Given the sort of battle prowess one presumes she once had, having been recruited to the Wardens in the first place, one would have thought she’d be a great leader for the mage rebellion. She does manage to cement a power base for them with the regent of Ferelden and a safe haven in Redcliffe with one of the most defensible castles in Thedas.
Then, someone whacks her with the stupid stick. Consider the situation, if you would.
When Inquisition opens the mages have moved into Redcliffe and sent a deputation to the Conclave in hopes that the Divine can make the Templars play nice. As I understand the next series of events, they run thus:
- A giant, green, swirling hole opens in the sky.
- Demons begin wandering the countryside.
- A bunch of new people you’ve never met are spreading panic about a Templar army massing outside the village.
- Two days after the breach appears, some Tevinter guy arrives and confirms the rumors you just started hearing yesterday.
- She pledges the mages who had democratically voted for freedom a few months before as indentured servants for the next decade if only this guy and his little retinue will protect them from the army she’s never seen.
You’ll notice that nowhere in this time line has Fiona gone to Redcliffe castle to talk to Arl Teagan. She apparently had no trusted advisors to whom she could turn for advice. Nor did the leader of the mage rebellion, a trained fighter and absolute badass, wander to the top of the walls and take a look for herself.
Fiona changes over the course of the events between Asunder and Inquisition from a capable woman bent on dragging the reluctant into a rebellion to a craven idiot who never even checks into the size of the supposed threatening force nearby. Rather than taking advantage of the stronghold and the support of the crown already offered she turns to the guy who conveniently arrived two freaking days after the breach opened and who offers maybe a wagon train and a hundred extra troops.
I realize BioWare never specifies just how many men Alexius brought with him. We see no more than a dozen or so over the course of our “negotiation”, and that only if we side with the mages. Presumably it was enough, with the support of the people Fiona just sold him, to threaten Teagan out of the castle. I presume his agreeing to leave stemmed more from a desire to save the lives of the people in the village than Alexius’s ability to successfully invade.
Imagine you’re Arl Teagan, watching the countryside descend into war. Your subjects suffer but you and your brother (and either your nephew or your other nephew’s widow) still stand up and offer the mages a refuge. Everything is going along swimmingly until suddenly this breach shows up, demons flood your farmland, and the villagers you would have taken into your keep to protect are held hostage by a foreign power on your doorstep.
Poor Teagan. The Dragon Age has been tough on the guy. At this point he throws up his hands, says, “Fine, take the damned castle,” and heads off to Denerim to get a bigger army. One presumes the Chantry cathedral in the capital also has a large retinue of Templars for handy magic-damping abilities. When the not-yet Inquisitor arrives the mages are still milling about in Redcliffe village, no Templar attack has come, and Alexius has set himself up in the castle with his troops. Considering how far away the castle is from the point where the imaginary Templar army would strike how much protection is he offering, anyway?
But, you say, that happened later when he changed the terms of the deal he offered! You can’t count that against Fiona, who spends the rest of the time it takes you to get there fashing about in the tavern, quite possibly rivaling Isabela for whisky consumption.
Well, I can hold it against her and I do. She not only made a bad deal—with no effort to verify rumors or to question the presence of a Tevinter force in the middle of Ferelden that coincides with a massive bit of magic—she never once tried to get out of it once she’d made it.
The four of you arrive, presumably through the Templar army of which she was so afraid, as there are only so many ways into Redcliffe, to find her cowering in the bar. As Alexius has already broken his word one would have thought she’d feel no obligation to keep hers but maybe she’s just afraid of what he’ll do if her mages try to flee.
Does she pass you a note reading “Help us”? Does she ask you how big that threatening force outside the walls is, as we would have just passed through it to get to her? Does she express regret for her decision? No. She tells you she had no choice and she’d do it again.
Had Alexius beaten me there by a week because I was busy feeding refugees and killing assholes for ten square kilometers around the village, it wouldn’t have been so bad. By then Fiona would have known more about the actual situation and the hostile troops led by a powerful mage would not have happened to arrive on the heels of a drastic rent in the veil that could only have been created by an exceedingly powerful mage just like the one who…he-e-ey!
Of course that way I could have met Teagan on the road and gotten to talk to him. [insert fangirl-ing here] As it happened, the supposed timely intervention should have made the battle-hardened leader at least quirk an eyebrow and take a look around before selling hundreds of men, women, and children into a decade of servitude without even asking them. Even failing at basic suspicion, when Alexius starts twirling his imaginary mustache Fiona should have started looking at her options.
[Sidebar: Fiona was a Warden. Why isn’t she training her mages to fight instead of slumping around the castle with Alexius like a beaten puppy? How in the Void does she expect to survive the Templar attack she fears so much if she can’t be bothered to train her people? Even if they do go to Tevinter, how was she expecting them to fight their way through the army she thought was camped outside the walls?]
Under no circumstances should she tell me she’d do it again. She should have been conspiring with Felix and Dorian, not defending a guy who showed up at such an inauspicious time and proved himself a liar in short order. Once I decided not to punish all of the mages for her stupidity she should at least have apologized to them and me instead of playing the hypocrite when I do the same for the Wardens.
Tl;dr— Fiona managed to turn what should have been a negotiation from a position of strength (under protection of the crown with access to a stronghold renowned for its impregnability) into a crawling plea for help. She takes the word of mages she doesn’t know (i.e. infiltrators) and an arl she doesn’t know instead of verifying the existence of a Templar army, talking to the people she’s known for decades, and consulting with the lord who has already offered her protection.
She makes a decision that affects hundreds of people without giving them a choice or exercising reasonable caution. That’s ignoring the fact that Tevinter has been held up to the rest of Thedas for centuries as a bloodier, crueler version of Orlais, which takes some serious doing.