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As I stepped out of the bonfire chamber, the Undead Burg seemed like a completely different place. There were some scattered bloodstains that weren’t there before and I saw ghosts running around fighting in the void. There were names written on the ground as well, glowing white or golden, and I did my best to avoid stepping on them. I decided to kick some information out of the merchant, since he was the only non-hollow around. He didn’t know anything about the bloodstains or ghosts, but he did know that a huge demons awaited me after the tower that I had just cleaned of hollows.

I went back to the bonfire dodging the ghosts, but something attracted me on the written names. Their glow was unworldly and supernatural. The ghosts, I concluded, were probably warriors who died in the Burg, fighting the undead hordes, reviving their last moments. At one time or another, one of them would approach the bonfire and sit there in a manner much similar to mine, then disappear completely. It frightened me and only made me want to leave the place sooner than I might otherwise. So I headed back to the tower.

Behind a locked door that I managed to open with my master keys, the stairs went down. I knew the demon awaited me on the top area, so it would do me no harm to try and see what lay in the bottom. When I approached the bottom level I saw a man wearing a huge armor, apparently made of hard stone, and holding what seemed like a giant dragon bone. Upon seeing me, he ran after me and that fight I knew I couldn’t win, so I ran and ran up the stairs. At some point, he let me go.

In the top level, before a door, I heard a noise behind some boxes. Thinking it might be another rat and that I could use the rat-killing rush once more, I smashed them and found a crystal lizard. From his back I extracted a few shards that might prove useful later on.

Now I had but one way to go, the door leading to the bridge between two towers. Behind me, stairs took me to the ceiling of the tower, where I decided to lay down and wait for the monster to arrive. i was surprised by two crossbow-yielding hollows, but they were easy to dispatch.

So I sat there for some time, staring at the battleground. There were many of those strange bloodstains on the floor, so I knew people had died there. The ghosts also showed me that intense fighting had happened in that place. I took a moment to carefully analyze their lessons from beyond, trying to figure out from their aiming the size of the demon. At some point, one of the ghosts came up from the stairs and I jumped away to avoid being on its way. The ghost looked down and jumped with his mace facing down. I remembered of my fight with the demon in the asylum and how I managed to kill him using the same trick. Since the demon was as much of a trapper as me, however, I would need to fall for his trap first.

So I went down and carefully walked forward, nervous as I had ever remembered being, my hands shaking holding the zweihander. As I reached the middle of the bridge, the demon jumped from his hiding place on the other tower. The merchant called him “Taurus Demon” and I now knew why, he was some sort of a strange, half-bull beast, holding an immense axe. As I ran back to the tower I came from, I was still deciding if I should run down the stairs back to certain death against the hollow knight or stick to my plan. I decided for the plan, since that humongous axe could tear down the whole tower above me anyway. So I went up the stairs as fast as I could and jumped at his face with the zweihander.

The beast screamed and swung his axe around, just a palm above my head. I put up my shield and reached my broadsword, which seemed like the most absurd weapon against such a huge beast. If it came down to using it, I was sure, I would certainly die. So as I was running for my life in the direction of the second tower, I saw a broken ledge I could maybe trick the demon into falling out of in the confusion. My best hopes were still in seeing the demon succumb to the zweihander’s wound, however. So I stood my ground.

The demon ran in my direction branding the axe and howling. I decided to run like a girl, but now he was too close for me to abandon my plan. So I stood my ground, less decidedly though. I dodged the first blow and the demon went tumbling past me in confusion. I saw the opportunity to escape and took it, running back to the first tower, but halfway I saw the stairs again. Maybe I could try to pull of the old trick again? So I went up the stairs, which the demon promptly destroyed beneath me. As soon as I stood up in that ceiling, my plan was laid to waste: the demon jumped up to meet me.

