Ever since the Herald of Andraste emerged as the soul survivor of the breach in the sky, he was all anyone could talk about — but whether he was the savior of Thedas or the harbinger of destruction remained to be seen. For Dorian, he was both, and so much more.
Dorian drained the last of his dwarven stout and waved the empty tankard at the barmaid. She rolled her eyes and motioned him to be patient as she catered to a group of patrol guards who had just sat down. The crowd at the Herald’s Rest picked up in typical fashion as the sun began to set beyond the snow covered mountains that surrounded Skyhold. Rich aromas of roasted game hen flooded the room, and bards took to spinning tales through lilting tunes and mournful ballads. Bawdy laughter erupted from around every table, save for the one by the roaring hearth fire, where Dorian and Chronicler Naveer faced one another. Their food sat untouched as Dorian recounted feats of heroism and Naveer scribbled furiously. He spoke quickly, and it was her responsibility to capture every detail.
She tapped her quill into a crystal vial of ink. Dorian loved to talk about himself, but she was hoping for more than the superficial tales he’d started with. “What brought you to the Inquisition?” she asked.
“Why, the Inquisitor, of course.” Dorian laughed at a joke only he seemed to understand.
“Of course,” Naveer said. “No one comes to the Inquisition without his approval.”
“I’m certain you’ve heard just how much the Inquisitor approves of me.” Dorian’s flashed a wicked smile.
Naveer felt her ears go hot. The affair between the Inquisitor and Dorian was well known, yet hardly spoken of outside whispered rumors. She wanted to pry for truth around the relationship, but she feared how far Dorian might take that part of the tale once he got started.
The barmaid filled Dorian’s tankard from a clay pitcher. She nearly spilled out of her corset as she leaned over to take the bronze bits he flipped onto the table. Dorian didn’t seem to take notice of her virtues.
He took a long pull from the mug and wiped foam from his black moustache before speaking. “I’ll be the first to admit, our Inquisitor was not what I was expecting when first we met.”
“The rumors about him were positively absurd! Of course, I met him before he’d taken the title of Inquisitor, when he was simply the ‘Herald of Andraste,’ sent by the Maker to stop the hole in the sky from consuming the world. He who wielded the mark of the breach, and who alone could seal rifts in the fade. Savior of mages. Slayer of demons and dragons alike.” Dorian waved his hand in a flourish. “I could go on and on.”
Naveer frowned. “Those are truths, not rumors. His Worship is the Herald, and our savior.”
Dorian’s hearty guffaw momentarily drowned out the din of the tavern. “Do you know how much he hates that?”
“That!” He motioned at Naveer. “The starry-eyed look people get when they say ‘His Worship.’ Even back then, some of the stories had him already ascended to godhood. Others labeled him an agent of the Elder One, issued from the breach as a false prophet who would lead us all into the fade to become possessed by demons. Pity my expectations to find out he was simply just a man. Or maybe not such a pity after all.” Dorian leaned forward onto the table, closing the distance between himself and Naveer. He lowered his voice so she had to lean in as well. “Fear and reverence are two sides of the same coin. It’s important to understand which side you cling to.”
Naveer tapped her quill on scrap paper a little harder than was necessary and then took her time inking the nib. She knew interviewing Dorian would be like a walk through a labyrinth. His tongue was honey and silver. His words laced with equal measures of wit and sarcasm. He was known to dance around the point and make a mockery of most subjects. Still, he was closer to the Inquisitor than any other at Skyhold, and she was certain he had many tales to tell.
Dorian pushed back from the table to lounge in his chair. “The point is, he hates the reverence. I’m certain that’s why he prefers my company.”
“You don’t revere the Inquisitor?”
“Oh, my dear, my love for the man runs deeper than the Deep Roads themselves. I couldn’t adore him more. But we get ahead of ourselves. You see, there’s much to be told of the time before I met the Herald of Andraste, and all that led to the day I first visited his chambers.”
Naveer felt her cheeks flush once more.
Dorian’s snickering added to her discomfort. “As a court scribe charged with recording my tale, you can’t possibly avoid the subject of our most adored Inquisitor’s manhood. After all, it’s his humanity that makes him who he is–at least to me.”
Everyone had an opinion of the Inquisitor, yet Dorian had long kept his to himself, choosing to divulge very little in the way of truths to anyone, save perhaps the Inquisitor himself. Naveer had been pleasantly surprised when Dorian agreed to their interview. The bulk of her time, however, had been spent watching him drain several tankards of ale as he regaled her with his tales of he and the Inquisitor, side by side, fighting demons and highwaymen. While his stories were entertaining, she felt excitement well inside her as the conversation turned more personal. This was what she’d come for.
“And who might he be–to you?” Naveer sat poised, ready to write.
“He is Breck. Just a man. And yet… something more.” Dorian closed his eyes for a moment and Naveer noticed his expression soften ever so slightly. He sat up straight and regained his composure. “Where shall I start?” The question hung between them. “No suggestions?”
“Begin where you feel it is right,” Naveer offered.
“Very well. I shall start at the beginning.”
