Known Factions of Dragon Age Universe
The Circle of Magi
The Circle of Magi was established centuries ago to protect us, and to protect those without magic from the things we might do. No man in his right mind would disagree that these are noble goals. I refuse to believe that the Chantry intended the injustice and oppression we suffered in the intervening years. Segregation of mages from non-mages within templar-guarded compounds was the bestpossibly the onlyoption available.
We have recently had to face the stark reality that the system failed us. The Circle of Magi in Ferelden's Kinloch Hold was one of the most liberally run, and even there we saw sedition and dissent, resulting in a failed revolt that nearly destroyed the entire tower. Perhaps stringency could work where leniency failed? I would present Kirkwall's Gallows as evidence against such thinking. Knight-Commander Meredith's vice-grip on the Circle in her care backfired, leaving us where we are now.
If the Circles, no matter how they are managed, do notperhaps cannotfunction as intended, what is next? There are no easy answers. The events of recent years have forced me to reexamine my views on freedom. As Aequitarians, we have always advocated self-control and cooperation with the Chantry, but this approach may no longer serve. I must consider that our Libertarian brothers and sisters had the right of it all along. Look at the strife and chaos that now consumes our world. Fighting for independence, for a better system, may not improve our situation. But it cannot make it any worse.
Letter from Senior Enchanter Vormann Quine of Cumberland to a colleague, dated 9:39 Dragon
The Imperial Chantry
There are those who would tell you that the Chantry is the same everywhere as it is here, that the Divine in Val Royeaux reigns supreme in the eyes of the Maker and that this fact is unquestioned throughout Thedas.
Do not believe it.
The Maker's second commandment, "Magic must serve man, not rule over him," never held the same meaning within the ancient Tevinter Imperium as it did elsewhere. The Chantry there interpreted the rule as meaning that mages should never control the minds of other men, and that otherwise their magic should benefit the rulers of men as much as possible. When the clerics of Tevinter altered the Chant of Light to reflect this interpretation of the commandment, the Divine in Val Royeaux ordered the clerics to revert to the original Chant. They refused, claiming corruption within Val Royeaux, an argument that grew until, in 4:87 Towers, the Chantry in Tevinter elected its own "legitimate and uncorrupted" Divine Valhailwho was not only male, but also happened to be one of the most prominent members of the Tevinter Circle of the Magi. This "Black Divine" was reviled outside Tevinter, his existence an offense to the Chantry in Val Royeaux.
After four Exalted Marches to dislodge these "rebels," all that the Chantry in Val Royeaux accomplished was to cement the separation.
While most aspects of the Imperial Chantry's teachings are the same, prohibitions against magic have been weakened, and male priests have become more prevalent. The Circle of the Magi today rules Tevinter directly, ever since Archon Nomaran was elected in 7:34 Storm directly from the ranks of the enchanters, to great applause from the public. He dispensed with the old rules forbidding mages from taking part in politics, and within an age, the true rulers within the various imperial housesthe magestook their places openly within the government. The Imperial Divine is now always drawn from the ranks of the first enchanters and operates as Divine and grand enchanter both. This is utter heresy to any member of the Chantry outside of Tevinter, a return to the days of the magisters, which brought the Blights down upon us. But it exists, and even though we have left the Tevinter Imperium to the mercies of the dread Qunari, still they have endured. Further confrontation between the Black Divine and our so-called "White Divine" is inevitable.
From Edicts of the Black Divine by Father David of Qarinus, 8:11 Blessed
The Grey Wardens
The Blight had ravaged the land for months; the armies of the great kings amassed for one last stand. As the sun burst through the clouds that boiled and churned in the dark sky, it illuminated a vast seething horde of darkspawn with the Archdemon at its head.
It was thenwhen courage seemed to fail and all lost to death and despairthat the Grey Wardens came.
They arrived with the beating of wings like mighty war drums and stood before the armies of men. The Grey Wardens, grim and fearless, marched forth, ever between men and the encroaching darkspawn. They formed a shield of their own bodies and held that line until the Archdemon was dead and the last darkspawn lay trampled in the dirt. Then, demanding neither reward nor recognition for their sacrifice, the Grey Wardens departed. When the clouds rolled back and the sun shone full upon the blighted ground, the great kings knew that they had lost no men, that none of their blood had been spilled.
This is a tale about no battle the Grey Wardens have fought and yet about them all. They have always defended us from the darkspawn, taking losses so we do not have to.
Adaptation of a Grey Warden legend
The tale outlined above is widely told, although subject to regional variations. Free Marchers might substitute "great kings" for titles bestowed in their given city states. In Ferelden, the implied army of Wardens is sometimes replaced with tworepresentative of the national heroes who fought and defeated the Archdemon at Denerim during the Fifth Blight.
The "beating of wings" is a reference to the griffons the Wardens are said to have ridden into battle. Although griffons went extinct long before the recent Blight, they still appear in numerous stories; sometimes serving as a metaphor for the Wardens' unrestrained courage, but also employed to please an eager audience.
