So here, in story form, are the premises of an AU crossover idea I have been turning over in my head for some time. Based more on the TV -show than the books since the TV show is in my estimation more likely to be finished one of these days, and also simpler in structure, thus easier to adapt to my purposes. For the same reason I don't expect to begin writing until both storylines complete. For time reference it is to be assumed that the War of the Five Kings and the events of Dragon Age Inquisition (in this fluff Known as the Breach War) happened at the same time. Reviews, comments and suggestions are appreciated. Enjoy!
Of the Peoples, Nations and Cultures of Thedas & their relations with Westeros and Essos by Maester Orthon.
Within these pages are described the newest of the territories of the world to be discovered by the Maesters of the Citadel, namely the lands of Thedas, the events that lead to their discovery, their effects on local politics and an introduction to their customs and culture. It is my supreme hope that in time this book shall be the defining work on Thedosian exploration, and that it shall guide those yet uninitiated to the wonders of this faraway continent in the future.
So how to begin such a monumental undertaking? Perhaps by describing the events of our native Westerosian history that preceded the arrival of these new people. All know of the legendary battle of Nightfall, although few survivors of that battle agree to share their experiences of those events and the only reliable accounts of the battle come from the pen of the current Maester of Castle Black, Maester Samwell. All know the tale of how the combined forces of Daenerys Targaryen, returning queen of Westeros (and holder of so many titles it would be impractical to recite them all here) and (as he was known at this time in history) king in the North Jon Snow, also known as the White Wolf, stood against the dread White Walkers, their king and their undead legions, ultimately securing victory through great cost to the realm and numberless tragedies for all involved. Soon after the battle of Nightfall both leaders met on neutral ground at the castle of Riverrun. There they signed the treaty of Riverrun, agreeing to a reorganization of the Seven Kingdoms between each other. King Jon would rule the North, while Queen Daenerys would reign in the South. The narrowest point of the neck became the border between their territories. So it was that the Seven Kingdoms became the Twin Kingdoms of today. While the Twin kingdoms are formally separate territories ruled by two different monarchs, it could be said that there is only one kingdom with two rulers, since a decree made by one of the kingdoms is usually followed by a similar decree made by the other kingdom. By a formal treaty of defense the two kingdoms are also to aid one another in the event of conflict.
Many changes followed this historic reformation of Westeros. The death of several noble houses in the war of the five kings and subsequent conflicts created a power vacuum to be filled. The rulers of the Twin Kingdoms took advantage of the situation and brought large swathes of land under the direct control of their respective crowns. New noble houses were created to replace those that had been lost. To prevent a civil war as destructive as the war of the five kings had been, territories of nobles were divided into smaller units with the crown being the immediate next link in command, rather than powerful old families, that could plot to steal the throne with their powerful armies. In the south kingdom there were plans to create a royal army with the Unsullied forces at its heart. In similar manner the Ironborn became the source of the royal navy under their Queen, Yara Greyjoy. With the wake of reforms arrived also new, less planned powers. There were those who saw opportunity in great changes and founded their own houses with their own lords, building their foundations on wealth, trade and powerful armies bought by that wealth, rather than legacies and historical justifications. While many despise these new powers, it could also be said that they are more honest than any old house in their justification to rule. Among themselves they are known as the new houses, among their enemies and the majority of the Twin Kingdoms they are known as the upstart houses. The first such house to be created was House Kronos led by lord Andharr claiming for themselves many of the territories of the northern Riverlands through absorbing, defeating or forming alliances with their rivals. Soon after their offshoot family house Blackstar claimed holdings in the southern Riverlands in similar fashion. Many other upstart houses have risen since though none quite so powerful. The exact details of the upstart houses sigils, banners, words and histories are depicted in Maester Harimonds wonderfully detailed book "The New shields". While powerful, all leaders of upstart houses are lords only through their own proclamation, since both of the Twin kingdoms have thus far refused to acknowledge their claims to titles, fearing as they have the upsetting of an already delicate political balance. Many would think then that the Twin kingdoms would soon act against those who presume to hold lands without the proper titles, but this is not so. While occasionally brazen in their actions, all upstart houses recognize the sovereignty of the Twin Kingdoms and bow before their rulers. Furthermore, together the upstart houses command sufficient numbers that dislodging them, while potentially possible, would be so costly in terms of manpower as to not be worth the effort. Most of all the upstart families have through trade and commerce brought much wealth to an otherwise bankrupt realm, particularly in recent years. Because of this the Twin Kingdoms quite literally cannot afford to take action against the upstart houses. So it is that peace has held though not with absolute clarity. While some upstart houses are open and rather vocal in their loyalty to the Twin Kingdoms, others are more reserved in their declarations and so remain an unknown factor.
