I learned two lessons today: that my own mistakes are not the only ones I can learn from, and that sometimes it’s better to take a hit and keep moving, than to avoid it and lose ground. I also learned that dragons are related to chickens, so I guess that’s three lessons.
Because let me tell you what I know about dragons: they can fly, they can breathe fire, and they are as yellow as the day is long. And I’ve yet to see a sunset in Lordran, so you can imagine the days are pretty long around here.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I begin the day as I’d like to begin every day: some light yoga, to improve my concentration and flexibility, and a hearty breakfast of Souls.
Anticipating the upcoming battle, I decide that this morning I’ll splash out on a point of vitality to go along with my usual point in strength. I also switch out my Darkmoon ring for the Blue Tearstone ring; I’m not using that extra spell slot, and why not get some bonus defence?
I then take a leisurely jog around the battlements, mixed with some light calisthenics with my spear. During this, I take a moment to ponder the ethical implications of using endlessly respawning Undead as target dummies, but decide that they’re probably way past the point of caring about such things, and even those that might still have that capacity probably enjoy having something to do besides standing around and moaning. Maybe, for those few hours before I light another bonfire, while their bodies are still laying limply on the ground, they finally find some peace. Maybe they long for that oblivion the same way a living man might long for sleep. Would they dream? I hope not; I pity those minds, and what the centuries of death have done to them, and would hate to think about what they could imagine.
After this, I decide that I’m ready. Is the drake still there? Check.
I make a last stop to talk to Solaire, the Knight of the Sun, or whatever he calls himself. That someone he promised to help is about to charge at a dragon doesn’t seem to matter much to him. And why would it, when he’s got perfectly pointless rays of sunlight to stare at with stupefied rapture?
I start to cross the bridge, toward the waiting dragon. Almost immediately, I realize that I’m in for disappointment: there is a set of stairs leading down to the underside of the bridge. You don’t give someone a way to avoid a suicide charge unless it’s actually a suicide charge. But I’ll try anything once, even if it’s flambe. As expected, as soon as I pass the stairs the dragon lets out its breath, offering everyone in the area free cremation services for their sudden funerals.
Well, that’s not for me; when I die, I’m going to be buried in place of honour. I’ll be buried with a dragon’s shrivelled heart in one hand, and a list of everyone and everything that dared cross me in the other. I will be a long list; they may end up having to wrap me in it, like a mummy. There will be a little red X next to every enemy I’ve killed, written with the blood of the fallen. I don’t plan on leaving any blanks.
With great reluctance, I recover my body and take the stairs. I’m under the bridge now, in an empty room. On my left is a door with a passage leading back, and away from the dragon. Ahead, the bridge leads directly underneath, and then past, the dragon. Neither option is that appealing at the moment.
I take the door to my left, and, pleasantly, it leads back to my bonfire. I kick down a rusted old ladder, and I now have an easier way back, which further confirms that I’m not supposed to fight the drake here: if I’d continued after killing the Taurus Demon, I would have ended up here, which makes sense, since I expected to find a bonfire nearby.
Heading back the other way, under the bridge and past the dragon, I run into a couple of poor Undead guarding the narrow ledges of the bridge. They must have thought they had prime defensive positions, with narrow points of attack that would allow them to hold off any number of enemies. Too bad for them I’d spent most of my time so far in Lordran kicking idiots off cliffs.
I’m directly underneath the dragon now. I can feel its weight through the very stones of this great structure; every shift it makes on its perch, every deep intake of air that it doesn’t deserve. There are also a few big old sewer rats. They get the brunt of my frustration. It does not go well for them. One of them drops a Humanity.
I climb a ladder.
I emerge in the Undead Parish. Stairs leading up, to the top of a tower. Stairs leading down to a locked gate, within is another bonfire which would be directly underneath the dragon. More stairs lead further into the parish proper. I see a rather mean looking monster there (a giant boar dressed as the Tin Man?), and standing above it, on a bridge over the stairs, are a couple of Undead sporting crosswbows.
I take the stairs to the top of the tower. Up there is another one of those Black Knights, this one with a very large sword. I lead him down to the bottom of the stairs, and have a lively discussion about whether or not spears are better than swords. It takes some work on my part, but eventually he gets the point.
