A common sentiment is that the DLC is the best part of Dark Souls II, and I am inclined to agree. That might be a low bar compared to Dark Souls (DS1) and Dark Souls III, (DS3) but it shows what the developers at FromSoftware could do with the added time to polish the existing story and gameplay. And while the DLC obviously went in a different direction than initially planned and required some rewrites to reconcile with the base game, the final product presented is a much stronger narrative. Crown of the Sunken King is perhaps the most critical in this regard; the setting would be nowhere near as cohesive without it. And so, despite my personal feelings about the game as a whole, I can appreciate Shulva’s place in this world.

Beautiful and Perverse

In the depths of the subterranean Gutter lies Black Gulch, implying that a stream once ran through there — and perhaps still does at the bottom of this pitch-black valley. Indeed, the Dragon Talon’s description states that those deepest depths hide the entrance to the sunken kingdom of Shulva. “Sunken” is more accurately the “deep bottom” (深い底) in correlation to the Gutter being the “trash bottom”. (クズ底) At the bottom of trash is an even deeper bottom by way of Black Gulch, the hole revealing a land replete with pools and waterfalls. Between Black Gulch and the massive stalagmites and stalactites, this bottommost land has long been receptacle to this inflow, cracks in the earth creating underground rivers which all apparently lead to this one grotto. In that respect, Shulva can be considered an extension of the Gutter. Although forced to warp between the two locations from an altar, we can still see continuity between them both in terms of fauna. Moreover, the materials for the Puzzling Stone Sword found in Shulva are mined “deep” in the Gutter. They are part of the same complex of caverns.

Sword with many segmented blades.

Its blade separates with swinging force and kills by seemingly extending.

What’s used in the blade is tinged with what seems like strong magnetic power from the strange stone only mined deep in the Trash Bottom.

With its location established, there is still a question of where this place fits in relation to the larger world layout. Director Yui Tanimura conceptualized the area as the deepest place in Drangleic in the Dark Souls II Design Works interview, but does this make it even deeper than the Lower World seen in DS1? The previous game did have caverns situated parallel to or even beneath the Lower World, and we see similarly large roots — the largest petrified by the water based on stalactites — burrowing in from the ceiling, like the Shrine of Amana. The deep bottom is also replete with strength-boosting balms derived from “old trees” (古樹) evocative of the solid stone archtrees. Therefore, the land may still have archtree growths burrowing into the cavern even if not visible for us while exploring. The fact that their presence is so scant perhaps even betrays just how deep the cavern complex to Shluva goes, lower than even Amana.

The common fruit we can acquire reinforces this impression. Despite its name as your garden-variety tree product, this mottled berry can only be found in a limited number of places. Besides one jailed corpse in the Lost Bastille, it is held by Drangleic’s royal swordsman stationed there, presumably as rations. Otherwise, we can only obtain it from ogres in Shrine of Amana, the Rat King in the Grave of Saints and Doors of Pharros, and the “stone transports” (石はこび) in Shulva — all subterranean areas. This implies that the fruit originates from the underground, each area part of a larger cave complex. Elizabeth Mushrooms present similar implications; other than the various areas associated with sorcerers who would harvest them for study, the item can be found in Shulva. Repair Powder is likewise widespread above ground, yet this golden magic dust closely related to the mushroom men is only dropped by enemies in the Grave of Saints, Undead Crypt, and Dragon’s Sanctum at Shulva. Without a doubt, there is crossover with wildlife between all these places below the surface to the Upper World.

Mottled fruit. Temporarily boosts poison resistance.

Being the fruit of a common tree, it has no taste, but when caught in a dilemma, you will realize its worth. What we call “a lesson” tends to be like that.

Even if we cannot climb our way down to the deep bottom in-game, it does exist lower than any other part of Drangleic we explore. That semi-isolated depth is part of the reason for its unique ecosystem. Although the various balms can be acquired in every DLC, they are by far most prevalent in the first; in other words, in Shulva. The unusual plants used to make these soul-stimulating perfumes are apparently found in abundance only that deep underground. Aside from the Old Growth Balm, there is the Vine Balm, which boosts dexterity befitting such a flexible plant. Then there is the Blackweed Balm, the grass presumably so named for growing in cavern darkness and so stimulating our logic ability. For those seeking faith instead of intelligence, there is the Goldenfruit Balm, the color and effect indicating presence of the gods’ holy power in its makeup. Moreover, we can find a “holy tree” (聖樹) which emits a repairing aura when whipped and is the source of dried roots beloved by clergy for healing. Such unique plant life is curious when the deep bottom is far and away from sunlight, or is it?

Balm that was extracted from an unusual plant. Temporarily boosts dexterity.

The special fragrance is able to affect the spirit and have you acquire passing strength.

Root of a perennial herb native to the south. Continually recovers HP for a long time.

Gives off a strong stink that wards off even animals but possesses a strong medicinal effect and was useful to pilgrim clergy.

Another element of Shulva’s ecosystem is its luminescent minerals. Glowing green crystals jut out all across the land. More notably, these glowing rocks have a blue counterpart, which is apparently mined in the “Gutter” to create the Puzzling Stone Sword dropped by wildlife in the deep bottom. The reason the artisans chose this instead of metal is likely because of its unique properties. Despite the blade being broken into segments, we can still swing the weapon as one whole, the blue rock possessing a magnetic pull holding the pieces together; the term localized as “puzzling”, (引きあう) means to pull together. Clearly, the rock’s ability to stay together was considered comparable to your average steel blade, and breaking it ultimately just allows us to extend its range with the brief separation. More importantly, it confirms that these rocks of light are manifesting powers unseen elsewhere. Perhaps the bright green crystals, bordering on yellow, derive their power from sunlight, which the local flora evolved to draw upon?

