Hi there you people who give a shit about this. Our first fan art:

In the time of the Dark Souls fanart – Coolest, most badass undead in Darkroot Forest – Imgur.

which is a clear reference to our character in chapter 24. As a smoker myself, I had always thought of the green herb as tobacco, it’s only logical.

Anyway, I’m having a lot of fun and have all intention to take it to the end.

A little extra: stick around for the next chapter, when our friend will run through the Catacombs to try and save Rhea. Something absurd and interesting will happen then, I promise.

Fuck, I love this game.

-Carpeaux

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I spread the goldpine resin on my zweihander, changed the rusted ring back to the wolf ring, and crossed the gate. It was truly a vision from hell. From the backside of the large hall covered in spiderweb and eggs, a huge monster came charging me, a burning spider with a woman’s torso. That was Queelag. As she got closer to me I could feel the heat from the burning spider on my skin, so I tried to run to gain some distance. The cannibal woman was very useful at this point, charging back straight into the spider with her butcher knife. I circled around the monster and hit her a couple of times with the zweihander from the side. The spider legs were very tough and hard to hack through, but the lightning caused spasms on her whole body, further opening the guard for the cannibal woman’s attacks. It was hard for her to land any blows however, because Queelag branded a flaming spider leg as a sword, so the woman had mostly to try and defend herself from her attacks.

I cast the water mist pyromancy and put myself on the line of Queelag’s attacks, since my armor and the water mist would enable me to sustain her attacks with more ease. The lighting-clad zweihander proved a strong weapon against Queelag, since she would get stunned even when our swords touched, and the woman took profit from this to attack her from the side. At this point, the monster noticing that it was in threat, Queelag backstepped a while, and I felt the taste of victory, but I was very wrong. I saw the spider half choke and then vomit a large pool of lava that covered me completely, burning my skin even through the water mist and my armor. The woman kept attacking her from the side and called her attention, while I tried to move away from the center of the pool of lava where I stood, my legs feeling like they had just turned black as cool from the intense temperature. As I managed to leave the lava, I noticed the goldpine resin had wore off the zweihander. A quick glance at the woman showed her fighting bravely, but getting terribly burned by the spider leg sword herself. I drank a big part of my estus to keep her and myself alive, then took a few seconds more to smear more goldpine resin on the sword. As I was done, I charged forward and hit Queelag on the chest as hard as I could, profitting from an open guard caused by her battle with the cannibal woman.

Were she a normal woman instead of a demonic beast, my blow would have cut her in half, but she did get stunned and fell forward as if unconscious. I thought I had killed her, but then I looked at the cannibal woman and she was running away from us. For a second I knew I should do the same, but in the following second Queelag had exploded in large burst of hot air and magic that threw me far off, barely dead. At some point along this fight the effect of the water mist had ended as well. Had I been alone, I would have had my last breath at some point around this time, if not before. Luckily, the cannibal woman was more prepared than I was, and immediately charged back into Queelag, who was clearly affected by my previous attack, and not in her best form.

I finished off my estus and ran to try and kill her without taking the time to cast the water mist again. Before I arrived, the cannibal woman was consummed in a large pool of lava and died. I profitted from the distance and ran around the lava, hitting Queelag from the side, and this time around I was able to cut off maybe three spider legs. Now Queelag couldn’t move as easily, and did not seem as such a hard match anymore. As I approached her again, she exploded in hot air again, but I ran off in time, learning from my previous mistake. This time I charged at the womanly body with all my power and managed to cut it off from the spider bottom half.

Both the woman and the spider had spasms for some time, bleeding lava and fire. The womanly side seemed to go hollow and lose its beauty quickly, while screaming in agonizing pain, while the spider half moved its legs randomly like a dying cockroach, vomiting lava and fire. I watched the spectacle until both stopped moving and laid motionless. Then I went further into the backside of the cave where Queelag had come from. Going up some stairs to the higher level I finally found the bell’s lever and pulled it. Its sound resonated all through the hellish land I saw before me: a large sea of lava, filled with spider-infested hollows like I had seen before, and a giant demon bleeding lava that fed the lava sea. In the lava sea.

It all just seemed to get worse and worse and I just hoped the next bonfire trip would give me wings to fly above that whole mess.

Fighting the two bloated hollows wasn’t as hard for me at this point as it would be when I first found them. I was careful to backstep and not receive any blows from one while I attacked the other, but in general they were slow, though strong, and it wasn’t so difficult to maim and then kill both of them. The agility of the drake sword proved very useful at this point. As I proceed into the cave, I went down a series of wooden platforms through ladders. I killed a couple of the fire-spitting bugs Laurentius had told me about, but my dragon shield was very helpful in protecting me from their flames. The biggest threat in the swamp, I soon noticed, where the large bugs that spit poison, as well as a child blowing poisonous blowdarts which made me dizzy just from the fumes they expelled after hitting my shield. Luckily, they weren’t on my path down, so I could avoid him entirely, and the bugs weren’t hard to kill either. At some point I came to a large spinning wheel, which I rode down to the swamp’s base level.

