Syan

Syan, original name Zyne, (ザイン) was already recognized as Vendrick’s most loyal vassal when the giants’ invaded. Clearly, the knight’s love for king and country was unmatched, and that gave him the courage to do whatever was required of the moment. In this case, the moment was possibly the swift destruction of his kingdom. With an army of soldiers under his command, Syan immediately volunteered to hold the line until the full Drangelic forces could prepare a proper response to the incursion. Acting alone against such an imposing threat bordered on suicide, but he and his subordinates did at least slow the giants’ advance long enough for their king to rally the troops, prolonging the war longer than they would have otherwise been able to. Evidently touched by this show of loyalty, Vendrick commissioned an intricate greatshield to honor Syan with upon his return, but by the time this Greatshield of Glory was completed, Syan had drawn his last breath. Like any good commander, he would lead his troops in battle, and the giants weren’t interested in taking prisoners.

Great shield of the king’s loyal retainer Zyne.

The genuine item the king made for Zyne alone. But, Zyne breathed his last before this shield was completed.

The king instead honored the knight by reproducing his halberd and armor for the men who outlived him. The Dark Souls II Collector’s Edition Strategy Guide refers to these soldiers as knights, so if they weren’t already, they were definitely knighted by this point. Velstadt’s soldiers did include a chivalric order, so it is feasible for a knight of similar prominence like Syan to have one too. Those troops also needed to be knights to formally possess a knight’s armor, especially with the new duties they were expected to perform. Based on the number we see protecting places where Vendrick normally stays, Syan’s soldiers were reassigned to the king’s personal forces, the knight’s image forever standing in defense of his beloved monarch. Even if his heroic tale ended in tragedy, Syan would be an emblem of loyalty in the kingdom’s dire final days.

However, the knight’s miserable death was for naught, his subordinates suffering the same fate as the rest of the royal army. All we find left are mindless Hollows, mostly scattered across the land. These far-flung warriors typically guard chests containing sublime bone dust. The ash of holy men who threw themselves into Undead bonfires might be valued by pious knights who wield lightning and carry monastery charms on their person. Still, this treasure hardly relates to their kingdom’s national interest. Rather, their “guard duty” seems incidental to their presence in the area, gravitating toward the holy relics to substitute for their actual responsibilities — almost as if weighed by a guilty conscience. We can therefore infer their motive for being there as cowardice, hiding in fear of death and ultimately losing mind with heart. In that case, those soldiers at least failed to live up to Syan’s example.

Helmet made in the shape of that of the loyal knight Zyne. Solid and possesses high defense power.

The knight Zyne, who was acknowledged as the kingdom’s most loyal retainer, came to a miserable death despite personally becoming the vanguard during the giants’ invasion.

The king reproduced his equipment and gave them to his subordinates, but those that wore them all lost their minds.

Meanwhile, the shield made especially for Syan can be found at the Dragon Shrine, wielded by one of the Drakekeepers. This is odd for several reasons. On the one hand, the shield’s perfect size for the giant golem makes it far too large for a human to realistically carry — we can, but only because all oversized equipment we collect is automatically the perfect fit per gameplay convenience. Even ignoring that detail, why would Vendrick leave the shield expressly for his most loyal knight with, effectively, his most traitorous brother? Even if the king did enter Aldia’s forbidden territory at some point during the war, there was no reason to hand it over while plundering the place for research, especially to end up in the hands of the golem defending a petrified egg which Vendrick otherwise shows no interest in. It isn’t as if the golem needed the shield either; stored within the shrine is a Drakekeeper Greataxe and Greatshield they never use. How then did the Greatshield of Glory end up in this bizarre scenario? It might not have been entirely intentional on the developers’ part.

The Drakekeepers’ design is an obvious callback to the Tower Knight, with the Greatshield of Glory similarly resembling that Demon’s Souls boss’ Tower Shield; even concept art suggests the two were designed for each other. But that name is instead shared with the shield that Syan’s soldiers utilize, though rendered in katana for the English pronunciation (タワーシールド) rather than reusing the Japanese terminology. (塔の盾) This Tower Shield looks nothing like the original beyond the vague vertical rectangular shape, bearing the image of a sun. Although this befits a knight whose halberd is imbued with lightning, we can only acquire it from a chest next to Targray in the Cathedral of Blue, with only a generic tutorial for greatshields elucidated in its description — the same tutorial we can read from the Twin Dragons Greatshield sold by Maughlin in Majula. Add in the challenge for reaching Targray, and receiving that information again comes off as just sloppy. It is almost as if the names for the Tower Shield and Greatshield of Glory should be reversed.

Put simply, this all is likely another product of a turbulent development. The Greatshield of Glory was designed as part of the Drakekeepers’ reference to Demon’s Souls, whereas Syan’s soldiers ultimately received a less iconic shield whose sun imagery could tie into the concept of honoring a beacon of bravery. But somewhere down the line, another greatshield became associated with the Drakekeepers while their “Tower Shield” switched names with the “Glory” sun shield; perhaps because so simple a name better suited the plainer armament versus the more intricate design of what became the Greatshield of Glory. But both these shields remained with their original enemies, even as the now generic Tower Shield was being placed with the Blue Sentinels in association with Heide. In other words, it seems that the developers simply weren’t coordinating with each other throughout the whole process, leading to a muddled reference rendered nonsensical in context. This was never addressed with the Big Fix (and Dark Souls III reaffirms the final Greatshield of Glory’s connection to Syan) and we are left with a glaring reminder of the game’s shortcomings.