- 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)
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.
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 CityEdit
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.
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.
- Plural: Teyrns
- Female: Teyrna
“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.
- Plural: Arls
- Female: Arlessa
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.
- Plural: Banns (or “Bannorn,” see below)
- Female: Bann
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.
- Plural: Knights
- Female: 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 ClassEdit
The Crafting ClassEdit
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.
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).
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 WardensEdit
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 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.