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.