Time to decide what I’m going to do with my branch of Yore. Right now I have two bodies in need for some severe moisturizer, and each is distinct. There is the man blocking the way up in the hall outside of No Man’s Wharf, and the woman stuck pulling the switch in those ruins near Majula.
Each choice has its own merits. The hall near No Man’s Wharf is the only part of that area and the Tower of Flame that I haven’t explored, and it would be nice to check it off my mental to-do list. I suspect that it’s only a diversion, a small path with some extra loot, but I’m still curious, especially about what that big thing I saw might be.
The ruins in Majula are bound to be more expansive. For one, there’s a guy sitting there waiting for me to open them up. There are also the ghouls, which are a unique enemy type that I haven’t run into elsewhere. More relevant is that the statue there is a woman, while the other statue is exactly like the frozen Hollowed I freed in Things Betwixt. The woman, at least as far as I’ve travelled, is unique. Considering everything else in that area, chances are pretty good that she’s an NPC, someone with the potential to help me out.
My decision comes down not to measuring unknowns, as it often does, but instead to my whims. Besides the whole NPC thing, there is also that the ruins in Majula are in the exact opposite direction of the coast. Looking up the centre of town I can see a distant tower and other shapes, lines that suggest man-made structures. If I go that way I may finally get away from the water.
So that’s where I head first.
Now to deal with the ghouls. After my experience here, which involved getting gang mauled, I am certain that they’re going to ambush me again, and soon. Either when I free the woman–but only if she’s not an NPC–or when I try to pull the switch for myself.
Which means thinning the herd is a must. I open the cells on the bottom floor and stab each ghoul through the back. That’s about all I can manage right now, since the other cells are too high to reach from here. That’s 2 out of 6. I should be able to take 4 of them, if I have the space.
I use the branch of Yore on the statue.
Flesh turns to stone, and a woman falls to the ground, shaken and disorientated. After scrambling around a bit, she climbs to her feet. The ghouls are still in their cells. She’s standing now, next to the wall. Looks safe enough, so I talk to her.
After a prolonged coughing fit, she manages to thank me for saving her, and after a bit more coughing she tells me that her name is Rosabeth. She is dressed in a tattered, dirty dress with lacy mesh and jewellery that was probably supposed to compliment the splashes of colour that appear under the grime. With some more coaxing, I learn that she’s a pyromancer. I thought there was something about her. She tells me that, being a pyromancer, she can give me a reward for rescuing her, and then hands over a prism stone. What that has to do with pyromancy is a mystery to me, but I accept the gift. It’s about that time that she realizes she’s dressed in rags, and she asks me the favour of donating her some clothes. I say donate rather than lend, because it looks like I wouldn’t get them back.
The next time I talk to her a menu appears.
I look over what she has for sale, and figure I’m on the right track with freeing her. Considering the last area I completed netted me a pyromancy flame, it’s a good sign that I’ve now found someone to sell me a few basic spells and also upgrade the flame. She has rings of various elemental resistances, some items that also temporarily boost resistances, and fire seeds. It looks like fire seeds are now required for upgrading the pyromancy flame, another nerf to that type of magic. The rings she has are from a prestigious magic school. Seems fire magic is a recognized and accepted form of magic these days.
Now that she has recovered, she tells me her tale. After her master, a great magician called Carhillion of the Fold, left for Drangleic, Rosabeth decided to follow him. She travelled through the mountains but lost him once they’d arrived. Which cements pyromancy’s legitimacy, and also continues the thread from No Man’s Wharf, because I’m pretty sure Carhillion is the guy I found squatting on the docks.
Now it’s time to give her something to wear. Assuming that she’ll keep it, I’ll hand over something I don’t need. Though she claims she doesn’t care what I give her, what are the chances that donating clothes she really likes might net me an extra prize? Not that I have anything like that. My collection of armour and clothing contains nothing that is either pretty or significant to a magic user, let alone a pyromancer. Still, I should give her something. Not that I’m interested in princess dress-up, but I’m not going to be a jerk. I hand her a full set of Vangian armour, which is essentially a pirate costume. A warning appears letting me know that whatever I give her will be lost forever, but I’m fine with that.
As I leave, she thanks me again, and says that once she has changed she’ll head over to Majula to look for her teacher. I guess I can’t drop a hint about where he is.
The next step would be pulling that switch, and this time I’m certain those ghouls will pop out. I’d rather take that fight without worrying about civilian casualties, so I’m going to give her time to get clear. On my way back to Majula, I chat with the sitting warrior.
He tells me his name is Benhart, thanks me for clearing the path, says he will repay the favour in battle. He teaches me the joy gesture.
Which reminds me that I found Lucatiel, the woman wearing the mask, while going through No Man’s Wharf. I’d assumed she was going to be an NPC summon as well, but when I went after the Flexile Sentry I didn’t see a summoning sign, both when I was human and when I was Hollowed. Not that I looked very hard, but in the context of everything else that has changed about Hollowed and being human in Dark Souls 2, why shouldn’t summons work in a way I’ve yet to understand? It could also be that Lucatiel isn’t available for that boss, but then why put her in that area?
I warp to No Man’s Wharf and run to the docks. I find Carhillion still sitting in the same spot, and any news I might give about rescuing his long lost apprentice doesn’t register at all. He’s still not going to talk to me unless I gain a few IQ points and present him with a Mensa card.
Rosabeth is waiting near the bottom of the stone monument in Majula. She has put the pirate costume on.
She’s happy enough to see me, and when I talk to her this time all traces of her traumatic experience are gone. She starts giggling about her trek across the mountains and all the near death experiences it involved. I think I understand more why Carhillion isn’t particularly eager to have Rosabeth tagging along. He seems the type to value silence.
Back to the ruins. Benhart is gone as well, so the battlefield is completely clear. I walk over and pull the switch.
I expected using the switch to alert the ghouls, and it does. What I didn’t expect was for opening this door to cause the door back to Majula to close, locking me in with the ghouls. I had planned to charge back out there and fight them at the doorway.
Now I have a basilisk coming out behind me, and ghouls swarming at me from every direction. I shouldn’t have to tell you that it doesn’t go well, but I will anyway.
It doesn’t go well.
I circle the room a bit, looking for a split, hoping to at least keep them from getting behind me. I realize, too late, that I should have stayed by the switch and gone through that door when it opened. It might have served just as well, and a basilisk isn’t much to worry about by itself. I do get a few good stabs in, lining up the ghouls so that I can hit a bunch of them with my spear. It’s not enough, and without much stamina to fall back on, I am cornered and pounced upon. My shield holds up for a little bit, and their first attack doesn’t kill me outright. It does leave me poisoned, though, and I die before I get a chance to heal.