Even if true, this simply shifts the question from the flora to the minerals — connected or not, where are either of them receiving this light power? One possibility is that this is simply a freak result of Disparity. The Holy Water Urn introduces the concept of natural springs possessing such power in its description, (and DS3 introduces a similarly anomalous holy tree in a forest) so it may just be that certain pockets of land amass and retain light better than most, resulting in unique developments in the ground above them. Another possibility is that Shulva sits not too far above the true sun, the First Flame. The time bubble in Drangleic confirms that the original fire must hide somewhere in this region even if only easily accessible from the Throne of Want. In that case, perhaps the cavern in the deepest depths of the earth is directly above it, fire’s power seeping up through the rocks and into the various stones and plant life.

Whatever the truth, the fact remains that this land with all its idiosyncrasies exists. It is a dark land nonetheless with light; a deep space at flow’s end yet clean. However, this last part has to be qualified. Stagnant waters accumulating filth is typical, as Blighttown demonstrated in DS1. Director Tanimura confirms that his initial concept of the deep bottom had been no different, the most sordid, hazardous land of them all. But that assumes there isn’t a third element which might interfere with this natural result. Tanimura ultimately decided to make Shulva contrary to expectations, justified on account of that additional variable: the dragon slumbering in the deepest bottom, Sinh.

Out of the Fire

Going by his anatomy, Sinh is an archdragon, white scales betraying him as another descendant of the race rather than first generation. This detail isn’t meant to link him to the scaleless white dragon Seath, however. Tanimura confirms that Sinh’s pale appearance is a result of poison draining from his body, implying that it would normally look more like whatever toxic material filled his insides. In fact, Sinh taking on such poison to begin with is likely a byproduct of his physiology. Tanimura repeatedly describes him as a “poison dragon” (毒竜 or 毒の竜) and affirms that the toxins were absorbed from his surrounding environment. In that case, Disparity likely induced this unique capacity, similar to the differing magical affinities characterizing other archdragon progeny such as Seath or Kalameet. Put another way, the white dragon was simply born with a nature to absorb poisons from land or air. This by itself doesn’t clarify whether the archdragon is a survivor of the Lords’ dragon hunts or hatched from his egg in the aftermath, though having a name does suggest that he was born as part of the dragon community.

If Sinh was one of the dragons living during that conflict, it explains why he ended up this far underground — when the battle was lost, he fled down whatever hole might help him evade pursuit. And much like the unnamed archdragons in DS1, Sinh avoided detection for so long by remaining beneath everyone’s notice. Combined with the inviting nature of the land he stumbled upon, and it is easy to see why the dragon stayed until entering a deep slumber. This hibernation should nonetheless be an ominous sign considering that it coincides with Sinh receiving the poison at the bottom of the earth. With the waking dragon ultimately unleashing enough to destroy an entire civilization in the blink of an eye, Sinh must have been absorbing toxins in this land for a long time. The only reason he doesn’t retain more is the large spear lodged through his body, which caused the poison to leak out in the first place. And while enemies accustomed to this poison has gained immunity to any we inflict, Sinh included, this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t affect him.

Soul of Sinh, the dragon living in this land’s deepest bottom.

The dragon continued to sleep even after the king built the capital from some time ago. But the dragon who was awakened by Yorgh’s blow released the poison it had taken on, destroyed the capital, and then became pure.

The special soul this dragon possesses is used to acquire a vast amount of souls or create a great power.

Mace possessed by soldiers of the Holy Wall.

Afflicted by a strong poison that infested it with the sleeping dragon Sinh’s awakening.

The user also receives its effects, but it has no effect on the poison-covered soldiers of the Holy Wall.

When we first encounter Sinh, the dragon is at least trying to rest before our approach brings him back to his senses. Clearly, he is no longer able to enter another deep sleep, presumably because of the spear; the pain — if you can call it that for an archdragon — of its initial stab is what woke him in the first place. But the spear doesn’t hinder Sinh in battle, moving and flying as nimbly as any other of his kind. Indeed, Tanimura admits that a “deific” being like an archdragon should maintain a certain dignity even while impaled. Rather, Sinh’s labored breathing as he attempts a light sleep suggests that the poison is what is taking its toll. Despite his unique constitution, the dragon seems to still get exhausted processing the poison within himself. Naturally, this would spark his instincts to conserve energy, rest body and mind until he returned to health. But with the body designed to retain rather than excise the cause of his debilitation, his comatose state would logically remain indefinite.

In short, the whims of Disparity were more a curse than a blessing. The archdragon had likely never experienced so much poison in the Lower World before coming to Shulva — never do we see such contaminants build up amongst the crags and archtrees. He may have even been ignorant of his ability, explaining why he let himself absorb the poison until it became too much to bear. In an environment devoid of poison, he would seem like all the other archdragons, just with white scales. Once that changed, he would suddenly function as a walking purifier, unaware of his own power and how to potentially control it. Even now, he remains in the land which first doomed him to eternal sleep; is it because he is still scared of the world outside, or has he remained ignorant of what plagues him? In either case, all of this implies Sinh’s poison to be endemic to the deep bottom, and we can discern why.

Unlike the Old World, where poisons were typically purple, the New World’s toxic material is instead green. This is why green “poison moss balls” (毒の苔玉) replace “purple poison moss balls” (毒紫の苔玉) as medicinal antitoxins — the moss possesses weak toxins, thereby training the ingester’s body to fight off anything else poisoning it. We see something similar with common fruit, which is both green and effective at boosting poison resistance. Simply put, nature is perfectly capable of evolving to absorb or produce poison, turning green in the process. And in Shulva, there is the holy tree that leaks a peculiar green sap from its ever-shifting eyes. This plus the green-glowing crystals suggest that Shulva’s peculiar ecology is to blame for Sinh’s poison, a waste product required for their composition to have its beneficial effects. The poison released into the open air is probably only trace amounts, too scant to normally be detected. But over time, it would accumulate until the entire cavern was toxic. That is, unless a dragon with the ability to purify the land entered the picture.

