The Despair of Dark Souls

Last time, on this thing, we killed a fat wad of fire and a gigantic gross-out bug, then gained the ability to walk on liquid rock.  Unfortunately, we’re still stuck underground for a while yet.  I hate being underground.  Have I mentioned that?  Sewer levels, caves, volcanoes, none of it’s really for me.  I think I’m starting to understand why Lordran’s so full of those sun-worshippers.

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Speaking of sun-worshippers, hey look!  It’s Solaire!  He’s my best friend!  Did I mention he’s my best friend?  Because he totally is.

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Unfortunately, he hasn’t perked up any since we saw him in the Undead Burg.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  Dude doesn’t even notice that I’m here, so absorbed is he in his sorrows.  I try to offer some comfort, some support, but I don’t think any of it’s getting through.  He just keeps repeating the same thing.  I’ve got some business to take care of here, so eventually, I have to break off and press onwards, but for whatever it’s worth, I assure him that I’ll be back to check up on him once it’s all over.  I don’t like the state he’s in right now.

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Ahead of me is a veritable sea of magma.  No way through without getting my feet wet.  Luckily, I picked up this ring from the oogy Centipede Demon that supposedly will let me just walk right across it.  I’m a little hesitant about it.  Like, what if I don’t stay afloat?  I know I’m effectively immortal, but drowning in red-hot magma seems to me a particularly unpleasant way to die.  I’m not sure if I could hang on to my sanity in that event.

Well, what good has my sanity ever done me, anyway?  I slip the ring on, and dart across towards the next bit of stone poking out.  Luckily, my footing holds.  And the ring works.  It’s not exactly comfortable, but the burn is lowered from immediately cauterizing me from the waist down to biting into a way too hot hunk of meat.  I can’t stay in it indefinitely, but it holds of the burn long enough for me to get where I’m going.

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And where I’m going is Lost Izalith, apparently.  Guess I’m on the right trail of the Witches of Izalith.  Although why they would live below what was assumedly a home for demons is anyone’s guess.

It’s hard to make out in that screenshot up there, since due to the coloration, everything that’s not magma just sort of blends together, but there’s a lot of Undead Dragon lower halves just kind of standing around.  Like there used to be a whole clutch of Undead Dragons, and someone just killed every one of them from the torso up.  Or like somebody just planted a whole forest of zombie dragon asses here.  I think I hate this place already.

I follow the path I’m on, which loops around a few ruined structures, occasionally dipping under the lava.  None of the Dragon Butts bother with me, or seem to even notice I’m there.  Which makes sense to me.  How much perception can an ass have?  I’m still wondering why these are all here.  My best guess is that there were a whole bunch of dragons still living here when the lava rolled in, and due to some juju or other, only their derrieres were reanimated.  The alternative ideas I come up with all give me shudders.  I’ve been spending too much time on the internet.

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The path heads towards this shrine.  I don’t find a door on this side, but I circle around, looking for an opening.

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And one of the Dragon Butts starts trundling towards me.  How does a butt even tell I’m there?  Have I mentioned I hate this place?  I hate this place.

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I find the opening into the shrine just in time, and duck into it, out of the butt’s stomping reach.  I burn it to death from the inside of this shrine.  I really don’t want to dignify this battle with more effort than I have to.  Inside, there’s a chest with a bunch of souls inside, continuing this area’s pattern of useful yet really, really boring treasure.

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I continue circling around the shrine until I find this carved out root.  I walk up it, following as it curves up and around, then drops me off in that shrine to the rear, which is pretty much identical to the last.

Well, identical save for the fact that there’s a bonfire inside.  Checkpoint!  Also, there’s a few of those fire-breathing statues outside, and I get harassed by another ass.  Let’s… just move on.

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It takes me a little while to find my next path, but I discover it in this ruined tower.  It quickly leads to an open walkway leading upwards.

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By chance, I look up.  Man, I am down really, really deep.  Not so deep as Ash Lake, I don’t think, but close.  Even the roof is hot enough to start melting.

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The path I’m on leads down and opens up into some ruins.  In case I didn’t get my fill with the demon ruins of course.  At least this place offers me some actual area to fight with.  I can’t remember the last time I had that.  I quickly run down and cut through that first dragon statue.

