The Light in the Dark Souls

Last time, on Running out of Titles for Dark Souls we followed up on beating possibly the hardest enemy I’ve ever faced, Manus, by taking on the easiest boss in the game, Pinwheel.  Felt a bit like shifting without a clutch.  After overcoming that challenge way back in Oolacile, is there anything left in Lordran that can stretch us?  Well, what do you say we find out?

After emerging from Pinwheel’s lair, I find myself surrounded by a deep darkness, the likes of which we’ve not seen before.  The only light I can see comes from those prism stones littered among the path, and the occasional message expressing dismay.  “I can’t take this…”  “Need hope.” “Despair.”  Looks like the other chosen ones have been beaten down by this place.  I may have gotten myself into something, here.

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I follow the prism stones along until I find out where I am.  The Tomb of the Giants.  I’ve heard of this place.  Not anything good about it.

Red Metal had left me some advice last time, for this situation.  Following it means doing something I find really distasteful, but… well, I have to keep moving forward.

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The Sunlight Maggot.  It lead my friend, Solaire, to his doom.  With luck, it might save me from mine.

Oh man, nobody’s going to be able to recognize me without that gargoyle helmet.  It’s like I’m wearing a whole new face.  It does emit light, however.  And light’s what I need.  I’m not about to dive into an enemy-strewn underground cavern without being able to see.  Especially not when I can see the glow of some eyes just a bit away.

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It illuminates this skull, directly to my left.  Guess they weren’t kidding with the name of this place.  I smash it just in case.  I’ve no inclination to give respect to the dead when I’ve died so much more.  There’s a bit of light coming from the lava in the area beyond.  Not enough to illuminate this place, of course.  I think I recognize that, though.  Am I looking at the Demon Ruins there?

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The glowing eyes I saw earlier belonged to this giant skeleton.  I’m a little disappointed.  I’d fought one of these already, a long, long time ago, back in the graveyard by Firelink Shrine.  I had a divine weapon then.  I never changed my equipment after fighting Pinwheel.  This could be trouble.

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The giant skeleton places one hand behind his blade and slams it down.  I slip to the side of his strike, and cut into him twice.  This straightens him up, and then he falls apart.  I wait for him to reform, ready to switch over to the Silver Knight Spear.  I watch his bones closely, ready to enter my inventory the moment they start quivering closer together.  I keep waiting.  And waiting.  The moment never comes.  I didn’t kill him with a divine weapon, but I still killed him for good.  Huh.  Were these guys powered by some different necromancy?  Did killing Pinwheel earlier cut off the skeleton’s regeneration ability, somehow?  Was it that I smashed the giant, non-animated skeleton earlier?  No idea.  But I like the results.

The path leads downwards, curving back and forth.  It takes me past another giant skeleton.  A dead one.  Well, you know what I mean.  I smash it for good measure.  The next curve puts me in front of another enemy giant skeleton.  It cuts down at me.  I block it, knocking it back, then cut into it twice.  Like the last one, it doesn’t recover.

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There’s a corpse trapped in the ribcage of another giant behind him.  I pick up some souls from the corpse, the take a moment to wonder how exactly it got there.

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Moving on, I come across another giant skeleton in the path, as I block his strike, I get hit by another one from behind.  I notice for the first time that they’re blades our poisoned.  That could be a problem, were I ever going to get hit more than once.  Tactical mastermind that I am, I immediately drop all my plans to get hit several times.  My blade limns a wide arc, hitting both the skeleton before me and the one behind me in the same strike.  I cut them both down in such a manner.

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Continuing downwards, I come across a large coffin, seemingly much too large for any of the skeletons I’ve been facing, steeply tilted.  I start to walk down it, only to find it too steep to walk.  I slide the rest of the way down.  That leads to another coffin, oriented the same way.  I slide down that as well.  Whose coffins are those?  Are there things even larger than giants around?  Super giants?  I look forward to killing one of those.

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On the landing the second coffin drops me off by, I spy a bonfire on the cliff below.  Soon after, I find a ladder leading down to it.  This is quite a relief.  I was getting a little worried I was going to run out of Estus.

