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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.

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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.

I woke up determined to nag Petrus out of helping me with the concentration thing. A quick test showed that the bonfire had improved my flame-conjuring abilities considerably, but it still took too much time and focus. I had to look directly into my hand and imagine the flame, it would disappear as soon as I thought about anything else, and I’d have to struggle to kill an ant with it, because the mere thought of attacking was anough of a distraction. As I came to the area where Petrus usually stays, however, it was a completely different situation. There were two other warriors wearing his same armor with him, and most importantly, there was a lady in white, on her knees, praying while facing the wall.

Petrus wouldn’t even talk to me this time, they were all trying to be silent so she could concentrate. I don’t think I actually thought any of them would help me at this point, but I wanted to see her face, so I just kept nagging and bothering them until she turned to face me. And that’s when I saw her face, just for a second. She was beautiful.

She called Petrus and said something, then he came to me and said “the Maiden” had agreed to help me. I went there and didn’t know for a second if I should kneel also, but the fact is there was no altar around even, so I sat by her side. She stayed as she was. My hear was racing but she was immutable and I instantly fell in love with her voice and her manner of speaking, like a teenager. Like  an ass the only thing that crossed my mind was that I should try to impress her, so I babbled for a minute about how I could summon fire out of my hand, but couldn’t focus, and how the ether this and that, it probably sounded awful and ridiculous, but I made her smile, and that made me happy.

When I realized I didn’t make any sense and finally stopped talking, she gave me her impressions on the whole concentration problem. I had a million things going in my mind while she spoke, mostly sexual positions, but what I can still gather from it is that miracles were somewhat different because they weren’t intrinsically meant as an attack and because they didn’t emanate from the soul, but from the power of the gods, graciously granted to mortals for a second. Proof of it, she said, was that the talismans contained objects that linked humans to gods, and it was that link which allowed for the miracles to take place. She said, however, that miracles demanded faith, and that a moment of true faith could be compared to a moment of concentration, when one focused on the grace of the gods and asked for their power to be channeled through them. I guess she also talked about how she was going to the Catacombs to search for the rite of kindling, but I really wasn’t listening so I can’t really remember it well.

She then said that she couldn’t help me any more than that, and blessed me, by touching my forehead for a second, and in that moment I could sense her wonderful perfume. Then Petrus kicked me out.

For the time I couldn’t care less about pyromancy, so I walked up to the bonfire in the Burg and masturbated imagining that she blessed me by touching my penis. That was a little disturbing because in the middle of it I realized that I was too close to the bonfire and perhaps one of the other warriors could see me, so I finished off closer to the walls. Then I came back and talked more with Laurentius about pyromancy, but I finally decided this was enough and I just had to go up to the church and ring that damned bell already. For now all I could think of was ringing the two bells and then go look for her in the Catacombs.

Soon I was back to the firelink bonfire, pondering my options. I had two good weapons, the very enhanced zweihander and the drake sword. Along with the dragon crest shield, I should be able to kill most regular enemies, and should fear only demons. I still felt I needed another trump, and I could find it just about anywhere. I finally decided to explore a bit more. The stinking cave with those huge hollows just screamed of “leave it for later”, but the door I managed to open with the key from the Capra Demon could be doable. Who knows, maybe there was no one there. It was too promising to just leave it pass.

So I went back through the sewer shortcut and crossed the door. The stink was awful, just awful, and it clearly would just take me down and down through the sewers, so I naturally did not plan to stay long. From an elevation I could see the whole picture. There was a group of slaves, some with blazing weapons, and a little bit ahead there was a huge hollow cutting chunks of human meat and throwing the useless parts down a shaft. By exploring a little bit the scene, I also found another butcher waiting on an elevation, prepared for a trap. Quick mental note.

I started by carefully killing the slaves with the winged spear I had found in the cemetery, from behind my fire-protective shield. That was easy enough, I just had to backstep constantly to keep them from ganging up on me. Then I jumped down a level and shot an arrow at the butcher to make him come down. He was dangerous, but slow, and I butchered him back while keeping my distance with the zweihander. It was then that I found the first of my trumps. The cannibal hollows had trapped a pyromancer in a barrel for dinner. I freed him, but he was very tired and just collapsed on the floor. I didn’t really need any help then, so I left him rest a while. I was very interested in how he could help me, since the pyromancer’s attack against the capra demon before had been very impressive.

