Ma’ena Lavellan is the Inquisitor. A Dalish elf who is comfortable among humans, she is deeply uncomfortable with the titles she stumbles into after the Conclave, and would really rather just be called by her name. Passionate, compassionate, and fierce, she does nothing by half-measures.
Physical Appearance Edit
Ma’ena is of typical build and height for an elf: slender, with generous hips and a small waist. She is lean and wiry from years of hunting, walking to and from human settlements, and training with her two daggers.
She has golden-toned skin, pale blonde hair, and bright green eyes. She bears the vallaslin of Mythal, in pale white that stands out against her skin. When she was younger, she got the idea of using crushed, dried rashvine berries as makeup, and wears it around her eyes, which makes them stand out even more. Unfortunately, she has a tendency to forget that she’s wearing it and rub her eyes, smudging and smearing it around her face, which can give her what she calls a “plague victim” look. Her nose has been broken several times, giving it a slightly skewed look - which would bother her less if it didn’t ruin the symmetry of her vallaslin.
Ma’ena bears several scars from her life before and during the Inquisition. The most obvious is a deep gouge on the left side of her face, running from her forehead down her cheek but somehow sparing her eye. She got this from a bear. Healing magic and pure luck got her out of its being much worse. In a separate encounter with a bear, she took a paw across the chest, and has an impressively mauled section of skin just above her left breast.
After Trespasser, Ma’ena has a prosthetic made for her by Dagna that she can wear on her left arm, but more often than not she goes without.
Ma’ena’s name can be loosely translated as “my spark,” and she lives up to it. Feisty, headstrong, passionate, and compassionate, she acts on impulse and instinct. She lives very much in the moment, and while her gut reactions are usually pretty sound, she has gotten herself into trouble on occasion. Her openness, honesty, friendliness, and genuine interest in people are generally charming and win her friends - and the people she can’t charm, she can usually smell a mile away and doesn’t even bother with. Which served her fine… until the Inquisition, when she didn’t have a choice about it.
Being so fiery also means being foul-mouthed. While Ma’ena really doesn’t have much skill for language, she displays a remarkable knack for learning to curse in different languages. She could not be less Andrastian if she tried, but she finds it satisfying to occasionally yell an exasperated “Maker’s balls!” She made Dorian teach her the extremely satisfying “vishante kaffas” and is disappointed that Varric doesn’t know any dwarven curses to teach her. She almost never speaks Elvhen, but she sure does know how to curse in it.
While it’s hard to describe her as devout, when Ma’ena first joins the Inquisition, she does believe in the elven gods, invoking and praying to them in times of particular crisis. Over her time with the Inquisition, she gradually loses her faith - or rather, her faith shifts to lie entirely in people, as the people around her in the Inquisition have demonstrated the incredible capability and resilience of humanity. By the time she sets foot in the Temple of Mythal, she realizes that what should be a holy experience is just slightly more than objectively interesting. By the time she finds out the truth about the elven gods, she’s long since stopped believing in them. It still shakes her, because you can’t have what you thought you knew destroyed without losing your footing, but not to the extent that it might have had the revelation come earlier in her life.
Ma’ena has a deep fear of losing her personhood and individuality, which she spends the first several months of the Inquisition struggling with, first as Herald and then as Inquisitor. She expends an inordinate amount of energy convincing her inner circle to call her by name, though some never manage it (Varric and Iron Bull prefer their nicknames for her, and Blackwall never can get past the automatic “my lady”). Over time she learns to accept that she can be both a symbol and a person, but it is a long and painful process.
Ma’ena believes deeply in the value of people and individual lives. She disagrees fiercely when Leliana voices the opinion that she should have left her agents in the field rather than pull them back, and advocates leniency for Butler, the traitorous agent. When Cullen tells her of his quitting lyrium, Ma’ena is firm in her belief that he is more important than the Inquisition, and he should not worry more about the operations of the organization than he does about himself. When Cole’s true nature as a spirit of compassion is revealed, she is adamant that he should stay, because there is little enough mercy in the world. Whenever possible, she advocates leniency and compassion, including when she sits in judgment. Except for Erimond, who is an irredeemable sack of shit and she was only too happy to leave to the tender mercies of the Grey Wardens.
