vaguespeculations

Just another inaccurate rumour mill.

Dark Souls Diaries – Day 19

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Anor Londo

I’m back at the gateway bonfire with the Souls collected during my last boss fight. I invest in a point of strength and a point of endurance. I’m still aiming for that 40 strength so that I can use the Dragon Tooth hammer, and I’ll also need higher equip load to carry around such a heavy weapon.

bonfire 1

I take my leftover Souls to the giant blacksmith and buy 2 more twinkling titanite, though that’s not yet enough to upgrade the Black Knight Greataxe again. I see that the lightning spear I found on the corpse of the mimic in Sen’s Fortress can be downgraded to a +10 spear, which makes me think that I could make other lightning weapons if I upgraded them to +10 first. Unfortunately, the giant blacksmith can’t upgrade normal weapons past +5, so I’ll have to wait till I’m done in Anor Londo.

I put away my Black Knight Greataxe to use my club again. I felt dirty enough using such a strong weapon against the last pair of bosses, especially with Solaire’s help. Even my club is strong, now that I have so much strength, but it doesn’t feel like I’m draining as much of the challenge from the game; I have to keep in mind that I am probably vastly over-levelled for this content as well, having already gone through a couple of areas that were meant to be done after Anor Londo.

I return to the cathedral and kill off the archer knight on the stairs. I see that Solaire’s summoning sign is gone, but I figured those disappear after the boss. I drop down and kill one of the elite sentinels, and then realize that I don’t need to clear this area out to use the Black Eye Orb. I put the item in my inventory and use it.

cathedral 1

“Try invading the world of the Fire Keeper’s killer?” the game asks.

I wonder again whether I’ll have more than one chance to do this, and briefly consider using the Greataxe just to be safer, or even returning to one of the bonfires and kindling it for some extra flask charges. I do have extra Humanity on hand, but I decide that the 10 charges I have should be more than enough.

I choose to invade, and after a few moments of uncertain flickering, I am transported to the world of the guilty.

I’m in the same cathedral, in an alternate version of Anor Londo, which is basically the same as mine, except without the sentinels. I’ve also warped to the other side of the room, so that I’m standing before the doors to the bosses, and I’m a blue phantom.

I notice two other things immediately, one expected, one an unpleasant surprise. What I expected was to find Lautrec as the murderer, as he was shifty from the beginning, and also disappeared along with my Fire Keeper. I can see him standing across the hall from me with a pair of shimmering spectral allies. That’s all fine and good. The problem is that, as a phantom, apparently I can’t use my Estus flask, meaning that I am here without any combat healing. This bad news is offset by my not having kindled a bonfire for extra charges I wouldn’t be using, and Black Eye Orb still being in my inventory, suggesting to me that I’ll be able to use it again if I have to.

guilty world 1

I could wonder about Lautrec’s motivations for killing my Fire Keeper, other than just being a dick. Perhaps when he saw the progress I was making he decided to attack in the only way he could, since he was too much of a coward to face me directly. I hadn’t considered competition between Undead for a goal that most of them have written off as being impossible to achieve, but I suppose that’s human nature, and even Undead are victims of that. What would it get him, though, and what is the difference between our worlds? If he considers my progress a danger to him, then it implies that our separation is temporal and not really as distinct as wholly alternate realities. That’s what Solaire seemed to be saying when I first met him, telling me that time was muddled in Lordran and he had no way of knowing how long we would be able to interact (that might also explain how he’s able to occupy multiple locations at once). So, after I ring both of the bells he kills the Fire Keeper and, what, hopes that he’ll be sent back to his own time? Or he somehow felt that he was returning and decided to kill the Fire Keeper before he left? He would have had to be ahead of me, then, to take advantage of my progress, but then it would mean that killing the Fire Keeper in my time would kill it in his as well?¬† Perhaps he planned to storm Anor Londo and not return to Firelink Shrine. Or perhaps his world really is distinct from mine. Or perhaps time travel is stupid and not really worth much thought.

None of that is relevant to my purpose anyway. I am here to make Lautrec pay for his crime against me.

I climb the stairs and run a circuit around the cathedral hall. Every exit is blocked off by white light, including the way to the boss room (which is open, because I already killed them?) and the broken window.

Having defined the arena, I return to the floor and approach Lautrec. His companions are a fighter with a spear and shield, and another with robes. A sorcerer or a healer? Probably an offensive caster, as most of the priests I’ve seen have been equipped with heavier weapons and armour.

Though my Estus flask is greyed out, I can still use my healing spell, but it may be hard to find the space for it with 3 opponents on my tail.

As soon as I’m close enough for Lauctrec to spot me, he starts taunting. I don’t know what makes him so superior. Considering that he’s likely trying to profit from my progress, he should know that I am dangerous enough to accomplish things that he couldn’t, or was at least unwilling to attempt.

lautrec 1

The sorcerer starts to blast me with magic missiles, which are painful even through my shield, and when Lautrec gets close I realize that he is using the curved shotel sword, which, as the description stated, does damage even through my shield. I take a few hits and have to back off. There is no purpose or strategy to fighting 3 opponents, one of which has a ranged attack, out in the open. I retreat of the nearest flight of stairs, where I manage to get enough space to use a healing spell. Unfortunately, I am also cornered on the balcony now, and they close in for the kill. I smack Lautrec a couple of times with my club, revealing that, though he is tougher than the average Undead, he is not boss-monster tough.

I respawn back at the gateway bonfire, having lost nothing; all of my Souls, my Humanity, are still there, and I’m not even Hollowed. That makes this simpler.

