Although understandably overlooked by fans trying to jump from one Lord of Cinder to the next, the Catacombs of Carthus still provides some of the most charming bits of worldbuilding in all of Dark Souls III, combining various elements from past games into something truly novel for the series and fantasy games as a whole. This elevates the area above the generic crypt level, though I would argue that the execution is far less successful than it was with the Catacombs and the Tomb of the Giants of the original Dark Souls. (DS1) However, so long as we are willing to look past the trite aesthetic, we can still find a true diamond in the rough to excite the imagination.
The Blood-Red Dunes
Some have put forth the notion that Carthus has replaced or succeeded the Dark Souls II (DS2) nation of Jugo, and there are definitely good reasons to make the connection. Both were desert nations identified by their warriors and pyromancers, and no such country is ever referenced in the Old World. Moreover, the regions surrounding Drangleic had a much more lenient stance concerning magic overall. One would be hard pressed to imagine the Way of White permitting heretical pyromancy to be widely practiced in Carthus. By contrast, the holy powers that be in Jugo’s part of the world didn’t have such a stranglehold over the magical culture, leaving both pyromancy and sorcery generally accepted and even taught alongside one another. And given that Jugo is never once mentioned in DS3 despite the presence of one of its desert pyromancers in-game, it is quite possible that Carthus was the country that emerged after Jugo’s implicit dissolution in the events since DS2.
We never encountered any warriors of Jugo in DS2 besides Benhart, who wielded his own unique blade, but Carthus soldiers were known for wielding curved swords — including curved greatswords, kukri throwing knives, and shotels — and enhancing them with sharp gems conducive to dexterous swordsmen. These weapons were all designed with one goal in mind: to give their swordsmen as much cutting power without weighing them down. The result of these surprisingly light curved weapons and leather shields was a quick and agile sword technique that led enemies around like a “cloud of sand”, making the far more commonly weightier soldiers of other nations struggle to keep up. And once struck, the blows almost guaranteed they would die of the profuse blood loss from their wounds if not the initial cut. Carthus blades were thus dyed scarlet as much because of their effectiveness in bleeding opponents as the Carthus soldiers’ use of a viscous plant secretion to amplify said effect.
Pyromancy of Carthus, country of the sand. Enhances right-hand weapon with fire.
Supplementary pyromancy appropriate for Carthus, which was made up of the curved swords of swordsmen.
Ring of swordsmen of Carthus, the country of sand. Raises rolling evasion ability but also increases damage received.
It is said that the sword technique of Carthus that freely uses curved swords leads enemies around in combat like a cloud of sand. And so, they are associated with the name of High King Wolnir, who swept across many countries.
If Jugo warriors fought like this, we will never know, but the Carthus shotel in particular bears mentioning due to the blade’s origins. The shotel was invented by Earl Arstor back in DS1 and thus was unique to his homeland of Carim. In DS2, this same shotel could only be found in the collection of forgotten trash and obscure debris known as the Gutter, with Arstor having been a forgotten quantity in the region. In other words, it continued to be a rather obscure weapon that wasn’t widely used and certainly not associated with any of the known countries in the New World. Therefore, the shotel had likely been reinvented in Carthus as a byproduct of its culture’s emphasis on curved weaponry, regardless of whether that culture was a carryover from Jugo or not. Instead, we must turn to its pyromancy for remnants of the desert nation from DS2.
As the description for their pyromancy tome relates, Carthus pyromancers didn’t have cultural exchange with others and thus their conjury went in unique directions. For example, Acid Surge was previously invented by an anonymous pyromancer from some remote land outside the Great Swamp in DS1. The spell can later be reinvented by the prodigal sorcerer Straid using the soul of a filthy rat as materials in DS2. In both cases, it was never widely adopted by any nation or tribe. But Carthus ended up reinventing the exact same spell, and we can infer where they received the inspiration. Jugo was already familiar with this tactic of corroding enemy equipment with powerful acid well before this other desert nation developed a pyromancy for it, a parallel too great to be a mere coincidence. If Carthus was Jugo’s successor, then it is only natural that it would eventually create a spell revolving around the concept — far more cost-effective than trying to extract the acid from giant ants.
