A Frozen Soul

Disclaimer: Not my property.

The knight walked silently through the frozen forest, snowflakes sticking to the drying blood splattered across his plate-mail armour. He carried with him a solemn air, though his head remained unbowed. His armour clinked and creaked with every step, the crunching of the snow beneath his feet audible to his ears even with the northern winds blowing swiftly past, ruffling the grey fur on his pauldrons. He walked slowly and without purpose, for his goals were achieved. And yet, he was not satisfied; the flame had failed to consume him nor the darkness twist him to maddened frenzy. He had slain gods and kings in his futile quest to… he could not remember. He no longer knew why he set out on his one man crusade against the land he came to call home. He remembered a fallen knight asking him to finish the quest he himself had failed. But his journey had gone on far past the completion of the request. So many tried to manipulate him as he traveled, but he merely marched inexorably on, killing all who stood against him… and eventually those who did not. Perhaps he had hollowed without even knowing it? No, he had seen hollows and he was far too sane; though many would argue against that fact.

No matter what he was confronted by, he merely ventured on; an apathetic aura surrounded him even as he slew the greatest of monsters and gods. He had marched on, venturing forth for its own sake as he did now. Perhaps he sought bloodshed and adventure deep down, but he had not felt anything for so very long. Killing had become repetitious and fairly dull; great beasts the size of whole kingdoms rose up before him and he merely sighed at the hassle of slaying them. Yet he could not stop; he had been driven by a force he neither recognised nor would have truly cared to investigate had he known. Eventually this driving force had driven him to ruin… or at least it tried. For whilst he was not the first to follow the path the force laid out, he was uniquely suited to a victory the force could not have predicted; a victory that brought about its end. He was not the fastest or strongest of those lured by the hand of… perhaps Fate? Yes Fate will do. He could not swing a sword larger than his body as if it were light as a feather, nor move at such speeds his foes could not hope to dodge; but he was vastly superior mentally. For he could recognize and predict patterns as they formed, doing advanced trigonometry in seconds to dodge blows faster than he could see. Throughout his journey his physical attributes grew till the man he became could decimate the man he was; but it was his mind that advanced the most. He had fought mountains with toothpicks and won sheerly because of his strategy and advanced calculations. He could analyze and predict an opponent's entire fighting style by just observing their stance, armaments, body-shape, and, if he could, their origins; any unexpected variables would be factored in within nanoseconds. His tall, thin frame was not intimidating, nor was his slightly slouched posture; but if any could see his eyes through his helmet they would witness a terrifying intelligence in action, constantly shifting to observe his surroundings in further detail, idly planning a thousand steps into a hundred futures that may never come about.

At first his intelligence was not so vast; He was far above average but not quite to the godly level he was at now. As he drank the souls of the fallen, both his body and mind grew in proportion; though his mind grew much faster, to the great surprise of she who called herself Fate. All who came before him had focused on their body to the near total exclusion of the mind; yet not he. Neither did he waste souls in the purchase of goods but merely killed the merchants and stole everything of use; consuming the souls to improve himself. He wielded a bastard sword in one hand; his other was empty, for his shield had been destroyed long ago, replaced by thickened armour.

When he had devoured the souls of all the gods and apathy had consumed his own, he finally reached where Fate had guided him; his body filled with shadows, chaos, and burning fire. He cast himself into the dying flame as Fate had intended; but his body did not burn as it should. Instead the golden flames leeched the heat from his very soul, leaving only an icy emptiness within him. He heard an enraged cry as the voice grew strong enough for him to notice its separateness from himself. A figure, seemingly made from crows, descended upon him from above as his frozen soul began to kill the fires of the gods.

"Chosen Undead, You Hath Failed Me! For Your Sins You Are Condemned To Die By Mine Own Hand!" So saying, the murder of crows descended upon him, viciously clawing and pecking with unnatural strength against his armoured form. He merely stood there, never leaving his slightly slouched position, until he suddenly swiped thrice with his blade, killing nearly half of the crows with the obscene precision that had seen him safely through Lordran and beyond. The crows cried out as one, sharing their murder's pain, before fleeing to reform into a woman. She had skin as pale as snow and hair to match her crows, veins of dark purple pulsated faintly beneath her skin. A tattered black dress barely hid her form, but he would not have cared were she fully nude. She screeched at him, equal parts rage and pain composing the sound; and lunged. She had a smirk in her eyes when he made no move to dodge, only to be skewered through the mouth. He had analyzed her just as easily as any other, and saw the exact moment she would be unable to avoid the blow. He was not surprised when she dissolved into crows instead of dying; though many of those crows were impaled on his blade, he removed them with a flick of his wrist. He spun with unnatural and unexpected speed, piercing her chest as she attempted to flank him. This time the crows she dissolved into fell dead away from his blade, revealing a still beating heart impaled on his sword. Some instinct he never realized he had drove him to raise his helm and consume the heart of the witch-queen. The billions of powerful souls she had consumed over the many millennia of her existence flooded into him in a rush of fell-power. A lesser man would have fallen into madness and lost his individuality in the screaming mass of fallen heros; but his mind, sharper than any blade and stronger than an adamantine shield, devoured every soul and used them to empower itself in a desperate struggle to survive. He adapted rapidly, learning to think several complex thoughts simultaneously in order to battle the endless ocean of souls seeking to consume him. His body was enhanced out of necessity, for it could no longer support the power of his mind as it was, soon it too reached godly levels; though it was but a pale candle to the omnipresent sunlight of his mind.

