Chapter 39:

Heart-to-Heart

Dark souls is owned by From Software.

"Talking"

"Thoughts"

"Powerful Beings"

"Whatever the Daughters of Chaos speak"

Line Break

Oscar tugged at his collar, nervously casting his gaze to his sister. Yet, just the same as the last hour, she was kneeling at the Bonfire in the Throne Room, head bowed, hands clasped over her chest. Still as a statue.

"I don't like this," Mathias rumbled from his left. "She hasn't moved an inch."

The Astoran huffed, "How do you think I feel?" He tore his eyes away, casting his gaze around the room. "Hope Garret gets back soon; all this siting around is fraying my nerves."

He sidled a glance at Mathias when he huffed, "I'd prefer sitting around myself."

Oscar nodded solemnly. "I know." He wet his lips, "And I—"

"Stop it," Mathias said, with a raised hand, "Enough with the platitudes. We've already been over this."

"Right," Oscar said with a slight laugh, "right. Just…feels likes things are moving pretty fast."

"Pretty slow, more like," Mathias scoffed. Oscar hummed, but said nothing in reply. He briefly looked at Ana again, but upon seeing her still, still form, looked over at the large, golden door ahead of them. He wondered what lay behind it. Probably a throne of some sorts; this was the Throne Room, after all. Still, the door was closed—and under guard.

Silver Knights. Even now, shadowed by the threshold of the door they stood under, their horned armor shone like stars at night. They were tall beings, but not of a height with Havel, and nowhere near his bulk. Still, they towered over him; and their weapons looked as deadly as they were beautiful.

A part of him—a very small part not yet overtaken by cynicism and bitterness—wanted very much to converse with the figures of his dreams and aspirations. But that larger part of him argued that these were very much Gwyndolin's creatures. And he had a very good feeling that Gwyndolin didn't very much like any of them. Not enough to order an outright attack. But certainly, enough to allow the knights to…liberally defend Anor Londo.

"Still," Oscar returned his attention to his sister's protector "at least it's nice and quiet." His face soured, "Too quiet, actually." He looked around, "Where'd those sorcerers run off to?"

The Astoran shook his head amusedly, "I don't think you need to worry about them. It honestly seems like Griggs is spending most of the time kissing the ground Logan walked on."

"He's actually the one I'm worried most about."

"Hm?"

Mathias waved his hand, "Beatrice is one of you; and no matter how annoying you lot can get, you're alright." Oscar took the compliment for what it was. "Griggs," he paused for a moment, "…is trustworthy; if only because of his help against Lautrec." A great deal of help, even if the man tried to downplay his part. "But Logan…I don't like—much less trust—him."

Oscar thought on the eccentric Undead. But aside the somewhat condescending speeches on how everyone 'has their place in life', there wasn't really anything that set off any alarms. If anything, he was a lot nicer than the man's reputation suggested. If a bit obsessive about—and then it clicked.

Oscar rubbed the back of his neck, "I don't think it's that bad."

"The man wouldn't stop shutting up about 'The Duke'." The other knight sneered, "I swear there were stars in his eyes when he actually caught sight of Seath's palace. Man's trouble, no doubt about it."

"I'm…I'm sure he's not going to cause any problems." Oscar nodded resolutely, "Beatrice would let us know if anything were amiss."

"Or we could ask Garret," Mathias scoffed, "Assuming, of course, he'd tell us the whole truth."

At that, Oscar had no reply. Given Garret's previous actions, his lack of action towards Logan meant one of three things. He was completely harmless, whatever he would end up doing wouldn't directly affect them, or worst of all, the man's future actions were 'necessary'.

The Astoran sighed, drawing his knees close to his chest; things were so much easier when he just assumed Garret had their best interests at heart. Well, that's not exactly fair to the man; he did want the best for everyone. He was perfectly willing to kill himself for the betterment of the world at large. He just went about it in a terrible fashion.

