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Needless to say, with the premise being that "something" is bringing back old Lords of Cinder (including, presumably, Gwyn and possibly Vendrick or Aldia) and with statements saying that III will tie in a lot more closely to the plots of I and II than II did to I, the pre-release ground is fertile for speculation

    Pre-release Guesses 

The fire isn't fading.
Think about the motif for each of the Dark Souls games. In 1 it was Dark, 2 was Ashes, and now 3 has Embers. Now think of when a fire goes out: it fades into embers, then into ashes, until finally it goes dark. It's going in reverse. The Dark Souls world isn't dying, it's getting stronger.
  • This makes sense with the Lords of Cinder, the ones responsible for the First Flame, coming back. But that's probably not a good thing...
  • When is anything in this series?
  • Miyazaki did say that 3 would be a turning point in the series. Maybe he meant that literally, as in this is the turning point in the cycle where dark (which by now has already covered the world) gives way to fire. Both of the previous games ended immediately after the player character linked the Flame. Perhaps this game starts from there, and we're finally going to see what that looks like from the rest of the world's perspective?

Solaire will return...
As a hollowed-out Lord of Cinder who you'll have to Mercy Kill to progress. Alternately, he might regain his humanity just long enough to help you fight the Final Boss in one last act of Jolly Cooperation, remarking that the Player Character reminds him of an old friend.
  • Jossed. Though he might be part of the Soul of Cinder.

In contrast to the one above the above...
Solaire will be seen as a ghost, and maybe gives hints as to what the afterlife of Dark Souls is like.

The Player Character, themselves is one of the revived Lords of Cinder.
This one's pretty simple. We know that the ancient Lords of Cinder are coming back. The player character is presumably not a normal undead, given that they do not have a Hollow form. The Ember item grants a new form that is eerily reminiscent of the Lord of Cinder from the trailer, Volcanic Veins and all. This new form is outright called the Lord of Cinder form. Do the math.

More specifically to the above, the Player Character is the Chosen Undead
Hey, why make up a new customizable protagonist when the revived Lords of Cinder give us a perfect excuse to bring back the DS1 protagonist?
  • Jossed. The Chosen Undead is heavily implied to be at least part of the Soul of Cinder.

The entire Dark Souls Series has been one giant prequel to Demon's Souls
I've been thinking about one thing related to DS3 that's been bugging me; the Ancient Dragons are coming back along with the Lords of Cinder. However, as of DS2 all of them had been killed (Sinh was stated to be the last living one). If the dragons are coming back, and the countless ages of Light and Dark have destroyed the world, then maybe we're going back to the Age of Ancients, when the world was all grey and shrouded in fog. If that sounds familiar, then you may remember what the primary symbol of Demon's Souls was; fog. This would be a very tenuous thread to go off of if it weren't for the fact that the final boss of Demon's was called The Old One, which would thematically work if things were reverting back to the way they were in the Age of Ancients, and it would explain why humans exist in Demon's Souls' world; they're basically leftovers from the Cycle that made it through the end of Light and Dark.

The wrecked state of the world is due to the Chaos.
In the first game, the Witch of Izalith's attempt to recreate the First Flame resulted in Chaos, which spawned demons and strange, plant-like growth. In the second game, Alsanna held back the Old Chaos to keep it from escaping and growing to consume the whole world. Now we've reached the third game, and that's exactly what's happened: strange, twisted plant life seems to be sprouting up everywhere, which Hollows seem drawn to - because after all, Humanity is drawn to the Flame.
  • Jossed: The game makes it clear that the Flame of Chaos/Old Chaos burned out and no longer exists (which makes sense: if the First Flame can burn out and die, then there's no reason the Flame of Chaos would continue indefinitely). The Demons it spawned are pretty much all dead, and the few survivors are old and decrepit.

The force causing the resurrection of the old Lords? The real Gwynevere.
It makes sense. Gwynevere was, in reality, the biggest missing element from DS1. In her absense, Gwyn did something potentially boneheaded and her little brother just made things worse trying to keep it all together, and in the end it came apart in an age of Dark. The resurrections are her attempts to "fix" the mistakes made in her absence - if she gets her Dad back, he can help make it all right, right? And if nothing else, there is that shot of a young woman donning a crown in the first trailer, and Gwynevere has been AWOL all this time...
  • the young woman looked more like Gwyndolin than Gwynevere...
    • The young woman has been revealed to be a Firekeeper, with the crown actually being a mask that covers her eyes.
      • Jossed. Gwynevere is barely mentionned in the game, the only mention of her being a painting in the Irythyll area. The force resurrecting the old lords is heavily implied to be the simple result of the fire fading without any worthy successor to rekindle it.

The Final Boss will be the Chosen Undead.
Oh. My. God. Becky. That would have to be the most epic boss battle in the entire Souls series, and one of the greatest of all time. Just imagine the possibilities of what FromSoftware could do with this. If the Lords of Cinder are returning to life, then naturally the Chosen Undead should be among them, since he/she seems to have canonically prolonged the Age of Fire in the original Dark Souls I. Sure, they could do something like make the Chosen Undead some big huge monster mutated by chaos and power, but what if they used an Old Save Bonus? The Final Boss would be totally unique to your playthrough! You may find yourself fighting a spell-casting magic user, a tank like knight, a speeding rogue who dual wields daggers... the possibilities are endless. Even better, maybe it could be turned into a dual boss fight where the Chosen Undead fights alongside the Bearer of the Curse.
  • Unlikely because that could end up leading to a dull final boss fight.
  • Possibly confirmed, minus the Old Save Bonus idea. The final boss is the Soul of Cinder, which is basically Gwyn, but borrowing powers from all the other Lords of Cinder that followed him, including the Chosen Undead. He even uses spells that are recognizably from DS1, like Power Within, Wrath of the Gods, and Homing Crystal Soulmass.
    • He also uses some spells that are noticeably from DS 2, such as Soul Spear Barrage and Soul Greatsword, meaning that the Bearer of the Curse linked the fire at the end of DS 2.

The end of the game will open the way to the final, unquestioned ascension of Humanity.
Throughout the rest of the series, there have been implications that allowing the Dark to take over will allow Humanity to take its rightful place as inheritors of the world, which allowing the Flame to go out would facilitate. With the end of the game, and the Fire now close to dying completely, if it is allowed to go out the Lords will never rise again, leaving Humanity free to take the world as their own.
  • Possibly confirmed. In the Usurp the Fire ending, as you have stolen away the First Flame and risen as the new Prince of Londor, which is described as being a kingdom of humanity and undead. If you go with the thematic progression of the endings (Link the Fire in Dark Souls I because you feel the obligation to succeed Gwyn, Abandon the Fire in Dark Souls II because you realize that the choice ultimately doesn't matter as you'd just be "inheriting the order of the world" by perpetuating a cycle that you now have the power to halt with the Lost Crowns, and Usurp the Fire here because as an Unkindled you actually can't Link the Fire properly, but can use its power in tandem with your fragment of the Dark Soul received by taking a Dark Sigil to finally break the cycle), it would make sense that this is the canon ending or at least the one the developers intended as the final nail in the coffin.

