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The Orlesian Empire, or simply Orlais, is one of the largest and most powerful human nation in Thedas due to its religious influence and military strength. As the historic home of the Orlesian Chantry and Divine, the Empire has maintained its privileged relationship with the religious institution since its establishment in -3 Ancient. The Orlesian Empire is known throughout Thedas for its extravagant culture and intricate politics, embodied by the Grand Game. The Empire is a monarchy ruled by an Emperor or Empress. The capital is Val Royeaux, which is also the seat of the Orlesian Chantry.

The territories of the Empire were initially settled by various human tribes, notably the Ciriane and Inghirsh. These were at some point subjugated by the Tevinter Imperium and fought alongside it during the First Blight. Andraste and Maferath expelled Tevinter from the territories of Orlais during the Exalted March against the Tevinter Imperium.[1] These territories subsequently came under the rule of one of Maferath's sons, Isorath, who centralized the realm of the Ciriane with large reforms known as the Grand Unification in -155 Ancient.[2] Isorath would eventually be assassinated and succeeded by his wife, Jeshavis, who is credited with the creation of the Game.[3] The Empire in its current form was created under the rule of Kordillus Drakon I, who was crowned Emperor in -3 Ancient. He is responsible for the creation of the Chantry and the expansion of Andrastianism throughout both Orlais and the rest of Thedas.[4] Under his rule Orlais' borders were drastically expanded into what are now the Anderfels, Nevarra and the Free Marches. He also fought off the Second Blight which began in 1:05 Divine. His son proved unable to maintain the gains of his father and the Anderfels became independent in 1:65 Divine.[5]

In the time since, Orlais has remained the principal human nation in Thedas, in a perpetual rivalry with Tevinter. It has been involved in many conflicts: it was heavily involved in the Third Blight[6], but only sent token forces during the Fourth[7] and Fifth Blights. It led an Exalted March against the elven Dales from 2:10 to 2:20 Glory, in the aftermath of which the Dales were annexed. Orlais waged four wars against Tevinter between 4:40 Black and 5:10 Exalted in response to the proclamation of the Tevinter Black Divine. In the early Exalted Age, Orlais was repeatedly defeated by Nevarra, which it had conquered and lost several times over the preceding centuries, marking the end of Orlesian ambitions in Nevarra.[8] The Empire briefly occupied Kirkwall after liberating it from the Qunari in 7:60 Storm, before being expelled by a rebellion in 8:04 Blessed. Orlais also took part in the Qunari Wars during the Steel Age and the Storm Age.[9] It also invaded Ferelden on two separate occasions, once in 4:80 Black and again in 8:24 Blessed. Whilst the first invasion of Ferelden saw the Orlesians expelled after only three years, the second invasion proved more successful. The Empire completed their conquest of Ferelden in 8:44 Blessed and occupied the country until the Fereldan Rebellion saw the Orlesians defeated in 9:00 Dragon.[10][11][12] However, in 8:46 Nevarra launched a quick offensive while Orlesian armies were committed in Ferelden, and forced the Empire to permanently cede the city of Perendale to them.[13]

History[]

Ancient history[]

Two of the human tribes that arrived in Thedas, the Ciriane and Inghirsh, settled in the region that became known as Orlais and were the ancestors of modern Orlesians. The Ciriane settled in central Orlais and were loosely defined and culturally rich. The Inghirsh, who settled in northern Orlais[14] and southern Tevinter[15], were easily defeated in their conflict against the Neromenians, as they were a decentralized and nomadic people. Survivors of the conflict were absorbed into the Ciriane or Planasene, a tribe settled in present-day Nevarra. The Ciriane people, who were largely isolated, remained a strong and distinct group until the founding of Orlais. In modern times, Ciriane culture has all but disappeared.[14]

At the outbreak of the First Blight, the Ciriane fought besides the Tevinters and the Grey Wardens in order to defeat the Archdemon Dumat. Later on, during the Exalted March against the Tevinter Imperium, Andraste expelled the Tevinters from a large portion of Orlais.[1] In -165 Ancient, after the end of the war, Maferath divided the lands of southern Thedas between himself and his sons. His eldest, Isorath, was put in charge of the lands west of the Fereldan Valley and tasked with unifying the disparate Ciriane tribes.[16] He married a local Ciriane woman, Jeshavis.

