smiled gently. “I’m sure that Cullen has something floating around in the armory that he wouldn’t miss.”
Skyhold had too many stairs.
Outside the infirmary, there was the grand staircase where Lavellan had accepted his post as the Inquisitor. Krem no longer remembered the speech Lavellan had given, only that it had roused and united the crowd. He remembered, though, how the Inquisitor looked, standing there, sword in upraised hand, as the breeze flapped the dark green cloak around his body, in all his heroic glory.
His leg, nearly healed, did support some of his weight now. With the help of a cane, he was able to walk long distances without much discomfort. Stairs, however were more difficult. Each step felt like stepping on a knife blade.
Varric, at Krem’s request, had arranged a meeting with the Inquisitor in his private quarters. Which meant another three flights of stairs.
At some point, Varric became aware of the effort Krem was making. “Look, Red,” he said. “The Inquisitor wouldn’t mind meeting us down here.”
It had to be somewhere private. Krem didn’t say that, too preoccupied with the prickling of his pride. “I can do it.”
Varric frowned slightly, but didn’t insist.
They continued up. A few more stairs. Then Krem gave him a sideways glance. “Finally got ‘round to giving me a nickname, eh?”
“It ain’t that original, though.”
“Yeah. That’s what Aveline said.”
Eventually they reached the landing where they were greeted by the Inquisitor.
Some men defied easy description.
The Inquisitor was one of them.
Physically, he did resemble Fenris. White hair, green eyes, pointed ears. And because they were elves, they were somewhat shorter than the average human male, and still willowy despite a finely-muscular build. However, the Inquisitor was a lot prettier, possessing a pert, upturned nose and softer, fuller lips, and his own markings – traditional dark brown Dalish tattoos, instead of Fenris’ pale blue lyrium – traced up his cheekbones and across his forehead, and not just along his chin.
Krem had met the Inquisitor a long time ago at Haven. Even then, it had been obvious that there was something special about the man. He was immensely approachable, despite his position of power. Humble, despite his importance. A mix of soft and hard, though there was nothing cruel about his nature. It soon became clear that Lavellan was willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good, though he’d once refused to sacrifice the Chargers when all sense dictated otherwise. And every move he made was infused with a confidence that suggested that he really was the blessed Herald of Andraste.
That Dorian had fallen in love with the man was not surprising. He was truly glorious. A man without imperfection. Pure of intent and heart.
The Inquisitor smiled at him. “It’s been a long time, Krem.” His eyes drifted to the dwarf, then back to the ex-soldier, now serious. “Varric told me what happened.”
Indeed, Lavellan had been dismayed by the news. Because Dorian... well, he’d always felt bad about the way he’d expelled the mage from Skyhold. Dorian had been such a good man, and so devoted to the cause. And Fenris... well, the ex-slave had saved his life at least once, as well as Sera’s. And the Inquisitor had never had a chance to repay him.
As for Krem... the Inquisitor had always been fond of the ex-Charger, so he’d been horrified when Bull told him of the events in Trevis.
Krem adjusted his cane, shifting his weight. He wasn’t very good at asking for help, but he had no other choice. “I came to Skyhold to ask for a favor,” he said. “Given what the Chargers have done for the Inquisition, I figured you might be willing to help.”
Lavellan was aware that it had been due to Krem’s urging that Bull had agreed to ally his mercenaries with the Inquisition. “Help, Krem?”
“Yeah. To save Dorian. And Fenris.”
The Inquisitor just barely managed to keep himself from raising his eyebrows in surprise. Bull hadn’t speculated much about Krem’s mental state, but Lavellan wondered if the man were still sane. Fenris was dead. The Inquisitor did possess a lot of power, but... dead was still incurable. Dorian’s condition, however...
“This isn’t common knowledge,” Lavellan said. “But the Seekers do have a way to reverse the Rite of Tranquility. Cassandra told me about it. It’s not simple, but Dorian could be made normal again.”
It took a moment for the implications of the Inquisitor’s words to sink in. If only we’d known, Krem thought. That there was hope. Before Fenris took his own life...
Something cold, dark and oily skittered inside him.
“That ain’t good enough,” Krem said. “What I came for is a certain item that Dorian left in your vaults.”
This time, the Inquisitor’s brows did rise in surprise.
Even the dwarf was taken aback. “Red... you don’t mean...?”
Lavellan raised a hand to silence Varric. “That’s dangerous magic, Krem.”
“I don’t care that it’s dangerous,” Krem said as he advanced a step. “You know the good that Dorian’s been doing in Tevinter. We need him... Thedas needs him... and he needs Fenris.”
The Inquisitor met his gaze with perfect aplomb. “I can’t permit that.”
Krem tossed his cane. At Varric, who, because a projectile was suddenly flying at his face, automatically reached up to catch it. As Krem released the cane, in the same movement, he reached down to draw the sword Bull had procured from the armory for him out of its scabbard, as he advanced again.
With his left hand, the move lacked the finesse it would have had with his dominant hand. But Krem still possessed speed. Before Lavellan could react, he found himself backed up against the wall with Krem’s blade at his throat, Krem’s eyes blazing.
“I’m telling you, not asking for your permission,” Krem said coldly. “And that magic doesn’t even belong to you.”
Fortunately, Varric rarely carried Bianca around Skyhold, otherwise Krem would have already had at least one crossbow bolt sticking out of his ass. So now, Varric could only protest. “Woah! Now, Red, calm down! No need for bloodshed.”
Krem growled at him. “Don’t even think about heading for those stairs, dwarf.”
Varric, who had been doing precisely that, as slowly and quietly as possible, now froze in place.
The Inquisitor calmly stared down the flat of Krem’s blade. “You do know that Dorian had me put it in the vaults for a reason,” he said. “He knew the risks better than I did.”
Krem pressed his sword closer, so now that edge of the blade touched skin. “Elf. Maybe you missed the part where I said I didn’t fucking care.”
Lavellan’s eyes narrowed slightly. It was closest that Krem had ever seen the Inquisitor come to expressing anger. “So, then, your plan is murder, followed by theft?”
“If I have to... yes.”
Lavellan gazed deep into Krem’s eyes, assessing the swordsman’s intent. There was madness in there, and the Inquisitor suspected that it would take little before the man became completely unhinged. Still, one thing was clear: Krem’s threat was real. He would kill the Inquisitor first, then Varric, then anyone else who got in his way. And there was probably little point in trying to convince him that his plan was terrible, doomed to fail, even if he did kill them.
Lavellan had already refused because the magic was dangerous. But... perhaps this was the opportunity they’d been waiting for?
He kept his gaze steady on Krem’s. “You do have a sword to my throat,” he stated. “If I gave you my word that the Inquisition would help you, would you even believe it?”
Krem stared back, reading the Inquisitor, seeking. He had a choice: trust the Inquisitor or kill him?
Tightening his grip on his sword, Cremisius Aclassi made his choice.
At the Pavus House, Dorian was organizing his father’s library.
Since his parents had brought him back to Qarinus, they had kept him occupied with mundane tasks. He’d already organized his father’s papers, and written out a clean copy of his father’s manuscript – since handing over his seat to Dorian, one of Halward’s projects had been writing a book on elemental magic theory. His mother Aquinea had made use of Dorian’s fine penmanship, as well, by dictating her letters to him.
Dorian didn’t mind these tasks. Without the ability to feel, he was also incapable of becoming bored. In his mind, it was only logical that he do something useful as opposed to doing nothing at all.
Still, despite his usefulness to his family, his parents had decided to send him back to the Circle in Minrathous, where he would be given a job as the assistant librarian in Arcanist Hall. This, too, was logical to him. Although he couldn’t perform magic, he still knew a great deal about it, and he was already very familiar with the library’s collection. They would send him away before his daughter returned home from school again. After all, seeing her father Tranquil would only upset her.
Dorian was aware that no one was comfortable in his presence anymore. Even non-mages, such as the elven slaves, avoided him as much as possible. Including Cynarel, who had initially cried for hours, inconsolable, upon Dorian’s return.
At the elven child’s tears, Dorian had, of course, felt nothing.
He had just finished organizing the section on physical magic when, for the first time since he’d been made Tranquil, Dorian felt... something.
It wasn’t an emotion. It was a sensation. A sensation that felt familiar to him. A sensation that, given his state of being completely cut off from the Fade, should have been impossible for him to feel. And yet... there it was, prickling and tickling over his skin.
Pulling at the edge of his consciousness. Drawing his attention like a siren song towards the opening of a rift.
But not just any sort of rift.
A rift in time.
Chapter 8: Nice Day for an Ice Cream
Someone steps through a rift in time into Plaza Vivazzi, 9:45 Dragon Molioris.
Oh, how I missed the boys.
The sun beat down on the dirty streets of Minrathous.
“Nice day for an ice cream,” Krem remarked.
“If you want to stop at the seller’s on Vicus Ambrosia, you could just say so,” Dorian said. Then he smirked. “I do like watching Fenris lick things.”
“I’m changing my mind now, Chief.”
Fenris, silent, listened as Dorian and Krem continued to banter. As he listened, he felt as though a weight were lifting, that his heart was becoming light. Then, despite himself, he was smiling. Dorian and Krem were laughing, the sun was shining, and even Minrathous didn’t seem so dirty or terrible.
Dorian smiled at him, his gray eyes sword-blade bright in the late afternoon light.
He’d never thought it possible to love someone this much. To be loved in return.
Fenris realized that he was happy. That this moment was perfect. That everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.
Turning into Vivazzi Plaza, Fenris and Krem noticed a strange thing almost simultaneously.
There was a man in the crowd, dressed in mage robes. Strange because his face was hidden by an elaborate Orlesian mask.
He lifted and aimed his staff.
Straight at Dorian.
With horror, Fenris noticed something else. That blood was dripping from the masked man’s hands.
Oh Maker. He’s using blood magic.
Fenris, shouting a warning, was already moving to defend Dorian. He was half-aware that Krem was also moving to do the same. Both of them willing to use their bodies as shields to protect him.
They were too slow. It was already too late. He knew this.
