Tessa the Magekiller
This Dragon Age character profile is intended to be read directly after the Marius the Magekiller character profile.
Which itself is meant to be read after our primer to Thedas (the Dragon Age setting), which explains all sorts of useful things in a compact manner.
There has S P O I L E R S therein for Dragon Age: Inquisition and Dragon Age: Magekiller.
- Real Name: Lady Tessarey Forsythia.
- Marital Status: Single.
- Known Relatives: Tessa mentions her mother, her aunt, two older brothers and five older sisters. None are named.
- Group Affiliation: Partner of Marius, operative for the Inquisition.
- Base of Operations: Mobile.
- Height: 5’1″ Weight: 100 lbs
- Eyes: Green Hair: Black.
- Note: Tessa’s eyes alternate between blue and green from issue to issue. Let’s go with green.
Powers & Abilities
Marius is the combat monster and tactician. Tessa handles much of the rest, chiefly tasks that require speed and finesse rather than brute power. This corresponds to the “rogue” role, with skills such as :
- Archery support, and other projectiles (including, on occasion, small grenades).
- Skirmishing and surprise attacks using daggers and shortswords.
- Stealth, infiltration, surveillance, undercover work.
- Lock picking (which Tessa does with unusual alacrity).
- Locating jobs, negotiating with clients, handling relations with locals.
She doesn’t seem to have a set selection of weapons. Across the story she uses a light crossbow, a short bow, numerous sorts of smaller blades, a slim broadsword with a cup-like hand guard, throwing knives, what seems to be soulrot crystal (with a smaller area of effect than a soulrot grenade), chains as an improvised garrotte, etc.. Perhaps the weapons and ammo get billed.
Tessa is fast, smart, charismatic and accurate. She has a good pain tolerance and endurance, but her small size limits her.
Tessa received an excellent education from a major Nevarran family, with private tutors. Thus, she :
- Is a fluent reader.
- Knows arithmetics.
- Understands the basics of Thedas’ history, geography and politics.
- Has a large vocabulary and superior eloquence.
- Has read some classic Nevarran and foreign literature.
- Understood references to magical Elven traditions and other mystical concepts.
- *Might* speak Tevene — the language of Tevinter — since we see her doing undercover work there.
- She likely also has noble lady skills such as home economics or ball dancing, though she’s unlikely to ever want to use these.
She also learned to handle horse-drawn carts even at speed, to spot people tailing her, to do light survival in difficult terrains, etc. etc.. Despite her youth, she adeptly dabbles in an impressive number of specialities.
This jill-of-all-trades also seems to be a skilled lover.
Dragon Age fiction often makes an effort to incorporate game play conceits. The objective presumably is to make it look like these are diegetic , rather than an abstract construct slapped onto the world so you can play a trad RPG in it.
The main one is adventurers being “rogues”, “warriors” or “mages”.
So for instance multiple “rogue” characters (a young Leliana, Zevran, Tallis, Warden Alamen…) use similar combat techniques. In Tessa’s case, this is particularly visible when she and Shayd (a young Inquisition rogue) use the same types of attacks and know how each other work.
One can imagine that there actually *is* a formal martial art from which all these people are drawing. In-setting, it easily could have been established by the Crows of Antiva (a powerful assassins’ guild).
So using this widespread style would be much like, say, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighters having a common body of tactics, techniques, vocabulary, etc..
The Forsythias are one of the major noble houses of Nevarra, a nation in central Thedas. They are apparently headquartered in the city of Cumberland.
House Forsythia seems to favour a policy of diverse alliances, both domestic and international. They prefer to remain at arm’s length from the power struggles around the Nevarran throne, thus playing it safe.
(There’ll be more material about Nevarra in Cassandra Pentaghast’s profile, but here it’s not important for the story. I’ll just note that Nevarra isn’t fantasy Spain-ish, which I and numerous others tended to assume early on for obvious reasons ).
Runt of the litter
Lady Tessarey Forsythia (don’t call her that) was born circa 9:20. She has seven older siblings. This large family size may be because the Forsythias cement alliances through marriages.
Tessa was a rebellious, contrarian and angry child. She kept getting into big arguments with everyone over everything. She felt that the family history, familial duties, cult of death ancestors and pressure to conform were suffocating her.
Inevitably, an arranged marriage took place. One imagines that she was still in her teens, as her mother wanted to get rid of her. To prevent the ceremony, Tessa stole the wedding ring, but she was caught.
This triggered a familial shitstorm, and the teen ran away to avoid that and the marriage.
They call them that because they kill mages, Avi
In unchronicled circumstances Tessa met Marius. He was a nice young man who happened to be an altered Tevinter assassin specialised in slaying mages. Somehow, she became his aide. Presumably she acted as the face of the duo, given Marius’ dismal communication skills.
