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Elden Ring lore and story explained

Time for a refresher of the entire Elden Ring mythos, ready for Shadow Of The Erdtree

A Tarnished in Elden Ring raises a torch in a cave filled with eggs and giant ants.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bandai Namco

Want to brush up on your Elden Ring lore? It's certainly a good time to revisit the story, with the colossal Shadow Of The Erdtree DLC mere days away. Over the past two years, Elden Ring has become just about my favourite game of all time, and a large part of that came from diving deep into the mythos and story of Elden Ring and learning just how much I missed on my first couple of playthroughs.

Elden Ring's mythos was constructed as a joint project between FromSoft head Hidetaka Miyazaki and George R. R. Martin, which should give you an idea of just how deep and deranged the story gets. But we're going to break it all down into easily absorbed chunks of lore in this, our ultimate Elden Ring lore guide.

Below, we'll take you from the prehistoric times before the Erdtree and the Golden Order, back when there was nothing except Dragons, Giants, and otherworldly Outer Gods. And from there, we'll explain Marika's rise and conquest of the Lands Between, the various demigods that rose during this time, the fateful Night Of Black Knives and the Shattering; and finally the player character's journey through the world of Elden Ring, and what it all means.

The story of Elden Ring:

Chapter 1: The Time Before The Erdtree

Key Characters:

The Great One The Greater Will
The Frenzied Flame The Elden Beast
The Two Fingers

The entirety of Elden Ring lore seems to begin with an entity called The Great One. Sadly, it's an entity about which we know basically nothing, except that The Great One was the source from which all things split. And that includes two Outer Gods known as the Greater Will, and the Frenzied Flame (who loosely represent Order and Chaos respectively).

Two side-by-side Elden Ring screenshots showing the Two Fingers on the left, and the Three Fingers on the right.
Left: The Two Fingers, vassal of the Greater Will. Right: The Three Fingers, vassal of the Frenzied Flame. Note that together, they make a full five-fingered hand. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bandai Namco

There are several other Outer Gods who appear very early on, such as the God Of Rot, The Formless Mother, The Twinbird God, The Fell God... But the two most important and arguably the most powerful are the Greater Will and the Frenzied Flame. As with all Outer Gods, they are separated from the world of Elden Ring by inconceivably long distances, and can only impose their will upon the world in a limited manner. To that end, most Outer Gods sent envoys to The Lands Between, who could realise their vision from afar.

The Greater Will's envoys are creatures called the Two Fingers, while the Frenzied Flame's envoy(s) are the Three Fingers. Throughout Elden Ring the player encounters many Two Fingers, most of them dead. One of the only ones remaining lives inside the Roundtable Hold. It's unknown whether there were multiple Three Fingers in the world once, but during the events of the game, only one is known to exist deep below Leyndell, the Royal Capital.

But the Greater Will, true to its name, went a step further in imposing control over the world. It sent a star hurtling into the world carrying an Elden Beast. Imbued with some of the Greater Will's power, the Elden Beast immediately set about its task: to transform itself into a structure called The Elden Ring.

The Elden Beast, the final boss in Elden Ring, rears up before the player just before the final fight.
The Elden Beast was sent down to The Lands Between by the Greater Will, to form the Elden Ring itself with its body. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/FromSoftware

The Elden Ring is a bit hard to describe, but it's essentially a selection of reality-altering runes (known as Great Runes). These runes literally define the rules of the world of Elden Ring, such as what happens after death. So the Elden Ring's role was to reshape the world to follow the rules set by the Greater Will.

Before the Elden Beast arrived, The Lands Between were fairly ordinary. Well, as ordinary as you can call a land dominated mainly by dragons and giants. It is said that in the time before the Greater Will took over, all life came from something called The Crucible. We don't really know what the Crucible was. Some think it's merely a name for what life was like before the Elden Ring was created. Others think the Crucible was a colossal tree, and that the towering golden Erdtree we see in-game is actually just the Crucible, with a golden skin wrapped around it to represent the Greater Will's control over the land. In any case, the creation of the Elden Ring appeared to also transform the Crucible into the Erdtree - an everpresent beacon of the Greater Will's (and Marika's) rule.

But sending the Elden Beast down to transform itself into the Elden Ring was only one part of the Greater Will's plan. The next step was to recruit a viceroy who could rule over The Lands Between as the Greater Will's representative. Enter Queen Marika.

A close-up of Queen Marika in Elden Ring.
When all's said and done, Queen Marika is probably the most important character in all of Elden Ring. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bandai Namco

Chapter 2: The Golden Order Begins

Key Characters:

Queen Marika Maliketh
The Gloam-Eyed Queen

Before she became Queen, Marika hailed from a race called the Numen, outside The Lands Between. She was chosen by the Two Fingers to become an Empyrean, which basically means she made it to the second interview stage of the Greater Will's application process for that viceroy position it had just created.

