Deus Vult

Forossa, original name Forozza, (フォローザ) was a remote country far to the east of Drangleic, mainly known for constantly warring with its neighbors to the point that — based on Vengarl’s dialogue — the nation seems to have been perpetually at war. And to their credit, Forossans were well equipped for the task, boasting incredible military might thanks to their expertise in dual-wielding despite wearing heavy armor. Forossa’s Lion Knights had evidently trained to have both swift offense and resilient defense, making them perhaps the most optimized warriors in the setting. This endless assault on others seems to be a byproduct of their worship of the war god Faraam, or Farnam, (ファーナム) whose image appears to be emblazoned on the Lion Knights’ armor based on the actual set being named after him. Whether Forossan religion has their god compel them to fight or simply created a society that values their god’s sphere above all else, the end result is a nation primed for war and seemingly nothing else. That being the case, there is some level of tact to their warrior’s spirit elevating them above brutish thugs.

Forossa’s warriors were commanded by sages, wise men who practiced sorcery as evidenced by Azal’s Staff. These weren’t ordinary sorcerers either, as the description for the aforesaid staff notes that Azal was called a sage precisely because he was able to handle sorcery at such a high level with this magic tool. Much like the Tin Crystal Catalyst in DS1, Azal’s Staff dramatically increases the strength of spells while also dramatically decreasing their number of uses. In order to use this catalyst to its full potential, the caster must have incredibly talent with sorcery so as to not be completely drained after performing a few spells. Such was the case for Forossa’s sages, who had the wisdom and willpower to stand above the average sorcerer. But this in itself wasn’t the reason for giving them control over many warriors. Forossan wise men were known by the title of Northwarder, or Northman, (北人) and worshiped as agents of Faraam. This is due to them going through a rigorous journey, specifically to Drangleic.

Hood of a wise man of Forozza.

Forozza was a country that worshiped a war god, but the wise men who controlled many warriors were called Northmen and worshiped as agents of the war god. They are awarded their duties as Northmen after experiencing a rigorous journey.

The Northwarder set and Azal’s Staff can only be acquired at Eleum Loyce, implying that their journey ultimately ended there. Drangleic is, of course, a northern continent, and maps of the land suggest that the frozen nation must lie somewhere to the east beyond the Dragon Shrine. It is thus appropriate that another eastern nation like Forossa describe those who make the trek to far eastern Drangleic as Northmen. Moreover, the idea that Forossan sorcerers traditionally made a pilgrimage to Eleum Loyce to be awarded their titles and command of troops says a lot about the culture. The knights had to be led by people who were exceptionally wise but also tough, and this journey seems to have been intended to hone both of those qualities in them. Azal’s Staff looks to be crudely made from a large tree branch, yet all the same the sage endowed it with great magical power. This suggests that the wise man created it while out in the field on his journey, a product of Azal’s ingenuity as well as adversity. These sorcerers encountered who knows what on their travels, but it wasn’t easy and forced them to either get stronger or die trying.

Perhaps more importantly, the fact that these sorcerers come to Eleum Loyce indicates that the country was on friendly terms with Forossa — given that the country’s one and only king was once the highest-ranking knight of Forossa, this is unlikely to be coincidence. The underlying implication suggests that the sages journeyed to Eleum Loyce for training, and perhaps have done so since before the ivory kingdom’s founding. Alsanna affirms that Eleum Loyce was established to seal the Old Chaos, which had at the time been running rampant with the warped life that it produced. And then suddenly, the most prestigious knight of a distant foreign land appears and contains the rampaging flame. It is almost as if Forossa had known about this land beset by Chaos long beforehand. For this reason, the Northwarder tradition was probably specifically aimed at sages honing their skills in a land that was home to the monsters produced by the Flame of Chaos, predating and ultimately assisting Eleum Loyce in suppressing the flame.

