Navlaan is a corrupted sorcerer currently imprisoned in Aldia's Keep.
Navlaan was executed along with his entire village long ago according to the descriptions in a number of hexes.
Long ago there was a gifted sorcerer named Navlaan, who likely studied at one of the famous Magic Academies. Perhaps a personal tragedy had happened in his life and he had lost a loved one, or perhaps he simply desired strength. Whatever the reason Navlaan sought to restore the banned art of resurrection. His research drew him to the Dark, and perhaps this brought him some success. Navlaan was able to create esoteric spells like Darkstorm and Scraps of Life. But from the Dark comes hexing and hexing is viewed as a perilous affront to all life, banned in most lands. Hexes are an expression of human depravity, born of jealously, humiliation, love and hatred, the very things that reflect the true essence of life itself.
Because of this, Navlaan was exiled, likely to his home village. But this did not dissuade him and he continued in his attempts at resurrection. Hexes such as these that tamper with life itself, are particularly abhorred. It is likely then, that the less tolerant authorities of his land discovered Navlaan’s work and brought what they believed to be an end to the whole affair. They executed Navlaan, along with his entire village, and the mere utterance of his name became a crime. This heavy handed punishment is very telling of the attitude towards hexes in that time and would have served as a stern warning for any following in Navlaan’s footsteps. It is likely that this extreme act of ‘justice’ would have been whispered about in every household of the kingdom, despite the taboo around his name. And so it was that Navlaan’s story came to an end.
But history, as they say, repeats itself. A brilliant young sorcerer, likely studying in the Melfian Magic Academy to the south, received word that the Kingdom of Drangleic was requesting the gifted and ambitious for assistance in their cause. The keen mind of this sorcerer already understood that the staff of the Melfian academies were disdainful of anything new, had no interest in truth, had paltry ambition and were beset with petty squabbles. The academies were no place for a student with any ambition. Perhaps at this stage his mind had already felt drawn to investigate the Dark, for we hear from Felkin that it was at the academy that he too first discovered the Dark. Those who choose the path of Dark are admonished by all manner of sorcerers, but this does not stop the curious from being drawn to this strangely alluring craft, and this pull eventually led him to Drangleic, a land where Dark runs deeper than anywhere else.
So this young sorcerer took up the offer. He, along with several of the greatest minds, converged in Aldia to weave strange new rituals. The fields these great minds studied were diverse and the goals ultimately varied, though all seemed to be tailored towards uncovering the truth of the Curse and perhaps even finding a cure. The brilliant young sorcerer cast away his earthly desires and devoted himself to research of the nebulous Dark. This “naïve” sorcerer set about devising new spells, dreaming of bringing new forms of magic into the world. Perhaps the sorcerer had once been an astrologist of the Melfian Magic Academy. These astrologists believed that magical powers can be obtained at moments of special heavenly alignment. In essence, they are seeking new forms of magic and so their goals align with that of the brilliant young sorcerer’s. But it is easy to see how one could become disillusioned with the astrologists, despite their ideas leading to the creation of new and very useful magic devices, the collective wisdom of the Melfian Magic Academy cannot simply pull magic out of the sky… So this scholar began his true study in Aldia. Perhaps he worked alongside a fellow hexer from the academy, by the name of Felkin. They certainly seem to share similarities.