But still, could Logan actually be an issue? Unlike Petrus or Lautrec, there was nothing immediately off-putting about the man. Again, aside from the odd condescending remark.

…Well, worst comes to worse, Havel would be more than happy to deal with him.

"My word!" Oscar perked up as a new, male, voice spoke up from behind him in awe. "This place is huge!"

"Very huge," another new voice, a woman, equally awestruck said.

He heard Mathias gasp raggedly, and bit back a shout when the man shouldered past him to lean over the railing. Mathias tried to speak, but all that came out were harsh breaths.

Oscar came up next to him, looking over the railing. Ornstein, who's posture screamed that he would rather be anywhere else, was standing beside a human man and woman. They wore an eclectic mix of clothing and armor. But the woman had her head bare, showing off a shocking mess of red curls. The only discerning feature on the man was the blade he held possessively to his chest.

Then, the man's gaze met theirs. His lips pulled back into a wide smile, "Hey, Mathias!"

"Matty!" The woman exclaimed, waving her arms excitedly, "Looking good!"

Before Oscar could ask the obvious question, Mathias made a startling move, leaping down to the floor below. Oscar stared in shock and alarm, but Mathias seemed to ignore the pain inflicted by the fall, rushing over and stopping just before them. The pair smiled at him, after which he collapsed into their arms, shaking.

Oscar had to strain his ears to hear what the knight was saying. Only to realize that he was just laughing. Or crying. Perhaps both.

"Do you suppose those are his old companions?" Oscar flinched, turning to see his sister standing beside him.

"Er, yes." He replied. He then noticed her shallow breathing, and the sweat lining her brow. "Are you alright?"

"I'm fine."

"Ana—"

"I've lived with worse," she cut him off softly.

Oscar clenched his fist at the reminder but was unable to form a retort. Instead, he turned to the roaring Bonfire behind them. "So…," he began awkwardly, "you've bound yourself to this flame now?"

Ana nodded, still staring down at Mathias and the two others. "It was a bit difficult, I will admit. I was never trained to do this sort of thing."

"What were you trained for?" Oscar's curiosity overtook any nervousness.

She shrugged, "Pain tolerance, mostly." A growl slipped past his lips, to which she said, "It's not what you think. They didn't…the only time they physically harmed me was when they broke my legs and cut out my tongue." He glared at her, gesturing to her eyes.

Ana sniffed, "That just happened." He found that very hard to believe. "It did!" she insisted. She huffed, propping her hands on her hips. "I…" she took a deep breath. "You're angry with the Church, rightly so." Oscar scoffed, but let her continue, "I'm not too fond of them myself. But they cannot be blamed for my eyes."

"Then who is?"

"Me."

Oscar stepped back, eyes wide. He gingerly reached for her face, "Y…You mean you—"

"It wasn't by choice," she said, leaning into his hand. "It's just…misfortune. Firekeepers are…special. Different. We are made, not born."

"Made?"

She shivered, hugging her arms together, "I don't know the specifics, but the processes involved were…intense." She dipped her head down, and Oscar stepped closer, pulling her in for a hug like he remembered his mother doing when they were children. Ana sighed, relaxing. He smiled bitterly; it had to have been at least…heavens, ninety years since she'd been held like this. He'd spent seventy of those years as an Undead. Seventy years spent searching for a cure.

"You've seen a Firekeeper's soul, right?" Oscar pulled himself back to the present, nodding quickly. "A white crystal with a light in the middle of it." Another nod. "That crystal is Humanity—an infinite supply of it." Oscar reared back a bit—Humanity? That couldn't be right. Humanity was pitch-black, like tar. And heavy—nothing too much, but the wispy cores of men had far more weight to them than they should. And the Firekeeper Soul he'd held didn't weigh more than that. "You don't believe me," Ana softly stated.

Oscar flinched, "Er, no. I mean…" he trailed off, trying to form the right words.

"Well, it's probably not an infinite amount," she said with a low chuckle. "But there's quite a lot of them in there. It's the reason I'm blind—our bodies are not meant to contain so much Humanity. Still, I'm one of the lucky ones."

