Esmeray, most recently known as Nerissa, was high priestess of the Old God Razikale. She has been involved in various significant events throughout the history of Thedas.
Overview[edit | edit source]
Appearance[edit | edit source]
Nerissa has taken on many appearances over the years, both male and female. Her most commonly used appearance, as of 8:91 Blessed–9:43 Dragon is a female human of slight build with brown hair and eyes and approximately 5'7", appearing to be around 20 years old. This is her real appearance. Though she can take on many, she prefers being in this form and does so as often as she can, as it saves mana.
Biography[edit | edit source]
History[edit | edit source]
Nerissa, real name Esmeray, was raised in ancient Tevinter. A powerful mage, she was appointed to the position of High Priestess of Razikale at a young age. At the age of twenty, she and the seven other high priests of the Old Gods met up in a secluded location with the intention of using their powers to enter the Golden City.
While originally on-board, Esmeray changed her mind at the last moment when she saw all the bodies lined up to be sacrificed, but she knew she would become a sacrifice if she backed down. Still, at the last moment she tried to talk her fellow priests out of it, fearing the consequences of their actions, but it was to know avail. Having been accompanied by a lower priestess, when Esmeray resisted, she was attacked and left for dead, and the lower priestess was given her position. After the new eight magisters made their way into the Fade, they were corrupted and became the first darkspawn. As she was on the verge of death or corruption, she heard a voice say he would spare and hide her from the enemy but that she would one day have to return the price. She accepted.
Despite not being a darkspawn, she felt a connection to them. She attempted to escape as the hordes grew, but she was overwhelmed and killed by darkspawn. Yet somehow, she came back. This was the salvation the voice, which she assumed was a spirit, had given her.
The Old God Dumat was eventually freed by the darkspawn, officially beginning the first Blight. She had constantly tried reaching out to the spirit for help again, but she was unable to contact it. After over two hundred years of fighting, her power had grown significantly, and while she was of great help, the Archdemon could not be permanently killed. She sought out the spirit once more, and this time it spoke back. The voice agreed to teach her some useful skills on the condition she keep another promise: seal off her mana reserves as they grew over the years. She was to keep this magic sealed in a necklace until he told her she could release it. She agreed to his term and learned various spells, including the ability to transform into animals and people after intense observation (a useful tactic for hiding her immortality) and to split herself into two. The major spells were ultimately not needed, as the soldiers found out that drinking the blood of darkspawn allowed them to sense them and kill the Archdemon for good. Esmeray—going by Dorcia at that time, became known as one of the founding members of the Wardens.
Years later, going by the name Lysana, Esmeray met Andraste. While not necessarily believing in the Maker, Esmeray believed in Andraste and told Andraste her story, which she had never told anyone before. True to her benevolent nature, Andraste forgave her and assured her the Maker would end her pain when she had redeemed herself in His eyes. To this day, Lysana is known as a disciple of Andraste. While history has lost much of the truth, she is known as a dear friend of Andraste and a figure who committed a grave sin that was forgotten by history and was cursed by the Maker but forgiven by Andraste. She is known as a figure of redemption and is often warped by the Chantry into being used as propaganda saying that non-Andrastians can find forgiveness if they turn to the Maker.
Lysana is known only by the Divines to possess a special amulet that will reveal herself. She is able to gain their aid in times of need with this amulet.
Similarly, Esmeray is still known as one of the founding Wardens, Dorcia, but her immortality is known only to Warden Commanders, who can confirm her identity by asking her to complete a phrase and if truly needed for confirmation, watching her die and come back.
Esmeray is also known by the Dalish as Ash’Abelas, the Woman of Sorrows, and her tale differs from that told by the Chantry. As her appearance is unknown, she is only recognized through ancient magic that reveals otherwise invisible tattoos on her arms that are similar in appearance to the style of vallaslin.
In 8:96 Blessed, shortly after meeting Loghain, Maric Theirin meets Esmeray, who goes by the name Gwyneth. After the death of Andraste, Gwyneth refused to get involved with politics or people, but seeing war ravage her old friend’s homeland, she joined Maric. Despite closing herself off to people after the death of her dear friend, she couldn’t help but become friends with Maric, Loghain, Rowan and Katriel. They were her first friends since the death of Andraste.
