Dominance and Dark Souls

Last time, on Drifting Through Dark Souls, we had a pretty easy time making it through this doomed city.  And then we died.  But we’re not going to let a silly thing like that keep us down, are we?

As always, we press on.  Heading back towards the large building in which we died.  At least at first.  I spot something shiny on the way there.  I love shinies.  I jump off the path I’m on, onto a roof, and pick up some souls from the corpse.  Once I’m there, I realize I have no idea how to get back onto the walkway I was on.

Luckily, there’s a path leading out from this roof.  I take it, and it leads me into a decently-sized room, with a sorceress inside.  I get my shield up in time to intercept the dark bolt she fires at me, then charge her down before she can ready another.  The room has another path leading out of it, and a staircase downwards.  I take the other path first.

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I reach the end of it.  There’s nothing on this path save for this note.  Yet judging the symbol and lack of a rating, this was not a note left by any other player.  It’s here for a reason.  Somehow, I don’t think hurling a fireball is what it means.  I don’t have the spell for casting light prepped, either.  I take a quick look through my inventory, trying to see if I have anything that could light things up.  And hey!  That looks perf… oh no.

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The Sunlight Maggot.  That same thing Solaire was wearing when he went mad.

Man.  Do I want to do this?  Judging from the spells Dusk and Elizabeth had, Oolacile was big on, or at least had prominent lines of, illusion magic.  I could totally see them hiding something here that could only be revealed by shining light on it.  Maybe something important.  You don’t hide your garbage with the arcane powers of the soul, after all.  But if this is what snapped Solaire, I don’t know if I want to deal with it.  I don’t even know why I’ve been carrying the maggot around in the first place.  The whole thought of it disgusts me.

But maybe there’s something shiny.

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As soon as I put the maggot on, a section of the wall disappears, revealing a chest in the corner of the room.  I don’t feel any more hollow for wearing the maggot.  Maybe this was just a symptom, rather than the cause for Solaire’s madness.  Or maybe I’m hollow enough already.  I try not to think about it.  Rather, I take off the maggot as soon as the opening appears, then scramble inside for the chest.  There’s only one thing inside, an amulet showing a familiar symbol.

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Artorias’s pendant, and ancient treasure from the glory days of Anor Londo, said to be able to repel the Abyss.  Perhaps he left it here hoping it’d prevent the Abyss from completely consuming Oolacile?  If so, it’s not doing a very good job.  Important indeed.  And shiny.  In any case, it’s clear this sector is done.  What hasn’t already fallen to the Abyss has been overtaken by the bloatheads, with every living thing here either dying or joining the enemy forces.  For that matter, I hadn’t seen a single sane person since I left Ciaran.  I slip it into my pouch.  I think I’ll be able to put it to better use shoving it straight into Manus’s heart than it’ll see being left here.

With the pendant in hand, I make my way back to the room I fought the sorceress in earlier, then head down the stairs.

Another sorceress runs into view, then fires a bolt at me.  Just like the rest, I block it, then cut her down.  Just as I’m pulling my blade out from her flesh, I hear the telltale sound of another spell being cast, and I’m caught by a blast of dark magic from my side.

I survive it, barely, and the sorceress is already charging another blast.  I don’t have the strength left in me to block it.  I run towards her, but it’s clear the timing is not on my side.  When I’m still a few strides away, she fires.

I roll.  The bolt sizzles the air above me, thundering through the space where my chest just was, before crashing against the wall.  I regain my feet right in front of her.  With no space to cast spells, she reaches out with her free hand.  It’s too late.  My blade is already on its way.

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She crumples.  I heal.  Then I inspect the room.  There are three chests here.  Two of them are opened and are therefore dead to me.  I make a beeline towards the third.

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Huh.  So this is what those sorceresses have been hitting me with.  “Developed by a sorcerer on the brink of madness,” huh?  That leads me to wonder.  Was the Abyss called here by Oolacile’s magicians reaching for powers beyond their ken?  Or were these spells developed in response to the Abyss’s presence, seeking to use its powers to fight against it while Oolacile still had hope?  In any case, the insane sorcerer that composed this spell looks to have combined traditional magic with the powers of the Abyss and sourced it with human souls.  Such a spell is beyond my meager abilities, but at least I know something about what I’m fighting.

