Nokstella is the sister city of Nokron, and although it’s tricky to reach, you’ve actually seen a small portion of it if you ever visited the Dragonkin Soldier of Nokstella. The ancient city is mostly deserted, and everyone and everything that’s left is trying to kill you.
If you don’t care about loot and just want to complete Ranni’s questline, you can skip Nokstella and go straight to the Following the River section of the guide. However, you’ll miss all of the unique loot listed above (with the exception of the Discarded Palace Key).
From the Nokstella, Eternal City site of grace, go northwest past the summoning pool and immediately turn left — on the other side of the low broken wall is a corpse with x3 Magic Grease. Then head northwest to the stairs and take them up. As you reach the first landing, you’ll likely see a swordstress coming down the stairs towards you.
These are tough enemies that you’ll find throughout this area. Their weapons can stretch, so even though they look short they’ll hit you from far away. These foes also like to dodge away from counterattacks, so they can be hard to hit. Shields are helpful, and players will slow weapons will have to accept that they’ll generally need to use jumping heavies and eat an attack while coming in.
Take out the swordstress and then go south from the landing into the building, where another swordstress waits. Handle her and then open the chest in the far right corner of the room to find the Ant’s Skull Plate. Leave the building and continue up the stairs, where you’ll find a bunch of electrically-charged silver tears. These are identical to the silver tears in Nokron, except that they will explode (electrically) upon death.
There’s a nice long delay between death and explosion, so you can kill one and roll away, then wait and let them chain-react and kill each other. Don’t miss the Fan Daggers on the corpse that’s draped over the right-hand banister just before the second landing!
Continue up the stairs, and make a leftward U-turn at the top of the stairs to head southeast — on your right will be a door that leads to a room full of shield-bearing silver tears. These can be a pain to kill, since you have to get around to their back to damage them (or use a few heavy attacks and de-shield them). Fortunately, you can jump over them, which makes it easier, and you can also just ignore them, enter the building, and open the chest in the back left corner that contains the Ghost-Glovewort Picker’s Bell Bearing .
Exit the room and turn left, and go straight to the railing. Turn left and follow the narrow path around the building to find the Archer Ashes at the far end . Then go back the way you came, and when you’re back at the stairs, turn left and go up the small set of stairs .
On your right is a corpse with a Golden Rune , but watch out for the silver tear that waits above the corpse on the ceiling. From the corpse, turn left and enter the room to the west — again, there’s a silver tear on the ceiling waiting for you. Loot the chest for a Somber Smithing Stone , then go back outside and go left, grab the Golden Rune  from the corpse, then go left again up the stairs.
Head straight — you’ll pass a bridge on your right, but we’re going to go left first and use a Stonesword Key to open the fog gate. There are two swordstresses in here, so try to sneak up and backstab the one on the right. Once you’ve dispatched both foes, open the chest in the middle of the room and claim your prize, the Nightmaiden & Swordstress Puppets. Then leave the way you came in, and head out onto the bridge. You’ll see another of the rolling ball enemies you met in Nokron, either on the bridge or nearby — defeating it will net you a Larval Tear.
Cross the bridge, making sure you grab the Golden Rune  from the corpse about 2/3 of the way across. At the other end of the bridge, turn right and run into the building there — a ball will drop behind you and block the door, but as long as you start attacking it immediately and it shouldn’t pose any danger. You’ll get another Larval Tear for your trouble, and you can then open the chest at the far end of the room to find a Great Ghost Glovewort.
Exit the building and go right to continue northwest up the next set of stairs. On the second flight’s left-hand railing is another corpse with another Golden Rune . At the top of the stairs, turn right and head east — look left, and when you see what looks like a closed door, check the wall to its left to find a Smithing Stone .
Then go back to the stairs and turn right to go into the building there. At the far end, a clump of electric silver tears is hanging out, and above them is another rolling ball. The ball doesn’t seem to drop until you loot the chest, so clear the silver tears first (note that more will drop down as you approach, and a few more while you’re killing the first bunch). Then open the chest (which contains a Somber Smithing Stone ) and turn around to deal with the ball.
Next, head out the doorway that leads west, and cross the bridge. Hiding behind some bushes on the right at the far end of the bridge is a loot beetle that will run away up the stairs. Chase it down and claim your Somber Smithing Stone . At the top of the stairs, summon your favorite spirit ashes before heading through the doorway — in the next room are two mimic tears that transform into challenging human enemies. There is also a swordstress further inside, but you can use a ranged attack to pull the two mimic tears to your side of the room without aggroing the swordstress.