Shortly after the Orlesian War, Gwyneth, Maric, Loghain and a group of soldiers were clearing out small camps of Orlesians but got split up. Gwyneth and Maric ran into an extremely powerful mage. Knowing they couldn’t take him on, Gwyneth demanded Maric escape, as he was more important. When Maric came back for her, the mage and Gwyneth were gone, nothing left but a pool of blood.
Years later, after the death of Rowan, Gwyneth appeared at her resting place, her face covered in a shawl. Maric confronted her, not knowing who she was, and Gwyneth revealed herself. She explained that she had been captured by Orlesians and tortured for information until she finally got free. The two being years older now, Gwyneth lied that her face had been scarred from the torture so that Maric couldn’t see she hadn’t aged. Maric convinced her to stay, and she agreed, unable to help wanting to come back to her friend.
When the Warden Commander Genvieve arrived years later asking Maric for help, Gwyneth felt bound by duty to go with them to the Deep Roads. While there, Gwyneth and Julian were killed by a Dragon. When Fiona went to look at her wounds, she saw them heal by themselves and ordered everyone to step back. Seeing Gwyneth seemingly come back to life, they raised their blades, assuming she was a demon. Genvieve was the only one who didn’t prepare to attack and said, “With their blood we become them,” to which Gwyneth replied, “With their blood they will fall.” Gwyneth was forced to reveal her identity as Dorcia, taking off her shawl and revealing her unaged face. They continued their journey, but Gwyneth warned Maric that once this was over, he would return to the castle claiming she was dead. While trapped in the Fade, trusting Maric would find her, Gwyneth remained in the illusion of her and Andraste in their meeting place in the forest. It was there she revealed herself as Lysana.
Gwyneth changed forms upon leaving the Deep Roads in case they ran into anyone they knew. She saw Maric tell Loghain she had died, and he was devastated; this also contributed to his hatred of the Grey Wardens. Gwyneth left with Fiona and Duncan and returned to Maric with them months later with Alistair. After deciding to give Alistair a life elsewhere, Duncan swore to check in on him, and Gwyneth swore to look over him. She looked over Alistair in Redcliffe under a different form, going by the name Hortense until he was sent to the Chantry. Gwyneth left for the Chantry with Alistair, where she became a sister. She took on her old form which she had known Maric as, for sentimentality, and began to use the name Nerissa. She would occasionally see Duncan, who checked in on Alistair from time to time, and when Alistair was recruited and Duncan and Nerissa could tell a Blight was coming, she joined the fight under a new identity: Emmett.
In order to get more recruits, Nerissa split into two. In addition to Emmett, she became Celeste, using her original appearance which she had used as Nerissa. As Celeste, she only planned on recruiting, therefore having no intention of meeting Alistair or Loghain. She went to Kinloch Hold, where she recruited Alim Surana. As Emmett, she went to Highever and recruited Elissa Cousland. Duncan would recruit Jisenia Tabris. Upon returning to Ostagar as Celeste, she immediately saw off Alim, putting him under Duncan’s command when he came back, and then dispersed.
Upon hearing of the Landsmeet and realizing that Loghain would likely die, Nerissa burst into the Landsmeet in her true form. Using her magic, she managed to pause time in the entire building with magic connected to the Fade. As her target, Loghain was unaffected. As Alistair, Alim and Jisenia were once trapped in the Fade by Sloth, they were unaffected. Alim and Alistair, recognizing her, both said her different names at once, causing even more confusion. She approached Loghain, who called out to her as Gwyneth and was convinced that he was hallucinating due to blood loss. She assured him it was her, apologizing for having told so many lies and promising to continue his search for Maric. As soon as he died, she fled, and time resumed the moment she left the room.
Still sentimental, she waited outside despite the danger to see Anora. Her face covered as it had been in the past, Anora recognized her immediately. Nerissa consoled her but told her there was nothing she could do but visit her, and the two said goodbye.
Nerissa seemed to know what would come next, and agreed to come with the Wardens to Eamon’s manor for questioning, on the condition that she did not have to reveal anything to those outside of their inner party, including Eamon. Nerissa explained her past with Maric and her departure, making sure to leave out details of Fiona and Duncan, and how she came to watch over Alistair, who had a hard time believing that his father cared enough to ask anyone to watch over him. When questioning how this was all possible, it was Leliana who guessed that Nerissa was Lysana, which—with some bemusement—Nerissa admitted.
