Dark Souls Diaries – Day 16
The city was cleansing itself with the blood and fire.
The traveller walked streets littered with the bodies of the dead, past the pyres being lit by survivors with dead eyes. The smell of burning flesh, of the rotting flesh waiting to be burnt. Stray dogs roamed the streets fighting over charred bones. No battlefield had smelled so foul. There was not even the dignity of soldiery here, and everywhere the undertones of something vile.
No man was meant to die like this. He was not meant to die here.
Soldiers began to sweep through the city in an attempt to restore some order. The traveller ducked into a dark alley to avoid them.
“Why are you scared of the soldiers?” asked a voice.
The traveller felt his hand jump to the hilt of the sword hanging from his belt. He turned to find the source of the voice sitting on an old, broken barrel. It was a little girl with peculiar dark eyes and hair the colour of midnight snow.
“I am not scared of the soldiers,” said the traveller, with more belligerence than he’d intended. This place had him on edge. He calmed his voice and let go of his weapon. “They will have questions that I would rather not answer.”
“If you say so.”
“What are you doing here? Do you live nearby?”
The girl shook her head. “I’m staying at the church with my uncle.”
That seemed as likely a place as any. “Could you take me there?”
The girl took his hand and led him through the streets. Her eyes were wide open. Startled? Or eager to not miss any of the carnage?.
They arrived at the parish, but did not enter the large church that dominated the grounds. Instead, the girl brought him around the back and across a bridge to a smaller building. She pulled him along to a room with a pair of old beds. At a desk in the corner sat a middle-aged man.
“Uncle Sen,” said the little girl, “I found him.”
The man at the desk turned in his chair to face the traveller. He silently looked the newcomer up and down. The traveller felt the sweat at the back of his neck, but he did not move. The little girl let go of his hand and left the room.
“He smells of death,” she called over her shoulder.
After a drawn out silence, the man–Sen–spoke.
The flying creatures drop me at the top of some stairs. I have finally reached Anor Londo, the City of the Gods. I’m near the top of the outer wall, and I see the splendour of the clean, white architecture laid out before me. Here even the sun still shines. I suppose that’s fitting for the domain of the last living god, but the I don’t feel as if any of the sun’s warmth reaches me. It is a matte painting overlooking a cold, manufactured city that’s as dead as even New Londo, but at least that place, though crawling with the literal dead, had once been warm with life, and still had the signs of its past. Anor Londo has been frozen in time, frozen in a present that exists without a past, without a future. It is the kind of death that comes from never having been alive to begin with.
At the bottom of the stairs I turn a corner and see a giant knight standing guard, halberd in one hand, shield in the other. This city isn’t as empty as I thought.
I walk toward the giant knight. It doesn’t move. Closer. still no reaction. Maybe it’s not an enemy? I walk right up to it to start a conversation. It doesn’t want to talk, and is hostile. The giant knight swings its halberd down at me, but I block and start moving toward its open side. The fight is not difficult, but it is odd; the knight is so heavily armoured that many of my attacks do no damage at all, and there is no getting through its shield. I wait for it to open itself up by trying to squash me into the stone with its shield, and then get behind it and find chinks in the armour for my spear. It dies and drops a giant’s halberd, which requires 36 strength to use but also does lightning damage. It might be nice to have a halberd instead of a spear.
In the meantime, I am sitting on nearly 50000 Souls and 2 Humanity. I just killed the boss. There has to be a bonfire nearby.
Inside the first building I find 2 more of the giant knights guarding a chest. There is also a statue of a big dude with a golden spear.
Unless that chest has a bonfire inside, it can wait. I leave the building. I’m in a large, open space. The kind of place where I would expect an ambush. Is this a joke, or am I supposed to put on the Sacrifice Ring I found before the boss?
For once, there is only the perception of danger. Directly ahead is another building like the one I just left, and I can see there are more of the giant knights inside, and past them, up a hill, is a church.