The defeat of the White Walkers also brought about another event of even greater relevance to this book: the Thawing. The lands beyond the wall experienced a significant increase in temperature, enough that the lands of always winter, while still uninhabitable, were no longer locked in yearlong ice and snow. The previously frozen oceans melted enough to allow ships to pass, although the region remained dangerous to travel, with many ships being trapped and crushed between massive ice sheets or becoming lost in the ever shifting channels of freezing water. The thawing also brought an end to the long winters and summers of previous history. Most of us still remember the year of fright, when snows suddenly appeared at the end of the first year after the battle of nightfall, with the whole realm fearing the potential resurgence of the White Walker threat. But the snows retreated after several months, to return next year at roughly the same time. Most members of the Twin Kingdoms approve of this shift to a more predictable, annual change in weather. The northern lords are a notable exception, for them the long, cold winters were their greatest defense against invaders, an advantage that they now have lost. It was not long after the thawing the first Antivan explorers arrived at our shores, and formal contact with the nations of Thedas was established, ending the thousands of years of isolation between us.
Thedas itself is situated far in the north, beyond even the lands of always winter. While the lands of Thedas are in truth a part of our home continent, most consider this land a continent of its own simply because of the vast desolation that separates us. Of Thedas it is said that their lands are so far north that their north has become south. This is a reference to the fact that the northernmost reaches of the region are actually rather warm and temperate, while the southern lands, closer to the lands of always winter, resemble our northern territories, a fact that can surprise a new traveler of these lands. Thedas is also home to many powerful nations and wonders beyond counting. There is the kingdom of Ferelden, whose resident's value loyalty, freedom and the hounds for which they are known for above all other things in life. There is the empire of Orlais, extravagant and powerful in equal measure. There are the Anderfels, a harsh land that breeds a harsh people who never do anything halfway, or so it is said. There is Rivain, unusual and exotic even by the standards of other Thedosian nations. There is Nevarra, fabled for its dragon hunters and their peculiar fascination with death and its trappings. There are the Free Marches, a collection of city – states that are united only by their fierce desire to remain independent. There is Antiva, renowned for its wealth and its deadly guild of assassins, the Antivan Crows. Then there is the Tevinter Imperium, a dread nation of magical power that, while weaker now, could have possibly threatened the ancient empire of Valyria itself at the height of her power. Then there are the stranger empires not of the race of men, some of which live, some of which are long gone but whose presence is still felt and witnessed. There is the mountain kingdom of Orzammar wherein live a short, stocky people called the dwarves that should not be confused with humans of short stature like our current Hand of the Queen Tyrion Lannister. Then there are the Qunari, a horned, grey skinned race that occupy several islands of the northernmost part of Thedas and follow a bizarre philosophy known only as the Qun. The Qunari are said to have come to this part of the world from somewhere else, hinting at lands beyond even the knowledge of Thedosians, proof that the world is far larger and more wondrous than was ever imagined. Then of course there is the race of elves, a lithe people with pointed ears that are said to be the remnants of the kingdom of the Dales that fell almost seven hundred years ago. Thedosian histories speak of a far older elven empire known as Arlathan, where the elves were immortal and possessed magical powers sufficient to alter the very foundations of the world itself. Such power is difficult to fathom, but no doubt such tales suffer from exaggeration and outright fiction. After all, if such an empire really had existed how could it ever have fallen?
