Warden Alamen Tabris
(Dragon Age: Origins) (Part #2 - The Grey Wardens)
If you had… One shot.
Or one opportunity.
To seize everything you ever wanted…
For a larger version of the lead illustration, click here. It is slightly altered from the in-game one.
This profile is part of a chronological series, to be read in order :
- A primer about Thedas, the Dragon Age setting.
- Alamen Tabris (DA:O) #1 – Thug Life.
- Alamen Tabris (DA:O) #2 – The Grey Wardens — this here writeup.
- Alamen Tabris (DA:O) #3 – Ostagar’s Aftermath.
- Alamen Tabris (DA:O) #4 – Landsmeet.
- Adaia Tabris (DA:OA) #1 – From Ashes.
- Real Name: Warden Alamen Tabris.
- Marital Status: Single.
- Known Relatives: Adaia (mother, believed deceased), Cyrion (father), Shianni (cousin), Soris (cousin), Nelaros (betrothed, deceased), unnamed aunt (deceased).
- Group Affiliation: None.
- Base of Operations: Alienage of Denerim.
- Height: 5’3″ Weight: 97 lbs. Age: 18
- Eyes: Icelike and glowing blue Hair: White
The main DA:O musical theme is epic fantasy. The vocals are by Aubrey Ashburn , who also does Leliana’s singing voice.
The Grey Wardens
The Grey Wardens appeared during the first Blight, more than 1,100 years ago. The first Blight was 200 years of zombie apocalypse, with darkspawns rampaging throughout Thedas. Even the mighty Dwarves and the Tevinter Imperium were nearly destroyed.
Without the Wardens, it is likely that the First Blight would have consumed all of Thedas.
The Wardens assembled midway through. It was a multiracial, international force open to anybody with elite skills – no matter what their past. Not only were they fearsome warriors, mages and rogues, but they pooled their knowledge and research about the darkspawn.
Special weapons and tactics
Their big breakthrough was the Joining. The Wardens consumed darkspawn blood in a specific way. This would either a/ kill them on the spot (a 40+% odd, apparently), or b/ significantly lessen their lifespan. It also had nasty side effects. But on the other hand, benefits included :
- Immunity to the corruption (the “Taint”) that otherwise claims those fighting the darkspawn. It was not unlike a vaccine, relying on controlled exposure.
- Allowing them to sense the telepathic orders broadcast to darkspawns. This gave them a vague idea of enemy strategy. It also allowed them to sense darkspawns over a distance.
- Early on, confusing darkspawns. Since, for them, the Wardens “smelled” like fellow darkspawns.
- Making it possible to kill the “boss” of the darkspawn – the driver behind a Blight, called an Archdemon.
Other secret weapons included griffons, and how to ride them into battle. Griffons became a key part of Warden heraldry, and remain a popular symbol of the organisation. However, griffons have since gone extinct.
A tradition of death
The Grey Wardens maintained a tradition of military readiness. They were thus instrumental during subsequent Blights, which came at 100-to-200 years intervals.
Blights still meant decades of mass death and suffering. But they weren’t extinction-level events anymore. Yet :
- The Wardens were inconvenient for the great kingdoms of Thedas due to their mystique, separate jurisdiction, and military might. In Ferelden, the Wardens were expelled after clashes with local nobles and the King.
- They kept lobbying for expensive long-term military investments nobody wanted to make.
- They levied tithes.
- They were awarded privileges many were jealous of.
- During Blights, it wasn’t infrequent for major realms not hit too badly by the darkspawn to manoeuvre so that the Wardens would take the brunt of the losses.
These issues slowly worsened after the Fourth Blight. By the Dragon Age, it has been 400 years since the last Blight. Some believe that there won’t be Blights anymore, or that past accounts were exaggerated. The collective memory of these events is fading.
The Grey Wardens are thus at a low ebb of their power. However, they were reallowed in Ferelden by royal decree some years ago.
Right of Conscription
An important Warden tradition is the Right of Conscription. Wardens can recruit any person they well please — from slave to king — to undergo the Joining.
