Profaned Capital


Preface


Without a doubt, the Profaned Capital is the most context-dependent area in Dark Souls III. (DS3) With few relevant item descriptions compared to other areas and even a smaller relative map size, first impressions render it the most dubious portion of the game, with the most mysterious Lord. However, dig a little deeper, and this dearth of data proves to be somewhat illusory. There is plenty to draw upon, and what the evidence might lack in raw numbers, it more than makes up for in density. Already, we expected to have studied up on Dark Souls (DS1) and its sequel. (DS2) Become familiar with a few key parts of DS3, and Yhorm and his kingdom are surprisingly straightforward. I wouldn’t consider them my favorite additions to the series, but they more than justify the investigation.


From Attack to Defend


One would assume that the Profaned Capital, literally the “capital of sin”, (罪の都) had a proper name to go by. But if so, it has long since gone out of fashion. Even Siegward, a man personally acquainted with the city’s king, feels the need to refer to it by that moniker. Its name is an apparent anathema to polite discourse, not something we should know. How then can we identify the place? Was it one of the established countries which so often consisted of a single metropolis, or some entirely new city state? To answer, we must look for signs of its location before the drift. Take, for example, the Greatshield of Glory — something King Vendrick crafted for just one of his knights during DS2’s era, a fact still alluded to in its DS3 description. The fact that the Profaned Capital is in possession of such an item, keeping it safely stored in a chest, suggests that the country exists relatively close to Drangleic; in other words, located somewhere in the New World.

Indeed, much hints to that conclusion. The Profaned Capital is also home to quite a few rusted and regular gold coins featuring an angel. While now mainly identified with Lothric, these were originally the currency adopted by the kingdoms in Drangleic and so might still have been circulating the New World during the Capital’s day. We also see that metropolis created living gargoyles, the art of which was the monopoly of Anor Londo in the Old World but more widespread in the New. Even their clergy dress in tall hats resembling the hoods characteristic of Drangleic priests. By all indications, the Profaned Capital was a country inheriting Drangleic culture and so must be located somewhere within its regional vicinity, specifically to its east. The city is where we can also loot both the Onislayer Greatbow and its greatarrows from the far East, implying nearness to it as well. Considering that an Eastern samurai could reach Drangleic and teach the local knights how to create and wield this exact greatbow, trade east of there is more than feasible.

Profaned Capital clergy (left) compared to Drangleic priest (right)

As far as known nations east of Drangleic and west of the far East are concerned, none leave their mark on the Profaned Capital. The city’s architecture and iconography bear no distinctive features we can associate with countries like Forossa or Mirrah, and none of the items related to such nations litter the ruins. Wherever the metropolis was exactly located, it would seem to be nowhere within those lands’ borders. The Capital stood all on its own as an independent nation. It was because that independence was implicitly threatened that its people asked Yhorm to be their king and defender — the description for the giant soul credits their choice to his descent from a conqueror of a vaguely older time. This situation begs a new slew of questions. Who was threatening the Capital’s sovereignty? Why was Yhorm in town at the time? Who is the conqueror they knew him kin to?

Soul of the giant Yhorm. 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 Yhorm was the descendant of a conqueror of old, but became king of the begging people, serving as their heavy blade and solid shield.

Some have posited that Yhorm’s ancestor is the Giant Lord from DS2, who led his race in a war against Drangleic. However, that king’s invasion can hardly be called a conquest when they had no interest in holding territory. The giants’ life cycle is likewise incompatible with Yhorm’s physiology. Despite the impression created by the shadow of his chain mail hood, Yhorm has a face, unlike those northern giants whose heads only possess holes. This firmly plants his biology within the animal kingdom, not someone who can be produced from a giant-turned-tree’s seed. Others then suggest the conqueror be one of the gods’ giant slaves. But besides the absurdity of a subjugated race producing a subjugator, the physiology is again off. Yhorm is far leaner and better proportioned than the giant slaves seen in this game or DS1. Close inspection of his face and skull featured in the menus graphic for his remains reaffirm his finer bone structure. Others yet postulate an Eastern oni, who are described as horned giants, but Yhorm bears no obvious horns, only a spiked crown.

In short, if Yhorm is the descendant of a species of giant, then it is no known race established throughout the entire series. However, this assumes that Yhorm must be a species of giant at all. The term “giant” (巨人) denotes not just fantasy races matching that description, but also the literal giant man. In other words, Yhorm the Giant may not be called such because he is from another race, but because he is of freakishly abnormal size for a human — the whims of Disparity certainly making such an exaggerated degree of gigantism possible. Put another way, there is no need for Yhorm’s ancestor to be anything more than an ordinary human. This might at first seem to only expand the pool of possible candidates, but human conquerors from past games are unlikely to have descendants given their marital situations. And there is only one character featured in this game to fit the description: Wolnir of Carthus.

We are told nothing about the High Lord’s private life, but it is hard to imagine that his tyrannical tendencies on the battlefield didn’t extend to the bedroom. Even if Wolnir had no queen, he would surely take and use whatever woman he so pleased, the same as he did with all the other things he plundered. If nothing else, a king of his disposition is unlikely to take care with siring children. And given the dating of Wolnir’s lifetime, Yhorm can easily be his son or grandson. Indeed, the giant wields a great machete, a curved blade in the same vein as other weapons favored by Carthus warriors. The desert nation also just so happened to be in the same sphere of the world as the Profaned Capital, meaning that it would be one of the first countries for Wolnir to try and conquer. And who besides the king would be leading the invasion as general and then managing the new province as governor? Why a prince, of course; one of his own kin directly subordinate to him. Everything about lineage to Wolnir sets up the scenario that Yhorm found himself in.

But if Yhorm was Carthus royalty pushing to take the Capital or assigned to the already subjugated territory, why switch gears and rebel against his patriarch? In truth, the giant would have had no shortage of reasons. Aside from making him the obvious odd one out, Yhorm’s immense, weighty frame isn’t conducive to his homeland’s swift and agile style of fighting, doubling the ridicule he would face growing up. Wolnir is also still a tyrant and unlikely to show much affection towards his heirs, especially considering his ultimate goal to maintain power for eternity. If anything, Yhorm’s peculiarities would give the king reason to shame and abuse him into submission. Whatever the details, certain animus against king and country is all but guaranteed. And with a desperate people offering him a crown in exchange for protection, who was he to refuse?

Thus, Yhorm became a shield and blade for the Profaned Capital, swinging his heavy machete without hesitation even if that meant slaying former countrymen. It didn’t matter if it was Carthus or some other belligerent nation, the giant would defend his new kingdom’s independence from any and all threats. The fact that he was the lone vanguard in this more than explains the Capital’s request for his aid: the city didn’t have the military strength to wrest itself free of Carthus oppression. This might seem odd at first glance in light of the setting, but one need only look at the gargoyles defending the streets and statues of bearded old men in robes supporting Yhorm’s throne to see who was making the request. From its inception, the Profaned Capital wasn’t a country of warriors and warlords; it was a land of philosophers, researchers, and academics — sorcerers.


Corrupt Intelligence


No king governs alone, and in Yhorm’s case, his court was filled with sorcerers ready to advise him. As their tall black headwear and formal gold-embroidered robes indicate, these royal court sorcerers doubled as oracles, or “priests”, (神官) educated about the gods. Some have taken the localization’s use of “oracle” as a sign that they somehow relate to Alsanna — the so-called Silent Oracle — but she was actually a miko (巫女) the same as the other “priestesses” of Eleum Loyce; there is no substance to the inference. Nonetheless, men of reason also serving in a religious capacity isn’t unprecedented in the New World where the Profaned Capital is located, so its religion likely developed in similar isolation from the Way of White. In fact, it likely ended up skewing more toward reason than faith.

Hood of the court sorcerers of the Capital of Sin.

It is said that they were also priests like these tall, black hats suggest.

There are many sorcerers who claim inheritance of the sorceries of the great sage Big Hat Logan, but the Capital of Sin is one of the two great sects.

As we explore the ruined metropolis, we can come across a church. The building’s religious purpose is evident by the court sorcerer atop its roof — identified as Eamon (エーモン) in Japanese guidebooks — as well as the corpse of another within the actual building. Further supporting this is yet one more corpse carrying the miracle text for Wrath of the Gods, which also affirms the priests’ familiarity with the Anor Londo gods specifically. However, whatever worship they held for the medials was clearly sidelined by their unorthodox practice of sorcery. The church’s bottom floor enshrines yet more statues of the sorcerers, affirming that the building prior to the city’s ruin wasn’t dedicated to any particular god but to themselves. Divine revelation was but more knowledge to shelve on the upper floor where they seemingly resided, as evidenced by the various pots and barrels exclusive to that floor.