How Forossa learned about the Old Chaos likely lies in Northwarders being considered agents of their war god. That notion implies that their rigorous journey to combat the threat of Chaos is the will of Faraam. And regardless of whether the god had actually directed the Forossans to do this or merely interpreted that to be the case, it begs the question: Who is Faraam and why would he care about the Old Chaos in Drangleic? The only hint that we are provided is in his depiction on the Lion Knights’ armor: an armored swordsman opposing a fire-breathing dragon. Even assuming that the artisan has taken liberties with their overall portrayal, it is notable that the dragon bears traits consistent with the archdragons rather than the far more prevalent wyverns. If this detail is intentional, then it excludes men who are only known to encounter wyverns like Knight King Rendal. The only figures known to do battle with archdragons are the gods from DS1. And only one among them was ever described as a war god specifically, namely Gwyn’s firstborn.

In that case, Faraam is simply the name that the Forossans have for Anor Londo’s disgraced king, who valued battle above all else. Perhaps they had inherited surviving stories of his covenant? Perhaps their ancestors had even actually met the god in person? Whatever the case, this gives them a connection to Drangleic, where remnants of their war god’s homeland can be found. Therefore, Forossa might consider the continent to be a holy land where their religion found its roots, similar to other countries. Conversely, the Flame of Chaos and its twisted offspring may have been viewed as desecrating this holy site, making it feasible for Faraam to want the Old Chaos suppressed. And so, Forossa made a tradition of sending sorcerers to combat the threat of the Old Chaos, which then gave them the wisdom and experience to command soldiers back home. This practice ended not long after Eleum Loyce froze over, hence why no evidence of Northwarders exists outside the ivory kingdom — that aspect of their culture disappeared before it could spread to the larger world. Anyone who did escape the destruction had likely devolved into the Lion Clan.

This “lion tribe” or “race” (獅子族) is found only in the Shaded Woods, implying that they are native to the area — Shaliquor’s dialogue in the game’s original script makes their settlement in the forest’s old ruins explicit, as does the area’s internal name “Beastmen’s Forest”. (獣人の森) However, naturally-occurring beastmen don’t exist as stated in the Dark Souls II: Design Works interview, with the developers instead suggesting that they were humans transformed by some “influence”; (影響) perhaps a curse. Indeed, the race inflicts curses upon attack, and exceptionally high curse resistance is characteristic of their equipment. The description for said equipment also notes their abrupt appearance in the historical record, implicating an unnatural origin. While it does also label them as “demi-humans”, (亜人) the description of their highly-refined weapons affirms them to be far too sophisticated for subhumans or even yokels — this is, or was, a developed people.

The forest stretches around the castle, but it looks pretty different now compared to long ago. The roots of the trees weren’t as spread out as they are now, and the old ruins weren’t buried.

The roots of the trees weren’t as spread out as they are now, and the ruins of the species called beastmen weren’t buried.

Their transformation certainly wasn’t their intention. The text for their equipment notes that the tribesmen try not to have any relation to humans, slaughtering any outsiders that they come across. This is allegedly because they hate being seen, implying that they are ashamed of their inhuman form. The curse-filled pots and dark scythe found in their territory further indicate attempts to remove a curse born of humanity; their continued failure suggests that strong personal emotions are the real underlying cause. If Velka’s crow-men in DS1 were originally humans twisted by their obsession with their god, then the same can be true for these lion-men. Therefore, the Lion Clan must have originally been humans from a civilization with a developed warrior culture and association with lions.

The only people who fit the bill are Forossan Lion Knights — only fitting since the king of beasts is a symbol of courage, strength, and military might. It is also more than reasonable for some Forossans to have tried escaping Eleum Loyce’s destruction by taking the warp point just outside the city, ending up at the Shrine of Winter. Stranded in overgrown Heiden ruins without any help from the motherland, these survivors would have struggled to stay alive in this dangerous forest. And with only memory of their heritage and faith in their war god to rely upon, it is only natural that they became deeply deluded with their cultural icons until they morphed themselves into a new race. Indeed, the shields of lion warriors bear strange red markings that the description infers to be proof of some faith, meaning that they must symbolize their war god. (a fact later confirmed in Dark Souls III [DS3])

