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"Could I adore you more?"
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Literature
Semper ad Meliora - Chapter 15
Title: Semper ad Meliora
Fandom: Dragon Age: Inquisition
Rating: Mature/Explicit
Pairing: Dorian Pavus/Idhren Lavellan, Idhren Lavellan/Tainan Lavellan
Chapter 15 - Within My Creation, None Are Alone
“Heart that is broken, beats still unceasing,
An ocean of sorrow does nobody drown.
You have forgotten, spear-maid of Alamarr.
Within My creation, none are alone.”
- Canticle of Andraste 1:5
Skyhold, Ferelden, Solace 9:41 Dragon
When the Inquisition arrived in Skyhold the fortress was little better than a ruin, but Idhren could feel the magic that suffused the very stones beneath his feet. Exhausted, the people of Haven made camp within the courtyards and the crumbling structures and felt safe for the first time in weeks. Repairs began almost immediately. Everyone remembered the attack, and no one wanted to be caught unawares a second time.
Within days the grounds were cleared of rubble, the buildings surveyed and a schedule established for reconstruction of the m
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Literature
Semper ad Meliora - Chapter 14
Title: Semper ad Meliora
Fandom: Dragon Age: Inquisition
Rating: Mature/Explicit
Pairing: Dorian Pavus/Idhren Lavellan, Idhren Lavellan/Tainan Lavellan
Chapter 14 - In Your Heart Shall Burn
In your heart shall burn
An unquenchable flame,
All consuming and never satisfied.
-  Canticle of Threnodies 5:5
Haven, Ferelden, Solace 9:41 Dragon
The sky was calm for the first time in months. Above Haven the clouds no longer roiled in an angry green vortex. The sky was gray, as clouds were meant to be, with the promise of rain or snow in the near future, but for now calm and peaceful.
Below, all of Haven was in celebration.
The Breach was closed; the Herald of Andraste had delivered them from the end of the world. The town was full to the brim with cheer; laughter and music and the roar of bonfires outside the walls. Idhren watched it all from a distance. He was glad that it was over - the Breach and all the trouble it had brought - but he could not bring himself to join the c
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Literature
Semper ad Meliora - Chapter 13
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
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 co
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Literature
Semper ad Meliora - Chapter 12
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.
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Literature
Semper ad Meliora - Chapter 11
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.
- Excer
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Literature
Semper ad Meliora - Chapter 10
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 t
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Literature
The English Department Throws the Best Parties
Title: The English Department Throws the Best Parties
Fandom: Dragon Age: Inquisition
Pairing: Dorian Pavus/Tainan Lavellan/Idhren Lavellan
Summary: A modern AU fic for the Pavellan club on deviantArt’s Halloween event. Prompt: pop culture costumes.
----------
“Tainan, are you ready yet?” Idhren called down the hall, making a final adjustment to his hair in his reflection on the living room window and double-checking that he had everything he needed – phone, ID, apartment key, cab money. “We’re supposed to be at Dorian’s in half an hour.”
“Give me five minutes,” came the shouted reply.
“You said that five minutes ago,” Idhren sighed and went back down the hall to find Tainan. Unsurprisingly, he found his partner still in the bathroom wrestling with their mass of red hair, which refused to be tamed into anything other than the messiest of braids despite now half an hour of effort. “Your hair looks fine, Legola
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Literature
Semper ad Meliora - Chapter 9
Title: Semper ad Meliora
Fandom: Dragon Age: Inquisition
Rating: Mature/Explicit
Pairing: Dorian Pavus/Idhren Lavellan, Idhren Lavellan/Tainan Lavellan
Chapter 9 - One More Day
We sing, rejoice
We tell the tales
We laugh and cry
We love one more day
- from In Uthenera, a traditional Elvhen song
Free Marches, 9:39 Dragon
Idhren and Tainan had been living together for only a few weeks and were still working out the finer details of the situation. The aravel was a mess. Neither of them had very many possessions, but it was still proving a struggle to get them all sorted in a way both of them could agree on. Everywhere that Idhren looked there were arrowheads and bits of fletching, bundles of sticks and lengths of bowstring. His attempts at compiling it all into a single location were met with confused stares, as though Tainan didn’t understand why it was necessary. One of the herbs that Idhren needed for his potions made Tainan sneeze when they were around it too frequ
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Mature content
Semper ad Meliora - Chapter 8 :iconerandir:Erandir 2 0
Literature
Semper ad Meliora - Chapter 7
Title: Semper ad Meliora
Fandom: Dragon Age: Inquisition
Rating: Mature/Explicit
Pairing: Dorian Pavus/Idhren Lavellan, Idhren Lavellan/Tainan Lavellan
Chapter 7 - The People Will Set Ourselves Free
And Shartan looked upon the Prophet Andraste
And said: “The People will set ourselves free.
Your host from the South may march
Alongside us.”

- Canticle of Shartan 9:27
Free Marches, 9:37 Dragon
Three months Idhren had been on the road, and he was beginning to regret his decision to leave Tevinter. He had known that wandering the countryside in search of wild elves would not be easy, but he had not anticipated exactly how difficult it would be. Despite his lowly birth, Idhren had spent most of his life among Tevinter’s elite. He was not used to sleeping on the ground, or cooking his own food, or walking long distances and carrying everything he owned on his back. Not that Idhren had left Tevinter with much in the way of personal possessions. He had onl
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Mature content
Semper ad Meliora - Chapter 6 :iconerandir:Erandir 3 0
Literature
Semper ad Meliora - Chapter 5
Title: Semper ad Meliora
Fandom: Dragon Age: Inquisition
Rating: Mature/Explicit
Pairing: Dorian Pavus/Idhren Lavellan, Idhren Lavellan/Tainan Lavellan
Chapter 5 - Coiled 'Round My Heart
Spite ate away all that was good, kind, and loving till nothing was left but the spite itself, coiled 'round my heart like a great worm.
- Canticle of Maferath, Dissonant Verse
Vyrantium, Tevinter Imperium, 9:35 Dragon
In the year following Canidius’ theft of Idhren’s work, the elf’s research languished. With no chance at ever seeing recognition, Idhren felt there was no point in putting in so much effort. He went through the paces, spent most days in the library with his nose in a book, scribbling notes, or long hours in the practice yard testing spells. When Canidius asked about his progress Idhren shrugged and fed him excuses: the theory is difficult to put into practice, I can’t quite get the spell to work correctly, I need to find more supporting
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Mature content
Semper ad Meliora - Chapter 4 :iconerandir:Erandir 3 0
Literature
Semper ad Meliora - Chapter 3
Title: Semper ad Meliora
Fandom: Dragon Age: Inquisition
Rating: Mature/Explicit
Pairing: Dorian Pavus/Idhren Lavellan, Idhren Lavellan/Tainan Lavellan
Chapter 3 - Worthy of Your Endless Pride
My Maker, know my heart:
Take from me a life of sorrow.
Lift me from a world of pain.
Judge me worthy of Your endless pride.

-          Canticle of Transfigurations 12:3
Vyrantium, Tevinter Imperium, 9:32 Dragon
A Blight in Ferelden. The news did not reach Tevinter until the thing was already over. As a result, the general reaction was to scoff and say ‘well it couldn’t have been a real Blight to clean up so quickly. There’s no way those backwards southerners could have managed it.’ Proud denial was practically a Tevinter national past time - behind blood magic and backstabbing. But while the nobles scoffed behind their hands, the servants and slaves were saying something else. The Grey Warden who had slain the archdemon, the o
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Mature content
Semper ad Meliora - Chapter 2 :iconerandir:Erandir 2 0
Literature
Semper ad Meliora - Chapter 1
Title: Semper ad Meliora
Fandom: Dragon Age: Inquisition
Rating: Mature/Explicit
Pairing: Dorian Pavus/Idhren Lavellan, Idhren Lavellan/Tainan Lavellan
Chapter 1 - Lowest Slaves, Highest Kings
All men are the Work of our Maker's Hands,
From the lowest slaves
To the highest kings.

    - Canticle of Transfigurations 1:3
Vyrantium, Tevinter Imperium, 9:28 Dragon
The main structure of the Circle of Vyrantium had originally been a temple to the Old God Andoral, and it still looked the part. It was a towering structure of dark stone and gold filigree trailing up to a domed roof. While the majority of the old draconic icons had been removed and replaced with more appropriate statues of Andraste and Hessarian, a handful of smaller images remained in less obtrusive reminder, looking down on apprentices and enchanters from molded ceiling tiles and out of dusty corners. The Dragon of Slaves, watching over the studies of a hundred mage children, many the children of
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Title: Semper ad Meliora
Fandom: Dragon Age: Inquisition
Rating: Mature/Explicit
Pairing: Dorian Pavus/Idhren Lavellan, Idhren Lavellan/Tainan Lavellan




Chapter 15 - Within My Creation, None Are Alone</u>

“Heart that is broken, beats still unceasing,
An ocean of sorrow does nobody drown.
You have forgotten, spear-maid of Alamarr.
Within My creation, none are alone.”
- Canticle of Andraste 1:5

Skyhold, Ferelden, Solace 9:41 Dragon

When the Inquisition arrived in Skyhold the fortress was little better than a ruin, but Idhren could feel the magic that suffused the very stones beneath his feet. Exhausted, the people of Haven made camp within the courtyards and the crumbling structures and felt safe for the first time in weeks. Repairs began almost immediately. Everyone remembered the attack, and no one wanted to be caught unawares a second time.

Within days the grounds were cleared of rubble, the buildings surveyed and a schedule established for reconstruction of the most important areas. Quarters were assigned, guards were posted, and everyone had a task to perform.

Idhren was named Inquisitor. And was apparently the only one surprised by this decision.

Inquisitor.

The title would take getting used to. As would the respect and power that came with it. Idhren was prepared to be a religious symbol, not a leader. Although he couldn’t say that he disliked the situation.

How many times in Tevinter had he dreamed of telling off the people who were rude to him? How often had he stood on the sidelines imagining what he could do if he stood on equal footing with the people around him? He had long ago given up hope of ever being respected by humans, and now he was practically drowning in it.

But this was what he had been groomed for from a young age. All those lessons on etiquette and decorum that he had suffered as a child, the books on politics, the meetings, the parties – Canidius may have never intended to make Idhren his heir, but he had ensured the elf was well enough educated for it. Then with the Dalish, with Keeper Istimaethoriel showing him that leadership was not about issuing orders and hoarding power, but could be found just as easily through community. A Dalish keeper led by example, with friendship and respect for everyone in the clan. Different strategies for different situations, Idhren had once read in an unimaginably dry book about political strategy. He would have to find which was more suited to his new role.

Within only a few days enough of the keep was cleared out that people could begin moving inside without fear of a roof collapsing on them in their sleep. The main hall looked like a refugee camp. It was a refugee camp. But the Inquisitor and his advisors had finally managed to wrangle together some semblance of order throughout the Inquisition. So Idhren called together everyone he thought of as most important or most beneficial to their situation.