When Archon Hessarian revealed Maferath's betrayal of Andraste in -160 Ancient,[17][18] Isorath initially managed to retain control of Orlais. However, his brother Verald lost control of Nevarra City and fled to Orlais, engaging in a lengthy power struggle to take it from his older brother.[19] In -155 Ancient, the Ciriane united into a kingdom in a moment known as the Grand Unification[20], a forced campaign of sweeping changes meant to favor centralized trade and power in an attempt to create more efficient barriers against the likelihood of a Tevinter return to conquest. He leveled several existing cities to create Val Royeaux, the capital of his new nation,[21][22] which he named Orlais. Jeshavis, angered by the forced unification of her people and unwilling to be ruled by the Alamarri, manipulated Verald into murdering his brother and all his direct children.[3] After he married her to bring legitimacy to his claim, Jeshavis had him killed as well and became the first female chieftain of the Ciriane, or gyðja. She went on to rule for forty-two years.[19] She is known as the "Mother of Orlais" and sometimes credited for creating the Game.[3][23]

Emperor Kordillus Drakon[]

For almost two ages after Jeshavis, a gothi, or queen, chosen by the tribes of the Ciriane and Alamarri would rule the nation of Orlais. The process of choosing a new queen became deadlier each time, as old hatreds between clans grew stronger. In -36 Ancient, Castana, the daughter of a prominent chieftain and wife of Lord Septimus Drakon of Tevinter, was named queen. At the time, the nation she ruled over was not even half the size of modern-day Orlais. Their son, Kordillus Drakon, was born soon after.[24]

Kordillus Drakon World of Thedas 2

Kordillus Drakon, first emperor of the Orlesian Empire

Prince Kordillus, who believed Andraste had appeared to him in a dream and charged him with redeeming the world in the eyes of the Maker, took to the battlefield to unite the disparate cults of the Maker at the age of sixteen. Thanks to his marriage to Area Montlaures, an unequaled archer, shrewd tactician, and the daughter of a lord of Val Chevin, Drakon conquered well into modern-day Ferelden and Nevarra, stamping out lingering worship of the Old Gods and of local deities. When their campaign of expansion stalled in the north, Drakon decided to refocus his efforts on glorifying the Maker. In -15 Ancient, he destroyed the ancient Ciriane fortress once inhabited by Jeshavis and used its foundation to begin construction of a great temple dedicated to the Maker. When construction was completed in -3 Ancient, Kordillus Drakon was crowned ruler of the Empire of Orlais. His first act was to declare the Chantry as the official religion of the empire.[24][25][26] After four years, Olessa of Montsimmard, the only female general in Drakon's armies, was chosen as the first Divine. She was crowned Divine Justinia I in 1:01 Divine.[27] The free use of magic was declared illegal in Orlais except by those mages operating under the direct auspices of the Chantry.

In 1:05 Divine, the Second Blight broke out in the Anderfels. Emperor Drakon led the fight against the darkspawn, in part by recruiting mages to his cause and letting them unleash their full power.[28] Under his command, humanity achieved several victories, which served to spread the influence of the Chantry even further. At the time of his death in 1:45 Divine, the Orlesian empire had expanded into the Anderfels and most of the western Free Marches.[29] However, his son, Kordillus II, did not possess the same political savvy, and the Anderfels declared their independence in 1:65 Divine.[30]

Exalted Marches and Blights[]

In 2:05 Glory, the border skirmishes between the Dales and Orlais increased in number.[31] When the elves attacked the Orlesian town of Red Crossing and quickly took it over in 2:09 Glory,[32] Orlais and the Dales went to open war. By 2:10 Glory, the elves had captured Montsimmard and marched on Val Royeaux. At this point, Divine Renata I called for an Exalted March against the elves. Although the elves eventually sacked Val Royeaux and pushed well into human lands, Halamshiral was conquered and the elves were completely crushed by 2:20 Glory. The Dales were annexed as part of the Orlesian Empire. Divine Renata I decreed that elves who converted to the worship of the Maker should be welcomed into human cities, leading to the creation of alienages.[33]

In the last years of the Glory Age, another Exalted March was called, this time to oust Tevinter from Starkhaven.[34] In 2:99 Glory the Grand Cathedral in Val Royeaux was finally completed. Its twin towers gave the Towers Age its name.[35]

War weapons

Orlesian war weapons

In 3:10 Towers, the Third Blight began; the darkspawn attacked the Orlesian cities of Arlesans and Montsimmard. The Orlesians were able to push them out of their borders.[36] By 3:18 Towers, due to constant pressure from the Grey Wardens, they sent aid to the beleaguered city-states of the Free Marches.[37] In 3:25 Towers, the Orlesian armies participated in the final battle of the Third Blight in Starkhaven.[38] However, they then took advantage of the weakened state of the Free Marches and occupied the city-state of Nevarra until their ousting in 3:65 Towers.[39]