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I head out one of the doors of this room, and find myself on this sole outcropping.  There was ground here.  A road.  Paths between buildings.  Children playing, people going about their business.  The Abyss has eaten all that away.  Replaced it with nothingness, with the void.  At least three of the four knights were sent here to stop it.  And yet Artorias was defeated and consumed.  Ciaran has given up.  And Gough, I have no idea what he’s up to beyond making talking statues.  Because even as the world’s going to hell, you still need a hobby I guess.  In any case, we can’t count on any of them.  We can’t count on Oolacile to rise up, either.  I hear screams occasionally, but have not encountered a single sign of sane life, much less resistance, beyond that.  It is all up to me.  Oolacile is completely gone in my time, so I don’t think I’ll be able to save it here, but I’m the only one who can stop the Abyss from getting any further, from crossing into Lordran, much less the world as a whole.  I will save the world now, so it’s still there for me to save in the future.

After I’m done pontificating, I head back inside, then take another path out from the building.  This carries me around another building, then ends with a sorceress.

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The corner let me out much too close to her for her to get her spells up in time.  Instead, she opts to jab he clawed hand forward as I approach.  She misses.  I don’t.  She drops one of Gough’s carvings as she dies.  It speaks “I’m sorry.”  Damn right she is.

I mill around this section for a while, unable to find my way back to the main path, or anywhere worthwhile, really, now that I’ve gotten all the loot from this area.  Eventually, off the upper section of the building, I do find a route leading up to a wooden platform that overlooks some familiar territory.  I drop off there, then we’re back in business.

From there, I travel the tried and true path back to the room I last died in.  This time around, I pause, and take the time to properly survey the room before jumping right in there.  Because seriously, what kind of total moron would leap into an attack before realizing who and where all his or her enemies were?  Not the kind of moron I’d want to know.

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It’s a little hard to see here, thanks to how well they blend in with the Abyss-strewn room, but there’s five garden-variety bobbleheads on the other side of the room.  Plus the other bloathead and the sorceress below me.  Yep, this would really be a stupid place to leap right into the fight.  I’m glad I’m too smart for that.  I fire an arrow at one, seeking to lure him up to me.  You may recall from last time that the bloatheads usually respond in pairs, and feathering one leads to two rushing me.  That’s no different here, a pair of them taking the bait.  Except one of them gets caught up on a pillar, leaving his partner to rush me alone.  That bloathead seems fine with the arrangement.

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So am I.

I walk down the bit until the bobblehead’s AI can free itself from the pillar, then crush it much like the last one when it gets near.  I repeat the arrow-and-sword pattern with the other three, who each respond to my bait alone.  Not like it makes a difference.  Without the support of a sorceress or some other mitigating factor, these guys are just meat at the butcher’s, whether one by one or two by two.

With five corpses now littering the staircase, I stride down it, then immediately snap around and engage the bloathead at the bottom.  As its hands clash against my shield, my eyes dart around, looking for the sorceress I know is there.

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I spot her just as I finish off the bobblehead I’m skirmishing with.  Before my opponent’s corpse hits the floor, the sorceress unleashes a spell I haven’t seen before, bathing the area in a dark fog.  The fog doesn’t do any damage itself, but it rapidly works to overcome my poison resistance.  I hightail it back up the stairs as soon as I can, but that’s still not fast enough to avoid the affliction.

Luckily, I’ve got the remedy at the ready.  The fog takes a while to disperse, but the sorceress can’t reach me at the top of the stairs.

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I head down again to take the fight to her, only for her to unleash the fog as soon as I get close.  I know what to expect this time, though, and I’m able to clear the area before it does any damage.

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I try to take her on from the top, to no avail.  She’s too close underneath me.  I can’t get a good arc on her with my bow, and my fireballs either hit the lip of the staircase or sail harmlessly beyond her.  This is no good.  I’m going to have to endure the fog in order to damage her.

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I hit the bottom of the staircase and immediately take off running.  She fires off a dark orb as I near, but that’s not going to stop me head-on.  I catch it with my shield, then am upon her before she can muster up another attack.

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I turn around, and spy another sorceress on the other side of the room, who was formerly hidden by the pillar.  I immediately charge her.  She releases the dark fog once more, but I’m already running when it hits me and just rush through it without ill effect.  I’ve completely cleared it out of my system by the time I stab into her.

