I originally found Stonefang Tunnel to be the least interesting area of Demon’s Souls. Indeed, it is a rather unremarkable locale compared to the more culturally unique places we visit, with its people perhaps the most uni-dimensional in theming. Even in terms of gameplay, the area serves mostly as a place to farm and upgrade weapon materials. But fool I am, for dig beneath the surface and you will find a surprisingly fleshed-out country. Now I know that, despite all appearances, Stonefang is a diamond in the rough, filled with character and intrigue worth sinking your teeth into. There is no mining town quite like it in any media, and it is a testament to Director Hidetaka Miyazaki’s creativity that he could elevate such a base concept with his typical talent for worldbuilding.

Mine Men

Stonefang Tunnel is more accurately a massive complex of underground tunnels dug as part of a mining operation undertaken by the nearby city. This Stonefang city has large stone walls, stone buildings, and stone bridges connecting to smaller stone towns and buildings across the river it is settled along just before it forks. This indicates that Stonefang had a sizable population and is thus appropriately known as the “tunnel capital”, (坑道の都) which also makes the mine central to both its economy and culture. Such an implication is made obvious by the names of its residents, who the localization refer to as burrowers, excavators, or miners. To be precise, they are “hole diggers” (穴掘り) whose livelihoods were based upon the valuable minerals that they extracted from deep within the earth — even the miners’ standard pickaxe is a “Stonefang specialty” denoting the city’s expertise in digging. The populace of this metropolis has apparently cultivated these skills since their ancestors.

Keystone left by the demon “Tall-legged Armor Spider”.

The tunnel capital, Stonefang. Below the underground smithy stretches a great tunnel worthy of that name. Above all, it is said that there is a dragon’s grave in the deepest part of where the lava reaches.

The Monumental refers to the people whose king received an Archstone as the “diggers” also, and various item description and dialogue dubs them the modern culture’s “predecessors”. (先人) These precursors were likewise known to go underground, so the kingdom has revolved around prospecting likely since its inception, though they weren’t limited to it. The Nexus Archstone to Stonefang portrays its king as a burly old man at a worktable, closely examining a gem or other mineral whilst holding a hammer. Engraved beneath him are figures draped in cloth working with hammers, tongs, and axes before blazing flames. These are all signs of smithing, and the straight sword floating above their heads reaffirms the notion. Indeed, the first area we explore in the modern Stonefang is an underground smithy directly above the mine, so the diggers are still closely involved in smelting and reshaping the minerals they dig up.

Them forging weapons, armor, and maybe jewelry can be partially faulted on their homeland’s geography. We can find both the Kris Blade and the Master’s Ring on corpses in the tunnels, and Scirivir is in possession of the Ronin’s Ring, leaving Stonefang with a disproportionate amount of contact with eastern goods. This would require the kingdom be located closer to the eastern continent than some of the other areas we visit, which lines up with the world map — it features a city along a river just before it forks in a mountainous region approaching the northeast coast. With a nigh impassable mountains on one side and a vast sea on every other, the diggers’ ancestors chose to simply settle and work the land where they were, shaping the people along with it.

The diggers’ aforementioned king is portrayed as being directly involved in the hard labor with a physique to match despite his age. This suggests that the diggers were generally brawny men and this can be seen with the mineworkers we encounter. Barehanded miners drop iron knuckles emphasizing physical strength, and their description affirms them to be favored by Stonefang’s “rowdy” blacksmiths who occasionally get drunk and brawl. These stereotypically masculine traits are apt for people of these professions, and the Nexus Archstones only reinforces this. Its Japanese text describes the diggers as stubborn and industrious, and it even depicts a tankard brimming with alcohol on the king’s worktable. This was historically a kingdom of manly men who enjoyed a good drink after a long and hard day’s work before burning some energy while establishing dominance, relying on only their own strength — though one of the human black phantoms in the tunnels imply that women weren’t excluded from getting down and dirty. None better exemplify this macho man stereotype than Ed and Boldwin.

The old blacksmith duo are confirmed to be twins in the latter’s official profile — the Japanese further clarifying Ed to be older, though he is internally named “swordsmith (younger brother)” (刀鍛冶(弟)) and Boldwin “swordsmith (older brother)”. (刀鍛冶(兄))  The Japanese description for Ed’s Grindstone likewise reveals his full name to be Ed Weisz (エド・ワイズ) in obvious reference to the character of the same name from Armored Core: Last Raven, another game developed by FromSoftware under Miyazaki’s direction. Boldwin presumably shares the surname, and they both definitely share a coarse tongue and impressive physical strength. The deluxe edition art book makes a point of Boldwin’s developed forearms despite his gaunt physique, and the man claims to have been even stronger in youth, insinuating that he is known for being a brawler in Japanese dialogue. He also says that Ed surpasses him in strength and temper. Obsessed with his work and nothing else, the stubborn eccentric is annoyed by the slightest distraction, much to his younger brother’s bemusement and amusement. But when push comes to shove, they both slug it out with their fists.

