Out of all of Dark Souls III‘s new additions, the Abyss Watchers are perhaps the most mundane, which may play a role in their popularity. There is something cool yet heartfelt about a legion of warriors that seek to emulate one of the more popular characters from the original Dark Souls. (DS1) It doesn’t hurt that they are a trying first Lord of Cinder boss fight for many a player, earning them respect to overcome. But there is so much more to the story than fanservice for a beloved character. There is a real sense of history and culture elevating them beyond mere copycats. And it is these nuances that make it worth scratching beneath the surface of an all too well-known tragedy.

Wolf Grounds

The Abyss Watchers naturally originate with the Abysswalker Artorias, described as the first of their kind in the text for his greatsword. Indeed, the knight of Anor Londo spent the last leg of his life hunting the forces of Dark with that holy sword, whether they be the fallen knights or mad monsters, so he can certainly be considered the first to keep vigil. But as DS1 had revealed in its Artorias of the Abyss DLC, he had been corrupted by that same Dark before meeting his eventual end. Descriptions for his equipment mention that he left a “mission” and “wolf blood” in his wake, which became the beginning of the Undead Legion of Farron. “Farron” refers to the homeland of the Abyss Watchers. Why did they build their fortress there? Because it has the forest of Oolacile.

Greatsword of the owner of the wolf blood of Farron, a knight who was corrupted by the Dark of the Abyss.

The wolf knight was the first Abyss Watcher, and this sword too demonstrates great power against Dark servants.

Many of the same items found in Darkroot Garden or Basin in DS1 can also be acquired at Farron — these include the Nameless Knight set, the Grass Crest Shield, Oolacilian golems’ Stone Greatshield, and the characteristic hat and bow of Pharis the Forest Hunter. We can even come across the staff wielded by Beatrice, a witched encountered in Darkroot Garden at the earliest. The basilisks lurking in the Farron forest and neighboring areas similarly seem to eat the mossfruit sprouting from the various moss “clumps” growing in Farron, as evidenced by the local crabs carrying the poisonpurple and bloodred types; these moss balls too previously grew out of the Black Forest, with the shrine handmaid deriving their fruit — which this game introduced — from the ashes of the Forest Hunters’ leader. Moreover, Farron is where we mainly find gold pine resin. The description of this golden-glowing turpentine builds on past implications that it derives from the mushroom men native to Oolacile, and adult and children bodies of these very same mushrooms lay within Farron Keep.

Very unusual pine resin that emits golden light. Those which are masses are rare even among them.

Temporarily enhances right-hand weapon with lightning.

No one knows its recipe now. It is also said to be the tree resin of a mushroom of some kind.

One particular mushroom in a cave resembles Elizabeth from DS1’s DLC. Among the small pots, indicative of human activity, sits an adjacent chest containing the dress clothes that Dusk wore in that game; prostrated directly before the mushroom, a human corpse. Given that Elizabeth partly raised the Oolacilian princess, even blessing her crown according to its text, the bodies of these cave dwellers are most likely theirs. Dusk’s crown lies beneath a tree some ways away, one with the same white bark used in Oolacilian sorcery staves. The description for the common white branch implies this tree to be one of three which eventually sprouted from Dusk’s first staff. We find the other two in adjacent areas, so the entire forest stretching from the Undead Settlement to the Cathedral of the Deep covers the same grounds as the woods in and surrounding Oolacile. Its royals’ garden was also Dusk and Elizabeth’s last known location in DS1. In short, Farron Keep was built right atop the ruined nation where Artorias’ grave was located.

Countless Undead warriors attempted to visit the grave in DS1, only to be cut down by a band of thieves or the great grey wolf Sif. That is, until the wolf was slain. Sif’s death at the hands of the Chosen Undead wouldn’t stem preexisting trends, so more were bound to enter the forest. Besides, where else were Undead banished from their homelands to go after the Chosen Undead linked the First Flame? The town for them at the foot of Anor Londo had already collapsed, and both the Kiln and other parts of Lordran soon went elsewhere. With their purpose obsolete, the only reason to head there instead of the welcoming arms of Gwyndolin was to visit Artorias’ grave. And when the Black Forest itself eventually warped to intersect with Lothric, the resulting land of “Farron” at the foot of this new kingdom became a hotbed for yet more drifters.

Many were simply criminals, the corpse with the Twin Dragon Greatshield — chiefly associated with the thief Patches — proving the miscreants’ willingness to head so deep into the forest. But others were sellswords, one having used the shield of Volgen’s — apparently now defunct — Falconers as a protective charm. Such mercenaries ultimately had no protection from death on the battlefield, plus nowhere to go once the curse voided their contracts and made their coin all but worthless. With none but other Undead wanting to associate with them, it is no surprise if some traveling warrior types end up wandering into the local woods. Add the traffic from the nearby town and cathedral, and there is plenty of opportunity for more decent Undead to cross paths with the Old Wolf of Farron and work out a deal to form the Legion.

Metal shield made in the shape of a falcon with extended wings.

The golden falcon is the symbol of an old mercenary group, and some mercenaries use it as a protective charm even now.

Such an arrangement is confirmed by the “old” medal bearing a wolf crest, which serves as proof of a pact with the Old Wolf. The medallion evidently bears magic, since the wolf can summon holders to the Keep as blue spirits. Who long ago beside the Legion would be more motivated to defend their own fort? And behind that fort’s walls lays the Old Wolf, in a chamber built into Lothric’s bridge. Not only does this imply that the Keep was built after the bridge was constructed, it also ties the beast to both the Legion and Artorias. Behind it stands a monument modeled on the knight’s headstone from DS1, showing where its loyalties lie. Like Sif, this old wolf respects Artorias in death, and probably even protected the grave after the ashen wolf’s demise. Some have hence proposed that it is Sif, but the great wolf was a mandatory boss in DS1 and thus can’t still be alive. Even so, the similarities are unlikely to be coincidence.

Most likely, the Old Wolf is Sif’s child, or at least descendant. The great wolf had plenty of opportunity to start a family in the centuries since Oolacile’s destruction — presumably living in parts of the forest left unexplored in DS1. And with Sif’s death, at least one descendant might carry on the mantle of gravekeeper. There is no denying that both are giant grey wolves, and some have even inferred the land to be named after the Old Wolf; “Farron” derives from the Old French ferrant, meaning “iron-grey”, much like its fur color. But the most compelling evidence for their relation are the properties of the old beast’s blood. The souls of those who partook in wolf blood are also the soul of the blood’s owner. One might immediately assume this to just be the Old Wolf, the only candidate in the area. Indeed, its gut area has been shaved clean of fur, the standard practice before cutting open an animal to avoid any contamination — such as when extracting its blood. However, the same phrase is used in clear reference to Artorias.

Soul of the Wolf Blood. One of the atypical souls tinged with power.

Can either use to acquire a vast amount of souls or extract its power via molding.

The soul of the Watchers who shared wolf blood is also the soul of the wolf blood’s owner.

If the Old Wolf is Sif, then why not refer to Artorias as the master of the wolf instead of its blood? And if the owner is just the Old Wolf, then why use the exact same description for Artorias? Because the Old Wolf’s blood contains the soul of both Sif and Artorias. Blood is a medium for the soul, and fragments of one’s soul are passed onto progeny. And just as blood has historically been seen as not just yours but also your forebearers’, the Old Wolf shares at least part of its lifeblood with its ancestor. At the same time, souls can be fragmented and shared with others while retaining their properties. The fragment that the Old Wolf possesses couldn’t have come from Artorias’ corpse since its blood and soul show no signs of corruption by the Abyss. Therefore, it must be a fragment Artorias gave Sif earlier in life.

Artorias and Sif were close friends and comrades-in-arms, the wolf even inheriting the knight’s holy sword and fighting style. Sif’s soul was also used to forge some of Artorias’ weapons. This could already be justified on account of the wolf’s direct experience with those arms during their time together, but having part of the knight’s soul only adds to the feasibility. If Sif wanted to train to fight like the medial, then possessing a shred of his holy power would definitely help, and taking comrades’ souls isn’t unprecedented in Anor Londo culture. Sif’s skills can thus be attributed, in part, to bearing a sizable chunk of Artorias’ power. And if the Old Wolf of Farron can’t be Sif, then it must at least be a blood relative, someone who would inherit the souls of both the Great Grey Wolf and the Abysswalker. This explains why we can transpose the Wolf Knight’s Greatsword from the wolf blood’s soul as well.

Why did the Old Wolf decide to deal with Undead when Sif had assumed bad faith from any visitor, even former comrades? Perhaps it did carry on the same policy at first, but circumstances have changed. The forest is located to the right of Anor Londo when the Black Forest was situated to its left. This is, of course, a byproduct of the lands stagnating, but it still reminds us that this region is no longer Lordran. The actual grave of Artorias is nowhere to be found, perhaps ending up in Drangleic along with his corrupted blade and parts of the forest as Dark Souls II (DS2) indicated. The Oolacilian ruins have likewise all been buried or weathered to nothing. Lothric built a highway directly through the forest, unconcerned with the land’s history. The wolf was protecting a legend forgotten and without a trace, save for itself. But even that won’t last. The kanji used implies the “old” wolf to be physically aged. Hunting intruders was doubtful an easy task anymore, and it has no obvious kin to succeed. And so, the Old Wolf’s concern had no longer been respecting Artorias’ passing, but ensuring the immortality of his legacy.

