The Empress Game
The palace is every bit as gorgeous as you imagine it. If Val Royeaux is the crown of Thedas, the Royal Palace is the brightest jewel in that crown. High, flowing marble arches flank beautiful hallways of artwork, exotic gardens, and arabesque statues. You are led through a winding series of these corridors, past running fountains and many a painted, whispering courtier. Finally, you arrive in a small though luxurient parlor, and are told to wait.
Hours pass and boredom quickly overtakes you before a rather official looking courtier enters the room. He looks you over with contempt, especially your mud-stained boots and battle-worne armor, before announcing that you will now be seen by the empress. He quickly lists off a litany of rules and regulations, some sensible, some ridiculous, and certainly too many to keep track of. Without waiting for your questions, he strows out of the room, beckoning you to follow.
Another set of hallways leads you finally to the throne room of Orlais. Rows of heavily-armed and impressive looking Chevaliers line your path as the steward leads you towards the Empress. The empress herself is a beautiful young woman who looks more than a little bored. She drums her painted finger-nails against her ivory and gold trimmed throne, occasionally fidgeting with the golden pins in her elaborate, up-done hair style.
Faster than you ever thought possible, the empress takes a golden pin from her hair, and jams it through the eye socket of the steward. He collapses to the ground, writhing in agony and screaming, before going quite still. The empress re-adjusts her hair and places the pin back inside. None of the chevaliers move or even seem to notice that anything out of the ordinary has happened. The steward’s blood oozes slowly down the marble steps leading up to the Empress’s throne.
The Empress fixes you with what you think must be kindest, gentlest, most charming smile you have ever seen as she dabs at the flecks of blood on her face with a hankerchief.
“My dearest friends. It is wonderful to finally meet you. Please, tell me, what news do you bring?”
A chevalier patiently takes the locket from you before bringing it up to the Empress and returning to his post with a salute. As she takes it, her expression changes. Her features twist first into grief, and then to a dark, forboding sorrow.
“Cailan Therin was a wise king. He knew that there was a possibility that he would die before producing an heir, and so his throne may very well fall to Loghain. While he respected Loghain, he knew him to be a bloodthirsty man, oftentimes blinded by the hatred he had nursed during our occupation of his lands. He feared Loghain would shatter the peace between our nations… and bring destruction to us both.”
With a click, the Empress pops the locket open. She then delicately removes a tiny scroll of parchment.
”...And so, he took appropriate measures. He used his agents to discover those in the Landsmeet who would support Loghain Mac Tir over his more temperate and wise uncle, Arl Eamon. He then made arrangements so that this locket would be delivered to Eamon in case of his demise, or, failing that, that it would come to me. It was Cailan’s desire that these men and women be… dealt with. Killed, if need be. For the good of Fereldan.
“My friends, you have already done so much for Thedas in her time of need, but I am afraid I must ask you to still perform one last task. It was Cailan’s dying wish that, were he to die before his time, that his Uncle, Arl Eamon, or he whom his uncle supported, would take the throne. I ask you not on behalf of Orlais, but on behalf of your dead king. I ask you not as an Empress… but as the friend and confidante of a murdered man. Please. See that justice is done. For Cailan.”