Dark Souls 2 Diaries – Day 11

The Bastille

A new bonfire, a new day, a new start. I use an effigy to cleanse myself and get my health bar back into proper form. I’m going to rush headlong into the unknown once more, but I can’t help being an optimist.

I’m standing in the mess hall inside the Bastille, having taken down the trio of Rune Sentries. It’s time to get started, to get to the bottom of this place. There has to be something, or someone, worth the effort involved.

From here there are 2 paths.

 

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A bent ladder for access into a dark hole, and a door at the other end of the room. Another headlong plunge into the murky depths of the fortress, or a chance for some air as fresh as I’ll find in these parts?

I can’t see where the ladder leads to, so I check the doorway first. Sometimes that’s all a decision comes down to. Down a short hall and I find a flimsy wooden door that opens back out to the high wall walks running around and through the Bastille.

 

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To the right is the entrance to another tower, to the left, at the ragged, broken edge of the wall, is a pile of old boxes and barrels doing their best to hide the glow of an item.

The crash of waves begins to bleed back into the scene, but they are still distant enough that I hear the royal swordsman coming at me from behind as I approach the loot corpse. I turn, sidestep his attack, and kill him with a single backstab.

 

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The body is holding the Bastille key. Though it doesn’t tell me much about what it might open–my hope is that I can use it to get to the blacksmith I saw earlier–it does tell me more about the Bastille’s history. Whoever was in charge while it was still in its prime became so paranoid about the Undead curse and the Hollowed that follow that he locked up any he could find, then abandoned the entire place. Since the real Bastille was also a fortress that was soon converted into a prison, which is what it’s primarily known as, the name is a little too cute, but I get the point. There are still many questions. Is the Lord mentioned in the key’s description also the jailer who created the magical guards and wardens? I assume it’s not King Vendrick himself. Will I get to meet this person?

A staircase in the next tower curves up to a higher level, and an open doorway leads  back out to another section of broken wall.

 

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When I step out onto the wall I feel a sudden pressure, and then the sound of heavy beating wings followed by a fierce, animal cry. I freeze in place, ready to roll for the cover of the tower if I have to, but whatever it is that makes these sounds eludes my eyes. I search the nearby buildings and the sky, but before long the sounds have faded. Speaking of paranoia, my mind is racing in the direction of some particularly scaly enemies. What can I say? Everywhere I go, every horror I see, it’s still the stupid dragons that I’m looking for. It’s all about that fire.

A break in the low guard wall opens up to a roof sloping down to a narrow courtyard. I can see a couple of dogs below, and on the roof across is a royal swordsman. When I step to the edge of the wall he catches sight of me and makes a break for a ladder that he uses to climb up and out of sight.

 

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The AI wouldn’t do that unless it had a direct route from there to here. I’m sure that I could simply jump the small gap from roof to roof, but it can’t. I head back for the tower and climb the spiral stairs. Sure enough, the swordsman is waiting for me at the top. A fruitless quest for him when all he finds is the tip of my lance.

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Stacks of wooden barrels are the dominant feature of the room he came at me from. Must have been storage space for wine or beer when the fortress was in use. I can hear that familiar creaking moan coming from inside, and when I peak around the corner I see one of the bandaged things. It’s not in a cage, but is sitting on the floor amid some wooden debris. I don’t see any flame, so maybe it won’t explode.

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A few wary steps inside the room, toward the bandaged thing. I’m ready for it to spring into life, to pounce, but when it does finally make a move it’s not a desperate lunge for my throat. It starts to shiver, and I wait. Its shaking intensifies, then it lets out a growl and explodes.

I’m far enough away to escape the blast area, but the explosion takes out the nearest row of barrels, which in turn reveals another of the bandaged things. This one is not sitting quietly, waiting for its chance to explode. It’s on its feet and running headlong in my direction. There is no flame visible on it, either, but that’s not the sign of danger I thought it was. I can’t take a chance, and I stab out with the lance as soon as I’m able. The thing impales itself, then falls over and dies.

That’s a lesson learned, and it came cheaper than it could have. I’m not taking any half measures with these things, whether they’re lit up with an inner fire or not.

After that, the room is quiet. I look around and find a short hall connecting it to the next area. I pass the open window that the swordsman climbed in through, but it’s too high up for me to climb out from this side. Next to it is a closed iron gate with a switch. On the other side of the gate is another bandaged Hollowed.

 

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I pull the switch. The gate opens, but there’s another one between me and the bandaged thing. I figure that means there’s another switch on the other side, and I’ll have to find a more roundabout route to get there, making this a shortcut.

I start to move, walking forward a few paces so I can see past the next gate, see what’s ahead and where the switch is.

Which is when the second gate starts to open. And from this position I can see there are 3 of the bandaged things waiting for me, and that they’re not all the empty vessels that I’ve been running into. One of them has a wan, yellow flame in its torso.

 

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The closest of them explodes as soon as the bars lift and well before I’m near. This alerts the others, and I back down the corridor as they come at me, hoping that their space from each other will mean enough distance between them when they attack that I can stab each in turn. Which works. One of them drops an alluring skull, an item that can be dropped as a temporary distraction.

I open a door in the first room. On the other side is solid stone with bones sticking out as if someone had been embedded in it, as if a flow of molten rock had buried them. Or maybe someone forgot to build a room there and ended up with a closet. The bones fall away as I touch them.

 

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I back out of the room, down the stairs, and to the roof overlooking the courtyard. My thought now is that this route might loop back around to the last bonfire, to the pit with the ladder. So I’ll keep to this path until I end up somewhere.

On the roof I find a body holding 3 flame butterflies, and I can see that on the opposite roof there’s another loot corpse.

 

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I jump across and pick up an Undead Soul. Below are the dogs I saw before, now active and restless as a result of my jumps. They’re guarding a big well. A heavy stone tied to a rope rests on the lip of the well, begging to be knocked in.

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The sounds of at least one more of the bandaged things is hanging in the air down there, but I can’t see the source. It might be hiding under the roof I’m standing on, waiting to attack from behind when I drop down. If so, then I won’t be able to see it till I’ve hit the ground. I also can’t see any way back up here, so if I fall I’ll be stuck in the courtyard till I find the way out. Do I risk it? I’m only steps away from the last bonfire, so why not?

