Taking Vengeance in Dark Souls

Last time, on Aether Crushes Dark Souls Beneath His Heel, we took on Anor Londo, one of the more famous locations in the game, which is quite a testament to its design, considering this is like thirty hour in. Usually, the more well-known places tend to be early on in the game. Anyways, we took on hordes of the Dark Knights’ slightly lamer cousins, wrestled with giants, fought through demons, and none of them could stop us. We made our way through this castle-church thing, with the tons of enemies arrayed against us, barely able to slow us down. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling pretty good about our progress. We’ve been going through the game slowly, but we’ve been absolutely indomitable. We’ve always been making progress. We haven’t faced a challenge that took more than a few tries to overcome since way, way back with the Capra Demon. In the time since, we have become truly mighty. Is there anything left in Lordran that can stop us?! Is there anything more in this game that can meet my challenge?! Or have we left all the difficulty that Dark Souls is famous for behind?

Those who have played the game before are probably laughing at me now. They know what’s coming next. For the rest of us… well, let’s just keep our innocence for now.

So, last time, we had capped off by slaying the fearsome titanite demon and heading up into a staircase into the unknown. Well, the unknown is actually a massive room. An entry hall of some sort, sized so that even the giants that apparently once called this place home could stand tenfold on each other’s shoulders and still not reach the top. You could hold air shows in this place. It’s huge, and there’s no way to really do it justice via screencaps. You’ll just have to trust me on this one.

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I take stock of the place. For all its size, it’s still mostly empty. There’s another one of the Silver Knights across the way, and two ornately-dressed, giant sentinels on the floor. None of them seem to have noticed me. There’s a staircase leading down and another leading up from my current position. The one leading up seems to take me to a walkway around all the enemies, so I take that first. The walkway leads me by a broken window that gives me access to a section of roof. It has some dropoffs and seems to be a one-way trip, so I ignore it for now. I follow the walkway along to the other side. I hear a sound, a somewhat familiar sound of metal on metal. I’m not sure what exactly it is, but it keeps coming rhythmically, growing louder as I approach a opening in the wall.

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The opening leads to a staircase down, which I take, as that noise grows ever louder. I spy this giant figure below. It’s him who makes that noise, metal impacting against metal, over and over and over again. Whatever he’s doing, his attention is solely focused on his work. Slowly, I continue descending. On top of that sound, there’s blood! So much blood! Smeared on the floors, the walls, streaks of it everywhere! What exactly…

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Oh. He’s a blacksmith. That’s what the noise was. Ā I drop my guard to talk to him. It’s clear pretty quickly he means me no harm. He doesn’t particularly want to talk to me, either. He is very passionate about his craft, though, and happily offers to forge for me. I check out what he can do and… well. He sells twinkling titanite, which is the up-to-now rare material used to upgrade unique weapons and armor, such as my beloved special super awesome chocolate-coated Black Knight Sword. Over the course of my time here, I take advantage of that, and max out the level of my favorite blade.

I also find a ring in a chest behind the blacksmith. The ring belonged to Hawkeye Gough, one of the four great knights serving Geezer Zeus. Who is this blacksmith, anyway? And how long has he been here? In any case, the ring increases my archery range. I could see some use for this.

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Leaving the tower the giant blacksmith is in, I fight through a couple of bat-wing demons, collect a chunk of titanite, and find myself on the other side of this locked door that I couldn’t open before because my muscles are like soooooo super-huge and can’t fit through the bars. Now I’m on the side with the lock, so I open it, creating a shortcut between here and that firekeeper’s bonfire. I make use of it, refilling my estus flask, then make my way back inside.

I pass by the giant blacksmith and head back into that massive hall. I need to get down to the ground floor, and there are only two staircases leading there. One of them is guarded by the Silver Knight. I take that one, because if you want the easy way in Dark Souls, that’s what they helpfully gave you the ‘Quit’ option for. You’ve seen me kill them by the dozen before, this guy doesn’t provide any greater challenge. That just leaves the two giants on the floor, but as I descend…

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The Black Eye Orb. That item I picked up from the corpse of Firelink Shrine’s firekeeper, allowing me to invade the world of the one who killed her and retrieve her soul. It’s reacting to this place, which means her murderer is near.

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Before I deal with Lautrec, though, I need to clear the floor. Unfortunately I don’t seem to be able to go down the staircase safely without drawing the attention of both of those sentinels. I don’t know if these shinier ones are any different from the store-brand version, so I’d be reserved in a fight with a single one of them. Two of them is much more than I’m willing to take on right now. I notice something, though. While they can climb the stairs, they can’t actually make it onto the landing above us. They may try, but they’ll just fall off the staircase. So I hang up there, taunting them, keeping them coming towards me, then smacking them once as they fall off. It’s slow going, as they seem to be tougher than the standard sentinel, but it’s safe, and as long as I keep this up, I’ll be able to cheap shot them to death without them being able to do anything about it. Or so I thought. When I got one of them near dying, he revealed that the difference between these royal sentinels and the garden variety version is more than just physical. He healed himself. They can use miracles too. Crappit.

