The Dark Souls Nature Trail

Last time, on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dark Souls, we got taken someplace a long, long time ago, in a land far, far away.  Oolacile.  What I know as Lost Oolacile.  A fallen land that no longer exists, because, much like me, it is just too pretty for my blighted world.  Whatever happened to pull me here must have somehow yanked me across time, too.  I’ve followed Dusk to her home.

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Look at that.  Sunlight streaming through the trees onto a sacred copse in the woods.  Anor Londo, Firelink Shrine, and the Undead Burg all have some direct sunlight, but it just feels different here.

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A bunch of humanoid statues that are, admittedly, creepy as all blazes, but hey.  At least these people have some art and culture in them.  That’s beautiful on its own.

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And of course, the giant mushroom man, well renowned for its wait WHAT?!

I’ve been pounded by these guys too many times.  Wary, I raise my shield and approach.  The mushroom does nothing.  In fact it doesn’t even have limbs.  Slowly, I lower my guard.  Then it… she… speaks.

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If blood and sewage and whatever Frampt’s been eating smells like human to you, I’m not sure I want to see who you hang around with.  Also, how do you tell that when YOU DON’T HAVE A FREAKIN’ NOSE?!

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Oh, wait, Dusk’s been talking about me?  She, uh, say anything good?  Like how gorgeous and powerful and totally dating material I am?

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“…snatched away by that horrifying primeval human.” she says.  Yeah, she was kidnapped the last time I saw her, too.  Can that girl keep out of distress?  I get that she’s a princess, and getting kidnapped is like, what they do, but that still seems excessive.

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Oh fair knight, canst thou pleasest saveth our princess and smiteth the evil dragonst Generica plaguing our landst and liveth literally every classic Heroic Romance ever?  Let me guess.  The princess will be set up to be sacrificed to fuel or satisfy some greater monster.  A false hero will appear, who will seem cooler than me in every way, but ultimately fail in his endeavors.  Then it will be up to me to save the day in which I need to slay the dragon and dispel some lie the princess believes and then she’ll fall in love with me and I’ll hang up my sword and buy a farm.  Eh.  I’ll think about it.

Of course I said yes!  What, I’m just going to give up and walk back?  You wouldn’t even be reading this if I did that.  Besides, I’ve been aching to do some good in this world.  Not murdering people because some other people say I should, not putzing around watching all my friends die, not following some stupid chosen one prophecy that I’m not actually sure will make anything better, some solid, unadulterated good.  Rescuing the princess may be cliché, but it’s something I can do, and it’s something that’s definitely good.

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Elizabeth.  It’s an odd name for a mushroom, but I’ll roll with it.  She’s close with Princess Dusk.  Apparently, the lady visits here often.  She also claims to be “one with the sorceries of Oolacile” and there seems to be truth to that, as she can teach me all the spells dusk could.  Given that Oolacile seems to deal mainly with illusion and repairing magic, I’m not sure how skilled a guardian that makes her, but after feeling the fist of her mushroom friends back home, I’m not inclined to disparage her.  Maybe her arms and legs are just invisible, and she only appears to be motionless.

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Okay, that seems a whole lot more important than just rescuing Dusk.  I mean, I’ll save her too, but maybe I should look into that while I’m here?

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Dude, Artorias is here!  That guy was supposed to be a big badass, right?  One of the Four Knights of Gwyn, able to traverse the Abyss, a man of unmatched skill with the greatsword.  I wonder if I’ll get to see him.  I wonder if I’ll get to fight alongside him.  Man, that would be so sweet.  Maybe I’ll pick up a few sword moves from him while I’m at it.  We can be greatsword bros.  I can’t wait.  Elizabeth thinks it’s a sure thing that Artorias will be swallowed by the Abyss, that the Abyss is completely unstoppable, for that matter, explaining why she’s more concerned about Dusk than the entire land.  But I have the benefit of history.  I know by his fame that Artorias the Abysswalker shall repel the Abyss, and emerge triumphant.  Isn’t time travel great?

I hit up the bonfire in this sanctuary, then travel onwards.  Through a short valley, past a few trees, then I come across a bridge overlooking a river.

