With how much time has passed since the events of the original Dark Souls, (DS1) it comes as no surprise to see Vinheim’s Dragon School change uniforms once again. Currently, the dress code features a deep blue coat, a far cry from the green coat design in the original, though the academy’s spies continue to match but in black. This update in style isn’t just a school keeping up with modern trends. Upon graduation, students set off on a journey, throwing off their uniform hats with it. Fans of DS1 may recall how students were expected to wear their uniform even when traveling outside school grounds. But now, such journeys alone are permitted by the academy for “research” and allow for more lax uniform standards. This, of course, is an obvious reflection of how Japanese school regulations regarding uniforms have themselves changed over the past century, letting students express more individuality. Indeed, “graduation” (卒業) doubles to mean outgrowing or moving on from the thing in question. The sorcerers head out into the world to prove that they are more than mere students of the academy.

Traveling clothes of sorcerers of Vinheim and the Dragon Academy. A simple hood worn within the robe.

It is said that those who leave the academy for research cast aside their uniform cap at that time. They set off on a journey alone, as a mark of their graduation.

Old uniform of sorcerers of Vinheim and the Dragon Academy.

It is said that the sorcerers of long ago didn’t take off their uniform even when going on a journey. It is the story of a time when it still wasn’t called research.

Of course, standing on your own is no easy task. To protect from the elements during the long treks, these sorcerers wear two hoods, ratty robes, and leather trousers with sturdy long boots. As the trousers’ description acknowledges, sorcerers know more than anyone how long the journey to complete research takes. And deprived of the safety of urban Vinheim and academy walls, such freedom to research can be frightening. After all, where does one look to make new inroads in sorcery that would satisfy the scholarly body? Farther and farther away from where human eyes normally see. And there are no shortage of dangers out in the wild which budding scholars in ivory towers might not be prepared for. One such scholar died exploring the waterlogged ruins of Farron’s magic academy. One of our possible backgrounds is another of these sorcerers, though whether our attempt to link the fire was by choice or some other circumstance isn’t obvious. If the Dragon School wanted their sheltered students to learn to be independent, they certainly assigned them a harsh teacher.

Traveling clothes of sorcerers of Vinheim and the Dragon Academy. Long-length, ash-colored robe.

Beneath the robe is the conventional academy uniform, a deep-blue sorcery coat.

Traveling clothes of sorcerers of Vinheim and the Dragon Academy. Combination of black leather trousers and solid long boots.

A sorcerer is one who knows the length of the journey for research.

That isn’t to say that the academy simply throws them to the lions. The Young Dragon Ring is provided once students are recognized as sorcerers. Like the dragoncrest rings from DS1, a “very young dragon sign ring” (幼い竜印の指輪) features the archdragon described, the crest in this case symbolizing just how long their journey to maturity as researchers will be before the new graduates set out. They are but pups, and their parents enchanted the rings so as to boost their offensive sorceries and thereby chances of survival. This is notable given that effect originally belonged to the Bellowing Dragoncrest Ring, supplied only to especially excellent sorcerers in DS1. The school understood the risks of these field studies so lowered its standards for outfitting graduates. Not that they retired the old rings, the Lingering and Bellowing Dragoncrest Rings — latter updated with a more potent effect — remaining “special” for valedictorians. The faculty don’t want to lose true talent, after all. But if the giant crab with the Lingering ring at the Farron academy is any indication, such favoritism doesn’t stop them from getting eaten by wildlife.

Ring given along with the name of a sorcerer at Vinheim, known as the homeland of sorcery.

Boosts the might of sorceries.

Befitting the Dragon Academy, its sign is made in the shape of the unperishing archdragon. The Very Young Dragon teaches the length of continuous research ahead of them.

