Someone to Trust
Orsino knew they were going to get him.
He knew it the minute he rounded the corner and saw them clustered together, all in gleaming plate armour and blood red sashes coiled around their waists – a warning to all mages that dared to cross them . They looked the very picture of templars, right down to the polished boots. Orsino could make out at least two Knight Templars and Ser Alrik, the worst of them all. He could not figure out why they always seemed to run in packs. Or why Alrik seemed intent on making his life a living nightmare. He was just a young mage of twenty; smart and perhaps a touch too wilful. The elven mage gripped the heavy tome under his arm and adjusted his leather satchel to prevent his hands from trembling. Orsino could not believe his luck. He had been careful. He had timed his trip to the Gallows library just as the Templar guards changed, just to avoid such incident. Alrik must have arrived early.
Orsino glanced backwards down the corridor he had just come from and swallowed the hard lump in his throat. There was nothing back there except from the library but he could not go and sleep amongst the books and scrolls. Again. He looked forward towards the group of Templars again. They were leaning against a stone pillar, seemingly talking quietly to each other but Orsino knew better. It was just a front. Olive green eyes slid shut and Orsino took a deep breath of cold air to calm his frazzled nerves. He opened them again and moved forward through the corridor, his leather boots padding across the marble stone.
As he neared closer, the Templars suddenly straightened up from their place against the wall and were in his path before he could blink. Orsino stopped dead in his tracks. Some part of his subconscious screamed at him to run, to pick up his foolish skirt-like robes and run in the opposite direction. But even if he wanted to, Orsino found that his legs had become trunks of lead that rooted him to the spot. The other two Templars were helmeted and flanked out around the mage like an imposing steel wall. Orsino looked up and tried his utmost to keep eye contact with the ringleader of the group. It didn't help that he was at least several inches shorter than the templar.
He hated being an elf sometimes.
"Hello Orsino," said Alrik, his voice low and oddly satisfied. Shadows from the low lanterns cast ominous shadows across his face. Orsino shivered beneath his dark robe and tightened his grip upon his books again. He felt his skin give a shudder, as if it were threatening to crawl away without him. Orsino was distrustful of most of the Templars within the Gallows but there was something about Alrik that did not sit right with the mage, something that made Orsino's gut twist in his belly. He had power and status within the junior Templars but from the elven mage had observed, it did not seem to make him the least bit happy. The only time Orsino had seen those dull, lifeless eyes light up was when he was harassing a mage or two. Or ten.
Orsino had seen it firsthand.
"Greetings Ser Alrik," Orsino answered, keeping the quiver out of his voice. He could not afford to show weakness in front of the Templar. He knew that the man would jump upon it and use it against him.
"I trust you are keeping out of trouble?" Alrik asked, folding his arms across his plated chest. Orsino heard metal crunch against metal and suddenly felt small in comparison in his blue apprentice robes.
"I could ask the same of you but I already know the answer," Orsino remarked, his tone arched.
The other two helmeted Templars snorted, seemingly amused by his answer. Orsino shot them the strongest glare he could muster.
Which was not much in the presence of three armoured Templars.
Alrik raised an eyebrow. "You know why we are here do you not Orsino?"
The elven mage felt as if a bucket of cold water had been dumped over his head. Markers breath Orsino knew. He had been in the wrong place at the wrong time and found the templar Ser Alrik...harassing a young female mage in the more isolated parts of the Gallows. "If this is about what I saw last week..."
"Ah, so you do know what I speak of."
Orsino clenched his jaw shut in anger, the memories still fresh in his mind like a blood wound. "I have nothing to say to you Alrik. I know what I saw. I saw you, taking advantage of your charge and not one damned templar in this building would believe me when I told them," the mage growled through clenched teeth. His magic flared beneath his skin, crackling at his fingertips in response to his anger.
"It was templar business. You interfered in a matter that did not concern you."
Olive green eyes clouded with ire. "A statement I grow tired of. You templars are alike. You talk and talk how corrupt my kind is yet you can't turn such a critical eye on yourself," Orsino fired back, his pulse roaring in his ear. In the back of his mind, the image of the young mage girl surfaced unbridled. He remember the fear in her eyes, remembered how much she cried and how she cursed their gift of magic.
