This page provides the storyline for the critical path of Dragon Age II.
The framing narration starts with Varric Tethras dragged before Cassandra Pentaghast of the Chantry, who wants him to tell the story of the Champion of Kirkwall. Varric begins with an embellished version, which is cut short by Cassandra, after which Varric begins the "whole story."
The story proper begins shortly after the Battle of Ostagar as Hawke's family escapes from Lothering and the darkspawn that have destroyed it. After fighting through a few groups of darkspawn, the Hawkes decide to seek a passage to Kirkwall, birthplace of Hawke's mother Leandra. Along the way, they cross paths with Aveline Vallen and her injured husband Wesley, a member of the Templar Order, and join forces to improve their chances of escaping.
Before long, the group runs into more darkspawn, including an ogre that kills one of Hawke's siblings. Although they manage to kill the ogre, the group is surrounded and about to be overrun when a High Dragon suddenly attacks and drives off the darkspawn. As it lands in front of the group, it shapeshifts into Flemeth, who offers Hawke a deal: if Hawke agrees to carry an amulet to a Dalish keeper in the Free Marches, Flemeth will ensure the group's safe passage to Gwaren, the closest settlement with a port, from where they can take a ship to Kirkwall. Hawke agrees, not having much choice. Before they leave, however, Wesley succumbs to the Darkspawn taint and pleads to be killed before it consumes him, despite Aveline's protests.
Varric cuts the story ahead to the group's arrival in Kirkwall. Upon arrival, they find out that the city is filled with Ferelden refugees and that the city guards are not letting any of them past the Gallows Courtyard. They talk to Ewald, captain of the guard, who is being pestered by agitated Ferelden deserters. Ewald agrees to simply send people to find Gamlen Amell, Hawke's uncle on Leandra's side, which angers the deserters into attacking. In exchange for their help with the deserters, the captain agrees to find Gamlen for them. After three days, Gamlen appears, telling his sister that the estate is gone, but he can bribe the family into Kirkwall with financing from either the Red Iron mercenaries or Athenril's smuggling group, as long as the elder Hawke and surviving twin work off the debt for a year. After fulfilling either faction's request, Hawke and the family are allowed to enter the city.
Act 1 Edit
A year passes, and word arrives from across the sea that the Hero of Ferelden has defeated the Blight. Bartrand Tethras of the Dwarven Merchants Guild plans an expedition into the Deep Roads, taking advantage of the Fifth Blight's recent end and the consequent reduction of darkspawn in the Deep Roads; Hawke and their sibling try to persuade Bartrand to accept them as hirelings, but he refuses. On their way back, they meet Varric, who informs them that he and Bartrand actually need a partner with fifty sovereigns to fund the expedition, so the Hawkes set out to take odd jobs throughout Kirkwall and save up the money. Upon meeting Varric again at the Hanged Man, he informs them of a Grey Warden in Kirkwall with maps of all the entrances to the Deep Roads in the area, another critical component of Bartrand's expedition.
Hawke travels to the Dalish camp at the foot of Sundermount and shows Flemeth's amulet to Keeper Marethari. The Keeper instructs them to find her First, Merrill, in order to perform the necessary rituals. Merrill leads Hawke's party up the mountain, en route revealing herself as a blood mage, until they reach an ancient graveyard where she performs the ritual.
After the ritual, Flemeth emerges from the amulet, explaining that Hawke may well have saved her life in return for her saving Hawke's. She gives cryptic warnings of a great change about to come to the world, and instructs Hawke to "not hesitate to leap" into the opportunity that awaits them. Flemeth then transforms into a dragon and flies away.
When the party descends back to the Dalish camp, the Keeper asks Hawke to take Merrill to Kirkwall. Hawke complies and brings her to the Kirkwall Alienage, where Merrill sets up her new home and asks Hawke to visit her when possible.
In the Elven Alienage, Hawke overhears Thrask talking with Arianni, the mother of Feynriel. Feynriel has run away in the wake of her contacting the Circle of Magi for help with his magical abilities, which have drawn the attention of demons. Hawke agrees to investigate his whereabouts and can either follow up with Thrask or Vincento, Feynriel's human father from Antiva. Either way, Hawke is directed to Samson and a private dock that happens to be used by slavers. After killing the slavers Hawke confronts an abomination: Thrask's daughter Olivia. After that, Hawke heads to Darktown to confront Danzig and make their way to the Slaver Caverns at the Wounded Coast. Here, Hawke dispatches the whole group of slavers and decides what to do with Feynriel: Either send him to the Circle as his mother wished, or let him leave to seek out the Dalish.
