Kirkwall, also known as The City of Chains and historically as Emerius, is a coastal city-state and a major population center located in the Free Marches. It is on the southern edge of the Vimmark Mountains, east of the Planasene Forest, and north across the Waking Sea from Ferelden.

Background Edit

City of Chains heraldry DA2

Old Tevinter heraldry when Kirkwall was still known as Emerius

Founded under the name Emerius in -620 Ancient[1], after Magister Emerius Krayvan, on the edge of the Imperium to be the main supplier of jet stone to build a Minrathous temple. The city gained notoriety after it was elected to be the new heart of the slave trade after a slave revolt made Archon Vanarius Issar fear for his security when he was almost killed. Magisters competed viciously for the honor of governing the port for nearly two decades before Emerius married his son to the archon's daughter. The Krayvan family constructed the Gallows, patronized the next three archons and were the main backers for the Imperial Highway into the Fereldan Valley, which devastated them when Andraste led her rebellion from there against the Imperium. At its height, Emerius was one of the mightiest Imperial cities with 1,000,000 slaves living and working in the city. The city was defended by the Fourteenth Cadre also known as The Black Cadre and was regarded by most Imperial soldiers to be a punishment to serve there. The City of Chains came to be known as Kirkwall in -25 Ancient, following a massive slave revolt which started when a popular Alamarri slave named Radun was assassinated by magisters wary of his influence; this led to extremely violent retributions, including the sacking of Hightown and the death of its Tevinter rulers.

Kirkwall has changed hands many times since then and has always been a valuable port, the nexus of nearly all trade that flows between the Free Marches and Ferelden. Natives of Kirkwall are known as "Kirkwallers". [2]

The city's complicated past is not easy to forget, history having earmarked many corners of the stone city. A ship approaching the harbor spots the city's namesake: an imposing black wall. It is visible for miles, and carved into the cliff side are a pantheon of vile guardians representing the Old Gods. Over the years, the Chantry has effaced many of these profane sentinels, but it will take many more years to erase them all.

Also carved into the cliff is a channel that permits ships into the city's interior. Flanking the channel are two massive bronze statues—the Twins of Kirkwall. The statues have a practical use. Kirkwall sits next to the narrowest point of the Waking Sea, and a massive chain net can be erected between the statues and the lighthouse, closing off the only narrow navigable lane. This stranglehold on sea traffic is jealously guarded by the ever-changing rulers of the city as the net trolls taxes, tolls, and extortions in from the sea.

History Edit

In 5:21 Exalted, at the height of the Fourth Blight, Kirkwall was one of several cities in the Free Marches threatened by the advance of the darkspawn horde. The Grey Wardens were able to evacuate many thousands of refugees from the city to a safe haven in the Vimmark Mountains, albeit at a high cost in Warden lives.[3]

In 7:56 Storm, Qunari invaders took Kirkwall in a night raid and occupied it for four years, forcibly converting much of the populace to the Qun and making the natives work in labor camps previously manned by slaves. It was liberated by Orlesians under the chevalier Michel Lafaille, who was appointed Viscount in 7:60 by the emperor. He pursued a campaign of religious reeducation and formed the Kirkwall City Guard to act as the city's defenders.

In 8:05 Blessed, Kirkwall rebelled against Orlesian rule and gained independence, but maintained the title of viscount as its ruler.

At the onset of the Dragon Age, Chivalry Threnhold became Viscount of the city. Historical accounts paint him as a vicious thug who took power through a campaign of intimidation. His son Perrin succeeded him in 9:14. After he used the harbor's ancient chains to block sea traffic in the Waking Sea and charge exorbitant fees from Orlesian ships, Divine Beatrix III ordered the city's templars to pressure him into reopening the Waking Sea passage.[4] As a result, in 9:21 Dragon, Viscount Perrin Threnhold attempted to expel the Templar Order from Kirkwall, killing Knight-Commander Guylian in the raid of the Templar stronghold. Knight-Templar Meredith Stannard and a group of her best templars marched on the Viscount's Keep and had him arrested, thrown in his own dungeons and stripped of his title. She was promoted to Knight-Commander by Grand Cleric Elthina soon after. With the Chantry's support, Meredith appointed Marlowe Dumar to succeed Perrin, though she remained the true authority in the city from the Gallows.[5]

This section contains spoilers for:
Dragon Age II.

