Irithyll


Preface


Irithyll is the lengthiest analysis I have ever written, which serves as a testament to its importance to the story and setting of Dark Souls III. (DS3) Expertly building upon the circumstances from Dark Souls (DS1) and Dark Souls II (DS2) to advance the overall narrative to its natural conclusion, the small details portray a rich culture plagued by a complex web of politics. However, the original analysis has been split between the periods before and after the introduction of Sulyvahn for the sake of brevity in this post.


Changing Order


The foundation of Irithyll is based upon three seminal events, all of which pertain to Gwyndolin. Chief among them is the God of the Darkmoon opening up Anor Londo to the outside world. If we offer the Giant’s Coal to Andre, the Undead blacksmith indicates that he personally knew its owner, the giant blacksmith residing in a city that Andre had only heard legends about back in DS1. Evidently, Andre had entered the country of the gods and become personally acquainted with the giant since that time. The same holds true for Shiva, whose ashen remains can be found lying beneath the flying buttresses holding up Anor Londo’s royal manor and cathedral. This weapons enthusiast led a brigade of Forest Hunters lurking around the overgrown ruins of Oolacile far and below Anor Londo, but apparently he too eventually moved up to the divine capital. Put another way, the Undead who settled in Undead Burg and stayed both alive and sane by the end of the original game were welcomed into Anor Londo.

Remaining ashes of an arms merchant who came from an eastern land. The handmaid of the ritual place will make use of the new items.

It is said that the man was also the leader of a hunting party and entranced by arms.

The most likely reason for Gwyndolin opening up a city that had been strictly regulated for centuries is a desire to rebuild and reform. Unlike the other gods, Gwyndolin had stayed behind to fulfill his father’s will, allowing the system that he and Frampt had established to play out. This included permitting potential Lords of Cinder who passed the trials to walk the hallowed streets of Anor Londo, some of whom he later recruited to instead serve as Darkmoon knights. By all accounts, the legendary country of the gods was already relying heavily on resources from outside its sealed-off walls — not to mention the humans who had been serving the divine for generations, like the painting guardians. Gwyndolin may have thus not been willing to waste resources that could contribute to his home’s revival just because the Chosen Undead had finally been found among them. Nor could he ignore the fact that the castle town built at the foot of Anor Londo had fallen into chaos. Where were Undead banished to Lordran to live when the city made for them was a Hollow-infested ruin?

To be fair, Anor Londo wouldn’t be a very stable place to live either. As DS2 had revealed, significant portions of Lordran and its inhabitants had been displaced farther north in Drangleic sometime after the events of DS1.  These portions included a significant chunk of Anor Londo — the vast majority of the city if the  visible ruins seen in DS3 are anything to go by — which ultimately became its own civilization. Considering items like Andre’s smithing hammer can be acquired in DS2, it is likely that this sudden displacement occurred after the increased influx of Undead into the city. And as the ruins in DS3 indicate, this shift more or less destroyed the country. Even if we ignore the likely confusion and bedlam that would come about after such a freak incident, how was Gwyndolin supposed to govern a capital that was at best in shambles? At least the Undead Burg was still mostly intact despite all the Hollows roaming about. There was no way around it. Anor Londo had to be rebuilt from the ground up, essentially replaced with a brand new city.

Aside from having to now become a city planner, Gwyndolin was also seeing a career change within the Way of White hierarchy. The Japanese description for Sulyvahn’s soul refers to the Darkmoon deity as the shushin (主神) or “chief god” — the term that these game typically localize as “Allfather”. Put simply, Gwyndolin has long since replaced Lloyd as the head of the Anor Londo pantheon. This turn of events is almost too fitting. As Gwyn’s youngest child and second son after the firstborn, Gwyndolin was clearly next in line to Anor Londo’s throne and summit of the pantheon after his elder brother was unceremoniously stripped of his status as both royal and god. The only reason that Lloyd was able to claim legitimacy as Gwyn’s uncle — a mere branch family member — was because the proper successor was widely believed to be a girl practically since he was born.

The Reversal Ring reinforces this curious detail first established in DS1 — its description stating that the “metamorphosis ring” (化生の指輪) was given to the prince at a very young age so that his mannerisms would be undeniably feminine to any onlooker. Raised with this expectation to be a princess like Gwynevere thanks to his controversial Darkmoon affinity, Gwyndolin played the part of a goddess despite his personal feelings on the matter. The description not only suggests that he was conditioned at an early age, but that he was also miserable in the role, partially explaining the god’s humorless personality. So, what changed to make Gwyndolin preferable to Lloyd? For one, the prince had finally proven that his father’s plan to use Undead as kindling for the First Flame was a viable system, counter to his fellow gods’ expectations. If nothing else, this would have given him a little more self-confidence in his gender. Indeed, the Reversal Ring has been left in the tomb where he previously resided, stored away in one obscure corner, and “Aldrich” lacks the pronounced chest that the Darkmoon deity sported in DS1. The man decided to hide his true nature no longer.

Mysterious ring given to God of the Darkmoon Gwyndolin when he was very young.

Changes movements to that of the opposite sex, female if male and male if female.

It is said that he was raised as a daughter because of his moon power and behaved like a gloomy, miserable goddess.

Gwyndolin likely disapproved of the direction Lloyd had taken the Way of White as well, shifting the focus away from Gwyn and toward himself as the new chief god. The prince had always yearned to be a sun like his father and elder brother but was too insecure about his shameful lineage to come out as a man and contest Lloyd’s power grab; he may have in fact never approved of his great-uncle taking over. One revered his father and desperately sought his approval, the other seems to have envied his nephew’s good fortune in finding ultimate power barely passing over him. Thus, in all likelihood, Gwyndolin had long surmised Lloyd’s disdain for Gwyn and finally decided to reveal himself as a man and contest his great-uncle’s legitimacy. With the basis for his authority swept from under him, Lloyd ultimately lost his following and has been widely branded as a pretender to the title of Allfather. The true chief god was Gwyndolin, and he had big plans for the future of the pantheon.


In With the Old New


The absorption of Undead Burg’s populace into Anor Londo, that city’s abrupt displacement, and the rise of Allfather Gwyndolin set the stage for a new divine capital to come into being. Close examination of Anor Londo’s architecture reveals that it has been renovated, making the newer city built around it a direct extension of the old cathedral. Indeed, many of the same reliefs and designs specific to the Anor Londo style were carried over into Irithyllian architecture, including elements that the gods previously employed in the Ringed City. Therefore, it may be more accurate to call Irithyll a reconstruction of the old city rather than a replacement for it. At the same time, rather than rebuild it exactly as it was, Anor Londo was reimagined to reflect the changing times. Despite its obvious historical and religious importance, the cathedral enshrining Gwyn, Gwynevere, and at one point the firstborn is consistently described as “abandoned” in DS3. The gods’ capital was no longer to be the haven of the sun but the domain of the moon, and decorated accordingly.