In that case, there is no hope for these ardent believers to ever be freed of their curse. Even if they did manage to revert their forms, their primitive dress suggests that prolonged isolation has caused them to go native. This is reinforced by the symbol of their war god being an unrecognizable doodle, implying that their religion has warped over the years. (DS3 later reveals Faraam to have become a mad god for the barbaric tribe) The lion mage set also confirms that some of the survivors were sorcerers, likely Forossan sages. And considering the role of such wise men in Forossan religion, lion sorcerers likely serve as shamans for this warped faith. As for their leader, we come across a unique golden lion-man, staring at his petrified brethren with petrification-resisting troches on-hand. This setup conveys someone both concerned and in control, elevated within the group for perhaps that very unique appearance. Even the Fang Key acquired from another lion warrior gives off this tribal impression, and the purpose for this beast tooth is rather ominous.

Robe of the sorcerer of the Lion Tribe.

The Lion Tribe are a race that are called subhumans, but their form abruptly shows up in history from a certain time as if they appeared from the bottom of the earth.

The key opens a wooden door in the remains of a medieval-style stone chamber unlike the rest of the Shaded Woods ruin, likely built by the Forossans before their transformation. The Lion Clan has apparently repurposed it as a prison since Ornifex is locked inside against her will. But why? The English description indicates that the key was made by some dilettante due to the Japanese dourakumono (道楽者) literally meaning one who enjoys pastimes like a hobbyist. However, the term more commonly refers to someone who is lazy or indulges in carnal pleasures like a libertine. Considering that all the lion-men we encounter are seemingly male, this holds alarming implications for the corvian woman — thankfully, the basilisks invading the tribe’s territory petrified the key’s owner along with so many others before she came to any harm. Whether rounding her up for sustenance or pleasure, such savage behavior shows that these estranged Forossans have become bestial in more than just appearance. Their smithing and their religion are the only remnants of this once proud culture.

War Heroes

Naturally, Forossa has produced its fair share of heroes. One among them is Shieldless Lothian, who earned his nickname for risking his own life on the battlefield without the safety of a shield. His bold belligerence paid off, as he never lost a battle and rose through the ranks from an impoverished citizen to general during his service. His continued success with this style appears to be in part due to his rings. The Stone Ring greatly reduces the enemy’s poise when the equipper’s attacks hit while the Ring of Giants boosts the equipper’s poise. In other words, Lothian had the tenacity to take hits while also taking maximum advantage of gaps in his opponent’s own defenses. And if nothing else, to flinch the enemy while being unflinching creates a formidable all-out offensive. It is no wonder that this brave man became such a legend. Lothian’s success story may well be the inspiration for the Lion Knights’ own preference for fighting without a shield, even.

Ring beloved by Shieldless Roshan, hero who was once in the land of Forozza. Boosts the equipper’s tenacity.

Roshan is a character of success stories who suddenly rose from impoverished to general. As his nickname indicates, he never carried a shield and always went to battle at risk of his own life.

But the unrivaled hero apparently lived for battle itself and eventually tired of human opponents. Lothian eventually left the battlefield, where his homeland and the wider world lost track of him. This was allegedly because he sought to slaughter a legendary dragon. The lightning damage dealt by the Dragonslayer’s Crescent Axe the warrior beloved supports this, though it is possible that this element was imbued in the weapon since his time in the army; they are worshipers of a lightning-wielding war god after all. If the Faraam set portrays Gwyn’s firstborn battling an archdragon, then it stands to reason that Lothian’s quarry were the beasts hunted by his god. In that case, he may have been seeking Sinh, the archdragon central to the teachings of Lindelt’s Archdrake Sect. Regardless, his journey to hunt dragons with the power of sunlight might be why his original name is Roshan, (ローシャン) which is Persian for “bright light”. As to where he went, he probably died in Drangleic.