A blacksmith who fled from the demons and escaped to the Lynchpin Temple. He is course-tongued but a good person. Physically strong too. He forges weapons, repairs them, and sells items in exchange for souls. His elder twin brother is apparently at Stonefang Tunnel, but…

Quality sharpening stone of the Stonefang blacksmith, Ed Weisz. Reduces the wear of right-hand weapon and restores durability.

What are you doing! Youngster’s lost his mind, huh! It is I, Brawler Boldwin!

It is no surprise to hear Boldwin imply that he is originally from Stonefang or see Ed still there. Hearty, uncouth, simple, and stout men are only to be expected in the laborious tunnel capital, especially with what threats they may uncover beneath the earth. Prior to becoming a demon, the Armor Spider seems to have been a mundane subterranean species of arachnid. This “tall-legged armor spider” (タカアシ鎧蜘蛛) draws clear inspiration from the Japanese spider crab, otherwise known as a “tall-legged crab”. (タカアシガニ) While spikier in this game, the boss reuses an enemy model from Ninja Blade — another FromSoftware game — but it nonetheless demonstrates the spider’s hard shell and long, jointed limbs; its size is certainly worth of the internal name “great spider”. (大蜘蛛) It can even spew fire, which is a natural ability given that the description for Ignition — a spell derived from its soul — notes it to be extremely “primitive” flame magic. Although the spider seems to have only recently taken up residence at the entrance of the mine, that such a creature exists already makes working down there hazardous, and it isn’t alone.

Magic that manifested from the soul of the demon “Tall-legged Armor Spider”. Generates large fire from the caster’s hand.

Extraordinarily primitive fire magic.

The great bearbugs (大クマムシ) are named for the literal reading of the Japanese term for water bears. These oversized tardigrades thrive in lava and seem to radiate flame from within their bodies, even exploding in a burst of it upon death. This affinity for fire may be because of the dragonstone they seem to consume. Regardless, they roam the mine intruding on their habitat, where Boldwin says he received many requests to kill the giant bugs — only to hurl them back into the lava when they didn’t die to his fists. Based on the shed skin of varying sizes found throughout the area, great bearbugs molt countless times to reach their massive size. They share this trait with the rock earthworms, (岩石ミミズ) which spew lava from burrowing through the earth if the greystone they provide is any indication. There are also fire lizards, (火蜥蜴) the Japanese name for salamanders. Their bodies seem to be made of lava, fragments of which mix with souls to become meltstone. But if these lizards are demons formed from the fog, they too were probably regular wildlife once upon a time; it certainly isn’t the only reptile there.

Although found in every part of the world we explore in-game, the crystal lizard is possibly native to the Stonefang region. The filthy man confirms that there is a nest of the sparkling reptiles in the underground tunnels, a sizable rock cavity where we can find many of them clustered together. We don’t find a chamber like this anywhere else in the game, so this rocky region is at least the only place they flourish en masse, and it makes sense for them to have evolved in this environment. True to its name, the reptile has rock scales, some of which have formed sparkling crystals. These crystals are apparently various ore, suggesting that it ingests both souls and rock to develop its unique hide. This explains why it drops certain ore depending on the location. The dirty man refuses to share the location of its nest despite his sycophancy, so it is likely a source of the ore he sells, some of which is also possessed by miners. This makes skinning the lizard a lucrative venture, but it immediately flees with haste when approached and doesn’t attack even when cornered.

With only one of many local fauna proving harmless, what motivates this tribe to nonetheless wary the depths of the earth? Was it just out of necessity, or greed? The king is depicted with a fancy hat and jewelry, so the royal coffers were hardly bare as a result of their mining. At the same time, there is no evidence of Stonefang ever having its own standing army or a robust military of any sort. They are characterized solely by their work and their riches. And so, rather than for just their own luxury or defense, the diggers more than likely extracted metals and gems in order to fashion them into goods which they would then sell to the highest bidder. The equipment used by Boletarian knights are both heavier than and superior to their peers on average thanks to Stonefang iron, so such wares would be in high demand. And due to the difficulty in moving large armies across mountains and seas, these ancient people had plenty of natural protection from their more bellicose trade partners. Moreover, the discovery of ores would make this mining business all the more profitable.

