DA Talk: Leliana

A detailed history of Leliana: origins as a bard, her rise to Left Hand of the Seeker, and role in Dragon Age: Inquisition. An integral piece to the history of Dragon Age that you can't kill...no matter how much you try.

See it on Youtube! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_whYYGkLJDY


Sources

Games and DLC Featured

  • Dragon Age: Origins
  • Leliana's Song (Premium Content DLC)
  • Dragon Age 2
  • The Exiled Prince (DLC)
  • Mark of the Assassin (DLC)

Factoids


Transcript

Welcome to DA Talk, an exploration into the world of Thedas and its long history of faith and conflict. Today's feature is Leliana. A hero of the Fifth Blight. The Orlesian bard known as Nightingale. The Left Hand of the Divine. Leliana's scattered past is one of bloodshed and betrayal. Let's find our way through and make sense of her place in Thedas.

Leliana's story is long, and her involvement in Thedas great. At your leisure, you can press any of the buttons on screen or the links in the description below to fast forward to a section. Or simply hold out for a few seconds and we'll get started.

Leliana is a red-headed Orlesian woman, though she takes her looks from her Ferelden mother. She was trained under the bardic arts by her mentor and lover Marjolaine, with skills that range from excelling in archery and duel-wielding daggers to maintaining prim posture and levelheadedness. She is known for her other skills like the lute and singing, and is very fond of sharing stories and Orlesian tales. She is quite knowledgeable and skilled in playing the Game, an Orlesian way of life that meddles in namely pleasure and politics.

While she is initially very muted about her originations and past, when she places her trust in others, it is given implicitly. She cares for the Chantry and the Maker, though revels in her bardic skills and utilizes them for the greater good. An amicable, amiable woman who does not stand for evil, but who can tolerate the grey that borders alongside it.

Leliana's Song illustrates her past before meeting the Warden: mentorship under Marjolaine, meeting and being saved by an Orlesian Revered Mother named Dorothea (or who we now know as Divine Justinia), and the path towards purpose. Marjolaine raised Leliana as a bard and, for obvious reasons , Leliana felt indebted and in love with her. Accompanied by a Dwarven Warrior and an Elven mage, Leliana roused chaos within Denerim while Marjolaine stole essential Orlesian military documents behind her companions' back. This act of treason caused a turn of events: Marjolaine betraying Leliana into incarceration, Dorothea rescuing Leliana from jail, and an unresolved confrontation that initiated Leliana and Marjolaine's conflict in Origins.

All in all, Leliana's Song illustrated two distinct things:

1. The life of a bard through Marjolaine's treachery. Marjolaine was convinced that, because of the nature of bards, Leliana would soon turn on her. And Marjolaine struck first, hoping that it would save her skin. The bard's life is one of mystique and skillful play; but down to its core, it is socially accepted mercenary work wrapped with a pretty smile. A life that teaches that bards have no friends and must always be vigilant, borderline paranoid, of the Game.

And 2. Leliana's Song established the groundwork for her path of becoming the Left Hand of the Divine. Dorothea saved Leliana from certain death and gave a chance to use her bard talents towards serving the interests of the Divine. Leliana's path towards becoming and acting as the Left Hand directly forces her in some of the most important and poignant memories in Thedas' history: the end of the Fifth Blight, the rebellion at the White Spire tower in Orlais, and the forming of the Inquisition.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. We still have 10 more years to take care of.

Leliana's history varies, depending on the actions of the Warden (or the Hero of Ferelden). Many of the factors the Warden chooses from will change Leliana's presence in Inquisition and beyond.

But, a bit of background: the Warden and Leliana met after a bar brawl with Loghain's men in Lothering. Leliana spoke of a vision she saw that brought her to meet the Warden and join the cause against the Blight. Tagging along in the adventures, Leliana can be either quiet of her past as a Bard or life at the Lothering Chantry, or the Warden can have Leliana open up and speak at great lengths about it.

Marjolaine, Leliana's former mentor, tries to kill Leliana during the journey. In this timeline, the Warden uncovers two things - the truth behind Leliana's past and the ability to harden her personality. Leliana was trained as a bard and that's why her skills vary between daggers and songs. In hardening her personality, Leliana can shift to becoming more accepting of her bard traits or the callousness and selfishness of other characters, for example -- Morrigan. Leliana can kill Marjolaine or let her go - an action left to the Warden's decision. If Leliana kills Marjolaine, the deed is done. However, if Marjolaine leaves alive, Leliana will go after her following the events of the Fifth Blight.

Beyond Marjolaine is the choice of Andraste's sacred ashes. The Warden can choose to recover the ashes of Andraste, or can defile them as per an arrangement with a Dragon cult. If she is not present in the party, Leliana will confront the Warden at camp and the Warden will have to persuade her to stay or go. If present in the temple, after the ashes are defiled, Leliana will attack the Warden and, in doing so, meet her demise. Though, at some point in between this slaying and the events of Dragon Age 2, she is brought back to life. 

Leliana is also a romanceable character for the Warden, and that romance is noted in the events of Dragon Age 2. Her romance after hardening her personality can even lead to more promiscuous behavior, such as the threesome or foursome with the Warden, Isabela, and/or Zevran. However, regardless of romancing the Warden or not, she still leaves the Warden's side to go to Orlais.

