The Deep


Preface


Aldrich, and the Deep in general, is an aspect of Dark Souls that I can’t help but be morbidly fascinated with. From a thematic standpoint, they provide a perfect response to questions posed in its predecessors. From a story standpoint, they add another major faction foreshadowing the underlying problems that we will be expected to address. From an aesthetic standpoint, they add a deliciously grotesque sort of villainy previously unexplored in Dark Souls (DS1) or Dark Souls II. (DS2) Of course, cannibalism and religious corruption is nothing new to the series, but combining the two while building upon the individual ideas they each presented in past games is what holds my full attention.


Purify the Filth


The Cathedral of the Deep belongs to the Way of White. We find various items related to the faith there, with the Cathedral’s female preachers even carrying blessed gems used by its holy women. The local deacons, or “bishops” (主教) to be more accurate, wear dark red to symbolize the divine protection of fire with an anthropomorphized sun to represent Gwyn; adherents wear similar robes, only with stylized flames. The head of the graveyard’s headstones likewise depicts a blossoming flower, another symbol for fire, in the same manner as crosses employed in Christian graves. In fact, this medieval Christian-styled cathedral employs a floral motif throughout its architecture. And presiding over all this is the highest rank in the Way of White, the archbishop dressed in — fittingly — white. In fact, multiple archbishops have taken up post there simultaneously. Perhaps it was to accommodate the sheer size of the parish, but this nonetheless reveals the position’s unique role compared to its Christian counterpart.

The archbishop’s crown is meant signal an agent of the gods. This is odd since mere priests have traditionally acted as divine representatives; even in the Way of White, Lloyd previously only distinguished his proxies as high priests. Why single out particular members of the clergy for this basic duty? It suggests that a god, either directly or through the church hierarchy, assigns the cleric that rank to perform on the deity’s behalf for a specific purpose, whether it be as a leader to the lower ranks of a particular place or some other duty. The cathedral does seem to be dedicated to Caitha based on the statues of a woman seemingly crying into one hand erected all around the premises, inside and out — the two rusted coins found shortly after our first clear looks at two of such statues reinforces that impression. If so, then the implication is that the goddess far and away in Carim took an interest in this land so deep into the Farron woods, enough to make it a parish.

The reason for her patronage may be found in the name “Church of the Deep”. (深みの聖堂) The so-called “Deep” of the Cathedral had originally been holy as well as peaceful, meaning there must have been such a thing for the church to have been founded upon. The most notable landmark is a large pool on the left side of the adjoining chapel, a still body of water that can certainly be described as serene. Being a god of tears, Caitha is associated with water, while the shallow, crystal-clear pools across the bottom floor highlight water’s importance to the Cathedral. Additionally, the Deep as a broader concept is later linked to the idea of a deep sea in particular, and pure water is closely associated with spiritual cleanliness in Japanese religious thinking. Altogether, it makes sense for the pool outside to be treated as something holy, and that it is.

Miracle that bishops of the Deep are bestowed when assuming their duties.

Slightly boosts attack power, cut rates, and resistances and also slightly raises stamina recovery speed.

The Deep was originally peaceful and holy and thus has become a cradle for repulsive things. Those who enshrine it are the same, as the story of the Deep Sea has given them divine protection.

Many adherents of the Deep can be found on the rooftops and buttresses facing this pool. Some are congregating around a Cathedral evangelist, and incense burners are installed on the underside of the buttresses. Both the chapel and a small room in the main church have balconies overlooking the pool, the latter’s primary function if the lone preacher standing there is any indication. We can also see the far side of the pool walled off — the same side on our right when we first enter the property. All of this endows the body of water with an aura of holiness and primacy to the Cathedral, bringing to mind the holy spring of Mirrah. Indeed, a well is situated by the chapel entrance while water floods into the graveyard’s lowest level from somewhere underground, implying the existence of subterranean aquifers. Therefore, this pool is another holy spring and the original Deep, or “Depths”, that prompted the church’s location there.

Aside from enshrining consecrated ground, the Cathedral served as a place to perform cleansing rituals. Even ignoring the Cleansing Chapel right next to the spring, the church’s major icons include a statue of someone sprouting the pus of man, the shrouded variant depicting the early stages is even occasionally a trap “vomiting” sludge which unleashes a poisonous gas — fitting, since the progression of the Dark consuming the body has always been referred to as “corruption”. The Way of White fears pollution inherent to the Undead curse, and we see some Hollow adherents pray to the pus statues, as if begging to be spared that fate. And yet, the preachers have still led them to this holy place. According to their set’s description, they have been sending “bearers” from the Undead Settlement along the road to the Cathedral, and we do in fact come across many corpses with travelers’ souls in tracing this path. Considering the town’s own fear of manifesting the pus, this must be to cleanse corruption the evangelists identify in advance; as some pus statues overlooking the spring signify, the Deep had been the means.

One corner of the church rooftop has a peculiar setup. Benches and pus statues line the balcony sides while facing a central square cavity similar to the large, shallow pools within the cathedral. Although currently filled with dirt, this space resembles a foot bath common to Japanese hot springs. Did this area once pump up spring water for cleansing? DS2’s Holy Water Urns demonstrate the power of holy spring water to heal the living and scald the Hollow due to their increased intimacy with the Dark, so the same can be true for the Deep spring. Cleansing their impurities this way would be dangerous for the Undead, but the adherents we encounter are perfectly willing to immolate themselves for purification — the possibility of death isn’t an issue. In fact, it is all the more fitting that a goddess associated with sympathy and grief be the patron deity of a church dedicated to cleansing impurities at the risk of death.

A high death toll from cleansing would explain the sizable churchyard. Dotted among the standard flower stones are larger tombstones with holes in the center instead. Like the graves in the Ringed City, these holes bring the Darksign to mind, and their added size imbues special prominence. After all, it is important for a church welcoming Undead to clearly identify their burial places from the rest — no one wants to be caught unawares if the dead crawl back up again. However, this also indicates that Undead weren’t the majority dying to these cleansing rituals. There were many others with afflictions requiring cleansing with the holy pool. Not all the notable graves buried Undead, however, as evidenced by the obelisks erected there in even fewer number. Again, like in the Ringed City, the monument must denote some manner of holy hero, and the adherents praying to one cement that inference. A corpse halfway into the ground before another obelisk seems to provide an example, an Astoran knight going by the greatsword it carries. The monuments can’t denote clerics, as they have their own burial spot.

Closer to the Cathedral is a more organized cemetery with a just as formal layout. The graves are fancier and bear the image of a hooded figures in prayer. Likewise, they are ornamented with funerary vases used to mark the elite in Ancient Greek society. This is reinforced by the ornate metal coffins lying around the adjacent mortuary with said vases. Taken as a whole, these are for clerics, which explains why these particular graves are so few; clergy are more likely to have lived long lives in this peaceful parish, only dying of old age. Two small mausoleums seem to denote those few who turned Undead — the stone walls on every side plus the bell are obvious safeguards from a, theoretically, more dangerous clergyman rising up. Otherwise, we only see more of these tombs beside the Cleansing Chapel. The neglect exhibited by two of the four suggests that this is an older churchyard, thereby implying that the chapel might predate the cathedral.

