Jul. 21st, 2016
I’ve been niggling at this little puzzle for a while now, ever since I read the description for Velanna’s starting item the Keeper’s Charm:
Although elven enchantment is more complicated than Tranquil methods, this ring proves that the old ways are still strong.
The Dalish don’t have ready access to lyrium, and even if they did, they wouldn’t be able to work with it without Tranquil or dwarves to help. Yet they clearly can do it - even without this item description to confirm it, we’ve seen plenty of Dalish-made items throughout the games that have enchantments placed upon them. So how are they doing it?
Turns out I’m a bit slow, because the answer has been staring us in the face since Inquisition came out - or rather, it’s been staring us in the Fade.
[Image: The Inquisition inventory screen showing a lovely selection of Fade-touched materials.]
With this and a bit of information from Origins, Trespasser and Jaws of Hakkon, I think we can make a pretty good stab at deconstructing both ancient and modern elven enchantment methods.( Trespasser spoilers to follow, of course. As usual )
ok but Trespasser has basically confirmed that every non-dwarf in Thedas has magical potential, and the only difference between mages and non-mages in modern Thedas is where they sit on the spectrum (mages in modern Thedas = Really Powerful mages in ancient Thedas, non-mages in modern Thedas = Boring Normal Mages in ancient Thedas)
Which means that it is highly likely that in fact, any ordinary human/elf/Qunari (who is not Tranquil) can do something approximating low-level magic. Probably not enough to do anything useful with it, much less anything dangerous, but enough to, say... bring the Fade into the world for a second. To channel a tiny thread of mana through something
Enough to enchant without lyrium. Enough to unlock a magic lock that just requires the touch of mana or to channel a bit of mana through some invisible ink like the stuff we saw in Last Flight
Here’s the other thing: if you train all the kids in magic from as young as possible, then those of them with actual magical aptitude are much less likely to manifest it by, e.g., burning the house down, summoning a demon, raising an army of undead, etc, etc, etc, because when it happens they will know what to do
We know that southern human society and the Qunari do not do this, because it would hugely upset that whole ‘mages are dangerous’ narrative they’re feeding their people
But the Dalish, the Avvar, the mage classes of Tevinter? Yeah, I don’t believe for a second that they don’t train all their kids in magic before the magic manifests and regardless of magical potential
Which means that they know. They know that even the most ungifted person has a tiny bit of magical potential locked away deep inside, and they know that magical training can help them to access it, just a tiny bit, just for a second
‘Old elven trick’ is most likely Dalish code for ‘I, a hunter, actually just did magic but like hell I’m going to tell that to you shemlen’
(Turns out you can convince most ancient elven artefacts and some varterrals that you’re an ancient elf with careful application of
that rudimentary mana-channelling that you learned when you were six)
(Also turns out that if your Keeper, or a Keeper from years gone by for that matter, sets up the magic just right, the rest of the clan can access it. I bet the Dalish get a lot of mileage out of this for things like passing notes - any random hunter from the next clan over can read the note your Keeper left on that tree, but good luck finding a human who knows how to do it)
The Avvar probably say something about talking to the gods
But the real fun would be in Tevinter.
Altus kids just get trained. All of them. As if an Altus family could ever produce a non-mage child! The idea is laughable. The same is true of old-blood Laetan families, because mages beget mages, and if your child is expected to be a mage then why wouldn’t you give them pre-manifestation training? You don’t want your house to burn down
New-blood Laetans are Laetans born from the ranks of the Soporati, so are largely irrelevant here. Slaves... usually don’t get trained, because why would you give your slaves training they might not need?
But the Soporati, oh, the Soporati. One mage child could change everything for them, so they pay for early training, they watch like hawks in case this child is the one, they jostle for places with prestigious pre-manifestation tutors, they pay conmen who claim they can make a child more magical but truthfully can’t do more than teach the child do channel the little bit of mana they could have learned to channel anyway
A lot of the Soporati probably have the same kind of baseline magical training as Dalish hunters, and that makes them more useful as workers, because if a Dalish Keeper can set up a spell for the hunters to use and access with just a tiny bit of mana to get it going then you bet a magister can do the same
So the Soporati, in their fervour to make it into the ranks of the Laetans, make themselves more exploitable and more able to prop up the system that they’re trying to escape
A perfect, self-sustaining, oppressive shithole of a system.
