Last time, on Aether Plays Dark Souls… you know what? Let’s not talk about last time. That way lies memories I don’t really want to re-live. We’re forward-thinking, here at Lost to the Aether. It’s all about the future! And in my future lies… fighting against a list of possibly-innocent supreme badasses in order to harvest their souls. Erm. Don’t think I’m ready for that just yet. What say we procrastinate a bit, eh? We’re going to spend this entire entry cleaning up loose ends and doing nothing the ‘main plotline’ wants you to do! We’re fighting the man on this one! And not like the actual physical man that we kill all the time but the metaphorical one… you know what? Forget it. Let’s go!
Hey, you remember way back in Sen’s Fortress, when I rescued that hat? Well, he’s made his way back to Firelink Shrine! Griggs’s so excited to have his old teacher back! He says the hat master wants to talk to me. I’m popular! This chosen one gig is finally working out in my favor!
The hat offers to teach me sorcery, but then tells me I can’t learn any. Even though Griggs managed to teach me. Are you saying you’re a worse instructor than your own student? You know what? Whatever. Pyromancy’s working out much better for me anyways. No needing to adjust my stats, no worries about education, I just make things burn.
Speaking of burning, I take a warp through the newly restored Firelink bonfire. I’ve still got business in Anor Londo.
I start by chatting up the Firekeeper there. She congratulates me on utterly dominating the City of Lords, as everyone should, and prays that I’ll be able to fulfill Gwynevere’s wish. Then she starts chatting about Seath the Scaleless, one of the beings on my fate-imposed hit list. The dragon born without the scales of immortality who turned against his kind during their war with man. After Geezer Zeus got all sweet on him, Seath retreated to the Duke’s Archives way up in the mountains to research how he might be able to grow those scales. As everyone knows, you can’t do science without going completely mad, and Seath is no exception. His experiments turned wicked, and now nobody who goes to the Archives ever returns. The knightess finishes by warning me against ever going there.
You know what? That actually makes me feel a bit better. Sure, he’s camped out in some evil library from which none are ever seen again, but I guarantee none of those disappeared people were the Best Chosen One. They were probably more like the diet soda version of chosen ones. They look the part, but they’ve got half the substance and they don’t make nearly as good of cocktails. And if I’m going to have to kill someone, I’d much rather kill someone who’s already gone killcrazy. At least that way it’s not technically murder, and my morals survive intact.
Anyways! Two things we came to Anor Londo for. For the first, we head up to the top floor of that big entry hall in front of where Ornstein and Smough were painting the walls in my blood. I head through this broken window, which lets me walk along a decorative outcropping on the outside of this grand structure. I follow the outcropping beyond a fence below, drop down, and…
You remember those giant bows the silver knights used? The ones that fired arrows the size of lances? We’ve got the same artillery, now.
The second thing we’re here for requires us to backtrack a bit. You remember when we found Siegmeyer of Catarina before the room full of silver knights thinking up plans that we’d need at least a squad’s worth of bargain bin chosen ones to pull off? We kind of left him in the lurch, didn’t we? I head back, clear out the room ahead of him, then talk to him again.
He gives me the Tiny Being’s ring, which bumps up my hit points slightly. This ring is destined for a long and storied career in the deepest depths of my bottomless box, but at least we excised him from the situation. Don’t let anyone tell you I never did anything for anybody.
My business there done, I warp back to Firelink Shrine. Somehow, Siegmeyer managed to beat me there. Am I not the only one with a Lordvessel? Or can anyone do that now that I’ve linked them together?
Anyways, this fellow wants to know if I was the one who opened the gates to Sen’s Fortress. I answer in the affirmative. You know, he’s got really goofy armor, but he can’t be a chump if he managed to survive that hellhole.
He gives me the Emit Force miracle as thanks. My ability in miracles is just as poor as my skill in sorceries, so chances are, this will never see the light of day. Seigmeyer claims there’s nothing left for him in the upper reaches of Lordran, and that he’s headed downwards now. I imagine we’ll be crossing paths again.
