Soul of Lords
Drakka's Thoughts 4-6
The Meditations of Drakka
It is the morning of the day we go to Lordran. The petrified claw is heavy in my hands. A cliff facing out over the mountains is the place we choose to summon Velkas’ raven, the ferry-bird that’s paid in sins. I raise the artifact and break off the last claw. A one-way trip.
It takes so long I almost wonder if Lucas was wrong – but then the wind picks up, and something large and black comes flying toward us. It’s… a very big bird. That’s what we were told it would be, and that is what it is. Neither more, nor less.
My heart is heavy, but for the sake of the others, I’ll go first. Maybe it will help them.
I tell the bird about Zhugen, about how I failed him… how I let him die. I tell it about the others, too – the ones I betrayed, and the ones I had to kill so that innocents may live. It glares at me with its big, dumb animal eyes and for a moment I’m afraid it wasn’t good enough; that even the deaths of so many will not please the creature. I’m on the verge of opening my mouth to go on – to tell it about the blood on my hands and how I perverted Mo Zi’s teachings – but then something happens. I feel a great weight lifting off me. Like a worm from the earth, it pulls the sin from my heart.
Vanetia is next. She steps forth, and tells the bird that she left her family.
I look at her, perplexed. I have seen her kill; a rain of feathered death that only rarely misses the mark. Why isn’t she confessing her sins? Memories flash through my mind, of the arrows that blackened out the sun in Khitai, of the arrows through his chest, his arms, his face. Zhugen was dead before he even hit the ground. Death. A rain of death at her command.
So why isn’t she speaking?
The bird ignores her. I see it turn toward Fitz, and in my heart I make peace with that we will not bring Vanetia. I’ve never heard of a paladin defeated by fear… but I suppose I cannot blame her. It hurts that she can’t trust me, especially now that she knows what I have done, but so be it. I will never see her again.
Fitz steps forth. He looks into those black, unthinking eyes, and says “I survived”. I remember the scars – on his face, his arms, his chest… and on his back. They’re considerably fewer, but they’re there. Each and every one of them a reminder. Brothers left behind. I would hug him, talk to him, tell him it’s all right, but there’s no time. The bird has let him in. We must fly.
The bird scoops us up, all three. Even Vanetia. I close my eyes and pray that the sins of me and Fitz are enough; that it will not reject her. What if it should drop her? Cheating the gods, what was she thinking? Fear takes hold of me, and I close my eyes and pray, pray that we will not all be sent plummeting to our deaths, for the sake of a single liar. Why would she not trust us? Does she think we would reject her? Does she think we would shun her? Doesn’t she know we’ve done far worse things ourselves?
I thought she was my friend.
Lordran sweeps by beneath us. I should study it, see the landscape, learn of the way back… but I don’t. I’m too afraid. I don’t want to die, not like this. Gwynn, protect me. Save me. Save us.
We fall. My heart is in my throat, my thoughts have stopped, and then soft grass meets my body, and I roll, and I’m not dead. None of us are. We are in Lordran.
Fear turns to anger. Mo Zi warned me of this, but I can’t help it; how could she betray us? How could she lie to us like this? I want to slap her, but I know I might break her neck, so I knot my hands into fists and I hit her with my words. I tell her how she put us all in danger – but it’s not just that, it’s…
I laid myself bare for them. I trusted her, and now I feel… exposed. Vulnerable. But I don’t tell her that.
I use harsh words. I call her a killer.
She doesn’t react.
Anger turns back to fear. She’s killed, and doesn’t flinch. She tells me only those who deserved it died. She tells me she was following orders. By the Lords, she tells me… she’s… no. No, it can’t be. I blink and if not for that, I would cry. The words of the Empire, poison in her mouth, poison in her soul, the poison that almost destroyed Khitai. They deserved it. Gwynn save us, she doesn’t think killing is a sin.
There’s a man here. I hadn’t even seen him. He’s sharpening a sword, and his body looks young but his soul is old, worn thin like the weapon he’s polishing. He says we’re in Lordran. I focus, try to straighten myself up, try to talk to him. It’s just too hard to smile right now.