Praise Be Bones

At the bottom of the pit for Stonefang mine lies a dragon graveyard. Aside from confirming that such flying lizards did actually exist at one point, it reveals that the bones of countless dragons had all died in the same place. As to why, the answer is Big M. The Japanese description for the Hand of God indicates that there was once a strong man who slaughtered dragon “servants” (僕) with implicitly only his fists. In other words, this human was so unimaginably strong that he crushed their hard-scaled hides, punching the massive beasts into submission. And then after enslaving his defeated foes, he continued to fight them to the death for presumably the sport of it. As a result, his fist has become the god of “honorable” men in keeping with the notion that true men fight with only their fists. Adherents unsurprisingly include Ed and Boldwin, both of whom wield this “god hand” (ゴッドハンド) in combat. In essence, Big M was the pinnacle macho man, and “man” very well may be what the initial stands for. But the only things left of that apex of masculinity are his legend and the long-buried bones of his victims.

Scuffling weapon possessing the name of God.

There was once a strong man. The strong man slaughtered dragon servants and his fists became honorable men’s god. The legend of Big M.

These dragon skeletons were eventually uncovered by the ancestral diggers, who took particular interest in the especially large bones. Based on their extraordinary size, they belonged to a dragon of incomparable might to its peers buried there with it. This seems to be the reason that the predecessors “imagined” a god from the bones according to the Japanese text of the Dragon God Archstone. This recognition was based solely on fear. Although coined as “sultan” in the localization, the description of Firestorm actually dubs it a “tyrant of chaos” with uncontrollable and devastating power, hence this spell derived from its soul generating surges of flame randomly around the caster. Similarly, the miracle derived from said soul is called God’s Wrath, one of the greatest miracles that causes the caster’s body to unleash an explosive shockwave of pure force symbolizing God’s power against malice. Taken together, and the Dragon God is like a force of nature, inspiring fear in those subject to its seemingly arbitrary ire. The forerunners’ worship of the bones was thus literal god-fearing.

Magic that manifested from the soul of the demon “Dragon God”. Generates a storm of fire centered around the caster.

The very power of the gigantic dragon who is the tyrant of chaos. It simply devastates, and one cannot control this.

Because they feared suffering the wrath of the corpse they disturbed, the ancient people carved a temple out of the rock at the deepest part of the graveyard to enshrine their “god” in the hopes of both appeasing and confining it. In terms of appeasing, the Dragon God Archstone text states that they “sufficiently furnished” the bones, and Scirvir even considers the temple to be a work of art for its impressive engineering and detailed chiselwork. In terms of confining, Scirvir says that this house of god was built to submerge the bones. The chamber where the Dragon God resides is a gigantic rock hollow lined almost entirely with architecture, all of which seems to be an extension of the temple we battle the boss at. Lava flows from or immediately beneath this temple architecture to form a sea immersing the bones in magma at the bottom. In other words, the temple doubles as a conduit for directing lava into this cavity with the implicit intention of reburying the remains of a god in molten earth to suppress it.

Keystone left by the demon “Dragon God”.

The underground temple was something to confine the Dragon God while also revering and appeasing it. For the diggers’ predecessors imagined a god from the giant dragon bones, honored this, and sufficiently furnished it.

Why did the ancient diggers believe lava helped restrain their god? Perhaps it was due to the power of fire that it is endowed with. Blacksmiths use fire to shape metals. It is this ability to smelt minerals and bend solid elements to their will that makes the smithing craft seem supernatural, hence why blacksmiths have sometimes been considered magicians throughout history. For a people whose entire livelihood revolved around molding the rocks they extracted into new forms, flame would be understandably seen as mystical, sacred even. And if they wanted to influence the behavior of a god, they could only employ what they already know — constructing a system that bathed its skeleton in flame would be their natural conclusion. Building a framework capable of redirecting molten earth is a testament to the predecessors’ engineering prowess, especially since it still stands functional. But they needed that talent to manipulate the supernatural no matter how dangerous its power. And despite the practical and artistic genius of its construction, the temple still served more functions.

According to the Flamelurker Archstone, the demon was “confined” within the temple’s prison. This “prison” apparently refers to the entrance chamber we see the fiend burst out from when first approaching the temple — with how it forcibly breaks through some of them, the columns on the upper level look vaguely reminiscent of jail bars. But after defeating the boss and entering this supposed jail through the proper entryway, we find only an extravagant brazier in the middle of smaller braziers on short columns arranged at each corner of the room. This small chamber preceding a long hall leading to the section overlooking the lava clearly held some ceremonial significance in those pagans’ religion. But how does this relate to Flamelurker? The demon’s red body is blazing like fire while harboring a red hot soul — “fire-like” as Ed describes in Japanese dialogue. Therefore, the flame in the central brazier most likely represents him, making all of this pomp and ceremony surrounding it part of another sealing ritual. The demon’s body is simultaneously melting like lava and encountered just before the magma lake, so he must also tie into the temple’s role in redirecting molten rock.

