Into the Darkness
The Grey Wardens are an organization 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.
“You will guard them and they will hate you for it. Whenever there is not a Blight actively crawling over the surface, humanity will do its best to forget how much they need you. And that’s good. We need to stand apart from them, even if they have to push us away to make us do it. That is the only way we can ever make the hard decisions.” ―Kristoff, former Commander of the Grey of Orlais
First Blight and the founding
The First Blight occurred in -395 Ancient (800 TE), when 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. Warden legends sing of their leader Carinus, and the sacrifice the founders made as they tried to save the world while their families perished. It is thought that Nakiri of The Donarks, Tevinter mages, and even elven slaves contributed to founding the order. The Joining symbolically cut their ties to all worldly concerns, 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. 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
The Grey Wardens’ legendary griffons died out some time after the Fourth Blight.
Exalted Age to Dragon Age
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. So many darkspawn were slain during the Fourth Blight that many came to the conclusion they were defeated permanently. 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.
Battle of Soldier’s Peak
In 7:5 Storm, 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 the 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. 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 their presence remains light and the order is neither well known nor held in high regard by Ferelden’s people.