Dread Rites

Chapter 3

It had been over a month since their fight and neither of them had spoken a word to one another beyond necessity. Dorian had gone back to snide remarks whenever communication was forced, and it was understandable. The Bull had broken their trust, he had taken the mage’s kindnesses and thrown them back in his face.

It was how things would have remained were it not for the incident in Emprise Du Lion.

Demons were never something The Bull was fond of in any capacity. They represented everything he hated and feared. But Demons and Venatori? There was one thing he knew, however… No matter how bad their quarrel had been in the weeks prior, no matter how viciously they barbed at one another, they had each other’s backs in a fight. At least, that’s what he told himself…

Dorian was good at keeping the Demons down long enough for someone to deliver the final blow. The blood flowed readily as spells flew around them. Varric’s arrows caused confusion enough that Thidran and The Bull were able to clear out the Rift, which only left the Venatori bastards.

As the tides of the battle tipped in their favor, the desperate mages launched one final fireball that missed by a mile. Two died, three escaped. Yet as The Bull readied himself to chase after the remaining stragglers he heard a worried shout from behind. “Sparkler!”

He and Thidran turned at once and scanned the area. Dorian was nowhere in sight, but as The Bull’s gaze landed on Varric he felt a cold pit in his stomach. The dwarf was running towards a rather large hole in the ice, melted and not broken.

They weren’t aiming for The Bull or Thidran.

The Inquisitor sprung into action faster, dropping his great-sword as he ran after Varric. The Bull was a few steps behind, but Thidran already had his boots and armor off, diving into the opening without hesitation.

Going in after them would have been stupid, so The Bull and Varric waited nervously at the opening, with The Bull scanning the ice around them. Thidran was strong enough to be able to fight the current (though not for very long in freezing waters), but the odds of them coming up in the same place were slim to none and his hunch was right.

He saw the moving figure several feet away and ran for it, taking his axe and breaking the ice with rough strokes while Varric helped to pull away the broken pieces. Thidran got a hold on the edge of the thick ice and with help, he and Dorian were pulled free of the waters.

The mage was entirely unconscious, lips blue but he was still squirming some. The Bull pulled him aside and worked at resuscitation, needing to get the water from the man’s lungs. It took only a quick scan to see that Dorian had been smart enough in his lucid moments under the water to kick off his boots and robes, but that just left him more exposed to the cold.

After several unsuccessful attempts, The Bull gave a frustrated snarl and slammed Dorian’s chest hard, the jolt just enough that the mage coughed the first of the water from his lungs. The relief that washed over the three was a palpable force, and The Bull continued to evacuate the water from Dorian’s lungs until the man was breathing again.

Unconscious, but breathing at least.

But they were far from safe. There were already signs of hypothermia setting in, the man wasn’t even shivering. The Bull and Thidran had thicker skin, but Dorian was a man who could be cold in the damn Hissing Wastes. He gathered the mage up into his arms, “Varric, give me your coat.”

The dwarf wasted no time, shrugging the clothing off and handing it over. It was small, but it was all they had.

“We have to get him back to camp.” Thidran said, gathering his armor as quickly as he could.

“Too far.” The Bull snapped, and he took in their scenery again, “Come on.” He took them down the river at a jog, his mental map of the area leading his path until they breached a hill and caught sight of a small cabin tucked away against the mountainside.

It was an abandoned noble’s house that he and the Chargers had been paid to maintain several years prior. The three of them rushed inside, only belatedly realizing that the home could have been some Venatori or Red Templar hideout. But thankfully it was empty inside, and everyone relaxed marginally.

“Varric, there’s a storage shed around back outside which should have firewood. Thidran, grab the comforter off the bed.” He ordered swiftly. They had to get the mage’s temperature under control quickly or there was little they would be able to do without a healer.

He set Dorian down in front of the long abandoned hearth and began to work the clothing off of the mage’s body, pants and socks and undergarments, until he was completely bare. “Bull?” Thidran sounded concerned as he came out with a moth-eaten blanket from the other room.

“The clothes are wet and cold. We need to get him warm, the faster the better.” He took the blanket and started to wrap the man up, bundling him against The Bull’s chest until he could feel the cold breaths against his skin.

Varric came back a moment later and Thidran jumped to help the dwarf, and together they managed to get a fire burning in the hearth, warming and lighting the cabin.

The space had once been opulent, with tapestries on the walls and fine furniture. But the place seemed to have been picked apart by looters and animals over the years.

