Extempore, Ch. III
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Summary: It's Dorian's turn to learn how to use Fenris' specialty skillset: the lyrium markings. He also did ask to test them, really, so who else does he have to blame?
A/N: I only now realised I hadn't posted this to Tumblr. Sorry for the wait, here it is! And the next chapter should be up in the next few days, I'm trying to stagger the posts a bit, but all of it's up-to-date on AO3.
Dorian woke up to a freezing cold morning air. He wasn’t entirely sure why that had happened, and his confused sleep-ridden daze did not help in figuring out the source.
“Up you get.”
That was someone speaking to him. Why was someone in his — why was someone speaking to him when it was still dark?
“Ah-?” was the dignified response he provided, halfway to sitting up.
“It’s almost dawn, and we have a long day. Wake up.”
Almost dawn .
That was definitely not a phrase he ever liked hearing. Soon enough, he realised it was Dorian in his room. No — wait — that was Fenris, just in his body. As soon as that thought caught up to him, the constant crawling sensation from the markings did the same.
“Why, pray tell, are you —” he cut off into a yawn — “in my room at this ghastly hour?”
“We have much to do,” Fenris offered by poor way of explanation, and there was no hint of tiredness in his voice, hardly any sign he was affected by the early hour. “If you are going to act my part, you should live my part. Having a lie-in is not a part of my life.”
“Well it is part of — will you return my quilt at once-” Dorian reached for the duvet in Fenris’ hands, but it was kept miserably away from him.
“You need to start listening to what you are told. If you cannot listen to what I suggest to you, you will get yourself killed if anyone tells you to fetch a drink.”
Dorian scoffed. “You’re not a slave, that’s hardly your job-”
“You should not be surprised how little Alti care whether you are a free elf or a slave,” Fenris retorted, an edge present in his words. It didn’t make Dorian keen to answer back, and instead managed to drag him out of the bed.
Dorian gave a passing glance in the gloom of the pre-dawn morning to Fenris’ outfit. He’d forgone any robes, having chosen to opt for what was probably Dorian’s most unassuming tunic and breeches—honestly, Dorian was even surprised he owned such a bland outfit. He relented, rolling out of the bed and glaring at the room. To prevent alerting the staff, they’d decided to sleep in their respective bodies’ rooms. Grim as that sentence sounded out of context with a necromancer in the house, it was safer than risking even Dorian’s well-paid servants alerting anyone outside the house to something being amiss. Being branded a Maleficar was not on Dorian’s long-term political agenda. Unfortunately, the staff not being aware of what exactly was going on had led to various curious looks aimed at both Dorian and Fenris, each of whom was finding it hard enough to exist in their respective bodies, let alone manage to maintain their roles the entire time.
Dorian sighed. If they were already making his staff suspicious, he wasn’t sure how they were intended to convince the den of vipers with sharp tongues and sharper eyes, looking for any potential weakness or oddity to latch onto and exploit.
“Get dressed, meet me in the courtyard in ten minutes at most.” With that, Fenris brushed out of the room, Dorian’s eyes trailing after him. Well, if nothing else, his brisk and cold manner was convincing enough of an Altus. Dorian gave an undistinguished snort—Fenris would murder him on the spot if he heard he effortlessly made a relatively convincing Magister.
He dressed quickly enough, riffling through Fenris’ limited wardrobe—the man really owned nothing else beside armour or some ratty tunics. He was being paid for his services provided, courtesy of the Inquisition. Dorian wasn’t entirely sure he wasn’t just misering the money away under the mattress, seeing how the only time he’d ever heard Fenris say he was going into town was for his morning walks or to have something mended. Maybe that was something he could ask the elf about, Dorian mused, eyeing with suspicion some of the almost threadbare tunics he was unwilling to disturb.
He made his way to the courtyard, only to find Fenris… sitting. He had sat himself cross-legged onto the grass, back to Dorian, and seemed not to notice his arrival. Dorian took a few steps around him, trying to see what he was doing.
