Nestled in the Hinterlands between the Imperial Highway and Lake Calenhad is a rugged elevation of land that once served as a southern lookout. Thornecroft has views of Redcliffe to the southwest, the Southern Bannorn to the north, and faint sightings of what remains of Lothering to the east. At some point during King Maric Theirin's reign, the land was granted to Ser Grayson Thornecroft - a knight of Redcliffe and an experienced cavalryman.
1. Village of Thornecroft
Prior to becoming the knight's benefice, the settlement was called Brier. Today, as "Thornecroft", the village has flourished to twice its original size and is primarily inhabited by freeholders or crofters, the latter being tenants of the Thornecroft family who have tenure and use of the land and whose stone crofts, covered in the wild roses known to the area, are quite a scenic sight to behold. When the flowers, grown in abundance, are in their first, full bloom during the month of Justinian, the residents hold a Festival of Roses. The western section of the village features a statue of Rowan Theirin albeit back when she was still Rowan Guerrin, Maric's bethrothed, and the cavalry commander of Queen Moira Theirin's rebel forces. During the festival, villagers adorn the statue with rose garlands.
Following Queen Rowan Theirin's death, it was said that the whole of the village went into mourning for the length of an entire year and that Ser Grayson and his irregular cavalry rode a hard circuit through the Hinterlands each month of that year, hoisting high the Guerrin banner, in her honour. The latter tradition still exists today, albeit done annually on the anniversary of her death. Colloquially, the tradition has been dubbed the Queen's Rade.
Ser Grayson Thornecroft was born in the village of Brier. The settlement was renamed little more than four decades prior, following the resolution of the rebellion and the coronation of King Maric Theirin. Prior to, and during, the rebellion itself Ser Grayson Thornecroft was more often than not referred to as either the Brier Knight or Grayson of Brier. While "Thornecroft" had been his family's surname for centuries, it had previously been far less of a noble house and much more of a topographical reference to his family's earliest freehold within the Arling of Redcliffe.
Though Ser Grayson's loyalty to House Guerrin had never been called into question, there were rumours during the Blessed Age that the knight, back when he was a young and cocksure gallant, had been something of a secret admirer of Marina Aurum, Rendorn Guerrin's wife and the mother of Rowan, Eamon, and Teagan. It was said that it was her death, and not the Orlesian occupation, that was the cause of the knight's shift to grave temperament in the years to follow. It was also said that out of all of Marina's children, he regarded Rowan with the highest esteem—much as if she had been his own flesh and blood.
Ser Grayson Thornecroft was one of the few survivors of the devastating defeat at the fortress of West Hill, during the campaign to free Ferelden from the Orlesian Empire, when the rebel forces were ambushed by King Meghren's Chevaliers. The knight and his small cavalry outfit managed to take flight south, weaving through the Bannorn, to eventually find their way back to the Hinterlands and the village of Brier where they recouped their losses prior to rejoining the fray with renewed vigor.
Notably, Ser Grayson's only son, Marshall, did not take part in the rebellion as he had run off to join the Templar Order, against his father's wishes, at a very young age. Though estranged from his father, Marshall Thornecroft reappeared in 9:14 Dragon, with an infant in tow. Ser Grayson's son had apparently fathered the girl with one of the Circle Mages while stationed at Kinloch Hold—a scandal that would not fully come to light until some years later. Marshall left the girl in the care of her grandfather who, despite his advanced years, went on to raise her to the best of his ability.
Historically, the Thornecrofts have always been tied to the Hinterlands region in some shape or form. It wasn't until the Guerrin's rose to power within the arling that the Thornecrofts of old became knights of Redcliffe, however. Those of this bloodline were landless Knights of Redcliffe, initially, but their fealty to House Guerrin eventually won them favour with the Crown in turn. In truth, it was by way of Maric's queen, Rowan Theirin (née Guerrin), that the Thornecroft's came to inherit their land for loyalty recognized and cavalry services rendered during the rebellion.
Thornecroft Hall is the stone manor house of the Thornecroft family found at the heart and height of the raised land, now known as Thornecroft, south of Lake Calenhad and north of the Imperial Road. Though structurally strong, the manor is yet humble in size when compared to other stately homes.
Historically, the cavalry unit has always consisted of exceptional riders albeit those who bore nondescript livery. The plain-clothed horsemen might look like simple scouts from a distance, but the flash of steel reveals itself upon their thunderous charge. They are a tactical outfit, above all else, riding in tight formations one moment only to disperse in the next—harrying and confusing their targets in turn.
With the advancement of Ser Grayson's years, new leadership rose within the irregular ranks in the form of an enigmatic individual known only as Sergeant Redbane.
During the Fifth Blight, Ser Grayson Thornecroft and his Sergeant managed to partially defend the knight's land largely due to the rise's strategic topography. Using the terrain to their advantage, the cavalry outfit were able to corral the few darkspawn that did manage to ascend the rise to the northeastern limits of his territory, featuring a particularly steep gorge, and quite literally drove the tainted creatures off his land. Ser Grayson and his men thereafter did their part in providing brief escorts to those fleeing the Blight who may have found their way along the Imperial Highway near Thornecroft. Unfortunately, given his responsibility to the safety of his own people, Ser Grayson was not able to accompany those in need beyond the borders of the Hinterlands. He and his small but fearsome cavalry unit, the Drakestone Irregulars, went on to become local, folk heroes for patrolling the Hinterlands in the midst of the Fifth Blight itself. They notably avoided large-scale combat with the darkspawn when possible, and instead focused on reconnaissance as well as tactical or attack-and-flee engagements.
The Drakestone Irregulars, under the command of Sergeant Redbane, were active in the Hinterlands region during the height of the Mage-Templar War. They remained neutral in the conflict, instead siding with the commonfolk of the region whom found themselves caught in the crosshairs of the war. Whenever possible, the cavalry unit provided protection and safe escort to those seeking passage through the war-torn region. After Arl Teagan was ousted from Redcliffe by Magister Gereon Alexius, the Drakestone Irregulars kept a lower profile within the Hinterlands in order to spy on the enemy forces and to waylay and divert the enemy's supplies. Their efforts were humble but effective, and they caused Alexius some irritation. Some attributed these small successes of the Drakestone Irregulars to that of the Inquisition, however the former was never actually affiliated with the latter.
Following the resolution of the Mage-Templar War, the Drakestone Irregulars remain a consistent albeit elusive outfit—patrolling the Hinterlands region and, some claim, occasionally beyond. Unlike the notoriousness of their former leader, Ser Grayson, the cavalry's current commander, Sergeant Redbane, appears content to remain in the shadows and to allow other, larger forces such as the Inquisition to benefit from the cavalry's humble service.