As a Tevinter of noble birth, I had a natural affinity for magic and a unique flare that made me the envy of my peers at the Circle of Carastes. My parents couldn’t have been more delighted with my innate talent, my quick wit, and my dashing good looks. I’d marry easily and make a fitting husband to one of the finest, most upstanding women at court. Our offspring would no doubt secure a strong line of mages for the future of house Pavus of Qarinus.
Sounds marvelous, doesn’t it? Or at least, it would, if I’d not been expelled from the Circle at the age of nine for injuring the High Enchanter’s son in an unsanctioned duel. And that was only the first of my many public transgressions.
You see, even then, at an early age, I knew I was different. High-born Tevinters like myself are expected to spring from the womb with a keen understanding of their place in society. Yet my eye wandered far from the prescribed path of my birth: to theoretical magic, a longing for adventure, and a desperate desire for a type of love that would never secure an heir for house Pavus of Qarinus.
My father tried desperately to correct my undisciplined spirit. His final attempt in my late teens was to enroll me at the very expensive, very abusive, Order of the Argent. I ran from the school the first chance I got, and I never looked back.
My early adulthood became a constant stream of drunken stupors and elven whores until a mage named Alexius bested me at a game of cards. I hadn’t the sovereigns I’d wagered, and so he indentured me to his service.
In time, he made me his apprentice. Alexius understood my nature, as it closely mirrored his own. I drank my fill from his wellspring of theoretical magic, learning how to push the boundaries of energy to peer into the fade, make use of the spirits, and even bend time to my will. As a brash young man, these wild arts exhilarated my soul. Alexius celebrated my nonconformance and I relished in his adoration and attention. He took me into his house and placed me alongside his own son, Felix, as if we were brothers. I, the powerful magi and future heir to Alexius’s rank within the Circle of Minrathous, and Felix the heir by blood of Alexius’s house at court. I spent my daylight hours delving deeper into forbidden arts, and my nights chasing after my carnal desires with highborn men of like persuasion. It was a time of comfort, and I felt as if I’d found my place.
My peace, however, was short lived.
I started to suspect that all was not what it seemed when Alexius asked me to help him seal a complex spell into a blue-stoned amulet wrapped in silver. He wouldn’t divulge the full nature of the spell, only that he needed me to lend him power.
“You see, my son,” he said, “this spell holds the key to all the ages, to be revealed at just the right moment. But it must be contained so that the energy within may build to its peak of power.”
I trusted Alexius in a way that a son trusts a father–in a way I had never trusted my own blood. And so I lent him my power without question, despite the voice inside of me that begged hesitation.
What Alexius didn’t understand at that time was just how much talent I’d amassed. As the spell flowed through us, I felt the signature of its origin, and it wasn’t Alexius. Whispers of the Inquisition had turned to rumors, which became truths, and the mages who had rebelled against the circles were set to join forces against an unspeakable evil that had opened up the breach in the sky. The spell that wove through my mind and soul, and poured unhindered from my fingertips into the amulet, was created by the very same force of evil that threatened all our world. The Elder One – Corypheus himself – was the source of power behind the spell.
I said nothing. Instead, I approached Felix.
“Brother, I have dire news. Your father–“
“Is in the hands of Corypheus,” Felix said.
Felix ran a hand through his blond hair. His complexion had taken a sickly pallor. I’d thought it stress, but we’d all come to understand that he had fallen ill. Perhaps he was even dying. None could determine the cause of his illness.
“I wanted to come to you with this news, Dorian, but he hardly leaves my side since learning of my illness. I suspected his betrayal from words I’ve heard him whisper to his advisors. My father has taken up with the Venatori. They serve The Elder One. I don’t claim to know Father’s plan, but it has to do with the pending visit by the Inquisition and the allegiance of the rebel mages at Redcliff.”
“It involves time magic,” I said. “The spell that we worked into his amulet was beyond the power of this world, and even that of the fade. I felt the movement of the planets and stars themselves worked into the spell.”
Felix’s face contorted. “I think I might know what he intends. Tomorrow, the Herald of Andraste is scheduled to meet with Grand Enchanter Fiona. It’s said that he’s coming to offer the rebel mages a place at Haven within the Inquisition. Could it be that Father means to trap the Herald in time, so as to free the world of his influence?”
As much as Felix’s words made sense in my mind, my heart cried out in anguish. Alexius had given himself over to Corypheus, and in doing so, had threatened us all. “We must stop him,” I said.
“I’m to attend the meeting with the Grand Enchanter,” Felix offered. “I will pass word to the Herald to meet you in private. There, you can alert him to the danger that awaits him at the hands of my father.”
“Then I shall prepare myself to meet this ‘Herald of Andraste.’”
“You don’t believe he’s the Herald?” Felix eyed me with a hint of suspicion.
“I believe that some think him the Herald. There are others who claim he is hungry for power and taking advantage. You know me well enough, brother, to know that I’ll be the final judge of what I see.”
“So what did you see?” Naveer scribbled furious notes as she asked the question of Dorian, who had suddenly gone quiet. “Are you alright?”
“What?” Dorian shook his head. “Oh, yes. Apologies. That moment seems another lifetime ago. And yet, chronologically, much of what came next hasn’t even come to pass, and with any luck, never will.”
“I’m sorry,” the court scribe looked up from her notes, “but what do you mean?”
