our 'arguments with the orlesians are a thing of the past'

anonymous asked:

(1/3)There is something I have noticed about the Cullen critical arguments in DA2/DA:I. They mostly object to Cullen's "support" of Meredith's questionable conduct in Kirkwall. But Samson (who had no reason to lie) later reveals that Cullen was never as overenthusiastic in the treatment of magi as Meredith, and he is seen disagreeing with her in private if Hawke sides with the Templars. So all Cullen did not do was publicly condemn his superior, or leave her service. But wouldn't Cullen also h..

(2/3)..ave to renege against Inquisitor Dirthara by that standard? If she caught him publicly badmouthing her, or if he stormed off after IHW (leaving the inquisition ill-prepared to defend Haven or storm adamant), wouldn’t your Lavellan be V. cross? Meredith’s leadership was arguably sub-optimal, but kirkwall did need the templars. The city needed protection from the nearby Dalish clan, the demonic incursions and so on. If Cullen should have betrayed Meredith because he disagreed with her (wh..

(3/3)…ich he ultimately did, when she proved her unsuitability for her position in act 3), Shouldn’t he also have betrayed your Inq? Instead, he does for her what he did for Meredith; follow orders, publicly support, and voices his concerns in private. He knows that Thedas needs the Inquisition to protect it from Corypheus, just as Kirkwall needed templars to protect it from Dalish/abominations/demons. It seems unfair to condemn him for that behaviour with Merideth, but demand it for Dirthara.

Hi, Anonymous person! I’m just going to take a moment to be impressed that Tumblr let me receive three whole messages in a row. That’s got to be a record. Good job, Tumblr!

Now I’ve done with that … um. What? I’ve read this several times, Anonymous person, and I’ve no idea what I’m supposed to take away from it. I’m caught between horror and bewilderment here.

Okay – point one. Dirthara Lavellan, as per my previous, somewhat snarky post, is not demanding Cullen’s support, loyalty, friendship or service. What she’s demanding is that he answer for his crimes. In short, she would like to sack him, put him on trial and quite possibly put his head on a pike outside of Skyhold’s gates. I suspect that makes a lot of the ‘but it isn’t fair’ redundant.

Beyond that … yes, I fucking think Cullen should have turned on Meredith. I think his failure to do so was criminal negligence. More than that, I think that Cullen’s ‘concern’ over Meredith was to do with her deterioration after her exposure to red lyrium. That’s a legitimate concern, yes, but indicates that he was not particularly concerned with Meredith prior to that, which means he’s a bloody awful person.

Let’s break this down, shall we?

1) Meredith Stannard was a violent criminal.

Let’s be clear on this. This isn’t a case of Meredith painting the Circle breakfast room puce on a whim, and Cullen gently taking her aside to tell her that maybe she should consider something a bit less confrontational for the non-morning people among them, because he doesn’t want to embarrass her in front of the troops.

Even by the (appallingly lax!) standards of the Chantry, Meredith was a criminal. She and Grand Cleric Elthina conspired to overthrow the legitimate viscount of Kirkwall because he opposed Orlesian trade interests, and the Chantry’s ties to the Orlesian empire are strong. They installed a puppet viscount in his place, whose life Meredith was directly threatening. Meredith was functionally ruling the city well before the Qunari uprising.

She was making Harrowed mages Tranquil, and using the Rite of Tranquility as a punishment. Those are just the ones you get to know. Do a couple of laps of the Gallows courtyard, and you’ll hear enough horror stories to curdle your blood, and Cullen himself will admit that Meredith wielded the brand like she was handing out detention slips.

In addition to this, the Gallows mages (and Tranquil) were subjected to beatings, rapes, imprisonment in their cells, starvation and drugging.

We’re a little past ‘Shh, don’t embarrass the boss in public’, don’t you think?

Cullen ‘Just Following Orders’ Rutherford. Bloody lovely.

2) Cullen is a violent bigot, all on his own.

Cullen was originally sent to the Kirkwall Circle because ‘it became clear that he would go to any lengths to enforce the Chantry’s rule’, which means his temperament is far better suited to the (Notorious! Even the Hossberg mages think Kirkwall is fucked up!) Kirkwall Circle. He is a zealot who does not believe that mages count as people. That he’s exactly Meredith’s kind of thug is made clear by his rapid promotion: he’s her second in command. He’s the kind of person she likes.

He recommends the use of violence against the Mage Underground. You know: the good guys. The people who are trying to rescue the poor bastards trapped in the Gallows. Brave mages and their allies. He also clearly puts his thoughts into action. When you meet first meet him in the Enemies Among Us quest, he’s drawn his sword on a Templar recruit. Wilmod is possessed, of course, but Cullen doesn’t know that. No, he thinks Wilmod might be helping runaway mages. He’s personally taking the fight to the Underground.