They gathered in what had almost immediately been dubbed the War Room. Idhren, the Inquisitor himself, along with his advisors, Josephine, Leliana, and Cullen. Cassandra had pulled back from being an official presence, but he included her none-the-less. Solas, for his knowledge of obscure ancient magic like what had caused the Breach. Varric, for his past dealings with red lyrium and Corypheus. Vivienne knew the Orlesian Imperial Court like the back of her hand, even if Idhren still did not like her very much. And while Vivienne dealt with the nobility, Sera’s contacts were the common folk; Idhren knew from experience how easily servants were overlooked and how much they overheard. Idhren was still hoping that the Grey Wardens were not mixed up in this, but he couldn’t discount it yet, and that made Blackwall’s knowledge of the order useful as well as his military knowledge. The Iron Bull being a Qunari spy still made Idhren wary, but the Chargers were the only fighting force not directly under Cullen’s command and they deserved to know what they were facing. Cole showed up even though no one recalled seeing him for several days or informing him of this meeting; in fact, Idhren had completely forgotten about him until that very moment. And Dorian, because Idhren needed someone familiar while he figured out what to do with all this power suddenly handed to him. And ostensibly because Idhren had not been in Tevinter for five years and knew no one there. Dorian, at least, was familiar with recent politics.

“I don’t remember hearing anything about the Venatori last I was in Tevinter,” he commented, when the discussions reached that point.

“They’ve only fairly recently gained any sort of influence,” Dorian replied. “Supremacist cults like them are a copper a dozen in Tevinter, as you know. I imagine it’s Corypheus’ influence that’s helped them gain so much support.”

“Wait,” Sera interrupted. Idhren hadn’t had much opportunity to get to know her yet. She confused him a little, but he liked what he’d seen of her so far. “You been to Tevinter? Why’d you wanna do that?”

“I’m from Tevinter,” Idhren replied. Apparently the few people who knew were better at keeping secrets than he’d realized.

“You were… Shite,” Sera cursed, “Does that mean you were… You know?”

A slave. It didn’t have to be spoken for Idhren to know what she meat. It was the first thing anyone asked. “Alright, can we do this once for everyone so that I don’t have to keep repeating myself?” Idhren asked in exasperation. “Yes, I’m from Tevinter. I was born a slave, but was freed as a child. That makes me Liberati. I trained at a circle, I apprenticed to a magister, and I left because Tevinter is a shithole. Since then I’ve been living with the Dalish, that’s why I have the tattoos. Any questions? Can we move on now?”

“Well why didn’t you say nothin’?” Sera asked. Rhetorical questions were apparently not something she was familiar with.

“Because it’s no one’s business but my own,” Idhren snapped. “Can we please focus on the task at hand?”

Sera was visibly cowed by the venom in his voice. “Don’t need to get all upset, I’m just askin’,” she grumbled. “Everyone’s thinkin’ it.”

Which was exactly why Idhren didn’t like telling people he was from Tevinter. They always assumed the worst.

“Let’s move on,” Josephine was quick to attempt and diffuse the situation. She had far more patience than Idhren, something he imagined he’d be grateful for in the coming months. “We know from your experience in Redcliffe that the Venatori intend to assassinate Empress Celine.”

“Yes,” Idhren confirmed, “We need to warn her.”

“With the civil war, she must already be expecting attempts on her life,” Leliana pointed out.

“Tevinter doesn’t play the game the same way as Orlais,” Idhren argued. “And the Venatori have blood magic on their side. Her bodyguards won’t be prepared to deal with that. I also don’t expect she’ll believe a simple warning, a letter or a messenger won’t suffice. We need to speak with her in person.”

“That will be difficult,” Josephine frowned. “But not impossible. The Inquisition has been gaining influence in Orlais since your visit to Val Royeaux. And news has already begun to spread of what happened at Haven. Even the most fervent doubters can no longer question the legitimacy of our cause.”

“Good,” Idhren nodded, “Keep doing all you can to get us an audience.” He leaned his hands against the sturdy wood of the war table and stared down at the map, with its various markers for troops and spies. “In the mean time, I suppose there’s little more we can do until Varric’s contact arrives with more information about Corypheus.”

“There is one other matter,” Josephine spoke up, drawing Idhren’s attention back to her. “We lost many at Haven, and at the Conclave,” she said carefully. “And as All Souls Day is soon Mother Giselle has expressed interest in holding some sort of memorial service.”

“All Souls Day?” Idhren repeated in confusion.

“Funalis,” Dorian supplied for him. “I believe that’s what they call it down here.”

“Oh,” Idhren felt terribly stupid for not realizing. “Sorry, it’s been some time since I last recognized any of the Chantry holidays. I didn’t realize it was that time of the year,” he quickly apologized. “But I see no reason why she shouldn’t.”

“She would like the Herald of Andraste to preside,” Josephine added uncertainly.

That made Idhren freeze. He hadn’t celebrated any holidays in years. In fact, he had barely kept track of the days. Even before leaving Tevinter he hadn’t been devout in any way, and now he even wore the markings of another god on his face. “No,” he said, perhaps a bit too sternly. “No, that’s a terrible idea. Mother Giselle can hold whatever type of service she likes, we can even find a room to turn into a Chantry if she wants – I’m certain some people would appreciate that – but I’m not at all suited.”

“Perhaps if you just assisted her in the service?” Josephine suggested diplomatically, “Just seeing you present would bring comfort to many people.”

“I’ve said no,” Idhren snapped, startling even himself with the force of his words. But bringing this up had brought back to the fore so many things he had been trying not to think about. Dorian was still the only person he had told about Tainan, though he was certain Leliana knew from reading his letters. “She can have her memorial service, and I will consider attending, but I will not be involved. That’s final.”  Unwittingly, he caught Dorian’s eyes across the table, and behind his carefully neutral expression there was sympathy. Idhren looked away again quickly.

“Very well,” Josephine’s voice was nothing but carefully cultivated politeness. It was impossible for Idhren to tell whether or not he had offended her. Or anyone else, for that matter. “I will let her know.”

“Thank you,” Idhren tried to sound as earnest and apologetic as he could in just those two words. “If that is all for now?”

“It is, Inquisitor,” the ambassador informed him.

“Then I think that’s enough for today,” Idhren said. They had gone over everything of immediate importance. Those with contacts outside Skyhold knew what was needed of them; everything else was dedicated to making the fortress livable and defensible once more. While the others gradually filed out of the war room Idhren lingered, leaning against the edge of the table and staring down at the maps laid out atop it. But as the room emptied he became aware of someone else lingering as well, and turned around. Stopped halfway to the door but staring back at him was Dorian. “Is there something else you needed?” Idhren asked.

Dorian frowned as he watched the elf. He waited until the door shut after the last person before asking, “Are you alright?”

Idhren pursed his lips and turned his back on the man. “I’m fine,” he said curtly. He waited for Dorian to say something more, but it did not come. Silence hung between them for a long moment, then he heard Dorian’s footsteps retreat, the door open and close heavily, and then Idhren was alone.

----------

It was just after Idhren had recovered from the avalanche enough to walk on his own that he realized how long he had been without medication. He had been unconscious for days, and then it took them another week to reach Skyhold. Days after their arrival Adan had approached him, pressed a small bottle into Idhren's hand, and said "I owe you my life; I’ll make sure you don't run out again." It was all Idhren could do to keep from crying until he was behind closed doors, but by then it was too late.

Maybe that was why he had been so crabby in the war room. Because the next day his stomach began cramping and then he changed clothes that night to find spots of blood in his undergarments.

The first two days he refused to leave his bed, miserable and cranky, feigning illness, stealing bits of bandage from the healers and feeling horribly guilty about it. Given all that he had been through, no one really disbelieved him when he claimed a cold. The hardest part was keeping the healers away.

On the day of the memorial service he knew it was nearly over, but still was reluctant to be seen in public for more than an hour.

He attended the service, lingering in the back of the courtyard where Mother Giselle presided over more people than could squeeze into the storage room they had quickly converted into a small chapel. Among them were many familiar faces. Cassandra and Leliana, Cullen, Josephine, Vivienne, even Sera had showed up for a short time before slinking out the back. So many had lost loved ones in the past year. In the war, in the Conclave, or at Haven. And seeing them all in once place was difficult, even as it was a tiny comfort. He was not the only one grieving someone they had lost.

He left before it finished, before anyone could come up and speak to him. He didn't know what any of the people would say. Thank him for what little he had done to protect them? He couldn't bear it. Not when he'd failed to save the only person that mattered.

After night fell and most of Skyhold was asleep, he wound his way through the courtyard, still a sea of tents and refugees, through the great hall and into the garden. At the far end stood the small chapel, lit with candles and a space already cleared to house religious symbols. Right now they had only a handful of small figurines of Andraste that pilgrims had brought with them or had been smuggled out of Haven in pockets. They stood on an upturned crate surrounded by candles and offering bowls.

As he stepped inside Idhren shut the door behind him. He stared at the small make-shift altar uncertainly. Moonlight filtered in through the high windows at the back of the room, and one patch of pale bluish light had landed perfectly on the altar. As though intentionally.

With slow steps, Idhren approached the display, stared down at it for a long moment, and then slowly bent down to kneel on the floor. His parents and his brother had all been Andrastian. It was the only religion they knew. His grandmother, apparently, had never passed down any of her Dalish heritage to her daughter. Probably to protect her in a world where heresy was the least that could get an elf killed. In Tevinter he had prayed for his father in the years after his death, and his mother and brother shortly before he left the country. Since then, however, he had done nothing.

So he prayed for them now. The suitable verses of the Chant fell of his tongue by rote, but the words felt hollow and emotionless. Empty platitudes that no longer offered the comfort they had in his youth. Prayers to a god he no longer wanted to believe in. So he stopped praying and instead merely spoke.

It was as though he were merely catching up with his family, wishing them well and telling them of all that had happened since the last time they spoke. And so much had happened. He spoke of leaving Tevinter, the long trip south across the Silent Plains and into the wilderness of the Free Marches, wandering aimlessly through the woods until finally stumbling across the Dalish. It was not as painful as he had expected, remembering how happy he had been during those few short years. Sitting there on the floor, cross legged in a pool of moonlight before a statue of Andraste no larger than his hand, Idhren looked out the window at the clear night sky and told anyone who might be listening “I fell in love.” And he knew that no one was listening. Logically. The Maker had turned away from his creation, the Elvhen Creators had been locked away in the Beyond. There was no one out there, truly. Still, he could not stop himself now that the words had begun to flow.

“Tainan was marvelous,” he breathed. “They’re… Not what you were expecting, probably. But I want to think you would have liked them. Sahren would have liked them.” He paused, wondering how different his life would be if everyone he loved were still alive. But it was too painful to consider. “We were supposed to get married,” he said into the silence that surrounded him. “But they’re gone now.

“I don’t even know why,” he continued, already feeling his throat begin to choke up. “I survived. Everyone says it was a miracle; that Andraste chose me to be her voice so the Maker saved me. Why couldn’t He have saved Tainan, too?” Idhren stopped and squeezed his eyes closed when he began to feel the tears coming. He had cried enough over Tainan, it was time he learned to get over it.

“I just don’t understand,” the words came out without conscious thought. He spent so much of his time holding all of his emotions in that it was impossible to stem the flood once it had started. “Why me? Why me and not them? It’s not fair.” The tears began to fall no matter how hard he tried to hold them back. “I prayed to you every night as a child. I prayed and I begged for help and you did nothing! You gave me this fucking body and you made me a slave and you let them hurt me! Is this supposed to make up for it? Herald of Andraste?” he spit the title like a curse, “Inquisitor? All I’ve ever asked for is happiness, and all you’ve ever done is take it away!”