"Lucky?!" Oscar repeated incredulously.

"Could have died," she whispered, stopping Oscar in his tracks. "Or something worse. From what I'd heard, the Firekeeper I replaced had started to bloat up and was set to burst open like a rotten fruit."

"Replaced?" Oscar asked, sidestepping the lovely image Ana had given him.

"Firekeepers have lifespans, like any other creature." She smiled bitterly, "We just live longer, and suffer worse deaths."

"That's not going to happen!" he growled, resolute.

She sent him another bitter smile but stayed silent. She didn't believe him, but then, she didn't have to. She'd see.

"Ah, just you two, then?" Solaire suddenly said. Oscar turned to see the man stepping out of one of the elevators.

"Solaire," Oscar waved at the man. "Didn't see you enter the room."

"I stuck to the sides; didn't feel like interrupting," he gestured to the three down below, who'd ended the hug, but were still close to each other.

"Is Garret back?" Ana asked.

"No." Solaire shook his head, "He dropped off a number of people, and left to grab Havel and the other's from Izalith."

"Who'd he get to come up?" Oscar asked.

"Those two, Stanley and Rosalie."

"Mathias's old comrades," Ana noted softly.

"Yes. I just dropped off Andre and Rickert at Boram's tower. Tarkus's there too so," he chuckled, "they'll certainly get a long welcome. There's also that priest, remember him, atop the Parish?" Oscar did recall the mysterious man garbed in black robes. "He split off the other way from the palace. There's this man named Ingward, who was apparently holed in New Londo."

"I thought it was flooded."

"Only mostly, Ana," Oscar said.

Solaire nodded, then started to nervously twiddle his thumbs. "There's also, uh, three more people. Technically."

"Technically three more?" Oscar queried.

"Technically people." Before either Oscar or Ana could press the man, he said, "One of them is Leeroy, the Church's first Paladin."

"He's still alive? And sane?" Oscar was nonplussed—Leeroy would have to be the oldest Undead alive.

"Very much so." Solaire cleared his throat. "There's also Pinwheel. That creature Garret met when we first traversed the Catacombs." Oscar could scarcely recall Garret mentioning a creature living down there. "It's…well, you can see for yourself; it's floating around somewhere. But I think it's harmless."

"Think?" Ana mumbled worriedly.

"Gravelord Nito's currently meeting with Gwyndolin," Solaire abruptly stated.

"What?"

"What?" Ana parroted.

"Gravelord Nito. He arrived with Garret and the others. Stayed behind to…catch up, I suppose."

Oscar thinned his lips. "I…I thought he was mad." He huffed, "Of course, after meeting Garret, I've learned that 'mad' can mean different things."

"Speaking of," Solaire began hesitantly, "I've been…wondering about something." He took a deep breath, "What if…you, had Garret's foreknowledge? Either of you," he clarified, "how would you go about?"

Oscar dipped his head down; he'd never really entertained the thought.

"Oh," Ana sighed, "I don't think I could do much of anything. I'd be terrified; it's too knowledge much for one person to bear." Solaire nodded, and then the two turned expectantly towards Oscar.

He was silent for a moment. Then, he said, "I wouldn't do as Garret has done."

"How so?" Solaire prodded.

"I wouldn't keep everything a secret. I would be upfront of any life-altering information." Perhaps it was a little unfair, that he was able to bear witness to the consequences of Garret's secrecy. But he that only reaffirmed his gut-instinct.

"…I see," Solaire said forlornly. It confused Oscar, until he realized that the man was still unabashedly on Garret's side. Well, Tarkus may have been—the man was kind, to say the least—but he lacked the history they all had. Oscar averted his gaze; it was a bit foolish, but he felt a bit sorry that he couldn't support his friend in this endeavor.

He cleared his throat, "I'm going to…look around, I suppose." Ana reached out to stop him, but Oscar gently, stopped her. Let the man come to his own conclusions.