Afterwards, Thidran and Varric took the chance to relax while The Bull settled he and Dorian closer to the fire.

“Hey Tiny, how’d you know about this place?” Varric asked, “Even knew there was a woodshed.”

The Bull glanced over, unaware of his fingers carding through cool, damp hair. “A noble used to own this place. He paid me ‘n my Chargers a few times, whenever he wanted to come out here. We chopped wood for the shed, made sure the pipes weren’t frozen, and that the area was clear of any dangers.”

“Well, sure came in handy. Will Sparkler be ok?”

He nodded slowly, “Yeah. I’m pretty sure. He wasn’t under for too long, and we got him out of the cold. He’ll probably come out of this with a nasty cold, but he should be alright.”

“Good.” Thidran said, and his voice had a slight bite to it, “Maybe you two can make up now before you drive us all mad.”


“Well, you weren’t exactly quiet when you two got into it.” Varric defended, pulling Bianca into his lap as if to comfort himself with the crossbow’s presence, “And you two went from fucking whenever you thought someone wasn’t looking, to snapping at each other’s throats.”

The Bull sighed his defeat and shook his head, “It was my fault. I… He was trying to help me and I took out my anger on him.”

“We all know, Bull.” Thidran shrugged, “Just fix it alright?”

“Yeah, Boss.” He agreed, “You two get some rest, I’ll keep watch.”

Neither of them argued, both finding a place in the cabin to settle down to rest while The Bull remained by the fire with Dorian. At some point he had started shivering, only to stop again. It was a sign at least.

The warmth of the fire and the press of another body were soon tempting The Bull toward sleep, and it was a battle he felt himself losing until the mage stirred against his broad chest.

It was with a yawning breath that the mage’s eyes opened, looking around himself lazily.

“Doin’ alright Vint? Gave us a scare.” The Bull’s voice was soft and low to keep from waking the others.

Tired eyes blinked up at him before the mage could make his mouth work, “Never…” He began, and The Bull waited for whatever insult was coming, “Never take me…to this thrice damned, blight-frozen place again.” Dorian’s head dropped weakly against The Bull’s shoulder, “I never want to be that cold again.”

The response was unexpected in that it was so expectedly Dorian. He couldn’t help the laugh that hit him as he shook his head, “Alright, nowhere cold again. I promise.”

“Good… Because if you do, I will take the silver spoon out of my ass and carve your balls out with it.” He griped, nosing against The Bull’s skin.

Guilt settled in once more, “Dorian, I’m…”

“Don’t. No apologies. You were angry, and you’ll spend the next few months making it up to me with incredible sex and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.” Dorian decided, eyes closing.

This pulled another laugh from The Bull, his fingers coming back up and this time he did realize he was threading them through the mage’s now dry, soft hair. “Alright. Sex and chocolate, pretty sure I can manage that.”

“And Bull?”

“Yeah, Dorian?”

“Why am I naked?”

“You need to get some sleep, Vint…”

The clue Cassandra had discovered led them to a small castle, Caer Oswin, on the western reaches of Ferelden. The place itself had a collection of assailants inside, one’s that the Seeker called the “Order of Fiery Promise.” An organization of zealots who believed themselves to be the ‘true’ Seekers, and who had helped Corypheus to capture the other Seekers.

Cassandra was understandably upset, but her desire to follow the trail right away was halted by Thidran. They needed rest, and Skyhold was only a two day’s ride. He promised the Seeker they would investigate further, but The Bull had a feeling his episode with the Troll had caused concern enough that they needed to stop.

Since the Emerald Graves, The Bull had kept himself in tight check. That didn’t change what happened however. It didn’t change the fact that he had lost control.

But the return to Skyhold was welcome, and when they made their way through the gates late that night, The Bull immediately went up to his room to find a mage curled up in his bed. Just like old times – his heart jumped before it came crashing down.

Regardless, he stripped down to his pants and crawled in beside Dorian, pulling the man against his side.

He no longer scented of expensive soaps and oils, but just the raw scent of the man was enough to bring The Bull some semblance of peace. The mage stirred in the curl of the Qunari’s arm, however, and blinked up at him tiredly. “You’re very warm, Bull.”

“Deal with it.” He sighed, keeping Dorian pressed against him.

The man just grabbed his pillow and found a comfortable position before returning to his dreamless sleep.