Please, Bioware, please make this headcanon canon
I don’t know if it was intentional on Bioware’s part (it probably wasn’t), but I have just discovered that ‘not of the People’/’nothing of the People’ and ‘not a person’ are both the same word in elven: banal’vhen.
Whichg is honestly kind of fantastic, because the Dalish and the ancient elves do both seem to have a groupthink problem: the ancient elves in particular had some fantastic xenophobia going on that would absolutely have resulted in this kind of linguistic shit happening! And then the Dalish have inherited it, and it’s all gone downhill from there.
So if we say there is ‘nothing of the People’ (banal’vhen, again) in a city elf, or indeed in a Dalish who’s a bit weird... we’ve got undertones of ‘and therefore not a person at all’. When Solas says the same thing about the Dalish and city elves both (and you know he does)... we end up right back at ‘like waking in a world full of Tranquil’, and
Cole: You're real, and it means everyone could be real. It changes everything, but it can't.
It’s almost - but not quite - as deliciously xenophobic as the Qunari calling everyone else ‘things’.
(I bet poor Sera’s had it thrown at her a couple of times, too.)
It is possible that I’m now employing the ‘You’re not allowed to play Alim’s save again until you write his diary entry’ method of self-motivation, here. So yeah, my save is an entire play session ahead of the diary now. Go me!
Which means, among other things, the introduction of the healthiest, most functional mother/daughter relationship in all of Thedas.
Yeah, anyway, Flemeth. I do have some notes on Ostagar too, but let’s start with Flemeth. Because, well, it’s Flemeth.
1. Now that we know a bit more about what’s going on with Flemeth, some of her lines are starting to make more sense... and others of them are becoming even more cryptic.
Jory: Quiet, Daveth! If she’s really a witch, do you want to make her mad?
Flemeth: There’s a smart lad. Sadly irrelevant to the larger scheme of things, but it is not I who decides. Believe what you will.
I had previously categorised this one in ‘leaning on the fourth wall’ and ‘maybe vague allusions to the Maker’, but post-Inquisition...
...there’s a few things to be said here, but what really jumps out at me about it is a similarity to Solas and Flemythal’s post-Inquisition scene. Namely, they both contain vague references to higher powers than the Evanuris:
Solas: The failure was mine. I should pay the price. But the People, they need me. I am so sorry.
You know what’s still fascinating me? This whole ‘pay the price’ thing didn’t come up once in Trespasser that I could see - and believe me, I was looking for it.
From context, we can deduce that the price involved is death, but it is still very unclear which particular failure Solas is talking about. There are several thousand possibilities, here, and some of them don’t even imply higher powers, but then we also have this if the Inquisitor doesn’t drink from the Well (haven’t seen the alternate version yet):
Flemythal: Alas, so long as the music plays, we dance.
There’s a whole essay here on ‘The Music’ and its relation to the Calling, darkspawn, and even some of Cole’s banters. For now, let’s just settle with: there’s some kind of magic music, it’s the universe’s greatest earworm, and not even being a literal elvhen god will stop it.
...oh shit no hold on let’s not because I just had a thought
Cole [on Solas]: He hurts, an old pain from before, when everything sang the same.
Cole [to Varric]: Do you write to reach across? To hear the song that was sundered?
There was a song, and it used to be everywhere, and many of Cole’s other lines imply that it’s something to do with the Fade (and I am not getting into the Calling here), but the song was sundered. By the Veil?
The Chantry believes that the ideal situation for the world is one in which the Chant of Light can be heard everywhere in the world. What if Andraste didn’t say ‘the Chant’, though? What if she said ‘the song’?
Food for thought.
Flemeth: So much of you is uncertain... and yet I believe. Do I? Why, it seems I do!
Another line that’s gone from ‘leaning on the fourth wall’ to ‘fuck Bioware’s foreshadowing’, in which Flemeth takes time out of her cryptic old lady schedule to chat to Mythal. Probably.
Flemeth: I have protected [the treaties]. [...] Take them to your Grey Wardens and tell them this Blight’s threat is greater than they realise!
Warden: What do you mean the threat is greater than they realise?
Flemeth: Either the threat is more or they realise less. Or perhaps the threat is nothing! Or perhaps they realise nothing! *laughs*
In the wake of the Trespasser reveals about Titans and the Blight, I’d say they realise nothing, wouldn’t you?
