Dragon Age - The Wandering Blades
“Denerim, the capital of Ferelden, originally 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.”
– From In Pursuit of Knowledge: The Travels of a Chantry Scholar,
by Brother Genitivi
Any given Fereldan city was likely once a lone fort or castle where the region’s people could be gathered in case of attack. Over decades and ages, though, buildings grow up outside these fortifications as the dangers of war recede. This has been the case with Denerim. The core castle remains—and in fact, has grown into a full-fledged fortress—while the city has grown rapidly around it.
Today, most of the streets in Denerim are made of packed dirt, with only the wealthier streets being fully cobbled. Buildings have been laid down—and thus, streets and alleys formed haphazardly, according to no common plan. At best, buildings are arranged according to their functions. Inns and taverns are found near the city’s gates; trade markets are surrounded by
shops, warehouses, and guild-houses; and in between them all, houses are packed practically on top of one another.
One’s social standing can be measured by how close one lives to Fort Drakon, the highest edifice in Denerim. Near the fortress can be found noble estates, wide parkways, beautiful chantries, and the homes of merchant princes. Further down the hill, the Market District is the heart of Denerim’s bustling trade. Denerim’s Poor Quarter, near the base of the hill, has been accurately called a labyrinth, on top of being filthy from both the mud in the roads and the lack of a proper sewage system. The worst of the Poor Quarter is the Elven Alienage, which is walled off from the rest of the city.
By civilized standards Fereldan cities are anarchic, and Denerim is no exception. The Fereldan penchant for personal freedom engenders a laissez-faire attitude towards law enforcement and public behavior in general. The King’s Patrol is intended more to defend the city and keep order rather than to enforce the laws, though it has expanded into the latter role, to a certain extent, over time. Even so, while the worst offenses are put down, petty crimes are often ignored and the citizenry left to their own recourses. Commerce is largely unregulated as long as taxes are paid. Businesses such as brothels and gambling
Denerim was lost when a darkspawn army overran the city. As of today its current status is unknown but the remaining nobles, exiled in the Free Marches, are working to retake the city.