The world was greeted today by a trailer for a trilogy of Dark Souls 2 DLC packages, together forming a series called "The Lost Crowns Trilogy." The trailer looks pretty awesome, and since I'm completely obsessed with the latest installment of From's Souls series, I thought I'd come and share some of my thoughts on the trailer. Spoilers for the base game (and Dark Souls 1) to follow. Also, let me just reiterate, THIS IS A SPECULATION ARTICLE, and every theory I come up with in here could very well, and probably will, wind up being wrong.
"It grows deeper still, the more flame you covet."
"The crowns hold the strength of lords from times long past."
In order to understand what I believe the Lost Crown Trilogy will focus on, you have to understand what Dark Souls 2's story is ultimately about. The biggest takeaway from Dark Souls 2, which was implied by the first game but followed up on here, is the cyclical nature of the world of the Souls universe (it's debatable whether Demon's Souls falls into the same world, but I actually haven't played that one, so I can't comment).
This much we know: The first flame was discovered by the four lords of old, Gwyn, The Witch of Izalith, Nito, and the Furtive Pygmy. The first flame brought into the world of endless dusk warmth and cold, order and chaos, life and death. This led to the age of lords, and for a long time Gwyn and the other two lords (excluding, of course, the Furtive Pygmy, so easily forgotten) ruled the world, having driven the once-immortal dragons to near extinction.
However, no flame burns forever. By the time the first Dark Souls game begins, the first flame has begun to go out, and Gwyn has sacrificed himself to the fires in order to extend the age of fire just a bit longer. Despite the lords attempts to continue, nothing seems to work. Gwyn passes his soul on before going to kindle the flame, to the Four Kings and Seathe. Unfortunately, Seathe and the Four Kings both fall, Seathe into madness and obsession, and the Four Kings into greed and lust for power, which eventually causes their once-glorious city of men to be flooded.
The Witch of Izalith attempts to use her lord's soul to recreate the first flame, but her experiment goes horribly wrong, and she accidentally creates the bed of chaos, of which all demons are born.
In the end, only the chosen undead (that's you!) can link the fire, and only then by consuming so very many souls that you've slain the very gods of this world. By the end of Dark Souls, the world is a desolate place, very few have resisted the undead curse.
Once you link the fire, the first flame burns with intensity once again, ushering in a new age of flame, and the process begins over again.
By the time of Dragleic, and the new player's cursed undead, many kingdoms have risen and fallen. We can see this with characters like Straid, who sat in The Lost Bastille frozen in stone through the fall of at least his own kingdom.
Drangleic may or may not take place on the exact same land where Lordran once sat, but either way, we can see evidence of these kingdoms, and even pass through some of them. A land which I will refer to as the Old Iron Kingdom stretches from the Undead Purgatory all the way to the Iron Keep, and possibly beyond. This was once a powerful land, long before Drangleic existed, but now it has fallen, and nightmares plague the land.
Heide's Tower of Flame is another example of a fallen kingdom. Although it's an unfortunately small zone, it represents a city which has fallen straight into the ocean. Little is known about this land. Throughout Drangleic, you can find hollowed Knights of Heide, but if you examine their gear (which only drops on NG+ and beyond), it says that "Whether Heide refers to the kingdom or was just a name for the land is not clear, for no records date back far enough to tell."
Indeed, very little can be said for certain about these kingdoms, even the number which rose and fell in the time between Lordran and Drangleic has been lost to time. Each, in their turn, rising to power, thriving, and then falling to the undead curse. Each time a chosen undead went throughout the land, gathering souls to offer to the first flame, only to temporarily extend the cycle for one more kingdom to rise and fall. The Old Iron Kingdom was one such kingdom, and we know that it too succumb to the undead curse.
One thing is certain, though. At some point between the time of Lordran and Drangleic, the four lord's souls were scattered, and found by others. Whether this happened once, or multiple times, these powerful souls are all still possible to be found within the game.