“Time is a fascinating construct.” Dorian pulled a copper bit from his coin purse and spun it on the table. “You see how this coin spins? You know what it looks like, if it’s still. A nameless king on one side, and Andraste Herself on the other. One long forgotten, the other living eternally, both existing in the same instant but only one is visible at a time. When it spins as such, you cannot tell which face you are seeing. But when it stops…” Dorian slammed his hand on the coin and lifted his palm slowly. “Well, then you see clearly.”
“And what do you see?”
“We all see only that which is meant for us. Nothing more. Yet I’ve traveled beyond reality to witness what might have been.” Dorian spun the coin once more before chugging his ale. “Perhaps the gods themselves will come for me when my life ceases, and they’ll show me not the face of Andraste, but that of a Herald, who–like all great leaders who have come and gone before him–is fated to be forgotten by time, even if those of us close to him could never forget. Maybe he and I will be cast back into the horrifying future that we spared so many from experiencing. An atonement for our sins, perhaps.”
Naveer shifted in her seat.
“I feel I’m making you uncomfortable, dear scribe.” Dorian’s smile lacked even a hint of joy. “Perhaps I should buy the next round and you can join me in celebrating what didn’t come to pass?”
“Maybe we should move on to another topic.” Naveer pulled a clean sheet of parchment from her bag. “Many claim that you came to Skyhold as an agent of the Venatori. Some say you still hold ties to Tevinter. Others say that you lead the Inquisitor astray. What say you of these rumors?”
“I say they’re all true.”
Naveer gasped. “True?”
“From a certain point of view.” This time, Dorian’s smile lit up his entire face. “And with heavy caveats, of course.”
“Of course.” Naveer dipped her quill and waited for Dorian to continue.
“I’ll be the first to admit, I doubted the rumors about our fated Inquisitor. But when he entered that secret room at the back of the Chantry at Redcliff, well…” Dorian shrugged.
“Your mind was changed?”
“No, dear girl. It was my fate that changed. You see, living a lie… it festers inside you, like poison. You have to fight for what’s in your heart. At the moment I met our Herald of Andraste, that which was in my heart was poison. The betrayal of a father followed by the betrayal of a mentor. A homeland I at once despised and missed terribly. I was displaced. Alone. Powerful, but with a broken sense of purpose. I wasn’t sure what words would fall from my lips until the moment Breck entered the room.”
“I’m told you’ve come with a warning?” Breck asked.
His leather mage’s robes fell to his knees. He carried a sun-crested staff across his back. His dark skin and mocha eyes reminded me of my travels to the Free Marches, where pirates and wealthy merchants alike dined on the finest spiced meats and vintage wines. In my mind, I couldn’t decide which he would be in that scenario. I only knew that I wanted to gain the man’s favor. Though at the time, my thoughts were purely carnal.
Of course, my tongue has a mind of its own under such circumstances, and I replied with my typical flair. “Perhaps you should come with a warning.” I offered a half-crooked smile.
Heat crept up my spine in response to the harrowing silence that filled the space between us, and I tried to salvage the moment by adding, “Judging by the company you keep.”
The Herald was flanked by a tall, thin elf, a blond-haired dwarf, and a woman in heavy armor. From their weapons and crests, I figured the elf for an apostate mage, the dwarf for a rogue of sorts, and the woman a Seeker of Chantry. Hardly common company to be found together.
“Only the best stand at my side.” The Herald’s expression remained firm, but I could see a hint of mirth in his eyes. “Despite our obvious differences, we’re the best of friends.”
The Seeker sighed audibly. “Herald, perhaps we should leave the jests for another time, when we’re not under threat.”
“Right you are, Cassandra.” Breck cleared his throat. “What of this warning then?”
I caught a sly smile from the Herald. Even from that first moment, there was a spark of chemistry. I knew I had to tread lightly, though. As a Tevinter and a Circle mage, I was certain to have already lost favor with both the apostate and the Seeker before the conversation even began. And the dwarf eyed me with obvious suspicion. The crossbow slung over his shoulder was nothing like I’d ever seen, with four limbs and several chambers up the stock, a few of which glowed with a magical aura. Angering him or any of the others would have undoubtedly been unwise.
I decided on bluntness as the best course of action. “Alexius means to plot against you. The meeting you’ve arranged with the Grand Enchanter is a trap. I’m afraid you’re in grave danger.”
“When aren’t we?” the dwarf asked.
“Honestly, Varric,” the elf chimed in, “must you lend your wit at every moment?”
“It keeps things interesting,” Varric replied. “Anyway, continue, please… what was your name again?”
Breck seemed to sense my hesitation. “You are a Tevinter, are you not?” He arched one eyebrow. “Is it just Dorian, or do you have one of those long, involved courtesan names to go with it?”
“I am.” I forced steadiness into my voice. Divulging my family straight away wasn’t my first choice. “I mean, of course. Yes. I am Dorian Pavus of Qarinus, Enchanter of the Circle of Minrathous.”
“That’s a mouthful,” Varric mumbled.
“You asked for it,” I said.
“I believe I’ve heard that name before,” Cassandra commented. “Are you not the son of house Pavus who is living in exile?”
