Chapter 1: After the Cold Darkness
((This title is taken from Auden’s A Summer Night, which I encountered in Britten’s Spring symphony. It was one out of two options what this will be called. The other is going to be a chapter heading.
Speaking of which, this chapter heading is a line from the song Pearls of Light by Within Temptation.))
Dorian was shaking, and the roaring fire by which he was cowering couldn’t chase the cold away. He was alone among a large group of people. They didn’t want him, didn’t want to talk to him, not even to look at him. He was alone, and he was slowly shifting from dread to grief. No-one could have survived the avalanche.
‘He’s tough, Sparkler.’
Dorian looked at the dwarf that had managed to sneak up on him. ‘I know. But … Maker. He’s gone through too much already.’
‘How much do you know?’
‘More than you.’
‘I … was with Hawke when he gave him to Danarius.’ The dwarf swallowed. ‘I hardly every understood why Hawke did what he did but that was … incredible. I thought Fenris would kill him or die fighting for his freedom. But instead he just … walked to his master like a beaten dog.’
‘Danarius was a monster. He nearly destroyed him.’
‘Yes, and Hawke must have expected that. Fenris … wasn’t too delighted that I’m with the Inquisition at first. I reminded him of one of the most horrible days in his life.’
‘When I met Fenris he was bruised, half starved, and his spirit broken,’ Dorian said sharply. ‘He should have killed Hawke.’
‘Maybe. But when I met him again now, he was proud, a lot less angry than I’ve ever seen him, and calm. Not just looking it, but radiating it. He’s more balanced than before, and that’s your doing, I believe. In Kirkwall, he’d have hated you without bothering to get to know you. But now he doesn’t. What did you do?’
Dorian shook his head. ‘That’s his tale to tell, if he wants to.’ He wouldn’t say, ‘if he’s still alive’. He had to be. ‘Let’s just say that my family, close friends, and I sent Fenris after Danarius, who was about to spy on your Chantry. He was supposed to point him out to your authorities, or to kill him. Up to him, really. We all know what happened next.’
‘You’re worried about him, aren’t you?’
Dorian swallowed. ‘Yes. Very much. Aren’t you?’
Varric sighed. ‘I am. Although officially, I’m very confident that he’ll be all right. I don’t want him to die like this. He deserves better.’
‘He deserves to be happy, but I don’t know if he’ll ever be able to. I … what’s that?’ Perhaps the dense snow was playing tricks on his mind or his eyes, but he was sure he’d seen something moving in the night. So, it seemed, had Cullen. He moved into the shifting mass of white, and after a moment of hesitation Dorian didn’t just follow but hurried past him.
He saw the Herald fighting to keep going. The moment they saw each other, the green eyes closed and the elf, looking pale and dead on his feet, collapsed to his knees, the last of his strength gone. Before Cullen could do so, Dorian had gathered the figure in his arms and carried him to the camp like a child.
Chapter 2: In Her Light We’ll Awake
((Yay for stolen chapter headings. This one was ripped out of the song Never Ending Story by Within Temptation.))
It had all been a nightmare. It must have been, because what he thought he remembered, he couldn’t have survived. And that of all people Dorian should show up at Haven … He had simply exaggerated his training, and that was why he was aching all over. He’d open his eyes and see the wooden building he’d picked for himself in Haven.
Fenris looked. Above him was the face of the same Dorian Pavus, lips slightly parted, eyes wide and warm. ‘Good morning. Or should I say welcome back among the living? You gave us all a scare, you know.’
‘What happened?’ Fenris hardly recognised his own voice.
‘And here I’d planned to ask you that. You were caught in the avalanche, and yet, you are alive.’ Dorian frowned. ‘Our healers are still having you under spells and potions, I suppose you’ll have an easier time remembering after a good night’s sleep.’
‘Our healers?’ Fenris echoed.
‘Ah, well. Yes, I suppose so. Unless you intend to force me to remain here in the wilderness alone. Where I would die. For obvious reasons.’
‘Don’t be a fool.’
Dorian smiled at him. Fenris tried to find the condescending look he had so often been graced with, but it wasn’t there. He couldn’t remember Dorian ever looking at him like that, not even when … No. That wasn’t a good thing to think about. The mage seemed to be struggling with something, his expression nervous and fretful. ‘What? Bad news? Am I dying?’
‘Maker, no!’ the other man said sharply. ‘I just … I was scared for you. Just so you know. Rest, Fenris. Get well. These people … they need their leader. We will talk later. Now isn’t the time.’
‘No. Too many people.’
‘That, too. Don’t fight it. Sleep. When you wake up, you’ll be better.’ Dorian resisted the urge to caress his cheek. ‘You told Cullen you trust me. I won’t let anyone hurt you and I’ll be right here when you wake up.’
Fenris didn’t answer, but at least he closed his eyes. The promise that Dorian would be there helped, although he found it shouldn’t. He was nothing to him, he told himself. Nothing. And he would never let the mage shackle him. Not him, not anyone, ever again.
Chapter 3: Here Come the Vultures
((This Delain song was the other candidate for a story title.
And my Tevene is Latin. I know it isn’t and the first time I represented Tevene (in Saving Us) I used Gothic, which is insanely difficult. But Latin is something I can talk in, so being the lazy person that I am, Latin it is. It makes sense, too. It’s just not 100%.))
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Dorian wasn’t sure what had made him walk up onto the ramparts. Perhaps seeking out solitude was his reaction to being avoided. But why, then, had he walked right up to the stranger skulking above the rest of Skyhold’s population?
‘Interesting place,’ he said by means of a greeting.
The other man gave him a once over and raised an eyebrow. ‘Are you the Herald?’
It was a stupid question, as if the fellow was trying to play Game and failing. Badly. The Herald had been promoted to the Inquisitor, and everyone knew the Inquisitor was an elf. Dorian decided to play along anyway. ‘What if I am?’
‘I expected Varric to come with you is all.’
If anything, Dorian’s confusion grew. ‘Oh?’ He spread his arms. ‘I’m not the Inquisitor, ser. Just one of the other lucky fools that escaped the disaster at Haven.’ He had seen Fenris and Varric entering a door beneath them. They were probably on the way up here. Varric had looked fidgety and Dorian was burning to know why. ‘Now who do I have the honour to meet?’
‘Hawke. I may have an answer to the problem at hand. Maybe not a pleasant one, though.’
Something lit up in Dorian’s soul. A raging, consuming fire. His eyes narrowed. ‘You’re Hawke? The Champion of Kirkwall?’
‘Yes. And you?’
‘Dorian Pavus.’ He took a step closer. ‘You know what I’ve really wanted to tell you for a long time?’
‘Ah … no.’
Without a warning, Dorian punched him hard in the stomach. ‘If you harm the Inquisitor in any way, even if you’re only mildly disrespectful, I’ll hunt you down and I’ll make you suffer tenfold for every small and big injustice you brought down on him. Farewell.’ He was on the way inside when Varric and Fenris came out. Shaking out his hand, Dorian rounded on the dwarf. ‘You better have a good reason for this … this … sentina’s presence. Fenris … His stomach might be a little bit tender, if you’re looking for a good place to punch.’
The letters in one of the books he tried to hide behind were becoming indistinct in front of Dorian. He’d been staring at them unseeingly for he didn’t know how long, his thoughts going in circles around Hawke and Giselle and that bloody letter Fenris had given him right after. He didn’t want any of it. He didn’t want to be a disruption. He didn’t want to run into a trap laid out by his family. He didn’t want … he wasn’t sure what else, but he was positive that he didn’t want it.
