Soul of Lords
The Meditations of Drakka
The Curse is worse than I thought.
I knew it brought despair, emptiness and madness. But the curse is so much bigger. Traveling with the Inquisitors has convinced me it is so. It has poisoned not just the souls of men, but also the soul of the church. The Hollow may be sick, but the Inquisitors are blind. Nobody deserves to suffer. How can they not see that?
After several weeks of travel, we’ve arrived at the Asylum. I haven’t seen much of Fitz or Vanetia, as we’ve been traveling separately. The Inquisitors hold to customs and I’m – again – a servant, though with a title this time around. It doesn’t really matter.
The Asylum is big; bigger than I could have expected. It spooks me. I let fear wash over me and then through me, to be done with it.
Fitz on the other hand is confident; entirely fearless, or stalwart at least. Unwilling to show weakness, even to himself. I suppose a lifetime of battle would do that to a person. The paladin, by contrast, is inscrutable. I’ve no idea what she’s thinking. I wonder, briefly, if there are others still alive? Other old friends who’ve made themselves hard, who’ve found something worth dying for just to stay alive? Maybe Fitz is the only one.
We enter, and immediately find that something is not right. The hollows have broken free; one is controlling the gate. The Inquisitor tells us to move; he sends none of his own men. I suppose he trusts them better, wants them for himself.
Demons. At least Vanetia tells me that’s what they are, the strange black things that come out of nowhere, with blades like the Khitai sword-spears. I’m wounded – bleeding – even Gwynn can’t stop it, though both Vanetia and I try to call upon his favor. Fortunately these robes have plenty of spare cloth. I sacrifice a sleeve to bind the wound.
The others are only slightly injured. I suppose they must be far greater warriors than I am.
I’m washing my robes of blood. I have lost a lot. The others are surprised at how I look, now that I’m no longer swathed in all that excess cloth. I suppose we all have secrets. I restrict the blood flow to my arm, reorient my ki. It still hurts. I hope they can’t tell. I don’t want them to worry.
Vanetia says she is a princess. A signet ring revealed her, Fitz recognized it somehow. Her parents have shunned her, because she chose the path of the church. She is here to look for someone. Inscrutable. I wonder how she’s feeling?
I wonder if she’s hurting.
We have to save the others. Cedric and his Inquisitors – they left to find the wardens. The wardens, it seems, found us – their souls have hollowed. So why aren’t the others coming back?
We move. I go ahead of the others – impatience. I must not be impatient, I remember. Calm myself, steady breath. Something strange is in the warden’s quarters, and for a moment I fear demons – but it’s a pest far more mundane. Goblins.
Mundane, maybe, but no less dangerous. They’ve killed Cedric and his men. Their animals nearly kill Vanetia – some sort of war-beasts, but not the worg of the woods. I don’t know what they are. Vanetia claims she’s fine – I can tell she isn’t. She’s lost a lot of blood; her thigh’s been torn open. Gwynn protects her, for now. I will ask about the injury later.
We free the horses – send them back to the village with words of Cedric’s demise. I return to the bodies and see blood on Fitz’s sword, blood that wasn’t there before. A soldier always cleans his weapons. His face is blank. He hasn’t fought.
I suppose he was afraid they’d rise again.
His idea of a funeral leaves a bad taste in my mouth, but I decide to let it go; I think he knows what he has done. I think I know the look on his face. It’s the one he wears to seem more human.
Now is not the time. We seal the door to the water cistern – the water has been tainted, tainted so bad that we can’t even go near it. Something lives in there now, something foul, but we find no trace but its tracks on the walls. The Asylum is empty. Silent.
We descend into the prison itself. It is not empty. Nor is it silent.
Slimy, shambling demons have taken residence inside it, probably spawned from the cistern – at least judging from the smell. I call on Gwynn to destroy them, but the light awakes the Hollows. Impatient again; I must not be impatient.
The prisoners start throwing things. A metal grate hits Fitz over the head, but he just shrugs it off. He has made himself like stone, on the inside and out. It’s not until we try to escape that I suddenly see his face – his real face – when the air is filled with debris and a portcullis blocks the path. He lifts it, shouts at us to go through. That’s when I see it, the face that isn’t like stone, that is more human but to him seems like less.
The clamor dies down. Where are we?
Fitz speaks. It catches me by surprise – he’s speaking to the darkness, to the depths of the asylum, asking if anyone’s still alive. He’s awoken inside again. He’s shining through. It worries me that he’s so cold on the outside.
I wonder if he’s hollowing?
Something stirs in the asylum. A man.
A man who still has his soul, though not for long. His body is broken. Twisted. Destroyed. I can’t reach through to him; he has slipped beyond the light. Vanetia knows him. He knows her.