Laurentius had told me about a bonfire down there that I could rest on after arriving, so I proceeded to look for it. Before finding it, however, I saw another red phantom invade my world from the middlle of the swamp. Her large butcher knife showed she was one of the cannibals, so I got prepared to fight in a stretch of land where I could move more freely. She was incredibly tough and certainly a hard match. I had to endure a couple of blows to my shield which would throw me off balance had I not felt the clear effect of the wolf ring I had found in the Darkroot Garden. With each movement and attack I studied her, and soon noticed she was strong and incredibly tough, but her technique was unsophisticated. I profited from the first safe opportunity to parry and kill her.

Right after the fight was over, I found the bonfire. The way to Queelag was clear: there was a large cavern entrance covered in spiderweb, but I needed not rush to fight her, so I decided to explore the area and see if I could find anything useful. Walking in the swamp proved extremely weary however, and its poisonous nature would quickly consume the few medicinal moss scraps I had collected from the living trees in the garden. So I sat there to ponder my future actions before foolishly moving forward. On the backside of the bonfire I found a chest, and inside it, a stone scale of the ancient dragons. That could prove useful, I fought, so I put it in my bag. As I came back to the bonfire, my mind wandered off to the rusted ring I had found in the Asylum. It had showed no clear effect when I used it before, but perhaps it could help me in poison resistence. It did not do that, but it made it considerably easier to walk in the swamp. I was thrilled and proceed to explore the area.

With the help of the ring, the enemies I found were not especially hard, about a dozen slugs that inhabitted the swamp. Searching the corpses in the area, however, gave me amazing, very useful loot: a few large titanite pieces exactly like Andre had requested. I came back to the bonfire and pondered on my future actions. Should I go back to Andre and have my sword enhanced before fiighting off Queelag? It sure seemed safer and generally a good idea. The use of the goldpine resin and the water mist pyromancy taught by Laurentius, however, according to himself, should be enough. I decided to risk it.

Unfortunately, during my whole stay in the bonfire I could not see any marking in the floor, so I would have to fight without any help, and that was of a big concern to me, not necessarily because I wouldn’t be strong enough to fight Queelag alone, but specially because every previous help I had was important for knowledge of tricks I could not know without foreknowledge. I tired to write my name on the floor as well, but no one summoned me. It was time to go and fight off the spider demon.

Her lair’s entrance was guarded by a group of bloated hollows, but I was able to sneak past them without calling their attention. As I reached land, I ate my last scrap of moss and proceeded to the cave. In the inside there were a few of Laurentius’ people covered in spider eggs and in great agony. They did not attack me however, so I left them alone. From the distance I saw the fog gate which would take me to Queelag and was happy to see markings on the floor. I touched them and was surprised when the cannibal woman who fought me earlier arose, as a white phantom. She did not attack me for some reason. I didn’t know if I could trust her, but she seemed well-intentioned and I did not have problem with white phantoms prior to that, so once again I decided to risk it.

As much as I wanted to go straight to the Catacombs and find Rhea and the clerics, I decided it was safer to wait for the divine weapons, and they would take long to be ready. Perhaps enough time that I could ring the second bell. The Crestfallen warrior had told me before that the second bell was “down under”, so I figured I would need to venture inside the cave I had found with the couple of bloated hollows.

On the way back to the cave, I was sad to see that the area previously occupied by the clerics was still empty. I went to talk to the crestfallen warrior, who confirmed I should enter the cave, but did not have much more information. He did tell me, however, to avoid the ruins of New Londo, which were filled with ghosts who were invulnerable to attack. I sensed he was growing wearier, and mentioned that New Londo was a particularly eerie place for him. “I would not want to become a hollow there”, he said, and I felt bad for him, pondering about a place to go hollow in. Things seemed to be going so well to me, with all the victorious battles and amazing discoveries and experiences, that for some time I would forget how hopeless the whole picture was, and how broken and defeated everyone around me was. While I roamed around, they all just stood in some place, waiting for something that might never happen, they had all given up on the quest I found myself in at that point, and because of that they were to me like the ghosts of New Londo to the crestafallen warrior, living nightmares that scared me with the thought of having me turn into one of them.

I also took out some time to speak with Laurentius, the pyromancer. I told him of my previous uses of his art, and how useful it had been to me, and he laughed and laughed, which wasn’t common to him, he was very glad to have helped and proud of his successful student. I asked if he had any more tricks to teach me, but he said they would take too long to learn, and might not even be helpful at all. “Attack is the best defense”, he said, “to fight against the hollows you won’t need much more out of pyromancy than what you already have, specially since you are so able with the sword. What you will need, however, is to increase the power of the tricks you already pull, you have to be able to command a stronger flame. I’ll teach you how to.”

