Archdragon Peak


I hold an unabashed love for Dark Souls III. (DS3) Whereas Dark Souls II (DS2) threw out its old setting in a vain attempt at a soft reboot, DS3 wholeheartedly embraces it, building upon the world and plot threads from the original Dark Souls (DS1) to weave something new. From a storytelling angle, a lot of this ends up retreading past ground in more explicit ways, but it also adds many new subtleties to decrypt and incorporate into past information. And it isn’t as if the events of DS2 goes completely ignored either, though its offerings are limited by design. Archdragon Peak is the quintessential product of this differing approach, and its contribution to the overall history reminds me how glad I am to have not sworn off the series after the blunders of its first sequel.

Conflicting Cooperation

Archdragon Peak features a temple styled after a medieval Islamic mosque, though it functions more as a Buddhist monastery. Situated in the remote mountains far removed from chaotic everyday human life, we find various draconified individuals performing Zen meditation on rugs whilst surrounded by candles as well as incense burners and bowls, thuribles similarly hanging overhead. Like in past games, their draconification is part of a “secret ceremony” we perform with dragon stones. Taken together, people have come to free themselves of the mortal coil and find enlightenment, namely the means to becoming archdragons. Transcending feeling and entropy as eternal rock is the key facet of dragon worship, and the cut Bridge Key even references the ritual as a “sacrament” (秘跡) in its Japanese description. It is a sacred place, and not just for dragon faithful. The area is uniquely set at the time of day when both the sun and moon are visible on opposite ends of the sky. Such ambience is fitting, for the Peak is where we can also encounter the Nameless King.

To say that this optional boss is Gwyn’s firstborn is stating the obvious. Whether it be the fact that he is a lightning-wielding dragonslayer king, a former war god of unknown name, or almost a perfect match for the figure in the Sunlight Altar, everything points to the boss being the first Lord of Cinder’s disgraced eldest — fittingly, Gwyn’s leitmotif is included in his son’s own boss music. His design even reaffirms implications about the medial from DS1. The largest discrepancy with his Sunlight Altar portrayal is that he wears a crown instead of a helmet, one which echoes the attire of Gwyn along with the golden bracelets and breastplate. This is, of course, because the firstborn became the king of Anor Londo after Gwyn abdicated before becoming the King of Kindling. As to why his depiction was never updated, recall that no human outside Anor Londo would have seen him during his entire reign. His followers in the world of man thus could only preserve his older image as a prince, which has remained the standard even to the present day.

Bracelets of the Nameless King, ally of archdragons.

These golden bracelets and the golden breastplate, like the crown, are said to be close to those of the Oldest King.

A less reconcilable inconsistency is the cross spear the statue holds. The Nameless King wields a swordspear, which has apparently always been his weapon since becoming a dragonslayer. This is odd since the description claims it to be the prototype of the cross spear, showing the trial-and-error that went into perfecting the art of dragonslaying. In that case, it is curious for this detail to be absent from his portrayal in effigies. This can be justified on propagandistic grounds. While Gwyn might not have personally cared if his son preferred the prototype, he wouldn’t want his blood to be perceived as using an “inferior” weapon. The firstborn’s statue also implicitly occupied the empty pedestal flanking Gwyn opposite Gwynevere in the Anor Londo cathedral. The king therefore likely commissioned the original statue whose image was then exported to the world of man. Stipulating a cross spear would avoid even the question of excellence — shrewd political maneuvering as always. Meanwhile, the firstborn’s actual choice of arms explains why his Sunlight Blade spell from DS1 wasn’t instead called Sunlight Spear.

Indeed, the war god inherited his father’s sunlight affinity, which not only enchants his swordspear but also characterizes his magic. Besides hurling the standard lightning spears of his covenant from range, the Nameless King also utilizes Lightning Stake, drilling the sunlight directly into the target from up close. Based on the miracle’s description, this was a technique he developed in the course of dragonslaying — as a close combatant during the hunts, hands-on spells naturally became the most practical. We see him incorporate the same principles into his weapons’ Falling Bolt skill. True to its name, he raises his swordspear to call a “lightning strike” (落雷) down from the sky, drawing out the power of the sun overhead with this sunlight catalyst. Add the ring to boost these miracles’ might, and he was undeniably a titan of the battlefield. It is perhaps that love for fighting that has made his long hair stand on end, conditioned by static from more frequent immersion in lightning than even his father.

Lost miracle of dragon-hunters.

Strikes with a lightning stake.

This story imparts the forgotten style of dragon-hunters: “If piercing dragon scales, don’t throw lightning. Violently thrust a stake into the dragons with your own hands.”

Weapon of a dragon-hunter of the age of the gods. It is the prototype of the cross spear, so possesses the properties of both a sword and a spear.

It has been in the Nameless King’s hands without change ever since the time he was a dragon-hunting war god, and is tinged with the great power of lightning he inherited.

Battle art is “Lightning Strike”. Greatly raise the swordspear to the heavens and call an intense lightning strike over a distant enemy’s head.

Of course, his eccentricities weren’t just limited to his fighting style. The god also rode a dragon into battle. From the physiology, this Stormdrake is a wyvern, the same species subordinate to the gods in DS1. However, the firstborn went so far as to befriend the dragon, treating it like a comrade in arms the same as his clan. When we slay his steed during our boss battle, the Nameless King performs the same ceremony to absorb the cinifying beast’s unfiltered soul as Ornstein in DS1. The Storm Curved Sword’s description confirms that this was the gods’ custom for battlefield compatriots, so there is no denying that he viewed the dragon as his equal — uncharacteristic, for a medial. Most likely, this was a result of the gods’ prepping for the dragon hunts. After all their training, the medials would stand to gain from testing their mettle against actual dragon before the hunts proper. Wyverns were perfectly suited to this, being the most common of the archdragons’ weaker descendants. Such a test run would put Gwyn’s firstborn in the perfect position to come across the Stormdrake.

Disparity seems to have favored the flying dragon, for it was born with an affinity for generating and controlling sky winds. This is demonstrated by the curved sword derived from “its” soul. The weapon’s Tornado skill is more literally “winding dragon”. (竜巻) True enough, we generate gusts and bend them to the draconic blade’s movements while spinning around. Such winds are by themselves considered a storm, hence the beast being called a “storm dragon”, (嵐の竜) but it can also use them to gather rainclouds in a wide area. It is also the first example of a wyvern sporting a second pair of wings, giving the creature extra control in navigating the turbulent winds; their feathers similarly aid in rebuffing the winds and rainwater. And yet, acting as the eye of a maelstrom hasn’t compromised its ability to breathe fire. This makes the wyvern more fearsome than most, and the firstborn would respect the challenge. And if he bested it, he might just consider sharing his appreciation instead of simply finishing it off.

Curved sword tinged with the power of the Storm Dragon.

The Nameless King, who is ally of archdragons, made the Storm Dragon a friend of the battlefield during his lifetime, so when the dragon was defeated, he made its soul his.

For this was the customary practice of comrades in arms in the age of the gods.

Battle art is “Tornado”. Clad the blade in storm while spinning greatly and, with that momentum, slam that storm with a strong attack.

