Elden Ring: Shadow Of The Erdtree’s Story, Explained

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The Tarnished stands in front of the Scadutree.

Elden Ring, FromSoftware’s 2022 open-world action RPG, just dropped its first and only DLC, Shadow of the Erdtree, bringing with it a few dozen hours of combat, exploration, and exposition. Erdtree is perhaps FromSoftware’s most lore-heavy creation yet, offering explicit details on the fallen gods and fearsome foes of the Lands Between—if you can find them, that is.

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Suggested Reading

I doubt you’ll roll credits on the DLC without having a pretty good understanding of what’s gone on in this world created by FromSoftware’s Hidetaka Miyazaki and Game of Thrones’ author George R.R. Martin. But there are definitely some confusing moments and details to pick through. Here’s what we’ve learned about Elden Ring, its story, and its characters while playing Shadow of the Erdtree. Major spoilers incoming.

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A spoiler warning.

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What is the Shadow Realm?

The Realm of Shadow is essentially an alternate, death-filled version of the Lands Between. The Scadutree at its center is literally a shadow version of the Erdtree in the Lands Between, and the prevalence of ghostly tombstones and coffins delineate that this is a world steeped in death. Though the Realm of Shadow exists under a veil, it’s believed to be sitting smack in the center of the original Elden Ring map, right under that cloud that’s just south of the Erdtree.

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Who is Messmer the Impaler?

Messmer is the son of Queen Marika, and the brother of Malenia and Miquella. He was born with a snake living inside of him (that he calls the Abyssal Serpent) which threatened to take him over, so his mother contained the serpent by removing one of Messmer’s eyes and placing a magical seal there instead.

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Before the Elden Ring shattered, Messmer was sent to the Realm of Shadow to purge the tower-dwellers (the Hornsent) who were not followers of Marika’s religion/bathed in the light of grace. Remember: in the Lands Between, the Hornsent are called Omens, and are shunned from society or killed in attempts to remove their horns. That’s because they represent the dominant religion of the land before the establishment of the Greater Will and its vassal, Marika. As we progress through the DLC, however, the beef between Marika and the Hornsent gets a bit more complicated (more on that later).

For some reason, Marika abandoned Messmer in the Realm of Shadow, but he refused to stop purging folks.

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Freyja believes Radahn wants to be be brought back for "endless war."

Who is Kindly Miquella and why did he go to the Shadow Realm?

Miquella is the twin brother of Malenia, both born to Marika and Radagon and both cursed—Malenia with scarlet rot, and Miquella with eternal youth. Though Miquella traps himself in a cocoon at the base of a tree he tried to grow to cure himself and Malenia, he is stolen while in slumber by Mohg, who wanted to use his blood in order to start his own empire (though now, it appears that Miquella may have tricked Mohg into doing all of this so he could enter the Realm of Shdaow).

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When Miquella fell into his slumber, he entered the Realm of Shadow to find the soul of the Promised Consort, who turns out to be Radahn, the very same Radahn who is the child of Radagon and Rennala. Miquella wants to stand at the gates of divinity (seen in the trailer for Shadow of the Erdtree) and complete a ritual in order to become a god. That ritual involves capturing the dead Radahn’s soul in Mohg’s body—remember, you have to kill both of those bosses in the base game to even start the Shadow of the Erdtree DLC, and now we know why.

Why did Miquella choose Radahn as his Consort?

Some think that Miquella chose Radahn to be his Consort because of his sheer strength as a demigod—the only person to best him was Malenia, and perhaps her Scarlet Rot affliction made it impossible for Miquella to name her as Consort. A cutscene that plays after you defeat Radahn in the DLC shows that Miquella proposed some sort of vow to Radahn that would result in him becoming his consort after ascending to Godhood. It’s unclear if that’s why that big battle between Malenia and Radahn that we saw in the original trailer for Elden Ring took place—if that battle was part of the vow or something else entirely. We also don’t know for sure if Radahn accepted the vow or was just acting while under the influence of Miquella, who can even charm the player during the final boss bottle, stealing your heart and insta-killing you.

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Ansbach realizes what Miquella wants to do with Radahn and Mohg.

What does Miquella want, and is he all that Kindly?

