Dark Souls' famously immense difficulty often overshadows what is a brilliantly designed world populated by a host of intriguing characters. Some, like the player, are afflicted with the curse of the Undead, desperately struggling against the inevitable loss of self and sanity that it entails. Others are simply trying to get by in a dying world that is largely indifferent to their presence. But what they all share in common are tales all their own.
Often enough, given Dark Souls' oppressive and bleak atmosphere, these tales turn out to be rather heartfelt and tragic. Indeed, if one looks closely enough, one might see themselves reflected in their trials and tribulations, making them all the more relatable. Below are ten such tales, ranked from "tissues are advisable" to "prepare to ugly cry."
10 Hawkeye Gough
The old giant marksman might not seem particularly displeased with his predicament, but his circumstances need to be looked at in context. He's been blinded, locked away in a tower, and most of his old friends are either insane or dead. Lacking any further sense of purpose, he idles away his days by carving wood figurines and dwelling on the past.
He takes it all in admirable stride, retaining a strikingly warm, friendly, and helpful demeanor when encountered by the Chosen Undead. Though he can obviously still work a bow and arrow to great effect, one can't help but feel for the former dragon slayer.
9 Anri & Horace
Though technically two characters, their bond is such that one can't go without mention of the other. Anri and Horace were childhood friends that escaped Aldrich the man-eater, and are returning to put an end to him. Horace is eventually separated from Anri and killed.
Though Anri has multiple possible endings, they all result in her succumbing to grief and going hollow over this loss in the end, not counting the alternate "Lord of Hollows" ending in which the player basically sacrifices her. As if the poor girl hadn't suffered enough.
8 Lord's Blade Ciaran
Ciaran appears only once, in the DLC chapter for the original Dark Souls, Artorias of the Abyss. It is implied that she had (likely unrequited) feelings for the fallen knight, and if one consults some dialogue cut from the game, it's absolutely confirmed.
She appears after the player has defeated the abyss-corrupted Artorias, and implores the Chosen Undead to give her Artorias' soul, that she may pay her respects. Whether the player gives her the soul or not, she's never seen again, though her special Hornet ring can be located at Artorias' grave, implying that she died grieving for him.
7 Solaire of Astora
Though Solaire is a rare source of good cheer in the world of Dark Souls, there are certainly more depressing angles to his story elements than most would realize. And that's without even taking fan canon surrounding his relationship to Lord Gwyn into account.
Solaire's sole driving motivation is an indomitable desire to seek out and emulate the sun, and he becomes increasingly distressed by his inability to do so. If the player progresses past a certain point without taking precautions, his obsession will drive him into going hollow, showing that even the sturdiest optimism can be broken in Lordran.
6 Siegmeyer & Sieglinde of Catarina
Siegmeyer, the famously affable onion knight, makes up for his lack of wit with courage and an adventurous spirit. The Chosen Undead encounters and aids him at several junctures, and eventually meets Sieglinde, his daughter. She's come to Lordran to return him home.
It's revealed that she's had to defeat him and return him home several times since he turned Undead. But this time, he's gone entirely hollow, and so she must lay him to rest a final time. Though she initially remains stoic when spoken to afterwards, the dialogue ends with her trailing off into a series of pained sobs.
5 Reah of Thorolund
Reah is a young cleric and adherent to the Way of White, and she comes to Lordran having been tasked by the church to seek the rite of kindling. Guided by Petrus and assisted by two capable knights, she seems aptly set for the task.
However, Petrus betrays her in the catacombs, leaving her for dead in the company of her two now-hollowed bodyguards. This event shatters her faith, and she blames herself entirely. From here, depending on the Chosen Undead's actions, the forlorn maiden is either killed by Petrus, or captured by Seath the Scaleless for experimentation.
4 Lucatiel of Mirrah
Lucatiel is a proud and stalwart knight hailing from Mirrah, having achieved her station through hard work and loyalty. In Dark Souls II, she comes to Drangleic after being branded with the curse of the Undead, seeking a solution that will allow her to return home and reclaim her status.
However, the curse begins to erode her sense of self, with less and less of her memory being intact each time the player encounters her. Her despair grows as her identity slips away, and her dialogue is easily some of the most touching and memorable of the entire series.
3 Anastacia of Astora
Anastacia is the Fire Keeper of Firelink Shrine. Her tongue's been removed, preventing her from speaking. And her dress is described as bloodstained, leading one to assume her legs have been maimed to prevent her from leaving.
Even locked away in solitude, her apparent helplessness catches the baleful eye of the misguided knight Lautrec, and he murders her to pillage her soul and humanity. Though the Chosen Undead can take measures to avenge her wrongful death and restore her existence, that existence doesn't seem to be particularly enjoyable to begin with.
2 Daughter of Chaos (The Fair Lady)
After defeating the monstrous Chaos Witch Quelaag, the player will have the opportunity to encounter her sister, a much more docile spider lady. Dubbed "The Fair Lady" by her egg-bearing followers, she is blind and her senses are muddled, and if the player has a ring allowing them to understand her speech, they make a startling realization.
The Fair Lady confuses the Chosen Undead for her now dead sister, who has been supplying her with the humanity of impetuous adventurers in order to keep her alive. Though Quelaag was truly monstrous in appearance, she only did what she needed to do in order to keep her sister going, and the player has just killed her.
1 Great Grey Wolf Sif And Artorias
Artorias and his Great Wolf were companions whose fates were intertwined, and so must be discussed together. Sif accompanied Artorias in his quest to stem the tide of the Abyss, but the two were overcome. Artorias left behind his enchanted shield to protect Sif, though it left him defenseless, and he was corrupted by the Abyss.
Sif, left to mourn Artorias, guards his grave in Darkroot Garden to ensure that no one takes his crest and shares in his fate. The Chosen Undead still needs it, and must kill Sif in order to get to it. The lack of malicious intent in this encounter is what makes it truly tragic, with Sif fighting only to protect the Chosen Undead from his or her own ambition.