After an eternity passed in a moment, he slew the last of the souls seeking to drown his mind in madness. He fell to his knees, supporting himself with his blade, a hand on the silver, snarling wolf's head pommel, the other still firmly gripping the hilt. A few moments passed before he grunted and slowly stood; shaking his head as if to clear it of some phantasmal affliction. A snow storm engulfed the land, for the coldness of his soul inflicted itself upon the world. And it was then he began his slow, directionless march to nowhere.

He was snapped from his thoughts (and for this he was grateful) when an arrow flew from the trees. He caught it and began to examine it, having already tracked the man who fired it and calculated where his allies would be if he had any. A bandit came running out from behind a tree, a chipped, cracked, and obviously stolen short, curved blade in hand. He side stepped as the bandit leapt into a thrust for his chest, slicing deeply into the man's side. He walked forward at the same unhurried pace as he had been traveling; approaching the marauders who had revealed themselves. They snarled as the first fell to his knees, bright red, arterial blood spewing from his deep wound; showing he was already as good as dead. They chattered amongst each other; attempting to raise morale and goad one of them to attack. Eventually one could no longer take it and charged, telegraphing an overhead slash. He casually redirected the blow; his left hand lashing out to strike his throat, middle and ring finger extended to crush the man's trachea. He collapsed to the frozen earth beneath them; clutching his throat in his desperation to draw breath that would not come. The others were hesitant, evidently the swift deaths of their allies disheartened them.

He decided that if they would not come to him, he would go to them… eventually. His pace did not pick up as he advanced on them; he was in no hurry. The archer apparently remembered he possessed a ranged weapon and began to frantically fire upon the approaching knight. The panicked shots were so inaccurate the knight didn't even bother dodging as he continued his slow march towards his assailants. When one of the bandits revealed his particularly cowardly disposition by attempting to flee, their apparent leader crushed his skull with a swing of his steel warhammer. Said leader's mismatched and poorly fitting armour was of significantly higher quality than that of his men, most of it being steel.

The leader growled angrily and barked at his underlings in a language the knight did not yet know; though he was evidently threatening them as they began to run forward, fear filling their eyes, though not a one would admit to it. They clashed like the sea hitting a cliff, and with every step he took a man died, till it was only him, the bandit chief, and a path strewn with corpses being rapidly consumed by the unceasing snowfall.

The chief was almost visibly fuming; he was so enraged. Though it was more likely his rage was directed at the incompetence of his men, rather than the skill of his foe. He shouted at the impassive knight, hurling what were presumably insults at the top of his lungs. Evidently his enemy's lack of reaction enraged him beyond reason, as he aimed a heavy, overhead blow meant to crush and destroy. The hammer fell striking the earth with a thunderous crack. However, the knight had dodged to the side and planted his blade in the large man's side; piercing through and through as if his armour was naught but wet paper. The blow had pierced the spine and both kidneys, the man would die in agony, barely able to even crawl.

He did not bother to finish off the screaming bandit before he began to rifle through his equipment, looking for anything of value. He had never been able to resist the call of loot, and today was no exception. He took what he presumed was the currency of this land and the sparse jewels carried by various marauders. Their weapons and armour held no interest for him, nor had he any use for food or drink. He was vaguely surprised that each possessed only a small handful of souls, having assumed they would all have several kills to their names. What was even more strange was that it appeared as if the souls were merely attached to them, rather than having been absorbed by them.

Having finished his looting, he resumed his trek. He had not gone twenty paces before his aimless wandering was once more violently interrupted. A streak of steel shot out from the trees, aimed for the slit over his left eye. He deflected the unexpected blow, moving far faster than he ever had with the bandits.

"My, my, you're a real scary guy, Hollow Knight." Further down the path stood a strange man in a white robe, his short, silver hair billowing in the wind; though his most striking features by far were his mocking, snake-like grin and eyes narrowed to slits. He held a short blade of a design unknown to the knight loosely in his right hand, though his stance was not that of one with a short reach. It was not lost on the fallen crusader that he could now understand the words the man spoke; and even as he prepared for battle he was pondering how that could be. He knew the man had spoken the same language as the bandits, yet this time he understood as if he had been speaking it his whole life. Perhaps this was the difference between a soul drowned in ancient madness and one of fresh life: power. For knowledge is a power like any other, and perhaps he had gained more than he yet knew.

The man swung his blade (which suddenly extended to reach far beyond him), aiming to decapitate. He raised an armoured hand, caught the blade, and snapped it. The man's eyes went wide as he collapsed to his knees as if he were in physical pain, surprised panic clearly visible in his eyes. "H-how…", the man's ever present smile had dropped from his face as the remains of his blade dissolved into dust. The knight noted curiously that said dust seemed to be sucked into his own armour and blade. He could feel power burgeoning in his armour and blade, though it was not so much as if they had just attained power, more like he just noticed their power as being partially separate from himself. As he pondered this new occurrence, he slowly trudged towards the gasping man who was vomiting blood and clutching desperately at his chest. He stood over him for a moment, contemplating; then drove his blade through his chest. His head tilted slightly as he watched advanced necrosis creep out from the wound, causing blackened flesh to slough off as the rot spread out, evidently having gotten into the bloodstream from the dark veins spreading out. He noticed that small chunks of ice formed in the rotted flesh, causing the flesh to be rent open, leaking yellow-green pus and causing presumably incredible pain. Somehow he could tell this was not the limit of his blade's new found power, nor his armour's.

