Monday, September 24, 2018

The Princess Warrior: Cassandra Pentaghast

Cassandra is a heroine for the ages. And her eyebrows are as perfectly crafted as the arches on a cathedral.

Cole: It's you, Cassandra.
"Breathing from the belly, cold air warmed, stones beneath me, candle before me, Maker all around. Then nothing, empty, I'm cut, cauterized, then caught, cleansed by a light that carries me home."

A pause.

: You're thinking backwards. You don't have faith because of the spirit. The spirit came because of your faith. It's you.

Cassandra: (hesitating) Thank you, Cole. I appreciate that.

She's a gifted warrior, as strong and indomitable in battle as any man ever born (and more). She punches trees when she sneezes. She's beautiful but ignores it as an unimportant and tiresome detail, cropping her dark hair and scorning dresses, as all the best princesses do. She's able to wield a sword like the wrath of the Maker, capable of battering a score of soldiers into pulp, able to make their blood boil within their veins with the sheer power of her belief. She proudly wears armor of hard metal; impenetrable and shining like faith; but secretly, around the edges of the metal, here and there, are little subtly etched shapes in a border pattern. 

Her secret vulnerability. Her real self.

Hearts. Hidden in the steel.

That's Cassandra Allegra Portia Calogera Filomena Pentaghast.

The True Believer

I love everything about Cass—and that includes every single one of her names (for me, it's the "Filomena" that makes it art). She was written by one of Dragon Age's most famous and gifted writers, David Gaider, who gives her the perfect combination of steel and softness. Beautifully voiced with strength, emotion, and unexpected glimmers of vulnerability by Miranda Raison, I've always found something lovely and curiously restful about her as a character. She's not simple—not exactly, and certainly not in any negative way—but she is uncomplicated, in the best sense. She is direct in a way that is almost naive. She expects the best from herself, and from those around her. She is uncomfortable with subterfuge and wounded when lied to.

She is, in short, a Seeker of truth.

Of course, this means that, on the down side, she's unaccustomed to delicacy or subtlety, to feints within feints within feints, to quote Dune, and this also provides the tension to her character that makes her surprising and in some ways accessible and vulnerable. She sees a wrong and rights it. She sees a threat and throws herself before the vulnerable. She sees a potential plot and plonks you down in chains until she's sure you aren't the cause. And then (this may be my own headcanon) she hugs you, makes a noise, and plonks you down in a much nicer room or abode by way of wordless apology.

To Cass, the ends may be harsh, but they justify the means (and—to be fair—her bark is usually worse than her bite).

Cass knows who she is. She also knows how she sees the world; she is certain to the point of arrogance of how her world works; of the way the world ought to be, which can be an asset and of course a liability. But ultimately there is something pure to her for me, something that is simply aligned to the core of her as a person. And all of that is ultimately tied to her belief.

She won't wear a dress, but that doesn't stop Cassandra from literally (and wonderfully) wearing her heart on her sleeve... or several... for those who pay attention.

In the end, Cassandra is a believer. She believes in the Maker. It does not diminish her or make her cruel (although I would point out her treatment of poor Varric in Kirkwall, and after, as a definite if understandable low point, which I'll address in more detail later on). But most of the time, her belief sustains her, inspires her. Cass is an example of a character whose faith makes them more, not less, than who they are.

At its worst, faith can be something that narrows or diminishes a person, especially when used to create barriers between people focused on a specific way of life. Especially if that faith is tied to religious dogma, to a certainty that there is only one way. We see it on earth here, every day. However, in the best of us, faith is something that enhances empathy. Cass's faith strengthens her. (I think she fights that, early on, because she fears weakness in herself, before her talks with Solas.)

I wrote about this further here, but to me it's no accident that Cass determines the path of faith for the Inquisitor, for someone who believes in the Maker, and who believes that Andraste (or another appropriate female martyr) saved her from the Fade. She loves the world and wants fiercely to save it. She is also someone whose outlook is fiercely bounded and yet exceeded by her faith, by her religion and her religious belief. It's innocent but fierce, and it's also grounded and believable. And oddly vulnerable.

