Darkness. Darkness and fear, darkness and the fear of darkness.
“We are born from darkness,” he said. “We fear the darkness. We lived in darkness, until we learned how to fight it. This is the blessing of the Age of Fire.”
“Tell me how to fight the darkness,” she had said.
“Never forget who you are,” commanded her father. Those days she had been more afraid of him, of his disappointment, than she ever had been of the darkness. He gave her a candle for her last birthday, a flame of her own. It was purely symbolic, she knew; he still owned the candle that his father had given him. It stood proudly on the mantle behind him, there for everyone to see when he sat as his desk. His candle had never been lit. “We light the way,” he had told her, placing his rough hands on hers, “so that no other light is required.” She would never forget how he felt, how he contrasted so sharply with the smooth wax of the candle.
Her last birthday.
She was Undead, and the Undead didn’t have birthdays.
He found her alone in the darkness. “How can I light the way now?” she whispered to him.
“You know how.” His hands did not leave his sides.
A tear rolled down her cheek. For once, the darkness was her ally, and he did not see her weakness. She wished she had been born different. She wished that she was not so meek. She wished for those things, but she never prayed for them.
Petrus had once told her, with a sneer, that she had been more than born from darkness, that she was born into it as well. It was said that her mother’s labour had been so long that all of the candles had expired before she was finished. “They say that your father picked you up and thought you were male, since he could not see you.”
She knew the story herself, though not from her father. She had been told by one of the midwives. She had looked for her in the city, having finally been given a name by one older priests after plying him with a bottle of her father’s most expensive wine. She had stolen the wine from the cellar, braving the darkness down there, unwilling to risk a light for fear of him. Fear and darkness, but not fear of the darkness. The midwife had taken pity on her when she begged to be told the truth.
“Darkness hides truth. Truth is the light, and the light is truth,” he said.
The midwife dried her tears and hugged her close. She said that her father wouldn’t let them light a candle until her mother had been removed. “I took you from him, after he realized what you were.” Petrus told it a different way. He said that her father yelled at the midwives to take the baby away from him.
Her father was waiting for her when she returned home. In the darkness. She couldn’t see him, but she knew that he had found out.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” She wanted to scream at him. “Don’t I deserve the truth?” She resented the way he made it feel as if it were her fault, as if she had any control over the past, or over who she was. All the way back home she had been going over the words she would say when she saw him.
He lit a candle. Not his candle, just a candle. The darkness fled from the flame, and took all of her courage with it. The flickering light played over his face, the dancing of shadows there the only movement. His eyes saw right through her, and her defiance.
“You leave tomorrow.”
She was brought to a monastery to be taught the Way of White. She didn’t see him again until she wrote to tell him that she had become Undead. He arrived the next night, and came to her room, where she sat alone and in the darkness.
She held the candle he had given her. The only thing she had taken with her when she left. After writing the letter, she had lit the candle. She had watched its flame, and wondered about all of the things she had never said to him, all of the things that she would never get to say to him.
She watched the candle burn knowing that it would be the last in her family. The Undead do not have children. She had no siblings. She cried until she had nothing left.
When he told her that she knew how to light the way, her heart sank once again, but she couldn’t say no to him, even then. She couldn’t disappoint him again by being even weaker.
“I know how,” she responded.
After another long moment of silence, silence and darkness, he spoke again. “I never meant to hurt you,” he began, then stopped as his voice cracked.
She looked up, away from the candle she couldn’t see and toward a face she couldn’t see. She couldn’t move. She couldn’t speak. She waited, hoping that he would find his voice again.
Finally, he spoke again. “I thought I was doing what I did for you.” The sound of clothes rustling. He took a step toward her. Suddenly, there was light in the room. He held a candle before him, letting its flame illuminate the emotion on his face because he was sure his voice would fail him again.
Not a candle, his candle. Her vision blurred from the hot tears in her eyes. She had been sure that she had no more tears left, but she was often wrong.
He smiled a bittersweet smile. “I had once planned to give this candle to a son of my own. I know I never will. The one I gave you, I thought that maybe you could give it to your own daughter.” He nodded slightly, indicating the wax crater she held in her hands. “It’s not much of a tradition, but my father was not one for ceremony.”
“I’ll go,” she choked out. “I’ll go to Lordran.”
Tentatively, as if he thought her flesh would sting him, he put his free hand on her shoulder. “This is not a punishment. I do not command this of you. What kind of man would . . . what kind of father could. . . . ”
She placed her hand on his, feeling for his rough warmth one final time. She felt the hand flinch, but only slightly, and he did not withdraw. “We all do what we must. I will go to Lordran, and I will find answers.”
She left within a week. Her father would not allow her to go alone, but did give her some say in her companions. She asked Vince and Nico, her only friends, and they both agreed. Her father commanded Petrus to go as well. She would not have chosen him herself, but she was not about to deny him his peace of mind.
The sun shone bright in a clear sky on the day she left her old life forever.
Frampt won’t eat my small Titanite shard. Maybe I was wrong, or maybe there’s just no way to shortcut my way to more powerful upgrades with Titanite I can buy from vendors. I’ll have to work up the nerve to give up one of my better Titanite pieces, but I’m not sure which of them I’ll need with my new blacksmith Ember, so that can wait.
Griggs is as happy to see me as ever. He hints that he will only move on when he has helped me as much as possible. I take that to mean that I will have to buy all of his spells, and that’s a fair number of Souls. I’m just guessing though, and it may just be a canny sales pitch. It’s not like I’d use many of them, but if I ever have an excess of Souls it’s something to consider–but it would have to be a big excess, because him moving on is probably just a way to access something else having to do with sorcery, which I also probably wouldn’t use.
