Of the many NPCs you come across in Elden Ring, War Counselor Iji is one of the most confusing. He’s a towering troll, a group of enemies you’re training from the beginning of the game to either attack or avoid on-site, but he’s entirely harmless. In fact, he’s probably one of the nicest, warmest characters in the entire game. In keeping with true Dark Souls fashion, the most monstrous characters in Elden Ring tend to also be the most human and kind. He’s also subjected to a mysterious fate…
Once you overcome your initial trepidation and approach Iji, you’ll discover a character who is not just welcoming, but also extremely helpful! Iji is a former blacksmith for the Carian royals - turned blacksmith, and he’s more than happy to offer his services to you as long as you have the correct materials.
However, something happens to Iji as you progress through the game. The kindly, helpful troll becomes a corpse, a husk at the conclusion of a particular questline. The most unfortunate part is, it’s never truly clear what Iji’s fate actually was. Well, at least until today.
Elden Ring fans as well as anyone who stands for justice, prepare yourselves. Today, we’re going to get to the bottom of what happened to Iji, and you’re coming along for the ride. So grab your notepads and detective hats, and let’s get started!
A Closer Look at Our Victim: Iji
As previously stated, Iji served as a blacksmith for the Carian Royal Family during the Liurnian Civil War, long before The Shattering. When the game picks up many years later (it’s not clear what the exact timeline is, it could be 50-100 years or even more), Iji is still loyal to the Carians. He now serves Ranni the Witch as her War Counselor.
It might seem like kind of a strange leap to go from blacksmith to War Counselor, but Ranni was kind of limited on options. Also, and perhaps more importantly, Iji is someone she knew she could trust. He had been around her for her entire life, and was even responsible for supervising her and her brother Blaidd on many occasions. That connection remains strong to the very end, to the point that Iji’s demise could be interpreted as self-inflicted.
Even though he’s in charge of strategy and tactics, he just can’t let go of his hammer or anvil, so he continues to be a blacksmith whenever the opportunity arises. Whenever you come across Iji, he’s always sitting AT his anvil (this is important to keep in mind for later). He just wants to do what he loves. Can you blame him?
Where to Find Iji
You’ll first come across Iji as Smithing Master Iji in the northwest region of Liurnia of the Lakes. He’ll be in the vicinity of the Northern Lake Liurnia Shore and the Kingsrealm Ruins, chilling by his anvil as he always does.
His introduction is immediately endearing. He refers to himself as “an old codger who refuses to retire his rusty hammer”, and immediately offers his services to you. If you get too close or do any shenanigans near him, he says this line:
“Oh, watch out, there. If you come too close, I'm apt to cause you harm. I am, after all, terribly large compared to you, Tarnished. You don't know how hard it is not to break anything while I work.”
What a sweet, gentle troll. I resolved to protect this very large lad at all costs from that point, but it turns out that’s relatively impossible if you make certain dialogue choices.
Aside from his station in Liurnia, you’ll also encounter Iji at Ranni’s Rise as part of the “Hidden Treasure of Nokron” quest. It won’t be a flesh and bone appearance though, as he’ll be at that location in a spectral form. He can’t be in two places at once!
At the completion of Ranni’s questline, you’ll have no choice but to eliminate the Half-Wolf Warrior Blaidd. Having known Blaidd since his birth, Iji is wracked with guilt.
If you speak to Iji after encountering Blaidd, he has this to say:
“Blaidd is Lady Ranni's stepbrother. Ranni's mother, Queen Rennala, approved of him, and they played like siblings from childhood. They were always happy to have me tag along, as well. When Lady Ranni renounced her flesh, and chose the dark path of the Empyrean, Blaidd and I swore allegiance as vassals, but none of us will ever forget our earliest days together. Promise to look after Blaidd for me, will you? The man is honest to a fault. But fortunately, now he has you.”
And after several quest lines and events culminate in the defeat of Blaidd, Iji says this:
“Unthinkable, how could Blaidd… How did he break free from his cell? No, more importantly… Blaidd became a curse that plagued Lady Ranni, yet in madness, gave himself to her. I’ve made a grave misjudgement. And I thought myself a capable war counselor… I’ll catch up with you soon enough, Blaidd. When I do, I only hope you’ll accept my apology.”
This final line almost seems like Iji intends to commit suicide, being unable to deal with the guilt and grief of losing someone he cherished so closely. And sure enough, when you venture off and return to visit Iji, you’ll find his lifeless corpse in the spot where he once hammered away on his anvil.
But…something seems off.
While it will look like an open-and-shut case to anyone just taking a glance, there are numerous clues that lead us to believe that Iji’s death wasn’t so cut and dry.
Examining the Crime Scene
Let’s take a look at the area we have become so familiar with.
Iji’s anvil remains unmoved from its original location, but it now has a few items resting on top of it. The first is Iji’s Ball Bearing - an item that can be exchanged at the Roundtable Hold to gain access to the items he once sold - and Iji’s Mirror Helm, his iconic headwear that obscured his visage (or replaced it with your own, depending on how you look at it).
Now if you’ll recall, Iji was always seen right next to his anvil. The two were basically inseparable. And yet, you’ll find his slumped corpse a short distance away, across a dirt road. He’s on his knees, hammer in hand, and head tilted skyward in an eternal, silent scream. A tragedy.
Curiously, Iji’s corpse also has black flames dancing across it. Could this be a clue to what led to his demise? Perhaps. The Godskin Apostles are known to use an incantation called Black Flame. It might also be a red herring, which is what I’m leaning towards.
Inspecting the crime scene further, you’ll find three other corpses - the remains of several Black Knife Assassins. Are we looking at the final result of a struggle between three spectral assassins and a single troll? The Black Knife Assassin’s weapons do leave a flame effect on those they strike, but those flames are tinted red, and Iji’s flames are clearly black.
Putting it All Together: What Happened to Iji?
Iji is dead, there’s no doubt about that.
The Black Knife Assassins aren’t new to killing entities of great power. They are renowned for killing Godwyn during the Night of the Black Knives, using weapons that were imbued with powers from the Rune of Death. Given the three Black Knife Assassin corpses near Iji’s own body, it seems this is the conclusion that FromSoft wants us to draw.
However, it’s not likely that they acted of their own volition.
Ranni’s journey to erase “what came before” could have meant that she sent the Black Knife Assassins to take out Iji. After all, she is the one responsible for enchanting the blades and ordering the Night of the Black Knives to come to pass. Before he succumbs to madness and turns on the Tarnished, Blaidd can also be seen in the aftermath of a tussle with some Black Knife Assassins.
With that in mind, we can draw the conclusion that Iji was killed not by the assassins wielding the blades against him, but by the person directing them - which in this case, was Ranni.
Like most other things in Elden Ring and Souls games in general, what happened to Iji is clouded in mystery and perfectly open to player speculation. The truth might never actually come out, but we can all agree on one thing.
Iji was a gentle soul who deserved far better than this.