Alrik appeared unfazed by Orsino's outburst. "I suspected her of blood magic. I had to be certain that she was not corrupted."
The mage stared Alrik straight in the eye, surprised for a moment by his own courage. He was tired of dealing with bullying templars that used their muscle to push him around. "Ah blood magic. How convenient. So quickly you templars jump to blood magic. You seem to see corruption everywhere except from within," Orsino snapped. Tears of rage collected in his eyelids in response to his flaring temper. The skinny frame beneath his robes trembled with rage and suddenly he wanted nothing more to set Alrik on fire.
"I have a sacred duty to perform Mage. I would not expect you to understand the corruption of blood magic."
Orsino clenched his hands into fists to prevent himself from lashing out a fireball. "Sacred duties? That is utter blasphemy. Save me your lies Alrik, I will see the truth aired. Mark my words." That that, he pushed past Alrik made an attempt to move past the group but a wall of metal steel. They closed in tighter, effectively boxing the young mage in. Orsino rounded on his booted heel to face the ring leader again, almost completely and utterly ready to unleash every ounce of magic that his small elven body possessed.
"Do you intend to check me for corruption as well?"
The Templar prodded Orsino's temper, baiting his magi pride rather successfully. He seemed to smell Orsino's anger as easily as a Marbari would smell a rabbit. "Perhaps. I wonder if you will beg like she did Orsino," Alrik stated, his blue eyes practically glowing Lyrium blue. Orsino felt fibre in his body burn boiling hot and his vision clouded red. His mind howled at him to stop but he was far past caring.
Before Orsino could haul back what was left of his insanity, the elven mage had slammed his heavy tome against the smug face of Ser Alrik. With a surprised cry that sounded all too satisfying to Orsino's elven ears, the templar staggered back; the look on his face somewhere between mad shock and utter outrage. Orsino felt a surge white hot pride as he stumbled from the recoil of the force. It didn't disappear even as he was smashed into the Gallows brick wall by a rather hard fist. The leather satchel split open in protest, sending various other books and scrolls clattering to the ground. Orsino's skull hit the stone wall with a loud, meaty crunch and he lost his vision to darkness for a few seconds. He regained consciousness almost immediately, feeling dazed. Alrik towered over him in more of a blurry shape than a person, his face utterly livid. He was probably more upset that a mage a hit him with a book than with a spell.
The mage would have laughed if his jaw did not feel as if it were about to drop off.
"You...attacked a templar. I'll see you made Tranquil for this!" Alrik ground out as he reached up to wipe blood from his nose.
Orsino spat the blood that had collected in his mouth at the feet of the templars. "I'd welcome it to be free of you and your ilk," he hissed, ignoring the pain that sheared across his chest. He was sure that a rib or two was broken.
Alrik's jaw clenched, the cords on his neck visible through his tanned skin. "I'll teach you some respect Mage." The templar swung his leg back; his target Orsino's belly. The elf clenched his eyes shut and prepared himself for the beating that was sure to follow.
"Alrik! What in the Maker's name are you doing?" exclaimed a feminine voice. Olive green eyes slid open hesitantly and found the Alrik's boot had frozen in mid air. The group of templars parted away from the mage to reveal a furious young woman, her lips pressed together in ire. In his stunned and beaten state, Orsino could only marvel at the timing of her sudden appearance. It was as if the Maker had dropped her down right then and there. She was a templar, about his age and quite beautiful with pale skin that did not have a mark upon it. She was adorned in the standard issue traditional armour but it seemed to gleam in an entirely different manner – as if she spent some time polishing and cleaning even the tiny little joints. She had very blonde hair that was pulled back in ponytail with a few strands loose at the sides that softened her face. Her eyes were a bright ocean blue that glowed with anger that was – for once – not directed at the mage slumped against the wall. The woman's gaze dropped onto him for a few moments and Orsino made an attempt to smile but found he couldn't. It hurt too much. The woman's eyes softened for a second before her ire swivelled back onto Orsino's tormentors. "I asked you a question Alrik," the female stated, her tone sharp enough to slice through steel.