So there I was, nearer to death than ever before, in this small area, holding what felt like a children’s sword against a giant demon. My first instinct was to jump off to certain death, but no, I had to die fighting. So I let go of my shield and held my sword with my two hands, facing the beast. Dodged the axe once again, pushing my luck, finding myself between the beast’s feet. So I hacked and slashed as I could, barely scratching the beast’s thick skin until I could risk losing my remaining weapon with some resemblance of a mortal blow. Perhaps tired from the fighting and confused by the pain inflicted by the zweihander, the hellish animal left its guard down for a moment, which I profited from by sinking my sword into his heart.

The demon was dead. I pulled the two swords from his body and sat there amazed at my feat. If only my mother could see me now!

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As I woke up by the bonfire, I was already another man. Being a hollowing undead has its advantages, I suppose, since the awful headache and overall “becoming not human” effect also had freed me from human flaws and weaknesses, but that was gone now, and being now able to see who I was and what situation I was in, finally as a full human being, seemed to me as almost too much to bare. Being human again, fully healed by the bonfire, would become a nightmare by itself, probably greater than the hellkite dragon and the black knight together.

Before, I had no life, I was but a shell of my former self, awkwardly swinging around a zweihander. But now I had to look at my life and balance things out, and it was completely bleak and hopeless. I would probably never see my family again, since my death was almost certain. Judging by the state of everything I saw in Lordran, I might have been slowly hollowing for more time than I realized: for the first time I realized that the Firelink Shrine and the burg had not been destroyed recently, but perhaps years, or hundreds of years before.

The sun still didn’t move, there was never any night, and that couldn’t be normal. Perhaps the whole world outside of Lordran had become like the Undead Asylum while I was rotting in my cell, and maybe now the world was so much dead that even the gods that keep the sun moving in the sky were gone, and I was alone fighting a useless and unwinnable war.

Maybe my whole family was killed, and my hollowed father waited for me at home, ready to murder me for the scraps of soul energy I might have when I get there.

But most of all, I could feel again something that had been unknown to me for what felt like ages, sadness. Deep, overbearing sadness, a profound loneliness that couldn’t possibly be quenched. If I felt like this in the Asylum, I would probably have cut my throat with my broken sword. The sadness made my quest seem even more futile, for I needed love and affection more than I wanted to ring the two bells of awakening. That’s when I realized, that’s what happened to the crestfallen warrior. That poor man couldn’t gather strength to as far as stand up and shake my hand when I arrived. His existence, like mine, was devoid of meaning, pointless, only bearable by his ability to laugh of the stupidity of fools like me, or by his own personal, ultimately gentle quest: to kill all of the beaten, hollowed would-be saviors of the world, to finish their miserable life once and for all, as mercifully as another miserable soul could strike a deathly blow.

But the crestfallen warrior was clearly hollowing. His sadness, the same as mine, was killing him inside as much as his undead state. I couldn’t help but think of it as a joke on the expense of every undead, the revenge of the undead curse from the rebels who dared to reclaim humanity: from their beating heart would come a sadness so deep, they would hope to be fully hollowed and be free from the awful burden of being alive and being only human.

So this much I knew for sure, I had to find something to keep me alive, something as powerful as the curse itself, something so powerful that could make me lift my zweihander and fight a hellkite dragon. Such a force could surely expel the sun and turn this land into night again, such a comparably easy task. And that was how I decided that, crawling around Lordran killing hollows and demons alike, I would find love, I would find a wife and with her have children that would outlive this curse. If I had to become a god, I would, and Anor Londo itself would be my new home. This much I hoped and decided to achieve by the end of this ordeal. And with this goal in mind, I knew I could kill Lord Gwynn himself, that incompetent bastard who couldn’t even move the sun in the sky anymore.

But anyway, being now fully human and able to desire a woman so, I felt the urge to masturbate, and so I did, and was proud at myself for having thus reconquered my full humanity. I was now a man again, and gods damn if I wasn’t ready to sink my zweihander in some demon’s face.

When I woke up I immediately realized I was stronger. My arms had considerably lost its previous cadaver appearance. Touching my face, I realized the deep marks had become softer, but my skin was still dry like hay. I removed my chest piece and was glad to see that the huge scar in my chest had become softer as well, while my heart was beating healthier, more regularly. My constant headache had become weaker, so now I could think more clearly. My enhanced thoughts couldn’t do much to quench my fear for what was to come, however. Petrus had spoken of demons taking over the church above, where the first bell was located, and the huge hellkite dragon was certainly waiting for me somewhere down the line.

