When I was young and still spent most of my time playing outdoors, running around with the other kids until it was finally impossible to ignore parents and hunger and the need to go home, I was often struck by the frog-in-a-pan subtlety of darkness. There came a time when, in the blink of an eye, I would realize that the sun had gone completely and I was standing under a dark evening sky.
As I grow older I depend more and more on ambiguity, but even the mind’s eye will blink eventually, and when I realize that I am standing in the darkness this time it is not because I was enjoying myself too much to notice that I should have gone home long ago. It is because I have been straining my eyes to peer into the gloom, and, gradually, I have lost my perspective on the landscape, the shape of the things around me, until, as I stumble around Lordran, the land where the sun no longer shines, I have to admit that I am embracing my darker instincts the way a child would clutch for the perceived safety of a favourite blanket.
Today I realized that, though I grow stronger at a steady pace, the power has not tempered my soul; it is instead a set of blinders, a maze of righteous double-speak, a line crossed only for the sake of crossing lines.
Today I realized that I am not the same as I was when I arrived in Lordran. Any idealism I may have had before becoming Undead has been crushed. Somewhere along the line I decided, unconsciously, that ends had become more important than means.
“If though seekith I,” said Priscilla, “thine desires shall be requited not.” At that moment I marked her as an enemy. Why would I be seeking her unless she had the ability to help me? If she can help me and won’t, then, in my mind, she was withholding from me something that will improve the chances of me completing my quest. After everything else that I’ve done, and all that I have yet to do, I have to tell myself that one more crime committed is only the price I’m paying to lift this curse. If I get all the way to the end, and then fall short because of a simple act of mercy . . . that would be a greater crime than what I have already done.
But this mission had better be worth it.
Back at the gateway bonfire, the first thing I have to do is spend the Souls I collected in the Painted World. I go for 2 points in strength and 1 point in endurance. Now I have 36 strength and I can use the next tier of heavy weapons, the most prominent of which is the Black Knight Greataxe.
I go back to the central bridge and turn the wheel, wanting to see if it can be lowered once more now that I have access to the biggest landmark of Anor Londo: the mighty central structure of Gwyn’s Keep. It can, and at the bottom of the winding stairs I find a short hall leading to a small room built underneath the keep.
Inside is another bonfire, and arranged ceremonially around the circular room are statues of Gwyn’s knights, and directly across from the entrance a large statue of a man with a golden sword. Or a normal sized statue of a large man with a golden sword. I suppose that’s Gwyn. There is a dead body, and from it I take the Ring of the Sun’s Firstborn. Boosts the strength of Miracles. Apparently Lord Gwyn’s firstborn inherited the sunlight, which I guess meant he was supposed to step up for Gwyn, who was the god of sunlight, but became the god of war, and his “foolishness” lead to the loss of the annals, which must have been important, and he was stripped of his godly status and erased from history. Considering that the annals were already lost, it must have been relatively easy to go the next step and erase someone from the rest of history. Maybe a god of war who specialized in healing magic wasn’t the best idea to begin with.
Strangely, there are small stone plaques all around the room, at the feet of the statues, and each has an inscription, like some sort of memorial. All except for the largest plaque, the one at the foot of the central statue of the man with the golden sword. That inscription is blank. Either that is actually a statue of the disgraced god of war that was later defaced, or, if it is supposed to be Lord Gwyn, there was nobody left to make the inscription when he finally died.
Now I am ready to invade Lord Gwyn’s ancient homestead and find whatever there is left in there to find. All of the gods but one are already dead, so that final one, Gwyndolin, had better make up for their lack. Considering that he (Gwyndolin seems like an odd name for a dude, but gods work in mysterious ways) is the god of the Dark Sun in a game called Dark Souls in a land where both the god(s) and goddess of sunlight are no longer around, I’m betting he will have an answer for me, even if I have to beat it out of him.
I climb the front steps and take out a pair of giant sentinels. There are a huge set of double doors leading into the central cathedral of the keep, and on my left and right are heavy iron bars blocking passage to either side of the keep’s outer walls. The gate on the left is shut tight, and though there is a small door built into it, that is locked as well. The gate on the right is wide open, so I don’t even bother trying the front doors. Most likely they are locked if there is an alternate path, and even if they aren’t locked I’ll want to explore the side path first.