The Bull woke when he felt Dorian getting out of bed. Normally the mage would sleep in until noon if allowed, and would spend a great many daylight hours grooming himself to perfection only for The Bull to make a mess of him later.

But this shell of his lover just got up, cleaned his face, and left for the library. He was unaware of the eye watching him until the door closed, or that The Bull just lay silent and still in his bed for many long minutes after as he tried to gather his senses together again.

By the time he made his way down to the courtyard, Krem had already started the morning drills for the Chargers, his sharp voice echoing through the space over the caterwauling that was the Templar and his men. The Bull couldn’t help the sense of pride he got at that.

His thoughts were broken by a messenger jogging towards him, an elf with red hair and toothpick extremities that could be snapped with a breath. He quickly banished the needlessly violent thoughts, shoving them down and away with the hopes that they would have never existed.

“L-Lord Bull?”

“I’m not a Lord. What do you need?” He growled, though knew it wouldn’t make any difference to the elf.

The elf cleared his throat and bowed, “Apologies. But, um, Solas has requested your presence in the Rookery.”

The Bull took a moment to make a mental note to ask Solas how he had gotten the boy to drop the titles. He nodded to the elf, “Alright. Go…eat a sandwich or something.” He grumbled, “You’re too scrawny.”

“Y-Yes Sir.” Before he could be berated on the title, however, he fled.

He made his way up into Skyhold proper and nodded to Varric who was penning something by the fire. As he stepped into the Rookery he spotted Solas, leaning against his desk (that was rather lavish and expensive, thanks to Thidran’s rampant crush), the Inquisitor, standing to the side with arms folded, Cole who was perched on the desk beside Solas, and Dorian standing quietly in the middle of the space.

The Bull felt his stomach twisting uncomfortably, “What’s going on?” he asked as he approached, every pair of eyes turning to him.

Solas cleared his throat and spoke first, “Cole? Can you read Dorian’s mind for me?”

The young man turned those giant doe eyes up to the elf, “I told you, I can’t see him. There’s nothing to read!”

Solas nodded in understanding before he looked to The Bull again, “Now Cole, try looking through Bull’s mind, would you?” He pushed lightly off the desk and walked towards Dorian who stood silent and compliant.

Cole’s expression turned pinched and he reached up to hold his head in one of his hands, “I… The Bull sees him, like a ghost. So much is the same but even more is different. A ghost, a gray ghost who exists as a shell. Kadan. The word echoes, bounces, screamed to nothing more than an empty room that eventually swallows the sound and returns nothing. Kadan. Kadan. I’ll fix you. Corypheus will pay, the Red Templars’ blood will run in rivers…”

“That’s enough, Cole.” Solas’ hand gently rested against the apparition’s shoulder. “But you saw Dorian through Bull’s mind right?”

Cole looked utterly confused as he nodded, “Yes. Yes he’s…he’s there but he’s not there.” He crawled off the desk and walked towards Dorian, reaching out a tentative hand and touching Dorian like he wasn’t sure what he was feeling, “There in body, but there’s nothing to read.”

“What’s this accomplishing?” The Bull demanded, turning his gaze to Thidran warily.

It was Solas who spoke up again, turning to face The Bull, “Per Cassandra’s words, the Rite of Tranquility cuts a mage off from the Fade. That is why Cole can’t see or read him. Cole is enough of a spirit that Dorian is virtually nonexistent to him. It’s what makes Tranquil so undesirable to demons, and demons are spirits.”


And…” Solas stressed with an impatient sigh, “If we can understand what exactly is cutting Dorian off from the Fade, there’s a far better chance we can reverse it.”

This made The Bull blink, “Oh…” He looked over to Thidran who offered him a small smile, then to Dorian who was watching them all with a neutral expression. “So how are you gonna figure out what’s keeping him from the Fade?”

“Therein lies the problem.” Solas sighed, “I was hoping that Cole could explore that. I have tried entering Dorian’s mind while he slept, but Tranquil do not dream, and without a connection to the Fade, there’s nothing for me to grab hold of. Cole has the same problem in wakefulness.”

“Alright.” The Bull sighed, “At least it’s something.” It was proof that he wasn’t the only one fretting over this and that things were being done, attempted. “If there’s anything I can do, anything at all, you let me know.”

Cole was still touching and pawing at Dorian like he couldn’t quite believe the man was there, and the mage just stood quiet and still.