The word hardly escaped my lips before she had her sword drawn at my chest. “Herald, it is known that this man has taken up forces with the Venatori.”
“Cassandra, let the man speak.” Breck crossed his arms over his broad chest. “So, Dorian Pavus of Qarinus, why do you bring us this warning? Are you not a part of the Tevinter faction that seeks dominance over the rebel mages here in Redcliff, serving as advisor to Alexius himself?”
“That I am,” I admitted.
“You are advising us without his knowledge? A treasonous act.” Cassandra spat.
Varric mumbled something about ‘goddamned Tevinters,’ but I chose to ignore the slight. It was, after all, expected.
“Why should we trust your word?” the Herald asked. “How do we know this is not part of Alexius’s scheme?”
“Because I find myself at odds with Alexius and his affiliations,” I said. “This is bigger than any one of us. These rifts in the fade and the demons emerging are no accident, as I’m sure you must know. I won’t be party to furthering the agenda of those who would allow such atrocities.”
“Wait,” Varric said, “are you saying Alexius is opening rifts?”
“Not exactly. However, I have reason to believe he and his fellow Venatori are working with a man who calls himself the Elder One. I suspect that he is the source of the breach. I bring you this warning not for your sake alone, but for the fate of us all. I fear that Alexius intends to use temporal magic against you, Herald, to advance the cause of the Elder One. The consequences of using this wild form of magic could be dire. Many innocent lives are at stake.”
At this, Cassandra gasped. “How do you know this to be true?”
The Herald watched me expectantly, studying my face as I chose my words. I knew what I uttered next could seal my fate. Truth, I decided, was required, and consequences be damned.
“I know because of my part in it, I’m afraid.” The words felt like weights on my tongue. They listened intently as I told them of the amulet, and its creation.
“So you say this amulet is somehow tied to the fabric of time?” the elf, who I learned was called Solas, asked. “Are you certain? Temporal magic is at best theoretical.”
“It’s quite a reality, I assure you,” I said. “And a dangerous one at that. I know not where–or rather when–Alexius intends to send you, Herald, but I suspect that he means to remove you from the Elder One’s path… indefinitely.”
“Well, we can’t let that happen, now, can we?” Breck replied. “What’s our plan?”
“I picked up on hints of worry that underscored Breck’s displays of confidence.” Naveer raised an eyebrow, and Dorian continued. “Brought up as I was at Tevinter court, where no one says what they truly mean and everyone has an agenda, I learned how to read intentions masked inside words. A Tevinter survival skill, if you will.”
“So the Inquisitor was worried?”
“Of course. Wouldn’t you be? We had very little knowledge of what might come next, save for my glimpse into the nature of the amulet. It gave me some measure of comfort to realize that this Herald was indeed human. As much as I discredited the rumors of him, frankly, I’d expected more arrogance and less candor. Yes, it’s true that he carried himself with an air of power, but unlike so many who take up the mantle of leadership, he walked with eyes and ears wide open.
“As we spoke, I realized that his true strength stemmed from his connection with others. As we decided on our next moves against Alexius, Breck listened not just to those closest to him, but to me as well–much to the utter dismay of his companions. I could tell he weighed my motivations heavily, but still, he listened.
“And he watched me. His eyes, dark like the night sky, followed my lips as I spoke. Where his companions scrutinized my every word, Breck made me feel as if I’d already earned his favor. At the time, I thought it might have been a ruse to ease me into divulging information… and perhaps it was… but it was also something more.”
“The beginning of a friendship?” Naveer asked.
“It’s important to note the level of trust that Breck has afforded me from the onset. He had no reason to believe me, but he did, despite the protests of his companions. I, unlike the rest here at Skyhold, have always been an outsider to the Inquisition. He could have taken my warning and left me to fend for myself after I betrayed Alexius. Instead, he offered me a chance to speak. It made me wish to provide sound council. Perhaps even secure a place at his side in the Inquisition. In the end, and to my great surprise, it was my plan against Alexius that Breck chose to follow.”
“So your plan worked, then?” Naveer began to write, but Dorian gently laid a hand over hers.
He shook his head once. “No, my dear. As most carefully laid plans tend to do, ours went awry from the the first moment. And that moment became one in a distant and alternate future. I know you’ve heard the tales, and they’re all true.”
Naveer took a drink from her cup to combat the sudden dryness in her mouth. She had already avoided this subject once during their conversation, yet she could tell Dorian was about to delve deeply into this part of his tale. It was a story that was only spoken in hushed whispers, or used to frighten children. And here was Dorian, talking freely about a future that spelled death for most, and extreme suffering for any who survived. A future that he and the Herald had experienced, even though it never came to pass.
“Those memories…” Dorian looked away to the fireplace. The red glow lit his face, and she could see in his eyes that he searched for the right words. “They’re something that Breck and I alone share. No one else, save for possibly the Elder One himself, has memory of the future that never existed. But it was in this future that we came to know one another, and our alliance was forged.”
We’d dropped from the warp in time to a stone room with a flooded floor somewhere in the depths of the catacombs beneath Redcliff. A rift in the fade burned bright green in mid air, and from it, red demons, like living volcanic fire, ushered forth into the room. I watched, mouth agape, as Breck sealed the tear after we’d dispatched of the monsters.