‘A word, Altus.’ He sighed and turned to look at Fenris. ‘You punched Hawke.’
‘Throwing him off the ramparts seemed a little impractical in case he did have valuable information. Did he? Otherwise, the offer stands. Or did he come down? I can lift him back up and throw him down, if you want me to.’
‘That … doesn’t really answer my question. Or is this how you usually greet strangers? I hadn’t noticed.’
‘Only those that sell their friends.’
‘You should meet your father, Pavus. Go home.’
Dorian nodded slowly. ‘I see. I … understand.’ He closed the book hard and shook his head. ‘Actually, scratch that. I don’t. Why? What have I done?’
Fenris sighed. That in itself wasn’t normal. Since he had his memories back, he had been forceful, angry, brash. Now, it seemed his strength had left him. It wasn’t a good time. People needed him. All of Thedas needed him. ‘I cannot forget what was before Felix’s spell. And I don’t believe you can. What I was, it must be all you think when you look at me. A tool with the sole purpose to help you satisfy your desires.’
Dorian licked his lips. ‘You clearly don’t know me. Funny. I thought you did.’
‘I know every inch of you.’
Dorian felt the heat in his face. ‘That’s not what I meant, as you’re perfectly aware. Frankly, I’m not sure what the problem is.’
It was enough. The elf cracked. His lyrium glowed, giving Dorian a warning to be prepared for an attack. Not that he’d stand a chance. ‘The problem? I’ll tell you, mage.’ He spat the last word as if it were a curse. ‘You think you’re the one that should lead us. You will never follow an order and endanger everyone around you. You radiate irreverence. You will never respect me or some of the people of the Inquisition. I am still officially your property, and that’s how you’ll always see me.’
‘Fenris, desinas loqui. Statim.’ He hadn’t yelled, but his voice was sharp as a whip. ‘You’re wrong. I will leave because I am clearly unwanted. I … wish I could help. Help! And yes, serve. You, the Inquisition, whoever wants to get rid of Corypheus and the venatori. I’d rather you lead me because I wouldn’t know where to begin. And I’m not trained in battle strategies. I cannot do anything else than follow. That is what I offer. Offered.’ He swallowed. ‘I’m sorry, Fenris. For how it all went. Hawke and Danarius and even me. I wish things were different. I wish Hawke had treated you decently rather than break what spirit you had. Maybe then you’d let me do something to make this horrible monstrosity Corypheus did to the world right again.’
Fenris glared at him for a few seconds after he fell silent. ‘Are you done?’ he asked then.
‘You need to meet the person who sent that letter.’
‘I don’t think so. I’m leaving all right, but I’m not going to meet my father.’
‘Pavus.’ The mage looked at Fenris, at the calm that had settled in the beautiful face again. ‘You need to know what they want. What happened? What changed? When I left, I didn’t notice any major friction between you and your family.’
Dorian balled his hands into fists to stop them from shaking. ‘You know what I am … Well, once it was clear that the experiment to get me a slave didn’t help, my father decided to use blood magic to get me under control.’
Fenris’s eyes wend wide with obvious shock. He checked it quickly, but not soon enough for Dorian to miss it. ‘On second thought, maybe you shouldn’t meet your father. I’ll send someone else. With a clear message that you are not coming back, if that is what you wish.’
‘Thanks. I’d appreciate that.’
Fenris turned to leave, but before he was out of sight, he halted and turned. His expression was rather bemused with the ghost of a smile. If Dorian hadn’t known better, he’d have thought he was trying to hide it. ‘I hope you have good clothes that survived Haven, Dorian.’
‘We’ll have to go to the Winter Palace eventually. I suppose you’ll be in your element. If there is anyone else you think will not make this worse than it has to be, let me know.’
‘Cassandra and Vivienne,’ Dorian said at once.
Fenris nodded. ‘Agreed. Oh, and I’ll have Hawke kicked out. If there’s anyone I never wanted to see again …’
Dorian frowned and followed the elf. ‘Not to push my luck, but I’d advise you not to.’ He saw Fenris’s expression darken and raised a hand. ‘Hear me out, please. I’d use him. If he has valuable information, let him give it. And once you’re done, we’ll get rid of him.’
‘We?’ A small, lopsided smile tugged on Fenris’s lips, more visible than before. ‘Very well. In that case we have to set out with him and meet a Grey Warden. Take care the cold doesn’t get to your over-sensitive skin too much.’
((Sentina is bilgewater in Latin and was actually used like scum. Desinas loqui is stop talking, and like in English, more polite than shut up. Actually, it’s not even an imperative, but a conjunctive that, in this use, is kind of a wishful imperative? Not something you can elegantly express in English, maybe Oh, how I wish you were to stop talking. Statim means at once, and kind of defeats the caution in the sentence before.))
Chapter 4: Dirty Needles in my Scars
((Chapter heading is pilfered from Blinded by ASP, which is a rather uncomfortable song. Interestingly enough, I’ve used the title itself for a chapter heading long ago. I just checked where and find out it was in a (completely unrelated) DA story. Figures.))
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
For the duration of the ten minutes Fenris watched him, Dorian didn’t move an inch. He sat with his back against the wall on the floor, staring at his hands. His face was a mask of agony.
‘What did you see?’ Fenris asked.
Dorian jumped so violently he almost fell over. ‘Maker. You scared me.’ He swallowed and collected himself. ‘What do you mean?’
‘In the Fade. The lesser fear demons. You didn’t see spiders, did you?’
‘I’m not asking about those.’
‘I know.’ He swallowed. ‘Will you show me yours?’
Fenris sat down next to him. ‘I think I have to.’
‘Very well.’ Dorian folded his hands in his neck. ‘You saw the headstone. What it said. I saw … temptation. I could become … I could change, Fenris, become the son my father wanted me to be, have a normal life at home, without the risk of turning me into a vegetable. All I had to do was remove a particular obstacle, an obstacle that … Maker, you’ll hate me. Someone who tied me to what I truly am, someone who was in my thoughts and my heart and whom I do desire.’ He licked his lips. ‘Fenris, this thing tried to get me to kill you, in case I need to spell it out. And the frightening part is that I wanted to give in. There were moments where I nearly did.’
‘Yet you did not.’ Fenris gave him an appraising look. ‘I wish the same could be said about myself.’ He shook his head. ‘I blamed Hawke for everything wrong with me, when in truth, I let him down. More than once.’
‘He’s gone, Fenris. He’ll never hurt you again.’
‘The truth is, I hurt him first. We … had a budding relationship. I fled. And then I … let a demon turn me against him.’
‘We mortals have very little resistance to demons. It happens.’
‘Not to you. You didn’t give in.’
‘I’m a mage. We are forced to learn to resist, or we perish very young.’ He rubbed the bridge of his nose. ‘What was it you saw, Fenris? Do you want to tell me?’
‘I saw … servants of a Tevinter magister. They were bound to his will and after my blood. But they were only tools. If I was to destroy their master, they would be free. So would I.’
‘Let me make an educated guess: I was the magister.’ Fenris offered a curt nod. ‘Well. You didn’t kill me, either.’
‘No. I knew what this was.’ The elf rose. ‘I don’t think I made the right choice.’