I left him there and continued clearing the area. The second butcher was protected by two dogs, but I called the dogs’ attention first with a few arrows and it worked out fine. He was tougher than the other one, but slow as well and his technique was awful. I threw him down the shaft in the pile of wasted body parts just to get a sense of justice, then opened a chest nearby, and there I found my second trump: a blacksmith ember, a bit larger than the one I saw Andre use. I picked it up and went back to the pyromancer. I gave him a sip of my estus and slaped him in the face to wake him up, then helped him back to the bonfire. The female merchant in the sewer was kind enough to provide some medicinal moss, and that made him feel much better. Then I threw him by the bonfire and took a nap there as well.

When I woke up, the pyromancer was still recovering by the bonfire, so I made a quick trip back to Andre with the ember. He was clearly impressed, but said he couldn’t help me for now. According to him, he had done as much as he could on the zweihander with the titanite shards and would now need bigger pieces to reinforce it further. He had no idea where I could find some either. I was disappointed, but he promissed to pay back in the future by reinforcing my armor. When I asked him why not now, he said my armor wasn’t worth working on and was falling to pieces anyway. Fair enough. Siegmeyer was sleeping in the bonfire nearby and I managed not to wake him up, which wasn’t hard.

I went back to the bonfire and the pyromancer, who was called Laurentius, had woken up. I took a few hours to chat with him and learn about his art. He was so grateful for saving him that he gave me a crash course in pyromancy. He told me the father of the art was Salaman, who learned it from one of the Daughter of Chaos, an order of mythical master pyromancers who had control over what he called the “chaos flame”, a powerful flame fueled by melting metals, capable of burning down even the everlasting dragons. I was amazed by his demonstrations, throwing fireballs around and making huge flames appear from his hand – which I immediately recognized as the trick used by the phantom pyromancer against the capra demon. Soon I nurtured a fantasy of burning the sorcerer who nearly killed me in the church alive, and Laurentius was happy to help me, in retribution for saving him earlier.

Pyromancy wasn’t easy to lear, however. It took me hours to be able to gather a bit of Laurentius’ flame in my hand for a couple of minutes. By the time I was capable of conjuring a small flame out of my open hand, I was already exhausted and had to call it a day. He said I was a fast learner, but I knew the truth, that the powers granted by the bonfire were beyond my comprehension, and allowed me to learn in a day what it took years for Laurentius to learn, since he was a child. As soon as I woke up, my abilities with the flame had clearly improved, but I still couldn’t perform any of his tricks. The whole thing took too much concentration, and Laurentius couldn’t help me with that. For him, commanding flames with his mind was as natural as walking, and throwing fire around was like throwing a stone. He didn’t have much method or really a deep understanding of the state of mind that enabled him to do what he did. That was the sort of finesse, he mentioned, that I could find in a sorcerer. That went in like a chunk of rotten meat: I had to go and ask the help of the sorcerer I had recued as well.

I swallowed my pride and went there to have a chat. I learned his name was Briggs and that he was concerned with the fate of his master, a sorcerer called Logan. I had to struggle not to call the guy “Logan” just to piss Briggs off, as he would mention his name always with such respect, “Master Logan” this and “Master Logan” that. That was the sort of thing that annoyed me so much about magicians. Why not just call him by his name? I don’t go around talking about “Master Siegmeyer”, he was just Siegmeyer, a nice guy who helped me with my fighting technique, he wasn’t my master, he was a friend. But I digress.

It took me all my intelligence and then some to comprehend what Briggs said, as it was so hermetic in a, obnoxious and pedantic way. Half of what he said was completely theoretic, things that him himself had never practiced, nor could explain by drawing comparisons to anything real. If I asked him about the “duality of the human soul”, he would speak about the natural equilibrium of the universe between the moon and the sun, the animals and the plants. When I asked him what was the source of his power, he said it was the “godly ether”, meaning something that we could not see and that, as opposed to what the name implied, “had absolutely nothing to do with the gods”. And finally, when I asked him how he aimed his attacks, he said he had to “build a bridge in the ether between his spiritual body and that of the enemy, and through that bridge passes a signal that is nothing but an idea, as described in its concept by a phrase spoken in the natural language of the ether, the words being primal feelings and sensations that are present in each living being’s conscience”. To this I replied: “So you point your stick at the guy like a crossbow? How do you aim? That thing has no aim!”. So yeah, he soon lost his patience. Perhaps I had it coming, but the fact is that I got mad myself, and said: “Look Briggs, I don’t want to become a sorcerer, I don’t care about any of the things you said, what I want you to teach me is how to condition my mind so that I can concentrate properly and, while at it, how do I do that in the middle of a fight, without closing my eyes for five minutes and asking the hollows to keep quiet while I do it”. He said it took years of experience, but recommended I ask Petrus for help, since, according to him, the art of summoning miracles probably demanded the same sort of concentration, but much dumber people were able to do it, and therefore it might be more suitable to my “simple mind”. I figured he was probably right, so I went looking for Petrus.