He tells us about the Bell of Awakening. There are two of them. One is in the sky, the other underground. Many have tried to ring both of them… but all have failed. They were cursed; it seems this whole land is. Maybe we are too, just from entering it; maybe that’s what this is, bile, bitterness, torment… hollowing.
I turn toward the bonfire. I think he must have lit it to stay warm. It’s bright. Warm. Somehow… alive. It’s soothing and strengthening and I need it, and so I let the others speak with the man. He says little of consequence, but he does give directions. That is good. We need directions. Fitz begins to walk, and I follow him reluctantly. I would like to stay by the fire, just a little while longer.
Vanetia tries to explain. I tell her the obvious – that nobody deserves to suffer, that nobody deserves to die. She comes with excuses. I knew she would. She tries to explain that leaving her family truly is her worst sin, and I know she is lying – either to us, or to herself. I want to grab her, want to shake her, but I don’t. I could break her spine.
We meet another man. His name is Petrus, and he’s a cleric. Of Thorolund, of Gwynn. He’s also undead. Or undying, maybe. He’s nervous, fidgeting, and I don’t know if he knows what fate has befallen him. Maybe I’m wrong, but the way he speaks, the way he moves, the way he… asserts, to himself, that his Lady will soon return, that they’ve been here just a short time… He must be very lonely.
My heart stings when we turn our backs on him. Selfish. I could spare him a kind word, a smile, a drink perhaps… something to cheer him up. But I chose not to. I shouldn’t let my bad mood get between me and a stranger. I feel very bad for not being kinder to him.
I’m still ruminating on that by the time we’re attacked by Hollows. More killing, more fighting. I see the pain and torment in their eyes, and I step in front of Vanetia out of instinct. Before long, I’ve thrown a man in the chasm. I can hardly make his suffering worse, but his desperate scream still claws at my heart, before it’s cut short by the rocks.
I try to help Fitz fight a bigger man, a man too strong to be thrown into the chasm. He’s even worse off than the others – torment has driven him completely, dangerously mad. What used to be his soul is… well, for lack of a better word, burning. There’s no time to think, just keep up. He launches at Fitz, and I see fire meet fire. Oh no. Fitz is angry.
He plunges his sword into the cliffside. It gets stuck. I watch in horror as he carelessly tears it out, with such force that – no, Lords no, don’t let this happen! In what seems to take a lifetime, the sword sails through the air in an arc behind him, and slams into Vanetia with full force. If her arm hadn’t been raised, he would’ve taken off her head.
The blade catches on her shoulder-guard, and bites right through it. Blood gushes from the wound, and for a moment everything stops – but Gwynn protects Vanetia, and by His light, she is okay.
There isn’t time to talk. I see horror in Fitz’ eyes, and then he wears his human face again, apologizes, and slays the mad berserker in a single blow. I run after the archers, try to put them down before they take advantage.
Fitz kills the last man standing. Or so we thought; a loud bang and a flash of fire reveals another, armed with dragon-powder. I didn’t know they had such weapons, outside of Khitai. No time to think; I charge at the man, but I stumble, and Vanetia comes after me – killing him.
I still cannot speak to her, not as a friend… but I tell her that, at least, I believe she must feel very bad about leaving her family. It’s hard to leave loved ones behind.
I exchange a few words with Fitz, but there is no need to be harsh. He understands what he almost did. His face is like a wall. He is afraid. We take the dragon-powder, and a mysterious flask of Estus… something Lucas mentioned. I don’t know what it is, but it’s probably important. Then we climb into an old aqueduct, and set our course for the city… and the Bell.
The city is big. Very big, and brown. It’s quiet, but it seems to be inhabited. Doors are boarded up. Rubble in the streets. Scorch marks on the walls, from dragon-powder maybe, or else from a…
We look to the skies.
Else from a dragon.
The dragon flies past. It snatches up a Hollow, then it’s gone – just like that.
It can’t be far. With all the bridges and walkways up here, we’re totally exposed. I suggest we find our way down, through the alleyways and side streets. The city is a tower, and we’re much too high up. The others agree.