His eyes now on Dorian, he heard it before he actually saw anything. Right above his head, the easily recognizable sound of an arrow whizzing through the air. Whipping his head around, Fenris was just in time to see not one, but three arrows, each one shot from a different location, as they struck the masked man in near-perfect synchronization in the chest.
For a moment, the masked man teetered on his feet. As the staff slipped from his hand, he toppled over backwards, falling hard and fast like a sack of stones.
A heartbeat later, a ripple of panic ran through the crowd. Turning in all directions, people fled.
“What in the Void...?” Dorian murmured in surprise, still staring at the fallen man several yards away from them.
Krem and Fenris, however, had only looked at the man long enough to ascertain that he was no longer a threat, and were now both scanning the Plaza in the directions from which the shots had been fired.
“There,” Fenris said, indicating a hunched figure in a hooded cloak, standing on a nearby balcony, holding a crossbow.
“Another one,” Krem said as he spotted a second figure, face also hidden under a hood, perched in a window of the second floor of the Wyvern’s Blood, long bow in hand.
“And over there,” Fenris said as he found a third figure, identity also cloaked, crouching by the cracked bell on the rooftop behind them, also holding a long bow.
The figure then lifted a hand. And waved at them.
From the direction of the Wyvern’s Blood, a loud whistle cut across the now empty Plaza.
Moving quickly, all three figures retreated from their posts.
Krem and Fenris exchanged a glance. “I don’t suppose you have any idea what’s going on...?” Krem asked hopefully.
“No,” Fenris replied. “But they did just kill a blood mage who was trying to kill us, so there’s a reasonable chance they’re on our side.”
Krem snorted a soft laugh. “And the elf makes a joke.”
“He does that sometimes,” Dorian remarked offhandedly, though he was still studying the fallen man as he thoughtfully twisted one end of his mustache. Though he stopped to watch as the three figures emerged from their buildings into the Plaza.
One of the archers with a long bow was the first to reach them. As he drew closer, he pulled back his hood to reveal his face.
Beautiful white hair. Luscious green eyes. And a familiar pattern of Dalish tattoos.
Dorian sputtered in shock. “Inquisitor...?”
As the Inquisitor smiled at him, the other two archers arrived, both revealing their faces.
Varric winked at him. “Good to see you, Sparkler. Broody. Red.”
Confused, Krem raised an eyebrow.
Sera grinned at him. “So, this is Tevinter, eh? Smells like arse.”
Well. Dorian couldn’t exactly disagree with that. Still, he returned his gaze to the Inquisitor’s gorgeous face. “Not that I’m displeased to see the three of you, but... what are you doing here?”
“We’ll explain everything later, I promise,” Lavellan said. “But right now I suggest we get off the streets. You have quarters close to here, right? We’ll go there.”
Maker, Dorian didn’t realize how much he’d missed the sound of the Inquisitor’s voice until he’d heard it again. It wasn’t particularly deep, but there was a lovely lilt to it, and he possessed that accent peculiar to the Dalish that was total ear candy.
And – wait. How did the Inquisitor know they had quarters near here?
“Very well,” Dorian said amiably. “However, I hope you won’t mind an unmasking first. I’m dreadfully curious to know the identity of the man who wanted to kill me.”
The Inquisitor nodded. He and others followed as Dorian crossed the distance to the dead man.
And he was most certainly dead. At least one arrow had pierced his heart, the other two not far from their mark.
Sera chortled with glee. “That there’s mine, Varric. Told ya I could do it.”
Varric pulled some coin out of his purse with a sigh. “Okay, you win, Buttercup. Here’s your five royals.”
“Pfft. I’d rather have my winnings in jam.”
Varric repocketed the money. “Jam it is, then.”
Dorian had knelt down beside the body, and now glanced up crossly at them. “You bet on who would kill him?”
“Hitting a man in the heart from that distance isn’t easy, Sparkler,” Varric said. “Besides, you know that I bet on everything.”
Dorian couldn’t really argue with that. “True,” he said, then returned his attention to the body.
Though the man had fallen, the Orlesian mask remained firmly in place. Dorian didn’t recognize his robes or his staff, which meant that he’d actually have to remove the mask. Despite being a necromancer, he wasn’t particularly keen on touching dead bodies, but he swallowed his distaste and reached down to unmask him.
Dorian, Krem and Fenris all recognized him.
“Shit, no,” Krem murmured.
Fenris quietly and gently placed a hand on Dorian’s shoulder.
The Inquisitor glanced curiously at Krem. “You know this man?”
Dorian answered. “An old friend of mine,” he said, doing his best to make his tone light. “Or, at least, I thought he was.” Dorian reached out a hand to close the dead man’s eyes. Despite his efforts, his voice cracked when he spoke again. “His name... was Rilienus.”
Krem was completely baffled.
One moment, they’d been walking home after murdering Fenris’ sister, and the next the Inquisitor and friends had just swooped in out of absolutely nowhere to rescue them from their attacker. Who was Dorian’s ex-lover. And since when was Rilienus a user of blood magic? As for Dorian, he seemed perfectly content to follow the Inquisitor’s lead, taking it all in stride.
Of course the Inquisitor had taken charge. One thing about the elf was for certain – he had no problem with running the show.
Dorian led the way. A few blocks later, they arrived home. Fortunately they all fit into the magical lift, though Sera protested loudly as the lift began to magically ascend.
Krem glanced at Fenris. Who was quietly brooding. Though his lips did twitch up when Varric smiled at him.
Once inside their quarters, Varric and the Inquisitor sat down in the sitting room when invited to. Sera, however, prowled around the bookshelves, picking up objects at random and examining them. She looked curiously at Dorian. “So, you live here, yeah? Seems like slummin’ it for someone so fat with it.”
Dorian slid down on the divan next to Varric. “My other house is a mansion.”
“Pfft! Course it is.”
“Oh, and Sera? You might want to put that down. That one’s magical.”
“Balls! Ick!” Sera blurted out as she quickly returned the object to the shelf.
Krem growled with exasperation. “Would someone please explain what in the blasted Void is going on?”
The Inquisitor casually ran a hand along his jaw. “Quite simply? We’re from the future.”
“Yeah,” Sera added, rubbing her fingers on her jerkin as if she could wipe any residual magic off. “And you all betta appreciate me coming, what with all this creepy weird magic and time traveling shite.”
Dorian’s expression became one of complete shock, his hand clutching at his robes over his chest, as he stared at Lavellan. “You... you used Alexius’ amulet?! But–”
Krem interrupted. “I don’t care how. I just want to know why.”
“Short version?” Varric asked. “We’re here to fix a gods-awful mess.” He pointed at Dorian. “You were made Tranquil.” He pointed next at Fenris. “You killed yourself.” Then Krem. “And you... well, you rode in on your horse and saved the day.” Varric reconsidered. “Well, technically, you came on a wagon, but saying it was a horse just sounds more romantic.”
Dorian and Fenris stared at dwarf, agape.
Krem brightened. “So I’m the hero?” he said, sounding pleased. “Yeah, given the choices – Tranquil, dead, or hero – I’ll take it.”
“A fine choice, Red.”
“Maybe you should write a book about it, dwarf.”
“Maybe I will.”
Dorian finally snapped out of his state of shell shock. “Woah, woah, woah. Wait. Me? Made Tranquil?” Dorian snorted in disbelief. “Varric, your story leaves much to be desired. And Fenris would never take his own life. That doesn’t make any sense.” He glanced over his shoulder at Fenris. “Right, amatus? ”
Fenris remained silent, thinking his own private thoughts. He didn’t answer Dorian’s question. Instead he announced, “I’m making tea.”
“Ooh!” Sera cooed. “I’ll help!”
Fenris glowered at her, growling fiercely. “No! You will not!”
Sera stuck her tongue out at him. “Piss! Sourpuss.”
Ten minutes later, chairs had been brought over, so now they all sat in the sitting room, drinking cold, black Tevinter tea, and listening to Varric talk.
“So, I can only tell you what Krem – future Krem – told us. Apparently, your friend in the mask that day – which is your today – tried to kill you. And by ‘you,’ I really mean Fenris. Hit him with a blood magic spell.”
Dorian exchanged a glance with Fenris, then steepled his fingers, thinking. “What spell?”
“Krem didn’t know, but he said it was awful – Fenris was bleeding out his eyeballs. Well, not just his eyeballs. Nose, ears, mouth. Everywhere.”
“Shit,” Dorian muttered. “That’s Hemorrhage. Causes the victim to bleed out slowly until... well, the inevitable.”
Dorian shivered as he thought about what it would be like to watch Fenris die.
“So, you, Sparkler, tried to save him.”
Dorian thought. “Perhaps by combining spirit healing with a nullification enchantment to dispel the blood magic... that could work. In theory, at least.”
“Well, whatever you did – it didn’t work. Hence the desire demon summoning part. In a crowded square. With witnesses.”
Dorian sighed. “I’m afraid I can see where this is going.”
Varric raised an eyebrow. “Are you going to let me tell this story, or are you going to keep interrupting?”
“Okay, okay,” Dorian relented. “As you say down south, my lips are sealed. Do go on, Varric.”
Dorian, Fenris and Krem listened to the rest of Varric’s story with a minimum of interruptions. How Dorian had been arrested and made Tranquil. How Fenris, despondent, had swallowed deathroot extract. And how Krem had come to Skyhold and demanded that the Inquisitor give him Alexius’ amulet.
The Inquisitor lifted a hand, brushing back his beautiful white hair. “At that point we agreed to help. And came up with a plan.”
“Yeah, a bloody brilliant plan,” Sera chimed in. “Arrows.”
The Inquisitor smiled fondly at Sera, causing Dorian to wonder if he were still in love with her. “Yes, arrows,” he agreed. “It would take a very talented mage to be able to deflect shots from three archers.”
Fortunate, then, that Rilienus hadn’t been particularly skilled as an enchanter. He’d had other skills – ones which Dorian was desperately trying not to remember.
“So you just came to Minrathous and opened a rift in time,” Dorian snarked.
“More or less.”
Maker’s hairy arse. “But –”
The Inquisitor didn’t let Dorian finish that sentence. He turned to Fenris. “That tea was lovely. I’ve never had Tevinter tea before. I wouldn’t mind another glass. Can you show me how you make it?”