We only know of one other Empyrean chosen at this time - a person (or creature) called The Gloam-Eyed Queen. You know how the Greater Will and the Frenzied Flame were like two sides of the same coin? Order and Chaos? Well, Marika and the Gloam-Eyed Queen represented a similar duality. Marika represented Life Eternal, while the Gloam-Eyed Queen represented Destined Death.

Malekith, the Black Blade, one of the last required bosses in Elden Ring.
Every Empyrean gets a loyal Shadowbound Beast, and Marika's was the creature known as Maliketh. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/FromSoftware

The Two Fingers, after choosing an Empyrean, reward them with a faithful follower known as a Shadow (or Shadowbound Beast, if you're feeling posh). Usually taking the form of a beast, Shadows are designed to be utterly, unfailingly loyal to their Empyrean. At least, unless that Empyrean turns against the Greater Will. But that's another story. Marika's Shadow was a creature called Maliketh, who - perhaps unsurprisingly - is by far the most powerful Shadowbound Beast that we're aware of.

Marika sent Maliketh to fight the Gloam-Eyed Queen, and Maliketh dutifully slew his mistress's rival. Marika then retrieved from the dead queen's corpse the Great Rune governing death itself, and gave it to Maliketh to guard forevermore. Maliketh stowed Destined Death inside his giant sword, earning him the moniker: Maliketh, The Black Blade.

This act marked the beginning of Marika's Golden Order. By segregating the Rune Of Death away from the Elden Ring, Marika created a world where nothing could die - at least, not permanently. And, in the same act, she placed the power of Destined Death in the hands of her utterly faithful follower, so that she could use it as she saw fit against her enemies. And enemies were plentiful at this time.

Official artwork of Lord Godfrey in Elden Ring, with the Beast Lord Serosh upon his back.
Godfrey, First Elden Lord, carries the Lord Of Beasts, Serosh, upon his back. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bandai Namco

Chapter 3: Godfrey And The First Demigods

Key Characters:

Queen Marika Hoarah Loux
Godfrey Godwyn
Morgott Mohg

Just about every corner of The Lands Between had factions and races who didn't take kindly to the idea of this new Golden Order coming out of nowhere to rule over reality itself. Marika was about to begin a series of long and savage wars for control. And for that, she needed an army, and a leader.

For this task, she chose a legendary warchief called Hoarah Loux. Hoarah Loux became one of Marika's foremost weapons alongside the more recondite Maliketh. His only shortcoming was his bloodlust, to which end he made a pact with a Lord Of Beasts called Serosh. Hoarah Loux would carry Serosh on his back henceforth, to quell his lust for battle. Seems a bit extreme, but who knows, maybe that's the mental health cure we've all been waiting for.

It was also at this point that Marika chose Hoarah Loux to become her husband. And Hoarah Loux adopted a new name befitting Marika's new Golden Order: Godfrey. And as Marika's husband, Godfrey became known as the land's first Elden Lord.

Marika and Godfrey had three children: Godwyn, Morgott, and Mohg. Godwyn was the golden child (no literally, he was known as Godwyn The Golden), and he became a powerful warrior like his father. The twins Morgott and Mohg, however, were born with deformities: horns sprouted every which way from their bodies; so too did tails and wings.

Two screenshots side-by-side showing the Omen Twins of Elden Ring: Morgott on the left, and Mohg on the right.
The Omen Twins: Morgott (left) and Mohg (right). | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bandai Namco

These deformities made them "Omen", and according to Marika's Golden Order, Omen were shunned. Too much of a reminder of the melting pot of life that was the Crucible, in the age before the Erdtree. Omen are usually killed at birth - that's how taboo it is. But because they were Marika's own, she simply cast them out into the sewers beneath the capital, as would any decent caring mother.

Thus, the Golden Lineage - the first demigods - was formed. And while Mohg and Morgott were too horny to be of much use, Godwyn would prove himself useful to Marika and Godfrey in the wars ahead.

The Fire Giant in Elden Ring hoists his shield above his head and looks towards the camera in the Mountaintops Of The Giants.
Fire Giants once dominated the lands north of Leyndell. Now there is only one left. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bandai Namco

Chapter 4: The Fire Giants

Key Characters:

Queen Marika Godfrey
The Giants The Fell God

Marika's Conquest of The Lands Between met with resistance just about everywhere, but by far the greatest immediate threat were the Fire Giants of the north. They had the backing of an Outer God called The Fell God, and they also had the Flame of Ruin - a type of fire powerful enough to burn even the Erdtree.

Marika sent Godfrey and his army to conquer the Mountaintops Of The Giants. We don't know how long the war lasted; we only know that Marika's side won. It also couldn't have hurt that they were aided by a powerful clan of ice-wielding Zamor Knights.

The One-Eyed Shield item description in-game states that the Fell God "is believed to have been slain by Queen Marika". Whether this is true or not remains unclear, yet even Marika couldn't destroy the Flame of Ruin. So instead it was confined to a Forge at the top of the mountain, and The Fire Giants were hunted to extinction except for one, who was left to tend the Flame Of Ruin for all eternity, and guard it against anyone who approaches.

