Disclaimer: Still on steam, still not mine.
AN: Increased the height of the rusted iron stairs. I'll try to be as true to game as I can, but some things are just too 'video gamey' for me to not have to adjust. Shout out to the Supreme Gamer and his story where Velka isn't the big bad, shockingly. Thanks for the start up help lad.
"Now Vorago, if you want us to get out of here you need to give me that key. I am well aware you ate it, but that doesn't make it yours, it makes it ours. You'd best not be so contrary when we find whatever it was I lost. I know you don't want to spit it out, but if you don't I will be unable to find you anything else to eat."
At that, a white mist seeped from the brand on the back of the withered knight's hand, taking on the shape of the same rusty key he had plucked from the uninvited corpse just moments ago. Offering a brief thank you to his companion, the knight flung the door to his crumbling and unwanted prison wide, basking in the glory of pure freedom.
Until he noticed that "freedom" entailed a long dirty hallway filled with other poor hollowed inmates, some still locked in their cells. Taking pity on these souls so unfortunate as to not have an item laden corpse drop into their cell, he opened their cell doors, letting the hollowed inmates slowly shamble out. The knight lightly shooed the free hollows towards their fellows, standing back with a happy smile as he noticed them all vacantly stand together.
Hearing a distant stomping sound, he looked between the bars lining the right side of wall, giving a start when he noticed a large horned demon holding a massive twisted axe. The being had no lips, giving it a permanent snarl and its body was dotted with bony protrusion.
"Wouldn't want to run into that thing now would we? Oh really, that's great Vorago, we'll pay him a visit later then. Well the journey of a thousand items and all that eh friend? Away we go!" So saying, the knight took off at jangling run, waving to the other freed inmates as he went by, wishing them the best on their own quests.
Leathery bodies clad in nothing but loincloths as a faded nod to the modesty they had in life turned to follow the noisy knight's brief sprint down the corridor. The glowing and vacant red eyes in sunken skulls tracked him until he walked up the stairs and out of sight, his passage causing the curse addled husks to feel a brief flicker of emotion and thought through the haze of undeath before once more losing themselves to the blissful dark.
"Look Vorago, a sword in the ground! Thank goodness, I don't like my chances if I have to fight anything with this pathetic thing." Latching the straight sword hilt onto his belt, the hollowed knight reached out to grab the impaled sword. As his right hand reached for the hilt, the Darksign on the back of his hand briefly flared, lighting the bones and ash around the twisted sword.
"Woah! What's that Vorago? Not a weapon? Well why didn't you say so earlier, I could have at least avoided the surprise from the fire lighting, nearly scared me to death. It is quite a beautiful fire thought, perhaps we should dry off from that little jog though the water and rest here a bit…"
Plopping down with a muffled clanking, the knight sat on his rear and stared into the softly burning fire with his arms resting on his knees. As the flames danced in his orange eyes, he gave a soft smile and hummed happily to himself at the sense of warmth and peace sweeping over him.
"There is something beautiful about a fire, don't you think Vorago? All the aches and pains from that old cell seem to flee in the face of this warmth. Yes yes, I know we have things to do, and we will. You just need to relax, take some time to stop and enjoy things. After all, most of the journey is in getting there, ahaha!" Pushing himself to his feet with a clank of shifting metal, the knight turned to look about the courtyard he was in more closely.
A light dusting of snow covered parts of the ground, with small banks gathering in the corners of the rectangular yard and bits hiding in the shadows cast by loose bricks lying about. Turning around, he could see the small doorway he entered through, knowing it led to a small circular room containing a ladder that went back down to the cells and a small pool where one hollow was enjoying a relaxing soak.
Looking forward once more he saw a large discolored door directly ahead, and a much smaller red rust door to his right, hidden in the shadows cast by the covered walkway circling the yard. Walking over to the smaller door, he found it unwilling to open and could see through the bars that it was blocked with a heavy plank running across the length. Giving a little shrug, he walked over to the larger door.
Putting his back into it, the tarnished knight pushed the massive double doors open wide enough for him to comfortably walk through. Patting his hands off, he poked his head in the room for a brief look around. Seeing nothing but pots and a large open floor, he confidently strolled inside. Before even making it a few steps, a flash of orange near the center of the room caught his eye. Jogging over, he saw what looked like three orange claw marks on the ground, but as he got closer he noticed they rearranged themselves into a word.
At that moment, the knight heard the massive door behind him slam shut, and an obese demon similar to the one he saw prior crashed down in front of him. This one however, was wielding a great hammer and most certainly not imprisoned by bars.
