I found some clothes today.
Down at the bottom of the Catacombs, the valley floor covered in perpetual twilight by its distance from the pale light of the cloudy sky above, I found the body of a priest. Down at the bottom of the Catacombs, where the lights of morality and sanity are too faint to be seen or felt, I stripped the dead priest, and I donned his holy robes, wrapping myself in the warm, rough fabrics. And then I killed some monsters. It felt good.
I have finally done it. I have made it to the bottom. The end is in sight.
No skeleton can stand in my way now. Not that they have to: I’m becoming better at parkour, or at least the falling parts of it. My ankles are strong. From the bridge near the waterfall I can leap to the cliff below, bypassing the treasure tomb entirely. This helps me get to the last tomb faster, and though I do take some damage during the landing, it’s not enough for me to stop doing it.
Inside the last tomb I descend on the poor skeletons with a furious purpose. They don’t stand a chance. There are a pair of them standing at the bottom of a ladder, in the room with the coffin in the middle and the holes in the floor. I jump down on them, club swinging. I don’t stop swinging until nothing in the room is moving except for me.
Now there’s just the two skeleton archers in the hall below, and I’ll be in the valley proper.
I slide down the ladder and set my targeting sights on the archers. I move toward them, keeping to the left wall. When they fire their arrows, I step to my right, dodging easily. I stick to the right side, waiting for them to fire again. After that, I’ll be close enough to start killing.
Klank, klank, klank.
I leap at the first archer, striking through his rib cage with my club. I turn to the other, wanting to send it tumbling as well.
Klank, klank, klank.
On my left, and slightly behind me, is the opening leading to the valley floor.
Klank, klank, klank.
Through the door steps a massive shape. An armoured figure half again as tall as I am. In his right hand is an axe that probably weighs more than I do, in his left hand is a thick, solid-looking shield. The armour is smooth, metallic, shining dully in the dim light.
He does not look friendly.
I forgo the killing blows on the skeleton archers, not wanting to be cornered at the end of the narrow hall. I turn around and run for it. This is a new problem, and will require additional planning. As it is, with the skeleton archers backing him up, I don’t even feel safe taking a swing at the armoured figure, and I’m certainly not going to let him take a shot at me. I have no way of knowing how strong he may be. It might finally be time to turn back.
I get to the ladder and start climbing.
Klank, klank, klank.
I look down. The armoured figure appears to be stuck. He’s just walking into the ladder and occasionally swinging his axe in frustration. Looks like he’s not about to drop his weapon, and with full hands there’s no way for him to follow me.
I try to time my leap between his swings, and I land behind him, but I’m immediately riddled with arrows, and then an axe hits me in the back. I die.
This time, when I get to the room with the holes in the floor, I get both skeletons to come up the ladder at me, and kill them at the top. I go down the ladder again.
Klank, klank, klank.
It’s nearby. Below me: the holes in the floor lead to a small room that overlooks the valley. I hear the footsteps of the armoured figure leaving that room, and then dropping down to the valley floor.
I go down to the final hall and retrieve my body. Soon enough, the silhouette of the huge knight appears at the end of the hall, and he walks slowly, menacingly, toward me. I can’t fight him here. There’s not enough space. I run down the hall, dodge past him, and exit onto the valley floor. Finally.
Outside, after leaving the narrow rock mouth of the tomb, I am standing in a shallow pool of water. The entirety of the valley floor is carpeted in layers of old human bones, corpses, and bits of busted pottery. How long had people been dumping bodies in here? Near the rock walls the bones are piled so thickly that they’ve become lumpy hills. There are a couple of Skull Ghosts floating through the air nearby. And half a dozen skeletons riding around in spiked wheels. They see me, and as one they roll at me. I dodge a few, but eventually I lose track of them and one crashes into my back, drilling into my exposed flesh, running me over. I die.
I return to the room above the knight’s perch, I move carefully, skirting around the walls, keeping well away from the holes. I’m able to get down without disturbing him, and I kill the skeleton archers.
