Magister Maevaris Tilani
Mae appears in two Dragon Age comic miniseries (Those who speak and Until we sleep), published in 2012 and 2013.
The material featuring her is one of the few occasions to see the Tevinter Imperium. The Imperium is an important but remote player in the Dragon Age setting.
This article assumes a passing familiarity with Thedas – the Dragon Age fantasy world. If you don’t have that, fear not ! Just hit our primer to Thedas.
This profile has S P O I L E R S for the two comic miniseries, and DA:O. That includes one bit (what Alistair was looking for in Tevinter) that could be seen as a minor S P O I L E R about Ferelden’s recent history.
- Real Name: Magister Maevaris “Mae” Tilani.
- Other Aliases: Mae *might* also be known as Maevaris Tethras (or Maevaris Tilani-Tethras) among the Dwarves, depending upon marriage laws and customs. Also, one suspects that the proper spelling for her given name is Mævaris.
- Marital Status: Widowed.
- Known Relatives: Magister Athanir Tilani (father, deceased), Thorold Tethras (de facto husband, deceased), Varric Tethras (de facto cousin-in-law), Bartrand Tethras (de facto cousin-in-law, deceased), other House of Tethras in-laws.
- Group Affiliation: The Magisterium.
- Base of Operations: Tevinter Imperium.
- Height: 5’7″ Weight: 125 lbs.
- Eyes: Clear blue Hair: Butter blonde (or light golden blonde if you prefer. This hair thing is so confusing. Why can’t we just say #ebcb78, with #f8eaab highlights ?).
The Tevinter Imperium, a will to power
To my Golden City you must sojourn.
At the foot of my throne, I shall anoint you,
Most favoured of my disciples,
And I shall raise you up to godhood
That all mortals shall know your glory.“
— Chant of Light, Canticle of Silence 1-3.
The Tevinter Imperium is the oldest surviving Human nation in Thedas. It appeared thousands of years ago, and much of this ancient history seems lost. A significant part of historical knowledge about Ancient Tevinter is found in the Chant of Light (notably the Canticle of Threnodies), which can be… cryptic.
As seen from a distance, it seems that a struggle for utter domination has always been the driving force behind Tevinter. Powerful men (and sometimes women) with a naked will to power, ruthlessly building up vast influence and magical might, stomping over others.
Unsurprisingly, Tevinter’s history seems to be a litany of wars, slavery, assassinations, curses and decadence.
This impression is reinforced since the Imperium is cast as the bad guys throughout the Chant of Light – the core religious creed in Thedas. They are thus Those Evil Guys Who Do The Things We Don’t. The main such practices are :
- Worshipping the Old Gods, usually represented as dragons. Obviously, Tevinter precedes the Chant of Light and thus the rise of monotheism.
- An extensive reliance on slavery for… practically everything.
- Being a magiocracy. The Magisterium is the ruling senate of mages (the Magisters), and all the powerful families are ruled by mages. Magic and money are the two keys to power in Tevinter, and Tevinter is all about power.
- Quietly practicing blood magic, which is a big no-no wherever the Chant of Light is sung.
- Having practically destroyed the Elves, broken their immortality, erased their culture and reduced them to slavery.
- An heteronormative society, where being LGBT is considered a “proof ” of deviancy and weakness.
However, it is important to note that many of the sins ascribed to Tevinter are present elsewhere. If it’s done in Tevinter, it proves that Tevinter awful. If it’s done elsewhere, then it’s just a sign of a common Human flaw.
Furthermore, the Chantry and other factions have altered a lot of information about Tevinter, or released outright forgeries. Information and “scholarship” are always suspect in Thedas, but it goes double for matters Tevene.
At its height, the Imperium had conquered practically the whole of Thedas. This is how Tevinter roads and ruins can be found as far South as Ferelden. Then, a Really Bad Thing happened.
According to the Chant of Light, the Old Gods influenced the mightiest Magisters into exploring the heart of the Fade. The Old Gods are vaguely Luciferian figures. They are presented as great spirits who were abandoned by the Maker, rose against him, and were forever imprisoned underground for their hubris.