Talents and SkillsEdit
Ma’ena has an uncanny gift for recognizing the good in people and, as a result, people she can get along with. When she served as her clan’s trading envoy and representative to human settlements, this talent served her well in identifying people who would be kind and friendly, or at least not act with outright racist hostility. During the Inquisition it means that she trusts people instinctively whom others might question - Dorian and Cole, for example, are immediately welcomed to her inner circle long before most people would have any reason to trust them. This also means that she doesn’t trust people whose emotions and true feelings are beneath a carefully controlled veneer - she never quite befriends Vivienne, though they are cordial, and she finds Leliana intimidating and terrifying.
From years as a hunter, Ma’ena has acquired some skill as an herbalist. She’s made it a point to learn as much as she can about the native flora in any new region she enters, but is most comfortable with the plants of her native Free Marches. She knows how to whip up herbal poultices with the best of them, but doesn’t do much with poisons other than being able to tell the difference between plants you can eat and plants you can’t. This is how she knows that rashvine berries lack the irritant qualities of rashvine leaves - which is not to say she hasn’t gotten her share of bad rashes from harvesting berries for her makeup.
Special lack of skills to note: Ma’ena cannot shoot a bow to save her life. How her clan allowed her to be a hunter when they discovered this is as much a mystery as anything else about what they let her get away with. She has no poker face and as a result is total shit at Wicked Grace. She can put on “Inquisitor face” when she’s acting in her official capacity, but among her friends, she has no hope of masking any emotion that crosses her face.
Ma’ena was born in a camp by a river near Ansburg. Her father died while her mother was pregnant with her, and her mother suffered from deep grief and depression during her pregnancy. Ma’ena earned her name (“my spark” or “my fire”) for the life she brought back to her mother. Her mother was always frail, though, and died when Ma’ena was still a girl. Her mother was affectionate and warm, and the most significant lesson Ma’ena took from her was that healing magic was cheating: it was better to heal the old-fashioned way so you could think about what you did and try to avoid it next time.
Clan Lavellan, like many Dalish clans, raised their children communally, and Ma’ena describes herself as having had two dozen parents. A woman named Lille was one of the most significant figures in her life, having taught Ma’ena to swim, to hunt, and how to throw a punch. Hunters Atras and Leras tried to teach Ma’ena to use a bow but discovered that she was shit at it - which didn’t stop her from talking Lille into taking her out on the hunt one day, hitting a bear thirty feet off instead of the deer she was aiming for, and earning the wicked scar across her face. Ma’ena grew up alongside Ghilen, who eventually became the crafter’s apprentice. Not long after gaining their vallaslin, they entered into a relationship of several months that most resembles high school sweethearts - serious about each other in the moment, but not serious enough that they had any intention of becoming bond-mates. They were each other’s first sexual partner. Their relationship was frowned upon in the clan, but Keeper Istimaethoriel squelched the clan’s complaints. When Ma’ena became the clan’s main envoy to the human cities and spent more and more time out of the clan’s camp, she and Ghilen drifted apart. He ultimately bonded with someone else, and had a child with her, and another on the way, when Ma’ena left for the Conclave. Ghilen’s wife hates Ma’ena, and resents that they still have a close friendship.
