It’s always a good idea to start the day with purpose. Maybe I’ve forgotten where I’m going, and never knew how I was getting there, but that doesn’t mean I have to lack goals.
My horoscope tells me that I shouldn’t be afraid to try something new. And that my Soul is fading, caught in an endless spiral of loss that feeds on my growing self-doubt until I take that final tumble from the path and fall forever toward the static void, lose my mind, and spend eternity as a slave to an insatiable, indefinable hunger. Recent issues of the Drangleic Times have been real downers, let me tell you.
Onward and upwards, I say. As long as I have souls in my pocket and air to breath, the end of the world may as well be ancient history, so to speak.
Something new, though. What can it be? Maybe some help with this feeling of constant isolation. I know, I’ll get myself a hobby. That’s how you meet new people.
Convenient, then, that I’ve hit the next level of devotion in the Company of Champions. I have my First Dragon Ring jammed firmly on my finger, and, still somewhat sour about finding another copy of the spell I worked so hard to have exclusive access to, I’m ready to move on. At last, I can see what it’s like on the other side.
First things first. I have a bit of upkeep to attend to. I warp to Things Betwixt to visit the nest and trade my items.
I have a smooth and silky stone, and a couple of petrified somethings. The kind of trinkets that whatever hangs out here seems to love. What I’m missing is the memory for how this is supposed to work. I open the menu and discard the smooth and silky stone. It disappears, and I get nothing. Oh right. I open the menu again and leave–which is completely different from discarding–the petrified somethings. I receive a twinkling titanite and a petrified dragon bone in return.
Which reminds me that there’s been a paucity dragon-kin so far. Aside from that drake I killed–without getting its tail–in Heide, all I’ve seen are bones. Are there still dragon weapons? The petrified dragon bones are for equipment made from boss souls, and twinkling titanite is for unique gear, while regular titanite works for everything else. That I haven’t found special ores specifically for dragon weapons suggests they may not exist in the same way. I did find the Dragon Tooth club, and it uses twinkling titanite for upgrades, but I didn’t get it from a dragon. And I’ve cut tails from bosses and gained nothing for it.
When–I know it has to be when, not if–I run into my next real dragon, I’ll try to find out.
Anyway, that’s it for chores today. Now, to do what I’ve been avoiding, which is choosing another covenant.
The first step is reviewing my options. The little fellow in Undead Purgatory, the Rat King, the munchkin in the Belfry Luna, the mopey guy in Majula. The standoffish knight in the Cathedral of Blue, he had one, I’m sure. How to best get to him? Then, I remember Licia, the used miracle salesperson hiding in the sewers between Majula and Heide. Haven’t seen her in a while.
She has nothing new for sale, but a new angle in her hard sell patter. Do I want to know about the First Flame? Oh, sure, she knows all about that, and she’d love to tell me. Only, I’m not yet enlightened enough to understand. If I would just buy a few more things, then, maybe, I’d be ready.
Pull the other one, lady, it’s got an entire brass band on.
So I do it the hard way, warping to the Tower of Flame bonfire and fighting my way to the Cathedral of Blue. I’ll admit, there’s a certain amount of pleasure in walking straight through what was once a complicated song and dance. Especially when I get to this prick, and finish him with a single stab through his black heart.
When I get to him, Targray is much more chatty than I remember. He announces that I have proof and can now join his Order. What proof? I’m not sure, but I assume it’s the token of fidelity I grabbed on my way through Huntsman’s Copse.
When I back out of joining, still wanting to see the other options, he goes right back to being a jerk.
On the way to his balcony, I noticed a side passage off the boss room. Was that there before? I can’t remember seeing it, because if I had, I surely would have found the bonfire at the bottom of the stairs.
By now, I doubt you need further evidence that the little gremlins in my mind take a particular pleasure in making me miss the obvious. Believe me, if a stray bonfire that I didn’t even need was all I missed, I’d count myself lucky.
On the way out, I drop by the guy staring at the cave wall near Huntsman’s Copse, but he’s still not talking to me.
Looking again at my options, I think, why not try them all?
Brotherhood of Blood
My first stop, for no other reason than I’m sure it will be the least relevant to me. I drop in on the little fellow, who I find out is named Gren. Soft spoken as he is, especially compared to the other recruiters, he’s got a disconcerting fixation on blood.
I expected a PvP focus, and that seems to be what I get. Gren hands over a Crest of Blood ring, and talks of tokens of spite. His words and the ring’s description give a clear enough picture. Earn tokens in PvP, trade them for cracked red eye orbs to invade other worlds. Rinse and repeat, and presumably one of those resources, or a reward from the invasions, will level up the covenant ranks.
Gren also sells a few items, including a great scythe, which is a dexterity-based polearm, and a full set of the Skeleton Lord’s armour. It looks flimsy, but the description says it has high dark resistance. I’m once again flummoxed by the lack of an equipment comparison option in the shop menu, so I don’t know how it stacks up to what I have on. He also sells hexing urns, a bomb that does dark damage. Before I leave, he takes the time to complain about those goody-goody Blue Sentinels.
Back to Targray. After berating me for straying from the path of the righteousness and extremely boring, he grants me entrance into the Blue Sentinels.
He is more direct about what the Blue Sentinels are all about. As a Knight of Blue–which is totally not lame title, and isn’t getting lamer the more he says it–it’s my job to protect the Apostles of Blue from nasty invaders out to give them wedgies and steal their lunch money. Which I assume means guarding the Way of Blue from the likes of the Brotherhood of Blood. I get a Guardian’s Seal ring, which will summon me automatically if some poor Apostle is in danger. By doing this, I’ll probably earn more tokens of fidelity to rank up with. All meaningless while I’m offline.
He also sells a few items. Basic weapons that I have no interest in, and some consumables that include a boltstone to add lighting damage to a weapon. Already have those. Miracles as well, one of which fires lightning randomly. Finally, he teaches me the “duel bow” gesture.
It takes some concentration to remember the way to the Belfry, and once I’m there, all I have is this munchkin cackling at me. I join anyway, and get another ring. This is also a PvP covenant, one centred around a single location. While wearing the ring, any invasion of the Belfry will summon me to protect the princess’s precious noisemaker. Why? Beats me. This guy says they’ve been ringing it for years anyway, so why does he care so much about strangers doing it? Seems selfish, but I’m not going to say that to his face. He also reveals that there’s another bell somewhere else that belongs to the prince. He doesn’t sell anything, so I leave.
The Rat King gives me the same speech as the bell guard, more or less, but with less manic tittering and more pomposity. He hands over a ring, and says that, as his servant, it will summon me to protect the rat’s burrows from invaders. Which must mean the Doors of Pharros. He tells me of the lockstones, and the traps in Pharros, and that I should use them against invaders. That explains why there are so many around. I give him the rat rail I earned from the boss, but no result. I’ll need more than that to rank up. He also sells a few items, the most interesting being jars of acid that wreck the durability of the target’s equipment. Nasty.
More than a minute of this noble rat nonsense is too much, and I have to leave.
All my options checked, I decide to go with the Brotherhood of Blood. I can’t defend anyone else from invaders, so the other covenants would get me nowhere, but maybe NPC dark spirits count for something blood related. Worth a shot, because I know Forlorn is going to show up again soon enough. It will give me a chance to see what I’ve been missing in the Company of Champions. Maybe I’ll even see a summoning sign.
Where to next? I can wait on the Grave of Saints, since I’ll have to come back that way eventually to access the birdbath. Might as well skip back a few steps. Brightstone Cove or Harvest Valley? Of the two, I’m most curious about the cove, but Harvest Valley is an earlier area. I should do it now, before it’s too late.
What will I find up there?
That’s getting ahead of myself. There are still those trenches to get through.
I’ve been around a bit by now, seen some of what Drangleic has to offer. Sunny seaside desolation, old forests full of ugly, moaning trees and backstabbing phantoms. Dank garbage pits that haven’t known the light of day, ever, and all the ruins in between. For the first time, I’m thinking, “Why am I doing this?” Might be that I’ve seen too many episodes of Blackadder Goes Forth, but something about the trenches and the gas is rubbing me the wrong way today.
But, I’ve made up my mind, and I’ll have to do it eventually. Something this big and obvious can’t be optional.
I walk down and poke around the lowest point of high ground, a wide rock ledge that puts me near eye level with the giant and whatever rides on its back. A skeleton hops up and attacks me.
This is why we can’t get along. I’m just passing through, and every other pile of bones holds some personal grudge because I happen to still have ligaments and a tongue. Sure, I can taste things, but which of us is better at Twister? It’s about priorities, and that’s what they don’t get.
On a brighter note, the dark damage on my spear might be helping? The skeleton dies in a couple of hits, but it’s been so long since I last stabbed a skeleton that I can’t make a good comparison.
The skeleton drops a titanite shard, and a nearby corpse holds a lifegem. Really, a lot of nearby corpses are likely to hold a lot of lifegems. I need a strategy for grabbing all this loot.
The ground slopes down into the mist. I’m getting close enough to the giant that I can see how it’s controlled. A bag over its head, so it’s blind, directed by the guy in the basket. Can’t be that dangerous, then. Maybe I can sneak past. More worrying is the number of bone piles I can see. How many of them will attack me?
Can’t put this off any longer. I hold my breath and step into the gas. A test, to see what I’m up against.
My poison bar starts filling. Quickly, but not so fast that I shouldn’t be able to make it from one piece of high ground to the next. With a heavy jangling of chains, the giant turns in my direction. I step back into the fresh(er) air and exhale. The giant stops moving. My poison bar doesn’t, and is still climbing for about a second after I’ve left the gas. Not enough to poison me, but I have to wait longer before I can try again.
I stab the giant. It throws out a clumsy overhand slap, blindly swatting at the pain. No danger there, as I have reach on it, and it’s slow anyway. Then, a giant ball of dark energy flies toward me. I get my shield up in time, but it hurts. It’s not the giant I have to worry about at all, but the master. Every time his mount attacks, he fires off another projectile.
Even when I’m up the ramp again, he’s still firing. One of the crawling Hollowed has followed me. A single stab to get rid of it, and I dive back into the gas and circle behind the giant. The energy attacks give this enemy more reach, but it still has to shoot them in the direction the giant is facing, which simplifies things. I take it down, but end up poisoned. Back up the ramp, where I use a lifegem to counter the health loss, then a bottle charge to heal. The rider died along with the giant, so that’s trouble halved.
Another of the creepy-crawlers is after my ankles, so I stab it, and miss. Stab again, miss again. It’s like that, is it? I pull out my club and do it properly.
With the major opposition out of the way, I’m free to loot. None of the bones nearby have moved, either. Now that I’m not focused on enemies, I can hear the sound of someone drinking. I know I’ve heard it before. It can’t be. Cant it?
With only seconds of leeway, grabbing all the loot is an arduous endeavour. At some point, I do find a skeleton willing to fight, and I kill it near the ramp. I’m picking up a lot of titanite, and one of the crawlers dropped a bleed stone. Is that why Chloanne was hanging out here? Maybe this place is some sort of titanite refinery. On the way to the furthest items, there’s no avoiding becoming poisoned. A couple more skeletons, and I’m done.
My haul includes titanite shards and chunks, torches, poisoned throwing knives, and smooth and silky stones. Not bad. Certainly worth a few bottle charges and a sore throat.
The next section is aboveground. A small valley before the tower. But there’s also more in the gas, a tunnel through it that leads to a loot corpse.
Once more into the breach.
I find safe ground on the other side, gain it in time to avoid becoming poisoned. Another skeleton, another beat down. I do not have patience for that right now.
A loot corpse overlooks a gas pit with more bodies at the bottom, the flesh long since melted away.
Something is beginning to seep in, no pun intended. (That’s a lie. The pun is always intended.) All the loot I’ve grabbed, it’s all from people who couldn’t survive the gas. Was it an accident that flooded this place? Or did they wander down here in their misery? The corpses near the entrance–or exit, depending on circumstance–was that the final exodus? And here. All those skeletons, the flesh eaten away by the corrosive gas, while this single corpse sits on the ledge above. The one that almost made it, only to collapse into a choking heap, his final moments of life full of pain, hacking coughs, blood. Or was he the one who couldn’t help, and who couldn’t leave, with the only way out also filled with poisonous gas. Sitting there, looking down at his friends until he, too, expired.
Of course, the real question is why is there a ramp leading down to corpses without loot? I take a look, and see there’s another opening in the wall. How far down does this go?
Not too far. It’s only a small nook, deep enough to hide a chest. The time it takes to open the thing and grab what’s inside is more then enough for the poison to overtake me, but I make it out with a fireseed and divine blessing, so it’s worth the extra flask charge.
In here, the gulping sound is louder than ever. Through a small hole, I find another room, and inside is good old Gavlan, the monosyllabic gyrm I met in No-man’s Wharf. I knew it sounded familiar. He’s standing next to a wooden chest.
He has nothing new to say or to sell, but I can still trade items, and I suppose this location is marginally more convenient than his pirate hideout. I sell of my duplicate weapons and armour, earning about 7,000 souls. Not bad. Inside the chest is a single raw stone.
Back up to the valley. Ramps, ledges, and ladders. A couple of Hollowed ladies holding what looks like fans, or maybe wands?
Two more steps and the nearest of them starts launching waves of fireballs. Not far enough to hit me yet, but it’s something to look forward to. I run up the ramp on my right and climb a ladder.
At the top is a corpse holding 10 hexing orbs. Looking down from here, I can see nearly-naked Hollowed bowing down, as if worshipping the pyromancers. I drop back down, wait for an opening, then dash toward the nearest of the fireball throwers. I have to double-back up a ramp to reach her, and a fireball from above hits me in the side, doing a lot of damage, but without staggering me. I’m close enough to start attacking, and there’s an explosion somewhere behind me. I don’t wait to find out what other tricks might be up her sleeve. A couple of stabs and she’s down. A single Hollowed stumbles toward me and dies as well.
Once I’ve collected myself, I take a run at the next ladder and climb to the other pyromancer’s perch. She blows a fireball like a kiss, and it floats lazily toward me, hangs in the air, then explodes as I reach the top of the ladder. Somehow, I take no damage, but she has another one ready, and this one I take on my shield.
That’s enough of that. I poke her to death, then the Hollowed that get up to, well, not exactly rush to her aid. It’s more of a hobble. And they’re too late to help her, or themselves. The pyromancer drops a wilted dusk herb and a dragon charm, a consumable that cures poison as well as healing.
I pull a switch, opening the way through.
Back on the ground, I can hear the unmistakable tinkling of a crystal lizard. Sure enough, when I can see one in the next area, and as I get close I can see it’s not alone.
I duck down a side path and find a bonfire surrounded by old pots. A good thing, too, because there’s no way I can kill three crystal lizards without forcing respawns. I casually roll through the pots, only to find myself covered head to toe in poisonous green gunk. I have to rest immediately to refresh myself.
According to the bonfire, I’m in “The Mines,” which lends a lot of support to my hypothesis about the tower’s purpose.
Back outside, I take my first run at the crystal lizards. Each of them escapes into deep holes in the ground that are full of the green gas. I do not follow. They flee directly away from the direction I approach, so I should be able to manipulate them into missing the pits. On my second try, I get the right angle to force one into a wall, then I smash it with my club. It only takes a single hit, which is good.
I’m on my way back so I can use the bonfire to reset the others, when I stumble into one of the holes. The situation does not look good, as you can see for yourself.
I don’t panic. I have plenty of flask charges, and there has to be a way out. But am I even moving? I’m walking, but I can’t see where I’m going. For all I know, I’m just rubbing my face into the nearest wall. I keep moving in a direction I hope is forward, turning slightly as I go, until I spot the glow of items ahead. That’s something. I drink from my flask and run toward them.
By the time I reach the loot corpses, I’m back outside. There are giants nearby, but I’m not close enough to attract their limited attentions. This is the area I saw before, the next trench that branches off from where the crystal lizards hang out, and looks like the final barrier between me and the tower. I’m able to find my way back to the bonfire, and soon I take down the other two crystal lizards. Like the first, each drops a titanite shard, a large titanite shard, and a palestone.
From here, the path splits. Right is the other trench, and the tower. Left heads away from them both, a side path that eventually loops back to the loot corpse overlooking this area.
Besides the hole I’ve already fallen into, there are two more. One has a ladder, the other does not.
I try the ladder, getting far enough down for a good whiff, and to see pieces of wood poking up. I can also hear suspiciously bony footsteps. I climb back out.
I take the path on the left first, because I love a good mystery, and I need to get to that loot corpse.
I pass over a small pile of rocks and come to a left turn at a flimsy-looking wooden wall. I can see a giant through the crooked boards.
I take the left turn. It’s a ledge overlooking a metal chest and a ladder down to another poison pit. This must connect to the other ladder. If I drop down here, I’ll have to find it, and the skeletons, to get out again.
I go back to the wooden wall. Can I break it? I smack it with my club. Nothing. I’m ready to dive into the poison when I hear the giant turning. It must have heard me knocking. A massive fist swings in my direction, splintering the wall and opening the way through.
The magic blast knocks me back a pace, but my shield saves me. There’s no space here, and I can’t keep taking those shots. I get close and squeeze behind the giant, where there’s an open area. I start stabbing away, then take a slap that nearly kills me. I’d used all my stamina, thinking the final attack would finish it. My luck holds out, and the next attack does kill it. I heal.
There is another wooden wall here, and this time I see items behind it and no giant. I smack it and throw a firebomb. No joy.
I hop down to the chest and loot a poison stone and a few rotten pine resins. Then down the ladder. I can see an item ahead, so I walk toward it and pick up an Undead Soul.
After that, I can’t see anything. A skeleton is coming, and I hold my shield up, using the block to find it and kill it. I heal and keep moving, until I find a ladder. I climb out.
Not to the crystal lizard’s area, but to the same metal chest. Must have been turned around by the skeleton. I jump into the pit and try again. This time, I find the right ladder, and I run back to the bonfire to replenish my flask and to test something.
As I’d hoped, the giant has respawned, but the first wall has not. Will it work? It’s worth a shot.
I run toward the giant, getting close enough for it to notice me, then I slip past. It takes some corralling, but I get my back pressed to the second wall and wait for it to close in.
The giant throws a first at my head. I roll to the side. The second wall bursts apart. Success.
I’ve been taking magic blasts off my shield while trying to get the giant into position, but I buffed my weapon before the fight began, so as soon as the wall is down, so is it.
Past the broken wall is dead end with a few loot corpses. I pick up a torch, an Undead Soul, a smooth and silky stone, a lifegem, and an old knight’s greatshield and pike. What was one of those big old things doing all the way out here? Not a whole lot, it seems. Like the other old knight equipment, these have tragically low durability, and the greatshield requires 28 strength while having only 65 stability. That’s about as low as I’ve seen for that class of shield, and I don’t think its relatively high status resistances make up for that. The pike actually looks pretty good, with decent base damage, an A dexterity gain, and fast moves, even if they’re a halberd set and a spear’s. But, again, only 20 durability is an issue.
On the way back, I pass a new opening in the wall. I’m sure it’s new. I know I didn’t see it on my way to the giant, but I don’t have a screenshot to verify it wasn’t there. After finding the bonfire in the Cathedral of Blue, I’m not above distrusting my own eyes and memory, but this time I am certain it just opened up.
And I certainly didn’t hear the guy with the sickles last time, like I hear him now, turning in my direction as I pass.
I think to myself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” as I take a step toward the new area. It’s only a guy with some oversized farming tools. I’ve killed plenty of his type already.
Did I say “a guy?” Let me correct that. There are two of them. Then three. Then four. That’s more than I bargained for, but it seems I’m stuck with them. My step forward dropped me over short ledge, and god forbid I lift my knees. In moments, they’re all over me like I’m the last dish of bacon at the brunch buffet.
It’s not all bad. Narrow as this passage is, I can’t get by them, but they can’t get by each other, either. The nearest of them chops at me with his sickles, once, twice, taking big chunks of my stamina away, and I’m stumbling back. There’s some minor bleed buildup, but I’m otherwise unharmed, because the guy behind him is too far away to hit me with his slashes.
There’s a slight comfort that comes with resigning oneself to fate. If I am going to die here, I may as well make the best of it. I can’t block forever, either. I poke with my spear, but I’m so far into the rocks at my back that my weapon pings off them, deflected, but not before doing some damage to the nearest of the sickle bros. It’s a big stamina drain, though, and when he attacks again, he knocks my shield aside and the blades bite into me.
If I’m already dead, what have I got to lose? I took significant damage, but this is also an opening. So I pull out my Estus flask and, somehow, I get a big swig down and my shield up again before the next attack hits. I start stabbing again. Each time, my weapon knocks into the stones behind me and sends me stumbling, but I still hit the my enemy. And, soon enough, he dies. Then the next one dies.
And the next one dies. I’ve managed a natural 20, and this is working out in my favour.
I have a bit more space now, but I’m running low on health again. I take a full hit from the last of them, but my armour saves me. Still can’t make it past, and I don’t want to risk another bottle charge, not when he’s so close.
In for a penny, in for a pound. I grab my spear with both hands and strike out with my heaviest attack. He dies. I’m alive. I celebrate with another flask charge.
This must be the way to the body on the ledge.
I step out into an open space lined with rows of boarded up holes. Sudden flashbacks to ruins full of imprisoned ghouls about to jump out and chew my face off. I look around. Two openings on the ground level, five more up top. Nothing moves, and I can see items behind the boards.
The danger has passed, so I go about looting, knocking away the wood with my club. All the while, I can hear someone moaning and slapping stone nearby.
Besides the green blossoms, I find simpleton’s spice, skeptic’s spice, lifegems, various types of titanite shards, an Undead Soul, and a single Hollowed that wasn’t convinced by the fight I just won that I’m not to be messed with.
A passage on the second level branches at a T-junction. On my left is the single Hollowed slapping endlessly at the wall, as if it stole something and he wants it back. This one has the good sense, or lack of all sense, to not attack me when I get close. But better safe than sorry, so it dies as well.
I take the right path, and find the body on the ledge.
To the left are some crude stairs descending to a big old pit of green gas.
No ladder, so sound, no items in sight. Hmm. It was a bit of a pain getting here, so is this worth it? On the other hand, it was a bit of a pain getting here, so do I want to backtrack to get here again if it’s something important?
And that, dear reader, is how I acquired my very own look before you leap story.
As much as I’d like to pretend what follows never happened, it very much did. It happened vividly and in real-time. I swear I could actually see the karma reaching down to slap me across the face. Suffice it to say that, after dying in the pit, I did not have the same sort of easy luck getting past that gang of sickle-wielding degenerates. It was silly to attempt the same tactic. Which means I didn’t recover my body. I could have left it at that, but I didn’t. I went straight back and murdered every last one of them. Am I not allowed a little spite?
Finally, in a vain attempt to teach myself an actual lesson, I drop a prism stone in the pit. It lets out a wholly redundant scream. Thanks.
At least now I can move on, after confirming that the last gas hole is connected to the one that opens up in the final trench.
Which is where I’m headed anyway. Though I lost all my souls, I use an effigy. Being human gives me a little something to worry about.
It’s filled with more giants, and not three paces in I’ve got fireballs raining down on me.
I crane my neck. Wherever they’re coming from is too high up in the tower for me to see. I’ll have to deal with it.
Timing a gap in the fireballs, I scurry along the right wall until I come to a bridge. A big, green fellow with an even bigger hammer is standing guard there, and he’s not about to let me across without a fight.
A couple pokes and a backstab later, I’m moving again, still tracing the outer wall. I want to see the entire length of the trench before diving in.
At the end of the trench, the path turns left and goes straight into the tower’s lower levels. I can see a room full of jars. A storage area, for what? I mean, jars, obviously, but who needs that much poison? As I get closer, a headless ninja leaps down and starts tossing poisoned knives at me.
A few stabs and its dead. I peek my head around the corner to see what’s inside the building. Another of the hammer-carrying toughs starts stomping in my direction, breaking jars as he goes. As I expected, they are filled with poison, and within moments so is the ghoul.
I back up a bit, and it dies before it can catch me.
Another hammer ghoul stands at the top of a ladder, surrounded by more jars. To reach him, I’ll have to smash a few of the jars myself. The spear has range, so I should be safe enough.
I still splash myself a bit, but not enough to become poisoned.
At the top of the ladder, before I can think of how best to get around the jars, a fireball explodes behind me. I turn and see another hammer ghoul waiting in the next room.
A pyromancer must be above him, out of sight, and I don’t fancy taking on both of these guys at the same time, not if I’m to be the meat in their hammer sandwich. Luckily, the one behind the jars hasn’t noticed me. I can leave him for now. Somewhere, something dies, and I gain some souls.
I pass over the threshold.
More fireballs, so whatever died wasn’t the pyromancer. I take down the hammer ghoul as fast as I can, not wanting to stand in the open any longer than necessary. I spot the real problem on a ledge above.
I’m charging up the stairs when a cloud of green gas gets in the way. I slow down. Something in a little nook ahead. Closer now, I can see–and hear–the big, black mushroom waiting inside.
Pass it at a dead run, then another on the landing above. The pyromancer is in sight. She blows one of her kisses at me. I feel the air being sucked away, then the intense heat of the explosion. Would you believe that it hurts, a lot? I’m lying on my back, pushing hard to get to my feet. She stands there, watching me. I stand and kill her, then heal. I need to watch for that homing projectile when I’m getting close.
Besides the mushrooms, this place is mostly more poison jars. And a fog gate.
The lowest section of the basement is flooded. No doubt the water is as poisonous as the gas.
Not yet ready for a fog gate, I backtrack, dropping down on the mushroom guarding the stairs. It’s also guarding a corpse holding a skeptic’s spice, and the one on the landing drops a lifegem.
Back to the ugly brute with the hammer. I break the jars between us, getting myself poisoned in the process. Once that’s worn off, I put my shield away and get close enough to land two big stabs, then a little one to finish it off. He didn’t even get a chance to turn around.
The way outside cleared, I figure I should finish that off before continuing.
I’m standing at the other side of the bridge, looking down on the trench and the giants. To my right, the path hugs the wall, dipping underneath the massive windmill and eventually turning out of sight.
I follow that path. It turns into a tunnel, a long, wide space carved into the stone. I can’t help but feel anxious.
I make it to the end without issue, and turn into another cave. A ray of sunlight shines through an opening in the ceiling, bathing a broken statue in warm, yellow tones. Only here, in all of Harvest Valley, do I find any signs of life, of green isn’t the sickly colour of the gas. It’s comforting.
I kneel in the sun. A menu appears, telling me that I can join the Heirs of the Sun covenant and earn sunlight medals. More coop, I assume. I learn the “praise the sun” gesture and leave without joining.
Back in the trench, and I have an urge to do something I’ve never really done before. I pull out my wand and start blasting the giants with magic missiles. I should have been doing this from the start. Turning on me, the riders try to return fire, but I’m too high up for them to hit. They die in three shots each, and I take out one of the crawlers as a bonus.
I still take damage from the fireballs falling on my head, but now the trench itself is cleared out.
It makes the most sense to start from the far end, the place nearest the entrance into Earthen Peak and furthest from the ramp down into the gas. Most of the loot is concentrated there, and it will save me running back and forth. Besides that stuff there’s only another tunnel near where I found the Alter of Sunlight.
I drop down to the loot corpses from above. It’s a little circle, like they died during seance. A dragon charm, washing pole, titanite shards. A skeleton jumps up, gets knocked down. A crawler approaches, gets squished. Running back, loot a chameleon spell. Some sort of partial invisibility buff, and I have enough intelligence to use it. Through the tunnel, which is blessedly shallow. A final loot corpse with an effigy and a large titanite shard. All done.
First, I rest at the bonfire. Best to be prepared before moving on.
Some days, it feels like he’s the only one who really cares.
He appears on the other side of the bridge. The hammer ghoul is after me as well, so I sprint to the end of the trench and come around to attack Forlorn from behind. This is a weaker version than I’m used to, and my first backstab nearly kills him. I want to finish him as he stands, but that hammer ghoul is relentless. I hightail it for the safety of the crystal lizard area.
Forlorn is the first to arrive, and the first to die. The hammer ghoul is next. I gain a bunch of souls and an effigy, but nothing for my covenant, and I’m wearing the ring and everything. Oh well.
Back inside. The headless rogue jumps me again, which I did not expect. The hammer guy in the room full of poison jars makes it through without getting himself poisoned, since they’re all still broken from last time. That’s progress, of a sort. This time I take the bottom path, heading to the water. Another rogue jumps me in there. It must have been what died last time.
This should have been a clue.
I could explore more down here, but the fireballs never stop. So I go up the ladder, through the hammer guy, up the stairs, through the mushrooms, and murder the pyromancer–this time without getting blown up in the process. One of the hammer ghouls drops a smooth and silky stone. Those bird things are going to be happy to see me.
I look around a bit. I find an alcove with poison jars lining the wall. A single Hollowed sits there, staring at them like they’re going to tell him where he left his keys. And I’m staring at him just as dumbly when another of the headless rogues jumps me. All I hear is swift movement on my right. By the time I’ve turned, it’s already pouncing. I dodge and put my spear through its back. Close one.
A doorway opens into another small room. I can see black mushrooms inside, and they’re crawling toward me. Because making gross noises and farting poison weren’t enough. Call me weird, but I don’t want anything to do with mobile mushrooms.
Thankfully, I’m the proud owner of the proverbial ten-foot pole. Sure, mine’s not quite that long, but it does have a razor-sharp point at the end. One spear thrust each, and I don’t have anymore mushrooms bothering me.
They were guarding yet more poison jars, and a chest, which I open.
A white cloud appears, and I roll away, figuring it’s a poison gas. As it dissipates, a crossbow appears and starts firing in all directions. I get hit in the back once before I get my shield up. Inside the chest is only a single torch. Leave it to overzealous fungi to be guarding something so useless.
I wonder if I can jump down to the mushroom on the level below? If the lower water passage leads up to there, might save me some time and effort to do it in reverse.
I step back, get a running start, and leap toward the mushroom. I land with my spear extending, skewering it before it has a chance to react. Inside the room, I find boxes piled against the walls as if they’re framing something. A button? I move closer.
It’s a bolt hole. Not a bolthole, but a hole for bolts. A trap, is what I mean. I turn and find the activation button on the ground nearby, between me and another of the sickle-carrying freaks.
It sees me and lumbers in my direction. I wait. It steps on the button, but nothing happens. Too bad. I have to kill it on my own.
Through the doorway. Footsteps from the right. Another headless rogue, stabbing down at me with its long claws. It keeps stabbing, without stopping. I return the gesture and we trade hits. I live, it does not.
Avoiding the trap mechanism, I enter the next room, coming to an intersection. I stop short. Look right and see a loot corpse against the wall. Look right and see a headless rogue waiting for an ambush. I may not be smart, but I’m not so dumb I won’t catch on eventually.
I stab it before it can do anything. The corpse has a few titanite shards and an Undead Soul. At the end of the room is a chest, in which is a heavy crossbow+3 and a handful of heavy bolts. A ranged weapon that is on the heavy side (obviously), requires 20 strength to use, but has no attribute bonuses to worry about. I have my magic missiles, and that’s good enough for me.
I look around a bit more, but find nothing else, no connection to the water below. Seems I had to jump down here anyway.
I hop down to the stairs below and enter the water. Yes, it’s poisonous. I can see a loot corpse at the end of a long hall.
As I run toward it, cursing the distance because I will certainly be poisoned before I can reach it. Then I pass an opening to my right. I duck inside, finding safe ground in a small room. From here, I might be able to get the loot and make it to safety again.
I’ve also found a Pharros device and a familiar face.
I strike up a conversation with Lucatiel. She begins apologizing. For what, I don’t know. She thinks she’s a burden. Considering we’ve not collaborated in any way, I can’t see how.
As recompense, she gives me a ring of steel protection+1. Even more physical defence. And of course I take it. The thing about paying damages is that it’s for the well-being of the one making the payment as much as it is the one receiving it. It would be rude to refuse, whether I’ve earned it or not. Or have any idea what she’s even talking about.
Further conversation reveals more of her deteriorating state of mind, which might explain what just happened. She’s losing more memories every day, and is most afraid of forgetting about her brother, who is the reason she came to Drangleic. He was a fencer, like her, but much stronger. And one day he simply disappeared. She’s certain he’s gone Hollowed by now, and I wonder if that’s the case. If I find him–and I must–will he friend or foe? More to the point, will I finally find one of her summoning signs?
I have spare Pharros’ lockstones in my inventory, so I use one to activate the device here. The room lights up, and a face appears on the wall opposite.
I knock the wall down and find a chest. Inside is a Poisonbite ring, which roughly doubles my current poison resistance by adding 150 to it, and an Undead Soul. I’m more than a little disturbed that I’m finding Undead Souls packed into treasure chests and not only on corpses laying where they died. Something about that doesn’t sit right. Are people crawling into chests and becoming locked in or something?
I test the Poisonbite ring by putting it on while I run for the corpse at the end of the hall. It seems to slow the bar a bit, but I still get myself poisoned before I can make it back. I pick up a pair of repair powders.
What happens next might seem very obvious and eleven flavours of dumb, especially after the recent business with the poison pit. Hear me out. Why would I think to drop a prism stone in water? It makes no sense. But making sense and staying alive don’t always go together. When I’m standing on the stairs, ready to go through the basement of poison jars, climb the ladder, and head through the fog gate, I have a sudden urge to explore the rest of the water. It’s opaque, and deep enough that a loot corpse wouldn’t be visible till I was standing on it.
So I drop off the side, into the corner of the room.
It’s about now that I finally peg to the headless rogue having died down here. How else could it have?
When I said I’ll learn eventually, the operative word is “eventually.”
While recovering my corpse, I pick up a manikin shield from one of the headless rogues. These things are constructs created by the Queen. Is the Queen the same as the Princess who made the munchkin army in the Belfry Luna, or is creating deadly automatons something all Drangleic noblewomen do in their spare time? I’ll admit, if I lived in a place like that, I don’t think I’d have time for crocheting, either. Will I be meeting this queen soon?
With no more obvious ways for me to throw my life away, there’s othing left but the fog gate.
To say I’m caught unawares isn’t an understatement, it’s merely accurate. If I’d expected a boss fight, I would have buffed my weapon, and hunted for a summoning sign.
But a boss fight is what I have.
So here I am, stuck in a big, circular room with Jabba the Hutt’s angry, rebellious half-brother. The thing starts crawling in my direction. Slowly, but it’s coming. What should I do? Break for the nearby stairs?
Once close enough, it tries to headbutt me. I step to the side, and it misses. I stab it a couple of times, doing good damage. I wait. What will it do? It must have something hidden under its folds. Another little headbutt, another miss. I stab again.
Before long, the thing is nearly dead, and it still hasn’t done anything. So I two-hand my spear and put end the fight.
I know I’m over-levelled and over-equipped, but I can’t see that fight being difficult if all I had was a piece of driftwood and a rusty butter knife.
I gain a Soul of a Covetous Demon and 13,000 souls. That ugly mound of flesh was once a man who loved without reciprocation. Before I arrived, all it did was stress eat and pack on pounds of resentment. Poor guy must have been rejected pretty hard to turn into that.
With the boss dead, I can hear the background noise of the room. Hollowed are quietly grumbling somewhere nearby. The stairs I thought to run for are impassible, so I busy myself trying to find the source of the sounds.
I look up and see flaming jars hanging from chains. They’re the major light sources in the room, and they are moving. I pull out my binoculars and confirm that heads are poking out the top of those jars. There are Hollowed in them, burning eternally. Surprisingly, they don’t seem to mind much, as, aside from the occasional drab grunt, they’re not doing much, and certainly not complaining or protesting.
It takes some trail and error, but I manage to snipe the nearest hanging jar with a magic missile. Sure enough, a fresh Hollowed drops to the ground.
I knock one more down before running out of ammo. Maybe they actually liked it in there, because neither are happy about being free. I have to kill them.
Time to move on.
A short passage leads me to some stairs, which in turn lead me to a bonfire.
I’m now all the way inside the tower now, and I suspect I’ll be climbing it next. I have to be right about something, “eventually.”
I didn’t see a summoning sign, while human or Hollowed, and didn’t notice anything different with this new covenant. Maybe I should try another? I’ll see what tomorrow brings.