I’ve been thinking.
About the whole genderbending thing someone brought up in regards to Isabela (I’m sorry, I can’t remember who because I can’t find the post in my likes), and how in some cases genderbending her ruins her character, as a sex-positive woman who is open and unashamed of being sexual and sexy.
I agree with that sentiment, more than I’d realized before reading that post.
Anders would have been instantly forgiven. Fenris would be a poor tragic heroine that needed rescuing. And Sebastian would have been a the chaste princess in the tower.
Tumblrversary Giveaway Thingy
It has been one year since I first discovered tumblr. This place and all of you mean a great deal to me, and I wanted to find a fun way of saying “thanks”. So, I’m doing a little giveaway of—what else?—DA2 goodies.
This will run until Monday, July 16 at 8:00 pm EDT, at which timeI will randomly select one winner for each of the following prizes (three winners total):
- First Prize - A limited edition lithograph of the Kirkwall Viscount’s Keep, signed and numbered by the artist, Steve Klit.
- Second Prize: A ceramic Kirkwall coffee mug and a deck of DA2 playing cards.
- Third Prize - A black nickel-plated Kirkwall amulet and a black and gold embroidered Kirkwall patch.
- To enter: like and/or reblog this post.
- Each person can have up to two chances to win: a like counts as one entry, a reblog as another. Additional reblogs do not increase chances.
- This is for my followers only.
- I will ship anywhere.
- Must enter before Monday, July 16th at 8:00 pm EDT.
The Counter-Manifesto: How Mages are Destroying Thedas, and What This Could Mean for DA3
The following is an essay that is the result of extensive playing, reading and Codex research. Please keep in mind the unreliable nature of many of these sources; they can be written from unreliable and biased POV’s, can be interpreted incorrectly, or be extrapolated poorly. I highly encourage civil discussion, debate, and disagreement, as well as presentation of facts I may have misinterpreted or overlooked. This deals with spoilers for Dragon Age: Origins, Awakening, Witch Hunt, Dragon Age 2, Legacy DLC, the Silent Grove and Asunder. The entire essay is 2300+ words; the majority of it is beyond the cut.
Special thanks to Reg for her help!
Mages in Thedas, mainly in non-Tevinter lands, are treated like pre-emptive criminals from their manifestation onward. They are rounded up, locked in towers or prisons, made Tranquil or killed. In the course of the Dragon Age games, you have two major decisions regarding the extermination of a large group of mages, ignoring all the smaller choices of mage life and death. In Origins, your words to the Knight Commander will doom or save the mages, though you do not actively participate in that massacre. In Dragon Age 2, however, the culmination of the game hinges upon your choice to protect or annul the Circle.
As a fandom, this is an oft-debated choice that usually ends with similar conclusions: in a nutshell, the mages are mortal (human and elven) beings who are unfairly oppressed. Some fans are kinder towards the templars as well; after all, they are not only indoctrinated, but also oppressed themselves by the Chantry, which feeds them lyrium until their addictions addle their brains and make them useless for little more than door guards. However, in the course of my personal attempts at lore-heavy character study, I have found that there is actually another facet that must be explored, which drastically affects the moral implications of your choice:
Mages, as they are presently, are responsible for the systemic destruction of both the Fade and Thedas, making their massacre a more complex conundrum than the oppressed versus the privileged oppressed. Namely, that the issue of survival of life as a whole hinges upon the sacrifice of a large portion of the population for something they have very little control over (sans divine intervention).
This clearly and concisely summarizes so many items of canon lore that have made me interpret magic and mages in a manner that often felt at odds with fandom. Here’s the problem: while it is plainly easy to see the oppression that mages under the Andrastrian Chantry system suffer, merely focusing on mages as similar to or symbolic of oppressed people here on earth oversimplifies the conflict that makes Thedas an interesting world. (Sadly, it also creates a broken aesop that, to be honest, can be very offensive to oppressed people, imho.)
I’ve often felt that magic and mages are metaphors of industrialization (and the oppression we see are examples of imperialism regarding resource use). Your essay strongly supports this point of view, particularly your conclusion that “it seems that there is some sort of ‘event’ necessary to push everything back into balance. Without this, magic will continue to tear the worlds apart.”
