The Grey Wardens are an ancient organization of warriors of exceptional ability dedicated to fighting darkspawn in all of Thedas. They are headquartered in the very place of their founding, the Weisshaupt Fortress in the Anderfels, but maintain a presence in most other nations as well. The Grey Wardens are known for ignoring a recruit's racial, social, national, and even criminal background if they deem the person valuable in terms of character or ability.
Despite their small numbers, the Grey Wardens have been instrumental in defeating each Blight so far, and thus are vital to the survival of the world as a whole. Most Dragon Age material released (novels, games, and comics) have been strongly centered around the Grey Wardens.
The First Blight and the FoundingEdit
The First Blight occurred in -395 Ancient (395 years before the Chantry calendar), or 800 TE (800 years from the founding of the Tevinter Imperium), a plague was unleashed upon the world. The Deep Roads, underground highways built by dwarves, were swarmed with monstrous creatures that became known as the "darkspawn". These creatures seemed limitless in number, and spread a taint that infected other living creatures, mutating them into monsters, and corrupted and poisoned the very environment around them. The cult of the Maker claimed this was the result of Tevinter mages entering the Fade through a ritual and attempting to usurp the Golden City, although dwarves and other non-humans discounted the theory. Nevertheless, this invasion of darkspawn — named the Blight — soon destroyed most of the underground kingdoms of the dwarves and spread to the surface world. Thedas was in chaos and entered a dark age. The darkspawn were found to be led by an immensely powerful dragon tainted with the darkspawn corruption; this creature was named an archdemon and believed to be one of the Old Gods worshipped by Tevinter.
In -305 Ancient (890 TE), after nearly a century of bitter war against the darkspawn hordes, a group of veteran warriors came together in Weisshaupt Fortress in the Anderfels, the western part of the Tevinter Imperium. They had somehow discovered the process of Joining, and employed it to found a brotherhood that cut all other ties, as a price, in order to dedicate themselves to fighting the darkspawn. They called themselves the Grey Wardens, and would accept anyone, no matter their race or background, without distinction if only deemed suitable to join the order.
The Grey Wardens first appeared on the battlefield during the attack on Nordbotten, arriving mounted on griffons, plunging into the darkspawn with each Warden taking on crowds of ten or twenty darkspawn at once. Incredibly, they broke the horde and won the battle. They proved to be a desperately needed spark of hope in the darkest of hours, and quickly gained renown since. The Grey Wardens started receiving tithes, supplies, and recruits from all lands; they grew, building fortresses and functioning as elite shock troops making quick and devastating strikes wherever darkspawn appeared, as well as rallying the mundane armies to greater deeds.
During the next 100 years, humanity slowly managed to stand firm and push back the Blight. Finally, in -203 Ancient (992 TE), the Grey Wardens gathered an allied army composed of soldiers from the Tevinter Imperium, the tribes of the Ciraine (the lands that would become Orlais), and Rivain to confront the main darkspawn horde, led by the archdemon now identified as Dumat. The massive battle was waged at the Silent Plains, in what is now southern Tevinter or northern Nevarra: the legion of darkspawn was defeated and Dumat was slain by the Grey Wardens: with the archdemon's death, the horde's will to fight on was broken. It took several years to eradicate the remaining darkspawn from the surface, but the deed was done and the Grey Wardens had carved out their legend. After the Battle of the Silent Plains, they were much celebrated and most nations gave formal promises of support for further darkspawn invasions. The Grey Wardens were also given the Right of Conscription to guarantee sufficient recruits.
The Second Blight and the ChantryEdit
In 1:5 Divine, approximately 200 years since the slaying of Dumat, the archdemon Zazikel rose to lead the Second Blight. The entire city of Nordbotten — the very place where the Grey Wardens first appeared on the battlefield — was destroyed before a defense could be organized. The Tevinter Imperium withdrew from the Anderfels, abandoning it in an attempt to protect central Tevinter. The Anderfels area was in much trouble, and even the Grey Warden headquarters in Weisshaupt came under siege by the darkspawn.
Fortunately, the armies of the recently founded Orlesian Empire under the command of Emperor Kordillus Drakon I proved both motivated and capable of standing up to the Blight. After several victories against the darkspawn, Drakon's army lifted the siege of Weisshaupt in 1:33 Divine and proceeded to save the rest of the Anderfels together with the Wardens. The Anderfels joined with the Orlesian Empire, and the Grey Wardens were sufficiently impressed by Drakon's actions to convert to the Chantry of Andraste.
In the following decades, the Blight was again slowly pushed back and the Grey Wardens took command of the war. The archdemon Zazikel was finally confronted and slain by Grey Wardens in 1:95 Divine at Starkhaven in the Free Marches.