After her mother’s death, Keeper Istimaethoriel took it upon herself to protect Ma’ena, as she was the only orphaned child in the clan at the time. The degree to which she coddled Ma’ena did not do her any favors. Ma’ena is extremely unpopular in her clan, and has absolutely no idea of it. Istimaethoriel would step in - usually without Ma’ena’s knowing it - to talk down anyone who disliked her flightiness. Ma’ena goes out hunting on her own and brings down a big deer, then disappears while the clan has to go find the damn thing and bring it back to camp? Keeper Istimaethoriel convinces everyone not to take it out on her. Ma’ena gets side-eye and rude whispers for how friendly she is with humans? Keeper Istimaethoriel begs people to go easy on her. When it was obvious that Ma’ena was happy to interact with the humans who came to the camp to trade, Keeper Istimaethoriel decided it would be best if Ma’ena also served as the clan’s representative to the human settlements in the Free Marches, bringing goods to trade and dealing with humans when they got twitchy about elves near their land. Ma’ena with her charm and good humor proved to be very good at this, and as a result spent more and more time out of the clan’s camps and in human cities. This made the members of her clan like her less and less. So Keeper Istimaethoriel sent her out more and more. Ma’ena was ultimately sent to the Conclave because Keeper Istimaethoriel realized she couldn’t keep the heat off of her forever, and thought that would buy her at least a few months out of the clan’s hair while the elders tried to figure out what to do with her. She had no idea how right she was.
Ma’ena has a much more liberal attitude toward sex than most Dalish - yet another thing she thinks is perfectly normal for her clan but is actually only normal for her. It was not uncommon for Ma’ena to take a human lover in the cities and settlements she visited. If there was physical chemistry and she liked a man’s personality, there was a good chance of her ending up in bed with him. She never felt any shame or regrets about her lovers while she had them, and while she remembered them fondly the idea of ever seeing them again was strange - “sure, I guess I’ll probably be back here in a couple of years?” She never fell in love, not even with Ghilen. She always took it for granted that her lovers understood that it was a short-term, no-strings-attached thing. This means a trail of broken hearts in her wake that she never recognized until coming to the Inquisition and looking back on her history in an entirely different light. For someone as compassionate as Ma’ena, to realize how cavalierly she treated people in her past was incredibly difficult.
From the start Ma’ena absolutely hated being called the Herald of Andraste. She’s not Andrastian, so obviously, that part is, to her mind, total bullshit. What she hated even more than being held up as a figurehead of a religion she doesn’t believe in is people not calling her by name. She invests a ridiculous amount of time and energy trying to convince people to call her by name and not some title or another. Varric and Iron Bull are the only ones who get off the hook as far as that goes, since they have nicknames for her that aren’t titles.
Ma’ena’s clan sent her to spy on the Conclave because the mage-templar war was beginning to affect them even in their camps in the Free Marches, with people reluctant to come to them to trade and game growing scarce. As a result, Ma’ena found the crisis suffered by the people in the Hinterlands to be compelling, and spent more time than some of the Inquisition might have liked doing every little favor that was asked of her to better take care of the refugees. She was dragged off to Val Royeaux per Mother Giselle’s suggestion only under protest, and found Orlais bewildering and laughable - like being in a play. She brought Vivienne and Sera back with her, though both of them confused and unnerved her in their own ways.
After Fiona’s perplexing behavior at Redcliffe, Ma’ena found the story of dangerous time magic told by Felix and Dorian to be too compelling to ignore, and sided with the mages without a second’s thought given to exploring the templars’ help. They were made full allies of the Inquisition.
After the attack on Haven, Ma’ena seethed at Mother Giselle’s attempts to have a metaphysical, religious conversation. But when Mother Giselle led the survivors of the siege in “The Dawn Will Come,” Ma’ena realized the truth of the situation she was in: she didn’t want to be the Herald, and she didn’t have to believe that she was chosen by any kind of divine, but the people of the Inquisition believed in her. She had to accept that, because it was the foundation on which the entire Inquisition was built. She didn’t like it, but she finally understood that she had long since lost any choice in the matter.
Ma’ena accepted the mantle of Inquisitor only under protest. Had Cassandra and Leliana not had the presence of mind to present it to her in public, it would have gone very differently. But armed with her new knowledge that she was more than a symbol to the people following the Inquisition, she couldn’t make a scene. She also realized that if all four of them - the three advisors, and Cassandra - had come together and chosen her, there must be something to it - after all, one intelligent person could make a stupid decision, but four of them put together?