I run back to the cathedral, not even bothering to fight any of the enemies on the way. I just get into the first corner and use my Black Eye Orb before any of them can get close. My next attempt on Lautrec is centred around keep-away tactics, where I run up the stairs as soon as they see me and lead them on a merry chase around the hall. That works better, but I still die. After that I try a more divisive strategy, seeing if I can separate any of them from each other, which doesn’t work very well.

In the end, the victory is anticlimactic, as I pretty much stumble into it. I get their attention, then run up stairs, where I turn around and attack Lautrec as he charges after me, and then run up the next set of stairs, and then up to the top of the room, where the broken window is. There I hold my ground for a bit, trying to wait for an opening, but when I take a magical blast off my shield I have to run away to heal. I turn, go down the stairs, and get enough distance to get my healing spell off. To my surprise, only Lautrec has followed me. I take a swing at him, then run down to the floor and cross to the stairs on the other side of the room, waiting for him to follow. When he gets close I realize that I’m not alone, and I turn around to see that the sorcerer is crowding in behind me. I take a desperate shot at him, trying to knock him away so that I can get around before Lautrec closes in, but when I pass him my way is blocked by the spear fighter, meaning that Lautrec and the sorcerer are behind and beside me, and the spear fighter is preventing me from getting up the stairs, while there is a thick stone banister preventing me from jumping off the stairs. I roll away from a stab, then turn to smash my club down on the sorcerer, hoping to knock him over and create space so that I can move again, but Lautrec shoves his big, ugly head in the way, and my club crushes him instead. “Target Destroyed,” flashes on my screen, even as the spear fighter stabs me in the back. I flop down next to Lautrect’s corpse, and a moment later I am back at the gateway bonfire, good as new.

I gain a few thousand Souls, a Fire Keeper Soul, a Humanity, and a Ring of Favour and Protection. The Black Eye Orb is also gone. That’s that.

The Fire Keeper Soul has a unique description, mentioning the ash maiden, and how she may or may not have been a prisoner. Forced by someone to be the beacon for new Undead who enter Lordran. A hard life, no doubt. The point is, for me, that this Soul is distinct from the generic Fire Keeper Souls I’ve been picking up, so I’m not going to use it to upgrade my Estus flask unless I find no other use for it.

The Ring of Favour and Protection is interesting. It boosts HP, stamina, and equip load, 3 crucial stats, by a fair bit, but will break if ever removed. The equip load is less than Havel’s Ring, so it won’t serve as a replacement for that, and to wear it would mean removing my Serpent Ring, which would mean losing my item find bonus. This type of item is always annoying to me, and seems designed exclusively for players who are using a guide or have already beaten the game. I wear the Serpent Ring in order to find more items, because I don’t know what items there are to find. If I already had what I wanted and knew I wouldn’t be missing out, then I would have no problem wearing the Ring of Favour and Protection, but by putting it on I would be forfeiting potential gains through the rest of the game, and chances are that by the time I decided that there truly was nothing else to discover it would be too late to make much use of it. Maybe I’ll end up saving it for the last boss.

I go back to the giant smith and buy 2 more twinkling titanite, then I clear out the cathedral again. Now I can move on.

I take one of the elevators up from the boss room, and the first thing I see is that there is a bonfire up there, which would have saved me plenty of running back and forth from the gateway bonfire to the smith. I’ve found that I’m often one step away from a checkpoint when I pull back. Disappointing, but what can you do?

cathedral bonfire

I activate the bonfire, and then upgrade my Black Knight Greataxe to +5. It will be nice to have that in my pocket just in case, as it easily does twice the damage as any of other weapon in my arsenal.

There is a body up here with Lautrec’s golden armour of favour, which states that he fights for the love of the goddess Fina, and was once known at Lautrec the Embraced. How many gods are there, then, outside of Lordran? Every time I learn more about them, they seem like little more than a race of ancient beings that keep humans under their thumbs. What do they do that actually benefits mankind? Also, why is Lautrec’s body up here if I killed him back in the cathedral below?

Past the bonfire is a set of double doors.

cathedral door

I open them and step through. I am assaulted by an angelic choir, and before me is the figure of a massive woman laying on a cushioned chair. Gwynevere, the Princess of Sunlight. The way she is lit gives her an ashen colouring, so I think she must be another statue, except that she’s even bigger than the statues around here, and I can see that she is moving around a bit.

gwynevere 1

I thought the gods in Anor Londo were all dead or gone. In fact, I was pretty sure that I would be meeting Gwyn’s lastborn, Gwyndolin, as I was told that he was the only god left here. Something is wrong about this.

I approach her. She asks me to kneel, and I do.

She begins her spiel, laying it on thick with the succession and the sunlight and keeping the Fire lit. Something about this rings false. Perhaps it’s the way her mouth never moves when she talks. I do get the Lordvessel from her, which is supposed to allow me to warp between bonfires, which should be nice.

Before I leave, she asks me to enter a covenant with her, and I do, because why not? I’m not really getting anything out of the Way of White, and I’ve been pretty lousy at it anyway, having accidentally killed Rhea. She gives me a Ring of the Sun Princess. It tells me that Gwynevere left Anor Londo along with the other deities and married Flann, the God of Flame. It says nothing about her having returned, so why is she still here? Is this another instance of distorted time? If she came back after the marriage, then where is Flann, or any other god?

All hope of getting answers in Anor Londo have been dashed, as Gwynevere has nothing else to say. As usual, I’m left with nothing more than questions.

I return to the nearby bonfire and find there is a new option in the camp menu: warp. However, the selection of bonfires is limited.

