Of course, not everything you will read in these pages is true, in an absolute, historical sense. Much of the world’s history is shrouded from even the greatest scholars, and many of the facts you will learn below represent the best guesses of the finest minds of the Chantry and Circle of Magi. Still, you hold an accurate representation of the current trends in thought, philosophy, history and religion at the time of Dragon Age: Origins.
Whether you’re an aspiring module-maker with the toolset open before you, a game master looking for more in-depth information about the world, or simply a curious soul, welcome to the Thedas!
—The Dragon Age: Origins Team
Long ago, the land of Thedas was populated only sparsely by the elves and dwarves. The elves, immortal beings for whom time passed without consequence and who lived spread out on the surface lands, existed in tandem with the forests and nature. The dwarves, meanwhile, were content to live beneath the mountains in an underground kingdom that spanned all of Thedas, shaping stone and mining the enchanted metal known as lyrium. And so both races continued until the humans came. Where they came from is unknown, and the humans themselves would deny that they ever came from anywhere else, but both the elves and the dwarves claim that there was once a time when humans did not walk the land.
The elves encountered the humans first and found this upstart race of quick-lived mortals to be too angry and too impatient. Horrified, the elves withdrew from human contact as the humans spread quickly across Thedas. Humans formed the great Tevinter Imperium, a land ruled by tyrannical magisters who worshipped the mysterious Old Gods, ancient dragons that, according to legend, had once challenged the might of the Maker and thus were imprisoned by him forever beneath the ground—and yet who still whispered in the ears of men from their prisons and taught them forbidden knowledge. These magisters learned magic from the Old Gods and became powerful, demanding blood sacrifices from their subjects, worship of the Old Gods, and tribute from the dwarves and the elves. Eventually the greed of their Imperium grew so great that they destroyed the elven homeland of Arlathan, enslaving the entire elven race and using their usurped wealth to rule all of Thedas.
And so the Tevinter Imperium ruled until its might was challenged by the first Blight. In their pride, the Tevinter magisters succeeded in opening a gateway into the Golden City—heaven itself, an unreachable place within the heart of the dream realm known as the Fade. However, humanity was never meant to walk in heaven, and with each step, these men corrupted it. It became the Black City, and the magisters in turn became twisted and tainted by their own sin, transformed into the darkspawn and thrown back down to Earth by the Maker. They had become creatures that shied from the light and multiplied into terrible hordes in the underground tunnels of the dwarves. These darkspawn sought out and found one of the Old Gods in its underground prison and infected it with their taint, and the great dragon arose as the first archdemon. This creature led the darkspawn horde to the surface, bringing the nations of Thedas to their knees. The people of the Imperium turned to the other Old Gods, praying for protection, but none was forthcoming.
Humanity was brought to the brink of destruction, and only a newly formed order known as the Grey Wardens managed to defeat the archdemon and end the Blight. The Imperium was greatly weakened, however, and it did not have the strength to defend itself when a great army of barbarians invaded from the south, led by the prophet Andraste. Andraste proclaimed that magic should exist to serve humanity rather than rule over it. She railed against the magisters and claimed the Old Gods were lies, insisting that the Maker was the One True God of all humanity. Her teachings spread quickly, and much of the Imperium crumbled before her armies. Andraste died a martyr, and around her legend grew a cult, and with it came the Chant of Light: a chant filled with Andraste’s teachings that her priests claimed must be sung from every corner of the world until the Maker forgave humanity for his prophet’s death and turned the world into a paradise. As this cult grew, so were the Old Gods quickly forgotten and abandoned. They had forsaken the Imperium and betrayed its people in its hour of need, and so the old temples quickly fell by the wayside of history.
It was not long before another of the Old Gods awoke to lead the darkspawn in the Second Blight and plunge the world into terror once again. The greatest military mind in Thedas, Emperor Drakon of Orlais, became humanity’s best defender; he pushed back the darkspawn hordes before his armies, and as his own power grew, he spread the cult of Andraste. The cult was known as “the Chantry,” and during those dark years, it became the dominant religion even in the old Imperium. It forbade the use of blood magic and mind control; however, the Circle of Magi was formed to allow magic to be harnessed against the darkspawn while ensuring that its mages were carefully watched. Between the Circle of Magi, Emperor Drakon, and a rejuvenated order of Grey Wardens, the Second Blight was thrown back and the dreaded archdemon that led it finally defeated.
Over the centuries to come, two more Blights would arise, threaten humanity, and be defeated. In the last Blight, the Grey Wardens finally struck such a blow against the darkspawn that everyone was certain that their threat was finally over. The nations of humanity prospered until yet another race suddenly appeared and invaded the continent: the Qunari, a race of bronze giants with an alien religion that compels them to dominate all others. In a great war, they invaded deep into the heart of Thedas. Humanity was forced to band together to bring their invasion to a halt and finally pushed them back.
For centuries, there has been an unsteady peace with the Qunari, allowing the nations of Thedas to once again rebuild and prosper. Only recently have the Qunari stepped up their battles against the remnants of the Tevinter Imperium, and their war has escalated to the point where it threatens to once again engulf the rest of Thedas in conflict. Thus the darkspawn are a forgotten threat, the idea that they might now resurface again after four centuries disregarded. The Grey Wardens insist, however, that another Blight lies on the horizon. With the Grey Warden numbers having declined greatly and humanity at large giving little credibility to the return of such a threat, the lands of Thedas may be in store for their greatest challenge yet.
*** Thedas History Timeline ***
The history of the world is told with three calendars:
- The Elven calendar: established with the formation of Arlathan. The Tevinter Imperium banned the use of this calendar shortly after Arlathan was destroyed and the elven race enslaved. According to the Imperial calendar, the years prior to the foundation of the empire are tracked in negative numbers. Modern scholars outside of Tevinter recognize the existence of the original elven calendar, although little more is known of the way elves marked the passage of time beyond a few events during their time.
- The Imperial calendar: established with the crowning of the first Archon and the official creation of the Tevinter Imperium. The calendar was not created until well into the empire’s reign, but it dates from that first event. Tevinter briefly abandoned their calendar once the Chantry calendar came into use but then resumed its use shortly after the Schism.
- The Chantry calendar: dates its first year with the appointment of the Divine Justinia I and is currently accepted as the “standard” calendar throughout most of Thedas. Unlike the previous calendars, the Chantry calendar has “ages,” which are each 100 years long. At the beginning of each new age, Chantry scholars watch for portents—signs sent from the Maker to tell them what the new age is to be called and thus what the character of the new age will be.
Currently, Thedas is in the 9th age of the Chantry calendar, known as the Dragon Age. It’s predicted to be an age of great destruction and upheaval. The years are marked by the age’s number, the current year in the age (1 to 100), and the age’s name; therefore, the current year is 9:30 Dragon. Anything prior to 1:1 Divine appears as a negative number and as the Ancient, so the year prior would have been -1 Ancient.
The ages so far have been:
1st age (1–99): Divine Age
2nd age (100–199): Glory Age
3rd age (200–299): Towers Age
4th age (300–399): Black Age
5th age (400–499): Exalted Age
6th age (500–599): Steel Age
7th age (600–699): Storm Age
8th age (700–799): Blessed Age
9th age (800–present): Dragon Age
World-History Timeline Converter: By Epoch-Making Events
|Elven Calendar||Imperial Calendar||Chantry Calendar||Anchor Event|
|1 FA||-6405 TE||-7600 Ancient||Founding of Arlathan|
|3000 FA||-3405 TE||-4600 Ancient||First elf–dwarf contact|
|4500 FA||-1905 TE||-3100 Ancient||Humans explore Thedas|
|6405 FA||1 TE||-1195 Ancient||Tevinter Imperium founded|
|—||1025 TE||-170 Ancient||The death of Andraste|
|—||1195 TE||1:1 Divine||Chantry founded|
|—||1199 TE||1:5 Divine||The First Blight begins|
|—||1481 TE||3:87 Towers||The Chantry Schism|
|—||1614 TE||5:20 Exalted||The Last Blight ends|
|8430 FA||2054 TE||9:30 Dragon||Present-day|
*** Timeline ***
1 TE: The Tevinter Imperium is created with the crowning of the first Archon. Prior to this event, only scattered fragments are known. It is believed that elves existed in the land first and that humans came from elsewhere—though there are many theories about from where that might be, and few historians agree. Some suggest that humans came from across the ocean as the qunari did, but if so, there is no record from such a time. Humans spread across Thedas as various tribes of people known as the Ciriane, the Planacene, the Hacian, and the Alamarri—but it is the Tevinters, centered on the port city of Minrathous, who became ascendant.
History records that elves and humanity were hostile and that Tevinter led the way in aggressive retaliation against the elven city of Arlathan. The elves responded by retreating from human contact, and Tevinter thus flourished and spread. The first “dreamers” learned the use of lyrium to enter the Fade from elven captives, and these dreamers later became the first of the Imperium’s ruling magisters.
500 TE: The western part of the Tevinter rebels form the Anderfels, mainly populated by the Yothandi people. So, too, does the Imperium prove to have great difficulty in defeating the Ciriane to the south. Internal strife results in many rebellions and a great deal of internal disorder.
620–640 TE: The first civil war of the Tevinter is usually cited as when it began to decline markedly from its Golden Age. The magisters of the various noble houses wield terrible power but still seek more; their competition with each other leads to human sacrifice and demon summoning becomes a regular occurrence. When two of the largest Tevinter houses do battle to claim the Archon’s throne, the Imperium is split almost in two. The resulting war left ruins and battlefields where the magical taint continues to be felt to this day. Peace is brokered in the Senate to prevent the dissolution of the Imperium, but the nobility continues its oppression of the masses in an effort to achieve supremacy.
780 TE: The Anderfels are reconquered by the Tevinter Imperium.
800 TE: The first effort to free the Old Gods from their underground prisons is undertaken by the most powerful magister lords, who open a gate to the Golden City at the heart of the Fade. The result is catastrophic, destroying the Golden City and letting the taint into the world, creating the first darkspawn. The Old God Dumat is freed and transformed into the first archdemon.
The First Blight begins. The darkspawn attack en masse, concentrating at first on the underground Deep Roads used by the dwarven kingdoms. As the dwarven kingdoms begin to fall, the darkspawn use the Deep Roads to appear throughout the continent. All of the Imperium is under siege and in a state of chaos. Finally, the nations of the Imperium begin to settle in for a long war as they become accustomed to the surges of the darkspawn. Communication becomes difficult across the Imperium, but cooperation is paramount. The people of Tevinter pray to the remaining Old Gods for help against Dumat, but they receive only silence. The people’s faith waning, unrest sees many temples destroyed as the Imperial people begin to turn from the Old Gods, believing themselves betrayed. This dark period lasts for over 200 years.
890 TE: The foundation of the Grey Wardens at Weisshaupt Fortress in the Anderfels, dedicated to wiping out the darkspawn wherever they should rise. The organization is formed primarily of veterans from darkspawn battles. They maintain communications within the Imperium and strike quickly wherever the darkspawn appear, quickly erecting fortresses everywhere and receiving tithes and supplies from all lands.
992 TE: The Grey Wardens gather the forces of men—both of the Imperium and of the Ciriane and Rivaini—and confront Dumat at the colossal Battle of the Silent Plains in the southern reaches of Tevinter. Dumat is ultimately destroyed and the darkspawn forces routed. Though the darkspawn are still large in their number and still battle mankind, they are no longer directed by Dumat’s power and become scattered. The contracts ensuring the powers and rights of the Grey Wardens date from this year.
1000 TE: Slowly, the last of the darkspawn hordes are defeated. They are forced into the Far Steppes west of the Anderfels and into the Deep Roads. For the dwarves, the war continues underground, but for humanity, the battle is believed to be over. Weak after centuries of fighting, the Imperium is ripe to be attacked.
1020 TE: A massive horde of barbarians cross the Waking Sea from the south led by the warlord Maferath and Andraste, the Betrothed of the Maker. Some records claim the barbarians were driven north by the darkspawn, others that Andraste was bringing freedom to the people of the Imperium who had been long oppressed by the depravities of the magisters. Regardless of the reason, the press of the barbarians into the south is accompanied by massive rebellions that welcome their progress. The southern Imperium begins to crumble, and the Tevinter magisters are forced to unite to combat a threat to their power that is greater than that of the darkspawn.
1025 TE: After the death of Andraste, the barbarian army disperses. The southern Tevinter Imperium breaks away, forming a collection of independent city-states. Maferath’s sons form several lands such as the Kingdom of the Ciriane and the Kingdom of the Planasene. Both of these last less than a century—the Ciriane soon become the land of Orlais while the Planasene form into a loose confederation across the plains called the Free Marches. The land between the Waking Sea and the Frostbacks is given to the free elves as a homeland and is called the Dales. The Long Walk begins as elves from across the Imperium begin traveling to the Dales largely on foot and are preyed upon by disease and robbers, causing massive chaos. A cult devoted to Andraste’s teachings spreads rapidly in the south but is largely disorganized and is very unpopular with the temples of the Old Gods.
1040 TE: The Chant of Light is created by Andraste’s disciples, collecting her tale and her teachings into hymns. There are numerous versions of the Chant over time, with different interpretations of what Andraste taught about the Maker being prevalent in different regions. These are referred to collectively as “the cults of the Maker.”
1050–1120 TE: Rebellion begins in the east as the Rivaini attempt to split off from the Imperium. The resulting campaigns to stop the rebellion distract the Imperium from its attempts to reconquer the Free Marches and allow the south to gather its strength. Many of the eastern cities in the Free Marches intervene on the behalf of the Rivaini, and after several losses that culminated in the disastrous Battle of Temerin in 1117 TE, the Imperium finally abandons the east.
1126 TE: Foundation of the Kingdom of Rivain.
1155 TE: The dwarves of Orzammar in the Frostback Mountains close the last of the Deep Roads leading into their kingdom. Within ten years, the dwarven kingdoms of Hormak and Gundaar have fallen to the darkspawn, leaving only Orzammar and Kal-Sharok. The dwarves of Kal-Sharok never forgive the high king of Orzammar and cut off all contact. Kal-Sharok is thought to be lost.
1180 TE: The cults of the Maker spread quickly in the southern lands, resulting in the building of the first great temple in Val Royeaux, which becomes the major center of worship for the new faith. One of its most fervent followers is the young king of Orlais, Kordillus Drakon. In 1184, Drakon begins a series of holy wars in the name of the Maker, quickly proving himself to be one of the greatest generals in history.
1192 TE: Having conquered several neighboring city-states and forcing the submission of others to his overlordship, Kordillus Drakon is crowned in Val Royeaux as emperor. His ambitions to spread farther north into the Free Marches are confounded by constant pressures from the Dales to the east, so Emperor Drakon formalizes the Maker’s cult into the Chantry and commands that missionaries be sent forth into the other lands.
1195 TE or 1:1 Divine (1st year of the 1st Divine Age): The first Divine of the Chantry, Justinia I, is instated at Val Royeaux. The free use of magic is declared illegal in Orlais except by those mages operating under the direct auspices of the Chantry.
1:5 Divine: Zazikel awakens and the Second Blight begins, with darkspawn slaughtering the entire city of Nordbotten before the Grey Wardens finally get the word out. Now, rather than the darkspawn coming primarily from the west, they come out of the mountains in all corners of the continent. Once again, humankind is launched into a desperate battle for its survival over the course of the next 100 years. The Tevinter Imperium abandons the Anderfels and attempts to protect itself, a betrayal that is remembered by the Orth even to this day. The Free Marches and Orlais are hard-pressed to defend themselves, but the Grey Wardens and the powerful armies under the command of the brilliant Emperor Drakon make the difference. In several engagements, including the hard-fought victory at the Battle of Cumberland in 1:16 Divine, the Orlesians defeat several hordes of darkspawn, and numerous cities are saved. The Orlesian Empire under Drakon’s command expands quickly, as does the influence of the Chantry. Perhaps most significantly, when the Tevinter Imperium is greatly weakened by the Sacking of Minrathous in 1:31 Divine, Emperor Drakon is given the opportunity to expand northward. Instead, he chooses to swing his armies west and relieve the siege of Weisshaupt in 1:33 Divine. The Grey Wardens are impressed enough to convert to the worship of the Chantry, and together the Grey Wardens and Drakon save the badly weakened nation of Anderfels from destruction, bringing it to a devout worship of the Maker that continues to this day. Throughout this entire time, the elves of the Dales remain neutral and unhelpful. When the city of Montsimmard is nearly destroyed by the darkspawn in 1:25 Divine as the elven army watched from nearby, the people of Orlais bristled against the elves.
