- "Everything I have done has been to secure Ferelden’s independence. I have not shirked my duty to the throne, and neither will any of you!"
"The Bannorn will not bow to you simply because you demand it!"
—Teyrn Loghain Mac Tir and Bann Teagan Guerrin
The Fereldan Civil War was a conflict between Teyrn Loghain Mac Tir and the banns of the Bannorn. The conflict occurred concurrently with the Fifth Blight, giving the Archdemon an advantage to spread across southern Ferelden almost unopposed.
The conflict was initiated when Teyrn Loghain appointed himself Regent to Queen Anora following the loss of King Cailan Theirin at the Battle of Ostagar. His appointment was controversial among many banns due to the Teyrn's common birth and seemingly opportunistic grab for the throne so soon after Cailan's death. However, Bann Teagan Guerrin and others suspected that Loghain was directly responsible for Cailan's death and had premeditated his ascension for some time.
The war ended in 9:31 after Arl Eamon Guerrin called a Landsmeet to settle the dispute diplomatically, by nominating King Maric's illegitimate son, Alistair, for the throne. The Landsmeet ended in a duel between the Grey Wardens and Loghain, which the latter lost, thus ending the civil war. The conflict, while bloody, was resolved before it had crippled either side's military power, allowing a united Ferelden to face the advancing Blight.
Following the rise of the Archdemon Urthemiel, the Grey Wardens of at least Ferelden and Orlais became aware that a new Blight was about to start. King Cailan, presumably in honor of the support the Grey Wardens were engendered by his father, and eager for a chance at glory, immediately supported the Grey Wardens and amassed an army of Fereldan forces and the few Fereldan Grey Wardens at Ostagar, on the outskirts of the Korcari Wilds where the darkspawn had been sighted.
While grateful, Warden-Commander Duncan felt the King's forces were too few and convinced the King to request reinforcements from Orlais. Empress Celene, who was aware of the Blight from Orlais' Warden-Commander, and Cailan were already in correspondence to ensure an alliance against the Blight. The alliance grew stronger over time, as did the relationship between the two rulers, and the Grey Wardens of Orlais were sent to Ferelden alongside four legions of Chevaliers, though they would not reach Ferelden until some time after the Battle of Ostagar.
This alliance was not met with celebration by many. With memories of the Orlesian occupation of Ferelden still fresh in many citizens' minds, the idea of joining forces was appalling. Also, the claims of the Grey Wardens, who were long considered an archaic order, were treated with skepticism by many nobles, owing to the length of time elapsed since the last Blight, and because no Archdemon had been seen yet. Many hoped the documented attacks near the forest would reveal itself to be a large raid, which were uncommon between Blights but explainable. The fact that the order had a tarnished reputation among Ferelden's nobility due to certain events that happened in the Storm Age, and that most members of the Fereldan Grey Warden garrison were Orlesians did little to help the order's cause.
The most vocal opposition to Cailan's actions was his father-in-law, Teyrn Loghain Mac Tir, who harboured a deep hatred for Orlais and strong suspicions of the Wardens, believing them Orlesian spies. Loghain came to believe that the Blight was a hoax, perpetrated by the Orlesians to covertly invade his country. He also knew, or at least suspected Cailan's intention to divorce his wife Anora, Loghain's daughter, in favour of a union with Empress Celene.
During the reign of King Maric, Loghain was the power behind the throne. The relationship continued with Maric's son, who, despite proposing his own beliefs, seemed to follow Loghain's council. In this case, however, Cailan resisted all of Loghain's attempts to change his mind, unwilling to give up his idealistic dream of uniting all of Thedas against the darkspawn. Loghain, a stubborn, patriotic man, had vowed long ago to deal with any threat to his country. His love for his country was only matched by his hatred for Orlais. It was this love that drove him to abandon King Cailan at the disastrous Battle of Ostagar, believing the king's actions would destroy the country. Loghain's desertion saw King Cailan dead, the Grey Wardens of Ferelden all but destroyed and the king's army annihilated by the darkspawn horde.
Loghain's rise to power
Loghain declared himself Regent of Ferelden after the Fereldan army's defeat at the Battle of Ostagar. Loghain was able to deflect some of the blame for his part in the massacre by using the Grey Wardens as a scapegoat, claiming they had attempted to abandon Cailan, only to get themselves and him killed, as well as claiming he had retreated to preserve his army when he realized what was happening, a lie which many swallowed. Loghain hoped that fear of the Blight would encourage the nobles to rally to his banner, as he was admittedly the best man for the job. Many nobles joined Loghain due to his reputation and history, belief that he would be the best man to lead at a time of war, or simply because no one else possessed the political power to challenge him.