Fenris didn’t protest this time. “Of course.”
Fenris and the Inquisitor retired to the kitchen to make tea together.
Krem was asking Varric for some clarification about his story. Dorian half-listened to Varric’s replies as he watched the two elves standing next to each other, speaking softly.
“Oh! Juniper berries?” he heard the Inquisitor say, like it was the most fascinating thing in the world. But Dorian couldn’t make out any other words, no matter how hard he strained to hear.
In the past few months, Dorian had become an expert on Fenris’ body. Including the meaning of his gestures and the ways in which he held himself. Since the Plaza, there had been a tension in Fenris’ stance. Except now, making tea with the Inquisitor, that tension was starting to drain away.
It was one of the things that Dorian had loved about the Inquisitor – his ability to make anyone feel at ease. Still, Dorian found it surprising that the Inquisitor had this effect on Fenris, as well.
Not only that, as the Inquisitor smiled most charmingly at Fenris, Fenris returned it with his warmest and most unguarded smile. A smile, until now, that he’d reserved only for the children and for Dorian.
Yes, that was definitely jealousy. It was fine that Fenris gave that smile to the children, but, really... to another man? Even if it was the Inquisitor, Dorian didn’t like it.
Even so... Maker, they were both such beautiful men. Dorian admired them together. Like bookends. Or twins. He’d once had a fantasy about twins that he’d never fulfilled. And both of them were elves – Dorian liked elves. And so flaming sexy – which was even better than their being elves. Really, this wasn’t the moment to be thinking about that, but Dorian couldn’t help himself from reviving that old fantasy.
It was so damn hot that Dorian literally began to salivate.
In that moment, Fenris happened to glance at him. Gaze almost innocent, but then his expression grew dark as he interpreted the hungry look in Dorian’s eyes.
“Dorian,” he growled. “Whatever perverse thing you’re thinking – stop it.”
Under the white-hot fire of Fenris’ jealousy, Dorian flinched. “I wasn’t... I mean, I only...” Ugh. Cowed, Dorian bent his head, and murmured meekly, “Yes, amatus.”
The Inquisitor’s hand fell on Fenris’ arm. “Actually, I do need to speak to Dorian alone,” he said gently. “If that’s all right...?”
Could anyone say no to this man? Evidently not, because Fenris eventually just nodded his permission, despite knowing that there was only one place that Dorian and his beloved Inquisitor could chat in private.
In their bedroom.
Chapter 9: Love and Ruin
The Inquisitor explains some things. Varian reveals something of interest. And Fenris' friends are annoying.
Lots of talking in this chapter. Though I promise that it is leading up to something in the final two chapters!
Okay, so I totally stole a thing from Hirrient's The World Was Saved But Not For Me (which is, IMO, still the very best Dorian/Fenris fic written so far).
In the first chapter of TWWSBNFM, there's that brilliantly awkward exchange between Dorian and the Inquisitor, where the Inquisitor wants to explain how he feels (or, rather doesn't feel) and Dorian DOES NOT WANT TO HEAR A WORD OF IT. Similarities between that scene and the first scene in this chapter should be glaringly obvious.
Oh, and remember when Krem put his sword to the Inquisitor's throat? It's Fenris who does it in Hirrient's story, but I stole that, too. Oh, and in "Ghost", during the break-up scene with Rilienus, Dorian cracks a joke to diffuse the tension ("Maker, please laugh...") which I also appropriated. There are probably some other things that crept in, but these are the ones I recall.
Dorian closed the door of his bedroom, sealing the Inquisitor and himself inside.
Being alone with the Inquisitor in his tiny bedroom – well, he hadn’t felt this awkward since Fenris had shown up in his bedroom on Wintersend, demanding to know Dorian’s feelings. Actually, he was on the verge of a proper panic when Lavellan sank down on the edge of his bed – leaning back on his hands, legs extended. Practically sprawled across Dorian’s mattress.
Another thing Dorian loved about the Inquisitor – his complete lack of self-consciousness.
“Dorian,” Lavellan said. “About that day – the last time we saw each other...”
Maker, don’t you dare, Dorian thought. The last thing he wanted to talk about was that moment in the library when Lavellan kicked him out of the Inquisition. “You don’t have to explain,” Dorian said hastily. “Really. It’s not necessary. I understand.”
“Just let me apologize, Dorian.”
There it was, that tone that demanded your attention. And, by that tone, he knew that the Inquisitor was not going to back down until he’d had his say. Dorian’s protest died on his lips.
Lavellan lifted one hand to rub the back of his neck. “At the party, when you came at me that way–”
“I was drunk.”
“I mean, it was completely obvious long before then that you had feelings for me–”
Maker, kill me now. “Inquisitor...”
“–and I didn’t really do anything to discourage your fantasies–”
Stop. Maker, please stop. “Inquisitor, please...”
“I really shouldn’t have flirted with you. Knowing how you felt. I... shouldn’t have led you on. I’m sorry.”
Ugh. Dorian pondered the logistics of magicking a hole in the floor so he could fall through it.
“Yes, well,” Dorian said, then cleared his throat. “It wasn’t as though there weren’t... signs that your interest lay elsewhere. I just foolishly chose to ignore them.”
The Inquisitor considered that. Then he smiled. “At least things worked out in the end. I’m happy for you and Fenris. He’s a good man.”
“I... yes, he is.”
Lavellan made that familiar gesture of brushing his hair out of his eyes again. “Creators, Dorian, I’ve missed you. I truly regret what I did. Can we be friends again?”
Dorian felt his heart hitch. Those words, spoken softly – intimately – in that Dalish ear-candy voice... Seriously, could anyone say no to this man?
It occurred to Dorian that the Inquisitor was playing him. Just like a fucking fiddle. Just like he always had. And – wait. Why was he letting the elf get away with it now?
“You know, I do enjoy a heart-felt confession every now and then,” he said sweetly, then his tone changed, sharp and accusatory. “But shouldn’t we be talking about the incredibly foolish thing you’ve done? That magic is wildly unstable!”
The Inquisitor blinked at him. Then a small smile tugged at the corner of his lips. “Foolish, am I?”
Dorian crossed his arms, staring down at the elf sharply. “I told you about my research. And, even if you didn’t want to take my word for it, you remember that bit of Alexius’ journal we found in that awful future.” Dorian’s eyes narrowed. “And I think you really ought to explain exactly how you even made it work – before, it only worked because of the Breach. Which – thanks to you – no longer exists.”
“Ah.” The Inquisitor delicately crossed his ankles in front of him. “Well, apparently it doesn’t only work near the Breach. Time magic is also possible wherever the Veil has been thinned. Which is an interesting side effect of this.”
The Inquisitor held out the hand with the Anchor. For emphasis, he let the mark flare to life, glowing with crackling green energy.
Which meant that the Inquisitor was practically the only person in Thedas who could make time magic possible. “Still, you’re ripping holes in time! Am I the only one who sees how dangerous that is?”
“It’s not that dangerous now.”
“Just between us...” The Inquisitor lowered his voice. “The amulet. I didn’t put it in the vaults like you asked.”
“What?” Dorian nearly staggered back from shock. “Are you insane?”
“Instead I had Leliana put your old mentor to work on it. And eventually... Alexius found a way to stabilize the magic.”
Dorian snorted. “So, now you just jump around in time whenever the fancy strikes you?”
“Actually, this is the first time that we’ve attempted to use it since Redcliff,” he admitted. “Alexius and I were just waiting for the right opportunity to... test it.”
“Oh,” Dorian snarked. “That’s so very reassuring.”
The Inquisitor fixed him in a cool, green stare. “You’re welcome, Dorian.”
That froze Dorian’s tongue for a moment. If the Inquisitor – along with Varric and Sera – hadn’t traveled through time...
He sighed as he ran a hand through his hair. “I suppose I ought to be flattered then, that you regard Fenris and myself as worth such a risk.”
The Inquisitor was quiet for a moment. “To tell you the truth, it wasn’t just you and Fenris.”
“Krem – when he arrived – well, on his way to Skyhold, he’d had a run-in with some soldiers from his old regiment. They’d done terrible things to him. Seeing him like that was... unpleasant.”
Not my Krem, Dorian thought. “Since you put it that way, I’m rather certain that I don’t want any details.”
“Perhaps you should have them,” Lavellan replied.
Dorian grimaced as the Inquisitor related all the gory details of the assault he’d gleaned from the healer and the merchant.
Violence. Rape. Mutilation. Madness.
Not quite able to keep the dismay from his expression, Dorian sighed. “Remind me never to take Krem anywhere near Trevis.”
“Varric and I – we decided that there was no point in mentioning it to him. He saved you – that’s what matters.” The Inquisitor paused. “I just thought you should know the caliber of the man who stands at your side.”
“As you already know,” Dorian said, “I only allow men who are good and noble to stand at my side.” Dorian gave Lavellan a warm, knowing sort of smile. “Inquisitor.”
The Inquisitor returned the smile. Then laughed softly.
“Flatterer,” he said.
As he finished the tea preparations, Fenris fretted at the bedroom door.
He trusted the Inquisitor implicitly. Even if Dorian had poured an entire vial of Love Potion #5 down the man’s throat, Fenris would have trusted the Inquisitor to behave as a perfect gentleman. He inspired that sort of trust.
Fenris had no reason not to trust Dorian. Yes, Dorian still flirted madly with men and women alike, and enjoyed teasing Fenris about his little piques of jealousy. And, though Dorian seemed to enjoy Fenris’ possessiveness too much, he seemed to know where to draw the line. Exchanging looks and innuendos drew angry scowls, while touching – or anything beyond it – meant that a lyrium ghost elf was about to tear someone’s heart out.
Even so, Fenris didn’t like Dorian being alone in their bedroom with the Inquisitor. Lavellan wasn’t like Dorian’s other men. The enchanter had fallen in love with him once. Probably loved him still.
If Dorian Pavus had a weakness, it was love. He stumbled into it so effortlessly, but was unable to fall out again. Fenris knew this from experience – any time a man showed Dorian just the slightest scrap of genuine affection, the man was done for.