The cathedral situated at Irithyll’s summit indicates itself to hold central importance within the city, and its direct connection to the remains of Anor Londo further suggest that it was among the earliest buildings to be constructed. It only takes one look then to see how this church set the tone for the rest of the city. The stained-glass windows were designed with the crown that Gwyndolin wore in DS1 as their central motif. Statues of the Darkmoon deity resembling his Oolacilian effigies in DS1 tower within the cathedral’s bema and adorn the outside walls. These same symbols and idols can be found all around Irithyll, interlaced with its Anor Londo-style architecture. There was a deliberate fusion of the ancient with the contemporary, reflecting a society which still respected the old but now had something new holding prominence. Gwyn’s youngest son was now chief among the gods, and he would naturally be the most revered deity in the city where he resided. And yet, despite his newfound position of power, the God of the Darkmoon was far humbler than his predecessors.

If we infiltrate Irithyll through its sewer system, we will enter a manor on the corner of town, guarded by Silver Knights. Descriptions of the knights’ armor confirm that they still serve the “former royal family” the same as always. Likewise, the text indicates that their loyalty has led to them keeping guard over both this “small” manor and the abandoned cathedral even after the royal family’s demise. We can thus infer that this relatively humble estate belonged to Gwyndolin, especially since he too is associated with the old royals in the text for Sulyvahn’s soul. This notion is reinforced by a number of paintings hung within the manor, namely artists’ renditions of Anor Londo, the gods’ library that had been taken over by Seath, and his beloved sister Gwynevere. These were all people or places associated with the chief god in one form or another and likely to retain sentimental value. In other words, the most powerful god in the pantheon chose to reside in a “small” manor on the corner of town. This is in stark contrast to the grandiose cathedral and royal manor that dominated Anor Londo and arguably still dominates Irithyll.

Helmet of the Silver Knights who served the former royal family.

It is said that they have continued to protect the small manor and the abandoned church even after the former royal family’s death.

Gwyndolin undoubtedly held the most sway in Irithyll, as seen from the statues of him decorating the city core, and the Anor Londo royals were still recognized even after the royal capital’s ruin. The Roster of Knights lists names of Darkmoon knights of the age of the “former” royal family. Yorshka confirms that this order has been defunct ever since Sulyvahn’s takeover, implying that they were active in Irithyll where the roster is found up until that point. By that same token, Gwyndolin was the founder and leader of the Darkmoon Knights, meaning that the royal family must have remained current in Irithyll before the order’s collapse. In fact, the descriptions for the Silver Knights’ armor note that they still serve the old royalty even after the family’s passing, and the only member confirmed dead when our journey begins is its head, Gwyndolin, and only recently. Therefore, there is little reason to doubt that he ruled Irithyll as a royal of Anor Londo, yet chose to live similar to the rest of its residents.

Knight roster of the age of the former royal family. Thing of the order of knights which bears the name of the Darkmoon.

Be able to confirm Darkmoon knights.

It is known to only a limited number of people. It seems to be an order of knights that exists in the shadows.

Much of this lifestyle can be traced to the god’s personality. As noted earlier, Gwyndolin has always been a shy individual on account of his past and upbringing. While he may have gained confidence in his identity as the rightful leader of his tribe, he still felt some insecurity over that very public role. Despite his absolute authority, Irithyllian statues of him still obscure his face and omit his serpent legs from their depiction. This choice is mirrored in the Oolacilian statues of the god and dates as far back as the millennium before that game’s events considering these same statues are found in the Ringed City. Basically, Gwyndolin was still ashamed of his appearance and continued to hide or downplay his more embarrassing aspects. The god could never be portrayed with the same audacious energy of his father or brother. Likewise, he had been living in his father’s ceremonial tomb for years before that, showing that he was no stranger to modest accommodations. He probably didn’t feel comfortable with living out a more extravagant lifestyle.

At the same time, it wasn’t as if he chose the life of a beggar. Greirat describes Irithyll as a city of noble families. But should he fail to infiltrate the city for a heist, his corpse will be found in the sewers beneath Gwyndolin’s home. This implies that the god was among these nobility whom Greirat intended to steal from, or at least lived like them. Indeed, his home is still a manor with a higher standard of living and ostentatiousness than could be found in the Undead Settlement. While it is not as large and prominent as a palace, it isn’t devoid of luxury either, with its own dedicated kitchen and prep area for servants. Regardless of Gwyndolin’s personal humility, he still grew up a royal and would live by some comparable standards. He simply didn’t significantly elevate those standards above the rest of the aristocratic citizens populating the city. Indeed, the crown “Aldrich” wears derives clear inspiration from both Gwyndolin’s Crown of the Dark Sun and the crowns worn by Gwyn and the firstborn during their reigns over Anor Londo, demonstrating his resolve to carry on their legacy as the king of the gods.

Ah, you, I heard. You found that Irithyll of the Cold Valley, right? If it’s like the legends, it’s a city of old moon nobility, sure to be overflowing with treasure…

Taken all together, the prince was satisfied with living in an unassuming home from where he could commute directly to the massive cathedral worshiping him, past the statues of clerics “greeting” the royal passerby and up the personal lift to the parish plaza. And Gwyndolin’s relative meekness resulted in another god’s rise to prominence. Throughout Irithyll, there is the statue of a crowned woman kneeling with arms outstretched as if engaging in conversation. This imbues the figure with an aura of royalty, docility, and sociability. There is only one woman who matches this description: Gwynevere. Recall that Gwyndolin’s home is the royals’ manor, and his elder sister is the only other surviving legitimate member of royalty left. Considering the Darkmoon deity’s past admiration for his elder sibling, why not accept her back into their household? Indeed, the direct route from his manor to the city cathedral requires that he approach some sort of offering shrine to her statue, and there is no doubt that she is who it portrays.

While the figure’s clothes differ from what Gwynevere wears in DS1, both outfits share the same small ties on the upper arm. Aside from this unique detail, we can also acquire a Divine Blessing from Gwyndolin’s manor. This holy water of hers is found in one of a line of chests, the others containing the Leo Ring and Smough’s Great Hammer. Both items belonged to bosses encountered at the Anor Londo cathedral in DS1 and were presumably collected by Gwyndolin after their deaths. This is further evidenced by the Shrine Handmaid selling Smough’s armor after we defeat “Aldrich”, implying that the god had also kept the executioner’s armor in his personal possession. Gwyndolin never personally owned one of Gwynevere’s blessed vials after her departure from Anor Londo, so it too must have been collected from its original owner after the events of DS1. Even Greirat collects Divine Blessings as well as their chilled counterpart during his Irithyll heist, which his corpses proves to include the royals’ manor.