Forged in Blood

The Undead Legion comprised of warriors who all swore to share the wolf’s blood, likely with the same intent as Sif. By ingesting the blood and incorporating the underlying soul into their own being, these Undead inherited the power to fight at a higher level. The Farron Ring’s description points out how they needed beyond the ordinary sword technique, which the wolf blood enabled. This quick and aggressive fighting style leading enemies by the nose resembles wolf hunts, which brings both the Old Wolf and the “wolf” knight to mind. Fittingly, the mundane greatsword the troop employs shares the same basic design as Artorias’ holy sword while the dagger in their off-hand curves like wolf teeth or claws. It is thanks to this characteristic swordplay that the Legion have even earned their fame, but both these weapons and the blood-drinking practice were likely the result of much trial and error.

Greatsword that the Abyss Watchers wield. Unusual twin blade weapon combining it with a unique dagger.

It features a unique sword technique using the dagger as a wedge, which can be seen in the left attack when two-handing both blades. That sword technique which made a name of the Undead Troop of Farron, will greatly lead enemies around like in wolf hunts.

One of the rewards the Old Wolf provides the Watchdogs of Farron is a curved greatsword “lodged” with its soul. This is implicitly the reason that the weapon recreates the owner’s old hunts by boosting the wielder’s attack power and recovering HP with each continuous strike — combining the effects of Pontiff Sulyvahn’s black eyes, which themselves turn men into dog-like beasts. Either the soul dwells there because the Old Wolf imbued it with a piece, or used one in some form of soul transposition. Indeed, the creature also rewards Watchdogs with Artorias’ greatshield and ring. While the original Wolf Ring could have been collected from its location at Darkroot Garden after the events of DS1, the greatshield could not. The original was eroded with Abyssal corruption like its owner, forcing us to use Sif’s soul in order to recreate it. Something similar thus must have happened with this descendant’s shield, and that begs the question: why is the Old Wolf using its soul to create human weapons?

Curved sword lodged with the soul of the Old Wolf that is with the Watchmen of Farron.

It reproduces the wolf’s previous hunts, so boosts attack power and recovers HP as attacks continue in succession.

The emaciated wolf resting before its monument looks too feeble to be making weapons for the Watchdogs at present, leaving the Undead Legion before them as the only alternative. Empowering the wielder to fight like a wolf does mirror the end goal of the Legion’s blood consumption and unique twin blades — its design even combines elements from both the greatsword and the curved dagger. Therefore, the Old Wolf Curved Sword was most likely a prototype, the beast’s first attempt at sharing its power with the fledgling Legion. Since the Undead still required more strength and dexterity to actually wield that power effectively, it was ultimately more practical to incorporate the soul into the wielders directly through blood and then teach the techniques. The only downside was that the legionnaires had to use slightly less demanding weapons splitting the two fighting styles. In that statement is also the implication that the Undead were trying to emulate both the Old Wolf and the Abysswalker, a dual reverence at the core of the Legion’s hierarchy and ethos.

Farron Greatsword (middle) compared to Wolf Knight’s Greatsword (bottom) and Old Wolf Curved Sword (top)

As mentioned earlier, the Old Wolf has taken up residence in a chamber built into Lothric’s bridge, high above Farron Keep. This conveys certain adoration and respect for the source of their power. No specific Undead is mentioned as the Legion’s founder, so the wolf might have served as the sole ringleader, similar to the white cat Alvina leading the aforesaid band of thieves protecting Artorias’ grave alongside Sif. And this grey wolf still “protects” the “grave” from this chamber. In that case, the original legionnaires must have also considered preserving the wolf knight’s legacy as important. However, they didn’t just want to enshrine the wolf with a replica headstone; they wanted to be heirs to that legacy, hence inheriting the Wolf’s blood and Artorias’ soul with it. Only then could they carry on the knight’s mission and give new life to his legend.

The Undead Legion also went by the name Abyss Watchers because they made it their mission to find and battle the Abyss in all its forms. Hawkwood relates that the legion was willing to destroy whole nations to eliminate this threat. This is why they needed power that the average Undead didn’t possess, and even then their dedication wasn’t without awareness of the futility. The description for Artorias’ set notes that legion members “see their own final moments” in his corrupted armor, hearkening back to its text in DS1. This also implies that they know the ugly truth to Artorias’ legend, presumably imparted by Sif’s descendant. Though the full reasons are likely lost to history thanks to the propaganda, they nonetheless recognized his cause of death whilst building a monument to his passing. It is the hero’s dedication to the cause which they celebrate, the same dedication they hope to adopt when facing down the same threat; when failure and death are almost certain.

… The Undead Troop of Farron is a brigade of Undead. Swear on wolf’s blood, watch for the Abyss, and bury even a whole country if there are signs of it… that sort of bunch.

Helmet of a knight who was corrupted by the Dark of the Abyss. The ultramarine tassel is drenched and will never dry.

The knight ultimately fell and left behind a mission and wolf blood once. That was the beginning of the Undead Troop of Farron, and the Watchers see their own final moments in that armor.

Consider their mentality: they are all unholy monsters destined to succumb to madness as the Dark consumes them, much like Artorias. For them, hollowing is not a question of if, but when. Most either lose heart and passively await their fate, or resolve to find purpose to their continued, abominable existence. The Legion, however, embrace a more vindictive brand of fatalism. If they are to be consumed by the Dark, so be it. But they will be sure to take the Dark with them, as much as they can muster. They shall battle the corruption until they themselves need be slain. This is the wish of active agents to their inevitable fate, mirroring Artorias’ actions up until his own sorry demise. Of course, this veneration is still rooted in existential crisis. Hawkwood alludes to the troop wanting to be “special” like all Undead seeking purpose. Their supreme dedication to hunting the Dark thus isn’t that much different from Undead striving to be firelinking heroes.

Cursed Undead still want to believe they’re special. How pitiful. Eheh… Heheh heh heh…

This hero complex plays out in their rituals. Enlistees were required to undergo a trial. They would individually traverse the fortress to extinguish flames from different altars connected to signal towers visible by most anyone in Farron. Each time, a bowl in front of the doors leading to the wolf blood would light in their place. When all the bowls were lit, the doors would open. This peculiar ceremony is clearly modeled after the firelinking mission from DS1. Each altar bears a relief resembling Gravelord Nito, the Witches of Izalith, or the Four Kings. Extinguishing the flames represents their demise, with the fire lit in the corresponding bowls signifying the transfer of a Lord Soul’s power to the Lordvessel that opened the doors to the Kiln of the First Flame. The Legion had prospective recruits reenact the first Undead sacrifice to preserving the Age of Fire, which parallels their own sacrifice combating the Dark threatening it. They too think of themselves as heroes and hope to highlight such valor through imitation, perhaps even aware that it was the Chosen Undead who completed Artorias’ legend in his place.

They have a unique trial for enlistment. Within the fortress, open the doors to the wolf’s blood by extinguishing the flames of three altars.

Substituting for the Kiln stands a mausoleum, countless weapons and armor flanking the path in the lead-up to it — presumably a symbol for the many who came before and had already made the ultimate sacrifice, similar to the weapons of past visitors left around Artorias’ grave. After entering the mausoleum, recruits would drink the wolf’s blood from the chalice at the altar and formally join the brigade. The altar was designed to then pull back and reveal a passage to take down to the Catacombs of Carthus. There they would see an example of the destruction the Abyss caused when left unchecked, sending home just how important the mission they just took up was. If they didn’t already know why the Legion shared this power in order to end the Dark, this mausoleum honoring the dead served as a reminder.

Once they acquired the power to meet the demands, the recruits underwent the training regiment, learning how to fight like a wolf and wolf knight. With a greatsword in one hand and a small dagger in the other, they had no room for shields. Anyone truly dedicated to their mission would work to be as fast and unflinching with a blade as Artorias, giving no quarter to the monsters that would otherwise overpower them. This instilled a philosophy of practicality to the Undead Legion’s way of life. Their weapons were forged with heavy gems that took advantage of their greater strength. Their techniques were supported by magic rings that kept them going with willpower. Their aggression was extended from local “green flower grass” (緑花草) that recovered the energy in shorter intervals. Even messages were written in blood on the native swordgrass rather than with ink and parchment. Anything that could improve efficiency, they did.

Ring that was given to the Undead Troop of Farron. Reduces FP consumption of battle arts.

They who hunted monsters as Abyss Watchers absolutely required an extraordinary sword technique. The wolf blood provided that, and this ring sustained it.

Green weed like a large flower. Temporarily raises stamina recovery speed.

An annual plant said to grow naturally on clear waterfronts. The Undead Troop of Farron are known to swing their greatswords freely using this.

One might think this initiation process too open-ended, but it is unlikely that every willing Undead was instantly accepted into the Legion. Hawkwood’s cut dialogue indicates that a medal was needed to enter the fortress at an earlier point in development, likely the same crest that proved a pact with the Old Wolf and thus allegiance with the Undead Legion. We also see various parties evidently affiliated with Farron and using its facilities but not members of the Abyss Watchers, dressed in robes or civilian attire rather than their leather and chain mail uniform. Both points suggest that there had been some form of screening process before an individual could undertake the trial to enlist. For instance, some may have needed to first serve as part of the Farron Followers.

