Pathfinder (Dragon Age Setting)
Most of what we know about the founding of our nation comes from old songs that the bards passed down through the Ages. The songs are filled with wild exaggerations and outright lies, but this hardly differs from the scholarly papers of some of my contemporaries. There is no agreement among poets or scholars on how he did it, but Calenhad gained the support of the Circle of Magi, and they crafted for him a suit of silvery white armor that, by all accounts, repelled both arrow and blade. Calenhad led his army across the valley and captured Redcliffe—one of only three men who ever successfully laid siege to that fortress—and presented himself to the banns of the Landsmeet as their king.
The poets tell us that every lord knelt before Calenhad without question. The fact that he attended the Landsmeet surrounded by Ash Warriors and loyal mages of the Circle is generally omitted from the ballads, however.
From Calenhad came the line of Theirin kings and queens who reigned, uninterrupted, until the 44th year of the Blessed Age, when the Orlesian invasion came. The rightful king was forced to flee Denerim, and for 70 years a puppet sat upon the throne.
Ferelden is a kingdom in southeastern Thedas. It was conquered by Orlais a century ago, when King Darlan ruled, but was freed through the efforts of King Maric Theirin, grandson of King Brandel. Maric’s son, King Cailan Theirin, is the ruler as of the start of Dragon Age: Origins.
The climate of Ferelden appears to be temperate, and Ferelden along with Thedas itself is located in the southern hemisphere.
“The Fereldans are a puzzle. As a people, they are one bad day away from reverting to barbarism. They repelled invasions from Tevinter during the height of the Imperium with nothing but dogs and their own obstinate disposition. They are the coarse, willful, dirty, disorganized people who somehow gave rise to our prophet, ushered in an era of enlightenment, and toppled the greatest empire in history.”
“One can assume a few things in dealing with these people: First, they value loyalty above all things, beyond wealth, power, and reason. Second, although few things in their country are remarkable to outsiders, they are extremely proud of their accomplishments. Third, if one insults their dogs, they are likely to declare war. And finally, one has underestimated Fereldans when he thinks he has come to understand them.” — Empress Celene I of Orlais
Like many countries in Thedas, Ferelden has a large population of elves who are segregated from the rest of society and live in walled off alienages. Most elves working there are unable to achieve high paying jobs, but many elves feel that, in alienages, they are at least among family who look out for each other.
The Mabari War Dog
Often visitors and travelers to Ferelden ask the residents and scholars to explain the omnipresence of dogs in Ferelden. In every civilized corner of Thedas, astute observers note that dogs are employed in hunting game, keeping barns and storehouses free of vermin, herding livestock, guarding homes, and, in the mountains, they are even used as beasts of burden. It is simply that Fereldans show appreciation for the work that their dogs do. The reason for that is tangled up in mythology.
Hafter, the first Fereldan to be named teyrn, was the hero who united the Fereldans’ ancestors, the Alamarri, to drive back the darkspawn of the Second Blight. He was also reputed to be the son of a werewolf. This was perhaps meant to be some comment on his temperament or simply a way of making a great man even larger than life, but more than half the noble families of Ferelden claim to be his descendants. Thus many of the Fereldan people believe they have some distant kinship with wolves; and it is, after all, only good manners to be polite to one’s kin.
To its neighbors, Ferelden seems utterly chaotic. Unlike other monarchies, power does not descend from their throne. Rather, it arises from the support of the freeholders.
They also have a extreme dislike for the Orleisians due to their treatment of native Fereldans during the occupation.
The Landsmeet is a council of the entire Fereldan nobility, which has been held for three thousand years – with the occasional interruption by war, occupation, or Blight. During the Landsmeet, it is expected that the current monarch of Ferelden will mingle with, and curry favor from, the nobility.
An important milestone in the history of the Landsmeet, and of Ferelden itself, was the Landsmeet forced by King Calenhad Theirin in the 33rd year of the Exalted Age. After mysteriously gaining the support of the Circle of Magi, Calenhad marched on and defeated Redcliffe – forcing a Landsmeet where the nobles unanimously submitted to him as king. This marked the birth of modern-day Ferelden and began the Theirin line of royalty from which Ferelden Kings have descended – the primary interruption caused by the Orlesian invasion and occupation.
All nobility may be referred to as ‘lordship/ladyship’ or ‘my lord/lady’ when not using their title. This is also the correct term for their spouse.
The term for any land-owner in Ferelden. A few commoners are freeholders.
