Okay, okay, okay. Seriously--this time it's gonna happen. The Shardbearers of Elden Ring are dead, the Great Runes belong to you, the Erdtree burns, and the way is clear to stand before Queen Marika and become Elden Lord. Now's the time to return to Leyndell, which you'll quickly find has changed a bit, thanks to your efforts. But it should be smooth sailing.
After all, who could possibly stand in your way at this point? You've killed basically everyone.
You know the drill: all the spoilers beyond this point.
More Elden Ring story explainers
- Elden Ring Story Guide: The Lore and History of The Lands Between
- What Happens in Elden Ring? The Game's Story, Part 1: Limgrave
- What Happens in Elden Ring? The Game's Story, Part 2: Liurnia Of The Lakes
- What Happens in Elden Ring? The Game's Story, Part 3: Caelid
- What Happens in Elden Ring? The Game's Story, Part 4: Mt. Gelmir and Volcano Manor
- What happens in Elden Ring? The Game's Story, Part 5: Leyndell, Royal Capital
- What Happens in Elden Ring? The Game's Story, Part 6: Mountaintops of the Giants
- What Happens in Elden Ring? The Game's Story, Part 7: Castle Sol and the Consecrated Snowfield
- What Happens in Elden Ring? The Game's Story, Part 8: Miquella's Haligtree
- What Happens in Elden Ring? The Game's Story, Part 9: Eternal Cities, Deeproot Depths, And Mohg
- What Happens In Elden Ring? The Game's Story, Part 12: Becoming Elden Lord
- The Frenzied Flame and the Game's Bleakest Ending, Explained
The destruction of the Roundtable Hold
If you haven't dropped back by, now's a good time to visit the Roundtable Hold. When you arrive, you'll find the place on fire, which may be surprising. Most of the people who have ever been here are gone, although a few folks--most notably the blacksmith, Master Hewg, and the Finger-Reader Enia--intend to stick it out until the end.
When you talk to Sir Gideon, he'll intuit that you've burned the Erdtree, with the Roundtable Hold to follow. He's not too broken up about it, saying that the Roundtable Hold existed to make a Tarnished Elden Lord, and if burning the place down is what that takes, then so be it.
This whole situation raises questions about what the Roundtable Hold actually is, though, and if you were paying attention in Leyndell the first time, you might have passed through the Fortified Manor, a place that is exactly the layout of the Roundtable, but empty. The fact that the Roundtable is burning down, plus the fact that you can only reach it from Sites of Grace, suggest that the Roundtable is a magical or spectral location specifically linked to the Erdtree itself--it's not a real place, but a place modeled after the real Fortified Manor location in Leyndell, and exists to help Tarnished and give them a safe haven.
So who made the Roundtable Hold and why does it exist? Clearly, the presence of the Two Fingers suggests that the Greater Will is behind it, but that might not be the whole story. At some point late in the game, you can overhear Hewg lamenting that he's still trying but unable to create a weapon that can slay a god. Eventually, he'll upgrade your weapons to the point where they can, apparently, slay a god, and Hewg reveals that he was given that goal from Marika herself. Hewg is, essentially, a part of the Roundtable, chained to the wall. This suggests that it could have been Marika who created the Roundtable for the Tarnished. It's not the only piece of evidence that suggests there's more going on with Marika than we yet realize, either.
Hewg opts to stay with the Roundtable despite its destruction, and eventually, he forgets who you even are. It's a strange moment that could play even more into the weird magic apparently at work here. As you approach the end of the game, Hewg's speech becomes halted and stuttering, as if the destruction of the demigods and the work he's doing on your weapons is taking a toll on him, like he's dying alongside the Roundtable Hold. When he forgets who you are, however, he almost seems reset; he no longer stammers or seems tired, and he's not apparently all that distressed about the burning Roundtable Hold around him. I'm not sure exactly what conclusion we might draw from Hewg's demeanor in these final moments, but it does seem pointed that as the Roundtable Hold burns, he loses his memories of you--but also seems to improve physically.