We’ve had another person relocate to Firelink Shrine. Domhnall of Zena, the curio merchant who formerly opened his business in the sewers. Apparently, that location didn’t work out for him. I can’t imagine why. He’s in a slightly better place, now, just underneath the waterway leading up to the Undead Burg. All it takes is a leap over an eternally deep chasm where a slight miscalculation means certain death to reach him. Still better than going through a sewer level, all in all. Even Domhnall seems surprised that I made it over to talk to him. He’s updated his stock a bit, selling armor from bosses I’ve killed, like the Iron Golem and Smough. Which is kind of creepy, now that I think about it. Has he been following me, scavenging from my kills like a vulture after a hungry lion? I pass on that for now. The Iron Golem armor’s a bit too heavy for me, and I don’t like the smell coming off of Smough’s set.
The next loose ends we have to clear up lie in Blighttown, that horrible, filthy place that serves as the bane of both myself and my graphics card. You may remember that we encountered a waterwheel-like elevator that plunged us to our death, once.
I think it’s time to see where that leads.
Hey, what do you know? More scaffolding. This one does seem to lead back up to the surface, however. And I am looking forward to it. I haven’t been down in Blighttown long, but even that was well more than enough for me. Up here, I’m harried by the occasional poisonous mosquito and toxic sniper. The mosquitoes are easily taken care of, now that I’ve restocked my arrows. The snipers prove themselves a bit more of an issue, now that it’s been so long since I’ve taken care of any of them. The ones in this section seem to cover each other remarkably well, where I have to be very careful not to open myself up to one as I draw bead on another. I lose a few of my antidotal blooming purple moss clumps. Don’t have many of those left. The lucky thing about these snipers is that they don’t respawn, so I don’t think I’ll need to worry that much about my supplies.
I come to a section where the scaffolding gives way to a tree root. I try to walk across, but either I’m really bad at balance or I wasn’t meant to tread here, as I quickly drop off and fall to my death. Well. At least it’s not too far from the most recent bonfire.
I follow the scaffolding around into this waterway, seemingly a part of the same sewer structure as the Depths before being cut off somehow. There are a few toxic snipers here, tended to by some fire dogs, but with careful use of cover I’m able to feather most of them solidly. I head down to the floor of the waterway, take a small tunnel to the side, and find myself before a pair of dogs guarding a corpse behind some bars. I take care of the beasties, then search the body.
I know Firekeepers don’t live the best of lives, what with the being permanently stuck near their bonfires and having their bodies constantly ravaged by humanity. But sticking one in the sewer for the rest of her days? That’s just cold. I hope I can find whoever was in charge of things for these poor Firekeepers, so that I might be able to bring a little bit of absolution to the poor soul.
Well, after I bind it to my Estus Flask, of course.
Climbing up some more, I find a chest with a key to ‘New Londo Ruins’. Man, I’m going to have to cut my way through there eventually, aren’t I? One Londo was enough for me! Then there’s a long tunnel filled with a few of the fat creepy crawlies, then finally, I emerge into the light. I can breathe again! I can give my frame rate a break! I can… oh.
Well, this place doesn’t sound easy at all.
You may remember us popping into the Valley of the Drakes as we were exploring the Darkroot Basin, but we didn’t go in past the entrance. Since then, we’ve grown wiser, stronger, and just a little bit sexier, which I didn’t think was even possible but whatever. If we’re not ready to take this on now, we’re never going to be.
The Valley of Drakes is, as fits its name, this long, narrow valley with a fearsome drop. I brave it handily, crossing a meager plank bridge to come before this tower. The door opens with the key I just picked up. Again, I imagine this is to be an eventual destination for us. I make a mental note of its location, then double back to continue following the ridge.
It’s not long before I come across an unusual outcropping. I head in to examine.
Looks like there was a small battle here, ages past. A small crew of warriors taking on a mighty dragon, both sides battling long, hard, and gloriously. However the victor was, their opponent was mighty enough that they did not live long after. Then they were just left here to rot. That’s no fair fate for participants in a battle such as this. Each of the warriors seems to have some treasure left on them. And that’s what really draws my eye, because maybe they have swords. I love swords. Before I check them out, though, I eye that dragon warily. I’ve been surprised by dead dragons before, you know. Maybe, before I swoop in for the goods, I should just give him a little… tiny… poke…
We skirmish a bit. He’s just the same as the zombie dragon back in the Painted World. Toxic barf and all. And you know, I could take him down melee. Easily. I mean, have you seen my muscles? It’s like I’m packing a basketball inside each of my arms. But so far, I’ve been swallowed, vomited on, waded through human filth… I’m kind of not interested in taking on a guy whose primary attack is puking on me. I already smell foul enough. Besides, I’ve got a new toy I want to play with.