From Tales of the Wardens by Sister Manon
The red templars are exactly what they sound like. They are templars who have been fed red lyrium, and the results are precisely what happened to Meredith in Kirkwall: it improves their powers, grants new ones, and increases their strength beyond what a human body should bear. Over time, red lyrium will turn them into beasts. Crystals will grow inside their bodies; even, I am told, sprouting through their heads. In the end, the red templars will be lost, mind and soul, to roaring madness.
Did the Chantry push our templars too far, or was this break inevitable? Maker help us, I pray it was not us who drove our good knights into becoming monsters.
Mother Celeres, of the Grand Cathedral, in a letter to a friend
Whereas the Circle was established not merely to protect the world from mages, but also to allow mages to practice their art safely and without fear, and,
Whereas under Lord Seeker Lambert's command, the templars sworn to protect all peopleincluding magesfrom the harmful effects of magic, have instead persecuted mages with such biased judgment as to worsen the problems they were meant to mitigate, and,
Whereas the Rite of Tranquility, intended as a tool of last resort to stop uncontrolled mages from hurting themselves or others, has instead been used for punitive and political purposes to silence dissent and inhibit civilized discourse, and,
Whereas Andraste herself intended the relationship between mage and templar to be one of practitioner and protector, not prisoner and jailer, and this contract has been broken, leaving mages in fear for their lives from those sworn to protect them,
Now, therefore, the Circle of Magi declares the following:
We, the mages of Ferelden and Orlais, do hereby dissolve the Circles and renounce our sworn submission to the Order of the Templars, effective immediately.
We reiterate Andraste's assertion that magic was made to serve man, not rule over him, and state unequivocally that we will use our abilities only to defend ourselves from those who would see us relinquish our lives and freedoms under the presumption of guilt for crimes we have not committed.
We condemn those practitioners of magic who, through illness of mind or understandable but misguided anger at those who oppressed them, would use their Maker-given powers to threaten innocent lives, and we pledge to aid any legitimate and impartial government in bringing these lawless apostates to justice.
We look earnestly to a future of cooperation between all peoples of Thedas, free from persecution and prejudice, and hope to build a better world alongside all who approach us with friendship instead of fear.
Yours in service to Andraste and the Maker, The Free Mages of Thedas
A leaflet distributed in towns and villages across Orlais and Ferelden
The people of the Qun are, perhaps, the least understood group in Thedas. The Qunari Wars were brutal, but so was the Chantry Schism. So was the fall of the Imperium. Some of this misunderstanding is an accident of nature: the race we call "Qunari" are formidable. Nature has given them fierce horns and strange eyes, and the ignorant look on them and see monsters.
Some is an accident of language: few among the Qun's people speak the common tongue, and fewer speak it well. In a culture that strives for mastery, to have only a passable degree of skill is humiliating indeed, and so they often keep quiet among foreigners, out of shame.
But much of it is a result of the culture itself. The Qunari view their whole society as a single creature: a living entity whose health and well-being are the responsibility of all. Each individual is only a tiny part of the whole, a drop of blood in its veins. Important not for itself, but for what it is to the whole creature. Because of this, the Qunari most outsiders meet belong to the army, which the Qun regards as if it were the physical body: arms, legs, eyes and ears, the things a creature needs in order to interact with the world. One cannot get to know a person solely by studying his hand or his foot, and so one cannot truly "meet" the Qunari until one has visited their cities. That is where their mind and soul dwell.
In Seheron and Par Vollen, one can truly see the Qunari in their entirety. There, the unification of the Qunari into a single being is most evident. Workers, whom the Qun calls the mind, produce everything the Qunari require. The soul, the priesthood, seeks a greater understanding of the self, the world, and exhorts the body and mind to continually strive for perfection. The body serves as the go-between for the mind, the soul, and the world. Everyone and everything has a place, decided by the Qun, in which they work for the good of the whole. It is a life of certainty, of equality, if not individuality.
From the writings of the seer of Kont-aar, 8:41 Blessed
In Orzammar, dwarven society is divided into rigid castes with houses that compete for power and prestige. But all that is discarded when a dwarf abandons the Stone for the surface. Under the open sky, everyone is equal. Or so the story goes.
The truth is that thousands of years of tradition are not so easily tossed aside. Even though surface dwarves are officially stripped of their caste, many maintain a hierarchy among themselves along the old caste lines. Formerly noble houses are accorded more respect than casteless brands who come up in search of opportunity. The poorest "noble" dwarf on the surface looks upon the rich "lower caste" dwarves with contempt.
Upper-class surface dwarf society is roughly divided into two camps: kalnas, who insist on maintaining caste and rank (typically those from the Noble or Merchant Caste families) and ascendants, who believe in leaving Orzammar's traditions underground and embracing life in the sunlit world. Maintaining some tie to Orzammar was seen for generations as the only lifeline for surface dwarves. Bringing surface goods to their kin underground and lyrium and metals to the surface was not only the most lucrative means of making a living, but also a sort of sacred duty, as many surface dwarves willingly accepted exile and the loss of their caste to better serve their house or patron. In recent years, many surface dwarves, particularly ascendants, have branched out. They started banks, mercenary companies, and overland trade caravans. They became investors and speculators in purely surface trade. These new industries have proven tremendous sources of wealth, but are looked down upon by their more conservative kin.
