My people have heard the song. Ishgard will burn.
The Defense of Ishgard is a pivotal battle in the Dragonsong War in Final Fantasy XIV, which occurs after the great wyrm Nidhogg roars, causing many dragons, including Midgardsormr, to rise and "join the chorus." The dragons unite to launch an assault on Ishgard to recover an artifact known as the Eye of Nidhogg. The Eorzean Alliance sends forces to bolster the highlands outside Ishgard, and repels the invasion.
The battle is part of the climax of the 2.x storyline and, along with the The Keeper of the Lake dungeon and Ul'dahn Revolution, leads into the Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward expansion. Players participate through numerous quests and the Trial The Steps of Faith, which were released in Patch 2.55, Before the Fall Part 2.
A thousand years ago, during the early centuries of the Sixth Astral Era, a group of devout followers of Halone led by Thordan I came to Coerthas in search of the "Promised Land." As they built a bridge over a chasm a shadow fell upon them and the Great Wyrm Nidhogg approached. Thordan I charged the dragon only to be pushed into the chasm by one of his men, seduced by the dragon. Taking up his lance, Haldrath avenged his father by assaulting Nidhogg, stabbing out its eye. A source of the Great Wyrm's power, the new city-state of Ishgard used it to power the Azure Dragoons, allowing them counter Nidhogg's endless wrath. If the eye was ever to be recovered, they would have no defense against his fury.
Both sides suffered heavy losses in the years before the battle: Nidhogg's last rampage was repelled twenty years prior, and shortly after that the Father of Dragons, Midgardsormr, rallied the horde to repel the first Garlean invasion at Mor Dhona, with the Battle of Silvertear Skies ending in the apparent death of the wyrmking when the Agrius dreadnought fell. The devastation from the release of the dreadwyrm Bahamut after the Battle of Carteneau wrought sufficient environment damage on Coerthas to plunge the region into an eternal winter, putting the Holy See in dire straits.
After Operation Archon, primal summonings become commonplace, and a faction of Ishgardian heretics, the Harriers, summon their saint, Shiva, into the body of their leader, Ysayle Dangoulain, the Lady Iceheart, to use against the Holy See. Though the Scions of the Seventh Dawn intervene and strike down Shiva, who calls for "her brothers" to "rise and join in the chorus", astrologians note that the stars predict the rebirth of Midgardsormr, who could lead a force against Ishgard on behalf of his son. The Scions investigate the Keeper of the Lake, which contains the wreckage of the Agrius and the corpse of Midgardsormr. Inside, the adventurer discovers Midgardsormr had been awakened by the roar of his son who is calling for another assault on Ishgard.
Though the Temple Knights' envoy to the Scions, Lucia, is at first convinced that her country can defend itself, she realizes Coerthas will fall to the Dravanians when Nidhogg's massive host takes flight over the region. For the first time in centuries Ishgard is forced to call for aid from outside factions: the Grand Companies.
Battle in the Central Highlands
Nidhogg's host, led by his second-in-command, Vishap, lands in the Coerthas Central Highlands and overruns the area's defenses. Despite heavy casualties Camp Dragonhead prevails and the host is not able to continue north to the Gates of Judgement, which lead to the Steps of Faith, a bridge into Ishgard proper.
The Steps of Faith contain four arcane barriers known as Daniffen's Collar that, if destroyed, would allow dragons to fly into the city and destroy it. A band of Harriers led by Ysayle massacre the forces defending the Gates of Judgement and destroy the first and outermost barrier. Ser Aymeric de Borel, Lord Commander of the Temple Knights, petitions the Scions for an armed intervention. He points out to Alphinaud Leveilleur that if the Horde razes the city to the ground they would return to Dravania, and leave Coerthas an easy target for annexation by the Garlean Empire.
Not wanting Coerthas to become an Imperial province, Alphinaud proposes that the Grand Companies of Eorzea send troops to drive back the Horde. The Alliance leaders are unwilling to commit more than nominal numbers to the war effort due to ongoing problems in their home regions. They suggest petitioning Free Companies and the Adventurer's Guild for volunteers. Raubahn agrees to allow the Brass Blades full control of Ul'dah to quell the riots there, so as many men as possible could be spared for the battle for Ishgard. This decision would later come back to haunt them.
Defense of the Steps of Faith
Dismayed at the lackluster response from the Alliance, the Scions deploy the adventurer and the Crystal Braves; however, the Braves and Temple Knights suffer heavy losses in the defense of Whitebrim Front and Providence Point. Though many Free Companies in Mor Dhona send adventurers to Coerthas, they suffer heavy losses before even arriving in Camp Dragonhead and are not useful in the defense of the city.
In addition, Vishap and an army of dragons fly through the Sea of Clouds onto the Steps of Faith and begin to destroy what is left of Daniffen's Collar. The adventurer's party and a division of dragoons led by Estinien hold off Vishap by using the cannons and dragonkillers positioned along the bridge. (If the adventurer's party fails to slay Vishap in time, he will destroy the Arc of the Worthy, the gate leading into Ishgard, thus opening the city to the Dravanian Horde.)
With the death of Vishap, the Dravanian Horde flees the Highlands, and Estinien swears to hunt down Ysayle, and reaffirms to exact his revenge on Nidhogg, who was curiously not present during the main assault.
The attack was devastating—the casualties...unspeakable. The wyverns did not discriminate. Unarmed men and women...even children were given no quarter.Count Edmont de Fortemps
Though the main horde withdrew, a flock of wyverns later entered the Foundation thanks to the heretics. The results were bloody: the scalekin showed no restraint during their raid, sparing not even civilians. The Brume was among the hardest hit, due to the weakest defenses and proximity to the Steps of Faith. In contrast, the Pillars remained unscathed due to the knights prioritizing its defense.
The Grand Companies agree to victory celebrations in Ul'dah where Ishgard would be inducted into the Eorzean Alliance and Nanamo Ul Namo and Raubahn Aldynn would announce their plans for the future of the Ul'dahn government, but the Monetarists and Crystal Braves use the fete to overthrow the Royalists. The Scions are forced to isolate themselves from politics in Ul'dah and Mor Dhona and flee to Coerthas, where they would await asylum within the Holy See.
Though Ishgard still stands after the battle, they suffered heavy losses due to the wyvern raid, with significant damage to the Foundation district. Worse yet, they failed to put down the rising chorus initiated with Nidhogg's cry, allowing the Dravanians to regroup and plan their next attack. It is only a matter of time before the Gates of Judgement are opened to adventurers, to whom Ishgard owes a debt of gratitude.
Ysayle was horrified by the senseless brutality exhibited by the wyverns, and soon regretted her role in allowing the attack.