Petrus simply refused to help me at all. I had never saved his life, so I couldn’t do much to convince him either. At this point I was tired and confused, so I went back by the bonfire and shot sparkles with the tip of my fingers until I fell asleep.

After some time there on the floor I stood up and analyzed the capra demon’s body. He had chain on his neck with a key hanging on it. Just because I could, I cut off his head just to take out the key, then kicked it around for a little while. Good times. I then went back to the firelink shrine through a shortcut I found, going forward beyond the previously fogged door, through a sewers tunnel. There was a merchant woman there, but she didn’t sell anything I could use and I didn’t really have anything to bargain with. I made a mental note of the things she wanted in return for some moss scraps and black pine resin I might want to use, perhaps some poison arrows, but that would have to wait. By using the key I snatched from the capra demon’s body I opened a door nearby, but didn’t explore it for now, I was too exhausted.

Through the sewer tunnel I came back to the firelink shrine and rested by the bonfire. The sorcerer I had freed was there. I was surprised to see the skeletons arise again, but I didn’t have to fight them all this time. I picked up the small green wooden shield and took it to the sorcerer. He analyzed the inscriptions and confirmed that it was crafted to defend against magic. He said knights from Astora used to have great shield against magic. Similar to mine,, he said, but with different inscriptions. I described the shield I had seem held by the knight who saved me earlier in the Undead Asylum and he agreed it seemed to be one of them. I decided to go back there and fight the hollow knight to retrieve his shield.

To do this, I took the elevator to the Church and jumped off at a ledge. A risky jump and a little exploring later, I had found yet another key and a nest which seemed to belong to the bird that carried me to Lordran. I couldn’t reach the bird, however, so I just curled up like an egg on it and waited there for some time, hoping he would catch the hint. So much time passed that I fell asleep. Its claws clinching my torso woke me up. In moments I was flying in the direction of the asylum.

As soon as I arrived, a new mob of hollow slaves with blazing weapons had gathered. I carefully laid waste to them then moved ahead. As I stepped inside the main hall, I noticed the place had aged years, perhaps decades, yet another strange instance of the different flow of time Solaire had mentioned. The floors were terribly broken and crooked, visibly about to collapse. From my memory I remembered there was a giant demon on the underground. I couldn’t hear him anymore, but I avoided the collapsing floor all the same and sneaked close to the wall. I found open the gate I had escaped through to save myself from the demon’s trap and went through it. A Black Knight stood there, however, so I backed off.

I came back and found once again the bonfire on the garden, the gate I had opened was once again locked. I then decided to look for the hollow insane slaves just outside my cell and take them out of their misery. As I reached the corridor, however, I saw a black knight standing in my old cell. How had he reached the Asylum? Why was he in my cell? There was no way to know. I pondered for some time whether I should fight him. Was I powerful enough at this point? Had I anything to gain by this? I wasn’t sure of either, so I went back outside and curled on the bird’s nest again. The whole thing just left me feeling like a chump.

As I went up the tower looking for Solaire, I saw again the bridge where the hellkite dragon would hunt. It was empty, but the dragon was probably still watching over it from afar somewhere. I saw also the door just in ahead of me that I had earlier tried to open with my master key. I remembered about the ring I had found near the entrance of the Undead Church and tried it. It worked. I took a peak and it led down, seemingly to the lower area of the Burg. Before trying out that area, I went to have a chat with Solaire.

He gave him a brief on what I had been through and he congratulated me on my victories. He also said I had been through the worst in the Church, apart from the twin guards over the ceiling before the bell. I would find his sign there to help me however, and that made me happy. He couldn’t help me against the sorcerer however, but I felt more confident about it now. What he did say was that I needed a shield specially crafted against magic and I remembered a strange green shield I found in the cemetery that had magic markings over it. I made a mental note to go back there and get it. My current shield had a the drawing of a hellkite dragon, but I had judged it for its physical make-up only. Perhaps that would mean the shield had been crafted to defend from fire, but I couldn’t be sure for now.

I headed back to the door and went down the stairs. I was quite calm at this point, any common hollow enemy I found there would be a pathetic foe after facing that huge knight with a sorcerer throwing spells over me. After arriving on a midsection, I saw stairs leading up to the bar door I had seem much earlier. It was easy to open it from this side, so now I had a direct shortcut from the bonfire to that area. So I went back down again.