In Aldia he met with some success. Perhaps in his time as an astrologist he had helped create some of the useful magical devices, and this allowed him to forge a staff that could cast sorceries but was particularly powerful for casting hexes. This staff would become known as the Sunset Staff and its design is depicted on Navlaan’s shield; the Chaos Shield. Perhaps with this modest success he was further encouraged to delve deeper into the Dark. But those who study the Dark to much will often find themselves on the brink of madness. Long ago the sorcerers of Oolacile had sought to create new and more powerful magic, perhaps to destroy the black dragon Kalameet that had made its home in their city. They unearthed Manus, the Furtive Pygmy and studied his Dark Soul. These sorcerers were able to uncover new and powerful forms of magic that would later become known as hexes, but this magic came at a great cost, the sorcerers were driven mad and Oolacile lost to the Abyss. It is likely that the sorcerer had studied these events, if they are recorded, as he will cast the spell Affinity in battle. Affinity is an advanced hex based on the ancient sorcery “Pursuers” created by Manus. This spells grants a fleeting will to the Dark of humanity and is fuelled by strong emotion, perhaps envy, perhaps love. Ancient Manus was clearly once human, but he became the Father of the Abyss after his humanity went wild. We know that warlocks of Aldia cast forbidden rituals upon themselves and that ancient rituals were used to great the Mastodon warriors. No one knows if these warlocks were born mad, or if their own misdeeds drove them over the edge. Whatever the case, it would seem the result is the same; madness. The terrible deeds carried out in Aldia led to the unintentional birth of several shadowy things. It may be that as the sorcerer descended deeper into his studies, he discovered ancient rituals and cast them upon himself. At first he did not notice any change, but as we know hexes are considered to be nature holding a mirror to mankind…
This brilliant, but ultimately foolish sorcerer had begun by devising new spells and dreaming of bringing forth new forms of magic into the world, perhaps like the Oolacile sorcerers of old, but instead he created Navlaan. Whether Navlaan is a separate being or simply another facet to this sorcerer that he could not bring himself to accept is debatable. Navlaan looked at his ‘vessel’ and deduced that what he really sought was strength, so Navlaan decided to demonstrate. While his vessel ‘slept’, he would take over, find his “mark” and hunt him down. We know that what Navlaan was doing was seeking people out, and murdering them. To him, this was a perfect display of strength, taking another’s life. But his vessel did not approve, this was not what he wanted. So, while the vessel was awake and Navlaan ‘slept’, he sealed them both away within Aldia’s keep, so that they could both sit there and “wither quietly away…”
It may be that Navlaan is the enduring will of a sorcerer who was executed long ago, taking control of another’s body to act out his will. There are multiple occurrences of in game text questioning whether a sorcery could ever have a will of its own, and perhaps this is to imply that ‘Navlaan’ is not a sorcery, but rather a hex. Hexes as we know can have wills of their own, and this is proved with spells like affinity. Even if the hex only has a fleeting will, it still has a will based on the caster’s intentions. We can also see the power of Dark in the story of Artorias. This brave knight had only the best intentions, to defeat an ‘evil’ and save the Princess of Oolacile. But he was consumed, the Dark took control of his actions, and he ceased to be. It is also interesting to note that Navlaan appears to be a Fenito, as his skin is blue. We know that Fenito were created to watch over the Undead Crypt, but that they are also able to wander away from this place (as we see with the Grave Wardens at Earthern Peak). Fenito also have a natural affinity for the Dark. Perhaps Navlaan, after being executed, was buried within the Undead Crypt. His will may have endured (perhaps due to some success with his resurrection spells) and this Fenito may have discovered it. This seems unlikely, though still possible, because we are told through SotFS item descriptions that Navlaan was once a brilliant sorcerer. It seems odd that a Fenito would begin their study with sorcery, though not impossible, as we can see that certain spells, including sorceries, are preserved only in the Undead Crypt. But why would the will of a sorcerer who lived long ago and attempted to resurrect people, become obsessed with killing? In essence, doing the exact opposite of what he had sought in life. This fact does not add up.
Perhaps, and this seems most likely, Navlaan is simply a creation of this brilliant sorcerer, a means of coping with the true nature of his humanity. It is likely in his studies that he had read about the infamous heretic Navlaan. The two of them seemed to share a common goal, both brilliant sorcerers who had rejected the dominant order of things in their day and both attempting to bring about ‘new’ forms of magic to some extent. So it may be only natural that when this sorcerer delved too deep, he discovered a side of himself that he both loved and loathed, and as much as he fought it, he could not overcome. This side of himself would become known as Navlaan. As we can see in the descriptions for the Chaos set, this man has not always called himself Navlaan, but he does now. It is also interesting to note in connection to this that when we attack Navlaan when we are human, he will begin by reacting like the scared man that he is. But eventually, his dialogue will mirror that of Navlaan’s (when we attack Navlaan as a hollow) exactly:
Please, stop that!
What are you doing?!
You are most intriguing. Heh heh… (aggroed)
Heh heh heh heh heh… (50% HP, no caption)
Yes, I see.
