Orlais, or the Orlesian Empire, is one of the most powerful nations in Thedas. Val Royeaux is the capital of Orlais, and home to the Chantry. Orlais is ruled by Empress Celene I. Amongst its previous rulers were Emperor Reville and Emperor Florian. It was founded by Emperor Kordillus Drakon, the man who established the Chantry. Orlais conquered Ferelden in 8:44 Blessed, but was expelled before the beginning of the Dragon Age by King Maric Theirin.
Culture and Society
Ambitious and wealthy Orlais is the most powerful single human nation in Thedas. Under its current ruler, Empress Celene I, Orlais has a large aristocracy famed for its culture and extravagance. Celene shares the expansionist dream of Orlais's founder, Kordilius Drakon, that the nation's borders should stretch to the edges of the continent.
Another characteristic of the noble class is their penchant for high fashion, 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.
The capital city is Val Royeaux, which boasts the University of Orlais: a major center of learning that attracts young nobles from all over Thedas with the best education one can buy. The University is a relatively modern institution, whose liberal-minded professors have already clashed with religious conservatives over the content of their classes. This is likely to become a much larger issue in the future.
Aristocratic society is vicious and marked by fawning envy to the powerful. Orlesian Nobles often entertain bards in their courts despite their roles as spies, assassins and saboteurs for their employers (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.
In Orlais, land is owned exclusively by the aristocracy. Power rests solely in the Emperor as in many monarchies in Thedas where power descends from the throne, unlike Ferelden whose power derives from the support of freeholders. The empress, Celene I, shares the expansionist belief that the nation's borders should stretch to the edges of the continent.
Many Orlesian nobles belong to its renowned knightly order, the Chevaliers. The martial training of the Chevaliers is legendarily harsh, instilling in the knights a fierce discipline and code of honor that takes precedence over the value of their own lives. The penalty for dishonor is death, something that a Chevalier would welcome if he or she has failed their lord. They are honored by many and are considered amongst the best of all soldiers but they also have unlimited rights when it comes to handling the peasantry; a cause of many conflicts.
During the years leading to The Mage-Templar War, many Orlesian nobles began to plot to re-conquer Ferelden. This was against Empress Celene's wishes, who did what she could to hold the peace and bring her nobles under control, but seditious plots were still whispered, increasing tension with many Fereldans.
- Halamshiral - Former capital of the Dalish Elves
- Jader - Nearest major Orlesian city to Ferelden
- Montsimmard - Home of the Orlesian Circle of Magi
- Val Chevin
- Val Firmin
- Val Foret
- Val Royeaux - Capital
- Deauvin Flats
- Gamordan Peaks
- Lake Celestine
- Nahashin Marshes
- The Abyssal Reach
- The Arbor Wilds
- The Dales
- The Heartlands
- The Western Approach
Notable people with Orlesian origins
- Empress Celene I
- Gascard DuPuis
- Jovi Merice
- The Baroness
- The Warden-Commander (depending on player's choice; new character)
- Varian Ilithis
- Orlais is loosely based on the real-world nation of France (note how it's name is similar to Orleans). More closely, however, it is a likely evocative of Norman England, given its occupation of Ferelden, a country inspired by Saxon England, just as the historical Normans conquered the Saxons during 1066. It is also interesting note that Orlesian toponyms include French words, such as the ancient val meaning "valley", mont, meaning "mount", and so on. Moreover, Orlesian characters speak with a French accent, and their knights are referred to as chevaliers.
- Orlais was once called Arles. The name was changed because Arles is a real town in France.
- Leliana is culturally Orlesian (as well as being born and raised there—she merely considers herself a Fereldan because her mother came from Denerim). She often remarks of the fashionable shoes of Orlais compared to the rugged boots of Ferelden.
- In the expansion pack Awakening, if the player chooses not to import a previous Warden character, they have the option to play as a new Grey Warden character from Orlais, starting at level 18.
The Official Mini Guide