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The Qunari Edit
Chapter 1: Arrival of the Giants Edit
While historians often cite the darkspawn as the greatest single threat to Thedas, most people outside of the dwarven lands would say they are a more remote threat than the invaders called the Qunari. There has not been a Blight in over four centuries, after all, since the hero Garahel defeated the Archdemon at the Battle of Ayesleigh. Over a hundred years later, in 6:30 Steel Age, the first Qunari ships were reported off the coast of Par Vollen in the far north, marking the beginning of a new age of warfare.
Gold-skinned giants said to hail from an eastern land across the Boeric Ocean, the Qunari are a mystery to most people. To some, they are hated conquerors whose deadly skill at combat and destructive technology nearly brought the civilized world to its knees. To others they are heathens, worshippers of a strange religion that seek to spread it to "lesser" races by force. Still to others, such as in the southern lands of Ferelden, they are a legend, strange creatures from the far north that have been seen only on rare occasion since the peace began.
Almost before the rest of Thedas had heard of the Qunari's appearance in Par Vollen they were invading the mainland, striking first into Rivain and Seheron. The defenders of those lands were hardly a match for Qunari discipline and technology. One shot of the mighty cannons, the likes of which our ancestors of the time had never seen before, brought troops to their knees. Qunari warriors in glittering steel armor carved through the defenders with ease. History calls this the First Qunari War, but it was mostly a one-sided bloodbath, with the Qunari advancing far into Tevinter within ten years.
It was a dark time for Thedas, with the nations of mankind being forced to once again unite against a common enemy... this one intending not to destroy, as the darkspawn did, but rather to conquer a land they saw as in dire need of enlightenment. The Qunari proved themselves to be the most frightening sort of opponent of all: religious zealots.
Chapter 2: The Golden Masters Edit
Stories of how the Qunari treated the lands they occupied, 'kabethari' being the term for those lands in their language and supposedly meaning 'those who need to be taught', are varied and difficult to verify.
Some claim that the Qunari were guilty of terrorizing the populace. They divided children from their families and sent adults to 'learning camps' for indoctrination in their religious philosophies. Those who refused to obey were forced into indentured servitude or sent to mines or construction camps to labor... often until they perished of sheer exhaustion or starvation. Those who resisted were slain, instantly and without mercy. Many who obeyed their new masters, however, claim that they were treated well and even given a large amount of trust provided they followed the strict Qunari codes of conduct and laws.
For every tale of suffering recorded, there was another that tells of enlightenment from something called the 'qun'. This is either a philosophical code or a written text, perhaps both, and some claim it may even be akin to the Qunari god. Unlike the Chant of Light it governs all aspects of Qunari life, both secular and spiritual, and the Qunari are devoted to following its tenets strictly and without question.
Those who recorded their interactions with the golden masters tell of mighty creatures, a head again taller than a man, with frighteningly calm demeanors and a sort of sparkling fire behind their eyes. Some even said they have a certain kindness to them, or a conspicuous lack of cruelty, and one Seheran who converted reported pity for those who had not, as if the conquerors' religion led to a sort of self-discovery. 'For all my life I followed the Maker wherever his path may lead me,' he writes, 'but in the faith of the qun I have found the means to travel my own path. If only all my people could understand what it is the Qunari offer us.'
It is said that the most complete way to wipe out a people is not with weapons, but with books. Thankfully, a world that had known and repelled four Blights would not so easily bow to a foreign aggressor. The New Exalted Marches were about to begin.
Chapter 3: The New Exalted Marches Edit
Taking their names from the Exalted Marches of the past, the New Exalted Marches were declared by the Chantry in 7:25 Storm Age after nearly a century of internecine warfare throughout northern Thedas. The Imperial Chantry in Minrathous (the only unoccupied major Tevinter city) marched against Seheron and the occupied eastern territories of the Imperium, and the Divine in Val Royeaux commanded her templars to lead the armies of the south into Rivain. It was the grandest mobilization of martial power since the Fourth Blight.