In all likelihood, the Profaned Capital had once been a small country of little note, following the Way of Blue or some such. It may not have even had a king, as Yhorm’s palace has the same floor tile seen in the church. Since this ornate but nondescript design is also used for the Cathedral of the Deep and later reused for the hidden shrine in the Ringed City, it could just be a generic asset for fancy flooring, but the common theme of religiosity suggests at least some similar association for the palace. If it was originally just another religious building, then that would leave the country’s administration to the church and noble class confirmed by the Aristocrat’s Mask — and if DS1’s Thorolund is any indication, the two must have been deeply intertwined. But the theocracy evolved as the noble priests began embracing sorcery, forgoing faith for intellect. No longer did the rule in the name of the gods but of their own wisdom; it was them whom the masses should glorify. What caused this dramatic cultural shift, or rather, who?

The source of the court sorcerers’ expertise are the original scrolls of Logan, which cover the sage’s research from the Vinheim Dragon School and were left when he made his final attempt to reach the gods’ library in DS1. DS2 further suggests that these and other sorceries of his were promulgated across Drangleic after the initial drift, albeit from obscure and often forgotten sources by the time of the game’s main events. Such fragmented knowledge is likely why so many claim to have inherited Big Hat’s legacy. That being said, the Profaned Capital is one of the two great sects. And despite the localization’s insinuation that the court sorcerers’ claims were somehow fallacious, the Japanese text affirms that they had a legitimate basis to call themselves Logan’s successors — the scrolls indisputably details the sage’s arts. However these text fell into the priests’ possession, they became proud to preserve Logan’s age-old research brought from Vinheim to Lordran to Drangleic to finally them.

Logan’s scrolls. Secret treasure texts of the court sorcerers of the Capital of Sin.

Can learn Logan’s sorceries by giving it to a sorcerer.

Those are certainly the sorceries of the “Big Hat”, so it would seem that the court sorcerers, who called themselves Logan’s successors, also had their reasons.

Consider the fact that Logan’s non-crystal sorceries were the products of his heretical methodology in Vinheim, debasing the gods and their divine mysteries as just more magic power for man to understand for itself. Any priest reading Logan’s work would be exposed to both a completely repugnant worldview and its undeniable results. Whether swiftly or gradually, Logan’s ideas of men over gods spread among the priesthood, and they all eventually became students of his sorcery. Besides hoarding the scrolls as a secret treasure, the court sorcerers also replicated Logan’s magic staff to be their standard sorcery catalyst, as Eamon demonstrates. Another of these replicas can be acquired from a mimic within the church, so the priests were extremely concerned about keeping the staves out of outside hands. Although they don’t go so far as to wear his iconic big hat, they nonetheless thoroughly tried to emulate the sage. At most, whatever reverence the priests still had for the gods went hand in hand with their reverence for Logan, and that was where their problems began, in multiple ways.

Staff of the court sorcerers of the Capital of Sin.

Can draw out high might if someone with excellent intelligence uses it.

It is said that the court sorcerers claimed the “Big Hat” Logan’s inheritance and that their staff too copied that of Logan.


Extend an Olive Sword


With the ruling class stressing intellectualism instead of physicality, it is unlikely to have invested heavily into its military. Why train soldiers in swordplay when you can program golems to fight? The sorcerer priests’ inflated self-confidence made them complacent, and they were unprepared for a Carthus invasion spearheaded by a seemingly untouchable giant. But clever minds that they were, they thought to flip the script and have that indomitable giant fight for them. All they need do was swallow some of their pride and offer the foreign prince reign over their metropolis. This wasn’t the biggest sacrifice, as the nobles continued to stay deeply entrenched in politics as the king’s court sorcerers. They would continue to pull the levers of power by advising the new head with their indisputable wisdom, and he would fight off foreign threats on their behalf; not a bad deal for them, all things considered. And so, the Profaned Capital recognized its liberator as king.

Despite this, Yhorm was aware that he was just being used, his kindling alluding to as much in its description. They called him king, but their heart wasn’t in it. After all, theirs was always an alliance of convenience. In any other circumstances, the nobles would have never lowered their heads to such a freak, let alone a foreigner. And who is to say the apple didn’t fall far from the tree? Yhorm could turn out no less tyrannical than Wolnir, so the nobles always needed to be ready to fight for their country’s independence anyway. The fact that they were even trading for giant-slaying weaponry shows their wariness of their own king. For that reason, Yhorm seemed to do everything in his power to assuage their fears. Carthus ultimately fell, but the giant’s stalwart repulsion of invaders persisted, perhaps because neighboring nations hoped to fill the vacuum Wolnir left — this region’s history is irrefutably characterized by constant conflict. Whatever the underlying motives, the invading countries gave the giant all sorts of menaces to contend with.

Yhorm came to possess two swords known as Storm Ruler, a reference to the sword obtained in a similarly ruined nation straddling the line between East and West in Demon’s Souls. Their blades have been broken to the point of having practically no durability, presumably due to the overwhelming power of storms they can cloak themselves in. Unleashing these storm winds can knock oversized bipedals like Yhorm to the ground like great trees in a hurricane, earning the swords the alias of Giant Killer. This by nature implies that there were giants to kill wherever these weapons were created and thereby giant hunts, another callback to Demon’s Souls and its own “Giant Killer” Bramd. In that case, there is one place where giants were widely hunted, and that is the far East.

Greatsword possessing the alias of “Giant Killer”. It is said that its broken blade reserves the power of storms and knock giants to the ground even now.

The giant Yhorm possessed two of those. It is said that one he gave to the people who didn’t trust him, the other entrusted to his lone friend before becoming a King of Kindling.

Battle art is “Storm King”. Clad its blade in storms via a stance. You will know its true worth when before a giant.

Indeed, the Onislayer Greatbow and Arrows are named for their original purpose in an earlier, mythological age. Much like how the medials developed greatbows and arrows to hunt the larger and weightier dragons, the Easterners did the same to combat the local horned giants, except theirs emphasized range over power so as to safely snipe the dangerous strongmen. To facilitate accuracy, they used giant feathers of aged crows for the fletching, which apparently give the birds the ability to fly straight between two points without straying — an idiomatic belief fans of DS1 can confirm was true for that game’s giant crow. DS1 had also hinted to a potentially extinct race of horned giants, which is consistent with how these oni hunts are always described: in the past tense. In other words, the weapons of this ancient conflict have long lost their purpose, leaving what is passed down to most likely not be recreations.

Unique greatbow handed down in an Eastern land.

According to their mythology, they were used to slay oni, giants that possess horns.

Takes a long time to draw, leaving a big opening. Also, can only use greatarrows.

Greatarrow said to have been used to slay oni in an Eastern land. Can only be shot with a greatbow.

That arrow, said to have used feathers of an old crow, is said to fly straight the same as the feathers’ owner.

Enter Storm Ruler, a sword tinged with power unlike any seen in the western world, Old and New, and otherwise only exhibited by a species of wyvern. These winds, once unleashed, cover a great distance, allowing one to safely snipe the target. At the same time, such magic can be conjured without the traditional intelligence or faith requirements, though this may be for gameplay convenience much likes it lacking strength and dexterity requirements. Either way, the weapon itself has apparently seen no upkeep even before falling into Yhorm’s possession. Where better for such a magic blade to originate except in the nebulous far East in ancient times? In fact, “mythology” (神話) specifically refers to the “gods’ stories”, implicating these giant hunts to have been carried out by the Easterner’s own deities. And considering the weapons’ size, these “gods” were in all likelihood just exceptional humans whose heroics led to deification by subsequent generations as the legends and weapons were passed down, a phenomenon which DS2 confirms isn’t uncommon in lands outside the medials’ influence.

The best argument against an Eastern origin is the fact that Storm Ruler (ストームルーラー) uses English written in katakana instead of Japanese written in kanji like most other Eastern weaponry — key word: most. Murakumo (ムラクモ) is spelt in katakana, giving the impression of westerners inheriting the sword’s spoken name but not the underlying meaning of “gathering clouds” (叢雲) when expressed in its original kanji. In that case, the reverse can also be true, westerners inheriting the literal name “Storm Ruler” but not how it is spoken in the Easterners’ language. DS2 does introduce an Eastern samurai who is only described as the western equivalent of “knight”, so this inconsistent familiarity with the culture isn’t unprecedented. If nothing else, the Profaned Capital’s increased proximity to the East relative to the rest of the setting makes their somewhat deeper knowledge feasible. And all of this assumes that the name is connected to its Eastern origin and not simply invented by westerners out of whole cloth.

