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.

I woke up feeling awful, and worse yet, hollowed back to the state I was in when I first arrived in Lordran.    The headache and general lack of vitality was awful to bare after being fully human for so much time.  felt defeated and humiliated, and the crestfallen warrior laughing at my face while I tried to stood up didn’t help. He said he and Petrus dragged me back to the bonfire in just barely enough time to save me from becoming a full hollow. The bonfire had apparently used all my humanity’s energy to heal me back from my wounds, yet another tidbit of information about how they work. I might not have the same luck next time, however. Fortunately, I still had the strenght and dexterity previously granted by the bonfire, but my will was broken, along with my confidence to face off the sorcerer.

I decided to explore the area and see what I could find, but first I had to go back to the Church using the elevator and get my weapons back. On the way to the elevator, I met Petrus and thanked him for the help. He said only that I should be more careful and that, since he would leave soon, he wouldn’t be there the next time. I went up and, luckily, my weapons were still there, sitting by the giant knight’s body. I didn’t stay much time, I had had enough of that area for the moment. I did take a peak at the sorcerer, however, and seeing that he was distracted and apparently couldn’t see me from afar without all the commotion caused by the previous battle, I took a moment to check a body that was laid upon the altar, apparently sacrificed in some kind of ceremony,  for some loot. What I found was an old Estus flask, shining from within with an intense white light, very different from the yellow glowing liquid that filled my flask when heated by the bonfires. I took it with me and went straight to the elevator, down to the firelink shrine.

I showed it to the crestfallen warrior, who seemed impressed, and instructed me to give it to the mute firekeeper. She did not say anything, only opened the flask and received the white light in her body somehow. The old estus flask was now of a dull green, and was broken to pieces. She then pointed at my flask and I gave it to her. She just blessed it, and gave it back to me. I came back to talk to the crestfallen warrior and he just explained that my flask should be more powerful now. That should be useful later, I thought.

Then I started properly exploring the area. I went down on an old elevator near the firekeeper, where I found a passage to New Londo, now in ruins and apparently flooded. Nearby I found an estoc, which might be useful later, but probably not, and an insane-looking fellow who claimed to be a blacksmith specialized in magic weapons. I talked with him for a little while, but he had little to teach and seemed to despise me after I told him I had little interest in magic.

I took yet another elevator nearby and arrived at a very high hill, where I need to walk carefully. Some walking around showed two options, a dark way into the mountain, with at least two huge, bloated hollows holding huge clubs. The air stank of disease so I decided to try for the second option, leading to a huge sort of dragon, apparently dead or sleeping, with an appearance like it was made of vomit. I approached carefully and his smell was that of disease, death, rotten food, just putrid and awful. On the distance I saw a shield and a sword, but the three dead bodies next to them did not give me confidence in the dragon being dead. The sword seemed noble and beautiful, but useless to me, but the shield seemed better than mine, so I decided to make a run for it.

As I suspected, the dragon awoke, but he was slow to raise up and his lower part fell to the bottom of the cliff. He was clearly sick and weak, but the sword wasn’t worth a fight, so I took the shield and ran. After I left, he vomited all over, I was not sure as an attack or as part of his weakness. I had no more business being there. A quick analysis of the shield from the distance showed that the new shield was better than mine, so I tossed my old shield down the cliff to make company for the dragon’s ass. Then I went back to the firelink shrine.

I chatted with the crestfallen warrior for a little while, then decided to try my luck against the skeletons again. They didn’t freight me as much as before, as I now had superior weapons and enough strength to allow me to wear armor while being able to run back to the bonfire if things got ugly. They never did, however. I spent about an hour carefully fighting all the skeletons in the cemetery, even the two giant skeletons I found. They were hard fights, but I was prepared and able enough. I found a nice spear there, which could prove useful, more than the estoc at least. Also binoculars, and I was glad to keep it around to help when figuring out strategies for future attacks.

I then went back to the Undead Burg and rested in the old bonfire there for a while. This is when I remembered about the white soapstone Solaire had gifted me with before. I was left pondering for some time on the nature of this strange world, specially since, sitting around by the bonfire, I could see the ghosts approaching it and becoming clearer. By the light of the bonfire, I could see their faces, their weapons and clothes. Some seemed like sorcerers, some wore little more than rags. I pitied them, their difficult life I had known so well. Those first enemies were tough for a newcomer, and now I was sure I could help greatly, so I stepped outside and wrote my name down on the floor with the soapstone.