Saying this, he brought me to the bonfire and explained: “you are the only limitation to your flame’s power, your soul will command as strong a flame as your body can take. I will teach you how to stand stronger flames”. He then practiced a ritual with me, by which we both commanded flames together, each holding the other’s hand in a tight clasp, trying not to let our joint flame escape. I felt an intense pain, and even to the eye at times it would seem like my hand was transparent with the light escaping through it. While we kept at it, he would help me concentrate by speaking basic tenets of pyromancy, specially about the ritual itself. He would say that ritual can only be practiced by two pyromancers together, and that the people would dance in his land, men and women holding hands, hundreds of them, in the moonless night, the dance grounds illuminated by the joined hands glowing in the dark. He talked of how beautiful and intense is the flame created by two master pyromancers, both capable of the strongest flame, and he talked of the intense flame created by Salaman, the ancient father of pyromancy and of his people, a powerful flame never matched in the hundreds of years of the practice. Salaman, he said, would never join flames with anyone pass a point, not to have them achieve his superior degree of flame, and the knowledge of how to attain it died with him.

For hours we stayed at it, until I finally felt so weary that I had to rest. Laurentius wasn’t tired like me, he actually felt energized and lively, and continued telling his stories after the ritual was over. At some point he asked me about my future plans, and I told him about ringing the second bell and entering the cave I had seen before. Laurentius went completely mute and seemed terrified. I asked him what happened, but he asked for some time to think instead, and went back to his usual resting place. I just slept there.

When I woke up, I found Laurentius strangely covered in mist and water as if by magic. He called me closer and said “you must learn how to do this”. “I’m not that good with magic”, I replied, but to my amazement, he replied that it was, indeed, pyromancy. He said years had passed since he last used that trick, and need some time to practice before he could teach it. He then started talking about how there is an inner flame in the human soul, but I interrupted him asking why had he changed his mind so abruptly about how much pyromancy I needed to know, upon mentioning that I would venture in the cave.

It was then that learned of Laurentius’ origin. “That cave you saw is but a passage”, he said, “to the land were I was born and raised, the Great Swamp. The stories I told you happened there long ago, but all the people I told you about are now dead, as well as the art of the great Salaman. For centuries we lived in peace in the swamp, since no one else wanted to live there, and revered the spider goddess Queelag and her chaos flame. But then the demons you fought in the burg came up through Queelag’s lair soon after the undead curse started, they killed most of my village, while others became hollows, and the swamp was infested by hellish bugs that spit fire and are resistant to it. Only a few of us escaped, but we were trapped by the hollows and butchered one by one. If it were not by you, I would have died there, and Salaman’s great art would perish with me. But all that is past. If you want to reach the bell, you will have to kill Queelag, and the pyromancy I taught you will be useless. Do you have goldpine resin on you?”. I confirmed. “Great, then use it in your sword, as well as this pyromancy trick I will teach you, called water mist, I had not used it for long, so I had to practice and remember before I could tell you about it”.

This was followed by a lesson in a deeper kind of pyromancy, centered on the “flame of the soul”, which was as complex as the lessons on sorcery I had received from Briggs. It took me deep focus, but in the course of a few hours I managed to cast it, and Laurentius would throw fire balls in my chest that I would barely feel. Then, at some point, he wished me luck and told me to go.

On my way to the cave, I found Lautrec, the golden-armor knight I had previously saved in the Church. He still passed this strange aura of distrust, but awarded me a sunlight medal identical to the one I found after fighting the twin gargoyles. He also mentioned something about being sick of the firekeeper, but I did not want much talk with him.

I went down to the way to New Londo, then down another elevator to the cavern’s entrance.

Soon I came down to talk to Andre, who said he heard the bell. He also asked if I had found any larger titanite piece, but I had not. He then said I should now be ready to venture through the Darkroot Garden. After the previous fight, I felt great, but took another peak at the Titanite Demon and wasn’t sure I was able to kill him. I could probably, with some luck, run past him though. Andre just shrugged, “do whatever you like, but I have a job for you, and you still have to repay the work I did for you. The ember repays the titanite, but not the work. Do this one thing for me and I’ll consider all my services past and future paid”. I agreed.

“You will go to the darkroot garden, past the titanite demon, and bring back to me a very special ember used by a blacksmith of my order”, he said. “I want the ember because it rightfully belongs to me, but it will be useful for you in the future as well”. I asked him what kind of ember was it, and why it was so special. He replied: “It is a divine ember used by the clerics of the way of white to fight the necromancers and their spawn in the catacombs. Its loss was the ruin of the way of white, causing it to lose control over the old burying grounds. After I have it, I will use it to craft divine weapons to give to the clerics, and I will give one to you as well”.

