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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 6 - Live Without Fear</u>

A dog might slink back to the hand it has bitten
And be forgiven, but a slave never.
If you would live, and live without fear, you must fight.

- Canticle of Shartan 9:7



Vyrantium, Tevinter Imperium, 9:36 Dragon



Only days after the turn of the year Idhren arrived back in Vyrantium at Canidius’ side. The trip to Minrathous had been a mixed blessing. While the political side of things hadn’t been nearly as interesting as Idhren had hoped, he had a sheaf of research notes stashed in the bottom of his luggage away from Canidius’ prying eyes and a few fond memories to look back on. His fledgling friendship with Dorian was chief among those memories. He had seen the man only a handful of times, but each time they traded gossip and sarcastic barbs. And each time Idhren watched the man leave with a longing in his gut that he didn’t want to acknowledge.

On Satinalia, while Canidius entertained guests at his mansion, Idhren ran free through the city, exploring side streets and admiring decorations as he enjoyed the festivities. The common folk were out in force, mingling with the upper classes as though such a thing were normal. He was pulled briefly into the celebrations of the local elven Liberati community on the edges of the slums, and for perhaps the first time in his life, Idhren did not feel out of place. They shared their food and drink as though he was family, and in return he performed magic tricks for the children. Real magic tricks; colored fire and flowers made of ice that made their eyes light up with wonder.

But nothing good lasts for long. Inevitably he had to return to Canidius’ home, and from there to Vyrantium. And now that he had returned to his childhood home it was back to the usual routine.

At least he could see his family again. For months he’d been away, the longest since his time in the Circle. Two days after their return saw Idhren running down from the mansion like an excitable child, only to find his mother waiting at the gates of the compound. At first, the sight set Idhren running faster, but as he grew nearer something began to feel terribly wrong. Ashara was seated on an old stump just inside the gate, hunched and weary, her face drawn with concern. When she spotted her son the woman stood, slowly, hands on her knees as she pushed herself upright. Idhren came to a stop at the gate, hand on the latch but suddenly nervous to open it.

“It’s your brother,” she said without preamble. “It’s not good.”

She said nothing more as Idhren passed through the gate and took her arm to help her walk. The short trip to the hovel he had been born in seemed to take an age. Idhren’s heart thundered in his chest; he could barely think except to imagine every possible worse case scenario.

The inside of the hovel was dim, and it reeked of blood. Sahren was laid out on one of the small cots, very nearly too tall for it, and for one horrible moment Idhren thought he was already dead. But his chest slowly rose and fell in shallow breaths, and when Idhren broke away from his mother’s arm to approach the bedside Sahren’s eyes flickered open. A threadbare blanket was pulled up over him, but all it did was cover any obvious sign of injury. Sahren was pale, even despite his sun tanned skin, with dark circles around his eyes and sunken cheeks. When his eyes finally focused on Idhren a faint smile tugged at his cracked lips. “You’re back,” he said, and his voice was as weak as he looked. Very briefly, Sahren made an effort to sit up, but hissed in pain and gave up after moving barely an inch. “Sorry I can’t give you a hug. How was the capitol?”

At first Idhren could not form words to answer him. He sat down timidly on the edge of the cot, trying not to jostle his brother in any way. “Sahren…” It was the first word he could make his lips form. “What happened?”

“Ah, you know… The usual,” his brother replied with what was probably meant to be a shrug, but instead was  only the barest shifting of one shoulder.

It was not unusual for Sahren to shrug off his injuries, and this was not the first time Idhren had seen him injured. He frequently came back from the colosseum with cuts and bruises or, on a few rare occasions, a broken bone. His skin was littered with scars that told of the long, hard years he’d spent there. Sahren had always cheerfully downplayed any injury, but this was clearly not a typical wound. “Sahren,” Idhren said again, pleading, although he didn’t know what for.

Sahren sighed, but that weak smile stayed plastered across his face. “Don’t make that sad face, Idhren,” he beseeched.

“What happened?” Idhren asked once more.

“Had a bad match,” Sahren said, as though it were that simple. “I won, though.” As though that was all that mattered.

“That was a week ago,” their mother cut in. She was sitting now on the cot beside Sahren’s, but Idhren hadn’t even noticed her come in. “They brought him back here day before yesterday.”

The same day that Idhren had returned. Yet no one had bothered to tell him that his brother lay here dying. “Has there been a healer?” Idhren asked, already rolling up his sleeves. He still struggled with healing magic, but this was his brother. He had to try.

“They patched me up at the colosseum,” Sahren answered with another attempted shrug.

That meant bandages and elfroot, just enough to stop the bleeding. Obviously this injury was beyond such simple remedies. Without asking, Idhren pulled back the blanket. He regretted it immediately. Sahren’s entire torso was wrapped in bandages so caked in blood it was clear they hadn’t been changed in days. Since he had been brought here. And of course not, his mother didn’t have anything to replace them with; no one here did. They had brought Sahren here to die.

“Idhren,” Sahren’s voice made him realize he was staring, hands trembling as they hovered over his brother’s broken body. “Don’t worry about me.”

Idhren shook his head, “You’re… I can…” He pulled at the Fade instinctively and let the magic pool in his hands as his scattered mind struggled to remember everything that Galene had struggled to teach him. Something. Anything.

“Idhren,” his brother interrupted again. He reached up and took one of Idhren’s trembling hands in his own, weak though it was. Idhren lost hold of the fragile thread of healing magic and it dissipated immediately. “It’s alright.” Idhren shook his head again and swallowed past the lump in his throat. It wasn’t alright. It was far from alright. “Hey…” he paused to take a deep laborious breath, “Tell me about the capitol.”

Idhren let out a single sob before he managed to restrain himself again. Quickly wiping away the wetness on his cheeks, he began talking.

Eventually Ashara fell asleep on the other cot, but Idhren remained. Even when he’d run out of stories to tell about Minrathous, he remained. “Is mother asleep?” Sahren asked quietly. His breathing had been getting more ragged, and though Idhren kept conjuring ice to help his fever it wasn’t getting any better.

“Yes,” Idhren confirmed.

“Good… Now you can tell me about that boy you like.”

“What?” Idhren asked in surprise, too loud. For a moment he was afraid he would wake their mother, but she did not stir.

“She thinks you’re sweet on that maid… What’s her name?” Sahren murmured.

“Valora?”

“That’s the one,” Sahren let out a weak chuckle. “I know you better than that.”

Idhren bit his lip and stared down at his hands, still clasped around one of Sahren’s. For a moment he considered denying it, but what would be the point? “He’s Altus,” he said quietly. “We met in the Circle. He was kind to me. Is kind to me. He’s smart and he treats me like an equal, but he doesn’t… He doesn’t like me back.”

“I’m sorry,” Sahren breathed. “You’re too good for him. You’re too good for this fucking place. Idhren--” he was cut off by a wet cough and Idhren hurried to press a cup of water to his lips and help him drink. When the fit passed Sahren spoke again, voice thick with emotion, “I’m so proud that you’re my brother. I want you to be happy.” Idhren wanted to assure him that he was happy, but he knew it would be a lie. He hadn’t been happy in years. “You should… leave this place. Find somewhere… they’ll appreciate you.”

“Like where?” Idhren asked, although he couldn’t even entertain the idea right now.

“I don’t know… You’re the smart one,” Sahren teased weakly. “You’ll think of something.”

Idhren returned his weak smile with a watery one of his own. “I’m proud that you’re my brother, too,” he whispered, not trusting his voice with more.

Sahren’s weak smile turned a bit brighter. “Hey, Idhren… I think… I’m gonna take a nap,” he murmured, gaze turned toward the ceiling and eyes unfocused. “Thanks for staying with me.”

“Of course,” Idhren replied. He watched his brother’s eyes drift closed, clung to his hand so hard it had to be painful, but Sahren didn’t even flinch. Gradually his breathing grew slower, shallower, until it stopped entirely. And Idhren stopped holding back his tears.

In the morning, while his mother was forced to continue her work as though nothing had happened, Idhren saw to it that Sahren’s body was properly tended. He was shrouded and burned while Idhren mumbled verses of the Chant that felt hollow on his lips. He buried the ashes beneath a tree in Canidius’ garden. Somewhere peaceful and beautiful. Somewhere unlike the life that his brother had been forced to live. Then he returned to his own room and slept through the rest of the day.

Two weeks later his mother died. It was as though after Sahren passed she simply gave up. He got the news from Valora one morning in the library. “I’m so sorry,” she breathed, and hugged him tightly even though it was highly improper. Idhren didn’t care. He hugged her back and cried quietly onto her shoulder.

When night fell Idhren slipped out of the estate. He found himself at the door of Magister’s Mercy with no memory of the long walk to get there. Already he could smell the lyrium and herbs, the promise of an escape like metal on his tongue as he stepped through the door. He lost himself in a haze of smoke and alcohol until he could barely remember his own name. Then let Varius fuck him because it was the only thing that felt real.

In the pre-dawn hours Idhren staggered back through the city, back into the estate. The vast, cold mansion felt more like a prison now than it ever had before. Still numb, he collapsed face down in his bed, curled up beneath the blankets without getting undressed, and pulled the sheets up over his head to shut out the rest of the world.

His life was spiraling out of control as he slowly lost hold of everything that had ever given it meaning. First his research, now his family. There was nothing left for him.

There was also nothing left that could hurt him.

----------

Vyrantium was hottest just before autumn. Not at the height of summer, but just before it ended, like one final hurrah before the rains came and the wind began to blow from the south. Not the ideal time to be visiting, but not the worst, either.

The city hadn’t changed much over the years, but Dorian’s familiarity with it had. It was strange to think that he had once lived here. For two full years, even. Streets that he had once navigated while blind drunk were now unfamiliar, landmarks long forgotten. But parts of it were still familiar. The Circle, obviously, still loomed unchanged in the heart of the city; no doubt filled to the brim with a new batch of prideful teenage mages.

He recognized a handful of other places; the establishments that Dorian had frequented during his brief life here. Most of them had been the sort of seedy taverns that did not care who you were so long as you could pay. Most of them Dorian no longer knew how to find, and besides, his tastes had become rather more discerning in the intervening years.

He had a room at an inn – one of the nicer establishments in the city, suitable for someone of his status – but Dorian had little intention of staying there tonight. He was rather in the mood for some company or, at the very least, a drink. But not somewhere respectable, not somewhere he might be recognized. So he left the gilded avenues that were familiar in style even if they were no longer as intimately familiar as they had once been and found himself a friendly pair of blue and red lanterns hung outside a respectably nondescript establishment.

Magister’s Mercy , the sign above the door read in simple but clean script. The name was such a cliché there was probably a lyrium den or brothel in every major city with the same moniker.

It was perfect.

Dorian stepped up to the door and then crossed the threshold into the dim, smoky interior. He paused a moment while his eyes adjusted from the late afternoon sun and surveyed the décor. It was fairly standard, from Dorian’s experience. Nothing to set it apart from a hundred other lyrium dens. The shuttered windows cut out most of the sunlight and the heat of the day, and the room was lit instead by magefire sconces on the walls and dimly glowing lanterns. Scattered incense burners filled the air with a thin haze of smoke and a musky scent that, for now, masked the smell of lyrium.

There were two elves lounging on a sofa not far from where Dorian stood. He noticed first the one seated upright, head tipped back onto the cushions, baring the sooth dark skin of his neck while ebony locks cascaded down the back of the seat. The other lay with his head in the first’s lap, feet propped up on the armrest. As Dorian watched, the one lying down took a long drag from a pipe and then passed it off to his companion as he breathed out a slow stream of smoke.

Dorian thought at first that they were both whores, until he noticed that the second elf’s clothing was both far too fine and far too modest for a prostitute. And then as if on cue both elves opened their eyes and looked his way. In the dim light of the brothel those eyes glinted in a way that some people found unnerving, but as the one lying down lifted his head to get a better look Dorian recognized those eyes. Large and violet, surrounded by a waterfall of hair the color of rich mahogany.

“Dorian Pavus,” a smirk spread across familiar lips and slowly Idhren pushed himself upright. So much for not being recognized. At least Idhren was unlikely to go tattling to his father. “Fancy meeting you here. I suppose this means the rumors are true.”

“What rumors are those?” Dorian asked without truly registering the words. He knew full well which rumors, but he was still trying to process the scene in front of him. Idhren was the last person he had ever expected to find in a lyrium den or a brothel.

“That Dorian Pavus has an elf fetish,” Idhren leered, all half lidded eyes and knowing smirk. Behind him, the whore giggled. “Working his way through every seedy whorehouse in Minrathous.” He had finally figured out what Dorian had been hinting at nearly a year ago. From the mouth of the whores themselves: Dorian liked elves. Male elves, in particular. “What are you doing in Vyrantium, though?”

“Merely passing through,” Dorian replied. “I unfortunately am required to visit my family for Satinalia.”

“Then what a happy coincidence that our paths should cross,” Idhren murmured with a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. Eyes that, now that his own had adjusted to the dark, Dorian could see were rimmed red and pupils blown wide. Idhren was high as a kite.

“Are you going to introduce me to your friend?” the whore chimed in, a slight whine in his voice like a neglected and jealous lover. When he sat up he was obviously taller than Idhren – though most people were taller than Idhren – but draped his arms over the elven mage’s shoulders all the same and leaned against him like a living blanket.

“Oh, how rude of me,” Idhren spoke as though they were at some Magister’s soiree instead of the common room of a whorehouse, the air thick with lyrium smoke. “Dorian, this is my dear friend Varius,” he began, inclining his head slightly to indicate the elf currently plastered to his back. “And Varius, may I present Dorian of House Pavus, an old classmate from the Circle.”

The whore – Varius – let out an appreciative hum as his eyes ran up and down Dorian’s form. “He’s very pretty,” the elf commented as Dorian stood there, uncertain how to respond. He had found himself around plenty of whores in his lifetime, but this was the first time one had eyed him like a piece of meat.

“Yes, he is, isn’t he?” Idhren picked up the pipe again and took another long drag. “Shall I invite him to join us?”

“Oh, definitely,” Varius purred. “Do come join us, handsome. There’s enough to share.”

It was probably a bad idea, but Dorian did join them. He sank down onto the sofa beside Idhren as Varius peeled himself off of the smaller elf’s back and busied himself for a moment with the lyrium pipe. “This isn’t the sort of place I would have expected to find you,” Dorian commented, purposefully watching Varius fill and prime the lyrium pipe instead of looking at Idhren.

“Is it?” Idhren leaned back against the arm of the sofa and watched Dorian’s profile while Dorian watched Varius. “Why? You think I’m still that shy, scared little boy from the Circle?”

Dorian’s eyes flicked back over to him, ran over Idhren’s figure. That shy, scared boy with fire in his heart was certainly the Idhren that Dorian knew best and remembered most vividly. Obviously the years had changed him, and Dorian hadn’t been around very often to see those changes. “You’re still little,” he commented.

Idhren let out a bark of laughter. “A joke about my height,” he laughed, “How clever. The pride of the Imperium, you are.”

Dorian rolled his eyes, “Such sarcasm,” he complained. “But why are you here?”

“Why is anyone here?” Idhren asked in return, with a tone of voice as though he was asking for the meaning of life.

“We’re celebrating!” Varius supplied. He had finished with the pipe, it seemed, and pressed one of the mouthpieces into Idhren’s hand, then another into Dorian’s. “And now that we have enough people for a party I’ll find us some drinks. What’ll it be, handsome?” he winked at Dorian as he stood, silken robe open to his stomach and barely clinging to his shoulders. It was a rather distracting view.

“Whatever goes best with this, I suppose,” Dorian replied, looking down at the pipe in his hand.

Idhren already had the pipe in his mouth, breathing in deeply and then out through his teeth. “It’ll have to be the cheap wine,” he spoke through the smoke, “Unless Dorian’s buying.”

They both looked at Dorian expectantly until he sighed and relented, “Very well, if we’re going to do this we might as well do it properly. Bring the good stuff.”

Varius smiled like the cat that got the cream, then turned quickly and strode away in a swirl of crimson silk and ebony hair. On any other night Dorian would have bought him in a heartbeat, but tonight there were extenuating circumstances. Getting drunk and high with a prostitute and the subject of his teenage infatuation was very likely a bad decision, but Dorian wasn’t known for making good decisions. He raised the pipe to his lips and breathed in. It had been a long time since he had done this, but the smoke hit his tongue, settled in his lungs, and it felt familiar. “So,” Dorian murmured as he exhaled. “What exactly are we meant to be celebrating?

Idhren took another long draw from the pipe in his hand, then relaxed back into the plush sofa cushions, sighing out through his nose. “I’m leaving Tevinter,” he said flatly.

The news came as a shock to Dorian, and to his surprise the feeling was also accompanied by disappointment. “What?” he asked stupidly.

“I’ve been saving up what little wages Canidius pays me and I’ve finally secured passage with a caravan headed south,” Idhren elaborated. “I’ll be leaving in a month’s time.”

Dorian stared. “You’re really leaving?” he breathed. It seemed so out of the blue. Less than a year ago Idhren had been adamant that he would not leave Canidius. Something must have happened. “But where are you going to go? You know how the south treats their mages. They’ll throw you in one of their prison Circles, or worse!” Dorian had heard stories, everyone had, of how the southern Chantry oppressed mages for no reason other than their Maker-given talents. A mage as powerful and clever as Idhren, especially Tevinter trained, would terrify the people of the south. If he wasn’t killed for suspicion of blood magic, would they make him tranquil?

“That’s a possibility, yes,” Idhren confirmed, “And it’s a risk I’m willing to take.” He paused and took a drag from the lyrium pipe, blowing out the smoke slowly before he continued speaking. Dorian was still too stunned to argue. “This is the one situation where my ears will be useful, though.”

It took a moment for Dorian to realize what Idhren meant. “You’re planning to find one of those wandering tribes? And what, live in the forest like a savage?”

Idhren shrugged one shoulder. “At this point it’s preferable to staying here,” he commented. “My family is gone; everything I’ve ever worked for has been stolen from me. Even if I leave Canidius’ estate and try to find employ somewhere else, do you think anyone in this blighted country will ever respect me?”

“Perhaps not,” Dorian was forced to agree. “You think it’s more likely that a random group of homeless elves will accept you with open arms?”

“Perhaps not with open arms,” Idhren said, “But I have to try. If I don’t, I’ll only be miserable here for the rest of my life. If there’s even a chance that I could find a better life in the south I’m willing to take it.”

He was really serious about this. Absolutely serious. “Why now?” Dorian asked.

Idhren looked down at the pipe in his hand, rolled it between his fingers and frowned. He was silent for a long moment, wondering how much he should tell Dorian, and not wanting to ruin the carefree mood. He had come here to celebrate, to have one last fun night, one last good memory before he left the country for good. He didn’t want to talk about what had driven him to this point, all the things he had lost. But this was Dorian. Ironically, coincidentally, here in Vyrantium, in this establishment, on the eve of his departure. And after tonight it was almost certain that Idhren would never see him again. So he might as well bare all; perhaps it would help him find some closure.

“My family is dead,” Idhren told him. “There’s nothing tying me to Canidius anymore.”

Dorian had known about the elf’s father, but now his mother, and he’d had a sibling as well, hadn’t he? “I’m sorry,” he said. Idhren had clearly cared about his family, to have stayed under Canidius’ thumb for their sake.

“It’s not your fault,” Idhren murmured, and fell silent. It had effectively killed the celebratory mood, and Idhren set down his pipe before he could lose himself completely in the smoke.

Thankfully, Varius returned moments later, three small glasses held precariously in one hand, and in the other an open bottle of something amber colored. He quickly took in the scene, and the newly somber mood. “What happened while I was gone?” he asked with forced cheer, “Did you have a fight?” He seated himself beside Dorian, effectively penning the man between the pair of elves, and carefully set the glasses he carried on the table. “That won’t do at all. We’re supposed to be celebrating. Here, is this up to your standards, handsome?” With a flourish he presented the bottle to Dorian for inspection.

The gesture forced Dorian to tear his attention away from Idhren, though he cast barely a glance at the bottle before he nodded. “Yes, I suppose that will do.” Not that he needed to look at it; the stuff was strong enough that he could smell it already.

“Perfect,” Varius smiled as he filled each of the small cups with a more than generous serving. “And we must have a toast. It’s that sort of occasion.”

“What to?” Idhren asked, reaching across Dorian to take a glass.

“To you, of course,” Varius purred, “For taking control of your own life. And to the grand adventure that I’m sure awaits you; I pray your journey is easy and that you find what you seek.”

“A fine sentiment,” Dorian agreed, and raised his glass in acknowledgement before taking a sip of the drink. Brandy, he identified immediately, and very good. It probably cost more than he had intended to spend tonight. Well, it was the occasion for it, he supposed.

“Fine, indeed,” Idhren agreed, “Thank you.” He smiled as he raised his own glass to his lips, the softest expression that Dorian had ever seen on his face. Then he threw his head back and downed the entire glass of brandy in two swallows, a display that Dorian found wildly attractive.

“What is the point of buying such quality spirits if you’re going to drink it so fast you can’t even taste it?” Dorian complained.

Laughing softly, Idhren reached across Dorian again, holding his glass out to Varius for a refill. "That’s less fun,” he commented, “But I’ll savor this glass, if it’ll make you feel better.”

Were they doing this on purpose? Penning him in, sitting too close, leaning in close enough that Dorian could feel the warmth of Idhren’s body through his clothes, would probably be able to smell him if not for the smoke. From an actual whore – from Varius – the signals were obvious and expected; meant to entice him into purchasing something more than just a drink. From Idhren it was completely bewildering. It couldn’t possibly be intentional; not with his history.