An observant reader might wonder how it came to pass that the lands of Thedas were never threatened by the White Walkers or their undead minions. Indeed, the nations of this region were not even aware that such a threat had ever existed, although they have some knowledge of undead creatures of various type, nor is there any record that Thedas would have been troubled by long winters. As to why this is so, there is no definitive answer as of yet. Some believe that the empire of Arlathan might have been aware of the White Walker threat and could have maintained some sort magical defense, similar to the Wall but without a physical obstacle that could have been detected by explorers. This defense could well have outlived the ancient elves themselves, shielding the human nations of Thedas as they took shape. Indeed there are precedents of elven artefacts of magical power surviving in Thedas to this very day, although never in the scale that has been suggested here. Others maintain that the explanation can be found in the evil that the lands of Thedas have tackled with for some time: a twisted, flesh eating race known as the darkspawn. Such might have been the force of both of these evil powers that they might have effectively nullified each other. Many consider this an insufficient explanation, for White Walkers have existed long before there are any records of darkspawn. Still, it is possible that by defeating the White Walkers the Twin Kingdoms have unwittingly opened themselves to another evil force, one that we have no experience in fighting. Others still believed that the Night's King was well aware of the existence of Thedas but chose not to attack the powerful forces in the region until other parts of the world had been dealt with. Whatever the truth might be, the fact remains that Thedas was spared from the darkness that we faced, like we were spared from the terror that threatened them.
Another characteristic and rather alarming feature about the peoples of Thedas is their remarkably natural proficiency in the Higher Mysteries. Whereas in our lands the practice of magic has been a dead art until very recently, in Thedas magic, its applications and its consequences are constantly present, well studied and documented by numerous practitioners. And these are not merely simple illusions and tricks practiced by the clever frauds to cheat the naïve from their purses, oh no. I can personally attest that a Thedosian mage can create great wonders and greater devastation with a simple wave of their hand. Such is the power of their magic that entire empires like Tevinter were built upon its dark promise and special measures had to be taken to prevent a world ruled by tyrannical mage lords. Stories carried from Thedas make frequent mentions of the now extinct order of Templars, warriors trained in the disruption of magic and magical entities, tasked with protecting the mages and keeping them in check, a task partially inherited by the Thedosian Inquisition and the so called Seekers of Truth. And yet most mages in Thedas would claim that they are simple scavengers, thieves poking amidst the bleached bones of the Tevinter of old and the empire of Arlathan, gleaning what knowledge and power they can. Only a few dozen in a thousand children in Thedas are born mages, but this is still a far greater number considered to our lands, where magic is an almost unheard of thing, a collection of bedtime stories and half remembered lore used to frighten children to obedience. Even peoples that are formally unable to cast spells, such as the dwarves, are able to produce artefacts and devices with unusual properties using the ore known as lyrium to imbue these objects with magical power. In Westeros only the upstart house of Redforge has learned anything of lyrium smithing, and even they are forced to rely on imports of lyrium, as this ore does not exist within our lands. This in turn has greatly limited the amount of magical items they can produce as well as the scale and scope of their experimentation upon the substance.
And how did the peoples of Thedas come to acquire this talent for the Higher Mysteries? For this knowledge we are left with what knowledge the mages themselves have learned, and these next statements are what they have told me. Maesters of old might have scoffed at these words as mere delusions and lies, but events of recent history have lent new credence to such claims. I have no choice but to leave it upon the esteemed reader of these words to determine their validity. The mages of Thedas speak of the veil, an unseen barrier that separates the world of mortals from the place they know as the Fade. The Fade, they tell us, is a place of magic, spirits and demons, were mortal souls go when they dream or they die. It is from this Fade that a mage draws his or her power to cast spells. In the lands of Thedas the veil is relatively thin, allowing magical energies to seep through, resulting in a higher rate of mage births and easier access to the power needed for spells. In Westeros and Essos the veil is reportedly much thicker, making all spellcasting an unusually tasking prospect, and limiting the presence of mage births to a handful in every two or three generations, most of whom live ignorant of their abilities, at best attributing their talents to something else entirely, like divine power granted by this or that god. There are at least two notable exceptions to the general strong presence of the veil outside Thedas. First one is the ruins of old Valyria, where the mages tell us the veil does not exist, a place that is a fusion of the fade and the physical world. A mage I once befriended once told me that "the circumstances of old Valyria are about as glaring as a hole in the ocean". The circumstances of the Valyrian peninsula have led the mages to conclude that the Doom might have been a magical cataclysm of some as of yet unknown sort. Another location where the veil is thin is Asshai and the shadow lands, which may be why so many of the spellcasters congregate there. If other such locations exist we Maesters do not know of it, but the mages tell us that such locations can come to be where there is much death or where powerful magic is enacted.
