Preface: This is part 2 of a five part discussion on the Lords of Cinder, Dark Souls 3's major bosses. I'm completely infatuated with this game's lore, it's phenomenal, and I've been wanting to delve into some of the most detailed bosses for a while. So stick with me and hopefully you'll learn something about the Lords of Cinder! Moving onto...
The Abyss Watchers
I thought I'd start with a brief background on Farron Keep itself. Though it's not much of a keep, is it? It's a swamp, surrounded by a great wall with a few ruined walkways and towers scattered throughout.
But that's not the intriguing part about Farron Keep. In game, there's very little explaining what it is, so I'll quickly dive into a little theory I saw on the net and wanted to expand upon.
Farron Keep is actually Darkroot Garden, which was actually Oolacile.
Evidence? First consider Farron Keep itself. It's a swamp, with a lot of trees, and a few ruins. What also had a lot of trees and ruins? Darkroot Garden.
Take the Golden Scroll. I won't bother with an item description here, since that part's not important. What's important is that this scroll is found in Farron Keep. And what was there before Farron Keep? Oolacile. The secrets to the arts of Oolacile never left, and are found in the very same place, just many ages on. Furthermore, standing over the Golden Scroll is a mushroom, and scattered throughout Farron Keep there are more mushrooms. Where did these mushrooms come from? I honestly have no idea, but they were found in Darkroot, and Elizabeth, the spell vendor, was found in Oolacile. Also, Dusk's set is located in the same cave as the Golden Scroll, watched over by the Elizabeth-like mushroom.
Thirdly, let's look at Pharis' Hat and Black Bow.
Broad-brimmed leather hat. Traditionally used by master archers, and especially favoured by forest-dwelling hunters.
A black longbow named after a hero of old, known for the unusual stance from which it is fired.
Guess who resided in Darkroot Garden? The original owner of the hat and bow (I'm unsure whether she's actually called Pharis or not). What's also interesting is that the hat mentions it was "favoured by forest-dwelling hunters." Forest hunters. The very same covenant is found in Darkroot Garden. The bow and hat are dropped by the Elder Ghru, who also drop the Stone Greatshield (an item wielded by the Stone Knights of Darkroot Garden).
What else can be found in Farron Keep? The Wolf Ring, belonging to Artorias the Abysswalker, the patron of the Abyss Watchers. Both the normal and +1 versions of the Wolf Ring can be acquired in Farron Keep (the former from the Old Wolf of Farron, the latter from a corpse). The Wolf Ring was also found in Darkroot Garden, by the way.
And while it's not really a solid piece of evidence, the Ghrus look a lot like the Bloatheads from Artorias of the Abyss. And further evidence from enemies; there are multiple Darkwraiths in this zone, beings associated with the Abyss.
And last but not least, the Abyss Watchers themselves are found here. I found it common online to see people wondering why the hell the Abyss Watchers are hanging out in a swamp where there aren't any signs of Abyss. Well, it's because Farron Keep was built on the source of the Abyss itself, Oolacile.
So, that's my explanation to the theory that Farron Keep = Darkroot/Oolacile. Lots of Darkroot/Oolacile items are located there, and the Abyss Watchers keep their watch over the original source of the Abyss, despite it being buried under swampland.
The Watchdogs of Farron
Let's take a look at these guys next. Their task is shown by their covenant item:
Ancient medallion depicting the crest of a wolf. Symbolizes the pact with the Old Wolf of Farron. Equip to pledge oneself to the Watchdogs of Farron.
The Watchdogs ensure that the warriors sleep in serenity, by taking the form of loyal spirits and hunting down those who would trespass the woods of Farron.
So, the Watchdogs swear a pact with the Old Wolf to defend Farron. And the Old Wolf, in my eyes, is some sort of spiritual successor/descendant of Sif.
Like the Abyss Watchers, who are defended by a covenant led by a wolf, Artorias' grave is defended by a wolf alongside a covenant of forest hunters. And like the forest hunters, the Watchdogs seem to be made up of a ragtag group of exiles. Exile Armour:
Armour of the watchdogs of Farron's Keep.
After the Legion's Watchers became Lords of Cinder, the wolf blood dried up, and Farron was consumed by a festering wood.
Within the wood, an emaciated old wolf commands watchdogs to defend the sanctity of sleeping warriors.
Both the exiles were surely watchdogs themselves, for Farron has always been a land of itinerants.
We can learn a lot from this armour set. Firstly, the Abyss Watchers seem to only be a small part of the Legion, as they are referred to as the "Legion's Watchers," not the whole Legion themselves. Yet this is the only source which refers to the Abyss Watchers as being separate, which is weird. I'll cover the rest of what we learn from them in due time, but now let's look at another item associated with the Watchdogs, the Exile Greatsword.
Bloodstained greatsword wielded by one of the Watchdogs of Farron, who preside over the slumber of fallen warriors. The blade is a reminder of the exile's past misdeeds.
So these itinerant exiles serve the Olf Wolf of Farron as Watchdogs. It seems they were exiled for commiting crimes (likely murder, as the sword is bloodstained), and as repentance they chose to protect the Abyss Watchers.