Pyromancy book of Carthus. Pyromancies for battle are jotted down in it.
Can learn superior pyromancies of the Great Swamp by giving it to a pyromancy teacher.
Pyromancers of Carthus didn’t have cultural exchange with others. It is said that their pyromancy achieved unique developments.
But Carthus pyromancy developed in a unique direction from even Jugo. The most basic of its pyromancies is Carthus Flame Arc, previously seen in DS2 as Flame Weapon — a creation of Straid using the soul of the Witch of Izalith. If Carthus didn’t borrow ideas from other countries, then why did they create a spell associated with the founder of pyromancy? The answer is because it is so rudimentary. Even the spell’s DS2 description alludes to its conceptually identical nature to the sorcery Magic Weapon, so anyone even vaguely familiar with magic could think of applying the basic concept to pyromancy. But if so, why has no one else thought to do so besides Straid with the influence of Izalith’s soul? Because Carthus alone had a culture conducive to such a spell. Pyromancers of the Great Swamp have used hand axes that deal primarily with the dense foliage of a marshland, not soldiers on any given battlefield. And in Jugo’s part of the world, pyromancy was lumped together with sorcery and thus primarily learned by wielders of a staff, not a sword. Even Jugo’s desert pyromancers were “sorcerers” who wielded fans to rouse flame.
It was only Carthus that had warriors wielding both the sword and the flame, prompting them to combine the two. This may even be a direct result of events in DS2. Though all the Jugo pyromancers that DS2 introduces us to are women, the desert pyromancer set of DS3 makes it clear that such sorcerers were only “mostly” of the feminine persuasion. And considering that so many of these women moved to Earthen Peak in DS2, that male minority may have since become the majority, a majority less likely to rely on having a captivating physical appearance over more conventional tools of combat. And with so many desert pyromancers lost from the homeland, many more would have to take their place, even if they had been primarily swordsmen rather than sorcerers. In short, the massive exodus of female pyromancers from Jugo and need to replenish their ranks may well have the sowed the seeds for Carthus to develop Flame Weapon among other such unseen but practical pyromancies.
These seeds were of course fertilized by Carthus’ aggressive culture. Even assuming that it derived from the existing warrior spirit found in Jugo, Carthus took it a step further. The pyromancy kept as its most closely guarded secret was Carthus Beacon. Unlike the prior two spells, it not only served to maximize a Carthus soldier’s lethality, increasing the damage dealt by the chain of attacks common to their swordplay, but also served as a signal fire. Whenever a Carthus pyromancer was seen enveloping themselves in the spell’s peculiar flame, its armies and their commanders understood it to mean that they were to begin the attack, hence the Japanese for “beacon” is “signal fire”. (烽火) The result was them suddenly and aggressively sweeping across the land like a fire, without the enemy receiving any forewarning. Attentive minds may even note the efficiency of making a preparatory exercise their signal.
Pyromancy of Carthus, country of sand. Its most secret thing.
Attack power boosts as attacks continue in succession.
Carthus’ aggression was like a fire, and the signal fire was a signal for battle in time immemorial.
All around, Carthus pyromancies, like its weapons, reflect a culture built solely around warfare, and it didn’t care for the rules of engagement. The Carthus ethos was to do whatever was necessary to achieve victory, regardless of conventions. Why create a spell to melt an enemy’s equipment and potentially them along with it? Because you would win. While such tactics might be perceived by the larger world as dishonorable for knights or warriors, the Carthus swordsman only saw honor in winning. As the description for Acid Surge relates, what honor is there in dying exposed to your enemy because you detest their methods? If such “underhanded” tactics meant that you survive and they don’t, why not use it? It is unlikely that Carthus had made many friends thanks to this mindset, but they didn’t need any. War was their diplomacy, and they would grow their empire through conquest in the name of their king.