There are a trio of small flying demons, like the ones that carried me over the walls, only these ones are armed with long, bony spears. They are guarding an otherwise empty ledge.
Their spears do lightning damage, which goes through my shields when I block. Fortunately, like most flying enemies I’ve fought, they are ready and more than willing to jump off ledges into bottomless falls, which makes the fight easier. One of them drops a Demon Spear, which, as the demon’s attacks indicate, does lightning damage. Unlike the lightning spear I found in Sen’s Fortress, the Demon Spear still has stat bonuses, and even better for me the strength and dexterity bonuses are both C, so I’d be getting maximum effect from it even with my heavy investment in strength over dexterity. Unfortunately, it looks really stupid.
From the ledge is an arch forming a ramp down to another, lower ledge.
At the bottom of the ramp are more of the flying demons, and I pick up another Demon Spear. It’s a good thing they’re so eager to jump, because they are annoying to fight: as light and frail as they are, every attack I land knocks them far enough away that my next attack will miss, so I have to chase them down.
I’m making ready to head up the next ramp, which leads back to the keep, when I hear the heavy chinking of a large, metal-tipped missile hitting nearby stone. I look up and see a pair of archers standing on the keep’s walls. They have longbows that look like they’ve been fashioned from small logs, and the arrows they fire are nearly the size of the ones the giant archers were launching down in the Tomb of the Giants. These guys are also wearing heavy silver armour. The Silver Knights whose statues I’ve been seeing everywhere I go; the ones left behind in Anor Londo while the Black Knights left to battle demons and become burnt and Hollowed.
I realize that as heavy as those arrows are, blocking will not be an option when I charge up the narrow ramps. If I am knocked back at all I will fall off and die. To make sure, I step into the open and take an arrow on my Black Knight Shield. It staggers me back a couple of feet. Not good. I then try some of my heavier shields, the ones that have much higher stability. It seems like better stability should reduce my block stagger, but even with the massive tower shields from the heavy knights and Black Iron Tarkus I am knocked back the same distance.
It takes a couple of attempts to get up to the top of the ramp, get close enough to the archer on the right that he’ll draw his sword, and then kill him on the narrow ledge without being knocked off. I switch back to my winged spears so that I don’t have to worry about swinging a heavy weapon into the walls. On my first attempt I go for the archer on the right, and when I get to the top of the ramps I get hit in the back by an arrow from the archer on the left. It knocks me on my face, but at least I’m still on the ledge. I get close enough to the other archer, which is out of sight of the archer on the left, and I get knocked off the ledge and die when he bashes me with his shield. Next, I recover my body and manage to knock the right archer off the ledge. I round the corner and see that there is a doorway of white light ahead, but it’s at the bottom of a drop from the ledge; if I go down there I can’t get back up.
I turn around. There is the other archer to deal with. I could keep going and let him live, but I’d rather not.
I get close to him, making him draw his sword, but the space here is so cramped and he is below me on the ramp so that it’s difficult to hit him. I have to use many flask charges, but he breaks my guard with a shield bash and I die anyway. I also see that behind him is a dead body with a shiny item.
I return and both archers have respawned, which is not ideal. I try to go for the left archer first, but the other one can hit me with arrows while I fight him, and I die again. One final attempt, and I kill the archer on the right, then return and knock the other one off the ledge.
I pick up an Undead Soul. Better than nothing.
I drop down to the white light and walk through.
I’m in a hall. Stairs directly ahead and doors to my left and right. I open the door on the left and find a room with a few tables and a bonfire.
The knight Solaire is also there, sitting cross-legged next to the bonfire. He tells me that I should take advantage of his summoning signs if I need help, that he would be glad for the chance to give it. Since I’ve already summoned him multiple times I guess that he has no real connection to his phantom, so that he does not gain any knowledge or memory of what they see and do. In that case, why would he get any emotional benefit from them helping me unless I told him about it after the fact, and I guess I’m not, since he doesn’t mention that. He then tries some weird flirting, but ends it with the only normal sounding laugh I’ve heard yet, so I don’t really mind.