I am rewarded with another Titanite Chunk, and a Black Knight Shield. Highly resistant to fire, you say? I’ll need higher equip load before holding it doesn’t make me ponderously slow, but it’s one step closer to my dragon slaying goals.
I approach the beast. I can see the blood-red tint of its eyes. Those are eyes that see only one thing: murder. My eyes only see a lack of applesauce. When it charges, I am ready. I roll to the side, then insert my spear as if I was preparing the boar for a spit roasting. After doing that a couple of times, it gives up the ghost. I find nothing worth eating, but I do get my hands on its metal skullcap, the Fang Boar Helm. It, like the Black Knight Shield, is too heavy for my tastes, but it gives me a pleasant reminder of what is to come when the description calls it my proof of killing the beast, just as ancient gods once took the heads of dragons. That’s a sentiment I can get behind.
I find some stairs that lead up to where the crossbowman are camped out. I then promptly fall off a ledge, into the abyss, and die. It was bound to happen, eventually.
While clearing out the Undead, and retrieving my body, I make two more discoveries. The first is that my kick attack has other uses besides knocking saps into the void: it also serves as a guard break against shields. I’d suspected this from the start, but the skeletons in the Catacombs didn’t block often enough for me to make a real test of it. These guys, though, armed as soldiers, block constantly. The other discovery is an item, Alluring Skulls. They say they attract certain types of enemies, but the language is unclear: do they make new enemies appear, or are they used as a distraction, something thrown down to draw the attention of monsters?
I find more stairs, leading down, further away from the dragon. I have to keep going, though.
I find what could have been a dining area for monks and weary travellers, back when monks and weary travellers still existed in Lordran. There are a group of angry pink Undead, and a body that holds a Mystery Key. For a prison cell? Seems familiar, somehow.
A ladder leading to a higher floor; more of these pink bastards. They’re annoying to fight, as they have no defence, and no desire to defend themselves. They fling themselves at me in suicidal waves the moment I’m in range. On the 3rd floor, I find a doorway of white light.
I’m above the parish’s outer courtyard now, the space dotted by burning corpses streaming ugly black fire, and where I killed the armoured boar. Stairs lead further up, and a vine-encrusted walkway runs around the outside of the building. I can imagine that, long ago, monks strolled this path, side by side, discussing matters of theology and ways of righteous pacifism. In the present, I’m sneaking up on a knight wearing an ugly, tattered cape. I get close enough to puncture one of his lungs with my spear, but he gets up anyway. I finish him off, and find a Knight Shield on a nearby corpse. Still too heavy.
I take the stairs up. Below me are the wide steps leading up to the main church. I see distant Sundays, the steps full of poor beggars seeking hope, and finding a gentle, helping hand passing them bread to eat. The perversion of this holy place should be unforgivable. Perhaps, it is the last vestiges of their humanity that leads so many knight and soldiers here, as if they still feel a need to stand guard, even when there is nothing left to guard.
I find more stairs, leading down and away from that place. When I near the next junction, I hear the shuffling of feet. There is another knight, cape flowing behind him as he charges, and a soldier armed with a spear. All considerations of the honour of their past lives is discarded when we clash. When it comes down to it, honour is one of the first casualties of war, right after innocence. An Undead does not have innocence, and in Lordran, they can’t afford honour, either.
Aside from the people trying to kill me, I’m finding the parish to be a very pleasant, peaceful place. I can see green forests, lush and vibrant despite everything else. Discarded leaves float like flakes of gold. At least, I hope they’re leaves; the alternative is burning embers, which isn’t as calming. The twittering of birds replaces, finally, the rumbling grunts of the dragon.
I find the way down to the central stairs. Another Undead is killed. There is a Basement Key, a switch opening the gate, and a halberd, which is too heavy.
I enter the church. There are 3 knights. I lay each of them to rest. Perhaps, as they die in the service of the gods they worshipped when they had their own wills, they can be granted some mercy in their deaths. Probably not, though, because they sure aren’t getting their hands on my Humanity.
At the far end of the church hall, standing underneath the stone statue of an ancient goddess, is the biggest knight so far, armed with a massive mace and an even bigger tower shield.
I kill him and get a Titanite Shard.