Petrus the cleric has something new to say. He’s whining about having lost “M’lady,” and then loses the talk option from his menu. I assume she’s gone to Sen’s Fortress like everyone else.
Andre the blacksmith takes my large Ember. I can now upgrade weapons past +5, or turn them into raw weapons. A raw weapon seems to be reset to +0, but with higher base damage, and a lower strength bonus. That would be best used with weapons that already have low strength bonuses, or none at all.
I test out the spike shield, and the Eagle Shield. They both have a bash attack instead of a parry, but I’m not sure how useful that would be if I could just be attacking normally. The spike shield has different attack animations when used as a weapon, but I’m still not sold on it. I want to go back to my spears.
I consider what to upgrade now. I have been investing heavily in strength lately, and I have a bunch of large Titanite shards that I could use to upgrade weapons past +5. I don’t think I would benefit from making my club raw, as it has a very high strength bonus, and I have a fair amount of strength. In the long run, I believe I would lose out there. However, my winged spear is a perfect candidate, as I don’t have as much dexterity as I’d like, and it would only improve the overall damage I get. I wonder if the weapon’s bonus before being made raw influences the new damage number. I undo the divine enchantment on the spear, then upgrade it to +6. The raw damage is the same as it was with +5. Oh well. I make it raw, then upgrade it to +3. That should do for now.
I wonder briefly about poise. How much poise is enough? I don’t really know. Maybe I could use lighter armour that still has good defence, like my gold-hemmed robes, but low poise, and then just wear my Wolf Ring to compensate. I decide to run around for a while with my current armour and no Wolf Ring, putting me at about 40 poise, to see what knocks me down. Wearing the Wolf Ring would double that, so I could put it on later and see if such high poise makes any difference.
With my newly strengthened spear in hand I feel like gambling again. I use 2 more Humanity, putting my total at 5, then Kindle the church bonfire, bringing it up to 15 Estus charges. I then try to use the Black Eye Orb I pulled from the dead body of the Fire Keeper. I can’t use it. I had thought the only thing standing between me and the murderer was my Hollowing, but maybe there’s more. Or maybe I’m not using it in the right place.
I return to Firelink with the Black Eye Orb in my item slot. It stays greyed out. I find the pyromancer I rescued in the Depths. He gives me a pyromancer flame and offers to sell me some spells. Pyromancy seems nice enough, since none of the spells have stat requirements, and I can even use Souls to upgrade my flame instead of Titanite, but I see that it will start to draw extra damage from my intelligence, so stats still matter if I want to use it for damage. Unfortunately, I would have to put away my talisman to keep the flame equipped, and I’d need to get more spell slots as well. Not a trade I’m ready to make.
I walk all around Firelink with the Black Eye Orb, but it never becomes usable. I read its description again. Another mention of Anor Londo. Guess I’ll have to wait a while longer.
I talk to Frampt again, and give him my last large Titanite. He chews it up and spits out a bunch of small Titanite shards. So much for easy upgrades.
For some reason I am still resisting Sen’s Fortress. It feels as though it is the place I am being pushed toward, and I naturally resist that. What else can I do, though?
Standing near Andre at the church, hearing the steady clanking of his hammer, always reminds me of the hammering I heard at the bottom of the Catacombs, of that wall I couldn’t find a way through. There is definitely something down there.
I pull out my club and head into the graveyard, through the skeletons there, and into the first tomb of the Catacombs.
At the first set of stairs, the one bordering a black void filled with exploding ghost heads, I pull out my prism stones. The skeletons here often jump over the edge, but they don’t always die. Sometimes I hear them rolling around down there, slashing endlessly at the stone walls. I get close to the edge and drop a prism stone. It lands with a clank. If I angle my camera just so I can see where it sits, a small glowing fragment in the dark. Does that mean it’s safe?
The prism stones say that they will make a loud sound if the fall will kill me. I’m not sure what that sound is; maybe the clank I heard is the loudest it gets. To be sure, I run back out of the tomb and throw a stone over the edge of the graveyard. I know for a fact that any fall over that edge is death. A moment later I hear a shriek, a sound that could never be mistaken for the one I heard in the tomb below. Even so, I’m not entirely convinced, so I drop a couple more prism stones down into the tomb.
They also land safely, and I see them below. That must mean it’s safe.
I jump over the edge and die immediately.
I respawn all the way back at the Undead Parish church bonfire. Oops. I return to the Catacombs, retrieve my body, and then rest at the bonfire in the first tomb. I use another Humanity to reverse my Hollowing again. Now I have 3 left.
I tell myself that I have already conquered this place. I am the master here. If there is something left for me to find, then I should find it. I deserve to find it.
My next instinct is to go to the stairs where I fell down and found a body with a Titanite chunk. Both its position and what it carried are suggestive to me, and it is also a spot where skeletons fell, but did not always die.
I fall down to the first ledge. I drop another prism stone. It lands safely. In the dim light I think I can see solid ground below. Do I risk it now? The prism stones have lied to me already. However, it makes no sense for them to lie all of the time, and I came down here to find things.
I drop down, land on a lower ledge, then drop down again. I don’t die. There is solid ground down here, and a hole broken into the ceiling of another tomb. I fall through the hole.
A cutscene plays. A rotund old skeleton walks out of the shadows. He’s so grizzled that even his beard has a bones, or maybe he’s a grossly overweight alien from the Predator movies who somehow crash landed in Lordran and spent his final years hunting down monsters here, gaining such renown that he was buried in this special place until he was resurrected like the other skeletons. (Note to self: no more cheese before playing Dark Souls.) There is a pick held menacingly in one of his oversized fists, but instead of using it on me he turns to the stone wall of the tomb, smashes a hole into it, and just tells me to leave him alone.
