Only one Shardbearer remains in “Elden Ring” once you’ve made your way to the Haligtree. The Lord of Blood awaits you at a secret location deep underground, and if you venture there, you’ll discover a vast realm. These underground locations have their own history with the Golden Order and the Lands Between, and despite their destruction a long time ago, they play a crucial role in the events that take place above ground. Not only is the last Shardbearer buried here, but we also discover more about the Lands Between’s past and the influence that events from the game’s history, such as the Night of Black Knives, have had on the world since then.
The underground world and the Eternal Cities it contains have a lot to do with Ranni and her missions, and it’s here that you’ll learn about Miquella and Godwyn the Golden’s ultimate fate. There’s a lot to learn down here in the false night, including a massive well of Scarlet Rot known as the “Lake of Rot,” which may contain the essence of the Outer God responsible for Malenia, Radahn, Caelid, and the Haligtree’s illness.
The realm beneath the surface
If you spent a lot of time exploring Limgrave, you probably came upon the Siofra Well, which is a massive underground area encircling the Siofra River. This is your first glimpse of the territory beneath the Lands Between, as well as the cities that have sprung up there: Nokron, Nokstella, and an unnamed city.
The precise specifics regarding what’s going on with the underground lands aren’t always evident, as they are with a lot of other regions in “Elden Ring“. The ghosts of Ancestor Followers, which are large, humanoid beings with horn headbands, populate the open plains. Unlike most of the humans you meet in the game, these animals appear to be more connected to nature, the forests, and the creatures that live there, especially given their proximity to the Ancestral Spirit, a boss you can fight.
Because they’re claimed to be imbued with the souls of small animals, the Followers’ arrows do magical damage, and their use of horns—something we know to be relatively banned among the Golden Order owing to Omen—all of this suggests they’re a more ancient race from before the Erdtree. The literature on their clothing refers to Erdtree buds springing from their flesh or even “their souls,” giving the sense that these are people whose religion is based on nature; not just one Erdtree, but all of them, as well as human and animal spirits.
The Ancestral Spirit also appears to be from a species that isn’t related to the Erdtree, but rather a spirit from before the Golden Order’s more natural depiction of the Lands Between. The Ancestral Spirit’s lore says that death gives rise to new life, which seems at odds with the Golden Order’s depiction of the world, in which Destined Death is imprisoned.
The Lake of Rot, which is connected to these locations, is a location where you can locate ruins inhabited by Caelid’s creepy centipede pests, the Kindred of Rot. Scarlet Rot appears to have its origins in the Lake of Rot. The legend of a blind swordsman sealing away a deity “that was rot itself” is told in the Blue Dancer Charm lore, and the map for the Lake of Rot hints that some divine essence is confined there. Thus, this could be the spot where the Outer God responsible for Scarlet Rot is imprisoned, albeit there isn’t much information about it if you explore the area (or do anything about it).
The towns you locate underneath, on the other hand, were not built by the Ancestral Followers, who “avoid writing and metallurgy.” Those were made by the Nox, a group of humans who previously battled the Greater Will and were defeated.
The Nameless Eternal City, Nokron, and Nokstella
You won’t be able to access the Eternal Cities until later in the game; in fact, you won’t be able to access Nokron until you’ve defeated Radahn and unleashed the stars, which causes a meteorite to fall into Limgrave and open the road below ground. The narrative involving Nokron is the one we know the most about, while it’s unclear whether it fits into Marika’s timeline or the larger history of the Lands Between.
Some people still live in the cities of Nokron and Nokstella, but both have seen considerable disaster. The Nox people outraged the Greater Will in some way long ago, according to the armor of the Nox adversaries, and as a result, the two cities were hurled underground. It’s unclear what the Nox did, how their towns were buried, or how the Greater Will was able to carry out this punishment. It’s also unclear whether the cities were destroyed before or after Nokron’s attempt to combat and destroy the Greater Will.
There’s a lot going on in the Eternal Cities, but it’s all a little jumbled and difficult to sort out. The towns used to be above ground, and the Nox looked to be inextricably linked to the stars. The settings play an important role in Ranni’s plot, which is also about fate as it relates to stars and the universe. We can deduce that the Nox sought to defy the Greater Will’s authority and that they were also attempting to achieve the same aim as Ranni at some point in the past, implementing an Age of Stars to surpass the Erdtree’s. However, the Greater Will intervened, and they were defeated.