The man's soul was surprisingly powerful, and came with many, many others. He felt his mind and body grow noticeably stronger; unusual for a single kill to have such an effect. He stood for a moment, watching the spreading necrosis consume the corpse of the strange man, before he decided to test his new abilities. He swung his sword toward a distant tree, trying to extended it like the strange man had, just to see if he could. To his mild surprise, the blade extended on the third try and he suddenly knew how to do it at will. He studied the technique thoroughly; knowing that not fully understanding his own abilities could easily be the death of him. He knew the exact speed of the sword's extension and the length it could extend to, yet somehow he felt there were depths of this new ability he could not yet access. Finished testing his new skill, he began to examine the apparently passive ability to cause extreme necrosis on contact. He found that no matter what part of his blade (including the hilt, pommel, and guard) touched an object the spreading corrosion would occur; though he appeared not to be affected. If he hit inorganic matter it would suffer its equivalent of rot. Subsequent hits upon the same target merely added a new point of decay; though if he hit the same spot the effects would be exponentially increased.

He stood in the clearing created by his (slightly uncharacteristically) enthusiastic experiments with his blade's new powers; watching the many fallen trees rapidly decay. He sighed and resumed his aimless journey. Hours later, a small, ragged camp came into view. As the encampment grew nearer he began to hear the sounds of muffled whimpering and screams under the loud sounds of revelry. He presumed these were the remains of the bandits he massacred earlier; regardless they would soon meet their end. When the evidently quite drunk excuse for a guard spotted him, he shouted out "Oi {Hic}, where tha' fuck is the rest of ya bastards? They get {hic} busy with some feckin' whore ya found out there? Haw haw haw {Hic}.". He gave a simple and eloquent reply: a suddenly extended sword to the throat. He stepped over the gangrenous corpse and into the camp.

He slashed open the back of the nearest tent; the sound not heard over the general ambiance of the place. Inside he saw a fat man violently thrusting into a bound and gagged woman, her corpse like eyes barely acknowledging his presence. He did not hesitate, cutting both in twain with a single stroke before moving on. Entering the center of the little hub of crude tents, he announced his presence with a horizontal swipe, killing most everyone in sight. The blood splattered survivors hastily pulled out blades and up pants; the unexpected attack catching them with their pants (literally) down. He stood still, allowing them to come to him. The first to reach him could barely stand and was cut down as he began to topple over from the weight of his raised sword. He slaughtered the drunken marauders with ease; his informal pseudo-style of lethal counters and dodges made swift work of the heavily intoxicated plunderers. Having killed all the feasting brigands, he began to go tent to tent, ruthlessly killing the occupants. He looted everything he could see as having value (his bottomless box enabling him to steal anything that took his fancy), at least to him. He found many slaves (most used for sex) and struck them down like any other; he cared not for innocence or guilt, merely souls.

A thundering crash echoed through the camp, followed swiftly by a booming roar of rage, "I WAS ABOUT TA FUCK THA PRINCE-─ WHAT THA FUCK 'APPENED TO MA CAMP!". He turned towards the sound, pulling his blade out of a man's chest, to see a man standing nearly twelve feet tall and wielding a blade to rival Yhorm's come stomping out of a large tent. He wore nothing but a large, ragged pelt around his waist. His long red hair billowed about behind him whilst his green eyes nearly glowed with rage as he scrutinised the remains of his camp. An incredulous look spread across his face when he spotted a knight just over half his height approaching, splattered with the frozen blood of his underlings. "A RUNT LIKE YOU KILLED ALL ME MEN, HUH? HEH HEH HEH HEH! I'MMA RIP YA TA FUCKIN' PIECES!" So saying, he leapt forward with surprising agility, blade cleaving a large cleft in the ground… and severing the knight's legs below the knees as he dodged back. For the first time in... perhaps years or centuries, the knight's icy blue eyes widened; his mobility was gone. Just before he hit the ground blocks of ice began to form in the shape of his lower legs at the wound, and began to slowly fade into the colours of his real legs and armour as he gradually started to gain feeling in the newly forming flesh.

He landed on his feet, sliding backwards a short distance on account of them currently consisting primarily of ice, and shot his blade out, aiming to cut the chief off at the waist; only for the large man to block the blow with his massive machete. He retracted his blade, watching as rust spread from the foot long cleft in the man's blade, degrading the blade to the point where it was slowly falling apart, chunks dropping off intermittently. The warchief grunted, apparently unconcerned with the damage to his blade; before sprinting forward, once more swinging his rusting blade. The knight, whose legs(and armour) had fully regenerated, leapt forward over the blow and sent his blade rocketing towards the man's throat. He was unsurprised when the giant (not by his standards admittedly) grabbed the blade with his bare hand (receiving a deep cut for his trouble) and wrenched it aside just as it pierced his neck, leaving a ragged wound barely missing his carotid artery. The battle was won; so long as he avoided instantly lethal blows (and such a thing may not be possible considering his new found healing effect) he need only sit back and watch as the man's body and blade rotted away. He continued to dodge and slash at the man, taking every opportunity to quicken his end.

The small giant fell to his knees, body covered in festering wounds and left arm (and the beginnings of his shoulder) blackened, shriveled, and leaking vile fluids. "Heh, ye got me fucker…", he vomited rotting blood and bits of his liquefying esophagus and continued his dying speech; though he seemed to be having trouble speaking with the left half of his face rotted off, the eye white and milky. "Ma clan {cough cough blurgh} 'ill bleed ya dry for this… heh heh hehhh…" He fell over dead, liquified innards leaking from every orifice. The knight simply watched before consuming his soul and walking towards the man's tent.