For less-affluent surface dwarves, association with a powerful kalna can open many doors. They can get credit with dwarven merchants and are offered work opportunities by the powerful Dwarven Merchants Guild more readily, sometimes, than more qualified but less-connected individuals.
From The Dowager's Field Guide to Good Society by Lady Alcyone
The casteless dwarves of Orzammar have few prospects. Consigned to live in a crumbling ruin on the social and economic fringes of the mighty dwarven capital, most resort to begging, prostitution, or crime.
Just as all rivers eventually join the sea, all casteless who turn to crime eventually become part of the Carta. The Hero of Ferelden decimated the ranks of this ancient gang while rallying the dwarves to join in the battle against the Archdemon Urthemiel. Unable to recover the power they once had in Orzammar, they turned their attention "topside," using groups of surface-dwelling dwarves to smuggle weapons, lyrium, surface luxuries, people, and other goods between Orzammar and human lands.
Despite the flow of business, its members are still desperate and violent. With no strong leader to rein in their excesses, they have little sense of dwarven honor, and freely break their word, double-cross allies, and renege on deals.
From The Stone and Her Children: Dwarves of the Dragon Age by Brother Genitivi
I know what you have been telling the others. You mouth the word "cult," and repeat lies the Chantry has been spewing at us for a thousand years. Look around you, my friend. See what mighty Tevinter is today: a once-proud nation brought low, barely able to hold itself against the oxmen. We neutered our mages at the behest of a foreign religion, exalted their false Maker, and became the laughing stock of all Thedas. Now we have the chance to reclaim what is rightly ours, but only if we act. We cannot wait to see which way the wind is blowingwe must make it blow.
The Venatori are hunters, recruited in secret over several years. We will descend with deadly purpose, to spill the blood of the south and make it ripe for conquest; when we return to our homeland it will be as victors, with a new god as our patron. Then the cowards who refused to aid us will know their mistake in full.
Reported as evidence to the Vyrantium Circle of Magi, Dragon 9:40
Driven across the Frostbacks in ancient times, the Alamarri tribesmen split into three groups: one settled the Ferelden Valley, one was pushed into the Korcari Wilds, and the last returned to the mountains. Modern Fereldans bear little resemblance to their Alamarri ancestors, and the Chasind remember few of their traditions, but the Avvar have changed little throughout the ages.
Like the Chasind, the Avvar are not a united people. Each tribe fends for itself and is beholden only to its thane. They still follow their own gods: Korth the Mountain-Father, Hakkon Wintersbreath, The Lady of the Skies, as well as dozens of animal gods never named to outsiders.
Nothing lasts in the mountains. Wind and rain eventually eat away the strongest holds. Valleys that were arable one generation are locked in year-round ice the next. Game is constantly on the move. Even among themselves, the Avvar make no absolute promises: they wed by a tradition in which the groom struggles to untie a tightly knotted rope while the bride sings a hymn to one of the gods. However many knots he has undone by the time her song ends is the number of years she will spend with him. Lowlanders often forget that there is no such thing as a permanent alliance in the Frostbacks.
From Ferelden: Folklore and History by Sister Petrine, Chantry scholar
The Sentinel Elves
Elves ambushed us just when the Master said they would, five days into the Wilds. They move faster than any elf I've seen, and they know the forest like they were born of it. The ones who escape melt back into the shadows. They're strong, and they know no fear; every damn elf we cut down fights 'til the last.
The attacks have slowed since we doubled the watch. We've killed enough to make them pause. Corypheus says the elves call themselves "Sentinels." We were going over the plan for the final assault on their temple, and he told me the elves we're fighting are the last "true" priests of their Old Gods. Before I could stop myself, I asked how he knew. I felt like a damn fool the moment the words left my mouth, but the Master just looked at me, then opened his hand. A second later, that magic orb was floating over it.
He told me it was elven, that events made him believe it came to him for a purpose. The Master turned, and I thought I was dismissed, but his voice stopped me before I left. He said, solemn as I've ever known him, that there were many things he couldn't tell me, that he hid them so I would stay focused on the Well. He said that while I'll sacrifice much, there will be no secrets once I've become the Vessel.
I left then, but I can't stop thinking about it. I'd swear there was regret in those last words. Wish I knew exactly what for.
Charred excerpt from a logbook kept by Samson, recovered by Inquisition spies from the wreckage of a red templar camps in the Arbor Wilds. The rest of the book is too blackened by fire to make out.
The Dalish Elves
In time, the human empires will crumble. We have seen it happen countless times. Until then, we wait, we keep to the wild border lands, we raise halla and build aravels and present a moving target to the humans around us. We try to keep hold of the old ways, to relearn what was forgotten.