“Considering how much I’m likely paying for this, I’d appreciate if that money didn’t go to waste,” Dorian commented blithely, but his next drink was decidedly more than a sip. “And before I’m too drunk to remember: how much, exactly, is this costing me?”

“Well that would depend entirely on where the night leads us,” Varius purred.

If it were just Varius then the night would almost definitely lead in that direction, but it wasn’t just Varius. Dorian glanced over at Idhren, but the elf had momentarily distracted himself with the lyrium pipe once more. There were so many reasons that would be a bad idea, too many for even Dorian to ignore. Idhren was damn attractive, and not just physically, but that was also part of the problem. He couldn’t go letting himself get too attached again. Especially not with Idhren leaving.

“Let’s just stay with the drinks for now,” Dorian replied, fishing a few gold coins out of his purse and handing them over to Varius. The whore arched a curious eyebrow at him, but took the coins with a shrug, tucking them into the folds of his robes. Dorian found himself in need of another drink.

“When did you become such a stick in the mud?” Idhren rejoined the conversation. He listed to the side slightly, propping himself up with an elbow on the sofa’s armrest and holding his glass of brandy in the other. “What happened to the Dorian Pavus who came stumbling back into the Circle dormitories at all hours of the night? Or the one who’s apparently bedded half the men in Minrathous?”

“That is a gross exaggeration,” Dorian complained, but he knew full well that wasn’t the point Idhren was trying to make. “And I thought you didn’t care about that sort of thing.”

Idhren shrugged, “I suppose that depends entirely on the people involved,” he replied.

Dorian regretted ever putting the idea of rumor mongering into Idhren’s mind. It had been a bad idea in the first place, brought on by a bit too much wine and Idhren’s too-pretty eyes. It was how he’d found most of the bed partners he didn’t pay, but Idhren didn’t play those games the way an Altus did. Now the elf was being less than subtle, but he was also less than sober. “Should I be flattered to be worthy of your interest?” Dorian asked, halfway between flirting and uncertainty.

“Not many people are,” Varius answered for him.

“I am unfortunately surrounded by some absolutely shit examples of humanity most of the time,” Idhren replied. “You’re decidedly less so, when you want to be.”

“You certainly know how to compliment someone,” Dorian replied dryly. Did Idhren always swear this much? Dorian supposed he’d never actually seen him outside of a social function before (excluding the Circle, of course, but they were both practically children back then). Maybe that’s what was making him feel so off-center about this. Was it the alcohol and lyrium making him act like this? Or just being away from easily offended nobles and having the freedom to speak his mind?

“I can, when the occasion calls for it,” Idhren replied. He pushed himself off the armrest, sat upright as he finished his drink, but began listing towards Dorian as he reached over to put the empty glass on the table in front of them. He was so wasted he couldn’t even sit up straight. It was a miracle he could hold a conversation.

Somehow Dorian was on his third glass of brandy. And he was quickly losing what small threads of self control he possessed.

Then Idhren listed far enough to the side that he was leaning against Dorian’s shoulder.

“I should go.” Dorian was breathless, face flushed as he pulled away from Idhren. The movement only sent him backwards into Varius’ chest, but Dorian barely noticed. He was too distracted by the look in Idhren’s eyes. In the space of a breath his expression had gone from sultry to absolute dejection.

Dorian Pavus was not a brave man. He was quite good at pretending to be, but deep down he was a coward. He rose to his feet quickly, too quickly to appear casual, too quickly for the amount he’d had to drink and smoke. “I…” he stammered, at an uncharacteristic loss for words. “Good luck. In the south,” he said, and meant every word of it. Idhren deserved better than what this country had done to him; deserved better than what Dorian could give him. He hoped the elf would find it.

Idhren had not taken his eyes off the man, but his expression made it impossible for Dorian to look at his face. “Thank you,” the elf whispered. He sounded just as crestfallen as he looked.

Without another word Dorian turned on his heel and left.

As soon as the Altus was gone Idhren fell back against the plush cushions of the sofa and swallowed back the lump in his throat. Beside him Varius’ manner changed drastically. The dark-skinned elf moved closer, stroked Idhren’s hair and murmured sympathetic noises as he pulled the smaller elf into his arms.

“Why doesn’t he want me?” Idhren asked miserably. “Why am I not good enough?” And why did it hurt so much?

“Shh,” Varius sighed and kissed the crown of Idhren’s head. “He’s the one who’s not good enough for you.”

Idhren sighed and turned his face toward Varius, laying his head on the other elf’s shoulder. “Why do I care?” he breathed, voice choked. “He’s such an ass. I should hate him. Why can’t I hate him?”

“The heart wants what it wants,” Varius murmured understandingly. “Though life would be much easier if we could control it.” Idhren could only nod morosely in agreement. For another long moment they sat there in silence, Varius stroking his hair and rubbing his back gently. Then, in a slow, smooth motion, the whore pulled away from Idhren and stood up, “Come on,” he murmured, holding his hands out to the mage, “Let me show you a good time before you leave. A good memory to take with you into the south.”

Idhren barely hesitated before reaching out to take Varius’ hands and letting the whore pull him to his feet. And then toward the back rooms. He wasn’t what Idhren wanted – who Idhren wanted – but it was time for Idhren to accept the facts. Time to get over this childish crush and move on with his life.

Varius’ skin was too dark, his hair too long, his body too slim. But if Idhren closed his eyes he could still pretend.

And in the morning, he could forget.
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</u>

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 evidence.

The magister was unhappy, but without Idhren’s cooperation he could not advance the research himself.

Idhren fed his patron just enough pages of notes and half-formed spells to make it look like he was working, but that was all that he could bring himself to produce.

He was spending more and more time in the lyrium den.

Then one day he went down to the slave compound to visit his family to find his father once more abed, but barely able to sit up.

Idhren rushed to his father’s side, hands aglow with what small wisps of healing magic he could manage to conjure. It did little to sooth sore muscles and ease overworked joints. “Don’t you bother about me,” his father protested, but he sounded so weak and tired that Idhren couldn’t help worrying.

“You can’t possibly continue to work like this,” Idhren protested.

“I will manage,” Cyrus assured him. “It’s not nearly as bad as it looks. Besides, you know what will happen if I don’t.”

Idhren did. He remembered clearly how his old mentor, Alvinius, had simply disappeared from the estate one day never to be seen or heard from again. Although living in the mansion had shielded him from most of the cruelties of slavery, Idhren was still well aware of how the others could be treated. If his father did not show up to work the next day an overseer would show up at their door and force him one way or another. The overseers were paid servants, sometimes Liberati, who cared for nothing except that the work got done one way or another. Idhren could appeal to Canidius on his father’s behalf, but doubted the magister would care. Slaves were not people to a man like him, Idhren knew that now.

So he did what he could to ease his father’s pain, well aware that it was every bit as bad as it looked, and returned to the mansion that night with a heavy heart.

The next week when he went down to visit his family his father was not there.

“He collapsed in the field two days ago,” his mother informed him solemnly, tears glistening in her eyes but never falling from them. “When he couldn’t get back up… the overseer had him killed.”

Idhren sat down heavily on one of the beds and his mother perched wearily beside him. Just like that. A tool that had outlived its use. One of the other slaves must have brought the new. Sahren was off at the colosseum this week. Did he know yet?

“He held on a long time,” Ashara murmured, wrapping an arm around her son’s trembling shoulders. “He did good work, and he got to see his sons grow into fine young men. I know he didn’t show it much, but he was happy here. And he was proud of both of you.”

It was shallow consolation. “I could have done something,” Idhren murmured, voice tight, “If I were better at healing. I could have helped.”

“It’s not your fault, Idhren,” Ashara soothed gently. “It’s not anyone’s fault.”

But it was. If his father had been able to rest, if he had had proper care, a real healer and not just Idhren’s fumbling attempts, maybe he would have been alright. But the overseers did not let him rest, did not send for a healer, and Canidius would not have allowed it anyway. Slaves were not deserving of rest or healing. It was Canidius’ fault that his father had died.

Idhren had once thought the magister lenient and merciful and kind. He had been a naïve fool back then. He knew the truth now, that Canidius was no different from any other magister. He did not abuse his slaves, but he did not care for them, either. They were not people to him, only tools, and despite his freedom Idhren was too.

There were no funerals for slaves. No ceremony, no priest to speak the right verses of the Chant. The body was simply removed, cremated, and the ashes discarded. A different slave would take on his father’s duties and everyone would be expected to go about their lives as though he never existed in the first place. As far as Canidius was concerned, his father probably did not exist. Just another tally mark on paper, his death no bigger loss than a broken quill and just as easily replaced.

It was, however, one less thing with which Canidius could manipulate his apprentice. Or so Idhren thought.

“You’ve been spending too much time lately down in the slave quarters,” Canidius commented several days later in the library. Idhren was hunched over a new book about the veil, fingertips stained with ink as he took notes.

Idhren raised his head to watch the magister peruse the titles on one shelf as though he was actually looking for something. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen Canidius actually read a book. “My family is there,” Idhren reminded him.

Canidius scoffed, so soft that he probably thought Idhren would not hear, but elven ears were sharp in more than just appearance. “It’s highly improper,” the magister said, “Even you have to realize that by now. For a mage to be associating with slaves so casually would be an incredible scandal if anyone found out.”

“But they’re my family,” Idhren protested. “My mother and my brother. It’s where I was born.”

“But it is not where you are now,” Canidius reminded sternly. He turned away from the bookshelf and crossed his arms across his chest. It was probably meant to make him look more imposing, but it only served to emphasize the man’s incredible girth. Somehow over the past year Idhren thought the magister had gotten even fatter. “It’s time you left behind such childish pursuits. Sentimentality will only hold you back, especially if you intend on reaching the magisterium someday. You should consider limiting the amount of time you spend there.”

Idhren frowned and looked back down at the book in front of him. “I will consider it, magister,” he lied. Idhren was less certain by the day whether he actually wanted a seat in the magisterium. He no longer entertained the delusion that Canidius would help him get there. If the magister truly wanted him to succeed he would have given Idhren the credit he deserved for the work that was rightfully his. He wondered if Canidius was actually stupid enough to think that Idhren still believed his lies.

“I suppose that will do for now,” Canidius replied. “There is one other thing, before you get back to work,” he added. Idhren raised his head again. “I’m certain you’re aware that the new legislative session begins in the autumn, so I must return to Minrathous for a time.” Idhren nodded. He was well aware of the magister’s schedule. He generally spent a few months in the capital at the start of the session, staying through to the end only if there was a bill that he was personally invested in. “I was thinking it might be beneficial if you come with me this time. You have never been to the capital, indeed you have never been out of Vyrantium. Your academic pursuits are admirable, but we must begin your lessons in politics. It will be good for you to visit the Senate, to see how things are run.”

It had been a long time since Canidius was able to surprise Idhren in a good way. A trip to Minrathous to visit the Senate? That was good, that was something Idhren still dreamed about when he dared allow himself to dream.

And yet Idhren could not bring himself to be happy about it. In the back of his mind he could not help wondering what Canidius’ ulterior motive was. There had to be one. There always was.

“I would be honored,” the words slipped out of Idhren’s mouth automatically, the empty niceties that were so familiar on his lips.

The magister’s face twisted in a nauseating smile as he looked down his nose at Idhren. “We still have quite some time before we must depart. Several weeks at the least. That should be sufficient time for you to wrap up your work here enough for it to be put on hold. I will ensure that you are kept informed of the travel plans.”

“Yes, magister,” Idhren nodded.

Of course Idhren had no intention of reducing the amount of time he spent with his remaining family. Already he could only spend a matter of hours every week catching up with and checking in on them. Less with Sahren, depending on how frequently his brother was required at the colosseum.

However, very suddenly Canidius had extra work for Idhren. A salon held on the day Idhren usually spent with his family that he was required to attend. A stack of books on political history and theory that Idhren was required to read by that time next week, forcing him to spend all his free time studying.

It didn’t take long for Idhren to figure out what was happening. Canidius was an idiot academically, but he was incredibly clever when it came to politics and manipulation. He was purposely keeping Idhren away from his family. The question was why? Had he realized that Idhren was no longer as easily controlled as he had been before?

Their departure to Minrathous came before Idhren could find the answer. He had only managed to wrangle in two brief visits to his family in the five intervening weeks. After the death of his father he was loath to leave the estate for any significant period of time, in case anything else happened, but there was no avoiding this trip. His mother and brother had both been encouraging when he told them about it and in front of them Idhren had smiled and been enthusiastic about the opportunity. He was, to an extent. Idhren was excited to see Minrathous and the Senate, to learn first hand how the Magisterium worked instead of simply reading books and watching Canidius court favor at his various salons in the off season.

He also knew that it was another one of the magister’s attempts to keep him on a leash as though he were still a slave.

----------

Minrathous, Tevinter Imperium, 9:35 Dragon

They arrived in the capitol with the turn of the season. Further north, Minrathous should have been warmer than Vyrantium, but the summer humidity had passed and a cool breeze blew off the ocean, turning the weather bearable rather than sweltering.

To shorten the journey Canidius always insisted on traveling by ship. Idhren had arranged the magister’s passage for the past two years as well as this one, but the elf had never set foot on a dock himself, let alone a ship. He spent the better part of the first day of their two day voyage curled up on his cot in the cabin fighting back nausea. He was only mostly successful. So when they finally stepped off onto the docks in Minrathous it was a blessed relief.

The city itself was breathtaking. Even from the docks Idhren could see that it was even larger and more impressive than Vyrantium. Beyond the line of warehouses along the waterfront buildings towered into the skyline. There were people everywhere. Dockworkers and merchants and travelers and slaves. Canidius had brought along two slaves for the sole purpose of carrying his things. At least that was all they had been doing so far. The magister’s luggage for such a brief journey was still a trunk so large it took two to carry. Idhren had refused the offer to use one of the house slaves for himself. He had few enough things, and was more than capable of dragging his own luggage the distance between the ship and the carriage waiting just beyond the bustling crowd. Besides, he knew from experience that when Canidius was away from the estate it was a respite for the house slaves – no meals to prepare, no parties to decorate for or serve at. The only person he would have considered bringing along was Valora, but she deserved the break this would offer.

Canidius’ home in Minrathous was only small in comparison to the sprawling Vyrantium estate that Idhren had called home his entire life. The mansion sat along a street of homes all of similar size and architectural style – the homes of other magisters, Idhren assumed – surrounded on all sides by dark stone walls. Within the walls, paved paths lead through meticulously manicured gardens. The mansion itself may have been smaller than the one in Vyrantium, but it was far more richly decorated, and far darker, it seemed to Idhren. Idhren was used to Vyrantium’s whitewashed walls, wide halls and large windows. In contrast, the architect of this home seemed to have tried to fit the same number of rooms – and twice the décor – in half the space.

A slave that Idhren had never met before showed Idhren to the room that would be his for the duration of their stay. It was a guest room, and the appointments were notably nicer than those in Idhren’s usual quarters. Either there had been no servants’ quarters available, or Canidius was trying to impress Idhren somehow. He didn’t know which possibility was worse.

It did not take Idhren long to unpack the few possessions he had brought along, mostly clothes. All the nicest robes he owned, and a new set bought specifically for this trip, were carefully unfolded and hung in the wardrobe. However Idhren felt about this trip as a whole, he knew that it was his best opportunity to make an impression on the most powerful people in the country. He needed to look like a magister’s apprentice, not a slave.

Without thinking about it, Idhren found himself staring into the mirror on the dressing table and trying to tie his hair back in a way that obscured his ears. When he realized what he was doing he immediately turned away from the mirror. There was nothing wrong with his ears, he told himself not for the first time in his life, the problem was with the humans who thought they made him lesser.

The first several days in Minrathous were a whirlwind of new sights and sounds and faces. Idhren had thought that Canidius entertained frequently at his Vyrantium estate, but the number of parties and meetings attended here made left little time for anything else. And of course Idhren was dragged along to every single one.

Mornings were spent in casual meetings with Canidius’ political allies, which would occasionally carry over into lunch. Serious work was done in the afternoon, and in the evening it was a soiree or formal dinner with one or another magister, friend and rival alike.

Idhren, unused to the sheer volume of socializing, was having difficulty keeping up.

There were so many new faces, and to forget a name would be beyond social suicide. More likely it would be actual suicide.

The very least he could manage was not to make himself look like a complete idiot.

For all that he was dragged along to every social or political event Canidius attended Idhren did not feel particularly included. Of course it was fascinating to finally see the senate for himself, to see the city for himself, but beyond initial introductions barely anyone made an effort to include Idhren in conversation. Once again the elven mage was relegated to standing just slightly behind his patron, to smile and nod and be ever so polite and well mannered; a pretty little trophy, a display of charity to gain favor with the more moderate members of the Magisterium.

Idhren was supposed to be here to learn politics. How could he do that if he was constantly ignored?

At least being paid barely more attention than a slave made it easy to slip away from the crowd without being noticed.

It was exhausting, smiling and playing dumb for so long. Only two weeks into their stay in the capitol and Idhren had already worked out a routine. After an hour or two of following Canidius around like a well trained dog he took the first opportunity to excuse himself and find a more secluded place to spend the evening.

Tonight’s particular excursion was hosted by one of the academics that Canidius had been courting favor with since the publication of Idhren’s research. Listening to the magister recite Idhren’s words like a trained parrot would have been entertaining if it weren’t so infuriating. There were several people here – magisters and scholars alike – who produced work that Idhren greatly admired. He wanted nothing more than to speak to any of them about their research, and about his own, but that was not possible. If a magister would even deign to speak with him there was no way Idhren could discuss his work without giving away that Canidius had done none of it. Or worse, appearing the plagiarist himself.

Either way, he could only imagine how Canidius would respond. What would he do if Idhren stopped playing nice? Idhren was already doing the bare minimum required of him. How much longer could he push the boundaries of Canidius’ patience?

He was worried about his family. Idhren had worried about his family every day since his father’s death, and even more so now that he was away from them. Work would be light in the kitchens while they were away, a rest that his mother desperately needed. She stooped even when she stood now, unable to straighten fully, and Idhren’s magic could only temporarily dull the aches in her joints. Now he wasn’t there to do that. It seemed like Sahren had a new scar every time Idhren saw him, a new injury. Eight years now he had been fighting for the entertainment of men and women who saw him as little more than an animal. The only thing that Idhren still bothered praying for was that Sahren would survive his next fight.

Such thoughts made it impossible to enjoy anything about the soiree. Not that there was much to enjoy in the first place. If they were at Canidius’ mansion he could have at least exchanged sympathetic eye rolls with the servants, but he didn’t know the slaves here.

So instead Idhren had slipped away from the festivities, through an open veranda door and out into the garden. It was just as meticulously manicured as Canidius’, and there were a few people out on the grounds, seeking some fresh air or somewhere private for a conversation. Idhren ignored them and leaned back against the wall of the house, thankful for the slight breeze that night.

“It figures that I would find you holding up a wall somewhere,” a maddeningly familiar voice commented from Idhren’s left. The elf whipped around, embarrassed to have been caught by surprise. Standing there just outside the door, glass of wine held elegantly in one hand as he smirked at Idhren, was Dorian Pavus. “I saw Canidius in there, he’s difficult to miss, but you’re rather harder to find.”

Of course Dorian was here. Idhren wasn’t at all surprised. He was the son of a magister; of course he would be here in the capitol during the legislative session. So it had only been a matter of time before their paths crossed. “Do you expect me to believe you were actually looking for me?” Idhren asked.

“Not actively,” Dorian answered quickly. A little too quickly. “But after I saw Canidius I couldn’t help wondering if you were still wandering about in his shadow. Apparently I was correct.”

“And you came over here to gloat about it?” Idhren shot back resentfully.

“I can if you’d like,” Dorian offered. He leaned against a pillar across from Idhren, all artfully arranged limbs and practiced nonchalance, one arm folded loosely across his chest the other still holding that glass of wine. “I notice Canidius hasn’t published any further research on that marvelous theory.”

“Perhaps he hasn’t had much to work with,” Idhren replied carefully, well aware of how easily they might be overheard.

Dorian arched an eyebrow curiously in response. “This isn’t the most discreet place for a conversation,” he commented, glancing back toward the dining hall. They could be easily seen by anyone who bothered to look, and they were not the only ones to have stepped out for a breath of fresh air. “But I happen to have it on good authority that Magister Alexius has a rather impressive library. Perhaps you’d like to see?”

The offer was tempting. Very tempting. But why was Dorian making it? “I’m not certain the magister would appreciate us poking around his estate uninvited.”

“Uninvited?” Dorian asked, a moment of confusion before he let out an amused laugh. “You really must keep up with the gossip, Idhren. Alexius is my patron. I can hardly be unwelcome in my own workspace, can I?”

Idhren was startled to hear that. Was he really so out of touch? No, why would news that one magister had taken up a new apprentice have reached him all the way in Vyrantium? This certainly wasn’t the circle in which Canidius usually ran. “That’s hardly gossip worthy news, don’t you think?” he returned, perhaps a little defensive.

“Isn’t it?” Dorian asked in surprise. “It certainly was here. Although that perhaps had more to do with the manner in which I came into his employ,” he murmured thoughtfully, then shrugged. “You really must pay more attention at these events. Put those ears to good use.”

Bristling defensively, Idhren had to resist the urge to bring his hands up and cover the points of his ears. “What do my ears have to do with anything?” he snapped.

