Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login
About Deviant Artist N. Viggo MercerUnited States Group :icondorian-x-lavellan-fc: Dorian-X-Lavellan-FC
"Could I adore you more?"
Recent Activity
Deviant for 12 Years
Needs Core Membership
Statistics 348 Deviations 899 Comments 27,595 Pageviews
×

Newest Deviations

Random Favourites

Groups

Activity


Title: Semper ad Meliora
Fandom: Dragon Age: Inquisition
Rating: Mature/Explicit
Pairing: Dorian Pavus/Idhren Lavellan, Idhren Lavellan/Tainan Lavellan




Chapter 13 - In Hushed Whispers</u>

And the men of Tevinter heard and raised altars
To the pretender-gods once more,
And in return were given, in hushed whispers,
The secrets of darkest magic.
- Canticle of Threnodies 5:11

Redcliffe, Ferelden, Justinian 9:41 Dragon

“I take back every decent thought I’ve ever had about your southern mages,” Idhren snapped as the tavern door slammed behind them. “If that’s their leader, then I shudder to think what naïve fools the rest of them are. Indentured to a magister?” he asked incredulously, “In what possible world would that ever be a good idea?”

“Many mages in the Circle look to Tevinter as an example of the freedoms they might have,” Solas commented. “A land where mages are not forced away from their families and confined to their towers.”

Idhren scoffed. “I know what it is to be indentured to a magister, and it is no boon. It is not the freedom these people seek. They will be little better than slaves. And what does anyone need with so many indentured servants?” he wondered aloud, “Alexius can’t look after this many people alone, he’ll have to pawn them off on the Magisterium. And then any mage fit enough would be shipped off to Seheron to fight in the war. And likely a few who are not fit enough. Actually, they’ll probably just send the lot of them, because the Magisterium won’t care. They’re expendable. ”

“This Alexius,” Cassandra spoke up, interrupting Idhren’s rant, “Do you know him?”

“I know of him,” Idhren said, and rested his hands on his hips as he glared out at the lake. They had been introduced on at least one occasion, but it was clear from this meeting that Alexius did not recognize him. “An academic, mostly.” And that was the only reason Idhren had given the man enough thought to commit to memory. Alexius produced great work, but Idhren had been more interested in the publications of his wife, whose research on the Veil inspired much of his own. But Alexius had been Dorian’s patron, Idhren remembered suddenly, the first time he had thought of the man in years. Was Dorian here, then? Idhren shook the thought from his mind and continued, “Tried once to pass a bill in the senate that would provide more funding for the Circles and less for the war. It went about as well as you would expect. I always thought he was more interested in academics than politics.” Apparently he had always been a poor judge of character.

“And the son?” Cassandra asked.

Idhren shrugged. “Didn’t know he had one, actually. Odd, considering how much that lot usually likes to show off their heirs like prized horses.”

“Do you think he can be trusted?” Cassandra pressed.

“I don’t know,” Idhren replied honestly. “I generally have a policy of not trusting Altus mages, but there are a few that aren’t absolute piles of shit. If we’re lucky, Felix is one. If we’re not, then at least we know we’re walking into a trap and can prepare accordingly.”

There was someone waiting for them in the Chantry, and it certainly wasn’t Felix, but beyond that Idhren did not notice. He was rather distracted by the large rift that dominated the room, flooding it with eerie green light. Even as Idhren stepped forward and raised his hand toward the tear it spat out another batch of demons, forcing him to fall back or else be gored by a terror. For the moment at least the stranger seemed to be on their side, but the demons were not discriminating in who they chose to attack. As Cassandra plunged her sword through the last shade Idhren rushed past her and thrust his hand upward toward the rift. It still hurt, tearing apart the skin of his hand even as the foreign magic stitched together the hole in the veil, but Idhren was beginning to get used to that pain. Gritting his teeth, Idhren pushed against that feeling as though it were an uncooperative spell, attempting to control it at least somewhat. The more rifts he closed the more Idhren thought he was beginning to understand how this mark worked, he could feel it pulling together the veil, knitting it together like healing a wound, but the mark still reacted independently.

The rift closed with a resounding crack that echoed off the chantry’s vaulted ceiling and Idhren let out a breath he didn’t realize he was holding as he lowered his hand.

“Fascinating,” the stranger mused as Idhren shook the lingering numbness and ache from his arm. “How does that work, exactly? You don’t even know, do you? You just wiggle your fingers and boom! rift closes,” the man laughed.

There was something familiar about that voice. Intrigued, Idhren turned his full attention toward the man who had been waiting in the Chantry, then froze as he laid eyes on the last person he had ever expected to cross paths with again.

His hair was styled differently than Idhren remembered, and he had grown the most ridiculous mustache, but it was definitely him; standing in the middle of a rundown Chantry in some backwater town in Ferelden like he belonged there.

“Dorian?”

The man was startled to hear his name. “I’m sorry, have we--,” he started asking, but stopped when he got a good look at the Herald’s face. “Idhren?” The elf looked so different that Dorian hardly recognized him. For one, his face was covered in tattoos, which was shocking in itself, but he had also cut off all his hair. Everything below his ears had been lopped off, and one side was shorn down to the scalp. The result was that his long ears were quite obvious, a style that no elf in Tevinter would have dared. Maybe that was the point. It made him look older. Or maybe he just was older, because it had been years since Dorian had last seen him. Those eyes, though – deep violet and luminous in the dim light of the chantry – he would recognize those anywhere.

“You two know each other?” asked the stern-faced woman behind him, sounding incredulous and somehow annoyed at the same time.

“We were… acquainted,” the elf said carefully, his violet eyes – exactly the same as Dorian remembered them – never leaving Dorian’s face. “In Tevinter.”

“That’s one way of putting it,” the Altus agreed wryly. “Dorian Pavus, most recently of Minrathous,” he introduced himself to the others before turning his attention back to Idhren. “You’re certainly the last person I expected to see here.”

“I would say the same of you, except that I’ve just seen Magister Alexius in the tavern. I’m more surprised that you weren’t with him,” Idhren replied, trying to ignore the way his heart fluttered in his chest at the mere sound of Dorian’s voice. Now was neither the time nor the place to be remembering a childhood crush. They had more important things to worry about.

“Alexius doesn’t know I’m here, and I’d rather like to keep it that way,” Dorian replied. “You’re probably wondering how he managed to steal the allegiance of the mages out from under you. As if by magic, yes?”

Idhren frowned. “Is that what he did?” he asked, “Grand Enchanter Fiona had no memory of meeting us in Val Royeaux. Did Alexius use blood magic to alter her memory?”

“Nothing quite so obviously nefarious, no,” Dorian assured. “You saw the rift here; how it altered time around itself? Sped some things up and slowed others down. In order to reach Redcliffe before you Alexius distorted time itself.”

“That’s not possible,” Idhren protested. “The laws of magic--.”

“Don’t apply anymore,” Dorian interrupted. “Not since someone ripped a hole in the Veil the size of a small town. I know what I’m talking about. I helped develop this magic. Back in Tevinter we were never able to make it work, and even now it’s wildly unstable. What I don’t understand is why he’s doing it,” Dorian mused thoughtfully. “Ripping time to shreds for a few hundred lackeys?”

“He isn’t doing it for them.”

Idhren whipped around as another voice interrupted the conversation. The battle and his own shock at seeing Dorian again must have kept him from noticing the Chantry doors open once more.

“Kind of you to finally join us,” Dorian quipped as Felix crossed the floor to join them, “What took so long? Your father isn’t getting suspicious, is he?”

“I don’t think so,” Felix assured, “But I shouldn’t have played the illness card, I thought he would be fussing over me all day.”

“Will someone tell me what is going on?” Idhren asked impatiently, interrupting the two.

Felix turned to him, expression solemn, and explained. “My father has joined a cult. Tevinter supremacists. They call themselves the Venatori.”

This situation just kept getting worse and worse. As though a gaping hole in the Veil wasn’t bad enough, now there were power hungry magisters ripping holes in time as well. And insane Tevinter cults were the last thing the world needed. Idhren couldn’t help wondering, however, if the Venatori and their so-called Elder One were behind the Breach in the first place. If that was the case, he had to stop them from getting control of the rebel mages at all costs. With that much magic at their disposal Idhren shuddered to think what sort of new chaos they could unleash.

“This mage, are you certain we can trust him?” Cassandra asked after they left the Chantry. Felix had returned to the castle and his father, while Dorian had agreed to meet them on the road out of town to avoid being seen.

Idhren sighed faintly. Logically, he knew he should be at least a little more wary, but despite the unusual circumstances he found he did still trust Dorian. “I am,” he replied. “I’ve known Dorian since I was fourteen. We studied at the same Circle, for a time. He’s a narcissistic, egotistical, spoiled, selfish ass, but he’s a good man. And that’s more than I can say for anyone else from Tevinter.”

“Has anyone ever told you you’re really bad at compliments?” Varric asked.

Idhren shrugged, “I’ve already spent too much of my life pretending to like people.”

“I can imagine that,” Varric sympathized. “I suppose all Tevinter elves are this prickly, then?”

“Elves in Tevinter can’t afford to be prickly,” Idhren pointed out.

“The ones that get out, I mean,” Varric elaborated.

“I wouldn’t know,” Idhren shrugged, “I haven’t met any others.”

“Oh, I’ll have to introduce you to Fenris someday. I think you two would get along swimmingly. You could, I don’t know, talk about how much you hate magisters.”

----------

They found Dorian just around a bend in the road, out of sight of Redcliffe’s main gates. He had the same air of practiced nonchalance about him that Idhren was all too familiar with, but it was slightly jarring to see him – picture of Altus poise and sophistication – out in the wilderness.

“You look different,” Dorian commented as the small party made their way back across the countryside to the Inquisition’s main camp in the Hinterlands. “I hardly recognized you. It’s the tattoos.”

“Yes, they were rather a surprise for me as well,” Idhren replied.

“Surprise tattoos?” Dorian let out a short laugh, “What, did you just wake up one morning and there they were? Is that what the Dalish do? Hold you down and tattoo you in your sleep?”

“Not exactly, no,” Idhren replied a little uncomfortably, and quickly changed the subject. “The mustache is new.”

Dorian perked up immediately, as always more than happy to talk about himself. “Do you like it? I’ve grown rather fond of it myself. I think it makes me look dashing.”

“I think it makes you look like a slut,” Idhren replied flatly. Ahead of him on the road Cassandra visibly startled and looked over her shoulder at him before looking away again quickly. Varric’s shoulders shook with barely contained laughter.

Dorian laughed aloud. “Now I like it even more,” he mused, and raised a hand up to stroke the mustache thoughtfully. “So, ‘Herald of Andraste’. You’re certainly moving up in the world. Pity it hasn’t done anything for your height.”

“You, of all people, should be well aware of the less fortunate aspects of elven physiology,” Idhren groused, “There’s nothing I can do about my size, however I see you still haven’t bothered to fix that horrid personality.”

“You wound me,” Dorian said, but the smile on his face belied the seriousness of his tone, “I am an absolute delight to be around, you should consider yourself lucky to be graced by my illustrious presence.”

“I see you still suffer from delusions of grandeur as well.”

“I see you are still willfully blind to my charm. You’re fooling no one, Herald.”

“The only thing I am willfully blind to is that atrocious outfit. Is that what Tevinter fashion has done while I was away?”

“You wouldn’t know fashion if it came up and bit you in the ass,” Dorian scoffed, “What is this get-up supposed to be? It’s hideous.”

Idhren looked down at the Inquisition issue armor he was wearing and shrugged. It was not the nicest thing he had ever worn, but it was not the worst, either.

“Are you certain the two of you are friends?” Cassandra asked incredulously, interrupting their banter.

“Of course,” Idhren assured her easily, though the statement felt half a lie. His relationship with Dorian was complicated, to say the least. “Dorian once fought a duel for my honor.”

“That is a lie and a fabrication,” the man immediately protested. “I did no such thing.”

“Oh?” Idhren smirked a little as he looked over at the man. “Then what do you think happened?”

“I attempted to instruct our fellow students in proper manners and decorum, as befits a mage of Tevinter,” Dorian explained. “The shameful way they were carrying on was an embarrassment to the entire Imperium. Honestly, I was doing them a favor, the First Enchanter completely overreacted.”

Idhren huffed out a scoff of laughter, unsurprised by the answer, but it was so typical of Dorian. The man would probably take the truth of that duel to his grave rather than admit he’d been protective of the lonely, bleeding heart that Idhren had been back then. “You’re a terrible liar, Dorian.”

It was nice, this careless trading of insults, familiar and comforting in a strange way. It reminded Idhren of Tevinter. The parts of Tevinter that he liked, at least; the few good memories he had of that place. And it took his mind off everything terrible that had happened recently, everything he had lost and the sudden weight on his shoulders. He felt more like himself than he had since waking up in that cell in Haven. The feeling wouldn’t last, Idhren knew, but he would enjoy it while he could.

----------

The momentary peace lasted even shorter than expected.

While the plan to infiltrate Redcliffe Castle had succeeded, everything afterward had gone immediately downhill. Cornered, caught, Alexius had panicked and attempted some spell. It so startled Idhren that he didn’t have the time to react. If not for Dorian’s quick thinking Alexius may have succeeded in whatever he was attempting, but as it was, Idhren was only aware of a nauseating sense of vertigo, the feeling of falling, and of then suddenly sitting in waist high water in the dark.

“Dorian?” Idhren called out, looking around and trying to figure out where he was. As his eyes adjusted to the dark he could see stone walls closed in around him and a faint red light suffused the room, but he couldn’t tell where it was coming from. He fished around in the murky water for his staff, located it, and used it to pull himself to his feet. “Dorian?” he called again, growing more concerned.

“I’m alright,” the man’s voice came from the other side of the room, and in the dark Idhren could make out his form against the far wall. He seemed to have been set just as off-kilter as Idhren.

As the elf began to make his way through the water towards him Dorian summoned a small wisp to light the room. It offset the eerie red glow somewhat, and allowed Idhren to get a clearer picture of where they were. Unfortunately, the view was less than comforting. It was a dungeon. “Where are we?”

“Fascinating,” Dorian mused, righting himself and slogging through the water to join Idhren at the center of the room – the cell. “Displacement? Alexius’ spell must have sent us to… what? The closest confluence of arcane energies?”

Idhren would have argued about the impossibility of it all. Displacement should not have been possible, the laws of magic were finite outside of the Fade. Except that they had already been broken. Idhren had already seen evidence of time manipulation, so there was no reason this should not be possible now as well. “We were in the hall,” he said thoughtfully, trying to recall exactly what had occurred in hopes of discerning what sort of spell Alexius had used. “Are we still in the castle?”

Dorian paused and looked around, taking in their surroundings once more, “It would appear so, although I don’t remember any part of the castle looking like this,” he said. “Oh, of course!” he interrupted himself, “It’s not just where, but when! Alexius must have sent us through time.”

“Of course,” Idhren groaned in frustration. “Because the time magic went so well last time he tried it.”

“It did work,” Dorian pointed out.

“Yes, and damaged the Veil even more in the process,” Idhren griped. “So let’s do it again. Typical magister,” he spat, “I once admired his work, but this is insanity.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” Dorian sighed.

Idhren scrubbed a hand over his face and through his hair, taking a deep breath to try and focus himself. “Alright,” he breathed, “You’ve said you helped develop this magic. Do you know how to reverse it?”

“Theoretically, yes,” Dorian replied confidently, “Although we’ll first need to find out when, exactly, he sent us. The amulet that he used for the spell, it looked like the same one I helped him make in Minrathous. If I could get my hands on it reversing the spell would be rather simple, actually.”

“Fenhedis lasa,” Idhren swore, sighing in frustration. “That’s assuming the amulet even exists where we are now.” And assuming they could get their hands on it if it did. He shifted his grip on his staff and began slogging his way toward the cell door, which was thankfully standing open and unlocked. “Nothing here is ever simple. It was easier living in the woods eating insects.”

“You ate insects?” Dorian asked in alarm, turning to follow him.

“You know, they’re not so bad once you get used to them,” Idhren shrugged. At the door of the cell he stopped and looked cautiously outside, but there was no sign of any guards or soldiers, or even other prisoners. Just more of that eerie red glow. Only now Idhren could see where it was coming from.