We can trace this history back even farther. On a cliff just outside the first Cathedral archway on our journey, we can come across a small collection of graves. Lying against one is the Crest Shield belonging to another knight of Astora, meaning that those buried there were likely subjected to the same cleansing. Indeed, the burials are situated specifically next to the wall dividing us from the holy pool, which we can’t see behind the steep rocks and thick tree foliage. But compared to those in the Cathedral cemetery, these headstones are generic and unassuming; they didn’t have the Way of White’s budget for quality. In other words, they were setup by ordinary people. Why not simply use the nearby church services to bury them? Because the church wasn’t present there at the time. In other words, these were the first burials, before the Cathedral of the Deep was ever established.

From this, we can conclude that the Deep pool was a natural holy spring. The presence of a saint-tree reaffirms that the land has absorbed an inordinate amount of blessed power, so it wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this originates with the water collected deep underground. Someone stumbled upon this spring and it began to see use. Once word had spread, the Way of White, naturally, moved in to claim jurisdiction over the sacred space. It built the chapel to regulate these cleansing baths, a boon to both the pilgrim’s safety and the church’s reputation. And as the holy site became more and more popular, the institution eventually expanded into the massive cathedral now dominating the area. Caitha or her closest worshipers may have visited the site at one point, given the Carim church’s involvement in nearby Lothric’s affairs. But, neither she nor anyone else sanctified it; the same cannot be said for profaning it.


Accursed Maneater


Since humans entered the picture, the Deep has become a “cradle” (寝床) for repulsive things. The Japanese description for Deep Protection describes this as a consequence to its holy and peaceful nature, suggesting that something impious polluted this vulnerable, helpless sacred ground. That pollution was Aldrich. The man was a Way of White clergyman from Irithyll as well as a sorcerer, based on his proficiency with a sorcery staff during his boss battle and ability to fashion magic rings. This already hints to his spiritual corruption within the Irithyll church, but he is actually infamous for making man his diet. This consumption of human flesh went on until the cleric fattened himself to the point of his body just melted into sludge. Horrific as this sounds, the man still lived, so this wasn’t simply some bizarre case of overeating. More than likely, his cannibalism resulted in him being afflicted with a kind of curse.

For example, Eldritch. He, who was a clergyman, kept eating people like it was breathing. He bloated like a drowned pig, became melted sludge, and was imprisoned in the Church of the Deep…

DS1 already introduced us to leftover meat of a cannibal’s victims becoming cursed by their grudge in death, and DS2 built upon the concept further with uniting various resentful bodies and souls into a single will coalescing around a particularly strong soul. What happens then to the cannibals who imbibe that cursed meat for sustenance? Most maneaters we encounter have fattened up as a consequence of their sick tastes, but none have apparently gone to the same lengths as Aldrich, who Hawkwood says did it as if it was breathing. Therefore, Aldrich’s sludge state can be attributed to the very meat sustaining his mortal body bearing a grudge against him, melting his body into something akin to the crawling carrion while the will of his soul keeps the flesh vessel together under his control.

This connection between Aldrich’s transformation and a curse is reaffirmed through the Deep Accursed enemies. These spider-like monstrosities possess Aldrich’s Ruby and Sapphire, rings the holy man bequeathed so that others could “bathe” in screams and “eat” shivers. True to this ghastly description, the rings restore health or focus when performing “fatal” attacks. The repulsive maneater wanted their owners to feed on even the suffering of their victims’ mortal wounds, and we do see skeletons fused from the top of the Deep Accurseds’ heads down their entire backs, arms outstretched as if begging for escape. These monsters are humans who indulged in Aldrich’s same habit and have similarly been cursed into grotesque form as a result. In Aldrich’s case, he dissolved into sludge. But each are the dominant will commanding their composite body, the core unifying it all.

Warped ring that the holy man of the Deep Eldritch bequeathed. Recovers HP during fatal attacks.

Eldritch, who is known as a repulsive maneater, surely wanted to impart it. The means to bathe in screams and eat the very shivers of life.

Aldrich was afterward “imprisoned” in the Cathedral of the Deep as Hawkwood puts it. This leaves the monster’s arrival as the only known event to roughly coincide with the holy spring’s corruption. The description for Deep Protection ties this corruption to the “Deep” being identified as a broader concept related to the deep sea, which fits with Aldrich’s title. The cannibal is now known as the “holy man of the Deep”, (深みの聖者) with the “cursed of the Deep” (深みの呪者) sharing the same association. Not only can the term be shorthand for residence at the cathedral, it can also link it to their transformation. In other words, the deep sea concept may not originate with the Deep pool itself but the cursed being who had been confined there with it.

If so, then how do we define the “Deep” metaphysically? It derives its power from the Dark, attacks occasionally even petrifying targets; presumably for the same reason as the pus of man: “devouring” souls from the body per the Dark’s nature. Similarly, deep weapons are forged using the same white fire as blessed weapons, paralleling how Dark heathen weapons in DS1 were derived from holy weapons forged with the Way of White’s sacred white flames. However, this is a Dark never seen prior to Dark Souls III, beyond human knowledge and thus unable to be wielded to its full potential through intelligence or faith — at least in physical weapon form. Moreover, instead of humanity, souls with a Deep affinity look like the standard non-Dark variety, only with a pitch-dark blue core and blue aura.

This last point would indicate that the Deep doesn’t derive its power directly from dark souls, instead converting common souls into something darker in alignment. The description for Deep Soul clarifies the process: dark “dregs” (澱) of the soul sink within the Deep where they accumulate. The reference to sediment ties into the earlier allusion of the depths of the deep sea, the lowest region stretching down to the bottom of the ocean floor where no light can reach. But this still implies that there is a Dark which is consuming all the light of souls it engulfs. Indeed, dark soul dregs have a pursuing nature akin to living humanity, and Great Soul Dregs shows humanity to be their ultimate form.

Deep Souls (left, center) compared to Great Soul Dregs (right)

Human dregs, meanwhile, is humanity with dark blue tinges to its black core like deep souls, not to mention an aura more ash grey rather than white. Likewise, its menu graphic portrays the dark soul as if it is sinking in water — like a deep sea. The Dark has always been weighty, with the Abyss (深淵) already invoking the image of deep waters with its kanji. But the very idea of sediment on the seafloor implies the Deep to be heavy enough to sink to even darker depths, where it will then stagnate at the proverbial bottom. It is no surprise then that these dregs are the heaviest thing within man. In fact, this instance of “dregs” (澱み) can alternatively be read as “stagnation”, effectively making such dark souls the stagnation of man itself.

Proof that Defenders of the God-Eater who await Eldritch the God-Eater fulfilled their mission. The heaviest thing within man. The stagnation of man.

It is said that it sinks to any depth and will thus become the shackles of the world someday.

We can thus define this concept of the Deep as “stagnant Dark”, and its expression is two-fold. Normally, humanity will simply stagnate into human dregs as another symptom of the larger stagnation afflicting the world. However, ordinary souls that are entrapped in this stagnant Dark stagnate themselves into deep souls with properties resembling it. When a soul is trapped at the bottom and left to stew so deep in Dark for so long, it will inevitably start being consumed by that “deep sea”. Eventually, the stagnant Dark breaks down all the non-Dark qualities within the soul and it becomes no different from humanity, true human dregs.

Now take that process and apply it to Aldrich, who over time accumulated countless resentful dead within himself with no means to escape. He would not just be absorbing the flesh and souls one can garner from more conventional food — he would also be eating fragments of the Dark Soul itself. And he was devouring men to an extreme degree even compared to other cannibals. Taken together, his dark sludge body starts looking more like the product of a Deep curse. The monster became a physical manifestation of the deep sea, stagnating dark souls within himself only to later be cursed by all of the cumulative grudges. The graphic for his corrupted deep soul exemplifies this process: another standard boss soul lies trapped at the bottom, slowly devoured until it is eventually assimilated into the whole. There is no doubt that this cannibal is what turned the Deep into what it has become best known as.


