After dozens of hours of closing rifts, destroying red lyrium veins, and maybe even defeating some dragons, you finally beat Dragon Age Inquisition. Congrats! You may now be asking yourself: what the hell just happened?
You're not alone. Even as a Dragon Age fan that's been playing since Origins, the ending to Inquisition—or more specifically, the post-credits epilogue—left me scratching my head. Thing is, if you're not well-read on your lore, if you haven't played the right bits in previous games, if you didn't use the right party members, or if you didn't look at specific codex entries, the epilogue scene might make no sense.
For those of you that missed it, this scene uploaded by DanaDuchy, which plays after the credits, is what I'm talking about:
The scene shows Solas and Flemeth speaking as if they were old friends. Prior to this moment, players have no reason to think that these two characters know each other. Flemeth seemingly petrifying in Solas' arms only makes the scene all the more baffling.
Adding to this mystery is the update to Solas' character card in Inquisition after you beat the game. Here's a screenshot, you might need to embiggen to read comfortably:
We know a few things. One, Solas disappeared following the battle with Corypheus. But, despite accomplishing the Inquisition's mission, Solas seemed distraught—he cares more about the broken orb than he does closing the rift. Heck, Solas apparently gave the orb to Corypheus! That, and Flemeth—whose bodywe know houses the spirit of Mythal—calls Solas something interesting—"Dread Wolf."
That name is the key to understanding some of the ending. To put it plainly: Flemeth calling Solas the Dread Wolf is a huge twist. The implication is that, like her, Solas houses an Elven god. I suppose someone could have guessed that Solas is bad news, judging from the fact that in this image, which resembles the Last Supper, has him in the same spot as Judas:
But for most of us, Solas being the Dread Wolf is a bombshell...provided you know who the Dread Wolf is.
The Dread Wolf is an established character in the Dragon Age lore, known as "Fen'Harel," a person that is pretty much the elf equivalent of Loki. Specifically, he is known for betrayal—he is said to have sealed away the elven gods ('The Creators') and their enemies (known as the 'Forgotten Ones') somewhere in the Fade. Or, more accurately they are somewhere in the 'Beyond,' which is presumably why it was considered dangerous for Corypheus to be able to walk into the Fade: either he would unleash something worse than the blight upon Thedas, or he might be able to make contact with forces like the Elven gods.
While Thedas-at-large believes that the fall of the elves was because Tevinter destroyed their cultural capitol, Arlathan, during the Well of Sorrows mission you learn that the actual fall of Arlathan was caused because of warring between the elves. Tevinter didn't really have anything to do with it. Truthfully, nobody knows what actually happened at Arlathan. But if we assume that some parts of the story of the Dread Wolf are true, that might explain part of what happens in Arlathan—because the Dread Wolf sealed the Elven gods, Arlathan couldn't call upon their gods to save them when Tevinter came knocking on their doors. In this reading, the current state of the Elven race could be considered the Dread Wolf's fault.
But, even that theory has some holes in it. First, let's talk about how the Dread Wolf is depicted in the game. Much of Elven lore paints the Dread Wolf negatively. To quote some codex entries/stories/dialogue from the Dragon Age Wiki, Fen'Harel sounds like a huge asshole.
Here is one fable, called the Courser and the Wolf:
"You know what the Dalish say to their dogs? "Take the Dread Wolf by the ear if he comes.""
"Long ago, a clan lived on the Silent Plains. It was a terrible, lonely place where the sun was forbidden to shine. Their Keeper had a coursing hound. They had run down deer and hares and wolves together when they were young. But they had grown old together, Keeper and hound, and now only dozed before the campfire, dreaming of hunts."
"But then the Dread Wolf came, for the Keeper was wise and kind—the things Fen'Harel hates above all else. At night, he tried to steal into the Keeper's dreams, to twist his mind and turn him against the People. But even in dreams, the courser guarded his master. He caught the Dread Wolf's scent and gave chase across the Fade."
"Fen'Harel tried to shake his pursuer, but the hound ran as coursers can only run in their dreams. Even the wind couldn't have fled that hound. He ran the Dread Wolf down and grabbed him by the tail! Fen'Harel howled, so loud that the Veil shook and even the stars scattered in fear. But the hound wouldn't let go."
"Neither hound nor Wolf gave in. Finally, Fen'Harel bit off his own tail to escape, and away he fled. Ever since, the Dread Wolf thinks twice about playing his tricks when dogs are on guard."