1:45 Divine: Emperor Drakon perishes from old age in Val Chevin. His empire, forming the majority of the western Free Marches and all of the Anderfels, does not survive his death. His successor, Kordillus II, doesn’t possess the political savvy of his father, and the Anderfels declare its independence 20 years after the death of Kordillus I. Over the next 200 years, the empire of Orlais steadily loses territory until it eventually stabilizes at its modern-day borders. However, over the next 50 years, the Chantry continues to spread rapidly, aided by the Grey Wardens as the Blight winds down. The Chantry spreads east into the Free Marches and Antiva and even north into the Tevinter Empire, though there it is largely resisted, as the Chantry stands in direct opposition to the power (albeit waning) of the sorcery-using nobility.
1:95 Divine: The last battle of the Second Blight is fought at Starkhaven, with the human army being led by the Grey Wardens and winning a resounding victory after Zazikel is finally destroyed and the darkspawn routed. The period that follows is known as the Rebuilding: a time when trade, culture, and religion become paramount across most of the human lands.
1:99 Divine: The Divine Age ends, the Glory Age is named, and with it predictions of a rebirth after the end of the terrible Blight.
2:5 Glory: Increasing hostility between elves and man result in numerous border skirmishes between the Dales and Orlais. Finally, in 2:9 Glory, elven forces attack the Orlesian town of Red Crossing and quickly take it over. The atrocities they are said to have been committed there against the humans of the town and the Chantry enraged humans across the land. Orlais immediately went to war with the Dales but was initially surprised by the ferocity of the elven response. A quick Orlesian victory was not going to happen.
2:10 Glory: With elven forces having captured Montsimmard and marching on the doorstep of Val Royeaux, the Chantry calls for a holy war against the elves. This becomes known as the Exalted March of the Dales. While the elves eventually sack Val Royeaux and push well into human lands, Halamshiral is conquered and the elves are completely crushed by 2:20 Glory. The lands of the Dales come under Orlesian control, with elven settlements being uprooted and worship of the elven gods forbidden. The elves are forced to either live with humankind and under their rules or wander as homeless vagabonds.
2:15–2:45 Glory: The rise of Starkhaven prompts its king, Fyruss, to attempt to unite the Free Marches under his banner and build his own empire. In the end, Fyruss is betrayed by his Tevinter allies, and Starkhaven is conquered by the Tevinter Imperium until its recapture during the First Exalted March in 2:80 Glory. Antivan cities to the north also unite under a common banner in 2:33 Glory to defend themselves against Fyruss’s advance. By the time of his death, Fyruss’s name is equated with that of prideful folly.
2:99 Glory: The end of the Glory Age. The Grand Cathedral in Val Royeaux is completed, its two main towers visible from everywhere in the city and from miles around. The Towers Age is named.
3:10 Towers: The Old God Toth awakens, and the Third Blight erupts in the central lands of Thedas with darkspawn coming in greater numbers than ever before. Darkspawn swarm the Tevinter cities of Marnas Pell and Vyrantium as well as the Orlesian cities of Arlesans and Montsimmard. The Grey Wardens in both of these countries are able to quickly organize a defense, and despite heavy losses in the besieged cities, the darkspawn are pushed back. 3:18 Towers: Darkspawn ravage the Free Marches, attacking cities along the Minanter River. At first, the Orlesians and Tevinter do nothing, but constant pressure from the Grey Wardens in Weisshaupt convinces both nations to send aid to the beleaguered city-states.
3:25 Towers: The armies of Orlais and Tevinter meet in Hunter Fell and join the Grey Wardens in the last battle of the Third Blight. Toth is destroyed, and the darkspawn are slaughtered in one of the bloodiest battles in history. The darkspawn carcasses are piled into mounds as high as 100 feet and then burned. The people of the Free Marches will not soon forget the image of the burning darkspawn. Their goodwill is quickly crushed by the victorious armies as they decide to occupy the territories liberated from the darkspawn. Orlais takes Nevarra, while Tevinter takes Hunter Fell. These holdings don’t last long, with Nevarra achieving independence in 3:65 Towers and Hunter Fell breaking away from Tevinter in 3:49 Towers.
3:87 Towers: After many years of argument, the Schism splits the Chantry as the Imperial Chantry within Tevinter elects their own Divine, a male mage, at the Minrathous Cathedral. The Imperial Chantry had always taken a more moderate view on magic and argued that mages should be allowed to rule so long as blood magic remained banned. They also argued that Andraste was not of divine origin but rather was a mortal prophet with considerable magical talent—and they argued that her ascension to the Maker’s side did not make her divine, even if she is a symbol of hope. Both these arguments did not sit well with the rest of the Chantry. As the Val Royeaux Divine took measures to restrict the power of the Circle of Magi within Tevinter, the Imperial Chantry took action. The Minrathous Divine is referred to as the “Black Divine” by most, and Chantry propaganda stirs popular sentiment against Tevinter and the Circle of Magi.
3:99 Towers: The death of the Divine Joyous II in Val Royeaux is celebrated in Minrathous and is declared a holiday by the Imperial Divine. The Black Age is named as the Chantry calls for retribution against the false Divine of the north.
4:40 Black–5:10 Exalted: The Chantry declare a series of four Exalted Marches to destroy the “heathens” within the Tevinter Imperium. All four times, large armies are gathered from around the Chantry’s domains, and an assault is launched deep into Tevinter. Every time, however, the Exalted March falls just short of its goal of conquering Minrathous. In the end, the Exalted Marches serve simply to cement the separation between Minrathous and Val Royeaux. The Imperial Chantry starts to form its own dogma and policies, and the groundswell of mages fleeing from southern lands into Tevinter bolsters the empire’s waning power.
5:12 Exalted: The Exalted Marches come to an end with the awakening of Andoral and the rise of the Fourth Blight. Darkspawn appear in great numbers in the northeast and northwest of the continent. The country of Antiva is overrun and its entire ruling family slaughtered. The darkspawn then pour into the Free Marches and Rivain. The Blight rises in the Anderfels as well, and the capital city of Hossberg comes under siege. Orlais and the Tevinter Imperium are attacked by fewer numbers and are able to drive the darkspawn back into the depths of the Deep Roads. Despite their success, Tevinter refuses to send any aid to the Free Marches or the Anderfels, while Orlais sends only a token force.
5:20 Exalted: The Grey Warden, Garahel, leads an army of Wardens and Anders to the city of Hossberg and breaks the siege. Garahel then gathers Wardens from Orlais and the Anderfels and marches to Starkhaven. At Starkhaven, Garahel organizes an alliance between the minor kings and teyrns of the Free Marches. A united army marches north, led under the banner of the Grey Wardens. Antiva is freed from the darkspawn during the infamous battle in 5:24 Exalted at the city of Ayesleigh, where Garahel dies after defeating the archdemon Andoral in combat. So many darkspawn are slaughtered that it is considered certain that they will never return. That the Blight continues to be felt underground by the dwarves of Orzammar is largely ignored by most except the Grey Wardens. Most are eager for the war to end and for regular trade to begin.
5:37 Exalted: The first Van Markham king of Nevarra, Tylus, is crowned after having claimed to be a descendant of Drakon’s son, killed in Cumberland. Being a hero of the recent Blight, Tylus is able to stir nationalistic feelings in the western Free Marches against the growing power of Orlais. He proves his military might by winning several major battles against the Orlesians, establishing Nevarra as a new, growing power.
5:42 Exalted: With the crowning of King Calenhad in Denerim, the various warring factions of Ferelden are at last united under a single banner. What had always been considered a land of wild, nomadic barbarians was finally a nation in its own right, though considered primitive and backwater by most.
5:99 Exalted: The Exalted Age ends, and with the recent assassination of Queen Madrigal of Antiva (deep within the forest during a hunt, she is found with four steel swords plunged into her chest, the work suspected to have been done by the mysterious Crow assassins), the Steel Age is named.
6:30 Steel: The Qunari land in Par Vollen and conquer it quickly, though word of that does not reach the continent until the Qunari ships begin to land en masse in Seheron and northern Rivain in 6:32 Steel. The First Qunari War begins and lasts for most of the century. The Qunari’s initial advances are great: By 6:42 Steel, they have conquered much of the Tevinter Imperium, Rivain, and Antiva and begin to assault the Free Marches. Only Minrathous itself remains besieged but unconquered in the north. By 6:85 Steel, the humans have organized themselves and pushed back hard enough that massive rebellions in Tevinter manage to free the Imperium, and the Qunari lines begin to crumble. By 7:23 Storm, the Qunari are pushed back to Seheron and Rivain, but they are well entrenched. The Battle of the Nocen Sea is the largest naval engagement in history and results in a stalemate and the destruction of many of the ships on both sides. Exhausted, an impasse begins.
7:25–7:85 Storm: The New Exalted Marches are declared repeatedly by both the Imperial Chantry (to retake Seheron and the eastern city of Qarinus) and the Chantry (to retake Rivain). In total, three major Exalted Marches occur with only the second in 7:52 Storm being a total disaster (with the Qunari capturing much of Antiva). By the end of the Third New Exalted March in 7:84 Storm, the Qunari had been pushed back to only the city of Kont-aar in northern Rivain and Par Vollen. By the end of the last Exalted March, rebuilding all the destruction that had been caused was considered more important than trying to dislodge the Qunari from Kont-aar once again. A meeting between envoys of most of the human lands (except for Tevinter) and the Qunari at Llomerryn results in the signing of the Llomerryn Accord in 7:84 Storm and peace being declared. There is no peace between Tevinter and the Qunari, though skirmishes are few while the Qunari pull back to Par Vollen and rebuild.
7:99 Storm: With the end of the Storm Age, the birth of twin boys to Emperor Etienne I of Orlais is declared an omen by the Chantry. A long period of childlessness and fears of a civil war on the emperor’s death dissipates with the onset of the Blessed Age, heralded as an age of bounty and prosperity.
8:24 Blessed: Orlais invades and conquers Ferelden, sending a young King Brandel into hiding. Ferelden is assimilated into the Orlesian Empire, though a rebel force led by the king continues to hound Orlesian forces.
8:55 Blessed: War between the Qunari and the Tevinter Imperium continues as the Qunari land on Seheron and conquer it handily within three years. Tevinter is left on its own to fight its war with the Qunari, though the peace between the Qunari and other lands is considered shaky. Several attempts by the Qunari to land on the continent and attack Tevinter directly are repulsed.
8:70 Blessed: A war between Nevarra and Orlais over the control of the western hills around Perendale results in Nevarran victory. However, Orlais proceeds to sow dissent and rebellion among the locals in Perendale, who resent Nevarran rule.
8:99 Blessed: The previous several years have seen two dragon flights ranging out of the Frostback and Orkney Mountains, even though it was thought that dragons had been hunted to extinction by Nevarran dragon hunters during the Steel Age. The dragons devastate the countrysides in Orlais and Nevarra, and all attempts to slay them end in disaster. Despite the devastation, some see the return of dragons to Thedas as a glorious sign—Chantry scholars, however, claim that this is the worst of omens. As the Blessed Age draws to a close, they name the Dragon Age, saying that it will be an age of violence and upheaval.
9:00 Dragon: Led by the young King Maric, Ferelden successfully rebels and throws off Orlesian rule. Ferelden and Orlais officially make peace in 9:20 after the ascension of Empress Celene to the Orlesian throne.
9:12 Dragon: Thought to have been long lost to the darkspawn, the dwarven city of Kal-Sharok in the Hunterhorn Mountains is rediscovered. The dwarves there are resentful of Orzammar and refuse to bow to the dwarven king’s authority.
9:30 Dragon: Modern-day.
The Orkney Mountains, a rugged chain of mountains that stretches from the icy wastelands of the southeast deep into the continent’s center, dominate the southern lands of Thedas. A smaller mountain chain called the Frostback Mountains juts between Ferelden and Orlais and holds the dwarven city of Orzammar (thought to be the last until the rediscovery of Kal-Sharok). The mountains define the southern border of Thedas, while the vast Tirishan forest and the Hunterhorn Mountains define the western border, cradling between them the fertile Orlesian Empire—the most powerful nation in Thedas and home to the Grand Cathedral of the Chantry religion. An unbroken expanse of trees, the Tirishan is one of the wonders of the world and is as mysterious and dangerous as the hottest of deserts.
Thedas is divided in the middle by the Waking Sea. The central lands north of the Waking Sea are known as the Free Marches. They consist of forest and plains, and they have the best agricultural lands on the continent. This land is covered with city-states, collectively known as “Marchers,” that have stubbornly protected their independence, and they have used their status as the breadbasket of Thedas to become merchants without equal. Any who dare threaten one of their cities risks losing the rights to trade with them at all.
The Arlathan Forest, once home to the only known city of the elves that was destroyed by the Tevinter Imperium, lies just north of the Free Marches, and it forms the border between the Imperium and the more exotic realms of Antiva and Rivain. This ancient forest is neither as dark as the Tirishan nor as dangerous, but its oft-plundered ruins are a sad tribute to the culture that once was. Little of the old elves remain, and the forest is often called “the Mourning Lands” by those who visit it, because it seems few humans can make a living there, as if the forest itself resents their presence.
The lands of Tevinter around the Nocen Sea are quite temperate and were the first realms inhabited by mankind. Ruins here are plentiful, dating back to a time when the Old Gods were worshipped and the blood magic of the magisters ruled over the land. The islands of Seheron and Par Vollen in the Boeric Ocean are junglelike and humid. They have been transformed over centuries of control by the Qunari into bastions of military and religious efficiency.
The Anderfels, to the northwest, is the first part of a great land of dry steppes. It is a harsh land famous for producing a rugged people resentful of their former Tevinter overlords, and it is the true home to the Grey Wardens at Weisshaupt Fortress. The Donark Forest marks its northern border and is a rain forest of tall trees and uncivilized freemen who have notoriously evaded control by their southern cousins.
Nations of Thedas
*** Seheron ***
Seheron is a large island nation that had been conquered by the Tevinter Imperium long ago and has been part of that nation until the Qunari took it 60 years ago. It is still in a state of semiactive rebellion and is the site of repeated battles between the Imperium and the Qunari. The presence of Tal-Vashoth—Qunari rebels who treat both their own kind and the Imperium as enemies—in the northern portion of the island adds to the chaos. Once an old and impressive culture with architecture dating back to the glory days of the ancient Imperium, much of Seheron has been leveled, and those humans who are not currently under Qunari domination feel largely abandoned by the Imperium. It should be noted that Seheron once had a large population of elven slaves, almost all of whom have willingly converted to the Qun and are now placed in high roles within the Qunari-occupying forces, working hard to help the invaders stamp out the last of the resistance.
*** Orlais ***
Orlais is a wealthy and powerful nation and is the center of the Chantry. It is ambitious and without a doubt the most powerful single human nation on the continent. Its expansion is limited, because the city-states of the Free Marches would unite if it invaded, and Ferelden is difficult to assault, though the Orlesian military is powerful enough that this need not deter it completely. Orlais has a large noble class well known for its culture and extravagance, the envy of nobility elsewhere. Their strong empress dreams of expanding their borders to encompass the entire continent, just as the founder of Orlais, Emperor Drakon, did prior to his death. Orlais borders on the Frostback Mountains, and they have long been allies of the dwarves of Orzammar and the primary recipients of their mineral trade, smithing, and lyrium.
*** Avvars ***
The Avvarian hillsmen exist in the Frostback highlands, having originally been among the many barbarian tribes that existed in Ferelden but being one of the few that did not join the Alamarri clans in uniting under the first Fereldan king. The Avvars are a stubbornly independent folk who see the “lowlanders” as weak and overly civilized, traitors to the gods of nature that all the old clans once worshipped. The Avvars were once a force that brought considerable trouble to the lowlands through frequent raids, and it was not until Ferelden united and many long, bitter wars were fought that the Avvars were driven back into the mountains and forced to stay there.
Today the Avvarian hillsmen have declined considerably in power, and while they still engage in raids on Fereldan communities (and occasionally even making their way into Orlais), they deliberately avoid doing so with enough frequency to provoke a united effort to wipe them out. Many Avvars believe that such a confrontation is ultimately inevitable, and their clan warriors long for the day when they can prove themselves in battle against the lowlander bloodline that has weakened even more than the days in which the last wars were fought. The Avvars have a destiny to one day return to the lowlands as conquerors, or so they believe. To the lowlanders, the Avvars are a frightening and thankfully fractious people who simply refuse to disappear for good.
*** Antiva ***
Antiva is a nation in the warm northern climates that has become renowned for its merchants and sailors, though not its military tradition. Its leaders (a body of argumentative merchant-princes who have far more power than the weak monarchy) prefer to sue for peace when they get entangled in a war, which is not often, as the nation has become equally known for its policy of neutrality and its slippery diplomacy. Antivans are notoriously untrustworthy, though it cannot be denied that they are excellent merchants.
Antiva was once under the thumb of the Tevinters and rebelled only after the Qunari occupied their attention, and they despise the Tevinters utterly. While the nation is relatively prosperous because of its trading practices, it is resource-poor. Other than its famous wines, Antiva would have little to sustain its wealth if cut off from the rest of Thedas.