"OH LORDS I'M DEAD! What Vorago, roll to the left? You got it! To safety we go!"
The knight went to roll to the haven of the newly noticed open door that was far too small for the demon's girth to get through, hoping to avoid the surely incoming swing from the great hammer. However, all he succeeded in doing was hitting the ground with a mighty clank and standing up just in time to be hit with a golf swing from the sturdy weapon.
Letting out a heave of air, a shrill scream, and hearing more than a few bones crunch from the impact, the knight was launched through the doorway from the force of the hit. Unfortunately, the force was also enough to carry him over the edge of the set of stairs just inside the doorway.
"Ow! *clonk* Oof! *clang* Hrk! *crash*"
Fortunately, or perhaps not, his trip down the stair was soon stopped by the apparently immovable twisted sword of the bonfire at the base of the stairs. Crashing into it at speed, the knight was briefly wrapped around the weapon before flopping onto his back with a wheeze. Wracked with pain from his wounds, the knight felt as his eyes dilatated till there was nearly no iris left, as his branded right hand once more reached for the hilt stuck in bones.
With a dulled *fwoosh* of flames the bonfire was lit, and its warmth spread over the undead knight near it, drawing a sigh of relief from his throat as the supernatural heat knit his wounds together. Sitting up slowly and shuddering as he felt his bones slip back into place, he slipped closer to the mesmerizing flames. For a short while he stared into the flames, lost in thought and shaken by his near death.
"That didn't go well. What gives Vorago, I dodged just like you said and look what happened! Too heavy? That is true I suppose, all this armor does limit my mobility, but without it every hit would hurt that much more. Hmmmm, you are right, if I didn't get hit at all I wouldn't have to worry about being damaged or reducing damage… Well you've convinced me, nudity it is! Take this sword hilt as well, I feel I'll be better off just barehanded honestly, at least until we can find a real weapon."
Having reached this decision, the old knight armor currently on his body turned into a fine white mist that was all sucked towards the brand resting on his hand. Not a moment after, the dingy sword hilt followed suit. Jumping to his feet, the desiccated looking knight did a few experimental rolls, much happier with his increased mobility. Rolling into the nearby pool, the knight let out a light laugh as he felt the grime of his long imprisonment and more recent brush with death wash off.
"I see what that one hollow was getting at, this is quite relaxing. A brief soak wouldn't harm anything..."
Climbing out of the pool, the beef jerky knight stopped at the bonfire for a quick dry off before walking out of the small room through the only doorway that didn't lead to obese warty death. Spotting the telltale glow of an item inside a door just to the left, he ducked inside and ran his hand through the mist, sucking it up and leaving behind a tower kite shield. Grinning at it for a second, glad to finally have something that would increase his survival chances, he gave a cheer before noticing the shield turn to mist and slip into the Darksign.
"Vorago what gives, I need that to not die. I know you're hungry but if I'm not at my best we can't gather everything as easy. I won't need it yet? Very well, I expect it back well before I need it however."
Walking out of the small room he was in, the hollow knight trudged forward, barely acknowledging the ruined hallway he was in and paying no mind to the fleeing hollow ahead of him. Halfheartedly passing his hand through the mist collecting on a corpse in the middle of the hallway, he brushed off the knowledge of receiving a broadsword and continued his trek up the hallway, entering the door to the left. Letting out a sigh at seeing more stairs, he started his climb only to pause at seeing a hollow in front of a wall of fog staring at him and lightly swaying back and forth. Seeming to get some of his spirit back he walked up the last few steps before charging towards the similarly dressed hollow.
The hollow tensed at his approach, but before it could notch an arrow on its short bow the knight was upon it, lashing out with a hand.
To firmly pat him on the shoulder.
"Hey man, good job. It is nice to see you guys finally moving around a bit. I was worried you would all stay clustered up down stairs forever. Keep working at it, I'm sure whatever it is you are looking for or working towards you can make it. So proud of you guys…" Smiling to himself, the nearly nude knight walked forward and held up his right to make the fog wall dissipate and allow him through, leaving behind one very confused hollow.
Happily chuckling to himself, the loincloth wearing knight stopped dead upon seeing the body of the knight that had saved him in a cell in front of him. Giving a gasp and charging towards the collapsed cell door and tugging on it, he realized he wouldn't be getting in that way so ran around the wall, trying to find some other entry point. Seeing nothing along that wall either, he frantically looked around before seeing a large metal ball at the top of the nearby set of stairs.