The templar in question locked stares with the female. Orsino could practically feel their auras clashing against each other. He sat simply staring at the two templar superpowers, hardly able to believe his luck. Was there perhaps a templar in the tower that did not hate the sight of him? "This mage attacked us Meredith," Alrik responded.
The blonde woman snorted and placed her hands on her armoured hips. "Do you take me for a fool Alrik? Am I expected to believe that an apprentice mage attacked three knight-templars?"
"Alrik speaks truth Meredith. That mage assaulted him," one of Alrik's allies added in. Orsino could not tell who the culprit was as they were adorned in a heavy helmet that offered only a small slit across the eyes.
Meredith did not even look in the templars general direction. Apparently she did not think him all that important. "And how exactly did this mage 'assault' you Alrik? I sense no evidence of magic." She kept her eyes solely focused on Alrik.
"He...attacked me with his book." Alrik's ears turned a lovely shade of pink.
A smirk pulled at blonde's mouth and she turned her attention back to Orsino. A glimmer of amusement sparked across her eyes and disappeared so swiftly that Orsino thought he had imagined it. "And what would you say to this accusation mage?"
The elf wiped his split lip on the cuff of his robes, trying to rid his mouth of the coppery aftertaste. "He threatened me Ser. Does he really expect that I would simply bend over and submit myself to a great ramming without attempting to defend myself," Orsino replied, trying to ignore the throbbing sensation penetrating his skull like a spear.
Meredith let out a snort and turned back to Alrik. "Had you done the same to me, hitting you with a book would have been the least I would have done," Meredith replied, an edge of amusement in her voice that Orsino found encouraging – given the situation.
Alrik scowled at the blonde woman but Meredith held her ground. She was smaller and slighter than he but she stood tall surprisingly tall against him, like a rock against the unrelenting sea. "Why do you feel it necessary to intervene in issues that do not concern you? This is a private matter between myself and Orsino."
Ocean blue eyes darkened, threatening to storm over any second. "Every mage matter concerns me Alrik. In this instance, I see three templars attacking a helpless apprentice and I will not tolerate it. Neither will the Knight Commander. He will be informed of this Alrik," the woman fired back, a fire in her words that made Orsino's heart. He had never seen bravery and determination in a woman. The female carried herself with a strength that Orsino dearly wished he possessed. Meredith gave the group of templars all another glare before continuing. "I suggest you leave right away while I attend to this mage."
Alrik didn't move. For a wild and fanciful moment, Orsino was sure that Alrik would attack the blonde woman as well. He had never seen two templars fight before.
Meredith glared harder, her lips pressed tightly together in suppressed rage. "Now Alrik."
With a growl, Alrik backed off from Orsino. His eyes were trained upon Meredith, "This is not over." Orsino could be entirely certain who the statement was directed at, himself or the blonde female. It sent a shiver running down his spine none the less.
"We shall see," replied Meredith, challenge written all over her face.
Without a second word, Alrik and the remaining templars disappeared down the corridor so quickly that Orsino was sure they had a Haste spell equipped.
With a crunch of metal, the blonde woman had crouched down by his side to examine his wounds. Before Orsino could utter a protest, Meredith had taken his head in her gauntleted hands and tilted it slightly to get a better look at the bleeding cut on his head. A sigh of relief escaped his mouth as her cold steel pressed against his hot skin. The female looked at him questionably with her intense blue eyes and the mage felt his cheeks colour.
"You have my thanks for intervening," Orsino said.
"You need not thank me. Templars have a sacred duty to protect the Chantry and their mage charges, not to attack them unwarranted. I've heard some disturbing rumours about Alrik though this is the first I have witnessed of them," replied Meredith, her touches all business-like and professional as she checked for broken bones.
"Well I am glad you did. I nearly set him on fire," the elf replied bitterly, feeling like little more than a pile of bumps and bruises.
Meredith looked at him with a small frown but he could see the twinkle of amusement in her blue eyes again. "Effective but unadvisable. He would name you a blood mage for certain."
Orsino tried to smile but his lip throbbed and blood dripped down his chin from his split lip. He reached up hastily and wiped the cuff of his robe against his chin again. "Perhaps. I would chance it. I wonder how well he would dance with his ass on fire."