  • Firelink Shrine
  • Anor Londo
  • Darkmoon Tomb (?)
  • The Depths
  • Undead Parish
  • Painted World of Ariamis
  • Tomb of the Giants

Nothing in Darkroot, Blighttown, Demon Ruins, Undead Burg, or the Catacombs. How do I interpret that? Am I missing bonfires, or are some areas deemed unnecessary for backtracking? I could understand nothing in Blighttown if there was nothing in the Depths, either, as both of those areas seemed to be self-contained. Did I miss something in the Depths, or is it supposed to be that both it and Firelink Shrine are close enough to Blighttown that another warp point isn’t required. Even stranger, why Tomb of the Giants and not Demon Ruins. I can see why there would be a warp point to that dark hell hole, as I have unfinished business down there, but the same is true for Demon Ruins.

Anyway, I have the Lordvessel now, which I assume is the Great Lord’s power that I’ve needed. The best way to test this out will be to go to the nearest yellow light and see if I can progress now, so I warp to Anor Londo and end up back at the gateway bonfire. The armoured Fire Keeper there tells me about Seath the Scaleless, who was given a dukedom for betraying the other dragons and helping Gwyn back in the game’s opening cinematic. All because he was born without the scales of immortality that the other dragons have. Well, they’re dead and he’s still around, so I don’t see why that’s such a big deal. He must also be the Duke that the giant smith mentioned working for. She tells me that his archives loom over this land from the top of a mountain, which I take to mean that they command a decent view of downtown Anor Londo from the top of the small hill I’ll find when I take a left after leaving this bonfire.

If an NPC is telling me about a new area that should mean I can access it, or at least should be looking for a way to access it, so I climb up the hill to the doorway of yellow light.

anor londo yellow light

I walk up to it.

“Sealed by the Great Lord’s power.”

Goddamnit.

I suppose I can accomplish some upkeep while I figure out what to do next.

Firelink Shrine

I warp to the Firelink Shrine and replace the Fire Keeper’s Soul. She returns to life, good as new. Better than new, actually, as she’s had her tongue restored. She calls herself Anastacia, but refuses to talk, saying only that she dare not utter more blasphemy against the gods. Does that imply that it was at their behest that she was maimed and imprisoned here?

fire keeper 1

The onion knight is also here, waiting next to the now-lit bonfire. He asks me if I’m the one who rang the bells, and I tell him that I am. He rewards me with an Emit Force spell. While his willingness to finally acknowledge my omnipresent hand opening the way for him on his quests is a welcome change, it would be nice if the rewards he parcelled out were actually useful to me. He tells me that he will soon be heading down below. Blighttown? No, that’s already been done. New Londo or the Demon Ruins.

onion knight 1

I talk to Griggs the sorcerer, who is overjoyed that I rescued Big Hat Logan, and insists that I talk to his master. I talk to Logan, who says he will give me the reward he promised, then tells me that I can’t use sorcery, so my reward is, in fact, nothing at all. Is my intelligence stat too low? Oh well; I’ve been getting along fine without spells so far, and if whatever he has to teach me couldn’t even get him through Sen’s Fortress then I don’t think I’ll really need it.

logan 1

I go to see Frampt, figuring he might know what to do with my Lordvessel, and also that I could sell off all the items I’ve been picking up, but he’s much too busy having another nap.

frampt sleep

I warp to Undead Parish, where I talk to Andre the smith. He tells me that Big Hat Logan passed through to Sen’s Fortress 100 years ago. Thinking about it, the crabby merchant in Sen’s Fortress said that Logan made it through that place, even though I found him locked up in the basement. More time distortion. In which case, how many of the people I meet are actually part of my timeline? This is getting confusing, but I’m not sure how much if it is actually relevant.

With most of my backtracking options still closed off, I decide to go to the only place that I haven’t seen a yellow doorway: New Londo. If the onion knight is headed down there as well then there’s a chance I can finally find the key needed to drain the water.

——-

(Excerpt from a pamphlet written from the transcript of a debate between two Senators and distributed in the final days before New Londo’s destruction.)

‘The Age of Fire is a lie.

‘We have been taught to fear the darkness around us, and we have lived in that fear for as long as we can remember. But why does the darkness cause fear? And, more importantly, for whom is that fear truly justified?

‘New Londo was built not to emulate the gods, not to replicate their own seat of power; it was built as our own testament to the strength of the human race. We alone chose to live here, underground, away from the sun, away from the watching eyes of the gods, to prove that men are worthy of an ancestral seat of our own.

‘Or did we? Ask yourselves this question, and answer with the truth in your hearts, not the glib, doctrinal response that your mind, trained as it is, reflexively spits out. Why do we live in the dark?

‘We were not gifted New Londo, we were banished here, to dwell in shadows. But we did not succumb to it; we found our purpose in the darkness. We have been allowed to discover ourselves. And what we discovered about ourselves is that we do not need the gods.

‘The gods need us.

‘I defer to the wisdom of our kings, and support our knights in any actions they take. And I say to the so-called Sealers: you have no place here, and any actions you take against this city will end poorly.”

