Cassandra is rifling through the library late one night, looking for an issue of the Randy Dowager Quarterly that contains the next chapter of an ongoing serial when she hears a cough behind her. She turns, cheeks hot and expression set to murder, to find Dorian standing behind her, holding the issue in question.
“What do you want, Dorian?” she demands, fighting down her embarrassment.
He arches an eyebrow – and Maker, his are better trimmed than hers. Where does he even find the time?
“I believe you were looking for this?” He gives the slim volume a little waggle.
She glares, jaw thrust forward. “No.”
He clicks his tongue at her, amused. “The Maker does not like us to lie, Seeker.” With a delicate gesture, he flips through the pages. “You know this is terrible dreck, don’t you?”
Her hands ball into fists at her sides, knuckles turning white. She wonders if the Inquisitor should mind too terribly if she kills one of their inner circle mages. Vivienne and Solas can surely pick up the slack, can’t they?
“If you are only here to insult my taste–”
“I can get you better,” he says, cutting her off, snapping the book shut. “Much better. Orlais might dabble in the titillating, but Tevinter mastered depravity as an art centuries ago.” His mouth pulls upward in a smirk, following the curve of his mustache tips. “If it’s literature you want, I can find you volumes that will make your toes curl.”
Cassandra can feel the heat in her cheeks, partly in shame, but also–
Her mind races, and she has to wonder just how much better those books are.
“Are there plots?” she asks, cautiously. “Character arcs?”
“I did say we made it an art form, did I not?” Dorian looks insulted she would even need to ask. “There are tales that will warm your heart or make you weep, even as they inspire… other reactions.”
And now her cheeks are definitely burning. Defensively, she steps back, eyeing him distrustfully. “What do you want, Dorian?” she asks for the second time that night.
He pauses, regarding her for several long seconds. “I understand you have acquired a few rare Nevarran vintages,” he says finally.
Her brows lift in surprise. “The Inquisitor has a cellar,” she ventures warily.
Dorian scoffs. “Of vintages as likely to strip the flesh from my throat as anything else. Dangerous novelties. Nothing I would consider drinkable. And too many Orlesian vitners are bottling sweet wines these days, and the less said of Ferelden grapes the better. But I have seen good wines on your table, Seeker.”
He leans in. “Books for bottles. An even trade. Have we an accord?”
The silence hangs for several seconds between them before she snatches the book from his hand, the edge of her mouth just barely twitching upward. She might regret this. But then, the world is ending, so she will not have to endure her regrets for long.
“Red or white?”