Between 4:40 Black and 5:10 Exalted, Orlais took part in four Exalted Marches against Tevinter's newly appointed Black Divine, none of which succeeded. In 4:80 Black, the Orlesian Empire took advantage of the Alamarri's fractured state and crossed the Frostback Mountains to invade the land for the first time.[40] The campaign lasted for three years until the Fereldan teyrns once again united to push the Orlesians back. The Empire had hoped to take the port of Highever and therefore switch to supplying their forces by sea rather than by Gherlen's Pass, but the fortress of Redcliffe held out for longer than expected, and winter in the Frostbacks left many Orlesian forces unsupplied. By the spring of 4:84 Black, most Orlesian troops had pulled out or been captured.[41][42]

In 5:12 Exalted, the Fourth Blight began and Orlais sent only a token force to help its neighbors.[43] The first king of the Nevarran Van Markham family, Tylus Van Markham, was crowned after having claimed to be a descendant of Drakon's. He proved his military might by winning several major battles against the Orlesians, establishing Nevarra as a new, growing power.[44]

In the Storm Age, during the Qunari Wars, three Exalted Marches were called against the Qunari in 7:25, 7:52,[45] and 7:84.[46] During the wars, Orlais managed to steal the Tome of Koslun. In 7:44 Storm, the newly crowned emperor of the Orlesian Empire, Freyan, allowed women to become knights, after witnessing of the death of Ser Aveline, the Knight of Orlais.[47] In 7:60 Storm, the Qunari occupation of Kirkwall was lifted by an Orlesian chevalier named Ser Michel Lafaille, who became its first Viscount on behalf of the Emperor of Orlais.[48] In 7:99 Storm, the end of war with the Qunari and the birth of twin boys to Emperor Etienne I ushered in the Blessed Age.[49]

Conflicts with Ferelden[]

Civil war

Civilian casualties of the War of the Lions

Main article: Second Orlesian Invasion of Ferelden
Main article: Fereldan Rebellion

In 8:05 Blessed, Kirkwall rebelled against Orlais and re-gained the status of a free city.[49] In 8:24 Blessed, "Mad Emperor" Reville ordered the invasion of the kingdom of Ferelden. Due to the clandestine support of a number of powerful banns undermining the kingdom's defence, the Orlesian military quickly established a strong foothold[50] and fully occupied the country by 8:44 Blessed.[51]

However, the war with Ferelden gave the Pentaghasts the perfect opportunity to take their revenge on Orlais. They had been biding their time since 7:97 Storm, when Emperor Etienne set aside his wife of fifteen years, Princess Sotiria Pentaghast, to marry his mistress. While most of the Orlesian army was still committed to the war in Ferelden, Nevarra declared war, promptly taking a number of cities. Though the Orlesians eventually rallied a defense, the city of Perendale was lost to the Nevarrans and never recovered.[13] This defeat lost Emperor Reville the favor of the court, who turned to his twin brother Grand Duke Gratien, who had no desire to take the throne, instead. In 8:47 Blessed, Emperor Reville had Gratien, his wife, three grown children, and all eight grandchildren murdered. The youngest, Camille, was only eight months old. Reville died after spending more than a year locked in his room, fearing retribution for his assassination of Gratien's family.[52] In 8:96 Blessed, the young Fereldan prince Maric Theirin took over the leadership of the Fereldan Rebellion after his mother's assassination, and Emperor Florian was forced to send more chevalier legions to support the rule of his first cousin and king of Ferelden, Meghren.

In 9:00 Dragon, Ferelden was freed from Orlesian occupation.[53] The relations between the two countries remained tense until Florian's death, after which Ferelden and Orlais officially made peace.[54] After 9:14 Dragon, the new viscount of Kirkwall, Perrin Threnhold, enforced exorbitant fees on Orlesian ships docking in his city; prompting Emperor Florian, through Divine Beatrix III, to pressure the Templar Order stationed in Kirkwall to overthrow him.

In 9:20 Dragon, Celene Valmont, Florian's niece, rumored to have played a part in his death, outmaneuvered her cousin Grand Duke Gaspard de Chalons to become Empress of Orlais.

Involvement[]

Dragon Age: The Masked Empire[]


This section contains spoilers for:
Dragon Age: The Masked Empire.


In the years leading up to the Mage-Templar War, many Orlesian nobles begin to plot to re-conquer Ferelden after the Fifth Blight left the kingdom in a weakened state. This goes against Empress Celene's wishes, who does her best to keep the peace and bring her nobles under control.[55] In 9:38 Dragon, unrest brews in Orlais as Grand Duke Gaspard de Chalons stirs dissent against reigning Empress Celene.[56] Two years later, amid rumors of her illicit relationship with her elven handmaiden, Briala, Celene leads a purge of the elves of Halamshiral to dispel talk of her leniency towards elves. Gaspard, who has been instrumental in spreading these rumors, takes advantage of the situation to ambush her in the city, but Celene manages to evade his trap. This marks the beginning of the War of the Lions.