He retreats into the shadows and I hear the sound of metal hammering metal. I have found the 3rd blacksmith.
I approach him and his small workstation. He complains that I am breaking his concentration, but what is he working on, and why? What does he do with what he makes besides piling it in the corner. I probably shouldn’t expect walking skeletons to be very sensible.
When I talk to him my fire Embers catch his attention. He asks for them each in turn, almost excited. He calls himself Vamos, and remarks that my Ember was once owned by a powerful witch.
I think about the possibilities of a fire weapon. The extra damage doesn’t seem to draw on faith or intelligence. It might be a valid upgrade path, some alternative from the physical damage of my spear. What is fire damage good for, though? Not for dragons, which is what I think I’ll be needing a good weapon for. According to the game, dragons are weak to lightning damage. I wonder if I could make a lightning damage weapon. I turn my club into a fire club, and immediately regret it when I realize that a fire weapon loses all of its attribute bonuses, so that I’m left with a log that sets things ablaze, but does less damage than it would otherwise. I learn this the hard way when I exit through the hole Vamos made and step out onto the valley floor, where the rolling skeletons mob me and I’m unable to kill them fast enough. I die.
I use the club on the skeletons outside the bonfire. Where it once took me a single 1-handed heavy attack to kill them, I now require 3 or 4. Unless I know for certain that I’m going up against enemies that are weak to fire, I do not see the value of keeping my club like this. I return to the valley floor, pick up my body, and use the spear to kill off the skeleton wheels. I then revert my club back to +5.
I’m prepared to move on, probably take down the Titanite Demon on the way out, when overwhelming curiosity sees me leaping down into Pinwheel’s lair. Something about how that fight ended no longer sits right with me. At the time, I dropped down here and saw no way to get back out the way I’d entered, and so I used toe Homeward Bone provided after my victory. It made sense to have me fall down there and then give me an item to warp back out, but I’ve killed off plenty of bosses since then and they all dropped Homeward Bones as well, even though I could always leave their areas by normal means. Is Pinwheel really an exception?
In the far corner of Pinwheel’s tomb I find a ladder built into a small alcove. I climb it, then another ladder, and find that I’m exiting on the opposite side from where I dropped in. There was somewhere else to go after all.
At the top I am faced with impenetrable darkness. A wall of black like I’ve never seen before. There is a gleam in the darkness, though, a little sparkle like a gem set into smoothed velvet. It looks like one of the prism stones I’ve been dropping. Could this be the bottom of the drop from the first tomb? That makes no sense, unless the game is deliberately trolling me. I take cautious steps toward the shiny stone and see that there are 2 more of them on the ground, like a trail. I dropped 3 prism stones. Where else would they have come from?
I turn back and see a message on the ground near the edge of the tomb’s lid. I read it: “Shortcut ahead.” I climb onto the open lid and follow it along the rock, but find no shortcut. Weird.
There is a body on a ledge above, in the darkness. I hug the wall, using the tiny amount of vision I’m granted to look for a way up to it. I walk into the darkness.
Tomb of the Giants
The message flashes onto my screen even as I tumble over the edge, into the void. I hear the sound of a bowstring being drawn tight, and then an arrow being fired. I am dead before I hit the ground.
What in the Hell was that?
“Tell me about Lordran and the dragons!”
She grabbed for his waist, then lifted him onto her knee. Reflexively, he wriggled closer to her and nuzzled against her shoulder. He was probably getting to0 big for this, even he knew that, but he didn’t much care.
He gave her a petulant look. “Why not?”
Her hand tousled his hair. “I have business in town.”
He was confused. They were never to go into town. Their mother had told them so, before she left. “What business?”
She hugged him close, a single squeeze, and then gently pushed him off her knee so that she could stand. “I have to talk to some men. I’ll be back soon, and then I’ll tell you your stories.”
He was upset, but he was also a big boy, so he didn’t cry. “What men? Why?”
She smiled reassuringly. “They’re called clerics, my love. They want to ask me some questions, is all. You stay here and look after your little brother. I’ll be back before you know it, and I’ll tell you a new story about a Great Lord.”
“About Nito?” He liked Nito. Nito was scary.
“If that’s what you want, love.”
She left. It was only noon, but the clouds were out. She took her cloak in preparation for the rain to come. He watched her walk through the sunless grey light until she had disappeared from sight.
He sat down next to his little brother, who was still a baby and couldn’t even walk or talk. He was not very fun to play with, and he listened to stories with a blank look on his face.
“Someday I’ll go to Lordran,” he told his brother. “I’ll find Nito, and I’ll bring back lots of treasure. Nito won’t even scare me.”
His brother just stared at him. With nothing else to do, they curled around each other on the hard floor. It was getting cold. There would be a storm. He hoped his sister wouldn’t lose a boot in the mud.
He woke up with a start when the first crack of thunder boomed out. His brother started crying. He wondered how long he had slept. It was dark outside, but that was the black clouds. Most of the afternoon, he thought. Somewhere out there, the sun must be setting.
Lightning lit up the sky, so sudden and bright that he had to close his eyes. His brother gasped, then stopped crying. Thunder boomed again, and then more lightning. His brother squealed with delight, and shook his tiny limbs about with enthusiastic anticipation of the next part of the show.
He found some food for them to eat while they watched the storm. The rain beat the ground so fiercely that he wondered if anyone could even walk through it. That must be why she was so late in coming back, he decided. She was waiting for the rain to stop, and she would bring them some bread from town. She loved that bread even more than he did.