I drop down at the far end of the roof, away from the dogs. This should give me the best chance of seeing anything else before they’re demanding my full attention. Nothing attacks me. I look around, but the space underneath the roofs is empty of threats.

 

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Maybe the thing I can hear is in one of the buildings? There’s a door behind me, and another across from it, past the well and the dogs. Could I get inside before I’m noticed?

Nope. The nearest of the zombie dogs has caught my scent, and it pounces at my throat. I sidestep, then stab it as it lands. The safest course now is to get rid of the immediate threats, which I do. Seconds later and the courtyard is still, if not silent.

I hit the rock. It spins out of sight, and the rope pulls tight as whatever is on the other end begins to rise.

The size of the well should have been a clue. The rope drags up not a loot corpse, not some unfortunate that has hung him or herself, but a cage full of the bandaged things. There are 3 of them spilling out at me.

 

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I’m not about to give them the chance to shiver and explode, whether these are the type that do that or not. I stab aggressively, killing each as it stumbles out of the cage. Once they’re dead I grab the loot left over.

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I gain a full set of Wanderer’s gear. Light armour that I will probably never use, but you never know.

A ladder at the far end of the courtyard climbs up to some simple wooden awnings.

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It looks like an old alley used to store nonperishable goods. After I’ve had my fun smashing the barrels underneath, I climb up top to see what’s next.

Open windows show the inside of the building. Inside are a pair of crossbowmen watching over a dark room. I’ve stumbled into the back door again, just like that first tower I went through after arriving in the Bastille. If I’d entered through the door down in the courtyard I’d be a sitting duck, and likely there are dogs or other swordsmen in there to serve as meat-shields.

 

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I kill the crossbowmen before they can fire a shot, or draw their b lades. The rest of the room is full of barrels, many of them the dark and dangerous-looking type. If I’d been in there when the shooting started it would have been ugly. Another swordsman that was down below starts to climb a ladder, and then drops down to my level so that I can kill him as well.

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I try the other door in the courtyard, the one past the well. It opens when I use the antiquated key. Past it is another dingy, disused room, and another of the bandaged things.

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It notices me, leaps to its feet, and then dives face-first into the ground, but doesn’t explode. Lacks the ability to, or needed to build up to it? I suppose it doesn’t matter much either way, and I count my blessings that I’m still alive as I kill it.

There’s an unlit sconce in here, and a torch blazing away outside, so I light my own torch and use it to make this place a little less oppressive.

 

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On the right side of the room is a doorway of twisted, broken iron bars, while straight ahead is a crude wooden barrier that crumbles at the slightest touch. It leads back outside, to another open courtyard full of crossbows and dogs.

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The broken iron bars show a small, dark cell. One of the bandaged things is sitting in the corner, and who knows what might be out of sight.

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I can hear at least one more of them, and assume its around the corner. I tiptoe inside, just far enough to confirm where the other one is, and then the sitting bandaged thing explodes. Which is fine by me, since I’m keeping enough distance to stay safe. The other doesn’t attack, so I duck inside the room. When it finally notices me, the bandaged thing drops to its knees. Not what I expected, but I’m not taking a chance that its smile is genuine. I stab it in the face. All that’s left is a loot corpse holding a couple of flame butterflies.

Not yet ready to charge into the crossfire in the next courtyard, I backtrack to the other building, the one full of barrels. There’s a doorway in there blocked off by yet more barrels, which I break apart to gain access to a vast basement storage room.

 

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A ladder, the one the swordsman took to reach me earlier, leads up to a ledge overlooking the next room. I ignore it for the moment and step into the room.

What looks like a Pharros device is in the wall to my right, and up on the ceiling is a figure hiding in the shadows that I recognize as one of the ninja assassins I fought in No-Man’s Wharf. Closer, along the right wall, are a pair of statues that I can’t make out from here.

 

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Figuring I’m in for a fight, and wanting a better look of the place before going further, I step back and take the ladder up to the upper level. I can see more of the room from up there, that there are at least 2 chests waiting in the dark. While I’m up there I loot a corpse for an Undead Soul and a green blossom.

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I approach the guy on the ceiling. It drops down suddenly and gets a couple of quick hits in before I realize what’s going on. The lance is so slow that he’s hard to hit while jumping around so wildly, so I pull out my club and get a lucky backstab. Or back-clobber, as it were. The ninja dies.

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That appears to be it for enemies, so I take some time to check the room over. The two statues dominate the space, with the biggest being of a bearded, robed man holding a large sword. Could this be King Vendrick? I squint and tilt my head as I try to make out a crown, but it’s too dark to see that sort of detail.  Maybe it’s the jailer, or the lord that was in charge of the Bastille before leaving it to marauders and the elements.

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The smaller statue is of a woman, also in a robe, but there is no further clue about her identity, and I’ve become accustomed to seeing statues of women without ever knowing for sure who the subject might have been.

I begin to loot the chests. The first holds a parrying dagger, a simple weapon meant for the offhand that is useful for, well, parrying. The next chest has something called a twinblade, which is a high dexterity weapon consisting of, well, twin blades at either end of a long, staff-like hilt.

 

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It’s the kind of weapon a kid things is super keen, but when I swing it around I find both its concept and its execution to be lacking. It has low damage and mediocre scaling without upgrades, and its movements are overly elaborate, exaggerated to a point that borders on awkward. I mean, it’s nice that it exists, I suppose, but it seems to lack speed, power, and range when compared to other more workmanlike options. Not something I would ever want to carry into battle.

A final chest holds something I might actually get some use out of, which is a bone staff. A simple casting device made from an animal skull stuck to a long stick. This is only the second staff I’ve found, and it requires 20 intelligence to use, which is a lot more reasonable compared to the 50 intelligence required for the Staff of Wisdom.

I find a door leading to another, smaller room. Inside is a chest next to a pit and a hanging metal cage.

 

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The chest holds a wilted dusk herb, an item used to restore spell charges. The cage is an elevator, I assume, and I can hear movement coming from a place nearby, likely wherever the elevator ends up.

A ladder in the big room takes me up to some nondescript stairs. I’m ready to check up there when I remember that I have a Pharros lockstone, and could use it on the device below.