Dorian stared up at him. ‘Well, if you should try to kill me now to correct your mistake, I might put up a fight, if I find it in me. Or I might just sit here and wait for you to rip my heart out. Not sure yet.’
Fenris made an impatient noise. ‘That wasn’t the mistake, frutex. The wardens … after what happened … could they have been redeemed?’
‘It’s done, Fenris.’ Dorian offered a small smile. ‘You don’t trust easily, do you? You conscripted the templars, you exiled the wardens … I wonder when you’ll kick me out of Skyhold.’
‘I won’t.’ He offered Dorian a hand to help him stand.
After a moment of hesitation, the mage took it, holding on to it when he spoke. ‘I hope so. I like it here.’ Deciding to be bold, he brushed a thumb over Fenris’s skin before removing his hand. ‘You are a good leader. I may not always agree with you, but I have no doubt that it will all work out. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.’
((Frutex literally means bush. Here, it means fool.))
Chapter 5: So Vulnerable and Pale
((Chapter heading is taken from the song The Funeral of Hearts by HIM. My tiny bit of Latin is mentioned later and therefore not translated. I’ll spare you and not tell you that the passive voice, is, of course, actually a mediopassive voice – oversimplified, use a transitive Latin verb in the passive voice and you get a reflexive verb. Ah … oops.))
Fenris grinned, sword held out to his side with one hand. Dorian admired the strength the slight elf must have. And his balance. Standing on top of a dragon’s head must need balance. Add a weapon the mage would barely be able to lift with two hands … ‘So, who said we can’t kill a dragon again?’
‘I didn’t say “can’t”,’ Varric said. ‘I just asked if it was necessary. Dragons smell, you see. Aside from the minor inconveniences like fire.’
With admirable grace, the elf jumped down and wiped his sword on the grass. ‘What’s your excuse, Pavus?’
‘Me? I never had any doubts.’
Fenris nudged him when he walked back towards the camp. ‘Sure. You were full of confidence. Especially when you screamed at the top of your lungs.’
‘I screamed because that thing was about to land. On you. It was a bit large, in case you didn’t notice, so I decided it was a good moment to scream.’
‘Worried, were you?’
‘Large. Dragon. So, yes. I was concerned that a dragon standing on your head rather than the other way round might be a tad harmful.’
Fenris gave him a lingering look. ‘What’s it to you?’
‘Come on, Fenris, you know that I’m hardly indifferent. No one is more fun to hunt venatori with than you are.’
Fenris chuckled. ‘Good to know.’
Varric made a gagging sound. ‘Get a room, you two.’
Dorian went cold all over. Sure, they had flirted, but someone else acknowledging it might be bad. ‘That is so not … I have absolutely no designs on him, Varric!’ He glanced at Fenris, dreading that he’d see hatred or that horrible, haunted look he’d had on his face when the spell blocking his memories was removed, but all he saw was a smirk.
‘Heu me! Si umquam reflectaris, dic mihi.’
Dorian stopped dead in his tracks at that and Varric snorted. ‘Yeah. Very subtle, Broody.’
Dorian hesitated before knocking on the door to Fenris’s private quarters. The shout to come on in hadn’t sounded exactly welcoming, and he had no idea … Maybe it was better to scram.
The decision was made for Dorian when Fenris threw the door open to glare out. ‘Oh, it’s you,’ he said then. ‘Come in.’
‘I … ah … can come back later.’
‘No. At least I’ll have an excuse if Cassandra comes to complain that I take too many risks.’
‘Oh!’ He really shouldn’t feel so relieved that the impatience hadn’t been for him. ‘Well … Fenris … I should probably not even ask you this, but I have to know. You were joking, weren’t you? When you told me to tell you if I changed my mind. About you.’
Fenris made a face. ‘In part. It’s fun to watch Varric’s face when he tries to figure out Tevene.’ He raised his hands. ‘But in part, I meant it. I like you, Dorian. A lot. I find that very disconcerting, but it’s still true.’
‘That … wow. I didn’t see that coming.’
Fenris’s lips twitched. ‘Didn’t you? You flirt, you charm, you … well.’
‘That’s just me, though, Fenris. I do that. It means … it means I didn’t guard myself as carefully as I should have, because … Maker. Fenris, we have so much history, and not the good kind.’
‘Not the good kind? The only reason why I even know who I am is you. But … I understand.’
‘No. You don’t. I … do not have to change my mind because I … I fell for you long ago. For that brilliant mind that I knew was there behind the … the clusterfuck of a spell Danarius had put on you. You’re eloquent and you positively absorb every morsel of information you hear, your eyes positively sparkle with wit, you’re … you’re so beautiful, and you care so much. But I honestly thought you’d never see anything in me than a man who’d added to your pain.’
Fenris turned away. ‘I did. At first. But you … you don’t look at me as if I’m less than you. It’s like you don’t even think about that.’
‘I try not to. I feel ashamed how I treated you. No-one deserves that.’
Fenris laughed drily. ‘You treated me a lot better than anyone before, even back when I was your toy, Pavus.’
The mage swallowed. ‘I still prefer not to think about it.’ He stepped closer, well into Fenris’s personal space. The elf didn’t retreat. ‘I’d prefer to think about the present.’
‘Works for me.’ Fenris crossed the remaining distance and pressed his lips to Dorian’s. The glow of the sun on the mountains outside the windows had never been more beautiful.
Chapter 6: They Say I’m Seeking Out the Danger
((This chapter heading is taken from the song Aquarius by Within Temptation.))
It was the first time Fenris woke up in someone else’s bed. He’d walked out on Hawke immediately after their first time. He’d been in pain then, but now he wasn’t. He could only assume the pain that accompanied sexual pleasure had also been a gift from Danarius. His lyrium had hurt him before Felix had done whatever it was he’d done for him, when he had been a pleasure slave for Dorian.
The sleeping figure next to him turned to his back but didn’t wake up. He took the moment to study the mage’s face, relaxed and calm in his rest. It was the second time he had chosen to sleep with someone, and this time, it hadn’t left him scared. Quite the contrary. Fenris let his fingers brush over Dorian’s cheek. His eyes fluttered open and he smiled. ‘Good morning.’ The taller man sat up, the cover pooling in his lap. Fenris resisted the temptation to pull it away completely. ‘So this wasn’t a dream.’
‘Me neither.’ The mage reached out and cupped his cheek. ‘What … was this, Fenris? Was this a one-time thing?’
Fenris studiously avoided Dorian’s eyes. ‘Why do I have to decide that?’
Dorian laughed quietly. ‘Because you’re the one whose heart has been broken before.’
‘That never happened to you?’
‘I never let anyone close enough.’
Fenris nodded slowly. He pushed Dorian back down on the bed. ‘And am I close enough?’
‘Yes.’ Warm hands came to rest on Fenris’s sides. ‘But if you end this now, I’ll survive it. If you want to end it later it will hurt me much more.’
Fenris straddled him. ‘How about I don’t hurt you at all?’ He shoved the fabric separating them out of the way. ‘It’s still hard to get used to, though. That you would treat me as an equal.’
Fenris touched his lips against Dorian’s. ‘I think you did that the moment I knew who I was, the moment you helped me prepare for following Danarius to the conclave. You never touched me again, you didn’t even try. I thought it was because you were afraid, but I wonder now.’