(Sidenote: It was Mythal who killed/subdued the Titans... could the Blight be her fuckup? ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE)
Number two is under the cut! I made it to number two!( Read more... )
so hey your dragon age thoughts are always v well thought out and interesting so i was wondering what you thought of the scaled ones??
[GIF: Ronaldo from Steven Universe and his infamous ‘Snake people, or sneople, control our government’ line]
Right now, I’m not sure what to make of them, but I will happily throw some theories at you. YMMV on how much like Ronaldo I end up sounding.
So first, speaking of Ronaldo, the conspiracy theorist in the Frostback Basin has some things to say that might be relevant:
I speak of Orlais’ attempts to rouse the Snake Kings of the Earth against Tevinter’s alliance with the Moon Men.
This is explained in Ser Ycke’s Pamphlets, of which I have read
many, which explain things such as why the snake appears in Tevinter
drawings, and how the Snake-Kings came to exist. (Crystals.) Did Moon
Men have their Tevinter Allies keep the Reptilian Ones here, so they could interrogate them at their Leisure? None can say, but I will say yes as that would Fit My Theories.
If one looks keenly, once can see the Frostback Basin must have been
manipulated by the hand of some Vast Thing. The crater in the Lowland
Fortress was not the natural settling of mountains, but came to exist
after the shifting of Something Below Ground! The Snake-Kings must be
vast, and their movements powerful to cause the Earth to Quake with
their moving. It is Clear as the Sky that Ancient Tevinter, along with
the Moon Men, came here to make an Attempt to kill a buried Snake-King
under the crater!!! Too many Signs and Portents are aligned to think
This person, whom I shall dub Ronaldo from Rivain, is a meta-er after my own Heart.
So first - yeah, I think we can safely assume that Ronaldo from Rivain is wrong about a lot of things. His comments about the dragon statues, for example, we know to be wrong, because we know that the statues are amplifiers for the ice-melting Tevinter death ray. (Come to think of it, Ronaldo’s version might be a little bit saner than the actual truth…) That said, he’s not a real-life conspiracy theorist, and has the distinct advantage of having been written by, you know, one of the game’s writers. I absolutely would not put it past Bioware to bury something groundbreakingly important in a codex entry that looks like total rubbish; it wouldn’t even be the first time.
Second, I’m not even getting into the Moon Men bit. There are ways some sense might be massaged out of it - Mythal is a moon goddess - but I’d like to use slightly less speculation than Ronaldo, and in any case we have nothing terribly solid to go on.
Third - ‘The Snake-Kings must be
vast, and their movements powerful to cause the Earth to Quake with
their moving’ is clearly a little bit off, though not nearly as off as you’d expect; we can now be fairly certain that Ronaldo’s conflated his Snake-Kings with the Titans.
This sounds like a terribly stupid thing to do until you realise that the only other time we’ve heard of the Scaled Ones directly, it’s been in the Deep Roads and within spitting distance of… you got it… a Titan.( Read more... )
Dalish politics is largely based on favour and precedent.
Precedent always wins, because history is everything. There are clan alliances that go back to the days of Shartan, and these are fiercely maintained... and then there are clan alliances that were formed only yesterday, but were formed because one of the negotiating Keepers suddenly found a way to prove that there had been an alliance in Shartan’s time, no, really, I swear I’m not just saying that to get you to help us. One of the first things Dalish elves do when opening negotiations with a new clan is to sit down and trace back their political allegiances and bloodlines until they find a point of intersection - usually not more than five or six generations, because there are few enough Dalish. But if you don’t like what you find out, well, you can always just keep going back...
Keepers desperate to find common ground with a clan that has previously been staunchly neutral or hostile towards theirs will sometimes resort to ‘Well, we were all on the same side in Shartan’s army!’; hence, ’An alliance by Shartan’ is an idiom which means, loosely, ‘An alliance between parties with nothing in common’, or sometimes ‘a spurious and unconvincing reason for doing something’.
When precedent fails, the alternative is favour: literally just do something big enough for the other clan that they have to pay you back, or else find proof in that same web of alliances and bloodlines that they already owe you. Hence the Dalish quests in Inquisition.
