Guest writeup by my esteemed colleague, Zachary.
I very much enjoyed the Dragon Age games, so taking a close look at fan art of a recurring character-turned-party-member holds great appeal. To prevent any spoilers or bias based on her role in the Dragon Age games, my goal here is to review this specific image.
At first glance, it is clear that Cassandra knows how to carry herself in combat. This is not some fantasy maiden who looks like she wandered into a dungeon straight from the Victoria’s Secret Angel’s Show—this woman is a warrior who means business.
How do we know this? Most obvious is her hair. Long hair gets in the way of melee combat. It gets caught in armor, it provides a handle for your foes, it gets in your eyes, it traps heat, and it traps sweat. This is our first clue that she is a front-line fighter. An archer or a scout can tie her hair back and call it good because she most likely isn’t going to end up in extended close melee combat. No, Cassandra here is a front-line fighter.
Our second clue is her stance. She is not posing or presenting her body for an audience to gawk: she is holding herself straight but not rigid. She is firmly grounded, but ready to pivot to face a foe. This is stressed by the orientation of her swords. Instead of hanging at her side, they are pivoted up to allow for a smooth, lightly drawn.
Our third clue is her swords. She has both a short sword and a long sword—possibly a bastard sword. They are on the same hip and arranged for easy draw of either, which indicated that she knows how to use both, is comfortable with both, and is comfortable enough in close combat to take that extra moment to select which will serve her purposes best. This suggests that she plans her actions, which indicated great dedication and training. She does not charge into the fray without a plan in mind.
Our final clue is less substantial, but very telling. Cassandra’s face is set but passive. There is no fear, no hate, no emotion at all. Her eyes are open fully looking intently at her audience. Now this could mean that she is an excellent poker player, or that she is just really good at hiding her emotions, but coupled with the previous points, it suggests that she is carefully judging the situation to determine how she should respond.
It may not be perfectly clear at first glance, but I would posit that she has just confronted an unexpected event—such as being viewed by random internet viewers. I draw this conclusion from two details: her expression and the orientation of her swords. She is assessing the situation and leaving her options open. Her swords are ready. Since both are ready, she has not decided which will be needed, so she has not finished her assessment. If only one sword were to drop, we would know that she had determined which weapon would suit her best when she attacked.
At least one reader will contest my view of Cassandra as a front-line fighter based on her current armor. Yes, she is in armor that is more common on archers, scouts, squires, and auxiliaries. No, her armor is not consistent with what might be worn under heavier armor—look at the studs, the elbow cap, and scalloped shoulders. However, this is exactly the sort of armor front-line fighters would wear while in camp or on the march. Knights who wore full-plate armor at all times would wear out horses and themselves. The same goes for the lack of a shield. Shields are heavy and awkward, so a fighter would not want to lug one around while relaxing in camp.
The fact that she is wearing fairly modest armor while still confident and poised when being faced with an unexpected event further bolsters my view that she is a professional warrior who is expertly trained in the art of extended, close-quarters, melee combat. She is not a fantasy or a militarized lingerie model—she is a warrior is ready to kick some serious ass.
Huge thanks to Zach for the writeup and to Adelruna for the use of her art. Feel free to check out her art on Tumblr as well. Thanks, as always for reading, folks! Take care and stay awesome!