The four great souls which the player spends the first two thirds or so of Dark Souls 2 collecting can be found with four powerful figures from the Dark Souls 2 world. The Lost Sinner, a mysterious sinner who foolishly attempted to relight the first flame, The Old Iron King, an ancient, greedy king who has been transformed into something sinister, The Duke's Dear Freja, an enormous spider which once belong to the Duke of Tseldora, who may have let his own obsession with spiders drive him to madness, and The Rotten, who, uh, I don't know, looks kind of like Nito. There's not a ton of concrete lore on that guy.
On NG+ and beyond, however, these four great souls drop something extra in addition to their own souls. The Lost Sinner drop's the Old Witch Soul, the soul belonging to the Witch of Izalith from the first game, the Rotten drops the Old Dead One Soul, the soul belonging to Gravelord Nito, The Duke's Dear Freja drops the Old Pale One Soul, the portion of Gwyn's lord soul passed down to Seathe the Scaleless, and the Old Iron King drops the Old King's Soul, the portion of Gwyn's soul passed down to the Four Kings.
These souls each share a description. "Soul of the ineffable. This once magnificent soul continues to exert influence over the land, even after the eons have reduced it to these remnants."
Continuing the most major theme of Dark Souls 2's story, the cyclical nature of its world, the souls of these great ones remain so powerful that they exert influence over the land long past their own days. While the item description doesn't say exactly how it does this, I'd say if you look at who drops each soul, it becomes fairly obvious. It's worth noting that the talking cat (who appears to be fairly ancient in her own right) in Majula will say something special about each lord's soul, should you bring it to her.
The Lost Sinner's sin, which she (and it is worth noting that The Lost Sinner is a woman) eternally punishes herself for until you come to end her, was attempting to relight the first flame. Note that it's not that she attempted to rekindle the first flame, which is still burning, albeit evidently dying out, by Dark Souls 2. She attempted to relight it. I'd argue that this means she tried to recreate it, lighting a second, entirely new flame. Just like the Witch of Izalith, who accidentally created the Bed of Chaos, attempting to do the same thing. I'd say after the Witch of Izalith accidentally created every demon ever when attempting to recreate the first flame in the age of Lordran, recreating the flame qualifies as a "sin."
The Old Iron King was a greedy and ruthless king. His greed led to an excavation of the iron rich parts of his world, which ultimately unleashed an ancient evil which sunk his city into the molten depth below. He holds the Four Kings' soul fragment. The Four Kings were offered the power of the Darkwraiths, and their lust for this power led to their very city being flooded, not in lava, but in water.
The Duke's Dear Freja (and this is speculation-based) may indeed be the Duke Tseldora, who became so obsessed with spiders that he lost his mind, and fused his own soul with the Old Pale One Soul, and the body of his beloved pet spider Freja. If you look in the room where the Duke's hollowed body can be found, there is a small cage which appears to have been burst out of, perhaps once housing the ordinary spider which became the Writhing Ruin's Keeper. This echoes how the Old Pale One himself, Seathe, became lost in his obsession with the scales of immortality, and lost his own mind. In addition to this, if you kill Freja and return to Manscorpion Tark, Tark tells you that you've killed his master… But that his master never truly dies, only changing form, "so that he may seeth for all eternity."
The Rotten… Look, I've really got very little to explain how The Rotten repeated Nito's sins, but I was never really clear on what Nito's sins were in the first game. He kind just seemed to be chillin' in his crypt until the Chosen Undead comes to murder him, which, come to think of it, also describes The Rotten, so there you go.
These are just some of the ways which the cyclical nature of the Dark Souls world is reinforced.
So why have I been telling you all of this backstory, and what does this have to do with the Lost Crowns Trilogy? Well, here's where we dip full on into speculation.