Old World moss (left) compared to New World moss (right)

Therefore, Sinh had unwittingly become a substitute for the land, making it the clean and beautiful cave of wonders we see rather than just a disgusting cesspool of grime and toxicants. And with his slumber, he would have remained as an eternal draw upon all that harmful material without otherwise disrupting the ecosystem. Whether the comatose began before or after parts of Lordran warped over to Drangleic, nothing had disturbed Sinh since the translocation. Of course, that inevitably changed.


Eventually, Sinh was found by a clan of humans, whose leader subsequently established himself as a king over those caverns sunk deep beneath the earth. Under the guidance of their Sunken King, the new kingdom of Shulva built the so-called “Holy Wall”, (聖壁) turning the sleeping dragon’s space into a kind of sanctum protected from outside disturbances. While the dragon continued to sleep, the humans built up this temple complex along with the city surrounding it. By the end of the king’s reign, the kingdom had become a massive subterranean capital surrounding a towering holy site. And it was dedicated entirely to perpetuating the dragon’s sleep. This begs a number of questions: where did the tribe come from, why did they head so deep underground, and why did they choose to revere Sinh? As for the answers, all of this can be explained by a Heiden origin.

Key to open the door to the Holy Wall interior.

The Holy Wall was constructed by the King of the Deep Bottom in order to protect the sleeping dragon Sinh.

It is something like a temple, as it were, but on the other hand, it is a so-called devil cavern that no one is permitted to invade.

Shulvan religion employs miracles, implying that they preserved stories of the Anor Londo gods. They are certainly familiar with their power. Corpses in the area carry lightning or holy water urns, not to mention a Thunder Quartz Ring; the temple likewise stores Lloyd’s talismans, boltstones, and the Lightning Clutch Ring — even its icons incorporate sun imagery. Meanwhile, sorcery was deemed heretical and never saw widespread popularity within the kingdom. All of this suggests that the Shulvans came from a background heavily influenced by the Anor Londo pantheon — and the ones who brought that influence to the New World were the Heidens. Also, recall that Heide’s cataclysmic collapse left countless trapped underground, including in the Gutter. It is to be expected that many of the survivors would band together and form a new tribe, wandering neighboring Black Gulch in search of a way back to the surface or new place to settle in the darkness. Then they found the land of Shulva, or “Salva”, (サルヴァ) in obvious reference to the English “salvation”.

Indeed, food and water were sure to be scarce down underground, where they were competing with the various deadly insects and worms burrowing through the earth. The journey to Shulva could not have been easy, and we see this reflected in the kingdom’s miracles. Denial (惜別) more accurately means “regret” or more literally a “reluctance to part”, hence the spell denies death once for the person it is cast on. Its description reveals how its original purpose was to give the time to say proper goodbyes to loved ones in their dying moments. In other words, the Shulvans were defined by death when they came to this land. The clan likely lost many during the wandering period, with the rest sure to join them soon enough. But finally, they found a place teeming with resources to rebuild civilization — their salvation. And who was responsible for this paradise except the archdragon slumbering at the heart of it?

The Dragon Charm is more accurately a “talisman of a dragon’s power” (竜の力の護符) reflecting that sentiment in its description. Although there apparently are very few in number, this is only because they originate from the now ruined kingdom. Three charms can be acquired from the first corpse we come across after entering the cavern, which is more than any other single place. Similarly, more residents of Shulva carry the talisman than the enemies encountered in every other area. Everything points to them having been produced in larger amounts down at the deep bottom. In fact, the power “blessing” these protective charms seems to specifically come from Sinh, as it not only restores HP — presumably owing to the archdragons’ immortality — but also cures poison. Therefore, Shulvans must have been aware of Sinh’s unique place in the land’s ecosystem, absorbing all its poison on their behalf. How could they not show reverence for the dragon that delivered them their Promised Land?

Talisman applied with a blessing. Removes the user’s poison status and greatly recovers HP.

The authentic item, few in number, that is said to harbor a fragment of a dragon’s power and has been handed down since time immemorial. Whether it is by human hand is uncertain, however.

With that knowledge also comes the responsibility to maintain the current circumstances. The Sunken King understood that fact, and so their reverence was combined with a respect for sacred space. Sinh was labeled divine, perhaps even a god like the medials. The space where he rested was hence walled off with the temple, only those meeting certain criteria allowed to enter as mediators between the divine dragon and its people. Much as how the archdragon kept the land pure, the Shulvans tried to keep his land unprofaned. The Holy Wall served to preserve that spiritual harmony for both Sinh and his worshipers, as well as a physical one. Once the burgeoning new kingdom took firm control of Sinh’s resting place, the people could do with the rest of the land as they pleased.

The Flower Buds

Perhaps owing to their prior hardship, Shulvans proved industrious. Building a massive stone city with intricate designs carved into the walls both inside and out is itself a great feat within a single lifetime. But they even engineered advanced mechanisms to raise or lower the buildings and their accompanying platforms. These mechanisms are activated with force, but the blue glow suggests that it relies on the same magnetic powers as the Puzzling Stone Sword — given that said sword is stored in the temple, Shulvans are undoubtedly the ones mining that magnetic stone. But even without it, the kingdom’s mechanical engineering was impressive. The temple is filled with complex traps and rotatable walls activated with the push of a button. The path to the Dragon Sanctum must be raised from beneath the waters surrounding the temple, triggered by a large stone disk slotting itself into the ground after the Dragon Stone is inserted into the center. This stone possesses some sort of gem in its menu graphic, but this isn’t reflected in-game and the description only mentions its solidity. In short, the system is all mundane.

Extremely high-grade stone. Becomes a catalyst to operate the Holy Wall’s mechanism.

A memento of the clan that found a dragon, revered the dragon, and perished due to the dragon’s bosom.

