Gundyr wears “very” old cast-iron armor, the helmet made to resemble a king wearing his crown. This implicates Gundyr himself as a king — any warrior of lesser status would be dangerously disrespecting the lord he actually served, otherwise. Indeed, his name “Gunda” (グンダ) derives from Gundahar, (グンダハール) whose life inspired legends of the warrior king Gunther. With that in mind, the man is most likely a king of Lothric. His armor bears some resemblance to the melted iron armor of Lothric’s old dragonslayers, from its plain silvery metal to its tasset without crotch protection to its boots shaped like feet to its ankle-length waist cape. This makes it feasible for Gundyr to be the nation’s founder — in fact, a heroic warrior establishing a northern kingdom to combat wyverns plaguing the land perfectly mirrors the story of Old King Doran from Demon’s Souls; even the boss’ design bears an obvious resemblance. Cut content reaffirms all of these implications.

Armor of the hero Gunda. Old cast-iron helmet modeled on a king.

It is said that the hero who came late lost to a warrior of unknown name and became the coiled sword’s sheath as the Judge of Ash. So that someday the First Flame is linked once more.

Armor of the hero Gunda. Very old cast-iron armor.

It is said that the hero who came late lost to a warrior of unknown name and became the coiled sword’s sheath as the Judge of Ash. So that someday the First Flame is linked once more.

Earlier on, the developers considered two different iterations of Gundyr’s boss battle. One was like Iudex Gundyr in the final game except with the additional attacks from his Champion counterpart. The other was not actually him but the pus of man revealed to be possessing him during the battle, referred to as the “wicked spirit” (邪霊) or “snake spirit” (蛇霊) internally — although the character model has been lost, audio files and moveset data reaffirm its identity. (this boss was later recycled for Elden Ring‘s Ulcerated Tree Spirit, internal name and resemblance to the pus unchanged) The description for this evil spirit’s soul refer to it as a “god”, but kami (神) is likely being used more colloquially to mean spiritual being rather than its typical use in the series. Which boss we faced was decided seemingly by whether we would “kneel to” and “seal” the pus, which was possessing the “heart” — in other words, soul — of the “hero king”. (英雄王) Gundyr is Lothric’s founder, and he is most certainly the stuff of legends.

Soul of an iniquitous spirit that possessed the heart of a hero king. Can used to acquire a vast amount of souls, but by offering it to the molding kiln…

The boss is described as a champion, or “hero”, the same as those who commit to linking the fire. This is especially relevant considering that the warrior is late to arriving at Firelink Shrine, resulting in him being met with neither a fire-lit shrine nor a ringing bell in that event. Like us, the would-be firelinker inadvertently slipped into the Untended Graves, where he suffers defeat at our hands. Similar to the Giant Lord in Dark Souls II, we apparently don’t take all of his soul during our foray through spacetime, as what is left of Gundyr was made into a scabbard for the coiled sword to the Firelink Shrine bonfire. This was because the king was to serve as the “Judge of Ash”, (灰の審判者) which the localization renders as the Latin iudex. It is the man’s duty to be hostile when we attempt to retrieve the coiled sword, the first trial for unkindled in Lothric’s emergency firelinking system.

Soul of the hero Gunda. One of the atypical souls tinged with power.

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

It is said that what greeted the hero who came late was a fireless ritual place and unringing bell.

Sword that the bonfire of the ritual place lost. Cannot be equipped as a weapon.

Stab into the ritual place’s bonfire to restore its power and make warping between bonfires possible.

That sword is given to none but the chosen ash. The judge continued to serve as the sheath and await the ash.

These developments beg two questions: who set him up as the judge, and why has he remained alive for so long? Being the centerpiece in the ruined chamber of Lothric’s old ritual place managed by its church, his kingdom is most likely responsible for making him the sheath. Leaked screenshots suggest as much. Gundyr would have been fought in the ruined temple where we ultimately find Consumed King Oceiros, the original firelinking facility befitting the founding king with the pus he bears befitting the surrounding garden where it currently runs rampant. Similar to the graveyard ruins, there was a chamber to battle the judge followed by another enshrining the Lordvessel, with the spectral swords surrounding him possibly denoting previous failures of the trial buried there; the multiple different swords we would have needed to pull out of his body before the fight reinforces the notion. As to the cause of his immortality, his pus helps reveal the answer.

Undead commonly perform the firelinking ritual, and the pus of man typically manifests in such cursed individuals. Gundyr is therefore likely to have died and manifested the Darksign prior to becoming the judge. However, while his skin has a corpse-like pallor, it doesn’t look decayed like a Hollow; neither is he affected by the Hollowslayer Greatsword. In that case, Gundyr may have been bound similar to those staffing Firelink Shrine. Indeed, Andre is Undead but will revive unhollowed no matter how many times he is killed as the shrine’s blacksmith. Defeating Iudex Gundyr likewise doesn’t reward a new boss soul, which would be linked to another source so that his body can be revived and the process repeat. At the same time, the pus taking possession of the judge mid-battle is liable to consume that soul along with the body, leaving none but loose basic souls for us to acquire.