Both of Lothian’s rings are acquired from the area. Although the Ring of Giants is almost always obtained from actual giants, we can also obtain one from Gavlaan, so that it specifically may originate with Lothian. Another is with an ogre in Things Betwixt. It is possible that he ultimately ended up at Forossa’s stranded colony, since his axe can be obtained from the Shaded Woods. However, this issue is complicated by Creighton wielding an identical axe sans the lightning enchantment. Perhaps Creighton’s weapon is merely a replica based on the old stories, but it nonetheless opens up the possibility of the axe we acquire being simply a more convincing fake — perhaps brought to Drangleic by a Lothian enthusiast after his death. If Lothian was in Drangleic, however, he may have heard the stories of Sinh or had been aiming for the Shrine of Winter to combat the Old Chaos. Whatever the case, the hero is evidently long gone while his story yet lives.

Gordin has a far more easily verifiable time and place of death. The man was a wandering knight of Forossa who became a famous swordsman like everyone else who had wielded his blade before him. The Majestic Greatsword is clearly the Abyss Greatsword wielded by Artorias in DS1 after time has taken its toll upon it. Even so, the sword is no less powerful, although corruption by the Abyss still deprives it of its previous holy power. Otherwise, its description notes that all of the sword’s owners were left-handed swordsmen, confirming implications about Artorias’ dominant hand from the previous game. None of this tells us much about Gordin’s life in Forossa, though the fact that the knight ultimately decided to wander other lands indicates a similar motive to Lothian. If he knew about the origin behind his blade, it has since been lost in the present era. The only thing its description can confirm is that the old blade stopped in the same place as its owner’s death.

Old sword of unknown origin. It passed through many owners to the wandering knight of Forozza Gordin, but that ceased with his death.

The users all became knights who earned a name, but it is said that they were left-handed swordsmen.

We acquire the Majestic Greatsword from a chest in Brume Tower. Though the particular tower it is located in doesn’t have an obvious purpose, the fact that the sword is there implies that Gordin came to Drangleic and died at the Old Iron King’s ironworks. More than likely, the wandering knight had been among the many foreign guests welcomed by the monarch, who was himself a sword enthusiast. Like Alonne, Gordin may have even assisted the king in battle against Venn, dying in defense of the border territory or during the chaos that followed the king’s demise. Perhaps Gordin hoped to find a powerful king worthy of his loyalty similar to how Artorias served a mighty king of his own; the parallels between the Iron King and Gwyn reinforce this notion. But even if the knight was simply indulging in a little fun before moving on to the next battlefield, his blade hasn’t wandered without him. If only the same could apparently be said for one’s body.

Though we encounter him as a severed head and the rest, Vengarl was once a brave warrior of notable fame, or perhaps infamy. Despite being on the same side, even the Lion Knights dared not to stand near the mad warrior. This was because the knight behaved like a wild beast on the battlefield, which wasn’t helped by his helmet being made to resemble one — not to mention him wearing bear skin as a shawl. But for a man who knew only fighting for his entire life, he threw his all into it. That fiendish ferocity made him exceptionally strong, as his thick and heavy sword demonstrates. According to the Red Rust Sword’s description, it was originally part of a trial of strength, meaning that it wasn’t designed to actually serve as a weapon but challenge knights to try even lifting it. Vengarl, however, wielded it with ease and thereby made it his weapon of choice. Given that there is also a Red Rust Scimitar with the same description, this may have been done with several trial swords. He also engraved the number of heads he has taken in battle on the face of his Rest Rust Shield, which likely helped to intimidate foes as much as entertain Vengarl. Based on the etchings, the count is at least thirty.

Armor of the brave warrior of Forozza, Vangar.

It is said that Vangar was known as a ferocious and fiendish warrior and that even the daring set of Forozza’s Lion Knights kept their distance in spite of being allies.

If all of this and his Japanese name Vangar (ヴァンガル) in obvious reference to the English “vanguard” (ヴァンガード) is any indication, Vengarl wreaked absolute havoc on the front lines in whatever battle he entered. Among his opponents were apparently magic knights of Mirrah since he sells their spell Magic Barrier — a spoil looted from his victims. He also seems to have made use of both Golden Pine Resin and Lightning Urns, reinforcing the notion that Forossa worshiped Gwyn’s firstborn and thus had access to the sun god’s power; it must have been incredibly useful for battling armored opponents. The fact that Vengarl even sells Destructive Greatarrows may further imply that he wasn’t above destroying an opponent’s armor outright from a distance, but he neither sells nor uses a bow in-game. Regardless, the knight had the size, strength, and courage to become a hero like Lothian and Gordin. He would also be the last brave warrior that Forossa ever produced.

