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a dragon age roleplay
WELCOME TO UNBOUND

Four years strong, we are a literate to advanced Dragon Age roleplay that focuses on the events post-Trespasser, while also following the timelines of the Warden, Champion and Inquisitor.

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♕   andraste
♕   cherith
♕   cat
♕   dinah
♕   crim

 
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 Salt in the Wound, Gabe | 9:44
played by SQUEE
Mountain (-7)    mature content? Yes    Offline
           
GWarrior
A37
ARed Templar
P52 posts
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9:44 Dales

Quirin peered at the small Templar encampment, hidden by the mottled shadow cast by a tree against a gray-brown boulder. The horses were tethered, and looked cared for with only a couple with burdens. Could one be Minaeve’s horse? Recovered recently? He wouldn’t know unless he asked.

Quirin went to bear weight on his left arm and regretted it. He groaned, bundling his arm close to his side, and waited for the worst of the sharpness to dissipate. The back of his shoulder was still torn, covered by a bloody bandage that peeped through the rip in his shirt.

He hesitated. It was a normal Templar encampment, and he couldn’t identify its purpose. Quirin wiggled his gauze back down over his eyes – dirty and stained by a day’s old blood. With luck (what small measure he might possess) the Templars would ask too many prying questions. Perhaps they would administer aid for his shoulder, since it remained unstitched and largely uncared for due to a lack of supplies.

A wheeze punctuated the end of his heavy sigh. The inevitable cough was muted by closed lips, which twisted in pain. He wouldn’t know unless he asked, and he hated the thought of a bear claw wound being untended. Quirin’s one simple hope was, if he was detained, Minaeve would know to take his things and abandon their campsite.

Decision made, nose blown, and before attempting to stand again, he switched knees and braced his right arm while standing. A small grimace impressed his lips and faded. The dying bush crackled as his leg brushed it. He emerged into full sunlight

Those by the fireplace, sitting on rucksacks or stumps, noticed him and grabbed their swords. “Ho,” Quirin rumbled, with a single pathetic cough after the sound. He held up both his arms and turned palms outward. “No trouble. My sword stays in its sheath. I hope yours does, too.”

They eased their hilt grip. “What do you want?”

“To know if you found a horse recently. And if you would provide medical aid. And to warn you there are bears about.” Slow and careful, Quirin lowered his hands.

“No recovered horses. Sorry,” was the curt reply from a man with a sharp nose and cheekbones. Glinting, suspicious eyes passed over him. “What medical aid?”

“I was attacked by a bear yesterday. His claws caught my shoulder,” Quirin explained. He sensed movement by one of the tents and tilted his head to account for the added man. “So I hoped to have it stitched.“

The Templars shared a glance before the sharp-faced man said, “I think our surgeon would have strong words if we turned you away.” Quirin sighed relief before the man called, “Faulkner!”

Quirin's heart dropped into his stomach.

played by Gabriel
GMT    mature content? Yes    Offline
           
GRogue
A42
ATemplars
P7 posts
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Daniel was not accustomed to long journeys, but he was practical and was making it work. He would have preferred to not have to leave Kirkwall with an armed guard, but he supposed it was for the best. They lived in turbulent times and the truth was that anything could happen out on those dusty roads.

It wasn't that he wasn't grateful, he was. It was just that Daniel simply couldn't work with a guard peering over his shoulder every five minutes. Peeking into his tent if he were to be silent for too long. And he most certainly wasn't permitted to take walks alone. He needed those walks to clear his head and work through his findings. But no. Had to have the accompanying stomping of boots behind him at all times.

Wonderful.

He was getting closer though... Daniel was sure of it. The mystery of the crimson sickness caused by red lyrium poisoning was becoming clearer to him. He didn't exactly approve of having to work on living, conscious subjects, but needs must. And he made sure that those who were only suffering at his hands... Died quickly. It was the best he could do for them given the circumstances. But that didn't mean it didn't keep him up at night.