Solas nodded and went back to his desk, his eyes skimming over a collection of books laid out over the surface. “Cullen has been having some of his men go to the Chantries throughout the South, seeing if they have any information we don’t already. So far it has proven fruitless. There was…one thing, however.”

“What’s that?” The Bull seemed wary.

“A small Chantry in Orlais gave us the only thing that might be useful. That The Seekers might know more.” The elf looked back over to Dorian, “I did some research on Seekers, and came up with little more than what the Chantry wants people to know. It’s something to speak with Cassandra about. That is what you can do for me, Bull. She’s more likely to open up to you about this matter than I.”

The Bull’s eyes went back to Dorian and he sighed, nodding, “Alright. I’ll see what she knows.” He paused, “Dorian?” The man turned that unnerving, empty gaze towards the Qunari, “Don’t get into any trouble alright?”

“Of course not, Iron Bull.”

The words sent a chill down his spine and he turned to leave, Thidran catching up to him a minute later. At the questioning look, the Inquisitor nodded, “This matter concerns me, Bull. Dorian may be your lover but he is, as well, my friend. Like you, I am displeased with the lack of progress we’ve made in this matter.”

The words, though flowery, relaxed him. “Thanks Boss.”

“We’ll speak with Cassandra together.” He promised as they made their way up into the Tavern only to be met with the sounds of loud crashing. Both Qunari rushed up the stairs.

“You knew where Hawke was all along!” Cassandra had Varric pinned to one of the tables and looked ready to rip out his throat. Thidran rushed in to separate them, and it wasn’t long before The Bull saw he wasn’t needed and left. No point in speaking with the Seeker when she was like this.

The Bull and Thidran waited until they were leaving Skyhold with Cassandra and Cole to try the questions again. It was the Inquisitor who cleared his throat, “Cassandra?” he began, pulling their horses to walk side-by-side, “I was wondering if you could tell me a little more about the Seekers…”

“Why the sudden interest?” the woman all but growled, her tone as wary as the sharpness of her gaze.

“Well we are looking for them aren’t we? I want to help you, but I also want to know exactly what it is I’m helping.” He mused, his argument not one the Seeker could openly challenge.

“The Seekers of Truth along with the Templars were the original Inquisition.” Cassandra began honestly, “Over time, though, the Seekers became more secretive and we regarded the Templars carefully, keeping them in check when they started to get too big of heads. Our duties are to expose and eradicate corruption, and protect the Chantry.” She finished, looking up to Thidran, “We are a small order, but nothing to be taken lightly.”

“I have no doubts.” Thidran said with a smile, “We want to help you find them, no matter the circumstances.”

Thidran Adaar was many things, and The Bull recalled when they had first spoken about Qunari. He had admittedly been harsh on the future Inquisitor, berating him that he was Tal’vashoth and little more than a mindless animal that, under any other circumstance, The Bull would put down. However the longer he knew Thidran, the less and less he thought that. The man was damn smart and had a silver tongue that rivalled even Varric’s.

No… Thidran wasn’t Tal’vashoth, but The Bull was. He was true gray and would lose himself to mindlessness eventually. Already he could feel things slipping. The incident with the Troll had just been one that was noticeable to more than just himself…


The Bull did as he promised. Over the next several weeks he took Dorian to his bed almost nightly, and spent perhaps too much on fancy chocolates that made the mage’s eyes glint with joy. But it took a while to see what Dorian was actually doing beneath it all…

“What’s your birthday, Bull?” The question came from seemingly nowhere late one evening as the two lay in a tangled mess of limbs and laziness, coming down from their mutual sexual highs.

The Qunari blinked, raising a brow, “We don’t have Birthdays in the Qun.” He responded.

“Well, I figure the Qun doesn’t have names but you already have one of those. The Qun doesn’t have families, but you have that too.” At the questioning look the mage received he shook his head, “Well, your Chargers are like your little baby ducklings. Thidran is as good as a brother to you. Varric’s like the eccentric uncle. I could go on, but I’m sure I’ve made my point. So why is it you can’t have a birthday?”

The speech had The Bull pondering Dorian’s words carefully, though he was still not convinced.

It wasn’t until after the mage had drifted to sleep that things slowly began clicking together. His birthday hadn’t been the first of the odd questions or behaviors. The one before that had been a question of what he wanted to do once Corypheus was slain. Before that was where he would want to live.