For all her faults, Tessa was sharp, talented and a good learner. Over time she went from aide to sidekick to junior partner. In so doing she learned an arsenal of combat, action, survival, intelligence, etc. skills. It is presumably Tessa who dubbed the duo “the Magekillers”. Since it’s common for mercenary teams to have a marketable moniker.
Even though their job was horrendously dangerous, the Magekillers were successful, developed a good reputation, and remained alive and in one piece. They also rid the world of quite a few supernatural menaces.
Unto the breaches
In 9:41, vast breaches started opening in the sky between the Fade and the real world. Small demonic invasions came through these breaches. The Magekillers went from breach to breach, working pro bono to rescue and evacuate people threatened by demons.
In one instance, Marius engaged the demons as they came. Meanwhile Tessa drove a horse-drawn cart around the breach, dropping barrels filled with frostrock behind her and picking up terrified farmers.
Then she shot arrows at the barrels, detonating the frostrock. This created walls of ice that boxed the demons in with Marius and away from civilians. The Magekillers narrowly saved all farmers, though Marius was badly battered.
Stay inquisitive, exiles
This drew the attention of the Inquisition. Since the Magekillers were prize recruits, they sent Charter — one of their top intelligence and assassination handlers — to meet them. Though the exhausted Tessa briefly mistook Charter for another of the Archon’s assassins, the Magekillers soon joined the Inquisition.
Charter remained the Magekillers’ handler. She dispatched them to the Emerald Graves, to the Western Approaches, then to the Hissing Wastes.
Marius liked working for the Inquisition, which gave him a clearer purpose – though of course he never said it. Tessa also was proud to serve. Furthermore, she became Charter’s lover between missions.
With grit in our hearts…
While doing long-range recon in the Hissing Wastes, the Magekillers observed a force of 300+ Venatori troops excavating ruins. Though they could kill some, doing more damage wasn’t feasible with just two operatives.
Charter dispatched high-end reinforcements to the Wastes. These were Tevinter mage Dorian Pavus (and his fabulous moustache) and a half-dozen specialists from mercenary company the Bull’s Chargers.
Surprisingly, Marius worked well with Dorian (and his fabulous moustache). His loyalty toward the Inquisition now superseded his hatred for Tevinter mages.
… and sand in our unmentionables
The joint strike directed by Marius went :
- Marius approached the Venatori camp at night, burning with huge magical flames and pretending to be a powerful demon. This was done using a fire resistance potion, oil and a fire spell.
- As he engaged the panicking troops, archers and mages provided support fire (and protective spells) from the darkness.
- The two rogues (Tessa, and Skinner of the Chargers) sneaked in, picked locks and exfiltrated more than a score of slaves amidst the chaos.
- Marius then disengaged, which cleared the field of friendlies. Rocky, the Charger’s main sapper, detonated the entire cliff wall above the Venatori encampment, burying it.
- Marius didn’t quite reach safety from the landslide in time, but Dorian lobbed in a last-second protective spell that saved the Magekiller’s life.
The Magekillers were then dispatched by Sister Nightingale on an undocumented mission. It apparently was in support of the Inquisitrix herself. But the Magekillers don’t appear in-game, so it likely was an off-screen support mission.
Cancelling the apocalypse
Inquisition forces were then all recalled to Skyhold, assembling for the final assault in Arbor Wilds. But Marius and Tessa came in too late – the Inquisition Army had already left. Dejected, the Magekillers could only wait in a nearly deserted Skyhold. Tessa spent her nights with Charter, and Marius spent his days brooding.
However, the Inquisition’s greatest enemy escaped, and reopened a huge breach not too far from Skyhold. The Inquisition Army couldn’t possibly return in time. An elite force led by the Inquisitrix could, using a portal. But they needed help if they were to progress quickly enough.
Charter scraped together what she could. She had some guards, but her main assets were the Magekillers. She also had Sutherland’s Company – eager, but painfully inexperienced young adventurers.
Charter thought it possible for the adventuring companies to spearhead a path across enemy turf, allowing the Inquisitrix to progress unimpeded once she’d get there.
I have a baaad feeling about this…
The odds were awful, and Charter was scared of losing Tessa. Nevertheless, the six-person party performed remarkably well, closely following Marius’ orders. They defeated numerous minor demons, who themselves seemed to have been reserve troops.
However, they then ran into an enormous pride demon. Even though Marius and Tessa had experience with fighting these, casualties seemed inevitable.
Miraculously, the gigantic powerhouse was slain at no cost in lives. Still, Tessa very nearly sacrificed herself to save one of the Sutherland Company lasses.
But Marius saved his partner at the last second by desperately charging *up* the demon’s hulking body and ramming his entire longsword and right arm into the thing’s mouth.
