Red lyrium is a more potent and more addictive form of raw lyrium.
Red lyrium is typically found in crystalline form, as with normal lyrium. It is known to thin the Veil, allowing spirits or more likely demons to interact with the physical world, and emanates a noticeable heat. Where it was originally found, red lyrium grew in root-like veins, again like normal lyrium. The dwarves of the Mining caste with millennia of experience and expertise on finding and mining lyrium have never encountered this type of lyrium before.
However, following the opening of the Breach, it began appearing throughout the surface of all of Southern Thedas in crystalline nodes. These crystals grow almost anywhere, though the composition of the earth can affect their growth. 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%.
Unlike normal lyrium, red lyrium doesn't require a dwarf to mine, and does not require any dilution or ingestion to affect people. All that is required is to be near the mineral.Bianca Davri discovered that the red lyrium is actually regular lyrium tainted by the Blight, which only affects living things, confirming some scholars' beliefs that lyrium is in fact alive.
Prolonged exposure to red lyrium induces gradual psychological and physical change, though not as quickly as direct use or consumption will. Drawing upon too much red lyrium too quickly accelerates the process, outright dooming the user either to roaring madness and death or petrification by lyrium. Red Templars tell they have to "use it enough so that it changes [them], but not so much that it destroys [them]."
Depending on the individual, someone can endure years of exposure without any perceivable effect, as is the case with Meredith Stannard, or 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. Further compounding this, 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.
- 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.
A red lyrium idol was worshiped by the inhabitants of an ancient thaig thousands of years ago. Even before the rise of the darkspawn, contact with the thaig was somehow lost, and it could not be resumed because of the arrival of the darkspawn.
In 9:31 Dragon, an expedition into the Deep Roads rediscovered this thaig. The expedition was led by the two dwarven brothers Bartrand and Varric Tethras and the human Hawke. While exploring the thaig, Hawke and Varric found the idol. When they showed it to Bartrand, he betrayed them and stole the idol intending to sell it for a fortune and left them to die. Still further in the thaig Hawke encountered the Profane, rock wraiths that feed on red lyrium claiming that they "feast upon the gods". In the following years, as a result of prolonged exposure to the red lyrium idol, Bartrand gradually succumbed to insanity.Bartrand eventually sold the idol to Knight-Commander Meredith Stannard who forged a sword from it. Exposure to the red lyrium within her sword fueled her paranoia until she became corrupted by its power and died during the Kirkwall Rebellion in 9:37 Dragon, petrified in red lyrium after a failed attempt to draw more power from the sword.
In the aftermath of the destruction of the Temple of Sacred Ashes, red lyrium began appearing all over southern Thedas. A splinter faction of the Templar Order, calling themselves the Red Templars, begin to consume red lyrium, corrupting their bodies and transforming themselves into monsters. Autopsies on Red Templar corpses has shown their relationship with the red lyrium is parasitic; the red lyrium essentially "eats" the Templar from the inside out as it grows. The process is described as incredibly painful and demands a careful balance between allowing the Lyrium to change the person so that they can manipulate it, but doing so careful enough that they are not immediatly consumed and lost to madness.
According to Bianca Davri's research, red lyrium is lyrium corrupted by the Blight. This proves that lyrium is alive as the Blight can only taint living things. Red lyrium can also "infect" the landscape and grow into massive deposits.Lord Seeker Lucius Corin discovered that Seekers of the Truth are immune to red lyrium thanks to having their minds touched by a spirit of Faith during their vigil. To counter this, he force-fed the Seekers captured by the Order of Fiery Promise red lyrium, resulting in the characteristic red veins in their skin, until they died or gave in.
- Codex entry: Lyrium
- Codex entry: Lyrium
- Codex entry: The Profane
- Codex entry: Red Lyrium
- Codex entry: Red Templars
- Codex entry: Red Templar Archers
- Codex entry: Red Templar Foot Soldier
- Codex entry: Shadow
- Codex entry: Behemoth
- Codex entry: Letter to Smugglers' Wagon Masters
- Codex entry: Unsigned Journal
- Codex entry: Suledin Keep Documents
- Codex entry: A Father's Letter
- Red lyrium is described as being an anti-magic substance, an opposite force to regular lyrium.
- Varric Tethras knows a good deal about Red Lyrium after the Kirkwall incident that drove his brother insane, and will not hesitate to destroy as much as possible. Cole knows a good bit as well, after discovering it in Therinfal Redoubt.
- Varric Tethras will comment that red lyrium by itself makes things float and makes statues come to life. The Ethereal golem also implies that it can give Demons physical form.
- While traveling through Emprise du Lion, several companions will note that the red lyrium gives off heat.. If Cole is in your party, he'll remark that "it's very angry."
- Cole will comment on the red templars in the Hissing Wastes, saying that the red lyrium is "less angry" when it's cold, thus it is possible the red templars used magic to freeze the Emprise du Lion so that the red lyrium works better.