Chapter 9

Burning Sins

XXXXX

Lucina watched as Lissa poured over Cordelia. They were in the makeshift hospital that had been set up in one of the barracks in the castle at Ylisstol. Many of the beds were occupied by soldiers that had been maimed by the attack of the serpent-men. Thankfully all of them had stabilized long ago and were on the road to recovery. Aside from discomfort and pains from healing wounds, they were fine. Physically at least. At the moment, concerned lined most of their faces as they watched from their beds. Trying to get a good look at Cordelia. Trying to see if she was all right.

Lucina reached down and instinctively gripped the hilt of Falchion. She looked down at the sword. A habit that she had picked up from the future. A reminder of her father, and a guarantee of safety. Even now, the firm metal hilt wrapped in cloth still gave her a warm, fuzzy feeling. Right now, what she saw reminded her an awful lot of the future that she had escaped. One of the parents of her friend maimed. It wasn't fatal, but that was a small comfort.

"Lissa," she said softly stepping forward. "Back in the cavern, you were under a lot of stress. Is there any chance that you made a mistake?" She wasn't expecting her aunt to confirm this, but she couldn't help but hope. Sadly, that fragile hoped was dashed as Lissa turned and sadly shook her head.

"Healers learn how bad wounds are from a look," she said, "it's how we manage to act so fast. The damage to her legs was so severe that it affected every last part of them. If we didn't have healing magic she would've lost them. But even magic can only go so far." She let out a sigh, tears were forming in her eyes again.

Cordelia was asleep, a peaceful expression on her face. She had been removed from her armor and given clean, plain clothes. White sheets now covered her as her chest softly rose and fell. Blissfully unaware of what had happened to her. "When she wakes up, the world she lived in for years is going to be gone," Lissa said. Her voice was even thicker, and she sounded as if speaking took a great effort.

Lucina put a comforting hand on her shoulder. "You said that she could potentially recover didn't you? This will be just like any other injury. It just needs time and care." Lucina knew that it was far from being that simple. It would be much longer and harder.

"I s-said maybe," Lissa said, a lone tear trickling down her face. "S-sometimes people have been able to recover from injuries like these. Other times they haven't. It's possible, but it might just not-" Lissa was cut off as Lucina spun her around and pulled her into a hug. "I just. I just," she blubbered.

"I know," Lucina said. "I've seen this happen to her before. She didn't make it that time. But this time is different. I know Cordelia. She's my best friend's mother. She's tough. She'll make it through this. This time next year, she'll be riding again like nothing happened." Lucina hoped that this was the case. Her father and all of the parents of her friends had died in the future that she had come from, that had included Cordelia. She had not seen Cordelia's death, no one had. She had gone out on a mission and never come back. She fought the urge to swallow.

Lissa was about to reply when there was a rustling of sheets behind her. Cordelia was stirring. At once, Lissa furiously began to rub her eyes on the sleeve to her dress, trying to rid herself of the tears. "Come on," she said in a frustrated manner, her voice low. She took a quick look in a nearby mirror and gave a slight moan. Her face was a little red and puffy, not instantly noticeable but not exactly invisible.

"Ugh," Cordelia moaned, gingerly rubbing her eyes. "What happened? Where am I?" Slowly, she pushed herself up into a sitting position. She looked around, her eyes half open as they adjusted to the light. "Lissa? Lucina?" A soft smile dawned on her face. "Did we win? Did we get the soul from Seath?"

"Yes," Lissa said slowly. "Listen, Cordelia, that dragon hit you pretty hard. You need to stay in bed, for some time. It's going to take awhile for your legs to heal properly." Lissa lowered her head an inch as she spoke. She was no longer meeting Cordelia's eye. Lucina noticed and felt a pang of panic. Her aunt had grown in the past few years, but she was still very young. Young enough to not be very good at hiding her emotions very well.

Sadly, Cordelia had spotted it as well. "Lissa? What's wrong?" she asked, trying to catch the eye of the princess. Lissa's grip tightened on her staff. Cordelia's eyes were as sharp as ever. "How," Cordelia swallowed, "how bad was it?" Tears began to stream down Lissa's face again, and barely audible apologizes began to tumble out of her mouth. "Lissa please," Cordelia said, who was starting to look quite scared. "Talk to me."

Lissa's teeth grit fiercely as she tried to stem the flow of tears. She had little success, and they continued to flow. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "I'm so sorry. I tried. I tried as hard as I could." She finally looked up at Cordelia, her face now soaking wet. "I promise that we'll do everything we can but," she gave a wet sob, "the damage to your legs was severe, the internal damage in particular. At best, it'll take years before you can properly walk again."

With one swift movement, Cordelia ripped the blankets off of her. Her legs were bare, and on the surface they looked normal, if a bit unshaven. Swinging them off of the bed, Cordelia tried to put weight on them to stand up. "No, DON'T!" Lissa cried out, but it was too late. Cordelia's legs had only just begun to support her when she let out a cry of pain and tumbled forward. Lissa and Lucina darted forward and caught her just in time. "They can't handle the strain," Lissa said, her face now bright red as she and Lucina gently pushed Cordelia back into the bed. "We're going to try and have them slowly recover. Putting weight on them little by little. Hopefully you'll make a full recovery. But," she let out another sob, this one dryer, "there's always a chance that…"

"I understand, Cordelia said. For a moment, her face was rather sullen. She looked down at her legs with a long, unblinking stare. One of her hands crept forward and slowly dragged along on it, her gently brushing against the hair. Then, a smile crept across her face. "It's ok," she said, looking back at Lucina and Lissa. "If it's just a matter of working to get them back into shape, I can handle it. So, when do we start? In a few hours?"