It dawned on him from one moment to the next that the clever little mage had been trying to get The Bull to realize what he could have outside of the Qun. Dozens of odd little things that he didn’t have before, that he could have now. But none of those things seemed even remotely as desirable as the nosy little mage curled against him.

Two days later, while Dorian was purring over some cream-filled chocolate that The Bull had gotten ordered in from Orlais, he figured it was his turn to ask the questions. “What’re you gonna do when all of this is over?” He asked as if they had been having the conversation prior.

The mage appeared only mildly surprised, but shrugged, “Our dear Inquisitor has inspired me to go back home and rally for change in Tevinter.”

The Qunari hummed in contemplation, “Plan on finding a nice man?”

“Me? No. Sex with the same gender happens in Tevinter but it’s not something…not something you pursue for anything more than what it is. It’s improper.” He shook his head and something sad flashed in his eyes.

“So what do you want this to be then? Us…I mean.” The question surprised even himself after he asked it, it wasn’t something he had ever had the need to ask before.

Dorian eyed him warily, “I’ve been a port in a storm before, Bull. You’re adjusting to new things all around you.”

The Bull had spent his entire life learning how to gauge what other people needed, so he could give it or take it away. It was something he liked giving, but this was the first time someone had turned that on him, “You make it sound like I’m using you.”

“Using me would imply that I don’t enjoy this…dalliance we’ve been having. No, Bull, I want to help you.” He reached out and pulled the Qunari in for a kiss, smiling with affection but the sadness still lingered in his eyes.

“You asked me what I wanted to do. Before.” The Bull started, moving to settle down beside Dorian on his bed, “What if I told you I want to find myself someone nice. Like, a mouthy little mage from Tevinter.” He had watched the sadness strengthen in the man’s gaze before softening as he realized what The Bull had said.

“I would tell you…” The rest of the words seemed to dry up in Dorian’s throat, and he shook his head, “I would tell you I’m not sure. We’re a rare breed.”

The Bull shrugged, “Seems I found one just fine.” He pulled Dorian up into a kiss, leaned them back onto the bed, and the rest of the day went by in a wonderful haze.

In the remains of an old castle, after six days of chasing clues, they finally found their answers. The Bull scented blood the moment they entered the ruins, and with it, he could feel the presence of Red Lyrium making the air around him feel tainted and stained.

“Daniel!” It was the most desperate and pained he had ever heard Cassandra as she rushed towards what might have once been a human. He was still alive, but it was not a life worth living.

He felt a shudder run down his spine.

“You’re…you’re alive.” The man managed in a small and broken voice.

Cassandra dropped to her knee beside him, reaching out a hand for his shoulder as she stared at him with disbelief, “As are you… I’m so glad I found you.”

“No,” Daniel breathed desperately, “They…put a demon inside me, it’s tearing me up.” He squirmed on the ground somewhat, panting a desperate breath.

“What? You can’t be possessed – that’s impossible!” Cassandra straightened her back, but despite his words there was confusion written on her features.

The man shook his head slowly and gathered his breath, “I’m not possessed. They…fed me things. I can feel it growing.” His hands clenched at his sides and relaxed, over and over in pleading movements.

Thidran spoke up, “Can we do anything?” he asked, panicked.

“I don’t know, this thing inside him…” The Seeker was trying to hold herself together, such was obvious, but there was panic there.

“The Lord Seeker. You have to find him!” Daniel gasped.

“Of course we’ll find him. If he lives, we’ll-“

“Lucius betrayed us, Cassandra.” He broke in, his tone regretful, “He sent us here, one by one. ‘An important mission’ he said. Lies! He was here with them all along. He’s still working with them. He let the demon take command while he…”

“Came here…” The Seeker finished tightly.

“Could he really work with these cultists?” Thidran asked, The Bull could see he felt the need to say something. Anything. The whole mess had gotten so much more grim than any of them expected.

“I intend to find out.” Cassandra growled, her face darkening, but as she moved to stand, the man reached out with a whine.

“Wait! Don’t leave me like this…please…”

She knelt back down carefully, her voice going soft and careful like she was speaking with a child or a small animal, “You should have come with me. You didn’t believe in the war any more than I did.”

“You know me. I wanted that promotion.” He chuckled, but it was covered in a bloody cough.

The woman closed her eyes tightly for a moment as she decided on her course of action. Slowly then she stood and reached down to draw her blade which sang in the dank air, “Go to the Maker’s side, Daniel. You will be welcome.” She breathed, and whether or not she believed it she knew that there was no life for Daniel any longer after what had been done to him.