The Silver Tears, as well as the Nox, call Nokron and Nokstella home. These animals appear to be comprised of living liquid metal, and it appears that the Nox nurtured it in order to create Mimic Tears, which were versions of the Nox that could mimic other creatures and change their shapes. When you face Mimic Tears in the Eternal Cities, they often take on human characteristics and even mimic you at times. The shape-shifting material at the heart of the Silver Tears is required for Rennala’s strange rebirth with her Great Rune, and it also appears to have some connection to what the sorcerers of Liurnia used to create the Albinaurics, but the links are tenuous.
What we do know about the Silver Tears is that they may transform into imperfect human-like beings, and it appears that the Nox sought to “make a lord” with Mimic Tears. There’s a theory that the Nox called a meteor, delivering the material that made the Silver Tears to the countries in between—and that this action could have had dire effects. It appears that the Nox sought to overthrow or circumvent the Greater Will’s rule of the Lands Between by using their Mimic Tears to take over the job of Elden Lord. We can speculate that this is what enraged the Greater Will enough to lay the cities low and send them underground.
The Eternal Cities were in a difficult predicament because the stars were such an important part of their lives, and they were now forced to live in the “false night” of their underground realm. The date for this is a little hazy, but it appears that the Greater Will’s rebuke prompted the Nox to seek new means of retaliation. If you follow Ranni’s story to the end, you’ll discover Nokron’s “secret treasure”: a dagger known as the Fingerslayer Blade. You probably have a good idea of what it does.
However, it appears that the inhabitants of Nokron were never fully able to carry out this plot, and the development of the Fingerslayer Blade was “high treason” against the Greater Will in and of itself. As previously stated, it’s unclear exactly what happened when—the Nox’s attempt to make a lord Mimic Tear might have occurred concurrently with the construction of the Fingerslayer Blade, enraging the Greater Will, or the blade itself could have enraged the Greater Will. It’s also unclear what happened to Nokron in the end, or whether it was likewise an act of the Greater Will.
When you finish exploring Nokron, you’ll be pitted against Astel, Naturalborn of the Void, a massive beast. According to what we know about Astel from its Remembrance and the gear you may make with it, this creature is a living star, a cosmic terror from space that has fallen to the Lands Between, similar to other creatures you’ve encountered. According to Astel’s Remembrance, it destroyed Nokron and “took away their sky,” and the fact that Astel can still be found in the city shows that this was the final event in Nokron’s history. It was “the despair that brought about its collapse made explicit,” according to the Eternal Darkness spell, implying that Nokron’s downfall was due to the loss of the sky and stars. As a result, we’re left to question if Astel was called by the Nox themselves, possibly accidentally or as a side-effect of the summoning that caused the Silver Tears, or if Astel was sent to the Eternal City by the Greater Will.
It’s difficult to say how the events unfolded because so much information has been lost to history. It appears that people on the surface have attempted to locate and explore the Eternal Cities; for example, the Falling Hawk corporation can be found in the Siofra Aqueduct and Nokstella. According to the ashes and gear found among these sad people, they were slaves sent below to explore the Eternal Cities, but they ran out of supplies and had to resort to burning the bodies of their dead to keep the lights on while exploring. They’d never get out of the Eternal Cities, and no one knows how long they’ve been locked there, or how long their descendants have been trapped there.
The Prince of Death
The road through Nokron and into the Siofra Aqueduct leads to the Deeproot Depths, a portion of the Lands Between’s underground universe. This area lies well below the Erdtree, where many of its roots can be found. You’ll see that some of them are rotting and corrupted right away, however they don’t have the Scarlet Rot like the Haligtree. They’re black and liquid instead, infected by something else: death itself.
You’ll find out what’s infecting the Erdtree if you get to the top of the Deeproot Depths. The roots have merged with a bizarre, twisted body. Should you follow additional information through a few different sidequests, you’ll discover that this is Godwyn the Golden’s body, now distorted and odd, like some kind of Eldritch terror. The Prince of Death, the source of Deathroot and Those Who Live in Death, is all that is left of Godwyn.
Godwyn’s narrative is strange, and it has had a significant impact on the Lands Between. We’ve already discussed it a few times, but here’s a quick recap. Prior to the Shattering, a group of assassins known as the Black Knives was able to steal a fragment of the Death Rune (also known as Destined Death) that Marika had torn from the “Elden Ring”, altering the way death operated in the Lands Between and granting immortality. After that, none of the demigods died; in fact, it appears that no one in the Lands Between died of natural causes, and if they were killed, their souls returned to the Erdtree to live on. Destined Death was the natural order of things, and it worked in a unique way. It was indiscriminate, striking ordinary people, demigods, and even gods, and both bodies and souls may perish.
