A slave does not dream of freedom, or wonder at possibilities. You think only of your master's desires, and what the next hour will bring.Fenris

The plight of slavery[1]

Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. The slave trade has existed in Thedas since ancient times and is still common despite only being legal in Tevinter.

History[edit | edit source]

Arlathan[edit | edit source]

This section contains spoilers for:
Dragon Age: The Masked Empire.

According to Felassan, the society of Arlathan was no better than that of present-day Orlais. The ancient elves in fact instituted an oppressive class-based system against their own kind, with dreamer mages seemingly at the top. When their empire was destroyed, the servant class of elves rose up in revenge and killed any dreamers they could find.[2]

This section contains spoilers for:

During the height of elven slavery, led by the Evanuris, refugees and runaways streamed to a sanctuary created by Fen'Harel. There their wounds were tended and their vallaslin removed while they learned the truth of the elven gods. In time the former slaves took up arms at the side of the Dread Wolf and fought back against their former oppressors.[3]

Tevinter Imperium[edit | edit source]

After the elven homeland was invaded and destroyed, the elves were quickly enslaved by the Imperium. The elves were treated lesser than the average human, and these views have survived the actual institution of slavery into the present day, manifesting in the existence of alienages and other forms of discrimination directed against elves. In rare occasions, humans, and even qunari, are also enslaved. Most Thedosian nations outside the Imperium have either outlawed slavery or at least have developed a negative view of the institution.

Servani a constellation of a slave that is thousands of years old

In ancient times, during the height of this practice, slaves were in the millions.[4]

Slavery in Tevinter was briefly abolished, an act that had the potential to cause untold damage to the Imperial economy. The ruling Archon who had ordered the abolition was quickly assassinated, and slavery reintroduced.[5]

Dwarves[edit | edit source]

It appears that slavery existed in the times of the ancient dwarven empire.[6]

This section contains spoilers for:
Dragon Age: Origins.

With the creation of the Anvil of the Void golems were created to battle the darkspawn which threatened the dwarven empire. Golems were initially created using only volunteers, though King Valtor grew greedy and impatient, and eventually forced casteless, criminals and political enemies to be sacrificed on the Anvil. The souls of the dwarves were essentially trapped inside the golem, beholden to the will of the one who held their control rod.

Exalted March[edit | edit source]

When Andraste attacked the weakened Imperium, she did not do so alone. A group of elven slaves freed themselves from slavery under the leadership of Shartan. [7] Shartan was dedicated to freeing the elves from the bonds of slavery, and he agreed to fight alongside Andraste for the emancipation of the People. Shartan's role in the conflict against the Imperium was detailed in the non-canonical Canticle of Shartan. Although the Canticle is non-canonical, the Chantry in general holds negative views of slavery.

Present day[edit | edit source]

A shipload of slaves[8]

A qunari slave[9]

Slavery is currently practiced in the Tevinter Imperium and Qunari society. The Antivan Crows also prey on enslaved humans and elves, recruiting them to become elite assassins through rigorous tests of survival and duplicity. The Crows have been known to purchase recruits, arguably enslaving those they buy, or at least indenturing them into a life of servitude.

Tevinter Imperium[edit | edit source]

Those who wish to become Imperial citizens have no legal status in until they work for a period of ten years. During this time, they are indentured to the citizen providing them labour and can be made to do anything.[10]

Dwarves are thus far not known to be officially kept as slaves in the Imperium, presumably due to their upstanding relations they held with them for millennia as well as for their fundamental importance in providing the Imperium with lyrium. The Venatori, however, used them as slave labor to unearth dwarven ruins in the Hissing Wastes.[11] Free people may choose to sell themselves into slavery to provide for their families. Those slaves who are purchased by the Imperium itself rather than private individuals are called Servus Publicus, or state-owned slaves.[12]

Slaves in a private home can be assigned to specific tasks, such as being a kitchen slave, a scribe,[13], a bodyguard or handmaiden[14]. They are given as presents and can be sacrificed for blood magic rituals at their owner's whim. If they show promise as a warrior, they can be sold into being trained as an assassin or even a mage-killer.

Slaves have to ask for permission to marry and can only legally be set free before a judge, with the owner present to formally state the slaves have been granted freedom, or by the owner's will upon his or her death. These emancipated slaves are known as Liberati, a subclass with limited rights and are not considered citizens. Liberati can serve as an apprentice in trade. Liberati may also own property, but cannot join the military and rarely have a say in governance.[15]

A slave who is found to possess magical talent needs training, lest their owner find an abomination in the slave quarters one day. [16] Slaves and Liberati, particularly elves, who demonstrate magical ability are furthermore able to join the Circle of Magi and the lowest rungs of mage society. This applies as well to the children of elven slaves, and facilitates a dubious sense among them of a "meritocracy" within Tevinter even amongst the lowest classes. However, even for those gifted elven slaves who are able to join the magocracy, there is still an element of racism that creates obstacles beyond being seen as a fellow mage. Furthermore, mundane slaves cannot, of course, take part in this meritocratic system any more than any other non-talented citizen can.[17]Slave revolts have been a common occurrence throughout Tevinter history. Kirkwall was once made the center of the Tevinter slave trade after a revolt in Minrathous caused then-Archon Vanarius Issar to fear for his life.[18]

Ancient Tevinter considered elves, who tended to make up the bulk of the slave class, to be snivelling cowards and in fact called them "rattus".[19] Such opinions likely only reinforced the divide between (at the time) non-human slave and human owner.