“I’d heard the rumors that you could seal those fade rifts,” I said. “I’m certainly thankful that bit about you is true. If we’re as far into the future as I think we are, and if the Elder One succeeded as I’m assuming he has, I’ll be counting on you to seal up any other rifts we might come across.”
“I can and I will,” Breck responded. He opened his left hand, and I felt an alien and alarming breed of magic coursing through him. Green fade energy sprung to life and danced in his palm. “I just wish I knew how I was doing it.”
“You don’t know?”
“Some claim it was a gift from Andraste, granted when She chose me to survive the rift.” He sat on a stone bench and leaned his head back against the wall. “Some scholars believe my soul never fully left the fade.”
I sat beside him and waited until he met my gaze. “What do you think? Are you really the Herald of Andraste?”
“I didn’t hear her calling my name, nor did I see her face, if that’s what you’re asking. I just know, one minute I was in the temple, and the next, I was being interrogated by Cassandra about my glowing hand. Then, before I could even process what had happened, all of Ferelden knew me as The Herald, and word of me was spreading to Orlais, the Free Marches, and beyond.”
“I’d be much more worried about our chances if you saw yourself as others do.”
Breck looked startled at my words. “Rather candid of you.”
“Candid. Sarcastic. Usually a little of both for good measure.” I watched him watching me. Sizing me up. I could almost feel the questions he had of me burning under the surface.
“It’s refreshing to not have to live up to the rumors.” His smile was more out of strain than humor.
“It’s good that you have doubts,” I said. “Keeps a man sharp.”
“My biggest doubt right now is our ability to fix whatever happened here. How about this: I’ll close the fade rifts if you’ll repair whatever time rip Alexius caused.”
“It’s a deal.”
Breck eyed me with sudden curiosity. “Mind if I ask you a rather personal question?”
“Why not? We might die in a few moments.”
“True enough,” he said.
I waved a hand. “Ask away.”
“How is it that a highborn Teviner mage such as yourself came to apprentice for a madman like Alexius? Was there truth to Cassandra’s words?”
It was the one question I’d hoped he wouldn’t ask. I didn’t like to talk about my past; not even inside my own head. It had been a hard road I’d traveled, and most of those who were privy to my history had been left behind, for my sake, and for theirs. And yet, there we were, one year into the future? Two? Ten? Sitting in a random room inside a maze of stone pathways filled with demons. It seemed pointless not to answer.
“I’m a Tevinter,” I started carefully. “And a mage. And dashingly handsome.”
“I can’t argue any of that.” His flirtatious comments came with lingering looks that were to be my undoing. “Go on,” he urged.
“I was also… different. Highborn Tevinters… we live by a code of conduct. I have always had predilections outside nearly every statute of my prescribed life, both the spoken and unspoken. My father wanted me to marry such that I’d pass along my strong magical line. He’d even picked out my bride–a powerful noble woman who would make me the envy of the entire court. I refused to marry, and I left.”
He folded his hands together and leaned in closer. “Why?”
“I couldn’t pretend, and I wouldn’t ruin both her life and mine.”
I met Breck’s eyes, and I was certain he already knew the answer. He simply wanted to hear me say it.
“I prefer the company of men,” I said.
“Is that so wrong in Tevinter?”
“Not for commoners”, I explained. “And even men of high society are known to indulge with each other for carnal pleasure; to wish it to be something more is folly. For a man of noble birth to eschew the duties of carrying on the royal line in order to be true to his nature… well, let’s say that’s why I live in a self-induced exile, a pariah if you please.”
“I certainly understand your feelings on the matter.” A sheepish smile played on his face. “I mean to say, I can see why you left.”
Tension hovered between us.
He broke the silence first. “You would be welcome in the Inquisition.”
“But what would your advisors say?” My question was an attempt to lighten the moment. I placed my hand briefly on his before pulling back. The spark between us was undeniable, and had nothing to do with us both being mages.
He placed his hands to either side of himself on the bench. His shoulders tensed. “They’ll say, ‘Yes, Herald. As you wish.’”
My eyebrow arched in response to his words. “Are you so sure about that?”
“Quite,” he said.
“They do fight for the chance to blow wind up your arse, don’t they.”
He sighed. “That they do. You know, Dorian… we’ve only just met, I have every reason to doubt your intentions, and yet I’m entirely certain you would come right out and tell me if I was being an ass about something.”
“No sense in being party to bad manners,” I caught his gaze and held it. There was hope in his eyes. “Though I wouldn’t mind talking you into exploring some.”
Silence filled the room as we both looked away. It hardly seemed the the time or place to kindle a courtship, but the brush of his fingers against mine on the bench was no accident.
“Would you look at us?” I said. “Like a couple of nervous children.”
“Children surrounded by demon infested pools,” he countered.
“And yet here we are.” I closed my hand over his. He returned my warm smile. “We may as well make the best of it. Maker knows if we’ll get the chance to explore what could be.”
Naveer stopped writing. Her mouth hung open. “So you… right there… in the catacombs?”