‘I didn’t touch you because you told me not to, Fenris. I’m not in the habit of forcing myself on someone who’s clearly unwilling.’ Dorian’s eyes had the most beautiful colour, almost amber in the red sky of the morning. ‘I never really feared you. You didn’t seem to hate me enough to murder me, you let me assist in your training, you let me teach you to read, you even seemed to enjoy that after a bit … I did expect you to be mildly disgusted with me for the rest of your life, though.’
‘I cared, even before Felix. Couldn’t you tell?’
Dorian’s hands wandered lower and pulled Fenris against him. ‘I didn’t think that was real. I thought it was horribly unlucky that I had come to … to care for you so much.’ He kneaded his buttocks. ‘You’re gorgeous, you know that? All lean muscle and raw power but you’re so gentle, so perfect.’
Fenris pressed his lips to Dorian’s, kissing him long and deeply, their tongues dancing a leisurely dance, heat building in his groin. ‘I think I’ll let the others wait a bit. What do you say?’
‘I’ll give you an alibi,’ Dorian gasped when Fenris’s lips travelled down his torso. ‘How about I … ah! Maker, Fenris, don’t tease. I tell them the dragon had left us with burns and we needed to quench the fire for each other?’
Fenris gave a low chuckle. ‘Sounds good.’ He grasped Dorian’s erection at the base and let the tip of his tongue travel up. ‘Dorian, will you allow me?’
‘Pretty sure I’ll say yes, but just to be safe: allow you what?’
In answer, Fenris moistened a finger and placed it against Dorian’s entrance. The mage spread his legs wide in answer and he pushed inside slowly. The man made the most interesting sounds when Fenris touched him like this. He took his sweet time, so intent on giving him pleasure but never too much, he didn’t even feel a need to touch himself. Clear, viscous liquid was flowing from Dorian and Fenris used it to add slickness to his ministrations. He heard a curious sound behind him but ignored it, knowing no-one else was in the room. Suddenly Dorian gave a mix between a gasp and a yelp, and Fenris looked at him in alarm. The expression was mirrored in the mage’s face, his eyes fixed on the window. Fenris turned. One of the curtains had caught fire. The mage scrambled up and stared. ‘We need someone to bring water!’
Fenris stared at him. ‘Are you insane? Can’t you cast something?’
‘What? Oh! Yes!’ He made an elaborate gestures and the fire died down.
‘We need water?’ Fenris asked him, incredulous. ‘Quite a mage you are.’
Dorian blinked. His lips twitched. Then he burst into laughter. When he had sobered some, Fenris gestured to the window. ‘You did that, didn’t you?’
‘I … it was getting a bit much and … yes. I think I did that.’ He snorted. ‘Let’s not tell anyone that.’
Fenris held the blanket in front of him and glanced out of the window. ‘Problem is, the curtain is still smoking and people are looking up already.’ He gestured to Krem and Dalish who were hectically pointing. The Tevinter spotted him and spread his arms in question. Fenris made a gesture he hoped would tell the young man he was fine.
Dorian tried to peek past Fenris without being seen. ‘Damn. They’re going to ask questions, aren’t they?’
‘Yes. We’d better tell everyone … ah …’
‘That you threw a candle at your curtain?’
‘I’ll tell them you did it, of course. I might not mention the circumstances.’
Fenris grinned at him and tossed him his robe. ‘There. If I don’t show up now, they’ll come up here, I can promise you that much.’
Chapter 7: Sicut splendor fulguris
((Chapter heading is taken from Orff’s Carmina Burana. It means something like Like the brightness of lightning.))
Somehow, when Fenris had talked about fighting Corypheus, even when facing him, he’d spoken with cold detachment. That had led Dorian to think that despite everything, Fenris just wanted to be done and that if he could, he’d gladly pass his mark to someone else. Not that that was ever possible. But now, after defeating his dragon, the two were facing each other, and Fenris did what he always did when a fight got personal: He thrust his hand into the old Darkspawn’s chest. His face was a mask of rage, and if Dorian hadn’t known him so well, he’d have been scared senseless. ‘You don’t even have a heart I can rip out,’ he spat at him. ‘But I can do that.’ Green bloomed from the creature, a rift opened up right inside him, consuming him rapidly and violently. Dorian watched, his arms folded, how the monstrosity that had held their attention for so long perished. Slowly the adrenalin rush was leaving him and he started to feel his injuries.
‘Okay, that was creepy,’ Varric said.
‘Also Corypheus was pretty ugly up close. No sense for fashion.’
‘Yes. All that red was too intense, really.’
Dorian approached the elf who stood immobile after Corypheus was gone. ‘Fenris, are you all right?’
The warrior looked at him and grinned. ‘Just waiting how irreverent the two of you will get if I let you.’ He made a dismissive gesture. ‘Let’s go home.’
Dorian noticed rather late that Fenris had abandoned his own party. Solas had given them all the slip after some sort of wooden ball had broken, but the rest were getting increasingly drunk in the hall. To Dorian’s annoyance, they were also discussing who was going to get to marry Fenris. Considering that, it was small wonder the elf had fled.
Trying to get away unseen, Dorian approached the door that led off to Fenris’s quarters. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Varric winking at him. He winked back and hoped the dwarf wouldn’t tell anyone where they’d gone. He entered the room without knocking. At some point since that first night together, Dorian’s presence had become a fact of life to Fenris. Still, they hadn’t made concrete plans.
Fenris was sitting on the banister of the balcony, his position there more precarious than Dorian liked. The green eyes settled on him as he approached, his face hard to read. ‘So. When are you leaving?’ he asked when Dorian reached him.
Whatever he had wanted to say got lost on the way from Dorian’s mind to his mouth. ‘What? You want me to go? I … of course.’
‘Wait.’ Dorian halted, already on his way, closed his eyes and counted to ten. It didn’t help. He turned and faced the elf again, knowing full well that his pain was all over his face. ‘That’s not how I meant it. I … the last time we talked about your plans after this was over, you said you’d go home. So. How much borrowed time with you do I have left?’
‘Fenris.’ Everything he felt for the other man went into that one word, enough to let some of the tension leave the warrior’s body. He walked back towards him, smiling a bit more the closer he got until he reached out with both hands and cupped his face. ‘I have no plans whatsoever to leave you. Certainly not in the foreseeable future.’
‘I don’t know if that’s enough for me. Not anymore.’ Fenris turned away and started pacing. ‘I have no right to ask you to stay with me, but …’
‘Hang on. I tried to get a similar answer from you a while ago. I haven’t changed my mind, I want a future with you, now that we have one. We may not have spelt it out, but we both know that what we have … that this isn’t casual, and I don’t think it ever was. I’m not trying to wriggle out of a commitment, Fenris. I’ve learnt that I can’t take anything for granted. But as long as you’ll have me and as long as I can, I will stay with you.’
Fenris halted abruptly and glared at Dorian. ‘Damn. Why do I trust you?’
Dorian let out a short laugh. ‘Probably may great looks. Or maybe because I haven’t let you down so far.’ Again, he reached for the elf, pulling him close this time. ‘I’m not going to start now. I can promise you that.’
Chapter 8: Weiter, weiter ins Verderben
((This chapter heading came to me by listening to the song it’s from: Rammstein’s Dalai Lama. It means Onwards, onwards into doom.))
The sharp wind was making Dorian’s eyes water. Two years. Two years had been enough to push Tevinter and any thought of it from his mind, and then his father had to die. A part of him felt guilty that he wasn’t more upset about that. That the fact that he left Fenris behind hurt him much more.