He is from Carim. His name is Lucas. He says he has found an artifact, a thing that will take us to Lordran. The answer is there, just like the elders thought. The Bell of Awakening, near the Firelink shrine. I remember his words as I watch him slip away. His words are all he has. I will remember them.
He empties. Soon he’ll just be a husk. Vanetia leaves him before it happens – he cannot bear to have her watch. I think he must love her very much. She is crying. Quietly. It is strange to see a paladin cry.
A demon killed him. He’s told us where it is.
I suspect the nightmares may have only just begun.
She’s angry now. I don’t know when it happened, but somehow tears of sorrow have turned into tears of rage. She tries to hide it. I don’t think she knows that she’s still crying.
We follow her up the stairs. There’s a shortcut past the western cellblock. Sunset. Fresh air. We are back in the courtyard, and the water… the water is waking up.
It comes like smoke from the cistern, like a pillar of mist woven into flesh. No, not flesh – meat. Rotten meat. I cry out to the others, but it’s too late; the demon is leaping. I touch Fitz’s arm, imbue him with strength, and then the world comes tumbling down around us. I close my eyes. I open them, and everything slows down.
The solid stone floor has shattered, and I am mid-air. Shimmering feathers surround Vanetia. She’s protected. Fitz is not. Horrified, I see him hit the basement floor, right at the demon’s feet – painfully slamming into solid stone, his armor dead weight around him. He’s hurt. I don’t know what I can do against a monster such as this, but I know I must do something, and so I do. I grab a chain, direct my fall – swing straight toward the monster, and kick it in the face.
I have no chance to avoid its counterattack. It grabs me in its slimy, oversized fist, and the stench almost kills me – it is evil, corruption, death. The world spins, I can’t find my center – I can’t find anything – I slam into something. The pain is blinding, and for a moment all I see is flashing lights.
It threw me. Disoriented, I pray; I can only hope that Fitz is okay.
Vanetia stands above me, shooting at the creature. I see the demon sweep up Fitz, shove him inside its mouth – I’ve got to do something. Gwynn has sent a beast to our aid, some sort of large, golden… thing? I don’t know what it is, but it’s pounding on the demon, trying to distract it. I run towards the monster, up its body, healing Fitz, infusing him with strength. I don’t know why, but the demon spits him out.
Next thing I know, the air turns against me. Tears well up, my lungs don’t work – I can’t feel my limbs. I don’t know where I am. Am I dying? Fitz is suddenly beside me. I can see again, he’s hurt, I try to help him but he leaves. Why would he leave? No! Helpless, I see him throw himself into the maw of the monster. I can barely feel my legs, but I have to stop him. I have to! Everything is pain. His sword hits true. The monster is pinned against the wall, and then – then something bright and powerful and good and true comes flying through the air, and just like that… the demon is no more.
Cold steel cuts into my skin. I’m cutting up my hands just trying to hold on, trying to find him beneath the armor, is he still there? Is he alive? He is. He’s alive. We’re all… alive.
Fitz is hurt, so I heal him. He’s angry. I can tell. He says it was stupid of me to get between him and the creature. I suppose he’s right. Still, it makes me happy to hear he was worried for me. Vanetia goes scrambling for Lucas’s possessions. I think that’s understandable – I think she must have loved him quite a lot. She finds his sword, and his belt with the thing that will take us to Lordran. It seems it’ll be just a one-way trip.
But for now, we’re somewhere safe. Rubble is blocking all the entrances, so the hollows can’t reach us here. We need to rest, and the others need to have their injuries looked at. Fitz is very hurt still, and Vanetia, well… She has lost a lot of blood.
It’s easy to treat her bleeding thigh, but with Fitz… There’s no choice, I have to stitch him up. He takes off his armor, and I can tell he’s been through things before. So many scars. The years have not been kind on him. He barely winces when I pierce his skin, closing the lesions with Gwynn’s power. The back of my head is still bleeding; Vanetia tells me I collided with her headfirst. She bandages me. It’s nice of her. Strangely, for a moment I am happy; it feels good to be looked after. Then the questions come, about how I could survive without any armor, why my head didn’t just smash apart. I try to explain, but I don’t think they understand. Khitai seems so far away, now, only memories.
We barricade ourselves in a corner. Fitz says he’ll keep watch, so I lie down next to Vanetia. She’s very warm. She says she doesn’t feel the cold. That must be nice. I mean to ask her something, or maybe tell her something, tell her that I’m thankful or that I’m sorry for what happened to Lucas, but then she pulls her cloak around me and I feel warmer and she’s soft and smells good and I’m asleep.