And strange as it seems, against Dragon Age: Inquisition's tapestry of adept liars and game-players, Cass is a wonderful alternative, an escape at times. She might slap some manacles or chains on you; she might threaten you with execution, and she might make disgusted noises at your terrible jokes and puns, but hey, she won't lie to you. There's no hidden agenda. It's just not who she is.

The Princess Warrior

Beyond her innate honesty, the thing that's most wonderful about Cassandra to me is all the ways in which she defies expectation. And she does it as naturally as breathing.

Cassandra was born a princess but, of course, on her own terms, right from the beginning. She was born en route—literally in a carriage—between Cumberland and Val Chevin, to Lord Mathias and Lady Tigana Pentaghast (perhaps my favorite names in all of Dragon Age). She was born with, on the surface at least, every advantage. But she had no interest in wearing frocks and frills; no interest in royal machinations. Her parents were executed for their involvement in the power struggles of Nevarra, and chose the wrong side. As a result, she and her brother Anthony were given a narrow reprieve due to their age and innocence, and she spent the rest of her childhood in a city of death under the disinterested eye of her uncle, Vestalus.

She never wanted privilege. Or ease. She wanted to be a warrior, to fight for the weak, against whatever brought evil to the world. She didn't care about manners, or how princesses were supposed to act.  She was descended from a famed line of dragon-slayers, but that only bored her. Even when she became an acclaimed and ferocious warrior, she had little interest in killing for killing's sake. She was willing to be brave, and she wanted a cause, something worthy of her loyalty. She wanted to be tested; she wanted something clean and clear. She wanted to fight. 

She was a warrior. On a holy quest. She was going to change the world.

One of the most rewarding aspects to replaying Dragon Age: Inquisition is to realize how much Cassandra has just lost when we meet her after the explosion at the Conclave.

The Hidden Push of Grief

The worst thing to realize about Cassandra when reviewing her life and history is the revelation of how much of her action and determination arose from grief from chapter to chapter in her development:

  1. From the deaths of her parents at six
  2. From the death of her brother Anthony at twelve (which directly spurs her to join the Seekers)
  3. To a slightly lesser degree, from the events of Kirkwall and Dragon Age II (and, I suspect, the loss of Elthina and the Chantry)
  4. From the death of Divine Justinia, and from the death of her lover Regalyan at the Temple of Sacred Ashes

It's really amazing to realize that the first person we meet in Dragon Age: Inquisition, this fierce, beautiful warrior woman, who's so intimidating and imposing when questioning our Inquisitor, is also quietly half-mad with grief. She's just lost two of the people most important to her in the world. 

One of my favorite banter dialogues occurs with Cole, here:

Cole: Cassandra, who's... Regalyan?
Cassandra: No one to concern yourself with.
Cole: You were thinking about the time you—
Cassandra: Now I'm thinking about something else. Can you guess?
Cole (pausing, puzzled): My hat wouldn't fit there...

Now, it's sort of implied that Regalyan and she had had their romance (she refers to it as "fleeting"), then ended it years back. From the dialogue below with Varric, for instance, she implies that they were no longer involved at the time of the Temple explosion:

Cassandra: I have no "conquests."
Varric: How about dalliances? Liaisons? Illicit affairs?
Cassandra: No.
Sera: Enough poking, Varric.
Varric: Is it, Buttercup? Is it?
Cassandra: Very well, Varric. If you wish to know about men I have known, I will tell you.
Varric: Look, Seeker. I was only...
Cassandra: You are right. I pried first, and fair is fair. Years ago, I knew a young mage named Regalyan. He was dashing, unlike any men I met. He died at the Conclave.
Varric (quietly): ...Oh.
Cassandra: What we had was fleeting. And years had passed. Still, it saddens me to think he's gone.
Varric: I'm sorry. (pause, then more quietly) Look, Seeker, I didn't mean to make you talk about your mage friend.
Cassandra: I know. I was not trying to make you speak of Bianca. If I was, you would know. I would yell, books would be stabbed.
Varric: (Chuckles.) I'll keep that in mind.