The heart of the Fade, called the Golden City, is presented as the place where the Maker had retired. Through an epic-scale ritual with enormous sacrifices of slaves and magical lyrium, the Old Gods-influenced Magisters entered the City.
However, the simple presence of mortals therein spread a sort of corruption throughout creation. As a result, the Maker abandoned mortals like he had previously abandoned the Old Gods.
This corruption could be tapped for power by the Old Gods. The main application is to create diverse underground hordes of monsters, called the darkspawn. The darkspawn soon rose to destroy everything on the surface – a cataclysm called the First Blight.
The First Blight nearly eradicated the Dwarves, who had been prized trading partners of the Imperium.
Furthermore, the Imperium was too vast to be efficiently defended. This forced the huge Tevinter armies, who mostly suffered defeats, to fall back to better defend the heart of Tevinter. They abandoned increasingly vast territories to do that, leaving these open for the Darkspawn.
The First Blight was eventually stopped by the newly-formed Grey Wardens.
First Exalted March
Less than 30 years after the Blight, and more than a thousand years before the Dragon Age games, the prophetess Andraste declared an Exalted March – a crusade. She came from the abandoned barbarian lands at the periphery of the Imperium.
Andraste sung of convincing the Maker to come back to humankind, but that meant renouncing many sins. These sins, such as magiocracy and slavery, were embodied by the Tevinter Imperium.
Andraste was successful, raising a huge barbarian army from many raggedy nations. And as her March neared the Imperium, slaves escaped by the thousands to hear her Chant and join her March.
The marchers inflicted tremendous damage to what was left of the Imperium. But they could only go so far. Even a badly diminished Imperium remained mighty.
Eventually, Andraste was betrayed by her husband who handed her over to the Magisterium. In return, he was able to consolidate the conquests of the Exalted March.
This set the borders of the Imperium for centuries. Though Tevinter remained powerful and influential, it was boxed in pretty far in the North. New realms such as Orlais built up their own might over time.
The church teaching the Chant of Light, the Chantry, also found ways to control mages without allowing them to rule over ordinary folks. This meant that these new powers had their own magical firepower to resist Imperium spells if necessary.
And geography means that, when the strange civilisation of the Qun started exploring the world, the Tevinter Imperium is what they bumped into. Perhaps ironically, the Southern nations thus found themselves relying on Tevinter might to hold the powerful Qun at bay. Pressure from the Qun further kept the Imperium in check.
Modern Tevinter sounds sort of, vaguely Imperial Roman. Many of the names sound Latin or Italian, there are clear historical allusions such as the Senate or the vast network of roads, etc..
Still, the similarities are less marked than with, say, Orlais and medieval France. It’s better not to blindly assume that Tevinter stuff will be Roman-adjacent.
The Tilani family is one of the notable families of Tevinter. They have been consistently headed by a mage who held a Magister title, and thus a seat at the Imperial Senate. However, a lot of their power is actually financial.
In ancient history, the lucrative relations between the Dwarves and the Tevinter Imperium were decided at the Dwarven Ambassadoria in Tevinter. Traditionally, the Tilani were big players there, trusted by the Dwarves. That made them really, really rich.
(In particular, the Dwarves supplied Tevinter with a strategic resource, the mineral called lyrium. Lyrium is indispensable for many key magical endeavours.)
Magister Athanir Tilani, Maevaris’ father, was a kind and gentle man. In Tevinter society that would have made him meat for the beast. But Tilani wealth meant many allies, including Dwarves. Thus, getting rid of him was an arduous proposition.
Maevaris was physically born a boy, which greatly distressed her. By age 15, she had decided to present full-time as a woman, with the support of her dad. This caused much scandal and resentment.
In 9:32, Mr. Tilani was arrested and executed. Ms. Tilani knew that her father had been manipulated into this by a conspiracy, and vowed to avenge him. Unsurprisingly, there were attempts to deny her a seat at the Magisterium, even though she was a capable mage from an established family.
But Maevaris wasn’t passive like Athanir had been. She maneuvered deftly, turning money into influence whenever needed. She also competently played the courtly games of Tevinter. She threw magnificent parties and did all sorts of high society queen bee stuff to increase her social status.
But Mae’s master stroke came in 9:35.