Some might also argue that Storm Ruler lacks the curved blade characteristic of Eastern swords, but this can be attributed to it coming from an era before such swords were developed. The beautifully exotic Eastern armor that western nobles so love to add to their collections are designed to counter katana slashes, which dominate its wars. In other words, the armor developed as part of a history of infighting continuing among the Easterners, mirroring medieval Japan’s own period of endless civil war. The katana itself is a weapon designed for quickly drawing then rending human flesh. By contrast, the East’s mythic age features “gods” using weightier weapons from range to face larger enemies whose name equates them to monsters. There was no need to curve a hypothetical blade for these hunts, and Storm Ruler already vaguely resembles popular depictions of the Kusanagi no Tsurugi, a legendary sword that a storm god obtained after slaying a giant monster in Japanese mythology. To top it off, its blade is engraved with a signature, a practice common to Japanese swords. Everything supports this sword being an ancient product of the far East.

Unique helmet made in an Eastern land. Extremely elaborate and has high artistic value. It has even been an object of nobles’ collections.

Coinciding with battles of the Eastern land where katana are the majority, it possess a high cut rate against slash attacks in particular.

Unique katana forged in an Eastern land. A sharp sword due to high technique.

The burnished blade boasts excellent cutting quality and also forces bleeding from the opponent, but it is delicate and thus has a drawback of the blade being easy to nick.

Battle art is “Iai”. Attacks from the Iai stance all come out quick. Can use a lunging slash with the normal attack or deflecting parry with the strong attack according to the situation.

Why then would Yhorm come to own one such sword, let alone two? The obvious answer would be that they were used against him in battle, only to be collected from the corpses of their presumably Eastern wielders after the fighting was finished. Considering how helpless the giant is against Storm Ruler in his boss battle, we can likely credit his survival, let alone victory, in this Eastern war to the fact that he was still wielding his greatshield — the oversized sheet of metal gave him the tenacity needed to withstand any storm winds hurled his way. But instead of destroying such dangerous arms, he kept them, even gifting one to his apprehensive subjects; the court sorcerers specifically given that we find the weapon in the palace. With that, the Capital had insurance in case Yhorm ever did end up like Wolnir; that was his way of showing his sincerity. In spite of their distrust, the king wasn’t interested in throwing his power around like a despot and wouldn’t interfere with the nobility’s pursuits. This left Logan’s adherents to make their second big mistake.


Spark of Curiosity


One of the sorceries detailed in Logan’s scrolls is, of course, Homing Soulmass. Its description notes how the spell’s nature to be attracted to life was later deemed close to the Dark. Indeed, both this sorcery and Affinity function mechanically the same, and even from a conceptual standpoint, their only difference is that one uses living dark souls for truly autonomous projectiles rather than standard souls reacting on unconscious principles. How long before that hair’s breadth of a dividing line is crossed and someone thinks to explore giving souls that autonomous will — to find souls most conducive to developing one? This is what makes Homing Soulmass’ practitioners dangerously close to realizing the Dark arts, a fact alluded to even back in DS1. The Way of White has warred with sorcerers over such risks, so is it any surprise that a country outside its influence ended up falling prey to this temptation?

One of the personal sorceries of “Big Hat” Logan, the great sorcerer who parted with the Dragon Academy long ago.

Floats soulmasses with high pursuing nature and fires them.

A sorcery which shows a fragment of Logan, who was a researcher, but regarding its nature that is attracted to life, later studies deem it to actually be close to the Dark.

The Profaned Coal holds what remains of the fire that burned the Profaned Capital, specifically its populace according to the Profaned Flame pyromancy’s description. Despite the fire itself being strong enough to be a source for evolving weapons, the cracked-open skull serving as its vessel is cold to the touch. If that wasn’t odd enough, the fire is only compatible with dark, hollow, and blood gems, all of which bear some relation to the Dark. In fact, after being presented with  Andre immediately points out that the source flame, contrary to its less-than-dark appearance, has close affinity to the Abyss. It therefore has good reason to be known as the “Fire of Sin” (罪の火) and presumably cause its country of origin to be dubbed the same. The only question then is how such an otherwise unsuspecting flame can, in any way, be related to the power of the Dark.

Source flame for performing weapon transmutation enhancement.

Vestige of the fire that burned the Capital of Sin, stored in the vessel of a cold skull.

Makes transmutation enhancement using three kinds of gems, Dark, blood, and Hollow, possible by handing it over to the blacksmith of the ritual place.

… You, this source flame is… It’s too dark. Rather, it’s close to the Abyss…

The Abyss has sparked flames before, but these are typically black flames bearing similar properties to their source of power: humanity. By contrast, the Profaned Flame still appears no different from your standard fire, and anything relying on its power deal solely fire damage, not dark damage like black flame pyromancies. Likewise, the gargoyles’ stone weapons double as torches for the Profaned Flame, the fire melting the rock to produce lava — as we can hear bubbling from within the weapons and see spilling out during some of gargoyles’ attacks — in spite of its apparent lack of heat. Perhaps black flames too are perversely cold, but they certainly don’t rival Chaos in strength. The only other quality associating this fire with the Dark is its supposed inability to be extinguished. The one we can give Andre has evidently been burning in that skull as is without change, and we can see that the burnt corpses in the Capital still retain embers at minimum. If left untouched, these vestiges of flame likely really would never go out, much like how bearers of the Darksign would never die.

Stone torch hammer possessed by gargoyles of the Capital of Sin.

It is lit with the inextinguishable Fire of Sin and possesses attack power of the fire attribute.

With all this in mind, it is only natural that Logan’s successors be the ones to create such a peculiar flame. According to Eleonora’s description, a curse afflicting women of one priest’s family was the trigger to its genesis. This curse transformed them into grotesque monstrosities with charcoal skin, overweight frames, unkempt body hair, short tails, three-toed feet, bellies crammed with dozens of eyes, and third hands for heads. These three hands are gaping maws with teeth sloppily growing out across the palms and fingers, absorbing some of our souls should we be grabbed and gnawed on. Although reminiscent of the left hand of Manus, these women with ravenous appetites don’t seem to be your typical product of abyssal corruption, since the Wolf Knight’s Greatsword has no effect. Rather, these “grotesques of sin” (罪の異形) are the result of something slightly different than a plain Dark curse, just like the Fire of Sin they spawned. And the most likely cause for these underlying differences is Eleonora itself.

Although only obtainable from one in particular, this “bizarre” battle axe is allegedly inside each of these women. Did the monsters swallow them along with their wielders, or did their morphing grow out and around the weapons? Ignoring its intricate design, Eleonora is unremarkable until using its Skill to swing it up high as if ringing a bell. Amazingly, the sound of a solemn bell actually chimes while the axe head emits a yellow aura resembling advanced holy magic. This would normally implicate a weapon blessed by the power of the gods befitting priests, but the axe the actual effect of Feasting Bell is to grant the weapon the ability to bleed enemies while recovering HP — the marks of the Dark’s life-eating powers. Perhaps Eleonora was a holy weapon created by the Capital’s priests only to later be corrupted by the dark souls the women harbor? A corrupted blessing would explain why it requires no faith to wield and deals purely physical damage while bearing traits of both light and Dark.

Bizarre weapon which was inside residents of the Capital of Sin who were grotesquely transformed.

It is said that the women are family of a certain priest and that their curse became the trigger for the Fire of Sin. But the persons concerned have gone on living, carefree.

The humanity connection is reinforced by the bird of Firelink Shrine exchanging a hollow gem for Eleonora, implying some relation to the Undead curse. Was the weapon corrupted by coming in contact with the Darksign? In that case, the priests must have been using the weapon to experiment with the dark souls within each woman, the proverbial flintstone in this endeavor — the name Eleonora is Italian and Greek for “light”, appropriate for a weapon whose strike may well have sparked the Profaned Flame. In an attempt to cleanse or at least fiddle with humanity, they instead triggered a curse. This curse resulting from crossing light with Dark warped the axe, the women, and the resulting Flame they produced with it. The obvious question is how exactly this process played out to create something different from black flames.