I enter the valley again, just far enough to be seen by the nearest pair of skeleton rollers. I retreat back to the hall, and wait for them to come. One of them rolls into the wall of the doorway, and I’m able to safely hit it with my club till it dies. It only takes 2 swings, even without holding my club in both hands. The next one goes down the same way.
Out in the valley I take the time to look back, confirming the location of the dark knight.
I can see him, just standing there. I think that if I can clear out all of the skeleton rollers, I’ll have more than enough space to try fighting the dark knight. I get to work.
Things don’t go so well. Leading the rollers back to the hall is the best tactic: in there they don’t have enough space to roll far past me, while in the valley I have to chase them down, which sometimes gives them enough time to start rolling again. They’re not overly difficult to deal with, just annoying. Being hit by one full-on is always a death sentence, as I become locked in hitstun and my HP melts away like it was never there. If I manage to block the charge, I fair a little better, but I still take significant damage, and usually I lose all my stamina before they pass. The worst part about them, though, is that once they begin the animation for their roll, I can’t stop them, I can’t make them flinch. I can be mid attack, smashing one of them right in the face with my club, and it will hop up and roll right over me, killing me dead.
I clear out the first 4 rollers. I can see 2 more in the distance. I start toward them. I don’t think I’ll be able to outrun them back to the tomb, so I’ll have to fight them in the open. I dodge away from the first roller, then the second, and suddenly there’s a third, coming out from somewhere I couldn’t see. It hits me, but only a glancing blow. I start running back toward the tomb.
In the distance I see the knight. Something down here has attracted his attention. He drops down from his perch.
I book it for the tomb entrance. I’m not about to fight 3 of the rollers and the knight at the same time. I make it to the hall, then back up the ladder. None of them can follow.
I take a moment to heal up. Should I go back to the bonfire, spend some of my Souls, and reset their positions? I’m about to do just that, when I remember the holes in this room’s floor.
If all of my enemies are busy smashing away at the bottom of the ladder behind me, what’s to stop me from going out the same way the knight did, and exploring the rest of the valley now that it’s empty? Nothing at all, and I’m not about to look this gift horse in the mouth. I wouldn’t even know what the teeth are supposed to look like, anyway.
I drop down to the valley floor and start running for the far end, where I can see the rock walls narrowing. On the right, on a slightly elevated plateau, is a shiny item. I run toward it. There’s no ladder or any other way of getting to it. I keep moving.
Behind me, I hear the clattering sounds of the rollers as they zoom across the valley toward me. I keep running. The rock walls narrow, bend to the right, then the left. Then I see a wall of shimmering light. I walk through it, just as the rollers crash into where I’d been standing. They cannot follow me.
I can’t go back, not with those rollers so close, so I have to keep going forward. I haven’t been walking for long at all when I find my ultimate destination. There’s an opening in the ground, like a stone coffin the size of a large house had been buried here ages ago, and someone had cracked the lid open enough to get in and out. What can I do, except jump in?
Before I land, a cutscene starts up. I’m in a large, rectangular room, combination evil necromancer lab and library. The walls are lined with alternating piles of dead bodies, tomes, and scrolls. At the far end is a large creature, shape uncertain, wearing a black robe. It’s huddled over a skeleton, working busily. Is it the thing that’s been reanimating all of the Catacomb’s dead? If I’m going to take my clerical mission seriously, this thing has to die.
It senses my presence and spins around to lock its 3 masked faces on me. The lamps dangling from its jutting, stick-like limbs sway and clatter.
The fight begins, and I’m not sure what to think. Pinwheel dances around the room, occasionally disappearing for a moment and then reappearing elsewhere. Sometimes he creates copies of himself, who also dance around the room. I walk to the nearest Pinwheel and hit it with my club. It disappears. Must be a clone.