A male or female knight of the realm. Also commonly used as a polite term of address to and by those of equal or greater status than oneself. (For example, “No, ser,”)
Each freehold chooses the bann or arl to whom it pays allegiance. Typically, this choice is made based on proximity of the freehold to the lord’s castle, as it’s rarely worthwhile to pay for the upkeep of soldiers who will arrive at your land too late to defend it. For the most part, each generation of freeholders casts their lot with the same bann as their fathers did, but things can and do change. No formal oaths are sworn, and it is not unheard of, especially in the prickly central Bannorn, for banns to court freeholders away from their neighbors, a practice that inevitably begins feuds that can last for ages.
There are currently nine known bannorns in Ferelden: Amaranthine City, Dragon’s Peak, Oswin, Lothering, Rainesfere, River Dane, Waking Sea, West Hill, and White River.
The teyrns established the arls, giving them command of strategic fortresses that the teyrns could not oversee themselves. They are somewhat more prestigious than banns but – with the known exception of the Arl of Amaranthine – traditionally have no banns sworn to them.
There are currently five known arlings in Ferelden: Amaranthine, Denerim, Redcliffe, South Reach and West Hills
Teyrns arose from among the banns, war leaders who, in antiquity, had grown powerful enough to move other banns to swear fealty to them. There were many of these in the days before King Calenhad, but he succeeded in whittling them down to only two: Gwaren in the south and Highever in the north. These teyrns still hold the oaths of banns and arls. They may call upon them in the event of war or disaster and they are responsible for defending those sworn to them. The title is likely analogous to the real world English title of Duke.
Teyrns are referred to as “your Grace,” a form imported by the Orlesians.
The king is the most powerful of the teyrns. Although Denerim was originally the teyrnir of the king, it has since been reduced to an arling, as the king’s domain is now all of Ferelden. However, even the king’s power must come from the banns.
This is especially evident during the Landsmeet, an annual council for which the nobles of Ferelden gather. It has been held for almost three thousand years with only a few interruptions for Blights and invasions. The sight of a king asking for, and working to win the support of “lesser” men is a source of constant wonder to foreign ambassadors.
A king or queen is referred to as “your Majesty”, while a prince or princess is called “your Highness.”
Origin of Titles
The titles ser, bann, and teyrn originate in Ferelden. Calenhad, the first teyrn to unite the Clayne tribes into a single nation, borrowed arl and king from neighboring states.
Fereldans are mostly patrilineal, but there’s no firm rule that dictates who rules the household. Fereldans are willful and their families tend to be managed by whoever can. Usually, the oldest child inherits the majority of the property regardless of gender, but there are some cases where a younger brother or sister is named the heir simply because he or she seems more capable.
Alamar is a city in Ferelden, though not located on the main land. Alamar is acutally located on a small island at the mouth of the Waking Sea. Due to its proximity to Brandel’s Reach, a rocky island commonly occupied by raiders, Alamar is not "considered a prime place to live.
The City of Amaranthine is located north of Denerim on the coast of the Waking Sea.
Outside of Ferelden, the city of Amaranthine is now synonymous with the arling herself, but before the Orlesian invasion, it was only a modest fishing village despite a deep port well-suited to commerce. At that time, few other kingdoms had any need to trade with the Ferelden “barbarians”.
The city changed rapidly when the Orlesians came. They built temporary docks to accommodate ships packed with chevaliers, and for a time, Amaranthine was the capital of occupied Ferelden. The bann of Amaranthine became one of the wealthiest nobles in the kingdom, as goods like wool were leeched from the city’s swollen ports.
During the liberation, the fleeing Orlesians looted the city but left it otherwise unscarred. She recovered quickly. Ironically, Amaranthine’s current prosperity is the legacy of Orlesian occupation. Do not share that opinion with the locals, mind.
Denerim is the capital of Ferelden. Denerim is also considered a holy city to worshippers of Andraste, as it is the place of her birth. Denerim was originally the teyrnir of the king, but since the king’s domain is supposed to be all of Ferelden, it has been reduced to an arling. Home of both nobility and the common people, this sprawling city has much to offer the adventurer, with its market place, magic shops, armorers and bordellos. However, one cannot let one’s eye rest on a single place for too long, lest a back alley brawler or thief cut one’s purse strings, or one’s throat.