Normally, igniting a soul creates fire reflecting the nature of that combusting power — Izalith’s Life Soul logically produced a Flame of Chaos; humanity, flames of Dark. But the Profaned Flame is inherently Dark while retaining the trappings of its opposite. How can light derive from Dark, much less flame? In truth, it is easy to forget that the Dark itself is a product of fire and a consequence of light. It is but another aspect of Disparity, governor of space to light’s time. Just as we have so often see the Abyss used to manipulate space and thus time, it is theoretically possible to manipulate Dark and thus light. In other words, if the Abyss can spontaneously generate immortal life of all kinds, then generating an immortal flame of light is no less feasible, if perverse. Put another way, the Profaned Flame isn’t a product of igniting a dark soul but the dark soul itself. Not every creature is so outwardly Dark-bred, so the same hold true here. And with light from the Darksign and Eleonora as a point of guidance, an artificial reproduction is more than within man’s reach.

If that is the case, then why use solely women from one of their own families as guinea pigs in this endeavor? Even if we assume that their priest relative was its architect, wouldn’t the family men suffice just as well? Perhaps not. With the soul lying at the heart of this research, the sorcerers might have deliberately sought out female test subjects for their unique effect on souls. Alternatively, the fair sex was simply top of mind for this kind of work. The Profaned Capital is home to a bevy of handmaids, revealing an overwhelming preference for women in subordinate positions. It is quite possible that the collection of noble houses ruling the Capital, competing for dominance, developed an exceptionally patriarchal culture trading marriageable daughters for political alliances. And if the society viewed women chiefly as props for men’s interests, why wouldn’t a priest think to employ the ones close to him for this situation?

Another question to ask is why create a fire specifically? It is possible that the sorcerers didn’t have any particular end result in mind during their inquiry, but there were plenty of other ways to go about studying the Abyss as Dark practitioners current and past well demonstrate; Eleonora was also hardly designed with half-baked intent. Their additional possession of holy power might have played a part, but it was probably more so current events that influenced their direction. Recall that around this same period, Wolnir was discovering black pyromancy, rumors of his subsequent obsession which ultimately destroyed his empire leaking out into the wider world. This means that Carthus in all likelihood served as the initial impetus for the Profaned Capital studying how to spark their own flames from humanity. Whether purely out of academic interest or fear of losing an arms race against the enemy superpower, the priests threw themselves into such experiments until they created the sinful from monstrosities.

None of this seems to have been intentional, however. The women went on living “carefree”, all but one sealed within the church’s bottom floor. In that chamber, we can find a Cursebite Ring and purging stones, with more of these curse-breaking rocks among the corpses and wildlife outside in the immediate surroundings — they tried undoing their mistake. Eamon in particular has stood watch over this church of languid grotesques even though his entire city had already long fallen to ruin. Considering that he is the only named court sorcerer, this innocuous character may well be the “certain” sorcerer related to these monstrosities. If so, then Eamon is doing more than just safeguarding Logan’s scrolls — he is making up for past failure to properly protect members of his own blood. The women’s transformation had clearly gone beyond expectation and left at least some with a guilty conscience. But laden with guilt or no, that didn’t stop them from reaping the rewards of their haywire experiment.

Front and center in the palace main entrance is a bowl of flame. Statues of the sorcerers hold up this vessel, and yet decorate the surroundings walls, their raised heads and outstretched hands giving the impression of reverence. Whether the original source or just another piece, this bowl undoubtedly holds the Profaned Flame. Performing a group ritual causes this flame to launch an explosive fireball which pursues us, much like Affinity. Honing in on where the target is located is likewise similar to the effect of Profaned Flame, a pyromancy which requires only intelligence to cast. All evidence points to the sorcerers embracing the fire they had inadvertently created, even sharing its secrets with their handmaids. It is the handmaids who perform the group ritual, their robes uniforms for such ceremonies, and they each carry a lantern to use as a catalyst for casting fire spells, much like the Pinwheels from DS1.

Robe of the jailers of Irithyll’s Dungeon. Originally a ritual uniform.

It is said that they are some of the few survivors of the Capital of Sin and later served Pontiff Sulyvahn.

The prison’s screams probably appease their homeland.

The court sorcerers intentions couldn’t be more blatant. They wanted to apply the principles of sorcery to the Profaned Flame and then spread it to the Capital’s general populace, a stark contrast from Izalith’s approach to the subject. At the same time, much like that other ruined capital, they want to grasp that power to wield for themselves, developing pyromancies to that end. The end goal can be seen in the gargoyles they constructed to preserve the homeland, models of their ideals much like knights in other countries. Those bearers of the sinful flame have human skulls for heads, yet those look as if they are about to be consumed by the flames already enveloping their bodies, seemingly twisting them into their winged, demonic form — or perhaps it would be more apt to say “angelic”.

Indeed, the country’s currency shows that the priests were no strangers to angel imagery, which symbolizes both divine service and ascension. In the context of sorcerers who see divinity as just incredible power for man to strive for, the implication is obvious: the Profaned Flame is the stepping stone to man’s next stage in evolution. They would unshackle the Dark, harness its power in flame sorcery, and transcend mortal limitations. The grotesque women are proof of this potential. In fact, such an ingrained ethos in the collective psyche adds to Eamon’s rationale for experimenting on his female relatives. After all, the angel featured on the coins is a goddess, so women make for the natural subjects to test. In Eamon’s mind at the time, he was giving them first dibs on man’s transcendence. What greater honor is there? Even after things went horribly wrong, that didn’t sully the others’ resolve, at least. The court sorcerers got their Flame; they just needed to tinker with it a little more.


Down in Flames


With the citizens’ safety secured by Yhorm, the Profaned Capital had essentially turned into a bubble of paradise, at least for the noble court sorcerers running the show. Not only were these priests afforded the freedom to develop and experiment with new works like the Profaned Flame, they also seem to have seen their wealth skyrocket like never before. As mentioned before, coins can be found scattered around the city ruins, every corner of the palace in particular additionally littered with piles upon piles of gold and silverwork crafts — including the lanterns seen hanging around Carthus, humorously enough. The only reason to have so many pricey items gathered in the palace is because it is where the officials in court work. Eamon’s name is derived from Gaelic to mean “wealthy protector”, hinting to both the priest’s watch over the church and his own financial status. These are the nobility’s treasures.

Evidently, the government had amassed hefty riches thanks to the peace and stability the king brought, likely creating a bridge for trade between east and west previously unseen in this war-torn region. This allowed the direct benefactors of that trade route, the nobles in court, to procure unique and elaborate items like the Greatshield of Glory among other luxuries. Their newfound affluence was unsurprisingly accompanied by avarice. Both the shield and the one gold coin at the palace are stored next to each other in mimics, demonstrating the court’s obsession with keeping a grasp on its greatest treasures. The privileged elite were all about accruing resources in place, and the Greatshield of Glory’s description makes the perfect analogy to this point: just as how the shield makes it more difficult to remain mobile, the glory Yhorm showered his people induced them to their own idleness. The result of such laziness? Debauchery.

Greatshield decorated with a flowing design all over. A mark of glory that was once made for one person alone.

Boasts the highest defensive ability among all shields, but reduces stamina recovery speed.

Glory, indeed, would be the beginning of indolence.

The Capital’s handmaids put on masks with plump faces to suit the tastes of their aristocratic masters, presumably because being well-fed has historically conveyed affluence. The noblemen wanted to always feel like they were surrounded by wealth, and most of the gold and silver we see in the palace are goblets, bowls, and platters that the handmaids would be expected to use when serving food and drink. The fact that the aristocrats had their servants dress to suit their fetishes further suggests that the women were expected to wait on them in more than one capacity. Highborn greed gave way to both gluttony and lust. They truly had their every want satiated during this undeniable golden age — their very own utopia. For a small country of sorcerer priests, this was probably something out of their wildest dreams. But as with any utopian dream, the reality is far more dystopian in nature.

The handmaids white clothes are ominously stained in blood, with the women themselves giggling as they scurry up to stab us. The description for their daggers confirm them to be used to wound people for no other reason than personal pleasure, the painstakingly-detailed blades nick and chipping from apparent overuse. This is why the weapon restores focus with each hit — their wills are revitalized by harming others. Even the dagger’s Blind Spot Skill is more literally a “Dead Angle Blow”, (死角の一撃) emphasizing these sadists’ resolve to kill as they ferret out an opening in a shield’s defenses. It is impossible for an underclass this blithe about bloodshed went unnoticed by their masters. In all likelihood, it was those very nobles who taught the handmaids the joys of torturing people — possibly foreign prisoners of war in particular — all so they could watch the “show” without having to lift a finger. In that case, there was no vice that they would not indulge. The Profaned Capital had fallen into total depravity, a true city of sin.