We can thus be sure that the goddess came back to her younger brother and also rose to prominence in Irithyll, to no one’s surprise — the goddess of good harvests and grace was already popular among humans and rather active in the social spheres during Anor Londo’s heyday. What is a shock is that she would return to the limelight. DS1 established Gywnevere to have left with the rest of the gods in secret while Gwyndolin covered for her with an illusion. She wanted to escape her royal duties and live out an anonymous life with her beloved Flann, away from the political turmoil. What changed? Well, Gwyndolin’s success may have moved her to abide by her duties for the betterment of their tribe. DS1 also gave reason to believe that she was hiding under Lloyd’s patronage, so his downfall directly affected her ability to remain a secret. Moreover, Gwyndolin’s newfound confidence possibly came with a refusal to continue covering for her with his illusion, adding incentive. With her brother no longer under her thumb, the goddess was certainly in a vulnerable position. And she not only had herself to worry about, but a family as well.

The Dancer is described as a descendant of the royalty, even inheriting the aurora veil that is apparently a legacy of Anor Londo. Likewise, the Dancer’s soul can be transposed into one of Gwynevere’s miracles, meaning that she would have to be her descendant, most likely her daughter. And if Gwynevere had her daughter with her in the world of man, then the child was probably born between her and Flann after they eloped. But Flann himself is notably absent from DS3’s setting. While fans have speculated about his exact fate, he has definitely been out of the picture for some time, leaving Gwynevere to raise and protect their progeny all on her own. Is it any wonder that she would return to her royal station and obligations if only to secure a better life for the family she cares about? This and the other factors give ample reason for the princess to return as a leading figure in Irithyll. One could argue that she had no choice. Her brother was now the head of the family and effectively the most powerful being in the religious and political world. And he fully intended to have his sister return to the fold, among others.


Reviving the Divine


While we have already established Gwyndolin’s intent to rebuild the divine capital, there is only one reason to commit to this project: repopulation. Ignoring its historical, religious, and sentimental value, Anor Londo had long been abandoned. Why would Gwyndolin bother rebuilding a city if it continued to be a ghost town? Even after welcoming the local Undead in Lordran, there would still be too few to change that. The answer is that all of the god’s efforts have been for the implicit purpose of restoring his father’s kingdom to its former glory. The divine populace that left was just another piece needed to reform the whole. With the Age of Fire extended and a new city to call home, the other gods had no excuse for choosing to remain in the world of man. And having secured his power within the pantheon, Gwyndolin has made sure that none will.

While the localization dubs this face option as simply “Irithyllian”, the Japanese is more accurately its “Sign” or “Indication”. (徴) This is because it is the countenance of the old gods, which is rare to find and destined to be welcomed by Irithyll. This tells us two things of import. One, that in their mingling with their worshipers, at least some gods have sired children with humans going generations back. The result is them bearing facial features distinct to the medials. And two, that Irithyll has been visiting these rare individuals with the blood of gods in their veins and welcoming them into its society. The reason is obvious. Gwyndolin has been collecting any drop of divine blood there is into his city. Even if you are human, you are still the descendant of a god and thus holier than other men. Your special blood thus affords you special treatment above the common man, much like with a traditional class system. Many gods were nobility in Anor Londo, and so their human descendants are treated the same, hence why Irithyll is described as a country of aristocrats.

Irithyll’s Indication

Countenance of the old gods, said to seldom be seen around. However, it is instead considered a symbol of ill omen. “For a welcome will one day come from the Cold Valley.”

This again might reflect on Gwyndolin’s personal circumstances given that he too wasn’t a pureblood medial like the rest of his kind. However, it affirms that the medials were a dying race. If their divine forefathers were still around, these humans should have already been known quantities in whatever corner of the world they lived, revered as demigods or some similar holy being. Instead, Irithyll alone actively seeks out humans with their traits and still hasn’t found them all by the present day. That scenario is indicative of a bloodline that has been spread thin across various branches and lives in relative obscurity. Whether the progeny were the product of love or merely pleasure, their families clearly have long since fallen apart. Otherwise, Irithyll would be a city of divinity like Anor Londo and not just nobility. But instead, we are given no indication of any gods living in the city besides the royalty, making it far more likely that the populace consisted almost entirely of aristocratic humans fortunate enough to bear obvious relation to the revered medials.

The nigh extinction of the medials is further supported by Yuria, who plainly states that the gods are “no more” as of the current events of the game. The only possible exceptions are either MIA or impossible for Yuria to know are still alive, like Shira. While some might point to the Silver Knights as proof that the divine race has carried on in Irithyll, these aren’t the same knights encountered in DS1 — they are weak to the Hollowslayer Greatsword, indicating that they are Undead and thus human. Indeed, some Irithyllian statues depict a young squire holding a Silver Knight’s straight sword in a manner reminscent of Anor Londo’s Silver Knight statues. Evidently, the original Silver Knights have died out since the events of DS1, necessitating a new generation be knighted and carry on their age-old traditions and fighting style. These statues are propaganda for the local citizens to embody the same chivalric virtues as the Silver Knights if not try and become knights themselves, so they should reflect the populace. And this new batch were recruited not from medials but humans.

While doubtful to have been Gwyndolin’s first choice, there was probably no better option for restoring their clan. If most gods had died or gone missing by that point, wouldn’t the rightful inheritors of their legacy be their descendants? Likewise, wouldn’t most humans be happy with receiving land, status, and wealth from a country claiming to be their homeland? Most probably never even knew of their divine lineage until officials from the country said to be home to the Allfather came by to pick them up. It would be surreal if not bizarre for the humans involved, sure, but it would also be very tempting. At the same time, the description for the Irithyllian face option implies that this invitation wasn’t optional, so it wasn’t as if they could continue on with their current lives anyway. The chief god wanted to rebuild the old system regardless of the racial makeup of his subjects or their willingness to relocate. Everyone had duties or obligations to fulfill on account of their blood, and that was that.


Name and Place


Due to the rather obvious meaning behind “Anor Londo” in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Sindarin, fans have attempted to use the same method to decipher its successor. While etymological results vary, they generally agree that the name derives from ithil, the Elven word for “moon”. However, this connection isn’t as obvious when looking at the original name. Irithyll is more accurately rendered as Iruthyll (イルシール) compared to the Japanese for ithil or isil. (イシル) This doesn’t exclude the name from receiving inspiration from Tolkien’s fictional languages, but it does show that the answer isn’t as clear cut as the direct translation of Anor Londo. This leads me to believe there to be a different if not joint meaning in the name, possibly rooted in the game’s setting.