They waited so long that the grey of late afternoon melted into the dark blue of twilight, and then finally the black of night. The storm never let up, but they became used to its strength. After a while he felt like he couldn’t remember a time where the world wasn’t being lashed by the bright flashes of lightning, or the deep booms of thunder. When she came back he would ask for a story about storms, instead of Nito. Or a story about storms, and then a story about Nito. She owed him that much for being so late and leaving him alone with their little brother.
Finally, it was too dark and too cold. If he wanted to stay awake to wait for her he would need to start a fire. The firewood was out back. His brother was asleep, so he left him alone. He put on his boots and the cloak his mother had made him before she had left, then went outside.
The wood was piled up under an awning. It was wet anyway, but he found some dryer pieces toward the middle of the pile, and they kept kindling inside. He picked up a trio of small logs that he had cut himself and carried them back.
Something was different when he returned. He didn’t know what, but instinct slowed his footsteps. He stepped inside through the back door, still holding the wood. There were 3 men in the small house, so big in their thick boots and heavy jackets that they made the familiar space feel cramped. They turned as one to face him, attracted by the sound of the door being blown shut.
Lightning flashed. He saw that one of the men held his little brother, cradled his small body in one arm.
“There he is,” said one of the men. “I told you that even an Undead bitch wouldn’t leave an infant alone.”
“Who are you?” he asked them.
“We are clerics–.”
“Then where is my sister?” he blurted out.
“Don’t worry about her,” said the one holding his little brother. “She’s gone. You’re safe now.”
“Are you going to take us to her?”
“Certainly not!” scoffed the third cleric. “She is dangerous.”
“My sister is not dangerous.”
The cleric took a step toward him, leaned down. Lightning flashed again and he saw that half of the man’s face was a pattern of deep, bloody scratches. “Not dangerous, eh?” the cleric spat on the floor.
“Give me my brother,” he told them.
“You’re coming with him,” they said. “We’ll bring you somewhere else, where people can take care of you.”
“My sister was taking care of us.”
The clerics gave each other a look through the darkness. The one holding his brother nodded.
Lightning flashed again, a still image between the darkness. He saw the cleric with the bloody face reaching for him. He took a step back, then flung the logs he was carrying at the man’s legs. The edge of one log hit the man in his left knee. He cursed under his breath.
He turned and ran, back out through the door, out into the night. “Let the brat go,” said one of the clerics. “The bitch has warped his mind.”
From the dark, he watched the men leave, he watched them take his brother with them. Alone, he cried. He hugged his knees tight to his chest and cried until the rain finally stopped and he realized that he had been sleeping, and now it was morning.
He did not go back to the house. He took the path the clerics had taken, the path his sister had taken, the path his mother had taken. He knew the way to town.
He was wet and cold. Mud caked his legs up to his knees. The people in town gave him a wide berth. They held back and whispered to each other while pointing vaguely at him. He looked back with a slack face. He stumbled all the way to the town square, where someone shouted at him. “She’s gone, boy.” There was a cage of wood and iron in the middle of the town square, big enough to hold a dozen people. The ground inside was dotted with small, muddy puddles. Footsteps, and the only evidence that anyone had been there, or so he thought. When he came closer he saw a cloak hanging from the bars. Before he even reached it he knew it was hers. He pulled it down. It was soaked through, and there was no trace of her warmth left on it.
He turned around. Townsfolk had gathered in the square, but at a distance, as if they were afraid of getting too close to him.
“Why?!” he screamed.
For a long time the only sound was the squelch of nervous boots in the morning mud.
“The clerics say she is cursed!” someone finally shouted back. “Must run in the family,” said someone else. “Your mother was cursed as well.”
He said nothing else. He walked through the crowd, through the space they opened for him. He felt nothing but the weight of his mother’s cloak around his neck and his sister’s cloak in his arms.
The sun was hiding behind a cloud on the day he left his old life forever.
Tomb of the Giants
I respawn at the bonfire in the uppermost tomb. I run back up to the stairs where I dropped the prism stones. I look down, but I don’t see the stones or my body. Hmm.
I notice something as I’m fighting my way back down to my body. Using my club, I can kill a skeleton with 2 normal hits, which gives me 100 Souls, like it always has, but when I use a heavy attack and kill a skeleton in a single hit I gain 121 Souls. That smash attack deals over 300 damage, and I know skeletons have slightly less than 200 HP. There seems to be some sort of overkill bonus.
I drop down to the smith again and run past the rollers at the bottom of the valley. I find my body in the darkness, along with the glowing stones. They must not be prism stones, or at least not my prism stones. They are markers to help navigate the darkness down here, which means I’m not completely nuts yet.
I walk carefully toward the next marker, the blue one, making sure to keep away from the cliff edge that I fell off earlier. I find a narrow bridge of worked stone and cross to the other side.
I am now in the Tomb of the Giants.
I can see nothing further than my hands can reach, except for a dim red glow in the distance that provides no ambient light. Did the giants not have torches? Or did even Pinwheel decide to leave this place alone?
As my eyes adjust I see something else, something near the next marker: a pair of glowing eyes. I am not alone. I take small steps, feeling out the terrain. I cross over what looks like an old campfire, and pass bones of unknown creatures. They’re definitely big, though. Giant, even.
Without anything else to see, my eyes are drawn toward the red glow. As I get closer to another cliff, I start get a better idea of what it is: the disk underneath Lordran, and the red glow is the molten rock around it. I must be on the other side of it, opposite the Demon Temple.