Discovering the mayor’s actions at Crestwood broke something in Ma’ena. She had a series of small breakdowns in the aftermath that resulted in her lashing out at a number of her companions. She also, however, met Alistair, Hawke’s Warden ally, the Hero of Ferelden’s beloved, un-hardened and still deeply, madly in love with his Natia (Brosca). In talking to him about Natia Ma’ena realized that true, fairy-story love is a real thing. This seemingly minor event proves to be hugely significant in Ma’ena's life.
Elisabeth Hawke is a woman who is deeply traumatized by the events at Kirkwall, and especially her lover Anders’s betrayal. She has spent the months since the Chantry’s explosion constantly replaying events in her head and wondering if she could have stopped Anders, if there was something else she could have done. Ultimately, she blames herself for what happened. In the Fade, Elisabeth sacrifices herself - Ma’ena does not make the choice. Elisabeth is ready to die, and glad to do it in a way that helps a greater cause. Ma’ena and Elisabeth had formed a fast bond over the short time Elisabeth was with the Inquisition, and her loss hits Ma’ena hard.
At Halamshiral, Ma’ena kills Florianne, saving Celene’s life. She ultimately leaves Celene to rule alone, unreconciled with Briala. Ma’ena started out thinking Halamshiral could be fun, and leaves detesting Orlesians. (If they would just have kept their goddamned paws off of Cullen…)
When she sets foot in the Temple of Mythal and feels nothing more than a detached fascination with a historical relic, Ma’ena realizes that she has lost her faith. The idea of drinking from the Well of Sorrows is a non-starter for her for a number of reasons. For one, she is not so much a devoted product of her people as many Dalish would be, and does not immediately leap at the chance to reclaim some lost elven history. For another, and more importantly, Ma’ena is already horrified by the loss of self she’s had as a result of first the Anchor, then the mantle of Inquisitor. Drinking from the Well and taking on more “voices” is absolutely the last thing she would be willing to do. She does not entirely trust Morrigan, but better her than Ma’ena. Samson is left alive and brought back to the Inquisition to study.
In Trespasser, Ma’ena swears to stop Solas at all costs. When she returns through the Eluvian with one dying arm, and Fiona’s healing magic confirms what Ma’ena already knew - the damage done is irreparable - Ma’ena decides then and there that she will have the arm off without waiting for a surgeon. She asks Iron Bull to do the honors, reasoning that his blow will be quick and clean. She asks Cole to stay, hoping he can help ameliorate both the physical and emotional hurts. Dorian insists upon staying with her. Cullen holds her other hand, and Dorian contents himself with grasping her ankle. Fiona heals the stump.
That night, when Cullen and Ma’ena are alone for the first time since she stumbled back through the Eluvian, she tells him that she is going to step down as the Inquisitor. The Inquisition has taken too much from her, and she can’t give any more of herself to it - especially not now that it’s taken from her physically. Cullen agrees that they have both earned a break, much to Ma’ena’s shock - she was not expecting him to resign along with her. When they break the news to their companions the next day, the decision is unanimous that it is time to disband the Inquisition. They will work against Solas from the shadows, but be an organization no more.
Other plot points:
- Ma’ena saves the Chargers. Ultimately, she is too compassionate to sacrifice people she knows well for an alliance she doesn’t entirely trust. And she can see in the moment Bull looks to her to make the decision what he wants to do but can’t bring himself to do after years with the Qun.
- Leliana, softened from her exposure to Ma’ena’s fierce brand of compassion, ultimately becomes Divine.
- Blackwall is broken out of the prison in Val Royeaux. Ma’ena’s judgment is to turn him over to the Grey Wardens. She reasons that he holds them in such high regard and clearly truly would have liked to have been a member of their order in reality; he should have that chance, and it is in itself a way to atone for the lies he told the Inquisition. She is very happy to see him at the Exalted Council and realize how good it’s been for him. (It breaks her heart when news stops coming from Weisshaupt, and it probably means that he’s dead. But she reasons that leaving him in Val Royeaux would also have meant his death, and at least she bought him a few more years.)