The only people in Ferelden equal to Loghain were either dead or incapacitated. Arl Eamon was stricken with illness (in truth, his illness was the work of poison, an assassination attempt engineered by Loghain himself prior to Cailan's death). Teyrn Bryce Cousland had been murdered, along with most of his family, when their defenseless seat at Highever, Castle Cousland (the bulk of its garrison having departed for the royal muster at Ostagar) was attacked by Arl Rendon Howe of Amaranthine, who claimed the Couslands had betrayed Ferelden to Orlais. It is not known if Loghain had any part in Howe's treachery, but it played a part in helping his claim to the Regency (though it is unknown how Teyrn Bryce Cousland, an ardent royalist, would've reacted after Ostagar with no Theirin heirs in sight).
Loghain took the Arl of Amaranthine into his confidence afterwards, and Howe was thusly granted the Arling of Denerim—in truth having taken it over before Loghain's arrival in Denerim by "aiding" Vaughan Kendells who was the rightful heir—replacing Arl Urien Kendells who had died at Ostagar, as well as the Teyrnir of Highever, effectively becoming the second most important lord in the kingdom after Loghain. To cover his political maneuvers, Howe blamed Denerim's elves for Vaughan's death and led a purge of the alienage, killing many innocent elves. Under the regency of Loghain, Howe was responsible for removing any loose ends that could threaten Loghain's rule, such as Oswyn, son of Bann Sighard, who had learned too much to be allowed to roam freely, and the templar Ser Irminric, who had knowledge of the blood mage poisoner of Arl Eamon.
However, Loghain's sudden ascension in regency was met with some resistance by members of the Bannorn. The strongest advocate against him was Bann Teagan Guerrin, who was among the few to suspect his direct involvement in Cailan's death. Others of the nobility opposed Loghain for the fact that, despite his daughter being Queen, Loghain was a commoner by birth and thus lacked any real claim to the throne, or the feeling his taking of Cailan's throne so soon after the king's death seemed more like greedy opportunism. The strongest reason for resistance was Loghain's act of demanding the banns' support. Both before and after the tyranny of the Orlesian occupation, Fereldan culture placed heavy emphasis on individual freedom. All freeholders held authority on their lands and no noble was expected to pledge loyalty without being convinced to do so. Ferelden held great pride in this contrast to the authoritarian rulership of Orlais, and Loghain's action was seen as an insult to the Ferelden he helped defend.
As Loghain accumulated power, the Bannorn demanded he step down, resilient to Loghain's demands for support. While the Bannorn saw Loghain as stooping to the oppression of the Orlesians, Loghain saw their refusal as a betrayal of their country in need. Loghain responded with force, ordering the lands of those who disobeyed him burnt to the ground and having several banns and their forces who opposed him imprisoned or even killed (as evidenced when his soldiers murdered Bann Grainne when she destroyed her land's harvest rather than allow Loghain's army to feed off it). This oppression only destroyed Loghain's image as a liberator and strengthened the resolve of the Bannorn to refuse to bow to his demands.
The Bannorn, consisting of independent, stubborn banns, all opposed Loghain, but showed little interest in uniting against a common enemy. There is only one known case of three banns uniting their forces to face Loghain, with other cases of united opposition remaining unknown. Most banns showed only interest in maintaining autonomy on their own land, fighting off any attempt by Loghain to intimidate them.
Bann Bronach's forces were destroyed by Loghain in a battle in the northern Bannorn while some say that they met to talk terms and Loghain attacked Bronach instead. After the victory Loghain declared that whoever acted against him would share Bronach's fate. Furthermore, another battle took place north of Lothering and an ambush close to Highever led by troops from Oswin that claimed the lives of a large number of Loghain's soldiers.
The largest battle of the civil war, the Battle of Winter's Breath, saw the forces of the Bannorn outnumber Loghain. However, due to the Regent's tactical prowess, the combined army of the Bannorn found itself defeated. Despite the victory over his Bannorn rivals both at Winter's Breath and at other engagements in Oswin and Iachus Valley, it ensured that Loghain would not gain their support. Loghain was also driven to have his forces suppress riots and revolts breaking out in major cities across Ferelden—Denerim, Highever, even his own teyrnir of Gwaren—as people angrily protested either his heavy-handedness with the Bannorn, or the fact he was doing nothing to curtail the threat posed by the darkspawn.
Without the backing of the Bannorn, Loghain could no longer effectively recruit an army to counter the darkspawn in the south. The fact that Ferelden's remaining armies were too preoccupied fighting themselves only ensured Urthemiel's rampage was even more devastating: the darkspawn were given the opportunity made by the distraction to advance further into Ferelden unopposed. Some banns were able to push Loghain's troops back, only to then lose their holdings to the horde because their weakened forces couldn't stave off the darkspawn.
Antivan Crows involvement
The Antivan Crows became secretly involved in the events of the Fereldan Civil War, taking a subservient role. Their involvement was motivated by, first and foremost, profit: the civil war was a catalyst for many old grudges between nobles, as well as many new ones. Even Loghain himself, under the advisement of Rendon Howe, hired an Antivan Crow named Zevran Arainai to kill the Grey Warden survivors of the Battle of Ostagar. So great, in fact, was the number of contracts that the demand for the Crows soon overtook their numbers and capabilities. The second reason was more long-term: to defeat the Blight. The Antivan Crows knew that their beloved country, which possessed no standing army, was defenseless against the darkspawn horde. The Crows hoped to end the Blight without it spilling outside Ferelden's borders and endangering their international employers. To the Crows, Loghain was the most appropriate man to lead Ferelden and defeat the Archdemon.
