What Happens In Elden Ring? The Game’s Story, Part 6: Mountaintops Of The Giants
You’ve defeated Morgott and made your way to the Erdtree, only to discover the way forward is blocked. During your journey through Elden Ring, your goal has always been to make your way to the Erdtree and seize the title of Elden Lord, but even though you’ve acquired a number of Great Runes at this point, some force is still barring you from entering the tree and claiming what’s yours. There’s more to the story of what’s going on with the Erdtree and the Elden Ring, but we won’t discover it for some time. Right now, we have to figure out how to go forward, and the quest is about to take us to the lands of a people Marika and the Golden Order truly conquered: the Mountaintops of the Giants.
The frozen lands to the north of Leyndell seem to be some that few visit, which also makes them something of a safe haven for some. It’s here that two more demigods have tried to make their homes: Malenia and Miquella, the children of Marika and Radagon. Finding those two Shardbearers–or Malenia, at least–is not easy, but doing so reveals a whole lot more about the story of Elden Ring and what has happened in the time between the Shattering and now.
As always, this article contains tons of spoilers.
More Elden Ring story explainers
The path of heresy
Finding the Erdtree blocked doesn’t leave you with a lot of options. Your only real course of action at this point is to return to the Roundtable Hold and visit Finger Reader Enia and the Two Fingers to ask for help. After all, the guidance of grace led you to this point, so why would the Erdtree be sealed up? Isn’t grace born of the Two Fingers and the Greater Will? Haven’t you been following some divine plan all along?
Heading back to Enia is…interesting. The Two Fingers, it seems, were not very well prepared for this development, and they don’t know what to do. You see them go rigid as they point high in the air, and Enia says that they’re communing with the Greater Will. This, apparently, can take an extremely long time, seemingly because of the distance between the Lands Between and the Greater Will, which pretty much leaves you hanging.
From here, you confer with Enia as well as Melina, and both have the same answer: Burn the Erdtree to break the thorny seal blocking the way inside. This, both will tell you, is a cardinal sin, an absolutely horrifying thing to do. After all, all life flows in and out of the Erdtree, or so we’re led to believe. Souls return to the Erdtree when they die, and people who don’t return wind up as undead monsters called Those Who Live in Death. It is not immediatley clear what kind of consequences setting the giant golden tree at the center of the world on fire would have on the Lands Between, but there doesn’t seem to be another option for claiming the Elden Ring. The world can’t really stay the way it is, with no gods to keep it from crumbling and stagnating.
Melina, at least, seems to think this is not just the only option, but the purpose for her existence. She thinks the Lands Between need the return of indiscriminate death in order to fix what has happened, and to return death to the world, the Erdtree has to be destroyed. Up until now, her goal through this entire journey was to make it to the Erdtree and try to discover or recall why she had come to exist in the first place–she tells you early in the game that she was created by her mother for a specific reason, but she’s lost track of what that is over time. We don’t know who Melina’s mother is, although the involvement of the Erdtree strongly implies Melina’s mother might be Marika (although there are a lot of other theories about Melina, and we have no definitive way to prove or disprove any of them). Once you’ve made it to the tree, Melina comes to believe that her purpose is to destroy the tree and restore death to the world.
Enia seems curiously on-board as well, perhaps for her own reasons. Though the Finger Reader indicates that burning the Erdtree is a cardinal sin, she’s not especially emphatic about stopping you; after one quick warning, she basically says, “Well, up to you, do what you want.” You also can’t get any information from the Two Fingers, who spend the rest of the game trying to commune with the Greater Will. Enia also very much suggests that you’ll be waiting forever to hear from the Greater Will, subtly suggesting that you’re going to need to take matters into your own hands. If you talk to another Finger Reader Crone on your way to the Mountaintops of the Giants, she begs you to turn back, and even says, “Who would dare put you up to such a task? Most certainly not the Fingers!” Maybe the Roundtable Hold’s Finger Reader isn’t exactly trustworthy.