For political (and ‘citizenship’, and surnaming) purposes, travelling Keepers still count as members of their original clan. So a popular and often-called-upon travelling Keeper can be a major asset; their clan may arrive somewhere to find that another clan now owes them because Trevor the Travelling Keeper saved half of its members from the plague last month, or helped them to secure their new alliance with another clan...
(Conversely, of course, they might arrive to find that ‘their’ Fen’Harel’s Keeper destroyed all the other clan’s food supplies last month because he thought the other clan wasn’t prepared enough for winter, and they’re in the doghouse. But then, the other clan clearly wasn’t ready for winter, so whose fault is it really?)
And inevitably, of course, there’s war.
I can’t see Dalish wars being particularly... visible affairs. First, it’d be way too dangerous to let humans see them that divided, and second, a medieval battle had to be planned in advance: get two sets of Dalish mustering on opposite sides of a field and it’s basically an invitation to the local noble to send their knights to join the party.
What the Dalish are really good at is guerilla tactics. So you’re gonna get sabotage, you’re gonna get kidnappings and hostage-takings, you’re gonna get lone hunters being sniped off by hunters from different clans.
Considering how strongly (and for what good reasons) they bang the ‘all Dalish lives are precious’ drum, I think we’re probably looking at more hostage-taking than actual killing? “You can have the Keeper’s grandson back when you agree to our demands”, that sort of thing. “We’ve got all your halla, so we win.”
And with sabotage, that gets fun really fast. Sneak in and steal/destroy all their food, then refuse to share yours with them until they surrender. Break the aravels, burn the blankets... turn them all into werewolves, yes, Zathrian, I’m looking at you. That seems exactly the sort of guerilla tactic they’d use on one another, too: something designed to force a surrender with as little actual bloodshed as possible. It’s still a war, but a war by other means, and with all those alliances going on it’d still have the capacity to spiral out of control. So Clan A kidnaps all Clan B’s halla because Clan B stole all Clan C’s food stores, and Clans A and C are allied, only what Clan A hasn’t reckoned on is Clan E, who are related to Clan B’s Keeper through a marriage with a recently-transplanted hunter from Clan D, and Clan D aren’t getting involved because they’re already embroiled in an argument with Clan F over the Theft Of The Vallaslin Ink, which was actually stolen by Hawke to give to Solivitus, only nobody else knows that and Clan F blames Clan D because last year Clan D gave them some ironbark that had rotted...
Dalish wars are probably less about who can fight and more about who can avoid fighting the longest. By the time you reach the point where elven blood has been spilled, everyone’s in such a state of frothing rage that the only good solution is to send each clan involved to a different country entirely and hope they don’t see one another for the next ten years or so...
...or just exile the biggest players and start over, of course. I’d be wiling to bet that happens a lot, too.
I think we need to talk about the Dalish and ice cream? And hence, Orlais and ice cream.
Because, look. The Dalish liquid staple is almost certainly halla milk. It’s readily available, it’s less bacteria-infested than water, it’s easier to make than alcohol, and tea/coffee wouldn’t grow in southern Thedas’s climate, so those are out as well. My bet is that, except for fruit wines on special occasions, the Dalish drink mostly halla milk and herbal tea.
Which means they have cream! And they have magic (and enchantment, even), which means they are perfectly capable of freezing said cream in the middle of summer. And they have fruit, too.
I’d be willing to bet that the Dalish can whip up a batch of unflavoured ice cream in the middle of summer with so little effort that they barely think anything of it, and that flavouring it with fruit (or herbs - goodness knows what basil ice cream tastes like, but I bet the Dalish know) is almost as common.
And then there’s Orlais. Orlais, where magic is all but illegal and only the wealthy can afford ice-houses or enchanted freezers. Orlais, where getting cream into contact with cold in the middle of summer is a Herculean effort requiring probably more than a dozen people and a production chain that stretches halfway across the country. Orlais, where ice cream is the same rare delicacy it was in the real world until about the 1850s.
Imagine your Lavellans and Mahariels being ushered into the Imperial Court and given a bowl of this incredibly rare, incredibly expensive delicacy... and going, “It’s just ice cream. We have that, too.”
Some random meta notes from this section:
1. The Sloth demon says that Mouse ‘let go of the human form years ago’, which sort of makes me wonder if Mouse is lying less than we think. I can’t think what incentive Sloth would have to lie? Unless it thinks that Mouse will kill it, perhaps, but I’m not sure it would care.