Despite the English name’s simplicity, the Japanese text actually calls them yuuki, (幽鬼) which typically refer to spirits of the dead. This rather morbid moniker was likely inspired by the fact that the Followers seem to appear out of nowhere, like revenants, to perform an equally appropriate task. When one of the Legion were consumed by the Abyss, these Undead “revenants” discreetly came upon the warrior as a group to hunt him. With their tall, lean physique and vacant eye sockets, it would almost look like the dead were ready to ferry you off to the great beyond, and a sendoff it most certainly was.

The Followers coordinated as small war parties, encircling their targets with dark-resistant shields and spears to safely stab at them from all sides before finally hurling the lightweight javelins into them all at once. Again, this demonstrates Farron’s sense of practicality, quickly and efficiently putting down the corrupted. But more than that, it taught them how to hunt in a pack, like wolves. Moreover, the Followers’ arsenal included a curved greatsword akin to the Old Wolf’s prototype, a sabre utilizing the same heavy metal and chain-attack fighting style as an Abyss Watcher’s greatsword. Therefore, their duty was likely used to help prepare prospective enlistees for becoming legionnaires before receiving the wolf blood. It certainly gave them lots of experience in the field, though not of the exact same nature.

Despite hunting those consumed by the Abyss, techniques with the Follower Sabre has human-slaying in mind. In short, these hunts were conducted on those doomed to become monsters but still maintained their sanity. The corrupted were fully aware when these “revenants” rained down upon them. This might seem barbaric, but it is only practical. If the Followers waited until the warrior was completely consumed, their behavior would be far less predictable and could cause undue damage to others — like killing the helpless Undead before it becomes a pus of man. Best to bring down the hammer suddenly and swiftly to minimize the risks, and suffering. The Followers’ acts were treated as a fitting funeral for the Watcher whose life and duty had finally ended. As promised, their final moments mirrored that of Artorias: put down by another after having been sullied by the Dark they hunted to the very end. Whether they would welcome the Followers with open arms or fear their imminent end, the revenants ensured this fate.

Lightweight spear utilized by the Revenants of Farron. Balance is adjusted so it can be thrown.

The Revenants are, in effect, war parties, encircling foes, holding up shields while jabbing their lances, and throwing them all at once. In order to hold a fitting tribute for the warriors who had finished their duty in their final moments.

Despite this so-called send-off, their bodies were not simply left to rot where they were slain, but dragged back to the fortress to receive a proper burial. The descriptions of various items related to the Watchdogs of Farron reference them protecting the warriors’ rest and being rewarded by their spirits. This requires warriors be laid to rest on the fortress grounds which the watchmen defend. While there certainly aren’t any conventional tombstones to be seen, we find countless wooden posts both within and just outside the fortress walls that we can infer to be grave markers. The corpse in front of some with a fading soul suggests as much, as does the the curved, and often pointed, plank of wood ornamenting these posts. Although the orientation seems to be random, it heavily resembles a thin crescent moon, which is notable due to the symbol’s association with the Darkmoon.

In the New World, moonlight was linked to exorcising evil, which could be traced back to the promulgation of the Darkmoon Knights’ culture from Heide and beyond. This “evil” typically referred to persons or creatures reliant on Dark powers such as red eye orbs or hexes, which weren’t uncommon foes of the Darkmoon Knights and their estranged Blue Sentinel brothers. These disparate cultures have since rejoined with the Old World, with Irithyll bringing renewed prominence to Darkmoon religion. Thus, there is ample reason to believe that nearby Farron would be familiar with the moon’s anti-Dark connotations. While the Abyss Watchers have no explicitly religious bent, their behavior is undeniably in-line with worshipers of the Anor Londo pantheon. Indeed, their graves being decorated with the symbol of the Darkmoon may have been intended to signify their deaths helping cleanse their bodies of the evil that had corrupted them, if not signify their role in exorcising the corruption itself.

Even assuming that the Followers were the ones tasked with dragging back their comrades bodies after they were slain, they probably weren’t responsible for the actual burial. As stated earlier, Farron has civilian Undead lacking proper weapons on the property, implying that it was in fact staffed by more than just able-bodied warriors. Moreover, their presence indicates that there were originally three kinds of personnel at the fortress, two of which served in a combat role while the third filled in the gap for other necessary jobs — custodians, cooks, craftsmen, engineers, builders, gravediggers, lookouts. In fact, some of these workers may have even staffed the smaller, secondary fort that we pass through on our way to the Keep proper.

This “Halfway Fort” (道半ばの砦) shares the Keep’s architecture and seems to have once served as a checkpoint, hence its place along the Road of Sacrifices and the absence of Keep buildings or staff preceding it — a border outpost, in other words. We can spy another similar building past this fort, but it is nowhere to be seen within the actual Farron ruins. Considering that the Halfway Fort itself is oriented incorrectly from the same view in the Undead Settlement, the second outpost is probably an erroneously-placed duplicate on FromSoftware‘s part. Regardless, there are more ruined facilities visible outside the explorable areas, so the Keep likely had many such facilities monitoring for persons and goods entering or leaving the vicinity. These were Farron’s weakest links, and maybe their only weak links.

The main citadel is a massive, stone-walled enclosure, everything within this perimeter kept at a significantly lower elevation than without. This was probably to keep the facilities hidden behind the walls, as the surviving ruins imply that there were more towering buildings than just the facilities for enlistment. Based on the presence of forging flames beyond the walls, these installations included smithies and likely even barracks and other housing. Viaducts seem to have facilitated travel between various parts of the Keep, though such elevated highways were probably built to span the woodland. The trees inside the fortress walls — including Dusk’s white tree — are similar in size to the ones outside them, so the forest has always been there. Perhaps the Old Wolf didn’t want the Undead to tear down its home, but they ultimately built around the forest as much as possible. Otherwise, this Keep was Lothric city on a smaller scale, a fortified behemoth.

While Farron may have been built upon the fantasies of deadbeat Undead, their level of organization and dedication to their principles is nothing short of well-grounded. And this pragmatism served well in the Abyss Watchers’ survival and even success. It also made them incredibly unpopular. The Watchers’ distinctive helmet was regarded by the general public as a terrible omen, likely because it meant both the existence of the Dark in the area and that you might end up as collateral damage. Recall their willingness to bury a country to stop the Abyss. That doesn’t require the whole country be practitioners. If there is a risk of the corruption leaking out into neighboring lands, it is only practical to burn the one country — innocents and all — to save the theoretical countless more that would otherwise be victimized.

Apparel of the Abyss Watchers, the Undead Troop of Farron.

They were Undead warriors who swore to share a wolf’s blood, probed for signs of the Abyss in the dark, and continually battled grotesques.

It is said that this pointed steel helmet in particular is the symbol of the Undead Troop and was shirked by the public as a sinister portent.

This would, naturally, not be appealing to the masses who could feasibly be one of those sacrificed for the greater good. And the Legion would need only have gone to such extremes once for the mere rumor to earn the public’s apprehension and suspicion whenever they were spotted nearby. At the same time, it is difficult to attribute wanton cruelty to their actions. Was it not Undead who were subject to mass persecution and genocide due to the very real threat of hollowing? The Legion exists because its Undead have nowhere else to go except to the very evil that they are characterized as. And instead of embracing it, they choose to fight it with their every ounce of their being. If excising any Undead who could potentially hollow at some point is justified, excising any human who might be afflicted with the corruption of the Abyss in the foreseeable future is equally so. But perhaps the real question is not whether both solutions are just, but if either is.

A Sagacious Decision

Though uncompromising in their mission, they weren’t as inflexible in their membership. One of the Crystal Sages residing at Lothric’s Grand Archives promised to come and lend a hand to Farron, referenced as an “ally” in the same manner as the Nameless King is with archdragons. Andre implies that this alliance was public knowledge. Even then, the two independent parties’ arrangement highlights the Keep’s friendly relations with the kingdom. Andre only heard about the alliance second-hand as an Undead blacksmith stuck at the shrine behind Lothric Castle, leaving mainly people on the royalty’s payroll to share rumor. Losing one of the twin sorcerers fraternizing with the royal government’s scholars likewise wouldn’t go unnoticed. The Legion and Sage had to involve the kingdom in this decision.

Oh, this is… there was something like this among the Undead Troop’s source flames? It’s said that one of the Crystal Elders lent their power to the Watchers of Farron, but seems the story was true.

Unique sorcery of the twin gurus known as the Crystal Elders. Fire small crystal soulmasses from the air in succession. Crystal masses pierce.

One of the Elders was an ally of the Undead Troop and raised sorcerers in Farron. It is said to have been an old pact.

Indeed, at the foot of the High Wall directly beneath its main highway, the fort could only operate with Lothric’s approval. In fact, building the Old Wolf’s chamber into that highway, complete with large lift up to the main gate, is only possible if sharing close ties. As another example, one of our potential burial gifts is a young white branch, the unique description suggesting that this legacy of peaceful Oolacile has become widely known as a symbol of friendship — even a giant slave of Irithyll recognizes this. Receiving one naturally conveys well wishes to fit into an unfamiliar environment, perfect for unkindled ash. But our burial gift nonetheless implies that branches native to the Farron wood are being traded to Lothric. Even if this item doesn’t come strictly from the Keep, corpses with gold pine resin and green blossoms behind Lothric’s walls indicate similar trade. Taken together, Lothric and Farron had long established a good relationship, one they couldn’t allow to be ruined over the Crystal Sage.