I saw the zweihander I had thrown at a corner. Picked it up with renewed strength and realized I had never trained with that kind of weapon. Protected in the bonfire chamber, I could spend some time imitating the moves of the knights I have seem using that weapon. The onionheads of Catalina were famous for using it, but I had never seen one in action. I came up with a few movements, based on how I learned to use my broadsword as a boy, but I could tell it should remain a back-up weapon for some time, since I couldn’t possibly let go of my shield for now.

So I stepped back into the Burg. The bodies of the hollows were still there to rot, but I took the time to search for valuable loot. All I could find was one small shard of titanite that could be useful in the future, if I could find a blacksmith or at least his left behind tools. The way forward was made clear by another deathtrap: a narrow corridor upon which firebomb throwers stood. On the end of the corridor, at least two hollow warriors.

There was a rooftop guarded by two spear wielders as well, that had mysteriously not hushed into the fight against me when I arrived. There was probably something valuable that way, so I went that way first. I couldn’t really fear them much, tanks were my specialty and I had a giant zweihander to break their guards with. They went down fast. I came down the roof and killed another hollow who tried to attack me by surprise.

I was surprised to see they were guarding a small man in an extremely hollowing state. He was holding a strange weapon the likes of which I had never seen, but that seemed mostly useless and weak. He was certainly much more afraid of me than I of him, and he had piles of weapons I could use, so I am not proud to say that I forced him to hand me whatever I needed: a bow, a few arrows and the key to a house in the lower Burg, where he claimed to have locked a sorcerer. I let him live.

Now I had a bow, and I was good with bows. For hunting, of course, but it would be useful for hunting down hollows as well.

I went back up the roof as stealthily as I could and proceeded nearer the bonfire. I needed three perfect shots, but only the first could be carefully aimed. The first arrow went through the eye of one of the flamebomb throwers. Immediately two warriors started running towards me, while the two other throwers tried to escape their wooden platforms. One got an arrow to the back, the other, to the back of the head, but I didn’t have a moment to be proud of myself, even though the fight against the two warriors wasn’t particularly difficult. The hiding axe wielder went down fast as well.

There was a door to the lower undead burg, but I couldn’t reach the lock from inside, so it was useless to me. As I ventured forth, making good use of my master key set, I could find some goldpine resin, and it would prove useful later. Continuing on my way I killed a hollow archer and took some of his arrows. Form the tower I landed an arrow to the face of a warrior, then another at the face of his partner. Killed another tanking spear and shield wielder and survived a lame trap with a giant flaming boulder. I could now go up the tower, but I was exhausted by now and needed rest.

Upon exploring more of the area, however, I saw something that sent a chill down my spine, an enemy so powerful, he could probably kill me three times before I could turn around and run screaming like a woman. One of Gwyn’s knights stood there looking at the void, looking noble and proud even while hollowed. He was as tall as I could raise my arm, his armor was burnt, as if steel could burn. His shield was so heavy, he could probably kill me by dropping it in my head. His sword was stained with the blood of dragons. I was happy enough that he didn’t attack me and went back to the bonfire to practice with the zweihander and have nightmares of him and the hellkite dragon.

So, for now I had to carry the zweihander on my back, and again I kept only the chestpiece and left the rest of my armor by the firelink shrine. As I went up the stairs to the Undead Burg I could see five hollow warriors standing guard. It was an strategic nightmare: four were armed with sword and shield, like me, so that alone was a four against one battle. One of them was a firebomb thrower, which would make any fighting more difficult. And finally there was an axe wielder. That was a problem because even if I blocked his attacks, it would drain my stamina quickly, and if my shield broke I would be dead in a second. While blocking that heavy axe I would also need to be able to jump away from the firebombs, since my shield would be useless against them. Luckily, only their weapons could match their armor in being old and rusted. Their rotten bodies would also be slow and their diseased minds, slower.