Some have offered another explanation for the extensive number of mages present in Thedas. It is well known that elves possess a deep connection to fade and magic that goes well beyond simple casting of spells. It is known that magical talent is a quality that can be inherited often but not always. It is also known that elf – human couplings are not uncommon, as many humans find elves attractive and pleasing to look at. The births of these couplings are, due to circumstances not fully understood, always born humans, though it is suspected that some features are still inherited from the elven parent. The theory then is that through elven – human interbreeding, magic sensitive blood would have entered into the bloodlines of humans allowing a greater number of mage births. All the while the members of those bloodlines would have looked human, which would have protected them from potential rejection from mainstream human society. Our land on the other hand, being outside the borders of the empire of Arlathan, would have been left with the few mage births that could occur on their own. The study that would be necessary to confirm this theory has not thus far, regrettably, been possible.
As noted earlier, it was the Antivans that first established contact with the Twin kingdoms, followed soon thereafter by trade agreements. Yet the Antivans were not satisfied with trading solely with the Twin Kingdoms, and soon their expeditions brought them to various parts of Essos as well. The city of Bravos in particular became an important trade partner to the antivans and their ships became frequent visitors to their port. After a few years of peaceful trading a coalition of antivan merchant princes formed a pact with the Iron Bank of Bravos, forming a combined military force that became known as the Merchant Marines to safeguard and enforce their interests as well as protect their shipping from raiders, pirates and other opponents. This was the first time in recorded history a Thedosian power entered in to an alliance with a nation outside of Thedas.
The next to arrive were the protector orders of Thedas. The Grey Wardens were the first, arriving in Kings Landing, petitioning to start a base of operations there and to have their order and their rights recognized. This would have included the Right of Conscription, which would have allowed the Grey Wardens to recruit any person to their ranks without question. Queen Daenerys graciously allowed them the base they sought, granting them a compound in Kings Landing, but refused them the Right of Conscription, citing concerns of foreign influences in Westeros. The Grey Wardens have remained a part of our nation ever since, and a number of our citizenry have joined their order since their arrival. The next to arrive were the soldiers of the Inquisition under the orders of their Lord Inquisitor Rydeon Cadash. At first their presence was meager, with a handful of ambassadors and agents spread across the Twin Kingdoms. Then they surprised everyone by arriving at our shores in great numbers, having cut a deal with the Nights Watch. According to this deal the forces of the Inquisition were allowed to occupy the abandoned castles along the wall. In return the Inquisition has offered a pledge to support the Nights Watch against any force that attacked the wall (Although who might possess the strength and boldness to attack the wall without at the same time owning the navy to simply bypass it is anybody's guess), an annual tribute of funds and supplies to the Nights Watch and a garrison of one hundred soldiers to each of the castles still controlled by the Watch. By making this deal with the Watch directly, the Inquisition had simply ignored the monarchs of the Twin Kingdoms, a fact that irritated both leaders to some degree. Indeed had the thrones of our nation been held by more impulsive leaders with less wise council, such disregard for the proper authority might have been cause enough for blows to be traded right then and there. But the Nights Watch had been well within its authority to make such an arrangement, being bound to the service of the realm rather than those that lead it. This combined with respectful manner of Inquisition agents outside this incident and the troubling strength of their forces ensured that peace held despite rather vocal opposition among some of the nobility. Truthfully, the lord of Skyhold must be complimented for his clever understanding of the underlying circumstances in the Twin kingdom. The Grey Wardens had, after all, been allowed in Westeros only reluctantly, and then with restrictions. A larger organization, with more diverse resources and greater ability to create and field armies might have been rejected outright. Regardless, the Eye of the Inquisition now flies proudly on the battlements of the Wall, while the Watch benefits, stronger than it has been for a long, long time. Yet many in the Twin Kingdoms are concerned that the Nights Watch has forgotten its duty to the realm, drifting ever closer to becoming just another arm of the Inquisition.