Wardens recruitment is based on but one factor – how good recruits are at killing darkspawns. Wardens don’t care if their recruits are sociopathic serial killers, blood mages or horse thieves as long as they kill darkspawns and follow orders. They’re not prejudiced against Elves or tribals, and have excellent relations with the Dwarves.
After their Joining, the Wardens increasingly experience nightmares, and mental contact with evil entities. This is what limits their lifespan, as their mind gets eroded by this. As it gets worse, the Taint will also manifest on their body.
When they can’t take it anymore, Wardens take their Calling. They leave alone and enter the underground networks where darkspawns live. This is a suicide mission, to kill as many enemies as they can before they are slain.
Powers & Abilities
After the Joining, Alamen has the usual Grey Warden “powers”, as described above. The main drawbacks are :
- Her food intake has risen by about 70%. Usually it is closer to 50%, but Alamen had been sliding into anorexia when she was recruited.
- She experiences nightmares about the darkspawn due to diffuse contact with their telepathic communications. These will grow worse over the decades, eroding her mind into insanity.
- Thus, almost nobody lives for more than 30 years after a Joining.
She also gains significant combat experience during that era, and receives additional combat training. Plus some equitation basics.
Alamen is also developing a remarkable tactical acumen. Though she has no formal training, she has a knack for visualising how a fight would go and why. She sees it as simple common sense, but it’s really not.
Blades of fury
Alamen kept the gear she looted during her bloody rampage in the Arl of Denerim’s castle. On one hand, this is good steel – better than what she’d be able to afford under any realistic circumstances. On the other, she was limited in her picks by her small size.
Still, she has a good paired broadsword and shortsword, bearing the arms of the Kendells family of Denerim (oops). Alamen has adapted to the additional weight and reach compared to her usual blades, with Duncan’s help.
She also has a decent suit of leather armour with cuirbouilli plates. It was found in a locker. Apparently, one of the Arl’s dog handlers is a short, thin woman, given the tailoring. Since it wasn’t half-bad, Duncan simply had it adjusted by Grey Warden quartermasters.
This armour may have had some subtle fragrance rubbed into it by the dog handler. Mabari Alamen encountered at Ostagar all reacted well to it, even though no Human or Elf smelled anything special on the armour.
When Alamen came to, she was locked in a guarded room with bridesmaids. Several others had already been taken away to be raped and beaten.
Alamen decided that she’d wait to be close enough to the Arl’s son. Hopefully, she could shank him dead before the guards could cut her down.
A rescue attempt
Meanwhile, her betrothed Nelaros sneaked into the castle to free the captives. Only Soris agreed to join this near-suicide mission. To their surprise, the bearded Human gave them swords as they left.
The two lads were lucky enough to reach Alamen after but a few fights with isolated guards.
Soris came in just as two guards came to fetch the remaining Elven lasses. Nelaros had stayed a bit behind to cover Soris, but he could only keep watch over one corridor.
The two guards laughed at the lone, unarmoured Elf lad. But Soris simply threw the spare sword he had, skipping it on the floor past the guards so Alamen could grab it. One of the guards died at Alamen’s hand before they could genuinely react.
Meanwhile, Nelaros held guards at bay to prevent Soris and Alamen from being boxed in. However, he was fatally cut down in the effort.
In a blood rage Alamen, ably backed by Soris, rampaged through the castle’s floor. She left a score of guards dead behind her. She eventually found the Arl’s son room. He and his friends were there with Shianni.
Alamen was covered in blood and gore, looking like a lunatic death monster. Getting cold feet, the nobles tried to bribe her. But Ms. Tabris couldn’t hear a word. She was staring at the battered and violated Shianni. Descending further into homicidal mania, Alamen killed all three men with Soris’ help.
As Alamen was by that point shaking uncontrollably, Soris rounded up the Elven survivors. Sticking together, he and the women made their way back to the alienage without further incident. Humiliated, angry and bereaved, the community came together to care for the youths.
