The Eclipse

After defeating the last Lord of Cinder, we return to Lothric to discover the world experiencing a solar eclipse. Normally, this would be the result of the moon blocking the sun, casting the lunar body’s shadow upon the earth. However, the timing of its appearance and its later reaction to us subverting the First Flame indicates that this isn’t an ordinary astronomical phenomenon, as was the case with the lunar eclipse in Dark Souls II. And since the sun is representative of the First Flame, it beginning to go dark after the deaths of every Lord of Cinder awakened to safeguard it is perfectly reasonable. The sun presumably vanishes with the loss of flame, so the solar eclipse is just a stage in this process, a sign that light is imminently approaching Dark — somewhat overlapping with the concept behind the Darkmooon.

The eclipse’s resemblance to the Darksign also brings the Undead curse to the forefront of the narrative, both for our ultimate decision at the end of the game and for the duality inherent to the image. In fact, the combination of light and Dark is a core theme. Embered humanity, Lothric’s Angelic Faith, the Undead Settlement’s self-immolation, Farron’s Abyss Watchers, the Cathedral of the Deep and Rosaria, Carthus’ black pyromancies, Irithyll’s Darkmoon culture, the Profaned Flame, Ariandel’s Sister Friede, the Ringed City — we can find some form of this concept in almost every area, building upon the dichotomy from past games with more nuance. But much like the eclipse, all of these examples seem to exist simply for flavor, none having much bearing on our journey overall. Not so in earlier versions of the narrative.

Cut content affirms that the developers were at least experimenting with the eclipse appearing much earlier in the main story, with possible variations for different areas and narrative beats. Cutscene triggers for the network test version of the game also indicate that certain enemies would have occurred in a different order because of this. For instance, the Abyss Watchers boss battle would have postdated this event, as evidenced by the Old Wolf of Farron — the original focus of the encounter — being named “Eclipse Old Wolf” (蝕の老狼) internally. The slug of the Consumed King’s Garden is likewise dubbed “eclipse slug small” (蝕のナメクジ小) internally, so it too must have initially been impossible to encounter prior to the eclipse’s appearance. And based on leaked screenshots for the earliest concept, the phenomenon would have had a far more radical effect on the setting toward the end of the game than ultimately seen in the final product.

Originally, the land would have further fractured from what we see in-game to something more resembling the Dreg Heap, only the cities caught up in this world-shattering cataclysm would have been set ablaze; embers whisking through the air in a crimson sky. At the center of all this chaos would hang a yellow sun, what looks to be the black core of the eclipse dripping into a Dark mound directly below it. From this mound seemingly stretches snake-like arches and towers with thin, spindly protrusions like tentacles —implying that at least this iteration of the eclipse would have consisted of actual humanity forming something akin to the pus of man. By all indications, this apocalyptic event signaled the game’s final act, to a far greater extent than what we see the eclipse bring about in our actual journey.

At the story’s climax, we would have rung the bell at Firelink Shrine and then used the shrine bonfire to warp to the Kiln of the First Flame and face the final boss, similar to the final game. However, this Kiln seems to have remained largely unchanged since the events of DS1, though the surrounding area and finer details might have differed. There was also no Soul of Cinder but Pontiff Sulyvhn, known at this juncture as simply “Eclipse Old King” (蝕の老王) internally. With just this, we can be certain that the boss was a Lord of Cinder, the eminent robes, jewelry, and crown he wears further denoting the fanfare behind his firelinking. The kanji for “old” additionally reveals the monarch to be physically elderly — his body definitely looks beaten and decrepit when stripped bare. And yet despite his age, he wields two greatswords to great effect, each embodying the power of either flame or sorcery. Why be so strong, and why wield these particular weapons? Most likely because he was also a king of Lothric.

