Still. The reason it took me so long is that I ended up needing to do a complete rewrite… Yeah. I'm considering uploading my in universe, but non canon for the story snips that I've written to get through writers block, as well as the complete screw up chapter as sort of an outtakes thing. Dunno how people would feel about that, so I'm asking here.
Still don't own Dark Souls, that honor belongs to From Software, while the publisher is Bandai Namco.
"Some would consider it a sin to laze about until the sun reaches its zenith."
"Merf." I flopped my arm over my face, trying without much success to block Petrus out. It might have been immature, but frankly I didn't care.
It was a little over a week since my trip into the burg, and I had recovered from my physical workout admirably with a few hours in front of a bonfire. No, it wasn't physical hurts that had me lying about like a useless sack of dung. Both Laurentius and Griggs were determined to convince me that theirs was the better magic, and I should drop the other. On a personal level, I was seriously regretting not leaving them both to rot, and instead having Oscar teach me how to use a sword more effectively. Not that I would ever admit that to anyone's face. For one thing I would do well not to offend wizards and men who commune with fire. For another, Oscar would almost certainly take me up on it.
Ok, time for a bit of exposition.
Pyromancy would be the art of manipulating the power of fire within all organic life, but usually my own. It works by 'asking' the pyromancy flame to do stuff for you. Now that wouldn't be a problem if it understood speech, but sadly nothing is ever that easy. One asks by manipulating it via certain fields of power. That was almost the end of it right there, but after I had pumped the soul power I had collected the party in the depths into my… spirit… power… stuff, I found that perceiving the fields went from impossible to merely difficult. After I got the hang of it, Laurentius showed me a few simple 'words' I decided to try one. That's where my problems started.
Paraphrasing what he said, I was using a flame born from Laurentius' soul. Now the only way to get a flame is to get it from someone else, but over time it merges with your own soul, and thus becomes significantly easier to use. Said merging often takes years.
So I was left with a monkeys paw. Make no mistake; it did as I told it to. My problem was that it would look for loopholes. If I used 'Burst', which was how I thought of the 'word' to cast Combustion, the flame would indeed burst, and set something on fire. The issue I had was that the ignited object would, nine times out of ten, be me. My teacher thought it was hilarious, but showed me ways to 'point' the flame to a proper target. Things started working a bit better after that, but I still had to be really precise or it would find some way of making me suffer. Speaking the word as I shaped it in the flame seemed to help a little too.
In the end, I decided that the only pyromancies that I'd find useful and I could consistently use without risking my life in combat would be Carmina's self-realization spells. Anything else was more likely to backfire on me, and should only be used while near a bonfire. Just to keep in practice.
Magic, was a different, if similar beast. It was divided into three parts; Manipulating the magic field as in pyromancy, fueling it with your own power reservoir, and an incantation.
The magical field manipulation was what I had considered the easy part, and had surprised Griggs. Unlike pyromancy, you didn't ask the magical power to do stuff for you. Instead, you needed to create a matrix that you filled with your own power. The upshot was that you never had a truly malevolent force looking for ways to screw you over. The bad part was that these fields were often incredibly complex and getting merely 'close' would net you a completely different effect entirely. This was the part that I was fairly good at.
The next part was fueling the spell. This is the part that Griggs said was the easiest, which is fine if you've been raised in an environment where pouring your energy out in mystical essence was the norm. I still haven't figured out how to do this in any significant amount to do anything, though I suspect that it's similar to pouring out souls for reinforcement. Just… less instinctive. I might try that once I'm feeling more up to scuff, but I don't feel like blowing myself up right now.
Griggs had no idea why I am having issues with that part. I suspect it has something to do with not having interacted with magic at all before these lessons.
The final part was the incantation. This was pure memory, and like the matrix part, it had to be borderline perfect. Griggs showed me an example of why you needed to do so of course. Just last night in fact. The first time he said the spell perfectly, and unleashed a soul arrow that shattered a good sized rock. The second time, he slurred the word a tiny bit. The end result involved creating an effigy of magic that promptly tried to kill us. It probably would have succeeded if Oscar hadn't decided on our third lap around the camp that enough was enough and destroyed it by smashing it with his shield.