You can actually bring him evidence of Ser Alrik’s plan to make all mages Tranquil, and he defends the man and says there are arguments to expand the use of Tranquility. Remember that he is saying there are arguments for destroying the minds and dreams of his hapless prisoners to make them more biddable slaves. That’s Tranquility.

Look. I know Inquisition tries to downplay Cullen’s involvement. It allows his version of events to stand unchallenged, and uses characters like Varric and Cole as mouthpieces to assure us that he’s a great guy really, when they’re the exact characters who would know better. It doesn’t let the Inquisitor seriously challenge him on his bullshit. That’s … basically what I was complaining about in my previous post.

But … come on. Maybe he never wielded the whip himself – I don’t know. And sure, I can believe that in the last months of her life Meredith had everyone operating on the kind of need-to-know basis that makes life impossible. But Cullen was Meredith’s second for six years. He held that position when Meredith was a perfectly functional tyrant. You can’t expect me to believe that he knew nothing about the day-to-day operations of his own damn workplace – you can’t fucking miss floggings and Tranquility, just for a start. Moreover, only Meredith stood over him in the Circle. He outranked people like Karras and Alrik. Murderers, sadists and rapists make up the upper ranks of the Kirkwall Templars. And Cullen never lifts a damn finger to stop them. No, he just wants to contain the mage ‘threat’.

And top of all that? He participates in an Annulment. That’s the point of no return. I like a good redemption story as much as the next person – but the very last chance Cullen had to do the right thing was when Meredith declared she was going to murder a tower full of innocent people. He could have gone to Hawke then. He didn’t. You do that? You walk into that building at Meredith’s side? There’s no coming back from that, and let’s be clear: privately disagreeing with her counts for absolutely nothing.

3) There are better Templars in Kirkwall than Cullen.

I’m anti-Templar in general, but I don’t want to be unfair. There’s a spectrum, here – Meredith’s brute squad (Cullen, Karras, Alrik and their ilk) at one end, and less culpable people at the other.

Act 3? Keran walks. Sometimes, if you haven’t got the power to stop something, all you can do is not participate. At least he had the courage to do that much.

Thrask? I don’t buy the ‘Templars protect mages’ bullshit for a second, although I can accept that he does. But at least he tried to act against Meredith. At least he tried to stand between the mages and the worst of the Templars. And who turns up to stop his conspiracy? Whom does Hawke have to beg to spare the mages? Meredith’s boy Cullen, that’s who.

Samson has issues of his own, of course, but at least he gets what he did wrong as a Templar. He articulates it, and expresses regret and remorse for it, in a way that Cullen never does. If I had to have a Templar as a military advisor, I wish they’d given me Samson. Reversing Cullen and Samson’s roles would have made so much more sense.

And then there’s Emeric. Quite possibly the only Templar in Kirkwall actually doing his damn job, while the rest of them variously stand around looking decorative, terrorise Kirkwall’s citizens and torture mages.

And just for an encore, let’s go the other way. Alrik is a truly terrible human being, but he’s also a proactive, getting-stuff-done kind of guy. Sent a letter all the way to the Divine, trying to get his scheme pushed through. What – Cullen couldn’t have lifted a pen to tell our young, vital, radical, pro-mage Divine that Knight-Commander Meredith was murdering and torturing her charges and something had to be done? Of course he could have. But he didn’t. Because he was fine with Meredith until she started talking to the damn walls.

Even in Inquisition he claims she kept people safe, which is such a big lie I have difficulty believing my Hawke wouldn’t come all the way back from Weisshaupt just to put an arrow through his heart for uttering it.

Changing tack here:

Kirkwall does not need Templars. I feel like this needs to be in all caps. Maybe bold and italics, too. KIRKWALL DOES NOT NEED TEMPLARS. Nowhere needs Templars. A religion should never have a private army. Never, ever, ever. The Templars are kidnappers. Murderers. Enforcers of the fucking faith. I mean – the best thing you can say about them is that they’re notoriously useless at doing a lot of what they’re ‘supposed’ to do. My favourite bit from Last Flight is Calien’s backstory, i.e, that time the Templars got the Antivan Crows to go mage hunting, because they were too scared to do it.

Emeric gets points for being the only Templar in Kirkwall to actually attempt to pursue a genuine maleficar.