Both The Bull and Thidran turned their eyes away to give their final moment some semblance of privacy. All three of them looked up the stairs leading to the courtyard above and made their way towards the light, ready to face whatever they saw.

However when they laid eyes on Lucius at the top…The Bull didn’t recall what happened next.

Weeks went by, and despite the dangers posed by Corypheus and the Breach, The Bull found himself strangely happy. He was no longer of the Qun, but whenever Dorian flashed him a smile or moaned his name he came to accept that being Tal’vashoth wasn’t that bad. Not when he could go to bed with dangerous thoughts of what he could have if the mage stayed at his side.

He would forever deny the sappy things he thought in the confines of his own mind, but he wouldn’t rebuke the fact that Dorian made him happy. And he strongly believed he had the same effect on the mage.

They had taken to staying in the same bed every night, and though Dorian had insisted upon his room, most nights they ended up tumbling into The Bull’s bed anyway. The mage’s things began appearing here and there. Combs and waxes, a drawer had been claimed, drapes added to the window because of the bright morning sun and its annoying tendencies.

It had long become something beyond sex. The two confided in and relied on one another readily. At some point they had become something beyond simple companions, but it wasn’t something they spoke on. The one time The Bull had asked about it, Dorian looked frightened and slept in his room for two nights.

So they didn’t talk about how Dorian knew what type of horn wax to buy, or how The Bull pulled some strings to get a case of Tevinter wine for the Tavern, or how everyone in Skyhold knew that to find one, they only had to find the other.

It wasn’t mentioned until the night The Bull returned from one of his outings with Thidran, only to find Dorian already asleep and curled up in his bed. Despite all of his protests about the room being too cold and the bed not being soft enough, there he was waiting for The Bull’s return.

The Bull did his best to disrobe quietly, yet as he settled down on the bed the mage stirred almost immediately. He rolled onto his back and looked up at his lover with a tired smile, a lazy hand reaching up to touch the man’s muscles and confirm he was really there. The Bull’s hand came around and covered Dorian’s, “Go back to sleep, Vint.” He rumbled, “We can have our reunion in the morning.” He smirked.

Dorian was staring at their connected hands in silence until his words broke the quiet, “What are we?” he asked.

“Whatever you want us to be.” The Bull returned, though they both knew it wasn’t the truth. They had long since passed anything beyond physical affections, and even Dorian couldn’t deny that anymore.

The mage shook his head, “I’ve never had something like this.” He admitted, “It was never something I was allowed to have, to even want.”

“Well you can have it now. Have it, want it, embrace it.” He nodded, “You just have to tell me what it is.”

Silence again, and for a moment The Bull thought Dorian had fallen asleep as his eyes lidded slightly. “I care…isn’t that enough?”

“That’s always enough.” They met for a kiss, and found sleep in one another’s comfort shortly after.

When The Bull came down from his high, Lucius was dead, but only Thidran seemed to notice something as off about The Bull. The Lord Seeker and his followers lay slain, and Cassandra stood in the midst of the carnage with a dark expression. Even Cole knew to stay back from the woman, all of them giving her some time to herself as she picked through the bodies.

Out of earshot, Thidran nudged his friend, “Talk to me, Bull.” He pleaded softly, “Are you…alright?”

“No…” He said honestly, shaking his head. He took a shaking breath and turned to look at the Inquisitor, “Were you paying attention to what Daniel said earlier?” He asked, changing the subject quickly, “They forced a demon inside of him…” He reminded without waiting.

Thidran lowered his eyes, “I heard… It’s…it’s horrible.”

“No, Thidran.” The Bull frowned, “They put a demon in him.” He stressed.

It took a moment before understanding dawned on his friend’s face, “Wait, you think this is linked to what happened to Dorian?” The Qunari turned to look over the area, frowning, “I…”

“From the sounds of it they were trying to force a possession. Just like what Solas said they tried to do with D…” His throat tightened and he coughed, furrowing his brow, “Whatever was going on here, I’ll bet every coin I have that they used him as one of their first test subjects.”

The Inquisitor shifted from foot-to-foot anxiously, processing the information and putting pieces together in his mind, “Lord Seeker Lucius, I’m assuming he would have the power to perform the Rite. We’ll…” he took a breath and let it out through his nose, “We’ll bring it up to Cassandra when we get back to Skyhold. This has been a very long day.”