The statue of Prince Lothric erected in the city is curious in that it depicts him with the same flame greatsword and bejeweled bracelet as Pontiff Sulyvahn. Considering that King Oceiros commissioned the propaganda, this is obvious flattery for his longtime ally and close collaborator on the firelinking mission. Despite their true natures, the Profaned Greatsword and Pontiff Sulyvahn ostensibly represent the power of holy and the Allfather’s will respectively, making the prince’s possession of these trinkets a telltale sign of the gods’ blessing — and, by extension, Sulyvahn’s legitimacy. It is expert politicking on the part of Lothric’s last king. But, in the context of the original narrative, these details take on an entirely different meaning. The prince would have instead been mirroring the final boss. Why do this unless the prospective firelinker was supposed to trace his predecessor’s path?

In other words, Prince Lothric would have likely been adorned with the same ceremonial jewelry and sword as he too offered himself up to the First Flame. This commitment to tradition for Lothric royalty would therefore symbolize the prince’s success, which Oceiros wanted to convey to his subjects as preordained. And if he is mirroring this specific predecessor, then the old hero king must have been one of Lothric’s earlier monarchs. Consider his additional sword imbued with sorcery. Why wield that for a ritual glorifying flame? Was the king simply a sorcerer, closely aligned with the kingdom’s scholars? It represents the Darkmoon’s judgment in the final game, so perhaps it would have been a gift from Irithyll, proof of the gods’ blessing in this holy ritual? If so, then this firelinking would likely have been the first of its kind, early in the two countries’ history together. In short, the old king would have been the first king of Lothric to successfully complete the firelinking ritual, an ancestor for future generations of royals to emulate.

However, this king-turned-Lord suffers from severe dendrification before the boss battle even starts, suggesting that the Dark’s growing influence seen earlier would have also been corrupting the First Flame’s defender. Indeed, the Dark seeps out from the character’s entire body in concept art, with the blue magic of his magic greatsword showing similar signs of corruption. This means that the Old King would have wielded a sword representing fire and Dark in each hand, thematically reflecting the dual aspects of the eclipse at the root of his current state. Thus, the final boss for the final game of the franchise wouldn’t have been your conventional Lord of Cinder embodying the First Flame like in DS1, but one who embodied the duality of light and Dark in full, bringing the overarching narrative full circle.

But the script changed, and the final boss with it. The Old King’s model was moved to Irithyll’s cathedral, replacing the “Moonlight Witch” (月光の魔女) who ultimately became the generic flame witch enemy as its boss. This wasn’t an isolated change either. Aldrich’s internal name is “Sullivan” or Sulyvahn, making him the boss commanding the Pontiff Knights and Irithyllian hounds according to their internal names. Concept art likewise portrays Aldrich’s boss room with Irithyllian candlesticks, indicating that the Anor Londo cathedral was initially imagined as a more integrated continuation of the new capital. In that case, the government would have probably been headquartered there, with Gwyndolin its willing resident. Text for the unused “old king” crown and robes details the land’s physically old defender wearing majestic but now severely corrupted attire. The head of royalty in Irithyll was undoubtedly older, and this description matches with “Aldrich’s” corroded-looking crown and black robes — in DS1, Gwyndolin’s crown had sharp details, while his robes were more white.

Crown of the old king who protects the capital of the Cold Valley. That which was once resplendent has greatly changed in appearance due to the Dark’s encroachment.

Taken together, and Sulyvahn’s coup would have taken place after he became the monster. But FromSoftware evidently wanted to go in a slightly different direction with this storyline. The maneater who morphed into a Dark abomination and the traitorous sorcerer who took over as tyrant were split into two characters, one retaining the initial name, and the sequence of events was reversed. The Anor Londo cathedral became a long abandoned ruin, and Irithyll’s center of government was moved to the city cathedral to make it more of a theocracy — “Old King” Gwyndolin becoming simply prisoner in his DS1 home before getting eaten. All of this to account for one boss who no longer fit the developers’ initial vision, where the image of the eclipse was paramount. There are undoubtedly many more changes which didn’t hinge on this single element, but suffice to say that the story we know would have been quite different if that single element was more than aesthetic.