The Dalish War—also known in Elvish as the War for Independence and in Orlesian as the Elf Rebellion—is a conflict fought primarily between the empire of Orlais and the Elven Hellathen coalition over control of the Dales, a region of southern Thedas. The kingdom of Ferelden was also involved in the war, treating it as a proxy conflict against the rival nation of Orlais and supporting the efforts of the Hellathen financially as well as militarily.
Erupting in the 52nd year of the Dragon Age, generations of tension between Orlais's human aristocracy and the elven populace boiled over into armed rebellion after demonstrations seeking justice in the attempted assassination of Lady Briala—Marquise of the Dales—and the subsequent cover-up were violently suppressed. Elven protests became riots, and riots were organized by Briala's operatives into an army which ousted Orlesian loyalists from Halamshiral and declared independence from the empire; predictably, this resulted in a military response from the imperial central government.
Thousands of lives were lost in the Dalish War, and many more were displaced as a result of the fighting, before the conflict finally came to an end in IX:55 with a Chantry-sanctioned ceasefire.
More than a century before the Divine Age began, the elves of Thedas called the Dales home, adopting it as theirs after the Exalted March against Tevinter. Not since the fall of Old Arlathen had they possessed a nation of their own, and for more than 300 years they worked to build a new one in the southern lands before the region was ultimately annexed by the neighboring Orlesian Empire in the Glory Age; scattered and subjugated, elves would live the next seven ages as an oppressed race under human rule once again—their relationship with mankind would forever be influenced by this conquest.
Then, in the Dragon Age, the status quo began to change. While Orlais maintained preeminence in Thedas for centuries, the War of the Lions and Mage-Templar War weakened both the empire and the Chantry significantly. In the midst of the calamity, a she-elf named Briala—the former handmaiden and spymaster to Empress Celene I who gained control of the ancient eluvian network—took advantage of the empire's disarray to orchestrate the beginnings of a revolution. She and her many agents used the eluvians to perform acts that dragged out Orlais's civil war, while simultaneously organizing, assisting, and strengthening the position of elves throughout Orlais. She also negotiated an alliance with numerous Dalish clans, permitting access of the eluvians only to those willing to acknowledge city elves as their equals and assist their brethren. Her accomplishments led to significant loyalty and unity among the elves across the country. Eventually, with the support of the Inquisition, Briala was named Marquise of the Dales by the newly-appointed Emperor Gaspard I in IX:44, becoming a significant power behind the throne.
As the first elven noble, and thus the first elf with any significant authority in Orlais, Briala was able to use her influence to further the interests of the country's elven population over the course of several years, even after relinquishing control of the eluvians to Fen'Harel. Her advocacy for civil rights led to many attempts against her life, with the most controversial occurring in IX:52. It was in that year that she and her guards were ambushed in the Winter Palace by chevaliers led by Baron Frederic du Churneau. Briala survived, albeit barely, by flinging herself from a window and into the canals below though at the time it was believed that she died in the fall. She remained in hiding, while her agents across Orlais enacted vengeance against her would-be killers. One of the attempted assassins, Jean-Martin Boyer, ultimately confessed publicly after apparently receiving "a vision from the Maker." The confession sparked protests and riots in several Orlesian cities like Serault and Val Royeaux. Most of these were suppressed with extraordinary violence by chevaliers, with dozens of deaths reported, but it was different in Halamshiral. There, the elves went into the High Quarter and cast all of its human residents out of the city in the span of a single night—the following day, Briala's remaining administrators publicly declared the Dales to be sovereign land and seceded from the empire.
The reaction in Val Royeaux was one of rage. Most were clamoring for a sack of the city and an all-out massacre against its occupants. Gaspard I, facing plummeting public opinion and pressure from within his court, approved a military response to the Halamshiral crisis. With the desire to put a quick and decisive end to both this fledgling rebellion and murmurs of his own weakness, Gaspard I tasked Marquis Cyrille de Chevin with quelling the rebellion.
Course of the war