“I can’t believe you ate insects,” Dorian still sounded horrified as he stopped behind Idhren.

“To be fair,” Idhren replied, because this was nicer to think about than the fact that Redcliffe Castle was now rife with massive red lyrium crystals, even more than there had been at the Temple of Sacred Ashes. “Sometimes there’s not much else. You’d eat bugs too if the other option was starving to death.”

“You know, I’m really not certain that I would,” Dorian protested. But when they stepped out of the cell he noticed the same problem as Idhren had, and all the mirth dropped from his voice. “Is this… What is this?”

“Red lyrium,” Idhren informed him, “Don’t touch it.”

“Maker,” Dorian breathed, but he followed Idhren down the center of the hall and kept a wide berth of the crystals, “Why is it coming out of the walls?”

"I'd rather not think about it," Idhren said honestly. But they found out soon enough. The further they went trying to find a way out of these dungeons the more red lyrium they encountered. Worse that that was when they began to find people. The dungeons were still mostly deserted, but not entirely.

They found Fiona first, behind a locked cell door that seemed useless in the face of what she had become. It was horrific. What Varric had been able to tell him about red lyrium was nothing compared to this. But she was able to confirm Dorian’s hypothesis. Harvestmere, 9:42 Dragon. A full year in the future.

They found Cassandra and Varric next, their condition less horrifying but no less dire. What had Alexius done to them?

"We have to find Alexius," Idhren said firmly. "Dorian, you have to reverse the spell. We have to fix this." For the first time he was actually glad that Tainan had not lived to see this day. He shook that thought firmly from his head. This was not the time. He needed to focus. Think only about the present. He needed to get out of here. "Tell me everything you can about this magic, Dorian," he ordered as they moved through the halls.

"I don't see how that could help," the man argued.

"I can help," Idhren snapped back. He hadn't the patience for the man's flippant attitude at the moment. "Didn't you once call me the most talented mage in Vyrantium?"

"I did," Dorian was forced to admit. To say otherwise would be a lie. And so, between fighting guards and demons and closing rifts, he explained as much as he could as quickly as he could about the theories and mechanics that backed the use of Alexius' amulet.

At least until they stepped outside.

Since they had fallen into the future Idhren had felt the Fade was stronger, but he thought little of it until he saw the sky. "Dread Wolf shit on my corpse," he swore, coming to a stop in the castle courtyard as he looked up the Breach. It had taken over the entire sky, like there was nothing at all between their world and the Fade.

“Well that’s something you don’t see every day,” Dorian quipped, though the flippant tone of his voice was belayed by the horrified expression on his face as he looked up at the sky. But when they had dealt with the rift in their immediate vicinity he continued right on talking about magic.

Strange, how easily he and Dorian fell back into familiar rapport. As though they had not been apart for five long years. As though the world was not falling apart around them. As though Idhren was not a fundamentally different person from the bitter, jaded Liberati mage he had been the last time they met.

No, that last part was not true. Maybe if Tainan were here it would be the case. Maybe if the Maker hadn’t once again taken away everything Idhren ever cared about.

But it was easy to talk to Dorian despite the years that stood between them. Arguing magical theory and trading casual insults kept Idhren from putting too much thought into the hellscape they had been thrown into. Between fighting demons and trying to wrap his head around the theories of chronomancy there was nothing else. No time for emotion. And for that, Idhren was grateful.

When the whole sordid mess was over – the timeline set right and Alexius and the rebel mages dealt with – Idhren collapsed onto the steps before the throne and hung his head in his hands. As the excitement died down and the adrenaline faded away, he felt exhausted. His hand ached. His head ached. Everything ached. He imagined he would have nightmares about that terrible almost-future for weeks. But it made him even more certain that he needed to stay with the Inquisition until this was all sorted. Alexius was dealt with, but some of what they had seen might still come to pass if he did not close the Breach. There was also the Venatori and their so-called ‘Elder One’. They must be the ones responsible for the Breach, and he doubted they would give up their plans so easily.

“Well, that was a disaster from start to finish,” Dorian seated himself on the step beside Idhren with far more grace than the elf had managed. Idhren was a bit surprised that the man could still look every inch a magister’s son while splattered head to toe in mud and blood and ichor. “Your people are arguing amongst themselves,” he added when Idhren gave no reply. “You may want to stop them.”

“They’re not my people,” Idhren protested. Although he was aware it looked that way.

“Really?” Dorian asked, sounding genuinely surprised. “You could have fooled me.”

“They can’t be seen disagreeing with the Herald of Andraste,” Idhren muttered, pressing the heels of his hands into his eyes until he saw spots. “Bad for public image. I’m sure I’ll be scolded later.”

Dorian hummed thoughtfully and picked at the dirt beneath his nails. “No, I can’t imagine they’re very happy to have even more mages running amok around here,” he murmured. “You’ve given them license to… Well, to be like mages back home. For what it’s worth, though, I think you made the right choice.”

Idhren frowned. He didn’t like how good it felt to have Dorian’s approval. “I wasn’t about to save them from one kind of slavery just to throw them into another,” he explained. “I know how easy it is to fall for a magister’s lies, and I’m willing to give them a second chance at freedom. Hopefully this time they won’t fuck it up.”

“Quite,” Dorian agreed, and fell silent.

The silence was not awkward, as Idhren might have expected, but comfortable, and comforting in a way that Idhren wasn’t aware he needed. Even years later he still considered Dorian a friend. To have met him again on the other side of the world was nothing short of a miracle. And given how much an outsider he still felt in the Inquisition it was nice to have someone who understood him. “I suppose you’ll be going back to Tevinter now,” he mused, looking down at the mud on his boots and trying to ignore the way his heart twisted in his chest.

Beside him, Dorian shrugged. "Actually, I thought I might stay on for a while, see that Breach of yours up close."

Idhren sat up straighter and looked over at him, eyes wide. "You want to stay?" he asked. What in the world would make him want to stay here?

"Haven't I mentioned?" Dorian offered him a wry smile. "The south is so charming and rustic. I adore it to little pieces."

Idhren laughed. The sound burst out of his lips like the ringing of bells. An actual genuine laugh. And after all they had been through that Dorian could make him laugh was astounding. "Well, I’d be happy to have you.”

“You’re really staying, then?” a voice interrupted, and Idhren craned his neck up to see. It was Alexius’ son, and the man slowly lowered himself down to the step on Dorian’s other side. “Can’t say I’m surprised.”

“What can I say,” Dorian shrugged. “I do so love a hopeless cause.”

“I don’t know that I would call it hopeless,” Felix replied. “From what I’ve seen, I think you have a fair shot.”

“That makes one of us,” Idhren scoffed, but he appreciated the thought all the same.

"Oh, I don't believe you two were ever properly introduced," Dorian scolded himself. "How negligent of me. Well, there were rather more important things to think about at the time. Felix Alexius, as I'm certain you're already aware," he gestured to the other man while looking at Idhren, "And may I introduce to you Idhren..." he hesitated, brow furrowing, "I suppose you don't use Canidius' name anymore, do you?"

"No, I don't," Idhren was more than happy to confirm. "Idhren of Clan Lavellan," he supplied, and held his hand out to Felix, "Formerly of Vyrantium."

"Oh," Felix's eyebrows rose in surprise as he took Idhren's hand and shook it. His grip was not exactly firm, but it was confident. "Then you're..." he glanced over at Dorian and whatever he saw in the other man’s face made him stop. "It's a pleasure to meet you. Vyrantium, you say?"

"And you," Idhren replied, releasing the man's hand. "I was Liberati, apprenticed to magister Linus Canidius. Though it's been years now since I was in Tevinter."

"I'm not at all surprised you left," Felix replied honestly. "Can't say that I know much about Canidius, however."

“Lucky for you,” Idhren said earnestly. He wanted to ask why he had never known that Alexius had a son, but he knew that would be rude, so he kept his mouth shut. Even though Felix seemed a well-meaning down-to-earth sort right now, he was still Altus. They could be touchy. “What will you do now?” he asked instead. “I couldn’t blame you for not joining the Inquisition, but I’ll put in a good word for you if you want.”

“Thank you, but no,” Felix offered a smile as he shook his head. “Someone needs to go back to Tevinter and let them know what’s happening here. The Imperium has always had people like the Venatori, but what they’re doing here, what my father tried to do… It’s unconscionable. If we’re lucky, some people will agree.”

“I hope they do,” Idhren agreed. But he wasn’t going to hold his breath waiting for it to happen. “And for what it’s worth,” he added hesitantly, “I’m sorry about your father.” He wasn’t certain how well the sentiment would be received, considering Idhren was responsible for seeing Alexius dragged off in shackles. Not that the magister had put up much of a fight in the end.

Felix offered him a melancholy smile in return. “Me too,” he replied.

That was probably the best response that Idhren could have hoped for. Idhren wasn’t certain he could fully sympathize with the man’s situation. He’d seen Alexius in that future, and what he had done to his son. So Idhren knew that on some level the magister was just trying to save someone he loved. Idhren understood that feeling. But the way he’d gone about it, the lengths he had gone to, and the result. Felix in that future had been a mindless husk of the man that sat with him now. Worse than Tranquil.

Idhren shook his head and gripped his staff, using it to lever himself to his feet. “Suppose I should go see what Varric and Cassandra are arguing about this time,” he sighed. Maybe give them something else to argue about. Cassandra had already made it clear that she was unhappy with his offer to ally with the rebel mages. "And we should get on the road sooner rather than later. I wouldn't want to piss of the local royalty more than we already have. I'll make certain we don't leave without you, Dorian."

"Thank you," the man replied, "I won't be long. Just allow me to see Felix off before we go."

"Of course," Idhren said. As though he would deny such a simple request. Especially given what they had all just been through. He turned to Felix again and attempted to smile, but he found he'd rather lost the energy to fake it or the emotion to manage a real one. "Have a safe journey," he said, and went to join the rest of the Inquisition by the castle gates.

As predicted, Cassandra was less than happy with the results of their mission. Not that he had ever expected her to approve of free mages. She was, surprisingly, not lecturing him about making poor decisions. That was what Idhren had expected. He was relieved to avoid such a scolding, however, and happy to point out that they had what they came for. The mission was a success, however much a mess it had been in the end. For the most part, however, everyone was keeping quiet about his impulsive undermining of authority in favor of figuring out what to actually do with several hundred free mages now that they had them. Idhren listened with only one ear as Cassandra, Leliana, and Varric bickered about logistics and ideals, glancing back toward the main hall to where Dorian and Felix were still on the steps.

The two men stood side by side, heads bowed together as they spoke in hushed voices. They were clearly very close, Idhren could see that by the ease with which Dorian held himself while speaking to Felix. He could also see the concern that lined Dorian's face as they spoke. Actual concern, not veiled behind jokes and half-truths and flippant comments.

Idhren forced himself to look away, to give the pair their privacy, and tried not to acknowledge the strange feeling in his gut. Jealousy was not something he was worthy of feeling. Not for Dorian. Not that he should be feeling jealous at all, except that Dorian had someone when he did not. He tried to tell himself that was the only reason that feeling had lodged itself like a stone in his stomach. Dorian had what he had lost, and what he would never have back. There was nothing more to it.

----------

The journey back to Haven was long and exhausting. Progress up the mountain roads was slow, as always, even if the pass was more well traveled these days. Idhren's horse picked its way carefully along behind Cassandra's. He had never ridden a horse before, but with all the traveling that he had been doing over the past few months it wasn't surprising that he had picked it up quickly. He was not an expert, by any means, but felt confident enough to lead his mount - a mellow gelding picked out by horsemaster Dennet himself - along the winding roads up to their mountain village. And he no longer worried about the long distance between himself and the ground.

Idhren was incredibly relieved when they finally arrived back at that little mountaintop village. The one that seemed to be larger every time Idhren returned from some mission or another. More tents around the outskirts, more soldiers training just outside the walls. And now they came trailing a long, straggling line of mages. Not all of those mages would be useful to their purpose, there were children among their numbers, and it would likely take several days before the last of the stragglers came in, but he could already imagine how much more crowded the tiny mountain valley would become.

More of a crowd for him to get lost in.

Or more people to call him the Herald of Andraste. And that title was really starting to get annoying.

If the Maker or Andraste really had chosen him for something, he wished they would tell him more clearly.

The first thing that Idhren did after returning his horse to the stables and to Dennet’s exemplary care was to collapse onto the bed in his small cabin and fall asleep. Although the journey back to Haven had been peaceful, travel didn’t allow very much time to simply rest. And Idhren was exhausted. Tired down to his bones in a way that he couldn’t recall ever feeling before. Trying to save the world was exhausting. But finally the end was within sight. With the alliance of the rebel mages, they finally had the strength necessary to attempt to close the Breach once and for all. And then, Maker willing, this would all be over.

But it was not that simple. It was never that simple. There were plans to be made. The mages needed time to settle in and be briefed on the situation with the Breach, and that would likely take days. That lecture Idhren had been waiting for came, expectedly, from Cullen. Of course the templar – former templar, as though it made much difference – was upset about mages being allowed to police themselves. Idhren may have snapped at him more than was necessary. But the rebel mages had been without templar supervision for the better part of a year and had seen no increase of blood magic or abominations in that time. Aside from Fiona’s disastrous decision to ally with Tevinter, the rebels had done nothing to warrant suspicion or further oppression.

So while the war council bickered among themselves about what to do about the mages, Idhren returned to his usual haunt in the tavern to wait for a decision.

He was halfway into his first glass and planning on a perfectly lonely evening of mind-numbing alcoholism when someone very rudely pulled a chair up beside him and thumped down into it.

“What is the Herald of Andraste doing drinking alone in a corner?” Dorian asked as he pulled a chair away from a nearby table and sat down across from him.

Idhren stared down into the cup before him and wondered whether he should say anything. Ultimately, however, all the walls he had built up over the years held firm, prevented him from opening himself to anyone else. Even Dorian. Especially Dorian. The last time he had allowed himself to open up to the man it had not ended well, and Idhren could not bear another heartbreak atop the one he already suffered. When he raised his eyes up to look at Dorian again, it was with suspicion, and carefully guarded. It was one thing to trade harmless insults on the road, or clever quips while running for your life, and quite another to sit here and express genuine concern. Idhren was too far into his cups to play that game right now. “Why do you care?”

“I know a bit about drinking alone in the corner,” Dorian replied. “It’s not usually done for good reason.”

Idhren thought he had very good reason. “It’s none of your business,” he muttered, “If you’ve only come to tell me once again what a terrible disappointment I am, then leave. I don’t have the patience for it tonight.”

“That’s not what I intended,” Dorian protested weakly. “I only meant to ask… if you’re alright. All this is…” he gestured vaguely, “Well it’s something.”

Idhren let out a bitter laugh. “It definitely is something,” he had to agree.

“Of all the things I expected to find when I came south,” Dorian said thoughtfully, “A hole in the sky and you at the head of a heretical religious movement was not among them. It does get me wondering, though. I’ve heard plenty of rumors, of course, but I thought why not ask the man himself?”

Idhren narrowed his eyes at Dorian, not certain where he was going with this. “Ask me what?”

“Are you the Herald of Andraste?” Dorian asked.

It was something Idhren wondered himself, actually. His memory of the Conclave was fragmented and hazy. He did not remember the explosion, and he could not recollect the face of the woman who had reached out to him in the Fade. “Am I not the spitting image of our Maker’s bride?” he asked, rather than give an answer one way or the other.

Now it was Dorian’s turn to laugh. “Not exactly,” he replied, “Assuming all those paintings and statues are even remotely accurate. For one, she had bigger tits.”

The laugh that escaped Idhren then was far from bitter, though the smile that crossed his face afterwards was wry. “Well, that part’s probably my fault.” Without all those medications would his body have continued to mature like a woman? He shuddered at the mere thought of it.

“It’s for the better, really,” Dorian said, “They wouldn’t suit you at all.”