I can skip that as well. I turn right, where I see an open structure of pillars. I see a suspiciously coloured platform in the middle of it, and when I step on I find out its an elevator that carries me to the bottom of a tower with a smooth corkscrew mechanism. No clanking old chains in Anor Londo; either someone is maintaining this place still, or it really is somehow frozen in time.
There are stairs spiralling further down, so I descend to the bottom of the tower. Outside the building is a wide stone bridge, and on the other side of it is a gargoyle like the ones I killed on the roof of the Undead Parish church. I have no interest in fighting it with so much to lose; I only want to take a step outside to see if there’s anything else around. As soon as I set foot outside the elevator tower the gargoyle rushes me.
I take the fight, because even though I don’t want it I’m not about to back down. This gargoyle’s armour is not as shabby as what the other gargoyles had been wearing, which may explain why it doesn’t breath fire like those other gargoyles. Maybe the helmet is some sort of muzzle? That’s less important than how the lack of fire breathing makes the fight more intimidating. Without a reason to stand still, the gargoyle mostly just hops around swinging its halberd. Eventually, I pin it down and deliver the finishing blow. I even cut its tail, giving me another gargoyle axe. It drops a gargoyle’s halberd and a gargoyle’s shield. The halberd isn’t very interesting, but the shield has good fire and lightning defence, though at the cost of very poor physical defence.
I find stairs circling around the elevator tower, and in the back is a chest with a demon Titanite.
I return to the elevator and ride back to the top. Now I see that there is another path directly across from the elevator, one that I’d missed before because it’s built into the outer wall. I cross the open space again and take some stairs down to a small room with a bonfire.
I take the time to activate the bonfire and rest. I am not alone here. There is someone leaning against the wall in a corner of the room. A guard for the bonfire?
It’s a woman wearing a full suit of armour. She tells me that Lord Gwyn’s place is directly ahead, which would mean it’s across the bridge guarded by the gargoyle. She also lets me use my Fire Keeper Soul to upgrade my Estus flask to +3. She tells me that she is the gatekeeper of Anor Londo as well as being the Fire Keeper. She watches over the only beacon in the city. Does that mean this is the only bonfire? I guess Anor Londo isn’t that big then. Finally, she tells me that all bonfires with a Fire Keeper will never go out and are linked together somehow. Does a link imply some sort of fast travel system? Too bad I lost the Fire Keeper at Firelink Shrine. Maybe if she’d been armed and armoured like this one she’d still be alive.
Now that I have a foothold, I return to the buildings above and kill the giant knights so I can loot the chests they guard. The knights are pretty easy, since they have such a vulnerable weak side. This is why there are so few left-handed people around.
I get a better look at the statue and wonder who it’s supposed to be. Gwyn? He’s got a nice spear, at least. Wish I could take that.
After my experience with the mimic in Sen’s Fortress, I am wary of opening chests like these. Something tells me I should expect a surprise around here. I kick at the chest, but there’s no reaction. I open it and pick up a demon Titanite.
I cross to the other building and spend some time trying to break one of the giant’s shields. Something about the impact of my weapons and the sound they make gives the impression that those shields aren’t as strong as they seem. They’re strong enough, though, and I give up after switching through a few different weapons with no effect. There is a different statue here; a fat dude with a big hammer. I have no idea who that’s supposed to be.
I open the chest to the left of the statue and pick up a twinkling Titanite. I cross to the chest to the right of the statue and another mimic tries to eat me. I struggle free and quickly heal up. The mimic does not move.
I jab it with my spear, then kill it once it has finished unfolding itself and tries to hit me with a flying kick. It drops a crystal Halberd, which does very good damage and has decent stat bonuses, but has very, very low durability. The equivalent of ethereal weapons in Diablo 2, I suppose. I’d been wondering what crystal weapons were from the description of the Titanite I’ve been finding, but I hoped they were a lightning damage upgrade path.