Here's another The Slow Arrow:
The god Fen'Harel was asked by a village to kill a great beast. He came to the beast at dawn, and saw its strength, and knew it would slay him if he fought it. So instead, he shot an arrow up into the sky. The villagers asked Fen'Harel how he would save them, and he said to them, 'When did I say that I would save you?' And he left, and the great beast came into the village that night and killed the warriors, and the women, and the elders. It came to the children and opened its great maw, but then the arrow that Fen'Harel had loosed fell from the sky into the great beast's mouth, and killed it. The children of the village wept for their parents and elders, but still they made an offering to Fen'Harel of thanks, for he had done what the villagers had asked. He had killed the beast, with his cunning, and a slow arrow that the beast never noticed.
There are a couple other fables of the Dread Wolf, but you get the idea. This guy sounds like the worst. And yet, a different codex entry poses the following:
The Dalish use "harellan" to mean "traitor to one's kin," but the word does not appear in any elven text before the Towers Age. The ancient root-word is related to "harillen," or opposition, and "hellathen," or noble struggle. The Dalish call Fen'Harel a god of deception, but I posit a far more accurate translation would be "god of rebellion."
The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle: the Dread Wolf, aka Solas, is not perfect, as he is a real person, and as such was capable of doing awful things. Perhaps the Dread Wolf could even be noble; perhaps there was a good reason he sealed away the gods. That's my take, anyway. It comes from some dialogue that Solas has with Sera throughout the game, which you can hear in this upload by DanaDuchy around the 3:19 mark:
Sera, as you know, is a troublemaker herself. The fact that Solas seems impressed with the Red Jennies and their goals of disrupting nobles is notable. Could that be what the Dread Wolf actually did—did the tales get him all wrong? That wouldn't be surprising— Dragon Age Origins spent a lot of time establishing certain lore, myths and fables, and the bulk of both Dragon Age 2 and Inquisition took glee in dismantling everything we thought we knew about Thedas. Maybe lyrium is alive. Maybe Andraste isn't the person everyone thought she was. Maybe the elves have no idea what they lost. Maybe the maker isn't real. It turns out that history gets nearly everyone wrong—including you, the Inquisitor. Those of you that pushed back on the whole 'herald of Andraste' thing know that the truth doesn't matter to the people: they'll tell themselves whatever they need to believe.
With that in mind, let's reconsider the Dread Wolf. I can't help but wonder: was he actually more of a Robin Hood-like character, as Sera is? He seems empathetic to the idea of creating chaos, but only if it has a purpose, only if it serves the greater good. The question then becomes: if the Dread Wolf wasn't as bad as the fables made him out to be, what was his purpose?
It's hard to speculate on things the game doesn't explore. What we concretely see in the game is that Solas is interested in the lost history of the Elves. This is something that he has a personal stake in, not just because the world's understanding of Elven lore is so wrong, but because some of that lore includes stories of his supposed maleficence. While it's possible that the fables about the Dread Wolf are true, we can assume that the story around Mythal is not. According some tales, the Dread Wolf killed Mythal. But as we see in the epilogue, Mythal and the Dread Wolf seem to have no animosity between them.
Then again, the Dread Wolf does seem to absorb Mythal at the end—which is not something a friend would do, presumably. Could it be that the stories about him are right all along, and he is actually a backstabbing jerk? It's hard to say, because we don't know what the elven gods are planning. All we know is that Mythal wants revenge for some betrayal, per what she says to Morrigan in the Fade. We also know that binding/spirit transfer, like the kind that would allow Flemeth to possess Morrigan's body, can only occur with willing servants. Wouldn't Flemeth have to be willing in order for the consuming to happen? While the final scene is ambiguous and seems like a betrayal, that might not actually be what happened. For all we know, Flemeth isn't actually gone. Flemeth didn't actually die when the Hero of Ferelden struck her down, after all.
Maybe it would help to consider what the Dread Wolf wants. We know that the orb that Solas gave Corypheus was probably a "foci," an item used to channel the power of the Elven gods. Presumably Solas wants to go into the Beyond to do something with the Elven gods...but what? If he sealed them there, why would he suddenly want to release them?
So many questions. The ending is a cliffhanger, and a damn good one at that. Those that follow the Dragon Age lore closely can't help but wonder what happens next. This is where things get particularly interesting, because everyone has theories.
Here's a good one by Tumblr poster knight-enchanter, which takes into account the true nature of the Elven gods. First, they establish that these people weren't really gods—which is believable because of the Inquisitor's legacy. Despite protests, people are sure you're holy somehow, and this is that you don't have the sorts of amazing powers that ancient Elves were rumored to have had.