The Kiln of the First Flame is a part of Lothric
It's a location with ruined buildings covered in a wasteland of ash where the First Flame is kept. The sickly yellow sky is also present there. It's possible that the Lordvessel is a portal to Lothric, where the ruins of the old kingdoms seem to go.
  • Well, Yes and No; The Kiln is a visited location in the game and plays host to the Final Boss fight once more, but as far as it existing in Lothric, the situation is a tad muddied. Architecturally, Firelink Shrine here seems to be a copy of the original Kiln given the large circular area dominated by a single bonfire at its center. When you get teleported to the named Kiln of the First Flame after setting Lorian and Lothric's ashes upon their throne, you have to teleport to the area with the boss arena and then ascend an ash covered hill flagged by the melted stone pillars from the first Kiln rather than descend. Also, the background is composed not of the Lothric skyline or even the view from Firelink, but by countless castles and buildings all hastily piled together, along with the eclipsed and bleeding sun seen after killing your third Lord of Cinder. Put simply, the Kiln of the First Flame in this game is either an amalgamation of places and time periods that exists in an alternate dimension or plane of existence from the main game, or it definitely exists in the main world but is an Eldritch Location that has borrowed a few cues from the original Kiln like the melted pillars but is wholly its own area.

The Abyss Watchers worship Artorias
Aside from the name, their armor is very reminiscent of the Abysswalker, with the forefront knight (possibly Farron himself) wielding an exact replica of Artorias's Greatsword. Perhaps akin to the Knights of Ren, they have very faulty knowledge of Artorias and have brought the legend to an almost religious level.
  • Some of the armor from the Legion mentions wolves blood so...
  • Well, "worship" might be the wrong word, but otherwise, Confirmed. You can get Artorias' Greatsword (again) using the soul obtained from their boss fight, and the item description calls him the founder of the Abyss Watchers. And if you progress in their covenant, you can get his shield and his ring, too.

The Final Boss will be the First Flame
  • The True Final Boss will be the First Flame personified to defend itself if the Player Character decides to let it die out or usurp it. It could be similar to the Moon Presence from Bloodborne. Perhaps it will descend from the bleeding Ichorous Sun seen in pre-release images.
    • Would the Soul of Cinder be close enough?
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    Post-release Guesses 
DLC speculation
  • One of the DLCs will revolve around the "Lords of Dark," Chosen Undead who were capable of linking the fire but chose not to, as opposed to the Unkindled, who failed to link the fire in the first place.
    • It will also contain more references to Dark Souls II than I, to address complaints that the main game is biased towards the first game. Expect to see more of Vendrick, Aldia, and possibly the Bearer of the Curse.
    • The Primordial Serpents will return, and at least one of them will be an optional boss.
    • Paralleling the Final Boss of the main game, the True Final Boss will be the Dark Soul itself (or Soul of Dark if you prefer), in the form of an amalgamation of all the Lords of Dark. It will borrow moves from the Fragments of Manus as well as PvP movesets that the Soul of Cinder didn't use, like hexes, the Great Scythe, and the Bass Cannon... uh, I mean the Zweihander.
    • It will also probably take place in or around Londor, as that place gets name dropped a lot by both Yoel and Yuria but you never go to it in the main game. It will also be an inverse of Lothric, which is described as a land where all the fallen kingdoms of the Lords of Cinder converge, by being a land where all the fallen kingdoms of the Lords of Dark converge (possibly including some parts of Drangleic since Vendrick never Linked the Fire and thus his kingdom would've fallen to the Dark).
    • One of the DLCs might reveal Ocelotte, Orceiros' assumed protectorate, in full form, revealing he actually is still alive.
    • Lord Aldia will finally show up again. He's an immortal outside the cycle of light and dark after all; it's not like he could die between 2 and 3.
    • The final boss of Ashes of Ariandel would probably qualify as a Lord of Dark, but they're not referred to as such: you still get "Heir to Fire Destroyed" when you beat them. Missed opportunity for a Wham Line if this is what From is going for.
    • The final boss of the Ringed City, the final installment of the series, is Slave Knight Gael, a Hollow corrupted and consumed by the Dark Soul. His fighting style is appropriately enough remniscient of Artorias and Manus. You still get the "Heir of Fire Destroyed" message though.
  • One of the DLC packs will send us to the Deep - Some of the item descriptions reveal it is an actual location corrupted by the Abyss. It features heavily in the main plot and seems to have its own identity apart from Dark-aligned magic. We would have to descend into the Deep and find out what Aldrich really saw that sent him off the deep end, and repeatedly stab it in the face.

This game has a sequel and its name is Bloodborne.

Completely unoriginal WMG notwithstanding, Dark Souls 3 is possibly the only game that really links the Dark Souls series and Bloodborne because of one boss: Aldrich.

After you kill Aldrich, his soul's description really stuck out to me.

'When Aldrich ruminated on the fading of the fire, it inspired visions of a coming age of the deep sea. He knew the path would be arduous, but he had no fear. He would devour the gods himself'.

The first part 'a coming age of the deep sea'. Anyone who's played through Bloodborne and its DLC will know that that's where the Great Ones came from. Maybe what Aldrich was seeing was the Bloodborne world after the fire was left to fade or had been been usurped by the Ashen One.

The final part could also be used as proof because in Bloodborne that's pretty much what you do. Devour gods until, in one ending, you eventually become one. Maybe Aldrich saw this and was trying to replicate it.

  • There are a few more hints. Irithyll sounds very similar to the Pthumerian capital Ihyll from Bloodborne, and indeed the enemies you fight there are very similar to the Pthumerians you meet in the respective chalice dungeon. You also stumble on two "Drang Knights" there, a not-so-subtle reminder of the decay of language over the course of generations (i.e. with the fall of Drangleic, its original name was forgotten, just like New Londo is now known as Londor). All of this implies that Irithyll may be the origin of the Pthumerian civilisation in Bloodborne, and so Yharnam will essentially be built on the long-forgotten ruins of Anor Londo.
    • Oh, and by the way: The covenants of Rosaria and Aldrich have very ominous symbols - both are reminiscent of Caryll runes. Rosaria's covenant symbol is very similar to a turned-sideways Lake rune, and Aldrich's looks almost identical to the Formless Oedon rune. In fact, Rosaria herself looks very much like the Great One known as Kos, and as with Kos, her worshippers turn into invertebrates. Likewise, Aldrich's lore likens him to the Great One Oedon, as both are known to be formless, cannibalistic entities.
  • Didn't Miyazaki officially stated Bloodborne wasn't in the same universe than the Dark Souls games? (Can't find an official source, only people stating he said that, though).
    • See, here's the thing: "Universe" is a very elastic term in a game series about multiverses. I'd argue that we could easily have an implied Rapture/Columbia scenario here. And if not that, then let's just compare it to Warhammer: When you think of Dark Souls as Warhammer Fantasy, and Bloodborne as Warhammer 40K, then Dark Souls III would be the Age of Siegmeyer... uh, Sigmar of the series, i.e. a thematic connection without outright unifying both universes.

