Dragon Age: Shadows of the Blight
History of Ferelden
The country of Ferelden rests for to the southeast of the continent of Thedas. It is a wide and barbarous nation, populated by a fiercely proud folk who’ve only just begun to “civilize” within the last few centuries. The Fereldans are a martial people who value loyalty and honor far more than mere material goods. They are the descendants of the Alamarri, a warlike culture of fractious barbarian tribes that lived for battle. The Alamarri followed powerful warlords known as “banns” into near constant struggle with their fellow tribes, as each bann sought to widen his territory and influence. The history of the Alamarri is written with the blood of great champions who rose to immense power and wide dominion, only to have their legacies and tribes torn apart with their deaths.
The Alamarri were an animistic people, who worshiped a wide variety of nature gods. Most sacred of all creatures was the wolf, which they believed was created by the gods to be both a guide and protector for mankind. Promising young Alamarri warriors were paired off with cubs, and wolves were afforded as much honor as the greatest fighters when they fell in battle. There is a dark side to the old tales, though. One legend states that a wolf betrayed his master to evil gods in exchange for the power to walk in the man’s shape. The resulting creature could not hide the beast in his heart when he dwelt among men, nor the man within when he tried to find a place among animals. Thus was the werewolf born, scorned by all creatures, hating both men and wolves alike. Regardless of the truth of the old tales, the Alamarri were indeed long plagued by werewolves till at last all the tribes joined in battle against their hated common foe. They were victorious, slaughtering their shape changing foes and driving the last of them into the forests where a few folk whisper they lurk still.
In modern times, the Fereldans still face two enemies born of the Alamarri. Several centuries after their ancestors first came into Ferelden, a great civil war rose among the tribes that caused one large faction to break away from the Alamarri. The rebels eventually became known as the Avvarian hillsmen, a bloodthirsty offshoot of an already fierce people. Despite their brutality, the Avvars were gradually pushed high into the Frostback Mountains where they dwell still, nursing their ancient bitter grudge against their kin. They cling to the old ways, worshiping the nature gods that they once shared with the Alamarri and despising “lowlanders” as blasphemous weaklings softened by the trappings of civilization. While the Avvars are comparatively few in number, they are fell warriors, hardened by their harsh lives. Their winter raids, though rare, are still greatly feared by all Ferelden.
When the first Alamarri first passed into Ferelden from the distant west, some moved into the swampy forest vastness and the tundra beyond it to the south now known as the Korcari Wilds. These folk became known as the Chasind wilders, a strange twisted people plagued by dark desires. The old tales state that after “countless winters” had passed since they parted from the other tribes of the Alamarri, the Chasind invaded the lands to the north accompanied by “white shadows” and twisted swamp creatures. They conquered the Alamarri for a time, though many of the tales dispute this period lasted or even if the valley tribes were ever truly subjugated, before the Alamarri slaughtered the Chasind shamans who had called up the shadows with their magic, and drove their warriors back to the south. Over a millennium later, the legendary with Flemeth rose as a terrible power amidst the Chasind. Her daughters, the Korcari witches, led an army of wilders and other, more terrible things, against the north. They were all but unopposed until the hero Cormac led an army of Alamarri fighters and Orzammar dwarves against Flemeth’s army. After a long series of dreadful battles, the Chasind were all but destroyed, and the witches burned. To the eye the Ferelden eye the south warily, regarding the Chasind with suspicion and hatred.
Arguably, the Alamarri’s most impressive achievement was withstanding the armies of the Tevinter Imperium. The Imperium was once considered the greatest power in Thedas and all nations save one were forced to bow before its sorcerous might. Even as the Imperium was reach the very height of its supermacy, for close to two centuries the Alamarri and their allies thwarted its campaigns across the Frostback range to conquer the barbarians of Ferelden.
Three times the Tevinter nearly succeeded, pressing farther and farther in Ferelden’s interior before being pushed back beyond the mountains. All three times the Alamarri united with the Avvars and the Chasind to drive the Imperium back, the only points in their long histories that the three peoples stood together against a common enemy. On the fourth, and what was destined to be final, push of their advance into Ferelden, the Tevinter successfully held the western half of the valley long enough to build several fortresses and extend the Imperial Highway, which was designed to allow for quick deployment of troops and supplies. The renowed fortress Ostagar was built in the far south to watch for the coming of the Chasind and its mortar was so reinforced with magic that legend holds nothing will ever tear it down completely.