This seems to be a less-referenced banter conversation, but it's a terrific moment of quiet between Varric and Cass, and what moves me is Varric's open sympathy. After all, to be honest, he doesn't really owe her sympathy here.

Cass and Varric (and the Ship I Sail On)

Because, let's face it—Cass has treated Varric pretty terribly at this point. 

And—I admit it—yeah, look, I've always kind of shipped them for that rom-com chemistry they have. Yet it's difficult to do so early on when you realize what Cass has put Varric through: Repeated imprisonment (he is actually her prisoner after Kirkwall and when we meet Varric after the explosion, his status is actually still a bit nebulous at that point), plus her rage and physical hands-on behavior with Varric in a specific scene at Skyhold itself (when she discovers Hawke was alive and accessible all this time).

But. She was acting out in extreme grief, I felt like the apology was implied, and I think the knowledge of her grief does add a sense of situational acceptability to the times she goes a little crazy—I absolutely don't think it's okay when she grabs Varric or shoves him, by any means, but that's also not normally who she is. I can buy that the revelation that yes, Varric was lying to her and he actually did know where Hawke was—the person Cassandra began to hero-worship as the potential fix to all their problems—simply sent her over the edge. This banter with Viv and Varric is pretty revealing on the topic (and Viv is even somewhat caring here!):

Vivienne: I'm curious, Cassandra. Why were you not at the Conclave?
Cassandra: Leliana and I were delayed returning from Kirkwall.
Varric: Delayed interrogating a certain dwarf, specifically.
Vivienne: A rather fortunate delay, it turns out.
Cassandra: I'm not so certain. If we had only...
Vivienne: You must not blame yourself, dear. You have done all you could and more.
Cassandra: Thank you. But I suspect I will be telling myself that for years to come.

Cass was undoubtedly unfair to Varric... but he was lying to her in her search for truth and justice... and as we progress through DAI with Cass, it's apparent that she is much more about heart than armor; she's a genuinely caring and humble person. She even apologizes to him later on:

Cassandra: Varric, I'm sorry. About earlier. With the table.
Varric: Beg your pardon? I didn't catch that, Seeker.
Cassandra: I am sorry.
Varric: Oh! I'll mark this on my calendar—Cassandra had a feeling!
Cassandra: Perhaps not that sorry...

She recovers, and she perseveres, and she's eventually genuinely companionable and caring with Varric (and even a bit starstruck, as we later discover, over his writing). But it's certainly very moving to me upon replay to think of that element of grief because it colors everything Cassandra says and does. Of course she's fierce and determined and scary and in a rush to judgment. She's just lost the love of her life, as well as the woman who gave her life and faith real purpose.

A reprieve, in early days, is as good as a hug with Cass. She is more comfortable with a kiss or a punch than with words. It's just who she is.

It's perfect to discover that Cassandra's heart beats for Varric's stories. Because of course it does—we should've realized it as far back as Dragon Age II, when her delight in his story eventually had her actively rooting for Hawke.

A Little Romance

I'll be looking at her romance separately in a post later on, but suffice it to say that Cass does recover from her losses enough to flirt a bit here and there, either with the Inquisitor, or also with The Iron Bull, who for awhile seems genuinely and understandably more than a little interested in her:

Iron Bull: You know, Seeker, your style doesn't have to be so defensive.
Cassandra: Excuse me?
Iron Bull: You've got armor. Let someone scratch the paint a bit. You can wind up for a shot that will really ring their bell. Some part of you wants to just cut loose. I can feel the frustration in your swings. 

He pauses for a moment, delicately.

Iron Bull: If you need any help with that frustration back in camp, let me know.
Cassandra: It's never going to happen.
Iron Bull: Apologies for giving offense. I will stop making invitations, Seeker.
Cassandra: I was not offended. Nor did I say you should stop, so long as we are both clear it's never happening.
Iron Bull: Works for me.