Thrask contacts Hawke again, asking for help with a group of apostates who escaped from the Starkhaven Circle of Magi after it was destroyed in a recent fire. Upon entering the cavern where they hide, Hawke must fight past waves of undead and eventually the blood mage Decimus. After his death, Grace steps forward and begs for Hawke's mercy. She asks him to kill Thrask so they can escape, but Hawke does not get that option. Instead, they must decide how to resolve this matter: Either send the mages to the Gallows under the watchful eye of Ser Karras; or allow them to escape, by either killing Karras and his backup or successfully tricking him into believing the mages have already escaped.
The quest begins with Hawke agreeing to assist a young woman, Macha, locate her brother Keran, a templar recruit who has gone missing without trace, a disappearance in which she thinks Knight Commander Meredith is involved. A talk with other recruits at the Gallows reveals that several recruits have also gone missing over the last few weeks, but one of those who disappeared, a lad called Wilmod, reappeared recently before leaving Kirkwall to 'clear his head'.
Finding Wilmod's camp and the lad being threatened at swordpoint by Knight-Captain Cullen, both Hawke and the templar are caught offguard when Wilmod suddenly transforms into a Shade and summons demonic allies to help him. After Hawke helps Cullen fight the demon and its summoned minions, the Knight-Captain reveals that he was attempting to get information from Wilmod, as the recruit had been demonstrating suspicious behavior. Cullen also reveals that he knows Wilmod and Keran were frequent visitors to the Blooming Rose, but requests Hawke's help in acquiring information, as the brothel staff are refusing to talk to the templars out of fear of being shut down.
Venturing to the Blooming Rose, Hawke learns Wilmod and Keran often saw Idunna, but when Hawke questions her, the woman initially plays dumb, then tries to take control of Hawke with blood magic. Either by themselves or with the help of a mage companion, Hawke breaks free of Idunna's control and then either kills Idunna and searches her possessions for information or overpowers and interrogates her, before either killing or handing her over to the templars. Either way, they learn Idunna is part of a group of Maleficarum attempting to sow dissension in the ranks of the templars by forcing demons to possess their recruits and then allowing the templars to return to the Order, undoubtedly in order to set up a future bloodbath.
Tracking the rebel mages to their lair in Darktown, Hawke and company find the group's leader, a fanatical psychopath called Tarohne seeking to incite a war with the templars and establish a new mage-ruled state, akin to the Tevinter Imperium, backed up by the power of summoned demons, along with a captive Keran. Tarohne and her minions are killed in the ensuing battle and Keran is freed and taken back to the Gallows, where Hawke has the option of either requesting he be retained or dismissed from the Templar Order, as well as expressing their own views on whether the templars or mages are more responsible for this disaster.
This quest starts with the rescue of Javaris Tintop and his bodyguards at Dead Man's Pass near Sundermount. He asks Hawke to locate a band of Tal-Vashoth and obtain information on a powder that explodes without magic or lyrium. He says there should be profit in it for all.
Hawke goes to the Wounded Coast with the party. When they take the south main road, a Qunari steps out of the northward path and warns the party of a group of Tal-Vashoth ahead who have set up an ambush for travelers.
The group reaches the hill to be ambushed by four Tal-Vashoth. After finishing them, the group finds several groups up the hill. Hawke finds the entrance to the Tal-Vashoth Cavern, and within the cave the party fights through and kills every Tal-Vashoth inside.
After that battle Hawke visits the Qunari compound in order to meet the Arishok of the Qunari to inform him of the death of the Tal-Vashoth rebel group. The quest ends when the Arishok says that Javaris misunderstood and there was no deal to buy the secret of the "gaatlok," the Qunari's blackpowder.
Rumor has it that someone from the Chantry is offering good money for a mission. When Hawke goes to Lowtown at night, Hawke sees Sister Petrice setting herself up for a mugging. After rescuing her, she asks Hawke to meet her at a safehouse which is in the Old City Slums region. When Hawke goes there, she introduces Ketojan, a Qunari mage survivor of a recent battle between Qunari and Tal-Vashoth, whom she is trying to help smuggle to safety.