Close. He was close. And now he was out marching to the beat of his own drum – the drum of his idea, his findings. Out in the wilds chasing rumours and whispers. A man of science, Daniel rarely listened to gossip and old wives tales, but he'd take anything at this point. Anything to help him piece together this puzzle.

He was pulled out of his ponderings by the sound of one of the guards calling his name. Daniel didn't even bother to fight against the roll of his eyes and the slight curl of his upper lip. He swore that someone had better be injured out there, otherwise they were disrupting his study for nothing. And that had happened more than once this week.

He closed his notebook with an irritated snap and placed it carefully in his bag. If one were to be gracious and kind, they'd say that Daniel looked wind-swept and interesting with his ruffled hair and shirt-sleeves rolled up to his elbows. Said shirt was rumpled and ink smudged, those same smudges stained his fingers and a smear on his chin. In short, he was a mess.

And it was that mess that grumpily dragged himself from the tent and stood before the waiting men. Daniel was primed and ready to put on his polite mask and play nice, but the words died on his tongue as he saw who was waiting for him.

He stared
He couldn't look away

A glance for the guards at his side and then back towards a man he'd walked out on so long ago now. He'd never expected to see him again and especially not like this. He supposed that the universe had a sick sense of humour.

He swallowed and opened his mouth to speak, but no sound came out. The guards looked at him curiously and their hands tightened on their swords. Something was wrong and it was their duty to protect him. But Daniel raised his hand and shook his head.

“Leave us.”

The man with the pointed features opened his mouth to object, but Daniel shook his head again.

I said, leave us.


QUIRIN ALBRECHT
played by SQUEE
Mountain (-7)    mature content? Yes    Offline
           
GWarrior
A37
ARed Templar
P52 posts
permalinkQuote

He was here.

In the Dales.

Sweet Maker.

The gauze impeded notice of finer details but Quirin was surprised how well he recognized the slope of those shoulders. Daniel was in as much shock as he was. In Kirkwall two years ago, Quirin had mustered together a sort of courage to seek out Daniel. Just to make sure he was okay. A trip, he had been told. But Quirin had thought maybe to another Free March city, or for just a week. What was he doing here?

Quirin stood rigid and statuesque, perfectly rooted into the long moment Daniel stared at him. Should he take initiative and take flight? Thank the Templars for their willingness to help him and turn away? How far would he get? Would Daniel stop him? Quirin both wanted to know and didn’t.

His pulse churned in his stomach. He felt sicker standing there, indecisiveness eating at his mind, and fleetingly wondered if it was possible to throw up his heart. The Templars had grown stiff again, hands resting on their swords at the ready. Then his lips rebelled, curling into a small, uncertain smile beneath a week and some’s growth.

Daniel spoke with a definitive, firm authority that a part of Quirin wanted to obey. The Templars shared puzzled expressions but responded to Daniel’s hints to stand down. Reluctance in their posture and step, they gathered themselves and left, although Quirin was sure they were not headed far.

His right hand reached up as he moved forward. Palm smoothed the loose, unkempt curls of his overgrown hairstyle in a nervous procession he was unaware he was committing. Closer now, Quirin could see some of Daniel’s own unkempt appearance. The ragged folding of his sleeves and dark splotches of ink stain on the shirt. In a way, that eased Quirin. He released a tense breath which ended in a pathetic, closed lipped cough.

He was going to ask. Even if he was terrified to ask, even if Daniel refused, there was no one Quirin trusted more to properly mend a wound.

“Daniel?” It was a test question, to watch him blink and maybe shake loose a little. Quirin paused, lips partially open. “Would you help me, please? I may have fought a bear yesterday and misjudged so I…” Gesturing to his left shoulder, Quirin met Daniel’s gaze and held his breath.

DANIEL FAULKNER
played by Gabriel
GMT    mature content? Yes    Offline
           
GRogue
A42
ATemplars
P7 posts
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“You're alive.”

And they say romance is dead...