Of course, I knew that Rhea was venturing in the catacombs, she never left my mind, so I decided to get the ember and try to help her afterwards. I decided to try and fight the demon, but run if I figured I couldn’t defeat it. As I got closer, the prospect of running seemed better and better. The demon had a huge halberd-type weapon that, it was clear to me, should have some type of magic damage. I couldn’t wait for the first blow, I had to dodge absolutely everything or be impaled. I backstepped a little bit, circling around trying to keep my distance, and the demon threw a lighting bolt in my direction, but I dodged. At this point I decided to run, but I needed, absolutely need to strike at least one blow. I got closer and waited for one strike I could dodge. Thankfully, his first attack was slow and vertical, so i dodged it with some ease. His stone body moved slowly enough that I felt confident to run and hit his back double handing the zweihander.

This was the first time I attacked after fighting the Gargoyles, so the strength of the blow surprised even myself. The beast suffered and the feeling of sinking the blade in his hard flesh was refreshing, but then he turned around very fast, knocking me over with his long tail, trying to position me for a devastating attack. But he missed again, because I stood up fast and circled around him for another strike at his neck, my idea was to cut off his head. It didn’t quite work, but I felt I had done enough, two effective blows. As he repositioned, I ran off to the garden, dodging another lighting bolt right before going through the door.

As I stepped out into the garden, I was surprised by a complete change in daytime: it was now a full night, with a beautiful moon hanging over everything. I was amazed by this new strange fact about Lordran, and I was also very glad to see white markings on the floor again, and immediately touched them. Soon a warrior on a sorcerer’s clothes very similar to Briggs’ arose. I was glad to have some help and company. He bowed to me, and I did the same. As we walked through the garden, a small tree came alive and attacked us. it didn’t seem menacing, but I did not have to fight it, as the sorcerer attacked with magic from a distance.

We fought off two more of those trees, and from each one I extracted medicinal moss and kept it for later. I then saw a bifurcation and, in the distance from a cliff, the crystal golems and the hydra I had seen before, outside the door right after my fight with the stone armor knight. I knew that the ember should be ahead on the other direction, but the hillside seemed like an interesting area to explore and possibly find some loot. That was a good idea. As I came down the hill, I caught another crystal lizard, with more twinkling titanite and some green titanite on its back. Further down, I found a bow and some very good feather arrows beside it. Coming further down I reached the level of the golems, but faced the other way instead. I wasn’t confident in killing the hydra, even with some help.

Going further down, I saw a special-looking shield, glowing in green magic, and decided to get it, but it was guarded by another black knight. I could now, with the safety of a backup phantom, have my first try at fighting one of those beasts. He saw me and attacked, but was stunned by a magic bolt coming from behind me. I took the moment to hit him with the zweihander, but got hit by his huge shield immediately after and almost fell to the abyss beside us. Meanwhile, the sorcerer attacked the black knight with his sword, which glowed in blue magic. As I saw the black knight with his back to me, I hit him again with the zweihander. He was outnumbered, and the sorcerer took the chance to kick him down the abyss. He was dead.

I picked up the shield, which had a beautiful engraving of leaves. As I grabbed it, I suddenly felt more agile and with more energy, it’s hard to describe. Its magic improved my breath, made me feel like a younger man. It was clearly very beneficial, so I used it instead of the dragon shield, specially since up until that point no enemy in the garden had used fire attacks. I also saw another bonfire nearby, but I had no use for it. We came back up the hill into the other way.

We fought a few more of the living trees, then came up to some old, decayed castle. The knight showed me one of the stone walls was an illusion, and beyond it there was another bonfire. There was also a large door, but it was locked. To the side, there was another way forward. As we found an open area, I could see stone golems laying around motionless, but I was sure they would come back to life, since that seemed to be the way of the land. As I prepared to attack, the sorcerer showed me another way to the side, behind a moving tree that we both destroyed.

After fighting off a few strange beings, some sort of red manta rays, we encountered a stone golem. As I had predicted, the golem rose up and we had an interesting fight, if not terribly hard, due to its slowness. As soon as the golem woke up, he raised his sword and used an interesting spell, by which I found myself immobilized by arcane floating energy writings. I naturally despaired for a moment, but the magician kept throwing spells at the golem from a distance and seemed unaffected. I raised my guard and had to endure one very strong blow on my shield, but the golem was soon dead by the magic. In the end, it was a good way to learn about the golems’ attacks to prepare for the following fights.

Going up some more stairs, we fought another golem, which did not use its blocking spell, so I needed only to dodge and attack when his guard was low. There I found another magical ring, with the markings of a wolf, and put it on. Its effect was apparent somehow, I felt more grounded, perhaps more able to absorb attacks with my shield, it’s hard to explain. We walked back to the area where the other sleeping golems were awaiting, but on the way I found something which made me very satisfied: tobacco weeds! I grabbed a few handful of leaves and put it in my bag.