As a result of the removal of Destined Death from the “Elden Ring”, no demigods had ever died in history. That changed on the Night of the Black Knives, when the assassins attacked and killed Godwyn with their rune-infused knives. They killed Godwyn’s body, but they didn’t destroy his soul. His body continues to exist as an empty husk, a living death.
Godwyn’s undead body, entangled with the Erdtree’s roots, appears to be spreading corruption throughout the Lands Between—his eyes can be seen growing from roots and plants in various locations throughout the Lands Between, and there’s even a second Godwyn face found well below Stormveil Castle. And that strange illness in the Lands Between gave birth to something new, Deathroot, a plant born of Godwyn’s corruption.
Although you may discover a lot about who the Black Knives were and are, the assassination itself is shrouded in mystery. Although there are many ideas, we don’t know all of the details of why they did what they did. During the course of the game, we learn that the Black Knives worked directly with Ranni as part of her effort to break free from the Greater Will and the Two Fingers’ power. The assassination of Godwyn appears to have been a critical step towards separating Ranni from her Two Fingers. The Black Knives were able to split the effect of Destined Death: they killed Godwyn’s soul but not his body, and they killed Ranni’s body but not her soul. Ranni was able to transfer her spirit into the doll form she appears in throughout the game, and this seemed to have freed her from the Greater Will’s control.
There’s a lot of information about the Black Knives, including who they are and why they might have helped Ranni. They’re called the Numen in the lore, and Marika was one of them—in fact, the Black Knives lore claims that the assassins were all women and that Marika was one of them.
You can choose to be a Numen when creating your character at the start of the game, and the Numen is mentioned as originating from “another world” on that screen. That’s odd enough, but if you chat to Rogier, a figure you meet at Stormveil Castle, you can discover more about the assassins as he investigates Godwyn’s death. The women were said to be “scions of the Eternal City,” according to Rogier. If that’s the case, Godwyn’s murder could be seen as a continuation of the struggle between the Eternal Cities and the Greater Will. Bandit, a YouTuber, has an excellent video about the Black Knives and their relation to Marika, the Eternal Cities, and Ranni, who Rogier claims were the mastermind behind the killing. We’ll skip Ranni’s story for now because it deserves its own explanation.
Those Who Live in Death are being hunted.
Godwyn’s assassination had a significant reverberation throughout the Lands Between. Marika is supposed to have eventually shattered the “Elden Ring” in her grief over the loss of her firstborn and favorite child, however, there appears to be a little more to it than that. Godwyn’s death, on the other hand, was unquestionably the cause for the Shattering. Members of the Golden Order would begin to seek for and destroy Those Who Live in Death, seeing their unclean presence as a contamination of the Erdtree, while Miquella would try in vain to help his soulless brother.
Gurranq, the Beast Clergyman, is now back in the picture. If you interact with a character named D in Limgrave and help him slay some of Those Who Live in Death, he’ll send you Gurranq’s way to enlist your assistance in combating the undead. Those Who Live in Death are allegedly generated by coming into contact with Deathroot, and while D believes they are terrible people whose souls refuse to return to the Erdtree, Rogier discovers the truth: people become undead for no reason.
Gurranq, on the other hand, eats Deathroot and appears to be hooked to it. In an attempt to stomp out the corruption generated by Godwyn, he sees it as his responsibility to eliminate Deathroot and Those Who Live in Death. There’s a rationale for this, which we’ll go into more in Crumbling Farum Azula.
Those Who Live in Death don’t seem to choose to be that way, and some want to defend the undead. If you complete Fia, the Deathbed Companion’s mission, you’ll discover that she is one of these people, attempting to put an end to the persecution of Those Who Live in Death. You can select which side of the conflict to support, but it’s unclear what the ramifications of assisting the undead will be, or what the Prince of Death’s prolonged corruption would mean for the Lands Between and the Erdtree itself. Perhaps that’ll be addressed in the future “Elden Ring” DLC, because there’s a lot more going on with Godwyn than we know about. His mutated fish face can even be found at the bottom of Stormveil Castle, as though attracted there by the Erdtree’s roots—which does not appear to be a good thing.