Very suddenly Idhren was aware that he was no longer alone. Like an itching at the back of his mind, that feeling of being watched settled over him. He spun about, still half kneeling on the floor, and looked back toward the doorway. It was still closed, and he had never heard it open, but there was indeed someone standing there just a step inside the chapel. It was Cole, standing hunched over, wringing his hands in front of himself and head tilted to the side like a dog listening to someone speak.

Wiping furiously at the tears on his cheeks Idhren scrambled to his feet. “What are you doing here?” he demanded, angry and embarrassed at having been caught in such a moment of weakness.

“The hurt was so loud,” Cole said quietly. “The mark makes it hard to see, but you were so loud. I want to help.”

Idhren was still uncertain what to make of the strange boy. He was definitely more than human, but he was unlike any spirit or demon Idhren had encountered either in the Fade or out of it. A completely unique creature. “You can’t,” he said bitterly. Unless Cole could bring the dead back to life, but that was impossible.

The boy was silent at first. His head was bowed so that Idhren could not see his face under the brim of that ridiculous hat. “Damaged, deformed, disgusting,” he murmured, almost too soft for Idhren to hear. “You think the Maker built you wrong.”

Idhren tensed and wrapped his arms around himself protectively. “He did,” he spat. “Either He built me wrong or He doesn’t exist. Either way I’m a mistake.”

Cole made a soft keening sound low in his throat. He continued wringing his hands in front of him and shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot. “Not a mistake,” he said again, just as quietly. “Eyes like the sky and hair like fire. My body is one but my mind is both. His body is both but his mind is one. I understand. You think no one will understand, but they do.”

Idhren bit his lip and hugged himself tighter. He had seen Cole do this thing to other people, where he reached into their heads and picked out memories. It unnerved him even then, and it was worse when turned on him. “Don’t,” he said quietly, begging.

Cole finally tilted his head up enough that Idhren could see his face. Under the brim of his hat and the fringe of his hair the boy looked concerned. “But that’s not why you were here,” the boy continued. “Eyes like the sky and hair like fire,” he repeated, “Everything’s all tangled up in them. Tainan. It’s supposed to be for good luck, but they forgot to make one for themselves. It wasn’t your fault.”

“I should have made them stay with the clan,” Idhren choked out. One hand came up to clutch at the halla horn arrowhead that still hung around his neck, protectively tucked under his shirt all this time. “I never should have let them come.”

“They would have come anyway. They would have followed. It wasn’t your fault,” Cole repeated.

Idhren sobbed and swiped at his eyes with the hand that wasn’t still clutching the necklace under his shirt. He knew that it wasn’t his fault, logically, but that didn’t make it easier to bear. Tainan’s death had been so senseless, so unnecessary. And there were so many things he had never said.

“You would have said yes,” Cole continued. Idhren collapsed to his knees. “They knew. They didn’t mind waiting.”

Idhren couldn’t stop crying. Distantly, he was aware of Cole coming over to sit beside him. The boy did not say anything further, just sat there while Idhren cried. A silent and unmoving presence until the tears finally tapered off and then stopped entirely.

“Thank you,” Idhren whispered, voice hoarse when he regained control over it. The last time he had cried like this it had left him exhausted and even more miserable than before. Whatever Cole did to help people it was more than just words. Idhren’s heart felt lighter than it had in months.

“The hurt is still there, but it’s quieter now,” Cole said almost to himself. “I’m glad I could help.”

Idhren just nodded as he wiped the tears from his cheeks. Outside the moon had moved across the sky so that Idhren and the figurine of Andraste no longer sat in its light. When he felt himself composed enough to leave the chapel Idhren pulled himself to his feet and straightened his clothes. Even though it was the middle of the night there was always a chance he might run across someone. Most of the Inquisition’s people were still sleeping in tents and make-shift dormitories in the few habitable structures.

He turned to thank Cole again, but the boy was gone. There was no trace of him, and again Idhren had not been aware of the door opening. That was unnerving. He might have to talk to him later about how doors were meant to work. For now, he returned quietly to his quarters and enjoyed his first peaceful night’s sleep since the Conclave.

----------

Even after weeks Idhren was still discovering new parts of Skyhold as rubble was cleared and halls were reinforced. At times it seemed the castle was endless. New areas were continually uncovered in the bowels of the keep. One in particular had caught Idhren’s attention. When the work crew showed him while asking what to do about it, Idhren told them to leave it as was, do only enough to ensure it was safe to occupy, and then he rushed upstairs to share the news with the only other person he felt might understand his sudden giddiness.

"Dorian, are you busy?" he burst into the main library like a child coming downstairs on Satinalia morning. The library was beginning to look like an actual library. It was cleaned now, and some semblance of order was being given to the volumes that kept showing up. Dorian was standing in an alcove, reading a letter by the sunlight that filtered in through a slim window, but he looked up when Idhren called his name. The smile that crossed his face when he turned to face the Inquisitor was slightly forced. Only someone who knew Dorian as long as Idhren had would have been able to see the mask for what it was. "Is something wrong?" he asked.

"Not at all," Dorian assured him, that plastic smile still in place. "You have some need of me, Inquisitor?"

"I wanted to show you something," Idhren replied. "But it can wait if you have other things to attend."

"Lead away," Dorian offered, folding up the letter and tucking it into his shirt.

Idhren wasn't certain if he should push the subject. But if Dorian was avoiding his questions it was unlikely that pushing would do anything other than upset him, so Idhren decided to ignore it for now. And maybe this would help cheer him up a bit. "This way," he gestured for the man to follow him and headed back down the stairs. He led Dorian down through the depths of Skyhold until they reached an unassuming wooden door off a store room under the main hall. "I think you're the only one who will truly appreciate this as much as I do," he said, and pushed the door open.

The room was still full of dust and cobwebs, but faint light shone in through slotted windows near the ceiling, illuminating the bookshelves that lined every wall, and the numerous tomes that filled those shelves. And at the far end of the room stood a writing desk with a massive spell book still sitting open on top of it.

Idhren grinned from ear to ear as he turned back to Dorian after the big reveal, and was rewarded by the man's wide-eyed stare. "Fasta vass," he swore softly, stepping past Idhren and into the room. “This is… This is incredible."

"Isn't it?" Idhren replied. "I've only looked around a little bit, but some of the books here are ancient. Whatever wards have kept the keep from crumbling over the years seem to be strongest in here. Whoever used this library wanted it to last. These books should be dust, but they’re not."

"They're not exactly in mint condition, either," Dorian observed. He ran his fingers along the spines on one shelf and his hand came away thick with dust. Pulling a face, he attempted to shake the dust off, but eventually was forced to pull a handkerchief from inside his clothes to wipe them.

"No," Idhren agreed. He wandered into the room, eyes running over the shelves from top to bottom. "But that they’ve survived this long at all is a miracle."

"That's true," Dorian murmured. With the handkerchief he lifted a book from the shelf and wiped off its cover carefully. He frowned at the cover and then opened it delicately, well aware of how the binding had begun to rot and come loose. "This is written in the Trade Tongue, but the dialect isn't any I've seen before. How old do you think some of these are?"

“Centuries,” Idhren said.

“Astounding,” Dorian breathed. He put the book back onto its shelf as carefully as he could.

“It’s going to need a lot of cleaning before I can even begin going through the books,” Idhren said eagerly. He remembered the excitement that cataloging Canidius’ library had once inspired in him, and this feeling was not dissimilar. “But I’d like to keep this separate from the main library for now.”

“Oh, hoarding it all for yourself, are you?” Dorian teased. “The perks of being Inquisitor, I suppose.”

“I’m not hoarding it, per se,” Idhren protested, wandering up to the enormous spell book laid out on the table and brushing off a thick layer of dust. “I’m just… keeping it away from the general public. Access only to people I trust with centuries old magic.”

“People like me?” Dorian asked.

“So long as you’re not going to try time travel again,” Idhren leveled him with a teasing stare. “Or rip any more holes in reality. We have enough as it is.”

“Do you have so little faith in me, Inquisitor?” Dorian clapped a hand to his chest in mock offense. “I am shocked and offended.”

“Oh, don’t take it so personally, Dorian,” Idhren replied. “I feel the same way about all Altus, you know that. Besides, I am letting you have your run of this place on only one condition.”

“And what condition is that?” Dorian asked.

“That you help me clean it,” Idhren stated.

Dorian’s lip pulled up in a sneer as he looked again at the bookshelves, so thick with dust they were nearly gray. Then to the cobwebs that lined the rafters. Then to the handwritten spell book. “You drive a hard bargain,” he said. “Though I fear I’ve little choice but to accept.”

Idhren smiled brightly. “I was hoping you would,” he said. He scampered behind the desk and emerged again with a bucket full of cleaning supplies, which he set on the floor in the middle of the room before looking at Dorian again, hands on his hips and a smirk on his lips. “You can do the top shelves.”

Dorian stared at the bucket, filled with dusters and cleaning rags and scrub brushes and two lumps of soap. This was all a very cleverly laid trap and he had fallen right into it. “Ah, I see how it is. You lured me down here with your honeyed words and the promise of uncovering long-forgotten secrets when really you just needed someone tall to do your dirty work. Why couldn’t you have asked Solas?”

“Because your company is infinitely better,” Idhren replied smoothly. “As is your conversation.”

“I would have thought you and he had quite a lot to talk about,” Dorian mused as he reluctantly stepped over to the bucket of cleaning supplies and looked down at it skeptically. “Pro-elf, anti-magister and all that.”

Idhren’s smile faded. “Yes, well Solas also is of the opinion that the Dalish are backwards xenophobic children who are ‘mangling’ the history of our people,” he spat. “But I don’t see him and all his superior wisdom doing anything to help.” And never mind that the Dalish were the first people to ever accept Idhren for who he was.

Dorian was a bit startled by the sudden venom in Idhren’s voice. But he now knew that was a subject not to broach in the future. “I always knew he was such a charming individual,” he replied dryly.

“A regular ray of sunshine,” Idhren muttered. He crouched down to reach into the bucket, pulling out duster and holding it out to Dorian. “I assume you have cleaned something at some point in your life and therefore know how this works?”

Rolling his eyes, Dorian reached down and snatched the duster out of Idhren's hands. "I am perfectly capable of tidying a room," he sniffed. "Even one as filthy as this. Only, I'm afraid I'm not exactly dressed for the endeavor. Nor are you, for that matter," he added with a pointed look at Idhren's wardrobe.

Everything that Idhren had owned had been lost at Haven except the clothes on his back. And those were in no real shape to be worn again after the avalanche and their trek to Skyhold. What he was wearing now as brand new, but everything he had was brand new. He imagined that was the case for Dorian as well. "They have already dedicated a room to the laundry," he informed the man, rising to his feet once more and going to fetch a broom from where he'd hidden it behind the door. "Or are you worried about getting cobwebs in your hair?"

"Well I am now," Dorian frowned and looked up at the rafters. At least he couldn't see any spiders living in those cobwebs at the moment. "But I suppose if the option is going to change clothes now or going to change clothes later I might as well do it later," he shrugged.

Idhren actually laughed a little bit at that. "Ah, we'll make a laborer out of you yet," he teased.

They worked together in comfortable silence for the most part, broken by the occasional complaint from Dorian or a sneeze as too much dust was lifted at once. In no time at all Idhren had the floor cleared of the worst of its layers of dust, all swept out into the corridor beyond where someone else could deal with it. Dorian continued to raise disgusted complaints about the state of the room, and about how Idhren had roped him into this.

