A character breakdown and plot summary of the first chapter for The Masked Empire by Patrick Weekes!

Watch it on Youtube: http://youtu.be/Ysr2_ZOfbYY

“We are always in battle,” Celene said. “It is only that some of us do not always realize it. A bard named Marjolaine once told me that. I heard she met an unfortunate end in Ferelden.” She sighed. “Isnt that sad, Nightingale?”

Welcome, Inquisitors, my name is Ashe. What I just narrated was not fanfiction, but the words of Empress Celene Valmont from the upcoming Dragon Age book The Masked Empire by Patrick Weekes.

Amazon recently provided a rather generous excerpt from the unreleased book, introducing readers to the progressive Empress Celene, a woman leading a cultural revolution in her nation, socially promoting the enlightened and skilled, not just among the nobility but also the commoners and, to the distress of several key people, Elves. The chapter is an introduction of many things: new characters, characters we know and love, Orlais the nation itself, and, of course - the Game.

Sadly, as of Monday night, Amazon disabled the ability to preview the chapter. A fourth of the originally released excerpt is still visible on its main page. However, two sites, as of this recording, still have the chapter up for read: Macmillian Publishing and Powell’s Books. Their individual links can be found in the description below, if they still work.

But at the very least, let me acquaint you with some characters you will see in The Masked Empire.

Empress Celene is the first. Her Radiance is in her late 30s, approximately 36 years old. She’s very devoted to creating a more intellectual, cultured nation. We learn quite a few things from the first chapter: while she became Empress at the young age of 16, she was trained as a Bard. She developed a relationship with her handmaiden and eventual spy Briala, a female Elf who has long tried to improve the situation of her people in Orlais. Of course, Elves are still not kindly looked upon in Orlais, however her position allows her much flexibility against those who oppose her.

Ser Michel de Chevin is the Empress’s Champion, a rather muscled quiet type who is very diligent to his duties. As stated in the book, he has no care for the game. He plays it, as much as anyone in service of the Empress is required.

In opposition, we have the Grand Duke Gaspard de Chalons, Lord and most respected among the Chevaliers. In war, he is the best. He feels that under Celene’s leadership, the nation cannot protect itself, spending too much time cozying up to Ferelden and the Chantry. He sees himself as a true nationalist and patriot to Orlais, wanting to keep and strengthen Orlais back to its Imperialist roots.

Melcandre is a dark-haired bard in his employment that we see briefly, stumbling over her own two feet. But that is to come later.

Other characters that current Dragon Age fans will recognize are Leliana, still acting under the Divine as Sister Nightingale and liaison between the Divine and the Empress, and Bann Teagan Guerrin who acts as Ferelden’s representative for Orlesian affairs.

Celene is the Empress of Orlais, a highly regarded woman who is continuously shaping her nation to become the most cultured and intelligent hub in all Thedas. She is a master of the Game, an Orlesian custom where sharp wit and tongue are more valued than the sword. Celene speaks and handles her royal obligations with profound finesse and detail. 

Her day begins with visiting Chancelier Henri Morrac of the University of Orlais, a privileged place of learning for the nobility and sponsored commoners, in order to allow a brilliant Elven man admission to the University. The case is not normally accepted, due to the racism against Elves that still propagates throughout the nation, but Celene rationalizes the University’s necessary goals for “culture and scholarship” so perversely that the Chancelier cannot object.

A woman sent by the Divine, under the code name Nightingale, is Celene’s second encounter. Within a very brief conversation, Celene dissects the Nightingale’s every subtle mannerism and micro-expression to reveal the truth behind her identity: she is Leliana, a previous bard under the mentorship of Marjolaine, and Hero of the Fifth Blight. After much poking and prodding, the two former bards make a deal, involving the Divine to make a public show addressing the Mage-Templar conflict, in order to quell the troubled thoughts of the nobles of Orlais.

Events shift to the royal palace, where Briala, the handmaiden and direct underling to the Empress, is overseeing preparations for a ball. After a bout of slurs and sexual harassment from the Captain of the Guard, Briala realizes a minor plot to unfold.

The ball begins with the highest of nobility in attendance, including Grand Duke Gaspard de Chalons and even Bann Teagan of Ferelden. In a mocking show, Gaspard and his bard Melcendre attempt to fool and embarrass Bann Teagan in front of the other nobles. Empress Celene steps in to alleviate the situation, ultimately diffusing it by a humorous plot which ends in a feather duel and Gaspard humiliated.

At night, Celene and Briala privately spend time together to reflect on the day’s events. With Gaspard’s plans thwarted, the underling conspirators involved were handled. Promptly, by Briala, of course. The two become intimate before the dark seeps in.

And so ends Chapter 1.

Orlais is approaching a division, leading to two paths:

One is Empress Celene, a leader centered on improving the cultural and intellectual state of her nation - from the highest echelon of nobility down to the commoners. To the Elves, despite several Orlesians who do not agree. The other path is the militarily-driven Grand Duke Gaspard de Chalons, a man who has lived by the famed Chevalier’s code. War may come, but as it is Orlais, the Game comes first. We shall see what happens this April.

That is the end of The Masked Empire: The First Chapter. You can pre-order the book at the Amazon link in the description, it is available on Amazon, Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and other book sellers. Releasing next month on April 8.

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