I try a more direct approach. After killing the two on the ground floor, I pull the switch and then position myself to land a backstab attack against the nearest of the ghouls as they drop down. I get it, and kill him, but before I’ve even fully recovered from the animation his buddies are all over me, and I’m poisoned again, then dead.
What if I cleared all the cells first? I throw a knife at the explosive barrels, but they only fall apart in a wet burst of oil. Looks like I’d need a spark to ignite them again, and I’m out of firebombs. It’s the hard way or no way at all, and I’m not about to give up.
I pull the switch, then run around the small room while the front door closes and the back door opens. When I’m able to, I slip past the basilisk, putting me in a smaller circular room with a set of stairs. I get lucky. The ghouls are leashed somewhat to the first room, and up the stairs I am relatively safe from them surrounding me.
Action games promote an idealized state of organized chaos. They give players the tools they need to wade into any situation and come out on the other side. Dodges, blocks, special moves and grabs with lots of invulnerability frames. With adequate reflexes and mechanical knowledge, it’s possible to get through most anything.
Dark Souls shares more in common with the old beat ’em ups than it does Devil May Cry or Ninja Gaiden, at least in the spirit of its encounters. The tools the player has are less reactive and reliable, and it’s not only possible, but probable, that enemies will overwhelm the player if they pick a bad fight. For the most part, in open areas, it’s easy enough to pull enemies in low numbers. A major issue with Dark Souls 1 was that most enemies could be pulled individually, which hurt many efforts to design enemy encounters. The DLC improved this, and Dark Souls 2 furthers the effort. Which I expected. Even then, I have to keep reminding myself that seeing one guy doesn’t mean he’ll fight me alone.
So I appreciate this scenario. Upon entering this arena, there is no way out. I can’t avoid fighting the ghouls as a group, but I can do things to mitigate their advantage. Besides grinding and gearing up. In Dark Souls half or more of the skill of a given fight is how well the player prepares for it, and the position they choose to take the fight from.
On my own, in the cramped space of the other room, it would take me far too long, and require more than a little luck, to take on 4 ghouls and a basilisk with what I have. Once I’ve moved into this room and taken up the high ground, the fight is no problem. The range of the spear allows me to stand at a safe distance and jab the ghouls in their ugly faces. Soon, they are all laying on the ground, along with the bug-eyed basilisk. No problem at all.
There is a switch on this side of the door. I could get back if it closed. That’s not what concerns me, though. The problem is that the door back to Majula is still shut tight, and there’s no switch over there. I’m stuck in here.
The stairs lead back outside, and there are 4 more cells in this room. I can hear the acid buzz of another ghoul’s poison totem.
The room to the left of the stairs has a bonfire. That kind of defeats the purpose of trapping me here, since I can warp back whenever, but I’m not about to complain after good fortune.
I rest there and learn that I’m about to enter the Shaded Woods, which comes after even Hunstman’s Copse in the area list. Ominous.
After killing the basilisk again, I check out the other cells. The one to the right of the stairs has a chest with a flask shard. A good find. From the top of the stairs I’m able to jump a small gap to the cell on the right, which holds another ghoul. The cell on the left, above the bonfire, has a strange looking guy, thickset, with a giant, squashed nose. He’s wearing a heavy metal half-helm along with faded green and red clothes, and attacks me with what is essentially a flail built from an anvil chained to an old table leg.
After killing him I find a body with a Proud Knight’s Soul and an effigy.
With the building cleared out, I’m ready to continue.
A fog hangs over the trees. The late summer weather of the previous area has given way to the dull, haggard look of cold autumn. A layer of rotting leaves covers the ground. I walk forward far enough to find a bend in the path, which reveals rows of ugly little branches standing stiff and naked in the chill air.
Soon after entering the area, I come across my first enemy. A ghoul, back to me, is bent over a loot corpse and loudly munching on the old flesh.
As I close on him, another ghouls charges at me carrying one of their skull totems. I kill it, then stab the first ghoul through the chest and loot the corpse. I pick up a lowly Faded Soul, which goes to show that I’m not much better than the ghouls when it comes to feeding off the dead.
Around another corner and I’ve found a small clearing in the ruins. A totem ghoul stands guard over another that is tossing big rocks at me. A second totem ghoul drops down from my left. I kill it. Up past him, high on a cliff underneath the massive bridge that runs through the forest toward the distant tower, is a loot corpse. Guess I’ll be climbing up there soon enough.
I kill the rock throwing ghoul, but not before taking basketball-sized chunk of stone in the face. I smash the other with my club. I’m not sure how long this will take, and it would be prudent to ration my spear’s durability, as it’s the more important weapon for tactical fights.
Before passing under the bridge, I circle back to see what the ghoul that dropped down was guarding. I find a body holding a Pharros lockstone. Will there be another device in this area? Will I finally be able to confirm one of my theories about what they are for?
Under the bridge, at the top of a small rise in the ground, is a large pack of ghouls feasting on a couple of dead bodies in amongst some old ruins. It was bound to happen, that I’d run into a big group of them, but at least this time I can see it coming and know the lay of the land. It will be work, but I can manage this.
With everything in its place, I take them down without suffering any damage. I sneak up to the first set of ghouls and stab one in the back, taking him out of the fight. I use my stamina judiciously, stabbing twice at the other ghouls as they rise, then rolling away before they can turn to attack me. I repeat this a couple of times, waiting for the ghouls to swarm in close, stabbing at them until my stamina is low, then rolling away as they swing clumsy arms. I even take the last one down with my club. Not because I’m feeling the bloodlust. It’s for efficiency, I swear.
From the corpses I take an effigy and a Proud Knight’s Soul. Proud in life, maybe, but not a dignified death.
The remnants of a statue litter the ruins. It’s hard to make out the whole from the bits left over. What I think are flowers cover its base, and my first thought is that its a carving of a plant. Then I see the head. I’ll soon find out that decapitation is a bit of a theme for this area.
From here I get a better view of the huge tower at the other end of the bridge.
Soon I’m in an old shrine that has been losing a battle against time and the forest. A couple more statues flank a bonfire. One of the statues is intact, and shows a woman clutching what I think is a plant bulb to her chest. It’s a strange thing to see, because this is the woods outside a major settlement, and not something on the outskirts of a farming community.
The bonfire tells me I’m at the ruined fork road, and after climbing the curved stairs I find out why. The path splits into 3 here.
To the left, in the direction of the bridge, is a knight dressed in red armour with a distinctive plume in his helmet. He’s patrolling the immediate area, and nearby I spy another, stationary knight that is likely armed with a ranged weapon to provide backup.