Neighboring Anor Londo was Oolacile, which clearly derives its name from the Demon’s Souls character Oolan. Likewise, the similarities between Oolacile (Uurashiiru) and Irithyll (Irushiiru) make it possible to instead translated the latter as “Irucile”. Perhaps the suffix -cile denotes something like “city” or “country” in the medials’ language, hence the commonalities between the two. Regardless, the underlying reason may have been to reflect a similar inspiration by the writers. Oolacile takes its name from the descendant of a much older civilization that practiced ominous and disreputable magic, accurately reflecting the country’s identity and history as experienced in DS1. Perhaps Irithyll too incorporates the name of a character from another FromSoftware property? In that case, the name most closely matches that of Pthumeru Ihyll (Tumeru Iru) — the royal capital of a civilization with special blood in Bloodborne, named after a woman who was made their first king after their gods had left them; parallels can certainly be drawn with Irithyll.

Aside from the name, there is also geography. Although Anor Londo enjoyed a temperate climate atop a mountain, its ruins now lay buried in a cold valley. This gorge naturally creates a stream that seems to flow out into the ocean visible in the distance. None of this explains the frigid temperature giving the Boreal Valley its name, though. While there were definitely snowtop mountains bordering southern Lordran, none were found anywhere within Anor Londo’s vicinity. By that same token, it is unusual for an open valley to entrap so much cold when the surrounding forests don’t share in this phenomenon. This has led fans to postulate more unnatural causes for the snow and cold air concentrating around the city. Indeed, we can also see an aurora draped over Irithyll despite the otherwise temperate location, so it may very well be that these wintry anomalies are the result of more supernatural forces. If so, then they have been at work there for a very long time.

The Budding Green Blossom is a variant of the Green Blossoms found in the surrounding region. It is exclusive to the Boreal Valley due to its white flowers that bloom in specifically chilly climates while the water remains unfrozen. Likewise, the Rime-blue Moss Clump is a variant of the other moss clumps found in the surrounding forests. It too is only ever found in and around the Boreal Valley, having evolved to retain heat despite the chilly environment. Both evolved specifically to thrive in a frigid environment strained for warmth and energy, which is why they aid in dealing with the frostbite status effect. It is unlikely that such flora simply adapted to a recent change in weather. The Boreal Valley has to have been cold for much longer, perhaps as long as Irithyll itself has been situated in it. This is supported by the fact that the aforementioned statues of Gwynevere portray her in much heavier and less revealing clothing, which would only be natural when living in a region dominated by snow and cold winds. Consequently, this climate has to have remained with Irithyll for much of its history.

Green weed like a large flower. Small white flowers bloom.

Temporarily greatly raises stamina recovery speed.

The flowers of the Green Flower Weed are illusory flowers. It is said that they only bloom in cold yet unfrozen waterfronts.

There are only two possibilities for a supernatural explanation: either it was an unintentional side effect of some magical incident, or a willful act. If magic is to blame, it is a spell that no one has done anything about in all of the country’s years, a testament to the source’s power or authority. So who or what had the capability of artificially generating the cold, a presence in the valley at the time it was conjured, a reason for causing it, and been in a position where the person or thing wouldn’t face pushback? The most viable suspect is Gwyndolin — a powerful sorcerer who has been present in the valley since before Irithyll’s foundation and likely has experience with cold magic. Littering the god’s manor are vases containing particularly chilly air, hence their purpose was probably to absorb cold around the house like a sort of heater. We are unable to confirm if the other manors have a similar setup, but the vessels’ simplicity suggests a magical origin to their effect while their placement suggests their creation under Gwyndolin’s purview, making him the right person in the right place at the right time. So, does he have the right motive?

On the one hand, the cold environment may have been magically beneficial. Blue Bug Pellets are made in Irithyll from crushed “moon bugs” whose bodies are steeped in magic power as seen in the item’s gif, hence why the pellets increases one’s resistance to magic. And since these bugs “run rampant” in Irithyll, one could argue that the cold environment is conducive to creatures that absorb magic power, which might benefit sorcerers. However, there is no evidence of the moon bugs thriving specifically because of the cold. Indeed, such pellets can be found at the Road of Sacrifices, meaning that the bugs are most likely not exclusive to the valley at the very least. Considering their name, they presumably absorb magic power from the moon’s rays, and we can see firsthand how clearly the moon shines upon the valley. In other words, the bugs proliferation can be credited to the location’s better access to moonlight more than anything. This is especially relevant since Oolacile in DS1 was a temperate land radiating magic power in its very air even centuries after the country’s destruction.

Oral medicine that was a kind of insects pulverized and rolled up. The blue one temporarily boosts magic power cut rate.

A secret medicine that the slaves of Irithyll make. Moon bugs run rampant in the Cold Valley.

If creating an environment more conducive to magic is out, then what about personal reasons? Perhaps the God of the Darkmoon simply preferred the cold? It wouldn’t be surprising considering his origins. His mother was imprisoned in the cold world of the Ariamis painting, where he had likely been born and nurtured for at least a brief time. Perhaps he felt nostalgic and magically chilled the valley to be more to his liking? Or perhaps it was less for him and more for those who spent far more time in the painting world? Yorshka is a dragon crossbreed as well as Gwyndolin’s younger sister. This fact alone has caused confusion for some fans since item descriptions in DS1 claims the deity was Gwyn’s lastborn while those in DS3 refer to him as just the youngest son. However, both games are actually referring to him as the “youngest child”, (末子) so there is no discrepancy. It is impossible for Gwyn to have sired Yorshka since Gwyndolin was his last child.

Ring of Gwyndolin, God of the Darkmoon, youngest child of Oldest King Gwyn.

Greatly increases memory slots.

Gwyndolin, who is referred to as the Sun of the Shadows, was said to have led Darkmoon knights and given this ring to excellent knights.

Thus, the two are half-siblings sharing a mother, not a father. And Yorshka’s relation to Priscilla is apparent. Aside from the two sharing physical traits of white-scaled dragons, the girl mentions being ignorant of the world as if having lived her life contained in an isolated area, long before her current imprisonment. And when pondering how we managed to reach her atop the tower, she considers us being a dragon or a crow — both creatures she considers to be “nostalgic” and that could be found within the painting in DS1. The question is not if Yorshka is Priscilla’s daughter, but why she has decided to move in with her brother rather than stay in the only home she had apparently known for so long? Tragedy may be the answer. Since painting guardians and corvians were among those who ended up in Drangleic in DS2, it is highly likely that the painting was also transported farther north. Retracing the route that we would normally take to reach the Ariamis gallery doesn’t even lead us to any surviving ruins. In their place sits the more recently constructed Church of Yorshka.