Now I thought we'd cover the rest of the Legion, and their alliance with one of the Crystal Sages. As shown by the Crystal Sage soul:
The twin Crystal Sages once serves as spiritual guides to the scholars of the Grand Archives, and one went on to ally with the Undead Legion
So one went to help the Legion. I won't go into too much detail on the Sages themselves (I'm hoping to do a boss lore summary article on all the bosses who won't be covered in their own posts, so keep an eye out for that), but instead the impact this particular sage had on the Undead Legion. We know that the Legion favoured faster, more practical spells, spells which could be enhanced by the knowledge of a Crystal Sage. The Sage Ring:
A ring given to Farron's Undead Legion by one of the preacher twins, known more commonly as the Crystal Sages
The sorcerers of Farron's Abyss Watchers were known to be lonesome warriors who would only rely upon more pragmatic spells.
Variation of Soul Arrow developed by sorcerers of the Undead Legion of Farron.
Well known among the Farron sorceries, it is learned far and wide due to its ease of use.
Alteration of Soul Greatsword developed by sorcerers of the Undead Legion of Farron.
The Legion has a tendency to emphasize speed over power, and this practical alteration of an existing sorcery is no exception.
These two spells are said to originate from the Legion's sorcerers. For them, by allying with the Crystal Sages, they got their spells improved. This is indicated by Great Farron Dart/Farron Hail, both of which can be learned from the Sage's Scroll:
Sorcery which improves upon Farron Dart. Fires a more powerful soul dart/Fires a cascade of soul darts.
Entrusted to the leader of the Legion's acolytes, and apparently a sorcery of his daughter, Heysel, that was refined by a Crystal Sage.
Not only did the Legion have their spells upgraded, they also got a nifty Sage's Coal:
The white magic flame produced by this coal was given to the Undead Legion long ago by one of the Crystal Sage twins.
But what did the Sages get out of this? Well, these two are all about refining sorceries and gaining knowledge, so they got access to the Legion's spells, one of which they sharpened with crystallisation like old Big Hat Logan before them. Crystal Hail:
Unique sorcery developed by extraordinary preacher twins known as the Crystal Sages.
In a pact said to have been formed long ago, one of the Sages allied with the Undead Legion in order to train the sorcerers of Farron.
Another part of the Legion I'd like to discuss are their acolytes, (one of whom was Yellowfinger Heysel, before she joined Rosaria's Fingers), and their descendants, the Ghrus. Their weapons say this:
Choice weapon of the blunt-horned Ghrus, descendants of the acolytes of Farron Keep.
These Ghrus don't seem all that human, so how could they be the descendants of a legion of undead? My theory for this is that the Ghrus are like the Bloatheads from the Dark Souls 1 DLC. They were humans corrupted by the Abyss, who have become little more than animals.
To round this section off, we'll look at Hawkwood. He is a deserter of the Legion, as indicated by his shield.
Shield that belonged to Hawkwood, a deserter from the Undead Legion. The unique swordsmanship of the Watchers does not normally allow for the use of shield. The unique swordsmanship of the Watchers would no allow such a shield, and Hawkwood's very possession of it was telltale of his defeat.
Yet he doesn't have any bad feelings for his former comrades. In fact, he thanks you for "helping them find their final resting place," then leaves for Archdragon Peak. It is there he finds his true calling, and the means to finally being special; the Dragon Covenant, and its Dragon Stones.
The Abyss Watchers
Finally, we make it onto the Watchers themselves. Firstly, let's look at their origin, shown by the Wolf Knight Greatshield and Wolf Knight Greatsword
Greatshield of a knight tainted by the dark of the Abyss, and master of the wolf's blood of Farron.
Greatsword of a knight tainted by the dark of the Abyss, and master of the wolf's blood of Farron.
The wolf knight was the first Abyss Watcher, and his sword is more punishing against creations of the abyss.
So, it becomes pretty obvious that the first Abyss Watcher and master of the wolf's blood is Artorias. This is solidified by the Wolf Knight Helm:
Helm of a knight tainted by the dark of the Abyss. The twilight blue tassel is damp, and will ever remain so.
A vanquished knight left behind only wolf's blood, and legacy of duty. The Undead Legion of Farron was formed to bear his torch, and the armour of these Abyss Watchers suggests their own eventual end.
Artorias was the source of the wolf's blood, and the inspiration for the Legion. The Soul of the Blood of the Wolf shows that the wolf's blood was the Abyss Watchers' source of power, and their Cinders show that they take the wolf's blood with pride, seeing it as their source of authority and claim to the throne.
The blood was spread amongst the Abyss Watchers, and their souls are one with the soul of the wolf blood master.
The Watchers of the Abyss swore upon their shared wolf's blood, which also served as their mandate as lords.
But why did the Legion want the blood? It's simple really. The Farron Ring shows that they wanted it purely for the strength it provided.
The Abyss Watchers, for their hunting, required a sword technique that went beyond any existing art. Wolf's blood provided just that, and this ring further extends the effect.