Charging up the stairs to give the ball a roll to hopefully bust through the wall, the knight had to hop to the side when the ball was pushed down by a hollow waiting at the top of the stairs. Throwing back a quick thanks to the befuddled husk, he rushed back down the stairs, seeing the large ball had indeed busted though the flimsy cell wall. Picking his way through the debris as his bare feet sloshed in the water he had but one thought on his mind.
'Armor armor armor going to finally get some quality armor! Vorago was right, the world is a dangerous place, the noble knight has passed, and now I get his armor. Maybe the shield too, that looks pretty nice…'
Hearing the steps come near him, the felled knight minutely turned to look at the being approaching him.
"…Oh another mad hollow are you... I'm dead anyways, may as well be at the hands of something rather than from my wounds… I, Oscar of Astora shall die with my head held high…"
"Hey I'm not mad, I'm honestly a pretty happy guy I'd say. Besides, there is no need to be so morose Oscar."
"…What? But you are hollowed, wearing naught but a loincloth, and have the red eyes of the insane…"
"Do I?" Unsure himself, the knight stepped closer to the newly named Oscar, looking at his reflection in the well-maintained helm. "No, they look more orange to me. Definitely not insane. And extreme partial nudity is very beneficial for dodging."
"…But yours is the face of the curse, an undead…I suppose it makes sense, we all end up here…What is your name?"
"My name? Lords, it has been so long since I've even thought of it. Vorago, help me out here. Right, right, it's Alacris, my name is Alacris."
"…At least you remember your own name…Thank goodness…I'm done for, I'm afraid…I'll die soon, then lose my sanity…I wish to ask something of you…You and I, we're both Undead… Hear me out, will you?"
"Sure thing Oscar, lay it on me."
"…Regrettably, I have failed in my mission…But perhaps you can keep the torch lit…There is an old saying in my family…Thou who art undead, art chosen…In thine exodus from the Undead Asylum, maketh pilgrimage to the land of Ancient Lords…When thou ringeth the Bell of Awakening, the fate of the Undead thou shalt know. Well, now you know… And I can die with hope in my heart…Oh, one more thing…Here, take this." Handing over an emerald flask filled with an amber liquid, "…An Estus Flask, an Undead favorite…Oh, and this…" and a rusty old key, presumably for deeper in the asylum to the now shocked hollow. "…Now I must bid farewell…I would hate to harm you after death…So, go now…And thank you…"
"Wait, you were serious? You actually intend to die here and go hollow?"
"…I intended no such thing, but mine wounds from that demon on the roof are grievous enough that I shall not survive…"
"No no, I get that, I mean I got launched by that fat bastard and it hurt like the dickens, but you're an undead. Death is not the end, merely a minor setback. Is your resolve truly so weak as to shatter at the beginning of your journey? Are you truly willing to accept failure before you have even started?"
"Very well, I see your mind is made up. A life of freedom and a single trip to death's door is apparently enough to shatter you, while the same physical hardships and imprisonment since time immemorial cannot phase me. Truly, the finest this 'Astora' has to offer lays before me, dying in a cell, in the muck. But you can rest easy Ser Oscar, my friend Vorago tells me that upon your hollowing, stripping your senseless husk will be a great boon to our journey. He seems to be quite taken with your shield, one of four but one of a kind he says. Exquisite. Regardless, we'll be off, enjoy your last few moments Ser Oscar, rest easy knowing you quest has been passed on to a far more stalwart champion."
Turning his back on the crumpled knight, Alacris left from the hole he entered from, shaking his head in dismay at the death rattle he heard behind him. He gave a brief start when he noticed a white mist coalesce around him, before his companion mentioned to him the intricacies of liquid souls and the strengthening properties it could offer. Nodding in acknowledgement, Alacris took this chance to take stock of the area after the fog wall, now that he was not distracted by the fate of the late Ser Oscar.
"The nerve of some people, just up and dying like that… Could have at least gifted me his equipment before passing on and save me some trouble. Oh well, it seems we are above that earlier bonfire, and if my guess is correct those stairs to the right going down will lead to that blocked door from earlier, and the stairs leading up to that helpful hollow will likely put me over the courtyard. Hmmm, bet check this hallway over here before I go any further. Vorago, my sword and shield if you will. Best not be caught unawares by anything."
With a brief white fog, Alacris was wielding his tower kite shield and broadsword, slowly walking over to the corridor to the left of the now dispersed fog wall. Seeing nothing but walls and rubble, he was about to turn away before a flash of white caught his eye. Seeing a corpse splayed over the edge of a busted staircase, with its item fog just out of reach and the rubble surrounding the broken stairs too heavy to move or stack. The nearest section of unbroken stair was well over ten foot off the ground. Giving a shrug, Alacris walked over to the busted stairway.