In short, theirs was probably a bond forged in combat. After presumably suffering defeat at the Anor Londo prince’s hand, the Stormdrake was offered that same hand in friendship. What followed was a lifelong companionship, the war god bringing his trusty steed almost anywhere — especially on the battlefield. Their tale together is recorded in scripture for Lightning Storm with an appropriate corresponding miracle. Like the name “Storm Lightning Strike” (嵐の落雷) would suggest, the spell functions the same as Falling Bolt except for causing the lighting strike to disperse on the ground as it would in water, the medium comprising storm clouds. Put simply, the two worked in tandem to form an even more deadly threat. This is also reflected in the dragon scales covering the Nameless King’s battle equipment. Their dark blue hue and razor sharpness indicates that the Stormdrake was the source, providing his compatriot with much needed fire-resistance for their battle with archdragons.

Miracle of the Nameless King, ally of archdragons.

Calls an intense lightning strike.

He who was once a dragon-hunting war god made friends of the battlefield with the Storm Dragon during his lifetime. This is surely the story of that pair.

Dragon scale armor of the Nameless King, ally of archdragons.

The dragon scales are as sharp as blades and don’t burn.

The vanguard didn’t just consist of the two of them, however, and the firstborn still found comradery in his fellow medials. For instance, the description to the Leo Ring states that Ornstein served as the prince’s “first” knight, hittou (筆頭) denoting headship. Aside from confirming DS1’s implications about how the warrior came to be one of Gwyn’s Four Knights, this leadership position betrays the future war hero as an incredibly close confederate during the hunts. He was the one expected to not only protect the prince but also execute his commands, coordinate his strategies, and provide him counsel. That Ornstein was simultaneously earning the name “Dragonslayer”, barely avoiding the brush of death before piercing scaly hides countless times, is a testament to both his talent and loyalty. His dedication to the war god is reaffirmed in the tale of Sacred Oath.

Ring handed down with the name of “Dragon-hunter” Ornstein, one of the Four Knights who served Oldest King Gwyn.

Boosts counter attack power of the thrusting attribute.

It is said that Ornstein was the first knight of the eldest child of the sun, and that his cross spear pierced stone scales.

Cross spear known with the name of “Dragon-hunter” Ornstein. Weapon of the age of the gods tinged with the power of lightning.

The two-handed thrusts with cross support and the full power of the body behind it thrust the spear deeply into a dragon’s body, and greatly blow away the likes of man.

While DS2 had already confirmed the miracle to be an invention of warriors serving under him, its new description in DS3 clarifies the firstborn’s own personal involvement in its creation. The scripture centers on him, Ornstein, and who the Japanese text identifies as a dragonslaying swordsman, apparently highlighting their exceptional bravery during the dragon hunts. Indeed, the miracle’s area-wide boost to attack as well as elemental resistances conveys a rallying cry: keep up the assault in the face of danger, side-by-side. Combined with a name like “solemn vow” (固い誓い) and a menu graphic of three swords crossed upwards, and the holy text clearly details the three parties’ steadfast solidarity in the upcoming battle. Cooperation under the firstborn’s banner further suggests that the event served as the foundation for the Warriors of Sunlight, which explains why it is provided to only select — ranking — members of the covenant. This development fits with the lightning-hurling Ornstein, but who is this other retainer displaying his loyalty?

Miracle of those chosen in the Sun covenant.

Boosts attack power and cut rates, including surroundings.

It is said that the story of the eldest child of the sun, his first knight, and the dragon-hunter swordsman is a most gallant dragon-hunter tale.

Some fans have posited Havel, noting that he only picked up a great hammer after his encounter with Seath during the hunts. True, Silver Knights normally wield either swords or spears, and he may well have been a Warrior of Sunlight prior to carving out his own cult. But if the swordsman could be Havel, then he could be any generic Silver Knight present for the dragon hunts. The swordsmen were who it fell upon to hold off claws and flames from these behemoths until the spear assault party went in for the kill. They were on the front lines alongside the firstborn and Ornstein, whereas Havel is repeatedly tied with Gwyn, hurling bolts from the rear. Add to that Japanese’s inherent vagueness with plurality, and it is possible that Sacred Oath’s text is speaking about the dragonslayer swordsman in general, using the three-party framing to parallel the graphic carried over from DS2. The Silver Knights, with their commander, swore to carry out their prince’s war, whatever the cost.

In establishing this covenant with the men under him, Gwyn’s eldest emphasized his core values. The Prince of Sunlight made no distinction when it came to war. Strength is strength; comrades are comrades. It doesn’t matter their station or race. If they have the power and willingness to fight for their place in the world, then they are deserving of respect. Bravery and ability have always been the mark of the honored hero, and the prince knew that more than anyone, living by example — and if he knew himself, then he theoretically knew every warrior who shared those qualities. Add to that a unique sense of empathy, and the god possessed an amicable spirit seeking rapport with those similar individuals, which could only ever be first confirmed through battle. Thus, friend or foe, he could consider any fighter a potential ally, even a dragon. And this was his fatal flaw as king.

Various items related to the Nameless King confirm him ally of archdragons in their description. The description for Lightning Blade likewise alludes to the story of Sunlight Blade detailing the firstborn’s work as a dragonslayer, meaning that leaving it behind with his father’s coffin in DS1 was in fact signaling abandonment of that role. The description for Great Lightning Spear reaffirms this point. Rather than be an abridged version of Gwyn’s Sunlight Spear, the firstborn’s miracle is just the full-length version of the lesser Lightning Spear. The two miracles’ similarities are because the underlying tale details Gwyn’s dragon hunts with Sunlight Spear and how his eldest will inevitably succeed him with his own great spears. However, this epic of these two’s lives as dragonslayers is, obviously, “unfinished” without fulfillment of its prophesy. There is no continuation, for the firstborn ultimately didn’t carry on his father’s will to the end. As the first game had implied, he would hunt their age-old foe no more.

Soul of the Nameless King. One of the atypical souls tinged with power.

Can either use to acquire a vast amount of souls or extract its power via molding.

The Nameless King was once a dragon-hunting war god, but at a certain point he abandoned it all and became ally of archdragons.

Story serving as the prototype of “Lightning Spear”. Miracle of a dragon-hunter of antiquity.

Throws a great lightning spear.

Oldest King Gwyn hunted dragons with spears of the sun, and eventually that responsibility will be taken over by the great spears of his eldest child.

It is said that the magnificent story of two generations from parent to child is nevertheless unfinished.

This isn’t to say that he rejected his own kind like Seath. As his boss name and crown indicate, the firstborn still thinks of himself as the rightful king of Anor Londo, chief of the gods. Rather, this term for “ally” (同盟者) refers to someone aligning with another as two independent parties. In other words, the medial king has forged an alliance with the archdragons, as if between nations; he wants to cooperate, not defect. This is why the god has no issue with imparting his dragonslaying arts to the warriors worshiping him, no matter how they end up used. Even after discarding the only known text of Sunlight Blade, he apparently continues to teach a “scrap” as Lightning Blade at Archdragon Peak, identified as a “slightly remote region” for its separation from the areas around Lothric while still visible within the horizon. He isn’t ignoring his past; he simply won’t continue with it personally. Instead, we see him at a temple dedicated to his former prey for those who desire to become dragons themselves — and the symbols of his covenant’s sun plus a blossoming flower in the items and architecture show that he isn’t just visiting.

Miracle that a dragon-hunter swordsman is said to have wielded in the Age of Gods.

Enhances right-hand weapon with lightning.

The story of the dragon-hunter swordsman is now virtually unknown. It is said to only be handed down in scraps in a slightly remote region.