"Why can't you have the workers clear this out?" Dorian asked. His hands were by now quite thoroughly dusty, his fingertips grey beyond what his handkerchief could clean off. He looked down at them miserably after he shook the latest batch of cobwebs off his dust cloth. "Why is the Inquisitor doing the menial labor in his own castle?"

"Because the workers have enough to do already," Idhren said. "Priority is living spaces and the walls. I can't take people away from reconstruction for dusting."

"So you're doing it yourself. How very noble of you," Dorian sighed.

"I like to think so, yes," Idhren quipped. He paused a moment to lean on the broom and look down at the floor, eyeing it for any patches of missed dirt. "I also want to look at these books, but I'm not about to sit around in a place like this doing it."

"I suppose that's a good point," Dorian reasoned. "But have you considered just taking the books somewhere else?"

Idhren shrugged. He leaned the broom against a bookshelf that had already been dusted and grabbed a rag from the bucket before setting to work on the shelves. "I like this room," he replied. "Or, I think I will when it's clean. It's quiet down here. Peaceful. And there aren’t a lot of people passing by, so it's private. I was almost always on my own in Canidius' library. He rarely bothered with me unless he needed something. One of the maids assisted me sometimes, when I needed another pair of hands, but for the most part I worked alone. I suppose I'm more used to that."

Dorian had a sudden memory of Idhren as he had been at the Circle. Easily a head shorter than all the other apprentices his age, brown hair tied back into a loose half ponytail to keep it out of his face, sitting at a table in the library surrounded by a pile of books that was more like a fortress wall. Always alone. It was a stark contrast to the person standing before him now, with tattoos and half his head shaved, practically radiating an aura of confidence. Only his voracious appetite for knowledge seemed unchanged. “You really were almost entirely self-taught, weren’t you?” he asked.

“Only because I’m smarter than everyone who tried to teach me,” Idhren replied. “We’re not all lucky enough to get picked up for an apprenticeship by a famous academic.”

Dorian winced slightly, because it really was luck that had landed him with Alexius.

“Sorry,” Idhren said, catching the man’s expression. “That was rude of me.”

“No, no,” Dorian assured, “It was quite true, honestly.”

Idhren bit his lip. The atmosphere between them had turned awkward. How long had they been down here already? He turned away from Dorian and busied himself starting to collect the stacks of books on the floor and moving them to the table and chair. Dorian no longer complained as he swatted down the last of the cobwebs. Because apparently he was no longer cleaning. When Idhren turned back to him, suggesting they stop for the day, he saw that Dorian had taken that letter back out of his shirt and was staring down at the parchment. The expression on his face was more than solemn, it was genuinely sad.

“Are you alright?” the words were out before he could think better of it.

Dorian startled. He looked up quickly, tried for a moment to affect an air of nonchalance, but one look at Idhren’s concerned face and he gave up. With a sigh, he held the letter out toward the elf. “This arrived for me this morning,” he explained. “It’s about Felix.”

Dusting off his hands on his pants, Idhren hesitantly reached out to take the letter. He regretted asking now, even though it was clearly bothering Dorian. Idhren’s eyes scanned over the words on the parchment quickly. It was all written in that flowery, convoluted way that all nobles wrote: twice as many words as necessary and endless rambling before they got to the point. The point here was that Felix had gone to the Magisterium in his father’s place and spoken before the senate in favor of the Inquisition and against the Venatori. And had died several days after – succumbed to the Blight.

He remembered the way Dorian and Felix spoke. The familiarity and intimacy as they said their goodbyes. “I’m sorry,” Idhren breathed, his heart aching with sympathy as he handed the letter back to Dorian. “He seemed a good man.”

“He was,” Dorian confirmed. He took the letter and folded it carefully before tucking it back into his shirt. “The Imperium could use more men like him.”

It could. Especially in positions of power. “Hopefully the Magisterium will listen to him,” Idhren said.

“Indeed,” Dorian agreed. “An official stance against the Venatori won’t do much for us down here, but it could help prevent them gaining even more influence back home.”

While true, that wasn’t what Idhren really wanted to talk about. He could tell Dorian was deflecting, avoiding talking about Felix specifically by allowing Idhren to steer the conversation elsewhere. Idhren had done the same whenever conversation dipped too close to his clan, he knew now that it didn’t help to avoid the subject. “Are you alright?” he asked, forcibly pulling the topic back.

Dorian looked a little taken aback by the question. He turned his face away from Idhren, looking at the bookshelves behind the elf instead. “He was sick,” the man commented, “And thus on borrowed time anyway.”

So maybe it wasn’t quite as much of a shock as Idhren’s loss had been, but it was still a loss. “That doesn’t mean you can’t be sad.”

Dorian hesitated a moment before he seemed to deflate a little. “I know,” he sighed. “Felix used to sneak me treats when I was working late in Alexius’ study. ‘Don’t get in trouble on my account’, I’d tell him. ‘I like trouble,’ he’d say.” A small, wistful smile crossed Dorian’s lips as he spoke, one that Idhren couldn’t help mirroring.

It sounded like exactly the sort of thing Dorian would do. He still fondly remembered sitting with Dorian in the dormitory halls at all hours of the morning discussing everything from magical theory to the latest Circle gossip. Those were some of his only fond memories of that time. Some of his fondest memories of Dorian. And the source of that stupid childhood crush that he somehow could not leave behind. But the genuine affection in Dorian’s voice when he spoke of Felix had a thread of jealousy knotting in Idhren’s stomach. “Were the two of you…?” he asked uncertainly.

“Felix and I?” Dorian startled and finally met Idhren’s eyes once more. Idhren didn’t know what sort of answer he expected, but it would explain a lot. Why Dorian had suddenly stopped being such a rampant source of gossip. Why he had turned Idhren down the last time they saw each other in Tevinter. “What an insane question. No,” Dorian replied. And the fact that he sounded absolutely baffled that Idhren would even ask assured him that it was the truth. “Felix was like a brother, I suppose. And besides I had no intention of abusing Alexius’ hospitality by seducing his son. Even in illness Felix was the best the Imperium had to offer.”

The jealousy in Idhren’s gut uncoiled, but it was only replaced by an odd mixture of relief and bitterness. Both feelings that the elf did his best to ignore. “You make it sound like he was a better person than you,” he commented.

Dorian let out a small huff of laughter. “You sound so surprised. And here I thought you had such a low opinion of me.”

“I don’t,” Idhren frowned. “You were the only human in Tevinter who was ever kind to me. Altus or otherwise. But you can be an absolute ass when you want to be.”

This time Dorian laughed aloud. “That’s what I’m used to hearing from you,” he replied.  “Felix was a better person than me, clearly. Although not nearly as handsome.”

“And that’s what I’m used to hearing from you,” Idhren chuckled. “I suppose we’ve done our share of manual labor for the day. I hear they’re installing a wine cellar down the hall. Would you like to investigate?”

“You have read my mind,” Dorian smiled, “Lead the way.”

----------

The wine cellar wasn’t so much a cellar at the moment as it was a closet full of crates and barrels. The crates were full of carefully packaged and inventoried bottles of wine. Idhren didn't know where they came from - the Inquisition had hardly been there long enough to set up major trade routes - but at the moment he didn't much care.

He plucked one bottle out of the sawdust meant to cushion it for the trip up the mountain and began picking at the paper seal around the top. He didn’t bother reading the label, as there weren’t exactly many choices, and let the shreds fall to the dusty stone floor. A tiny, perfectly aimed bit of force magic applied to the bottom of the bottle knocked the cork out enough for Idhren to get his fingers on and pry it out the rest of the way. Curiously, he sniffed at the opening, then passed it over to Dorian for judgment.

"You're rather good at that," Dorian commented as he took the bottle from Idhren's fingers. He sniffed experimentally at the opening as well, before raising the bottle to his lips.

"Sometimes, when I was feeling very rebellious, I would sneak drinks from Canidius’ stores. Not the quality stuff that he would miss, usually just the cooking wine. Not the best taste, but it gets the job done. And when you don't have access to a corkscrew - because Maker knows I never learned to navigate that kitchen - you learn to improvise." Idhren replied. As he spoke he watched Dorian take an experimental sip, eyes following the bob of his throat as he swallowed. “Any good?"

Dorian considered the taste for a moment as it spread across his tongue. It was hardly the finest vintage he had ever tasted, but neither was it vinegar. "Well, I wouldn't serve it to any heads of state, but it will do," he replied, then took a much larger drink.

"I'll be certain to tell Josephine this isn't up to snuff for parties, then," Idhren replied. He snatched the bottle back from Dorian and lowered himself onto the floor before raising the bottle to his lips. The liquid slid over his tongue with the familiar dry taste and mild burn of red wine. Dorian may not have thought it of high quality, but it was the finest thing that had touched his tongue in years. Even in Haven he hadn't dared steal from stores meant for visiting dignitaries.

A moment later Dorian sat beside him, though not without first frowning down at the dusty floor. As though this were any filthier than the library they had just been cleaning. Idhren passed the bottle back to him.

"Are you going to get in trouble for nicking the supplies?" Dorian asked curiously. "Surely these are intended for some important function. The wooing of nobility? Negotiation for donations?"

Idhren shrugged. "I'm not certain of much of anything anymore," he admitted. "Least of all what I'm likely to get scolded for." He was still getting used to the concept of being in charge. All these people now apparently worked for him, instead of the other way around. Idhren had never had so much power. Did that mean the wine was technically his to start with? Probably not. He wasn't royalty, just leader of an organization. He would have to ask Josephine for a look at the accounts, figure out how much he was being paid for this. Surely the Inquisitor got a rather significant stipend. Or was it all going to be paid in room and boarding, as Canidius had often tried to do?

"Suppose we'll find out, then," Dorian replied thoughtfully.

For a long while they sat in silence, each lost in their own thoughts as they passed the bottle back and forth. Idhren was glad for the silence, surprisingly. And of the solitude - save for Dorian's company. Inquisitor was not, apparently, a token position. He was actually in charge. Making decisions about everything from where their troops should be housed to the decorations in the main hall; all a little silly at the moment. With the fortress still in ruins and the Inquisition itself still a skeleton of what it had been or could be most time and effort was spent building up the infrastructure to support themselves. But there was still so much that demanded his personal attention.

"Have you seen Alexius?" Idhren asked suddenly, surprised that he had spoken it aloud and not merely thought the question. The wine had loosened his tongue more than he realized.

Dorian was clearly startled as well. When Idhren glanced over the man had stopped with the nearly-empty bottle halfway to his mouth. Very slowly, he lowered it down to his lap, frowned at the label and turned the bottle around in his hands as he considered his answer. “I haven’t spoken to him, if that is what you mean,” he replied quietly. “I certainly saw him as they pulled him out of Haven and dragged him here. Not entirely certain why they bothered, to be honest.”

“You would have preferred he be left behind to be buried alive or worse?” Idhren asked. Though he couldn’t imagine much worse. The memory of his own near-death was still painfully fresh. Parts of him still had bruises.

“No,” Dorian relented, and slumped back against the wall. “I wouldn’t want that,” he sighed. “I am glad that he survived. He was a good man… Perhaps he still is, I don’t know.” Dorian fell silent, and Idhren did not know how to respond. He had some idea of what the man must be feeling, and he doubted there was anything he could say. “I should tell him about Felix. He deserves to know.”

“I can tell him,” Idhren offered. “Or have someone else do it.”