The Grey Wardens justified their presence through the need to protect the lands against the darkspawn, something they claim only they can do, but why is the Inquisition here in our lands? Since the Inquisition is formally under the control of the Thedosian Divine, many would turn to Victoria I for answers. Yet her Holiness is conspicuously absent from all decision making regarding the Inquisition and has politely deflected all inquiries. Many also have noted that the current Divine was once the seneschal for the Inquisition and ascended to the sunburst throne through the support of none other than the Lord Inquisitor. Because of this many suspect that the Lord Inquisitor, the so called Herald of Andraste, is and remains the true leader of the Inquisition, while the Divine is simply a means to placate those who oppose the Inquisition's growing power. Yet the Lord of Skyhold gives no more answers than the Divine. Therefore we are left with only rumors that the Inquisition is fighting some kind of war with the elves. Yet in many ways these rumors don't make sense. First of all, there are precious few elves in our lands, although some have arrived with merchants and visiting dignitaries. Yet the Inquisition is here in considerable force, as if they really were preparing for war with someone or something. Furthermore the Inquisition has taken no visible action against the elves that are here. That said, there have been incidents seeming to involve both elves and Inquisition forces, rumors of short but bloody skirmishes in the back streets of cities. Yet on closer inspection all evidence connecting the Inquisition to these events seems to disappear in most infuriating manner, as if wiped clean by some unseen force. Could the Inquisition be waging a war so secret that only the actual combatants know of it? Speculation is not usually something a Maester of the Citadel should resort to, but in the face of this elusive mystery I am forced to do just that. Only time will tell if there are answers to be had in this matter.
Whatever their motivations, it is clear the Inquisition has come to stay, and their presence across the land is clearly felt. The fortifications they control have been expanded and modified, so that they can now be easily defended from any approach, not just the north. Their agents are present in most major cities carrying on with their errands for the Inquisition. Their recruiters prowl the lands, recruiting those willing and able to serve to join their Inquisition, a practice that often does not sit well at all with the local lords, who naturally would like to keep those people in their own service, out of spite if nothing else. Despite this the Inquisition has also formed several treaties and pacts with noble families they find agreeable, and it is suspected that many houses secretly owe them allegiance. If this is true then there is no telling what might happen if the Inquisition were to be truly challenged. Perhaps it is fortunate then that the Inquisition seems disinterested in political machinations unless larger circumstances are implicated. The practice of the Inquisition to bypass the nobility and appeal directly to the common folk is actually a symptom of this disinterest, the convenience of not being dragged into the power games of noble houses without cause. For the most part however the presence of the Inquisition has been a peaceful thing, with most disagreements being settled in a mutually satisfactory manner. Only once has there been violence between Inquisition forces and the lords of Westeros. This was the Battle of Black Banners, a clash that will be discussed in further detail elsewhere in this book.
For further information on the Grey Wardens and the Inquisition I recommend Maester Brycen's books "the Grey Brotherhood" and "The Champions of Skyhold". Both books primarily focus on command structures and organization, but have also allotted space for histories as well as a study on equipment and symbolism associated with said organizations.
With the arrival of Thedosians other things also arrived. One of these was their religion, the Chant of Light. This faith has managed to gain surprising amounts of converts after it was brought to our shores. The Maker is a less demanding God than Gods of other belief systems known to us, demanding neither blood sacrifices nor excessive self – purification from their believers. Some acts of dedication are of course required, but this is primarily focused on the various levels of priesthood within the chantry hierarchy itself, with the most demands made of non –priests being the study and understanding of the Chant as well as the tithes collected from those with wealth to spare. This in turn has helped them to gather supporters. Furthermore the Chantry's message of charity has gained much favor among the poor. The women of the realm have also found the chantry hierarchy a useful method of gaining political and religious power for themselves outside their houses and marriages made in the name of power and influence, power that would often be denied them elsewhere. Many women with an independent mindset or ambitions but without a desire for a military career (who instead are often recruited by the protector orders of Thedas), have thus also found their way to the arms of the Chantry. Many lords of the realm have also chosen conversion, either due to genuine belief, or perhaps merely the belief that such an act will ease their dealings with Thedosian powers. In particular many of the upstart houses have embraced the Maker above other potential gods. This is unsurprising, given how many of the upstart houses have built their fortunes on Thedosian gold. The belief in the Maker has steadily increased in popularity and as I now write this a newly built Chantry cathedral stands on the ruins of the destroyed sept of Baelor (much to the horror of the current High Septon) and the chant can be heard even here in Oldtown. Naturally such an aggressively expanding religion has not failed to provoke a response from those who prefer the old faiths, and religious violence has become a frequent problem, although both King Jon and Queen Daenerys are of course doing all they can to prevent such incidents.