These changes extend to the academy’s curriculum. Soul Arrow is still the “most fundamental” sorcery. However, the thick variant is now also “elementary” for “applied” studies, based on its description. True enough, it is one of our starting spells as a sorcerer. But even being a graduate who had been out on research, we don’t know the strong variant of Soul Arrow which marked full-fledged sorcerers in DS1 despite possessing the required intelligence. Clearly, the Dragon School doesn’t want students to simply improve upon the basics taught for theoretical study. They need to be prepared to apply those studies against real threats. This means learning a spell for practical use like Heavy Soul Arrow rather than a spell for simple bookworms like Great Soul Arrow, reflected in the latter’s far higher intelligence requirement. It isn’t as if the new program holds no academic value either. As its description acknowledges, Heavy Soul Arrow is a very old sorcery, used by an advanced civilization like New Londo centuries before Vinheim established a school for the logical discipline. There is merit in teaching it.

Most fundamental sorcery. Fires soul arrow.

In order to use sorceries, it is required to equip a staff and memorize sorceries at a bonfire.

Elementary, applied sorcery that has existed since long ago. Fires soul thick arrow.

Its might-oriented scaling simultaneously hurts its rapid-fireability, bringing gaps between uses. A difficult to handle sorcery.

Sorcery swordplay has also seen new developments. Soul Greatsword isn’t specific to Vinheim but is taught by sorcerers of there. This is because briefly manifesting a far-reaching blade only as heavy as the staff used to swing it makes for an excellent trump card regardless of the sorcerer knowing the sword or not. Otherwise, the academy still teaches fencers how to enhance their existing arms with magic power, keeping Vinheim competitive with the other nations developing pure physical technique. The strong variants of these Magic Weapon and Shield spells are also still exclusive to swordsmen assigned a mission. One such warrior died within the Farron Keep perimeter just outside the Road of Sacrifices, likely sent to investigate the Crystal Sage’s academy. Another seems to have been caught looking into Sulyvahn and thrown in Irithyll Dungeon to be devoured by the Deep’s maggots — in fairness, the Pontiff seems to imprison Vinheim sorcerers in general, one researcher with a Bellowing ring having apparently fallen for the jailers’ breakout trap.

Sorcery for sorcerers who have studied swordsmanship. Enhances right-hand weapon with magic power.

This sorcery and Magic Shield sustain the strength of Vinheim’s sorcery swordsmen. Many warriors learn sorcery just for these.

Sorcery superior to Magic Shield. Greatly enhances left-hand shield with magic power.

It is said that it is only given to sorcery swordsmen entrusted with a mission and that even small shields temporarily acquire the solidness of large shields.

All in all, the Dragon School remains dedicated to amassing knowledge for sorcery. The specialists continue to try stealing the secrets from well-renown sources while the neophytes now do the literal legwork for the unknown arts undoubtedly out there as well. In that respect, these changes in curriculum can be thought of as filling for the gaps in the old system. As past games showed, the academy had already allowed the arts of both its most famed student and its very discipline’s founder to elude its grasp. Logan’s long-lost sorceries now only get passed around among various exclusive factions, whereas Seath and his works have always been mysteries — they are technically “secrets of god” (神秘) after all. With the long-dead white dragon reaching mythic status, it is no surprise that Vinheim is known as the “homeland” of sorcery at this point. Such fame seems to be what attracted Yoel, whose repertoire of spells and comments betray the old Hollow’s prior affiliation at the academy as a sorcery swordsmen. And as goal-oriented as its structure is, the school does serve its purpose.

… You found something amazing. It’s the scroll of the Big Hat, Logan. Great sorceries that were long lost to Vinheim. It can’t be, to think I can touch them…

… Unbelievable. These are crystal sorceries. The power of a white dragon only in legend… I am grateful to you. These are mysteries. I have nothing to reward you for this… but I’ll decipher it with all my might. Wait for it.