Let your summons take aggro, then fling spells or get backstabs off on the two silver tears. Once they’re both dead, you can engage the swordstress at the far end of the room. Once she’s defeated, enter the small structure and loot the chest to find the Moon of Nokstella. Then go to the middle of the room and look south — you’ll see a hallway that leads outside.
Continue outside and drop down the rocks to reach the nearby elevator. At the bottom, exit the elevator room and head outside to find an Illusory Tree with a Golden Seed at its base. Once you’ve claimed your Golden Seed, you can teleport back to the Nokstella, Eternal City site of grace.
Following the River
From the Nokstella, Eternal City site of grace, go north across the river and head into the nearby ruins. A swordstress mounted on an ant patrols the river, so either avoid or kill the pair. Start sneaking as you enter the ruins — you’ll see a swordstress facing northwest. Against the wall that her back is to, a corpse has x2 Drawstring Holy Grease, and another corpse right behind the swordstress holds a Smithing Stone . Kill the swordstress, and then the next one further west, and then head northwest towards the buildings there.
You’ll encounter a pack of poison-spitting snails here — they die pretty easily, so just run diagonally at them and take ’em down. Follow the arrow indicated above to find a corpse with a Celestial Dew, then turn around and go right at the corner to head west past the columns, where you’ll find more poison snails and a corpse with a Smithing Stone . More snails will drop down when you get near the corpse, so don’t put the controller down to scratch your nose after you loot it.
From the corpse, head south across the river and go up the stairs there. You’ll find a Swordstress up there, but don’t fight her on the bridge, as a silver tear will snipe you from across the river. Instead, roll/run past her into the room she guards, and fight her in there. Once she’s taken care of, open the chest in the room to find a Ghost Glovewort . Leave the room and cross the bridge again, then take the stairs down and start heading west through the river. On your right against the rocks is a Golden Rune , and just around the corner to the west is a Ghost Glovewort .
Look to the southwest as you make your way down the river, and you’ll see a small structure with stone pillars. Inside are a few silver tears (which you can ignore if you like) and past them on the cliff is a corpse with a Somber Smithing Stone .
Now cross the river heading north (watch out for another mounted enemy that patrols here) and make your way to the edge of the cliff. Then turn left to head west, where you’ll see three ants doing whatever it is the ants here do. Make the ants dead and then look to the northwest — there’s a corpse in that direction on the edge of the cliff, and it has a Stonesword Key.
From the corpse, head south, back to the river. If you didn’t kill the first patrolling enemy, you may run into both here, so approach the river carefully, and try to fight these foes one at a time — you can kill the electric silver tears and try to bait the swordstresses onto them to get some free damage. Follow the river further to the west, and grab another Ghost Glovewort  on the left by some rocks. Continue following the river and you’ll find another small structure with silver tears inside, along with a corpse that holds a Celestial Dew. (Either they made the stuff here, and/or the people of the Eternal Cities did a lot of sinning.)
Now go east along the edge of the rocks and enter the structure with an elevator. Ride it down and exit the elevator room to find the Nokstella Waterfall Basin site of grace. Rest here, then go northeast from the site of grace to find a Ghost Glovewort . You can then head southwest through the tunnel that faces the site of grace.
The tunnel will soon lead into a small chamber that has three basilisks. Two are immediately visible, and one hides off to the left. Fortunately, you’re very close to a site of grace, so these horrible little monsters don’t pose as much of a threat as they usually do. Kill ’em and pick up the Smithing Stones  and  from the two corpses, then continue following the tunnel. It will bend and open up into a larger cavern, where a familiar friend will spawn (although now he’s called Baleful Shadow).
Ranged characters should have an easy time kiting away from the Baleful Shadow– just wait until he starts an attack, then roll/run away and cast some spells. Melee characters should be mindful of the long delay between the Shadow’s attacks, and try to strafe around him for backstabs. Once the Blaiddful Shadow is dead, you’ll receive the Discarded Palace Key, and Ranni will bid you farewell. Head to the southwest corner of the room to find stairs that lead up to a doorway. Continue through the hallway and ride the elevator down. Just outside the elevator room, grab the Lake of Rot Shoreside site of grace.
Before you continue in the Lake of Rot, you need to get the Dark Moon Ring from the chest in Raya Lucaria, in the boss room where you fought Rennala. Teleport to the Raya Lucaria Grand Library site of grace and open the nearby locked chest to find the Dark Moon Ring, then return to the Lake of Rot Shoreside site of grace.