The faith in the Maker was not all that was brought with the peoples of Thedas, nor were their visitors solely the respectable members of their society. Pirates and raiders from the Felicisima armada, a pirate syndicate that typically operates in the waters of their native Thedas, soon found their way to the Narrow sea and beyond, their most adventurous coming to seek new lands, new peoples and new plunder. Considering that the seas of Westeros and Essos are already full of pirates and other criminals, these new arrivals have caused a considerable pirate problem, tasking the Merchant Marines and the navy of every nation with access to the sea to the very edge of their capabilities.
After the Antivans, every other human nation in Thedas inevitably brought their presence to this part of the world, exploring the lands and trading with the peoples they found. For a long time contact was complicated by the unreliable approaches of the Shivering Sea. It was the Orlesians under their emperor, Gaspard (who in turn was no doubt guided by the whispers of his trusted advisor, marquis Briala), who sought to solve this problem with what is without a question the largest construction project in modern history: the Corridor. The Corridor is a network of lighthouses anchored to the sea floor with colossal weighed chains and spells. Following the coastline, these structures run from the edge of the Korcari Wilds in southern Ferelden to the lands just on the edge of the Wall. Between themselves these lighthouses maintain a magical barrier that keeps away the ice and the snow and calms the waters, creating a five hundred meter wide safe route between Thedas and the lands beyond. Each lighthouse is coupled with a coastal fortress responsible for the maintenance and defense of the Corridor. These coastal fortresses also house a port to service the Imperial patrol ships operating within the Corridor. The fort closest to our borders, "The Lady's radiance" sits on the ruins of Hardhome, the proud Orlesian spires and battlements defying the dark history of this place.
Any ship that wishes to make use of the Corridor has to pay a toll to the Empire, a cost that an honest merchant without illegal cargo prefers to the dangerous alternative routes. The length of the corridor is considered Orlesian territory, every ship within subject to imperial inspection at their whim, all cargo considered illegal or not properly declared subject to confiscation and disposal (profitable or otherwise) as property of the Empire. It speaks of the lucrative nature of the trade between Thedas and the rest of the world that a project like the Corridor could even be considered a rational venture. Indeed in the beginning many called the emperor a madman and a fool for wasting the resources of his nation on such an extravagant construction project. Yet in the end it seems that it will be the Emperor who will be vindicated in his decision. Most traders and merchants are unwilling to risk more dangerous routes, so most trade in and out of Thedas goes through the corridor. By effectively collecting tax from every nation in the known world, the Corridor is rapidly repaying the investments that went to its construction. Furthermore, the toll demanded by Orlesian authorities is not even, for their own merchants enjoy a considerable discount. This grants their countrymen an advantage in trade that further enriches the Orlesian Empire. The Corridor is also one of the most strategically important locations in the world, since many nations, the Twin Kingdoms included derive great wealth from trade with Thedas. With the Corridor the Orlesians can severely wound the economy of any nation they desire, simply by denying their ships from access to the corridor. Yet the defenses of the Corridor are so formidable that no nation would dare to try to seize the Corridor for their own. Even if a fleet were to overpower the Orlesian ships and their coastal defenses, all the Orlesians would have to do would be to collapse the barrier between any two of their lighthouses. Snow and ice would then rush in as their ally, crushing and trapping enemy ships with abandon. The survivors would be kept from advancing any closer to Thedas, or seizing any more of the Corridor.
Like the emperor wanted, the corridor has become a monument to his reign and symbol of his nation's power. The orlesians tend to call the Corridor "Gaspard's path", while emperor Gaspard himself has gained the title of "Waymaker". His enemies on the other hand have given him another name, calling him the "tollgate emperor", thought never to his face.