Anyway, I figured the ember should be at the top of the tower behind the main area where the golems slept, and we could sneak around them to go straight to it, but I noticed a dead body wearing a beautiful armor around two golems and a few trees, so we attacked them as well. This was a good opportunity to feel the effect of the wolf ring I had just found, I noticed I felt much less affected by blocking the golems attacks.

New armor time! I made the sorcerer wait while I took out my tired old armor and put on my new elite knight armor, exactly like the one I had seen the white phantom who helped me against the dragon use. I felt so great, I had to do one this: I grabbed one of the tobacco leaves and rolled it. Did I have a way of producing fire? Oh yes I did! I lighted up my makeshift cigarette with my pyromancy! Oh sweet relief, how many years had passed since I had had a smoke? Now reader, please take a moment to picture me, wearing an armor like a nobleman’s, my huge and powerful zweihander shining in the moonlight of the garden on my back (forget about the lame green wooden shield), lighting up a fresh tobacco cigarette with the fire coming out of my hand at will, standing over the dead bodies of an army of golems. Am I cool or what? I’m the coolest dude in the place, clearly.

The sorcerer smoked a little bit as well.

(fan art ilustration)

Then we went to the tower behind the area, killed another golem, and there I found the white markings of another warrior, hidden behind a small tree. I summoned her, it was a witch. Great. I felt confident.

As we came up the stairs I saw another fog gate and passed it, followed by the two phantoms. Suddenly, as we reached the elevated ground above us, a bridge leading to a second tower, a huge monster, similar to a butterfly, started flying around. I raised my shield, but couldn’t do much, since the butterfly kept a distance. Luckily, the two phantoms could shower it with sorcery. The butterfly ignored them, but threw magic rays at me. I tried to block them with the green shield, but it was too small, and the attacks were fast. I tried to jump around and run, sometimes it would work, sometimes I blocked it with the shield, but most frequently the magic rays hit me and I felt embraced in pain just like before, when I was hit by the sorcerer at the church. I was in absolute terror, but I knew I had to endure long enough for the phantoms to kill the monster. Drinking estus helped, but the flask was getting emptier and emptier, while the butterfly seemed unaffected. I stayed at this for a while, but then the flask went dry and I knew I would die if I had to endure much longer.

Then the butterfly suddenly stopped and seemed tired, flapping its wings helplessly while losing altitude, finally crashing in the bridge side. I felt beaten, tired and in intense pain, I couldn’t raise the zweihander an inch from the floor if I tried, but I walked towards the butterfly. The witch kept throwing magic, while the sorcerer attacked with his sword, but seemingly to no avail. As I stood a few staps from the butterfly, it started glowing, and I sensed it would die in an explosion of magic that would surely kill me. In my despair, I put my hand closer to its head and, without taking even a moment aside to concentrate, summoned the largest flame I could.

The magic explosion was averted and the butterfly was dead. The two phantoms disappeared and I collapsed in the floor, thinking I would die in seconds. Luckily, the death of the butterfly also triggered a huge transference of souls which kept me alive for a little while longer. I dragged myself to the bonfire I had seen earlier, next to the closed door, and slept.

After I woke up, I was glad to see I had not started hollowing and felt stronger as well, from all the soul power I had absorbed. I came back to the tower, crossed the bridge leading to a second tower and there I finally found the divine ember that Andre requested. With a great feeling of mission accomplished, I went back to him, but first I destroyed the titanite demon.

Do I need to explain more? I made the titanite demon my bitch. I chopped him with my zweihander and then I burned him alive until he was dead. What I had just been through, the new armor, the new ring, the new strength, the experience in enduring pain, all of this had made me into a new man, a knight of a different class, able to face the titanite demon as easily as I had once fought the hollows. I didn’t even break a sweat, I just killed it then cut off his metal head which, according to Andre, might be useful in the future.

Andre asked about my experience and I lied, excluding the phantom sorcerer and pretending that I had done everything alone. He was impressed and asked for some time to work on a few divine weapons I could hand out to the clerics. Having nowhere elso to go, I came back to the firelink bonfire, looking for news about Rhea, but she had not returned. It was time to look for the second bell, beyond the cavern where I had seen a couple of fat hollows. I knew I was absolutely ready for them now, but I had no idea of the horror that awaited me behind them.

Sure enough, Solaire’s name was written right before the fog gate, glowing golden like the sun. I suddenly realized I was more excited to see him fight than to actually see what was there waiting behind the gate. I had never seem him fight, but I was sure he was great, you just new that if you are fighting beside him, you will note die. I also figured that whatever it is that awaited me behind that gate, it was probably big enough for the zweihander, so equipped that and the dragon shield. Drank one more sip of the estus, then touched Solaire’s name and saw him arise from the markings. I couldn’t see his face through his heavy helmet, but I knew he was proud of me. I bowed to thank him for his help, then crossed the gate.

