So, for the meredith post, are you forgetting that the previous viscount was extorting money from the Orlesian navy and lynched the knight-commander who preceded meredith?
Hi, Anonymous person!
I dunno. Perhaps I am! Are you forgetting that history is written by the victors, and that the Chantry and Orlais have been collectively winning at Thedas for about 900 years now? Because I’m not!
One thing I really love about Dragon Age is the worldbuilding. It keeps me coming back even when I’m questioning the writers’ morals and politics. I know it’s not perfect, and there are mistakes and plot holes, but on the whole the Codex entries are fantastic. In Inquisition, finding a Codex entry will make me happier than completing a quest.
They feel real. You get these wonderful texts from Chantry officials and nobles and other interested parties explaining that it’s perfectly reasonable to kidnap mages and subject them to lifelong imprisonment, and that the elves should be grateful for the existence of alienages, and that the Orlesian empire has been doing its holy duty in invading and slaughtering anyone who doesn’t agree exactly with its official religion.
In short, like a not insignificant amount of real history written by winners, by the rich and the powerful and the people with a vested interest in convincing posterity that their actions were completely and utterly justified and that their enemies deserved their miserable fates, the official history is generally full of shit.
That the Chantry lies is just a fact. It lies to everyone, including its own people. To pick a not-insignificant plot point from Inquisition, it comes as a complete surprise to Cassandra Pentaghast, Seeker and Right Hand of the Divine, that the Seekers have known how to cure Tranquility for centuries, and that she herself was subjected to the procedure. They will cheerfully rewrite history, if it suits them. They will murder witnesses. They will cover up atrocities. Show me a Chantry source and I’ll show you a text I’m going to take with a whole bucket of salt.
Reading a Chantry source and saying you know about Kirkwall is like saying you read Shakespeare’s Richard III and now know all about the Wars of the Roses.
Dragon Age 2 is particularly good about this. I know it suffers from being rushed, and from some uninspired level design, but I think it remains Bioware’s most ambitious game. It is the story of the powerless trying to wrest control of the narrative from the powerful. You see it in gameplay: a Hawke who tries to expose the Chantry’s attacks on the Qunari or its brutal treatment of the mages will get absolutely nowhere. Anders ends the game with a powerful demonstration of the fact that the Chantry couldn’t give a fuck about justice: they will murder the mages as retribution for the destruction of the Chantry because that’s what they’ve always been planning to do, and the fact that he’s sitting there quietly, waiting to be arrested, means nothing to them.
It’s also the framing narrative. It’s the point of the whole thing. The Chantry has views on Hawke, and on what happened in Kirkwall. Varric has a different story. It’s one the Chantry isn’t going to like much at all. It doesn’t mean that every word he says is necessarily true either (at bare minimum he’s lying about his knowledge of Hawke’s whereabouts, and I’m inclined to think there are parts of the story that make more sense if Varric is lying), but the fact remains that his is the kind of voice the Chantry would normally suppress. Which is part of the reason why Cassandra is interrogating him in a darkened room far from the public eye.
So, with all that, we come to Perrin Threnhold.
First things first: have you forgotten that Orlais occupied Kirkwall until 8:05 Blessed? They arrived to liberate the city from the Qunari, and then thought they might as well own the place. They do that. Nor did they courteously go home after a while: the Marchers rose up and kicked them out. Orlais has an empire. It grabs territory whenever it can. Sometimes the locals manage to win their freedom, but the Orlesians are always looking to take the land back.
Perrin Threnhold, we are told:
Used the ancient chains extending from “the Twins” standing at Kirkwall’s harbor—unused since the New Exalted Marches—to block sea traffic and charge exorbitant fees from Orlesian ships.
Now, I don’t know about you, but if I were the ruler of a prosperous but underdefended port city that was always likely to be a prize for the Orlesians, I’d want to be able to control who could sail a fleet of ships through my territory. I might also want some damn reparations from the Orlesian empire, although it’s worth remembering that the word ‘exorbitant’ comes from a Chantry source.