The greatest advantage that the Chantry-led forces had against the Qunari was, in fact, the Circle of Magi. For all their technology, the Qunari appeared to harbor a great hatred for all things magical. They possessed mages, but these were little better than animals kept on leashes... and none of the Qunari mages possessed anywhere near the skill that the Circle's mages had. Faced with cannons, the Chantry responded with lightning and balls of fire and it proved effective indeed.
For all the force that the Qunari armies had brought to bear on the north, they also lacked the sheer numbers of the humans. As each year passed, the Chantry pushed further and further into the Qunari lines. Dealing with those of the local populace which had converted to the Qunari religion proved difficult, especially as some of these had lived under the qun now for generations, and the response by many armies was simply to exterminate all those who had converted. Officially the Chantry denies this, claiming most converts fled north into Rivain and Par Vollen, but the mass graves at Nocen Fields and Marnus Pell attest otherwise. Indeed, so many were slain at Marnus Pell that the Veil is said to be permanently sundered, the ruins still plagued by restless corpses to this day.
Regardless of how it was done, by 7:84 Storm Age the Qunari had been well and truly pushed back. Rivain was the only human land that embraced the Qunari religion after being freed, and its rulers attempted to barter a peace. Envoys from most human lands gathered to sign the Llomerryn Accord, and peace was made between the Qunari and all human lands other than the Tevinter Imperium. Even there, however, the Qunari withdrew. Humanity had, with the Maker's will, beat back the invaders and returned to its rightful place as masters of Thedas.
It is a shaky peace that has lasted to this very day.
The History of the Chantry Edit
Chapter 1: The Imperium in Flames Edit
The first Blight devastated the Tevinter Imperium. Not only had the darkspawn ravaged the countryside, but Tevinter citizens had to face the fact that their own gods had turned against them. Dumat, the Old God once known as the Dragon of Silence, had risen to silence the world, and despite the frenzied pleas for help, the other Old Gods did nothing. The people of the Imperium began to question their faith, murdering priests and burning temples to punish their gods for not returning to help.
In those days, even after the devastation of the first Blight, the Imperium stretched across the known world. Fringed with barbarian tribes, the Imperium was well prepared for invasions and attacks from without. Fitting, then, that the story of its downfall begins from within.
The people of the far northern and eastern reaches of the Imperium rose up against their powerful overlords in rebellion. The Tevinter magisters summoned demons to put down these small rebellions, leaving corpses to burn as examples to all who would dare revolt. The Imperium began to tear itself apart from within, throngs of angry and disillusioned citizens doing what centuries of opposing armies could not. But the magisters were confident in their power, and they could not imagine surviving a Blight only to be destroyed by their own subjects.
Even after the Blight, Tevinter commanded an army larger than that of any other organized nation in Thedas, but that army was scattered and its morale dwindling. The ruin of Tevinter was such that the Alamarri barbarians, who had spread their clans and holds over the wilderness of the Ferelden Valley at the far southeast edge of the Imperium, saw weakness in their enemy, and, after an age of oppression, embarked on a campaign not only to free their own lands, but to bring down mighty Tevinter as well.
--From Tales of the Destruction of Thedas, by Brother Genitivi, Chantry scholar.
Chapter 2: A Prophet Born Edit
When the prophet Andraste and her husband Maferath arrived at the head of their barbarian horde, southern Tevinter was thrown into chaos. The Imperium had defended against invasions in the past, but now they stood without the protection of their gods, with their army in tatters and their country devastated by the Blight. Many felt that the timing of the invasion was yet another of the Maker's miracles in Andraste's campaign to spread His divine word.
Andraste was more than simply the wife of a warlord, after all--she was also the betrothed of the Maker. Enraptured by the melodic sound of her voice as she sang to the heavens for guidance, the Maker Himself appeared to Andraste and proposed that she come with Him, leaving behind the flawed world of humanity. In her wisdom, Andraste pleaded with the Maker to return to His people and create paradise in the world of men. The Maker agreed, but only if all of the world would turn away from the worship of false gods and accept the Maker's divine commandments.
Armed with the knowledge of the one true god, Andraste began the Exalted Marches into the weakened Imperium. One of the Maker's commandments, that magic should serve man rather than rule over him, was as honey to the souls of the downtrodden of Tevinter, who lived under the thumbs of the magisters.