The Tevinter’s success came at a high price. While they remained entrenched, they were subject to near constant raids, their supplies eternally rationed. Rumors slipped back into the Imperium of the fierce and unrelenting blood thirst of the southern barbarians. Being posted to Ferelden was soon looked upon as a punishment, exile, and likely a death sentence. The Tevinter managed to maintain a presence in Ferelden for well over a century, but their hold was ever tenuous. At last, a cunning barbarian hero figured out a way to defeat the supposedly impregnable defenses of Ostagar. His name and identity have been lost, so that even today, the Avvars, Chasind and Ferelden (as the descendants of the Alamarri) all claim him as one of theirs; the histories, oral and written, simply refer to him as the Bane of Ostagar. With the fall of their greatest fortress in Ferelden, the will of the Tevinter to stay was broken. Though many bloody battles were fought before the were sped on their way, they retreated beyond the Frostbacks at last, never to return…
For the First Blight had come to Thedas.
The Chantry, the Church of the Prophetess, teaches that the hubris of men brought the Blights and darkspawn upon the world. A group of mages sought to “breach Heaven itself” and were cast forth from the higher realms, twisted by the foulness in their own hearts into terrible creatures, the first of the darkspawn. These monsters crept into the deep places of the world, taking some of the tunnels of the dwarven kingdoms as their own. Drawn by whispers in the dark, they found Dumat, one of the Old Gods-an ancient dragon slumbering in the depths. By unholy rituals they released him, now transformed into a terrible creature known as an archdemon, to make war upon the world. It has been thus, ever since. During a Blight, the world itself seemed poisoned by the advance of massive numbers of darkspawn, which come in many forms, each more terrible than the last. The earth withers, rivers foul, and the sky itself turns an ashen hue as a Blight advances. Each Blight is caused by the rise of an archdemon to lead the usually fractious hordes of the darkspawn.
The First Blight arose beneath the Tevinter Imperium and laid it waste, but the Ferelden valley was all but untouched by the devastation. It was almost two centuries before members of the order known as the Grey Wardens slew Dumat at the Battle of the Silent Plains in southern Tevinter. The First Blight was ended, but the Tevinter Imperium lay in near ruins.
In Ferelden, the Prophetess Andraste beheld the Maker, who charged her with bringing his teachings to his children. Mankind was to turn away from false gods, corruption, and dark magic. Andraste’s most passionate supporter and her husband, the Alamarri chieftain Maferath, united all the tribes under his rule and his wife’s spiritual leadership. The two convinced their people that the time had come to topple the Tevinter and they set out across the Waking Sea with an army great enough to do so. The Tevinter gathered all of their remaining forces to stop the Alamarri horde and it was almost enough to destroy the barbarians, but for a slave revolt amidst the Imperium’s underclass and slaves-elves for the most part-who had heard of Andraste’s teachings. At the Battle of Valarian Fields, the Tevinter’s greatest force was routed and Maferath conquered southern Tevinter. The Prophetess, however, was captured by Imperial agents and executed. Ten years to the day after Andraste’s execution, the Archon of Tevinter his conversion to her beliefs and announced that her husband, in his jealousy of her growing stature, was the instrument of the Prophetess’s betrayal. Maferath had arranged for a truce with the Tevinter in exchange for Andraste’s death. The Alamarri abandoned Maferath en masse to return to Ferelden and the south fell once more into centuries of martial chaos.
It was many long years before the legendary Hafter, the first Teyrn of Ferelden, brought any measure of peace to the Alamarri. He led the people in many battles against the darkspawn during the Second Blight and secured a long period of relative peace. Hafter’s grandson Caedmon was the original warlord who attempted to declare himself King of Ferelden. Though he did not succeed, he did establish the Andrastian Chantry as the official religion of Ferelden. After another three centuries of bloodshed and many bleak times, the great warrior Calenhad finally defeated all other claimants to the throne and was crowned King of Ferelden by the Chantry. King Calenhad opened Denerim, the capital city, to trade with other nations.
Several strife-filled centuries passed before the Empire of Orlais succeed in invading Ferelden. While Denerim was eventually sacked, King Brandel waged a guerilla war against the usurpers for decades before falling. His daughter, the Rebel Queen, spent her entire life fighting the Orlesian occupiers. It is her son, Maric, who at last retook the throne and drove the Orlesians from Ferelden entirely. King Maric’s rule is considered the beginning of a golden age for Ferelden. Showing that he held no grudges, Maric signed a peace treaty with the young Empress Celene of Orlais when she visited Denerim.
It has been ten years since the treaty. King Maric has died, leaving the throne to Cailan, his only son. Ferelden is reckoned an up-and-coming power on the world stage, many believe that after long centuries with nary a darkspawn seen, a Fifth Blight has now begun, for the dark ones have seemingly returned in force to Ferelden.