He entered the circus sized tent, glancing around for anything of interest; spotting a large amount of valuables, several slaves… and a naked woman tied to a bed. Oddly, she was not gagged and managed to beg for mercy when she spotted him. "Sir Knight! I beg of thee, release me from my bonds! My father in Iradrillia will see you richly rewarded for my safe return!" He paused, considering. He had never contemplated working as a mercenary (primarily because there was never anyone sane who had the funds and desire to hire one in his land), but the idea intrigued him. Perhaps he could stave off the endless boredom by actually interacting with relatively sane people… at least for a while. He lifted his blade, ignoring her shrieks of terror and pleas for mercy, and cut her bonds. She quickly scrambled off the bed and futilely tried to preserve her "modesty", staring up at him with watery silver eyes behind her bright white hair. "Sir Knight, might I know thine name?"

He stared for a moment before deciding to humor her, his voice like the groan of an ancient iceberg, "...Amisit Lucem". It was not his true name, for he had forgotten that long ago, but it would suffice.

She frowned, rolling the name over her tongue, before smiling sadly. "Such a sad name for a brave knight, Sir Lucem. Whatever caused you to take up such a mantle? What terrible tragedy have you endured for that to be your name?" He remained silent, moving over to the remaining seven prisoners. He pointed at them with his blade, silently asking what she wanted to do with them. She pointed at two of them, saying "She's my handmaiden and he's my bodyguard. I don't know the rest.". He nodded grabbing the selected two and tossing them none-too-gently over to her before killing the rest. He ran them through one by one, cleanly piercing their hearts. "Sir Lucem! Why?"

He turned to her, staring silently for a long moment. "...I am no knight." he tilted his head before sighing and continuing, "They are not yours… so they have no value but their souls."

She gasped, "Souls! What manner of being are you, Sir Lucem?" Strangely, she did not seem frightened; merely surprised. She also seemed to ignore his denial of knighthood, "And my father will surely knight you when we reach home." ...or not.

"Undead…" he doubted this would suffice, but knew no other name for his kind. Some called them the afflicted; but he did not feel cursed by his undeath nor did he feel blessed: he simply was.

"Ha, yer not like any undead I've ever seen; mindless brutes fer the most part, save the liches. But I can tell yer no lich. Lady Iradrilth, I don't trust this… Creature." This time it was the bodyguard who spoke, more than a hint of accusation in his voice.

"...Hollow." He did not truly think he had hollowed, but as a title for his kind… it would suffice. For one could say that hollowing was simply failing to fight your new found instincts… and endlessly encroaching madness. Said madness need not have helped his desire to murder the cretin.

The guard seemed about to continue, likely with a snide comment that would get him killed, before the princess interfered. "Well, Sir Lucem the Hollow, shall we away? My father must be dreadfully worried by now… Oh, I suppose you don't know the way, do you?" Lucem shook his head, silently signaling for her to continue. "You needn't worry; my guard shall lead the way. Though the journey is perilous and long, we shall surely prevail if we persevere."

He did not respond; merely walking silently towards the exit. After a moment of silence, they followed after him; correcting him when he began to travel in the wrong direction. They were assailed along the way by a pack of wolves (which Lucem swiftly dealt with) and a small gang of highwaymen (who decidedly regretted their life choices as they rotted alive) before they reached a small village. The guard was given a rusty short sword to "aid in the the group's defense" (read: wouldn't stop bitching about being unarmed).

Walking into the town they drew many stares, evidently this town received few visitors; fewer still as strange as them. A princess in rags, her guard and hand maiden dressed even worse, and a tall knight whose every step froze the ground beneath him and who did not appear to breathe. Iradrilth commented, "Perhaps we should slaughter these upstarts… they are on my father's land."

Her guard seemed concerned, "Lady Iradrilth, we lack the proper resources for a full scale purge; even for such an infinitesimal abode as this. Besides, such a place is far too insignificant for one such as you to personally purge."

Lucem did not react verbally, instead he severed the left arm and head of the nearest villager and began to ruthlessly slaughter everyone in sight. Iradrilth giggled as blood splattered onto her face, gushing from a child nearly split in twain.

The hollow knight stepped over the fallen body of a mother still clutching her young child's body and kicked down the door of a shack. The family inside cried out; mother moving to shield her daughter and father moving to confront him. His blade flashed and the man's head fell from his shoulders; he crushed the man's skull beneath his boot and advanced on his family. The woman futilely attempted to protect her daughter, throwing herself at him and grabbing his sword arm. He reached down, grasping the top of her head, and snapped her neck. He heard creaking upstairs as he pulled his blade from the young girl's chest and looked up, seeing dust fall dislodged from the ceiling. He had planned to search the attic regardless in the name of loot… and thoroughness; but this cemented the idea. He trudged up the creaking staircase, trailing his blade along the wall to spread decay. He found the decrepit door at the top and thought it almost humorous that it was locked. He gave the door a swift kick and found his foot lodged in the door; he grunted and wrenched his foot out, destroying the remains of the door. He found an old woman in a dark cloak sitting in a rocking chair, slowly rocking back and forth. She remained silent as he approached, staring. He stood before her, motionless for but a moment before he drew back his blade. Just as he pierced her chest an inky darkness shot out of her mouth, forcing itself into his eyes and throat. He staggered back before falling to his knees. As his vision was consumed with darkness he heard the raspy, gurgling voice of the dying woman. "The fallen... crave... your demise… Heh heh he…"