Shulva also took the time to study the wildlife. Aside from creating various balms and whipping trees, the Shulvans stored dried roots in their temple, adopting the herb as a sort of holy food; the sheer number of chests filled with the stuff demonstrates its importance to the clergy. The temple also keeps a great number of destructive greatarrows. These armor-degrading projectiles were most likely crafted with the corrosive acid of the local insects that now infest the ruins — one chamber deep inside the temple was seemingly used as a farm, a corpse inside carrying plenty of dung pies to imply that they were regularly fed; a hole in the ceiling allowing for the feed to be safely dropped down. The petrified dragon bones also on the premises show that their interests extended to the long dead relatives of their sacred dragon; even one of their keys is an archdragon’s worn claw, the beast long dead but the everlasting stone talon still alive. Back on the subject of minerals, twinkling titanite are found in the same chest, betraying an equal interest in the crystal lizards. Shulva left no stone in their home unturned.

Dragon claw that has become worn. Opens the doors shut from the inside at the bottom of the chasm in the deepest depths of the Black Gulch.

It is said that a capital built for a sleeping dragon lies beyond it. The claw seems to be far ancient, but for some reason, you can feel life even now.

Although most of the sorceries and miracles invented in Shulva have been lost, we can obtain one example in Focus Souls. This old sorcery converges souls into a single powerful beam, showing the passion of those anonymous heretics willing to advance inquiries into life’s essence. And the spell is just one example, as Shulvan sorcerers bore a “few” fruits according to its description. Even if not thriving, there was a well-developed sorcery scene in this kingdom, which extended to tools like magic bolts based on one corpse in town. And if this was what suppressed heresy could produce, then their miracle scene must have been absolutely booming. All of this is to showcase how the kingdom was bursting with talent and enthusiasm, especially when it came to understanding or protecting what they worshiped.

The Holy Wall was essentially a fortress, a labyrinth filled with varied deadly traps for intruders foolish enough to visit. If a citizen wished to give reverence to the ancient dragon, it needed to be done from the Tower of Prayer. Said tower connects directly to another used as the priestess quarters, which did have direct access to the temple at every level. This indicates that the laity made their prayers known there in that isolated space outside the main temple complex, the priestesses then bringing those prayers to the temple and ultimately the sanctum. There they would sing, likely from the ceremonial stage set up inside Sinh’s dwelling. It was these songs which presumably included everyone’s prayers. The description for their tiara acknowledges its strange ornamentation, but combined with the rest of their uniform, it is clearly meant to evoke blossoming flowers and trees. Put simply, “nature” was giving thanks to the sleeping dragon enabling such paradise to exist; the priestesses were mediums for presenting the entire land’s prayer to their sacred dragon.

Tiara that priestesses of the Holy Wall wear. Negates spell sealing.

It has been deformed by the effects of poison, but even putting that aside, it has bizarre ornamentation. It is said that their singing voices were for the dragon continually sleeping deeply, but did they ever reach it?

These holy women weren’t trusted to manage this role all on their own. At the top of the hierarchy is the so-called cardinal, though it would be more accurate to call him a priest. This is because the term shinkan — literally an “official of god” (神官) — typically refers to a Shinto priest, which complements the priestesses who are miko (巫女) more commonly translated today as shrine maidens. Just as the maidens perform ancillary duties and ceremonies at the shrine presided over by the priest, the priestesses perform similar tasks at the temple at direction of the cardinal. As to how this male priest was selected, he wasn’t. Denial is a miracle “left” by the cardinal, specifically in a chest locked away in the temple. The wording implies that he is no longer around, a fact shared with the king. Indeed, the king was the one who had to keep the clan together as they were forced to leave loved ones behind; he led the construction of the Holy Wall and established his kingdom around Sinh. If anyone was to be in charge of the religion then, it would be him, a stereotypical priest king.

Old miracle that the priest of Salva left. Holds out just once when HP has become 0.

Originally, it was a miracle for giving time for farewells for those in their dying moment.

As added evidence, the kingdom’s knights are all stationed at the temple as guardians, protecting the sanctum from any trespassers. Their defensive mindset is reflected in the Catarina Helm kept in the temple, armor of a knight who deflected threats before forthrightly counterattacking for gods and country. If any stories of the knights of Catarina were inherited by Shulva, then the sunken kingdom had the perfect role model. Whether it be with their dual curved swords or masterfully crafted repeating crossbow, the chivalric warriors embodied the country’s ideal: the preservation of their homeland thanks to Sinh. And who would command these knights but the king? Every aspect of the royal government overlaps with the state religion, so the Sunken King serving as both the temporal and spiritual leader is a matter of course. The question is only how effective he was in the latter role.

The priestess’ tiara was designed to negate spell sealing, presumably to ensure that nothing could obstruct their communion with the archdragon through song — their uniform is ornamented with bells, so these ceremonies could involve actual holy magic. But while singing was chosen so as to not disturb the beast’s slumber, the tiara’s text doubts if the words carried on it actually registered. The faith might have been based on gratitude, but it would be wasted on a dragon too comatose to recognize it. And if their prayers fell on deaf ears, then the cardinal was simply managing an exercise in humility for his tribe. That has its own merits, but the Sunken King would have needed to look elsewhere for practical results. The ceremonies he had the priestesses perform didn’t help with Sinh’s sleep, so their only saving grace was the fact that the poison did already put him in such a deep slumber. It was a precarious situation, but the opportunity it presented was simply too good for the kingdom to pass up. They wanted to cultivate this land, and their industry could go much farther.

For one, they still planned to make their way back to the surface. The tower connecting way to the sanctum and its corresponding lock also links to an altar chamber away from the main city. The scope and complexity to this section betrays its importance to Shulva. But the altar in question is merely a warp station transferring us to another at the top of Black Gulch. In other words, anyone in this theocratic government had the option to return to the Gutter where their old home now lay in ruins — or at the very least, were the gatekeepers for any citizen who wanted it. Why go to the effort unless they still held out hope for reconnecting with their brethren above ground? Now that they could tend to their needs, the Shulvans had the luxury of time to explore such options. If there were other survivors, they could be welcome. If there were not, they could set up and outpost and reconnect with other countries. And there is indication that the land deep below did make itself known.

