Trot up to Cardinal Tower at the heart of the fortress in the Forest of Fallen Giants, and we come upon a striking statue enshrined within. The figure appears to be a holy woman — her dress and pose resembling depictions of the Virgin Mary — and exudes warmth, seeming inviting and motherly. Who is she, and why enshrine her in a military installation? We can spot the same statue situated atop the bridge archway at the entrance to the Iron Keep. Unlike the previous effigy, this one sports angelic wings while her outstretched hands grasp the chains hoisting up the hanging cages, giving the impression that she is the one holding the “leash” on their prisoners. Combined with the additional chains wrapping around the figures embedded in the arch itself, and this hooded woman looks to hold sway over the fate of criminals and noncriminals alike.
Based on her wings, she must be the god depicted on rusted coins. These coins can be acquired from the puppets of Belfry Luna and Sol as well as in areas exclusive to Drangleic, meaning the kingdoms of Alken, Venn, and Drangleic all circulated this deity’s image in their currency. Most likely, Drangleic adopted the coinage from the Iron Keep like other elements of its culture, inheriting the icon along with it — and thereby the statue as well. If so, then this “angel” isn’t just a holy woman but some sort of god of justice or judgment. This is strange since the coins themselves provide some “good luck” when crushed, indicating the power inherent to her image somehow ties to fortune instead. They also have the angel clutching a book close to her chest, whether it be scripture or some other kind of knowledge. And while this goddess was “once” worshiped, the exact origins of her image and thus her very identity is no longer a known quantity. This therefore excludes any possibility of her being a still relevant deity like Quella.
Rusted old coin. Luck temporarily rises if crushed.
Becomes easy to discover items and the like. It is said that a little bit of good luck will come.
The engraved design is apparently the form of a god who was once worshiped. There isn’t anyone that knows its exact origins.
Thankfully, this statue of this god appears in one other place: the Undead Crypt. In fact, down there, we find her hooded form employed in abundance from providing candlelight to overseeing the pit where Undead are dropped into their burial grounds. One relief in particular depicts her face as a skull as she responds to the smaller worshipers appealing to her, leaving no doubt that this goddess is also associated with death. And so, we are dealing with a female deity linked with justice, judgment, luck, and death plus the additional connection to bird-like wings of a divine messenger bearing a book of knowledge. Her portrayal as at least a holy woman dates back to the age of the gods in Anor Londo, and was later adopted by Alken and Venn at the latest — the former definitely had extensive contact with the Undead Crypt. Taking all of these factors into consideration, there is only one viable candidate: Velka.
As Goddess of Sin, Velka bears close ties with crime and punishment, her judgment essentially deciding the fate of sinners. Her penchant for the Dark likewise provides an avenue for improving item discovery — the original Dark Souls implied a relation between luck and humanity. (a notion that Dark Souls III later makes explicit) The goddess and the Undead Crypt both share a deep connection to New Londo, with the former’s motherly depiction in the latter essentially serving as an extension of her portrayal in that cursed, death-seeking nation. She finds company in crows with their feathery wings and notable intelligence; indeed, her hobby is collecting knowledge, and she very much acts as an intermediary among the Anor Londo gods. On top of all that, she has had both her name and all of her items’ origins forgotten by the present era. No matter which criteria you examine, there is simply no better fit for this angel deity. There is also no denying that Velka was worshiped in Drangleic.
Even ignoring her effigy in Tseldora’s church, we can acquire the set for Velka’s priests from only two sources: one in a chest in the Dragon Shrine, the other from a darkness Hollow situated beneath Drangleic Castle. Considering the shrine’s connection to Aldia, the pardoner was most likely one of the parties invited to help the King’s brother with his research — even if only through a human representative, having the support of a witch knowledgeable in all manner of magical secrets would be valuable. Meanwhile, Velka’s love for the Abyss had likely drawn the other priest to the Dark Chasm of Old below the castle. Since its entry point is within a cave only accessed via a one-way shaft, the pardoner had presumably gotten trapped and died of starvation — subsequently turning Undead, hollowing, and twisting into monstrous form during the long time spent in that pitch-black environment. Regardless of the details, this requires the priest have access to the castle where the impromptu shaft is located.
In short, Velka was a major god in Drangleic religion, her priests gaining access to both royal brothers. With this in mind, her statue in Cardinal Tower is most appropriate. The fort was the last line of defense against the giants, whom Drangleic had wronged thanks to its King’s actions. This fact is known to its commanding officer, so it makes sense to commission a statue of the Goddess of Sin for the soldiers to pray to. Through her, sinners might find mercy, clemency. If nothing else, the mother to the detested would bring Drummond’s men comfort in their final days, as the blood staining the statue morbidly conveys — ironic, considering her more readily sympathetic identity as Caitha. But between this angel and her other identities, Velka has never held greater prominence in the world of man, even if she has been too far away to fully leverage that newfound influence. A shame it too inevitably eroded with the fall of kingdoms to the passage of time.