As the area name suggests, this church is most likely dedicated to the crossbreed currently imprisoned within its tower. A cathedral dedicated to Gwyndolin is just down the road, so it is not as if a second place of worship was needed. Rather, Gwyndolin wanted a place where citizens could pay reverence to his sister, perhaps as she helped with some day-to-day operations. This would explain why her cut equipment is dubbed the “holy woman” (聖女) set. But regardless of whether Yorshka was recognized as a legitimate god or just someone close to the chief god, the church was undoubtedly built for the painting world’s inhabitants. Its graveyard has one headstone in particular that stands out. This grave is far larger than the others, suggesting that the individual buried there is similarly larger than the average human. Likewise, a corvian can be seen paying his respects to this grave, so the deceased must either be Velka or someone close enough to the goddess to be paid similar reverence. There is only one person who fits these two criteria: Priscilla.

After the half-dragon’s death, her body ended up in the Boreal Valley like Yorshka. This means that the Church of Yorshka wasn’t built just in honor of Gwyndolin’s sister but also their mother and perhaps others — Priscilla’s grave is accompanied by many smaller tombstones, suggesting other relatives may have been buried with her. This only strengthens the reasons for making Yorshka central to this church, allowing it to honor both those from the painting world who have been lost and those who have survived. Whether primarily a place to worship Yorshka or a monument to the Allfather’s birthplace, Priscilla’s death explains her daughter’s decision to vacate the painting and live with her elder half-brother.

While her younger sister’s duty likely required her to remain in the painting, Yorshka may have felt obligated to share the news of their mother’s demise with her other child and so brought the remains into the outside world along with her. And after meeting his estranged side of the family, Gwyndolin evidently decided to take in his half-sister and care for her in Irithyll, hence gifting her a holy bell, name, and church where the dead could be buried. If this event occurred before the foundation of Irithyll or early in its history, then it is entirely feasible for the god to have induced the valley’s cold climate — long enough ago that the local flora and fauna would evolve around the change in temperature. Considering that he built a church with a grave for his estranged family in their “original” location, Gwyndolin definitely had the motive to do it. Whether it was out of a sense of nostalgia for his birthplace or consideration for his sister, the act itself has characterized the valley ever since.


Ethereal Moon


Cold isn’t Irithyll’s only notable characteristic, however. Both the city itself and several items associated with it are described as maboroshi. (幻) This term commonly refers to illusions such as the illusory walls found throughout the series, but it more generally describes something being somehow intangible or unreal. Thus, the descriptions of Irithyll as “legendary” lean more toward it being fantastical rather than just famous. The same holds true for descriptions of the budding green blossoms’ “ethereal” flowers or the Dancer’s “mirage-like” aurora veil. The consistent imagery in these allusions suggests not a literal illusion but something that feels unreal to the eyes. In other words, it refers to Irithyll’s aesthetic. Indeed, as soon as we come upon the city, we are met with a seemingly impossible sight: a snow white metropolis in the middle of a temperate forest crowned with the vibrant colors of an aurora bathing the cityscape. Such a place would indeed normally be just a fairy tale, hence fans’ interest in explaining the bizarre climate. But is it just a metaphor?

Crown of the Dancer of the Cold Valley.

It is said that the illusion-like aurora veil was permitted only to descendants of the former royal family and is a legacy of the old gods.

Cut content reveals that Irithyll was originally to be set in a desert, where the player would eventually trigger the “true” city to reveal itself, implying that the initial Irithyll experience was some sort of actual illusion. However, any connection between this scrapped story concept and the descriptions seen in the final game are thematic at most. There is no evidence to suggest that the city we explore is somehow fake beyond the potentially artificial origin of the valley’s cold, and the general concept seems to have been repurposed for The Ringed City DLC. It is more likely that this illusory theme is a remnant of the scrapped concept after it evolved into the city being fantastical rather than fake. This notion of a “true city” may have also influenced the reveal of Irithyll’s connection to Anor Londo, hence why the ruins are constantly obscured by a convenient fog until we finally reach them. Either way, it reaffirms the notion that the city is supposed to give off a less than mundane aura compared to the rest of the areas that we can explore in-game while being entirely authentic.

This mystique carried over into the city’s culture. The Dancer wears the aforementioned aurora veil along with other long, flowing clothing with the same translucent material. This cloth has also been added to the ruined cathedral where we battle Aldrich. Even the color scheme of the city and its dress are steeped in blues, silvers, and whites in contrast to the warmer greens, browns, and yellows seen in other areas. Thus, everything about Irithyll seems designed to complement its snowy land, cold water, and ethereal sky. However, that wasn’t the only element that influenced its development. While Gwyndolin was now the head of the Way of White, he remained the leader of the Darkmoon faith. Recall that the Blades of the Darkmoon were active in Irithyll during the old royalty’s reign. The god didn’t abandon his original worshipers. If anything, their influence grew with his supremacy over the pantheon.

While the Way of White as a whole hasn’t fundamentally changed as a result of Gwyndolin replacing Lloyd, its church in Irithyll certainly has. If the chief god heavily influenced the local practices and beliefs, the same should hold true with his cult of followers. The Darkmoon faith was originally comprised of very few worshipers based in the abandoned city of Anor Londo, resulting in them developing a more heterodox culture unlike the more orthodox religions in their total isolation. This culture revolved around two unique aspects of their god: his overall feminine aura, and his affinity for the moon. The latter can be seen in Irithyll’s aforementioned color pallet of blues, whites, and silvers — all colors commonly associated with the heavenly body. In fact, this color association is only emphasized by Irithyll being the sole area in the game set at night, with the moon featured prominently in the sky — further complementing the notion that it is uniquely different.

As for Gwyndolin’s feminine aura, this is expressed much more subtly. Both Gwyndolin and his followers in DS1 were designed to give off this womanly air, and the same can be said for certain elements of Irithyllian attire. The Outrider Knights aren’t ever described as an actual chivalric order like the Darkmoon Knights, but serve in the same capacity for the government. And yet, their armor design is sleeker than the average knight, more tight-fitting; this makes them appear taller, more slender, and more curvaceous. All these attributes are often associated with feminine beauty and bring to mind the brass set, the description of which now explicitly notes traces of a young lady in its appearance. It is only fitting that these influences bleed into Irithyllian knights. The Darkmoon faith had been in the country from the start, so of course its ideals of the moon and femininity rooted themselves into the culture, accentuating the city’s unique air.

