Dark Souls is well known for its extensive lore, rich world-building, and grueling combat that will push you to your limits. While it's easy to get lost in the gorgeous aesthetic present in most FromSoftware titles, it can be relatively hard to follow the game's plot considering the vast majority of it is tucked away in item descriptions.
Take the First Flame, as an example, which is the center point of the entire premise of Dark Souls, but can quickly get glossed over if you never dig into the item descriptions or exhaust every NPC dialogue. The tale of the First Flame, its power, and how it essentially spawns everything you see in Dark Souls is fascinating and adds so much to the experience.
What Is The First Flame?
The First Flame starts life, death, darkness, and light within the Dark Souls universe. Before the Age of Fire was the Age of Ancients, where the world was balanced and peaceful. Unfortunately, the world would not last that way forever, and the Four Lords of Lordran would be birthed from Flame, changing the trajectory of the world forever.
While it is unknown how the First Flame came about in the universe, it is theorized to be the equivalent of the big bang, seemingly coming out of nowhere without any warning. No lore explicitly states how the First Flame ignited, despite it being the very event that kicks off the events of Dark Souls.
But, to know about the First Flame, you must first understand the Age of Ancients, the everlasting Dragons, the Four Lords, and the events that lead all the way up to Dark Souls to understand it better. Without the Flame, there would be no death or life, darkness or light, heat or cold, and everything would be balanced and carefree, which is quite the contrast to the tale of Dark Souls.
Age Of Ancients
Before the events of Dark Souls, Dragons ruled the world enveloped in fog, perched atop archtrees scattered across the vast gray lands. This era would become known as the Age of Ancients, which is still largely unexplored in the grand scheme of things. However, the Age of Ancients would not last forever and would fall due to the event of the First Flame, known as Advent of Fire.
The world without disparity changed forever within the Advent of Fire events, ushering in an age of darkness and light, heat and cold, and life and death. The world's darkness released humanoid creatures known as Hollows into the world, which found Souls by the First Flame, allowing them to absorb its power, becoming Lords.
Lordran And The Four Lords
With the absorption of Souls found near the First Flame, the Four Lords would go on to slay the Dragons that ruled the lands since the beginning of time, reigning in the Age of Fire, a flourishing era that birthed many great nations. The Lords born by the First Flame are as follows: Gravelord Nito, the Witch of Izalith, Gwyn the Lord of Sunlight and Cinder, and the Furtive Pygmy.
It's important to note that the Furtive Pygmy was the only Lord that didn't directly take on the everlasting Dragons, but instead created Humanity from the Dark Soul and raised an army that made up the vast majority of the units to overthrow the Dragons. These Humans were able to wield the power of the Dark Flame, which prompted Gwyn, and his children, the Gods, to cast a Seal of Fire upon their weapons and chests. These soldiers would go on to be known as the Ringed Knights.
Being the area where the Four Lords emerged, Lordran was naturally the center point for many other nations and adventurers. Since Lordran possesses the First Flame, the Four Lords would link it between several Bonfires scattered across the land. Doing so gave each Bonfire power and would require a Firekeeper to keep the Flame safe and draw out its strength when needed. However, as with all things, the First Flame would slowly fade, threatening the end of the Age of Fire.
Preserving The Flame
As the Flame grew dimmer and dimmer, Gwyn would grow desperate and would try to preserve the Flame as long as possible, commanding his children to find Humans to link the Flame. However, Gwyn would slowly come to grips that his kingdom was about to fall to the darkness and would move on to his next plan.
While Gwyn was trying to preserve the First Flame, the Witch of Izalith attempted to create an entirely new one with her Lord Soul, in hopes of saving Lordran and fighting off the darkness. However, the witch's attempts backfired and instead made the Bed of Chaos, which spawned Chaos and Demons into the world—essentially hurtling the kingdom into further despair, and creating the art of Pyromancy.
The Kiln Of The First Flame
Running out of time and options to save his kingdom, Gwyn would head to the Kiln of the First Flame with a handful of his knights. As his loyal knights guarded him, Gwyn sacrificed himself to the Flame in an attempt to keep it alive. His sacrifice, however, would turn the entire Kiln into ash while cremating his knights along with it, turning them into Black Knights. They would roam Lordran as disembodied spirits until the end of time as a result.
While Gwyn's sacrifice would spare the Kingdom of Lordran for another thousand years, the Fire would begin to fade yet again, which is where the events of Dark Souls start. This time, though, the Fire is vanishing at a much faster rate, with only one last hope of restoring it. The Chosen Undead, an Undead Champion of prophecy believed to undertake the responsibility of relinking the First Flame, resetting the cycle once more.
The End Of The Age Of Fire
Many years after the events of the first Dark Souls, we find ourselves in the Kingdom of Lothric, where we learn the act of relinking the First Flame has become an expected staple of the world and has been going on for eons, taking a tremendous toll on the world.
With each sacrifice to the First Flame, another Lord would become the Lord of Cinder, taking responsibility for relinking the Flame when it starts to fade, keeping the Age of Fire alive. However, when it was time for the Twin Princes, Lothric and Lorian, to become the Lord of Cinder, they refused, wanting to usher in the Age of Dark, starting a new era.
As a reaction to Prince Lothric's decision, four previous Lords of Cinder are brought back from the grave as Undead to help keep the Age of Fire alive. However, three of the four Lords of Cinder no longer care about protecting the Flame and instead seek the Age of Dark. As a last-ditch effort, the Unknindled are awakened to help relink the Flame, kickstarting the events of Dark Souls 3, where the Ashen One is the last hope for keeping the Age of Fire from ceasing.
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