We call to the ancient gods, although they do not answer and have not heard us since before the fall of Arlathan, so that one day they might remember us: Elgar'nan the Eldest of the Sun and He Who Overthrew His Father, Mythal the Protector, Fen'Harel the Dread Wolf, Andruil the Huntress, Falon'Din the Friend of the Dead, Dirthamen the Keeper of Secrets, Ghilan'nain the Mother of Halla, June the Master of Crafts, and Sylaise the Hearthkeeper.
We gather every ten years for the Arlathvhen, to retell the ancient stories and keep them alive. For when the human kingdoms are gone, we must be ready to teach the others what it means to be elves.
As told by Gisharel, Keeper of the Ralaferin clan of the Dalish elves
The Friends of Red Jenny
The Friends? Don't poke them. It's temptingbecause what else can you dobut don't. Never know what you'll get. Because Red Jenny, she's been around a long time, she's everywhere, and she hits hard or she hits light, but the choosing isn't up to you. You want someone to get their desserts, save your coppers for a moral Crow and know what you're getting.
Notes from Ser Keiter, a traveling merchant, to his son, Erbal
They're a distraction, whichever they are. Keeps people busy and the lords edgy. And with the assaults not having any bearing, we've been paid to strike at guessed rivals several times now. Bards should pay "her" a commission.
My father went after her once. You want to lose your friends fast? Just say you're tracking hers. He found a report that said she was killed in Nevarra. Everyone in that command, to a man: dead or hobbled or somehow lost their claims during the winter following. Know when that was written? Fifty-two years ago! I'll take a witch over whatever she is. Let her pick at the nobles; I think it's nature.
Recommendations of Captain Varn, private militiaman contracted in Denerim
How's it work? You tell me how to tell. Ask for something bad to happen, eventually something does. Did she do it? Does it matter? Either way, you think you had a piece. Maybe that's enough.
Interview at a Montsimmard tavern, no name given
I know it was her! Keys do not simply go missing! And the horses, I suppose they were loosed quite by accident? And the fires that swept the southern quarter, the flooding in my summer home, the drop in the price of trade goods that just happened to coincide with my plans to sell my investments, the cholera I suffered last season, the weather that is inclement whenever I'm traveling. You cannot tell me all these things were mere happenstance. Perhaps your disbelief is her doing as well. You're dismissed. Everyone is dismissed.
The scattered notes of Bann Markal
The Seekers of Truth
The Seekers of Truth aren't templars... not precisely. Once they were called the Inquisition, but upon the signing of the Nevarran Accord, they gave up that name and became the Order they are now, standing over us templars as watchers and enforcers. I honestly cannot claim to know more than that. I don't know how many Seekers there area few dozen? If they have a base of operations, I don't know where it is. Certainly not with any of us. The only time we'll see one is when a Seeker is summoned, perhaps in response to a complaint by one of the first enchanters. They'll investigate the problem, and if it turns out a templar did something they don't like, he's disciplined. Severely. Without question. Even the knight-commander bows to their will. If a Seeker of Truth shows up, you know every last templar is sweating, hoping their gaze doesn't fall on him.
Of course, that changed when the Nevarran Accord was broken. I'm told the Chantry broke it, but it was Lord Seeker Lambert who made the announcement. He said the Seekers of Truth and the Templar Order were going to hunt rebel mages, no matter what the Divine commanded. I didn't know he had that authority, that he could just say we would do this and everyone would follow... but we did. I never thought of it that way, but the Seekers have always been our guides. Now they've led us into war.
From a letter written by Ser Jonathan Perry, 9:40 Dragon
The Order of Fiery Promise
Consider the time in which the original Inquisition existed. The First Blight had devastated the world, tearing down the mighty Tevinter Imperium and leaving nothing in its place. Just as there were several cults of Andraste vying to become the true inheritor of the prophet's faith, there was more than one group claiming to represent the one true path to deliver the world from chaos. The Order of Fiery Promise was one of these, a band of men and women who decreed that not only was the end of the world nigh, it was necessary.
Thedas must be cleansed with fire and reborn as a paradise. This they solemnly promised; they devoted themselves utterly to seeing this come about. Whether they ever drew close to their goal is unknown.
The Inquisition eventually crushed these "Promisers" during a battle recorded only as the "Cleansing of Churneau." The cult reappeared in the early Divine Age, claiming to take up the Inquisition's mantle after it had transformed into the Seekers of Truth, leading to Chantry hunts that did not see the Promisers eliminated again until the Exalted Age.
From In Pursuit of Knowledge: The Travels of a Chantry Scholar by Brother Genitivi
The Rite of Tranquility
We called it the Rite of Tranquility: a mind, branded with lyrium, brought to a state devoid of either emotion or sense of self. The rite was required to achieve the true peace that could draw a spirit of faith from the depths of the Fade. A difficult task, considering a Tranquil mind is all but invisible to these beings. The candidate must be pure. If the candidate proved worthy, the spirit would touch his mind... and he would be freed from Tranquility, as well as made into a Seeker in truth. If he proved unworthy, Tranquility was permanent.