Dagger of the handmaids of the Capital of Sin.

Recovers just a little FP when attacks hit.

It is said that those women wounded people for fun.

Battle art is “Dead Angle Blow”. It is a battle art for opponents using shields, and throws a blow that goes through shields from the side.

All of this can be credited to the Profaned Flame’s discovery. The Covetous Gold Serpent Ring is found in the part of Irithyll Dungeon overlapping with the Capital, the same part where we find various other items related to the ruined city. It reminds us of greed facilitating the collection of items as well as of the serpent, a symbol of humans who manifest the Darksign as stated back in DS1. It is also makes a point of greed being part and parcel to the desire to throw off that shackle placed on all men. The implication is clear. Like so many countries which had fallen to the Dark before it, the Profaned Capital degenerated to wickedness in trying to get back in touch with its human nature. Researching the truth to man’s curse left the priests with not a shred of godly devotion. Logan liberated their minds; Carthus, their souls. It was men who would chart their own path — the flora linked to the Dark’s dendrofication strewn about the city reveals the result. Is it any wonder that this part of the world dominated by the gods wants even the city’s name to be forgotten?

Gold ring made in the shape of a snake, a failed-to-be dragon. Boosts discovery power.

The snake is known as an extremely greedy creature which swallows prey even larger than itself whole.

If you disapprove of the shackles placed on you, right then you will require greed.

The noble court sorcerers and their handmaids were living it up, but the same cannot be said for the king enabling that debauchery. At some point, Yhorm cast aside the greatshield which saved his life in the past, reason being that he had lost the “one to protect” according to its description. This doesn’t refer to the general citizenry, who he continued to fight on behalf of during his later years. Instead, what ensued was the giant adding another handle for his left hand to grab the other end of his machete, which he used to violently smash down the blade onto the enemies at his feet; really get up close, personal, and vicious with each cleave. The fact that the furious aggression of this fighting style drew gossip indicates that whomever Yhorm lost gave him much rage and sorrow — he loved this person so much that the king stopped caring for his own safety and, by extension, the safety of his other subjects from every fight onward. Who was this one resident of the Profaned Capital he so cherished? In all likelihood, his wife.

Greatshield that the giant Yhorm once used. Increases the equipper’s tenacity.

It is said that Yhorm stood at the vanguard alone as king, swinging his great hatchet without ever wavering. “And then, losing the one to protect, he abandoned his shield.”

Great hatchet that the giant Yhorm once used.

It is said to have always been at the vanguard, paired with a greatshield, but after Yhorm abandoned the greatshield, a left-hand handle was added.

That gave birth to his unique smashing sword technique and became the talk of the furious battles of his later years.

There are several reasons to believe that Leonhard is from the Profaned Capital. For one, his entire body, especially his face, was terribly burned at a young age, and the Profaned Capital is the only known nation where life-threatening fires have taken place. The man has also been trained in both sorcery and swordplay. This isn’t too peculiar in itself, but the only sorceries he casts are Soul Greatsword and Homing Soulmass. Although the former is fairly generic, the latter strongly implies tutelage under the court sorcerers. He likewise wields the Eastern Iron Shield, named for the design specific to the same far East so close to the Capital as reaffirmed by its inclusion among Shiva’s collection. The shield evidently isn’t widely available in Lothric, but the very same shield, known then as the Iron Parma, was obtainable in DS2 at Drangleic, the other land that the Profaned Capital is sandwiched between.

Silver mask of Leonard the Ring Finger.

It is said that Leonard sustained burns to his whole body at a young age and that his face in particular was repulsively, hideously burned. The mask was for concealing that.

But, after becoming a finger of Rosaria, he never performed a rebirth.

Round, bulky metal shield decorated with an Eastern land’s unique design.

Heaviest among the small shields and easily repels enemy attacks.

Leonhard wouldn’t just be any resident, either. His study of sword and sorcery were training as a child of royalty according to his descriptions of his equipment. As the text also acknowledges, his gold-embroidered tunic, silver iron gauntlets, and meticulously tanned pants are a military uniform befitting someone of highborn status. Even the name Leonhard, or Leonard, (レオナール) means “Lionheart” and is commonly associated with kings. Growing up a prince would explain why the court sorcerers were teaching him their treasured secrets, and even the mask he wears to look more appealing to others is consistent with the nobles’ culture. However, if Leonhard is a prince of the Profaned Capital during the period leading up to its ruin, then that would imply him to be the son of Yhorm. Some might object to this notion on account o their size difference, but Yhorm wouldn’t be the first born with a peculiar quirk of Disparity which couldn’t be passed onto the offspring. And if King Yhorm did sire a son, then this requires a mother, a wife and queen.

Tunic of Leonard the Ring Finger.

It is said that Leonard was originally a child of royalty and that his sorcery and sword technique were the training for that.

Certainly, that lightly dirtied tunic is a nobleman’s military wear decorated with gold thread embroidery.

Indeed, the woman’s necessity yet total absence from the record is telling. Who better to drive Yhorm to borderline suicidal anger and grief than a woman he loved enough to have bear his child, likely the sole woman in his entire kingdom to look at him without fear or reservation? They would be an odd pair, assuming that she didn’t suffer from his same condition, but again, they wouldn’t be the first couple to have produced offspring in spite of the potential size issue. In that case, what finally convinced the giant to take the first step out of Wolnir’s shadow probably wasn’t hate, but love. It was the promise of a life with this woman that made him accept protecting her nation. She was why he put up with the insincere addresses. She gave the lonely king belonging. The game’s silence on such an integral character is thus an admission to her ultimate fate. She was long out of the picture by the time her country fell to ruin, much like the case with Gwyn’s queen in DS1.

This naturally begs the question of why she died exactly. We can safely rule out foul play from within, at least. As much as the citizens are mistrustful of Yhorm, they had no reason to antagonize the giant by killing his only love. Besides, wouldn’t they want the king siring heirs, normal humans whom they could mold to be their perfect puppets when they inherit the throne? The motive just isn’t there. In fact, if the nobles were responsible, why would the king be directing his rage at their mutual enemies? Shouldn’t it not matter if invaders destroyed his treasonous kingdom? Why not destroy it himself? He certainly wasn’t concerned with self-preservation, so the threat of Storm Ruler wouldn’t have mattered in the slightest. Instead, he is at least trying to keep at his kingly duties, only in a manner which shows simultaneously reckless disregard for his own safety and his subjects by extension. No, by every indication, the queen’s death couldn’t be tied to intentional homicide.

This leaves the possibility of death by either accident or natural causes, something which was ultimately outside the control of anyone who Yhorm could directly blame. And to determine that, there is also the time frame to consider. The length of Yhorm’s “later years” after his beloved’s death isn’t elaborated upon, but if Leonhard was burned in the fire that destroyed the country, then we are talking about a decade or so at most — any longer and his son couldn’t be described as young with the implication of still being a small child. This necessitates her death occur sometime between giving birth to Leonhard and a few years before her homeland’s destruction. Only one possible cause of death makes itself manifest in that framing: childbirth. In short, Yhorm’s wife might not have been intentionally killed, but rather unintentionally “killed” by his newborn son and, arguably, himself.

This scenario would explain why the giant seems so cavalier about putting them both at risk by forsaking his shield while still committing to his duties. On the one hand, there is his desire to protect the country of the woman he loved, a country which she presumably cherished if only for the spawn of their love. On the other, there is his blame for that proof of affection stealing its mother away from him. On top of that, there is his own guilt for getting her pregnant in the first place, never mind any additional culpability he might have had in her birthing complications. All of this mixes together to create a deeply conflicted man, torn between living on to preserve her legacy and throwing it all away so he can join her in death. For his part, Leonhard never once mentions his family, and his upbringing only suggests the court sorcerers’ influence. With Yhorm’s mental state at the time, the child was probably neglected, left for solely others to raise; the court would have had no complaints. In this regard, Yhorm’s loneliness was self-inflicted.

However, this lonely tirade seems to have been mitigated by the end of his reign. Siegward calls himself Yhorm’s old friend, and the text of Storm Ruler reaffirms that the giant had one such dear associate. If nothing else, this requires that the giant mellow out enough to open up to someone else. Why a knight of Catarina, however? DS1 established the country to be in a remote part of the Old World, so it is feasible that it is relatively close to if not bordering the New World, within reasonable travel distance of the Profaned Capital. Even so, only one thing could have brought a knight so far from home: war. While Catarina has generally been portrayed as more reactive than belligerent, it is also a religious country, with Siegward’s dialogue affirming that the nation still proudly worships the Anor Londo pantheon, independent of the Way of White. It is thereby possible for Catarina to launch a crusade against the Profaned Capital for embracing its heretical flame all on its own, resulting in Siegward and Yhorm crossing paths in battle.