Branch of a white-barked tree that someone gave. Apparently was proof of frienship.

Transforms oneself into something befitting the location and will disappear if used.

Treasuring the sentiment would also do you good.

In all likelihood, all three parties worked out a deal. Lothric’s stipulation? Help facilitate the Road of Sacrifices. Although by all indications Farron property, Halfway Fort and the complex where the Crystal Sage now dwells are technically part of the Road of Sacrifices. The former is called such precisely because it is the midpoint on the journey to the Cathedral of the Deep, and we must pass through the latter to reach the last leg. In other words, the road couldn’t be established without the Undead Legion’s cooperation, and King Oceiros was already investing carriages, slaves, and his personal guard into this project for his good friend Sulyvahn. If one of Lothric’s personnel is situated on the road to the Cathedral in Farron, then it must have been part their deal. The benefits are obvious: Lothric would get an agent to personally oversee the road’s operations, and Farron would get powerful sorcery added to its arsenal.

Cut content reinforces the implication. Originally, Halfway Fort and the Crystal Sage complex featured more generic architecture, the interior and enemy layout implicating them as Lothric outposts administered by the Cathedral’s preachers. Although there are signs of the patrolling soldiers — some of whom the Sage seemingly converted into hooded acolytes — cooperating with the locals to combat the forest’s threats, they would have clearly been operating independently. In short, the Farron checkpoints along the Road of Sacrifices were initially imagined for Lothric, with more troops to be stationed at the Cathedral ahead. In this iteration of the game, the Crystal Sage would have simply been assisting with these security measures as an affiliate of the Grand Archives. But as development progressed, the ruins were changed, and the Sage’s affiliation changed with them.

For their part, Farron was more than happy to accommodate, not just Lothric but also the whims of their new recruit. There is one figure missing from the Legion’s symbolic reenactment of the Chosen Undead’s trials: Seath. No relief depicts the paledrake anywhere within the fortress walls. His absence is all the more apparent by the asymmetrical layout of the three torch bowls, as if there should be a fourth. This is rather atypical to the overall design of the Keep and serves to only emphasize that something is missing from this picture. Concept art for Seath’s relief can be seen alongside the others in the Dark Souls III: Design Works, and a fourth tower flame can be spotted at a distance from some areas. Evidently, all four bosses were intended to be included at an earlier point in development, but that, too, changed with the Crystal Sage’s affiliation.

The Sages are heirs to Logan’s research and worshipers of Seath. How then would either feel joining a group that glorifies the murder of their god? Outraged, to start. FromSoftware needed to address this narrative tension when changing the setup, resulting in the Undead Legion removing any representation of the dragon from their recruitment ritual. Farron wanted the Crystal Sage’s power on their side, so appeasing his religious beliefs when they didn’t seriously interfere with their own practices was the most amicable, and practical, solution. This doesn’t clarify if Seath’s removal was a proactive decision on their part, a stipulation of their deal with Lothric, or the result of an actual quarrel with the elder after the move. But regardless, cutting the paledrake from the reenactment was the best decision, especially since there would soon be many more enlistees required to symbolically kill the deity for their branch of magic.

The Crystal Sage started a magic academy for Undead — complete with uniforms — designed to train novice “apprentices” (徒弟) into expert sorcerer “adherents” (徒弟) wearing their own big hats. To keep to the agreement with Lothric, the new facilities to house these acolytes were built on the Road of Sacrifices, outside the main fortress. This separation seems to also be, in part, due to their “lonesome” behavior, which isn’t surprising for an assembly of academic-types filling out a library for study — though the corpse carrying Beatrice’s staff within academy walls implies that they did search for other sources, their material at least initially borrowed from the Sage, as the mossy Grand Archives box storing some shows. Indeed, the elder has used the opportunity to proselytize if the white dragon shields certain apprentices own is any indication. But in exchange, the elder trained his acolytes to join the Abyss Watchers as full-fledged sorcerers, providing the Legion with a new source for recruitment as well as a magic-casting subdivision.

Ring that one of the twin gurus known as the Crystal Elders gave to the Undead Troop.

Shortens magic chant time.

The sorcerers of Farron, who are members of the Abyss Watchers, were entirely lonesome warriors. It is said that they preferred more practical sorceries.

Thanks to this freedom to research on the Legion’s behalf, the Crystal Sage and his acolytes pioneered a bevy of new spells. In keeping with the Abyss Watcher’s pragmatic ethos — item descriptions’ term for “practical” (実戦) literally meaning for “actual battle” — Farron preferred sorceries that emphasized short cast times rather than just raw power. Like endlessly swinging a greatsword, Farron Dart can be rapidly fired to give the target no room to counterattack; the incredibly low intelligence requirement also made it easy to learn for the Undead warriors trying sorcery for the first time. And rather than wield a heavy blade like their more robust brothers, the sorcerers could just momentarily conjure a greatsword on-demand for similar effects without reducing their own ability to move and react accordingly. Farron sorcerers could remain lightweight, agile, and just as deadly up close as at range. Speed was the name of the game, so much so that the Sage even fashioned magic rings to reduce their time spent on magic chants even further.

“Soul Greatsword” that the sorcerers of the Undead Troop of Farron made personal adjustments to.

Forms a sword with souls and attacks with it.

Practical adjustments emphasizing speed over might are the common tendency for sorceries of the Undead Troop.

“Soul Arrow” that the sorcerers of the Undead Troop of Farron made personal adjustments to.

Fires soul short arrows.

It is the sorcery of Farron most known by name, and it is widely learned due to its ease of use.

Sorcery wasn’t their only contribution. The Crystal Sage brought his magical white fire to the Legion, implying crystal weapons had become part of their arsenal. However, we can already acquire a source flame in the Keep, an unassuming flame similar only used to forge mundane weapons like the Farron Greatsword. It is likewise acquired from inside the perimeter walls on the opposite end from the tower where the Sage’s forging fire is located. If nothing else, this suggests the two weapon types were worked in different parts of the fort. And considering the latter’s proximity to the academy, the crystal weapons must have been made exclusively for sorcerers admitted to the Legion. They do carry gems the Sage brought for reinforcing such weaponry despite the apprentices only wielding generic arms for, presumably, basic training. Their focus was learning sorcery.

Source flame for performing weapon transmutation enhancement.

A white magic flame that one of the Crystal Elders once brought to the Undead Troop.

Makes transmutation enhancement using three kinds of gems, Crystal, Blessed, and Deep, possible by handing it over to the blacksmith of the ritual place.

Precious stone said to be transmuted bond stone. Thing brought along with the Crystal Elder.

Used in weapon transmutation enhancement and makes crystal weapons.

Crystal weapons possess magic power attack power and scale high with intelligence.

In the meantime, the acolytes were apparently responsible for crushing and rolling up insects into Black Bug Pellets. This became the troop’s household medicine due to these bugs boosting resistance to the Dark. Their Ghru descendants continue to make it to this day, meaning that these bugs are probably native to the forest. Perhaps they evolved in response to the Dark in Oolacile. Alternatively, they could be artificially-engineered Abyss spawn released into the wild. That might seem unlikely given the Abyss Watchers‘ presence, but the Crystal Sage clearly sought the independence to spread Logan’s teachings and research whatever at will. Why else agree to leave his twin in Lothric and remain in Farron even after it has long fallen to ruin? The elder must see the potential to explore new and unknown areas of sorcery there, and what the Legion doesn’t know won’t hurt them. Whatever the case, the sorcerer definitely cares nothing for the Keep’s mission, only the new students it brings.

Oral medicine that was a kind of insect pulverized and rolled up. The black one temporarily boosts dark cut rate.

Household medicine of the Undead Troop, who are Abyss Watchers. It is said that the Ghrus, who are the acolytes’ descendants, continue to make them even now.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the case of Heysel, the daughter of the acolytes’ leader. Aside from confirming a hierarchy among Farron’s sorcerers beyond the Sage, these two imply that the residents weren’t necessarily celibate volunteers. The existence of the Ghrus certainly requires acolytes to have taken the time to procreate. There are very few instances of Undead indulging in sexual activity due to the inherent danger of raising a normal child with hollowing always looming overhead. But, every occurrence tends to be under the auspices of a stable if not flourishing Undead civilization, which matches up with the level of organization the Keep exhibits. These Undead lived in an environment where hollowing wasn’t an ever-present concern and thus could afford to raise a family — even pet dogs with, naturally, grey fur. One such Undead was Heysel’s parent.

One of the sorceries superior to “Farron Short Arrow”. Continuously fires soul short arrows.

It is said that it was something a Crystal Elder personally developed and entrusted to the acolyte leader. As a sorcery for his daughter, Hazel.

From what we can infer about the acolyte leader — who I will presume male for the sake of simplicity — he was a sorcerer capable enough to ascend the ranks and so be in regular contact with the Crystal Sage. This potential helped him pass on magical talent to his progeny, an especially gifted child who came to the Sage’s attention. Whether due to her parent’s prodding or the elder’s own initiative, Heysel was provided a unique education at Farron’s little academy. The Sage’s Scroll’s description notes that he refined the spells contained within for a “special talent”. Due to the English descriptions for the actual sorceries — Great Farron Dart and Farron Hail — many assume that these were originally created by Heysel. However, the scrolls detail the Sage’s sorceries, and those spells’ Japanese text makes clear that the leader was entrusted with them so that they could then become his daughter’s arts.

