Today I’m following up with a new entry in my lore mini-series paving the road for the anticipated release of the next Dragon Age game. Last episode I explored Nevarra - Thedas’s central nation that is best known for its unique treatment of death, strong royal dynasties, and all things to do with the arts, and trade. Continuing from that, in this episode I’m plunging into the cultured, seafaring kingdom of Antiva that’s famous for its wine, guild of assassins, and rich merchant history.
For the uninitiated, Antiva's roots can be traced back to ne'er-do-wells and pirates who united, realizing a less dangerous life on land could still be lucrative. They put down stakes on the west coast of Rialto Bay, only to realize they were all but squatting on land claimed by the king of a nearby city-state called Antiva. Eventually the two distinct groups merged into one people, evolving into the kingdom it is today.
Over the years, a fragile understanding between the neighbouring settlements gave way to a single, unified nation where the merchants ruled and the royals grew fat. (WoT. V1).
While the nation has always been governed by a monarchy, Antiva’s true power in Thedas resides in the hands of a dozen merchant princes. They are not princes in the literal sense, but heads of banks, trading companies, and vineyards, and their power is conferred strictly by wealth.
In the rest of the civilized world, it is common belief that Antiva has no king. I assure you, gentle readers, that this is untrue. The line of kings in Antiva has remained unbroken for two and a half thousand years—it is simply that nobody pays any attention to them whatsoever. (Codex entry: Antiva).
However, that wasn’t always the case for Antiva, many people of Thedas wrongly believe that Antiva maintained its independence on the back of the Antivan Crows, an infamous guild of spies, assassins, and thieves. But that’s just not true, the foundation of the nation’s prosperity originated with the succession of Queen Asha in the Black Age, who was historically known as the "Queen Mother of Thedas."
There are those who believe the tale that Antiva owes its independence to the looming threat of the Crows. Yet this story—largely spread by the Crows themselves—is no more credible than the promises of a market-stall huckster. (Codex entry: Queen Asha of Antiva).
Recognised as a marriage that would later prove to be one of the most important events in Thedas' history since the blackening of the Golden City. Asha, a daughter of wealthy Rivaini merchants was hitched in an arranged marriage with the crown prince of Antiva, Alonzo Campana.
For the truth of the matter, we look instead to the Palace of the Kings in Antiva City. A grand statue of a woman in Rivaini royal garb towers over the entrance, her watchful eyes keeping sight of everything happening within those walls: Asha Subira Bahadur Campana, Queen Mother of Thedas. (Codex entry: Queen Asha of Antiva).
Before the two took the throne, Princess Asha understood that her new kingdom was in danger. It was becoming too prosperous to avoid attracting the attention of envious powers with better armies. It was only a matter of time before Tevinter or the rest of Thedas tried to claim a share of Antiva’s wealth, and when they did, she knew her kingdom would be no match for them on the battlefield. So, Asha planned to outmanoeuvre her enemies before it could ever come to war.
When the two were crowned and took the throne, Queen Asha had already arranged marriages in rival countries for three of their children. Over the next several decades, Queen Asha’s plan was revealed. She married her children and grandchildren into strategically selected families in every nation on the continent, as each marriage sealed an alliance.
The queen spent decades making alliances in the ancient Rivaini way: marriage. She wed her many children and grandchildren strategically into nobles houses across the continent. Within thirty years, Antiva was so well-connected that any hostile action against it would force half the nations of Thedas into war. (Codex entry: Queen Asha of Antiva).
Within thirty years, no country in Thedas could risk hostilities against Antiva without bringing half of Thedas into war. Today, the blood of Queen Asha flows in the veins of Empress Celene and the prince of Starkhaven, the king of Nevarra, most dukes of the Anderfels, and even prominent magisters of the Imperium. More than any document or agreement, Asha’s bonds of blood force most of Thedas to remain at peace with Antiva or risk terrible consequences at family gatherings.
The blood of Queen Asha runs in the veins of the Empress of Orlais, the Prince of Starkhaven, the King of Nevarra, and seven of the Dukes of the Anderfels; even some magisters of the Tevinter Imperium have ties to the Antivan royal family. Asha's web of blood ties forces most of the continent to remain at peace with Antiva, or risk terrible consequences at family dinners. (Codex entry: Queen Asha of Antiva).
And so, Antiva has remained fairly peaceful with the other nations throughout the ages. Perhaps the darkest time in Antivan history was the Exalted Age, when the Fourth Blight ravaged the nation.