On the altar before the goddess, curled into a tight foetal ball, is the body of the last sacrifice. What could have driven them to this? Would a goddess always shown clutching a baby really demand that a human life should be thrown away on her behalf? Did her worshippers, in their last acts of madness, believe they were somehow completing a circle?
Whatever their motives, it’s hard to argue with the results: the body is holding a Fire Keeper Soul. Maybe I’m reading this situation all wrong. Maybe it was a final act of rebellion that lead to this. When all was lost, when hope was most needed, did the people feel like they had been abandoned by their goddess? Did they, in their impotent rage, find the one means they had of striking back. Was the Fire Keeper, an earthly manifestation of the goddess’ will, the one who felt the beating of their angry fists? But, in the end, was the Fire Keeper placed at the feet of the goddess as a sign of their anger at her, or a final act of penance?
Lost in these thoughts, I turn to exit the church. I pass between the old, broken pews. I see the intricate, loving work done on the statues watching over where common, decent fold once sat to pray. I see the time and expense involved in building this place of worship. I see everything except for the bolt of magic that hits me in the face.
Stunned, I look up, and see a big asshole with a trident looking down on me.
The pain focuses me once more. Does it even matter what peasants were doing here countless years ago? What matters is the here and now, the reality of my personal war for survival in this broken land. A war that has just found its newest battleground.
I find stairs leading to the church’s upper level. There is a knight standing at the top, but he is easily dispatched. I get closer to the wizard, and he starts floating through the air and chanting. A pink Undead rushes me. I stab at it. A message flashes onto my screen: my weapon’s durability has reached critical levels. I need to back away, for now. I run back down the stairs, then toward the church’s wide front doors. Pink Undead start falling from the rafters like, raining down like a biblical plague. I run down the stairs leading out of the parish. Behind me, a small army of Undead give chase, sword arms flailing with limp anger.
I make it back to the bonfire. I consider my options: I could switch weapons, I could go to the merchant nearby and purchase a repair kit, or I could make a trip back to the blacksmith. I’d normally just get the repair kit, as it’s closer, but I currently have 2 Humanity and a Fire Keeper Soul. I think heading back to the Firelink Shrine is the best idea.
I give my Fire Keeper Soul to the mute woman. I am now the proud owner of an Estus Flask +1. The +1 isn’t for additional charges, it seems, as I’m still limited to 10. Must mean additional healing. I also repair my spear, and then see that I’m able to upgrade equipment now that I have a few Titanite Shards. I almost don’t, figuring that I’ll probably find better stuff soon, but then decide to upgrade my Winged Spear to a Winged Spear +2, because I’m usually the type to hoard upgrades and then never use them, and I’ve also seen Titanite Shards drop from random, normal enemies, so it’s not like there’s a limited supply.
I then rest at the Firelink bonfire, and spend some of my Souls. My goal right now is basic requirements for the most powerful weapon I have, which is the Black Knight Axe. That means a minimum of 18 dexterity, which also gives me more damage with my spear, and I’ll need more equip load if I want to wear any of the armour I’ve been finding. Endurance and dexterity +1.
Finally, now that I have a Humanity to spare, I reverse my Hollowing again, and then Kindle the bonfire flame. I am granted 5 more Estus flask charges. I suspected this would happen. At last I have a use for Humanity. The only question left is whether I’m kindling a single bonfire, or all of my bonfires. I’m leaning toward each bonfire being separate, as Humanity is not that limited a resource, and I already know the Firelink bonfire grants me more flask charges than the rest (maybe it’s been Kindled already, by other Undead who have passed through?).
My spear does noticeably more damage now; where before it took me 1 stab with both hands, or 2 stabs with 1 hand, to kill the average Undead, now only a single stab with 1 hand is necessary. This is a satisfactory result.
One of the keys I picked up says it opens the way to the lower Undead Burg. I assume that’s the locked door near the Sun Knight. But that’s for after I’ve killed everything in that church.
The terrible growls of the dragon overhead, still watching over the bridge as I sneak underneath like a rat, are a reminder of what my real goal should be. But all my searching through the Undead Parish has brought me no closer to that showdown. It’s a little disheartening. But nothing some more killing can’t alleviate.