It is one of the few places where elves are still literal slaves, as opposed to alienage elves who are not technically slaves, but are still in the bottom of the society and it is common practice for alienage elves to sell themselves or each other into slavery to provide for their families.

The slave section of Coracavus

Because of this, the condition of alienage elves in the Imperium is slightly better, but for the slaves it is significantly worse, compared to the elves of other countries. Slave hunters may capture elves in other nations (where, for the most part, slavery is illegal) and smuggle them into the Imperium, but those who are caught doing so are executed and made an example of. Those slaves who are sold on the black market are considered "non-contract" slaves, and have the worst living conditions of all.

Furthermore, elven spies for the Qunari may voluntarily sell themselves back into slavery in order to move undetected through non-Qunari lands, particularly Tevinter. This is considered a particular danger in the Imperium.[20]

Par Vollen[edit | edit source]

The Qunari use a substance called qamek to strip those who refuse to convert to the Qun from their identities, turning them into mindless labour forces called viddath-bas.

Rest of Thedas[edit | edit source]

Antivan Crows[edit | edit source]

The Antivan Crows also prey on enslaved humans and elves, recruiting them to become elite assassins through rigorous tests of survival and duplicity. The Crows have been known to purchase recruits, arguably enslaving those they buy, or at least indenturing them into a life of servitude.

Orlais[edit | edit source]

Although slavery is illegal in Orlais, it is still not unheard of for wealthy nobles to own elven slaves. In recent years, though, the laws against slavery have become more strictly upheld. Empress Celene may have been instrumental in this change of policy.

Tranquil[edit | edit source]

Though it is not called such, the Rite of Tranquillity effectively turns mages into non-feeling slaves to be used as archivists and researchers in the Circle of Magi. This is frowned upon by some but is a common practice for mages who show little skill or pose a danger to themselves or society, as well as apostates who would otherwise be executed upon capture. Unfortunately the Templar Order, most notably the Kirkwall garrison under Meredith Stannard, has been known to abuse the use of the Rite and may employ it for even petty offenses.

Templar Order[edit | edit source]

Though knights are allowed to leave the Order, it is a rarity due to all of them having developed addictions to lyrium. Lyrium grants them their abilities but also causes them to mentally and physically deteriorate over time due to prolonged usage, with the withdrawal symptoms just as severe and occurring within as little as a week. The Chantry acknowledges this and chooses to prey on the templars' addiction, promising of a steady supply of lyrium as long as they remain with the Order.

This section contains spoilers for:

If Cullen Rutherford stops taking lyrium and is not romanced by the Inquisitor, he will have been reported to have established means to aid Templars who lose their minds to the lyrium or wish to quit taking it. This will occur whether or not the Inquisition disbands.

Known slaves[edit | edit source]

Slaves in a loading screen image in Dragon Age II

  • Andraste: The Bride of the Maker by Chantry's beliefs. Her mother, Brona, may arguably have been a slave.
  • Shartan: An elven slave inspired by Andraste, who along with the elven slaves of the Tevinter Imperium fought at her side during the First Exalted March, winning the Dales for the elven people. Sometimes known as "Thane" Shartan.
  • Justinia: a Tevinter human slave, and disciple and friend of Andraste.
  • Alarith: An escaped elven slave of the Tevinter Imperium, now living in the Denerim alienage.
  • Radun, an Alamarri human slave who started the slave rebellion in Kirkwall.

This section contains spoilers for:
Dragon Age: The Calling.

  • Fiona: An Orlesian elven mage, currently the Grand Enchanter, formerly a Grey Warden. She was the slave of the Orlesian Count Dorian before she slew him with magic and was sent to a Circle of Magi in Orlais, from where she was recruited into the Grey Wardens.

This section contains spoilers for:
Dragon Age: Origins.

  • Valora: The intended bride of Soris in the City Elf Origin. She appears to have been taken by the Tevinter slavers during the events of Unrest in the Alienage.
  • Hahren Valendrian: The hahren of the Denerim Alienage. If the player is of City Elf Origin, Valendrian will have been sent to Tevinter during the events of Unrest in the Alienage, along with many other elven citizens, as well as the children of the Abandoned Orphanage. In that case, the City Elf's father Cyrion Tabris will appear in Valendrian's place in Caladrius's cell.
  • Cyrion Tabris: depending on the Warden's origin, he may be taken by Tevinter slavers in lieu of Valendrian. If the player is not a city elf, Cyrion may have been sent to Tevinter in Valendrian's place, as he is not seen in the cells or the alienage and does not appear otherwise.
  • Golems are considered as slaves of their masters, they are in fact dwarves turned into stone or steel living constructs.
  • Zevran Arainai: An Antivan elf purchased at age seven by the Antivan Crows to be trained as an assassin. His enslavement is somewhat open to interpretation, however. While one is not allowed to leave the Crows once a member, Zevran seems to consider himself more an indentured servant, as he feels his work with the Crows prior to the events of the Fifth Blight have repaid his debt to the guild.
  • Lanaya: a City elf and mage turned Dalish elf and First to Zathrian. As a child the merchant's cart she and her family were traveling in was attacked by bandits and Lanaya was kept as a slave until Zathrian freed her.

