Valley of Defilement


C.S. Lewis once stated that he would rather live under the tyranny of robber barons than that of moral busybodies, for the latter’s conscience encourages them to never relent. While I cannot say if Director Hidetaka Miyazaki is familiar with the words of a Christian theologian, they are certainly appropriate for the story of Maiden Astraea. Aside from its rather frustrating gameplay, the Valley of Defilement is best remembered for its compelling narrative. And although this narrative is rather simple, the depth and quality of its execution has made the area the most memorable part of Demon’s Souls for many, with the maiden and her knight becoming perhaps the most recognizable figures in the entire game. Even with a far smaller script compared to its more popular spiritual successor, FromSoftware still managed to convey a clear and concise message thanks to choice words and excellent environmental storytelling. The end result is something at once horrifying and distinctly human.

Fall Apart

The Valley of Defilement has earned its name “rotten valley” (腐れ谷) as a consequence of all the decay it has accumulated over time. When we visit the area, it is pouring rain that causes entire waterfalls to stream over its cliffs and down to the very bottom. This weather naturally allows all manner of things to flow into the gorge, which apparently happens rather frequently if the swamp at its base is any indication. But it is not just water that has been flowing into this basin but everything unclean. Plants and filth; wooden beams, planks, barrels, and wheels; rope and straw; metal pieces and clay bowls; uneaten fruits and meat — every one of these things have ended up in the valley, drifting into the giant swamp before finally settling into a graben in the depths of the marsh. As the filthy woman puts it, this damp place is a trash dump, with refuse flowing in from nearby countries via rivers and the like. These likely includes Boletaria given that the valley is engulfed by the deep fog, and we can see a branching gorge on the western side of the world map. It is a naturally-formed trash bin, and what does trash do if not rot?

This decay is invariably inspired by Japanese culture. In Shinto, water embodies purity, and thus flowing water often conveys a cleansing force washing away impurities. But what happens when the flow of water finally ends? The answer is that it stagnates along with all the impurities brought with it. And what happens as these impurities slowly pile up?  The filth accumulates until it has been fully sullied, like dirt and fallen leaves in the basin of a forest stream. The end result is a stagnant pool of unclean water, its purity spoiled. This concept is reflected in the swamp of the valley, which has accrued islands of trash that have made it a disgusting mire of putrilage over the years. And like any trash pile left to rot for a long time, the swamp has become a breeding ground for pests and disease. Trees have tried and failed to grow in this plague-ridden environment. And while the vermin mentioned in the text for the Leechmonger Archstone specifically refer to “poisonous insects”, (毒虫) the swamp is home to a variety of deadly fauna including giant mosquitoes, blood ticks, leeches, slugs, flies, plague rats, and turbid jellyfish. But the connections go much deeper.

Keystone left by the demon “Leech Pile”.

The Rotten Valley eventually leads to a giant swamp. All unclean things drift to that swamp, and it has become a nest for putrilage, poisonous bugs, and plague.

The Leechmonger is more accurately a “leech pile”, (ヒル溜り) with tamari referring to things pooling together into one spot — bringing to mind the aforementioned pool of water. Although literally a collection of leeches, the Poison Cloud and Cure spells derived from the Leechmonger’s wriggling soul confirm that it personifies the poison and disease that have accumulated at the bottom of the valley. This is made even more obvious in Cure’s Japanese description, since “accumulated” uses the very same kanji as tamari. This metaphor continues with the Dirty Colossus, a giant statue formed from some of the swamp’s trash. The soul of this malformed demon is used to make Acid Cloud, which corrodes equipment. And “corrosion” (腐食) combines the kanji for both “rot” and “eat”. The connection between a trash golem and the rotten valley is obvious, but this eating element also factors into the Dirty Colossus’ being.

Miracle that manifested from the soul of the demon “Leech Pile”. Removes caster’s status abnormalities.

This miracle is the rebuttal to the poison and disease that accumulated at the unclean valley bottom.

