The Gray Host was a mighty and terrible army made up of vampires, were-creatures, zombies, and faceless shadows, that was active during the earlier half of the First Era. They were led in battle by the Vampire King Styriche of Verkarth, though he did not hold absolute power, as the Gray Host was instead governed by the Gray Council. The Gray Council was made up of powerful vampires and lycanthropes within the Gray Host's Hierarchy. Those with leadership positions on the council were known as the Exarchs. The motives of the blasphemous aggregation were unclear as no one bothered to inquire, though it was suspected to be more than mere slaughter.
The Gray Host was founded sometime in the First Era by a group of vampires and lycanthropes in the ancient city of Verkarth. The City of Verkarth started out as an underground network of caves that existed far before it had expanded to the surface. It was theorized by the scholar, Archibald Laurent that the stronghold city of the Gray Host began roughly a hundred years before it surfaced, and that it may have been built in abandoned caves rather than it being excavated. The Pyre Watch remember that Verkarth and the Gray Host both appearing from out of nowhere and that they soon conquered all of central Hammerfell roughly a century before their demise. Verkarth's dominion had overshadowed many smaller hamlets in its wake, most notably the city, Ska'vyn. By the time their leader, King Styriche revealed his true nature, his dominion reached as far east as the large city, Elinhir and to the west at Thorstad Place.
In 1E 1029, Empress Hestra arrived on her steed Fiery Ursula and led her legions to depose King Styriche, harrying him and his Gray Host into western Hammerfell. The dreaded army of vampires, werewolves, and zombie Hussars were mounted on a great pack of skeletal wolves and fled west to the Fallen Wastes, burning and killing as they came.
Eventually the Host reached the southern gate of the Bangkorai Pass, where they crashed upon the walls of the Garrison and slew hundreds, draining blood from them in great draughts casting down their pale, empty husks. The vampires screamed their dark curses and slammed their claws and leathery wings into the gates of the fortress. St. Pelin, a simple and humble beadle of the Chapel of Stendarr who tended to the soldiers of Garrison, ran to the fighting at the top of the great gate, where he found his friend Sergeant Clancie fighting off the hordes of the Host. Clancie told him that they would soon burst through the gate, and knowing that only blood might hold them at bay, St. Pelin cast himself into the throng and offered his own blood to the creatures. As the foul creatures feasted upon his blood, he prayed a mighty prayer to Stendarr, saying "O Stendarr, God of Justice, fill me with an ocean of blood that I might beguile these daemons away from the gate but a few minutes more!"
Stendarr recognized his great courage, and Pelin felt himself filled anew with an ocean of blood. The divine geyser of gore drew every vampire within sight into a great feeding mound before the gate, but as the vampires drank and drank, they could not drain him dry. Struck by his sacrifice, the soldiers of the Garrison seized the moment and pushed a tottering battlement down upon the creatures gathered before the gate, dwindling their numbers until reinforcements could arrive. With the vampires either slain or disoriented, the pursuing legions of Empress Hestra caught and killed the survivors, marking the end of the Gray Host. The Empress was so impressed by the battle that she honored High Rock with admission into the First Empire.
The story of Saint Pelin, from a scholarly standpoint is considered to be an outlandish account, and many scholars outright discredit it. The true record of what actually happened may never be known as it was lost to history, only fragments of what happened during that time are known to scholars. What is known is the combined might of the Bangkorai Garrison and the Alessian Empire played a pivotal role in the Gray Host's defeat. Magic also played a role in the events that transpired, but its unknown if the magic involved came from actual Divine invention as the stories of Saint Pelin claim, or if it was Alessian Sorcery.
Some skeletal wolves escaped the massacre of the Gray Host, and survived to haunt to wastes. Because of a deal King Styriche made with the Daedric Prince Molag Bal, the entire army vampire, and lycanthrope alike ended up in Coldharbour. The Gray Host's remains were burned and their ashes hidden away in a burial mound, scholars referred to as Unhallowed Grave. Rada al-Saran was among the few members to survive, and spent eons looking for a way to return the twelve of his Exarch siblings who fell.
During the Planemeld in 2E 582, Styriche and his companions Fangaril of Cyrodiil and Zayzahad the bat served as generals for Molag Bal, leading troops of Daedra and undead lycanthrope and vampiric members of the Gray Host at Dark Anchors. Later that year a group of grave robbers, hired by the vampire lord Rada al-Saran raided Unhallowed Grave, and took many of the urns (known as gray reliquaries) holding the ashes of the Gray Host. The ashes were then transported to Skyrim, where Rada began his plan to resurrect the Gray Host in earnest. In Eastern Skyrim, he had the Icereach Coven abduct Jorunn the Skald-King in an attempt to turn him into a vampiric sleeper agent, but this plot was foiled by the intervention of the Vestige and Lyris Titanborn. In Western Skyrim, Rada personally approached High King Svargrim of Solitude, offering him incredible power in exchange for his servitude.
