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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.

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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.

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