Idhren started suddenly and stared across the table at Dorian, only barely managing to hide his confusion. Was Dorian flirting with him? Idhren did not have much experience flirting. Varius and Tainan had both been incredibly overt in making their desires known. And he had seen Dorian with Felix in Redcliffe; he had seen how close they were. Dorian stared right back, and seemed unaware to Idhren’s confusion. “So,” the man said after a moment of awkward silence, “How much longer do I have to make small talk before you decide to share that bottle?”

And just like every time before, Dorian worked Idhren’s hopes up only to dash them to pieces a moment later. “Ah, so that’s really why you’re here, then?” he asked, any inkling of cheer that Dorian had managed to bring gone in an instant. “To steal my drinks?”

“In part,” Dorian admitted, “You do seem to be the only person in this place with anything remotely drinkable. The woman at the bar wouldn’t give me anything but that piss they call ale. Believe me, I tried. You also looked terribly lonely and miserable over here by yourself.”

Some things never changed. “I’m sorry to have burdened you with my pathetic self once again,” he muttered. “I’ll go find somewhere to be lonely and miserable where you won’t be forced to look at me.”

“What?” Dorian asked, clearly confused, “What are you talking about?”

“Isn’t that what this has always been about?” Idhren asked. He took hold of the bottle in one hand and his cup in the other and wondered if he was still sober enough to make a dignified exit. “You’ve never actually been interested in me. I’m just so sad and pathetic that you can’t help yourself. I’m some sort of tool to make you feel better about yourself.”

Dorian looked incredibly confused, and mildly horrified. “You can’t possibly think that,” he protested. “Even after everything that’s happened?”

“After what?” Idhren asked. He wished that Dorian would just admit it, then it he could stop having all these conflicting feelings about the man. Feelings he shouldn’t even be having at this point. “After you pretended not to know me in the Circle? After you looked down on me for putting my family before my ambition? For passing time with a whore? Even now you’ll pretend to care about me just to get yourself a better drink.”

“That’s not…” Dorian protested, “I do care about you, Idhren. I’ve always cared about you.”

Idhren scoffed. “Forgive me if I don’t believe you. Only one person outside my family ever truly cared about me, and they’re dead thanks to this fucking thing.” He released his hold on the bottle and slammed his marked hand down on the table.

Dorian looked at the mark in surprise and confusion for a moment before he realized what Idhren meant. Everyone at the Conclave was killed, except the Herald. “What happened?” he asked in concern.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Idhren replied curtly, snatching up the bottle again and pushing himself to his feet. Regardless of whether he could manage a dignified exit, Idhren needed to get out of here.

“Idhren.” Something in Dorian’s voice made him stop, half a step away from the table, and turn back around. “You’re right,” Dorian said very carefully. “I was an ass to you before. I apologize.”

For a long moment Idhren stared at him, trying to find some hint at a lie in his face, but he found nothing. Suddenly he wasn’t so angry anymore. It had been a long time, maybe Dorian had changed. “I’ll tell you,” he found himself saying, “If you really want to know. But not here.” He didn’t think he could talk about Tainan without tears, and that wasn’t something he wanted the whole of Haven to know about.

“Very well,” Dorian agreed easily, and stood up. “Lead the way.”

Still not certain if this was a good idea, Idhren left the cup on the table but took the bottle of liquor with him as he left the tavern. He led Dorian through the paths, turned muddy by snow and the constant foot traffic. The man was surprisingly quiet as they walked, which was unlike him, but Idhren was grateful. They reached the Herald’s cabin shortly, kicking the mud from their boots as they entered. Idhren lit a fire in the grate with a short wave of his hand and sat down on the edge of the bed. After taking a moment to glance around the small cabin Dorian took a seat in the single chair available, pulling it over to the side of the bed.

Idhren took a swig directly from the bottle and then held it out to Dorian. “I didn’t go to the Conclave alone,” he said, unsurprised by the way his voice choked at the mere thought of Tainan. Though they had only been together for a short time it was still strange going to bed and waking up alone. All those nights tangled together under a pile of furs in the aravel or squeezed into a single bedroll, those mornings waking up with a face full of red hair or roused by soft kisses had been the happiest of his life.

“Who was with you?” Dorian asked curiously, completely oblivious to Idhren’s strife as he took the bottle from him and had a drink as well.

“A hunter from the clan,” Idhren replied, and swallowed heavily. “Tainan. We… We were lovers.”

Dorian fell silent for a moment as though he wasn’t certain what to say. “I’m sorry,” he said eventually, quiet and earnest, and offered the bottle to Idhren once more. “Like… that elf from the lyrium den?” he asked cautiously.

The elf accepted the bottle back and took a long swig. When he lowered the bottle from his lips he shook his head. “No. Varius was my friend, a very dear friend, but I didn’t love him.”

“You loved this hunter?” Dorian asked softly.

“Yes,” Idhren admitted painfully. “More than anything.” Tainan had been everything Idhren wished he could be: confident, strong, genuine, free and open with their affections. And being with them had made Idhren feel like he could become all those things. All the hurts of his past seemed to wash away when Tainan smiled at him. “Do you know what they said to me? When we got to Haven, before the Conclave, before everything went to shit? ‘When we get home we should get married’.” Idhren choked on the last word, barely getting it out past the lump in his throat. “I never gave an answer.”

“Why not?” Dorian asked.

“I was scared,” Idhren choked out. “I thought it was all too good to be true. And I was right, wasn’t I? Fenhedis… I was right.”

Slowly Dorian moved to sit beside Idhren on the bed and eased the bottle of liquor out of his lax hands. The elf was on the verge of tears, choking back his emotions. Dorian had no idea what to say that could make this easier for him, so he just put the bottle aside and placed a hand awkwardly on Idhren’s shoulder in hopes of being even a little bit comforting.

“There’s not even anything to bury,” Idhren hiccupped as the tears finally began to fall. “There’s nothing left. I don’t have anything.” He hung his head and swiped ineffectively at the tears on his cheeks. “It’s not fair,” he sobbed, “Tainan was… Tainan was so much better than me. It should’ve been them. It should’ve been them here instead of me.”

“I’m sorry,” Dorian murmured. It felt so inadequate, but what else could he say? What else could he do?

Idhren shook his head as he wiped the tears from his eyes. “I’m sorry,” he mumbled thickly. “You didn’t come here for this,” he sniffled.

Dorian hadn’t expected the crying, but he had known Idhren was upset. He just hadn’t known it was quite this serious. “Does anyone else know?” he asked. The way Idhren had been drinking alone in the tavern suggested otherwise.

“I’m sure they do,” Idhren struggled to get his voice back under control. “They read my mail. I had to write to the clan… I had to tell them. I’m sure Leliana read it. It’s just like fucking Canidius all over again,” he bit out. “Let me think I’m free, think I’m important, special. Keep me happy so I won’t run off with the only thing that can seal the Breach.”

Dorian may have only been in Haven for a few days, but he didn’t get the impression that Idhren was as much a prisoner as he claimed. Of course, he’d never felt that way about Idhren’s situation in Tevinter, either. He was apparently a poor judge. Whether it was true or not, it was clear that Idhren was unhappy here, miserable even, and Dorian’s heart ached for him. “You really think you’re no more important to them than the mark on your hand?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” Idhren sighed. “They send me off to be the face of the Inquisition, let me attend their war councils and make decisions, but it could just as easily have been someone else. I’m only here because of this mark.”

“It’s not someone else, though,” Dorian commented. “It’s you. And I, at least, am glad that it’s you.”

“That makes one of us,” Idhren mumbled. He wiped at his eyes once more and leaned over to pick up the bottle of liquor from where Dorian had set it on the floor. He raised the bottle to his lips and took a large swig. “I just want to end this and go home.” Although he doubted it would be that easy. There was still this thing on his hand that no one understood, still the Venatori and their Elder One. Closing the Breach wouldn’t be the end. And going home might not be any comfort without Tainan.

“How much longer, then?” Dorian asked, watching as Idhren took another swig from the bottle. It was nearly empty now.

“A few days, at least, no more than a week,” Idhren replied. “Time to organize the mages, but the Breach needs to be dealt with soon. After that… I don’t know.” No one knew, really, but they could worry about that after the immediate problem was dealt with.

“Well, here’s hoping the world doesn’t end before then,” Dorian took the bottle back from Idhren and finished it off. “And that the tavern has significantly more of whatever this is,” he eyed the label on the bottle, but it was no vintage he recognized. “I think we’re going to need it.”
Semper ad Meliora - Chapter 13
Beginning | Previous | Next

Crossposted from AO3

A true best friend is someone you can insult to their face when you haven’t seen them in five years and they just laugh. And someone you can have a complete emotional breakdown in front of without fear of their reaction.
Loading...
Title: Semper ad Meliora
Fandom: Dragon Age: Inquisition
Rating: Mature/Explicit
Pairing: Dorian Pavus/Idhren Lavellan, Idhren Lavellan/Tainan Lavellan



Chapter 12 - Though Darkness Comes, I Shall Endure

Maker, though the darkness comes upon me,
I shall embrace the Light. I shall weather the storm.
I shall endure.
-  Canticle of Trials 1:10

Fallow Mire, Ferelden, Drakonis 9:41 Dragon

Three weeks Idhren had officially been a part of the newly formed Inquisition. So far he had spent the better part of two on the road, several days dodging bears and rogue templars in the Hinterlands, and now this.

Scout Harding had called it the Fallow Mire. It wasn’t on any map that Idhren had ever seen before arriving in Ferelden, and why would it be? It was the most miserable stretch of land Idhren had ever seen. And he’d crossed the Silent Plains.

A swamp. Fetid and damp. The handful of structures that they passed were barely standing; the frames of houses long abandoned. But who in their right mind had ever considered settling here in the first place? The place stank of mildew and decay and death, the only current inhabitants appeared to be wisps and demons, which had possessed the frightening number of corpses in the bog, dragging them to life at the slightest provocation. And why were there so many corpses? Did the people here not burn their dead?

It had also been raining for the past two days. Just to make this excursion that much worse.

Idhren was soaked to the bone. Even his feet were wet inside the boots that he had been promised were weather resistant. And it was absolutely impossible to get warm. His fingers were half numb, stiff on the grip of his staff and making it that much harder to aim his spells. It was a miracle he hadn’t hit one of his companions at any point. The rain and the wet made fire spells next to useless, which was unfortunate considering how effective they usually were against reanimated corpses, and made his lightning even harder to control than usual. Solas had been sticking to ice spells and focusing on keeping a barrier around Cassandra as she rushed into each fray. Idhren threw lighting at anything far enough away to avoid misfiring onto one of the others and threw away anything that got too close with bursts of raw force magic.

“Why were our scouts even here in the first place?” Idhren complained as loudly as he dared after they had decimated the latest batch of shambling corpses.

The one good thing about this constant movement and misery was that it allowed Idhren no time to think about anything else. It was the perfect distraction if he was constantly on the move, doing whatever work the Inquisition set him out to do. Of course, that didn’t mean he had to enjoy it.

“The scouts were looking for rifts,” Cassandra answered, sheathing her sword when she was certain there was no further threat.

“The better question is: why are the Avvar here?” Varric put in.

“Why would anyone be here?” Idhren grumbled. He made a futile attempt at drying his staff – brand new and built exactly to his specifications, though it was still not as nice as the one he’d had in Tevinter. Iron was all they had to work with, and it conducted electricity easily even if it was not as strong as other metals. At least the thing was sturdy and properly weighted and sized for his small stature. “This place is a shithole.”

“We should continue moving,” Cassandra said. As ever, attempting to keep them on task. Idhren was still mildly afraid of her, even after learning the difference between the Seekers and the Templars – it wasn’t a big difference, she could still block Idhren’s connection to the Fade and cut off his magic on a whim. But one thing he had figured out over the past few weeks was that the Inquisition needed him. Well, they needed the mark on his hand, but given that it was attached to him he was part of the package. They wanted to manipulate him into some sort of idealized religious symbol, but they were not nearly as good at it as Canidius had been. Or they lacked the leverage over him that Canidius had. The Inquisition needed the Herald of Andraste, and they needed the mark on his hand. They needed Idhren far more than he needed them. And that put them on equal footing.

“Can’t we rest for a moment?” Idhren protested, whining a little bit. He was testing the limits of the leash they tried to hold on him. Idhren was positive that Cassandra was meant to be that leash, at least in part. “There, that house still has most of a roof,” he pointed a short ways off the muddy path they had been following through the bog. “Give us a chance to try and dry off a little. I’m not sure you can fully understand how difficult it is not to electrocute all of you in weather like this.”

“It is not a bad idea,” Solas added, “Especially if we continue to find more demons, as I expect we will in this place.”

“Very well,” Cassandra scoffed as though she didn’t fully believe him, but Idhren knew that he had played the right card. She didn’t understand magic enough to call him out, and it hadn’t been a complete lie anyway. He was tired and wet and cold and would very much appreciate even a few minutes out of the rain.

They made their way carefully across the sodden ground, avoiding any body of water larger than a puddle. The house was slightly more rickety when viewed up close, the walls all leaning rather precariously to the left, but the roof was mostly intact and it seemed sturdy enough for the moment. Inside it smelled strongly of mold and mildew, but it was probably the driest place Idhren had been all day, so he would bear the smell for now.

Whomever had abandoned this building had done so in a hurry. There were still crates and barrels around the edges of the room, some broken and some intact. Idhren walked over to one of the sturdier looking ones and tapped on it with the end of his staff to test the strength of the wood. It didn’t crumble on contact, so he dusted off the top and gingerly took a seat. Only when it seemed to be holding his weight did he relax.

Sighing, Idhren closed his eyes and rested his elbows on his knees to drop his head into his hands. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to be here – helping the Inquisition – it was just that he didn’t want to be here, in a swamp full of corpses. He scrubbed his hands over his face, then through his hair, trying to bring some sense of order to his appearance before finally opening his eyes again. Upon opening his eyes he happened to notice the crate beside him, its top half rotted away, and the glint of something shiny inside. Curious, he reached over and delicately pulled out a glass bottle.

“What’cha got there?” Varric asked from a crate on the opposite side of the tiny ramshackle cabin. He had his crossbow laid out over his knees, likely checking it over for signs of water damage. The glint of light off the glass must have caught his attention too.

“Label’s rotted off,” Idhren said, squinting at the bottle. The seal was still intact, though, and he could feel liquid sloshing about inside. So he picked at the wax around the top of the bottle until it came free, pried the cork out with cracked fingernails, and sniffed tentatively at the opening. Strong. Very strong. But who knew how long it had been sitting here aging in the cold damp. It didn’t smell rotted or sour, though. Just very strong.

“You’re not going to drink it?” Cassandra exclaimed, appalled as he held the bottle up to his mouth.

“That was the idea,” Idhren replied. “It’s sort of what alcohol is for.”

“No offense here, Sparky,” Varric tried diplomatically, “But won’t that make it harder to avoid electrocuting us?”

“You think I can’t hold my liquor?” Idhren asked, mildly offended. Sure, he’d barely had a drop of alcohol living with the Dalish, but he’d had plenty before that. “At this point, it’s about the only thing that’ll keep me from electrocuting myself out of sheer frustration.” He reached into a pouch at his belt and pulled out a small vial of lyrium. I was a small dose, one swallow, just enough to keep someone going in the heat of battle. He pried the cork out with his teeth.

“I don’t think it’s advisable to mix lyrium and alcohol,” Solas argued when he saw what Idhren intended, and he actually sounded a bit concerned. That was a surprise, but Idhren still didn’t care.

“Please,” the mage rolled his eyes, “I’m from Tevinter.” And while he didn’t exactly want the entire world to know all the sordid details of his past, there was no point in denying where he came from. “You know they make lyrium wine? Mixing it with alcohol is practically a national pastime.” And then he upended the vial, pouring its entire contents into the liquor bottle. A few swirls to mix the two liquids properly, and he raised the bottle to his lips.

The lyrium surged through his veins like fire, sending all of his senses into overdrive at the same time that the alcohol muted everything around him. The resulting effect was so beautifully familiar. It left Idhren feeling not entirely real. There was still quite a bit of liquor left in the bottle, so Idhren re-corked it with numb fingers and used it to replace an empty elfroot potion on his belt. Then he shook himself, enjoying the way his limbs felt like they were floating, and grabbed up his staff again.

“Alright. Let’s go fight some Avvar.”