The elf had understood his need to leave – to a point. But Dorian would come back. He knew that much. He’d impressed upon Fenris not to try and visit him. That might not go well.
The problem was that Dorian had no delusions that this would be done quickly. He’d try and travel south and he’d try and arrange that eventually he didn’t need to stay in Tevinter permanently. He wouldn’t be the only one, he knew that much for certain. ‘Magister? We’ll be reaching the docks in two hours.’
‘Magister … Huh.’ He shook himself. ‘Thank you. I’ll get my stuff ready.’
‘Will someone be helping you?’
Dorian felt a weird sensation in his stomach. It was followed by an irrational fit of laughter. The sailor stared at him. It didn’t help. He wiped over his eyes. ‘You think I’m completely mad, don’t you. Nah, you don’t have to answer that. Maker’s breath, I never asked for this.’ He shrugged. ‘I haven’t the faintest idea. I sent a letter, yes, but … someone will probably be there. I didn’t even think of this.’
‘Are you all right, Magister?’
Dorian huffed. ‘No. I’m not. I … just want to be home.’ That man didn’t need to know that by home he meant a castle with holes in the wall. He sighed and groped for a small item in his pocket. The crystal was cool to the touch and reassuring. His lifeline. The only reason why he’d found the strength to leave at all. He returned to staring sombrely at the water. He was going to do this. He was going to have an influence, that much he’d make sure of. And when he could be certain that visiting occasionally would be enough, he’d return to Fenris. All would be well. He could do this.
At the dock, Dorian saw the three people at once. He hadn’t been gone so long, after all. They eyed him with some scepticism that was veiled with smiles and bows. ‘Beat it,’ he said. They stared. Dorian imagined what Fenris would say to what he’d just done. ‘Did I sprout fur on my ears in the south? I wasn’t gone that long.’ They kept staring. ‘Oh, well. Let’s just go home.’ One of the trio took his things from him to carry them. Dorian resisted the urge to take them back.
‘All right. What changed in my absence, exactly? Major-domo still the same?’
‘Yes, that is still Nepote, Magister.’
Dorian sighed. ‘All right. We’ll have a lot to talk about. Please tell him to get everyone together. There are a few things I need to make very clear.’ The looks on the three people turned anxious. He closed his eyes. ‘Yes. That’s exactly the problem.’
Dorian waited for the entire household to gather. Their looks made him wonder, and after a moment he decided to give voice to his thought. ‘If I shout, “Boo!”, will you all flinch in sync?’ Someone chuckled. Interestingly enough, someone he didn’t know. ‘Thanks, whoever you are. Come on. I haven’t become a monster. You know me.’
‘With permission, we don’t know what changes you will make.’
‘Nepote! You still have a voice! Great. I don’t know about any changes. You can run this place fine without me. I do want you to bring your concerns to me, as I’m sure my father did. For crying out loud, don’t be scared of me. This is … bad enough as it is.’
‘I’m sorry for your loss,’ the aging cook said. ‘Losing Halward Pavus … wasn’t easy for us either. At least while no-one was sure what you would do. If you would even accept your heritage or just … pass us on to the Magisterium.’
Dorian gaped at her before he caught himself. He’d become readable. He needed to stop that. ‘Is that what you fear?’ He laughed. ‘No. I won’t do that. I may not always be here, but for the time being, I’ll stay. And I will not hand you to the vultures. Never fear.’ He looked at the one who had laughed before. ‘Now you’re the only unfamiliar face. You are …’
‘Milena Arrius, Magister.’
‘Milena Arrius. And you’re …’
‘Oh!’ He took her in. She was a small elven woman with short-cropped red hair. ‘You succeeded Mira. What happened to her?’
‘She retired, Magister.’
‘Finally.’ Mira had been ancient as long as Dorian remembered, a servant rather than a slave and always kind to Dorian when he just couldn’t deal with the world as an adolescent who realised his sexuality wasn’t quite what it should be. She had also been kind to the household, he was sure. That this young one should replace her was something he’d have to get used to. ‘How long have you been here?’
‘Are you a mage? Because Mira was.’
‘Good. Feel free to use the library. If you encounter a book that has no business being in a decent home, let me know and I’ll get rid of it.’
‘I … ah … yes, Magister.’
Dorian clapped his hands together. ‘Today I have a reprieve, it seems, but tomorrow I have to meet with the Magisterium. So, if there are any concerns you’d like to bring to me, today would be good. If you don’t get enough food, if your beds are infested with bugs, or if you know for a fact that the major domo is dancing naked on the roof every full moon – please do tell.’
Said major domo finally cracked a smile and shook his head. ‘Nothing so fancy. But there is a letter waiting for you in your study. It was brought personally by Magister Natalis. She wants to talk to you before you go to the Magisterium. She would like an answer.’
‘Fine. Send her a message that I’m expecting her tonight. Maker knows I can stand to talk to one of those I don’t hate before I have to make nice to the rest of them.’
The major domo nodded. ‘Certainly. Welcome home, Magister.'
Chapter 9: Fatuous Sunbeams
((This chapter heading is from the poem Futility by Wilfred Owen, which I know from Britten’s incredible War Requiem.))
‘You can’t imagine … well, you probably can. It’s worse than it was. Or maybe I just never saw it before. So much self-righteousness in one place. And of course everyone thinks the venatori are crazy. No, no way they’d support that. Now tell me, how do I find out the liars?’
Fenris’s chuckle came through the crystal, clear as if he were right there. ‘You’ll manage. Do you have anyone you trust?’
‘Yes. A select few. Maker, I miss you Fenris. How are you holding up?’
‘I’m … coping.’
‘I just … I didn’t realise how this must look. The moment you’re permanently inured, I vanish. Please don’t think for a second that …’
‘Pavus. I don’t.’
‘I’ll come back to you. Not soon, but I will come back.’
‘And I’ll wait for you.’
Dorian rubbed the bridge of his nose. ‘Thank you. If you can’t cope … if you absolutely need me …’
‘I’ll go and whine to Varric. Despite his promise to leave, he’s still here. I think he believes I’ll fall apart if he leaves. You do what you must, Dorian. Worst case, I’ll come after you.’
‘Don’t. Not now. I need to accomplish something on my own, for once.’ He frowned. ‘It’s odd. There’s this one woman here, the overseer. She’s a servant and she’s up to something.’
‘How do you know?’
‘Someone’s been shuffling through my letters. I haven’t the faintest idea what she means by it, but I fear that she might be spying for someone.’
‘One, she’s a mage. That isn’t unusual in an overseer. But it means she can read. My father’s slaves are rather literate in general, but still. I have a feeling they’d respect my privacy a lot more.’
‘Pavus, face the facts. They’re your slaves, not your father’s.’
‘What would you have me do?’
‘Be honest to yourself, for a start.’
‘I haven’t changed their status, but I’m paying them, if that helps. If I free them all, people will think I’m insane.’
‘It doesn’t help enough, but I’m no fool. I see your point.’
‘Irina Natalis and I plan to make a few changes to the law. Like making it compulsory that the body of a slave must be presented to … whom we’re not sure yet, but it should help prevent people from buying large numbers of slaves for blood magic. You buy a slave, said slave is registered. Slave dies, you present the body and if the cause is suspicious, you’re getting looked at. Closely. This might even pass. Since everyone is so eager to demonstrate their opposition to the venatori, it could work. Natalis has a few people in her pockets, and I might still sway some.’ He smiled. ‘The entire thing, of course, helps us find likely venatori sympathisers or practitioners of questionable magic.’