Dorian shook his head. He scowled down at the bottle in his hands, then took another drink before speaking again. “No, it should be me. I knew him.”

“If you don’t want to talk to him, though…” Idhren said. And he completely understood why Dorian wouldn’t want to talk to the magister after everything Alexius had done. Idhren didn’t much want to talk to him, either, but he knew he would have to eventually.

“I haven’t spoken to him since he told me he’d joined the Venatori,” Dorian said, unusually subdued. Idhren had never seen him this serious or solemn before. “Not really. We did not part on the best of terms. What happened to Felix and Livia… It drove him a little mad, I think. I’d rather remember the man he was before. Before he gave up everything he believed in chasing a fool’s hope.”

On that subject, Idhren sympathized with the magister, much as he did not want to. “Grief can do strange things to people,” he murmured.

The man’s grey eyes flicked over to him and studied Idhren’s face. “Yes,” he agreed, “I imagine you know that all too well.”

Idhren looked away and pulled his knees up, wrapping his arms around them. This wasn’t the direction he’d wanted this conversation to go. Not now that the pain of Tainan’s memory was just starting to abate. But the fact remained that he and Dorian had both lost someone dear to them, so maybe Dorian understood how much it hurt. “I would be lying to say I haven’t thought of using that amulet again,” he said quietly. There were so many things he would do differently if given the chance. “But it’s… Not what Tainan would have wanted…”

“It’s not what Felix wanted, either,” Dorian sighed.

Idhren remembered how talking to Dorian about Tainan had helped all those weeks ago. And how Cole had helped him much more recently. Each time his heart ached less when he thought of them. Each time it became easier to wake up the next morning to an empty bed. Maybe it would be easier the next morning as well. “You should talk to Alexius,” he said. “Maybe he realizes that now, too.”

“Maybe he does,” Dorian mused. “I suppose there’s only one way to know for certain. Have you decided what’s to be done with him?”

“Not entirely,” Idhren replied. It was a decision that loomed over him and weighed on his mind. He could not in good conscious let the magister rot in a dungeon without a proper trial. That would make Idhren no better than a magister himself. “He has been nothing but cooperative since we captured him. Didn’t even try to escape when Haven was attacked, or afterward. And also, I... used to greatly admire him. His work – your work –,” he acknowledged with a nod in Dorian’s direction, “And Livia’s, was always incredible. It would be a pity for the world to lose a mind like that. I’m not about to set him loose on the world again, but neither do I want to see him rot in a cell forever.” He plucked the bottle of wine from Dorian’s lax fingers and raised it to his lips.

“I don’t envy you the decision,” Dorian commented as he watched Idhren finish off the bottle in two swallows. He was feeling pleasantly tipsy, though not the blackout drunk that he felt would be preferable at the moment. How many more bottles of wine would that take, though? “Do you have anything stronger in there?” he asked, nodding toward the stacks of crates and barrels beside where they sat.

Idhren shook his head as he leaned forward to set the empty bottle aside. Then he stopped and reconsidered. “There’s the bottle that I found on the side of the road down the mountain from here,” he said. It had been half buried in the snow, but the glint of sunlight off the glass had drawn his attention and he’d brought it along out of some mixture of curiosity and desperation. “I don’t know what’s in it, the label’s rotted off. It may be several hundred years old and priceless, or it may kill us.”

Dorian considered the option. “I think that’s a gamble I’m willing to take,” he answered eventually.

Idhren replied with a lopsided grin and used the wall to pull himself to his feet. “We’ll have to relocate, then. It’s still with my own things.”

Dorian raised an eyebrow, but levered himself to his feet as well. “Drinking with the Inquisitor in his private quarters? What will people say?” he asked, only half joking.

“I won’t tell if you don’t,” Idhren replied, grin turning sly before he turned his back on Dorian and strode out of the room as though he weren’t drunk in the slightest. Impressive. Dorian took a moment to compose himself before he followed.
Title: Semper ad Meliora
Fandom: Dragon Age: Inquisition
Rating: Mature/Explicit
Pairing: Dorian Pavus/Idhren Lavellan, Idhren Lavellan/Tainan Lavellan




Chapter 14 - In Your Heart Shall Burn</u>

In your heart shall burn
An unquenchable flame,
All consuming and never satisfied.
-  Canticle of Threnodies 5:5

Haven, Ferelden, Solace 9:41 Dragon

The sky was calm for the first time in months. Above Haven the clouds no longer roiled in an angry green vortex. The sky was gray, as clouds were meant to be, with the promise of rain or snow in the near future, but for now calm and peaceful.

Below, all of Haven was in celebration.

The Breach was closed; the Herald of Andraste had delivered them from the end of the world. The town was full to the brim with cheer; laughter and music and the roar of bonfires outside the walls. Idhren watched it all from a distance. He was glad that it was over - the Breach and all the trouble it had brought - but he could not bring himself to join the celebration. He should. People invited him whenever they passed, or at least paused to give their thanks. But Idhren was not in the mood for celebration. He was fresh out of good cheer.

The sky was calm, the world was saved, but what did that mean for him? He could leave the Inquisition, presumably. They no longer required the mark on his hand to fulfill their duties. He wondered if the Breach had closed all the other small rifts as well, or if they still lingered. Likely they would find out in a few days when scouting reports began to flow in.

But if Idhren could leave, where would he go? Clan Lavellan awaited his return. He had fulfilled the mission they set him on, and then some. He had fulfilled his obligations to the Inquisition. They could find some other way to seal any remaining rifts; they could find whoever had started this and see them brought to justice. They didn't need Idhren for that. Could he really go home? Did he even want to?

What awaited him in the Free Marches except an even more glaring reminder of what he had lost? The rest of the clan would grieve along with him, of course, but would that make it any easier?

It wasn't the first time that Idhren wondered how things would have been different if Tainan were here. They befriended others so easily. Far more easily than Idhren ever had. Would they have gotten along with the devout Andrastians that ran the Inquisition? Or would they be just as annoyed as Idhren. Would they have been more willing to help, would they feel less trapped? Idhren would feel less trapped if Tainan were here, he thought.

In the village streets people were dancing and singing, praise and raucous laughter filled the air.

Idhren was as miserable as he could ever remember being. He could return to the Free Marches, to the clan, but it would not be the same. It would never be the same. He could stay here, and let these people continue to parade him about as a prophet to a god that Idhren still wasn't certain he believed in. Neither option was very good. Either way Idhren would be miserable. At the moment he could not foresee a future in which he was happy again.

Watching the people celebrate was painful. So many of them had lost something because of the Breach or because of the war, and still they were able to be happy. Why couldn't Idhren be happy? He was jealous. He wanted to be able to put this grief aside and join them, but it gnawed at his heart and the back of his mind and would not let him go.

He still didn't know who or what had caused the explosion. He didn't know why Tainan had died. The Maker was not giving answers. Idhren had tried asking. The Maker never gave him any answers. Then again, neither had the elvhen gods. It seemed he was forsaken by all higher powers, if they even existed.

Idhren shook his head and turned, intending to leave the sidelines of celebration and hole himself up in his room, drown himself in alcohol and forget.

He had taken no more than two steps when the alarm sounded.

----------

Haven was lost. There was no other way to interpret the situation. The army that had swarmed down on them from the mountains had overrun the lands surrounding the town walls even before the dragon - archdemon, whatever it was - appeared. It was a miracle that anyone had made it to the Chantry hall safely, and now the women and children of the Inquisition were cowering in the basement somewhere awaiting another miracle.

And everyone was looking toward the Herald of Andraste to perform it.

But Idhren was not a miracle worker. He wasn't certain he was even a prophet. But the Elder One and his army of corrupted templars wanted him. Maybe if they had him everyone else would have a chance to get away.

Dorian watched the small party by the chantry doors as he paced back and forth across the floor. Behind him he could hear the crowds gathering at the back of the Chantry, ready to make their desperate escape as soon as the enemy's attention was pulled elsewhere. Beyond the walls he could still hear sounds of fighting, occasionally broken by an explosion or the earsplitting screech of a dragon. And by the front doors four members of the Inquisition readied themselves for a suicide mission.

Idhren stood just before the door, staff upturned in his hand as he inspected the blade for chips and dull spots. His coat was spattered with blood, his boots caked in mud, his gloves singed slightly from casting barely controlled spells. Not far from him Cassandra checked over her equipment as well, Varric fiddled with his crossbow, and Blackwall shifted from foot to foot in agitation. Everyone else was being ushered toward the back of the hall and out toward the path that Roderick said would lead them to safety. An uncomfortable, tense silence loomed over the small group at the Chantry doors as they prepared to face the enemy one more time. One last time.

Dorian couldn’t stand it. With quick steps he walked up to Idhren, right up into his personal space. “You can’t possibly think this is a good idea,” he protested in a hushed voice.

“It’s not a good idea,” Idhren agreed. His voice was hard and he didn’t take his eyes off the blade of his staff as he wiped it clean of blood. “But it’s the only one we have.”

“It’s suicide,” Dorian argued, trying to keep his voice low enough that he wouldn’t be overheard.

For a brief moment Idhren’s hand stilled, then he tucked the cloth into his belt and righted the staff again, testing its weight in his hand as he checked the focus at the top. “Maybe,” he agreed again. His face was blank, his voice emotionless and resigned.

“You can’t do this,” Dorian hissed.

Only then did Idhren take his eyes off the staff and look up at Dorian. Though his expression was neutral those eyes held such a resigned despair that Dorian had difficulty meeting his gaze. “Someone has to. Might as well be me.”

“Idhren,” Dorian protested.

“Go with the others,” the elf interrupted, nodding toward the back of the hall.

“Idhren,” Dorian said again, this time it came out sounding more like a plea.

“I won’t let anyone else die on my watch,” Idhren said firmly, but that despair was still in his eyes. “I’ve already lost too much.”

Dorian suddenly realized what was happening. This was a suicide mission, and that was exactly why Idhren had agreed. He wanted to die. “You don’t have to do this,” Dorian begged.

“Someone has to,” Idhren said again, “So everyone else can escape. No one else has to die. Nothing else matters.”

“You matter,” Dorian insisted. “You’re the Herald of Andraste.” And so much more, but Dorian couldn’t bring himself to say it. Too many years in Tevinter spent hiding the truth, too many people hurt when he didn’t hide it well enough. And people hurt when he hid it too well, a little voice in the back of his mind pointed out, chief among them standing in front of him walking willingly to his death.

“I don’t want to be the Herald of Andraste,” Idhren said wearily. “I just want…” He never finished the sentence, but Dorian knew what he meant: his Dalish lover, his family, everything the world had stolen from him so senselessly. He looked up at Dorian with such anguish, and Dorian couldn’t let him leave thinking that no one in the world cared for him, wouldn’t be able to live with himself if Idhren died without knowing the truth. He clamped down the panic that clawed at his heart, ignored a lifetime of conditioning, grabbed Idhren by the collar of his shirt, leaned down and kissed him square on the mouth.

It was not a good kiss. It was hard and awkward, all lips and teeth and bumping noses. Idhren smelled like blood and lyrium and ozone. When Dorian pulled away the elf’s violet eyes were shot wide, his mouth agape. He was shocked, confused, a little bit scared, and at the very bottom of it all the tiniest bit happy. “If you don’t make it through this,” Dorian told him, “I’ll kill you myself.”

And Dorian was gone before he managed to come up with any sort of response.