"It's not that simple," Lissa said, looking down at Cordelia's legs in shame. "You need to stay in bed for some time with daily treatments. If you push yourself now, things could deteriorate quickly. You'd lose any chance at recovery."

"Ah," Cordelia said. Her smile faltered for a second but was back in seconds. "All right then. We'll just do it later." Cordelia was about to continue when the door to the barracks burst open. A man who looked as if he was getting on in years, with dull red hair and leather armor came storming into the room, a bundle of cloth in his hands.

"Is…love of life…all right?" he panted heavily, coming to a stop at the edge of the bed.

"Gregor?" Cordelia said in surprise. "What are you doing here? I thought you were still three days away? The fort you were stationed at isn't that close!"

"Gregor did not sleep," Gregor said, catching his breath rather quickly and standing up straight. "Horses needed to sleep, so Gregor kept buying new ones, selling sleepy old ones to farmers. Gregor was able to keep moving this way. Gregor was able to see lovely wife." He smiled sadly. "Gregor got letter about wife. How bad injuries are, and how long it will take her to recover."

He took a hand and put in on her shoulder. "Gregor will be there every step of the way. You be needing angry bear to pull Gregor away, and Gregor know how to fight bears." Cordelia nodded, her smiling fading away. Her hands tightened over her sheets as she looked down. Lucina couldn't see her face, but she could see pinpricks as tears hit the sheets.

"Thank you," she whispered. "It's just so scary Gregor. Yesterday I could walk, run and ride without any problem. But now I just-what happens if I can never do it again?"

"Then Gregor will walk, run and ride for you!" Gregor said determinedly. "Wife did much for Gregor, more than Gregor can ever repay. But he will try. And if wife is still not happy, Gregor will find Naga herself and demand that she fix legs."

Cordelia let out a soft, tinkling laugh. She rubbed her face as she looked up. "What's that there?" she asked.

"I brought you pick me up!" Gregor said happily, handing the bundle to Cordelia. She took it gently and let out a soft coo of affection. Lucina had had trouble making out what was in the bundle, but now she could make it out. A soft face of a baby, tuffs of red hair at the top of her head. "Little Severa misses mommy," Gregor said. "So I give her to mommy."

Cordelia smiled brightly, a smile that looked much more real than the one she had given to Lucina and Lissa. Slowly, the sleeping baby opened her eyes, blinking in confusion. Upon realizing who was holding her, she weakly reached out her arms, gurgling as she did. "Oh," Cordelia said, looking as if her heart was about to burst as she hugged the baby.

"Come on," Lucina said, giving her aunt's sleeve a pull. Lissa didn't argue and the two slowly crept out. Outside the barracks, they took a right turn down the hallway, and a few turns later found themselves facing an open room. Lucina had not been paying attention to where they were going, and as such was surprised to see her mother inside, along with Big Hat Logan. She realized that they were outside her mother's study, and somehow it had even more sprawling books in it than it normally did.

"Over there," Logan said, pointing to the only table in the room that wasn't covered with tomes, volumes and scrolls. Quite a feat, as there were easily a dozen desks in the room that had stacks that went well over Lucina's head. Solaire lumbered into view from within the study, a dozen leather bound books in his hands, dropping them on the table. His head was bare, his helmet perched precariously on top of a large stack of tomes towards the back of the room. "There. That should give us enough to start with," Logan said.

"We can't empty the entire Archives, that would take weeks," Solaire said dusting off his hands and looking at Logan was a hint of annoyance. "We should pick what helps us the most. We need information on Lost Izalith, the Tomb of the Giants and the Abyss."

Logan scoffed. "Izalith as we know it is gone, that's why we call it Lost Izalith. There was no time to document it. And the Abyss?" He let out a short laugh. "It'd be easier to find a book on the first son of Gwyn than the Abyss. At least ones on the former existed at one point. No one other than Artorias ever survived in the Abyss, there's nothing to write. As for the Tomb of the Giants, I may be able to help you there, but in the meantime we need to pool the information that we can and make our own conclusions. The proper academic approach." He held him his hands. "I'm sure that you are quite a skilled warrior, but this is a field I specialize in, trust me."

Solaire looked at him for a few seconds before turning away. Robin was flat out glaring at him. "Ah! Lucina!" Solaire said, upon spotting Lucina in the doorway. "Is everything all right? I was just helping Logan move some of the research he found out of the Archives. It's still not safe there, Hollows and Seath's experiments are still swarming the place. He needed me to keep him safe."

Lucina couldn't help but notice the way Solaire said that. After the way Logan had just talked to him, she had half expected Solaire to put emphasis on how Logan had needed his protection. But he had said it so matter of factly. Deciding to let that insult die if Solaire wanted to, she asked "Who was Gwyn's first son?"

A scowl coated Logan's face. "A disgrace of a son," he said darkly. "Gwyn had three children. Gwyndolin was his youngest, born frail under the lights of the moon and raised as a daughter. His only daughter Gwynevere, the Queen of Sunlight, who rules Anor Londo in his stead. And his oldest, the disgraced god of war." Logan shook his head in disgust. "He did something to anger his father. Something so terrible that it was stripped from all records, along with everything related to the son, including his name. He was banished, and all the symbols of him were destroyed. He deserved it."

Solaire nodded sadly. "Unfortunately, he speaks the truth. There is nothing left of the first born son. Nothing except the knowledge that he fell."

Lucina nodded. Just when she thought she had learned everything she needed to know about Lordran's mythology, more aspects kept popping up. "So, I assume this means that we're heading for the Tomb of the Giants next? Gravelord Nito is the one who lives there right?"