‘I know.’ He cleared his throat. ‘Well, it was good to hear you, but there’s a letter I need to finish.’ He continued in an undertone. ‘Someone’s eavesdropping. Bet you it’s the one we talked about. I … I love you Fenris.’
‘Take care of yourself, Dorian. I want you back in one piece.’
Chapter 10: Traitors
((This inconspicuous chapter heading is also the name of a song by Deine Lakaien.))
‘Got you.’ Dorian stood in the door with his arms folded, Milena frozen on the spot in his study. ‘Now. What are you doing, why are you doing it, and most importantly, who are you doing it for?’
‘Magister, I …’
Her eyes closed, and in her dejection, Dorian was reminded of Fenris with a pang. He’d never before felt that all elves looked the same, but the thought made him feel guilty. ‘I’m not a spy. I just … tried to find out … Could you tell me of the Inquisitor? You know him, don’t you?’
Dorian closed the door behind him. ‘I know him. What do you want with him?’
‘I want … I want to meet him.’
‘He’s not coming.’
‘No! He can’t come. You can’t let him.’
‘Let him?’ Dorian glared at her. ‘He doesn’t need me to let him do anything at all.’
‘No?’ Suddenly her nostrils flared in anger. ‘You still own him, don’t you? He’s your property. I know what you did to him. What his position is officially.’
‘I fully intend to remedy that situation, Milena, not that it’s your concern.’
‘It is, though.’
‘How? I tried looked into your genealogy. It’s interesting. And faked. By my father, no less. What is going on?’
‘I … you know that? Since when?’
‘Very recently. And I want the truth from you. Now.’
‘I was betrayed and would have been killed if I hadn’t vanished. After the man who did it was dead, I dared to resurface. I turned to Halward Pavus because I thought he might be sympathetic. And he was. Please, don’t turn me in.’
‘Specifics. Now.’ He saw her distress, but he couldn’t find it in himself to care. ‘If you’re so innocent, why would you be afraid of me?’
It was enough. She cracked. ‘Because I’m not an innocent!’ Her hands were knotted together in front of her, her eyes wild. ‘I betrayed my own blood and when I was betrayed in turn, I didn’t even have the grace to let myself be killed.’
‘Milena, I said specifics, not unbridled pathos. I may have time right now, but my patience is wearing thin really fast.’
‘I … my name isn’t Milena. It’s Varania. Fenris is my brother. He bought me a life as a free woman by selling himself. When he ran, I was promised a seat in the Magisterium if I …’
‘Shut up. I know of your part in that.’ He tasted bile. ‘I want you out of my house by tonight.’
‘Magister Pavus, please. I … your father gave me a place here.’
‘I won’t turn you in. I just want you gone.’
‘I … please tell Fenris I am so sorry.’
‘I’ll tell him no such thing. Why would I?’
‘Because … I can help you. I know who was in Danarius’s inner circle. I can tell you names. Big names. I want these people to pay as much as you do.’
Dorian wanted to chase her out, and he probably should. She didn’t have a history of excessive honesty. But there was a chance … a slight one, but a chance that she was speaking the truth. ‘You want a deal? You get a deal. I ignore – not forget or forgive, because I may never be able to do that – what you did to Fenris. You can stay and keep your position. But I will not tell Fenris to meet you or lure him into a meeting with you. Maybe I’ll tell him you want to speak with him. What he does with that information is up to him, and I will only speak of you to him if your information proves useful.’ That last, of course, was a blatant lie. He’d tell Fenris the moment she left the room. But of course, she bought it.
‘I … thank you Magister. I deserved being screwed over by Danarius, but Fenris didn’t deserve what was done to him. People can change. I’ll help. Even if you don’t do anything for me. I’ll help in any way I can.’
Dorian pursed his lips. He thought of Gereon Alexius. Of the man he’d once been, not the one he’d become. ‘People change, but it isn’t normally for the better. Here’s your chance to prove me wrong.’
Chapter 11: Substitute the Moon
((Chapter heading is a line from the song The Game by Deine Lakaien.))
‘Ooh, pretty!’ Irina shouted out of nowhere, pointing at his crystal. ‘What is that?’ Her voice was high with joy, her expression unguarded rather than her usual poised look. He wondered if he should ignore it and her for the moment. He was less than sober, they all were, and while he thought he could trust them, you could never know. But … well.
‘This is a means to communicate. With the Inquisitor, as it were.’ He tilted his head. ‘Watch.’ He activated the crystal. ‘Fenris!’
It took a moment before there was an answer. ‘Dorian. Is something wrong?’ It was earlier than he normally contacted the other man.
‘No, no, I’m good. We had some success. We could point out no less than five collaborators to the Magisterium. They can contemplate their stupidity in shackles now. With any luck, I can see you soon. Or soon-ish.’
‘About time. You’ve been gone for a year. While I love hearing your voice, I miss seeing you. Having you here. And it isn’t really getting easier.’ Irina chuckled in the background. It was a fond chuckle, but Dorian wished she’d cut it out. ‘You’re with someone?’
‘Yes. A few of us have decided to celebrate what we’ve achieved.’
‘And when were you going to tell me you’re not alone?’
Dorian made a face. ‘Irina asked what the crystal was. I decided to demonstrate. It’s such a beautiful bit of magic, you see. And I’ve finally found a way to reproduce it, I think.’
‘Good for you, Dorian.’
‘Hey, Dorian, I could help you with that,’ Arenius said. ‘I can even think of a way to pay me … in kind, so to speak. With your very special talents, you know.’
Dorian burst into laughter at the way the man delivered his request. He only realised his mistake when the crystal went dead. ‘Oh, damn. Arenius, that didn’t go down well.’ He smiled. ‘Don’t look so shocked, he’ll come round. Fine, I’ll help you if you help me. What was it you wanted again? It sounded shifty.’
‘Only a little. I want information from the body of a guard. I want to know who killed him.’
‘How long’s he been dead?’
‘Might work. Irina, teach your son manners.’
‘This fellow is not my son. I do not have a son. I have an idiotic protégé who happens to be in my will.’ She shook her head. ‘You do realise how that sounded to the poor soul, don’t you, Arenius?’
Dorian narrowed his eyes. ‘Fenris thinks you were coming on to me. And that I liked it.’
‘Come on to you? Eurgh. But I do have a thing for your overseer.’
‘Milena could be your mother.’
‘Fine. Still, I don’t …’
‘Dorian, a word,’ Irina said and pulled him a few steps away. ‘Listen. You’ve been gone from your partner for a long time already. If he doesn’t come round, go and get him here. The release papers are ready, and I wouldn’t trust an envoy. Go south, tell your man he’s officially free, and bring him here. We both know that the Inquisition is being dissolved.’
‘And what then? I can hardly marry him. They’ll stop taking me seriously altogether.’
‘Then what is your plan?’
‘Go south again eventually, and come here for the big meetings.’
‘You’ll lose your hold on the rest of the Magisterium, Dorian. You need to be here, you and your silver tongue. And he can come here, since he’s free. And … no-one’s batting an eye at Kata and me being a couple. They think I’m less of a threat for it because I won’t have a horde of children that I can raise to be like me.’