Dragonlord Placidusax from Elden Ring hovers upside down in his arena in Crumbling Farum Azula while lightning strikes in the background.
One of the most powerful creatures in Elden Ring is the Dragonlord Placidusax, whose stone scales can alter time itself. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bandai Namco

Chapter 5: The Ancient Dragons

Key Characters:

Dragonlord Placidusax Gransax
Fortissax Godfrey

The Ancient Dragons hailed from a floating island called Farum Azula. They had stone scales with time-altering properties, making them immortal (but not unkillable). And they were led by Dragonlord Placidusax, who is said - rather confusingly - to have been Elden Lord in the time before the Erdtree.

The Ancient Dragons let their feelings on Marika's Golden Order be known in spectacular fashion. The gigantic dragon Gransax, the largest dragon ever to have existed as far as we know, besieged the capital city of Leyndell. This marks the only time in recorded history that Leyndell's walls were breached. Gransax's petrified corpse still remains towering over the city. How it was slain, and who by, we don't know. But it marked the beginning of the Golden Order's war against the Ancient Dragons.

A bird's eye view of the petrified remains of the Ancient Dragon Gransax inside Leyndell in Elden Ring.
Look up while in Leyndell and you can see the remains of Gransax, the largest dragon ever to exist. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bandai Namco

Unlike the Fire Giants, several of the Ancient Dragons managed to survive this war (though many didn't). Placidusax retreated to its seat of power in Farum Azula and continued to await its god's return. The Ancient Dragon Fortissax fought a legendary one-on-one fight against Godwyn The Golden, and lost. But Godwyn spared Fortissax's life, and the two became friends. In fact, it was this union more than anything which resulted in the end of the war, and the rise of the Ancient Dragon Cult as an accepted teaching within the Golden Order.

There is also mention of a mysterious "Stormlord" which Godfrey himself faced alone at some point. We don't know who the Stormlord is for sure, but many (I included) suspect it was Placidusax, who after all is lord of Farum Azula, where an endless storm rages beyond time. So, it sounds like perhaps Godfrey and Placidusax clashed, just as Godwyn and Fortissax clashed, and Godfrey forced Placidusax into hiding. When the player sees Placidusax in-game, the Dragonlord is missing three of its five heads. Potentially they were lost at the hands of Godfrey.

An establishing shot of the Liurnia Of The Lakes region in Elden Ring, with the Academy Of Raya Lucaria and the Erdtree in the background.
Unexpectedly, Marika faced her greatest threat in Liurnia, against the Carian Royals. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bandai Namco

Chapter 6: The War Ends

Key Characters:

Queen Marika The Nox
The Carian Royals The Raya Lucarians
Rennala Radagon

There were really only a couple more major threats that Marika needed to take care of after the Giants and the Dragons. One was the Nox - a grey-skinned people who sought to combat the ever-growing influence of the Greater Will. They fashioned Mirrorhelms - helmets made from a crystalline glass, which "wards off the intervention of the Greater Will and its vassal Fingers". And perhaps even more significantly - they created a weapon called the Fingerslayer Blade, which is "said to be able to harm the Greater Will and its vassals".

Two Nox stand side-by-side in Elden Ring, one of them wearing the Nox Mirrorhelm.
The Nox are encountered a few times in Elden Ring; they were banished by Marika for their treasonous creations. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bandai Namco

Of course, that didn't go down too well with the Greater Will, so Marika banished the Nox deep underground, where they remained in their Eternal Cities of Nokron and Nokstella, awaiting an age that would take them beyond the influence of the Greater Will and other Outer Gods.

After that, just one true foe remained - the Carian Royal Family. These Carian Royals were situated in Liurnia Of The Lakes, and perhaps surprisingly, they proved themselves such a match for the armies of the Golden Order that not one but two wars were fought over this region, and in neither war was there a clear victor. The sorcery-wielding Carian Knights were powerful indeed, and the head of the family, Rennala, used her lunar magic to "bewitch" (whether literally or figuratively) the Academy Of Raya Lucaria. Against the combined might of the Carian Royals and the Academy, victory in battle was by no means assured for the Golden Order.

It was during these wars that a Golden Order warrior named Radagon came to renown, leading the armies while presumably Godfrey was busy with Giants or Dragons (or making wee little demigods with Marika). The red-haired champion Radagon proved himself as worthy of Marika's Golden Order as any who came before him, even Godfrey himself. But it was during these two challenging wars that the unlikely pair of Radagon and Rennala fell in love. Their union and marriage brought about an unexpectedly peaceful end to the prolonged bloodshed of the Liurnian wars.

Three Elden Ring screenshots stitched together, showing close-ups of Radahn, Rykard, and Ranni.
The three children of Rennala and Radagon. From left to right: Radahn, Rykard, Ranni. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bandai Namco

Chapter 7: Rennala's Demigod Children

Key Characters:

Radahn Rykard

In the years following the end of the Liurnian wars, Rennala and Radagon had three children, all of them demigods. The three children of Rennala and Radagon were: Radahn, Rykard, and Ranni. Yes, all the "R" names are giving me a headache too.

