You’re rolling right along in Elden Ring, having potentially claimed three Great Runes: those of Godrick the Grafted, Renalla, Queen of the Full Moon, and Starscourge Radahn. Now it’s time to head north to the portion of the continent where the Erdtree grows: the Altus Plateau.
Like nearly everywhere else in the Lands Between, there are multiple paths you can take when you reach the plateau. Once you make the climb to the plateau’s top, you’ll actually find yourself more or less located between two major military forces: those of Leyndell, the Erdtree capital, in the east, and the Volcano Manor of Mt. Gelmir in the north.
Eventually, your road will lead you to Leyndell, but stopping off at Volcano Manor gives you a chance to take control of another Great Rune before making your way to the Erdtree to attempt to claim the Elden Ring. Volcano Manor is controlled by Rykard, the last of the Radagon and Rennala’s children, who is actually one of the biggest opponents of the Golden Order in the Lands Between, in fact. Making your way to his home illuminates a lot more facets about the Golden Order’s past, things that happened in the Shattering, and what awful things are continuing to take place in the Lands Between.
As always, there are spoilers beyond. Here’s what you need to know about Mt. Gelmir and the Volcano Manor, and what you’ll discover about the place and the people who choose to live there when you arrive.
More deep dives into Elden Ring’s story
A whole bunch of war crimes
As you make your way into Mt. Gelmir, you’ll start to get an inkling of who Rykard is and the horrors he’s unleashed in his realm. With Mt. Gelmir almost right beside Leyndell, Rykard’s forces posed the greatest threat to the capital, and evidence of battles between the Leyndell armies and Mt. Gelmir’s military–both completed and ongoing–can be found all the way up the mountain. Especially early on, you’ll find the remnants of Leyndell forces pawing through the corpses; it almost looks like they’re eating them.
The blackened battlefields surrounding Mt. Gelmir and what’s left of the Leyndell soldiers gives an idea of what kind of warfare Rykard raged against the capital. Some survivors have seemingly lost their minds; others have definitely succumbed to madness, taking on the burning yellow eyes of frenzy. As you climb higher, you’ll find some more of the forces that Rykard employed against Leyndell, including a Grafted Scion and Abductor Virgins, the Iron Maiden-like contraptions we first spotted roaming in the courtyard of Raya Lucaria. The whole area is covered in blood and ravaged by flame, with piles of burned corpses and crucified soldiers revealing that the clash between these two armies wasn’t just about territory and power, but about ideology.
Rykard ordered the atrocities you see and uses abominations like the Grafted Scion because they’re fundamental reflections of the person he is: the Lord of Blasphemy.
To understand Rykard’s title as Lord of Blasphemy, it’s important to know his history. Rykard was previously a devotee of the Golden Order, but he wasn’t just a believer; he was an enforcer. Rykard’s former title was Praetor, and Sir Gideon Ofnir describes him as a justiciar in command of Golden Order inquisitors. Praetor is the title of a magistrate, while justiciar denotes a political official or judge, and putting him at the head of the Golden Order inquisition suggests Rykard was judging adherents for crimes like blasphemy and heresy. Looking at inquisitors throughout history in our world, it’s probably safe to say that Rykard was a man who didn’t dole out a lot of mercy to the people he found to be guilty.
We can get a bit of a sense of what the inquisition might have been like from some of the characters and elements in and around Volcano Manor. When you enter the manor and walk to the right area, you’ll be attacked by an inquisitor invader named Ghiza. This guy wields a gnarly weapon, Ghiza’s Wheel, which is essentially a huge wheel at the end of a staff covered in blades meant not to just cut their victim, but to gouge them. Ghiza’s Wheel isn’t just a weapon to kill enemies, but also an implement of torture.
Ghiza’s Wheel is only carried by this one character, but we can see it elsewhere in the world: on the Abductor Virgins. That gives us some wider implications about the inquisitors. For one thing, there were probably a lot of these weapons floating around before the Shattering, if Rykard and his forces didn’t manufacture a ton of them after the fact. It also is possible, although speculative, that some version of the Abductor Virgins were previously employed by the inquisitors as implements of torture. We know for sure that Abductor Virgins are inspired by the implements of the Inquisition, and that suggests torture was a big part of it.
Volcano Manor sits above a town nestled in the caldera of Mt. Gelmir, known as Prison Town. It’s a place filled with torture devices and prison cells, suggesting that inquisitors would have questioned and tortured accused heretics right below Rykard’s home–perhaps even as he entertained lords and ladies in the opulent manor above.
