Wondering what the Elden Ring story is? Here’s an in-depth explanation of the game’s story and lore, told in chronological order from before Queen Marika and the Golden Order to the game’s multiple endings.
[NOTE: While this story summary is based mainly on NPC dialogue and item descriptions, there are personal theories here that might not be wholly accurate. Theories and conjecture made in this summary are clearly stated as such. Also, this summary is recommended for players who have finished Elden Ring and want to know more about the story. So, if you have yet to finish the game, we recommend that you do so first as this summary is pretty much all spoilers.]
Before the Golden Order
In the beginning of the world, “all life was once blended together” in the primordial crucible which was the “primordial form of the Erdtree.” It can be gleaned from this description that life sprang from the crucible, possibly in the form of beasts and serpents. As time passed, these beasts gained intelligence (they may be the progenitors of humans and other intelligent creatures), and “their wildness slipped away as civilization took hold.“ There aren’t many records of these past civilizations, but these early civilizations sprang around the Ainsel and Siofra rivers which originate from the depths of the Erdtree’s roots.
It is also known that there were early human Astrologers looked up to the stars, and they even considered the Fire Giants of the Mountaintops as neighbors in their pursuit of knowledge and purpose from the heavenly bodies. There is also the Eternal Cities of Nokron and Nokstella, both which have been buried underground, possibly due to a calamity brought forth by falling stars.
In this previous age, Dragons roamed the land. According to the Remembrance of Placidusax, he was “Elden Lord in the age before the Erdtree,” though his god fled, and he continued to wait for his god in the “heart of the storm beyond time.” Given that a Dragon served as Elden Lord in the Age before the Erdtree, it is unclear if the Dragons ruled over the lands at the ancient times when Astrologers and the Eternal Cities flourished. It is possible that their rule predates these ancient Astrologers, though it might also be that they ruled over the Lands Between and let these different orders flourish.
Whatever the case may be, the order of the world changed when “long ago, the Greater Will sent a golden star bearing a beast into the Lands Between, which would later become the Elden Ring.”
Age of the Erdtree
The Greater Will is likely an outer god that sent a golden star into the Lands Between. This golden star bore a beast, and while there are no concrete details about it, this Elden Beast must have appeared upon the Numen Marika (a Numen being a race of people from outside the Lands Between).
An outer god is not clearly defined in the game, but it can be gleaned from item descriptions and dialogue that an outer god is a source of power with origins that are not of this world. In the lore, an outer god selects an Emyprean to become a god (i.e., the outer god’s vessel) and rule over a world. In the words of Gowry, an Empyrean is “no mere demigod” and has the power to become “a new god to forge a new Order.” The Empryean selected by an outer god must also take a Lord as their consort and is given a shadow to do their bidding.
In this case, the Empyrean Marika was selected by the Greater Will, and she chose Godfrey (formerly known as Hoarah Loux, a fearsome warrior from the Lands Between) to be her Lord, with her half-brother Maliketh serving as her shadow. The Elden Beast soon became the Elden Ring, and Marika became the ring’s vessel. With Marika now a god, she used the Elden Ring to give the Erdtree power originating from the Golden Grace of the Greater Will, thus ushering the Age of the Erdtree.
The Age of the Erdtree began amongst conflict, so it says in the item description of the Godfrey’s Elden Lord armor. In his armor, it is said that Godfrey led the War against the Giants, probably the first war that the new Golden Order – the followers of the Greater Will – have faced.
As established in the events of the game, the Fire Giants’ Flame of Ruin is a fire that can burn even the Erdtree, so it makes sense that Marika waged war against the Giants to quell this flame. During the war, the Zamor Knights helped the Golden Order, and the Trolls betrayed the giants as well. At the end of the war, a Fire Giant remained, and it was cursed with overseeing the Flame of Ruin as it can never be completely put out. In the process, it was said that Marika even slew the Fire Giants’ god (whether this is an outer god or not remains to be seen).
