This place scares me. And yet I don’t want to leave.
It is called Huntsman’s Copse, and while a bonfire burns brightly here, it is a small respite in the pervading darkness. This is not a welcoming world. I do not know why I am here--I just know that this is the place I must be. It’s cold. So very cold. I huddle up to the fire, but there’s not much hope here. This is my home for the next two hours, and the beginning of a journey I must take.
I write this journal so that future travelers may be wary of the horrors I know lie ahead.
The Twelfth Day of October in the Year of Our Lord Two-Thousand Thirteen.
I am alone at this bonfire, and yet I am not. There are two ghostly visages that haunt this camp. I see them but I do not know if they see me. They explore the area as if unaware that they have passed into the next world. I see them swing their swords and warm themselves at the flames, but they do not speak.
Neither do I. Instead, I silently inspect my surroundings. A few steps away, a blood-red rune saturates the ground. It warns me of “something ahead,” yet all I see below me is a misty valley. I dare not take another step forward lest I fall to my death, though it is understood in this frightful place that death is not a finale but merely a means to an end. Ravens clutter the distant sky. I prefer not to provide them the carrion for which they hunger.
A nearby vendor has offered me a dispelling ring, which wards against all sorts of dark magics. I know better than to grow confident after slipping it on my finger, but I feel strengthened anyway. A sinister wall of fog nearby does not allow me passage, so I move into a nearby cavern.
It is here that I meet the first grotesquerie of the many to come. The lurching abomination is no match for a temple knight such as I. Yet unbeknownst to me, another mutant rests in the shadows, and as I pierc one foe with my halberd, I awaken the sleeping fiend. I injure both with one strike, but not before they rend my flesh. This is only the beginning of the troubles ahead. I enter the cavern and the blackness engulfs me. I take a few hesitant steps and tumble into the depths.
My corpse is left for the creatures of the night and my accumulated souls have been left behind, but my spirit returns to the bonfire. I must retrieve those souls. I must forge ahead.
I have emerged from the cavern and climbed the steps to a temple that lords over the area. The moment I enter the doorway, I am greeted with a sharp arrow fired by an unseen assailant. I retreat, raise my shield, and push slowly ahead. The next arrow ricochets off of my sturdy shield but I find myself assaulted by another gruesome denizen of this weary place. Hemmed in by this thief and his dual daggers, I succumb yet again to the chill.
I know now. I know that I can lure this thief out of the temple and onto the relative safety of the stairway outside. I may then rush forward and attack the next abomination out of the range of the non-stop barrage of arrows. Instead of using the estus flasks that have been provided to me, I have taken to using a healing spell to refresh myself between skirmishes. I can only cast it a few times before resting at a bonfire. I am hoping I might find one soon.
On the other side of the temple, a ladder beckons me to descend into the bleak forest below. I have little fear of the limping torchbearers nearby and cross the stone bridge that spans the ravine. I am unprepared for the creature roaming just beyond. He is dressed as an executioner and wields a colossal sickle in each hand. My shield provides some protection from his blows, but I don’t have enough stamina to fully block him. It is best to roll away from his attacks, but I have learned this lesson far too late.
The executioner is not alone.
The halberd has proven to be a liability. I greatly prefer an axe I had among my belongings. I enjoy its speed and flexibility to the halberd’s long reach but cumbersome weight. As long as I take careful steps, it proves a worthy weapon. I have come upon a raised bridge with 7,810 souls in my possession. I glimpse a nearby rotunda with a convenient lever within, and so I sprint into it.
It’s a mistake. A thief drops from above, almost directly onto me.
No. Wait a moment. I have escaped the reach of the thief’s daggers. I lure him outside and slash into him until he collapses. I pull the lever and hear the bridge outside slowly descend. I am thrilled to be crossing into a new area. I see flames on the other side. They look so warm, so welcoming. When I finally come close to this fire, however, I can hardly bear to look. It isn’t tinder feeding these flames. It’s rotting corpses. The bonfire I so desperately seek is here. Behind a locked iron door. My goal is clear: find the key.
I have somehow managed to traverse a treacherous overpass that provides one of several paths I might take from that abhorrent funeral pyre. Thieves and archers do their best to hinder me, but I can hold my own. I now have 9,035 souls in my possession. I know I could return to a second bonfire I had found, but I can feel progress looming ahead. I am so tantalizingly close to a breakthrough. The path comes to an end, and a glowing orb hovers above a charred body. Another rune etched on the ground advises of a “trio ahead,” but I laugh at such a warning. Surely these wretched thieves are no match for me. As it turns out, I am no match for them.
While I find comfort in seeing spirits from other worlds fight at my side, there’s no greater comfort than a true companion. White markings on the ground tell me I might summon a phantom into my plane of existence. Several attempts to draw such a being into my realm prove futile. Soon, however, a spirit takes form. His name is mtronc_21. Mtronc is not just a companion, it turns out. He is a godsend. Together, we take down almost every danger there is to face, including that trio of bandits protecting the key that led to my precious bonfire.
Mtronc is a stalwart warrior, but even he is not infallible. We edge forward along the cliffside to find two opponents we had never encountered. They were like those sickle-wielding executioners I encountered when I first entered the forest, but ruby-red from head to toe, as if they’d been dipped in a stagnant pool of blood. Mtronc does not survive the ensuing battle, but I muddle through. After I defeat the second red phantom, I take a moment to remember mtronc_21. He was my friend.
How can such an atrocity exist, even in a place as foreboding as this?
I am now at a crossroads. A wall of fog separates me from certain death. I just do not know what the instrument of death will be. There may be a dragon behind the murky curtain, or a fearsome behemoth that defies description. I explore a nearby cave, but it is so dark I must light a torch to find my way. The undead lurk here. I can turn these skeletons into a pile of bones, but they find a way to reassemble themselves. This is not a challenge I am prepared for.
The wall of fog is suddenly an attractive possibility. But not before I use these souls I have in my possession. I return to the bonfire and consider my options, ultimately deciding to enhance my endurance, strength, and health. I trudge back to the foggy door, but rather than enter alone, I decide to lend my aid to another adventurer in a world both unknown and yet exactly the same as my own. I place a rune on the ground and am immediately summoned. Bucephalus326 has enlisted me, as well as another phantom called TheIdiomatic.
Behind the shimmering curtain is a trio of cloaked necromancers, though they don’t prove to be the greatest obstacle. Rather, it’s the horde of skeletons they summon to the arena. Some of these undead minions have wheels as abdomens, and roll towards us at impossible speeds. How can such an atrocity exist, even in a place as foreboding as this?
TheIdiomatic is the first to fall. I am not far behind.
I shall never know if Bucephalus326 triumphed.
I have joined another pair of adventurers: x_Jin_Gitaxias and Twilite_TA. (Such strange monikers these phantoms possess!) We emerge victorious, rather easily in fact, and I receive a Token of Fidelity as a reward. I know not what to do with this token, but I suspect it will come in handy in the future.
I decide I am ready to face this horde on my own. This is a poor decision.
It’s a poor decision the second time.
And a third.
My time in this world comes to a close. I can feel myself slipping back into a mundane, earthly existence. I saw so much, yet so very little. I must return to this awful place. I don’t know what draws me to it. I just know I belong here.
Yes. I am prepared to die.