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The Age of Dark, otherwise known as the Age of Humanity, is an era in the lore of Dark Souls.

DescriptionEdit

The Age of Dark is said to begin when the First Flame fades, thus ending the Age of Fire; the Age of the Gods.[1] Despite the Age of Dark being a ubiquitous concept throughout the Dark Souls series, it is never the "current" state of the world in any of the existing games. Each of the Dark Souls games takes place during a late point in the Age of Fire, a point which could theoretically lead to the beginning of the Age of Dark, but which does not do so during the normal course of gameplay, with one possible exception.

According to Darkstalker Kaathe, the Chosen Undead, protagonist of Dark Souls, is destined to bring about the Age of Dark, as they are the descendant of the Furtive Pygmy, who possessed the Dark Soul and divided it among early humans in the form of Humanity.[2] Should the Chosen Undead abandon the First Flame after the defeat of Gwyn, Lord of Cinder, they will "usher in the Age of Dark"[3], and become the fabled "Dark Lord" of whom Kaathe speaks. It is important to note that Kaathe tells the Chosen Undead that the Age of Dark had apparently already begun shortly before Gwyn chose to link the Flame, though it was seemingly ended and replaced by the Age of Fire when the Flame was linked.[4]

What exactly the term "Age of Dark" implies is never made explicitly clear; when the protagonist is given information about the Age of Dark, it typically comes from the mouths of potentially unreliable narrators, of whom Kaathe and his counterpart, Kingseeker Frampt, are examples. Kaathe asserts that the Age of Dark is "the age of men," presumably meaning the Age of those possessing Humanity in contrast to the Age of the Gods, and also declares that Gwyn "resisted the course of nature" when he linked the Flame and prolonged the Age of Fire.[5] The idea that the linking of the First Flame was unnatural and that it ran contrary to the order of the world is an important concept in the Dark Souls series, especially as the Age of Fire is prolonged perpetually by innumerable successive individuals seeking to prevent the coming of the Age of Dark.

Despite the fact that Kaathe refers to the Age of Dark as the age of man, whether humans become the dominant force in the world during the Age of Dark, or simply the only beings capable of existing in the Age of Dark, or something else entirely, is not made clear.

It can be reasonably assumed that the Age of Dark is the third Age in the cycle of time, following the Age of Ancients and the Age of Fire. It is generally thought that, should the Age of Dark begin, that like the Age of Fire it will one day end; however, it is not immediately apparent what might replace it, whether it be another Age of Ancients, another Age of Fire, or something not previously seen in the cycle.

In Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin, it is revealed by Aldia that even if the First Flame seemingly fades entirely, a fragment will always remain waiting to be reignited by an Undead, creating a cycle in which the Age of Fire leads into the Age of Dark, only to be pulled back from the brink at the very last moment.

In Dark Souls III, countless beings have prolonged the Age of Fire, preventing its end and holding off the coming of the Age of Dark. By the time the game begins, there are countless Lords of Cinder - those who successfully linked the First Flame before - and even more Unkindled who were unsuccessful. Eventually the one anointed to next link the Flame (and indeed, who was born for that very purpose), Prince Lothric, rejected the idea that the Age of Fire should be prolonged any further and instead desired to end what he called the "fire-linking curse."[6] A contingency plan was then activated, in which previous Lords of Cinder were resurrected in hopes that they, who had linked the First Flame before, might do so again. However, by this time, the world that had been created during the Age of Fire had become a twisted shadow of its former self. As a result of the prolonging of the current Age, the act of which seemingly constituted a rejection of the natural order, the material world had become irreparably corrupted, and all lands from all previous points in time had begun to converge upon a single point: the Kingdom of Lothric. Upon reviving and seeing what had become of the world they had fought to protect, the Lords of Cinder, too, rejected the linking of the Flame and refused to sit upon their thrones. Aldrich, one of the Lords of Cinder, decided not to take his throne after experiencing visions of the deep sea and its inevitable coming.

Following the failure of this first contingency plan, a second is activated: Unkindled, those who had previously tried to link the First Flame but who had failed to do so, are resurrected from their graves in the Cemetery of Ash, and tasked with placing the rebellious Lords of Cinder upon their thrones so that the First Flame might be linked once more. The Ashen One, protagonist of Dark Souls III, is one of these Unkindled.

After the Ashen One defeats each of the Lords of Cinder and places their remains upon their respective thrones in the Firelink Shrine, the Fire Keeper removes the embers of the Lords and bestows them upon the Ashen One, making them a "true lord, fit to link the fire,"[7] and imbuing them with the requisite power to proceed to the Kiln of the First Flame.

However, it becomes apparent that at this stage in the Age of Fire, which has been unnaturally prolonged far beyond its intended length, there is little that can be done to keep the First Flame lit. Even if the Ashen One chooses to link the Flame, the fire that results from this rebirth is small and feeble in comparison to the raging inferno that resulted from the Chosen Undead linking the Flame in Dark Souls. In Ending 2: "The End of Fire", the First Flame is snuffed out but the Fire Keeper reveals that one day another fire will ignite thus continuing the Cycle of Light and Dark - nullifying the efforts of the Ashen One. If you kill the Fire Keeper before the cinematic ends, the Ashen One instead takes the First Flame for themselves while the final segment of the opening narration is told: "Nameless, accursed Undead, unfit even to be cinder...And so it is...that Ash seeketh embers."

What this means in the greater scope of events is unknown.

Yuria of Londor urges the Ashen One to take the Flame for themselves, to usher in an Age of Dark; for the Sisters of the Sable Church were under the guidance of Kaathe. This is Ending 4: The Usurpation of Fire.

The Untended Graves is a mysterious location that is implied to showcase a world from the past in which the Age of Dark had settled.

ReferencesEdit

  1. Opening narration.
  2. Dialogue with Darkstalker Kaathe
  3. Dialogue with Darkstalker Kaathe
  4. Dialogue with Darkstalker Kaathe
  5. Dialogue with Darkstalker Kaathe
  6. Lothric's dialogue with the Ashen One
  7. The Fire Keeper's dialogue with the Ashen One immediately before the remains of the Lords of Cinder are incinerated
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