He felt himself falling, though he could not tell for how long; perhaps a moment or millennia. Eventually he felt solid ground beneath his feet and began to peer into the endless darkness that surrounded him. As he watched eyes began to appear, glittering balefully in nonexistent light. Slowly forms began to appear in the infinite darkness, though no light truly formed. Shock filled his powerful mind as the forms began to solidify and take on the appearance of all who had fallen by his hand; from the lowliest of hollows to the mightiest of the gods. They charged as one, a sea of rotting flesh and clanking armour. He desperately swept his blade across them, extended to its max length of a hundred fold, cutting down vast swaths of the weak hollows leading the charge. Artorias was among the first of significance to reach him, flipping into the air and slamming his blade down where Lucem stood a moment earlier. As he dodged Artorias he was slapped across the field by Manus… to be impaled on Gwyn's blade. The pain was far more than it should have been, yet he still brought his blade up to pierce the lord of cinders' throat. As he fell to the ground, pulling the giant blade from his gut, he had to immediately dodge Smough's hammer; slicing Ornstein's throat as he contorted himself to dodge a thrust from his spear. He landed in a roll, leaping to his feet with an upwards thrust into the Nameless King's skull. He jumped back, blade extending to swipe through Seath's neck as he dodged a blow from a silver knight. Kalameet swept down, his fiery breath burning hundreds of the lesser beings… and Lautrec, as he passed. The fire passed over Lucem, but the ice of his soul would not be melted and the flames died around him. The snake-like man from the path leapt forward, blade shooting out to pierce his shoulder as he dodged a swing of Nashandra's scythe. He gutted the red haired bandit chief as he dodged a swing of Gundyr's axe. The onward battle was grueling, and were it not for his newly gained healing he would have died long before the final hollow fell. He stood, half crouched from pain and blood leaking from the slits in his helmet. Dozens of arrows and blades pierced his flesh and a javelin impaled his unbeating heart. His left arm was simply gone, the ice slowly reforming it, he lacked the strength for the near instant replacement and regeneration it began as. He gasped, falling to one knee supported by his unbroken blade.

"Huh, we actually made it. Gotta admit; did not expect that." His head shot up, frantically glancing about him for the source of the voice. "You… You can hear me? Really? Holy shit! Okay, my name is Akui. Did you hear that?" He nodded hesitantly, still searching for the voice's origin. Another voice spoke up, "Can you hear me as well? My name is Mukanshin"

"Who... are... you…" He hardly had the strength to speak, the arrows in his lungs causing extreme difficulty.

"I am the malice with which you strike against the world, consuming the world with your endless hate; I am the soul of your blade, the flame of your mind."

"I am the apathy you clothe yourself in, drawing strength and protection from the yawning emptiness; I am the soul of your armour, the abyss of your heart."

His left arm had reformed enough for him to begin removing the weapons lodged in his flesh; grunting, he pulled the javelin from his heart. He heard footsteps slowly approaching him, one distinctly heavier than the other. He looked up and saw two figures walking towards him, one standing eight feet tall and clad in spiked, black armour, the helm seeming to be filled with an endless void. The other was nearly completely hidden in writhing white cloth that seemed to strike out randomly at the environment; the edges coming to a monomolecular edge. The only visible feature of the shorter figure was a single golden eye peering out from the rags.

"We have been with you in many forms since you first awoke in that decrepit asylum so very long ago."

"Eventually we gave up hope of ever communing with you directly; but we assisted however we could."

"But then that old witch sent your mind hurtling into the frozen abyss of your soul to confront those you have slain. The spell was meant to force the souls following you to attack; but you consume any souls in your vicinity not tied firmly to a physical form."

"Therefore, you gained access to your soul… and all those within it. For us to communicate in the waking world we must strengthen our bond, it will also increase our power."

"You may want to explore your soul, get to know yourself… and those residing in it." He pulled the last arrow from his chest as he stood up; finally taking the time to observe his environment, finding himself in a frozen version of Lordran somehow roughly fused with Drangleic and Lothric, Oolacile visible in the distance. In the distance he could see movement, hollows and more powerful creatures freely roaming the land. Violence was common, but none remained dead for more than a few moments. The image vaguely reminded him of the battle he had just fought, as all who had fallen by his hand or that of those he had slain prowled the twisted city. "If you best them enough times, the influence of your soul will corrupt them until they become a part of you, then you can command them; eventually growing capable of summoning them into the waking world. At first they will be mere spirits, possessing barely a tenth of their true strength; but eventually they will be able to fully manifest upon the land. Though the weakest among them have already fallen to the corrupting influence of your powerful soul."

He stood there for a moment, simply watching the goings on in his soul, before he approached the nearest group of hollows. For hours he slaughtered everything he came across until they submitted to his will; until Akui tapped upon his shoulder. "We need to begin the ritual to intensify our link now. Once we're done you will be able to bind with those you have subjugated; you will gain little from the weakest of them, but they come in great numbers." He merely nodded and followed after the vaguely feminine being. They eventually reached the cradle of the first flame and sat around the bonfire after killing and restraining Lord Gwyn. The ritual was as simple as cutting his hand and placing it upon the sword as if he were to link the flame or remove the blade. The blood trickled down, igniting as it mixed with the blood of those he was bonding with. "There is… one more of us. Though they are not quite… sane. Regardless, they are a part of you and carry incredible power; thus, you should bond with them as well. We will accompany you, as we always have." His head tilted slightly as Akui continued, "We shall lead the way, but you must be wary; for they may strike out in their madness." He followed after them as they lead him towards what he eventually realized was the undead asylum. When he reached the cell he had languished in for what felt like an eternity; he found a hellish, burning tunnel leading downwards into an unknowable darkness. "This is where they lie… and where we must leave you. We cannot accompany you down into their territory or they will devour us." He nodded and silently advanced, the dancing, writhing flames clung to him but did not burn him. Throughout the journey he heard maddened laughter and despondent cries, all seeming to come from no particular direction; seeming to be everywhere and nowhere. After a short eternity he came across a hunched figure; so covered in rusting chain that their features were completely obscured.

