Dark Souls Diaries – Day 20

There are things we tell ourselves when we have decided to do what we know in our hearts will leave us as a stain on history’s great ledger.

“You can have an impact, or you can make a difference. They are not the same thing.”

Perhaps becoming a Darkwraith really was a part of my destiny. I have to believe that the truth is more important than the ideal. I have to believe that the truths I’ve been presented are at least true enough to be worth fighting for.

In the end, this will work out. I came to Lordran to find answers, unrefined, unvarnished. Unbelievable? No: if the truth had been easy, then it wouldn’t have been so hard to find.

I never had a desire for power. I never allowed myself the delusion of absolute victory, the kind that leads to a happy ending. There was a point where I realized that Lordran would probably be my final destination, that what I did here would live on not as a legend, but as a legacy. I do what I do, not because it makes me feel better, not because it lives up to some ideal, and certainly not because I am the hero. I do what I do because nobody else can.

It’s time for me to exercise some actual agency, to prove that I am more than a tool. What happens now is my decision, and my decision alone.

Whether I can break the curse of the Darksign or not, I can at least remove some of the shackles that bind my brethren.

Firelink Shrine

As expected, as soon as Kingseeker Frampt catches sight of me, he proclaims that I am not the real Chosen Undead, and he disappears back down his hole, likely to never be seen again by me.

frampt leaves

Before heading out again, I figure I should finish working out the boss Souls. It’s a convoluted process upgrading the weapons to +10, as only the blacksmith in Undead Parish can upgrade a weapon from +5 to +6, but I have to go to the giant smith in Anor Londo to buy the needed titanite. Any smith can upgrade from +6-10, and I get the reason why, since +5 is where upgrades branch off (raw, fire, magic, divine), and again at +10 (lightning, +15), but it makes things clunky, as I have to shuttle back and forth between the two smiths to buy the titanite and upgrade the weapons.

I blow through the majority of my collected Undead Souls. As upgrading is quite expensive, I decide to filter my selections based on what I would actually like to have. The first weapons I get to +10 are a Balder Shield and a greataxe. The axe can be combined with the Iron Golem Core to make a Golem Axe, which seems thoroughly mediocre aside from the neat little wind projectile it can fire off. The Balder Shield can be made into both the Greatshield of Artorias (Soul of Sif) and a Crystal Ring Shield (Soul of Moonlight Butterfly). As the Balder Shield is a normal shield, and those upgrades are to a greatshield and a small shield, I guess that the actually categories required for using the boss Souls is looser than I initially expected. That is, I may not need to upgrade a longsword and a greatsword to +10 to get access to multiple types of sword weapons, which will save on Souls.

So I upgrade a spear, a greataxe, a longsword, a Balder Shield, and a halberd to +10. I leave out bows, daggers, rapiers, and curved swords as I have no intention or interest in actually using them.

I turn the halberd into a Lifehunt Scythe using the Soul of Priscilla. Heavy bleed damage, and good dexterity gain, but it seems to have short reach for a polearm, and I’m locked into more of a strength build anyway.

The Soul of Sif can be combined with the longsword to make a Greatsword of Artorias, which has restrictively high intelligence and faith requirements, but good stat gains across the board. I imagine it is a strong weapon, just not for me. Instead, I make the Greatshield of Artorias, which, although heavy, has excellent defence.

I use my spear to make a Dragonslayer Spear with Ornstein’s Soul. It looks like a thoroughly decent weapon, and even has a neat attack that shoots lightning bolts, but, again, it’s a dexterity and intelligence weapon. If I had ended up building my stats differently, I could totally see myself using it.

I’m left with an unused Moonlight Butterfly Soul and Soul of Quelaag. Quelaag was actually holding a sword when I killed her, so I figure that her Soul is probably meant to make one, just not one that I would use. That’s not a loss, unless maybe it’s an ultra greatsword? I’m running low on Souls now, so testing that will have to come later.

In the smith’s upgrade menu I saw options for using the Soul of Gwyn, Soul of Artorias, and the Soul of Gwyndolin. I expected Gwyn to be the last boss already, and Artorias is part of the DLC, but Gwyndolin I have somehow missed. He’s supposed to be in Anor Londo, and I have to assume that he is there, somewhere.

For a lark, I try duel wielding Dark Hands. As a shield, it leaves much to be desired, with very low stability. As a weapon it has low range and no stat bonuses. The grab attack doesn’t seem to work on the flying demons near the giant smith. Because they’re too big, or because they have no Humanity to steal?