Which, Fenris knew, meant that whatever was going on his head about Rilienus couldn’t be good. Since the unmasking, Fenris had wanted to say or do something to... well, to comfort him. Fenris was Dorian’s man, so one of his responsibilities was to give comfort, wasn’t it? But with all these people here, he couldn’t.
He was fretting again when Varric sidled up next to him in the kitchen.
The dwarf’s eyes twinkled at him. “So,” he began jovially. “You and Sparkler, eh?”
One dark eyebrow twitched up. “If you’re planning on putting it into a book, dwarf, I’m not telling you anything.”
Varric smirked. “Oh, come on, Broody,” he teased. “You know that if you don’t tell me, I’m just going to make stuff up.”
“Command me to go and I shall,” he said, then huffed. “As if I’d ever say anything that asinine. Tch. And to Hawke.”
Fenris realized his error only a moment too late.
“You realize that you just quoted one of my books back to me, Broody.” Varric grinned. “Why, I didn’t realize you were such a big fan.”
Fenris frowned. “I... I only read that one book,” he lied. In fact, Krem had read Tale of the Champion and the first installment of the Swords and Shields series to him. Which he might have been able to admit, except that, once he was at Skyhold, Cassandra, before she’d returned to the Seekers, had read the other books in the series to him. In secret.
Varric’s smile was all too knowing. “Sure, Broody. Whatever you say.”
“Just... shut up or change the subject, dwarf.”
“Fine, fine.” Varric held up both hands in a placating manner. “We can change the subject.” He hummed thoughtfully. “So... I heard that you saw Anders.”
Amused, Varric quietly watched Fenris brood as he dumped sugar into the waiting tea glasses. A moment passed, and then Fenris shot Varric a piercing glance. “All right,” he murmured. “What do you want to know about me and Dorian?”
Sera, who had been listening, laughed. “Yeah, go on, Varric. Five royals says there’s a mirror over the bed so Dorian can look at his self while Fenny vishantes his kaffas.”
“That isn’t–!” what those words mean, Fenris was about to say, but... on second thought, it wasn’t exactly an inaccurate description of what he did to Dorian.
“And growling, Varric,” Sera added. “Lots of growling up in there.”
“That does sound about right,” Varric agreed.
Fenris sniffed disdainfully. “You are both immensely annoying.”
“Pissballs! You’re no fun,” Sera groused.
“You like us, anyway, Broody,” Varric said.
Fenris did like Varric. At Skyhold, Sera had tried to make friends with him, but her personality had grated on his nerves. Inexplicably, Sera didn’t like other elves, but had decided that Fenris wasn’t “too elfy.” To this day, he couldn’t believe that Dorian – the elitist Tevinter – had actually been friends with a reactionary elven rogue.
Fenris grunted. “I like quiet.”
The door to the bedroom opened. Dorian stepped out first, his gaze sweeping first over Fenris before coming to rest on his other bodyguard. “Krem, please entertain our guests,” he said lightly. “I need to go speak with Varian.”
“Wait,” Krem protested. “Right now, Chief?”
Dorian scarcely spared a glance at the Inquisitor, who exited the room behind him, then walked past him. In the sitting room, Lavellan tossed himself down in a chair, hands behind his head, stylishly-booted feet up on the table. Acting like he owned the place. Or, rather, like he owned Tevinter. Really, the man was remarkable.
“Yes,” Dorian said. “There’s something we need to discuss.”
Two flights up, Dorian sat in his friend’s kitchen, drinking a far more exotic tea than the one the others were drinking downstairs, and told him everything.
Varian was an excellent speaker. He was an excellent listener, as well, and reserved any questions until Dorian had completed his tale.
“So, Dorian,” the other magister said, his gaze serious and steady as a funeral drum. “The Inquisitor and your friends, out of their own time, are sitting in your living room? Then there must be a reason you’re here, telling me this now.”
“I left out one very important detail,” Dorian admitted, playing with his empty teacup. “The man in the mask. We knew him. It was Rilienus of House Telarius.”
Varian pressed his fingers to his lips, very thoughtful.
Not exactly the reaction that Dorian had been expecting. “Varian?” he said. “You really don’t look surprised. I was expecting at least a little surprise. A hint of astonishment. A whisper of shock. Something.”
Varian half-smiled. “Dorian. You came here because you were hoping that perhaps I knew something about why he would attack your elf. Or why he was using blood magic.”
“Do you?” Dorian asked, then added, “My elf has a name, you know. You could try using it on occasion.”
Varian ignored the last part. “Since you had your falling out, I’ve been keeping my ears open for news of your ex-lover. There are always rumors, of course.”
Calling it a “falling out” was kind, considering how it was Ril who had dumped him. “You’ve heard something.”
“I have. Your old bed warmer found himself a mentor. A magister named Aetius.”
Dorian searched his memory banks, but was unable to make a connection. “And what do we know about this Magister Aetius?”
“Old. Powerful. Maleficar.”
Of course. Then he had a flash. “Wait – is he that ugly little man with the green pointy shoes that remarkably resembles a toad when he smiles?”
“I was thinking more like a snake, but, yes, that would be him.”
Dorian briefly wondered if Rilienus had been more than just the magister’s apprentice. Then he wondered if he should be offended by Ril’s choice of a new sex partner, or if he should laugh.
No... better to not think about that. He let that thought go. “If you knew this... any reason why you didn’t bother to mention it?”
Varian’s long, narrow fingers traced the rim of his tea cup. “I didn’t tell you you because... well, I knew you were in love with that prat. I thought it would be kinder not to mention him.”
“Prat, is he?” Was he. Flames. No one could ever speak of that man in the present tense again. Prickly, Dorian added, “I know you never liked him. You always made that abundantly clear.”
Varian wrinkled his nose. “He wasn’t good enough for you.”
That gave Dorian pause. Sometimes it seemed like everyone in Tevinter knew that he bedded men, but, really, it was mostly rumor. Dorian had only admitted it to a few of his closest friends. Varian being one of the few. And, although they all accepted it in theory, they tended to avoid discussing the sordid details of the actual practice.
“Oh,” Dorian said, even more prickly than before. “Since we’re discussing my love life, I suppose, then, that you rather disapprove of my taking up with an ex-slave. At least Ril was a fully-ranked enchanter.”
“That man, Dorian,” Varian said with distaste. “He was weak. Blood magic just to kill an elf? Maker’s breath. And he was a sniveling social climber. You do realize that he was using you to get ahead, don’t you?”
“Fasta vass, Varian–”
Varian’s eyes flashed. Voice cutting. “At least let me finish.”
Dorian opened his mouth. Then angrily shut it, gesturing for his friend to continue.
“If word got out that you were in a serious, committed relationship with an elven liberatus, you’d be a laughing stock. It would most likely ruin you,” Varian said.
Dorian bristled, but remained silent.
“But,” Varian continued, “if you can manage to keep it secret, then the elf is perfect. I’ve seen you two in public – he plays his role as servant brilliantly. He loves you and I can’t imagine him ever betraying you.”
Stunned, Dorian stared at his friend. It took him a moment to find his voice. “I... that really wasn’t what I was expecting.”
“What were you expecting? That I’d judge your elf based on his social rank, his bloodline, and his magical skill?”
“Funny,” Dorian quipped. “I thought that’s how you judged everyone.”
Varian smiled. “Well, that’s not entirely untrue,” he said. “Still. I’ve never seen you so happy before. Maker, Dorian, if what the Inquisitor said is true, that elf would die without you.”
Uncertain about how to respond to that, Dorian said nothing.
“Well,” Varian chirped, somewhat cheerfully. “Speaking of this Inquisitor of yours... I’ve heard so much about him that I’d love to meet him.”
Pretending that everything was normal – Dorian was good at that. “Certainly. Of course, it wouldn’t do for members of the Inquisition to be seen traipsing around Minrathous, so we can’t go anywhere interesting,” he said with a smile. “However, do feel free to come down to join us for dinner later.”
Chapter 10: The Order of Lusacan
Having discovered who is behind the attacks, Dorian must decide what to do.
Someone please inform Varric that it is impolite to ask someone about their genitals (whether they are trans or not!).
Okay... I think I have set everything up for the final chapter of this series. Wow, only one more chapter after this. I can't believe we're so close to the end...
As always, I appreciate your comments, crits, loving kindness and threats of violence.
“So,” Varric said as he studied Krem over his glass. “In his last letter, Dorian mentioned that you and Isabela were still seeing each other. Any chance of little Kremlings running amok underfoot in the near future?”
Krem choked on his tea.
Fenris snickered softly.
Varric’s eyes swept over him. “Of course, I’m assuming a few things. Such as whatever spell Dorian used to change you made you male in every way – including the ability to make babies.”
Krem became aware that all eyes were upon him. Fenris – amused. Sera – perplexed. And the Inquisitor – completely neutral. A bit of tea had slipped down his windpipe, so he tried to cough it back up. “Umm...” Krem said between coughs, “he... yeah... he did.”
The Inquisitor became thoughtful. “I’ve never heard of a spell like this before.”
“Nor would you have heard about it, my dear Inquisitor,” Varric said reproachfully, “if future Krem hadn’t actually shown up at Skyhold wearing a new body.”
“Creepy, if you ask me,” Sera said. Then, “Not sayin’ there’s anything wrong with you havin’ man bits if you want ‘em, but, magic, yeah?”
Krem coughed once more. “I, ah, figured that Bull would have told you.”
“In fact, he didn’t.”
Of course the big horned bastard didn’t tell anyone. Because he doesn’t judge a “man” by his appearance.
“Sorry, dwarf,” Krem said coolly. “I didn’t realize that I was obligated to keep you and the rest of the the world updated about what’s in my pants.”
Varric raised an eyebrow slightly. Then he smiled. “Fair point, Red.”
The door opened and Dorian entered.
Although everyone’s gaze was anxiously upon him, he moved gracefully, in no hurry, to his previous seat on the divan. “Well!” he chirped. “Varian didn’t have much to say. Except that Rilienus had become apprenticed recently to an infamous blood mage known as Magister Aetius.”
By habit, whenever Fenris was in the same room, Dorian’s eyes were drawn to him. So he noticed when Fenris’ expression grew dark.
Fenris startled. Shook an old memory out of his head. “I know him,” he said flatly. “He was in Danarius’ circle.”