Guards soon discovered the ghastly carnage at the castle. Though there were no witnesses, the battered Elves had had to leave the corpses of their own behind. Within the quarter-hour, heavily armed guards entered the alienage.
The baddest one-chick hit squad that ever hit town !
The Sergeant’s main concern was to have the Elven attackers surrender. Such arrests might prevent a race riot.
This is where Alamen stepped in.
She claimed that she was the sole person responsible for the carnage. Though the guards initially scoffed, Alamen had refused all care. Thus, she was still fully kitted out in gear visibly stolen from the Arl’s men, still caked in blood, sweat and gore, still wounded, and still looking like a wild-eyed mass murderer.
The Sergeant realised that she was indeed the killer. This made the situation much more tractable. Seeing that Alamen had decided to fall on her sword to protect the alienage — and particularly Soris — the Elder reluctantly played along.
This is when the bearded Human warrior stepped in.
The man identified as Warden-Commander Duncan, in charge of the Grey Wardens of Ferelden. He then invoked the Right of Conscription, drafting Alamen on the spot.
There was nothing the guards could do – though at least they had cracked the case. And since Duncan had the ear of the King, there now was ample pressure to protect the alienage and prevent a riot.
The bewildered and bone-tired Alamen was ordered to get cleaned up and sleep. It was too late to ride out of Denerim. But they would leave at dawn for Ostagar , in the South.
After a last check with her dad and her cousins, she left Denerim for the first time.
Ride to Ostagar
Alamen and Duncan crossed a large chunk of Ferelden, using a paved road built when the Tevinter Imperium ruled Thedas. During this journey, Duncan :
- Told Alamen about the Grey Wardens and their history.
- Explained how he had met the Elder of the Denerim alienage.
- Explained that, a dozen years prior, he had considered recruiting Adaia Tabris. However, since there wasn’t a genuine need and she had a little girl, it was decided to leave her alone.
- Refused to say much about Adaia. But he eventually agreed that he would tell more about her in due time.
- Had Alamen drink at least a gallon and a half of water a day, and zero alcohol. Alamen withstood this early withdrawal phase fairly well, in part since so many developments were suddenly occurring.
- Explained that a Blight had begun.
Nearby Dwarves and Grey Wardens had been sensing that something was afoot. More recently, tribes from the far South had been fleeing Northward as darkspawns advanced. A new extinction threat was surging after 400 years, and Ferelden would be the first hit.
Warden-Commander Duncan’s had but 20-25 Wardens in Ferelden at this stage. Therefore he recruited three more, including Alamen, on the double. The Empire of Orlais had offered to send Warden reinforcements, but political conflicts derailed this.
Assembling at Ostagar
On the other hand, King Cailan of Ferelden admired the heroic tales about the Wardens. The young King dreamt of glorious battles against tides of monsters. Therefore, Ferelden’s military had been mobilised at the Warden-Commander’s call.
It had been decided to meet the darkspawn in force early on, before they could build up. The semi-ruined fortress at Ostagar was the staging area, and would be used as a chokepoint later on.
Cailan and his star general, Loghain MacTir, went for a hammer and anvil strategy. A small-ish force led by Cailan would engage the darkspawn at Ostagar. MacTir would then unexpectedly bring the bulk of the army on their flanks.
At Ostagar, Alamen and the other two recruits were supervised by Warden Alistair. Alistair was about Alamen’s age, and had but recently joined the Wardens. As Duncan crammed as many preparations as feasible into what little time was left, this team was sent on scouting missions.
Foray into the Wilds
Having never left Denerim, Alamen was impressed by the bustling military camp and the foreboding, cold swamps of Southern Ferelden. But she soon found her footing, and became the small team’s de facto leader. Though he was a well-trained and courageous warrior, Alistair was uncomfortable leading, and felt intimidated by Tabris.
In camp, Alamen also chatted with an older woman named Wynne. She was the first mage Tabris had ever met. Unbeknownst to Alamen, several other “named” fighters were present at Ostagar, such as Aveline and Wesley Vallen, or Ser Hawthorne.