 

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So I go back. This time I’ve got a much smaller area to cover, and I’d like to confirm whether whatever secret the device unlocks actually requires the device to unlock. If not then I might save on lockstones and be able to open up more of the Doors of Pharros.

I examine every wall, attacking likely spaces to make sure there aren’t any false walls. There are none, nor is there any sort of obvious contraption to activate like the big lantern in No-Man’s Wharf.

The lockstone fits smoothly into the device’s orifice, in a completely non-sexual way. The room lights up behind me, and when I turn there’s a glowing face in the wall, just like when I used the Pharros device in the fortress of the Forest of Fallen Giants.

 

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That’s all I needed to see. I definitely attacked that spot on the wall before activating the device, and found nothing. Whatever else they might be, the Pharros devices hold secrets that I can’t access by other means. They are not optional if I want to get my hands on everything possible.

I attack the face, which opens up a small room with a chest.

 

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Inside the chest is a Soul Vessel. Well now. That’s something I didn’t expect, and it will change drastically what I do once I’ve finished off this area. But that’s for later. I stuff it in my pocket and head into the little room with the elevator cage. I step inside the cage, it swings shut, and chains begin to pull me up.

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I pass a floor with a loot corpse hanging off a ledge, but keep going. One floor higher and the cage stops and opens. I spill out into another small room. A nearby corpse holds skeptic’s spice. From the other side of a closed door I can hear movement. There are more of the bandaged things through there.

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I open the door and find a pile of the cage jars. Past them is a closed gate cutting me off from a long bridge that ends in a fog gate. I’m certain this is the bridge that I saw from the other entrance into the Bastille, the one coming in from No-Man’s Wharf. Which means I’m getting closer to another bonfire.

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I go about killing the bandaged guys, first taking out one to my left, then the one in the cage. It doesn’t take any damage from my first attack, which only breaks the cage open, and it’s leaping at my face by the time my next thrust is out. I still kill it, and the other one that’s moping around. But I can hear more of them.

There are stairs leading up and stairs leading down. I start to climb, getting far enough to poke my head over the floor so I can see the level above.

 

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These things definitely have flames, and there are a whole bunch of them. Maybe they’ll explode and take each other out? I step carefully up the stairs, then move toward the nearest of them. I stab it as soon as I’m in range, killing it in a single hit. None of the others move. A trap? If I keep going will they all turn at once and attack me as a group?

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Apparently not, because I end up killing them all without a single one of them lifting a finger. They sit, or stand, and wait their turn to die. It’s a fundamental lack of motivation, but what can you expect from prisoners?

There’s a bonfire up here, but it’s blocked off by another petrified Undead. Not some random Hollowed this time, so likely another NPC, but whoever it is, he or she is in my way and I’m fresh out of branches of Yore.

(Somehow I forgot to take a screenshot, so use your imagination.)

I use the Bastille key to open another cell, the one next to the bonfire, and find a body holding some firebombs and a petrified dragon bone. I open a door and I’m standing above the bridge. I could drop down from here, getting past the closed gate, but there’s a switch in the room below that should open it anyway. Maybe this is a shortcut from the bonfire here to the next tower, which might mean there’s a boss fight waiting on the other side of that fog gate.

 

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Back down the stairs and I pull the switch to open the gate. It lifts and then stays up.

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Going out there is more than I’m ready for, so I cross to the stairs leading down to the next floor.

More cages, more bandaged things.

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One of them sits down and blows himself up as I watch. Another is crouching behind an explosive barrel on a ledge.

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In no mood to deal with that nonsense, I toss a firebomb. Everything explodes. The thing dies, and once the ringing in my ears has stopped I can hear that I’m alone again.

I check the room over. There’s a body in the corner, past some iron bars. This is the one that I passed while using the cage elevator, and to get to it I’d have to jump down from the top.

 

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Another door leads to an empty room with blank, unyielding walls. A ladder climbs up to a ledge with nothing but another explosive barrel. I knock it over and it blows up nicely enough, but nothing else happens. I check another corner and find that I’ve come full circle, back to the courtyard with the big well.

I decide to return to the bonfire now that I’ve been most places in that direction. I’m curious about where that ladder in the mess hall might lead.

 

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When I reach the bottom I’m in a small, dark room with another Pharros device. As my feet touch the ground, the room becomes even darker. A phantom Pursuer begins to materialize out of the ether.

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Maybe it’s the confined space  and general fatigue, and maybe this one really is stronger than the last one I fought. I can’t say for sure, but the reasons are less important than the result. And the result is that, after everything I just went through, I get myself killed.  The Pursuer guard breaks me and I fail to roll away from its cursing stab attack. I survive that, but become Hollowed in the process. With much less space to retreat into, I find myself pressed again before I can heal, and soon I’m dead.

Getting cursed and then dying means I come back with a shorter health bar, which is annoying. I died directly below the bonfire I spawn at, so I’m in no danger of losing my Souls, but it still sucks that I lost all the progress I made, though I suppose I can take a direct route to where I want to go now that I know where the dead ends are.

I’m limp in the next fight, and learn the hard way that the cursing stab goes through my block. Cursed again, then dead again. I’m losing maximum health at a drastic pace, but I’m not about to give up. One more fight and I take the Pursuer down, gaining some Souls and a piece of twinkling titanite.

 

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A corpse in the room holds a large club. That is the weapon’s name and also the only real description needed. It’s a log with metal studs embedded in it.

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It does a good amount of poise damage to go along with its big swings. It’s likely quite strong, but I don’t have the strength to use it without both hands.

A chest nearby holds a priest’s chime, a catalyst for casting faith-based miracles. It tells me that priests were not liked in Drangleic. Because of animosity toward the old gods? I notice that chimes can cast hexes just like a staff, and that this one does bonus darkness damage. I should pay more attention to the way magic works if I plan to actually use it eventually. Unfortunately, I’m out of lockstones now, so the device here will have to wait.

A death is as good an excuse as any to backtrack. I’d like to get rid of some Souls if I can find an outlet. I warp to the bonfire at the far end of the fortress and make my way down to the locked door. As I’d hoped, it opens with the Bastille key.

 

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Also as expected, inside is a new blacksmith, swinging his hammer around to make the sounds that I’d heard the first time I passed through.