In 9:31 Dragon, Qunari set out to meet Orlesians who agreed to return the Tome of Koslun to them. However, the book was stolen by a Rivaini pirate. As the qunari gave chase, the thief led their ship into a storm to try and escape them, leading both their ships to founder on the coast of Kirkwall. The Arishok and his surviving army were forced to remain in the Qunari Compound, until they could reclaim the Tome of Koslun.

In 9:34 Dragon, following years of tension between the Chantry and the qunari, the Arishok decided to attack the city, starting the First Battle of Kirkwall. In the ensuing invasion Viscount Marlowe Dumar was killed by the Arishok. Hawke drastically helped in the liberation of the city and was thus named the first "Champion of Kirkwall" by Kirkwall's Knight-Commander, Meredith Stannard.

In 9:37 Dragon, the apostate mage Anders destroyed the Kirkwall Chantry, igniting the Kirkwall Rebellion and inspiring mages throughout Thedas to rebel against the system of the Circle of Magi. His magical blast was not contained and rained deadly debris upon half of the city.[6] The Champion of Kirkwall killed First Enchanter Orsino and Knight-Commander Meredith Stannard during the rebellion in Kirkwall, and later became the Viscount or fled the city.

This section contains spoilers for:
Dragon Age: Inquisition.

Sebastian Vael recruited by Hawke, Anders survived, and the Inquisitor accepts Sebastian's offer of friendship:

Sebastian Vael reclaimed his title as Prince of Starkhaven and in 9:41 led an invasion of Kirkwall. In the mission Annexing Kirkwall, Sebastian requested support from the Inquisition to help him suppress the city's resistance forces led by Guard-Captain Aveline Vallen and hunt down Anders and his associates. The Inquisitor can choose to send Leliana's agents to bolster Sebastian's forces, resulting in Kirkwall ceding much of its northern territory but ultimately ending in a stalemate, send Cullen's military to bolster Aveline's resistance forces and repel Sebastian's occupation forces back to Starkhaven, or have Josephine refuse Sebastian's request.

Sebastian Vael recruited by Hawke, Anders executed, and the Inquisitor accepts Sebastian's offer of friendship:

Sebastian Vael reclaimed his title as Prince of Starkhaven and in 9:41 decided to aid in the reconstruction of Kirkwall, which continued to suffer from Anders' actions. In the mission Aiding Kirkwall, Sebastian requested that the Inquisition send in soldiers and workers. The Inquisitor can choose to heed Leliana's advice and ignore the request in order to focus resources on defeating Corypheus, have Josephine appeal to noble allies to help Kirkwall, or order Cullen to send in troops to expunge red lyrium from the Gallows and further rebuild the city.

This section contains spoilers for:

In the two years after Corypheus' defeat, Varric Tethras funded numerous reconstruction projects in Kirkwall. His reconstruction efforts got the harbor and businesses running again and in recognition of his deeds, the nobles voted him in as the new Viscount of Kirkwall.[7] As Viscount, Varric continued his work to rebuild the city's damaged infrastructure. Under his rule, the city-state finally resumed its place as the major trade-hub of the Free Marches.[8]

Governance Edit

Kirkwall has been governed by a Viscount since the Orlesian occupation of the city, as the title itself is Orlesian. It has never truly been free to determine its own course, and after the ousting of Perrin Threnhold the Templar Order held considerable influence over his successor, Marlowe Dumar, and the city.

If the ruling line of a Viscount dies out due to no living heirs, then the nobility of Kirkwall will gather to elect a new line from their ranks.

This section contains spoilers for:
Dragon Age II.

With the death of Dumar at the hands of the Qunari, Knight-Commander Meredith was able to block any election of a new Viscount for a number of years until her death. If Hawke chose to side with the Templars, they are elected as the new Viscount.

This section contains spoilers for:
Dragon Age: Inquisition.

By 9:41, Kirkwall was ruled by Provisional Viscount Bran. If Hawke was previously elected Viscount, they were eventually betrayed and forced to flee by the Templars, who had become dangerously paranoid through Red Lyrium use. Bran reluctantly assumed the office only because no one else familiar with the protocols wanted it. He saw his appointment as temporary, and awaited the promised return of Hawke as the legitimate ruler of Kirkwall. In the meantime, Bran spent much of his time negotiating with numerous would-be conquerors of the city while Captain of the Guard Aveline and the Kirkwall Militia ably defended it.