I believe that The Lost Crowns Trilogy will continue this theme of cycles by letting us further explore three of the kingdoms which rose to power during previous cycles, three kingdoms which I will call here "The Sunken Kingdom," "The Old Iron Kingdom," and "The Ivory Kingdom." The trailer seems to imply that we will traverse these three kingdoms to gain the crowns of the kings, which hold "the power of lords."
Now, obviously none of this is certain, and this is all only theories of my own, so bear with me here.
The first of the three kingdoms I'd like to talk about, is the Old Iron Kingdom, which will be featured in the second DLC episode, "Crown of the Old Iron King." This is the easiest one to pin down, since the Iron Keep, presumably part of the Old Iron Kingdom, is in Dark Souls 2 already. Indeed, the Huntsman's Copse and Undead Purgatory are also confirmed within the game to be an area, I assume one on the outskirts of the Old Iron Kingdom, where the Old Iron King ordered the undead to be taken, believing the undead curse to spread like a disease, and be brutally hunted for sport. Keep in mind, undead within the Dark Souls universe aren't mindless zombies until they go hollow, and the brutal Old Iron King didn't wait for his citizens to go hollow before sending them to the Huntsman's Copse and Undead Purgatory.
Harvest Valley and the Earthen Peak also appear to be areas of the Old Iron Kingdom. Mytha The Baneful Queen was the Old Iron King's wife, but was jealous as his affections were for another (I recommend watching this awesome lore speculation video by YouTuber DaveControlLive if you'd like a great theory on who the Old Iron King loved, and why you can find one of the two Belfrys in his Iron Keep, though I don't agree with all of his conclusions), so she fled to the Earthen Peak, eternally trying to make herself more beautiful, and ultimately warping herself into a horrible monster, and flooding the valley with poison.
Of course, the Iron Keep is the most obvious part of the Old Iron Kingdom, as the heart of the Old Iron King, which would eventually awaken a great evil, warping the Old Iron King into the creature we face in the game, and sinking the entire keep into the molten heart below.
The way I see it, this means there are two possibilities for where this portion of the DLC will take place. The first is that it will be another time travel expansion, like the Artorias of the Abyss DLC from the first game, taking us through the lands of the Old Iron Kingdom before they fell, perhaps during the undead crisis, as people are torn from their homes to be taken off to the Huntsman's Copse.
The other possibility is, quite simply, that the DLC will take place in another area of the Old Iron Kingdom which we didn't visit during Dark Souls 2. Personally, this is what I'm hoping for, because I don't find the idea of another time travel expansion very compelling. The one screenshot we seem to have gotten of the second DLC episode doesn't look like a familiar area, and the color scheme actually seems reminiscent of the Kiln of the First Flame. It's worth noting again that the Old Iron King is one of the two who inherited a piece of Gwyn's soul, giving him an inherent tie to the Kiln.
Without knowing more about what these "crowns" are, as well, it's hard to say for certain, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the Old Iron Kingdom is more closely tied to the ancient Lordran than first expected.
The second kingdom to talk about will be visited in the first of the three DLC, the Crown of the Sunken King. Now, for those who have played Dark Souls 2, "Sunken Kingdom" should quickly bring to mind another area which already exists in the game, Heide's Tower of Flame.
Heide's Tower of Flame is my favorite area in Dark Souls 2, it's absolutely stunning. It's a bit of a shame, really, that Heide's is potentially the first area new players will visit, because the game never looks as good again, even in the later areas like Dragon Aerie.
The problem with the theory that the washed away tower of Heide is the Sunken Kingdom is that, well, they look nothing alike. The area seen in the trailer seems to be vaguely inspired by Mayan pyramids, and yet Heide's Tower of Flame is clearly inspired by more European architecture, and specifically the gorgeous towers of Anor Londo from the first game.
That said, I still suspect that Heide's Tower of Flame and the Sunken Kingdom might be connected. The first reason I believe this has to do with the enemies found in Heide's Tower of Flame, the Old Knights.