All of this reinforces the implications from DS1. In response to his continued failure to find his father’s heir as Lord of Cinder, Anor Londo’s second king suggested the unimaginable: the medials become archdragons and thereby no longer reliant on the fate of flame. And just as the original game previously indicated, this did not go over well. The description for the Nameless King’s soul acknowledges that he threw everything away in becoming the dragons’ ally. Meanwhile, the text for the Ring of the Sun’s First Born reiterates its past incarnation’s admonishment, citing the war god’s “foolishness” for his expulsion from the pantheon. The Wargod Wooden Shield features the insignia of the god of madness according to its description, which also reference him as the god of war at Archdragon Peak. Indeed, DS2 had already implied that the shield’s makers had a debased worship of the firstborn reflecting their base form, though that iteration as the Lion Clan Shield never upheld him to truly be a mad god. And yet, madness is exactly what must have come to mind upon the gods hearing their liege’s plan.

Ring of the eldest child of the sun said to have inherited the light of Oldest King Gwyn.

Greatly boosts the might of miracles.

It is said that the eldest child of the sun was once a war god, but due to his foolishness, his godhood was expelled. Now not even his name has been handed down.

Wooden shield reinforced with metal. Largest of the medium wooden shields.

Its strange design is the sign of the God of Madness, and it is said that he is a war god in a remote region.

Dragons were their prey, their pets, their slaves. Anything else was ludicrous, Seath affirming all their prejudices. And he expected them to “lower” themselves to their level? Outrageous. Their lord may have grown accustomed to cooperating with the beasts, but the rest of the court still retained Gwyn’s pride as gods. It is one thing to ride a dragon like a beast of burden, another to consider it your “friend”.  Anor Londo’s second king walked himself onto a political landmine. His predecessor may have been able to maneuver his way around this debacle, but the firstborn didn’t inherit his father’s talents in anything but war. As his weapon of choice shows, once he has taken a liking to something, he sticks with it. His early life in love with combat, friendship with the Stormdrake, and respect for his enemies shaped his outside-the-box perspective. But the matching inflexibility made that unsuitable for politics, where so many didn’t share his outlook, and he lacked the charisma to win their trust without compromise.

Normally, one would expect a war god to put his one talent to use and bring his subjects to heel. But the warrior was an honorable man and didn’t resort to the tactics of tyrants — Anor Londo wasn’t in the position for more infighting anyway. If his kin were so overwhelmingly against his position, then they were simply at an impasse. Tensions became dangerously high as a result, and the passive ruler left himself with no other choice but to step back if he was to diffuse the conflict. Bereft of support, Gwyn’s firstborn was deposed as king and disqualified as god, leaving his homeland in disgrace. Nobody but he recognizes that crown as authoritative, and nary a human can put it to a name. If not for his covenant, no records of him would still exist after the purge. The Nameless King left his kingdom, his heritage, his triumphs, his luxury, his very history all behind for his convictions, when the world wouldn’t even remember to sing his praises for it. Such is the integrity of a fool.

So Little Things Change

In order to be an ally of archdragons, one must actually know an archdragon to ally with. And with those affiliated with Anor Londo barred from options, the Nameless King needed to set out and find another survivor on his own — or more accurately, with only the Stormdrake he rode to keep him company. The search took the pair far and wide if the firstborn’s involvement with DS2’s Forossa is any indication. However, the only known archdragons to be found in the world, Old and New, were hidden deep beneath the earth, which the skyfaring war god seems to have never considered exploring. His search could only continue. In the meantime, he kept carrying out his godly duties for what relative few would still consider him part of the pantheon, even if they ended up using his miracles for dragonslaying. If nothing else, it would help him feel productive during what must have sometimes felt like a fruitless quest. But eventually, the disgraced war god did find his archdragon.

The name “Archdragon Peak” is quite literal, with an actual dragon laying upon the summit behind the temple. The creature blends in with the mountain, dragon stones describing it as one in their Japanese descriptions, but the fact such stones become empowered when offered to the dragon prove it the genuine article. It is this archdragon’s power which allows the stones to grant us draconic form, and their twinkling variants conjure phantoms of its head and claws. Some may note the discrepancy between our slender, hairy green form with curly horns and the bulkier, hairless black illusions with slick horns, but this is likely due to development constraints. Cut content for the area reveals plans to feature a longneck archdragon more closely resembling our dragon body in the final game. This makes it possible for our transformation to be based on an earlier design, with no time or willingness to change it as the area’s concept evolved. And evolved it did.

Stone harboring the power of the unperishing archdragons. One which was offered to the mountain-like archdragon has begun harboring light within.

Makes human body that of a dragon and performs roar with an archdragon illusion. Also, its transformation effect isn’t undone until death.

But, the dragon body will serve as a likeness with a dragon head.

Cut content and concept art reveals the earliest iteration of the Peak with a much better-preserved temple, at least until we reached the Great Belfry at the back. Past that point, there would have been more buildings in complete ruins, the wooden supports seemingly charred by flames. There is reference to this back section serving as a “wyvern nest”, (飛竜の巣) so fiery destruction is more than feasible. But after exploring all this, we would finally enter the boss room: a massive cave underneath the base of a giant tree, a staircase to a small platform of evidently ritual significance at the back. Considering the parallels to the Stone Archdragon found beneath an archtree in DS1, the boss was likely intended to be another such dragon who worshipers would approach with offerings — the preceding wyvern nest similarly echoes the Dragon Aerie coming before the Dragon Shrine’s archdragon in DS2. And again, reference data indicates that this boss would have been the archdragon seen in the final game, appropriately dubbed internally “Mother Dragon” (母ドラゴン) or “Guardian Archdragon” (守護の古竜) at the time.

By every indication, this archdragon laying at the very back of the area is the ultimate form which dragon worshipers hope to take, thereby the reason for the temple being built. And if the Nameless King is involved in its establishment, then this must be the archdragon with whom he allied. As with the Stormdrake, he managed to convince former prey to cooperate, and not just it. The Ancient Wyvern is, based on the name and size, the oldest wyvern we encounter in the game, probably even the entire series. That fact that it is first, among more, of its kind to obstruct our exploration of the area thus betrays its longtime allegiance to the Nameless King. DS1 had already implied the existence of wyverns obedient to his will like Hellkite, and the Ancient Wyvern is intended to parallel — its internal name of “Bridge Wyvern_Hellkite” (橋の飛竜_ヘルカイト) encapsulates the similar role they share, the “Bridge” in this case being Archdragon Peak itself. Given the latter’s age, the two were likely contemporaries. This reinforces the implication that the firstborn had found his allies by the events of DS1, though the temple most likely wasn’t in operation until sometime afterward.

Protecting the area are the snake-men, albeit having clearly fallen on hard times since DS1. Each is wrapped in filthy, ragged clothes overtly attempting to obscure the face, their backs hunched low as if trying to remain beneath line of sight. While they still prefer weapons which curl, coil, or undulate like snakes, the most common variant dual wields daggers with a far faster, nimbler, and “underhanded” approach to combat than seen in DS1. This gives the impression that they fell into the habit of laying low and fighting dirty to survive, like petty criminals in alleyways. Indeed, the cobra variant continues to act as the race’s spiritual leaders, called “snake-man priests” (蛇人の司祭) in cut item descriptions and game code complete with fancier robes and the same exclusive knowledge of magic. And yet, their sorcery staff is associated with mendicancy due to the bowl at the tip, mirroring Zen monks who go door-to-door begging for food with similar staves. The priests also rely on walkers to move around as if they have gone lame.

Machete of the snake-men who protect Archdragon Peak.

Has a unique large curved blade. Its attacks slip past shield guards.

Metal mask that a snake-man priest wore.

Diligent study of sorcery has piled up among not just humans but even snake-man priests, and their equipment for exercising the sorcery is thought to have existed since very long ago.