“No,” Dorian said. “We were rudely interrupted by cries for help echoing down the hall. Fortunately for us, the voice belonged to Varric, and we were able to find a crude bow and arrows with which to arm him. Shortly thereafter, we found Cassandra, and Grand Enchanter Fiona as well. Long story short, Varric, Cassandra and Fiona held back the demon forces. They fought valiantly, and to the death – a reality I knew would be etched into time if I failed. Breck wielded an impressive array of elemental spells that kept Alexius quite busy while I manipulated the time amulet. I was able to reverse the spell and send Breck and I back to the exact moment of our departure.”
Dorian stared off toward the fireplace. His whole body shuddered once before he returned his attention to Naveer.
“You saved us all from a horrific fate,” she said in a hushed voice.
Naveer straightened herself in her chair. She inked her quill. “But that doesn’t end your tale, does it?”
Dorian kicked his feet up onto the hearth. “Hardly.”
“Where the hell have you been, Dorian?” Varric said as he stormed through the library door. “We go on one expedition, and now there’s a rumor that you’re contacting Tevinters?”
“Are you having me followed, Varric?” I replaced the leather-bound tome I’d been reading and turned to face the angry dwarf.
“Why wouldn’t I?” He ground his fists into his hips. “Are you arranging a coup?”
Varric was no doubt intimidating regardless of his stature. I’d witnessed him in battle and knew him to be ruthless when it was necessary. His trusted crossbow, which he’d named Bianca for unfathomable reasons, hung across his back as always. I noted the bolt already notched for faster action.
“Varric, have you been working on your fiction again? Maybe the sequel to ‘Hard in High Town’ can be titled ‘Taut in Tevinter.’ I’ll even let you feature me as the dashing hero from Minrathous.”
He didn’t seem to find the humor in my jest.
I interlaced my fingers–a mage’s way of saying, “I’m unarmed”–and sighed. “I’m not selling Skyhold out to anyone, nor do I pine after the Inquisitor’s job. If you must know, I had a visit with one of my very few childhood friends. We met in Orlais, and yes, we spoke of the Inquisition.”
Varric eyed me closely.
“Doesn’t everyone speak of the Inquisition?” I asked.
“And how did you leave the conversation.”
“To be quite honest, I don’t remember,” I admitted. “I woke up the next morning in lavish quarters with a blistering pain behind my eyes and a vague memory of winning at cards. I called it a successful reunion and made my way back to Skyhold.”
Varric shook his head. “I don’t get you, Dorian.”
“Perhaps that’s because you’re looking too hard, Varric,” Breck said.
I’d seen the Inquisitor approaching, but didn’t betray it. The effect was worth it. Varric nearly jumped out of his boots, but he regained his composure quickly. “I just don’t understand why he’s still here.”
“Same reason you are.” Breck slapped a hand on the dwarf’s shoulder. “To support the Inquisition.”
“To save the world,” I chimed in.
“Yeah, well… we’ll see who’s here in the end,” Varric murmured as he wandered off.
Such exchanges had become commonplace.
No longer a mere ‘Herald of Andraste,’ Breck had bested The Elder One at Haven, saved nearly every one of the townsfolk and many of the forces, and managed to flee from danger himself–despite the Elder One’s escape. For his heroism, Breck was elevated to the status of Inquisitor. He was surrounded by trusted advisors, all of whom offered a constant stream of accolades for the Inquisitor and opinions on every subject, and mostly regarding one another.
Most of their opinions of me suggested hogtying me and sending me back to Tevinter on a meat cart. Many saw me as a potential usurper from Teviner. Some thought I was using my influence with the Inquisitor for personal gain and lavish rewards. I walked as carefully as I could, and I kept my words closely guarded.
But the Inquisitor trusted me, despite their relentless objections. In time, I realized that he came to me not when he wanted to be told what to do, but when he wanted to be asked what he thought. How he felt. What it all meant.
He took up the mantle of Inquisitor with honor and grace, but beneath it all was a man who was entirely human, and who simply wondered, “Why me?” Of all the people in the temple that day, why had Andraste chosen to lead him out of the fade? Mind you, he bore no regrets nor did he hold any amount of resentment. He wondered at the wisdom of the gods, as we’re all prone to from time to time, and I alone would entertain his musings without attempting to fluff him up or offer him empty solutions. In truth, I rather enjoy listening to the man speak.
It took many months of stolen glances and accidental touches–all while taking on demons and red templars across Ferelden and Orlais–before we found our way back to the discussion we’d started in the catacombs.
For me, the unspoken words had become a mix of pain and desire. The memories of that place–that time–and my part in its creation: seeing the suffering of his closest friends, the destruction of our world… it all came crashing back every time I tried to express my feelings to him.
As it turned out, Breck’s hand was forced in the matter by none other than my father, by way of a letter.
“Dorian.” Breck speaking my name usually left me longing. But this time, I could tell there was something wrong.
“What is it?” I asked.
He handed me a folded parchment. The broken seal was instantly recognizable. My father’s crest. I took it and read it over twice before responding.
“He wants to meet.” My mouth parched with the words.
“Mother Giselle told me as much. She suggested I not give you that letter. That instead, I should escort you there unaware and allow your father to take you into custody.”
I could tell he registered the surprise in my expression. I wasn’t shocked that one of his advisors had attempted to trick me. I was only delighted to learn that he was as loyal to me as I was to him.