The city is confusing, disorienting, and many of the roads have been blocked or barricaded; I recognize the signs. We’re in a war zone. Here and there we hear Hollows shuffling. Eyes to the sky, ears to the ground. We don’t speak. We need to make for the wall, up where we can see things more clearly, and eventually we reach it – but it stretches to the sky. The only way to go now is up.
A plaza with a staircase becomes our way to the upper levels. There are Hollows approaching, and so we hurry, but we beat them to it, they never spot us. Moving in throngs, like a misbegotten army, they wander aimlessly – no, not aimlessly. Some goal is still burned into their minds, I think, because there’s a purpose to their step. I wonder where they’re headed?
Mere minutes later we hear the sounds of battle. Do Hollows fight each other? I ask, and the others don’t seem to think so. Could it be that there’s someone still alive? For a fleeting moment there’s hope in my heart, hope of survivors, hope of friends and warmth and kinship, and I rush up the stairs of a derelict building to get a good look…
…and there’s nothing. Shuffling throngs of Hollows, locked in some meaningless skirmish. There are no uniforms, no officers, and no chain of command, just a mockery of warfare. It’s obscene, almost like children playing but with lethal weapons. As I watch, one desiccated soldier guts another, and retreats. They don’t behave like animals, but they’re not human, either. Soldiers, toy soldiers, caught in an endless cycle of death and destruction. It sickens me. I want to stop them, but how? We’re powerless to intervene.
Then Fitz’ words fall. I know they’re true. I charted out our path, and yet I hadn’t considered it – we need to go through the square below. There’s no chance to avoid detection. We’re going to have to fight them.
He speaks, with a steady voice, lays out the plan. We take out their sorcerer and the men making up the rear. Then we run for the tower with the archers, kill them, and move on. It’s a good plan. Not too much bloodshed, shock and awe them, then we’re gone. Their broken minds might be too slow to even catch us, too caught up in their sad and twisted game. Vanetia’s the problem. She’s slow. I could carry her, but I don’t think I could outrun them, not with her held in my arms. For a fleeting moment I’m angry, but I let it go. Impatience. Impatience is the enemy.
Fitz tells her not to get cornered. We don’t have time to wait – a Hollow blows a horn, and reinforcements are on their way. Without another word, Fitz jumps out the window. I throw a bottle of dragon-powder; let it shatter against the rear guard, and then Vanetia kills the sorcerer – a single arrow through his head.
I leap down onto the plaza. For all I strain my legs, I’m afraid I don’t quite make it; I’d intended to smash through a soldier and keep running, but instead I land in front of him. Within moments, I’m surrounded. Spears, hooks, swords – I see Fitz charge forward, he’s sticking to the plan, he is taking out the archers. Good.
I breathe slowly, let my ki flow like water. Step. Step. Kill. Duck, sweep – kill. Step. Step. Pain.
A hook grazes my back. I’m going to spin around and kill again, but then I hear a loud crash and look up. A bolt shatters against Fitz’ armor, he’s under fire. My eyes trail toward the tower, he’s been cornered at its base and two Hollows at the top are winding up their giant crossbows. Images flash through my mind of the deadly mechanisms, what they can do to a man at short range. I’ve got to act. Gwynn’s power fills me, and I break into a run, away from the hook-wielding soldier. I clear a barricade, keep running, feel the world flowing around me and throw myself out – over – the edge -
Below me, hundreds of feet below me, the cliffs of Lordran stare with their eyeless faces. Then I sail in through a window, twenty-five feet from my point of origin, and hurry up the stairs. I reach them just before they fire again. Vanetia is on the ground; she’s right in their sights – no cover, no protection. I’ve got to do something, but I’m too late – the crossbow fires, the recoil throws the enemy backwards, I crash into him too early and almost lose my balance.
Fitz cries out. I kill the two crossbowmen and throw them over the edge, into the abyss. Fitz is all right. Vanetia is not. She dodged the crossbow, but the man with the spear-hook has caught her. She’s hurt, badly hurt, the hook stuck in her calf. Fitz draws his bow and kills the man. No time to see if she’s all right – more Hollows are on their way. Once more I throw myself out over the abyss, cover the twenty-five feet and slam into her. I hoist her up, her blood splashing all over me. No time to heal her, I just pray that she’s all right.
