The following is the first of several collectives of lore and knowledge compiled and declassified from various sources concerning the darkspawn and other darkspawn and taint-related subjects. All that is asked is that the reader take this information and remember it for a time when the Blight returns to the world once more...The Black City and the Seven Fools
At a time when Tevinter was converging from an empire of faith and mysticism into one of politics and agnosticism...seven magisters claimed to have heard whispers from the Dragon gods of the Tevinter Imperium. These draconic deities were those who first taught the magisters their knowledge of magic, particularly magic that drew from blood and death.
Their names are long since lost, but we know of their titles and the god that they called their patron:
A Minister of Dumat, he called himself "The Conductor of Silence"
A Cleric of Zazikel, he took the title of "The Madman of Chaos"
A Warlock of Toth, he declared himself "The Forgewright of Fire"
A Servant of Andoral, he proclaimed to be "The Appraiser of Slavery"
An Engineer of Uthemiel, he was titled as an "Architect of the Works of Beauty"
A Seer Razikale, he was announced as "The Augur of Mystery"
A Warden of Lusacan, he was known as "The Watchman of Night"
These were the Seven Magisters whom dared to breach the barrier between the Fade and Thedas.
The Chantry teaches us that it is the hubris of these seven which brought the darkspawn into our world. These mages had sought to usurp Heaven. But instead, they destroyed it. They were cast out, twisted and cursed by their own corruption. They returned as monsters, the first of the darkspawn. They became a blight upon the lands, unstoppable and relentless.
Whatever the truth of the origins of the darkspawn, the darkspawn themselves are very real and very dangerous. Five times, they have come forth from the Deep Roads and five times, they were beaten back by the sacrifice and heroism of the Grey Wardens. But they remain a very dangerous and powerful threat within the Deep Roads and the thaigs that were once part of the now diminished and scattered Dwarven Empire.The Darkspawn Horde
Known as the night-gangers by the Avvars, the darkspawn horde are endless in both numbers, ruthlessness and danger to the people of Thedas. They have many shapes and sub-species, but all carry the taint and all are bound to the Call of the old gods. Any semblance of culture that they possess is geared in every respect to warfare, corruption, destruction, domination and cruelty.
When they do not war against the surface or the dwarves, they fight against each other for power and control. The winners seize territories and darkspawn clans to unite under one coalition of darkspawn leaders and continue in search of more foes to corrupt or destroy. But when called to a Blight, they act in blind and unquestioning unity against the surface and pour upon Thedas as an endless army.
Through the ages, many darkspawn species have been spotted, but there are known to be four common types of darkspawn species:Hurlock
Hurlocks are taller and more muscular than genlocks and often form the strongest part of darkspawn armies. They are known to excel at using two-handed weapons. Hurlock alphas are among the best of the darkspawn shock troops, and are particularly fierce in close combat. A single berserking hurlock can often be a match for numerous opponents at once. They are known to adorn themselves with roughly-carved tattoos to keep track of their kills and deeds, though it is unknown whether or not there is a uniform standard to these markings.
Not known for tactical prowess, hurlocks have to be told where to go. But once they're there, there's no need for instruction. These darkspawn are masters of the blade; crippling, shattering, battering, bruising, slashing, hacking, tearing, ripping, biting, stabbing, strangling are all easy feats for these monstrosities. Although by no means the most powerful, they are the most infamous darkspawn, as many survivors of a darkspawn raid will only remember the armored, bloodied corpse-like, foul creatures that killed their friends and slaughtered their children. Hurlock Alpha
Among their ranks, hurlocks are differentiated by their abilities. The hurlock alphas are stronger and have significantly higher endurance than their brethren.
Hurlock Berserker is a hurlock alpha which specializes in a berserker-style combat, a discipline that originates from the dwarves.
A Hurlock Ancient is a very old hurlock which has donned incredibly durable armor and has the vitality and endurance to match a drake. It is surmised that this Hurlock is an Alpha that is a veteran of many battles with foes such as other darkspawn, dwarves, and grey wardens. The very existence of such an ancient hurlock gives credence to the theory that darkspawn are ageless and therefore, effectively immortal unless killed in battle.Hurlock Emissary
In the darkspawn armies, the few toughest and most intelligent of the darkspawn become alphas, the commanders and generals of the darkspawn armies. Of these alphas, a few become Emissaries, the spellcasters of the darkspawn with abilities similar to Blood Magic. However, these emissaries rarely appear outside of a Blight, when they appear to see to that the generals and commanders of the darkspawn armies serve the archdemon's interests and not their own.
