Dark Souls 2 Lore: Royal Knights of Drangleic

What makes a King? Some say it is birthright,
while others call it destiny. The reality is no single King’s rise to power carries
the same song; the same legend. Some Kings are born through annex and siege; through
death and conquest. And while others rise to glory to answer a call – a desperate whisper
of the weak in dire circumstance – there are yet kingdoms built of providence, worshipping
those deemed as Gods. Although not all kingdoms are built upon principles of honor or forged
in the fires of war, they are built on the backs of many. The legend of a King is never
the tale of a single man or warrior. It is a tale of strife and triumph of the masses;
of those loyal and betrayed; a tale of those worthy to be remembered.
Amongst the worthy rests Sir Alonne, the right hand of a now forgotten Old King. This king
constructed a great kingdom of Iron, but it was not always so, and it was Sir Alonne who
aided this lesser-known lord in his rise to become a monarch. Together Sir Alonne and
the enfeebled lord wrested the dilapidated region of Venn under their control. The conquest
required all the resources the unestablished lord could muster. With odds favoring the
Kingdom of Venn, Sir Alonne viewed Venn’s defeat as a true test of his skill as a warrior
and tactician. But with the victory, the newfound King commandeered Venn’s ability to manipulate
automatons. This power allowed the King to create puppets of his own; to mold iron freely
as if he held sway over the forces of life and creation. Thus, the King was reborn as
a powerful leader in a great Age of Iron. None could stand against the strength of Sir
Alonne and the Iron King. And so, the Iron kingdom’s size grew to match its power.
Shalquior: “The human ego…How many ugly iron castles has it erected?
And they don’t even see the folly of their ways.”
But all of mankind, each individual, every soul longs for purpose. Just as the Old Iron
King desired an ever-higher ascension of stature, so too did Sir Alonne desire the thrill of
battle once again. However, with many of the Iron Keep’s foes defeated and surrounding
lands conquered, Sir Alonne saw little combat. What Alonne did see, though, was the Iron
King’s vainglory consuming the monarch, almost as though he was possessed. The self-indulgences
and pursuit of power only worsened over time. The Iron King fancied entertaining dubious
and eccentric guest from faraway lands. Most of which were charlatans, but amongst the
riff-raff were the occasional master of refined arts. One such master was a talented pyromancer
by the name of Eygil. The Old King befriended this magus to aid with an obsession of possessing
the power of the life-giving flame. Though Sir Alonne voiced distaste for his
sire’s swelling indulgences and vanity, and power simply for the sake of power, the
Royal Knight would never leave his sovereign’s side. Loyalty and valor was a matter of Sir
Alonne’s oath, and the oath embodied the Knight’s honor. Nevertheless, just as mysteriously
as Sir Alonne appeared from a distant Eastern land, so too did the knight vanish at the
peak of the Old Iron King’s reign. In memory, in respect of his service to the
crown, the Old Iron King bequeathed the soldiers of his kingdom Alonne’s name in reverence
of the great Knight’s legacy. With Sir Alonne gone, The Old Iron King felt
a void; an absence; a vulnerability to his own legacy and power. The Old Iron King sought
to fill this void. With the aid of the pyromancer Eygil who had labored tirelessly in pursuit
to give fire a will of its own, the two would join their knowledge to manifest a construct
worthy of serving in place of Alonne; an automaton of molten flesh and iron. In the end, the
Old Iron King was struck down by his own creation and was swallowed in a lake of the Earth’s
Blood. The Old Iron King’s charred body became the vessel for an entity that lurked
below, the soul of a vainglorious liar whose name must not be spoken.
Sometime after the Old Iron King succumb to the flames that swallowed his kingdom, a women
draped in darkness sought the monarch. Only, she found not a king, but instead discovered
another wayward soul; a black raven – an augur of death.
There have been many different warriors who have served many different kings. Some become
legend; a fable, a symbol of righteous conquering darkness. Others are legends of a different
nature; a cautionary tale of the might and barbarity of a kingdom’s foe. But some knights
become something else entirely; legends of the flesh, living icons. One of reverence,
one of defiance. None this was truer of than Raime and Velstadt,
the left and right hand of the once noble King Vendrick who ruled Drangleic. Velstadt
was a warrior of light, faith and miracles guided him to valor. Raime was a warrior equally
gifted, able to expunge darkness; banishing it in the name of light. Together, Raime and
Velstadt were a force with no equal measure. Together they tread where only the most battle-hardened
warriors dare. As brothers, Raime and Velstadt stood against all that would threaten their
King and Kingdom. When they were beckoned to cross the sea to join their king, they
answered the call. And when an unstoppable force knocked upon
the doors of Drangleic like the relentless waves of Majula’s coast, Raime and Velstadt,
The Royal Aegis again would answer. To the Royal Aegis and the Raven service in
the name of King Vendrick was more than duty, to Raime and Velstadt the bond was stronger
than the steel of their weapons. They were like Father and sons, the three. Vendrick
had brought them both up, each in their own way; Velstadt was once a wayward soul seeking
purpose and Raime was in search of true strength which he found in the regal and just monarch.