I must have spent over 200k Souls and all I end up with is a new shield. Them’s the breaks.

Anor Londo

But what a difference the shield makes. It uses up a lot of my weight budget, so I’m back to using my club and winged spear, but its stability and defensive strength means attacks that once crippled my stamina reserves now glance off without even phasing me. I mean, besides just having more stability, it seems that the actual size of the shield contributes to extra deflection of sorts, as attacks that used to be blocked without being stopped are now knocked away harmlessly, giving me more opportunities to attack. I could see how a heavy shield and a good spear would be an extremely effective combo, as I would have plenty of stamina in reserve at all times and many opportunities to counter-attack, and I would be able to attack at will without having to worry about running out of stamina for blocking.

I return to Gwynevere.

gwynevere 1

She is joyous about me having placed the Lordvessel in the Firelink Alter. She seems to have no idea that I did so with the intention of destroying her father. Are these really the gods that we choose to worship?

I warp to the Darkmoon Tomb from the bonfire menu. It was the only spot that I was unsure about, but it turns out to be the place where I found the Ring of the Sun’s Firstborn, the bonfire bellow the steps leading into the cathedral.

There is nothing here, so why the warp point? There is already the gateway bonfire just above, and the bonfire in the cathedral near Gwynevere’s lair. Why have another so close between them, and not one at the bonfire in the keep’s east wing, where I met Solaire? What that tells me is that there is no real reason to return to that other bonfire, as it was only the entrance to the cathedral before I had opened the front gate, but that there is a reason to return to the Darkmoon Tomb.

As well, I know that Gwyndolin–who is alive, and has to be in Anor Londo somewhere–is known as the Dark Sun, and also the Darkmoon deity. I’ve been over this room already, though; there is no false wall to break down, and nothing to interact with.

After standing for a while and thinking for a while, I decide that direct actions aren’t the only means of progress. There are items to consider as well. I needed keys to open locks, I needed the Lordvessel to open gateways, and I needed the Covenant of Astoria ring to find the Abyss. What if there is another item needed to find Gwyndolin? After all, the Darkmoon may not wish to be discovered so easily.

The only issue with this logic is that the Ring of Artorias had no obvious effect except for allowing me to fall into the Abyss, while every other ring I’ve found actually does something. However, it’s not like I have anything to lose by trying, and Gwyndolin wouldn’t be much of a secret if the item required to find him was so obvious.

I start with the ring closest ring.I found the Ring of the Sun’s Firstborn in this very place, so maybe it’s the key? I put it on. Nothing happens. I wait a bit, but still nothing. Next, I try the ring that Gwyndevere gave me, the Ring of the Sun Princess. Maybe applicants seeking an audience with Gwyndolin have to be vetted first? No result.

Then, I put on the Darkmoon Seance Ring that I found in the Catacombs. Immediately, the space where Gwyn’s statue had been standing dissolves into a new passage.

darkmoon tomb 1

I take the ring off, but the statue does not return. I think I have found the way. The only thing I’m left wondering is how many other such secrets have I been missing?

I step into the passage and walk down some stairs. At the bottom I can see a neat carpet and 4 candles forming a square, and beyond them a doorway of white light.

As I approach, a voice rings out. “Halt!” it commands. This is the tomb of Great Lord Gwyn (I thought he was buried down below Firelink Shrine? Am I being played again?). The voice is nearly androgynous and identifies itself as belonging to Gwyndolin. It tells me to not tarnish the Great Lord’s Tomb with my pathetic human footsteps, but to instead bow my head and accept the yoke of the Darkmoon Covenant.

darkmoon tomb 2

I kneel between the candles, and he asks me to join with him, to become the shadow of his father and sister. Seems he gets to do their dirty work, and he would forge me into a blade to be used against the Great Lord’s enemies.

There is one major problem with that: I am the Great Lord’s enemies. I am everyone who has ever had the courage to stand against him, and I am the will that will break him.

I refuse to join a covenant lead by one of his insufferable whelps.

He demands that I leave.

darkmoon tomb 3

I do not leave. Instead, I step through the white light.