Back at the church, I stab my way through all of the knights again, then make Undead kebabs out of the little pink ones as they line up in a narrow hallway. When I get to where the wizard was, he’s disappeared. After some searching, I run into him again, and, in the eternal words of The Notorious B.I.G., I stab him till he’s gushy.
I search the rest of the church. On a body trapped in a barrel (results of a last drunken party thrown by the monks to get rid of their supply of beer?) I find a Humanity. Above the alter, behind a panel of cracked wood, up some more stairs, I find a jail cell with a golden knight inside.
He asks me to free him. I wonder why he’s a prisoner in a church. He tells me that he will reward me handsomely. I wonder no longer, and I let him out of his cage.
He calls himself Lautrec, and then says he’ll definitely reward me. Eventually. Hope he knows I charge interest. Of course, then he mumbles something about getting back to work and laughs, a crazy laugh like everyone else I meet, except tinged with something sinister. Well, whatever, he can be as insane as he likes, as long as I get mine.
Near the front of the church, up a pair of ladders, I find a doorway of white light, and a sign asking me if I’d like to summon Solaire . Seems like as good a time as any, since he won’t help me with the dragon.
With my new companion in tow, I step out onto the church roof. The wide, open, eerily still church roof.
Some shit is about to go down.
A cutscene plays, and one of the gargoyles comes alive.
Solaire and I are having a good time beating up on the gargoyle (I notice that a couple thrusts from my spear make it flinch), when a second one joins in, and starts spewing fire at us. I get backed up against a wall, and lose track of the second gargoyle when the one I’m watching takes off in flight, sending my targeting cursor spinning wildly. Eventually, with no more space in which to heal, I am fried.
On my way back, a giant rat headbutts me off a cliff. I lose my Humanity. It’s been one of those days.
More bad news: when I respawn I’m back down to 5 flask charges. Kindling must be bonfire specific. And yet more bad news: Solaire is no longer around when I return to the church roof. I’m on my own now.
I am forced to evaluate my opposition now, and formulate strategies. The first thing to test is the criteria for the second gargoyle’s appearance. My initial theory is that the reinforcement is based on a timer, so I rush at the lone gargoyle and the intent of killing it before the other shows up. That doesn’t work out very well, as it out-ranges even my spear, and has a tendency to take to the sky every time I have it cornered. Eventually, the other gargoyle shows up, but with only half a health bar. It’s injured somehow: when it flies, I see that it’s missing a tail. I get locked in crossed streams of fire breath and die.
This time I have a different approach, now that I know the second gargoyle doesn’t show up till I’ve done a set amount of damage to the first. I take the time to study its patterns, to watch how it moves, to circle around and attack it from behind. I don’t know if I get a lucky hit in or what, but at one point its tail drops off, and I pick up a new axe. I’ve played plenty of Monster Hunter, so I get the idea. When the second gargoyle arrives I have trouble again trying to defend myself from two enemies that have me beaten for range, but I soon realize the critical weakness in their tactics: they have to stand still to breathe fire.
Now, fight in earnest, and to even the odds I decide it’s time to use some of the items I’ve been collecting. If they want fire, they can have it, and when I’m not able to get in range for a spear thrust, I can still throw firebombs. With patience and care, I dismantle their united front, focusing in turn on whichever gargoyle presents vulnerability. Once I have burned one of them alive, I have no trouble finishing off the other. Alone, they are nothing.
I get Twin Humanities.
The battle takes a toll, though. In death, I have become closer to being Hollowed again. I have also blunted my spear against the gargoyle’s thick hides, and maybe all the blocking the knights have been doing. (Which is remedied when I realize it’s much safer to wait for them to attack, then parry the blow and sever their spines with a spear thrust through a vulnerable point in their armour.)
At the back of the church is the old bell tower. At the top of the world, I find the bell, and I send its ring dancing through Lordran. How many hear it? How many now know I am coming? Hopefully, as many as choose to stand in my way: the path I see before me does not deviate for something as trivial as an enemy prepared, and I should find the journey that much more pleasant if I leave a trail of their corpses in my wake.
On my descent from the bell tower, I find that someone has already heard me. Oswald the Pardoner stands, arms outstretched, and offers to take away the guilt of my sins. I already know that there is no action I could commit in Lordran that I would consider a sin, aside from giving up. Absolution is not required. Nothing else he offers is of any worth to me right now, and, frankly, he talks like a ponce, all “thee” and “thou.” I can’t get away from his blathering fast enough. He also has the requisite insane Undead tittering that lets me know he’s really a citizen of modern Lordran.