Yet, for these very same reasons their unity was fated to crumble just like the very Kingdom
they bled to honor. For in the wake of the Siege of Giants, Vendrick
retreated into the depths of the Undead Crypt. Here, the knights swore to watch over Vendrick.
As one Raime and Velstadt were the perfect wardens of light in the crypt which pervade
darkness. Velstadt’s unparalleled capabilities as a warrior and Raime’s ability to expunge
the black fog would ensure no creatures of death and dark would commandeer Vendrick’s
prized possession. United this was true, yes, but after the descent, Vendrick would come
undone from the man that ruled Drangleic and garnered the respect of Raime.
Vendrick: “I am king of this wretched, unraveled kingdom.
I’m no king, I’m more fit to be a jester. I was unaware of my own blindness.
We are feeble vessels, with feeble souls. We will cast aside the prop of life, only
to face greater hardship. Drangleic will fall, the fire will fade, and
the souls of old will reemerge. With Dark unshackled, a curse will be upon
us… And men will take their true shape…”
Rambling like a fool, the true strength Raime once saw in Vendrick was eroding along with
his admiration for the once regal father figure. Unable to bear witness to Vendrick’s downward
spiral into melancholy and utter defeat, Raime wished to preserve what little respect he
still held for the monarch. Raime would choose to resign from his post in the Undead Crypt,
but Velstadt; Velstadt would not hear of such treason; such treachery. Their wills clashed.
After his defeat at the hands of Velstadt, Raime knew he was no match for the Royal Aegis.
Velstadt deemed Raime unworthy to share the same company as his Highness, let alone protect
the King. Most dishonorably Velstadt exiled his brother-in-arms as a traitor to the crown;
a rebel of shame; an outcast friend only to disgrace. Raime knew without his ability to
expunge the darkness of the Undead Crypt, the lightless tomb would conquer the warrior
he himself could not. In this realization the black raven rediscovered the purpose he
once sought; there was true strength in the dark.
And so, Velstadt watched on stoically as his brother faded into the darkness that he had
now embraced. “With Dark unshackled, men will take their
true shape…” Licia of Lindelt: “I’d heard awful rumours
about this place, and I’m afraid they were all true.
The king, gone. The earth, ravaged. The burden on the people weighs heavy.
I fear that by now, they may have scarce room in their hearts for miracles…”
Though the kingdom of Drangleic and the Age of Iron may take place in different eras,
spanning between different reigns, their fates are connected. Like messages strewn across
time of dangers that lie ahead, so too does the legend of The Old Iron King and his Iron
Kingdom foreshadow the fate of Vendrick and Drangleic, not just in the many parallels
between their fall, but also in the characters that played their part in the great cosmic
play of life and death, light and dark. In the end, just as Raime and Velstadt’s
legacy is a contrast of two conflicting forces: one light, one dark, the betrayed and the
betrayer, the faithful and the heretic. So too is the story of the Iron King and Sir
Alonne a tale of vainglory contrasted by selflessness. Alonne would sacrifice his life to honor the
power and name of his king, but the Iron King would sacrifice his own life in the name of
power. Ironically, the Iron King yearned for strength
and strove to be remembered, but history couldn’t stoop so low as to even recall his name. The
only true remnant that lives on of the Iron King is his own memory; a memory of a figure
deserving; a memory of the knight that was everything the Iron King was not. Karma it would seem has a twisted sense of
justice, in that Raime would find his way to the Iron Kingdom in search of greater strength
only to realize the true source of the King’s power vanished. In place of the King, a newfound
mother Raime encountered instead; a darkness with which he chose to live alongside. Like
the Regal father before, Raime had once again found true strength and purpose in the Bride
of Ash. What differentiated her from Vendrick we may never know for even after she renounced
her flesh, Raime would watch over her eternally just as Velstadt would watch over Vendrick.
Though the brothers would never know of each other’s fate, Raime and Velstadt were kindred
spirts after all. Velstadt’s faith never buckled like Raime’s, but destiny it would
seem called each of them to give themselves in both life and in death to what they viewed
as greater than themselves. For this is the true calling of a knighthood;
a code by which the Royal Knights lived and died.
No matter how dire, regardless of the world they honored and fought for dissolving around
them; surrounded by hopelessness; fading into darkness and ash, the knights are steadfast.
Despite the blinding dark for which Velstadt cannot see or the dust for which Raime cannot
hold, the knights are steadfast. Despite the futility, despite the emptiness, they hold
on to what little they can, onto what little purpose they once had… of what remains?

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