Oddly, the only time I had really interacted with them after I had gotten back was with lessons. In fact, now that I was pressured in my own mind, my lessons were the only time they interacted with anybody. I might need to try and break down a few social barriers at some point.
But still, back to the present.
"Fine." Petrus stated, and I could sense his shrug "Lay about. However, lady Reah has arrived, so if you can't get off the ground and make yourself presentable at least have the decency to try to stay out of sight." I heard footsteps leaving.
Screw yo- Wait Reah? Wasn't she supposed to show up only after one of the bells was rung?
I sat up quickly. While not unwelcome, Reah was not a variable that I wanted to deal with right now. It seemed that I would have little choice however.
"Don't listen to Petrus." A far more sympathetic –and welcome- voice broke that train of thought. "You have been working hard at learning two crafts that it takes years to learn." Oscar thumped down next to me, "Admittedly, much of that is the meditation required to build the power for it. You have been working hard at learning them however."
I made a face, "Stop trying to make me feel better. You suck at it." Both Laurentius and Griggs had noted that while I was fairly good at some parts of each craft, I was still much worse at it over all then any acolyte they had seen. Functionally, my crossbow was still my best and most reliable weapon.
"Apologies." The knight bowed his head "Perhaps you should consider honing the skills that you have, rather than learning new ones." He looked up with a wicked sparkle in his eye "That is, if you don't consider your lessons are going well."
I ignored that little jib at the end and considered the rest of what he said. The pyromancies I could use reliably were self-realization. Perhaps I should ask Griggs if we could turn our attention to fortifying magics if there was such a thing, rather than the offensive ones. I didn't think that was what Oscar meant however.
"You think I should just work with my crossbow?" I asked.
"Yes." The knight shifted so he could look me in the eye. "From what Laurentius has told me, you do well avoiding direct confrontation." He raised a hand to stall anything I might say, "I believe that you should still practice the more arcane arts, and do some work on learning the sword as well. Yet the skills that will serve you best are the ones that you are already familiar with."
He had a point. I had gotten all worked up about blowing stuff up with godly magical power that I hadn't fully considered the fact that maybe I it would be hard to get to that level. It did raise other questions though, "Ok, I get that, but where am I going to find the time to keep practicing everything?"
He nodded ", I suggest limiting practice to strictly practical application. I have listened to the theory and the book learning that Griggs is pushing on you. Much of that is unnecessary for what you will be using. Laurentius has given you a stable base to work with, but lately has been simply giving you history lessons. Use that time you would be studying interesting, yet ultimately pointless trivia to learn swordplay and practice with your crossbow." He gave a wry smile, "You yourself have mentioned that you are not yet suited for the task at hand, so we will begin our travels once you are."
Just the way he said that last sentance sounded ominous. He was no doubt right though. I wasn't ready to go fighting creepy monsters yet, and it didn't look like magic and pyromancy would be the easy ticket to victory I had hoped for.
"I believe that we should take a brief audience with the lady Reah." Oscar said thoughtfully.
Wait, what? "Ok, where did that came from?"
He chuckled and shook his head "Apologies. I was simply musing" He gave me a look that I was afraid to read much into, "The good lady is resting here before she attempts to retrieve something from the catacombs. It occurred to me that perhaps the best training would be a trial by fire."
I stared at him.
"Do not look at me like that." Oscar scolded gently, "It would give you much more practical training then I could give you, and with no less than three temple knights of Thorolund in addition to us the danger should be minimal." He gave a slight smile. "Of course it should help ease your mind that the necromancers and their minions are exactly the type of enemies that I was trained to destroy."
I closed my eyes. The necromancers weren't the worst things that lay beneath the graveyard, but how to tell him that? On the other hand, I could head off patches. That would prevent the major issues that happened to this crew in the game. Oscar had a point too, his weapon was made for this and he was easily the most lethal person here. Factor all that with the simple fact that I can stop us from delving too far and hitting the Tomb of the Giants, and virtually all the huge problems should be dealt with. Basically, this should be easy soul reaping.