And proceeded to jump up and grab the corpse's hanging hand, yanking it and the item it possessed down to the ground.
Ignoring the quiet grumbling of Vorago and grabbing at the mist, he came back holding an old rusted iron ring. Tilting his head as he was informed of its ability to prevent impediment by water sludge or muck, Alacris smiled and slipped the ring on. Leaving the small section of hallway, he went down the stairs and unbarred the door, allowing him access to the bonfire once more. Briefly resting, he noticed the healing flames of the bonfire leap to fill the emerald flask, the fire turning into a beautiful orange liquid.
Emboldened and rested, Alacris went back up the two sets of stairs, pausing briefly to once more thank the befuddled hollow that helped him reach the late Oscar. Using the key given by said knight, he opened the door leading to the outer wall of the keep, pausing for a moment to soak in the beauty of the surrounding snowcapped mountains, the idyllic sight being a breath of fresh air after such a long period of time seeing nothing but four crumbling and damp walls.
"You know Vorago, I'm looking forward to all the items and finding what was lost, but sights like these are wonderful too." He walked forward to lean on the wall, letting his gaze sweep over a small outcropping below before focusing back on the breathtaking view ahead, paying no mind to the two hollows approaching him from the left side.
"Now I know you gentlemen have been seeing this sight for quite a while, but surely the privilege of getting to view it with a new friend gives the sight new depth. Come, join me in this view for a bit. I feel my time in this prison draws to an end, and soon the wider world will call to me. A brief break to enjoy the scenery would do us all good before heading back to our respective quests."
Looking vacantly at each other, then at the strange hollow in front of them, the undead ambled up to stand near him, vacantly looking to the horizon. They were soon joined by a third hollow, all four undead staring into the distance with only one really seeing anything. Deciding he had enough of the view, Alacris bid his hollowed companions goodbye and walked further along the outer wall. Seeing a fog wall that, if his internal sense of direction was right, would put him above where he was previously smashed by the obese demon, and a doorway slightly further ahead. Weighing his options, he walked on ahead, eager to complete his exploration of his ancient prison before committing to a difficult fight.
"Well that was a pain, and we didn't even get any loot out of it! His blasted brand sucked up all of his gear just as he died. Quite a shame, I was looking forward to getting that longsword, seems a much more maneuverable than my broadsword, if possessing a bit less oomph. The bastard wasn't even guarding anything, just to door to where that ring corpse was. It even got a good slice in on me, sneaky devil. Nothing some estus can't cure, though I can't say the same for his shredded back."
Finished with his exploring and brief skirmish with an undead guard of the prison, Alacrisstood in front of the fog wall, bracing himself for a battle with the obese warden of the prison. Stepping through the mist, the nearly nude hollow walked up to the edge and peeked over. Seeing baleful red eyes in a horned skull staring up at him, emaciated hollow and elephantine demon had a brief stared down. The Asylum Demon lightly fluttered its wings for a second as though internally debating something before deciding better against whatever plan it had thought up and merely stared at the pesky undead above it for slightly longer before turning away to end its staring contest. It instead began pacing below, seeming content to ignore what was above it in hopes of finding more accessible prey on the ground floor.
Sitting for a second to think of a plan of action, the hollowed knight nodded resolutely upon deciding to jump from the balcony and use the force of his descent to strike a critical blow upon the start of combat.
"Alright, now to wait until it is just below the balcony… Perhaps I should yell something to get it to look up just as I am coming down, not giving it enough time to react but with any luck I could partially blind it… No Vorago that's stupid, I will not banter with the blasted thing. Yes I'm sure you've been bored too but… oh fine. Well my rotund friend, I can see you are a fan of food. I must say I find myself partial to puddin'." So saying he took a running leap from the balcony he was on, screaming "PUDDIN' MA SWORD IN YA FACE!"
The Asylum Demon stopped its patrol, looking up to see what the foolish food was on about.
Only to 'see' a broadsword buried in its right eye.
Letting out a roar of pain and rage, it shook its head to dislodge both sword and wielder, who landed and immediately rolled away to avoid the retaliatory overhead swing. Keeping to the beast's blinded right side, Alacris set about hamstring its comically small leg, being sure to dodge the blind swings sent at it and rotate with the demon to keep in its blind spot.
Until eventually the demon had enough, and decided to put more faith in its similarly disproportionate but much less damaged wings, managing to hover off the ground to where its lowest point was over twice the height of the hollowed menace nipping at its heels.