Aldrich the Puppeteer

Watch the movements of Gwyndolin, Aldrich is clearly having some issues going on with all those hands and the elongated arms. What if Gwyndolin isn't completely dead? What if he's still dimly conscious, unable to move or scream and just used as a puppet by this beast? How many others are in a similar state, consumed yet still there and unable to do anything as this creature uses their abilities and bodies as its own?

By killing Aldrich, you're probably doing Gwyndolin a huge favor.

Deep = Abyss
I read somewhere online that the translation team messed up and the references to "Deep" are supposed to say "Abyss". Not sure how seriously to take this, but it would explain a few things.
  • Not true. One of the item descriptions describes the Deep as a peaceful location before it was tainted by the Abyss.

We haven't actually gone to the Boreal Valley
One thing that has been bugging me is how every reference to the Boreal Valley has mentioned something being "of the Boreal Valley". Vordt is "of the Boreal Valley", The Dancer is "of the Boreal Valley", even the city of Irithyll is "of the Boreal Valley". This got me thinking, and I don't actually think we've been to the Boreal Valley, we've just been to places and encountered beings that hail from there or were influenced by it. My guess for the Boreal Valley? The ruins of Eleum Loyce, considering the shared ice theme and the fact that Pontiff Sulyvahn discovered the "Profaned Flame" in much the same way that the Ivory King found the Old Chaos beneath Eleum Loyce.
  • Except the Old Chaos is (at the very least strongly implied to be) the Chaos Flame burning out of control. By the time of Dark Souls III, the Chaos Flame has burnt out.
    • That being the case, the Old Chaos could still have some embers of itself kicking around in the same way that the First Flame does. After all, the Profaned Capital has a lot of pyromancy using stone gargoyles (living stone being indicative of a lot of enemies in Lost Izalith) and the Old Demon King still existed up to the point in the game where you encounter Sulyvahn (provided you didn't go down to the Smouldering Lake first, in which case the Old Demon King was only freshly dead by the time you encounter Sulyvahn). While the main brunt of the Old Chaos is gone, little bits of it could still be around that Sulyvahn could've happened upon in the past before the game started.
  • When speaking to Anri at Firelink shrine after the Deacons of the Deep fight, she/he states that Aldrich left his coffin and returned to his "home". Anri also states Aldrich was born in the Boreal Valley. Following this, Irithyll IS in the boreal valley. The "of the" in the title could be a mistake in translation or even just a bad way to say it.
    • The Small Doll's description also states that Irithyll is situated in the Boreal Valley, so it seems like the 'of the' is just meant to suggest Irithyll is a part of the Valley, like how Vordt and the Dancer have the title to suggest they hail from it.

Yuria killed Yoel
Yoel and Yuria are both from Londor, a shadowy, despised land to most (with item descriptions and Irina's reaction to the Londor Tome backing it up). However, Yoel himself seems like a nice person, being a pilgrim desperate for death after living through his journey and eager to help with new purpose. However, after getting the Dark Sigil 5 times, Yuria comes in while Yoel dies off, with Yuria claiming he was at peace having completed his purpose. But seeing as she's serving Kaathe, and hence the Darkwraiths, who's to say she didn't kill him after he inadvertently served her purpose?
  • In addition, what if Yoel was once with the Darkwraiths but left to make sure he died in Lothric?

The Fire was made from a woman's soul
A lot of references to the first fire keeper are in this game, in both item descriptions and dialogue, and most of them are very ominous or mention some kind of betrayal. This theory is that the Lords of DS 1 sacrificed a woman to be the first source of Fire and to act as the fire keeper, so that they could gain power. Maybe Ludleth was there, as he seems very knowledgeable about the whole thing if you get the Fire Keeper's Eyes from The Untended Graves. The whole series has been about revealing this betrayal and rectifying it in the End the Fire or Usurp the Fire Endings.

There will be a battle against The Four Knights of Gwyn in the DLC
There's no real support for this, as we don't know where or when the DLCs will be set, but come on, how epic would it be? All through the series we've heard how awesome they are, and we've encountered them all being badass and pwerful on their own. But we've never seen them all together as a unit, despite them being mentioned together frequently in the background. It would be a real climax to the series if we faced them together: Artorias and Ornstein on the front line as bad ass Lightning Bruisers, Gough raining huge arrows down on us, and Ciaran leaping out of the shadows to shred us when we least expect it. Or maybe them all together would simply be too hard, as they sound unstoppable as a unit. Are we actually up to the challenge?

Yorshka is Priscilla
It is strongly implied that The Nameless King is Priscilla's father. This would make her a direct descendant of Gwyn. Going off this, this means that Gwyndolin and Priscilla were the only deities left in Anor Londo after Dark Souls 1. The lore states that Gwyndolin sacrificed himself to Aldrich to save Yorshka from him. Yet Aldrich can use a miracle version of Priscilla's Lifehunt Scythe, as Gwyndolin dreamt of her as he was being devoured. If Gwyndolin gave himself to save Yorshka, why would he be thinking of Priscilla at that moment? Because Priscilla was the only family he had left and would do anything to protect her. Yorshka is also very tall and has a tail, just like Priscilla. The Painting Guardian armor set is also found in the tower where she is imprisoned. All this seems to hint that Yorshka is Priscilla, possibly having changed her identity to hide from Aldrich or to lead the Darkmoon Blades.
  • Yorshka's Chime is a weapon in game, and its description says that it was presented to her by the previous knight captain (who would be Gwyndolin) along with another gift: her name. The chime also has Gwyndolin's colors of white and gold, as well as a similar silhouette on its end to the Golden Ritual Spear.
  • It should be noted that the Chime states that the previous knight captain of the Darkmoon Blades was her 'brother'. If she really is Gwyn's daughter, then that leaves only two people - the Nameless King (unlikely) and Gwyndolin to whom she herself refers as 'brother'. However, that would mean that Nameless King can't be her father unless she's not related by blood to Gwyndolin. While it's possible that she IS Priscilla, it raises a lot more questions about Gwyn's family.
  • Perhaps both Gwyndolin and Priscilla are the children of Seath and Gwyn's wife. This would explain why Gwyndolin was treated so harshly (Gwyn suspected he was illegitimate), why he has a power and leitmotif that's usually associated with Seath, and why he would have a soft spot for Priscilla (his full sister, unlike Gwynevere and Nameless, who would only be half-siblings).

Alternatively, Yorshka is Priscilla's mother
Hence why she refers to Gwyndolin and Gwyn as her brother and father. She's the nameless king's wife, which would make them her in-laws (so far as they could be "in law" given the context).

Dancer of the Boreal Valley is related to Lord's Blade Ciaran
It's stated that Gwyndolin and Yorshka were the only ones left in Anor Londo by the time Aldrich devoured Gwyndolin but the descendants of the gods were the royalty in Irithyll. Dancer is referred to as a 'distant daughter of the formal royal family'. Now, if the body found near Sif in DS 1 is truly Ciaran then this theory could fall apart of course. But if not then it's not a stretch that she would leave with all the other gods to become either nobility or a bodyguard to the royal family in Irithyll. Otherwise,it might be just that she inspired Dancer or a force similar to the Abyss Watchers which 'borrowed' her signature fighting style

Yorsha believing she will see her brother once again might not be that far fetched.
Considering the fact that Aldrich devoured characters that were supposed to be already dead by the end of Dark Souls I , Gwyndolin could have come Back from the Dead long after the event of the first game. After all, if souls such as the Four from Dark Souls II could reincarnate, maybe Gwyndolin did the same ? And like the Emerald Herald said, Linking the Fire would causes Souls to flourish anew.So maybe Gwyndolin could come back, it would probably take a long time though, but it doesn't seem to be a problem for Gods.