“You’re a little terrifying sometimes, you know that?” Varric asked, eyeing him with mixed concern and fascination.

Idhren grinned in response. That was possibly one of the best compliments he had ever received. The way he looked, it wasn’t often anyone was frightened of him. “Well, I was apprenticed to a magister, after all. I learned from the best.”

----------

Haven, Ferelden, Bloomingtide 9:41 Dragon

They returned from Val Royeaux still lacking support or acceptance from the southern Chantry. The whole thing was a shit show from start to finish. A perfect reminder of everything Idhren hated about human society. However, the trip was not a complete waste. They returned to Haven with an invitation to meet with the rebel mages in Redcliffe and with two new, potentially valuable, allies.

The first was an elven girl of questionable sanity but with a hatred of nobility equal to Idhren’s own – quickly proven during their first meeting. Sera didn’t mince words, though her train of thought was sometimes difficult to follow. Idhren respected that. Preferred it, even, over false sincerity and veiled meanings. Time would tell whether she and her network of troublemakers would be of any use, but she at least seemed genuinely invested in the task at hand. Tentatively, Idhren liked her.

The other was a completely different story. Vivienne de Fer was the first southern Circle mage that Idhren had ever met long enough to hold a decent conversation with. So far he was not a fan. The salon she had invited him to in order to meet was far too reminiscent of Tevinter for Idhren’s liking. Complete with duels in the middle of the foyer, although lacking in blood magic. Madame de Fer herself practically stank of wealth and privilege. Her clothes were nicer than anything that Idhren had ever owned. She reminded him of every Altus mage he had ever met.

She was not at all what he had expected. What he had heard of the Circles down here was horrific. All the mages were supposed to be miserable, trapped in their towers like prisoners, treated constantly with fear and hate. That was supposed to be why they had rebelled, after all. The picture Vivienne painted was far kinder, full of idealized visions of young mages mastering their talents in a safe and nurturing environment.

The hoards of rebel mages in the Hinterlands attacking him with deficient spells and malformed sigils told a completely different story. Those mages were not well educated in the use of their gift, and Idhren doubted they would have fled into the woods without good reason.

Idhren understood how they felt.

Idhren did not understand why Vivienne was still trying to convince him that there had been nothing amiss in the southern Circles. No real reason for the rebellion.

But it was one thing to listen to the woman wax poetic about what little good the Circles could do – training that was obviously substandard, protection from lynch mobs that were themselves a product of Chantry propaganda – and realize that Vivienne was as brainwashed into fearing her own power as any other southern mage. It was entirely different when she turned that haughty, judgmental gaze toward him and asked “You’ve never been to a Circle, as far as I can tell, yet you’re remarkably skilled. Are you self-taught?”

“What makes you think I’ve never been to a Circle?” Idhren asked with a frown.

“Well, the tattoos on your face, for one,” the woman replied, as though it were obvious. “You don’t see Dalish elves in the Circle, my dear, unless they arrived as children. There is also the manner of your casting. The techniques you use to warp the veil around your spells are unlike any I have seen in a Circle.”

“And I would appreciate if you judged me solely by my skills rather than the markings on my face or the size of my ears, Madame de Fer.” Idhren replied coolly. He stood up a little straighter, presenting himself as tall as possible, and declared proudly, “I was trained at the Circle of Vyrantium, one of the most highly regarded schools in the Tevinter Imperium.” Because for all the misery that Tevinter had handed him, he was well aware that he’d had one of the best educations the country could provide.

To her credit, Vivienne only looked mildly surprised by his declaration. “You are from Tevinter?” she asked, voice tinted with curiosity for the briefest of moments before she reigned her emotions in once more. “Yet clearly you left. Then you must understand better than anyone the danger that mages can pose when left unchecked.”

Idhren clenched his teeth and dredged up every shred of decorum he could, all of those lessons on proper speaking and behavior, propriety and politeness even in the face of direct insult. Things he had happily left behind when he first came south. “Have you ever been to the Imperium, First Enchanter?” he asked tightly.

“No, I have not,” Vivienne replied.

“Then kindly do not make assumptions about the reasons I left,” Idhren was unable to keep all of the irritation out of his voice. People made so many assumptions about his life in Tevinter when they found out about it. None of them were the least bit correct. “I understand the danger that power-hungry shemlen – mages or otherwise – pose when left unchecked. Despite what stories you may have heard, the Magisterium is not awash with blood magic and abominations. I have no complaint about the education I received at the Circle there. The reasons I left the Imperium were due entirely to my treatment as an elf – not a mage – and I daresay it’s been scarcely better here.”

Vivienne pursed her lips briefly, but to her credit she remained far more composed than Idhren. He’d never been as good as the nobility at concealing his feelings, as Canidius had always been so eager to point out. “Then you believe the Imperium is an example that we should follow? You’ll forgive me if I fail to see how allowing mages to use their power to rule over others through fear is a preferable system.”

“That’s not at all what I believe,” Idhren protested. “But you’ll forgive me for not seeing how the exact opposite is the correct solution, either. Mages are people, first and foremost, and they deserve the ability to live a normal life if that is what they desire, not to be locked away from the rest of the world, denied family, companionship, or the freedom to decide their own fate. I know what slavery is, Madam de Fer, and from what I’ve heard about your Circles they are slavery in all but name.”

The First Enchanter frowned, then opened her mouth to reply, but Idhren turned quickly on his heel and left, ignoring the protest that followed after him. He was not in the mood for debating political or moral issues, even less so when being talked down to by another privileged human mage. That was something he’d had more than enough of in Tevinter, and something he’d vowed never to put up with again. Vivienne was a talented mage, of that he was certain, and she understood the intricacies of Orlesian politics better than Idhren. That was the reason he had accepted her request to join the Inquisition. She could be a valuable ally; she had connections in Orlais that could be beneficial to their organization. That didn’t mean that Idhren had to like her or get along with her. Josephine could deal with her; Idhren had already had his fill of politics.

He stalked out of the Chantry hall and made a b-line for the tavern. The stress and frustration of the past few months were sometimes more than he could handle, and he was falling back into the same self-destructive habits he’d developed in Tevinter. Years he had gone without as much as a sip of alcohol or lyrium. Now they were as readily accessible as water and Idhren had more reason than ever to indulge. The world was ending, after all. This thing on his hand still might kill him. And sometimes he wished it would, because he didn’t have the courage to do it himself.

The tavern was becoming a familiar setting for him. Even the woman at the bar no longer looked shocked to set eyes on the Herald of Andraste. Didn’t even ask what he wanted anymore, just reached under the bar and pulled out a bottle and a glass, smiling as she handed them over. He didn’t really think she should be smiling, but he returned the gesture as best he was able before retreating to an empty table in the corner.

The table was also becoming familiar. Small, out of the way, easily overlooked. As easily overlooked as Idhren himself, hunched over in his chair and nursing the bottle. He wondered who was paying for reigniting his drinking problem, because it certainly wasn’t him. So far the Inquisition had provided him with everything he needed to live and go off on various missions, diplomatic and otherwise, but no one had given him any actual money. And while the house, food, armor, and new staff were much appreciated, they wouldn’t help him get away from here any time soon.

What was he supposed to do when they closed the Breach? Sell this mark on his hand in order to buy passage back to the Free Marches? Would they even let him leave when it was over? He was their newest prophet, chosen by the Maker’s bride herself. Would he ever be able to have a normal life after this, even if he went back to the Dalish?

Idhren downed his next glass in one swallow, shaking his head as the alcohol burned down his throat. Why couldn’t he stop thinking? He filled the next glass nearly to the brim and then downed that one as well.

He just wanted to forget that he was here, that this was happening. Just for a little while he wanted to feel nothing at all.

----------

The sun shone warm and bright through the branches above, dappling the leaf-strewn forest floor with a patchwork of light and shadow. The air was filled with the sounds and smells of springtime. Birds flitted and chirped among the branches. In the distance a halla brayed once and then fell silent. Everything smelled fresh and clean and warm; the forest suffused with new life.

“Hey, did you fell asleep on me?”

Idhren’s eyes snapped open. He was acutely aware of everything around him. The bark of a tree trunk cool and rough against his back, the patch of sunlight on his bare toes warming his entire body from bottom to top. Tainan’s eyes were even greener than usual in the honey-yellow light.

“You did fall asleep!” the hunter complained. Idhren stard. He took in the way the bits of sunlight shone like fire off Tainan’s hair and the bits of metal on their clothes. “What?” they asked after a moment. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Tainan…” Idhren breathed, the name a prayer on his lips.

“Yeah?” Tainan asked hesitantly, lips quirked in amusement.

“I had the strangest dream,” Idhren replied. He must have still been half asleep. Other than the sharp points of focus around him everything else seemed oddly muted.

“A bad dream?” Tainan asked, tilting their head to the side as they watched Idhren.

“Yes,” Idhren breathed. The worst. A nightmare.

“Do you want to tell me about it?” Tainan asked.

Idhren swallowed heavily and turned his face toward the sky. “It was after the conclave. Only, something went wrong. There was an explosion and… You died.” Tears pricked at his eyes at the mere thought of it. He blinked them away quickly.

“That’s a very bad dream,” Tainan murmured. They scooted closer to Idhren, sitting shoulder to shoulder and hip to hip. “But it was only a dream. I’m right here, see? I’m fine.”

Idhren opened his eyes again and turned to look at Tainan. The hunter really was stunning in this light, hair like fire and eyes like the sky. "Yeah," he agreed softly. "Only a dream."

Tainan smiled, and everything was right with the world. "I am still annoyed that you fell asleep, though. I was talking."

"Sorry," Idhren laughed sheepishly. "I didn't mean to. What were you saying?"

"About the wedding," Tainan stressed, and leaned their head back against the trunk of the tree against which they sat. "You know, if you still don't want to we can call it off."

"No," Idhren was quick to insist, "I do want to." And he did, he really did. There was nothing else in the world he wanted more. But he couldn't blame Tainan for doubting him. Idhren had put off and put off giving them a definite answer to their proposal for years now. "I'm sorry."

"Don’t be," Tainan assured. They reached out, took Idhren’s hand in their own and twined their fingers together. "I just want to make you happy. I don't want to pressure you into something you don't want."

Idhren looked down at their entwined hands, then back up to Tainan's face and deep into their eyes. "I do want to. I love you."

Tainan's face lit up like it was Satinalia morning - only Tainan had never celebrated Satinalia. "I love you, too," they replied, and leaned forward to capture Idhren's lips in a kiss, which Idhren gladly returned. Tainan's lips were warm and soft against his own, and they tasted very faintly of berries and wine.

Wine?

Idhren pulled away from the kiss, all mirth suddenly gone. Why did Tainan taste of wine? The Dalish had no wine. No alcohol at all, for that matter.

Tainan noticed. "What's wrong?" they asked in concern.

Idhren tried to pinpoint the exact thing that felt off, but he couldn't, so he shook off the feeling. "Nothing," he assured. "Just... remembering that dream again."

Tainan frowned in concern. "It's really bothering you," they commented.

Idhren shook his head, trying to put it from his mind. "It just seemed so real. You were... gone, and something ripped a hole in the veil so large it was like there was a hole in the sky itself."

"That sounds terrible," Tainan murmured, "But look," they pointed up through the leaves toward the sky above them. It was clear and blue, not a cloud in sight. "Nothing wrong at all. The conclave was a success, there's peace between the mages and templars and you finally agreed to marry me. Everything's perfect. You remember that, right?"

Idhren hesitated for only the briefest of moments. "I do," he replied, though he was not certain. He thought back to the conclave, but he couldn't remember exactly what had happened. He supposed it didn't matter. That was dealt with now; he didn't need to think about it anymore.

"Of course you do," Tainan smiled and leaned forward to steal another quick kiss from Idhren's lips. "And tomorrow we'll be married."

Tomorrow? Idhren didn't remember that it would be so soon. Come to think of it, he couldn't remember giving Tainan an answer to their latest proposal, on the hillside above Haven the night before the conclave. And he couldn't remember returning from the conclave either. The journey would have taken weeks; surely he would remember such a long stretch of time, no matter how miserable. He pulled away from Tainan suddenly, scrambling to the side and then to his feet.

“Idhren? What’s wrong?” Tainan asked in concern. “You’re acting strange.”

“I don’t…” Idhren stammered. He looked around quickly. Beyond Tainan and the immediate area everything was hazy, like he couldn’t focus properly, like a dream.

A dream.

“This is a dream,” he realized aloud.

“What are you talking about?” Tainan asked. Their brow furrowed as they watched Idhren, sitting up straighter and reaching out to him. “Come sit back down.”

“No,” Idhren shook his head. He wanted this to be real. He wanted so very much for this to be real, but he knew now that it wasn’t. “This isn’t real,” he breathed, and felt his heart break all over again. “You’re not real.”

He couldn’t tear his eyes away as Tainan rose to their feet. The birds still chirruped and flew in the trees, the sun still shone brightly, and Tainan looked more beautiful than ever. And even standing in that bright sunlight Idhren felt cold. “Idhren please, you’re starting to scare me,” Tainan beseeched. So earnest, so caring, so perfect, his Tainan.

But this wasn’t Tainan.

“Get away from me, demon!”

Around them the woods went silent, the sun dimmed as though behind a cloud, and without its light everything lost its vibrancy except Tainan themself. The expression of twisted concern melted off Tainan’s face, replaced by a sad sort of pity. “Why do you fight so hard when it is clear you don’t want to?” the thing wearing Tainan’s appearance asked. “This is what you want, is it not?”

“This isn’t real,” Idhren protested. “You’re not Tainan.”

“I can be,” the demon replied. It took a step toward Idhren, reaching a hand out toward him. It took every ounce of strength Idhren had not to run into their arms. “They wanted you to be happy, didn’t they? So do I. This is what you want. I can give it to you.”

Idhren shook his head and forced himself to step back, keeping distance between himself and the demon. “I don’t want this,” he argued, knowing all along that it was a lie.

“You don’t need to lie to me,” the demon practically purred. “I can see what is in your heart. You want love. You want happiness. You want a family. I can give you all of those things. Why deny yourself? Why live in a world that has brought you nothing but misery? If you stay here with me, I can give you everything you’ve ever wanted.” Then it smiled Tainan’s familiar smile, cocked its head at just the right angle and said, “Come on, city boy.”

The nickname pierced his heart like an arrow. But it had the exact opposite effect that the demon had intended. Instead of weakening his resolve and drawing him in, hearing this thing wearing Tainan’s face use those words made Idhren furious. “How dare you,” he growled, hands clenching into fists at his sides. “How dare you wear their face! Use their voice!” Static crackled at Idhren’s fingertips and the smile on the demon’s face – Tainan’s face – faltered for a fraction of a second. “You could never be like them. You could never understand. No matter how hard you pretend it will always be a lie.” The smile disappeared entirely now and the demon – Tainan – actually took a step backwards away from Idhren. “Get out,” Idhren spat. A bolt of lightning struck the ground only a few feet from where the demon – Tainan – stood, and it jolted in surprise. “Get out of my head!”


----------

Idhren woke with a start, his heart racing and head throbbing and drenched in a cold sweat. Sitting up slowly, he swung his legs out of bed, hating the way only his toes reached the floor. He pushed sweat-damp hair from his forehead and looked out across the room. Moonlight flooded in through the cabin’s windows. The fire had burned itself out. A light draft sent a shiver down his spine. With a flick of his wrist he brought the fireplace embers back to life and watched them dance merrily as they slowly brought warmth back to the room. Idhren took in all the tiny details of the room and mouthed verses from the Chant of Light until he was positive that he was no longer dreaming.

This was not the first time he had ever faced a demon in the Fade. Not even the first time one had come for him wearing Tainan’s face. But this time was the hardest to resist. Because the demon was right. He wanted that life more than he had been willing to admit at the time. And now it was out of reach. He’d hesitated one too many times and the Maker took away his last chance at happiness.

And what was keeping him here anyway? Some sense of morality or purpose?

It also wasn’t the first time he thought it would have been better if he died. If he were dead at least he would still be with Tainan in the Beyond. But Idhren was too much a coward for that. Unbidden, his gaze drifted down to where his arms rested in his lap. He knew that if he pulled up his sleeves he would still see those thin white scars, barely visible now but still present. And for the first time in ten years he felt the urge to rip them open once more. But he knew the pain wouldn’t help, not really. A temporary patch over the pain in his heart, but not worth the lingering reminder of his own cowardice.  