From here I investigate other rooms inside this wing of the keep. Across from the bonfire I find a Silver Knight guarding a chest, and inside are some Sunlight Medals, like the ones given to me by the golden knight Lautrec. Rereading their descriptions only adds to the confusion about the former god of war: while the ring of the Firstborn says that the god of war was stripped of godhood for losing the annals, the Sunlight Medal says that he was erased from the annals when he was disgraced. That doesn’t seem to make sense, unless he lost the annals only temporarily, and when they were recovered he was expunged from them. Not only that, but the medals say that he still watches over his followers, in which case what did he lose when he stopped being a god? That implies that godhood is merely a title, and that their power wasn’t granted to them through taking on that mantle. Which is unfortunate for me, because it means that if I complete my mission in Anor Londo, which is to succeed Lord Gwyn, I probably won’t be getting any godlike powers as well.
In another room I find nothing but scrolls and boxes full of more scrolls. I don’t see why there would be a room with nothing to see or pick up, and not even an enemy to fight. I notice that the fireplace is empty, unlike the fireplaces in the other room. I walk over and take a shot at it, revealing a fake wall.
I go through, into the darkness, but see that there is a window looking out into the hall, so I would have seen this passage even without noticing the fireplace. It’s not much of a secret.
I walk down some stairs to the dark room below. The room is full of thin columns and has a vaulted ceiling, but otherwise I see nothing.
I walk through the open space carefully, expecting an attack from the darkness. I hear distant, shuffling footsteps, but nothing comes at me. Against the walls I find 5 chests.
I am relatively certain that at least one of them is a mimic, so I slash at each in turn. The pair against the far wall are safe, and the pair in the corner near them are also safe, but the lone chest in the middle of the wall next to that pair hops to its feet and attacks me.
I kill the mimic and pick up an occult club, which is an upgraded version of the normal club I started with. It does occult damage, obviously. I have no idea what occult damage is good for, and the strength bonus on the club has been degraded from an A to a D. Doesn’t seem that useful. In the other chests I find a set of Havel’s armour, which is even heavier than the stone armour I picked up in Darkroot Garden, which makes it highly impractical, and Havel’s greatshield, which is also very heavy, but requires 50 strength, so it’s not an option anyway. There is also a Dragon Tooth, which is the giant club Havel used, and is literally the tooth of a big old dragon. It only requires 40 strength, making it far more practical and something I would definitely like to use. How Havel’s gear ended up sitting in Anor Londo when I killed him half way across Lordran is a bit of a mystery, but I’m not going to complain.
The room across from the scroll room is locked. I climb the central stairwell, kill more of the Silver Knights, and find a pair of chests (mimics!) containing, in turn, a single gold coin and 5 silver coins. Like the bronze coin I already have, I’m not sure what their use is, besides maybe feeding to Frampt.
I open another door and find myself looking down on a small chapel containing a single, large Titanite Demon, but not the way down to it.
The room across from that has walls covered with the stuffed and mounted heads of dragons (drakes?).
I really like this room, and am glad there were at least some other people who hated those horrible beasts nearly as much as I do.
Another locked door, and then I kill another bow-carrying Silver Knight, who drops a dragonslayer arrow, which can only be fired from a dragonslayer bow, which I do not have. Not that I would use it anyway, but it does do a lot of damage, much more than any arrow I’ve seen so far.
On the balcony the archer was guarding I can see Anor Londo stretching out below me, still eerily silent and devoid of even the signs of former life. As I turn back to enter the keep, I see an open window, and through it is the onion knight. His room is locked, so I’ll need to find another way to him.
I find a room that is the strangest yet: it is a comfortably large bedroom with old paintings covering the walls. In truth, I figure them for concept art. There is a painting of Anor Londo, another of Sen’s Fortress, one of a giant sentinel, and two more that are more interesting. One, the largest in the room, is of a woman who I assume to be the same woman depicted in the statue across from Ariamis’s painting. She must be a goddess from her stature; she is large in this painting, even without scale, but she towered over the Silver Knight’s statues as well, and those guys are already taller than normal humans.
There is also a painting of a place that I don’t think I’ve yet seen. It shows an arch bridge running between, or over, a squat stone building and a taller stone tower. Everything shown is dilapidated, and I could vaguely place it as one of the structures I found in Darkroot Garden, except that there are no trees.