*** The Free Marches ***
The Free Marches is a collective name given to the wealthy city-states in the central part of the continent. The “Marchers” are an independent folk who descend from tough barbarian stock, their cities existing in a loose confederation that rarely unites on any matter (indeed, the network of petty feuds and alliances between the cities prevents them from taking collective action on any matter) unless one of their larger neighbors such as Tevinter or Orlais becomes aggressive. In that event, the Marchers pull together to create a united military front that even the greatest power cannot ignore. The Free Marches is best known as the breadbasket of Thedas, its farms along the banks of the great Minanter River being the source of much of Thedas’s food.
*** Nevarra ***
Originally one of the larger Free Marches city-states, Nevarra has benefited from its wealth and position and has aggressively expanded over the last two centuries to become a power to rival Orlais itself. The Nevarrans have always had a strong military tradition and have been gifted with rulers (most hailing from the famous Pentaghast clan) who are often military geniuses in their own right. They have fought with or courted several other Free Marches states to form a powerful confederation under Pentaghast leadership and have also fought and won a long war with Orlais for control over the mineral-rich hills to the west. The victory over Orlais has brought Nevarra considerable prestige and wealth, though the indigenous culture of the western lands are not fond of the Nevarran presence, and the harsh taxes they endure are slowly forming into a rebellion—one the Orlesians are more than happy to support. While the capital lies in the original city of Nevarra, the city of Cumberland has seen rapid growth in the last century and has become one of the largest in Thedas, taking advantage of its position on the Minanter River to make it a natural source of trade with the rest of the Free Marches and beyond.
*** Anderfels ***
The Anders have been pummeled after centuries of battling the Blight; the darkspawn are a constant menace that can appear almost anywhere at anytime, and the population lives in constant fear and vigilance as a result. They are the hardened warriors who fight grimly against an enemy that they cannot defeat; the rest of Thedas is remote enough that their plight is easily ignored. Here is the last place where the Grey Wardens have retained their importance over the centuries, though the fortress of Weisshaupt is the last bastion of their influence. Still, the Grey Wardens are a potent military force here, and they hold political power equal to the various barons, a power they have recently taken greater advantage of. Otherwise the Anders are a poor people who live in a devastated land of vast, stark steppes, though their proud culture remains, and they are likely the most pious followers of the Chantry in Thedas, praying for a day when they are released from the clutches of the Blight.
*** Par Vollen ***
This is the original northern island nation that was invaded by the Qunari many centuries ago when they first arrived (and retreated to when largely pushed from the continent by the Exalted Marches). Par Vollen has been assimilated to the point that it is now a peaceful Qunari nation with no resistance. The humans who once lived here were more primitive than elsewhere in Thedas, building pyramids in their jungle cities and generally being isolated from the other cultures farther south; therefore, little hue and cry went up to free them from Qunari domination.
Now they have been part of the Qunari culture and Qun philosophy for so long that they could not even imagine going back. For their part, the Qunari treat Par Vollen as their homeland. Contact with their original homeland was intermittent at best across the turbulent Northern Ocean before it finally ceased altogether two centuries ago. Several ships have been sent home to restore contact, but they have not returned. The Qunari are here to remain and have accepted this. While the pyramids of the original society were impressive, the Qunari have topped that with the great domes and aqueducts of Qunandar, which is the only city of real importance on the island and easily a rival to the size of Cumberland. Few others have seen it, but those who have report it to be one of the wonders of the world.
*** Rivain ***
Another front for the great war when the Qunari first arrived, the Qunari conquered Rivain and were eventually driven back to a single city, which they held and retained when the peace accord was signed. In the centuries since, the city of Kont-aar has existed relatively well with the rest of Rivain; nowhere else in Thedas is there as much interaction between the two cultures. The Rivaini, already considered a strange people by most of Thedas, have acquired some Qunari cultural traits over the centuries—they have proven resistant to the Chantry’s teachings, and a version of the Qun has even gained a great deal of popularity, focusing more on its spiritual aspects than its notions of societal engineering. This is enough that many outsiders consider the Rivaini people to be heathens or even traitors.
Rivain has waned since the old war, and some elements among their people still call for Kont-aar to be retaken. Now, however, the factions that desire peace and see trade with the Qunari as beneficial are just as strong.
*** Tevinter ***
Tevinter is an empire that stretched across the entirety of Thedas in ancient times. What remains is a decadent land in the north centering on Minrathous, a fabled city that was once the jewel of the entire continent. It is governed by a magocracy, powerful wizards that spend almost as much time engaging in elaborate Machiavellian political schemes to prove their superiority over each other as they do ruling. The Imperial Chantry in Minrathous is a separate entity from the main Chantry elsewhere, having split off centuries ago in a great schism over the role of magic.
Tevinter is almost universally reviled by other nations. Its nobility is self-indulgent to the extreme, and slavery is still practiced. The Imperium is the center of the black market, involving smuggling (including the harboring of magical fugitives from other lands), and the slave trade in Thedas. While the Imperium might seem in decline, it is still a powerful nation, and its military might is considerable. Without a doubt, it would turn on the nations to the south if its attention were not completely drawn to the constant wars in the north with the Qunari in Seheron and Par Vollen. The Imperium has struggled against the Qunari as their most bitter enemies since their arrival, and the rest of Thedas is happy to let them fight each other. Unlike elsewhere, the Imperium made no peace accord with the Qunari, and none of the Qunari are allowed peaceful travel within the Imperium.
*** Ferelden ***
Ferelden is a relatively temperate nation in the far southeast of Thedas and is populated by a barbarian, militaristic culture that has only begun to civilize in the last few centuries. Still considered relatively primitive and backwater by other nations, especially by the Orlesians who controlled and occupied the Fereldan valley for over a century, the Fereldens have made great strides in recent years. They are a proud and independent people who resent being considered “backwater” and are well on their way to becoming a power on the continent.
Ferelden borders Orlais to the west, with whom it continues to have a very tense relationship. The Frostback Mountain range divides the two nations and thus prevents hostilities from being more frequent. Orzammar, kingdom of the dwarves, rests in the Frostbacks, as do the stubbornly independent Avvarian hillsmen. Meanwhile, the southern border of Ferelden is the cold wetland known as the Korcari Wilds, home to the hostile Chasind tribesmen.
- Official Name: the Kingdom of Ferelden (adjective: Fereldan)
- Capital: Denerim (pop. 70,000)
- Other Settlements: Highever (20,000), Gwaren (10,000), Lothering (500), Redcliffe (200)
- Population: 1,000,000
- Government: Monarchy
- Religion: Chantry (90 percent)
*** Barbarian Origins ***
The Fereldan valley was originally settled by the Alamarri people, a warlike barbarian culture that migrated from colder climes in the southern mountains (ferelden being an Alamarri word for “fertile valley”). For countless generations, they existed as many tribes, each led by powerful warlords known as “banns.” The banns would constantly war with nearby tribes to increase their territory and influence. Fereldan history is rife with tales of banns who would rise to great power in their lifetimes and rule over a vast area only to have their tribe torn apart internally upon their deaths. Culture within each tribe consisted of a worship of animist deities, with a strong connection to the wolf in the lowland tribes. Alamarri folklore states that the wolf was a companion to mankind, created by the gods as guide and protector against the darker forces in the unknown world. Wolves were bred by the tribes and paired with their warriors, and the death of an honored wolf was treated with as much respect and significance as the death of one of their own. So, too, is the werewolf mythos tied to these beliefs. Varying legends tell of a wolf that betrayed his human masters to evil gods in exchange for a human shape. The resulting man-wolf attempted to live among mankind but discovered he was still a beast at heart and ended up being exiled to the forest. Welcome in neither world, he carried a hatred for the true men and true wolves. Regardless of how much of this tale is true, werewolves did exist and were the bane of the Alamarri existence for many centuries until they were almost entirely wiped out when the various tribes finally united to defeat their common foe.
The Alamarri were also forced to work together to battle the invading armies of the Tevinter Imperium, which tried on several occasions to conquer the region. Each time, the Imperium was pushed back; as a result, the valley was never made as civilized as the other parts of the continent that the Imperium conquered and assimilated. To the Alamarri, however, this was a point of pride. They rejected the ideals of Imperial government and magic and culture, valuing instead their independence and strength. It was among the Alamarri that the prophetess Andraste gathered her first followers, and the tribes united under her for the first time, not to defend themselves but to strike out into the heart of the Imperium itself—which had already been weakened by the first Blight, thus provoking its quick collapse. Despite Ferelden being considered a backward nation by its neighbors, Fereldan citizens will always take comfort knowing that Andraste was one of their own and that they are the ones who destroyed the evil magisters (though the truth is that without the elven slave rebellion, this probably would not have succeeded).
Even so, it was not until much later in their history that the Alamarri finally united under one leader, and even that they did not do peacefully. Alamarri independence demanded that a tribe would need to be dragged kicking and screaming before they would bow to any kind of overlord. The first Fereldan king managed this just 400 years ago; since then, the valley has managed to live in relative peace and begin to catch up to its neighbors.
*** Modern Ferelden ***
The Fereldan people have come a long way from their barbarian origins in the space of a few short centuries, though not according to outside standards. To the west, the Orlesian Empire is the cultural hub of the entire continent; its cities are architectural marvels, its culture filled with the finest in theater and idle entertainments for its large and refined upper class. In comparison, Ferelden is dirty and aggressive. Strength and courage are praised more than heritage and wealth; any man or woman worth their salt can make something of themselves, and if one can do nothing else, the military is a perfectly suitable occupation. Nobles are respected, even esteemed, but to the common man’s eye, they are not untouchable. Their respect must be earned, and nowhere in the world is there people as ready to rebel and demand their due as in Ferelden. Though in Orlais serfs have always existed and indentured servitude is a fact of life, serfs have never existed in Ferelden and slavery is discouraged (the existence of slaves is not illegal, but their sale within Ferelden is) and considered degrading. Farms (called “freeholds”) are worked by families who have toiled that land for generations and who would spill blood before they would give it up to anyone, much less a nobleman. What servants there are get paid for their services and are free to come and go as they please. Even the elves, who live in squalor in alienages that are in far worse condition and are far more dangerous than comparable areas in Orlais, have their freedom in Ferelden. They are not slaves here, and while they are left to take up the worst jobs, they are paid and are considered to have their rights. Fereldan elves are proud of this; they say they would far rather live poorly but free than be well-treated slaves.
Signs of the old Alamarri culture are still evident as well, right beside the new. Chantries have been built in just about every village and town. Interestingly, while cults existed among the tribes that devoted themselves to Andraste, and though she was a revered figure who has always been seen as being of Fereldan origin, Ferelden as a whole did not convert to official Chantry beliefs until much later than the rest of the continent. However, signs of the old ways are still very much present in the culture. Animist symbols adorn artwork and clothing, with old wolf images being the most popular in the military. Tales of the old religions have become fond folklore, cautionary stories told to children by village elders, and while the Alamarri gods may no longer exist, the creatures featured in the stories definitely do and still have a relevance today. Even old statues and temples still stand, though many are falling apart or have been converted for other purposes. The old ways are disappearing, but the Chantry does not demand their removal or promote hatred against them. This is, after all, the land where Andraste was raised, and it would seem unreasonable to destroy those icons that Andraste no doubt believed in (or such is the common perception). The Maker merely stands above the Old Gods rather than suppresses them. In addition, dogs are very much present in any town or city, from the strays that wander city streets to the hyperintelligent mabari within the Fereldan army.
*** Life in a Fereldan City ***
Denerim is the best example of a Fereldan city, a settlement that has grown with a speed beyond its capability of coping with it. Any given Fereldan settlement was likely once a center for a region’s people, housing a central fort or castle where the people could be gathered in case the settlement was attacked, and the surrounding buildings made of stone and mortar were ultimately destroyed during the common sieges. The central castle remains, and in Denerim this has grown into a full-fledged fortress, but in recent centuries, the settlement around the castle has grown rapidly in all directions. Most of the streets in Denerim are made of packed dirt, with only the wealthier interior streets actually being fully cobbled, and the buildings and streets are arranged haphazardly. At best, the buildings are arranged according to their function—entrances to the city are lined with inns and taverns; trade markets are surrounded by shops, warehouses, and mercantile guilds; and in-between houses are packed practically on top of one another, leaving crooked and narrow alleys between them. Denerim’s poor quarter has many times been referred to as a veritable labyrinth, in addition to being filthy from the dirt and mud in the roads and lacking a proper sewage system. Only in the inner core of the city, closer to the royal palace, are the streets cobbled and a proper sewer maintained underneath. Here you will find the mansions and Chantries, the theaters and parks. Being closer to the palace means one’s social standing is higher than those who live closer to the city wall. Living outside the city wall is a lower standing than those who live inside.
Such cities also tend to be considered quite anarchic by most standards. The Fereldan penchant for freedom has grown into a laissez-faire attitude toward law enforcement and behavior. In Denerim, the King’s Patrol is intended more to defend the city and keep order rather than to enforce the laws specifically, though it has expanded into this role over time. Even so, while the worst offenses are quickly put down, most petty offenses are ignored, and citizens are often left to their own devices. Petty theft is common, and guardsmen will go out of their way only to deal with major thefts. Commerce is largely unregulated so long as taxes are paid, and such businesses as brothels and gambling halls are not only tolerated but also expected. The city is a noisy, boisterous place even at night, and one is likely to get beaten and robbed if one isn’t careful: one is expected to take care of oneself.
*** The Nobility ***
~ King ~
Ferelden never had a concept of a king until the infamous warrior Calenhad finally managed to unite the lands, and rather than assuming the expected title of teyrn of Denerim, he took the title of king, borrowed from other lands and inheriting the singular importance that the title has in those lands. The concept of a single overlord is an unfamiliar one in Ferelden: Numerous times throughout its history, the nation has all but split apart in civil war (the rebelliousness of Fereldan nobility is infamous). In the days of Calenhad and his successors, civil war was more caused by those teyrns who wished to break away from the king’s rule. In modern times, it has come to be expected that there is a king and must be one for Ferelden to survive—a very significant shift in attitude—and civil wars are fought more to determine royal succession. One’s blood relation to the king is considered important in the issue of succession, but more because the ability to be a strong leader is considered to be passed down in the blood. If one is considered weak or unfit, however, blood relation to the king will not stop another noble from standing up and challenging one’s claim to the throne.
The current king of Ferelden is Cailan, the young son of Maric. Maric was a legendary figure who claimed his kingship by winning a bloody war of independence from Orlais, primarily with the assistance of his general and best friend, a commoner by the name of Loghain (who was awarded the teyrnir of Gwaren). Maric’s legend is considered classic by Fereldan standards, and Loghain himself seems to epitomize the ideal that any Ferelden can rise to great heights by the virtue of his ability. Young King Cailan, by comparison, has very big shoes to fill.
~ Teyrn ~
“Teyrn” is the traditional title claimed by those warlords who had reached a level of power that they had other banns sworn to uphold them. Some teyrns did not keep their title for long, but some families became powerful enough that the title was maintained and passed on to successive generations. The contention, then, as to which teyrn was dominant became the primary issue. Underneath the king, the teyrns of today are considered the most powerful nobles in the kingdom. They each have numerous banns sworn to uphold them and supply them with troops in times of war. The teyrn, in turn, is sworn to ride with his army to support the king when called. The title is comparable to the Orlesian duke. A teyrn’s land is called a “teyrnir.” There are currently two teyrns in Ferelden: Teyrn Loghain Mac Tir of Gwaren and Teyrn Bryce Cousland of Highever. Denerim itself is considered a teyrnir, but it is controlled by the king and his court. Most kings appoint a noble to the position of arl of Denerim. The arl is responsible for ruling the city, while the king is responsible for ruling the country.
~ Arl ~
Originally this title was used by trusted commanders of a teyrn, usually his sons or a favored general. They were given command of a fortress or a piece of land that was of strategic importance but was too far away from the teyrn to administer personally, and they were given a title that placed them above that of a regular bann but without banns of his own to command. After King Calenhad assumed the throne and united Ferelden, those banns with lands near the borders or those who were of great importance (though not populated enough to be considered a teyrn) were elevated to the rank of arl and have held the rank ever since. This title is considered roughly equivalent to the Orlesian “count,” with an arling being the same as a “county.” There are currently five arls in Ferelden: Arl Eamon Guerrein of Redcliffe, Arl Rendon Howe of Amaranthine, Arl Gallagher Wulff of West Hills, Arl Gareth Bryland of South Reach, and Arl Urien Kendells of Denerim.