Idhren growled and clenched his hands into fists so tight he could feel his nails digging crescent marks into his palm. The magic on his left hand guttered in response.

Startled, because the thing had never responded to his emotions before, Idhren uncurled that hand and stared at it. When he had woken up in that cell the mark had been afire almost constantly, a steady pain that flared and burned, spreading across his palm like a tear in threadbare fabric every time the Breach expanded in the sky above. Now it was quiet most of the time, roaring to life and searing pain only when encountering a rift, and then it had a mind of its own. Nothing Idhren did could control the thing, and he had definitely tried.

He would get no more sleep tonight, of that Idhren was certain. Too dangerous to risk it even if he could fall back asleep. But he was wide awake, his mind already kicked into overdrive, and he had been curious about the mark for a long time.

It was the researcher in him, he supposed. To be fascinated by something even if it was very likely still killing him. Just because the thing seemed dormant now did not mean it would remain that way. And it certainly felt like it was trying to kill him every time the magic surged to life.

Unclenching his right hand, Idhren cautiously pressed his first two fingers to the line of luminous green scar tissue across his left palm. It felt warm and slightly electric, magic humming just below his skin. But his skin was just skin, nothing about it felt any different. Only the magic felt different. The magic felt unlike anything Idhren had encountered before. Powerful and raw, like holding a piece of the Fade itself in his hand. If he could figure out how to control the thing maybe he wouldn’t hate it so much.

Unable to contain his curiosity, Idhren held both hands out before him and reached for his own magic. It came as easily as ever, and static sparked at his fingertips, jumping from one to the other, and then across to the other hand. Then, cautiously, he sent a tiny spark of electricity directly into the mark.

The reaction was immediate. The mark flared and spit, discharging its own small bolt of green lightning, which hit Idhren’s opposite hand and hurt, making him pull it away in alarm.

“Alright,” he breathed to himself, watching as the mark gradually calmed down and went dormant again. “You don’t like that.”

Or maybe it did like it, but it had hurt, so Idhren was disinclined to try again at the moment. Instead, he focused on the feeling of the mark, the hum of magic. The feeling was similar to holding an enchanted object, like his staff. Only far more intense. So Idhren let his magic flow down his arm and toward the mark, channeling through it the same way he would the focus of a staff.

The reaction was not as immediate this time, but it was quite similar. The mark spit and flared and rumbled, sparking out little tendrils of lightning. Only this time it did not hurt quite as much. It hurt like closing a rift.

He had only fed the mark with the tiniest slivers of magic, yet its reaction in both cases was far stronger than the magic that had charged it.

Interesting.

Idhren hopped down from the bed. He grabbed the blanket off the top to wrap around his shoulders against the chill. Because it was always drafty in this cabin and it was always freezing at night. He padded over to the desk on the other side of the room and sat down. It was still stocked with parchment, quill and ink. Perhaps someone expected him to be writing letters. Other than informing his clan that he was alive, what reason did he have to write? He had reason now, and it was far more interesting than a letter home.

He smoothed out a sheet of parchment on the desk, pinning one corner with the pot of ink to hold it in place, ensured that the quill was well sharpened, and then began writing.

Magic was something that Idhren understood on an intimate level. Science was something that was familiar to him. Thaumaturgy had been his life's work, his sole purpose in Tevinter. Living with the Dalish allowed little opportunity for experiment and study. He had missed it, but there were many other things to learn while living with the Dalish. Their religion and their language and their culture. But fascinating as that had been, magic had always been his greatest passion.

Now he had brand new, never before seen, magic scarred onto his person. He hated it. He feared it. He wanted it gone. But he couldn't have any of those things. He could, however, try and find some shred of happiness in this dismal, miserable situation. He could study the mark. If he could understand what it was, how it worked, where it came from, then maybe he could figure out how to get rid of it. Give it to someone who would want to be the Herald of Andraste. Someone who wanted to be here, saving the world and talking politics.

And if he was thinking about magic and theory and experimentation then Idhren couldn't think about anything else.

Nighttime was always the hardest. Sitting alone in Haven with no distractions his mind tended to wander – and recently always the same paths. He knew that he had to stop thinking about the past, but it was difficult. Even more difficult when demons taunted him with it in his sleep.

He'd stayed up long hours before. He had often stayed up all night reading something from Canidius' library, or the Circle's library before that. He didn't need nearly as much sleep as he had living with the Dalish. So he would dredge up one more of his old habits. Alcohol, lyrium, and research. Those were the things that had defined his life before, and they could be so again.

He could find himself a purpose here, perhaps. A purpose beyond closing rifts and being the Herald of Andraste for the masses to worship. And maybe he still had no choice in the matter, but he'd had little choice in working for Canidius, either. This was the same. He had dealt with it before, he could deal with it again.

Anything to keep him from thinking about the past. Anything to stop his mind from wandering down those dark, miserable paths anymore. At this point, that was the only thing he could ask for. The only thing he could hope for.

He was stuck here, whether he liked it or not.
Semper ad Meliora - Chapter 12
Beginning | Previous | Next

Crossposted from AO3

Happy holidays and happy new year, all! This chapter feels a little like filler, but we'll be back to plot next time, and I'm very much looking forward to that.

As an apology for last chapter (partly to myself as well as to you all), I've posted up a little gift on both AO3 and tumblr. There will likely be more in the future if you follow me or this fic in either of those locations. wink :P 
Loading...
Title: Semper ad Meliora
Fandom: Dragon Age: Inquisition
Rating: Mature/Explicit
Pairing: Dorian Pavus/Idhren Lavellan, Idhren Lavellan/Tainan Lavellan




Act II: Lux in Tenebris

Light in the Darkness




The air itself rent asunder,

Spilling light unearthly from the

Waters of the Fade

- Canticle of Exaltations 1:2



Codex Entry: Idhren Lavellan

Lightning can be dangerous, even deadly - one need only witness a single lightning storm to understand this. It is not easily contained, nor controlled, and behaves erratically in nature. For this reason many scholars and practical mages have written off most forms of storm magic as unworthy of further examination or refinement. However, is something deemed useless simply because it is difficult to understand? How many forms of magic that we now consider commonplace were once deemed impossible or unworthy of study? There is great potential in the untapped resources of storm magic, if only we would take the time to find them.

- Excerpt from a dog-eared volume titled Potentia Tempestatis . The author's name has been carved off the cover and replaced by 'Idhren Cyrus Lavellan' written in neat script.


----------


Haven, Ferelden, Guardian 9:41 Dragon

When the door opened the light that it let in was blinding. Idhren winced and tried to bring his hands up to shield his eyes, only to be stopped by the manacles that held him. He heard the heavy falls of booted feet, the clink of armor and the distinctive hiss of weapons being drawn. When his eyes finally adjusted to the light he saw a woman standing above him. Her face was set in a glower, eyes hard and a hand on the sword at her side. The chest plate of her armor was emblazoned with a crest of an eye wreathed in flames. Idhren did not recognize this particular icon, but he recognized what it meant. Templar.

“Tell me why I shouldn’t kill you now,” the woman sneered.

Templar. And he a mage, shackled in such a way that he could not cast, could not defend himself. Not that being able to use his magic would be of much use against a southern Templar. Idhren’s mind kicked into a panic, trying to remember everything Keeper Istimaethoriel had told him about southern Templars and their laws. “I am a harrowed mage,” he blurted out, attempting to sound as confident and self-assured as possible. “Member of the Circle of Vyrantium. You don’t have the right.” Although with the southern Circles in rebellion he wasn’t certain how much any of that would help.

The woman’s frown deepened, as much as Idhren had not thought it possible, and she stepped closer. “The Conclave is destroyed. Everyone who attended is dead. Except you.”

Everyone?

The air left Idhren’s lungs in a rush, his chest clenching in horror.

Tainan.

Tainan had been with him in the temple.

If everyone there was dead, then that meant… Tainan could not be dead, though. It was impossible. If Idhren had survived then surely--

Roughly, the templar woman grasped one of his shackled wrists and held it up, revealing the strange spitting green mark that had appeared there. “Explain this,” she snapped.

Pulled roughly from his own thoughts, mind still trying to comprehend what she had told him, Idhren stared blankly at the glow. But he had no explanation. It felt like magic, but not like his own. It was like feeling someone else casting in close proximity, almost like holding the Fade itself in his hand. But he had no idea what it was or how it got there. “I can’t.”

The woman scoffed and threw his hand back down painfully. “What do you mean you can’t?” she demanded.

“I can’t,” Idhren repeated insistently. “It’s not my magic; I don’t know what it is or how it got there.”

“You’re lying,” the woman snarled and lunged at him, only to be quickly pulled back again by another.

“We need him, Cassandra,” the second one spoke in a thick Orlesian accent. She wore the hood of her cloak pulled up over her head, and in the dim light of the prison Idhren could not clearly make out her face even when she turned toward him. “What happened at the Conclave?”

Idhren’s memory of everything after entering the temple with Tainan and before waking up in this cell was hazy at best. When he thought back the best he got were rough images of grotesque creatures and a woman reaching out to him. Hardly anything worth mentioning. “I don’t remember.”

“You don’t remember?” the Orlesian woman repeated doubtfully.

Idhren remained stubbornly silent. He saw no reason to cooperate with these women. They accused him of something he had not done, and they had apparently decided his guilt already. It was typical, though, and Idhren was hardly surprised. Something bad happened, so blame the first elf you can find.

When it became obvious that he did not intend to say anything further, the first woman – Cassandra – sighed. “Go to the forward camp, Leliana,” she said to her companion. “I will take him to the rift.”


----------


They had barely been walking long enough for Cassandra to explain the situation before the first demons appeared. It was far from the first time Idhren had faced down a demon, although it was the first time he had done so outside of the Fade. They were even uglier in real life. Amidst the rubble of a collapsed bridge were the remains of a supply cart, and the remains of several unfortunate bystanders. There was no time to consider the morbidity of the situation, however. Among the splintered crates and splatters of blood lay a crudely made, chipped, but still serviceable staff. Idhren snatched it up without a second thought for its previous owner. It felt unwieldy and awkward in his hand, not balanced correctly, the focus crystal was imperfect and the wrong element for him entirely, but this wasn’t the time to be nitpicking.

Idhren spun the staff in his hands to get a feel for it, let his mana flow through it as he took hold of the Fade. The shade that had been advancing on him met its end in a fiery blaze before it got close enough to even scratch his protective barrier. The mark on his hand throbbed in response to each spell he cast, weakening his grip on the shoddy staff as he dropped a barrier over Cassandra as well. She dispatched the demon before her handily, apparently not requiring Idhren’s assistance, and then rounded on the elf, sword drawn and eyes ablaze. “Drop your weapon,” she demanded immediately, shield up and sword aimed at his chest.

“I’m a mage, I don’t need a staff to be dangerous,” Idhren pointed out dryly. He would be far less dangerous without one, but Idhren could still light the Seeker on fire if he wanted to. Whether he would be strong enough to face any more demons, the mage was uncertain, and that was what worried him.

Cassandra didn’t seem to appreciate this being pointed out, judging by the way her eyes narrowed as she glared at him. However, she did relax her stance and sheath her sword again. “You are correct, and it will only be more dangerous in the valley. I cannot expect you to face demons unarmed,” she relented, but Idhren only relaxed slightly as the woman turned away and began walking again. “Before, in the cell, you said you were from the Circle of Vyrantium,” Cassandra said. Her eyes were suspicious as she watched him fall into step with her, as suspicious as Idhren’s own gaze. “That is in Tevinter.”

“I see you have a firm grasp of geography,” the elf replied. “It is, in fact, in Tevinter.”

“And yet the markings on your face, they are Dalish, are they not?” Cassandra asked.

“They are,” Idhren confirmed. “Are you trying to figure out exactly what sort of heretic I am, Seeker? Shall I be hanged for being an elf, or for being a blood mage? Perhaps both? After all, who knows what the Dalish get up to in the woods, away from your Chantry’s prying eyes.”

“I am wondering if you aren’t merely a pawn in someone else’s plan,” Cassandra speculated, “If you are a slave.”

“I am not a slave!” Idhren spat ferociously.

Cassandra was taken aback by the fire in his eyes, the venom in his words. The passion and fury with which he denied the accusation was convincing enough for her. “Then you were acting alone.”

“I already told you I didn’t do anything!” Idhren snapped. “I’m cooperating with you, aren’t I?” And he intended to continue cooperating. After seeing the destruction that had been wrought how could he not? Besides, it seemed the only chance he had to prove his innocence. “If this was what I wanted why would I still be here? I could have let that demon finish you off, or I could have finished you myself while you were distracted.”

“You do a poor job of making yourself appear trustworthy,” Cassandra informed him flatly.

“I’ve long since stopped caring what self-serving humans think of me,” Idhren replied. “There is a reason I left Tevinter, and it has nothing to do with whatever the fuck this is,” he gestured angrily toward the hole in the sky with his marked hand. “Whatever sort of insanity caused this I want nothing to do with it!”


----------


The mark on his hand could be used to seal the tears after all, but it was definitely not Idhren’s magic that was doing it. The Fade pulled through him, channeling through the mark like the focus of a staff. He could feel the threads of the veil pulling and stitching back together like healing an open wound, but he had no control over it. And it hurt. It pulsed and burned and ached in a way his own magic never had, even when pushed to its absolute limits, and afterwards left his arm stinging all the way up to the elbow.

The apostate seemed to know something about it, but then he had apparently had quite a while to study the mark while Idhren was unconscious. That was an unnerving thought. Idhren did not want strangers poking and prodding his body – even just his hand – while he was not awake. What if they had decided that his hand wasn’t the only cause for concern?

Idhren tried not to think about that as he followed the Seeker and the others through the valley. There were a lot of things that he was trying not to think about, but as he stepped into the charred ruins of the Temple of Sacred Ashes the sight nearly sent him to his knees.

The destruction was absolute and devastating.

There was no way anyone could have survived this.

Tainan.

On the outskirts of the blast zone lay corpses, mangled, charred, frozen forever in their death throes.

Idhren raised a hand to cover his mouth, suddenly nauseous. His grip on the second-hand staff felt like the only thing keeping him upright.

Tainan.

Was one of those bodies, unrecognizable yet twisted in agony, Tainan?

“There is the rift,” Cassandra’s voice interrupted Idhren’s thoughts. The Seeker was ahead of him, pointing deeper into the ruins and moving quickly through the wreckage. “We must hurry.”

Idhren couldn’t make his legs move.

“You alright there?” the dwarf was standing next to him, reaching up to pat Idhren on the back. His tone was light, but his expression was dark. “Not very pretty, is it?”

“No,” Idhren breathed.

“Come on, kid,” the dwarf said. His hand fell away from Idhren’s back and he hefted the crossbow in his arms. “Let’s clean up this mess before anyone else gets hurt.”

The nod that Idhren responded with was stiff and mechanical, as were his steps when he finally managed to make his legs cooperate enough to fall in line after the others.


----------


The sky burned green as veilfire. Pulsing and swirling, the clouds roiling around the rift like the eye of a hurricane. Idhren could smell the Fade, thick on his tongue and static in his ears, making the hair on his arms and the back of his neck stand on end. The wound on his hand pulsed and flared, spitting green sparks and flame the closer they came to the rift. It ached. It burned. Idhren clenched his staff into that hand and clutched it tighter in an attempt to distract himself from the pain, but it was only a momentary effort. He needed that hand, that scar, to close this, to end the chaos here. To stop anyone else getting hurt.

Voices echoed through the ruins, memories that Idhren could not recall, though apparently they were his own. The Fade was bleeding, as Solas had so aptly put it, the Veil a bandage holding back the flood - now torn asunder and reality was beginning to fracture. Idhren had never felt the Fade this vividly while awake. The tear here was closed, despite its size and appearance; scabbed over and Idhren had to rip the scab away in order to stitch the wound together properly.

Just like healing.

Idhren was never very good at healing.