In order to escape the city unseen, Sister Petrice instructs Hawke to lead Ketojan out of the city via an underground passage, where a thug leader and his gang confront Hawke and Ketojan. Then the thug leader tries to stab Hawke, which provokes Ketojan into unleashing his magic on the thug leader. This causes the rest of the thug band to attack the party.
Upon exiting the underground tunnels to the Wounded Coast, Hawke encounters an encampment of other Qunari, who call Ketojan "Saarebas," meaning "dangerous thing." Apparently, the members of Ketojan's karataam were killed, and their bodies were left in a trail leading to exactly where Hawke and fellow cohorts would emerge. The Arvaarad proclaims that since Ketojan has spent some time without his handler, he may have been corrupted by demons and thus cannot be allowed to live.
Regardless of Hawke's choice, the Qunari attack, believing them to be corrupted, and Ketojan is either killed ceremoniously or dies via self-immolation.
It is clear that Sister Petrice had set Hawke up to be killed by the Qunari. When Hawke returns to Sister Petrice's safehouse in Lowtown at night, they discover Sister Petrice and her templar assistant packing up, intending to leave without a trace. When Hawke confronts her, she reveals that had Hawke been killed, she would have used it to turn the Chantry against the Qunari.
The quest begins at Lirene's Fereldan Imports in Lowtown, where Hawke asks where they can find a Grey Warden. Lirene will tell Hawke that he can be found in Darktown as a healer. When the Grey Warden is found, he reveals himself as Anders. Anders offers the use of the Deep Roads maps in exchange for the favor of rescuing his friend Karl, a mage who has been kept prisoner in Kirkwall, which Hawke accepts.
Hawke meets Anders at the Chantry at night, where inside they discover that Karl has been made a Tranquil, and is being used as bait by the templars to capture Anders. The spirit of Vengeance, formerly known as Justice, then erupts from within Anders, and Hawke and the party end up fighting the templars. Karl is briefly restored, only long enough to tell Anders to kill him so that he would not live his life as a Tranquil. Anders mercifully kills Karl, and upon returning to his clinic in Darktown allows Hawke the use of his maps.
Once Hawke has obtained the maps, completed their dealings with the Qunari, completed the debt to Flemeth, and found a way to finance the expedition, it begins. Leandra arrives and begs Hawke not to take the surviving sibling, and they set off once Hawke has made a decision. Cassandra cuts in to question Hawke's motives, which she claims was to spread subversion against the Chantry. Varric denies this, stating it was all about coin and getting the family out of the slums, and that if Hawke knew what was down there, events would not have played out the way they did.
The quest begins with Hawke's group finding a side passage to the Deep Roads after the main passage has been blocked off. Along the way they find Bodahn's son Sandal, who reveals that he has been using runes to destroy the darkspawn that he came across.
Hawke's team finds the way in and discovers the Primeval Ruins, in which they come across an idol made of pure lyrium. Hawke hands the idol to Bartrand, who then proceeds to lock them inside and take all the profits of the expedition for himself.
Hawke and the party travel to find another way out of the Deep Roads and encounter an Ancient Rock Wraith and engage it in battle. After the battle, Hawke gets the key to the exit and comes across a massive pile of treasure, enough to leapfrog Hawke into the Kirkwall nobility.
They finally make it out of the Deep Roads and return home, but it comes with a price: If the surviving sibling came on the expedition, they contract the Taint and must be euthanized, unless Anders came along as the team's fourth, in which case he can bring them to the Grey Wardens. If left behind with Leandra, Bethany will have been discovered by the Circle in the weeks Hawke's been gone, whereas Carver willingly joins the templars.
Act 2 Edit
Cassandra comments on the fate of Hawke's sibling, to which Varric states it's not the connection she's looking for. Varric glosses over the three years between Hawke's emergence from the Deep Roads, victorious and wealthy, and picks up the story in the fourth year, when the hostilities with the Qunari reached a boiling point.
