Pontiff Sulyvahn and the Kingdom of Lothric

Mystery surrounds the story of Dark Souls 3, as with any game in the “Soulsborne” series. Some of the major characters and settings include the kingdom of Lothric, the hidden city of Irithyll, the Profaned Capital buried beneath the Boreal Valley, Prince Lothric, King Oceiros and the Pontiff Sulyvahn. All sources of information will be noted after important points of discussion that are drawn from item descriptions or environmental storytelling. The threads are bare, but I’ll be exploring the connections between these characters to try to elucidate some of the events in Dark Souls 3, mostly by how they are all related to Sulyvahn. There may be spoilers ahead, so it is recommended that you have at least played through Dark Souls 3.

Who is Sulyvahn?

Sulyvahn has his first possible entry point into the story as a young sorcerer; one the first Scholars of the kingdom of Lothric and the private mentor to Prince Lothric (Soul Stream spell). Some speculation still surrounds this point, but I believe that, even discounting the theory that the statue on the High Wall of Lothric is Sulyvahn, it’s well established that Sulyvahn was a sorcerer and that he was possibly closely involved with the royal family of Lothric (Greatsword of Judgment, Profaned Greatsword, Prince Lothric’s doubt of the Linking of the First Flame). Sulyvahn had likely already found the Profaned Capital early on in the history of Lothric, as is possibly evidenced by the aforementioned statue on the High Wall, which likely depicts Prince Lothric holding the Profaned Greatsword. Regardless of when he found the Profaned Flame, he quickly began doubting the tradition of linking the First Flame and passed his doubts to his pupil.

Finding the Profaned Flame began a new chapter in Sulyvahn’s life. Such a powerful force, divorced from the First Flame, drove the ambitious sorcerer to study its power further, much like Big Hat Logan and crystals. His clothing has been stated to resemble the Scholars of the Archives, but I believe it also incorporates themes from the Court Sorcerer set worn by sorcerers in the old Profaned Capital. These sorcerers were themselves descended from Logan’s school of sorcery, but the mystique of the Profaned Flame seems to have attracted Sulyvahn more strongly. He may have began associating with the failing priests of the Cathedral of the Deep at this time. Either he aided in their betrayal of the Way of White, a religion dedicated to the kindling of bonfires and linking of the First Flame, or he supported their decisions to abandon their faith for other sources of faith. Archdeacon Klimt likely began worshiping Rosaria, Mother of Rebirth. Archdeacon Royce became loyal almost exclusively to Aldrich and stayed at his tomb to guard the Small Doll and prohibit adventurers from accessing Irithyll while Aldrich himself made his way to the Boreal Valley. Meanwhile, it’s likely that Archdeacon McDonnell and the Aldrich Faithful cooperated closely with Sulyvahn to help guard the ruined cathedral of Anor Londo, both when it was a prison for Gwyndolin and when Aldrich arrived to devour the helpless goddess. Whether or not Sulyvahn worked to feed his own Profaned Flame rather than the First Flame is unknown, as far as I can tell. It’s possible that he was making sacrifices to the Profaned Flame in order to both bolster its strength and subtract from the First Flame’s by depriving it of Humanity, but the nature of Humanity is possibly altered by the time of Dark Souls 3. Little evidence exists that discusses Humanity or the exact interaction that Sulyvahn had with the Profaned Flame in Dark Souls 3 at the time of this writing.

Sulyvahn and King Oceiros

His relationship with King Oceiros is more vague and less supported by evidence from the game. However, if it’s true that he was a trusted Scholar of the Archives in Lothric, then it’s very likely that he also worked with Oceiros, who is himself a sorcerer (Consumed King boss fight). To further link these two characters, it seems that Sulyvahn has adapted part of the Profaned Capital to be a prison, which was then used to hold the failed attempts at creating human dragons, the horrible Wretches. This part of the Wretches’ nature is evidenced by their usage of Tailbone weapons, which are symbols and relics of the power of the ancient dragons (Tailbone Spear, Tailbone Short Sword). Their emaciated, pale bodies resemble Oceiros’ transformed body (see images below), lending credence to this theory. It’s far from concrete, but I believe that it’s very possible that Sulyvahn discovered the area which serves as an entry point to Archdragon Peak inadvertently while searching for the Profaned Flame, relayed this information to the King, and began the King’s descent into the art of transforming humans into dragons.

Prince Lothric and His Relation to Sulyvahn

As I briefly mentioned before, there is some evidence that Sulyvahn was the sorcerer who was charged with being Prince Lothric’s mentor in magic. Prince Lothric himself is an interesting character; he is a sorcerer but his magic appears to be similar to miracles of faith, his father may have already been a “dragon” at the time of his conception, and his mother may be Gwynevere. The last two details are only theories, but are certainly interesting to think about. Prince Lothric’s decision to not link the First Flame has caused the Flame to falter enough for the Unkindled Ones, or at least Orbeck and the player character, to rise from their graves. The convergence of time and space on the kingdom of Lothric is also claimed to be caused by his denial of his duty as a Lord of Cinder. This denial can be traced securely back to his mentor, even if it is not Sulyvahn. However, I believe that this mentor is indeed Sulyvahn, as there are no other Scholars of the Archives who are discussed in detail. Even Sulyvahn himself is not outright stated to be a Scholar of Lothric, but I think that presuming this connection allows for Dark Souls 3 to have a very interesting web of plot. Sulyvahn is pivotal to the fading of the First Flame in several ways, yet his plot fails when even Prince Lothric falls to the Unkindled One.

 

Sulyvahn’s Goals

There are 4 endings to Dark Souls 3 that I currently know about: Linking the Fire, Betraying the Fire, Becoming the Lord of Hollows, and finally, the usurpation of the Fire  by murdering the Fire Keeper after she has taken the Flame from its place in the Kiln. Perhaps this final, especially enigmatic ending is what Sulyvahn intended to happen. Perhaps the First Flame, now that it is weak enough to be taken by a sole person, can be fed to the Profaned Flame. However, this is only speculation, and we may never know what Sulyvahn’s goals were. Perhaps he hadn’t even thought that far ahead, and only wanted to continue researching the Profaned Flame while trying to weaken the First Flame. Maybe he didn’t even care about the First Flame at all. For now, it’s just interesting to think about. Thank you for reading.

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