When you return to Leyndell, you find it ravaged. The burning Erdtree has covered the entire city in ashes--hence the name "Ashen Capital." You've got a date with the Erdtree, and the ash actually makes it a little easier to get back to there, with fewer roadblocks in the way.
As you climb back into the palace and the chambers of Marika and Radagon, however, you run across a familiar face: Sir Gideon Ofnir, the All-Knowing. As you might have guessed, Gideon has turned on you, and he intends to stop you from reaching the Erdtree.
Gideon's turn here is an interesting one. Though he's helped you along all the while, he's also a Tarnished, and as he told you at the start, he's been hoping to become Elden Lord himself. If you bring him information about the four missing Shardbearers--Mohg, Melania, Miquella, and Ranni--he'll reward you for the help. And as we saw back in the Liurnia portion of the game, Gideon can be ruthless, ordering his men to slaughter the Albinaurics, seemingly in hopes of finding his way to the Haligtree.
All of the Tarnished you meet during the course of Elden Ring once saw the Guidance of Grace, like you do, but all of them talk about how they've been questing for so long that Grace has disappeared to them. So while Gideon hopes to become Elden Lord, we can infer that he's lost the Guidance of Grace and therefore struggles to find the Shardbearers himself. What's more, Gideon is a guy who uses information and obfuscation to get things done. He doesn't attack the Albinaurics himself; he sends minions to do it, while hiding out in the Roundtable Hold, where he's essentially invulnerable.
So one interpretation of the events of the game is that Gideon has been using you all along. Once you proved that you were potentially a worthy Tarnished and one who can take down the Shardbearers, he started aiming you toward the missing demigods, providing you with information in hopes you'd go kill them. When you killed Ensha after the Abinauric village massacre, you kind of left him without a minion to do his bidding--and Gideon kind of turned you into that minion.
There's also some suggestion that he's been keeping an eye on you all along; that is, after all, his whole deal. Whenever you return to Gideon, he talks to you like he already knows where you've been and what you've been up to, as if he's been spying to those ends. And when you finally fight him, Gideon employs abilities from all over the Lands Between. Those moves seem to be dictated by where you've been and what enemies you've defeated and told Gideon about--he'll use magic from Caria, blood attacks from Mohg, exploding blasphemy attacks from Rykard, the Black Flame of the Godskin Apostles, the Scarlet Aeonia attack of Malenia, and the Triple Rings of Light incantation that Miquella made for Radagon.
Since Gideon's attacks are apparently based on the information you give him, we can surmise that he's basically following along behind you, gathering info and power as you clear out the tough-to-kill demigods on his behalf. Gideon lets you plow through the difficult battles without endangering himself to increase his own strength. So when he fights you in the palace of Leyndell, you might guess that he's just trying to kill you to claim your Great Runes and become Elden Lord himself. It's something we might have already seen him do, when Ensha attacked you, if you don't buy his explanation that Ensha was acting on his own.
Gideon's dialogue adds another dimension to this interpretation, however, as does the lore on the gear you claim when you defeat him. Gideon says that he believes Marika wants the Tarnished to struggle forever, without ever actually claiming the title of Elden Lord. When you finally kill him, he says he doesn't believe that any Tarnished can kill a god. It seems like, at some point--possibly even during the course of the game--Gideon learned something about Marika that changed his mind about whether becoming Elden Lord was even a good idea at all.
"Knowledge begins with the recognition of one's ignorance," the lore on Gideon's armor reads. "The realization that the search for knowledge is unending. But when Gideon glimpsed into the will of Queen Marika, he shuddered in fear. At the end that should not be."
That makes it sound like Gideon stands opposed to you to prevent anyone from becoming Elden Lord, because it would lead to "the end that should not be." We don't know exactly what Gideon found out about Marika, but whatever it was, it scared him. And while his goals might have been selfish before, and while he might have been using you for information and power throughout the game, in the end, it seems like Gideon tries to stop you because he knows too much, and he's afraid of what will happen if you're successful. Gideon wants the world to stay the same, potentially because he believes that the world will change for the worse if you're successful. What or why that is, though, we don't really know.