King on High
Wolnir is synonymous with Carthus, to the point that it is difficult to separate the country’s militaristic tendencies from him. Despite the English description for his crown describing him as the “Carthus conqueror”, there is no evidence of him taking over the kingdom as an outsider, and the Japanese description only references him by his later title of High Lord, or “High King”. (覇王) Whether this makes him the founder of Carthus or simply its only ruler of note, his kingdom’s militant stance was perfectly aligned with his own interests. After gaining power, Wolnir and his armies swept over many neighboring kingdoms and “destroyed” them all, emphasizing the violence and ruin Carthus brought with these conquests. Indeed, the cut description for the ominous skull chalice which brings us to Wolnir claims it to be the cranium of a noble king, indicating that the King of Carthus had his enemies heads turned into his drinking cups. This is an obvious allusion to the infamously brutal Japanese warlord Oda Nobunaga, which only enhances Wolnir’s own image of ruthlessness.
Sinister cup made using the skull of a noble king.
It is said to have been once placed on the altar of the catacombs, but its origins are uncertain.
A sinister air emitting from the cup itself captures the hearts of the viewers as if dragging them into the world of death.
Alongside this brutality was a profound indifference to the divine. Conquest made Carthus extremely rich if the copious amounts of jewelry decorating its soldiers is any indication. And among these spoils of war was a holy sword and stolen from clergymen he killed. Raiding a church of its relics and slaughtering its holy men would surely been seen as sacrilege, but Wolnir clearly made no distinction between soldier or cleric. Recall that Carthus philosophy dictates that you do whatever to win. By that same token, whatever isn’t needed to achieve victory is worthless, and Wolnir had no need for the gods or their holy power. There was nothing that they could do that he and his armies could not, so why pay them reverence? Combined with the lack of miracles among its arsenal, and Carthus probably wasn’t a very religious nation — although faith was at least required to perform all of its pyromancies. And again, the nation didn’t follow arbitrary rules which weren’t to their benefit. Whether you were king or cleric or soldier, all would be swept up in the fire of Wolnir’s war.
Once his conquests were finished, all these countries were united under one crown with him as their “High King” standing above their previous rulers. While some interpret the description of the crowns becoming one as literal, this seems unlikely. For one, the notion that Wolnir destroyed the actual crowns is challenged by the skull chalice, which retains a crown-like headpiece upon the noble king’s uncapped cranium. Rather than crushing their crowns to dust, his crown’s description can simply be read as the conqueror destroying the actual kings — one doesn’t conquer a piece of headwear after all. Even if we assume that the crowns were destroyed, it would be incredibly unlikely for a rather well-proportioned crown like Wolnir’s to be comprised of many crowns, especially since all the kings presumably wore ones of similar sizes going by the description of their “equally” bestowment. It is far more likely that the crowns becoming one is figurative for him uniting these various states into a singular empire, hence Wolnir’s desire to be a King of higher status, unequaled.
Crown of Wolnir, High King of Carthus.
It is said that these were equally given to various kings once, and that Wolnir subjugated and destroyed them all. Then the crowns became one, and he became High King.
Which states these were and how they were managed goes unmentioned, though his looted holy relics might indicate the holy capital of Lindelt to be among the victims. Indeed, if Carthus was the successor to Jugo, then it is possible for many of the countries west of it to have been Wolnir’s prey. Mirrah is the only nation from DS2 referenced by name in DS3, and even these references don’t entirely clarify if it still exists. With no new items updating us on its history, this eastern country constantly assailed by Jugo among others may have finally been crushed underfoot by Carthus. There is certainly evidence of Wolnir reaching as far as Drangleic — an anonymous swordsman staying at Carthus as the High Lord’s guest wielded the Black Blade. Fans may notice that this sword is identical to the Berserker Blade of DS2, which was only wielded by enemies wearing the aptly named Mad Warrior set. These enemies were foreign mercenaries only found in the territory of the Old Iron King, their country already long forgotten by the previous game’s era. In other words, Wolnir’s guest was most likely one of these berserkers.
Petite katana of a swordsman who was known as a guest of High King Wolnir. The katana with black luster is thick, but shorter than normal katana.
It is said that the swordsman wielded this and had command of a novel sword technique. Remnants of that can probably be seen in its strong attack.