The quest begins with Viscount Marlowe Dumar telling Hawke that the Arishok has asked to speak to them personally. Upon arriving at the Qunari Compound at the Docks, the Arishok tells Hawke that Javaris is believed to have stolen a formula for a poison gas called "saar qamek." Upon a suggestion from either Varric or Aveline, Hawke travels to Darktown and speaks to a "Coterie barker" selling Javaris' assets, who reveals that he has left town in a hurry and has used tunnels to get to Smuggler's Cut. Hawke finds him there and, after fighting off a band of mercenaries, discovers from Javaris that an elf has framed him for stealing the gaatlok. Hawke then either chooses to kill Javaris or let him go.
Hawke heads to Lowtown, where a side alley has been cordoned off due to some poisonous green gas that is making people go mad. As Hawke and their party seal off the canisters emitting the gas, they fight off bands of mercenaries sent by the Elven Fanatic, who reveals herself to be responsible for the poison gas. After defeating the elf and her bands, Hawke returns to the Qunari compound, where the Arishok reveals that he cannot leave the city without a certain item that has been taken under his care.
The quest begins in the Gallows where Emeric will ask Hawke to go to Gascard DuPuis' estate in Hightown to find evidence of his guilt as the murderer of the young women. After entering the estate and dealing with Shades and other enemies, Hawke will see Gascard with a woman, claiming he is using her to track down the real murderer, who courts his victims and sends them white flowers. Hawke can either fight with Gascard or let him go.
Upon returning to the Gallows, Moira tells Hawke that Emeric received a letter that supposedly they wrote, telling him to meet in a back alley. Hawke realizes that it's a trap set up for Emeric, and upon arriving in the back alley, will find Shades, Abominations, and Emeric's dead body. Moira will appear on the scene and Hawke can either implicate Gascard in Emeric's murder or keep silent.
Seneschal Bran tells Hawke to go to the Hanged Man to find a guard who has allowed some Qunari to go missing. With the help of Aveline, Hawke learns from Orwald the Braggart that he was under orders by a templar bearing the seal of the grand cleric. Hawke visits the Chantry to speak to her, only to run into Petrice, who will setup a meeting point with Hawke to hand over the offending templar, Ser Varnell.
Hawke finds Ser Varnell in his secret refuge, where he has a Qunari chained up and tortured to the delight of zealots. At this point, Hawke can either support Ser Varnell, which results in fighting the Qunari present, or oppose him and end up fighting Varnell and his fanatics. The viscount later comes to inspect the dead bodies of the Qunari, to which Hawke can either tell him to burn the bodies or tell him not to hide them from the Arishok, thus earning the Arishok's respect.
Hawke returns to the estate to find Gamlen looking for Leandra. Bodahn reveals that Leandra may be with her suitor. The white flowers she receives worry Hawke and Hawke decides to investigate.
The investigation leads to the basement of the Foundry, where Hawke finds a blood mage named Quentin. He has been piecing together parts of various women, including Hawke's mother, to recreate his "bride." Gascard may also appear on the scene if he was not implicated in Emeric's murder. Quentin attacks Hawke with a swarm of shades, abominations, and corpses in addition to three desire demons before he finally falls. After his fall, Leandra dies in Hawke's arms, telling how proud she is of them.
The viscount tells Hawke that his son Saemus has decided to convert to the Qun and fears that this is being used to trigger a political crisis. Hawke goes to the Qunari compound to investigate, with the Arishok telling Hawke that Saemus has converted of his own volition, adding that a letter preceded them to arrange a meeting with Saemus. He suspects foul play from Petrice, so Hawke goes to the Chantry to find out.
At the Chantry, Hawke discovers that Saemus has been murdered. Depending on whether Hawke supported Ser Varnell or not, either Petrice may attempt to frame Hawke for the murder, resulting in a fight with her zealots, and Petrice being killed by the Qunari, or Hawke may help Petrice frame the Qunari, resulting in a fight with the Qunari.
The quest begins with Hawke and Aveline at the Qunari compound, dealing with the Arishok defending two elven prisoners wanted for murder, who submitted themselves to the Qun for protection. Eventually the Arishok decides that the time has come to deal with the city's dysfunction once and for all and sends his troops to attack Kirkwall.