This requires a different approach. I back off, letting them get back to their standard position. Then, rather than going down and falling into both their spheres of aggression, I jump off the side of the staircase. I take a bit of fall damage, but I only aggro one of the giants.

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The royal sentinel has moves similar to the generic sentinels. Well, mostly. They have swinging combos with their halberds, they have that absolutely vicious shield slams, they thrust, they strike, all that. They’re a little stronger, but it’s obvious they’re using the same fighting style. That works against them. I know that style, and I’ve gotten enough practice with it to be able to press their openings, slipping to their side when they miss a shield slam or over-commit to a thrust. These guys mix it up, though. In addition to their healing ability, they can also release a short-range but powerful shockwave that sends me flying and really freaking hurts. That one, I’ve seen a few times before, but it’s not something I’ve had to deal with regularly, so it takes me a while to learn its tells. Still, even with that move, it’s not enough to keep him covered, and my ability to take advantage of his openings puts him at my mercy soon enough.

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The second one falls much the same way.

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I find a large lever in the base of a statue, and flip it. That opens up these doors leading directly back to the firekeeper’s bonfire, giving me even more of a direct route there.

With this area cleared out, there’s only one thing to do.

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You know, I don’t like everyone there, but Firelink Shrine is the closest thing I’ve got to a home. I may not know who she is or what she was all about, but that firekeeper was pretty much my neighbor, and the bonfire she tended was a blessing to us all. It’s what made Firelink a worthy dwelling. It gave us safety, offered a place to rest, and kept all of us healthy. She was a large part of what made Firelink a home to myself and everyone else staying there now.

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You took that from us. You took that from me. I want it back.

There are four types of phantoms you can become. You can see two white ones with Lautrec there. Those are people who’ve chosen to join his world as comrades in arms, as battle companions, as guardians. We’ve been a white phantom before, and we’ve had their help briefly. Gold phantoms are much the same, except that they’re members of the Warriors of Sunlight, and have as such specifically chosen a life of offering aid to others. Red phantoms are enemies, invading one’s world and attempting to kill a sane, living being for the purpose of taking their souls and humanity. Blue phantoms, on the other hand are spirits of vengeance. We are here to punish sinners. And Lautrec has much to atone for.

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His companions may make things complicated. I attempt to draw them out one by one, and take aim at his magician friend. I fire an arrow into his skull, and the magic-user takes the bait, leaving his two companions behind to rush me solo. He fires spells at me as he comes, but I’m too fast for them. He’s hit me with nothing as he enters melee range.

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He’s really squishy.

I try the same thing with Lautrec’s other companion, hitting him with an arrow from long range. Lautrec’s wise to me now, though, and rushes me along with the other warrior.

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The fight is joined. Lautrec begins lecturing me as the three of us jockey for position. I don’t pay attention.

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Lautrec fights with two curved swords that are impossible to block properly. Even against my shield, they’re still able to cut through, doing almost full damage. This is not good. Since I’m not in my own world now, my Estus Flask can’t heal me. I’ve got to get this done with as little damage as possible.

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The warrior leaves himself open, just for a moment. A moment’s all I need.

With it just one on one now, between me and Lautrec, we both wade into each other with renewed ferocity. Blocking’s almost useless against his odd blades, so I don’t even bother. I dodge his slower blows, and lay into him with my sword. He’s not nearly as strong as me, but he is a bit faster. He scores three hits to my one, but that leaves both of us near death as we put distance between us. This is going to be resolved with one final blow. I rush to him, and we both swing.

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We hit each other at the same time. Both of us are fatally wounded.

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Life fleeing my body, I collapse first.

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As my consciousness fades, I see him fall.

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I may have died in its pursuit, but vengeance has been served, and I am rewarded. The firekeeper’s soul is mine to do with as I please. That ring is very powerful, boosting my health, stamina, and how much equipment I can carry, but I won’t be able to remove it without breaking it. And the humanity will soon come in very, very useful.

All that’s left for me to do in Anor Londo now is venture through the fog gate in the main hall. Messages have left me well aware it leads to a boss room. And normally, I’d have it on the end of this post, but the rest of our story in Anor Londo is quite the ordeal on its own, and really deserves its own posts. So, until next time…

Next: Next time.

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