Seconds later we’re inside a building. Fitz is barricading the wall behind us, and I set Vanetia down, letting Gwynn wash over her and through her. She’s still not all right. He must have hit her pretty badly. We relax, just for a second, then we walk. She’s still limping, but she says she’ll be all right.
Someone’s drawn a symbol on the wall in here. It looks like it marks out an armory downstairs. We decide to descend, and there’s a door with three dots on it. I knock it, three times, just in case. To my enormous surprise, someone opens.
No. He looks like it, but no. He’s a man, a dead man, a cursed man… but not Hollow. Not yet. Sunken eyes, withered skin, rotten teeth, but he speaks and moves and has a heart, even if it might not be beating, I don’t know. He doesn’t give us a name. He says he’s a trader, holed up down here for the others who stay sane. I ask him what our flask is, Lucas’ flask, and he says it’s very valuable. Says he’ll trade us for it. There’s nothing in here that we need, I don’t think, but just in case I browse a little. The others speak more.
He’s got something in a tub. He calls it Julia. I don’t ask. Maybe she died, died for real. I could understand keeping her corpse. Something dead that stays dead is a treasure in this place. It’s a promise of peace, I suppose.
He doesn’t believe we’re alive, at first. He says if we were dead, we would be able to see peoples’ souls. He assumed we’d taken ours from someone else, I suppose, because that’s what he does. Steals. Things, mostly, but I think he would steal souls too, given the chance. He openly barters with them. He unnerves me. We leave.
Fitz brings up the obvious, once we’re outside the door and it’s long gone behind us. We could kill him. Hollow out the last of his heart, no doubt, reduce him to a monster like the rest… but then the contents of his shop would be ours. Fitz says in all likelihood the man’s already doomed. That might be true.
But it also might not be. We have no right to judge.
Then Vanetia speaks. She says she has a right to judge. She says this man is no enemy of Gwynn, and to kill him is forbidden. Judge, jury and executioner, she has sentenced him to life.
Bitter words rise in my throat, before I’ve a chance to stop them. Again, I call her a killer. Again, she doesn’t mind. She says she senses evil in the hearts of men, and that those she deems evil must die. Those she deems good… may live. My stomach churns. She says Gwynn shows her the way. I tell her Gwynn has no right, either – nobody deserves to die. The Lord of Lords is not a monster.
In either case, Vanetia’s mind is made. We will not kill this man, because no man or god gave her the order. That seems to be the whole of her reasoning. No concern for our safety, no concern for his life… her entire being devoted to licking the high priests’ boots. Bad words rise in my mind, but I stop them before they’re on my tongue. Focus on something else.
She’s still limping. We can’t go on like this. Abruptly ending the conversation, I tell her to pull down her pants. The wound is too bad for mortal medicine, so I draw a sacred infusion and apply it to her leg. She can walk, and that’s the end of that.
We emerge under open sky again. One last obstacle in our path, then we’re out of this mad war-zone. Unfortunately, the last obstacle… is as dangerous as the Hollows combined. It’s a wide, open bridge. Not a hint of cover or concealment. If the dragon is nearby, we have no way to avoid it. Fitz takes charge again.
We will run across the bridge in three files. He goes first. Vanetia second. I am last. He forbids me from carrying her, says I need to be mobile if the dragon should come. He wants me to run away. Could I do that? Abandon them if they asked?
Maybe. But I won’t. Vanetia says she can run on her own, and I’ll let her. If the dragon comes, I can carry her to safety. I think her leg is fine, but I don’t know. It worries me. It’s pride, I think, that keeps her from asking for help. I can only hope she isn’t lying when she says it doesn’t hurt.
Fitz sets out on the bridge. No dragon awaits us… but we aren’t alone. Before I know what’s happened, a giant black knight is on the bridge.