If Carthus extended so far as to host a guest from Drangleic, then the continent may have been among the subjugated regions. Even if not, why Wolnir entertained such a guest can be inferred from his weapon. Katanas are slightly curved swords, so Wolnir might have thought to incorporate his guest’s weapon and techniques into his military’s arsenal, similar to how the Old Iron King used his katana-wielding visitor. The High King wasn’t as hospitable to his guest, however. The Black Blade is found hiding within a mimic at Carthus, suggesting that Wolnir had the swordsman killed once he was satisfied and then locked it away, safely securing his new toy and potential military secret; to be fair, the berserker was presumably Undead and thus a hazard anyway. Still, if his treatment of his guests is anything to go by, Wolnir probably wasn’t very hospitable to the lands he conquered either. Perhaps it was inevitable that such an amoral country like Carthus would end up falling to the Dark.
Dark in Death
Somewhere down the line, Wolnir fell to the Abyss. This too can likely be credited, at least in part, to his guest. Most of the berserkers in DS2 are encountered specifically at Brume Tower, which had become haunted by a child of Dark. In that case, Wolnir had an eye witness to regale him stories of this abyssal abomination and the black flames she wielded, stories that would undoubtedly intrigue him. Recall that New World culture didn’t have the same reflex aversion to the Dark like the regions dominated by the gods do. Many deemed it taboo, but that meant some did not. And as country whose only standard was what it could use to have power over others, Carthus had no need for that bias. If there was power which could improve the country’s pyromancy, he wanted to know it — especially if its source is unknown to people at large as Black Flame’s description indicates. And the events at Brume Tower definitely had an influence on this development.
Pyromancy that the pyromancers who became gravekeepers discovered after High King Wolnir fell to the Abyss.
Generates a large, black flame in hand.
It is said that the black flames produced from the Abyss don’t produce a shadow, and that nobody knows. “That it is the fire of humanity.”
After familiarizing himself with the Abyss, Wolnir discovered dark pyromancies, the description for Black Serpent indicating it to be the first of such spells. Fans may recognize this pyromancy as a Dark version to DS2’s Fire Snake pyromancy created by Eygil, onetime overseer of Brume Tower. How convenient that the High Lord just so happened to recreate that spell with Dark magic, a spell which the magic caster had invented in the hopes of ultimately granting fire its own will — the very thing the Dark of humanity sparks in its flames, as the Black Serpent’s description points out. In all likelihood, Wolnir took Eygil’s existing research at the tower, either directly or through his guest, and built upon it to its completion, using the knowledge of the Abyss his guest provided. Much like the Old Iron King whom Eygil served, the similarly belligerent and affluent High King sought to create living flames. And much like his predecessor, this came with its own share of problems.
Pyromancy that High King Wolnir discovered in the Abyss. It became the beginning of the gravekeepers’ black pyromancies.
Dispatches black flames as if they run the land undulating.
Be it sorcery or pyromancy, the arts that come in contact with humanity arrive at the same place. That is, they seek a will there.
There has been much confusion over why the only part of Carthus we can explore is just the catacombs and not the entire desert civilization, even more so why Wolnir and his troops have joined the ranks of the dead and who killed them. Surely the lands drifting around Lothric would have brought the entire city, not just its crypt? This has led some to posit that Farron’s Undead Legion are to blame. We enter the Catacombs of Carthus from the Farron mausoleum built atop them, and Hawkwood mentions that the Abyss Watchers were willing to bury an entire country in order to stop the Abyss. Wouldn’t this mean that the legion destroyed Carthus and buried its people on the spot, building their base atop its remains? Not necessarily. Why would the Abyss Watchers bother to respectfully bury a civilization that had allowed the Abyss to fester, let alone embrace it? And if the legion was responsible for Carthus’ destruction, then there would be no Abyss and certainly no reanimated skeletons of its dabblers. However, one trip through the catacombs proves this can’t be further from the truth. Farron is not the reason.