‘You have an Arenius.’
‘Yes. And you could have a Milena you won’t shut up about. Put her in your will, tell no-one but the people you really absolutely trust with that information. That you won’t reproduce doesn’t have to mean you don’t have a legacy. I for one have a couple of legacies. You just need to start collecting.’
Dorian looked to Arenius who was pointedly pretending not to hear. ‘Milena … I don’t know.’
‘Look. She’s been a great help, and without her, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. She’s on your side. Think about it, Dorian. You could have Fenris with you. Yes, they’ll laugh behind your back as they do behind mine. But in the end, that empowers me. They don’t see me as a threat. You know how to play the Game. It’s time you started doing it.’
Chapter 12: Hellish Jarring Sounds
((Chapter heading from the Dowland song In Darkness Let Me Dwell.))
Skyhold rose up in front of Dorian and with every step he got closer, his heart was beating more wildly. The crystal had stayed dead, and by now Dorian had come to the conclusion that Fenris hadn’t cut him off but that something must have happened. Had he sounded hectic? Had he disturbed him in battle and had Fenris lost the crystal? It didn’t matter, soon he’d see him again. He knew for a fact that the Inquisitor was alive and well. It wasn’t like he had no source of information. He couldn’t wait, increased his pace.
The guards, he thought, gave him a weird look, but then again, he’d been gone for over a year, and he’d changed. Tevinter hadn’t done him favours. Or too many, one might think. In the first half year he’d gained weight – and had managed to get almost back to normal by now. He’d also let his hair grow, he might even have helped it along a bit so that he could tie it back. His moustache and soul patch were still the same, though.
The next weird thing that happened was Varric. The dwarf spotted him, swore soundly, and stopped Dorian’s determined stride before he could reach the hall. ‘Hold it there, Sparkler. Where do you think you’re going?’
‘Me? To Fenris. What a question.’ Only now he started to think if maybe something had happened. ‘He’s … nothing’s happened to him, has it? He’s fine?’
‘Oh, he’s fine. But you won’t be. Not after what you did.’
‘I … what did I do again?’
‘You cheated! And you didn’t even try to hide it.’
‘I …’ Dorian fell silent. ‘I didn’t cheat, Varric.’
‘Yeah. He told me of that talk you had. He heard that other guy.’
‘What … you know what? I don’t owe you an explanation. I do owe Fenris one, however.’
‘Take my advice. Go. Remain the ambassador in Tevinter for as long as it takes for us to disband the Inquisition.’
‘I’ve got something for Fenris. Something he’ll want to have.’
‘I can hand it to him.’
‘Yes. But this is my family’s mess, so it has to be me. Where is Fenris?’
‘His quarters. Do yourself a favour and don’t go, Sparkler.’
‘Then take me with you. Might increase your chance of survival.’
Dorian wondered if he wanted to live in a world in which Fenris hated him enough to murder him. It wasn’t a healthy thought, he knew, but in the current situation he couldn’t help it. ‘I’d rather not. I don’t know what this will do to me and if I have a breakdown I prefer a small amount of witnesses.’
‘Fine.’ Varric shook his head. ‘Sparkler. Good luck.’
Dorian’s knock was answered with a curt call to enter. He’d been excited before. Now he was frightened. He closed his hand around the doorknob so hard his knuckles turned white and opened. Fenris stared at him and for a moment neither of them spoke. He could see the emotions chase each other over the elf’s face. Shock and sheer anger mostly, but he was willing to bet his hand that for just one moment there had been joy. ‘Fenris,’ Dorian said, trying to sound normal and failing miserably. ‘I haven’t heard from you in a while, and since I have this parchment for you anyway, I thought I’d take a vacation in the wet and freezing south.’
Fenris didn’t answer, but his hands were balled into fists.
‘I missed you terribly,’ Dorian tried.
‘Give me the letter,’ Fenris said, his voice quiet. Not the good kind of quiet this time. He knew this, knew how he grew cold when it was all too much for him. Dorian had never expected to be on the receiving end.
‘Sure,’ he answered. He passed him the parchment. ‘You … don’t want to tear this. It’s not a letter, it’s a document.’
Fenris answered with a nod, which meant he had probably meant to rip it to shreds. ‘You are not welcome here, mage.’
‘I … Fenris, I know what you think I’ve done, but I haven’t.’
‘Just look at yourself. Your clothes, your hair, it screams magister. You used to be different, but you’ve become decadent like all the rest of them. And you’ve lost your decency as well, if ever you had any.’
Involuntarily, Dorian checked his reflection in the mirror. He couldn’t really deny what Fenris had said, he had adopted the style even more than before. Impatiently, he pulled the elaborate ribbon out of his hair and threw it on the floor. ‘I don’t care about their decorum, Fenris, but I have to play along.’
‘Including bedding half the Magisterium?’
‘If you’d bothered talking to me longer than two minutes or waiting until I get back to you, I’d have told you that he meant he wanted magic.’
‘Of course. You will leave tomorrow morning and you will not come back. The guards will see that you do not enter Skyhold ever again.’
‘Fenris …’ He closed his eyes. He felt a surge of anger that was so powerful it made him sick. At himself and his stupid idea to show the other two mages the crystal; at Hawke for betraying Fenris and ruining his ability to fully trust someone else; at Danarius for destroying him; irrationally, at Felix for being dead. ‘You know what,’ he said finally, ‘this document might say otherwise but I’ll tell you something: You’re still a slave, Fenris, and you always will be. It’s not even your fault, but I refuse to take the blame. I didn’t do anything wrong.’ Except you just did, you absolute dick. ‘Farewell.’
Chapter 13: I Can’t Hold On To Me
((Chapter heading is taken from Lithium by Evanescence.))
Dorian had stumbled into the room he’d occupied way back when without thinking. He realised that nothing had been changed but that the place was still being cleaned, because it wasn’t dusty, either. Maybe he’d had a chance. Maybe if he’d just backed down, remained calm and reasonable and even something approaching decent, he could have fixed this. But now … He’d said something unforgiveable, had made sure that Fenris had an easier time hating him.
It was the middle of the night and Dorian was preparing himself inwardly to go back to Tevinter. There was a soft knock on his door and Dorian’s heart went from violent beating to an abrupt halt. He wasn’t going to survive this for long. Nearly tripping over his own feet, Dorian all but fell against the door and yanked it open. Outside stood Varric, and it cost him an enormous amount of discipline not to slam it shut again or drop to the floor and start crying.
‘Hey, Sparkler. I talked to Fenris, you know, and I’m not done with him.’ The dwarf entered without being told to and took in Dorian’s packed stuff. ‘Didn’t even unpack, did you?’
Dorian raised his arms. ‘Why should I?’
‘Don’t know. He told me what you said to him. I told him he should work out what you meant because it wasn’t as simple.’
‘Why would you do that? You’re supposed to be his friend. You’re supposed to tell him that I’m scum and he’s better off without me.’
‘I’d be a lousy friend if I didn’t tell him when I think he’s making a mistake. Thing is, while I know how you meant it, what you said to him … that wasn’t ideal.’ Dorian laughed humourlessly. ‘All right, understatement. Look, it’s like this. If you leave tomorrow, you’ll never know. Give him time. Go to Redcliffe, for example, they’re having some demon stragglers. Help them. Then check back and maybe he’ll have come round.’
‘I can’t wait forever, Varric.’