After defeating the Giant threat, the Golden Order then waged war against the Ancient Dragons. It is said in Godfrey’s armor description that he “Faced the Storm Lord, alone,” possibly indicating that the Golden Order waged war against the Dragon god. Though it is not clear if they actually fought against the Dragons’ god or if the god fled even before this war. What is clear is that Godwyn the Golden also participated in the war, and even befriended the Dragon Fortissax. Godwyn being the son of Marika and Godfrey, and the progenitor of the Golden Lineage.
Another conflict that possibly arose during the early Age of the Erdtree is the fight against Destined Death, also known as the Rune of Death. It is not clear if Destined Death is a god similar to that of outer gods or just a worldly force, but at some point, the Gloam-Eyed Queen (an Empyrean chosen by the Fingers – envoys of the Greater Will) was able to harness Destined Death. She also led the Godskin Apostles and Nobles that are equipped with the Black Flame of Destined Death with the power to kill demigods.
The timeline is unclear as this conflict may have happened even before the War of the Giants, but what is clear is that the Gloam-Eyed Queen was defeated, and Destined Death was sealed unto Maliketh, Marika’s loyal shadow. Thus, the power to kill demigods have been sealed, possibly along with the concept of death itself.
A conflict that is likely the latest in the wars during this age was the Liurnian Wars, of which there have been two. This conflict put the Golden Order against the Liurnians led by the Carian lineage and included the Academy of Raya Lucaria. The Liurnians were the descendants of the early Astrologers, and they sought power from the stars, and from the Full Moon courtesy of their Carian leader, Rennala. Instead of a defeat for one side, the wars ended with the union of the Golden Order and the Full Moon, courtesy of the marriage between Rennala and Radagon, the champion of the Golden Order. The tale of this union is recanted by Miriel, Pastor of Vows. Rennala and Radagon’s union produced children, including Ranni, Radahn, and Rykard.
While the Age of the Erdtree began amongst conflict, at some point, no worthy enemy remained for Godfrey. At this point, Godfrey lost the Grace of Gold. The specific events here are unexplained, but the result is that Godfrey lost his Elden Lordship, and his people became Tarnished, spurned by the Grace of Gold. It is possible that the birth of Morgott and Mohg, twins born of the Golden Lineage, played a part in Godfrey’s loss of the Golden Grace. This is possible as Morgott and Mogh were born as Omens, as seen in their titles and in their deformed appearances (which heralded an ill omen for the Golden Order). What is sure is that they were born in the Golden Lineage.
With Godfrey losing his status as Elden Lord, Marika chose Radagon to become the Second Elden Lord. This necessitated the separation of Rennala and Radagon. This also meant that Ranni, Radah, and Rykard were to become demigods. Marika and Radagon’s union also produced two offspring, Miquella and Malenia.
Marika and Radagon’s union is of significant importance, but the true reason why it is such a key event is hidden in a statue of Radagon in the capital city of Leyndell. Upon casting the Law of Regression incantation in front of the spell, the words “Radagon is Marika” are revealed, meaning Radagon and Marika are one and the same.
The game is unclear as to the details of this. It’s possible that Radagon and Marika were originally different beings but were fused, or it may be that Radagon and Marika are split personalities. Whatever the case may be, they seem to inhabit the same body (as seen in the final boss encounter of the game where Marika transforms into Radagon).
One thing clear about this is that Miquella and Malenia being twins born of the Marika/Radagon meant that they were Empyreans as they are both born of a single god. The twins aren’t the only Empyreans among the demigods as Ranni reveals in her questline that she is one as well. Though it is not explained how Ranni is an Empyrean as the rules of being one is not explicitly stated.
Miquella and Malenia may have been Empyreans, but they both suffered afflictions from birth. Miquella was cursed with eternal childhood while Malenia harbored Scarlet Rot within. According to several item descriptions, the Scarlet Rot is an outer god, or at least a manifestation of an outer god.
While the twins were raised in accordance to the Golden Order, young Miquella abandoned the fundamentalists of the Golden Order for they could do nothing to treat Malenia of her Scarlet Rot. This began Miquella’s unalloyed gold.
How Marika was Pushed to the Brink
As mentioned, Ranni is also an Empyrean that was chosen by the Fingers to inherit the Golden Order. To this extent, she was given Blaidd to be her shadow. But instead of following the Greater Will, Ranni cursed the Two Fingers, instead taking after her mother Rennala and being a follower of the Full Moon (possibly another outer god).