"Correct," Logan said, picking up a leather-bound volume and flicking through it. "The most obscure of the Lords. Never had much to do with the others. Kept to himself mainly. But we'd have the most luck finding out more about him."

Lucina glanced at her mother, about to ask her a question, but she answered before Lucina could even ask. "He said he wanted to repay us for rescuing him," she said. "Also, he would be grateful for a safe spot to conduct his research. Without vile abominations attacking him. I think those were his words."

"Close enough," Logan said, continuing to peer over the volume. "Wait. Drat, wrong book. This is about the dragons. Unless you want to hear about the Archtrees beneath the surface of our world. The ones that the Everlasting Dragons nested in and held up the surface." Lucina had to admit that that actually sounded rather interesting, but Logan had already swapped out the volume for another

"According to this," he said, "Nito had a small but dedicated sect of followers, and he gifted them with the art of necromancy. A body given life by a necromancer can act on its own until it is damaged too badly, but even then a necromancer can repair the damage. Only a body struck down by a holy weapon may not rise again. Ah. It seems that you will be in your element sunlight warrior."

Solaire smiled. "It seems I will be. My sword is ordinary steel, but my miracles should be more than enough," he said.

"Anything else?" Lucina asked. She couldn't help but share the same concerns that her aunt had had when Nito was originally brought up. A necromancer in a place called the Tomb of the Giants. She couldn't help but picture an army of hundreds of decayed corpses, each one twice the size of Tarkus.

"Only that Nito hasn't been seen much since the fall of the dragons," Logan said, flicking through pages. "He never associated much with them. Seath invented sorcery, the Witch of Izalith taught the people of the Great Swamp Pyromancy and Gwyn ruled from Anor Londo, but Nito simply disappeared into the Catacombs and then into the Tomb of the Giants. A handful followed him, but aside from that there's been no contact with him." He slapped the book shut. "But your mother and I still have a large amount of research ahead of us. I think there's a few scrolls that one of his necromancers wrote, we should start there."

Robin had been pouring over a calendar that she had pinned to the wall, one that was covered with countless notes. Peering over, she saw that her mother had marked the date when Fare and Solaire had arrived, the day of their mission, and the day of the attack on the castle. All of it was fairly clear. Less so was that the entire current week was circled, with days past having an x through them. Robin was putting an x through the last day, her hand trembling as she did. Lucina blinked. What was that about?

Her train of thought was interrupted as Lissa gently elbowed her in the side. "Lucina," she whispered softly. Raising her hand, she pointed down the hallway. Lucina looked where she was pointing and her stomach dropped. Her brother was sitting at the far end of the hallway, speaking softly and kindly as he held the hand of a red headed girl in leather armor and twin pig-tails. Severa, Cordelia's daughter.

Severa had been talking to Morgan when she noticed that Lucina was looking at her. With a sudden pull, she ripped her hand out of Morgan's and clasped both of her hands between her legs. Morgan blinked in confusion before realizing that his sister was now looking at them. His usual cheerful demeanor was still present, but noticeably muffled. His smile wasn't as wide as it normally was. "Go," Lissa whispered. "I should head back to Cordelia anyway." With that, she left.

Lucina began to walk forward at once. Severa could be a very insecure person, even at the best of times. If she had hesitated to approach, she had no doubt that it would be taken the wrong way. Thankfully, things had not gone that way, and Severa tried to smile at her. The key word was try, as her lips rose half heartedly before falling back down and looking at the ground. As she stopped in front of them, Lucina decided to not beat around the matter. "It feels like it's happening all over again, doesn't it?"

Severa nodded briskly. "I mean, children are supposed to outlive their parents," Severa said, not looking up, "but they're supposed to die of old age. Not because they never came back from a fight. We traveled back in time, we gave up what little lives we had in the future to keep things like this from happening. It didn't change a thing. It was a dragon all over again too. Just to rub it in."

Lucina scowled as she remembered Seath. Arrogant and boastful, tormenting her friends and doing Naga knows what else. She was hesitant to call Seath a dragon, there was a certain amount of grace that dragons were supposed to carry. Even Grima had done more of that than Seath. "But it's different this time," Lucina said. "Your mother is still alive. And the dragon isn't. He can't hurt anyone else anymore."

'Heh," Severa said softly, not sounding entirely convinced. "But the damage he did is going to leave its mark, isn't it? They're not sure if Mom is ever going to be able to walk again, are they?"

"Aunt Lissa says it's possible," Morgan said brightly. "We've taken worse odds than that and managed to come out on top didn't we?"

This time when Severa chuckled it actually sounded slightly genuine. "Look. I just, I don't know. Feel kind of…ugh, I can't say it properly." She took a deep breath, "Not to sound selfish, but why did these people from Lordran have to come here?" she asked bitterly. "I hear half of them can't actually die, so why do they need our help? We already saved the world from an all consuming darkness, and we didn't drag people who weren't involved into it. We got our parents involved because Grima was going to kill them all."

Severa's head snapped up, anger and frustration in her eyes. Lucina wanted to tell her that was being selfish, but the words died in her throat. Even if she was being selfish, it was understandable. From a cut and dry standpoint, it really did seem unfair that Cordelia was possibly crippled for life while Fare and Solaire were still walking around. There was more to it, but how exactly was she supposed to tell Severa that?

"My words may sound hollow, but I beg for your forgiveness." Solaire had apparently overhead their conversation from Robin's study, because he was now standing outside. With one fluid move, he dropped to one knee. "Though if you cannot bring yourself to, I will understand."