Dorian tensed. He seemed to realize that he had overstepped, and hesitated for a moment before speaking again. “Never mind, forget I said anything,” he said, brushing the issue aside easily. “Do come along, I’ll show you to the library. It’s bound to be more interesting than standing out here staring at the sky. And I can fill you in on all the gossip you’ve missed.” In one smooth motion Dorian pushed himself off the pillar and downed the last of his wine before sweeping back into the dining hall, depositing his empty glass on the tray of a passing slave on his way.

Idhren hesitated only a moment before following.

----------

As Dorian lead Idhren to the library – down two halls and up a flight of stairs – he prattled on cheerfully about any and all inane things that had happened in the past year or so. Idhren was only half paying attention. Although he’d come along, he was not certain why Dorian had invited him. They had neither seen nor spoken to each other in a year, and their last brief conversation had not exactly been friendly.

Still, it was nice that anyone wanted to talk to him, and ultimately that was why Idhren had followed.

When they arrived at the library – larger than the one in Canidius’ Minrathous home and clearly well used, tables piled with books and notes – Dorian began talking about the research he was doing with Alexius. It was fascinating, but as much as Idhren wanted to focus he couldn’t shake the nagging question at the back of his mind.

“Dorian,” Idhren interrupted, his burning curiosity getting the better of his patience and his manners, “Why did you bring me here?”

The man broke off mid sentence and looked over at Idhren. He hesitated, words on the tip of his tongue that he bit back and swallowed down. “You obviously didn’t realize it,” he began instead, “But I was working for Alexius the last time we saw each other as well, though not for long. I may have…” he paused, considering his next words carefully, “Mentioned the idea that Canidius’ work was not entirely his own.”

“What?” Idhren exclaimed in muted panic. Such a claim, even made by someone else, could mean the absolute end of Idhren’s academic pursuits. If Alexius had taken offense, if he told Canidius, if they thought Idhren was trying to rise above his station. “You—!”

“Now, now, no need to get so upset. Let me explain.” Dorian cut him off and held up a placating hand. Idhren reluctantly fell silent. “I know you don’t have a high opinion of me, but I’m not a complete fool. I didn’t tell him that you put the idea into my head, only that I knew you from the circle and this paper sounded like exactly the sort of thing you’d been studying at the time.”

Idhren relaxed somewhat. That was a small relief, but it still begged the question, “Why?”

Dorian paused thoughtfully before answering. “Everyone was terribly surprised when Canidius published a scientific work. He is not a scholar. Anyone will tell you that, but I’m certain you already know. He’s barely a politician, to be honest. He’s a shrewd businessman, I suppose, but he only has his seat in the Magisterium because it was inherited and he’s unimportant enough that no one’s bothered to oust him.”

“Get to the point,” Idhren complained. He knew all of that, likely better than anyone else, he didn’t need a lecture on the magister’s sub-par career.

“The point is,” Dorian finished petulantly, “People already suspect that he’s not the sole author behind that paper. Well, anyone with half a brain, at least.”

That wasn’t at all surprising. Canidius could barely articulate some of the ideas in Idhren’s paper. Anyone with a working knowledge of the field would be able to tell that he was reciting a script or making things up when asked questions. But no one had done anything about it. No one confronted him, no one defamed the paper. Everyone kept inviting him to these parties. They didn’t care. “There’s still no proof,” Idhren pointed out, crossing his arms across his chest and leaning against the end of the table. “Or are you here to tell me you’re actually going to do something about it?”

“I--,” Dorian began confidently, then paused and visibly deflated, “I don’t know,” he admitted. “I know that Alexius believes me. If you want to leave Canidius’ employ I could--.”

“I won’t,” Idhren said immediately, startling Dorian into silence. “I won’t leave his service. Not while he still owns my family.”

Dorian sighed in annoyance, “Then you’re happy letting him use you like this?”

“I never asked you to get involved,” Idhren snapped. It was always like this with Dorian. Every time. Why couldn’t the man leave well enough alone? “Mind your own business.”

“Idhren,” Dorian protested, “You’re better than this.”

“Don’t pretend you know anything about my life,” the elf stood up straight, as tall as he could make himself, and glared up at the taller man. “I never asked for your help, and I’ve no interest in being your charity case. Leave me alone.”

“You are impossibly stubborn, do you know that?” Dorian complained, exasperated. “I’m trying to help, or are you too daft to see that?”

“I don’t want your help,” Idhren snapped back. “How many times do I have to say it before you listen? What reason could you have to help me other than to stroke your own ego? So you can go to bed at night telling yourself what a good person you are?”

Dorian was taken aback by both the venom in Idhren’s words and the accusations themselves. “You really think I’m that shallow?”

“Is there a reason I shouldn’t?” Idhren asked in return. “You made it perfectly clear in the Circle that I was simply too pathetic for you to ignore. I was an inconvenience, or perhaps a curiosity. I bet I still am. That’s all your lot ever see when they look at me.”

Dorian had said some things along those lines back then. And now it was coming back to bite him in the ass. All of his attempts at being a good person backfired. Perhaps he should give up. But maybe he could still salvage this relationship. “That’s not why--,” Dorian cut himself off with a frustrated sigh. “I read your paper,” he said curtly.  “It was good. If you would continue working on it, if you could put that theory into practice, it would be astounding.”

Idhren had to bite his lip, swallowing back the sudden lump in his throat and looking away. To hear a compliment like that from someone who actually understood the material was more than he’d dreamed of in a long time. That it came from Dorian, who had been there in the Circle when it was only a fledgling thought, meant so much more. But Idhren was learning not to let his feelings show. Canidius always used them against him. And Dorian had now made it clear what he was after. “I’m not working on it anymore,” Idhren muttered. “I won’t give him anything else. I won’t let him take anything else.”

“You can’t honestly be happy with that,” Dorian said, and his voice was frustrated, but he also sounded genuinely concerned. Idhren had such a hard time believing that anyone genuinely cared about him.

He leaned heavily against the edge of a table, defenses falling away regardless of how he tried to cling to them. He wasn’t happy in Vyrantium, with Canidius, with letting his dreams slowly crumble to dust. He was miserable and frightened and angry. “I hate him,” Idhren fumed quietly, and then louder, daring to think they were far enough removed from the party that no one would hear him as he let years of bottled up emotions bubble to the surface. “I hate him. I hate him! I want to strangle him with my bare hands for everything he’s done to me! My freedom is a joke,” the elf scoffed in disgust, pushing himself away from the table again to pace the width of the room. The air in the library gradually began to buzz with static, like the moments before a lightning strike, making the hairs on Dorian’s arms stand on end.  “He holds my leash as easily as if I were still his property. Do you think he would just let me walk away? Can’t you see, Dorian?” Idhren stopped and turned to the man, “For all my supposed freedom I’m still his slave. And he knows it and he gloats and there’s nothing I can do!”

His eyes glistened with unshed tears in the dim light of the library, years of frustration boiling to the surface. Finally allowed outlet there was no stemming the flood. So much anger in such a tiny body. So much desperation. “My life will never be my own,” the elf continued, voice thick with emotion. “My work will never be my own. He gave me my freedom, but he took everything else from me.” Idhren fell back into a chair beside the table as the crackle of static slowly dissipated. “And to think I used to be proud to be his apprentice,” he muttered bitterly.

Dorian liked to think he knew a little bit of how that felt, but surely Idhren wouldn’t agree. Idhren had always made it clear that he thought the Altus class lived perfectly carefree lives. Compared to a slave, perhaps that was the case. Dorian knew what Idhren had been through at the circle, and it was certainly more hardship than Dorian himself had ever faced. Perhaps he had no right to complain. “You really think he would hurt your family if you tried to leave?”

“They’re slaves,” Idhren said bitterly. “He doesn’t see them as people, just tools. Tools he can use to manipulate me, make me behave so he can keep using me. He’s already…” Idhren cut himself off, wondering if he should mention anyone he had lost. Would Dorian even care? Perhaps he wouldn’t, but it might make him understand. “My father is dead,” he said flatly.

A hissed gasp from Dorian, but Idhren didn’t look up to see the man’s face. “I’m sorry.”

Idhren shrugged slightly. He had grieved all that he could already. “He worked in the orchard. One day he just… collapsed. Exhaustion. But he couldn’t get back up, so the overseer killed him. Dumped his body in a ditch somewhere. There’s no use for a slave that can’t work.”

“That’s horrible,” Dorian breathed.

“It is,” Idhren confirmed. “But it’s the best that any slave can expect. It would be no great loss if my mother and brother died. They would be easily replaced. If I left Canidius’ employ I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he had them killed simply out of spite.”

Dorian didn’t know what to say to that. He had never actually considered what happened to slaves that got too old or sick to work. He didn’t think much about slaves outside of his own household period. They were so easy to ignore, always hovering quietly on the outskirts of his world. He knew that some people treated their slaves badly, abused them, used them for blood magic, but that had never happened in the Pavus household and it wasn’t something that was done in public. As such he had never personally witnessed that sort of cruelty. Except what had happened to Idhren in the Circle.

If slaves were so easy to ignore when they were in the same room, it was easier even to ignore them when they were out of sight. When they disappeared.

With a great sigh, Idhren pushed himself up out of the chair once more. “I should return to the festivities before Canidius notices that I’m gone.” He took a moment to compose himself, smoothing down his hair and straightening his robes needlessly, before heading for the library door. If he was lucky, Canidius would be nearly finished pandering for favor. If not, well, at least the wine was good.

But in the doorway he stopped, hand on the doorframe, and glanced back at Dorian. The man was still standing there by the table looking mildly conflicted. Idhren felt his heart clench in his chest, and he wondered how different his life might be if he’d been born Dorian’s equal. Or if there were more people like Dorian in the world, who for some inexplicable reason didn’t see him as lesser. “I… appreciate that you want to help,” he said carefully. An understatement, but all he could bring himself to voice. “But there’s nothing you can do.”

As he watched, Dorian’s expression closed off. Gone was the concern, the sympathy, the hint of frustration, all replaced by the same perfect polite smile that every Altus mage wore with ease. All emotion hidden behind a well crafted façade. “Well, I apologize if I’ve been an inconvenience,” he said, as though this had been a mere friendly chat and not an emotional hurricane. “Perhaps we’ll meet at another of these affairs and have a more pleasant conversation.”

Idhren managed a wry smile. It would be a miracle if he and Dorian could ever manage a pleasant conversation. “I wouldn’t want to sully your reputation by letting people think you’re friends with an elf.”

“My reputation has survived worse,” Dorian assured him flippantly. “You really should catch up on the gossip, Idhren, I’m certain you’ll find it entertaining.”

----------

It was only because Dorian had mentioned rumors and gossip so many times during the course of the evening that Idhren gave it any thought whatsoever following that night’s soiree. Not right away, of course. First he had had to sleep off those last few terribly ill advised glasses of wine – drunk while playing the wallflower again and watching Dorian move through the crowd as though he were born to it, which he was. By the time Canidius bid his farewells and collected Idhren like a stray pet the elf was just drunk and miserable enough to consider going to find a lyrium den. The thought didn’t last long. Nice as it might be to mute out everything except the hum of lyrium through his veins the experience wouldn’t be the same without Varius. Instead he’d merely collapsed into bed and slept until late the following morning.

Luckily that morning dawned a rare meeting-free day for the magister, and when Idhren felt well enough to face the day he was able to beg off any further duties for a chance to finally explore the city on his own.

He was determined to make a few good memories on this trip.

The Minrathous Circle library was practically legendary; even larger than Vyrantium’s and open to all mages. It was full of books that Idhren had been yearning to get his hands on and, most important of all, he didn’t have to worry about Canidius reading over his shoulder.

It was also full of elven servants much more willing to speak to him than any of the people Canidius mingled with. Between the shelves, searching out obscure texts, that was where Idhren picked up all his gossip. Servants heard different gossip than the nobility, and they were the best source of it in Idhren’s opinion. He knew from personal experience how easily elves were ignored and how easy it was for them to listen in on supposedly private conversations.

Libraries were not a terribly good place to pick up relevant gossip, however. Someone had borrowed all the books on the pre-Andrastian Imperium. Mildly scandalous, a bit excessive, but nothing to write home about. Some people were still terribly worked up about the Qunari situation in some Free Marches city, even a year after the fact. Idhren didn’t need the rumor mill to tell him that. A quarter of the Magisterium was demanding a full invasion, but that was typical, it was just that the arguments had new substance.

Nothing of particular note came out of his hunt for gossip, but it was nice to be in a library again. Well, a library away from Canidius’ influence. Idhren had always liked libraries. It was a pity Canidius’ had been poisoned for him; a gilded cage, an aviary where exotic birds could fly and sing, but only for the entertainment of their captors. This library felt like freedom. No materials denied to him, no pressure for results, just books. As many books as he could read, as many pages of parchment as he could fill with notes.

Idhren stayed until the sun was dipping low in the sky and the servants politely ushered him out, a folio of notes tucked under one arm.

It was a nice reprieve, visiting the library. Between Canidius’ machinations, the politics, and being showed off like a prized animal, Idhren had almost forgotten what it was like to enjoy his work. To remember why he’d once wanted this.

It was a pity the feeling would not last more than a day.

Another month of politics and parties passed in a blur before Idhren crossed paths with Dorian again. The elf performed his requisite socializing before, predictably, retiring to the edges of the crowd. Though he had been trying to pay more attention to the goings on at these events, he still hadn’t picked up any particularly noteworthy rumors. Maybe this wasn’t the right scene for rumor mongering, everyone was too concerned with political matters. Except himself and Dorian, it would seem.

The man found him as the evening dragged on. Idhren was halfway through his third glass of wine when Dorian sidled up and leaned against the wall beside him. “You are the life of the party, as usual,” the man commented.

“You know how I adore being the center of attention,” Idhren shot back dryly.

The comment made Dorian’s lips quirk up in a small, amused smile. “I hope you’re at least able to appreciate Magister Aurarius’ taste in wine?” he asked, a glance at Idhren’s cup before raising his own to his lips.

Idhren looked down at the deep red liquid in his glass, swirled it once in his hand. “It seems I have picked up some of the Altus class’ less offensive habits over the years,” he replied. “And I might as well get something good out of being dragged to these things.”

“Indeed,” Dorian agreed, “The food is sometimes the only redeeming quality to these displays. And of course I never pass up a good opportunity to get drunk.”

“And just when I thought you were learning a bit of discretion,” Idhren said, sighing with disappointment that was almost entirely false. He would be a hypocrite to hold that against Dorian now. Idhren’s usual escapes were worse than mere alcohol these days; though he had been lyrium free this entire trip, which was surprising.

The sigh that Dorian returned was suitably melodramatic, “Alas, it never has been my strong suit. I’m certain my parents would be more than happy to expound upon my many failures in that field. Or the local gossip.”

There it was again. What was Dorian’s obsession with rumor? Was he trying to hint at something? Idhren wished he would just come out and say what he meant. “You’ll be surprised to know that I have heeded your advice on that front.”

“Which front?” Dorian asked.

“About putting my ears to good use,” Idhren told him, but shot the man a pointed look. Even though his perfect Altus mask Dorian winced slightly. “But they haven’t uncovered anything particularly shocking. I suppose everyone is too concerned with politics this time of year. Even the slaves don’t have much interesting to share, unless you care about who is sleeping with whom.”

Dorian raised an eyebrow curiously. “Some people would care about that very much, depending on the people involved.”

“No one I care about, at least,” Idhren shrugged. “Anything interesting that I’ve missed?”

“Magister Danarius has picked himself up a Liberati apprentice as well,” Dorian commented, “Who knew Canidius was starting a trend. Maybe you can be friends.”

“That I did hear about. I’d tell her to get out while she can,” Idhren muttered in reply. “You know what he does to his slaves.”

“I know what he did to the one,” Dorian agreed. “That was before my time, thankfully.”

Before Idhren’s time as well. They were both still in school then. For all the complaints that Idhren had about Canidius, at least he wasn’t a blood mage. Small blessings.

“Do you know how much longer you’ll be staying in the city?” Dorian asked, a very sudden change of topic, but a welcome one. Idhren didn’t want to talk about slaves and magisters, or think about another unfortunate, impressionable Liberati pressured into the same situation as he. “Through Satinalia, I should hope. The festival here is magnificent, it would be a pity for you to miss it.”

“We would have to leave within the week to miss that,” Idhren pointed out, “But perhaps not through First Day. I’m not certain,” Idhren replied honestly. Canidius sometimes changed his plans at the drop of a hat, occasionally just to watch the slaves clamor to keep up with his demands. “There are no bills put forward that he is personally invested in. If it doesn’t make or save him money Canidius has little interest.”

“Of course,” Dorian sighed faintly, “And why bother being involved if it doesn’t personally affect you?”

Idhren glanced up at Dorian. If he didn’t know better, he would think the man was just as annoyed by the state of Tevinter politics as he was. Dorian would be one of them some day: a magister. Would he be any different from all the rest? He was kind to Idhren; considered the elf a friend, if his words were to be believed. And despite all his slip ups the Altus actually hadn’t done anything to make Idhren doubt that sentiment, but it was still difficult to believe anyone of Dorian’s standing would care about him at all.

That Dorian would admit to friendship was a massive step forward from their relationship in the circle, when the man couldn’t even give a compliment without covering it up with an excuse. Idhren should be happy that they could hold a civil, even pleasant, conversation as friends. As equals. Yet some part of him was still disappointed.

The man had turned his attention back toward the people milling about, sipping at the wine in his hand. Friendship was really all that he could ever hope for. That Dorian could see him that way was a miracle in itself, but they would never be more.

Tearing his eyes away from the man’s profile Idhren downed the last of his wine in one gulp. “Don’t let me hold you back from enjoying the rest of the party,” he commented, staring down at his still empty glass. “Go enjoy yourself. Some of the people here aren’t actually terrible.”

When Dorian glanced down at him again Idhren did not look up, though he felt the gaze on him. “Getting bored of me already?” he asked, a teasing note to his voice. “Very well. Though I hope we’ll see each other again before Canidius drags you back down south.”

“As do I,” Idhren replied without looking up. A moment later Dorian swept away, back into the limelight where he belonged. And left Idhren on the sidelines, where he belonged.

Mature Content


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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 4 - There is But One Truth

Those who bear false witness
And work to deceive others, know this:
There is but one Truth.
All things are known to our Maker
And He shall judge their lies

-          Canticle of Transfigurations 1:4

Vyrantium, Tevinter Imperium, 9:34 Dragon

For two years now Idhren had served as apprentice to Magister Linus Canidius. For two years he had spent his days buried in academic texts, performing experiments and taking furious notes. It had been everything he loved about his time at the Circle, without the constant abuses and with the guaranteed once-weekly time to visit his family, still confined to the slave quarters. His parents and his elder brother were doing as well as could be expected in their situation, and were always happy to see him, for all that they always looked exhausted.

His mother still worked in the kitchens, his father still worked in the orchards. His brother had made his debut in the proving grounds while Idhren was still at the Circle. With sword and shield and barely any armor he had faced down everything from other gladiator slaves to exotic animals to Qunari prisoners straight from Seheron. That he was still alive after so many years of weekly bouts was nigh a miracle, and his squad was building a bit of a name for itself. Idhren was proud of him, even as he worried over the scars that marred Sahren’s tanned skin. And worried that as the popularity of the games waned it would not be long before Sahren and all his fellows were shipped off to Seheron themselves.

For now, though, his family was alive and well, and Idhren was allowed to pursue his research with Canidius’ oversight.

And wasn’t that the problem.

Idhren had not realized it before his time in the Circle, but Canidius was not all that talented a mage himself. He wasn’t untalented by any means. No one survives in the Magisterium without a fair amount of talent and intelligence. But on several occasions now Idhren had posed a hypothesis to him that Canidius had not been able to understand without extensive explanation of the theories that backed it.

Eventually he realized that Canidius had no published works. This was not a man who had been interested in academics previously. But Idhren kept his mouth shut. The magister was still the man to which Idhren owed everything, who had provided for Idhren his entire life, even after his freedom. Without Canidius’ kindness Idhren would still be a slave, his talents never allowed to develop past what Alvinius was able to teach. Idhren was still determined to pay back that kindness. He would not humiliate the man by suggesting he was academically inferior to an elf, even if it was true.

At least, that was what Idhren had promised himself. Now he was not so certain.

For two years he had toiled and sweated over experiments while the magister stood back and nodded approvingly, and now he held in his hands the result of all that work but it was not at all what he had expected. The book that Canidius presented to him was slim, barely two fingers thick (and Idhren had very small fingers), bound in plain brown leather, the pages ungilt, but the binding solid and the printing good quality. None of that was the problem. Embossed on the cover, the title read Potentia Tempestatis, the Potential of the Storm, and below it was printed the name Magister Linus II of House Canidius. Frowning, Idhren opened the volume to the first page, but the words there were exactly the same: Potentia Tempestatis, written by Magister Linus II of House Canidius.

There was no mention of Idhren anywhere.

Like an idiot, Idhren opened his mouth and asked, “Where is my name?”

Canidius chuckled softly, and when he spoke it was with a tone like he was talking to a child. Never mind that Idhren was now twenty years old. “Don’t be silly, Idhren. No one would believe an elf wrote this. Besides, you don’t want all that attention, do you? There’s a note at the back, of course, acknowledging your assistance in the research. After all, you were absolutely vital.”

Absolutely vital was a disgusting understatement when all the ideas and all the work had been done by Idhren himself. When he sat down to read the book would it be word-for-word exactly what the elf had written?

This was his theory. This was his paper. It should have his name on the cover, not as some footnote at the end. No one would believe an elf wrote this? But an elf had written this. Idhren had written this. Canidius barely understood the theory, couldn’t even begin to explain it.