The demon is swarmed by countless flies that support it in battle and roam about its vicinity, similar to the leeches of the preceding boss. According to the deluxe edition art book, these flies are themselves demons and as much a part of the colossus as its main body. This isn’t surprising since the filthy woman mentions the various poison insects fattening themselves up on souls, implying that they too have become demons just like the Armor Spider in Stonefang Tunnel. The flies are merely an extension of the Dirty Colossus, collecting souls on its behalf. This is probably why the deluxe edition art book claims that the colossus is usually found around both fly nests and rotten areas where it can attract new flies. The demon’s “eroded” soul is actually one eaten away by insects, so its trash body serves as a lure for these bugs to nest and feast upon. The monster has been spoiled by them in the same way that the swamp has been ruined by them. It isn’t just noxious bugs plaguing the valley, it is all sorts of insects and natural phenomena causing the decay.

The fog has simply been creating physical incarnations of the rot that has amassed in this land, which reaches its zenith at the aforementioned graben. This last area that we can explore dumps all the uncleanliness from the giant swamp above to form another, smaller bog at the bottom. If we elect to jump down to this smaller swamp during the boss battle, we will be endlessly swarmed by rather alien creatures not even half our size. These demons look like mounds of flesh and bone vaguely made in the shape of babies, leading some to conclude that they are aborted fetuses. The truth is far less horrific. Though his English dialogue is incredibly misleading, Garl Vinland notices our fall and leaves us to “be devoured to death by the unclean.” The man is explicitly nominalizing and pluralizing unclean, so he must be referring to the only enemies found down there, namely these “babies” internally named “unclean ones”. (不浄なるもの) Garl isn’t telling us to die of the fall and be melted by acid, but to be consumed by the very unclean things referenced in the text for the valley’s Archstones.

Nature has been corrupted by man’s discarded pollution. The valley serves as proof that cleansing ourselves doesn’t eliminate these impurities, only diverts them elsewhere to fester. This includes man itself. The filthy woman describes the valley’s rot specifically as “human or otherwise” in her Japanese dialogue. Indeed, we come across plenty in the gorge — people who have built themselves homes and bridges out of the leftover materials in the swamp as evidenced by the small boats commonly docked by the trash islands. They have settled their own little village in the valley, and based on the Archstone used to reach it, they are descendants of the destitute nomads whose chief received one such stone. This begs the question: Who were these wandering poor and why did they apparently end up settling in this deathtrap? The answer lies in the old ring found among the trash down there. In a similar vein to the Graverobber’s Ring, its sapphire gem suppresses the body’s presence, making it difficult for others to detect the wearer — thus appropriately called the Thief’s Ring. These were criminals.

This place? This place’s a true trash dump. All things that rot away, human or otherwise, drain out here. Thankfully, I’m not lacking this child…

Recall that the Old One had destroyed much of the world during the First Scourge, meaning that countless countries were swallowed by the thick fog. This would have naturally produced huge swathes of refugees fleeing into the surviving lands, victims who had lost their homes and maybe their families — much like some of the Boletarians currently seeking sanctuary in the Nexus. The impoverished population would consequently skyrocket, but no nation would willingly adopt this many asylum seekers. These countries were already struggling against an encroaching fog harboring a demon horde; they didn’t need the added burden of increased hunger, crime, disease, and social unrest that a sudden influx of dispossessed migrants invariably brings. It is no surprise then that this swelling number of needy humans were pushed out of decent society and forced to wander the remaining world without anywhere to go. Their numbers would only grow as the calamity went on, until they were apparently sizable enough to be considered a society equal to the other kingdoms and tribes that the Monumentals chose to be the world’s anchors.

This society of poor nomads were led by a chief, whose Archstone portrays wearing a billed mask similar to a plague doctor. This implies the leader to be some kind of physician, but the flowing robes and ornamented veil suggest a more ceremonial role — the three figures portrayed below reinforce this impression. One wears a normal hood and some kind of ritual staff, flanked by two cuffed men wearing veils resembling hoods worn by medieval lepers or similar diseased persons. Taken together, these wandering poor seem to have consisted mainly of ailing convicts organized under the guidance of pagan priests or witch doctors. Given the traditional role of such holy men in aiding the needy and wicked, it is feasible for at least a few compassionate individuals to help cure the sick, relieve the penniless, and lead the sinful when others would not. This would earn the poor’s respect and prime these clergy to lead them in their exodus. Even if society at large rejected the filth of its lowest strata, people like their chief would not — they were the ones most vulnerable to the ills of the world and so most deserving of care.