Originally Denerim began as an outpost of the ancient Tevinter Imperium. Its mages rose up a dark tower from the side of a mountain, a symbol of the Imperium’s power. As the Imperium faded, the tower passed to the hands of the teyrns that ruled the region for a millennium. Today that tower still stands as Fort Drakon, immediately recognizable to any ship that approaches the rocky coast. The city that has sprung up around it has almost been carved out of the side of the mountain it rests on, and during the Dragon Age, its population has grown beyond the city’s ability to cope. The cramped districts, joined to each other by a network of bridges, are built one almost on top of the other. The narrow streets of the Lower Docks have an almost labyrinthine quality, and the walled-off elven Alienage is so overpopulated that several purges have been required to keep order in the last decade alone. "To the rest of the world, Denerim is most famous as the birthplace of Andraste. In typical Fereldan fashion, however, the monument erected to the prophet in the Palace District is unassuming – a great rock adorned with a simple message of peace. Worshipers come from far and wide to touch the Birth Rock and issue a quiet and respectful prayer. This is how things are done in Denerim, and the locals would have it no other way.
Haven is a small village in the Frostback Mountains in Ferelden. It is not marked on most maps and is widely unheard of. Privacy is very important to the villagers of Haven and they do not welcome strangers kindly. While traditions in larger, less remote and more welcoming parts of Ferelden grew and evolved over time, Haven’s intense privacy concerns means that they practice older traditions, specifically religious ones, that now seem strange to outsiders. For example, they have a male priest, which is not a convention allowed in the Chantry.
Gwaren is a major, but remote town in Ferelden, described as being a “rough town full of loggers and fishermen”. Loghain is the appointed Teyrn and it is one of the last two Teyrnirs in Ferelden, the other being Highever.
Its heraldic device is a yellow wyvern.
During the rebellion against the Orlesian usurper Meghren, more than thirty years before the Fifth Blight, Gwaren was retaken by the rebel army, which was led by King Maric Theirin. Afterwards, it became the rebel headquarters. Yet, after the rebel’s disastrous attack on West Hill they retreated there and the usurper laid siege to the town. Sometime later, Maric returned to Gwaren through the Deep Roads though rumor said that he had risen from the dead. Upon hearing about Maric’s return and believing the rumor, the townspeople rose in open rebellion against the usurper. The combined strength of the townspeople and Maric’s forces were enough to defeat the usurper’s forces, though not before half of the town’s population were slain and the town set ablaze. After the war, Maric made Loghain Teyrn of Gwaren.
Situated on the north coast of Ferelden, Highever is the ancestral home of the Couslands and one of only two Teyrnirs left in Ferelden.
The heraldic device of Highever are two green spears crossed in front of a pale green raindrop. The heraldic device of the ruling Cousland family is a laurel wreath, which resembles two white wings.
Castle Highever has existed since the Divine Age, making it somewhere around 800 – 850 years old. Originally an outpost of the then-expanding Amaranthine Bannorn, it was ruled by the Elstan family, cousins of the Howe noble family. During the Tower Age (approximately 300 years later), however, Bann Conobar Elstan was allegedly murdered by his wife, Flemeth, which ended the bloodline. Conobar’s Captain of the Guard, Sarim Cousland, acquired land and title, which the Cousland family has controlled ever since.
Subsequently, the Couslands declared their independence from the Amaranthine, and instigated a war that lasted for thirty years. When the war finally ended, Highever was not only granted independence, but also half of what used to be southwestern Amaranthine.
During the Black Age, Highever became a teyrnir almost by default after the ruling Cousland (scholars disagree as to whether this was Mather or Haelia Cousland) battled, and defeated, the werewolf threat encroaching upon the land.
In the present, Highever is one of only two teyrnirs, the other being Gwaren, granting the Cousland family power and influence second only to the King.
Honnoleath was a small town in southeast Ferelden that was raised by darkspawn during the last Blight.
Lothering is a village north of Ostagar, located on The West Road. Historically, Lothering was little more than a trading post serving the fortress of Ostagar to the south. In present times, however, it supplies goods to Redcliffe Village and the community of merchants and surface dwarves outside of Orzammar. It has recently become the home of many refugees escaping the darkspawn horde approaching from the Korcari Wilds. Either as a result of the current turmoil or religious duty, Lothering has a modest presence of the Chantry and their Templars.
Following the defeat of the King at Ostagar, Lothering was hit hard by Darkspawn, and was wiped out. Templars, soldiers and even rag-tag groups of bandits helped to defend fleeing refugees when the assault began.
Several years later, after the defeat of the Archdemon, settlers drifted back into the village, and Elder Miriam and the village council rebuilt Lothering slowly. A new Chantry was constructed, with a shrine dedicated to the Hero of Ferelden, along with the countless others who gave their lives defending Ferelden against the Blight.
Sitting on the western shore of Lake Calenhad, the village of Redcliffe is so named for the reddish hues of the cliffs that tower above it. A path leads up into the hills and across a bridge to an island where the ancient Castle Redcliffe has stood far longer than the village itself.