Honestly, I’m not sure what to do for the first minute. I’m circling the room slowly, not ready to commit to offence, waiting for some sort of pattern to be shown. Every now and then he, or one of his clones, leaps into the air and tosses a large, slow-moving fireball in my direction. They’re as easy to dodge as they are to see coming. After clubbing a few copies I figure out that I’m supposed to find the original, but he’s not doing a very good job of hiding himself. I can always tell which he is, because he moves differently, and his lamps are lit up. Eventually I realize that he’s really not going to do anything, so I start attacking him. But in the back of my mind I’m still waiting for his inevitable burst into attack mode. I’m in a state of permanent hesitation, waiting for the hammer to drop. Even like that I take out 2/3rds of Pinwheel’s HP before he and his clones finally hit me with simultaneous fireballs, killing me.
I’m not going to lie: after all that I’ve come through to get here, this boss is a disappointment.
But I’ve got something else I want to take care of now. I’m going to try and get the item on that plateau near the valley’s floor. I can even see how to do it: when I drop down to the last tomb’s entrance I don’t enter. Instead, I look over the edge. I can see the sparkle of an item directly below. In this, I have no hesitation. As I’ve said, my ankles are strong.
I fall, and I land with a thud. I lose plenty of HP. It doesn’t matter, because I’ve got what I wanted. I’m on a ledge now, and the corpse I loot has an Undead Soul. But I’m not done yet. Below me is the item I’d seen in the valley. I line myself up, and drop down again. A corpse is hanging limp over the edge of the plateau. Maybe he tried to jump down the same way I just did? If so, then his ankles were not strong. I loot the body.
And I find my clothes. A priest’s hood, robe, and baggy trousers. Real progress, at last. I put my new clothes on, heal up, and prepare to face Pinwheel again.
As soon as I start moving, I feel the weight of the heavy fabric I’m wearing. I run noticeably slower, even my dodges and rolls feel sluggish. But I’m willing to pay this price, not only for the extra armour the robes provide, but just to finally feel like a human being again. No amount of Humanity will suffice when I comport myself like a cave-dwelling savage, wooden club and all.
I return to Pinwheel’s lair.
This time he is given no respect, and no quarter. He is a joke, but also a loathsome creature, so I treat him appropriately. I beat on his lumpy body, relishing every blow landed, until I finally smash my club, 2-handed, into the back of his 3 heads, dropping him to the ground like a sack of old bones. He never moves again.
I get a bunch of items as reward, including one of Pinwheel’s masks. but its stats are not better than the priest hood I’m wearing, so I don’t use it.
Frankly, this entire development has been a letdown. In fact, the reason I’m using a stock picture of Pinwheel is because he died so quickly that I forgot to take an in-game screenshot.
I also get one of those bones that teleports me back to a bonfire. There’s no other way out of here, so I use it.
I have over 15000 Souls now. I sit down at the bonfire and level up, taking endurance and strength. The endurance is probably wishful thinking on my part, since it’s description says it has to do with the weight of my equipment. I’d like for better endurance to restore some of the speed I’ve lost, but my equipment stat only says that I can become sluggish if I’m overburdened, not that a higher weight allowance will help me run faster again. But it gives me some stamina as well, and that’s nice to have. I take more strength just because I enjoy smashing things with my club now, and I’d like to be able to smash things even harder.
I notice that wearing my robes has already doubled my defence stats. I can sacrifice some speed for that.
As a cleric (and why not claim that title now?), I believe I have accomplished my mission within the Catacombs.
As a battle-tested, club-swinging warrior, though, I have some unfinished business to attend to. There’s the little matter of an armoured asshole with a really big axe, and how he seems to think he can get away with chopping me in the back. I’ve killed Pinwheel, and there’s no way I’m taking shit from some tin plated fool.
On my way back down, newly buffed as I am, I decide to give the demon statue another visit. Not that I expect to kill him just yet–my damage is still too low for that–but I want whatever he’s guarding, if he thinks it’s that important.
Turns out the item is just a few Eyes of Death, which are used in PvP, and are completely useless to me.