~ Bann ~
Plural: Banns (or “Bannorn,” see below)
This title has existed since the early barbaric days of the Alamarri people. The term originally referred to the chieftain of a particular tribe but has since grown into a title of respect roughly the equivalent of the Orlesian “baron.” There are a great many banns in the kingdom, and they have varying degrees of power: Some have very large holdings of land and are considered to be very influential, almost the equivalent of an arl or a teyrn on their own, while others are almost little more than glorified freeholders controlling a small village and a few farms. The central valley is filled with a great number of these small landholdings, each controlled by a bann who is characteristically not subject to a teyrn overlord and is considered stubbornly independent. As a region, this area is called “the Bannorn.” Seeing as it’s also a region where a great deal of Ferelden’s farming is done, the Bannorn wields a large amount of political influence, though this is only in times when they can agree on a common issue, which is not often. Their feuds sometimes even flare up into petty wars. Usually the banns are split in their support between the teyrns and the king on most issues. It should probably be noted that “bann” is gender-neutral—the wife or husband of a bann is given the “lady” or “lord” honorific but has no actual title of their own.
~ Knight ~
The knight is the essential heavy fighting soldier, in this case serving directly to a bann, arl, teyrn, or even the king. In this case, the knight gains some of the prestige of the master he serves: A knight who serves the king is more prestigious than a knight who serves a bann with little land. They are a tough group who value fighting ability and leadership skills above all else. However, even the most prestigious knight is considered lower in rank than a bann and possesses little political voice. As a group, they tend to scoff at the Orlesian ideal of the courtier knight, and while many knights are indeed nobles (i.e., they own land that’s generally restricted to a single estate), there is no codified behavior that Fereldan knights follow. Another difference between the Fereldan knight and the Orlesian knight is that the former are considered foot soldiers. The only ones who ride horses (considered a mark of distinction) into battle are those sworn to the king. Fereldan knights can be men or women, but women are rarer and essentially are treated as men. Both share the honorific “ser” to denote knighthood.
*** The Commoner Classes ***
~ The Crafting Class ~
In the days of the barbarians, those in the tribe who were considered craftsmen—the smiths, woodcarvers, and builders—were given a great amount of deference and in the tribe were considered only second to the bann himself. Over time, the various crafts organized themselves into semiformalized “houses,” where information was traded between tribes, and (in the eyes of the craftsmen) their crafthouse was considered almost a tribe in and of itself. As the common wars between the tribes threatened this constant exchange of learning and apprentices, the crafthouses eventually created the mandate that the bonds to one’s house surpassed the bonds to one’s tribe. Naturally the banns fought this, but since any who did were denied the services of the crafthouse, they simply had no choice but to capitulate in the end.
That sense of independence has continued: The major crafthouses of Ferelden are almost a law unto themselves insofar as their own bailiwick is concerned. While they hold no direct political voice, even a king would be fool to ignore them.
Two other groups are considered to be a part of this social class as well, though neither of them actually “crafts” anything. The first is the Chantry. The priesthood in Ferelden is considered as honored a profession as a master craftsman, and socially the class holds the same kind of independence from local control and political deference when it comes to matters of religion. In other nations, however, the Chantry expects much more political influence than they are able to wield in Ferelden. Here, the common expectation is that they are not to influence issues not seen to directly concern them. It has been an issue of contention with the Chantry, and they are forever attempting to increase their influence in politics and social affairs, to varying degrees of success.
The second organization is the Traders’ Crafthouse. Merchants have traditionally been thought of in Ferelden as an untrustworthy bunch. Transactions are made with the crafters themselves and through agents of their crafthouse when necessary. The idea of buying goods and attempting to sell them at a profit is foreign, worthy of suspicion, and not much above thieving or fraud. The dwarves were the first true merchants in Ferelden; to most this was acceptable, as the dwarves were seen as the finest of craftsmen. It did not enter anyone’s mind that the dwarves probably did not make the items they brought up from Orzammar, and the dwarven merchants did nothing to dispel the idea. The dwarves eventually established various large trading posts in the cities at the behest of the banns (who wanted access to dwarven goods, naturally), and they offered their services to local crafthouses. For many crafthouses, the process of transporting and selling goods was considered more of a distraction to their true purpose, and they welcomed the arrangement. Fereldan smiths agreed only so long as the dwarves stopped their practice of selling superior dwarven goods at undercut prices, to which the dwarves readily agreed. So the dwarves became the masters of the Traders Crafthouse, which has expanded over the years to employ primarily Fereldan workers—as locals respond better to humans behind the counter—and to partner with guilds from the Free Marches to provide the shipping that Fereldan ports demand.
~ Freemen ~
Beneath the Crafting Class lies the freemen, and while this social class can technically be split into “High Freemen” (freeholders, innkeepers, tavern owners, guardsmen, and other employed citizens) and “Low Freemen” (criminals, elves, prostitutes, and other ne’er-do-wells), they are really the same class. Unlike in other nations such as the Orlesian Empire, there is no class of serfs or slaves: One man is not permitted to own another, regardless of station, and all men are essentially free. Slaves are allowed to be transported across Ferelden on their way to Orlais or other places, but should any slave break free and demand their recognition as a freeman, they would not be denied. The Fereldan people would never allow the slave trade to take root, and this is indicative of Fereldan attitudes—since the earliest times of the Alamarri tribes, they have been difficult to subjugate (as the Imperium discovered for themselves).
~ Ash Warriors ~
Since the time of Luthias, the Alamarri have maintained the dwarven warrior tradition of fighting with a berserker’s rage. The ash warriors are a pious group of mercenaries infamous even outside Ferelden and are equally feared and respected. Although mercenaries, they do not sell their services per se; they offer them to whichever cause they feel is just, in the name of the Maker. It is traditional for those they aid to reward them according to their contribution (which is always large). King Calenhad was the first to acquire their support for the Fereldan throne, and since his day, they have often been associated with the king (and have fought against him only once). They rather pointedly maintain the distinction that while they often serve the throne, they do not owe it any fealty, and they feel the same toward the Chantry: They revere the Chantry’s teachings but will often forge their own path independent of the Chantry’s desires. They are autonomous and possess strength as a group that none have yet dared to challenge. To the average commoner, they epitomize Fereldan values, so ash warriors will often be treated as heroes wherever they go.
As much a hero as one might be considered, however, few ever intend to join their ranks. An ash warrior is allowed no personal glory, nor may they amass personal wealth; any wealth they are paid or otherwise obtain is kept until their eventual death and may then be forwarded to whomever they choose. The path of an ash warrior is considered one of honor and the eschewing of one’s former material life.
It is common for ash warriors to pair up with a dog for its entire life. They guard one another, and when the warrior goes into combat, the armored dog fights eagerly at his side. The howling that accompanies a charge of ash warriors is said to be both distinctive and disturbing...as is the smell. Before going into battle, soldiers often apply a scented body paint called “kaddis,” which makes it easier for the dogs to distinguish them as allies. This leads other armies, particularly the Orlesian Chevaliers, to look down upon the Fereldens as “primitive, stinking dog lords,” but the Fereldens are a formidable force, and they know it.
~ The Grey Wardens ~
The Grey Wardens have no real place in Fereldan society, unlike elsewhere in Thedas. Two hundred years ago, King Arland ordered the ejection of all Grey Wardens from Ferelden. Rumors claimed that the leader of the Fereldan Grey Wardens at the time was a member of the royal family and had taken part in an unsuccessful coup to oust King Arland. The true reason was kept secret, and officially it was stated that Ferelden no longer wished to tithe the Grey Wardens. It was a low point for the organization and an act that was considered controversial and embarrassing by Ferelden’s neighbors. The Grey Wardens remained exiled from Ferelden until King Maric, Cailan’s father, assumed the throne. He invited the Grey Wardens back into Ferelden in 9:08 Dragon and reinstated their rights and tithe. With their fortress at Soldier’s Peak in ruins, he made room for them in Denerim. Since that time, the social position of a Grey Warden has remained vague. The tales of darkspawn and Grey Warden heroism are old but still told. Combined with the fact that both King Maric and King Cailan give the Grey Wardens great deference, they are treated as if they have great status. Traditionally, however, Ferelden has held itself aloof from Grey Warden business and, with Weisshaupt far away and the last Blight so long ago, has considered them irrelevant. So the Grey Wardens wear a thin veneer of respectability that could easily be pierced should the king’s mood change.
~ Dogs ~
Dogs still hold a special place in the modern Fereldan culture, just as the wolf did in the days of the Alamarri tribes. Many dogs roam free in any given community and are, in a sense, considered to be owned by the entire community. Feeding them is thought to be good luck, though in reality they are still strays and live a meager existence. Other dogs are valued as more than mere pets: They are put to work. Dog breeding is a time-honored tradition in Ferelden, and the variety of dogs range from small and friendly lapdogs to the giant, wolflike dogs that are trained to act as guards or even to enter into battle. The most famous of these breeds is the mabari, extremely intelligent hounds able to understand and carry out complex commands. In Ferelden, a man’s worth is measured by the prowess of his dog, and competitions involving them can be incredibly fierce.
*** Korcari Wilds ***
The Korcari Wilds are a large, cold wetland that covers the entire southern border of Ferelden and separates the modern nation from the wandering nomadic barbarians of the tundra lands to the far south. The Wilds have a large culture of “Wilders” (properly known as the Chasind people, tribes who, along with the Avvar, refused to unite with the Alamarri to form Ferelden) who are considered backward even by Fereldan standards. They think of themselves as independent of Fereldan rulership. They are still a primitive people, living in peculiar huts that sit on stilts to keep them above the winter ice and the summer swamps, and they are well known for their xenophobia. They believe outsiders are fair game to cheat or rob. The Wilders have been particularly welcoming of rogue elves into their numbers (doing nothing for their reputation in the north) and have only one major settlement: the famous “stilt-city” of Tombigbee, though its location is kept secret from all save the Wilders themselves.
*** Brecilian Forest ***
The Brecilian Forest lies in southeast Ferelden and is the subject of many local legends. Brecilian is a place of darkness and horror, and most people shun the forest altogether. All manner of creatures are rumored to inhabit the forest, from werewolves to the possessed trees known as the wild sylvans. Traffic between the coastal city of Gwaren and the rest of Ferelden must take the long route around the forest through the Brecilian Passage, leaving only the foolhardy or desperate to attempt passing through the forest itself. Only the Dalish elves are known to regularly enter the forest, and this has led some to believe that the elves have a connection to whatever has cursed the forest.
*** Frostback Mountains ***
The Frostback Mountains to the west hold the hardy hillsmen known as the Avvars. The Avvars trade with the dwarves but are often at odds with the “lowlanders,” having fought many wars with the Alamarri tribes in the distant past until they were finally driven into the mountains for good. The high mountains are also known for strange ice formations, including “ice bridges” that allow movement between certain peaks—but only for a small length of time before the bridges crumble into shards of ice.
*** Lake Calenhad ***
Lake Calenhad is fed from the glacier streams of the Frostback Mountains and is a beautiful clear blue. The lake produces an abundance of fish and is perhaps most famous for the Circle of Magi situated within a tower that sits on a single island in the north part of the lake. The tower is a landmark easily seen for many miles around the entire countryside.
*** Denerim ***
The capital of Ferelden, the city of Denerim is built around the base of a mountain known locally as “Dragon’s Peak.” The city is a warren of tunnels and steep roads connecting the various districts. There is a large, walled alienage for the elves as well as the wealthy Palace District that contains the royal palace and the estates of most of Ferelden’s wealthy nobility; almost all nobles who are capable of doing so maintain an estate within the city even if they use it only when a Landsmeet is called. The oldest structure in the city is also the highest: Fort Drakon, renamed after Emperor Kordillus Drakon, is an ancient fortress built into the side of the mountain. At one time it was the domain of Denerim’s teyrn, and the city’s population could retreat into the fort if it was threatened. Now it is a garrison for Denerim’s city guard as well as a prison.
The most famous aspect of Denerim is that it is considered the birthplace of Andraste. An area of the Palace District is set aside as a shrine to her, one visited by a great number of pilgrims every year.
*** Lothering ***
Lothering is a major town built along the Imperial Highway, an elevated road built by the Tevinter magisters that once led from the northern coast down to Ostagar. The Imperial Highway is crumbling but is still used for travel on those sections that remain intact.
*** Redcliffe ***
Castle Redcliffe is built on an island just off the coast of Lake Calenhad, connected to the shore (and the fishing village located there) by a narrow causeway. The cliffs along the lake’s northern shores are red tinged because of the iron content in the soil, thus the name of the castle. The castle is of military importance, because it’s shortly east of Gherlen’s Pass—the primary route through the Frostback Mountains to Orzammar and ultimately Orlais. Redcliffe is home to the Arl Eamon Guerrein, brother-in-law to King Maric and considered one of the more popular noblemen in the country.
*** Circle of Magi Tower ***
The Circle of Magi’s tower is built on the remnants of a volcanic island in the northern part of Lake Calenhad. The tower, once an ancient Avvar fort known as Kinloch Hold, was given over to the mages so that they could practice their arts well away from any civilized part of the country. The tower was once connected to the shoreline by the Imperial Highway, but the highway has since mostly collapsed into the water, and the only way out to the tower is now by boat. A small settlement sits on the shore, a waypoint for templars stationed at the tower and travelers journeying to see the mages. It is unknown whether the Avvar built the initial structure themselves or if the dwarves built it for them. It may even have been updated in subsequent centuries.
*** Ostagar ***
Representing the farthest point of the ancient Tevinter Imperium’s encroachment into the barbarian lands of the southeast, the fortress of Ostagar was once one of the most important defensive Imperial holdings south of the Waking Sea. It stood at the edge of the Korcari Wilds and watched for any signs of invasion by the barbarians today known as the Chasind Wilders. Straddling a narrow pass in the hills, the fortress needed to be bypassed for the Wilders to reach the fertile lowlands to the north and proved to be exceedingly difficult for the Wilders to attack because of its naturally defensible position. Like most Imperial holdings in the south, Ostagar was abandoned after Tevinter’s collapse during the First Blight. It was successfully sacked by the Chasind Wilders and then, as the Chasind threat dwindled following the creation of the modern Fereldan nation, fell to ruin completely.
It has remained unmanned for four centuries, though most of the walls still stand—as does the tall Tower of Ishal, named after the great Archon that ordered its construction—and Ostagar remains a testament to the magical power of the Imperium that created it.
Ferelden’s legal system is not incredibly complex, relying on a system of arbiters to use common sense when it comes to judgment and sentencing. These arbiters were originally appointed by banns to represent them in disputes and make decisions on their behalf when a bann’s land became too extensive for him to be everywhere and solve every dispute for the people under his command. Every nobleman appointed his arbiter. A bann had men who resolved the disputes on his land while a teyrn did the same. This led to inevitable disagreements as arbiters conflicted each other based on the rank of whom they served as well as the differing laws in each land. King Vortigeyrn in 4:85 Black reformed this system by decreeing that “every man had the right to be heard by the king.” After that point, all arbiters represented the king and the king’s law only. This did not go over well with the Fereldan nobles, especially in the Bannorn, and it was not until the various lords were given the power to collectively determine the king’s law in the Landsmeet that this was deemed acceptable practice throughout Ferelden.
Today, all arbiters represent the king and answer only to the king in the form of his seneschal in Denerim. In the larger settlements, arbiters are able to work in one central place, and the disputed parties come to them. This generally takes place in a hall built specifically for the purpose. The seneschal’s hall in Denerim is the central authority for the arbiters. It is a distinctive structure that was built by the dwarves out of black granite and so has come to be known as “the Black Hall,” with the arbiters being nicknamed “blackhallers.” Despite being specific to the city, both names have spread considerably and are used for other halls and the arbiters in general. Outside of the larger settlements, arbiters travel between towns and villages to dispense justice periodically in the king’s name. In those settlements, a sheriff is responsible for keeping order and will keep track of which disputes must be settled by the next scheduled arbiter. For some who face time in prison, this may mean a lengthy term inside a cell before an arbiter has the opportunity to hear their case. It has become a common practice, then, for a man to give up something of great value to the sheriff and be released “on his bond” pending the arbiter’s arrival. So long as he shows up when called to see the arbiter, his bond will be returned to him. If he does not, the crime of fleeing justice is added to his original crime and his bond is lost for good. This bond system has spread to the cities (for those cases involving imprisonment that may not immediately be seen by an arbiter) and to nearby Orlais and the Free Marches. An interesting side note is the saying “my word is my bond” derives from this system: In small communities where a man charged with a crime may be well regarded, his oath that he shall show up when the arbiter comes is often considered enough, and he is released without surrendering a bond. Thus the implication that one’s word has a value of its own—“my word is my bond,” a typically Fereldan attitude.
*** Crime ***
The Fereldan people have a strong tradition of personal freedom, one they will uphold by rebellion if necessary. Even nobles can be brought down to the common man’s level if he steps beyond their boundaries. This tradition extends into laws and how they are enforced.