What's fun about this is that Bull flirts, but at a certain point, he also apologizes and steps back quite respectfully so that he doesn't give offense. But then again, that's my Bull, Mr. three-clear-requests-for-consent romancer.

Cass clearly responds that she is not offended, and that she welcomes his continued flirtations, simply for fun. So they continue, and Cass is pretty merciless in her own right here:

Cassandra: I enjoy fighting at your side, Bull.
Iron Bull: Same here, Seeker.
Cassandra: But I will also enjoy returning to the base and sinking slowly into a steaming hot bath, sprinkled with rose petals.
Iron Bull: Oh, now you're just being mean! I mean, roses! Who has sex smelling like roses? Violets, or a nice frangipani, maybe...!
Cassandra: (laughs)

Cass is really wicked on this one, definitely twisting the knife by giving Bull the image of her naked body sinking slowly into a bath fulled with rose petals. And Bull's response is the best thing ever here (Note: I know the Wiki refers to this dialogue with 'frangipane,' which is a kind of almond tart, but what he's actually referring to are frangipani or plumeria flowers, so that's why I've changed the spelling). 

Much to her utter disgust, everyone eventually figures out that Cass is a sweetheart and a total pushover when it comes to kindness and companionship.

Companions and Relationships

Cass's relationships with her fellow companions are all wonderful to me because they provide us with such a well-rounded and warm portrait of who she is. She's teasing and flirtatious with Iron Bull, antagonistic and yet eventually warm with Varric, professional and courteous with Blackwall and Vivienne, suspicious yet ultimately familial with Cole, and eventually friendly and actively respectful with Solas.

One of my favorite little moments is when Sera calls Cassandra out on laughing at Sera's fears of magic. Like all the best banter moments, it tells us as much about Sera as it does about Cassandra:

Sera: You know, you shouldn't make fun of people being scared of magic just because you can scare them back.
Cassandra: I take it you think I'm frightening?
Sera: Not naked, you're well fit. But all armored up and fierce? What do you think some stable boy sees?
Cassandra: A Seeker on the side of righteousness.
Sera: Here's what I learned in the alleys: "Ahh, mages! Ahh, templars! Ahh, Tevinters! Ahh, hungry!" When you're little, everything is, "Ahh!" 

I also love the teasing, almost brotherly relationship that develops with Dorian. First, there's outright dislike (and more than one patented disgusted noise). But slowly, Cassandra responds to Dorian's charm offensive (seriously, who could resist forever anyway? It's DORIAN), and their dialogues are delightful:

Dorian: Cassandra, I owe you an apology.
Cassandra: Apologize to me? For what?
Dorian: For judging your Seekers. Considering my feelings about Tevinter, I shouldn't throw stones.
Cassandra: That is... remarkably decent of you Dorian.
Dorian: It was fun to goad you. You get this little knot between your eyebrows... See, there it is! Delightful.
Cassandra: Continue on this path and we'll see if it remains such.

See? It's the best thing ever! I love Dorian teasing her about the little knot between her eyebrows. That's Cass. Then there's this little teasing moment:

Dorian: Still don't like me, Cassandra? After all this time?
Cassandra: Why does it matter? We are different in every possible way.
Dorian: Not every way. There is my family.
Cassandra: Your family of slave-owning Imperial magisters.
Dorian: Ghastly, isn't it? Toss it all on the fire and be done with it, that's what I say.
Cassandra (chuckling): Very well. There is that.
Dorian: I knew you'd come around.

However, one of the best things about their banters is the way Dorian gets Cassandra to talk about her life and childhood:

Cassandra: I take it your father returned to Tevinter, Dorian.
Dorian (sighs): Let's hope so.
Cassandra: My father died when I was very young. I barely remember him now.
Dorian: I won't say you're lucky, because that's not true, but there are days...
Cassandra: I understand. You have my sympathy.

And here:

Dorian: Tell me, Cassandra—did your family throw suitors at you?
Cassandra: My uncle did, waves of them—until I broke one's arm. Then there were fewer.
Dorian: I must admit I never tried that.
Cassandra: It was an accident. Well... mostly an accident.