Right there. That’s when I should have known it was time to turn around. Unfortunately, if I am given the chance to do something stupid I will probably take it. That is why I live a life of pain and regret. This is not even courage, but more the fear of not knowing. I console myself by thinking that at least it is only me that pays for my mistakes.
For a fleeting moment, I wonder if this is meant to be the shortcut, an alternate path to the Demon Ruins. Where would it lead to? I retreat to the message again, and this time I search the area enough to find a cave in the rock leading up and around Pinwheel’s tomb to the narrowest part of the valley where I ran from the rolling skeletons. The shortcut was only an exit from the Tomb of the Giants. The game is practically shoving me away, slapping me about the head and yelling at me to get out of here.
There is a body at the mouth of the cave. I pick up a Proud Knight’s Soul. Apparently he was too proud to drop down and try to run past the skeletons to safety.
I wonder if I can find another bonfire, and whether I should activate the one under the waterfall, where I met Patches. I decide that it’s probably a shorter trip to the bottom if I just fall down the holes to the smith, even if I take plenty of damage in the process.
I return to the Tomb of the Giants. I move from marker to marker, until I am near the glowing eyes in the darkness.
A giant skeleton, or more accurately the skeleton of a giant, slashes at me from the dark. I may be stupid and reckless, but I’m not a moron: I have my shield up already, and I block its attack.
I am handicapped here, unable to use my mobility to overcome the skeleton’s reach because I have no idea how far and in which directions I can move. I have to take hits directly and hope my shield will keep me safe. The fight is short and sharp, but I knew it would be painful before it started. I am hurt, but I don’t go down. The skeleton dies and I gain 1000 Souls. That’s a relief. At least there are no giant necromancers down here.
Slow steps into the darkness, the marker ahead is my only point of certainty. I am going down, deeper into the tomb. On my left appears the glow of a loot corpse. An obvious trap. I know that going for it will only result in another fall to my death. I keep moving forward. Eventually, I reach the next marker. It is set into a giant’s skull. The magma chamber dominates the view from here. Am I really headed back down there?
Below I can hear the shuffling of giant, bony feet. There are more skeletons in the darkness, naturally. After I have moved a little further into the tomb, I hear the sound of a bow, and arrows start chinking against rock somewhere below. I gain some height by standing on top of a stone ramp. Below I see the enticing glow of more loot corpses.
Should I be going after them? They are suspended in the darkness so that I have no idea of the structure around them, of the paths to them. Will I find a light, or must I continue to stumble through with my eyes closed?
I walk toward the bodies until I find the edge of the cliff. I drop a prism stone. It lands safely. The archer fires again, and I see that it is standing next to where the stone fell. That seems like a place to go.
I get as much of a running start as feels safe, then jump to the nearest body. I land on it, and find myself on a narrow rock cliff with no space to move in any direction. I pick up a knight’s Soul. There is a rope ladder here that leads down to where the archer and my prism stone are, but I can’t reach it from here.
The archer keeps firing in my direction. I’ll have to drop down to it; there is no other way to go from here.
I get a lot more than I bargained for. First, the archer is huge, apparently also a giant. Second, he’s not alone. There is another giant skeleton swinging a sword at me. I’ve taken too much damage in the fall, and I need space to use my Estus flask. I block a sword swing, then roll away for some distance.
I fall over a cliff edge and die.
I return to the Tomb, but the first skeleton in the darkness hits me with a 2-handed sword attack that I can’t block. I die without recovering my body. I lose all of my Souls and Humanity.
“Vereor nox,” she whispered. “Vereor nox.”
She had been repeating it for so long that she had lost track of all time, long enough that the words had lost all meaning.
There was nothing else here except for her words, and nobody to hear those words except herself. And him.
Darkness. That was her life now.
Petrus had been the first to abandon her. She resented him for it, but still understood. Her mistakes had cost them all, had cost them everything, and he wasn’t going to follow her into the dark. “Go and light the way,” he had called as he left. Vince and Nico had cursed him as a coward, a betrayer, and a fool, but she stayed quiet.
She could close her eyes now and let the darkness finally overtake her, let it seep into her bones, into her mind. She could let go, but for the image of her father that always appeared. “Never forget who you are,” he said.
“We will find you safe passage,” Vince had told her. She had told them to follow the marker stones, which had been left recently. Whoever they belonged to might know of a way through, or at least the way out. They could help each other. She could bring light to someone.
Petrus had told her about the Undead who rang the bells. Maybe she would finally get to meet her. She was sure it was that Undead who had defeated Pinwheel and recovered the Rite of Kindling. Who else would be brave or foolish enough to come to this place?
Her companions walked into the darkness to do battle with terrible things. They made good on their promise to find safe passage. The cost was great, but they never faltered. Not once, right to the end. Every time they returned, appearing suddenly from the ink around her, she saw the toll it took on them in their faces: sunken eyes, slack jaws. They looked at her, but they no longer saw her. She could heal their physical wounds, but not their minds, not their Souls. Nico never spoke, but Vince finally told her that they wouldn’t be here if not for her, and then he stopped speaking as well.
They followed the markers to the end, where they found him. Now Vince and Nico were gone, Hollowed, and she was alone in the darkness. She had cried for a while, until she heard the soft shuffling of feet. She held still and didn’t breathe. If they found her now they would kill her.
She sat in the darkness and whispered prayers to herself. If she focused on the words then she could pretend that she was actually doing something.
Ironically, it was Petrus who kept her going. Not through thoughts of revenge, but because he knew of her final failure. He would tell her father of her fate. Selfishly, she wished that he had been the one to fall; if there was nobody left to tell her tale then she would have no regrets. If her father heard nothing it would be better than hearing of this.