Crimes against one’s person or property, such as assault and theft, certainly exist. Along with them, however, goes a certain expectation that one must take care of oneself. A burglary of something valuable or a murder would definitely draw the attention of the guard, but a petty assault or a pickpocketing would no doubt be ignored. Crimes against public property or in the obstruction of the king’s business are more serious. Crimes that dictate behavior, however, are almost nonexistent. Only when they reach the extremes of becoming a public nuisance are the Fereldan authorities likely to take action. Such activities such as prostitution, drinking, gambling, and so forth are unregulated (it is worthy to note that prostitutes have tried to organize into a “companion’s crafthouse,” an attempt that has met active resistance from existing crafthouses because of the inherent elevation in status that would imply). The carrying of weapons and armor is also unregulated.
The only thing that is regulated closely, and perhaps even unfairly, is the use of magic: Public suspicion against magic is as strong in Ferelden now as it was in the days of Andraste’s great march into the Imperium, and the Chantry is only too glad to whip this sentiment into a frenzy whenever any kind of magical incident occurs. Thus the Circle of Magi in Ferelden is kept far away from any settlement, and mages who make their abilities known will soon find themselves unwelcome just about anywhere.
*** Punishment ***
Unlike in other nations, imprisonment is not considered an ideal form of punishment in Ferelden. For the short term it is useful, as in holding criminals until other arrangements can be made for them, but long-term incarceration it is almost unheard of. Punishments in Ferelden tend to be quick and immediate: execution, lashings, maimings, and fines. These punishments are often combined with public display if it is felt that an example needs to be made, and if imprisonment is determined to be necessary, it is almost always public imprisonment: stockades, for instance, or hanging in a public cage until the prisoner starves to death (or is stoned to death). Imprisonment in dungeons and such are reserved for prisoners of the nobility: political prisoners, captured soldiers, hostages, and the like.
*** The Landsmeet ***
During the time when Ferelden was split into its many barbaric tribes, it was determined that some issues that affected all the banns would occasionally need to be resolved, and this required all of them to come together. Thus the Landsmeet was created: Each bann was guaranteed safe passage to and from the Landsmeet (originally, the location changed but since the crowning of the first king, it has taken place exclusively in Denerim), where all the banns could gather to air their grievances. Seldom was anything accomplished, as the idea of giving up personal independence for the common good is not truly a Fereldan trait, but sometimes overriding concerns brought action: for example, in the Landsmeet, the banns fought against the occupation of the Imperium, repelled the werewolves during the Black Age, and elected to follow Maferath and Andraste into history. Since the time of King Vortigeyrn, the Landsmeet has become a more official body as well as a legislative one. The nobility gather to be heard by the king and together discuss and vote on the laws that will govern the kingdom. Technically, the Landsmeet has the power to override the king on any legal matter, though in practice this has always relied solely on how much power the king personally wields.
The Landsmeet occurs at least once a year and recently (since King Maric) has begun to meet once per season. Most noble families thus keep estates in Denerim to house them and their entourages when they are in the capital. Obviously, most nobles (especially those from faraway areas) cannot come to the capital every few months, so it is not uncommon that they appoint a proxy to act in their stead. Normally this is a member of their family, one who opts to remain in Denerim, but occasionally it is a trusted commander. Sometimes one’s vote can even be proxied to another noble (one whose views on things are the same as yours). The king has the option to call an emergency Landsmeet if he wishes, and on those occasions all nobles will make the effort to come to Denerim personally.
Ferelden lies in the south of Thedas, and the climate is moderate with cold, snowy winters. Ferelden in particular suffers the extremes of weather in almost every season, a fact its durable people are quite used to and perhaps even a little proud of.
The current system of 12 months and 4 seasons was developed during the early years of the Tevinter Imperium (with some influence from the elves); indeed, the primary seasonal holidays have remained unchanged during much of the time since, the only exceptions being the widely celebrated Chantry holidays that became almost universally used after the Second Blight. Each month has a High Name (the original, official Imperial name used primarily by courts and scholars) and a Low Name (the name used by commoners and merchants) and an even 30 days. The five “annums,” or annual holidays, mark the official transition between seasons and the beginning of the year; these are not the only holidays celebrated, but they are the only ones that exist without a month of their own.
*** Calendar and Holidays ***
Holiday—First Day: The beginning of the year, this holiday traditionally involves many visits to one’s neighbors and family (this was once to “check” to make sure everyone was alive at least once a year in remote parts) and a town gathering to commemorate the year past (often accompanied by much drinking and merriment).
Month 1: High Name—Verimensis; Low Name—Wintermarch
Holiday—Wintersend: Once called “Urthalis” and dedicated to Urthemial, the Old God of beauty, this holiday has traditionally become a celebration of the Maker. It stands for the end of winter in many lands and often coincides with tourneys and contests that conjure the Proving Grounds in Minrathous (which always has its biggest contests on this day). In most southern lands, this holiday has become a day of gathering for trade, theater, and (in some areas) the arrangement of marriages.
Month 2: High Name—Pluitanis; Low Name—Guardian
Month 3: High Name—Nubulis; Low Name—Drakonis
Month 4: High Name—Eluviesta; Low Name—Cloudreach
Holiday—Summerday: Once called “Andoralis” and dedicated to Andoral, the Old God of chains, this holiday is universally celebrated as the beginning of summer, a time for merriment and marriages to take place. Traditionally, boys and girls who are ready to come of age participate in a grand procession in which they cross the settlement in white tunics and gowns and end up at the local Chantry; there they are advised on the responsibilities of adulthood. This is considered a very holy day in Orlais.
Month 5: High Name—Molioris; Low Name—Bloomingtide
Month 6: High Name—Ferventis; Low Name—Justinian
Month 7: High Name—Solis; Low Name—Solace
Holiday—Funalis: This holiday was once dedicated to the Old God of silence, Dumat. Since Dumat’s rise during the First Blight, however, this fact has been largely ignored. Now the holiday is invariably known as All Soul’s Day and is supposed to be spent in somber remembrance of the dead. In some northern lands, it is traditional for the population to dress as spirits and walk the streets in parade after midnight. The Chantry has co-opted this holiday to remember the death of Andraste, with fires that mark her burning appearing throughout the community. Plays depicting the tale of her death are also quite common.
Month 8: High Name—Matrinalis; Low Name—August
Month 9: High Name—Parvulis; Low Name—Kingsway
Month 10: High Name—Frumentum; Low Name—Harvestmere
Holiday—Satinalia: In many places, this holiday—once dedicated to the Old Goddess of chaos, Zazikel, but now attributed more to the Second Moon, Satina—is still accompanied by wild celebration. Celebrants wear masks and lose their inhibitions, and they place the town fool as ruler for a day. In Antiva (Antiva City in particular), this festival lasts for a week or more, followed by a week of fasting. In more pious areas, this holiday is now marked by large feasts and gift-giving.
Month 11: High Name—Umbralis; Low Name—Firstfall
Month 12: High Name—Cassus; Low Name—Haring
|Coin||Fereldan Equivalent||Orlais Equivalent||Exchange Rate|
|1 gold piece||1 sovereign||1 royal||100 silver pieces|
|1 silver piece||1 silver||1 crown||100 copper pieces|
|1 copper piece||1 bit||1 penny||N/A|
1200 TE (-2415 Ancient): The tribes of people known as the “Alamarri” cross the Frostback Mountains and settle in the lands that would become the country of Ferelden some 3,000 years later. What drives the Alamarri across the mountains is not known, but the oldest tribal legends mention evil forces belonging to the “Shadow Goddess,” a being whose proper name was never invoked by Alamarri scribes lest her gaze fall upon them. Some modern scholars suggest that the Alamarri likely fled a great natural disaster—a flood caused by a large earthquake appears the most likely cause, according to hints in the old tales, though there are several tribes with stories that directly contradict this theory and instead point toward some form of enemy invasion. Regardless, the Alamarri crossed the mountains from the west and spread quickly across the Fereldan valley.
600 TE (-1815 Ancient): The Alamarri people living around what is today known as Lake Calenhad break away from their Alamarri cousins, becoming known as the Avvar. The two tribes war with each other for several centuries, with the Avvar eventually being pushed westward into the foothills of the Frostbacks.
200 TE (-1415 Ancient): During this period, the Alamarri people living in the Korcari Wilds to the south are first referred to as the Chasind in the old tales, and they invade the lands to the north in a campaign of terror. According to the stories, the Chasind fight alongside “white shadows” and the creatures of the wilds for a lengthy period that is disagreed upon in the old tales. They actually conquer the Alamarri. The Alamarri rebel and slaughter the Chasind shamans responsible for summoning the shadows and drive the Chasind back into the Wilds. To this day, Fereldan folk carry a suspicion and hatred of the Chasind that stems from stories related to their brutal occupation of the valley (as well as later invasions, though none of those were as successful as this first).
500 TE (-715 Ancient): Nearing the height of its power, the Tevinter Imperium begins crossing the Waking Sea and begins several campaigns to subjugate the barbarians in Ferelden. Three times the Imperium comes close to succeeding, but always the Alamarri unite with the Chasind and the Avvars and drive the Tevinter armies back. After each barbarian success, the Tevinter would regroup and try again after several decades. In the fourth and final advance into the valley, the Tevinters held the western half of the valley long enough to extend the Imperial Highway across the Waking Sea at the Eyes of Nocen and into Ferelden, eventually reaching as far south as the Korcari Wilds. The highway allows for quick deployment of troops and supplies from the north, and for a time it appears the Imperium will succeed in bringing Ferelden into the fold. Several fortresses are constructed to hold off barbarian retaliation, the most famous of these being Ostagar in the far south (built, it is believed, to watch for signs of Chasind movement in the Wilds, and it was apparently boasted that the ruin was so reinforced by magic that nothing could tear it down). The tales of how the barbarians defeated the Tevinter forces after suffering many defeats are varied, with each tribe claiming responsibility for the final victory. Regardless, certain truths are evident: The barbarian tribes united once again and faced Tevinters who were fighting among themselves to split up the spoils of their conquests, and one brilliant leader rose among the barbarians to defeat the undefeatable Ostagar. As it is told, that leader died in the battle, and since so many claimants exist as to his identity, he is commonly known only by a title: the Bane of Ostagar.
650 TE (-565 Ancient): With Ostagar defeated, the entrenched position of the Imperium begins to collapse. By this year, the last of the Tevinter forces are forced to retreat back across the Waking Sea. Faced with the embarrassing prospect of a united barbarian invasion from across the Frostback Mountains, the magister governor of Ciriane (now Orlais) sues for peace and supplies the Alamarri with great riches and several artifacts of magical power. Fortunately for him, this immediately causes argument and squabbling among the tribes as to who should get what share, and the entire alliance falls apart. The barbarian invasion of Ciriane never materializes.
800 TE (-415 Ancient): The First Blight begins. The Fereldan valley is largely unaffected, but the more civilized portions of the Tevinter Imperium are devastated. While the barbarian tribes argue over the possibility of an invasion to take advantage of the Imperium’s weakness, they cannot agree.
860 TE (-355 Ancient): The Battle of Red Falls is fought, marking the turn of the tide against the Alamarri and their legendary leader, Luthias (known also as “Luthias the Dwarfson”). Tales of this time mark great struggles between the Alamarri and the mountain clans of the Avvars led by the warrior-queen Morrighan’nan. Luthias is the first of the barbarians to be taught the berserker battle style of the dwarves and is thought undefeatable. However, in the last of the great clashes between the Alamarri and the Avvars, he and Morrighan’nan slay each other. Luthias’s body is rumored to have been brought to Orzammar for interment, and the Order of the Ash Warriors begins in Luthias’s honor not long after his death.
981 TE (-234 Ancient): Andraste is born a peasant commoner in the village of Luighdor (today part of the city known as Denerim), on the eastern coast of Ferelden. She is captured by Tevinter forces at a young age and becomes a slave.
992 TE (-223 Ancient): Dumat, the first archdemon, is destroyed by the Grey Wardens at the Battle of the Silent Plains in southern Tevinter. The First Blight comes to an end, and the Tevinter Imperium is in ruins.
1010 TE (-205 Ancient): Many versions of Andraste’s tale exists, and even in the Chant of Light little is explained of what happens to Andraste during her many years as a slave. The Chant says that she was visited by the Maker and that he charged her with a mission to bring his teachings to his children, and he would give them the opportunity to turn away from the false gods and from the rule of corruption and magic. Andraste’s following became widespread. Her most ardent supporter was her husband, the Alamarri teyrn known as Maferath. Maferath is also one of the strongest proponents of invading the Imperium while they are still weak, and over the course of a single decade (and with the strength of the Maker at his back, so the Chant goes), he unites the barbarian tribes under his rule and Andraste’s spiritual leadership. For the first time, the barbarians have a single cause beyond their own survival.
1020 TE (-195 Ancient): Maferath collects the great barbarian horde, and with Andraste leading the way crosses the Waking Sea to invade the Imperium. Their initial successes are many, and they strike deep into the heart of the southern lands before they begin to meet heavy resistance. At this time, the Imperium is weak, but they are quick to gather what forces they have, not to mention the barbarians have never encountered the full power of the magisters before: The horde faces battles against demons and even the very elements as it begins to struggle. Luckily, Andraste’s word begins to spread among the Tevinter subjects, and the elven slave class joins the oppressed masses in rising up in rebellion to weaken the Tevinter from within. The southern Tevinter begins to collapse.
1024 TE (-191 Ancient): Soon after Maferath’s victory at the Battle of Valarian Fields, a battle in which the empire’s greatest army was routed, it is said that the barbarian general became jealous of his wife’s growing popularity and influence, as well as her status as the betrothed of the Maker. Wanting to bring an end to hostilities and tighten his grip on his conquered territories, he secretly made a pact with the Archon of Tevinter. The Archon declared a truce, while Maferath allowed his wife to be captured by Imperial agents and subsequently publicly burned to death in front of a large crowd at the Proving Grounds in Minrathous.
1035 TE (-180 Ancient): Maferath rules the southern Imperium for a decade until the Archon of Tevinter declares his conversion to Andraste’s beliefs and reveals Maferath’s betrayal. The barbarian hordes abandon Maferath and begin returning to Ferelden en masse, and the southern Imperium completes its collapse into anarchy.
1050 TE (-165 Ancient): The Alamarri tribes begin a long series of internal wars as various powerful banns step up to attempt to replace Maferath, starting with Andral, the supposed son of Andraste. Andral manages to unite Ferelden briefly before it is proven that he is not Andraste’s son and the union falls apart. Several more “sons” of Andraste step forward, each fracturing the valley into bitter feuds. Andraste’s ashes are recovered from the Imperium by her disciples and interred at the Silver Temple in Highever; however, after several attempts by the sons to take them by force to lend credence to their claim, her ashes are secretly moved to an unknown location and are lost.
1192 TE (-3 Ancient): Kordillus Drakon is crowned the emperor of Orlais. He begins his series of holy wars to unite the Free Marches under the Orlesian banner.
1195 TE (-1 Ancient): Under Emperor Drakon’s influence, the Andrastian Chantry is officially formed. The many cults that followed Andraste’s teachings, which have spread throughout the Free Marches, flock to the Chantry in masses.
1:5 Divine: With the awakening of Zazikel, the Second Blight begins.
1:40 Divine: The legendary warrior Hafter arises and successfully leads the Alamarri tribes against the darkspawn horde that spills into the valley from the dwarven lands. Hafter is said to be the descendant of legendary Dane of the Werewolves and is the greatest warrior of his time.
1:50 Divine: Even though the Alamarri are weakened by their colossal struggle with the darkspawn, Hafter defeats a combined invasion by the Avvars and Chasind, who hope to take advantage of the situation. Numerous wars are fought with both tribes, ultimately driving the Avvars deep into the Frostbacks and the Chasind back into the Wilds. The Alamarri become the dominant force in the valley. Never again will the other tribes encroach on Alamarri lands. For the Alamarri, Hafter’s ascension as the first teyrn marks a long period of peace. He ruled with an iron fist for over 30 years, fighting off several new advances by the darkspawn into Ferelden before finally disappearing. It is said that the aged Hafter took the Blade of Yusaris and his first son and sailed into the unknown east of the Amaranthine Ocean. He was not seen again. His wife, Teyrna Isulde, ruled in his stead and won a civil war of her own to retain Hafter’s legacy.
1:95 Divine: The Second Blight ends with the Battle of Starkhaven.