Redcliffe is located in the western hills of Ferelden. It once served as a strategic point between Orzammar and Ferelden when the humans of Ferelden feared dwarven invasion. The village around the castle grew until the arling was as much a powerful settlement as anything ruled by a teyrn. The heraldric symbol for Redcliffe is a tower on a red cliff.
In the years that followed the Blight, the Bannorn increasingly looked to the Arl for guidance and leadership. It was speculated that if this continued, Redcliffe may be a western rival to Denerim.
Located on the northern coast of the Waking Sea, West Hill is a fortress once used as a look-out point against marauding corsairs. When the threat of corsairs began to fade, it was partially abandoned and many of its watchtowers remain unmanned to this day. While West Hill is capable of holding thousands of people, it is usually only manned by a few hundred. Mostly abandoned, a majority of the fortress has been converted to storage. Many passages are long forgotten, dusty and dark, and anyone who wanders into them stands the risk of becoming lost inside.
West Hill was the site where King Maric’s forces suffered an almost complete loss during the campaign to restore the rightful heir to the throne of Ferelden. This was due to a spy infiltrating the king’s camp and tricking him into thinking that an attack against West Hill would be a major victory against the usurper, King Meghren.
West Hill is presided over by Bann Franderel.
Representing the furthest point of encroachment by the ancient Tevinter Imperium 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 in order for the Wilders to reach the fertile lowlands of the north and proved to be exceedingly difficult for the Wilders to attack due to its naturally defensible position. Like most other 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 nation of Ferelden, fell to ruin completely.
It has remained unmanned for centuries, though most of the walls still stand, as does the Tower of Ishal, named after the great Archon that ordered its construction. Ostagar remains a testament to the magical power of the Tevinter Imperium that created it.
The Grey Warden base at Soldier’s Peak was built in the middle of the Glory Age, several decades after the second Blight was ended. Warden-Commander Gaspar Asturian desired a fortified headquarters where his forces could train and live. The defeat of the archdemon Zazikel was fresh in the minds of the Fereldan people, and many were willing to donate gold to build Commander Asturian’s fortress. Soldier’s Peak was fully completed within 10 years, and dedicated to the Maker in 2:34 Glory.
This Stronghold is now abandoned due to the death of almost all of Ferelden’s Grey Wardens during the The Fifth Blight and the battle for Denerim against Arch Demon Urthemiel.(aka “The Dragon of Beauty”.)
The Circle Tower-
Also known as Kinloch Hold, is the home of the Fereldan Circle of Magi.
Located in the middle of Lake Calenhad, this tower is home to the Circle of Magi. This is where mage apprentices go to learn how to become proper mages. It is here that they learn various spells, as well as how to deal with demons who might try to take control of the mages body, to create abominations.
A hamlet on the lake shore operates a ferry to the tower, but visitors are few and far between. Most who come to the Circle Tower now come either to learn magic or to warily watch over those who would learn.
More commonly referred to as the Tower of the Circle of Magi or the Circle Tower, Kinloch Hold existed long before the Circle of Mages did. This tower was built by the Avvars with some help from the dwarves and stood mighty for a long time. It was thought of as impregnable until the Tevinter Imperium succeeded in driving the Avvars from it in what was to be a brutal campaign. As a result, the tower gained a bad reputation and was thought to be cursed until the Circle of Magi assumed control of it in 3:87 Towers Age.
The Cricle Tower is run by First Enchanter Irving and his Senior Enchanters Leorah, Sweeney, Torrin, and Wynne.
All mages, including First Enchanter Irving are watched over by Knight-Commander Greagoir and his High-Templar Tavish, Harrith, Bryant and Otto.
The waters of Lake Calenhad are steeped in legends. The Avvar people say that it was once the site of Belenas, the mountain which stood at the center of the world, from which Korth the Mountain Father surveyed the earth and sky. But it was destroyed in the battle between Korth and the serpent Nathramar, leaving only a vast crater behind. When the Lady of the Skies saw that Belenas was gone, she wept, and her tears filled the crater, making the lake.
The Tevinters believed that the waters of Lake Calenhad were blessed by Razikale, god of mysteries, and that those who drank from them were granted special insights. This was why they built the great tower on an island in the middle of the lake, hoping the powers of the lake would aid their magical research.
But most of us know the legend of King Calenhad, which gives the place its name. It is said that Calenhad Theirin spent a year and a day in the Tower of the Magi. Each day, he drew a single cup full of water from the lake and carried it to the Formari at the top of the tower. By magic, each cup of water was forged into a single ring of the mail armor the Circle gave to Calenhad. In that armor, made from the lifeblood of the land itself, no blade could strike him, no arrow pierce him, so long as he stood on Fereldan soil.