And then this, when Cass's secret romantic side shows a little:

Cassandra: We hear odd stories of templars in the Imperium, Dorian.
Dorian: All true.
Cassandra: I haven't even told you what I've heard.
Dorian: Doesn't matter. All true. Particularly the part with the grapes and feathers.
Cassandra: Oh. I was leading towards that one, actually.

Until, in the end, he teases her like a sister, and she loves it:

Cassandra: Why are you looking at me like that, Dorian?
Dorian: I’m imagining what you would look like in a dress.
Cassandra (scoffing): Keep wondering. If my uncle couldn’t put me in one, neither shall you.

Cass and Dorian start out as antagonists, but end as choose-your-own-family siblings. I just love this—it's what Dragon Age: Inquisition does best, after all—giving us the unexpected moments between opposites. Like those between the Tevinter mage necromancer and the mage-cautious Seeker who grew up in a Nevarran city of the dead. 

Communing with Cole

But some of my favorite banters with Cass are with Cole, who instantly adores her because he sees the spirit-touched faith within her, and he sees what a good, kind, and pure light shines within her as a person:

Cole: You found Faith, not just a feeling. It was a spirit.
Cassandra: We do not need to speak of this further.
Cole: I'm a spirit that touched a body, you're a body that touched a spirit. We're the same, but backwards!
Cassandra: Please, stop.

Even though she's in pain at the realization here, eventually, the thought brings comfort, too, and Cole says just the right thing to bring that comfort to her:

Cole: It's you, Cassandra.

A pause.

Cole: Breathing from the belly, cold air warmed, stones beneath me, candle before me, Maker all around. Then nothing, empty, I'm cut, cauterized, then caught, cleansed by a light that carries me home.

He pauses once more, then speaks as himself again.

Cole: You're thinking backwards. You don't have faith because of the spirit. The spirit came because of your faith. It's you.
Cassandra (openly moved): Thank you, Cole. I appreciate that.

And then they have the next stage of their conversation, where once again Cole can give her real comfort with a little keepsake of her childhood:

Cassandra: Cole, I found a locket on my pillow earlier.
Cole: It was Anthony's.
Cassandra: It was my grandmother's, actually. But it had Anthony's portrait inside. I thought I lost it.
Cole: You did lose it. I had to fight a rat for it.
Cassandra: Oh? Thank you.
Cole: He wasn't a very big rat.

One of my favorite mental images from the companion banters has to be this one, where I imagine Cole dueling a rat for Cassandra's locket. I'm certain Cassandra smiles every time she looks at it afterward (and not just for the preciousness of the restored little memento of Anthony). I think just a little part of that smile in the future will also belong to Cole.

Refusing Power

Cassandra's faith, however, is not the only thing that makes her unique—it's her consistent abnegation of power that truly does so. I love that what befuddles the companions about Cass is that she fights so fiercely for justice and for change, but but then they get the realization: She's not after power. Not remotely. She is capable of humility, and of stepping away from leadership simply because she doesn't feel she's right for it—something that even shocks Solas, the thousands-of-years-old companion hiding in plain sight.

Solas: So, Seeker, your Inquisition grows.
Cassandra: It was never 'my' Inquisition, Solas.
Solas: You did the brutal, thankless work putting the wheels in motion... Do you feel no regret at letting that power pass to another?
Cassandra: I did my part. But the power you describe was never mine to carry... I know myself and I cannot be the leader we need. Thus, I have no regrets.
Solas: You surprise me again, Seeker.
Cassandra: Your opinion of me must be very low to surprise you so often.
Solas: Not low, but realistic. Very few, however honorable, release power they have won.

I just love this. I love that Solas is so confounded by Cass. He's ancient and yet despite his thousands of years of life (and of viewing mortals through the Fade, as well) he still hasn't experienced that many people who would've been willing to refuse power (although, interestingly enough, he is one of them, himself). So that's meaningful to me on multiple levels. And then Varric chimes in on this theme too, again showing disbelief and then ultimately respect for Cass's choices:

Varric: So as a Seeker, you're the highest ranked person in the Inquisition. But you're not in charge.
Cassandra: Leliana's rank equals my own insofar as our rank means anything outside the Chantry.
Varric: But you want to get shit done, right?
Cassandra: I declared the Inquisition but I don't know that I'm best suited to command it. Perhaps you're interested in the position, since you seem so interested?
Varric: Oh, no, you don't! Leave me out of that mess.