“Really?” Dorian said. “So was the man who kidnapped me.”
“Bricio,” Fenris said. “Yes.”
For a moment, they looked at each other.
“Fenris,” Dorian said slowly. “This circle of Danarius’... what, exactly, did it consist of?”
“There were eight of them. Eight magisters, including Danarius. They gathered to do blood magic rituals. Usually with blood sacrifices. Sometimes they would bind demons to unwilling hosts. Anything to increase their power,” Fenris explained. “They even had a name. They called themselves the Order of Lusacan.”
The Inquisitor perked up. “Lusacan? As in one of the Old Gods? The Dragon of the Night?”
Dorian cocked an eyebrow. “Inquisitor, you seem to know a lot about human gods.”
“I know a lot of things,” he said, in a way that wasn’t cocky, just confident. “Or am I mistaken?”
“No, no, you’re quite correct,” Dorian said. “Lusacan is believed to be the seventh and final archdemon that will appear. Not that everyone agrees on that, by the way, but that is neither here nor there. At any rate, he’s a rather popular Old God here in Tevinter. Cultists love the Old Gods.”
Varric grunted. “And you wonder why people vilify your countrymen, Sparkler.”
“Actually, Varric, I’m well aware of my countrymen’s problems.” His eyes slid back over to Fenris. “Amatus – I don’t suppose this little cult of Danarius’ had a habit of wearing Orlesian masks?”
“Not at first,” Fenris said. As the elf paused, Dorian could literally see the understanding as it dawned on the elf. “Only... later.”
“I don’t suppose it would be too much to hope for that you could actually name these men?”
“I can,” Fenris said. Then a muscle in his jaw twitched. “In fact, I pointed three of them out to you in the Magisterium this morning.”
A cunning light appeared in the Inquisitor’s eyes. “So, what you’re saying is that you know who was behind the attack.”
“Attacks, actually,” Dorian said. “Cremisius and I have had some trouble with them before.” Now that was an understatement. “Of course, we didn’t know who they were at the time.”
“Then you’ll need to stop them, Dorian,” the Inquisitor said. “Before they do more than send a few thugs and one apprentice after you.”
Of course the Inquisitor knew about the thugs who had kidnapped him and almost killed Krem. And Rilienus... well, it was a bit insulting how easily they’d been caught with their defenses down. But the Inquisitor wasn’t wrong. A handful of maleficarum, with enough lyrium or blood, could easily kill every single person in the room with frightening ease.
Dorian realized that up until this point, his enemies hadn’t seen him as a true threat. That they’d just been toying with him.
That was completely unacceptable.
“Well, the solution is simple enough,” Dorian said. “We have the Templars arrest them. I imagine that Fenris’ testimony should be more than enough to condemn them all to the Rite of Tranquility.”
It was quiet for a moment.
Then Fenris spoke, his voice low. “We should just kill them.”
“Fenny’s right,” Sera said. “They sound like a bunch of baddies. We could just go and stick a bunch of arrows into them. No Templar fuss or nothin’. Problem all gone.”
“I can’t say I disagree,” Varric added. “It does sound simpler. You have a threat. Remove the threat. No more threat.”
“That is not how things should be done in Tevinter anymore!” Dorian protested. “It goes against everything I’ve been trying to change! And this is precisely what the Templars are for. Giving bad men fair trials before stripping them of their evil power.”
“Dorian,” Fenris said. “I...”
Dorian looked at him. The elf’s face was pale. Grim. A spike of concern slammed through Dorian. “Fenris?”
“The trials... I don’t know if I can...”
“Fenris?” Dorian ventured, his voice soft with concern. “What’s wrong? You’ve testified before. And these men... oh.”
Dorian trailed off, suddenly remembering the merciless ferocity that Fenris had displayed when he’d killed Bricio.
These men were in Danarius’ circle. Danarius had always shared Fenris with his friends. No wonder the elf didn’t want to testify against them in trial.
“Fenris,” Dorian said. “I need you to do this. I need you to testify.”
To Dorian’s dismay, Fenris averted his eyes. Fingers curled into fists. He struggled to speak. “Dorian... please...”
The Inquisitor cleared his throat. “Perhaps the two of you should discuss this in private.”
Sealed off in the bedroom again. This time with Fenris.
Finally alone since the thwarted attack.
They sat next to each other on the edge of the bed.
Fenris’ eyes roamed the enchanter’s face. “Dorian. Are you okay?”
His lips tightened. Then he snapped. “No! Of course I’m not okay!”
Dorian’s hands were resting on his thighs. Fenris placed his right hand gently on top of Dorian’s left. “Dorian. Talk to me.”
Dorian looked down at Fenris’ hand. Neither one of them had ever had a serious romantic relationship before, so, since the night they’d confessed their love, they’d been stumbling along, trying to figure things out. They had the sex part down – it was the feelings part that was troublesome. Sometimes messy. They’d agreed to be honest with each other, and Dorian had opened himself up completely, letting Fenris see him in all his vulnerable emotional and sentimental need.
Which meant that Fenris sometimes became an outlet for Dorian’s frustrations.
“Talk to you? About what?” Dorian snapped, his voice sizzling with snark. “About how Rilienus resorted to blood magic and tried to kill you? Or about the fact that he’s dead? Or perhaps we should talk about about how the Inquisitor came here through a fucking rift in time?”
Fenris’ ears twitched. Dorian wasn’t attacking him – he knew that. But he never quite knew how to deal with Dorian’s emotional displays, other than to listen patiently and try to not take it personally. “Yes. All that.”
With his free hand, Dorian pinched the bridge of his nose. Eyes closed, he drew in a very deep breath. Then, lowering his hand, he opened his eyes again. “Varian was right about him,” Dorian said, his voice almost quiet, and rife with pain. “Always did think that Ril was a weak man.”
Seeing Dorian’s pain made Fenris’ heart hurt. “Dorian...”
“A ‘sniveling social climber,’ he said. Still, I never expected that Ril would actually betray me.”
Fenris gently squeezed Dorian’s hand. “I know how that feels.”
Gray eyes sought green. “Yes, I suppose you do,” Dorian said. Then he laughed bitterly. “Strange, isn’t it? I feel terrible that he’s dead. Even though he was trying to ruin us.”
Fenris slid his hand up to Dorian’s shoulder, offering a comforting caress. “It’s not strange, Dorian. I know that you... had feelings for him.”
Dorian’s gaze sharpened. “He tried to kill you. That isn’t... well, it’s hardly what I’d call acceptable.”
Fenris pressed his lips together. “He... failed either way.”
Dorian stared blankly down at the carpet. Thinking about the terrible future they’d been spared.
A moment passed, then Dorian raised his eyes to Fenris’. “Well! I suppose we now know how we really feel about each other!” he said with forced cheerfulness. “It also answers the question about what could possibly cause me to resort to blood magic.”
Fenris withdrew his hand.
“Dorian.” This came out as a growl. “If I am the temptation that would turn you to blood magic, then... it would be better if I left.”
Dorian stared at him with incomprehension for a moment. Then he shifted.
Fenris found himself suddenly caught up in Dorian’s arms. The enchanter’s strong hands were holding him close, and Dorian’s mouth was against his. He felt as if he were melting as Dorian peppered his lips with insistent, deep, almost desperate kisses.
Fenris was breathless by the time Dorian stopped kissing him, though the enchanter did not release him from the embrace.
“‘Better if I left,’” Dorian murmured. “So says the man who cannot live without me.”
A myriad of emotions swam, swirled, and spilled from Fenris’ eyes, wide as the moons over Minrathous.
“And I never want to hear you talk about leaving me ever again. Not for any reason. Not even in jest. Never.”
Fenris’ fingers clutched at Dorian as the enchanter gathered him in.
They sat on the bed, in each others’ arms, Fenris’ forehead resting against Dorian’s shoulder, while Dorian gently rubbed his back, murmuring terms of endearment in both common and Tevene.
Amatus... carissime... treasure.. cor meum... my love...
Eventually, Fenris stirred, withdrawing. Met Dorian’s curious gaze. Hesitantly, he said, “The others are waiting for us. We... should talk about those magisters.”
Dorian’s hand slipped into his, fingers entwining. “I know you don’t want to testify,” he said. “But, you know how the Templars run things. Those men might not even be in the courtroom. You probably won’t have to ever see them again.”
“That’s... not it.”
Perplexed, Dorian stared at him. “Then... what’s the problem?”
“I can’t... talk about those things... not in a courtroom.”
Dorian frowned slightly. “Amatus, I don’t understand. You can’t talk about blood magic? You saw their rituals, didn’t you? You only need to tell the Templars what you saw.”
Fenris pulled back his hand. In his eyes, a flash of fear. “I didn’t just see their blood rituals. I was a part of them.”
Oh. Dorian’s hand rose to cover his chest as his heart lurched. “They... they used your blood?” he asked. “Maker, Fenris, I... I didn’t realize.”
Fenris pushed off from the bed and began pacing.
Fenris pacing was never a good sign.
Eventually Fenris came to a stop before the fireplace. He’d never spoken of his past as a slave. Not to anyone. Not really. Only hints to Hawke about how he’d escaped. How he’d killed the Fog Warriors. The effects of the ritual that had branded the lyrium under his skin. Hadriana’s petty torments. But never the trauma. The blood rituals. The fear.
But these men deserved to die. Dorian had to know.
Fenris laid a heavy hand on the mantle. Offered Dorian his profile because he couldn’t look his lover in the eye.
“There was a room in Danarius’ mansion. Like the room where Bricio kept you at his villa, only larger, with a basin built into the floor to catch all the blood. It could hold the blood of fifteen elves. Though they filled it to the brim only once.”
Silent, Dorian listened.
“Not all their rituals required sacrifice. Danarius never would have let me be killed. I was worth too much to him. But the lyrium... somehow it fueled their spells, so they often used my blood.”
Despite not liking where this was going, Dorian waited.
“I don’t have to tell you how blood magic works. The more violent the pain, the stronger the magic becomes. So they made sure it hurt.”
