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This is the fourth part of an ongoing series inspired by my girlfriend's first experiences with Dark Souls.
"Ah, hello! You don't look Hollow, far from it! I am Solaire of Astora, an adherent of the Lord of Sunlight." The stranger's words were muffled by an iron helmet that resembled a bucket, and Else was just barely able to hide her amusement. Else regarded the peculiar knight in amazement: he actually spoke in sentences! When was the last time she'd had a conversation with someone?
"… cross the gaps between worlds, and engage in jolly co-operation!" Solaire mumbled enthusiastically, and offered a small white object to her. It was a kind of soapstone, which allegedly let her cross over to other worlds and help other adventurers in their struggles. This revelation -- that there were others just like her in other dimensions close to hers -- gave her renewed purpose and hope. They just stood there a while, gazing at the sun, two Undead strangers in a strange land.
Else watched the red drake perched on the far side of the bridge, and took a few cautious steps forward. If she moved really slowly, maybe the drake wouldn't notice her? Halfway across the bridge she spotted a stairway that led down under the bridge, and upon descending them found a shortcut to the last bonfire she had rested at.
After a quick rest at the bonfire, she went up again, a plan to bypass the drake already forming in her head. She sneaked onto the bridge and hid behind the uneven cobblestone railing of the bridge, and waited. The drake knew she was there, and tried to burn her with it's flaming breath, but Else was safe from the fire where she hid. When the the giant beast finally got tired of her just hiding there, it swooped down onto the bridge. And there was her chance! The drake landed with a loud reverberating thump, and Else seized this opportunity to emerge from her hiding spot and run past the drake. She almost made it unscathed. A wall of flame slammed into her back just as she was about to dive into cover on the far side of the bridge. It hurt so bad that she let out a scream of pain and surprise, but still managed to scramble the last few feet into cover. She had entered through an archway that was much too small for the drake to fit through, and it seemed to realize this, because presently it flew lazily off into the distance, leaving her be. After tending to her burns at the bonfire, she discovered she'd reached some kind of balcony with a broken statue. She admired the quiet beauty of the place, and stayed a while.
She pulled a lever to open a huge gate that blocked her path, and continued on again. What happened next was a horrible succession of gruesome deaths. To her right was a small tower, and she decided to climb the stairs to the top. What is that! Oh nooooo! And she died.
A tower to her right, up the stairs, the inhumanly tall black knight again! It swung its sword--
Climb the stairs again, lure the knight to follow her down where she could fight it. Now she had a chance at least. She got in a few good hits, but the knight's armor was too thick. And so it was time to die again.
At last she gave up, her spirit drained from all the trying and dying. She continued past the tower instead, and gasped at the sight of an enormous armored boar. She was quickly surrounded by Hollow soldiers and mercilessly killed.
She was back again, now with a better idea of what to do. She lured the soldiers out one by one and killed them efficiently. She ran past the boar, but just as she thought she was clear from it, she felt her ribs crack from a heavy blow to her side. She managed to stay on her feet and limped through a small doorway that the boar couldn't fit through. There were lots of enemies in her way, but ignoring her grievous wounds, she managed to slay them all and reach the safety of another bonfire.
She had arrived in a building that had a stairway along the walls. From what sounded like one floor below her, she heard the clang of steel against steel. A steady clang, clang, clang. She descended the stairs and saw a gnarled blacksmith with white bushy hair and a huge beard. He stopped his hammering, and spoke.
"Well, you must be a new arrival. I'm Andre of Astora. If you require smithing, speak to me."
Well, this was convenient then! She immediately knew that it would be a good idea to improve her weapons, and went to speak with the blacksmith. They chatted as she browsed his wares, or rather, he talked and she listened in quiet amazement. In this forsaken land filled with mindless monsters he was still working his steel here day and night, unafraid of the Hollows just outside his residence.