If Leliana's disposition is horrible with the Warden, normally caused by choosing despicable or immoral actions, she will leave the party forever. If Leliana's disposition is good, she will leave for Orlais to resolve any issues from Marjolaine and also speak with the Divine.

In Dragon Age 2, Leliana appears three times. 

As an agent of the Divine, Leliana is sent under the name Nightingale to pursue the mage Resolutionists who became more aggressive in Kirkwall. Her job is to evaluate the response to her presence. Noting the retaliation she received from the mages who turned to blood magic, she returns to the Divine with her evaluations. Though, the Divine's stance on handling the mages is left uncertain.

In a party at Chateau Haine, Hawke and brief companion Tallis meet Leliana briefly. Tallis, an Elf and Qunari Agent, and Leliana apparently know each other from long ago, though the exact details were not divulged. Cassandra Pentaghast later mentioned to Varric that Leliana was sent to investigate the dealings between Duke Prosper (acting under Empress Celene) and the Tal-Vashoth Salit, an exchange that would have given every Qunari agent and their families' identities to the Orlesian empire. Though, Leliana didn't have the (quoted) "access" that Hawke had.

At the end of Dragon Age 2, Leliana reveals herself to Cassandra, asking about the investigation behind Hawke's disappearance and location. "Gone, like the Warden" and both Leliana and Cassandra depart with only knowledge of the Truth behind the events of the mage rebellion at Kirkwall.

Though brief, Leliana appears in two of the recent Dragon Age books: Asunder, by David Gaider, and Masked Empire, by Patrick Weekes. Let me warn you now that the following holds great spoilers, so if you don't want that, please click on the box below to jump to the next spot.

In Asunder, again acting as an agent of the Divine, Leliana helps the mage rebellion at the White Spire. Chaos sparked inside the tower. The templars were fighting on one side. And Rhys, Knight-Captain Evangeline, Adrian, and Wynne, Rhys' mother and hero of the Fifth Blight, were on the other side. Leliana helped in her small part by saving Rhys from Lord Seeker Lambert and helping the mages during the revolt at the tower. After Wynne died by using her spirit to save Evangeline from death and the events at White Spire were finished, Leliana sang a chilling song at Wynne's funeral.

In Masked Empire, in place of the Divine, Leliana goes under the name Nightingale to meet with Empress Celene. As the nobles of Orlais are finicky and demanding answers on both the mage-templar conflict and rumors that Celene is conceding Orlais' power to the Chantry, the Empress tries to strike a deal with the Divine to have a proper stance on the mage-templar war within 3 weeks. Leliana later returns with the Divine's demand of ending the Elven rebellion in Halamshiral. While Leliana shows her sympathy for the Elves of Halamshiral, in light of her companionship with other Elves during her time of the Blight (a small nod at Zevran and possibly an Elven Warden from Origins), she gives the terms to Celene and leaves.

Enough summarization. Let's talk Inquisition.

Leliana is confirmed for Dragon Age: Inquisition. She appears in the first gameplay trailer from Bioware, with her hooded attire, Nightingales flying about and the Inquisition banner in the background. Leliana will play the role of the Inquisition's spymaster, involved with coordinating the organization's espionage, spies, and assassins. Additionally, she is not romanceable by the Inquisitor, and will presumably stay loyal to the Warden if she did romance him or her in the past. 

Speculation time:

Why is Leliana alive? In some choice permutations, the player can choose the option of killing Leliana during the Sacred Ashes quest. Bioware has said that they deliberately brought her back to life and will address why in Inquisition. Though, scorns and confusion have obviously plagued players into wondering how this is even remotely possible.

Let me bring you back to the Temple of the Sacred Ashes and the Gauntlet. The Veil was extremely weak in that place. The entire area is filled with lingering spirits and demons. Manifestations of mind through spirits, like the deceased Bryce Cousland or Tamlen, appear. If you made a mistake answering any of the spirits that represented Andraste's devoted followers, or were forced to engage the Guardian in combat, demons reveal themselves. While Bioware is not showing what happened to Leliana yet, it is entirely possible that a spirit or demon kept Leliana alive and may still be keeping her alive for a specific purpose that has not been revealed yet. 

Why aren't Leliana (and, to a lesser extent, Cassandra) acting directly for the Divine?
At the beginning of Inquisition, the top heads of the Chantry and the leaders of the mages faction are in a meeting at the Temple of the Sacred Ashes. Like I have mentioned before, the Veil in the Temple is weak. After an explosion destroys the Temple, all but the Inquisitor are killed, and the Veil tears, it's quite possible that either Justinia is dead or the Chantry cannot directly handle the mage-templar conflict, and thus the Inquisition must become the leading power. Leliana and Cassandra both are confirmed for Inquisition, both have powerful connections everywhere - they may be acting in pursuit of the Divine's interests or may no longer have someone to serve.

That's all I have for this talk on Leliana. If you have any additional questions, comments, or concerns, please leave them in the comment box below. If you have a suggestion for the next DA Talk, put it in the comments as well. Remember to LIKE :D if this helped you. On screen are the top answers I have chosen from DA Talk on Varric Tethras. As always, thank you for sharing your thoughts on Dragon Age. The next DA Talk will be a while from now, for I will have a few specials on Inquisition itself before E3. More to come shortly, but I hope you thoroughly enjoy the days to come. 

Time for me to go! Take care everyone, I will see you next time.