This section contains spoilers for:

Sometime in the two years after Corypheus' defeat, Varric Tethras was elected Viscount of Kirkwall in recognition of his substantial reconstruction efforts in the city.

City crest Edit

Kirkwall heraldry DA2

Kirkwall heraldry

Kirkwall's coat of arms is a stylized knot work representation of a dragon. It evolved from a symbol of rebellion from the time when Kirkwall was a center for the Tevinter slave trade. It was an image that catalyzed the slaves to overthrow the ruling magisters. While the symbol has changed over time, its message has not: Kirkwall is a city unto itself, beholden to no one.[9]

Map Edit

LowtownHightownMap - Kirkwall
About this image

Click (or mouse over) any location for details.

Places Edit

Darktown Icon Darktown
Docks Icon Docks
Gallows Icon Gallows
Lowtown icon Lowtown
Hightown icon Hightown
Viscount's Keep Map Icon Viscount's Keep
Kirkwall Chantry Icon Kirkwall Chantry
Hanged Man Icon The Hanged Man
Gamlen's House Hawke Estate icon Hawke Estate
Fenris's Mansion Icon Fenris's Mansion
Anders's clinic icon Anders's Clinic
Hightown icon Bartrand's Estate
Hightown icon Harimann Estate
Gamlen's House Hawke Estate icon Gamlen's House
Lowtown icon Dark Foundry
Merrill's Home Icon Merrill's Home
Lowtown icon Kirkwall Alienage
Docks Icon Qunari Compound
Black Emporium Icon Black Emporium
Hightown icon The Blooming Rose
Hightown icon De Launcet Mansion
Lowtown icon Lirene's Fereldan Imports
Hightown icon Amell Estate Cellar
Docks Icon Castillon's Landing
Docks Icon Disused Passage
Lowtown icon Killer's Lair
Run Down Alley Icon Run Down Alley
Docks Icon Secret Meeting Place
Darktown Icon Sewer Passage
Darktown Icon Undercity Warrens
Darktown Icon Winding Alley
Darktown Icon Brekker's Hideaway
Darktown Icon Forgotten Lair
Darktown Icon The Sewers
Darktown Icon Sanctuary
Docks Icon Smetty's Fish Guttery

Banter Edit

Party banter may be triggered at the following spots:

Trivia Edit

  • Kirkwall declared the common nug a noxious vermin in 5:20 Exalted over fears that the animals carried the Blight. The extermination became known as the Battle of Squealing Plains. It is not spoken of in polite company.[10]
  • Several of the nobles in Kirkwall are of Orlesian origin, such as the de Launcet and de Carrac families.
  • Kirkwall, the real world capital of the Orkney Islands in Scotland, also had a Viscount, who was traditionally the heir of the Earl of Orkney.
  • Kirkwall's key to the city controls one of the giant chain nets in the harbor.
  • Kirkwall neighbourhoods follow old fault lines and veins in the rock. Longtime residents still get lost, with only dwarves never experiencing this problem.[11]
  • The noble Hightown neighbourhood is colloquially known as “the Garden.” There are no house numbers, instead metal plaques with family heraldry hang over the lintels of estate doors.[12]

Gallery Edit

See also Edit

Codex icon DA2 Codex entry: The City of Kirkwall
Codex icon DA2 Codex entry: History of Kirkwall: Chapter 1
Codex icon DA2 Codex entry: History of Kirkwall: Chapter 2
Codex icon DA2 Codex entry: History of Kirkwall: Chapter 3
Codex icon DA2 Codex entry: History of Kirkwall: Chapter 4
Codex icon DA2 Codex entry: Speculations on Kirkwall
Codex icon DAI Codex entry: The City-State of Kirkwall

References Edit

  1. Dragon Age logo - new Dragon Age: The World of Thedas, vol. 1, p. 25
  2. Codex entry: A Badly Copied Leaflet
  3. Dragon Age: Last Flight, ch. 14, 16–19
  4. Codex entry: History of Kirkwall: Chapter 4
  5. Dragon Age logo - new Dragon Age: The World of Thedas, vol. 2, p. 184
  6. Twitter icon Mary Kirby . Twitter.
  7. According to Varric in Trespasser.
  8. Epilogue (Trespasser)
  9. Kirkwall pendant
  10. Mentioned in a Dragon Age II loading screen.
  11. Dragon Age: Hard in Hightown, p. 31
  12. Dragon Age: Hard in Hightown, pp. 9-11
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.