Andraste’s left calf, we did it
Though the Magekillers and the Sutherland Company were exhausted and in a frightful state, they dragged themselves back to Charter. The spymistress sent in all the guards she had rounded up, to secure the path that had been cleared.
Soon afterward, Her Ladyship the Inquisitrix de Fer-de-Sixt-d’Orlac came in. Thanks to the Magekillers, she got in in time to do her thing and save the world.
Albeit battered, Tessa and Marius felt immense satisfaction about the role they had just played. Marius saving Tessa also strengthened their friendship and mutual trust.
Ill-met in Starkhaven
In 9:44 (possibly 9:45), the Magekillers were still working for the Inquisition. Charter still was their handler. Though the Inquisition had demobilised in rocky circumstances after saving the world, it retained a select core of elite agents to address threats.
The Magekillers were sent to Starkhaven to steal a journal. It held secrets about red lyrium that would be catastrophic if in the wrong hands, or… any hands, really.
However, the duo’s luck finally ran out and they were cornered. Though they likely could have fought their way out, the Prince of Starkhaven — Sebastian Vael — was an Inquisition ally. Thus, the Magekillers were under orders not to harm his staff.
A pious man, Vael refused to allow his men to torture the prisoners. But the daily interrogations were exhausting.
Valiantly, Varric and Vaea
Thankfully, Charter set up a rescue op. With Varric Tethras’ help, Charter recruited a young thief called Squire Vaea to do a prison break. Charter picked Vaea since the lass never killed and was brilliant at stealth.
(Varric implies that the Inquisition wouldn’t have mounted a rescue op if Tessa and Charter hadn’t been lovers. This… makes no sense. Which is fine ! Varric is *known* and loved (or so he says…) for being an unreliable narrator who keeps playing up the saucy and lurid bits in his accounts.)
The rescue op worked fine. Even though Vaea refused to involve herself further, the charismatic Tessa convinced her to close the mission. Thus, Vaea did get the lyrium journal – albeit that was a close call.
Varric smuggled the Magekillers to Kirkwall for recovery – before, presumably, a new Inquisition detail.
Tessa seems to be 22-ish during the Dragon Age: Inquisition crisis. She has a dusky complexion (turning brown in sunny climates), solid black hair, and a lithe physique. She wears her hair long, but she’ll use at least a headband to keep it out of her face. If she lets it grow further, she’ll use long leather wraps to form a tight queue.
She sports attractive features, with a cute nose and — usually — a smirk. Her face is unusually mobile and expressive.
Ms. Forsythia is on the short side – she’s roughly as tall as Charter, an Elf woman. In fact, if you stuck a pair of prosthetic Spock ears on Tessa she’d probably pass as an Elf.
Tessa has an audible Nevarran accent. In the games, the accent of Nevarran character Cassandra Pentaghast (played by Miranda Raison ) chiefly reminds me of polyglot Swiss-German friends. So imagining that Tessa has one of the Swiss accents isn’t silly.
Like Marius, she’ll dress in rugged leathers intended for stealth and travel. If she can she’ll throw in some blue articles, as this seems to be her favourite colour.
Her favourite top is an odd one that looks like blue leather bands wrapped around her chest, shoulder and arms. It’s not suitable for travel or ops though, as it exposes her throat and a bit of her belly. But she’ll wear it anyway if the weather is cold enough that she’ll have a coat or her favourite poncho over it, making coverage a moot point.
Tessa almost always carries a leather satchel, or at least large pouches on her belt. She also often wears leather forearm protectors and fingerless gloves (or archery gloves), during operations.
Tessa has a metallic (copper ?) pendant, but it’s never drawn in detail. My bet would be a stylised icon of Andraste’s face in majesty (that is, with the solar halo and the crown).
As a teen and young adult, Tessa was a royal pain in the arse. She got in verbal fights with *everybody*, rejected societal rules, balked at every constraint, and never did anything she was expected to. She craved to build her own life by herself, to only follow her own rules, and to experience the world in the most vivid and stimulating way she could.
Marius was thus a makersend. With him she could have a life that was as free, unstructured and exciting as she wanted. She threw herself whole into their partnership, working hard to become tough enough to fight alongside with him.
Even though Marius was an uncommunicative cypher, the lively Tessa carved her own niche next to him. She doggedly dragged him into a friendship of sorts with her.
Trust her, she’s a magekiller
Tessa is voluble, sarcastic, animated, assured, humorous, charming and a wisenheimer. Like most Dragon Age characters she speaks in a modern urban style – there’s no attempt at making the setting sound “historical”. She tends to be cheerful.
Like Marius she’s a white hat. Yes, they’re mercenaries and the practically-minded Tessa insists on sensible billing. But their real motivation is to save lives and terminate threats.
Tessa hates being reminded of her origins, and never behaves like a noble lady. Yet her superior education is obvious in her speech and — especially — her writing. Playing her like a snarky, vivacious humanities graduate student should more or less work. If said student happened to also be an heroic fantasy action heroine. You know.