The dragonslayer greatbow. A weapon that fires arrows almost as tall as I am, as thick as my beefy arms. I have to anchor it in the ground beneath me to be able to draw it back. This is not a weapon for the midst of combat, when one needs to duck and move. This is a weapon for staring down your opponent and putting some very large holes in them. And in this fight, it does very well. Each arrow deals almost as much damage as my Black Knight blade.
Naturally, it doesn’t take too long to bring him down. I even switch out for my smaller bow, in the last grasps of his life, to save some of the valuable dragonslayer arrows. As spoils, I get Astora’s Straight Sword (yessssssss), the Dragon Crest Shield, and some souls. The sword and shield aren’t all too great, although the shield does follow along with the rest of the Crest Shields and provides some degree of elemental protection, this time against fire.
Did you know that the Valley of Drakes has drakes in it? I know, who would have guessed! These are the guys that scared me off of this place the first time. And they can take quite a beating. Even now, it takes a solid five hits from my Black Knight Sword to finish them off. Offensively, though, they don’t have much going for them. Their can breath lightning, bite, and fly over you spewing their breath from above, but none of their attacks have a very wide reach, and they’re remarkably easy to sidestep.
After the first one falls, there’s five drakes left. One guarding the entrance to this bridge, one midway through, and three across it. I remember this place. This was where the entrance from the Darkroot Basin lets you off. Wow, this is a tiny area. At least, I think so. No telling what’s behind that massive door.
The next drake puts up more of a fight than his brethren did, mostly because I’m still not used to fighting them yet. I duck back into Darkroot Basin for the nearby bonfire, then return.
I try to lure the one on the bridge out into the open area in front. He takes the bait, and I take his breath. In both senses of the phrase.
I try to lure the three of them across the bridge out one by one. The first is easily lured away, but proves to be much more of a challenge on the narrow bridge than in the open space. I hesitate a bit, and it costs me. Not enough to kill me, but I do need a few swigs of estus when the fight is done.
The second and third follow, one by one. Without the room to dodge, my defenses are lacking, but as they say, the best defense is a good offense. I push against them aggressively, cutting through whenever they make the slightest opening. They fall before I do, so I must be doing something right.
There’s no sign of how to open that door. It’s barred and much, much to big for me to manage manually. I don’t spy any switches, either.
I do find a rope ladder to the side, however. I take it up, and find this ring at the top. It boosts my offense when my health is low. May be useful to somebody, but I don’t make a habit of being in poor health. Well, except, you know, the whole undead curse. You know what I mean.
Well, that’s cleared! What do you say we take care of one of the lingering sources of dishonor resting upon my otherwise notable personage, eh? I first warp back to Anor Londo, to have the Fire Keeper upgrade my flask then…
Back to Darkroot Garden for me. You may recall that last time we were here, I delved deep into the forest, found myself overwhelmed, and fled. I ran away. Like a little prissy baby. And that memory. It burns me. I had to conquer the stupid sewer level just to restore my honor. Well, I’m back. And I have no more fear.
Not even from you, you stupid cats. You might recall these guys ripping me up last time we were here. With their rolling attacks that can blow right through my shield and big chompy biteyness that is quite a bit faster than my own attacks. They’re the first opponents I come to upon my return. This guy faces me first, knocking me around for a fair bit as I reacquaint myself with his fighting style. Eventually, I find myself taking cover in this copse of trees. And quickly enough, I find that try as he might, the great cat is just too big to enter. I press this advantage for all it’s worth, taunting him to me and striking from where he can’t counter. It works all too well.
Two more join the fray. Last time, this is what overwhelmed me. This time I simply cheap shot my way to victory. It’s not fair. But neither was mobbing me with several stupid felines at once, so what do I care? My strategy isn’t perfect. They still get a few hits in. But they still die. And it feels great. Beyond them, I find that the path loops around to areas I’ve already cleared above the Darkroot Basin, so I never absolutely needed to deal with them at all. Well.
AND THEN THE ONLY OTHER AREA LEFT IN THIS OH SO TOUGH GARDEN SECTION IS THE BLASTED BOSS DOOR! I fled like a ninny from pretty much nothing. My shame has never been greater.