I no longer see any reason to bother with the skeleton rollers. They’re too unpredictable. I’m going to take the fight to the armoured knight directly, by dropping down on him from above, and fighting him on his home turf.
As might be expected, he doesn’t appreciate my gumption. The first couple of times I land near him he chops into me with his axe before I can stand up straight. Eventually, though, I get into the room successfully. This guy puts up only marginally more of a fight than Pinwheel did, and only because he has a couple of attacks that kill me in one hit. But he’s so slow, the way he swings his axe is so obvious, and I’ve got more than enough space to dance around him, whipping in and out of his range, giving him swift, sharp poundings with my club, and I’m always gone again before he can react. The fight would have made Muhammad Ali proud.
After all is said and done, I am rewarded with a White Titanic Chunk, and the Black Knight’s Greataxe, which is large and impressive looking, but the requirements are a bit lofty for an Undead in my Soul range: 36 strength and 18 dexterity.
Still, it’s nice to walk around with.
From what I can tell, I have done what needed to be done in the Catacombs. I can leave now, if I want, but I still have one more thing I want to check up on.
Down in the valley, nestled between the two largest mounds of bodies, is a curious opening in the rock of the cliff walls. When I was down there, scoping out the path ahead, and the path behind, I could hear the sound of metal on metal, as if there was a smithy nearby pounding away with his hammer. I drop down to he valley and clear out all the skeleton rollers.
There is a wall in that opening, and the closer I get, the louder the sound of hammering becomes. Unfortunately, I can’t figure out a way through. There’s no break in the wall, it doesn’t fall away when struck, I find no indication of a switch I can manipulate. A little dismayed, I retreat back to the waterfall bonfire.
Now that I have collected all of my spoils, I take a bit more time to examine them.
When I killed Pinwheel I got the “Victory Achieved” message, but it came along with a reward: the Rite of Kindling. I open my inventory, take a look, and finally get a clue about the use of Humanity.
The Rite says that I can use Kindling to increase (collect?) additional Estus, which I assume means I can gain more charges. To Kindle, I need to not be Hollowed, and to achieve that I need to reverse my Hollowing, which requires Humanity. It’s not very clear what all of this will achieve, or whether I need Humanity for the kindling as well as reversing my Hollowed state, but it’s a whole hell of a lot more information than I had before.
The only problem is that I don’t have any Humanity, so I can’t test any of this. However, Humanity will be gained, in time, so I don’t mind.
I am ready to leave the Catacombs at last. On my way out of the bonfire, I check on Patches. He’s gone.
When I came to this place I was confused, and timid like a child. I leave it with my head held high, as only one who has plumbed the depths might. It’s probably just my imagination, but I would swear that the skeletons I face on the way up are the ones acting scared. As well they might. Now it’s them who hesitate during combat, and it’s me who takes the lead, striking them down with a bold certainty that has replaced the anxious, uncertain fighting style I had when I first entered these horrible tombs.
At the top of the valley I take one last moment to feel my victory. I look back, I see each tomb, in descending order, and I know that I have faced everything they had, and come out on top. Well, except for the demon statue, but he’ll get his.
The entire structure of the Catacombs is apparent to me now, and I feel it both as a physical place, and as the collection of challenges it presented. In the end, when I’d reached the bottom, I felt like, instead of reaching my nadir, I had finally crested the wave. Down there, I could finally see what lay before me, and, though the ground was flat, I moved forward with downhill momentum. After all I’d been through, maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised that the final struggle turned out to be not much more than a formality. Maybe I should have known that I’d already won.
Up through the last tomb, the last group of poor skeletons, who had once been such a threat. Finally, ahead, I see the light of day.
I return to the Firelink Shrine feeling satisfied. I may still have no idea why I’ve been brought to Lordran, or what my ultimate goal is, but I know one thing: whatever stands in my way will fall. Though I have no clue what their purposes may be, I know that whoever brought me here has gotten more than they bargained for.
But that’s for next time.