Dragon Age: Inquisition[]


This section contains spoilers for:
Dragon Age: Inquisition.


The War of the Lions ends in 9:41 at the peace talks held in Halamshiral by Grand Duchess Florianne de Chalons. The Inquisition's presence is instrumental in determining whether Empress Celene remains on the throne or is killed and succeeded by Emperor Gaspard.


Geography[]

Orlais is located in Southern Thedas. The Empire borders Ferelden along the Frostback Mountains to the east, Nevarra and the Anderfels to the north, whilst its exact borders to the west and south remain ambiguous. It surrounds the easternmost portion of the Waking Sea. Orlais is vast and as such it encompasses examples of nearly every biome, including temperate zones, deserts and marshes.

Settlements[]

Val royeaux

The streets of Val Royeaux[27]

Fortresses[]

Orlais

Map of the Orlesian Empire

Regions[]

  • Alyons – a region which neighbors Serault[89]
  • The Arbor Wilds – a large and untouched forest in the south of Orlais, where ancient elven ruins still remain undisturbed[90]
  • Arl Dumat
  • The Blasted Hills – on the border of the Anderfels; in the Orlesian part of the Hills there's a castle where the Seekers of Truth may undergo their vigil;[91] the Blasted Hills are rumored to be a refuge of the Drasca, an ancient order of Ander warriors that first formed during the Ancient Age to resist Tevinter occupation; following the Second Blight the Drasca allegedly took part in the Anders rebellion against the Orlesian rule[92]
  • Lake Celestine – a lake located in the Heartlands of central Orlais[93]
  • Claose – a land of fertile valleys near Serault[94]
  • The Dales
  • Deauvin Flats – a region with good hunting grounds[95]
  • Ezoire – described as a lofty mountain domain[96]
  • Forbidden Oasis
  • Fields of Ghislain – on the border of Nevarra
  • Frostback Mountains
  • The Heartlands – the region between Lake Celestine and the shores of the Waking Sea, well known for its excellent wine and marvelous estates; it is perhaps the richest place outside Val Royeaux[93]
  • The Hissing Wastes
  • Hunterhorn Mountains – with the Gamordan Peaks in the south
  • Nahashin Marshes
  • Serault – a struggling Marquisate on the edge of Orlais
  • The Tirashan – a vast forest west of Serault
  • Urthemiel Plateau
  • The Western Approach
    • Abyssal Rift (also known as the Abyssal Reach)
  • Ylenn Basin – a region south of the Imperial Highway between Montsimmard and Verchiel, a beautiful place of walnut groves, hollyhocks and fifth rate meaderies[97][60]

Culture and society[]

A lady

Orlesian mask and fashion

The Orlesian Empire is as well known for being the birthplace of the Chantry as it is for its extravagance.[98] As an ambitious and wealthy nation, Orlais has been able to exert power across large swathes of Thedas via their military and the Chantry. The legacy of the Empire's founder, Kordillus Drakon, still influences modern Orlesian laws and social customs.[99]

The capital city of Val Royeaux is not only the secular capital of Orlais, but also the heart of the Chantry; the seat of the Divine is located at Val Royeaux's Grand Cathedral. From the White Spire, the Knight-Vigilant of the templars directs the Order. Val Royeaux is also home to some of Thedas' most notable secular cultural institutions. These have flourished under Empress Celene’s rule, inspiring a cultural renaissance in the Orlesian Empire. Her public support for the University of Orlais has enabled the university to become one of the most prestigious educational institutions in Thedas, attracting nobles from Nevarra and the Free Marches.[100] Similarly, her support for the arts has enabled them to flourish in the Orlesian Empire.[99].

The Grand Game dictates much of both the nobility and commoner's lives. Every social and political move is carefully calculated in order to achieve more power and better standing. There is a degree of permissiveness towards immoral or illegal acts in Orlais, provided the unspoken rule is followed: don't get caught.[28] Even the law can turn a benevolent if not blind eye; an urchin in Orlais may earn himself a pat on the back for a crime that would earn him a year in a dungeon elsewhere.[101]

Appearance is everything in Orlais, and Orlesian society reflects this through fashion, makeup, art, architecture, food, and the social scene. It is more important to have the appearance of wealth and power than to necessarily be wealthy and powerful.[102]

Art[]

Orlais attracts artists from across Thedas to seek patrons and contracts, but is also home to many talents itself. Henri de Lydes was a legendary artist and responsible for creating the original mural of Andraste and her Disciples that has been famously reproduced above the doors to the University of Orlais’ Chantry. It remains one of the sole depictions of Shartan, albeit with his ears cropped, that survived the Exalted March of the Dales.[103]

Son of Empress Vougiene of Orlais and artisan Arwand de Glace is known for his controversial sculpture of a nude Andraste that was censored by being made invisible, forcing all who wished to see to the sculpture to do so by feel.[104]