Kirkwall has a city guard, if it needs defence (and surely you didn’t seriously mean to suggest that the Templars ‘need’ to exist to protect people from the wandering elven nomads whose land the Chantry stole in the first place?), and if it has deficiencies that’s an argument for improving the guard, not empowering a private army.

As I pointed out earlier – Meredith and Elthina conducted a coup, and the Templar Order is illegally in control of Kirkwall even before the start of Dragon Age II. The Templars are just the biggest, scariest criminal organisation in Kirkwall (to borrow from Varric – between the Chantry, the Carta and the Coterie …), one of a long succession of occupying forces, because Kirkwall is messed up like that.

Knight-Captain Cullen is a high-ranking officer in that criminal gang, which is less an argument in his defence than a very good reason he should be on trial.

And finally …

Shouldn’t he also have betrayed your Inq?

This part actually made me laugh. Isn’t that how these games work? Isn’t the approval system on companions one of their defining attributes? You can befriend them and fall in love; likewise you can disagree to the point where you end up crossing blades. You can drive these people away forever.

While I’d like to put Cullen on trial for his damn life, I’ll settle for this.

Dirthara: *recruits the mages*

Cullen: *disapproves* -5000, leaves your party permanently.

Dirthara: *does a victory lap around Haven, and promptly promotes Krem to the position of military advisor, because at least he has actual combat experience*

Where’s the downside?

The thing is? In Inquisition Cullen has learned nothing. He throws a tantrum if you recruit the mages, and another one if you refuse to betray them by reinstating the Templars as their gaolers. He advocates for Gaspard as ruler or Orlais (which, from a Fereldan, is just inexcusably stupid since Gaspard has expansionist aims). He defends Meredith. I’ve seen YouTube footage of his romance with a mage, and he takes the ‘not like other mages’ tack, which is grotesque. He believes Circles should be restored (with mages only working outside under supervision).

He’s given this whole new life, with power and respect and friendship on a silver platter, and he’s never even challenged on the horrible things he’s done.

I can murder Anders, sell Fenris back to slavery, butcher Wynne in an Annulment, drive Sera away – pick dialogue options that deliver the most cruel lines to my companions. But my poor Dalish Inquisitor can’t look Cullen in the eye and tell him to fuck right off.


There’s my gripe.

All I Ask of You: Scene One

All I Ask of You
Cullen/Female Mage Trevelyan
This Scene SFW
Companion to As the World Falls Down

Cullen is not in a charitable mood.

Note: This is a “proof of concept” chapter, in which I test to see whether I’ve got Cullen’s POV down. It isn’t going up on AO3 yet, and the next chapters won’t follow for a bit. I’m feeling things out at the moment.

What I really need is a sense of whether I “got” Cullen. That will help me pull the rest of the story together. <3

Keep reading

anonymous asked:

Personally... I feel that WEaWH tries to remove itself from TME because it realizes that TME is fucking irredeemable garbage, and tries to make its WLW representation less appalling. So I'm entirely willing to overlook continuity errors for the sake of one relationship between women in the entire series that can go well.

I’m sorry, but I don’t believe that. I’m not going to argue with you on the merits of The Masked Empire, as you’re entitled to like or dislike any media you choose, but I don’t think Bioware is trying to distance itself from the novel. I also don’t think their motive is positive representation, or that they’re seriously suggesting a happy ending. However, even if they were I would call the choice to reunite Celene and Briala without any serious examination of the issues that drove them apart … disquieting.

1) On distancing themselves from the novel.

To begin with the obvious, several of the Dragon Age novels provide not only context for the quests in Inquisition, but also promotional material maintaining audience interest between games.

It’s hardly an accident that Asunder is a prequel to In Hushed Whispers/Champions of the Just, The Masked Empire is a prequel to Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts (as well as giving you a roundabout introduction to Solas) and Last Flight provides you with some context on why Weisshaupt is just no help at all during Here Lies the Abyss.

They do kind of want you to buy all their stuff. And if you started with Inquisition and liked what you saw, they want you to run back and buy all the earlier stuff for context. Video game tie-in novels aren’t generally considered high art, so they’d need serious reasons to want to reject the novel as part of their canon. Just in case, I checked The Masked Empire’s Amazon page, and it’s currently got 4.4 stars – so it doesn’t look like something they’d be particularly desperate to ignore. They’d rather you bought it and gave them money.

To move more to the specific, the game references the novel constantly. In addition to devoting a whole main quest to resolving its plot, it also includes cameos from Mihris, Michel and Imshael, which really serve no other purpose than to provide a bit of closure to the people who read the novel and wondered what became of them. This is actually more than it provides for, say, the characters of Asunder: Rhys and Evangeline appear only in a war table mission, Adrian doesn’t appear at all – and who knows where Shale has wandered off to.