Stem the Tide


Aldrich’s confinement at the Cathedral was never intended to be permanent, as Sulyvahn gave him the key to cross the magic barrier back into Irithyll. This act likewise narrows down his motivations for sending the cleric there to begin with, not least of which is because of his role as Pontiff. Sulyvahn’s absolute control over the Way of White within Irithyll made him responsible for any and all incidents that occur there under his watch. After all, the clergyman had indulged in his grotesque habit — which certainly can’t occur without a significant amount of persons mysteriously going missing — without repercussions for a long time. This puts a great amount of pressure on him to act when that cleric suddenly becomes a Dark monster that he can’t simply hide behind closed doors.

By that same token, Sulyvahn may value Aldrich as an underling of the local church hierarchy. Being a sorcerer himself and the reason that sorcery spreads among the clergy to begin with, the Pontiff had incentive to be lenient with the cannibal’s sins. It would be hypocritical for the self-proclaimed representative of God and His church to care about one of his holy men partaking in Dark vices when he himself secretly flirts with the Dark among his many varied magical interests. In other words, the corrupt Pontiff may not personally care what his corrupt clergymen are doing in private, but he has to keep the “company” image in mind when faced with an unavoidable scandal of a holy man turning unholy monster. Thus, in order to maintain legitimacy as a divine representative, the tyrant decided on the equivalent of transferring an employee to another branch office until the issue at home dies down.

Why send Aldrich to the Cathedral of the Deep specifically? It is relatively close to Irithyll, which would be convenient if he is to someday come back. But, he cannot return so long as he is a monster. And so, Aldrich needed to first be cleansed of his curse and return to human form, which the Deep pool was supposed to facilitate. Recall that the Deep was peaceful and holy and so has become a cradle for repulsive things as a consequence, implying that the events resulting in its corruption occurred for those very qualities of purity and sanctity. In theory, the sacred spring would dilute and burn away the cleric’s impurities. In practice, however, this backfired, resulting in his corruption instead spreading to the stagnant body of water. With nowhere for this filth to flow out to, the still pool could only accumulate the overwhelming amounts of stagnant Dark until the holy water was completely swallowed by it.

While it probably wasn’t his intention, Aldrich had gone off-script in sullying the Deep spring, forcing Sulyvahn to shift away from cleansing the cannibal to containing him. Meanwhile, the sacred spring began producing repulsive things which began seeping into the surrounding land. Various parts of the Cathedral show signs of a dark, sludgy matter growing beneath and even between the stones. This ominous matter often sprouts black roots and branches, bringing to mind the dendrofication resulting from the world’s stagnation — specifically from the Dark which is known to produce such viscous fluids. Indeed, Aldrich’s corrupted body produces similar twiggy growths as humans suffering from the stagnation. There is no doubt then that the Deep’s Dark has begun overtaking the Cathedral, inserting itself into every nook and cranny. Moreover, the spontaneous generation of life implies the corrupted pool to be its own entity, a stagnant Abyss manifesting from what dregs Aldrich shed. Flora aren’t its only spawn, either.

The corruption has seeped up to many of the graves, with corpses dragging themselves out of a dark fog. At first, they seem no different from Hollows, save for occasionally vomiting grubs. But these larvae prove to be simply puppeteering them. A mass of maggots burst out of the chest, using the body evidently being gnawed on as hind legs while their “head and arms” balance out the front. At the final stage, the body is reduced to a twisted husk at the end of a long “tail”, the remaining soul serving as last proof that these “corpse maggots” (死体蛆) were once just a “deserted corpse”. If that isn’t horrifying enough, the maggots apparently mature into flying insects that retain these fanged jaws for ripping through skin and crawling into the flesh. The profuse bleeding this causes is a quality previously associated with the life-eating power of the Dark. The maggots also display an intense fear of flame just like the pus of man. The bugs lurk in the Deep, Aldrich himself infested with the maggots; cut content would even have maggot men support him in the boss battle. Taken together, they too are its spawn.

Dark miracle handed down in the Church of the Deep.

Summons a swarm of insects to eat away at enemies.

The insects that lurk in the Deep possess fangs in their small jaws, so instantly tear through skin and creep into the flesh. It is said to be accompanied by intense bleeding.

The Cathedral had an imminent crisis on its hands — it needed to get this infestation under control. Stakes made of what looks to be some copper alloy have been stuck into the corruption arising around the church, mostly lining the edges of walls and corners as if to create a wall preventing further spread. Such metal has traditionally been used by Anor Londo, and pyromancers of the Great Swamp also use it as mayoke, (魔除け) amulets for warding off evil spirits. The description for their attire note this ritual talisman specifically keeps the Dark at bay, so the Cathedral’s stakes most likely serve the same purpose. Even still, neither demonstrates any significant holy power resistant to the Dark, making their use nothing more than symbolic. The same can be said for the corpse carrying the Poisonbite Ring, seemingly cornered and killed by the maggoty “poison” nonetheless. To combat the Deep, a more practical solution is required.

Apparel of pyromancers of the Great Swamp. It combines green copper ornaments and animal fur.

In the Great Swamp, green copper is considered to be an amulet. “For it is a ritual tool and keeps the Dark away.”

Grave wardens have been tasked with managing the reviving corpses, patrolling the graveyard and dirt-filled footbath where the repulsiveness might spawn. They employ weaponry designed to make victims bleed, which proves effective against both the maggots and their puppets. This is because the bugs seem to rely on the blood and body fluids to animate the corpse while they eat away at it and multiply. When using Gnaw, the mature Deep insects the miracle conjures will burst into massive amounts of blood even if they miss the target, implying that they rely heavily on it for sustenance and control. By draining the corpse of these fluids, its revival is at least slowed for a longer period of time. However, this endless duty is equally draining on the custodians given that all the corrupted gore has long since rotted their clothing, its Dark resistance reduced to almost nothing. They couldn’t do it alone.

Apparel of the gravekeepers of the Church of the Deep. Tattered, weathered hood.

The Church’s gravekeepers are the persons who manage the reviving corpses and bathe in their blood and mucilage. And it is said that those had terribly weathered it.


Twin blades of the gravekeepers of the Church of the Deep. One of the twin blade weapons.

The Church’s gravekeepers are the persons who manage the reviving corpses. This weapon forces massive bleeding. If they lose blood and body fluids, the revival is slowed.

Just as the gravekeepers use their blades as flint stones to spit fire, the evangelists use flame to purge bodies of the “bastard’s curse”. Many of their adherents are likewise willing to set themselves ablaze to try and kill us along with. This self-immolation is done at the preachers’ behest since they are the ones doling out cathedral-made red bug pellets to lessen their followers’ pain as they burn. If the corrupted spring can’t purify them, then these pious Undead can at least do it themselves while also cleansing other threats. Those not opting for murder-suicide instead militarize, as evidenced by the souls of soldiers we begin acquiring after reaching the main mass of adherents at the actual Cathedral. These warriors of the faith arm themselves mostly with swords and spears set ablaze with charcoal turpentine, arbalests loaded with fire bolts, or even simply firebombs. Whatever lets them safely put down the maggot monstrosities, among others.

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

It is made at the Church of the Deep and distributed by its preachers. So that there is at least less pain when you burn.