----------

They watched from afar as the dragon descended upon Haven. Dorian stood amidst crowds of soldiers and civilian alike, lining the ridge above the town as they watched it burn. And then watched as the Herald of Andraste buried it in snow. The avalanche roared down the mountainside and consumed the town like a tidal wave. The Herald along with it.

There were shouts of horror and dismay as the remnants of the Inquisition watched their base and their hope swallowed by the snow.

The wind began to pick up.

Cullen shouted orders to the soldiers that were still well enough to walk and fight, rounding up their scattered numbers, regrouping. Got them all moving further into the mountains.

The Herald's sacrifice would be in vain if they did not live to fight another day.

An hour later a scout shouted up from the back of the line and Cassandra, Blackwall and Varric came staggering up the mountain path after them. For a moment hope bloomed in Dorian's chest, but it died just as quickly. There was no sign of the Herald of Andraste.

Idhren was under all that rubble somewhere.

It began to snow.

They made camp on the other side of the ridge to take stock of what little they had managed to save in the midst of their flight. What bits of food and herbs had been stored in the Chantry, a few things that people had managed to grab on their way out. Not enough tents. Not enough blankets. Not enough anything.

Dorian spent the rest of the night huddled beside a campfire along with numerous others trying not to think about how damned cold it was. Trying not to think how much colder Idhren would have been under all that snow.

It was still snowing when dawn broke.

A group of scouts went down to look for signs of the enemy. They returned with more tents, a couple of pack horses that had spooked and run before the fighting began and wandered back when it was calm again, hungry and tense, and more blankets and firewood scavenged from the Chantry. They brought no news of the Herald.

----------

The pain woke him. It started in his left arm and then seeped out through the rest of his body. His hand felt like someone had tried to rip it off, his shoulder burned like fire. Mind blurry, Idhren struggled to open his eyes and figure out where he was, what had happened. He was cold and everything hurt.

Finally getting his eyes open he realized first that he was lying on the ground, in a puddle of melted snow and mud in some sort of cave. He raised his head and looked around, but could make out very little in the gloom. Then he tried to move, and immediately regretted the decision. The slightest jostling of his left arm left his shoulder screaming in pain and him gasping for breath on the ground. When the pain finally subsided enough that he could think straight, Idhren used his other arm to roll himself over onto his back. It still sent waves of agony shooting through him, but the position was at least more comfortable than lying face down in the dirt. With trembling fingers he reached over to touch his shoulder, wincing and gasping as he tried to assess the damage. Dislocated? He hoped that was all.

But he couldn't move like this. He couldn't move his arm, he couldn't get up. Gritting his teeth, Idhren laid his right hand over the injured shoulder and pulled what little shreds of healing magic he could manage. He was weak, exhausted, his skill at healing was weak to begin with, and he was scraping the dregs of his mana reserves now.

What he wouldn't give for some lyrium.

He focused on numbing the pain, fully aware that he would never be able to heal the shoulder with magic. Not in his current condition. Probably not ever. It worked, though. The pain subsided slowly, draining away from his shoulder until it was only a dull ache. It still hurt, but if he could just... How was this meant to work?

He grabbed onto his arm just below the shoulder and pulled. Even with the numbing effect of his magic still suffusing the area the pain was almost blinding. But he grit his teeth, whimpering, and continued until he felt the joint pop back into place. Letting out a relieved sob, he collapsed back onto the ground to catch his breath.

Idhren had no idea how long he lay there. He stayed long after his breathing had returned to mostly even. His arm hurt less now, but it still ached fiercely. And his hand was the same as ever. When he tried to lift his arm it felt weak, his hand shook uncontrollably. The mark was alight with an angry green glow. He remembered vividly the agony of that thing trying to rip it off him. Like it was trying to rip Idhren's heart out through his arm.

He never thought he would be happy to see this thing on his hand, but he was.

And that creature. Idhren squeezed his eyes shut as he remembered, finally, what had lead him to this situation.

Magister.

His mind kept repeating the word over and over; it was the only thing that he could focus on.

Corypheus, the monster had called itself. A darkspawn monstrosity from ages past. One of the magisters out of Chantry legend who had crossed the Veil and breached the Maker's Golden City, unleashing darkness upon the world.

Idhren could have almost laughed at the irony of it all. Here he was on the other side of the world, as far from Tevinter as it was possible to be, and he was still being tortured by a magister.

But he didn’t feel much like laughing right now. It would probably hurt too much if he tried, anyway.

With the pain subsiding now gradually the cold began to seep in. It started where his back lay against the frozen ground, melted snow slowly soaking through the leather and cloth of his bloodstained armor. He realized that beyond the shaking his fingers were stiff and frozen, his hair damp and icy. If he stayed here he would very likely freeze to death.

Funny, how hours ago he had willingly walked to his death, welcomed it. Now he lay here fearing that inevitability. He really was a coward.

He also needed to tell the Inquisition what they were up against.

With a deep breath that made his ribs protest, Idhren began the arduous process of getting himself upright. He made it to a sitting position before having to stop, arm wrapped around his ribs. Before, the pain in his arm had drowned out everything else, but now all his other hurts were making themselves known. At least one rib broken, he expected. Breathing hurt, but he could breathe, so there was no immediate danger from that. His left arm was still weak; moving it still hurt something fierce. He expected the damage to his shoulder was more than just dislocation.

After catching his breath he struggled to his feet, wavered for a moment, lightheaded, and paused to catch his breath again. His legs, at least, seemed to be no more than bruised.

He was in a cave of some sort. Or perhaps one of the old mining tunnels that ran through the mountains around Haven. There was only one way to go. Wherever he’d fallen through had been sealed up once more by falling rocks and snow, but the rest of the cavern seemed intact. So he started forward on unsteady legs.

Thankfully, though the ground was not exactly even it was clear. From somewhere ahead he could feel the tiniest hint of a breeze, so there must be an opening somewhere. What he would encounter once outside was another question entirely. The last thing he remembered Haven had been overrun with those monstrous things. Templars corrupted by red lyrium. Just like the people he had seen in that horrid future in Redcliffe. He had no way of knowing if any had escaped the avalanche that last trebuchet had brought down onto the village, he could only hope that he'd buried all of them.

Just walking left him winded. He clutched his left arm against the side of his body, and it helped somewhat to brace his ribs but everything ached so much it was little relief. And he had no energy to attempt any more healing magic. His staff had been lost in the confusion somewhere, likely now lying under a ton of snow and lost forever.

But any prayer he sent out that his progress would be unhindered went unanswered. The Veil in Haven was now even weaker than with the Breach. After so much death and destruction it was unlikely to be otherwise. So it was little wonder that there in the old mining tunnels, which had likely seen their own share of grief, Idhren encountered a pair of wandering spirits. Barely more than wisps, they floated aimlessly in a larger cavern and did not yet notice his presence. They would the moment he tried to pass them, however, and Idhren was in no shape to fight even the weakest of spirits, should they prove hostile. Hostile was very likely.

The mark on his left hand throbbed, as it had been doing since he woke, and Idhren suddenly remembered the small experiments he had been doing with it's power every time his mind began to wander and alcohol did not seem the answer. Even the tiniest bit of magic fed into the mark resulted in an explosion exponentially more powerful.

Said explosion always hurt like mad, and it was uncontrollable at best.

Well, his options were to face these two wisps with nothing but a hope and a prayer, or to do something incredibly stupid and reckless.

He went with the latter.

Gathering what little mana was left in his flagging body, Idhren struggled to lift his arm just enough to point his hand vaguely in the spirits' direction. Then he channeled his power down into the mark and braced himself.

The resulting explosion was like ripping a hole in the veil anew. It knocked Idhren off his feet and left him lying on the ground staring in horror at what he had done. It was as though he had created a new rift in the air, only it was smaller than those created by the Breach and, as he watched, it sucked the wisps back through before slamming itself closed with a deafening crack.

Idhren sat on the ground and stared at the empty space in the air where that miniature rift had appeared and disappeared all in a matter of seconds, and at the now empty cavern before him. His arm was on fire from the exertion, but in his shock he barely noticed it.

That trick might come in very handy, if he could learn how to control it better. Or at least do it without rendering himself practically crippled in the process.

At least he had some manner of defense should he encounter anything else.

Not that Idhren knew where he was going. He only knew that if he stayed here he would freeze to death. If he continued onward he might freeze to death anyway, but at least this way he was trying. If he could just get outside to see the situation. Maybe the Inquisition had left some sign for him to follow. Maybe they had sent people back to look for him. They had to know. He had to tell them.

Another fucking magister.

The breeze grew stronger the farther Idhren walked, until by the time he found an exit to this tunnel it was nearly gale force winds. And one look outside told him why. However long he had been lying there unconscious had been long enough for the light snow that had been falling before to turn into a raging blizzard. Even standing in the relative shelter of the cave mouth the wind bit through the tears and gaps in Idhren's armor, piercing into his already frozen body and practically down to the bone. He wrapped both arms around himself against the chill, but it did little.

He would freeze to death if he stayed here, but now it seemed just as likely he would freeze to death no matter what.

That was not at all how Idhren had expected to die. Not the way he wanted to die. But he did not have enough energy left for any more magic, even the tiniest of warming spells. In desperation he might make the mark explode again, but he did not want to risk tapping the very bottom of his reserves unless he had no other choice.

Staring out into the wall of white before him Idhren wasn't certain what he should do. He still hurt all over. He was so cold his teeth were starting to chatter no matter how hard he tried to clench them shut. He was so exhausted he could barely see straight. He could barely think of anything beyond his immediate survival. How was he supposed to find what was left of the Inquisition like this? Why had the Maker saved him from the Breach just to let him die here? Why save him from the avalanche just to let him die here?

Because the Maker hadn't done anything, Idhren's mind supplied easily. The Maker had nothing to do with any of this, no matter what people like Cassandra said.

Was there even anything outside of this cave to find? What choice did he have? Freeze to death here, or freeze to death somewhere else? Neither of those options were any good. So maybe he should just lie down here. Fall asleep, maybe. At least then he wouldn't be aware of his end when it came.

Somewhere in the distance a wolf howled. The wind shrieked down the tunnel.

If he stayed here he would die. If he left he might die.

If he stayed here the magister won.

Idhren took one step forward, and then another. He wasn't even certain why he was bothering. Dead here or somewhere else, Corypheus wouldn't care about the specifics. But somewhere in the very back of his mind there was still the tiniest shred of hope. Hope that someone was looking for him, waiting for him. And the niggling determination that if he somehow managed not to die he could find Corypheus wherever the magister was hiding and kill him with his own two hands if he had to.

Pure spite drove him onward. Magisters had done enough to him already. Idhren would not let them win again; he would not let them torment him anymore. He had sworn that to himself when he left Tevinter, and he would not go back on that promise.

What Corypheus wanted was wrong. Pure evil, maybe. But more than Idhren wanted to stop him from tearing open the Veil once more, he wanted revenge for himself. Everything that he had suffered since the conclave was Corypheus' fault. Tainan's death. Idhren had never had anything to blame before, but now he did. And his grief turned to anger in his stomach, boiling and burning hot as fire, driving him onward through the snow, though the wind nearly knocked him down and the drifts reached sometimes above his knees.