It's easy to get onboard with the idea that maybe ancient elves were just people. It gets worse, though. They were sometimes awful people who enslaved others, or were prone to force people to make wars, great sacrifices, and general bloodshed. With this context, the 'rebellion' thing about the Dread Wolf make sense: if the gods were terrible people, then someone would have a good reason to try to seal them away. Thing is, sealing the gods away likely took a lot of energy and power, and that can explain a lot of what ended up happening in Inquisition. Knight-enchanter explains:
Unfortunately, his plan [to make things better by sealing the gods away] backfired. Abelas tells us that it wasn't the Imperium that destroyed the culture of the ancient elves - the ancient elves destroyed themselves. Without their Creators they descended into war and destroyed themselves. Without their Creators they were further destroyed by humans. Long after this happened, Fen'Harel awoke. In horror he realized what he had done, what his actions had caused - elves are now enslaved in Tevinter, subjugated in alienages, persecuted and killed by humans, or wandering the wilds as but shadows of their former glory, clinging to scraps of the past and being seriously mistaken about ancient elven lore. He wanted to free them, but thanks to what he did, they've virtually lost everything. Their history, power, culture, immortality and widespread aptitude for magic. Crystal spires twining through the branches, palaces among the clouds, spells that took years to weave and once created joined older magics in an unending symphony - that was what was lost. This is not what he wanted. He regrets sorely what he did and references this in dialogue - [he calls it] a mistake made by a younger elf.
He tried to make things better by sharing his knowledge with modern elves (the Dalish) but as we hear from him in dialogue they turned him away, called him mad, wrong, flatear, etc. It makes him think that the modern elves aren't his people, the ancient ones are. All of this is a huge part of why Solas is filled with such quiet sadness and loneliness, and a huge part of what Cole senses when he touches Solas' mind and sees the pain there. A pain that he [Cole] can't heal, Solas tells him.
Fen'Harel wanted to right his wrong, fix his mistake. He tried to use his orb to unlock the Eluvian and let the elven gods back into the world, but he was too weak when he awoke. Desperate, he gave the orb to Corypheus, since Corypheus had enough power to activate it.
Various things throughout the game back this up. There's the final dialogue that Solas has with the Inquisitor, prior to the end mission. When the Inquisitor says he wants to make the world a better place with the power of the Well of Sorrows, Solas asks, well what if you wake up and find that it's worse than before? Assuming the Dread Wolf locked away the Elven gods to help, and assuming that plan to make things better for the Elves ended up backfiring, Solas' worry makes a lot more sense, doesn't it?
Here's a more obvious wink to the twist: if you take Solas into the Temple of Mythal, he will argue with Morrigan about the true nature of the Dread Wolf:
Another thing that is easy to miss is Solas and Cole's relationship . As you might recall, Cole is capable of reading the minds of humans around them. He does this because he wants to help them heal. While everyone in the Inquisition has their own inner darkness, Cole comments a whole lot on Solas. But without proper context, none of it makes sense.
Here's one conversation, uploaded by Laurie Jacobs, that only happens both if you romance Solas, and if you take both Solas and Cole out on missions:
Cole says Solas is hurting from an old pain. Then he seems to go into random word salad mode, but in actuality he's referring to the sealed-away Elven gods: "They sleep, masked in a mirror, hurting, and to wake them...GASP!" Assuming the rebel god theory is correct, and assuming that the gods are hidden behind Eluvians, the connection seems clear. Solas is too caught up in the consequences of his actions to continue a romance with you, which would explain why he's so hesitant on your advances in the first place.
That's not the only example. Here's a collection of Cole's dialog, where he makes references to Solas' situation many times:
At the :50ish mark, he mentions someone that calls himself "pride" who has an old pain. Solas is elven for pride. Remember that mission called "What Pride Had Wrought," where you go into the Elven temple? The name takes on a different meaning once you know what 'Solas' actually stands for, right? Funnily enough, Cole's entire schtick is spoiling the twists/endings of other things in popular media.
Anyway, there are other conversations that I've seen players talk about around the internet which reportedly happen between Solas and Cole, but I can't find them on YouTube. What I can say is that many players believe that this Cole dialogue, uploaded by Abbie B., which only happens after you beat the game, is related to Solas:
People are making this assumption because someone seems like someone is speaking through Cole, and the lines are delivered in the same way that Solas speaks throughout the game. Unfortunately, the conversation offers no clues about what Solas plans. Damn!
While this rebel god theory seems convincing, it's worth reiterating that it's just an interpretation. And, depending on how you read other things that happen in the game, you could easily dismantle it. Not everyone agrees on whether on Solas' true nature, and nowhere does this become more evident than when fans try to translate a certain scene that happens in the fade:
If you take Solas with you during this mission, the demon that harasses everyone with their biggest fears says something in Elvish. Geek Remix interprets the dialogue to mean "I tell you noble rebel, you have no comfort in your loss. Your pride is dead." I've seen plenty of people interpret it differently, with Fen'Harel meaning "traitor" in their translation instead. And I've seen people translate the entire line differently, coming to mean something more like "You will never know comfort, in your loss. Pride is your death." When fans can't agree on a single line, it's hard to say there's a definitive reading of the epilogue.