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I hear another one bumping around behind me, so I roll to the side, and come up with a slash.  I walk onwards a bit, then spy two ahead at the end of the covered road.

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A third tries to take advantage of my focus on them.  I catch him before he can rear back.  His death attracts the attention of two more, and the split up to try and catch me in a pincer attack.  I quickly cut down the one ahead of me, then narrowly roll out of the flame of the one behind.  He joins his partner.  Catching something out of the corner of my eye, I swing wildly and catch the next just as his flames start to spread over me.  Ignoring them, I rush forward, and slice the next that’s rolling towards me.  Then I spy two more that have got caught on a tree branch.  Geezer Zeus, these guys are all over the place.  I take those two down with little trouble, then advance out of the covered section.  There’s one more, out in the open.  Too far away to be of any help to his friends.  I take him down easily enough.  Man.  I hadn’t thought much of them before, but those Dragon Statues can be dangerous when they gang up.

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Having cleared all the statues out, I find myself at a long staircase heading upwards.  At the top, I run into this freak of nature, and start backing down again.  This is something new, I’m not entirely sure what his game is.  He certainly seems aggressive though, rearing back for something or other as I come close.  I roll to the side, slipping past his tentacles as the strike where I once stood, then slash him twice in the time it takes for him to bring his appendages back.  This ends him, effectively enough.

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The top of the staircase leads to a small enclosed room, then opens out into this area, forking into three paths.  The way right leads around a pointed rooftop or some other structure, and navigating some precarious footing there earns me a bunch of souls and a Rare Ring of Sacrifice, one of the few bits of real treasure in this hole.  That’s about all in that stretch, so I come back to this crossroads.  The path up those stairs sure smells like progress, and I see no reason to stick with my plan of avoiding that at all costs, up to and including horrible painful death.  So it’s down the root for me.

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At the bottom is another horde of these dragon statues.  They’re spread out enough that I have time to deal with one before the next reaches me, but I invariably attract the attention of the next in moving to range of my target.

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And that’s the pattern I follow.  Cut one down, draw aggro, cut that down, become a target, over and over again until I’ve killed a few half dozen of those guys and I’ve finally got some space to breathe.

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So.  Now that I’ve forcibly given myself some solitude, I find myself in this ruined little courtyard area.  There’s two places of note here.  One of them looks to have some treasure in it, but that place seems oddly open.  With the way those statues were placed all over this area, I’d expect at least one or two in this alcove.  And that corpse is oddly placed, where nothing seems like it could conceivably kill him.  My keen senses detect a trap.  Well, yes, that note on the ground told me there was a trap, but I needed my keen senses to read that note.  Don’t question me.

I don’t feel like dealing with a trap right now, so I back off, and head up the staircase on the other side.  It took me to this elevated walkway over a really long drop into molten rock.  I really don’t want to fall off here.  Yet, it looks as if there’s someone seeking to make that happen.

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A titanite demon, choking off the way forward.  Well, this will be no problem.  I’ve dealt with his kind plenty of times before.

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I start off with pyromancy.  I keep just out of his reach, and burn him at every opening I get.  I safely do quite a bit of damage this way.  Eventually, I run out of Great Fireballs to hurl, and have to close in for my short range fire surge blasts.

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Unfortunately, pyromancy does have its downsides.  I bathe the demon in so much fire, I can’t see him winding up for his next attack.  It hits me head on, crumpling me to the floor.  My life flees my crushed body.

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Well, you know what?  I’m fine with that.  I’m better with my sword anyways!  I’ve taken several of these demons down already with my blade!  I ready my favorite weapon, then stroll into melee.

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Yeah, so you remember how I was all “Oh, I killed literally a million of these guys and am totally awesome and sexy forever?”  That last part might be true, but all the other titanite demons I killed?  Yeah, they were all in much more open areas.  Turns out that makes a huge difference.  I can’t safely dodgeroll to the demon’s side, which is where I used to set up shop on these guys.  The shop sells pain.  In case that wasn’t clear.