Else picked out a battered but stable-looking shield and let Andre reinforce her Katana using something called "titanite". When she was done shopping and talking to Andre, she went to explore a church she had run past on her way here. It turned out to be full of Hollows and and a huge terrifying knight in black armor. The smaller Hollows she dispatched quickly, but the big one gave her trouble. It wasn't like the other black knight she had faced earlier -- this one was much slower and wore very different armor. Else used her speed to her advantage, and chipped away at the knight while dodging its attacks. Soon it dropped dead; her newly reinforced blade and her new shield worked wonderfully.
After climbing the ladder, she emerged onto the roof of the church. The view from here was spectacular. On the far side of the roof was the Bell tower, and now she knew why she was drawn here. The Bell of Awakening! She stepped forward--
A Gargoyle ten times her size flew down from the tower and towards her, and she screamed. The Gargoyle had thick green scales that resembled armor, and a tail that was shaped like an axe. It also wielded an axe in its front paws. It attacked her mercilessly, and although she was able to block a few of its hits, she soon received a fatal blow from the tail-axe.
She got all the way back to the roof, eliminating all the Hollows in her way, but didn't last very long against the Gargoyle this time either -- it was so aggressive! On her third attempt she felt more familiar with the Gargoyle's movement patterns, and got in a few swings with her Katana. Just when she thought she had a fighting chance, a second Gargoyle swooped down from the tower. It started to breathe fire, and Else had no chance of avoiding the flames. She died screaming.
Now she was pissed. This was stupid, no prophecy or Bell could be worth this! Just as she was about to give up, she remembered her talk with the friendly knight Solaire. He had said that she could summon someone from another world to aid her if she was in need. She decided to try, and once more headed for the church.
Just outside the church, she spotted something she hadn't noticed before: brilliant signatures on the ground. Upon closer inspection she realized that this was what Solaire had talked about. Summon signs! She inspected the signs, once again feeling that she already knew what she was looking for. Sure enough, suddenly a sign appeared right before her, and she immediately saw the outline of a tall Black Knight hover above it. She touched the summon sign, and waited nervously.
A tall figure materialized in front of her, and her immediate reaction was to turn and run. This Black Knight was different, however, and seemed happy to see her. Like it was possessed by the spirit of an unseen friend in another world. It was a weird moment: a complete stranger just stood there, and although it didn't say a word, it gestured happily for her not to be afraid. She relaxed, and gestured back, unsure if the Knight could speak or understand speech at all. It seemed intent on helping her, and she saw now that it knew where she was going. She had to run to keep up as the Knight ran inside the church and proceeded to wreck everything that moved with its enormous sword. This is awesome, she thought. She had someone helping her for the first time, and it felt good. When they reached the top floor and the door that led out onto the roof, she spotted another summon sign. Solaire! It was Solaire's sign! She quickly summoned Solaire, giddy with excitement. She suddenly had two friends helping her, and the prospect of taking on the Gargoyles didn't scare her anymore. The Black Knight and Solaire greeted each other with a graceful gesture in perfect synchrony.
The three of them stepped through the door leading to the roof: Solaire of Astora, the mysterious Black Knight, and Else. The first gargoyle came flying towards them and Else backed off, but Solaire and the Black Knight waded in, unafraid. Bolts of lighting cracked from Solaire's hand; the sword of the Knight landed on the Gargoyle with terrifying force. The second Gargoyle had barely landed when the first one died. It shimmered and disappeared, but Else's fierce companions just went to work on the second Gargoyle without pause. Else had stood back, and now she ran into the fray, her sword at the ready. She had barely hit the Gargoyle once, before it already fell dead like the first one. Amazing! She turned to look at her companions, but caught only a glimpse of them waving goodbye before they, too, disappeared into thin air. She was sad to see them go, but she had a feeling she'd meet them again.
The way up the Bell tower was now clear, and she climbed two sets of tall ladders to reach the top. Standing at the top of the tower under the massive Bell, she turned and saw what looked like a city wall on top of a mountain. At the foot of the mountain she saw an ominous fortress. She saw the bridge with the drake far below. She saw Andre's smithy. The deafening ringing of the Bell reverberated over the sad and ruined township below, and up the mountainside and all the way to Firelink Shrine, where a Primordial Serpent stirred its slumber, but didn't wake.
For now, everything was just fine.
|← Part Three||Part Five: coming soon...|