Stare at his own gravestone; read his greatest fear. See it in Trevelyan's eyes: the faintly scornful mockery. Meet it with his own. As if a Magister could be brought down by something as mundane as that. Scoff at the Nightmare's clumsiness. Laugh it off. What else to do, with no other weapons to his name in this place (or any place) but laughter and the entertainment of overly vocal, self-righteous indignation.
(Powerless, as always.)
The temptation to just do it hammers at him daily. Give in. Accept the arranged marriage. Make his family proud. Study the acceptable schools. Learn the acceptable books, learn the unacceptable books, debunk the unacceptable theories and earn the acceptable praise. Keep his borderline challenging friends, go see the scandalous plays, anything to add an appropriate level of spice to his hollow personality — but when it comes to it, only debate those acceptable debates about Tevinter politics. Be a part, not apart. Beget the heir. Be kind and fair to his slaves. Be an exemplar of his nation. Rise modestly, live comfortably, avoid becoming someone else's antagonist.
On the announcement of his first heir, respond to the Archon's draft with agreeable modesty; Dorian can afford the slaves and mercenaries to bleed for him, and Seheron is only a breath away from his Qarinus winter estate. Lounge on the chaise in the command tent and throw himself grapes, slightly wrinkled, fermented, ferried up from the fertile realms. Present just enough sarcasm in his commentary to amuse his father in law and brother in law lounging opposite, or perhaps don't, because after this time perhaps the effort is beyond him. Somewhere back in that Qarinus winter estate, Dorian's mother presents Dorian's pregnant wife to the political backstory in which magisterial wives play their part.
(Present himself in every way as the affable/acceptable/social scion. Play the game well within the bounds of the board placed before him. Do not comment upon the rules, do not comment; either way he fails to make a difference. Make best use of his pitiful first move, because others have more of the pieces, and every pawn left to him has a hundred strings tied. Inside Tevinter's borders, how could he possibly hope to win? Of course he runs; absence is a temptation in itself.)
The temptation to always be warm. Clothing crafted on demand. Food that is always perfect, tailored for his idiosyncrasy. The temptation: to have never known anything different against which to compare. This summer house and this townhouse and this estate retreat and this certain friend and all the books he ever wanted, some copies commissioned specifically for him, treatises written at his request and dedicated to his name and house by Laetan new Circle hopefuls, inspired by his most casual of comments that he might well be interested in hearing more of their thoughts. The centre of certain social circles, where he wants it; the warmed periphery where not.
(If he can play so carefully. Perhaps he can't, and all there is for him in Tevinter is another brand of toothless, spineless isolation in near total comfort.)
Give it up, and for what? For an abstract he can barely name? A few too many scandalous plays watched, too many forbidden books read, conversations with younger dwarves, who aren't quite as tactful as their trader parents, and the seed had been planted. Flirtations with Soporati. Too many intoxicated conversations with exotic courtesans, drawing little flickers of truth from flattering tongues. A perspective shifted, unease growing. Tevinter's edges were fraying like wet parchment, and the proscribed life ahead of him bled into the borders like ink.
His rejection of the arranged marriage is only the first disappointment to his family, but it has to be that where he starts. Dorian knows what comes after marriage. He will be an adult, no longer the student, no longer the child. An active part of the Tevinter class problem, not just born to it. A fullblown citizen of the Imperium. The responsibilities, the magisterial path. Marry, and the golden lock clicks closed behind him, no more can he stand outside and critique the within, enjoying the pleasures of his birthright while feeling superior because of his critique.
So very hungry for symbols, these Tevinters. As an action his rejection of the marriage was a flawed one, because the Tevinter reaction was to find reason for the action; no symbol can exist outside its context. Halward calls on the family accountant. The finest courtesans that money could buy; sex was no temptation to Dorian when it was all within such easy reach. Raging familial argument; you reject us because of this idiocy? Dorian's cry, that's not the point, lost in the fog with all those other words for which he has no context or knowledge or grounds.
(Halward furious and heartbroken, and not as fixated on that one fact, my son prefers men, that Dorian seems to think. Heartbroken, because somehow he raised a child who believes in a Tevinter that only exists in books and walled private palaces. Madness at best and unacceptable eccentricity at worse, for Dorian to let a fiction destroy generations of striving to give him even this fragment of a chance at immortality.)
Learning exactly how reviled Tevinter is outside of its own borders. Wondering how reviled Tevinter is inside its own borders.
(What part of Tevinter would Dorian fight so hard to preserve, then, except for that exclusive place only Tevinter's most privileged sons might know: the 600 year old frangipani gardens and the 1000 year old private palaces and the vivid intellectual debate about the 200 year old book exchanged over delicacies from Tevinter's furthermost port, and the very select company chosen to be present. What part of Tevinter, except the Circle and its rituals and its writings, like chewing mouthfuls of old vomit.)
That was the temptation, to forget the truth. How much easier to marry. He could treat his people so well within his private walls. He would have a people. He could be so beloved. Go back. Be warm. Be comfortable. Be exactly what he was born and raised to be. Forget his abstract war against the thing he can't name. (Tevinter can't survive. What he wants to preserve is a fiction of his own limited experiences.)
Let shame be enough to overcome the temptation, Dorian tells himself. Every day of discomfort is a reminder. He flagellates himself with petty sufferings, because for him suffering will always be a choice.
(But this is what will kill him, in the end: temptation is a devious trap for one born to choice. Run, keep running, and suffer every step in selfrighteousness, each mile a millstone in the burden he never had to carry but for choice. This is what will kill him: every route he takes is the path of least resistance, and it's downhill in every direction.)
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