I saw a few mad undead dogs from the distance and equipped the spear I found in the cemetery. Killing them with my guard up was a pleasant sensation. There were some slaves turned hollow on the backside that I killed easily with my guard up and keeping distance with the spear. It was quite interesting to see that their burning weapons would lose their fire upon touching my shield, a confirmation of my earlier hunch about the shield being enchanted against fire. This should certainly prove useful later.

As I walked back to the main street of the area, I heard a voice coming from one of the houses. The man inside claimed he was locked in his own house after surviving the invasion of the burg by two demons. Well that caught my attention so I tried to open the door with my thievery keys but was unable. He shouted from inside that the lock was probably improved to defend from a gang of thieves that had taken over the Burg in the early days of the curse. He said there was a merchant living in the upper Burg who might be able to sell a matching key. “Yeah”, I said, “I remember him”. I didn’t really have the patience to walk all the way up there so I hacked the door to pieces with the zweihander. It took some time, but it was doable.

He was relieved and, to my surprise, completely human. There was an awful smell of death in the air inside. I asked him how did he survive for so much time without killing, but then I saw a corpse inside a barrel on the corner. I hacked it open and from inside the corpse fell and I could see he wore a magician’s clothes, similar to his own, but lighter. “You killed your friend didn’t you, you wizard scum?”. He just kept silent and promised to help me later, he said he was headed to the firelink bonfire. I figured he was probably lying, but couldn’t care less. It passed my mind the idea of asking for his help to explore the rest of the Burg, but I didn’t really want the help of a magician trickster. What I did want to know more about was how the invasion played out and where the second demon was located.

He said the town was invaded by two huge demon beasts, a “Taurus Demon”, the one I had slain, and a “Capra Demon”, indicating the animals they were the sick image of. They murdered most of the people on their pass, but spared the hollows. He didn’t see much, but he did say the demons were probably conjured by a black magic sorcerer who lived on the end of the street, where he had a black temple for his demon gods. Perhaps, he said, the demon would be located there. The capra demon, he claimed, was the most dangerous of the two. His opinion about it was worthless for me, I’d rather take advice from a dog.

I went down and fought off the gang of thieves the magician had mentioned. Thieves, in my opinion, should keep to stealing from defenseless families’ houses protected by the dark of night, because I easily cut most them in half with my zweihander by the light of day. At the end of the street, I saw a strange magic barrier, like a thick fog, guarding off a door. I poked it with my sword and it went through easily. That was the capra demon’s lair, I was sure. As I got closer I saw maybe five or six soapstone markings on the floor just in front of it. Now that was a reliable sign that the demon was a specially difficult foe.

I pondered for a moment what whould my actions be. Mostly I tried to picture the fight against the Taurus demon without the lucky shot jumping down the ledge. Would I have won them? Probably not. Would I win now? Probably not. Would I win if I had five phantoms on my side? I guess so. I figured that was good enough reasoning to just risk and go fight the demon.

So I started touching the markings on the floor, first one of the golden ones. From it arose a fellow wearing rags, holding a spiked mace and a wooden shield similar to the one I had found earlier in the Burg. He didn’t seem like a sharp warrior. Bad luck. So I touched another one. Immediately all other markings disappeared. Bad time to find out that I could only summon two phantoms. From it appeared a fellow on a soldier’s uniform branding a huge sword, very similar to the one held by the Black Knight I had seen in the Burg. Nice, I thought, perhaps he killed that knight, that’s a good sign. I figured I should go there some time and kill him as well, I should be ready at this point.

I was concerned but what could I do now? I didn’t even know how to get rid of the two phantoms, so I just passed through the fog. It was a vision from hell.

The area was small like a matchbox and the demon had huge reach, by standing in the middle area he could probably hit me wherever stood. I dodged his first jumping attack, but his strike shook the ground like a mild earthquake. As I jumped, I landed almost directly over a mad dog, who bit me in the left arm and locked his jaws. I swung my arm around to try and get rid of it before the demon could land a blow on me for good, hitting it on the head with the hilt of my sword, but it wouldn’t let go. Right at this moment the room exploded with fire. The fellow on rags who I didn’t care much about was apparently a pyromancer. The smell of the demon’s burnt fur and meat filled the air as the soldier impaled the mad dog with his sword and threw it away with another swing, but a moment later another dog attacked him. I took a second to check how the pyromancer was doing. He was dead. A second later, the demon hit the soldier with both his weapons, turning both him and the dog into mush. Now he was dead as well.

I wanted to run and hide, offer allegiance to the beast, whatever it was I could do to get myself out of that situation. He was blocking the passage to the fog door, however, so I just ran in the opposite direction, towards some stairs leading up to a very short ledge where I would be an easy target for the demon. Sure enough he came charging in my direction and just as he hit hard on the ledge, I dodged jumping down. The ledge was gone.