Based on the copious amounts of arrows sticking out of their backs, many church dogs have been taken into the woods and shot by the group of crossbowmen behind them, reviving thanks to the Hollow meat that they have apparently been feasting upon. This is neither target practice nor wanton animal cruelty, however. Two more dogs are hiding out in a cave beneath the Road of Sacrifices. One is a grey breed not unlike those seen in Farron territory a short ways away; the other, an almost hairless dog with a single arrow in its back. Evidently, one church canine managed to run off before the adherents could shoot it dead, fleeing to the Farron ruins below. While there, it paired up with a mate before they both escaped further out into the forest to live out the rest of their days in the wild.

From what we can see, they settled into their new burrow after killing an unsuspecting Carim knight and holy woman with braille scriptures, probably a prospective Fire Keeper taking shelter with her bodyguard en route to the Undead Settlement and then Lothric like Eygon and Irina. But even a partner can’t protect this runaway from herself, who is significantly more emaciated and vomiting poisonous fluid. The source of its illness seems to be the enormous tumor sagging from its belly. And upon closer inspection, that tumor is clearly comprised of maggots — the dog is a bug nest. In short, the Cathedral had tried siccing the vicious beasts on the Deep’s creatures and anyone corrupted by them. Once the dogs themselves became infested, the adherents tried purifying them all before the burgeoning maggots hollowed them out alive, as is the current fate of the runaway. And considering that the dogs still at the Cathedral are maggot-free, it worked.

This incident demonstrates both the effectiveness of fire in sealing the Deep’s spawn and their threat nonetheless. Everyone needed to take the utmost care not to be touched, and so the bishops carry around bladed candlesticks as a source for flame for the “religious services” they now perform. These blades were improved to also perform sorcery thanks to Archbishop McDonnell, who did the same to the staves representing the archbishops’ authority. The clergyman now doubled as flame sorcerers who could fend off the vile insects from range. Being from the Boreal Valley, McDonnell’s knowledge of sorcery isn’t a surprise, and his implicit study of flame sorcery in particular may have even been inspired by Sulyvahn introducing the Profaned Flame to Irithyll. The Archbishop’s assistance also indicates that he had been sent to the Cathedral fairly early on. Given his rank, the man was most likely within Sulyvahn’s inner circle and so trusted to monitor Aldrich’s purification and later imprisonment for the Pontiff.

Candlestick for religious service of the Bishops of the Deep. It is a sorcery staff along with a blade.

It is said that they became sorcerers despite being clergymen due to the teachings of McDonnell of the Cold Valley.

Regardless, the fact that other men of the cloth embraced a religious taboo like sorcery demonstrates the Cathedral’s sheer desperation in dealing with the Deep’s horrors. We can only encounter one bishop outside there, a single sentry at the top of the bell tower bridging the chapel to the main building. Its importance is especially obvious considering the adjoining chapel has its own, smaller bell overlooking the Deep spring. Seeing the line of sight from his tower, this bishop likely serves as a lookout in case the monsters overwhelm the forces combating the monstrosities on their behalf. He would ring the bell to alert everyone else inside and then run back in himself before the creatures start banging on the doors. From there, they would have to organize their defense; not like they could fall back to anywhere else.

The back exit to the Cathedral leading to the Farron ruins below has apparently been intentionally destroyed, boulders obstructing the staircases on either side of the terrace. The corpses upon the rocks bearing the soul of a traveler or homeward bone says it all. There was no escaping it. Once you were at the Cathedral, you were staying to fight. Cowards wouldn’t be allowed to just slip out the front. Under these conditions, one can only imagine the stress that the staff have endured, and this is probably why it is comprised of mainly clergy ranked bishop or higher. Bishops typically rank above priests in a church hierarchy and would presumably have better qualifications for dealing with the unholy, such as stronger faith. Taking on the duty of managing the Deep thereby fell to them. And even then, the Cathedral needed more help to deal with this corruption.

Aside from the grave wardens, who can also be found working at the Firelink Shrine cemetery, King Oceiros has contributed slaves as well as some of his personal guard to the Cathedral’s manpower, likely at the Pontiff’s request. And while the knights’ holy magic and blessed shields are very effective against the Dark, the description for their armor set indicates that their primary duty was crushing intruders, namely the inevitable “fools” attracted to the repulsive spawns of the Deep. Indeed, many are stationed in the rafters as if to head off sneaky infiltrators, their crossbows using standard bolts when a corpse below confirms they brought Edmond’s explosive invention. The concern was also warranted, given that a deep battleaxe has been locked in a mimic at Lothric’s walls to seemingly hide someone’s dabbling with the power. This adds a new dynamic of the church bearing the onus for both sealing away the corruption pervading it and keeping out threats interested in pursuing that same filth for their own ends. The church had essentially become a beacon for all manner of malice, hell on earth.

Armor of knights of the Church of the Deep. Bulky iron helmet.

The Church’s knights have great hammers that crush intruders. The repulsive things that sink into the Deep always attract fools for that reason.


Appeasing the Monster


While Aldrich’s imprisonment coincided with these attempts to seal the corruption stemming from the Deep, he wasn’t treated the same way. Rather than be locked up in a cage or outright killed, the cleric was simply confined to the Cathedral akin to house arrest. And during his confinement, he would need sustenance. This resulted in what is now known as the Road of Sacrifices. Behind the Undead Settlement church stretches a dirt road to the Cathedral through the Farron forest. The same horse-drawn carriages used to transport Lothric’s Undead to the settlement are derailed along the path. Surrounding them are men in the midst of becoming corvians, led by a storyteller — he apparently freed the wagons’ occupants in order to convert more undesirables. In other words, the sacrifices were rejected humans; the evangelists are sending bearers of the pus in town onto the road. One preacher has made camp further along the route with two manservants in tow, both carrying cages packed with bagged corpses. Who or what at the Cathedral would all these bodies be sacrificed to except the maneater?

Absent the Deep pool, Aldrich was used to dispose of Undead who might manifest the pus, and his confinement was likely the reason that the Undead Settlement’s church and nearby shrine were built in the first place. Unlike the shanty town, these fancy stone buildings share several design elements with the Cathedral. Moreover, a corpse hiding in a box within the shrine’s adjoining tower carries the Chloranthy Ring, which bore links as an old symbol in the Anor Londo religion in DS1 — the statue of Gwyn holding another in the Ringed City reinforces the implication. Why invest so many resources in poor Undead whom they simply visit to preach and occasionally send off to be cleansed? Moreover, why was the church in particular designed so sparse? It is simply one large and empty bottom floor exiting to the road and a tower overlooking the whole surrounding area, with crude lifts to move people between. It is almost as if the facility was established for a different kind of religious operation, such as loading residents up in carriages en masse and literally overseeing their journey to the destination.

Certainly, the evangelist leading a procession between the two holy sites betrays the Cathedral’s intention to co-opt the town’s existing religious traditions. They wanted a more permanent presence in the area, to entrench themselves in the morticians’ way of life and bring everyone under their influence. From there, they could keep a closer eye on their flock and organize a more large-scale system. Another carriage in town, derailed by the recent invasion of a fire demon, burns next to a corpse sitting at the cliff’s edge overlooking the Cathedral. It possesses a homeward bone, indicating that the Undead was from the church and so more likely the cart driver instead of the sacrifice. Lothric contributed, but it was all run by the clerics. After all, they were no longer simply showing a path for salvation to cursed monsters; they now had to also satiate the one monster under their care. The Cathedral couldn’t afford to be lackadaisical. It needed to find and process bearers in a much larger quantity at a far faster rate — and the amount of dendrofication in the church tower suggests that they met their quota.