“They employed different methods of inflicting pain. So I would never know what to expect. That made it more frightening.” Fenris paused, fingernails digging into the wood of the mantle. “One time, Aetius had me on my hands and knees. The floor was cold. Hard. He’d put a belt around my neck. As he fucked me from behind, he would tighten the belt and choke me.” Fenris lifted his other hand to his neck, unconsciously. “The other magisters waited for my tears. Then they took out their knives. Cutting between the markings, of course. And Danarius knew enough healing magic, so I was never left with additional scars.”
Horrified, Dorian tried to swallow down the sick, greasy lump in his throat. “That’s... awful.”
Fenris still didn’t meet his eyes. “There’s more.”
Dorian listened as Fenris continued to speak of the atrocities that the magisters had inflicted upon him. Each story was worse than the one prior. Dorian had heard plenty of disturbing rumors about what Danarius and his cronies had done to the ex-slave, but the stories that Fenris was telling him – the truth – was ten times worse.
After a quarter of an hour, Dorian couldn’t take it anymore. His stomach was churning. His heart felt like it was being crush by some invisible hand, squeezing out every drop of his blood. “Please, Fenris. I beg you. Stop.”
But Fenris couldn’t stop. It was poison spilling out of him. Poison that he’d been carrying around inside him for years. If he didn’t pour it out now, get it all out of him, it would kill him.
The next story was even worse. Dorian nearly wept. Maker, how can they keep getting worse?
Evil existed. Pure evil. Dorian was now convinced of it.
His hands shook. His head throbbed. His stomach rolled over. Fenris’ poison was inside him now. Maker, he was going to be sick. All over the carpet, most likely. He had to get out of here. Now.
“No more,” Dorian wheezed, then made a mad dash for the door.
He ignored the stares of the others as he flung himself into the bathroom, slamming the door behind him, just barely making it to the basin before a violent heave in his stomach brought up the afternoon’s tea and what remained of his lunch.
They could hear the sounds of Dorian retching through the bathroom door.
Krem didn’t know what had happened. He didn’t care, either. He just knew it was something bad. In a flash, he was on his feet, and storming towards the bedroom.
Fenris still stood by the unlit fireplace. Krem crossed the room, then briefly touched the elf on the shoulder. “Fenris? Are you okay?”
Fenris stiffened. But then, turning to look at Krem, the tension slipped from his shoulders. “I... I’m fine.”
Krem knew that was a lie. But it was obvious that the elf needed to pretend. “In that case... why don’t you come join the rest of us?”
Fenris considered that. Then he nodded.
In the sitting room everyone sat in silence, waiting.
Eventually, the bathroom door opened and Dorian emerged, still somewhat shaken, his hair slightly out of place. “Well,” he said. “After some consideration, we’ll be resorting to murdering my countrymen.”
Some looks were exchanged.
“Well,” Varric said diplomatically. “It wouldn’t be the first time.”
“True,” Dorian agreed. His gaze came to rest on Lavellan. “I don’t suppose you’d be able to help somehow?” he asked. “Danarius and Bricio are dead, so there are six magisters we need to track down and eradicate.”
Sera glanced around the room, lips moving as she counted. “One for each of us, then.”
The Inquisitor was pensive for a moment. “Best if we strike all at once. A mage on the defense is a dangerous thing. We don’t want anyone to know we’re coming.”
Dorian eyed him with surprise. “You mean you’re actually going to stay? To kill magisters?”
“You can’t do it alone, can you?” Lavellan asked. “And I agree with Sera and Varric. These men need to be stopped.”
Dorian was speechless for a moment. This man... “I don’t suppose you also have a plan?”
The Inquisitor was thoughtful again. “Unless you have a better idea, I suggest we use the Inquisition’s spy network. I consulted with Leliana before we left. The closest contact can be found at a tavern called the Sickle. Do you know it?”
“Yes. A bit low-class for my tastes, but it isn’t very far from here.”
“Then we’ll send someone. With a list of names.” He paused, glancing around the room. “I suggest we send Krem. He knows his way around Minrathous, we don’t.” He paused again, smiling. “Plus, I imagine that Varric, Sera and I would have trouble blending in.”
“Plenty of elves ‘round here,” Krem said. “’Course, most of ‘em are slaves.”
“Bloody piss!” Sera said. “You’re right off your noggin’ you are, if you think I’m gonna pretend I’m a slave.”
Even though elves were practically invisible in Tevinter, Dorian couldn’t imagine anyone mistaking the confident Inquisitor as a slave, either. “Point taken,” he said. “You do seem the obvious choice, Cremisius.”
“Fine, I’ll go,” Krem said. “But – Inquisitor? One-on-one combat with the magisters? I’ve seen the shit they do at parties. They ain’t like ordinary mages down south. They’ll put up a real fight.”
The Inquisitor glanced around the room. Everyone here was a fierce fighter. But throwing magic into the mix – that did change the odds. One well-placed Cone of Cold spell, and the fight would be over. Only Dorian would be able to hold his own in a battle of magic. “Dorian? Any thoughts about how we can defend ourselves against magic?”
Dorian thought. “To fight magic, what you need is more magic. Fortunately, I do have a solution.”
“Which is?” Varric prompted.
Dorian smiled. “We call in the altus Army.”
Chapter 11: You and I Flow Onward
Sex, love, and revenge. Not necessarily in that order.
Chapter title is from Walt Whitman's poem "To Think of Time".
I can't believe this is the final chapter. THANK YOU to everyone who came along for the ride. I hope the ending satisfies.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Somewhere, in Minrathous, a dozen spies slipped through the streets, gathering intel on the Order of Lusacan.
Varian had joined them for dinner. He’d even made arrangements for food to be delivered: a plethora of dishes, mainly Tevinter specialties, along with a half dozen bottles of wine from the Wyvern’s Blood Cafe. For which Dorian had been quietly, but infinitely, grateful.
While Sera made faces at the unfamiliar fare, the Inquisitor – despite being a southerner, a non-mage and an elf – made a favorable impression on Varian by keeping up his end of a debate on Nevarran death magic.
After dinner, they drank the wine, and everyone laughed as Dorian and Sera danced their own version of an estampie across the room, along to the lively music floating up from the courtyard below. Thus it was late by the time Dorian and Fenris retired to their room for the night.
Sera had been given Krem’s room, so Krem slept on the divan, while Varric and the Inquisitor had taken up Varian’s offer of his spare room two flights up.
The shirt Dorian wore today under his robes had laces up both sleeves, so he began tugging at them as he sank down on the edge of the bed. “I feel like that was arguably the longest day I’ve ever had.”
Fenris sat down beside him. Watched Dorian’s graceful brown fingers loosening his sleeves before moving to the laces at his throat. Noted how his handsome face was pinched with fatigue.
Even when he was tired, Dorian never said no to sex. He’d once joked that Fenris was better than any revitalizing philter. So Fenris didn’t even think twice about reaching for Dorian, his hand sliding over Dorian’s face.
At his touch, Dorian flinched.
Fenris instinctively jerked his hand back. He stared at Dorian. The enchanter’s expression was... strange. Apprehensive.
Fenris felt his heart quietly breaking.
Of course he doesn’t want me to touch him, Fenris thought. By telling him those stories of his past in slavery, he’d ruined himself in Dorian’s eyes. He was used goods. Something soiled. Filthy. A rag saturated by the seed of a hundred magisters.
Dorian caught a glimpse of the shame and pain that fell over Fenris’ face a moment before the elf pushed himself off the bed, turning to flee.
Dorian’s arm snapped out to seize him by the wrist. “Fenris?”
Fenris didn’t meet his eyes. He tried to pull free, but Dorian responded by gripping his wrist harder.
Worry dripped from Dorian’s voice. “Fenris. Please. Talk to me.”
Fenris continued to stare at the floor. “I... I should have known,” he said, halting and dark. “Once you learned the truth. That you... wouldn’t want me anymore.”
“No!” Dorian surged to his feet. “No, amatus, no... that’s not it. I just... forgive me. I’m being foolish again. I mean... how can you even stand my touch? I don’t want to remind you of those... monsters.”
Fenris’ gaze crept up to Dorian’s face. There was no disgust in the enchanter’s eyes, only concern. “I didn’t let anyone touch me for a long time. I didn’t even touch myself. Not for years. But then with Hawke...” Fenris trailed off, frowning. “It was... confusing. I was scared. I ran away from him. I didn’t let anyone near me again. And then with you...”
Fenris emitted a choked laugh. “I ran away again. From my feelings for you.”
Dorian lifted a hand, trailing his fingers gently across Fenris’ face. “Understandable,” he said softly. “So, then... when I touch you... it really doesn’t bother you at all?”
Fenris made a small noise of amusement. “Dorian,” he said, with the same patient tone he used when Cynarel misbehaved. “You realize we’ve probably had sex about fifty times. If I didn’t like it, your balls would be a lot bluer than they are now.”
It was Dorian’s turn to choke on a laugh. “True.”
Green eyes sparkled at him.
Dorian lifted his hand, running his fingers through Fenris’ hair. He gave the elf a saucy smile. “I don’t suppose you’d like to make it fifty-one times..?”
A sly smile ghosted over Fenris’ lips. Then Fenris leaned up and kissed him.
Limbs entangled as they stripped each other out of their clothes. Still kissing, with hands caressing, Dorian pulled Fenris down over him on the bed.
He knew this elf’s body. All his sensitive places. How he liked to be touched. Where he liked to be licked. Therefore it wasn’t long, after some foreplay, that Fenris was breathless, all riled up and squirming in Dorian’s lap, thrusting into Dorian’s hand.
“Dorian,” Fenris purred. “Fuck me.”
For a second, Dorian imagined that he’d just misheard. Confirmation was definitely needed. He stilled his hand. “Fenris?”
Emerald eyes delved into his. “I want you to fuck me.”
Dorian wondered just what in the Void had gotten into Fenris tonight. “I thought you didn’t like that role.”
Fenris growled with impatience. “We’ve already done it once. In Nessum.”
Dorian ignored the growl. As much as he wanted to fulfill his lover’s request, he certainly wasn’t going to do anything in the heat of the moment that Fenris might later regret. “Yes, well, that was different. You were different. And, amatus, we’ve been together for three months – you weren’t interested before, so why now?”