Crossbow bolts clatter down against the stone. Fitz is under fire, exposed out on the bridge – and standing against a knight. There were pictures of them in the temple, the Silver Knights, the paladins of old. They are dead, since long before the Curse. The knight draws his blade. It’s blackened, tarnished like the armor, its silvery sheen like burnt bone… and fire seeps from his body. Necromancy.
I run out on the bridge, behind Fitz, and I draw a glyph of protection. Just a moment later, darkness descends around us. The knight – there’s something around him, some monstrous blackness that twists the very air. He burns with evil… but the glyph protects us. That does not mean we’re safe.
A blade slams into Fitz, with such enormous force that he’s almost thrown backwards. I try to call out, but I can’t – because – I’m… hit? I feel warm blood spilling all over my lap – the giant black blade almost gutted me like a fish. Stumbling backwards, I get in behind Fitz, try to call on Gwynn, try to heal him or myself, try to do… well, anything I can. I don’t know if it helps. Vanetia cries out, the air fills with light and with death, and the Silver Knight drops down on one knee. Not dead. Like a hammer on iron, the blade rings across Fitz’ armor, and then across Vanetia’s, and then I see more blood and everything blurs and for a moment I think I’m dead.
I’m not dead.
Blood rushes from my stomach. I stop it. I steady my breath, and force myself to live.
Metal meets metal. Like a thunderbolt from Gwynn, Fitz cleaves into the knight. There is fire, and then the enemy is gone. No body, just unholy flame, a burning soul trapped inside a moving metal cage. I pity him. It must have been hell, and I am glad that he is free. I’m still bleeding, a little.
Gwynn closes the wound in my stomach, though even He can’t do much for my clothes, ripped open by the force. There’s a great white X shining on the bare skin beneath my ribs, a scar of an encounter that… very nearly killed me. No time to dwell on it. The others need help. I see to their injuries, and we move – but not without bringing the tarnished silver blade. I remember the stories. Fitz might need it, if there truly are demons in Lordran.
He is quiet. I cannot see his wounds, but he must have broken ribs, maybe even broken bones. I don’t know if I can heal him, though I try. He just grunts, impossible to read. We move off the bridge, and are sheltered from the sky.
Vanetia and I exchange some short words about the knight, but she doesn’t know more than I do. He’s dead, now – destroyed, hopefully for good. We leave his armor on the bridge, a crumpled heap of blackened, charred metal – but then as we turn away, a shadow moves past us. It’s the shadow of a man, though without the man himself, and before we can react it disappears into the light. Strange. A soul? A conjured specter? Some memory of Lordran’s, some echo of the past?
There aren’t any answers. It is late. The sun is setting. Hence we move.
We are almost there, when a figure on a balcony catches my attention. It’s a lone man, looking to the west. Do the Hollows have sentries? Or maybe – just maybe – is he some undead traveller, not yet lost to the hollowing curse? I ask the others for permission to investigate. They grant it, with reluctance.
It’s a big man, tall, his armor patched and mended, his posture straight, his movements… still, but not the catatonic stillness of the Hollows. I think he’s still a man, but I cannot be sure. Not yet. Elbow lock. Knee controlled. Sword restrained in scabbard. I ask him if he’s hollow. He is not. My assault surprises him, but I am soft and don’t break any of his joints. He laughs, unaware that my next move could have crippled him for life. Or well. I suppose his life ended long ago.
His heart doesn’t beat… but to me, he seems alive. His voice is warm. His face is broad, blockish, masculine. Strong features, blond hair… warm eyes. It’s funny, but I find him very beautiful. He says his name is Solaire. He smiles and thanks me when I offer him some wine. He’s come here for the Sun. He worships it… not like I worship Gwynn, I don’t think. Not like Vanetia does. He doesn’t see it as a god, he just loves it for what it is. Warm. Bright. Beautiful. I can’t help it, I’m taken in by his passion; it’s as if the sun itself has made him radiant. He makes me happy.
The others come out to greet him. Fitz is matter-of-fact, as usual. Pragmatic questions. Directions. Threats. Tactics.