Then comes marriage
The Dwarves had been nearly exterminated during the First Blight, albeit a few holds remained. The largest was Orzammar, far to the South in Ferelden. But despite the distance, the Dwarves of Orzammar still conducted important deals at the Ambassadoria.
Ms. Tilani closed excellent trades with Orzammar houses, and particularly the Tethras merchant house. This solidified her as a major player.
Though House leader Bartrand Tethras had recently died, he had greatly developed Tethras business during the previous years. For instance, he made numerous large investments throughout Thedas. These included assets such as mercenary companies.
Maevaris and Thorold Tethras fell in love. Though they never formally married, they lived together in Tevinter. This meant that Mae was now considered family by House Tethras, and their trusted go-to business partner.
However, in 9:37, Thorold was killed in an “accident”. This broke Mae’s heart, and she again set on a path of vengeance.
Reformer (part 1)
Maevaris had by then eliminated many of those responsible for her dad’s death. During her year of mourning Thorold, she dealt with those responsible for the murder of her husband. With this done, and with Thorold’s fortune added to hers, frontally opposing House Tilani had become daunting.
With her political weight, Maevaris started forming a coalition. She sought to modernise Tevinter, to abandon the old dreams of domination — that she saw as toxic — to become a nation building itself a future.
Of course, this drew even greater enmity from those nostalgic for the even-more-totalitarian Tevinter Imperium of old.
Thorold and the rest of House Tethras weren’t strictly from Orzammar. They had been exiled 30-ish years before, becoming surface dwarves. But they were a major player in the Dwarven Merchants’ Guild, explaining their weight at the Ambassadoria.
After Bartrand died, Varric Tethras (more or less) ran the House. Thorold had been his cousin.
Varrix was a… colourful character, famous and influential beyond even House Tethras’ achievements. To him Maevaris was good family, and they were solid friends and allies. Varric travelled an unclear number of times to Tevinter, and one suspects that he personally helped avenge his cousin Thorold.
In 9:38, Varric asked for help in confronting Magister Aurelian Titus. Mae got him invitations to a major ball that all Magisters would attend. Varric came with the (in)famous pirate queen Isabela, and King Alistair Theirin of Ferelden. Titus had been behind attacks on Ferelden, and Alistair came to deal with him.
This degenerated into an armed confrontation, which Titus immediately left. Maevaris fought at Varric’s side, standing by her friend. In particular she stalemated an enemy mage, allowing Varric to kill this man.
Mae ushered the Southerners away, and dealt with the police as a Magister. Thus, the Tilani family were now (discreetly) friends to Ferelden’s King.
On the other hand, Titus’ operatives seemed to be dragon cultists, which concerned Ms. Tilani.
Have fun storming the castle !
Alistair kept up his pursuit of Magister Titus. In complex and improbable circumstances, he allied with the Qunari. As a result, two Qunari dreadnoughts were dispatched to raid Titus’ foreboding coastal fortress.
Meanwhile, Maevaris attempted to expose Titus, investigate his dragon cultists and break his support. But she was too late. Titus had come from nowhere, had risen to power incredibly fast, and now commanded too much influence.
Mae was kidnapped and tortured. However, she was still alive and in his stronghold when Alistair and his allies attacked it.
Varric had sneaked solo into the fortress during the assault, and stumbled upon Mae. After rescuing her, he damaged the blood magic artefact behind Titus’ might. But all that did was to project everybody’s consciousness into the Fade.
As a result, they were plunged in comforting dream scenarios seeping from their subconscious.
A love for real not fade away
As a Dwarf, Varric was the first to break the illusion. He left the little corner of the Fade shaped by his desires, and soon found Mae’s. As a mage, Mae was aware that she was caught in a Fade illusion. But within her dream, she had been reunited with her husband. She didn’t want to leave.
However, Varric brought up the fact that Titus had tortured and humiliated her. Once again driven by vengeance, Ms. Tilani agreed to leave her dream. The pair then rescued Alistair and Isabela, who were less well-equipped to renounce the illusions they were plunged into. Then they all made contact with King Maric Theirin.
The band attacked Magister Titus in his own dream, with Mae using obfuscation magics so they could approach unseen. As the Southerners were fighting Titus’ demons, Ms. Tilani cast wards to allow King Maric to engage and destroy Magister Titus.