You are most intriguing. Heh heh… (aggroed)
Heh heh heh heh heh… (50% HP, no caption)
After being confined to his cell, Navlaan could not kill anymore, so he had to find other ways to slake his thirst for bloodshed. He achieves this by living vicariously through the player. Navlaan asks the player to complete a series of assassinations. What Navlaan tells us is that he sought to prove strength by killing. He will ask us to kill Laddersmith Gilligan, a greedy foul man, Cale the Cartographer, the “maniac” who studied Navlaan, and Felkin the Hexer, the man with the “peculiar” sceptre (perhaps his old class mate and colleague) before finally settling on the Emerald Herald. Navlaan believes, and is most probably correct in this, that the Emerald Herald is the last Fire Keeper, but he does agree with her cause. The Emerald Herald seeks to continue the Age of Fire and shepherds the undead to sacrifice themselves to link the flame. Navlaan is a disciple of Dark. We can already see why these two would have conflicting interests, as any disciple of Dark would be interested in continuing the Age of Dark. But it may be for a more simple reason that Navlaan seeks the Emerald Herald’s blood (or feather); she continues the Age of Fire by shepherding the undead, so if she were killed then that may bring an end to that Age, and exhibit the ultimate example of strength through murder. Navlaan considers the Emerald Herald to be someone of true importance for affecting the order of the world, and we know what he believes her role to be. Once the player has done away with the Emerald Herald, Navlaan will be satisfied to wait out his days in the cell, having no regrets. Perhaps he rejoices over a point proved or the coming Dark, finally at peace.
It is interesting that Navlaan is known as a Chaos sorcerer. The word ‘chaos‘ is only ever used in the Dark Souls universe in connection with the Daughters of Chaos. These sisters are the roots of flame sorcery and pyromancy. We know for certain that hexing is rooted in both sorcery and miracles, but what about pyromancy? It may be that Navlaan or the brilliant sorcerer who would become Navlaan, did manage to bring about new forms of magic, hexes created from pyromancies. In Dark Souls 1, the pyromancy “Black Flame” is available, and this is clearly related to the Abyss. In Dark Souls 2, Nadalia created “Outcry”, a pyromancy that spouts multiple Dark Flames. These are alternate manifestations of pyromancy, but not hexes. What spells did Navlaan create? Darkstorm and Scraps of Life. Darkstorm especially seems to have no comparison in the fields of sorcery or miracles, but it certainly seems to resemble the pyromancy Chaos Storm. The Chaos Storm spell is the art of the Flame of Chaos, which engulfed the Witch of Izalith and her daughters. Darkstorm behaves in a similar way, creating a storm around the caster, though this time in a vortex. Perhaps Navlaan truly was a pioneer in his field, and helped bring about new hexes based on pyromancies. He may not have been the first to do this as we can certainly see some similarities between the pyromancy Toxic Mist and the hex Black Fog. These spells are both considered to be perverse and Toxic Mist is even said to be a diversion from the art of fire. It is also interesting that though Navlaan has the Sunset Staff depicted on his Chaos shield, and it is very powerful for casting hexes, he does not use it to attack us. Instead, he uses his fists, almost as if he has created his own hex based version of the pyromancy hand, drawing Dark from within himself.
Navlaan seems to have connections to other characters within the game. How he knows about Gilligan is unclear, but hints that maybe Gilligan has been in Drangleic for a long time, and that he was perhaps sent to the Harvest Valley as punishment, likely for stealing. We do not know where the Melu Scimitar was before it was (likely) taken by Gilligan, but perhaps it resided in Aldia’s Manor. Navlaan also mentions that Cale the Cartographer “touched” him like he was “some rare specimen” while Navlaan was trapped in Aldia’s Manor. It seems only likely that either Cale found a way into the Manor in his attempts at creating a map of the entire land and met Navlaan there, or he was one of the minds called to Aldia to combat the Curse. There is also some connection between Felkin the hexer and Navlaan. They seem to share a common origin story, and both have connections to the Sunset Staff, so it could be concluded that they are both from Melfia to the south, drawn to Drangleic where Dark runs deeper than any other land. Finally, the Emerald Herald as we know is a creation of Aldia. She was rejected because she did not fulfil the purpose for which she was created (likely to end the Curse by being the last Firekeeper), and as a resident of Aldia, there is no need to speculate how Navlaan could know about her.
To conclude, it would seem that the man we know as Navlaan is simply a brilliant sorcerer called to Drangleic, who became obsessed with the Dark, but ultimately could not reconcile the true nature of the Dark soul he discovered with the desires he had within himself, and so created an alter ego based upon the ancient heretic Navlaan.