So why do I have a horrible feeling about this?
Oscar obviously noticed my continued misgivings, "What is it that is worrying you?"
"I couldn't tell you." And it's true. I didn't really know myself. "Just a bad feeling."
He looked as though he was seriously considering my reason, which puzzled me. Then I remembered the results of all the other 'feelings' I had. I saved his life, I rescued Laurentius, and I had stuck around long enough to pick up Griggs as well. He must be mistaking this for like those times that I actually knew what was coming.
"Can you pinpoint the source of your unease?" He said finally.
I shook my head. "Sorry. The only thing I've got is that it would be a bad thing our group to go down there."
"I doubt that they will take your that warning seriously without more to go on that that." Oscar noted, "I however, will. We will delay for a few days. Alberich," he saw the look of confusion on my face immediately, "The warrior in chainmail, mentioned a smith below; perhaps he will repair our equipment." He clasped me by the shoulder, "In the meantime, we shall destroy as many hollows as possible, and take the souls to the hag in the aqueduct." He pointed to the structure that I had journeyed through two weeks ago. "I took the liberty of investigating her wares after you mentioned her. She does carry bolts, though the price is abhorrently expensive."
"Well I can't complain about the price if it's a resource I really need." The fact that Oscar was taking my foreboding so seriously felt somewhat awkward for me, but I would be lying if I said I wasn't glad
A thought suddenly struck me "does she have cloth for sale?" If she did, it was possible that I could use it to muffle the noise of my mail shirt.
The knight nodded.
"Do you think that-" I had to check myself from saying Rickert's name, as I couldn't know it yet, "the blacksmith would be too averse to muffling the armour after he repairs it?"
"I certainly hope so." Oscar said, "While such precautions probably will not help in this outing, it certainly won't hurt in the future." He smiled, "I'm glad that you are considering your set of skills."
Plans made, and precautions agreed on, we decided it might be best to inform Reah that we would be tagging along for the ride.
I shed my armour, and rearmed myself before we went to talk to the clerical party. Quite frankly my armour looked terrible, and I wanted to make a fairly good first impression. Oscar saw what I was doing and followed suit, revealing a pale blue doublet and white pants. My best guess was that the pants were made of wool, which made sense because anything lighter probably would have cause horrible chaffing. There was also a great deal of embroidery. I wasn't too tempted to laugh at the fire warding heraldry on his doublet, but the stylized birds on the pants were a little much. In my plain grey vest, black cotton shirt and dark blue lined pants, I felt rather plain next to him. Not that I would ever be caught dead wearing anything so fancy.
Looking slightly more respectable, we proceeded towards the back of the ruins where Petrus tended to stay. On our way past, we saw the crestfallen warrior –Alberich I reminded myself- chatting with Laurentius. Well it was nice to see that he at least was socializing. We didn't pass close enough to hear what they were saying, but judging from Laurentius' wild arm movements, followed by Alberich's laughter I had a fairly good guess as to what they were talking about. It wasn't my fault that the sadist flame decided that I looked particularly flammable, despite my surcoat.
We made the rest of our short walk without any other events.
The clerical crew was just as they were in game, though slightly more active. Petrus was leaning up against a wall, listing the supplies they supposedly had while Vince and Nico stood by the stairs confirming each item on the list. Reah was kneeling just past them, and I could faintly hear her voice in either prayer or reading scripture.
I slowed my pace slightly so Oscar would get there first. Petrus didn't like me too much, and the feeling was mutual. It was very possible that his outlook could colour his cohorts' view, so best leave the diplomatic stuff to the noble whose word carried some clout. Besides which, judging from how much of Reahs plans Oscar seemed to know, it was possible that he was a familiar face. Yes it was probably best if I kept my part in the discussion to a minimum.
"How goes the packing for the expedition?" Oscar inquired.
Petrus looked up from his list, "Quite well my lord, thank you." He glanced over at me and visibly seemed to be biting back a remark, "I see that your companion has decided to join you." He said instead.