This section contains spoilers for:
Dragon Age II.

  • Fenris: A former Tevinter slave and elven warrior branded by his master, Danarius, with Lyrium tattoos that augment his skills. His mother, unnamed, was also a slave.
  • Tallis: A elven agent of the Qunari. Her parents sold her as a slave in the Tevinter Imperium. She was saved by Qunari who then recruited her into their ranks. As with all Qunari, Tallis is her title rather than her name.
  • Varania: An elven mage and sister to Fenris. Her current status is disputable as she is described as a servant in a court seeking to become apprenticed to a magister when she appears in Dragon Age II, and Fenris bartered for her and their mother's freedom. Her freedom, however, was not a blessing to her and she has had to essentially indenture herself to magisters to survive.
  • Orana: An elven slave to Hadriana. She may be rescued by Hawke and given employ as a servant or slave in their mansion, or sent off on her own during the quest A Bitter Pill, potentially to the Chantry. Her father and grandfather were also slaves, the former sacrificed by Hadriana along with others to gain the power to protect herself from Fenris. The sacrifice happens before Hawke and Fenris arrive.

Known slavers[edit | edit source]

Tier evolution of a Tevinter Slaver from Heroes of Dragon Age

  • Dorian: An Orlesian Count and the former owner of Fiona, who slew him with magic. Not to be confused with Dorian Pavus.

This section contains spoilers for:
Dragon Age: Origins.

  • Caladrius: During the Fifth Blight, he went to Denerim and under the secret permission of Teyrn Loghain Mac Tir, he was shipping the elves from the Denerim Alienage to Tevinter. Devera as well as other Tevinter soldiers were his accomplices.
  • Caridin: The inventor of the Anvil of the Void, Caridin eventually resorted to forcing dwarves to become golems at the behest of King Valtor. He eventually became a golem himself, spending an eternity suffering the torment he had inflicted upon others.
  • King Valtor: Valtor was the dwarven king who ordered casteless and criminals to be forcibly turned into golems in order to fill the ranks of his armies and achieve victory against the darkspawn.
  • Branka: Depending on player's choice she can reclaim the Anvil of the Void and restore golem production.

This section contains spoilers for:
Dragon Age II.

  • Danzig: During the Wayward Son quest, he is involved in slave trafficking in Kirkwall.
  • Danarius: A Tevinter magister, he arrives to Kirkwall in order to capture Fenris and return him to his property after Hadriana fails to do so.
  • Hadriana: She is sent by Danarius along with a contingent of slavers to capture Fenris.
  • Hawke: If the player chooses to take Orana on as an unpaid servant in the Hawke mansion. Hawke's mother, Leandra, will assume Orana is a slave no matter what the player chooses.

  • Ianto:[21] A notorious raider affiliated with the Raiders of the Waking Sea, known as a slaver, murderer, and torturer.
  • Varian Ilithis: During the Wayward Son quest, he is involved in slave trafficking in Kirkwall.

  • This section contains spoilers for:
    Dragon Age: Those Who Speak.

    • Devon: A Tevinter lord involved in acquiring slaves for the Imperium from the southern regions of Thedas. Worked with Isabela as the Armada's "procurer" in the north.
    • Isabela: Isabela was involved in transporting slaves to the Imperium when she owed money during her time with the Felicisima Armada. She and Devon were responsible for the deaths of many slaves as well as in transporting them.

    This section contains spoilers for:
    Dragon Age: Until We Sleep.

    • Maevaris Tilani: she states that "everyone" in the Tevinter Imperium has slaves. Her dream in the Fade involves slaves serving herself and her late husband, Thorold, indicating the life to which she was accustomed to, or aspired.

    This section contains spoilers for:
    Dragon Age: Inquisition.

    This section contains spoilers for:
    Dragon Age: Magekiller.

    Notes[edit | edit source]

    • Andoral, one of the Old Gods, is called as "The Dragon of Slaves" or alternatively as the "The Dragon of Chains".

    See also[edit | edit source]

    Codex entry: The Bone Pit Codex entry: The Bone Pit
    Codex entry: The Enigma of Kirkwall Codex entry: The Enigma of Kirkwall
    Codex entry: Kirkwall - The Gallows Codex entry: Kirkwall - The Gallows
    Codex entry: Slavery in the Tevinter Imperium Codex entry: Slavery in the Tevinter Imperium
    Codex entry: Constellation: Servani Codex entry: Constellation: Servani
    Codex entry: A Magister's Needs Codex entry: A Magister's Needs
    Codex entry: A Missing Slave Codex entry: A Missing Slave
    Codex entry: The Secret Tongue of Slaves Codex entry: The Secret Tongue of Slaves

    References[edit | edit source]

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