- Cole becomes more spirit than human, much to Varric’s disappointment.
- Ma’ena’s clan survives the series of war table operations that could have killed them, with Ma’ena never entirely realizing how high the stakes truly were.
- Fairbanks is allowed to keep the secret of his nobility. Ma’ena is not about to take away from someone else their choices about how to live their life - or who they are.
Ma’ena and Cullen disappear. As much as they’re able, anyway. They retire to a quiet farm near Blackmoor in the Southron Hills (refer to this non-canon map of Ferelden). They take time to visit Cullen’s family in South Reach - Mia and Ma’ena instantly bond, mostly over their shared love of making Cullen blush - and Ma’ena’s clan in Wycome. It’s during this trip that Ma’ena finally learns how much of a black sheep she’s been for years. It doesn’t surprise her, and she’s distanced enough from the clan at this point to be able to just nod, say that it makes sense, and make her goodbyes knowing she’ll never see them again.
Ma’ena and Cullen also go to visit Alistair and Natia, who are living a similarly off-the-grid existence in the Free Marches, raising mabari on a seaside estate. Alistair escaped the chaos in Weisshaupt, while Natia’s quest to find a cure for the Blight was successful; he and Natia decided it was time to lie low and leave the Wardens to their own devices for a while, prepared to re-emerge with news of the cure once the Warden civil war is resolved. During this trip, Ma’ena reveals to Cullen that she’s pregnant. Natia performs a dwarven blessing over the unborn child; when the baby - named Elisabeth, in honor of the friend Ma’ena lost too soon - is born, Divine Leliana herself presides over the child’s nameday. Daughter of the Inquisitor, blessed by the Hero of Ferelden, baptized by the Divine herself - no pressure, Elisabeth.
Ma’ena likes Varric from the beginning for dropping the bullshit and acknowledging right away how completely insane everything is. Unfortunately, his propensity for straight-shooting bites him in the ass a couple of times when he chooses the wrong time and place to give Ma’ena a reality check, but they always make up over it and stay friends. He forgives Ma’ena for letting Hawke stay behind in the Fade because he can see how badly shaken she is by it, too - though it is nothing compared to how Varric himself feels. Also, Varric knew how deeply shaken Hawke was by Kirkwall, and understood before Ma’ena even told him the truth that Hawke sacrificed herself, through no decision of Ma’ena’s own.
Varric might be the only person who could say that he saw Ma’ena and Cullen’s romance starting well before either one of them did. Ma’ena earned her nickname from him all the way back in Haven, when she made a bet with him that she could make Cullen blush, which she did by sweetly asking Cullen if he’d taken a vow of chastity as a templar. When she related the story to Varric, she made herself blush. Thus, she became “Rosie.” This bet she made with Varric becomes a running joke, mutating into someone being paid a silver whenever they get someone else to blush. A considerable amount of coin changes hands over that.
Ma’ena bonds instantly with Dorian and they become very close friends. He is the first she allows to see how badly she is falling apart after the events of Crestwood, and immediately agrees to her request to just hold her and let her cry. The two share absolutely no attraction to each other, and so Ma’ena is not remotely surprised by the “revelation” of the nature of his falling-out with his father - though she will happily flirt with him anyway. The two spend so much time together that rumors went around about them, eventually silenced in spectacular fashion when Ma’ena makes her actual preferences quite publicly known.
Dorian acts as confidante and playful intercessor when it comes to Cullen, with whom he also enjoys a surprisingly good friendship. Dorian meddles from a distance, but all with the very best of intentions - he thinks they are a smashingly good couple and only wants the best for them, and that means getting both of them over their respective hangups and hesitations when it comes to being in love. She and Dorian can be found drinking wine in his library nook late at night when she’s having a particularly tough time and he refuses to let her isolate herself the way she would if she were left to her own devices.