The Bull wanted to push, to demand more information.

“But, Bull…” Thidran’s voice had gone soft, making the larger look over warily, “How often do you have these…lapses? I can tell when it’s not you.”

It was The Bull’s turn to look anxious, growling softly but there was no lying to Thidran. Not about this at least. “I blamed it on the drink, at first.” He admitted bitterly, “After…after Daerwyn, that was the first time. I was…drinking more. At first I would just lose seconds, a few words of a conversation. Then…minutes at a time.” He shook his head, “Nobody seemed to notice but me, until the troll in the Graves.”

“And this is because of Dorian?” He chanced to ask…

The battle with the High Dragon had been invigorating. She was a magnificent beast, truly incredible in every respect, with a wingspan that snuffed out the sun, her scales glittered like flawless gems and she had jaws that could take The Bull’s arm off in one snap. And The Bull had the honor of fighting her.

Of course, he and Thidran had battled several dragons by that point, enough so that the Inquisitor had hired a Dragon Expert to help them track and slay the beasts. But oh the armor The Bull would have if he lived from this battle, he would carry this fine creature with him across Thedas and beyond in her honor.

The battle took quite some time, probably hours (though he wasn’t paying that much attention to the passing of the sun), and everyone was exhausted. Even The Bull’s muscles burned under his skin each time he flexed, but it was all worth it when the High Dragon made a misstep. Her front right leg had been damaged by Thidran’s maul, likely a fracture in the bone, and as her weight shifted she dropped with a snarl.

She was exposed, and just like that it was over. The Bull rushed towards her head and she had no time to recover before the head of his axe came down on her spine with a terrible crack. She let loose a guttural sound before her body gave in and collapsed lifelessly to the ground. The Bull had given her a swift death in the end.

In his triumph, he took Dorian to his tent that night and chased Thidran and Solas out of the camp in doing so.

The following days saw no loss of excitement, his whole body burned with excess energy. He was having armor forged from her hide, though it would be a while before it was ready. The Blacksmith and the Tanner had both chased the excited Qunari from their workspaces and Thidran had barred him from returning to bother them.

The only one who seemed to delight in his inexhaustible energy was Dorian, who never once complained when he was being carried off to their bed.

This time seemed no different. He dragged Dorian away and the mage had no qualms with their time together. He was obviously sore, however, with rope impressions on his wrists and a hesitance to sit up. But he did, after they were done for the moment, catching their breath before Dorian reached down and picked up his tunic. He reached inside and drew out a leather cord.

Settled at the crux of the cord was a long, polished dragon fang easily as big as The Bull’s hand. The base was wrapped in dragon leather etched in Qunari symbols and designs. On the outside it looked so simple, but the offering, the gesture, was almost enough to make his heart burst.

His energy rekindled all at once as he lunged forward to grab his mage, pinning him back against the bed to kiss and smother with affection. Dorian squirmed at first, but was soon wrapping his arms around The Bull, letting it just happen. He wasn’t even aware of the word he muttered in the spaces needed for air.

After several minutes he managed to pull away, looking down at his lover’s affection-drunk face and swollen lips with a pride he couldn’t contain. He had always believed he would be more hesitant when this happened, more apprehensive or relaxed, he certainly didn’t see himself behaving like an idiot. He didn’t care though, because Dorian was…

“Kadan.” He said, this time aware of the word. Nervousness seeped into his chest, however. Dorian might not appreciate such a term.

“Care to tell me where that came from?” Dorian asked with an amused smile, the fingers of one tanned hand coming up to smooth along the oh-so-sensitive skin connecting to The Bull’s horn. He was the only lover who ever knew about that spot, and damn if it didn’t make him weak in the knees.

The Bull leaned down to kiss his lover again, choosing his words with honesty, “We…don’t have marriage in the Qun. Or, well, we didn’t.” He swallowed, because he was no longer of the Qun, he was Tal’vashoth, “But we had an old tradition. Two people who care deeply for each other will split a dragon’s tooth, so that no matter how far apart life takes them, they’ll always be together.” He held his breath, searching the mage’s eyes for signs of the fear or aggravation he’d shown before at such suggestions.

When he didn’t get an answer for a few moments, he cleared his throat, “That’s probably not what you intended…”

“What does that mean?” The man asked, showing only curiosity, “Kadan.”

The Bull swallowed again, “It means… My Heart.”