… Demon souls, you say? They’re certainly something like strong spirits. There are probably some among them that can bless weapons. Although, a strong flame’s needed for that. A fire-like demon soul…

Flamelurker most likely served as something of a satanic figure, an entity that the predecessors believed could contend with the dragon god and thus seal it. The English text for his Archstone describes the boss as just a fire demon, but the exact term is mamono, (魔物) a broad label for supernatural creatures, generic monsters, and demonic beings. The fact that this word is used instead of the English “demon” (デーモン) seen in the rest of the game’s script suggests some distinction for this particular boss. In short, the diggers themselves may have conceived of a fiend from fire, a living embodiment of flame itself. Controlling fire was thus controlling this inhuman personification, and so confining it at the temple became the religious interpretation of their means for redirecting lava. It was only through the power of one supernatural being that they could suppress another. But why conjure up such a needlessly complicated explanation, and in that particular form? As the name “one who lurks in flame” (炎に潜むもの) and internal name “flame mystery man” (炎怪人) indicates, this mythology has only obscured the demon’s true identity. It also highlights its importance. Who is he?

Keystone left by the demon “One who Lurks in Fire”.

A fiend of fire has been confined in the prison of the underground temple filled with dragon bones since long ago. And then, in the sea of lava in the depths of it, lies extraordinarily giant dragon bones.

Despite his monstrous appearance, Flamelurker still looks vaguely human, wide-framed and muscular; even his melted face looks like a human skull with sunken eyes, though one seems swollen and scarred. The demon fights without any weapons or armor, relying entirely on his bare hands and the explosive power they unleash — strong power is echoed in the description for his soul. And when this naked entity first slams onto the ground in front of us, he twitches his shoulder and neck on each side as if cracking his joints in stereotypical tough guy fashion before a fight. But even after this clear challenge, the boss only attacks once we approach him, letting us initiate the bout. All of this presents the demon as a mighty, competitive, and yet honorable strongman fighting barefisted amongst dragon corpses. There is only one individual who fits this description, the same one who we are reminded of when looting a nearby corpse carrying two Hands of God: Big M.

The legend of Big M has survived to the present day, so it must have been known to the diggers’ ancestors. And they would surely notice the parallel between this epitome of manliness who punched dragons into submission and the lava used to suppress their dragon god. And so, Flamelurker was most likely born from merging these two ideas. The predecessors folded the legend of Big M into their existing mythology, creating a new figure who was similar yet distinct. The superhuman monster they conceptualized embodied all of the power they struggled to control but needed if they ever hoped to match an even greater threat. Imprisoning the flame fiend thus became a ritual praying for the continued success of their lava flow system which in turn gave comfort to those fearful of a god’s wrath — all of it served a purpose in this pagan religion.

They must have felt rewarded for their efforts, as dragonstones ooze from its body. This ore is a fragment of dragon bone that comes afloat in the lava, implying that the leftover souls in the beast’s remains react to the lava to produce it. This is further supported by the fact that dragonstone imbues a weapon with the fire attribute, meaning that the souls contained that power when altered into this state. Simply put, the ancient diggers had accidentally made their holy sepulcher into an ore factory. The significance of this event cannot be understated. The land is clearly rich with a wide variety of ores, likely due to the combination of mountainous terrain and sunny climate — the region looks to be a desert, and more sun means more souls shining on rock to form more ores. But even if it wasn’t the precursors’ first experience with ores, the dragon bones made them a centerpiece of their culture. How could they ignore the response to pacifying a god or the power it contained? They would want to collect it, study it, and ultimately make use it. Therefore, ores were most likely the angle by which this tribe of craftsmen learned the soul arts, and we see the end results.

Fragment of dragon-bone ore that comes afloat in lava.

Enhances straightswords, axes, hammers, and the like. Ore that endows weapons with the power of fire. Enhancing via dragonstones becomes possible up to a maximum level of 5.

In order to defeat the Dragon God, we operate two large stone ballistae that fire a long metal spear into each of its arms, pinning it into the rockface so we can reach the head and finish it off. While the spears themselves appear mundane if exquisitely designed, the ballistae are by contrast fairly simple in make but glow an aqua hue in certain areas. This suggests that they are powered by magic rather than any mechanism. The same is true for the Dragon Bone Smasher, a massive iron greatsword found within the temple. This mass of iron is the heaviest sword we can acquire and lacks an edged blade, making it better suited for smashing than cutting. But despite being perversely applied for a sword, Scirvir still recognizes the weapon as the quintessence of the predecessors’ technology, and the weapon’s name and description reaffirms that they made it with the intention of crushing a dragon’s bones. The sword’s description also confirms it to be endowed with magic that protects the wielder from fire. In short, the diggers utilized the soul arts to augment their already impressive artisanry.