Nevertheless, these wanderers were ultimately dregs that society excised. The relief at the top of the Nexus Archstone depicts a droplet before a flowing stream, again calling back to this Shinto imagery. They were unclean and unwanted despite helping mend the world. Lands were restored, borders were redrawn and fought over, cultures were rebuilt, yet still none would take in this caravan of displaced and deprived nomads. But with the soul arts banned, settling down was likely necessary for the pagan priests to continue caring for their ills. But where were so many paupers to go? Where wouldn’t they suffer the wraths of national armies? The one place that no one cares about: a dump. The Nexus Archstone text describes the dank valley as a “haven” for the abandoned — or “thrown away” — humans clinging to it. They are thus called the “depraved ones”, (腐敗人) which employs the same kanji for “rot” and is used to mean both literal putrescence and moral corruption. By seeking refuge down where actual trash drained out, the metaphorical trash too could find a home out of sight, out of mind. They were already poor, filthy, and sick, so what need they fear in a barren, grimy, diseased valley?

Although it may be their safe harbor from the rest of the world, it is still not an easy life down there. Their village is shoddily constructed at best; their beds, simple piles of plants or hay, devoid of any luxuries. Even though they built their village to live above the squalor, ramshackle homes don’t stop all the poison biters, bloodsuckers, and plague spreaders from infesting them. These deadly afflictions are part and parcel to living there, making the lotuses that the filthy woman promotes for sale a necessity to survive. And based on her inventory and the boats lying around the swamp, the villagers spend their days scavenging whatever scraps and junk they can find to eat or trade amongst themselves. This pathetic economy leaves most ill and hungry as exemplified by the filthy woman’s son. Since she speaks as if he is there with her while nowhere to be seen, some conclude that the woman is either lying or delusional. However, a cut model of a malnourished boy dressed in rags indicates that her son was originally intended to appear in-game, so he was likely removed due to concerns about players electing to kill children. We can thus assume that she is not a horrible liar when it comes to the “child” accompanying her.

While the filthy woman is trying to make an honest living, some are desperate enough to resort to more dubious means to get by. Piles of bodies around the village, some of which are already partially skinned, indicate the some have gone so far as to eat rats and dogs to get by despite the obvious health risks. Among some piles are even residents’ corpses, so the villagers seem to be fighting amongst themselves for a share, or worse. A female black phantom lurking in the swamp wears old raggedy robes indicative of another villager but wields the giant meat cleaver primarily used by the man-eating Adjudicator. Evidently, some have descended to cannibalism and hunt their fellow villagers scavenging the wetland — meat is meat, and it is survival of the fittest down there.

The valley’s trashed souls are a community with no obvious laws and thus free to do as they please. The filthy woman has a son but makes no mention of the father, suggesting that she was abandoned by her partner and possibly doesn’t even know who he is; she does brag about once being popular with men. Down in the valley, you are free to kill, ignore, or cavort with whomever without recourse — at least if you are physically stronger. But if the filthy woman’s circumstances are any indication, it is generally much harder for the fairer sex to scrape by, especially if caring for a child. Indeed, this mother’s internal name is “beggar (woman)”, (乞食(男)) mirroring that of Stonefang’s filthy man, so she was certainly designed with a reliance on people’s charity in mind. She has managed so far, but she still acknowledges the threat of the men she lives alongside, and she is helpless should we decide to end her life.

Where are the healers and spiritual guides who first organized them in all this? Surely they would at least enforce some order among the masses. But, they are probably dead and gone. If the chief and other pagan clerics were volunteers, then they were unlikely to have been supported by society at large, especially the new mainstream religion. Once they died, that was it; no one was coming to replace them. One of the filthy woman’s inferences should we leave without buying anything for her son is that we are content to let poor children die, as if it that is just the most natural thing in the world. In truth, it is. The men and women thrown away by the very world that they helped restore have been left to fend for themselves. They can rot for all society cares and have in fact suffered for centuries without relief. As the Japanese text for the Nexus Archstone words it, the villagers have been simply awaiting death in their miserable state. They were in desperate need of compassion, and it ultimately came in the form of a lone maiden and her faithful knight.