Solaire tells us that the Age of Fire is ending. The world is dying. Heat and cold, life and death, light and dark… they are all beginning to fade. He says time itself is dissolving. Different places – different times – are crossing each other’s paths. It is… difficult to understand. He says the Sun is weaker where he comes from. It is dying. Everything is dying. He gives us a stone that can sense when something is coming from elsewhere… elsewhen? It’s hard to grasp what it means, but he says it might help, and I trust him. I wish he could stay with us, but he says that this is not his place. He says that we should go.
I would like to kiss him goodbye, just for being who he is. But I don’t.
I regret my decision when he begins to fade away, and the last rays of the setting sun filter through his vanishing body. Maybe we’ll meet again. I suppose greetings are better than goodbyes. Even though he’s gone, I am happy. Happy that such people still exist. Happy that even if the Age of Fire is ending, there is light and warmth now, and love and friendship also. And so I smile.
And a few short minutes later, the dragon attacks.
We are trying to cross another bridge, this one obstructed by Hollows. I’m first on the bridge, and then the world ignites. Fire, dragonfire, sweeping over everything. I’m in the air when it happens, flying over the heads of our enemies and watch them burn to cinders. The dragon sweeps above us, landing on a tower. For a moment I fear that the others are dead, but then I hear Fitz barking orders. He’s alive. The loud clanging of his armor tells me that he’s running, charging for a staircase, down, further down somewhere, I don’t know where but it doesn’t matter. He’ll make it.
Vanetia will not. I hear her struggling to keep up, the armored skirt slapping across her thighs, boots slipping on the red-hot stone. The dragon inhales. She might be a killer, but I cannot let her die. So I make my decision. Turning to the creature, I summon up Gwynn’s power and I hurl a bolt of lightning. Like the Lord of Lords himself, I’m trying to slay a dragon.
But I am not the Lord of Lords. I don’t expect to kill it – I don’t even expect to hurt it. I just have to distract it, just for a moment, to let Vanetia get away.
I’m as successful as I can be; the dragon is enraged, it flies towards me and I roll aside, mustering every ounce of willpower to win just another second, to escape before it crushes me beneath its massive bulk. Vanetia jumps down, down the staircase, down to safety. I follow her, slamming into Fitz, dragging him with me and down into… something. I don’t know where we are. Pillars under the bridge, narrow walkways between them. Once more, the air’s aflame. Shielded from the blast by the bridge itself, we don’t burn to cinders – but the heat is strong enough that it’s impossible to breathe. Vanetia’s on her knees, screaming soundlessly or maybe crying, I don’t know – but we can’t stay here. Fitz shouts at me to move, and so I do.
Forward. Down. Brace for impact. I slam into Vanetia, almost dislocating my shoulder as I bash into her armor. One arm between her legs, the other under her armpit, she’s on my back and I’m running, running on a ledge that’s just two feet wide. The stone is red hot. If I fall, we both die.
I don’t fall. The dragon attacks again, but the pillars shield us from the worst. My clothes catch fire, and I smell burning hair, but I keep running. Fitz is behind me, his armor like an oven. I don’t know how he keeps going. Fire and smoke and chaos and panic and then there’s a doorway and then there’s darkness and there’s safety. Stagnant water is dripping through a grate. Aqueducts. We’re in the aqueducts, and the dragon can’t see us.
We breathe. The air is cool, wet, soothing. There’s a pool of standing water so I splash it on Vanetia, putting out the fire in her hair. My clothes are singed, but I’m okay. The fire never touched me, not directly. Fitz is worse off. His armor actually steams as the water drips from above. We’re alive. But we cannot stay here. The sound of the dragon reaches us, and so we push into the sewers, head toward the Parish, past the dragon and toward some vague location where Solaire told us there was a friend named Andrei.
We don’t make it before nightfall. Emerging into the city, into some tacked-on shacktown, we find the light has left us. We’re too badly hurt to go on, and Vanetia is shaking. Salty tears in her wounds, she’s still crying with panic though I don’t know if she notices. Fitz finds an old home and a hatch down to the pantry. He pries it open without effort. We descend into the cramped little space, barely fitting all three of us, and slam the hatch shut.
Pitch darkness. All is silence, except for our panicked breathing.
