Author's Note: Special thanks to Alone in the Blight for notifying me of the event. Enjoy.
A spirit sat dejectedly at the broken Sunlight Altar, watching the bridge leading to the bonfire with passing interest. It was like so many other days in Lordran. The sun rose and fell, the phantoms danced and dissipated and the fires continued to fade. Time is convoluted in this gods forsaken place and for a spirit that had long since forgotten how many years it had sat and watched, it can sometimes easily dismiss the changes in the well worn patterns to be passing fancy or hallucinations, the symptoms of a mind slowly going hollow. Except this time, that drake roared a little too loudly and the stones shook too violently to be mere imagination. What was going on?
The spirit watched a figure emerge from the stairway near the center of the bridge only to make a mad dash down the passway, braving fire and fury in a desperate gambit for safety. Still resting, the phantom was certain this poor fool would be charred to a crisp or crushed underfoot and yet neither happened. The stranger, still in a hurry, bolted into the courtyard before the foot of the altar and the phantom was better able to inspect this newcomer. It was a woman, slim and lithe with her long hair bundled into a braid and tied fashionably around her head. She wore the outfit of a thief, black leather and cloth with a dark mask to hide the bottom of her face. One hand clutched a simple wooden catalyst while a falchion hung on her hip. Another lost soul, another wayward undead, nothing new here in Lordran. However, again a break from the norm, after the woman composed herself and caught her breath, she looked right at the spirit, gazing intently at him.
"Hello." she greeted cheerily.
The spirit wore a long dark surcoat over the steel plates of his armor. A large angular shield rested beside him and upon it was a simple silhouette of a sunburst, white contrasting with the dark he wore and upon his lap was a large but simple greatsword, an aura of some sort of enchantment practically radiating from it. His head was hidden in a plain but sturdy closed faced helmet.
"Hello? Can you hear me? I know you're alive because I saw you watching me." the woman explained, leaning over him and waving her hand.
"...You...can see me?" he asked hoarsely, a voice so long silent it had nearly forgotten what talking was like.
"Of course I can, you're a little glowy, though. Are you a phantom of some kind, maybe related to that nice if mildly crazy man I met at the back of the bridge?" she asked, voice still eager and jovial. Poor lass still had not processed the darkness of this place, or worse, she already had and was hiding from it.
"I...am a warrior of sunlight, yes." the man admitted again, still unsure if this was real or a very vivid dream.
"Well, then do you want to come along and help me? Solaire back there said I could summon help but that sounds like it might be prone to failure and you seem nice and well here. My name is Marisa, by the way."
The crusader spirit paused as if pondering. After a moment that was a little too long, the man seemed to sigh and then with a groan, began to stand up, growing accustomed to carrying the weight he was to bear as his coat swayed in the breeze. For a phantom he seemed real and material enough though there was the faintest golden aura about him.
"An eternal curse upon me indeed." he mumbled as he stood up and popped his shoulders while searching for the talisman fastened to his waist. "I know not how you can see me nor how you need not summon me but as a man who has been up and down this land countless times and as a once and current warrior of sunlight, I will be your guide and keeper." he declared with conviction as he bowed deeply.
"I will call you shiney moomoo." Marisa announced with a smile. The crusader's helmet shot up in bewilderment.
"My name is Uriel of Thoro-"
"Yes but 'shiney moomoo' suits you just as well. Fine, it'll be your nickname. So, want to help me ring some bells and find my fate?" Marisa grinned deliciously while jabbing her thumb in the direction of the parish. Uriel smiled grimly under his helmet.
"Maketh pilgrimage to the land of ancient lords, and then despair, you who art undead."
"Are you okay, shiney moomoo? You seem a little sad."
"My name is Uriel!" the crusader barked.
It wasn't the most conventional start to a pilgrimage but the beginning it was nonetheless.
"First," Uriel started, standing at the side entrance of the undead parish and pointing straight ahead. "We need to get past the Berenike knight, proceed up the steps and then kill the hollows and channeller and from there-"
"You're not going to be one of those stuffy guides that skip all the scenic routes, are you, shiney moomoo?" Marisa interrupted, crossing her arms while smirking under her mask.