More recently, Ambrose Dumont has become well known for his woodcuts and prints. He is rumoured to have even Empress Celene as a client. Dumont has made donations of his works to the University of Orlais, including a series of woodcuts depicting the physiology of livestock and other creatures, as well as a series solely focused on the anatomy of nugs.[105] Reynerius D’Auberive is a young artist known for his paintings but also his works with cosmetics, creating “veritable tempera masterworks of color and light” on his patrons’ faces. These maquillages are saved by being turned into masks upon removal.[106]

Foreign artists gaining recognition in Orlais in recent times include such notables as Hemiare Allegri, an Antivan sculptor who has created commissioned works for the Chantry and Duke Prosper de Montfort[107], and Griselda Reiniger, a young portrait artist hailing from the Anderfels who in recent times won top place at the annual University of Orlais art contest for her piece ‘The Chant of Light,’ a painting portraying Andraste playing a lap harp the night before her execution.[108]

Theater[]

The Grande Royeaux Theater in Val Royeaux suffered for many years with their artistic output subject to censure from either the Chantry or the emperor. Emperor Reville had restricted the theater to wordless pantomimes and Emperor Florian required all plays be approved by the Chantry after a play was criticized as being borderline heretical. Empress Celene removed all such restrictions and once it was understood her support was genuine, the theater once again flourished.[100] Orlesian theatre makes use of masks to denote character and roles, with the mask's shape and color denoting the character's gender, status, and importance to the plot. The sex or race of an actor has no bearing on what roles they can play. The actor’s mask alone communicates if they are a duke, king, spirit, or demon. Plays cover a variety of genres and topics ranging from the historical and religious to current social scandals. Actors are considered something of a “breed apart” to the point even elves are able to find fame and fortune in a country notorious mistreating them.[109]

Orlais also has a tradition of puppet theater, much of it directly taken from Antiva. The best known are the “baroquely ornate” plays created for high operas or religious festivals. The puppets involved can be so complex as to need five puppeteers to work them. Simple shadow puppets made of wood and paper—some more fancifully made of ironbark—have risen in popularity at smaller parties and salons in the Dragon Age. They are often enhanced with the use of a colored glass lantern and musical accompaniment.[110]

Notable plays include:[109]

  • The Sword of Drakon: an Examination of the Life and History of the Father of Orlais, by Marquise Freyette – the first play to portray Drakon as a man beset by doubts, now a staple of Orlesian theater.
  • The Heir of Verchiel, by Paul Legrand – its first performance featured city elf Victor Boyet in the lead role, who was so well received the emperor rose from his seat when Boyet took the stage.
  • Wilkshire Downs, by A. Pourri – an enduringly popular play in which flatulence plays a major role.
  • The Setting of the Light, by Lumiere Bartlet – historians claim that the play's conclusion was at once so hauntingly beautiful and shockingly vile it sparked the Great Riot of Val Royeaux in 4:52 Black. Only 14 pages remain today.
  • Death in the Mansion, by Violette Armand – first play to use "False Face" (characters changing masks during the story), which was highly controversial at the time but has become unremarkable in recent times.
  • A Season of the Four Afoul, a play based on the real world social scandal of the thief Treadwell forgoing escape to help Lady Castine as she was attacked by a bard.[111]
  • The Fall of Elderath, a puppet-based passion play about Andraste's father.[110]

Architecture[]

Contemporary Orlesian architecture often makes use of arches, symmetry, bold color, and careful ornamentation. This style is, however, mostly reflected in the building work of the nobility. Striking contrasts can be found between the areas of wealth versus those of poverty in Orlais. The extravagance of Val Royeaux and other centers of power like the Winter Palace in Halamshiral slowly but markedly disappear the further one gets from real power, and therefore, wealth.[102]

The Grand Cathedral and University of Orlais are both considered notable examples of Orlesian architecture’s grandiose style. Kordillus Drakon began construction of the Grand Cathedral, demolishing an ancient Ciriane fortress that was once home to Jeshavis and building upon its foundations. The Cathedral was decorated with extensive use of gold and stained glass.[27][112]

For the wealthy, Orlesian architects make bold use of color and spare no expense when it comes to sourcing materials.[102] Blue, white, and gold are symbolic colors of the Orlesian nobility and are often reflected in the homes and properties of the elite.[113] White marble and gold are hallmarks of Orlesian noble interior design.[114] It is common to find religious iconography worked into secular buildings in Orlais. Images of Andraste are ubiquitous and often accented with leafy ornamentation. Other religious figures are frequent subjects of ornamental statuary.[115] It is said that the foundations of the city of Val Royeaux were poured with gold,[116] and true or not, there is such a concentration of wealth in the city that even the alleyways boast of colored walls and patterned cobblestones.[117]

Common objects are built with as much a sense of flair as buildings. Matching a trend or aesthetic is considered more important than how practical a building or item actually is to use. As appearances are so important, what falls out of fashion can often fall to disrepair.[114] However, Orlais is notable for the frequency with which buildings are renovated—oftentimes at great expense—in order to remain fashionable. As Orlesian culture is more concerned with appearance over substance, buildings that may have modern, opulent exteriors are often covering up poorly crafted, decrepit internal structure.[102]

Fashion[]

Orlesian Masks

Examples of Orlesian masks[118]

A bare face in Orlais is considered gauche, especially in the presence of a foreigner or a commoner.