Yhorm, old friend. The Catarina knight Siegward came to fulfill his promise. Let there be sun to the King of Kindling!

Perhaps the knight alone was able to remain standing against the giant’s fearsome onslaught, or perhaps he was simply fortunate enough to survive come fighting’s end. Whatever the case, Siegward’s jubilant and straightforward nature apparently pushed through to Yhorm’s hardened heart and led to them forging a close bond — granted, if there is anyone who might make friends with its enemy in battle, it would be a knight of Catarina. Perhaps the knight stayed at the Capital for a time as part of some peace delegation, or perhaps they kept in touch with correspondence. Either way, the giant gave his only other Storm Ruler to Siegward when the former ultimately committed himself to becoming Lord of Cinder. Their friendship might even be to blame for Yhorm’s decision to link the fire in the first place.

Yhorm’s motivation for firelinking was to put the Profaned Flame to rest, shizumeru (鎮める) ranging from meaning “calm down” to “put down”. In other words, this immortal flame need not be acting up in any for him to want it quashed like a Hollow, and there is no obvious reason for it to have suddenly gone wild. How convenient that he determines this Dark fire which his kingdom has become so deeply entrenched in must be quelled in the period immediately after befriending a knight with overt anti-Dark principles. What Catarina failed to accomplish in war, Siegward successfully achieved in peace. He convinced the Lonely King that his kingdom was doomed so long as that profane flame still exists. Yhorm might have previously felt indifferent to such religious matters thanks to his background, but Siegward need only point to Carthus’ apparent collapse due to the Dark to remind him that he was following the same path as Wolnir — and Yhorm would care about that.

Kindling of a King left by the giant Yhorm.

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

The lonely giant became a King of Kindling to subdue the Fire of Sin. Even knowing that those voices which called him king didn’t have the heart.

Some might argue that the Profaned Flame was acting up and actually burned Yhorm, noting his clearly scorched skin that lights up at the cracks in the boss’ second phase. However, this is probably just a remnant of an earlier concept. Originally, it wasn’t Yhorm who was the “Lonely King” of the “Ruined Capital”, but Wolnir as seen in a prerelease trailer — a fact which likely influenced the eventual decision for both bosses to be related. Yhorm would have instead taken Iudex Gundyr’s spot as the tutorial boss, internally named “Berserker Halleck”. (狂戦士ハレック) His second phase is thus perfect for showcasing “heat up”, which was initially advertised as a unique boss mechanic during the game’s early promotion. Put simply, Yhorm was most likely designed to help emphasize “heat up” for new players. “Halleck” was clearly a Lord of Cinder, plus the intended owner of the oversized casket in Gundyr’s boss room as seen in the game’s announcement trailer — concept art even portrays it similarly on fire. This leaves no reason for Yhorm to not be similarly charred by the First Flame, if relevant at all.

The King now recognized that he needed to free his court of their Dark mania, but how? He already ceded so much of his power to them, and they fundamentally didn’t trust him; a direct ban was unlikely to be effective. The giant would have to nip the problem in the bud. How then to quell an immortal flame? Pious Siegward apparently pointed him to a traditional solution: exorcise the Dark itself by revitalizing the First Flame. Theoretically, increasing sunlight’s power would weaken the Dark and thus snuff out the immortal flame, and Yhorm no doubt had the strength to become the next King of Kindling. With linking the fire, he could repent for enabling sin, save his beloved’s homeland, and alleviate his distrustful subjects’ paranoia. Leonhard ensured that there would be no succession crisis in the giant’s absence, so the court would probably be overjoyed now that their King had brought all their potential enemies to heel — in all likelihood, they wouldn’t be told why he was abdicating. And so, Yhorm set out to deprive his depraved citizens of their favorite toy.

Whether Siegward was still staying at the Profaned Capital at the time or simply received a royal visit back home in Catarina, he implicitly accepted Storm Ruler along with a promise to kill his friend. The conditions for this promise are never stated, but considering that Siegward acts more bound by duty than will, he isn’t bringing the giant slayer with him lightly. Given the circumstances, it was most likely an agreement to put Yhorm down should he ever fall off the righteous path again. The knight was the most righteous person the King knew, and the only person he could trust to judge his sensitive yet stubborn heart. Indeed, Siegward’s battle cry when joining in our boss battle is wishing for the “sun” to reach the Lord of Cinder, as if to plea that he might return to his kingly duties in death since he won’t in life. If nothing else, it shows that Yhorm was aware that he wasn’t sincerely dedicated to this right and holy mission through and through — more than anything, it just gave reprieve to years of emotional turmoil. Siegward needed to be his damning conscience before he took up a new throne.

… Are you aware? It is said that there is a deep dungeon somewhere in this city, Irithyll, and that resting below it is the Capital of Sin… It is the homeland of Yhorm, the lonely giant king. Promises really are thorny things…

All of this occurred before the Profaned Capital drifted to Lothric. The fire which brought the city to ruin following Yhorm’s firelinking came from the sky, and there is no sky in the cavern where we find the Capital — the closest thing is the sizable crevice in the cavern wall providing a window into the outside world. It is likewise hard to imagine either Lothric or Irithyll doing nothing about Yhorm’s sinful kingdom if they were aware of it sitting right there at their feet, especially with its flame still around. In fact, the entire premise of Sulyvahn discovering the Profaned Flame while performing civil engineering for Irithyll requires it be accidental — would Gwyndolin have really risked that happening if he knew it was down there? No, the Capital had not yet been caught up in the drift. It was still far enough away in the New World to just be assumed a dead horse with the giant linking the fire. In reality, Siegward and Yhorm’s plan backfired spectacularly.

Pyromancy originating from the Fire of Sin.

Engulfs distant enemies in flame and burn them to ashes.

After the giant Yhorm became a King of Kindling, the Capital of Sin was destroyed by flame. It is said that it was produced from the sky and burned only the people.

From where in the sky would flames come from? Normally, one would assume the sun. But the solar body is an extension of the First Flame, while the fire which rained down upon the citizens, and only the citizens, is explicitly the Profaned Flame. This is doubly odd since weapons bearing the sinful fire prove it perfectly capable of affecting more than human flesh. Why did such fire specifically target humans and in just this city, as if there was some will behind its behavior? Apropos to the sky, we can infer one source to the flames: the night. If the heavenly bodies are reflective of abstract cosmological forces, then the empty space only faintly illuminated in the sun’s absence best reflects the Dark — even the night sky pairing with the moon complements Dark and rock’s relationship. Indirect sunshine in the dark of night likewise recreates the circumstances surrounding the Profaned Flame’s original creation. As to the will, some court sorcerer statues point an ornate tube with a serpentine head toward the sky, as if greedily ready to swallow whatever rained down. This implies the fire to have been artificially-induced.

The flames weren’t necessarily a death sentence for everyone present either. Leonhard evidently grew up after suffering pretty heavily from the burns, while Eamon and his grotesque family appearing to have been left completely untouched. A fair number of the handmaids similarly survived, and this cannot be credited to undeath. The description for the Jailer’s Key Ring mentions Irithyll Dungeon imprisoning primarily Hollows, and the only actual Hollows we can encounter there are the Undead Settlement’s cage spiders and morticians, reskinned to wear varying degrees of the handmaids’ attire. Clearly, they are intended to be those handmaids, the only difference being their maroon robes, black veils, and sleeves tucked in long gloves — all of which can be chalked up to FromSoftware tailoring each to the area’s intended atmosphere. This implies that a good portion, if not all, of the handmaids did turn Undead at some point. However, their exposed skin reveals no signs of burns like the deceased populace. In short, they died of other causes over the ensuing decades, not the cataclysmic rain of fire.

Bundle of keys that the jailers of Irithyll’s Dungeon possess.

Can probably open most cell doors.

But now, most of the prisoners are willess Hollows or the foolish and ugly failed-to-be, so there seems to be almost no meaning to locking the prisons.

Indeed, we only find the scorched corpses piled up at the palace among the city treasures, so it appears that only the more affluent citizens were assembled there when the flames came down, leaving most of the working class absent. This would imply that the Profaned Flame only affected the palace, which fits with why an aristocrat like Eamon evaded disaster: he had already chosen to remain by his family’s side at the church by this point. Considering the circumstances, the elite and bourgeoisie were most likely all gathering to witness their prince’s coronation as the next king, holding a nighttime ball that would merit all the food implements we see along with the boy prince’s implicit presence. How convenient that they all happen to be there when this catastrophe takes place, doubly so when the location is a ritual site for the very flame bringing their ruin; triply so when the item text recounting this event is a pyromancy mirroring that flame’s behavior, invented by the sorcerers in attendance.

