Note: Spoilers ahead for Dark Souls content
A scattered circle of broken chairs and tiny desiccated corpses mark the final destination of a six-year journey. Coming off the final moments of a visually explosive and frantic battle silence is the only indication of finality. This is it. The Furtive Pygmy, one of the greatest mysteries of the franchise, have been discovered to no great fanfare, dialogue or cut scene. While the main game technically continues, the cycles have been ground down to a singular and final point.
Dark Souls has always been immersed in its theme of fire and dark. Not to be confused with good and evil, fire and dark are two antagonistic and arguably symbiotic forces that propel the worlds and characters of the games through nearly endless cycles. The futility of an allegiance to any side has been discussed time and again by players as the cycles keep spinning into a singularity.
That singularity is The Ringed City. Containing the twisted locations of the previous games The Ringed City shows the player that the world is indeed coming to a close. The big bang of Dark Souls is collecting into a single distorted mass. The final sequence of transporting to a future where only ash remains, a substance containing both fire and dark, is a somber and fitting backdrop for the encounter to come.
It’s that last encounter that has given myself and many others the most pause. Was Gael a fitting farewell to the franchise or was he a hasty insert to continue the story of the previous DLC?
While Dark Souls has always focused on cycles those cycles have never been neat and tidy. Many people wished for an encounter with the Furtive Pygmy, but that tale is too clean for a storyteller like Miyazaki. Definitive lore has never been Miyazaki’s goal and I feel a great legacy of the game has been preserved with the Furtive Pygmy leaving the franchise with the namesake largely intact.
Gael is completely inconsequential in the franchise. An ancient slave on an impossible mission, he happens to be the last surviving adversary you meet. After unknown eras of work he’s collected the fragments of the Dark Soul and the only complete exposure to it in the entire franchise is in these final moments.
And then he’s gone. And it’s quiet. The fire has faded and no Lords remain to rekindle it. But unlike the Untended Graves darkness holds no dominion as an endless twilight persists across what remains of the Furtive Pygmy’s kingdom. The concept of fire and dark itself have turned into nothingness.
And it’s on that note that I think Dark Souls manages to fulfill the promise of its theme. At the end of it all there is no denouement. No glory awaits the victor as no one remains to grant it. It’s the sort of ending that fits even though it hurts to admit it. People are used to their stories ending with a period, some type of finality that releases us back into the real world. But in a world of fire and dark, eventually only ash remains.