This culture of moon worship is why Greirat associates the Irithyllian nobility with the moon as well as why we see statues of robed men prostrating themselves along the main road leading up to the cathedral. It is an expression of their reverence. Even the use of maboroshi as the area’s chief characteristic can be related to this moon culture. Maboroshi no tsuki (幻の月) is a not unprecedented way of describing an “illusory” or “ethereal” moon, highlighting an otherworldly quality to the heavenly body. Meanwhile, gengetsu (幻月) uses the same kanji to refer to the paraselene phenomenon, where moonlight refracting through atmospheric ice crystals causes the moon to shine significantly brighter in the sky. This perfectly encapsulates Irithyll’s ethos, combining the cold of the valley with reverence for moonlight to create an unearthly mystique for the entire nation. Ultimately, it was a country built by a Darkmoon deity. The moon is beautiful but fleeting, with a ghostly glow unlike the warmth of the sun. And that image permeated every aspect of the culture.


Knightfall


Insight into said culture doesn’t end there. I also posit that Irithyll and the Sunless Realms are one and the same. The most obvious indicator is the latter’s name. The original Japanese more accurately translates to the “Country of Nightfall”. (薄暮の国) The Sunless Realms are not multiple dominions but one nation state. Likewise, it is not described as being without the sun so much as being in the latest stage of twilight, where the sun is just short of completely setting and blanketing the world in the dark of night. This imagery is a dead ringer for the prolific symbol of the Darkmoon — consistently portrayed as a crescent moon where the moonlight is a mere sliver and thus just short of extinguishing the sun’s reflected light from the dark night sky. Both draw upon this idea of sunlight close to the Dark, hence the name “Country of Nightfall” can be considered a poetic way of saying the “country of the Darkmoon”, or Irithyll. Even ignoring the name, we encounter  two citizens of the Sunless Realms, both of whose origins can be traced to Gwyndolin’s city.

Apparel of a knight of the Country of Nightfall that is known to oppose magic power and the Dark.

It combines a silk veil and a silver crown.

Knights of Nightfall are those who serve the nameless moon and thus this apparel is endowed with a feminine silhouette.

The more obvious of the two is Sirris, a former Darkmoon knight given that speaking to her unlocks the Darkmoon Loyalty gesture needed to join the covenant. She also knows how to perform Darkmoon Blade and wields the Sunless Talisman, which looks identical to DS1’s Darkmoon Talisman. Even her preferred weapon of a choice, an estoc, is the starting weapon of the assassin class — fitting for one who eliminates the gods’ enemies. To top it off, Sirris admits to having once served a god or gods. But the order is based in Irithyll with no indication of it existing beyond the Boreal Valley, so if a Darkmoon knight is a “Knight of Nightfall”, then it is only natural to assume Irithyll be the Country of Nightfall. Likewise, her uniform includes a silver crown and silk veil reminiscent of the Dancer’s Crown, with the rest of the attire bearing the color scheme seen with almost everything else Irithyllian. She even visits the city limits while hunting a finger of Rosaria, confirming that she knows how to get to the land of legend.

Sunless Talisman (left) compared to Darkmoon Talisman (center, right)

Hodrick on the other hand has a much less obvious connection. Unlike Sirris, neither his armor nor his arsenal matches the Irithyllian culture previously established in either form or coloring. However, this is due to his particular career. Descriptions of Hodrick’s armor clarify that he was a holy knight of the Sunless Realms, his golden armor and fire-emblazoned shield symbolizing the color of a sunset. In other words, these holy knights were representing the idea of “nightfall” by focusing on the fire and sunlight aspects rather than the closeness to the dark of night and the moon that Sirris embodies. This also explains why he wields a flamberge, a weapon that references fire in both its name and appearance. This is relevant because the Fire Witches walking Irithyll’s streets were once holy knights as well. Much like Hodrick, these holy knights are associated with fire. In fact, the order being focused around the fire of sunset explains why the witches specifically were chosen to wield such fire.  Therefore, it is incredibly likely that Hodrick too originated from Irithyll.

Shield given to holy knights of the Country of Nightfall.

A blazing fire design is depicted within the color of sunset that is the symbolic color of the holy knights of Nightfall. This is the seal of one who carries as well as opposes fire.

Of course, none of this explains why the Sunless Realms is not simply called Irithyll if they are the same place, though it may be narrative convenience. Before we acquire the Silver Doll at the Cathedral of the Deep, Irithyll is almost never mentioned by its actual name. All items dropped by the Outrider Knights only mention the Boreal Valley in their descriptions. The only exception is the knight found in the Grand Archives, which cannot be accessed until after we have collected the doll. This demonstrates the developers’ desire to hide the true nature of the name “Irithyll” until that point. Although players have more likely than not already seen the “Irithyll’s Sign” and the Irithyll Straight Sword, their texts never explicitly link the Boreal Valley to a country called Irithyll. This makes the name ambiguous enough to be considered the name of a person or creature rather than a place by players. That said, the delay is odd since various non-Irithyllians are aware of what the legendary city is called despite having never been there in-person when talking about it.

Nonetheless, the fact the remains that FromSoftware wanted to avoid directly identifying the country of the Boreal Valley until after we acquired the silver doll. Both Sirris and Hodrick can be encountered, killed, and looted before this event, thus they too had to not in any way reference their homeland by name. The result is Sirris and all unique items tied to her only mentioning an obscure country of Nightfall. As for why she claims to hail from there, “Country of Nightfall” may just be the formal designation that Darkmoon knights use for Irithyll when outside its borders. They are a secretive organization, and their duties require they travel beyond the valley to locate and eliminate sinners. Perhaps they avoid revealing themselves to be from the legendary “Irithyll” so as to not give away their identities and presence in the area to their targets, hence the opaque description. Or maybe it is a byproduct of her devotion to the Darkmoon faith, framing the country with it at the forefront.

Whatever the specific reason for Sirris’ odd turn of phrase, it is clear that the Sunless Realms and Irithyll refer to the same place. And because of this, she and Hodrick give us even more insight into the nation’s culture. For one, we can observe that the Darkmoon Knight uniform is endowed with a feminine vibe the same as the brass armor set, and vague similarities between the two sets can be seen when compared side-by-side. Not only has the Darkmoon faith remained consistent over the countless years, they had formalized their ideals so that all the knights would dress with the same feminine aura as the god they served. The Darkmoon Knights had become more organized as their faith grew in prominence, not less, which fits with the proliferation of their beliefs in Irithyll.

Brass set (left) compared to Sunless set (right)

Their practices and teachings too seem to have undergone a similar formalization. According to the Sunless Talisman’s description, the Darkmoon Knights are immediately warned about the Darkmoon’s close affinity to the Dark. This makes sense considering that the gods’ chief enemies are those aligned with the Dark, thus teaching them this is a reminder to not go astray themselves. While they may use the power of magic, their miracles are to be cast through faith in the gods, not through knowledge of the spells’ underlying principles. And while this warning wouldn’t guarantee there would not be knights who still fall to the Dark, it does alert the newly ordained members that the temptation exists so they can gird themselves appropriately. Better that than them accidentally stumbling into it and being swept away with the discovery. The knight roster also demonstrates a marked improvement in their record keeping since DS1, where no such formal member list existed.