Iron Bull and Ma’ena have a weird sort of sibling relationship; she thinks of the way that he is with the Chargers as a big brother in charge of herding a bunch of younger siblings, and when she realizes that he’s treating her the same way, it hits her that she’s become a part of his family. Granted, it’s siblings who beat each other up on the regular; starting with a sparring match in Haven and continuing with a boxing match in Skyhold, the two of them routinely meet up to take out their anger and frustrations in violence. It differs from a sibling relationship in one extremely important regard: Bull repeatedly told Ma’ena that his door was open anytime, an offer she never took entirely seriously, even though she knew he meant it. She did not like how aggressively he came on to Dorian, partly because she felt so protective of her best friend, and pulled Bull aside to tell him to back off. Bull politely told her to mind her own business. Then they wound up together and Ma’ena realized how much she had misread the entire situation. After that, she was absolutely delighted for both of them.
Cassandra and Ma’ena have a few clashes. Ma’ena is frequently encouraging Cassandra towards romantic partners, or at least liaisons, and Cassandra is horrified by Ma’ena’s casual attitude towards sex. Cassandra also misinterpreted Ma’ena’s relationship with Dorian, and Ma’ena’s reaction to hearing Alistair speak of Natia, and accused Ma’ena of a wandering eye. They work through these things, however; Ma’ena admires Cassandra’s strength and conviction, and Cassandra Ma’ena’s passion and kindness. Eventually, they become good friends. Friends who occasionally clash.
Ma’ena and Solas have a fraught, contentious relationship. She finds him arrogant and condescending, hates how he talks about the Dalish, hates more the assumptions he makes about how the two of them, as elves, must think and feel the same things about the humans around them, and especially their religion. She also finds him fascinating, enormously intelligent, and loves to hear his stories of what he’s seen in the Fade. They spend a lot of time warily circling each other, with Ma’ena finding Solas’s actions bewildering, and Solas finding the way she reacts to him just as confusing. Ma’ena did kiss Solas in the Fade-dream of Haven, because you do stupid things in dreams, and she did not know it was more real than most dreams. When she woke up and realized the truth, she knocked down the door to Solas’s tower basement lair and screamed at him for violating her privacy. She left more frustrated that he didn’t seem to grasp the degree to which he had trespassed than she was angry for the trespassing in the first place. Their relationship continued in this vein of uncertainty and occasional mistrust, with mutual respect to balance it out. Neither of them would use the word “friend” to describe the other by the end, but they thought highly of each other.
Cole is Ma’ena’s adopted son and she will not hear anyone say anything bad about him (looking at you, Vivienne). He is very unnerving and frequently creepy, yes, but he is also sweet, and his ability to “hear” hurting has put him by Ma’ena’s side when she’s needed a friend several times.
Ma’ena does not entirely trust Vivienne. Someone who is so transparently ambitious is not to be trusted. Even when Vivienne does something that appears selfless on the surface, Ma’ena is always guarded, wondering how it benefits Vivienne in the end. She does help Vivienne with her personal quests - gathering the Circle books and procuring a snowy wyvern heart - and seeing Vivienne with Bastien does change Ma’ena’s view towards her slightly, as she realizes there is a person and a beating heart behind all that ice and iron. But they never really move past “cordial.”
Ma’ena and Sera never quite know what to make of each other, and settle on a kind of affectionate neutrality. Even as un-Dalish as she is, Ma’ena is still too “elfy” for Sera’s tastes. And she finds Sera’s way of thinking and talking difficult to keep up with. And, Sera’s friendship with and fierce protectiveness of Blackwall almost end up destroying any friendship she might have had with Ma’ena before it had a chance to root when Sera thought that Ma’ena had just been leading him on for no reason, but once Ma’ena explained herself Sera accepted the truth, scoffed at the whole thing, and let it go.