Fenris stared at him. Realized that Dorian wasn’t going to continue until they’d talked it out. “I was interested. But I was just... afraid.” He sighed. “I don’t want to be afraid anymore.”
Dorian pondered that. He really wouldn’t have minded always being on the bottom, but clearly Fenris still had some demons to work out. “Well,” he said. “If you’re absolutely sure...”
“Yes. I trust you.”
Fenris leaned down and kissed him. This time with more fervor, tongue thrusting into Dorian’s mouth, as his hand slipped down between Dorian’s thighs.
Fenris’ hand felt good. Too good. Things were going to end prematurely if Dorian allowed the elf to keep touching him like that. Gently breaking off the kiss, Dorian grasped Fenris by the hips, and murmured against his chin. “Fen... let me...”
Fenris let Dorian reposition him, guiding him so that he was now on his hands and knees.
In his chest, Fenris’ heart did an odd flip. This position... there were so many bad memories attached to it. A part of him wanted to flee, but when Dorian’s hands fell upon the cheeks of his ass, spreading him open, he braced himself by twisting his fingers into the bedsheets, and waited.
He twitched as he felt Dorian’s hot breath. Twitched again as he felt the soft brush of Dorian’s mustache. And then nearly jumped out of his skin as Dorian’s tongue flicked out.
No one had ever performed this act on Fenris before. As Dorian’s tongue continued to flick tentatively, almost experimentally, Fenris considered how it felt. Surprisingly, it felt... good. Then, when Dorian pressed the tip of his tongue in, it felt even better. Fenris made little noises of encouragement. Encouraged, Dorian increased his efforts.
Maker, the way Dorian ate his ass, like the world was going to end, felt amazing.
Eventually tongue withdrew. He heard Dorian fumbling behind him. Then the enchanter’s hands fell lightly on his hips. “Amatus?” he murmured in warning. “I’m going to use my fingers now.”
Fenris grunted his permission.
Dorian muttered something under his breath before touching Fenris.
Fenris tensed as Dorian’s greased fingers slid over him. Warm oil dripped. He’d heated the grease first – considerate of him. Then he trembled as Dorian’s other hand teased down the length of his cock.
Dorian’s hands continued to work their magic. Slowly, patiently – as if he had all the time in the world. For a long time, Dorian’s fingers remained on the outside. And then, the feeling of his other hand stroking was so distracting that Fenris almost didn’t notice when Dorian finally started easing a finger in.
Still taking his time, Dorian continued his ministrations. The warm, liquidy balm dripped everywhere – he’d been overly generous with it. He was also making a mess of the bedclothes, but that was less important than making certain that he didn’t hurt Fenris.
Finger curling, seeking, then Fenris shuddered, making a noise somewhere between a gasp and a growl. Then he was moaning softly as Dorian massaged that sensitive spot inside him.
“Do you like that?”
“Kaffas,” Fenris gasped. “Good.”
Dorian smiled at his lover’s sudden inability to articulate.
By the time Dorian withdrew his fingers, Fenris was ready and quivering.
Fenris twisted his neck to look at Dorian over his shoulder. “Dorian,” he rasped. “For fuck’s sake. Put it in already.”
Maker. So hot. Something that he’d never expected to see. Fenris submissive – on his hands and knees, offering Dorian his ass. It took Dorian a great deal of willpower not to take advantage by just ramming it in.
Dorian still didn’t know what, exactly, was going on in Fenris’ head. What he did know, however, that it was one thing if Fenris wanted Dorian inside him. But it was a completely different thing to relinquish all control.
One thing at a time, beloved, Dorian thought.
“Not like this,” Dorian said, and reached for Fenris. Lay back on the bed and guided Fenris so that the elf was now above him, straddling his hips. Dorian quickly greased himself up, then hissed as Fenris shifted over him, easing himself down.
Maker’s blood, he feels marvelous. He wrapped his hands around Fenris’ hips, steadying him as the elf slowly impaled himself.
Dorian lay still, letting Fenris be in control. Letting him set the pace. Even though this slow rocking was maddening, and he had to resist the urge to let go and pound into him.
Fenris leaned down to kiss him. Dorian tilted his hips, bucking up slightly to meet him, ripping a cry from Fenris’ throat.
His hands on Dorian’s chest, Fenris began to rock faster. Dorian continued to push back, forcing another cry of pleasure with each thrust. Maker, this. Fenris vaguely thought that he shouldn’t be enjoying this with such abandon, but Dorian inside him felt so impossibly wonderful.
He growled Dorian’s name. In response, Dorian held him tighter, murmuring endearments in Tevene again as Fenris rode him like a demon.
Out in the sitting room, Krem rolled over on the divan. He put the pillow over his head, but he could still hear the lusty groans coming from behind the bedroom door.
If Varric were here, they’d probably be betting on who would come first.
Krem would have put his money on Dorian.
Eventually, there was a particularly loud cry, followed soon after by a choked curse in Tevene.
Damn. Well, they were finished. Hopefully they wouldn’t start up again. And it was fortunate that Varric wasn’t here, for Krem would have lost that bet.
Dorian Pavus and Varian Prasinus moved quickly through the streets of the Gilded Quarter.
They’d received the reports from the Inquisition’s spy network shortly before the altus army arrived. Only one altus was not in attendance – away in Asariel on family business. Which meant that there were, excluding Dorian, six enchanters.
Varian had insisted on accompanying Dorian. Of the remaining enchanters, Dorian had first assigned the two most powerful – Calix to Fenris, Julian to Krem – then the others, before dispatching them all to their business.
Their business being murder.
According to the spy network, Aetius was having a late lunch with his nephew at the Sunwine Cafe on Vicus Magus.
“I feel like I should be concerned,” Varian remarked, “about how efficient and knowledgeable the Inquisition’s spy network seems to be regarding Tevinter magisters.”
“I imagine they have files on all of us,” Dorian replied dryly. “I do hope mine includes information on how young and devastatingly handsome I am.”
Despite the lightness of his tone, Dorian’s nerves were all on edge. Other than the occasional assassin, Dorian hadn’t murdered anyone in a while – at least no one as powerful as Aetius.
The other magisters had done worse things to his lover, but Aetius choking Fenris while he fucked him like a dog was the image that had burned itself into his brain. Dorian considered killing him and then bringing him back from the dead, just so he could kill him again. After all, as a necromancer, he could do that.
They had just turned the corner when they spotted Aetius stepping out of the cafe, a young man at his side.
“There!” Dorian hissed.
They didn’t hesitate. They didn’t shout a warning. Instead they reached for the staves, took aim, and began slinging electricity and fire.
The young man had noticed them and immediately recgonized the threat. “Uncle! Look out!”
Staves came up.
Screams erupted in the streets as a storm of electricity and fire lashed down on the place where Aetius stood.
When the magic dissipated, the magister was still standing, magic crackling in his hands.
Really, not an ideal situation.
Aetius spotted him. A malicious smile curled his lips. Varian was right, he really did look like a snake. “Dorian Pavus. Is this how you greet a fellow magister? Your father surely didn’t teach you any manners.”
Dorian ignored the taunt. “You sound surprised to see me, Magister Aetius,” he drawled. “Oh, and I do regret to tell you, your apprentice – the man you sent to kill me – is dead.”
Beady eyes narrowed. Then he smiled, slick as oil. “A shame, that. He was such a beautiful young man. And so very eager to please. As you well know, yes?”
As if Dorian needed another reason to kill this man. “Varian – please see that Aetius’ companion doesn’t get in the way.”
Dorian sent out a blast of fire.
At the same time, Aetius countered with a wall of ice.
Steam hissed, filling the streets.
Dorian was vaguely aware of Varian surging forward, casting a spell that blasted the nephew back several yards before he continued to advance, leaving Dorian to face his foe alone.
Dorian didn’t waste his mana with a minor spell this time. He cast Walking Bomb.
Aetius responded by shooting up a barrier. Sparks flew as Dorian’s magic bounced off.
“You’ll have to do better than that, boy,” Aetius taunted, then shot out another spell.
Razor-sharp ice crystals slashed through the air. Dorian managed to dodge only a moment before they cut through him. Shouting his incantation, Dorian slammed down his staff, causing a shockwave to roll down the street, shooting everything in its path up into the air.
The edge of the wave caught the magister, tossing him up into the air as though he were merely a feather.
Aetius flew back. Rolled onto his feet. Then reached out to seize an elven woman in the crowd, drawing his knife across her throat.
Blood spattered, fueling his spell.
This spell had a name: Blood Wound.
No! Dorian didn’t just tug on the Veil. He opened himself wide, flooding himself with the power of the Fade, and cast another spell, pouring everything he had into it. Simulacrum.
Aetius’ spell slammed into him. Caught up in his web of magic, Dorian was paralyzed. Pain ripped through him. In his veins, his blood began to boil.
His staff, now useless, skittered across the ground.
Somewhere, from what sounded like far away, Varian was shouting something.
Blood boiling – that was bad. Minrathous began spinning around him. A moment later, Dorian crumpled to the ground.
But Dorian’s loss of consciousness triggered his final spell.
When he opened his eyes again, he was lying on the street, with concerned, yet familiar faces peering down at him – Varian, the Inquisitor, Fenris, and two of his altus friends. There was the stench of burnt flesh in the air. And he could feel the healing magic that his enchanter friends were pouring into him. Strangely, his head felt light, as though he were drunk, and his body felt awash with a blissed out feeling, like he’d just come ten times.
They all began speaking at once. Ending with Calix’s concerned voice. “Maker, Dorian! Are you all right?”
Dorian was warmed by their concern. Yet... “Did I win?”
Heads turned. Following their gazes, Dorian’s eye fell on a blackened lump several yards away that wasn’t recognizable as anything resembling a person.
“I’d say so,” Varian said with an amused smile. “Maker, Dorian, Aetius is barely more than a pile of ash. You literally obliterated the man. People are going to be talking about this magic duel between two magisters in the streets of Minrathous for decades.”
High on magic, Dorian carelessly lifted a hand to caress Fenris’ face. “I killed him for you, amatus. Are you happy?”
Fenris’ eyes widened. He then realized that they were in a very public place, and that all of Dorian’s friends were staring at him as Dorian began to blatantly grope him. He reached up, his own hand streaked with dried blood, to quickly lower Dorian’s own. “Yes,” he murmured. “I am.”
