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Elden Ring: What Was The Night Of Black Knives?

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  • What Was The Night Of Black Knives?
  • Who Were The Black Knife Assassins?
  • Who Sent Them After Godwyn?
  • The Aftermath Of The Night Of Black Knives

A night that will live in infamy. The Night of Black Knives is the second most important event in the history of Elden Ring. The Shattering is the only event that eclipses it, and some would argue that the Night of Black Knives was even more important. This is because the events of that fateful night directly caused Marika to shatter the Elden Rune.

The Night of Black Knives is something you may have heard referenced a number of times in the game. It first appears in the opening cutscene of the game, and later, you will run into a number of Black Knife Assassins, and you may find the Spirit Ash of Black Knife Tiche. Ranni The Witch references the day by name during her quest. You will see references of the night in question many times, but it can be hard to piece together what exactly happened.

What Was The Night Of Black Knives?

The most important thing to know when talking about this event is what exactly happened. On the night in question, a number of elite warriors known as the Black Knife Assassins were contracted to seek out and kill Godwyn. The exact details of the night are not revealed to us, but the assassins managed to restrain Godwyn and killed him with their special Black Knives. This act killed the soul of Godwyn, but not his flesh. This meant that Godwyn was trapped between death because both the body and soul must die for someone to die completely.

The Black Knife assassins are an interesting group. They come from the Eternal City, though it is not clear exactly who contracted them for this plot. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the Black Knives is that, according to the Black Knife Armor set, they were all Numen.

This is significant for two reasons. The first is that Marika is also accepted to be of Numen blood. Numen are rumored to have originated from somewhere outside the Lands Between, likely meaning that they are aliens or celestial beings. It is also significant that all the Black Knives are women. With this information, and the fact that Marika is also Numen, we may be able to conclude that Numen can only be women.

If death did not exist until Godwyn died, you may be wondering how he was able to die at all in the first place. Every member of the Black Knives wielded a special dagger that mimicked the Rune of Death. Essentially, each woman was carrying an artificial Rune of Death in their pockets. After death was introduced to the world, it was a little easier to kill Demigods, but the Rune of Death would still have to be used.

Who Sent Them After Godwyn?

This is an interesting topic, as we don't concretely know who contracted the Black Knives to kill Godwyn. We have two very likely candidates though. It was either Ranni the Witch, or Queen Marika herself. Now, Ranni is the much more likely of the two to be the culprit. However, there is an interesting discrepancy that may pin the blame squarely on the mother of the murdered.

Ranni admits directly to us that she orchestrated the Night of the Black Knives to us during her questline more than once. She drops it first early in the quest, and then later expands on why she did it. She claims that she knows the Greater Will is in control of the Lands Between, and she wanted to rid the world of its influence and install the Outer God of the Moon to rule in its place. This gives her good motive, and since the Numen have such close ties to the stars and space, it is not a stretch to think that Ranni's studies led her to their Eternal City.

All of that said, Ranni keeps her exact role in the assassination deliberately vague. She never says she hired the assassins, nor that she wanted Godwyn dead. In fact, on the night of his slaying, Ranni was nearly on the other side of the Lands Between atop a tall tower.

Here we get into where certain discrepancies and missing information in Ranni's accounting begin to make a new picture form. Prior to the death of Godwyn, no one in the Lands Between had ever died. Death was not a concept, and simply didn't exist. However, when he was killed, the Rune of Death came into existence, and death crept into the world of the gods. However, at the exact same instant of Godwyn's slaying, there was a witch, kneeling atop one of the highest towers in the land, taking her own life.

We know this because Godwyn's death did not produce the entire Rune of Death. Instead, it was fractured into two halves, one of which lies over the dead and decayed body of Ranni the Witch.

Ranni died in body, while Godwyn died in soul, but their two deaths were almost instantaneous of one another, causing the Rune of Death to fracture. In order for Ranni to have died at the same instant as Godwyn, either Marika or Ranni must have known about the other's plan. This is where things get muddy, as both have very compelling motives. At first glance, this plan does seem to have all the hallmarks of Ranni. A perfectly orchestrated plan to slay a Demigod, perfectly timed so that she could ascend to her soul form. Ranni wanted to overthrow Marika, and to do that she would need the power to kill a god. A power that only existed in the Rune of Death.

Ranni certainly had the motive, but did she have the means? The Black Knives could have been from Nokron, which Ranni could have accessed. However, the game only tells us that the assassins came from "The Eternal City". There is a second Eternal City called Nokstella that is inaccessible until after Radahn is killed; hundreds of years after Godwyn. Marika, being a Numen, would have had access to the city prior to this, so she could have hired the assassins.

But why would she want her firstborn son dead? It is possible that Marika knew about Ranni's plan to overthrow her, and the whole Rune of Death would make her too dangerous. So she took the path of the ends justifying the means, had her son killed, and took half of the Rune of Death to seal away in Maliketh, foiling Ranni's plan until a certain Tarnished enters her service.

The Aftermath Of The Night Of Black Knives

The killing of Godwyn brought Destined Death into the world. This was a very unfavorable outcome for the ultra-powerful ruling elite of The Lands between like Marika and Radagon who were meant to have an eternal rule. However, for the common people left to roam the lands and slowly lose their minds, death would have seemed like a reprieve. The Night of Black Knives is the catalyst for almost every event in Elden Ring, and we see the fallout of it anywhere we go.

Those Who Live in Death used Deathroot to avoid the fate of being etched into the Erdtree, and to hopefully be released from the fate of being recycled by it. Small cults like this popped up all over the land, causing the Golden Order to retaliate and create new Incantations to combat them. This turning away from fundamentalism surely inspired others to turn away from the Greater Will and to seeking other Outer Gods to take its place.

It seems that even the Demigods were influenced by the event. Miquella saw the flaws in the system implemented by the Greater Will, and seemed to agree with Ranni in the fact that it needed to be overthrown. Where he differed was in thinking that all Outer Gods needed to be overthrown.

This night may have resonated with him to create a way that would dispel an Outer Gods influence without killing the host. The effects of releasing death onto The Lands Between are almost innumerable. One thing is for certain though: that night showed the common people that a god could die, and that fact shook Marika to her core.

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