Hey, that’s! You found it, did you! Show me already!… Wonderful. The quintessence of their technology applied in a completely useless direction for swords…

With this in mind, ores were probably used to forge and refine their goods, thereby increasing their value when sold abroad. If the diggers had previously made the best-quality weapons and armor in the region, then they likely excelled at making magic weapons with ores as well. Trading magical weaponry and maybe even raw ores would thereby allow the ancient tribe to prosper like never before. Indeed, the interlocking-diamond design for the back end of the ballistae spears matches that of the spears used by the Monumentals — and who better to sell magic weapons to then the predominant superpower of the Classical Era? If the diggers wanted to even preserve their independence, then they had to be useful to their more militaristic neighbors. And if the laborers were going to buy them off with weapons to use against other powers, then might as well make a good buck off it.

This clan of miners and blacksmiths thus developed into a thriving civilization thanks to these magical exports. And as a consequence of that, the dragon bones are undeniably responsible for Stonefang becoming the metropolis it is in the present era. Even the name “Stonefang” is an obvious reference to the dragon’s sharp teeth buried among the rock with the rest of the skeleton, a sign that the predecessors too recognized what had brought about their prosperity when founding the eventually large city. While their economy was based on exporting magical crafts, they did save at least some for themselves.

In the case of the ballistae and Dragon Bone Smasher, their location and use indicate that they were created as another safeguard for suppressing their god. If the divine beast revived in spite of all their efforts, the ballistae would kill or at least debilitate it. In the same vein, Scirvir states that the temple kept the Dragon Bone Smasher to kill a dragon in case of an emergency, using its enchantment presumably to survive wading through lava and then fulfill its namesake. The reason that these proactive measures would only be used in a crisis is obvious. The diggers didn’t want to break the bones that provided them bounties of valuable ore. The gigantic skeleton was simply far too great of an economic benefit to kill their Dragon God as anything but a last resort. This perpetuated the religion even as they continued to develop their magic crafting far past the point of needing to fear the wrath of a dragon.

Do you know about the underground temple beyond here? It’s a work of art whittled by the excavators’ predecessors in order to submerge dragon bones. So, that temple’s apparently in possession of a sword for breaking dragon bones and killing dragons in case of an emergency.

The Hand of God may be another product of this era. This fist load weapon deals both physical and magic damage, more so the latter than the former. We can also only find it near the Stonefang temple or in the possession of people from the tunnel capital. Add the fact that hand-to-hand brawling is their favored pastime, and there is good reason to believe the magic weapon was crafted by the diggers. That said, the weapon’s name and description only implies it to be a recreation of Big M’s fist for its worshipers, and the ancient diggers worshiped the Dragon God. Of course, it is possible that some of the precursors went against the grain and revered the legend’s hand, but it is just as possible for the Hand of God to have been made in the present era following the rediscovery of magic. If the tribe had applied their knowledge of magic in their own personal lives, it didn’t survive the First Scourge.

Old Habits

After demons ravaged the world and the Monumentals banned the soul arts, the diggers cut ties with that aspect of their culture. Their ore, their enchanted greatsword, their magically-powered ballistae, all of it had to be discarded. But rather than destroy their works, these ancient diggers apparently decided to simply rebury it along with the underground temple. By every indication, the soul arts were forgotten by the world at large, yet the temple and all magic items within it are remarkably well-preserved. Any wear and ruin we do see appears to be due to age instead of deliberate attempts at demolition. At the same time, the forerunners’ descendants couldn’t have been intimately familiar with their heritage before the world rediscovered magic. Passage to the subterranean complex was thus most likely closed off, left buried and ultimately forgotten along with all knowledge of ores and the soul arts.

This choice was likely a compromise between practicality and expediency. The dragon bones were still producing ore at the temple, so there was no way to separate the two. Every one of the predecessors’ means to destroy them involved a power they could no longer rely upon, and dismantling their entire lava flow system was a monumental task. If they were to immediately do away with all things related to the soul arts, reburying all paths to the entire complex was the only viable option. This would mean abandoning their religion in all its practices, including the axiomatic supposition that they were under threat without it. But they had already suffered a more tangible threat from the Old One, and neither their rituals nor the power oozing from their deities helped prevent the apocalypse — in fact, they actively enabled it. The fear of god simply lost its potency in light of current events. On top of that, ores would no longer be profitable, leaving no incentive for the diggers to stop their faith from dying out.

While a huge loss for their culture, the diggers still retained the core of their identity. The city kept its name, though its origin may have been forgotten with time. And although probably avoiding the land hiding the temple until its location too was forgotten, that city was still built upon digging — all they needed was to find buyers in this new oreless era. Based on the mirdan hammer and heater shield acquired from the area, they found one in the Temple of God, and there was another. As mentioned earlier, Boletarian knights use Stonefang-made equipment, and Stonefang is where we can find the steel shield and great axe possessed by its soldiers; the bastard sword certain miners carry is similarly found in the northern kingdom. A Boletarian carriage also hangs from a broken bridge spanning a small canyon, which connects the smithy to a road heading in the kingdom’s general direction on the world map. As worded in the text for the Nexus Archstone, the diggers had been “supporting” Boletaria’s warriors as well. But as their small trade partner grew into a largescale superpower, the nature of this support evidently changed drastically.