Ma'ena will never forget Josephine's asking her early in in Haven if people were treating her poorly because she was Dalish. It was one of the earliest gestures of kindness Ma'ena got in Haven, and meant a lot to her. Josephine is forever wonderful to her as a result. The two aren't ever close, but Ma'ena does help Josephine get the contract off of her family, as a gesture of thanks for everything Josephine has done for Ma'ena personally and all the work she does for the Inquisition more generally.
The Inquisition's spymaster is one of the few people who intimidates Ma'ena. You might even go so far as to say that she's scared of Leliana... though she'd never admit it. Leliana's ability to go from friendly to ice-cold in a heartbeat is deeply unnerving. On the other hand, Ma'ena learns early on of Leliana's protective, big-sister feelings towards Cullen, and appreciates that he has someone looking out for him. Leliana encourages Cullen and Ma'ena's romance, more because she wants Cullen to be happy than having any particular feelings about Ma'ena's happiness.
Ma'ena's compassion and kindness reminds Leliana of the peace she found in the Chantry, and why she was drawn to that life in the first place. Leliana lets Ma'ena convince her to be merciful, and softens over time. When Leliana eventually becomes Divine, the gentler outlook she credits Ma'ena for bringing her is evident in all of her decisions.
Ma’ena was smitten with Blackwall immediately. By her own admission, she has kind of a thing for facial hair (and body hair; hello, Varric’s chest hair). Something about the combination of the beard, the eyes, and the rumbling voice got to her immediately. In her own life, under normal circumstances, Ma’ena would have bedded him inside of a week. In the chaos and disruption of the Inquisition, and with Blackwall’s keeping her at a courtly arm’s length, Ma’ena let herself be convinced that what she felt was more than lust. There were several times over their monthslong courtship - such as it was - that she questioned where this unusual burst of patience was coming from, but she never engaged in self-reflection for long enough to truly identify it.
When they arrived at Skyhold, and Ma’ena spoke to Blackwall on the battlements, only to have him push her away, Elisabeth Hawke was watching the whole awkward scene unfold from a distance. She saw Ma’ena’s obvious unhappiness and invited herself over to check on Ma’ena and ask what had happened. After a bit of resistance, Ma’ena was only too happy to finally have someone to talk to. Hawke found something darkly familiar in the story of a man attempting to convince a woman she’s better off without him, and told Ma’ena that in her experience, one should listen to such a warning. Hawke told Ma’ena of her guilt over what Anders had done, and the conversation ended with Hawke weeping in Ma’ena’s arms.
When she’d recovered, it was off to the Herald’s Rest to drink off the conversation. Varric joined them, and eventually, Cullen, looking for Ma’ena for a War Council meeting as word had come back from Leliana’s scouts in Crestwood. A tipsy Ma’ena flirted with Cullen. He flirted back. Ma’ena walked away wondering just what the hell had just happened. Uncertainty about her feelings for Blackwall and a sudden awareness of feelings for another man, all in the span of a few hours? Small wonder she was only too happy to be back on the road to killing things the next day.
After rescuing Alistair from Crestwood, most of the crew returned with him to Skyhold, while Ma’ena took Iron Bull, Dorian, and Blackwall to the Storm Coast to take care of the darkspawn infestation there - and so that Blackwall could take her to the place he’d ominously, and mysteriously, said he wanted to show her. They retrieved the Warden-Constable’s badge, and returned to Skyhold. When Blackwall appeared in Ma’ena’s quarters that night, she thought at first that she would finally get to bed him as she’d wanted for months. But when he begged her to break it off, Hawke’s warning came back to mind, breaking through the fog of lust. Between Hawke's advice and her realizing from having met Alistair that fairy-tale, true romance kind of love is a real thing, Ma'ena knew she could have better than lust. Ma’ena realized that Blackwall wanted more from her than she wanted to give, and more than she wanted, to boot. She bade him farewell, miserably alone.
Cullen had gained Ma’ena’s respect early on. At first she rolled her eyes at the pale, serious shem, finding him too solemn for her tastes. Certainly attractive, though. And that blush! So, yes, not bad to look at, but painfully boring.