The Emissaries are the only ones among the darkspawn that have been known to possess the ability to speak and communicate to other species, though topics of discussion with non-darkspawn races are rather limited.
A Hurlock Omega is a very powerful and veteran emissary who wields power and intelligence greater than that of normal emissaries. Genlock
Most numerous of the darkspawn by far, the genlocks are most unique for the existence of two evolutionary branches of their species. One known as the Goblin branch and the other known as Homin.Genlock Goblin
Goblin Genlocks are tough and stocky fighters with a penchant for wickedly hooked axes. Unlike the majority of their brethren, they are swift to take up the more complicated weapons of their enemies, employing siege engines in battle and using clever traps to defend any terrain they control. Ferelden's Circle of Magi believes that their propensity to mine the Deep Roads for lyrium has given genlocks a resistance to magic, for they’ve been known to shrug off spells in battle with little effect. Genlocks tend to be slightly shorter than dwarves with pale white or yellowish skin. They are invariably bald, with deepset eyes and sunken cheeks. Their voices are low and harsh, punctuated by occasional grunts.Genlock Homin
Also known as genlock brutes, these variants of the Genlock race are much more beast-like in appearance, using their heavy-set arms to support their weight, much like a gorilla. It is unknown as to how exactly genlocks have two branching sub-species and some are uncertain as to which darkspawn is meant to be the "original genlock".
However, some scholars have supposed that the ape-like genlock brutes were an evolutionary off-shoot from rockier areas (like the Vinmark mountains) that evolved to gain greater upper body strength due to a change in their environment. But in-fighting among darkspawn resulting in the brutes possessing lower numbers due to being unable to compete with their more agile and diverse goblin-like cousins and thus are rarely encountered outside of darkspawn strongholds. But it appears as though a darkspawn emissary/alpha decided that these darkspawn had their uses and thus engineered certain dwarf broodmothers to birth out the ape-like darkspawn Homins as guards, heavy support and shock troopers for the Horde.Goblin Genlock Alpha
These stocky beasts are the commanders and generals of the genlock forces, bullying the others into line with group buff abilities. They tend to be taller and more heavily muscled than their brethren, and have a more commanding presence, although their demeanor is more swagger and bluster than cool leadership.
There are various forms of these genlock alphas including Master Assassins; and Shadows. One particularly old and strong genlock alpha is known as a Genlock forge master.
The strongest of all genlocks, this master of two-handed weapons rarely leaves the Dead Trenches, where he resides, making weapons and armor for his brethren. When compelled into battle, the Forgemaster fights surrounded by archers and hurlocks, and may wield an enchanted weapon such as a war maul or an axe.Homin Genlock Alpha
These monstrous brutes tend to be among the tallest, and strongest of the genlocks, serving as the generals and commanders of their kind. The Genlock Homin Alphas in particular are much larger: about the size of a bronto and are extremely tough, wielding massive tower shields in deadly charge attacks. Some are even known to use large weapons like clubs, axes, spears or swords in combination with their shields or forsake shields and weapons entirely to use their bladed knuckles.
But they are known to be extremely vulnerable to spirit magic, even by darkspawn standards.Genlock Emissary
This emissary derives from a particularly cunning genlock alpha. These alphas develop magical ability, usually in entropy.
The ability of a genlock, said to be born from a dwarven broodmother (more on that later), to wield magic, and to do so effectively while heavily armored, is a mystery. Grey Warden scholars theorize that the magic of a Genlock Emissary is akin to blood magic, allowing the sorcerer to ignore the magic-dampening effects of armor by using their cohorts' life-force to power their spells.
Variations of the Genlock Emissary include Genlock necromancers who use their magic to reanimate and control corpses and skeletons, Shapechanger which can change their form according to their own imagination and a rare form of emissary known as a Conjurer which is capable of summoning and controlling demons.Sharlock
Commonly known as Shrieks, these darkspawn are feared for their tremendous speed and agility as well as their capacity to stealthily move through enemy ranks. Shrieks serve as the Darkspawn's closest approximation to a traditional Assassin, penetrating well behind enemy lines and tearing their foes apart using the long, jagged blades attached to their forearms. There have even been reports of Shrieks employing a poison mixed from their own tainted blood in their attacks and cunning group tactics when attacking in numbers.Sharlock Alpha
The shriek alpha emerged about the same time as their lesser kin, the shriek, although they are more intelligent, and therefore possess more power and influence over the regular shrieks. During a Blight, they lead their kin into battle, preferring ambush over a straight attack. Needless to say, they are utterly loyal to the Archdemon, and can prove frightening on the battlefield. Sharlock Emissary
Tall, thin, lithe and possessing ears similar to a shriek, these sharlock emissaries are noted as more powerful spellcasters than their hurlock and genlock counterparts. But they typically stay apart from attack groups as they are less armored, physically weaker and more vulnerable.Sharlock Emissary Alpha
Among the more powerful of their kind, these Emissary Alphas are fiercely intelligent and capable of wielding magic with a potency rare even for an Emissary. These creatures often lead hordes of darkspawn and hold command over other emissaries.Ogre
Huge; Fast; Tough; and feral even towards death.