New Londo Ruins

Any doubts about heading into New Londo over the Demon Ruins are dispelled when I am attacked by a familiar face. It’s the mopey fellow who had been sitting near the bonfire in Firelink Shrine for most of the game. Now Hollowed, he comes up at me from the gloom near the entrance into New Londo, holding a kite shield in one hand and swinging a sword with the other. I would feel worse about clubbing him into final oblivion if he had been a little friendlier, but as it is, he was morose as a human, and at least his Hollowed form is silent throughout our short struggle. He doesn’t even give me anything except for 1000 Souls, which is hardly a drop in the bucket at this point in the game.

bonfire knight

I curse myself and then fight through the ghosts, looking for any difference in the terrain, but finding none. I use my winged spear here, because it’s just easier to fight packs of ghosts with a long weapon that can pierce through many of them at once. I get to Ingward, still standing vigil on the roof of the tall building in the middle of the city, and, to my surprise, he just gives me the key to the floodgate. So much for having to find the other Sealer.

new londo ingward

I suppose his reasoning is that my acquisition of the Lordvessel is both an endorsement from the gods he serves, and proof of my strength. Maybe, after all of this time, he’s sick of having to watch over this dead city, seeing the endless parade of foolish Undead who fall victim to the tireless ethereal blades of the ghosts, who are themselves a permanent reminder of the horrific actions of his past. Whatever his reasons may be, what matters is that I can finally continue in New Londo, and I didn’t have to kill him to do it.

I run over to the tower with the lever and use the key to unlock the rusty iron gate.

new londo lever

I push the lever, turning the big wheel. The huge metal doors groan and a cutscene starts. The water in New Londo pours out the open gate, draining into the Valley of Drakes.

When the cutscene ends, I am dismayed to see that all of the drakes who had been standing outside the gates have survived the deluge. They’re still standing around, looking stupid.

new londo drakes

It’s unfortunate, but as far as I can tell I have no reason to ever enter that terrible place again, so at least they won’t be bothering me.

With the water gone, I am able to operate the elevator that takes me down to the silt-covered grey streets of New Londo.

As soon as I leave the tower I am jumped by a new enemy. A tall, slender knight in dark armour with a skeletal motif. He holds up a black force field in front of him like a shield, and attacks with a heavy broadsword. A Darkwraith.

new londo darkwraith 1

He alternates between a quick series of 1-handed sword slashes and a slower set of 2-handed strokes, and occasionally swipes at me with a glowing fist. I take a sword hit and it does significant damage, but his patterns are simple enough, and as long as I don’t try to trade attacks there is little danger. I use the range advantage of my spear to poke at him until he finally stops moving.

Only then do I get the chance to look around, to see the scale of the lives lost in the sudden flood. The water-logged bodies and piles of old bones are taller than the buildings in places, and almost everywhere I look they carpet the ground. Nobody made it out, and not because there was no time to evacuate. Nobody was meant to make it out.

new londo bodies 1

I move around at the bottom of New Londo, fighting the occasional Darkwraith. One of them catches me with its glowing fist attack. It pushes me to the ground and violently extracts about half my HP, and also takes one of my Humanity. I can see why these guys were considered so toxic. Bad enough that Lordran is full of Undead, but if there are people running around stealing their Humanity then things would only get worse.

One thing that strikes me as odd about New Londo is that, along with all of the ruins of stone buildings I had expected to find, there are a bunch of wooden structures as well. I move through a single-floored wooden shack full of old pottery (all empty), and once through that I a doorway of white light. On the other side should be the bottom of the large building I go though every time I enter New Londo, the one with the chest that I could never reach while this place was still flooded.

new londo white light 1

I pull out my club and step through.

There’s more wood inside here, built into short booths along the walls. I hear a strange, heavy sucking sound nearby, and on my left I can see another Darkwraith standing in the shadows near a pillar. Ahead is an open doorway leading out into New Londo’s streets.

new londo main building 1

I move toward the Darkwraith on my left, when suddenly a dark limb like a spear comes flying at me from my right. I block it and look around the corner to see the source. There is a large, black blob in the middle of the floor, wriggling wildly as its gaping mouth tastes the air, seeking fresh Undead. I back out through the doorway. The Darkwraith follows after me, so I beat him into the ground. I turn back to the building and find that the blob creature has also tried to follow me, but is stuck in the doorway.

new londo blob 1

It jiggles back and forth, but cannot get down the stairs. Further, its main source of attack, stabbing out with its sharp limbs, cannot hit me while I am below it. It does sometimes spit up a stream of anguished bile, but that’s easy enough to avoid. I club it to death, but then find that it has been somehow producing those floating, exploding skulls, so I have to run around a bit until they’re all gone.

That done, I reenter the building and kill a couple more Darkwraiths that had been hiding inside the wooden booths. I find some stairs and climb up to the ledge with the chest, where I pick up a Very Large Ember. I should be able to use it to make +15 weapons. There is also a body with an Undead Warrior’s Soul.

I leave the building through the other exit, stepping out into a still-flooded square. The water is only ankle deep, though, so it doesn’t even slow me down.

new londo flooeded 1

I kill more Darkwraiths, and across a bridge I see another one standing alone inside a tiny building. I circle around and see that the bridge is blocked off by a fake wall. Like the entrance to the dark basement in Anor Londo, it’s a fairly obvious “secret.”

obvious bridge

I break down the wall, kill the Darkwraith, and pick up a titanite chunk in a chest he’d been guarding.

I continue through the dank streets, splashing around in the pools of leftover water, or walking around on the slick stones. I kill more Darkwraiths. I find a dead body clasping the lip of an old well and pick up some Cracked Red Eye Orbs (online item, useless to me).

Now I am approaching the other big building in New Londo, the one with Ingward on the roof.

ingwards building 1

I loot more corpses, find more Undead Souls. Inside the building are another dark blob and a couple more Darkwraiths. After I have fed them my club, I look around, where I find another chest with another titanite chunk. One of the Darkwraiths drops a Dark Hand, which can be used as a shield to create the same dark force field they use. The shield has good elemental defences but low stability, and when used as a weapon it has the same glowing grab attack that they use to steal Humanity. Does that mean that I can steal Humanity as well?