“Will you go?” he asked.
“Why? So my father can drag me back to Tevinter? Force me to marry, through coercion of blood magic?”
“Blood magic?” Breck took half a step backward. “Would he commit such an atrocity?”
My veins ran cold. I had danced around truth of my past in the catacombs, leaving out certain bits that, at the time, I thought irrelevant. I’d meant to tell him eventually. I only hoped that he wouldn’t take my previous omissions as a slight.
“Can we go somewhere private?” I asked. “Away from those who lack the faith in me that you possess.”
He led me then to his quarters. I took note of the raised eyebrows and whispers of the servants. Perhaps it wasn’t the wisest choice, but I must admit, the location gave me a sense of comfort. If anywhere in the castle was safe to speak openly, it was his private room.
I wasn’t surprised by the lack of grandeur in his chambers. A simple bed fashioned from pine stood center against the wall. A plain wardrobe sat open beside it. His writing desk had a few papers scattered about. No ornate fixtures or trappings. No silver or brass appointments. Just simple functionality.
Breck led me to a table and chairs beside a large window that overlooked the Frostbacks. He produced two clay goblets and a bottle of mead. “I’m sorry to say it’s not a vintage Tevinter.” His eyes held a mischievous twinkle.
“You’re forgiven,” I said, feeling a sense of boldness creep into me. “As long as you promise to make it up to me next time.”
He offered me a cup and a seat, both of which I took gratefully.
“To next time, then.” he said in toast.
He took a long sip and set the goblet on the table. “You have my undivided attention.”
“And we lack the attention of every pair of prying ears in the castle,” I said. “But where to begin?”
“Start with ‘blood magic,” he suggested.
I set my cup down and folded my hands on the table. “I’m afraid I must start with an apology. I hoped that this would never become an issue. And yet, here we are. I didn’t tell you everything in the catacombs.”
He remained expressionless, so I continued. “Tevinter court is a lot like a game of chess, if the chess pieces were to poison one another for fun and profit. It’s a game played with a delicate hand, until you’re ready to strike. Double talk and omissions of truth become habit, and you’re never quite certain what piece you are on the board… that is, until it’s too late.”
“And you were a pawn, I suppose?” Breck seemed tense, but interested.
“I was a knight, I like to think. Dashing. Witty. Gifted. Always going in odd directions.” I watched his reaction closely. There was truth in my jest, and he seemed amused, so I kept going. “And my father was more queen than king, in chess parlance. However, given my preferences, he would probably poison me outright if he heard me call him a queen.”
Breck laughed. That simple moment of connection fortified my resolve. It was time to put aside my Tevinter upbringing and simply let myself be Dorian.
“The point is, my father always had a countermove for my every step. I’m the last of my family line, and much was expected of me, as I told you. He tired of the need to keep up appearances at court and I daresay he ran out of excuses for my failure to honor arranged meetings with my betrothed. Meanwhile, tongues wagged incessantly regarding my attempts at seduction of the men at court.”
I stopped long enough to take a sip of mead, but in truth, I was still weighing Breck’s reaction to my words. If he was put off by the tale, he didn’t betray it. Instead, he waited patiently for me to continue.
“My father tried to–how shall we say–repair me through the use of blood magic.”
Breck stifled a gasp.
“He thought, if only my ‘weak mind’ could be altered to see reason… then I’d marry and produce heirs to carry on his line. Fortunately for me, my mind is rather strong. The spell didn’t take, but I felt its presence and I knew his magical signature. I understood immediately what he’d attempted.”
“That’s when you left?”
I nodded. “I couldn’t look him in the eye after what he’d done, so I fled. We haven’t spoken since. I was a coward.”
Breck took my hands in his. “You were young, and rightfully fearful.”
My chest tightened at his words. “You’re too kind,” I whispered.
“And now he wants you to return?” he asked.
“That seems to be the case.”
“Maybe he simply wants to set things right. Do you think he’s capable of a change of heart?”
“I can’t imagine that he has changed. More than likely, he means to club me over the head and drag me home. Marry me off before I have a chance to protest. Still…”
I looked out across the Frostback Mountains, with their jagged, snow-covered peaks. The day was clear, and from the top of the tower where Breck’s chambers sat, I could see for miles. The ridges in the distance felt like a strong fortress wall surrounding the central keep that was Skyhold. It kept me safely guarded from the homeland I could envision clearly over the horizon.
“You miss home.” It was as if he’d picked the image straight from my mind.
My eyes shifted to the man across from me, who held my hands and looked at me with anticipation. I knew the question that was coming next. My truth bore the scars of years of running, hiding and avoiding the answer I knew I had to give.
“Would you return to Tevinter if you could?” he asked.
“Throughout all my years my mouth has answered a resounding ‘no’ to that question, typically followed by a stream of humorous insults and nights of drinking to forget that it was asked of me.” A heavy sigh escaped me. “But in truth, the answer has always been ‘yes.’”
Breck’s expression fell for a split second, and then hardened. “I understand. Every man has a duty to fulfill.”
“My answer has changed,” I said.
He looked at me, his eyes full of hope.
“This place…” I said, “This life… it has given me purpose. My duties lie here, with the Inquisition. Dare I say, with you.”