Or maybe this is all a part of 'time is distorted in Lordan' deal. Which... complicate things even more.

  • Unfortunately we don't really have any proof that he's eaten any other gods besides Gwyndolin. Everything else can be explained by the fact he ate people and could absorb their abilities. It's possible he ate pyromancers and the remains of the Gravelord Servants (or Nito's remains) over the eons of time he's been around.

Yorshka is Ocelotte
This one's pretty simple. Yorshka is Ocelotte, youngest son of Oceiros and the Queen of Lothric, who is implied to be Gwynevere. Oceiros went mad and Ocelotte was born "Of Dragons", looking to be a crossbreed like Priscilla. The Queen of Lothric left soon after Ocelotte was born, and Ocelotte was taken from Oceiros as a baby, making it not so farfetched to say the Queen took him. Somehow, the child wound up with Gwyndolin, whether the Queen left him with him, or he was taken somehow. Gwyndolin then raised the boy as he himself was raised (i.e. as a woman), telling Yorshka she was his sister.
  • While this isn't entirely out of the question, there are some differences to keep in mind. First, Yorshka looks far less androgynous than Gwyndolin (who despite common insistence doesn't actually appear to have a large bust, especially when being controlled by Aldrich. She also has a female voice actor, rather than a male one speaking in a feminine tone. Gwyndolin is also explicitly referred to as male despite the way Gwyn raised him, while Yorshka's item descriptions and the sparse dialog concerning her refer to her as explicitly female. Her appearance also evokes Priscilla, but looks younger and more like the children of Gwyn.

Ocelotte was born deformed.
Think about it. The queen of Lothric was worshiped as a fertility goddess, before suddenly disappearing after birthing Oceiros...or being disappeared for producing such an unclean heir. We know king Oceiros is obsessed with Ocelotte and with studying Seath's secrets, but we don't know why he started the latter. Putting 2 and 2 together, Oceiros studied Seath's magic in an attempt to cure his child, then was driven mad by his knowledge and started thinking of his child as less "deformed" and more "perfected..." hence, "child of dragons." Finally, Ocelotte died, due to complications from his deformity. Oceiros, having sacrificed his kingdom, his sanity and even his humanity to heal this child, promptly has a psychotic break and delusional believed the child was still alive.

As a bonus, the child may have had literally "dragonlike" deformations, much like the rumors about Daenerys Targaryen's child.

  • It doesn't seem likely that Oceiros would make himself more dragonlike if he considered it a deformity. It's also stated that he practically worshipped dragons, particularly the Paledrake. I think it's more likely that she either died or was maimed in the process of delivering Ocelotte, since his dialog suggests Ocelotte being the "child of dragons" was his goal.

"The End of Fire"-ending is canon from meta perspective
Now, Dark Souls III is the last installment in the Souls-series, so its light is finally going out for good, and FROM is subtly suggesting that they want the franchise to go out with dignity while it's still on top, rather than stretch out to increasingly unimaginative and soulless sequels. But, as the Fire Keeper puts it, tiny flames still flicker beyond the darkness, like embers of the past Lords. This refers to the fact that FROM Soft isn't going anywhere, and their creative energies are still hard at work to bring out new franchises potentially just as strong and popular as the Souls have been.

  • In a way, yes; the series treats all possibilities as canon since every playthrough of each of the games is considered its own fragment of a larger multiverse. Their reason for ending the series seems to be more because Namco Bandai, the company that commissioned the game and holds its copyrights, decided that they were done with the series.

The Gwyndolin and Priscilla Boss Fights from Dark Souls are not canon
They could happen in Dark Souls but due to the timey wimey deal in Lordran, they either didn't happen or just didn't happen in the world of Dark Souls 3. This is why Gwyndolin and (maybe) Priscilla are still hanging around in modern day Lothric. The boss fights of these two are just like when you attack any NPC that you're not meant to and/or shows up in later gamers Like Andre, just that they have a boss health bar on them.
  • The series works very heavily with the Many Worlds Interpretation, with multiple worlds being linked but thinly removed from each other due to the distorted time of the world. All possibilities are equally true, and none of the events of the games seem to be any more or less canon than any others.

Alva isn't looking for Zullie herself, but her murderer.
Most of us know by now that Alva went from "the Wayfarer," to, "Seeker of the Spurned," but how exactly did it happen? My guess is that at some point in their life Alva and Zullie came across the Spurned(heavily implied to be Karla), who shortly began lusting over Alva. Then, after being rejected or spurned by the knight, killed Zullie in some fashion and ran. Alva, who probably witnessed the event, then began his dark descent and started searching for the Spurned to have his revenge. The only piece of evidence I have, which is a stretch I'll admit, is the Black Witch set from Dark Souls 2 saying Zullie in the end spent her life with Alva. Which I interpreted as Zullie was with Alva until she died. So the Spurned isn't Zullie herself, but her murderer.
  • Another theory, implied by the description of her ashes and Alva's items, is that Karla is Zullie.

Ludleth was never meant to be a Lord of Cinder.
In fact, Ludleth tried to bring about an Age of Dark. The person who was supposed to become the Lord from his age was Champion Gundyr. Gundyr's armor set states that the was meant to Link the Fire before being 'bested by an unknown warrior'. And what is the epithet used to describe Ludleth? The Exiled. Ludleth may have been no more than a wandering outcast whom Gundyr befriended, similar to how the Ashen One befriends various Non Player Characters, only for Ludleth to betray him at the last second. So what changed his mind? The fire keeper. Ludleth's dialogue says he chose to become a Lord when a fire keeper told him about horrible visions of the Age of Dark. There is also the matter of the Fire Keeper's Eyes. Once you retrieve the Eyes from the Untended Graves, which I believe to be a memory of Ludleth's similar to the Giant Memories from Dark Souls II, Ludleth talks about how the eyes witnessed a great betrayal and horrible visions. This mirrors the item description and Gundyr's armor in an eerie way, as if he had first-hand knowledge of the events. Here's what I believe happened: After Gundyr had gathered the four Lord Souls or Great Powers needed to Link the Fire, Ludleth chained him down (explaining why the transposable ring from Gundyr's soul is a chain link), claimed the strength of Lords for himself, and intended to End the Flame. Before he could go through with it, however, the Shrine's fire keeper told him of her visions of the Age of Dark, and he had a last-minute change of heart to Link the Fire instead. It would also explain why he doesn't chastise you when he asks if you're contemplating Ending the Fire, because he was once in the same position.
  • In addition to the above, perhaps Gundyr pulled a Taking You with Me as Ludleth subdued him, cutting his legs off and forcing him to crawl to the shrine. On the verge of bleeding out and seeing the Fire Keeper's vision, he had no choice but to Link the Fire.
  • Ludleth specifically states that he tried to prevent the Age of Dark but arrived too late, and that he then created the new world where he had a few scant moments left so that he could Link the Fire. Gundyr was originally supposed to do so, but failed because the player went through the original timeline and killed Gundyr on the way to Firelink Shrine. Which is exactly what happens if you enter the Untended Graves. The player is the betrayer.