First of all - yes, the original post is absolutely worth a read. I love taking the lore of DA to actually take a look at the way magic works, rather than getting stuck in the endless loop of personal oppression. I think most everyone - a few outliers aside - would agree that the way the Chantry treats mages at the current point in history is wrong, that it has actively made the whole situation worse over the years. That treating people like criminals simply for an accident of birth is wrong. That killing a whole group of people for the sins of one or two is wrong, that lobotomizing people for simply disagreeing or making a mistake is wrong.
But that doesn’t change the fact that magic itself seems to be doing harm to the world, and that leaving that much flawed power to the whims of human nature is going to do some serious damage. And I’m really interested in using industrialization as a metaphor - it seems a lot less problematic than the usual metaphors people use. Because industrialization isn’t a bad thing! Progress, using the talents and powers available to you is great! The problems arise when large groups of people co-opt those talents and powers to assert their dominance over others. It’s a good description of the Chantry, and of the magisters in the Imperium.
There’s no easy answer to the problem. That’s one of the reasons the DA universe is so compelling. But it’s nice to discuss the problems without having to resort to talking about why one particular character is right and another particular character is wrong. The whole thing is way more complicated than that.
minorearth asked: Teagan/Marian Hawke, when he’s in Kirkwall to retrieve drunk!Alistair.
She was younger than he’d expected, this young woman from Ferelden, this Champion of Kirkwall. Young, and strikingly beautiful, with her careless knot of black hair, cool blue eyes, and the blood-red tattoo over the bridge of her nose, calling attention to the slight crookedness there – an old injury – that was her one visible flaw. Her eyes saw more than just the surface of things, he was sure, having seen such wary, watchful eyes before. She reminded him of the Hero of Ferelden, though they were entirely unlike physically – tall broad-shouldered young human warrior compared to slight elf, black hair to blond, blue eyes to green, fair skin to dark. But something about the way she carried herself, her awareness of all that went on around her – that was the same.
“I’ve been told you can help me,” he said. “I’m looking for a man.”
One of her eyebrows arched high. “You can find one of those at the Blooming Rose easily enough, I’m sure,” she said.
He smiled, just slightly. More alike to the Hero than he’d thought, the same acid humour. “A specific man. I’ve been told you know, or at least know of, or can find out about, every Ferelden living in Kirkwall. The one I’m looking for is named Alistair…”
“Oh, him,” she said, and sounded almost disappointed. “Big, blond, perpetually drunken, and says he was once almost the King of Ferelden?”
“That would be him,” Teagan agreed, resignedly. “Can you lead me to him?”
“Of course,” she said. “For a few coin – I don’t work for free.”
He nodded, unsurprised, and paid her the gold necessary to find his man.
“What do you want the drunken git for anyway?” she thought to ask, later, as she led the way through the twisting streets of Lowtown.
Bann Teagan smiled. “To put him on his father’s throne.” And to her look of surprise, “He may be many things, but Alistair has never been a liar.”
This is awesome! <3
minorearth asked: Bethany, Varric, and Aveline. Doing something when Hawke isn’t present.
It took all three of them to arrange it. Varric’s contacts, Aveline’s influence, and Bethany’s good behaviour. Bethany smiled as the door closed behind her, Guard-Captain Cullen’s footsteps already fading away, he having undertaken to personally escort her there and pass her over into Aveline’s custody for the night.
“Thank you,” Bethany said, hugging the other woman tightly. “How’s she been?”
Aveline sighed, and frowned unhappily. “Not well,” she said. “Between your mother’s death, and that fight with the Arishok…”
Bethany nodded sadly. She’d been allowed to attend the funeral, but surrounded by templars as she’d been, there’d been no chance to talk with her sister. And then the fight, so soon afterwards… Marian had nearly died, she knew. Had been weeks in recovering, even with a talented healer on hand.
“Where is she?” she asked, a touch worriedly.
“Out,” Varric spoke from behind Aveline, and came forward to claim a hug from Bethany. “Somewhere on the Wounded Coast, with Anders, Sebastian and Fenris. I told them to make sure she stayed out all day, but to get her back here in time for dinner, no matter how many smugglers and abominations they had to kill to pull it off. And I managed to get together everything you wanted. Even fresh peas, though the lamb is mutton. And rather elderly mutton at that.”
“Thank you,” Bethany said warmly.