2. The wonky Dalish tent is actually kind of interesting, in that it’s there regardless of whether you’re playing Amell or Surana. Alim might have decided that it’s representative of his disconnection from his heritage or something Freudian like that, but personally, I’m wondering if it’s Dalish at all or a relic from Elvhenan. (Though ancient elvhen tents were probably much fancier, I guess.)
3. Fuck Bioware and their foreshadowing, honestly:
Spirit wolves for crying out loud you assholes I always wondered what relevance they had to anything going on in that sequence at all
4. Speaking of the spirit wolves, “The real dangers of the Fade are preconceptions, careless trust... pride.” Well, Solas has two out of three going on, so well done there, Mr Fade expert, sir. (Alim has the third all to himself, bless his trusting little heart.)
4.5 Still speaking of the spirit wolves, there is a codex entry somewhere (which I now can’t find, go me) that suggests Pride demons are all involved in some massive conspiracy of their own making. So, uh. Considering Solas, and considering the random appearances of spirit wolves here... I’m concerned.
5. I love the way Mouse just talks himself into a corner if you don’t call him out, and ultimately has to give up because he’s screwed himself over. No, there’s no meta point here: I just really like it. His own pride ends up his undoing.
6. This is the best place in all three games to get a good clear view of the Black City:
Things which intrigue me, but may or may not be relevant:
- It has buildings on both the top and the bottom, and the bottom ones seem to be upside-down (see the Crossroads? If it’s elvhen-built, this would make sense);
- It’s a very odd shape. Kinda reminds me of a dragon, though that’s probably just a faces-in-the-clouds thing.
- That one really tall tower which shall henceforth be known as ‘Elgar’nan’s Phallus’ because I just have a Feeling about the overcompensatory nature of it, okay
7. Speaking of things you can see from the Fade in the mage origin:
Hello sun hello trees hello sky sa alim who is a weedy wet chiz chiz chiz
Alim’s diary entry is coming when I actually finish the origin, but there’s a tonne of codex entries and important lore in this section so let’s review everything we learn between waking up and leaving Duncan in his quarters. (The previous part is here.)
1. Envy demons are a subtype of Sloth demon (here) (ETA: Therinfal meta here), and the concept definitely wasn’t created by the writers solely for Therinfal Redoubt. Which leads me to wonder - is that what the duplicate party you fight during the Temple of Sacred Ashes is? They’re definitely some form of spirit, the Temple being what it is, and this would seem to fit better than any other explanation we have.
2. From the same codex entry:
‘A community afflicted by a demon of sloth could soon become a
dilapidated pit where injustices are allowed to pass without comment,
and none of the residents could be aware that such a change has even
So that explains Thedas, then. *rimshot*
3. The Fade codex entry is now hopelessly outdated, of course, but one line jumps out at me as suddenly very interesting:
The Tevinter Imperium once spent vast fortunes of gold, lyrium, and human slaves in an effort to map the terrain of the Fade, an ultimately futile endeavor.
Human slaves. Human. I don’t think that’s just an emphasis thing - we know that most slaves in Tevinter are elves, and we also now know that elven blood is somehow tied to the Fade. So why use humans? Maybe there’s something about their blood that makes it more suited to the task - maybe, since humans are less tied to the Fade and more tied to the material world than elves, human blood stabilises the Fade in a way that elven blood can’t?
4. We need to put Owain and Solas in a room together, stat.
Warden*: And now you are no longer a person.
Owain: My body is similar in form to yours, possessing an equal number of limbs, appendages, and internal organs. I perform the same physical functions. My mind is capable of higher thought processes. Am I to be denied personhood because I do not feel as you do?
Warden: A person is more than just physical parts.
Owain: I have thoughts and memories. I remember my past, my childhood in the tower, and my apprenticeship. These experiences defined me. My lack of emotion simply adds to what is already there.
Warden: My statement was rude. I apologise.
Owain: I do not have the capacity to be offended. Still, I believe I am a person.
*I would just like to take this opportunity to apologise profusely to my Surana, for whom this comment was horrifically OOC. The sacrifices I ask him to make in the name of meta, honestly.