It led me to the church’s ceiling, but there was no one in there with us. I took a moment to admire the gorgeous view, but it was a sad beauty, because there were no people walking around, meeting their lovers, working to care for their families. It was all bleak and death, and I was sure if I could smell it, it would be as stinky and foul as it was everywhere. For the meantime, though, there was a cool, pleasant breeze, and the lack of an immediate threat gave me a moment to enjoy life, for a little while.

Then I came back to reality. It occurred to me that the enemy could be invisible by the use of some kind of magic, but I figured he would have attacked by now. I looked at Solaire and made a puzzling gesture. He pointed up to the tower ahead of us, and I noticed there were four Gargoyle stone sculptures in the ledge. I took out my binoculars and examined more carefully: two of them had real weapons and armor. That was it. Flying demons. I looked at Solaire, he seemed confident in his bold silence. Then I walked forward, slowly.

One of the gargoyles soon took off and approached us, completely silently with its stone tongue, landing right in the middle between me and Solaire, as if in full confidence that we could do nothing to hurt it. The gargoyle immediately turned its back on me, attacking Solaire with a halberd, but that didn’t mean I was safe or ready for a backstab. Instead, I took a blow in my shield from its tail, which had a heavy axe at the tip. The blow threw me away spinning on my head at least twice my height. As soon as I woke up from the confusion, I saw Solaire had sunk his sword in the monsters chest, and then took a blow from the halberd to the side. I swear Solaire did not move. He just stood there like a god, unable to feel pain, and pierced the demon’s mouth. A second later I, too, had my zweihander to the beast’s back, but once again I blocked a tail blow, and once again it threw me away. This second blow felt more like a spasm, however, so the beast was growing weak and afraid.

As I stood up once more, Solaire seemed to be in control of the fight, but the second armed Gargoyle had landed on the roof on the distance, so I ran to fight it, so as not to allow it to catch Solaire off-guard. As I came near, however, it started spitting strong fire in the whole area. Had I not my shield up, that would be my end. I hid my face behind the shield, but my legs were burning as I tried to keep walking forward, knowing that not even a giant hellkite could maintain a flame for too long a time. Sure enough, the fire suddenly stopped and I was able to land a blow.

This gargoyle had a halberd as well, but it moved more awkwardly, because, as I realized by circling around it to avoid a second burst of flame, its tail was gone. I looked back and Solaire was finishing off the first gargoyle. At that moment I knew I would survive. I kept circling around it, waiting for a proper opportunity to blow, perhaps after blocking its weaker halberd attack, when a bolt of lighting struck the monster. I looked up and saw Solaire throwing another lighting bolt from his hand, right into the monster’s hide. I waited a moment for the spasm to end so that I wouldn’t be affected as well, than sunk my zweihander deep in the gargoyle’s back and it was dead. Solaire disappeared before I could do anything else.

The hush of soul energy was amazing, the Gargoyles had certainly killed tens of thousands of people and it had been the strongest transference of power I had felt yet. My whole body was hurt and my legs were still in pain from the fire, but I drank the rest of my estus and kept walking towards the bell. I went up a few ladders and finally reached the bell. It rang all through the land, it felt wonderful. I marveled at the view once more, than started my slow way back to the nearest bonfire.

As I came back to the tower’s entrance, however, there was a man in there, waiting for me. He proclaimed himself to be Oswald of Carim, the pardoner, a priest or sorcerer of some kind, devoted to the Goddess of Sin. He offered to hear my confession, to which I declined. He then asked if I desired to report on someone’s sin, to which I also declined. He then handed out a piece of black paper which he called “Indictment” and said that, from then on, I would need it, because the darkwraiths would do what they could to keep me from attaining my goal. I asked more information about them, then recognized the red phantom who attacked me before. He said next time I killed an invader, I should dip some of his blood in the paper, and other phantoms would attack him for vengeance. I agreed.

He then gave me a piece of skull-shaped stone and told me that, were I ever cursed, I should break it next to my feet, and the stone would absorb the curse. I thanked him. Then he asked me if I dealt with miracles, for he had something to teach me, but I said I did not. Then I left to the bonfire near Andre, where I finally could rest.

Full armor, the ring I took from the stone-armor knight, the zweihander and my dragon shield on my back, the drake sword on my right hand and the small, wooden magic-protective shield I found in the cemetery in my left, I took the elevator up to the church. As I arrived, I took a peak at the sorcerer, he was standing still at the same place as before. I took my recently binoculars and spied on him for a little while, his clothes made him look dangerous and eerie, like he had three extra sets of eyes. Behind him I could see the heads of two slave hollows, they shouldn’t be my major concern. I put away the binoculars and did what I had been avoiding doing for days, or whatever it is that meant time passing in Lordran: I turned straight left to go up the stairs leading to the ledge where the sorcerer stood.