Dark Sun Gwyndolin

A cutscene plays. Gwyndolin chastises me for daring to go against his commands, for desecrating the tomb of his father. He appears before me in a long hallway, and begins attacking.

gwyndolin 1

He fires off large balls of magical energy that pierce my shield and knock me back, or many small magical projectiles that spread out and then home in on me. I move forward in the hall, trying to use the cover of the pillars on either side to avoid the magical attacks. As soon as I get close, he teleports away, further down the hall, and keeps attacking. I need to be faster if I want to get close. He starts firing streams of arrows that ping off my shield as I charge down the hall at him, then fires off dozens of magical projectiles. I duck behind a pillar to take cover and heal, but one of the big magical balls hits like a cannon shell, going right through the pillar and killing me.

I respawn at Firelink Shrine, and I’ve had enough. I was willing to hear these gods out, but that have had nothing to say that wasn’t a command or a mystery, and they get pissy whenever I exercise self determinism. I have no place in my life for this type of elitist posturing, and I am making an executive decision as the supposed Chosen Undead: the gods of Lordran are finished.

I warp to the Princess’s Chamber bonfire. I step through the door. I pull out my throwing knives, and I put one right through her heart.

gwynevere 3

The illusion is broken: as I suspected, Gywnevere was never in Lordran. She shatters after a single blow, and I gain no Souls.

A voice booms out. Gwyndolin again. He tells me that I have tarnished the Godmother’s image, and that I will perish in the twilight of Anor Londo.

The sun is extinguished, and the building goes dark.

twilight anor londo 1

As I leave the room, I reflect on exactly what I’m up against. Gwyndolin is more twisted than I thought, and seems to be obsessive about his father and sister (they never mention their mother, or their banished brother). But, really, as the Gwynevere I saw was nothing more than a projection of his imagination, he couldn’t have had her wearing something a little more modest? Yeah, there are issues within this family. Luckily for Gwyndolin, he won’t have to live with his dark thoughts for very much longer.

The bonfire here is still active, and I could probably use it to warp directly back to the Darkmoon Tomb, but I’d like to see what Anor Londo’s night life is like.

I take an elevator down to the boss room, and then walk over to where the elite Sentinels had been. Everything is dark here, but I can see that the Sentinels are gone. Instead, there are a pair of distinctly human-sized guards waiting for me.

twilight guards 1

I approach the knights, who charge me as soon as I get close. One is wearing the heavy steel armour of the Knights of Berenike, and fights with a greatsword and tower shield, while the other wears the armour of a Balder Knight and fights with a thrusting sword

twilight guards 2

The fight is an easy one. With the strength of my new shield I am in no danger from direct assaults, and the only real damage I take is when I stupidly attack the Balder Knight when he is circling with his shield up, obviously waiting for a chance to parry and counter-attack. Their thrusts and swings bounce harmlessly away, and I stab them until they stop moving. I get 5000 Souls for each of them.

Through the front doors of the cathedral. All of Anor Londo is dark, and all of the Sentinels are gone, and so are the flying demons. Good thing I got plenty of demon spears while they were still around.

twilight anor londo 2

I make sure the giant blacksmith is still around, and he is. I’d hate to have lost his services.

At the bottom of the cathedral’s stairs, before the central bridge tower, is another, lone, guard.

twilight guards 3

As I get closer, I can see that it’s the gateway Fire Keeper, still in her bronze armour. She chastises me for daring to draw a blade against a god, and then casts a spell that causes her sword to glow with dark (moon?) power.

twilight guards 4

She is so slow that I almost feel sorry for her. Almost, because I lose all sympathy when she parries one of my attacks and kills me in one hit.

“What you saw under the light of the darkmoon will haunt you forever.” Is this the first NPC to acknowledge that I can come back from the dead, or is she just trying to be poetic?

I respawn at the gateway bonfire, even though the one I last rested at was in the Princess’s Chamber. Initially I wonder if this is a safeguard for players who kill Gwynevere before getting the power to warp away, as spawning them at the gateway bonfire would prevent getting stuck if they couldn’t beat the knights or the Fire Keeper. Then I remember that Gwynevere gives the player the Lordvessel immediately, and I assume that if they kill her without talking she would drop it. So, really, spawning so far away is just an annoyance.

I reverse my Hollowing, and then decide that a Fire Keeper is a prime target for my Lifedrain powers. After all, they are supposed to be full up with Humanity. I grab her and wrestle her to the ground, but not only do I acquire no Humanity, but I don’t even do any damage.

dark hand

I revert to conventional tactics. I can see how she is meant to fight. She spends most of her time slowly circling, waiting for an attack to parry. I back away and use the range of my spear, so that even if she parries I am too far away for the counter-attack, but when I gain some distance she quickly runs closer. So I take to just kicking her guard down and stabbing her once, while it’s still safe, until she finally dies.