A powerfully weak voice boomed quietly from the figure, "̧S͘O, YO͜U̵'V̴É FINAL͡L͏Ỳ C̸O͢ME͡,͞ GU͠IDE͠D B͝Y ͞T͟HE ͟WH͞ƠR̢E̸S W̛HOSĘ ̸U͠ǸC̶EA͠SIN̸G͡ ̶P̨LAT̕I͡T҉UD̢E͝S ̕C̢A̷N͘ N͡O̷ L͜ON͏G͡E̢R͜ CÀLM͝ M͞I͠N̛E̡ ̡R̷A̴G̸IN͢G ͟TH̀ƠÙG͡H̸T̨S̷.͝ ̢T̶HE͞Y̧ ̨ON͏C̴E HELPE̕D ̸M͞E͏ ͢WH͝E͏N ̧W͞E ̀C͞OUL̡D͡ ̛N̨OT͟ ͏REACH Y͟ÒÚ,͞ ҉BUT ̡TḨEI̶R VOICE̛S̶ CAN ŃO ̢LON̨GE͡R PE̢N̕ȨTRAT͟E T̷HE͠ ̵B̡EDLA͘M ̵OF M̀Y ̡MIND͞. B͏U̢T̡ ̵NO̢W̕ ̸YƠÚ'̶RE̵ H͘E̕R̢E̡,̵ ̴AF͞T̛ER ̶SO V́ER͜Y L̡ONG̛... ̕O͢H H́O̶W I ͠W͠A͡IT͢E͝D̷ FOR ͝Y̷OU̡,͡ L͠ON̶G͜I̢NG͠ ҉T͞O H͠EAR ͘Y̢O̵ƯR V̸ÓÌC̶E, C͟R͘A͞VIN̵G ͡Y҉ǪUR ͝CARE̡SS̢. ͘B̛UT I͟S̀ I͠T ̨T̶O̴O̴ L͞ATE͜? AM ̨I͏ ͘T́OO ͞F͜A̸R̸ ͠G̸O̢N̷E? C͝ÓULD T̕H͜E̸ ̀ĮC̡E OF ̢Y̶O̵U͢R̨ ͞H̸EAR͟T̴ ̸WA̶RM̧ ̨FOR̴ M̛E̵ ́AS͝ ̀I̕T͞ ͞UNKN͝OẂIN̵G̡LY̢ DOE͞Ś FO̢R T͏H̕È SLUTS A̵B̴O͏V̸E̶ ͘US̵?͝"̧

͘

He frowned, staring silently at the mighty, feeble creature before him for a long while before he spoke. "You ask me for affection, for consideration, for love? I have been alone in a land that sought my endless demise for time immemorial; and you ask me for love? I can do naught but try; having not known affection in all my life. Perhaps you and your fellows could show me what such words mean; though as they are a part of my soul I know not how they could have learned of such things."

Slowly, the being stood, revealing itself to have a height rivalling the greatest of the gods; and turned towards him. It stared down at him, burning eyes filled with unyielding madness as it began to laugh. "…̨S͟O ̨Y̡OU WOUL̷D҉ T̶RY͏?͠ Theǹ ͝I sup̡po͝s͜e ̶I ͞w͏ill j͡o̡i̵n t̴he who̴res̕ i̡n̢ ҉b͏o̡nd̛i̴ng͝ ҉wit̕h ̸y͜o̢u;͏ ̷şo͏ t͞h̵a͟t ͝I͘ migh͘t g̢ai̧n̴ y̸ou͜r̢… ̷l̸ove̡. Į ̴a҉m҉ ͘t̕he̶ ̀ r̵av͠i͏n͝g ̶m̧adnes҉s t͏hat͝ ̷kee̷ps y͏oų goiǹg, ̛th̀e ͡ut͠tèr͢ ͢ińs̛ani͞ty ͝that ̀dŗi̧v̨es y҉òú ̨o͘n; I͢ am̧ ̵th͡e ̵s͜óuļ of ͜y͝o͞u͘r f̡l̸es̨h̴,̶ ҉the ch̨a͜os̕ ̴o͟f̴ yǫur̡ ̶èxist̵e͜n͏c̛e͘. ͝I̷ a͏m͢ Kyō͢k̷i̴ ͢"̵

The ritual ended as the burning blood pooled around the blade; black, blue, red, and a kaleidoscopic cyclone of psychedelic colours swirled together. He stood silently, watching the colours swirl for a long while before Kyōki spoke, "͘M̨uçh ͡as̢ ̸Į wo̴u͜l̡d҉ lo̸ve҉ ̧ţò ̨siţ her̕e ̡an͢d staré a̛t͝ the b̕e̷g͜i͢n͜ni̛ngs͡ ̴of͞ yo̶ųr Şe̴a ̶o͠f̴ Binding҉ ͠Blood̴;̀ y̨ou need to ̶a̶waken ̛b͝efo҉r̸e y̧ou̢r̶ ̨"frie̕n̨d̕s͡"͘ ͡not͡ice̵ ̸s̷òm̸eth̷in͘g'̶s w̵r͏o̶ng.͜"

"While it has been hours here, mere moments have passed in the waking world."