We can acquire the Flynn’s Ring in Shulva, named for the man who made a name for himself as a “chivalrous thief”, (義賊) your typical Robin Hood archetype. This is thanks to his ring’s power over wind. Said wind easily uplifts lightweight individuals, adding more speed and thus force to their attacks. For Flynn, being such a tiny fighter, he could be easily outmatched by people above his weight class. But after acquiring this ring, his size gave him the speed and thus power to evade capture during a heist. Countless guards ready to sound the alarm? He would be in and out before they noticed. Strongmen trying to apprehend him? He would wrestle free of their grip. The fact that such a famous thief’s ring hides so deep down below implies that Flynn decided to test his skills stealing the treasures of the world’s most secure temple; given that the ring is in a chest just outside the bug farm, he met his match and was fed to the corrosive insects.

Ring of Flynn who earned a reputation as a chivalrous thief. It fights with the help of the wind’s power, so heightens physical attack power the lower the equipable weight.

Flynn, who was known as a tiny warrior, was powerless. But, it is said that even a strong-armed warrior couldn’t catch him easily.

Nonetheless, this incident highlights that Shulva did become a known quantity to the larger world. At the very least, this requires that they reestablish contact with the surface somehow, whether through Black Gulch or some other means. Even if they only conducted limited trade, word of a highly advanced civilization flourishing underground was sure to spread fast across the region. However, this decision to reach out may not have gone unprompted. Flanking the lead-up to the teleporter out of Shulva are large busts of a woman in curious headwear. The pomp suggests that she is someone of status, but the design doesn’t match the headdresses worn by the priestesses. Moreover, why associate this figure with transit to or from Shulva? A warp station doesn’t need so much religious ceremony. And yet, there is plenty of ceremonial flourish in the transport chamber itself. Perhaps it is merely reflects the theocracy’s control over its people’s movements. But when it comes to female outsiders who become significant in Shulvan culture, one character comes to mind: Elana.

Warm Encroach

All children of Dark pursue powerful souls, and Elana is no exception. Her presence in Shulva proves that she found hers in the sunken kingdom, specifically the Sunken King. Although her title of “Squalid Queen” exists only in the localization, we can still infer that she became his wife from surrounding context. For one, she deems us “irreverent” for trespassing into the sanctum, thereby subscribing to Shulvan religion. Elana even sings to the dragon like one of the priestesses, whom each perform dark arts. If the king is the priest of the temple, then his queen would be a priestess managing the others on his behalf per royal prerogative. Even ignoring that, only the cardinal of Shulva could decide if a woman should be admitted to the temple. And while we see that Elana’s true form is a tangled mess of bramble stemming from her heart — bright roots resembling the ones Hollows in DS1 often bore — she could easily disguise herself as a more beautiful human woman and charm the king.

You irreverent one…!!

The Sanctum Shield likewise hints at their union. This shield is one of the Sunken King’s treasures and therefore stored at the temple, and yet it combines the holy white iron used in sacred chimes with wood from an enchanted black tree. This strange design allows it to be used as both a miracle and sorcery catalyst, proof of Shulva’s master craft with magic. But still, why would a priest king keep a shield incorporating heresy as a treasure? Because that magic came from his wife. Besides the black color, tree wood allows for equal parts dark and magic damage from the caster, similar to the high lightning damage enabled by the iron. And for being partially wood, the shield defends best against physical and fire attacks, not to mention curses. All of this would be reasonable if the magic applied to the tree was dark sorcery, something a fragment of Manus would know all too well. Factor in the shield’s name, and the symbolism is clear: the orthodox priest and the heretical spawn joined together to defend the Holy Wall.

Shield with a strange design. One of the treasures of the King of the Deep Bottom.

It combines a tree applied with magic power and iron of the same material as holy bells, so becomes a catalyst for sorcery and miracles.

The sorceries and miracles born at in the capital of the Holy Wall have mostly been lost, but we can catch a glimpse of the height of their craft from such arms.

Indeed, Elana has made no secret of her true power. Aside from the priestesses themselves, a corpse in the sanctum where they perform possesses hexing urns while their quarters hides a chest containing Dark Greatsword, created based on an older sorcery according to its description. But unlike other hexes sharing this description, Dark Greatsword isn’t a sorcery we can learn in the original Dark Souls. Nonetheless, wielding the dark like a blade of war is consistent with Manus’ history presented in that game, so it is possible for this to be one of his doubtless many sorceries that later Oolacilians failed to torture out of him. (DS3 reveals a similar Dark Edge sorcery long handed down amongst witches) In short, Elena could definitely have recalled this sorcery and taught it to the priestesses as a hex, a compromise between a remnant of the dark sorcerer and the women of faith.

Hex created from an old sorcery. Handle the power of Dark like swordplay.

The Dark condensed and fired reveals flashy oddities of light. Even though Dark is supposed to be dark and tranquil by nature.

The same can be said for Promised Walk of Peace. The hex is based on the “ancient” miracle of Tranquil Walk of Peace, only the use of Dark instead of light flips the reasoning for its slowing effect creating “peace” — two hostile parties recognize each other’s strength, so agree to simply walk by glaring at each other rather than risk throwing the first punch. Fitting then that we find this hex among the corpses surrounding the whipped tree, essentially promising not to do the plant lasting harm. Recall also that the “gentle” version of this spell originated from Oolacile and so may have been experienced by Manus when he was exhumed and captured. It would thereby be simple for Elena to recreate the miracle from memory using the Dark before sharing it as well. Once again, the spawn of the Abyss showed her true colors.