I return to the bonfire with 60000 Souls. What to do? I like the lightning spear, but it has no stat bonuses. If I use it then getting more strength and dexterity would be pointless. Instead, I could branch out into some magic. On the other hand, there are plenty of weapons that I’ve found but am still unable to use. I decide to get 2 more points in strength and 1 point in endurance.
With my leftover Souls I upgrade my raw winged spear to +5. That seems to be as high as it goes, and I’m wondering how a raw +5 weapon compares to a normal +10 weapon.
If I’m being told to go in one direction, I’m still dumb enough to go in another. When I leave the bonfire I do not go to the elevator leading to Gwyn’s place, instead I turn left and head toward the church. I fight past another giant knight and pick up another giant’s halberd, then climb a dirt path up a small hill. The calming sound of birdsong.
My peace is dented when I round a bend and find yet another doorway of yellow light blocking my path. I thought I came to Anor Londo to avoid these things.
With nowhere else to go, I head back to the elevator. However, I am denied again when I find the gargoyle had been guarding empty space. I can see the central tower, and I guess there is a way to turn it so that I can get further into the city, but not from this side.
I can see a switch below, to my left. Is that what controls the bridge? I drop a prism stone over the edge, thinking maybe there’s an invisible path. It falls and I hear a shriek.
What am I missing? I wander around the empty city for a while longer, but there aren’t many places to go. I am certain there is something obvious right in front of me, but for whatever reason I’m not seeing it.
My only thought is about the key I picked up in Sen’s Fortress. It opens one of the hanging cages, but I didn’t get a chance to use it before coming here. Maybe I need to complete that task before I can move on.
I climb back up the stairs to the top of the wall. I find one of the creatures that carried me here. I get close and interact with it. The other two creatures fly down and I’m carried back to Sen’s Fortress.
The first thing I do is try to make the jump down to the giant that is still dropping boulders through the hole in roof. I figure that if I can kill it then I won’t have to worry about the boulders and I’ll have a much easier time exploring the rest of the fortress.
I make the jump! As soon as I land, the giant leaves the boulders and circles the hole to get at me, grunting all the while.
Because I am partially dumb, I roll to the side and fall right through the hole. I land on the pedestal, and no rocks follow. Seems that even though I didn’t kill the giant I still broke its AI routine, which is just as good for my purposes.
On my way out of the room I cross over a bridge and finally get hit by one of the swinging blades. It doesn’t even do much damage, but before I can recover another blade knocks me off the bridge and I fall to my death.
I respawn in Anor Londo and use another Humanity to reverse my Hollowing. Something about being closer to human adds to the excitement, and I still have plenty of Humanity to spare.
This time when I get to Sen’s Fortress I go directly to the bonfire, then as I try to recover my body I am knocked off the bridge by another blade, and I lose it. I’m thinking about this too much.
I climb up to the giant, jump down, and kill it. It drops nothing. The boulders here won’t break, so there’s no going on from here; I’d thought that if I could get past them I would get down to the giant at the gate, but if that’s possible it won’t be from here.
The first thing I do is take the only path I know I didn’t before. I drop through the broken iron bars into the top of the room with the swinging blades.
There is a body here, which I loot to find a Slumbering Dragoncrest Ring. Put it on to produce no sounds. No thanks.
There are two big holes as well, and at the bottom of them I can see one of the Titanite Demons and more loot bodies.
I’m still wondering how I’m supposed to get down there short of jumping. I realize that the way the metal ledges in the hole are placed would allow me to drop down from ledge to ledge without having to fall too far. If I go that route I still won’t know how to get back out, but from the bottom I should have an easier time of finding the exit.
I choose the hole closest to the middle of the room; it’s further away from the Titanite Demon. I drop down from ledge to ledge, somehow avoiding all of the spikes that look specifically designed to prevent someone from doing as I am.
Finally, I reach the bottom of Sen’s Fortress. The pit is covered in thick, black tar (I really hope it’s tar), which makes it difficult to even walk. I put on my Iron Ring.