The reason is because the Catacombs are the city of Carthus. Like almost all other countries in Dark Souls, Carthus was in all likelihood originally a city state, only later becoming a multi-state empire. And Wolnir intentionally turned that original capital from a metropolis into a necropolis. The Japanese description for Wolnir’s soul doesn’t state that he was “keen to outlive” all the people he had killed as the localization puts it. Rather, he ultimately aimed for becoming the “last of the dead”. Put another way, Wolnir had offed countless people before finally deciding to off himself. He wanted to be in his current skeletal form. Various item descriptions also reiterate Carthus citizens becoming the grave wardens for the Catacombs. Why would its pyromancers and squires dedicate the rest of their lives to taking care of their fallen nation’s tombs unless it was not really fallen at all? Everything we see is as Wolnir willed it to be, converting his own country into a massive tomb complex — fitting that his country share a name with Karthus, (カーサス) an undying spirit who likewise embraces death in the popular MOBA game League of Legends.
Soul of High King Wolnir. One of the atypical souls tinged with power.
Can either use to acquire a vast amount of souls or extract its power via molding.
It is said that the High King of Carthus who amassed a great many deaths eventually wished to be the last of the dead.
The emergence of these grave wardens followed Wolnir’s fall to the Abyss, implying that Carthus becoming a kingdom of the dead and his discovery of the Dark are directly connected. Indeed, Dark and death do bear a close relationship. But more importantly, death comes with a form of immortality that would allow Wolnir to maintain his power for perpetuity — if Nito could think of it, why not him? This way, his kingdom could wield the tremendous power of the Dark forever without dealing with undeath and hollowing. It was an ingenious solution, but not without its problems. Contrary to his continued use of it, Wolnir was in fact afraid of the Dark he was experimenting with. For that reason, he relied upon the holy power of the gods for the first time in his life by wearing and wielding the holy relics that he had stolen, which highlights how shameless the man really is. He never paid respect to the gods his entire life, but once he was met with a power that even he couldn’t entirely control, he clung to them.
Pyromancy book of the gravekeepers. Book of the Catacombs of Carthus.
Can learn black flame pyromancies by giving it to a pyromancy teacher.
It is said that, after High King Wolnir of Carthus fell to the Abyss, the pyromancers became gravekeepers and discovered black fire.
Whether his embrace of death was out of reverence or fear for the Dark, his fear had most certainly led him to utilize the powers of both light and necromancy. For the former, we see him use both the aforementioned holy relics and the skull chalice. This cut item would have been named “Holy Remains”, (聖遺骸) suggesting that this noble king had been blessed by the gods or at least absorbed some of their power in the course of living a pious life. Either way, Wolnir had clearly known about this fact and decided to use that power to his advantage. It is through this cup on an altar that we are pulled into the Abyss where Wolnir resides. This Abyss is evidently in no existing part of the Catacombs, the terrain instead resembling a desert cavern. This suggests that the High King used the holy goblet as a medium to seal his fear in a pocket dimension. Creating a dimensional space and linking that space to an object isn’t unprecedented for the gods’ magic, as the painting world so aptly demonstrates. What is more intriguing is Wolnir’s presence within it.
More than likely, the High Lord has chosen to reside there of his own volition in order to increase his power, much like the Four Kings in DS1. The chamber housing the central altar and its preceding hall are uniquely decorated with luxurious cloths and detailed wall carvings among other ornaments, giving it more an air of a throne room than a ritual place. We see also Wolnir continue to use the Dark as a weapon during his boss battle, with the Dark mist he spews having gathered inside his rib cage, likely due to the prolonged exposure. Concept art goes even further in portraying his immersion into the Abyss, depicting his entire skull and back of the body as being layered in this Dark fog. Likewise, dark pyromancy spreads to the grave wardens afterwards, and we can even find the corpse of one such warden carrying a tome detailing some of the spells they discovered laying before Wolnir in the Abyss. By all accounts, Wolnir seems to be in control of the Dark and perfectly capable of bringing others in or out of his dimension from the altar room, like us. So long as he has his trinkets, he is confident that the Abyss won’t consume him or his kingdom.
