Among all the “Crestfallen Warriors” recurring in each Souls game, Hawkwood is by far the most developed. While we aren’t told about his life before undeath, we can confirm that the man enlisted with Farron’s Undead Legion, whose Abyss-slathered uniform he still wears to this day. The warrior wasn’t just some rookie recruit either, as not only is he familiar with the trial to enlist, he later proves perfectly capable of wielding their signature weapons. Why then did Hawkwood desert the legion as he himself admits? The answer is the same for why he is so crestfallen. His shield’s description points out that the Abyss Watchers’ unique fighting style doesn’t permit a shield; it is all-out offense all the time. The text then surmises that this shield represents the former watcher’s broken heart, meaning that he couldn’t unflinchingly oppose the horrors he hunted — his instinct sought the security of cover. The constant fear of death eventually became too much, and broke his spirit. When he took up his shield, he had already abandoned his comrades and their reckless abandon for such demanding duties.
Shield of Hawkwood, deserter of the Undead Troop.
By nature, the Watchers of the Undead Troop don’t possess a shield for the sake of their unique sword technique. This shield is his broken heart itself, isn’t it?
One can imagine the guilt this loss of heart brought Hawkwood, the feeling of inferiority for failing to stand in solidarity with the brave warriors he assuredly intimately knew — warriors clearly far braver than he. Unsurprisingly, this has made him somewhat bitter, freely taking potshots at the legionnaires’ obsession with heroism to countervail their cursed existence. But considering that he counted himself among their number once upon a time, this criticism only serves to project his own self-loathing of his previous naivete. “How could anyone think that Undead could be special? I certainly couldn’t be.” But this brokenhearted man must not yet have been that jaded, for he apparently decided to try a different avenue for heroism: the firelinking. In all likelihood, this was a desperate means to salvage his pride, to prove to Hawkwood himself that he could still be special like his former comrades. But in the end, he lacked the will, if not the strength, to take his place as a Lord of Cinder.
It must have come as a surprise then to reawaken in a grave as a bell tolled, learning that he had become unkindled ash and was now tasked with bringing runaway Lords back to their thrones. In his mind, it probably all seemed like a sick joke. This two-time failure of a hero, arguably not even a complete person, was supposed to convince genuine heroes, with questionable dispositions but unquestionable power, to change their minds and fulfill their Kingly duties? And one of those Kings he had to face was the comrades he deserted? Could fate or the Fire Keeper be more cruel? Indeed, just knowing that his comrades succeeded in linking the First Flame where he had failed was sure to fuel his jealousy and desolation. Any hope he had in being something more than a pathetic weakling was shattered. He is nothing, nobody, and so he can only loiter in misery at Firelink Shrine, his heart truly broken.
… Ah, you failed to die, too? Same here. Fireless Ashes, nobodies, incomplete persons who couldn’t even die… Honestly, makes me laugh. They say such a lot are to seek the Kings of Kindling, bring them back to their molding thrones. They are all great heroes who linked the fire. What can we really do? You think so too, don’t you? Eheh… Heh heh…
The one solace to Hawkwood’s predicament is projecting that inadequacy onto unkindled like him. He is more than willing to share what he has learned about the Lords or the outside world, presumably picked up from others who have deigned to challenge their mission or during his own occasional absences from the shrine. And at every juncture, he makes sure to include a jab at any confidence in this duty succeeding. Much like the Crestfallen Merchant from the original Dark Souls, Hawkwood takes smug satisfaction in his realization of his own inadequacy, thus pushing back at any who somehow still think they are any different. They will all be where he is mentally eventually, so for him, it is just an amusing show to watch their pointless struggle. Twisted as it may be, that is the last source of pride this crestfallen warrior has to cling onto. The only reason he helps us enter Farron Keep by handing over his old badge is on a whim for all our efforts, not that he expects anything to come of it.
… Ah, you appear to be struggling. That’s wonderful. That Fire Keeper is sure to be pleased… But, do you know? The identities of the Kings of Kindling who are called great heroes?
A King is, in other words, that sort of thing. And you’ll challenge something like that? Ahaha…
You should follow it… If you don’t fear going heartbroken. Eheh… Heh heh heh…
… You seem to be serious. Foolish bastard who doesn’t know their place. If that’s the case, I’ll give you this… Since I, having run away, no longer use it. Eheh… Heheheheh…
But once again, fate shatters his worldview. Not only do we return alive, we bring the kindled remnants of the Abyss Watchers with us, placed back on their thrones. This reality is double the gut-punch to Hawkwood. On the one hand, it proves that us, a “nobody”, can live up to the task despite how he has deluded himself otherwise; on the other, it reveals the full implications of their mission: the Lords need not be alive to fulfill their duties, and may be brought by force. The reason this is so devastating is because of the flip side to his heartbreak — just as much as he thought weakness was immutable, he put strength on a pedestal. He had sorted the world into a binary between the weak and the strong, with the friends he admired and envied beyond reproach. They were everything he was not, Kings and heroes who had the unbendable will to find strength in the face of adversity. And this was the world’s thanks — to slaughter them like cattle for an offering? If so, where does that leave him?