The woman let out a snort of laughter. "Dangerous game you play mage," Meredith replied before releasing Orsino. "You have a skull fracture. I insist you see the Healer."
Orsino was stunned that she could tell that much from a simple examination. "No, I'm fine. I will be okay." the elf replied. Even to his own ears, the statement sounded silly but Orsino suddenly wanted nothing more than to crawl into his bed and sleep for several years. His pale skin pulsed where her fingers had been, flesh tingling in an all too familiar way. Orsino gave himself a mental shake. It was not the time childish and silly.
The blonde woman fixed him a hard look indeed. "No mage, you will see the healer even if I must escort you there myself." The templar rose from the ground gracefully as if her armour was weightless. "Can you stand?"
"I think so." Orsino wriggled up onto unsteady, booted feet. His legs shook, threatening to collapse beneath him and he felt sick from everything that had transpired. He took a step forward, his stomach rearing and bucking like a wild horse so violently that he was forced to pause for a moment. Orsino leaned against the cold stone, willing the nausea to go away. His head felt as if someone had taken a hammer and smashed it repeatedly. The female templar meanwhile had gathered up his heavy book and what was left of the split leather satchel. He made an attempt to tie what was left of it back together. It was one of the only shreds of his childhood he had left.
"Come, we should go to the healers now. I wish to report this to the Knight Commander before he retires for the night. I would rather not disturb him in sleep."
The Healers office really was the most logical place to stop. Luckily, the Gallows library wasn't too terribly away from the healers. The hallways were fairly quiet, apart from the night shift templars and the occasional mage that gave the pair a curious glance. Meredith, true to her word, escorted the mage through the stone and marble corridors of The Gallows straight to the Healers front door and insisted upon taking him back his quarters as well once he was finished. He had protested certainly and she had argued back to the point where Orsino had thrown up his hands and relented. Thus he followed her through the Gallows. The heels of her heavy boots cracked against the stone floor, drowning the soft thumping of Orsino's leathers. He could not help but feel very small next to her.
Meredith rapped the heavy oak door with an armoured knuckle. Seconds later, a bewildered looking old man appeared at the threshold. He was small, wrinkled and put Orsino in mind of a potato that had been left out in the sun for too long. He blinked at the templar. "Meredith, I am surprised to see you here. I thought you didn't care for healing magic?"
The blonde woman snorted and gestured to Orsino. "I'll make an exception this once. This mage was set upon by templars. I suspect he has a skull fracture."
The old healer let out a sigh and gestured for the pair to enter his office. He bustled around the room, pulling down coloured bottles and looking through templar approved books. Orsino liked the Healer's office. The room was warm and smelt strongly of peppermints and elfroot. The scent calmed his frazzled nerves considerably. Orsino slid onto a nearly stool while Meredith simply stood watching him like a hawk.
"You always seem to get into such trouble Orsino," remarked the old healer, setting down a glowing yellow bottle on a nearby glass table before carefully examining the swelling bump upon Orsino's head.
Orsino gave a drained, tired smile. "Yes and it's a marvellous talent as well."
Meredith looked to him, a frown settled upon her face. "Has this happened before mage?"
"Once or twice. It had never been this bad before. The price one pays for being both an elf and a mage," Orsino replied with a careless shrug.
Meanwhile, the old man placed a wrinkled hand over Orsino's throbbing skull. Almost immediately, a cool blue light enveloped the healer's hand and waves of soothing magic washed across the elf. He felt the painful throbbing lessen with each passing second and could have died with relief. Soon enough the healing magic had reduced what was once an unbearable headache to a dull throbbing. "How does that feel?"
"Better, thank you."
"You are quite welcome." The healer reached for the bottle at the side of the table and handed it to Orsino. "Take this before you retire for the night."
Orsino gave a respectful bow and looked to blonde in the corner. It didn't look as if she had moved one muscle at all. Obviously, she took her duties and roles very seriously. The staunch expression on her face coaxed a smile onto Orsino's face. So serious, the very picture of a templar. He wondered briefly what Meredith would look like if she smiled but swiftly dismissed the thought before it took root inside his mind. Control yourself. She is simply performing her duties Orsino. Nothing more.