Regardless of the exact cause of his longevity, Gundyr has remained at the shrine for generations to fulfill his new duty after falling to an anonymous warrior. But was it really new? The halberd the king wields was given to him along with his mission, and the description affirms that it doesn’t “decay”, hence its absurd durability compared to most weapons. From this, the description infers that the length of his mission was decided from the start. But the firelinking mission doesn’t require that much time to perform, the trials for our journeys in each game taking maybe a few months at most. Rather, such durability is more befitting the warrior’s subsequent role as the immortal judge. In other words, Gundyr and his benefactor’s understanding of what his mission entailed might have been entirely different — was it all a setup?

Halberd of the hero Gunda. It was given to him along with a mission.

It is said that the old cast-iron halberd excels in its power to whittle away at tenacity and doesn’t decay. The length of the mission was probably decided on from the start.

The Prisoner’s Chain is a broken chain link repurposed as a ring, granting the wearer strength for their life, stamina, and body in exchange for taking more damage from enemies. The underlying implication is clear: one who is chained in place can be safer than those free to take risks but is left more vulnerable to those there with, such as the shackler. Gundyr was once bound by this chain, but it is derived from the hero we face in the Untended Graves and so unlikely to be related to him becoming the judge. In other words, he had been chained prior to our battles. The description additionally defines a prisoner as someone who accepts “everything” at the cost of “liberty”, especially when that “everything” is a heroic destiny. This is an obvious jab at Gundyr letting his future be decided by blind obedience to his supposed fate as a hero, presumably out of piety and honor. But it comes with much darker implications for the future judge.

Fragment of an iron chain that once bound Gunda. Boosts life power, stamina power, and body power, but also increases enemy damage.

A prisoner is one who accepts everything at the price of liberty. If it is the fate of a hero, probably all the more.

What if Gundyr was only late because he had been restrained as part of some ploy to guarantee he failed his ostensible mission? His true mission was always becoming a sheath for the coiled sword and a trial judging unkindled ash, and he was armed with that in mind. But this party had tricked the king into believing that he was to become the next Lord of Cinder, manipulating his sense of duty to bind him to the mission. When the time came to actually embark, he was captured and imprisoned until it was too late to complete — or would be, if the hero hadn’t evidently broken free and continued on to the ritual site. But as fate would have it, he slipped into the dark dimension en route, leaving him understandably confused. What he did know was that he was surrounded by enemies, a glaive-wielding Black Knight now dead in his boss room. So when we walk in on him kneeling in the ruins of the Firelink Shrine he was probably familiar with — seemingly to add some candlelight — he jumps straight for the kill. And once subdued, the warrior lost any chance of fulfilling his duty by the time he did return to his world of light.

From there, the hero was condemned for his failure by becoming a judge for those who might link the fire in his place. Gundyr accepted this punishment despite the obvious foul play involved. Presumably, this is because the king believed himself at fault for getting captured in the first place, not realizing that this outcome was the intention of those who gave him his weapon from the start. As far as he may have been aware, he was destined to be a hero and failed to fulfill that destiny due to his own carelessness. If nothing else, his subsequent “misstep” into the Untended Graves and loss to us was sure to be a stain on his pride. What made an Undead like him worthy of true Kingship? He could hardly claim to have the strength to decide the world’s course. If his soul, his will, couldn’t rebuff the universe’s current, better it serve as a barometer for other failures in times of need. That is the mindset of a slave to “fate”.

If this scenario is true, then Gundyr’s failed firelinking is likely the fool’s tragedy referenced in the Estus Ring’s description. This ring crafted from the fragments of an Estus Flask was entrusted to a certain Fire Keeper who ultimately never met her hero. Because it improves the power of Estus, it was probably intended to be passed along to a particular Undead she was supposed to help become Lord of Cinder. And since the ring is found on one of the Fire Keeper corpses piled in their bell tower tomb, we can surmise that she had died by the time her intended partner had arrived. Gundyr’s firelinking mission requires a Fire Keeper assisting him, and his belated arrival gave plenty of opportunity for her to die before they could meet. We do find bones strewn among the corpse pile, implying that not all of these bodies are the most recent; the cadaver whose uniform we can loot is similarly left lying between coffins properly interred high up in the tower, proof that earlier bodies have been exhumed in trying to honor later ones. This makes the Estus Ring bearer the most likely candidate for the tragic fool.

Green ring made from fragments. Boosts HP recovery amount of Est Bottle.

It is said that it was entrusted to a certain Fire Keeper, but she ultimately never met the hero. Eventually, the tragedy of the fool became a legend of the general public’s liking.

As to who orchestrated this tragedy, the probable culprit is Gwyndolin. Even ignoring how deeply embedded Irithyll is in Lothric’s firelinking system, it is hard to imagine elements of the state plotting against their founder without the Allfather’s blessing — if not cooperation. Moreover, the Darkmoon deity had plenty of motive. Recall that he had direct control over the system during the original Dark Souls, only losing it thanks to the unforeseen drift. Even after reestablishing contact, the god could only leave management to the humans who already took it over, or risk derailing the whole thing. But could he really trust backwater humans embracing a false god to handle such a critical ritual by just sanctioning their new royalty as divine right? Considering how shaky firelinking had been in the interim, paranoia would be justified. The sorcerer wasn’t going to count on another miracle, and Gundyr set an example to all his successors. Humiliating failure serves as a constant pressure to live up to duty, cover for the stain. So it was with Gwyndolin; so it would be with the Lothric Royal Family.