“So… could you use a scullion?” he asked, and grinned widely. “Bow may be my preferred weapon, but I do know my way around a knife…”
“As do I,” Aveline pointed out. “And unlike the dwarf I actually know all the right recipes, too.”
“You can both help,” Bethany assured them. “You’ve both helped so much already,” she said, and then her eyes filled with tears, and she had to hug both of them again before the three of them retired to the kitchen.
When a very tired Marian returned later that day from another day of adventuring, it was to find the house filled with the smells of home – Ferelden lamb and pea stew, fresh-baked brown bread, and a sticky pudding to follow. And best of all, her sister there, and able to spend the night, in talk and in tears, and most importantly of all to Marian, in reconciliation.
It hurt to say good-bye the next morning, to hug her and then watch her walk off at Cullen’s side, back to the Gallows… but it was a good hurt, and for the first time in weeks, Marian felt good too. Circumstances might keep her and Bethany apart now… but never again would she doubt her sister’s love.
Anonymous asked: Anders/Bethany or Anders/Isabela!
He knew she was there before she spoke, her presence a tingle in his senses, a warmth, a direction, like how sunburnt skin could feel the direction of the sun, or a compass needle point unerringly to the south.
“Bethany,” he said, before he turned around.
She had changed; her stance more upright, her face a touch more placid than it had been in the past, before the Deep Roads Before she’d almost died, due to her foolishness, and her sister’s. She had not changed in that she was still one of the most strikingly beautiful women he’d even seen, and he had seen his share of lovely faces in his years of travel. She had Leandra’s strong, stubborn chin and her sister’s midnight black hair, and brown eyes not unlike his own in colour. A touch darker, and where formally – before the Deep Roads, so many years ago – they had been warm eyes, the look she turned on him now was cool and detached.
“Anders,” she said, and walked closer, stopping a few steps away. She glanced around the clinic, frowning slightly. “I had forgotten what a dank miserable hole this place was,” she said, and turned to look at him again. “Almost as nasty a place as the Deep Roads are.”
He sighed, and leaned back against the work bench behind him – carefully, it was not the most stable or sturdy of surfaces, but the only one he had – and crossed his arms. “I take it you’ve been spending your fair share of time down deep dark holes fighting darkspawn, then,” he said. “The Deep Roads were never my favourite place. I’m still not entirely sure how Hawke managed to talk me into going down into them yet again.”
She snorted. “She’s always been good at getting her way; getting what she wants. Never mind what the rest of us might desire. I hear she’s done well for herself, off the gold my near death brought her.”
Anders winced. “And for your mother, as well,” he felt obliged to point out. “Who misses you dreadfully, by the way. Have you been to see her?”
“No,” she said, and turned away. “I don’t plan to go see her. Nor my sister. They are no longer part of my life,” she said, bitterly. “Mother has the mansion and wealth she always dreamed of, Marian has status and power and…” she broke off, turned back to him. “That’s not what I came here about.”
“What did you come here about then?” he asked, perplexed.
“I wanted to talk to you,” she said, and folded her hands in front of her, neatly, against the blue and grey stripes of her uniform. “Imagine my surprise when the wardens I was with happened to visit Vigil’s Keep in Ferelden, and I found that people there knew you. And thought you were dead,” she added, an angry snap in her voice. “They talk about you still, you know – how cheerful you were. How nice. How good a friend you were. Some even talk about how much they loved you,” she all but hissed, eyes narrowing sharply. “You ran away and let them think you were dead, Anders… how could you do that? They were your friends!”
“I didn’t have any choice,” he said, numbly, then gave her a half-frightened look. “You didn’t tell them I was alive, did you?”
“No. I wanted to speak with you first. Find out why. Find out if you plan to do it again; run away, and leave people who love you behind. I swear, if you hurt Marian that way…”
“Marian?” he interrupted, surprised. “Marian doesn’t love me. She wouldn’t care two spoons if I disappeared, other than how annoying it would be to have to try and find another healer,” he added, a touch bitterly. “No, she’s quite happily shacked up with Isabela.”
The look of stunned astonishment on her face was almost enough to make him smile. He shifted position, re-folded his arms. “You’re right about her usually getting what she wants, but it was never me she wanted.”
“And do you regret that?” she asked, faintly.
“No,” he said, then straightened up, arms dropping to his sides. “It was never her I was looking at,” he explained, very softly.
