i was working on that sebastian redesign that i posted a little while ago when i suddenly wondered if starkhaven—or even more specifically, the vael family—had some sort of family crest or symbol, like the amells. searching the internet brought up almost nothing, so i went digging through the DAII game assets.
turns out there is a starkhaven crest. and a whole bunch of others i’ve never seen before. so i decided to take the raw files and do something useful with them.
these symbols were taken directly from the DAII game art assets folder. most likely these are not all the symbols that show up in the game, but i don’t have access to the legacy and mark of the assassin DLC assets since those files are encrypted. a number of these are also probably not official (canonically) either. my guess is that some of them were concepts that later got changed/refined or just scrapped. they’re still fairly interesting to look at though.
there are probably a number of symbols some of you may recognize (especially if you’re the diligent type to go shifting through the dragon age wiki or bioware’s blog). i left them in there regardless, for those who may have not seen these before.
if you would like to have the crests/symbols as individual files, all at larger res, you can download them [HERE]!
Nggh I love the unity of the design of the Kirkwall-related seals! They’re all distinct enough to be interesting and work well alone, but they all use the same forms and symbolic “language”, so to speak, to create a strong visual identity when considered together. Like any well designed thing, they’re not just decorative and the elements they’re comprised of aren’t purely ornamental. Whoever did these was really goddamn thoughtful and deliberate about it. And, uh, guys, I hope you don’t mind me dropping a shitload of gushing down on you because I’m going to gush like a geyser for the rest of this post.
Pretty much every one of them is a good example, but I think it’s clearest to see how brilliant these things are by considering the City of Chains symbol. For those who don’t know DA2 that well, it’s a bit of graffiti that becomes ubiquitous by the third act when unrest in Kirkwall reaches the boiling point. It’s also something I’ve always looked at and wondered “what”. What does it mean, exactly? Who does it represent, which faction? Who the fuck is painting them everywhere? None of those things are every satisfactorily explained, or really explained at all. It’s just there. When viewed in isolation, it just looks like an angry, dragony, obscure graffiti tag. I didn’t even know it was called “The City of Chains” before I saw this post. But when you see it beside all the heraldry of Kirkwall, suddenly everything makes sense. It doesn’t represent a single faction or person, it represents a major turning point in a city’s history.
Formally, it seems like a corruption of the Slavers symbol, yet is visually closest to the symbol of the Guard and the Alienage sign. This is cool because it reflects the origins of the city, in slavery and blood, while recognizing the ongoing injustices of the treatment of its people and the ineffectiveness (hypocrisy?) of those who are meant to protect the city. However, the most interesting part of it is not what it resembles, but what it deliberately doesn’t resemble. The bit that draws me is the bent central line that bisects the symbol. All of the Kirkwall symbols share that linear central element, usually as a line of symmetry. There but there is no symmetry in the City of Chains symbol, no balance or equality. But more importantly, on a good number of the city’s symbols that central line deliberately resembles a sword.
ISN’T THAT COOL?
…no, listen, it is. Listen to how cool it is.A sword is a marvelously powerful and malleable symbol. It’s an instrument of power and a promise of violence. It’s symbol of strength for the Templars, one of order for the guards, oppression for mages and terror for elves and the other downtrodden. For the Templars, the Guard, the slavers and the merc groups, the sword is a way of life. For everyone else, it’s a fact of it. Even the Healer’s symbol has a sword, well hidden. That actually might be my favorite use of the sword motif, because the sign is designed to recall the Caduceus and to give the impression of being simultaneously holy (parts of it resemble an angel’s wings, its lines are pure and bright) and profane (the intersecting angles resemble an alchemical sigil, a sign of magic and unholy workings). Thing is, the Caduceus is a snakeity staff, not a sword. Although a staff can be used as a weapon, a sword more pointedly reminds you that those who know how to heal also know how to harm. Plot wise, that’s significant too; one of the people who does the most physical damage to the city is a healer. Yet in the City of Chains symbol, that central, sword-like element is not straight like the other instances of the motif. It’s jagged, crooked. Warped. The idea of the sword is no longer functional. The sword has failed Kirkwall, and stained its walls the color of blood. Which, you know, explains the fact that the symbol is always painted in red.
And the symbol looks like a dragon because, fuck, dragons or cool or something. Or maybe it’s a dragon because that’s the defining symbol of the goddamn Dragon Age, whatever. I’m not a professor of symbology here I ain’t have to know everything.
Anyway, all of this you get from a single goddamn symbol that could be completed in six strokes. The best part of it is that despite it’s compressed meaning, the entire symbol is still pretty simple and can be quickly and easily painted anywhere, it can be remembered and disseminated quickly. Anybody with paint and a sense of disregard, or perhaps active contempt, for the law can change the face of a wall by just throwing this up there. It’s a small defiance, one way a person can reclaim a piece of his/her city while protesting the state it has come to.
(I also super like the qunari one, but for kind of the opposite reason I like the City of Chains symbol. Anyway, I’ve talked enough about shit as it is)