It also references the murder of Briala’s parents directly:

Cole: She’s still behind the curtains in the reading room, watching the blood pool on the floor.

Briala pulled the red velvet curtain aside. Her hands shook as she did. There was a pool of red on the floor of the reading room, staining the rich Nevarran carpet. It had spread almost to the curtain.

At the other end of the pool were Briala’s parents.

The Masked Empire

If they really wanted to distance themselves from The Masked Empire, they wouldn’t put that in there. If they wanted to say that that this didn’t happen, they’d have retconned the story – or at the very least not mentioned it.

In fact, the choice of words is particularly distressing. Cole senses pain. When he says Briala is ‘still behind the curtains’ he’s emphasising that the trauma and anguish are still very much with her, making a reconciliation, particularly a reconciliation that utterly fails to address a thing that they have confirmed happened, even stranger.

 I would say that one motive for their choice to reconcile the two characters is simplicity. I like parts of Inquisition, but honestly it’s over ambitious. They set up a series of continent-wide catastrophes, each one intensely political: the mage rebellion, the Orlesian civil war, the collapse of the Chantry.

Each one probably requires its own game for a satisfactory solution. I realise they were probably going for something similar to the galaxy-wide political collapse in Mass Effect 3, but the Dragon Age games are at a serious disadvantage because they lack continuity of characters.

Mass Effect 3 had its own problems, of course, but for example – I think most people have fun curing the genophage for the krogan. But what they remember is Mordin Solus and ‘There’s a reaper in my way, Wrex!’ When it worked it was able to build on characters who were present across the series.

Inquisition is faced with trying to find resolutions for groups of people that have no direct connection to each other, and whom the protagonist has never seen before (even if they player has). This is hardly the only time their attempt to fix everything in a single quest ends up making no sense.

2) On positive representation

I’m afraid I don’t think what we get in Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts is especially positive. I think it’s … kind of infantilising, really, and has a whiff of sexism about it. I mean – again, I’m not asking you to like The Masked Empire. But this:

“It would have been a locked suite in the palace for a few years, nothing more!” Celene kept her voice low, aware that Michel and Felassan had stopped planning and were looking their way. “It would have changed nothing for us.”

“Your hair still stinks of the smoke from the people you burned,” Briala said. “That is a change.”

The dead leaves crackled under Celene’s feet as she stepped forward. “How many wars can our empire survive in such a short time? I wanted my legacy to be the university, the beauty and culture that made us the envy of the world. Instead I may be known as the empress under whom Orlais fell. You have the luxury of mourning Halamshiral’s elves and holding my heart hostage. Sitting on my throne, I see every city in the empire. If I must burn one to save the rest, I will weep, but I will light the torch.”

Briala swallowed. “You’re not weeping, as far as I can tell. Nor are you sitting on your throne. She stepped away, her movements fast and jerky. “With your permission, Your Radiance, I shall go indulge myself in my luxury.”

The Masked Empire

… is at least an argument between adults, with the details of what they believe laid out. Celene honestly believes that the empire and her legacy are worth 'a few thousand elven lives’: she believes that maintaining the strength of Orlais is worth thousands of lives in sacrifice, as is the vision she has for the country’s future. Briala is facing up to the fact that this is the bargain she’s made: stay with Celene and she might see an elven scholar graduate from the university – but she’ll likely also see elves burn every time there’s a crisis, because elves are the most expendable people in the empire.

Briala wavers throughout the novel, obviously, because there is genuine feeling between herself and Celene. But the discovery that this has all happened before, that this is not the first time Celene has shed elven blood to impress her rivals and gain power, and that her own parents were among the victims, brings her to a decision.

You don’t have to like it, but these women are serious about what they want and believe.

But in Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts we get stuff like this:

Sera: Elves-elves-elves, but it’s really a pissing match with an old lover. Don’t know the rest but that explains a lot.

It’s hardly coincidental that they chose Sera to say this. Sera the commoner, who despises the nobility. Sera the Red Jenny, with contacts in every corner of Thedas. True, Sera’s background has led her to reject a lot of elven culture, but her biggest objection is usually to ‘moping’ about the past. This:

Briala thought for a moment. “Celene and Gaspard saw an army, but that would be fighting their fight. With the paths, I could get food to alienages where elves would otherwise starve. They would let me move ahead of an oncoming army and warn the target, or move behind them and attack their supply lines.”

The Masked Empire

… sounds more like the practical stuff she favours: she’s said getting revenge would be a preferable option, and this is getting food to the poor, terrorising the nobility and giving little people a shot at being part of something bigger. But now we can’t take it seriously, because Sera has reduced it to a lovers’ tiff.