2:10 Glory: The grandson of Hafter, Teyrn Caedmon, seeks to raise himself above the other teyrns. He declares himself king of the Fereldan people and officially establishes the presence of the Andrastian Chantry in Denerim. A civil war erupts to oppose him, and while he has great success at first, his downfall occurs when he commits too much of his power toward the Exalted March of the Dales in the west. In the end, the great Battle of Valmorn Hills results in Caedmon’s death. Three more claimants to the title of king emerge, including Caedmon’s son, Talemal, but all suffer quick ends as the civil war consumes the land. No more attempts to claim the king’s title are made, though the various teyrns struggle for dominance during a long period known as the War of Crowns, named for the sudden rise of the various teyrns adorning themselves with royal crowns even if they did not call themselves kings. Centuries later, King Calenhad rounded up these crowns and destroyed them, though legend says some are still hidden away.
2:20 Glory: Orlais conquers Halamshiral, ending the Exalted March of the Dales.
3:0 Towers: Flemeth is born in the village of Highever. Betrayed by her husband, Bann Conobar, Flemeth was possessed by a powerful spirit. She became an abomination and fled into the Korcari Wilds. There she brooded and plotted for 100 years, uniting the Chasind tribes under her dominion. During this time, she stole men from the Alamarri tribes so she could beget many daughters. Her daughters were twisted, horrific creatures that could kill a man with fear. When she was ready, an army led by Flemeth’s daughters—the “Witches of the Wilds”—emerged from the swamps and struck against the Fereldan people. All seemed lost until the hero, Cormac, emerged. Cormac led an army of Alamarri men and Orzammar dwarves against Flemeth’s army. Many great battles resulted in the Chasind being destroyed and the witches burned, including Flemeth, though legend claims that she and her witches still exist to this day.
3:10—3:25 Towers: Toth is awoken and the Third Blight begins. Cormac plays a major role as he journeys north and fights alongside the Marchers against the darkspawn hordes, dying in the final fight, the Battle of Hunter Fell.
3:87 Towers: The Schism splits the Chantry in Tevinter, causing great resentment against magic throughout the southern lands. The Circle of Magi in Denerim is forced to abandon its tower within the city and occupies Kinloch Hold in the center of what is today known as Lake Calenhad.
4:0 Black: The werewolves, always present in Fereldan lore, become an epidemic. Over the next century, they battle against humanity in the valley as they acquire the ability to assume human form and strike at Ferelden from within. Supposedly this ability was granted to the werewolves through deals with darker powers, just as the werewolves themselves were created through dealings with dark gods in the early tribal days. Regardless of how they acquired their ability, paranoia became rampant in every Fereldan city. Relative turned against relative as the humans turned on their own, accusations against innocent people becoming commonplace. The use of dogs as guards who could detect werewolves by their smell proves the difference in the end, turning the tide against the werewolves, but the war to drive them out is particularly bloody. Many tales are spawned of the battles that take place, especially the invasion of the streets of Gwaren, where over a quarter of the city is slaughtered in a single night. The werewolves are eventually decimated, though folklore still places them in many rural forests throughout the valley today. Occasionally, rumors of a werewolf in a village will grow out of hand and lead to many deaths before the truth is sorted out. Legends also claim that a race of half-shape-shifters called “ferals” descend from that time, living quietly among humanity or withdrawing deep into the wilds (depending on the legend).
4:80 Black: The Orlesian Empire takes advantage of Ferelden’s disorganization and crosses the Frostback Mountains to invade for the first time. The campaign lasts for three years until the Fereldan teyrns once again unite to push the Orlesians back. The empire had hoped to take the port of Highever and therefore switch to supplying their forces by sea rather than by Gherlen’s Pass; however, the fortress of Redcliffe held out for longer than expected, and winter in the Frostbacks left many Orlesian forces unsupplied. By the spring of 4:84 Black, most Orlesian troops had pulled out or been captured.
5:10 Exalted: The Grey Wardens sign treaties with the various teyrns of the land and enter Ferelden permanently, building the fortress at Soldier’s Peak as well as several small, remote outposts (including one in the Korcari Wilds) to watch for signs of darkspawn.
5:12 Exalted: The Fourth Blight begins.
5:42 Exalted: After long centuries of bitter warfare, the great warrior Calenhad finally defeats the other teyrns in a series of major engagements. He has the ash warriors on his side as well as the aid of the Circle of Magi, who craft him a suit of glittering white chain mail that was said to make the wearer all but impervious to harm. The appearance of the Silver Knight at the head of his troops, carrying his white-and-gold banner aloft, was said to strike fear into the hearts of his enemies, his victories a legend that has lived on to this day. He claims the title of king once again and is crowned by the Chantry in Denerim, and with his crowning, the nation of Ferelden is at last united. Some tribes of the Avvars remain in the mountains and Chasind in the Wilds, refusing to join in this new union, but technically even they are recognized as part of the king’s sovereign lands. King Calenhad brings Denerim onto the world stage, opening it up to trade.
6:30 Steel: The First Qunari War begins.
6:50 Steel: After having raided the lowlands for many years, the Avvars combine their forces under the great warlord Balak and sweep into the heart of the Fereldan valley in massive numbers. The Bannorn is put to the torch, and even though the Avvars are pushed back over the next two years, this period is one of the worst famines in Fereldan history. Memories of Avvarian savagery keep relations between the barbarians and the Fereldan kings bitter to this day.
7:5 Storm: King Arland passes a law exiling the Grey Wardens from Ferelden. Though the official story is that the order was no longer worth tithing, rumors persist that the Grey Wardens commander, formerly a member of the royal family, took part in an unsuccessful coup to oust Arland, thus breaking the Wardens’ traditional neutrality in the matter. The fortress at Soldier’s Peak is breached, and the commander and her supporters are slain, while the rest of the Fereldan Wardens flee to Orlais. All other Grey Warden outposts in Ferelden are abandoned. Some are taken over by local lords while others, like the one in the Korcari Wilds, are simply left to fall to pieces.
7:25—7:85 Storm: The New Exalted Marches are fought to reclaim lands conquered by the Qunari.
8:24 Blessed: Urged on by “the Mad Emperor” Reville, Orlais makes its second attempt to invade Ferelden. This attempt is much more successful than the first, primarily because King Venedrin faces treachery from among the ranks of the nobility, with several powerful banns secretly supporting the Orlesians and working to sabotage the kingdom’s defense. Redcliffe falls, and at the Battle of Lothering, the Fereldan line completely collapses and King Venedrin is killed when he falls off his horse. Young King Brandel is unable to inspire enough confidence to unite the people underneath him, and for the next 20 years, the nation buckles under constant warfare. Eventually Denerim is sacked and the empire claims victory, though King Brandel gets away. The king and some of the teyrns become rebels, waging constant warfare against Orlesian occupiers from the wilds of the Brecilian Forest or the foothills of the Frostbacks. When King Brandel finally dies, Orlais crowns its “False King,” the infamous tyrant Meghren, while Brandel’s daughter, “the Rebel Queen” Moira, continues the battle.
9:00 Dragon: Maric, the wildly popular son of the Rebel Queen, dethrones the latest Orlesian puppet king at the infamous Battle of the River Dane. He ascends to the throne of Ferelden after four years of battle with Orlesian forces, inspiring a nationwide revolution and finally driving the Orlesians out of Ferelden entirely. Maric’s campaigns were fought alongside a young commoner by the name of Loghain, who proves to be a military genius. Loghain is rewarded with the teyrnir of Gwaren and becomes something of a legend, epitomizing the Fereldan ideal of anything being attainable if one is skilled enough. Maric rebuilds the fortress of Denerim and readmits the Grey Wardens into Ferelden. King Maric’s rule is considered the beginning of a new golden age for Ferelden.
9:20 Dragon: The young Empress Celene of Orlais makes her historic visit to Denerim, putting aside decades of strife and resentment to sign a peace treaty. This officially ends the long war between the two nations.
9:25 Dragon: Death of King Maric. His only son, Cailan, assumes the throne and marries the daughter of Teyrn Loghain, Anora.
9:30 Dragon: Modern day.
Famous People in Ferelden
*** Humans ***
~ Royalty ~
King Cailan: Young king of Ferelden, son of King Maric and Queen Rowan. Coronated in 9:25 Dragon.
Teyrn Loghain: “Hero of the River Dane,” a commoner who aided King Maric in freeing Ferelden from Orlesian control and was rewarded with the teyrnir of Gwaren. He remains a hero to the Fereldan people and is considered its finest general.
Queen Anora: Loghain’s daughter and wife to King Cailan.
King Caedmon: Grandson of the hero Hafter, he is the first to declare himself king of Ferelden in 2:10 Glory. Dies at the Battle of Valmorn Hills in 2:18 Glory.
King Calenhad: The first king to unite Ferelden in 5:42 Exalted. He is considered the greatest legend in Ferelden’s history and the founder of its royal bloodline.
King Maric: Hero king of Ferelden, defeated the Orlesian occupation of Ferelden and was coronated in Denerim in 9:03 Dragon.
King Meghren: The infamous “False King” appointed by Orlais in 8:78 Blessed during its occupation. He was executed by King Maric in 9:02 Dragon.
Queen Rowan: She is the former queen of Ferelden, wife to Maric and older sister to Arl Eamon. Died of illness in 9:08 Dragon.
~ Denerim ~
Grand Cleric Elemena: The current leader of the Chantry in Ferelden.
Arl Urien: Arl of Denerim.
Lord Vaughan: Son of Arl Urien.
Brother Genitivi: Chantry monk of Antivan origin, archaeologist of some renown.
~ Redcliffe ~
Arl Eamon Guerrein: Arl of Redcliffe, uncle of King Cailan; one of the most powerful and popular nobles in Ferelden.
Arlessa Isolde: Eamon’s wife, of Orlesian origin.
Connor: Eamon’s young heir, he is 12 years old.
Bann Teagan Guerrein: Eamon’s younger brother, the bann of Rainesfere.
Murdock: Mayor of Redcliffe and commander of the town’s militia.
Mother Hannah: The Revered Mother of Redcliffe’s chantry.
~ Other ~
Teyrn Bryce Cousland: Of Highever, one of the most powerful nobles in Ferelden next to the king and Teyrn Loghain.
Arl Rendon Howe: Of Amaranthine, a vassal lord of Teyrn Cousland’s.
~ Tevinter Imperium ~
Archon Darinius: The premier magister lord of the Tevinter Dynasty, founded the Imperium in -1195 Ancient.
~ Legendary ~
Dane: Legendary hero of “Dane and the Werewolf,” he was the human who led a wolfpack.
Hafter: Descendant of the hero Dane, he led the Alamarri against a horde of darkspawn during the Second Blight in 1:40 Divine. Many Fereldan nobles claim descent from him.
Luthias: Legendary hero, the “dwarfson,” the first berserker.
Flemeth: The original “Witch of the Wilds,” a legendary abomination who led the Chasind during the Towers Age. Supposedly slain by the hero Cormac.
*** Elves ***
~ Dalish ~
Zathrian: One of the eldest keepers among all the Dalish clans. He is rumored to have been living for four centuries, having regained the legendary longevity of the ancient elves.
~ Denerim ~
Elder Valendrian: The current elder of the Denerim Alienage.
~ Gods of the Elves ~
Elgar’nan: God of Vengeance, “the All-Father,” Eldest of the Sun and He Who Overthrew His Father.
Fen’Harel: The trickster wolf-god “Dread Wolf” who, according to Elven legend, tricked the elven gods into abandoning their people according. He is worshipped by the wilder elves.
Andruil: Goddess of the Hunt.
Dirthamen: God of Secrets and Knowledge.
Mythal: Mother of the Gods. She is the protector and is considered a figure of justice (the flip side of vengeance).
Falon’Din: “Friend of the Dead.” God of Death and Fortune, he who ferries the dead across the spirit lands and into the Beyond.
Ghilan’nain: Goddess of Guides and Navigation, Mother of the Halla.
June: God of the Craft.
Sylaise: Goddess of Hearth and Home.
*** Dwarves ***
~ Orzammar ~
King Endrin Aeducan: Current king of Orzammar, descendant of Endrin Stonehammer. Coronated in 8:55 Blessed.
Prince Bhelen Aeducan: Youngest son of King Endrin.
Prince Trian Aeducan: Eldest son of King Endrin.
Paragon Branka: Only living Paragon in Orzammar. She is currently missing.
Lord Pyral Harrowmont: Popular leader of House Harrowmont.
Beraht: He is an infamous crime boss in the Orzammar slums.
~ Legendary ~
Astyth the Grey: The only female Paragon of the Warrior Caste, she cut off her own tongue to devote herself more fanatically to the pursuit of unarmed martial excellence. An order of female warriors follows in her path, known as the Silent Sisters.
Endrin Stonehammer: Most famous of the dwarven Paragons, he is a great king credited with having built Stonehammer Hall.
Gherlen the Blood-Risen: A dwarven hero who returned to the Frostback Mountains after adventuring and gained enough prestige to attempt to overthrow the king. His tale is still honored by dwarven adventurers.
King Felbin the Mad: He was one of two dwarven kings ever voted out of office.
King Anaalar Perethin: He was assassinated in 8:50 Blessed, sparking a civil war. He was the predecessor to the current king, Endrin Aeducan.
~ Qunari ~
Koslun: The prophet who brought the religion of the Qun to the Qunari.
*** Mages ***
~ Circle ~
First Enchanter Irving: First enchanter (the leader) of the Circle of Magi in Ferelden.
~ Chantry ~
Andraste: The Maker’s prophet and creator of the Chant. She was executed by the Tevinter Imperium in -170 Ancient.
Kordillus Drakon: Emperor of Orlais, founded the Chantry in -15 Ancient. Began a series of religious wars to spread the Chantry faith throughout Thedas. Considered one of the greatest military minds in history.
Divine Justinia I: The first Divine of the Chantry.
Divine Beatrix III: The current Divine in Val Royeaux.
*** Grey Wardens ***
Duncan: Commander of the Grey Wardens, leader of the Grey Wardens in Ferelden.
People of Thedas
The humans are the most numerous of the races, yet they are a divided people. Once they were united under the great Tevinter Imperium, but the Imperium has since crumbled, and the great noble houses that remain fight among each other for supremacy. Only during the Blights has humanity ever united under a single banner, but today, the Blights are a distant memory, and even the invasions by the Qunari cannot bring the nations of humanity to work together.
Elves were once a race comprised of beautiful, ethereal immortals who lived in harmony with nature and who never changed. Whatever ancient history they possessed has since been lost, but the following is known: When humanity came to Thedas, the elves were struck by the rudeness and impatience of this “quickling” race of upstarts. Worse, they discovered that any association with humans caused elves to quicken—to age and die. Horrified at this, they withdrew before humanity’s relentless expansion and avoided humans until, ultimately, the elves were conquered and enslaved by the magic of the Tevinter Imperium.
Although eventually freed upon the Imperium’s collapse, the damage was done: The elves had lost their immortality and most of their language and history, and they blamed humanity for it. They formed a new homeland in the Dales and attempted to rebuild their culture and worship their pantheon of pagan gods once more. Relations with humans remained hostile, and finally the Chantry declared an Exalted March against them. Their new homeland was conquered, and the elves split apart. The proud elven nobility became homeless wanderers known as the Dalish, traveling in groups and stubbornly continuing to worship their gods and maintain their traditions while being welcome nowhere else. The other elves became bitterly resigned to their fate and now live among mankind as “city elves”—second-class citizens, servants, and laborers who have all but forgotten the proud folk they once were.
The Children of the Stone, dwarves are a stout, bearded race that are, on average, a little shorter than humans but generally much broader and thicker, and they possess a comparatively strong constitution. Sickness is almost unknown among the dwarven folk, but their proximity to the darkspawn means their population is dwindling—the huge number of deaths in battle, combined with the relatively low fertility means the population of dwarves has been falling steadily for nearly a thousand years.
As a people, the dwarves tend to have a single-minded dedication that can be both their weakness and their strength. Their ability to dedicate themselves to a cause has allowed them to survive in conditions that would kill any other race and even develop a level of technology that far surpasses anything else in Thedas (the dwarves use clockwork and limited steam power, and they have a society that is just barely preindustrial). Although, their refusal to change the traditions that have sustained them have stagnated their society into a rigid caste system, where everything a dwarf can be or expect from life is determined at birth. The worst victims of this system are the casteless, dwarves who have lost their legal standing in society by committing a crime or being the descendant of criminals, or by voluntarily abandoning their caste to live on the surface. These unfortunates are not allowed to hold any job, nor receive any legal protections, and they scrabble out a miserable existence in pathetic shanty towns on the outskirts of proper society.
Legends among humans say that dwarves can see in pitch-blackness. This is not really true, and a dwarf would be the first to scoff at such tales. They possess an ability to see better in the dark than most, but they do need some light. But dwarves have not entirely escaped the effects of living underground. The walls of the caves where they built their city are laced with lyrium, the magical ore that is the source of all magic in Thedas. This has given dwarves a natural resistance to magic, which both protects them from the harmful effects of raw lyrium and makes it impossible for them to cast spells. Dwarves who live on the surface for a long time or who are born there appear to lose their protective immunity, though their inability to use magic appears to persist (however, it may simply be that no surface dwarf has yet tried).