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He’s a burly fellow, which is normal enough for a professional blacksmith. And that’s about all that’s normal about him. Though not Hollowed, he has long since gone completely insane. When I speak to him he begins to rant about flames, about the fire of his forge, the fire that fuels the world. It takes some coaxing to finally get a name out of him, but eventually he tells me that he’s McDuff, and all he wants is a little flame of his own.

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He barely acknowledges me until he sniffs out the ember I’ve been carrying around. After more muttering, he asks to have it. Since I’ve got nothing else to do with it, and since a mad blacksmith is better than none at all, I hand it over. Pleased, he tells me that bringing him stones will allow him to upgrade my gear. Good enough for me.

A menu opens. I check what he’s selling, which is a few moderately advanced weapons, including a katana and a winged spear, as well as a decent looking kite shield. He also has an unlimited supply of large titanite, which is odd when the last smith carried only 8 small titanite shards. McDuff would allow me to upgrade any applicable weapon from +3 to +6, but only if I can get them there first.

McDuff has a new menu option for infusing weapons. After some looking around, I realize that infusing is now separate from normal upgrade paths. Any weapon–or at least most of them–can be infused with various ores, which will add fire damage, or lighting, or poison, or magic, or whatever, but that is only a bonus, or a variable, and not a true upgrade by itself. In Dark Souls 1 a weapon had to already be a certain level before adding other damage types, and after that only a relevant elemental titanite could further upgrade it. Now any weapon, even from +0, can have an extra damage type added. This system is a bit looser, allowing for some variety. For example, the few weapons I have that carry natural elemental damage, like the Heide sword and its lighting damage, can have another element tacked on, or even have the base element enhanced. Even some of the special weapons I have, that need twinkling titanite to upgrade, are candidates for infusion.

There are some restrictions still. Not every weapon can have every kind of infusion. Most blunt weapons can’t have bleeding damage added, for example, though all shields can have their bleed resistance enhanced. Speaking of shields, my hope that infusion would be a simple way to make the ideal uber-shield is soon crushed. Infusing any shield with an element will raise that resistance, but at a steep price. All other resistances drop, including physical resistance. In fact, any sort of infusion has a price to pay. They all lower stat bonuses from strength and dexterity, even while adding bonuses from other attributes. Intelligence to raise fire damage, faith to raise lightning damage, that sort of thing.

That is all straightforward enough, but there are still some things that will need experimentation to understand. Fire damage, lightning damage, poison, bleeding, magic, that’s all simple and obvious. But there are 3 more infusions that stand out.

The first is raw infusion. On the surface it’s the same as it was in Dark Souls 1. It adds to a weapon’s base physical damage while lowering its stat bonuses. Thing is, in Dark Souls 1 raw upgrades were pretty bad. With everything else that’s been changed, what are the chances it’s the same now? Regardless, it has one major improvement. McDuff can infuse raw damage into weapons with no stat bonuses at all, effectively negating that infusion’s primary drawback. How does that stack up against adding other damage types? Likely that depends on a character’s stat build.

Next is the mundane infusion. If raw didn’t already exist, I think this would make more sense. I picked up a bunch of mundane ores in the Doors of Pharros, and the description reads like raw damage–saying that a weapon with the power of the mundane can still be strong, or “cast in a favourable light.” However, in practice mundane seems to be the complete opposite of raw. Instead of adding any sort of damage type, it simply halves the physical damage of any weapon its applied to, while also lowering stat bonuses.

Two possibilities are most prominent in my mind, as they are the most often seen in other games. The first is that mundane infusion is a method of doubling down on basic upgrades. Upgrade a weapon to a certain point, then apply a mundane stone and upgrade it all over again. I think of this first because the mundane infusion’s icon is double up arrows. The problem is that I can infuse a weapon with mundane power at any level, and for it to work the way I described it would usually be applied, or at least be best applied, at or near max level. It’s also possible that it raises the maximum number of upgrades, so that if normally a weapon can reach +15, a mundane weapon might reach +20 or +30, and become stronger in the long run.

The other possibility is that it’s simply a way to make a weapon weaker. It’s not unheard of for games, especially action games or action-RPGs, to have weapons like that. A way to make things more difficult for the player, or allow them to use special techniques and combos on enemies that would otherwise die too quickly. The problem with this theory is obvious enough: Why even upgrade, then? I would get much the same effect by leaving a weapon at +0, or using a weaker weapon altogether. It wasn’t that long ago that I got my hands on a soup ladle that doubles as a very, very weak club.

There is another odd infusion, misleadingly called magical enchanting. It lowers stat bonuses more than other types of infusions and doesn’t add any damage of any sort–there’s already a separate type of magical damage infusion. I suspect it has something to do with casting spells, but I don’t have the ore required to test that out. Or any spells, for that matter.

Finally, there’s darkness, which seems attractive at first, but after reading the descriptions it’s not so great for my purposes. It scales with both intelligence and faith, but only uses the lowest stat. Unless I were a dedicated caster, I’d have to be very sure of what I was doing before attempting that. Or not, because I doubt it would make much of a difference in the long run, but I can’t help but think about min/maxing.

As it is, I only have the ore for raw, mundane, lightning, and darkness infusions. I also have plenty of palestones, which revert an infused weapon back to its default state. I consider lightning, but decide against that. Now that I’ve found the blacksmith, and another Soul Vessel, I can start planning a more varied build, one that incorporates some magic, but I’d rather intelligence and spells this time. I already dabbled in faith in Dark Souls 1, and my Covenant gave me a sorcery spell, so that seems more fitting.

I have 3 mundane stones and plenty of Souls, so I may as well try it out. I apply one to my winged spear and then upgrade it as much as I can, which is t0 +8. The stats don’t go up, and the upgrades aren’t any cheaper looking than normal, though I lack the titanite to test that further. Maybe there’s a special effect in combat?

I loot some chests before leaving McDuff’s work space. One holds some arrows, another holds some bolts, and in others I find titanite of various qualities. I look around a bit and find another door taking me to the opposite side of the wall with the S-shaped crack. I find a bonfire, which will give me easy access to McDuff whenever I need his services.

 

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I take the mundane winged spear out to the wall walk and test it on the enemies there. Nothing special is apparent. It’s just a weaker version of the same weapon.

It’s about that time that I must have been due for something bad to happen. So something bad happens.