I want to scout the area before picking a fight with the Titanite Demon. I walk out from under the holes, into the open. I see another Titanite Demon there, the one I saw when I first entered the fortress. It sees me as well and charges. I start to circle around, getting distance from the Titanite Demon behind me so I won’t have to fight them both. As I round one of the pillars I am struck by a bolt of electricity from above. I look up and see that the snakewomen who were blasting at me while I crossed the bridges between the swinging blades are now blasting at me while I stomp around in the filth down here. I get distance from them and engage with the Titanite Demon, which is surprisingly weak. Soon, a pair of snakemen drop into the pit, so I retreat to a small alcove in the corner where I can deal with them. There is a ladder in here, leading up. Is this the way in and out of the pit without having to jump? I kill the snakemen, then go back out to kill the Titanite Demon. While fighting it, I get greedy; when I take a hit I decide to back away and use a healing spell instead of just chugging from my flask. While I kneel down, a lightning bolt crashes into me and I die.
I respawn at the upper bonfire and the first thing I notice is that the boulder giant is back. So much for a free run through the fortress.
I drop down the hole again and this time I kill the closest Titanite Demon. It drops a demon Titanite. I then cross the pit and kill the other Titanite Demon for another demon Titanite. I loot the two bodies the first demon had been guarding and pick up a scythe and a warrior’s Soul. The scythe is just a halberd with a different skin.
I climb the ladder in the corner of the pit.
At the top is a body with another Undead Soul, and from here I can also drop down to the entrance of the fortress.
It’s a one-way trip, though, so this is not a way into the pit at all. Guess the only way down here really is to fall.
Back in the pit there is a short passage, and on the other side more empty space, more tar.
I go through and turn the corner. Sure enough, there are two more Titanite Demons.
While fighting the first demon I learn something about shields, something that had been at the back of my mind, but that I hadn’t been paying attention to. At first I am using the Eagle Shield, because I was still worried about the snakes above trying to zap me, but in this section of the pit there is no danger of that. The Eagle Shield does not have 100% physical defence, so every time I block a hit I take a bit of damage. Without the danger of lightning attacks I decide to switch back to my Black Knight Shield, which does have 100% physical defence. I walk out to fight the demon and find out right away that it is much, much stronger than the last couple I killed. I find this out because its attacks hurt when I block with the Eagle Shield, and break my guard when I block with the Black Knight Shield. Why? Because even though the Black Knight Shield has better physical defence, it has considerably lower stability, and stability is what I need in order to block strong attacks without losing all of my stamina and having my guard broken. I switch back to the Eagle Shield.
While fighting the demon my camera catches movement behind me. I turn around to see that a snakeman has dropped into the pit. As soon as my back is exposed, the Titanite Demon hits me with a long ranged slash and I die.
I return, and fight the demon again. The fight the snakeman falls into the pit, but this time I’m prepared. I draw it away from the Titanite Demon and kill it. I then kill the Titanite Demon, which drops a Demon Titanite and a Titanite Catch, which is a scaled down version of the polearms they fight with. It even has a jumping attack like theirs, and does some magic damage.
One more to go.
Could be this last one is the strongest yet. It nearly breaks my guard even through the Eagle Shield. It nearly kills me a couple of times with its jumping attack when I try to roll away but time it wrong; the attack is just out there too long for me to get a feel for, so even though it looks to me like I should have dodged, I get hit anyway. I have much more success by just staying outside of its range normally and circling to its back, then walking away from the leaping attacks or taking them on my shield. Eventually, the final Titanite Demon is dead. I pick up another demon Titanite.
There’s nothing else in the pit, so I go back up the ladder and drop down to the fortress entrance. Before running through it again, I duck out to visit Andre the blacksmith. As I figured, he has no way of further upgrading my raw winged spear.
I run back to the only other place in the fortress that is a mystery to me: the sleeping snakeman.
He is still unmoved. I kick him. Nothing happens. If that’s the way he’s going to be then I’ll have to take more drastic measures.