It was only later, when the first mage attempted to join our Order and failed, that we learned Tranquility rendered a mage unable to access his magic, as well as immune to demonic possession. Thus when the Circle of Magi was born, we gave them the most holy rite we possessed. It was a sacrifice we made for the good of all, so dangerous mages could be spared execution and yet live productive and harmonious lives. What we did not give them was the secret of its reversal. That knowledge, and our ancient bond with the spirits of faith, shall forever be solely ours to keep.
An excerpt from Cassandra's tome on the Seekers of Truth
Suggesting that all Ben-Hassrath are spies is like assuming that all craftsmen are carpenters. The Ben-Hassrath form a significant portion of the Qunari priesthood, tending to a variety of tasks within Qunari society.
In Qunari cities, Ben-Hassrath serve as something akin to a town guard, investigating anything that disrupts the orderly function of the city. Ben-Hassrath reeducators treat criminals and rebels against the Qun, determining whether they must destroy the subject's mind using a poison known as qamek. Those they can rehabilitate through treatment and education are later transferred to simple work details.
In contested or war-ridden areas, Ben-Hassrath coordinate with the Qunari military to track the dreaded Tal-Vashoth rebels, a function similar to bounty hunting. Outside Qunari borders, Ben-Hassrath agents primarily observe and report. While this may seem underhanded, it is no more than most nations do with their own spies, and the Qunari are (perhaps rightly, in retrospect) extremely concerned with the danger our culture's comparatively liberated mages pose.
Our assumption that all Ben-Hassrath are malicious spies bent on bringing Orlais into the Qun has no basis in fact. It is simple prejudice against a race whose appearance unsettles us, compounded by a guilty conscience at seeing how many peasants, especially elves, prefer life under the Qun to life under our empress. The Qunari are a society of people; people with a different culture and different values, but people nevertheless, as complex and nuanced as Orlais.
An excerpt from The Lion and the Bull: Racial Bias and Oversimplification of Qunari Societal Roles in the Orlesian Court, author unknown, published by the University of Orlais
The Orlesian Civil War
When Grand Duke Gaspard attacked Empress Celene of Orlais in an attempt to claim the throne, we assumed business across the country would suffer greatly. To counter propaganda suggesting she was overly tolerant of the elves, Celene was drawn to crush an elven uprising in Halamshiral, and Gaspard's attack there destroyed her forces and cut her off from Val Royeaux. She escaped back to the Orlesian capital (with a hundred mad stories explaining how), at which point we started closing down the family shops, expecting Gaspard's army to carve a bloody path through the Heartlands and up north toward cities loyal to Celene.
Instead, the humans have been downright reasonable. We made a killing on furs and silver in Val Royeaux as Gaspard's hold on southern Orlais cut off incoming trade goods from Ferelden. The nobles in Montfort and Val Chevin also bought up violets as though their touch killed darkspawn; apparently, Celene declared that wearing purple flowers was a way for humans to show their loyalty to her.
In Ferelden, half of the cities would be on fire; but in Orlais, the nobles make jokes, and the merchants just keep peddling their wares while Gaspard and Celene's armies clash in the Dales. The only people really suffering are the peasants, but then, that's true enough anywhere.
Send extra guards on the next shipment, but save the lyrium for Ferelden. The family's doing good business here as it is.
From a letter from Dernal Harrick, dwarven merchant, to his family in Ostwick
Detainee has already confessed to resisting arrest when Ben-Hassrath came for his coworker; circumstantial evidence suggests he was part of group planning to become Tal-Vashoth. Coworker died attempting to escape. Detainee requires evaluation for possible reintroduction into society instead of qamek treatment. He is being denied sleep and given restricted portions of food and water, as noted below.
Day 1: Detainee restrained, given water but no food. Detainee requested to use latrine. Was told cleanliness part of the Qun, and he had decided to attack the Qun. Detainee asked why he murdered Ben-Hassrath, responded that he had only defended himself. Detainee eventually urinated on floor.
Day 2: Detainee given light food and water, told he could use latrine if he could demonstrate ability to follow the Qun. Detainee asked why he murdered Ben-Hassrath, answered that he fought them to protect coworker, did not murder them. Detainee told that lying is unacceptable under the Qun. Detainee observed reeducators eating and drinking and engaging in conversation about daily activities while detainee stood.
Day 3: Detainee refused food and water. Was taken outside and shown qalaba rooting through garbage for food. Detainee told he is similar to qalaba, as neither he nor it follows the Qun. Also told qalaba is better than detainee, as qalaba is too stupid to follow the Qun, while detainee could follow it, but made conscious choice to refuse. Detainee asked why he murdered Ben-Hassrath. Detainee answered that he was angry and trying to protect his friend.