During the recruits’ recon in the marshes, they :
- Clashed with darkspawn recon teams. This allowed for filling vials with darkspawn blood, to be used during their upcoming Joining.
- Located rare herbs. These could heal a poisoned warhound whom Alamen had befriended in camp.
- Reached an isolated Grey Warden outpost. It had been abandoned for 200 years, but Duncan thought that ancient pledges of mutual help were still stored therein. The cache was empty, but a strange swamp girl named Morrigan took the recruits to her mother, a cackling old witch.
- The swamp witch had taken the treaties to safety in her hut years before. She readily handed them over to Alamen to support the Wardens.
During brutal clashes with darkspawn scouts, Alamen found herself giving a barrage of orders and deploying fine tactics. She repeatedly used the opposition’s bestial aggression against them, luring them into ambushes and leveraging obstacles.
Using the darkspawn blood, Duncan ritually prepared the brew for the Joining. It is only during the ceremony that the recruits were told that the Joining meant swallowing a big cup of poison blood and hoping to survive.
Of the three recruits, a young Fereldan criminal named Daveth was the first to drink. The brew killed him.
The second recruit was Ser Jory, a knight from Redcliffe. He attempted to opt out for the sake of his family, but the ritual made that impossible. Jory panicked, and Duncan killed him to protect the secret of the Joining.
Alamen then drank, and went down. However, she survived.
The system shock from the Joining brew also ended her alcohol withdrawal symptom early. This was in good part because it slightly mutated her organism to become a Warden’s. The addiction issue wasn’t gone, but that specific stage had been abbreviated.
Having no choice but to eat a lot more after the Joining would also prove a boon.
A beacon in the night
An army of darkspawns assembled near Ostagar. King Cailan gave the two youngest Wardens, Alamen and Alistair, a special task. They would be the ones lighting the bonfire, thus signalling the bulk of the army to attack. The youths wanted to fight with their fellow Wardens, but these were Royal orders.
The bonfire was set atop the tallest sort-of-intact tower at Ostagar. As the battle began the youths entered it, and found slain guards. Darkspawns were already within, having taken tunnels under the ruins. The two Wardens rallied surviving guards and went in.
Under Alamen’s able command, the party destroyed superior darkspawn forces. They made it all the way to the top… and ran into the enemy’s point creature. It was an ogre – a giant humanoid monster able to crush an armoured man with one hand.
Realising that the ogre had poor eyesight and abysmal focus, Alamen dispatched her team. They used ranged attacks from different angles to hit and run, leaving the furious monster to chase indistinct shapes in the distance whilst slowly bleeding to death. It eventually fell dead – a genuine exploit given how many casualties it usually takes to bring a darkspawn ogre down.
While the battered Alamen received first aid, Alistair lit up the bonfire. They were late, but not massively so. Atop the high tower, the blaze was clearly visible. Underneath, the King’s force was beginning to get overrun by the darkspawns.
The reserve forces sounded the retreat.
The team atop the tower watched in horror and incomprehension as the fresh, larger forces abandoned the battlefield. This left King Cailan, his guard, many of Ferelden’s most dedicated knights, the Grey Wardens of Ferelden, Duncan, the Orlesian reinforcements who had been allowed in, etc. to die amidst a swarm of monsters.
Meanwhile, more darkspawn entered the tower. They rushed up to find whoever had killed their brethren within. There was no way out.
The mother of vengeance
Concurrently, deep in the swamp, the old witch stepped outside of her hut with an air of concern. She listened to nothing in particular, and sniffed the air.
Shaking her head sadly, she began to change.
Alamen now carries a bow, but it’s a reserve weapon used as part of specific tactics. Her armour has been adjusted, and with Duncan’s help she better set up her sheaths, pack and pouches.
She’s as cold as ice
Grey Warden eyes glow in the presence of Darkspawn. This wasn’t implemented in-game, but is visible in other sources. Such as the From Ashes trailer in the previous entry.