That isn’t meant as a criticism of Sera, to be clear. They do this when they want a mouthpiece. This is the equivalent of having Cole approve of Cullen.

And as for it going well, this is their epilogue slide:

Where once war raged, there is now a shaky peace. Orlais is resurgent, the empress a patron of arts and culture.

Many attribute this recovery to her lady love, though others wonder how long their reunion will truly last.

Epilogue (Inquisition)

I mean – maybe they’ll forget about this. They have been known to forget their epilogue slides. But it doesn’t read as though the intent was to write a strong and loving partnership. Rather it looks as though they are selling the relationship as tempestuous.

That’s one place where I am very uncomfortable. This is the revolt of an oppressed people, and the politics an empire. And there’s a sense that they’re saying ‘Oh, those women and their emotions! Today they love each other; tomorrow they’ll hate each other; the day after they’ll probably love each other again. You never know, with women.’

I appreciate that Bioware is fairly progressive, for a game company: the character choices, the romance options, the NPCs – they are trying to represent a variety of races, genders and sexualities. But it doesn’t mean they never fuck up. I mean, there’s a bit in Mark of the Assassin where Isabela tells Hawke that Gamlen has been sexually harassing her and two responses blame her (You find something inappropriate?/Break him. And wear pants.).

Given that they are already struggling to resolve a massive plotline in a ridiculous amount of time, I’m not surprised they fell back on this. It’s narrative shorthand, and that can be handy for desperate situations. But it’s still sexist shorthand, and I very much wish they hadn’t done it.

3) Removing The Masked Empire from the equation doesn’t solve the problem

I mean, it makes some of the bigger issues like Briala’s dead parents a little easier to miss, sure, but it doesn’t make the problems go away.

I appreciate that representation is important. I do. But romantic relationships between women are not the only representation issue at stake, here. There’s no single source for the elven people, of course, but it’s easy enough to see that Bioware has borrowed from the experiences of Jewish, Romani and aboriginal peoples living under empires and/or colonialism.

And have we ever established that it is shit to be an elf. The city elf origin story in Origins is an abduction/rape/murder combo. The Dalish clans in Origins and DA2 can be slaughtered. It’s terrifyingly easy to kill off clan Lavellan in war table missions, and even though this is the protagonist’s family the game doesn’t make a thing of it. There’s a whole side quest in DA2 about a serial killer who targets elves, and who keeps getting away with it because no one gives a shit. We are up to our eyeballs in codex entries on the treatment of elves.

And here we have Briala, the leader of a rebellion in Orlais – one of the nations best known for oppressing the fuck out of the elves and trying to destroy their culture.

Even without The Masked Empire this is:

a) providing only the most minimal description of the nature of her rebellion and what she hopes to achieve.

b) allowing her to be dismissed as primarily involved in a lovers’ tiff.

c) pairing her with a woman the game actually says massacred the Halamshiral elves.

d) using the massacre as evidence against her because she was sleeping with Celene, rather than as evidence against the woman who actually committed it.

That’s … all pretty shitty, even at the simplest level. The game doesn’t address any of this. It doesn’t even force the characters to discuss what happened before throwing them back together. It spends as much time tsking at Briala for destabilising Orlais as it does Celene and Gaspard. It loves the idea that they’re all as bad as each other – which allows the player to justify just about any ending.

And this is a thing they do repeatedly: they tsk at the mage rebellion as well. They seem to be very good at describing the sufferings of the elves, the mages, the casteless dwarves … but don’t approve of them actually doing anything about their oppression. At least not anything more forceful than writing a stern letter of complaint (for those lucky literate characters!) to the local lord or revered mother.

And so minimising the problems of Celene and Briala’s relationship, and waving a locket around (which, even out of context, does not seem like a forceful enough declaration of love to startle Briala) does … not strike me as very respectful of peoples who have suffered under empires, and who have had to fight tooth and nail for every sliver of justice.

It’s not that I want to exclude a healthy, positive romance between two women in order to have Awesome Revolutionary Briala. I just don’t understand why we couldn’t have both.

Couldn’t Briala show up with a new girlfriend? Do it properly: give her a codex entry and make her active and important in the quest. Show the two of them both being affectionate and working together for the cause. Make sure that at least some of the possible quest endings leave them alive, together and continuing to better the lot of the elves.

I can understand that you may not like The Masked Empire and may want to exclude it from your personal headcanon. That’s absolutely fine, obviously. But I do not believe that was Bioware’s intent in writing the the Briala-and-Celene reconciliation, and I still have serious issues with it.