I return to the Firelink Shrine to repair my winged spear, then upgrade it to +3 (those Undead knights drop a lot of Titanite). I modify my equipment a bit, swapping out my heavy armour for something a little lighter, and then donning a really dumb looking helm that, overall, boosts my total defence, while still keeping my weight down. At the Firelink Shrine I also find the golden knight, Lautrec, who gives me his reward, a Medal of the Sun. Not sure what it’s for, but I don’t really care. His laugh is the weirdest of them all, and I get a bad feeling when I talk to him. What must a man be hiding in his heart to dress the way he does? The gleam of gold is a pale substitute for true nobility. I think again about what kind of asshole gets themselves locked up in a church.
I spend my collection of Souls on a point each of endurance, strength, and vitality. I consider going for 2 endurance, but I still have some weapons I’d like to be able to use, sooner rather than later. I do want that equip load raised, though, as I’m still walking the border between to slow country.
Now I have to decide where to go next. I rang the bell, and nothing much happened. I guess I could look for the other bell, but I’ve also opened up a number of paths: lower Undead Burg, Darkroot Basin, the Valley of the Drake again (It’s got drake right in the name! Seems like a prime place to look for a dragon.). Another trek into the ruins of New Londo? Or should I look for another path?
I decide to do a bit more exploring before making a final decision. I have a close call when I attempt the dragon’s bridge again: I had it in my head that maybe I could survive a bit more fire breath if I equipped as much fire resistance as I could. It didn’t work, and I got toasted. What’s more, the dragon must have heard the bell and gotten really mad about it, because every time I stepped onto the bridge it would start doing strafing runs, making it impossible to recovery my body and make it back to cover. I eventually had to run my body as far away from the dragon as I could, then take the long way around to the bridge and pick it up from the other end. Now its attacking me when my back is turned, as if I didn’t already have enough reasons to want it dead.
While fighting the Undead here I notice that often, when I take a hit, I don’t flinch like I once did. I’m wearing heavier armour, and I notice that my poise stat has increased. I thought that had more to do with blocking attacks, but it seems to be just a general stat that prevents actions from being interrupted. More useful information.
Behind the church I find a quiet path leading to a small, crumbling temple. When I enter, I hear the sound of metal hammering metal.
Down a couple of levels and I find another bonfire.
Down another level and I find Andre, the smith. He sells Titatine Shards for Souls, and the Crest of Artorias, an intriguing item that seems to unlock the way to a boss. I’d like to have it, but it costs 20000 Souls, which is way more than I have.
Andre tells me that every weapon has a breaking point, and that I should repair them regularly, which is a good sales pitch, but he then tells me that, “The nice thing about a weapon is that it will never betray you.” I’d call breaking in half during a fight to the death a betrayal, but to each their own. He also tells me a bit about ascension, but I still don’t have a weapon that can be ascended. Then, of course, the crazy laugh.
I look over the Titanite I have. When I first found one, back before I’d done any upgrading, I thought that a Titanite Shard getting a standard weapon to +5 meant it added that number to the damage, or some other stat. But my winged spear gains more than +5 damage when I upgrade it, and the bonus number only goes up by +1. Additionally, there is a wealth of Titanite available, so there has to be a limit to how much a weapon can be upgraded. I read the description again, and realize that a Titanite Shard can only take a normal weapon up 5 upgrade levels, which would mean a winged spear +5. After that, new methods of upgrading would be required, or maybe there’s a hard limit for every weapon’s strength. On a whim, I upgrade my winged spear to +5. Sure enough, it disappears from the upgrade menu. Maybe now it can be ascended? I think so: where once trying to ascend a weapon would return the message that I have no weapons that can be ascended, now I’m told that I need a special ember to do it.
There are more stairs in Andre’s room, leading down, further into the basements below the ancient parish. I descend, and am greeted with a lightning bolt from the same sort of demon statue I found near the bottom of the Catacombs.
You wouldn’t think it was possible, in the bowels of a desecrated holy place, in a dingy corner of the most forsaken land known to man, for an Undead teetering on the brink of humanity to feel glee, but it’s what I’m feeling right now.