The Bloody Lord
During the Haligtree section of the narrative, we briefly discussed Mohg, Lord of Blood. You’ll reach Mohg’s domain—a bloody swamp with his mausoleum-slash-palace in the center—if you make your way via the teleporter in the Consecrated Snowfields. It turns out that this is also a part of the underground region near the Eternal Cities, implying that Mohg didn’t develop it but just moved in and assumed control when he wanted to establish the Mohgwyn Dynasty. You can pass through here, encountering corrupted red Albinaurics, rotting monsters, cursed followers’ corpses, and Mohg’s noble disciples. When you visit the mausoleum in the area’s center, you can fight Mohg himself for the last of the Great Runes and to destroy the final Shardbearer.
The narrative of Mohg is terrible and horrifying. The Lord of Blood is initially mentioned in a vague fashion. One of the first individuals you meet in the game, White Mask Varre, will eventually lead you to join the disciples of Mohg. Varre’s gear indicates that he was a battlefield surgeon during the Shattering, which suggests that he may have had an unhealthy obsession with slicing off limbs. Continue on Varre’s mission, and we’ll send you into other players’ games to kill them; as the disciples of Rykard, murdering other Tarnished is something Mohg is passionate about.
Mohg, like Morgott, is an Omen child of Marika and Godfrey who was imprisoned in Leyndell’s sewers. Unlike Morgott, though, Mohg had no loyalty to his family or to the system that had treated him so cruelly. He was visited by an Outer God known as the Formless Mother at some point, and his followers regard this as a holy event. Through blood and wounds, the Formless Mother granted Mohg power, and it appears that for the first time, Mohg perceived his Omen shape as a blessing rather than a curse. When you confront Mohg, you’ll see that he uses his trident to stab into the air, which is said to be a method of communing with the Outer God. Mohg is literally stabbing the Formless Mother in order to draw her blood and use her strength.
However, the blood the Formless Mother bestowed wasn’t all good; it was also a curse, burning within Mohg in a painful and difficult-to-control manner. To “tame the accursed blood,” Mohg kidnapped war physicians like Varre. The other doctors failed, but Varre appears to have succeeded. Mohg made his way out of the sewers and into the place where you may find him underground, biding his time and expanding his might from there, using the bloody power of the Formless Mother.
Varre gives an impression of how Mohg interacts with the Lands Between environment, as he mainly stays concealed in the shadows. When you speak with White Mask Varre, he will tell you about the Roundtable Hold and the Guidance of Grace, but he will also tell you that you shouldn’t trust the Two Fingers and that the other Tarnished is also up to no good. He leads you along a different road before recruiting your services in Mohg’s army. There’s also a hypothesis that the dead Finger Maiden you find early in the game was your maiden and was slain by Varre; this is how he knows you’re Maidenless from the start. The objective appears to be to sabotage your ability to follow the road marked out for you by the Guidance of Grace and the Two Fingers, either to thwart the Greater Will’s plans or, more likely, to lead you to join up with Mohg.
We discussed how Mohg took Miquella from his Erdtree location during the Haligtree segment of this series, but we didn’t go into detail about why. When you eventually see Mohg in his Mausoleum, you discover what he desired: to marry Miquella. Miquella is an Empyrean, and as such, he has the potential to become a deity and take Marika’s place. Like Godfrey and Radagon, a god’s consort becomes Elden Lord. As a result, we learn that Mohg’s purpose is to utilize Miquella to obtain the role of Elden Lord and control the Lands Between, rather than becoming a deity himself (which he can’t do). He seeks to establish the Mohgwyn Dynasty as a new order, driving away Marika and the other demigods and ending the Golden Order’s and the Greater Will’s control.
Remember how we talked about Miquella’s power to bewitch people, forcing them to love him and so controlling them? It’s unclear whether this was the case with Mohg, as it appears that the Lord of Blood was never able to rouse him up despite having Miquella and his cocoon. So it’s uncertain what will happen if Miquella awakens and ascends to godhood; even Sir Gideon Ofnir isn’t sure what that entails. Sir Gideon even contemplates destroying the cocoon and Miquella within it to prevent this from happening. Miquella stays in the Mohgwyn Mausoleum even after you slay Mohg and win his Great Rune, and we have no idea what will happen to him.
The annihilation of the final demigod and the opportunity to seize the last of the Great Runes from the Shardbearers symbolize the defeat of Mohg. Except for Miquella, who sleeps in his cocoon, and Ranni, who, as Sir Gideon says, “put aside her Great Rune” and so isn’t one of your objectives, that’s the end of the demigods. Last but not least, there’s Destined Death to claim. Crumbling Farum Azula, the penultimate item before returning to Leyndell and repairing the “Elden Ring”, awaits you.