In the resultant chaos, the invaders sneaked away. Maevaris returned to the Tilani estates.
The Inquisitrix would have words with thee
Maevaris continued to struggle against the dragon cults, and against the reactionary Venatori movement. She advocated for considering magic and power as means rather than ends. But the Venatori gained influence, as their position was more attractive to those who already held power.
However, in 9:41 a young Tevinter necromancer, Dorian of House Pavus of Qarinus (and his fabulous moustache), gained a seat at the War Council of the Inquisition. Both Dorian and the Inquisition had been clashing with the Venatori.
The young man (and his fabulous moustache) drew the attention of senior Inquisition leaders (Lady Joséphine Montilyet, Sister Nightingale, Commander Cullen Rutherford, and Her Ladyship the Inquisitrix Agathe de Fer-de-Sixt d’Orlac) toward House Tilani. As a result, the Inquisition backed Mae to stymie Venatori influence in Tevinter.
(This assumes a specific Dragon Age: Inquisition playthrough and a specific Inquisitor, since we need that to describe the characters in-depth on writeups.org.)
That included Montilyet diplomatic backing, and a covert strike by a commando of ex-Templars led by Ser Belinda Darrow. These actions greatly facilitated Tilani’s political struggle (and survival).
Reformer (part 2)
By 9:42 or 9:43, Maevaris had founded a new political party, the Lucerni. Most Magisters who joined were young hotheads who wanted change, but had little political experience or heft.
This made Maevaris the Lucerni’s elder stateswoman, a perilous position.
However, when the Inquisition started winding down, now-Magister Dorian Pavus (and his fabulous moustache) returned to Tevinter. His house joined the Lucerni. He soon became Mae’s right-hand-man, as he had far more credibility than most Young Turks among the party.
— Sister Nightingale
However, the road ahead of the Lucerni remains fraught with grave dangers.
Powers & Abilities
Tilani is a sharp, smooth political operator. She has fine knowledge of Tevinter aristocracy, and the necessary intelligence and counter-intelligence acumen to maneuver among them. She also has a good presence and charisma, plus of course excellent people skills.
Her familial wealth is enormous and far-reaching. It can buy her a lot of useful allies, though she doesn’t rely solely on that.
Mae may have lost her right eye when tortured by Magister Titus. Or it might be severe but non-permanent damage. If she did lose an eye, there’s a *small* possibility she might be able to have it magically restored.
A kind of magic
She is a trained mage, with a seat at the Magisterium. However, we don’t see her casting a lot of spells. What we see her doing is :
- Keeping another mage in check as she shoots spell energy at his spell energy and they “arm wrestle” through big magical arcs. Later on she cast a counterspell to block a magical air assault, which may have been the same basic spell.
- Once she won the “arm wrestling” above, her spells left but a nastily burned, skinned corpse.
- Creating minor illusions whilst within the Fade, but that’s not really a spell.
- Making roots burst through the ground to entangle and lift an opponent.
- Hiding people from spirits whilst in the Fade.
- Opening “gates” between locations within the Fate.
- Erecting wards keeping Fade demons at bay.
It seems likely that House Tilani is of the Altus caste. However, I don’t think that it was stated in the material.
The Altus (Latin for “high”, more or less) are a sort of inner magiocracy. They are the descendants of the most powerful pre-Blight Magisters. The newer houses are called Laetan, and tend to be less influential.
Maevaris usually sports an expensive-looking 1930s or 1940s movie star hairdo. Her haircut in most of the material is based on a promotional photo of Mae West during this era. She’ll also usually wear large earrings with blue gemstones, matching her eyes.
Likewise she’ll favour courtly dresses in various shades of blue (with very dark blues dominating) and with blue gemstones. There often are shoulder pieces with ornamental feathers.
This seems to be a classic in Thedossian women’s fashion. Even Morrigan, a swamp girl at the arse end of Ferelden, sported such shoulder pieces to look pretty.
Mae’s dresses are tailored to create a little bit of cleavage through boning, padding or decorative feathers. Presumably, the intent is to allow for more interesting and feminine tailoring of the dresses’ upper line.