Radahn grew to be a mountain of a man, a fierce warrior like his father, and an exceptionally powerful practitioner of gravitational magic. Rykard, meanwhile, fused himself to a world-devouring snake. There's always one, isn't there.

Ranni took after her mother more than her father, inheriting Rennala's talent for lunar magic. She also later became the first person (that we know of) since Marika and the Gloam-Eyed Queen to be chosen by the Two Fingers as an Empyrean, a candidate to succeed Marika as god of the Golden Order.

Artwork of a temporarily deceased Hoarah Loux in the Badlands, as shown in the Elden Ring opening cinematic.
After the war, Godfrey and his army were banished from the Lands Between, becoming the first Tarnished. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bandai Namco

Chapter 8: The Long March Of The Tarnished

Key Characters:

Queen Marika Godfrey
Hoarah Loux The Tarnished

With the Carians pacified, Marika's conquest of The Lands Between was more or less complete. And it was around this time that she began to look inward, towards the Golden Order and the Greater Will itself. Melina repeats Marika's words to us at one point in-game: "Those blissful early days of blind belief are long past", she states. No longer would Marika be a blind obedient slave to the Greater Will.

Godfrey, too, was affected by the war ending. The item description of Godfrey's Elden Lord Crown reads: "And then, there came a moment. When his last worthy enemy fell. And it was then, as the story is told, that the hue of Lord Godfrey's eyes faded."

As it happens, the moment the war ended and the armies were no longer necessary, Marika had divested Godfrey and his armies of their Grace, their holy connection to the Erdtree and the Golden Order. She banished them from The Lands Between: "With thine eyes dimmed, ye will be driven from The Lands Between. Ye will wage war in a land afar, where ye will live, and die".

Godfrey abandoned his Golden Order moniker, and became known as Hoarah Loux once more. And he and his armies became known as "Tarnished" - those who have lost the Grace of the Erdtree. They left The Lands Between and entered the realm known as the Badlands, where, as Marika stated, they would live and die away from the eternal life of Marika's Golden Order. Thus, they grew stronger over the generations.

A close-up of Rennala's face in Elden Ring.
Rennala, Queen Of The Full Moon, would be left heartbroken by the end of Liurnia's tale. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bandai Namco

Chapter 9: The Betrayal

Key Characters:

Queen Marika Radagon

One of the great secrets of Elden Ring is revealed to us via a statue of Radagon found in Leyndell, into which the sculptor apparently buried a secret he found about Radagon. Stand in front of this statue and cast the Law Of Regression Incantation towards it, and the truth is revealed as the statue turns from Radagon into Marika.

Turns out, Radagon is Marika. The two people are one and the same. Whether this was always the case or whether Radagon somehow became part of Marika, no one is sure. But viewed in this light, the seemingly happy ending to the Liurnian wars becomes rather more duplicitous. Having encountered more resistance than expected from the Carians, Marika instead seduced Rennala under the guise of Radagon in order to bring about peace.

And once peace was established, Radagon betrayed Rennala, leaving her in favour of Marika. Rennala was left shattered and heartbroken by Radagon's departure, and she lost the loyalty of her Academy as a result. Liurnia fell into a civil war between the Carian Royals at Caria Manor, and the Academy of Raya Lucaria. And thus, Liurnia would never again pose a threat to Marika's Golden Order.

The only thing Radagon left behind for Rennala was an amber egg, containing the Great Rune Of The Unborn, a small part of the Elden Ring associated with rebirth. The heartbroken Rennala would cradle this amber egg, using its power to rebirth her scholars again and again until they became husks of their former selves.

A close-up of Malenia wielding her katana while she fights Radahn in the Elden Ring story trailer.
Malenia and her brother Miquella were both born from a single god: Marika herself. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bandai Namco

Chapter 10: The Pure Demigods

Key Characters:

Malenia Miquella

In a rather incestuous twist, Marika and Radagon - both the same person, remember - ended up having two more children. Don't think about that too much.

Those two children were the twins, Malenia and Miquella. And because they were technically born from one godly parent, that meant a couple of things for them. First: they were chosen to be Empyreans by the Two Fingers. After all, who better to succeed Marika than the child of Marika and... Marika?

Second: Malenia and Miquella were both born cursed, presumably because of the unusual and slightly incestuous nature of their birth. Miquella was cursed with eternal youth, while Malenia was cursed with a Scarlet Rot sickness.

The stage, now, is more or less set for the Shattering. A quick roundup: we have Marika, and her Golden Order. Her greatest assets: Radagon, Maliketh, and the backing of the Greater Will. Godfrey and his armies have been banished from The Lands Between, and they have become the first Tarnished.

Meanwhile, we have three sets of demigod children. Godwyn, and the Omen twins Morgott and Mohg, were born from Marika and Godfrey. Then later, Radagon (who is Marika) and Rennala had three more children: Radahn, Rykard, and Ranni. And finally, Marika and Radagon has the cursed twins, Malenia and Miquella.