Severa had a complicated look on her face. As if she deeply wanted to be mad but was finding it difficult to be so. It was, after all, hard to be mad at someone who accepted all of your criticisms without any complaint. "It's not that easy," Severa said, folding her arms and taking great efforts to not meet Solaire's eye. "You can't just ask someone to forget that you've hurt them. You have to do more than say that you're sorry."

Lucina felt exasperation towards her friend. Solaire hadn't been the one to cripple Cordelia. In fact, he had been the one who worked with Lissa to heal her. Solaire didn't seem to care however. He simply rose to his feet and nodded solemnly. "So. Where's your boss?" Severa asked, still not looking at Solaire. "This Chosen Undead? I think her name was Fare? I want to have a word with her."

Morgan shot Severa a nervous look from her side, and Lucina knew they were both thinking the same thing. Severa hadn't exploded just yet, but she was simmering with anger and looking for something to unleash it on. Solaire had been too polite and humble for it to be him. Lucina was certain that she wanted to find Fare to see if she was a better target. "No," Lucina thought, her mind racing. "That would be a terrible idea. Fare hasn't even been cured of her curse yet. I'm sorry Severa, but you going after her is the last thing that we need right now."

"I'm not certain," Solaire said. "I only just returned from Lordran with Logan. I haven't seen her since I left." Lucina didn't dare turn around to try and read Solaire's expression. It would attract Severa's suspicion. She didn't know if Solaire was telling the truth or not. It certainly sounded like he was, and hopefully that was the case.

"I haven't seen her around much either," Lucina said, "she's never at her room when I go to check." It was technically true. She had left out the part where Fare had occasionally stopped by to check up on Cordelia. Those had been uncomfortable moments, with her silently looking over the unconscious Pegasus rider before leaving without a word. Severa didn't need to hear that right now.

Severa gave Lucina a thick penetrating gaze, looking for any signs of deception. She apparently didn't find any as she looked away without a word. She stared out of a nearby window that gave her a view into the courtyard. For a few moments, an awkward silence filled the hallway. Lucina rubbed the back of her neck in discomfort. Severa wasn't actively getting more angry, that was good at the very least. Now she just needed to find a way to calm her down. Taking her to see Cordelia now that she was awake was probably the best way to do that, but she would have to do it gently.

She never got the chance. As Severa continued to gaze out of the window, her eyes widened. Focusing on a single point, she stared for a couple of seconds. Then, without another word, she turned and sped out of the hallway, heading for the entrance to the courtyard. "Where's she going?" Morgan asked in confusion, his eyes following her.

Lucina was wondering the same thing when she took a quick look out the same window that Severa had been looking out of. There was nothing out there, night had fallen over Ylisstol. The only exception was the tiny pinprick the Bonfire was making. "Wait," Lucina said to herself. "The Bonfire? Is Fare…oh no. Severa, WAIT!"

Without another world, she was off, following Severa's trail. She took a few twists and turns before bursting through the front doors and onto the courtyard. Severa was just ahead of her, having come to a full top. She was staring fixedly at the Bonfire, not saying anything.

Lucina was hit by a tidal wave of dread as she saw Fare sitting at the Bonfire, gazing into it with a trance like look on her face. Her helmet was by her side, and Lucina could see that Fare was still Undead. Her skin was red and stretched, something that was almost enough to distract Lucina from how her eyes were glowing like dying embers. Her expression was lifeless. She was starting into the fire as if she wasn't truly seeing it.

"So that's her?" Severa asked through grit teeth. There was fire in her voice, and Lucina know that she had finally found what she was looking for. Something to be mad at. "I notice that she's still walking around. Her legs seem to work just fine. Is that the only thing that happened to her? She got turned ugly?" She let out a cold bitter laugh. "Not exactly a tragedy is it?"

Severa was crossing the grounds, heading towards Fare. Lucina heard footsteps behind her and knew that the others were right behind her, but she didn't have time to wait. She had to act now. "Look," Lucina said, thinking fast. "I don't know how much you know about Lordran, but being Undead isn't a blessing, it's a curse. When Fare dies she doesn't just fall down and then get back up. I've seen her come back and it's agony for her. Its harder every time, and if she slips coming back, she goes Hollow. Do you know what that is?"

Severa wasn't listening. She was marching across the courtyard to the Bonfire, Lucina just barely keeping up. All of the noise had finally gotten Fare's attention. She looked up as Severa stopped just short of her. Her glowing eyes rested on Severa's bright red hair. Her face sunk in sadness as she lowered her head, turning back to the Bonfire.

"Look at me," Severa said viciously. "Do you know what it's like to have the people you love the most die? To know that they're never coming back?"

There was a moment before Fare replied. "No." Her voice was low and raspy, as it had been the last time she had been in her Undead form. It was also a little strangled. "Hollows attacked my home in the Great Swamp, but I didn't see them kill anyone. I was one of the first they killed. When I came to-"

"No, that's all I needed to hear," Severa said, interrupting Fare. "Because I do! My mother and father both died because of Grima! I came back to save them! And now it's only been three years and my mother is crippled for life! Because of you!" Lucina instinctively gripped Falcion's handle as panic slowly began to creep up on her. Severa was beyond the point of being reasoned with, she had decided that she wanted to be angry. Trying to stop her would most likely backfire and make her even angrier. Right now her best hope was that Fare wouldn't react in a way that kept fueling Severa's fire, and that she would burn herself out quickly.