The best part of this conversation is that Varric's starting out trying to tease her, to needle her (arguably deservedly), but he ends by respecting her decision while also being genuinely horrified at being presented with power, himself.

And what happens when that occurs—when Varric is presented with a crown of his own? Varric accepts. He becomes Viscount of Kirkwall! Because Varric only pretends not to care... and he sees something he can fix, and he takes responsibility. Which Cass has done here as well; please note that she has just refused actual leadership. 

She hasn't refused responsibility; she just refused the crown.

Cassandra and Varric? I ship it. So, so much. Don't judge me. What? They're both hot, and she's the yin to his yang—tough where he's vulnerable, soft where he's cynical, tall where he's short. They're perfect for each other!

Swords and Shields

One of the most wonderful things about Cassandra is the fact that she may be a tough warrior princess who disdains her princess side, but that doesn't mean she's not a sucker for hearts, candlelight, poetry, and romance.

Cassandra's secret love for Varric's books—even better because she loves what he considers to be his worst, most shameless stuff (his Swords and Shields romance serial). Cass knows full well that it's not highbrow, admitting adorably that it's "smutty literature," but she's helpless over it anyway. Which is why the Inquisitor's quest to go get Varric to write her the next installment is so delicious—it's a sweet and harmless way to get Varric a little richly deserved payback while we also get to see Cassandra embarrassed, vulnerable, and more than a little hysterical over the fates of her favorite characters. 

I think this is the aspect to Cassandra and Varric's relationship that sends me over the edge and into shipper territory; it's just this sort of lovely, organic opposites-attract thing for me—the handsome, apolitical dwarven rogue, paired with the tough, beautiful, and intensely driven warrior. The fact that Varric writes the words that thrill Cass's secret romantic heart is just the icing on the cake for me.

Of course, in the end, it's not just Varric who's aware of Cassandra's romantic side—eventually, everyone figures it out. Take this conversation if Sera is romancing the Inquisitor, where Cass's request to Sera is genuinely kind and even wistful:

Cassandra: Sera, about you and the Inquisitor...
Sera: Right, here we go. What is it from you?
Cassandra: If you are going to pursue this, make it worth it. Be happy.
Sera (openly delighted): You cagey, boxed up, kissy romantic!
Cassandra: Ugh, there is no need to tell anyone that.
Varric: Who doesn't already know, that is.
Dorian: Who hasn't already seen your collection of books...
Vivienne: No need, because it's hardly a secret, my dear!

The thing is, she and Varric do flirt. See Exhibit C below:

Varric: You never did tell me why you dragged me to Haven, Seeker. I mean, what could I have told the Divine that you couldn't say yourself?
Cassandra: I thought she needed to see the chest hair for herself.
Varric (surprised): Er... Say again?

Yeah. I still ship it.


It's no surprise that Cassandra is probably the toughest person among our companions on Blackwall following the revelations about his real identity.

To me, this makes perfect sense. Cassandra is not only a hero, she is someone who earned her title, who put herself through incredible rigors in order to prove herself worthy. She admires those, most of all, who do the same; who are willing to push themselves past all limits or to sacrifice for the greater good. It's no wonder that she judges Blackwall harshly for his lie—she'd thought she was fighting beside a man who had already willingly risked his life in the Joining, and who had then given up his future to shadows and painful death against the darkspawn. To learn that, well, he'd rather been on his way to do this (and it's definitely true that he had intended to) while lying to everyone around him was a bitter blow to the Seeker.

Their banter dialogues after the revelation are genuinely painful:

Blackwall: Cassandra.
Cassandra (coldly): Seeker Cassandra, if you must address me—
Blackwall: Seeker Cassandra—
Cassandra: But I would rather you not address me at all.
Blackwall: What happened to "It's never too late to become more than what you are?"
Cassandra: A man who truly aspired to be righteous would not lie. He would earn respect, not steal the respect due another.