The Orlesian nobility, and those who serve publicly, are prone to wearing very intricate—as opposed to simply gaudy—masks in public. These masks, often half-masks specifically, are hereditary and identify one's family and social class almost as uniquely as the heraldry on a crest: a family might be associated with a lion crest, and matching lion masks will identify them in public. Retainers and servants wear a simpler form of a family's mask. Family symbols are well known among the Orlesian public, and anyone attempting to wear a mask that doesn't belong to their house runs the risk of a quick death if discovered.

Wearing makeup is another popular tradition for both men and women in Orlais. Even chevaliers may wear cosmetics. There is both masculine and feminine makeup, although outsiders may have trouble telling the difference. Makeup can be a strong indicator of social standing. The quality and rarity of one's makeup—uncommon hues and consistencies are prized—speak volumes of one's status.

Orlesian nobility has clothing which is made of rich dyes, complex patterns and fine fabrics. Rare colors and materials are used to imply wealth and status. They often lean towards flowing, layered garb.[119]

Food[]

Orlesian food is famous for being elaborate and extravagant, with some outside the country going so far as to call it "frilly and pretentious."[120] Orlesian dinner parties feature many courses,[121] and no expense is spared for these feasts: gilded roast swan, pies containing live birds, and enough spit-roast meat to require ten chevaliers to turn the spit would not be out of place.[122] Orlesians are known for the quality of their baking and especially their use of puff pastry dough as in croissants.[123] Even Orlesian Grey Wardens are known to alter their trail rations to use puff pastry dough instead of a sturdier simple crust.[124] Orlais is also known for its liberal usage of cream in a variety of dishes, especially soups[125], as well as sweetners such as honey and sugar[126], as Orlesian preferences famously run sweet.[127] Some notable Orlesian dishes include Nug-Nug, which is plated to look like a nug peeking out of a burrow and is said to be favored by children[128], Eggs à la Val Foret, a poached egg recipe served with a cream sauce[126], and the Nesting Roast. The roast is a delicacy first conceived by chef Bernard Huileux that consists of a swan stuffed with a pheasant, stuffed with a quail. Chef Huileux is better remembered for a version of the dish where a wyvern was stuffed with a gurn, stuffed with a horse, which was stuffed with a halla, stuffed with a swan, stuffed with a duck, stuffed with a quail, stuffed with a bunting that had choked on a gold piece. The dish caused such an affront and spectacle that many nobles of the court either refused to eat it or draped their serviettes over their heads to "hide from the Maker" as they ate.[129]

For all the extravagance of Orlesian nobles' diets, the common folk produce many hearty, humble dishes. Butter soup is considered simple and easy to make and can be found in many a rustic Orlesian kitchen. In particular it is said to make a good, refreshing mid-morning meal for fieldworkers and is considered suitably nourishing (and mild enough) for convalescents and children.[130] Varieties of sausages (including black pudding), pasties, goat's cheese, pickled ox-tongue[131], grainy black bread[132], and wild rabbit stew[133] are just a selection of the variety of food found amongst the common folk. Peasant bread, a simple and humble bread made from grease, wheat, and salt, and is eaten throughout the country by both city and Dalish elves.[133][134] It is sometimes topped with sugar[133], and pairs well with stew, butter, or jam.[134] Honey carrots are a very common side dish, typically heavily honeyed to suit the Orlesian palette.[135]

From elaborate pastries, puddings, and pies to simpler fare such as sour black cherries served with sweet cherry sauce and whipped cream[121], Orlesian cuisine boasts of many different varieties of dessert where cream and sugar are frequent ingredients. One of Orlais' more notable pies is the Blessed Apple, made with apples from the orchards of Ghislain which are said to have been blessed by the Maker at Andraste's request.[136] Marie du Lac Erre's Sweet Ruin are a tea biscuit that come in a variety of flavors. They originally were served sandwiched with cream and jam, but proved so popular that vanilla, lavender, orange, and even chocolate varieties were developed. The biscuits caused such turmoil in the Orlesian court that Marie du Lac Erre had her recipe published across Orlais so all people, rich or poor, could make them.[137] Blancmange, a common pudding whose name means "white eating", is made of milk or heavy cream that has been thickened. Due to its plain appearance and its mild sweet taste, it is served with a variety of toppings such as red grape compote, toasted almonds, cherry sauce, ribbons of fresh mango, or white chocolate with jasmine flowers—a combination that Lady Vivienne is known for.[127]