"What? No, I'm just trying to give you the safest route. And by the gods, my name is Uriel!"
"Tell you what, Uriel, if I want the quickest route, I'll ask you. In the meantime, lets have an adventure."
"Some doors are best left locked in Lordran." Uriel warned sullenly.
"If they truly weren't meant to be open, then why did someone make this master key?" the thief challenged, producing the appropriate trinket and twirling it in her fingers.
"Fine. Random question, what is your opinion of gargoyles and butterflies?"
"I love art and I love pretty things so I'd say I find both fascinating."
Marisa was bothered by Uriel's dry, mirthless chuckle as he stepped into the parish and then crossed blades with the towering berenike knight. No time to ask questions in the middle of battle, the spell thief enchanted her blade and circled around the behemoth. Between the two of them the fight was less than fair. The giant felled, Marisa squealed with joy and practically hopped in the air.
"We make a good team, come on, you said the bell was up this way? Race you to the top!" Marisa was already speeding away before the crusader could stop her.
"Marisa, no!" he shouted, heavy boots pounding behind her as she rocketed up the steps. The hollow balder knight stepped to the fore to challenge the hyperactive trespasser only to be parried and then batted aside with a wave of Marisa's catalyst. The hollow was crushed under the weight of Uriel's greatsword a moment later as the warrior of the sun desperately struggled to keep up with his charge.
Marisa darted through the flailing blades of the hollows, a parry here, an opportunistic slash there, all at the expense of needing to win the race to the ladder. It was enough to keep a path open for Uriel to charge in and then obliterate their enemies with a destructive blast of his miracles. The channeller fell when a throwing dart erupted in his eye slot.
"That one's on the house. Also, I think I win this one." Marisa called as she dashed up the ladder.
Uriel was panting and gasping as he plodded onto the roof of the parish. He had apparently sat in that spot a little longer than he thought he did. Marisa at least listened to him this time but skipped ahead as they continued along. Gazing up, she saw the bell tower up above.
"Hey, are those the gargoyles you were talking about?" the spell thief asked, pointing to the figures guarding the steeple. Uriel was already nervously grasping his talisman while his other arm readied his sword.
"What's wrong?" Marisa asked. A roar overhead answered her. She looked over just in time to see the first gargoyle spring to life and crash down on the roof, halberd and shield smashing down with menace as it growled ferociously.
"Aw, it's a little cute. But it's breath smells." Marisa grumbled with a wrinkled nose. Uriel gave her a sideways look as he loosed a lightning spear at the monster.
"I'm starting to think the crow picked you up at the wrong kind of asylum."
"Hey, what's that suppose to mean?"
"More fighting, less talking!"
Marisa's eyes widened when the large halberd crashed mere inches from Uriel's feet, the crusader readying his shield while he began to charge as the creature. Marisa circled around and began to assail their opponent. Her slashes were quick and vicious but seemed like mere pinpricks on the monster's hardened skin. However, whenever it turned to the thief to fight her off, a well placed thrust from Uriel's sword would recapture it's attention. Hacking away with her scimitar, the gargoyle roared in agony in time of a sickening clank resounding off the roof shingles. Marisa had cut the tail off. A light came on behind her eyes, a look of pure mischief.
"Marisa, what are you doing?" Uriel hollered, barely able to hold his ground against a swing of the monster's halberd.
Marisa said nothing, she simply sheathed her scimitar and picked up the gargoyle's tail, which conveniently made a double headed ax. Unable to lift it in one hand, the spell thief reached down with both and then haltingly hefted it over her head.
Marisa dropped more than swung the weapon and hit the gargoyle on the back. The proverbial final straw, the monster let out an anguished cry and collapsed.
"We did it!" she squealed, arms raised in victory. That's when she noticed Uriel readying another lance of lightning. Cold worry pooled in the thief's stomach.
"There's another one behind me, isn't there?"
Two dead gargoyles later and one bell rung, the two were walking back the way they came. Uriel looked down at her as she eyed the oversized gargoyle tail ax she won and then carelessly dropped it to the wayside.
"Why did you try to kill the gargoyle with that ax when it was clearly too heavy for you?" the crusader asked pointedly.