… You really killed a King of Kindling, that Undead Troop…? To bring the Kings back to their thrones is, in other words, something like that?… Ha ha ha! How pitiful. That’s why they’re called Kings?… Aha ha ha…
Before this, Hawkwood can occasionally be found outside kneeling at a grave, a Farron Greatsword laid against it since before we first arrive. Given that he now wields a bastard sword, we can presume this his old blade, left there as a memorial to his fallen comrades after learning of their own firelinking. That alone is telling. While he still spares no time to degrade them, his tone is clearly more sympathetic. Even with his delusions about heroes and Kings, he always saw them for what they were, in a way that perhaps only he can. They were cursed Undead, damned from the moment they had the misfortune to die; reviled as impious monsters by a world they still tried to save. They may have been deluded fools doomed to misery, but Hawkwood knew of their sincerity and pride. He never wished this upon them, even if they did. Rather, this twisted world’s betrayal of those who did more than any to repent for their sins proves that Undead will never be accepted. They must transcend the curse. And Hawkwood has witnessed the possibility for even the weak to become strong, if they have the heart to stick to it.
… Honestly, how pitiful, isn’t it? Call them Kings or heroes, such beings were cursed… It’s bullshit.
After this, the warrior disappears, his shield now left with the sword on the grave for us to loot. Though this image beautifully conveys him being crestfallen no more, it is in all likelihood purely symbolic, since we do see him retain his same shield afterward. Only from this point on can he be summoned at the Consumed King’s Garden where we can learn the gesture to reach Archdragon Peak. Later at the Peak, we can again summon him to help push through the densely-guarded road to the petrified archdragon, meditating to obtain the Twinkling Dragon Head Stone before returning to his world. Evidently, his will to fight has been restored, and his plan is to undergo draconification in order to free himself of the curse. The only problem is that he holds just the head stone. If we take the torso stone, he has no choice but to challenge us for it. To that end, he sends a swordgrass leaf invitation to us through Andre while he waits at the Farron Mausoleum. There, Hawkwood finally abandons his shield once and for all, arming himself with sword and dagger of his old compatriots.
Swordgrass leaf stained with the blood of Hawkwood, deserter of the Undead Troop.
It is an old means for the Undead Troop of Farron to prepare a message.
He awaits you in the Farron Mausoleum. For only one will proceed along the path of an archdragon.
If we elected to help him obtain the head stone, his Japanese dialogue indicates that he suspected we took the other. But even when surprised by his exact opponent, he still steels his resolve for the tough fight ahead. After all, we are who he wishes to become, so defeating us there would signify his heart overcoming ours just as much as his body. Although he will loot the dragon stone if victorious, that isn’t the end of our duel. We are free to return and challenge him again at any time, though this isn’t really how it is playing out. Recall that respawning at bonfires is simply a game mechanic, so like the Abyss Watchers did in this very arena, we are actually getting back on our feet shortly after we fall, our continued sanity proof of our will to hold on. This is why Hawkwood’s Japanese dialogue seems mildly surprised but more than willing to reciprocate. His goal isn’t to loot the stone and run. He is trying to prove his strength, both physically and mentally. More than that, we have now taken the role of the comrades he deserted, in some respects giving him the chance to finally face them. Until we give up or truly go Hollow, our heart resigned to him being the “true” archdragon, he will continue this dance.
Ah, you really… But, I decided not to run away anymore. Resenting me is fine, give me the power of a dragon.
Ah, it can’t be, to think you…
Resent me. But, I am the true dragon…
Ah, you really… But, I won’t steal it either. I will receive recognition. That I alone am the true dragon.
However, once Hawkwood goes down, there is no getting back up. He is resigned to our victory, perhaps because it is us who have served as his role model. His heart was always coming up just a little bit short in the end. But, that might be for the best. Cut dialogue has him additionally muse that a deserter like him dying there amongst the piles of legionnaires is perfectly acceptable. To flip the prior allusion, our duel had him, in many ways, serve as an extension to the Abyss Watchers boss battle. He may have been late to the party, but the warrior could finally stand with his fellows in opposition to our mission. In that case, joining them in death is more than he deserves. The deserter held a shield no more, his heart broken no longer. He gained the resolve to fight unflinching in the face of death, and can now, in these final moments, share in their want to die. Their homeland is lost to their mistakes, but they each fell with their heads held high.
If you are the dragon, that isn’t so bad.
It’s a more than sufficient place to die for a deserter…