The dwarf stood. ‘No. But you probably didn’t plan to leave again tomorrow. Take the time you’d planned. If I know anything, I’ll tell you.’
‘See, I don’t want to hope in vain. It hurts so damn much.’
‘You did this to yourself, Sparkler. And yes, I said that to him, too. But suit yourself. Go home. Forget him. You’ll never know what might have been. Have fun living with that.’
Chapter 14: Dead and Frozen My Heart
((Chapter heading is the taken from Over and Done by Deine Lakaien.))
Fenris had it easy. All he had to do was follow the rumours – and the information given by a reluctant dwarf. Those led to Redcliffe. Apparently, Dorian had made it his home for the past fortnight and had helped the local folk with a couple of things they’d never brought to the Inquisition. And since everyone knew he and Dorian were close, no-one hesitated to tell him where the mage was staying. Now he found himself in his room, overwhelmed with his scent, a half burnt robe flung over a chair making him worry. They hadn’t handled this with anything even close to grace. Varric had talked to him after he’d chased Dorian away, had talked long and cautiously and had stirred something Fenris hadn’t expected to feel. For the first time the dwarf had questioned if Dorian had truly betrayed him, had wanted a full account of how Fenris had gathered that, and had buried his face in his hands when he heard how little there was to it.
And now he thought about it, he realised how ridiculous it was. It had been so easy to obsess over something the mage might have done, to make it a reality in his head. It had been easy, and in a way, it had been less painful to convince himself that he’d lost the other man to the Imperium. And now … now it seemed he’d done what no-one had managed before: broken his heart.
A tattered leather-bound book sat on Dorian’s bedside table. He opened a page close to the back. It was empty. A journal, then. A glance at one of the many pages Dorian had written on in his beautiful, neat hand, confirmed this. Fenris put it down hastily. He had to leave before he did more harm than he already had.
Chapter 15: Write About Our Dreams and Triumphs
((I knew I wanted this chapter heading before I had a name for the story. Or a plot. It’s a line from We All Go Back to Where We Belong by R.E.M. and when I first heard it (which isn’t long ago), I knew it would be in a sequel to Broken Dawn if that was ever to come.))
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Laughter followed Dorian upstairs from the inn. He smiled, his hair plastered to his head with demon goo and his robes ruined. It was satisfying, incredibly satisfying to explode demons. Some of them exploded so prettily. They swelled and swelled under certain spells, until they burst. It wasn’t ideal to stand next to them while they did that, but sometimes it could hardly be avoided.
Redcliffe’s demon problem, it had turned out, was a small abandoned cellar in which they’d gathered. Why was anyone’s guess, but now they were all gone and it should, again, be quiet. He assumed that Alexius had something to do with it, but he’d never know for sure.
It had been two weeks and three days. He hadn’t heard a word from Varric, and by now, he doubted he would. Still, he had a bit more time, and he’d sit it out. Maybe he’d actually go back up to Skyhold without a prompt from Varric. If the guards didn’t let him in, fine. But he wouldn’t leave anything untried.
And there, in his room, was Fenris. He was sitting on his bed as if he owned the place, Dorian’s journal in his lap, so focussed on his reading that he didn’t even notice him until he cleared his throat. Or it might be an act. Fenris looked up at him, his expression unreadable. ‘Someone told me that the Inquisition cleared away the demons here. I told them it wasn’t us, and they were confused. Varric had a very suspicious coughing fit when I asked him about it and finally spilled. What, mage, are you doing here.’
Fenris closed the journal with a snap. ‘And writing a diary.’
‘It’s a journal.’ A very embarrassing one.
‘Same thing. And actually, it’s written like letters. To whom? Me?’
‘I don’t know anyone else I’d write like that about.’
‘Like what? Your guiding light in the abyss that wants to devour you? Your conscience when temptation was beckoning?’
Dorian flushed. ‘You were not supposed to read that. Ever.’
Fenris waved the journal at him. ‘Fool. You should have sent these.’
‘You wouldn’t have read them.’
‘Not at first, but if you were that persistent … One day Varric would have sat me down and read them to me, if nothing else. I believe you, by the way. That you and that other mage were exchanging spells.’
Dorian swallowed. ‘Good. Fenris, look.’
The elf shook his head. ‘For once, listen, mage. You … were right. I’m still shackled. By myself, if nothing else. And you’re right not to blame yourself for that.’ He looked at his hands, suddenly looking so vulnerable. ‘Will you come home with me, Dorian?’
He bit his lower lip. ‘I haven’t planned to stay, Fenris.’ He waited for the explosion, but it never came. He looked at Fenris and saw his slight frown. ‘I came to ask you to … well. You said you’re disbanding the Inquisition. And I wondered if you want to come to Tevinter with me. As a free man, to live with me.’
‘They’ll mock you, Dorian. They’ll plague you and hound you.’
‘Maybe. But it won’t be such a surprise. You see, people know already that we’re more than friends. They’ll just consider the rumours confirmed. And … the woman you heard the last time we talked … she’s like me. She’s never tried to hide it and it’s fine. She has an heir, and she pointed someone out to me that I could install as my … maybe not successor, but protégé. And successor if I am assassinated.’
‘Try and avoid getting killed. Who would your protégé be?’
Fenris’s eyes narrowed. ‘You expect me to live under the same roof with her?’
Dorian sighed. ‘Fenris, she’s changed. I didn’t believe it either, but she’s been an enormous help. She’s brilliant. She’s also very powerful. And I do believe that she’s loyal.’
‘I … don’t know.’
‘I don’t know either, Fenris. That’s just the thing. But I choose not to assume the worst here. Please, talk to her. We can get her a small house a bit away if you can’t trust her. I don’t care. But I’d like you to try.’
‘What if I refuse to go to Tevinter at all?’
Dorian shrugged. ‘Then … I’ll have to write a letter that I’m terribly sorry but that I cannot return. It’s not like my work there isn’t important to me, but at this point, all other things are rather eclipsed by my need to fix this. With you.’
‘What you’ve done will be for nothing.’
‘Not entirely, but almost. Yes.’
‘That would be frustrating.’
‘Much less so than losing you.’
‘Hm. I’ll think about it. Truth is, I feel the same way.’ He indicated the journal. ‘I … never ceased to love you, either. I was hurt, but a part of me always hoped you’d come back.’
Dorian smiled. It was a yes, and they both knew it. ‘Incidentally, Fenris, what happened to the crystal?’
‘That … collided with a sword, unfortunately.’
‘What a strange coincidence.’
‘Indeed. Very fortuitous.’ Fenris nudged him. ‘Come back to Skyhold. We’ll make our plans together.’
‘Are you sure, Fenris? I hurt you.’
The elf looked at him, his expression serious. ‘Indeed. And I forgive you. Do you forgive me, too?’
‘Well, then let’s go.’ He made a face. ‘Change into something less … smelly, though. And burn that. And wash your hair. I don’t want demon stench in Skyhold.’
Dorian laughed. Instead of doing as he was asked, he hugged Fenris fiercely. ‘See? Now you won’t notice the demon smell on me. Off we go.’
((This has been stewing in my head since I finished Broken Dawn, I’d begun it almost immediately afterwards and then had no idea how I wanted to handle the middle part. Here’s what you’re getting, anyway, and this time I don’t expect anything else to come. Unless they make a Dragon Age 4 with Dorian in it, of course, then things might come up. But other than that, I’m done here.))