As with the upper floor, the ground here is covered with crunchy bones of the dead. It’s more than a little disconcerting to hear them crack with each step. I pass through the area quickly.

building bones

Outside the building is a short bridge to another tower and a doorway of white light.

new londo white light 2

Unfortunately, I haven’t found any bonfires in New Londo, and at this point I doubt that I will. The Fire Keeper was killed ages ago, and this place has been cold and wet for just as long. I just don’t think any bonfire would have survived.

I step through the white light. Maybe in an even lower area of New Londo I’ll be able to find the rest I desire.

As soon as I pass through the white light I know I’m out of luck. Stairs spiral into the darkness below, and behind me the white light is still firmly in place, blocking my exit.

new londo stairs 1

I have no choice but to go down. I descend cautiously into the darkness, but I see nothing, hear nothing. In fact, there is nothing at all to see or hear, and when I reach the bottom of the stairs I find only a dead-end, more darkness.

new londo stairs 2

I’m unsure of how to proceed. My first thought is that the game expects me to double-back now, and at the top of the stairs I will find something new, possibly Ingward will have followed me down here and has some further explaining to do, or will try to betray me. That second option seems unlikely with how little space there would be to have a fight. Maybe I’ll have to go back to Ingward and ask him how to proceed? When I get to the top I find nothing but the white light, which is still unyielding. I am stuck here, which means that I have to go down.

At the bottom of the stairs I search in the darkness for a possible route. I drop a prism stone, but it lands with a shriek, telling me that it’s unsafe. I even pull out one of the skull lanterns I found in the Catacombs and use its light to examine the walls, but I can’t pierce the heavy shadows, so nothing is revealed.

I consider what Ingward has told me. The flood was used to seal up the Darkwraiths and the Four Kings. I’ve already fought the Darkwraiths, which would mean the Four Kings are, fittingly, the bosses of this area. Usually when passing through white light to enter a boss area the white light also blocks the way back out, so that I can’t run away. That suggests that I am in the boss area now, though I haven’t seen the Four Kings. Where do the Four Kings actually hang out, though? The Abyss. What do I know about the Abyss? That Artorias had a ring he used to travel through it.

I put on my Covenant of Artorias ring. A little blue boot icon appears under my HP and stamina bars. Nothing else happens, though; I am not whisked away to the Abyss. What else can I do?

I jump.

After a fall, I land, still alive, in absolute darkness.

——-

The Sealers found New Londo to be a city dwelling not only in literal dark, but in the deeper black that resides at the core of a man’s Soul. That’s how the Sorcerer described the state of the populace to Ingward and Yulva.

He had just returned from scouting out a rally held in support of the Four Kings and was changing back into the red robes of a Sealer. He told them about what he’d seen, but first he explained that his “disguise,” which was little more than removing the robes and mask they all wore, didn’t work; everyone spotted him as an outsider immediately. “They have something to hide,” he said, “but they have no interest in hiding it.” Yulva rolled her eyes. The Sorcerer was fond of such empty witticisms, which often made getting a point out of him a chore.

They knew he was a Sealer, but there was none of the hostility they’d experienced when first arriving in New Londo. That he had removed his red robes seemed to be enough for the people to accept him as something other than a “tool of the gods,” which was how they’d been greeted by the jeering, shouting crowds that lined up on the rooftops and walkways to pelt them with debris when the Sealers had first arrived. Yulva had retrieved one of the objects thrown at them, and held it in her hand until they were safely inside. They were huge house owned by the Senator who had first sent for them.

“What is it?” asked Ingward when she examined the piece under the fierce torchlight. It was an embroidered badge of brown leather, jagged with many chaotic arms that seemed to writhe with an inner life when exposed to the light of the flame.

“Chaos. Humanity,” said the Sorcerer. “Which are the same things, when you think on it.”

He had learned more. The badge was an artist’s interpretation of “what the Fire Keeper hid in her heart,” as a fanatical, wide-eyed citizen had told him, “before we cut it out of her.”

The Abyss

I immediately take out my lantern, but the light reveals nothing. The Abyss isn’t just dark, it is darkness. So, now what?

The answer comes seconds later, as an HP bar appears at the bottom of my screen. The Four Kings are coming. I turn around and see a large, wispy figure floating toward me, giant sword in hand. It has structured grey armour and wings like a metallic snowflake.

4 kings 1

Its appearance actually reminds me most of the writhing, chaotic mass of Humanity that is held by a Fire Keeper Soul.

firekeeper-soul

The King has a lot of range with its sword, which must do magical damage, as it hurts even through my shield. To make matters worse, the unbroken darkness of the Abyss makes it hard to judge distances, so my normal tactic of zoning my opponent out until they give me an opening doesn’t fork very well because I have a lot of trouble telling whether or not I’m in range to land a club smash. Then, another King appears. And another. And another. They start blasting me with dark, purplish magic projectiles, which eventually break through my shield and kill me dead.

I decide I will need a different approach for this fight.I need to get in close and lay on the damage quickly, taking down each opponent before the others can overwhelm me. That means getting as close as possible and relying on rolling to dodge attacks so that I am not knocked back.