Her father. Darkness and her father.
“Never forget who you are,” he had said. “You are my daughter. You are my daughter and I love you.” He would be removed from his office for saying that, she knew. “Your light has not been extinguished, and you are stronger than you know.”
There was a benefit to the darkness: nobody could see how afraid she was. If it came to it, she would not go down without a fight.
Without any body to recover, the need to invade the Tomb of the Giants is relaxed. I have unfinished business to take care of first.
It takes a few attempts, mostly because I first try to fight it at a mid-range, where it can hit me with both its spear and tail, and then because I try to knock its tail off. I am strong enough now to survive most of its attacks. The only one left that is truly dangerous is a leaping spear thrust that will go right through my shield and staple me to the stone floor of the tomb, killing me dead. Eventually, though, it dies. I pick up a Demon Titanite.
I’ve already looted the body it had been guarding. I think there is nothing else here, until I find the only coffin in the room with an open lid. I wonder if it had been opened from the inside or the outside. Perhaps this is where Pinwheel took his victims from, the skeleton still laying on his work table might have come from this tomb. Curiously, there is also an option to get inside and lay down.
I wait there for a long while, but nothing happens. Could be it was just a place to hide from the Titanite Demon.
Well, that’s that.
Tomb of the Giants
This time I ignore the loot. It is all a trap. If I can get through the tomb first, hopefully find the light switch, I can recover the items at my leisure.
I follow the markers, across the stone bridge, past the giant skeleton there, then further down. The next marker leads me to a stone ramp. I hop on and slide down to a lower level. There is another giant skeleton waiting for me at the bottom. I kill it and find a corpse with another knight’s Soul.
The next marker reveals another ramp. From below comes the rhythmic firing of arrows, each a glowing shard of light in the darkness. I slide down the ramp. This time there are 2 giant skeletons waiting at the bottom, swords ready. As I face them, I am pierced through from behind by one of the giant’s arrows. though it’s so big that it’s more like a javelin. The impact is enough to make me stumble on my feet, and one of the skeleton’s swords finishes the job. I die. I return and try again, but the skeletons are jerks, and as I try to find a position where I won’t be hit in the back by arrows, one of the skeletons kicks me over the edge and I die again.
I need to find a better angle for the fight. It doesn’t seem like I’ll be able to fight them one at a time, so I need to get far enough that I don’t have to worry about the archer as well. On my next attempt I just get lucky, and one of the skeletons leaps off the cliff and dies. With that out of the way, I kill the other skeleton, and get out of sight of the archer.
There is nothing left in the dark here. I see no other marker, and I can’t climb back up the smooth stone ramp I used to get down here. I shuffle slowly around the edges of the area until I find another ramp. I jump on and slide down.
At the bottom of the ramp is a short drop, and I land in complete isolation. No movement. No sound. At least I’m not being attacked. There is a loot body on a ledge above, a red marker in the opposite direction, and from here I get the best look yet at the Demon Ruins.
Standing on the cliff edge facing the only light available, I find a rope ladder. After all of those one-way ramps, a ladder is very enticing; at least I know I can get back up. I climb down onto a narrow cliff. Next to a set of old giant’s bones, I find a bonfire.
I rest, then climb back up the ladder. I follow along the wall, searching for a possible way to get to the body above. The ground starts to ramp downward below me. I hear strange panting, inconsistent with any skeleton I’ve gone up against. There is a light in the distance, the silhouette of another giant archer, and what looks like the crack of a doorway of white light further on. I realize that I’m close enough to target something in the darkness.
I take a slow step. Then another. Then another.
A huge, beastly skeleton lunges at me out of the dark, swiping at me over and over again with long, clawed limbs. It lopes along on all fours, and bites at me with oversized teeth. I still don’t know where I am, where I can go, so I can only retreat, shield raised, until the monster backs me into a corner, where I am killed.
That was exciting and new.
I retrieve my body, then decide that I should follow the last marker before taking the beast on again. After a few steps, I find yet another surprise: it’s Patches.
I talk to him. He tells me that I’ve come just in time, because he’s found some great treasure, and since I’m such a great cleric he’ll give me first dibs. The treasure is below us, all I have to do is walk over to the edge of the cliff and look down. I’ll admit that it seems like a rather obvious trap, but I’m willing to see where this is going. I walk toward a small rocky outcropping where I’ll be able to see whatever is below. After a few steps, a cutscene plays. I am standing on the edge, looking around like an idiot. There are 3 loot corpses below me. Patches comes up behind me and boots me over the edge, then taunts me, yelling down that clerics get what they deserve, that I must be loaded, and the real treasure will be found when he strips my corpse.
So, Patches has a problem with clerics. That explains him dumping me off the bridge in the Catacombs. The worst part of it is that I’m not even a cleric, really. I can only wonder why he is the way he is, but that won’t get me out of this pit.
I loot the corpses. A pair of knight’s Souls and another skull lantern. A necromancer’s expedition? I can hear the heavy panting of the skeletal beast somewhere above. I need to find a way out of the pit, I guess.
I follow the outer wall until I find a ramp, which leads up only to another body. I pick up a White Titanite Chunk. Sounds play from behind me, like flashes in the darkness. Something just happened. I turn, but can’t see the source; it’s still just a wall of black. There is a new sound in the pit, like a slight bubbling, or the shuffling of many small bones.
I walk slowly down the ramp, not sure what fresh horror I will find. At the bottom I am ambushed by a what I can only describe as bone pillars: tall piles of loosely animated skulls, ribs, and limbs, claws waving around in the air like branches.