Hawke and the party fight their way to Hightown, where they meet up with Meredith and Orsino, who offer their assistance in entering the Viscount's Keep, where the Arishok is holding hostages. Bethany/Carver may show up in Lowtown as a Grey Warden, or alongside Meredith and Orsino. After infiltrating the keep, the Arishok throws the viscount's severed head at the nobles, and it is there that Hawke settles matters with the Arishok. The Qunari must be fought, or Hawke can duel the Arishok in single combat under the right circumstances. If Isabela was recruited and returns the Tome of Koslun, she can be handed over to the Qunari or Hawke can duel the Arishok for her safety: leading to a cessation of aggression, or the Qunari fought as a group. Regardless of the outcome, all remaining Qunari leave Kirkwall with the Arishok vowing his people's return. Meredith arrives and is shocked that everything ended so quickly, naming Hawke the Champion of Kirkwall.
Act 3 Edit
Cassandra comments on Hawke's resolution of the Qunari situation, and she starts to believe that Varric is telling the truth. She comes to the understanding that what she heard about what happened at the Gallows is false, and beseeches Varric to tell her what really happened. He mentions that following the death of Viscount Dumar, Meredith turned Kirkwall into a templar-controlled police state, using her new power to further oppress the Circle of Magi until the last straw finally came.
The act opens with Hawke stepping into an argument between Meredith and Orsino in the courtyard outside the Keep, who are arguing over Meredith's escalating fear campaign and crackdown on Circle mages, in addition to her refusal to allow a new Viscount to be chosen. She retorts that he has not cooperated with her at all, and that despite her best efforts rogue mages continue to hound the people of Kirkwall. The Champion must choose who to side with, at which point Grand Cleric Elthina steps in and disperses the crowd.
Following the fiasco in the courtyard, Hawke is summoned to the Gallows by Knight Commander Meredith, who requests the Champion's help with an unfortunate incident; several days before, a templar-supported insurrection resulted in the destruction of a number of phylacteries, and several mages took advantage of the situation to escape. While most have been recaptured, the last three are proving difficult to find; Meredith believes they are being sheltered by family and friends and given the current atttitude of distrust towards the Templar Order, Meredith feels that those who know the escapee mages are more likely to talk to Hawke than her templars.
Meredith's Tranquil assistant Elsa provides information on the three escapees; the first is Huon, a resident of Kirkwall's Alienage who was brought to the Gallows a decade before. His wife, Nyssa, claims that her husband has come around, asking her for help; while she turned him away, she claims her husband has changed and fears he might try to harm her. Though Hawke offers to protect her, that night Huon shows up, uses blood magic to control and murder his wife and attacks Hawke. Huon is killed in the ensuing fight.
The second escapee is Emile de Launcet, the fifth son of a minor Orlesian noble family. Paying a visit to the de Launcet estate, Hawke learns from Emile's mother that her son did show up, and that she gave him gold in the hopes he would flee Kirkwall and start a new life; however, Emile's father reveals that, far from fleeing Kirkwall, Emile is frittering away the gold he was given getting drunk in the Hanged Man.
Hawke finds Emile in the tavern, heavily drunk and bragging to be a powerful blood mage. However, as the situation transpires, it becomes apparent that Emile, far from being a dangerous apostate, is merely a bit of a simpleton who never got to experience life (having been in the Circle since he was six years old) and simply took advantage of his freedom to live a little, mainly by drinking and experimenting with girls. Hawke is given the choice either to let him go or turn him in. Letting him go will cause Emile to leave Kirkwall and his mother will send Hawke gold along with a thank you letter. If he is taken back, Emile begs Hawke to let him have one more night of freedom, since he's arranged to lose his virginity with one of the Hanged Man's barmaids. Hawke can either convince him against it or allow it; either way, the matter is resolved and Emile turns himself in.
The third escapee is Evelina, a senior enchanter from Ferelden's Circle of Magi who came to Kirkwall after the outbreak of the Fifth Blight (though Evelina claims she came to Kirkwall to escape the darkspawn, not the Circle). During her flight, she rescued groups of children orphaned by the Blight and brought them with her to Kirkwall. After settling into Darktown with the children, she took herself to the Circle in Kirkwall, thinking that they would help the children. Instead, the templars locked her up as an apostate and did nothing for her adopted family. She was last seen at her former residence in Darktown, but the templars abandoned pursuit after she killed several of those hunting her.