But what could Idhren do? What could he say that would not come across as ungrateful?

“I’m planning a small celebration, provided the book is well received. It will be in a few weeks time,” Canidius continued, completely oblivious to Idhren’s plight. “You will be expected to attend,” he said, and it did not sound like an invitation, it sounded like an order.

“Of course,” the elf replied quietly. How could he argue?

That evening Idhren snuck out of his room and down to the slave village, into the dirt and plaster hut where his family still lived. He brought the book, even though it would mean nothing to his illiterate family. Part of him knew that it was incredibly rude to demand their time right now, when they must surely be exhausted from a long day of physical labor, but most of him just wanted comfort and sympathy from the only place he was certain to find it.

Only Idhren did not make it to the slave village. He didn’t even make it out of the estate before someone spotted him. Stealth was not a skill he’d had much reason to learn, and it showed. Thankfully, he was not set upon by anyone who could get him in trouble. While Idhren technically outranked everyone in the household aside from the magister himself, that wouldn’t stop some of the servants from telling on him. That was Idhren’s first thought when he saw a door open at the end of the hall he was sneaking down – not very well, apparently.

A figure emerged from the doorway, holding a single candle to light the way and peered up and down the hall before setting eyes on Idhren. “Who’s there?” the figure asked quietly, voice tremulous and mired in a thick Ferelden accent.

“Valora?” Idhren asked, just as quietly, and took a few cautious steps forward, not relaxing until his eyes could make out her face in the gloom.

“Idhren?” the woman replied when she recognized him as well, “What are you doing here at this hour?”

The slaves would all be confined to their various quarters at this point. Idhren would usually be in his room this late as well, reading or preparing for bed. “I… wanted to go see my family,” he said, and realized as the words were leaving his mouth just how stupid the idea had been. If he was found, they would be in more trouble than him. “It was a stupid idea,” he muttered to himself.

Valora heard, of course. It was quiet in the hall this late at night. Slowly she stepped all the way outside of the room and eased the door shut behind her. “Is something wrong?”

Idhren wasn’t certain if he should say. It seemed so insignificant now. Why would a slave care about what name was on a book. None of their work was ever acknowledged or appreciated. And that work was generally much more taxing. Yet here he was complaining that Canidius had taken credit for two years worth of research and experimentation: time spent largely sitting at a table in one of the finer rooms in the estate. “It’s nothing,” he muttered shamefully. “I’m an idiot.”

Valora took a few steps forward, closing the last of the distance between them. “Do you want to talk?” she asked gently.

Over the past two years Valora had quite unexpectedly become a bit of a confidant for him, and he for her. Her primary position was as a gofer, and the nature of her duties meant that she was able to spend a significant amount of time with Idhren. She could read and write, which made her unique among Canidius’ slaves, and made her quite helpful fetching specific materials for Idhren’s research. She had been witness to a handful of frustrated tantrums when his spells wouldn’t go right, brought him leftovers from the kitchens when he accidentally worked through dinner, ventured into the marketplace with him in search of materials. At some point he had come to consider her a friend, and Maker knew he didn’t have many friends.

Idhren bit his lip and looked down at the book in his hands. Looking at it again, seeing Canidius’ name staring back at him from the embossed cover, all those feelings welled up again. “He stole my work,” he breathed. “He stole my work and he’s bragging about it.”

Valora frowned in confusion. “How did he steal it?”

Wordlessly, Idhren handed her the book and she took it with her free hand. “I wrote that,” he said after she had read the cover, his voice thick with emotion. “I wrote every word. He took it, and he put his name on it, and I’m barely a footnote at the end.”

“Oh, Idhren,” she murmured sympathetically, “I’m so sorry. I know how hard you worked.”

“There’s nothing I can do about it, either,” Idhren lamented. “Do you know what he said to me?” he asked, looking into her face. Frustration and grief and anger all swirled and warred in his chest until he didn’t know what he should be feeling anymore. “He told me that no one would believe an elf could write this.”

Valora sighed and shook her head. “Shems are the same no matter where you go,” she said solemnly. “They don’t think of us as people. We’re just things to them. Things to be used as they please and then discarded when they grow tired of us.”

It was a truth that Idhren knew far too well. Was that not exactly how he had been treated by all his peers in the Circle? Why had he ever thought that Canidius would be different? “I’m such a fool,” he whimpered, slumping back against the wall and sliding down to sit on the floor. After a moment Valora joined him, setting the book and candle between them and wrapping her arms around her knees. “I thought he was different,” Idhren said quietly. “He… He set me free. He let me go to the Circle. He said I had potential. I thought…” it all sounded so moronic now, in hindsight, “I thought he actually cared about that, about my potential. But he doesn’t. He did all of that to make himself look good. I really am just a tool to him.”

Valora laid a sympathetic hand on his shoulder. “They’re good liars, aren’t they?” she asked. “They know how to make you trust them, and then they wait to show their true face until there’s no way for you to escape.”

“There was never any way for me to escape,” Idhren murmured. “I was completely dependant on him. I still am.”

“Did I ever tell you how I became a slave?” Valora asked suddenly.

“No,” Idhren replied. He had to admit that he was curious, but he had never asked. He knew a little of the life she had been taken from, a fiancé and a home. Because of that he imagined that it would be difficult to talk about how she wound up here.

“I was in Denerim,” Valora said slowly. As she spoke she stared at the blank wall across the corridor, lost in memory. “After… After what happened to the arl’s son they locked the alienage gates. There was a purge. The city guard came. Anyone found to own a weapon was taken or killed. Even after that they kept the gates locked. With the Blight and the civil war… It was like they just forgot about us.

“And then the men from Tevinter came,” Valora murmured, “They said they were healers, that there had been reports of the Blight sickness in the alienage. We didn’t know any better than to believe them. Everyone who so much as coughed was rounded up and put into quarantine. Some people even went willingly. But inside… inside it was obvious they were no healers. They put us in chains and cages, forced us out through hidden alleys to the docks and onto ships.”

She didn’t need to say anymore. Idhren could imagine how it went from there. He had seen the slave market in the city, the people in rags and chains stuffed into cages and pens like animals. “I’m sorry,” he said softly. It seemed insignificant in the face of what she must have suffered at the time, but he could think of nothing else to say.

“It’s not your fault,” Valora replied. “Humans lie and manipulate. You aren’t the first to fall for it.”

“I’m such a fool,” Idhren mumbled, hanging his head and burying his fingers in his hair.

“No you’re not,” Valora argued. “You’re very smart, or he wouldn’t have gone to so much effort to use you. But you’re naïve. I was, too, before everything.”

“I won’t be anymore,” Idhren promised himself. Pushing his hair off his face he looked over at the woman again. He still felt hurt, betrayed, but he was also angry. Angry at Canidius and angry at himself. “I know now. I know that he’s a liar and an idiot. He’s not half as good a mage as I am, and I always knew it but I didn’t want to believe it.”

“What are you going to do?” Valora asked.

“I…” Idhren began, but cut himself off. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “I won’t let him steal any more of my research, but what can I do? I can’t leave, I’d have nowhere to go, and what about my family?”

Valora smiled softly at him. She picked up his book from the ground and looked at it for a moment before handing it back to him. “You’re very smart, Idhren, I’m sure you can think of something.” She picked up her candle once more, now burning low in its holder, and stood up, brushing dust off her nightdress. “I should go back to bed before anyone misses me. Will you have need of me tomorrow?”

“Of course,” Idhren replied, he held the book close to his chest as he stood up as well. “Canidius is going to host a party if the book is well received. It seems a good excuse to spend his money on new clothes.”

Valora’s smile widened. She enjoyed going into town with Idhren, the change of scenery was nice. And she had much better taste in clothes than he. “Then I will attend you after breakfast, my lord,” she said with a small curtsey. In private, where no one else could see the formalities, it felt like a joke.

Idhren nodded his head respectfully, “Goodnight, Valora,” he replied, before turning to head back to his own room, a small flame at his fingertips lighting the way.

----------

By the time the evening of Canidius’ fete rolled around Idhren’s mixed emotions had settled into a low, simmering annoyance. He could not bring himself to enjoy the gathering in the slightest, not that he had much reason to in the first place. The magister enjoyed entertaining his fellow politicians, and every time he deigned to host a gathering such as this Idhren was duty bound to attend. After all, he was the magister’s apprentice. He had long since stopped being mistaken for a slave by the usual attendees, but that hardly made the evening more palatable.

The book - Idhren’s book - had been available to the public for nearly three weeks now, but few had read it so far. Most of the conversation involved congratulating Canidius on his work and speculating whether he would dabble further into the subject matter. It was no secret that the magister had little interest in academics. In fact, he stated as much to several of his peers. Canidius had no interest in academics, so of course he would not be wasting his time presenting the paper in a Circle for debate. This was merely a hobby, helped along by his new apprentice, the former slave.

And when they turned their attentions to Idhren - to coo over how lucky he was to be apprenticed to a magister, to murmur how illuminating the whole experience must be for the poor fool elf – he was forced to smile and nod his agreement and proclaim that he was happy with how well his mentor’s work was being received. The whole experience made him feel sick to his stomach.  

After his fifth round of smiling and playing the stupid elf, Idhren had lifted a glass of wine from one of the slaves attending the party and found himself a nice quiet patch of wall to prop up. From there he was able to survey the party without forcing a smile onto his face. All of the usual faces were in attendance: Canidius’ acquaintances and political allies. Idhren doubted the magister had any true friends; he was far too concerned with forming alliances and influence mongering. There were also some faces that Idhren did not recognize, and a few he had been introduced to only tonight. Academics like Magister Gereon Alexius and his wife, who until now Idhren had known only by name and reputation. If they had come hoping for insight or debate on what they thought was Canidius’ work they were now sorely disappointed.

There among the crowd, however, was one face that Idhren had never expected to see again. A face he had, in fact, expected to hate if he ever did see it again. Dorian Pavus had a goblet of wine in one hand and was gesturing expressively with the other while he spoke with another guest. He was dressed in the height of fashion, as far as Idhren could tell, robes perfectly tailored of the finest silk and brocade.

Idhren caught himself staring, but still could not tear his eyes away. The man cut a handsome figure, captivating in the way he moved. Somehow Idhren had managed not to think about the man since leaving the Circle, drowning himself in his research until he couldn’t think of anything else, forcing all memories of the Circle down into the deepest depths of his subconscious. With how seldom Idhren left the Canidius estate he had largely been able to avoid seeing anyone he might remember from his four years of schooling, and that had made it easy to try and put everything behind him.

A flash of Dorian’s smile across the room, though, and it all came flooding back. The bullying, the abuse, the hateful words and petty violence. The feel of Dorian’s magic healing his bruises, the way the young man’s eyes lit up when they debated magical theory in the common rooms late at night. The fire in his eyes when he had said Idhren was the smartest mage in the circle.

He wanted to hate Dorian because hating him would be easier. But for all that Dorian had done wrong, for all the times he had turned a blind eye or actually made Idhren’s life more difficult, the man had been the closest thing he had to a friend in that place.

Idhren was still staring. Across the room Dorian turned his head as though he could feel the elf’s eyes on him. It all happened too quickly for Idhren to escape from. Dorian turned his head, Idhren considered running, and then the Altus’ eyes met his, confused for a moment and then widening in recognition. A moment later Dorian was making excuses and bowing out of his conversation and heading across the room to where Idhren was standing.

Panic shot through him for a moment, his eyes darted around the room in search of an escape, but by the time he was debating between jumping out a window or slipping out through the servants’ entrance Dorian was already standing in front of him.

“Well, I knew there was a reason Canidius’ name was so familiar,” the Altus looked as cheerful and unaffected as ever, “But it didn’t quite click until I saw you hiding over here in the corner. It’s been a long time, Idhren,” he smiled. Idhren was surprised the man remembered his name. Then Dorian’s eyes looked him up and down and Idhren shifted uncomfortably under the scrutiny. “You look well, if as drab as ever. I understand if Canidius doesn’t pay you enough for nicer clothes, but you could at least do something with your hair.”

Self-consciously Idhren reached up to tuck a stay lock of hair behind his ear. There was nothing wrong with his hair. It was clean and brushed, and he had intentionally worn it down for the evening instead of in his usual ponytail. It hid his ears better this way. “I see you haven’t changed at all, either. If anything, you’ve become even more insufferable.”

Dorian looked shocked for a moment, and then let out a bark of laughter, “You’ve grown some teeth, it seems,” he commented in amusement.

“I didn’t have much choice,” Idhren told him flatly. “You saw to that.”

“Ah,” the smile faded from Dorian’s face. He glanced around the room, but no one else at the party was paying them any attention. “I suppose you would appreciate an apology? It really was never my intention to make things more difficult for you.” All the more reason he was glad to see that Idhren was, physically at least, in good health. For several weeks after their conversation in the dungeon it had haunted Dorian, the thought that he had only made things worse, wondering whether or not Idhren was alright. And then he had been swept off to Minrathous and a new school, an even worse school, and if when he escaped he sought company of the petite, elven variety it was completely unrelated.

“And yet that’s exactly what you accomplished,” Idhren muttered.

Dorian looked decidedly uncomfortable. “It was apparently an ill thought out idea to come over here,” he said. He hadn’t expected Idhren to be completely happy with him, but it had been years and he had expected the elf’s anger to dampen with time. Apparently he had been wrong. “I’ll leave.”

Idhen had not meant for his words to come out so bitter and angry. That wasn’t how he felt at all. Well it was, but not entirely. “Dorian, wait,” he said as the man turned around, and much to his surprise the man stopped and looked back at him. “I…” Idhren hesitated. “I do… appreciate everything you did for me back then,” he managed to get out. “You were one of the only people who were kind to me, even if you weren’t very good at it.”

Dorian turned around to face him fully once more, swirled the wine in his cup, took a drink, and then spoke again, “I suppose I wasn’t very good at it, was I?” Too concerned with keeping up appearances in public rather than doing the right thing. If he hadn’t been, he might have been able to prevent Idhren getting hurt in the first place. “I’m sorry about that.”

The apology was better late than never, Idhren supposed. He still bore scars, physical and emotional, from his time at the Circle, but he was trying to put that part of his life behind him. He had learned to fight his own battles, or thought he had. But one glance over at Canidius reminded him that he wasn’t nearly as strong as he thought. “What are you doing here?” he asked, eager to change the subject. “Shouldn’t you be off getting drunk somewhere?”

“I am getting drunk somewhere,” Dorian informed him, equally happy with the change in conversation. “Right here. At the expense of your very generous patron.”

“I’ll be sure to extend to him your compliments,” Idhren mumbled. Generous was not a word he was willing to apply to Canidius at the moment.

“I take from your tone that you’re not enjoying the party?” Dorian asked.

“Smiling politely and playing the stupid elf for a bunch of Alti just to make Canidius look good?” Idhren asked in turn. “No, it’s not exactly my idea of a good time.” His eyes sought out the magister across the room unwillingly. Canidius’ substantial form was hard to miss, even surrounded by a group of fawning brown nosers. At the sight Idhren was unable to suppress the sneer that crossed his face.

“You don’t look terribly happy for your patron,” Dorian commented thoughtfully. “His work has been quite well received; it’ll do wonders for his reputation.”

Idhren clenched his jaw and his frown deepened. Canidius’ reputation. What did Idhren care about the magister’s reputation? He saw the man now for what he truly was: a liar and a manipulator who cared only about keeping himself powerful, wealthy, and fat. “It was mine,” Idhren said, lips barely moving and so quiet that Dorian had to strain to hear him. “The research was mine. That paper was mine. Every single word, I wrote it and he just…” the elf cut himself off, hands clenching tight, fisting in the fabric of his robes. Dorian realized why he’d seemed so tense, it wasn’t nerves from being around so many important and influential people; it was anger. The elf was furious, and rightly so if he was telling the truth.

“I read the paper,” Dorian commented, his tone light despite the suddenly heavy mood. “In hindsight the theory is… rather what I would expect from you, to be honest. You were a bit obsessed with storm magic back then, as I recall. It was… Not quite genius, but it was certainly inspired. The idea has great potential.” Idhren scoffed and turned his head away from Dorian so the man could not see his face. “If he’s taking credit for your work why haven’t you said anything?”

“You think anyone would take the word of an elf over that of a magister?” Idhren asked bitterly. “I don’t have any proof. No one else saw the research, no one else knew about it. Besides, no one thinks an elf is capable of doing anything smart.”

That was unfortunately true, Dorian had to admit. He had thought much the same until Idhren proved him wrong. For all he knew elves as a whole might not be terribly bright, but Idhren was clever enough to impress Dorian and that was no easy task. “So you’re just going to sit on your hands and bite your tongue?” he asked. “I take back my earlier comment. You haven’t grown teeth at all.”

Idhren turned furious violet eyes up towards Dorian, his gaze filled with enough venom to frighten Dorian a little bit. “You’re still a blind fool,” he snapped, voice low so as not to be overheard.

“You still won’t do anything against the people who hurt you,” Dorian accused. “You’ll keep letting people use you for the rest of your life because you’re too scared to fight back.”

“Because if I fight back they’ll throw me back into slavery, or worse,” Idhren hissed.

“Leave his service then,” Dorian argued, “Find someone who will recognize your work.”

“People aren’t exactly lining up to take an elf as an apprentice,” Idhren shot back, “Besides, Canidius still owns my family. Though I suppose it never occurred to you that I might have one. If I leave here I will never be able to see them again.”

“You’re just going to keep letting him walk all over you, then?” Dorian asked.

Idhren fumed, “I realize you Altus pricks don’t actually have feelings,” he sneered, “But my family is important to me. So yes, if that’s what it takes to keep them safe I’ll pretend to be the perfect servant for him.”

Dorian scoffed. And that was why Idhren would never get anywhere in life. He would stew silently in his anger but never act upon it, too afraid of the consequences. “Then by all means,” he replied flippantly and ducked a shallow, mocking bow, “Enjoy your life of servitude.” With that, Dorian turned on his heel and slipped back into the crowd, leaving Idhren to fume silently in his corner.

And fume he did. Idhren downed the last of his wine in two swallows and put the goblet back down with more force than was strictly necessary. He was furious at Dorian, but also furious at himself. Furious at Dorian for provoking him, for the man’s willful ignorance and flippant attitude, but he was furious at himself because Dorian was right. People like Canidius would continue to manipulate and use him as long as he didn’t fight back. And if he didn’t fight back, what right did he have to complain?

Idhren was also furious at himself because deep down he wanted Dorian’s sympathy and his support, and receiving neither was more of a disappointment than he wanted to admit. For two years he had been able to purge his mind completely of all thoughts of Dorian and the kindness he hid behind that maddening self-absorption. Then one look at his stupid face, the first time in years, and all the confused feelings from his fifteen-year-old heart came flooding back. Desperate for a friend, and Dorian was so kind but so cruel at the same time.

As soon as it could be deemed polite Idhren slipped away from the party. At first he headed back to his room, but halfway there changed his mind and slipped out of the estate through the servants’ entrance and began walking toward the city. Though on the outskirts, Canidius’ estate was about as close to the city as was possible without encroaching on the city walls. The magister could not abide being too far from civilization.

Idhren’s footsteps lead him toward the slums, down through the circles of the city, past the broad, gleaming avenues of the city center, the high walls of Altus estates and toward the alleyways and ramshackle houses where the rest of his people made their homes. He needed to be away from the gilded prison that he lived in, away from the suffocating grasps of propriety and respect. He did not care where he went except that he needed to get away.

Gradually the smooth flagstone streets and regularly spaced street lamps gave way to more rough cobbles and smaller lanterns. Only then did Idhren pause to take stock of his location. He was not far from the upper market district, where magisters and their ilk did business. The streets here were still clean and well lit and the buildings in good repair, though everything was decidedly more cramped, homes pressed up against each other or with only narrow alleys separating them. This was probably what Altus brats like Dorian thought were the true slums. Maker save them from ever venturing into the true bowels of the city, where their expensive incensed lampposts did not stand and no amount of incense would ever cover the smell of filth and decay that permeated the place. Idhren’s wanderings had only led him that far a handful of times. It was not somewhere he was eager to revisit, though he knew in another life he could easily call that place home.

At this time of night most of the shops were shuttered. A few lights flickered in second-floor windows where families lived, and a few doors down a small lantern hung in front of an otherwise un-noteworthy store front. The lantern was lit with blue flame. A lyrium den.

Idhren had certainly imbibed his fair share of lyrium; every mage had needed a potion at some point in their life, but he had never used it recreationally. That was an Altus hobby, sophisticated and mindless and potentially very expensive. Prone to addiction.

Smoking lyrium was supposed to be a completely different experience from drinking it. Less rush of power but other pleasurable side effects. At least, that was the rumor. Dorian would probably know.

Maker, no, he didn’t want to think about the man anymore.

A mixture of curiosity and the desire to numb his mind and forget about every problem in his life guided Idhren closer to the blue lantern. The windows were shuttered but the door was open, flooding the street directly outside with the scent of incense and lyrium. A familiar smell to anyone from the higher echelons of society. But the incense here was sweeter, not meant to cover up anything unpleasant, but to compliment the scent of lyrium that hung in the air.

Without giving himself a moment to second-guess himself, Idhren stepped through the door and into the dim, smoky interior. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust, even given how dark it was outside. The streetlights kept the city well lit, but inside only candles and glow lamps illuminated the area, and much of the light was obscured by a thin cloud of smoke.