I climb back to the top of the fortress. On the way I think about how the bomb throwing giant didn’t respawn, but the one with the boulders did. I realize that it must have to keep throwing boulders because the player could still need them for some reason
I have nearly 30000 Souls, so I climb out of the fortress and jump over to the merchant. He tells me that he gets his inventory from scavenging the bodies of other foolish Undead adventurers like me, and that someday soon my items will show up for sale like all the others. I wonder if that means he got the onion knight’s armour from the onion knight himself. or maybe from another knight that came through earlier.
I am tempted now to buy the tower shield he has for sale because of how much stability it has, but in the end I decide that it’s just too heavy. I go to the bonfire and buy another point of strength.
Back to the vendor, where I buy another 3 large Titanite chunks. I feel I will be doing more upgrading soon enough.
I take the long way down to the boulder mechanism. I aim it down the stairs at the snakeman. A boulder crashes down the stairs, and I see damage numbers and a lifebar. That woke him up. I aim the boulders out the back and then run down the stairs. The snakeman has found some weapons and is looking for a fight. I give him more than he bargained for, and then go through a hole that the boulder has smashed through the wall the snakeman was leaning against.
Inside is a room full of hanging cages. A likely place to use my key, I think.
In one of the cages I find a short wizard with a large hat, which is weird to me because I’m pretty sure the merchant above said that Logan got further than this and into Anor Londo. Unless that a different Logan. Maybe he had a big brother, and so did the onion knight
He asks if I could free him, so I do.
He then tells me that he’s going back to Firelink Shrine where he will wait for me, and probably give me a reward. Teach me new spells or sell me his hat or something equally useless to me right now, and he’s got nothing to say about progressing through Anor Londo. In another cage I find a hero’s Soul, which must be worth a lot. At the far end of the room is a ledge and beneath that a dead drop. I guess that’s really it for Sen’s Fortress.
The traveller paced the upper terraces of the new church. He had a lot on his mind, not the least of which was his way out of this place. The soldiers had restored order in the city at spear tip, but had ended their rampage with the closing of the city gates. The only way out now was to jump over the battlements, which also meant getting past the barracks and guard towers on top of the walls, and nobody could survive the fall. Even the priests’ trips to bring the wagons of burnt bones and half-charred bodies down to the old graveyard had been stopped.
None of that was as bad as his new host. Since he’d arrived he had been put up in the old church along with Sen and the little girl, because apparently Sen thought he knew who the traveller was.
The little girl found him while he watched the crowd of peasants milling around on the steps of the new church. They were waiting expectantly for bread and blessings under the watchful eyes of knights of the faith. So far, the parish had been the only part of the city to escape the ravages of the vigilante mobs looking for Hollowed or any other excuse to vent their frustration and fear, but how long would that last?
She stood up on an overturned box so that she could peer over the wall at the people below. “How many of them will die tomorrow?”
The traveller looked at her. In the shadows of the church walls her hair was the colour of fresh ash, and, as with every other time he’d seen her, she wore an uncommonly ornate dress that piled up around her legs. Something about her never failed to make him uneasy, even in a city that intent on pulling itself apart brick by brick.
“I couldn’t say,” he told her.
The girl wrinkled her nose at him and gave a strange half-smile. “Uncle Sen wants you to eat with us.”
“I know,” he sighed.
They returned to the old church, where Sen and the girl lived, and where he had been given a room of his own. There was a table set up in the huge empty space of the old cathedral, which was now being used mostly for storage. They did not use that table; instead, the girl took the traveller out through the back of the old church, across a narrow stone bridge, to the fortress under construction there.
Sen’s Fortress, they were calling it. It was an ugly, squat building of rough brown stone, which was fitting for the man who designed it. A few human builders were listlessly placing blocks to finish the outer wall of the gate. They passed through, underneath the heavy iron that felt ready to snap shut at any moment. Inside the gate were piles of metal statues, thrown about haphazardly and without regard to any damage done to their more delicate details. It was an odd thing to do, but what about this place wasn’t strange?