Finding some of Evelina's adoptive charges in Darktown, Hawke learns that the mage has fled into the sewers; hunting her down, Hawke discovers that in the time since her escape, Evelina has become an abomination and is left with no choice but to kill her.
Once all three mages have been dealt with, Hawke returns to the Gallows to meet with Meredith. The Knight-Commander is pleased the situation has been resolved; Hawke can either accept her praise or berate Meredith, stating that her heavy handed rule is the cause of the mages escaping and all those who died as a result. Either way, Meredith notes Hawke's efforts and then orders the Champion out of her office.
Dependent on who they supported at the beginning of Act 3, Hawke is again summoned to the Gallows, either by Knight Commander Meredith or First Enchanter Orsino to discuss a serious matter. The contact at the Gallows reveals that groups of mages have been sneaking out of the Gallows, sometimes for days at a time and now there are rumors of a meeting between apostates to be held at midnight in Hightown. If Meredith summons Hawke to the Gallows, she insists that Hawke find proof Orsino is involved so he will not be able to protest against her actions regarding the Circle to Grand Cleric Elthina; if Orsino requests Hawke's presence, he asks that Hawke find proof the Circle isn't involved in what's going on, lest Meredith try to use this incident to justify enacting the Right of Annulment.
Hawke eavesdrops on the meeting in Hightown to find templars and mages involved in conspiracy. Though the conspirators chose to fight and die rather than surrender, a letter recovered from one of the bodies reveals a second meeting place down by the Docks. Breaking into this place, Hawke finds another group of mage and templar conspirators, including a familiar face; Keran, who refuses to fight the Champion because they previously saved his life. Following the fight that ensues, Keran confesses that Thrask is the leader of this conspiracy, having been working to improve relations between the Circle and the Templar Order and make their partnership less confrontational, and they have been working towards having Meredith removed from her position. Keran also reveals that when they learned the Champion was investigating their activities, the conspirators decided to take someone close to Hawke hostage (a sibling if Bethany/Carver is still alive, or a romantic interest if not) in order to use as leverage (something Keran claims he fervently argued against, given his past). A furious Hawke forces Keran to give up Thrask's location, and then decides whether to let him go, hand him over to the templars, or kill him for his involvement in the conspiracy.
Using Keran's information, Hawke and company track Thrask and his few remaining followers down to their base on the Wounded Coast. They are accosted en route by Samson, who reveals that despite Thrask's noble-minded goals, the mages present with him are using blood magic, necromancy and other dark powers to get what they want, before departing to round up Knight-Captain Cullen and reinforcements. Storming the base, Hawke confronts Thrask, who insists he is only interested in deposing Meredith and that they won't harm the hostage, but his lieutenant, Grace angrily tries to have both the hostage and Hawke killed as revenge for Decimus' death. Thrask's efforts to defuse the situation from turning violent end with Grace killing him and ordering the rest to attack, but she and most of the mages and templars are killed in the ensuing battle. The remainder surrender to Hawke, who turns them over to Cullen, who arrives with Samson and templar reinforcements after the battle is over. Cullen asks if Hawke has a recommendation; Hawke can decide whether to request the rebels be shown mercy or be executed, in addition to suggesting Samson be reinstated into the Templar Order.
Hawke returns to the Gallows to report the conspiracy's destruction, but despite their insistence the conspiracy began and ended with Thrask, Meredith and Orsino remain convinced the other was behind it.
Hawke is summoned to the Chantry by Grand Cleric Elthina, who explains that the Divine Justinia V is growing concerned about the situation in Kirkwall, fearing that if the mages continue to rebel against Chantry power, it could end with the city state breaking away from the Chantry as the Tevinter Imperium did. There are now rumors the Divine is contemplating an Exalted March against Kirkwall; Elthina explains that the Divine has dispatched an agent to assess the situation, and now the Grand Cleric wants Hawke and her favorite, Sebastian Vael, to meet with the agent, known only as "Sister Nightingale", and convince her drastic measures are not necessary.
The meeting takes place in the throne room of the Viscount's Keep; upon arrival, Hawke and company are attacked by extremely aggressive mages, while the agent arrives in time to slay enemy reinforcements. "Sister Nightingale" identifies the attackers as Resolutionists, members of a highly aggressive offshoot of the Libertarian Fraternity who openly and violently support the abolishment of the Circles and the end of Chantry dominance over mages; Hawke, in turn, identifies "Sister Nightingale" as the famous Leliana, who is surprised to be recognised, but confirms her identity and her past adventure with the Hero of Ferelden.