To his surprise, Fenris was trying to… summon magic. Not very successfully, and it almost looked like it was causing him physical pain. Despite the fact that it was Dorian who bore the lyrium markings at that moment, it was Fenris whose expression was curled into a strange mixture, his teeth gritted and brows deeply furrowed, eyes almost blank. His hand was stretched out in front of him, as if he was waiting for magic to just appear in his palm. There was a strange spot of smoking and seared grass in front of him.
Dorian approached slowly, so as not to spook him. “Fenris?”
At that, Fenris jumped, standing suddenly and turning to Dorian. “Pavus. Ah- did-?”
Dorian nodded. “What exactly were you trying to do? Or did ?” He eyed the blackened blades of grass on the ground.
Fenris’ eyes drifted to the same spot, and he winced, moustache twitching strangely. It amused Dorian. “That was a failed attempt. I thought I should try to at least be able to produce the bare basics of magic, in case it’s needed. And…” he paused momentarily, eyes drifting to Dorian’s arms, tracing the markings. “Magic can soothe the markings. I figured—”
Something flared in Dorian, leading him to raise his arm protectively, taking a step away. “No — not-” He cut himself off, confused by the… deep reaction the mention and feeling of the Fade ebbing around them had caused.
Fenris’ eyebrows shot up, but he did not move in any direction. He spoke slowly. “What…?”
Dorian blinked twice to release himself from his stupor, his heart racing and entire body tense. What was he even opposing — magic? Was this some… reflex, that Fenris’ body carried with it? He knew Fenris was apprehensive about magic in all its forms, but could it be to even a physical extent?
“ Fasta vass …” Fenris said quietly. “I didn’t…”
Dorian looked at Fenris in confusion, before it began dawning on him. The pain Fenris associated with magic — the constant sting of the Fade, combined with the way that the tugging of a mage’s power on the Fade hooked into his markings… It must be ingrained, far deeper than the mind, deeper than skin. Muscles, nerves, everything in him had reacted.
Is that how he feels? And yet he merely glares if I have to use magic in his proximity, never… never says more…?
Fenris cleared his throat. “I won’t… try to use magic on you. I don’t think it would work anyway, since all I managed to conjure was burning the grass on accident. Magic and I clearly don’t agree, no matter the body.” Fenris eyed him slowly for a moment. “Are you… I know you said you wanted to learn to use the markings today. Are you certain-?”
“Yes,” Dorian cut in. His body had begun relaxing, heart calming down enough for him to catch his breath, and the irritating itch of the Fade was back, only worse. “I’m sure. I just hadn’t known to expect such a reaction. This crawling sensation, on the other hand…”
Fenris nodded, gathering the meaning from the trailing sentence. Dorian saw the way his hand absent-mindedly rubbed the back of the other, a motion Dorian had noticed himself doing whenever a specific part of the markings gave an unusually strong flare. “In that case, we’ll begin with stretching and meditation.”
Dorian’s face fell. “We’ll what?”
“Stretching. Reflection. I spent most of my mornings doing that when I was learning to phase. It requires a certain peace of mind. When stretching the body, it relaxes the muscles and spirit. Allows you to focus on nothing else and clear your mind, and when it comes to crossing into the Fade, it’s easier the less pain you cause yourself.”
Dorian’s expression twisted into something unpleasant. “I’ve attempted your dearest ‘reflection’ and ‘meditation’ plenty enough before, they’re useless practices. Stretching, I’m fine with.”
Fenris glared at him. “Do not come blaming me when phasing is even more difficult than necessary.”
At that, Dorian simply ignored him, moving to stretch his muscles — that, he knew well enough how to perform on his own. In all honesty, Dorian was surprised at just how flexible his current body was — he could perform stretches and moves he had never even dreamed of in his own body. He could see the reverse feeling reflected in Fenris — it was clear the elf didn't think Dorian pliable enough, as he stretched beside him. It took longer than Dorian would have cared for before Fenris was satisfied, but he finally relented.
Fenris instructed him to stand before a wall, palm pressed against it. He was now standing, glaring at a wall with his hand pressed against it. Nothing.
“This is ridiculous.”
