Located in the Frostback Mountains, Skyhold was headquarters to the Inquisition, but it was once the fortress of an incredibly powerful elven rebel.
Dragon Age‘s Thedas is a world teeming with undiscovered mysteries and treasures, and one of the most remarkable hidden gems to be revealed during Inquisition was Skyhold fortress. Hidden deep within the Frostback Mountains between Ferelden and Orlais, Skyhold was once called Tarasyl’an Te’las, which translates from Elvish to “the place where the sky was held back.” In the Shattered Library, explored during the Trespasser DLC, the Archivist reveals that Skyhold was once the fortress of the legendary Dread Wolf, and it was there that he created the veil and imprisoned the Evanuris on the other side of it.
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After the Inquisition faced Corypheus at Haven, the survivors trekked for miles through the snowy mountains, with Solas eventually leading the Inquisitor to a place he claimed they would be safe. After days of travel, Solas and the Inquisitor crested the stone outcropping together to look upon an ancient, abandoned fortress that would suit the Inquisition’s needs perfectly.
According to legends, the mountain where the fortress was built was once a ritual site where the elves met to practice magic in its purest form during the height of ancient elvish civilization. After the Dread Wolf created the veil, he disappeared, and the area changed hands numerous times. It was the early Fereldans who leveled the area and raised a fortress there. Then, during the Divine Age, a human enchanter took up residence at Skyhold and tried to learn more on its elven history. Even dwarves lived there at one point, with evidence suggesting that Skyhold’s last inhabitants likely set up a lucrative trade route there sometime after the Third Blight.
When the Inquisition came to Skyhold, it was in obvious disrepair, with heaps of crumbling stone littering the main hall and boards and brick closing off temporarily inaccessible areas. The elven magic once practiced there, however, had infiltrated the stone of the keep and the mountain, protecting the location itself from forces of evil.
There was even an Easter Egg that allowed the Inquisitor to find themselves under the fortress when the floor didn’t load in Solas’ quarters. A mysterious hidden room and strange bunny called the Lord of Pies were found beneath the keep, along with a creepy music box that could be heard playing long after the Inquisitor fast-traveled out of the room and returned to Skyhold.
As Inquisition forces began renovating Skyhold to suit their purposes, they found there was more than enough room for everyone. Leliana and her agents took up residence in the rookery atop the main building, while the Iron Bull, Cole and Sera found solace in the attached tavern. Dorian, Solas, Vivienne and Varric could generally be found in the areas of the main building, while Cassandra hung out in the training area.
Skyhold also had a massive war room, the giant war table within it constructed from the living tree that once grew on the grounds as a symbol of peace between the two elvish factions. The undercroft for Dagna and Harrit featured numerous crafting tools to make weapons and armor and to upgrade aspects of Skyhold itself with various pieces collected during missions and quests. There were offices for both Cullen and Josephine to conduct business and stables for the Inquisition’s horsemaster, where Blackwall spent most of his time.
Many of Skyhold’s renovations were also dependent upon quest completions, like the garden, main tower and courtyard, and specifications for the templars and mages were factored in as well once the Inquisitor chose who they were going to bring on as allies. Reconstructing the keep on a basic level took time, with scaffolding and roped off areas found in every area. However, as the game progressed, Skyhold visually became a solid and sturdy fortress powerful enough to protect the people who took up residence there from Corypheus and his forces.
After the Inquisition was forced to disband, Skyhold’s existence became a matter of debate for everyone. Due to its remarkable historical significance, tearing it down was not an option, but no single force could be permitted to rally and remain there. The keep was entrusted to a small group of caretakers overseen by a brother of the Chantry who, according to BioWare canon, went mysteriously silent after their attempt to restore the fresco created by Solas.
Donal Sutherland, whom the Inquisition could potentially recruit to carry out small tasks with a band he formed on his own, investigated the site and discovered a Regret Demon that had formed from Solas’s frescos and killed the caretakers. Along with members of the Inquisition, the demon was banished to the Fade, and Divine Victoria released a statement (which was likely meant to reach Solas) warning him not to travel there, but let the past guide him in a new direction.
Without Skyhold, it’s impossible to imagine what might have become of the Inquisition after the attack on Haven. It was certainly no coincidence that Solas led the Inquisitor there in their time of need, and one is left to wonder what plans he intended to carry out himself while in the heart of the very place where he once raised the veil and cut off the world from the Fade. It is quite possible that BioWare will return to Skyhold in future games, given its significance to the Dread Wolf’s history, but for now it is assumed to be empty and waiting to be rediscovered once more.
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