As soon as I stepped in those stairs, my plan started going to hell. I was prepared to fight off the sorcerer, but a Balder was standing guard on the way and saw me instantly. I now had a new set of problems: first, I would much rather fight him with the zweihander to help keep distance; second, my shield was way too frail and small to properly defend against his attacks; third, I couldn’t backstep to the church’s main area and have more space to maneuver, since I would just be bombarded by magic again, so I would have to fight him in the narrow and uncomfortable confines of the stairs; fourth, he was armed with a rapier, the single most difficult weapon to parry, and finally, fifth, he was charging full speed in my direction before I had the time to actually think clearly about any of these things.

The Balder ignored my raised guard completely and stabbed me two times on the left shoulder. The pain was excruciating, but in my despair I managed to simultaneously land a blow on his stomach. As I pulled out the sword, he hit me in the face with his small shield, knocking me down the stairs, then charged me again and stabbed me once more in the chest right through a crack in my armor, perfectly aimed and for that I still respect him and his land. Despair was all I had at this point, so again in the confusion of the moment I threw away both my weapons and held his rapier inside me then kicked him away. He jumped right back at me, took out my helmet and hit me in the face with it I think three times. Then he fell dead because I had yanked the drake sword inside his helmet and destroyed his face. His blood was all over me, and my face wasn’t much better than his. It was hard to drink from the estus flask because I was coughing blood. As I came back to the firelink bonfire, I swear I had forgotten his rapier was still piercing through my chest.

I didn’t call for help this time, I just took the elevator and walked down to where the clerics were, from where one of the two new guys helped me down to the bonfire. The crestfallen warrior wasn’t laughing this time, Briggs and Laurentius joined him around the bonfire observing me, and the pyromancer was the most desperate. I could see that no one knew what to do, but then Rhea appeared in my line of vision and told me I would be fine. She pulled out the sword, then ordered the clerics to remove my armor. Then she gave me another sip of the estus and the rest she poured over my wounds, cleaning gently my torso with her soft an beautiful hands. Then she took out her talisman, prayed over me, and stayed by my side for hours, refilling the estus and pouring it over my wounds repeatedly again and again, her whole body glowing like a goddess. I wanted to believe she was showing love, but in retrospect I can see that was her natural course of action, she could be a beautiful, gentle loving person to anyone in need, and I was deeply embarassed by the way I had previously acted.

Due to her care, I didn’t lose my humanity this time, but she made it clear that she wouldn’t be there for me if it happened again. As soon as I were beyond danger, she and the three cleric warriors left to the cemetery. She had been there for so short a time, the place already felt dead and empty without her. Ambarassed and defeated, I decided to settle down in the bonfire longer and maybe learn more about pyromancy. It was then that something wonderful happened.

I was suddenly much more capable with the fire. The whole recent experience, I realized, had affected me more deeply than I would have previously thought. I was seriously in love with Rhea and, in effect, I was completely right in my previous intuition that to prosper in my objectives in Lordran I would need a separate objective, which was to find love. As much as I thought that I had been careful in my previous attacks, looking back I now realized that I had behaved as a careless child multiple times. In addition to that, what reason did I have to antagonize Briggs? He had been clearly concerned for my life earlier, and I appreciated that. I didn’t even pay proper attention to his earlier lesson, but went to him looking for a quick fix for a problem that was derived from my imaturity and lack of patience. Pyromancy, sorcery and the sacred art of the way of white were all serious endeavours that I had disrespected and only given as much attention as I felt I had to so I could get what I wanted. Only now that I feel ready to really talk to Laurentius and Briggs and really try to learn what they had to teach me, not because their arts would be useful to me, but because they were interesting and powerful by their own account.

I really built on my friendship with those lost souls who dotted the firelink bonfire then. By talking to Briggs and Laurentius I tried to devise my own understanding of the mysteries of nature and their relation to the human conscience. Once I was ready to do that, I developed much quicker my abilities with flame manipulation, even though, I realized, I was naturally unable to try sorcery – and this inability, it was now clear, had been the very reason why I had grown to belittle sorcery and mistreat Briggs. By the time I felt ready to try to attack the Church again, I was able to instantly summon a huge fire from my hand, a trick that Laurentius called simply “combustion”. I didn’t plan to burn the sorcerer alive anymore, however, I wished only to defeat him and move on with my objective. I realized I had to clear my mind of childish thoughts and think only of what was truly important, which, at this point, was as much ringing the two bells as it was meeting Rhea again. My love for her, an altruistic love based on gratitude and, perhaps, an immature admiration for a person I had barely met, would be the basis of a newfound maturity that I had to attain in order to be worthy of her loving me back.