Now, this could seen like my darkest hour, but the fact is it wasn’t actually the case. The beast was fast in attacking, but slow in setting up to attack, and it was facing the wall, away from me. I also had not been hurt at this point and moved very easily on my full armor because of the ring I had snatched from the stone knight. Meanwhile, the best was still smoking from the pyromancer’s efforts. So I took a moment to prepare for my strongest zweihander double handed attack, had my perfect stance as Siegmeyer had showed me, and jumped forward from the distance to help gain momentum for the blow. The blade went right through my an arm’s lenght inside the meat until it scratched some hard bone. At this point the beast went berserk with pain and rage, swinging its weapons around, but I had the time to pull out the blade and jump back. As the beast took a moment to stop swinging madly and actually find me in the small room, I charged with a strike to its face and it was dead.

I sat down on the floor and laid down on my back, looking at the unchanging sky, not believing how lucky I was.

The last time I saw the rock knight, he sent me running up the tower in despair. His image was that of an unbeatable enemy, and I still had the idea that I could somehow avoid the harder enemies, like him, and somehow make it through with cunning. It was a smart trick against the Taurus Demon, but I could never stay alive without being able to beat enemies on sheer technique alone. I could not be a second time scared by an enemy like the rock knight, because it could just send me running in the direction of a sorcerer or worse.

But proving my worth and regaining my debatable honor wasn’t the only reason I had to fight him. There was a door behind him and I wanted to know where it led. One thing I could figure by this point was that there were interesting and powerful weapons left all around by warrior who tried to conquer Lordran before me. One of these could be a game changer for me, and it could be just laying there right behind that door. I didn’t know, but I wanted to find out.

So there I went. The bodies of the hollows I had killed “weeks” before stank and rotted on the open, to the extent that I had to cover my nose. Over their long dead bodies I saw the ghosts of other warriors, fighting the same hollows in their own worlds. I tried not to think about that too much, however, because it scared me that I couldn’t understand it.

When I came to the tower, I changed my pace and walked more slowly. I felt fear and let it ring in my heart. A great part of a warrior’s training is simply learning to think while being afraid, while acting on reflex, while breathing heavily, while bleeding and being attacked. The common man will frequently fantasize about acting quick, about moving faster than a snake and catch things before they hit the ground. He will picture duels when his every move is a response to the enemy’s previous move. “He went for his knife but I hit his knee with an arrow. So he threw the knife at my face, but I dodge in the last second”. None of this actually exists. All there is is chaos and a helpless mind struggling to reason inside it. Every action happens in a split second and it’s over so fast that you have to check your back for a second, perhaps there’s a knife there you didn’t notice. Sometimes you kill an enemy, look around for danger, check you body for wounds, convince yourself you are now alone, feel amazed at having survived, and only then you hear the enemy’s weapon hit the ground.

The same goes for the struggle of the weapons itself. There is a logic to it, but it is not apparent to anyone involved, not who watches it, not who uses it. Most movement are motivated by nothing but reflex, but have a logical reason why they were proper, and most of the times exactly what they are supposed to do actually happens, but you can’t explain why, because the two blades hitting each other do not feel like words and thoughts. The only explanation to the duel would be the memory of the duel, that is, if you had any, which you don’t. The warrior’s life is intense but leaves no memory.

The fight against the knight itself was surprisingly uneventful. I parried his attack a couple times, not without some difficulty, but I was well prepared. Most of the momentum was already naturally deflected away from me just by a simple body movement to the side. The dragon bone he used for a weapon was so heavy, it took him too long to recover from one attack, he depended on hitting the first two or three times for an instant kill. He could only survive this many mistakes because of his heavy armor, but it wasn’t a fortress, it couldn’t take too much pounding. I hit him three times on the shield side of his shoulder amor and it cracked open. By the fourth hit, I cut through meat and bones. Then I kicked off his helmet and crashed his skull.

I couldn’t believe a normal human being could carry around so heavy armor without magic, so I took out his arms’ armor to check for rings and sure enough it was there. A big gray ring made of some petrified material. I took it out of his dead hollow finger and placed it on one of mine. The effect was instantaneous. I suddenly felt like my armor was weightless and could move is if I was naked. This is was certainly one of my most important discoveries along this journey so far. I was so excited, I wanted more, so I opened the door that he was guarding.

Bad idea going that way. The crystal monsters just behind it were clearly out of my league and there was a huge water hydra in the distance spitting water around. I wanted nothing of it and just headed back to where I met Solaire before, past the battlegrounds of the Taurus Demon.

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