Regardless, he thrust his hand upward, gasping in pain as the green scar flared to life, pulling through him and tearing the rift open with a roar. When the magic from the mark disconnected from the now opened tear Idhren staggered back, pulling his hand to his chest instinctively as it burned and ached.

Deep breath. Grit your teeth and bear it. Just once more, close it quickly before anything can come through.

Easier said than done. As Idhren struggled to regain enough composure to seal the rift for good it crackled and wavered and then belched forth a pride demon. Because the Maker hated him that much.

The demon roared. Cassandra charged, Solas launched a blast of ice toward it, and for a moment Idhren stood frozen, unable to do anything. Pride demons were resistant to electricity. He'd read that in a book somewhere, and for some reason it was the only thing he could think of at this moment. The staff in his hand was fire-aligned, but it was weak, brittle.

The demon roared again and swiped at Cassandra. She blocked its arm with her shield, but the sheer strength of the creature sent her stumbling backward. An arrow whizzed past Idhren's ear, close enough to ruffle his hair and startle him into looking away. A few paces behind him Varric braced that crossbow contraption against his shoulder and launched a volley of arrows toward the demon. "Now's not really a great time to be daydreaming, kid,” the dwarf quipped.

“I’m not a kid,” Idhren protested, but the comment had served to knock him out of his stupor. Idhren shook himself physically and forced his brain to think. The air crackled with electricity as the demon summoned power around itself. Idhren gripped the staff tighter and swung into a fighting stance. The crackle of static in the air was familiar, almost comforting despite the circumstances. And standing below the Breach like this the Veil was practically non-existent. The Fade was stronger than ever.

He was going to do something incredibly stupid.

When the demon lashed out toward Cassandra with a whip of lightning, Idhren reached out, grabbed hold of the tattered Veil, and pulled as hard as he could. The bolt redirected, skittering away from Cassandra, with her metal armor and shield, what should have been the obvious target, and instead struck a boulder with enough force to shatter the stone practically to dust. The attack should have killed the woman in an instant.

"I can't believe that worked," Idhren breathed to himself. He'd never used that trick on anything but his own conjured lightning. He felt a little flicker of pride in his chest. And that was his downfall, because it drew the demon’s attention like a shark to blood.

Behind him, Varric swore when the demon turned toward them, its numerous eyes settling on Idhren. Without thinking, Idhren pulled a barrier up around himself and Varric, for what little good it would do, and began summoning a fireball that would really test the limits of what this shoddy staff could take. Before he could fully form the spell however, his concentration was broken by another scream across the ruins. Cassandra, back on her feet after the demon’s missed attack, screamed with all her might, and it was enough to draw the demon’s attention back to her. At the same time, Solas used the momentary distraction to lay a glyph at the demon’s feet. The mine exploded in seconds, spires of ice jutting up from the ground and knocking the massive thing off its feet.

“Close the rift!” the apostate yelled over the sounds of battle. “Do it now!”

The spell at Idhren’s fingertips fizzled out. He turned and looked up at the rift with dread, remembering the pain of opening it, and of every rift he had closed since waking up and being dragged from that cell. But there was really no choice. He couldn't leave it open, spilling demons into their world. So he ran towards it, only a few steps closer, just to get further away from the demon, and held up his hand.

The mark on his palm lit up like wildfire. Pain lanced through his hand, down his arm and into his chest. The rift screamed in protest. Idhren opened his mouth and screamed as well. It hurt so much worse than anything before. The staff in his other hand felt from limp fingers and he instinctively tried to pull his hand away from the source of the pain. But the mark held him there, the force of its magic pulling on the rift stronger than his small body could counter. He grasped onto his wrist with his other hand and pulled again. It felt like he was ripping the skin off his palm, but with one final shriek and a sound like thunder the rift snapped closed. The pain became too much, tearing, burning, shooting from the mark on his palm and into every fiber of his being. Idhren collapsed onto the ground and everything went black.


----------


When he woke it was warm, comfortable, quiet.

For a moment, Idhren thought he was back with clan Lavellan in the Free Marches. In the aravel he shared with Tainan, and the past day had been nothing more than a nightmare. A trick of the Fade. And when he opened his eyes Tainan would be there, laying beside him half asleep, or getting ready to go out hunting.

But when he did open his eyes that illusion shattered in an instant.

The room was unfamiliar, the bed as well, and his left hand ached like it had been stabbed.

This was no dream.

Sitting up slowly, Idhren took in his surroundings. He had no memory of leaving the temple ruins after closing the rift there. Someone must have moved him. Was he back in Haven? That seemed most likely. The room he was in seemed to be part of a cabin, rough wooden walls and simple furnishings. He had been stripped out of his boots and coat, but they were placed neatly on a nearby chair. Someone had even picked up that useless second hand staff and propped it up in the corner. Although sparsely furnished the cabin was surprisingly cozy. In the grate across the room a small fire had burned down to embers, and the shutters on the window had cracked open letting in a cool breeze and the smell of fresh mountain air. It was surprising to find himself in such accommodations. Did they no longer think him responsible for the Breach? He was no longer in chains, nor even locked in a cell.

He could be locked in this room, though.

Climbing out of bed, Idhren pulled on his boots and coat, he even grabbed the staff before cautiously making his way to the door. He needed answers, and he wasn't going to get them sitting here. But he didn't know where he was, who had brought him here, or what was going on outside. He faltered with a hand on the doorknob and looked down at his left hand.

The mark was still there. It glowed a faint green light from a jagged scar across the center of his palm. More than anything, he needed to know what this thing was and how he could get rid of it. Because whatever was going on here, whatever had happened at the Conclave that he couldn't remember, he wanted nothing to do with it. He wanted to find Tainan and go home.

Tainan.

Idhren's breath caught in his throat even as his hand moved on the latch and found it unlocked.

He'd almost forgotten. Tainan.

Tainan was gone. The explosion had killed everyone except him. That was what Cassandra said.

No. He shook his head forcefully. It wasn’t true. It couldn’t be true. She was lying. To frighten him. To get him to cooperate. Tainan was alive. Tainan had to be alive. He would find Cassandra and he would make her tell him the truth.

With renewed determination Idhren wrenched the door open and stepped outside.


----------


Idhren didn’t get the news he wanted. If anything, it just kept getting worse.

At least they no longer thought he had caused the Breach.

Instead they all thought him some manner of prophet. Herald of Andraste, the people in Haven were saying. Chosen by the Maker. What a laugh. The Maker had never done anything but give him misery, and this was just one more way for Him to spit on Idhren’s life. One last indignation.

And no one could explain this thing on his hand, not even other mages. No one knew what it was, or where it came from, or how to get rid of it. Idhren might have been fascinated by the phenomena if it were attached to anyone else. Right now he just wanted it gone. Gone so that these people, these Chantry shemlen , would leave him alone. He didn’t want to be a part of this, an unwilling prophet at the head of their reborn Inquisition. A puppet to earn them favor with the people.

This was exactly what he’d run away from.

He felt as much a prisoner now as he had in chains. Whatever this thing on his hand was, it was apparently the only way to fix the rifts in the Veil. Idhren could not, in good conscience, run off no matter how much he wanted to.

And standing there outside the Chantry hall flanked by the right and left hands of the Divine, watching a Templar – former Templar – nail a proclamation to the doors declaring their newly formed Inquisition, Idhren wanted nothing more than to run. To go back to the forests of the Free Marches, find his clan, lick his wounds, and try to move on. If that was at all possible without Tainan.

He felt numb, almost, in the face of everything that had happened in the past day. At least, for him it had only been a day. Apparently several had passed since the explosion, but Idhren had been unconscious for most of it. Maybe that was why it was so difficult to process. Or maybe it was because this was all too familiar. He had learned how to be the perfect apprentice, then the perfect First, and then he had finally learned how to be himself. Now he had to learn how to be a prophet because fighting against it would be useless. He’d already tried. A Dalish elf, a former slave, a mage. Andraste had been a slave, Cassandra had been more than happy to remind him. She allied with Shartan, an elf, to fight against Tevinter, Leliana added. In Tevinter they said Andraste was a mage. He was exactly the sort of person she would have picked, and Josephine was already eager to use that argument against anyone who protested that a heretical elven mage could be the Herald of Andraste. Ready to drag out all the demons of his past and parade them in front of the world to prove his divinity.

Outside the Chantry doors the crowd eventually began to disperse as the people went back to their duties after laying eyes on the Herald of Andraste. The heads of the newly reformed Inquisition turned to return to their duties as well.

“Cassandra,” Idhren interrupted before the woman could disappear back into the Chantry. “May I speak with you?” The formal speech that Tevinter had trained into him and that Idhren hadn’t used in years came flowing out so effortlessly, and Idhren hated himself for it.

“Of course,” the woman replied. She waved the others on ahead and turned back to face him.

Idhren didn’t want to ask again. He felt like he’d asked a hundred times already. Some tiny part of him kept hoping that it wasn’t true. “Were there truly no other survivors from the temple?” He already knew the answer, and he feared it. He wanted someone to tell him they were wrong. There was a mistake.

“There weren’t,” Cassandra confirmed. “Only those well away from the temple were unharmed.”

And Tainan had been right there with him in the epicenter of it all. The knowledge settled like a lead weight in Idhren’s gut. The last shred of hope frayed and tore. He swallowed heavily and looked down at the floor. His eyes swam with tears that he hurried to blink back. “Thank you,” he managed to say without his voice giving away any weakness. Then he turned away stiffly, intent on returning to his quarters as quickly as possible.

“Was there someone with you? At the Conclave?” Cassandra asked before Idhren had time to flee. She was more perceptive than he gave her credit for.

He considered answering. Would anyone here care? They were all so obsessed with the loss of their Divine what would they care about one Dalish elf? But what would be the point in lying? “Yes,” Idhren answered eventually. He continued to stare at the ground, unable to look anywhere else for fear of losing what little composure he had left. “There was,” he said stiffly, and fled before the woman could ask any further questions.

Somehow he managed to make it back to the cabin before the tears began to fall. Slamming the door shut after him, Idhren collapsed back against it. His hand shook, his throat was so tight he could barely breathe. A broken sob escaped his lips and he clapped both hands over his mouth, feeling the wetness on his cheeks as the tears began to fall in earnest. With another sob his knees gave out, sending him sliding down to the floor, where he finally released the final threads of self control and let himself cry.

He cried harder than he had in years. Harder than he had since the loss of his innocence. His whole body shook with the force of his sobs. Wet, ugly, sniveling things; barely contained screams that left him feeling even more miserable than before.

The tears ran out eventually, leaving him exhausted and trembling all over. For several long moments he remained where he was, sitting with his back to the door, knees pulled up to his chest and arms wrapped around himself. Then he pulled off his boots with fumbling fingers and pulled himself unsteadily to his feet. He staggered to the bed and collapsed onto it face down. With barely had enough energy or motivation to shrug out of his coat, he crawled under the covers. It wasn’t even late afternoon, but he wrapped himself in blankets and curled up into a ball, wrapped his arms around himself, squeezed his eyes shut, and prayed that when he woke this really would be a dream.

Not that the Maker had ever answered any of his prayers.


----------


The Breach swirled in the sky above Haven; green, angry, and sickening to look at for too long. The whole situation still felt surreal. But his hand still hurt, and that was what told Idhren it was real. Besides, no demon could drag out an illusion this long without messing something up.

Gravel crunched under Idhren’s feet as he walked the winding dirt paths through Haven. People passed him, running here and there as they went about their duties, but none paid him any attention other than offering a polite nod or bow in greeting. That in itself was unnerving, but at least no one spoke to him.

He trudged his way up the hillside outside of town to where he and Tainan had made camp. The tent had blown over in the days since anyone had been there, and an animal appeared to have gone through the few things they left unattended. But their packs were still there, contents spilled out over the ground, all of it damp with dew and melted snow. The food was unsalvageable, the tent and bedroll unnecessary now, but Idhren dug through the contents of their packs with a slow desperation.

His potions were smashed. All but one glass vial shattered and the contents soaked into the ground. Idhren clutched that one last vial like a lifeline, pried out the cork and downed it in a single swallow. The familiar taste soaked his tongue, comforting in its bitterness. But he would need to find more, and soon. Already days without it the damage might have already been done.

There was nothing more of use at the small campsite. Everything of value had been with them, all now lost in whatever had happened at the temple. Still Idhren lingered, though. This was the last place that he and Tainan had been at peace together. The last place they had lain together. Where Tainan had asked him one last time to marry them, and Idhren had still shied away from answering. His last happy memory. It was difficult to pull himself away. Unbidden, his hand sought out the arrowhead that hung against his chest, feeling it through his shirt, clasping it tight in his grasp. Tainan's good luck charm had worked. They should have kept it for themselves. But now it was all that he had left. The last physical remnants of his lover.

He would have to write to the clan and hope that someone could get a letter to them. Istimaethoriel needed to know what had happened at the Conclave. At the very least Idhren had to finish the mission he had been sent on. They also needed to know about Tainan.

Eventually he tore himself away from the ruined campsite and trudged back down into Haven. What was he meant to say in a letter? He still couldn't remember what had happened in the temple. He wasn't certain he wanted to.

The last clear memory that Idhren had was on the mountainside. Just after dawn he and Tainan had climbed the mountain path. He recalled seeing the temple that stood at the summit and being momentarily struck speechless. It was beautiful; for all that the years had worn away at the stones and dulled the stained glass windows. He recalled asking another pilgrim why someone would build a Chantry way up here on a mountaintop, so far removed from civilization and so difficult to reach. The Temple of Sacred Ashes, the pilgrim had explained - clearly assuming that this pair of Dalish elves knew nothing of Andrastianism - was where Andraste's followers had brought her remains following her death.

The final resting place of the Maker's Bride.

It was the first time since he was a child that Idhren could remember feeling anything akin to religious inspiration.

Tainan had urged them to go inside, get a closer look at the proceedings, and still in awe of where they were standing, Idhren had agreed. In hindsight, he shouldn't have. Should have insisted they stay outside, go back down the mountain and wait for news. If he had, Tainan might still be alive. Hindsight was cruel like that, but thinking about it wouldn’t change things. He needed to focus on the present; it was the only way to keep himself from spiraling into despair.

When he reached Haven again Idhren wound his way through the village until he located an apothecary. He knew he had no right to request the herbs he needed for his potion, but he was desperate and frightened.

"I can make a list," he explained to the grumpy, stern-faced man inside the small cabin, "And if it's possible to get even a small supply I'd be very grateful. I can mix the potion myself if you'll let me use your tools. I won't be in the way."

"We're low on supplies as it is," the apothecary - Adan - grumbled, "But I suppose it'd be bad form to deny the Herald of Andraste." He didn't sound as though he believed that were true, and honestly Idhren didn't either. "Give me the list and I'll see what I can do."

On a scrap of parchment Idhren listed every herb that he had ever used in his potions, in Tevinter and with the Dalish, and handed it over. "I don't need all of them,” he assured, “But anything that you could spare would be useful.” Idhren had never gone without for more than a couple weeks, and he had never had to deal with the fallout on his own. He dreaded what might happen this time.

Adan looked over the list and a frown creased his features even more than usual. “That’s strange. These are all herbs women use to keep from getting pregnant. Why would you need these?” Then the confusion turned to understanding as he cast a look over at Idhren, took in his short stature, the shape of his face, the way his clothes were all slightly too large.

Horror lodged in Idhren’s gut. It felt as though his heart stopped for a brief moment. The man knew. Of course he would know just by looking. “Please don’t tell anyone,” the words were out of Idhren’s mouth before he could think them, and he was certain his mortification showed.

The apothecary studied him for a moment, and the entire time Idhren could not meet his eyes. “Alright,” the man said eventually, as though it were a moot question. “Like I said, supplies are low, but I’ll put aside what I can.”

Idhren breathed out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. ‘Thank you,” he said, the words like a prayer on his lips.

From the apothecary Idhren returned to the small cabin on the edge of town that was apparently his now. It was strange to think that someone had simply given him a home, an entire furnished cabin for his use alone. He supposed it was the one good thing to have come out of all this. For all its humbleness, the cabin was probably the nicest place that he had ever lived. The furnishing in his room at Canidius’ estate had been finer, but there was a lack of privacy there. This felt less like a cage.

