In conversing with Shalquoir, the cat will eventually make mention of the Old Ones. Her Japanese dialogue doesn’t use that exact term, her and Saulden both preferring to call them merely “the four”. (4つのもの) But Straid and item descriptions do speak of these “Old Ones”, (古きもの or 古き者) with Shanalotte employing something similar in meaning. (古の者) Wellager instead uses the phrase “Great Ones”, (大いなる者) but it is all the same underlying subject: four exceptionally old and powerful individuals whose names have been forgotten during that time. This is apparently because uttering their true names were at one point forbidden, an ineffable status illustrating immense respect for these entities. This is only fitting since the four turn out to be four of the gods from the original Dark Souls. (DS1)
You’re going to meet them, right? The four who are so, so old. A boring lot who grew mold. Each and every one of them. After all, nobody even remembers their names. Hilarious, isn’t it? Heheheh.
Shalquoir makes overt references to Gwyn, Izalith, Nito, and Seath in conjunction with the four bosses whom Shanalotte tasks us to seek souls from or their area of residence. Defeating said bosses in NG+ additionally provides the souls of an Old King, Witch, Dead One, and Paledrake. And providing said souls to Straid or Ornifex typically creates weapons or spells employed by the four gods in DS1. By all indications, the Old Ones are the last few bosses from the previous game — minus the Four Kings, who were never powerful in their own right. This might seem odd considering that all four of these gods were killed, their souls used as kindling for the Lordvessel or acquired by the Chosen Undead after defeating the Lord of Cinder. Even if we assume that the hero linked the fire — a safe bet considering that both undeath and fire still exist — none of them should still be alive to face. But in all fairness, they aren’t.
Although we are told to seek the four who possess strong souls in order to open the Shrine of Winter and proceed to Drangleic Castle, the bosses we ultimately battle are plainly different entities with their own “special” souls, as seen when one “Great Soul” is “embraced” separate from the boss we defeated. The fact that we can only acquire the Old Ones’ souls from these boss in NG+ cements that these are different persons. In fact, Shanalotte technically never requests that we acquire the Old Ones’ souls specifically. She only claims that they, with their strong souls, will help guide our journey. And while the implication is that we should bring those souls back for her to incorporate into our own, when we do embrace a Great Soul, she merely notes what souls we do have come “from” an Old One in Japanese dialogue — only the actual boss souls need to be collected to progress. Shalquoir and Tark similarly speak as if the Old Ones’ souls are still around and free agents even after defeating their corresponding boss. Therefore, we may never truly acquire those souls outside NG+. In other words, it is the four’s disembodied souls acting independently.
Aim for those whose names were forbidden. The four who possess strong souls. Those will become a guidepost for your journey. If it should come to pass, please return here… So that the hope within you won’t be eradicated.
You acquired that soul from one of old, one clad in the curse? Many have perished without even getting that far.
DS1 had already established the power of emotions inherent to once-living souls, such as the dead rising back up in their skeletal remains even without the aid of necromancy. This action of the soul was implicitly another kind of curse, and it naturally follows that stronger souls would inflict stronger curses. Saulden says as much when discussing the Old Ones, confirming that their souls are operating through immense curses. The four in question are certainly the type to desperately want to keep going after their sorry demise. In that case, it is feasible for their original souls, or at least fragments of them, to begin moving on their own and escape the confines of their circumstances at the end of DS1. Indeed, the description to the Old Ones’ souls notes them to be “remnants” of their once mighty whole, so these evidently aren’t the same complete mass of power acquired in the game prior. At the same time, they are still incredibly big and strong for pieces, using the same menu graphic for Lord Souls or Lord Soul fragments in DS1. And with that strength and size, they can throw their weight around.
There are “the four” possessing giant souls in this land. No matter where you go from here, you will face them. They say they possess giant souls, giant curses… If you dislike that, you must give up everything. Like me. Heheh.
Soul of One whose name was forbidden.
The remnants of a mighty soul that existed once continue to exert influence on this land even after a long time has passed.
Use to acquire a vast amount of souls or create a great power.
The description for the Old Ones’ souls assert that they still exert an influence upon the land of Drangleic they now inhabit. Each appears to have moved to certain parts of the continent either because of random wandering or more personal reasons. Whichever the case, their influence wasn’t limited to the land itself. Other item descriptions claim that a number have spiritually “possessed” their corresponding boss. Considering that all of them have associated with a boss, we can presume that this haunting extends to the whole lot. King Gwyn ended up with the Old Iron King; the Witch of Izalith, the Lost Sinner; the dead Nito, the Rotten; the white dragon Seath, the Duke’s Dear Freja. Their individual motives aside, it is clear that the four all want to persist postmortem, though whether they still retain all their faculties of consciousness is debatable. If they are being driven purely by emotional instinct, then it would explain why they have failed to subsume the bosses after so many years. These bosses are not their reincarnations, only puppets keeping them both clinging to this world.