A message pops up informing me that I’m being invaded. It’s Dark Spirit Forlorn, the same jerk that jumped me in the Shrouded Woods. I’m in the middle of fighting a big, bandaged pyromancer when it happens, poking pathetically with my blunted spear. I have no idea where Forlorn will come from, so I try to finish my current enemy off. I move in and get ready to attack.

The pyromancer swings his polearm, battering it against my shield. But also making contact with a nearby explosive barrel. These things. I knew they’d kill me eventually.

I block the resulting explosion, but it drains my stamina completely and sends me stumbling backward even as the pyromancer dies. And that’s the exact moment Forlorn shows up and sticks his sword through my face.

Somehow I manage to survive that first hit, though only barely. Is this a weaker version of Forlorn because the Bastille is an earlier area, or have I become stronger? Either way, it’s not enough. Forlorn pulls his sword away, lifting it in a broad arc and tossing me through the air. I don’t survive this attack.

I respawn and retrieve my body. A hole has been blown in the wall near the bonfire, giving me even easier access to it.

 

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I enter McDuff’s workshop again. He has moved over to his anvil, which gives me access to the chest he’d been sitting on.

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The craftsman’s hammer is a much better version of the blacksmith hammer I was given in Majula, with better damage and scaling, but also higher stat requirements. It’s on par with my club, having better damage, and with upgrades maybe it gets a similar stat bonus? It requires twinkling titanite to upgrade, so I’m not about to test that. I’m saving what I find till I get my hands on something I really want to upgrade, which will likely be a shield.

I remove the mundane enhancement from my winged spear, then, after some thought, I upgrade the grand lance to +5. It’s slow and costs too much stamina, but I’d still like to give it a fair shot and see what it does when the damage isn’t so low. I also upgrade the club to +5.

A body hangs off the wall above McDuff’s place. I’ve noticed it before, but now that I’ve run through more of the fortress I’m wondering how I’m supposed to reach it. Probably from the other side of the closed gate at the bottom of the stairs.

 

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On that note, I figure now is a good time to try the other entrance into the Bastille, the one that seems to be closer to where I’m trying to go. So I warp to the exile holding cells, the bonfire I found after taking the ship from No-Man’s Wharf. I put on the Ring of Binding. I’ve already died, and it feels like I’m working on cleanup of the last couple of areas before the boss. No point in using an effigy just yet, especially if Forlorn is going to show up again, and he only seems to do that when I’m becoming Hollowed.

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I take the stairs up and outside. I can see the bridge and the huge tower it runs across to. It’s definitely the same bridge and fog gate I saw before I died.

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A dozen paces later and I’m taking crossbow fire from a swordsman directly ahead. I run for him, passing a ladder on the way, and kill him with a single thrust of my newly upgraded lance.

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More bolts are landing all around me, and I look up to see another crossbow in the window above, way out of reach. Below is a courtyard, the same one, I think, that I saw before when I broke away that wooden barrier.

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I climb down the ladder to get out of sight of the crossbowman. At the bottom, through an open door, I can see zombie dogs. This is definitely the same place. I was so close before.

When I step outside to fight the dog it leaps at me and misses. It collides head-first with a rickety guard tower, and the entire structure crumbles, so that now I have a swordsman standing in front of me as well. I kill the dog, but now there are at least 3 more of them. As if that weren’t enough of a problem, something big shows up.

The Pursuer is back again. Or he’s got a lot of brothers. Whatever the case, I’m in trouble.

 

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I duck back into the tower with the ladder, but fumble my inputs while wavering between climbing the ladder and killing the dog that has followed me. I pull out my flask, leaving me open to its bite. I’m dead. Which isn’t so bad, since I’m sure the Pursuer was about to disappear anyway. I get the feeling that, like the one on the beach in Things Betwixt, I’ll have to stay in the courtyard if I want to fight it. And that means I’ll have to deal with the dogs and the crossbows as well.

Front entrance my foot.

When I respawn and make my way back, when I’ve just stabbed the first crossbowman in the face, when he’s managed to survive and fall down to a lower level, when I’m thinking about following him down that way as an alternative to using the ladder, I get the message I’d been hoping for. Forlorn is back for another round.

 

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He’s spawning right in front of me. I back away, because I’m still taking fire from the crossbow above. One of the bolts hits an exploding barrel, setting of a chain reaction that sends Forlorn flying and me reeling. I retreat further, far enough to be out of sight from the crossbowman. Forlorn follows.

I’m ready for him this time, and when he sweeps his sword around in a wide arc I step behind him and shove my lance straight up his ass. I don’t quite see the numbers, but it had to be near 1000 damage. He stands up, so I do it again.

 

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I gain 6000 Souls and an awestone.

Down the ladder to recover my body. The first dogs are alerted and walk in so that I can kill them.

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This is good. The fewer of them out there when I leave the safety of this tower, the better. But why do I smell something burning? Oh right. I have some chili on the stove. Excuse me while I climb half way up this ladder and tab out.

I managed to save most of it, and after I’ve eaten a bit I’m ready to go again. I hop off the ladder and enter the courtyard. I’m going to find out exactly what I’m up against here.

There are about half a dozen dogs in there, plus the crossbowmen on their rickety guard towers. This fight, from this angle, is unmanageable, at least without the Pursuer disappearing on me. But I’ve scouted far enough ahead that I’ve found a solution. At the far end of the courtyard, past the bulk of the zombie dogs, is a closed gate and a switch. It’s the gate next to McDuff’s workshop and that bonfire. I kill the dogs there, and as I pull the switch I hear the Pursuer disappearing behind me. It doesn’t matter. I’ve found my point of entry.

 

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I don’t rest at the bonfire. Instead, I turn back to the courtyard. The Pursuer is already gone, so I may as well clear the area out and find whatever loot I can before getting down to business.

Behind a small building, on the other side of a wall next to the bonfire, is a chest. Inside is an estus flask shard and a large titanite shard.

 

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I knock down the guard towers and kill the swordsmen as they land. One of them also holds a loot corpse with an alluring skull. That’s an idea for a last-ditch effort if my other plans don’t work.

I climb up the ladder to the top of the wall and drop down to the spot behind the crossbowman up there. It’s a crack that leads to a cliff overlooking the sea.