Whomever had furnished this cabin had stocked it with a small amount of food and drink and healing potions, a stack of firewood by the grate, and a small sheaf of parchment, a quill, and a pot of ink on the desk.

It had been a long time since Idhren last sat at a desk. So long that it felt strange now to be sitting in a chair and not hunched over a pile of papers on the ground. He tried to ignore that feeling as he opened the jar of ink and tested the quill on a corner of parchment. Then he set himself to the task of writing a letter to Keeper Istimaethoriel.

It took the greater part of the afternoon.

The first draft of his letter had been long and rambling, a stream of emotions and thoughts that, when he read it over afterwards, made no sense. He crumpled the parchment and threw it into the fireplace before starting anew. The second draft was stained with tears, his penmanship horrid from where his hand trembled, spots and blots of ink where he faltered writing words that he still did not want to believe. It joined the first in the fireplace. It took five attempts before Idhren produced something that was both legible and coherent, and by that point he was exhausted.

Leaving the letter out so the ink could dry, Idhren crawled into bed and curled up once more. He couldn’t remember the last time he had eaten, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. Tomorrow, he promised himself. Tomorrow he would put all this behind him and move on. If he could just push everything down and away. Not think about Tainan, or his body, or anything else he had lost. If he could just focus on today - the Inquisition, the Breach - then he could begin to function like a person again.

Better to not feel anything at all than to feel like this.
Title: Semper ad Meliora
Fandom: Dragon Age: Inquisition
Rating: Mature/Explicit
Pairing: Dorian Pavus/Idhren Lavellan, Idhren Lavellan/Tainan Lavellan




But the Lady took my hands from my eyes,
Saying, "Remember the fire. You must pass
Through it alone to be forged anew.”
- Canticle of Exaltations 1:10

Free Marches, 9:40 Dragon

Idhren got his vallaslin on a dreary Wintermarch day after weeks of contemplation, deliberation, and meditation. Istimaethoriel explained the ritual to him in almost nauseating detail, Tainan in vague expressions and remembered feelings.

It hurt less than Idhren had been expecting, but it still hurt significantly. Idhren bore it in silence, as was required, but only just barely. What made it worse was the sheer duration of the ritual. Thousands of pinpricks into the flesh of his face over the course of hours. And Idhren had a relatively simple design tattooed onto his face, whereas many in the clan had much more elaborate designs. Tainan had ink on their lips and around their eyes. Idhren didn’t think he could have born that.

In the immediate aftermath he could do little more than lie in bed and try to ignore the pain. Istimaethoriel has smeared his face with some sort of ointment that smelled strongly of elfroot and embrium that had been soothingly cool when she put it on, but its effects were slowly wearing off. And Idhren didn’t even know what it looked like. The polished metal mirror wasn’t clear enough to make out details. Although it probably didn’t look very flattering right now anyway. The tattoos were across his forehead, down his nose, and onto his chin. Idhren was certain the area was now red and swollen. It certainly felt that way. Not attractive in the slightest. So he would just hide in here until the swelling went down in a day or two.

No such luck.

It was probably only hours after Idhren had crawled into bed that he heard the aravel door creak open. At first Idhren thought it was Istimaethoriel returning and ignored it, and then a quiet voice asked hesitantly, “Are you awake?”

No. No. Tainan was the absolute last person he wanted to see him looking like this. “Go away,” Idhren said, and rolled onto his side to face the wall. It was less comfortable than lying on his back, but he’d been through worse.

“Don’t be like that,” Tainan sighed sympathetically, “I brought food and this stuff for your face.”

Oh, that sounded nice, actually. Idhren hadn’t eaten a thing since lunch the day before – part of the ritual tradition – and he was starving. And more of that ointment might make his face feel better. “Just leave it at the door.”

“Oh, come on,” Tainan beseeched, ignoring Idhren’s request entirely and climbing into the aravel. “I know you’re probably just grouchy because it hurts, right?” Maybe. It did hurt, and Idhren felt even less attractive than he usually did – his face was the one part of his appearance that he actually liked. “It’s really… it just hurts,” Tainan mused, coming to sit behind where Idhren was curled up, “I remember that much. Come here, let me put more of this herb stuff on, that’ll help.”

It probably would help, but that would entail turning around and letting Tainan look at him. Idhren hadn’t felt this self-conscious in front of Tainan since the first time they’d had sex. “No,” he mumbled.

“No?” Tainan repeated in confusion. Slowly, they began to catch on that it wasn’t just the pain making Idhren temperamental. “What’s wrong? Do you… Do you regret doing it?”

“No,” Idhren said quickly. Getting his vallaslin was a sign that Idhren was finally being accepted as a true member of the clan. Idhren had longed for that, and even put off the ritual once before for fear some members of the clan wouldn’t like it. Some probably wouldn’t, but Istimaethoriel and Tainan and so many others accepted him despite his upbringing, so he didn’t care about the rest. So of course he was proud, but he was also self-conscious. “What if it doesn’t look good?” he asked quietly.

“I’m sure it’ll look fine,” Tainan assured. “I know it’s probably all red and uncomfortable right now, but when it’s healed it’ll look fine. The Keeper knows what she’s doing.”

“But it looks bad now,” Idhren mumbled.

“Is that the problem?” Tainan asked as understanding dawned on them. Idhren heard the hunter put down whatever they were holding and move even closer to him, until they were leaning over him to try and see his face. “Idhren, I’m not going to stop liking you just because your face is kinda swollen right now. I helped last winter when you ran out of herbs, didn’t I?”

That was true. Only the third time in Idhren’s life that he’d bled, and he’d been just as much an emotional wreck as the first two. But where Tainan could have left or ignored it and made Idhren deal with it on his own, they had instead done everything in their power to make Idhren feel better. Compared to how unpleasant that must have been, this was nothing.

“Please let me see?” Tainan beseeched softly. They bent to press a kiss to the tip of Idhren’s ear, and that was what finally broke his resolve.

He was tired and hungry and his face hurt and despite the pride he felt Idhren was ultimately rather miserable at the moment. He rolled over onto his back and looked up at Tainan, pouting as much as the discomfort would allow.

The hunter smiled down at him, “There you are,” they murmured. Tainan’s eyes ran over his face, taking in the newly inked lines. “Dirthamen,” they recognized, “I’m not at all surprised.” They bent down again and pressed a feather-light kiss to Idhren’s cheek. The one part of his face that didn’t sting. “And it looks perfect.”

“Even red and swollen?” Idhren asked.

“Even red and swollen,” Tainan confirmed. “But I can help with that,” they offered, and snatched up a small pot of ointment. Idhren recognized the strong smell of elfroot and embrium as the same Istimaethoriel had slathered on his face when the procedure was done. “Do you want medicine or food first?”

“Medicine,” Idhren answered after a moment of thought.

“Good choice.” Tainan’s fingers dipped into the ointment, then unceremoniously smoothed it across Idhren’s forehead, a swipe down the bridge of his nose, and a dallop on his chin. Idhren squeezed his eyes shut and even attempted to hold his breath – an attempt that didn’t last long. Although the mixture immediately eased the stinging, it smelled so strong that it blocked out everything else to an almost nauseating level. “There,” Tainan announced when finished, capping the pot of ointment again and setting it aside. “Feel better?”

“A little,” Idhren replied.

Tainan smiled, and as they did Idhren couldn’t help but stare at the lines inked on their face. Tainan’s vallaslin was more complex than the one Idhren had eventually chosen. Thick lines framed their face, a stylized depiction of bow and arrow that was so perfectly fitting. In comparison, the thin lines and dots along Idhren’s brow and nose were barely anything. And yet he was complaining.

“Now food,” Tainan said cheerfully, oblivious to Idhren’s thoughts. Ointment set aside, they picked up the other bowl and held it out to Idhren. “You’ve been in here all day, you must be starving.”

Idhren was, as his stomach was happy to remind him as soon as he set eyes on the food. He couldn’t smell it, of course, but his stomach still rumbled embarrassingly loud to remind him just how long he’d been without food. The bowl was filled with an assortment of roasted root vegetables topped with a hearty dollop of halla butter, as well as several strips of dried meat. It was about all the clan had to offer in the dead of winter, and Idhren dug in eagerly.

“You know,” Tainan commented thoughtfully. “This means we can get married now.”

Idhren choked on his food. Tainan laughed and rubbed his back through the coughing fit.

----------

It took three weeks for the tattoos on Idhren’s face to heal completely. He had eventually been obligated to leave the aravel and be seen in public. But at least he’d managed to delay it until the swelling and redness were less pronounced. It was a silly thing to be self-conscious about. Every adult in the clan had gone through the same thing and knew exactly how much it hurt and how long it took to heal.

He felt as though he had finally put all of Tevinter behind him. He was properly Dalish now. For better or for worse.

And life went on as usual. What, over the past few years, Idhren had grown to consider ‘normal’.

Normal was, of course, by no means easy. Life with the Dalish never had been, even after Idhren got used to living outdoors, and the strange food, and the lack of a proper bed or regular baths. And the lack of alcohol or lyrium. But recently it seemed as though the clan couldn’t set up camp for more than a week without running into some trouble.

It was worse close to settlements. Idhren made the mistake of venturing into a small village with a couple of the clan’s craftsmen to trade for supplies. Passing the small ramshackle Chantry, one of the sisters had recognized his staff for more than just a walking stick and screamed. She shouted warnings about the ‘dangers of magic’, cursed him a sinner, and incited enough of the townsfolk to fear that the elves were driven from the village before completing their business.

It was the first time Idhren had truly been faced with the full force of southern prejudices against magic. He was only lucky the village’s few templars had apparently deserted months ago; gone south to ‘suppress the mage rebellion’.

That night he curled up in Tainan’s arms and swore he’d never set foot in a human town again.

Istimaethoriel kept the clan away from humans as much as possible, but eventually they were forced to attempt contact again. They camped within sight of the city of Wycome. They hadn’t been so close to a major city in several months. Idhren did his best to ignore the city as he went about his daily chores, but it loomed on the horizon, a constant potential threat, an unpleasant reminder.

The craftsmen were gone for two days, returning with sacks of grain, salt, and herbs. And news from the human world.

Bad news.

Istimaethoriel sought out Idhren after a long, hushed discussion with the men who had gone into the city. “The news they brought is concerning,” she explained, leading him to the edges of camp so they would not be overheard. “We know that there have been more mages fleeing the Chantry’s Circles since the trouble in Kirkwall, and more Templars on the roads seeking them.” The Keeper seemed troubled as she spoke. Her gaze did not meet Idhren’s eyes, but stared into the middle distance, brow furrowed and expression dark. “It seems the mages have now officially left the Chantry, the Circles are disbanded.”

“Good for them,” Idhren couldn’t suppress a small smile. Though he had never seen a southern Circle, save from afar, he had seen what southerners thought of mages in general. And he had heard stories. There were rumors in Tevinter about what the southern Circles were like – prisons rather than schools, mages locked up and guarded and never allowed outside. Then, since coming south, and when he still dared venture into cities, Idhren had only heard those rumors confirmed. Whispers of children stolen from their homes, and of what had happened in Kirkwall. It reminded Idhren far too much of slavery, and if the mages here had managed to escape that then he was happy for them.

“I would agree with you,” Istimaethoriel said doubtfully, “Except they are saying that the Templars have broken from the Chantry as well, and intend to bring the mages to heel however possible.”

That was not good. The smile faded from Idhren’s face immediately. He remembered vividly his first encounter with a southern Templar, how the soldiers had attacked him on sight, tried to kill him, no questions asked merely because they saw he was a mage and outside one of their prison Circles. “They’ll hunt them down like animals,” he breathed in horror.

“And the mages will fight back,” Istimaethoriel added. “And the countryside will burn if no one puts a stop to this.”

War. The reality of it had not sunk in until that moment. A handful of mages running for freedom and a handful of Templars in pursuit was one thing. People had already been calling that a rebellion, but this was the true revolt. Idhren had never seen a slave revolt, there had not been one in Vyrantium in his lifetime, but he had heard of them. They cropped up from time to time, sometimes small and sometimes large, usually several years in between. The stories were always the same. A group of slaves banded together, attacked their keepers and demanded freedom, then the Imperial troops arrived, executed every slave involved and likely some that were not. When the mess was cleaned up life went on as though nothing had happened.

That’s what was happening here.

“What do we do?” Idhren asked. Isolate the clan even further? Wait until it all blew over? Would it ever blow over? If it didn’t, what then?

“We will find a way,” Istimaethoriel said, as though she could sense his fear. Or perhaps it showed on his face. “But that is not all. If the news from the city is correct, the Chantry is already attempting to find a solution. The head of the Chantry; the Divine,” she said the word as though she was uncertain it was the correct one, “Has called for peace talks.”

“Peace talks?” Idhren repeated, incredulous. The southern Chantry certainly did run itself different from what he was used to. In Tevinter rebellions were put down hard and fast and bloody. Although, without their Templar army he supposed the Chantry lacked the strength to do anything by force. “At least they’re trying to do something.”

“Indeed,” Istimaethoriel agreed. “A Conclave has been arranged in the mountains of Ferelden, neutral ground of some significance to their religion, as I understand. Idhren,” she paused and met his eyes, her expression deathly serious. “Whatever decision is reached at this gathering will have profound repercussions,” Istimaethoriel added earnestly. “I would rather not learn of that decision through rumor, or worse. You are my First, but more than that, you are familiar with human culture. I would not trust this task to anyone else.”

It took only a moment to understand what she meant. “You want me to go there,” Idhren finished for her. “This Conclave. You want me to attend.”

“I do,” the Keeper replied solemnly. “Though perhaps ‘attend’ is too strong a word. I doubt they would allow a Dalish elf in to their official proceedings. I want you to go and observe, and listen, and when the shemlen come to a decision about this war I want you to return to us.”

Idhren hesitated; he frowned and looked down at the ground as he considered her request. He had left human society behind, thought himself done with it completely and divested himself of anything that still tied him to that life save a tiny handful of keepsakes. Now she was asking him to return. Idhren’s immediate visceral reaction told him to refuse, to snap at her, to demand why he should care about human politics and be furious that she was sending him away. But logically, he knew exactly why she was asking him and exactly why he could not refuse. This was important. The escalating hostilities had spread across the entire Free Marches, and further south according to rumor. It kept their clan even more isolated than usual. It had been months since they had dared come close enough to a city to gather news and trade for supplies. If the southern Divine was hosting peace talks then the war might finally be over. Or the rebel mages might find themselves on the receiving end of an Exalted March. Either way, the clan needed to know in order to keep themselves safe.

“I’ll do it,” Idhren answered finally, raising his gaze up from the ground again. “I’ll go.”

----------

“What do you mean you’re going to Ferelden?” Tainan exclaimed when Idhren told them.

“The Divine is hosting peace talks between the rebel Templars and mages in an effort to end the fighting,” Idhren explained. “The Keeper wants someone to go so we’ll know what they decide.”

“But I don’t understand why the Keeper is making you go,” Tainan protested, hot on Idhren’s heels as he crossed the camp back toward their aravel. “You’re the First, you’re important.”

“Elera is old enough now, and she’s much better suited to the position than me,” Idhren replied. She deserved it more, having been born into this clan, and she’d always been at least a little bitter at him for taking the position from her.

Tainan let out a huff of annoyance. “That’s not the point and you know it.”

“And you know exactly why she’s sending me,” Idhren shot back. “I grew up among humans. I understand Chantry politics and I know how to play their stupid games. I still have a little money left from Tevinter, I can buy myself clothes that are less Dalish and passage across the Waking Sea. Even with my vallaslin I should be able to pass myself off as a Circle mage if I get into any trouble, but I doubt that’ll happen. I used to be very good at being ignored.”

“And you realize you’ll be going to Ferelden, into the mountains. In the middle of winter,” Tainan reminded him. As though Idhren didn’t know.

“So I’ll buy a heavier coat,” Idhren shrugged. “I got myself here on my own, I think I can get to Ferelden and back.”

“Have you forgotten there’s a war going on?” Tainan exclaimed. “And you’ll be walking right into the heart of it.”

