I’m absolutely over-the-moon that one of my first posts, “A Long, Rambly post of the History of Kirkwall”, is still getting passed around, despite its many corrections and edits. That anyone would find my incoherent ramblings about the Dragon Age universe interesting – much less share the conclusions therein with the Author himself– blows my mind and makes me so thankful to be around such likeminded fanboys and fangirls. I love you all.
And because I figured out how to put my long rambles behind a jump, I’ll do that now so I don’t clog up your dash.
Buckle up, kids. This one’s gonna be long.
In case you missed it, earlier today Skyelinepigeon had the opportunity to sit down with David Gaider and pick his brain about a billion things, one of which was the question of Elthina’s hand in Meredith’s succession. In the comments to one of impressioniste’s post, I’d written,
Elthina appointed a no-rank Templar to Knight-Commander because she’d a) demonstrated the ruthlessness to get things done and b) she’d keep mages weak.
I also used Meredith’s appointment as evidence that Elthina was sticking it to the other, more moderate Templars; that since Meredith’s views on mages were probably already well known, given that she’d probably had them or something like them ever since she orphaned by her sister as a young girl, her appointment would be a “a slap in the face to any mage who supported Threnhold’s uprising, a stern reminder that any further insolence will not be tolerated.”
While it is true that Elthina appointed Meredith, it wasn’t true that Meredith had no rank before she was appointed. David Gaider sets the story straight for Skyelinepigeon, telling her,
“It wasn’t like Elthina went eenie, meenie, miney, mo, Meredith is the Knight Commander.” She was Knight-Captain before, and came to power by accident in kind of a freak turn of events after the previous Captain was killed. It just made sense for her to take the position and was not maneuvering by Elthina. Meredith becomes more crazy over time, and Gaider cites the scene asking why she hates mages as crucial for understanding her character.
Well, that sort of settles it. I mean, if Guylian (Knight-Commander, not Knight-Captain) dies, who better to replace him than the next highest-ranking official, Knight-Captain Meredith?
I can’t tell you how exciting it is to be put straight by the author himself. And I mean that seriously. I should be upset I was wrong, right? But shit I’m so excited I can barely froth at my computer screen. I mean, it’s like getting corrected on Tattooine geography by George Lucas, or getting a lesson on dwarven geneaology from Tolkien. I mean, HOLY SHIT. /geekgasm.
Anyway, so where exactly did I get this “no-rank” Templar business from?
I said that I got my information from “The History of Kirkwall, (IIRC)”. Well, alas, I didn’t recall correctly. Going back through my sources, I find that the information appears in the Dragon Age Wiki entry on Kirkwall:
In 9:21 Dragon, Viscount Perrin Threnhold attempted to expel the Templar Order from Kirkwall, killing Knight-Commander Guylian in the raid of the Templar stronghold, only to be overthrown by the Templar Knight Meredith Stannard, who was promoted soon after. With the Chantry’s support, she appointed Marlowe Dumar to succeed Perrin, but commands the true authority in the city from the Gallows.
So according to the Wiki, Meredith was just another Templar Knight. But keep in mind that’s only the wiki, a fan-created encyclopedia, and NOT the original source material.
So yes, I made a bo-bo with my sources. I was wrong. Derp.
But don’t let that fool you. Elthina’s still a wily, manipulative old bat, I stand behind that. And while maybe Meredith’s rise to power wasn’t her doing specifically, it sure has worked out well for her ever since.
Let’s start with Elthina’s actions immediately following the 9:21 uprising, shall we?
In the Codex entry for Meredith Stannard, we see:
The acting knight-commander was arrested and executed,
[Author Note: This actually conflicts with the History of Kirkwall, which states that mercenaries “stormed the Gallows and hung the Knight-Commander Guylian”. Which makes you wonder, is Genitivi, THoK’s author, pulling a Varric and embellishing his history to make it more sympathetic for the Chantry’s position?]
and Meredith led a group of templars into the heart of the Keep to capture Threnhold. He was tried and imprisoned three days later by Grand Cleric Elthina and died from poisoning two years later. Meredith was subsequently elevated to her current position.
So Elthina imprisons Threnhold, and he somehow dies from poisoning two years later, while still imprisoned. You don’t just catch poison. Someone has to poison you. And who would have the best opportunity to poison a prisoner but the jailor?
Oh, I’m not saying Elthina herself slipped some iocane powder into Threnhold’s gruel and watched as he laughed himself to death about land wars in Asia. But I am saying that it was on her watch, on her time, that one of (if not the) most high profile prisoner she has dies.
This, you’ll note, is a pattern with her.