Now, let's watch Marika's Golden Order unravel.

General Radahn wields his two greatswords against Malenia in the Elden Ring story trailer.
Radahn used his legendary gravitational powers to conquer the stars themselves. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bandai Namco

Chapter 11: Radahn Defeats The Stars

Key Characters:

Radahn Ranni

Radahn, son of Radagon and Rennala, was a giant of a man. And in an act that instantly makes him one of my favourite characters in the entire Elden Ring mythos, he learnt gravitational magic in order to still be able to ride his scrawny little horse without crushing it. Isn't that just brilliant?

He wasn't a self-taught gravity practitioner though. His mentor was an Alabaster Lord hailing from the sorcerous town of Sellia, in Caelid. Through the Alabaster Lord's guidance, Radahn became extremely powerful in the gravitational arts. And his power was already formidable, even for a child of Marika. The Starscourge Heirloom item description in-game calls him "mightiest hero of the demigods".

Details are shaky, but at some point Radahn pulled off an act of unheard of power for a demigod: he used his gravitational magic to arrest the stars themselves, and keep them in stasis for as long as he would live. Why he did this is not clear. It's said that by doing so he saved the town of Sellia, which he clearly had some attachment to as it was where he learnt his magic. So it's possible that a "star" or meteor would have struck Sellia had Radahn not intervened.

In any case, Radahn's conquering of the stars had massive implications, particularly for a certain other demigod: his sister, Lunar Princess Ranni. Ranni had a strong affinity with the stars and the night sky; indeed, her ending in Elden Ring is called the Age Of Stars. Her destiny is wrapped up in the movement of the stars - and with the stars in stasis, so too was Ranni's destiny. It's unknown whether either of them were aware of this, but from the moment Radahn conquered the stars, it became impossible for Ranni to fully realise her goals while Radahn still lived.

A group of Black Knife Assassins kills Godwyn The Golden on the Night Of Black Knives in Elden Ring.
Possibly the most fateful night in the entire Elden Ring mythos was the Night Of Black Knives, where Godwyn The Golden perished. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bandai Namco

Chapter 12: The Night Of Black Knives

Key Characters:

Ranni Maliketh
Godwyn Black Knife Assassins

Even with the stars in stasis, Ranni wasn't powerless. She had a plan. See, Ranni may have been made an Empyrean by the Two Fingers, but she despised the Golden Order and the Greater Will, and wished to free herself and The Lands Between from the Greater Will's influence. She had no army, but she did have her loyal Shadow, a half-wolf named Blaidd; and she also had as her servant a troll Smithing Master known as Iji. And she had her mastery over cold sorceries and lunar magic, courtesy both of her lineage and her mentor, a mysterious crone known as the "Snow Witch".

Armed with such powers, Ranni made her move. One night, she visited Marika's Shadow, Maliketh, in Farum Azula. And somehow, she stole a fragment of the Rune Of Death that Maliketh had sworn to guard with his life.

Artwork of Ranni, a key character in Elden Ring, with her back turned and her hat covering her face.
Ranni was the architect behind the Night Of Black Knives, and as such, it was Ranni who indirectly caused the Shattering. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bandai Namco

Ranni's plan was swift and brutal. She employed a group of female Numen warriors called the Black Knife Assassins, and using a ritual, she imbued their Black Knives with the stolen fragment of Death, turning them into blades powerful enough to kill a god. That very night, the Black Knife Assassins set upon their many targets scattered across The Lands Between, all at once. It's said they targeted many of Marika's kin (presumably lesser unnamed demigods generations into the Golden Lineage), but the most significant death of all was Marika's firstborn, Godwyn The Golden.

Godwyn was slain by a group of Black Knife Assassins, led by Alecto, the Black Knife Ringleader. In another carefully conceived ritual, they carved a runemark of Death into Godwyn's back with their Black Knives; and at exactly the same time, in a different place, Ranni carved the same cursemark into herself. In so doing, both the demigods suffered a "half-death". Godwyn's soul was killed, leaving behind his body. And Ranni's body was slain, but her soul endured.

Godwyn's body, without a soul, became known as The Prince Of Death: a horrific entity that would mindless spread death everywhere, without end. Through the demigod's malformed soulless body, the Rune Of Death spread like a disease, sprouting what's known as Deathroot, which gives rise to Those Who Live In Death (the undead).

Maliketh, despising himself for letting the fragment of Death be stolen from his Black Blade, bound the Blade with his own flesh, sealing it within himself to prevent Destined Death from ever being stolen again. He resolved to undo his mistake by entering The Lands Between under the guise of a Beast Clergyman named Gurranq, and employing Tarnished warriors to track down Deathroot and feed it to him to limit Destined Death's expansion across the land.