With this new mindset laid deep and clear in my spirit, I once again prepared myself and went back up the elevator. As I went up those stairs again stepping over the Balder’s dead body, I just wished there were no more traps. I wanted to fight off the sorcerer as closely to one-on-one as possible, perhaps hacking through a couple of slaves on the way. Of course, it didn’t go that way at all. I approached walking slowly, staring directly at the sorcerer, waiting for him to throw magic at me so I could block with my tiny shield, but he never did. Instead, he started dancing insanely with his trident in his hand, and suddenly an army of slaves came from his area, and they were completely altered, just nothing like slaves or hollows, they were just insane, a dozen of them running full speed in my direction. I tried to fight them off with the drake sword, but one of them jumped on the blade and, with the sword piercing his torso all the way through his back, went straight to my hand and held it firmly, while two other slaves cut their hands trying to yank the sword from my hand. They were all completely insane and the only thing that saved me was that the three suicide attackers were enough to block the corridor and the others couldn’t jump at me. The whole thing was so surprising and confusing that in moments I was forced to let go of the sword. I started backstepping frenetically as they advanced, and I should have tossed the small shield, but I was so afraid of being hit by magic again, that I just couldn’t let go of it. I pulled out the zweihander and started swinging around madly, trying to hit more than one with each swing, but even wounded they wouldn’t stop. Meanwhile, the sorcerer tossed the slaves on the back to the side so he could pass and attack me directly with his trident. I kept backstepping and swinging the zweihander, but as far as I stayed in the corridor it was a very improper weapon to use in such a tight space.

I was finally able to stand my ground in the Church main area, taking advantage of the corridor to force them to approach me in small groups. The open space meant I could properly swing the zweihander, so my plan worked for a couple of seconds, as the waves were mowed down in as much of an orderly fashion as I could. Then finally the sorcerer comes out of the corridor, the three surviving slaves on his back. Finally being able to see that the trident was now his weapon of choice, I made a gamble: I tossed the magic protective shield and double-handed the zweihander. I dodged the sorcerers first attack and took the moment to kill one of the surviving slaves, then I took a few steps back and killed the other two as they charged. I was careful not to go too far back and remember him that he could use his catalyst and lay waste to me. But he had no intention to, instead, he waited for my first attack and defended it with the trident, but since the zweihander was much heavier and him, much weaker than me, he lost his balance and, in an instinctive blow, I was able to cut a wound through his chest. He didn’t react, but instead tried to hit me with the trident. Since his attack was so slow, and his weapon didn’t have a blade, I tried to hold it and yank it out of his hands. At least that was the plan. In reality, as soon as I touched it, I felt once again the strange bolt of energy crossing my whole body. I would later understand that that happened because his weapon was enhanced with magic. Had I swallowed my pride earlier and had a chat with the magic blacksmith near New Londo earlier, I might have learned of this without having to make the mistake myself. In the end, though, it did actually work. The magical attack of the trident wasn’t very powerful, so I did manage to hold it for long enough to throw him off his balance again, but my following strike did not connect. Fortunately, Siegmeyer had trained me well and, instead of slowly recovering my stance to try and hit another time, I executed one off the beautiful moves he taught me and, using the momentum from the missed attack, swung the sword again over my head and striked the sorcerer’s trident, which broke in half. He went for his catalyst, but I hit him in the forehead with the zweihander’s hilt instead. He fell to the floor and I jumped over him, put my two hands over his face like I was trying to sink my thumbs in his eyes and… combustion.

I could use a rest at this point, but I didn’t really want to stop now and I was eager to fight alongside Solaire, as he had promised, so I continued clearing the area. I went back up the stairs and saw ladders leading up, but decided to finish checking the rest of the level for loot first. I found another Balder, but I was prepared and dispatched him without too much trouble. I kept going towards the backside of the Church, were I found an old, collapsing door, and tried to kick it open, but it just fell apart. Behind it I found a knight in an impressive golden armor, locked in a cell.

Up to that point I had had luck in freeing people around Lordran, maybe I was too naive, but at the time I simply thought that I was rescuing survivors, and it did not occur to me that I might have a problem with a non-hollow. So I whipped out my master set of keys and managed to open his cell. He was courteous, but also did not act so impressed, or so glad that I did it for him. I found it strange, but did not think too much of it. The fact is that the cell was old and rusted, I probably could have broke the lock if I tried for long enough, so I had this distinct feeling that he wasn’t there as much because he had been locked up there, as because he wanted to stay there for some reason. The thing is, that didn’t seem that strange either, since I had met the magic blacksmith who felt sort of the same way, so I really did not think too much about it at the time. He also didn’t seem as helpless as Briggs and Laurentius, I would certainly be more concerned if I had to fight him them any of the other two, but I left it at that and just went back up to where the sorcerer had been standing guards with his army of slaves, then up a few ladders, and there I was again facing a thick fog barrier.

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