Dark Souls’ final DLC is to come out a week from today, assuming no delays. The last of the three ‘Crown’ DLCs, it will deal with the Ivory King’s royal headpiece, and his wintery kingdom.
Warning: Spoilers ahead of varying degrees. If you haven’t beaten at least the core game, you might get spoiled.
Also, a lot of this info is supplemented by analysis by Youtube videos analyzing the Dark Souls Lore and providing interpretations. VaatiVidya is the one I use the most, but many other ones like Hellkite Drake and Silver Mont are interesting, as well. Credit where credit is due. Check them out and decide for yourself if their evaluations are correct.
Finally, lots of nerd speculation and fantheories in this blog post. It’s my blog, I can write what I want. Having a background in English Literature makes you obsess over meaningless interpretation like this, and I enjoy it. So take it for what it is.
Undoubtedly, it will follow the trends that the other previous DLCs follow. We will learn the history of this forgotten land, how the King rose to power; we we will undoubtedly find a Queen, journeying from the Abyss who tainted the land with Dark and led to the King’s downfall. We will hear some reference to a dragon in a position of reverence. We will possibly find a cool-looking crown that will have some special effect that we cannot discern without experimentation.
And what then?
There’s no plan for any other DLC that we know of, so I don’t mean that. But these three installments have been tied together, and are allude heavily to the plot of the first game. What’s more, they’re linked by the memory of King Vendrick, who can now be accessed via his armour and the Ashen Mist, who drops several rather interesting hints regarding the nature of the curse of undeath that afflicts your character, and the intent of the dark Queens that have corrupted their kingdoms.
One of the major elements of Dark Souls is the “Dark”, a major destructive force in the universe. The Dark is not merely the absence of light created by the mystical Flame that defined the world in the mythology, but rather a tangible, elemental force tied into the nature of humanity. It is seen as a corrosive, mutative essence that erodes and degrades the minds and bodies of those exposed to it (both in the curse of Undeath and in the mutations seen in the twisted beasts in the Shrine of Amana and in the previous game in Oolacile). It can be harnessed by players in the form of Hexes, powerful magic that requires a profound intellect and cultivated faith to manage, and that often feeds upon souls to enact its destructive powers.
Nashandra herself, Queen of Drangleic and fragment of the “Father of the Abyss”, is your last enemy – she seduced the King, driving him to attack and steal from the Giants and use their power to presumably counteract the curse. The result was the Giant invasion and the destruction of the already-cursed kingdom of Drangleic. Likewise, The Elana, the Squalid Queen of the Sunken Kingdom (first DLC), gathers souls from the dying kingdom and may be the one filling the dragon with poison, given her own affinity for venom; in the Old Iron King’s lands, Nadalia filled the dead region with Dark-laden smoke and tainted the remains, even if she was too late to destroy it. Hints of an ‘Oracle’ in the next DLC suggest another Queen.
These beings have opposed you, and you’ve fought them. Like others, you consume their souls, feeding on them to keep your sanity and amplify your power. And as such, they become part of you.
The evidence is there, in the dialogues and the events. When you arrive in the Brume Tower, you’ve just killed the Old Iron King himself and absorbed his soul (there is no way around this). If you listen to the idols that make up Nadalia as you attack and destroy them, they ask where you have been and welcome you back to “your” kingdom. It’s made clear by descriptions explaining her sorrow that the king was missing that she sees you as the Old Iron King, because you hold her soul.
A similar thing happens with the one other fragment of the Dark that you find – the Darklurker, an angelic, optional boss found in the Abyss itself. The steward of the Pilgrims of Dark, who gives you access to the dark chasm and the monster, comments on the growing Dark within you as you traverse the Abyss, slaying the spirits of others wandering within and accumulating their souls (needed to leave the shadowy caverns). When you slay the Darklurker itself, you are applauded for the “deep, deep Dark” grown within you; clearly the result of consuming the fragment of the Father (as noted by the soul’s description)
So what will happen when all of the fragments of the Abyss are gathered.
In the first game, we see supporting evidence – the Fair Lady, a diseased spider-woman afflicted with blindness, mistakes you for her sister after you’ve absorbed her sibling’s soul. Likewise, in the first game, the Humanities – small, black sprites that are fragments of the Dark, burned to restore one’s human form and empower the Dark and Chaos-flames – are possible fragments of the Dark Soul, the essence found by the primeval human, thought to be Manus, the Father of the Abyss.
Considering the memory of Vendrick openly identifies the Queens as fragments of the ‘Father of the Abyss’, the connection is clear. He also refers to his wife as a ‘frail and weak thing that lusted for strength most of all’ (paraphrase) who’s goal as ‘searching for a worthy vessel’.
A vessel for what?
It’s clear that she desires the Throne, given discussions by other characters, but she never takes it. She appears after the guardians are slain, or, if you slew them before gaining the Giant’s essence that would allow you to enter the Throne, she is waiting for you. Yet she seems more concern with how you’ve ‘proven yourself to her’; she declares she will make you ‘one with the Dark’.
In a way, killing her fulfills that goal. You’ve devoured her soul, and that of her sisters, and the Darklurker, the pieces of the Abyss’ creator.
In the original Dark Souls, the protagonist killed and consumed the soul of Manus as a whole. He was later, in his own time, declared the new Dark Lord, to rule over the abyssal age. While Manus was part of a DLC that consisted of content cut from the original release, it was clearly tied into the intended story.
In Dark Souls 2, it appears to my eyes that the Abyss fragments are being united, in the protagonist’s body. The Pilgrims of Dark leader states that ‘We need the Abyss, now more than ever’; through the protagonist, we might get that.
It seems the entirety of Dark Souls 2 is about gathering ancient powers together, about taking them into yourself and becoming a singular embodiment of all the elements of their universe. The three Lord’s Souls once found by the god-like beings of the first game will be yours, instilled into the Crowns, as well the entire soul of the Dark, and the power of giants.
All of this speculation is nice, but will anything be done with it? I would hope so. The DLC so far seem to be building to something greater, but haven’t taken the ending of the core game into account. It’s an ambiguous end where the player, having removed all obstacles to the Throne, has sat upon it, and the decision whether to undo the curse or renounce their duty is left unsaid. The ultimate fate of your kingdom is left to your imagination, and that’s fine, it’s a great ending. You can imagine what your character wants and what they’ll do, the game doesn’t define it for you.
But all the hints in the DLC should at least build to a climax, rather than just being left when the third DLC comes out. Some closure should be given – I know that’s silly to ask of a game that deliberately resists closure and thrives on ambiguity. At least a final boss fight that capstones the narrative provided by the three crowns and what achieving them does is needed to at least give a sense that what people did matters. Much as how taking the throne makes us feel as if we have earned our seat and overcome our curses.
We’ll have to see.
On a completely random note, regarding the Ivory King’s identity, why not a female King? I know they’ve committed to it with this, but having a woman bearing a traditionally male title would be a cool little subversion. It’s a minor point but it’s been intriguing me for a while now.