The reason Ranni slew her own body was simple; she explains it to the player. "I stole the Rune of Death, slew mine own Empyrean flesh, casting it away. I would not be controlled by that thing [The Greater Will]". By discarding her "Empyrean flesh", she was able to act more freely, beyond the control of the Greater Will and its Two Fingers. And in the same breath, she slew one of Marika's children, triggering a cascade of consequences that would quickly grow into all-out war between the Demigods.

Margit jumps down upon Radahn and flattens him to the floor in artwork for Elden Ring.
At some point, Radahn attacked the forces of Leyndell, but Morgott/Margit would meet him in battle and fend him off. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bandai Namco

Chapter 13: The Shattering Begins

Key Characters:

Queen Marika Radagon
Morgott Mohg
Rennala Radahn
Rykard Ranni
Malenia Miquella

After the Night Of Black Knives and her son Godwyn's death, Marika made the fateful decision to shatter the Elden Ring itself. The immediate assumption is that she was torn apart by Godwyn's death, but that's just one theory. There's also compelling evidence that Marika herself was pulling the strings that led to the Night Of Black Knives. After all, after her conquest ended, she had plenty of time to look inward and delve into the Golden Order, no longer as a blind puppet of the Greater Will.

Whether this was part of an age-old plan or the product of her grief at losing her son and her control over Death itself, Marika shattered the Elden Ring into pieces. After that, Radagon attempted to repair the Elden Ring, but to no avail. Which is interesting in itself, because, lest we forget, Radagon is Marika. The prevailing theories are: either Radagon is still more of a puppet of the Greater Will, and sought to immediately undo Marika's treason; or it was always Marika's intention to shatter the Elden Ring and then rebuild it, perhaps to fix the issues that she had seen within the Golden Order.

Regardless, the Elden Ring could not be repaired, and over time the pieces of the Elden Ring were spread far and wide, and their power quickly snatched up by the various power-coveting demigods who remained. Seemingly as punishment, Marika (and by extension Radagon) was imprisoned within the Erdtree by the Elden Beast itself. But the damage to the Greater Will's influence was done; everything was spinning out of control.

A full map of Elden Ring, with the locations of all the Shardbearers marked in yellow.
Of the nine Shardbearers who managed to take Great Runes from the shattered Elden Ring, most of them would end up at war with one another. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bandai Namco

Power corrupts, and the Great Runes that once made up the Elden Ring were pretty much the greatest bits of power in the world at this time. It's also thought that the Greater Will wished for the remaining demigods to war among themselves in order for one to rise above the rest and prove themselves worthy of becoming the god of the new age. So there may have been some sort of Ring Of Sauron-esque corruption happening to all the demigods with Great Runes, forcing them to act more warlike.

The following demigods took up Great Runes, becoming "Shardbearers":

  • Morgott took an anchor ring that houses the base of the Elden Ring.
  • Mohg took a very similar rune to Morgott, but his became "soaked in accursed blood".
  • Rennala, the only non-demigod Shardbearer, still had possession of Radagon's amber egg containing the Great Rune of the Unborn.
  • Radahn took a powerful and burning Great Rune with an innate resistance to Scarlet Rot.
  • Rykard took a rune which feeds off the defeat of enemies to restore health.
  • Ranni is said to have taken a Great Rune, but then quickly discarded it.
  • Malenia took a Great Rune which quickly became half-rotted due to her curse.
  • Miquella may have taken a Great Rune, but we know nothing about this one if so.
  • Godrick, a relatively weak descendant of Godfrey, somehow ended up with the anchor ring found at the very centre of the Elden Ring.

The devastating war between these demigods became known as the Shattering. Morgott, based in Leyndell, defended the capital against two separate attacks, one of whom was against Radahn. We can see in one of the opening cinematic stills, Morgott (as his alter-ego, Margit, The Fell Omen) pouncing upon General Radahn. It appears that Morgott's side forced Radahn's to retreat, if Morgott's continued presence in Leyndell during the events of the game is anything to go by.

A bird's eye view of Volcano Manor in Elden Ring, with a lake of magma visible inside the castle ramparts.
It's unlikely that the fighting ever reached Volcano Manor itself, but the surrounding mountaintop became littered with dead on both sides. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bandai Namco

At some point afterwards, Morgott's forces besieged Mount Gelmir and Volcano Manor, the home of Morgott's stepbrother Rykard. Morgott, despite his Omen nature being shunned by the Golden Order, saw himself as the Order's protector, and Rykard's blasphemous ways were a threat that needed purging. The assault on Volcano Manor was said to be the most appalling battle in the Shattering, and the destruction was such that some of Rykard's men deserted him immediately after the conflict, seeing what Rykard's blasphemy had wrought. Regardless, it's clear that both sides suffered heavy losses, and Rykard was left standing (or slithering) by the end of the conflict.

Perhaps the most successful campaign during the Shattering was made by Malenia. Her (and her brother Miquella's) actions during the war are such that we need a whole new chapter to delve into them.