Early on in the DLC, you meet several NPCs who represent different factions in this world: Needle Knight Leda, the last remaining footsoldier for Miquella; Freyja, who once fought alongside Radahn; the Hornsent, a member of the aforementioned tower folk; and Sir Ansbach, who served Mohg. Though they come from disparate backgrounds, they are all in the Realm of Shadow to find “kindly Miquella,” and they recruit you, as well.

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But it appears that Miquella charmed all of them, twisting their minds to support his cause. That’s why, when you head towards the Shadow Keep (Messmer’s castle), an in-game event will take place: you hear the audio cue for using a rune arc, and the words “somewhere, a great rune has broken…and so too has a powerful charm.” After speaking to the NPCs, you learn that Miquella himself broke this rune, thus also freeing all of those under his charm. They’re confused, uncertain who to follow or where to go, as they were only united because Miquella was forcing them to be. Ansbach remembers fighting Miquella for Mohg, calling the once-Kindly Miquella a “monster.”

After this event takes place, Miquella’s goal becomes even more clear: the crosses you find scattered across the map are places where Miquella has shed parts of his being in order to be born anew, and breaking his rune arc is part of that process.

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I posited before the release of the DLC that Miquella wanted to right his mother Marika’s wrongs, and bring justice to the people of the Realm of Shadow who were (seemingly) crusaded against because of their horns (more on that later), and that still seems to be the case. Miquella wants to bring about an “Age of Compassion,” and many NPCs reference his love, but the way he’s going about everything is pretty fucked up—charming people into fighting for him and using the dead body of one lord to house the soul of another.

The Tarnished kneels before St. Trina.

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Who is St. Trina?

St. Trina is only briefly mentioned in the base game, but she has a whole section dedicated to her in the DLC, and an NPC dedicated to her as well: Thiollier. The DLC confirms beliefs that players have had for years: St. Trina and Miquella are the same person, just like Radagon and Marika are believed to be two halves of a whole. A cross near where you can find St. Trina confirms that this is where Miquella discarded his “love.” And yes, just like Radagon and Marika, a soul can clearly exist in two different bodies in this world—and fall in love with itself. I love The Man Who Folded Himself.

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It’s important to note that if you speak to St. Trina several times, she will give you a poison that “kills you.” You come back in the same area with all your runes, but if you talk to Thiollier, an NPC nearby, and then repeatedly try to talk to St. Trina, she’ll come to you after you die and tell you that you “must kill Miquella” because godhood would be his prison.

The Tarnished stands at the start of the Belurat Gaol.

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Marika’s horrifying origin and how it affects Elden Ring’s story

Players learn rather early on that the beloved little jar guys from the base game have horrifying origins, and people like X/Twitter user Albi discovered a connection between them and Queen Marika.

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When you get to the Belurat Gaol, you’ll discover dozens of jar enemies, some of which are different from the ones you meet in the base game. They burst out of these jars and are a horrid mass of human limbs and extra, fatty growths. Kiling them can result in them dropping an item simply called Innard Meat. The description says that this meat is used to fill great jars, and that “This is what becomes of the condemned, who get sliced up and stuffed into jars to become saints instead.”

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Albi and others believe that Marika and her people lived in the Shaman Village, an area in the Realm of Shadow that you can find after gesturing in front of a statute of Marika, which will reveal a door to the wildflower-covered region. Though there are two Tree Sentinels there you must fight, there’s little else in this area, save for two items: a spell that conjures up a minor Erdtree, and a lock of Marika’s hair.

The Tarnished sits amongst hundreds of wildflowers.

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The spell’s description reads: “Marika bathed the village of her home in gold, knowing full well that there was no one left to heal.”

The only other reference to shaman in the DLC, as noted by YouTuber Gingy, is a Hornsent ghost saying that a shaman’s place is in the jar. We now know that, at some point, the Hornsent were torturing the shaman—an item you can find called the Tooth Whip describes this process. And people like Albi suggest that, based on environmental clues in the Belurat Gaol, it’s likely Messmer was desperately trying to save the villagers from this horrible fate.

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So, it appears that Marika didn’t kill the Hornsent because they were remnants of an older religion—she may have become a God just to smite them for what they did to her people. That means that Miquella’s quest to right her wrongs is unfounded, making the manner in which he’s gone about all this even worse. So yes, you have to stop him.


These are the main beats and important characters in Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree. More fascinating lore details and incredible connections are being uncovered daily, so stay tuned.

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