The reason for the race’s apparent poverty is obvious. Recall that the snake-men served Seath in DS1. With the death of their Creator, the serpents had lost their foundation for existing; just as bad, they lost their safeguard to existing. Anor Londo would not look kindly on servants of the dragon god, and the snake-men wouldn’t recant their beliefs. Their priests wear six-eyed masks aping the helmets of Seath’s evangelists from DS1, betraying their desire to carry on with proselytizing even after his human cult’s inevitable collapse. If they were to survive, they had to flee, and the only place to flee to was the world of man. But having only ever previously gone so far as Sen’s Fortress, living out in human lands all on their own must have been arduous. They likely did their best to hide their true nature for fear of being run out of town as monsters, only poking their heads out of the shadows to beg or otherwise stealing from similar folk below society’s notice. Once they exhausted their welcome, they would move onto one new land after another. This vagrancy wasn’t without aim, of course.

The snake priests’ begging is actually an expression of their greed, as they beg not for basic necessities but souls — the magic staff even innately draws loose souls into the bowl. Such avarice is in service to the sorcery catalyst’s original purpose: use in ceremonies calling souls; in other words, spirit summoning. This is why the priests are officially named “snake-man spirit mediums”, (蛇人の霊媒) and the nature of their religion makes their motive for adopting the practice obvious. They weren’t just looking for any soul to summon — they were trying to find their missing god stolen from them by a human. Unaware of the Chosen Undead’s background, the snake-men could only blindly search where humans be, hoping to one day manifest the white dragon’s spirit and receive his divine guidance once more. But as DS2 shows, they never went as far as the New World and so could never find the Old One. Instead, they stopped short at meeting the Nameless King and, more importantly, his archdragon ally.

Staff called with the name of religious mendicancy. The bowl attached to the tip is probably the reason for that.

Increase the souls absorbed when defeating enemies.

It is said to both be a remnant of the greed that snakes have long utilized and had originally been a ceremonial staff that calls souls, but its origin is unclear.

We see that the priests now use their staves to instead cast a new kind of soul sorcery. Although mechanically identical to dark sorceries, their spells have a never-before-seen brown hue. This earthy color suggests that they are infusing the souls with a rock affinity. Besides explaining the similarities to Dark magic, this makes the sorcery much like the half-living, half-mineral dragons. In short, snake-man religion has evolved beyond just Seath and into worship of his general species. This isn’t in itself a surprise. After all, their veneration is rooted in the fact that they are pathetic descendants of their ancient forebears, aspiring to follow what they have failed to be. And as we can see, even the artificial race can now to varying degrees breathe fire, displaying an aspect of their esteemed ancestry as noted in the description for the Ancient Dragon Greatshield.

This shield that some snake-men wield reveals the source of these developments. As the name “archdragon painting greatshield” (古竜画の大盾) would suggest, the front bears the temple dragon’s silhouette on the main bridge, the pose matching concept art. The additional halo conveys the snake-men’s veneration, as does the absurd amount of time and effort required to paint the wood with its unique style. Their work so perfectly captures the undying dragon, in fact, that the shield provides a small healing effect to its holder. This prove that the snake-men have the skill and dedication to build the massive temple they guard with all its detail. Indeed, their unique style of wood painting resembles mosaic murals seen in the Hagia Sophia, complementing the temple’s style. The Bridge Key’s description also insinuates that the structure couldn’t be built with human hands, leaving only the one medial and the man serpents as the possible builders. The petty race found a new god, one more willing to teach them how to become closer to it if they gave their all to its service.

Wooden greatshield depicting an archdragon with a unique technique. Very slowly recovers HP.

That archdragon picture is born by keeping to a mind-numbingly long and extremely delicate work.

For the snake-men are no more than sad, petty descendants, but one can see an aspect of the unperishing archdragons even there.

This pushes back the temple’s construction to after the events of DS1, once the snake-men crossed paths with the firstborn and his dragon allies. Perhaps realizing the difficulty in finding more archdragons by this point, the united wandering parties opted to create a temple for the one archdragon they had in the region of the world where they were; specifically, in Lothric’s part of the world. This temple on the frontier isn’t one of the drifting areas, which more closely converge around Lothric and show signs of intersecting with the preexisting land. Instead, the road we follow up to the temple would take us further down the mountain along the cliffside behind us if not for a landslide seeming to collapse a large portion. This implies a conventional means to ascend the mountain, meaning that the temple is a long-established part of the region. Anyone could make the trek, where they be longtime local or passing traveler. The real journey began after reaching the front gate.

Before that point, we can spy a small bell installed on the exterior wall facing the climb up the mountain. This bell happens to be directly below two balconies overlooking the path, which stands out when the other three sides of the building have at most one. In all likelihood, this wing of the temple was designed for lookouts to alert the gatekeepers of visitors. Whether friendly or hostile, it was important that approachers be greeted by guards, as is the case during our visit. But a temple is hardly the place to receive regular traffic, and DS1 showcased how easily snake-men guards can be asleep at the wheel. Their needed to be another layer of security to make sure defense and screening operations ran smoothly. Ringing the bell in advance facilitates that purpose; it wasn’t the last time the method was employed either.

Once they were deemed safe for passage and let in, visitors crossed a bridge through an arch, a symbol of rebirth into a new world after leaving behind the old. Afterward, they reached a slightly elevated stage with another small bell, presumably then rung to summon for someone like how the great bell beckons the Nameless King. In fact, based on the adorning statues in the immediate walk-up to it, the smaller bell was the original method to call for him. Such august audience was most likely for confirming the visitors’ purpose and providing an introduction for the path forward. If they sought transcendence, then they would be pointed to the left and proceed through a string of buildings leading up to the temple, likely areas for food, rest, and socializing after the long hike. If they sought a duel with the legendary war god, then he would oblige, as the area’s plethora of lightning gems produced in the wake of dragonslayer battles demonstrate.

Gem said to be bond stone that was altered. It is said to be found in the scars of dragon-hunter battlefields.

Used in weapon alteration enhancement to make lightning weapons. Lightning weapons have lightning attack power and scaling with faith raises it.

Once the prospective acolytes recovered, they proceeded into the main temple complex, where they climbed stairs to a second gate for vetting. Through it, they followed the main bridge to the Great Belfry. Like before, statues adorn the path forward, only this time the figure depicts the archdragon — a deliberate change considering that the menu graphic for the bonfire shows more effigies of the Nameless King instead. This plus the painting on the Ancient Dragon Greatshield suggests that the great bell likewise called over the temple’s main subject of worship originally, hence this hallowed procession repeats but on a grander scale with added thuribles. From there, things likely proceeded similar to interactions with the Stone Archdragon in DS1. The new devotees would receive some draconic power either directly or in the form of dragon stones, making offerings to help further advance their metamorphosis. This last part in particular was performed at a separate location.

In the middle of the bridge on the right, there is a small adjoining building up a staircase. If not for it being walled off, it would take us to another staircase leading down to seemingly the second temple beside the far end of the bridge. This section contains two areas of note. One is a small room with an altar below a large window, with some flooring and railing on the outside. The other is an adjoining tower on the cliff’s edge, now inaccessible thanks to rubble. The only other notable detail about this portion is the ancient wyvern on the path ahead. Taken together, the chamber was probably where offerings were made to the archdragon, the tower serving as air traffic control — the operators would signal the massive beast to come over and direct it to the altar, where it could see the worshipers’ offerings through the window and act accordingly. If all went well, they too would eventually become true dragons.