These new measures were done at Sulyvahn’s direction. We find two giant slaves standing in the Cathedral’s the interior pools. These filthy mires are littered with corpses, most pushed against the walls as they writhed and begged for mercy. This suggests that the slaves were tasked with crushing the bodies beneath their feet, like a tub of grapes for wine making — all to prepare Aldrich’s meals, based on the maggots still infesting the bodies. Since these giants originate from Irithyll, they were either sent to the cathedral for this express purpose or had been part of Aldrich’s original escort and later repurposed. Either way, the grim task cannot be done without the Pontiff’s knowledge and at least tacit approval, implicating his willingness in these arrangements. Indeed, the countless maggot-infested bodies found around Irithyll Dungeon as prisoners or corpses show Sulyvahn’s profound fascination with these new creatures his cleric spawned. And in all likelihood, indulging the maneater was part of a larger plan to make him a Lord of Cinder.

Aldrich met the qualifications for linking the fire specifically because of his cannibalism, and Hawkwood acknowledges that he was made a holy King simply for his power. No one cared about his moral integrity so long as his soul was capable of kindling the First Flame. In fact, the underlying nature of the cleric’s power became irrelevant once it became just more fuel for the fire. Why not sacrifice an unholy monster to the holy of holies? Thus, this shift from simply cleansing Aldrich’s curse to confining and appeasing him was probably made with the intention of building up his power through his grotesque habit. Sulyvahn will do anything to secure his authority, even fatten up a cannibal to preserve the Age of Fire. And by limiting his diet to Undead, Sulyvahn guaranteed that his underling would assimilate souls into his being without much push back. What normal, god-fearing person cares if heretical abominations are killed, especially for a holy mission?

And then, Eldritch became a King of Kindling. Simply for his power, his character irrelevant.

This justification definitely fits with the description of Aldrich’s victims as sacrifices. Firelinking is considered a sacrifice for the greater good, and becoming his feed can be spun as Undead helping extend the Age of Fire by becoming stepping stones to a future Lord of Cinder. In other words, being offered up to Aldrich was indirectly being offered up to link the First Flame, and Undead are desperate to find such purpose to justify their unholy existence. For his part, Aldrich did agree to cooperate, since he would need to have willingly defeated the Soul of Cinder and inherited the First Flame. Personally depraved or no, he was still a member of the clergy, and with that comes the insinuation that he served the gods and also wished for the Age of Fire to continue. It probably didn’t hurt that he could fulfill his holy mission while still indulging in his favorite vices either, and indulged he did if the countless human skeletons assimilated into his amorphous form are any indication.

Still, this doesn’t change the reality of the situation. It is no wonder that Archbishop Klimt abandoned his faith to serve Rosaria. You would have to be weak-willed or not right in the head to ignore what the Way of White was doing at the Cathedral of the Deep. There was no holy and righteous duty there; the church hierarchy was complicit in atrocities — Aldrich had corrupted what sanctity could be found in every respect. His sludgy corruption is present on every floor, and some of his maggoty mass of flesh and bone has broken off from the main body, especially in the corpse pools where he presumably dined. Freed of its master, this mess of bodies, souls, and grubs squirms around like any other crawling carrion, adding yet more threats for the bishops to clean up.

When the audio is reversed, the bishops’ unintelligible noises sound like cries for “help” because “he’s going to kill” them. They are afraid, hence why they received rings for better spell memorization when taking on their duties there. In order to not simply go insane from the repulsiveness, they needed a long and profound story to recall from scripture, for the holy man they appeased is an abomination worthy of his name. “Eldritch” (エルドリッチ) is a word commonly used for the unspeakable evil featured in Lovecraftian horror, and the cleric’s undefined yet bone-chilling form draws obvious parallels to the genre’s maddening outer gods. And just like them, the insanity which Aldrich inspires leaves no escape. Once you have fallen into his abyss, you can only go deeper.

Ring given to bishops of the Church of the Deep. Increases memory slots.

The church is a cradle for repulsive things, thus they needed a grand story. A story that is as deep as the repulsiveness and will drive them no more mad.


Sinking Still


Behind the main altar to Caitha lies a large chamber with a stone coffin for Aldrich. Since the cinematic confirms him buried outside with his fellow Lords, this is most likely a ceremonial grave in the same vein as Gwyn’s tomb in Anor Londo. However, it probably doesn’t simply herald his sacrifice to link the fire, as Anri assumes the monster would be occupying the coffin. Indeed, it is covered in dried wax drippings and lit candles, statues of the bishops crowning the rim — a reminder that the saint was being contained by them out of fear as much as celebration. The chamber is likewise lined with the statues trying to contain their burgeoning corruption, behind iron bars like a prison; overhead also hang plenty of incense burners. Therefore, The coffin was likely Aldrich’s “home” during his stay, a prison to hopefully put the corruption to rest like when they had buried so many cleansed with the pool before. But even after Aldrich was well and truly buried as a Lord of Cinder, his corruption remained to plague everyone stationed there.

In two corners of the Cathedral, boxes have been stacked in the one part of the interior where the adherents patrol, backed by an evangelist. A short walk from them, we can take a lift down to the balcony adjoining the Cleansing Chapel, where we will find these same boxes in pieces all around the building. This is indicative of a high level of not just movement but also utilization of goods, delivered to the main church before being transferred to the chapel under the clerics’ supervision. Given the latter’s name and original purpose, the boxes’ contents were probably used to purify the Deep pool, or at least try to — evidently, it didn’t work. Even with the source of the corruption itself gone, they were having no success in stemming the source of the horrors they face on a daily basis.

The Cathedral did have the other churches’ support. The descriptions for Deep Protection implies that bishops were coming in to assume their purification duties frequently enough. The corpse with the Paladin’s Ashes likewise demonstrate individual holy knights’ fervor to come and help, the array of cleric weapons the shrine handmaid derives from this particular knight’s remains conveying extra enthusiasm. Archbishop McDonnell and his entourage too apparently remained to help instead of return to Irithyll now that their original mission was complete. The church of the Deep definitely wasn’t being left to contend with this issue all on its own. But that speaks to just how monumental a task this cleansing was. The terrified bishops were, naturally, desperate. As their faith and torches proved woefully insufficient to exterminating all the bugs, they looked to other sources for help, leading them to embrace taboos that slowly warped their faith.

Because of its efficacy against the maggots, the practice of bleeding itself has become akin to purification. The evangelists all wear notched whips of their belts to perform rituals in the Cleansing Chapel, seishiki (清拭) meaning to both “cleanse” and “wipe”. This is relevant because these cleansing rituals involve whipping the impure Undead so that the spikes will bleed them and thus provide some “corruption” to wipe away. This ceremony is but one example of the church straying from the divine power of fire. Another is collecting items like the Curse Ward Greatshield. This shield is too heavy for ordinary humans to wield with any practicality, unlike its cursed owners from DS2, and so has come to represent how foolhardy it is to resist a curse. At the same time, the description acknowledges its potential to protect against one should someone manage to overcome this hurdle. This line of thinking is what motivated the bishops to accept it as another possible means to combat the accursed Deep.

Whip with sharp thorns. The thorns tear off skin and force bleeding.

It is used in the Chapel of Cleansing. Because the ceremonies need drippings to cleanse.


Greatshield that was given to those who once resisted the curse.

It is said that no ordinary person can handle its weight and thus it conveyed the foolishness of resisting a curse.

Nevertheless, if there was someone who could handle it, for the sake of argument, then they would have great protection against curses, would they not?

