CS Sealey

Sydney-based sub-editor, writer and author

Journey to Skyhold

They tell me I was sent by Andraste, sent to help them to victory, and yet how cruel is fate. The Divine is dead, Haven is destroyed and we are now a band of refugees seeking a place to hide, to lick our wounds. The Elder One may not have taken my life, but it feels as though he has taken everything else. How can these people continue to trust me? How can they believe in me when I cannot find it in my heart to believe in myself? Are they brave or foolish? Every time I look into their eyes, I see hope, defiant hope. But it was not by a guiding hand that I was sent to them, nor by fate. It was an accident, I know it. I am no one special, nor was I blessed with divine wisdom or courage. The Maker does not watch over me. Yet, to ask them to agree with me, Cassandra says, is to shatter that hope—the thing that binds them together, keeps their minds and hearts from shattering. And so I continue to lie, to act like the person they wish me to be.

I scout on ahead each day, trying to find this fabled sanctuary Solas told me about. He seems to know where we’re going but I’m running blind. It must be me, he says, who finds the place—the Inquisition and its many followers need to see that the Herald of Andraste once more showed them the way. It is a farce, yet I continue to lead the way—a mere puppet, pulled by so many strings. And what is this place we seek? Nestled in the mountains between Ferelden and Orlais, it would be safe enough from an invading army, but I have my doubts. We were trapped in Haven, and only luck managed to save the men and women who now walk behind me. We cannot afford to be so cornered again.

Solas walks with me up a steep ridge. It is no longer snowing and the elf has a spring in his step that I lost many leagues back on the road. After many days of trekking through deep snow and sleeping on damp grounds, my spirits have sunk, yet there’s something in his face that ignites a spark of energy deep inside.

‘We are close,’ he says. ‘Come.’

The ridge becomes rocky and easier to traverse, and when we reach the top and are blasted by a cold wind, I suddenly feel nothing of the weariness that has gripped me for the past few days of flight. The afternoon light shines across the valley ahead and hits the imposing walls of a great fortress, its towers rising high like the peaks that surround it. Parapets adorn the long arched bridge that leads to the front gates and the high ramparts that encircle the citadel and outbuildings. Everything is crumbling and weathered, yet it seems as though its spirit stands defiant against time. A river passes by the fortress, frozen at the banks, fed by the distant white waterfall that flows down from the surrounding mountains. It sits upon a jagged hill in the centre of valley, as though waiting for something, perhaps for us.

‘Skyhold,’ the elf says.

Wordlessly, I step over the crest of the ridge, a slight smile on my face, hope sparking within.

Okay, so this is a cutscene, not a bit of gameplay, but that doesn’t matter. Dragon Age: Inquisition is currently taking up all my gaming time, partly because of the scale of it (there are so many large open-world locations to explore, from lush forests to swamps, green plains to gas-infected deserts), the characters (each vastly different from the next) and the story, but also because of the feels. I get very emotionally stirred from music and this scene is accompanied by a song called Journey to Skyhold by Trevor Morris. If you want to fully understand why this scene of finding Skyhold is one of my most memorable moments, read through the above storylet again while listening to the song.

Finding Skyhold is an important moment in the game, not least because your Inquisition finally finds a safe haven from which to launch its future operations, but mostly because this is the place where the Inquisition offers you the reigns of power. From suspected mass murderer to holy leader, you might think your journey’s arc is near completion, but once you take on the responsibility of becoming the Inquisitor, the choices come streaming in—in true BioWare fashion. From Skyhold, you coordinate the Inquisition’s military, your spymaster’s missions and build up your diplomatic credibility, you also develop your relationships with your companions, nurturing friendships or delicately flinging insults in the direction of certain annoying pompous court mages from Orlais…

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