The Pilgrim Butterflies are actually the Everlasting Dragons rebuilding their forms.
They're Everlasting dragons after all. Gwyn and the rest of the gods didn't kill them, they just destroyed their physical forms. And now that the fire is fading, they're starting to return.

The Undead Legion destroyed the Kingdom of Carthus, but became corrupted by The Abyss in the process.

Behind the mausoleum in Farron Keep where we fight the Abyss Watchers, we find the Catacombs of Carthus sealed away behind a secret panel. At first glance it seems like a typical case of The Necrocracy, but items such as Wolnir's Crown state that the tyrant conquered multiple Kingdoms, forging his own crown from the crowns of the conquered kings.

I know Space Compression is at work here, but the Catacombs don't seem very impressive for an empire. So what's the connection to the Undead Legion?

Wolnir was a typical warlord bent on conquering his rivals and neighbours and he succeeded (whether he was a giant before he became a skeleton is up for debate.) The Undead Legion weren't bothered by petty politics, so they left him to it.

But at some point, Wolnir discovered the Abyss, and became obsessed by it, even getting his servants (the grave wardens) to study its secrets. As Carthus became corrupted by the Abyss, the Undead Legion caught word of this and took notice.

The Undead Legion's set and Hawkwood confirm that the Legion were zealots who would destroy a kingdom at the first sign of the Abyss. So when they heard about Carthus they attacked without mercy. The mighty Carthus Swordsman were no match for the fury of the Legion, and everyone was slaughtered. Look around the Catacombs: there are urns packed with bones in every room, skeletons eveywhere, including enough to make two boulders entirely from bodies.

The catacombs aren't the regal tomb of a noble dynasty, it's a mass grave. The Legion killed everyone in Carthus down to the last woman and child, whether they were tainted by the Abyss or not. To top it off they sealed the whole place off to stop anyone getting close to the Abyss.

Here's where it gets murky: Either the Legion killed Wolnir, but his Abyss powers brought him back in his half-cursed state along with his followers. Or perhaps he fled when they attacked to his little pocket dimension and they could not find him. Or he might have already ended up there before the attack.

The final sting in the tail: The Abyss Watchers themselves became corrupted during the massacre (perhaps a parting gift from Wolnir) and when they realised what happened they did the only thing they could, give themselves to the First Flame in an effort to purge their souls of the Abyss. As we see when we fight them, it didn't work. So Carthus and Farron both died for nothing.

Yhorm did not go mad from linking the fire, but from seeing everything he fought for destroyed.

It's assumed that Yhorm is simply insane from having linked the fire, but I always found that to be a rather simplistic notion for a game with such tragic backstories for almost every character. All the other Lords have more complex reasons for shirking their duties: The Abyss Watchers are locked in endless civil war, Aldritch is an evil bastard who wasn't all there beforehand and wants to bring about the Age of The Deep, and Lothric is fed up of the whole linking of the fire nonsense and wants the world to lay down and die with dignity.

But what of Yhorm? In his life before becoming a Lord he ruled a kingdom benevolently, even giving his people the only weapon capable of killing him to ease their concerns about being ruled by a giant. Yhorm defended his people valianty, standing as a one-man army to protect them. But despite this he never quite got the respect he deserved.

Then one day, the Profaned Flame appeared in his homeland, and Yhorm feared it would destroy his people. For some reason Yhorm believed linking the fire would stop it, so he sacrificed himself for the sake of his followers.

When he returned as a Lord of Cinder, he feared the worst and rushed back to his Capital to find it in ruins. His gambit had failed, as the flame had run out of control and immolated almost all his people. Look around the Profaned Capital and you'll see piles of charred bodies everywhere, some of them melted into a pile of burnt flesh. Twisting the knife futher, Yhorm found the few who had survived worshipping the damn flame! (If that pyre that flings fireballs at you is the Profaned Flame.)

Yhorm sank into a deep depression, doing nothing but languish on the throne of a city he failed to save, burning with anger at those survivors who betrayed him. When the Ashen One and Siegward arrive to kill him, he's too consumed by hate to remember the promise between them, seeing it instead as yet another betrayal. He goes beserk, lashing out at his only friend in an attempt to punish the world that punished him for so long.

The main problem with this theory is if it were so, why did Yhorm ask Siegward to kill him if he ever came back as a Lord of Cinder? Perhaps he feared he would lose his mind after all, or maybe he somehow knew his resurrection would mean he had failed?

Just why did Aldrich become a Lord of Cinder?

Aldrich's past and his motives are vague at best and downright non-existent at worse.

What is known, though, is that the Devourer of Gods is, or rather was, a right and proper cleric, until he started eating men, women and children. Why he would become a cannibal is relatively unknown, except for the fact he wishes to become a deity. Aldrich himself would soon become a a blobby, slug of a man and then... softened into sludge. Now, why would he, a lowly cleric, wish to become some twisted parody of a true god? Simple... Pontiff Sulyvahn.

The Age of Dark ending isn't as much of a sacrifice as it seems

One reason to link the fire is the desires of all the friendly NPC's you meet along the way. Sacrificing yourself to the fire in order to prolong the world isn't a great motivation, given what we've seen of the world, but doing it to save Andre, the Handmaid, Irina, Yorshka, Karla, Patches, and a few other friendly characters should be all the reason you need.

Except... we see two other versions of Firelink Shrine during the course of the game. If the one in the Untended graves is the past, it's reasonable to assume the one in the Kiln is the future, and it seems to have a history. It's quite possible all of these characters lived out a few more centuries under the failing sun, and there really is nothing left to save by the time you actually reach the kiln.

The Soul of Cinder is not Gwyn, exactly.
The common assumption is that the mixing in of Gwyn's theme with the Soul's during the second phase (and it is actually more than just the first three notes, but most of the piano layer from that track) is supposed to indicate that the Soul of Cinder is an amalgamation of souls of all past Lords of Cinder, with Gwyn being dominant. However, there are a few other hints that contradict this.

First is the implied intent of Dark Souls II's bosses seeming to be incarnations of the first game's. Since the Soul of Cinder is implied to have existed since the Fire was first Linked but only now took form, it wouldn't make much sense for Gwyn (the "vainglorious lair who ended up hurling himself into the flame") to both be the Soul and possessing the Old Iron King.

The second is the awakened Lords of Cinder and the Unkindled. Both were said to have been consumed by the Flame until they were but ash, each in different ways. Their souls were able to return to their ashes and rebuild their bodies, but if the theory about the Soul of Cinder were true, they would either be part of the collective or consumed with their memories added to the Soul's.

