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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.Celene Valmont I

The War of the Lions, also known as the Orlesian Civil War,[1] started in 9:40 Dragon between Empress Celene Valmont I and Grand Duke Gaspard de Chalons. The war ended in 9:41 Dragon thanks to intervention of the Inquisitor. Its name is derived from the Gold Lion of House Valmont's sigil and the Black Lions of House Chalons' sigil.


Empress Celene's reign in the Orlesian Empire had been met with criticism in some quarters, to the point where the Grand Duke Gaspard de Chalons was plotting to overthrow her. Empress Celene has tried to improve relations with Ferelden and Nevarra but some Orlesians see this as complacency. Gaspard is well loved by the Orlesian military and has the support of many Chevaliers, who see Celene as antimilitary. Although Empress Celene is a renowned diplomat and reformer that strives to secure peace for the Orlesian Empire, some Orlesians are disgruntled by her policies and also feel that the future of the Empire could be in jeopardy since she has yet to name an heir.

With Celene having no successor, the next in line to the throne would be Gaspard, who has made few friends in the Council of Heralds. Nevertheless, Gaspard's supporters believe Gaspard can lead Orlais back to the glory of Drakon's expansion years.[2]

During a royal ball, in which Bann Teagan Guerrin, Ferelden's ambassador, was present, Gaspard had his bard Melcendre sing a song pertaining to Meghren's miserable stewardship of Orlais' former province, before flaunting a sword taken from Moira Theirin, the Rebel Queen, mockingly claiming that it was used by the servants to kill rats. This was an effort to enrage Teagan and sour relations with Ferelden to provoke another war. Celene managed to resolve the situation by having her champion, Ser Michel, challenge Teagan to a duel on Orlais' behalf and ordering them to fight with feathers, which happened to be the yellow feather the chevalier wore on their masks. However, some members of the nobility were offended by such a comical use of the chevalier's symbol, most notably Duke Remache of Lydes.[3]

While accompanying Celene on a hunting trip, Gaspard proposed marriage to her. While she realized such a match could unite Orlais and avert civil war, Celene declined. Gaspard drew his sword on her, only for the Empress to slash his sword arm with a hidden dagger. Upon rejoining the other nobles in their party, Celene considered raising the alarm, predicting that even Gaspard's allies would be appalled at his blatant assassination attempt. However, she let him go, realizing that, if she were to imprison him, the opposition would be inflamed and civil war would erupt.[4]

At the same time, Melcendre kidnapped Ser Michel to get him away from the empress and interrogated him for information to use against Celene, discovering that not only was his noble status falsified, but he was also elf-blooded, which would cause a massive scandal and humiliate Celene. Michel managed to escape and kill Melcendre before she could deliver the information to Gaspard.

As tensions escalated, some mages speculated that the Circle of Magi would be called upon to assist in the event of war, potentially strengthening the mages bargaining position.[5]. Gaspard attempted to recruit Archmage Wynne as she traveled through the Dales and eastern Orlais on her way to the White Spire and sent troops to collect her at Jader. However Wynne refused him and escaped custody before continuing on to the capital[6]. The outbreak of the Mage-Templar War ultimately prevented the Circle's involvement.

Battle of Halamshiral[]

The rebel standard bearing the Lion of House Chalons

The Grand Duke criticized Celene's response to the city elves' riots in Halamshiral by spreading rumors of her relationship with her handmaiden, Briala, and commissioning a play in the Grande Royeaux Theater that insinuated Celene's affection for elves, thus scandalizing her reputation. The conflict began in earnest when Empress Celene, in an attempt to save face against accusations of favoring elves, led a force to violently end the elven rebellion at Halamshiral. Expecting to deal with disorganized mobs, Celene's army put down the rebellion only to be outnumbered and unprepared when Gaspard attacked with his own force of chevaliers. The Empress' forces were routed, Celene herself fled into the countryside with Ser Michel, thus denying Gaspard the quick and decisive victory he had hoped to gain via ambush and Orlais descended into chaos.


Celene and Michel attempt to make their way to Jader, the home of Celene's ally, Lady Seryl, but were forced to head to Val Royeaux instead. Upon reuniting with Briala and her mentor Felassan, they decide to find a Dalish clan to ally with to gain safe passage to Val Royeaux, the empress promising to grant the Dalish Halamshiral in return. However, upon meeting with Clan Virnehn, the dalish elves refused Celene's offer, believing that it was a hollow promise and that they'd be better off waiting for Celene and Gaspard to kill each other so the Dalish could reclaim the Dales. While the Dalish debated whether to execute Celene or hand her over to Gaspard, Celene and her party escaped after learning that the Dalish had summoned and bound a demon named Imshael to obtain a keystone to unlock the ancient eluvians, capable of instantaneous transportation; not only would Celene be able to return to Val Royeaux, she intended to use them to harry Gaspard without him being the wiser. Celene's party managed to obtain the keystone but unknowingly unleashed the demon, who proceeded to slaughter Clan Virnehn.

