The 4 biggest lore reveals in Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree's first few hours

Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree screenshot
(Image credit: FromSoftware)

If the towering pile of corpses in the recent Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree story trailer was any indication, the DLC will have a lot of crucial lore to fill in about the Lands Between and the origins of that big golden tree.

In the tantalizing three hours I spent with Shadow of the Erdtree in a recent preview event, I found a number of hints at what's going on in its hidden realm of shadow. If Elden Ring is about the layers of history overgrown by a powerful religious order, Shadow of the Erdtree seems to be about the inciting moment at the start of its reign, the original sin, and the wound it left behind.

In the story trailer, we see Marika—before she became queen of the Lands Between—step through a river of corpses to usher in a new era. "An affair from which gold arose," the narrator, who we will meet in the DLC, says. This act, whatever it was, led to the creation of the Erdtree and sparked all the events that happened before our Tarnished characters show up.

Everything in Shadow of the Erdtree will be picked apart and analyzed over the next several years, as is the case with any FromSoftware game, but I've gathered up four preliminary fragments of lore that have been rolling around in my brain from the moment I had to put the controller down.

Warning: There will be spoilers for Elden Ring and the first area of Shadow of the Erdtree.

The Land of Shadow was hidden in plain sight 

(Image credit: Map Genie / FromSoftware)

Shadow of the Erdtree is set in the Land of Shadow, which is described as a place "obscured by the Erdtree" on the official website. Endless theories have been made about the stretch of sea in the middle of The Lands Between's C-shape. Elden Ring lore expert Quelaag recently pointed out how the dial that represents time passing there during loading screens actually has a dark middle circle that doesn't rotate, suggesting we've been staring at a depiction of the Land of Shadow this entire time.

I found a message inscribed on a gravestone in the DLC that seems to confirm that, yes, the Land of Shadow was originally in the middle of the map. Specifically, it says it was known to be "at the very center of The Lands Between …" It isn't there in the DLC, however. Like Roundtable Hold, it exists somewhere disconnected from its original physical location. You can see this when you open your map or peek through the many plateaus that surround you. There's nothing out there but an inky fog, but that doesn't mean it won't return to its original spot at some point in the story. The baldachin draped over the sky could be the veil that kept it hidden all this time and that charred tree might be the true form of the golden Erdtree we're all familiar with.

Elden Ring's most mysterious character might make an appearance 

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

If you don't know who the Gloam-Eyed Queen is, you're lucky, because Elden Ring fans have been discussing (and arguing about) her identity since the game came out. The GEQ theories have been stretched so far that I'm sure someone out there could make the case that there's a little bit of this mysterious god-killer in all of us.

The thing is, we don't have a lot of concrete information about the GEQ other than that she was an empyrean, or a person capable of becoming a god, just like Miquella, Malenia, Ranni, Marika, and several other major characters in the game. She used the power of death and her Godskin followers—the grotesque enemies wrapped in bleached white skin—to slay gods until Marika had her killed by Maliketh, the wolf man you battle near the end of the game.

Some people speculate that it is the GEQ's corpse that Marika plucks the golden threads out of in the opening of the story trailer. The stitched material she reaches into could be made out of skin. And I think they could be onto something: Shadow of the Erdtree is steeped in imagery and creatures that we associate with death in Elden Ring's world. The opening section is blanketed in "spiritgraves", and a new type of annoying bird enemy, called gravebirds, are all over the place. In fact, the other half of that gravestone message says the Land of Shadow is where "all manners of death wash up to be suppressed." I think it's likely that the power of death that the GEQ channeled into her magic before it was stolen and locked away by Marika originated from the Land of Shadow, and I fully expect to discover more about the time before the Erdtree, when death was a normal part of the world.

We've been using the wrong names for things all along 

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

One of the first surprising things I came across as I was roaming around the opening section of Shadow of the Erdtree were cross-legged statues of people who looked like the Omen characters we see in the base game. Item descriptions tell us the Omen are born with a curse, which is why they grow horns all over their bodies. Morgott and Mohg are the Omen children of Marika and were both forced to live below the capital city because everyone in the Golden Order believed they were impure.

In the DLC, there are several NPCs and enemies with these same horns who are called "hornsent". An item even describes the statues as hornsent deities, suggesting that the "curse" (if it even is one) was normal, and maybe even revered, in the Land of Shadow. Even the lion dancer boss in the trailers has these horns, and, it should be noted, is seen battling Messmer, who we know is a child of Marika. I think it's extremely likely that the Omen were originally known as the hornsent and that the Golden Order erased this name from history, not unlike how indigenous people all around the world have had names for things long before they were colonized. I even found a fruit called "Rava Fruit" that looked suspiciously like the Rowa Fruit you find growing all over Limgrave. Although they're separate items in your inventory, the similarities are too obvious to ignore.

Miquella might save the Land of Shadow but lose everything in the process 

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

The Crucible is mentioned several times in Elden Ring as the progenitor of the Erdtree, the chaotic source of all life. Item descriptions make it clear that the creation of the Golden Order marked some kind of end for the Crucible as the Erdtree took over. The Omen, or the hornsent, the Misbegotten, and the Crucible Knights we see in the game all have traits that link them to the Crucible, like horns, scales, and lizard tails.

Miquella's Haligtree, which you can find in the second half of the game, was intended to be a safe haven for all of the people who came from or had ties to the Crucible. Miquella tried to use his blood to grow a copy of the Erdtree without a connection to the Golden Order. It didn't work out and it seems like he's trying to do something similar in the Land of Shadow, possibly with the twisted tree, known as the Scadutree.

One of the characters you meet early on tells you that, despite hating anyone associated with Marika, they believe in Miquella's promise to make things better in the Land of Shadow. It's why Lady Leda, the golden knight in a recent promotional image, recruits you to follow in the empyrean's footsteps—symbolized by his golden runes—and find out what's happened to him. These runes suggest that Miquella took a series of steps to sacrifice parts of himself for the people down there and I'm beginning to think there won't be much left of him by the end.

FromSoft likes its bittersweet endings and I have a feeling we're destined for one when Shadow of the Erdtree launches on June 20.

Associate Editor

Tyler has covered games, games culture, and hardware for over a decade before joining PC Gamer as Associate Editor. He's done in-depth reporting on communities and games as well as criticism for sites like Polygon, Wired, and Waypoint. He's interested in the weird and the fascinating when it comes to games, spending time probing for stories and talking to the people involved. Tyler loves sinking into games like Final Fantasy 14, Overwatch, and Dark Souls to see what makes them tick and pluck out the parts worth talking about. His goal is to talk about games the way they are: broken, beautiful, and bizarre.