Mohg, Lord Of Blood, carries an unconscious Miquella under one arm in Elden Ring artwork.
Miquella's plan was cut short by Mohg breaking into the Haligtree and stealing Miquella's cocoon form. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bandai Namco

Chapter 14: Miquella And Malenia

Key Characters:

Miquella Malenia
Mohg Radahn

As we know, both Miquella and Malenia were born cursed. Miquella, said to be the most fearsome of the Empyreans, devoted much time to trying to cure both his sister and himself. He abandoned the Golden Order's Fundamentalist doctrine after realising it could provide no cure for them. He created needles out of "unalloyed gold" to ward away the influence of the outer gods, including the Greater Will, one of which he gave to Malenia to try and forestall her Scarlet Rot sickness.

Miquella also watered a sapling with his own blood, hoping to turn it into a new Erdtree with the power to cure himself and Malenia. The sapling grew into a large misshapen tree known as Miquella's Haligtree. Miquella cocooned himself within the Haligtree itself, possibly in an attempt to cure himself of his eternal youth, or possibly to help the Haligtree grow into a full Erdtree. Either way, before his plan reached fruition, the Haligtree was cut open and Miquella's cocoon form was stolen away.

A close-up of a withered hand hanging from the cocoon in Mohg's arena in the Shadow Of The Erdtree trailer.
The cocoon in Mohg's throne room where Miquella is said to reside is also the entrance to the Shadow Of The Erdtree DLC. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bandai Namco

The culprit who stole Miquella's cocooned form was none other than Mohg, twin brother of Morgott. Turns out, while deep underground in Leyndell's sewers, he was contacted by an Outer God called The Formless Mother, a god associated with pain and bloodflame. Through this connection, Mohg learned powerful bloodflame magic. During the Shattering, Mohg escaped the sewers and set up Mohgwyn Palace as his new home. And it was to here that Mohg absconded with Miquella's body.

Malenia set off on a conquest across The Lands Between. It's unclear whether this happened before Miquella was kidnapped, or whether she set off in order to find Miquella after the kidnapping. She and her loyal band of Cleanrot Knights proved undefeatable as she marched all the way from the Haligtree, past the Altus Plateau, down the length of Liurnia.

Godrick The Grafted, in an act of, well, sheer stupidity, insulted Malenia as she approached. Malenia met him in battle, handily beat him, and forced him to surrender.

The Scarlet Bloom during the fight against Malenia and Radahn in Elden Ring.
Malenia's Scarlet Rot is unleashed in full force for the first time during her legendary battle against Radahn. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bandai Namco

Onward Malenia went, through Limgrave, and into the Caelid Wilds. By this time, the only true challenger left was General Radahn. The other Shardbearers were either beaten or in hiding. So Malenia and Radahn met in the centre of Caelid in what became known as the fateful Battle Of Aeonia. We see some of this legendary fight in the Elden Ring story trailer. The two peerless demigods fought to a standstill, until Malenia was forced - for the very first time - to unleash the full power of the Scarlet Rot inside her.

The effects were devastating. The entire landscape of Caelid was transformed by the Scarlet Rot, and a retreating Radahn was eaten away from the inside by the Rot, turning him into a mindless beast, no longer with any hope or desire to take the throne. Malenia, meanwhile, fell into a coma on the battlefield soon after unleashing the Scarlet Rot. She was later recovered by one of her Cleanrot Knights, and brought back to the roots of the Haligtree to await Miquella's return.

A mausoleum of fallen Tarnished, as shown in the Elden Ring opening cinematic.
The Tarnished - veterans and descendants of Godfrey's army - are called back to the Lands Between. You among them. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bandai Namco

Chapter 15: The Tarnished Return

Key Characters:

The Tarnished Hoarah Loux

All in all, the Shattering was a bit of a failure on the part of pretty much every Shardbearer. Let's do a quick recap:

  • Morgott at least retained control of Leyndell, but he was no closer to bypassing the impenetrable thorns surrounding the Erdtree, and he seemingly lacked the military might to go on any more attacks after the assault on Volcano Manor.
  • Mohg successfully kidnapped Miquella while remaining in hiding. But his plan to elevate Miquella to godhood wasn't working; Miquella would not awaken, no matter what Mohg tried.
  • Rennala didn't partake in the Shattering; the Academy of Raya Lucaria quickly declared itself neutral and sealed itself from the outer world.
  • Radahn fought Malenia to a standstill, but her Scarlet Rot ruined him. After that point, he would only wander the coast of Caelid as a mindless beast.
  • Rykard stayed within Volcano Manor. He fed himself to a legendary godlike immortal snake, thinking it would give him great power. Perhaps one day the snake would have grown so powerful it would destroy the world, as Rykard foresaw; but this plan would likely take millennia to be realised, if at all.
  • Ranni played no role in the Shattering except to start it with the Night Of Black Knives. It was never her intention to become the Greater Will's new puppet.
  • Malenia defeated everyone in battle before meeting Radahn, when she unleashed her Scarlet Rot. The act put her into a coma, and she was carried back to the Haligtree to recover.
  • Miquella didn't partake in any of the Shattering's battles. He cocooned himself in the Haligtree, but was kidnapped by Mohg, Lord Of Blood.
  • Godrick was a pathetic loser who sucked at just about everything he tried to do.