Daniel was trying so hard to keep his voice steady that he was almost speaking monotone. A touch uncaring and perhaps bored. But the gaze fixed on Quirin was anything but bored. Bright green eyes were burning a hole right through the man before him.

Everything in him was fighting not to step closer. Not to tug Quirin to him and just hold him. He hadn't held him close in so so long and had just assumed he never would. But... As much as the temptation was there, Daniel was determined to stay strong. To not give into those urges. Daniel was the one to end their relationship and it was with good reason. Daniel believed in his conviction. Felt that what he did was for the best for the both of them.

Didn't mean that he didn't miss Quirin though. Thought about him in the dead of night, regardless of whether there was someone there to warm his bed or not. Had a few guys get up, get dressed and leave because he'd cried out Quirin instead of the name of the man he'd held close.

He'd deserved it of course. Daniel didn't blame them one bit. The men he'd been with in Quirin's absence had all accused him of never been fully there. Either wrapped up in his work or somewhere else in his own head. Staring off into the distance. One lover had described him as cold. Clinical.

Daniel supposed they'd been right.

And now he was there once again. Lost in his own thoughts about a man who was stood right in front of him. The same man but at the same time oh so different. Daniel licked his lips, the only sign that he was nervous. He gestured at the gauze covering Quirin's eyes, brow furrowed in curiosity.

“Did you injure your face as well? When you were fighting... A bear? Your sight is intact?”

A touch of worry in his tone. His brow furrowed deeper as he reached out as if to touch... No, as if to take the gauze away from Quirin's eyes. But he stopped himself. Lips pursed in a grim line, he curled his fingers inwards, pressed to the palm. And with a deep breath through his nose, he drew his hand away.

“A bear... Really, Quirin? A bear?”

The corners of his mouth twitched as he almost, almost laughed. Another deep breath and he had control of himself again. Daniel took a step back and gestured to his tent. For the moment he couldn't look at Quirin. He was... Astonishingly beautiful... In the way that only Quirin could. And... Maker be damned, he could feel the other man's gaze upon him. It was almost enough to drive him mad. He should send him away. He should deny him. He should...

“Come on. Lets put you back together again.”


QUIRIN ALBRECHT
played by SQUEE
Mountain (-7)    mature content? Yes    Offline
           
GWarrior
A37
ARed Templar
P52 posts
permalinkQuote

Quirin tilted his head at Daniel’s statement, like the curious quirk of a dog’s head. He glanced down at himself, feeling out his chest with his fingertips. “Solid enough. And I can feel a pulse.” It was still in his stomach. “Thank you for confirming.” The uncertain smile transformed into a teasing, lop-sided grin.

The vestiges of his former self had resurfaced – humor to funnel his nervousness and to maybe (Maker he hoped) ease the tension and sheer awkwardness. Why hadn’t five years been enough? Why was it that he hoped Daniel’s voice would soften? He saw that smudge of ink on Daniel’s chin and his fingers twitched to rub it away, restrained by willpower.

Maker’s breath. Why was it that it had to be Daniel?

Daniel questioned his face, and Quirin responded, perhaps too quickly, “No. My face is fine. My eyes are… My sight is fine. Don’t worry.” Quirin’s heart thundered, loud and panicked and returning to his chest, when Daniel lifted a hand toward his face. His arm twitched with instinctive movement, intending to grasp Daniel’s wrist to protect his secret. In the seconds their hands were suspended, Quirin knew his secret would not remain one for very long.

Then Daniel’s stern questioning invoked a chuckle from Quirin, deep in his chest. Maker. It felt good to laugh with true mirth. “I always had the best luck.” In the few seconds Daniel looked away, Quirin recaptured Daniel’s profile. The way it had been when they would lean on a railing, shoulder to shoulder. When he’d looked into a sunset, green eyes set afire. When he’d slept, candlelight casting him in shadow.

Quirin breathed deep, jostling his fingers against his thigh. Maker grant him… something. Every small memory was passing before his eyes. He should excuse himself. Daniel should refuse him.