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I walk until I find a body with an Undead Soul and an effigy.

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That seems to be it, so I return to McDuff’s bonfire and rest. From there I’m able to kill the majority of the zombie dogs on my way to the courtyard, leaving just the crossbowmen to deal with when the Pursuer shows up.

This fight goes well enough, until I my Achilles heel flares up and I get myself stabbed again by the cursing sword. I’d swear I dodged it, but you can never trust the range of grab attacks in 3D games.

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I fight him again and he knocks himself out of bounds, dodging into an area that forces him to disappear. The next fight he appears and then disappears almost immediately. I decide that if he’s going to be like that I may as well take advantage of it. While fighting him, once I’ve knocked his health bar down a fair amount, I lead him over to the paved area on the way to McDuff’s bonfire. He has to disappear when he goes there, and while he’s frozen in place in preparation for that I charge in and start stabbing away with my winged spear. He dies before he can get away, and I gain 11,000 Souls and a twinkling titanite.

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A mechanical grinding sound has started up inside the fortress. I can see more bodies hanging off higher walls, ones way out of reach. How am I meant to get up there? I’ll have to check through the fortress again, but where else is there to go? I’ve come full circle now, and it seems like the only place I haven’t been is through the fog gate across that bridge, and that’s in the opposite direction of the loot corpses I’m seeing.

I pop an effigy and heal up at the bonfire, then buy the katana, called an uchigatana, from McDuff, just to see what it’s like. Doesn’t seem that special, and it’s quite brittle, but it has a decent variety of moves and a nice heavy stabbing attack.

I break through the wooden barrier and enter the fortress again. I take some time to get my bearings and wander around until I’m back in the statue room with the ninja. It dies and drops a shadow gauntlet. Light armour with good elemental resistances. They tell me that King Vendrick hired the ninjas from Mirrah to track down and kill Hollowed. Seems inefficient for a guy who had his own army, and it backfired anyway when the assassins themselves went Hollowed. Does it spread after all, or were they already Undead?

What else can I do? I ride the cage elevator up, then put on the Silvercat ring to jump down to the body I’d seen earlier.

 

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Bonfire Ascetic is another item I can burn at a bonfire. Wasn’t it one of the starting gifts? Its description says that using it will permanently strengthen nearby foes, but the practicalities are unclear. More health? More damage? I assume that making them stronger will increase the Souls they drop, and possibly the chance of finding items as well. And what is the area of effect? Is it the entire named area, or only a defined radius around each individual bonfire? If the latter is the case then it’s even more confusing, because bonfires are not uniformly placed and I’ve no way to determine where one’s influence begins to bleed into another. In the Bastille there are 2 bonfires within spitting distance of each other, and two more that, although separated by some maze-like passages and a fair amount of enemies, are still not so separated that I could say with any certainty which would have more influence on a given enemy between them. Still, it’s an item that I like the concept of, in my mind, and I’d want to use it once I’ve found a good spot. The trouble will be in deciding what that spot is.

One nice thing about the grand lance is that it has twice the durability of my club and my spear. It’s great for taking down fodder while I search the fortress for anything I may have missed.

After a while I’m back at the bonfire in the mess hall. I look up and notice that a big orange butterfly has taken up position in the rafters. How would I attack it, and should I bother? I left them alone in the Shrouded Woods because I figured there’s a better than even chance they’ll always stay out of melee range and I’m not equipped for any other sort of combat. For now, this one will get the same treatment.

 

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By now I’ve run out of places to go, so I step out onto the bridge spanning the distance to the big tower. Around a corner is a royal swordsman standing over a dead body. I pick up 8 Lifegems.

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Standing on the battlements above the bridge is a crossbowman who insists on firing bolt after flame-tipped bolt in my direction. This is becoming an annoyance, but I can understand the reasoning. Most of the ranged attackers I’ve encountered after the first couple of areas have been using elemental missiles to better harass players with shields. Even though I have 100% physical damage block, a little of the fire damage always bleeds through.

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It’s not a huge deal, but it means I can’t stand around gawking forever. With him up there I’m much less certain that there’s a boss past that fog gate. Which makes me even more anxious to find a way further up into the fortress to grab the loot that’s been hanging over my head. I turn away from the fog gate. I want to get up, not across.

Back inside and I’m investigating each floor with a more discerning eye. I see a swordsman’s ugly, armoured face poking in through a barred window, and follow it as he walks along a ledge and then drops in through another window. Unfortunately, it’s all out of reach.

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I remember the ladder in the basement room with the Pharros device and the statues. There were some stairs up there that I never took. I run down there and climb the ladder, then take the stairs to a narrow hall. It’s a dead end, though, and leaves me in the open air above McDuff’s workshop.

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Since nearly everything is dead now, I decide not to waste the opportunity. I carry my torch around to any unlit sconces I can remember. Nothing happens, but it feels like I’m doing something. Maybe I need to unlock the other Pharros device to access the other parts of the fortress? If so, then it will have to wait.

Having exhausted all obvious options, and feeling eager to move on, I cross the bridge to the fog gate and kill the lone pyromancer guard, fighting him close enough to the tower that the crossbowman above can’t get an angle on me.

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I take a deep breath and step through the fog gate.

Sinner’s Rise

I’m on a middle floor in the big tower. Heavy chains run up through the centre of the building, past the thick, broken stones of missing floors. An elevator. Do I need to go up or down to access it?

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A swordsman comes at me from the right. Likely it’s the crossbowman. I kill him, and step close enough to the edge of the broken floor to see that the next level is within falling distance.

I find a ladder outside that climbs up to the battlements. As I reach the top I hear that same animal cry and flapping of wings that I’d heard after leaving the safety of the mess hall bonfire. This time I also see where the sound is coming from. Three dark, winged shapes are flying at me. Big, demonic creatures with long tails and even longer weapons clutched in their hands. But I see a bonfire as well, and know that I’m safe. The creatures flap around a bit, then turn and take off, speeding away from the tower until they’re out of sight behind the Bastille. How long before I find out what those things really are?

 

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I light the bonfire, and then use it to light a torch, which in turn lights a nearby sconce. After thinking about it, I decide to rest as well. If I’m in a new area I should establish the checkpoint. I’m done with the Bastille until I get my hands on another lockstone. The bonfire tells me that I’m sitting in the Saltfort.