At the back of the bedroom is another door, and through it is a Silver Knight and stairs leading up to the roof. Up there is another archer, and, tucked away in a small room, a sword-swinging knight.
They were each guarding stairs back down into the keep. I take the stairs the sword knight had been guarding, as they are roughly placed around where the onion knight should be. Indeed, he is waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs, standing alone in a small room, gazing somehow mournfully out the window even though he is wearing a full suit of armour..
He is once again stuck, and tells me that he needs help getting through the Silver Knights. If I just wait then he will formulate a plan, which apparently involves conjuring half a dozen more fighters. I know already that his real plan is to stand around moping until someone else does the work for him. Maybe if he did more of the actual fighting for himself he’d lose some of the weight he’s carrying and he could get some new armour that didn’t inspire such ridicule. (Alternatively, he’s actually a really skinny man underneath that armour, and the real reason he’s always so slow and out of breath is that it’s too heavy for him to move around in, but he does so anyway because he’s supposed to, as a knight of Catarina.)
I open the door out of the room, momentarily forgetting the dimensions involved, and that it won’t lead me back to the main hall. I thought that the Silver Knights he was complaining about were the ones on the roof (which would mean he climbed in through the window somehow?), but he actually means the next room over is full of enemies. It’s another bedroom, with a different set of paintings (strangely normal looking human men with large ruffs). There are a pair of knights across the room, and another right next to the door. The nearest knight attacks me, and I back through the door so that I do not antagonize the others. For all of the onion knight’s bravado, he again fails to deliver as he just watches me fight the Silver Knight. The room is so small, and my axe’s swing so wide, that I’m worried about hitting the onion knight, and I get cornered, then killed.
I return, pick up my body, and then slaughter all of the Silver Knights and unlock the door back to the hall. The onion knight finally decides to reward me, by giving me a Tiny Being’s Ring, which increases maximum HP by a tiny amount and is pretty much useless. What more could I have expected? The onion knight even complains that I should have waited for his plan, which probably would have meant sitting in the corner until another sucker wandered through and letting them do the dirty work.
I take the other stairs from the roof, and climb down to the chapel, where I do battle with the Titanite Demon. He puts up a decent fight, but I have figured his kind out. I pick up more Demon Titanite.
The next room is the one full of dragon (drake?) heads, and in it I kill more Silver Knights. One of them drops a Silver Knight spear, which has decent stats and even does divine damage, but depends so heavily on dexterity for damage that I no longer feel that I could get much use out of it. Which is unfortunate, because it’s better looking than the Demon Spears I have. In a pair of chests I find a set of Silver Knight armour, which is heaver than the other knight armour I have, but less so than the steel armour, or the plate armour of Iron Tarkus and Havel. I spend a minute trying out different armour combinations, seeing if I can improve my defences any while still keeping my equip load low enough to not really slow me down, but I find no combination better than what I’m already wearing (Gargoyle Helm, Black Iron Armour, Xanthous Gloves, Gold-Hemmed Black Skirt) that will also keep me under 50% weight. It means my poise is relatively low, but I’ve found that often being knocked down by an attack just means that I’m not open to subsequent blows that would do even more damage.
I take all of the Souls I’ve collected back to the bonfire and invest them in another point of strength and a point of endurance.
I’ve gone though every room now, so the only place left to go is up the stairs leading back out of this part of the keep. I climb them, cross briefly through the open air, and then enter the large central cathedral. I can see there are a pair of giant sentinels standing below me, and these ones are different from the ones I’ve fought before. They have huge capes over their shoulders, which I figure must mark them as elites, and stronger than the rest. I scroll through my items to get to my binoculars and notice something else: my Black Eye Orb is no longer greyed out. Only in the cathedral, though; when I go back out the way I came in the orb is greyed out once more.
I decide to clear this place out, then investigate the orb and what caused the change in it.
Across from where I stand is another Silver Knight archer, and I’m not about to go down and fight the giant sentinels with that guy shooting arrows at me. I take some stairs leading up, and at the top of them I find stained glass windows at the front of the keep. One of them is broken, and I can see that they probably lead down to the other side of the gate I couldn’t open when I first approached the keep, however, if I go out that way I’ll have to fall down and will have no way back up. I still don’t know whether the front doors are locked, but I’ll have to assume they are.
