“It resembled a dragon in outward form, but no dragon was ever so terrible within. Darkness crackled around it, and darkness was its soul.”
—From Codex entry: Archdemon
Archdemons possess an intelligence far beyond the average dragon and are purely evil creatures. Most of the time, the darkspawn are organized as a simple hive-mind, concerned only with expanding the horde. They rarely appear on the surface, except in raids and small invasions. Similarly, the Archdemon rarely fights on the surface during Blights unless direct intervention is necessary, though through the hive-mind, the Archdemon communicates with and commands the entire horde whether in their presence or not, usually sending its orders to the emissaries or powerful hurlock generals; Grey Wardens often "hear" the Archdemon in their dreams, veteran Wardens even claiming to understand parts of the Archdemon's speech.
A Blight begins when the darkspawn find and taint an Old God, who then unites them into a great horde and unleashes them onto the surface in both smaller groupings and large armies. The tainted Old God is now referred to as an Archdemon and a Blight will not end until it is destroyed. Without an Archdemon to command them, the darkspawn flee back underground. After a period of time, they search for another Old God to turn into an Archdemon and thus starting the cycle again.
Since the dwarves managed to fend off the darkspawn invasion after the First Blight, no Archdemon has led a Blight against them. Instead, the dwarves consider the Blight to be something of a respite, as all darkspawn activity is focused on the surface.
Dragon Age: Origins
Urthemiel is first glimpsed by the Warden after their Joining ceremony, although the other Fereldan Grey Wardens, such as Warden-Commander Duncan, had felt his presence since before their engagements at Ostagar. Urthemiel appears in the Warden's dreams after first leaving Lothering.
While traveling through the Dead Trenches, it is encountered in the flesh for the first time from a distance, leading the bulk of the darkspawn horde. Sometime before Arl Eamon Guerrin called the Landsmeet, the Archdemon appears again in the Warden's dreams the same night he has send a group of shrieks assassins to kill both the Warden and Alistair in their camp while they are traveling across Ferelden.
The Warden discovers on the eve of the Battle of Denerim that the Archdemon may only be killed by a Grey Warden. If killed by anyone else (as Riordan explains), its soul will escape to the nearest darkspawn (who are soulless), making it practically immortal (barring the impractical eradication of every darkspawn in existence). However, if a Grey Warden strikes the killing blow, the soul will assail that Warden's taint—causing both souls to be destroyed. As the senior Grey Warden present, Riordan acknowledges his duty to make the first attempt.
After this revelation, Morrigan waits in the Warden's bedroom to offer a deal. The premise here is that a Warden's taint will transfer to the pregnancy, and this will lure the escaping soul to be bound into the unborn child, free of the taint, rather than the standard mutual destruction with its slayer.
When the Warden reaches Redcliffe, they are informed the Archdemon has been sighted near Denerim. Thus Ferelden's capital becomes the site of the final battle. This is where the Warden will call all allies that have been gained previously.
Urthemiel is sighted some time after reaching Denerim, flying over the city followed by a charge of human soldiers. It is next seen from the Elven Alienage as the Warden leaves, after either killing or avoiding the Hurlock General there. Urthemiel flies overhead and destroys the bridge, making backtracking impossible for the 'primary' party.
At this point Riordan will be atop a tower dealing with his own group of darkspawn. The Archdemon swoops past the tower, and Riordan jumps onto its back, maintaining his position by stabbing his sword into various points in its body. Urthemiel attempts to 'skim' a tower, forcing Riordan to jump onto its right wing. It then flies directly upward, sending Riordan into a fatal fall, but not before he inflicts a massive wound which forces it to land atop Fort Drakon, where the remaining Wardens can finish it off.When the Warden reaches the top of the fortress, the Archdemon is busy demolishing soldiers. This leads to the final fight of the Fifth Blight in which Urthemiel is struck down by the two remaining Grey Wardens of Ferelden.
The Darkspawn Chronicles
In a non-canonical narrative in which the Warden died at Ostagar and Alistair traveled onwards without his comrade, the Archdemon summoned the Hurlock vanguard to lead the other, mindless darkspawn to victory at the Battle of Denerim. Urthemiel whispers directly to the Vanguard's mind, ordering him to destroy key points of the city or specific enemies during the battle.After its battle against Riordan, sensing Alistair's approach and aware of its own injuries, the Archdemon demanded the Vanguard's presence at the top of Fort Drakon immediately. After the Vanguard killed Alistair in the ensuing battle, Urthemiel, having regenerated from its injuries, flew off to destroy the rest of Ferelden unopposed.
A few of the high-ranking Grey Wardens know the locations of each of the Archdemon prisons; however, they are deep underground and cannot easily be accessed by the Wardens without cutting through thousands of darkspawn. Even the Wardens who hold the knowledge of the Archdemon prisons are not necessarily aware of how this information has been acquired.
According to a report sent by Kardol of the Legion of the Dead to Orzammar's Shaperate, he accidentally discovered a cavern beneath the Heidrun Turning which was accessible via tunnels dug by darkspawn claws. The cavern smells foul and claw marks are ripped into the rock. There are also several darkspawn corpses dried out with their heads pressed against the stone, as if they were praying. Furthermore, the darkspawn could not follow the Legionnaires inside the empty cavern but the Legionnaires also started feeling numb and dizzy. Kardol believes this was a prison of an Archdemon, its echo still lasts to this day.
However in both locations the ground is notably extremely weak and prone to cave-ins. In both cases the Legionnaires and the Wardens lost men as a result of this.
- Codex entry: Archdemon
- Codex entry: Dumat, the Dragon of Silence
- Codex entry: The Mason's Tales: The Archdemon
- Codex entry: The Old Gods
- Codex entry: To Be Corrupted
- Dragon Age: Last Flight, Chapter 5.
- Dragon Age (tabletop RPG), Core Rulebook, p. 293
- "Emissary". Official BioWare site. Retrieved January 28, 2012.
- The Archdemon talks directly with the Hurlock vanguard in The Darkspawn Chronicles DLC
- According to dialogue with Alistair in Dragon Age: Origins
- According to dialogue with Duncan while in Ostagar.
- Dragon Age: The Calling, Chapter 10. Bregan, former Commander of the Grey in Orlais, knows the location of the prisons.
- Dragon Age: The World of Thedas, vol. 2, p. 106
- Note: Ancient Warden Logbook