As such, it seems more like the Flame taking the experiences or some sort of intangible "essence" from its hosts, being shaped by them either as a side effect or a tribute to them for their sacrifice. In a way, it still "is" them, but as a separate individual rather than a merged collective. This is, admittedly, splitting hairs, but then a lot of the lore for the series relies on that.

Yorshka is Priscilla and Gwyndolin's daughter
It's almost certain Priscilla and Yorshka have some kind of connection, given they're both dragon crossbreed girls found in (or at least Priscilla's painting is) Anor Londo. However, it doesn't make a lot of sense that Yorshka would be a disguised Priscilla, as they have several physical differences (Yorshka's hair is brown to Priscilla's white, she lacks Priscilla's fur, the scales on their faces are different, etc). Additionally, if you kill Yorshka, she just drops a chime, not Priscilla's iconic Lifehunt Scythe. That? That is forged from Aldrich's soul, which I'll get back to in a minute.

The most obvious guess, if they're not the same person, would be that they're related—specifically, Priscilla being her mother. So why Gwyndolin as her father? For one, he's one of the only other living beings in Anor Londo, and he's already shown himself to befriend other "abominations" (like the Darkmoon Knightess). It's not unlikely he'd reach out to her too, especially if they got lonely over the centuries of isolation. In fact, it's heavily implied he did; why can you forge the Lifehunt Scythe miracle from Aldrich's soul? Because as he devoured Gwyndolin, he dreamed of Gwyndolin's last thoughts, which were of a pale girl in hiding—Priscilla, the only person associated with the Lifehunt Scythe.

So why would Gwyndolin's last thoughts, as he's being eaten alive, be about Priscilla, instead of his father or Gwynevere or one of his knights? In his final moments, he wasn't thinking about someone he loved, but her. However, if they were lovers, it suddenly makes sense why he would. And that results in Yorshka.

Now, Yorshka does talk about "Father Gwyn and Sister Gwynevere". However, remember what Gwyndolin says when you join the Darkmoon Covenant in the first Dark Souls? He tells you you shall become "a shadow of Father Gwyn and Sister Gwynevere", which is different from how he usually refers to them ("the Great Lord" and "the Godmother"). It almost sounds like religious titles, rather than literal titles. In fact, that line is word-for-word what Yorshka says about them—it's a ceremonial phrase!

Secondly, while she refers to him as her brother, Gwyndolin is a canonical I Did What I Had to Do liar with self-image issues. He might very well have decided he was too "frail and repulsive" to serve as a father figure and lied to Yorshka about the true nature of their relation. He was also the one who named her, which is a very fatherly thing to do and may have been the one concession he allowed himself.

Finally, this is more speculative, but Priscilla's nature could explain why she's not around. For one, she's an exile, so she's not allowed to leave the Painted World. For another, she might have agreed to stay away from Yorshka not just to uphold Gwyndolin's lie, but to keep her safe—Priscilla was locked away because her abilities made her The Dreaded. She might have feared the same thing, or possibly worse, happening to Yorshka if she was known to be her daughter.

Yhorm the Giant is Wolnir's descendant

High Lord Wolnir lives up to his name, being truly gigantic. But what if this size isn't a result of Abyssal corruption, but because he is, in fact, a giant like Yhorm? Wolnir is an ancient conqueror, evidenced by the skeletons that fill the catacombs where he reside being Undead so old they've completely decayed, and his crown's description speaking of how he took over the lands of the other lords of Carthus. And Yhorm's soul tells us that he was the descendant of an ancient conqueror.

Coupling this with the fact that Carthus was affected by the convergence of the lands, when it's stated that only lands affiliated with the Lords of Cinder (the transitory lands of the Lords of Cinder) are affected, its safe to assume that Wolnir is Yhorm's ancestor.

    Ashes of Ariandel pre-release Guesses 

We'll finally get to see Velka, Goddess of Sin

That statue of her in the Undead Settlement looks frighteningly similar to the veiled woman seen from the trailer, so my money's on that being Velka herself and the statue being the method for entering Ariandel. Plus some screenshots have surfaced of beings that look like the crow demons from 1 & 2, further showing the connection.

  • If we do not get to see the rogue deity herself, then this boss could either be a follower, one of her potential children or a look-alike.
  • Jossed, it's none of those. That doesn't preclude her somehow being involved, though. Especially after the launch trailer for The Ringed City shows someone else who might be her.

Ariandel is in or is the Painted World of Ariamas

Firstly the architecture looks frighteningly similar to the Painted World, there's a ton of snow in there like the Painted World, the naming conventions for both locations are similar, and a leaked bit of concept art shows creatures that look like the crow demons that populated the Painted World in 1.

In addition to this, there is a shot in the trailer of a young woman caressing what looks to be a painting canvas, which could either be the painting from 1 that lead to the Painted World, or is a different painting with similar properties.

  • Potentially. But for all we know, it could be an entirely new region!
  • Confirmed!...Somewhat. It is A painted world, namely the Painted World of Ariandel; so "A different painting with similar properties" is exactly correct. However, the colosseum where you fight Crossbreed Priscilla makes an appearance, meaning it may be the original after all.

Gwynevere will have something to do with Ariandel

In the trailer four bosses from the base game are depicted; Oceiros, Lorian and Lothric, the Nameless King, and Aldrich/Gwyndolin. If one subscribes to the theory that Gwynevere was the Queen of Lothric, then each of these bosses has a personal connection to her (Oceiros was her husband, Lorian and Lothric her children, and Nameless and Gwyndolin her brothers). The selection of these bosses would seem completely arbitrary were it not for that one connecting theme of the theory, thus lending credence to both the theory on Gwynevere and her potential role in the DLC.

The snow that's falling in the trailer isn't snow...

It's Ash. Why, you ask? Just look at the title: Ashes of Ariandel. If that isn't convincing, I don't know what is!

  • The same argument could be made for Irithyll. Just because Ashes are an Arc Symbol doesn't necessarily mean that everything has to relate back to it. Plus, the titular Ashes could relate to what the old man from the trailer said about "the ashes coming to Ariandel", perchance referring to you the player, since you are "Unkindled Ash". Besides, each game has had a snowy area in it (The Painted World in 1, Eleum Loyce in 2, Irithyll in the base game, and even Cainhurst in Bloodborne), so what's one more to round it out?
    • The latter argument is pretty much confirmed. The theme of the DLC is the conflict between being left to rot or letting the painting burn itself away, and the crux of the argument is the new ash entering...You.

Aldia will appear in some form

Aldia is responsible for the creation of the Forlorn, who are said to wander from world to world without a home. The trailer dialogue specifically says "...If you are like us, another forlorn soul with no place to call your own...", which recalls the role and description of the Forlorn from Scholar of the First Sin. Since Aldia is immortal, being completely removed from the cycle of light and dark, it's entirely possible that he could appear in the DLC. The fiery tree early on in the trailer looks very much like his new form as the Scholar of the First Sin.

  • Listen to the first part of the DLC's trailer theme. Sound familiar? It's the first part of Nashandra's theme. FROM rarely mashes irrelevant stuff together, and because of this, Nashandra's corpse may have been taken by Aldia and twisted into the creature we see after Oceiros, Aldrich, The Nameless King and The Twin Princes are shown... Or it's just Gwynevere
  • Jossed. However, Sister Friede has ties to Londor, so the reference to Nashandra is not entirely misplaced.