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Man, I can’t put my finger on it, but this place is looking really familiar to me.

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I am tempted to give in to some crude humor, but I think I’ll refrain for all our sakes.

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I actually sit around and admire the river for a bit, before I hear the rustling sound of branches rubbing up against each other, and catch this scarecrow running up to me.  I raise my shield just in time to catch his pitchfork, then respond by slashing into him.

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He goes down in one hit, but another scarecrow is coming up behind him.  I mistime my guard and get hit by a lunging attack, but swing my sword before he can draw his pitchfork back.

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Slowly, I walk up the hill they come from, watchful for any sign of movement.  I see none, and, hugging the cliff face bordering the area, make my way forward.  A single scarecrow is the only thing that seems to notice me, and I get the drop on him before he can do anything.

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I make it to a cliff on the other side of the woods.  That luminous flower, I know I’ve seen it before.  Something that’s carried way into the future, to Lordran.  That large tower is new, though.  I have to assume that’s the town of Oolacile.  So, even back this far, even when people still lived there, Oolacile was still falling into ruin?  Guess they didn’t make things to last, back in the day.

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I follow along the cliff face, and it leads me to this structure.  I get such the sense of déjà vu from this.  I don’t know if I’ve seen this building in particular, but that architectural style, definitely.  You can’t see him in this picture, but there’s a scarecrow waiting in front of the entrance.  I charge him, and knock him flat before he can react.

There’s a massive, square hole in the floor.  I contemplate dropping down it, then promptly scrap that idea and berate myself for how stupid stupid dumb that is.  There’s a staircase in here, broken before it reaches the top, but I do find a corpse with some large stone Guardian Gauntlets on it.

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I step out of the ruin and head forward a bit.  A pair of scarecrows charge me.  There’s enough space in between them that I’m able to deflect the attack of the first and cut him down before the second is upon me.  I give him the same treatment.  Then I notice that the pair was not chasing me down alone.  There’s something trailing them.  Something slow, plodding, and with a massive axe.

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Said axe slams into me and knocks me back before I can adjust to this new threat upon me.  How the blazes did something that large sneak up on me?

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I heal up, dodge to the side as the axe crushes the ground by me, and press an assault of my own.  I barely scratch away at his health.  The figure is tough.  But it does afford me my first clear look at him.  This giant, living statue.  Once more, I know I’ve seen it before.  And immediately, all the pieces slam together in my mind.  The glowing flowers, the unique ruined structures, these guardians, all three elements of one place I’ve already been.  The giant hand didn’t actually move me anywhere.  I’m in Darkroot Garden, just hundreds of years in the past.

In any case, it takes me a good long while, but I manage to chip away at the stone giant, carefully evading his attacks, and carve him up enough to bring him down.

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Unfortunately, my scuffle with him seems to have attracted the attention of two more of his kind.  They seem to be moving to surround me.  I roll under the axe of the one behind me, and put some distance between us.

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I’m not willing to take two of them on in melee, so I conjure up a fireball and hurl it right into the midsection of the nearest one.  That does quite a bit more damage than my blade did, so I repeat it a few more times.  As the guardian turns into a smoldering heap of slag, I get my sword out again, and take it to his partner.

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These guardians are slow, but their axes cover a really wide range, and hit hard enough to send me skidding back several spans even when I’m blocking.  Moreover, they’re sturdy enough that I can’t stagger them, so once they start attacking, they’re not stopping.  I have to be careful, selectively pick my moments when they’re open to attack.  This attack, where they drive it into the earth, then violently pull it out, tripping up everything in the immediate area, would be the perfect opportunity were I just a bit more to the side.

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I’m better prepared for it next time.

I start heading back towards the bridge, and inadvertently draw the attention of a pack of foes.  Two scarecrows and a guardian.  I’m not too interested in taking them on all together.  The smart thing would be to lead them on a bit, let the scarecrow’s greater speed naturally put some distance in between them.  I’m not feeling very patient though, so I opt to take on the nearest foe, the guardian, first.  My blade would take too long, so I spout a jet of flame over him instead, keeping the burn on him as the scarecrows close in.

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I burn through him just in time.  The scarecrows were never a threat to me before.  Why should they be now?