As hinted in cut content, the firstborn and his allies inadvertently set up a more literal version of DS1’s Path to the Archdragon covenant. Indeed, item descriptions frame draconification efforts as going down the “path” of the archdragon. The text for the Dragon Torso Stone describes this path as “long and rugged”, while the Dragon Head Stone text frames the end goal as a “far-off height”. There is a sense that one is quite literally ascending to a difficult-to-reach higher form of being by pursuing this metaphorical avenue of spirituality. This is rooted in the Calamity Ring’s description of the dragon faith as “path seekers”, (求道者) a Buddhist term for those practicing asceticism in search of the way to enlightenment. For that reason, we see those who have embarked on the path stripped of their clothing, shedding the excesses of humanity to be closer to the dragons. The archdragon illusions are the first glimpses at realizing our potential, existing only within our minds as we breathe fire and roar. But it also shows just how far our small, humanoid form still is from reaching the true archdragon peak.

Stone harboring the power of the unperishing archdragons. Secret ceremony of the dragon faith.

Makes human head that of a dragon and breathes dragon breath. Also, that transformation effect isn’t undone until death.

Those who go down the path of the archdragon try to obtain a perfect likeness of them. The dragon head secret ceremony is most certainly the entrance to that far-off height.

Stone harboring the power of the unperishing archdragons. Another one which was offered to the mountain-like archdragon.

Makes human head that of a dragon and breathes breath with an archdragon illusion. Also, that transformation effect isn’t undone until death.

That illusion is the likeness of an archdragon the human acquired for the first time and simultaneously exposes how petty one’s own dragon body is. The path to the archdragons is long and rugged, and only one can go down it.

Ring of the bitter orange eye of the dragon of calamity. Doubles damage taken.

It has no useful effect for a ring. Still, it is secretly handed down as an object of dragon faith. For, incidentally, those who seek the path think of it as a trial for themselves alone.

The Warrior Way

As the Dragon Chaser’s Ashes show, humans who pursue the path of archdragonhood are typically men of the sword. The Drakeblood Greatsword description notes how dragon worship has traditionally attracted simple physical warriors throughout history, allegedly because finding enlightenment is less intellectually rigorous than memorizing scripture. Whether or not a lack of words is the prime motivator, it is true that Archdragon Peak is filled with the soul-bearing corpses of warriors, soldiers, and knights. Some are probably just Warriors of Sunlight looking to learn more from their god. We can loot lightning urns and bolts, their dragonslaying power unlikely to be harnessed without the aid of the gods who lord over it. There is also the Lightning Clutch Ring, which boosts the wearer’s lightning damage at the cost of lightning defense — not something that unfaithful servants of the gods looking to face Gwyn’s firstborn would wear. But the Thunder Stoneplate Ring identifies knights who seek dragonhood and thus receive protection from a dragon’s greatest weakness. Such earnest followers were the majority.

Ring of square stone known as the mark of a knight.

The yellow-colored one is given to those who aim for dragonhood and boosts lightning cut rate.

Not every visitor was so noble, of course. Just as there are those who wish to challenge the Nameless King to battle, there are those who wish to test their mettle against dragons. For example, we find a corpse sitting in a cramped corner beneath the staircase where we encounter the Ancient Wyvern. The body carries the Ring of Steel Protection, with almost word-for-word the same Japanese description as its DS1 counterpart — specifically, detailing how not even a giant wyvern’s claws could seriously scratch Knight King Rendal on account of the divine protection of iron provided by the ring. From this, we can infer that the ring’s current owner hoped to test the Knight King’s legend by facing down a giant wyvern of his own. He got what he wished for with the Ancient Wyvern, but apparently that was also more than he bargained for. He ended up hiding like a coward until starvation overtook him, seemingly too afraid to poke his head out with the wyvern present.

Ring of the Knight King of old legend. Boosts physical cut rate.

It is said that the Knight King harbored iron within himself and that not even the talons of a giant wyvern could do him sufficient harm.

To be fair, the wannabe Rendal may well have been overhearing what happened to brave fools who didn’t find a spot out-of-sight of the boss. Down the aforementioned stairs is a close group of corpses, two each possessing an ember while the last bears a whole lot of stalk dung pies. Considering that their description makes a point of the undigested grass intermixed with the excrement, this group of humans was scorched, gobbled, and defecated back out by the fire-breathing wyvern. Even with the relics of heroes, your average warrior wouldn’t want to be on a giant dragon’s bad side, but too many seem to have realized that too late. Along the way to the temple, we pass by various headstones with Arabic writing as well as rock cairns, markers for every visitor who has previously traveled our path only to meet death. This was most likely a warning for anyone with hostile intentions, but still enemies come.

Dried excrement. A large stool. It is stuck to long grass that couldn’t be digested.

Throw behind to have accumulate deadly poison, but deadly poison accumulates in you too.

Strictly speaking, the nature of the stool is different from dung pies, but ultimately, using it how you like is probably fine.

Besides their peculiar brand of soul sorcery, the snake-man priests use their staves for summoning people — presumably also through the power of rock, hence their physical existence is simply warped over without manifesting in spirit form. We are subject to this after defeating the Ancient Wyvern, with a Drakeblood Knight summoned shortly after. Given that the knight is hostile, many fans assume that he is aligned with the snake-men as a dragon worshiper, but this probably isn’t the case. True, the Drakeblood Knights did seek archdragons in DS2, but the reason is exhibited by the dragon-blood pattern on their blades, imbued with the powers of both lightning and general magic. The order wishes to acquire the magic in dragon blood by hunting the beasts, their red capes indicating their longing to guzzle down the medium for the soul. That an, apparently, Undead survivor of Shulva’s destruction still wears the symbols of this mission, unlike so many of his long-dead comrades, betrays his true intentions.

Greatsword of an order of knights said to have worshiped dragon blood.

Its blade is engraved with a pattern that represents dragon blood, so has magic and lightning attack power.

Armor of an order of knights said to have worshiped dragon blood. It is said that its red cloth is their longing for blood.

The dragon faith has captured the hearts of warriors in many ages and many places. Is it because they don’t seek words?

This hostility to dragonkin is reinforced by another potential summon, a warrior of Havel whom we can preemptively kill at the temple. Again, fans have commonly insinuated adherents of the Rock’s loyalty on account of their stone armor and association with the firstborn. But again, Havel was hostile to dragons, especially Seath, and his followers are liable to feel the same. Not too far from the warrior is a corpse with Great Magic Barrier, which DS1 revealed to be the miracle that Havel imparted to his priests. This implies that this cadaver belongs to one such priest, and the spell’s description affirms the story’s contents: Havel’s antagonistic history with Seath which led to him earning his moniker. Therefore, much like in DS1, this dead priest is unlikely to have had good intentions for approaching the home of dragon worship. The nearby warrior can likewise be found standing over the corpse of a wyvern, who we would have encountered there alone and alive in an earlier version of the game. They may both wear a stone shell, but the Havel worshipers are still the dragons’ enemies.

Miracle which is the original text of “Magic Power Protection”. Covers the whole body in a white membrane of strong magic protection and greatly boosts magic power cut rate.

It is said to be the story of “Rock-like” Havel. Havel, who was an enemy of the white dragon Seath, hated sorcery and didn’t neglect a means to answer it either.

Ring of warriors who value having heavy bulk.

Increases maximum equipment weight.

It is said to derive from “Rock-like” Havel, who is known as a comrade in arms of Oldest King Gwyn. War hasn’t changed its form since long ago, and Havel’s faithful never petered out.