Here’s the thing: there’s no right way to handle Orlais. There’s nothing you can do that can guarantee they won’t be ruling you tomorrow. Nevarra let them in and got occupied. The Dales tried to keep them out and got conquered. There’s no perfect strategy in dealing with an empire, which, unless it loses enough territory in one go to significantly weaken it, is always going to have the resources to have another stab at you tomorrow. There’s only the strategy that works today. If you’re Maric Theirin, then your fight with Orlais is going to go really well. If you’re Perrin Threnhold, yours is going to go really badly. Consequently, we get stories about Maric the hero and Perrin the monster.
Shit, look at poor Bran, beating off invaders with a stick. The fight goes on.
You say ‘extorting money from the Orlesian navy’ like I should be scandalised! Appalled! Oh the poor Orlesian navy, however will they sail around invading and exploiting people when there are giant chains in their way!
In case you hadn’t guessed, I’m not appalled. :)
What I can’t be sure of, because the sources don’t provide enough detail, is whether this was, at the time, a sound strategy that went badly wrong, or a dreamer’s plan that was always doomed to fail.
I do know that the Dragon Age was considered to be a time of political turmoil, and Orlais started the century by getting its arse kicked in Ferelden. Quite possibly Perrin saw an opportunity in both the strife and Orlais’s losses. He may well have been right; despite threats, Orlais didn’t invade, and if Orlais isn’t throwing its weight around it’s generally because it can’t. What Perrin didn’t count on was the perfidy of the Templar Order, and that was a fatal error.
Lynched the knight-commander, you say? Well, sure, let’s start there. I mean, come on: if Knight-Commander Guylian didn’t want to be treated as an enemy soldier, maybe he shouldn’t have acted as an agent of a foreign power and used the military might of his Order to coerce the damn Viscount. Just a thought.
But hang on a minute, because I’m inclined to think it’s worse than that:
Knight-Commander Guylian’s only written comment was in a letter to Divine Beatrix III: “It is not our place to interfere in political affairs. We are here to safeguard the city against magic, not against itself.” The divine, as a friend to the emperor, clearly had other ideas.
Guylian is with me, on this one: he thinks this is a terrible idea. Let’s get the rest of the story, shall we:
Under Pressure from Divine Beatrix III, Guylian commanded the Templars to force Viscount Perrin Threnhold to reopen the Waking Sea to allow Orlesian ships to pass through. The viscount retaliated by hiring mercenaries to storm the Gallows. Guylian was captured and publicly hanged. An enraged Meredith and a group of her best marched on the viscount’s estate, determined to exact terrible justice. The captain of the city guard, quailing before the Templars, protested that he knew nothing of the plot. To prove his innocence, the captain asserted that the viscount had acted unlawfully and had him arrested. Threnhold’s lands and titles were stripped from him, and he was thrown into his own dungeon.
– Word of Thedas II
Does … any of that … make any sense to you at all, Anonymous person? Because it sets off so many alarm bells in my head it’s like being bloody Quasimodo.
The Templars have the military might to take on the Viscount of Kirkwall. They are ‘the largest armed force in Kirkwall’. They have the blessing of the Divine to act, and the backing of the Orlesian empire. However, they lack two important things:
a) a willing commanding officer
b) a reasonable pretext for overthrowing the Viscount that doesn’t actually scream ‘Look at us! We’re a thinly disguised branch of the Orlesian military!’
And yet somehow, Perrin Threnhold does not, say, launch a full scale attack on the Templars … enlist the aid of the (let’s face it: probably entirely willing) mages … seize the lyrium supply … burn down the Gallows … call in assistance from his allies … or do anything that makes sense.
No. He … has mercenaries break into the Gallows, kidnap the knight-commander and publicly hang him … an act which simultaneously removes the man who had enough integrity to want to stay out of political disputes and gives the Templars reason to attack him that nobody could criticise.
Then, on top of that, the captain of Kirkwall’s largest secular fighting force apparently has no idea that any of this is going on, is not even slightly prepared for battle and freaks the fuck out when the Templars show up. There is neither a militia nor mercenaries to guard the Viscount’s Keep or protect him after he’s murdered the knight-commander.