This asshole? In an open space? Now that I have something more than a hard piece of wood in my hands? It’s no contest at all. The Titanite Demon dies, and I pick up a Demon Titanite.
Past the demon is the entrance to a murky forest, lit only by the occasional luminescence of a special flower. I am attacked by some shrubbery. After turning a corner, I can see the land laid out below me: a tableau of the nightmares every child has about their first camping trip. I can see the twinkle of items in the darkness, far away, like honey traps, trying to lure me into that midnight garden.
On another path, I find a bridge overhead, leading to a ruined keep still fighting a final, hopeless, defence against the encroaching forest. On the tallest tower, like a flag of victory, I see shimmering wings flapping gently, but somehow still menacingly.
I continue down that path, and find a door, locked by magic. Even if I hadn’t read about the smith’s special seal, I’d have known the power of those enchantments, still intact and strong even after the centuries have worn away the rock surrounding it, and I’d have known that whatever was kept behind that door was kept there for a good reason. But I would still have wanted to open it.
There are a few more walking trees to kill, and then a doorway of white light. That seems like a little too much commitment for me right now, so I return to the parish bonfire.
From there, I find another path, which leads to an old, but surprisingly still solid, keep, with a large metal gate that is firmly shut.
Outside the gate sits a knight in clam cosplay, muttering to himself about how long he’s been waiting for this gate to open. Requisite crazy laugh.
Where to next?
I approach the first crystal monster, preparing for a fight. It sees me, and makes to move in my direction. Suddenly, from behind it, huge blasts of water spray the area, catching the crystal monster full in the back and killing it. That’s something.
I find another crystal monster, and fight it instead. It dies easily enough, and I pick up a Blue Titanite Chunk. It also disappears in a telltale blast of white light. Is it the sort of monster that doesn’t respawn?
Do I want to keep going? I can hear the angry gushing, bubbling, of pressurized liquids. I can see some sort of movement–very big movement–from behind the trees.
Oh, there’s definitely something back there, and it’s definitely something big.
I figure that I’m not too far to recover a body, so I explore a bit more. I find a path leading upward, and I think it must lead back to the Darkroot Garden. The only other way is down, toward the monster in the lake.
I stick to the sides of the valley, keeping the few thin trees in front of my for cover, until I reach the edge of the lake and get a really good look at what I’m up against.
A seven-headed hydra looms over the small lake, angrily spitting hot jets of water at anything that comes into sight, and with how big it is, I’m not surprised that it could see me long before I could see it. At the shallow edge of the lake water is the steady, enticing glow of an item.
If my first thought when seeing this monstrosity was, “What does it eat?” (Maybe it’s a vegetarian and needs those long necks to reach the trees near the lake? Maybe the jets of hot water allow it to flash-steam them, as if they were giant broccoli florets?) then my next thought was of a fish swimming through the murk of deep water, lantern jaw heavy with needle-sharp teeth, and the little glowing lure it dangles to trick other, smaller fish into swimming closer. Simple extrapolations tell me that standing next to that item in the water means standing in range of every single one of those 7 heads. But, anything once, right? I try for the item, but get blasted by water. I barely have time to drink from my flask before another attack is coming, and this time I get hit from multiple directions, and die. I hurry back, not wanting to lose my corpse. The crystal monsters are there again, which is disappointing, but they’re really just extra meat shields between me and the hydra. Eventually, after long effort and many retreats to safety for healing, I recover my body, and then I realize I’m completely out of healing, so I have to move on.
I leave the hydra and its prize alone. Once I’ve backed far enough away that it loses sight of me and stops spitting in my direction, I return to the path leading up the mountain, opposite Undead Burg. It winds up the dark face of the cliff, and I realize that I’m now standing at the bottom of Darkroot Garden, gazing back at the spot where I stood earlier. Which means that there are items somewhere in between, and at the top I can get to the temple and the bonfire there.
There is also a path leading down, below the water line. I figure I’ve got a better idea of what’s up than what’s down, so I’ll go down first.
I near the first bend in the path, where it doubles back and leads further into the dark. My armour jangles loudly in the open basin, echoing off the rock all around. Or, at least I think that’s what I’m hearing. I stop walking. A heartbeat too late, the sound of footsteps stops as well. I’m not alone here. I take cautious steps forward, so that I can see around the bend.
