Spent a few days in Kirkwall. Don't believe the vacation hype -- the place is a dump! The official leadership literally lost its head in the recent Qunari uprising, but the nobility are too weak and the people too frightened to elect a new Viscount. Meantime, the Templar military has filled in the gap and established martial law on the excuse that the local Mage Circle has lost control of its mages. Rumors fly about that mages are consorting with demons and are practicing Blood Magic, not that the two activities are mutually exclusive of each other.
Meantime, the city is overrun with Ferelden refugees fleeing their Blight. As if there weren't enough poor people on the streets as it is, these Fereldens just made the poverty index nosedive just by being here. Nowhere to go, the lucky ones will take on any kind of indentured servitude; the rest, who knows?
Accommodation is cheap, but you get what you pay for. The Hanged Man is a tavern with rooms and... that's it. The signage out front is a figure of a Templar suspended by his ankles and the whole thing swings freely in the breeze. Quite ominous, really: I never went close enough to find out if the figure was just a dummy or an actual Templar. In this part of town, I wouldn't be surprised one way or the other.
Where I stayed is also the favourite hangout of the Champion of Kirkwall and his cronies. The Champ got his title by single-handedly putting down the Qunaris I mentioned earlier. That's saying something, considering an ordinary Qunari is already huge, powerfully built and a religious fanatic to boot, but to defeat their Arishok in a duel must have been quite something to behold.
Actually, the Champ's beardless dwarf buddy tells me that the Champ ran around the arena screaming like a girl while taking occasional over-the-shoulder potshots with his magic staff until the Arishok keeled over and died. True story. Anyway, though they still get some respect around here, I think they're just another bunch of trouble makers looking for a fight. Get a job, you people!
Streets filled with marauding gangs; out-of-control militia; the occasional wave of creatures from the Stygian depths... the final straw for me was when Kirkwall experienced it's first -- and probably most spectacular -- act of terrorism that obliterated a rather important civic edifice, and presumably everyone inside at the time. With the Templars and the mages each blaming the other for abuses and atrocities of the past, this event was the excuse to openly tear into each other, engulfing their whole crappy city in the flames of civil war.
I get the feeling there are several neighbouring nations looking on very intently at all this trouble brewing in the Free Marches and are by now assessing threat, risk and opportunity...
Whatever. My bags are packed and I'm going home. Had a great time and all. kthxbye. Watch it, I'm just a tourist!!!