Dwarves once existed in great thaigs present under every major mountain range, their lands connected by the Deep Roads, but the relentless onslaught of the darkspawn forced the last of the dwarven thaigs under the Frostback Mountains to seal themselves off from the rest of their kind just to survive. In the city of Orzammar, the last of the dwarves fight a daily battle against the darkspawn, a battle they will inevitably lose, as the darkspawn seem limitless in their numbers and the dwarves are not.
In the meantime, the dwarves continue to proudly uphold their culture and engage in mining in their vast underground city. They worship their ancestors, and every dwarf devotes his life to the service of his caste and to achieving the same status as his ancestors through his deeds as a warrior, a merchant, or a craftsman. They trade with the surface races, and a growing number of dwarves have begun to live on the surface and play a key role in the survival of the race, even if their underground brethren think them the lesser for it.
The Qunari are a large and imposing race, once having been powerful barbarians that were dominated by their berserker rages. Then came the Qun, a philosophy and religion that taught them how to control their rages and how to live and become a superior, enlightened race. They tamed their minds and turned their society into a model of efficiency and order in which no deviant beliefs are allowed and all must submit to the higher authority of the Qun.
Group: The Grey Wardens
The Grey Wardens are a renowned group of scouts and fearless warriors. This was once an extremely large organization that dedicated itself to the destruction of the darkspawn and the protection of all human lands. They are the most elite and feared of warriors, said to sense the presence of darkspawn and to have greater knowledge of the tactics to fight them than anyone else in Thedas. The nations of humanity once gladly tithed to the Grey Wardens and sent them not only food and equipment, but also a steady stream of new recruits. Once they rode the great white griffons overhead and arrived in glorious numbers wherever the darkspawn threatened.
Now, however, it has been over four centuries since the last Blight, and the order has dwindled in importance. The griffons, the very symbol of the Grey Wardens, have died out, and the nations tithe only grudgingly and often far less than the old agreements say they should. The Wardens number far less than they once did, and even though they are still respected and sometimes even feared for their martial prowess, they are largely thought irrelevant in lands where the Blights have not appeared for centuries. Only in the far-off Anderfels, where the mighty Grey Warden fortress of Weisshaupt still stands, does the order still maintain a powerful political presence. For the rest of Thedas, however, they are legends and little else.
Often portrayed as stoic and grim, the Order of Templars was created as the martial arm of the Chantry. Armed with the ability to dispel and resist magic in addition to their formidable combat talents, the templars are uniquely qualified to act as both a foil for apostates—mages who refuse to submit to the authority of the Circle—and a first line of defense against the dark powers of blood mages and abominations.
While mages often resent the templars as symbols of the Chantry’s control over magic, the people of Thedas see them as saviors and holy warriors, champions of all that is good and armed with enough piety to protect the world from the ravages of foul magic. In reality, the Chantry’s militant arm looks first for skilled warriors with unshakable faith in the Maker; a flawless moral center is a secondary concern. Templars must carry out their duty with an emotional distance, and the Order of Templars would rather have soldiers with religious fervor and absolute loyalty than paragons of virtue who might question orders when it comes time to make difficult choices.
The templars’ power comes from the substance lyrium, a mineral believed to be the raw element of creation. While mages use lyrium in their arcane spells and rituals, templars ingest the primordial mineral to enhance their abilities to resist and dispel magic. Lyrium use is regulated by the Chantry, but some templars suffer from lyrium addiction, and the mineral can have side effects, including paranoia, obsession, and dementia. Templars knowingly submit themselves to this “treatment” in the service of the Order and the Maker.
It is this sense of ruthless piety that most frightens mages when they get the templars’ attention: When the templars
are sent to eliminate a possible blood mage, there is no reasoning with them, and if the templars are prepared, the mage’s magic is often useless. Driven by their faith, the templars are one of the most feared and respected forces in Thedas.
In the intrigue-filled courts of Orlais, the bard is something of a curiosity. Minstrels weave tales of spies who masquerade as musicians and troubadours, using their position as skilled entertainers to get close to their targets and extract secrets for their mysterious employers. They are trained to use music to soothe hearts and cloud minds; even in combat, their abilities to inspire allies and distract foes are legendary. Beyond their music, they are masters of dirty fighting, stealth, and larceny. More than one battle has been won through the aid of a cunning bard. Orlesian nobles welcome such entertainers into their homes with full knowledge that any one of them could be a bard. In Orlais, intrigue is a deadly game, and the thrill of outwitting a spy is a notion the Orlesian aristocracy can hardly resist. Unfortunately, when one finally realizes that a true bard has been among them, it is usually far too late.
In other parts of the world, bards are less prominent but no less dangerous. In Ferelden, bards once played fairs and graced the courts of banns and arls, listening for secrets that could be used to sway the fiercely independent nobility. In the ancient Tevinter Imperium, skilled bards find a great deal of work among the mage-led families that rule in the Senate and compete in an age-old cutthroat game for ascendancy. Bards travel any place where secrets have value or where knowledge is power, and everywhere they go, everyday minstrels benefit from their mystique.
Group: Legion of the Dead
The Legion of the Dead is the most famous dwarven military unit. The Legion accepts anyone into its ranks who is willing to declare him or herself dead, giving up all possessions and ties to previous life. The ritual of their joining being very akin to a funeral, these warriors are, in essence, already dead, and the rest of society treats them as if they have died. This makes them fearless berserker warriors whose fame has extended into human lands as well. Nothing is supposedly more terrifying than the charge of the Legion. Many convicted dwarf criminals join the Legion rather than face exile or loss of their caste. Once in the Legion, all records of that dwarf’s past crimes or debts are erased, and the warrior is considered to have died in heroic combat against the darkspawn.
Group: Silent Sisters
The Silent Sisters is a fighting order that exists within the dwarven warrior caste. All female warriors are accepted without question, regardless of their castes, provided they can prove themselves. (Certainly, not all female warriors become Silent Sisters, as they are considered extremists even among women.) These warriors follow in the footsteps of the first female warrior to achieve Paragon status, Astyth the Grey; like her, they cut out their tongues so they may devote themselves more fully and fanatically to the pursuit of unarmed martial prowess. Every Silent Sister keeps the dagger with which she cut out her tongue, though she never uses it as a weapon.
Group: Antivan Crows
Antivans are well known for being good at everything but fighting, so perhaps it is not surprising that Antiva possesses the largest and most infamous guild in Thedas. The House of Crows, as they are known locally, consists of spies, assassins, and thieves—all under the control of a secret council that is said to be comprised of the heads of a small collection of the wealthiest (and even royal) families in Antiva.
The Crows are almost omnipresent in their own nation and are known to appear elsewhere, all identifiable by their unique tattoos (a tradition taken from the Rivaini; some Crows display their tattoos proudly, while others keep them hidden). They are accepted in Antiva as a fact of life, though the government has tried many times to stamp them out. In a way, however, the fame of the Crows protects Antiva as well; it is often said that nations tend to avoid invading Antiva, because while their armies might find little resistance, the leader of those armies and the man who sent them will almost certainly turn up dead. If someone knows the Crows have targeted him for death, he runs; however, targets rarely get far.
“Darkspawn” is a term that collectively refers to the tainted creatures that dwell underground and have four times spilled out to threaten the existence of all civilized races on the continent. Normally, the darkspawn are disorganized and fight with each other, seldom being seen on the surface except for during raids and small invasions that quickly exhaust themselves, leaving only disease and death in their wake. Several times in history, however, the darkspawn have uncovered one of the ancient high dragons (called “Old Gods” by the Tevinter Imperium) that slumber in the depths of the earth. The dragon is awakened and twisted into a darkspawn creature known as an “archdemon.” The archdemon then marshals the darkspawn, pushing them to create a horde that spills onto the surface in a great wave of violence. When this happens, it is known as a Blight, and each of the four Blights has brought humanity to the edge of destruction before its archdemon was defeated and the darkspawn driven back down into their underground caverns.
During a Blight, the land around the center of the event is sucked of moisture, turning everything dry and brown and filling the sky with roiling, black clouds that block the sun and make the environment comfortable for the darkspawn to come forth. This wasteland spreads, and with it spreads disease.
The last Blight ended long ago with so many darkspawn being slaughtered that it seemed certain they could never return in great numbers. Darkspawn occasionally appear on the surface to raid, but this occurs mostly in remote areas and rarely at that. They have become the bogeymen who frighten the common man but often are considered more of a legend, since few people have ever seen one. The creatures are more prevalent in the far-off Anderfels and in dwarven Orzammar, where they are a very real and immediate threat. Outside of those areas, the only people who give the darkspawn threat credence are the Grey Wardens, an organization of dedicated warriors sworn to protect the human lands from darkspawn infestation. Their organization has dwindled since the fourth Blight, however, and while they valiantly prepare for the inevitable, they are no longer equipped to fight the legion of darkness that will surely come.
*** The First Blight ***
History of the Chantry
The Chantry focuses on several main messages:
- Magic is a sin of pride—the magisters of the Imperium believed that they were greater than the Maker, and this is what destroyed the Golden City and unleashed the darkspawn upon the world. The darkspawn are mankind’s sin made flesh.
- Magic should exist to serve mankind and never rule over him. This is the guiding principle behind the Circle of Magi.
- Andraste was the betrothed of the Maker and the one who convinced the Maker to return to mankind after turning his back on them for worshipping the Old Gods. Andraste’s betrayal was what drove him away again, and mankind must regain his favor because of that great sin.
- To earn the Maker’s forgiveness, the Chant must be spread to all four corners of the world. Then the Maker will finally hear mankind’s call and return. Once the Maker returns to the world, he will make it a paradise. Until then, he watches over mankind, and only those who are worthy will be chosen to stand by his side along with Andraste.
The Chantry is urged by its own dogma to proselytize—forcefully, if need be. The Chantry is very much a militaristic organization and has needed its armed templars to exert control over magical corruption and to root out the heresies that were very common throughout the first centuries of its existence. The teachings of Andraste had many followers prior to the Chantry’s official creation, and in many places those teachings took on slightly different forms—different interpretations on the role of magic and on exactly what were the crimes of mankind against the Maker and how (if at all) mankind could earn his forgiveness. These heresies had to be crushed if the Chant was to be one united song. So, too, did the Chantry need to battle different faiths such as the remaining worship of the Old Gods and the pagan beliefs of the elves.
The Divine is the titular head of the Chantry, although since the Schism split the Imperial Chantry into its own faction, there are now, in fact, two Divines at any one time. One Divine, informally called the White Divine, is a woman housed in the Grand Cathedral in Val Royeaux. The other, known as the Black Divine, is a man housed in the Argent Spire in Minrathous.
Neither Divine recognizes the existence of the other, and the informal names are considered sacrilegious. Regardless of gender, a Divine is addressed as “Most Holy” or “Your Perfection.” Beneath the rank of Divine is the grand cleric. Each grand cleric presides over numerous chantries and represents the highest religious authority for their region. They travel to Val Royeaux when the College of Clerics convenes but otherwise remain where they are assigned. All grand clerics are addressed as “Your Grace.”
Beneath the grand cleric is the mother (or, in the Imperial Chantry, the father). If a mother is in charge of a particular chantry, “revered” is appended to her title. These are the priests responsible for administering to the spiritual well-being of their flock. A mother or Revered Mother is addressed as “Your Reverence.”
Brothers and sisters form the rank and file of the Chantry and consist of three main groups: affirmed, initiates, and clerics. Affirmed are the lay-brethren of the Chantry, those regular folk who have turned to the Chantry for succor. Often they are people who have led a difficult or irreligious life and have chosen to go into seclusion, or even orphans and similar unfortunates who were raised into the Chantry life. The affirmed take care of the Chantry and are in turn afforded a life of quiet contemplation, no questions asked.
Only those folk who take vows become initiates. These are men and women in training, whether in academic knowledge or the martial skills of a warrior. All initiates receive an academic education, although only those who seek to become templars learn how to fight in addition.
Clerics are the true academics of the Chantry, those men and women who have dedicated themselves to the pursuit of knowledge. They are often found in Chantry archives, sages presiding over libraries of books and arcane knowledge. The most senior of these clerics, placed in charge of such archives, are given the title “elder,” although such a rank is still beneath that of mother. All other brothers and sisters are addressed simply by noting their title before their name, such as “Brother Genitivi.”
Early Religion in Thedas
The Chantry maintains that the Maker was responsible for the creation of all life and the world from his throne in the Golden City within the heart of the Fade. The Maker has always existed, and the fact that the races of the world once worshipped false gods is why the Maker abandoned them to their fate long ago. It is said that the spirits of the Fade were the Maker’s first creations and were flawed and thus cast out from the Maker’s grace. These spirits were jealous of the living and whispered to them in their dreams, telling them that they were the true gods and that the living should bow down before them. And the living did so, summoning these spirits through the Veil into our world and worshiping them as idols that walked among them.
These were the Old Gods, spirits powerful enough that it is said they took the form of dragons. Giant, winged gods that ruled over the land. According to the Chantry, their worship was the Original Sin. The Old Gods angered the Maker by claiming to be the creators of the world, lying to the living and supplanting the Maker’s true place. When the Maker furiously abandoned the Fade and his ungrateful creations, he cursed those Old Gods who existed in the world of the living, imprisoning them in tombs deep beneath the earth where they would slumber eternally. Thus were the living left to their fate with neither the Maker to watch over them nor the Old Gods to fly overhead.
Scholars assume that the Old Gods must indeed have been real at one point, but most agree that they were likely actual dragons—ancient high dragons of a magnitude not known today, and impressive enough to frighten ancient peoples into worshipping them. Some even claim that these dragons slumber as a form of hibernation, not as a result of the Maker’s wrath.
Regardless of the truth, legend maintains that even from their underground prisons, the Old Gods were able to whisper into the minds of men. The Archon Thalsian, first of the magisters who claimed to have contacted the Old God Dumat, used the blood magic Dumat taught him to attain incredible power in Tevinter and declare himself the ruler of an empire. In return, he established the first temples worshipping the Old Gods, and the dragons became equated everywhere with Imperial power. Thalsian also created the magister ruling class that has existed to this day, his own pupils forming the noble houses that have ruled over Tevinter for millennia. Mages of the Imperial Chantry today claim it is more likely that blood magic was learned from the elves of Arlathan, but truly there is no direct evidence of either stance being true.
To date, four of the Old Gods are said to have risen as corrupted archdemons: Dumat, the first and most powerful, was slain at the Battle of Silent Fields. Zazikel fell at the Battle of Starkhaven; Toth died at the Battle of Hunter Fell; and Andoral was felled by Garahel, the legendary Grey Warden, at the Battle of Ayesleigh. The archdemons have been identified only after years of argument among scholars, and to this day it is unclear whether the archdemons were truly Old Gods and not simply dragons. All that is known is that the darkspawn hunt for them deep underground. If they are truly the Old Gods, as many scholars believe, then we have only three Blights remaining. When all the Old Gods have risen and been slain, however, what will happen? Will the Blights end forever and humanity earn forgiveness from the Maker at last? The scholars of the Chantry maintain that there were seven Old Gods in total and that their worship by elves and humans did not die out until after the First Blight.
It should be noted that the elves, too, had their own pantheon of gods. Even though these gods were never claimed to have walked in this world or have directly challenged the Maker, their worship is just as heretical and caused the Maker’s abandonment just as much. Regardless of the truth behind the Old Gods, it is said that even from their underground prisons, they were able to whisper into the minds of men.
The organized worship of the Old Gods was at its height prior to the beginning of the First Blight when Dumat rose from his prison as the first archdemon. Ancient lore says that it was Dumat who created the first darkspawn and led them against Thedas. The believers felt betrayed that one of their deities could turn against them. However, the Chantry claims that it was the darkspawn who created the archdemon and not the other way around. The tale of the darkspawn’s creation is known as the Second Sin: the magisters attempted to open a gate into the Golden City within the Fade, desiring to physically enter and take possession of the Maker’s throne. They entered the Golden City successfully and thus tainted it with their sins. The city had been a flawless jewel that was cracked by the flaws of man. It was filled with evil and turned into the Black City (and it is a known fact that a blackened city sits at the heart of the Fade, and paintings indicate that it was within mankind’s history that once it was golden and not black), and the magisters were ejected back into the living world as the darkspawn, cursed by the Maker for their pride. Repelled by the light, they hid underground and then searched for their old master. That they then tainted Dumat and unleashed the Blight upon the world was, as the Chantry claims, merely mankind’s own sin rising to destroy him.