With a solution to his biggest fear decided on, the only thing left is to turn his empire into a kingdom of death. Aside from his apparent knowledge of pyromancy and later Dark arts, Wolnir had also learned necromancy as demonstrated by the skeletons he can raise during his boss battle, and this knowledge was shared with the grave wardens. Two peculiar skeletons can be encountered in different parts of the Carthus Catacombs. Both of these skeletons are naked save for wearing the Worker’s Hat, an item otherwise only worn by citizens of the Undead Settlement. Said citizens wore it as part of their uniform for dissections and burials, suggesting that these skeletons performed the same tasks at Carthus. Basically, they are likely to be two of the gravekeepers. When one of these skeletons are killed, a nearby ball of skeletons that rolls back and forth down halls will fall to pieces upon colliding with a wall instead of all roll back. This implies that the two grave wardens were keeping these skeletons together through necromancy.
The reason that those charged with taking care to bury the dead were also taught the corpse arts should be obvious: they were expected to raise the dead after burial. As was already mentioned, these grave wardens included both pyromancers and squires, at least one of whom continued to carry the battlefield items that his master used in life. It is no accident that these are all people who you would expect to be very loyal to Wolnir or his soldiers; they are entrusting their afterlives to these people, after all. The pyromancers in particular were probably motivated by the desire to learn the dark pyromancies their High King discovered. All item descriptions indicate that the pyromancers’ discovery of black fire coincided with them becoming gravekeepers, so the task was likely a prerequisite to Wolnir sharing his findings. However, this all pertains to the upper classes and maybe their families. What incentive did the average peasant have to join in on this necromania infesting their government? Unfortunately, they probably didn’t have any and were in fact forced to become part of Wolnir’s plan.
Ashen remains of a gravekeeper of the Catacombs of Carthus. The handmaid of the ritual place will have new items to offer.
The old man who carried arms as a swordsman’s attendant became a gravekeeper and didn’t let them go.
As we descend to the lower levels of the Catacombs, we come upon an open, waterlogged area littered with corpses. Unlike the rest of the complex, the bodies there haven’t decayed, at least significantly, thanks to the stasis properties of water — natural refrigeration. Regardless, one need only look to notice the bodies contorted in pain and the hands reaching out as if begging for mercy. This was a massacre not unlike what we see in the Profaned Capital. These were not loyal citizens who died for their country of their own volition, but horrified countrymen rounded up by military order and executed en masse. Their resentment over this fate is evidenced by the plethora of crawling carrion moving about the area. And if those with flesh begrudgingly died, the same is likely true for the countless more now littering the tombs as bones.
Perhaps this genocide was confined solely to the Carthus heartland, or perhaps the government went to the trouble of gathering everyone up from every corner of the empire and shuffling them to the capital just to be slaughtered. In either case, Wolnir had essentially organized an effort to kill, bury, and reanimate his entire kingdom save for the grave wardens, and the two skeletal wardens we encounter suggest that even they had the option to later join them if they so chose. How these gravekeepers were expected to survive in these dark tombs otherwise isn’t clarified. Nonetheless, the crawling carrion were associated with cannibalism in DS1, so we cannot rule out the possibility of the wardens subsisting on the refrigerated corpse meat as they lived out their days in the catacombs.
Whatever the truth, Wolnir’s plan worked and Carthus was turned into a massive city of death with the Dark at its command. Based on the multitude of bone-filled jars alongside humanity-sealed pots, the army collected dark souls from their massacred, seemingly stockpiling them for the Dark equivalent of firebombs some skeletal soldiers throw. And from an outsider’s perspective, Carthus self-destructed. The most likely reason for the Abyss Watchers permitting a city of death practicing Dark arts to thrive beneath their feet was that they simply didn’t know it existed. They may have been familiar with the story of the massive desert empire that fell to the Dark and collapsed soon after, but one wouldn’t normally suspect that empire persisted on from the grave. As far as the world probably knew, Carthus was another civilization doomed by the Dark. But in reality, Wolnir had found a way to keep his kingdom going indefinitely while growing his power. In effect, the High Lord had succeeded Nito as the Gravelord, with all the power of a Dark lord.