Among Stonefang’s miners and blacksmiths stands Boletaria’s fat ministers. The fact that they wield whips instead of their standard crescent axes places them as slave drivers, “motivating” the workers there with each crack along with the aid of the kingdom’s war dogs. What is a foreign legation doing overseeing a Stonefang mining operation? Their permanent presence suggests that the superpower is in control of the diggers’ daily lives. There is no mention of a king or kingdom in relation to present-day Stonefang, so the metropolis may have been among Boletaria’s conquests since the First Scourge. Their trade was crucial to the northern kingdom’s war machine, and annexing the land would cut out the middleman for maximum cost effectiveness. But considering the tunnel capital’s natural geographic protection, the large nation might have simply used the threat of war to cow their neighbor into becoming a vassal state. Either way, the superpower has leveraged its trade relationship with Stonefang to hold heavy sway over its operations, making it effectively a province of Boletaria’s budding empire.

This vassalage goes back at least three generations. The worshiper of God’s grandfather was a “dilettante” who regularly visited Stonefang to collect unusual stones, leaving them behind for her after his death sometime before the Second Scourge. According to her, this “worthless trash” are among her possessions at the Nexus. We can therefore conclude that this stone collection — which she will donate to either us or Urbain — includes a pure faintstone and stones of ephemeral eyes. The woman also claims that another such stone saved her when the city was attacked by demons and soul-starved, but this doesn’t clarify if that refers to her arrival to the Nexus or something else. She herself admits that she doesn’t really remember the chaotic situation in Japanese dialogue, but neither can she comprehend a human not being human after a demon attack. It may be that she simply miraculously survived the onslaught. Since she calls it a “miracle” stone, it could be a fragment of faintstone, which contains divine power with healing properties. Alternatively, it is another ephemeral eye fragment that restores soul to body before crumbling away.

It was dreadful, I can’t much remember it. Would even I be the same if not for a memento of my grandfather, a miracle stone fragment…?

My grandfather was quite the dilettante. He seemed to have gone in and out of the likes of Stonefang and collected unusual stones. I thought it was mostly worthless trash, but that miracle stone fragment rescued me. It’s a command of God too, right…?

Whatever the true nature of her stone fragment, it is undeniable that the woman’s grandfather had collected ores and Archstone fragments. And since this resident of the Boletarian capital wields a Stonefang pickaxe in combat, we can be certain that he excavated these stones himself. This is unlikely to be a pastime of his in old age, and the fact that she considers it trash when the value of ores has become well-known in recent decades suggests it well predates this period. Essentially, a young amateur geologist had made regular trips to a foreign country on the eastern end of the continent, procured their tools, and collected magic stones before anyone knew what they were or their true value. This would at the very least indicate that Boletaria had pushed up to Stonefang’s border by this point and thus already exerting influence over its smaller neighbor. This makes sense since it would be in the kingdom’s national interest to secure its war resources as soon as possible, making it a high priority for earlier kings. If not a subjugated territory, Stonefang has long been a client state.

The mine and smithy we explore were probably constructed not long after Boletaria rediscovered the soul arts. When we first use the Nexus Archstone to warp to Stonefang, we appear before a broken tablet standing in an isolated corner — beneath an archway to the bridge connecting two ends of the smithy’s exterior buildings. Etched into the tablet is in an old runic script, making the predecessors its probable authors. However, it is unlikely to have been dragged all the way up from the underground temple only to be dumped there all by its lonesome. Stone blocks and dirt are haphazardly piled in front of it, implying that the relic was dumped there during construction. In that case, it was most likely erected on the mountain as a warning to anyone visiting that area. The precursors had most likely hoped to prevent those who came after them from digging up their mistake even by accident with vague insinuations about what could be found and the danger it posed. Instead, it only told them where to look.

Reexcavating the area uncovered all manner of ores. Based on what we can acquire from the various enemies and corpses found the area plus the filthy man, Stonefang’s workers mainly dug up hardstone, sharpstone, and clearstone, all of which can also and otherwise only be found on Boletarian land. But aside from supporting their overlords, the miners extracted greystone and eventually dragonstone as well, as we can find an improved crushing battle axe at the smithy and a similarly refined dragon long sword in the tunnels. However, the sheer rarity of both ores in these areas and among the miners suggests that the diggers hadn’t made much progress with extracting and refining them, perhaps because Boletaria’s needs took priority. But by that point, they had also rediscovered the long lost underground temple, and resources were undoubtedly dedicated to investigating it.