The Third BlightEdit
The Third Blight began with the awakening of Toth in 3:10 Towers, roughly 200 years after the last Blight. The initial darkspawn attacks occurred in central Thedas in Tevinter and Orlais, but even though the hordes were larger than those previously encountered, a rapidly-organized defense led by the Grey Wardens managed to hold them back. The darkspawn attacks started to focus on the more lightly defended Free Marches while Tevinter and Orlais tried to remain neutral, but pressure from the Grey Wardens eventually brought them into the war. The darkspawn horde was crushed at Hunter Fell in the Free Marches in 3:25 Towers, and Toth was slain by the Grey Wardens. The third Blight remained a relatively short event compared to previous Blights.
The Fourth BlightEdit
Not much is told about the Grey Wardens for another 200 years, when Andoral awakened and the Fourth Blight began in 5:12 Exalted. Most of the damage was to the east of traditional Grey Warden territory, in the Free Marches, Antiva, and Rivain, but the Anderfels was also attacked and Hossberg, not far from Weisshaupt, came under siege. This time, both Tevinter and Orlais were lightly attacked and refused to send aid. The hero of the fourth Blight was an elven Grey Warden named Garahel, who first led the liberation of Hossberg in 5:20 Exalted and then managed to gather an army from the Free Marches to support the Grey Wardens. Garahel's army marched north and faced the main horde in 5:24 Exalted at Ayesleigh, where Garahel perished after personally slaying Andoral.
Exalted Age to Dragon AgeEdit
After the fourth Blight, the influence of the Grey Wardens waned considerably. It would be 400 years before the fifth Blight, and many started to think it would never happen. Although remaining an eternal threat to the dwarves, darkspawn were rarely seen by surface people, and the Grey Wardens were slowly dismissed as a relic of a bygone, darker time best left forgotten.
In the vicinity of 7:10 Storm (counting backward from other dates given), there was an awkward incident in Ferelden with the local Warden-Commander—Sophia Dryden, previously a rival for the crown of Ferelden—becoming involved in a planned coup d'état. The result was fighting between Grey Wardens and the royal army, the loss of Commander Sophia and her command at Soldier's Peak, and King Arland banishing the order from Ferelden—although it became a close thing with the Grey Wardens; a force of less than one hundred, nearly defeating the entire Fereldan army). The Grey Wardens were allowed back in Ferelden by King Maric in 9:10 Dragon and they were able to begin a slow rebuilding, but by 9:30 Dragon, their presence remained light and the order was neither well known nor held in high regard by Ferelden's people.
The Fifth BlightEdit
The nominal leader of our order is the First Warden, but you can expect little assistance or guidance so far from the Anderfels. Even those close to Weisshaupt learn to suffer alone. The murmurs are true--the First Warden is often embroiled in the politics of the Anderfels and has little opportunity to consider worldly matters. I would like to believe it is a matter of survival, not of political self-interest. --Codex entry: The First Warden
The order of Grey Wardens is commanded by the First Warden in Weisshaupt. The hierarchy seems to follow a system of national branches, each commanded by a local officer referred to as a Warden-Commander or a Commander of the Grey. Apparently, small numbers make for a simple hierarchy, as no other ranks have been mentioned; the other members appear to follow a less formal "pecking order" determined by seniority (decided by time of Joining). At the time of Dragon Age: Origins in 9:30 Dragon, the strength of the Grey Wardens is estimated at over 1,000 in the Anderfels, several hundred in Orlais, and around two dozen in Ferelden.
The Right of ConscriptionEdit
Should they need to, the Grey Wardens possess the Right of Conscription; they may demand that any individual from king to criminal be drafted into their ranks. However — especially in Ferelden — this right is used sparingly for fear of political reprisal. Further complicating matters, the Grey Wardens don’t accept just anyone. Only the best and brightest are invited, regardless of race or social standing.
"Since the first, these words have been spoken at the ceremony: Join us, brothers and sisters. Join us in the shadows where we stand vigilant. Join us as we carry the duty that can not be forsworn. And should you perish, know that your sacrifice will not be forgotten. And that one day we shall join you."
---The traditional words that begin a Joining
To become part of the Grey Wardens, a recruit must first go through a ritual called the Joining. One of the reasons for the small number of Grey Wardens is that few can survive this ritual. Only those who have a decent chance of surviving the Joining will even be made recruits. The ritual and the details about it are kept a strict secret by the Grey Wardens, because during the Joining, the recruits drink from a goblet containing a mixture of darkspawn blood, lyrium, and a drop of blood from an archdemon. Few survive this, but those who live become Grey Wardens — forever connected to the darkspawn, and forever tainted by the blood they have consumed.
Becoming a Grey Warden requires a dose of the darkspawn corruption in sufficient potency to have an immediate effect, rather than slowly corrupt the consumer into a ghoul. While archdemon blood is typically used, blood of other darkspawn creatures can also be magically treated to make it function in the ritual. However, the average darkspawn doesn't have enough of the corruption within it for this to work.