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The room has a large opening onto a short staircase, which overlooks another section of town eaten away by the abyss.  This might be the starkest view of Oolacile’s destruction yet.  Look at that.  Everything just sinking away into nothingness.

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That the tower hasn’t been completely absorbed just makes the devastation look even more pointed.  Blazes.  I have to stop whatever’s causing this.  I can’t let this spread anywhere else.  Also, that’s totally not what it looks like.  There were some souls I picked up off that corpse.  I don’t stand on dead naked people for fun or anything like that.

I head back into the large room, take a staircase in the wall upwards, and find myself in a short empty hallway.  Well, empty except for the single bloathead, at least.  Did I forget that guy?  He didn’t last very long, it’s hard to keep those glass-jawed gangly-men in mind.  Anyways, there’s naught but a single message here.  Left by another player.  “Need light”.  Great.

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I set the sunlight maggot on my head again, and sure enough, a hole in the wall opens up.  This opening leads around the attic, where I find a chest with some red titanite in it.  I don’t use anything that requires red titanite to upgrade.  Guess this is going to have a long happy life in my bottomless box.

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I head back down, and now that I’m going through the room for the third time, I finally spot the corpse hanging from a rope on the ceiling.  I shoot it down, and find it’s carrying the Dark Fog sorcery I’d been hit with a few times.  New Londo fell to the Abyss because their leaders called it up themselves in their lust for power.  I’m starting to think something similar happened here.

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The final exit to this room leaves me on the side of a fallen building.  I take it across, then enter the structure you see on the right.  It leads to an elevator that heads back up to the bonfire in Oolacile Township.  I rest up there, then return and head down the path.

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I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a route more obvious than this one.  There’s two sorceresses on the other side.  Wary of them, I take it slowly.  I don’t draw their attention, but I do draw the eye of two vanilla bobbleheads hiding in the wings.  Luckily, I’m still on the stairs, and see them coming.  I block both their attacks, then finish them off with a quick pair of attacks.

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The sorceresses prove to be a pretty simple matter.  Block the dark orb, smack once.  Repeat.  I can’t block their magical damage completely, but my shield cuts it down enough to render it negligible.

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I spy a new enemy at the end of this long room.  Not one I’ve seen before.

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Bloody hell, that does not look comfortable.  It seems to be a man, or man-shaped, at least, with odd bits of metal grafted onto him and covered in chains.  He uses both the stone at the end of the chain, probably ripped out of whatever wall he was bound to, as well as that long span of metal in his offense.  I don’t get hit by his first few moves, but he comes close.  Dude is surprisingly fast.  The few attacks I catch on my shield end up driving my stamina down perilously and shove me all across the battleground.  I hit him once.  It clinks against the metal covering his flesh, cutting a sliver away from his health bar.  Not nearly enough.

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Fire does a lot better.  I dance just out of his range, throwing fireball after fireball until I run out.

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I drop back and switch to my flamethrower.  He lowers his head to charge.  I raise my shield.

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He connects with my guard and knocks me flat on my back anyway.

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As soon as I’m up, I heal.  This was a misjudgement.  He’s too fast, too close.  He begins spinning, blade and flail flying everywhere.  I recover from my… recovery too late to dodge.  I catch the first two hits on my shield, but that breaks my guard and leaves me defenseless for the next four.  That’s more than I can take, and life flees my body.

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I revive at the bonfire and make my way back here.  This time around, I don’t even play at a defense.  I just stay just out of range, peppering him with my fireballs, then when that runs out, I swap to fire surge and continually dowse him in flames.  I take a few hits in the process, but nothing serious this time.  Can’t say the same for him.

Dude drops half a set of chain mail for whatever reason.  This wasn’t what he was previously wearing.

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With this guy down, I’m free to check out the room.  It’s lined in these headless statues.  A little unnerving.  I’m pretty sure that’s a version of the Oolacile Catalyst the statue’s holding.  Meaning these are sorcerers.  Honored, once, at least.  Did the citizens behead their statues as a matter of retaliation after these sorcerers drew the abyss upon them?  Pure conjecture.  But in any case, these statues creep me out.  I move on.

At the other side of the room is a staircase leading down, to a panel that summons an elevator from the absolute blackness below.

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The elevator has an attendant.

