on wynne, cole, cullen, tranquility, lyrium, and what, finally, magic is covering for

GUYS! Guys. I’m 3/4 of the way through Asunder, the book that comes between DA2 and DA:I, and there are so many answers to the wall of questions that confronts you (or you if you played like I did the first time) at the end of DA:I. I deliberately skipped Cole’s story in favor of rushing to finish the main storyline, but now on my second playthrough, and knowing so much more about him thanks to this book that is basically all about him, I’ll definitely pursue his sidequests. Also–

**Spoilers, obviously. For DA:I and Dragon Age: Asunder**

Lyrium! Being addicted to it. This gets discussed and is damned relevant if you care anything for Cullen.

Curing Tranquility! Someone mentions rumors, in-game, about this possibility and this book is where those rumors come from. And remember “what is magic covering for?” We have a bit of a hint hint here, when Rhys is explaining the Fade to Evangeline:

“Remember, you only have your sword because you think you do.”
“So you can change anything here?”
“Not anything, no…The spirits see the world in our minds, and try to emulate it. They don’t understand that what they’re seeing isn’t how it truly is. It’s mixed up with memory and emotion–but they think it’s real, and they find it fascinating. They’re drawn to it. But not all dreams are created by spirits.”

So. In review:

1.) Everyone can access the Fade briefly–like Tel’aran’rhiod, in Wheel of Time, the Fade is a place where people can flit to accidentally in dreams.
2.) Mages can cause themselves and others to go there on purpose (in dreams, at least until we start talking about Corypheus, which I’m not here).
3.) Demons and spirits hang out in the Fade and are tempted there to possess mages because, awesome, free ticket to the real world!
4.) This greater likelihood of demonic possession is why people fear mages.
5.) When made Tranquil, a mage no longer dreams, is an undesirable candidate for possession:

“Undesirable! A demon looks to possess a man because it wishes to experience life. To them a Tranquil is no better than an inanimate object.”

6.) Being made Tranquil does not rob you of free will:

“We just…desire nothing, we strive for nothing.” (247)

It robs you of any ambition or desire. It “makes you invisible to spirits.”

7.) Being touched by a spirit and/or demon in the Fade reverses the rite of Tranquility. You get your hopes, dreams and desires back:

“I’m me!” he shouted. “I’m actually me!” (244)

So what is magic covering for? Ask Wynne:

“Not a demon, not anything horrid or selfish, and it offered me a second chance.”
“A second chance to do what?”
Wynne shrugged. “I wish I knew. Years ago I thought my time was short, that I had been given only a temporary reprieve. I was alive for some greater purpose, and once that was done I would die as I was meant to.” She shook her head sadly. “I fought to keep the circle from collapsing, to prevent a war that would have cost untold lives…and nothing. I live still.” (272-273)

And, moments later:

She sighed patiently. “Rhys, I’m trying–”
“Trying to justify why a spirit chose to bring you back to life. Because it couldn’t be a random act, something without meaning. You need to be a crusader. I get it.”

Magic, the Fade, spirits, demons: they are sources of purpose and conviction outside the man-made world. Like Frankenstein striving to create life without woman, mages, with their ability to touch the Fade and interact with these otherworldly beings, are drawing on emotions not sculpted by a man-made religion, or government, or world order otherwise able to be manipulated by Thedas’ earthly residents. And that spells bad news for those earthly constructs like religions, governments, and other man-made structures of power. They can’t control that. Thus, “mages are evil! Mages caused darkspawn to come into being! Mages ruined it for all of us!”

Does it matter that darkspawn do in fact exist? Originally I thought no; I thought that the affirmation that Corypheus was who he said he was and had done what he said he had done was disappointing: oh congrats, I thought, another religion is written into stone as fact, bravo. Every zealot’s dream come to fruition. Get in line behind the Left Behind crowd. But just because darkspawn, the Black City, hell even Mythral herself exist, doesn’t mean they have to exist as part of some grand unifying theory as distributed by whatever bigwig is sitting in the shiny chair in the the church. They don’t have to have meaning in that way. Because sing the praises of the Maker as that person might, it’s awfully convenient to be the only bearer/interpreter in the world of a truth you tout as singular. For “demons” literally named after the emotions that arise without warning or, sometimes, control–pride, rage, desire, purpose–to exist thwarts any religion’s or governments attempts to assert control on their earthly followers. (Admittedly these organic emotions exist in everyone, but their more pronounced manifestation in mages is a cause for concern for the powers of the world.) Thus, spurning these inexplicable demons/spirits/emotions, and writing them off as threats or assaults on the good world the Maker “intended,” is a way of stamping out resistance, feeling, thought.

Aaaaand that’s my lunch break.

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