Which brings us to another theory I've seen floating around, written up by Redditor fingerboxes. Let's call it the Old God theory. It draws on the similarities between the Old Gods—the dragons that darkspawn corrupt with the blight, turning them into archdemons—and the Elven gods. According to this theory, there seven Old Gods. There are nine Elven gods according to lore, but two of them—Mythal and the Dread Wolf—aren't sealed away, as we see in the epilogue. This, coupled with the myth that seven Old Gods were imprisoned underground by the Maker, and the myth that the Dread Wolf sealed away seven Elven gods into the beyond, gives these two different entities an interesting parallel. Might they be related?
"The Old Gods only appeared, and Tevinter only started to rise, after the Elven gods disappeared and their civilization started to collapse," Fingerboxes notes in his write-up. "Curiously, many of the secrets the Old Gods shared with Tevinter seem very similar, but imperfectly understood versions of Elven magic," he continues. "I posit that the Old Gods are aspects of the Elven Gods, minus Mythal and Fen'Harel...the Old Gods are incomplete remnants of the 7 missing members of the Elven Pantheon. They are what was left in the 'real world' after those members were either 'murdered' or 'sealed away.'"
Consider that consider that we see Flemeth/Mythal become a dragon, which she uses as a Horcrux of sorts. Consider that, after drinking from the Well of Sorrows, Morrigan gains ancient elven knowledge, which somehow allows her to transform into a dragon in the final fight against Corypheus. Consider that Flemeth, who is actually Mythal the Elven god, is interested in the spirit housed inside of Morrigan's son. A spirit which is supposedly an Old God housed in the archdemon that the Hero of Ferelden defeated. The idea that perhaps dragons and the Elven gods are related isn't so far-fetched, is it?
People are making connections to the blight, and the Elven gods, too. The normal understanding of the blight is that it corrupts the Old Gods. But what if it's related to the Elven gods, too? Some players theorize that the Golden City was never the seat of the maker, but rather the city of Arlathan, sealed away. In this reading, the blight isn't the punishment for sin, as the chantry says, but perhaps a security measure put forth so that nobody can unseal the Elven gods found there.
That's just one take on the ideas that fingerboxes puts forth. Harmonious_Silence also makes some interesting observations in that same Reddit thread:
Flemeth states that the process of transferring the spirit of Mythal must be willing. If we are assuming that these Archdemons are actually aspects of the old elven gods, then it would make sense that they are able to transfer their spirits into the closest darkspawn nearby (all servants and thus WILLING) in order to fully regenerate, much in the same way Corphyeus did. In that vein, by having a Warden (and thus an UNWILLING host) be the source of an Archdemon's death and the closest available body thanks to their darkspawn blood, they take the elven god's soul and it kills them along with the spirit, thus ending the blight and possibly that god spirit.
It might seem like a stretch, but consider how Solas regards the Grey Wardens. He seems to hate them. It's a stance that seems irrational...unless there's more to it. Their mandate is to kill the archdemon tainted by the blight. If we assume that these dragons have pieces of Elven gods attached to them, then the wardens are basically killing off the Elven gods that the Dread Wolf sealed away. Of course Solas doesn't want you to restore the Wardens!
Things get particularly messy from here. Some people think that perhaps Flemeth was Andraste, or that the Dread Wolf is actually the Maker. I've seen people theorize that perhaps Andraste is Dumat's Old God Baby—that the ritual which Morrigan does with the Hero of Ferelden has been around for a while, and that this binding could explain why Andraste was somehow able to 'hear' the Maker. All of these possibilities seem bonkers, but at this point, I wouldn't put any of them passed Bioware. Dragon Age is turning out to have some juicy twists, and should they prove to be true, any of these theories could continue that trend.
One could argue that the "ending" of Inquisition was lackluster. The final fight isn't very interesting. You never get to use all the forces you put so much work into collecting. Heck, you never get to use your own party members in interesting ways in that battle against Corypheus, unlike the excellent final mission in Mass Effect 2, or even Dragon Age: Origins. But the epilogue is such a great cliffhanger, I can forgive all of that. I was too busy contemplating on the possibilities to notice its shortfalls, and now I'm spending hours going through codex entries and reading other people's theories. It's really fun to scroll through Tumblr, and see the Dragon Age fandom react to Solas, too. Overall? I'd call that a success.