Pure Meets Impure

According to her Japanese profile, Sixth Saint Astraea embarked on a relief mission to Boletaria early on. Given her nature, the maiden probably wanted to bring aid to those still trapped within the thick fog as soon as possible. Her only companion on this journey was Garl, who is described as her “personal knight”. Given her status, assigning a Vinland as the holy woman’s attendant is sound logic on the part of the temple. Garl would act as her bodyguard while she attended to the needs of their flock suffering at the hands of demons. And because of their shared region of origin and similarly high familial and religious standing, the two must have at least been familiar with one another if not personally acquainted prior to this relief effort. Should the temple’s maiden be in danger of being “swallowed up by the power of souls”, Garl would purify the evil arts. This “guard” (ガルド) duty is likely why his original name is Gar. (ガル)

The “sincerest” Sixth Saintess. She was accompanied by the dark silver knight Gar Vinland and embarked on a relief journey. She headed for Boletaria in the early period and was last seen in the Rotten Valley.

And so, the pair set off for Boletaria. According to the filthy woman’s Japanese dialogue, Astraea and Garl first came to the valley several years ago, implying that they had already been performing their relief efforts for a few years by that point. And for a holy woman raised pure in every sense of the word, seeing how people on the opposite end of the spectrum lived must have come as quite a shock. The contrast is highlighted by the filthy woman, who chides us for treating her like a “maiden” in her Japanese dialogue should we try to kill her. This is a woman who bore child and is well-versed in the ways of the world thanks to her hard life, so she is insulted to be thought of as an innocent, helpless girl who doesn’t know that we mean her harm. That lived experience is a stark contrast to the life of privilege afforded to Astraea, who had probably been ignorant of such strife — luck also governs one’s resistance to diseases, after all.

It’s already been several years… The woman called Astraea came to this valley with a squid-like knight.

What are you doing! Don’t make light of me thinking me a maiden!

And then, she pondered: why were there people living in such squalor, cast off and ignored by everyone as they slowly suffered and died due to scarcity? Followers of God consider the valley to be “corrupted”, but for more than just the filth, hence the acolyte of God claims the valley to be full of malice. Still, the poor living there have been corrupted through no fault of their own. They are merely victims of poor circumstance, though the motives behind actions of some immersed in this corruption may be suspect. This leaves Selen perplexed as she finds the place to not be corrupted despite the uncleanliness. There is no malice in the actual state of the valley, which is consistent with corruption in Shinto but apparently runs counter to her worldview as a knight of the temple.

Of course, it’s a baseless rumor. That valley’s probably full of malice that defiles God…

Astraea likely faced a similar dilemma. The filthy woman claims that the maiden had looked down upon her and her son with total contempt, which left her unsurprised to later discover that she was a demon. However, the text for Astraea’s Archstone affirms that she only became one after her visit. Moreover, the Nexus Archstone text suggests that the maiden actually loved the poor. In all likelihood, the filthy woman had mistaken the saintess’ pity for scorn. Astraea was herself a high-ranking clergywoman who had maintained her purity her entire life, living as God wanted her to. But there the aristocrat saw how fortune favored her while damning others. How could she not find them pitiful? But she didn’t blame it on her good fortune, she blamed God.

She wore such clean, white clothes to a place like this, and looked at me and this child with her scornful eyes. Yes, a disgustingly bad lass from the start. Hearing that woman was a demon, I didn’t find it strange at all.

The virgin deity Astraea is also a goddess of justice, making “Saintess Libra” (聖女リーブラ) in reference to the Zodiac’s balancing scale of justice a fitting internal name for the maiden. The holy woman was undoubtedly possessed by a firm predilection to rectify inequities for the meek, one which she could not reconcile with the temple’s teachings. Astraea did not feel the evil in the corruption of the valley, only terrible injustice. And it made her question her blind faith. If God is good, why was He allowing such terrible suffering without provocation? What made them not deserving of His grace? How could He permit this severe injustice? Did He not see the world the same as her?