The horned beast known as an ogre is a living siege weapon for it's smaller kindred. They are noted as particularly formidable foes because of their immense strength, speed, and exceptional cruelty. Wardens recommend caution fighting them because they are known to regenerate from non-fatal wounds within minutes. Armored Ogre
Occasionally legionnaires and grey wardens encounter ogres wearing crude patchworks of breastplates and shields threaded together with rope and wire. While multiple holes can be seen, they are negligible considering the already high toughness of ogres. The armored ogres are also noted to use bladed wristblades that are built into the gauntlets of their armor.Ogre Alpha
Though they are no larger than their lesser brethren, an Ogre Alpha is much more intelligent and durable. Some are even reported to use crude, but heavy blades and clubs as weapons.Unique Darkspawn and Ghouls
The taint corrupts all that it touches and twists what it cannot destroy.
Even inanimate objects with magic such as eluvians and even lyrium cannot escape the corrupting influence of the Taint once exposed.
Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Qunari, Birds, Beasts, Dragons, Giants, Spiders...
The inhabitants of Thedas are not exempt.
Some inhabitants have more resistance to the taint and may face prolonged contact without succumbing. But for most others, consistent contact with the taint via darkspawn or lands plagued by the blight is enough to have the taint enter their body. Most die within a few weeks of painful fever and internal corrosion.
They are the lucky ones.
Those that survive become mindless servants of the blight known as ghouls. Even as they are slowly dying, the ghouls are compelled to seek out and serve the darkspawn. Most are eaten; some are put to work as manual labor, smiths, craftsmen or even as soldiers. Sooner or later, most ghouls die within months of their transformation.
If they are lucky.
Animals who are poisoned by the taint become larger and mindless. They become exceptionally aggressive with some of them growing spikes and other strange mutations. The darkspawn waste nothing and will use these beastial ghouls as spies, scouts or offensive support in their wars. One of the more powerful and commonly used animal ghouls are bereskins.Dragon Thralls
Despite their high resistance to the taint, there have been various recordings of dragons being infected by the taint. These once mystical beings then become thralls for the darkspawn horde and are used as air support and shock troopers against heavily defended or highly populated areas. Strangely, it appears as though the taint does not decay the dragon's ability, but rather increases its savagery, turns their scales crimson red and allows it to access darker power.
Like normal dragons, they can breath fire and have powerful claws and teeth. The winged thralls have not lost their flight ability with which they may swoop upon their prey and use their weight to crush even the most heavily armored soldier into flesh and bone. They also somehow acquire the ability to use blood magic with their own blood or that of their victims as a conduit.
It appears as though most dragon thralls are juvenile or matured dragons with drakes being uncommon and high dragons being even more rare considering their low numbers. But there are rumors of darkspawn raiding parties going forth to hunt high dragons, perhaps to harvest them for scales or corrupt their dragonlings and drakes.
Or to capture them.
In the rare time that such a feat is successful, the high dragon is clipped of it's wings, force-fed the darkspawn taint and taken underground.
Most are never seen again....Addendum- Red Lyrium
It is unknown as to how the taint could infect lyrium. Some believe that this is proof that lyrium is somehow alive as the taint only infects living substances, sentient or otherwise.
Whatever the case, it is advised that red lyrium locations are to be quarantined and isolated.
Red Lyrium is known to primarily exist in a crystal form like normal lyrium and thins the veil wherever it grows. Those who ingest the substance or have prolonged contact will have the red lyrium begin to grow within them. The corrupted substance of magic will grant enhanced strength, speed, endurance and power to the victim, but as the lyrium spreads through the cardiac and nervous system, more and more control is given to this substance until the victim is completely engulfed by the red lyrium.
Some are petrified by this infestation while others become giant red lyrium behemoths.
As the existence of red lyrium is a recent discovery, little more can be said. Though it seems as though the darkspawn horde is not aware of this substance and therefore, have not tried to study it for usage or to replicate the corruption in other veins of lyrium.