The innards of the fortress were where most of the work was yet to be done. Right now it was cavernous rooms and rude stairs of fitted stone, and it felt inert and empty in only way a place that is missing true life could.
There were no human workers inside the fortress, only the cold-blooded, lidless stares of the snakemen Sen employed as personal muscle. They stood silent, still, and the traveller felt the blade on his belt grow heavier every time they passed another of the ugly brutes.
Sen was waiting for them in a room at the top of the fortress. A curious pedestal dominated the chamber, and there was open air above it. The cool evening breeze drifted through, going some way to alleviating the dry, dusty smell of the fortress. Sen sat at the head of a table that had been placed in a corner. He waved them over.
“Your first time inside my fortress,” Sen remarked after placing his empty wine goblet on the down.
The traveller shrugged, sat down. He was looking around the room, now that his eyes were better adjusted to the quickly darkening evening. A snakeman entered and placed a lit torch in a nearby wall sconce, lighting up the corners of the room and casting sinister, jagged shadows against the walls. The traveller saw the gleam of dull metal everywhere he looked. More statues piled up around the room. He thought about asking what their purpose was, but decided against it. Better to react here than to risk more exposure.
“It is solid enough,” said the traveller, after the silence had stretched to a breaking point.
“Indeed it is!” exclaimed Sen with a small sputter. “It is very solid.”
Another of the snakes entered the room, this one a female, her four arms laden with plates of steaming food. She set them on the table in front of the diners. In the torchlight the traveller could tell that he was being served a piece of meat, but the light was too dim to tell much more than that.
Sen opened his mouth wide and inserted a set of false metal teeth that had been sharpened to points. He used a knife to cut himself a strip of the meat, which he then forced into his mouth. The traveller cut into his own slab of meat. It started to leak red juices. Even in the faint light of the single torch he could tell it had barely been cooked.
Sen smiled at him, opening a bloody gash in his face, the red dribbling down his chin. Metal shone through where the light caught it and the rust hadn’t dulled it. “These scaly bastards ain’t worth much in the kitchen,” he said, “but I’ve grown accustomed to it.” He cut another piece of meat and tore it in half with his jagged teeth. “They eat their meat raw, so it is hard for them to understand cooking at all.”
The little girl was holding her meat in both hands, hungrily snapping at it and chewing out small chunks without any sense of propriety. The traveller picked up a piece of crusty bread and began to pick it apart.
“Why is a centaur impossible?” asked Sen after he had finished most of his food.
The traveller sat silently as the snakewoman returned to clean up their plates. She hissed when she saw that his food was mostly untouched, but Sen snapped at her to take it away and she did. The traveller had no idea how he was meant to respond to such a question, so he was assuming it was rhetorical.
Finally, Sen nodded his head, as if acknowledging that the lack of an answer was correct. “It is because a man and a horse do not share similar lifespans, so that even as the horse parts of the body died, the human parts would live on. Can you imagine that?”
The little girl giggled while rubbing the remains of her meal from her face with the frills of her dress. The flash of something beastly, primordial, between the torchlight.
The traveller suppressed a shudder.
I get another ride from the flying creatures. I’m not sure if they’re meant to be friendly, or if they just like watching adventurers break themselves in Anor Londo.
I still think I’m missing something incredibly obvious. I kill all of the giant knights again and examine the statues, as if there is anything more I could do with them. I take the corkscrew elevator again and wonder briefly if I can jump down underneath it somehow when it has gone to the top, but I can only see black down there.
I run around the edge of the elevator tower, and at one point I decide to step off onto one of the flying buttresses running between the bridge and the large building nearby. To my surprise, I can run all the way up the buttress as if it were a steep bridge.
At the top I look down to see a balcony and a broken window. Looks like this is the way I’m supposed to go. It was about as obvious as I expected.
