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There are many lords and ladies in Val Royeaux.
And I mean this literally. Once, the system of noble titles in Orlais was labyrinthine: There were barons and baronnes and baronets and sur-barons and a horde of others, each with its own origins and its own nuances of comparison. The Orlesian aristocracy is ancient and much given to competition. All the nobility play the Grand Game, as it is known, whether they wish to or not. It is a game of reputation and patronage, where moves are made with rumors and scandal is the chief weapon. No gentle game, this. More blood has been drawn as a result of the Grand Game than any war the Orlesians have fought. Of this, I am assured by almost every gentleman here.
As far as titles went, everything changed with the coming of Emperor Drakon, who established the Orlesian Empire as it exists now, and who created the Chantry. There is no more venerated figure in Orlais; in Val Royeaux, the statue of Drakon stands as tall as the statue of Andraste. Drakon determined that the Grand Game was tearing Orlais apart, so he abolished all titles besides his own, and lord, and lady.
I am told, with some twittering amusement, that this action did not end the Grand Game as Drakon had intended. Now the lords and ladies collected unofficial titles rather than official ones, such as "the exalted patron of Tassus Klay" or "uncle to the champion of Tremmes." It is a headache to remember such titles, and one winces to think of the poor doormen at the balls who must rattle them off as each guest enters the room.
The aristocracy is different from Ferelden in other ways, as well. The Orlesians' right to rule stems directly from the Maker. There exists neither the concept of rule by merit nor the slightest notion of rebellion. If one is not noble, one aspires to be—or at the least aspires to be in the good graces of a noble, and is ever watching for a way to enter the patronage of those better placed in the Grand Game.
And then there are the masks. And the cosmetics: I have not seen so much paint since the kennels at Highever. But that is another story.
- The reference to the paint in the kennels of Highever is based in the Fereldan habit of painting their mabari war dogs with kaddis.
- Despite the codex mentioning that all formal titles remain abolished in 9:20 Dragon, there are many references of orlesian nobles holding them prior to that date (Grand Duke Gratien, in the Blessed Age, being one of the clearest examples). An interview with David Gaider also suggests that noble titles have been restored.