I’ll need more damage, then. I use the Firelink Bonfire to warp to Andre, the smith in Undead Parish, and give him the Very Large Ember. I use a few of my Undead Souls, giving me enough to upgrade my winged spear and club to +10

I run back through New Londo, pausing only briefly to look over the city now that the water is mostly gone.

post-flood 1

It is no more hospitable, but the light let in from Valley of Drakes makes it a little less gloomy than before.

I run past all of the ghosts and most of the Darkwraiths (the big blobs haven’t respawned) and make it back to the tower. I drop into the Abyss again and run through the darkness to recover my body. There doesn’t seem to be any sort of physical limit to this place, so I’m in no danger of falling into a pit or getting backed into a wall. I guess there are limits to every developer’s sadism.

I get close to the King and lay into him with my club, rolling back and forth to avoid the swinging sword. At one point he winds up and rushes me, then grabs me and sucks away my Humanity like the Darkwraith did earlier. So much for that. I kill the first King, and then the second King. I hear a faint beep when each new one spawns. I move in and beat on the third King, and then I’m down to the last one. I run toward it, but I have to be careful here as I’ve been chugging from my Estus flask with gusto. There’s only one enemy left, so I should be able to take my time with it.

Then I hear a beep. I look around. There is another King. I thought there were four of them, not five. Or is this a case of them all having to be dead to keep them from coming back? At least their combined health bar hasn’t replenished any. Then, both of the Kings launch volleys of magic projectiles that home in on me, and my guard breaks, and they hit me, and I die.

No hesitation. I have to be confident, I have to be sure. I use a Humanity to reverse my Hollowing, and return to the Abyss, where I charge the Kings, laying into them with vicious 2-handed club attacks, taking chunks of their health away. I roll, but never away, never a step back. I stick to each of the Kings in turn, staying close enough that the others are reluctant to attack as well. Is this the fear of friendly fire, or some misguided sense of ancient honour? Whatever it is, their unwillingness to overwhelm me when they have the chance gives me all the time I need to crack open their hard shells and spill out the power within. The Four Kings are no more.

4 kings dead

“Victory Achieved”

I gain 4 Humanity and a Bequeathed Lord Soul Shard, and a whole bunch of Souls. The power granted to the Four Kings by Gwyn. The power required to unlock the yellow doorways? I sure hope so.

There is something else in the darkness now. Nearby is a bonfire, and the ugly face that could only belong to Kingseeker Frampt.

kaathe 1

I walk over and activate the bonfire, then approach the Primordial Serpent.

Turns out this isn’t Frampt, just an equally silly-looking being calling himself Darkstalker Kaathe. He sounds like Frampt as well when he speaks, but what he has to say is more interesting than anything Frampt has talked about.

He asks if I would like to hear the truth about men and the Undead. I tell him that of course I would.

The story he tells is meant to put a different perspective on familiar events. He states that after the lords took the 3 Souls, giving them the power to fight the Everlasting Dragons for dominion over the lands, there was another Soul, the one that I assume was taken by Pygmy, and it was the Dark Soul. That makes Pygmy my distant ancestor (my ancestor as the chosen Undead, or the ancestor of all humans?), and it is my responsibility to end the lies of the gods, who seek only to keep men subjugated. They fear that when the Age of Fire ends the Age of Dark will begin, and the Age of Dark is also the Age of Men. Through some magical means, Lord Gwyn has manged to prolong the Age of Fire and muddle u the time lines to prevent the ascension of the Dark Lord who would bring on the Age of Dark.

That Dark Lord would be me.

I have to admit that I’m inclined to believe his story. Even though this weirdo calls himself the Darkstalker, and is clearly the reason New Londo is now a water-logged mass grave; even though he hangs out in a place called the Abyss and has no problem with the fact that I just murdered his former disciples; even though he’s a giant, hideous freak who reminds me more of a dragon’s inbred cousin than an ancient, wise being, I find that I have little love or trust for the gods. As far as I can tell, the only good thing they’ve ever done is kill off a few dragons. Gwyn does not strike me as even a nice guy, and the very fact that they are so inhuman doesn’t sit well with me. Besides that, I’ve seen nothing to indicate that a god is any more worthy of power or respect than anyone else would be, except for the fact that they happen to have enough power to force respect to be given to them. What do they do for humanity that we couldn’t do ourselves?

What have they done about the curse of the Darksign?

Supposing what Kaathe says has any truth at all, how do I know that the Darksign is anything more than a way to lure Undead to Lordran or prolong the Age of Fire through other means? After all, as the chosen Undead what have I been expected to do? I rang the bells and I went to Anor Londo, where I retrieved the Lordvessel, all for the stated purpose of succeeding Lord Gwyn and somehow renewing the flame that feeds the Age of Fire. The Age of Fire that was started by Lord Gwyn as a naked power grab. If I only knew more about the curse, but I don’t. What I do know is that I don’t trust the gods, and I know nothing about Lord Gwyn that makes me long for his return.

On the other hand, Darkstalker, Dark Lord, Age of Dark. This Kaathe guy couldn’t come up with something a little less off-putting? Happystalker! Fun Lord! Age of Good Times! Maybe the lack of a sugar coating should be taken as another sign of trustworthiness. After all, he could have lied about that as well, could have told me much nicer things about what he’d like me to do. He’s also blessedly direct, unlike the gods and their servants have been. Take Lord Gwyn’s place and link the Fire? What even does that mean?

He asks me to kill Lord Gwyn and being the Age of Dark.