With her dying breath she announces that I am a threat to her precious Master Gwyndolin. She doesn’t know that half of it. I pick up a Fire Keeper Soul.

I use the central tower, lowing it so that I can access Darkmoon Tomb again. I rest at the bonfire there.

I walk down the stairs and step through the white light again.

Another cutscene plays, and this time Gywndolin whines about me offending the Godmother (she’s not even real!) and trampling through the tomb of the Great Lord. He also bitches at me for being a heretic, and ends off with, “Let your punishment commenceth.” “Commenceth?” I was going to kill him anyway, but now I’m going to enjoy it.

gwyndolin 2

Instead of cowering behind pillars, I take a more offensive approach, running zigzags down the hall to avoid his attacks, and rolling when I can’t dodge around them. I get close enough to land a couple of good smacks before he can teleport away, and I think I’m doing well, but he suddenly ups his game, and lets out dozens of magic missiles in a row, followed by the big cannon shots. I roll, and avoid most of them, but I eventually take the missiles off my shield at a bad angle (he’s too far away most of the time to lock onto, so it’s not always so easy to keep aligned), and they blow me to pieces.

I respawn at the gateway bonfire again, and this is now a problem. Because the Fire Keeper is a broken, bloody mess of crude bronze and pompous subservience, I am no longer able to use this bonfire, which means that I can’t warp back to the Darkmoon Tomb. Making matters worse, I had to move the bridge down to get to the Tomb, so I can’t actually get back to the central tower without going through the building with the Painted World, which would mean fighting the painting guardians (they are still around, I checked before I entered the Darkmoon Tomb) and climbing across the rafters. Well, there’s no way I’m doing that before another boss fight. Does Gywndolin think this is his ultimate defence? To make fighting him so annoying that people won’t even bother? That’s not going to work on me.

I run up the stairs to the flying demons, who carry me back to Sen’s Fortress. I then drop down to the bonfire there and use it to warp back to Darkmoon Tomb. I put on the highest magic resistance armour I have (which happens to be the Painting Guardian’s set), and then, thinking that I probably want some poise as well, I wear Havel’s Armor and the Wolf Ring. For an added dose of justice, I pull out the Dragon Tooth club (which also has extra magic resistance), and, to keep my weight low enough that I can still run and catch Gwyndolin, I switch out the Artorias Shield for the Crest Shield I found in Undead Asylum.

So equipped, I am able to consistently run him down. The closer I get, the more I notice that Gwyndolin is not just the runt of the family, being small enough that he could probably fit in his sister’s cleavage (which makes his illusion of her even more suspect); he also has tentacles where his legs should be, and probably an equally distorted body under the heavy robes he’s wearing.

gwyndolin 3

I roll through the large magic balls, and dodge around the streams of arrows and homing magic missiles, and I finally catch the little bastard and use my dragon weapon, which was taken from the mouth of one of the great beasts by his father and his father’s allies, to crush his skull.

He dies in a burst of pale light.

gwyndolin 4

I gain the Soul of Gwyndolin and 40k Souls.

Without Gwyndolin’s magic to maintain the illusion, the hallway collapses into itself, becoming short enough that I can make it though to the end.

darkmoon tomb 4

I find a large, empty space. Ahead is a raised platform. A stage? I approach. In some chests I find a set of brass armour that had been worn by the Fire Keeper and a Sunlight Blade spell, which was apparently left by the God of War at his father’s coffin before he left.

Then I see the single chair, and the flowers.

tomb flowers

The raised platform is not a stage, it is a coffin. The description in the Sunlight Blade spell calls it just that: a coffin, not a grave, or a tomb. Perhaps Kaathe didn’t lie to me, and what I’ve found is only the place that Lord Gwyn was intended to be buried. If he left Anor Londo and never made it back, then his mopey son would have turned it into an honorary mourning site. Which means that he was taking offence that I stepped into a sacred tomb that wasn’t even in use.

I decide that Darkmoon Tomb is appropriately named: it is not the grave of Gwyn, Lord of Cinder. It is the grave of his family’s power, and of his son’s sanity.