The battle’s a lot more give and take that way.  The titanite demon has a lot more power and reach than I do, and being unable to tuck in to the side of their body they can’t efficiently reach, it’s really hard to counterattack.  I really have to pick my moments, dancing outside of the reach of that long, long staff, then rushing forward for a strike when I think I have an opening.  I make a few missteps.  They cost me.

I spend a few lives beating my head against this wall, trying to take the titanite demon on in melee.  It’s way harder in enclosed spaces.

I hear you wondering, “Hey Aether, why don’t you just cheap shot him, like the dishonorable garbage warrior that you are?”  Well, 1) shut your mouth, and 2)…

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Way ahead of you.

Melee isn’t working for me, so I engage him in long range battle.  My bow versus his lightning blasts.  His blasts are way more powerful, but way easier to dodge.  My arrows plink him for like ten damage a shot, but I slip by his bolts easily enough, and I’m way ahead of him in damage.  It takes pretty much all the arrows I have, but I drop him down to just a few slivers of life.  I switch over to my blade, then move into blading range.  He barely has any life left, I’ve got three chugs in my estus flask, this will be easy.

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Uhh….

Blazes.  I don’t do well in melee.  Not at all.  I catch a big hit before I even get close, then back off to swallow some estus and recover.  I don’t back off far enough.  The demon catches me while I try to heal, smashing what remains of my pathetic life.

It’s times like these I can’t believe I’m putting all this out in public.  I had him down to his last gasps, and I still sucked enough to die.  That was embarrassing.  And as successful as it was, I can’t do it again without leaving.  I’m all out of arrows.

I’m a little unsure as to how to go from here.  This titanite demon is absolutely a stopping point for me.  Frustrated, I resolve to give it one more try, then give up and explore the rest of this place.

As I have so many times before, I rush through the hordes of statues to the demons walkways.  As I have so many times before, I stride towards him, sword in hand.  Roll under his first swing, block the second one, recover my footing, slash.  Dodge out of the way of his leap, hit him before he jumps back.  Slip by his forward strike, cut him in the opening.  Before I know it, he’s at quarter life, and I’ve got half my estus left.

I have no way of explaining it.  I was just on point here.  Whatever it was, the frustration, my preparedness to give up, it had me aware enough that I was fighting him better than I was ever before.  I start doing a little worse as I realize I might actually do it this time, though.  I take a few hard blows as I continue chipping away at his life.  The fight gets a lot closer.    It gets to the point that we’re both one hit away from death.

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I land that hit first.

Man, that was hard.  But I have to admit, after all that struggle, it feels so, so satisfying.

I head back to the last bonfire to recover, then make my way down the rest of that walkway.  I find someone glowing at the end.  Hey, I know that guy!  Hi Solaire!

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Solaire?

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Oh hell.

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No.

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Not this.

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Not you too!

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We were friends!

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I don’t have a choice here.  Solaire has gone hollow.  He’ll continue attacking until he’s dead.  I have to… for the man he once was, I have to end this for him.

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He doesn’t make it easy on me.

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If he were sane, he might even be able to beat me.

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You remember when Solaire gave me that soapstone?  You remember when Solaire helped me even the fight against Ornstein and Smough?  I think I’d still be in Anor Londo if it weren’t for him.

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I hate this.

He leaves behind his remaining humanity and all his gear.  Surprisingly for a fighter of his skill, his gear is really unremarkable.  No word on what that weird thing he was wearing on his head in his… last moments… was.

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Although the bugs skittering around here certainly do look very similar.  In a rage, I attack them.  They run from me, they seem to pose no threat, but it doesn’t matter.  I just had to kill my best friend, and I need to take this rage out on something.

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I slay them all, then reach the end of this hallway.  I touch the wall, and it opens up.  This is some very familiar territory.  Outside of the Demon Firesage’s lair.  If I could have just opened this up then, maybe I would have been able to keep this from happening.

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The last bug I killed dropped something.  Something living.  This is what Solaire was wearing.  Maybe he didn’t go hollow?  Maybe this parasite is what drove him mad?  I don’t know.  Does it even matter?  He’s dead either way.

You know what?  Lordran can go screw.  I need a moment right now.  I don’t know if I can deal.

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