Elder’s scrolls. Contains sorceries of a Crystal Elder.

Can learn the Elder’s sorceries by giving it to a sorcerer.

As every sorcerer knows, sorcery is a talent, and these are things that were developed for a special talent.

Both spells improve upon the basic Farron Dart, with one simply being a mundane version of the twin elders’ Crystal Hail spell. This and other such crystal spells are never used or owned by any acolytes, indicating that the Sage wasn’t very forthcoming with his more powerful arts. Orbeck’s surprise to learn that there are Farron sorceries unknown to him after receiving the Sage’s scrolls only emphasizes this fact. The recluse had evidently scoured the academy’s library to recover every sorcery created there. Yet the only spells he can teach us are the basic, and Farron Dart is already known worldwide due to just being a simplified form of the elementary Soul Arrow — “dart” is literally “short arrow”. (短矢) Orbeck admits to likely never discovering the more powerful variants if not for us bringing him the scrolls, demonstrating the Sage’s caution with teaching anything too high-level.

But Heysel was an exception. The girl was bright, talented, and probably eager to study. The rudimentary course was beneath her, so the Sage opted to nurture her talents by providing material on more advanced spells that he refined on her behalf. The fact that the Elder entrusted his scrolls to her parent rather than Heysel herself implies that she was too young to be given custody of such important texts, which only adds to her prodigious nature. Instead, the girl had to be instructed on its contents from her parent, whose position suggests the maturity to keep such knowledge if not the skill to benefit from it. Whether or not he too was allowed and able to learn the spells, the event still perfectly showcases the Crystal Sage’s enthusiasm when it comes to the good of sorcery.

Considering all of this came with the duty of guaranteeing passage for the Road of Sacrifices, the elder’s “old” pact with Farron was only decades ago at most. Indeed, the Undead Legion’s full history can only date as far back as with the last century if its mausoleum built atop Carthus is any indication. The timing would also partially explain why all the Abyss Watchers we face as Lords of Cinder are warriors. The Elder was only recruited relatively late in Farron’s history, so all of the Legion’s veterans were swordsmen with relatively few sorcerers joining up over the ensuing years. Even after they gathered a healthy amount of new prospective recruits, Heysel was probably among the last generation before Farron’s total collapse.

Fall to Cinder

When Lothric was in need of a new Lord of Cinder, the Abyss Watchers stepped up to the plate. But even with the wolf blood, they were apparently still too weak to qualify for Lordship individually, only collectively. This could only be possible if the soul inherent to the blood was still bonded to itself, making the Watchers’ disparate souls technically also part of the one Old Wolf’s soul. It is true that the Undead ingested part of the wolf’s still-living body, flowing out and the beast and into the man without any cutting or chewing involved. This would leave little opportunity to sever the bonds, unlike when physically partitioning souls themselves. In that case, the wolf was as much assimilating them as they, it — not enough to manifest consciousness, but still mixing together. In effect, the fire wasn’t really inherited by the Abyss Watchers, but the Old Wolf spread across multiple vessels; weak in pieces, strong in sum.

Kindling of a King that the Abyss Watchers left.

If the Kings won’t return to their thrones, returning their kindlings will suffice.

The qualifications for Kingship for the Abyss Watchers, who swore upon the blood they shared, was that very wolf blood.

Put simply, by a quirk of their rituals, the Legion unintentionally made themselves capable of sharing the First Flame and the mantle of Lord with it. It wasn’t the entire Legion becoming a King of Kindling, however. No sorcerer legionnaire takes part in the boss fight, so it was at most just the warriors who took up the task. Indeed, it would be nonsensical to sacrifice their entire fighting force when a sizable chunk would suffice. Regardless, a portion did split off, numbering about a hundred based on the amount of bodies in the boss room. That short-term sacrifice was but a paltry loss when compared to the end of fire long-term. After all, Farron’s crusade was premised on the presupposition that the Age of Fire is good, plus their desire to be renowned as heroes. Add in their positive relations with Lothric, and the Legion’s decision to become heroic heirs to the Flame was no contest.

Some fans have suggested that the Abyss Watchers only came forward because they were already corrupted by the Abyss, citing the corruption staining their equipment. If so, then the Followers should have already slain them on the spot. Are we to believe they fought a Dark force so powerful that it corrupted a myriad yet not powerful enough to actually slay them? And right when a new Lord of Cinder was needed? No, the circumstances are far too convenient. Moreover, unlike Artorias’ armor, theirs hasn’t severely deteriorated from the corruption, even maintaining high lightning resistance alongside decent Dark resistance. Therefore, the stains are likely just that: stains from being constantly steeped in the “blood” of the Abyss’ monstrosities. Rather than necessity, the Undead Legion’s willingness to link the fire was likely because they believed that their ranks would be quickly replenished — they were wrong.

The firelinking seems to have had an adverse effect on the Old Wolf. The blood used in their rituals thereupon “ceased” and thus no new legionnaires could be admitted. This is reflected in the wolf’s emaciation, bringing to mind the weight loss commonly experienced by victims of anemia. Although easily mistaken for dead or comatose, item descriptions and covenant interactions indicate that the beast is in fact still alive and so probably just quietly resting, too weak to be very active. Cut content reveals that the wolf was originally planned to take part in the Abyss Watchers boss battle, so the developers most likely didn’t have time to create new animations when repurposing the model for the Watchdogs of Farron covenant, hence we are unable to kill it yet can’t see it breathing either. In the end, this lack of animation simply emphasizes the loss of vitality from its blood.

As mentioned earlier, it is primarily the Old Wolf that has been fueling the First Flame, so it too would share in the bonds between the Abyss Watchers. And so, when their web of soul pieces became a Lord of Cinder, the burden of inheriting the Flame was evidently passed on to the main soul as well. Given the host’s age, this was understandably too much to handle. With so much power dedicated as kindling, the Old Wolf’s life force must have been almost completely drained, barely able to produce enough blood to keep its body alive — forget regrowing its still missing fur. The beast is simply in no condition to be sharing its blood with others, assuming that it would still even be of the same quality as before. And even if it was possible to kill the wolf and harvest the remaining blood, that would be the last of the Keep’s supply. Besides, Farron had more pressing matters to contend with.

Despite growing sharp claws and teeth, the lycanthropes are clearly human, leading to understandable confusion about why their name references werewolves. However, the Japanese terminology literally means “wolf-possessed”, (狼憑き) and there is only one candidate for that. In short, these enemies are the Abyss Watchers who stayed behind to carry on the Keep’s mission, only to have their souls subsumed by the wolf blood coursing within them. If it is a sudden weakness of the soul, then the Undead curse is the most likely cause. The Hollowslayer Greatsword proves that the lycanthropes are Hollows, so their souls have been almost entirely consumed by the Darksign. What little life force is left permeates the body, like in the blood — and a good portion of that blood belongs to the Old Wolf.

As noted earlier, the soul in the blood isn’t enough to manifest the wolf’s consciousness. But in a body now devoid of one, its primal nature would help fill the gap, and its comparative power guaranteed an outsized influence. The mindless Hollow’s instinct becomes even more feral, defaulting to clawing and biting instead of swordplay and sorcery. The body begins rapidly adapting in conjunction, growing in size and strength while sharpening the nails and teeth. In the end, the only thing preventing further transformation is the fact that it is only so much blood. Even still, the lycanthropes’ sole indication of civility left is one sitting before a makeshift bonfire — and the corpse also seated at it suggests that an inattentive camper simply attracted the beast. This explains why the enemies are especially vulnerable to bleeding. The wolf blood is essentially all these Hollows have left.

With this comes the implication that the Undead Legion underwent a mass hollowing event, hence the lycanthropes’ prevalence in Farron. Perhaps realizing the troop had no future thanks to the firelinking drove them all to utter despair, or perhaps the firelinking itself had a similarly averse effect on them. They too were undoubtedly connected with their Lord of Cinder brethren, but none of their own souls inherited the First Flame. In that case, maybe the Dark within them reacted negatively to sensing the yoke of fire tighten when there was no flame to actually counteract the backlash? Regardless, the Keep saw its entire Legion wiped out with no means to replace them, coinciding with a sudden outbreak of rabid Undead. One naturally took priority: the lycanthropes needed to be put down.

All of the wolf-possessed are chained to crucifixes. Looking at the crux of these crosses stacked around the magic academy, there was an organized attempt to capture and restrain the Hollows rather than simply kill them in a more straightforward fashion, repurposing materials used for the legionnaire’s graves. For the residents, these were trusted comrades who were ready to carry on their duties just the other day. Without fully knowing the cause, at least initially, they tried giving them the time to calm down and return to their senses for as long as possible, even if the method meant their execution would be long and tortuous. Thus, Farron became a “forest of crucifixion”, (磔の森) with the moon imagery now intended to exorcise a different kind of evil spirit — mad wolf blood.