As for drinks, Orlais is the foremost importer of Antivan wine in Thedas,[101] and possesses its own extensive vineyards.[93] Spiced wine has been a popular drink in the Winter Palace since the Glory Age.[138] The elves of Orlais are known for making dandelion wine as they do not own vineyards and grapes are too expensive a fruit to buy in sufficient quantity for wine making.[139]

The class divide[]

Orlais is a nation where class and social politics frequently rule the day. As such, the concerns and lives of the various classes can differ greatly. Among the nobility a penchant for high fashion is common, often copied in other lands such as Nevarra and the Free Marches but always at its most extreme within Orlais. Both men and women wear cosmetics of various kinds, with subtle differences that indicate social standing. In public, they are also prone to wearing very elaborate masks. These are hereditary and identify one's family almost as uniquely as the heraldry on a crest. Servants also wear masks in public that are simpler and not so elaborate as their masters' which indicate the noble household they serve.[140]

The Game Image

Throwing lavish parties is part of The Grand Game

Aristocratic society is vicious and marked by fawning envy to the powerful. Bards often entertain nobles in their courts despite their roles as spies, assassins and saboteurs for their employers who are usually other nobles. Nobles welcome such entertainers with full knowledge that any could be a bard; the thrill of outwitting a spy is a notion the Orlesian aristocracy can hardly resist.

The lives of Orlesian nobility may give the impression that life is easy and prosperous for all. However, the lives of commoners are often much more difficult, while all aspire to the lives of the noble class.[28] Many Orlesians are hardly well-to-do and work as freeholders, or else laborers on another's property, often leading to general discontent and simmering resentment. For a class of people with little besides belief in the Chant of Light to uplift their lives, this discontent may cause friction with those seen as having unfair privileges or else upsetting their routine or religious beliefs, such as mages.[141]

Furthermore, Orlesian commoners are at the mercy of the nation's needs in a way that the nobility, and even the Chantry (including the Circle of Magi and Templar Order), are not. During war times, press gangs led by the nobility commonly force Orlesian peasants into military service willingly or no.[142] Those who are not conscripted may be left starving by the demands of the army or else taken as slaves by opportunistic bandits.[143]

Additionally, the chevaliers are allowed great liberties with commoners, up to and including murder and sexual assault.[144]

The lot of elves in Orlais is unique as well, even from the common classes. Servitude, (often bearing little difference from outlawed slavery[145]), is the existence of many. However, despite the aesthetic appreciation Orlesians have for elves, and the fact that some can potentially live more richly than most commoners, there does not seem to be the hope of social ascendance for them that is a possibility, however small, for humans.[146]

Orlesian Alley

An Orlesian alley

Politics[]

Orlesian heraldry2

Orlesian heraldry[118]

Under the rule of the legendary Kordillus Drakon, the fledgling nation of Orlais rose to prominence. He used the Second Blight to expand its borders and the influence of the Chantry. While Orlais in the Dragon Age is nowhere near as large as it was under Drakon, it remains the most powerful human nation in Thedas[98], and Drakon's legacy continues to heavily influence Orlesian laws and social customs.

In Orlais, land is owned exclusively by the aristocracy.[citation needed] All matters pertaining to noble titles are handled by the Council of Heralds, who may even overrule the Empress or Emperor on titular issues.[147] Power rests solely in the Emperor or Empress—as in many monarchies in Thedas where power descends from the throne—in contrast to neighboring Ferelden where the power of the king or queen derives from the support of freeholders. The Orlesian aristocracy hold that their right to rule stems directly from the the Maker. There is no concept of rule by merit nor is there any real notion of rebellion against the system of power.[4] For the many people outside the noble classes, there is the aspiration to become part of the ranked nobility, or at least to be in the good graces of well-placed and important nobles in the Grand Game.[4][28]

Many Orlesian nobles belong to its renowned knightly order, the Chevaliers. The training of the chevaliers is legendarily harsh but instills within the knights fierce discipline and respect for their code of honor. The honor of a chevalier has greater value to them then that of their own lives and as such, the penalty for dishonor is death. Though a high price, it is one that is welcomed by any chevalier who has failed the order.[28] While they are held in adoration by the upper classes, considered amongst the best of all soldiers, the commoners of Orlais fear the knighthood. Chevaliers hold absolute power over commoners and are above legal reproach, leading to sometimes brutal abuses of power against those who have none.[118][144][148]

The Grand Game[]

Main article: The Grand Game
Orlais heraldry

Orlesian heraldry[149]

"The Game" refers to the perpetual competition for influence and esteem between the Orlesian nobles. Every Orlesian of noble birth is subject to their peers' manipulation, if not as a player, then as a pawn. While the Chantry and its affiliate organizations of the Templar Order or Circle of Magi may seemingly be a way 'out' of the Game, they too are still susceptible to manipulation.