The number of skeletons in one body certainly merits the Nito comparison. Wolnir himself is enormous during his boss battle, but a plethora of human-sized skeletons jut out of his body, many reaching out their arms in pain or desperation. This had led some to put forth the notion that the High King was some species of giant, though this is doubtful. While his size cannot be outright dismissed as artistic license, it is highly unlikely that the bracelets and holy sword he stole just so happen to be made for giants of his stature. Rather, the Abyss where we encounter Wolnir is more likely to blame for his larger mass. The Four Kings and Manus prove that the Abyss can radically transform the human body in various ways — including size — so Wolnir’s immersion in the Dark might have resulted in a similar growth spurt. Perhaps the skeletons adorning his huge frame were human sacrifices for the necromantic ritual, or additions to bolster his resistance to the Dark — or maybe just a megalomaniac’s idea for a decoration; he does adorn his “city” with the same aesthetic, after all.
Regardless, with peace restored and his power secure, Wolnir has carried on with governing the state as he sees fit. Looming over the grave warden pyromancer’s corpse in his abyssal space indicates that the High Lord is also still as ruthless as ever, perhaps more so now that punishing his subjects with death no longer gives them release from service. Indeed, the tyrant may now feel truly free to fulfill his every whimsy, leaving the public eye behind to embrace undisturbed eternity with absolute power — this crypt, his own little world. However, his vast empire didn’t fade from widespread attention without leaving its mark, as Carthus’ kukris are now favored by all of manner of thieves. We can assume that their usage spread from the various lands the empire had conquered to surrounding regions, including Lothric — that this cultural diffusion came in the form of the desert nation’s weaponry can only be described as fitting. The legacy of Carthus certainly survives, in more ways than one.
As for the date of the desert kingdom’s fall and by extension rise, we can look again to its gravekeepers for a potential answer. The Grave Warden’s Ashes make a point of the man’s old age, dating this one-time youthful squire’s lifetime to within the past century or so. And since Carthus rose and fell alongside its High Lord, we can safely assume that Wolnir’s own lifetime only extends as far back as the century preceding these subjects of his. If that is the case, then the desert nation’s conquests and its subsequent destruction are events of maybe 100-200 years ago at most. This means that it was contemporaneous with Lothric, though the two countries doesn’t seem to have ever interacted. Although one of the aspects to the Soul of Cinder is a pyromancer wielding a curved sword, all of the spells are associated with the Great Swamp, not Carthus. Add in his empire’s irreligiousity, and the High King wasn’t going to start sending his fair share of firelinkers anytime soon, even now that the kingdoms are neighbors.
Since its “collapse”, Carthus has become one of the various lands that have drifted to Lothric and become part of the scenery. Aside from Farron, Irithyll too has built architecture over entrance to the Catacombs from the Boreal Valley. While the city’s residents seem to have been uninterested in exploring the crypt, the same cannot be said for the wildlife. There is a crab hiding within a skeleton ball in Carthus. It carries rime-blue moss clumps, suggesting that it is native to the Boreal Valley. This makes sense since the vale is visible through a crevice in Smouldering Lake, where many giant crabs roam the waters. These crabs most likely migrated down from the valley, where our little friend then found its way back up into the Catacombs. From there, we can only presume that it was caught up in the ball when it was initially formed or as the bones had been rolling around the complex; its hard shell is probably to thank for it surviving any impact while being carried from place to place.
Amusing as this encounter is, it isn’t the only wild animal to have invaded the tombs. The Carthus Sand Worm is a massive creature which had apparently been prowling deserts before becoming victim to the drift. Considering that Jugo was home to giant ants, it wouldn’t be surprising if giant worms were also native to its deserts. What is surprising is that something so gargantuan was dragged along without the deserts it burrowed through, though it is possible that the deserts do exist between the forests and we just never see them — in fairness, cut content confirms that Irithyll’s snow would have originally been sand, so Carthus was likely initially set in the same desert. Either way, this worm has caused Carthus some trouble. The Yellow Bug Pellet description relates how the grave wardens have been making this lightning-resistant medicine specifically to help them deal with the lightning-spewing sand worm as it terrorized the tombs.