Ouch. And this one's even worse:

Cassandra: I see the Inquisitor kept you around. I would not have were it up to me.
Blackwall: Such spite is beneath you Cassandra.
Cassandra: Is it? What do you know of me? Even less than we know of you.
Blackwall: I…wasn’t…
Cassandra: You have no right to determine what is beneath me. Not now not ever.
Inquisitor (among several options): That’s enough, Cassandra!

Cassandra: As you wish. I was going to pursue it no further.

I think it's interesting that, here, it's Bull of all people who is most sympathetic to Blackwall, and who asks Cass to consider giving him a break. But then again—Bull spent at least half his own time with the Inquisition lying about his loyalties, so it's not surprising that he'd feel a slight kinship with Blackwall, himself (and of course, he plainly guessed the truth early on:

Iron Bull: So, you ever letting Blackwall off the hook, Seeker?
Cassandra: He is a coward who abandoned his men. A man who wishes to atone but lies to do so.
Iron Bull: All... right? So that's a no.
Inquisitor: I chose to take him back. End of story.
Cassandra: I cannot help but feel as I do.
Iron Bull: Sure you could. You won't, but you could.

And, interestingly, there's no resolution here. Cass is slightly kinder to him as time passes, but there's no complete thaw, as there is for Blackwall even with Solas (who also judged him harshly initially). Cass does not like liars and she doesn't forgive them, either.

Crisis of Faith

Then, of course, poor Cass's world shifts again, when she must face the truth of the revelations about the Seekers—both what they kept secret (especially about the reversal of Tranquility), and what she had uncovered about Lord Seeker Lucius's terrible activities and betrayals.

Then her companions speak up, Cole doing so at length, as noted before, and then further, here:

Cole: You're sad about the Seekers.
Cassandra: That takes no magical gift to understand, Cole.
Cole: The room with the candle. It wasn't a lie. Your faith was real.
Cassandra: The same could be said for Lambert or Lucius. A single moment of perfect faith does not make one immune to fault.
Cole: Belly knotted, the candle burns like the sun. No voice but my own for months. "Blessed are they who stand before the corrupt and the wicked and do not falter."
Cassandra: "Blessed are the peacekeepers, the champions of the just."
Cole (quietly, with certainty): It will be enough.

Bull offers comfort through a blunt combination of sympathy, honesty, and the cynicism of the lifelong spy:

Iron Bull: Sorry about your Seekers. It's tough when the ones who watch over us abuse that authority.
Cassandra: Yes it is.
Iron Bull: Always happens, though. Nobody can handle secrets all day long without it getting to them.
Cassandra: How do the Ben-Hassrath deal with such problems?
Iron Bull: If the problem's small, they turn a blind eye. Like I said, it happens.
Cassandra: And if it is too large to ignore?
Iron Bull (dryly): How do you think I ended up here?

Surprisingly, so does Solas, who again seems to want to offer real comfort to this woman he's grown to respect and genuinely care for:

Solas: How are you feeling, Cassandra, after the revelations about your Seekers?
Cassandra: How do you expect I might feel? Most of my life was dedicated to the Order. I did so much I believed was good in their name.
Solas: Now that you know them corrupt, you must determine which parts of yourself to discard and which to keep.
Cassandra: I assume you have advice?
Solas: I would hardly presume. In our travels, I have been impressed by your honesty and your faith. It is a difficult path, Seeker, but if anyone can walk it honorably, you can.

Later, he offers further comfort here:

Solas: You seem troubled, Seeker. Still plagued by thoughts of your order?
Cassandra: I... am reminded of what I was told following my vigil. They said my abilities were a gift from the Maker, a reward for my faith and dedication. But it was a trick, wasn't it? A ritual no different that the Harrowing, simply magic...
Solas (with emotion): Do you know how rare spirits of Faith are? How difficult it is to draw them to this world? You should be proud, having accomplished something so remarkable—not ashamed it was not what you thought.
Cassandra: Thank you, Solas. That... does make me feel better.
Solas: Your faith does you credit, Cassandra. I hope your Maker is worthy.

