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Starkhaven is an independent and prominent city-state of the Free Marches that lies on the banks of the Minanter River. It's the largest city of the Free Marches and the most influential along with Kirkwall and Tantervale.


Starkhaven heraldry

Starkhaven is the largest city in the Free Marches and one of the wealthiest. The independent city-state of Starkhaven is ruled by the Vael family and has strong ties to the Chantry in its governance.

The city has imposing walls: a curved mountain of earth crowned with concentric rings of tall gray stone. On the northern side, the Minanter River rushes through the water gate. The city itself is glimpsed from afar as a glory of marble palaces set on green hills and ringed by broad boulevards.[1]

It is a place of wealth and opulence, with many kingly estates with fountains and granite paths. Large sections of the city are decorated in fine materials like marble and gold. The royal palace in the heart of the city is made of marble, and the path to it is paved in granite.[2]

Starkhaven is also famed for its superb cuisine, with its most famous dish being fish and egg pie. It is made with three deboned fresh fish, boiled eggs, dried fruit, spices, and thickened cream, topped with a light crust.

According to Sebastian Vael, Kirkwall is the city's largest trading partner.


In 1:95 Divine, the last battle of the Second Blight was fought at Starkhaven with a human army led by the Grey Wardens.[3] Both sides suffered heavy losses, but Zazikel was slain by the Grey Warden Corin, ending the Second Blight.[4]

In 2:15 Glory Starkhaven's King Fyruss, with backing from Tevinter allies, launched a series of military campaigns in an effort to unite the Free Marches under his banner and build his own empire. The other Marcher cities united to fight him off and Fyruss failed to conquer any of the neighboring city-states. His expansionist inspirations were not limited to the Free Marches; he also invaded some of Antiva's southernmost cities.[5] Antiva's cities similarly united to defend themselves against Fyruss in 2:33 Glory. In 2:45, due to his failure to conquer any of the Marcher city-states and the diplomatic liability created by his invasion of Antiva, Fyruss' Tevinter allies betrayed him and ousted him from Starkhaven; the Tevinter Imperium conquered his city in result. This led the Chantry to declare an Exalted March to liberate Starkhaven from the Imperium in 2:80 Glory. The following battle for the independence of Starkhaven was short, but bloody.[6]

The Palace of Starkhaven interior

In 5:12 Exalted, during the Fourth Blight, Starkhaven accepted a large group of refugees from Wycome who were fleeing the Darkspawn.[7]

It is known to have had at least one Champion rise to prominence.[8] They assisted the Grey Wardens with the evacuation of civilians from Kirkwall during the Fourth Blight and later participated in the Battle of Ayesleigh in 5:24 Exalted at which the Archdemon Andoral was slain.[9][10]

In 7:56 Storm, the Qunari landed near Ostwick and launched assaults against Starkhaven and Kirkwall. Starkhaven was besieged by Qunari invaders who hoped to cut off trade to the north, only to be repelled, but Kirkwall fell due to the magic of the Saarebas.[11]

Starkhaven's Circle of Magi tower was burned down in 9:31 Dragon. While the actual cause of the fire is unknown, it is suspected to have been started by rebellious mages attempting to escape the Circle, with the former attendee Decimus as a prime suspect.[12]


Dragon Age II[]

This section contains spoilers for:
Dragon Age II.

Most members of the ruling family were murdered in 9:31 Dragon by Flint Company mercenaries in a brutal coup d'etat engineered by Lady Johane Harimann of Kirkwall. The Harimanns intended to usurp the Vaels, placing the malleable Goran Vael, a distant cousin of the main family, upon the throne.

Before the coup d'etat, the Vael family had committed their youngest son, Sebastian, to the Kirkwall Chantry to live a chaste life in service to Andraste. The young Vael avenged his parents, killing both Johane Harimann and the Flint Company Mercenaries, though Goran Vael still ruled the city.

Dragon Age: Inquisition[]

This section contains spoilers for:
Dragon Age: Inquisition.

If Sebastian Vael was recruited by Hawke, Anders was spared 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.

If Sebastian Vael was recruited by Hawke, Anders was executed and the Inquisitor accepts Sebastian's offer of friendship:
Sebastian Vael reclaimed his title as Prince of Starkhaven and in 9:41 Dragon 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.

Dragon Age: Knight Errant[]

This section contains spoilers for:
Dragon Age: Knight Errant.

BioWare canon.png
The plot follows BioWare's own canon, meaning it may not follow some of the player's choices in the games.

The Inquisition arranges for an invitation to Prince Sebastian's birthday for Vaea and Ser Aaron, giving the former a secret assignment to free two of their agents, Tessa Forsythia and Marius, who were captured breaking into the castle to steal a dangerous document from Sebastian, ostensibly an ally of the Inquisition. They are accompanied on this visit by Varric Tethras, now the Viscount of Kirkwall, who assists Vaea on her secret mission.

Dragon Age: Tevinter Nights[]

This section contains spoilers for:
Dragon Age: Tevinter Nights.

BioWare canon.png
The plot follows BioWare's own canon, meaning it may not follow some of the player's choices in the games.

Starkhaven hosts the Grand Tourney. During the tournament, a healing amulet is stolen by Lords of Fortune and their hired help, as is the Celebrant. Starkhaven knights and guards pursue the thieves, but though the Celebrant is retrieved, the amulet is not and it is eventually given to Vaea who takes it to Tevinter.


Starkhaven is governed by a prince. Starkhaven has been ruled by the Vael family since the ousting of the self-anointed "King Ironfist," the last in a series of low-born warlords claiming sovereignty over the city. The first Prince Vael was proclaimed prince when he refused the title of king. The title is hereditary.

Known Princes[]

  • Lord Vael – the first Prince of Starkhaven
  • Artesian Vael – a Prince who ruled during the Exalted Age
  • Corbinian Vael – supposed heir to the throne of Starkhaven[13]
  • Goran Vael – a cousin of the main Vael family who was placed on the throne as a puppet by Lady Johane Harimann—who had the previous prince and most of his immediate heirs assassinated in 9:31; he was the "pretender" to the throne of Starkhaven from 9:31-9:41
  • Sebastian Vael – Prince of Starkhaven (9:41-present)

Known ambassadors[]

  • Galen Vedas – Starkhaven ambassador to Nevarra (9:6 Dragon)[14]

Notable citizens[]

Codex entries[]

Codex entry: The City of Starkhaven Codex entry: The City of Starkhaven
Codex entry: Exhuming Bodies by Moonlight Codex entry: Exhuming Bodies by Moonlight
Codex entry: The Gem of Keroshek Codex entry: The Gem of Keroshek
Codex entry: Stonehammer's Gift Codex entry: Stonehammer's Gift
Codex entry: The Vael Family Codex entry: The Vael Family

Note texts[]

The Underground Railroad The Underground Railroad
A Strangely Official-Looking Letter A Strangely Official-Looking Letter


  • According to Varric, Starkhaven is "pretentious".
  • Most inhabitants of Starkhaven encountered so far, including Sebastian, Rylen, Belinda Darrow, Bram Kenric, and Strife[21] seem to share a Scottish accent.
  • If in Act III female Hawke rivals and flirts with Sebastian, he says "The prince of Starkhaven and the viscountess of Kirkwall? It would be the strongest alliance the Free Marches has ever seen."