I go down some more stairs, kill the archer, and see that on the landing below is a message. I run down to it, and find that it’s actually a summoning sign. A message pops on my screen, telling me that my Black Eye Orb has started quivering, which would be why it’s now usable. Both of the sentinels have seen me as well, and they start coming up the stairs at me. I have no time to stop, so I frantically summon Solaire and hop down to the floor below.
Solaire and I take down the two sentinels, and they are indeed stronger than the others, with larger sweeping halberd attacks, a magical area of effect blast, and the ability to cast healing miracles from behind their shields when at low health. After the fight Solaire is hurt, and, to my consternation, the Black Eye Orb is greyed out again. Could it be that I can’t use it because I have a summon out? I hope so, otherwise I missed my only chance to use it after having lugged it all the way here.
At the end of the cathedral hall is a doorway of white light.
I find a switch in the corner of the room, near the front doors, and pulling it causes them to swing open. The way back in secured, I run back to the broken window and drop down. I find a body on a small ledge and from it I take a dragonslayer bow and more dragonslayer arrows. I drop down again, directly onto the head of another flying demon, who is smashed to a pulp by my descending axe. I clear out the rest of the demons, and find a Titanite chunk on a body . I unlock the gate, then follow the sound of hammering into a small building where I find a giant smith with a curiously tiny hammer.
The smith sells the armour, shield, and weapon that the sentinels use, so I guess that’s what he’s busy doing here with his tiny hammer. He also sells twinkling titanite, which is what I need in order to upgrade most of my gear now. I realize then that the Demon Spears are the only item I have that uses demon titanite for upgrades, which seems strange because I have plenty of that, and before now no way to use it. The giant’s armour is extremely heavy, without even having significantly great defence, and on top of that they all claim to “impede stamina recovery,” which I gather is either a delay in the timing before stamina starts to recover, or just slower stamina recovery. Either way, the defence offered hardly seems to merit such a penalty.
I spend the few Souls I have on my on a pair of twinkling titanite, then try to talk to the giant. For the most part he has nothing much to say, only declaring that he’s glad I’m talking to him (I guess the other giants around here aren’t much for conversation). He also mentions that he is tasked to do work the Duke, but I have no idea who that is.
I decide it would be prudent to rest up before going through the white light in the cathedral. If there was a summoning sign then I can be pretty sure it’s a boss fight. I leave the keep through the front door and run across the bridge, but the elevator back up to the bonfire is blocked by white light that I cannot pass through.
The bonfire under the bridge isn’t blocked off, but it’s unlit and I can’t use it, either.
Seeing no other choice, I go to the white light. Solaire is even more hurt now than he was after we’d taken out the sentinels; apparently he’d rather jump off of high places than take stairs, which bangs him up a fair bit.
We step through the white light. A cutscene plays.
Dragon Slayer Ornstein and Executioner Smough
The knights from the statues I saw when first entering Anor Londo. The fat guy with the hammer and the slender guy with the spear.
Solaire serves his purpose as a distraction, isolating the spear knight while I contend with the hammer knight, but soon I realize that we should be pooling our efforts to take down one of them at a time. It’s too late, and Solaire dies. They are both around half HP, and then I have to back away as they chase me around the room. They work decently as a team, with the hammer knight trying to batter down my guard so that the spear knight can follow up. I keep backing away, keep dodging around pillars, and decide that I can take out the spear knight first, as he usually jumps out ahead, and is also more dangerous, being the one who delivers the damage. I only have 2 flask charges left, so I try to be careful, only waiting for opportunities where they are far enough away from each other than I can attack the spear knight before his partner can reach me. I get the spear knight down to under a quarter of his HP before then finally get me.
I decide that the fight would be easy enough if I had more healing and Solaire was stronger. I use a couple of Humanity to reverse my Hollowing and kindle the bonfire once, bringing me up to 10 flask charges. Solaire is still sitting there, and has nothing to say about the fight we just had. I thought that markers were left by people as they passed through an area, so why is Solaire still sitting here? Shouldn’t be on ahead, past the boss? Unless he somehow came through the front doors before they were shut and then came to this bonfire from the opposite route I’m taking.