Firelink Shrine

In many ways, dark Anor Londo is more convenient than daytime Anor Londo. For one thing, there are no enemies to deal with, so getting to the giant smith is hassle free. On the other hand, not being able to use the gateway bonfire is a bit of a pain. I leave Darkmoon Tomb and turn the central tower so that the bridge from the gateway bonfire to the cathedral is back in place. I’ll have to come back here eventually, if only to get to the Seath the Scaleless, and I don’t think I’ll be revisiting the Darkmoon Tomb again now that Gwyndolin is dead. Now if I warp to the gateway bonfire I’ll be able to cross to the smith and the Princess’s Chamber bonfire without having to go through the painting building again.

I warp to the Abyss and talk to Kaathe, who has nothing to say about my actions in Anor Londo. I’m on my own with that. All he’s talking about is how “they failed him,” which I take to mean the Four Kings and the Darkwraiths.

I then warp to Firelink Shrine, where I talk to Anastacia, the Fire Keeper. She whimpers and tells me that she’s glad I’m going to link the Fire, which will reverse the curse of the Undead and allow her to die as a human.

fire keeper 1

For some reason, nobody ever told me that, at least not in any direct way. Gwynevere only mentioned in passing that taking on the Great Lord’s mantle would avert further Undead sacrifices, which is not exactly saying that it will end the curse of the Darksign. I guess I kind of figured that would also happen, but it would have gone a long way if they had just told me that doing so would break the curse. That’s more important to me than “linking the Fire” and taking Gwyn’s place, which only seems to be needed in order to extend the god’s reign over men. Come to think of it, Kaathe didn’t say anything about the Undead curse, either, only about men taking control of the world.

I can only hope that if I become the Dark Lord I’ll have the power required to do something about the curse.

Seemingly as her reward for my progress, the Fire Keeper has stoked the bonfire’s flames, and I now get 20 flask charges for resting at Firelink, even though I didn’t kindle it myself.

I take the Souls I won from Gwyndolin and buy twinkling titanite, which I use to upgrade my Gargoyle Helm to +4. I think I’m well past the point in the game where I should be thinking about finalizing my equipment choices. Though the Gargoyle Helm is hardly the best available for defence or poise, it’s relatively light, and I like the way it looks. In the end, personal preference trumps raw stats, at least until I hit a real wall. Each upgrade gives a bit of improvement to its defence stats, but I see that going all the way to +5 is a substantial bump up. Hopefully, I can get there soon.

I change around my equipment so that I can use the Dragon Tooth and Greatshield of Artorias while still keeping below 50% weight load. I up the nearby stairs to test my gear out on the Hollowed there. While fighting them, I notice something–really, someone–new. There is a guy sitting cross-legged under the aqueduct leading into Undead Burg. When did he show up?

firelink merchant 1

I jump over and talk to him. He wears some odd-looking armour and calls himself Domhnall of Zina. He speaks with a strange accent, but is not hostile. He tells me he trades oddities, and I see that he sells the Master Key, a few crystal weapons, and sets of armour from bosses I have defeated, as well as his own gear. There is Iron Golem armour, Ornstein’s armour, and even Gwyndolin’s robes. (Which inform me that he was raised as a daughter because of his moon power, which seems vaguely sexist, but considering that the other option was probably for him to be raised as a squid-person, maybe it was enlightened.) Everything he sells is too expensive for my tastes, and probably nothing I would use anyway. I leave him alone.

firelink merchant 2

Next, I run down to New Londo and talk to Ingward to see if he will give me a reward for taking down the Four Kings. He does not, but instead leaves and begins to hang out in Firelink Shrine, where he complains about the sun. He has nothing more to say, and nothing new to sell, which is disappointing.

ingward 2

Blighttown

I go through New Londo, to Valley of Drakes, where I see there is a new body on a nearby ledge, one that wasn’t here last time I came through.

valley of drakes body

I walk over and loot it, picking up a set of Witch’s gear and Beatrice’s Catalyst. Someone else who tried to brave the Abyss, but did not survive. Is this connected to the Four Kings fight? Must be, since the last time I came through here the Four Kings were still alive. If there had been a summoning sign there, I missed it.