"Perhaps now would be a good time to experiment with summoning some lesser hollows? It will drain an amount of your soul energy loosely corresponding to the combined power of those who summoned. You need not worry for this energy will replenish itself quickly, for it is always slowly growing. A few dozen hollow soldiers or zombies should be barely noticeable; but you have no where near the power necessary to summon one of the "Boss Creatures"."

"To leave, you need only close your eyes and focus on awakening, to return is just the opposite."

He lowered his head and focused; closing his eyes as instructed. Before his eyes had even opened he felt the rotting wood floor give out beneath his weight. His knees barely bent from the force as he looked about. Akui's voice rang out in his head, proving the success of the linking. "To conjure, focus on what you wish to summon and channel mana(soul energy) to bring it out." He nodded and raised his left hand, focusing on channeling the faint feeling of power within him whilst thinking of hollow knights and zombies. Before long a light flowed from his palm and settled before him, slowly taking the shape of those he meant to summon. "With practise this process will become much quicker. Command them with your thoughts; think of what you wish for them to do. You need not micromanage them, they are capable of rudimentary decision making based upon your objectives, stated or not. They and the souls they have claimed will return to you when either they die or you recall them." He swept his hand out, silently ordering them to spread out and slaughter the townsfolk. They did not bother with the doors, charging through the decaying walls without a thought. He followed them out, widening one of the holes to admit his slightly larger form; and watched as they carried out his orders as the building collapsed behind him. Iradrilth laughed uproariously, and shouted "Burn it all! Hahahahahahaha! We must complete the purge!" He summoned up his pyromancy, noting to his surprise that the fire burned blue in his hand; seeming to absorb light and heat from its surrounding in contrast of all logic. He fired a jet of this flame at a nearby building, watching as the wood crumbled into a strange facsimile of ash as the heat was rapidly leached from it. The pseudo-fire spread out, leaving naught but freezing ash behind. He turned to Iradrilth as he mentally ordered those he summoned to spread out and continue to kill until they themselves are slain. She had a huge smile on her face as she watched the village burn before turning to him, "Sir Lucem, you never mentioned being a mage! Necromancy and fire magic? My father is going to love you. The royal mage could give you some instruction if you wish to expand your repertoire."

The guard grunted, wiping the blood of those who foolishly thought the princess a vulnerable target from his blade and spoke up. "Hmph, we should get going; best not to keep the king waiting."

They soon reached the well hidden entrance of a large cavern, which Iradrilth identified as one of the ways into Iradillia. "Did I not mention Iradrillia is a subterranean empire? Hahahahahahahaha! We are not a normal kingdom and we care naught for the laws and conventions of those above." He followed them unhesitatingly into the dark, for such feeble shadows could not hide the truth from eyes that knew the abyss as well as his. He saw and heard many scurrying creatures in the twisting tunnels before they reached the large gates of the kingdom. Spear wielding skeletons opened the gates upon spotting the princess, though they very nearly attacked him before doing so. "Welcome to the daemon-necropolis of Iradillia! My father, the Daemon-Lich King, resides in the Black Palace; and we shall meet him there." As they ventured through the undercity they received many odd looks from many strange and inhuman creatures. Some were full on demons (though not those of his land) whilst some seemed to be mixed or fully human-esque undead. They approached the Black Palace, the towering guards let them in at the word of the princess, and saw the splendor of the king's residence. Iradrilth seemed disappointed when he showed no reaction to the wealth she must have thought as hers. After a short walk they came upon a large set of gilded doors, behind which laid the king's throne, from which came the sound of intense discussion in a twisted and vile language. "Grkth Onkadc Vctn Zgfeil Drkonthgnag Didcrothgna P'tothkna!"

"Notier Frkonk Telliagnhethronkadsa! Drcactr'a Fec'tre Ircadracth! Iricadath Icnaute… Ahh, my daughter you have returned to me at last! What kept you, and who is this stranger you have brought before me?" Evidently their arrival interrupted a rather heated discussion, though it appeared the king did not mind.

"This is the man who saved my life and… purity. A swarm of dark hooded men ambushed my caravan and took me hostage. They sealed my true form along with my magic and sold me to a half-giant bandit chief, who intended to rape me. Amisit Lucem here slaughtered them all and rescued me and my surviving followers. He also knows a bit of magic, it would seem." She smiled at him, silver eyes seeming to glitter as she spoke; he thought that perhaps she had developed some sort of reverse nightingale syndrome.

The king's frown at her capture faded into a grin at Lucem's arrival upon the painted scene. "Well it seems you are deserving of a reward, Sir Lucem. Let Knighthood and citizenship be your first reward. A suite in my Palace a second, for the savior of my only heir deserves nothing but the best of lodgings. You have knowledge of magic? Then my archives and High wizards knowledge are opened to you as my third reward. Hmmm, I know not your race, so tell me what is it you eat?"

Lucem was silent for a moment before replying, "Souls.".

The king raised an eyebrow, "Truly, you subsist on the purest essence of existence? How interesting. If it is souls you need then it is souls you shall have; every day one hundred prisoners and slaves shall be yours to devour, you shall be made an executioner and mercenary, the blade of my land. Of course you shall be compensated for every mission you undertake. Finally I gift to you 100 Zerax Crystals, objects of great magical power infused with lovely darkness." The king was grinning throughout his entire announcement, though Lucem could see shrewd falsity in his openness.