The original description for Relief notes that Astraea’s very “essence” is closer to the works of God than the malicious magic of most demons, and this can be seen with her only attack being the God’s Wrath miracle. Even after becoming a demon, Astraea was still pure at the core, with views that were supposed to be aligned with God’s will. It was because of the temple’s teachings about His will that she had embarked on a Relief mission in the first place. In that case, God surely recognized the injustice of this rotten valley just as she did, and yet He still had seemingly done nothing to correct it. What good and just God could just stand by for the most vulnerable among them? Her only answer was that He must be cruel. She knew what had to be done in order to right this wrong of the world. She knew better than the Him about how the world must be. She rejected any reality that permitted suffering.

Magic that manifested from the soul of the demon “Maiden Astraea”. Completely recovers touched party.

Even though becoming the most unclean demon, the essence of Astraea is closer to the arts of God.

The Sixth Saint thus renounced her status as a holy woman of God and devoted herself instead to a demon’s soul, living amongst those she pitied. The pure maiden chose to be sullied by their corruption in order to relieve them, reflected in Relief as completely healing the touched party. She committed the taboo. One possible implication of a “holy woman” is to possess a purity ignorant of spiritual corruption. This was a scenario where Garl Vinland was expected to step in and cleanse the maiden of her impurity, but the knight apparently shares her sentiments and still serves the demon as her bodyguard. That said, he is not a demon himself. Astraea repeatedly refers to him as “that human” in Japanese dialogue, and he will return as a dark spirit after being killed during the boss battle. This may be because of his dark silver equipment, which would theoretically harm him if he became a demon. Regardless, Garl already wielded extraordinary power for a human and is thus more useful to his charge as is.

Please, please turn back. Otherwise, that human shan’t go easy on you.

As to Garl’s motive for joining Astraea in defying God’s will, some have theorized that the two were in love, but this seems unlikely. While Astraea’s Japanese dialogue has her apologize for putting her knight in harm’s way, this is perfectly in-line with her character. Likewise, Garl’s loyalty isn’t unusual for a knight, especially when he parrots her intentions without any obvious deviation. Astraea does commit suicide if Garl falls in battle before her, but not because of him specifically. The maiden simply realizes that she has no hope of resisting us if we are able to defeat her far more powerful bodyguard, choosing to die on her own terms and maintain some dignity rather than be at our mercy. In fact, giving up and dying to join the man of her affections would go against her love and care for the valley’s denizens. No, Garl isn’t Astraea’s lover and probably wasn’t biased by any hidden affections. When Selen learns that the two had followed a path opposite of God, she laments that they both may have been too pure. Garl likely had a similar reaction to the valley as Astraea and simply agrees with her idea of justice.

Forgive me, Gar Vinland. Be safe.

Road to Oblivion

After Astraea became an archdemon and settled in the filth with them, the poor whom she showed compassion to began to revere her. The acolyte of God alleges the maiden to be deceiving the lower class, not just leading a “clan of degenerate miscreants”. The Japanese text for the Dirty Colossus Archstone further reveals that the graben with its rotten trees has been made a temple, where we can see the residents throw up their arms in reverence toward Astraea. The maiden has created a cult with herself as their god, reinforcing accusations by the acolyte and others of debasing God’s honor. She is close to God in nature and believes herself to be of superior moral judgment, so assuming His role only makes sense. Why shouldn’t she become the god of the needy if God won’t? She is more deserving of their praise than a creator who cares not for the suffering of His creation. She at least doesn’t oppose their veneration.

Have you heard the rumor of the Rotten Valley’s maiden, Astraea? It is said that she, along with her personal knight, desecrate God and deceive those of the lower classes.