Dorian’s brows raised, but his lips curled in a slow and gentle smile that relaxed the tensed muscles in The Bull’s body, “To be honest? No. That hadn’t been my intention. The tooth, I mean.” He turned his head and looked at the item, eyes searching it before turning back up to The Bull, “But it’s funny, isn’t it? How life works out that way.”

The fear and anxiety melted from The Bull’s body as he leaned down and claimed his lover, his Kadan, in another kiss.

“Bull?” The word was soft, drawing his attention up, “I’m not…terribly good at these things. Feelings and all that.” He shook his head and sighed, “And I know it might be…strange to ask. I know that you’ve felt lost since what happened at the Coast. You said the Qun doesn’t have marriage, and there was that look again. You gave everything to them, you only knew that life. At least, that’s what you think. But perhaps you can put that faith, that…purpose…into me. For the time being at least. Whenever you feel lost or confused, I will do my best to help you through it.”

The words hung in the air, The Bull unsure of what to say or how to respond.

Dorian eventually cleared his throat, “We’ll have to get Dagna’s help to cut that tooth in half properly.” He added.

Without anything proper to say, The Bull leaned down and claimed his lover in another kiss, rumbling a pleasant sound from somewhere in his chest. “Kadan…”

The lips against his own were smiling, “Amatus.”

Cassandra had found a book on the Lord Seeker’s body, and though Thidran wanted to see about offering the Inquisition’s help in the area, she was eager to return to Skyhold and look through it in privacy. The Inquisitor might have argued this, but he gave The Bull a searching look before agreeing to return.

It hurt to know that he wasn’t trusted in his own skin.

They returned late in the evening, and once more The Bull found Dorian asleep in his bed. Their bed. He settled down and reached out, wrapping his hand around the man’s shoulder just to feel the warmth and presence. But that’s all it was, because he knew Dorian could offer nothing beyond that.

He wanted nothing more than to lay down and pull the man into his arms – but the thought set something unpleasant in his gut.

When next he was aware, The Bull was sitting in Skyhold proper, in front of one of the hearths that held a lazy fire. He couldn’t bring himself to feel surprised. He was losing his mind, slipping into everything he had been taught to hate about Tal’vashoth.

“He expects it to be like fire under his skin, to risk violence to those around him but it’s nothing like what he expected and that makes it more terrifying.” Cole had appeared beside him, and Bull didn’t have the energy to make the damn kid shut up, “A blink and time is gone, memories. Mindlessness. What will become of me, Tama? And what will become of him. A living ghost. Haunting me with a presence I can’t let go of.

He blinked and pulled himself from The Bull’s thoughts, frowning, “He once told you to put your faith in him, didn’t he, The Iron Bull?” Cole asked.


“I wish I could tell you what he thinks. I can’t…there’s nothing to read. But I think right now, he needs to be able to put his faith in you.”

The Bull snorted, “He can’t exactly do that right now.”

“Exactly. So you should do that for him. Have faith in yourself, for his sake. We will find an answer. Dorian is loved, and you’re not the only one looking for answers.” A skinny white hand rested on one of The Bull’s shoulders, squeezing it softly, “If you’re scared of something, then fight it.”

And just as suddenly as the boy had appeared, he was gone.

The Bull sat there, alone, through the darkest part of the night. His mind wandered through all of the memories he shared with Dorian, then with all of the friends he had met in the Inquisition. His mind wandered back to forming the Chargers, and all they had done. He had done so in the name of the Qun.

They had done so in The Bull’s name.

He stood from his place and walked out into the garden, looking around the empty space before turning into a small room behind a door.

Torches were lit on the wall, bathing the statue of Andraste in a soft light.

To The Bull, the space felt incredibly cramped and small. He didn’t mind, however, as he stepped forward to the altar set before the statue, laden with bouquets and offerings.

He took a deep breath, his good eye closing, “I’m not really sure how to do this…” he admitted lamely, “I’ve never… I know I’ve never done this before. My people aren’t really the praying kind. But my people aren’t my people anymore, and I’ve spent the last year or so trying to deal with that. Trying to…” He shook his head, “I wish I could say I wasn’t here for me, because I want nothing more than to keep Dorian safe and loved. But I’m slipping more and more, I’m losing myself. I can’t keep him safe if I’m becoming a monster. Losing control of myself. I put all of my faith into him, and then when he needed me most I let him down. I need help, I need a miracle.” His hand came up and covered his face, feeling pathetic, “I don’t know what else to do…”

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