Their shoddy construction (bones don’t connect like that!) is their undoing, and they collapse after only a few club smashes. I kill them all.
Clear of immediate danger, I resume my search of the pit. Circling a large rock, I see the shape of a human-looking head sat next to a pile of bones. I think it’s another dead body, and I swing my club to clear away the old bones.
My club hits the head.
“Ow!” says the head, with a woman’s voice.
It’s another Undead. Someone else Patches must have tricked. She gets to her feet and tries to punch me. I am frozen, more horrified in that moment than I ever was searching through the darkness for the next thing that would kill me. What have I done?
I don’t want to hurt her. I want to talk to her. She won’t talk to me. What can I do? I run around the pit, frantic now, with no regard for my safety. I need to find the way out. I need to get away from her without doing further harm. Soon, 2 more Undead appear, a pair of fighters with shields and long axes.
In a moment, my mind makes all of the connections. This must be Rhea, the woman who Petrus calls M’lady, the one who he was whining about losing.
I don’t know what to do.
I drop my arms to my sides, and let them kill me.
I respawn and return to the marker above the pit. Patches, much to my surprise, is still standing there. To his surprise as well, as he is sure I would die in the pit. He tells me that he’ll just have to do the job himself, and curses me again for being a cleric.
He attacks me, and I hit him with my club. He falls over the edge, into the pit, so I jump down after him. After a brief scuffle, he is sent over the edge, into the void below. I get a Humanity and a crescent axe.
The pit floor is crawling with bone pillars again, and I can hear the footsteps of the woman. She runs out of the darkness to attack me, beating her fists uselessly against my shield. My death changed nothing, but I still don’t want to kill her. While she is distracting me, a bone pillar gets behind me and starts corkscrewing in place, battering me with its limbs until I die.
I return to the pit. No more Patches. No more footsteps. I find only the light of an item left in the dark. I pick up an Ivory Talisman and a Humanity. She should have known that it was never me that was going to kill her. Grimly, I realize that the only thing left to do is finish the job. I find the pair of warriors and kill them as well (they drop nothing), then find the path out of the pit, through a cave, up a rope ladder, and past an illusory wall that disappears at my touch. Another bone pillar drops a White Titanite Chunk.
I return to the bonfire with my head bowed. I was never a cleric. I never should have said I was. If I were, I would be the worst that has ever lived. What else can I do, though, now that everything is over? I can take the talisman back to Petrus, maybe tell him that his companions died doing something noble. Not like this. There were no other witnesses, not here, not in this obscuring darkness. It would be a lie, but for the ones who have already died, what more can I give them?
I feel unclean. I feel more cursed than I have before. I use 2 Humanity. I reverse my Hollowing and Kindle the bonfire. I know I’m not fooling anyone, least of all myself, but everyone plays tricks if that’s what it takes to keep going. Could be that everything I’ve seen so far has been a trick I play on myself. How do I know I am really doing the right things? How do I know that I am not really the invader? I go from place to place, I do as I please. If I ever stop telling myself it is for a greater good then I may as well stop, and just stay down here in the dark, where I can be alone. Where I can’t hurt anyone else.
After a while, I get to my feet again. I climb the rope ladder up from the bonfire. I find the path leading to the doorway of white light. I take on the bone beast again, this time leading it up to the more open space where I know my footing. I nearly kill it, but it rears back in the darkness and I lose targeting. I spin around, trying to find it again, and it crashes into me from out of sight, killing me. Hollowed again.
I return and this time I do kill it.
I continue down, to the doorway of white light. I can see there is another bonfire below.
I pass through the light.
The archer in the distance starts firing arrows at me. I hear footsteps. Not bony footsteps, and not soft, human footsteps. I know that metallic clank. I wait. After a while, a Black Knight stabs at me from the dark. He has a spear, like the one in Darkroot Basin. I try to lead him back up, away from the archer, hoping that I can find a place to fight without the threat of arrows stabbing through my neck. I am unable to find the distance, and I am hit by an arrow after dodging a spear thrust. The followup attack kills me.
I leave the bonfire again. The bone beast is back. I am killed again, without having recovered my body. I lose 19000 Souls.
I try again. I kill the bone beast, then pass through where the white light had been. The archer starts shooting at me again. I look through the darkness, trying to find a target, expecting the Black Knight. Instead, I find another bone beast. I retreat to the top of the pit, which is far enough away to avoid arrows. There, I kill the bone beast, but I am heavily wounded. I kneel down to use a healing spell.
A spear thrusts at me from the dark, killing me.
Maybe I deserve this.
This time, I wait for the Black Knight to come. He charges out of the darkness, slashing his spear at me. I block. He falls over the edge, into the void, and dies. I receive a White Titanite Chunk. So much for that. I kill the other bone beast. How much more of this is there? I hold my shield up and walk in the only direction I know: the archer. I get close enough that he lifts a foot and tries to stomp me, but instead he breaks it off against my shield. I smash the rest of him up with my club. There is a body here, and I pick up a brave warrior’s Soul. I wonder if the rest of the idiots who died down here came through without even a torch.
How do I get down to the other bonfire?
There are no more markers now. I navigate by clinging to walls and hoping I don’t get turned around. It’s still difficult to find the ramps, as they quickly descend into the dark so they often look like cliff edges. I figure out that most of them come with another landmark, usually a rock pillar, so I look for those. I am still stumbling through a cave with no light, though, which would be hazardous enough if it wasn’t also full of bone beasts and the occasional giant skeleton warrior. I drop prism stones, I trip over the inanimate bones of yet more monsters. Gradually, I am headed in the direction of the light that silhouetted the skeleton archer. It is not the orange glow of the Demon Ruins. I think I may be even lower than that. What else is down here?