Solas has spent thousands of years finding disappointment in humanity. It's fitting, therefore, that Cassandra is one of the people who redeems them for him... with a little bit of faith.

In the end, that's how I think Cass wants to be seen, and known—as someone good, genuinely good, who is both merciful and incorruptible. Even Dorian isn't immune to the larger-than-life, almost mythical aspect of Cassandra when he teases her:

Dorian: How do you want to be remembered, Cassandra? Valiant yet sexy rebel against the status quo?
Cassandra: I don't have any control over how I'll be remembered.
Dorian: Sword raised high, blue scarf dramatically fluttering in the wind, sun rising behind you?
Cassandra: Blue scarf? Why would I be wearing such a thing?
Dorian: It's a painting, of course. Work with me. It'll be fantastic.

Tell me Varric's not writing Cass into a book (and no, not just in the teasing way we hear at the end of "Trespasser"). She's a heroine for the ages. Hearts, armor, and all. Punctuated, of course, by the occasional perfect disgusted noise when people forget themselves.

I'll be taking a look at Cassandra's romance in a separate future post. Meanwhile, what's your favorite thing about our Warrior Princess?


  1. One of the only things I you haven't already brought up that I adore about Cassandra is that she is the other side of the coin of vengeance, when compared to Cullen. Her immediate reaction to losing Antony to blood mages is nearly identical to Cullen's reaction at the Circle after his ordeal at their hands -all mages must die- but where he becomes bitter and never really heals until the end of DAII, she contains her grief and eventually turns it to her benefit. Its the difference between lighting a barrel of oil on fire for immediate warmth, and building a radiator around it that will server you for years. He learns from Meredith that the Templar solution is not always right, but true to her nature she much more directly learns that not all mages are wrong from Regalyan.

    1. Brian, great point!

      You actually spotlight a comparison I had never considered before. It's interesting because she and Cullen are in similar circumstances (and even similar roles, to some degree) and yet she seems so much more at peace with herself, while Cullen still grapples with trauma, guilt, and anger.

      Cassandra is such a wonderful character, and you point out something essential about her -- acceptance. She has the incredibly rare gift to simply allow things to be as they are. She accepts loss and grief and then is almost miraculously able to move forward with her life.

      Look at how she handles the Inquisition. She is one of the founders, one of the leaders (and certainly a fair prospect as its leader early on). And yet she absolutely doesn't hunger for power. She doesn't need accolades, power, or appreciation to be who she is -- she already knows who she is. I love that this shocks not only Solas, but Bull, too -- because it's just so genuinely rare for someone to build something, accept that they cannot lead that organization, and to step back with zero resentment or lust for power.

      There's a key moment you reminded me of here in Cass's romance. When she's with the Inquisitor, she notes that she will not allow herself to feel shame or sadness. She is happy to be in the moment itself. I think you've touched upon that aspect of Cass here, and it really does make her seem real and admirable.

      Thank you for commenting!

    2. Late to the party I know- sorry!

      I don't see how you can even compare Cass and Cullen. He didn't just have a few people he knew die miles away from him and out of sight- he was forced to watch his brothers and sisters be tortured horrifically and die from it, as well as being horrifically tortured himself. It was in his face. As a young Templar he watched it, heard it, smelled it, endured it...and I think his attitude towards mages is harsh, but also completely justified- I mean holy hell- look at Kirkwall! Cullen, in my eyes, earned redemption as he realized that he was wrong, acknowledged that shame openly, and actively attempts to atone. Dragon Age, in my opinion, is the RPG that I will weigh all other RPG's against. GREAT article, as always =)


"Dragon Age: Dreadwolf" Predictions & Ponderings (and "What's in a Name?" Redux)

He doesn't call, he doesn't write, but finally, it looks like we might be hearing from Solas at last (2023?), as BioWare announces t...