Tessa makes many references in her speech to the Maker and to Andraste, but doesn’t seem to be particularly pious.
She’s a social person. Thus, that her best friend and trusted-to-death buddy can spend *days* without talking drives her a bit nuts.
On occasion she’ll launch into a sort of improv theatre skit, simulating an elaborate dialogue between Marius and herself to make up for his silence. One imagines that she uses a lower voice when delivering “Marius‘” lines.
Drawn and chartered
Tessa only seems attracted toward women. She also seems to fear letting anybody emotionally close to her. Her partnership with Marius works so well precisely because they’re never going to be attracted toward each other. This may be her way to retain her freedom.
Once the Magekillers joined the Inquisition, Tessa and the spymistress Charter started a fling. This was understood to be solely about fun ways to make the bed sheets sticky, as both were highly emotionally guarded.
However, before the final assault from Skyhold, an uncharacteristically awkward and emotional Charter let Tessa understand that she had developed genuine feelings for her. As she tried to make sense of her own emotions, Tessa realised that she reciprocated Charter’s love. This further scared and unnerved the Nevarran.
Yet the pair seems to have found ways to make this work, and to have a become a committed, long-term couple.
“We kill mages. That’s what we *do*. Which is probably not the best way to live, yes *I know*.”
(Yelling at refugees so they board her cart faster) “Oh, *please* take your *time*. Not like there are any *other* families we’re trying to save.”
“Arguing with Marius about *anything* is pointless, if I’m going to be perfectly honest. But then, I am rarely perfectly honest. It’s part of my charm.”
(Thinking about Charter) “I don’t think *anyone* has ever told me to ‘come back’. Let alone to do so ‘safe’. Normally it’s ‘get out’ or ‘you’re dead if I see your face again’.”
(Spotting an enormous demon coming toward them) “Oh, Maferath ’s mouldy *balls*…”
(After Tessa makes a small sex joke that Marius misunderstands, with a big smile) “You really *are* a bag of rocks sometimes, you know that ?”
“Andraste’s holy *knickers* !”
“So that begs the question: *how* do you kill a mage ? Answer: *you* don’t. *We* do. That’s Marius, I’m Tessa. We’re *specialists*.”
“Shut *up*, Marius ! Think ! He tricked us, yes, but because he wants us to do what we *do*. So let’s hear him out, all right ? You can always get us both killed *later*.”
(Staring scared at an enormous Fade breach in the sky) “Maker’s mercy…”
Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG
Tell me more about the game stats
|Dex: 04||Str: 02||Bod: 03||Motivation: Uphold Good|
|Int: 06||Wil: 06||Min: 07||Occupation: Adventuress|
|Inf: 05||Aur: 03||Spi: 07||Wealth: 005 (w/Marius)|
|Init: 017||HP: 030|
Bonuses and Limitations:
Superspeed only for Physical Tasks, and only for Thief (Locks & Safes). It is a Skilled Power.
Acrobatics (Climbing): 04, Animal handling (Horses): 04, Artist (Actress): 05, Artist (Writer): 03, Charisma (Persuasion): 05, Medicine (First aid): 03, Military science (Camouflage): 05, Occultist (Knowledge): 02, Thief (Locks & Safes, Stealth): 05, Thief (Concealment): 03, Weaponry (Melee, Missile): 06
Familiarity (Assassination and commando tactics, General education), Lightning Reflexes, Schtick (Fast-draw (dagger)).
Marius (High), Charter (High), the Inquisition (Low).
Minor Irrational Dislike of letting people become emotionally close to her, Minor Irrational Dislike of feeling constrained in her life choices.
Long dagger [BODY 05, Enhance (EV): 01 (Cap is 06), Descriptor: Piercing, Slashing].
Everything else is quite variable. Leather breastplate with a collar, self bow, medium bow, light crossbow, a second long dagger, a shortsword, throwing knives… These would be of decent or good quality, but mostly have the normal stats for the category. Check our wonderful articles about low-tech ordnance.
She once used a projectile which I *think* was a small soulrot grenade, intended for a single target : [BODY 01, Magic blast: 05, Grenade Drawback]. Which is presumably expensive for a consumable, but is useful when outnumbered by dangerous, armoured (but not *too* tough) foes.
Tessa tends to use her superior Initiative to Lay Back if in melee, but will Press the Attack if the opposition is focused on Marius (which is what their tactics encourage).
In bad situations her HPs allow her to both Lay Back and take opponents down fairly quickly. But she’s keenly aware that she doesn’t have *that* many HPs.
Source of Character: Dragon Age: Magekiller comic books miniseries.
Helper(s): Darci. Pastemagazine.com for the Rucka interview.
Writeup completed on the 15th of December, 2017.