Regardless of whether Hawke claims drastic measures are or aren't needed, Leliana merely replies with a warning: war is coming and Kirkwall is no longer safe. She relays a message instructing Grand Cleric Elthina to depart for Val Royeaux immediately for her own safety before taking her leave.
Unfortunately, Elthina refuses to leave for Orlais, insisting the situation is not as bad as feared and believing herself still capable of negotiating a peaceful compromise.
The quest begins with Hawke arriving at the Gallows, immediately sent to Lowtown to intervene in another argument between Meredith and Orsino: Meredith is accusing Orsino of harbouring blood mages, while Orsino accuses Meredith of making false accusations to justify using even more draconian measures against the Circle. Regardless of who Hawke sides with, Orsino tries to storm off to force Grand Cleric Elthina to intervene, but Anders steps forward to tell them there can be no more compromise, and he triggers an explosive device planted beneath the Kirkwall Chantry, destroying it and killing everyone inside. This makes Meredith call for the Right of Annulment, and this also forces Hawke to choose who they are going to support: the mages, who are to be executed for the actions of a lone apostate; or the templars, who are bound by duty to deliver retribution for the loss of Grand Cleric Elthina, and all order in Kirkwall will be lost to chaos if they fail. Fenris and Aveline may abandon Hawke if they side with the mages, and Merrill may refuse to help if the Right of Annulment is supported. After Hawke makes the choice, they can either kill Anders or spare him. Sebastian will leave to bring Starkhaven's armies against Kirkwall if Anders lives.
Hawke and their party fight their way to the Docks and to the Gallows, potentially joined by the Grey Warden Bethany/Carver along the way. At the Gallows, Meredith and Orsino arrange a parlay to gather their forces, after which Meredith attacks the Circle. Hawke must either fight their way into or out of the Gallows, the mages now declared apostate and turning to blood magic throughout the building. Orsino unleashes a spell learned from Quentin's research and becomes a Harvester using the dead bodies of his brethren. He is killed (and Bethany will break down crying if she was sent to the Circle and Hawke sided with the Templars. Hawke may allow Meredith to execute her or stop her), and Meredith attempts to execute the Champion outside the Gallows, whether they helped her or not. It is revealed that she bought the lyrium idol from Bartrand and forged it into her sword, which has driven her mad, and Cullen, realising Meredith has lost her mind and is behaving in a manner contradictory to the tenents of the Templar Order, attempts to relieve her of command.
A furious Meredith responds by accusing Cullen and the other templars present of being blood mage thralls and attacks all present, using the power of her cursed sword to greatly increase her strength and agility; however, Hawke proves too tough a foe, and while screaming to the Maker for more power in her last effort to defeat the Champion, the lyrium sword breaks in Meredith's grasp, turning her swiftly and painfully into a statue. The Champion and their companions are surrounded by templars, but after the templars look upon what is left of their leader, Cullen and his men either back away and allow Hawke and their party to leave if they have supported the mages, or they bow before Hawke and Hawke's party if they have supported the templars.
The story of the Battle of Kirkwall spreads to the other Circles, and they rise up in outrage. The Circle of Magi is disbanded, as is the Champion's entourage over time, the Champion disappears, and the Mage-Templar War officially begins.
Varric finally reaches the conclusion of his story and Cassandra is forced to revise her opinion; the current state of world affairs is the fault of Knight Commander Meredith, not Hawke. Varric agrees, but points out that the lyrium idol and Anders were just as responsible. With the tale told, Varric questions how knowing the truth of matters is going to help, given that the Chantry has lost control of every Circle of Magi outside of Tevinter, and even the Templar Order has abandoned the Chantry to fight its own war against the mages. He is surprised to learn the Chantry is trying to find Hawke, believing the Champion, as someone there at the start of the war, might be able to help negotiate a peaceful resolution. Varric sadly explains that he cannot help, as he doesn't know where Hawke has gone, though he is confident the Champion is not dead. Varric is released from Cassandra's custody as she goes outside to meet with Leliana over the Seekers' next course of action, given that their plans to find either the Champion or the Warden have thus far proven unsuccessful.