“Oh,” she said, equally softly. A silence fell between them, as she looked searchingly at him. “I should go,” she said, abruptly, turned, and started to walk away.
He felt a pang at that. “Bethany,” he called out.
She stopped, but did not look back.
“If you ever want answers to the questions you asked… I will answer them. But only to you.”
She nodded, once, stiffly, then left. He waited until the tingle of her against his senses was gone entirely before he finally sighed, and turned back to his work.
Happy Birthday DA2: There’s Power in Stories
In honor of Dragon Age 2’s one-year anniversary, I thought I’d dust off my meta-pen and write up some thoughts about why, to me, this game has such staying power. Alas, I’m a little rusty — maybe it’s high time I did another meta-essay challenge :)
Vladimir Nabokov, my all-time favorite author, liked to say that literature was not for the casual reader. “One cannot read a good book: one can only re-read it,” he writes in his 1948 essay, “Good Readers and Good Writers”. “A good reader, a major reader, an active and creative reader is a re-reader.”
That mindset is obvious in the way he wrote his labyrinthine novels; while certainly you can enjoy The Real Life of Sebastian Knight or Invitation to a Beheading well enough the first time through, it’s not until the second or third reading that you begin to tease out the intricate patterns in the plot, the hidden codes, the jokes. (V-Dawg was the strangest sort of comedian in that his jokes were only funny if you already knew the punchline.) Nabokov himself blamed this perceptive delay on the physicality of reading, something that doesn’t necessarily occur when, say, viewing a painting or sculpture:
When we read a book for the first time the very process of laboriously moving our eyes from left to right, line after line, page after page, this complicated physical work upon the book, the very process of learning in terms of space and time what the book is about, this stands between us and artistic appreciation.
I would argue the same is true, maybe even moreso, for videogames. The first time you play a game, the physical mechanics of play—that is, learning button combinations, optimizing your party tactics, figuring out the best boss strategies—will inherently interfere with or overshadow your understanding of the game’s story. You can get so caught up in finding all the Figments in Psychonauts, for example, that you forget to actually look at the ones you collect. It’s only on the second and third playthroughs that you actually start to notice the shapes of those Figments, and you realize that not only do they contain massive spoilers for the end-game, but they also tend to be really goddamned freaky, because people’s imaginations are, well, really goddamned freaky.
This low signal-to-noise ratio is just the cost of doing business in creative pursuits, and most games writers, I imagine, go into their endeavor expecting that much of their story will be lost by the majority of players. Yet thankfully that doesn’t stop them from being brilliant, because there will always be that small segment of players who are good players, major players, active and creative players—who are “re-players”.
Dragon Age 2 is game for re-players.
Line in the Sand
I know I’m not the first to take on this idea, but I’ve had this image in my head for some time, and I’ve wanted to write a take on this scene pretty much since I started doing “Shadows”. Enjoy!
Previous drabble: V is for Vhenan
A chill wind blows, as if the Wounded Coast is sighing, but Carver does not bend his head to block the sting as trudges through the sand and ferns. He is likewise unconcerned by the pre-dawn shadows that surround him. For the raiders or Tal-Vashoth, sunrise is far too early for mischief, or too late; it doesn’t matter, it’s all the same. For any loners, well, there’s always his sword.
He finds a spot, the spot; unremarkable, undetectable except by his eyes alone. The first time he came here, he found a split bivalve sticking out of the sand like a signpost. The next year, it was gone, of course, but he never forgot where it had been, those twin shell halves, pieces of the same whole, empty.
He watches the sun’s rays touch the clouds for a while, turning them first purple, then blue and green and pink, every color and none. Carver never really liked sunrise, and still doesn’t, because usually it means the end of a graveyard watch, or, back in the Athenril days, coming home from a job smelling foul and feeling fouler. A lifetime ago, sunrise meant milking cows and feeding chickens, and a thousand tasks too menial for what their lives truly were. He should have known it was too good to last.
He stretches, feeling suddenly old and stiff, and plops heavily on the ground.
From his pack, he removes a small bottle. He listens to the tide come in and out for a few minutes before unstoppering the bottle. Against the calming rush of the ocean, the resounding pop sounds almost rude.
He takes a sip, then pours out an equal amount on the sand before him.
“Hey, Bethany,” he says as the sun begins to rise over the water.
Excuse me, I’ll just be over here sobbing.