The reason that the sand worm had come through the catacombs might be inferred from its physiology. Close inspection of its body reveals that the creature bears countless human bodies melded together within its exposed rib cage, their hands and faces still quite visible. In other words, it is a maneater, which explains why it can breathe lightning despite no obvious divine connection — the Lightning Stake miracle text provided upon the beast’s death was among the morsels it had digested and made into its own power. It is quite possible that the sand worm sensed the massive piles of bodies lying in Carthus and wanted a bite. However, even if it was just happenstance, they succeeded in driving out the beast. It fell deeper underground, the site of which seems to have been the chasm connecting Wolnir’s chamber to the rest of the tombs via a suspension bridge, presumably built after the fact. A corpse with yellow bug pellets hangs over the edge, and the actual chasm connects directly to Smouldering Lake where the worm has since made its lair.
Oral medicine that was a kind of insects pulverized and rolled up. The yellow-colored one temporarily boosts lightning cut rate.
The gravekeepers of Carthus relied on these and drove away a sand worm.
It is said that it fell deep underground and became the giant master of Smoldering Lake.
Even though the sand worm problem seems to have been solved, Carthus is apparently still dedicated to slaying the beast. The dead nation’s various skeletons can be encountered atop the cliff on one end of the lake and drop the same yellow bug pellets when vanquished, meaning that this small strike force has gone down there with the intention of dealing with the creature. This detachment seems to have already encountered the giant slaves operating the Irithyllian ballista on the cliff and killed them, perhaps intending to commandeer the device to help kill the sand worm like we can. Either way, their reasons for hunting the worm may run deeper than just to ensure it won’t come back.
Because the drift has overlapped Carthus with Smouldering Lake, its existing Izalithian residents have moved in. In order to reach the lake, we have to climb down the catacombs to the Abandoned Tomb which a chaos demon currently patrols, evidently, as its territory. If this chamber is abandoned, then the same can be said for all the chambers found from that point on, all of which are home to demons. In other words, Carthus was unable to handle the locals as they invaded the tombs and ultimately relinquished the lower levels to cut their losses. Since the chaos demons were only interested in retaining their existing territory, this ended the border dispute. But for an empire built on conquest, this must have been a humiliating defeat. True, the homeland of pyromancy was a bad match up for Carthus, but that wouldn’t make Wolnir any less bitter about it. And would he really take that sitting down?
And so, Carthus’ pursuit of the sand worm even to these depths is probably out of a desire to one day reclaim these lost sections of the complex. Now that most of the demons are dead and nigh extinct thanks to other parties’ efforts, the skeletal swordsmen have their opportunity to take back their graves; the sand worm is just the first step in a larger eradication effort, perhaps even renewed conquest starting with Irithyll if the way the skeletons eye the surface city is any indication. But unless they plan to overwhelm the remaining demons with sheer numbers, Carthus still seems to lack the advantage. The demon of the Abandoned Tomb is surrounded by the bones of dormant skeletons who only react to our intrusion. Most of them need to be slain twice without a holy weapon’s help, so their hardy bones were presumably scattered by the demon beforehand. In that case, turning their attention toward chaos life after the sand worm would be an uphill battle for the tranquil dead. And while Wolnir may have hopes of reclaiming lost territory and then expanding further beyond, can he even maintain his current holdings?
Wolnir’s greatest fear is being swallowed by the Abyss that he has painstakingly suppressed. However, given how much of the Dark has eaten away at his holy sword, one might wonder if the High King can really continue to remain in the void without the same happening to his bracelets. As reflected in his boss battle, destroying these bracelets makes him too weak to resist the pull of the darkness he has immersed himself in. How much would the bracelets need to degrade before either one of them could no longer ward it off? At the same time, weathering away the blade doesn’t seem to have negatively affected its power. In truth, the fact that the holy sword has been eaten away is credited as why its Wrath of the Gods skill is so strong. Even in its meager physical state, Wolnir might have been able to rely on that holy power indefinitely if left to his own devices. But unfortunately for him, we put an end to his empire of corpses once and for all.
Former holy sword eaten away by the Abyss.
Wolnir, who fell to the Abyss, nonetheless feared his own Dark and clung to gods for the first time in his life.
It is said that these are the items of clergymen he once killed and stole from: three bracelets and a single holy sword.
Battle art is “Wrath of the Gods”. Violently thrust weapon into the ground and generate a powerful shockwave. It was eaten away by the Abyss and thus that wrath is great.