Dragon Age 4 And The Mortalitasi
Earlier this month, I dove into red lyrium, the mysterious idol from Dragon Age 2, and why I think Solas purposefully tainted himself for the setup of Dragon Age 4. Now, let's dive into the significance of the Mortalitasi may have from the most recent sneak peek at the road ahead in Thedas.
What is the Mortalitasi?
First things first, what is the Mortalitasi? The Mortalitasi is a group of Nevarran mages that not only are incredibly powerful in their own right, but also wield a significant amount of political power in Nevarra (a location in Dragon Age's Thedas and the home to Inquisition's Cassandra) as well. Often called "Death Mages," this line that was divined from royal blood is incredibly well respected in this region, though the rest of Thedas sees this death magic as macabre and a little too close to blood magic for comfort.
The Mortalitasi is responsible for mummifying the Nevarran elite and their practices are rooted in the belief that when the soul crosses over into the Fade, it affects a spirit already residing there. To aid in that displacement to give it purpose, the Mortalitasi will take that displaced spirit and bring them over into our world by placing it within the body of the dead. The aforementioned mummification process is also key here, with the philosophy that mummified beings are the safest place to hold a Fade spirit.
How do they play into Dragon Age 4?
The Mortalitasi was founded by the Tevinter mage Vitus Fabria and we already know that the next game will take place in Tevinter (or center heavily around it) due to the ending of both Dragon Age Inquisition and its DLC Trespasser, as well as the setup surrounding the game provided by the recent Mage Killer and Blue Wraith comics. (This also means that we'll very likely see Fenris from Dragon Age 2 again, considering his role in the latter comic)
In the latest Dragon Age 4 teaser video, seen at the top of the article, there were a few shots of skeletons in service as well as figures being seen with a flaming skull in full armor. A lot of people speculated that this would be raised corpses in aid, but that didn't make a lot of sense to me due to the meatier build of the characters seen. After nerding out for hours and hours on end with fellow Dragon Age fans about the Mortalitasi in general with its Tevinter importance, I actually think we will have a companion that is a Mortalitasi mage. From the looks of it, they are quite powerful!
Dragons are a huge part of Dragon Age (go figure, with a name like that) but more so in the comics and with Inquisition. This aspect of the franchise is also incredibly relevant in the comic 'The Silent Grove' that sees Varric, Alistair, and Isabella venture out to uncover one of the biggest secrets in the series in an adventure to Antiva. That comes into play with the above screenshot from the latest teaser where we can see a figure with the glowing (what I'm assuming) helmet, ripping out the eye of a fallen dragon. Dragons are revered in Tevinter and Nevarra, and these creatures play a big role in the magic surrounding this particular line.
In Inquisition, we saw Corypheus weild the power of a dragon to protect his immortality. We've seen Flementh transform herself into one, a trick that Morrigan also learns later in the third game. While I obviously don't know what is going on in the above scene, it's just concept art at this point, it's fairly clear that this is a ritual given the undead servants with their offering plates awaiting the removed dragon parts.
In the above closeup shot, we see the person removing the parts of the dragon wearing medical tools strapped to his tunic, with upper armor graced with the usual Nevarran decorative style of the upper class. The closer shot also shows that this doesn't look like a corpse, unless it was recently dead and mummified, due to the build itself of the body. That being said, mummification, again, is a centrical focus for the Mortalitasi, so this could be an animated mummy, but that doesn't sit quite right either with the air of purpose given to each frame seen with characters donning this headpiece.
The differentiation between a practicing (and live) member of the Mortalitasi and the undead can also be seen when comparing the main body to those of the skeleton servents. With the glowing eyes and servatile mannerisms, the distinction between the two types of figures seems purposeful in a way to show great power and the difference between the living and the dead.
In the anthology Tevinter Nights, and again through out the codex seen in the games referencing Nevarra as well as the different comic series, the helm of the main figure is similar to the statues seen in glorified tombs in the area. The tombs of mummified royalty have a great place of respect and importance within Nevarran culture, which leads me to think that the above (ceremonial ?) armor is an indicator that this is someone of very high ranking and/or a resurrected mummy of one of the ancient elves. The last part is a bit of a stretch, but that tiny thread can be traced back to Solas' interaction in Trespasser that I talked about in this previous piece.
As for why the helmet is glowing if the glowing eyes of the skeletons indicates possession, that ties into the theory that this person is either very high in rank or a very important person brought back from the Fade. My gut is telling me the former, I think it's a display of power. It could even be a Wynn/Anders situation where a powerful mage is aided by a particular spirit of importance. While not another Justice situation (hopefully), the possible Mortalitasi mage could be harnessing an even bigger power through this particular brand of magic.
As mentioned earlier, I think this person will be a companion due to a shot that comes later in the video with them walking alongside a bigger group. This group has been seen throughout the most recent teaser (don't even get me started on the fact that Isabella looks to be returning because that is DEFINITELY her armor in Inquisition's MP component, as well as Zevran), and it's an organized formation. While the one on the far right and the image above it might not be the same person — they certainly have different builds — the same magic is prevalent with the glowing helm. The only question with that is: where is the person on the far right's mage staff?
It will be interesting to see some of these aspects of Thedasion culture come into the spotlight after being in the background for so long. Cassandra's inclusion in Inquisition certainly set the stage for Nevarra, with Fenris, Dorian, and Maevris (seen in the Silent Grove comic, a Tevinter magistress related to Varric by marriage) bringing in Team Not Blood Mages From Tevinter.
Dragon Age has some of the most intricate lore in gaming (note that I'm not saying the most) and BioWare has done a pretty phenomenal job at fleshing that already complicated world-building experience through the expanding books and comics in a way that greatly enriches the games themselves without forcing fans to enjoy them to understand the bigger picture. To see all of those webs coelesce into the next step in the games has me incredibly excited, especially when looking at the dramatic shift teased at the ending of Dragon Age Inquisition with the crowning of a new Divine.
What do you think about the Mortalitasi and their role in Dragon Age 4? What other theories do you have? Sound off in the comment section below!
A huge thanks to Tumblr user 'Age of Dragon' as well, an account a friend I was speaking with about this referred me to with a similar analysis.