At some point during the Shattering wars, though, it seems Rykard’s attitude shifted. Instead of enforcing the laws of the Golden Order, he turned against them, discarding the faith and embracing all sorts of blasphemy and defilement. Given the nature of the Inquisition, he didn’t really have to go too far ideologically, and he was able to bring a lot of the elements of the inquisitors into his new faith.
But Rykard’s embrace of blasphemy had its consequences, too, and his methods were too much for many of his soldiers. The armies of the Volcano Manor largely abandoned their lord, which might be the reason why Rykard now employs contraptions, marionettes, Grafted Scions, and other outcasts.
While he doesn’t command the loyalty of soldiers and knights the way the other demigods do, Rykard does have several dedicated people who serve him–and his ideals.
The Recusant Tarnished
Rykard’s decision to become a blasphemer isn’t just to feed his clear love of torture and depravity. He embraces blasphemy because he’s come to hate the control of the Greater Will and the Fingers. He doesn’t believe the Lands Between should submit to their rule any longer, and he’s looking for others to join him in sharing in that sentiment.
Back in Liurnia, you might have met a woman named Rya, who asks your help in confronting another Tarnished called the Blackguard after he stole her necklace. If you decide to assist, you can either kill the Blackguard, whose actual name is Big Boggart, or you can pay him off to get the necklace back. Either way, bringing the necklace back to Rya impresses her, and she’ll give you an invitation to Volcano Manor. It turns out, Rya’s job is to seek out Tarnished like you–folks who are willing to take on other Tarnished and get their hands dirty–and recruit them to come back to the manor. If you meet her again when you reach Altus Plateau, she’ll teleport you straight to the manor to meet its proprietress, a woman named Tanith.
You can also make your way into Volcano Manor without an invitation, and luckily, this is seen as proof that you have the right kind of gumption to join the manor. So either way, Tanith and her pals look to recruit you.
Tanith is Rykard’s consort, a dancer he met in a foreign land, seemingly during his stint with the Inquisition. He’s currently not around, but Tanith runs the show. She entreats you to join up to fight against the influence of the Golden Order and the Fingers, and it’s not a bad pitch, honestly. What have the Fingers done for you lately, really, except send you to your likely death against the most powerful people on the continent so you can fix their failing religion? If you join Volcano Manor and its Recusants, you can take power from those who have it, just like the gods do, and make your own fate.
If you join the Recusants, Tanith will offer you jobs to complete for Volcano Manor that prove your strength and give you opportunities to take from the weak. Those jobs are assassination contracts–you’re tasked with killing other Tarnished. Complete enough of them and you’ll eventually get a chance to meet Rykard yourself. You’re not the only one on this team, either; hanging around in the manor, you can talk to a few other Tarnished who’ve joined up, although they’re not all the die-hard true believers in Rykard’s ideology that Tanith seems to be.
You can also explore Volcano Manor now that you have access to it, and speak more with Rya. Pursue Rya’s quest and you’ll learn that there’s much more to Volcano Manor and the people who live there than you might first realize.
Experiments in blasphemy
Exploring Volcano Manor goes hand-in-hand with Rya’s quest line, which you can advance by finding her in one of the rooms of the manor after you’ve completed an assassination contract or two. What you discover in one of those side rooms is a half-human, half-snake hybrid; the true form of Rya, as it turns out, whose real name is Zorayas. She hides her serpentine form out of fear of rejection from others, and explains that Tanith is her mother. Zorayas doesn’t know much about her own history, but Tanith has told her that she was born “by the grace of a glorious king.”
Talk to Rya at other points and she’ll mention hearing strange things behind the walls of Volcano Manor, which can lead you to discovering illusory walls, allowing you to discover secret hallways and chambers in the house. As you search through them, you’ll discover more snake people–these ones hostile–and a path outside the manor into the caldera of Mt. Gelmir. Here, you can discover Prison Town, which provides a whole lot more information about what Rykard and his followers are up to here.
Prison Town has a few serpent people standing guard around it, as well as Abductor Virgins cruising around and an Omenkiller roaming its streets. As you descend into its buildings, you discover Albinaurics in cages and all manner of torture implements. Toward the bottom, you find Albinaurics and a few human servants stretched out on tables, mostly dead, some dismembered. The implication from the serpent people, the Albinaurics, and what we eventually find out about the praetor himself is that Rykard has been conducting experiments here, likely to at least make more of these serpent people to aid him as he gathers strength to take on Leyndell and the Golden Order.