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I come across another group of just the same composition.  One guardian accompanied by a pair of scarecrows.  This time, I try to draw a scarecrow out alone, and send him an invitation by way of arrow through the head.  It doesn’t work.  All three of them take umbrage to the assault, and head after me.  The scarecrows reach me first.  The scarecrows die first.

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Have I mentioned I’m having a really hard time evading the guardian’s attacks?  They may be slow, but they hit such a wide span.  Even knowing the hits are coming, it’s hard to get out of the way in time.

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This guardian seems to be giving me particular trouble.  I don’t know why.  Maybe I’m just off my game this fight.  I’m a little worried that this one I won’t be able to outlast.  It ends up being very close, but I find myself in just the right position as he slams his axe into the earth, and take full advantage of the opening.  Then, I head back to the bonfire by Elizabeth to heal.

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The next round, I head left from the bridge first.  The path takes me across this guy, who I struggle a bit to bring down.  He is kind enough to leave behind his axe for me, though, not that I’m quite strong enough to effectively use it.

In fact, I end up romping through a few more of those guardians before I decide to back off a bit and stick to the treeline.  Heading along the treeline, near the cliff by the bridge I first crossed, find myself face to face with a scarecrow up the hill.  I advance towards him, only to get caught by another scarecrow jabbing into me from behind.  You know, I haven’t been ambushed often, so I have to admit, they got me with that.

Of course, the problem with that is that they got me.  The pitchfork isn’t near enough to keep me from turning them into kindling.

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I follow a path down and around a rocky upcropping, and spy a shirtless scarecrow that runs away into a large open area as I approach.

Fool might I be, but even I am not fool enough to fall for two ambushes in a row.  Especially not one I already saw way back in the Undead Parish.  I hang back and wait.

Sure enough, a handful of scarecrows drop from the cliff to the side, while another joins the one that fled.  Had I pursued him, I’d be caught in between the two groups.

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As it is, I’m much too smart for their stupid trap.  I’m also too smart to jump into a five on one melee battle.  I opt to hang back a bit and deal with them at flamethrower range.

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Did you know scarecrows are flammable?

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I walk into the open area the scarecrows had set their ambush in.  There’s one more of them to cut down in there, followed by another guardian.  This guardian, for whatever reason, gives me a lot more trouble than the others.  I don’t know why, I just have a really hard time getting clean hits on him.  Is it that there’s no trees to run interference?  For once, am I actually benefitting from an enclosed space?  Weird.

Trouble though he may give me, it’s not enough to hold me back for long.  Behind him, I find a corpse containing the leggings of the Guardian Armor set.

I make a tactical withdrawal to heal, then return.  There’s a short bridge at the end of this open area.  I approach it.

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So does a dragon.

The dragon perches there for a good long while, just staring at me with one glowing red eye.  I leave my shield up, and agonize over whether it’s more tactically sound to charge or to wait for it to attack, when just as suddenly as it appeared, the dragon takes flight.  I watch it go.  I’d be relieved that I didn’t have to suddenly bust out my dragon-slaying skills, but I’m sure that we’ll be coming to blows shortly.  You can probably count on one hand the number of creatures appearing before me in the wild that I didn’t end up having to kill.

I cross the bridge, then wander along the short, simple path.  It leads to a small drop, the only way forward.  Obviously it’s a one way trip, but I take it nonetheless.

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Almost immediately, a guardian is upon me while I find myself trapped between a rock wall and a gaping hole in the ground.  Obviously not a safe place to be dodging and maneuvering, so I don’t give him the chance to get close.  Instead, I hurl fireball after fireball at him until he crumbles.

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The ground on this side of the bridge seems to be covered with those veins of darkness, and dotted by those black crystals.  Part of the Abyss Elizabeth is so fatalistic about?

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Of course, just because I crossed the bridge doesn’t mean I’m free from these guys.  I catch a few more scarecrows here, as the area starts to open up.  I don’t give them the chance to move.

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A bit of treasure in the distance crosses my eye.  I weave around a dark hole in the ground, leap over a narrow gap, and climb some rocks to reach it.  I’ve got three out of the four pieces of this set, now.  Maybe if I blend in, those guardians won’t bother me?