Day 4: Detainee shown drawings of dead tamassrans and children, told these were drawings of people in Seheron killed by Tal-Vashoth. Detainee told all Tal-Vashoth do this, and if detainee wishes to be Tal-Vashoth, he must go to education center and kill tamassrans now. Detainee became visibly upset. Detainee asked why he murdered Ben-Hassrath, answered that he was wrong and lied to by his coworker.
Day 5: Detainee continues to show remorse. Is visibly happy when reminded that Qun offers place for all people. Detainee washed, given new clothes and food, allowed to sleep. Upon waking, detainee asked whether he would prefer to be Tal-Vashoth or Qunari. Detainee answered that he will remain Qunari. Detainee released to road crew for simple labor and will be watched by observers on team.
Excerpt from a Ben-Hassrath reeducation report smuggled out of Par Vollen
Founding of the Chantry
Kordillus Drakon, king of the city-state of Orlais, was a man of uncommon ambition. In the year -15 Ancient, the young king began construction of a great temple dedicated to the Maker, and declared that by its completion he would not only have united the warring city-states of the south, he would have brought Andrastian belief to the world.
In -3 Ancient, the temple was completed. There, in its heart, Drakon knelt before the eternal flame of Andraste and was crowned ruler of the Empire of Orlais. His first act as emperor: to declare the Chantry as the established Andrastian religion of the empire.
It took three years and several hundred votes before Olessa of Montsimmard was elected to lead the new Chantry. Upon her coronation as Divine, she took the name Justinia, in honor of the disciple who recorded Andraste's songs. In that moment, the ancient era ended and the Divine Age began.
From Ferelden: Folklore and History by Sister Petrine, Chantry scholar
The Divine is the titular head of the Chantry, although since the Schism split the Imperial Chantry into its own faction there are now in fact two Divines at any one time. One Divine, informally called the White Divine, is a woman housed in the Grand Cathedral in Val Royeaux. The other, known as the Black Divine, is a man housed in the Argent Spire in Minrathous.
Neither Divine recognizes the existence of the other, and the informal names are considered sacrilegious. No matter the gender, a Divine is addressed as "Most Holy" or "Your Perfection."
Beneath the rank of Divine is the grand cleric. Each grand cleric presides over numerous chantries and represents the highest religious authority for their region. They travel to Val Royeaux when the College of Clerics convenes, but otherwise remain where they are assigned. All grand clerics are addressed as "Your Grace."
Beneath the grand cleric is the mother (or, in the Imperial Chantry, the father). If a mother is in charge of a particular chantry, "revered" is appended to her title. These are the priests responsible for administering to the spiritual well-being of their flock. A mother or revered mother is addressed as "Your Reverence."
Brothers and sisters form the rank and file of the Chantry and consist of three main groups: affirmed, initiates, and clerics. Affirmed are the lay-brethren of the Chantry, those regular folk who have turned to the Chantry for succor. Often they are people who have led a difficult or irreligious life and have chosen to go into seclusion, or even orphans and similar unfortunates who were raised into Chantry life. The affirmed take care of the chantry and are in turn afforded a life of quiet contemplation, no questions asked.
Only those folk who take vows become initiates. These are men and women in training, whether in academic knowledge or the martial skills of a warrior. All initiates receive an academic education, although only those who seek to become templars learn how to fight in addition.
Clerics are the true academics of the Chantry, those men and women who have dedicated themselves to the pursuit of knowledge. They are often found in chantry archives, sages presiding over libraries of books and arcane knowledge. The most senior of these clerics, placed in charge of such archives, are given the title "elder," although such a rank is still beneath that of mother. All other brothers and sisters are addressed simply by noting their title before their name, such as "Brother Genitivi."
From a guide for ambassadors from Rivain
There is a mistaken impression outside the Tevinter Imperium that a 'magister' is simply a mage, and the mere act of being a mage is all that is required to be among the ruling classa misperception aided, no doubt, by some Tevinter mages claiming the title outside their homeland to take advantage of its reputation. In truth, being a magister requires one hold a seat in the Magisterium, the upper house of the Imperial Senate. This is the body that makes laws, and which chooses the new Archon if there is no approved heir. The Senate's lower house, the Publicanium, consists of elected officials, but it has no true power and is considered a bureaucratic body.
Magisters, meanwhile, come from the ranks of the Circle of Magi and the Imperial Chantry, but most hold their seats by virtue of an Archon having granted it to their family long ago. It is not technically required for a magister to be a mage... indeed, after the Transfiguration that saw the Old Gods abandoned and Andrastianism embraced, most were not. Since the Towers Age, however, non-mages in the Magisterium have slowly been weeded out. A true magister is thus a figure of real power in Tevinter. All other mages serve at their pleasure, and any mage not of proper lineage has no influence outside of that which personal wealth and talent provide.
