#22 – The Undead Church

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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