The four knights were great friends. Although they did not participate in any great adventures together as a team, it didn’t mean they were never together as a group. They often spent their time outside of combat together, whether it was enjoying a good drink at the palace or wandering the city of Anor Londo incognito to take in the sights and sounds. It made their parting of ways ever so painful.
Everyone in the court of the Sun was leery about allowing Artorias to leave and seek out the Abyss. The other knights all offered to accompany him, but he insisted that he go alone, that it was his burden to bear and that if he failed he did not want to drag his friends down with him.
His journey was far shorter than anticipated, as the primordial serpents were quick to allow someone with such a close connection to Gwyn and Gwyn’s followers access to the Abyss, where they shared their visions of the future. Artorias has an iron will, but iron, like any other substance, can still be shaken. He took their words with a grain of salt and returned to the court, lying that he had made no progress, but would continue to attempt to crack open the Abyss and rid the world of its inhabitants. It was inevitable, as the fires had already begun to flicker, and word was about that attempts to keep it going were not doing so well.
For a long time, Artorias would return to the Abyss, and be fed more and more stories by the serpents, of how the Age of Fire would end and the age of humans - the Age of Dark - would rise, and that the Darkwraiths were merely trying to acclimate to the shadows and hoard humanity to prevent it from being consumed to keep the fires going, in preparation for the advent of the Age of Dark. The more Artorias was fed these stories, the more he began to change his own mind, until finally he fell from his original cause and joined the Darkwraiths, being promised a position of great honor among the ranks of the Dark Lord if he could help usher in the darkness. Every time he would return, he would seem more haggard, more distant, and his colleagues were very worried for him, but he continued to attribute it to frustration that he couldn’t get the Abyss to open up for him.
The final night he returned, he claimed that he had broken into the Abyss, and that the suffering was to come to an end. The court was ecstatic, and prepared a massive banquet in his honor. When he arrived, and the merriment was at its peak, he claimed, “All shall know that the suffering of man shall come to an end! We drink to the truth that I have brought with me! For it is over! The Age of Fire shall die tonight and the Age of Man shall begin!”
Before those words could sink in, Darkwraiths materialized within the palace, let in by Artorias himself. In the chaos that ensued, Artorias himself made his way for Gwyn but was stopped by Ornstein. He snidely remarked how Ornstein had never defeated him in a duel before, and that this time was no different, as Artorias would not hold back. The two fought fiercely, with Artorias having the upper hand, nearly killing his captain and former friend, until Ciaran stepped between them and broke the fight up.
Ciaran cried, pleading furiously with Artorias that what he was doing was wrong. For a moment, Artorias’ better nature started to shine through… but in that pause, Ornstein allowed his pride, duty, and resentful rage burn through his sense of honor, and he struck out at Artorias, lancing him through the chest.
It was the biggest mistake Ornstein had ever made, and one he would carry with him for the rest of his life.
Artorias stumbled back, hissing and cursing Ornstein’s horrific action, and said he was to return to the Abyss to await the coming of the Age of Dark, biding his time until the time was right. He vanished into the darkness, leaving Ornstein and Ciaran there.
Ciaran, bitter agony of her loss boiling within her, turned and lashed out with her weapon at Ornstein, striking him and disfiguring the left side of his face. From there on, she refused to speak to him, only regarding him with seething, venomous glares. Gough, who had witnessed the entire thing, was so disgusted with Ornstein’s action that he threw down his ring and simply left, without a parting word, never to be heard from again.
Artorias was passed off as dead, and memorial services laced with lies were held to soften his ‘passing’ to the public. Ciaran spent the last of her days withering away in despair, neither eating nor sleeping, next to the false grave, with only Sif there to keep her company until she died in her sorrow.
The anxiety surrounding the events eventually led to Gwyn’s decision to link the fire, to artificially extend the Age of Gods. Upon his departue for the Kiln, Ornstein took it upon himself to seek the Abyss. He was desprate to either retrieve Artorias, kill him, or die trying.
When Ornstein went off to challenge the beasts of the Abyss, he landed himself in a spot of trouble. Without any covenant or pact, he couldn’t enter the Abyss himself, and so stood at the bottom of the stairwell, screaming into the shadows for Artorias like an angry fool.
He was answered, though. A primordial serpent rose up to meet him. After weaving some very cryptic words about Artorias’ betrayal (whether or not they were lies is up for grabs; after all, can one ever fully trust a primordial serpent, when serpents are often a symbol of deception? Ornstein sure didn’t), Ornstein lashed out in anger, denying that Artorias, that great swordsman of unbending iron will, would have joined his own foes so easily. He attacked the serpent, who did not fight back because he felt he was in no danger; instead, he was badly wounded.
As the serpent fell into the Abyss, he cried out “Kaathe! My brother-!”, who arrived shortly to condemn Ornstein’s audacity, though to also commend him for his foolish actions bringing only pain and suffering. Kaathe proceeded to attack viciously, and bit off Ornstein’s right hand and some of his arm (half-way between the wrist and elbow), leaving a smouldering ring around the edge of the stump. He then struck Ornstein hard enough to knock him from his footing, into the darkness.
He hit the black ‘ground’ with a thud, barely able to stand from the long fall, only to find himself face to face with one of the Four Kings. Before he could even weakly raise his spear, another King swooped in with his sword, impaling the dragonslayer through the back, its jagged point bursting through his chest. The King then raised the knight over his head as the other Kings arrived, and one by one, each thrust their sword through Ornstein’s armored back as he was suspended in the air.
The view shifted down slightly, so Ornstein was out of view, only for the Kings to all pull their swords violently back, blood pouring down from above. The view dropped to the ‘ground’ between the warped, descending feet of the Kings as blood pooled, followed by Ornstein’s bloody helmet hitting the ground, fading the scene out…
…Only for Ornstein to awaken suddenly at the Anor Londo cathedral bonfire.
He sat up, shaking his head, wondering if he had just dreamed it all. But then he felt something wrong. Lifting up his right arm, he removed his gauntlet, slowly….
…To reveal a Darksign ringing his arm, what was originally missing from being bitten off replaced by a rotting husk of a hand.
Even today, he is barely a shell of a man, clinging desperately to lies and illusions, holding onto fond memories while desperately smothering the painful ones, to mask his mistakes and how it cost him not only his own life, but the lives of everyone around him.