He says that he will guide me to Gwyn’s prison, and then chomps down on me. An indeterminate amount of time later, he spits me out. I’m in the Firelink Alter, which must be underneath Firelink Shrine. Before me is the gnarled old alter itself, where I can place the Lordvessel.

lordvessel alter

Suddenly, I am having second thoughts. First off, if I do this then I will surely piss off Frampt something fierce, so I will probably lose my chance to sell items to him or break down titanite. Losing his titanite services doesn’t seem like a very big deal now that I can buy everything up to twinkling titanite from blacksmiths, but I’d still like to sell my old items. Besides that, maybe I should hear Frampt out, if it’s not to late.

I walk over to Kaathe, but he only presses me to hurry up and place the Lordvessel on the alter. He won’t take me back to the Abyss. I use a homeward bone, which warps me back to the Abyss bonfire, and from there I warp to Firelink Shrine, where I find Frampt sleeping again. This time I give him a gentle smack with my club, which wakes him up.

He is happy to see that I have retrieved the Lordvessel from Anor Londo, but has nothing further to say about its purpose. He takes me to the Firelink Alter, also by swallowing me and then spitting me back up. “This is the Firelink Chamber,” is all he will tell me, “for the successor of Lord Gwyn.”

I use another homeward bone to leave the Firelink Alter. Clearly, I will have to make a decision if I want to make further progress in the game.

I talk to Frampt again and sell off all of my duplicate items. Overall, it actually doesn’t seem like a very big amount of extra Souls, as most items sell for only 50 or 100. Would I really miss out at all if I lost Frampt’s services? Just my run through New Londo has netted me nearly 110k Souls, and the next areas I tackle should be worth even more.

There is also the potential of missed content. I know that if I side with Kaathe then I need to fight Lord Gwyn, who will probably be the final boss, but what if I side with Frampt?

I sit down at the Firelink Bonfire. I open the camp menu. I choose Warp. I go back to the Abyss.

Kaathe offers to give me the art of Lifedrain, which is the power of a Dark Lord. I join his covenant, breaking my ties with Gwynevere. He gives me a Dark Hand. That’s lame; I already have one of those. He tells me I can use it to “cast off the shackles” imprisoning my brethren, which I take as a sinister instruction to use the Dark Hand’s power to steal Humanity from other Undead who have yet to become Hollowed. There is also a new menu option to give him Humanity, which I guess is what the Darkwraiths must have done as well. Too bad I don’t have any.

I ask him to bring me back to Firelink Alter, and I place the Lordvessel there.

I wrestle it out, because it’s actually a massive golden bowl that must weigh a ton. I slap it down on the altar and step back as light shines forth.

lordvessel 1

After a moment of uncertain flickering, the light blasts upward as a column, coming out through the open floor of Firelink Shrine where Frampt had been poking his head out. A cutscene plays and I see the yellow light disappear from Anor Londo, Tomb of the Giants, and Demon Ruins.

The Alter functions as a bonfire, and I sit down. There is a new menu option, to give Souls. I select it, thinking that I will be given a chance to enter an amount of Souls, but there is none. For a brief moment I am terrified, thinking that I just accidentally gave away over 100k Souls without knowing why, but I actually just place my Bequeathed Lord Soul Shard on the altar, which causes the flame to rise a bit.

I use my Souls to level up, going with 2 strength and 1 endurance. I now have 40 strength, which is enough to use the Dragon Tooth. I could level up another stat, but I choose to hold onto some Souls to purchase some more titanite.

bonfire 2

I talk to Kaathe, who tells me that now I have to go kill Gravelord Nito (Tomb of the Giants), the Witch of Izalith (Demon Ruins), and Seethe the Scaleless (Anor Londo), and then takes me back to the Abyss.

From there I warp to Anor Londo and see the giant blacksmith. He can upgrade my +10 weapons to lightning weapons, but I also see that he can use my boss Souls. My winged spear +10 can be combined with the Moonlight Butterfly Soul to create a special spear that does magic damage, or with my Dragon Slayer Ornstein Soul to create a spear that does lightning damage. Actually, that spear looks mighty attractive, if only I had more dexterity than strength. I see that he could use my club to make a Smough hammer, but I don’t have that Soul.

This changes my plans. I need +10 weapons in order to make the boss weapons, but I don’t know what weapon to use with each Soul; they only appear in the menu when I have the +10 weapon already, it seems. Instead of buying twinkling titanite, I warp to Undead Parish and talk to Andre. I figure I should upgrade a weapon of each type (sword, axe, greatsword, etc) in order to get all potential boss Soul options, so I buy a bunch of titantie from him and upgrade a longsword, claymore, and greataxe to +5, then, thinking that shields are also classified as weapons, I upgrade a Baldur Shield (normal shield) and my Eagle Shield (greathshield) to +5 as well.

Only then do I realize that I’ve spent all of my Souls before I can upgrade any of them to +10. I should have done them one at time. Now I’m stuck with half a dozen +5 weapons and it’s going to take a whole bunch of Souls to get them the rest of the way.

Oh well. There’s always tomorrow.

——-

The deed had been done. The Sorcerer had held the gatehouse while Ingward had blasted a hole through the cavern wall. Yulva had watched as the water poured in, standing safely on top of the Senator’s mansion. She watched as the people of New Londo swarmed the iron gates and beat at them with their tiny fists, their howls of anger turning into screams of terror as the water came for them,.

The torches of New Londo were extinguished by the flood, and soon the only source of light in the city were the blasts of magical energy the Sorcerer fired endlessly at the Darkwraiths who had tried to take back control of the gate. Flashes of their black bone armour, their skull masks. The Sorcerer was screaming–a battle cry–but she couldn’t see his face, either. They all wore masks here. Ingward had told her that it was the only possible way for them to do what they had done.