Holding the bottle in his hand, Orsino and Meredith left the Healers office and trekked up endless flights of staircases to the apprentice quarters. Orsino didn't mind living so far up the Gallows. His shared room had a good view of Kirkwall – minus the chains at the entrance and the bars on the windows. The view of the city below was the only aspect that he liked about his quarters – it wasn't really his home and it wasn't really his room. Orsino had a home, one that he could barely remember but he knew it was still there. It was a memory he clung to dearly when he felt truly alone.
The pair stopped outside the door labelled "117". It was a heavy oak door that tingled with enchantments and templar wards. Orsino's skin prickled at the very sight of it.
The blonde turned to Orsino. "Well mage, I will leave you here. I'm going to report this incident to the Knight Commander at once. I trust he will want to question you tomorrow."
Orsino suppressed a shiver. He had only seen the Knight-Commander once and that was when he was chewing up two apprentices for putting cold custard in the boots of a rather grumpy templar. "Yes, well Alrik cannot allowed to get away with this."
The elf looked to the blonde woman with surprise, feeling as confused as he looked. "Why would you help me? Do Templars not protect their own?" he asked, unable to hide back the bitterness in voice.
An eyebrow hiked up Meredith's forehead. "Tell me mage, would you report a fellow mage if you saw them practicing blood magic and using it to their own advantage?"
"Of course. Blood magic is evil," Orsino answered without hesitation.
"Then you have your answer. Templars have our own code to follow. I would not see that broken by another," she stated firmly. Her voice held so much conviction that Orsino almost believed her. She was his natural born enemy and felt a great deal of respect for her blossom in his chest.
The templar looked back to the door. "I trust you will be alright in there?"
"Yes I have a roommate, that one from the circle of Ferelden."
Meredith gave an indignant snort. "Ah yes, the runaway from the Ferelden Circle. A regular trouble maker that one."
Orsino cleared his throat, trying to ignore the rising heat up his neck. He knew all too well of Irving's exploits, both in the Free Marshes and the Orlesion controlled Ferelden. Despite under the control of foreign hands, The Ferelden Circle still seemed very liberal. "Well uh thank you again for your assistance today. I appreciated it."
The blonde raised a gloved palm. "You need not thank me mage."
"I know but I feel I need to," he remarked before pausing a moment. Beneath his chest, his heart pounded so loudly that he feared Meredith would be able to hear it beating. "Will I see you again around the Gallows?" Orsino asked, struggling to keep the hope from his voice. He knew what he wanted to say but could not formulate the sentence properly. His tongue just did not seem to want to work properly.
Meredith's mouth curled into a small smile. "Perhaps."
It was an encouraging sign.
Unwilling to push his good luck further, Orsino returned the gesture and felt for the door handle to his quarters. "Well, have a pleasant evening Meredith."
The templar gave a nod. "And you as well. Orsino," Meredith replied before she turned on a booted heel and started back down candle lit corridor. A heavy sigh escaped Orsino and he hauled a hand through his black hair, his pulse singing in her ears. The day's events all blurred together in his mind and suddenly he felt incredibly exhausted from it all. Wanting nothing more than to collapse onto his bed, Orsino turned around and pushed the door open. It swung forward with a loud groan and Orsino was greeted by sight of Irving sprawled out on the spare bed reading a leather bound book. The mage looked up and frowned at the elven mage, concern clouding his features. "Orsino, are you alright? You have been gone for quite some time."
Feeling utterly fed up, Orsino mere grunted and tossed what was left of his bag and books onto a nearby chair. The room he shared was not overly big, just large enough for two beds, two study desks and a single wardrobe for robes. A large, navy blue star patterned rug lay on the floor between the beds; perfect to warm cold toes on in the winter months. The walls were covered with many shelves that housed everything from books to scrolls to empty potion bottles to potted plants.
Orsino reached a hand up to the back of his neck, healing magic illuminating his fingertips a gentle blue. He massaged the tender spot gently, trying to knead out the bunched up muscles. "I think so. Alrik cornered me when I was on my way back from the library."