Worship of the Old Gods waned through to the Second Blight and the subsequent spread of the Chantry. Spots of worship continued in isolated areas even afterward, though during the Exalted March of the Dales, the Chantry actively stamped out this worship. Temples were burned down and destroyed, the cults either dispersed or driven underground. Some temples still stand (especially in Minrathous), though they have been converted to other uses. Most other temples are ruins or have been replaced, and some temples have been built in hidden places that were subsequently destroyed by the Chantry and now lie in shambles, grown over by weeds and forests. Some few cults devoted to those three Old Gods who have not risen as archdemon—primarily Urthemial, the God of Beauty—still exist today, and the dragon still remains Tevinter’s most prominent symbol—even if its true original significance has been forgotten.
On the Maker
There was no word
For heaven or for earth, for sea or sky.
All that existed was silence.
Then the voice of the Maker rang out,
The first Word,
And his word became all that might be:
Dream and idea, hope and fear,
And from it made his firstborn.
And he said to them:
In my image I forge you,
To you I give dominion
Over all that exists.
By your will
May all things be done.
Then in the center of heaven
He called forth
A city with towers of gold,
Streets with music for cobblestones,
And banners that flew without wind.
There, he dwelled, waiting
To see the wonders
His children would create.
The children of the Maker gathered
Before his golden throne
And sang hymns of praise unending.
But their songs
Were the songs of the cobblestones.
They shone with the golden light
Reflected from the Maker’s throne.
They held forth the banners
That flew on their own.
And the voice of the Maker shook the Fade
Saying: In my image I have wrought
My firstborn. You have been given dominion
Over all that exists. By your will
All things are done.
Yet you do nothing.
The realm I have given you
Is formless, ever-changing.
And he knew he had wrought amiss.
So the Maker turned from his firstborn
And took from the Fade
A measure of its living flesh
And placed it apart from the spirits, and spoke to it, saying:
Here, I decree
Opposition in all things:
For earth, sky
For winter, summer
For darkness, light.
By my will alone is balance sundered
And the world given new life.
And no longer was it formless,
But held fast, immutable,
With words for heaven and for earth, sea, and sky.
At last did the Maker
From the living world
Make men. Immutable, as the substance of the earth,
With souls made of dream and idea, hope and fear,
Then the Maker said:
To you, my second-born, I grant this gift:
In your heart shall burn
An unquenchable flame
All-consuming, and never satisfied.
From the Fade I crafted you,
And to the Fade you shall return
Each night in dreams
That you may always remember me.
And then the Maker sealed the gates
Of the Golden City
And there he dwelled, waiting
To see the wonders
His children would create.
—from the Chant of Light, Threnodies 5:1-8.
On the Schism
No one really knows where magic comes from, even though it permeates the world. Some believe that it originates in the Fade, while others speculate that it emanates from the priceless mineral lyrium. Regardless of the origins of magic forces, only a rare few possess the ability to manipulate them. Mages are able to draw upon the magic around them, shaping it into fire to blast their foes or using it to dominate the minds of others.
The Dangers of Magic
*** Demonic Possession ***
It is not known why mages attract the attention of spirits as they do. Unlike other living beings who enter the Fade only when they dream, a mage is able to enter the Fade and remain awake and aware of his surroundings. Perhaps it is this crucial difference that makes mages so fascinating to the spirits of the dream realm. Malevolent spirits—who we call demons—that wish to enter the world of the living are drawn to mages like beacons. Once a mage encounters such a demon in the Fade, the demon will attempt to possess him. Often demons will do this by force, and many mages simply do not have the strength to resist such an assault. Other, more intelligent demons may try to cajole or trick the mage, distracting him with offers of power, wealth, and, in some cases, even love in an attempt to make him drop his guard.
The result is inevitably the same: An abomination is created. This is the name given to mages who have been possessed by demons. This is not a physical possession—the demon is still in the Fade, but so is the mage’s spirit, and the demon twists and controls the mage’s body through that captive spirit. The demon sees through the body’s eyes, channels its power through it and is able to use that body’s magic in ways the mage would never have imagined. However, the experience of entering the physical realm is overwhelming to the demon, and it is driven mad by the sudden torrent of unfamiliar sights, sounds, and sensations. Now utterly insane, the abomination violently assaults the world around it. The more powerful the demon, the worse the abomination, and historical records occasionally tell of abominations that have ravaged entire settlements or even gone on to tyrannize a countryside for years after their creation.
This constant possibility of possession is the greatest threat to a mage and to the rest of the world. No mage can say it will never happen, because even the strongest mages are susceptible. So it is that the Chantry created the Circle of Magi long ago. Mages must be allowed to exist so their power can be wielded against the darkspawn and other foes, but they must be watched carefully—and those not strong enough to fight the demons that assault them must be dealt with.
*** Blood Magic ***
The most efficient and powerful way for a mage to gain power is to draw directly from the life blood of a living being. Blood mages usually begin by drawing from themselves, thus exposing their blood, gaining access directly to their power. Obviously, this use weakens them physically—if they draw on too much of their own life force, they risk death. Thus, as their demands for power grow, they must begin to use the life’s blood of other living beings. This usually involves sacrifices, but some blood-magic spells can drain the life’s blood directly from an opponent during battle.
Blood magic was primarily used by the Tevinter Imperium magisters, who gained enormous power through the unscrupulous use of blood sacrifice and the widespread use of lyrium. The magisters also learned to control the minds of other men and summon demons from the Fade to do their bidding—both made possible through the use of blood magic. When the Circle of Magi was created, blood magic was made illegal, with Chantry decreeing that no magic should be used to dominate the mind of another. The Circle protected the world from abominations and watched carefully for those mages who would turn to blood magic. According to the common wisdom, there is no way for one to use blood magic with good intentions. It harms both the mage and the one from whom he draws his power, it destroys the will of the victim, and the summoning of demons often results in rampant destruction. Thus the Chantry has named a practitioner of these forbidden magics a “maleficar”—one who does harm.
Mages who refuse to join the Circle—or who flee the Circle after joining—are referred to as “apostates.” It is assumed that a mage who does not wish to be part of the Circle has rejected the teachings of the Chantry and renounced the Maker. To a lesser extent, it is assumed that the mage wishes to be free to practice blood magic. Even if that were not true, a mage outside the Circle’s careful watch risks falling prey to demons and becoming an abomination. If that were to happen without the Chantry templars’ knowledge, such an abomination could wreck great havoc before anything could be done. For this reason, apostates are hunted by the templars.
However, there are still many remote places where traditions that predate the Circle’s creation thrive. The barbarian shamans of the Avvar tribes, the lorekeepers of the Dalish elves, and even hedge witches who brew simple love potions are all mages who have developed their magical talent without training from the Circle. Some do not see their minor abilities as anything special, while others live so far from civilization that they may have no knowledge of the Circle.
The Limitations of Magic
The Circle of Magi
Before the creation of the first Circle of Magi, those with magical talent outside of the Tevinter Imperium went through a dark time in which they suffered persecution and even death should anyone suspect their abilities. The spread of the Chantry only served to increase this persecution—the tyrannical magister lords had used blood magic and demons to hold their empire in an iron grip, and now the new religion spoke out against magic as corruptive and evil. It claimed that in their pride, the mages believed they could seize the Maker’s throne but succeeded only in corrupting it and themselves, creating the darkspawn. The Andrastian Chantry was a direct challenge to mages everywhere.
Emperor Drakon of Orlais was the first to realize that some way of legitimately and safely using magic as a tool was needed, so the first legitimate mages were ordained in the city of Val Royeaux. These men and women were under the Chantry’s control and closely supervised them to make sure that magic was being used appropriately. Even though the mages were permitted to serve the ruling classes, two important limitations became mandatory:
1. Blood magic was strictly forbidden.
2. Mages could not unduly influence rulers or become rulers themselves.
Mages were not allowed to use their magic to influence the rule of men, which meant they were required to be politically neutral. Most mages restricted their arts to such things as healing, foretelling, communication, and economic matters. The other concern was that the Chantry needed to prevent the creation of abominations, which gave their control some legitimacy beyond the needs of the ruling classes. Naturally, the first mages were put under incredible scrutiny in the chantries where they served, their templar watchers going to excess in their vigilance. This caused the mages to chafe under the control and crave some form of independence.
That opportunity came quickly: At the close of the Divine Age, the Second Blight began, and Emperor Drakon was at the center of humanity’s struggle for survival. The mages could unleash their full power against the darkspawn, and they proved so useful that it was not long before they were able to break away from the Chantry’s direct control. The first Circle of Magi was created. Mages who excelled at warfare grew powerful; over subsequent years, many became involved in the wars between nations, removing the restriction requiring political neutrality. So long as the mages served the will of a ruler rather than attempting to control him, this was permitted.
Today, the Circle keeps close tabs on those with magical ability. Affinity for magic usually surfaces by adolescence, and all people found to have magical ability are required to join the nearest Circle of Magi and act under its supervision. To practice magic and not join a Circle is a capital offense—mages who insist on doing so are hunted as apostates. The mages who are in the Circle of Magi, however, do their best to avoid the appearance of corruption as the fear of going back to the days when mages were actively persecuted is a strong one. The Chantry templars are still stationed in every Circle tower, ostensibly there at the invitation of the Circle. They act as watchdogs and begin inquiries should they get any whiff of “evil” magic use. The Circles suffer this indignity as a necessity.
Since the Schism with the Imperial Chantry, it has become increasingly difficult for the Circles to work with the Chantry. The Chantry priests have become more and more suspicious that the Circles sympathize with the Imperium and would likewise attempt to throw off the restrictions that have been placed on them. The templars have once again become incredibly draconian in their interpretation of those restrictions, and the new restrictiveness could lead to a battle between the Circles and the Chantry. Already, many mages within the Circle are calling for an end to their association with the Chantry, figuring that their usefulness and wealth will override any backlash they might suffer.
*** Fraternities ***
Another aspect of Circle life is the fraternity. When a mage becomes an enchanter, he may ally himself with a fraternity. These are cliques that cross Circle boundaries, mages of common interests and goals who band together to ensure that their voice is heard within the College of Magi in Cumberland. The largest fraternities currently are the Loyalists, who advocate loyalty and obedience to the Chantry;
- the Aequitarians, who advocate temperance and follow a distinct code of conduct that they believe all mages should hold themselves to;
- the Libertarians, a growing fraternity, publicly maintaining greater power for the Circles but secretly advocating a complete split from the Chantry—a dangerous opinion, naturally;
- the Isolationists, a small group that advocates withdrawing to remote territories to avoid conflicts with the general populace;
- the Lucrosians, who maintain that the Circle must do what is profitable first and foremost. They prioritize the accumulation of wealth, with the gaining of political influence a close second.
So far, an alliance between the Loyalists and Aequitarians has prevented the Libertarians from gaining much headway, but there are signs that the Aequitarians may throw their support in with the Libertarians. If that happens, many mages predict it will come to civil war among the Circles.
*** The Harrowing ***
Among apprentices of the Circle, nothing is regarded with more fear than the Harrowing. Little is known about this rite of passage, and that alone would be cause for dread. But it is well understood that only those apprentices who pass this trial are ever seen again. They return as full members of the Circle of Magi. Of those who fail, nothing is known. Perhaps they are sent away in disgrace. Perhaps they are killed on the spot.
*** The Tranquil ***
Although apprentices do not know the nature of the Harrowing, all of them understand its consequences: They either pass and become full mages, or they are never seen again. Those who fear to undertake this rite of passage, or those who are deemed too weak or unstable, are given the Rite of Tranquility instead.
The actual procedure, like the Harrowing, is secret, but the results are just as well known. The rite severs connection to the Fade. The Tranquil, therefore, do not dream. This removes the greatest danger that threatens a weak or unprepared mage, the potential to attract demons across the Veil. But this is the least of the Rite of Tranquility’s effects. For the absence of dreams brings with it the end of all magical ability—and all emotion.
The Tranquil, ironically, resemble sleepwalkers, never entirely awake nor asleep. They are still part of the Circle, however, and some might say they are the most critical part. They have incredible powers of concentration, for it is simply impossible to distract tranquil mages. This makes them capable of becoming craftsmen of such skill that they rival even the adeptness of the dwarves. The Formari, the branch of the Circle devoted to item enchantment, is made up exclusively of the Tranquil, and is the source of all the wealth that sustains our towers.
Exactly what the Fade is will depend largely on whom you ask. The Chantry’s opinion takes a far more religious tone than that of the Circle of Magi, whose attempts to explore and catalogue the realms of the Fade fly in the face of Chantry doctrine. Still, too, do the other races have their own legends of the dream realm—the elven legends predate those of men but have been largely lost since the fall of Arlathan. Dwarves take a different view of the Fade, since they do not enter it; therefore, it features far less in their mythology than it does with the elves and humans.
According to the Chantry, the Fade is a realm of primeval matter from which the Maker formed our world and all living beings. When the living die, their souls pass through what is called the Veil and into this realm. Those who have lived good lives and have earned the Maker’s forgiveness move beyond the Fade and from there journey to join the Maker. Those who remain out of the Maker’s sight, however, enter the Fade and are lost, returning to the ether from which they were formed. The mages declare that there is no proof to substantiate the Chantry’s claim, as no dead soul has ever been witnessed to enter the Fade. It is an eternal debate between the Chantry and the Circle of Magi, made all the more difficult because the Chantry requires that its position be accepted as a matter of faith.
Requiring less faith is the fact that those who sleep actually do send their consciousness into the Fade. The benign spirits native to the Fade anticipate this, and they have shaped the Fade into various realms that cater to the unconscious desires of the living, providing experiences to the sleeping that become their “dreams.” Only those mages who have learned to enter the Fade through the use of lyrium remain lucid in this state, able to separate dream from reality. When the souls of the dreaming are harmed or “killed,” they return immediately to their sleeping bodies and awaken before the moment of death. Only mages using lyrium are truly at danger in the Fade, for the lyrium that keeps their conscious mind in the Fade also prevents them from returning to their bodies at the moment of death.
The various realms ruled by the spirits fluctuate according to the movement of the dreamers. Those realms that the dreamers flock to become very powerful and in turn rise in the spiritual hierarchy to rule great portions of the Fade, while other memories and concepts, things that in the real world have been forgotten, slowly ebb in power until they drift away back into the ether forever, the spirits who ruled them losing all potency. The only constant part of the Fade lies at its heart—a black city with twisted spires that can be seen from any point in the Fade. This city—so Chantry lore goes—was once a beautiful golden city that was home to the Maker and the spirits, his first creations. When the Maker abandoned the great city, he expelled his spirits from it, and it sat locked and empty until the Tevinter magisters entered it and corrupted it with their sin. The magisters were turned into the first darkspawn, and the city became what it is today: a ruin of darkness and shadow that taints those spirits foolish enough to draw too close. It remains locked, awaiting the day the Maker forgives mankind and returns, removing the sin in the Black City and thereby destroying the darkspawn forever.
*** Demons ***
The Maker’s first creations were the spirits, beings whose very bodies were formed from the ether and who most closely resembled the Maker in every way. They were glorious beings that populated the many spires of the Golden City, and the Chant of Light says that they revered the Maker with unquestioning devotion. The Maker, however, was dissatisfied. Though the spirits were like him in that they could manipulate the ether and create from it, they did not do so. They had no urge to create, and even when instructed to do so possessed no imagination to give their creations ingenuity or life.
The Maker realized his own folly: He had created the spirits to resemble him in all but the one and most important way: They did not have a spark of the divine within them and thus would never be the children he desired. He expelled all the spirits out of the Golden City and into the Fade and proceeded to his next creation: life.
The Maker created the world and the living beings upon it, separated them from the Fade by the Veil. His new children would be unable to shape the world around them and thus would need to struggle to survive. In return for their struggle, the Maker gifted them with the spark of the divine, a soul, and he watched with pleasure as his creations flourished and showed all the ingenuity that he had hoped for.
The spirits grew jealous of the living and coaxed them back into the Fade when they slept. They wished to know more of them, hoping to find a way to regain the Maker’s favor. Through the eyes of the living, they experienced new concepts: love, fear, pain, and hope. The spirits reshaped the Fade to resemble the lives and concepts that they saw, each spirit desperately trying to bring the most dreamers to their own realm so they could vicariously possess the spark of the divine through them.
As the spirits grew in power, however, some of them became contemptuous of the living. These were the spirits that saw the darkest parts of the dreamers. Their lands were places of torment and horror, and they knew that the living were strongly drawn to these places that mirrored those dark parts of themselves. These spirits questioned the Maker’s wisdom and proclaimed the living inferior. They learned from the darkness they saw and became the first demons.
Rage, hunger, sloth, desire, and pride, these are the dark parts of the soul that give demons their power, the hooks they use to claw their way into the world of the living. It was demons that whispered into the minds of men, convincing them to turn from the Maker and worship false gods. They seek to possess all life as their due, forging kingdoms of nightmare in the Fade in the hopes of one day storming the walls of heaven itself.
And the Maker despaired once again, for he had given the power of creation to his new children—and in return they had created sin.