Word of Andraste's Exalted March, of her miracles and military successes, spread far and wide. Those in the Imperium who felt the Old Gods had abandoned them eagerly listened to the words of the Maker. Those throngs of restless citizens that destroyed temples now did so in the name of the Maker and His prophet, Andraste. As Maferath's armies conquered the lands of southern Tevinter, so did Andraste's words conquer hearts.
It is said that the Maker smiled on the world at the Battle of Valarian Fields, in which the forces of Maferath challenged and defeated the greatest army Tevinter could muster. The southern reaches of the mighty Imperium now lay at the mercy of barbarians. Faith in the Maker, bolstered by such miracles, threatened to shake the foundations of the Imperium apart.
Of course, the human heart is more powerful than the greatest weapon, and when wounded, it is capable of the blackest of deeds.
Chapter 3: Andraste Betrayed Edit
It is said that at the Battle of Valarian Fields, Maferath stood and looked out over his armies. He had conquered the southern reaches of the greatest empire the world had ever known and built splintered barbarian clans into a force to be feared. With pride in his heart, he turned to congratulate his men and found that they had turned from him.
Maferath fell to the evil of jealousy. After all that he had done, his wife was the one to receive all the glory. He saw his wife's power and influence, and tired of his place as second husband, below the Maker. His heart swelled with fury. If he had conquered just to have his wife wrested from him by a forgotten god and a legion of faith-hungry rabble, then perhaps this war was not worth the trouble.
Here, history and the Chant of Light come apart. History tells us that Maferath looked north into the central Imperium and saw nothing but more war against a rapidly regrouping army, and he despaired. The Chant of Light holds that Maferath chafed with jealousy of the Maker, and jealousy of the glory that Andraste received although it was he who led the armies.
Maferath traveled to the Imperial capital of Minrathous to speak with the Archon Hessarian. There he offered up his wife to the Imperium in return for a truce that would end hostilities once and for all. The archon, eager to put down the voice of the prophet that stirred his own people against him, agreed. Maferath led Andraste into an ambush where she was captured by Imperial agents, putting an end to her Exalted March.
Crowds of loyalists stood in the central square of Minrathous to watch Andraste's execution. By command of the archon, she was burned at the stake in what the Imperium believed to be the most painful punishment imaginable. According to the Chantry, however, Andraste was instead purified and made whole by the flames, ascending to life at her Maker's side. By all accounts, there was only silence where they expected screams. At the sight of the prophet burning, the crowds were filled with a profound guilt, as if they had participated in a great blasphemy. So moving was the moment that the archon himself drew his sword and thrust it into the prophet's heart, ending her torment and leaving those assembled to consider the weight of what they had seen.
Whereas the execution of Andraste was meant to be a symbol of defeat for the faith of the Maker, in truth it all but sealed the fate of the worship of the Old Gods and paved the way for the spread of the Maker's chant.
--From Tales of the Destruction of Thedas, by Brother Genitivi, Chantry scholar.
Chapter 4: The Birth of the Chantry Edit
The crowds present at the death of Andraste were right to feel despair. It is believed that the prophet's execution angered the Maker, and He turned His back on humanity once more, leaving the people of Thedas to suffer in the dark.
In these dark times, mankind scrambled for a light, any light. Some found comfort in demonic cults that promised power and riches in return for worship. Others prayed to the Old Gods for forgiveness, begging the great dragons to return to the world. Still others fell so low as to worship the darkspawn, forming vile cults dedicated to the exaltation of evil in its purest form. It is said that the world wept as its people begged for a savior who would not come.
Andraste's followers, however, did not abandon her teachings when she died. The Cult of Andraste rescued her sacred ashes from the courtyard in Minrathous after her execution, stealing them away to a secret temple. The location of that temple has long been lost, but the ashes of Andraste served as a symbol of the enduring nature of the faith in the Maker, that humanity could earn the Maker's forgiveness despite its grievous insult to Him.