The middle path points in the general direction of the tower. There is something small and glowing there, as if on fire.
To the right is a forest of tall, slim trees that is completely, uh, shrouded in a thick fog.
Which way to go? As usual, curiosity wins out, and I decide to go right, into the foggy forest. It’s the only direction that didn’t show me what I’d be up against, or where I’d be going to.
I’m not more than half a dozen paces into the forest when the fog closes in for real, preventing me from seeing much further than arm’s length. I catch a glimpse of a figure moving around somewhere ahead, and I can hear heavy moans coming from every direction. I spin around and find that I can’t even see back to the bonfire area. I quickly run back, making sure that I’m not somehow locked in an enchanted forest maze, which is an RPG staple. Going in still means losing all sight of what’s around me, and it will be easy to get lost. I think about it for a few seconds. I only have about 4,000 Souls on me, and I’m Hollowed, so it’s not as if I’ve got anything to lose. Plus, you know, curious.
I walk straight, in the direction of the ghostly figure I’d seen. I’m moving toward a tree that is larger than the rest, and I’m able to make out the faint outline of whatever it is moving around there. It’s humanoid and walking. A ghost?
Whatever it is, it’s not friendly. I take a hit, then raise my shield and retreat. Does this count as a hidden enemy? Except, I can kind of see it, and it’s attacking me. I move closer again, and take a couple of hits without being able to block, though it’s difficult to centre my shield when I can’t lock on. That’s one half of the problem, and the other is whether I’m able to hit back. When I think I’ve got the ghostly attacker lined up, I stab out with my spear. A health bar appears. I have done damage. That’s good enough for me.
I put on the Ring of Whispers. It doesn’t help with seeing the ghosts, and doesn’t even give off the warning groan when they’re near. So much for that.
Sometimes trail and error necessary. Well, maybe not necessary, but unavoidable, which is slightly different. I could force my way through these woods. I could probably just run through them and get past any of the ghosts. But I don’t want to do that. I want to know what’s going on. I want to figure out whatever there is to figure out. So I throw lives away. The bonfire is right there, so it’s almost as if the game is inviting me to do that.
I die a few times working out the positions of the first couple of ghosts. I die again while discovering that they come in two types. The first ones I encounter are rogues, and their outlines suggest they are armed with crossbows and possibly daggers. The other type is bulkier, and carries a big 2-handed sword. I get a nasty surprise when I first find one of them, as it takes big chunks out of my health bar and I die almost before I have a chance to react.
The first trick is to keep the camera pointed at the ground, where it’s slightly easier to make out the outlines of the ghosts against the brown leaves, rather than the white-on-white of ghosts against the fog.
I find a body slumped against a small tree and pick up an Undead Soul and a Radiant Lifegem.
At around this point I’m starting to make progress. I walk with my shield up, and before long I’ve taken down two or three of the ghosts. Using the first big tree as a way point, I strike out in different directions. I pass other big trees, and at one point my curse bar begins to fill and I see an ugly looking clay pot next to a tree. Which is when I get an invasion message.
I turn and run back toward the bonfire. At the very least, I can test a hypothesis. Though I’m surrounded by the thick fog, my sense of direction doesn’t let me down. I make it back to the bonfire and find the an impenetrable wall of dark energy blocking the way through. My idea about burning effigies to banish invaders has taken a hit, though it’s possible that it only applies to online invaders. Either way, I’m trapped in the woods with whatever is coming after me.
Forlorn jogs out of the haze with a huge sword resting casually on his shoulder. I defend, cautious because of my low health. My shield is strong enough to block all physical damage, and Forlorn doesn’t have any magic in his pocket. I eventually get myself a backstab, but while I’m recovering stamina I take a hit. I wait for him to commit to another attack before pulling out my flask, but he rolls forward while I’m raising it to my lips and cuts me down.
Forlorn doesn’t return on my next life. Is he gone for good? I’m a little disappointed, but remember that the last invader I killed didn’t drop anything special, so I’m probably not missing out on something unique.
I go back into the woods. I manage to backstab one of the rogue ghosts, then another. I find a body with a couple of Lloyd’s talismans. I’m making good progress, so I pop an effigy to get my maximum health back up.
It makes no sense now to keep going down the middle. Even with the big trees as landmarks, my progress is random and I risk losing my body after every death. From the bonfire I move along the right edge of the wood, in the direction of the ghost knight that had killed me earlier. I take it down after a tough fight, during which I realize that they are getting through my shield by guard breaking me, which is a bit of an issue when I can’t see that coming. There’s another of the big trees here, and as I pass it I notice that it has a face.
I get close enough to find that I can’t interact with the tree. So I smack it with my club.
The tree lets out a deep, pained groan.
Which explains what I’ve been hearing in the forest. It’s not some hidden monster, which I’ve been expecting to have jump out of me at any moment. It’s the trees themselves that are making the noise.
Though the big tree protests when I hit it, there is no health bar, no indication that I’m doing damage. I fight my way to another of the big trees and see it has a face as well, and responds to attacks in the same way.
As much as it might contribute to flavour and mood, the idea of Chekhov’s Gun is part of video games as well, and applies most often to mechanics, systems, and level design. These trees are here for a reason, and if I can’t talk to them or chop them down, there will be some other purpose they serve. So, what’s next after trying my words and my weapons? Fire, of course.
I run back to the bonfire and light my torch. I carry it back to the first of the big trees.
Still no interaction possible, and hitting the tree with the torch doesn’t do anything. Oh well. It had been a faint hope that doing something to the trees would dispel the heavy fog, but that’s not happening.
And what of the invader? I’ve been in here for a while now. Does it have something to do with my health? I’d died a few times before he showed up, so maybe Forlorn only jumps in to punish Hollowed.
I’m still not sure what’s up with those trees, and though I am sure that they’re important for something, I’m concentrating on getting a better feel for the woods. To that end, I start walking along the left edge of the area. I find a path leading up and away, and a body holding an effigy and an Undead Soul. The fog isn’t as thick here, and nearby are some ruins. The circular walls have long since fallen down, leaving only an outline of old, grey stone. There is a pile of debris at one end, and when I get close I find that I can talk to it. I find a purple helmet with a beastly design resting on top of the debris, and apparently there’s a head inside. At first I think a man is trapped under the rubble, but soon I realize that it is, in fact, just a head.