I decided that the base of the bridge to the right was the only way to force them to fight me one by one. To get there, I would need to fight past two warriors and the firebomber’s aim. Once on that platform, I could improvise.

My plan started to go awry when I lost the element of surprise: the firebomb thrower saw me before I killed the first warrior and screamed for them to hush me. So I kicked the first warrior on the chest, throwing him off balance and ran off. The firebomber was fully alert and, therefore, his aim was perfect. The burning oil splashed on the shield and instantly burned my uncovered legs. I ignored the pain and bashed the second warrior with my flaming shield, he fell off the cliff. I jumped to the platform, sand and stone scratching the burns on my legs as I rolled. My legs were now both burning and bleeding, but I had the high ground and pillars to hide from the firebombs.

The warriors weren’t smart enough not to fall for my trap. While I hid from the firebombs, two of them died trying to reach the platform. The axe-wielder managed to land the jump on two feet, but was unbalanced. I cut off his head and jumped back to the grass to scape another firebomb. The firebomber was suprised and, in a few seconds, dead.

From then on all the killing had rushed to my head. The normal entrance to the Burg had collapsed, but the hollows had been using a way through a sewer tunnel. There, I killed a rat and for some reason I felt a high. Later I would realize for some reason killing rats gave me an extra punch, as soon as I pierced through his filthy teeth with my sword, I felt brave and invincible and just razed through all other hollows in that section of the Burg, using the geography to always fight one on one.  At some point I had to fight while a hollow archer aimed at me, but I managed to evade the arrows by running in circles around the other hollows. As soon as I killed the archer, I saw a bonfire. I was exhausted and just collapsed by the fire.

While I slept, all the killing had amassed me considerable power. I didn’t understand then how bonfires worked, but I can now say that, while I slept, the bonfire used this power, derived from the souls of all the people who the hollows had murdered, to what I needed the most at the moment: healing the wounds on my legs, my overall health, and making me stronger, all the while pulling me back from my present horribly hollowing state.

At some point of my sleep, the unhollowing power of the bonfire brought me back something I had forgotten existed: the capability to dream, or more specifically in that case, to have nightmares. And every nightmare then focused on only one enemy: the giant hellkite dragon that had briefly touched the ground as soon as I came up to my previous battleground in the open area on top of the Burg. His brief, light touch made the ground shake and threw me off balance.

In my dreams I was forced to fight that dragon.

I wanted to weight my options well, but not only couldn’t I wield the zweihander effectively with my present strenght, I felt what few strenght I had dissappear fast, and the bonfire couldn’t help me: I had to kill something to be able to keep going. At the same time, I feared being dominated by the killing and thus become hollowed all of the same. To keep my sanity, I had to approach this with moderation somehow. Since I couldn’t really moderate the killing, I figured I had to prepare spiritually for what I was facing.

It was at this point that I saw a plump, somber fellow approach the bonfire. He rested for a while, rewarmed his estus flasks and left without saying a word. It was clear by his armor and ridiculous haircut that he was a warrior cleric. So I followed him to what must have been one of the side chambers of the Shrine before the ceiling collapsed. Standing there without doing much of anything, it was clear he was waiting for something. I tried to start a conversation, but he tried to put me off.

“Please do not spoil my focus, it is hard enough to pray while knowing the demons have taken the church above already”.

So I left him alone. I knew if I told him I was myself a follower of the Way of White, he might have given me more attention, but he was clearly more powerful than me, fully human like the Crestfallen Warrior, and I didn’t want to expose myself with any more information to anyone.

He had inadvertently helped me, however. I figured all I could do to try and keep the curse weak in my soul was to pray frequently, to try and remember what I was taught as a child, so the blessings of the Maiden could keep my heart pure enough. So I went to the main chamber of the Shrine, where a statue of the Maiden still stood. There I prayed, offered a few drops of my estus as sacrifice, and headed back to say goodbye to the Crestfallen Warrior.

“Good luck my friend, I see you are heading towards the Undead Burg, I can only wish I am not forced to kill you later today”

“Undead Burg?”