To escape from the clutches of the Fingers, Ranni stole a shard of the Rune of Death from Maliketh and shared it with assassins hailing from the Eternal City. In an event called the Night of the Black Knives, the assassins slew Godwyn the Golden. But at the same time, Ranni was killed as well, possibly by her own doing, or at least by the assassins as directed by her. Because of this, only Godwyn’s souls was killed, and his body remained to transform into the Prince of Death, meanwhile Ranni’s body was slain but her soul remained, soon inhabiting a doll.
According to Sorcerer Rogier, the death of Marika’s Golden son served as the catalyst to the shattering of the Elden Ring, though the Night of the Black Knives happened long before the Elden Ring’s shattering at the hands of Marika. This implies that, while the death of Godwyn was the key factor in the shattering of the Ring, it was not the sole reason.
What will follow is more conjecture on my part than fact. But another possible reason that drove Marika to the brink is the Frenzied Flame. At some point in the history of the world, a man named Shabriri become the most reviled man in all history for he brought forth the madness of the flame of frenzy. It is also said in the Nomadic Merchant’s set that the merchants, accused of heretical beliefs, were rounded up and buried alive underground, and there they chanted a curse of despair which summoned the flame of frenzy.
The Frenzied Flame is a force of chaos, possibly even an outer god which stands as the antithesis of the Golden Order. This flame even has its own envoy in the Three Fingers which were sealed far below the capital of Leyndell. While there is no clear information on if Marika knew of this frenzied flame, it’s possible that she found out the frenzied flame through Melina as her left eye is marked by the Three Fingers. A theory is that she got touched by the frenzied flame, and this might be the reason why she is burned and bodyless as she mentions when you first meet her. As for how Marika knows of Melina, it’s likely that Melina is a daughter of Marika as, in Melina’s dialogue, she mentions that her mother dwells inside the Erdtree.
Aside from the encroaching frenzied flame and the Night of the Black Knives, another theory of mine is that other outer gods are also trying to meddle with the affairs of the Lands Between. One such outer god is the Formless Mother, the source of blood sorcery, and the outer god which Mohg serves and wishes to manifest into the Lands Between.
Finally, there’s Miquella and Malenia. Miquella turned his back on the Golden Order and forged a path of Unalloyed Gold. Meanwhile, Melina’s Scarlet Rot continued to putrefy her body, and this was likely kept in check by Miquella’s Unalloyed Gold which can prevent the meddling of the outer gods.
After the Night of the Black Knives, the threat of other gods, and with her twin children turning their backs on the Golden Order, Marika was pushed to the brink. Thus, Marika shattered the Elden Ring.
With the Elden Ring shattered, Marika’s children claimed the shards of the Elden Ring in the form of Great Runes. Instead of banding together though, Marika’s children fought amongst themselves in the war known as The Shattering.
Details on the Shattering are scant, but what we do know is that many fierce battles took place, with the capital of Leyndell being put under siege, possibly by the forces of Preator Rykard from Mt. Gelmir. Scars of the Shattering can still be seen in the Altus Plateau (situated between Mt. Gelmir and Leyndell) and the outskirts of Leyndell. Though even with the bitter fighting that ensued, Leyndell’s walls were never breached.
At some point during the Shattering, Rykard let fed himself to a God-Devouring Serpent, committing blasphemy to gain more power so that he may one day devour the gods. Rykard dwelled deep in the Volcano Manor, and there, he devoured countless heroes to gain even more power. This decision of Rykard to go against the gods seems to be a goal of his even before the Shattering. As mentioned in the Blasphemous Claw description, Rykard was given the claw by Ranni so that he may challenge Maliketh the Black Blade were Ranni to fail in her Night of the Black Knives plot.
Another shadbearer during the Shattering is Godrick the Golden, the rule of Stormveil Castle and a descendant of the Golden Lineage. He did not seem to have made any significant impact during the Shattering as his Remembrance states that he was “a feeble man.” In fact, he suffered a humiliating defeat to Malenia, leading him to beg for mercy. To strengthen himself, Godrick resorted to the grotesque act of grafting Tarnished into his body.