“Let’s put you back together again.”

“Thank you,” he rumbled. Quirin pulled on the leather straps holding his hard, scratched bracers. Once inside the tent, he placed them on the table within. “I bandaged it yesterday and I am certain the blood dried it to me.” His fingers curled around the neck of his shirt and Quirin hesitated. The last time they’d truly been in each other’s space, he’d been shirtless and been rendered more powerless after Daniel had ended them. Every old scar, the ones Daniel had touched, remained. New scars had been made – ones Quirin found more embarrassing and more vulnerable to expose.

With a brief glance upward, and a silent prayer for peace, Quirin pulled the bloody, ripped shirt over his head. He didn’t disturb the gauze on his eyes. The bandage was wrapped around his shoulder and midsection in order to cover the area across the back of his shoulder. There was evidence of two, long gashes there, though the bloodstain had joined in the middle. Criss-crossing the uncovered skin were thin, white and pink scars that represented punishment rather than battle.

“I thought you would be in Kirkwall. What are you doing in the Dales?”

DANIEL FAULKNER
played by Gabriel
GMT    mature content? Yes    Offline
           
GRogue
A42
ATemplars
P7 posts
permalinkQuote
That smile shouldn't still be able to effect him, and yet here he was trying not to stare. Daniel felt a fluttering in the pit of his stomach. His throat felt tight and his mouth dry as he tried to numb himself to the tingles sent up and down his spine by that Maker-Damned smile.

He was supposed to be over this. Quirin was not supposed to be able to make him feel warm inside and like for a moment... Things were ok. This wasn't supposed to happen. Daniel knew that they were better off apart. His life had progressed just fine without Quirin and he was determined for things to continue that way.

The gauze covering Quirin's eyes was still in the back of his head. There was something very wrong about the way he'd tensed when Daniel had reached out his hand as he'd considered removing it. A wry smirk finally worked its way onto his face as Quirin's so called luck was mentioned. Daniel supposed that some people would never change.

A part of him hoped that maybe there'd been some change.

Daniel rummaged through his medical bag and set out clean strips of cloth and little pouches of herbs. He hummed softly to himself as he tried to concentrate on the task at hand and not the man he was about to work on.

“You never did learn to dress a wound properly. No wonder it's still a mess.”

It was unfortunate for Daniel that he chose that moment to turn around. Just as Quirin was lifting the bloody, tattered shirt up and away from his body. But it was not desire that burned in forest green eyes, but horror. Warriors, over time, became scarred. That was just the way of things. Even the most skilled swordsman is bested from time to time. But the scars on Quirin's back... They were from no battle. Those scars were a punishment.

Daniel could not help himself. One hand reached out and rough fingertips traced one of the scars trailing down Quirin's back. His eyes narrowed and his lips pursed in displeasure as he took a deep breath through his nose. The wounded shoulder was forgotten for a moment as he inspected the signs of punishment.

“Seems like you've been in trouble with more than just bears... Whatever am I going to do with you, Quirin...?”

The words were spoken with a softness he hadn't used in years and with more affection than he would have liked. Daniel shifted his hand away from Quirin's back as if he'd been burned and turned back to pick up a cloth and a bottle which contained a mixture of water and herbs. A small knife he took from his pocket made short work of the bloodied bandages, which he allowed to just fall to the floor.

“You know I'm going to ask... About your new facial accessory and the scars... But I'd prefer it if you told me of your own violation.”


QUIRIN ALBRECHT
played by SQUEE
Mountain (-7)    mature content? Yes    Offline
           
GWarrior
A37
ARed Templar
P52 posts
permalinkQuote

The humming. He’d forgotten about the humming. Quirin seized on the security of his turned back and a free, gentle smile perked his lips. It remained there, through a muted coughing fit. Pulling loose the wandering end of his dressing, Quirin unwound the used bandage until the blood-dried area tugged on his skin. He would let Daniel help from here.