Alamen has the glow on at all times. This may be a combination of a Blight going on, her strange Elven eyes, and her peepers’ unusual colour. This is creepy in the dark, where her eyes are both glowing and reflective. She can focus on dimming it down and squinting, though.
Her stare is thus intimidating. And the luminosity makes it more apparent that she never, ever seems to blink.
At first, Alamen is reeling from the carnage at the Arl’s castle, and from the death and violations that befell her fellow Elves there. However, Duncan provides invaluable support. Though Alamen barely says anything, he tells her about his own experience to help her process hers.
As the ride toward Ostagar continues, something gels within Alamen’s mind. This is her *one*, last chance. She has to give it her all, stay relentlessly focused and be flawless. There’ll never be another opportunity like that in her miserable life.
If she fails, she’ll be nameless roadkill. But if she rises to this one occasion… Then she can be someone. Have real power for a change. Show them all what an alcoholic ghetto Elf thug is really worth. Make her people proud for once. Inspire others. Become a legend. And rub all shems’ faces into acknowledging that a knife-ears saved them all.
This mindset fully congeals after her Joining. Her focus and drive become amazing. Her spirit is a razor. She’s in the zone. She *is*. Going. To. Make. It. No matter what.
As a petite, oft-sloshed alienage teenage girl, Alamen was a perfect target for sexual assault. Bad experiences have left her wary and dourly hostile toward men, though it is less true of those of her own species. She is overt with this, and often preemptively threatening and dismissive.
Early on, she was guarded against Duncan, who clearly had plans for her. But Alamen wanted to hear more about her mother and the Wardens. And Duncan quickly grokked the problem. He thus treated her with enough respect to gradually lower the lass’ defcon.
Things went poorly early on with Alistair as he attempted a ribald joke. But Alamen’s glare left the lad looking so much like a rabbit caught in headlights that she ended up not-actually-apologising. Alistair’s goofy attempts at being her friend have started mollifying the lonely Alamen, though. And he does seem funny and harmless.
For a shem.
As she left Denerim, Alamen started wearing Nelaros’ wedding ring. Though he was unknowingly part of an awful situation, the poor lad didn’t do anything wrong and courageously helped. Alamen came to feel irrationally guilty about his death.
After that she felt compelled to add tiny etchings on the back of her Warden’s Oath amulet. This is traditional, but not universal, for Wardens. These read – “Daveth – I remember. Ser Jory – I remember.”
Shianni (in shock): “They dead ? You killed them ?”
Alamen (trembling, clumsily trying both to hug Shianni and use a bed sheet to cover her): “Yeah. Yeah. We ****ing killed them all. Gutted them. And their ***ing guards. And their ****ing dogs. No lop-ears ****** left alive.”
Shianni (smiling wearily): “Good.”
Duncan: “Did she teach you to ride ?”
Alamen (says nothing, but looks at the horse with apprehension).
Duncan (takes a step forward, extending his arms to pick Alamen up and lift her onto the saddle).
Alamen (reflexively takes a step back and puts her hands on her knives).
Duncan (pauses in puzzlement for a moment. Then gets it, takes a knee and puts his hands together so she has something to step on to reach the saddle).
Alamen (hesitates, then lithely uses Duncan’s hands to vault onto the saddle, then warily eyes him).
Duncan (adjusting the stirrups upward): “Just stay on the horse. He’s a placid one, and he’ll reliably follow mine. So you don’t have anything to do. Don’t touch the reins before I teach you how.”
(Raises her fist to make her team halt, then whispers): “Ambush. That barricade. About five ***kers hiding behind. Stupid ****s breathing too hard, you can hear them. ***kers want to force us to take the long way ’round, in the ****ing open all the way. Guess they got bows, maybe ****ing spells. So ****ing listen. We’ll use those two pillars…”
Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG
Tell me more about the game stats
Alamen Tabris (Early)
|Dex: 04||Str: 02||Bod: 03||Motivation: Responsibility|
|Int: 04||Wil: 04||Min: 04||Occupation: Grey Warden|
|Inf: 04||Aur: 04||Spi: 04||Wealth: 003|
|Init: 014||HP: 025|
Awareness: 02, Extended hearing: 01, Life sense: 11, Regeneration: 01, Systemic antidote: 05, Ultra-vision: 02
Bonuses and Limitations:
- All Powers are Form Function.