If you were the Greater Will, who would you choose to succeed Marika? Exactly. That's why the Greater Will abandoned the idea of one of the demigods becoming the new god, and turned to the Tarnished.

If you remember, the Tarnished were the name given to Godfrey (now Hoarah Loux) and his army after they were divested of their Grace and banished from The Lands Between by Marika. The Greater Will called them back to The Lands Between, allowing them (some of them, at least) to be guided by Grace once more. Its hope was that one of the Tarnished would prove themselves worthy of becoming Marika's new consort and the new Elden Lord.

An establishing shot of Limgrave, the starting region of Elden Ring.
The guidance of Grace encourages the player to follow the Greater Will's plan. In many ways, the entire game is about learning to do other things beside what the Greater Will desires. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bandai Namco

Chapter 16: The Rise Of The Tarnished

Key Characters:

The Tarnished Melina
Morgott Maliketh
Godfrey Hoarah Loux
Queen Marika Radagon
The Elden Beast

This final chapter effectively describes the events of the game. The player plays as one of the Tarnished called back to The Lands Between by the guidance of Grace. The golden lights of Grace encourage the player to take a path to the nearest Shardbearers and defeat them in battle, gaining their Great Runes and proving to the Greater Will that the Tarnished is worthy of becoming Elden Lord.

Before we wrap up, I'll devote a few words to talk about one more major character, one of the most mysterious of them all: Melina. She appears to the player very early in the game, giving them the ability to summon the spectral steed Torrent, and offering to play the role of "Finger Maiden" - a follower of the Two Fingers who can turn rune fragments into strength (i.e. levelling up the player's character). But she is no Finger Maiden really, despite having the power to turn runes into strength.

A close-up of Melina's face in Elden Ring.
So little is known about Melina, yet she is possibly the player's greatest ally over the course of the game. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bandai Namco

In any case, Melina remains the Tarnished's near-constant companion throughout the events of Elden Ring. The Tarnished eventually defeats enough demigods and earns enough Great Runes to journey to the capital, Leyndell. There, they defeat Morgott, who defends the base of the Erdtree, but find their way into the Erdtree blocked by the thorns that kept Morgott out all this time.

Melina sets the Tarnished on a quest to reach the Flame Of Ruin in the Mountaintops Of The Giants. Once there, Melina puts the Tarnished to sleep, and uses the Flame Of Ruin to burn the Erdtree. The Tarnished then awakens in Crumbling Farum Azula. Possibly because Melina knew that to properly complete their quest, the Tarnished needed to free Destined Death once more. To that end, the Tarnished defeats Maliketh, The Black Blade, Marika's loyal Shadow, and releases Destined Death upon the world.

Queen Marika in Elden Ring, hoisted on an arc of golden light within the Erdtree.
When the player enters the Erdtree at last, they see Marika hoisted in the air and imprisoned, presumably by the Elden Beast itself. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bandai Namco

After that, the player returns to a now burning Erdtree. They are met by Godfrey/Hoarah Loux, who - lest we forget - is another Tarnished, perhaps wishing to become Elden Lord of the new age. But no, the player's Tarnished proves too much even for the former Elden Lord.

Inside the Erdtree, they see Marika, imprisoned. But at the Tarnished's approach, Marika is freed. Taking Radagon's form, the god fights the Tarnished, but is defeated. Finally, the Elden Beast itself awakens and challenges the Tarnished - clearly the burning of the Erdtree was not much appreciated by the Greater Will - but it, too, falls.

After that... Well, the ending depends on the path chosen by the Tarnished. For more information, check out our Elden Ring endings guide. But in nearly every ending, the Tarnished becomes the new Elden Lord, with Marika (or potentially someone else...) as the god of the new age. The only ending which doesn't follow this path is the Lord Of The Frenzied Flame ending, in which we see the return of our old friend, the Frenzied Flame - the Greater Will's other half, and the God of Chaos. Following this ending sees the Tarnished become the Lord Of Chaos rather than Elden Lord. They are tasked by the Frenzied Flame to burn the entire world of all Outer Godly influence, and return the world to a state closer to the age of the Crucible, before the Erdtree was formed.

And that's just about the entire story of Elden Ring. At least, until Shadow Of The Erdtree flips everything on its head.

A destroyed Erdtree against a sky dominated by the Frenzied Flame in one of the Elden Ring ending cinematics.
If you choose the Frenzied Flame ending, then the Erdtree is destroyed and the sky is set ablaze with the Flame of Frenzy. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bandai Namco

Good grief, you actually reached the end of this massive lore dump. Congratulations! Then again, we're Elden Ring players. We're used to long and arduous journeys. If you're just starting another, then take a look at our Elden Ring beginner's guide, and our guide on what to do first in Elden Ring. You can also follow our tips on the best Elden Ring builds to become as strong as possible ready for Shadow Of The Erdtree.

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