Naturally, this new faith has developed its own religious authorities. Some depraved ones closer to Astraea wear ornately patterned robes and cast Poison Cloud, one providing us the shaman’s clothes. Majinaishi (呪い師) are spellcasters typically associated with religious rituals like tribal shamans or witch doctors, and this “shaman” attire refers to them as dubious, heretical spellcasters in its Japanese description, similar to the shadowmen. In other words, these “conjurators” (呪術師) lathered in foul-smelling tallow are holy ministers preaching the works of filth revealed to them by their demonic maiden. And all the members of this corrupt cult — namely the men enthralled with a beautiful, pure girl sincerely showing them compassion for the first time in their miserable lives — are desperate to please her. The fog has twisted their forms to give them larger, longer noses and pointed ears, making them look more like goblins than men. With this comes connotations of something more primal, base, and most of all greedy. They hunger for attention from their holy mother, and they will do whatever it takes to earn her favor.

Clothes of a dubious, heretical caster.

Bags to store junk are attached all over. Also, some sort of tallow is stuck to it and smells terrible.

And so, the valley became a living hell. A number of men have been impaled upon long pikes with many metal bits jabbed into them. As if that was tortuous enough, these corpses have been set aflame to light various areas of the valley in lieu of torches, especially in the area directly leading up to Astraea’s temple. Moreover, several of the twisted residents we face use long firelit pikes, leaving no doubt to who caused this. If there were any men who didn’t convert to the worship of the maiden, they met a tortuous end soon enough — and not just them. More than just have her child snatched away as the localization iterates, the filthy woman states that both she and her son will be attacked if they are spotted by Astraea’s followers. The two of them weren’t alone either, as none of the other locals still alive are women and children, only the male zealots and the dark spirit of a cannibal in the swamp. The Nexus Archstone text further reveals that anyone who happens to wander into the valley will also be attacked. The land has been taken over by a mob of “depraved” fanatics killing anyone including each other, leaving ominous implications for the rotten flesh fueling their campfires.

Anything and everything’s been the worst since that demon woman came, it has. The men look stupefied, incoherently mutter, and revere and support that woman; what’s more, if their eyes so much as meet mine, we’ll come under attack.

And why? For their souls, of course. If we don’t buy any of her wares, the filthy woman doesn’t ask if “that witch” sent us to harass her but demands we go and become “that woman’s offering.” The Nexus Archstone texts reaffirm that the attackers are offering souls to Astraea. As a demon, she is an intermediary of the Old One and so must collect souls on its behalf. But rather than rely on just the aid of demons or the soul-starved, the maiden employs her sane followers to gather them as offerings to their goddess. As to why these depraved ones are willing to go so far for Astraea? It goes beyond just her beauty, purity, and kindness. As the original text for her Archstone states, she became a demon not just to ease their pain but to take it away. She considers God cruel for allowing them to experience pain, so the solution is to eliminate that feeling. This is reinforced by the original name for Relief being kusai, (救済) which refers specifically to salvation from suffering in Buddhism. Therefore, the men of the valley worship the maiden and offer her souls on the promise that she will free them from their suffering.

Haven of those thrown away who cling to the damp valley.

The needy humans who have been covered in putrilage, afflicted by poison and disease, and simply awaited death are attacking those who have gone astray in the valley in order to offer souls to the woman who loved them.

You gotta be kidding, making a fool of me? Go become that woman’s offering!

Indeed, Astraea does free them, not just from their suffering but from “thought” which “brings pain” as the Dirty Colossus Archstone’s original text words it. Recall that the soul is the source of thought. Without it, one is a living husk that acts only on base instinct without any awareness or personality. For all intents and purposes, what makes you you is dead. In other words, the former Sixth Saint is taking the offerers’ souls along with their offerings, turning her worshipers into mindless monsters as reward for their service. Her answer to their suffering is to deprive them of any feeling whatsoever, both good and bad. She is spiritually lobotomizing them under the guise of relief. This is quite clearly Astraea’s intent as Resurrection restores spirits surrounding the caster to their physical bodies, making it a rebuttal to the corrupted former Sixth Saint. If life was so hard that the poor there could only wait for death to take them, then why not grant them their wish? Astraea has gladly removed the souls of her followers from their bodies in a show of mercy.

Keystone left by the demon “Dirty Colossus”.