Fare swallowed, still not making eye contract with Severa. "I'm sorry," she said hoarsely. "You're right. Part of it is my fault. If I-"

"PART!?" Severa shrieked, "ALL of it was your fault!" Lucina winced as Severa's voice rose to a scream, as did Fare. This was getting out of hand fast. "You've been dealing with monsters and demons up until now just fine without our help! We don't come back when we die, so why are you hiding behind us? You're the hero that's supposed to save your world from the Abyss? Pathetic."

Lucina had had enough. Severa was her friend, but she had her limits. Rounding on Severa, she said in a level but sharp voice, "Fare wanted to leave as soon as she got here, but we stopped her, we insisted that we should help her. If you're going to blame anyone Severa, blame me. I've lost track of the number of times she told me that she thought it was a bad idea, and I convinced her otherwise." She took a deep breath before looking directly into Severa's eyes, ready to stand her ground.

Severa had turned her attention away from Fare and onto her. She was hesitating. Judging by the fury that was still burning behind her eyes, she still wanted to be mad at someone. However, Lucina didn't seem to be as ideal of a target as Fare. She glared at Lucina, glancing at Fare out of the corner of her eyes as she did. "She's a grown woman," Severa said, her voice low and full of venom. "She's old enough to make her own decisions. Someone who's supposed to rule when this is all over shouldn't need someone to hold their hand."

Fare let out a sigh as she got to her feet, looking down at the Bonfire. "It's ok Lucina," she said sadly. "You can't make her not be mad at me." Finally, looking as if it was taking her a great deal of effort, she looked at Severa. "I'm sorry about your mother. I wish it hadn't happened, I wish I could have stopped it. I would've gladly traded places with her. But I can't do that. If you want to be angry at me, I can handle that."

Severa was fuming as she look at Fare. At her sad, broken expression and her honest remorse, shining through even when Fare was Undead Apparently this was the last thing that Severa wanted to hear. "Just like that huh? Do you react that way when people get killed because of you too? Just accept it and tell people to hate you if they need to? Maybe next time it'll be the other way around and you'll get someone's daughter killed. Let's see if you can pull this off with an angry mother as well as you can an angry daughter."

Just when Lucina was about to intervene again, to tell Severa that this had gone on too long, something unexpected happened. Fare's eyes widened in horror and she took a step back. "No," she whispered, her breathing starting to become shallower and sharper. "No. I didn't know. I didn't-" she said, her glowing pupils darting back and forth in panic.

"Severa," Lucina said in a low mutter. "Enough. This isn't helping anyone, especially your mother." Severa ignored her.

"So, did you not realize until just now what exactly happened?" she asked. She was still angry but there was glee in her voice now. She had finally gotten a reaction out of Fare, one of panic and dismay. "Did you not even think about it when you saw her writing on the ground in pain? Or were you too busy thinking about what you'd do when you got your crown?"

"That's not-I didn't mean to," Fare said, her eyes now bulging in panic. "Please, you need to understand."

"Severa, stop it!" Lucina said firmly and loudly. "You're being cruel!" She was mainly focusing on stopping Several, but in the back of her mind she couldn't help but notice something. Fare wasn't looking at Severa. She was looking in the general direction, but her gaze didn't seem to be fixed on anything in particular. It was if she was staring off into space.

"How in Naga's name are you supposed to be able to save anyone?" Severa said scathingly. "How are you suppose to be a leader like Lucina when you act like this? How can you ever hold a candle to her? Huh? How?" She folded her arms again as she spoke, a self satisfied smirk playing around the edges of her mouth.

"I didn't know!" Fare screamed hysterically. "She was trying to kill me! I needed to get-if I didn't- it was me or her! If I had known I swear I wouldn't have!" Everything went quiet after that. The anger seeped out of Severa, to be replaced by pure confusion. She wasn't the only one. Lucina had no idea what Fare had meant. It sounded like Fare had been having a completely different conversation with someone else.

"Fare?" the soft and concerned voice of Solaire said from behind Lucina. "Are you all right?" Fare was slowly backing up. Her eyes were more focused now, and they were darting back and forth between Lucina and Severa. A look of pure terror on her face. "I-I," she stuttered. "I didn't. It was-I didn't know that-how could I," she babbled. For a few painful seconds, continued to stare.

Then, without warning, she spun on the spot and dove for the Bonfire, her hand reaching out for it. "Fare, no!" Lucina shouted, throwing herself toward and trying to keep the Undead warrior from traveling through the Bonfire. She was too late. She had barely touched Fare when a warm feeling wrapped around her and everything was swallowed up by darkness. Before Lucina could say a word, the darkness around them slipped away. They were back in Firelink Shrine.

It appeared that traveling though the Bonfires did not cancel out motion. Lucina was still moving forward, and accidentally smashed onto her, sending both of them sprawling to the ground. Struggling, Lucina got up, guilt pumping through her as she looked down. "Fare, I'm so sorry," Lucina said, extending a hand to help Fare up. "I should've stopped her before that."

Fare got to her feet without taking Lucina's hand, looking at the ground in shame. Lucina waited patiently for Fare to reply to her. The seconds ticked by, but not so much as a peep escaped her lips. Eventually, Lucina decided to address her directly. "What happened back there?" Fare stiffened noticeably, and Lucina hastily added, "If you don't want to tell me, I won't force you,"

Reaching down, the Chosen Undead gently stroked the handle of her jade green sword. She sniffed softly. "Have you ever done something horrible?" she asked quietly. "Have you ever done something that made you ask if you deserved to live?" Lucina blinked in shock. She had guessed that, whatever Fare had been talking about, it had been bothering her deeply. It being this severe, however, was not something that had been expected.