I take a moment to check over myself.  I’ve been wearing the Sunlight Maggot for a while, and I don’t feel any ill effects.  I’m still sane.  At least, I’m just as sane as it’s possible to be when you can never die no matter how many times you’re killed in a literally god-forsaken land where all your friends are mad and dead and everything is trying to make you suffer and you have to spend an extended amount of time underground.  At least, I think I’m still sane.  It’s possible I’m going mad right now and wouldn’t be able to tell.  But I don’t feel any different than I did before I put this on.  Makes me wonder, maybe the Maggot is a more benign parasite, simple giving light without taking away the mind.  Perhaps this wasn’t what caused Solaire’s madness, but rather, the only source of light available to him in that pit was simply what he fixated on once he lost his mind.

I’ll keep an eye on my mental state, such as it is.  I also take stock of the situation I’m in.  Unlike the other holders of the Lord Souls, I’ve don’t really got much purpose in hunting down Nito here.  He’s not abducting people like Seath, not the twisted mad form of a formerly decent person like the Witch, not an evil abomination like the Four Kings, he’s not really doing much of anything that’s impacted my world.  At least, not that I’ve been able to tell.  It’s possible he’s been working in the shadows.  But I need his soul to save the world in a way I’m still not clear how it will play out, so it’s really for what should be the common good.  And it’s one life.  I’ve already taken so much more in this quest.  One life against saving all us undead is nothing.  And maybe he deserves it.

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In any case, someone has been down here before me.  Somebody has to be leaving all these prism stones.  And I think I may have found him.  He’s armed, but doesn’t seem hostile.  However, I do see that another chosen one in another world has died here.  Wary, I go up and talk to him.

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The way he’s talking, he doesn’t.

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I’m sure my business here is more valid and honorable than his.  But I answer him no.  I am no holy man.

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He’s no friends of the gods either.  As a sign of camaraderie, he points me to this treasure down below.

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There’s something in his tone that sets me on edge.  I’m not sure whether to trust this.

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Reeeeeaaaaally not sure.

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In any case, I do take a look down.  It does look like there’s some treasure.  Corpses holding said treasure, but treasure nonetheless.

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I don’t hear him come up behind me, but it’s not entirely a surprise when he boots me in the back.

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I fall in, and collapse against the floor.  Not my hardest fall.  Not even in my top ten.  I am still filled with rage over being attacked so.

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Hard, cold rage.

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I wonder if he knows how easily I survived the fall.  I’m looking forward to surprising him.

I’m not the first person he’s knocked down here.  I take the remnants of their souls.  I’m sure they’d rather I have them than the man who killed them.

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One of them holds something interesting.  Do all sources of light in Lordran have to be so freaking creepy?  I briefly consider changing it out, to get the Sunlight Maggot off me, but discount the idea.  If it hasn’t eaten my brain so far, I’d really rather keep my hands ready.  Both shield and sword are such necessary parts of my fighting style, I’d be severely hampered without either one of them.

It doesn’t look like I’m even the only person he kicked down here recently.  I spy a woman in white, slumped against a stalagmite.  Still alive.  So to speak.  I go over and talk to her.

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I’ve been tempted, but no, not yet.

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What a second, I remember her!  I saw her forever ago!  She insulted my couth!  Oh, and who’s uncouth now, lady?  I assume the two hollows she mentions were her two guardians from back then.

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Yep, there we are.

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That’s the thing about Lordran.  Everyone, no matter how mighty, no matter how holy, no matter how upright, everyone falls here.  Surviving in Lordran is just about who can get up again.

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About them going hollow?  If there’s anything we could do aside from putting them down like rabid dogs, I would really, truly love to hear it.  It’s no fun, watching friends go hollow, and I’ve had more of that than I care to.

I explore along the pit I find myself in.  It’s quite large.  Before long, out of the darkness comes the two hollows she mentioned.

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I meet the first one head on.  I block his attack, then strike while he’s recoiling.

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The second one joins soon after, making the fight exponentially more complicated.  They aren’t too horribly strong, and my heavy shield is repelling their attacks handily, but they’re able to rain their weapons down frequently enough that it’s hard finding an opening to counterblow.  I think I find one after they’re both reeling from impacting my shield, and press the attack there.  I catch the hollow in the front with my blade, but the one behind recovers faster than I thought he would.  He punishes me for it.

They’re working together well.  Twice more I get caught trying to take advantage of an opening that isn’t there.  The one in front will block my blow, while the one behind strikes.  I have to back off and heal.

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After I chug some estus, I lurk just on the other side of a nearby stalagmite.  They both come forward, their guards down.  I pop out as soon as they reach melee range, and my blade slices through them both.  The first one falls.  The second one responds by casting a miracle, force blasting away from him.  I him charging up, and roll out of the way.