Line Break

Nito waited on the other side of the fog door, waited for Ornstein, Pinwheel, and the humans to leave. He wouldn't make the first move; Gwyndolin was already frayed at the edges, wouldn't do to push the poor thing. However, he also wouldn't be made to wait for too long; whatever pity he held for the Lone God of Anor Londo, he was still the Gravelord.

As he waited, he cast his gaze towards the only thing of note; an ornate rug, candles making a square outline around a stylized sun. The edges were frayed, the color fading, and there were deep imprints made by, what Nito could only assume to be, people kneeling.

He'd always thought the practice as odd; worship. But then, very few beings had ever wanted to give him praise and adoration. No, that was reserved for the other three Lords. He wasn't bitter about it, though. His sphere of influence was Death and Decay, after all. Necessary parts of life, to be sure, but not things people liked to be reminded of.

Much like Gwyn and the Moon.

"Enter!" Gwnydolin's voice boomed, shaking Nito from his reverie. He did not move forward, however. Not out of a sense of belligerence—the entryway was simply too small. He said as much.

"Ah…of course." Gwyndolin cleared his throat, and in a flash of golden light, the entryway expanded to accommodate his hulking form, the fog fading from view.

He entered and was immediately displeased.

"No, no,no,no." he said, slowly making his way forward.

"I beg your pardon?" Gwyndolin asked at the far end of the hall, near a large coffin.

"Stop that."

"I have no idea what you're referring to," he said, tightening his grip on his staff.

"This…charade." He gestured to the god, "Forced upon you by your father."

The child before him flinched, "I am as Lord Gwyn raised me."

"Gwyn was an ass, too insecure in his own power to allow you to live life unimpeded." Gwyndolin opened his mouth, only to shut it when Nito added, "I knew him far longer than you, child. Don't bother defending him."

Gwyndolin frowned—and Nito could only assume he was glaring at him behind his crown—but slowly raised his staff. He was surrounded in bright white light, and soon revealed his true self. In truth, aside from the lack of breasts, the differences between his real and illusory self were minimal—he was still pale, still thin, still had snakes in place of legs. But, though lacking the powerful physique of his father and brother, he was not rail-thin like before. And the snakes coming from his torso were a bit larger, a bit darker in color. He still moved like a woman, though; had the posture of a woman. The Gravelord supposed that that aspect of the god was just ingrained in him.

"Happy now?" Gwyndolin asked with a low hiss.

"Haven't been for centuries," Nito bluntly said. "But this is a step forward. Now," he walked closer to Gwyndolin, "Perhaps you could illuminate something for me."

"Illuminate what?"

"Why you thought I'd gone mad." Gwyndolin bristled, and Nito pressed on. "Why I, of all beings, would covet Anor Londo? Granted, I can understand Gwyn believing do, but after he'd left? Why maintain that belief?"

"…Why?" Gwyndolin hissed. "You ask why?!" Before Nito could reply, Gwyndolin roared in a manner befitting his father at his worst. "YOU LEFT! Before Quella's mad plot, before Gywnevere showed her true colors, before Father damned himself to be kindling, you LEFT! Sequestered yourself away in your precious Catacombs!" he spat.

Nito hummed lowly, his bones rattling agitatedly, "You know of the rebellion I had to quell."

Gwyndolin angrily swiped the air, "And afterwards? You left and stayed away…like everyone else. No one…No one ever comes back." His posture slackened, sinking lower as the snakes that made up his lower body seemed to melt into the floor, his anger and indignation giving way to exhaustion. "That's all anyone does."

Nito's frustration faded as Gwyndolin breathed more heavily—stemming tears, Nito guessed. Though a god, he was still a sheltered child who was never really expected to bear any true responsibility. Even Nito, though a fellow oddity, never really thought much of the boy, and when he did, he merely spared him some pity and forgot about him soon after.

…Well, that had to change.