The Joining ritual grants Grey Wardens several abilities: their link to the darkspawn's hive mind allows them to detect the presence of darkspawn and they become immune to further corruption by the Blight. However, they also suffer from bad (if occasionally prophetic) dreams, ravenous hunger, and shortened lifespans (most Wardens have only thirty years at most after their Joining before the taint consumes them). Also, while they can sense darkspawn, darkspawn can also sense them. As much of a boon as this dark gift is for the Wardens, it has also allowed them to be hunted by the darkspawn on occasion.
Avernus, when asked, states that the darkspawn taint conferred by the Joining contains incredible powers, with the ability to sense darkspawn as the least of such. He speculated that applications of energy and blood could unlock these powers, and endeavored to replicate the effects alchemically — leading to the Power of Blood talent tree.
When the Warden or companions in Awakening go through the Joining (and survive) they gain 1 attribute point and 1 spell or talent point.
There seems to be a continuity error within Dragon Age: Origins. The Joining is said to remain secret yet Queen Anora seems to know of the Joining's fatality when Riordan suggests putting Teyrn Loghain Mac Tir through it.
Just as they keep many secrets from outsiders, including the Joining, Grey Wardens also keep certain secrets hidden from many of their own members. As revealed in Dragon Age: The Calling, it is heavily implied that the Calling was a ritual created by the first Grey Wardens to prevent future members from watching themselves ultimately succumb to the darkspawn taint. Contrary to belief even among themselves, surviving the Joining does not confer to Grey Wardens a true immunity from "blight sickness", but rather merely delays its onset.
The Calling begins with nightmares or voices from the Old Gods, the same "call" the darkspawn hear to search for the Old Gods, approximately 30 years after their joining. According to ritual, the Grey Warden descends underground and celebrate before entering the Deep Roads to slay as many darkspawn as they can before being overwhelmed and slain. The secret of the Calling is implied when Alistair reveals that the taint will kill the Grey Wardens, although this is not true. It is unknown whether the truth was kept from all the Grey Wardens or just its junior members such as Alistair, or perhaps not at all (it is quite possible that the senior Wardens simply did not get a chance to reveal the truth of the Calling to The Warden before the battle at Ostagar), but it is likely that only the first Grey Wardens with the exception of the characters in The Calling, knew the true nature of the Calling.
Riordan implied that even if a Grey Warden would run away, given time all Wardens would find themselves in the Deep Roads, Blight-Lands or pursued by darkspawn, for they all are connected by the taint that draws them to each other. "You'd seek them out... or they'd seek you out." Thus, one can assume that almost every Grey Warden will die at the hands of darkspawn.
Notable Grey WardensEdit
- Main article: Grey Warden Membership
- Anders (Awakening, depending on player's choice; Dragon Age II)
- Bethany Hawke (depending on player's choice and class)
- Carver Hawke (depending on player's choice and class)
- Nathaniel Howe (depending on player's choice)
- Oghren (Awakening; depending on player's choice)
- Orlesian Warden (Awakening; default if character not imported from Origins)
- Secret Companion (depending on player's choice in the Landsmeet)
- Sigrun (depending on player's choice)
- Sophia Dryden
- The Warden
- Velanna (depending on player's choice)
- Soldier's Peak (defunct)
- Amaranthine (including Vigil's Keep), granted to the Wardens following the Fifth Blight
The heraldry of the Grey Wardens is an argent griffon segreant on azure. The Grey Warden Commanders, at least in the time of Sophia Dryden, seem to have their own heraldry as well. The blazon for that charge might be rendered as two griffons displayed addorsed, wings elevated, maintaining a branch fesswise between them. On Sophia Dryden's Warden Commander Armor, the charge appears in or, on a field sable. The artistic rendition of the charge on the armor is distinct from that seen on the heavy metal shields.
Codex EntriesEditCodex entry: The First Blight, Chapter 4 Codex entry: The Grey Wardens Codex entry: The First Warden
- Dragon Age: The Calling by David Gaider gives further insight into many aspects of Grey Warden lore.
- The Grey Wardens also resemble the Knights Templar. Parallels can be seen by comparing the Blights to the Crusades, the small numbers with each organization started with, secret rituals that in which new members are recruited, and how they were abolished in Ferelden by King Arland, similar to how the Knights Templar were dissolved by King Philip IV of France in 1307-1314.
- Becoming a Grey Warden seems to lend itself to greater powers, aside from being able to sense darkspawn. This is evidenced by the Power of Blood trees and the fact that when the Warden (and companions in Awakening) go through the Joining, they gain 1 attribute point and 1 spell or talent.
- Codex entries state that Grey Wardens were known for riding into battle on Griffons, hence their insignia, but after the devastation of the Blights the Griffon population dropped until complete extinction.
- The Grey Wardens base is called "Weisshaupt", this name may be taken from the name of the founder of the Illuminati, Adam Weishaupt.
- It isn't known if there have been any Qunari or Tal-Vashoth Grey Wardens at this time.
- In some ways, the Grey Wardens resemble the reverred Night's Watch in A Song of Ice and Fire, mainly because the Grey Wardens aren't as strong as they once were, and aren't sufficiently funded.