A mysterious shardbearer is Mohg. As mentioned, Mohg seeks to bring the Formless Mother into the Lands Between. As he is not an Empyrean, Mohg instead seeks to be the new Lord of the Mohgwyn Dynasty. To this extent, he seemingly kidnapped Miquella to try and raise him to godhood through the Formless Mother. Though “no matter how much of his bloody bedchamber he tried to share, he received no response from the young Empyrean.” By the beginning of your Tarnished journey, Miquella remains under Mohg inside a cocoon, and his state is unknown.
After long years of bitter war, the last two shardbearers fighting were Malenia and Radahn. The two fought bitterly in Caelid, and their fight ended in a stalemate as Malenia unleashed the scarlet flower which bloomed to afflict Radahn and most of Caelid with Scarlet Rot. Both Malenia and Radahn survived this encounter, though Malenia’s rot advanced within her while Radahn was consumed by the rot enough that it turned him into a mindless, yet still powerful beast that has enough power to hold back stars from crashing onto the Lands Between.
Due to the Shattering, the Greater Will gave the Tarnished the Grace of Gold once again and called upon them to return to the Lands Between. The Tarnished were given a goal – mend the Elden Ring and become Elden Lord, fixing the fractured order of the world.
The Events of Elden Ring
It’s been countless years since the Tarnished were called back to the Lands Between, and while there have been numerous powerful Tarnished, none have yet to reach the Elden Throne and mend the Elden Ring, until your journey.
Your quest to become Elden Lord begins in the Chapel of Anticipation where you meet your demise. You are then revived by Grace, and soon after making your first steps into the Lands Between, meet Melina. Melina offers you an accord – she will act as your Maiden and is able to transform your rune fragments into strength. She also gives you Torrent, the Spectral Steed. In exchange, you must take Melina to the foot of the Erdtree.
After some time, Melina takes you the Roundtable Hold, and there you meet other Tarnished champions, including Gideon Ofnir the All-Knowing, Fia the Deathbed Companion, and others. There, Gideon states that you are but a mere visitor and not yet a member of the Roundtable. For that, you must acquire a Great Rune. Upon returning with Godrick’s Great Rune in hand, you will be welcomed as a full member of the Roundtable and are tasked to follow the guidance of grace and continue your quest to gather more Great Runes to repair the Elden Ring.
Once you have gathered at least two Great Runes, Gideon tells you to make the journey to the capital so that you may mend the Elden Ring. Once you have reached the foot of the Erdtree, you will be faced with Morgott, the Omen King. Upon successfully felling Morgott, he states that “the Erdtree wards off all who deign approach” and that “we are all forsaken.” If you try to reach the inside of the Erdtree, you will find out that the Erdtree’s thorns does indeed prevent anyone from entering. Thus, the Elden Ring is out of reach and cannot be mended.
After this, Melina will instruct you to travel to the Mountaintops of the Giants and onto the Giants’ Forge. This Forge contains the Flame that can burn the Erdtree so that you may pass through the thorns and repair the Elden Ring. Upon reaching the Forge, you face off and defeat the last Fire Giant. Once at the Forge itself, Melina offers herself up as kindling to burn the Erdtree. Though this does not fully burn the Erdtree as the thorns still block the path inside.
Once the Erdtree burns, you will find yourself transported into Crumbling Farum Azula. After fighting your way through Banished Knights, Godskins, and even a Dragon, you will face Maliketh, the Black Blade. Upon defeating Maliketh, you will then unleash the power of Destined Death which was sealed inside him. Thus, the Erdtree burns bright red, removing the thorns that block the path, but turning the capital of Leyndell into an ashen wasteland.
In Leyndell, you will face Gideon, the All-Knowing as he tries to stop you from becoming the Elden Lord. His dialogue during this fight is curious as he mentions that “none shall take the throne,” echoing the words of Morgott. He continues to say that Queen Marika has high hopes for the Tarnished, and that they “continue to struggle, unto eternity.” Gideon’s armor also mentions that he has glimpsed the will of Queen Marika.