There was a shuffle and the humming ceased. He felt rather than checked if Daniel was looking at him, his back tingling under inspection. His question went unanswered. Quirin balled his shirt in his hands, tension traveling up his arms, and he forced his breathing quiet as his ears strained to hear something from Daniel.

He inhaled steeply at Daniel’s tender touch. His shoulders locked stiff and his lip curled against the discomfort in his wound. He didn’t mean to. He hadn’t expect Daniel to trace the scars. Not when they were trying to ignore the giant in the room. No one had touched them yet. There’s no one else I’d want touching them. Eyes straight ahead, Quirin swallowed thickly at his thought as his skin prickled down his arms. Maker’s tears. He shouldn’t even hope.

As Daniel spoke, Quirin surrendered to the affection in the other man’s words; the tension in his shoulders and arms drained, riding on a long exhale. His hands unfurled from his shirt, knuckles resting on the table. You could tell me to stand right here while you touched them all, and I wouldn’t move. His chest was tight and so he coughed.

Daniel’s presence shifted, and so did Quirin. He pulled a stool from beneath the table and sat. His nose was running a little, so he rubbed it with his shirt and sniffed. He laughed, subdued and somber, as Daniel gave him the opportunity to be forward.

“And you know…” He paused, finding the words difficult to form as always. “I would prefer if you didn’t ask.”

Plucking at the ragged tear in his shirt, his heart beat drummed against his ribs and words tumbled in his mind in an incoherent jumble. Quirin cleared his throat. “They’re linked. Though. The, uh, accessory and scars.” He smoothed his hair in anxious gesture. “The leading commander was a man who… used the fear of punishment to enforce his authority. I… refused to obey a direct order. On moral grounds. I was a captain. And my men and women were going to stand with me, which incited some unrest.

“So… I was arrested.”
Quirin’s lips remained parted, although no words came out for several moments. He stared ahead, seeing his past from outside his body. His words continued, despondent and growing indistinct. “It was all… different. We were so different than the Templars we used to be. The rules were different. I thought… maybe they would strip me of my rank. Discharge and… disgrace my name. They flogged me. So not just my men would see, but anyone else who may disobey.” He was used to make a point. To bring the men and women on his side into alignment. Then they’d gone further, and made any resistance seem futile.

"That's why... there are scars." Quirin petted his shirt with his thumb. His voice dropped a level, to gentle with a slight plea. “I’d rather you finish back there before I continue.” Because Daniel would grow angry. Quirin wasn't ready for that yet.

He turned his head, as one might if they were looking over their shoulder. “Why are you in the Dales?”

DANIEL FAULKNER
played by Gabriel
GMT    mature content? Yes    Offline
           
GRogue
A42
ATemplars
P7 posts
permalinkQuote
Daniel had hoped that his avoidance of the question would have been left at that. There were many who felt that trying to save those who suffered from red lyrium poisoning was a fool's errand. And there were some who felt that those who did try to help were perhaps poisoned themselves. Someone to keep an eye on and to be feared. Daniel had noticed that some people in Kirkwall had been giving him the side-eye. News travelled fast no matter how hard he'd tried to keep his research on the low down. No such thing as a secret these days.

It occurred to him that he shouldn't be hurt by the way Quirin's muscles tightened at his touch. The way the man's shoulders almost hunched in on themselves. He didn't have that right to be offended by such things. Daniel had given that up when he walked away all those years ago. But the feeling was there all the same and he couldn't look At Quirin properly when he peered over his shoulder.

“They... Flogged you?”

There was a tightness to Daniel's voice. His knuckles turned white with the pressure as he twisted a scrap of soaked cloth in his hands. The surgeon moved from behind Quirin to stand in front of him and cleaned the wound with the herb infused liquid. It would sting, but it needed to happen to disinfect the wound. It was difficult to not allow his anger to travel down his arms and press against the ragged flesh beneath his fingers.