“Become your mask.” She thought she understood what he meant, that if she bent her mind enough she could believe that it was the mask who did these terrible things, and not her. If only.

They stood together on the roof, watching the last of New Londo’s population lose the struggle for life in the cold, black water. Soon they stopped, and a while later the water had started to calm, so that it was possible to speak and be heard. Yulva had removed her mask and hood, finding it suddenly difficult to see and breathe with the increased humidity in the cavern.

Ingward preempted her. “It had to be done, Yulva. These people were too far gone, too corrupted by the Abyss. Not a single one of them could be allowed to escape this place. They would have spread this heresy like a plague.”

The Age of Dark. The Age of Men. None of the Sealers had seen the Four Kings through all of their time in New Londo, but they had all experienced their dark works. The fateful whispering in the night, and the teachings that had spread through the population, so that New Londo was less a city than a commune. A cult that had traded worship of the gods for worship of the Four Kings.

Yulva had promised herself to ask no more questions, but she could not remove them from her mind. The corruption of ideas, she had once been told. They were worse than any curse or disease, as once an idea took root in the mind it could never be purged. How could they be expected to worship and trust gods who not only allowed a tragedy of this scale to happen, but may be implicitly responsible for it?

After a while, the three Sealers were roused by sounds from below. Yulva felt her shoulders slump. The Senator and his family. Ingward had agreed to let them live after he and the Sorcerer had decided that there was no way to accomplish their ultimate goal in New Londo without inside help. The Senator was a snivelling coward of the highest order, and Yulva despised him for it. How easily he had sold out his own people, even when he learned the full scale of the devastation the Sealers were prepared to bring down on New Londo. He had made them promise to spare him and his family to stay quiet.

Their last meal with the Senator’s family had been one of silences strained to the point of shattering like glass, jagged shards of tension that cut unsettling gashes through her built-up reserves of certainty. Only the Senator had been told about their plans, but Yulva could tell from the way his wife sat stone-still, eyes darting fearfully between the Sealers and her three children, that she knew as well.

The Senator’s oldest daughter was the type of self-assured idealist that could only be the result of an insular, true-believer upbringing. She shared her mother’s delicate alabaster beauty, but her eyes were filled with dark passion. She was the one who broke the silence.

“What do the gods do for us? As sorcerers, shouldn’t you know this?” she asked in the sort of measured tones that were the result of hours of silent rehearsal. “The sorcery you use is not the product of faith in their supposed higher power; it is the results of study and dedication to human ideals–.” She stopped speaking as her mother clamped a hand around her arm while giving the Sealers a wide-eyed look of apologetic horror.

Yulva knew there was more to it than that, but she understood the point being made. “Replacing one object of worship with another only for the sake of change does no one any good.”

“She doesn’t mean what she says,” said the Senator’s wife. “Certainly not,” added the Senator.

The young woman shook off her mother’s hand. “You cannot preserve the status quo against the force of nature. No Fire burns forever. They all die when their fuel has been exhausted.” She gave the Sealers a look as if daring them to respond.

The Sorcerer placed a hand gently on the table, which stopped Yulva’s own words. “One man’s interpretation–or four men’s–of a supposed natural order is not a valid excuse for what goes on in the shadowed nooks if this wretched city.”

“This is not an interpretation–.”

“Be quiet!” The Sorcerer slapped his other hand down on the table. The noise made both the Senator and his wife jump slightly, while the two younger children looked on with fascinated, uncomprehending expressions. “This supposed force of nature is no more valid an impulse than any other, and if it is not even strong enough to stand before the power of the gods then why throw our lot in with the side that has already lost the battle?

“Without the Great Lords we would be wallowing in the primordial nothing, barnacles clinging to the Everlasting Dragons. You take them for granted, and do not honour the debts we owe to them. If the gods weaken then it is our duty to hold them up, not slit their throats–if such a thing is even possible.

“Never mistake honour for weakness, girl, and never forget who is in the wrong. Look around yourself; the only lies¬† you are being told are the ones that you are actually being told. When is the last time a god stole into New Londo during the darkest hour of the night and left only Hollowed behind? Servants of man! I shudder at the thought of any man being handed true power.”

The Senator’s wife held her daughter’s hand in a death grip, and Ingward glared at the Sorcerer. No more words were spoken for the rest of the meal.

“Yulva.” The Sorcerer was saying her name.

“I know,” she said.

The Sorcerer and Ingward turned back from the ruins of New Londo. They had one more job to do.

“No survivors.”

Yulva fitted her mask in place and pulled her hood back over her head.

Written by page0rz

April 21, 2014 at 7:50 pm

Posted in Dark Souls

3 Responses

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  1. oh my. I’ve been only sort of casually following this run up until this point, but now things have gotten really interesting. I look forward to what you have to write for the rest of the game

    Peter

    April 22, 2014 at 2:23 am

  2. I swear your articles get better with each day. Do you come up with the little side stories based purely on what you have experienced in the game? Or do you read up on any of the lore between each session?

    John Baron

    April 23, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    • This is supposed to be a blind run, so I’ve avoided things that could potentially be spoilers. The one time I cheated was for Rhea, just to make sure I knew who she was, and after that I realized that there wasn’t much in the way of outside sources to miss: everything I could find out was going to be in item descriptions or character dialogue. So I decided to just make things up, even though I’m sure a lot of it doesn’t really fit. I wanted to do something special because of Rhea, and occasionally I have an idea pop into my head, or I feel like I need a little extra kick to make the writing easier.

      page0rz

      April 23, 2014 at 1:45 pm


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