With time, the Cult of Andraste spread and grew, and the Chant of Light took form. Sing this chant in the four corners of Thedas, it was said, and the world would gain the Maker's attention at last. As the Chant of Light spread, the Cult of Andraste became known as the Andrastian Chantry. Those who converted to the Chantry's beliefs found it their mission to spread Andraste's word.
There were many converts, including powerful people in the Imperium and in the city-states of what is now Orlais. Such was the power of the Maker's word that the young King Drakon undertook a series of Exalted Marches meant to unite the city-states and create an empire solely dedicated to the Maker's will. The Orlesian Empire became the seat of the Chantry's power, the Grand Cathedral in Val Royeaux the source of the movement that birthed the organized Chantry as we know it today. Drakon, by then Emperor Drakon I, created the Circle of Magi, the Order of Templars and the holy office of the Divine. Many within the Chantry revere him nearly as equal with Andraste herself.
The modern Chantry is a thing of faith and beauty, but it is also a house of necessity, protecting Thedas from powerful forces that would do it harm. Where the Grey Wardens protect the world from the Blights, the Chantry protects mankind from itself. Most of all, the Chantry works to earn the Maker's forgiveness, so that one day He will return and transform the world into the paradise it was always meant to be.
--From Tales of the Destruction of Thedas, by Brother Genitivi, Chantry scholar.
The First Blight Edit
Chapter 1: The Second Sin Edit
Thedas is a land of fierce diversity, from the assassin-princes of Antiva to the faded griffons of the Anderfels, but in my travels, I have found one tale that unites the people of this land. It is a story of pride and damnation, and although the telling differs, the essence of the tale remains the same.
At the height of its power, the Tevinter Imperium stretched over much of Thedas, uniting the known world under the rule of the tyrannical magisters. It is said that the Old Gods whom the magisters worshipped gave them the knowledge of blood magic, and the magisters used this forbidden power to cement their rule. The blood of elven slaves and humans alike ran down imperial altars to fuel magister greed, the tales of their excesses so horrifying that one can only be grateful that blood magic is prohibited today.
But all that stands tall must eventually fall. Perhaps they foresaw their ruin, or perhaps their pride knew no bounds, but whatever the reason, the magisters dared to open a magical portal into the Golden City at the heart of the Fade. They sought to usurp the Maker's throne, long left unattended in the Golden City after the Maker turned His back on His creations. They would storm heaven itself with their power and become as gods.
According to most versions of the tale, the magisters did indeed reach the Golden City and walked into the home of the Maker, where no living being before them had dared, or been able, to tread. But humanity is not meant to walk in heaven. The magisters were wicked with pride and other sins, and their presence tainted the Golden City. What once was a perfect, holy citadel became a twisted home of darkness and nightmares. The magisters were expelled back through their gateway and cursed for their treachery. As the Golden City had been tainted, so were the magisters twisted and transformed into things of darkness—the very first of the darkspawn. The Golden City, once a shining beacon at the heart of the Fade, became the Black City, a reminder of all that man's pride has cost.
—From Tales of the Destruction of Thedas, by Brother Genitivi, Chantry Scholar
Chapter 2: Dumat Rises Edit
People today have little concept of the consequences of the second sin. Oh, believe me when I say that when asked, pious, Chantry-going folk will curse the use of foul magic, spitting and snapping their fingers—but none live today who actually remember the horror that was unleashed so very long ago. Whatever records might have existed regrettably did not survive the chaos and ignorance that was to follow. We have only the tales of survivors handed down through the murky ages and the dogma of the Chantry to instruct us, and that is precious little indeed.
I believe I am not understating when I say that the second sin unleashed the bane of all life upon Thedas. The darkspawn are more virulent than the worst plague, a heartless force of nature that came into our world like an ill wind. We know from accounts of later Blights (as these darkspawn invasions came to be called—never has a more appropriate name existed) that the darkspawn spread disease and famine wherever they tread. The earth itself is corrupted by their presence, the sky roiling with angry black clouds. I do not exaggerate, my friends, when I say that a mass gathering of darkspawn is an omen of dread cataclysm.