“Well, you’re quite an unusual sight,” a voice purred from Idhren’s left, and he turned instinctively. Leaning against the wall beside the door stood an elf dressed all in silks, red and gold flowing and floating around him, loose fabric revealing tantalizing glimpses of dark bronzed skin at the slightest movement, ebony hair hung loose around his shoulders and down the length of his back. “An elf all dressed up like a magister,” he smirked, and dark eyes ran up and down the length of Idhren’s body. “What brings you down here, pet?”

Idhren bristled slightly at the term. “I am no one’s pet,” he said bitterly. He had spent too much of this evening being treated as such, and he didn’t want to be reminded.

“Ah, my apologies then,” the elf replied in a voice that was low, but sounded sincere. “I meant no offence. But that does not answer what has brought you to this place.”

Idhren glanced away from the elf in the scarlet robes and into the lyrium den, well aware that he was still standing in the doorway. Through the dim lighting and the haze of smoke he could see that the place was structured like a lounge, with low sofas and plush cushions surrounding tables on which the lyrium pipes stood, some in use and some empty. There were few customers in the salon at the moment. To the side of the room a man with bloodshot eyes and a birthright on his neck that Idhren could not make out lounged with a pair of young men in silken robes similar to those worn by the elf, one of them almost entirely in the Altus man’s lap.

This wasn’t just a lyrium den, it was a brothel.

Idhren’s face flushed at the sudden realization of just what he had walked into. The door had only had a blue lantern, not a red one as well. “I…” he stammered, suddenly at a loss for words. “I don’t…” What had brought him here? The desire to forget about the outside world for a time. Maybe that hadn’t been a very good idea.

The dark-skinned elf pushed himself off the wall and approached Idhren slowly, practically gliding, and Idhren was frozen to the spot, eyes instinctively drawn to the patches of bare skin revealed as the elf moved. He was taller than Idhren, but that was not so unusual. “Is it your first time in a place like this?” he asked, an amused smile curling the corners of his mouth. Up close Idhren could now clearly see his face, the dark almond eyes lined with gold paint, the deep dusky red of his lips. “What’s your name?”

“Idhren,” he answered without thinking about it.

“Idhren,” the darker elf replied, “It suits you. I’m Varius. Perhaps I can help you find what you need.”

Idhren’s mouth went dry, but his chest clenched in fear. Varius was incredibly attractive, obviously aware of the fact, and knew how to make good use of it.. It would be a blatant lie for Idhren to say he was not the slightest bit interested in what was clearly being offered. But Idhren had never willingly let anyone see him undressed, let alone considered letting anyone touch him in that way. He had never even touched himself that way.

“You’re so tense,” Varius purred, slid a hand around Idhren’s shoulders, which were tight with mixed fear and anticipation. “Why don’t we share a pipe, help you relax a bit.”

Mutely, Idhren nodded and allowed the whore to lead him into the establishment. To his great relief, Varius lead him towards a rather secluded corner of the lounge and gestured for him to take a seat amidst a pile of plush cushions on the floor. From there, a half-wall hid them from view unless someone were to walk directly past their little alcove. Idhren made himself comfortable while Varius turned his attention to the lyrium pipe, a contraption of bowls and pipes that needed to be filled with water and charcoal along with the mixture of lyrium dust and herbs. It was unnecessarily complicated, but that was how the upper classes liked to do everything. Down in the slums you would find lyrium addicts smoking dust and elfroot straight from handheld clay pipes, but this was supposedly more sophisticated, more pure, and less addictive.

When Varius sank down into the cushions beside Idhren he held a pipe in each hand and offered one to Idhren with a smile. The elven mage took it hesitantly, but only stared at the object blankly. He still wasn’t certain this was a good idea. How much did this stuff usually cost, anyway? How much money did Idhren have on him?

“It’s best if you don’t breathe too deeply at first,” Varius instructed, pulling Idhren out of his thoughts. The whore smiled gently at him and lifted his own pipe to his lips, wrapping his mouth around the tip before sucking in a deep breath. Taking the pipe away from his lips, Varius held the smoke in his mouth a long moment before blowing it out again.

The smell of lyrium had already been noticeable throughout the room, but it became even more prevalent as Varius breathed out. Idhren had to admit, he was curious. He had only ever used lyrium in potion form, and only ever when training exercises depleted his natural mana reserves and left him weak. Only as much as required to keep himself from fainting, never to give himself more power, and never recreationally. The sharp metallic smell mixed pleasantly with the incense that filled the air and the effect was intoxicating. So Idhren lifted the pipe to his mouth as well and took an experimental breath. The smoke was heavier than air and it caught in his throat, forcing Idhren to pull the pipe from his mouth as he coughed.

Beside him, Varius chuckled, light and low, and rubbed a hand up and down Idhren’s back until he could breath easily again. “Easy there,” he murmured.

Eventually Idhren’s breathing evened out and he looked dubiously at the pipe still in his hand. “Why does anyone start doing this?” he asked. It seemed so unpleasant that anyone would be turned off after the first breath.

“Once you get used to it, the effect is really quite pleasant,” Varius assured him. “Moreso for mages, I’m told. Do you want to try again?”

To his surprise, Idhren found that he did. Even though the first attempt had been rather unpleasant, he could taste the lyrium in the smoke and that, at least, had been pleasant. It was not enough to have any effect on his body, but it was enough to make him want more. Again he brought the pipe to his lips and took a shallow breath. Prepared now for the sensation, it did not bother him as much. His throat hitched a few times and his outward breath was unsteady, but he managed to keep from coughing all the smoke back out immediately. The next pull from the pipe was even easier, and afterward Idhren thought he could feel it starting to take effect. “Is it supposed to make my fingers tingle?” he asked.

Varius laughed, “It can do that, yes,” he replied. “Starting to feel it, then?”

“I think so,” Idhren said. And what he felt so far was actually rather nice.

After several more lungfuls of smoke Idhren was definitely feeling the effects. The tingling had faded, but there was a pleasant humming running through his entire body. He felt immensely relaxed, mind muddled and yet more alert at the same time. At some point he had relaxed enough to slump against Varius’ silk clad shoulder. The whore allowed it, shifting so they could lay together slightly more comfortably amidst the pillows and cushions, and wrapped an arm around Idhren’s shoulders. It was more physical contact than Idhren would usually allow, but with the lyrium humming through his veins and the herbs clouding his mind he couldn’t bring himself to care. Actually it was rather nice. Varius’ body was warm and comfortable.

“Do you want to see my party trick?” Idhren blurted out at the exact moment the question came to mind, immediately embarrassing himself.

“Party trick?” Varius asked curiously. “I would love to.”

Idhren struggled to sit up slightly, setting down the pipe in his hand. “Give me your hand,” he said, holding both of his out. Varius arched a perfectly manicured eyebrow but held one hand out to him. Idhren held it palm up in one of his and held his other hand a few inches above. The first spark of lightning that jumped between their fingers was barely visible, but it made Varius gasp softly, his dark eyes wide with surprise. Idhren built it up gradually, let the little bolts of blue-purple energy jump between their fingers and dance along Varius’ skin. The same trick he had shown Dorian in a dark empty hallway all those years ago. “It’s warm,” Varius said softly, “It’s… nice. I thought it would hurt.”

After a moment Idhren moved his hand father from Varius’, leaving enough space between them to form shapes with the bolts. Geometric shapes were always the easiest, a sphere, a cube. “Lightning travels point to point,” Idhren commented thoughtfully. “People think that makes it hard to control, but it’s not, really. I used to do this to practice my control, now it… helps me relax. It’s comforting.”

“You’re very clever, aren’t you,” Varius purred. It was not a question, and as he spoke Varius leaned closer to Idhren. Too close for it to be considered proper. Idhren could feel the other elf’s breath hot against his cheek, could smell the scented oils in his hair and on his skin. The magic between their hands guttered and cut out, Idhren felt his face heat up and he jerked away, eyes wide and uncertain. Varius looked at him with confusion. “What’s wrong?”

“I…” Idhren stammered, finding it difficult to collect his thoughts enough to speak. “You’re…” He very suddenly realized exactly where he was on a level that he previously hadn’t acknowledged. This wasn’t just a lyrium den, this was a brothel, and that meant that Varius was a whore. So if he was coming onto Idhren it wasn’t because he actually wanted to, but because he had to.

“I’m what?” Varius asked, head tilted to the side and long hair cascading over his shoulders in a black waterfall. “I’m not a slave, if that’s what you’re concerned about,” he said slowly, and traced a finger along his collarbone, free of chains or scars, “I’m a free man, just like you.”

That hadn’t been entirely what Idhren was concerned about, but it was a mild relief. It meant that Varius was not forced to be here. But whether or not the dark skinned elf was interested in him by choice or not was, in fact, the least of Idhren’s concerns.

“Let me ask you, Idhren, what is holding you back?” Varius asked. “Is it because you do not desire me? Because of some moral quandary? Or because you are afraid?”

It was obviously not the first, and Varius had to be aware of that. Idhren had been blushing practically the entire time he had been in here, and it could only be blamed on the drugs for the past half hour or so. Varius was not a slave, he wasn’t exactly being forced to sell his body, so there wasn’t much moral grey area there. The truth was that Idhren was afraid, he was afraid of letting anyone see or touch him, afraid of a negative reaction. He was afraid that once Varius saw him the other elf would be disgusted, would mock him, would hurt him. Because that was what always happened.

“Can I assume that you have never been with anyone before?” Varius asked softly, gently.

“Not by choice,” Idhren admitted quietly.

“Ah,” Varius sighed, and his expression softened. “I’m sorry you’ve had to go through that,” he murmured, and when Idhren chanced to look over he was surprised to see not pity in his eyes, but sympathy and understanding. “Then I’ll stop offering, if that makes you uncomfortable. But, if you wish I could also show you that it does not have to be painful and frightening. It should not be.”

Idhren knew that, though it was hard to imagine when he had such a painful relationship with not only sex but his body as a whole. “It’s not just that,” he said, and looked down at his toes, buried beneath the pillows on which they sat. “I’m… I’m not…” Could he actually make himself say it? “I’m not… entirely male.”

A moment of silence, and then “Is that all?” Varius asked. “You would be surprised by how many people do not live as the sex their body dictates.”

If only it were that simple. That might even be easier to bear; perhaps fewer people would look at him with disgust. “I’m not that, I…” Idhren felt himself choke up and panic well up in his chest. Self consciously he pressed his knees together. “I’m not either… Or I’m both, or… I… I don’t know.” He could barely get the words out, and was resisting the urge to just flee the situation, run back to Canidius’ mansion and live the rest of his life miserable and alone.

He didn’t realize he’d been crying until Varius reached over and wiped the tears from his cheeks with gentle fingers. “Shh,” he breathed softly, “I never meant to upset you.”

Idhren sniffled and turned his face away in shame.

“You’ve been hurt because of this, haven’t you?” Idhren had expected to find only disgust and pity from his admission, but instead Varius’ voice was full of sympathy and understanding. Once more gentle fingers wiped the dampness from Idhren’s cheeks. “The Maker has a cruel sense of humor, doesn’t he? The magic doesn’t really make up for everything else, does it?”

Idhren shook his head weakly. He was incredibly glad to be a mage. He loved his magic and everything it allowed him to do, the opportunities it had given, but there were times the elf thought that trading it for a body that made sense would not be so bad.

Lips pressed softly against his temple, and then Varius drew away from him. “I think you need a drink,” he said in a voice that was trying to lighten the mood. “Have another pipe, puer dulcis, I’ll fetch us something a bit stronger.” As he spoke he took up the lyrium pipe and pressed it into Idhren’s lax hands, then he bent and pressed their lips together. The kiss was soft, chaste, and over before Idhren even realized it was happening, by which point Varius was already leaving in a swirl of crimson silk.

Two hours later Idhren stumbled out of the lyrium den, in a significantly better mood than when he had arrived and with a significantly lighter purse. Somehow he had spent nearly half his monthly wages, meager as they were, but could not bring himself to regret the extravagant purchase. His thoughts were clouded by alcohol and lyrium smoke, the flash of gold around Varius’ eyes and the taste of his lips. There had been several more kisses throughout the course of the night, some light and chaste, others decidedly less so. Despite that the evening had not progressed beyond kissing and a few over clothes caresses, the whole experience left Idhren feeling rather euphoric. Or perhaps that was an effect of the lyrium smoke. For the first time in his life Idhren did not feel ashamed of his body.

Three weeks later, after several sleepless nights and two traumatic, disastrous attempts at exploring his own body, Idhren was back on the doorstep of the lyrium den. He had forgotten to take note of the name last time, which made it a little more difficult to find, but he did not miss the sign today: Magister’s Mercy. How painfully ironic.

He found Varius again and with the aid of an entire bottle of wine, allowed the whore to pull him into a private room. When Idhren’s hands trembled too much Varius peeled the mage’s robes off his shoulders, cooed comforting words softly against his skin as he kissed Idhren’s lips, neck, chest, stomach, thighs, until the mage was trembling not with fear but with desire. Then he put his mouth between Idhren’s legs until the mage cried out with pleasure and stopped trembling entirely.

Varius laid himself out beside Idhren and traced comforting circles on the smaller elf’s stomach as he came down from his climax. When Idhren finally opened his eyes again his companion was smiling softly, and it was a gesture that was impossible not to return. “Thank you,” Idhren sighed softly, still breathless.

“Whatever for?” Varius’s voice was somewhere between a laugh and a purr.

“Not… being disgusted with me,” Idhren said quietly. That had been his biggest fear coming here tonight. His only experience with sex had been painful and humiliating, something that haunted him to this day. Everyone who had ever seen him naked had looked at him with disgust and pity, but not Varius.

“How could I be disgusted by such an adorable creature?” Varius asked with a smile. “There is nothing wrong with you, Idhren. You are perfect just the way you are. Anyone who thinks otherwise is not worthy of your time or your thoughts.”

Idhren swallowed thickly and rolled onto his side to lie facing Varius. Even though the dark elf was paid to do this, he found it difficult to believe any of this was an act. “How can you say that so easily?”

“Because it is true,” Varius insisted. “We have no control over how the Maker shapes us. He does not make mistakes, so however He has chosen to form us it is for a reason, even if we cannot see it.”  

“You believe in the Maker?” Idhren asked.

“Don’t you?” Varius asked in turn.

It was an idea that Idhren had not given much thought lately. When he was younger, and at the Circle especially, he had wondered why the Maker would give him this body. Later he wondered why the Maker would curse him with both this wretched body and also make him an elf. Eventually he had concluded that it had to be a mistake. But the chantry said that the Maker did not make mistakes. If that was the case, then the Maker could not have had a hand in his creation.  “I don’t know,” he admitted.

Varius reached out and pushed Idhren’s hair back from his face with gentle fingers. “I suppose that’s no surprise, given how cruel the world has been to you.”

“Has it not been cruel to you as well?” Idhren asked in confusion.

“You think because I work here that I am miserable?” Varius smiled indulgently. “I’ve had my struggles and my heartbreaks, but I’m happy as I am now. I am not a slave; if I wanted I could leave this place, learn a trade, get married and have children. Perhaps it seems strange to you, but I choose to stay here because I enjoy it here.”

It did seem strange to Idhren that anyone would willingly choose this line of work. “Truly?” he asked. “You enjoy it?”

“I do,” Varius confirmed. “Because I get to meet sweet things like you,” he grinned and tapped Idhren’s nose playfully. It made the mage blush. “And I can make people happy. Are you happy?”

Idhren took a moment to think about that, and much to his surprise he realized that he was. In this particular moment, lying on silk sheets with a prostitute, Idhren was happy. Or at least, he wasn’t miserable. “Yes,” he breathed.

Varius smiled and leaned in to kiss Idhren’s lips softly. “Good.”
Semper ad Meliora - Chapter 4
Beginning | Last Chapter | Next Chapter

Crossposted from AO3

People aren’t always what they seem at first glance, but they all reveal their true colors eventually. 

I've always been a fan of the headcanon/theory of lyrium as recreational drug in Tevinter. Because that seems like the sort of thing Tevinter would do.

Reminder that from now on SaM will update the first weekend of every month on DA, AO3, and ff.net.
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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 3 - Worthy of Your Endless Pride</u>

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 one who had miraculously survived and was now being called the Hero of Ferelden: he was an elf. If the nobles mentioned this at all it was accompanied by the words ‘fluke’ or ‘liar’, or by the sentiment that ‘he stole the honor from another’.

Never mind that it was the second time in history, that the Fourth Blight was also ended by an elf. That was another fact conveniently forgotten by the nobility of Tevinter.

For Idhren, freshly Harrowed and finally free of the terrible disappointment that had been his Circle education, that was the only fact that mattered. An elf had saved the world. Twice now an elf had saved the world, done the impossible. No matter how many magisters and Altus mages spat on him and belittled his knowledge, Idhren knew that he was just as capable as any of them. His ears were not a sign of inferiority, they were just ears. He was as smart as any of them. Dorian had even admitted it once, in that last furious conversation before the young man had been shipped back to his family.

Dorian. In the last years of his education Idhren’s thoughts had drifted to the Altus brat far more often than he would have liked. He told himself he merely missed the companionship, the illusion of friendship, the freedom of being able to speak his mind without fear of reprisal. Until he remembered watching Dorian disfigure his tormentor in that fateful duel, until he remembered the fire in the young man’s eyes as he called Idhren ‘the most talented mage in this Circle’, and something in his stomach twisted, his chest clenched, and Idhren forced himself to think of other things.

He arrived back at the Canidius estate outside Vyrantium with no fanfare. The magister had been kind enough to send a small coach to fetch him from the Circle so that Idhren did not have to walk the entire way. Just another item on the still-growing list of kindnesses his former master and current patron had shown him. Despite what a terrible experience he had had in the Circle, Idhren was still grateful that he had been there. The things he had learned, the progress he had made in his studies and his training, could not have been gained anywhere else.  And now he was free to pursue his interests on his own, as apprentice to a magister and a fully fledged enchanter in his own right. So despite everything that had happened, all the torment that Idhren had suffered, all the indignities, Idhren was still determined to give everything he had to being Canidius’ apprentice, to prove that he was worth the kindness that had been shown him. Just as he had promised all those years ago.

The magister himself met Idhren in the foyer after his arrival, dressed in his usual finery and face lined with amusement. Idhren had had minimal contact with him during his studies. Idhren wrote a handful of letters to assure that he was still alive and was indeed pursuing his lessons, Canidius responded with reminders to work hard and a few coins for Idhren to buy new clothes and such as they were needed.

“Congratulations on your successful Harrowing,” Canidius said by way of a greeting.

“Thank you, magister,” the elf responded happily.

Successfully passing his Harrowing had lifted Idhren up to the ranks of Laetan. A respected mage and a fully fledged citizen of the Imperium. Even the invisible shackles of the Liberati class held him no longer.

A snap of the magister’s fingers and an elven slave rushed up from the side of the room on quick, silent feet. It was a mousy woman with muddy blond hair whom Idhren did not recognize. He used to know all the slaves in the estate, but he had been gone for years. It made sense for Canidius to have purchased a few more in that time. “Valora will show you to your new quarters, the others will bring your things. Tomorrow morning Alvinius will help you get acquainted with your new responsibilities.”

“Responsibilities?” Idhren asked.

“Of course,” Canidius replied. “Everyone must have duties and responsibilities to tend to. If we only pursue our personal interests we grow lazy. You wouldn’t want that, would you?”

“No, of course not, magister,” Idhren replied, nodding in understanding.

“I have considered putting you in charge of the library,” the magister mused, “I recall you had a fondness for books, yes?”

“Yes,” Idhren answered eagerly.

“Good. I’m certain that parts of my collection are painfully out of date,” Canidius sighed, “But with my duties in the Magisterium I simply haven’t the time to sort through it all. I wouldn’t want our work to be held back because of it. It should be a simple enough task.”

“You mean… I can purchase new materials?” Idhren asked. It would be a simple task, but a great responsibility. He was absolutely flattered that the magister would trust him with this.

“With my permission, of course,” Canidius confirmed. “Alvinius will assist you as well. But that is for tomorrow. You may spend the rest of the day unpacking, or however you like,” he said with a flippant wave of his hand.

“May I see my family?” Idhren asked eagerly.

That question made the magister pause, and he looked down at Idhren with a frown. “Don’t be silly, boy,” he said, though Idhren was hardly a child anymore, even if he was at least half a foot shorter than Canidius and still only half his width. “They have their own duties to attend to. It wouldn’t be fair for you to distract them. You may see them on their rest day, as always.”

Idhren’s shoulders slumped in disappointment, even though he understood that Canidius was right. But it had been four years since he had heard anything from them. The few letters that Canidius had sent were hardly detailed, only confirming that his family was still healthy and whole. He wanted to see them with his own eyes, to hug them and tell them all about the Circle, and to hear all that had happened while he was away. “Of course, magister,” he replied quietly.

He let the slave woman lead him out of the foyer and toward the back of the house. Very little seemed to have changed about the estate while he was away. A few new or changed decorations, but nothing worth noting. It did not escape him that the woman was leading him toward the servant quarters, a wing of simple but serviceable rooms for the paid staff and highest ranking slaves. It was a step up from where Idhren had lived before the circle – in the household slave dormitory beside the cellar – but not exactly suitable for the apprentice of a magister. Idhren wondered if he should feel insulted to be shunned to the hidden parts of the house. Canidius had already showed him so much kindness, however, that he would not dare think of complaining. A room with a proper window and a view of the yard, a space he could furnish with his own possessions, was better than anything he had ever had before and it was more than enough for his needs.

“What is your name?” he asked suddenly of the slave woman walking half a step before him.

When he spoke she practically jumped, tensing and raising her gaze from the ground to look over her shoulder at him, before quickly looked back at the floor once again. “Valora, my lord,” she replied quietly, with an accent that Idhren could not recognize.