Still, there’s not much choice otherwise, so the plan is to go to the east end of Leyndell and the Grand Lift of Rold, which can take you to the mountains. You first have to venture through the Forbidden Lands, a sort of no-man’s land between Leyndell and the Mountaintops. The area’s location is interesting, as is its proximity to Leyndell. It suggests that Marika closed off this entire area to everyone, and almost no one has gone north since. We don’t have all the answers as to the reasoning for this, but since we’re headed there to find a fire capable of burning down the Erdtree, we can intuit that the giants were a major threat to the Golden Order–even after they were defeated. Passing through the Forbidden Lands, you’ll take the Grand Lift of Rold to the Mountaintops, starting a journey to the top.
Before venturing to the peak, though, your path might take you to a secret place within the mountains. It’s a place where the downtrodden of the Lands Between have sought out, and the path to reach it is hidden and protected. That place is Miquella’s Haligtree, where another age might have begun for the Lands Between, if not for the interference of others. You can face the demigod Malenia and claim another Great Rune if you go there. But first, we’ll cover the climb up the mountain.
Marika’s first war
Your goal in the Mountaintops of the Giants is to claim the Flame of Ruin, a remnant of their culture and the “Fell God” they worshiped. We don’t know much about this Fell God, but we do know that it was a danger to the Erdtree itself–the Fire Giants’ flame was the only thing capable of burning the tree, and that made the giants and their Fell God a major threat to Marika’s power and the Golden Order.
When Marika first rose to godhood and took Godfrey as her Elden Lord, they waged war on the giants first. You can actually track Marika’s path through the Lands Between based on where her churches are established, with the First Church of Marika found in the Mountaintops. The path winds south, with Limgrave and the Weeping Peninsula being the last places she took over. Leyndell might have existed before Marika showed up, but it seems very likely that she was responsible for fortifying the capital into a place of great strength, and it seems that its location and fortification could have been, at least in part, about walling off the path to the Mountaintops beyond. Even though Marika defeated the Fire Giants, she found she could never completely put out their flame, so she took precautions against it ever being used against the Erdtree. Some of those precautions are stated outright, but we can speculate that Leyndell itself is a precaution against anyone ever reaching the Mountaintops again. With the giants’ defeat, the age of the Erdtree and Marika’s rule could truly begin.
Godfrey was a fierce warrior, but he and Marika didn’t defeat the giants alone. They had help from a variety of allies from the giants’ own lands. One of your first stops on the way up is the Zamor Ruins, a destroyed town populated by Zamor Knights. These people were particularly attuned to winter, frost, and cold in general, and we’re told they were mortal enemies of the giants. When Marika showed up wanting to conquer the giants, the Zamor Knights threw in with the Golden Order and helped in the war against their old enemies. It doesn’t seem as though the Zamor came out particularly well despite being on the winning team, however–like the rest of the Lands Between, their town is in ruins, even though one of their champions is honored with an elaborate tomb. Much farther south, you can find an Ancient Hero of Zamor confined in an evergaol, although there’s not a lot of information about how it wound up there or why.
Godfrey and Marika also had the benefit of betrayers in the ranks of the giants: the trolls. Those big purple guys you’ve been seeing all over the Lands Between, sometimes serving as warriors and often dragging caravans behind them, were once allies of the giants. They turned coat when Godfrey and his warriors showed up, which is why the giants all seem to be dead, but trolls are still alive and well in various places. Like the Zamor, though, it doesn’t seem like the trolls really came out on top because of their allegiance to the Golden Order. Sure, they’re still alive, but we usually see them acting as little more than menial labor. It might be because they’re big and dumb, but we know of at least one troll, the Caria blacksmith Iji in Liurnia, who’s intelligent enough to converse like any other character. Since so many non-humans wind up as servants or slaves in the Lands Between, we might guess that even betraying the giants wasn’t enough to really get the trolls in the good graces of the Golden Order. In fact, the only people who really seem to treat the trolls with much respect are the Carians, who allowed them to take on skilled jobs, like smiths, and even raised some to knighthood.