Sister/Mother Petrice believes the Qunari are a menace to Kirkwall. And allow me a slight aside here: Petrice may come off as a First Class Whackadoo in game, but the truth is, she actually has a really good point. Less than 200 years ago, according to THoK – although, granted, we already know that’s a Chantry text and therefore its bias is suspect – the Qunari occupied Kirkwall less than 200 years ago in a horrifically bloody reign that included forced labor camps, children being taken from their families, and forced conversions. No wonder Kirkwall, and especially the Kirkwall Chantry, is shitting itself over the Qunari presence.
We know, for a fact, that Petrice is purposefully trying to inflame passions against the Qunari. She tries to set up an incident where Qunari murder an innocent group of humans aiding a Saarebas (which has its own fascinating implications, but I’ll save for another post). She enables a Templar to kidnap, torture and murder an entire delegation of Qunari diplomats, all while using the seal of the Grand Cleric. And interestingly, in a throwaway line, Petrice tells you that she gives sermons from the pulpit about the dangers of the Qunari presence.
Petrice clearly sees it as her duty to inflame, to incite, to enrage Kirkwall against the Qunari – to keep them afraid and seeking the Chantry’s guidance.
So what does Elthina do about her?
She gives Petrice a promotion.
Doesn’t seem like a rebuke or a repudiation of what Petrice is doing to me.
Now recall how betrayed Petrice seems when Elthina rebukes her for her killing Saemus, and tells her (in front of Hawke, mind you) that she must stand trial for her acts. It’s clear Petrice didn’t expect that from her. And why should she? After all, somehow Petrice managed to get the Seal of the Grand Cleric and give it to Varnell during “Offered and Lost”.
Again: I’m not saying Elthina handed Petrice the Seal. But boy, it sure is curious how these things just keep happening right under her nose, isn’t it, but with juuuust enough distance that she can claim she didn’t know about it.
Now recall how blasé Elthina is about Petrice’s death. A Qunari shoots one of her Blessed Mothers in the FACEand Elthina? She keeps on walking up the stairs without so much as a gasp, or a “How dare you?” or even a look of surprise.
My first couple playthroughs, that scene always confused me. I mean, shouldn’t Elthina be upset about Petrice’s death? She is a fellow Sister, after all.
Until I realized that Petrice’s death might be just what she wanted all along. Because a Qunari murdering a Blessed Mother, one who’s been warning Kirkwall of the Qunari menace for four years? Oh boy. You better believe that’s going to start some panic in Kirkwall.
Again: Elthina didn’t kill Petrice, and if you just look at the face of it, it once again looks like she had nothing to do with it, right? But this time, it quite literallyhappens right under her nose.
By themselves, each of these incidents don’t really implicate Elthina. But when you arrange them, you start to see a pattern emerge, and that’s one of Elthina the Teflon Pan, whom nothing bad or dirty or deceitful ever sticks to.
And if there’s one thing a lifetime of studying history and politics has taught me, it’s never trust Teflon.
One last point, because I know this is already so long:
From Elthina’s codex, we know:
Ineffective? Or underestimated?
After all, it works to Elthina’s advantage, doesn’t it, to be dismissed and ignored – for all the anti-Templar vitriol to be put on Meredith’s shoulders and not hers.
But the truth of the matter is: Elthina outranks Meredith.
Elthina is the head of the Chantry, and the Chantry is in charge of the Templars, and hell, Elthina was the one who appointed Meredith in the first place. If Elthina really, truly wanted to, she has every right, every authority to step in and tell Meredith to back off. In fact, we even see her do that in the intro to Act 3, when she tells Meredith to “be a good girl” and stand down from Orsino.
But she doesn’t.
And while Elthina’s inaction might be construed as senility or, if I’m being charitable, a desire for compromise, I think it’s just one more link in the pattern – just another political kerfluffle that Elthina somehow, conveniently, manages to be juuuuust too far removed from to get her hands dirty. Meredith’s running rampant in the city, and somehow nobody blames Elthina, because Elthina is the Teflon Cleric.
Elthina has nothing to lose and everything to gain by appearing publicly to be a voice of reason, of compromise—regardless of whether that’s what she’s really doing and saying and advocating behind closed doors. She gains nothing by taking sides. But she does gain quite a bit of political influence by seeming to be everyone’s friend.
And she is everyone’s friend, isn’t she? She’s the mages’ friend, the Templars’ friend, the nobility’s friend – hell, she’s even bosom buddies with the rightful heir of neighboring city-state, Starkhaven.
Never, ever trust someone who’s friends with everybody.
In fact, of all people, Cullen, everyone’s favorite Fucked-Up Brillo Pad, has the right of it:
“[Elthina] is bound by faith and duty to support the Templars. We have dominance over mages by divine right. But it is cruel how she leads them on, letting them think they might have a chance at rebellion.”
Yes, Cullen. It is cruel. Very. But not particularly surprising.