Of all the arrivals from Thedas, the coming of the Tevinter Imperium was perhaps the least welcome, at least as far as the Twin Kingdoms were concerned. Unlike the other nations of Thedas, the ships of the Imperium rarely approach our ports, being unwelcome here for their practice of slavery and use of particularly vicious forms of magic. Instead the Imperium has focused primarily on Essos, particularly on cities which practice slavery themselves. Tevinter is known to have an inexhaustible hunger for slaves, and the slaver cities have gained untold wealth from feeding that hunger, receiving in return magical artefacts as well as exotic elven slaves for their own markets. Even in the cities of Slavers Bay the slave trade has quietly reignited, undoing the work Queen Daenerys did in the region during her rise to power. Officially the cities of Slavers Bay deny all involvement, but the signs come more glaring with every passing year: whole villages and towns becoming desolate without explanation and an ever expanding number of ships sailing under the twin serpents of Tevinter, carrying a cargo the ship captains refuse to specify. Tevinter has benefitted greatly from its actions, experiencing something of a renaissance thanks to this trading, expanding in power and beginning once again to dream of a return to the days of the old Imperium. Being such an important customer, the Tevinter Imperium has gained vast influence over the slaver cities, slowly twisting them to vassal nations under their control. These days those cities obey any wish made by the Imperium like it was a sacred command, to be followed at once and to the letter. The Imperium has brought several of their expeditionary legions to Essos to enforce their rule, and Tevinter instructors are training the troops of their vassal cities to standards and equipment they find acceptable, giving the forces of slaver cities discipline and power they usually do not enjoy. As the Imperium's power grows, so too does their arrogance, and each year they become more daring and more open in their activities. All of this has greatly angered Queen Daenerys who, bless her heart, is a known opponent of slavery. For now she can do nothing, for the powers involved are sovereign powers despite her influence on their history, and it is difficult to justify a war when no action has been taken against the Twin Kingdoms. Still, many from peasant to lord and Maester feel that a confrontation between the south kingdom and the Tevinter Imperium is all but inevitable. If the south kingdom goes to war, the north kingdom is sure to follow as their treaties oblige them to. The only question that remains is that when hostilities do break out, can the Imperium's growing power be countered by the Twin Kingdoms. At least for now the standing opinion is that we are not ready for such a burden, for while our leadership is inspired, our nation remains in a state of recovery, still weak from recent conflicts, our coffers empty despite recent trading with Thedosians, bankrupt from debts incurred by prior kings, the strength of our armies spent, our resources depleted, and our people weary of war and suffering.
Despite everything the Tevinter Imperium has not gone completely unopposed. The Dothraki, most of whom chose to return to their own lands after the ascension of Queen Daenerys, have gone to war with the Imperium and their allies out of respect for the Queen that once led them all. However with arms, training and support from the Imperium's own armies, the Slaver cities have begun to repel dothraki incursions more often than not, even achieving a crushing victory against the khalasar of Khal Jorago in the battle of the Shattered Mind not a year ago. Forty thousand dothraki perished in a single battle and the Khal himself was claimed as a trophy by a Magister of Tevinter, his mind broken by a vile spell of blood magic. From Thedas arrived the Qunari in pursuit of their enemy hoping to prevent them from establishing a power base in a foreign land. Their arrival plunged the Narrow Sea to complete chaos. The entire region is now caught in a four way war between the Qunari, the Imperium, the Merchant Marines and the pirates of the Felicisima armada with no end to the war in sight. It is also worth noting that the Qunari approached from the western edge of our continent while most visitors to these lands have come from east. This means that the Qunari know paths to our lands that others do not. The implications of this discovery are still unknown.
So how powerful exactly would the nations of Thedas ever be if war were to ever break out between us and them? In some ways this is still an unknown, at least as far as the Twin Kingdoms are concerned. Certainly Tevinter forces have clashed with the dothraki on several occasions and Orlesians known to occasionally both barter and skirmish with those wildling tribes that chose to return to the lands beyond the wall. These examples are however different peoples that fight their wars far away, fighting them rather differently than we do. It is also unknown if what has been seen is the full representation of what the peoples of Thedas can do in war. For us, the only real battle between us and the arrivals in Thedas was in the Battle of Black Banners. This battle began when Lord Oren of house Redforge grew tired of the Inquisition constantly recruiting their best smiths and soldiers right out from under him and sought to resolve the matter by attacking one of the Inquisition fortifications on the wall. The Inquisition sent out a vanguard force to intercept house Redforge men and the battle took place on the plains before the fortress walls. The battle earned its namesake for the fact that the banners of both faction were black in color, carrying their sigil; for house Redforge a red anvil and a hammer and for the Inquisition their renowned flaming eye – sword symbol. Ultimately this indecisive battle was relatively small in scale, fought by few hundred troops on either side, a skirmish more than anything. Perhaps the battle would have escalated further, but the conflict was interrupted when King Jon rode to the battle site, demanding the cessation of hostilities, threatening to surrender Lord Oren's lands to the Inquisition when he initially refused to lay down arms. Nonetheless this battle remains our most reliable account of how the peoples of Thedas and in particular the Inquisition fight their wars. If nothing more this battle proved that Thedosian forces can stand up to ours and conduct themselves competently on the field of battle.