This truth wasn’t strictly limited to the temple either. Corpses in the city carry items like cracked red eye orbs, darknight stones, and the Dark Quartz Ring, all hints to the citizens’ knowledge about the queen’s power. Even if it wasn’t widespread among the public, that is still more Dark than most societies learn and tolerate. But Elana evidently didn’t fear reprisal. The description for Dark Greatsword notes how oddly flashy whipping out a blade to swiftly strike down your foes is for humanity. The quiet Dark shining like a light, for even a moment? It certainly isn’t normally in its nature. But all things are consumed by the dark, and light is no exception. Elana, or Elena, (エレナ) derives from Greek to mean “shining light”, and the monster of the Abyss made sure to stand out. Despite her wooden form, Dark spawn shows a penchant for black flame pyromancy. Her choice of weapon, a polearm axe much like her, similarly echoes the Wrath of the Gods effect exhibited by Grant— the holy great hammer from DS1 — in its two-handed strong attack. It all bears a certain brilliance which she embraced.

Perhaps such showiness is because she is the apostle of wrath, prone to lash out in reaction to something negative. If Dark Greatsword reflects Manus’ approach to retribution in conflict, then it is only natural for an embodiment of that indignation to wear her heart on her sleeve. She cannot fully hide who she is because her impulse is to showcase it; she must express herself in response to her surroundings. In that case, it was inevitable that she would reveal her dark nature, disguise or no. One would think that this would put the queen of such a holy kingdom in an awkward spot. After all, if sorcery is considered heresy, then so should the dark arts. But instead, the temple looks to have embraced her powers; even the knights’ crossbows can fire dark orbs with their strong attack. So long as her dark sorcery was filtered through the lens of faith, they didn’t reproach it as sacrilege. This isn’t a recent development either.

Inside the temple, we can find most of the knights in phantom form, white spirits not unlike players from other “worlds”. These phantoms can be struck, but they suffer no damage from physical attacks and only slightly more from magic. This resilient form is tied to a corresponding physical form laid to rest within the sanctum. Although these look to be the physical bodies in full armor, hitting them causes the body to disappear, sending the armor and spectral energy flying — and, conversely, reverting the phantom knight to physical substance. Evidently, the interred body double somehow turns the knights’ true bodies incorporeal, making them almost impossible to kill while not impeding their own ability to kill. They forsook flesh to forever protect the Holy Wall. Despite the localization’s wording, their armor’s text doesn’t imply this occurred only after it had already been invaded. And according to the Japanese description for their two crossbows, this was part of a secret ceremony enacted by the Sunken King. This fits his role as priest, but the cardinal didn’t concoct this ritual by himself.

Helmet of the guardian knights of the Holy Wall.

The knights who kept protecting the Holy Wall from the invasion of the Dragon Blood Knights led by the hero Yorgh had already cast aside their flesh.

Crossbow of the guardian knights of the Holy Wall. Fires a dark with the strong attack.

The knights became beings that eternally protect the Holy Wall via a secret ceremony of the King of the Deep Bottom. But now no one can even visit.

The body doubles emit a black and red aura, both colors commonly associated with the Dark. Indeed, the Dark’s dominion over space would explain the knights’ incorporeality, essentially splitting a person’s manifestation within a single timespace across two separate vessels. The interred vessel is most likely a sort of phylactery. The chest with boltstone has bleedstone stored alongside it, while another contains the Bloodbite Ring. This suggests a lot of bleeding happening within the temple, which would make sense if knights were offering blood as part of the ceremony. Blood is a medium for the soul, and bleeding was used to represent certain Dark powers in DS1. Therefore, the knight’s blood was likely used to create the faux body retaining physical presence as a surrogate, lessening that presence from the soul’s true vessel in turn. And if the king was performing a dark ritual, then this must have all been done in collaboration with his wife. They long knew about what she could provide.

Even if odd to imagine, the worshipers of the gods of sunlight embraced a child of their greatest fear. Perhaps their long stay underground made them more accustomed to the shadows where flame doesn’t light, or perhaps their respect for their king was simply that high. Regardless, the sanctum welcomed Elana as their queen despite her unholy nature, her knowledge allowed to seep into every aspect of the religion. All of this was apparently open and amicable, and Elana’s continued adherence to the faith even after Shulva has succumbed to ruin proves her sincerity in assimilating into the culture. There is no obvious scheme hiding behind her gestures. By all indications, the queen legitimately loved her sovereign, supporting him and his precious kingdom to whatever degree possible.

To the right of the temple is the lair of the so-called imperfect. These entities are the “failed-to-be”, (なりそこない) the same name as the rotting dragon backsides from Izalith in DS1. Without a doubt, the two enemies share a silhouette. However, Shulva’s failures have a gaping maw with rows of teeth, capable of firing a black ball of lightning. Their bodies, meanwhile, look to be comprised of a viscous black fluid not unlike the common manifestation of the Abyss. Aside from the teeth, the only thing growing out of this fluid is similarly bony spikes. In fact, these enemies drop mainly petrified dragon stones and, in rare cases, dragon scales. Taken together, these are failed-to-be dragons produced through both Dark and light powers. Izalith’s failures were implicit attempts at creating living archdragons, so Shulva looks to have used the petrified bones collected from the area in similar experiments. And recreating a dragon through holy and unholy means requires Elana.

The Dark spawn’s contributions to Shulva are undeniable. As to why her powers were directed toward this endeavor, it isn’t a surprise. Sinh was unmistakable proof of an archdragon’s power, and there were enough bones to try giving birth to more. One need only look at the iconography on the Holy Wall to see the Shulvans’ wish for more than just the one dragon. With an army of archdragons at their command under the protection of Sinh, Shulva would be all but immune to invasion. There was no better way for Elana to showcase her love than provide her king with more sacred dragons. Recreating the ancient beasts of stone isn’t so straightforward, however, and these experiments ultimately amounted to failure. Perhaps the attempts would have eventually succeeded if left to continue. But fate wasn’t so keen.