Worn Apart

Unfortunately for Forossa, its war machine couldn’t support itself indefinitely. Without any obvious progress in its invasion, the country exhausted itself both militarily and likely economically until it finally collapsed. Descending into chaos, the remote land became a lawless zone dominated by banditry. Its citizens had to survive and knew only battle, so it comes as no surprise that they turned on each other to protect themselves or their families. But without a new unified state emerging from the ashes, many of these outlaws traveled to other lands to pillage resources elsewhere, somewhere less competitive. Among the places these former nationals scattered to was Drangleic since we can acquire a fair number of weapons connected to them at various parts of the continent. As for the Lion Knights, they became mercenaries in the wars of different countries, and Vengarl was no different. The former knight was eventually hired by the kingdom of Drangleic to help combat the giant incursion.

Helmet of many bandits in the remote region of Forozza.

The whole region of Forozza that was destroyed as a result of war ended up becoming a lawless zone. Its people fell to banditry and scattered to various places.

Axe of many bandits in the remote region of Forozza. Solid make for a thief’s specialized weapon.

The people of Forozza, which was destroyed by war, scattered and many lost themselves to wild thievery to live. The knights became mercenaries and threw themselves into the wars of various countries.

According to Vengarl, he grew attached to the soldiers he fought and nearly died alongside despite only being a hired sword. He holds King Vendrick in particularly high esteem, even using more respectful language when mentioning him in Japanese dialogue. This brotherly bond on the battlefield gave him his own stake in the kingdom’s future, but it tells us so much more. Vengarl relates that his life of endless war blinded him to any other path besides it, and it is only after he was forced to experience peace that he came to realize his fatigue with fighting. The humanizing feelings that the mercenary experienced were likely the first hints to him craving deeper relationships with his fellow man than just kill or be killed. But the former knight would never deepen those bonds with his comrades. During a relentless battle in seemingly the Shaded Woods, Vengarl was beheaded. This would have been the end of his tale had he not turned Undead, though his cause of death still brought him misfortune.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care for what became of this country. I was a hired body, but I had comrades who survived the verge of death with me. And then that king… that personage… But, I’m certainly happy with this. What did happen at the end of the fighting…?

While his helpless head has come to love calmly loitering around the forest as the ages passed, his body has continued to battle out of presumably instinct. This is notable since it implies that the head acts as another major center for the soul, which makes sense considering the brain is the location of the mind and required blood pumped from the heart like any other organ. Vengarl’s consciousness has remained with the soul in his head and evolved intellectually over time while the soul in the body continues to act on is instincts from before death. Despite the disconnect, Vengarl still dreams of his body’s violent actions and can feel when it is defeated, meaning that the fragmented soul still maintains an at least weak connection. And once the wild body is incapacitated, Vengarl can use that bond to regain full control of the stray soul, hence why we can summon both parts as one after defeating the body.

Before that though, Vengarl is left to just observe world without really knowing the exact fate of either his body or the battle and kingdom he fought in. He has mellowed out over the years, acting far more congenial than his history would suggest. And he enjoys it, which may make him a microcosm for Forossa as a whole. Like Vengarl, the country has known only endless fighting with everyone around it, exhausting itself in battle after battle. Vengarl received relief and even fulfillment taking a breather from war. Had Forossa done the same, it may well have survived and perhaps flourished with a richer culture. But just like Vengarl, the nation never noticed these other valuable elements in the midst of battle and lost what little it did have. Now only a meager, dispossessed people remains to scavenge ruins, perhaps with the hope that their culture will one day find new life after a break. (a hope which DS3 ultimately answers) Forossa’s warriors’ traditions ended with it, but its legacy carries on.