Breck’s grip on my hands tightened slightly. His expression of contentment told me where I belong.
“I will meet with my father,” I continued. “But I’d prefer it if you would be there at my side.”
“I’d be honored.”
Naveer watched Dorian expectantly. She’d stopped writing somewhere around the part where the Inquisitor had taken Dorian to his chambers. In all the time that Dorian had been with the Inquisition, none spoke freely of he and the Inquisitor. It was a topic of giggle-filled rumor among the servants, hardened denial by His Worship’s closest advisors, and outright heresy, according to some Chantry clerics. Naveer hadn’t been sure how to approach the subject at first, yet now that she understood the importance of their connection,she knew she needed to complete the tale.
“That’s when the affair started?” she asked.
Dorian feigned an expression of shock. “You make us sound so scandalous.” His expression softened to an easy smile. “But no. Not officially, anyway. We finished our drinks in comfortable silence that day. As much as I wanted him, the timing was not yet right. Truth be told, it felt more right in the catacombs. I had unfinished business with my father, and it hung on me like dead weight.”
“Your father betrayed you.” Naveer picked up her quill once more.
“Yes, he did. But there is one thing all sons share in common, and that is a deep need for a father’s approval. Fear and reverence, my dear. Like I said, they’re two sides of the same coin. Sons revere their fathers, and I am no different from the rest. It was my fear, however, that kept me away from him for so very long.”
“And so you met,” Naveer commented, making notes on the page.
“And so we met. It went as well as could be expected, I suppose. I approached it with years of repressed hostility and ample, ill-placed humor. Breck was the voice of reason who convinced me to hear the man out.”
“Did your father apologize?” she asked.
“In his way, I suppose he did. He offered me my place at Tevinter court, and even went so far as to suggest I could take lovers to sate my innate desires, so long as I produced heirs and kept up appearances in public. Doesn’t that sound like a lovely life?” Dorian’s mocking laugh betrayed the sarcasm of his words. “In the end, I told him I would not be returning. He left with the understanding that I was needed by the Inquisition… a more palatable explanation for my continued absence at court.”
Naveer set down her quill and folded her hands on the table. Much like a mage, it was a chronicler’s version of disarmament. She had a question, and she wanted a candid answer, more for herself than for the official court records.
“Do you forgive him?” Naveer cocked her head to the side.
Dorian sat in quiet contemplation for a moment before answering. “Sometimes. He doesn’t support my choices, for whom I choose to bed, nor for my involvement with the Inquisition. But his disapproval no longer carries the weight that it once did. At his core, he is who he is, as am I. Neither of us are capable of the kind of change required to satisfy the other. I understand his nature because I’ve come to accept my own. We have, as the saying goes, agreed to disagree. Our parting was, for the most part, cordial.”
“Do you blame your father for pushing you into Alexius’s grasp and your involvement with his plot to aid Corypheus?”
“I suppose I did, at one point. But no more.”
“My dear, you must realize that we all have but one life to live.” Dorian plucked the copper bit from the table and flipped it across his fingers. “We are the coin, and our decisions are the faces. Some of our choices live on as triumphs or failures that shape who we become. Others fade into our own personal history. We can revere our choices for what they’ve forged in us, or we can fear who we’ve become. Regardless, every decision becomes etched upon us, and our realities are ours alone to bear.”
“And what of your reality now?” Naveer asked.
“Simple: I’ve found where I belong, and I’ve even managed to make some friends along the way.”
“Dorian,” Varric called as he crossed the tavern, “I figured I’d find you here.”
“Varric, is everything alright?”
The dwarf pulled up a chair, turned it around, and sat so that his arms were crossed over its back. Bianca hung off his shoulder as always. This time, no bolt was secured in her chamber. “Sure, if you don’t count the fact that there’s still holes in the sky and a madman with aspirations of evil godhood on the loose.”
Dorian and Varric both laughed, though Naveer could hardly comprehend why.
“Nah, Breck was looking for you. I was on my way over for a pint, so I told him I’d let you know. I’m guessing you don’t want to keep him waiting.”
“That I do not.” Dorian stood and pulled his cloak from back of the chair. “We still on for cards tomorrow, Varric?”
“Wouldn’t miss it, Sparkler.” Varric held up a finger at the barmaid and she nodded in understanding from across the room. “I finished that book on Tevinter rules you lent me, so don’t count on winning so easily this time.”
The corner of Dorian’s lip curled into a roguish grin. “Perhaps after I take you for a month’s sovereigns tomorrow, I shall supply you with volume two.”
“Volume what? Bah—” Varric’s grin betrayed that his feigned frustration was all part of the game. “Goddamned Tevinters.”
Dorian turned to Naveer, his expression taking on a rare visage of thoughtfulness. “Fear, reverence and something more; that’s what I’d like my tale to be titled. For those are what I feel whenever I hear the Inquisitor call for me. Fear that I shall never be truly worthy of him, reverence at his willingness to accept me for who I am when so many others would not, and something more that is his and mine alone, neither to be captured nor chronicled.”
Original fanfiction by Shanan Winters
All characters, settings, and most words that light up a spellchecker are owned by BioWare and are part of the Dragon Age series. If you haven’t played these games… well… what are you waiting for?