After the Blight, Nerissa was on her own, occasionally visiting Alistair and Elissa at their castle. Three years after their marriage, Nerissa noticed Elissa was unhappy, and when asking, realized it was because she could never bear Alistair a child. Having known the Warden Isseya and how she removed the Blight from the last remaining griffons (she promised Isseya that she would not reveal the location to anyone, instead waiting for someone to find Isseya’s journal), Nerissa informed Elissa that she could possibly remove the Blight from her and Alistair, but that it would involve blood magic and that she was to never tell a soul, even her friends Jisenia and Alim. Alistair initially vehemently refused the ritual, but when he later heard that Elissa would rather not do it so that she could go on the Calling with him because she wanted to be with him until the end, he felt a fool and agreed. Nerissa became seriously ill after performing the ritual but recovered.
Years later, Alistair and Nerissa gathered a group and went to look for the lost King Maric. When finally finding him and hearing Maric’s reluctance on going back, Nerissa snapped at him, unintentionally revealing information on Alistair’s mother and Duncan in the process. Maric ultimately died, Nerissa crying for the first time since Andraste’s death as she said goodbye.
She later had to give information to an insistent Alistair. She told him his mother was a Warden who couldn’t keep him and that Duncan was friends with his parents and checked in on him as a child, but she refused to reveal anything else, wanting to respect his parents’ wishes. The only thing she could offer was reassurance that his parents cared for each other and for him.
After the mage-templar war began, not wanting to see the land torn apart, Nerissa joined up with the Chantry (Leliana’s word was enough, as opposed to having to reveal her identity) to form the Inquisition. Nerissa’s duty was essentially to make sure orders given were actually carried out and that things were functioning. She also had a variety of contacts, herself, which proved useful. When Ethera Lavellan joined, Nerissa functioned as one of the advisors, as well as an occasional companion.
When Ethera and Dorian went into the dark future created by Alexius with Dorian, they and the others found a torturer slitting Nerissa’s throat. After swiftly killing him, Nerissa revived, gaining obvious questions from everyone there. When learning that Ethera and Dorian planned on going back, she instructed them to tell the past Nerissa that the Breach was created by “one of the priests” and that she would know what it meant.
Upon returning, though it proved to be too late to be of much health, Dorian and Ethera informed Nerissa of what she had said in the alternate future. Nerissa was horrified, and though she asked to just speak to the Herald of the matter, Ethera demanded that Dorian be there to hear it from her as well. For the first time since Andraste, Nerissa informed them of her past.
Nerissa became spymaster after Leliana’s departure. She remained with the Inquisition after the defeat of Corypheus, enjoying some permanency and purpose.
Nerissa accompanied Ethera through the Eluvian and was heavily injured fighting the Saarebas that guarded the final Eluvian which led. Ethera went ahead, and that is when Nerissa lost control of her body. She ignored her concerned companions when she stood up, telling them she had to follow.
“Nerissa” followed after the Inquisitor and found her as Solas was about to leave. The two were clearly surprised to see the injured Nerissa had come all this way. “Nerissa” used her magic to propel one of her daggers at high speed straight towards the Inquisitor, and Solas rushed in front of her and guarded her with a spell. “Nerissa” was silent before bursting into laughter, expressing amusement that the Dread Wolf had gone soft. It did not take Solas long to realize that it wasn’t Nerissa speaking, it was Dirthamen. Dirthamen was vague on the details, explaining that he had helped Nerissa out in return for a favor when the time came. He warned that the Evanuris would be ready when Solas freed them, and that he would enjoy taking away the one thing that mattered to him. He then threw Nerissa’s body off a cliff, leaving Solas and everyone else who didn’t know the truth to believe she had died.
Solas, able to see the world in his deep sleep, knew nothing of Nerissa’s immortality or more personal events, as Dirthamen had used his hidden magic to shield her, changing her appearance to Solas in some situations he saw her in and completely hiding it in others. Their deal now complete, Dirthamen told her that she could unlock her power now that Solas wasn’t there to sense it. He told her that he looked forward to seeing her in the coming war.
Trivia[edit | edit source]
- Being a “Jack of all trades”, Nerissa is referred to as “Jack” by Varric, though he does not explain to others why, due to her being a mage being kept under wraps.
- Nerissa has the voice Julianne Buescher uses for High Elves in Skyrim.