He knew he wouldn't be able to avoid the question any longer, but it didn't mean he wanted to face it with Quirin able to lash out. Perhaps it was cowardly of him, but... Daniel was quiet for some time. He let the question hang in the air as he finished cleaning the wound and then threaded his needle.

“I'm sure you know this is going to hurt. Take a deep breath.”

The needle pressed into the ragged edge of torn skin and Daniel kept his eyes focussed on his work as he tried to think of the best way to tell Quirin what he'd been doing in the years they'd been apart. He didn't owe him anything. He tried to tell himself that he didn't care what Quirin thought. In fact, there was still that lingering anger there, so it shouldn't be difficult at all. But still... Daniel didn't want the man he loved ( still still still ) to look at him the way others in Kirkwall had.

A deep breath was taken and his teeth sunk into his lower lip. Daniel knew it would just be like tearing off a dressing. Just had to get it out there and be done with it. Regardless of Quirin's opinion on the matter, he was doing it anyway. And the Templar would be on his way once his wound was properly seen it.

“I am collecting information for my research... I aim to... The point of my research is to... Cure red lyrium poisoning.”


QUIRIN ALBRECHT
played by SQUEE
Mountain (-7)    mature content? Yes    Offline
           
GWarrior
A37
ARed Templar
P52 posts
permalinkQuote

“Can’t hurt more than when it was made.”

Even so, Quirin took the breath. The small twitch in his mouth when the needle went in indicated his displeasure along with a ‘nn’. Being stitched was unpleasant. Thread sliding through his skin was a sensation he preferred to avoid. Yet he was correct – it hurt less than when the bear had clawed him. He breathed through the hot, needlepoint pricks in his sore, ragged skin, concentrating on remaining relaxed. Involuntary, or voluntary, muscle flexion would make the experience more painful and Quirin was not keen.

Daniel was quiet. Was he going to ignore the question again? Quirin had only asked out of curiosity and in hopes the answer would lead to an easy conversation. If it wasn’t… Quirin opened his mouth to tell Daniel he didn’t have to answer when the surgeon spoke.

“Oh.”Conflict bubbled within him and his lips twitched again, uncertain if they wanted to curve into a smile or a scowl. There was no good excuse to worry over… No, that was wrong. Quirin’s hand tightened over his shirt. He was perfectly in the right to worry over Daniel’s safety in the presence of red lyrium. As a sworn protector of man - normal citizens which included Daniel -, Quirin worried. Red lyrium was too unpredictable, too potent, and could drive even normal people insane.

Yet then. Quirin tilted his head and wished the gauze that hid his corruption didn’t also masquerade the subtle flecks of intelligence in what Quirin knew were green eyes. With Daniel’s mind. His brilliant mind puzzling out the secrets of reversing the corruption, Quirin’s small, broken ember of hope burned a little hotter.

“That’s… Daniel, that’s… good,” he said, and he knew his words were genuine. He smiled. Dangerous, but good, and Quirin was more happy someone was researching a cure than troubled over Daniel’s safety. “That would mean… I-if you could… Some of them, the Templars, could… Well, you know they could rejoin the true Templars. Instead of being treated as… as… Monsters.”

If he found a cure. If I responded to the cure. I could… make a home. Quirin’s smile fluttered a little wider. “Some of them still have their minds. Some of them are still simple, good men. Just… without a hope to return to civilized life. Daniel!” He covered his mouth and coughed, irritating his wound, but his smile persisted after the fit. He gestured toward Daniel and continued. “Your cure would be our door! Not all of us wanted to drink the red. We saw what it was doing to our comrades and we-“ The words evaporated off his tongue like moisture in a desert as his ears heard the change in his pronouns. Dread drenched him from head and settled deep and cold in his stomach. Mouth open, his mind went blank while wondering if there was a way to backtrack. To not have been that careless. Maker, not like this.