But These were holy men, not warriors, and their reliance on something other than the powers of fire created a slippery slope to fall into, leading them back to the Deep they once worshiped. Since the horrors of the Deep both cause bleeding and easily bleed themselves, clergy were tempted into writing dark stories to add to scripture, which become the basis for Deep Protection and Gnaw. This is heresy, hence the braille holy book with these addendums has been sealed away in a mimic in the small prayer room where they were presumably first shared. But the heresy already proved the potential, tales recounting a deep sea which could help more than their traditional healing and Force miracles ever could. Eventually, the bishops did start teaching new recruits the “divine protection of the Deep” (深みの加護) while the evangelists began having the bugs “eat away” (蝕み) as part of their cleansing through bleeding, using the corrupted pages of their amended scriptures as the catalyst.

Braille scriptures of the Deep. Personal effects of the Church’s bishops.

Can learn miracles of the Deep by giving it to a storyteller.

Some dark stories have now been added to the scriptures which were for the bishops of the Deep to know divine protection. Thus, this is a taboo.

The clerics embraced the taboos of conjuring and manipulating magic through reason rather than faith as well as relying on the cursed power they purified. What would happen then if you combined the two? For his part, Archbishop McDonnell was delighted with these recent developments and took to studying the Deep. This resulted in the Deep sorceries he later taught to Archbishop Royce and others. As we can see from the collective’s boss soul, they were all stagnating in the Deep, which made McDonnell consider the Cathedral the “bottom” of the world, to his great joy. Whether this slow degeneration began only after Aldrich left or even during his original tenure at the cathedral, they undoubtedly came to rely on the gods’ miracles less and less as the years dragged on. And the fact that all of the surviving staff are classified as Hollows attests to their need for more power.

Sorcery of Archbishop Royce and his bishops. It is said that McDonnell of the Cold Valley imparted it.

Fires a dark soul dreg.

It is said that it is a soul which sinks and accumulates in the Deep, and it is attracted to life and pursues targets.


Sorcery superior to Deep Soul. Fires a more powerful dark soul dreg.

It is said that Archbishop McDonnell, who was also a sorcerer, delighted in the stagnant souls in the church. “Splendid, this place is the bottom of the world.”

Emblemizing this shift, the statue of Caitha in the Cleansing Chapel is obstructed by an altar enshrining the bishops. They no longer celebrate an absent goddess, but themselves who have suffered to contain the horrors of the Deep from the front line. This self-idolatry is the turning point. If they don’t honor the gods and their divine power, why would they stand in lockstep with their goals for a perpetual Age of Fire? How different are they from the other factions of the Dark who serve themselves or wish for a better age for mankind, really? Caitha’s statues within the cathedral have similarly been covered in drapes whenever possible, showing this disregard for deities has become widespread. And yet, the local adherents are still holding prayer at the main altar enshrining her obscured form, even as the maggoty corruption swelling from beneath slants it to one side. Everyone has come to worship what they suppressed. The deep gem found on a balcony overlooking the Deep spring serves as an apt metaphor — it is titanite wholly transformed by the stagnation at the Cathedral.

Robe of bishops of the Church of the Deep. The deep-red signifies the divine protection of fire.

They who were expected to be sealers of the Deep were eventually all consumed by the repulsiveness. For neither their faith nor their torches were of any use.


Epiphany


When the Lords of Cinder awoke from their graves, they all refused to assist with the firelinking again. In Aldrich’s case, he had lost hope in that throne. When he first sacrificed himself for the First Flame, it was part of an uninterrupted tradition. But now, it is a crisis. Without Prince Lothric, unkindled like us cannot link the fire, and the First Flame will die with things as they stand. They are the lifeline, but Aldrich wasn’t interested in waiting for ash to turn hero. Instead, he chose to return to the Cathedral and indulge in his favorite habit once again. And whether out of reverence or fear, the monster was welcomed back; the Road of Sacrifices, restarted. In an apparent good will gesture, Aldrich began encouraging some to share in his degeneracy, fashioning rings with which they can enjoy the suffering of anyone they ate alive. This action likely coincided with a certain realization as he implicitly sat snug in his coffin.

Kindling of a King that Eldritch the God-Eater left.

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

Eldritch, who acquired the qualifications for Kingship through man-eating, nevertheless lost hope in that throne and began to eat gods.


… It’s said that below the tower of the Undead Town at the foot of Lothric Castle, a road continues on even now. A Road of Sacrifice that transports sacrifices to the Church of the Deep.

Aldrich could see how the corruption he initially caused had become revered and how the staff had turned that power into miracles and sorcereries. And the cleric was no fool; he could see the writing on the wall. The Age of Fire was on its last legs if Prince Lothric had his way. What then? We would enter an Age of Dark, of course. Only, who will lead this new age to replace the old gods? Currently, the fire is left to die on its own, no party snuffing it out. And what about the Dark itself? It, like the rest of the universe, was stagnating. Would this really be an Age of Dark as traditionally thought, or something more like an era of stagnant Dark — an Age of Deep Seas?

Arising from the Dreg Heap are the murkmen. These “damp-men” (湿り人) seem to have once been human, but they, like their weapons, became so immersed in the Deep that they have been consumed and transformed by the pitch-black dampness — their blackened bodies disintegrate to just the skeletons; their flesh petrifies while sprouting violet petals, roots, and barnacles; their heads hollow out to faceless cavities; their very beings drip viscous black fluid. Most will try to drag us into the same shadowy fog they clawed up from, some even possessed by large soul dregs that have developed their own will. There is no doubt that a stagnant Abyss hides beneath the ash, and we can see its maggots infesting the flesh lying in the lowest reaches of the Dreg Heap.

Short-handle sickle wielded by the damp-men who crawl out from the Deep. It is black dampness in its entirety and possesses dark attack power.


Sorcery that fires great dregs of dark souls that sank and accumulated in the Deep for a long time.

Sorcery most superior to “Deep Soul”.

It is said that the damp-men who crawl out from the Deep are sometimes possessed by great dregs. They look awfully like man.

This is the end result of leaving fire to its slow, inevitable end, all the stagnant lands collected at a single point — creating an ideal environment for the Deep to thrive. As the description for human dregs elucidates, this Dark will shackle the world with it, dragging everything to the bottom until it is all part of the Deep. At its current trajectory, the waning First Flame is guaranteeing this to be the form that the Age of Dark ultimately takes. The dark sorcerers among the murkmen show that some are embracing this new phenomenon for study, curious about the power which will soon dominate the world. A new age is on the horizon. The question is, who will have the power to rule it? Why Aldrich, of course. He was the only prominent example of the Deep, well before the murkmen. And he understood that power more than anyone.

And there is his revelation. Mankind didn’t need to bow their heads to “gods” to receive maybe a morsel of their “divine” power for protection. They could rule themselves and master the power they had always been told to fear. The Cathedral of the Deep was proof. Aldrich had come to the same conclusion that Dark adherents before him had. Thus, the cleric lost interest in being a King of Kindling to the First Flame in favor of becoming King of Deep Seas, a new god. And so, the maneater decided to instead devour the old gods, the medials who have refused to allow their world order to come to an end. Without them, the principal party pushing for the perpetuation of flame are gone. Yuria makes this very same point when begging us to end the Age of Fire as the Lord of Hollows, so it is only natural that Aldrich would come to the same conclusion for his desired era.