Ariandel influenced Irithyll of the Boreal Valley

Aside from the similarity in architecture and weather, one room in Irithyll holds host to a bunch of paintings from past games (including one of Gwynevere and one of Nashandra). Given that Anor Londo played host to the painting of the Painted World and Irithyll is just an extension of that city, it may stand to reason that Ariandel and the Painted World of Ariamas influenced post-Dark Souls I Anor Londo and Irithyll (if one believes that the Painted World of Ariamas and Ariandel are one and the same or extremely similar locations).

  • Possibly. Ariandel definitely looks a lot like a primitive Irithyll, and could possibly be where the citizens of the Boreal Valley fanned out from.
    • Alternately, it could be that Ariandel's painted world is or is based on the original...

You know that unopenable door in the Pontiff's boss room?
It's the entrance to Ariandel, or a foyer that requires defeating a boss inside to access truly.
  • Jossed A new character appears in the Cleansing Chapel bonfire area to give you the entrance to Ariandel.

The boss in the trailer is wielding the Lordvessel as a weapon.
  • What else could a massive, ornate bowl that leaks fire be?
  • An ornate bowl that leaks fire?
    • Sort-of confirmed...It does look like the Lordvessel, and it is being used for a similar purpose... Sister Friede has Ariandel making himself bleed into the bowl in a feeble attempt to rekindle the flame of the painted world.
    • She's actually trying to prevent the flame from being rekindled. She wants the world to continue on in its rotting form rather than be consumed by flame to be reborn. But close examination of the two shows it's not THE Lordvessel, being deeper and with a different design. However, it could be something very much like a Lordvessel equivalent for the Painted World.

    Ashes of Ariandel post-release Guesses 
The final DLC will give a clearer picture on what the Dark Lord ending will be and more.
  • IT will also give hints that the Dark souls series are in fact prequels to Demon Souls and Bloodborne and confirm that they both share the same world. Except the later two take place in Humanity's Age of dark. Furthe more,the Dark lord ending no matter what will be canon to some extent and the series will conclude with the question of was it really worth it?

The main theme of the DLC

    The Ringed City pre-release Guesses 
The DLC is either post-game or accessed via the Kiln of the First Flame where the Soul of Cinder is fought.

Given the clips showing twisted ruins and the narration that the Ringed City can be found at the end of the world, it makes sense that it can be accessed via the Kiln of the First Flame.

  • The Ringed City itself appears to be the large ring of twisted buildings seen surrounding the Kiln during the standard game ending. One player who hacked the game explored the area using a moon-jump mod and found that there are bonfires in the ruins. The trailer shows some of the sections that he explored, but also some that didn't appear to be present in that specific location.
    • Confirmed! The relevant bonfire is right next to the one for the final boss.

    The Ringed City post-release Guesses 
Midir's breath weapon is a Shout-Out to Shin Godzilla.
  • Watching Midir spewing a torrent of fire only to have it concentrate into a purple beam of utter devastation is too big of a coincidence, given the film's acclaim in Japan. It wouldn't be the first time FROM drew inspiration from other media (Berserk anyone?).

The Abyss Dragon who destroyed the Ethereal Oak isn't Kalameet, but none other than Midir
  • Since Kalameet was long dead, Midir is probably the only living Abyss Dragon in the current era. Perhaps, Midir was once sent to battle against the Millwood Knights and he burned down the Ethereal Oak.

The broken egg Filianore is embracing was Midir's egg.
  • She took care of him since he was an egg and raised him after hatching. That is why he dedicated himself to protecting her even if it meant facing the Abyss for an eternity. He's protecting the closest thing he has ever had to a mother.

The Kingdoms are clustering together around the First Flame to try and stave off their demise.
Space Compression aside, the kingdoms of the Lords of Cinder (plus a few other places) are all rather small and within spitting distance of each of each other. Emma call them "churning homes converging upon the base of this castle," and as of The Ringed City, we can see Anor Londo and Lothric from the wasteland where the final boss is fought. This confirms that those aren't mountains we can see in the distance of every land, but miles upon miles of desolate piles of ash with nothing but the ruins of former lands within.

The Fire is fading, and only those lands with a strong enough link to it (via the Lords of Cinder, Wolnir, The Old Demon King or Princess Filianore to name a few.) are left. The rest have crumbled into ash or ended up on the Dreg Heap. The remaining lands have been drawn through time and space to Lothric, where the Flame is strongest, huddling around it to keep themselves alive just a tiny bit longer. The same thing happened in Lordran centuries earlier (it's unlikely the Gods of the whole world and their lands could really fit inside a small town.)

But it's not working. The lands are shrinking and overlapping and the Lords are burning out faster than ever. This allows the Ashen One to travel to the Lords with relative ease.

The undead curse ad Filianore's egg explained
In The Ringed City, we discover that Gwyn had cast a "seal of fire" in the ancient humans and their equipment, in order to suppress them. We can presumably see this seal on the Ringed Knights armour, and it looks just like a Darksign and the bleeding sun. This finally explains the curse of undeath and Hollowing. When fire starts to fade, the seal weakens, and thus humans start to revert into their true form. But, even weakened, the curse still lingers and, being unable to completely suppress the Dark Soul, it starts having nasty effects as both forces fight each other for dominance. Much like how some symptoms of a viral infection aren't caused by the virus itself, but the body fighting back against it. So, "regular" humans are the result of the curse showing its full effect, keeping them weak and submissive to the gods, Hollows are the end result of the weakened curse still trying to keep the true forms of humanity in check, and we never go to see the actual true shape of the humans in the Dark Souls series.

But the curse doesn't extend just to humans, it acts on the world itself. The Darksign at the sky of Lothric is a representation of the world itself starting to go Hollow, and starting to collapse onto itself forming the Dreg Heap. Just like with humans, this desolated world isn't the true form of the Age of Dark approaching, but a result of a curse. The whole world is collapsing on top of the Kiln of the First Flame, because the curse doesn't allow it to move on into the next age. That's why no attempt at having a Dark Age worked before. Manus, The Four Kings, Londor, all of them were bound to fail because Gwyn placed a safeguard to try to keep humanity down forevermore, even if that would destroy the world.

When you break Filianore's egg, though, the entire world changes. Gone is the bleeding sun (replaced by a natural setting sun, a true ending to the Age of Fire), and we see Lothric back into its original shape in the distance, alongside Anor Londo, no Dreg Heap to be seen. The curse is finally broken, after all those ages. Much like Gwyn's sacrifice to the First Flame kept the Age of Fire going, Filianore's sleep and her egg kept the seal of fire going. The state of the egg when you find it represents the weakening of the curse. It's a white egg with something pitch black inside, a shell meant to keep the Dark contained. But it's half broken, the Dark is leaking through, but not completely free of the egg's grasp.

Even if the game makes no fanfare about it and there is no credits roll, the end of this DLC is the true ending of the game. Going to the Kiln and defeating the Soul of Cinder is unnecessary, because the world is now set into actually moving on to a new age without any further push needed.