As I first mentioned, I am originally a sorcerer. The sorceries of Londor aren’t things that reach the famous Vinheim, but let me teach you the extent of my knowledge…

While the bellowing and lingering archdragons have always symbolized the school, Orbeck treats these ring insignias as essential framework for sorcery. The rings’ Japanese descriptions likewise refer to these dual aspects of the dragon as the sorcerer’s ideal, the bellowing dragon teaching how they should be inside; the lingering dragon, outside. Given the former boosts sorceries’ might and the latter their effect duration, the academy’s intentions is straightforward. A sorcerer ideally possesses thunderous power roaring within while maintaining rock-solid patience everlasting without. Sorcery is methodical and so requires restraint to master, but the results of mastery will be exhilarating. If they wish to be like the archdragons who invented the magical arts, the students must understand both sides of the coin — or in this case, crest. But even this tutelage promotes conformity and subservience, which explains why the academy’s acquired knowledge has remained so static despite its efforts. Any true overachievers, in Orbeck’s estimation, would see their growth neglected, shunned, and ultimately exiled.

I will teach you sorcery. But, first, the principles. It’s regarding the sorcerer’s ideal, the dual aspects of the dragon… but… Don’t look so reluctant. Ha ha ha.

Special ring given to someone permitted to journey for research at Vinheim, known as the homeland of sorcery.

Greatly boosts the might of sorceries.

Befitting the Dragon Academy, its sign is made in the shape of the unperishing archdragon. The Roaring Dragon is a sorcerer’s ideal and teaches their interior.

Special ring given to someone permitted to journey for research at Vinheim, known as the homeland of sorcery.

Extends magic effect duration.

Befitting he Dragon Academy, its sign is made in the shape of the unperishing archdragon. The Lingering Dragon is a sorcerer’s ideal and teaches their exterior.

You’re an amazing man. You’ve learned all the sorceries I have. If this place were the Dragon Academy, you…… No, you’d surely be severely neglected and exiled… Ha ha ha.

Orbeck would know, as he has seen the dark side to the Dragon School. His coat implicates him as an academy spy, and he possesses all the hallmarks to back it. The Slumbering Dragoncrest Ring, given only to the underbelly sorcerers. Silent Ally, a gesture Orbeck admits is “child’s play” (児戯) by two spies needing to signal each other as friendly — when you never reveal yourselves, having a silly code when inadvertently crossing paths with another shadowy assailant on a job comes in handy. On the subject of play, Aural Decoy, a prank spell spies cleverly use to distract guards from their post so as to sneak past or stab in the back. Along with that, Spook, a combination of the Hush and Fall Control spells from DS1 for the ultimate spy sorcery; now so essential that even generic assassins have learned it, like potentially ourselves. And most dangerous of all, Pestilent Mist.

Conventional coat of Vinheim and the Dragon Academy.

It is commonly deep blue, and the black one belongs to sorcerers of the underbelly who existed in secret. They were excellent spies who manipulate sound.

… Are you interested in child’s play? This is a code for sorcerers who extinguish sound, a cipher of sorts. If you have this, we won’t know each other but won’t make enemies of each other either. Of course, it’s no more than an old practice now, but you do probably already have the qualifications to know it.

Sorcery of sorcerers of the underbelly who existed in secret at Vinheim’s Dragon Academy.

Extinguishes the sound made by caster and also completely negates fall damage.

This sorcery exists, and thus spies of Vinheim did business at a high price.

This “lethal white fog” (致死の白霧) originally referred to silver and mercury, but this was changed with a later update. As to why, it is possible that the initial name and description were an oversight. Mercury was a popular medicine of the elite in medieval times, so portraying it as the known poison it is may have been too anachronistic for the developers of this medieval-inspired fantasy setting. Moreover, emphasizing the spell as “white” fits better with the origin of Vinheim’s school of sorcery — the Consumed King Oceiros casts a more powerful version, one among many spells he derived from the power of Seath. FromSoftware might have therefore just been correcting text from earlier draft of the script. Regardless, Vinheim spies were feared for using it, the white cloud hiding its victims quietly contorting in agony only to reveal their dead, “screaming” faces when it finally cleared. It is no wonder that Orbeck won’t teach us this, and only this, sorcery of his trade until we have proven our character.

Most dangerous of the Dragon spies’ sorceries. Sorcery revealed to only trusted individuals.