It is said that those cursed magisters who became the first darkspawn scratched at the very earth to find solace in the darkness of the dwarven Deep Roads, and there in the shadows they multiplied. Whether by intelligent design or by some last vestige of worship in their minds, they attempted to locate the Old Gods they had once served. They found what they sought: Dumat, first among the Old Gods, once known as the Dragon of Silence before the Maker imprisoned him and all his brethren beneath the earth for the first sin: usurping the Maker's place in mankind's heart.
The slumbering dragon awoke, freed from the Maker's prison by his twisted followers, and became corrupted himself. Dumat was transformed into the first Archdemon, his great and terrible power given will by a rotting, unholy mind. With the darkspawn horde following, Dumat rose and took wing in the skies once again, bringing ruin to the world the Maker had created. The Old God had become the eye of a dark storm that would ravage the entire world.
—From Tales of the Destruction of Thedas by Brother Genitivi, Chantry Scholar
Chapter 3 Edit
The world during the First Blight was different from the world we know today. Aside from the civilized rule of the Imperium, humans as a race were largely barbarous and splintered, divided into clans and tribes and squabbling among ourselves for resources. At the same time, deep beneath Thedas's great mountain ranges spanned a dwarven culture as organized and advanced as ours was primitive.
As the darkspawn bubbled up to the surface from their underground lairs, mankind first buckled and then fought back. The armies of Tevinter attempted to face down the multitudes of twisted creatures and the horrid rotting of the land around them, but they could not be everywhere at once. Human history remembers the First Blight as a time of terrible devastation, and those stories are accurate, but in our arrogance we often forget the price paid by the dwarves in their isolated mountain kingdoms.
The dwarves faced far greater hordes than humanity as the darkspawn challenged them for control of the underground. Despite the might and technology the dwarves brought to bear, the savage darkspawn tore through them, first destroying the more remote thaigs before swallowing up entire kingdoms. Think of it: an entire civilization lost in the space of decades. Compared to the near-genocide that the dwarves faced, what we humans call the First Blight must have seemed a mere skirmish. Against the darkspawn, the dwarven lands have always borne the brunt of the fighting and the majority of the sacrifices.
Four dwarven kingdoms finally managed to combine their might and fight back, and that cooperation saved them. But for the rest of their lands it was too late. The darkspawn had taken the Deep Roads, the majestic underground passages that linked the dwarven lands throughout Thedas. The darkspawn could now attack anywhere on the surface through these tunnels.
Humanity simply was not prepared for such an onslaught. It was clear that the warfare we knew would not avail us. We had to find a new way to fight.
Thus came our salvation: The Grey Wardens were born.
Chapter 4 Edit
Founded at Weisshaupt Fortress in the Anderfels, the Grey Wardens offered humanity hope in its darkest hour. Veterans of decades of battles with the darkspawn came together, and the best among them pledged to do whatever was necessary to stem the tide of darkness that swept across the land. These great humans, elves, and dwarves pooled their knowledge of the enemy and formed a united front to finally put a stop to the archdemon's rampage.
And stop it they did. Ballads are still told today of the first Grey Warden charge into the waves of darkspawn at the city of Nordbotten—each Warden facing 10 or 20 darkspawn at a time. Squadrons of Grey Wardens mounted on their mighty griffons, soaring through the blackened skies and battling the terrible archdemon with spear and spell: Oh, what a sight it must have been!
Incredibly, the Grey Wardens won that first battle. They raised their arms in victory, and suddenly there was hope. The Grey Wardens led the lands of men and the last stalwart defenders of the dwarven halls against the hordes of the archdemon Dumat for the next hundred years, gaining and losing ground, but never backing away. From all over Thedas, they recruited whoever possessed the skill and strength to raise the Grey Wardens' banner, making no distinction between elven slave or human nobleman, and finally, nearly two centuries after the first Old God rose from the earth, the Grey Wardens assembled the armies of men and dwarves at the Battle of Silent Plains. It was then that Dumat finally fell and the First Blight ended.
The Tevinter Imperium would face a new challenge with the coming of the prophet Andraste. Thoughts of the Blight grew distant. With Dumat's defeat, the darkspawn were considered no longer a threat—but with the wisdom of hindsight, we know that conceit proved foolish indeed. The task of the Grey Wardens was far from over.