The 6th Blight
Beginning of the Blight
Antiva was struck by the darkspawn first. The Antivans were taken completely by surprise and the darkspawn had soon taken all of Antiva with only the capital, Antiva City resisting. Unchecked, the darkspawn swarmed out into Rivain and the Free Marches. Meanwhile, Antiva City closed its gates. In spite of this, refugees continued to flee to Antiva City with hundreds camping outside the city gates.
Fall of Antiva City
King Elaudio and Queen Giuvana of Antiva called the Grey Wardens for aid. Antiva’s Warden-Commander, Turab, gathered a contingent of Antivan Wardens at the city and called for a regiment of griffon riders to help evacuate the city. Garahel and his sister Isseya were among them. The Wardens advised fleeing Antiva immediately in order to save as many lives as possible, but the royal couple insisted on trying to defend the city from the darkspawn, ignoring the Wardens’ warnings the city was in no way prepared to withstand a siege. However, many of the ship captains still in the city chose to flee via Rialto bay, leaving even fewer means of escape from the city. Eventually discontent at the royals’ misjudgment led to the Antivan Royal Guard turning on them, killing King Eluadio before being defeated by the Grey Wardens. To preserve morale, it was announced that the King was killed by the darkspawn.
As the Wardens and the surviving members of the royal court prepared to withdraw, the walls were finally breached and the darkspawn swarmed through the city. The Wardens were attacked by the Archdemon Andoral itself just outside of Antiva City, killing Warden-Commander Turab and most of the Wardens along with the surviving members of the royal family, whom the Wardens had been trying to evacuate. Garahel and Isseya, together with Amadis Vael and an Antivan Crow mage Calien launched a diversionary attack on the Archdemon to allow the surviving Wardens the time to get their charges to safety. After a pitched conflict they were able to delay the Archdemon and make a narrow escape.
Evacuation of Wycome
The surviving Wardens regrouped at the city of Wycome in the Free Marches. The local citizenry devoted all their efforts to fortifying the city. Knowing that this would be insufficient to hold off the darkspawn, Warden-Commander Senaste had the Wardens constructing improvised aravels led by griffons which they could use to evacuate the populace. Isseya oversaw the project while Garahel delivered messages and requests of support to nobles and other potential military assets on behalf of Amadis Vael. Although they were unable to evacuate everyone before the city fell, the Wardens managed to send a large number of refugees to Starkhaven.
Hossberg, the capital city of the Anderfels, once again was besieged by the darkspawn. In the Tevinter Imperium, the Siege of Marnas Pell took place, and along with the help of the dwarves of Orzammar, the siege was lifted at no small cost. The dwarves received many accolades of the ruling Archon and one of them even became a Paragon.4 Orlais was barely hit and drove the darkspawn within its borders back underground. Tevinter refused to send any aid to the Free Marches or Anderfels, bitter over the recent Exalted Marches against the Imperium, while Orlais committed only a token force.5 The darkspawn also pushed in the underground realm and captured Ortan Thaig
Siege of Hossberg
Hossberg was under varying degrees of siege by the darkspawn for the next eight years. Garahel was promoted to the temporary rank of Field-Commander and given charge of defending against the siege. Finally in the last days of 5:19 Exalted, the Grey Wardens were able to locate the entrance to the Deep Roads which the darkspawn were using to bring reinforcements into the Anderfels to join the siege. Isseya leads a small sortie party out of Hossberg on their griffons to collapse the passage. In spite of some casualties the passage was collapsed and the darkspawn were cut off from reinforcements.
With the darkspawn isolated, Garahel led the bulk of the Grey Wardens and the Anderfels Royal Army from a position northwest of the city against the main force of the darkspawn. Meanwhile, another contingent of Grey Wardens under the command of Isseya opened up a second front south of the city. The Wardens mined the area with ’skyburners’–a modified form of dwarven lyrium mining explosives donated by Orzammar–which they baited with quality weaponry to lure the darkspawn. A large number of darkspawn were destroyed in the initial blast and afterwards the Wardens attacked, massacring and forcing the retreat of ancillary darkspawn forces in the fork of the Lattenfluss river. Combined with the main army’s success, the siege of Hossberg was finally broken in the first days of 5:20 Exalted.
Battle of Ayesleigh
By 5:24 Exalted, the darkspawn had finally been pushed back to Rivain and Antiva. The allied forces decided to use this opportunity to try and bring the Archdemon itself to battle and thus end the Blight. Amadis Vael led the ground force on Arvaud’s Barrow just outside the city of Ayesleigh, with Ser Gaston de Montfort leading the cavalry. The Champion of Starkhaven was also among the ground force. The ground force attacked the gathered darkspawn there and then laid an ambush for the Archdemon. Simultaneously, Garahel led a strike force of Grey Wardens on griffons to the skies above Ayesleigh. Using a smaller version of the skyburner explosives, the Wardens barraged the city below to devastating effect, causing heavy darkspawn casualties. The darkspawn had no real way to combat the airborne Wardens, and the Archdemon was forced to take the field.
The Wardens struck, aiming to infuriate the beast and lure it back to their ground troops. However, they lost control of the rabid griffons, splintering their strike force. Only a handful of griffons followed the withdrawal formation while the rest frantically assaulted the Archdemon. Cut off from their support, the Wardens concentrated all their riders on attacking Andoral. Although most of them were killed during the ensuing battle, the unusual ferocity of rabid griffons proved highly effective tearing out chunks of the Archdemon’s flesh, and with support of the archers and mages the Wardens managed to collapse one of its wings. Andoral was sent hurtling down crashing into the streets of Ayesleigh. The Wardens advanced on the city to finish their task, only to discover Andoral had led them into a trap of its own; its flight had led the Wardens head first into range of legions of darkspawn archers, taking further casualties.
With only three Wardens left, Garahel flew his griffon into Ayesleigh narrowly avoiding the archers and the Archdemon’s attacks before finally driving his blade into a wound at the base of the Archdemon’s neck made by the rabid griffons, killing the beast at last. The Fourth Blight ended–and Garahel died, having performed a Grey Warden’s ultimate duty, sacrificing his own life to destroy Andoral.
Captain Lambert Valmont of the Imperial Orlesian army was part of the Orlesian regiment of the ground forces during the battle. Lambert disregarded his orders and aided the Antivan forces, saving them and their King, Azar Adalberto Campana from certain death. The King thanked his savior by elevating him to noble rank and giving him one of his daughter’s hand in marriage, and when Lambert returned to Orlais, the Emperor felt obligated to follow suit and granted him a Marquisate.
The effects of the Blight persisted in the Anderfels and the Deep Roads but were largely ignored by most, save for the Grey Wardens. So many darkspawn were slain in the final battles of the Blight that it was easy for some to imagine that they would never return. This view persisted for many centuries after the final victory at Ayesleigh, and would ultimately damage efforts to repulse the darkspawn the next time they rose up under the command of an Archdemon, as the surface kingdoms were long convinced such an occurrence was impossible. Garahel himself was granted a hero’s funeral, attended by kings and emperors from across Thedas. As per Garahel’s final request, his weapons and armour were returned to the Grey Wardens and placed in a memorial casket at Weisshaupt Fortress, adorned with horns taken from Andoral’s corpse, save for his helmet, which was lost in battle at Ayesleigh.