“I’m not a lord,” Idhren corrected her quickly. It was rather jarring to hear himself addressed that way, actually. “You don’t have to talk to me like that.”

“I’m sorry, ser,” the woman replied quickly, meekly. And that jarred him even more because it was not a title that anyone in Tevinter used.

“Where are you from?” Idhren asked curiously, “Your accent isn’t Tevene.”

“Ferelden, ser,” Valora answered.

“Ferelden?” Idhren parroted, surprised. No wonder he didn’t recognize the accent; that was the other side of the world. And to have kept her accent she must have been at least an adolescent when she came here. “That’s far,” he commented, taking a moment to look at her more closely. She looked to be only a year or two older than him. Then he noticed how her hands trembled ever so slightly, and when her arms moved to give a glimpse of her wrists beneath the simple cotton dress there were fading bruises, and there were bruises also where the thin metal band around her neck sat heavy on her exposed collar bones. “You’re new, aren’t you?” he realized suddenly. Not just new to the household, either. “To Tevinter.”

Her breathing hitched and she clasped her hands in front of her. “Yes, ser,” she replied quietly. “Just this year.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you,” Idhren said quickly. “It’s alright if you don’t want to talk about it.” He couldn’t imagine how she felt, taken from her home and brought to a place like this. “And please, stop calling me ‘ser’. I’m not anyone special. And I won’t get you in trouble, I promise. I was a slave, too.”

Valora looked over at him again, surprise on her face before she looked away, asking, “How should I address you, then?”

“My name is Idhren,” he replied.

“Idhren,” Valora repeated hesitantly, and came to a stop in front of a door identical to every other door that lined the hall. Here in the servants’ halls there was no decoration, the enchanted lamps were plain and utilitarian. This place was not meant to be seen by the magister or any of his guests, there was no use in keeping it pretty. “This will be your room. The footman should bring your things shortly. M-master Canidius says you may have the afternoon to yourself, but wishes for you to join him for dinner at eighth bell.”

“I will,” Idhren assured him. “Thank you, Valora.”

“Do you need anything else… Idhren?” the woman asked, a moment of hesitation before she allowed herself to speak his name.

Idhren hesitated as well. It had been so long since he had had anyone to talk to about anything other than his schooling. But he was not allowed to see his family, and he had not had anyone else he considered a friend. “Do you have other duties to attend to?” he asked.

The woman bit her lip nervously. “I finished all of my chores,” she began slowly. “I’m supposed to wait on the magister in case he needs anything.”

“Someone else must be doing that while you’re helping me,” Idhren reasoned. “I don’t think you’ll be missed for a while yet. I’d like… That is… Would you… talk to me for a while?”

“Talk… to you?” Valora repeated hesitantly.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve had anyone to talk to about anything except magic,” Idhren explained. “Most of the apprentices at the circle were Altus. They didn’t want anything to do with me.”

Valora wrung her hands in front of her for a moment, looked down at the floor, then looked up and down the hallway. “I suppose it would be alright if I stayed for a little while,” she murmured reluctantly.

“I don’t want to get you in trouble,” Idhren assured her. “If Canidius is angry you can tell him that I ordered you to… help me unpack. Or something. I really just… Want to talk to someone. Please?”

“Alright,” Valora agreed. “For a little while.”

“Thank you,” Idhren said earnestly. He pulled open the door to what would be his new room and held it open for Valora, who slipped inside before him. The room was utilitarian and undecorated at the moment, with only a bed, wardrobe, desk, and chair. It had a window that looked out onto the back gardens framed by two plain black curtains. But it was easily twice the size of the room Idhren had had in the circle, which itself had been immeasurably nicer than anywhere he had lived as a slave. “I’ve never been outside Vyrantium,” Idhren commented, sitting on the edge of the bed. Valora hesitated a moment before perching next to him. “What’s it like in Ferelden? I only know what I’ve read in books, and that’s mostly history.”

“It’s very different,” Valora answered slowly, looking down at her lap. “I grew up in Highever, on the northern coast. It seemed such a big city to me at the time, but it’s nothing compared to this place. And I seldom left the alienage; maybe that made it seem bigger.”

“I’ve read about alienages,” Idhren commented. “It’s really true they force elves to all live in one place?”

“You could buy a home outside the alienage, I suppose,” Valora commented, “If you could afford it. I don’t expect an elf could make that much money, nor would they want to leave the alienage even if they could.”

“Why not?” Idhren asked curiously. Why wouldn’t they want to live somewhere nicer?

“How did you feel living with humans in the Circle?” Valora asked in reply, “You said they did not want anything to do with you.”

Idhren nodded in confirmation, “Mostly they ignored me,” he said, “Some of them were… more cruel.”

“Shems are the same wherever you go,” Valora said bitterly. “The alienage protected us from them. At least… it was supposed to.”

The way she spoke, the tone of her voice and the expression on her face, made Idhren think that she understood better than anyone so far what he had suffered in the Circle at the hands of a few pompous Altus brats even without being told. “I think I understand,” he murmured.  This estate had protected Idhren from the cruelties of the world, Canidius had as well, whenever he was present. Leaving the estate had meant more opportunities to learn and grow, but it was also putting himself at the mercy of Tevinter society.

After a moment of silence Idhren hesitantly spoke up again. “Were you there during the Blight?” She said she was recently arrived, so perhaps she had escaped the fighting; perhaps she knew no more than Idhren about what had happened down south.

Valora’s silence, however, was telling, even before she replied. “I was, for a time. I was in Denerim when the rumors started coming in, but the fighting did not reach that far north while I was there.”

Idhren nodded, feeling a bit disappointed. She probably didn’t know all that much, though. Still, he had to at least try asking. “Is it true what they’re saying?” he said curiously, “The Warden that killed the Archdemon… Is it true he was an elf?”

A look of pain briefly crossed Valora’s face before she managed to subdue it. “I don’t know for certain,” she admitted. “The news that made it to the alienage was not always reliable, but… There was a Warden who came to the alienage when everything was still just rumors who conscripted one of the men there after he… after he killed the Arl’s son.”

Idhren’s eyes went wide, “What?” he breathed in muted horror. He wasn’t entirely certain what an Arl was, but gathered that it was some rank of nobleman. “Why?”

Valora looked down at her lap, where her hands were fisted in the fabric of her dress. “The Arl’s son came into the alienage… He and his men took some of the women. For fun. Rowan and Soris snuck into the castle to rescue us.”

‘Us’ she said. “Did they…?” Idhren couldn’t make himself finish the question. “Did you…?”

Valora was quick to shake her head, “No, not me,” she said quietly. “I was lucky. When the guards showed up at the alienage afterwards Rowan took full blame. They would have executed him for certain but that Warden conscripted him instead. I only knew him for a day, but I thought… I thought if anyone could have done what they’re saying the Hero of Ferelden did, it would be him. Maybe it is him. All the stories forget his name by the time they make it here.”

“It was an elf, then, who ended the Blight,” Idhren was stuck somewhere between disbelief and admiration. “Everyone here thinks we’re not good for anything.” And part of Idhren still believed that, too, from time to time. It was difficult not to, with the way he had been treated.

“They’re wrong,” Valora said, her voice quiet but firm. “An elf saved the world. Maybe not all of us are cut out for that, maybe some of us are better suited to cleaning floors, but that’s no different from humans is it?”

“No, it’s not,” Idhren agreed. And it gave Idhren a little bit of extra confidence, knowing one of his people could do something that great. Idhren didn’t think he could save the world, end a war, or do anything else that would put his name in history books. But he could try and put everything that had happened at the Circle behind him. He wasn’t just an object to be used; he was a person, and a mage. He could do something with his life, contribute something to the world, even if it was just his research.

“Thank you for talking with me,” Idhren said earnestly. “And for telling me about Ferelden. I’d like to talk again sometime, if that’s alright.”

Valora glanced over at him and nodded, smiling faintly. “I think I would like that, too,” she agreed. “I should get back to work now.”

“Of course,” Idhren said, “I hope you don’t get in trouble because of me. You can tell Canidius that I kept you, if he’s angry. It wouldn’t be a lie.”

“I think I’ll be alright,” Valora assured. She stood and smoothed out the wrinkles on her dress. “It was a pleasure to meet you, Idhren.”

“And you as well,” Idhren replied, offering her a smile before the woman slipped out of his room and back to her duties.

----------

When the day finally rolled around that Idhren’s family would be free of chores and he free to visit them he was ecstatic. Four years since he had had more than second hand news about their well being, and he was eager to see them again with his own eyes, to hear about anything that had happened while he was away. The houses for slave families were situated well away from the main house, beyond the manicured gardens, out where no high status visitor might accidentally stumble upon them. Idhren practically ran down the dirt paths that lead there, and then he slipped quickly between the small hovels until he reached the one where his family lived.

There was a small dirt courtyard surrounded by homes, a well at its center the only notable structure in the entire complex. A handful of slave children, most too young for work, played there, chasing each other and laughing. In the midst of them, with a child hanging from each arm, was Idhren’s brother. Sahren was nearly a full head taller than his younger brother, a solid wall of muscle from years spent training and fighting. His dark hair was cropped close to his head, skin tanned from days spent in the sun, and lined with pale scars, some fresh and some faded.

“Sahren!” Idhren called out as soon as he set eyes on him.

The taller elf turned around quickly at the sound of his name, and when he spotted Idhren walking toward him a grin spread across his face. “Brother!” he greeted cheerfully, setting down the children he had been playing with and bidding them play on their own before jogging over to Idhren’s side. “We’d heard you were back. You look… still short,” he teased, grinning, and patted his younger brother on the head.

Idhren glowered up at him. He had really hoped that Sahren wouldn’t grow any more while Idhren had been away, but for every inch that Idhren had gained it seemed his brother had done so as well. “I don’t need to be tall to light you on fire,” he griped, though a smile tugged at the corner of his mouth as he swatted Sahren’s hand away.

Sahren laughed aloud and only ruffled Idhren’s hair again. “I’d like to see you try,” he chuckled. “But you do look well. Mother will be happy about that.”

“She worries too much,” Idhren commented, attempting to be flippant but not entirely succeeding. How many of her concerns had come to pass? There was nothing a middle aged slave woman could do about it, however, so there was no sense in worrying her.

“Tell her that yourself,” Sahren replied wryly. He wrapped an arm around Idhren’s slim shoulders and pulled him toward the hovel that the rest of his family called home. It had stopped being Idhren’s home a long time ago. Sahren had to duck through the low doorway as they stepped inside. “Guess who’s back?!” he cheered, pushing Idhren out in front of him.

It took a moment for Idhren’s eyes to adjust to the dim lighting inside the windowless building, but then he smiled. There were three small cots inside the hovel and a single small table. His father lay on one cot and his mother sat at another, table pulled close to her as she worked on mending one of their few threadbare garments. Both of them looked up when the brothers entered. His mother, Ashara, immediately dropped what she was holding and grinned from ear to ear. “Idhren!” she beamed, standing and coming over to him. “My baby, you’re home. Let me look at you.”

She had more grey hair than he remembered, and more lines one her face, but when she smiled at him her eyes sparkled with happiness despite the dark circles beneath them. “Mother,” he greeted in return, hugging her tightly. When he had left he had still been shorter than her, but now he was taller. “I missed you.”

“I didn’t think you would have time for that out there,” she teased lightly. “My son, a Circle mage.”

“Of course I had time to think of you,” Idhren assured. “How have you been? You look well.”

Ashara shrugged and held Idhren at arms length to look him up and down. “We have been well enough,” she assured evasively. “You’ve grown. But you’re so thin still. I thought you’d be having feasts every night in that place.”

“It’s a school, mother, not a banquet hall,” Idhren replied, trying to ignore the fact that he had definitely been eating better than them.

“I hope you didn’t spend so much time learning that you forgot to take care of yourself,” his mother scolded lightly. “You’ve always gotten lost in that head of yours so easily. Not hard to see why, though; it must be such a maze in there.”

Idhren swallowed back any unpleasant memories and kept the smile on his face. Remembering to take care of himself had been difficult at times, but he did not want to make her worry. “I’m just fine, mother, I promise.”

“Well, if you say so,” the woman replied, though there was something in her eyes that told Idhren she did not quite believe him. But there was no possible way she could know the truth. “Cyrus,” she called, looking over her shoulder to where Idhren’s father was now sitting on the edge of the cot, “Come see your son.”

“I can see him just fine from here,” the man griped, but he pushed himself wearily up to his feet and crossed the short distance between them. He was still taller than Idhren, and obviously where Sahren had inherited his build from. Despite his age, Cyrus was still muscular, although he looked more tired than Idhren ever remembered seeing before. He looked Idhren up and down, taking in the robes he wore, his long hair, his hands callused only from wielding a staff. Idhren was suddenly keenly aware of how out of place he looked in this place, clean and fed and well dressed, beside their rough spun clothing and dirty bare feet. “You certainly look like a mage,” he commented.

“Don’t be so rude, Cyrus,” Ashara scolded, “He’s only just gotten home.” She squeezed Idhren’s shoulders supportively and pulled him over to the bed where she had been sitting before. “Come sit, tell us everything. I’m certain it was all very flashy and exciting.”

“It wasn’t that exciting,” Idhren protested as he sat down beside her. “I spent most of my time in lessons. It would be boring to talk about.”

“More exciting than anything going on here, probably,” Sahren sat down on Idhren’s other side and shoved his younger brother playfully by bumping their shoulders together. “How many times did you light yourself on fire?”

Idhren flushed in embarrassment at the memory from their youth. “I only did that once, when I was ten!” he snapped defensively. “I have perfect control over it now. I never burn or freeze or electrocute anything on accident.”

Sahren laughed, and the two fell to talking and teasing just as easily as they always had; as though they had not been parted for four years, as though they were not separated by such a vast difference in status. Ashara chimed in occasionally, asking a question or pointing out something that Sahren had forgotten, Cyrus stayed mostly silent throughout the conversation unless his wife made an effort at engaging him.

Idhren told them about the Circle, the building that was even larger and grander than Canidius’ estate, and about his mentor there. He mentioned nothing of the bullying he suffered, only that the Altus and Laetan apprentices did not seem very interested in talking to an elf. He also mentioned nothing of Dorian, the one Altus who had been something close to a friend. In turn he learned every bit of gossip that had passed through the slave compound in the past four years; every torrid forbidden romance, the handful of children born or lost, a smattering of new faces as Canidius purchased new stock. He learned that Sahren was courting one of the kitchen girls that still lived with her parents and siblings in the compound. Or he was trying to, but his unpredictable schedule of training and fighting at the colosseum did not allow much time for such rendezvous. Idhren wished him luck all the same, and promised to petition Canidius for their permission to marry, should it come to that.

Idhren stayed until it was nearing time for dinner back at the mansion, and said his goodbyes rather than force them to share their meager rations with him. As he left, however, Sahren followed him out of the hovel. “I’ll walk you to the gates,” he offered with a smile.

Idhren smiled back and the two walked in silence for a while before he managed to speak up quietly. “Are they really alright?”

Sahren sighed, “You think they wouldn’t hide it from me also?” he asked in turn. “I only get back here about as frequently as you did before you went away.”

“I know,” Idhren had to agree. But he had been away for years. What if something had happened? “It’s just… been so long.”

Silence fell between them for a moment more before Sahren spoke again. “Father gets tired a lot,” he said. “He’s been getting out of bed less and less on his rest days.”

Idhren bit his lip in concern and looked down at the ground as they walked. He had noticed that. Their father had never been a terribly open man. He had always been taciturn and stern, but when they were children he had always made some time to play with them no matter how tired he must have been. Today he had not looked well, and Sahren’s words confirmed Idhren’s fear that it was more than a passing weakness. “And mother?” Idhren asked, almost afraid to hear the answer.

“Her knees and her back hurt sometimes,” Sahren replied. “She doesn’t like to stand up for very long, but she manages. She worries, though, about father and I, and about you.”

“She shouldn’t worry about me. I told you all I’m fine,” Idhren insisted without looking up from the ground.

“Are you, though?” Sahren asked, his voice carefully even. “I saw your wrists.” Immediately Idhren stopped in his tracks and looked at his hands, attempted to pull the sleeves of his robes down lower. “Don’t worry, I don’t think mother and father noticed.”

“It’s not what you think,” Idhren said desperately.

“What is it, then?” Sahren asked. “Blood magic?”

Idhren stared down at the ground in shame and wrapped his arms around himself. Not that the thought hadn’t crossed his mind. Blood magic might be able to fix his problems, but Idhren was not that desperate. Not yet. For a long moment the two brothers stood in silence. Sahren did not say anything, Idhren almost wished he would if only to know what his brother must be thinking. Finally, after a long moment the words slipped from Idhren’s lips, barely more than a whisper and filled with pain, “They called me a girl.”

“Did they hurt you?” Sahren asked, an edge to his voice that would have frightened Idhren if he didn’t know that it was directed elsewhere. Idhren swallowed the lump in his throat and nodded. A moment later he found himself pulled into a crushing embrace, Sahren’s strong arms around his shoulders and holding him so tight it was almost painful. Idhren tensed a moment, and then relaxed, leaning against his brother’s chest. “I wish I could protect you,” Sahren breathed into his hair.

“I’m not a child,” Idhren protested weakly, “I can take care of myself.”

“You will always be my baby brother,” Sahren countered. “Who cried when they took him to live in the mansion, and who’s never been very good at making friends. You know I would get back at everyone who hurt you if I could.”

“I know,” Idhren murmured. He wrapped his arms around his brother’s chest and hugged him back. “I would do the same.”

Sahren chuckled dryly, “That I would like to see,” he murmured. “You’d set the whole colosseum ablaze, I bet.”

“I wish you didn’t have to fight,” Idhren said quietly. “I wish mother and father didn’t have to work so hard. I wish you could all come live with me.”

“It’s not so bad out here,” Sahren said, trying to reassure him. He pulled back from the hug just slightly and leaned down to press his forehead against Idhren’s. “We’ll be alright. You just worry about being the best apprentice there can be. When you become a magister yourself we can come live with you.”

When Sahren said it, the task seemed so simple, but Idhren knew it would take years of hard work. “I’ll make sure that you can,” he promised.

“If anyone can, it’s you,” Sahren said confidently, smiling as he released Idhren from the hug and stepped back. “You’re the smartest person I’ve ever met. We’re all very proud of you, Idhren. You know that, right?”

“I do,” Idhren assured him quietly. “I won’t let you down.”

----------

Idhren’s duties as Canidius’ apprentice and assistant were simple in the beginning. He worked in tandem with Alvinius, his childhood tutor, learning what the elderly slave’s duties entailed. Together the pair spent several hours each day constructing from scratch a catalogue for the magister’s neglected library. As a child with no proper education Idhren had not realized before just how out of date some of the books were. He was already compiling a list of what titles and authors he could remember from the Circle library to submit to Canidius for approval. And he was looking forward to a trip to the booksellers in the city to find any new materials. After all, Idhren could not begin his own pursuits until he had access to relevant sources.

As they worked Idhren shared a little of what he had learned in the Circle with his former tutor. However, Alvinius seemed to grasp only a little of what Idhren explained.

“You’ve always been smarter than I,” Alvinius told him with an indulgent smile.

“I’m probably not explaining it well,” Idhren reasoned apologetically.

“Don’t sell yourself short, boy,” Alvinius argued. “You’ve been exceedingly talented since the day we first met. The Circle did you well.”

“Thank you,” Idhren mumbled, embarrassed by the praise. When he was younger Alvinius had always seemed wise and skilled.  Now Idhren was slowly coming to realize that the elderly mage had been right all those years ago: Idhren was a more powerful mage than his tutor would ever be. “I’m certain you’d do well there also, if you had the chance.”

Alvinius laughed softly. “Well, it’s much too late for me to start dreaming about that,” he commented. “You’ve got a chance at making something of yourself, boy, and don’t you let anyone tell you otherwise.”

“I… I’ll do my best,” Idhren promised earnestly.

Idhren threw himself into the work, determined to show everyone that he was worth the praise and the trust that they put in him. He collected nearly every book he could get his hands on regarding the subjects of storm magic and the veil. And he stayed up late into the night reading, because it turned out that was the only spare time left to him.

The rebuilding of Canidius’ library was, essentially, extracurricular, a secondary responsibility not to be prioritized over other, more important, duties. Duties which Idhren was also learning. He had always known that Alvinius was responsible for more than just Idhren’s education and keeping the library stocked with materials for research, but he had never known the details. The elderly slave was Canidius’ assistant in all matters that were not political. He kept track of the magister’s finances – a slave was more trustworthy with money than a paid servant, according to Tevinter’s elite, because they had no interest in it – and Idhren was trained to do this as well, so that he learned not to squander the pitiful allowance that Canidius paid him. And it was pitiful. Idhren saw what the other servants were paid, and his salary was significantly lower. When he dared to ask Canidius, the magister merely explained that Idhren had far less experience with both work and money than the others. Idhren wasn’t certain that made sense; he had been working all his life. But he did not know any better, and he was still afraid of appearing ungrateful, of having what little he did own stripped away from him.

Idhren was a fast learner; always had been. In a matter of weeks he mastered every duty that Alvinius performed, they had completed a catalog of every book and scroll in Canidius’ library, and Idhren’s list of proposed new materials was now multiple pages long. Idhren was quite proud of these accomplishments, eager to prove his skills to the magister and begin his real work.

However, with each task that Idhren mastered Alvinius, though proud and free with his praise, grew more solemn and more withdrawn. It was a subtle change that Idhren did not notice at first, or perhaps wrote off as fatigue or some other such passing malady. As the weeks wore into months, however, the change became harder to overlook.

