At the request of the Chantry, Knight-Commander Meredith Stannard became steward of Kirkwall following the death of Marlowe Dumar at the hands of the Qunari. She prevented a new Viscount being elected, and transformed Kirkwall into a templar-run police state. She claimed that martial law was only temporary until a successor could be determined and once Kirkwall is purged of all blood mages. This worried both the nobility and the mages, who began to look to the Champion of Kirkwall for aid. Orsino, the first enchanter of the Kirkwall Circle of Magi, also appealed to Hawke, as he believed Meredith had lost her mind. Even some of her own templars shared the view that Meredith was seeing enemies where none existed.
The mages saw Meredith's new powers as unacceptable, and a string of small revolts took place. Peace was only kept by the city's Grand Cleric, Elthina, though both factions now vied for her support. Despite her power and authority over the Kirkwall Circle and Templar Order, she refused to take sides, claiming neutrality, but it also made her a target, believing that Meredith and Orsino should be given time to sort out their differences. She soon received word that Divine Justinia V feared the Free Marches becoming another Tevinter Imperium and had dispatched an agent into the city to assess the danger. Elthina dispatched the Champion and her trusted acolyte, Sebastian Vael, to meet with the agent and convince her that drastic measures aren't necessary, fearing that if the Divine moved against Kirkwall, then more chaos would result. The two met with the agent, who warned that a rebellion in Kirkwall, spurred on by outside groups, was sure to follow and advised them to to convince the Grand Cleric to flee to Val Royeaux, the heart of the Chantry. The Champion attempted to convince Elthina to flee, but she refused, staying with her flock.Within the templar ranks, one of the Order, Thrask, fearing that Meredith would cause open war with the mages so long as she stayed in power, put into action a rebellion he had planned for the past six years to unseat Meredith, teaching one mage and templar at a time that they don't need to hate each other. His activities were noticed, however, and the Champion was sent to investigate. Thrask's rebellion ended before it began when one of his allies turned on him and killed him in a futile attempt to get revenge on the Champion. The survivors of the conspiracy were rounded up and brutally dealt with by Meredith in order to dissuade any further attempts. Both Meredith and Orsino believed the other to be responsible for the conspiracy.
It was common knowledge to both the citizens of Kirkwall (and the Knight-Commander) that the Champion kept the company of a revolutionary apostate, an ex-Grey Warden named Anders. Despite three years of inaction, Meredith issued an arrest warrant for Anders, and ordered a raid on the Gallows in an attempt to find evidence of blood magic. Orsino refused to allow the raid, which led to a furious confrontation in Lowtown between the knight-commander and first enchanter.
The Champion arrived at the scene just as Orsino declared that he would go to the Grand Cleric for help. Meredith rebuked him, as Anders arrived. Seconds later, the Kirkwall chantry exploded, killing Grand Cleric Elthina and everybody else within. It was revealed that this was the work of Anders, who had had enough of what he perceived to be the brutal and unending oppression of mages by the Chantry and their Templar military arm, and so had removed the chance of compromise because there was no real compromise, and in order to show the world that the Circle wasn't a solution to their problems. Furious, and viewing such an outrage as demanding retaliation, Meredith invoked the Right of Annulment, which was the tipping point, condemning every mage in Kirkwall's Circle for the crimes of one apostate mage. Both the Knight Commander and the First Enchanter petitioned for the Champion's aid; Meredith argued that Kirkwall would descend into anarchy if the people were not granted retribution for the Grand Cleric's death, and Orsino countered that the Circle was innocent of any involvement in the Chantry's destruction.
Violence erupted shortly after the Champion's decision of which side would be supported, with the mages and templars now in open warfare across Kirkwall. The fighting stretched from Lowtown all the way to the Gallows, where Orsino attempted to bargain with Meredith in order to persuade her to revoke the Right of Annulment. But Meredith, claiming to be acting in the peoples' interests, was beyond reason. Meredith led a full scale attack on the Gallows that saw many on both sides slain, to which First Enchanter Orsino retaliated by resorting to blood magic, transforming into a monstrous fleshly construct. The Champion was forced to intervene by slaying the monstrosity Orsino had become.
Following this, the Champion arrived in the Gallows Courtyard, where Meredith was waiting with a contingent of templars. It soon became apparent that Orsino was correct, and she had indeed gone mad. This was due to the lyrium idol that was salvaged from the Primeval Thaig, which Meredith had forged into a sword; the corrupting influence of the artifact had played on her paranoia, both against mages and the Champion, whom Meredith had come to believe was behind the entire incident. Meredith ordered her templars to kill the Champion, but they refused, believing she had finally gone too far. When her knight-captain Cullen ordered Meredith to stand down, Meredith angrily accused her templars of being enthralled by blood magic. Meredith battled against the Champion and his/her companions, their allies, and her own templars, with the accursed sword in her hand granting her superhuman abilities.
She was eventually defeated after the sword exploded, and the lyrium sank into her skin, petrifying her. The remaining templars then ceased hostilities against the Champion. Inspired by the mages of Kirkwall, Circles throughout Thedas rose up in rebellion, proving that the mighty templars could be defied.
News of the slaughter of Kirkwall's Circle spread far beyond Kirkwall's borders. The Champion's name became a rallying cry and incited all the Circles in other nations and cities to rise up against the templars and anyone standing in their way, bringing Thedas to the brink of a war between the mages and templars on a world-wide scale.