When the Grey Warden Aedan Cousland overcame Zevran's trap and deal with the assassin as he saw fit, the Crows were impressed and took a greater interest in the Warden's activities. As it became clear the Warden was a capable commander and was recruiting a formidable force to deal with the Blight, the Crows began to see a suitable leader to support in place of Loghain, whose ruthless actions against the Bannorn forces and inaction against the darkspawn were only exacerbating the situation. The Crows contacted Aedan to extend the possibility of employment, dealing with contracts the Crows lacked the manpower to take on. As an added incentive, the Crows only extended offers that benefited the Warden's cause.
As the war dragged on, it cost Ferelden a great deal of money. Farming had come to a halt due to the fighting and the Blight tainting much of the southern farmlands, which was detrimental to the country's treasury in and of itself. Matters were only made worse when Loghain hired the Antivan Crows to assassinate the Warden. Arl Howe compounded this problem partially, as he was embezzling from the treasury without Loghain's knowledge. Ferelden's reserves were now very little. Loghain would not concede to the Bannorn in the civil war, however.
Desperate for gold, he entered into an "arrangement", as it were, with Tevinter slavers led by Caladrius. The arrangement ensured that the slavers would operate freely in Denerim's alienage in exchange for gold. The elves of Denerim were at the time stricken by a Blight induced plague, prompting a quarantine of the alienage. This gave the slavers all the anonymity they required and allowed them to covertly kidnap elves while claiming to be on a humanitarian mission to heal them with the personal consent of Loghain.
After Aedan managed to gather an army of followers to battle the Blight and utilized the Urn of Sacred Ashes to heal Arl Eamon, he conspired with Eamon to end the war. Eamon was aware that should the war continue its course, Fereldan forces would be too small to battle the darkspawn. Relying on non-violent means to end the war and force Loghain to abdicate, the Arl called a Landsmeet. Eamon planned to present Alistair, the only remaining blood relative of King Maric Theirin, as a man with a stronger claim to the throne than Loghain, and unite the nobles under him. While Eamon and Teagan held a claim by marriage, they couldn't afford to risk it, as the nobles would perceive them to be opportunists.
In a stroke of luck, Queen Anora decided to turn on her father and join them. Anora was aware of, or at least suspected, her father's involvement in her husband's death, and was eventually imprisoned by Rendon Howe for voicing her concerns. Howe then planned on killing Anora and framing Eamon for her death. Though Loghain had no intention of killing her, Anora was uncertain if Howe would willingly comply with Loghain's wishes. Knowing that Loghain's actions would destroy Ferelden and rob her of the power she had cultivated for five years, Anora sent word of her capture to Aedan and offered an alliance if she were rescued. Once freed, Anora informed him of rumors from the alienage, believing it a good place to gather evidence against Loghain. She also made it clear to Aedan and Eamon that her support, which could be vital for their cause, would only come with the assurance that she would retain her power as sovereign.
There also became a debate over who would rule better. Though some would follow Alistair out of respect for his Theirin blood, others would perceive Eamon attempting to grab power or that the Wardens were attempting to seize the throne for themselves. Alistair himself believed he would make a weak ruler and was more than willing to abdicate to Anora. However, Eamon believed that with some guidance, Alistair would make a fine king. He was adamant on putting Alistair on the throne, fearing that the country would return to the old days of warring teynirs if the line of Theirins were broken. When Aedan brought up the suggestion of marrying Alistair and Anora, Eamon noted that it would solve a lot of problems and put forth the strongest argument to remove Loghain from power and unite Fereldan against the Blight, but such an alliance would only be possible if the two agreed to it.
After Aedan obtained proof of Loghain's involvement with the slavers in the alienage, Eamon convened the Landsmeet. He denounced Loghain, claiming he had turned against everything Ferelden was built upon. In turn, Loghain claimed that Eamon was plotting to make Alistair a puppet ruler. As the Warden and Alistair arrived, Loghain accused the former of being an Orlesian agent. The Warden refuted his accusations and revealed the teryn's crimes, discrediting Loghain's ability to lead. Regardless of the nobles' opinions about Loghain, the future monarch and the Warden, the Landsmeet was settled down by a duel, that was won by the champion of the Eamon faction.
After his defeat, Loghain was declared guilty of committing high treason and was summarily executed for his crimes. Following this act, Aedan declared both Alistair and Queen Anora agreed to marry and rule Ferelden together as equals. Both sides of the Fereldan Civil War called an end to hostilities and united to the army already under Aedan's command as the Fereldan Coalition to face the rampaging darkspawn horde.