"My people don't pick leaders from the strongest, or the smartest, or even the most talented. We pick the ones willing to make the hard decisions... and live with the consequences."
"Not demons, death, or darkspawn at least. Nail clippers might be another story."
They watched the men training, bantering back and forth with the ease of familiarity. Vivienne and Leliana had their little Inquisitor locked up for the day going over trifling human nicities like eating with multiple forks and wearing shoes. Bull didn't envy the poor guy, he was completely out of his depth and the entire Inquisition knew it.
"So there's more rumors going 'round about you and the Iron Lady. A few guys seem to think she's hard on you."
Bull arched his brow at Krem, studying the man's profile for the direction of the jab. "You mean soft on me."
"Nah, they say she's got a raging shaft she likes plowing your sweet little..."
""It's not *little*." Bull paused at Krem's whoop of laughter, rewound the conversation and sighed. "Alright, I walked into that one."
"With both horns!"
"If The Iron Bull plows anyone with his horns it's going to leave an awefull mess about the place." Dorian muttered from the curving balustrade above them. He had a glass of wine in his hand and seemed to be admiring the show of muscled men getting sweaty.
"Actually there was this time I tried charging a group of Vint's..."
"Sweet maker tell me they dodged." Dorian gave him a look of utter horror. Krem beat him to the punch line, asshole.
"Nope! He ended up with two mages impaled and screaming on his head."
"That's why the Charger's motto is 'Horns up'." Bull nodded. Dorian actually shuddered before drinking his wine.
"How perfectly horrid, this is why I'll stay far in the back, thank you, these clothes are far too expensive to come to *that*."
"You'll have to learn to deal with close combat at some point mage, you can't cast forever."
"Perhaps the Inquisitor will teach me his way with words, it seems wonderfully effective for him."
Bull felt something tick in the back of his mind, a few more little ships etching out the gray unknown. "I just said you can't cast forever." He wanted Dorian to say it, confirm it, even if you couldn't trust a Vint as far as you could spit.
"And yet our dear Inquisitor is no mage, so with his teachings, perhaps I won't have to. Besides, it's much less taxing than... whatever that is." Dorian's glass gestured to where a few of the boys were preparing the rocks.
"Dead lifts." Krem explained. "For the explosive bursts you need sometimes. Pick up the rock. If you *can* pick up the rock, put it down again, get a bigger rock until you can't pick it up. When you find one you can't lift, dead lift it."
"How does one 'dead lift', exactly?"
Krem grinned. "Imagine you're dead if you don't lift it."
"Ah. I see."
Not a mage, well, he didn't have the staff for it but still, there was no way to breath fire without magic. Unless you were a dragon. It was true all the elf's magic seemed grounded in sound, either shouting or singing, but they were two different sounds. When the elf sang it was a language of vowels and bird trills, like a forest magnified. Not exactly easy on the ears, not melodic in the least, but somehow natural, for all that trying to mimic it would make a man's throat bleed. When he sang, it was for an audience of green, that sometimes listened and sometimes didn't and sometimes they got reports that thousands of miles away in the hinterlands a bunch of sylvans wandered out of the woods to attack the Templars.
When the elf shouted things died. Or exploded. Or froze with ice for Bull to smash. The words were harsh and gutteral, growls from deep in the chest and they had a force to them that shaped the world. The Iron Bull could hear those words in his bones, felt them pound in his blood until he was light headed and harder than his horns. It was a language of some kind, far different from the one he sang in, and if you caught him at an absent minded moment he might even tell you what he'd said in a voice that didn't repeat the effect, but still made no sense.
If all that wasn't magic, what in the name of the Qun *was* it?