"Because." Marisa shrugged.
"Why wouldn't you want to kill it with that? That was the ultimate 'I'm going to rip your butt off and slap you silly with it.'" she smiled murderously. Uriel stared for a long time, unsure on how to respond.
"You're an interesting one."
Down in the lower burg, Marisa and Uriel fought off the dogs and the hollow thieves that assailed their way. Uriel swinging the heavy blade of his greatsword around stood in sharp contrast to the brilliant, lightning slashes of Marisa's falchion. It mostly fell to Uriel to attract the attention of their enemies so that Marisa would be free to murder them without fear of retaliation. Between the two, they rapidly closed in on the billowing fog gate that promised yet another demon to slay.
"So what are we looking at this time?" Marisa asked, putting her arm through a few more practice swings of her weapon as they stood upon the threshold of the fog.
"A large goat demon and two dogs."
"Goats and dogs? This can't be too bad. I always thoughts goats and dogs were cute."
"Just be prepared to move quickly and jump as soon as you walk through the gate." Uriel warned.
Uriel passed through the gate right on Marisa's heels. He was relieved she at least listened and had safely escaped the clutches of the fiends beyond the door. The thief had other complaints.
"Gah, what's wrong with its face?"
"It doesn't have my greatsword lodged in it, that's what." Uriel replied, stepping forward to fell the beast.
As the days passed and the journey grew longer, their trails grew more treacherous and grim. Marisa kept up her joyful demeanor though the sun had long since disappeared from overhead as they navigated the hazards of Blighttown. Uriel trudged along while the thief picked off mosquitoes with her bow. He wondered how she could stay happy in such grim conditions.
"I felt bad for the lady merchant up top." Marisa said nonchalantly as Uriel crushed a crag spider under his heavy sword.
"For which reason?"
"She said nothing good ever happened to her in life, it was only after she became undead that she found any happiness."
"Humans are known for two things; their selfishness, and their selflessness."
"What about their ingenuity or stupidity?"
"That too, but I was trying to make a point."
"Speaking of ingenuity," Marisa said as their feet came to the edge of a miry swamp "how are we going to cross this swamp?"
Uriel stared at it for a long moment before slapping himself on the forehead. "I forgot. We're going to have to go back." he sighed dejectedly.
"What, why?" Marisa cried.
"Because we need to get you this ring, it'll help you cross the muck easier." Uriel explained, removing his gauntlet to show the latest ring he slipped on his finger.
Marisa stared in bafflement at the thin piece of corroded metal and then considered all the perils and troubles they had to go through to get down here. It hurt even worse to think they'd have to go through it all over again.
"I have a different idea." she smirked. Uriel felt chills run down his spine.
Several minutes later, Uriel trudged as fast as he could through the noxious sludge, his greatsword dragging behind him in the mire for he could not rest it on his shoulder. The reason was that Marisa was straddled behind his neck, catalyst blasting any foe that dare approached them.
"This isn't dignified at all." Uriel grumbled.
"Whee, this is fun! You should try to go faster, shiney moomoo!"
"I'm going as fast as I can."
"And just think, this way we conserve the moss we scavenged cause only you are being exposed to it."
"I am overjoyed." the crusader muttered sarcastically."
"Here, have a moss. Maybe they can cure grumpiness too." Marisa retorted, shoving the plant into Uriel's helmet.
Two bells rung and the lordvessel secured, Marisa began to ask more and more questions, not all of them Uriel could answer. The crusader started to notice she was smiling less and less. He knew the journey had a way of doing that to people. Lordran was a broken place full of broken things. The hollows were probably the most honest denzins for at least they were clear in their intents. Everything else? Manipulation, illusion, smoke, lies and deception.
"Why did Gwyn disappear?" Marisa asked as they trudged through the forest in search of the grave of Artorias.
"The fires were beginning to fade and he went in search of an answer."
"...But don't people say the fires will one day fade and only dark will remain?"
"People try to hold onto power no matter the cost, or keep finding ways to prolong the inevitable."
"Wait, the bed of chaos, that was caused when the Witch tried to recreate the first flame; did Gwyn make her try that?" Marisa asked in panic.