“Oh yes, you don’t think it can be a Lively Burg anymore, now do you?”

First I heard the laugh, then the clapping, both clearly bathed in irony. I couldn’t be angry for long, though. This man was deeply sad and pessimistic, in my head I started calling him a “crestfallen warrior” and, even though he seemed fully human, something I had not seen for a long time, I knew he was giving up already and would soon become hollow. I couldn’t help but think of his state as inevitable, if the many great warriors and wise men of Lordran had been unable to undo the curse, either by religious rituals, magic, medicine or by destroying the force that caused it, then but a man, I was sure, could not but scratch the surface of the crisis. But I had to try, and so I had to find a way to get information from this man.

“I’ve seen many fools in this land, but you really know how to make an entrance, I was pleased. Of course, the entrance isn’t really as important as the exit, and your exit I know very well”.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you came here to ring the bells and everything, didn’t you?”

I suddenly realized my savior knight wasn’t the first to try this.

“Yes…”

“Well, I’ll tell you how this will end. You will go up those ladders to my left, I won’t see you for a few days, but surely enough, you will come back, either by the elevator in the shrine, or back through the stairs, wandering mindless and completely hollow”.

“And then?”

“And then I will kill you, and that will be it”.

“Well sir, if it really comes down to that, please do”.

So I figured the ladders to the right weren’t a good idea. I took a good look and could see hollow warriors all over it.

“Maybe you have some better recommendation?”

“Not really. Go anywhere else and you will certainly die, specially with those weapons”

“What’s the problem with my weapons?”

“The hollows do not feel pain. I am sure you are accustomed to hitting some peasant in the face and having him cry for mercy on his knees. The hollows won’t do that. You will cut their left arm and they will attack you with their right arm with no moment’s notice. You will thrust your sword in their heart, but their heart is as dead as their soul, and they will cut your throat with their teeth”.

“I have killed hollows”

“Have you killed five of them? Some with axes, some throwing firebombs at your face? You haven’t killed hollows, you aren’t but a novice in this world, and there will be no tutors, no tutorials, you will attack and die and that is it. And if you survive, worse will come”.

“Worse than hollows, you say?”

“Demons who came straight from the ruins of their forgotten city below, hollowed knights of Lord Gwyn, you haven’t seen the first of it”.

I pondered for a moment. In my present state I surely couldn’t. How could my cheap blade penetrate the armor of Gwyn’s knights? And demons, I had no training to fight demons, I trained to fight men and hollows were already terrifying enough. The tricks my father taught me would be useless against anything but living, breathing men. How could I knock a demon from its feet, or twist a demons’ arm to take his weapon? How hard would I need to bash my shield to take off his balance? For the first time I realized the task at hand was more than I could take.

“So you say I should just sit here by your side and wait for the curse to claim every last human, including me and you?”

“No matter what you do, that will be the outcome. This is all I have to say”.

It was enough for now. I tried to make a deal with the warrior for him to watch over me while I slept by the magnificent bonfire in front of the Shrine. He laughed and said I was safe by the bonfire, the hollows feared the bonfires more than anything else. And so I slept on the ground like a peasant.

When I woke up, the sun was sitting still where it was before. I asked the warrior about it. He shrugged it off: “Who cares?”. I guess I should let it be as well.

So I asked him more.

“How can this bonfire be so strong and bright?”

“Because of the mute firekeeper below it, go around those stair and you will see”.

And so I did. She wouldn’t answer.

“Who is she?”

And again, “Who cares?”, and “You make too many questions”.

I walked around for a while and saw the cemetery. I decided to walk around and see what I could find.

“I wouldn’t go too far in that direction if I were you”.

“Why?”.

“You see those bones?”.

“Yes”.

“They will take life and slit your throat. See, each pile of scattered bones has shields and swords near it, those are their weapons”.

I tried my best not to show how shocked I was. He continued:

“And it’s a shame as well, a fool went down that way a few weeks ago, he had a zweihander, I bet it is still there. With that sword you might be able to do some damage against the hollows. Look, there it is!”.