I drop down to the balcony and climb through the broken window. I’m in a huge room, big enough that most of Sen’s Fortress could fit inside. Everything is smooth, clean white stone worked with frequent and intricate details. Directly across from where I stand I see a figure dressed in loose, white robes. I take a few steps forward and someone drops down beside me. It’s another robed person, and he isn’t friendly. I block a throwing knife, then stab him to death with my spear.
Guess Anor Londo isn’t as empty as I thought, but these guys don’t seem like the warm, living sort.
The room is dominated by two main features: a huge statue of a woman (a goddess?) flanked by a pair of Black Knights, and a massive chandelier with the gleam of an item.
I find a ladder and climb up. I feel I should reverse my Hollowing before proceeding, but I remember falling down on the arch on my way here and I’m not sure I could get back. I’m nearer the ceiling, and there is a network of narrow, worked stone that I can navigate to get to the other side of the room.
Even up here the stonework is filled with detail. Someone certainly cared about building this place, even if they didn’t care for anyone to live or work here. Maybe gods just have too much time on their hands.
As I cross, the robed guards start chucking knives at me, and when I get close to one he even tries to knock me over the edge, so I push him off instead. I get to the middle of the room, where the chandelier hangs. I jab at the chain a few times, but nothing happens. I look down. There is a body hanging there. If they could land on the chandelier without it falling, maybe I can, too?
I drop down. I land on the chandelier, but I guess it had a 1 body limit, or my armour weighs too much, because the chain breaks and it falls to the floor below, taking me with it in strange, calm silence. I die when I hit the ground.
I respawn and use 2 Humanity. I reverse my Hollowing.
I return and find that the chandelier is still broken.
At least I didn’t die for nothing.
I cross to the other side of the room, where I find a ladder down. There is a chest on the other side, but I see there are stairs there as well, so I can probably get to it from the from somewhere else.
There is a doorway of white light here, but I want to find my way to the floor below first so that I can recover the item from the chandelier.
I find some stairs and take them down to a lower balcony, killing more white guards on the way. They start to drop throwing knives for me. There is nothing down here, but I am closer to the bottom. I drop a prism stone, but it shrieks. Not close enough.
I climb back up to the ceiling, but I can’t get close enough to jump down to the chest.
I figure that maybe going through the white light will lead me around and down to the bottom, so I step through. On the other side is a switch (doesn’t work) and a bridge across to the central tower. Not what I’m looking for.
I reenter the building and drop down to the feet of the goddess statue, then run across and jump down to the balcony below the chest. I kill a white guard and then climb up to claim my prize.
After kicking it just to be sure, I open it and pick up a divine blessing.
From the feet of the statue I drop another prism stone, but it’s still too far to drop. I look down and see that there is a door in the room in the same general area as where a bridge from the central tower would line up. That must be my way in.
I cross the bridge to the central tower. There is a wheel that should be used to turn it so I can line up the bridges.
There are also stairs leading to the bottom of the tower, and nearby I hear some footsteps.
I peek over the edge of the tower. There is an angry gargoyle running around down there, but it can’t reach me.
I look over to the door that should get me down to the building’s floor, but there is no bridge to it.
I use the wheel to turn the wheel. A cutscene plays and the tower not only turns, but it lowers as well. The same corkscrew motion as the elevator. I realize that now, as soon as the cutscene ends, the gargoyle will be able to attack me.
I kill it; it’s not difficult. I pick up a gargoyle helm, which, though it says it does little to protect the gargoyle itself, is actually pretty good defence for its weight and definitely something I can wear. Doesn’t say anything about muzzling the gargoyle, though.
I go down the tower’s stairs. The lower bridge has moved over so I can now get to the floor of the building. There is another switch here, which also doesn’t work. I figure that it must be some sort of emergency switch to move the bridges around in case I get stuck.
I go inside. There are more white guards than I thought there would be.