The goals of the Game are gaining personal prestige, reputation, and patronage, and its "rules" are as simple as "don't get caught."[28] Nobles often employ assassins or, more often, Bards to accomplish these goals. Social engineering is also important in this aspect of Orlesian culture: dress, makeup, trendiness, and social engagements are important tools to further the Game.[118][119]

While those outside of Orlais often assume the lower classes view the Game with contempt, the truth is that even the lower classes do their best to play. While the Game does seemingly offer a means for social mobility through an accumulation of wealth and patronage—with the ultimate aim of a title—the chances of this happening are in reality very slim. The Game's illusion of meritocracy gives commoners faint hope for better, which "is enough to keep the poor preoccupied and the rich in power."[28]

Royalty and nobility[]

Main article: Orlesian royalty and nobility

There is an established list of aristocratic titles along with appropriate forms of address.[99] Titles are granted by the Orlesian Council of Heralds.[147]

Foreign relations[]

Centuries of expansionist behavior has contributed to Orlais having sour relations with its neighbours. The empire invaded Ferelden twice, frequently battled with Nevarra, organized four Exalted Marches against Tevinter, squandered favor with the Free Marches, and crushed the Dales.[27] They especially look down on Fereldan people, whom they think brutish and uncivilized and sometimes refer to as 'Fereldan turnips'.[150]

However, they maintain a good relationship with the kingdom of Orzammar with which they share borders on the western side of the Frostback Mountains. The dwarves provide the empire with lyrium and minerals, as well as smithing. Lyrium is especially important as it is used by the Chantry's templars.[27]

Notable Orlesians[]

Celene Profile

Empress Celene

Leliana in Inquisition

Leliana

MichelDeChevin

Michel de Chevin

For a complete list, see Category:Orlesians.
Note: The list below can include people of either Orlesian ancestry or Orlesian nationality.

Codex entries[]

Codex entry: The Orlesian Empire Codex entry: The Orlesian Empire
Codex entry: The Orlesian Game of Intrigue Codex entry: The Orlesian Game of Intrigue
Codex entry: Shadow of the Empire Codex entry: Shadow of the Empire
Codex entry: The Chevaliers Codex entry: The Chevaliers
Codex entry: Council of Heralds Codex entry: Council of Heralds
Codex entry: Jeshavis, Mother of Orlais Codex entry: Jeshavis, Mother of Orlais
Codex entry: A Compendium of Orlesian Theater Codex entry: A Compendium of Orlesian Theater

Trivia[]

  • The sun is the symbol of the Orlesian Empire.[151]
  • The Imperial Highway enters Orlais from its northeast borders with Nevarra. One branch moves northwest until Andoral's Reach while the other moves through the Heartlands and Val Royeaux and then turns east towards the Frostback Mountains.
  • Orlais was given its name by one of the sons of Andraste and Maferath, after her betrayal and death.[152]
  • There is a thriving thieves' guild in Orlais. In the capital it appears to operate at least in part in the sewers, making use of the "sous de gens", the poorest of the poor who live there.[153][154] Elves may also join the local guild to make a living, willingly or unwillingly.[155]
  • It is a tradition for Orlesian children to line up and beg for "petit alms" from passing travelers.[156]
  • In the expansion pack Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening, if the player chooses not to import a previous Warden character, they have the option to play as a Grey Warden new to the series, an Orlesian Warden-Commander, starting at level 18.
  • Mary Kirby has stated that France was the starting point of inspiration for Orlais, but since then the developers were inspired by many things that are not French.[157]
  • Orlais was once called Arles. The name was changed because Arles is a real town in France.[158]
  • The prominent use of gold and white in Orlesian architecture is meant to evoke real world religious centers such as Vatican City, reflecting Orlais' capital city, Val Royeaux, being the seat of the Divine who is the head of the Chantry for all Thedas.[102]
  • The architecture of the finer buildings in Orlais were influenced by secular Gothic architecture.[102]
  • There are contradictions between previous lore and the Dragon Age: The Official Cookbook: Tastes of Thedas which notes that Orlesians have "delicate palates."[159] Previous lore from "The Whole Nug" section of Dragon Age: The World of Thedas Volume 2 and other installments paint Orlesians as enjoying heavily spiced foods.

Gallery[]

References[]

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