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While I’m up here, I spy another shiny in the distance.  This one is considerably less precarious to get to, requiring a simple walk through the forest.  It is guarded by a… well, a guardian, but I get the drop on him, and manage to cut him down before he touches me.  For my efforts I get 8 of Gough’s Great Arrows, wicked, spear-sized arrows that I know I’m just going to need my dragonslayer greatbow to use.  Does that mean Hawkeye Gough is here, too?  It’s turning into a whole Knights of Gwyn party.  Hey, maybe if I prove my mettle, I can join the Knights too.  And get them to fire Ornstein.  Pre-emptive revenge is the best revenge, after all.

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The cliff where I pick up Gough’s arrows overlooks this basin.  I’m going to have to head down there eventually, aren’t I?  In any case, I head back towards the beaten path.

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This side of the bridge is absolutely pockmarked by this great, dark holes.  It’s obvious they’re not natural, there’s nothing environmental that would cause them to show up here.  Is this what the Abyss does?  Just eats away at matter until nothing remains?  Is this the early stages of what happened to the pit of New Londo?  For that matter, is this the reason why Oolacile just doesn’t exist anymore in my time?  I still don’t agree with how the decision was carried out, but if this is what the Abyss does, creates this giant pits of nothingness that just keep growing, consuming… I think I can understand why New Londo was sealed.

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Ahead of me, I spy a few scarecrows with hedge clippers, just tending the trees.  They don’t react to me as I walk by.  I find that curious.  So is this what the scarecrows were created for, or at least what their job is?  Tending to the forest?  Then, were the ones that attacked me earlier just corrupted, somehow?  The stone axe I picked up off that guardian earlier mentions it’s more suited to manual labor than combat, too.  Is everyone here originally meant for more benign purposes?

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I think I render my own question moot when I pick some souls off a nearby corpse and they all attack.  Turns out they just hate me after all.

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Look at that.  The city of Oolacile proper.  Dusk’s in there somewhere.  I just hope I’m able to rescue her before the Abyss, or whatever it was that wiped Oolacile off the map, consumes it.

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I walk back a bit, and explore the forest on this side.  I find myself accosted by two guardians at once.  They’re too tricky to take to melee, so I try to burn one down first.  I’ve got just enough fire in me to do that.

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The second rewards me for my victory by knocking me flat.  I respond in kind.  The fight comes close to killing me, but I still emerge victorious.

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I walk into a small, square structure, and end up on what seems to be a magic elevator that takes me down and leaves me staring at this fog gate.  There’s a large clearing before the gate, although it doesn’t hold anything beyond a bridge leading off to the side.

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A bridge with what looks to be a fire and another person at the other end.  Interesting.  I head that way first.

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I WANT THAT HAT.

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THAT HAT.  GIVE ME THAT HAT.  Anyways, dude here was dragged off to the past, just like I was.  And I’m guessing, given that his garb is nothing common in any country I know, that he comes from a time after my age.  Which means that the world survives that long.  That’s somewhat heartening, right?

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In any case, he seems to know Artorias is here, and has seen him about, in fact.  Calls him a “colourless sort” though, whatever that means.  But hey, at least he’s here!  I’m looking forward to this!  I’ll impress him with all my moves, be a vital figure in the fight against the Abyss, save dusk at his side, then we’ll be best friends!  I can’t wait!

He is a merchant of sort, selling a few consumables and arrows, but he charges way more souls than I remember anyone in my time requiring for the stuff.  Given that I can still use my bonfires to just port out, I don’t imagine I’ll be making much use of Mr. Markup here.

Past the awesome hat and the guy that wears it is an elevator that leads up, opening up a shortcut between here and the first section of Darkroot Garden/The Royal Wood.  I take the opportunity to visit the bonfire, recovering health and fire both, then return to the fog gate.

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I’m never going to save Dusk by just staring at it.  I muster my considerable courage, then pass through.

 

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3 responses to “The Dark Souls Nature Trail

  1. I remember playing at least one other game where a monster appeared and I thought I was going to have to fight him only to be surprised when I realized I could talk to him. It’s certainly one way to keep players on their toes, isn’t it?

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