After sharing his plans with the Cathedral, their preexisting worship of the Deep was finally codified into a new religion under Aldrich’s leadership. Some have claimed that this “Aldrich Faithful” only consists of those we find in Irithyll, but the covenant in Irithyll is actually dubbed the “Defenders of the God-Eater” (神喰らいの守り手) in reference to their current duty. However, the covenant’s crest depicts a candelabra, the holy symbol of the Cathedral, and the item description states it to be the crest of all those who see an Age of Deep Seas beyond fire like their cannibal master. Unsurprisingly, Archbishop McDonnell promptly discarded his crown along with his allegiance to the gods when his new master left for Irithyll. However, the last Archbishop on active duty is Royce, and he leads the bishops as they await the maneater’s return. In short, Aldrich had converted or cowed the whole lot into his following, those of higher status like McDonnel changing out their deep red robes of “fire” for deep blue robes of “water” — the roots growing from their waists and eyes proving their wholehearted embrace of stagnation.

Holy symbol of the Church of the Deep. Crest of those who see an Age of Deep Seas beyond fire.

Equip to become a covenantor of the “Defenders of the God-Eater”.

The Defenders are tasked with not disturbing Eldritch the God-Eater. When there is something approaching the abandoned church, it is their mission to hunt it as covenant spirits.


White crown of an Archbishop of the Church of the Deep. It is given only to agents of the gods.

There are three Archbishops of the Deep, and one left the church following Eldritch. It is said that he cast his white crown aside at that time.


Holy clothes of an Archbishop of the Church of the Deep. A mark of the Way of White’s highest rank.

There are three Archbishops of the Deep, and one protected Eldritch’s coffin. Believing his master would one day return.

There likely were still those who remained true to their faith and opposed this new cult, but they didn’t last. We can find a Way of White holy woman uniform plus other church items among the most recent corpses that the giants have been stomping into Aldrich’s next meal. Evidently, dissenters of all walks of life were swiftly eliminated and offered up to their new god, giving the name “Cathedral of the Deep” an entirely new meaning. Our visit likewise prompts the staff to consider us an intruder rather than a pilgrim, hence they attack us on sight; the one exception is the bishop in the bell tower, probably because that Hollow has remained holed up at his post without contact from the others — the fact that he alone carries the Deep Ring demonstrates his continued commitment to the original faith. Otherwise, for all intents and purposes, the entire Way of White at the Cathedral is no more.

After securing his cult, Aldrich led McDonnell and a cadre of followers on a trip to Irithyll. Royce stayed behind to watch over his master’s coffin while he was away and keep things running smoothly until he eventually returned. Indeed, Aldrich would have eventually come back, if only for all the food awaiting him beneath the giants’ feet. The Lord of Cinder is only abstaining from these offerings for ascetic reasons, namely to devour gods — o woe is the monster who must deny himself the taste of human flesh until he has gobbled up every obstruction to his domination of the new world order! Of course, the Road of Sacrifices has recently halted thanks to Sulyvahn’s Outrider Knights setting up a choke point at the Undead Settlement, so perhaps it was for the best that he chose then of all times to take up austerity.

Soul of Eldritch. One of the atypical souls tinged with power.

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

He saw an Age of Deep Seas beyond darkened fire. Thus, even knowing that it would be a very long asceticism, he began to eat gods.

As for Royce, guard duty doesn’t seem to be his only purpose there. When we first enter the bishops’ boss battle, we encounter only regular enemies, damaging “the boss” by slaying the one with a red-colored aura. This power then leaves the slain body and possesses another, a process which repeats until the Archbishop finally warps in with a cadre of blue-robed bishops in tow. Given that Royce is shrouded in the same red aura as those possessed, it would seem that this is his soul possessing his peons’ bodies before ultimately returning to the original vessel to face us personally. If he cannot use his full power otherwise, then why bother? This possession is likely part of a Deep experiment.

Royce’s staff emits power the same blue hue as their souls and has it consolidate deep souls conjured by his underlings into a single mass. Another attack involves the bishops shooting up deep souls to stimulate such power from within Aldrich’s coffin. This power, presumably leftover from its former occupant, slowly overflows before completely spilling out, blanketing the entire chamber in a thick dark cloud which curses us but not its Deep-aligned casters. Royce has clearly been closely studying the maneater’s power, and may well be inside the coffin while practicing this possession art. His soul does come down from above around the top of the box, and where else would the bodies of he and his posse of ranking bishops be hiding in the room? Even the developers place his model there prior to his proper introduction. And while red isn’t typical to Deep magic, it isn’t unprecedented for Dark magic in general.

Soul of the Bishops of the Deep. One of the atypical souls tinged with power.

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

Archbishop Royce, who remained at the church after Eldritch left for the Cold Valley, continued to protect his master’s coffin with his bishops.

Therefore, Royce is probably performing ritual worship of Aldrich to deepen their strength. After all, the boss isn’t just him but all the bishops, their souls all flocking around his larger one while not actually assimilating into it. Rather, they all head in the same direction together, like a school of fish swimming downward. This is obviously based on the principle of deep souls pooling together at the lowest point to sink, so Royce must be using this to link himself with the others. As their focal point, he then uses this link to have his spirit possess bodies as his own until they expire, with his death conversely resulting in all of theirs. This mimics Aldrich’s own control over his amalgamated mass of bodies and souls, which also largely die with him but not the reverse. And imitation is a form of flattery, or in this case, reverence.

This body-hopping link with his congregation does also help Royce with his guard duty, of course. By possessing another, the leader can defend the coffin while bringing no serious harm to himself. But we force his hand by proving too difficult for his peons to handle. His possessions limit him to using the power of their souls, not his. He thus has to put his skin in the game in order to unleash the full might of the Deep they all possess. If this is truly the case, then it really shows how devoted the Archbishop is to Aldrich despite all of them fearing death in this church for the longest time. Whether driven by genuine reverence for the maneater’s power, a selfish hunger for that power, or fear of suffering such power, he would rather die than let us disgrace his new master.


Homecoming


The Cathedral’s arrival to Irithyll wasn’t a pleasant visit. The key that the Pontiff gave Aldrich all those years ago had been left behind in his empty casket according to Anri. However, we pick one such a doll off the corpse of Royce, which we then keep on our person so we can pass through the magic barrier. Anri similarly has no apparent difficulty entering Irithyll. In other words, these are two different dolls we each possess. While it is easy to assume the doll we took belonged to Aldrich, the key’s description doesn’t actually mention this important fact and instead highlights the kinds of people Sulyvahn gave it to. He definitely gave one to the cursed cleric, but there was one other notable Irithyllian clergyman whom the Pope sent out: Archbishop McDonnell. And given their shared rank, devotion to the Deep, and considerable time together at the Cathedral, it is feasible for McDonnell to have entrusted the small doll with Royce. This means that both men elected not to bring a key home.

The little doll left in the empty coffin informed me. Eldritch’s true homeland is Irithyll of the Cold Valley. A very old, illusory capital…

Even if they brought the dolls with them, it would only allow them to pass through the barrier, as we can demonstrate whilst chased down by one of Sulyvahn’s beasts. But they had brought a small army, and that is an appropriate expression. Without a key, there is only two means to enter the city: break the magic barrier by force or sneak around it through the sewers like Greirat and ourselves. Neither implicates peaceful intentions by the approaching cult. One might argue that the Pope simply removed the barrier to allow Aldrich and his forces inside, but such unfiltered traffic into the city would defeat the purpose of erecting it in the first place. Morever, Aldrich and McDonnell have no reason to unnecessarily inconvenience their entry by not coming in to negotiate on the rest’s behalf. It was no accident that they left the dolls reminding them of their home to return to — it was a sign of war.