Irving cursed under his breath. Orsino liked the older boy. He had been an apprentice mage in the Ferelden Circle and had fled with a group of others to Kirkwall after events within the country got particularly heated between the Orlesion occupants and the rebel forces. Orsino had fully anticipated the runaway mages to made Tranquil as soon as they arrived but the Knight Commander had allowed them to remain to the surprise of all. Thus Irving had occupied Orsino's room for the last several months. "What happened?" he asked, his voice slow and deliberate, as if he chose his words with great care.
Orsino gave a wolfish grin; one that numerous templars had dubbed as "insolent". "You would have been proud of me Irving. I hit him in the face with my book. Not even the Maker would have seen that coming."
A loud bout of laughter escaped the human. "Ah well done Orsino. I hope it hurt. I assume you got away since you are sitting here, breathing and not dead in the slightest?"
"I'm afraid I cannot take all the credit. Another templar intervened when I thought he was going to kill me. A woman called Meredith. She said she would speak to the Knight Commander right away about Alrik's attack," he responded as he flopped onto his own bed – still unmade from the morning but for once, Orsino did not care in the slightest.
Irving gave a smirk that Orsino was not entirely sure he liked. "A woman you say?"
"Yes and before you jump to those conclusions you are so fond of, she was simply performing her duties," Orsino insisted firmly.
"What a ladies' man you are Orsino."
"Come now my friend, you cannot truly say that you don't notice the way most of our fellow female mages look at you?"
"Oh really Irving? Must you be so childish?" Orsino said, feeling his cheeks burn for the third time that day.
Irving gave a rich laugh again. "You know I simply jest with you Orsino. These events are somewhat encouraging...Perhaps this woman could prove to be a useful ally against Alrik and his kind." Irving eyed him closely, looking serious. The look did not suit him in Orsino's opinion. "I worry for you Orsino. I know that you have been creating quite a stir with the templars as of late. I would not suggest rousing Alrik's anger further."
The elf narrowed his eyes. "What should I have done instead? Let him get away with what he did to that poor girl? He justifies his actions with claims of corruptions and blood magic. Andraste is surely weeping for that poor girl. We all know she's innocent," he said with a scowl, feeling the rage boil up in him again.
"I know Orsino and I agree whole heartedly with you but there is very little we can do tonight. Dwelling on the matter will accomplish nothing."
The elf felt his anger deflate. The human mage was right. Thinking too much upon the past would chew him up completely and Orsino knew it. "You are correct as always Irving. I should get some rest. Maker knows I'm tired." The mage reached down and pulled off his leather boots. Irving stood up from the bed and casually tossed his book onto his desk.
"As you should. Is it tiring to get into so much trouble?"
"Absolutely," the elf answered. "And where are you off to?" Orsino asked as the human got up from his bed and started bustling about the small room they shared. Irving threw him a smirk as he hauled on a dark blue cloak. "Off to see a rather lovely mage of course."
"And who is it this time?" Orsino asked, resisting the urge to roll his eyes.
"Naughty naughty. That is my little secret."
"Don't bring her back here then. I live here too you know and I am no mood for your antics."
"You are such a stick in the mud Orsino."
Orsino threw a pillow at the human. "Go, get out of here before I summon the templars."
The Ferelden mage threw him one last grin before disappearing out the door in a swirl of navy, leaving the elf alone with his own thoughts. With a small smile, he reached for the abandoned healing potion and downed the glowing liquid in one gulp. He had drinking vile tasting potions down to an art. After all, he had taken so many of them. The formula was quick acting and almost immediately, Orsino felt a spell of drowsiness descend upon his hectic mind. He welcomed it entirely. The mage roused himself enough to curl up under the thick blankets, not even bothering to remove his robes. As his mind slipped away into a magic induced sleep, the thought of the blonde templar surfaced once more before even she was lost to the darkness.
God I don't even know where that came from. This was my first attempt at Dragon Age fanfiction so fingers and toes crossed that this wasn't too terrible. I've always loved both Orsino and Meredith so when this popped into my head, I could think of nothing other than writing it. My spin on how they met. Threw First Enchanter Irving in there for lulz too just because I can. Might write more shots of these two again.
Thanks for reading!