Heavy armor likened to a giant rock. Boasts tremendous defense effect and is simultaneously extremely heavy.

It is said that warriors who follow “Rock-like” Havel never flinch, never retreat, and crush all those they call their enemy.

The one exception among these dragon-harming summons is the wielder of Ricard’s Rapier, naked save for minimal rags and Wolnir’s Crown. Some fans have inferred this to be Ricard himself, but the Undead Prince from DS1 had already met his end at Sen’s Fortress, and this rapier-wielder sports black hair with dark eyes instead of the typical Astoran blond hair with blue eyes. DS established Ricard as part of an archetype, with DS2 showing multiple copies of his sword with just as many legends of princes behind them — all of which this iteration’s description downplays as dubious concerning the original. And so, this crowned man is likely another such wandering prince in exile who adventured across the lands before ending up Undead. Based on his current dress, he chose to try escaping the curse by becoming a dragon at the temple. As added affirmation, he is officially called a “wandering prince” (流浪の王子) and prefaced as a “heroic spirit” (英雄霊) like the other three, meaning that they were all accomplished fighters before making their way to this place.

Thrusting sword of the Undead Prince in old tales. A rapier decorated with beautiful ornaments.

Most of those stories are dubious, but the prince’s thrusting sword and his elegant swordplay surely seem to be left here.

In that case, the snake-man priests are simply summoning anyone present at Archdragon Peak in order to respond to our threat. If that means warping in a loyal follower in the middle of his transcendence, so be it. If that means teleporting over another invader, just as well. After all, all of them, like us, are instantly transported somewhere entirely new with zero context. It is only natural that they assume us, the person they are positioned to first face, responsible or at the very least complicit — that is exactly what so many fans first assume about them. In other words, our conflict is all a misunderstanding engineered by the snake-men, one which simplistic warriors aren’t interested in clarifying. We solve the serpents’ problems by killing each other. Evidently, the temple’s defenders have had the time and experience to develop such tactics, though we also prove the risks of bringing your enemy closer. Perhaps they learned such risk-taking from the dragonslayers amongst them.

Lion Joins the Pack

For all this talk about humans, it is easy to forget they weren’t the only offcomers. The description for Ornstein’s set states that the lion knight didn’t protect the Anor Londo cathedral as seemingly witnessed in DS1, instead following after the Nameless King. This is supported by Smough’s armor, which claims that he was the “last knight” defending the abandoned church in its description. DS1 did imply that Smough acquired his wanted knightly status in taking up guard duty, leaving him an executioner in only title — a fact echoed by the description for his vitalizing great hammer. However, the depraved Executioner was still seemingly fighting alongside the faithful Dragonslayer. At the same time, DS1 had already hinted that Ornstein had somehow betrayed his comrades, and DS2 further indicated that the boss encountered with Smough was just a golem bearing a fragment of his soul. Factor in his past association with Gwyn’s firstborn, and his choice to abandon duty to his kingdom to follow his king isn’t all that surprising.

Grotesque armor known with the name of Smough, last knight who protected the abandoned church.

Possesses high defense effect. Can be equipped with the body of man, but honestly, it seems in no way possible.

Grotesque great hammer known with the name of Smough, last knight who protected the abandoned church.

Recovers HP when attacks hit.

It is probably a remnant of when he was once an executioner.

Golden lion helmet known with the name of “Dragon-hunter” Ornstein. Armor of the age of the gods tinged with the power of lightning.

It is said that the knight said to have protected the abandoned church nevertheless left that land in pursuit of the Nameless King during the dragonless age.

Furthermore, the small details are very telling. Wording Smough as the “last” knight implies that there was another doing the protecting at one point, meaning that Ornstein must have at least started performing the duty before chasing after their deposed king. His armor description’s claim that he left the land itself in this pursuit likewise suggests a passage of time before making the decision, which is consistent with his cooperation needed for Anor Londo to create his golem. Taken together, it appears that Ornstein’s loyalty fractured over time. He accepted his duty when ordered to play a part in Gwyndolin and Frampt’s firelinking system. But as the years progressed and still no heir to Lord of Cinder Gwyn was found, the pair maybe never facing a single challenger to the mantle, questions must have crossed his mind. What was he laying down his life for? There was no king, or even a populace, left to defend. His country was basically dead. And yet still they were working to carry on Gwyn’s will in the hopes that they could maybe delay the inevitable. Was their last king the madman, or the one before?

In short, Ornstein likely became disillusioned with the future of firelinking. Whatever misgiving the Dragonslayer may have had over the firstborn’s plan initially, medial draconification must have sounded much more appealing than standing around waiting to be the steppingstone for a sacrifice which wouldn’t even solve their problems long-term. He would rather place his faith in the king who had earned his loyalty so many times before. But faithful knight that he is, the man tried to fulfill both duties simultaneously. Instead of just up and leaving, he took the time to work out his exit with Gwyndolin, letting a lesser avatar take his place while the “real” him went off in search of his king. It is possible that he also left the Leo Ring representing his place as one of Gwyn’s four knights. But while the same ring possessed by one of his golems in DS2 had worn down from age, the lion ring we acquire in this game looks no worse for wear. Put simply, it is probable that duplicates were made for the golems, the same as his armor.

Whatever the case, the lion knight nonetheless began his own journey out into the world, and eventually did track the Nameless King down. On the main bridge, we can find the Dragonslayer Spear laying against the gate, the Dragonslayer set not too far off. This suggests Ornstein’s presence, and the lack of a corresponding corpse indicates that he left it all behind there. Considering their proximity to the chamber of draconified meditators, and it seems that the medial now counts himself among them. Moreover, the fact that the discarded equipment has been left there untouched suggests that this was a relatively recent development. Most likely, Ornstein had found the firstborn much earlier and was cooperating with him, whether this be before or after the temple’s construction. The Dragonslayer no longer needed to put his talents of repute to good use, but his king could always use an adviser. And there were many travails which the war god needed to be counseled on.

A New Leg

As noted earlier, the archdragon atop the mountain has a similarly rocky texture. Considering that the illusions for our ultimate form are black-scaled, this indicates that the stone-scale dragon has ironically petrified. The most likely cause is the long-term stagnation of the world, and it isn’t alone among its kin to exhibit symptoms. We can only acquire the Dragon Torso Stone from a draconified man whose body itself turned to stone, as seen by the pieces broken off to reveal the insides as solid rock. We likewise acquire the Dragon Head Stone from defeating the Ancient Wyvern boss, whom game mechanics encourage we kill instantly via a plunging attack to the head. It therefore seems that our stones imbued with draconic power are extracted from actual dragons who have at least partially petrified. Cut content reaffirms this notion with a version of the draconified meditators growing roots, a more obvious sign of the stagnation. This model appears to have been recycled as one of the various human bodies petrified in the Undead Settlement, reinforcing the original implication.

In short, dragons are no less vulnerable to the overextension of the Age of Fire. Their half-mineral existence can transcend mortality but not the fundamentals of Disparity. One might then argue that the archdragon, specifically its soul, is still alive in that immovable husk, basically sleeping like a rock. But while DS2 proved the possibility to break petrification curses, a problem of this scale seems to be irreversible. The preceding cliff closest to the archdragon is covered in more rock cairns, so the residents aren’t holding out hope for the stone beast reawakening from this deep slumber. And forever resting dormant as it is, their enlightened one can no longer share the secrets of its truth with them, willingly at least. That being the case, the dragon is still emanating power for others to draw upon.