"No," Lucina said honestly. She had done things that she wasn't proud of. Part of her had felt like a coward for abandoning her own time and traveling back, as well as guilty for the stress that had caused for her friends. But the thing that ashamed her the most had to be when she had almost killed her own mother. She still had nightmares about that every once in awhile, holding her sword against her mother's chest, nothing but a warm smile of acceptance on the face of the woman who had given birth to her.

If she had gone through with it, she knew that she would feel the way Fare was describing. Wondering if she truly deserved to live. Thankfully it had not come to that. Robin had been too kind, too understanding. No matter how hard she had tried, Lucina couldn't bring herself to kill her. In fact, the incident had ended with Falcion on the ground and her sobbing into her mother's chest. "But I've come close," she said. "Far too close."

Fare looked up, swallowing as she did. "I don't know all of the details, but in a way that just makes it more unbearable." She was about to continue when a loud rushing noise filled the air. Solaire appeared next to her, looking around with concern. A look of relief crossed his face when he spotted the two of them. Though Fare looked at him nervously.

"We can talk another-" Lucina began, but Fare shook her head.

"No," she rasped. "I should have told him a long time ago. But I really do need to take care of this curse. I've been putting it off for too long now. There's someone nearby who can help me with it. Follow me." With that, Fare began to walk away from the Bonfire. Solaire barely had time to shoot Lucina a puzzled look before the two of them began to follow Fare. They passed through the crumbling ruins of Firelink Shrine, past a dozing Frampt and the gloomy knight.

"Still alive?" he said sourly as he saw them. All three of them ignored him. Eventually, they found themselves in front of a large nook that had been carved into the side of a great stone wall covered in moss. A perfectly square room was inside, a till on the ground oddly elevated.

"In here," Fare said, "don't step on that panel until we're all in. Lucina and Solaire entered first, with Fare right behind them. Putting her foot down on the panel, it sank into the ground. At once, the room lurched, a metal grate slid shut in front of the door, and it began to rise upward. Lucina gaped out of the metal grate in surprise. She could see Firelink Shrine shrinking below her as the room that they were in sped away, heading higher and higher.

Fare gave a weak smile at the look on Lucina's face. "They don't have elevators in your world I see," she said. "But I did promise you an explanation." She swallowed. "In order to prove myself as the Chosen Undead, I had to ring two bells. The Bells of Awakening, which woke Frampt from his slumber. The first bell is just up ahead, Solaire helped me reach it and ring it." Solaire smiled fondly, but his face quickly turned neutral as Fare continued to speak.

"The second one was much harder, and the first one was a trying challenge. It was far below the surface, in a miserable place called Blighttown. Dark, cold,wet and absolutely filthy. I wanted to dunk myself underwater after five minutes there. Poison was seeping out of every corner, and the structures there were barely cobbled together, ready to fall over. Somehow, the second bell was at the far and of this. Somehow, I made it through, and into the cave where the bell was.

Fare fidgeted uncomfortably, but continued to speak. "There was a woman guarding it, or at least something that had once been a woman. From the waist up she was normal, but below, she was anything but. Her torso was connected to the head of a massive spider, around the size of a small house, maybe two. She attacked me the second I entered the cave. The spider vomited lava onto me and killed me, and when I got back she was still there, as if she had been waiting for me."

Lucina resisted the urge to tilt her head in confusion. So far, she failed to see how this scenario could lead to Fare doing something wrong. This half human, half spider creature had attacked her without provocation, repeatedly. Even if Fare killed her, it would have been in self-defense. Possibly something to feel guilty over, but not the overwhelming guilt that Fare had talked about.

"She killed me quite a few times. I don't know how many, I didn't keep track. I was getting angry. I didn't know anything about the prophecy other than what Oscar had told me. I wanted answers, I wanted a cure for the Darksign, I wanted to know if I was the Chosen. Finally, I tried a different approach. Before I had been attacking her torso, trying to reach her human body. Instead, I went after the legs. They took a couple of blows each, but they came off."

Fare's hands were trembling now. She attempted to grip the hilt of her Furysword, but only succeeded in making it rattle against the sheath of her longsword. "I was getting excited. She was moving slower and slower, her attacks easier to block and dodge. I took out a few more legs and she fell over, she couldn't move. I climbed onto the back of the spider's body. It was covered with eyes, all of them blinking and widening as they looked at me. She had a sword in her hands." She drew the Furysword. "This sword. She tried to take my head off, but my shield took the blow, and I drove my longsword into her throat. I was pleased with myself, and took this sword as a trophy. It creates flames and is a fast and light weapon. It was ideal for me."

The sword shook violently as she slid it back into its sheath. "I found the Bell of Awakening and rang it. It was the happiest I had been in a long time. I was about to use a Homeward Bone to head back to the surface when a spotted something odd. A cave wall that didn't look quite right. When I tried to touch it, my hand moved right through it. It was only an illusion. I went through."

She bit her lip. "I found another creature just like the one that I had killed. Only this one was ill, severely so. She was a sad sight, frail, shriveled and white as a ghost. She was in pain and blind, could barely understand what was going on around her. A man was with her, just as blind as she was. Giant eggs were growing out of his back, stretching out like a hump. They were so heavy he couldn't even walk. He was her caretaker. And the woman thought that I was her sister. She called me Quelaag."

Fare let out an odd, strangled noise. Lucina continued to stare at her, not understanding. Who was Quelaag? Someone that Fare had known? Fare noticed Lucina's lack of comprehension. "Quelaag is one of the daughters of the Witch of Izalith," she said, the words coming out strained.