While trekking through the poisoned swamp underneath Blighttown, I run into the onion knight, who is standing with his arms crossed and his hips slowly gyrating.

onion knight 1

I talk to him, and find that he’s fallen asleep. After he wakes up and takes a moment to compose himself, he explains that–surprise, surprise!–he has a dilemma. Seems he is out of purple moss, which is needed to cure the poisoned status caused by walking through the swamp. I give him some of mine, and he rewards me with a Pierce Shield, which is a small shield with a spike in the middle. It has good fire resistance, but seems to be intended for offensive use. Not really something I’m interested in. Still, his rewards are getting better, and I now look forward to the next time I can bail him out of a jam.

As he leaves, he laughs and tells me that our fates must be intertwined by the will of Lord Gwyn. Am I meant to believe that Gwyn is influencing my life from beyond the grave, or is the onion knight also displaced in time, displaced from a time when Gwyn was still an influential power. I wonder what he’d think about me if he knew what my mission was.

The onion knight’s position in the swamp is curious to me. Instead of being near Quelaag’s Domain and the entrance to the Demon Ruins, he is standing underneath Blighttown, in the direction of that singular giant, hollow tree that dominates the other half of the swamp. While I’m nearby, I decide to check it out again. Something about that tree never sat right. That is was so prominent a landmark, but contained only a dead body with a crude wooden shield was one thing, but there is also this sound I heard while standing in there. The expansive, echoing din of eternity, like hearing the ocean in a seashell. There are even a gang of giant leeches guarding the root that leads up into the tree, and why have them there if it’s unimportant? At the time, I was in a hurry to just leave Blighttown for good, but now, after the last couple of secret paths I’ve run into, I’m gripped by a need to take a second look.

I enter the tree. It is still empty except for the body.

hollow tree 1

I hear the sound. There has to be more here than I’m seeing. I stab at the walls, and sure enough, one of them breaks down, revealing a treasure chest.

hollow tree 2

Inside the chest are Twin Humanities. Is that it? No: I stab at the walls again, and find another illusion behind the chest, which shows me a passage leading further, leading underground.

hollow tree 3

The Great Hollow

There is a ladder. I slide down, and continue through the passage. After a few steps I gain 400 Souls. Something just died, but I have no idea what, or where. I turn a corner in the passage and find a bonfire, which I light.

hollow bonfire

Past the bonfire is, as the area’s description says, a great hollow. The insides of a giant tree, which must be long dead. It is filled with gnarled old roots and branches that serve as crude ramps and bridges. The only way through is down, and that is going to come with the risk of falling to my death over and over again.

I consider warping away from this bonfire to see whether or not it is a warp point itself, but think better of it for the moment. I have to assume that most bonfires are not candidates for warp points (I already know that most of the ones I’ve found aren’t), because if they were, then it would eliminate the need to kindle them. If I could always warp back to a bonfire that gives me maximum flask charges I would never need to kindle the ones that gave me less. It would also take away any feeling of isolation while exploring.

I descend through the tree.

great hollow 1

There are no enemies in sight, though I suppose that the most likely way to kill a player here is to appeal to their greedy: I can see loot bodies resting enticingly on lower branches, as if asking for me to drop down onto them, risking my life in the process.

I move through brittle branches that snap as I shove past. I can see one of those bodies below.

hollow body 1

I think I can get it by dropping down onto a lower branch near the outer wall. I fall, hit the intended branch, slide off, and keep falling until I die. A perfect start.

Lesson learned, I retrieve my body, and then decide to look for another path to the body, one where I am not required to fall from a great height without knowing what I’m going to land on. Soon, I do, and I pick up a titanite chunk.

I can hear a croaking sound nearby, and I soon find the source: some of those bug-eyed toad monsters that spew cursed breath.

hollow toad 1

I jump from branch to branch, and find another body with a red titanite chunk, and from there I drop down onto the curse toads, and though there are more of them than I saw, I avoid becoming cursed and kill them all. I find a body with an Undead Soul.

I turn around and see that there is a body in the central column running through the tree.

hollow body 2

I climb back up, and using a couple of prism stones, I find a way to drop down to the body, and I pick up a Cloranthy Ring, which is supposed to speed up stamina regeneration. From there, I return to the bonfire at the top of the tree and reverse my Hollowing.

On my way back down, I hear a distinct tingling sound, and for a brief moment I see one of those crystal lizard things, before it disappears. I go back to the bonfire, hoping to reset its spawn, but on the way down it’s no longer where I saw it. I hear the tingling sound, and further down I see that it’s across a gap in the area where I killed the cursing toads, but I can’t get across before it disappears.

crystal lizard 1

That will have to wait till I find the way across.