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Not anymore.  Looking down, I can see nothing but darkness.  This really does not look inviting.  And I know that every move I make forward brings me closer and closer to facing down the Abyss.  I think I need a chance to prepare for this.  And since, for once, I have the humanity to spare, I head back up to the most recent bonfire to kindle it and get myself some more estus.

I’m still in human form as I come back.  I catch a few summon signs on the way, but I’m never able to connect with the inferior chosen ones behind them.  Of course, I connect just fine with the guy who comes into my world wishing me harm.  I get the message that my realm has been invaded just before I reach Mister Iron.

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I’m not willing to take an invader and the steel goon on at the same time, so I wait in the space I just cleared of bloatheads for my nemesis to show.  I don’t have to wait long.  Strangely, though, he seems to ignore me, just running in a straight line for captain bondage.  I don’t know what his game is.  Suspicious, I raise my shield, flank him as he passes, then follow after him for a bit.

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Ah.  I see what he’s up to.  Seems to be trying to lure me into a two on one fight.  By just walking there.  Because he thinks I’m really, really dumb.  I’m going to have to make him pay for that.  Or perhaps he’s just making use of the best battle arena in the area for our challenge.  That is a really good place to fight.  Either way, I’m not letting him choose the turf.  This is my house, you play where I want to.  He starts taunting me from the other side.  I point at the metal monstrosity behind them, then head back down the stairs for the open area below.  If he wants to fight me, he’ll have to do it here.

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Once again, I don’t have to wait long.

I don’t recognize most of the dark spirit’s gear.  His armor seems very light, making him quite nimble, significantly more so than I am.  He uses a greatsword double-handed, slamming it down vertically then using his greater speed to roll away just as I counter.  His shield is the one piece of equipment I know, recognizing the familiar lines of the grass crest shield, and in the back of my mind, I remember that it boost stamina regeneration.  With that, and his light gear, he’ll always be able to evade right after his attacks, and his speed is such that he’ll be difficult to connect with.  On the other side, though, I’m no slowpoke myself, and while his defensive speed is great, the heavy greatsword drags his offensive speed down enough that I’m easily able to sidestep or block any of his strikes.

We skirmish for a few rounds, neither of us connecting with the other.  He seems to notice how easily I’m sidestepping his over hand strikes, and switches to a one-handed grip which affords him a wider swing.  He also starts parrying when he expects an attack, which I counter by varying my rhythm and not always striking at the obvious opportunity.

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First blood is mine.  I catch him swinging his shield out for a parry, and start my own swing just after.  My opponent rolls out of the way in what looked to me to be a clean dodge, but he staggered back and took some damage halfway through it.  I guess we can chalk that up to lag.  In any case, he lost almost half his life in a single hit.  He adjusts to a double handed grip again, then ran forward and swung down.  I thought I rolled out of the way in time, but the damage ticked on me anyway.  At least we’re even there.

Except not really.  That one exchange showed how different we are in layouts.  It demonstrated very, very clearly the span between our stats, gear, and capabilities.  I made apparent that I am indeed the Best Chosen One and no other wannabe like this punk can even compare.  I swung one-handed, and hit for just a hair under half his health.  He used both hands, which should give him half again the attack power.  He still did only about a fifth of my life in damage.  Moreover, his attack did not stagger me.  Any blow he hit me with, I could just trade.  The battle was decided right there, on the basis of both my soon-to-be-legendary strength, and the solidity and stability of my armor.

If the battle wasn’t all but finished then, it was when he backed off too far, giving me time to heal.  Some might see that as unsporting, giving that dark spirits can’t heal when invading another’s world, but I don’t care.  I am not inclined to make things any easier in the name of honor for anyone looking to kill me.

In any case, my invader does put up a good fight, futile though it is.  He rejoins our old skirmish, using his speed to attack and evade in sequence.  At this point, he seems to mostly be trying to get behind me, seeking that vital backstab that could give him the critical damage he needs to get past my overpowering defense.  I play defensively, mostly waiting for the right chance to counter, and am easily able to foil his positioning by just focusing on my movement rather than my attack.  He does manage to hit me with two regular attacks in our melee.

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Yet both times he connects with me, I nail him back, much, much harder.    It was clear since the first blows we scored on each other who was the superior warrior.  My strength, my defense, my sturdiness, even without skill playing into it, I would always overwhelm him in a head on fight.  From the moment he chose to engage me in battle, he had no choice but to die.

Next time: Let’s keep the momentum going.

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