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Pontiff Sulyvahn is one of the two secondary antagonists (alongside Aldrich) and a boss in Dark Souls III. He is the leader of the Outrider Knights and the Church of the Deep.
Young Sulyvahn was born and raised inside the Painting despite not yet experiencing loss or despair and had little use to his frost sorceries. As such, he left the painting and his belongings. Sulyvahn then discovered the undying flame of the ancient Profaned Capital. The flame gave Sulyvahn a newfound ambition to conquer the Boreal Valley, which the Profaned Flame was situated under, taking upon a greatsword bearing a flame similar to the Profaned Flame's. Upon fulfilling his goal, he formed his Outrider Knights to enforce his rule, even forcing his compeers to wear a ring that, should they ever question his ideals, would drive them mad with visions of battle unending and send them afar from the Boreal Valley in said madness. He turned all inhabitants of Irithyll and the Profaned Capital into slaves, soldiers, or beasts. He also gave his Fire Witches too much of the Profaned Flame's power, knowing that it will drive them mad and turn them into mindless servants.
Sulyvahn would eventually institute the worship of Aldrich, Devourer of Gods, into the city of Irithyll, taking the title of Pontiff upon its formation. The Church of the Deep would regularly grant Aldritch sacrifices, to sate his insatiable hunger. Sulyvahn decided to further his grip over the Boreal Valley and sent Aldritch to devour Gwyndolin, the last of the gods in the old Anor Londo, and imprison Yorshka in a tower above her church.
The Ashen One first comes across the Pontiff's influence in the Kingdom of Lothric when confronted with Vordt, one of his outrider knights. Due to being harassed by the black eyes emanated from his rings, Vordt has transformed into a beastly and feral creature.
Later on in Irithyll, a city steeped in eternal night and snowfall the Ashen One progresses towards Sulyvahn's cathedral and faces off against his knights (who have been reduced into mindless corpses) and sorcerers (whose hearts were consumed by the profaned flame after Sulyvahn introduced them to it) as well as the emaciated remains of the city's civilians. Upon reaching the cathedral, the Ashen One will fight the Pontiff who dual-wields a greatsword possessing the power of the profaned flame itself and a sword possessing more sinister energy of the moon. Upon defeat, the Ashen One is able to progress towards the Lord of Cinder, Aldrich, Devourer of the Gods.
The last of Sulyvahn's influence is manifested through the Dancer of the Boreal Valley encountered in Lothric who duel wields a sword of magic and flame, much like her master. In-game lore mentions that she was once a distant relative of the old Gods who Sulyvahn set out to destroy. The Pontiff had her enslaved as a dancer before making her an outrider knight who would lose her humanity and sanity through her Pontiff's Right Eye ring.
Unlike most bosses encountered in the Dark Souls series who have tragic backstories, Sulyvahn appears to have little reason to commit his atrocities apart from furthering his own ambitions. He usurps control over Anor Londo and has Gwyndolin, a God of the moon, imprisoned and feeds him to Aldrich. The very fact that Sulyvahn appears to willingly work with Aldrich (it is somewhat implied that Aldrich is merely a pawn in the Pontiff's schemes himself) who is notorious for his gluttony and cannibalism, alone speaks volumes of his own moral compass.
Sulyvahn's minions are all under his command through the rings he gifts to his outrider knights, which turn them insane and beastly. Or as shown through Sulyvahn's beasts, fear. This can be seen when performing a critical attack on them causing them to lay on their backs and "plead", implying that they are tortured by the Pontiff.
He is routinely referred to as an oppressive tyrant via NPC discussions and item descriptions and the state of Irithyll when the Ashen One arrives further supports this claim. Whilst most of his actions occur before the events of the game, they can be heard of through item descriptions.
Sulyvahn is a tall and lanky being, almost twice the height of an average human, draped in ceremonial robes worn atop a set of chainmail, adorned with various forms of jewelry, such as a necklace made of objects that greatly resemble the Pontiff rings bestowed upon his Outrider Knights.
Sulyvahn lacks a face, in place of it being what appears to be roots, his skin grey and cracked, pulled so taught in some areas that the underlying bones can be seen. On each of his wrists are two pairs of bracelets and in battle, he shall make use of two enormous swords, the left one wreathed in fire, the right enveloped in an ethereal purple light.
- Superhuman Speed: Despite his size, Sulyvahn is incredibly swift, moving at alarming speeds, which is utilized to great effect when in battle.
- Superhuman Strength: Befitting of such a large being, Sulyvahn is much stronger than most people, demonstrated by his ability to swing both of his swords with ease.
- Intelligence: It is common knowledge that Sulyvahn had great ambition and even greater skill in subterfuge, as he was, through trickery and cunning, able to rise to become ruler of all of Irythyll, commanding his Outrider Knights through the rings bestowed upon them, ensuring the Knights would forever be unquestioningly loyal to him alone.
- Swordsmanship: Although he is only fought once, most of his danger coming from his influence over others, Sulyvahn has made it clear he is capable of holding his own in battle, using a combination of his immense speed and strength to attack others in a blinding flurry of swings.
- Magic: A sorcerer by nature, Sulyvahn is adept in the art of magic, imbuing his twin swords with the power of fire and moon respectively. As well, the Pontiff by sprout two wings made out of the same roots that cover his face to take skyward, alongside summoning a purple doppelganger who mirrors every one of his moves.
- Pontiff Sulyvahn is one of the few bosses in Dark Souls III who can be parried and riposted.
- Pontiff a religious title for someone who is a bishop or above.
- Sulyvahn's name may be based on the Irish name "Súilleabhán", meaning "One-eyed" or "Little Dark Eye". This is ironic, given the fact that Sulyvahn lacks eyes or any visible facial features for that matter.