The Inquisitor eyed the enchanters. “Is he... all right?”
“Oh. Sorry,” Calix said. “That would be my doing. The spell I cast on him isn’t exactly healing.”
Varian raised an eyebrow. “Calix?”
“My mentor calls it ‘Euphoria.’ Umm, it’s probably obvious what it’s for by the name. But it does do wonders for pain.”
A smile curled Dorian’s lips. “It feels spectacular. Can you teach it to me later?” He beamed up at Fenris, lifting his hand to touch the elf again. “You have to try this, amatus. Mmm.”
Fenris quickly lowered Dorian’s hand again.
“Speaking of spells...” the Inquisitor said. “Dorian, what was that spell you cast?”
“Oh. Just a little bit of necromancy,” he said. “Of course, it only works if I pass out. So I’ve never seen it. What did it look like?”
The Inquisitor, having completed his own assassination of a magister with a stealth arrow through the eye, had been close enough to hear the screams. He and the altus enchanter accompanying him had rushed to the scene.
“It looked like... well, something manifested in the street. It looked like you – it had your clothes, your face. And it started casting your spells, one after the other. Fire, mostly. Until your enemy was overwhelmed.” The Inquisitor paused, thoughtful. Dorian’s simulacrum had been unstoppable. Curious, he added, “I’ve never seen you cast that particular spell before.”
“Oh. Well, I thought it would be rude. With Cole around, I mean. Using a spirit of the Fade that way.”
One eyebrow cocked up in surprise. “So, it’s true, then? You really use spirits as servants in Tevinter?”
“Most enchanters can’t,” Varian said. “They aren’t powerful enough to summon and control spirits. Particularly when they’re unconscious.”
Was that a hint of envy? Even in his euphoric state, Dorian knew better than to say such a thing out loud if he wanted to stay friends with the man. “I’m feeling fine, by the way,” he drawled. “I don’t suppose we could do something about the whole ‘Dorian lying in the streets of Minrathous?’ It’s terribly dirty down here.”
Unharmed – except for Dorian, though, due to the lingering effects of the Euphoria spell, still wasn’t feeling any pain; and Sera, who’d scratched her arm falling out of a tree – they regathered in Dorian’s quarters.
The archers had already said their farewells to the altus army, and now the Inquisitor reached under his armor to withdraw a familiar-looking pendant, which he handed to Dorian.
Gereon Alexius’ amulet.
Dorian studied it briefly. It was different than he remembered; it now had runes carved into it. Alexius’ improvements? “Strange seeing it again,” Dorian remarked as he handed it back to Lavellan. “How is my old mentor doing these days?”
Since his son Felix had died... well, the ex-magister had been an empty shell of a man. Only while researching magic did Alexius express any emotion that vaguely resembled happiness.
However, the Inquisitor didn’t say this. “You know, you could always come back to Skyhold for a visit,” he said with a smile. “You’ll always be welcome.”
Dorian clasped the outstretched hand. “Thank you, Inquisitor.”
As the Inquisitor stepped aside to exchange his farewells with the ex-Chargers, Sera stepped up.
“You betta come see us. We came all the way through time for you. Least you can do is come to Skyhold, right?”
Dorian smiled. “Yes, I’ll come. I do miss our nights of drinks and insults.”
Sera stood there awkwardly, scuffing her toe against the floor. Then she shouted, “Flashy pants!” as she threw herself at him.
Sera hugging him... well, not really surprising. Dorian warmly returned the embrace. He savored the scent of her hair: Rivaini tobacco and honey.
Just as quickly, Sera released him, stepping aside. Then she tried to hug Fenris.
Dorian chuckled as Fenris snapped loudly at her. “Get off me!”
Sera laughed. “You friggin’ grouchy bastard!”
Varric took Sera’a place. Smiled warmly at Dorian. “Thanks for the hospitality, Sparkler,” he said with a twinkle in his eye. “Shame we didn’t have time to do a little sight-seeing while in Tevinter.”
“That is a shame,” Dorian said. “You would have loved the dwarven embassy. It’s completely subterranean, and considered one of the wonders of the world.”
Varric patted him fondly on the arm. “I’m fine on the surface, Sparkler.”
Their farewells complete, the Inquisitor held out his hand. Fired up the Anchor, effectively thinning the Veil.
They’d had Morrigan power up the amulet when they’d left. Which meant that they needed Dorian to power it up for their return.
Not the first time, Dorian thought. At least this time, he was far better prepared.
In Dorian’s sitting room, the time rift opened.
Varric, Sera and the Inquisitor were sucked in through the rift.
The rift shut behind them, wavered, then disappeared.
Krem and Dorian stared at the place where their friends had been standing mere seconds ago.
Fenris sniffed the air. Then he wrinkled his nose. “Ugh,” he muttered. “It smells like the Fade in here.”
Dorian turned to him. A dreamy smile uncurled across his lips as he lifted both hands to Fenris’ face. “Mmm,” Dorian breathed. “Pretty elf.”
Fenris sighed as Dorian began to fondle him.
Krem gave Fenris a bemused look, his eyes laughing. “Elf. You’d better hope that Calix doesn’t actually teach him that spell.”
“If he does, I’ll kill him.” He reached out to catch Dorian’s wandering hands. “Come to bed, amatus, so we can work off the effects of the Euphoria.”
Dorian threw an arm around Fenris, snuggling up against him in the blissful aftermath, and sighed into the elf’s ear.
Fenris shivered. Then he trailed his fingers lazily through the disaster that was Dorian’s hair. Dorian could hear the smile in his voice. “So. Do you feel better now?”
“Ah. I think the effects of Calix’s spell have finally worn off,” he said. “Though it was interesting while it lasted.”
Fenris laughed softly. “If by ‘interesting’ you mean that you were as insatiable as a desire demon, then... yes.”
Dorian decided to ignore the fact that Fenris was laughing at him. “You know, it rather reminded me of Madame Tullerie’s – she’s a famous potion maker in Val Royeaux – anyway, one of her creations. A certain elixir called Love Potion #5.”
“I’ve heard of that,” Fenris mused. “Varric told me about it. Called it Fuck or Die.”
Dorian laughed. “Fair. Though most people don’t actually die if they don’t get laid. They just feel like they will.”
“Then it’s a good thing you just got royally laid,” Fenris murmured.
Dorian laughed softly.
Fenris shifted, holding Dorian close and pressing a soft kiss to his bare shoulder.
This man... Dorian thought.
He thought of the nights he’d spent staring at the stars and just wishing. Wishing for a man who didn’t just want him. To have a man who loved him. Truly, profoundly and unconditionally. A man who would accept him as he was, even the prickly, sensitive parts, in all of his imperfection and perfection. A man who would give him everything: his body, his thoughts, his time and his heart. A man who would follow him to the ends of Thedas.
Fenris was that man. The thing he’d secretly and most desperately desired.
Except now... being in love with Fenris, more than wanting to have a man like that, Dorian wanted to be that man. To love Fenris truly, profoundly, and unconditionally. To accept him just as he was, prickly bits and all. To give him everything. To follow him to the ends of the world.
For several moments Dorian contemplated what Fenris desired most. What would make him happy.
Everything for Fenris. Dorian would sacrifice everything. Everything.
Stroking the elf’s arm, Dorian spoke quietly. “Fenris, if you don’t want to stay in Tevinter... you and I, we could go. Take the children and start over somewhere new.”
Fenris remained still for a very long time. When he finally spoke, it was with a hint of disbelief. “You would... do that? For me?”
Dorian sat up to look at him. “Amatus, I told you... you can do anything you want with me. I won’t say no.”
Fenris blinked up at him. Then he shifted so that he was sitting next to Dorian on the side of the bed. Threading his fingers together, he stared down at his hands briefly. “But, if we left... you and Alex, you’d be apostates.”
“Technically not, as I’d still be a senior enchanter in the Circle of Minrathous. And Alex in the Circle of Carastes. But I know what you mean,” Dorian said. Then he smiled. “Trust me, it isn’t that difficult to hide. It’s enough not to perform any flashy magic in public.”
Fenris frowned slightly. “But you are flashy.”
“Oh. Well, that’s true.”
“But... what about your family?”
Dorian continued to smile at him softly. “You and the children... that’s the only family I need.”
Fenris chewed on his bottom lip. Fretting. Thoughtful. “What about Krem?”
“Of course he’ll have to come with us,” Dorian said lightly. “Obviously we’ll still need a nanny. Just because we’d be going down south, doesn’t mean we’d up and turn peasant.”
Fenris rose from the bed. Crossed the small room, then stood by the window, staring out blankly, thinking about what he wanted.
His parents were dead. His sister was dead. For so many years he’d been a slave, then on the run. He’d been alone for so long, with no family, unable to stop and put down roots. He’d tried to make Kirkwall his home. Perhaps it had been home, briefly, when Hawke had given him that hope.
A sweet, fleeting hope. Loving. Family. Home.
And Dorian – his glorious, beautiful, fire spell-slinging love – rekindling that hope. Offering Fenris his dream in earnest.
For Dorian to leave Tevinter... the Magisterium... his dreams to better his country...
As Fenris lingered by the window, Dorian slipped from the bed and came to stand next to him. The moonlight gilded his beautiful bronze skin. “Amatus?” Dorian ventured. “You’re awfully quiet.”
The offer was enough to quell any lingering doubts. Dorian Pavus, the man destined to set the world on fire, loved him.
“No,” Fenris said, reaching for Dorian’s hand, palms pressed together as fingers entwined. “You promised that you would change Tevinter. So you will stay. With me always and forever at your side.”
Dorian smiled as he squeezed Fenris’ hand.
Sometimes the stars, silently listening, would grant a man the wish his heart makes.
Sometimes, two hearts.
This is truly bittersweet. Glad that it is a completed series, but sad that it is over. I enjoyed writing this so much.
I feel like I should thank all you lovelies personally, but if I start listing names, I will forget someone and then I will feel awkward and sad. But you know who you are. At least I hope you do. THANK YOU AND I LOVE YOU.
May Andraste smile kindly upon you. :)