In the depths of the swamp inhabited by poison jellyfish and giant slugs is a graben that deeply swallows all uncleanliness and was made a temple of rotten trees that reveres a demon. The needy men who willingly offer souls there are freed from thought, which brings pain.

Keystone left by the demon “Maiden Astraea”.

The former Sixth Saintess Astraea lived with those awaiting death at the Rotten Valley and devoted herself to a demon’s soul, not a cruel god, in order to take away their pain.

Their loss of souls may be why the filthy woman describes the men as looking stupefied and muttering incoherently in their worship of Astraea, but this can just as easily be attributed to their fanatical infatuation with her. Similar ambiguity is reflected when she laments “everyone” becoming “fools” if we up and leave her and then come back. However, the demon’s lack of ill intent doesn’t betray the reality of her actions. The filthy woman readily acknowledges that the valley is in the worst state it has ever been as a result of the maiden’s arrival. Some fans elect to disregard the woman’s testimony due to her later admitting that the valley was better when she was the target of men’s longing instead of Astraea, implying some jealousy. However, her bias doesn’t change the observable merits her arguments are founded upon. What little social order did exist in the valley was completely thrown out with the takeover of Astraea’s worshipers, making it more dangerous for the helpless women and children living there than ever before. Astraea can’t be ignorant of this fear and death which she has sown either.

Sheesh, what in the world, you. Everyone’s become fools.

Given that all outsiders are attacked, it comes as no surprise to discover that Astraea and Garl want the rest of the world to leave the valley alone. If we die to him, Garl’s Japanese dialogue warns us not to meddle with them and that they will respond in turn. The two also insist that they and everyone else in the swamp are simply living out their lives there quietly, wondering why we want to bring harm to their way of life when we had thrown away these people from the start. Astraea sees this as a sign of God’s cruelty and hatred for everyone living there, but the well-intentioned demon only proves herself to be either completely delusional or terribly short-sighted. What harm have they done to justify us taking her demon soul? By virtue of being a leader among demons, Astraea is complicit in the Old One’s efforts to exterminate the entirety of the human race. She has made the whole world her enemy in order to obtain the powers now at her disposal. The only way to overlook this fact is to ignore or not care for the implications of her siphoning the souls of her followers on the beast’s behalf.

Don’t meddle with us. If you don’t, we will have nothing to do with the likes of you.

Astraea and Garl’s hypocrisy extends beyond their behavior toward the outside. Are the maiden and knight themselves not outsiders who arbitrarily decided to meddle in the valley’s affairs? Did they not once consider why the dale’s residents have struggled to carry on their miserable lives for generations? None of them need help in ending them, they were perfectly capable of doing that themselves. The poor don’t specifically want to die, they just don’t want to experience a life of endless suffering. Like the chief who once led them, they endure today in the hopes of a better tomorrow. It is no surprise then that so many have flocked to a loving and charismatic figure like Astraea, but what has she actually done to improve their lot? Replace an inevitable physical death with a mental demise? That doesn’t uplift them from their sorry fate, merely deny them the possibility of ever escaping it. No one asked her to join them in wallowing in their filth, and the rest who’ve refused to join her cult are undoubtedly worse off now thanks to her zealots. Have she and Garl not considered the consequences of their actions?

The answer is that the two act to feel good rather than do good. Astraea may mean everyone in the valley no ill will, but the aristocrat is convinced that her idea of how things should be is for the best regardless of it actually brings about. That mindset is dangerous even if moved by pity. After all, the privileged elite arbitrarily deciding to exterminate everyone below the poverty line is terrifying no matter the motive behind it. Following the pattern with the area’s other bosses, Astrea’s soul can be used to create a spell representing the valley’s filth, though what’s generated isn’t a cloud of plague but of “death” itself, which naturally has strong toxicity to living things. The Japanese text further notes that the most unclean are those who accept the wholly unclean. While the essence of Astraea’s thoughts are pure good, their content is the most corrupt of all, bringing only death. In embracing the impure denizens of the valley, the pure maiden has gone on to commit the worst atrocities of any filth found there.