He calls himself Vengarl, and tells me his story. Once he was a mercenary hired to defend this kingdom. After a long and brutal battle he was killed, or something like that. All he knows is that he was knocked down, and then woke up like this, as a head on top of a pile of old bones and broken stone. As far as he’s concerned, it’s an improvement. The fighting was wearing him down, and he needed a break. Now he gets to look at the stars instead of blood and corpses. I look up and see only the white fog, so I don’t know what stars he’s been gazing at, but he is just a head, so it would be rude to press that point. He warns me that his body is still out there, somewhere, carrying his sword, and that I should be careful. My first thought is of Forlorn, but I think that guy had a head.
A menu opens. I’m not even surprised that he’s selling items. I mean, I just encountered a woman who had been turned to stone, and one of the first things she did after I freed her was start selling me things. The spirit of capitalism is alive and well in Drangleic. Vengarl has a few basic swords of the big 2-handed variety. He also has lightning urns and gold pine resin from Melfia. Is that where he’s from? He sells a magic barrier spell, which is from Mirrah, which further confuses the issue. It’s nothing I need or want, so I keep the conversation going. He tells me that he’s actually from a place called Forrosa, which was conquered long ago. After he lost his homeland he became a mercenary. He wonders idly what has happened to Drangleic and King Vendrick. Exactly how long has he been here, as a head?
After I listen to everything he has to say, Vengarl rewards me by giving over his helm. It’s actually pretty good, having higher defence than everything else I own, and is lighter than the old knight helms, though it has a little less poise. In the future I might wear it. I wonder if, when I do find his body, I’ll be able to get the rest of his gear.
Behind one of the walls I find a body holding a fire seed. After that, I leave Vengarl’s little sanctuary and return to the forest below.
I keep going left. I kill ghosts, find more big trees. There’s a body with an Undead Soul. One of the big trees doesn’t seem to have a face, though it still groans. Maybe the face is higher up? When I crane my head to see, I notice there is a big, long branch jutting out from the top of the tree. The other big tree nearby has one of the big branches, and they’re both pointing in the same direction. A navigational aid?
A bit further along the left edge of the woods and the fog is thinning out again. I hear rushing water, and take a path away from the trees. From here, with less in the way, I can see that the big branches sticking out of the moaning trees don’t connect, but only point. Maybe they all point north, away from the bonfire? I think I’d be able to find my way back with that, though it would still be easier to stick to the outer edge.
I keep walking the new path. Soon I’ve found some stone stairs carved into a cliff path. I climb out of the fog. A river is running below me, and nearby is an orange thing hanging from a wall. A butterfly? In the distance are trees that seem to glow.
I’ve found the moss-crusted remnants of a man-made outpost. Stone walls and stubby towers. Is this part of the arching bridge? I duck through an opening in the stone wall to my right and find I’m in a long, covered bridge spanning the river. A translucent white figure rests against a nearby rock, and the legs of a loot corpse hang over the edge of the roof. Behind me is a ramp leading up to the roof, and underneath it is a log bridge crossing to a wide cliff path on the other side of the river.
I use the ramp to get to the roof, giving me a better view of the area. I loot the corpse and see clearly that the thing on the wall is an orange butterfly or moth. It doesn’t seem to notice me, though.
Nearby is a chest, and another of the ghostly figures. Loot corpses and suspicious looking jars. I’m pretty sure these ghosts are the same as the ones I’ve been fighting in the woods.
I drop down on the nearest of the ghost rogues. It hops up and starts to fight. Even here, without the heavy fog, I cannot target him. But I can see him clearly, and that’s enough to trivialize the fight. A backstab, then a couple more jabs as he tries to stand and it’s over.
Underneath the stone ramp is a bonfire. I activate it and rest.
On the other side of the log bridge is a statue of a petrified something. I can’t get onto the log from here, so I decide to jump from the ramp. Of course, that means after I land I roll over and fall into the river, which kills me. It was a stupid thing to do.
My Humanity lost, I’ve also discarded my inhibitions. I make the jump by not being so stupid and leaping from the roof, where the angle is better. The statue is definitely not human, but also not blocking my way, unless there’s a secret door there. It has claws and a head that suggests a thick mane, or maybe its wearing a sack. Hard to tell.
I walk the path until I get close to the weird looking jar. Just like the one I’d seen in the woods, it starts to curse me. I break it, and the cursing stops. I can hear laughter, an insane tittering somewhere in the distance. It is not pleasant.
There’s a hole in the wall here, and through it I can see the inside of a cave. There is a man sitting alone in a wheelchair, which is odd even for Drangleic.
He’s sitting near a flat, stone disk and a bunch of long, thin pillars. An elevator? A teleportation device? I can’t get through here, and the angle of the log bridge gives the impression I’m going through this backwards. Still, I’m able to loot a corpse, picking up some firebombs and an Undead Soul. There is a ramp leading down to a dead drop, which stands out. It’s not there by mistake, but I can’t see what it’s for yet.
Should I keep going, or return to the woods? That there is a bonfire here suggests that it’s the next area, and I know I’ve missed stuff in the woods. I also want to figure out what’s up with those big trees. However, there’s a chest right here. I should at least pick that up.
At the far end of the covered bridge the floor breaks apart. A small room underneath has a chest with 10 magic bolts, ammo for a weapon I don’t even have. Moving through this section I’m nearly cursed. I look up and see an evil vase above me.
A break in the wall gives me access to solid ground, and I climb up and around to the chest, though I have to jump for it and roll right through the curse jar. I open the chest and pick up a titanite chunk and a petrified dragon bone.
I’m unable to resist a bit more exploration. I break more curse jars, kill more ghostly knights and rogues. Everything is going well until I approach a set of curse jars sitting in the middle of a dry, dusty area.
I roll at the curse jars and fall into a trap. Or through a trap. My shoulder hits the ground and then keeps going, as I’ve broken through some old, rotten planks of wood. I keep falling and land in a narrow cave. There are basilisks in every direction, and a door nearby with something shuffling and whimpering on the other side. None of that is particularly relevant to me, since I don’t even survive hitting the bottom.
Now I’m intrigued. I return and pick up my body outside the hole, then loot a corpse nearby. It has a Lifegem. Standing near it, I can see into the cave below.
Besides the basilisks, the cave is dotted with pools of a sickly yellow liquid. I know there are a bunch of those bug-eyed bastards waiting down there, but that door is keeping my attention.
I look around a bit more. I find a small maze of low walls and kill a basilisk in there. A statue blocks the way into a room filled with curse vases. How many more branches of Yore am I going to need to get through this place?
I wander some more. Behind the big hole is a field of knee-length grass. There is another trap door in there, but this time I avoid it.
Near that are a pair of short towers flanking a tall stone arch. The dirt path continues on the other side, leading up and away. I check inside the towers, and after climbing some spiral stairs I find a body holding an Undead Soul and skeptic’s spice. The spice allows learning a miracle for 1 less than its required faith. I’m dubious about how useful this would be to anyone who wasn’t planning their build out ahead of time, especially at this point in the game where an extra point of faith is as near as killing a few more ghosts.