It’s a long while before any of us speak. It’s Fitz. He’s angry. He tells Vanetia she froze up, that she put us all in danger. She’s ashamed, I can tell. She says she’s never felt fear before, not like this. It overwhelmed her. I feel sorry for her. Fitz is right, but now isn’t the time. She’s still got tears on her cheeks. We should leave her alone.
I suggest we drop the subject and wash off. Ash and grime in open wounds is a source of infection. The others say nothing, but they’ll hopefully agree. I summon a light from Gwynn, so we can see in this dark space… and then I undress completely.
It’s strange to be naked next to Fitz like this. Were we still children, I think I would have felt embarrassed – but we aren’t, not any more. We are soldiers. I think he understands that. Vanetia doesn’t. She’s shy, reluctant, turns away in the corner by herself – but she undresses, too. I’ll tend to her later. For now, I have to help Fitz. There’s fear in his eyes, no, not fear – anticipation. This is going to hurt. Together, we strip away his scorched armor, his charred clothes and the bits of melted skin that have welded to the metal. Gwynn’s light heals him, though there will be scars. He’s soaked with sweat and fear, a pungent wild odor that is more beast than human. It’s not exactly pleasant, but it smells of strength and warmth. I touch his bare skin. Sudden hot feelings flare up in my heart and tumble through my stomach, further down. Adrenaline. I think. I turn away.
I bring out some bottles of water and begin to wash up. The others do the same. Vanetia is naked now, too, and her skin is so flawless that I find myself staring, making her uncomfortable. There’s not a scar on her, not a pockmark anywhere, not even a hint of a birthmark. Not two minutes ago, she had awful burns. Now… nothing. The skin isn’t even pink. Two white gashes across my body remind me that I’m only a human – all too human – next to her. I help her take out her hairpin. I would like to help her wash her hair, but maybe that would be strange. It’s a beautiful hairpin, just like everything else she owns.
Her clothes are singed, so I offer to wash and repair them. She’s reluctant at first, until she sees what I can do with Gwynn’s powers, that I can mend the frayed edges with a prayer and a touch. I take her clothes, they are soft and silky but they aren’t silk, they must be made of something elven. They’re barely damaged. My own robes are ruined, I don’t know if I can fix them, but I’ll help Vanetia first. It’s a shame to see something so pretty being burnt. I soak their clothes with water and begin to wash and mend them, keeping watch while I work and letting them both get some sleep.
I repair Vanetia’s clothing and I fix my own things, as best I can. The robes still have holes in them, but they’ll keep me warm at least. Then I polish up Fitz’s armor. It’s covered in soot and full of nicks and cuts, and it’s within my power to fix them. So I do.
It’s been a few hours when I wake Fitz up. In hushed voices, we talk about Vanetia. Fitz is worried, as am I. Those who freeze up from fear rarely last for very long. She could put us in danger. He’s tired, tired of not being able to trust her… and tired of not being able to trust me. I disobeyed his orders, he says, when I provoked the dragon. I know. I just couldn’t let her die. He asks me to obey him from now on. His heart is very heavy when he says it, so I tell him that I will. Then I go to sleep by Vanetia’s side, and she smells like dreams and wild flowers and her hair is like a cloud.
When morning comes we get properly dressed, and eat breakfast, and move out to greet the Sun. Vanetia takes to prayer. I exercise. Fitz tries out the blackened sword. It seems he likes it. From where we are, in daylight, we can see the Undead Parish, and the great big bell tower that has been our destination since before we came to Lordran. Since the day before yesterday. It seems it’s been a lifetime.
We head for the Parish, and see smoke. Andrei is a blacksmith, so that might be a sign of him. It is. He’s a big man, serious, bearded. He’s not as beautiful as Solaire but he is strict and he is sane. He trades me some throwing daggers, for some pine resin I found. The others talk to him longer. Vanetia wants him to repair Lucas’s sword. He eventually agrees but wants to borrow the black greatsword, so he can study it. Fitz lets him. We’ll be back once we have rung the bell.
We head down to the Parish, and walk straight into a fight.