Quirin looked up at Daniel, a motion sharper and faster than intended. Even through the gauze, he could see the storm gathering in Daniel’s features. His hand hovered toward the other man, but whether to protect himself or console Daniel, Quirin wasn’t sure. “Daniel,” he whispered, preemptively trying to ensure ease between them.

DANIEL FAULKNER
played by Gabriel
GMT    mature content? Yes    Offline
           
GRogue
A42
ATemplars
P7 posts
permalinkQuote
No. Don't say it. Don't confirm what Daniel always had his suspicions about. His breathing stuttered and stopped as Quirin kept talking. Put himself on the spot and outed himself for what he truly was. What he'd become. Daniel's hands trembled as he tried to finish stitching up the wound without making things worse. Without hurting the man he was trying to patch together.

Another breath was taken and held. The only thing he could do for the moment was to ignore the words falling from Quirin's lips. He lowered his head and his teeth cut through the thread. The wound was cleaned for a second time just to make sure, and then it was being bandaged with clean dressings. Daniel's long, nimble fingers patching the soldier up in a much neater way than how it had been when he'd come in.

That smile... Maker, he had missed that smile. But Daniel was trying not to look. Trying to swallow down the bile that was rising in his throat. Wishing that Quirin would stop. Just stop! He grimaced as the words continued and then... Abruptly stopped.

Quirin's confession. Daniel had gotten the confirmation he had both needed to hear, but still dreaded. He hadn't wanted things to come to this. He'd had to almost dehumanise the soldiers he'd worked on in his attempt to cure the poisoning. Something he knew he wouldn't be able to do with Quirin.

His hand moved quicker than he'd expected. The need to see for himself overriding everything else. Lips parted with hurried breath and green eyes wide as he snatched the gauze away from Quirin's face.

R E D

“Quirin... What have you done?


QUIRIN ALBRECHT
played by SQUEE
Mountain (-7)    mature content? Yes    Offline
           
GWarrior
A37
ARed Templar
P52 posts
permalinkQuote

“Daniel,” he whispered, again. His palm turned and he made a stuttering motion toward Daniel’s forearm. Quirin didn’t like that breathing pattern. Didn’t like that hard face. He knew Daniel would confirm his confession and he was powerless to convince the surgeon otherwise, but the fiery fear from his heart commandeered his voice in words aching with historical echo. “Daniel, please… don’t.”

Daniel’s hand flashed, fast as a poised snake, and Quirin… did nothing. The surgeon’s fingers raked against his head, ripping away the gauze. Quirin cringed and ducked his face as if he’d been struck. There was no point to the action. Daniel knew.

Quirin met his wide green eyes. He could see they were still green, fresh as new leaves, even as they were hard, like the glistening surface of marble. Daniel stood before him in such clarity that Quirin held his breath. How truly dark beneath his eyes were. He could see the age tugging on the corners of his eyes. The small freckles. Every line of lips, brows, nose, and jaw in perfect continuity without the gauze’s checkered pattern.

That smudge of ink still on his chin. That he hadn’t said anything about. The haphazard twist of his hair, flashing gold, but perhaps a bit more ashen.

“I-I…” he stammered when Daniel said his name. His voice and chest were devoid of words, like they’d been viscerally extracted from him. He felt… like six years ago. His hand twisted in his shirt, which he dragged into his lap, and he looked down as Daniel’s voice became all at once demanding and colored dark with anger.

He exhaled, loud and through his nose, eyes shutting tight. After what he’d just said? What was it that he had done? He’d opened his eyes and was staring at his boots. His emotions were a roiling mixture of frustration, shame, love, strange relief, and lingering happiness from a cure prospect. “I drank red lyrium.” His mouth tasted bitter. Standing, Quirin pulled his shirt over his head. “I didn’t have a choice in the matter.” Mindful of the new stitching and bandage, he eased his arm through the sleeve. He huffed, in and out through his nose, and extended his hand for the gauze. “Give it back,” he said, forceful. “Please.”

It was his only defense against those Templars, if they came back. It was his only defense against the whole world.
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