Now seems a good time to test out the Bonfire Ascetic. I can at least compare what I fight here to what I’ve just fought, as they’re still royal swordsmen, and a long bridge with a fog gate is probably the strongest delineation I’ll get between areas. When I attempt to burn the Ascetic a message informs me that I can’t do that because there is still a Lord in the area. So there’s another boss coming up. Fine, I expected that, but why would I want to strengthen the enemies in an area that I’ve already beaten? For farming? The Bonfire Ascetic is suddenly much less interesting an item than it was a minute ago.

I stand up from the bonfire. A body nearby, inside a doorway and resting on the remnants of the floor, holds an Undead Soul.

Stairs are carved into the outside the tower, the dark sea and its white rocks only a twisted ankle and a long drop away. Drangleic was not a kingdom known for its robust health and safety codes. As I near the lower floor I can see a crossbow poking out from around a corner.

 

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I kill the swordsman, then another that comes out from inside the tower. It’s a precarious position to be fighting from with the lance, but I’ve become better at managing its forward momentum. A loot corpse holds an effigy, but also marks the end of the road as far as stairs are concerned.

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Inside the tower is the elevator, its solid platform haloed by, frankly, a very uncertain looking makeshift wooden floor.

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A pair of swordsmen hold crossbows on me. Though I’m reluctant to step onto the wood with them, I figure that since it’s the only way to get to the elevator, and since there are already people standing there, it must be safe enough. I kill them both, and only after its safe again do I allow myself to look down.

That wasn’t the best idea I’ve had. It’s a straight drop to the sea from here, a straight drop that all the magical rings and special capes in the world won’t help me survive. I don’t exactly fear heights–not to a degree that would be called a phobia–and the Gods know I’ve often been far enough away from the ground that a fall could do me some serious damage or even kill me, but some degree of caution is not the same as any degree of cowardice. My life has enough trauma built into it without needless risks, and every time I see another of the slapped-together clump of old, dried-out wood that passes for floors and ceilings in Drangleic, I have to wonder if all the people with sense and craftsmanship were the first to go when the Undead curse ripped through the land. Having to commute across these sorts of structures every day would be enough to turn anyone Hollowed.

 

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I step onto the elevator. To my surprise, it doesn’t carry me up to the roof and my destined battle with the flying creatures. Instead, it begins to descend. And it keeps on descending until I’m all the way at the bottom of the tower.

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Just before reaching the bottom, I pass a ledge with a loot corpse, and then I’m deposited in a cramped, dark room next to the black water.

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There’s also an unlit sconce down here, so I decide to continue the thread. I ride the elevator back to the top, climb to the bonfire, then carry a torch down again. On the way I drop off the side to pick up the loot corpse I’d seen, netting myself some lacerating knives. Your standard throwing knife, but with bleed buildup.

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I hop down to the bottom and light the sconce. That feels a little more comfortable, but I still have to wade out into the cold water if I want to keep going.

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It’s a straight shot to the far end, where I can see another fog gate. This time it has to be a boss.

This is simple enough, but simple is not the same as easy. The water in this passage is up to my waist, so every step is a struggle. The sconce I lit isn’t helping to light things up, either, and only faint moonlight bouncing off the lazy waves allows me to see where I’m going.

I hear movement that isn’t my own and stop. A fight here, which was inevitable, is going to suck for me. I seriously doubt my enemies will struggle with the water like I am. I prepared for one, or perhaps many, of the bandaged Hollowed to rise from the water, or come barrelling around a corner. It’ll be stab-or-be-blown-to-bits, but I think I can manage.

It’s a day for surprises.

What comes around the corner is not a mob of hissing, humanoid bombs, nor is it any of the bigger pyromancers. It’s a Flexile Sentry. Beady, reptilian eyes peer down at me from slack faces, rows of needle-sharp teeth clenched into unknowing smiles. It comes at me with the sword half this time, and its attacks press me back toward the stairs.

 

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It can’t follow me into the narrow passage to the elevator, which trivializes the fight. It continually swings its swords in elaborate combinations, ending with swift uppercuts that surely do a lot of damage, but I’m able to dance in and out of range. Before long, the Sentry slumps over in defeat. I gain 2500 Souls, which isn’t nearly as much as I expected, and an awestone.

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Back into the water, and I can hear more sounds from further on. Another Sentry? Doesn’t sound like one. Thick walls of black, wet stone segment the passage into large rooms. To my left is a body floating in the water. Alert for anything popping up at me–almost any enemy I’ve seen here could hide under water this deep–I approach.

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I walk, saving my stamina for fight or flight, but nothing attacks me. I pick up a Blossom Kite Shield, a light medium shield with poor physical defence but excellent poison and bleed resistances, and a special ability to increase stamina recovery when equipped. That seems to stack with my Cloranthy ring, as I get no message while wearing both. Might be useful down the road. Another corpse holds a Soul of a Nameless Warrior.

After pushing through roughly half of the passage, I find another enemy. A bandaged thing is standing in the water nearby.

 

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Exploding or not, I’m not taking chances. As soon as it sees me I stab it, killing it in a single hit. The passage is silent again.

A little further on and I find stairs to the left and right that climb to an upper level of holding cells, and dry ground. I take the stairs on the left, where I find another of the bandaged things resting against the wall. At the far end of the platform is a closed iron door in the direction of the fog gate, while below, in the water, is a much bigger iron gate.

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I kill the creature there and check the cells. Most are empty, but at the far end is a cell holding a single Heide knight. Another surprise. Hard to imagine the circumstances that lead to this, but he’s in there with a loot corpse, so all that matters is whether or not he’s in my way.

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I open the cell. The Heide knight stands, and I see that it’s a spear knight. Of course it is. Even after all this time, he still gives me trouble, landing a solid slash against me when I try to interrupt a combo. I back out of the cell to get some manoeuvring space, and I’m able to stab it in the back. It drops a Heide spear.

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This weapon is almost enough to make me rethink my character building plans. Unlike the weird slashing attacks that the Heide knight uses, this spear has the same moveset as the winged spear, and has similar physical damage, but with natural lightning damage added on. The corpse inside the cell holds a single fireseed.