The awakened Archdemon Andoral brought destruction on to the land as darkspawn surfaced in great numbers in northern parts of the continent, with most concentrated in Antiva. The entire ruling family at the time were slaughtered before the darkspawn advanced south and cast to the Free Marches and Rivain.
Antiva was finally rid of the darkspawn following the tide-turning battle at the city of Ayesleigh, where the Grey Warden Garahel died striking the killing blow on Andoral. So many darkspawn were slaughtered that many in Thedas believed the darkspawn would never return. Antiva wasted little time rebuilding what was lost at great expense, booming back into one of Thedas’s best trade beacons. And thus, it has remained the same since.
Surrounded by the Rialto Bay, it’s no wonder serene Antiva is renowned for its seafaring nature. The nation has cemented itself with powerful mercantile traditions, taking advantage of its coastal cities for trade opportunities with the other countries of Thedas.
The beautiful and deadly Antiva City is the most important of these coastal cities, not to mention, Antiva’s capital.
“Antiva City...Where they say every man is a poet or a merchant prince, and treachery is the coin of the realm.” (Alistair).
Like most of Antiva, the capital has been described as a romantic location known for its wealthy port and robust trade, as well as the wine that is the country's main export. Many have said that Antiva City smells of seawater mixed with wine and spice, or mold mixed with rotting fish.
The city is made up of many plaza’s, boulevards and streets that are paved in marvellous tiles and dozens of gilded statues. Banks, shops, merchants, restaurants and many other businesses thrive throughout the capital.
There are many wonders one can witness in Antiva City, like the Royal Palace, otherwise known as the Palace of the Kings. The palace is situated in the middle of Antiva City. A grand statue of Asha, Queen Mother of Thedas is stood, watching over the entrance within the palace’s walls, as royals carry out their mundane duty.
“The Palace of the Kings in Antiva City. A grand statue of a woman in Rivaini royal garb towers over the entrance, her watchful eyes keeping sight of everything happening within those walls: Asha Subira Bahadur Campana, Queen Mother of Thedas.” (Codex entry: Queen Asha of Antiva).
Even further, Antiva City houses many of the Antivan Crow’s secret hideouts such as their stronghold the “Archive of the Crows”, their hidden prison, the “Velabanchel.” And, even House Cantori have their own casino. Indeed, the Crows enjoy a life of supreme privilege in their home nation.
“Archive of the Crows: A secret location of the Antivan Crows which houses a "dragon's creche," a booby-trapped building designed to kill the unwary. Both the Crows and old dwarven families design these structures.” (Dragon Age: The Silent Grove).
Given Antiva’s permissive culture, the kingdom is home to several brothels.
The people of Antiva are known for their festival culture. Holidays there tend to be celebrated with uncommon enthusiasm. Satinalia, for instance, is accompanied by wild celebration, the wearing of masks, and the naming of the town fool as ruler for the day.
As a whole, Antiva is relatively prosperous, thanks largely to aggressive trading practices. Its only real resources come from the wine trade, fuelled by its fruitful vineyards. Antiva would not be so rich if it were isolated from its many trading partners.
in Thedas today, the kingdom does have a ruling monarchy; however, they don’t have much power and the people don’t much care for them. Instead, the nation is led by a body of argumentative merchant princes who have far more power than the weak monarchy that officially rules the nation. The merchant elite prefers to sue for peace when entangled in a war, which is not often, as the nation is well known for its neutrality and passive approach to cross-border conflicts.
“The nation is ruled in truth by a collection of merchant princes. They are not princes in the literal sense, but heads of banks, trading companies, and vineyards. Their power is conferred strictly by wealth.” (Codex entry: Antiva).
While Antiva is not a military power by any means there is no standing army - the nation keeps the deadliest assassins in Thedas in the House of Crows. The guild's fame is such that entire kingdoms fear their silent blades, and few have dared take on the nation in open war.
“Antiva is known for the House of Crows. Since Antivans are well known for being good at everything but fighting, it is more than a little ironic that Antiva possesses the most deadly assassins in the world.” (Codex entry: Antiva).
The Antivan Crows operate under the control of a secret council said to be made up of the heads of a small collection of the wealthiest families in Antiva, including some royals. The eight leaders of the Crows are called the “Talons.”