4.5 The Tranquil parallel is so obvious, and it’s so clear that the writers are Going Somewhere with the Tranquil cure now, that I wonder if we can use it to predict how the Veil coming down will affect the (especially non-mage) population of modern Thedas? Granted, it would help if we knew how Solas thinks people should be experiencing their lives, but I imagine we can make some vague predictions about people’s emotions becoming uncontrollable. Or their dreams? Magic? Ability to attract demons?
5. Trespasser’s First Grand Enchanter and DAO’s History of the Circle codex entries don’t match up; the former attributes the founding of the Circle to Kordillus I, the latter to Kordillus II. Pick whichever you like better for fic purposes, I guess.
6. Duncan says that “We can’t seem to eradicate [the darkspawn]
completely. No matter how hard we try, they always come back,” which
could be nothing more than a comment on their sheer numbers but could
also be an indication that they’re coming from somewhere.
7. Blood magic can be used to duplicate the powers of a somniari:
Although lyrium will allow a mage to send his conscious mind into the Fade, blood would allow him to find the sleeping minds of others, view their dreams, and even influence or dominate their thoughts.
It’s also been ‘all but stamped out’. Ha. Ha. Hahahahhahahahaaaaaaaaaaa. Okay, Chantry propaganda. Okay. If you say so.
*flops* Well, thank goodness that week’s over. I can play video games again!
As such, guess who has two thumbs and is now a Grey Warden!
“I hear some people have parental figures who don’t argue over the most politically expedient way to kill them.”
1. The Chantry can replace First Enchanters more or less at whim, according to Jowan. So it isn’t a safe position by any means, and the only way to retain it is to toe the Chantry line at least to some extent. I think it’s worth bearing that in mind when we discuss Irving, Orsino and (especially) Vivienne. None of them, especially not Orsino, is safe in their position.
Can the Chantry do the same thing to the Grand Enchanter? One would assume so, but then again Fiona was (I think) already GE in 9:31 when the first vote for independence was called.
2. I used to think Owain’s conversation with the Warden about why they wanted the rod of fire was there for comedy. I mean, look at it:
Warden: I need a rod of fire.
Owain: Rods of fire serve many purposes. Why do you wish to acquire this particular item?
Warden: What can the rods be used for?
Owain: Some mages require them for their research; others merely want to light fireplaces.
Warden: I anticipate having to light a fireplace.
Owain: I will set down that you require the rod to deal with a personal matter.
Every time I see it, though, and especially as we learn more about the Tranquil, I become less sure. I think Owain’s actively helping the Warden out here, and possibly even using his ‘robotic’ Tranquil status as a cover to some extent.
3. There is an actual, definable difference between a Harrowed mage and an unHarrowed one, at least in terms of their magic:
Warden: Since you have the password, can’t Jowan help you enter?
Lily: The ward only responds to the [magical] touch of one who has been through the Harrowing.
This is fascinating, in light of that thing Irving says later on about how Connor will be ‘forever changed’, and the way the Seekers get their powers. I don’t think what happens during the Harrowing is the same as being possessed and then unpossessed again - not least because being unpossessed is probably what leads to Blight immunity and a mage Warden is definitely capable of contracting the Taint - but there might be something similar going on there? Maybe?
4. Antimagic wards exist. There is a simple, effective way to stop mages from doing magic in a specific area that doesn’t involve, you know, lobotomising them, locking them up, or throwing them to demons. So. That’s fun.
5. Most of Eleni Zenovia’s really interesting lines are in Witch Hunt (’The prison is breached!’), but there are a few things:
- Firstly, she describes herself as ‘the essence and spirit’ of Eleni Zenovia. She’s not much given to tautology, so I’m inclined to believe these are indeed two separate things. Why is this relevant? Because Mythal, and Kieran, and that whole thing in the Inquisition end credits scene where Flemeth sends one thing through an eluvian before Solas takes another. (Also, because one of those words is spirit. Can we take ‘essence’ to mean ‘soul’? More evidence needed.)
- In the wake of Trespasser, I am suddenly very suspicious of the circumstances surrounding anyone being turned to stone by a powerful mage. Not that I think Valerius was Solas or anything - the question is more one of power. Is it possible to do it slower than Solas does? Is there an actual spell that’ll do this, or are creepy glowy eyes required?
6. The spell enhancer statue.
Looks a bit... wolfy, doesn’t it?