“I will never forget you.” – Julie Plays Inquisition Pt. 7
And thus, Dragon Age Inquisition has come to an end. After Jaws of Hakkon, the fight against Corypheus was done and over with in a whiff and then I was off to Trespasser. I love this DLC. It is so tightly woven, storywise, the bits and pieces of lore you can find… and of course the last character interactions that never fail to move me. There is so much I can (and do) criticize concerning Dragon Age Inquisition – but in the end, it is still one of the games that made me most emotional. Trespasser manages to do it all. It is beautifully designed (the Shattered Library alone), the lore is rich and daunting, the character interactions are adorable, the soundtrack is mindblowing. And after the first bit in Halamshiral which is a short prelude in itself and mostly serves to reconnect with the companions (and marry Cullen or Sera or enjoy other heartwarming scenes with your romance), the plot is fast-paced and exciting. It manages to balance both the political implications of an organization like the Inquisition and the reasons for its existence really wonderfully.
Trespasser takes place two years after the Inquisition defeated Corypheus and most companions have already left Skyhold. In my headcanon, Skyhold is a mostly empty place by then. Lyssa and her remaining two advisors Cullen and Josephine are still with her but most of the others are more away than there. After the final battle with Corypheus, the Inquisition helped make reparations, tried to repair villages and helped resettle those who had fled. But all in all – their work is done. Halamshiral in Lyssa’s mind is the perfect opportunity to finally do what she had planned to do all along: disbanding the Inquisition. What happens, however, is not what she expected. A Qunari plot to kill every ruling house in the south of Thedas? No. Not on her watch. And what she finds beyond the Eluvians completely blows her mind.
First the story of Fen’Harel she collects behind the first Eluvians, the truth behind all of it… The paintings where Fen’Harel takes away the vallaslin of the slaves he had freed is the first moment where she suspects Solas’ true nature. Even more so, it is a confirmation that he had told her the truth about the meaning behind the vallaslin. Lyssa has struggled with the removal of her vallaslin and had even considered having them redone – but after what she sees behind the Eluvians, she is glad she hasn’t.
The Crossroads is a wonder that is hard to understand. But every mirror brings new wonders.
The Shattered Library might be my favourite part of the whole DAI setting. It is so incredibly beautiful and full of history and lore and personal memory. (Also: Sandal?!) If she could, Lyssa would spend days upon days just exploring and reading and collecting and learning. The thousands of books, memories, the statues and the architecture, the many incidents where Fen’Harel is not apart from the other Gods but with them… it is mind-blowing. She is a Keeper after all – the Library is basically all of her intellectual dreams come true. There are several moments where she completely forgets about the ever-building pain in her hand and the growing certainty that she will not survive. And every time, they have to go back to the Winter Palace, she brings something with her.
But wherever they go, the Qunari already are there. It is painful for her to realize what she and countless other Keepers could not manage: find a way to rediscover more about the Elvhen. She even talks to a spirit who lived and worked with them, who once had all the knowledge the Elvhen had collected… and she is out of time.
This whole theme of grief and loss and goodbye throughout the DLC is so beautiful and tangible, it’s heartbreaking. Even her companions say good-bye explicitly, making me tear up every time. Every Eluvian brings with it the feeling of having to hurry – beautifully underlined by the soundtrack.
And even the Darvaarad, the keep the Qunari have claimed for themselves, is beautiful. A graveyard of Eluvians and everywhere little treasures to be found. Like Tallis’ teacher who is slowly, slowly going mad because of the red lyrium he is working with. Or the fresco with another painting in the elven style… a suspected self-portrait of Fen’Harel.
Lyssa frees the dragon the Qunari have imprisoned for the use of their weapon, the Dragon’s breath and hurries along. By now, everything seems to be against her: the Viddasala who wants to kill Solas, the Saarath, an immensely powerful mage, and last but not least, the Mark that is growing more unstable by the minute. Where in the beginning it only helped to light the dark, in the end she has to unleash its power before it hurts both her and her companions. And at this moment she doesn’t know if she will be too late to catch up with Solas because she was too slow or because she will die before she can reach him.
But she does.
And while my version of this last meeting between them is slightly (ahem) different than the one we see ingame (come on, the writers put the “Dread Wolf take me” line in there!), the one on screen is still very emotional. The voice acting, especially by Gareth David-Lloyd who voices Solas, is wonderfully nuanced and manages to get to me every damn time. This last scene can take between three or ten minutes or so, depending on how many questions you ask and how high your approval with Solas is – but it ends, inevitably, with him taking your mark (and half your arm) and with his departure.
I never fail to try to redeem him. In my very first playthrough my Inquisitor even wanted to join him – Lyssa on the other hand does not agree with his approach. How can you condemn one world for another? It is not that she cannot understand his wish to undo the damage he has done but she also thinks there has to be a way that will not rain chaos unto the world she calls her home.
And that he sacrifices what the two of them could have had for it, breaks her heart all over again.
And then he is gone. And Lyssa is alone again. All that’s left to do is disband the Inquisition, which she does without hesitation. Cassandra’s smile at her speech alone is worth it. Ferelden is happy, Orlais can kiss her elven ass, and most of her friends go to find their own happiness. And Lyssa starts to work at finding Solas to try and convince him that this world is worth saving.
But not immediately. She has been through so much, she deserves some time for herself and for her clan. Now that the Inquisition is disbanded, she is no longer needed in Skyhold and returns to Wycome – at least for a time. She stays in touch with Cassandra and Leliana and Scout Harding and has her own methods of getting information, readying herself for the inevitable confrontation that will one day come. Until then, she dreams of him.
Thus, my canon playthrough comes to an end. By now, I have written so much for my darling characters that what they experience has by far surpassed what happens ingame. But then, one thing that will never stop being “my” Thedas is the one where neither protagonist is alone. Anna and I built an elaborate AU where both our Wardens, Hawkes and Inquisitors are experiencing the story together. Especially our Dragon Age 2 headcanon, where Adriene and Cassia are twins, is by now more ‘real’ for me than the actual story one plays, having merged with our Twice Marked Inquisitors story intrinsically as not to be separated. Maybe one day we’ll publish all of that. 🙂
Ah, Dragon Age. It will probably forever be close to my heart. And because of it, I am so disappointed by some things like ignoring their own lore or the fighting system or inconsistencies in their plot or… If I didn’t love this franchise so much I wouldn’t care enough to take note of them. But in spite of all the critique, it still moves me and brings me to tears. I still remember my first playthrough where I sat there in the end, completely in tears and devastated. Even now it manages to make me tear up. For this emotional ride and, even more important, for the creativity it inspired, I will forever be thankful to this franchise. Ma serannas for joining me on the trip 😉