The Gravelord stepped forward, laying his bony hand upon the lone god's shoulder. "Perhaps you are…correct," he said gently. "I should have tried to make contact with Anor Londo after quelling the rebellion, before entering my slumber. I…I should have come after Quella lost herself and Izalith. After your father enacted his desperate plan. After your sister abandoned her duty." Gwyndolin gulped, halting his burgeoning sobs. "But I did not, and I am sorry." Nito paused, waiting until Gwyndolin lifted his head up, "I am here now, though. It cannot make up for the years past, but please, allow me to assist you now. At the end."

Gwyndolin sighed heavily. After a long, tense moment, he lifted his head up, frowning, "I'm afraid nothing you can do will erase what has occurred." Nito hummed sadly, accepting of the blame. "But," Gwyndolin's lips quirked up into a soft smile as his snakes lifted him up, "I am grateful for your help."

Nito smiled, patting the god's shoulder and stepped back. He huffed, "Based on your and Garret's relationship, you're going to need it."

At that, Gwyndolin scowled darkly, his snakes hissing and snapping their jaws, "The sooner that fool accomplishes his mission, the better."

Had he eyebrows, Nito would have raised one sardonically. As it was, he settled for running his fingers against the outer edge of his blade, "That 'fool' seeks to kill himself to further the mess us Lords caused. You should be a bit more respectful."

The Lone God clicked his tongue, sharply looking away. Nito chuckled at the juvenile gesture, but let the matter lie. Instead, he said, "Moving on; though I am aware of the major events that occurred during my slumber—and Garret helped fill in a number of the blanks—I would like to hear your account of things."

Nito worried that the god was going to draw in on himself again, but he just sighed, lowering to the ground and reaching down to stroke one of his snakes. "It's…it gets very dreary, to be honest. I wasn't kidding when I said everyone ended up leaving." Nito just snapped his fingers, a throne made of bones rising from the ground behind him. Gwyndolin scoffed as he settled in, but nonetheless told his tale. "Things had been tense after you hid yourself away. It was during that time that Lady Quella came to Father with her plan."

Nito waited patiently as Gwyndolin told his tale; stopping himself from interrupting since, once he got started, the god didn't seem to want to stop. Indeed, he grew lighter, the more he spoke. Nito could only assume that Ornstein and Smough did not make sparkling conversationalists.

It was only after ending the tale that Nito spoke. "Well, first off, if I ever see your sister again I'm cutting off her head." Gwyndolin tried to keep a straight face, but he could see the god's lips twitch upwards. "Second, we should reestablish contact with the Ringed City. Considering what you've had to deal with, I can only imagine how Fillianore is."

Gwyndolin frowned, "That…can come later. Filianore is safe, for now. Let us deal with the problems here before seeking to fix others elsewhere."

"Speaking of fixing problems," Nito leaned forward resting against his blade, "We need to discuss the sun."

Gwyndolin sneered, and his snakes hissed threateningly, "There is nothing to discuss, not fix!"

It was times like this Nito wished he had eyebrows. "And here I thought we were making progress. Gwyndolin, your father is gone. Gywnevere is gone. You are all that is left. Stop cowering in their shadows—or in this case, their light."

"Cowering!" Gwyndolin shouted, rising to his full height.

Nito responded in kind—standing a good five feet taller—and harshly replied, "You're not doing anyone any favors by maintain this farce, least of all you!"

"Then what would you have me do?" Gwyndolin sneered, "The Sun is the symbol of Anor Londo! It's what gives people hope!"

"False. Hope."

Gwyndolin opened his mouth to retort but was cut off as an oppressive heat permeated the air. He turned towards the entrance, his bravado and bluster vanishing instantly. "They're here," he whispered.

Nito huffed, "Perhaps they can talk some sense into you."

Gwyndolin scowled, but nonetheless followed Nito outside.

A/N: Holy fuck, I did not mean to leave this alone for so long…Anyway, Izalith's next. Be sure to leave a review. Later.