Generates mercury that continually eats away HP but it also affects the caster.

It is said that the corpses are in a quiet white fog but the expressions are contorted in agony. The violent sight made their name terrifying.

This might sound odd for a contract killer. Certainly, Orbeck takes promises and rewards for services very seriously, a rather mercenary attitude befitting an elite spy charging his clients high prices. But these habits are, in part, because he was destitute despite wanting to learn sorcery at the academy. As the description for his ashes affirm, he came to the Dragon School as a spy in the hopes of earning the money to one day become a proper sorcerer. Given that having a student face still earns you ridicule, the academy’s tuition hasn’t become any more affordable in the events since DS1. But like probably so many others, Orbeck thought that he could make that money while also advancing his knowledge as a sorcerer by applying to the secret curriculum. Perhaps growing up on the streets taught him all about Vinheim’s dark underbelly, but the poor man nevertheless discovered that path. And embarking down it became his greatest regret.

Ashen remains of Orbeck of Vinheim. The handmaid of the ritual place will have new items to offer.

Impoverished Orbeck nevertheless longed for sorcery and so knocked on the door of the Dragon Academy as a spy. He believed that he would someday walk the path of a sorcerer.

Despite acting far colder than Griggs ever did in DS1, Orbeck makes it clear that he doesn’t like killing. But he proves willing to do anything in order to acquire knowledge of sorcery. His obsession runs so deep that he gets annoyed by conversation so long as the topic isn’t related. In those respects, he is far more like Logan — none of that restraint which the Dragon School so loves to impress. And just like Big Hat, that vigorous spirit of inquiry ultimately backfired on his prospects in school. Orbeck wasn’t satisfied with being a sorcerer in just name, he wanted to sit in proper classes and graduate knowing “real” sorceries. But the academy would never admit him. He always had to do more jobs, earn more coin, pay off more debts; an endless cycle trying to claw his way to decency only to end up wallowing back down in the mire. And then it all came crashing down.

… Ah, it really is unpleasant, killing…

… Ah, have I really become like this in the end…?

Item descriptions concerning the Dragon’s School’s spies have shifted to past tense from their DS1 iterations. This implies that Vinheim’s secret agents no longer exist. Indeed, Orbeck states that their cipher is obsolete by this point, the old gesture of a bygone era. But if the school’s hidden class is defunct, how come? The Dragon School has held the real power in Vinheim precisely because the spies enforced their will behind the scenes. Perhaps the country’s figureheads finally bit back. Orbeck makes a point for us to not kill indiscriminately, warning that each one begets retribution from his experience — which explains why this youthful man is Undead. In all likelihood, Orbeck and the other spooks crossed a line in their assassination work which earned them the ire of the wrong people. These powerful folk related to the target or targets then cleaned house, finding and eliminating the entire spy network.

Ring of sorcerers of the underbelly who existed in secret at Vinheim, known as the homeland of sorcery.

Extinguishes the sound made by the equipper.

It is said that the Dragon Academy is the real ruler of Vinheim and employed many excellent spies.

… Ah, don’t kill people indiscriminately, you. No matter who they are or how they live, there will be retribution someday. Even though I dirtied my hands, I didn’t realize such a thing. Hmph, truly a fool…

This would have been a huge blow to the Dragon School, left with only one option: cut ties with the agents and disavow any involvement to save face. The faculty could always reconstitute their spy network later down the line, but the moment required they limit the political blowback. That meant that when Orbeck miraculously came back looking for protection, he would be met with only exile, as if he was any other cursed Undead. Dying at our hands after becoming our teacher reveals the spy’s concern that he outlived his usefulness, and it is easy to see why. Orbeck had the visceral realization that he was just a lapdog. The school staff were never interested in nurturing his talent and enthusiasm; that was all the more reason to keep the dragon quietly sleeping. They took advantage of his need, then tossed him back in the gutter once he was of no more use. All that blood on his hands, for nothing. Who wouldn’t be bitter after that?