Lucem nodded his acceptance and requested guidance to the archives. The king had a servant lead him there, the butler-esque figure bowed and strode through a nearby door. The archives were huge, though Seath had accumulated far more knowledge. What interested him was not the volume of knowledge but the newness of it all; for not a drop of the magic of this land resembled his. He spent three days rapidly reading through hundreds of books, forgetting not a word and not even stopping whilst he slaughtered the slaves gifted to him each day, before a different servant interrupted him. The king had a mission for him, it would seem.

He reached the throne room to find the king still wearing that same fake smile. "Ahh, Sir Lucem, a pleasure. Unfortunately this is not a social call. It would seem some of my citizens were fool enough to think attempting to summon a greater chaos daemon was a good idea. Now there's a portal to a daemon world open in my kingdom pouring out crazed daemons of the darkest gods. Teach them the error of their ways and seal that gate, with the assistance of my elite soldiers of course." There was something sinister in the man's benign smile, a strange glint in his golden eyes.

Lucem nodded his understanding and walked out of the palace, immediately noticing the swirling, multicolored portal made of inverted light screaming with the voices of the damned. For a moment he wondered how he had not noticed that whilst studying; then decided closing the hell gate was more important. Using one of the thousands of spells he learned in his brief study, he teleported to where he could see a large group of armoured soldiers clashing with an ever growing swarm of crazed daemons. Judging by the fact that not all the daemons came from the direction of the portal, he guessed something was driving a great number of the citizens mad.

He carved his way through the infernal hordes of maddened beasts towards the shack that the endless swarm poured from, guards dying at his side, their souls his when their slayer fell by his hand. He pushed through the destroyed door frame, blade flashing almost faster than even he could see to strike the tide of flesh that surged towards him, like a stone fighting the ocean.

Soon the gaping tear in reality came into sight in all its mind shattering wrongness, and his ferocity intensified ever more. When he reached the eye of this maelstrom he could find no way to close the portal. He stood there, holding back the hordes of unrelenting madness alone for a time before he received a kick in the back, sending him hurtling through the portal. He swirled around catching the traitorous guardsman with his lengthened blade as the man sneered out, "The Queen sends 'er regards."

The unholy gate snapped shut, severing half his blade. The surviving guards collected it and brought it before the king, spinning a tale of glorious and noble sacrifice. The king frowned and his daughter wept whilst his wife hid her wicked smile. The king had the broken blade set in a place of honor in his gallery. And there it sat for a thousand years, untouched, unwatched… unnoticed. The blade had slowly been regenerating itself whilst its master fought endlessly in the blackened madness of the darkest gods; until it had fully regrown and a gauntlet clad hand spattered with the vile fluids of a billion demons clasped shut around its hilt. A chill wind swept the land as a ancient, cold and rasping voice seemed to whisper "Κάθε ελπίδα έχει φύγει, για το θάνατο περπατά στη γη.", and the world grew colder.

The king paused mid sentence, suddenly staring seemingly straight at a wall. The people who had come to petition him were far too weak to sense what had happened, but they two knew something was wrong; though they thought it was with the king. The king stood, gesturing to the guards to remove the citizens as he strode swiftly to his treasury, where he sensed the familiar disturbance. He threw open the doors to see a knight stained with endless layers of multicoloured blood holding the somehow repaired sword of the one his daughter still cried for. Rage began to fill him at the desecration of the artifactual remains of his momentary servant, before the being spoke, "Your soldiers betrayed me… on the orders of your queen.". The king's eyes widened minutely, though he was not truly surprised.

"She fled the kingdom recently; taking a large retinue of my soldiers with her and kidnapping my daughter. She is believed to have aligned herself with the forces of Chaos. Many are being tortured on charges of treason… your job is still open, if you wish." A wry grin spread across the dark king's face.

Preparations for what they both knew would be a brutal war began in earnest; recruiting and training sped up, magical research was increased a hundredfold (Lucem spending the majority of his time in the archives when not on missions), and siege engines and weapons were built and improved as much as could be achieved. Lucem did not bother training his swordsmanship nor his body, for a thousand years in hell had done that for him. Instead he focused on increasing his power; oscillating between researching magic and combating the many souls he had consumed, seeking to gain their power and servitude. He has found that the many, many daemons he had consumed were incredibly difficult to force even the slightest amount of compliance, let alone bind. Luckily for him they reside in Kyōki's plane, kept isolated to fight amongst themselves and not wreak havoc throughout his soul.

He learned many things, arcane secrets most thought lost to time, magic so dark it makes night seem like day, rituals to blacken the brightest of souls, and truths best left buried; all were known to him as that black library relinquished its dark knowledge. He carefully studied each ritual he performed, choosing those that gave him the most. Before long he stood eight foot, flesh stronger than steel and armour far greater. There was no part of himself he had not enhanced; mind, body, blade, armour, and magic. On many days the king joined him in his rituals, both to participate and enhance.

War was on the horizon. War like this world had never seen. The champions of chaos and darkness prepare to bring ruin to each other. Those nations unaware of the tidal waves of hatred, madness, and evil preparing to smash against each other shiver in unknown, primal fear. For whilst they know not why, they can sense their destruction is imminent. For these two great empires care not for the innocent lives that will be violated and annihilated in their wake.