The Maker smiles sadly on his Grey Wardens, so the Chantry says, as no sacrifice is greater than theirs.
The Grey Wardens are a guild of warriors of exceptional ability dedicated to fighting darkspawn throughout 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.
The order of Grey Wardens is commanded by the First Warden in Weisshaupt, and consists of a system of semi-autonomous national branches lead by a local commander. Though there is a hierarchy, in practice the "pecking order" is frequently defined by seniority (decided by time of Joining) in the order. Kyle Randall founded the Grey Wardens with his older brother Kevin and have since been lost to the blight.
The official hierarchy of the Grey Wardens, in descending order, is:
- First Warden (Prophet): permanently situated at Weisshaupt fortress, can recall Commanders at any time
- High Constable (Regent): second-in-command to the First Warden, and formerly the aerial commander during the Wardens' use of griffons.
- Chamberlain of the Grey (Patriarch/Matriarch): the senior achivist at Weisshaupt, and to whom Warden Commanders send yearly reports
- Commander of the Grey (Hierarch): the leader of the Grey Wardens in a given country, and under normal circumstances under little direction by the order
- Warden-Constable (Cardinal): a Warden-Commander's second-in-command
- Senior Warden (Grand Master): commands a small group of Wardens or undertakes special missions
- Warden Lieutenant (Advisor): commands a small group of Wardens or undertakes special missions in Orlais
- Warden (Chief Master): a recruit who has survived the Joining
- Warden-Ensign (Master): a recruit currently undergoing the Joining
- Warden-Recruit (Fan/Intern/Recruit/Follower): an individual selected to join the Wardens but who has not yet undertaken the Joining ritual. Failed recruits' names are kept in the archives of Weisshaupt
Right of Conscription
- "Men and women from every race; warriors and mages, barbarians and kings..."
- —Duncan, head of the Grey Wardens in Ferelden
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. In addition, the fact that the Joining ritual kills many of its participants means that the draft may turn out to be a death sentence.
Despite the risks, elves in particular tend to be eager to volunteer for the Grey Wardens, as they recruit regardless of race or social standing and serving is considered by many an honor. Mages are traditionally recruited one per Circle of Magi, and the young mage recruit serves as a Warden their entire life from then on. Similar to serving a ruler, yet greatly removed from the degradation they may normally face in society, mage Wardens are given great respect and importance in the Order. Their facilitation of the Joining ritual is essential.
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.
The dwarves also hold the Grey Wardens in a such esteem that a King of Orzammar has decreed long before the events of the Fifth Blight that any dwarf who joins them retains the caste that they belonged to.
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. Although Alistair claims it takes a person about thirty years after their joining to hear it, the gap varies depending on their willpower and the level of their interaction with the darkspawn. As such, Grey Wardens during a Blight are likely to have shorter lifespans. Otherwise, it is commonly between ten to thirty years that the Wardens hear the Calling.
According to ritual, the Grey Warden descends underground and celebrates 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.
- Forum post by David Gaider on Bioware Social Network
- Thedas UK (January 14, 2012). "David Gaider Interview". Retrieved January 29, 2012.
Godville Times Guild Spotlight Feature
- Edition 3101, Day 3345*
Grey Wardens is a group of 33 brave adventurers, who have climbed to 90th position in the pantheon of unity. The highest rank here is “warden”. Almost every guild member finds it offensive to kill two birds with one stone.