A Black Knight comes charging up at me. This one’s weapon of choice is a long polearm with a wickedly curved blade at the end. In the tight confines of that mountain path, under the dim light of a mysterious moon (Why is there a moon down here, when it’s a 5 minute walk back to sunlight?), we enter battle, silently, almost reverently. No word is spoken; there are no words worth speaking. If what I’ve found on their dead bodies is a true depiction of their histories, then at one time these Black Knights were good men, in their deeds, if not in their hearts. My anger at them has long since faded. In this place, in Lordran, land of the Undead, I realize that killing these Black Knights could be the closest I’ve come to a good deeds. I am no knight, I am merely an another Undead, though I would put myself up against the greatest of knights in a test of wills, but I have no reason to feel disrespect toward men who at least tried. Allowing them to finally rest in peace, as they fall to my club or my spear, is the last–perhaps the only–good thing I could do for them.
So, without words, because no words would ever reach his ears, I pierce the Black Knight’s heart, and as he falls to the ground and dies, the white light that envelopes his body reminds me of hope, the greatest, and the worst, of all human emotions.
I am rewarded for my good dead: I gain a Blue Titanite Chunk, and when I explore the narrow cave the Black Knight had been guarding, I find a bonfire.
I take the time to rest and replenish my stocks of healing items and spells. I see that the cave leads further into the mountain, and wonder what could be back there. As I’m still in an exploring mood, I take the drip. The cave is long and narrow, but it’s also straight, without deviations or side paths. I wonder how natural it is; it’s definitely the kind of thing that could have been carved out for a purpose. At the back is a stone room with a large lever. I know what this is: it’s an elevator, like the one in the Firelink Shrine. I pull the lever, and a long, long time later the platform arrives. I step onto it, and I’m dropped down. Further and further I go, much further than I did when descending to New Londo. Eventually, it stops, and I step out.
Valley of the Drakes
The path leading down from the elevator is a messy amalgam of old dirt and crumbled stone. Did someone try to sabotage this on their way out? Or in? Or is this just general wear and tear? I move out far enough to see where I am, and the first thing I notice is the large, and quite blue, drake standing nearby. I guess that explains how this place got its name. As there is only one of them, and a fairly nice open arena available, I decide that, since I just came from a new bonfire, it’s worth my time to test my spear on this beast. After all, what I really wanted to do today was kill a dragon, and if I can’t reach it, I may have to make due with killing its little cousins instead.
The blue drake doesn’t fight with fire like the red dragon does. Instead, it lets out streams of electricity, and snaps at me with its undersized head. Its wings are also tattered, so maybe the reason it’s standing around at the bottom of a dark valley is that it’s no longer capable of sustained flight. It can still hop around, though, and hover in the air long enough to get out of reach and cover a small area with crackling blasts of lightning.
The fight is not hard, really, but the drake does a lot of damage, and I do very little damage, so it takes a while. When it dies, the drake only awards me 1000 Souls, which hardly seems worth the effort.
Ahead is an old stone bridge, somehow still intact. On it stands another blue drake, and on the other side is a pack of 3 blue drakes. On my left is a cliff path leading away, toward the mouth of the valley, I think, where I entered from New Londo. But that’s far away, and I think I’ll need more damage to keep this from being tedious. I return to the cave, and the warmth of the bonfire.
I have almost reached my limit for today. I can’t sleep, but I still need to time to rest. I feel annoyed that I can’t get to the dragon. I feel a little lost, and overwhelmed, by the paths before me. If only I know which one would take me where I wanted to go.
I feel like I need to cap the day off with a victory that I found on my own, not one that I was lead to by circumstance. Killing the gargoyles and ringing the bell was well and good, but it feels incidental now, like something that would have happened anyway. I decide that, from here, I will get what was denied me, and I will make sure that I’m never denied again. I’m going to kill the hydra.
In preparation, I spend the two Humanity I have to reverse my Hollowing and Kindle the bonfire. Now I have 10 flask charges, which should be more than enough to get the job done. I also spend my 20000 Souls on a point of endurance and a point of strength.