Time after time they would summon me, those helpless souls. I helped them defend from the arrows, face the mobs attacking in group, and even killed the knight on stone armor who guarded the tower to the bottom, basically by having them distract him while I hit him in the head with the zweihander. A few times I failed and got killed by him, I was crushed by the taurus demon a few other times, but after a while I got the hang of it and started winning. Soon I had help kill Taurus perhaps four or five times. All of this gave me enough soul energy that I quickly regained my humanity and became much stronger. At some point, however, they stopped summoning me. I guess I became too strong for them, and our spiritual link faded. I was sorry for them, but I felt so strong and powerful, I just had to test my newfound powers. So I headed straight to fight the stone-armor knight.

Thus armed with my zweihander and full armor, the drake sword (as Andre called it) and my shield on my back, I came to the side of the church, where an entrance led to the main altar. I took a moment to observe and saw stairs leading up, certainly to the bell, some sort of elevator that could lead me down, certainly back to the firelink shrine, which would be very convenient, and a huge knight with heavy armor and enormous sword and shield. I tried to devise an strategy but couldn’t figure anything up, I simply had to fight that monster and defeat him somehow. The zweihander was clearly the weapon of choice, for at least I could keep some distance, but she shield would be a huge problem. His size, I supposed, indicated he was probably slow, therefore the best strategy would be to dodge his attacks, then attack while his guard was lowered. Easier said than done, but I was confident I could do it, I was well trained and rested.

As I entered the church, the knight saw me and attacked. His first blow took off a chunk of the wall, but didn’t get near me, he was either trying to show his strength and make me nervous or wasn’t a particularly talented warrior. I kept backpedalling, starting a circle motion, vaguely on the direction of the elevator. If things got ugly, I thought, I could jump inside the booth and pray for the old elevator to work. His second strike was close enough that I dodged it instinctively, but also would not have hit me. He was strong, but clumsy, I figured. Right at this moment a magic ray struck me and I finally got desperate. My whole body was was in pain, my eyes felt like burning and I felt weak and disoriented. The worst part was that I couldn’t even look around and see where the spell came from, because I had to dodge another strike from the knight right at that moment, and this third one would have cut me in half had it connected. I had been reckless and stupid.

But his devastating blow had also let him open, so I, holding the zweihander with my two hands, one on the extended metal hilt, perfect stance as Siegmeyer had taught me, just a bit of despair, swung in his general direction and cut off his right hand. The heavy sound of the sword hitting the ground made me realize just how lucky I was to have dodged before. The knight didn’t flinch, but bashed me right in the face with his shield. I blacked out for a couple of seconds and only woke up from the pain of my back hitting the wall. The giant took the moment to throw away the shield and get the sword from the ground. As he faced me again, I already stood, my skin burning from the spell, my backbone feeling like a big chunk of pain, my whole torso locked in more pain, and my face bleeding, the taste of blood in my mouth. I was angry and ready to die, ready to risk everything on a single bold and risky move. I grabbed my shield but didn’t raise my guard. As the giant attacked, I parried.

Parrying is an interesting art, rewarding the greatest danger with the greatest reward. It is easy enough to hide behind the shield, with your arm clutched to your body and your muscles tight shut, but to parry you have to hold your shield like a sword, with your arms extended and your muscles loose enough to move fluently, you lose the security and depend greatly on guessing where the strike will come from, since your movement will deflect it away. If you guess wrong, you will parry into the air and die. The beauty of the moment when you land a successful parry is that your enemy’s guard is wide open. If your enemy has a shield, he will instinctively try to protect his body, so you have only a split second to attack, but a shieldless enemy will be completely defenseless. It is possible to parry even the strongest attacks, since you use the strongest part of the weapon, near the hilt, against the weakest part of the enemy’s weapon, the very point. Even axes can be parried, since their momentum easily slides off and the attacker loses even more balance than a swordman. I wouldn’t normally have the confidence to try this, but Siegmeyer had taught me well.

Guessing the giant knight’s strike wasn’t particularly hard, he was slow, shieldless, was using his weak hand and moved in a very straight-forward and classic style. I had a full moment to strike and used it well, though normal riposte techniques were useless in this case, cutting off his left leg. As he lay on the floor, I cut off his head and looked around to try and determine where the attacking sorcerer was. All I saw was the blue bolt of light  coming in my direction and hitting me in chest, throwing me on the floor in intense, unbearable pain. I looked up and saw him on a ledge, wearing strange clothes. I made a note to myself that I could cut through those fabric clothes, then ran with my last strenght to the elevator booth’s floor and it started moving down.

While it was moving down I closed my eyes and held my guts with both my arms, trying to alleviate the pain with the pressure. My eyes were tearing up, burning like fire. As I reached the lower level, I couldn’t walk, but recognized it as the firelink shrine area. I screamed for help and stayed conscious barely long enough to see Petrus and the crestallen warrior approach me. I fainted, as my vision faded, it wen completely dark, and in my dreams I could only hear somber music coming from the pitch-black as if telling me of my failed state, and in that confusion I did truly believe I was dead.

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