Archdragon Peak is home to a unique kind of titanite lizard. This one is several times larger, and more obnoxious, than its cowardly cousin, with a hide of rock grey instead of titanite black. Its ash-colored skin also lacks the creature’s characteristic crystals, the largest crystal on the back replaced with a protruding rock formation. On top of that, this oversized lizard can now breathe fire much like Seath’s other creation. And since, unlike the snake-men, they have no proper dragon heritage, we can infer that these multi-legged reptiles have undergone some form of draconification of their own. In their case, the metamorphosis is a natural consequence of their proximity to the archdragon, their bodies absorbing the draconic souls radiating within this environment. On what basis? The titanite they produce, of course.

All over the temple grounds, we find an overabundance of twinkling titanite and titanite scales, the dragon chaser apparently amassing his own large collection of it from the area before his death; we can derive an infinite supply from his ashes. The former are normal, albeit relatively rare, byproducts of titanite lizards, but they nonetheless “glow” (光る) just like the “twinkling” dragon stones. Meanwhile, the scales bear obvious resemblance to demon titanite from DS1. Similar to that titanite’s origin, the scales are produced as a result of the lizards devouring raw souls instead of titanite, the unfiltered power causing their bodies to morph into giant crystalline monstrosities. The sheer rarity of this event is why we only find such “gluttonous titanite lizards” (大食らいの結晶トカゲ) near graveyards where souls and minerals mix in abundance. And yet, we find no such lizards at Archdragon Peak. Rather, the only lizards which possess both these stones are the aforesaid rock variants. Therefore, the only explanation is that the souls they absorb transforms them into that before they can produce more than a few scales.

Glowing bond stone that enhances weapons. Enhances weapons tinged with power up to +4.

Weapons tinged with power cannot be enhanced with normal bond stone. Alteration enhancement is also not possible.

For it is only this glowing bond stone that can enhance the weapons without extinguishing their power.

Bond stone altered by a soul. Enhances soul-molded weapons up to +4.

Weapons born from soul-molding can only be enhanced with bond stone possessing the same power.

It is said that, in rare cases, crystal lizards devour souls and harbor these scales in giant bodies.

DS1 had already hinted at such passive draconification with Kalameet, but the temple’s archdragon proves it just as effective on the “dead”. It was thereby at this point that meditation was adopted. Previously, dragon worship involved hunting for dragon scales from others in order to acquire more power with which to infuse into the dragon stones via the archdragons. But now, we don’t come across any such function, the only dragon scale item left unused in the game files. The Calamity Ring nonetheless suggests that it once occurred. This relic derived from the eye of the black dragon is handed down as an object of worship despite its curse of calamity. This is because the warriors who worship the archdragons view doubling the damage received while wearing it a trial for them to overcome alone. This only makes sense, however, if their path to dragonhood involves risking their lives in some manner. That doesn’t fit with the current practice of meditation at the temple but does jive with the scale hunts of past covenants.

Therefore, the temple had likely encouraged similar trials fighting for dragon scales, only stopping after the archdragon could no longer act as mediator in transferring their power. Meditation would instead be used to manually draw out such draconic energy. Zen emphasizes detachment from the self to achieve enlightenment, training the mind and spirit to allow worldly thoughts and feelings to pass through without interruption by the conscious ego. In the context of Dark Souls, achieving that spiritual void would mean divorcing oneself from the soul, restraining its most natural urges. In other words, worshipers meditate to allow the power of rock to flow into the body unhindered by the Disparity of flame. Without the power of life fighting back, they become a sponge for the draconic power, thereby seeing more consistent results than the titanite lizards; many of the smaller ones still scurry around untransformed. This was the temple’s ingenious solution to unforeseen circumstances.

Obviously, this makes proximity to the archdragon paramount. Although possible to transform without ascending the mount, we only see one among an entire group of warriors succeed from Irithyll Dungeon. It is still ideal to come to the temple where the concentration of power is higher, the closer to the archdragon the better. This is why the path to the archdragon now continues beyond the Great Belfry. Pilgrims passed through more gates to reach a courtyard leading to the cliff closest to the dragon mountain. An altar was set up at the edge for offerings, meditating before it providing a twinkling dragon stone — although the game treats this as a separate item, the description indicates that it is the original stone offered to the archdragon, presumably on the altar where the meditation would direct its power. Before that, the worshipers needed to pass through another checkpoint, fittingly based on the building which would have preceded the original area boss room. The archdragon now the literal peak they are aspiring to reach, this new path must have tickled the path seekers’ egos.

Since this new system also made the Great Belfry obsolete, the Nameless King now answers its toll for a duel instead, the bell rung again once the battle is over. The cut Bridge Key reaffirms this takeover. Although now automatically open after we are warped inside by the snake-men priest, the first temple was originally opened with the key, acquired by defeating the Ancient Wyvern. Its description thus notably labels the bridge as a god’s territory, which is reflected in the architecture. The flower motif representative of the god of sunlight only extends to the end of the main bridge. The second temple and beyond instead uses a new icon with a more interwoven, blockier design, emblematic of the shift into the stone dragon’s sanctum. Outside of these small details, however, very little was renovated. The checkpoint and courtyard might have been added and the side route to the second temple might have been removed, but as many of the existing facilities were repurposed as possible. This new setup was sensible, if less convenient for those seeking the easy road to enlightenment.

Key which opens the shut door of the bridge interior.

It is said that the interior of the giant bridge which couldn’t possibly have been made by human hands hides a sacrament that no one has yet seen. One rumor says that there is also god’s territory there, but…

Joining the group at Irithyll Dungeon in meditation causes us to enter a trance. Just before completely losing consciousness, we hear the ring of the great bell followed by the shriek of a wyvern. When we regain awareness, we are on the road to the temple. The bell ring is probably just a plot convenience to convey the intended end goal for this area — the Dragon Torso Stone also draws attention to the bell when alluding to how we can reach the Peak in its description. The wyvern cry on the other hand seems much more relevant to how our meditation got us there. Most likely, the flying dragon spotted us “faithful” worshiper while passing by. It then picked us up before carrying our comatose body over to the temple, much like the giant crow ferrying Undead to and from the equally remote Undead Asylum in DS1. If so, then the ancient wyverns must have been instructed to bring nearby pilgrims not making the full trek. This is reinforced by the corpse with the text for Lightning Blade sitting in watch of the temple behind the meditation group, a past visitor evidently waiting for the next ferry.

Stone harboring the power of the unperishing archdragons. Secret ceremony of the dragon faith.

Makes human body that of a dragon and performs dragon roar. Also, that transformation effect isn’t undone until death.

The dragon faith has been the path of warriors from time immemorial, and it is said that they saw the Archdragon Peak at the end of their meditation. It can be distantly heard. The sound of the Peak’s giant bell.

Even if this service exists because the route on foot is lost, the implication remains: those who know the secrets to becoming archdragons don’t mind foregoing the effort of increasing their chances. After all, even if they do climb their way up the Peak, their prospects look no more favorable. The meditators in the second temple are overgrown with mountain weeds, with those at the cliffside altar additionally sprinkled with snow of the high altitude. This suggests that these worshipers have been around for quite some time, never leaving their spot after entering their own trance. And like their revered example, they too might never reawaken from this rest. The local bonfire labels the first temple as the “dragon-man mausoleum”, (竜人の霊廟) indicating that the more recent meditators filling it are effectively dead. A ceremonial site enshrining venerable dead atop a tall rockface under the control of a “Storm King” (嵐の王) is an obvious callback to Demon’s Souls, but this was by design in the Shrine of Storms; not so for Archdragon Peak.