“Soon you won’t need me at all,” the elderly elf commented one day. A completely innocuous compliment, but compounded atop his odd behavior for the past few weeks it had Idhren paranoid.

“But I won’t be taking your job any time soon, certainly,” Idhren replied. Alvinius was old, even for a free man let alone a slave, his face lined with wrinkles and his hair white, but his mind was still sharp and his health was good for his age. The man still had several years of service left in him.

The smile that Alvinius offered him in return was slightly sad. It gave Idhren the feeling that there was something he didn’t know, something his former teacher was not telling him. “Eventually, though.”

“Eventually,” Idhren repeated. But how soon was eventually?  And why as Alvinius acting as though it would happen any day now?

The answer came faster than Idhren could have ever expected. Less than a week, actually, after that first suspicious conversation Idhren showed up in the library one morning after breakfast to find it empty. Alvinius was always there before him, he had duties that required him to be up earlier. It was strange, but at first Idhren thought little of it. Perhaps his other chores had taken longer than usual.

An hour passed while Idhren reviewed his research notes from the previous day, and there was still no sign of the other mage. That was when he truly began to worry. So when the door to the library finally opened Idhren practically leapt out of his chair. He managed to restrain himself, but his head whipped up like he was ten years old and eagerly awaiting his newest lesson. Instead of Alvinius at the door, however, Idhren was surprised and mildly disappointed to see his patron. “Magister,” he greeted reflexively, unable to keep all of the surprise from his voice as he rose from his chair. “You’re here early today. Alvinius hasn’t arrived yet. Is he working on something else? He must have forgotten to tell me.”

“I’m afraid Alvinius won’t be joining us today,” Canidius replied. He let the heavy library door fall shut behind him and leisurely crossed the room to the desk where Idhren was working. “It seems he has fallen ill.”

“Ill?” Idhren repeated in concern. He had never known Alvinius to be too ill to perform his duties. Slaves did not get to take days off for illness, and in Idhren’s memory Alvinius had never had more than a passing cold. “Is it serious?”

“Nothing you need to worry about, I’m certain,” the magister replied flippantly. “He is getting on in years after all, it’s to be expected that his health will start to decline. He worked for my father before me, you know.”

Idhren did. For a magister, Canidius was actually rather young. He had inherited his seat shortly before Idhren was born, following his father’s death at the hands of a sudden ravaging illness. Or such was the official story. Rumors from the handful of slaves that remembered the event, now twenty years ago, said that the former magister had been assassinated. Poison. Likely from a political rival. Such was the fate of a magister who angered the wrong people. It was merciful, actually, compared to the fate that usually awaited a slave who had outlived his usefulness.

“Perhaps I’ll check on him later today,” Idhren commented.

“You wouldn’t want to disturb his rest,” Canidius replied, his voice the tone of a parent talking to an unreasonable child. “Your sentimentality is admirable, Idhren, but it may get you in trouble someday. In politics it will be seen as a weakness. Best start learning to hide it now.”

“Yes, magister,” Idhren replied automatically. But surely going to see Alvinius wouldn’t be too much of a burden. Idhren did not want to disturb his rest if his former tutor was ill, only to look in and see how bad the situation was.

A slave who had outlived his usefulness. Idhren swallowed hard and tried to make sure the sudden rising panic in his chest did not show on his face.

Against the magister’s orders Idhren slipped down toward the slave quarters following dinner that evening. While most of the slaves lived out in the small community on the outskirts of Canidius’ vast estate where Idhren’s family still lived, a portion of them lived in a dormitory down behind the kitchens. Dedicated house slaves, usually with no other family owned by the magister, so that someone would always be on hand. Alvinius was one of those, and Idhren had been as well when he was a slave, so he knew these corridors well.

With the kitchen and serving staff still cleaning up from the meal the dormitories at the back of the estate were mostly deserted. Idhren passed only a few slaves in the servants’ halls, and they paid him no mind. His presence here wasn’t terribly uncommon, he had a few acquaintances among the slaves who could almost be called friends and many remembered when he had lived among them.

By virtue of his higher status among the slaves – personal assistant to the magister – Alvinius had his own room rather than sharing a dormitory with up to ten others. Idhren knew exactly where it was, and rapped lightly on the door when he arrived.

There was no answer, so Idhren knocked again, but again he was greeted only with silence. Thinking that Alvinius might only be asleep, Idhren tried the door. They did not lock here, except from the outside, so it opened easily, swinging inward.

The room was empty.

Alvinius was nowhere to be seen and even his few meager possessions had been cleared out.

Idhren’s heart plummeted to his stomach even as he felt the sudden urge to vomit.

A slave who had outlived his usefulness.

Had there been an illness at all? Alvinius had seemed fine the day before. Where was he now? Had Canidius sold him, or simply disposed of a tool that was no longer needed?

There was no way that Idhren could ask, and even if he did he could no longer trust the answer.

Struggling to restrain his emotions, the horror and grief roiling inside him, Idhren turned on the ball of his foot and hurried back through the halls, ignoring everyone that he passed. Canidius was right about one thing: sentimentality hurt. But Idhren was not yet ready to discard every relationship he had for the sake of political power. That wasn’t the sort of person he wanted to be.
Semper ad Meliora - Chapter 3
Beginning | Last Chapter | Next Chapter

Crossposted from AO3


Introducing Idhren's family, and a really shameless reference to my fave Warden.

This chapter sees us caught up to what's already been posted on AO3, just in time for this weekend's update! From now you'll see Semper ad Meliora update the first weekend of every month. DA, AO3, and ff.net will all update in tandem. So follow on whichever site you prefer. (I prefer AO3)
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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 2 - The Least of His Children</u>

Those who bring harm
Without provocation to the least of His children
Are hated and accursed by the Maker.

-          Canticle of Transfigurations 1:3

Vyrantium, Tevinter Imperium; 9:29 Dragon

Everything hurt. His body, his mind, his pride. He ached everywhere, with even the tiniest of movements. He felt weak and sick to his stomach. And cold. A shiver wracked up his spine, chill emanating from where bare skin pressed against stone through torn robes. He should go back to his room, clean up, change clothes. But every movement brought pain, he’d barely been able to pull himself over to the wall where he now sat, knees pulled up to his chest as he tried in vain to compose himself.

His entire body ached, but what hurt the most were the emotional wounds.

They had laughed at his tears, his pleas. They looked upon his body with confusion, and then disgust. They called him a girl, held him down by the back of his throat, by his arms wrenched above his head.

Teach the knife-ear his place.

As though Idhren did not already know.

There is only one good use for an elf, and this one is so pretty. It's a shame for that face to go to waste.

Look at its body, though. No one would pay to fuck that. Can't even tell if it's a boy or a girl.

Fingers pressed into him, cold and harsh, made him bleed.

Oh it's definitely a girl, one of them jeered.

Idhren cried out and struggled, tried to lash out with his magic to knock them away, but when he reached for the Fade it was barely within his grasp before it was wrenched away, dispelled before the magic could even form.

This one's fiesty. See, this is what happens when you let an elf think for itself, they start thinking they're better than you. Start thinking they can tell you what to do.

Something pressed into his mouth – magebane, bitter and sharp on his tongue – jaw forced shut, hands over his mouth and nose until he had no choice but to swallow or suffocate.

By the end of it Idhren couldn't cry out anymore. He was too exhausted. So when they wrapped his torn robes around his shoulders once more and shoved him unceremoniously out into the hall he had merely collapsed onto the floor. He tried to get back to his room, but his legs wouldn't work.

"Idhren?"

The elf startled at the sound of his own name and cowered back against the wall, fearing further torment. It didn't even occur to him that his tormentors would never use his name. If they even knew it to begin with.

"Idhren," the voice came again, softer this time, gentle, and closer, too. And it was familiar. "Idhren, it's me."

At first Idhren did not want to look, he did not want anyone to see him like this, least of all him. But rationally he knew that he could not make it back to his room on his own, he needed help. He needed healing. Swallowing back the nausea that suddenly welled up in his gut, the elf opened his eyes.

Dorian was kneeling in front of him, one hand halfway out toward the elf hesitantly and his brows furrowed in concern. Dorian had seen him injured before, bruises and cuts and the occasional burn, but nothing like this. Idhren did not want Dorian to see him like this. Anyone but Dorian. The one person whom he had tentatively come to think of as a friend. What would the Altus think of him now?

Just another knife-eared whore, like all the rest.

Dorian healed his wounds, but he never stopped them from happening in the first place.

"What did they do to you?" the young man breathed, and for a moment Idhren thought he sounded actually concerned. But that could not be the case. Dorian had never really been concerned about him. No one ever would. "You need a healer. I can't... This is too much."

It wasn't, actually. Aside from the blood dripping down his thighs, the bruises on his neck and arms, Idhren was relatively unharmed. Nothing serious. Nothing life threatening.

Not physically, anyway.

But of course Dorian wouldn't want to help him now. It had been a game for him before. Fix up the elf, a good chance to practice healing, but never a problem worth thinking about the next day.

"Can you stand?" Dorian asked, but Idhren only continued to stare at him blankly. "Can you walk? Kaffas, I don't... I'll go fetch someone. The healer. I'll go fetch the healer."

And then Dorian was gone.

Good. Idhren didn't want anyone to see him like this. He didn't want anyone else to know. Maybe if he could get back to his room before Dorian returned they could all just forget that this had happened. Once more Idhren attempted to stand. He braced one arm against the wall and the other on the floor and managed to get as high as standing on his knees before the pain became unbearable and he was forced to return to the floor, feeling fresh blood trickle down his leg.

By the time Dorian returned with the Circle’s official healer in tow Idhren had managed to get himself all the way to his feet, leaning heavily against the wall, but had not managed to move himself any further down the hall.

The healer was an elderly woman, well past her prime. She looked to have dressed hastily, silver hair in a simple braid down her back and a plain robe thrown over her nightclothes. While all institutions such as this had a spirit healer on staff, it was not a terribly highly regarded position among the Alti. She was probably Laetan, then. Perhaps the pride of an otherwise Soporati family, just as Idhren was the pride of his. Or had been, at least.

She clicked her tongue when she saw him on his feet, face pale and drawn and legs trembling. “Come, child, let me take a look at you,” she said, quickly approaching his side. When she reached out to him Idhren flinched back instinctively. Her eyes flicked to the darkening bruises on his neck, and her expression softened. “It’s alright, child, I will do you no further harm.” Idhren watched her with wary eyes full of pain and fear. His gaze darted for a moment to Dorian, who hung back, his face still painted with concern. When the healer reached out for him again Idhren let her rest a hand on the side of his face. A faint green glow formed around her hand, and Idhren could feel the magic flow through his body like water, dulling the pain wherever it touched. He sighed in relief as his body went numb and slumped back against the wall. “There we go,” the healer murmured gently, taking her hand away. “Now, let’s get you out of this wretched hall so I can fix you up properly. Which room is yours?”

Idhren raised a still-trembling hand to point down towards the end of the hallway.

“Very good,” the healer praised before turning to Dorian, “Thank you for coming to me, my lord, I’ll see to him from here, you may return to your quarters for the night.”

“Will he be alright?” Dorian asked.

“I will see to him,” the healer assured again. “His wounds will be tended. You need not trouble yourself further, my lord.”

Dorian frowned and looked at Idhren, who could not look at him at all, only stared at the floor and wrapped his arms around himself protectively. “Should I… inform anyone else of what’s happened?”

“I will take care of it, my lord,” the healer continued.

After another moment of hesitation Dorian nodded and left in the direction of his own room.

----------

The healer saw beneath his robes. Saw his too-soft chest, his too-wide hips, the confusion between his legs. Her eyes went wide in surprise, and then confusion, and then softened in pity. Idhren wrapped his arms around his chest to hide what he could and stared down at the floor. She healed the bruises on his neck and his wrists and his hips, and as she helped to wash the blood from his legs asked, “When was your last bleed?”

It took Idhren a moment to realize what she meant. “I’m not a girl,” he managed to whisper, bitter and pained.

The healer gave him another pitying look that Idhren could not meet. “You’re not a boy, either,” she said like it was fact.

Idhren bit his lip nearly hard enough to draw blood as he tried not to cry. He failed.

With a sigh the healer finished cleaning him up. “I’ll give you a contraceptive just to be safe.”

Idhren pulled on a clean robe with still-trembling hands while she began to look through the small bag she had brought with her. He wiped the tears from his cheeks with the sleeves and she pressed a bottle of potion into his hands. For a long moment Idhren could only stare at it dumbly. Through the swirling emotions in his chest it was difficult to think and harder yet to accept what she was giving him. Even though the hurricane in his mind, however, Idhren could think one thing clearly. “Could you… fix me?” Terrified but desperate, Idhren glanced up at the woman from where he sat on the edge of his bed.

“Fix--?” the healer began to ask in confusion, before she realized what he was talking about. “No, I cannot,” she said flatly. “Magic cannot do such things.”

Idhren’s gaze fell to the floor once more, his shoulders slumped as he curled in on himself. It had been too much to hope for, but how could he live the rest of his life like this? Why had the Maker shaped him this way?

“Drink your potion, child,” the healer said, her voice somehow both stern and gentle.

Idhren stared down at the bottle in his hands and he knew he should, but he didn’t want to. That would be admitting it was possible, acknowledging that part of him existed. Idhren only wanted to forget about everything he hid under his robes as though wishing hard enough would someday make it true.

A hand came to rest over one of his and raised the bottle to his lips, gentle but firm. “Drink,” the healer ordered again, and this time Idhren obeyed. The potion was foul - thick and bitter - but he swallowed it all down and let the healer peel his fingers away from the glass when it was empty. “You are not the first one to suffer like this, and you will not be the last,” the woman told him, all business, as though Idhren’s entire world hadn’t just been torn out from under him. He didn’t care about other people right now. “You’re still young, in time you will overcome this. And if you are smart enough to study here, then you should be able to solve your problem eventually.”

She shut her bag with a snap that echoed in the silence that reigned over the small room. Idhren did not respond. At this moment he could not see how his life could ever be bearable again. “For now you should rest. If you still have pain or bleeding in the morning come to me again.” Without another word the healer left, shutting the door behind her with a soft click and leaving Idhren with nothing but the silence and his own thoughts.

Eventually he did lie down on the bed, wrap himself up in the blankets and press his face into the pillow. Tears came and went, came and went. By the time he fell asleep it was nearly sunrise.

Idhren slept through the morning lectures. And in the afternoon, after finally forcing himself out of bed, the elf still couldn’t bring himself to leave the room in order to meet with his mentor. As a result, she showed up at his door.

When he heard the three sharp knocks, Idhren was reluctant to answer, but he did so anyway. He expected a lecture about skipping on his lessons when he so desperately needed the practice, about going nowhere in life if he did not push his abilities to their utmost. When it did not come, the elf was surprised.

“The healer informed me of your condition,” Galene said sharply, and Idhren flinched as he stepped back to allow her into his small room. “And that you should not be expected to attend lessons today.”

“I’m sorry,” the elf replied immediately.

Galene waved off the apology. “I think it may explain your difficulty with healing,” she mused, took a book out from under her arm and held it out to him. Idhren took it, but continued to watch his mentor as she spoke. “Healing requires more than an academic understanding of anatomy. Creation magic requires more finesse than the other schools, but finesse is never something you have lacked. Rather, it’s an area where you excel. It is also only healing where you stumble. Your nature magic is sound, as I would expect from an elf. No, you have never lacked for academic understanding or attention to detail in your casting, which is why I have never been able to understand the problem. Now I do, however: you are afraid of the human body. Or elven. Whatever.”

Idhren stared at her blankly, blinking in shock and confusion until the woman scoffed and began speaking again.

“You are androgynus,” she said flatly. Idhren felt sick to his stomach. “If you are afraid of your own body, if you do not understand it, how can you expect to understand another?”

Unable to meet her gaze, Idhren looked down at the floor.

“Read that thesis,” Galene ordered, finally drawing Idhren’s attention to the book in his hands. It was not a printed volume, he realized, but a journal. “A generation ago, Enchanter Cleostrata Aruns was the same. She did not produce much of interest and her work was never published, however her writings remain in the library here as do the writings of all Enchanters of this Circle. In this volume she discusses the disconnect that her sex caused in her magic. She is quite frank. I think reading it would help you immensely. I’ve also requested that the healer prescribe you a contraceptive, as a precaution.”

That same panic from the night before clutched suddenly at Idhren’s heart again. “I don’t--,” he tried to protest.

“You don’t need it?” Galene cut him off. “Can you tell me that with absolute certainty? How old are you now, Idhren?”

“Fifteen,” he answered slowly.

“You’re still young. Just because you haven’t yet bled like a woman doesn’t mean it will not happen,” Galene told him. “Perhaps you never will. As I said, this is a precaution. I understand that you are not fit for training at the moment, so I will give you another assignment: Read that thesis, compare it with your research in alchemy, and then speak to the healer about your medication. When you’ve done all that we will resume your training.”

It took a moment for Idhren’s muddled mind to figure out what she was suggesting, but when he did his eyes went wide and he stared at her. Galene’s face so rarely gave away any emotion other than annoyance, but as he stared the tiniest of smiles quirked one corner of her mouth. “You’re clever,” she said carefully, “I’m certain you can overcome this setback. Do not disappoint me.”

“No, ma’am,” Idhren promised immediately, clutching the journal to his chest. “I won’t.”

“Good,” Galene replied curtly, and turned on her heel. “If you can finish this by the day after tomorrow I will be further impressed,” she said, hand on the door handle, “Until then, farewell.”

“Farewell,” Idhren replied, and watched her leave, shoes clicking against the stones as she stepped into the hall and shut the door behind her. Immediately he threw himself onto his bed and began to read.

----------

Idhren spent the rest of the afternoon pouring over Enchanter Aruns’ journal. Immersing himself in this meant that he did not have time to think about what had happened that night. He read the book cover to cover twice. The first time required several breaks to overcome the surge of emotions that welled up within him at times. He read it the second time to be certain those emotions weren’t skewing his perception.

The next day he skipped lectures again in favor of spending the morning in the library alone, reviewing all his notes on alchemy in light of the new information he had about his condition. Aruns had described it in the same way one would describe a medical condition, an illness. Idhren found it was much less painful to think about his body this way, though by no means was it easy.

The elf was alone for two hours before he heard someone open the door at the far end of the library, then the tell-tale sound of boots echoing across the floor. Idhren was supposed to be in the lecture hall, so he looked up in fear wondering if he should try to hide as his eyes sought out the source of the footsteps.

It was Dorian.

Idhren relaxed immediately.

The young man yawned and stretched his arms over his head as he made his way through the hall. When he opened his eyes they landed immediately on Idhren and the Altus stopped in his tracks, expression surprised. He glanced around the library for a moment, and then made a b-line for the table where Idhren was sitting. “Good morning,” he said, hesitating a moment before sliding into a seat two away from Idhren’s. “I’m surprised to see you here. How… How are you doing?”

Idhren looked down at the books in front of him. To be perfectly honest he was not doing well. While physically healed, the emotional wounds were still fresh. All the baths in the world could not wash away the feeling of their hands on him. Besides, what did Dorian care about what happened to him? “Shouldn’t you be listening to the debates right now?” he asked, avoiding the question.

“Shouldn’t you?” Dorian asked in reply. It was enough to make Idhren fall silent. “Did you tell them who did it? Are they going to be punished?”

Idhren shook his head slowly without lifting it. “Nothing will happen.”

Dorian frowned. “What do you mean? You told them, didn’t you?”

Idhren had told the healer, and she had promised to bring the matter before the First Enchanter, but the elf was under no delusions that his attackers would receive anything other than a stern lecture. They were Altus, and Idhren was Liberati. He might as well still be a slave for all the good his freedom did.

“Idhren,” Dorian prompted again when the elf did not answer.

The way the young man said his name almost made Idhren want to cry. It was full of so much concern. When everyone else was in such a rush to get rid of him it felt like Dorian actually wanted to be here. “Of course I told them,” Idhren said, bitterness seeping into his voice, “But they won’t do anything.”

“What?” Dorian was honestly confused. “Why not?”

“Do you honestly think that anyone would punish the sons of magisters for hurting an elf?” Idhren asked. Dorian might be kind, but he was naïve. His whole life the world had been handed to him on a silver platter, an Altus could do no wrong.

When Idhren looked up again Dorian had a strange expression on his face, still confused but maybe he was beginning to understand what life was like for those beneath him. “So they’ll just get away with it?”

Idhren shrugged. He imagined they would get a talking to about cleaning up their messes, being less obvious about their activities, but he did not expect anything further. Certainly no serious punishment. “They were just reminding the knife-ear of his place in the world,” he bit out, chest tight, “So I don’t forget: even with magic an elf is only good for one thing.”

Dorian’s eyes went wide. “That’s not…” he stammered, at a loss for words, “You’re smarter than most elves. You’re not like them.”

“Smarter?” Idhren asked in disbelief. What was that supposed to mean? How was Idhren not like the rest of his people? Because he was a mage? Because he was not a slave? Because he could read? How many elves had great minds that were never allowed to reach their potential because most slaves were not permitted to read? “Why? Because I can read and parrot back complex theories? How many elves would be able to do the same if they were allowed the opportunity to learn? I’m not smarter than my brother just because I’m sitting here in a library and he is fighting in the colosseum. If I didn’t have magic I might be cleaning floors somewhere. Would you think me smart then?”