For all intents and purposes, Farron was no more. What once was a flourishing organization was now a remote school with an ailing wolf and a multitude of madmen to keep restrained. And with the Abyss Watchers defunct, what purpose did the Followers serve at that point? These revenants existed solely to lay low their brothers-in-arms, and now they are all gone and will never come back. Descriptions of their armor indicate that they were reluctant to go, but they ultimately did decide to abandon Farron and wander around aimlessly; such was their sense of loss in lieu of a purpose. From there, they eventually entered the Painting World of Ariandel, where many such drifting souls are made welcome, and continued to meander as they hollowed. This leaves only the sorcerers and the miscellaneous staff left at the Keep, the former continuing with their studies — perhaps into what was going on — while the latter presumably managed the crucifixion process.

Helmet utilized by the Revenants of Farron.

It is said that when warriors of Farron were consumed by the Abyss, tall, lean warriors with vacant eye socket quietly appeared and hunted them in groups.

And then, after Farron was destroyed, they wandered about against their wishes and became a pack of Hollows.

But the crude attempt at mercy ultimately failed, the wild Hollows breaking their limbs free of their chains and pulling the cross straight up out of the ground with them. The staff then took it upon themselves to put their former friends out of their misery. These “possessed-hunters” (憑き者狩り) each carry a tree trunk sharpened into a giant pike considering we can loot the metal weapon from them. Without any formal sword experience, the civilians relied on cruder methods to safely take down these monsters, even bringing their pet dogs to play vanguard. But if impaling stakes and siccing canines was effective, it wasn’t enough. Lycanthropes still exist, and hunters still patrol the forest as Hollows, stakes bloodied and heads often treated for serious injuries. Yet so long as they still breath, even those who have lost both eyes will continue to hunt the beasts and dig holes to stick in their cross posts.

The Undead acolytes were cowards by comparison. While they allowed the civilians to use their facilities to make the crosses, no uniformed member is spotted outside the academy walls. They shut themselves in with their books. It wasn’t as if they paid it no heed. All the apprentices have their weapons on hand, lookouts on patrol ready to alert them in the event of a breach. They likewise possess firebombs despite never using them against us, implying that they were reserved for something else — and the sparsely-dressed lycanthropes just so happen to be incredibly vulnerable to fire. Clearly, they had prepared themselves to deal with the threat; they just wouldn’t be proactive about it. As Undead who were likely there to study under the Crystal Sage rather rather than actually enlist with the Legion, their lack of gusto to the cause isn’t surprising. But in trapping themselves, we see the fear and despair of the ever-looming threat overwhelmed them, resulting in them too turning Hollow.

Coinciding with this decline is a rotten forest consuming the Keep. Recall that the forest was always there within the walls. Nonetheless, it has undoubtedly spread even further as a result of the fort’s disrepair — the crumbling facilities are covered in overgrowth absent daily maintenance. The rot on the other hand refers to “filth” that has collected within the Keep. With its enclosed walls and significantly lower elevation, the fort entraps rainwater like a giant well. And with nowhere for impurities to flow out to, this stagnant water would decay, forming a deep swamp rife with maladies which then spread to the trees and stones immersed in them. The afflicted trees have decayed in similar fashion while the Keep’s heavy stone infrastructure has collapsed into its marshy foundation. Aside from disease, it has also become a breeding ground for vermin like giant slugs and basilisks, creating an overall dangerous environment; this is especially true for those with heavy equipment weighing them down as various corpses inside the walls illustrate.

Iron mask of a watchman of the Fortress of Farron. After the watchers of the Undead Troop became a King of Kindling, the wolf’s blood ceased and Farron was consumed by a rotten forest.

It is said that in that forest, an emaciated old wolf commands the watchmen and protects the warriors’ rest. The two exiles, too, were probably members. Because Farron was a land of drifters from the start.

Similar issues plague the facilities outside the Keep. We see parallel overgrowth and collapse of architecture due to disrepair. Likewise, the sloping hills past Halfway Fort descend toward the citadel depression, resulting in another wetland forming just outside the walls — which has flooded the lower levels of one academy building. But unlike the swamp within the fort, this marsh water is crystal clear. The reason is likely due to the local crab population. Crabs are scavengers, and the full size of this freshwater species suggests that they can scavenge quite a bit. Furthermore, the ones found in this forest are immune to poison and toxic, implying they built up resistance to harmful substances. In short, they are eating up all carcasses, algae, and filth trickling in over time and thereby keeping the water relatively clean. But nature’s clean-up crew can’t climb the walls into the main citadel. The one large crab found inside presumably predates the walls, slipping in when it was still small. And it has seemingly only managed, and cared, to protect the attractive magic white tree, leaving the rest of the Keep to rot.

Toxic Evolution

From the Keep’s decline emerged the Ghrus. The name Guruu (グルー) may be a corruption of the word guru (グル) in reference to their relation to Farron sorcerers — gurus are teachers or experts in their respective field whereas sorcerers are majutsushi, (魔術師) teacher or experts in magical arts. In that light, the acolytes might have referred to themselves as gurus, which was then slurred into “ghrus” by their descendants who mistook its original meaning. Alternatively, or perhaps conjunctively, it is a pun on the color of sorcerers’ magic — the enemy type is internally named “blue”, or buruu, (ブルー) so the developers are likely drawing on the phonetic similarity. Whether or not this makes it merely a meta joke by FromSoftware, the name still distinguishes them from humans.

Despite being the acolytes’ descendants, Ghrus more closely resemble satyrs with their digitigrade hoofs and furry arms and legs, though with some notable differences. Their mouths are beaked-like snouts, their arm and leg skin look like bird scales, and their heads bear horns and lumps. Moreover, a pair of stubby limbs grow between the shoulder blades while long tail sticks out the rear. On top of all that, these bodies are immune to any poison or toxin to be found in their noxious habitat. There is simply nothing human about the creatures physically, and they behave at best like stereotypical savages — mostly naked, crudely armed, and automatically hostile. Cut developer messages do in fact reference them as a barbarian tribe, so seeming brutish and fiercely territorial is the intention. Even so, there are still remnants of human civility to be found in these practical animals.

Some Ghrus wear tattered robes, implying a higher social status demonstrative of some developed culture. Those armed with spears and shields only wear ponchos and seem to function as a kind of elite guard, commonly found protecting important places or persons — such as what can only be described as Ghru priests. This hornless variant seems to be singled out for its abnormally large head lumps. Perhaps these growths contain cerebral matter and thereby provide greater intelligence, for they possess the same Blue Bug Pellets found at Farron’s magic academy and so must inherit the knowledge to make them as magic casters. Indeed, these Ghrus alone perform magic, only it is healing miracles utilizing bramble and briar talismans. This means that they have likely reproduced the spells without the gods’ tales, which would require some advanced thinking. Either way, this plus their full-body clothing, resembling the trappings of a monk, betrays them as the highest caste in Ghru society: the tribe’s spiritual leaders.

Some fans posit that the Ghrus’ form is the result of Abyssal corruption, citing similar cranial growths exhibited by the bloatheads in DS1. While bloathead sorcerers also had larger cranial mutations compared to the ordinary citizen variant, Ghru priests employ miracles, not dark sorcery. Another point of contention is their choice of weapons. The Ghrus mainly live in the Keep’s swamp where they fashion crude swords, spears, and shields from the filth-mired ruins, coating them in the rotten pine resin they implicitly derive locally. These are not the weapons of monsters transformed by the Abyss, only unsophisticated tribesmen using the poisons of their habitat.

Crude, half-rotten dagger.

Choice weapon of the lump and horned Ghrus, descendants of the acolytes of the Fortress of Farron.

The filthied blade is covered in rotten filth and possesses strong poison attribute.

Pine resin possessing putrescence and the poison attribute.

Temporarily grants the poison attribute to right-hand weapon.

It is said that the lump and horned Ghrus who den and eat in the Fortress of Farron, which was consumed by a rotten forest, make it.

These fans have thus theorized that the rot itself is somehow Abyssal, pointing to the presence of Darkwraiths as proof an underlying connection. However, their presence only reveals that remnants of these ancient knights have wandered into enemy territory. Artorias hunted the Darkwraiths, and Farron took up his mantle. It isn’t odd for some to have wandered into the ruins with the intention of slaying whoever is left. Two Darkwraiths will even slaughter the Ghrus as they approach the Abyss Watchers at the mausoleum, apparently intending to confront the Legion. The Ghrus are therefore unlikely to have garnered their monstrous form from the Abyss.

On the other hand, the Ghrus have been in contact with chaos demons as their presence in the ruins of Smouldering Lake demonstrates, but they are not chaos demons themselves. Despite their English name “Demon Ghru”, close examination of the demon deacons’ physiology prove them to be different creatures. Their skull-like heads and bony tails more closely resemble the Capra Demons, only more avian in nature. Likewise, they have four fingers versus the Ghrus’ five digits, and toed feet versus the Ghrus’ hooves. They even have a second set of larger arms and smaller legs sharing joints with the first, whereas the Ghrus merely possess what look more like vestigial wings between the shoulder blades. Black Knight weapons don’t affect the Ghrus like the chaos demons, there are no signs of them bearing chaos fire, and the Elders already show a Ghru at full maturity. Demonhood just isn’t the answer.