In a small crevice I find another body. Someone who came to this place and decided to give up. I find a White Titanite Chunk. On another body I find an Effigy Shield. Good lightning resistance. I get better at fighting the bone beasts, even switching to my Black Knight Sword to help, as two slashes from it causes them to flinch, which gives me the opening to slash them twice more, and then once more to kill them.
I am closer to the other bonfire. I drop a prism stone. It shrieks. I’ll have to find the long way around.
I retrace steps, looking for other paths in the dark. It’s likely that I missed something. Finally, I find a ramp headed down in the general direction of the bonfire, where I kill another giant skeleton. A little further, and I arrive at my destination.
Further on from here and I’m nearer enough to the light outside to see what is out there. It’s a giant tree.
I keep heading downward. I find another cliff, revealing more of what is outside the tomb.
I see a large doorway of light.
A large doorway of yellow-orange light.
The tomb was a trap. A trap for my Soul. I should have known. The moment I took one step too many into the darkness I had lost, and others have suffered for my mistakes.
Unbidden, my legs keep moving. I find a ladder. I climb down. I walk the length of the cliff path. I approach the light.
“Sealed by the Great Lord’s power.”
I should be angry about this. I should feel something, but I have nothing left.
I climb back to the upper bonfire, then search around near the stone ramp that sent me down here until I find a path leading back up. I find another huge open casket, like the one Pinwheel was working from. I climb down a ladder to get inside. I hear the scrabbling of many bony feet. A parade, a march. There are too many to get a distinct count. There is a ladder down to the floor of the room, and I know there is only death waiting at the bottom.
I slide down the ladder. There are at least 4 giant skeletons at the bottom, crowding around so tight that I wouldn’t be able to move. I don’t stop. I slide right past them, right past the floor. I fall off the map.
There are more items in that tomb. I know it’s useless to try to fight that many skeletons at once, in the dark, but I’m not leaving this place without taking what I can. I have a good idea of the room’s layout already, so I run around the top edge, going from corner to corner. There are too many skeletons down there, following along after my every clanking footstep. I think I’ve gathered enough of them in one spot, so I run to the opposite corner and jump down. I grab the items: an Undead Soul, and a Large Divine Ember. The skeletons close in on me.
I respawn again and don’t even bother going back for my body. I continue along the path I’d found, looking for the way out. I find another Undead Soul, and an Eye of Death. I find an archer and a rope ladder. I realize that I’m at the bottom of the ladder that I dropped down to when I first entered the tomb. I climb the ladder and find the last body, the one on the cliff above the entrance to the tomb. This guy got so close to escaping, but maybe he just gave up. I know that feeling.
I return to Firelink. I talk to Petrus, I tell him that his companions are all dead. He seems sad, but not quite like I expected. If he survives, what will he tell others of what became of Rhea and her guards?
I talk to the sorcerer and buy as many of his spells as I can, getting magic weapon and magic shield in particular.
I give Andre the Large Divine Ember.
I am done.
He gazed into the pit for a long while. He could hear her down there, crying.
He told himself that he did not care what happened to her. She was a cleric. When she finally died the world would be a better place, and he would be personally enriched.
He had to tell himself that, because she had been different.
“Who are you?” she’d asked. “Why are you down here?” After some hesitation: “Do you need help?”
He had already dealt with her companions. She was alone and defenceless. He could have killed her then, and taken what valuables she had. He didn’t.
“What is it?” she asked him, when he just stared at her.
Before he could stop himself, he spoke. “You . . . remind me of someone I once knew, a long time ago.”
She even smiled, not the smile he remembered, which had been strong and confident, but a slight smile. A friendly smile, even in a place like this. He shook it off.
“I am Trusty Patches,” he said, with a flourish. “What is your name, my love?”
“I am Rhea of Thorolund. I am pleased to meet you, Patches. Have my companions passed through here?”
“They have,” he said, with a smile of his own. “They offered to help me recover some treasure in the pit below. Alas, they have fallen in, and I fear for their safety.”
Rhea took a step toward the edge of the pit. “Vince, Nico. I am sorry.”
Patches made ready to push her in as well, but she turned to him.
“Why do you call yourself Trusty Patches?”
He stopped cold. “Because you can definitely trust me, love.” He laughed, tried to make it reassuring. It didn’t come out that way; lately, even he didn’t like the sound of his own laughter.
“But why Patches? You do not look like a Patches to me.”
He had a thousand lies about his name. He was practised enough that he was sure he could make up a thousand more. He did not tell her any of them. “I once owned a cloak. Well, it had been two cloaks, but over the years they became one cloak. I had to do my own repairs, you see. There was nobody to help me with them.” He was babbling. He clenched his jaw and choked down the anger.
“I see,” said Rhea. There was fear in her eyes, which he was used to, but also something else. Was it concern? That only made him angrier.
She turned toward the pit again. “Vereor nox,” she whispered, then, “I know about you, your reputation.”
“We could help each other. I understand how you feel–.”
“You know nothing about me, love,” he said, trying to inject more bravado into it than he was feeling.
“It doesn’t have to end like this. An Undead has rung the bells.”
He scoffed. “I’ve met her. Just another cleric, as pious and stupid as the rest of you.”
She bowed her head. “Then there is no hope?”
He raised his hands, getting ready for the push. “There is no hope in Lordran, love, unless you brought some with you, and I lost mine a long time ago.”
“I will pray for you anyway,” she said, and then jumped before he could push her.