Fictional companions and goth concerns.
Six months ago, I became Elden Lord, ruler of the Lands Between and wielder of Elden Ring’s titular bauble. But after emerging from the game’s deep reverie, I found myself unable to write about it. Most games explored in this column have one or two characters that feel like friends, obvious foci for my mystical and macabre leanings. Elden Ring, however, boasts an overabundance of goth femmes. NPCs and bosses alike make cryptic statements while wearing medieval velvets and harnessing a general air of dread. On which character could I possibly focus without feeling I had betrayed the Gothic Fantasy of another?
So instead of doing that, I’m going to rank Elden Ring’s goth femmes from “least” to “most” goth, although referring to any of them as “less goth” feels so immediately offensive that I’m already second-guessing and regretting my decisions. But if I can commit to ruling the Lands Between, I can commit to writing a list. Right?
- Tanith, Volcano Manor Proprietress: This character rules a lava-filled legacy dungeon, adopts a snake-child and eats the corpse of a demi-god who was also her lover. And somehow, I’m ranking her the least goth. You see my problem.
- The Nox Swordstresses: The Nox Swordstresses wear veils covering their entire faces and can stillone-shot you. They guard a clerical order known as the Night Maidens, whose sorcery involves a dense, life-sapping mist. The Nox Swordstresses and Night Maidens live underground, “under a false night sky, in eternal anticipation of their liege…their Lord of Night.”
- Demi-Human Queen Gilika: In silhouette, Queen Gilika looks like Mothman with her towering physique and glowing purple eyes. She’s a personified shadow with antlers. I didn’t want to kill her because she’s so cool-looking, but it was self-defense.
- Twin Maiden Husks: The Twin Maiden Husks are so goth they neither speak nor move.
- The Finger Reader Crones: Finger Reader Crones are dark-eyed ladies of a certain age who hang out near bridges wearing cloaks and begging to read your fingers (as people in this realm read palms).
- Sorceress Sellen: Sorceress Sellen, a.k.a. Graven Witch, describes herself as a “reviled, apostate witch” who was exiled from the academy. To be not only a witch but a reviled one is goth indeed.
- Rennala, Queen of the Full Moon: It took me 42 attempts to defeat Rennala, and I didn’t even wantto. She’s a moon queen who camps out in a library surrounded by legions of little worm-like acolytes. I would have preferred to be friends. Fortunately, defeating her does not kill her. You can continue visiting Rennala in the library every time you want to be reborn.
- Malenia, Goddess of Rot: Born cursed, Malenia is afflicted by and afflicts others with the horrifying disease, Scarlet Rot. In the second phase of her boss fight, she appears mostly naked and surrounded by butterflies as well as the salmon-pink blooms of pestilence. One might argue that a pinkish color palette isn’t goth; I would argue that it is when it kills you.
- Ranni the Witch: A ghostly spirit inhabiting a human-sized doll’s body (and wearing a giant witch’s hat), Ranni’s power is symbolized by the Dark Moon. “I stole Death long ago,” she says, “and search now for the dark path. That I might one day upend the whole of it, and rid the world of all that came before.” I completed Ranni’s quest but neglected to touch her summon sign at the game’s conclusion, so never saw her ending. My personal failing is, itself, gothic in its tragedy.
- Fia, Deathbed Companion: Fia is a black-cloaked woman whose job title isDeathbed Companion, making her, inarguably, Elden Ring’s most goth femme. “I am the guardian of Those Who Live in Death,” Fia tells you. “They call me a foul and rotten witch. Yet you still wish to be held by me?” Yes, Fia. If I didn’t want to be hugged by foul and rotten witches, by whom would I even want to be embraced?
Final note: some may be disappointed, shocked even, not to find Marika on this list. But she removed the Rune of Death from the Elden Ring. No goth would disrespect death like that.