Unsurprisingly, suppressing the soul can lead to the body absorbing too much rock power and simply becoming a stone corpse. Unperishing as they are, archdragons are still half-living and are no less bound by the necessity of the soul in this post-fire era. The dragon faith cannot simply wait idly for stone-scaled eternity to come to them. Balancing between mineral and life thus becomes tricky — too much detachment of self and they will die before finishing their transformation; too little and they won’t even start the process. These are the travails along the road to enlightenment, and it is telling that the temple has relied on the same archdragon even now that it is basically a corpse. Despite all this time, no one has completed the path, and the current situation only makes the vaunted peak less attainable. Without a dragon stone, pilgrims must patiently wait through constant meditation in the hopes of maybe attaining a draconic form. It is no surprise then that some would rather just wait to be picked up, or at least die without making a completely exhaustive journey first.

It is this inordinate amount of time needed to become an archdragon which seems to have motivated the creation of another shrine in the first temple. Erected before an altar is the statue of one of the wyverns, indicating that offerings there were made for the purpose of becoming a flying dragon. Indeed, meditating before the altar is how we obtain the Calamity Ring — given its nature, this is probably intended to convey the worshipers’ earnest dedication to the faith whilst simultaneously halving their own potential. Although unprecedented, transforming into the ancient dragons’ distant descendants is still theoretically possible and easier due to the weaker draconic power they possess. In other words, a pilgrim is more likely to both succeed in their draconification and spend less time accomplishing it, only at the cost of becoming a lesser dragon and needing to climb the mountain for proximity.

Easing along this process further is the lift up to the first temple from the mountain road, cutting down on the pilgrims’ journey to enter. In all likelihood, this option was made available for specific parties who brought regular worshipers and thus needed no prior verification to enter. Most of these adherents would climb down the stairs and make their offerings or concentrate on absorbing the ancient wyverns’ power. Once they achieved wyvern status, they went back home as proof of the temple’s utility, encouraging more to follow the path themselves. This positive feedback loop gave Archdragon Peak more converts than ever before. If nothing else, the new system provided the temple much needed exposure since the majority weren’t interested in staying long-term anyway. The rest would stay in the second temple to continue their journey to archdragon enlightenment. It was a fair compromise, much like welcoming Warriors of Sunlight who might become dragonslayers. But such peaceful pilgrimage didn’t last.

Crumble the Way

Presently, Archdragon Peak is falling apart in every sense. Countless makeshift wooden, platforms, bridges, and walls have been constructed to accommodate the crumbling architecture. For all its beauty, the snake-men didn’t seem to build the temple to last, lacking the time or know-how to repair the damage. Instead, they are busy slaying any and all visitors. They assume us a threat from the moment we begin ascending the mountain. The dragon chaser likewise died before finishing the path to dragonhood, unable to use the high-level titanite he collected from the area beforehand — instead, they help fellow warriors like us carry on where he fell. This indicates that even he faced resistance, and we do find his remains next to the checkpoint to the cliffside altar where the densest group of snake-men patrol. The ancient wyverns are no different despite one implicitly dropping us off earlier. Why all the hostility? Perhaps due to the overwhelming number of people flowing in.

Ashen remains of a warrior who went down the path of the archdragon and fell. The handmaid of the ritual place will have new items to offer.

Its items should grant power to warriors continuing on.

As noted earlier, the dragon-men meditating in the first temple seem to be more recent arrivals, very recent if Ornstein’s equipment is any indication. The lion knight’s participation plus the fact that the meditators haven’t even moved to the second temple before beginning their journey to archdragonhood betrays the particular urgency of their gathering. Something happened that caused a huge uptick in interest in becoming immortal dragons, even for a longtime resident like Ornstein. In that case, the most likely source is current events. With the Age of Fire in limbo thanks to the halt on firelinking, there are sure to be plenty in the region who recognize the signs and see now as the time to transcend mortality. They may not be able to avoid the coming chaos, but it is better to weather the storm as dragons than as men. On the flip side, there are sure to be plenty who see the apocalypse as an opportunity to complete their bucket list, namely slaying dragonkin at the temple. If they are all going to die or lose their place in the new world order, then might as well challenge the legendarily powerful beasts.

This sudden surge of both friend and foe as of late may thus be what convinced the temple to close its door to all subsequent visitors, our wyvern ferry not getting the memo before dropping us off. If this change in policy came from the Nameless King, then he is apparently not too concerned about the invaders. The war god has flown off to who knows where while remaining close enough to still be accepting duels. Some fans have posited that this is because he is no longer sane. Close inspection of the boss reveals a corpse-like appearance with a face not so different from a Hollow, many fans drawing parallels to Gwyn’s form as Lord of Cinder in DS1. But much like the first Lord, his firstborn is a medial and so not subject to the Undead curse, and unlike his father, the war god doesn’t show signs of bearing the First Flame — even if he did, Lothric’s current system would prevent the burden from overtaking his mind. The boss certainly seems sentient, perfectly able to honor his fallen comrade by and use that newfound power he absorbed to glide around conjuring gusts with finesse.

With that in mind, the corpse-like details are probably remnants of an earlier concept. The mid-battle cutscene goes out of its way to avoid closeups on the Nameless King’s face, which is almost always obscured by his attire and shadows. Clearly, the attention is supposed to be paid to his behavior, not appearance. Moreover, the same boss model is also used for his statues at the temple, meaning that a literal interpretation would require he be this “zombie” since the Peak’s early history. Can the god responsible for providing his followers miracles both in-person and through effigies always just be a mindlessly violent walking corpse? No. Altogether, it suggests that there is nothing wrong with the firstborn other than age catching up to him, his hair ash grey with streaks of black signaling its onetime hue in youth. There may have been plans for the boss to be a shell of his former self initially, but this evidently changed during development. If we are to question his sanity, it is for his thinking, not lack thereof.

Crown of the Nameless King, ally of archdragons.

The golden crown concealing long hair of ash that stands on end is said to be close to that of the Oldest King.

After all these years, the god still has nothing to show for his creative solution. Things are no different from when he was widely recognized as king. And yet still he persists in this method to transcend the end of his people’s age. Even the Chosen Undead linking the fire didn’t change his calculus. Fire will eventually fade, and only man and dragons will stand to gain. If the gods would only share his foresight, they could all remain a dominant force in the age to come! Even now he has not begun his own draconification, seemingly for no other reason than to see if his brethren will come crawling back at the last minute. But his tribe is dead, their extinction affirmed by Yuria in stating the gods to be “no more”; the only exceptions are either MIA or impossible for her to know are still alive. In other words, what few of his clan are left remain uninterested in his crown. The medials would rather mingle with humans than ever become dragons. Such is their pride, which he sorely lacks in their eyes.

Their so-called king has been chasing phantoms, all the while still acting under the pretense of a legitimate god. In that sense, one can argue that he isn’t much different from his kindred, but that only begs the question: why be so contrarian then? For a man who strives to bridge the gaps between so many races through jolly cooperation, he has drawn some peculiar lines. Or rather, it is because he tries so hard to please everyone that he finds himself in this stubborn predicament. Indeed, the eldest born of the sun has spent his whole life a walking contradiction. He was king of the medials yet wished they be dragons. He was a hunter who wouldn’t hunt yet would teach the hunt to others. He was a god of war yet spurned by his pantheon for peace. He was all these things and so amounted to nothing. The no-name fool is truly superior in warfare and nothing else. The snake-men are right to align with him. He is the one true heir to the title of mad god.