I mean … seriously?
And, oh, wait, what’s this?
Beside the greying knight-commander, Meredith cut an imposing figure: stern, icy and uncompromising. When Guylian gave a command, it was Meredith who enforced it. Her drive and her devotion to her duty made her a bit of a legend among her fellow Templars, and privately, many thought she possessed a hundred times the old knight-commander’s charisma. Many said that it was Meredith who was really the leader of the Templars, despite her junior rank.
– World of Thedas II
Here we have a young and ambitious knight-captain, who apparently has the backing from her troops to attempt a coup and who, importantly, is absolutely willing to fight the viscount.
So … I have to ask. How sure are you that Perrin Threnhold lynched anybody? How likely do you think it is that these ‘mercenaries’ even existed? Don’t you wonder why no one ever says who they were, or what happened to them? What do you think the chances are that the first the viscount heard of his ‘crime’ was when a Templar army arrived on his doorstep?
To follow up, the official history reads:
The templars were hailed as heroes, and even though they wished to remain out of Kirkwall’s affairs, it was now forced upon them. Knight-Commander Meredith appointed Lord Marlowe Dumar as the new viscount in 9:21 Dragon and she has remained influential in the city’s rule ever since.
You’ve really got to admire the gall.
The new knight-commander, Meredith, appointed Marlowe to the seat, much to his surprise. Just before he was crowned, he met in private with the knight-commander at the Gallows. Marlowe was escorted, surrounded by grim Templars, to Meredith’s well-appointed office, and there, she explained her reasons for the choice. Kirkwall was filled with entitled degenerates. Marlowe was different. His family had always been humble. They never grasped for power or gold, never felt that it was owed them. “With my help, you will turn this city around,” she said. We will be allies.
Meredith’s message was clear: Remember who holds the power in Kirkwall. Remember what happened to Threnhold when he overreached. To drive home her point, she presented Marlowe with a small carven ivory box at his coronation. The box contained the Threnhold signet ring, misshapen and crusted with blood. On the inside of the lid were written the words “His fate need not be yours.”
– World of Thedas II
Yep. Those Templars. So eager to retire from politics. Not at all power-hungry, politically motivated thugs (note also the clear indication that they’ve been torturing Threnhold – ‘misshapen and crusted with blood’; think about what they must have done to his hands).
And one final thing:
What happened to Viscount Perrin Threnhold was a travesty. I served in the Keep, and my blood boils when I hear people call him a tyrant. He was a good man who tried his best to free Kirkwall from the control of those who use power for their own purposes. It’s always been that way here, hasn’t it? Long ago it was the Imperium. Then it was the Qunari, then the Orlesians, now the templars… when have we ever ruled ourselves? He tried to kick those templar bastards out and give us real freedom, and what did it get him?
Fictional history is not exactly like real history, of course. For one thing, it’s less random. In the real world, some sources are deliberately preserved and some deliberately destroyed. But there are also things that survive entirely by chance: stuff that was put in someone’s cellar, or in a tomb, or even thrown in a rubbish heap that happened to have the right conditions to preserve something across the centuries.
Every text that appears in a game is put there intentionally. They want us to read it. This text, defending Perrin, was not only put in the game, it was associated with Marlowe Dumar. Marlowe is the victim of Meredith personally, and of the Chantry in general. He is a good, if not especially strong, man who is destroyed by the machinations of the Chantry. We are meant to read this, to look at Marlowe, and then to think about Perrin Threnhold.
So, in answer to your question … I’m not forgetting about Perrin Threnhold. Doubting might be a word for what I’m doing. Calling utter bullshit on the whole thing would be several words. But forgetting? No.
Remember Perrin Threnhold. Remember the Arishok. Remember Marlowe and Seamus Dumar. Remember Orsino. Remember the mages, the Tranquil, the elves, the Qunari, the Fereldan refugees.
And fuck Meredith, fuck Elthina and fuck the fucking Chantry.