I open the door and head through. Inside is a huge open area with a massive grave in the center, surrounded by a bunch of smaller graves and swords planted in the ground. This must be the grave of Sir Artorias the Abysswalker. Andre had mentioned something about this earlier, and there was a bit of information in the Crest of Artorias I used to open the door to this section of Darkroot Garden. Something about adventurers never returning. Yeah, we’ve been hearing a lot of that, lately. There are really a lot of swords stuck in the ground. Mostly junk. I consider adding a few to the collection, but there’s one that draws my eye almost immediately.
Whoever Artorias was, he must have been massive. That is a magnificent weapon, though. I reach out to touch it.
And suddenly, I’m not alone.
And he’s not happy to see me.
The wolf grabs the weapon, then adopts an obviously aggressive posture. He’s guarding the grave, for some reason.
His howl sounds oddly mournful. Does he not like whatever duty he fills here, or is he calling back to his memories of Artorias? Before I can ponder too long, he attacks. Sorry, but I’m done fleeing from the local wildlife.
The wolf, Sif, decides to press the point. And he’s got a strong argument I score a hit on him, but his counterblow knocks me flat.
As goofy as he looks fighting with that sword, even I’ve got to admit that Sif’s got skill. The wolf is fast, and great at hit and run tactics. He’s constantly dashing forward to match his blade to my shield, then leaping back to avoid my next hit. It’s a little difficult to score a clean blow on him.
He’s good at overcoming my defenses as well. His basic combo is easy enough to dodge, but he’s got an attack where he spins his blade in a circle that easily breaks through my guard if I block it more than once, and a dashing slash that always cuts through my shield.
And though I come close, in our first match, he is clearly the victor.
That’s the thing about the undead, though. No matter what you do to them, no matter how much pain, destruction, death you inflict upon them, they always get back up. The only way to actually overcome an undead opponent is to kill them enough and so decisively that you break their will, shatter their mind, and make them give up. To defeat one with the darksign, you need to overpower their spirit completely and drive them hollow.
And I will never quit.
Sif’s technique is good. He’s melee range only, but fast enough that I imagine even long distance fighters have a tough time with him. He uses his sword’s length to good effect, striking from beyond where I can reach, then leaps out of my weapon’s range before I can recover from his blows.
He has a major weakness in his style, though. He swings way too high. After you learn his timing, it’s a simple matter to dodge roll underneath his swing. He leaps back as soon as he recovers, sure, but that gives me enough time to land a solid blow on him. And with my power, I don’t need to hit too many times.
Near the end, Sif gets grievously wounded. He starts limping, his strikes get sluggish, and it’s obvious he’s pretty much out of this fight. Even so, even as he’s no longer able to effectively hit me or defend himself against my blows, he keeps coming forward. Sif’s committed himself to defending Artorias’s grave, and he will fulfill his duty even if it kills him. And unlike for me, his death is going to stick. The wolf’s got honor. Even though the fates have put us against each other, I really have to respect him for that. It gives me no pleasure to fight him. I don’t want to have to end his life.
But I was not the one to start this fight.
Sif, I shall mourn you, but I will feel no guilt over your passing.
As loot, I collect a homeward bone and a humanity item, Sif’s soul, the Covenant of Artorias, and the Hornet Ring from a corpse behind Artorias’s grave. The Hornet Ring boosts my critical rate and belonged to the Lord’s Blade Ciaran, one of Ornstein’s contemporaries in the Four Knights of Gwyn. I assumed that all those swords were left here from those Sif had killed to protect Artorias’s grave, and I guess, his Covenant. Is that what had happened to Ciaran, too?
And since I killed one of the Four Knights, and beat the opponent who killed another, does that firmly establish me as being badder than the baddest men in the baddest land? Man, I rock. I also take a look at the Covenant of Artorias, since I get the feeling that that’s what Sif was protecting moreso than the grave. It’s a ring that grant’\s the power Artorias gained with his contract to the beasts of the Abyss, and would allow me to cross the Abyss myself. Does that mean that I can start appending the same title to my name? Exodus the Abysswalker. I like the ring of tha…wait.
That ring, that looks awfully important.
Main plotline level important.
Did I just do something the game would have required of me?
Did I just make actual progress?
Did I just take the path the game wanted me to?