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.
Founded under the name Emerius in -620 Ancient, 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". 
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.—Excerpt from Codex entry: The City of Kirkwall
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.
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, 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. 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.
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, an 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. 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.
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 in helping 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 and strong-arm Aveline to back down or send Cullen's military to bolster Aveline's resistance forces and repel Sebastian's occupation forces back to Starkhaven.
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.
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.
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.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 crestKirkwall'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.
PlacesDarktown Docks Gallows Lowtown Hightown Viscount's Keep Kirkwall Chantry The Hanged Man Hawke Estate Fenris's Mansion Anders's Clinic Bartrand's Estate Harimann Estate Gamlen's House Dark Foundry Merrill's Home Kirkwall Alienage Qunari Compound Black Emporium The Blooming Rose De Launcet Mansion Lirene's Fereldan Imports Amell Estate Cellar Castillon's Landing Disused Passage Killer's Lair Run Down Alley Secret Meeting Place Sewer Passage Undercity Warrens Winding Alley Brekker's Hideaway Forgotten Lair The Sewers Sanctuary Smetty's Fish Guttery
Party banter may be triggered at the following spots:
- Just outside the Hawke Estate
- Inside the Kirkwall Chantry, in front of the main door
- On the stairs leading to the Viscount's Keep
- At the base of the stairway leading from Lowtown to Hightown
- In front of the Hanged Man
- In Darktown, near the elevator leading to Lowtown
- 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.
- Several of the nobles in Kirkwall are of Orlesian origin, such as the Launcet and the Carrac families.
- Kirkwall, the real world capital of the Orkney Islands in Scotland, also had a Viscount, whom 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.
Codex entry: The City of Kirkwall
Codex entry: History of Kirkwall: Chapter 1
Codex entry: History of Kirkwall: Chapter 2
Codex entry: History of Kirkwall: Chapter 3
Codex entry: History of Kirkwall: Chapter 4
Codex entry: Speculations on Kirkwall
Codex entry: The City-State of Kirkwall
- ↑ Dragon Age: The World of Thedas, vol. 1, p. 25
- ↑ Codex entry: A Badly Copied Leaflet
- ↑ Dragon Age: Last Flight, ch. 14, 16–19
- ↑ Codex entry: History of Kirkwall: Chapter 4
- ↑ Dragon Age: The World of Thedas, vol. 2, p. 184
- ↑ Mary Kirby Twitter.
- ↑ Trespasser
- ↑ Epilogue (Trespasser)
- ↑ Kirkwall pendant
- ↑ Mentioned in a Dragon Age II loading screen.