If their monstrous form cannot be credited to an outside force, then it is likely a confluence of various natural phenomena that all happened to coincide. One is a hyper-evolution of the acolytes and their progeny in their toxic environment, like the “lizardmen” and darkness Hollows from DS2. If such metamorphosis occurred with the original acolytes dwelling in the Keep as it became a poison swamp, then it would guarantee all subsequent generations be more monstrous and less sophisticated. Indeed, the Ghrus found in Smouldering Lake have grown different horns than those in Farron — specifically the demon deacons’ horns. Their bodies are already beginning to adapt to their new habitat, which corresponds with them adopting new weapons derived from local materials.

As to the speed of this transformation, we find corvians leading up both to Farron Keep and the Abyss Watchers boss room, reminding us of the power that emotions have in twisting the human form into something more bestial. Strong emotions have demonstrated the capability to trigger hyper-evolution, like the Gaping Dragon in DS1 and the Covetous Demon in DS2. The acolytes’ transformation is therefore likely a result of their intense feelings, creating effectively a new “race” of creature. Their physical evolution would reflect a behavioral devolution during their isolation from Farron’s magic academy outside the fortress walls. Indeed, the Ghrus’ barbaric tribal practices all look to derive from the beliefs and practices of Farron before and during its collapse.

The mutilated, decayed corpse of what appear to be Ghrus have been crucified all around the swamp, more remains piled at the base of the cross. This practice is clearly modeled after lycanthrope crucifixions but is instead performed on fellow Ghrus in some sort of ritual sacrifice. We can thereby infer that the acolytes’ presence within the Keep was originally to help hunt the lycanthropes before the practice degenerated into this rudimentary ritual. This can also be seen with their totems ornamented with crude metal crescent moons, which some Ghru absentmindedly stare at as if entranced. Their primitive religion’s focus is squarely on exorcising evil spirits, distorting the acolytes’ memory of practices concerning those possessed by wolves and the Dark. This would explain why the remains are occasionally burned in pyres, replacing the Follower Torch to cleanse corruption.

This cleansing of the body by fire is why the acolytes are likely the “barbarians” referenced in the description for Sacred Flame. The pyromancy is more accurately a “Cleansing Fire” (浄火) that savages used in ritual purifications, raising and igniting a fire within the bodies of sacrifices to cleanse them of “corruption”, hence the name. This pyromancy text is found off a human corpse scorched by the lava of the Demon Ruins in Smouldering Lake. However, the local Izalithian culture has no such tradition, so why would it be there? Because priests of a barbaric tribe developed it as a result of learning pyromancy from the chaos demons. The Ghrus are the only ones who fit this description.

Pyromancy handed down to barbarians. Raises a fire within the enemy and instantly ignites it.

It is originally a ceremony that cleanses a sacrifice’s corruption, thus that fire is called a purifying flame.

Even if it looks somewhat barbaric, or maybe it is appropriate for that reason, barbarian pyromancers are most certainly also priests.

Despite lacking any physical relation to chaos demons, the Ghrus still lurk in demon territory, so they have evidently found their way from Farron to these abandoned Carthus ruins deep underground. But why? Among them, one Ghru priest can be seen sitting and staring at a dead demon deacon while two guards mind the entrance. This is the same room where a human corpse carrying the Izalith Pyromancy Tome kneels before the demon cadaver, giving the scene an air of reverence. All of this suggest that a profoundly intimate moment of religious significance is taking place, one which relates to the deacons’ fire arts. Why pay your respects to the holy man of another religion unless your two tribes share some deep-rooted spiritual connection, specifically the use of pyromancy?

Pyromancy fits perfectly with the Ghrus’ tradition of ritual burning to exorcise evil spirits, and their priests’ respect for the deacons is in line with the Izalithian school’s emphasis on master-pupil relations. In fact, Sacred Flame’s description makes a point of these rituals’ sheer barbarity requiring the pyromancers be called “priests” to justify them. Some might argue that these Ghru shamans never perform any fire art against us in combat, but why would they? It only exists for sacrificial purposes; we are the ones repurposing the ritual as an attack. The Ghrus practice these ceremonies amongst themselves, so there is no reason for the priests to try purifying us human invaders mid-battle, unlike the evangelists from the Cathedral of the Deep. If they do use any pyromancy for combat, it is their poison breath attack, which functions identical to Poison Mist; Toxic Mist for the priests in Smouldering Lake, the same location where we can acquire Eingyi’s text on that very pyromancy. The Ghrus are undoubtedly acquainted with Izalith’s arts.

Contact between the chaos demons and Ghrus can be dated as far back as the original generation of acolytes. A human corpse can be found near a chasm leading to Smouldering Lake from the Catacombs of Carthus and it possesses black bug pellets. It is therefore likely that the human acolytes came in contact with the chaos demons while exploring the catacombs. They then learned pyromancy from its deacons, which was then used in their savage tribal practices as they degenerated into the Ghrus. The current presence of the Ghrus in the Demon Ruins further suggest that the two parties have maintained contact well after the acolytes’ transformation. One Black Knight can be found slaying a Ghru behind an illusory wall down there, so efforts are being made to cull or contain the wandering “evil” spirits on the surviving demon deacons’ behalf, unsuccessfully though it would seem.

It wasn’t just chaos demons that the acolytes and their descendants considered worthy of respect. The Ghrus continue to make black bug pellets despite almost never facing Dark affiliates in either of their habitats. Their creation thus must be a tradition from their ancestors who originally concocted the process. But there was no point to the acolytes passing down this knowledge; Farron had collapsed, and it wouldn’t help them with hunting the lycanthropes. The only reason to keep the tradition alive is because the Undead planned to carry on the Abyss Watchers’ mission even without the wolf blood, once the lycanthrope threat was taken care of. They deeply respected the Legion, and despite all the twisting of knowledge and memory, their descendants inherited that reverence as well.

Ghrus occasionally possess Wolf’s Blood Swordgrass. The Watchdogs of Farron believe receiving this after slaying intruders to the forest is proof of the dead’s appreciation for ensuring they rest in peace, which has merit. The wolf blood implicitly contain traces of a legionnaire’s soul, and bloodstained swordgrass was how one relayed a message. In that case, the spirits of Watchers buried all around Farron may well instinctively respond to nearby actions from others. And because it doubles as its own blood, the Old Wolf can recognize the message as proof of success and raise a Watchdog’s rank accordingly. The fact that Ghrus carry these hence means two things. One, the dead react positively to even the Ghrus’ efforts to rid the Keep of invaders. And two, the Ghrus value their approval. Clearly, their culture reveres the Legion, perhaps even considering them gods. This would explain why a number guard the mausoleum where the surviving Abyss Watchers currently reside. Everything was for them.

Taken together, we have a fuller history of the acolytes’ decline. As Farron fell into disarray, there was a split. One party remained wholly invested in their research, shutting themselves inside as everything crumbled around them and ultimately hollowing. The other that studied sorcery in order to combat the Abyss rather than enrich their personal knowledge joined the general staff in hunting the lycanthropes. Their efforts centered around the actual Keep and ended up being very successful considering none are to be found inside presently. However, their obsessive dedication to Farron’s ideals and the increasingly harsh environment warped them into a tribe of savages. This tribe soon spread underground and eventually made contact with the chaos demons before they and their descendants fully devolved into the monstrous Ghrus. And by that point, the barbarians had turned their degenerated practices on themselves, which is rooted in some logic.

While all the Ghrus are primitive, they exhibit varying degrees of savagery. The most civilized among them continue to hold onto vestiges of Farron’s culture while the least behave like wild dogs. There is a clear degradation of mental faculties occurring with some Ghrus. Another unarmed variant still walks on two legs. Its internal name labels them as “estrus”, (発情) so its hyper-aggressive behavior can be attributed to being a female Ghru in heat. But, this is likely just a joke by the developers, similar to how the dog-like Ghrus are labeled “dogs” (犬) despite only resembling them behaviorally. Based on the unusual number and growth of their horns, the minds of these tribesmen have only developed a particularly aggressive instinct, making them only marginally better than the totally wild Ghrus.

Would this madness not look like possession by evil forces, such as the wolf blood or the Dark? And the Ghrus’ tradition for exorcising these forces was crucifixion and immolation. In this way, the Ghrus developed a religion of sacrificing their brethren to cleanse the tribe of “corruption” that they presumed caused the madness. In truth, this faith may be the only reason that most Ghrus retain some measure of civility. The ones entranced by the Darkmoon totems are all at an early stage of madness, as if hoping to calm their minds and retain themselves by focusing on the symbolic image. But their worsening mental state seems to simply be a byproduct of their physical transformation, embracing the beast if you will — possession by a nature much like the lycanthropes they were supposed to be hunting, ironically enough. Ghru religion is based on primal reactions to phenomena that they no longer understand, a far cry from the learned men of reason they descend from.

Indeed, the final remnants of the acolytes’ sorcery seem to be carried on by the Elder Ghrus. This aged variant wield white tree trunks like staffs, suggesting that they are aware of their magical properties if not their prior use for Oolalician sorcery staves. Cut content confirms that the weapon was originally intended to be a sorcery staff imbued with the magic power of the “sacred beasts” (霊獣) dwelling deep in the forest and utilizing very old sorcery. This refers to the Elder Ghrus, who were internally called “sacred beast of the forest” (森の霊獣) at the time. Previously, the term had only been used for the Sanctuary Guardian of DS1’s DLC. Therefore, the intention may have been for these Ghrus to play a similar role, casting Oolacile’s ancient light sorceries to associate them with the divine. But whatever the original idea for this enemy and its staff was, it clearly changed.