The Legion have a particular fighting style. They fight with reckless abandon, favouring brute strength. This is shown by the Green Blossom and the Heavy Gem:
The Undead Legion of Farron are remembered for using this annual plant, normally found near clear water, to swing their mighty swords with abandon.
A gem of infused titanite.
Famously used to forge Farron greatswords.
A warrior can appreciate a heavy weapon, for they scale effectively with strength.
More about the Legion can be garnered from Hawkwood's dialogue.
"The Undead Legion of Farron is a caravan of Undead.
Sworn by the wolf's blood to contain the Abyss,
the Legion will bury a kingdom at the first sign of exposure.
Joyous bunch, really.
Gaining admission to the Legion is a matter of some ceremony.
Inside their keep, snuffing out the flames of three altars opens the door to the wolf blood.
Even accursed Undead want to believe they're special, it seems.
I pity the sorry souls."
We can learn a lot from this. Firstly, the Legion are pretty zealous in their bids to contain the Abyss, as they're willing to bury a kingdom for it. They likely took inspiration from the sealers of New Londo, who flooded the city to contain the Abyss.
Another interesting fact is that the Legion go to quite some measure to be special. They see their wolf's blood as their right to power, and have a ceremony to gain admission to the Legion. They also try to be unique with their armour:
These undead warriors vowed to partake of wolf blood. They acted in the dark, seeking out any sign of the Abyss, fighting a constant war with its abominations. This pointed steel helm was a distinct symbol of the Legion, shirked as a sinister omen by the masses.
It appears that they wear this helmet with pride. They revel in the fear it sets into people, that fear that you may be killed without a moment's notice since you. And this summarises the Abyss Watchers as a whole. They're undead who want to be special. They aren't great warriors like Artorias - they rely on working together, like wolves in a pack, as well as other augments like the Green Blossom and the Heavy Gem, to gain an advantage. They want to stand out, and go to any measure to do so.
The final thing I'll address. Multiple items say that the Abyss Watchers are sleeping. But they're really not. Why does everyone think this? Probably because they'd like to preserve the memory of their special champions, the undead who inspire hope in others. They don't want to step foot into the grave of the Abyss Watchers so that their memory isn't tarnished by the sight of their champions locked in an eternal battle with themselves.
There are a few explanations for why the Abyss Watchers are fighting each other. Their source of power is said to be dried up, so perhaps they are killing each other to get each others' wolf blood. Perhaps it is simply because they are undead, and thus will go hollow and mad. They are locked in a room with each other, perpetually killing one another in mad rage only to rise again. Perhaps it is because they were corrupted by the Abyss, and have become the very thing they swore to destroy. But as undead, they cannot truly do it, and thus have sealed themselves away.
After they are killed, the shared Soul of the Blood of the Wolf unites in one Watcher. In a last bid to stay alive, the Watchers finally unite to combat a greater enemy, the Ashen One, who threatens their watch.
They're rather tragic, really, but not nearly as tragic as Lord of Cinder #3... stay tuned!
(on a side note, this is way longer than I expected it to be)
Thought I'd just add this at the end and leave the original post as it is...
Something Mortiferous brought up was that the Abyss Watchers could all be fighting each other for their soul, or, perhaps, their blood. I thought that was an interesting idea, and offered the suggestion of them being corrupted by the Abyss making them do it.
But... they can't have been corrupted by the Abyss...
Why, you ask?
They have a light soul. Abyss corrupted beings (Artorias) or beings of the Abyss itself (Manus, his shards/daughters Nashandra, Elana, Nadalia and Alsanna) have a dark soul. This shows the presence of the Abyss. Therefore, they must be fighting because they are simply mad hollows, who were raised by the bell of awakening's tolling, or because they want what little is left of the wolf's blood for themselves, and are fighting each other for it, only to lose it when they die to another's blade.
Just thought I'd throw that out there.
They are fighting eachother,endlessly trying to suck their fellow dry of their Wolf Blood.....
That sounded better in my head
Imagine if you could summon them to follow you? Like the Elyium Loyce knights in DS2
True, though, thinking he was like the Crestfallen Warrior....I ended up killing him. Put up a decent fight, not as much as Yuria though
I just realized something while fighting Hodrick. True, he might not possess a smaller blade, but doesn´t his helmet and attire kind of resemble one of the Abyss Watchers?
Hey, Raid, I may have finally figured out why the Abyss Watchers fight each other.
If you look at the red-eyed abyss watcher carefully, you'll see tiny black veins reaching out from under it's helmet. I think that the Abyss Watchers try to kill you to stop you proceeding into the Catacombs of Carthus, which is where they have sealed the darkness, you opening the door would release it again. The Abyss spreads to one of the Abyss Watchers (The red-eyed one), causing it to attack the other two and they defend themselves in a desperate attempt to keep the Abyss at bay.
The reason the soul isn't corrupt is because you get the soul of the blood of the wolf, which at the time was within the last remaining Abyss Watcher that reaches phase 2.
I thought the red eyes were different than Abyssal corruption.
I think this is only in the Abyss Watcher's case.