The Pilgrim Butterflies and the Angels are both mankind ascendant, but in different ways
In the base game, after defeating the Dancer and getting up to Lothric Castle, you can see that the Undead Trees dotting the High Wall have for the most part vanished, instead being replaced by the Pilgrim Butterflies which look like an unholy amalgamation of the Moonlight Butterfly and the Bed of Chaos. Conversely, The Ringed City gives us the Pilgrim Angels, looking like fleshier and more realized versions of the Pilgrim Butterflies (with a dash of the Darklurker).

My theory is that both of these creatures are ascended forms of man, but they get their power and forms through either Fire or Dark. After The Ringed City revealed that mankind has always been cursed by Fire through the Darksign Gwyn and the gods afflicted them with to cut off their access to the Abyss, some humans came to revere Fire like the gods did, while others retreated back to their origins in the Dark. Now, come the end of the world, the Hollows and mankind in general are trying desperately to stave off their own destruction, and it is through this determination that they are metamorphosing. However, dependent on what they ascribe to their ascended form will either be a Pilgrim Butterfly (for adherents to Fire) or an Angel (for followers of Dark).

What makes this really interesting is that the Pilgrim Butterflies are frailer creatures than the Angels, as is evidenced in the Dragonslayer Armor boss fight. While the Angels can ice you with their laser arrows in no time at all, the Pilgrim Butterflies don't really do much until the second phase of the fight, and even then their attacks do comparatively little damage compared to the Angels (and even the Armor you're fighting). Thus, I think the Butterflies are "imperfect" Angels since they were born from men that chose Fire over their natural Dark (indicated by reaching up to the Fire of the sun), and the Angels born from Londor Pilgrims are more perfect in form than their brethren (but not as perfected as the Darklurker, who was saturated by the Dark due to residing in Manus' exploded, Dark infested remains).

  • Wouldn't that be the other way around? The Pilgrim Butterflies are covered in Dark (they have the same aura Gael gets surrounded with when he almost completes the Dark Soul), while the Angels attack with miracle-like light magic.
    • Perhaps that Aura is indicative of the Dark bleeding through the seal of Fire that Gwyn put on mankind (as at that point in the timeline the Darksign still has yet to be broken like it will be in the Usurpation of Fire ending), and we already have proof of angel-like beings using bright white spear and beam shaped spells in the Darklurker from DSII.

The truth about the Dark Sign, the Pygmy, and the cycle of Fire and Dark
This one takes a bit of explaining and relies on a lot of lore, so hang on.

It's shown in The Ringed City, through the description of the Ringed Knight armor, that the Pygmy Lords fought alongside Gwyn and his allies against the Archdragons. It also shows that the ring of flame on the breastplate is a seal to hold back the power of dark that the knights wielded during the battle, because he feared the power of Dark. As the owner of the Lord Soul of Light and the First Flame, he saw it as an opposition to his own strength when he should have seen it as a compliment. So he lied to the Furtive Pygmy (now known to be the king of the Pygmy Lords at the time) and sealed them within the Ringed City under the pretense of rewarding them with their own kingdom. He even left his youngest Daughter, Filianore, with them to keep the city from falling apart while the rest of the world fell to ruins.

Given what we know about the Dark Soul and how it ties into humanity (with Humanity, the item, being a tiny fragment of the Dark Soul), we can assume that the Furtive Pygmy picked up on the ruse and sought revenge. It seems that he somehow either escaped or avoided imprisonment, allowing him to spread the fragments of the Dark Soul throughout the world to create humans. There was an side effect of this - the seal that Gwyn used to keep the Ringed Knights' power in check spread all the way to the Dark Soul itself, so that any being who possessed a piece of it would be bound as well. Thus, the mark of Flame would keep the powers of Dark within man at bay. Usually.

There are two cases where this seal would fail. Either if the power of Dark (or Humanity) overwhelmed the seal, or if the power of the First Flame began to wane. In the former case, the Dark would destroy the seal and consume its holder, turning them into monstrosities like Bloat Heads and Manus. For the latter, it would lead to becoming an accursed Undead as the seal of Flame becomes the Dark Sign.

As for why the Dark Sign only appears as the First Flame weakens, it has to do with how the Flame and Dark Soul interact. Humanity, either on its own or trapped in a Human Effigy, burns when cast into the bonfires that hold a fragment of the Flame. As the fire begins to fade, the seal begins to leak, and the Dark that exudes from the Dark Sign is consumed by the ring of Flame that binds it, causing it to smolder. It's known that the First Flame brought life to the world, while the Dark Soul itself can become life - it manifests as Humanity sprites while also forming into the Children of Dark after Manus's defeat. Burning a Humanity in the bonfire allows an Undead to become mostly human again. Adding all of this up, it seems to suggest that the state of undeath is due to the Dark burning in the fire of the Dark Sign. Lastly, it appears that the Dark consumes souls, since the Flame gives life to them but becoming Hollow means that they are being eaten up by the Dark Sign. Undeath is because of the Flame, but Hollowing is because of the Dark.

The cycle of Fire and Dark, as a result, is only possible because of the Dark Sign. Had Gwyn not sealed humanity with the Dark Sign, there would be no one capable of linking the fire to allow the Age of Fire to continue. Conversely, without the Flame the Dark could potentially take over, but also would have nothing to transform it into life-giving power, which would mean no undeath - meaning, the world as it is would simply die until the flame could create new life, neither human nor Lord. Kaathe figured this out, which is why he founded the Sable Church of Londor - to create an undying, immortal kingdom that wields Fire and Dark. The Flame would be weakened by the Dark, but would be necessary to ensure that the people of the Age of Hollows would never truly die. A true age of Dark would mean an end, while the Linking of the Fire means an endless cycle of sacrifice.

However, none of these are the true natural order of things. Gwyn's absconding with the fire led to its deterioration, so he was forced to cast himself into it to prevent it from going out. This is called the First Sin by Aldia. We know that sinners do not go unpunished in this world, since even those who avoid the Blue Sentinels and Blades of the Dark Moon will eventually have to answer to the authority of the matter, the rogue Lord known as Velka, goddess of Sin. By the time Gwyn's soul passed on, he had become a mindless Hollow himself and any direct punishment would be pretty meaningless. So instead, she punished his legacy - the Lords of Anor Londo fell out of power or disappeared, his armies became scattered, and the cycle was put in place to ensure no one would make the same mistake as to think the source of life was a mere tool. She could have easily had someone retrieve the Lord Souls, or even done it herself, before putting them back with the Flame in the Kiln, but instead decided that a lesson needed to be taught.

The Pus of Man enemies grow stronger with time
We don't spend THAT much time in the seaside kingdom of lothric, but the prince's coastal castle holds some seriously powerful Elite Mooks, while the cathedral knights and abyssal lothric knights definitely should be more powerful, the pus of man suddenly having far more health and hitting far harder makes no sense. . . Until you realize that they are already bursting free when you meet them in upper Lothric, and either due to becoming stronger with time or getting the better hang of using their bodies, they've BECOME a force to be reckoned with.
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