… I was a spy of Vinheim. A sorcerer only in name, a killer bought with money. Since I was stupid. But still, I thought I would learn real sorcery someday. Then I became Undead and was exiled from the academy… but here, I am touching the secrets of sorcery. All thanks to you…

You, why… Was I used up already…?

Banished from home, Orbeck ended up in Lothric. However, this wasn’t to take part in the firelinking. He does exhibit knowledge of the unkindled and our mission, but he never indicates himself to be one. If he did join the ritual, it wasn’t by choice. We find that he set up his own private study in a corner of the Farron academy, practically emptying the shelves from the library below to read at his leisure. He is using his newfound freedom to go on his own journey for research. Perhaps he thought the lands drifting to Lothric were the perfect net to catch all the sorceries yet unknown, starting with Farron’s Crystal Sage — he has been so thorough, in fact, that he is surprised to learn of Farron sorceries that have eluded him. Whatever the case, this was his chance to put his past behind him, becoming a sorcerer instead of a killer. It comes as a pleasant surprise then when we ask him to be our sorcery instructor, playing at our own little school together. But jaded as he is, he premises this relationship on us bringing scrolls detailing more secret sorceries, teaching everything he learns as a break from his studies.

Oh, this is… surprising. To think there were still unknown sorceries among Farron’s Undead Troop. Thank you, you kept your promise. No matter how much I spent over there, I probably wouldn’t have known about this. Now, I’ll decipher it. The new sorceries should be useful to you too. Hehaha.

If we satisfy his demands and learn a few spells, Orbeck gifts the Young Dragon Ring, perhaps looted from a dead graduate whilst exploring Farron for sorcery. However he came in possession of it, he thinks we have met the Dragon School’s qualifications for a sorcerer, assuming that our background isn’t already one. In any case, he continues to offer tangible rewards for our intangible service as his student. If we learn sorceries related to his past, he awards its secrets. If we learn everything he can ever teach, he provides his help against the Twin Princes. The fact that Orbeck is being so unusually generous, as he himself concedes, is proof of how fond he has grown of his pupil. We allowed him to be not just a sorcerer, but a sorcery teacher, something he probably never imagined in his cursed existence. But with how much has retreated into his shell, he can never admit it. In the end, his only reaction is to pack up and part ways once both parties have fulfilled their ends of this “bargain”, keep these times as a happy little memory inside his head.

Well, a sham of the academy’s not so bad…

The sham of the academy was fun…

Of course, the spy does still keep his share of secrets. Yuria reveals that he is a prospective Lord of Hollows, hiding his true form. The arts of Londor do make this possible, but Orbeck never challenges our claim to the throne like Yuria fears, or even mention his association with them for that matter. Considering all parties involved, it is more likely that Orbeck came across a pilgrim on his journey and was enticed by the promise to draw out his true strength. After seeing the final results of this devil’s bargain, he took whatever he could to obscure his true form and went on his way. In other words, there is no reason for us to slay him as Yuria advises. His fate is to die reading in the Grand Archives, his Hollow form laid bare in his chair. The secretive agent’s luck finally runs out. At least he expires knowing he went farther than his younger self might have ever imagined possible, no thanks to the academy.

In Orbeck, we see how the Dragon School has crushed talent to serve its own interests. Its mission to preserve old knowledge has been corrupted by its obsession with control, all the while its administration politically and monetarily benefits from the slow crawl. This attitude might have been justified in DS1 when the sting of lost sorcery was still somewhat fresh and a dogmatic church was breathing down their necks. But we are far and removed from that era. More and more arcane arts are becoming lost as this world slowly falls to pieces; trying to recover them all is an increasingly pointless endeavor. The time remaining is better spent pioneering new arts or reinventing old ones. It is almost there with its graduate field studies, the faculty just need to have skin in the game. Deprived of its claws around Vinheim’s formal government, perhaps the Dragon School will finally develop into a truly liberal place of learning, allowing talented minds to flourish and bring sorcery to new heights. Or perhaps that is just wishful thinking.