My dear Empress Celene,
I agree! It is strange how some people view the Free Marches. On a map, they see its name emblazoned on the vales south of the Minanter River and assume it to be a nation just as Ferelden is. They imagine a single ruler, a single army, and a common culture, but nothing could be further from the truth! Our dour, serious folk in Tantervale are not at all like the wild revelers of Wycome, who in turn are nothing like the self-important traders of Kirkwall. We are many nations squashed under one name on a map because the truth won't fit inside the borders.
A lovely saying I heard once: "We have a prince in Starkhaven, a margrave in Ansburg, a teyrn in Ostwick, and a viscount in Kirkwall... yet we accept no king in the Free Marches." At least, not since Fyruss appointed himself king seven centuries ago, which was immediately and unanimously opposed by our many great nations. We may only come together to face a common enemy, but when we do, we're a formidable ragtag bunch. Did you know that Grey Warden Garahel also united us during the Exalted Age? We marched together proudly to defeat the darkspawn at Ayesleigh... and immediately afterwards returned to our petty bickering.
The most important thing to know about the Free Marches is that we're free. We determine our own destiny, and that pleases us. Beyond that, the only other time we coalesce is when Grand Tourney comes to town. Then we boldly express our pride to any foreigner who'll listen. We'll kiss freedom on the lips and even lock arms with a proud Starkhavener! Alas, it lasts only a day, but there's no harm in that, right?
—A letter written by Lord Chancellor Joffrey Orrick of Tantervale to Empress Celene I, 9:29 Dragon