Ramparts in the Exalted Plains

Meanwhile, Gaspard attempted to pursue Celene, knowing that if he attempted to claim the throne without confirmation of Celene's death, her allies would resist him while his nobles would be demanding political favours. Upon finding what remained of Clan Virnehn, he allied with the sole survivor, Mihris, the late Keeper's First to pursue Celene. They track Celene through the dimension connecting all the eluvians, inadvertently saving Celene's party from the undead that lingered there. The two sides agreed to a temporary truce until they reached the central chamber to activate the eluvians. In the middle of the journey, during a varterral ambush, Gaspard's ally, Duke Remache de Lydes, attempted to assassinate Celene in the middle of battle. After the varterral was neutralized, Gaspard promptly executed Remache for his dishonour.

Soon after, Gaspard and Michel duel for the fate of the Orlesian Empire and control of the eluvians. Unbeknownst to them, Lienne de Montsimmard and Mihris were secretly hexing Michel while healing Gaspard's wounds. Briala managed to kill Lienne while deducing that Mihris was possessed by Imshael, who was convinced to leave her body by Felassan. Just before Michel could deliver the final blow, Briala ordered him to yield, calling on the favour she owed him from weeks before. This cost Celene her champion, her handmaid and her empire. Deciding that Celene could not be trusted with the fate of the elves, Briala took control of the eluvians for her people but permitted the humans to go on their way.

Celene later appeared at the Winter Palace in Halamshiral, having been magically transported there by the eluvians. She managed to cow Comte Pierre, ruler of Halamshiral, into reaffirming his loyalty to her by inviting him to the Winter Palace and revealing herself.

At the same time, Grand Duke Gaspard similarly appeared outside his own stronghold in Val Chevin, prepared to regroup his forces and continue the war.[7]

Other Theaters[]

When news of hostilities in the east hit Val Royeaux, the capital of Orlais, the Imperial Chancellor called in for conscription and press gangs were hired by the nobility which was met by riots among the populace. The city's Sun Gates were eventually sealed.[8] Riots also took place in the city of Val Foret.[9] The Marquis de Chevin, one of Celene’s closest allies, rallied several of the northern Orlesian nobles and their forces at Val Royeaux to support her, including Ghyslain, Morrac, and the Countess d’Argent.[10] Meanwhile, Lady Seryl of Jader launched a scorched earth offensive, destroying a village where troops loyal to Gaspard had billeted themselves to discourage the citizenry from aiding the rebels. [11]

While most of Celene's closest allies were occupying the capital, the Empress' status was unknown to them. Rumours circulated that she was being held captive, that she was dead, or that she was staying at Jader with her army, Gaspard having cut off the western highway.[12] By the time the mage host gathered at Andoral's Reach, there were rumors of a major battle in the Heartlands and Val Royeaux had purportedly been set aflame.[13]

Celene Reemerges[]

With many wild rumours circulating as to how, Empress Celene eventually managed to return to Val Royeaux. In the Dales, however, loyalists continued to clash against Grand Duke Gaspard's rebels. Celene also declared that wearing violets (the colour of her house, the Valmont family) was a symbolic sign of supporting her rule.[14]

On the Exalted Plains, deserters from both factions formed the Freemen of the Dales, vowing to bow to no authority but their own and thus planned on taking the Dales for themselves. Red Templars influenced the Freemen into smuggling red lyrium through the Emerald Graves, sending some hapless deserters to be experimented on at Emprise Du Lion and preparing body pits for demons that spilled out from Fade rifts to inhabit and attack both sides of the war.

From Halamshiral, Celene's former handmaid and spy, Briala, began raising an underground army of elves to harry both sides with the goal of reclaiming their rights.

Peace talks[]

See also: Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts

The Peace Talks at the Winter Palace with the Grand Duke, the Empress and 'Ambassador' Briala

In 9:41 Dragon, Gaspard's sister, Florianne, arranged for both sides to agree to hold a peace talk in the form of a ball at the Winter Palace. Additionally, Briala was invited as the rebel elves' ambassador, in Celene's bid to gain their allegiance. Briala attended with the intention of influencing one side into elevating an elf to nobility as a first step to give elves a say in government.

Gaspard planned on launching a surprise attack against the Winter Palace. But as he didn't have enough chevaliers, he was forced to hire mercenaries from Ferelden. However, Celene captured one of his agents and coerced him into giving up Gaspard's chevaliers and had prepared to lure her cousin into a trap while Briala knew of both the chevaliers and mercenaries.

No one suspected that Florianne was allied with Corypheus, planning on assassinating Celene, killing the Council of Heralds, and framing her brother for both deeds, thus plunging Orlais into chaos. The Inquisition learned of the conspiracy to kill Celene, but not the assassin's identity, and attends the ball as Gaspard's guests.

As the ball proceeds, all three faction leaders attempt to curry an alliance with the Inquisition. But as these intrigues were carried out, Florianne helped smuggle in Venatori agents and lured the Inquisitor away from Celene so she could make her move. However, the Inquisitor survived the trap and goes to put a stop to her plans. The Inquisitor is left with either letting Florianne attack, thus allowing her to assassinate Celene, attempt to detain her, resulting in Florianne's death, or expose her plot to the court. Afterwards, the Inquisitor has a say in who rules Orlais thanks to the vast amount of blackmail material on both candidates for the throne and Briala. Rulership of Orlais is granted to either Celene or Gaspard --either alone or supported by Briala-- or all three are convinced to work together.

Either way, the civil war was finally brought to an end and Orlais allied with the Inquisition in their war against Corypheus.[15]

Codex entries[]

Codex entry: The Orlesian Civil War Codex entry: The Orlesian Civil War