Here we see the reason for the Abductor Virgins: to grab subjects for Rykard’s work. He seems to mostly have focused on Albinaurics, and we saw Abductor Virgins in Raya Lucaria that probably were there to scoop up more test subjects. There are other interesting elements in and around Prison Town that suggest what Rykard is up to. You might eventually discover a Magma Wyrm hanging out in the magma caves beneath near Prison Town; these wyrms aren’t descendants of dragons, but are actually former humans who ate dragon hearts as a way to gain their strength. Eventually, anyone who takes part in Dragon Communion and consumes the hearts to gain dragon powers loses their humanity (including you, in fact, if you head to the Church of Dragon Communion and eat the dragon hearts you get from killing dragon bosses–although while you’ll see some cosmetic effects, you’ll never turn into a Magma Wyrm yourself). One such former person is conspicuously close to the place where Rykard has a bunch of snake people running around.
Inside Prison Town’s church, you discover a Godskin Noble boss. Godskins are another deep-dive element we won’t get into here, but one notable thing about them is they wear the skins of other beings and they have traits of non-human creatures; Apostles can stretch themselves in the same way that Rykard’s serpent men can, and Nobles have what look like dragon tails sticking out from beneath their skins. We don’t know exactly why a Godskin Noble is hanging out at the Volcano Manor, but his presence in the church suggests he’s Rykard’s ally. It all plays to a theme that suggests Rykard is trying to combine different kinds of life together as part of his blasphemy.
Continuing Rya’s quest, you’ll discover an item called the Serpent Amnion, which gives clues about her birth. She wasn’t born of “the grace of a glorious king,” she realizes: She was made through Rykard’s hideous rituals.
But there’s no better piece of evidence pointing to Rykard making blasphemous abominations than Rykard himself.
Lord of Blasphemy
You eventually come across Rykard himself in a giant room filled with magma. Well, actually, first you find a giant snake–the God-Devouring Serpent. The lore suggests this is Eiglay, the serpent of blasphemy, whose temple you find not far from Rykard, complete with a huge snake skin hanging from its rafters.
From all the lore in this area, we learn that when Rykard chose blasphemy, he really went all-in. He fed himself to the serpent, and in that way, joined with it, becoming something other than human.
Early in your time in Volcano Manor, you might have interacted with the ghost of one of Rykard’s soldiers, who would have told you about a legendary spear called the Serpent-Hunter. It was once used to kill an eternal serpent, apparently, and the spear’s lore suggests that, as Rykard’s men watched him descent into depravity, they looked for a way to stop him and discovered the spear. The weapon has special properties against the God-Devouring Serprent, allowing you to slay it fairly easily. That forces Rykard to reveal himself.
In the second phase of the fight, you realize that Rykard and the snake really are one and the same, with Rykard’s face growing out of the snake’s neck and his arms erupting from its body–he even reaches down its throat and draws his sword, the Blasphemous Blade. Fighting Rykard here reveals the truth of what Volcano Manor and the Recusant Tarnished: like Godrick did with grafting, Rykard is looking for powerful Tarnished that he can consume to strengthen himself. Any Recusants who have proven their power by killing enough other Tarnished are eventually sent to meet Rykard, who devours them and brings them into himself, part of his “family.”
From his dialogue and other lore entries, you can gather that he sees this as the positive end result of the path of blasphemy, as Recusants get to become one with him. Everyone who Rykard has eaten is still within him, it seems, making him a big blasphemous blob; he actually flings ephemeral burning skulls at you, which are the souls of the warriors he’s devoured.
Of course, rather than get eaten by a giant snake to become one with Rykard, you kill the Lord of Blasphemy. Or do you? Rykard doesn’t seem to think so, based on his dialogue, claiming that “a serpent never dies.” And after all, the demigod offered himself up to be eaten once, so he couldn’t have been that worried about mortality. For our purposes, however, he’s pretty dead, and you can claim his Great Rune for your trouble.
Rykard’s death causes the break-up of the Recusants and Volcano Manor, with everyone going their separate ways. No one’s particularly mad, it seems (although one of the Recusants will invade you later, under the right circumstances), because of the Lord of Blasphemy’s own philosophy: the strong take what they want, and you were strong enough to take Rykard’s Great Rune. You might have killed the Lord of Blasphemy, but you were still adhering to his blasphemous ideals.
Return to Rykard’s boss room later, and you’ll find Tanith, also adhering to blasphemous ideals. She’s been eating the corpse of Rykard and the God-Devouring Serpent, and is pretty polite about the whole situation, considering. As she says when you visit her, the hope is that Rykard will become part of her, the way he became part of the serpent that ate him the first time. If it works, then Rykard might be back. Regardless, it shows how incredibly, disgustingly dedicated Tanith is to her man.
Having claimed another Great Rune, you can proceed east across the Altus Plateau. Ahead waits Leyndell, home of the Erdtree, the Elden Ring, and your chance to finally become Elden Lord.