"But...but that only spawned demons and misery. And...and poor Queelag! And what about Priscilla locked away in that painting! Did he put her there too? And...and…"
"Marisa," Uriel stopped and placed an armored hand on her shoulder. "It will be okay."
The two continued on in silence until Marisa finally asked what was really bothering her.
"Why did Big Hat Logan go hollow? Why did he have to die?"
"When an undead loses a purpose to hold onto, or when they become overwhelmed and despair, they go hollow and die." Uriel explained solemnly.
"...You won't go hollow and die too, will you? You can always travel with me! Promise me you won't go hollow!" Marisa pleaded.
Uriel chuckled dryly. "I doubt I'll be going hollow any time soon.
Marisa narrowed her brows at him. He was avoiding something.
"I don't want you to die either."
Uriel remained silent and then finally stood still, head raised up to the trees where he could only see a brilliant moon overhead.
"I'm afraid I can't make a promise that's already broken." he finally admitted. Marisa covered her mouth, hurt by what he said but then finally reached to take his arm.
"What happened? Is that why you're always a phantom?"
"I was a cleric of the church but I always had problems with their doctrines. I asked too many questions. I was sent on a pilgrimage to increase my faith, find the gods. Turning undead was just another reason for them to keep me away. I journeyed, I studied, I did penance by helping others as a Warrior of Sunlight but as my faith grew, the answers still were not given to me. Trying to make myself zealous, I joined the Blades of the Darkmoon and hunted the guilty."
Uriel sighed as the memories ran through his mind. "No matter how much you increase your faith, it can't change the fact that someone is hiding something. Faith and a desire for truth, or nagging doubt, I can never be sure, but one day I trespassed into the tomb of Gwyn, because I wondered why a god should have a grave. I traded words, and blows, with his last born as I found everything I strove for was a lie."
Uriel hung his head for a moment and then continued. "We killed each other. My body rest under the ceremonial sarcophagus. How my spirit was sent here, how I have not dissolved…" the crusader trailed off and then looked at the talisman he always clutched in the handle of his shield.
"...Perhaps it's a miracle."
The twilight of her journey was fast approaching. Through the dark and sadness of New Londo she forged ahead, Uriel right behind her. The Darkwraith fell to her and so too the four kings. This done all that remained was the final leg of the journey, the Kiln of the First Flame. Marisa spent a long time meditating before the burning torch that was the Lordvessel.
"I will miss you." Uriel finally admitted, breaking the silence as she sat there. She looked up at him.
"Your journey will end and when you link the flames, I will be gone." Uriel explained, a tinge of sadness in his voice.
"I'm not going to link the flames." Marisa declared. "There's something that snake isn't telling me."
"Let the fires die and usher the age of dark?"
"I'll still need you." Marisa said.
"I still get the feeling that snake won't just let you walk away from that." Uriel warned.
"I have an idea."
The last battle was full of rage and fire, sadness and adrenaline. A hollowed Gwyn fighting to hold onto the only thing he knew while a pair of upstarts struggled to right yet another wrong. There is a time for everything and that means that there must come an end to all things. Nearly brought to their knees, Uriel took the brunt of the punishment, allowing Marisa to make the final blow. Battered but triumphant, as the body of Gwyn faded to ashes, the young thief rushed up to embrace the crusader who stuck beside her. Part of her did it just to keep him from fading away but he never did. He stayed there, stroking her hair.
"We did it!" she breathed in relief.
"You did it, Chosen Undead." he replied and then with a laugh, he stretched his tired arms and praised the sun.
"Come on, shiney moomoo." she said, taking his hand and leading him out of the chamber. They were both shocked to find countless serpents gathered arrayed before them and one by one they bowed down low, hailing her as their new lord. Looking down at her, Uriel saw something shift under her eyes as her hands fell to the falchion by her side. Realization began to dawn on him.
"You know what's wrong with their faces?" Marisa asked, rapidly stepping down the stairs. Uriel hefted his sword and rushed behind her.
"They don't have a greatsword lodged in them."
There was one last holdover from the Age of Ancients that needed to be beheaded for the Age of Man.