It all hit Lucina. At first she had thought that Fare had felt guilt over a monster that had had an ill relative that it had been protecting. It had been so much more than that. "But," she said, trying to make sense of the latest revelation, "how is that possible? Why did she have a giant spider for a body? Why did she attack you on sight?"

"I don't know what happened to her," Fare said in a distressed tone. "And I don't know why she attacked me either. Maybe she thought I was a Hollow. Maybe she thought I was infringing on her territory. I don't know, and I ever will know. Because I killed her!"

"It doesn't sound like the Quelaag of legends," Solaire said quickly. "Most likely, she was corrupted by the Abyss. Not even Artorias the Abysswalker could withstand that forever. If she attacked you on sight without even warning you to stay away, then I doubt she was the same Quelaag who helped defeat the dragons. She had been reduced to a mindless beast. You might have done her a kindness."

But Fare shook her head. "Her sister had undergone the exact same transformation. The only reason that she was will was that she had been sucking the pus out of those who had been infected with the egg parasites." Lucina had to fight down the urge to wretch. The thought of a woman sucking pus out of a massive growth made the inside of her stomach curl.

"Maybe her sister wasting away like that pushed Quelaag over the edge, maybe she was just making sure no one found her sister. The point is, I'll never know which is the truth. Her sister and the caretaker are in no state to tell me. They don't even realize that she's dead. I'm not even certain if I want to know." Fare went very quiet.

"I," Lucina said, not sure how to respond. She had had no idea that Fare had been sitting on this guilt for so long. "Have you ever gone back? Back to see the sister?"

After a moment's hesitation, Fare nodded. "Humanity eases her pain. I've been giving her what I could spare. Sometimes it makes me feel better, but then I ask who I'm doing it for. Her? Or myself." The pyromancer trailed off, her eyes not focusing on anything in particular. "I just don't know," she said, more to herself than anyone else. "I don't know if I did the right thing."

Lucina looked at Solaire for support, only to find him doing the exact same thing to her. "Fare," Solaire said, sounding as if he was making up what he said as he went along, "Think about it. Gravelord Nito, the Four Kings and Seath. They all had Lord Souls and even then they all turned against the light. Either siding with the Abyss, or their own selfish desires. I do not mean to belittle a Daughter of Chaos, but if so many holders of the Lord Soul could fall, then she most certainly could."

"And think of it this way," Lucina said, having just realized something. "She should have known about the prophecy. She had to have known what the Bell of Awakening was. The prophecy was about the one who would succeed Gwyn. There's no way a Lord couldn't have known, and if she didn't, it would've been because she cut ties with the rest of them."

Fare looked surprised as Lucina spoke. Evidently, she had not thought about this possibility. "I don't know," Fare said. A ghost of a smile was playing around the edge of her lips. She seemed to slowly be getting into a better mood, but didn't seem fully convinced that she had been in the right.

"Can we prove her fall beyond a doubt? No. But you need to remember something Fare." Solaire moved forward and put a comforting hand on her shoulder. "You were the one who rang the bells, you were the one who found the Lordvessel. You're Gwyn's chosen. Do you think that Gwyn would condemn the daughter of a close ally to death like that?" A smile spread across Fare's face. Slowly, and even when it was finished it was a fragile looking smile.

"Maybe," Fare said. "Thank you, you two. Could you please do me a favor and not tell anyone else? I'm not ready for the others to know just yet." Solaire nodded, giving her shoulder a gentle squeeze before taking his hand off. Lucina felt relief course through her as she nodded. There was still the matter of an angry Severa back home, but those wounds would heal. Slowly over time, but they would heal.

At that point, the elevator came to a stop and the grate opened. Fare stepped out, Lucina and Solaire right behind her. They were no longer in the ruins of Firelink Shrine, but a large stone chapel. If the distance of the ceiling was anything to go buy, it was at least three stories high. It had a certain beauty to it, but it looked very old and worn, patches of green moss clinging to the walls here and there. There was an altar at the front with several statues surrounding it, most of them having faded and one of them having been smashed. The statue of the woman lying on top of the altar, her hands crossed over her chest, appeared to be in much better shape though.

Lucina continued to stare, and realized with a jolt that it wasn't a statue. It was a corpse. Fare nodded and nodded sadly. "She was like that when I found her. She was a Firekeeper, women who tend to certain fires, making them even stronger. Firelink has one, hidden in an alcove. Someone probably killed her for her soul, she would have had a larger than average one." She sighed in disgust. "No idea who did it though. Anyway, let's not dwell on this. I doubt any of us want to stay longer than we have to."

Lucina didn't complain. Her limited time in Lordran had made her wary of the land. She couldn't help but expect more Hollows to creep out from dark corners. Thankfully none of them did. Fare led the others up a staircase, across to the other side of the chapel, and up two sets of ladders. This lead them through a narrow door onto the roof of the chapel, a bell tower on the other side.

Lucina was treated to a sweeping view of a giant town as they began to make their way across. She had to admit, after the towering wonders of Anor Londo, this was a bit of a disappointment. The buildings that dotted the landscape were tiny, unremarkable, and stuffed together, with barely any space in-between them. It looked like it had been designed to accommodate sheer size and little else. So this was Undead Burg.

They crossed the rooftop, Lucina having to step over a pair of corpses as she did. Both of them were slightly bigger than Tarkus, had halberds of comparative size, and had long since rotted away to bone. Lucina had a very good feeling that this things, whatever they were, had been alive when Fare and Solaire had first arrived.