When Corypheus attacked Haven, Cullen’s quick thinking impressed Ma’ena. On the road from Haven, Ma’ena slipped away from camp alone to make prayers of thanks to her gods for the escape from Haven. Cullen sent soldiers to guard her, telling the soldiers to make sure she made it safely back to camp - and to make sure that nobody disturbed her. Ma’ena was struck by his respect for her faith. At Skyhold, when Cassandra maneuvered her to accept the mantle of Inquisitor in front of the gathered people, it was seeing Cullen in the crowd that gave Ma’ena the strength to accept the sword - she reasoned that he wouldn’t entrust his soldiers to anyone he didn’t think was up to the job, and since she respected his opinion, if he had a high opinion of her she would have to live up to it.
Cullen was her most trusted and most respected advisor long before that night at the tavern after her unsettling conversation with Hawke. To have the idea of him as a romantic prospect suddenly in her head intrigued and unnerved Ma’ena in equal parts. She tried to shove the idea down as hard as she could, putting her focus back on whatever her burgeoning relationship with Blackwall was supposed to be. When that fell apart not long afterward, she would probably have continued to try to keep Cullen at a distance - but when she went looking for Dorian to blubber about what had happened with Blackwall, she found him playing chess with Cullen. Challenged to the next game, she of course could not back down, and found herself spending a long, pleasant afternoon talking to Cullen. And playing chess. Of course. His congratulatory handshake upon her win turned, impulsively, into a kiss to her hand. Ma’ena’s conversation with Dorian took a very different turn.
Dorian realized the truth of what had happened and stormed off to confront Cullen over his having let Ma’ena win. He just as quickly figured out why Cullen would have let her win, and appointed himself as wingman and official romance-encourager. He played chess with Cullen again and offered him advice on how to woo Ma’ena - as well as reassuring him that the interest was not only one-way. That boost of confidence led Cullen to make the extraordinary move of - gasp - taking Ma’ena’s hand in the Skyhold courtyard when she was gathering her companions and soldiers to leave for the Western Approach.
Dorian continued to poke at Ma’ena on their trip. Ma’ena was already a nervous wreck over her feelings for Cullen - she was not at all used to the idea of a slow burn with someone she already knew and liked, which would have been enough to stress her out on its own. Add to it the complication of her recently ended dalliance with Blackwall, and her uncertainty over how inappropriate it might be for the Inquisitor to get involved with her Commander, and she was a total headcase. Dorian’s teasing - which of course he viewed only as encouraging - only made things worse.
Ma’ena was drawn tight as a bow when Cullen arrived with the Inquisition’s forces to siege Adamant. The night before the siege, she lost her patience with Dorian’s bullshit and stalked off to confront Cullen. She had all these grand plans in mind for what she was going to say… which all went immediately out the window with one shy, gentle smile and the merest hint of a blush. Their first kiss was on the battlements of Griffon Wing Keep. Maybe not the best timing, all things considered.
Cullen and Ma’ena didn’t sleep together for a long time - another unaccountably bewildering thing, from where Ma’ena sat. Cullen begged her for her patience and understanding, holding up his emotional baggage from Kirkwall and his recovery from lyrium addiction as his reasons for needing to take his time. There was another reason - Cullen did not have much of a romantic history, and was terrified of disappointing Ma’ena when the time came. He made grand plans for how he would finally take her to bed… which all went immediately out the window with the breaking of a glass.
Ma’ena’s headstrong, occasionally reckless nature does occasionally collide with Cullen’s more conservative approach. But he acts as an important grounding force for her, and she as encouragement for the passion that he hides behind his carefully-controlled façade. They balance each other nicely.
Ma'ena is resistant to elfroot as both a painkiller and a recreational drug. It takes about three times the regular dose for its analgesic effects to kick in. The "high" effect never does - at least, not to her knowledge. It's not like she's ever just kept loading herself with elfroot until she gets stoned.