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One item or thing you’ll come across a lot in Dragon Age, starting with Dragon Age II then heavily shown and explained in Dragon Age: Inquisition, is Red Lyrium. But if you don’t do the side quest (Seeing Red) for that with Varric it can be easily missed other than the overall statement that’s it’s “bad news bears”.
So what is Red Lyrium?
It is a more potent and addictive form of raw lyrium that is tainted with the Blight. Which is a disease spread to living organisms through dawnspawn. However, unlike raw lyrium, it can be mined by anyone and doesn’t require dilution or ingestion to affect people. Just being near the substance will affect an individual.
Where can you find Red Lyrium?
In veins found in various caverns around Thedas. For specific locations, these are highlighted on the map with the Seeing Red Quest. Regardless, it grows over the landscape like an infection, and once it takes root, it becomes extremely hard to completely remove. The chances of even dwarves removing it completely from Emprise du Lion, one of the hardest hit locations, is stated as being 0.014%.
What does Red Lyrium do?
It allows spirits and demons to interact with the physical world. As well as emanates a noticeable heat. Not only that but prolonged exposure to Red Lyrium can cause gradual psychological and physical change, but ingestion will speed up it’s effects. Depending on the individual, someone can endure years of exposure without any perceivable effect. An example of this was Meredith Stannard in Dragon Age II, who carried around a sword made of red lyrium for years. Or they can be largely immune to its debilitating effects so long as they don’t go into withdrawal, as with Raleigh Samson. However, both of these individuals were Templars, and it’s possible that their immense willpower, Templar training, and previous experience with untainted lyrium slowed the speed at which the red lyrium corrupted them. The Seekers of Truth have shown to be largely immune as well, though it can still poison them if ingested in fatal amounts.
When templars ingest red lyrium, it improves their powers, grants them new ones, and pushes their strength to superhuman levels. Even the average red templar outclasses a normal man. A few red templars can fight a group several times their number to a standstill, and shield bearers swing full metal tower shields with ease. In perhaps the most extreme case, a specific red templar said he could march for days without rest and break a man like kindling.
What are the Stages of Red Lyrium Exposure?
- Exposure: Symptoms vary. Subject may display heightened possessiveness or paranoia, or an increased penchant for violence.
- Manifestation: Subject becomes pained, varying in intensity but always painful. Physically, subject begins to look sickly; their flesh pales, and their veins become prominent but pulse red with the lyrium. Subject can be described as resembling a “living corpse.” Eyes also begin to emit a red glow. Subject may potentially emit a reddish haze from their body. In templars, enhanced strength becomes apparent, and as well as a tolerance for pain. Mentally, subject begins to hear a “song”, which may compel them to try to force others to hear it; others are driven mad and die. Cole says that they hear “the song behind the door old whispers want opened”. Templars recognize the song as different from the song of normal lyrium, “deeper”. Whether it is also different from the call of the Old Gods is unclear.
- Advanced: The red lyrium begins to crystallize within and sprout from the subject’s body. More crystals grow from the subject as the stage progresses. Their flesh becomes misshapen, and begins to warp around and over any worn armor. In templars, newfound powers emerge; some can now accelerate the conversion process in each other, sow red lyrium into the ground to shatter or form barricades, or launch it from afar as a projectile weapon. Internally, the red lyrium fuses to the subject’s bones, overgrows their lungs, spreads like a fungus to the brain, and grows into their flesh. Blood drains out of the surrounding tissue, as if the lyrium itself is feeding upon it.
- End Stage: Subject’s body is completely overtaken by the lyrium, becoming a behemoth. Although possessing immense strength, they are barely recognizable as having once been human and exist in constant agony.
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