At the top of the new path is a broad keep. Tempting, but I’m stacking up the unfinished business now.
I put on the Silvercat ring and drop into the big hole. All the basilisks jump me at once, but I run past them until I’ve corralled them all into a single group. I fight them in the narrow tunnel, but this involves stepping occasionally into the yellow puddles. I get glimpses of bones, and its soon clear that the puddles are some sort of acid.
Though I kill the basilisks while only taking a single hit, by the end of the fight all of my armour is broken. As the last basilisk goes down I notice that its breath isn’t building up my curse bar, but instead is building up petrification. Looks like there are different types of basilisks to watch out for.
And it’s done.
In an alcove nearby is a body holding a twinkling titanite.
Now to check out the door.
It’s made of wood, and even cracked in places, but thick bands hold it together well enough to keep me from knocking it down. Which is a problem, because it’s also locked. I can still hear the soft sounds of whatever is on the other side, and through the cracks I catch glimpses of movement. Bigger movement than I expected. Whatever it is, I’m no longer sure it’s human, or a prisoner in need of rescuing. And still the sound of distant laughing.
I can’t do anything else here, so I look for the way out.
Down the corridor and I’m underneath the man in the wheelchair. I take a quick look through my inventory and confirm that while the acid trashed all my armour, my weapons and rings are fine.
I can’t get up there, so I exit through the hole in the wall I’d seen earlier and cross the log bridge back to the bonfire. I warp to Majula and repair my gear at the blacksmith. I don’t have the titanite required to upgrade anything now, but I do chat up the Emerald Herald and get her to give me another flask charge in exchange for the Estus shard I’d found. I warp back to that same bonfire and return to the fog shrouded forest.
Keeping to the left, I eventually run into a ridge with a chest on top of it.
Which is about the time I’m jumped by a pair of ghost knights. In the scuffle, one of them swings, misses me, and hits a nearby tree. It’s one of the big trees, with the faces. It moans. Instead of turning back to continue the fight, the ghost swings at the tree again, giving me a chance to get close and finish it off. Interesting.
I follow the ridge till I find the way up. From the chest I pick up a Cloranthy Ring +1. It’s a little heavier than the one I’ve got on, and has less durability, but I’m sure the trade-off is worth it. Putting it on, I learn that I can only have one of them equipped at a time, which makes sense.
Past the ridge and I’ve found the back of the area. It ends in a steep drop into nothingness.
Which means I’ve defined 3 sides, and know how large this place probably is. Which isn’t that big at all. Now it’s a matter of clearing it out and picking up any other loot.
After my next encounter, I’ve figured it out. The big trees with the faces are like beacons. I move from one to the next and smack them. Each time they moan the nearest ghost comes running and attacks it. Usually this means I get a backstab and a free kill, sometimes I only get a bunch of damage. Either way, it makes the fights simpler. If I lose sight of them I can even hit the tree again. It’s still a little dangerous. If I haven’t spotted all the ghosts before I hit the tree I’m liable to get stabbed in the back myself once I turn away from them, which is instant death.
I run along each edge of the woods, clearing out ghosts. In a chest near the back I find an Old Sun Ring, which accumulates power every time the wearer takes damage, then releases it as an explosion. It’s not as neat as it seems. The damage needed to activate the explosion is more than my total health, and the explosion itself isn’t worth the trouble. It doesn’t even look cool.
Another chest has a Blue Clearstone Ring +1, which shortens cast times. At around this point the ghosts I kill begin to drop the occasional awestone. After I’ve run from the bonfire to the back of the woods and then around again, I start to zigzag through the area, moving from big tree to big tree. I keep doing that, back and forth, until I can run through the entire forest unmolested. During this entire time the invader is nowhere to be seen.
I rest at the bonfire at the fork in the road. Before continuing in the direction I’d taken, I feel I should check the others out. The main reason I went that way was to check out the foggy woods, and I’ve conquered that area now.
First I take the middle path, the one in the direction of the big tower.
I get close enough to the little creatures there that I see they are like the rat things I killed in Things Betwixt, only with a flame aura. Like those rats, they also take off running when I get close, darting around a bend in the road. An obvious trap, but what else can I do but walk into it?
I turn the corner and find myself face-to-foot with another big hippo-clops. It’s already stomping in my direction.
It takes more attempts that I’d like to admit, or that it should have, really, since I know how to fight them, but I get it down after leading it back to the bonfire and fighting it at the doorway. As usual, my accumulated power has gone to my head, and I forget that extra defence is usually meaningless, as is my poise. If I get hit, I’m dead, whether I’m wearing rags or my heaviest armour.
With it gone, I find out what it was guarding. And it’s not much. A shallow pond of muddy water, a single, pathetic-looking tree, and a body.
The body holds a Red Tearstone Ring. More damage when I’m at low health. Good for players that know what to expect, a lot less good for someone like me.
I follow a path running along the edge of the pond. After a couple more corners I find myself outside a familiar looking black and gold door guarded by an equally familiar looking knight knight.
The knight is a pushover, like the rest. He tries to pull out some magic right before he dies, but my club puts a stop to that. Like the door in the Forest of Fallen Giants, I’m not getting through here without a special item. Seems these are the real roadblocks keeping me out of the second half of the game. I’m glad they’ve been put up front like this, so I’m less likely to waste an entire day slogging through some area I can’t complete.
Next is the left path. As soon as I leave the bonfire area the red knight charges me, and, as I expected, another behind it starts firing arrows.
These guys fight with odd golden shields in one hand, and curved swords in the other. It’s stupid and showy, and their attacks come with flourishes that make them easy to defend against and punish. Each falls to my club. The archer drops Falconer’s gloves, marking them as Volgen mercenaries, like the armourer back in Majula. I hope the ones I’m fighting now are the useless cowards and not the cream of the crop, because that would be sad.
I pass underneath the bridge. Or maybe it’s an aqueduct? Can’t tell from down here. Another Volgen knight blocks my path, and another Volgen knight dies. Around the back of a stone pillar I find a pair of them, an archer and his swordsman guard. I’ve used an effigy to get my health up, but it hardly matters. They are in no position to put up a real fight.
After killing them, I find a body hanging over a cliff. I look down and see ghouls. This is the body I’d seen earlier, when I first entered the Shrouded Woods.
The road continues underneath the bridge, and I follow it till I come to a stone arch being guarded by a ghost rogue. As I approach, a totem ghoul charges down from my left. I kill it.
