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Updated: Mar 19, 2023

Kirkwall is one of the most prominent city-states of the Free Marches and the centre of trade in the region. It sits atop a cliff on the edge of the Waking Sea, a position which makes it the most convenient Marcher city to access from Orlais or Ferelden. Though Ostwick also possesses a coastal location and Ansburg is the closest Marcher city to Antiva, Kirkwall's combination of being a port and being in proximity to the powerful Orlesian Empire secures it as the trade hub of the Free Marches.

There are few naval merchants I know who have never visited Kirkwall, and I have been there several times myself. Its appearance is quite distinctive, and its Tevinter origins apparent. The channel between the jet black cliffs where the city received its name is flanked by two bronze statues of gargantuan proportions known as the Twins of Kirkwall. They are accompanied by other carvings and statues of less impressive scale along the cliffs, many of which have since been erased by the Chantry due to being dedicated to the Tevinter Old Gods.

Kirkwall's location is not only convenient for trade, but also happens to be by the narrowest section of the Waking Sea. From the two statues, chains can be connected to a point on the opposite side of the coast, cutting access to and from the eastern side of the sea which connects to the Amarantine Ocean. Fortunately for us merchants, this has rarely been done in recent history, as blocking such a vital passage would no doubt have widespread impacts on trade.

—From The Memoirs of a Merchant Prince by Vaslo Caroni

Kirkwall - The Gallows

Knight-Vigilant Philippe,

In wake of the recent blood magic incident, I suggest that we relocate the Circle in Kirkwall. We have both seen the Seeker's report; the recruit was not to blame and the situation was, by all accounts, inevitable.

The Gallows has a long and bloody history. During the days of the Tevinter Imperium, Kirkwall, or Emerius as it was known then, was all one massive quarry where much of the materials for the expanding Imperial Highway came from. Through those times, more than a million slaves passed through the Gallows to maintain the vast amount of manpower such a mine must have required.

It was in the Gallows where they watched their fellow slaves executed by the Tevinters more or less on their whim. There was said to be at least one round of executions a day, if not more. This place has seen much death and suffering. The Veil is thin here, the Enchanters tell me. Though it helps with some of their research, it also makes it easy for a demon to reach across and touch the mind of mages.

The statues of slaves in various positions of pain and despair still stand today, meant to enforce a brutal reality that has not been the case for centuries. I understand that we are to ensure mages do not decide to misuse their power as the magisters of the Imperium had, and that involves driving some degree of compliance into them. However, these statues are not the way to do so. If anything, it makes the mages more at unease and more likely to tap into forbidden magics.

The prison structure does make it easier to confine mages, but we must weigh that against the many drawbacks. Those who decided to place the mages in the Gallows when the Circles were founded have probably never set foot in it. Please consider my suggestion that we move elsewhere. We can still maintain its location in Kirkwall; there are a number of suitable structures in the city such as that large keep in Hightown, which should have sufficient room to house the Circle.

—From a letter by Knight-Commander Gerald of Kirkwall to Knight-Vigilant Philippe, Storm 7:38

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