Staff used by sacred beasts that dwell in the deep forest.

The staff enveloped in the magic power of the sacred beasts who utilized sorcery from very long ago boosts the might of sorcery.

Rather than cast any recognizable sorcery, Elder Ghrus summon spirits of the dead from the skulls tangled in the tree roots. These skulls seems to be those who had died and were buried before the rotten overgrowth consumed the Keep, which is supported by the multitude of grave markers found throughout the swamp. This makes these catalysts less like sorcery staffs and more like shamanistic cursed staffs, drawing specifically on the grudges of the dead they disturb by slamming these trunks on the ground. These elders may be the original generation of acolytes, but they have long abandoned the principles of sorcery in pursuit of preserving their ruined organization. The acolytes’ obsession with saving their adopted home only cemented its destruction.

Time Marches On

Despite all the chaos, Farron’s downfall appears to have passed by quietly on the world stage. The Dreamchaser’s Ashes belong to someone who wandered the rotten forest in the hopes of joining the Undead Legion. If the full circumstances surrounding Farron are widely known, why even bother making an attempt so long after the collapse? The Hidden Blessing derived from these ashes suggests a connection to the Queen of Lothric. If any country would have first learned about Farron’s destruction, it would be its towering neighbor. However, the Road of Sacrifices did end with Aldrich’s firelinking, so there was no more incentive to keep tabs on the Crystal Sage and the Keep more generally. If the fort didn’t normally keep regular contact with outsiders, no one may have noticed a problem until rather recently if at all.

In the meantime, Farron was still a land of drifters, Keep or no. Great Swamp pyromancers, Vinheim sorcerers, former Lothric sellswords, exiled criminals — plenty more have since come wandering into these Hollow-ridden wooded wetlands. Some of these vagabonds came across the Old Wolf and agreed to a covenant. Item descriptions assert that the Old Wolf has commanded these Watchdogs of Farron to be gravekeepers in the same manner as the wolf and its ancestor. Recall the beast’s original motive. To this day, the wolf stands between the world and Artorias’ grave, trying to secure and honor the knight’s legacy. And his successors have joined that legacy, much of their Abyss-stained equipment piled alongside the replica monument. Now that the bloodline is at its end, its bearers who properly fulfilled their duty all laid to rest, is it not the Old Wolf’s duty to ensure that they rest in peace, too? But it no longer has the strength, so it must once again rely on outsiders.

Old wolf crest medal. Proof of a pact with the Old Wolf of Farron.

Equip to become a covenantor of the “Watchmen of Farron”.

The watchmen are the ones who protect the warriors’ rest, and when something approaches the forest of Farron, it is their mission to hunt it as covenant spirits.

Not all were spotless individuals. Two such Watchdogs guarding the Keep’s main entrance are both exiles wearing armor reminiscent of convicts. Like other criminals, they don’t drink Estus and so probably aren’t Undead. One wields a greatsword heavily stained in blood, which its description affirms is indicative of serious crimes. The other wields a great club as well as the target shield we are provided when choosing an assassin background. However, this “assassin” also casts healing miracles while labeled a “clergy exile” (聖職の流刑人) in official guides, which explains his creative choice of weapon — essentially a large log, likely derived locally. A cleric exiled for some cloak and dagger doesn’t reflect well on his integrity. But regardless of both past crimes, both are contrite enough to aid a helpless old wolf with little of material gain. Banished from society and forced to hide in the countryside, they want for purpose and a place to belong. The covenant with the Old Wolf provides that companionship and sense of fulfillment.

Like before, the Old Wolf provides medals as proof of their pact, summoning the bearers to hunt down invaders trampling upon the graves similar to the Forest Hunters in DS1. Unlike Alvina’s thieves, however, the equally criminal Watchdogs do this purely to honor the dead. As noted earlier, the watchmen always collect the bloodstained swordgrass after a successful hunt, believing it a response from the Abyss Watchers dead and buried there. Why believe this reward comes from the graves you protect unless you want it to be true? The Watchdogs seek acceptance for righteousness as penance for their transgressions, not the loot from intruders. And some have earned back their honor, pieces of exile equipment among the piles surrounding the Old Wolf. Many of these criminals have fallen and joined the warriors being respected in death as they weren’t in life; the legacy of Artorias lives on.

Proof that the Watchmen of Farron who protect the warriors’ rest with the Old Wolf fulfilled their mission. Leaf of swordgrass stained with dried blood.

It is a symbol that the Undead Troop once used to communicate, and it is said that spirits of the warriors who rest in the rotten forest bring it to the watchmen and is proof of their approval and appreciation.

At least, the watchmen believe so.

The Crystal Sage on the other hand has ignored all the goings-on in Farron, not showing concern for even the hollowing of his academy. Instead, he has simply stayed in the ruins, presumably continuing research. What can he possibly learn from Farron at this point? Nothing, probably. But his interest is no longer Farron. Unlike his twin, this Sage casts sorcery with a more purple hue, most obvious when juxtaposed with clones that still use the standard blue magic. This suggests that he has tried incorporating something more Dark into his crystal arts, similar to Sulyvahn. His holy white fire is usable for the Dark as much as crystal, and one kind of Dark in particular. In other words, he has likely been studying the Deep. The crystal gems and white dragon shields of certain Cathedral adherents do imply some crossover with the Sage’s apprentices. And with all the sacrifices let through, it would undoubtedly tickle the elder’s curiosity. Indeed, for the Road of Sacrifices to have restarted, he must still be honoring the agreement to grant passage; this time, he has an incentive to see the Deep propagate.

For Whom the Bell Tolls

When the Lords of Cinder awake from their graves, they all decide to abandon their thrones rather than assist with the firelinking again. For the Abyss Watchers, their primary concern was the state of their homeland, as that is where we find them. Perhaps they were simply curious about what transpired in their absence, or perhaps they heard rumor of what did occur and rushed over. Either way, what they saw would be disheartening. Their beloved Keep is now a monster-infested ruin beyond any hope of saving, and all because they wanted to appease their hero complex by linking the fire. To call it a blow to their egos is too kind; they must have been devastated. After learning we slayed them, Hawkwood surmises that the Watchers were searching for a place to die, which puts their behavior leading up to it in proper context.

… Ah, I need to thank you. Since they were probably searching for a place to die… Ha ha ha… How pitiful.

When we arrive at the Farron Mausoleum, two Abyss Watchers are battling to the death among the piles of their comrades. The legionnaires have ultimately decided to kill each other in a suicidal free-for-all. What do they have left to live for? They have no hope to rebuild the organization, and they can only blame themselves. How would an honorable knight like Artorias atone for this transgression? By offering up his own life as recompense. And how were warriors who dedicated their immortal lives to fighting transgressions to go about it? By putting the sinner to the sword. Death by honorable combat with each other was thus a fitting end for the Legion. But fate robs them of even that. Other Abyss Watchers rise back up from amongst the bodies to join the fight during the boss battle — they aren’t truly dying.

Like manscorpions Tark and Najka in DS2, the bond between their souls via the wolf blood has likely made killing each other impossible. The Legion is at once one and many, so any deathblow dealt by another legionnaire is simply shouldered by the others in the network. The collective soul cannot severe itself, so the disparate pieces also remain tethered to their corresponding bodies. Only an agent outside the web can sever all the bonds. In other words, the Farron Followers were not just beneficial to the Watchers but a necessity. If one was corrupted by the Abyss, the others were incapable of putting him down; so long as one survived, both did. The revenants were therefore required to be the ones to drag the damned off to the world of the dead. If more extreme measures like beheading or mass suicide were viable workarounds, the Undead ignored it for their final duel.

In this light, we can only presume that the Legion was consigned to an endless struggle amongst themselves for the rest of meaningless eternity. This bizarre behavior is probably a reflection of the contradictions within their own hearts. They deeply loath themselves as sinners but desperately wish to be glorified as heroes. They want to die but are driven to live. They exist to fight but have lost what they fought for. They are thus caught in this strange dance where they futilely attempt to face death with honor while endlessly punishing themselves for refusing to commit to it. They are their own harshest critic and yet their most merciful arbiter, leading to never-ending self-torture. Our arrival to the scene is probably a blessing in their eyes. After noticing our entry, the last Watcher still standing for the moment raises his sword in what is apparently a customary dueling gesture among the Legion — we can learn this etiquette for ourselves by praying to the Old Wolf. Friend or foe, we are welcome to join. After all, we are the only ones actually capable of leaving a clear victor.

In meeting their challenge, we defeat this Abyss Watcher and possibly any other who comes after us. This forces that one legionnaire, on the verge of his own death, to draw on the blood, soul, and flame they share divided amongst the bodies into himself. More than likely, this is the response of the collective will of all the Watchers present, wanting to bring their full strength to bear against a foe who has proven worthy. The many have now become truly one, united in their desire to be judged through combat. With the full power of the entire Legion, bolstered by the Old Wolf, Artorias, and the First Flame, this last body gives everything they have to defeat us or die trying — also save us the time continuing to go through each of them individually. At least this way, they can face death with a modicum of dignity and a sliver of heroism.