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I am upon him as soon as the area clears.  I strike before he has a chance to raise his guard.

I am the only light in this darkness.  It’s no wonder that, in their maddened state, they’d seek to extinguish it.

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I return to the woman in white.  She mentions feeling regret over her failings, and the pain they’ve caused in others.

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I wonder about that.  How much of a mind does a hollow have left?  Would their souls have been freed, at least whatever I didn’t absorb myself?  Are they now at a peace that had left them in unlife?  She gives me something that belonged to them.  A miracle, ‘replenishment’.  I don’t even bother reading through it.  I have no faith in the gods, miracles are useless to me.

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At the far end of the pit is a steep cliff.  Across it, I get a better view of an area I was checking out before.  This definitely opens up into the demon ruins, all right.  I wonder how far down I’ve come.

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I walk up a thin path at the end of the cliff, and find a corpse with some white titanite on it.  I hear something moving as soon as I pick it up, and when I come down, I find two pillars of bone standing before me, unmoving.  I strike the first one, and numerous skeletal arms pop out, slapping around.  I dodge back, then cut it down for good once it’s finished striking the air.  I repeat the process with the second pillar.

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I hear some more sounds of movement behind me, and spin around to find two more bone pillars slowly undulating towards me.  Ah, so that’s why the first weren’t moving.  This was supposed to be an ambush, the first group holding me there while the second closed in for a pincer attack.  I was just too fast for them.  Much like I’m too fast for this group.  The third pillar does manager to strike me shortly before I cut it down and move on to the fourth, but the damage is negligible.

After finishing these four off, I poke around the pit for a bit before finding a cave from the direction the two hollows, Vince and Nico, emerged from.  In my way there is yet another bone pillar.  They’re quite slow.  As long as I’m paying attention, they’re harmless.

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Two more close in after I finish off the first one.  I’m a little bored of swordplay, so I hurl a fireball in their direction.  I’m quite pleased with the results.  One of them leaves behind a white titanite chunk.

There’s a ladder at the end of the cave, which leads to an illusory wall.  I break through it, and find myself on the upper level again.

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I hear the thwip of a bow, and find an arrow heading my way.  I block it, easily, then duck around the other side of the cave, where it can’t reach me.

I continue on the path I find myself upon, and reach familiar territory soon enough.

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Very familiar.

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Yes.  Let’s talk.

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You just accidentally kicked me down a pit, left me for dead, and mocked me for it?  Oh yeah, happens to me all the time.

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Sounds like you might need a lobotomy.  Allow me to assist.

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They give me a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ option here.  I’ll let you guess which one I chose.

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You know, you did not actually say that.  “I didn’t mean it” sure.  Not sorry.

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He gives me a twin humanities item.  A nice item, to be sure.  Not worth a life.  Not worth potentially dooming the entire world by killing the best chosen one.

But it does make me reconsider.  Maybe killing him would be a bit too cruel.  He’s killed others, sure, driven those two hollow, and left the girl in a sorry state.  But maybe responding with murder would be a bit too much.  After all, I survived.  Perhaps he should have the same chance.

You know what, that sounds like justice to me.  He should have the exact same chance I did.

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So I kick him into his own blasted hole.

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May the fates take you now.

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5 responses to “The Light in the Dark Souls

  1. The Skull Lantern was what got me through this area of the game. It’s not as good though; I forewent using the Grass Crest Shield to use it.

    I get the feeling that Patches guy would’ve been a used car salesmen in another universe. Using “trusty” as an adjective doesn’t help his case (or anything else he does, really).

    • Given everything else Patches has been in other universes, I absolutely would not be surprised if From ended up making a game where he was a used car salesman. I could totally see him promising some sort of great deal on an excellent car, only to kick his customers into a waiting Pinto once they’ve signed the paperwork. Shortly before it breaks down.

  2. Reading this posts and the stuff about the Demon Ruins just reminds me how great the world-building is in Dark Souls. Most games don’t really make you think about the world beyond the level your in, but the way in which everything interweaves in Dark Souls really makes you conscious that your inside a different world and question where exactly you are in relation to everything else.

  3. That has been one thing that I’ve really had some wonder for, that you actually end up visiting almost all the places you see in the background. Somehow it makes the world seem even bigger, because you can tell just how much design went into getting the various areas to fit together.

    I haven’t tried taking a look for it myself, but I’ve heard that you can even see the souls you leave behind for recovery when you die when you’re looking from one area into another.

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