A peculiar landslide has blocked the main route to and from Irithyll, proceeded by destruction to statues and lamp posts as we follow the main street through the snowy city. Someone caused this, and recently. Moreover, the Pontiff’s knights we encounter are all gaunt “ghosts” among the ranks of the dead, not the living. Their crown’s description specifies that they were “once” the Pontiff’s eyes and blades, meaning that has not been the case as of late. Someone killed them, and recently. Their equipment is lightweight and brittle, which their hole-ridden weapons credit to insects eating away at the metal in their descriptions. This brings the ravenous bug of the Deep that evangelists conjure to mind, and Greirat does acquire these same half-eaten weapons during his heist of the Undead Settlement, where those preachers have since taken over. The Pontiff Knights stationed in town would have no doubt been caught up in the recent purge by the radicalized locals, hence why we don’t actually encounter any there.

Armor of the Pontiff knights, cold ghosts of Irithyll.

The blue-grey armor clad in thinly cold air is physically lightweight and brittle.


Curved sword of the Pontiff knights, cold ghosts of Irithyll.

Its larger blade is physically lightweight and brittle, as if eaten by insects.

By contrast, the ghostly knights seen in Irithyll are able to pull dark souls out from their throats and hurl them. This can’t be their own soul since they can so easily extract it from their bodies, which prove to be quite weak to the Dark, and this lack of resistance also excludes it from being the result of Sulyvahn’s magical experiments. They are infested with some kind of dark soul, such as those conjured by Deep Soul. And the bishops who can perform that spell just so happen to be plentiful in Irithyll. In other words, Sulyvahn’s forces were mauled by the maneater’s own in a massacre, hence the notable number of corpses bearing the souls of soldiers and warriors as we pass through. And based on the tattered state of his eminent robes, the Pontiff himself fought in this battle they ultimately lost. Forget his political authority, his life was in jeopardy! Sulyvahn wasn’t given a choice. He had to capitulate.

And so, the Pontiff offered the god he had long imprisoned to Aldrich, who then went to the Anor Londo cathedral and consumed the Way of White’s Allfather. This meal was done “slowly”, and Aldrich is described as having still been in the process of eating Gwyndolin when we arrive to face him. Matching this, both the Darkmoon deity’s body and soul are shown to not have been completely assimilated into Aldrich’s own during the boss battle. However, whether he can still be considered alive with his will completely suppressed is debatable. Regardless, it indicates that these events were rather recent relative to our arrival, though it has at least taken long enough for him to dream of Yorshka from his food’s memories. It is from this experience that the god-eater invented a miracle manifesting the crossbreed’s Lifehunt power. Something similar has been done with memories of the god’s golden bow and moonlight arrows, which he will rain down as a storm that follows us wherever we go.

All of this discounts the notion that Aldrich has eaten any gods or men since. With his abstinence and subsequent departure to the Boreal Valley, he hasn’t had the opportunity to eat any except for the one he is currently digesting. While the localization does dub him the “Devourer of Gods”, the Japanese “god-eater” doesn’t require that he eat more than one. Some point to his staff’s manifestation of Nito’s Gravelord Swords as proof that he has also devoured the Lord of Death. However, this is Deep magic from a character whose body is half the bones of his victims. Aldrich can generate the expected highly-pursuant deep souls with the bone sword manifest, but nothing that deals the toxic status effect which represented Nito’s power of death in DS1 — all while his Lifehunt and Darkmoon Bow miracles manifest their unique powers. And so, simply put, there are no other gods in Aldrich’s gut. Nito is long gone, and the rest of the pantheon is dead or missing when Aldrich decided to devour them. Their leader was, naturally, his top priority. He could prepare for his next divine victim after he returned to the Cathedral of the Deep.

In the meantime, Aldrich’s body has spread its corruption to the entire Anor Londo cathedral, that sludgy matter even blocking our way to the old royal manor. Aside from tearing up age-old architecture, this cult has been killing time while the master feasts. As we enter the Irithyll cathedral courtyard, we see many dead or near-dead giant slaves lying all around the garden. Overlooking them from the upstairs terrace is a number of bishops ready to rain fire down below. Meanwhile, the human slaves cower in a shadowy corner under the terrace while a number of human corpses amongst the giants harbor embers. It would seem that the cultists have been passing the time tormenting and killing the slaves, giant or otherwise. Of course, it isn’t all twisted fun and games. Aldrich’s servants have been killing any resisters.

The Silver Knights we encounter are all Hollows, implying that they were slain defending Gwyndolin’s manor and the Anor Londo cathedral from intruders; the corpses at the latter carrying their greatbow and arrows or souls of heartbroken knights and exhausted warriors only adds to the impression. Apparently, the Pontiff didn’t have either the time or the concern to tell the church knights about the Allfather’s guests, or perhaps these retainers of the royalty had realized the cult’s obvious dark intentions and couldn’t ignore it. Either way, Aldrich’s forces simply steamrolled through, killing any in their way. They were then tasked with not disturbing their master as he ingests a god. For this reason, McDonnell had set it up so the followers keep out intruders from approaching Anor Londo, summoning more help from elsewhere if necessary. This has the added problem of concentrating too much of their forces in one small area, which Pontiff Sulyvahn has been swift to take advantage.

The Pontiff Knights, now reanimated among the dead through their own resentment or necromancy, have returned to patrolling the streets and keeping order within the city. The preacher Dorhys has been locked up in a penitentiary near the city square to keep her from spreading the Deep’s teachings. We find her praying in tongues, but this is presumably because she has gone mad. As the description for her miracle relates, she stood at the proverbial edge of the Deep and “slipped” to the bottom where she was completely intoxicated by the stagnant Dark — at least her closeness to the Deep Seas befits the name “Doris”, (ドーリス) daughter of the sea god Oceanus in Greek mythology. Whether or not this explains her failure to notice her cell door unlocked from the inside, Sulyvahn’s barrier to the city square is most definitely fulfilling its purpose again, much to one of his guard dogs’ inconvenience.

McDonnell has also been discretely eliminated. We can find his corpse, among others, in the underground reservoir proceeding the courtyard with Gwynevere’s statues. Considering the location, this reservoir most likely exists to keep the garden up top properly watered in this cold climate — the large wall statues of Gwyndolin certainly bring the god’s past support for his sister to mind. In that case, McDonnell probably intended to spread the Deep to the reservoir and thereby corrupt the garden, bring a slice of home to the Boreal Valley. But instead, him and his entourage are dead, the bodies guarded by two of the Pontiff’s beasts and hidden behind an illusory wall. Sulyvahn made sure that Aldrich’s top lieutenant, the “son of the world ruler” as his Gaelic name poetically puts it, wouldn’t leave that chamber ever again.

Miracle of Doris, a preacher who went mad. Summons a swarm of insects to terribly eat away at enemies.

Those who stand at the edge of the Deep occasionally let themselves slip to the bottom. She was fattened and surely intoxicated.

The ruler of Irithyll certainly isn’t pleased with being bossed around by his former subordinates and has been inconspicuously working to undermine the Deep cult while Aldrich is busy eating Gwyndolin. As to the Pontiff’s next move, without the Allfather, his justification for power is all but gone. He no longer has a hostage to leverage against those foreign parties who might want him deposed. Therefore, he may have finally switched allegiances himself. He has already studied dark sorcery and the creatures of the Deep exhaustively, so his formal fall to the Dark was already set up, and all Sulyvahn cares about is retaining power. Either way, he had to first regain control of his city from the fanatics. And unfortunately for him, we intrude in the middle of this intrigue and kill them both without a care for politics.