The words had come out all in a rush. Dorian looked as surprised to hear them as Idhren was to speak them aloud. The young man was stunned speechless. Idhren felt a rush of panic, fear that talking so candidly to an Altus would be punished, that finally he had crossed a line and Dorian would not put up with his backtalk anymore. But Dorian did not retaliate. Instead his expression turned thoughtfully, perhaps even a little regretful. “I… Have never thought about it before.”

Of course not. An Altus didn’t need to spare a thought for the slaves beneath him. Obviously Dorian had much more important things to think about.

Idhren looked back down at the books and notes laid out before him, and suddenly he couldn’t stomach the idea of this pretend friendship any longer. “I would like to be alone, please,” he said quietly, and hoped the young man would listen.

To his surprise, Dorian did. He pushed back from the table, chair legs scraping on the tiled floor, and took a few steps away before stopping and looking back over his shoulder. Sitting there at the end of a long table in the middle of this enormous library Idhren looked so small and so vulnerable. “Idhren,” he said quietly, drawing the elf’s attention back to him once more. “For what it’s worth… I’m sorry that this happened to you. You didn’t deserve it.”

Looking back down at his books, Idhren blinked back tears and remained silent. The healer and Galene, they had been understanding but not sympathetic. They wanted him to quickly get over it and go back to life as though nothing had happened. Dorian did not understand, but his parting words meant more than he would ever know.

There were so many times that Idhren wanted to hate him. Dorian was spoiled, egotistical, arrogant, and conceited. When there were other people around he pretended not to know Idhren at all. He was an ass, and yet he was the closest thing that Idhren had to a friend in this place.

It would be so much easier to hate him.

----------

“Would you believe that Liberati’s really a girl?”

“I wouldn’t be surprised. I always thought it was too pretty to be a boy, even for a knife-ear.”

“It’s true. I saw for myself the other night.”

“Did you really? How did you manage that?”

“It took a bit of convincing, but that’s half the fun, isn’t it?”

“And how was she? A little thing like that is bound to be tight, I’d bet.”

“Definitely. I wouldn’t even be surprised if she was a virgin. Sure screamed like a whore when I fucked her, though.”

“That’s just instinct for them, isn’t it? Elves always act like they don’t want it, but as soon as you get it in they can’t get enough.”

“That’s certainly true. I just can’t figure out why the rabbit is walking around dressing and acting like a boy. It’s such an obvious lie.”

“Her owner probably keeps her dressed up like that to protect his investment.”

“He’s not doing a very good job, then, is he? I’d keep a thing like that chained to the bed. Maybe buy one of those Qunari mage collars. I certainly wouldn’t ever send it to a Circle. It’s an insult to all proper mages.”

Idhren heard the entire conversation from the other side of a bookshelf, frozen in place with the volume he had lifted clutched in a white knuckled grip against his chest. He wanted to run away, but he couldn’t move. He couldn’t feel his legs. He just kept remembering that night, less than a week ago, in painful, vivid detail. There had been two of them, both older and larger and stronger than Idhren; holding him down, tearing at his clothes, laughing and mocking as they violated him. Now one of them was bragging about it. Bragging and lying and calling him a girl.

Idhren wasn’t a girl.

He wasn’t. He wasn’t.

A loud slam, like someone dropping a book from a significant height, interrupted both the conversation and Idhren’s panicked thoughts, nearly making the elf jump out of his skin.

“Have the pair of you forgotten that we are in a library? Not the appropriate place for such a distasteful conversation, if you ask me.”

Idhren knew that voice.

“Nobody did ask you, Pavus. Do you have a problem with our conversation?”

“I have a number of problems with your conversation,” Dorian replied mildly. Idhren managed to make his legs work again and tiptoed to the end of the shelf, daring to peek around the corner. It was indeed Dorian standing there beside one of the library tables. There was a book on the floor at his feet, thrown from the table to serve his dramatic interruption. The other two Altus had their backs turned to Idhren’s hiding spot but Idhren recognized one of them all the same. Adrian Gallus’ voice and face haunted Idhren’s nightmares. That was not a person he would forget any time soon. “Chiefly that it is happening here where I am forced to listen to it,” Dorian continued. “Some people are using this library for its intended purpose. Your crude discussion is not only nauseating but tremendously distracting.”

“What’s wrong Pavus?” Gallus sneered, looking down his nose at the other mage. “You have a soft spot for pointed ears? Or are you jealous that I got the first taste?”

Dorian scoffed in response, “Neither,” he retorted stiffly, “I simply have no desire to hear your annoying voice while I am trying to read.”

“I think he’s only disappointed the Liberati is a girl after all,” the other cut in. Unable to see his face Idhren could not place a name to the voice. Perhaps that was better. “Everyone knows where your tastes lie, Pavus.”

Gallus laughed, “Oh, I see. But I think this one’s a girl even you could get it up for. Flat as a fucking board on top and you can barely tell it’s a girl at all even down there. That elf is some kind of freak, if you ask me.”

Idhren’s blood ran cold and he ducked back behind the bookshelf again, pressing his back against the shelves and still clutching the book to his chest. He was going to tell Dorian. He was going to tell everyone.

“I have no interest one way or the other in rabbits half my size,” Dorian said curtly. “I merely find your behavior so absolutely plebian that it physically pains me.”

“Plebian?” Gallus replied, his tone obviously offended, “That’s rich coming from a knife-ear sympathizer.”

“I sympathize with nothing except the poor reputation people like you give to this Circle,” Dorian spat back.

“You would know something about poor reputations wouldn’t you, Pavus?” Gallus sneered in return.

“No nearly as much as yourself, I imagine,” Dorian said, “Of the three of us standing here I am the only one not behaving like a Soporati.”

There was a long moment of silence following Dorian’s words, tense and uncomfortable even for Idhren. “You should be careful what you say, Pavus,” Gallus said tightly.

“Is that a threat?” Dorian asked.

“It could be,” Gallus replied.

“I’m afraid you’ll have to be a little more clear, Gallus,” Dorian sounded so flippant, so unconcerned. “All this talk of reputations, surely you must have heard at least some of mine. If it’s a duel you want then you only need ask. I would be more than happy to remind a cock like you what a proper mage looks like.”

Idhren imagined he could hear Gallus’ teeth grinding even from the other side of the shelf. Dueling was strictly forbidden among apprentices, but no one could refuse such an open challenge and escape with their pride intact. “You’re on, Pavus,” he spat, voice low. “Tonight, the Harrowing arena.”

“I’ll look forward to it,” Dorian assured, “Be certain to have your friend here bring you an extra pair of trousers.”

“And you bring along the little knife-ear if you’re so fond of it,” Gallus sneered in reply. “I’d like to see the look on its face when I wipe the floor with you.”

“I’m afraid you’ll be terribly disappointed,” Dorian said, turned on his heel and quickly left the library. He passed Idhren’s not inconspicuous hiding place without noticing him, striding off down the hall and out the door without so much as a glance backward. Behind him, Gallus let out a string of furious curses before he and his friend departed in the opposite direction, leaving Idhren alone in the library and wondering what he had just witnessed.

It had almost seemed like Dorian was defending him. But why?

----------

Idhren waited in the library, and then his own room, for Dorian to come and officially tell him about the planned duel, but the young man never showed up. He saw neither hide nor hare of the Altus for the rest of the day. So when evening finally rolled around, when students were meant to be in their rooms, Idhren slipped out and made his way through silent halls to the Harrowing arena. The arena had been added to the building after it was converted to a Circle, a wide floor surrounded on three sides by rows and rows of tiered seats. Idhren was told that it was similar to the Grand Proving Grounds in Minrathous or the colosseum in this very city where his brother fought for the entertainment of higher class citizens, albeit significantly smaller than either of those structures. The entire structure was warded to contain whatever sort of spells might be unleashed within, protecting any spectators or nearby structures from misfired or badly aimed attacks.

He slunk through the halls nervously, afraid of being caught and afraid of what he might find when he finally arrived. All the halls were empty and dark, however, and Idhren encountered not another soul. Upon reaching the arena he found one of the massive doors standing ajar. Idhren practically ran up to it and peeked inside. In the center of the arena he spotted Dorian first, staff in hand and dressed in more practical clothing than the intricate robes that he usually wore. Across from him was Gallus, similarly equipped, and a few figures stood at the edge of the arena watching the whole display. Amid the small group of spectators was the other figure that haunted Idhren’s nightmares – Kaeso Fidelis. Laetan, though one of the well established families, and likely courting Gallus’ favor in hopes of further raising his family name. But that didn’t mean he hadn’t enjoyed torturing Idhren that night. Idhren felt ill just looking at him, and quickly turned his attention back to the center of the floor.

It seemed as though he had missed the very beginning of the duel. As he slipped into the arena the air felt charged with mana, the after effects of recent casting. There were scorch marks on the floor.

Watching as the two mages circled each other, Idhren still could not figure out why Dorian was doing this. Why had Dorian gotten so angry in the library that day? If he did not want to listen to Gallus’ gloating why not just leave? Why put himself in danger like this for no reason? There had to be a reason, but the only thing his mind could come up with was that Dorian had been defending him. It was impossible, though. Even if Dorian felt any kind of sympathy for what Idhren had been through there was no way that an Altus would do something like this for a Liberati.

Dorian also had not told Idhren about the duel or the argument at all. If he truly meant to defend Idhren’s honor wouldn’t he want the elf to know about it?

In the arena below fireballs and lightning bolts bounced off barriers, glyphs were drawn and triggered. Dorian was breathing heavily. Gallus’ robes were singed around the hem.

Idhren still could not figure out why this was happening in the first place. Just like he couldn’t figure out why Dorian showed any interest in him at all. And the more Idhren thought about it the more frustrated he became.

Dorian was doing all of this because of Idhren, but the Altus wouldn’t even tell him about it. And Idhren had never asked for his help in the first place. So everything that had happened between them was just to entertain himself after all. That was the only possible explanation. Idhren was a momentary distraction, a diversion, an excuse to get into fights. What would happen to Idhren if Dorian lost this duel? What would happen if they were found by the Circle’s Enchanters? This was against so many rules; surely both apprentices would be in trouble if they were caught. If that happened would they blame Idhren? Of course they would. Someone would, in the end. Whether or not either Dorian or Gallus wanted to admit it, Idhren was the cause of this duel. One way or another Idhren would have to deal with the consequences.

A sudden scream shocked Idhren out of his thoughts. He had only been half paying attention to the action below. Down in the arena Gallus was knocked off his feet, his staff tossed aside, and one sleeve of his robes ablaze where his barrier had failed and Dorian’s fireball connected. On the sidelines someone cried out in alarm and rushed forward, an ice spell putting out the flames and then hands aglow with healing magic as they knelt at his side.

Behind Idhren the doors to the arena slammed open hard enough to make him jump and skitter quickly out of the way as he turned to look.

The First Enchanter stood in the doorway, along with a Senior Enchanter that Idhren did not recognize and several soldiers in templar armor. “What is the meaning of this?” the First Enchanter demanded furiously.

Everything down in the arena froze. Gallus curled on the floor in pain, the mage tending his burns, Dorian still poised to attack, Idhren halfway down the steps and cowering to the side. One by one every student present turned their attention to the interruption. Dorian was surprised when he laid eyes on the First Enchanter, but then he noticed Idhren and his expression turned to one of genuine shock. The elf’s violet eyes met his for a moment, and then quickly turned away.

“Duels between apprentices are strictly forbidden,” the First Enchanter snapped. He began descending the steps. “As is wandering about the halls after curfew. Who is responsible?”

“It was Pavus, sir,” one of the spectators accused quickly. It was the same boy who had been with Gallus in the library that day. “He gave the challenge.”

The First Enchanter turned his attention to Dorian, mouth pressed into a thin disapproving line. “Is this true?” he asked in a tone that demanded the young man’s full attention.

It forced Dorian to tear his eyes away from Idhren, who still would not look at him. Why was the elf here? How had he found out about this duel? Dorian had intended to keep it a secret from him because explaining would be too difficult. Or at least keep it a secret until he could come up with an excuse that did not involve him defending Idhren’s honor. Dorian turned his attention to the First Enchanter and shrugged his shoulders. “That’s a matter of interpretation, I think.”

“You’re so full of shit, Pavus,” the other student growled.

“Silence!” the First Enchanter snapped. He looked over to Gallus, who was still on the floor, moaning in pain. “Someone see to this boy’s injuries,” he ordered impatiently, and immediately the Enchanter at his side rushed forward. “Pavus, I’ll speak to you in my office. The rest of you get back to your rooms. I’m feeling lenient today, but if I see so much as one hair out of bed in the next half hour there will be consequences.”

Idhren chanced one last glance back at Dorian, and startled when he realized the young man was looking at him again. He would have expected Dorian to be upset after being caught. Not only had he been out after curfew and dueling against regulations, he had seriously injured another apprentice in the process. But the expression on Dorian’s face as he stared at Idhren was only confusion.

Quickly Idhren tore his gaze away again and rushed out past the templars, trying to tell himself that his heart was racing only from adrenaline.

----------

Following a rather long and involved lecture by the First Enchanter Dorian had been forcibly hauled off by two of the Circle’s resident templar guards, dosed with magebane, and dragged down into the lower levels of the Circle, past the cellars and the storage rooms, and to a dungeon that Dorian hadn’t even been aware of. It was a single corridor lined with three barred cells on either side, dark and stinking of mildew, as one would expect of a prison, but the cell that he was unceremoniously shoved into was at least clean. It was furnished with a low cot, a wobbly table, and a chamber pot. After the barred door slammed shut behind him the only light source came from the magefire sconces in the corridor. With the magebane still in his system Dorian could barely manage a spark, let alone enough of a flame to light his dismal cell.

Solitary confinement. That was his sentence. Presumably until they decided what to do with him, or until his father arrived to collect him. Or sent someone to collect him. At this point that would be less of a surprise.

Nothing would happen until at least the following day, however, so Dorian tentatively lay down on the poor excuse for a bed to try and get a few hours of sleep while he could. That ass Gallus was probably enjoying a nice nap in the infirmary right now, with a proper mattress and a feather pillow while Dorian wondered whether his blanket had been washed this decade. At least those burns would probably scar. That was the least he deserved for what he had done to Idhren. Not that Dorian would ever say so out loud. He certainly hadn’t told the First Enchanter the truth, though he had considered it. Had the man even been told about the abuse occurring under his own roof? Did he care?

Idhren had been right.

It was with that thought that Dorian managed to drift off to sleep, though his night was not particularly restful. The thin, hard mattress did not provide for a quality night’s sleep. Dorian tossed and turned trying to find a comfortable position, slept a few hours at a time before waking again because his back or his shoulder or his hip ached. Eventually he gave up trying to sleep, uncertain whether it was morning or not. The magebane had worn off, so he was at least able to conjure enough light to properly light his cell, not that it did much to improve the ambiance.

He entertained himself with simple magic tricks, little pretty things that made children smile, until he heard footsteps at the end of the hall. They were quiet, but there was little else to listen to down here, so Dorian noticed them right away. Curious, he let the flame in his palm flicker out and turned his head toward the cell door.

He expected the First Enchanter, a templar, or maybe even his father, so it was quite the surprise when the figure that stepped into his line of sight was short, slender, and elven. Idhren. Violet eyes aglow in the dim torchlight, the elf looked decidedly unhappy.

“You’re not supposed to be down here,” Dorian said flatly.

“You’re not supposed to be fighting duels in the middle of the night,” Idhren shot back.

“No,” Dorian agreed, “How did you find out about that, by the way?”

“I was in the library,” Idhren informed him. “I heard everything.”

“Of course you were,” Dorian sighed. He should have expected that. Idhren was always in the library. That begged the question, though, of how much ‘everything’ the elf had actually heard.

“Why did you do it?” Idhren demanded furiously.

Dorian had never seen him so aggressive. It was startling, but of course he did not react. “This Circle has a very strange idea of what ‘solitary confinement’ entails,” he mused instead.

“Why did you do it?” Idhren demanded again, and gripped the bars of Dorian’s cell so hard his knuckles turned white.

Dorian shrugged and let his head fall back against the wall. “They were annoying me.”

Idhren barred his teeth in a snarl. How could the man be so cavalier about this? “I don’t need you to fight my battles for me,” he snapped.

“Your battles?” Dorian asked. “Who said this had anything to do with you?”

“So it’s just a coincidence that you publically humiliated the one who… who…”

“The boy who raped you?” Dorian finished for him, and watched Idhren’s face go ashen, his entire body go rigid. Really that reaction was all the reason he needed to assure himself that his actions had been warranted. But in Tevinter an Altus does not go around performing random acts of kindness for a Liberati elf no matter how pretty, how endearing, how talented. “You say you don’t need me to fight your battles for you, but you didn’t seem very willing to fight them for yourself.”

“They’ll kick you out of the Circle for this,” Idhren said.

“Yes, I imagine they will,” Dorian mused, unperturbed. “And rightly so. A terrible example for the other students, I am. As though bullying and abuse are perfectly acceptable behaviors.”

Idhren’s hands dropped away from the bars and hung limp by his sides. “It is if it’s toward a knife-ear,” he muttered. “Otherwise I might forget my place. Didn’t you know, Master Pavus?” A smile crossed his face, a smile that made Dorian exceedingly uncomfortable though he couldn’t say why. “Elves are too stupid to think for themselves. That’s why we’re slaves, you see?” he let out a bark of bitter almost hysterical laughter, “We need you humans to look after us, tell us what to do. We’re happier that way, taking orders and doing as we’re told. It was a cruelty for Magister Canidius to set me free. A cruelty to send me here, where it’s so obvious I’m too stupid and useless for an education.”

Dorian surged up off the bed and crossed the cell in two long strides, thrusting his arms through the bars to grab Idhren by the shoulders. “You are the most talented mage in this entire Circle!”

Idhren ripped himself out of Dorian’s grasp and staggered backward beyond his reach. “Do you think you’ve helped me, Dorian?” he demanded. “Do you think you’ve helped the poor knife-ear who can’t take care of himself? Who won’t fight his own battles?”

“What?” Dorian asked in confusion. That was the whole point, wasn’t it?

“Do you think your actions changed anything?” Idhren continued. “Do you think you’ve made some sort of statement that anyone will listen to? You save one lowly knife-ear and think you’ve done something good for the world!”

“No!” Dorian insisted, “That wasn’t—.”

“What do you think will happen when you leave?” Idhren interrupted before Dorian could say anything further. “Do you think everyone will ignore me because Altus Pavus stood up for me?” he sneered, “Do you think they will let their humiliation stand? Or do you think they’ll try and get revenge? And what better way to get back at the one who wronged them than to take it out on the knife-ear he tried to protect.”

Dorian stared at him agape. Idhren was right. Of course he was. The others wouldn’t be kicked out because the First Enchanter didn’t think they did anything wrong. “I didn’t think--.”

“Of course you didn’t!” Idhren snapped. “Altus Dorian Pavus in his gilded mansion wouldn’t ever think about the consequences of his actions to anyone but himself. He certainly wouldn’t think about a lowly Liberati.”

“Then why don’t you stand up for yourself!” Dorian snapped. His brain finally caught up with the conversation, finally got over the shock of all that Idhren was saying. But if the elf had just stood up for himself in the first place Dorian wouldn’t have felt the need to do it for him. “Why don’t you fight back? You could have stopped this a long time ago if you did!”

Idhren laughed, bitter and hysterical and disturbing. “Fight back? Me?” he asked. “I’m an elf! Elves that fight back get killed!”

Dorian was once more stunned into silence.

“You’re a fool, Dorian Pavus,” Idhren spat. “Go back to your gilded palace, and next time you think about helping someone… Don’t.” He turned on his heel then and stormed off down the hall, footsteps soft on the stone floor until they were out of earshot entirely.

That could have gone better.

Apparently Dorian’s habit of being a crushing disappointment was not unique to his family alone. It also extended to Liberati elves that he had never been trying to impress in the first place. Yes, for once in his life Dorian hadn’t been trying to impress anyone, he had simply been trying to do the right thing, and still all the effort had been thrown back in his face.

He stepped back away from the cell door and slumped down on the shoddy excuse for a bed once again. Idhren was probably right. He should stick to what he was good at: sassing his instructors and getting drunk.

Once they shipped him back to his father Dorian would probably never see the little elf again, anyway.

A week later Dorian was lead out of the dungeons and into a carriage waiting in the Circle’s courtyard. His father did not come, but he was headed back to Qarinus, that much was obvious. And then Magister Pavus would frown and lecture and be so very disappointed and find another school for his son. It had all happened before.

Even after a week to think about it Dorian didn’t regret scarring the Gallus boy. He only regretted getting caught in the act. Because after a week thinking about it Dorian realized that Idhren was probably right: Gallus would not let the insult go unreturned. He had hurt Idhren once before with no reason. Now Dorian had unintentionally given him very good reason, and now Dorian wasn’t around to fight on Idhren’s behalf or at least patch up his bruises in the aftermath. It was little consolation that Gallus would soon be facing his Harrowing. Tevinter produced men like him in the blink of an eye. Someone else would show up to fill the place he vacated.

Dorian didn’t regret the duel. He didn’t regret being thrown out of the Circle. He regretted leaving Idhren there alone without anyone to look out for him. He regretted that even down to their last meeting he hadn’t been able to be honest about his feelings.
Semper ad Meliora - Chapter 2
Prologue | Last Chapter | Next Chapter

Crossposted from AO3

And now we see those mature tags. This is the worst we'll see in this fic in terms of abuse and violence. 

And yes, in case you missed it, Idhren is intersex. If that's a problem for anyone, then you can take yourself right the hell off my page.
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Erandir
N. Viggo Mercer
Artist
United States
Current Residence: San Francisco
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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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.
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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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