He struggled on through the blizzard even when he could no longer feel his fingers or his toes or the tips of his ears; when the snow, melted by his body heat, soaked through the layers of armor and even into his gloves and boots. The wind snuck through any gaps in his clothing and stung his eyes but turned tears to frost on his eyelashes. Everything around him was white and howling wind and freezing cold. Cold. So cold.

Even when the snow stopped falling and the wind began to calm Idhren was so frigid it was barely a relief.

A slick patch of ice and Idhren’s body was too sluggish to react. He fell hard to his knees, tried to get his arms out to catch himself, but couldn’t move fast enough and instead landed jarringly on his shoulder. Pain spiked through him, drawing a cry from his chapped lips.

For a moment all he could do was lay there, shivering and gritting his teeth. Then he struggled back to his feet, only to fall again after taking only a few steps. It wretched another pained shout from his throat, followed by a ragged sob.

He was so tired. Everything hurt so much.

He didn’t even know where he was anymore, he could have been walking in circles this entire time for all the good it had done.

The next attempt to get to his feet was even less successful than the last. He managed only to get to his hands and knees before his left arm buckled under his weight. He landed straight onto his injured shoulder and the side of his face.

He couldn’t go on anymore. His body was too exhausted. The pain was too much. So he just lay there, in the mud and the snow. He could barely keep his eyes open, and eventually gave up trying. He had no idea how long he’d been walking, it felt like a lifetime of nothing but cold and pain. So when darkness finally enveloped him, Idhren welcomed it.

----------

Pain woke Idhren again. The pain of blood rushing back into his frozen extremities like knives in his veins. A higher part of his mind would have realized it was warmth coming back to his body, but Idhren was half delirious with exhaustion still and his mind ran on pure instinct. He gasped, and immediately tried to pull himself away from the source of the pain, which was of course impossible.

A hand gently touched his brow, brushing strands of damp hair off his face. Idhren flinched and whimpered. “Hush, my dear,” someone murmured from above him, voice gentle and soft, “You are among friends.”

Idhren opened his eyes, but found it nearly impossible to focus on anything. The world around him seemed a blur of light and sound. He opened his mouth to try and speak, but could not form words. The only sound that escaped his lips was a ragged groan.

“You need to rest,” the voice continued. The hand moved to stroke his hair softly, and he was vaguely aware of the warm tingle of healing magic beginning to flow through him. “I’m sorry, my dear, it will be easier for all of us if you are asleep for this.” Idhren struggled to keep his eyes open, but it was impossible to fight against the magic in his condition, and in moments he was unconscious again.

----------

He was vaguely aware of someone singing. A soft, gentle tune. Slightly sad.

He was burning up. Too hot and too cold at the same time. Something was weighing him down. He moved to try and push it away but his arms felt like leaden weights at his sides, his legs, too. But it was too hot, he felt trapped.

The singing stopped.

Idhren's eyes struggled to open. Someone moved to stand over him. Red hair in the firelight.

"Tai...?" the word croaked from his chapped lips, hurting his throat in the process. The sound did not even reach his own ears.

The figure above him made a soothing sound, but if there were words involved Idhren did not understand them. He blinked slowly, trying to bring the figure into focus, but his mind was swimming and everything was somewhat surreal. Too bright, hyper focused and yet indistinct at the same time.

"Tai..." he tried again, managed more than a whisper, though his voice was rough and painful. He was too hot, struggling again against whatever was covering him. A low, keening moan escaped his lips as he squeezed his eyes shut again. "Carus..." this time the word came out as a plea, a whine. He couldn't focus, he couldn't think.

Something cool and damp on his forehead, soothing the heat in his body, but only slightly. He tried once more to move his arms or his legs, but managed nothing. Why was he being restrained? He was scared. "Tainan," he gasped again, once more opening his eyes to try and see the figure beside him.

Red hair, gentle hands.

"I'm sorry." A soft voice, but the voice wasn't Tainan's. A woman. An accent.

Where was he? "Tainan?"

"I'm so sorry," the voice said again. The coolness on his forehead disappeared, and he whined at the loss of the only comfortingly cool thing in his world at that moment. But it returned a moment later, cold and damp and soothing, drawing a relieved sigh from his lips. "Rest," the voice urged softly. Careful fingers ran through his hair briefly, a hand rested on his shoulder.

Idhren fought once more to bring his vision into focus, but he could not. His vision blurred even more, blinking sent a tear rolling down the side of his face. "Please." He didn't even know what he was asking for. Comfort. Anything.

"Rest," the voice urged again. Idhren found it hard to ignore. He was tired. He was confused.

The singing started again. His eyelids were as heavy as his limbs. He couldn't move them. Couldn't move anything. Couldn't think.

Eventually, he knew only blackness again.

----------

The next time that Idhren woke he was no longer cold or hot, and the pain had dulled to an ache that suffused his entire person, but could be ignored. He was aware of lying on something soft, and of a heavy, rough blanket laid over him. Somewhere nearby a fire burned, crackling softly and filling the air with the smell of smoke. Slowly, he cracked his eyes open, squinting in the dim light for a moment before he was able to focus. He was in a tent, laid out on some sort of cot. His fingers and toes no longer hurt, and when he tried to move them there was still a lingering stiffness in his joints, but they seemed functional. His shoulder, likewise, ached but a slow attempt at shrugging left him no more pained than if he had overworked the muscles there.

Where was he?

Idhren turned his head to try and get a better look at his surroundings. The tent he was in was surprisingly large, with space for the cot he lay on, a chair, and a tiny fire burning in a ring of stones on the ground. No wonder it was so warm in here.

"Oh, you're finally awake." A voice sounded from the end of the tent, drawing Idhren’s attention, and he strained to lift his head to see who it was. The chantry woman he had met with in the Hinterlands - Mother Giselle, he thought her name was - let drop the tent flap after she entered. "I'm glad to see you awake, and I'm certain that the others will be happy for the news as well. You have been asleep the past three days. First Enchanter Vivienne is a remarkably skilled healer, but you were in quite a state when they found you."

Idhren's mind was slow to comprehend the words, still muddled by sleep. Three days? "Where...?" he tried to ask, only for his voice to crack as his throat, dry and rough with disuse, seized up.

"Careful, child," the Mother murmured, coming quickly to his bedside. She took up a pitcher from the floor beside Idhren's cot and poured water into a small bowl. With her help, Idhren was able to drink down half the contents before his throat stuttered and sent him coughing again. "There we are," she murmured, setting the bowl aside for now. "You are with the Inquisition," she explained, letting Idhren lay comfortably again. "We are camped in the mountains perhaps a day's journey from Haven. The scouts found you two days after we left, lying in the snow. The Maker certainly watches over you, child."

Idhren wasn't so certain about that, himself. He still remembered the pain and the cold and the exhaustion, and thought it was not at all a blessing. If the Maker were watching over him, He should have saved Idhren from that suffering in the first place. "I..." Idhren tried to talk again and found it slightly easier this time. "I need to tell..." he stuttered. He needed to talk to the others. They needed to know what they were up against, what the enemy was planning.

"Hush, child," Giselle soothed, laying a hand on his forehead. "There will be plenty of time for talking later. You need your rest."

Idhren shook his head, dislodging her comforting hand in the process. "No," he protested weakly. somehow, he managed to get an elbow under himself and made an attempt at getting upright. "I need to... the magister…” He was having trouble getting his thoughts in order. He only knew that he needed to tell someone – Cassandra – about Corypheus, about what he was and what he wanted.

“You are hardly in any shape for that right now,” Giselle said, her tone equal parts scolding and sympathetic. She placed a hand on his shoulder and gently pushed him back down onto the cot. Idhren tried to resist, but he was too weak. “I will tell the others that you are awake,” she offered, rising from the chair when she was certain he would not attempt to rise again. “But for now, you need rest.”

Idhren wanted to argue. It was too important to let this wait for too long. But if he couldn’t even fight back against an old woman he really was in no shape to be getting up and walking around. So he stayed where he was as she left his bedside and disappeared through the tent flaps again.

He relaxed back onto the cot, but he doubted he would get much rest. He was not tired, per say. His body was still weak, but he had apparently been asleep for at least three days. His mind was restless.

So much had happened. Tainan was gone. Now Haven was gone. All because of one man's hubris and greed.

The tent flap pulled open again, letting in a draft of cold mountain air. Idhren lifted his head from the pillow. He expected to see Mother Giselle again, so was quite surprised when Dorian's silhouette filled the entrance instead.

The man looked a little worse for the wear. Rather like he had after Redcliffe. His hair was no longer perfectly coifed, though it was clear he had made an attempt. His clothing was dirty as well, mud around the bottom edge of his robe and caked onto his boots. After letting the flap fall shut again he merely stared at Idhren for a long moment. And Idhren stared back.

"You are alive," he said eventually, and sighed in relief. "I almost didn't believe it when they said they found you."

Idhren could hardly believe it himself, if he were being honest. "You..." he tried, but his voice was still rough. He could barely manage more than a whisper.

"They wouldn't let anyone in here except that Revered Mother, the First Enchanter, and a couple other healers," Dorian said as he made his way over to the bed. "The rest of us just had to take their word for it that you were still alive. I think some people had started to doubt." He stopped by the bedside and looked down at Idhren. So small and vulnerable, lying there practically drowned in blankets. "And aren't you a sight," he breathed, falling into the chair that Giselle had occupied not long before. "They haven't really bothered to clean you up, have they?" he asked. With one hand he reached out toward Idhren, and then stopped himself. "Do you mind?" he asked hesitantly.

Idhren wasn't certain what the man intended, but he shook his head, not trusting himself to speak just yet.

Dorian gave the tiniest quirk of a smile as he reached out. His fingers laced through Idhren's hair, combing it gently and smoothing it all to one side, revealing the fuzz of stubble on the other. "There, much better," he nodded to himself, withdrawing his hand. "Can't have the Herald of Andraste looking a mess, even on his sickbed."

It was such a silly thing to be concerned about, but Idhren appreciated the gesture all the same. "Thanks," he managed to croak out.

"You're welcome," Dorian replied. "You sound awful, by the way," he commented, and looked around a moment before spotting the pitcher of water on the floor. He picked up the same bowl Mother Giselle had used and topped it off. "I'm certain you're entirely aware," he said, leaning forward to help Idhren sit up enough to drink some more. "And given what it must have taken to get here I can't be at all surprised. I am very glad to see you alive, though. I thought..." the man cut himself off as Idhren pushed the bowl away from his lips weakly. He had drunk all that he thought he was able at the moment, and the cold water continued to do wonders soothing his throat.

"What... happened?" he asked weakly, voice trembling as he lay back down.

"You dropped half a mountain on Haven," Dorian replied, "You might remember that part. We all thought you'd buried yourself along with it."

"I did," Idhren confirmed. "Fell... cave, or... something."

Dorian raised his eyebrows as he looked down at Idhren. "Well, you're just full of miracles, aren't you? I couldn’t imagine someone with greater luck."

Idhren frowned. He didn't believe that. Not entirely. He was lucky to be alive, certainly, but terribly bad luck had put him in this situation in the first place. He shook his head and looked away from Dorian. He didn't feel lucky at all. He never had.

"Sorry," Dorian murmured in the silence between them. At least he seemed to realize that he had said something wrong. “I suppose it doesn’t feel that way for you.”

“No,” Idhren confirmed. He had lost everything except his life. That felt the opposite of lucky. “Don’t think… Maker likes me.”

“Well don’t tell the Inquisition that, the whole thing will crumble,” Dorian chuckled.