Rather than just telling you what you might need to know, however, Gideon tries to kill you, and you wallop him just like everybody else. With the All-Knowing out of the way, you're again on your way to the Erdtree. But one more Tarnished stands in your way: the first Tarnished.
Godfrey, First Elden Lord
At the entrance to the Erdtree, where you fought and defeated Morgott, you meet his father, Godfrey. This isn't a projection created to keep people away, this is the real deal--the first Elden Lord. Finding Godfrey here, we can guess that he's hoping to become Elden Lord again, but you've interrupted him on his way to claim what was once his. But why is Godfrey here?
Godfrey's history is inexorably tied to yours, in fact. Marika made Godfrey the first Elden Lord, presumably to use his incredible prowess in battle to win her wars and consolidate her power in the Lands Between. But before he was Godfrey, the first Elden Lord was known by another name: Hoarah Loux. A leader of a fierce band of warriors, Hoarah Loux was possibly the greatest fighter to ever live, which made him an excellent asset for Marika to claim as her own.
Hoarah Loux, however, was a little too uncouth and a little too bloodthirsty to rule as Elden Lord. He had to rein in his constant bloodlust, and so to do that, he "took the beast regent Serosh onto his back." We don't know a lot about Serosh, a huge armored lion, except that he was "king of beasts," and when you face Godfrey, Serosh has a sort of ghostly look, as if he might be a Spirit Ash. Serosh's whole deal was to reel in Godfrey's power so that he could serve as king as well as a warlord, and the lion became an icon of Godfrey throughout the Lands Between.
Even with Serosh on his back, chilling him out a bit, Godfrey was incredibly good at war. He led Marika's campaign through the Lands Between and, apparently, was never truly defeated. Godfrey beat the giants, and after Radagon successfully united the Golden Order and the Carian royal family, Godfrey went south to Limgrave and took on an enemy called the Storm Lord by himself. Defeating the Storm Lord allowed him to take Stormveil Castle, and Godfrey eventually moved all the way down to the Weeping Peninsula, capturing Castle Morne.
At that point, Godfrey ran out of adversaries, and it seems like the Greater Will abandoned him--Godfrey lost the Grace he'd been given, and Marika sent him out of the Lands Between, which we can hear about from dialogue delivered by Melina at Marika's churches throughout the course of the journey through the Lands Between. Godfrey and the warriors of his armies became the Tarnished, and as we see in the opening cutscene at the start of the game, they were sent out to the rest of the world "to live and die."
Godfrey and his warriors began the Long March out of the Lands Between, perhaps even fighting their way out; we're told by Miriel, the Pastor of Vows, that they weren't just exiled, they were hounded. And once the Long March was over, Godfrey gave up his crown to become a simple warrior once more. Like all the Tarnished, he lived his life--and eventually died. In fact, the opening cutscene shows a whole range of important Tarnished, from Hoarah Loux to Gideon Ofnir, dead or in graves.
After dying in the world outside the Lands Between, however, and after the Shattering, Godfrey and the other Tarnished were called back to the Lands Between, and back to life, receiving Grace once more. The dialogue Melina delivers in the Churches of Marika suggests this was Marika's plan all along: she sent the Tarnished away, and she wanted them to later return, promising they'd also reclaim their Grace.
So when you meet Godfrey, it seems like that's his plan: The first Tarnished is back to reclaim his Elden Lord status, but he has to go through you to get it. As you fight him, he embraces his true power and bloodlust, casting off Sarosh once and for all and embracing his original identity as Hoarah Loux. Still, you've wrecked everyone you've faced, including Gideon Ofnir and all of Godfrey's children. Eventually, you take down the dad, too. He even kind of congratulates you, because to Hoarah Loux, a crown should be earned through strength.
The path to the Erdtree is, finally, clear. As you head inside, you'll finally stand before Marika. We have a lot to discuss about her, still, though--it's time for the thrilling conclusion of Elden Ring. Uh, in Part 12. Sorry.
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