We can infer from this wording that all of Scirvir’s detailed knowledge about the temple and the dragon bones is second-hand information. He hasn’t actually been there or seen what lies within, so where does he get his source? From the diggers, of course. While the filthy man confirms that what details he knows comes from Scirvir, Boldwin has no apparent connection to the man and is also informed about the dragon graveyard. The blacksmith isn’t alone either, as Scirvir implies that the local swordsmiths in general make fun of the Dragon Bone Smasher’s perverse design. While the localization doesn’t explain the joke, the blacksmiths specifically jeer that it is so dull that it can’t possibly be called a sword. This witticism is a pun on “dull” (鈍) doubling to mean “good for nothing” in reference to its absurd weight — the sword is both too blunt and too heavy to be considered anything but a useless mass of iron. The fact that Scirvir is aware of this indicates that he has heard about smiths seeing the weapon from surviving locals, meaning that at least some had gone down there to help investigate the ruins.

Bladeless, bulky iron mass for smashing.

It is said that it was made by the predecessors of Stonefang’s diggers to face a dragon, and it has been endowed with magic that protects the user from fire.

Due to its absurd weight, it has also become blacksmiths’ joke for being “so dull, it can’t possibly be called a sword.”

This inspection proves that Stonefang and by extension Boletaria had a vested interest in the history of this lost holy place. In fact, assuming that the two parties were at least vaguely aware of what was buried down there, the temple was probably the reason for them digging it up to begin with. The dragonstone it produced alone would make excavating the site worthwhile, adding to the plethora of ores they were already mining. But even ignoring that, it was the temple of a culture knowledgeable in the soul arts. With all the forgotten magic technology that the forerunners had left behind, it is only natural for Boletaria and Stonefang both to want it studied for the military and economic value. Based on the mere two shards of dragonstone lying around the smithy and the Dragon Bone Smasher still randomly laying around the temple, the investigation didn’t get too far before the Old One stirred from its slumber.

Dig to Oblivion

When the deep fog spread across Stonefang, it brought its imaginary god and devil to life with it. This doesn’t mean that they perfectly reflected the ancient diggers’ beliefs about them. Firestorm and Fireball are both derived from the Dragon God’s soul, and so the great power that the demon embodies is seemingly fire. However, the description for the latter insinuates that this is because the bones which the fog derived it from was immersed in a lake of lava — slaying the boss even nets us pure dragonstone. Simply put, the fog isn’t basing its manifestation on the collective memory but upon the actual power present in the environment. The bones and the souls contained therein have been soaking in the power of fire, thus the demon born from them bears that power. That being the case, the form of the Dragon God is in all likelihood accurate to the creature the bones belong to while not necessarily accurate to the predecessors’ conception of it. It is undoubtedly a powerful dragon befitting the size of the bones and their soul, but it is in no way limited by fire in any of its forms. This made it ideal to lead the demons in this subterranean hellhole.

Magic that manifested from the soul of the demon “Dragon God”. Fires a fireball and generates an explosion.

The demon that was born from dragon bones immersed in a lake of lava quite naturally embodied the gigantic power of fire.

The fog has apparently had an effect on the miners as well, turning their skin to scales and their eyes to that of a lizard. The developers’ intent for the diggers’ transformation is likely to make them more like dragons, which are also described as lizards in several characters’ dialogue. In that case, the workers’ new physical appearance may be a reflection of the their avarice. Dragons emblemized greed in Medieval and Renaissance Europe due to their penchant for hoarding treasure in myth and folklore. The diggers are likewise characterized by their obsession with their work, digging holes for rare and valuable minerals they can then sell for riches. There is therefore good reason to think that the workers’ appearance is a product of their preoccupation with the earth’s treasures whilst within the fog. This is further supported by the varying levels of draconification afflicting different characters.

The standard “scaled digger” (ウロコ穴掘り) has undergone a complete metamorphosis, and the text of the Nexus Archstone confirms that they are soul-starved simply silently continuing to work. Without the ability to think, they single-mindedly follow their instinct to “play around” with stone as the filthy man words it, and so their covetous eyes become lizard-like. In contrast, Boldwin’s tanned skin has only turned to scales at the ends of his arms and legs while his brother Ed has them covering almost the entirety of his body. The only difference between either of them and their lizardmen colleagues is retaining their souls, and the only difference between each other is that Boldwin fled from the demons and escaped to the Nexus whereas Ed has remained at the smithy and continued his work. We can thereby derive that this transformation is based on soul retention and time spent in the deep fog. However, this cannot be the only factor given that Scirvir has also been at Stonefang for some time since entering the tear years ago. And so, it is Ed’s neurotic work ethic that has advanced his draconification despite not being soul-starved. Their implicit greed certainly makes them ideal laborers.