It looked heavy and powerful, I had to take it. So I asked:

“Can the skeletons come near the bonfire?”

“Who cares?”

I noticed that was his reply every time he didn’t know the answer to a question. But I needed that sword, so I planned the best I could. I couldn’t imagine what kind of damage could my sword make to a skeleton, so I decided not to even try to hit them. I took off most of my armor, keeping only the chest-piece, and even my sword stayed by the bonfire. Thus, half uncovered and two-handing my shield, I charged into the cemetery as fast as I could. When the bones started moving I was sure I would die, but they didn’t stand as fast as I feared. As soon as I approached the zweihander, however, I saw the dead body of its former owner. It was cut in half. I looked back and figured the human skeletons now preparing to chase me couldn’t have done that. Then I looked down and saw giant bones. When they started moving, I stopped thinking, stopped breathing, I just took the zweihander and ran, faster than I had ever before. Bashed a skeleton with my shield so hard, half of his bones probably fell off the cliff, then kept running. Never looked back to see the giant skeleton, but I knew it was there.

When I reached the bonfire, the warrior was on his back, laughing so much that his guts were clearly in pain and he couldn’t breathe. I thought I had earned his respect by then, but he didn’t care. He said only:

“I’ll be sad to cut you off when you come back hollow…”.

“Well thank you for that I guess…”,

“… because you are so funny, I could use the entertainment!”

But I didn’t care, I had the zweihander. That is, if only I had the strength to hold it properly. More laughter was had on my expense.

And so there was I, stranded and confused by the famous Firelink Shrine, a meeting place for citizens from all of Lordran. It was said that, at any given time that the clerics weren’t performing their rituals in the Shrine, when the whole area fell to a deep and respectful silence, people would be singing and drinking in that merry place. Travelers to Anor Londo – the famed city of giants, long before conquered by Lord Gwyn, who enslaved the giants and ruled Lordran – would pass by the Shrine constantly, meeting in large groups, then staying for the night in the Lively Burg, a quaint and charming city whose economy was based on receiving these travelers. The long walk from the Lively Burg to Anor Londo, through Sen’s Castle’s protected path, was constantly pulsating with people going both directions. Anor Londo itself was the greatest city in the world, concocted by the brilliant mind of men, built by the incomparable strength of the giants.

Of course I had never seen these things, but this knowledge was common to every man. In reality, the geography of the whole area was known by all: the catacombs, maintained by the clerics, were laid behind the Shrine and reached far underground. This was a sacred and forbidden place, and therefore no one knew for sure if the myth of a God of Death surrounded by an ancient Tomb where the giants laid their dead was true. Only the clerics could know of such things. But that was not the only mistery of the land. While Anor Londo and Lively Burg were heaven on Earth, the undesirables, thieves, assassins and witches lived in New Londo among the poor, not to be seen by the distant travelers who should only have good things to say about Lordran when they went back home. A different kind of filth flowed from all of these cities and could only go down, leaking and leaking through the cracks of civilization through to the Depths, where nothing but rats, slimes and other accursed animals lived. Of course, who were I then to call any being accursed?

And finally, it was said that from the Depths there was an entrance to an ancient city where Demons lived millennia before. But that, I was sure, was certainly just a story for children, such as the stories of walking trees in the Darkroot Forest, the forest that I am sure covered all of that area before even the giants decided to settle there.

This was all that I knew, but as I laid my feet by the Shrine I knew I would never know this famed Lordran from first hand. It was completely gone by then, there was no chanting, I could hear only a derisive laughter, and the Shrine itself, once imponent and beautiful, was now in ruins and barely recognizable. Lordran, it was clear, had been destroyed by the same madness I saw take place in the Undead Asylum. While I slowly went hollow in my cell, I was actually protected and kept in ignorance, because beyond those bars everything mankind had built was being undone. I couldn’t imagine what was left of Anor Londo and, specially, where had all the people went. I had yet to see the piles of bodies and finally realize that they were all dead.

But even these thoughts could not hold my attention and came about in but a second, for that derisive laughter was more potent: the hollow do not laugh.

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