Talisman given to knights of Nightfall who serve the nameless moon.

It possesses rare intelligence scaling for a miracle catalyst and thus has good compatibility with miracles close to the Dark. That is said to be taught first in Nightfall and serves as the initial warning.

However, the most impressive detail is the repeated reference to these Knights of Nightfall serving a “nameless moon”. Sirris does pray that we will have the “divine protection of the moon” similar to worshipers of other faiths hoping that we will have the guidance of fire, but she never once explicitly references this nameless moon. Nevertheless, the individual that Darkmoon knights serve is Gwyndolin, so the nameless moon would presumably refer to him. If so, then why the moniker? Again, it might simply be code employed by his enigmatic cult of followers, though Sirris never utters the phrase herself. However, this designation may harken back to the god’s personality. Gwyndolin has always thought of himself as the “Sun of the Shadows”, and he continued to obscure his appearance in statues even after becoming Allfather. Moreover, he revealed his true sex to claim legitimacy of the title, but his name was still awkward. It would be embarrassing, comical even, for the god who came out as a man to still go by the name of the woman he posed as.

And so, “nameless moon” likely became Gwyndolin’s means of downplaying this embarrassing aspect to his identity. While his true name probably remains in the public record, the new chief god would forego the name “Gwyndolin” in official contexts, instead choosing to be identified as the nameless moon that he has been so strongly associated with. In this way, the Darkmoon deity and all worshipers who recognized him as Allfather wouldn’t highlight his unusual gender history. The only character to actually refer to Gwyndolin by name is Yorshka, who possibly met her brother well before his rise in the Way of White and certainly knows the god well enough to call him such without recourse. Otherwise, the name is only used in descriptions of items that the Darkmoon deity had owned since before his time as the chief god. Every other reference to him is in context of events postdating his rise in the pantheon and avoids addressing him directly. And he would certainly be needing an alias.


Meeting of Two Worlds


When the Old and New Worlds made contact following the drift, the event had huge ramifications for Irithyll. According to a pale blue parchment with a crescent moon drawn upon it, the Darkmoon Knights had forged a contract with the Way of Blue a long time ago. Per this accord, the order agreed to answer the summons of any Blue faith member invaded by dark spirits, hunting down the invader. Some have suggested that the concord predates the events of DS2 due to its age, but this is unlikely. It is true that the Blue Sentinels are the estranged offshoot of the Darkmoon covenant that had been stranded in Drangleic, a point the description for Blade of the Darkmoon acknowledges. And this mutant covenant did make an identical contract with the Way of Blue. However, that accord was validated by engraved rings rather than writing on parchment, and neither seal representing the agreement from DS2 depicts a crescent moon or crescent moon with blade as seen depicted on the contract for the Blue Sentinels in DS3. The Way of Blue’s concord with the Blades of the Darkmoon is most likely a separate deal.

Pale blue sheepskin parchment. A moon of an old concord is jotted down on it.

Become a covenantor of the “Way of Blue” by equipping it.

The Way of Blue are patrons of an old concord, and when covenantors suffer the invasion of dark spirits, they can acquire the help of blue spirits who hunt the dark spirits.

Silver pendant made in the shape of the Darkmoon and a blade. It is the origin of the Protectors of Blue and crest of Darkmoon knights.

Become a covenantor of the “Blades of the Darkmoon” by equipping it.

The Blades of the Darkmoon have long confirmed the concord with the Way of Blue, and when covenantors of the Way of Blue suffer the invasion of a dark spirit, it is their mission to help and hunt the dark spirit as Darkmoon blades.

Further supporting this notion is the quality of the parchment. While the Way of Blue’s accord has suffered serious deterioration, with torn and ragged edges and holes in the folds, the same cannot be said for the Blue Sentinels’ agreement. Its parchment is in a similar state to more contemporary works like the Sage’s Scroll. If both contracts date as far back as before even the events of DS2, then they should both have suffered more similar levels of decay. Instead, the Blue Sentinels concord appears to have been forged significantly after the contract between the Way of Blue and the Blades of the Darkmoon. Therefore, it stands to reason that these deals were written sometime after the original concord between the Way of Blue and Blue Sentinels was established in the time between the events of DS1 and DS2. The Darkmoon Knights agreed to one deal, and then new terms had to be stipulated with the Blue Sentinels later on.

Way of Blue concord (left) compared to Blue Sentinels concord (right)

More differences between the two game’s contracts can be found in their rewards. Blue Sentinels received Tokens of Fidelity for fulfilling their duties in DS2, although these small trinkets weren’t required to improve one’s standing in the covenant. By contrast, Blue Sentinels in DS3 collect severed ears from their victims the same as the Darkmoon Knights, expressly for the same purpose of making the Blades of the Darkmoon’s existence known and scaring anyone that might otherwise consider committing impiety against the gods. This is a huge shift in the covenant’s methods and motives, meaning that it only developed after the events of DS2. Likewise, the covenant no longer has its own official headquarters like the Cathedral of Blue in DS2, at least none which can visit. This means that, aside from personal charity, our actions as Blue Sentinels can only be used to improve our standing as members of the Blades of the Darkmoon. For all intents and purposes, the covenant serves as just a propaganda arm of the Darkmoon Knights.

If these contracts are unrelated to events detailed in DS2, then they are likely another product of the Old and New Worlds establishing contact between games. Consider the circumstances. The religions that worshiped the First Flame and the Anor Londo pantheon in DS2 had warped over the centuries until their gods, practices, and beliefs became unrecognizable to a believer from DS1. But these mutations of the faith were a result of the New World’s isolation from the Old World institutions and cultures. If contact between this offshoot of the faith and the original root has since been reestablished, then all the history that had been gradually lost or warped over time could be rediscovered. No longer would the New World faiths have to worship gods as remembered in their fallible scriptures, they could meet the genuine articles and read the original texts which the DS2 works derived from. It is likely for this reason that religious institutions like the Lindelt Monastery now go unmentioned; they were simply inferior to the Way of White in their knowledge and authority on matters of faith and subsequently collapsed.