Gideon fails to defeat you though, but before making your way inside the Erdtree, you must fight Godfrey, the first Elden Lord. During your fight, he transforms into Hoarah Loux, his true, more ferocious self. But you still manage to defeat him and finally make your way to mend the Elden Ring.
Inside the Erdtree, you find Marika crucified in a Rune Arc, but she soon transforms into Radagon and faces you in combat. After defeating him, Radagon transforms into the Elden Beast, but you slay it nonetheless. Having defeated even a god, now nothing stands in your way from repairing the Elden Ring and becoming Elden Lord.
Why did Marika destroy the Elden Ring?
Before we get to the endings, the question that remains is why Marika destroyed the Elden Ring. While Marika being pushed to the brink by the Night of the Black Knives is thought of as the reason for her shattering the Elden Ring, it does not answer what her plan was in doing so. Some may argue that it was an illogical decision driven by grief, though I have a theory as to what she planned to accomplish by destroying it.
The description of Marika’s Hammer reads: “the tool with which Queen Marika shattered the Elden Ring and Radagon attempted to repair it.”
What does this mean then? In my theory, Marika shattered the Elden Ring which distributed shards of it to her children. But by attempting to repair it as Radagon, the Elden Ring was reforged, albeit in an incomplete state. This means the Elden Ring is not at its full power, but it has power enough to form impenetrable thorns that disallows anyone to enter. As you can see when you face Radagon, the symbol of the Elden Ring is still on his body. One attack of Radagon also features the same runic symbols as the one found in the thorns that previously blocked your path.
What was Marika’s plan by doing this? By making the Erdtree impenetrable, no matter how many Tarnished try to become Elden Lord, they cannot do so, thus removing the influence of the Greater Will in the Lands Between. And while the Greater Will cannot exert its influence due to the state of the world, other outer gods are also unable to exert their will upon the Erdtree as the incomplete Elden Ring still technically graces the Erdtree with the power of the Greater Will. This puts the world is in this state of limbo where the tarnished must forever struggle even if their quest to become Elden Lord is impossible, though the Lands Between are technically safe from domination of outer gods.
The core of this theory is based not only on Marika’s Hammer, but also on the dialogue of both Gideon and Morgott. Both say that none shall become Elden Lord which is in direct contrast with the Greater Will. In fact, upon finding out that you cannot enter the Erdtree after defeating Morgott, the Two Fingers in the Roundtable Hold have become unresponsive so as to communicate with the Greater Will, and this will take thousands of years. While Enia the Finger Reader mention that Marika was indeed imprisoned inside the Erdtree, the Erdtree spurning off a worthy Tarnished does not seem to be according to the Greater Will’s goal, and instead was a surprising turn of events even for them.
As Gideon’s goal is to become all-knowing, it made sense that he learned of Marika’s true goal. As for Morgott, even though he was born an Omen, it seems that he was the only shardbearer to remain loyal to Marika as he called all the other demigods as willful traitors. In fact, it’s likely that he knows of Marika’s plan as he calls himself “the last of all kings,” implying that he knows that there will be no king nor lord after him.
Another influence on this theory is the lore of the Dark Souls series. Specifically, Marika shattering the Elden Ring is a sort of reversal of Gwyn prolonging the Age of Fire in Dark Souls. While Gwyn prolonging the Age of Fire created an inescapable cycle where Ashen ones must kindle the Kiln of the First Flame, Marika’s shattering of the Elden Ring shattered the cycle of having a new Elden Lord, plunging the Lands Between into an eternal struggle. While their actions are the opposite as one starts and another breaks a cycle, the results are the same as their worlds became broken.
Now we move on to the endings. So far, there are six confirmed endings in Elden Ring. Of these, four end with you on the Elden Throne as the Elden Lord, but there are some key differences between them.
In the first Elden Lord ending, you defeat the Elden Beast and simply mend the Elden Rune with the Great Runes in your hand. Upon doing so, the end sees you in the throne as Elden Lord, ushering in the Age of Fracture as mentioned by the narrator.