- Awareness is limited to sensing the Blight, and particularly the activities of the Archdemon commanding it.
- Life Sense is limited to hazily sensing large concentrations of darkspawns.
- Systemic antidote only to resist the Taint.
- Ultra-vision only to compensate for low light.
Accuracy (Assess personality): 05, Acrobatics: 02, Animal handling (Horses): 02, Gadgetry: 02, Martial artist: 03, Thief (Stealth): 03, Weaponry (Melee, Thrown): 04, Weaponry (Bows & crossbows): 03
Bonuses and Limitations:
Gadgetry is limited to grenades and poisons.
Credentials (Grey Wardens, Low – unusable after Ostagar), Expertise (Skirmishing tactics), Familiarity (Chant of Light, Butchery), Schtick (Blindside Adept, Paired blades).
Her cousins Shianni and Soris (High – currently unusable), Duncan (Low – defunct after Ostagar).
Creepy Appearance (Eyes), MID of men she doesn’t know, MPR (recovering alcoholic), Misc.: Social Stigma (Elf), Misc.: As a Grey Warden she needs about 50% more food, has about a 30-year life expectancy after the Joining, and experiences nightmares caused by darkspawn activity (particularly during a Blight).
- Broadsword [BODY 04, Enhance (EV): 02 (cap is 06), Descriptor: Slashing, piercing].
- Short sword [BODY 04, Enhance (EV): 02 (cap is 05), Descriptor: Slashing, piercing].
- Combat knife [BODY 04, Enhance (EV): 01 (Cap is 06), Descriptor: Piercing, Slashing].
- Hidden shiv (x2) [BODY 02, Enhance (EV): 01 (cap is 04), Miniaturisation: 01, Descriptor: Piercing].
- LEATHER ARMOUR [BODY 03, Blunting: 01, Damage capacity: 02, Enhance (Cold RV): 01 (cap is 05), Enhance (Piercing, Slashing, Bludgeoning RV): 01 (cap is 05), Enhance (AUR): 01 (cap is 05), Bonuses & Limitations: Partial Coverage (Jacket), Damage Capacity has the Full Recovery Bonus, Enhance (AUR) only for dogs].
- Healing potion (x2) [BODY 01, Damage Transference (No Delay, No Damage Taken): 02, Grenade Drawback].
- Reparative poultice (x1) [BODY 01, Medicine (First aid): 07, Regeneration: 03, Grenade Drawback, Bonus: Medicine and Regeneration are Combined (+1) (and Regeneration can repair badly damaged tissues (+1)].
- Small bow [BODY 02, Enhance (EV): 01 (cap is 03), Enhance (Range): 02 (cap is 04), Ammo: 01, Recommended STR: 02, R#03, Limitation: Low Penetration, Descriptor: Piercing].
The Life Sense Power for Grey Wardens isn’t part of the gameplay. However, it is clearly described both in in-game dialogue and in secondary sources.
One assumes it was cut late in development for lack of time. It has been said that 40% of the intended content didn’t make it into DA:O. And when reading lead writer’s D. Gaider’s since-deleted Tumblr Q&A, one occasionally gets the impression it was 60%. 🙂
Likewise there aren’t horses in DA:O. This is presumably because this is a considerable animation budget, better used elsewhere. But I’m assuming horses are used for off-screen travel, given the way the team moves over the map.
Source of Character: Dragon Age: Origins and general DA material.
Helper(s): Adam Fuqua, Ethan Roe, Darci, Peter Piispanen, Triad4ever, Civanfan.
Writeup revised on the 29th of January, 2018.