Boldwin’s profile states that he fled from the demons, and he was certainly pressed for time given that he apparently left without his tools, hence why he relies on the Nexus’ limited tools to perform only basic smithing. The two human black phantoms in Stonefang’s tunnels reinforce this urgency to his departure. Based on their meager dress, steel shields, and base great clubs, the man and woman were diggers defending themselves with whatever they had on-hand in their final moments. All of this suggests that there had been sudden conflict between man and demon, at least at first. And yet — even if robbed of their souls — the diggers are still there digging, and the fat ministers are still there slave driving, if only for their own sadistic pleasure. Boldwin even jokes that the demons don’t know what to do with strong and stubborn Ed after learning that he is still hammering away from his workplace by the entrance to the smithy.

The demons’ goal thus seem to be oriented toward extracting ore rather than sowing chaos and destruction. This makes sense since Stonefang is rich in ores, leaving a wealth of souls to drain from this land before it fade into the fog. Even if mostly mere beasts, the Dragon God and subordinate ilk are collecting local souls as offerings to the Old One. In that case, it is far more sensible to make the miners an accessory to this end rather than needless causalities in a blind rampage. In other words, the demons likely kept damage to the mine and smithy’s overall efficiency to a minimum when taking over the area, merely forcing the existing workforce to mine. Of course, Ed has no qualms with fighting off anyone that disturbs his work, demon or no, and so has stayed behind while remaining lucid if a little more scaly than before. This also explains why Boldwin claims Ed to be the only human left in a place full of soul-starved. The demons may have spared the miners and blacksmiths’ lives, but the same cannot be said for the residents of the tunnel capital itself.

Although found at the smithy and later the mine, the filthy man is unlikely to have lived there before the demons took over. He is not only ignorant of what was found beneath the mine despite it apparently being common knowledge, but also unaffected by the fog when even Boldwin suffers slight draconification. He is unlikely to be a resident worker. All we can surmise is that he is ragged and poor. It is no surprise then that he is internally named “beggar (man)”; (乞食(男)) he has been scavenging local items to sell for souls in order to survive. And yet, he at least facetiously believes that God is watching over him since the lizardmen are too absorbed with the stones they dig up to pay him any mind, allowing him to do as he pleases. All of this suggests that the dirty man is an outsider, but he gives no indication that he is from the Nexus or anywhere other than the land we find him; he probably lacks the means to travel far either. With all that in mind, he is most likely a runaway from Stonefang city.

Unlike the brawny and accomplished miners and blacksmiths, there is no reason to keep anyone else in this land alive. The same was probably true for all the men, women, and children living in the nearby metropolis. We can see the bridges and largest buildings in ruins from the smithy, and the fact that none even bothers to ponder its fate speaks volumes in itself. The city was completely ravaged — its entire population reaped of their lives or their souls except for one filthy beggar, a pathetic vagrant who somehow managed to escape and find his way to the tunnels where he could safely skulk about in anonymity. This is why the Japanese text for the Nexus Archstone calls the miners’ work meaningless. Nothing they now do enriches themselves or their families. There is no home their labor is going towards. Stonefang is a ghost town. Their instinctive greed only serves to accelerate the end of the world as they knew it.

Capital of the diggers that has a giant tunnel.

Many of the stubborn and industrious diggers who had supported Boletaria warriors, robbed of their souls and even losing the power to think, simply silently continue meaningless work.

At least one person is perfectly fine with this turn of events. Scirvir is a wanderer who travels the world in search of treasures unknown to the general public. Although named among the heroes who enter the tear during the introduction, it isn’t obvious what heroics this leather-armored man armed with a mere short sword and some fire spells performed, and he himself admits he isn’t much of a fighter. Rather, he prefers to sneak around quietly and observe from the sidelines, examining whatever curiosity catches his attention. This makes him easily spooked when we first call out to him in the tunnels, but it also demonstrates his success in surviving for years in a land full of demons among other threats. By his own admission, he has only weathered these dangers because Boletaria’s current state captivates him. His only concern is the strange places, people, and things that can be found within the fog, Stonefang being simply his latest stop in his journey. He wouldn’t mind these demon-ravaged lands staying as they are, though he is at least aware that such a sentiment is reprehensible and would anger the average person.

Scirvir’s current endeavor is getting a good look at the Dragon Bone Smasher, though he is loath to risk being spotted by the demons. For that reason, he pawns off the task of finding the weapon to us, presuming us capable since we have survived all the dangers up to that point. If we bring it to him and let him examine it to his heart’s content like he asks, he rewards us with a pure greystone. However, this is neither the only nor most valuable curiosity he has collected during his time within the fog as his possession of both a Ronin’s Ring and a Talisman of Beasts well demonstrates. Whether it be the filthy man and his crystal lizard den or Ed and his ret hot demon soul, everyone in Stonefang has something they want for themselves and something they don’t want to share with others. Perhaps it was that egoist drive that brought Stonefang to otherwise impossible heights. But it is also the malice which created a monster that still haunts the land to this day. Was it worth the weight?