The current leading houses are Dellamorte, Balazar, Valisti, Kortez, De Riva, Nero, Cantori, and Arainai. Houses frequently rise and fall. While new recruits are told that anyone can rise to the rank of Talon, in practice few achieve this rank without family or connections.
The Crows are everywhere in their home nation, but also appear outside Antiva. Often, they are identifiable by their unique tattoos - a tradition taken from the Rivaini. Some Crows display their tattoos proudly, while others keep them hidden. Various Antivan kings and queens have paid lip service to the idea of stamping the Crows out, tossing around sentiments like “menace" on Antiva's peaceful reputation.
The Crows are, after all, lawbreakers, however powerful and romanticized they maybe. Nothing has come of these threats, as the fame of the Crows is widely believed to protect Antiva from outside harm. It is often said that nations avoid invading Antiva because, while their armies might find little resistance, the leaders of those armies and those who sent them will almost certainly end up dead. A target of the Crows rarely lives long.
“Their fame is such that Antiva keeps no standing army: No king is willing to order his troops to assault her borders, and no general is mad enough to lead such an invasion. The attack would likely succeed, but its leaders would not see the day.” (Codex entry: Antiva).
In any regard, we have two major lingering narratives for Antiva that should have great consequences in the next Dragon Age game.
Most crucially, an Antaam-led Qunari invasion is heading to Antiva. In Tevinter Nights, Caterina Dellamorte, the First Talon invited each of the Talons together to discuss the impending Qunari threat.
The Qun sought a “peacefully” invasion as they discussed a deal with Emil Kortez, one of the Antivan Crow Talons. Kortez agreed to eliminate all the other seven Talons for the Qunari with the assumption that the Qun would honour their deal and occupy a peaceful conquest of Antiva and its people.
With this machination in play, Kortez killed the second, third and eighth Talon before Viago, Teia and the rest of the Talons unmasked Kortez’s conniving plot, and then defeated their brethren. Since Kortez’s agreement was foiled, the Qunari are heading to Antiva with a full invasion in mind after their ‘peaceful’ contract went sour. Should the Qunari decide to attack, the assassins must present a unified force.
First Talon: Caterina Dellamorte
Second Talon: Dante Balazar (eliminated)
Third Talon: Lera Valisti (eliminated)
Fourth Talon: Emil Kortez (eliminated)
Fifth Talon: Viago De Riva
Sixth Talon: Bolivar Nero
Seventh Talon: Andarateia Cantori
Eighth Talon: Giuli Arainai (eliminated)
The remaining Antivan Crow Talons have since travelled to Antiva City to inform the royals of Antiva in preparation for the Qunari war. The Crows also plan to recruit more Talons for their ranks, as they just lost four leaders thanks to Kortez’s scheme.
Antiva hasn’t faced a brutal invasion like this since the Fourth Blight, while the nation has faced Qunari invasions in the past, the Antivan Crows are currently at their most fractured with their recent betrayal.
The Qun is an implacable force that will not be denied. Surely chaos will ensue for Antiva unless the kingdom can get help from its neighbouring nations. Otherwise, the Qunari may control the majority of northern Antiva within a year.
"I fear everything east of Vyrantium will be under their control within a year, and northern Antiva as well." (Tevinter Nights).
The Rest Of The Talons
Adding more to the Antivan Crow’s dilemma. In the Dragon Age Day short story, “The Wake”, the Antivan Crows Illario, Viago and Teia mourned the loss of Lucanis Dellamorte, the heir to the First Talon. Lucanis’s cousin, and now presumably the next heir to the First Talon, Illario shared drunken childhood stories of Lucanis.
More to the point, Lucanis has mysteriously dead it seems. He was recently introduced in Tevinter Nights as a Master Assassin; however, it seems his fate has already come upon him. Unless he’s pretending to me dead for some greater scheme? He’s gone missing, or he would rather leave the Crows so his cousin Illario could become the First Talon of the Antivan Crows instead. Perhaps there’s more to it, but as it stands, it seems he’s dead considering his friends are putting a wake together for him.
Either way, the Antivan Crow Talons are four members down and need to recruit more leaders fast, between the imminent Qunari invasion and the Crow’s own inner conflicts, matters are tense for Antiva to say the least.
Perhaps this crown jewel of a nation will be desolated by the Qun, the Crows certainly have an incredible-looming threat on the horizon for their home nation. Only time will tell what happens to Antiva and the Antivan Crows. Hopefully, Antiva shall endure until the next age.