The ghost is next. It was guarding a body amongst the rubble, and from it I take a Falconer’s shield and a Dragonslayer’s Crescent Axe. The shield is the fancy golden one these knights use, and is as impractical as their weapons, with mediocre resistances and bad stability. The Axe is different, though. It is strong, and does some lightning damage. It once belonged to Shieldless Lothian, so finding it on a body with a shield is odd, though it’s a pretty bad shield and I would understand why someone would choose to go without if that was all they had. Chances are this body isn’t Lothian’s anyway, because the name is familiar to me. Shieldless Lothian is the same guy who owned the Giant’s Ring I bought in No Man’s Wharf. His gear must have scattered to the wind after he died, perhaps fighting that dragon he went after.
I take the path the ghoul had been standing on. It’s even narrower and more winding than the road I’d been on, and at the other end I find a small building that reminds me of the entrance to a crypt.
Shrine of Winter
Not much to say about this place. It’s blocked up like the black and gold doors, telling me that I need to seek mightier Souls before I can proceed. I walk back to the forked road bonfire and then warp to the one past the foggy woods.
There isn’t much left to do in this area, and I’m pretty sure I’m meant to take the path leading up to the next building. I look around for loot I may have missed. In a low building full of curse jars are some stairs leading to a basement. In the basement is a ghost rogue and some huge wooden barrels blocking the way to another curse jar. Fighting in this cramped space means I get cursed, losing my humanity, then get cursed again and again. At first I don’t mind. I’m already Hollowed, so what else can a curse do?
Turns out, it can do a lot. Every time the curse bar fills my maximum health drops as if I’d died. By the time I’ve cleared the basement out I’ve lost a third of my health bar. Lesson learned.
A body down there holds an Undead Soul and a Pharros lockstone. That’s 2 I’ve found so far, and still no device in sight.
Behind the perpetual giggling in the background, I hear the sound of something moving nearby. Something big. There is a door leading out of the basement to a sandy pit. I walk out and see a big man-scorpion standing in the sand below.
I still have some mild PTSD from the man-scorpions in Shadow over Mystara. Those things cost me more quarters than anything else in the game when I was younger. Seeing one here, just waiting down there, is more than a little disconcerting.
I can also hear the tingling sound of a crystal lizard somewhere nearby. I check out the broken foundation walls, and see it scuttling toward a corner.
It disappears before I can land a solid hit. I quit to the main menu and reload. It doesn’t come back. So much for that trick. Around a corner is a chest holding a dark scythe. It does some darkness damage, naturally. I manage to vault the low step near where the crystal lizard got away, and from there I can get to the stairs leading down to the man-scorpion’s sand pit. I walk all the way around the ledge, till I’m standing above it. I could jump down from here with a plunging attack and get the drop on the bastard.
But I don’t. If I was meant to fight this guy I think he’d be a boss, and I didn’t pass through a fog gate to get here. Also, from this distance and angle it looks like he’s not Hollowed. More importantly, he’s not a valid target for my camera lock.
So I walk around, down the stairs, and stand in front of him. He doesn’t attack me. If anything, he looks too tired to make a move against me. The scorpion half of his body is slumped to the side, and his human posture is bent over and slack. He wears light pieces of scale-like armour, and I get the impression that his was not a natural birth.
I try talking to him. He doesn’t react.
Do I need something else to understand him? A ring? I try the Ring of Whispers. It has to be useful eventually.
And it works on the first try. It’s about time.
After some talk about how some lonely being created him in a genetic experiment, and how his creator has long since gone mad and left, he tells me his name is Tark. According to Tark he and his betrothed are the only experiments left who can speak to humans, even though he clearly couldn’t speak to me without magical assistance. He pontificates a bit about his nature, the nature of the being who created him, and then surprises me by asking for a favour. He wants me to kill his betrothed, who has gone crazy and become violent. If I do, he will help me.
A path leads out of the pit, but another of the strange statues blocks it.
Are these creatures also the creations of Tark’s former master? I suppose that’s a moot point until I can return them to flesh.
I leave the pit. I’ll have to get the crystal lizard on my return trip, after I’ve taken care of Tark’s fiancée.
Outside the building I kill another ghost knight and find a body holding a torch and a flame butterfly. Nearby is a monster statue blocking access to a chest. I’ve lost count of the branches I’ll need to clear this place out.
The final part of the ruins I’ve yet to explore is blocked off by a bunch of giant wooden barrels.
I roll through the leftmost barrels. The sound of movement, and I turn to see new enemy coming toward me. I say new, but that’s not quite true. It’s a big human body holding an axe and shield, and where a human head should be is a squashed animal face framed by a mane of thick, dark hair pulled back into a crude ponytail. This is one of the things that I’ve been seeing in statue form all over this place.
I let it hack at my shield for a bit. The axe causes some curse build-up, but not enough to be dangerous while I block. He fights simply and savagely, with big, single swings of the axe. It’s deceptively simple, and my expectations that he’ll do something else lead me into a stupid position. He hits me once, and I die. After respawning and retrieving my body, I draw him out and fight him properly, using the range of my spear to poke him over and over while he’s unable to reach me. When he falls over, dead, his shield goes flying, spinning high into the air before arcing away into the distance. I’m not generally a fan of rag doll physics, but it does have its moments.
Past the barrels is the remnants of another old stone building. At the top of some stairs I loot a body with yet one more Pharros lockstone. This is getting weird. In the next room is a pair of the beastmen. One is in statue form, and the other is a dull golden colour.
Whoever it was that created these monsters seems like a big asshole. Scorpion men and lion men, and probably the curse jars as well. Hell, the trees are likely a part of it. After all, they have faces and are alive. Those ghosts. Could they be part of the invaders, and not the defenders? That would explain their hostility toward the trees. These sorts of questions can be frustrating, as answers will take time, if I find them at all. I push them aside and move on. There is one more of the beastmen nearby, this one a dark colour like the first.
When he dies I set my sights on that other hole I’d opened up in the ground, the one in the grass. It should fall into the cave like the big one, but a different part of it. Looking down I catch a glimpse of something metallic. It’s a chest. My mental map tells me that I’m standing roughly in the raised area with the stone platform and the man in the wheelchair. I put on the Silvercat ring. To be safe, and because I have a bunch of the things, I drop a prism stone down the hole. It lands and nothing else happens. Does that mean it’s safe, or do the prism stones not work like that anymore? I’m close to the bonfire, so recovering my body wouldn’t be a problem. I may as well.
I land in the cave exactly where I thought I would.