Taken together, this calamity wasn’t a random freak accident or grander cosmological reaction to Yhorm’s firelinking. The court sorcerers performed a ritual at the palace during the party with the intent to produce, draw over, and consume themselves in Profaned Flame from the night sky. It was all by design, at least until their ultimate fate. What then were they hoping to gain out of this insane ritual? The obvious answer would be their transcendence, to be consumed by flame and born anew as a higher being like their “angelic” gargoyles depict. With the aid of the night, the greater Dark, the humans could create this supreme fire of sin which would reshape them into such god-like beings. In that case, Logan’s adherents learned nothing from their original experiments on Eamon’s kin. They simply assumed that this time they got it right without any hiccups like last time, their arrogance maybe heightened by their intensified greed. That said, desperation might have also played a role in their reckless action.

Yhorm might have successfully ended foreign incursions for the time being, but this didn’t stop the possibility of future invasions. And as the court sorcerers learned before they had their king, they lacked the capability to adequately resist by themselves. This left the priests in need of power to fill the void the giant left, which could have compelled them to move up any timetable for their yet untested transcendence ritual. In other words, Yhorm going off to become a firelinking hero did nothing, worse than nothing, for his kingdom. It certainly didn’t suppress the Profaned Flame as he had hoped. Why would it? Revitalizing the First Flame has proven ineffective at purging the world of immortal humans, so how was it supposed to quell an immortal flame? Only the most die-hard believer in the sun’s power would be so deluded as to presume that possible, and Yhorm was listening to just that sort of fool. When Siegward convinced his friend to save his people as Kindling, he was unknowingly dooming the whole lot to become kindling themselves.

Naturally, having a catastrophe essentially take out the entire power structure totally let anarchy reign. Without their masters to be their leash, the sadistic servants were free to torture and kill to their hearts’ content. If there were any survivors of the fire besides Leonhard, they were most likely slaughtered, as was probably the fate of any ordinary citizen who might not have attended the fiery ball. The handmaids weren’t interested in rebuilding the kingdom. Rather, they only show interest in their masters’ treasures. The maids have commonly looted the coins for themselves, with a number standing in some corner of the palace transfixed. The noblemen may be gone, but the greed they instilled in their menials remains, possessing them to continue haunting this now ruined capital and horde the riches and flame which destroyed their lords. But perhaps this destruction was for the best. It isn’t as if the future would have been kind to them.


The More Things Change


Eventually, the Profaned Capital drifted to Lothric, specifically a large pocket within the mountain which the Boreal Valley sits upon. This was clearly not the smoothest of spatial translocations given how we see parts of the architecture intersect with the cavern walls. Worse yet, the city was dropped right atop a seemingly a bottomless pit, which unsurprisingly destabilized the foundations. Almost every tower or building we see stands lopsided or falling apart, the rest seeming to have already collapsed into the abyss below. Even if the citizenry weren’t largely burned to death by the Profaned Flame, most would have surely fell to their demise along with the floor stones they stood upon — we might even have that to thank for why don’t see even more handmaids. No matter what, the Capital’s destruction was inevitable; the relocation to somewhere so deep and obscure merely prevented its invasive neighbors from looting the spoils. However, things changed when a certain Pontiff came to town.

The Capital’s gargoyles also guard the rooftops of Lothric’s Grand Archives. It makes sense for the Scholars to keep them for study as they do with other magical artifacts, but we can also find their image carved into the base for Prince Lothric’s statue in the city below; an identical base for a beheaded knight statue, implicitly in another part of the city, can similarly be spotted at the Dreg Heap. Even if we assume the second example is simply reusing assets for DLC, why would King Oceiros include them in propaganda for his son? In truth, much like the statue itself, this iconography is a vestige of an older concept, as evidenced by the enemy’s internal name “royal castle gargoyle” (王城のガーゴイル) implicating creation by Lothric Castle initially. However, in the context of the final game, they would be included for the same reason as the prince’s greatsword and jewelry: to pay tribute to Pontiff Sulyvahn. As a previous visitor to the Profaned Capital and ally of Oceiros, he is the perfect bridge for the Scholars acquiring the gargoyles, and they definitely wouldn’t be the only specimens he collected from there.

As noted earlier, a great multitude of the handmaids have been imprisoned at Irithyll Dungeon, far more than who we see remaining in the city ruins. We also find rusted coins solely in the first set of cells from the entrance. This suggests that Sulyvahn had decided to capture first as many of the survivors as possible, presumably for study like so many of its later inmates. There is no evidence of contact with them at the sorcerer’s old camp, so the Pontiff likely hoped to use the new resources at his disposal to hold a deeper inquiry compared to his last sojourn at the Capital. Plus, locking up a giant slave in part of the sewer infrastructure proved effective, so why not expand that practice to the rest? But Sulyvahn soon wanted to expand the facility even further, building upon the substructure to create the larger complex we explore. This meant more prisoners to oversee, requiring more personnel. Where in all of noble Irithyll was the Pontiff to find people willing to do that lowly work? From among the inmates, of course.

The jailers patrolling the dungeon are the captured handmaids, or rather were before agreeing to serve Irithyll’s pope, swapping out the Profaned Flame in their lanterns for magic blue fire. Evidently, he offered some among them freedom from confinement in exchange for their loyalty as prison wardens, to which they agreed — an obvious callback to how the jailers of Latria’s Prison of Hope gained their position in Demon’s Souls; they even patrol similar bifurcated labyrinthian layouts. This pragmatic approach to his personnel problem extended to their general duties. Adorning the dungeon above our heads are statues of women in robes not unlike those worn by the sorcerers in the Capital’s effigies. This is the only place in all of Irithyllian architecture where the typical statues of Gwyndolin aren’t employed instead, which speaks to the level of independence the former handmaids have managing this facility. So long as Sulyvahn got what he wanted, they were free to do as they wish. It should come as no surprise then that the jailers used their new position of power as an act two for their sadism.

Mask of the jailers of Irithyll’s Dungeon. The plump features are noblemen’s taste.

It is said that they are some of the few survivors of the Capital of Sin and later served Pontiff Sulyvahn.

The prison’s screams probably appease their homeland.

Giggling as always, the women come at others wielding a searing hot iron stick to brand them like cattle, with the added bonus of preventing them from healing with Estus — liquid bonfire heat — until the damaging heat dissipates from the body. They can also use their lantern light to inflict a curse that weakens others’ life force while in line of sight. Additionally, they supply the wretches with the simple gems giving them false hope in their dragonhood, leading the failures on for no reason. There is also no point to planting a key in cells for prisoners to find and use to open an apparent exit, only to find a pit to nowhere but a ruined city below — the broken ladder at their feet just adds insult to injury. As the description to this Jailbreaker’s Key makes clear, this is all one cruel joke for the jailers. Sulyvahn gave them free reign to live out their twisted fantasies torturing the helpless how they see fit, and the human-dendrofied flora littering the whole place conveys the resulting death toll. That is their idea of entertainment, pulling up fancy cushioned chairs to comfortably watch as their victims writhe and shriek.

Key to the window bars of Irithyll’s Dungeon.

But beyond the window, you can only see a dark hole you can’t see the bottom of and the destroyed Capital of Sin.

It is probably a cruel trick of the jailers, toying with prisoners who attempt prison breaks.

They can’t even spare a shred of empathy for those closest to their earlier situation. There is no need to cram prisoners in small cages, much less the handmaids unfortunate enough to never be offered salvation, but the jailers do just that, allowing their fellows to waste away with their souls — in fairness, they would have probably done the same had the situations been reversed. The same can be said for the prisoner chief. In Edo Japan, ronanushi (牢名主) were prisoners, typically the most serious offenders, whom the jail master picked out of a group to keep the rest in line, often by force, potentially in exchange for monetary rewards or a lighter sentence. The jailers, apparently taking cues from their new master, decided to make their own offer of salvation to such a prisoner: he help them manage the inmates, they award him coin and leniency. The fact that they are following in Sulyvahn’s footsteps lends no confidence to the new prisoner chief’s scruples, but his ashen remains in the dungeon prove that there is no happy end for this hardened criminal regardless.

Ashen remains of the dungeon’s head prisoner.