Blood Frenzy

The Drakeblood Knights are true to their name. The order worships dragon blood as a holy symbol, their red capes bearing a golden dragon insignia conveying how they long for that sacred substance. To obtain it, the knights are even willing to slay dragons, their lightning-infused blades engraved with a pattern representing the blood flow they hoped to follow — the messy aftermath may be why their armor is jet black. Although we don’t learn the name of their country of origin, its religion evidently revolved around dragons, but only so far as their composition was key to transcending this mortal coil. The Drakeblood Knights believed that they would unlock a true understanding of life and transcend it with the blood. Indeed, the power inherent to archdragons does grant them eternity. Moreover, recall that blood is a medium of the soul; in this case, a soul which has long stewed in a mineral body. If a man were to drink such blood, then he might share in some of that immortality, perhaps even inducing draconification. (DS3 expands on this concept) Through dragon blood, men could become as gods.

Greatsword of the Dragonblood Knights who were led by the hero Yorgh. A pattern representing dragon blood is engraved on the blade.

For them, a dragon’s lifeblood is a symbol of holiness, and it is believed that only those who have acquired the blood will attain true understanding of life and transcend it.

This explains why the Drakeblood Knights specifically revere the “lifeblood” still fresh and fluid. They could not use samples of blood long dried and decayed from entropy, and the world of man knows not of souls or the possibility to extract them from fossils. If they wished to achieve enlightenment and approach the divine, they needed to find a living archdragon who could show them the path. Clearly, the nation the knights represented heard about the draconification we see from the covenant of transcenders in the original Dark Souls. But however the country came about this information initially, it was clearly twisted enough that the resulting faith had only rudimentary understanding of the process, resulting in equally crude methods to replicate it. Unfortunately, testing these methods would prove difficult with how close the archdragons are to extinction. Therefore, the Drakeblood Knights’ longing likely went unquenched for quite a while. In dragons’ absence, they had men to be their opponents.

The last generation of Drakeblood Knights were led by a man named Yorgh. Although the localization renders this as the title “Sir”, Japanese item descriptions label him a hero who has earned his place at the top. Wielding a spear with a versatile moveset, Yorgh won his order many a battle. His weapon lacks the lighting enchantment of those under him, but this may be due to personal preference. Yorgh’s Ring deflects spells, demonstrating an aversion to all things magic. If he were to face an archdragon, he would want to simply pierce through its stone scales with his own strength. And his chance did come when the sunken kingdom was brought to his attention. Yorgh’s homeland apparently permitted the knights seek out Sinh and acquire the blood, resulting in them invading Shulva.

Ring of the hero Yorgh who sought dragon blood and invaded Salva. Has effect to deflect spells.

Finally reaching the sleeping dragon Sinh, Yorgh, released the dragon’s blood the instant he hit it. But, it simultaneously resulted in the poison the dragon accumulated spreading throughout the whole capital.

The knights’ exact course of this assault on the sunken kingdom seems to have more or less followed our own. Damage to infrastructure plagues the entire capital, indicating that conflict persisted every step of the way. But with many of the temple’s tombs for the knights left with only a suspicious stain and a few pieces of rusting armor, the Drakeblood Knights adapted to Shulva’s unique defenses. The corpse with their sword not too far from the key stone suggests that they managed to secure the key and open the way to the sanctum, hence why we can find so many knights inside. They didn’t just kill their way straight to Sinh either. In that core area, we find rooms of chests already looted, the Drakeblood Knight corpse in one betraying the looters. Shulva’s most precious treasures stored in its most and sacred place were being plundered, all the while its armies failed to drive back the attackers.

Finally, Yorgh breached the Holy Wall and confronted the king, whose crown we can find there in Sinh’s boss room. The monarch stood as the dragon’s last line of defense, but even he ultimately suffered defeat at the knight’s hands. The duel apparently didn’t kill him, however, as the description to Yorgh’s spear states that he was “defeated” (打ち倒した) with the connotation of being knocked out of the fight rather than strictly killed. The collapsed king was likely only wounded, perhaps mortally. He may have then been forced to watch helplessly as Yorgh plunged a spear into his divine archdragon — the name “Sin” (シン) never more apt. With the spear still lodged in Sinh, we can see that it was plunged straight between the wings and through the chest. Admittedly, the size of this spear seems too large for human hands, especially when compared to the one we can derive from the dragon’s soul. But ignoring this artistic license taken by the developers, the message is clear: Yorgh drove the weapon through with all his strength. And that sin was immediately met with divine punishment.

Blood did flow out of Sinh in that instant. But along with it came the poison it had accumulated, released all at once in a massive outburst which consumed the whole city. Yorgh “disappeared” inside the sanctum from this point, the corpse with his ring in that boss room confirming him to be the first casualty of his final act. The king of Shulva likewise perished, and his subjects soon followed as the poison spread. By the end, the kingdom was a city of the dead — and that meant undeath was guaranteed to surge. Those who didn’t simply die rose back up as Undead and soon Hollows, turning paradise into inferno. Their new lease on life didn’t free them of the poison either, the substance continuing to fester into their ever-degrading equipment to this day — some worse than others. That said, the Sanctum Mace description implies that extensive infestation has made the Hollows immune to its effects, hence they are still haunting their ruined kingdom at present.

Spear of the hero who invaded the capital of the Holy Wall.

After defeating the King of the Deep Bottom, Yorgh, who sought dragon blood, pierced the sleeping dragon Sinh with this spear.

But what the awakened dragon released was enough poison to transform the capital into a dead capital. And Yorgh disappeared inside of the Holy Wall.

Crown of the King of the Deep Bottom, the king who ruled this land once.

The king who constructed the Holy Wall that reveres a dragon at the Deep Bottom perished with his capital from the dragon’s awakening.

The king’s name is already lost.

Gauntlets of soldiers of the Holy Wall. Boosts the effect of poison weapons.

It has festered with the poison that was released by the sleeping dragon. It is not well known how much is the original gauntlet.