Gawking stupidly at the somehow airborne demon, Alacris was unprepared when it landed on its rear and was thrown slightly back by the shockwave. Then thrown much further back by the follow up golf swing from a vindictive demon glad to finally lay eye and hammer on its adversary again. Tumbling through the air, but thankfully not down a flight of stairs this time, the knight found his travel stopped by some vases and a wall. Groaning and trying to ignore the pottery shards in his skin, he rolled to his feet and took a quick sip of liquid fire before rolling to the side to avoid the overhead swing of a vindictive Asylum demon. Steeling himself, he dove back in using his prior strategy, this time making sure to be far enough back when the demon attempted an aerial drop again.
However, just a few swings of his broad sword after that was enough. Succumbing to its head wound from the start of combat, the constant blood loss, and spirited crippling by the persistent attacker, the warden of the Undead Asylum collapsed and dispersed into souls, a couple thousand flowing into the exhausted but cheering knight. Sitting for a small second to catch his breath, he noticed something other than the mass of souls flowing into him, being notified by his companion of the acquisition of a rather large key. Shrugging and preparing to move on and finally be free from his prison, he stopped upon noticing one final thing flowing towards him.
"Well now, aren't you beautiful… Simply breath taking…"
Silently floating before him was a small black sprite, seeming to contain both nothing but a black void and the entirety of humanity at the same time. Before Alacris could give much thought to that seemingly contradictory comparison, the sprite floated over to settle upon the brand on the back of his right hand and quickly sunk into it. Pupils once more dilating to the point where his eyes were briefly pure black but for the thin orange ring of his iris, he shuddered briefly as a single thought entered his mind.
'Humanity. I am human.'
Pupils contracting to normal once more, Alacris shook his head. Putting the odd thought from his mind for now, he walked over to the large door leading to freedom, using the key he just gained to unlock it. Walking out, he found himself looking at a small graveyard and the outcropping he noticed earlier. Tilting his head to listen to his companion, he nodded before veering to the right. Reaching a precarious outcropping of ruined masonry, he noticed a small and currently unoccupied bird nest. Hearing a flutter of wings to his right, he looked to see a small crow had landed near him and was now eyeing him.
Squatting down to look at it closer, it gave a loud caw and fluttered over to its nest. After settling itself, it looked at the rag wearing hollow in front of it, once more opening its beak. Rather than a caw though, it called out "You, you. Give me, warm. Give me, soft." in a rather shrill voice.
Bemused by the talking crow, he gave some thought to the request of the slightly haggard looking animal. Coming to a decision, and wanting to help it, he had the humanity he just recently acquired appear in his hand.
"I am afraid this is all I have on me at the moment that is even close to what you request. All other items I currently possess are naught but cold metal, being neither warm nor soft and therefore fitting neither of your requests. Would this help?"
Being briefly eyed by the small black bird, it was but a moment before the crow flew off. Surprised at the sudden departure of the small animal, he was also surprised by the sudden reappearance of it, even more so by the small ring in its beak. Hopping forward, it laid the ring at his feet before looking up at him and cawing.
"You, you're offering me a trade? Well aren't you a clever bird, very well. Here you are friend." Stated Alacris, placing the humanity on the ground and picking up the plain faced ring that was instantly turned to mist and absorbed by the Darksign. The crow hopped forward, grabbed the humanity with its beak and hopped back to its nest. Settling in, it seemed much more content with the source of warmth next to it and quickly went to sleep. Smiling at the small animal, Alacris turned around and finished his walk up to the edge of the asylum's grounds. Walking on the upturned brick work and passing by numerous tombstones and shrubs, he stopped at the very precipice of stable land.
"Now Vorago, how will we be getting out of -DEAR LORDS!"
Only, in the ancient legends it is stated, that one day an undead shall be chosen to leave the undead asylum, in pilgrimage, to the land of ancient lords…
As he was gathered up in a flash of feathers and talons, a single shout rent the otherwise quiet mountain air as he was carted off in the clutches of a giant raven.
"THIS IS BULLSHIIIII-"
AN: No way the Asylum Demon has the hops to get that much ass in the air. The first chapter was originally a thought experiment on how the curse would mentally damage a victim, now we get to the meat and potatoes of the Dark Souls experience, dodging, looting, and fighting bosses. Expect the latter to not happen for a while, as we will mainly focus on the first two for a bit. It will be like the legend of that guy that spent so much time grinding in the burg he was level 70 before Taurus Demon, but much less boring and with more diverse scenery. And loot.