I return to the cathedral. Should I use the Black Eye Orb first? No, I need to recover my body from the boss room, so I’ll have to finish what I started. I wonder briefly if summoning Solaire is cheating. I am sure that I could take the bosses on my own, but I’m also sure that it will take a while. Why deny myself the help, really? I summon Solaire again, and we take down the sentinels. I check the Black Eye Orb and see that it’s greyed out, which means that it’s only summoning Solaire that is causing that. Good.
We go through the white light. Solaire, once again weak from the previous fight, doesn’t last very long. I’ve got some flask charges left, though, so I circle the room, waiting for my opportunities. Eventually, I kill the spear knight.
A cutscene plays. The fat knight, Smough, smashes his hammer into the spear knight’s body, absorbing his lightning powers. Why I just stand around while he’s doing this is anyone’s guess.
The fight starts again, and I see that Smough is back at full health. Good thing I didn’t waste much time or effort on him. The problem is that his attacks, now charged with lightning, damage me through my shield, and I am low on healing. He kills me with a leaping butt-slam that sends out shocks of electricity all over the room.
I’ll admit that these two broke me, in a way. I was faced with a few scenarios: I could spend more Humanity to further kindle the bonfire and gain more flask charges, which would probably allow me to force my way through the fight, even without Solaire’s assistance; I could continue to spend Humanity to reverse my Hollowing so that I can summon Solaire; or, I could just do what I should be doing anyway, and upgrade my gear. I mean, I’ll have to do it eventually, or just decide to never do it at all, so why not now?
I fight my way back to the cathedral, then take down the sentinels on my own, carefully dropping off the back of the stairs so that I can fight them one at at time. I have 9000 Souls, which I take to the giant smith. I go over my options: I could spend 5000 Souls to upgrade the Demon Spear once, I could undo the raw upgrade on my spear and spend whatever it takes to upgrade it to +10, hoping that it will be an improvement, I could upgrade the Silver Knight spear, but for what gain? The other option is to upgrade my Black Knight Greateaxe, using the twinkling titanite that I can now buy whenever I need more. The other weapon I want to use, the Dragon Tooth, doesn’t require twinkling titanite to upgrade, so there’s no overlap to worry about. I upgrade it to +4, which greatly boosts my damage, and I feel that now I am ready for the fight.
One of the Silver Knights drops a Silver Knight shield, which is a lot like the Black Knight shield I already have, except it has worse fire resistance, better magic resistance, and slightly better stability, as well as being lighter. I equip it along with my axe.
As much damage as I now do, the fight is pretty easy. This time I kill Smough first, leaving only Ornstein, who absorbs the other into himself and becomes larger and gains new attacks, one of which is a lightning-fused lung that skewers me onto his spear. That’s easily avoided by staying close and moving around, and before long I have cut him down for the last time.
I get a Humanity, a Soul of Ornstein, and a Leo Ring. If I had killed Smough instead then I assume I would have picked up his Soul instead, and I have a feeling that his weapon would be better for the strength build I have now. That’s unfortunate, but since I don’t know how to use the boss Souls anyway, it’s not a big loss. The Leo Ring states that Ornstein was the dragon-slaying captain of Gwyn’s Four Knights, and I see that I’ve collected 3 of their rings now: the Wolf Ring from Artorias, the Hornet Ring from Ciaran, and now the Leo Ring. Wonder where the 4th is.
At the back of the cathedral are spaces for 3 statues, but there are only 2 standing. The middle one, the same guy with the large golden sword, and on his left the woman, but on his right is empty space. Perhaps that statue is Gwyn himself, not his firstborn, and the other space was for the god of war before he was disgraced. In that case, what about Gwyn’s other son, or is he somehow a black sheep as well, for being the Dark Sun.
On either side of the statues are corkscrew elevators that would carry me up further into the keep, but I’m exhausted. I have 74000 Souls, and I am once again low on healing, so I leave the keep and cross the bridge to the gateway bonfire, where I check in to see if the Firekeeper has anything new to say (she does not), and then rest, ending the day.