I cross to the cells on the other side of the passage and kill another bandaged thing there. The cells are empty, so I jump down to the water and look into the flooded cells down there. One of the bandaged things pops out of the water at me, giving me a shock, but I’d been expecting that to happen so I’m ready to stab it in the face. In the last cell on the left is a Pharros lockstone. Goody.

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A switch opens the big gate to the next area.

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Before pulling it, I climb back to the upper level and try the doors there. They open with the Bastille key. A shortcut of sorts, I suppose, so that I don’t have to go through the lower cells if I die.

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I pull the switch and walk through the main gate.

I’m in a seaside cavern carved into the bottom of the very cliffs that hold the Bastile above sea. Moonlight paints the needles of stone stabbing out of the water with milky light, turning them into cracked bones. A walkway crosses the still water to a huge, dark building, domed like a cathedral. What use is this for a fortress, much less a prison? What could possibly be waiting inside?

 

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There is an unlit sconce on this side of the cavern. May as well continue as I’ve already been going. I wade back through the waterlogged passage and light my torch, then carry it back to light the sconce.

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I cross the narrow bridge. Stairs curl around either side of the main fog gate like wings, leading up to closed doors.

DarkSoulsII 2015-05-25 19-01-07-88I take the stairs on the right. The door at the top opens with the Bastille key. There’s a body inside holding a smooth and silky stone, along with a puddle of black gunk.

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A trough runs inside the building, ending at what I think is a pile of wood. Oil, then, used to light big fires.

I find another body wedged between the stairs and the building, and pick up a Radiant Lifegem. I use the Bastille key to open the door on the left, but there’s no body in there, only another puddle of thick, black oil underneath another trough.

Time for the final fog gate. I have nearly 80,000 Souls on me, so I’m a little apprehensive, but that’s just spice. Besides, what’s the worst that could happen?

The Lost Sinner

A cutscene plays. I see a prison at the far end of a large, open room. Torches on the walls light the scene, giving me a good look at the mask she wears, and the heavy bindings around her wrists.

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A bug crawls into one of the mask’s eye holes, and the prisoner looks up at me. She climbs to her feet, showing a body tall and wiry with power. This was not a normal prisoner. A sword appears in her hands, and she slashes it with such speed and force that it extinguishes the torches, plunging the room into darkness.

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The fight starts. Lanky as she may appear, the Lost Sinner has a lot of speed. In a single bound she’s on me, slashing away with her long sword. After all the trouble her captors went through to lock her away in here, you’d figure they’d disarm her, but these are the same people who thought trying to assassinate a supernatural curse was a good idea. Competence was not at the top of the list when choosing decision makers.

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Even as dark as the room is, it’s no trouble to keep track of her. Which is one of the many basic problem with this fight. The Lost Sinner has speed, reach, and likely power as well, but I would have to deliberately gimp myself for the fight to be any sort of challenge. And it’s not because I’m overpowered for this point in the game. My weapons are all ones that I picked up before making it to the Bastille on a normal route, and a difference in weapon upgrades would only be a difference in the length of the fight, not the fight itself. Frankly, it’s a stupid idea to put a boss in the game, especially at this point, that has no gimmick. She’s a melee fighter that does only physical damage. I can hold my Drangleic shield up and be completely safe at all times. I could use a weaker shield and still be safe, though I’d have to finish the fight sooner.

So, it turns out I had nothing to worry about. There’s no chance I would lose my Souls to this chump. Even the crossbowmen in the Bastille recognize that they need to add fire damage to be effective.

 

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The Lost Sinner jumps around, swings her sword in roomy combos that are pathetically easy to step around, to the point where I don’t even need my shield. I circle and jab whenever there’s an obvious opening, and the fight never changes, really. When she drops below half health she starts to mix in a big overhead slam attack that break my guard, but the rules of Dark Souls boss design say that a heavy guard break is the end of a string, so there’s never any followup. I recover and am able to defend myself long before the next attack comes, and it’s not a matter of the Cloranthy ring, because that only speeds up stamina regeneration, but doesn’t cause it to regenerate any sooner after the bar has been emptied.

It’s not long before the fight is over. She never touched me.

 

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“Great Soul Embraced”

Another surprise. Was that really it? The big boss that I’d been looking for? I gain 45,000 Souls and pick up the Soul of The Lost Sinner. A woman who is eternally punishing herself for the sins of her past. Perhaps she stuck herself in here, which would explain her still having the sword, but not why her wrists were bound. She was also Hollowed, but eternal self-flagellation implies some level of continuing consciousness, unless she got bored with that after a few decades.

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The darkness of the room gives me an idea, something that’s entirely obvious in hindsight. I run back to the nearest lit sconce and carry a torch up to one of the oil-slicked rooms. I’m able to light the oil with my torch.

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After both sides are roaring away, I return to the boss chamber. It’s nicely lit now. Maybe that would have helped during the fight, but it’s not like any further handicaps on that particular boss were necessary.

I do get a better look at her personal torture chamber. Broken shackles snake along the ground, piling up at one end of the room. The walls and floor are covered with smudged, illegible scribbling. A lifetime’s worth of sins and an afterlife’s worth of confessions. And still oblivion overtook her. So much for cleansing the Soul of sin.

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A big, black door beckons from the other side of the room. It’s a familiar door, a lot like the one I saw in the tunnel between Heide and No-Man’s Wharf, only this one is still intact.

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I push the doors open, then walk down some stairs. I find a chest and another room with a bonfire.

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Inside the chest is a branch of Yore, completing the set I needed to open up more of the Bastille. There’s also an Elizabeth mushroom, a healing item named after the fabled Saint Elizabeth, who is said to be quite beautiful. A little joke, since Elizabeth was actually a giant talking mushroom.

I light the bonfire.

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The message tells me that I’ve rekindled a primal bonfire, whatever that is. It does look different, with the sword at its heart snapped in half. When I sit all I can do is warp back to Majula. I’ve done my work for today, so I do just that. The rest of the Bastille can wait.

Before closing the book on the day, I talk to the Emerald Herald. She’s less expressive than I expected, only remarking in passing that I’ve acquired one of the Souls she instructed me to look for with no further comments about what to do with it or where to go next.

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Maybe she knows about how much of a pushover The Lost Sinner was. I wouldn’t be that impressed, either.

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