From The Ancient North by Sister Petrine, Chantry scholar
The Dwarven Merchants Guild
The Dwarven Merchants Guild is, without question, the most powerful surface dwarf institution. It has become what the Assembly is to the people of Orzammar: a prestigious club that everyone wants to belong to and the surest means to obtain power and fortune. The guild's leaders can always trace their lineage back to Noble or Merchant Caste houses in Orzammar. The guild regulates trade between the dwarven city and the surface and so quietly controls the entire economy of Orzammar, though the ruling king or Assembly would never admit it.
The guild is heavily conservative, but has started to get more of the ascendantsespecially banking familiesinto its membership, which has caused no small amount of infighting in the guild.
From The Dowager's Field Guide to Good Society by Lady Alcyone
Allow me to correct you on one important point, my friend: the Pentaghasts are Nevarra. Without us, this nation would either still be one of the motley city-states that comprise the Free Marches, or under Orlesian control. More likely the latter, as only Nevarra's strength holds back the empire's expansion... and by that I refer to the brilliance of Pentaghast generals and the influence of Pentaghast coin.
I find it interesting that you mention dragon-hunting as our only significant trait. You do understand, I hope, that dragons disappeared centuries ago, only recently returning at the beginning of this age? Some of our clan have taken up the old trade out of nostalgiamy cousin Ferdinand the most prominent among thembut those days are largely done. Today there are fourteen branches of the familyeighteen, if one counts our relations among the Van Markhamseach consisting of multiple families and twisting bloodlines connecting us to almost every major house across Thedas.
I am fully aware that King Markus wanes in health, and neither he nor Ferdinand have children, but make no mistake: there will be another Pentaghast sitting on the Nevarran throne, and that man or woman will lead us into a prosperous future. There will be no civil war.
From a letter by Baroness Alia Pentaghast, Dragon 9:38
You think it's hard to fight the Qunari on land? You've never had to face them on open water. No wind, sails hanging limp, but those giant bastards keep coming. We'd always mocked the Qunari for their mindless servitude, but we saw their discipline as they steadily closed, their oars in perfect form even as our galley slaves flagged and faltered.
They pulled alongside, their great ship twice the length of ours, and we drew steel, ready for them to board. Instead, a great series of blasts rocked the waves, spewing smoke everywhere. Iron balls the size of a man's head flew as though fired from a bow. They ripped through hull, mast, and sailor alike; our ship came apart like a child's toy. I'd have died in the water had a trading ship not come by to investigate the wreckage.
That was the day I learned that although the Imperium might win the war against the Qunari on land, it will never defeat them at sea. It was also the day I decided to try life as a merchant's guard.
An excerpt from Exiles from the Empire, by Gregorias Pepigit
Nanny Goodwin lay on the hard stones of the Kirkwall docks until the sailors left with her purse. As she struggled to her feet, a large grey hand reached down to help her. It was one of the Qunari, the great horned giants who had come to live in the city.
"I thank you," said Nanny Goodwin hesitantly, looking for her satchel. "I did not know the docks were so dangerous, or I would have asked one of Lord G___'s guards to accompany me as I bought healing herbs for the children."
"You are a tamassran," said the Qunari. "Under the Qun, no sailor would accost you. Why are you here?"
"I am but Lord G___'s nanny," Nanny Goodwin said, "and Lord G___ did not believe me when I told him that the children needed healing herbs, so I was forced to buy them myself."
"Under the Qun," said the Qunari, "tamassrans are trusted and listened to when caring for the children, and any healing herbs they needed would be provided. Why did Lord G___ not attend your words?"
"He is a noble," Nanny Goodwin said, "and I am merely a servant who cares for his children." She shifted her shawl to hide the bruises the sailors had given her, as well as the bruises Lord G___ himself had left.
"Under the Qun," said the Qunari, "all are equal, and no tamassran thinks herself a mere anything."
Nanny Goodwin bid the Qunari good day and returned to Hightown with much to think about.
An excerpt from The Lies of the Nobles, the Truth of the Qun, author unknown
Our wagon was traveling from the port village to one of the larger cities when they fell upon us. They shrieked like beasts. Their facial markings were savage and nonsensical, their brutal weapons chipped and uncared for, and they stank of unwashed sweat as they charged.
The Tal-Vashoth snarled as they fought. One of the workers was bitten. The guards cut them down with blades until they fled, then finished the rest with arrows. We followed their trail into the forest and found their camp: there were women, hunched and cowering as no woman should be, filthy children, thin and underfed, and corpses. I will always remember the corpses.
There were more Tal-Vashoth as well, and the guards cut them down. As they disarmed the last Tal-Vashoth, one guard asked him why he lived like this, why he acted in this manner. The Tal-Vashoth looked him in the eye and said, "I deny the Qun." Then he threw himself upon the guard's blade.
I have questioned the Qun. I believe many of us have, although we do not admit it to each other. But when I saw that rage in the Tal-Vashoth warrior's eyeswhen I saw the horrible savagery that the Qun alone holds in checkI knew where I belonged. I am not a perfect Qunari, but I know my place and my purpose. I am content.