If an intelligent and powerful darkspawn were to learn of red lyrium's connection to the taint, the consequences would be catastrophic for Thedas. Blight or not blight.Broodmother
As mentioned before, those unfortunate enough to survive their blight infection become mindless and unwilling servants of the darkspawn.
Those were most often males.
Females on the other hand suffer a far worst fate.
Corrupted; Defiled and force-fed both bile and the flesh of fellow captives, these poor women are mutated and twisted into large creatures. Creatures of fat, bile and tentacles who are meant to fulfill one purpose for the horde.
To eat and birth.
The original race of the broodmother determines which kind of darkspawn she will give birth to. Human broodmothers create hurlocks; elves birth sharlocks; dwarves birth genlocks and qunari birth ogres.
There have also been stories of giant and dragon broodmothers as well, but the Grey Wardens refuse to answer any questions concerning how these creatures could be captured and corrupted.
They shudder when asked concerning what their theoretical progeny would be like.Disciples
These uniquely intelligent, self-aware and sentient darkspawn are the results of an inquisitive and unique darkspawn entity known simply as the Architect.
During the Architect's experiments, he discovered that having darkspawn ingest grey warden blood causes them to gain an immunity to the Calling which controls and compels the darkspawn horde.
With their newfound sapience, these Darkspawn Disciples have evidently developed their own personalities, with the ability to speak, strategize and make rational or irrational choices for themselves. This can lead to self-destructive attempts at revenge which can damage the progress of the horde or can even become helpful in their own sadistic and destructive manner.
Fortunately, most Disciples die within a short time of their birth to sentience due to competition with other disciples and darkspawn or even their own ignorance and lack of ability to effectively utilize their own free will. As Disciples are still capable of spreading the taint regardless of their intentions, Grey Wardens are advised to capture a Disciple on sight and are authorized to kill them without mercy if judged to be necessary.Archdemon
Legend holds that the Archdemons are the corrupted visage of the old gods of Tevinter. If these are the very same beings whom initially taught humanity how to utilize magic and even blood magic...they are extremely powerful nonetheless.
In between blights, an Archdemon lies sleeping and imprisoned in a chamber deep underground. The Grey Wardens know the locations of the prisons for each of the Old Gods. But any attempt to preemptively end a future blight before it starts would be impossible, as these prisons are deep underground and cannot easily be accessed by the Wardens without cutting through the thousands of darkspawn that are going to them.
In fact, some would think it odd that the old gods would be calling to the beasts that would merely corrupt them into mindless shells of their former glorious selves. But the truth is that the Calling of the old gods is one of the unsolved mysteries of the darkspawn and the taint. Some even theorize that the old gods themselves were the first beings tainted by the Blight and that they were imprisoned underground to protect Thedas from their corrupted power.
Whatever the truth about the divinity of the Archdemons, they are certainly dragons and they are certainly powerful.
They utilize destructive spirit, blood and blight magic with skill and ability that even the wisest of mages could not replicate. Their black fire cannot be withstood by spell or steel. Their teeth can bite through silverite with ease. The wind of their wings spread disease and sickness to any nearby. They are massive enough to dwarf even High Dragons with the strength to overpower the strongest fortifications without effort. They can consciously detonate nearby darkspawn as makeshift explosives to spread destruction and the taint.
Worst of all is their longevity and intelligence.
During a Blight, an Archdemon is noted as being cunningly capable of striking Thedas with pinpoint strategy and tactics. The beast itself will rarely show itself unless it is utmost confident in it's security and will still keep a small army of it's most powerful darkspawn and ghouls nearby for it's own protection. It telepathically communicates to the horde and guides it against Thedas and any who would stand in it's way. As it leads the hivemind, the archdemon is aware of everything that it's darkspawn minions see and discover and may adjust it's plans as necessary.
Finally, the Archdemon may only be slain by a Grey Warden. If it is inflicted a fatal blow by anyone or anything else, the Archdemon will transfer its essence into a nearby soulless darkspawn and twist and reshape itself back to full health and full power. However, if a Grey Warden strikes the killing blow, the soul will be drawn to the Warden's tainted body and the collision of souls will cause both to be destroyed.
Five times, a warden has sacrificed himself for Thedas; Five times, an Archdemon has fallen; and Five times, the Blight's hordes have scattered to the winds to be destroyed or sent back into the Deep Roads.
But if the stories about the old gods are even partially true, then there are two more Archdemons waiting to be awoken. And after those creatures are slain, what will happen to the darkspawn without the Calling to guide them? What if the Calling does not solely come from the Archdemons, but from another source?
More will have to be investigated.