Eager for any power to finally prove his superiority to his hated rival Jorunn, Svargrim eagerly accepted Rada's offer, allowing his agents free rein across Western Skyrim. Using Harrowstorms, supernatural storms created by the Icereach Coven, using the urns holding the Gray Host ashes as a focus. Rada and his allies were able to pull their comrades out of Coldharbour, and then using the Stone Husks, to fully restore their corporeal forms allowing them to live once more. The resurrection of Exarch Tzinghalis was vital to the Gray Host, as it allowed obstacles Rada spent millennia on, to be solved within days. Rada's ultimate goal was to unleash a massive Harrowstorm within Solitude, so that he could retrieve the souls of the Gray Host with one massive storm, but this was foiled when the Vestige, with the help of Lyris, the Altmer vampire Fennorian a member of House Ravenwatch, and Svargrim's own daughter Svana, exposed the High-King's treachery and slew him.
Subsequently, Rada al-Saran and the Gray Host encroached on the Reach, slaughtering any Reach clans that stood in their path. Seeking to revitalize her Nighthollow Clan, Lady Belain, who had made a pact with Rada centuries before, joined al-Saran. She was planted as an advisor to Ard Caddach and convinced him to encourage the fearful Reach clans to take refuge in Markarth. This was, in actuality, a ploy to gather mortals to be sacrificed to fuel the reawakening of the Dark Heart. Rada's goal was to bind the Gray Host to the Dark Heart and use its power to pull the remaining members of the Gray Host out of Coldharbour, and sever the Gray Host's contract with Molag Bal.
After being discovered as an ally of Rada by The Vestige, and House Ravenwatch, Lady Belain rallied the Ghostsong Clan to enact the Prophecy of the Dark Heart. Those who deserted the clan were quickly killed, while the willing were sacrificed to the Dark Heart. Arana, a dissident of the Ghostsong clan, aided the hero with discovering the Ghostsong's hideout, and discovered that Nathari had primed the reawakening of the Heart. Many shades came forth, and Nathari herself was transformed into a voidmother and was slain. The victory brought the Heart to a temporary stasis.
House Ravenwatch later discovered Lady Belain's Nighthollow Keep under Blackreach, and the Heart discovered deep within the keep's depths, along with the ongoing ritual to fully reawaken it. It was too late to stop it, and the Heart was reawakened, pulling the souls of Markarth's slain denizens into it, and resurrecting the Nighthollow clan from its ashes. Lady Belain unsealed the doors of Nchuand-Zel, catching those at Understone Keep off guard and almost killing Ard Caddach. The Vestige followed Arana into the Nchuand-Zel, and recovered the keystone within the ruin's depths to gain access to the Orrery of Arkthzand, which al-Saran required to harvest the Heart's power to its full potential. There, Lady Belain teleported the intruder's to the Dark Heart's chambers, and bathed in its power. Despite this, Namira intervened through Arana, and gave her the strength to press on despite her wounds. Together, the duo slew Belain, striking another blow against Rada, though Arana succumbed to her wounds after the battle.
After being thwarted from fully reawakening the Heart, by the combined efforts of the Vestige and House Ravenwatch, Rada opened a gateway to the realm of Grayhaven, using the Orrery of Arkthzand as a map, and the Dark Heart as a power source and gateway for this endeavor. Grayhaven was a piece of land sundered from the Reach during the Planemeld, and caught in the Void "between Mundus and Oblivion". Using the Dark Heart, Rada planned to anchor the Gray Host souls to this sanctuary realm, not only freeing them from Molag Bal. But also making death a petty inconvenience to them, in a similar manner to a Daedra. Potentially allowing the Gray Host means to go on never-ending conquests.
While the Vestige, Lyris, and members of House Ravenwatch were at his doorstep, Rada was conjuring an apocalyptic storm from within Grayhaven known as the Darkstorm. If the storm had not been stopped, it would have consumed all the souls in the Reach to fully power the Dark Heart, and would have given Rada the means to use its energy to transform Grayhaven, giving him the means to achieve his eons-long goal of freeing the Gray Host from their suffering in Coldharbour. The plot was ultimately foiled by Verandis, Lyris Titanborn, and the Vestige, and Rada was slain before he could unleash the Dark Storm.
- For game-specific information, see the ESO article.
- The Martyrdom of Saint Pelin — Priestess Adie Rodeau
- Abbess Iraldine's dialogue in ESO
- The Gray Host: A History Part 2 — Lord Archibald Laurent, Lordly Explorer
- My Beloved Siblings, the Exarchs — Rada al-Saran
- Count Verandis Ravenwatch's dialogue in ESO
- The Gray Host: A History Part 1 — Lord Archibald Laurent, Lordly Explorer
- Bangkorai, Shield of High Rock — King Eamond
- Flame Atronach Bear mount description
- Skeletal Wolf mount description
- Gwendis's dialogue in ESO
- Scholar Cogline's dialogue in ESO
- Shelaria's dialogue in ESO
- My Beloved Siblings, the Exarchs — Rada al-Saran
- Fennorian's dialogue in ESO
- Events of ESO
- Events of Unhallowed Grave in ESO
- Events of The Coven Conundrum in ESO
- Events of ESO: Greymoor
- Events of The Gray Host in ESO
- Gray Host Communique —Rada al-Saran
- Events of Greymoor Rising in ESO
- Events of The Despot of Markarth in ESO
- Events of The Awakening Darkness in ESO
- Events of The Dark Heart in ESO
- Events of A Feast of Souls in ESO
- Count Verandis Ravenwatch's dialogue in ESO
- Events of The End of Eternity in ESO
- Events of Kingdom of Ash in ESO