Magic that manifested from the soul of the demon “Maiden Astraea”. Generates cloud of death that carries extremely strong toxicity.

It is natural that what is the most unclean is that which takes in the wholly unclean.

Divine Obfuscation

As her profile expresses, Astraea and Garl were last seen in the Valley of Defilement, where the temple lost all contact with them. However, rumors did leak out of the fog of her desecration of God, so it wasn’t completely in the dark. That said, most God-fearing men and women are skeptical of these claims, believing them to be slander by the valley’s impoverished residents whose very existence defile God. Even Selen — who doesn’t judge the filthy woman to be a devious liar — cannot bring herself to believe the merchant’s claims about Astraea’s demonhood. After all, the maiden was the quintessential example of a servant of God. No one would suspect her of doing something so blasphemous as proclaiming herself a deity to the lower classes after becoming a demon. Still, the Acolyte of God expresses a sentiment likely shared by the temple: If these rumors are true, then she must be eternally punished for dishonoring Him. Either way, the temple needed a better handle on what was happening at the valley.

For this reason, the temple has sent many of its holy knights to Boletaria so they can confirm the true circumstances at the valley. These include renowned names like Vito, Risaia, and Selen. However, all of them were sent there “secretly”, likely so as to not lend credence to the rumors for the general public. Once the knights have confirmed the reality on the ground, they can deal with the situation right then and there before reporting back to the temple, where the priesthood can spin the public narrative as needed. If the rumors were the work of slanderers, they would be purged for their blasphemy. If Astraea truly was a demon cult leader, she would be put down before she did any serious damage to the temple’s reputation. But the sheer number sent already betrays the difficulty of this covert operation. None sent there have returned, and Urbain wonders if it is because the “will” of God simply doesn’t reach a corrupted land consumed with demonic malice in his Japanese dialogue. Such divine limitations are common in European fantasy settings depicted in Asian media, but the true reason is obvious.

Moonlight Knight Vito, Risaia of Istarelle, and then Selen Vinland. Many holy knights secretly entered Boletaria and headed for the Rotten Valley. Because whether malicious slander or not, the rumor of Astraea considerably disgraces God’s honor… But, none have returned. Is it that the will of God doesn’t reach that corrupted land full with only the malice of demons?

Many of these holy knights’ corpses are scattered about the valley from the village to the swamp. Countless more are piled up before Astraea at her graben temple much like the gold coins, vases, and goblets found surrounding her; evidently, they are all offerings. Like every other outsider, Astraea’s followers have been slaying those attempting to investigate the area. Risaia’s spear Istarelle can be found stabbed in the earth at the highest reachable point in the dale surrounded by three particularly large depraved ones. Vito’s Moonlight Greatsword is seen strung up by a rope in the village with countless large slugs hanging on in order to leech off it. These ominous setups indicate that they too were felled by the cult, and their missing bodies further implies them to have been among the offerings to Astraea. Some have posited that the Leechmonger and Dirty Colossus are derived from Risaia and Vito respectively given their relative proximity to each boss, but there is nothing particular to those character in either design or essence. The bosses are simply embodiments of the valley’s filth, while the two holy knights are simply wielders of renowned weapons.

Urbain is thankfully quick to surmise the actual cause. Although the localization chalks it up to the “fate” of those abandoned by God, he in fact infers it to be their “resentment”. The temple has thrown these people away, so why should they expect any warm welcome from the residents? The only cleric whom they have accepted is Astraea, and she has agreed that God and His followers have wrongfully left these people to rot. Anyone else is an enemy, and so they have all been killed by the time we arrive, save for one: Selen Vinland. To help find her brother and impart their father’s last will, she requests that we inform her of his whereabouts. However, we only do so after we slay them and bring proof of their sins, namely the knight’s family crest that his elder sister will immediately recognize. And we can only acquire said seal after Garl returns as a black phantom. This only highlights how telling Selen beforehand would have changed nothing. Garl may not have suffered throughout life like the depraved ones have, but he now shares in their grudge. For the knight has thrown away everything for the maiden he serves — even his future.

… Or is it the resentment of the humans thrown away by God…?