Inside the chest is a Homing Soulmass spell. I talk to the old man, and he mumbles about Undead for a bit, mentions Darkness, a Truer Dark. It’s along the same lines as the guy I met outside Hunstman’s Copse. The old man tells me that if I find the Darkness we will meet again, and that’s about all he has to say. It must have to do with another Covenant, one relating to Dark magic. Though I have little interest in the practical uses of magic, I’m starting to wonder what else I may be missing out on. Several NPCs now have hinted at my lack of magical skills being a roadblock, and it’s possible I’m missing out on more than just new vendors and bits of dialogue. It might be worthwhile, once I’ve decided more firmly about the gear I want to stick with, to put some points into intelligence or faith and see what else I can get from these guys.
Or maybe I just need a new ring.
The platform isn’t active in any way. Which I expected after talking to the old man and getting nothing out of him. Likely it’s related to the Dark he’s so obsessed with.
I return to the bonfire.
There is a broken bridge nearby that has been stuck in my mind since I arrived here. Before moving on I’d like to figure out how to get to it. I climb to the roof of the covered bridge. I can see another area on the other side of the river, and there is another of the beastman statues blocking the way. Still, I may as well check it out. I jump down, landing safely on the hard ground. I’d taken off the Silvercat ring, but the fall damage isn’t enough to deter me.
Aside from the blocked path, there is a small building. Inside are more jars, none of them of the cursing variety, and a knight guarding a chest and a loot corpse.
The fight is over almost before it starts. A backstab puts the knight on the ground, and he dies while trying to get to his feet again. From the corpse I pick up an Undead Soul and a twilight herb, which restores spell charges. Inside the chest is another packet of sublime bone dust, making this diversion worthwhile.
I jump back across the broken bridge and land inside a new room in the big covered bridge. There’s another chest inside, and from it I take a Black Knight Halberd. Another good score. Between games it has picked up new stat requirements, taking a little bit of faith to use properly, and gained some fire damage as well. Makes sense considering the Black Knights were tempered by the great Flame itself. To get out of the room I need to jump across to the ridge outside the cave. I land on the short ramp that had appeared to lead nowhere when I first saw it, then climb back to the log bridge and rest at the bonfire.
Which is about all I can do here. Time to assault that fort that’s been looming over me.
When I arrive I find a big old fog gate. Not only that, but suspicious amounts of sand. Looks like I’ve found Tark’s old flame, and also the boss.
I pop an effigy, heal up, and then step through the fog.
There isn’t a grand entrance. No cut-scene plays, and no boss health bar appears. I’m standing at the edge of a big, sandy sinkhole that has long since consumed anything else that was inside the fort. A dead tree sticks out of the ground near the middle of the room, and to the left is an equally dead tree with a loot corpse hanging from its top. Sunlight and sand poor in through holes in the ceiling.
These are things I notice in retrospect, because all my attention is currently focused on a woman’s head and shoulders poking out of the sand in front of me.
I stand still, waiting for something to happen. And it does. She sends out a volley of magic missiles that rise into the air and then arc down on me as a single stream. I take the hits like an idiot and fall to the ground, almost dead. I push myself up and quickly drink from my flask. I should move closer.
As I’m circling around, trying to get a safer angle of approach, there is a sudden flurry of movement. The ground erupts, sending an explosion of obscuring sand to block my view. A boss healthbar appears, and then I’m confronted with Najka in all her big, ugly glory.
She fights with a heavy staff and is surprisingly agile, often hopping back and forth out of my range. When I’m at a distance she lobs more magical attacks at me, which I take on my shield. It hurts. A lot. I move in closer, and she starts to stab her pair of heavy, venom-tipped tails into the ground. One of them pierces me, then lifts me into the air before tossing me away. I’m made toxic, which is like poison but even worse, and die before I can find my feet.
Not the best first attempt, but I’m not bothered. I return and grab my body. Najka is hiding in the sand again, and this time I figure I’ll get a few free hits in. I start stabbing her in the face, and I’m thinking everything is going well. Which is when she bursts out of the sand and lands on top of me with her heavy scorpion body. I die again. I try other angles. While behind her I get hit by her tails. The plural is important, because though I block the first one, the second hits me full on, knocking me to the ground and taking out almost all of my health bar. Magic missiles slam into me as I’m standing, and I’m dead.
I put on the Ring of Whispers. Nothing happens, but I kind of expected that. Her pale body tells me that Najka has gone Hollowed and will have nothing to say to anyone ever again.
The fight is going well. I’ve figured out how to dodge her magic attacks–it’s not hard, they don’t track well. I know the right distance to stand so that I can avoid her staff and her claws. I can react to the tail stabs, and while behind her I recognize her getting ready for a tail attack, so I can back away and then charge in for a running stab after she has missed.
Once she drops to around half health, she dives into the sand.
I watch the ripples of dust along the surface, knowing that she’s going to burst out at me. I try to run as she gets close, but it doesn’t help. She lands on top of me again, and I’m dead.
During the next fight I find that I can break her tails. I attack them every time she stabs them into the sand, and soon one has fallen off. This prolongs the fight, because now I want to get the other one off, but I’m afraid of attacking her and killing her prematurely. Which is when she starts diving into the sand again.
There is a benefit to the player in a game with RPG-style stats and gear. With the right setups, or with enough grinding, it’s possible to fudge your way through many problems. I’m having such a problem right now, and I’m going to take advantage of what I’ve got to get around it. Because, frankly, I’m tired after all that stuff in the fogged woods and don’t feel like trying very hard.
I could run around and time rolls and probably figure out how to avoid Najka’s ground burst attack. Or I can use the defence I have to take the hit. It’s messy, but it will work. When she digs underground I back myself against the wall and hold my shield up. A few seconds later Najka jumps out. I block the upward momentum with my shield, negating that damage, which is just enough for me to survive her landing on top of me. I’m pressed flat to the ground, and lose almost all my health, but I’m still alive. I can stand up and find the space to heal.
Which would mean I’d solved the fight, except for that second tail. Looking for the opportunities needed to get damage on it without killing Najka means I have to endure half a dozen underground attacks. I’ve used all my flask charges and started in on my Lifegems when I finally get the second tail.
Which gets me nothing at all. Oh well. I could see how it would be helpful if I’d broken them right way. I’d be able to attack her from behind without worrying about the tail slam attacks. But that’s an awful lot of extra work for a fight I could have ended a long time ago.
I finish the job, putting Najka out of her misery with a few more stabs.
I gain a Soul of Najka and 23,000 Souls. During the fight Najka smashed the tree holding the dead body, and I loot the corpse for a flame butterfly.
There is another way through, a back door leading further into the ground, to a long hall which eventually turns into stairs.