The only ones who seem to have entirely escaped this fate are the Drakeblood Knights. Although the knights we encounter are Hollows, none of them show signs of affliction by poison. This seems to be because of their location. The description for their armor notes that they descended into the sanctum where we find them with Sinh’s awakening. Undoubtedly hearing the dragon’s cry and seeing the poison begin to spread into the city, the knights headed inside the sealed stone walls. Perhaps they were just curious about what had happened with Yorgh, or perhaps they sensed the danger and preemptively took shelter. Whatever their primary motive, it ended up being their saving grace. From deep inside the temple complex, they were safe from the poison infesting everything else outside. While Sinh was becoming pure, the Drakeblood Knights preserved their purity. But they didn’t just pass the time waiting.

Jet black helmet of Dragonblood knights. The name of their country has already been lost.

The Dragonblood Knights who worship dragon blood were led by Yorgh and invaded the Holy Wall, but sank into the Holy Wall with the sleeping dragon’s awakening.

The red cloth the jet black armor is wrapped in represents longing for dragon blood.

As we climb down the sanctum, we pass chambers filled with chests open and empty, indicating that the knights had begun looting the kingdom’s most sacred and secret treasures. And yet, we cannot acquire anything fitting the bill from the knights or corpse we encounter down there. In other words, the developers either failed to implement these hypothetical treasures as awards for killing their robbers, or they aren’t there any longer; some of the knights escaped the kingdom. Indeed, they couldn’t hide in a bunker forever. At some point, the knights left would need to venture out if they hoped to survive. In that case, the absence of these treasures is proof that some did make their flight from the capital once the air was no longer too toxic to traverse through — successfully if we can’t find hide nor hair of them. As for the others, they were either too afraid of the poison to risk venturing out so soon, or the lost the opportunity when the sanctum was soon after reclaimed.

Squalid Queen

It is ironic to call a spawn of the Abyss like Elana “corrupted”, (穢れ) but so she is. She wasn’t immune to Sinh’s poison, and it affected her to her very core. Her axe’s strong attack inflicts not just dark damage but also poison, the weapon itself conjured from a dark pool intermixed with the sickly green substance. The same holds true when conjuring any of her dark attacks, though the poison only becomes manifest with one in particular. Conjuring more dark poison pools, Elana can dredge up other entities into being. These newly formed servants mostly consist of generic enemies like skeletons and pigs, threats anyone could feasibly encounter wandering the world like Elana had. But these versions are pure green and inflict poison with each attack, proof that the dark’s dominion over space is combined with the pollutant to make these beings all the more deadly. Even for a child of Dark, the queen had become impure.

Nonetheless, she survived, which is more than could be said for her king or their subjects. In a single day, Shulva was reduced to ruin. For what purpose did they suffer this invasion? Because people from the surface sought the source of their paradise? Could those humans not have listened to the reasons why they safeguarded the dragon before sacking their home? Why did they have to lose their peaceful paradise for other men’s greed? This and more was probably swirling in Elana’s head in the aftermath of this catastrophe. Shulva had been wronged in so many ways, the price for justice impossible to pay. And for the apostle of wrath, that bred indignation. All the Drakeblood Knights down in the sanctum are Hollows, Elana the only other person inside that area. With no more reason to hide her form, the monster likely slew each of these knights on the way down.

Some of the knights did escape her wrath, perhaps even using the limits of Elana’s rampage to save their own skins in making their escape. If so, that fact probably only further enraged the queen. So many of the knights died and maybe died again, but that wasn’t enough. Her anger comes from a deep-seated grudge. And now, some of the subjects of that grudge have fled out into larger human society, possibly blending into a worldwide populace. Her subjects’ legacy was stolen to be traded around up above for the perpetrators’ profit. Even if she managed to track them all down, some might already be dead and passing along that purloined culture to friends or descendants. Whether or not these exact thoughts were on her mind, Elana certainly understood that outsiders had betrayed their trust and devastated their home. The only remedy is for the entire surface world to suffer the same indignities.

Elana chastises us as unworthy of the corruption she wishes to inflict upon us in battle, promising that we will be made impure forever. Her goal is vengeance, making everyone share in the squalor. To that end, the Squalid Queen remains in the ruins of her capital, continuing to perform her priestess duties at the Holy Wall by Sinh. The priestesses under her have returned to their duties over the temple and its knights as Hollows, the soldiers outside left to continue meandering the dead city as mindless monsters. The queen of Shulva is, in effect, back in control, and she will permit no invaders to this sunken cavern again; the door we unlock to explore the capital had been locked from the inside. Her reason for staying there, besides sentimentality, is that she is slowly preparing for the day she wreaks vengeance upon those living under the sun. The Dark can quietly await patiently for the inevitable consequence, and Elana will avenge all of those she came to love in this beautiful land.

Hmph… Not one worthy of the corruption, are you…?

You… shall be continually corrupted…

Meanwhile, Sinh has similarly remained in the cavern, though his position is decidedly less tranquil. With Yorgh’s spear still skewering him, the archdragon has been in constant limbo between the poison his purified body is reabsorbing and the stab wounds leaking it back out. There is no peace, and so the dragon reacts more violently the closer anyone is to his lair. Elana sings to appease Sinh, though it is possible that this goes beyond faith. Perhaps the monster of the Abyss plots to use him for her revenge against the world above. — the description for her soul does claim that she is gathering souls for the coming day of vengeance, and an archdragon would be the most powerful soul to have on her side; whether he would be willing to cooperate is another matter. And even if Sinh is not part of her plans, Elana still won’t let her kingdom, its pain, be forgotten.

Soul of Elena the Corrupted, who draws close to the sleeping dragon of the Holy Wall.

The spawn of Dark now with the dragon continually stockpiles souls for the coming time of vengeance.

The special soul of the apostle of “wrath” is used to acquire a vast amount of souls or create a great power.