Idhren frowned. The sentiment was not as comforting as Dorian probably meant. He was a symbol to them, his own feelings on the matter were unimportant.  “Not true,” he protested weakly, though the longer he was awake the more he could feel his voice returning. Hopefully the rest of his body would follow suit.

“Well, you haven’t been out there the past few days watching everyone run about like chickens with their heads cut off,” Dorian slumped back in the chair. “No one can agree on what to do now. They can’t even agree on whom to put in charge.”

The sound that escaped Idhren’s throat couldn’t exactly be called a laugh, but it was trying. “You think… I’m in charge?” he couldn’t believe that.

Dorian shrugged one shoulder. “I think you’ve got more influence than you realize,” he replied.

Idhren didn’t know if he believed that. But he had decided, somewhere in the blizzard between the grief and the rage, that he would be whatever the Inquisition needed him to be. He would do whatever he could to help.

“I…” Dorian started, and then cut himself off, hesitating a moment before he began again. “I cannot think of a tactful way to put this, so you will have to forgive me. It’s only… That is to say…” Dorian Pavus stammering, at a loss for words. Idhren never thought he would see the day. “Before you left on that suicide mission…”

Oh.

Idhren remembered suddenly. He had been so focused on what came after that he had forgotten. The feel of Dorian’s lips against his, and the shock of it. “You kissed me,” Idhren said weakly.

To his surprise, Dorian actually flushed. “I did,” he confirmed, “That is… Yes. Yes, I did do that.”

“Why?” Idhren asked.

“Venhedis, do I have to spell it out for you?” Dorian said in exasperation. It had taken all of Dorian’s courage just to do the thing, and that was with the pair of them facing imminent death.

“Please,” Idhren replied. He had not meant for it to sound so much like a plea. But his life was falling out from under him and he was tired of playing these games with Dorian. His entire life had been one big disappointment, a tale of getting his hopes up only to have them ripped asunder. He couldn’t deal with that anymore.

“I realize it was completely inappropriate,” Dorian said, dodging the question again, “And for that I apologize. I don’t entirely know what I was thinking,” he said, “Except that, well… The situation was quite dire and you… You looked like you wanted to die,” he said painfully.

Now Idhren had to look away. He had wanted to die, part of him still did. He had lost everything good in his life. And for what? If he was, in fact, the Maker’s chosen, then Idhren didn’t want to believe in Him anymore. All the Maker had ever given him was pain and suffering. Tainan was a child of the Creators, a gift to the world, and the Maker had taken them away.

“Idhren,” Dorian said softly. Hesitantly he reached out and took the elf’s hand in his own, holding it tightly.

“I just…” Idhren’s voice quivered when he managed to make it work, “Wanted to see them again… I wanted to be happy again.” Everything since the Conclave had been a nightmare. Part of him had wanted to go find Alexius and make him turn back time – against his own better judgment. A greater part of him had simply wanted it to be over, so he could pick up the pieces of his life and try to move on. His heart ached that even after all these years Dorian still couldn’t give a straight answer, still dodged away from every opportunity Idhren gave him. Even though he wasn’t in any shape to be returning those affections.

After all these years, after finding Tainan and forgetting about Dorian completely in the interim, Idhren still wanted the man to want him. Even though Idhren wasn’t certain he wanted Dorian himself anymore. Pathetic.

“What changed?” Dorian asked quietly, pulling Idhren back out of his spiraling thoughts, and forcibly pulling the conversation away from his own feelings. “Why go through all the effort to get here?”

Idhren didn’t have to think about that. Blinking away tears the wetness in his eyes he focused instead on the bitter rage bubbling low in his gut. “It’s a magister.”

“What?” Dorian asked, not comprehending.

“The Elder One,” Idhren explained, and let out a weak, disillusioned laugh. “He’s a fucking magister.”

Dorian’s expression twisted into one of confused horror. “That creature?” he asked. He had only seen the thing from afar, but it certainly hadn’t appeared human. “Vishante kaffas, what did he do to himself?”

“I’m not sure even he knows,” Idhren murmured. “He was… raving like a madman about… about becoming a god, and the Golden City. I think…” he had to stop because it was too absurd. Except he had seen the creature, listed to its ravings and seen its power. “He was a Magister Sidereal.”

"That's impossible," Dorian breathed, shaking his head.

"It's what he believes," Idhren replied, and turned his gaze to the fabric of the tent above his head. Whether it was true mattered less. The creature believed himself one of the magisters who had broken into the Golden City thousands of years ago and brought the Blight to the land. Idhren hoped it wasn't true, but he could not discount the possibility. The creature was unlike anything he had ever seen or heard about.

Dorian fell silent.

Outside someone pulled the tent flap aside, letting in a burst of cold air as they stepped inside. Idhren lifted his head again to see Vivienne de Fer standing at the entrance and looking as though she hadn't been stranded on a mountainside for the better part of a week. There was no mud or dirt on her clothing, save her shoes, which was unavoidable, and her appearance was perfectly coifed as always. How she managed it, Idhren would never know. Her eyes landed first on Idhren, and then narrowed when set on Dorian. "What are you doing here?" she asked

"Keeping our dear Herald company," Dorian replied, sitting up a little straighter in his chair. "And assuring myself that a very old, very dear friend is actually alive after everything he's been through."

The words had bite, but if Vivienne was affected she did not show it. "Well, now you've seen him," she said curtly, "But his condition is still fragile, and it would not do to excite him so much."

"Excite him?" Dorian asked, "We were having a perfectly civil conversation. He's well enough to do that, I should think."

"Let him stay," Idhren said from the bed. He didn't like how they were speaking to each other. He didn't like the way that nobility spoke to each other in veiled insults. He much preferred blatant insults. And he still didn't fully trust the First Enchanter.

"My dear," Vivienne sighed, coming over to the side of the bed. She towered over Idhren even when he was standing, and did so even more now. "It was quite touchy with you for a long while. A miracle that you survived at all, I should say. You still need quite a bit of rest, I wouldn't advise company."

Idhren frowned. He tried to glare up at her but the effect was lessened by the fact he still couldn't even sit up. "Don't talk to me like I'm a child," he protested. "Mother Giselle said I was asleep for three days. That's enough rest for me. I want to know what's going on. I need to talk to Cassandra." Those were words he had never expected to say out loud.

"There will be plenty of time for that when you are well," Vivienne tried to console him.

"There's no time," Idhren snapped with as much force as he could summon. "You don't understand. That thing... They need to know. We need to plan." It was too much for his body to handle at the moment, and set him into a weak coughing fit.

Vivienne reached out to him, but Dorian beat her, laying a hand on Idhren's shoulder. A gentle, comforting gesture. Without even thinking it, Idhren turned his face toward the man's hand. His eyes trailed from Dorian's fingers - nails cracked and dirty - up his arm until finally finding his face again and meeting the man's eyes. Dorian understood why this was so important, why he couldn't wait until he was well again. "I have to tell them."

"I agree," Dorian replied. He tore his gaze away from Idhren's to look at Vivienne, "He's well enough for a conversation now, and this news really shouldn't wait. Unless you think it unimportant to find out who opened the Breach and why? If you would be so kind as to fetch Cassandra for us, it would be much appreciated."

Telling Vivienne to fetch someone else, as though she was a servant, would be the height of insult to any nobility. Indeed, the First Enchanter's mouth hardened to a firm line and she spoke. "Mother Giselle has already gone to inform the Herald's advisors that he is awake. I am here to check on the state of his health, which I have been tending to since he was found, as you well know."

"Do I know that?" Dorian asked in surprise. "I haven't been allowed within ten feet of this tent since he was brought here. It's almost as though you people don't trust me."

"The Herald's health was fragile," Vivienne defended. "He was close to death when he was brought to me. It was of utmost importance that the other healers and myself attend to him."

"Don't fight," Idhren interrupted, before Vivienne could continue or Dorian could find a comeback. He couldn't tear his eyes away from Dorian's face, even when the man was turned away from him. It wasn't the first time that Dorian had stood up for him, or tended to him when he was hurt, and it really should stop surprising Idhren at this point. "Dorian stays."

Vivienne looked down at him. She looked as though she didn't entirely trust his judgment, but eventually she nodded. "Very well, if that is what you wish. I would very much like to check on the state of your health, however."

"I won't get in your way," Dorian said with a roll of his eyes. He took his hand from Idhren's shoulder, and the elf was unsurprised at the loss he felt when it was gone. He tried to ignore it. Dorian stood from the chair and retreated to the far side of the tent, where he crossed his arms and watched as Vivienne took up the same seat and began her examination.

Another day passed before Idhren was well enough to walk and leave the tent. Someone found a cloak that would fit him - a bit small actually, and Idhren suspected morbidly that it belonged to a child who no longer needed it - and he wrapped it tightly around his shoulders against the chill as he took his first steps outside the tent and into the Inquisition's make-shift camp.

It wasn't much. Tents and other makeshift shelters dotted the area. It wasn't any larger than any of Clan Lavellan's camps, though far less organized. These were not people used to living on the road. Idhren spoke in depth with all the heads of the Inquisition about what had happened at Haven. About Corypheus and what he intended. There was still little plan on what to do next other than get out of the mountains.

Haven was lost. They needed to find somewhere new for the Inquisition to call home. Somewhere safer and more defensible. Solas, apparently, knew of such a place.

The Inquisition was little more than a long, winding trail of refugees working their way through the mountains, avoiding the easy route where the enemy might think to look for them. The Herald of Andraste was meant to be leading them, but Idhren took many days to recover from everything he had been though at Haven and afterward. The first day on the road he couldn’t even walk an hour without needing to rest. He had pushed his body past its limits to get through the blizzard. Although Vivienne and the other healers had been able to mend his broken bones, the soreness in his joints and muscles lingered. But Idhren did lead them for all the time that he was able, walking near the head of the line for an hour at a time. Always just behind Cassandra or Cullen or The Iron Bull, anyone whose greater strength and bulk broke through the virgin snow to ease his passing.

The Maker should have chosen someone taller. Idhren was ill suited for this role. No matter which way he looked at it he was a bad choice. Bound to be the most disappointing prophet the world had ever known.

When he could walk no further Idhren stopped, caught his breath as he looked back at the long line of refugees and watched it stream past him until Mother Giselle, or Vivienne, or Josephine showed up to take his arm, feigning fatigue themselves so they might support him without arousing suspicion. The Herald of Andraste needed to look strong for his followers. So they would not lose hope. Because hope was all that was keeping them going at this point.

For days they wound through the mountains, following no known road as they headed northward. Each morning saw Idhren stronger, able to walk on his own for longer.

A week in Idhren was hopelessly lost, and he was beginning to wonder whether Solas actually knew where they were going or not. But then he crested a ridge and there it was, sitting on an outcropping amidst the snow-capped peaks in a patch of sunlight as though it had been placed there by some divine hand.

Skyhold.
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.
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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 
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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.

deviantID

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

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: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.

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...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
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: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. 
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: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:
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: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)
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: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!
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: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.
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:iconerandir:
Erandir Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2012
Apology accepted!
Thank you for the faves, I'm very glad you like my work.
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:iconlunsie:
lunsie Featured By Owner Nov 25, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Happy Birthday~
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:iconmrmrrolloz:
MrMrRolloz Featured By Owner May 7, 2011  Student General Artist
Hejoo. C:
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:iconerandir:
Erandir Featured By Owner May 7, 2011
Hej :3
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