The handmaid of the ritual place will have new items to offer.

The head prisoner made use of his status and diligently saved up, and in the end died like that.

At first, things might have looked on the up and up. We can find his body in its own refurbished cell — he got his own chair and everything. The items derived from his ashes also reveal the perks to the job. He gained access to rime-blue moss clumps for warmth in this cold dungeon in this cold valley. He also seems to have been responsible for scraping the pale “pine resin” off the wretches, the amount of blood spilled in the process by necessity easy to question. Indeed, this job provided the prisoner chief with plenty of opportunities to have “fun” like the regular jailers while establishing the pecking order. Among the items associated with him is Karla’s whole attire, implying close interaction with the witch. However, she only references a “them” using her body for a pastime like leeches. In other words, Karla was very likely sexually abused by the prisoner chief, with a posse of other convicts, on one occasion. The man ruled the dungeon like a street boss, and the menu graphic for his ashes prove that he was paid handsomely for his work — but they are still his ashes.

… Oh, been a while. I thought I was surely forgotten, but I’m glad. Seems even a dark and thin body will make for a lowly diversion.

Hm? You… seems you’re different from them, somehow or other. My apologies. Misjudging someone as the likes of a leech was extremely rude of me.

Karla implies that she hasn’t seen her assaulters in some time, and their leader looks to have died in his comfy chair in his cell, still clutching tight to all the coin he had racked up. The man clearly had plans to continue living the high life out of prison, but he ultimately never got the chance to spend it. In fact, it is unlikely that the jailer ever planned to let him leave the dungeon alive. Sulyvahn wasn’t using it as a correctional facility, but a specimen lab. They weren’t supposed to leave. The jailers were only spared this fate thanks to the equally sadistic Pontiff’s pragmatism, and the jailers are not Sulyvahn. More than likely, the women simply set the prisoner chief up; put a man just like them in their exact same position, only guarantee that he never get his proper reward — one can imagine that the masks helped hide the snickers as they watched the blissfully ignorant fool converse with them.

The jailers have no real friends, only twisted games and sick japery. Some might mistake this cruelty as an attempt to cope with the horror of losing their country, since the description for their equipment implies as much. However, the Japanese text more accurately insinuates that the jailers’ work “appeases” their homeland. These women aren’t using tortured screams to drown out some trauma haunting their thoughts. If anything, the shrieks are an ode to their sisters still in the Capital, having the “privilege” of the pained echoes resounding all the way down to their ears. The jailers are just as psychopathic now as they were with those handmaids back then, kindred spirits in their lack of empathy. The only person they might respect more is Sulyvahn, who gave them both their playground and apparent freedom from their obsession with the Profaned Flame and riches. The real treasure is the cries made along the way.


Royal Return


During all this, the young Leonhard grew into the man we meet in the present day. How he survived this tumultuous period can probably be credited to Eamon and potentially others of his ilk. The military garb which Leonhard wears specifically belongs to nobility, not royalty, meaning that he likely obtained this from among the court sorcerers’ belongings. There are only two confirmed priests who weren’t burned by the Profaned Flame like the prince, one already a corpse in the church by the time we arrive and the other Eamon. Being his childhood tutors and perhaps the only priests still with some semblance of morality, they were the only persons who might have shared a legitimate bond with the prince, enough to be willing to head into the palace and find him before the handmaids did during the initial aftermath of the calamity. Therefore, it is incredibly likely that Leonhard was rescued from the palace, treated for his burns, and raised at the church by the surviving court sorcerers.

But regardless of how he initially survived, the prince was still horribly disfigured and living basically in poverty, especially after the drift. Leonhard also carries an Estus Flask common to Undead, though this might be a result of association with the cursed rather than suffering from the curse himself. Even assuming that he never manifested the Darksign, there was no chance of rebuilding his kingdom in its current state; not when starvation and sadists were always waiting in the wings. If Leonhard had any of hope of doing more than just surviving, he would have to leave the nest. Fortunate for him, he was given the perfect excuse with the prospect of curing his burns. After learning about Rosaria, Leonhard set out to the Cathedral of the Deep on a quest for his own rebirth, the description to his mask heavily implying his aim to have been fixing his hideous appearance. This requires a source for his information, but the Mother of Rebirth is a relatively recent figure with no interactions outside her covenant. So, who was spreading her story to the Profaned Capital of all places?

In all likelihood, Leonhard had come in contact with one of Rosaria’s maggot-men. Recall one such man grub’s failed attempt to infiltrate his goddess’ homeland from above. Why wouldn’t the same be tried from below? After all, their mucus-covered forms are more than capable of scaling Irithyll’s cliffside and thereby climbing into the ruined capital from the cavern opening. And while this grub might have initially thought to just slip in through the dungeon or adjoining sewers, why not proselytize along with the way? It is certainly more reasonable than a Finger of Rosaria finding their way down there — what tongues would even be worth the trouble of searching somewhere so obscure? For his part, Leonhard would be intrigued by the promise of a goddess curing him of his imperfections, and the fact that he set out on this journey proves that he was self-conscious about his appearance.

But once he came face-to-face with his healer, he forewent rebirth in favor of devoting himself completely as her knight, a gesture which earned the medial’s favor as evidenced by the weapon she uniquely bestowed him. These self-imposed knightly duties entailed serving as her Ring Finger and even going so far as to recruit new members, all in the hopes of improving her opinion of him by his own admission. This adoration for Rosaria proves to be an unhealthy obsession, since Leonhard eventually decides to kill his goddess, take her soul, and bring it to the Anor Londo cathedral in an attempt to comfort her. While the prince’s name, self-styled title, and ultimate actions are an obvious reference to Lautrec, his sudden about-turn followed by such increasingly manic behavior is understandable in its own right.

Weapon of choice of Leonard the Ring Finger. A kind of shotel tinged with the moon’s magic power.

It is said that it is what he, who set out on a journey seeking rebirth, inherited in his hands when he instead decided to be the knight of the goddess.

…But, even this is the seeds I have sown. I should probably reap them properly. By the vow of the knight of the goddess Leonard.

The knight of the goddess never loses.

Leonhard lacked any obvious maternal figure for his entire life, his father all but accusing him of murdering his real one. His surrogate fathers tutored and trained him as a political tool, where he likely absorbed many tales and histories of heroic knights to give himself solace from the neglect — his military wear does incorporate warring knights on horseback into its design, perhaps from an earlier time when his country was still capable of fending for itself. Even then, what little childhood the boy had was cut short by calamity, leaving him marred by unignorable ugliness which hardly inspires high self-esteem. And then, the grown prince met a woman who embodies maternity, willing to love him just the way he is — a goddess arguably more pitiful than he, in desperate need of love and protection. Is it any wonder if the man developed a mother complex? Rosaria is everything he subconsciously lacked and craved for his entire life. His burns meant nothing compared to her well-being. Leonhard has already suffered the loss of one mother; he refuses to let anyone hurt his new one.

While the son cultivated his Oedipus complex, the father arose from his grave at the bell’s toll, quickly abandoning his duties as a Lord of Cinder like the others. In Yhorm’s case, he was apparently filled in on what happened to his homeland while he slept, rushing over to its new location beneath Irithyll to see its ruin for himself — he has remained in his throne there ever since, evidently wishing to once again stew in his grief. It is only when we or Siegward challenge him that the giant stands up to express himself, in the only way he knows how: by violently smashing his machete down until one party falls. Much like the Abyss Watchers, Yhorm is probably wishing for death, maybe awaiting his friend to come and fulfill their promise specifically. The giant won’t return to his duties. How could he? As everything around him shows, he can never seem to find that right path no matter how hard he tries. He is no hero, and he cannot stop torturing himself for that fact. Someone else has to take his rage, his sadness, his lifetime of isolation, and put it all to rest.

In the meantime, we find that Leonhard has dropped by to visit Firelink Shrine. Why would this finger of Rosaria loiter around this holy site? Certainly not just waiting for unkindled to take notice of him and maybe also take interest in joining his profane covenant — he stands semi-secluded from the area most Undead ash would travel, hardly the best way to recruit. Rather, Leonhard simply leans against the throne of Prince Lothric, another royal who has lived an unfortunate youth, and faces the side with Yhorm’s throne. Perhaps he heard the bell toll and thought to reunite with his estranged father, left to gaze at an empty throne not knowing if the giant would return to the role he chose to abdicate once again. If so, then us approaching him gives the still neglected prince a much needed accomplishment for his visit. A broken end to a broken royal family to a broken city, what somber poetry.