I keep dropping down. How much further to the bottom?

great hollow 2

There is one more body that I have trouble getting to.

hollow body 3

It’s on a branch that seems impossible to drop down to, and, though I can survive the fall, and kill the toad monsters waiting for me at the bottom (thankfully, they are more interested in trying to curse me than in trying to kill me, so that I have low HP makes little difference). I find more bodies: another Proud Warrior’s Soul, a blue titanite chunk, a red titanite chunk, which seems to account for every body in this area. I find an alternate path that I can drop down to, which I think may lead down to the crystal lizard, but it’s a dead-end.

hollow dead end 1

There is another tunnel, and it does take me to where the crystal lizard had been, but the lizard is no longer around. Fine: the last couple of them that I killed only dropped twinkling titanite, and I can get that whenever I want now. I decide to keep moving.

There is a ladder in the place where I fought the curse toads after falling down, and I take this to be a half-way point.

hollow ladder 1

While fighting the toads, I become impatient, and think that I would kill them faster if I used 2-handed attacks. Almost instantly, I am cursed, and I die. Seems that my shield had some sort of effect against the cursing gas, or aggressively walking through it accelerates the effect.

I respawn at the top bonfire with my HP cut in half. I guess this is the effect of a real curse. I decide to just warp back to Firelink Shrine to speak to Ingward. It’s only then that I truly realize that I can’t warp back. To make matters worse, I speak to Ingward to have him remove the curse, but he wants to charge me Humanity to do so. So instead, I run up to the Undead merchant hanging out in the sewers in the aqueduct below Undead Burg, and use some of the Undead Souls I’ve found to buy a Purging Stone, which removes the curse. I also see Anastacia and use the Fire Keeper Soul I picked up in Anor Londo to upgrade my flask to +4.

I run back down to the Great Hollow, and pick up a white titanite chunk on another branch. I look down and see, what, fungus? I put on the Cursebite Ring I found in New Londo. You don’t have to tell me twice.

great hollow 3

I find my body, still crystallized in place where I had been cursed. I break it apart.

cursed body

I drop down to more bodies. A titanite chunk, and another blue titanite chunk. Finally, I think I have found and looted all of the bodies in the area.

I make it down to the fungus, and I can hear the pitter-patter of little feet. The mushrooms are coming at me.

shrooms 1

This time, even the little ones attack me, swinging their small fists around with adorable enthusiasm. I get to business, and pulp them with my Dragon Tooth. There is that same distinct bird call every time one of them dies. I still have no idea what its significance might be, and, unlike in the Darkroot Garden, there are no birds around that could be making those sounds.

The big ones I have no interest in trading hits with: they do a lot of damage. I use my spear to poke holes in their massive, spongy bodies, until they’re all dead.

At the bottom of the tree I find a doorway of white light.

hollow white light

I go through the light.

Ash Lake

A land of huge, petrified trees, and steaming, murky water. I recognize this place: it’s what I saw when I was at the bottom of the Grave of the Giants.

ash lake 1

I walk through a log the size of a building, down to beaches of white silica sand. I find a bonfire.

ash lake bonfire

Ash Lake seems to be what remains of the most primordial part of Lordran. This is where the Everlasting Dragons made their homes, and from where the giants, gods, and humans climbed out of the darkness and into the sun. These archtrees seem to run all through Lordran, and everywhere I go I find their roots and branches. I wonder how much of this world is just layers: every time I take a trip underground I find a new area, bigger than the last. The size of Ash Lake, the way it stretches from horizon to horizon, I imagine it could fit most of the land above and have room to spare. Would it be possible to go even lower, to the ancestral caves where people lived before discovering fire?

I crest a sand dune and see a familiar sight: there is another giant hydra hanging out in the water here.

ash lake hydra

I run down the beach at it, and it swims through the water at me. We meet on the shore, where the hydra begins to smash its many heads into the ground around me. My shield is strong, though, and there is little danger. I stab away at the heads that are close, eventually cutting a few off. Surprisingly, the hydra dies before losing all of its heads. I get 10k Souls and 2 dragon scales, and there’s another dragon scale on a nearby body.