In addition to the accounts of various battles fought, some conjecture can be drawn based on what is already known about Thedas and its peoples. There are many thigs in war that we and the Thedosians do the same way, but there are certain different aspects as well, aspects that more often than not would grant an advantage to forces of Thedas. One advantage of Thedosian forces is their mostly universal tendency to allow women to fight in their armed forces. This might not seem like much of an advantage, particularly among those of my readers that still cling to the notion that women cannot fight, but Thedosians have proven that with proper training women makes as effective soldiery as any other. The advantage this practice offers to the Thedosians is simple numbers: in any two populations of equal size, the Thedosians will always have twice as many potential recruits. This in turn would make it easier for them to sustain any war they have to fight. The second advantage the nations of Thedas have is that they quite commonly invest in their armies. While even in Thedas lords maintain their own soldiers, militias and mercenary units that would bolster their home nation in times of war, most nations also have military forces maintained, trained and financed by the state itself. Whereas in Westeros the creation of military forces is left to the whims of individual lords, which can sometimes result in forcefully drafted peasant armies armed with whatever can be scrounged up, in Thedas the desire to remain militarily competent has resulted in very professional armies often trained and equipped to a uniform standard so as to increase efficiency. These soldiers are often paid modest wages to add to their loyalty and improve morale. Yet these are not sellswords. The coin paid is simply a bonus to be had alongside their allegiance to crown and country, and a means to keep the soldier around during and particularly after the campaign. It stands to estimate then that Thedosian armies might suffer marginally less from desertion. So in practice Thedosian militaries are equipped and trained to standards that can be matched only by our knights (and even then the hedge – knights can be an exception) and the occasional powerful lord who cares enough to invest in his foot soldiers. There are of course exceptions: Ferelden for instance with its semi – independent banns and freeholders resembles our feudal model of military recruitment, relying on local lords to supply the bulk of the armed forces, often equipped according to the personal preferences of each individual soldier and lord rather than any standardized model of equipment, while the royal army represents a relatively small portion of Fereldens armed forces. In Antiva on the other hand there is no significant military to be found, the country instead relying on fear of the Antivan Crows for protection. With the creation of our own royal army this difference in troop quality is no longer as severe as it might have been in the past, but even in our most optimistic estimations the various lords of Westeros will still supply the bulk of our armed forces.
Magic and its application would once again be a huge advantage to Thedosian forces in the event of war. One could even argue that this is the greatest advantage they have. This advantage can manifest in a variety of different ways. Most clearly magic can be used to combat forces on the field directly, raining blasts of elemental fury and a variety of other vicious attacks on the heads of the opposing force. In the Battle of Black Banners for instance house Redforge lost a hundred of its best knights in an instant, frozen solid by just a dozen enemy spellcasters. For those interested this incident has been immortalized in the folk song "the Frozen Company". Magic can be also used to bolster other combatants on the field, increasing their strength and stamina or to temporarily increase the efficiency of their weapons and armor. Some forms of magic can be also used for healing, allowing wounded soldiers to survive even grievous wounds and also meaning that a Thedosian army would be less troubled by attrition and reduced efficiency caused by disease. Even when mages are not available, weapons enchanted with lyrium can often be found in the hands of more wealthy Thedosians. These weapons are always of superior quality to weapons produced by mundane means and can have a variety of unnatural properties (flaming swords for instance are not an uncommon sight). For additional information on magic and enchanted armaments in war see Maester Dennis's book "The Flaming Sword, a treatise on the strategic and tactical implications of magic and magically enhanced artefacts". Be fairly warned however, Maester Dennis can sometimes drift to the poetic side of literature.
It has been eight years since the peoples of Thedas first came to our shores. Their presence has created many opportunities and much chaos. It remains to be seen what changes to the world these foreigners are yet to bring. From the far north strong winds are blowing, and with them rides change. Only time will tell how it will change us who live under the southern sun and sail on the southern winds.