Idhren had had enough. Tainan was going to find a reason to argue no matter what Idhren said. It was so unusual for them to be so argumentative and Idhren couldn’t understand it at all. “Tainan,” he stopped and spun to face his lover, hands on his hips as he frowned up at the hunter, “What are you so upset about?”

“The Keeper is sending you alone into a war zone when there are still Templars out there that will kill a mage on sight,” Tainan exclaimed. “How am I supposed to feel about that?”

Tainan’s expression was twisted with such dismay. Idhren had never seen them so upset before and suddenly he realized: they were worried. Tainan was worried about him going alone into potential danger. Tainan was worried for his safety. Even after years here, years with Tainan, Idhren still sometimes struggled with the idea that anyone genuinely cared about him. “Carus,” Idhren sighed, all the annoyance bled out of him, leaving him visibly deflated. “I have to do this. I want to do this,” he stressed. “Yes, it will be dangerous, but this is the world I know. These politics and power struggles. I’ll understand it better than anyone else.”

“What do you care about shemlen politics?” Tainan asked. “You don’t live there anymore.”

“Whatever is decided at this meeting could affect the entire world,” Idhren tried to explain. “If they reinstate the Circles, or if they disband them forever, it’ll affect us, too.”

“It doesn’t have to,” Tainan grumbled.

“Now you’re just being childish,” Idhren sighed. “What do you want from me?”

“I don’t want you to go,” Tainan said earnestly.

“Well the Keeper asked and I agreed,” Idhren replied stubbornly. “There’s nothing you can do about it now.”

“You didn’t even ask me before you made that decision,” Tainan argued back.

“Well I didn’t realize you were going to be so irrational about it,” Idhren snapped. He understood that Tainan was worried, but they were being so childish, so hypocritical. Tainan went off on their own frequently, sometimes gone for days on a hunting trip, and Idhren worried about them every single time, but he never demanded Tainan stop.

“How am I being irrational?” Tainan demanded.

“You’re being a fucking hypocrite,” Idhren shot back.

Tainan tensed, “I’m not a – whatever that is,” they argued. Idhren saw the flash of confusion and hurt in Tainan’s eyes and knew he had crossed a line. “Fine, take your fancy Tevinter words and go to Ferelden, see if I care.” The Tainan whirled around and stalked away, leaving Idhren standing forlornly between the aravels, apologies dying on the tip of his tongue.

----------

Tainan disappeared into the forest and was gone all night. Idhren barely slept. He sat at the door wrapped up in blankets waiting for Tainan to return until well past midnight. His mind kept going over and over what he should say to apologize. How could he make this right? The last thing that Idhren wanted was to leave with Tainan angry at him. But he would have to leave soon – a matter of days – because it would take weeks to reach the remote town where the peace talks were being held.

Pure exhaustion eventually drove him inside and into bed, where he slept restlessly, mind still plagued with worries, until the sound of the door creaking open woke him. It was barely dawn. The light outside the door was still dim, the forest around the camp still and quiet as Tainan came crawling in.

Idhren sat up, letting the blankets pool around his waist. He said nothing, uncertain what he could say. Was Tainan still angry? But he had spent all night worrying, and it was good to at least see his lover home and unharmed.

Tainan said nothing, either, as they came inside. Their bow was hung on its wall pegs, quiver stashed in the corner by the door, and then Tainan sat cross legged before Idhren, gaze fixed on the floor between them. For a long moment the pair of them sat in silence, neither knowing what to say or how to bridge the gap that had formed between them. They had never argued before. Not about something serious.

Finally, with a small frustrated noise, Tainan reached into a small pouch on their belt and pulled something out. For a breath they did nothing but clasp it in their fist, a brief hesitation, and then held out their hand to Idhren. "Here."

Uncertain, Idhren slowly reached out to take whatever it was that Tainan offered, holding out his hands silently. The item that Tainan dropped onto his waiting palms was small, weighing barely anything. Idhren blinked at it, studying what he soon realized was an arrowhead. It was carved of bone, he thought, with a length of leather cord wrapped around the divots that would usually hold it to an arrow. It was a necklace, he realized with some surprise.

"It's supposed to be for good luck," Tainan explained, voice mumbled and eyes still fixed firmly on the floor. "I carved it from halla horn, for Ghilan’nain. And the arrowhead is for Andruil. And because it's the only thing I'm good at making. I know Mythal would be better but I couldn't make a dragon or a tree, I'd just mess it up."

Idhren stared down at the necklace in his hands. For good luck, Tainan had said. Ghilan’nain was prayed to for a safe journey.

"I thought about it," Tainan continued. "I thought about it a long time. And I'm still not happy about it, I still don't want you to go, but I know why the Keeper wants you to go. I only... I don't want you to get hurt. And I'm scared... I know living here is so much different from what you were used to. I know you still don't like it sometimes. I'm scared that if you go, maybe you won't want to come back."

Idhren was struck speechless. He could not believe what he was hearing. His chest felt tight and his throat caught as he opened his mouth and nothing came out. His first two attempts to speak were aborted before they could even produce sound. What was he supposed to say to that? "Tainan," he managed finally, "Carus," the Tevene endearment slipped off his tongue and suddenly it felt so ill-fitting Idhren wished he'd never started using it. "I..." But he still didn't know what to say. Reassurance that he would come back? That he would be safe? Idhren could not promise that, because there was always the possibility that something horrible would happen. Something beyond his control. So instead he merely said, “Thank you,” and wrapped his fingers around the necklace.

Tainan simply nodded and the silence stretched between them, awkward and painful.

“You know I’ll be careful, right?” Idhren asked when the silence became unbearable.

Tainan nodded again, but remained silent.

It was maddening. Far more upsetting than an actual argument. To see his usually cheerful lover sitting there slumped, defeated, unwilling to meet his eyes. Locks of Tainan’s hair had come free from their plaits overnight and obscured his view of their face. “Tainan, please,” Idhren’s voice was tight. He clutched the necklace in one hand and left the bed, crawling over to where Tainan sat. “I’ll be careful, I promise. I can keep my head down, I won’t cause any trouble or give anyone a reason to hurt me.”

“I know you won’t,” Tainan mumbled, and it was such a relief to hear them say anything. “I know you’ll do everything you can, I still… I just don’t like that you’ll be going off alone and I’ll be stuck sitting here worrying about you for weeks and not knowing what’s going on or if you’re safe or anything.” Tainan’s voice cracked on the last word and they immediately went silent again, swallowing back the lump in their throat.

Tainan was on the verge of tears, but Idhren hadn’t noticed because he couldn’t see their face. He felt his heart break, realizing just how much this was upsetting them. “Tainan,” he breathed, and cautiously moved even closer, crouching before them. He was hesitant to reach out, but did so anyway, wrapping slender arms around the hunter’s broad shoulders. “Tai, I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault,” Tainan mumbled. Their arms came up and wrapped around Idhren’s waist, fisting in the fabric of his shirt and pulling him closer, closer, until Idhren was all but sitting in their lap. Then the hunter hid their face against his neck.

It was, a little bit. Idhren had agreed so easily, he could have put up more of a fight. He should have thought about Tainan before answering. And it wasn’t like he actually wanted to go off to some frozen mountaintop full of Chantry fanatics. “I don’t really want to go, you know,” he said quietly. “I do, because it’s important, but… I wanted to get away from all that, from all the politics and stupid arguments and people calling me ‘knife-ear’. But I’m a mage, and I was a slave and this… They just want freedom, Tai. That’s important to me.”

And it was, more than he’d realized before. Even though he’d never been in a southern Circle, he cared about the mages who were. They wanted freedom, to live life on their own terms. Idhren wanted the same thing.

“The same as you,” Tainan murmured. Idhren could feel their breath against his neck.

“Yeah,” Idhren replied. “I wanted freedom, and I found it. I found you. And I’m happy here. For the first time in my life, I’m really happy.”

“Because of me?” Tainan’s voice was still thick with emotion, but it was more hopeful now. They were beginning to sound more like themselves.

“Because of you,” Idhren confirmed, turning his face into Tainan’s hair. “I don’t want to leave you.” He truly didn’t. Even though he hadn’t loved it at first, Idhren considered the clan his home. This was where he wanted to be, and he had no desire to leave, especially on his own.

If he was being perfectly honest with himself, he was afraid. It had been a long time since he was truly immersed in human society, and he had worked so hard to get over all the things it had taught him. What would happen when he was in the thick of it again? Would all those buried habits come back to the front? Would he be able to be invisible again? Listen to people insult him without showing how much it hurt? Pretend to be demure and polite to keep himself safe?

Could he keep that promise of keeping his head down and not causing trouble?

Could he do it alone?

Did he have to do it alone?

“Tainan,” Idhren said, pulling away from the hunter’s tight embrace to try and look at their face. “The Keeper… She never said I had to go alone,” he realized.

Tainan looked up for the first time since coming into the aravel. Their eyes were wide, rimmed in red and lashes damp, but cheeks dry. “You don’t have to go alone?” they asked, and Idhren could practically see their mind process this information before reaching the inevitable conclusion: “I could go with you!”

“I would have to ask,” Idhren said quickly. He didn’t want to get Tainan’s hopes up. “I will ask.”

Tainan was smiling already, though. It was too late. “And that would be alright with you?”

“Of course,” Idhren replied. He didn’t want to go alone any more than Tainan wanted him to.

The smile broke into a grin. “Then I will. No matter what the Keeper says, I’m going with you.”

----------


Istimaethoriel had no problem whatsoever with Tainan accompanying Idhren on his mission. In fact, she seemed almost amused that they had bothered to ask. Perhaps she had assumed it would happen regardless of her wishes, or perhaps she had planned to send the hunter along as well. Either way, it seemed the pair had caused themselves a lot of grief for no reason. Still, Idhren was glad it had worked out in the end, and he still wore Tainan’s good luck charm, tied around his neck and tucked safely under his shirt.

It was nearly the turning of the year, by Chantry reckoning, when they departed the clan and headed into Wycome to begin their journey. Istimaethoriel promised to keep the clan in the area, so long as it was safe, until their return. Idhren hoped they would not be gone long.

They packed what supplies would be necessary for the trip, minus what Tainan would be able to hunt and gather on the road, as well as all the money and valuables Idhren had left from Tevinter. It was not much. Idhren had already spent the majority of his money simply leaving the country, and small expenditures over the years had further depleted his funds. The clan also offered up what they could, small trinkets that might be sold in the market for a few extra coppers. With this, and Idhren’s incredibly rusty negotiating skills, the pair was eventually able to book passage on a ship headed for Ferelden.

It was a cargo ship, not intended for passengers. Idhren and Tainan were put up in the cargo hold along with crates and barrels, with no proper beds and only bread and water to sustain them. It was not ideal. But there were very few captains willing to take two practically penniless Dalish elves onboard for the five day voyage to Denerim.

Idhren spent the first two days of that voyage curled up on the bedroll he and Tainan shared trying not to lose the contents of his stomach. It was only the second time in his life he had been on a ship, and his stomach didn’t agree with it any more than the first time. Tainan stayed by his side, wary of the human crew and of leaving Idhren alone. So when they finally docked and set foot on solid ground again it was a relief.

From Denerim they headed westward along the old Imperial highway. In the dead of winter the roads were largely abandoned. But they were not the only ones headed for Haven, the tiny mountain town where the Divine’s Conclave would be held. They passed pilgrims on the road. Mages, Templars, anyone with an interest in stopping the fighting. Sometimes they shared a campfire and offered news, but not often. Idhren was wary to trust even the mages, and Tainan was overprotective, shuffling them off the road any time a Templar passed.

Keep your head down. Don’t cause trouble.

Just like Tevinter.

Idhren hated this already.

The air grew colder as they roads began to climb upward into the mountains. Idhren was glad he had invested in new boots the year before. He wished he had been able to coerce Tainan to do the same as they trudged along dirt tracks turned to mud and slush by the snow.

Haven was small. Tiny, even. But it was crowded with pilgrims of all sorts. Mages, Templars, Chantry priests, nobility, commoners, soldiers, merchants. By human standards it wasn’t even a dot on most maps. Compared to the Dalish clan’s camp, however, it was massive.

That first night Tainan pitched their tent outside the town, away from the bustle, where they could stay out of the way and unnoticed. Avoid being mistaken for servants. That had already happened once on the road.

“There’s so many people here,” Tainan mused, awe in their voice. Sitting beside the campfire, they stared out toward the village below them. There were people milling about between the buildings even as the sun went down over the mountains. “You know, I think I saw a Qunari.”

“If they’re here, they’re probably not a proper Qunari,” Idhren replied, though stranger things had been known to happen.

“That’s not the point,” Tainan argued. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many different people all in one place. Have you?”

“I don’t think so,” Idhren said. He wished he could be as excited about it as Tainan, instead all these people just made him nervous.

“So where do you think all the talking is happening?” Tainan asked, eyes sweeping over the village. “That building’s really big,” they said, pointing out the Chantry hall.

Actually a fairly small Chantry, as far as Idhren was concerned. And not large or ostentatious enough for anything as official as these peace talks. “Further up the mountain, I think,” Idhren said thoughtfully. He had been watching the town, trying to figure out exactly that since they’d arrived. “There have been people coming up and down that path all day.” He pointed toward a path on the opposite side of town that wound up into the hills. “Tomorrow I want to go up there and see what’s happening. I don’t think we’ll learn much just sitting around here.”

Tainan followed where Idhren was pointing and hummed thoughtfully. “You’re probably right. Much more secret up there, without all these people around. Good idea.”

“Tomorrow, then,” Idhren decided.
Semper ad Meliora - Chapter 10
End of Act I

Beginning | Previous | Next

Crossposted from AO3

This is the end of act 1! Thanks to anyone who read this far and will continue to stick with me as this continues. Next month we'll move on to act 2, and I'm sure you can all tell what that will include. I'm excited.

I'm also continuing this fic for NaNoWriMo again this year. If you're also participating let me know! Add me as a writing buddy or find me over on the DA fanfiction thread in the genre forums. And wish me luck!
Loading...

deviantID

Erandir
N. Viggo Mercer
Artist
United States
Current Residence: San Francisco
Interests

Comments


Add a Comment:
 
:iconenbi-to-miruku:
Enbi-to-Miruku Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2014  Student General Artist
You, amazing cosplayer, have conquered the Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark levels of Nordic cosplay. Now you've reached the final showdown. You will...

*drum rolls*

...Cosplay Iceland.

.
.
.
...okay, sorry for the bad attempt at humor. You're seriously amazing though, I wasn't joking about that part. I've never seen anyone pulling off all four of the continental Nordics so well; not to mention it was your own hair styled and most of the cosplay (if I wasn't mistaken) was improvised. 

And you made awesome pants, to add to that
Reply
:iconerandir:
Erandir Featured By Owner Mar 11, 2014
Lol thank you very much for such kind words!

I do have formal cosplays for all those except Denmark, but for some reason have never gotten around to getting good photos of them. Makes it look like I only do closet cosplay, oops. 
Reply
:iconenbi-to-miruku:
Enbi-to-Miruku Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2014  Student General Artist
Nah, for me improvised casual cosplay is far from closet cosplay! Making yourself in character in casual clothes demands effort, really :meow: 

Still, I'd really, really love to see you in the official costumes :D I'll be stalking watching your gallery :love:
Reply
:iconjawazcript:
jawazcript Featured By Owner Nov 25, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist

Happy birthday! You have obtained a birthday fox! \3/
(drawing with Muro ain't good for one's health guh)
Reply
:iconerandir:
Erandir Featured By Owner Nov 26, 2013
Ahhh, what a cute fox. Thank you so much!
And thank you for braving the dangerous Muro to make this wonderful thing!
Reply
:iconelleviate:
Elleviate Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2012
Please accept the mass faving activity as an apology for not keeping up with your fic here.
Reply
:iconerandir:
Erandir Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2012
Apology accepted!
Thank you for the faves, I'm very glad you like my work.
Reply
:iconlunsie:
lunsie Featured By Owner Nov 25, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Happy Birthday~
Reply
:iconmrmrrolloz:
MrMrRolloz Featured By Owner May 7, 2011  Student General Artist
Hejoo. C:
Reply
:iconerandir:
Erandir Featured By Owner May 7, 2011
Hej :3
Reply
Add a Comment: