Dark Souls 2 Diaries – Day 17

The thing about being lost, is that it only matters when you’ve some place to be and a reason to be there. Stuck in the desert without fuel or water? That’s a problem. A 5-year-old kid can’t find his father in the mall? Also a problem. A 45 year-old can’t find his father in the mall? Still a problem, but for different reasons.

Otherwise–and at the risk of sounding like a fortune cookie–becoming lost is an opportunity to find something that you might not even know you’re looking for.

Or it’s a big old waste of time. Mileage varies.

As is the case for today’s adventure in the “Doin’ it Wrong in Drangleic” series. But wait for it, this kind of stupid requires building up some steam to achieve.

Earthen Peak

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I’m inside the tower now, fully. I can hear the giant gears at work, feel the pressure of the stone like a weight.

Leaving the bonfire brings me to the open guts of the structure. Below, the poisonous water. In most other directions is that grinding metal. I’m still a bit lower than the first floor, where two rows of arched columns support bridges spanning the length of the place. At their ends, I glimpse pale sky.

 

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Seems I’ll be dealing with more of the headless automatons. I’d be more worried, except the lack of eyes seems to be severely inhibiting their ability to choose hiding spots. Actually, even if this one can’t see, you think it might notice the draft.

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Taking the stairs on my left, I find what I’ll call the first floor. It’s level with the bridges, and is the lowest point above the basement.

On the way up, something metal whizzes by my head and sticks into the wall. Another rogue manikin drops down and starts wailing on my shield, while I can hear the sound of a hammer ghoul stomping at me from somewhere nearby. I kill them both, and find myself in a long room with a switch on one side and a hanging bowl of poison on the other.

 

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Something is waiting for me across the bridge. It’s not too big, but I don’t fancy fighting on that narrow space.

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I smash a few poison jars and recover a radiant lifegem from a corpse against the far wall. Then I try the switch. The chains holding the hanging bowl retract into the ceiling. Nothing else happens. I’d already smashed the jar, so maybe that’s integral to whatever the switch does? I return to the bonfire and exit to the main menu before reloading, to ensure that everything respawns.

Only, what I end up with is a jumble of debris hanging in the air like a modern art piece.

 

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Perhaps it symbolizes the broken promises of the Gods, or the futility of dreams without a future. Perhaps I’ve been alone with my own mind for too long.

I try again, this time warping to Majula and back, and the bowl is in one piece. I pull the switch a few times, but all it does it raise or lower the chains, with no other effect.

 

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If only that was all the time I wasted today, I’d count it as a small victory.

I step out onto the bridge. An arrow sparks off a nearby gear, and I turn to see that the other bridge, its access blocked off from this side by a wall of solid brick, has a pair of archer manikins standing guard.

 

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Their aim is improving, and though the arrows fall harmlessly away from my shield, they are building poison. I can’t reach them from this side, so all I can do is move forward.

Of course, that means the guy waiting on the other side has noticed me. He takes off at a run, and I have to meet him halfway to keep the gear between me and the archers.

 

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He opens with an overhead shield smash, which misses, but the ferocity of the assault is intimidating when I have so little space in which to manoeuvre. He follows up with his magically enchanted spear, the tip glowing with energy. But I know how this works. The attack clangs off my shield, the spear deflects wildly, and I have my opening. A few stabs, step back to avoid another shield attack, and I’ve won the right to cross the bridge.

I step into another long room, this one open to the wind. More jars, and more manikin rogues waiting to pounce.

 

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They’re nice enough to get in line so I can kill them at the same time, but during the fight I heard a throwing knife hit something fragile. Sure enough, there’s another hanging bowl of poison, suspended by more chains, and it’s broken. Does the switch control them both? I can’t fathom a purpose for it otherwise, and can’t fathom a true purpose for the chains and bowls beyond that.

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The rogues were guarding a ladder to the floor above, but I’m more concerned with the archers on the second bridge. This side isn’t blocked off, so I can rid myself of one annoyance before moving on.

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I kill the first archer by running it through while it tries to pull out some melee weapons, but the bridge is out, and I can’t get to the other one. Looking at it from here, I can’t help feeling this is all the result of laziness. Someone looked at the broken bridge and decided that it would be less work to brick up the doorway–the equivalent of an “Out of Order” sign–than to fix it. And then they didn’t even bother to finish that job.

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No point in standing around while my poison bar fills, so I take my wand out and blast the second archer with magic missiles until it stops moving. Now I’m looking at the gap.

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It’s suspiciously large, and I can see that chest below, on my left. It’s the one with the manikin hiding behind it. There is an item on the other half of the bridge. Do I want to suicide across this yet? I think I’ll look around first, because I can see ledges above that might make this saner.

I go back and pull the switch, but it doesn’t do anything to the second set of hanging chains.

Besides the ladder up to the next floor, there’s a passage curving inward at the far end of the second room. With dropping down to the bridge’s loot corpse still on my mind, I decide to go up.

At the top I find another of the veiled spear warriors, standing near a hole in the wall. Outside, the biggest of the windmills turns slowly.

 

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This one isn’t as immediately aggressive as last, but I kill him anyway. He drops a silverblack spear, which has low physical damage but inbuilt dark damage. That means it comes with faith and intelligence requirements, which I don’t quite meet. The move-sethas some heavy sweeping attacks that I could do without, and I already have dark damage spear that I’m trying not to regret, so this isn’t helping. The spear names these guys the Grave Wardens, who guard the Undead Crypt, whatever and wherever that is. I wonder what they’re doing over here.

Nothing else here except a fog gate and stairs leading up.

 

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Keeping track of paths not taken is important, and I prefer to eliminate the obvious before opening new ones. So I take the stairs.

On the way up, more manikins attack, throwing knives. I kill one, but the other takes off. I chase, but by the time I reach the top, it’s gone, likely safe behind the metal gate that just slammed shut.

 

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After looting firebombs from a nearby corpse, I take the opportunity to look over the ledge at what’s behind the fog gate. Surprise, surprise, it’s a bonfire.

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On the wall is a ladder up to the next floor. I trigger an arrow trap as I walk toward it, getting hit once before I can move out of the way. They’re coming from the far wall, and moving closer, I find a loot corpse holding a manakin mask. As if to punctuate that oddity, another manakin rogue drops down behind me, missing head and all, and drops its claw when I kill it. Why is there a mask when they don’t even have heads? The item itself sheds some light on that. The Queen, after bringing all the manakins to life to be her servants and companions, tore all their heads off. As you do. So the question is, was the decapitation ritual specifically for the manakins, or are the manakins the only minions that survived it?

Oh, and the claws have some bleed buildup on them.

Since I’m already there, I drop down on the bonfire, light it, rest.

 

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Through the fog gate, where I stab the grave warden hard enough to knock him off the ledge. The two manikins that I’d forgotten were there get their licks in, stabbing me what seems like dozen times before I can fend them off.

Standing at the bonfire, I had a good view of what was below, and it reminded me that I should be as systematic as my scattered thoughts will allow or I’m sure to forget something. There’s another side passage below, so I climb down the ladder to check it out.

The first thing I find is another switch in the wall.

 

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This one controls the second set of chains. I pull it, raising them into the ceiling. Nothing happens. I cross the bridge and pull the other switch, raising those chains as well. Nothing happens.

Putting that aside, I turn the corner and descend some stairs. I’m on the ledge I saw when I first entered the tower proper, with the chest and the oh-so-stealthy manakin. The manakin doesn’t even wait for me to get close before jumping out.

 

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I get a pike from the chest. Longer reach than the winged spear, but much, much slower, and lower damage. It’s also heavier. I can’t see it being worth the trade. For the most part, enemies against whom that extra range would be a real asset would be tough enough to charge right through pokes from a pike. It’s something I struggled with for a while with spears in general. They are not able to consistently keep enemies out, as you might expect, but are primarily zoning tools, which means that speed is as important as range. If it doesn’t come with significantly better poise damage, mobility is more important than that extra reach.

That done, I’m ready to keep climbing. At the top of the ladder above the bonfire, I am confronted by another pair of manakin rogues.

 

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One of them drops manakin gloves. It says something about the Queen’s poison bosom, and by now I’m certain that I’ll be meeting her in the near future. While I’m thinking about how much fun that will be, an arrow hits me. Another manakin is taking shots from across a long strip of murky, definitely poisonous water. The item in the middle as bait feels like overkill, but what’s royalty without excess?

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As I’m making ready for a charge, yet another manakin attacks, coming from behind me. After dealing with it, I’m not waiting around for something else to interrupt me. I sprint across the water, stabbing the manakin through. At the same time, a fireball explodes on my right. I turn and find a pyromancer standing on the other side of a slowly-spinning fan.

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I zap her with my wand, and she drops an item. Tricky. It doesn’t look like there’s enough space to squeeze around the fan, so how am I to get over there? I grab the loot corpse in the water, getting a flame butterfly. It doesn’t look like a far drop to whatever is under the spinning blades, and maybe they’re not actually blades? I mean, they are angled like blades, but that’s how fans work. Could I possibly, if I step carefully, ride one around to the other side?

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The answer is, of course, no. I lose over half my health when I touch the fan blade, then fall to the ground below. That’s not so far that I take more damage, but of course there’s a manakin down there waiting for me to present my juicy kidneys for stabbing. I kill it and then heal up.

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To get out, I have to smash a couple of poison jars and fall to a lower level. Soon, I’m standing next to a ladder with a long, straight corridor stretching out ahead. Where am I in relation to where I’ve been? I’m not sure. All I can do is keep going.

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I drop down the ladder. A couple a manakins pop out, knives fly, all that stuff. Once they’re dead, I notice that I’m standing on a wooden platform–the first wooden floor I’ve seen in this place–with thick chains at the corners. An elevator of some sort.

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My first thought is about the hanging chains below and those switches. Have I lowered this platform, or raised it? As it is, I can reach a doorway in the far wall.

Then I’m back outside. Stacks of boxes like a bad 90s action television show. Is this manakin stronger than the others, or am I losing it?

 

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A single Hollowed sits on the wrong side of the flimsy barricade. I imagine him stacking all the boxes, taking his smoke break, looking down on the gas-filled trenches below, and giving that eternal shrug.

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The manakin was guarding a switch, which opens a metal gate. I’ve circled back around to above the bonfire.

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Back to the elevator, where I find the switch that activates it. So much for my latest theory about the hanging bowls.

I pull the switch, and, with a shaky, shuddering start, the floor rises into the ceiling. I’m wily about this stuff now. I’m still standing at the switch. There’s no way I’m getting on something like that without seeing all the ways it’ll kill me first.

The true floor is revealed, and there’s an item–a loot corpse–laying in the frog there. Yes, that’s a terrible way to die, but consider this: I got to use “frog” in a sentence. Sure, it doesn’t quite work, but do you know how long I’ve wanted to do that?

 

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I don’t go for the item. It is literally evidence that this elevator can squish someone to death. Even if I had the option to lay down and avoid the immediate death–and, for all I know, that’s what this guy did–how long before someone shows up to raise the elevator? “Punctual” or “active” or “curious” are not words I would use to describe Dragnleic’s current population.

Soon, the elevator is dropping back into place. Playing it over in my mind, there’s more than enough time to get to the body and out again, but, with it back down, I can see there’s another level up there. So when I pull the switch again, I jump on and let it carry me up.

I find a chest at the top, and not any sort of Mission: Impossible-style death scene. It stops before pressing into the ceiling.

 

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Seeing as Lucy calls herself a fencer, I expected a shield from her homeland to be a flimsy little buckler, but this thing is a decent medium shield. Lighter than my Drangleic shield, and with less stability and physical defence, but good against dark damage. I mean, when I say decent, it’s not like I’d use it, but I that only makes me a snob.

From here, I can see the spinning blades. Which reminds me of the pyromancer I killed and the item she dropped. I leap down, rolling with the damage, and take the other passage out of the elevator room, as it’s headed in the right direction.

Some stairs take me where I want to go, once I’ve dealt with another grave warden. I can see the loot, but more fireballs fly toward me. On my left is another pyromancer, guarding a chest.

 

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I kill her, and think that I’m getting a handle on the different sorts of fireballs they have. I get a wilted dusk herb, then a dragon charm from the old corpse, and finally loot the chest. Another arrow trap, and I avoid it. I get a Pharros’ lockstone, and I’m starting to feel pretty good about how this is going.

Adapting a phrase, pride comes before a fail. Or, the more I have to lose, the dumber the way in which I lose it will be. But that’s for later.

Back down, and a turn leads me to another gap that I don’t want to try jumping. A rogue attacks, dies.

 

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Below, I can see a ledge and a doorway. This might be above the second bridge. I find some stairs to a room where I meet a familiar face. It’s Pate, and he’s got another trap to warn me about.

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Apparently there’s treasure nearby, and getting to it is a fool’s errand. I came at this kind of backwards, so I have no idea what he means, which direction the treasure is supposed to be. There’s a door in the corner, which is locked, so maybe that’s it?

I get back to the ledge above, where I can see that same door from the other side.

 

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I open it and chat with Pate. He’s still talking about the devious trap, so that wasn’t it.

From here, I can see the loot corpse on the second bridge. Might even be able to jump to it. Is that what he’s talking about? I’m considering that when it hits me.

 

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So, I’m looking down at the loot, thinking about the best angle to land there without rolling over the edge, and I’m also thinking of the next step. That next step is most important. Once I’m down there, how do I get back? I mean, I could potentially drop from above, but then what? There’s still that gap to clear, and the only thing below is the water, which will surely kill me. Am I expected to use a howeward bone? I don’t think so.

I’ve never denied that I’m slow with environmental puzzles, but even I’m surprised that it took this long to see the obvious. Must be the lingering rust. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Because the only logical means of escape is the very jump I was trying to avoid. And if I can jump back across, that necessarily means that I can jump across in the first place. The bridge is level, so the jump is the same in either direction. Even I can connect those dots.

But that’s for later. Right now, I’m looking for this deadly trap and the treasure behind it. At the other end of the ledge is a doorway, and inside is a small, dark room with a single metal chest.

 

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I approach with a proper amount of respect. Nothing happens. No manikins pop out, no arrow trap starts firing. Maybe the treasure is the trap. I stab the chest, something I’d been doing regularly anyway. It’s not a mimic. So I open it, ready to dodge away from arrows or poison gas. Still nothing. I pick up a greater heavy soul arrow spell, which is the exact spell I’ve already been using for the last week and a half. Is this really it?

On the way back, nothing attacks me, either. But Pate is still super impressed that I managed to survive that epic trip down the hall and back.

 

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So impressed is good old Pate, that he’ll even let me keep the treasure that I don’t really want. After that, he mentions that he’s heard someone is out to get him. For his sake, I have to believe that Pate isn’t as utterly gormless as he seems, and has something up his sleeves.

I’m near the bonfire, so I decide to take some risks. I head over to the elevator and grab the corpse underneath, netting myself a divine blessing and a Soul of a Proud Knight.

Was he too proud to scream before it ended?

I head down to the second bridge and prepare myself for the jump.

 

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And I make it, rolling to my feet after clearing the gap with nothing to spare.

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Now I only have to do the same to make it back. No problem.

Once I’ve respawned at the bonfire, I realize my mistake. I think. I hope. Because now I have nearly 40,000 Souls on the other side of the bridge, and if I can’t make the jump, they’re gone. And if I can’t make the jump back, they’re also gone.

 

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This time, I look the jump over carefully. The gap is smallest on the left side, so I swerve in that direction, and clear it. Left side, which is now my right, on the way back. Make it again. See? No problem. Why am I sweating? Because it’s hot in here. You know, because of all those fans.

To reward myself, I use the effigy and rest again at the bonfire.

Trying to remember which paths are left. I climb the ladder above the bonfire and take the stairs at the opposite end of the tower from where I found Pate’s treasure. I soon find myself in a hall clogged to the stone gills with poison jars of all sizes and descriptions.

 

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When I come out on the other side, something explodes, and then there’s an actual ninja–with a head and everything–in my face.

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A fireball hits me in the back, nearly killing me, and the ninja is pounding on my shield. My guard breaks, and I need to get away before another fireball hits. A pyromancer on my right, somewhere. Can’t risk looking. Which way do I go? I can see what’s on my left, and it’s a grave warden, or maybe two. My mental countdown tells me that it’s time for another fireball, so I turn to face it. I’m dead anyway, so I should see what I’m up against.

The last thing I see is the pyromancer standing at the top of some nearby stairs, and the fireballs as they explode against my shield. I have neither the health nor the stamina to take another hit like that, even without the ninja trying to tickle my spinal cord with his blades. Dead again. Humanity, I barely knew you.

While making my way back, I get a manakin top. Another piece of light armour, and I’m nearing the complete set.

I recover my corpse, take another fireball in the side. I back away, into Poison Jar Alley, so that I can avoid the blasts. The ninja is all over me, and the pots, so it’s not long before he’s poisoned. All I have to do is wait it out.

 

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But it doesn’t go peacefully, and soon the poison is all over me as well. Already low on health, I try to pull out my flask. We die together, collapsing into each other’s limp arms.

On the next attempt, I get the ninja’s attention–he likes to hang from the ceiling in there–and move way, way back. All the way to the other end of the hall, where even the most dedicated fireball can’t find me. The ninja poisons himself and charges. Right into my spear.

I’m out of the hallway like I’m already on fire, storming the pyromancer’s battlements so that I can show her how I truly feel. (If I told you that I’ve read a romance novel before–purely out of bored curiosity, would you believe me now?)

 

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She waves her little fan in my face, and stab her in the throat. I win. It’s simple when you do it properly.

A pool of thick, green water dominates the rest of this floor. A pair of grave wardens stand watch over it, and look like they’re also guarding a tunnel.

 

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I gingerly dip a toe. Poison. The nearest grave warden starts moving in my direction, wading through what is evidently some deep water, all without becoming poisoned himself.

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When he dies, I gain a pair of warden cuffs. While I’m trying to look them over, I notice some bubbling coming from the water, and then a couple of crawlers have emerged to attack my precious ankles.

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That goes as well for them as can be expected. Meaning that I’m back to checking out my new item after a couple of stabs. The cuffs seem like standard medium armour, with low defence and no poise. I’ll pass now, but I do feel like I should update my wardrobe soon.

Back into the water, this time all the way. It comes up to my chest, and the other grave warden isn’t budging. I get to the stairs and kill him, then, while the poison is running its course, I look down the tunnel at the ominous fog gate.

 

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Boss time? Feels like boss time.

I glare at the water, trying to force it into revealing something, but if there are items down there it’s too deep for me to see their shine.

Leaving the fog gate alone for the moment, I go back through the water and up some stairs that lay between the water and the pyromancer’s perch. I take a right and find another room full of poison jars. And those ugly black mushrooms.

 

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I’ve been rather down on them, but the truth is, I love mushrooms. They’re one of my favourite foods for sure, but I like mushrooms in general. When I was a kid, my class spent a week at a cottage retreat, learning about farming, skiing, snowshoeing, and plenty of other wintry, outdoorsy activities. On one of the snowshoeing hikes, I found a big old fungus, the size of a brick, and brought it back. I kept that thing for a long time, gave it a name, called it a pet.

Oh my God was I ever a nerd. I’m not even going to tell you what its name was, because it’s somehow even nerdier than simply having a pet mushroom.

Moving on, and pretending that never happened, while I appreciate a tasty, buttered shroom as much as the next person, I don’t feel nearly as warm toward them when they’re crawling across the cold floor and trying to kill me.

I want to wait for them to get close, so that I don’t have to risk the poison jars, but they’re so slow. I become impatient, and start stabbing recklessly. It’s not long before I’m poisoned, and at that point I just go with it. Can’t get double poisoned, right?

All the mushrooms dead, I pick up what they left behind. One drops a green blossom, for increased stamina regeneration. Another drops a lifegem. The room is still. There is a Pharros’ device in the corner, and a chest in the middle of the room. I don’t like it. Not one bit.

I stab the chest from the side.

Sure enough, it’s a mimic. It lunges forward, an automatic response, but I’m not there. All it manages to chomp down on are some jars of poison, and now it’s all green and glowing, losing health at a rapid rate.

 

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I’m not one to stand between a man, or a woman, or a monstrous, overgrown man- and woman-eating jewellery box and his or her or its destiny. So I back into the corner and watch it as it writhes and grunts, struggles and dies.

There times when you stop, caught short by a circumstance out of your control. Days and nights in Drangleic, this is what you deal with. A creature like that, dying like that. It’s the world I live in. No anger, no joy, no relief, no sated vengeance. Only a cold calculation of pain bypassed.

As well, I realize how pointless my cautionary stabs at the chests I find has been. Before now, I stabbed them from the front. The way that mimic sprang forward, jaws swinging, teeth chomping. If I’d been standing in front of it when I stabbed, I’d likely have died anyway, if I couldn’t roll in time.

Something to consider. If a chest is positioned in such a way that it can only be approached from the front, it can’t be a mimic. If it is, that’s simply bad game design.

I pick up what the mimic left behind.

 

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Another piece of the dark knight set. Slightly heavier than my Forlorn gauntlets, with lower physical defence and marginally higher magic defence, except against darkness, where, not surprisingly, the dark gauntlets excel. Or is it surprising? Seems like strange logic to me. Steeped in darkness as they were, shouldn’t they be seeking defence against the opposite? Could be they didn’t get along with each other, either.

A corpse in the corner holds a single smooth and silky stone.

I plug my recently acquired Pharros’ lockstone into the device. No light, no opening to a secret stash of loot. Instead, the eyes start to cry that green, poisonous sewage water, forcing me back.

 

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What’s this about? Did I drain the water from the room below? That would be nice, but if there’s no loot under there it’s kind of a waste.

Back to the hall, where I climb more stairs and end up overlooking the water. Not the area where the water used to be before I used the Pharros’ device, but the same ugly, green, swampy, nasty, smelly, scummy water.

 

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What did the Pharros’ device do? Drain poison from the boss room? And what’s this ledge about? I can’t push the jars over to hit where the grave wardens would be standing. Maybe I could splash them if they jars broke? Could I land a plunging attack from here?

All that will have to wait. It’s boss time. I think.

 

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Mytha, the Baneful Queen

I apply my weapon buff, remember my lingering dragoncrest ring to increase the duration, put that on, and then apply the buff again. Baby steps.

Once through the fog, there is a scream, and splashing. The splashing is from me, as I’m knee-deep in that delightful poisonous swamp water. Did that Pharros’ device cause this? Is it possible they could make things worse? I hadn’t thought of that, but I like the idea that they’re as much a trap as anything else, that after showing me a succession of secret loot rooms and alternate paths, the game would reverse that without warning. It’s also possible that the water was even deeper before the device went to work, or that it has nothing to do with this at all.

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Even though I have water squishing in my boots, the scream isn’t mine. It’s coming from whatever Queen Mytha’s warped ambitions created. I step forward, trying for the higher ground in the middle of the room. There, the water only comes up to my shins, so I can move a little easier, but I can’t avoid becoming poisoned.

There she is, snake-like, holding a long spear in one hand and her own head in the other. I guess the manakins weren’t the only ones to suffer that fate. She starts throwing out volleys of magic missiles, which I take off my shield. I inch closer, in range for a couple of test stabs. The damage I do is reasonable enough. I’ll be racing the poison, but I should have the resources to get to the finish line.

My health is getting low now, and I’m debating whether to heal right here or try to gain some space first. Before I can decide, Mytha turns, squirming forward with a burst of speed, and wraps her tail around me. Then the squeezing begins, and I’m not strong enough to escape after all that poison. I die.

After respawning, I fight my way to the ledge overlooking the entrance to Mytha’s chambers. I break the poison jars, nothing happens. I look down and see the grave wardens standing guard below. There’s an arch protecting them from above, so that was never going to work. So, like an idiot, I go for plan B, and drop down on them.

There’s a reason plan B is not plan A. The plunging attack misses, I take a lot of damage in the fall, and I’m a sitting duck for the grave wardens. Once they’ve had their fun beating on me, my limp body slips into the water. I like to say that anything is worth a try, but that wasn’t worth the 40,000 Souls I paid.

Back at square one, my thoughts are less about the boss than they are about what’s missing. For example, I still haven’t seen a summoning sign. Could it be that the Brotherhood of Blood is only for PvP? Now’s as good a time as any to test things.

I warp to the Cathedral of Blue and join the Blue Sentinels covenant. They have coop, so if there are summoning signs at all, I should be able to see them.

On the way back to the boss, I have some luck. The pyromancer drops a magic stone. With it, I can infuse a weapon with magic damage, and finally get some use out of my intelligence stat. I also find a silverblack shield, from one of the grave wardens. A heavy medium shield with mediocre stability and physical resistance, but good numbers against magic.

But that’s all the luck I get. No summoning sign near the fog gate. The ledge, maybe? That would justify its existence. Nothing there, either. I think about it for a bit, wondering what I’m doing wrong, and realize that I should be human. Of course. So I use an effigy. Yet, still no summoning sign in either of those places.

Remember all that nonsense about getting lost and finding things? About doing everything wrong? Here’s where I start working on earning it.

My mind is starting to wander further and further. What about that pyromancer that was throwing fireballs down at me while I crossed the trenches? She has to be up here in the tower, but I didn’t see her. Outside the bonfire, I stand at the edge of the tower and look both ways, trying to find her. I don’t, but I do see a loot corpse out there.

 

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It’s somewhere below me, so I drop down the ladder, looking for the way outside.

And finally find a summoning sign.

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It’s right near the entrance to the area, which I didn’t expect. Obviously. Because if I did, I’d have been looking here. I summon Devotee Scarlett, who is not the person I expected. Where are the NPCs I’ve been meeting?

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After her greeting dance, she pulls out a mace and a shield, and follows me around.

There’s another summoning sign on the upper floor, in roughly the same place. This one is for Bashful Ray, a rogue who shows up holding a dagger and, for some reason, a pair of binoculars.

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The lower ledge had no way outside, but the one up here does. I get past the shoddy railing and hug the edge going left. I don’t see loot, but I do find another surprise. A portly man wearing heavy leathers is waiting, arms crossed, out in the middle of nowhere.

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Turns out there’s a reason he’s in such an odd, inaccessible place. He’s a fugitive in hiding. Once he’s calmed down, realizing that I’m not going to grass him to the filth, he tells me that he’s–get this–a “laddersmith.” You know, because making ladders is serious business, a trade passed down through the ages from the very Gods themselves.

So, Gilligan here tells me that he’ll sell me one of his ladders for 2000 Souls. He’s seen the loot out there, too, and the ladder is the only way down to it. I’ve only got 1400 on me, so I take my little gang out and clear the way to the boss, then come back with the correct payment.

A cut-scene plays, and Gilligan pulls a ladder out of thin air. Maybe that’s what a laddersmith does, and if so, I can respect that. He drops it over the side of the tower, and now I have a way down.

As I’m climbing down, it occurs to me this must be the way into the Majula pit. When that morose fellow near the monument said I needed a ladder, he wasn’t talking straight out of his ass. I could have saved my poor ankles and knees a lot of wear if I’d waited.

At the bottom of the ladder is the loot corpse. I also find a simpleton’s spice out on the ledge.

 

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Climbing back up, I see another loot corpse hanging out over a jutting balcony on the upper floors. My instincts tell me this is where those fireballs were coming from, too.

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Gilligan sells a few items, including a ladder miniature that is supposedly completely ornamental. I don’t have any use for a paperweight or doorstop, but I decide to buy it anyway. I burn a couple of my Undead Souls to raise the funds, then chat with Gilligan.

He talks of a monster lady, someone who was once human, but uses poison to keep keep eternal beauty. She did this to attract the prince, who was in love with someone else. The princess? The same prince, or a different one? And Gilligan claims this was all before Drangleic, so why is the tower still here? And his castle is, as well? I don’t get it, unless they took the same places over and gave them new names, but then why is the Queen still around?

While this is going on, Bashful Ray announces that he’s completed his mission, and disappears.

As I leave, Gilligan says he doesn’t want to die out here, in the middle of nowhere, and that he’s heading out. To Majula, no doubt, so, yeah, I did all that base jumping for nothing.

Wherever the last pyromancer is, it’s in the opposite direction of the boss fight, and I’m worried that Scarlett will abandon me soon, as well. So we head up the stairs to the pool. As soon as we’re in sight, she charges in, and I don’t think she’s immune to the poison.

 

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She does have a lot of HP, though, and I rush in to help her. Once the grave wardens are down, Scarlett pulls out some sort of flask or healing item, which is nice.

I step through the fog gate, and Scarlett follows a moment later. Working together, we have no trouble at all with Mytha.

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Scarlett is useless for damage, but she provides enough distraction that I can pause for a flask shot whenever the poison is getting to me. And it does, a few times, even while I’m wearing the poisonbite ring.

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We stagger her a couple of times, and I get in plenty of extra shots when Mytha tries to grab Scarlett. Soon, the boss is dead.

“Victory Achieved”

With a wave, Scarlett disappears.

 

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I gain 15,000 Souls and a Soul of Mytha, the Baneful Queen. She poisoned herself to become beautiful, all for the “compelling madness known as love.” Gag me with a spoon.

As soon as the fog dissipates, I run for the stairs at the back of the room, finally getting clear of the poison. They lead me to an elevator.

 

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It carries me up through three separate strata. First open air, then brown mortar and stone, and finally black bricks.

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I get out. I’m not at the top of the tower, as I saw it from outside. The elevator seems to have carried me through a half-hidden mountain, and I guess that’s why it was called the Earthen Peak and not the Tower of Wind or something. I’m walking out of a passage into heat, a sky of brutal reds. A bridge, a castle, a river of lava. Is this where the prince, or king or whatever, lived?

Iron Keep

 

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On the way out, I pass between statues of proud griffons. There has to be a bonfire nearby. Stairs on either side of the bridge, and down the left is what I’m looking for. Everything down there is lava, or on fire. I see an item on the flaming stone, and instant I place a foot out there, I nearly die.

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That’s not happening.

Once I’ve rested, I test the bridge, where a knight attacks me with a katana.

 

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After killing it, I return to the bonfire and warp back to Earthen Peak. I’m going to get that last item if it takes the rest of my life.

And now is when the stupid really begins.

I’m looking for a way out to the final balcony. I search everywhere, spending an inordinate amount of time playing with those hanging chains, trying to get something to happen. Because, everywhere I look, I find no way out there. I do stumble upon a chest I left the first time, across the gap I didn’t want to jump.

 

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I also find a stealthy butterfly out where I met Gilligan, and after a lot of experimenting with angles, I shoot it down, picking up a radiant lifegem.

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It might not seem it, but I got desperate. It seems so obvious, but I was throwing lives away diving into random pits. I climbed the gears, I ran around in the poisoned water outside the boss gate–and found a poison stone under there–anything that came to mind.

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At one point, something strange happens. I respawn at the bonfire, and the grave warden and manakins outside are gone. I rest, and they’re still gone. I warp to Majula and back. Still gone. At first, it’s only those first few enemies that are missing, but over time, more and more of them start to disappear. Not sure what to make of that yet.

I must have spent as much time looking for the way out as I did getting through the entire tower, if not more. I look at it from every direction, but find nothing. The highest point I can get to is the ledge above the poisoned pool, but that’s on the other side of the tower. From there I can see that there’s nothing above the ledge, nowhere else to go. I even warp down to Harvest Valley, using the binoculars from where I met Chloanne to confirm that the ledge is there, the loot is on the ledge, and there’s nothing above or adjacent to it.

 

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I stand in the trench underneath, and watch the fireballs, confirming that the pyromancer is there. While I’m down there, I run over and join the Heirs of the Sun. The ring I get slightly increases the effect of miracles, which is neat.

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I have it mapped out, and I know exactly where the doorway would be, if it existed. It’s at the end of the narrow hall full of poison jars before the boss.

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All this time, enemies are disappearing, as if the rapture has come and I’m the last one to repent.

I’ve stabbed this wall, bashed it, thrown bombs, kicked it, spit at it, called it names. Nothing. I’ve been up and down and around every inch of this place. Nothing.

The only thing I haven’t done is touch it. And, after every other possible avenue has been explored, and I just want to to finish the day, I get close and interact with the wall.

There’s no prompt, but it slides away, and I can see the balcony and the pyromancer on it, back turned.

 

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I kill her, then grab the loot.

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The spell quartz ring+1 is 80 magic defence, up from the 50 of the normal spell quartz ring. Not a great prize, but I’ll take it.

I have a terrible memory, especially my short-term memory. I have this nightmare scenario that hovers over me whenever I’m doing a repetitive task, where I’ll be half-done and suddenly notice that I’ve been doing wrong, missing a step or whatever. And I can’t remember when that started, so I have to go back to the start and check everything I’ve done.

I’m reminded now of the way out of the cave underneath Huntsman’s Copse. Opening that wall also required the use button, and didn’t come with a prompt. In fact, the only walls that have broken with attacks are the ones highlighted by the Pharros’ devices or flimsy pieces of wood. What if this is my nightmare scenario? How many secret passages have I missed? For that matter, when I was checking to make sure the Pharros’ devices opened up treasure rooms that I couldn’t access otherwise, I hit the walls to make sure they didn’t fall apart before the face showed up. What if that was wrong, and I could have opened them with the use button?

It’s not that big of a deal, as I’ve found plenty of lockstones, but I could have saved a few more for the Doors of Pharros if that were the case. I’ll have to keep testing. And, at some point, I’ll have to go over suspicious walls and try interacting with them instead of attacking them.

At last, I can go back to Majula and rest. But first I want to confirm something else. I rejoin the Company of Champions, then warp back to the tower. All the enemies that had disappeared are back.

 

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That’s what sets it apart from the other covenants, aside from the lack of summoning signs. For the others, enemies stop respawning after a while. Whether it counts player deaths or how many times a player kills them, at some point the place will get cleared out. That would limit farming. I wonder? I join the Way of Blue, then warp back to the tower, and the enemies are gone again. So you can’t use the Company of Champions to reset the spawns. Then I warp to Heide, where I know I’ve killed the enemies dozens of times, and died plenty. They’re all still in place. So it only starts counting the deaths when I’m a member of another covenant.

I try fighting something in the tower. Is it my imagination, or is it a bit tougher now that I’m in the Company of Champions?

I’m honestly not sure how I feel about this now. On one the one hand, always having to fight through that gauntlet of enemies is going to be tougher than eventually clearing them out and having an open path to the boss or next area. On the other hand, continually running that gauntlet is essentially grinding. I kind of like the idea of there being a limited amount of Souls in the world, and drops.

I have a lot to think about, but that’s for tomorrow.

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