“Did you think you were accidentally going to just walk through the wall?” Fenris scoffed. “The first time I phased was in Danarius’ courtyard while training my sword skills. The training was not kind, not by any measure. The other slave may have well sliced my arm off, but before the blade met my arm I had disappeared from this plane. I’m not going to replicate that situation for you, so it’s going to take effort on your part.”
Dorian huffed, focusing his glare on the grains of the wall in front of him. The sun had by now risen, shining its early-morning glare right onto him. He could feel it — he could feel the Fade lingering everywhere around him, particularly where Fenris stood. His markings felt like they were dormant, restless but waiting. Waiting for him to establish that bridge into the Fade, a bridge he had no idea how to build.
He was also man enough to admit that there was a level of apprehension about using the markings for anything. From what Fenris had ever told him, and kept regularly reminding him, nothing about them was pleasant.
“Ignore the wall, the wall isn’t the point.” Fenris cut his thoughts off. “If you think of the wall, you’re thinking of this plane. You must think… almost into the Fade.”
Perhaps he could think about it like reaching for his magic. Yet, nothing changed. His magic had never, in and of itself, taken him off this plane. He couldn’t stop thinking about the grass shifting under his bare feet (he’d tried to wear shoes, and felt miserable in them), of the sun at his neck, of the wall at his hand.
Fenris kept explaining different ways he could try thinking about it, but it seemed he began running out of ideas, too. Were Dorian asleep, this might have been slightly more successful. But nothing happened, he was still firmly in the courtyard.
Fenris had fallen silent before he shifted. “I’m going to do something, and you’re not going to like it.”
Dorian saw as Fenris raised his hand, and knew where this was going. He didn’t move, knowing this might make things easier. Fenris’ fingers circled around his wrist, and he could feel his markings flare to life at the touch of a mage, so close to the Fade, reaching, not enough-
There was a small pulse from Fenris’ hand, and it echoed everywhere in the markings, Dorian tumbling across into the Fade. The lyrium sang in his skin, searing, and Dorian could feel himself recoil, the feeling driving him further and further away-
His hand faltered forward, nothing blocking his motion, and he stepped back as Fenris’ touch vanished from his wrist.
He was back in the physical world, but everything in him stung from the effort and the lyrium, but even more so, his mind burned with the knowledge he’d just… phased between planes. Stepped in and out of the Fade.
Dorian gathered his bearings, catching his breath erratically. For someone who’d been to the Fade, physically, and who used magic on a regular basis, that had been… a completely new experience. He could still feel everything reverberating with the feeling, with the lyrium etched into his body. For the past few days, they’d felt more a superficial bother, but now they felt dredged into him, reaching everywhere in his veins. He had perhaps more of an idea, now, as to why Fenris was not so fond of them, despite how he had perfected their use into a weapon for himself.
Dorian couldn’t help but admit how many things it put into perspective for him, while his mind was also reeling from the implications. That the lyrium was physically coexisting with Fenris, that it wasn’t just on him, it was part of him, for better or worse.
Fenris had said something, which he hadn’t caught, too busy was he wandering in his own thoughts. “What?”
“I asked if you’re alright, if you need something.”
“Oh- no, I’m… well, I suppose as alright as one can be after such an… experience.” Dorian tries to shake his limbs slightly, see if that would fix the remnants of the odd feeling. It didn’t help.
“Hopefully, you won’t need to phase in or out of anywhere, but I think it’s still useful if you could at least get to the point of phasing your hand at will to take someone’s heart out.”
Dorian grimaced. “Wonderful, just the kind of practical skills I enjoy learning.” Fenris glared at him, and Dorian relented. “Yes, yes, alright, I know this is important. I still don’t fancy having to drag someone’s organs out. Your hand gets so nasty doing that.”
“Well, I can assure you, putting your hand in someone’s guts is not a first resort.”
Well, Dorian supposed that was better than nothing. Hopefully, it wouldn’t come to that. He could only imagine that first-hand experience in that was not pleasant in the least, and was much happier to leave the task to Fenris. If his enemies could stick to poisons for the next few days, Fenris could handle antidotes. Duels were a much less sure bet for the two of them at the moment.