A variation of the Elden Lord ending can be gotten by finishing the questline of Fia the Deathbed Companion. By giving her the Cursemark of Death from the Divine Tower of Liurnia, you will find her asleep by the Prince of Death’s side in the Deeproot Depths. After this, you will need to defeat Lichdragon Fortissax, and you will receive the Mending Rune of the Death-Prince upon doing so.
At the end, you can use this Mending Rune to repair the Elden Ring, and by doing so, you will “embed the principle of Death into Order,” thus ushering in the Age of the Duskborn. A way to interpret this ending is that the Age of Duskborn follows the principles of the Golden Order, except with a more natural concept of Death restored upon the land. The Mending Rune of the Death-Prince states that the “Golden Order was created by confining Destined Death,” meaning followers of the Golden Order may not have had a natural death as dead souls return to the Erdtree during its time. Though this ending can also be interpreted as one that grants living beings undeath, similar to the state of the world in the Dark Souls series.
Another variation of this ending can be achieved by completing the Dung Eater’s questline. By finding the Dung Eater, defeating him, and feeding him five Seedbed Curses, he gestates the Mending Rune of of the Fell Curse.
By using this Mending Rune to repair the Elden Ring, you doom the Lands Between, giving it the Blessing of Despair and defiling order. In this ending, every living being, and their offspring will be cursed. This is essentially the worst ending that you can get in the game.
The fourth version of the Elden Lord ending ushers in the Age of Order. This can be done by claiming the Mending Rune of Perfect Order after finishing Goldmask’s quest. This questline is long, but the gist of it is that Goldmask seeks to determine the imperfection of the Golden Order. By revealing to him that Radagon is Marika, Goldmask is able to create the Mending Rune of Perfect Order. The rune’s description states that “instability of ideology can be blamed upon the fickleness of the gods no better than men,” implying that the Golden Order is flawed due to the nature of Marika and possibly the other demigods.
When you use this Mending Rune at the end, the narrator exclaims that the new era will be known as the Age of Order. This ending also features the Erdtree shimmering in brilliant gold, implying that in this future, the Golden Order is much closer to perfection.
Moving on from the Elden Lord ending and its variations, you can unlock another ending that replaces the Golden Order by following the questline of Ranni. The quest of Ranni is a long one, but the core of it is that you must aid Ranni in her goal to usher in a new order by freeing her from what seems to be her corpse and becoming her consort.
By becoming her consort, you can summon Ranni at the end instead of mending the Elden Ring. Once you do so, Ranni lets Marika and the Elden Ring fade, and she ushers in the Full Moon and the Age of the Stars.
This ending can be interpreted in a couple of ways. Some think that this frees the lands from the grip of the Greater Will and gives them freedom. Though it can also be seen as the Greater Will being replaced by just another outer god which, instead of giving people grace, gives them a cold embrace.
The final ending has you unleash the Flame of Frenzy. When you reach Leyndell, you can travel below it to the Subterranean Shunning-Grounds. By reaching its depths, you will happen upon a mysterious door. By removing all your armor, you can surrender yourself to the Three Fingers and be branded with the Frenzied Flame.
Once branded, you unleash this flame after defeating the Elden Beast, thus becoming the Lord of Frenzied Flame and burning the Lands in a chaotic flame. Basically, you destroy the land and practically burn away everyone, except for someone in a specific circumstance.
If you are branded by the Frenzied Flame before you reach the Giants’ Forge, Melina will tell you that you are no longer fit, and she leaves your side. Upon reaching the Forge, you instead use yourself as kindling, but you survive and make the journey to the end. In this scenario, even if you burn the lands with the Frenzied Flame, a cutscene plays which shows Melina. In this scene, she says “Lord of Frenzied Flame… I will seek you, as far as you may travel… To deliver you what is yours. Destined Death.”
There are still lots of details about the story and the world of Elden Ring that weren’t explored in this summary. Even though this might not explain everything, and while it may contain lots of theories/conjecture, I hope this summary gives you a better idea into the rich story and lore of Elden Ring.
If you spot a detail I missed that disproves some statements/theories, or if you have your own theories about Elden Ring, feel free to let us know on the comments section below!