The dresses also seem tailored not to hinder her movements, in case she gets into trouble. She’ll have difficulties doing athletics, climbing, etc. but the clothing allows for fast reactions, jogging, etc.
Maevaris remains physically male. Presumably, there are no magical resources allowing for a gender transition. This would make sense, as healing magics seem limited in Thedas. But she is highly practiced at presenting as an elegantly feminine woman, so people are unlikely to notice anything unusual.
Her high-energy spells radiate in blues and whites.
Ms. Tilani is primarily a patriot, dismayed by how her nation remains mired in its warped dreams of past grandeur. She wants a more modern, less isolated and more forward-looking Tevinter. But this is *at least* a lifetime’s worth of political fighting.
Normally, her work is about politics, high society life, influence and managing her vast business interests. But it is Tevinter – these things will inevitably turn to assassination and magical assaults.
Mae would prefer not to sink to this level. But this is in good part because her strength lies in using money and contacts instead. And if a telling blow is struck against her or her loved ones, Mae will become ruthlessly murderous. She’ll go to any length to get her revenge – with prejudice.
As a side effect she remains calm under pressure, and has strong willpower.
Mae is as eloquent as you’d expect an aristocratic, intelligent, well-educated mage and politician to be.
Maevaris is fond of stocky, strong, broad-shouldered men. She will make it her duty to flirt with these. Thus, that she married a Dwarf isn’t surprising. Based on her Fade dream, one suspects that her house staff are muscular, scantily-clad blokes.
She has a noble’s code of honour. For instance, her word given as a Magister is her bond.
She is used to living in decadent luxury, and to be assisted by top-shelf slaves. Though she enjoys it, she implied that she had reservations about slavery.
She *might* be in favour of a system allowing slaves to buy or otherwise earn their freedom, gradually creating a new social class of freedmen. Her policies aren’t discussed in the material.
Mae feels terribly hurt and humiliated if others can see her naked body. When Varric rescued her from torture, it was more important for Tilani that Tethras help her cover herself than to have him check her wounds.
Varric (looking at the corpse of an incinerated opponent) “Remind me never to make you angry.”
Maevaris: “Good advice for everyone.”
(As Varric and Mae attempt to drag a shaken Isabela from her Fade dream)
Varric: “Do you really want [to stay among the Qun] ?”
Isabela (half in shock): “It would be… easier. Simpler.”
Maevaris: “It always is — letting someone else define you. I don’t know you, but I know that much. Look yourself in the eye and take strength from what you see. Damn what anyone else believes.”
“Your Majesty. You may be unaware, but this is the Fade. Your body is in a state of oneiric suspension and your mind had been ensorcelled. You must remember.”
“It will draw fire from Venatori cultists still in the shadows, but I say let them come. I will not back down in the face of such fools.”
Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG
Tell me more about the game stats
Magister Maevaris Tilani
|Dex: 02||Str: 02||Bod: 02||Motivation: Uphold Tevinter|
|Int: 04||Wil: 05||Min: 05||Occupation: Magister|
|Inf: 04||Aur: 04||Spi: 05||Wealth: 013|
|Init: 010||HP: 020|
Glue (Area of Effect 1 AP): 06, Force wall: 05, Magic shield: 05, Mystic blast: 06, Obscure: 05, Sorcery: 04
Bonuses and Limitations:
- All Powers are Mystic-Linked.
- Force wall will only affect Fade demons.
- Sorcery is limited to magic that is known in the Dragon Age setting.
Accuracy (Spells): 06, Charisma (Persuasion): 06, Occultist: 05
Credentials (Tevinter government, Medium), Expansive HQ, Familiarity (History of Tevinter), Language (Tevene).
Varric Tethras (High), Tevinter Nobility (Low), Dwarven Ambassadoria (High), Street (Low), Underworld (Low), King Alistair of Ferelden (Low), Dorian Pavus (High), Lucerni party (High).
Enemy (Traditionalist Tevinter factions), Catastrophic Irrational Dislike (Having her body exposed enough to show her physical gender), MIA (Vengeance).
Source of Character: Dragon Age comic books miniseries and DA:I.
Writeup completed on the 10th of December, 2017.