Before taking on the hydra, I have only one thing left to do. I explore the rest of the mountain path, climbing until I reach the entrance to the Darkroot Gardens. Along the way I find another of those Titanite bugs, but I’m able to kill it with my spear this time, since it’s on a slope. I also find a dead body, slumped over on a small ledge. I strip it and gain a new set of leather armour and a bow. Did this guy stumble down to this ledge, break an ankle, and lay there, helpless in the dark, until he died of thirst? Did he call for help and find no answer, or did he resist calling out because he thought whatever might come would be worse than the headaches, the parched throat, and the quiet death of a thirsty man? Maybe, he decided, that at least then his last thoughts could be his own, of his home, of the people he’d loved, instead of what crawled at him, or of how the blade would feel as it pierced his body.
Now I am ready to face the hydra.
I descend to the lake, allowing the hydra’s breath to kill off the crystal monsters, and finally get within reach of the item shining in the water. When I set foot into the lake my movements instantly become sluggish again, as I struggle to lift my legs and push them ahead, one by one. I get to the body, and I grab the loot. It’s a set of knight’s armour. I notice that, this close, the hydra is either unable or unwilling to use its breath attacks on me. Instead, it lets out a screech of rage, and lunges at me with its multiple heads. I block the attack, but get knocked over anyway. I struggle to my feet, sputtering water, and quickly drink from my flask. I need to get closer, I think, so that I can attack it. I roll forward, desperate to close the distance before the hydra attacks again.
I roll forward, and then sink to the bottom of the lake and die.
So, that’s not going to work; there is a deep end to this lake, and apparently I’m not a very good swimmer, especially not while holding heavy weapons.
I consider my options. And then, after a while of that, I consider the options of those who came before me. This knight got close enough to the monster, even in his heavy armour. I’ve been trying to stay unburdened, sacrificing defence and sturdiness in the hope that I can keep one step ahead of my enemies and their blows. But I have nowhere to outrun the hydra to. I have no advantageous position to lead it to, no way to run circles around it until I’ve found an opening. The hydra is the immovable object, and I need to become the unstoppable force. I strip away my light armour, and replace it with the knight’s armour, and the heavy Black Knights Shield. I’m nearing half my equip load now, and I can feel how slow I’ve become. But I can also feel the power I have now. My poise is much higher, and my defences are all stronger than ever before. I’m ready now.
This time, as I charge the hydra, I take the brunt of its attacks on my shield. My guard breaks, and I take some damage, but I keep my footing. I keep moving. I return to the water, I take up my station next to the fallen knight, realizing that I am picking up where he left off. I stand my ground as it tries to bite at me with its many heads. I find the opening I needed, now that it is finally within striking range of my spear. I get to work, stabbing and hacking at every bit of flesh I can reach. I move slowly, but it doesn’t matter, because my opponent isn’t going anywhere, either. One head is destroyed, then another.
I put my shield away: I have cleared the area I’m standing on, and now I need the extra range and damage to hit the last couple of heads. Finally, I’m down to the last one. But it’s a new problem: it plunges into the ground next to the lake, too far away for me to safely reach from my spot if I want to get back between attacks.
So, right there, standing knee-deep in lake water, with the heads I’ve cut off of the hydra still flopping about, and with its remaining mouth constantly diving, looking, reaching for my flesh, I strip out of the knight’s armour, and I replace it with the light leathers and cloths I had before. With some of my speed restored, I am able to strike at the beast’s final head, thrusting deep into its flesh, until it finally dies.
I am rewarded with a healthy amount of Souls, and I pick up the Dusk Crown Ring, which doubles the number of spells I can cast, but halves my total HP. As I only cast 1 spell, and its purpose is to keep my HP up, it’s pretty useless to me, but at least I’ve cleared out the lake, and I’ve completed, finally, the mission of the dead knight. I couldn’t complete my own mission, I couldn’t get to the dragon, but someone’s soul will rest easier tonight.
At the back of the lake is a large, empty cavern. There is also a waterfall, and a ladder that leads to its top.
But I think those will have to wait for tomorrow. I’m tired now. I head back to the bonfire, and while I rest, I will have pleasant thoughts about having killed at least something large and scaly. If I’m lucky, the dragon heard the dying bellows of the hydra. I hope it realizes that I’m still coming for it.