Doors of Pharros
This is about the last thing I expected. The walls of this huge chamber are covered with a stepped, cubed design, like some grown crystal formations I’ve seen before. Only, they’re made of stone. Someone, or someones, carved this. They designed the random, maddening patterns. And what does it have to do with Pharros? Water has flooded the place, and is knee-deep in places. I step inside and approach the nearest living thing I can see. Maybe its friendly.
Of course it isn’t. A massive elephant warrior comes at me with a vicious spear in one hand and a heavy wood shield in the other. It’s intimidating, but much less dangerous than it looks. The sheer bulk of the creature leaves gaps in its attacks, allowing me to slip through and stab away. Soon, it’s dead.
The next guy, who had been waiting on some stairs at the back of the room, comes down after me. He’s armed with a huge hammer in his right hand, and an odd, bony shield in the other. Close up, he looks a lot like Gavlan, the drinking merchant I met in No Man’s Wharf.
When he dries, he drops a pair of Grym warrior boots. The Grym are the descendents or exiles, and don’t much like outsiders. So now I know what Gavlan is. But how related to humans are they, now, and who was it that exiled them?
A body in the water holds a few more prism stones, and through a wide opening is a bonfire.
I light the bonfire, but don’t rest. I want to look around a bit more. I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t help myself.
I climb the stairs in the first room. There is a lit sconce up there, and past it a solitary figure sitting in front of a chest wedged into a small alcove.
As I approach, the figure stands. I stab him in the back before he can turn, then start stabbing him as he stands. I hit the chest behind him, and remember that I can break it if I’m not careful, so I back away. I can see that this guy is like the one I found way back in the first ghoul building. He’s got the same flat face, and is also swinging an anvil on a chain. When he dies he drops a large titanite shard.
The dragon charm inside the chest is a consumable that cures poison while healing.
Up more stairs and I enter a smaller circular chamber. Light pours in through a big hole in the ceiling that is too high up for me to see from here. A body nearby rests next to a row of familiar little stone statues. They are the same design as the ones near the pit in Majula.
I loot a Lifegem from the corpse and consider these statues. Could I be at the bottom of the pit? No. That makes no sense. I’ve been walking for hours in the complete opposite direction of the pit, and even if I hadn’t been, I can’t see anywhere to drop down from, or climb up to.
More stairs curve around the wall, and at the top is a long hallway. At the far and is a Grym warrior holding a pair of axes half as big as he is, which is saying something since the Gyrm are already pretty big fellows.
And that’s finally enough. I just wanted a peek, and now I’ve had it. I leave, and head down to the bonfire. There is another, even bigger, water-filled chamber past it. It couldn’t hurt to just step inside and look around. Just pan the camera a bit and see how big the place is.
As soon as I cross the threshold, I am invaded. Bowman Guthry appears from behind an elephant warrior and starts shooting at me with his pair of big, rapid-firing crossbows. I can’t retreat now, the way to the bonfire has been closed off.
I just had to look.
Guthry has alerted the elephant warrior, who begins lumbering toward me. There is also a flaming dog running around, which I kill first.
This place is big enough that I could run forever, but the water is deep, and that slows me down. Everywhere I go I’m being sniped at by Guthry. At first I try to avoid the elephant and concentrate on Guthry, but there is no escaping the elephant when I can only fight well from the two small islands that poke out of the water. It becomes a near thing, but I do take the elephant warrior down. Which is, of course, when my spear breaks.
On his own now, Guthry isn’t a problem. I chase him down and crack his skull open with my club.
I gain an awestone and a bunch of Souls.
Since I’ve already done the work, I look over the rest of the room. I find a body in the back holding a pair of amber herbs, and as I circle the room I start to notice that it’s full of Pharros devices. That explains all the lockstones I’ve been picking up, but I’m not sure even they are enough to plug all the holes in there. Could be this is a place I have to tackle in pieces, though it’s just as likely that it will also be full of lockstones to keep me going.
I rest at the bonfire and warp back to the previous one. I make my way back to Tark, managing to become cursed before I get there, and letting the crystal lizard get away again. The thing is tougher than it looks, and doesn’t die to a couple of club swings like it should.
I drop down and talk to Tark. He thanks me for killing Najka and hands over a branch of Yore as a reward, then teaches me the warmup gesture.
I was hoping for something more interesting, but I’ll take what I can get.
Distracted by thoughts of all the uses I have for my 2 branches of Yore, I stumble over a cliff edge and fall to the river below and die. Oops. Reminded of my mortality, I pick up my body and take my loot back to Majula.
I burn the sublime bone dust at the bonfire, so now I have +2 Estus flasks. Sitting there, I realize that I’ve gone through two bosses now, with two NPCs that said they could be summoned, and still I haven’t seen a summoning sign. What am I missing?
Also, I’ve gone through the Forest of Fallen Giants, and never found a way to the body I saw hanging off the cliff in Majula. I climb to the top, near the entrance to Things Betwixt, and find a gap in the rocks where I can drop down.
With the Silvercat ring I feel safe, so I hop down. I find a body holding a morningstar and a cleric’s sacred chime, which is a basic tool for casting miracles. The other body, the one I’d seen before, holds a pair of binoculars, which fit into a weapon slot. Wish I’d had them earlier, but better late than never.
I take my 4 awestones to the Victor’s Stone and give them over. When I reach 10 donations I get a rank up message and receive a greater magic weapon spell, which imbues a melee weapon with extra magic damage. Again I think about getting some points into intelligence so that I can use some of this stuff.
Thing is, I don’t have a wand for casting spells, and none of the vendors here are selling one. Maybe I don’t need one, but I think I can wait a little longer before making that decision. I still have the Soul Vessel, after all. I talk to the Emerald Herald. I have enough Souls for 9 levels. I put 4 into strength and 5 into dexterity, so that I’ll be able to try some of the weapons I’ve been finding.
There is only one bit of unfinished business now. That damned crystal lizard.
I warp back to the Shrouded Woods. I know I’m about to be cursed a dozen times, but I don’t even care. After a couple of failed attempts at the crystal lizard, something nice happens. An invasion message appears, and Forlorn is back for a rematch.
This time I’m ready, and I kill him easily. He drops 6,000 souls and an awestone, but no special gear.
I pull out the big old knight’s hammer, which I can use 2-handed now that I’ve raised my strength. With it I am finally able to take down the crystal lizard.
The boltstone is new. Using it will give a weapon lightning damage, or a shield extra lightning resistance. Could I use these elemental ores to shore up the weaknesses of a shield, or would that sacrifice too much stability?
Anyway, the crystal lizard is dead, and so is the invader. I met a talking head and helped out a lonely man-scorpion, which has in turn helped me deal with some longstanding trauma. It was a good day.