Also aiding the Golden Order, it seemed, were the Fire Monks, a group of humans who hail from the Mountaintops of the Giants. I’m not exactly sure if the monks were a group who existed before the war or if they were a group created from the Golden Order. It seems like the latter, since the “most ancient” of the Fire Monks’ incantations was one that protected the champions of the Golden Order from the power of the giants’ flames. After the giants were defeated, the Fire Monks were charged with guarding the Flame of Ruin. Over time, though, it seems they turned from guarding the flame to worshiping it. Their armor is fashioned after the giants they helped destroy, and their incantations feed its power. There are even some Fire Monks in Liurnia as they chase after a man called Adan, Thief of Fire. You can find Adan in the Malefactor’s Evergaol, and defeating him earns you the Flame of the Fell God incantation, suggesting that the Fire Monks know the Fire Giants’ Outer God still exists, and they’ve been guarding that secret, either on Markia’s behalf or to keep that knowledge from her and the Golden Order.
The Fire Giant and the Fell God
Before long, you’ll find the giants themselves, and they definitely fared worse than the Zamor or the trolls. Their huge bodies are frozen along the mountain path, their guts ripped out. Later, we’ll see exactly what’s going on with those chest holes–which the trolls have, too. For now, though, you can mostly see how the battle has gone. In fact, there is only one giant who survives: the Fire Giant boss you’ll soon reach.
As the giants were beaten, it’s said that Marika herself killed the Fell God those giants served, although that doesn’t seem to be entirely accurate. Incantations and lore related to the giants suggests that the fell god exists within the giants themselves, as well as in the flames they conjured with their abilities. Marika found the Flame of Ruin and the god related to it couldn’t be completely defeated, so she cursed one Fire Giant to remain on the mountain alone, tending to the flame for eternity.
The Fire Monks seem to worship the Flame of Ruin, and they are perhaps not the only ones interested in it. You also find finger creepers, the disembodied hands spider-like hands, spread all over the Mountaintops of the Giants. We found these originally in Caria Manor and again hanging around in the sewers of Leyndell, and as we mentioned briefly in the Volcano Manor piece, they strongly resemble the hands of Praetor Rykard, Lord of Blasphemy. We know that Rykard sends agents out into the rest of the Lands Between to try to acquire the things he needs to grow his power, and that he’s rekindled a focus on magma sorcery at his home in the volcano. A guy who loves blasphemy would likely be very interested in the Flame of Ruin and the cardinal sin it would allow him to commit, so it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to consider that these hand creatures could be Rykard’s attempts to learn more about the flame for himself.
Eventually, you’ll find the Giants’ Forge, and the last Fire Giant, who guards it. Fighting this guy, you’ll soon notice that he has a face on his chest, complete with one huge, frightening eye. This is the eye of the Fell God, and it seems to be what the lore means when it says that the Fell God is inside all the giants. This is also apparently what was torn out of the giants and the trolls–the literal eye of their god.
Lore surrounding the giants is where we get interesting information about Radagon and his children, as mentioned back in Part 3. Defeating the Fire Giant can unlock a whip called the Giant’s Red Braid, which fills in the detail that all giants have red hair–and then specifically notes that Radagon, who also had red hair, hated this aspect of himself. Red hair also appears frequently among Radagon’s children. Was Radagon a giant, or part giant? We don’t know for sure, but that one lore tidbit raises some questions about the champion of the Golden Order–elements we’ll dig into a little deeper soon.
Killing the giant opens the path to the Giants’ Forge and the Flame of Ruin. When you get there, Melina will appear at your side, thank you, and use herself to kindle the Flame of Ruin to burn the Erdtree. Though, that doesn’t have to happen. You might have met someone called Shabriri near where you first entered the Mountaintops of the Giants, who counsels you to find a way to save Melina back in Leyndell. If you follow his advice, you can find a way to kindle the flame yourself, without sacrificing Melina, by giving yourself to the Frenzied Flame.
Melina seems okay with fulfilling her purpose and, seemingly, ending her existence, though. As the inhabitants of the Lands Between look on, the Erdtree burns, spreading ash throughout the land. But you soon find yourself awakening somewhere strange–a crumbling mausoleum floating in the clouds. This is Farum Azula, and it’s the place where you’ll claim the other thing you need to complete the destruction of the Erdtree: Destined Death.
From here, you can read on about what you find in Farum Azula and in Leyndell when you return to the Erdtree. Or you might hunt down the final two demigod Shardbearers still hanging around in the Lands Between. Those last two Shardbearers are Malenia, Blade of Miquella, and Mohg, Lord of Blood. Their stories are intertwined and both may doom the Lands Between in their own way.
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