Consider also the Way of Blue’s relationship with the Darkmoon Knights. Up until that point, adherents of this impromptu religion were being protected by a derivative of the Darkmoon faith. Why be protected by a derivative when you have the original? And would it not be proper to honor a contract made by your cutoff derivative even if it was done without your knowledge? And so in all likelihood, the two parties reached out to negotiate a deal. Considering that Emma provides us with one of these concords, the church in Lothric probably worked them out on the entire blue faith’s behalf. Indeed, Irithyll stagnating there facilitated the reconnect between Old and New World cultures, and the northern kingdom had the hegemonic influence to spread any new contract to the different parts of the world. Therefore, Irithyll would have dealt with Lothric specifically when creating this accord, hence Darkmoon Blades use a medallion featuring a Lothric Knight sword to be summoned to the concordat’s holders. Once again, the blue faith would have protection, but they cut out the middleman and went straight to the actual servants of the god of vengeance.

Naturally, this new concord infringed on the Way of Blue’s existing agreement with the Blue Sentinels, but they had a bigger identity crisis on their hands. For one thing, they undoubtedly trace their roots directly to the Darkmoon covenant and have served the same role: punishing sinners. At the same time, the ages had morphed them into an undeniably different organization. The Blades’ Darkmoon culture had all but disappeared from the Sentinels, allowing them to become much more mainstream and widespread in DS2 than the Darkmoon Knights ever had in DS1. These conflicting elements beg a deeper question: Do the Blue Sentinels fold back into the Blades of the Darkmoon and embrace Darkmoon worship or do they maintain their religious freedom and independence despite serving a redundant purpose to their gods?

Wrestling with this very dilemma is most likely why the Blue Sentinels concord of DS3 was ultimately formed. Evidently, the Blue Sentinels settled on a compromise. They would maintain their distinct identity and open-armed membership while aiding their predecessors as an affiliate. This would greatly benefit Gwyndolin and his covenant. As noted above, the Blades of the Darkmoon are by their nature limited in potential recruits. Even after their headquarters changed from Anor Londo to Irithyll, they were still confined to one locations where they would only be able to recruit the local citizens or zealous visitors. This limits the resources that they could devote to meting out the terms of their contract with the Way of Blue. Meanwhile, the Blue Sentinels can recruit just about any god-fearing warrior from anywhere with any motive.

With that in mind, the Blades of the Darkmoon probably agreed to subcontract the work in order to offset their own burden. The Darkmoon Knights had many other enemies of the gods to punish as part of their broad duties, and the Blue Sentinels already had a long track record for protecting a group of the Way of Blue’s scale. While this didn’t mean that a Blade couldn’t answer the summons, as the description for their covenant item asserts that they are still complying with its obligations, Blue Sentinels have been handling the majority of cases. And in exchange, Blue Sentinels are required to leave the same morbid sign on the victims’ bodies as a Blade of the Darkmoon so as to not hinder the Dark Sun’s “eternal mandate” for his followers. This explains why the Japanese description says that they are “taking charge of” the same concord rather than having made a separate one with the Way of Blue. Another indication of this is the depiction of a crescent moon and blade on the contract’s parchment.

Faded sheepskin parchment. The sign of the Darkmoon and a blade is jotted down on it.

Become a covenantor of the “Protectors of Blue” by equipping it.

The Protectors of Blue are taking charge of an old concord, and when covenantors of the Way of Blue suffer an invasion of dark spirits, it is their mission to help as blue spirits and hunt the dark spirits.

Much like the rings of past games, these drawings are most likely magic crests for facilitating the summoning process, hence why the symbol of the Blades of the Darkmoon is employed for both their covenant’s silver pendant and the Blue Sentinels’ contract. When Emma hands over the Way of Blue concord to us, she tells us to etch the crescent moon crest representing the accord into our hearts in order to invoke the parchments’ summoning power. In other words, patrons of the contract are supposed to internalize what the crest represents to then catalyze the power contained within it, similar to the process for performing miracles. Once the summoning triggers, a carrier of either covenant’s Darkmoon crest will respond and transport the individual to the patron’s location. In this way, the crescent moon crest of the Way of Blue concord doubles as a destination point for the summoning, similar to when we warp to a bonfire. Because this process and the symbols involved originate with the Darkmoon Knights, it is only natural that they would be the ones setting up this same system for the Blue Sentinels’ contract.

The result is the Blue Sentinels thriving again after probably long struggling to define themselves in this meeting of two worlds. The Blades of the Darkmoon were able to maximize their efforts and promotion while minimizing costs, and the Way of Blue had no reason to object to summoning Blue Sentinels since they were now sanctioned by the actual god of vengeance. Still, it wasn’t the only example of a culture clash. Fans of DS2 will recognize the Sunset Shield that Hodrick carries as the Mirrah Shield, which was employed by that country’s chivalric order with different meanings behind the imagery than its DS3 counterpart. Although there is no mention of Mirrah having fallen to ruin like Astora, it is clear that Irithyll has incorporated or replicated the DS2 nation’s shield for its own holy knights — it certainly wouldn’t be the first time that another nation had swiped elements of Mirrah’s culture. Either way, it serves as another example of Irithyll’s relations with the lands to the far north.

Sunset Shield (left) compared to Mirrah Shield (right)

This reunion of cultures came with its own bit of mixing. One corpse strewn about Irithyll carries the Witchtree Branch. Because this species of tree which roams new world forests possesses great magic power, its body was turned into a weapon for sorcerers, a common practice to this day according to the branch’s description. This along with the note that this particular tree was “raised” by someone indicates that the owner of this staff was a sorcerer from these lands farther north, familiar with procuring high-quality branches. He had since migrated south before at some point coming to reside in Irithyll. It is unlikely that him being here is accidental, so he may have been a descendant of the gods brought in to live as an aristocrat. Alternatively, he may have been drawn to the city of the Allfather, a sorcerer deity. Either way, his presence reaffirms this melting pot of foreign peoples.

Staff that acts as a sorcery catalyst. Branch of a big witchtree that someone raised.

Witchtree staves are a customary practice of the far north and have characteristically shorter chants than normal staves.

One more effect of this cultural diffusion was the exchange of information. Among the paintings found in Gwyndolin’s manor, three portray people or places from DS2 — namely Brume Tower, Eleum Loyce, and Queen Nashandra. This implies that Gwyndolin had a vested interested in these three, enough to commission paintings of them. The latter in particular is notable since the original full-body portrait of Nashandra was so accurate that it cursed anyone in proximity to it the same as the Queen herself, implying that Gwyndolin owned merely a recreation or had eliminated the curse effect by cropping her figure. Either way, fans of DS2 will notice that all three relate to the Children of Manus, indicating that Gwyndolin learned about these cursed creatures of the Dark lurking in Drangleic, perhaps even meeting two of them. Whether the god visited the locations himself or simply sent others to provide a picture, he was clearly fascinated by their existence more than anything else in that part of the world. It was time to look outward again and restore the gods’ order.