Excerpt from an interview with a Qunari worker in Kirkwall
The Templar Order: End of an Accord
The Seekers are well aware of the part you played in the rebellion. You call me to the Grand Cathedral in the middle of the night on "urgent" business only to speak of trivial matters? And then, when I return to the White Spire, I discover chaos... and one of your agents in the midst of the apostates.
Did you think I would not notice? Did you believe yourself above repercussions for such acts? It was a dark day when the Chantry placed such an incapable woman upon the Sunburst Throne. I will not stand idle and watch you destroy what ages of tradition and righteousness have built.
In the twentieth year of the Divine Age, the Nevarran Accord was signed. The Seekers of Truth lowered our banner and agreed to serve as the Chantry's right hand, and together we created the Circle of Magi. With the Circle no more, I hereby declare the Accord null and void. Neither the Seekers of Truth nor the Templar Order recognize Chantry authority, and instead we will perform the Maker's work as it was meant to be done, as we see fit.
Signed this day on the fortieth year of the Dragon Age,
Lord Seeker Lambert van Reeves
Letter sent to Divine Justinia from the former Lord Seeker
The Templar Order: Traditional Role
Often portrayed as stoic and grim, the Order of Templars was created as the martial arm of the Chantry. Armed with the ability to dispel and resist magic in addition to their formidable combat talents, templars are uniquely qualified to act as both a foil for apostatesmages who refuse to submit to the authority of the Circleand a first line of defense against the dark powers of blood mages and abominations.
While mages often resent the templars as symbols of the Chantry's control over magic, the people of Thedas see them as saviors and holy warriors, champions of all that is good, armed with piety enough to protect the world from the ravages of foul magic. In reality, the Chantry's militant arm looks first for skilled warriors with unshakable faith in the Maker, with a flawless moral center as a secondary concern. Templars must carry out their duty with an emotional distance, and the Order of Templars prefers soldiers with religious fervor and absolute loyalty over paragons of virtue who might question orders when it comes time to make difficult choices.
The templars' power derives from the substance lyrium, a mineral believed to be the raw element of creation. While mages use lyrium in their arcane spells and rituals, templars ingest the primordial mineral to enhance their abilities to resist and dispel magic. Lyrium use is regulated by the Chantry, but some templars suffer from lyrium addiction, the effects of which include paranoia, obsession, and dementia. Templars knowingly submit themselves to this "treatment" in the service of the Order and the Maker.
It is this sense of ruthless piety that most frightens mages when they draw the templars' attention: when the templars are sent to eliminate a possible blood mage, there is no reasoning with them, and if the templars are prepared, the mage's magic is all but useless. Driven by their faith, the templars are one of the most feared and respected forces in Thedas.
From Patterns Within Form by Halden, First Enchanter of Starkhaven, 8:80 Blessed.
To those outside of the Tevinter Imperium it is easy to imagine a society filled with mages and elven slaves and little else. In truth, there are three different Tevinters, each of them a world completely separated from the others. There are the mages, the land's nobility, completely obsessed with competing for supremacy with each otheralmost to the exclusion of paying any heed to the nation's enemies, such as the Qunari. The well-bred altus sneer at the laetans, who in turn sneer at the praeteri. They vie for dominance in the Magisterium, where factions shift and flow on a daily basis with deadly consequences, requiring every family to put on a veneer of perfect citizenship or face scandal and censure.
Then there are the so-called soporati, the "sleepers." These are the non-magical citizens who vastly outnumber the mages, yet are beholden to their whims. Many are resentful of this status, plotting in secret, even as they secretly hope their children will possess magical talentan enticing lure, since the talent could conceivably show up in anyone, even a slave. It would be easy to forget that Tevinter possesses a massive class of publicans, the civil servants and leaders of the Legionnaires. It has an enormous merchant class, enough teeming poor to drown any other nation in Thedas, and the shadowy thieves called "praesumptor" who are practically treated with respect.
And then there are the slaves. One would think they, at least, see each other as equals, but it is not so. The divide between the freed liberati, those who act as personal servants to magisters, those who work on farms and factories, and the "servus publicus" who do all the tasks proper citizens will notit is all but insurmountable, but perhaps in emulation of those who own them, Imperial slaves will connive and scheme to try anyhow. Outsiders might see it as futile, but to Tevinter citizens, their nation's social classes are the most mutable and rewarding of merit in all of Thedas.
From In Pursuit of Knowledge: The Travels of a Chantry Scholar by Brother Genitivi
Vashoth: The Grey Ones
Why do you keep asking me about the Qun? I'm not Qunari. I met a human once who made shoes. Why don't you tell me about shoe-making?
You've met more Qunari than I have. I've lived my whole life here in Nevarra.
No, I'm not Tal-Vashoth. Tal-Vashoth are rebels. You can't rebel against something you've never seen. I'm Vashoth.
No, I didn't use the same word. It's "Vashoth," not "Tal-Vashoth." Nobody told me humans couldn't hear speech.
No. No. I hate humans.
Unused portion of a transcript from an interview with Issala, a Qunari goat herder, found in the notes of Brother Genitivi
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