The Old Knights found in Heide actually feel pretty out of place. Their color scheme, and their very designs, don't quite seem to match the area they are found in. Very little information can even be found about these Old Knights. The Old Knight set merely says that the knight's armor is old, undated, and falling apart. It's worth noting that this is in contrast to material actually used by those of Heide. The collector's edition guidebook for Dark Souls 2 says that "Equipment from Heide still exists today, as well, which speaks to the durability of the special alloy used in its construction." Whether you should consider that guidebook canon or not, I can't say.
I originally thought these guys were supposed to be ancient versions of the Anor Londo Sentinels from the first game, but aside from being giants wearing armor, they don't look alike at all. They do, at least from a color scheme perspective, seem to look like they might be native to what we've seen of the Sunken Kingdom, however.
The answer to where these curious enemies came from, and where the Sunken Kingdom will be found, I believe, comes deeper down. After defeating the Dragonrider, one of two bosses found in Heide's Tower of Flame, you travel down through a tunnel found past it, in an area filled with these Old Knights. Travelling even deeper, down beneath the waters, you find a flooded chamber, one which can take you onward to Dead Man's Wharf.
In this partially flooded chamber, however, there's one other thing of note, an extremely conspicuous damaged door, which is totally impassable.
The doors are, as far as I know, utterly unique within the game. They are large enough for these Old Knights to fit through. They are engraved, and look to be made of the same metal as the Old Knights.
I believe that Heide's Tower of Flame, whether Heide be a kingdom or a person, was unknowingly built atop something much older, a kingdom from a previous era. Or perhaps they did know, intending to study this kingdom, which had sunken beneath the earth, and beneath the ocean.
Perhaps it was just seismic activity which caused Heide's tower to fall beneath the waves. Perhaps it was some other power entirely.
In any case, Heide is now, in a cruel twist of fate, sunken, just like the kingdom they were built upon. The tunnels leading to the Sunken Kingdom were attempted to be sealed, but the Old Knights flooded in from beneath the tower, eventually overwhelming the forces which resisted, forcing them to flee. Notice that you don't actually find any Knights of Heide within Heide's Tower of Flame. Is this because the Old Knights would slay any brave enough to return?
One last thing which I feel connects the new DLC with Heide is its very first image, what appears to be a cinematic fight with an exceptionally large Knight of Heide— or perhaps Heide himself? Maybe Heide will be the Artorias throwback fight the fans have been asking for?
The fight take place in a forest, where it is raining. Admittedly, I'm not sure how they'd fit a forest underwater/ground, but I don't necessarily think it's ruled out.
The only other thing I'd like to talk about is the dragon who is prominently seen in the trailer.
The corpse of an enormous dragon can be seen draped over a rock at one point during the trailer. Moments later, there is a carving which looks to be of the same dragon.
It seems this dragon was worshiped in some way, perhaps by the same people who once ruled the Sunken Kingdom. Indeed, perhaps the kingdom was sunken in order to seal away this creature's power, another theme from the first game which could be seen again. Perhaps this dragon was the "Sunken King."(Also, yes, I'm aware that the dragon corpse looks a whole lot like Seathe, I really really don't think it's Seathe.)
The last one to talk about is the Crown of the Ivory King, and the Ivory Kingdom. I wish I could say I've saved the best for last, but I honestly don't have the slightest idea about this one. This area, a frozen tundra, doesn't look anything like we've visited in Dark Souls 2, and the fact that it's the last installment (and presumably the "conclusion" to this "trilogy") makes me think that they're deliberately keeping us in the dark.
If anyone has any idea about where this part might take place, or be tied to, let me know. I'm truly stumped.
Keep in mind, this is speculation, nothing more. I don't know anything you don't, and you might know more than I do. I'm just a big Dark Souls fan, and I can't wait to get more Dark Souls 2. I just hope, regardless of where it takes place, From Software will put something out which the fans can be happy with. Artorias of the Abyss is a hard act to follow, as one of the best pieces of DLC content ever seen, so here's hoping they're up to the task.