As they crossed the threshold into the bell tower, they were greeted by a very odd looking man. Dressed in flowing black robes and with a bronze helmet on his head, he was standing with his arms stretched out and his palms open. "Welcome," he said softly, smiling as they entered. "I am Oswald of Carim. How may I be of-ah." He gave a wide, toothy smile as he spotted Fare. "Poor soul. Cursed. Thou shall want a purging stone then?"

"Two," Fare said, looking at Oswald with a cautious expression. "Just in case it happens again." Oswald gave a soft laugh and held out one of his arms. Fare clasped it, and Oswald turned his slightly, twisting Fare's with it. A stream of silver, vapor like substance flowed from Fare's arm into Oswald, a gentle sighing noise accompanying it. After half a minute, Oswald pulled away. Fare looked livid. "That was half of what I had," she said through grit teeth.

"Purging stones are not easy to come by. They're not simple rocks," Oswald said, reaching into his robes and handing Fare two square stones, a dull ash color, and with a skull in the center. Fare took them both, placing one in the center of her palm and squeezing tightly. Fare let out a soft sigh of relief as the symptoms of the Undead curse faded away. She was back to her normal self, her rugged skin, her dull hazel eyes, and her short and messy black hair.

She looked down at the purging stone, which had turned from ash to pitch black. It crumbled in her hands. "Thank you," Fare said, sliding the other stone into her bottomless box. "We really should head back," she said, turning her attention away from Oswald.

"I agree. I think Severa owes you a sincere apology," Solaire said firmly. Fare went a little red in the face and was about to reply when Oswald interrupted her.

"Wait," he said, holding up one hand. Oswald gave a cruel and knowing smile, his eyes moving up to look at the ceiling. "I can see thy's sin. Thou were supposed to be a liberator, but you ended up destroying something precious. In your rush to prove yourself, thou succumbed to arrogance, letting your pride carry you forward. Thou were on a righteous mission, how could you do no wrong? Yet thou did, and the innocent payed for your error. With blood." His head leveled out, his grin still coating it. "Thou know that I speak the truth. Come now. Thou may plead for forgiveness here." Without warning, he let out a shrill and high-pitched laugh. "Though I must warn thou. Thy sins are like none I have seen. I once believed myself capable of undoing any sin. Thou may prove me wrong."

Lucina frowned darkly. So much had happened today, and she really didn't want to deal with Oswald right now. She had no idea how he know enough to make guess like that. Did he have some sort of ability that allowed him to know? Was it just lucky guess work "We're going," she said firmly.

Oswald waved as they left the tower. "Thou art welcome anytime. It is only human to commit a sin." His high pitched laughter echoed in Lucina's ears as she left the bell tower.

"Was he the only person you could've bought a purging stone from?" she asked sourly to Fare, who was right behind her.

"No. There was one other person, and I know this may be hard to believe, but he was actually the more preferable of the two," Fare said bitterly. "The other is an Undead woman not far from Firelink. But I prefer to not talk to her if I can help it. She makes me feel uncomfortable." Lucina wondered how someone could be preferable to Oswald, but then decided that she might be better off not knowing.

"I still believe in what I said," Solaire said. "Severa should apologize."

Fare rubbed the back of her neck in discomfort. "Look, I appreciate the sentiment. Truth be told though, I'd rather not bring it up again. If she wants to hate me, I meant what I said. I can live with that. Right now I just want to head back and help Robin plan. We're heading towards Gravelord Nito next, from what I heard, and I have a little experience with his realm. I've been in the catacombs that lead to his lair."

"What were you doing in there?" Lucina asked. Fare went very red in the face. She mumbled something that sounded like "wrong direction" and "only near the entrance" before changing the subject. "To be honest, I feel like the best solution would be to avoid more trouble with Severa. If you drag an apology out of someone, it doesn't help anything. And I doubt that she'd give me one of her own free will."

"I'm not so certain," Lucina said. "She looked surprised when you ran. She has a tendency to act without thinking, she very rarely wants to actually hurt someone. I think she might feel ashamed at how hard she pushed you. Especially when she calms down and realizes that wait happened to Cordelia wasn't your fault."

"Maybe," Fare said, not sounding convinced. "It's just that-" but she brought off. A gentle, crisp tolling was coming from the top of the bell tower. Lucina blinked in surprise as she saw the Bell of Awakening rocking back and forth. Had Oswald rung it? Though, what truly surprised her, was how comforting the sound was. She would have thought that a lone bell, ringing in a cramped and rundown settlement like this would have been eery. It wasn't. It was actually rather soothing.

Fare seemed to agree with her, as a natural, full smile was spreading across her face. "Come on," she said, as the bell slowly ceased its ringing. The three of them said nothing as they headed back towards the entrance. But it wasn't an uncomfortable silence, it was a content one. For whatever reason, the ringing of the bell had brought Lucina and the others a moment of peace. It would end, it would end all too soon. For the moment, however, they would simply enjoy it in silence.

XXXXX

Author's Note: Due to the minimalist nature of Dark Souls, it can be hard to tell what the motivations of certain characters are. For example, Quelaag. Was she a mindless beast? Was she defending her turf? Or did she intentionally set up shop over the Bell of Awakening to farm humanity from people trying to reach it? There is no canon answer. That's the interesting thing about Dark Souls fanfiction, people can come at each character from different angles. Hell, I myself only realized the "she HAD to have known about the Bell of Awakening" approach while writing this chapter. Of course, there's potentially more to it than that.

So sorry about the wait, my life is a little awkward right now, hopefully I'll catch a writing bug before too long.

I would like to thank my Patrons, SuperFeatherYoshi and xXNanamiXx for supporting my work via . I would also like to thank SuperFeatherYoshi for being my proofreader, even if he was unavailable for this chapter.