In a giant log on the beach I find yet another dragon scale. Did people come down here to collect them? Perhaps they thought to discover some secret in them, like the reason for the dragon’s immortality.

ash lake log

Nearby is a giant, walking clam.

ash lake clam 1

It tries to butt at me with its spiny shell, or snap at me with its powerful jaws. I clobber it, and then see that, instead of collecting stones for pearls, its shell is full of human-sized skulls. It’s a sinister sight.

ash lake clam 2

There is a giant skull on the beach. It has fangs, and diminutive horns. It doesn’t look like a dragon’s skull, and not even the gods and giants I’ve seen are big enough to account for it. Whatever this thing was, it could have wrestled dragon, King of the Monsters style. Visions of King Kong body slamming Godzilla.

ash lake skull

Is anything that big still alive? How could it be?

I find a body floating face down in the water. Two more dragon scales.

water body

There is another hollowed-out tree stump ahead. Inside are more of the cursing toads, and a couple of giant mushrooms.

ash lake stump 1

I kill everything inside, and then circle around the outside and find a way to drop down to a body holding holding the Great Magic Barrier spell. A miracle used by Havel the Rock himself, which probably provides a strong defensive buff, but it requires 24 faith to cast, so it’s not for me.

I continue on, toward the next clump of archtrees.

ash lake 2

There is a clam here that has managed to dig itself a little hiding hole, but didn’t account for its own mobility, and is not trapped inside the sandy crater. When it dies, I find a twinkling titanite.

stuck clam

I run along winding sandbars, black water on either side. Soon, I realize that I am not approaching another stump, but I’m getting close to a thicket of the tangled trees.

ash lake forest

There is a big . . . thing in the forest. At first I think it might be a hanging bat, but it’s not actually hanging from anything.

ash lake dragon

I can see there is a bonfire right in front of it, and I realize this must be one of the Everlasting Dragons. It’s much smaller than I expected. With a bonfire so close, and with no space for it to move, I think that it can’t be a boss, which is disappointing, unless it takes off and ends up behind me, on the beach, preventing my escape, but that would be a little too much of a dick move.

As I get closer, the dragon lets out its wings. It sure is ugly looking, and a little beat-up, having lost a horn somewhere along the way.

elder dragon 1

I approach. The only option is to pray to the Everlasting Dragon. All I can do is enter a covenant with it, and there is no way I’ll be doing that.

I rest at the bonfire, then circle around the dragon. It looks to be resting on some sort of nest, and I can’t reach it with my attacks from the front. However, I find its long, furry tail outside the nest.

dragon tail

I attack it, which causes it to break off and gives me the Dragon Greatsword, but I do no damage to the dragon itself, and it doesn’t react. Even when I find a way to hit its body, and can see a lifebar depleting, I have no effect. I guess this immortality business is no joke. Too bad, because I would love to be the one who killed the last Everlasting Dragon, and I would love just as much to be the one who destroyed whatever eggs it’s trying to incubate.

That gets me thinking. There are plenty of descendents from the Everlasting Dragons running around in the world above. How did they get there? I don’t see these solemn dragons invading the world above (even if they could find a way to get up there). More likely, it was because of idiots stealing their eggs and trying to raise them in Lordran, or elsewhere, probably in the hopes of using them as weapons. If they escaped (and they surely would) into the wild, their progeny would have devolved into drakes and whatever other monsters I’ve run into, or will run into. Even after the Age of Fire began, people would still crave more power.

The Dragon Greatsword is pretty much the heaviest weapon I have found, next to the Dragon Greataxe, and, like most of the other dragon weapons, it has no stat bonuses to raise its damage. However, I have plenty of dragon scales now, and its raw damage actually seems to be comparable to the output of the Dragon Tooth, even considering that club’s poor stat gain. The only problem is that the Dragon Greataxe requires 50 strength to use.

dragon sword

Holding it, though, I think I have found the weapon I have been looking for. It will take a bit more work to get the 10 more strength I need, but I guess stopping at level 85 is as good a place as any. Doing the rest of what needs to be done, taking down Gwyn himself, while holding an artifact of the dragons, just feels appropriate.

I am now prepared to take my first real step toward filling the Lordvessel with the other Lord’s Souls. Only when I am standing over Gwyn’s corpse will I be able to close my eyes without seeing his terrible image as a waking nightmare. Only then will I be free. But that’s for tomorrow.

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One thought on “Dark Souls Diaries – Day 20

  1. Awesome job finding ashen lake solo. I’ll be honest, I completely missed it on my play through and only found out about it after the fact. Can’t wait until you start fighting the lords.

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