I move through the room, a creeping, clanking avatar of death. I kill them all. In the far corner of the room I find a dead body and pick up a set of black iron armour; this must be the ultimate fate of Black Iron Tarkus, the knight who helped me take down the iron golem in Sen’s Fortress. Was he overwhelmed by the speed of the white guards, or did he maybe fall while trying to cross the narrow stone above? The armour has great defence, even if it weighs a lot. I put on the chest plate. I also pick up his greatshield, which has the highest stability I’ve seen so far, but is at least 3x as heavy as any shield I’ve used, and also requires 36 strength. So much for that. The white guards keep dropping throwing knives, and when I loot the chandelier I find the Great Magic Weapon spell, which is an improved version of the Magic Weapon spell I’ve already learned but never used. It only requires 15 intelligence, so it might be worth aiming for in the future, if I ever need the help.
I have cleared the room of all enemies, and now I am free to focus on the 3rd major feature of this building: the painting that covers the entire wall opposite the goddess statue.
Something about it draws me closer. The monochromatic scene of a moonlit night over a forlorn, crumbling keep. The way the rope bridge in the foreground seems to originate from somewhere in the room. I almost feel colder the closer I get.
I lay a hand on the canvas.
It goes right through.
My body is being sucked inside the painting.
The traveller was following Sen through the fortress.
The dust left over from the long months of construction clumped around spatters of blood. The traveller did his best to step around them, but it wasn’t long before his boots were caked with bodily fluids anyway.
Sen stopped to prod a body with his bare foot. Going without boots seemed to be one of the strange habits he shared with the little girl. “This one made it further than the rest. They’re learning.”
Around them, Hollowed barked and clawed with inhuman, beastly rage, but could not escape the hanging cages which imprisoned them. The heavy iron chains rattled as the cages swung, and Sen yelled at them for quiet. After a some time, they fell quiet, and it was possible to be heard.
The traveller had his doubts the ability for Hollowed to learn anything at all, but he was not about to raise them.
The dead Hollowed had somehow stumbled past the giant swinging blades, but was not smart enough to avoid the arrow traps. The first bolt had taken him in the chest, but hadn’t been enough to stop him. It took two more, another in the chest, and the last in his neck as he fell, before the Hollowed went down for good, and he still twitched with involuntary muscle spasms.
Sen pointed a wrinkled finger at an empty cage overlooking the room with the swinging blades. “This one watched the others.” The blades themselves had been stopped, chained up by the snakemen while Sen went on his walking tour of the day’s carnage.
Sen was paying the soldiers to bring the tougher looking Hollowed they caught to him instead of the pyres. He was using them, he said, to test out the efficacy of the traps in his fortress. After all, that was his mandate.
The traveller knew better. Sen was up to something else.
The fortress was taking on new smells with every run the Hollowed made. Their deaths added to the decor as well, splatters of blood and internal organs marked the spots near the traps. The snakemen moved about, cleaning up the bodies, dragging the corpses of the dead and dying away. The traveller did not think about what might happen to them next.
A column of snakemen approached from the darkness, towering over Sen and the traveller. Each of the snakemen clutched a metal statue. Where were they taking them?
Sen nodded in approval, then they left the fortress. The smell out here was not much better than the the smell of the fortress. The city was on fire again. There were more Hollowed every day, even amongst the soldiers, and it was becoming harder to maintain control. The desperation of absolute despair was taking hold, and the soldiers no longer protected the walls; if people wanted to jump then it was less work for them in the long run. They had fallen back to the parish, where the monks prayed without food or sleep. Everyone was looking for an answer that didn’t lead to the long dark. Everyone, it seemed, except for Sen, who acted as if nothing at all was the matter.
The traveller watched the older man as he and the little girl stood on a balcony overlooking the city, taking turns to point out new fires, or a torch-wielding mob prowling the lower streets. The girl was all smiles, and Sen had a look of strange certainty about him.
The traveller knew he should have left by now. He should have left a long time ago. Eventually, Sen would find out about him, and things would go poorly. That, or the entire city would implode in a final orgy of furious, impotent violence, the Undead who still had the wits to question their fates raising broken fists into the sky as they bellowed for the end of it all.
But he couldn’t leave just yet. Not until he knew exactly what Sen was up to.