"Indeed." Oscar stated with just a hint of dryness "We have decided that it might be best if we went with you on your expedition."
That got Reahs attention, "Did you not have your own quest my lord?" she stood, and turned towards us. I saw a book in her hand, so I guess that answered the reading or prayer question.
Oscar nodded, "We do, however it is a journey that would be eased by the aid of others." He inclined his head slightly towards the clerical party "doubly so by the aid of holy church knights, and your own gifts."
"Miracles are not my gifts, my lord" Reah said, with just a hint of coolness "but the gifts of the gods."
"I believe he was referring more towards you unwavering faith, and dedication" I interjected. Perhaps Oscar wasn't as much of a diplomat as I had thought. Oscar caught on quickly and nodded.
Reah went utterly scarlet, "Apologies milord. Forgive me."
"There is nothing to forgive my lady." Oscar said quietly, catching on quickly. "That is just one more sign of your faith."
"Regardless," I said, attempting to head off the digression before it got too far, "We're getting into some dark and dangerous stuff. Working together we have a much better chance of getting through it then going alone."
"So you say," One of Reahs bodyguards –I wasn't sure if it was Nico or Vince- said slowly, "And while Lord Oscar would certainly be helpful in our quest, what do you have to offer?"
Getting all of us out in one piece? Luckily Oscar came to my rescue, "He excels with a crossbow, and notably his armour is of the same quality and make as mine" he thumped me on the shoulder. "He also gets things done, which is more than I can say for myself unfortunately."
I'll note that no one else seemed that convinced, and really I couldn't blame them. Oscar seemed to have a fairly optimistic outlook in regards to my capabilities, probably due to my saving his life. Now I'll admit killing a butcher made me feel like a bit of a badass but keeping a realistic for a moment, that was an outlier. That predatory part that had taken control hadn't shown up since then, and I hadn't been able to recapture that focus deliberately.
Still, realistic wasn't going to fly here, and nothing I could say would help my case. "Look, if you all think I'll be a liability then I'll stay behind." Oscar stared at me, and I gave him a look in return, "What? You might have confidence enough in my abilities, but if they are too busy keeping an eye on me then everybody is going to die. Regardless of how good you personally might be"
Oscar frowned, "Why should anyone feel the need to watch you? Is my word not enough recommendation?" I had to check the urge to burry my face in my hands. Oscar was intelligent, but it seemed that when it came to stuff like this he was surprisingly thick. That said, he was an expert swordsman, and the church knights shifted uncomfortably mildly worried that they might have offended him. I had to wonder if Astora had duels over matters of honor.
Reah for her part looked thoughtful, "Why do you put such trust in him milord?" There was no condemnation there; no doubt that I wasn't worth trusting, she just wanted to know what I had done to earn that trust. It was a little bit humbling actually. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, she was a priestess, and she probably got where she was by running on blind faith and devotion to her religion.
Oscar glanced at me and hesitated, "He saved my life, and he saved the lives of two other people in the encampment." He sighed raggedly, "The significant part is that no one could have known where we were, or how much danger we were in. He was guided by a hunch, each time." He chuckled, " I guess I really should be more skeptical, yet three for three… it is somewhat difficult to argue with."
"I'll note," I said hastily, before anyone thought that I was some sterling knight, "That I did most of the saving through guile, cleverness and more than my share of luck." I regained my composure, "I'm not really hero material, but I try and do the best I can with what I have, and I trust my instincts." And the more likely of my foreknowledge to be just game mechanics.
Petrus nodded stiffly, "The guidance of the gods comes to those who need it, regardless of their faith." Ok, I knew he meant that in the belief sense, but everyone else took 'faith' to mean 'religion'. I won't lie, despite having decided that I couldn't assume he was the scum here that he was in the game, I sort of hoped he was. Then I could stab him, and not have everyone think I was a basket case. Still, I guess I couldn't object, as the other clerics seemed to reconsider their stance on me.
"If the gods have decided on you as their tool, how can we object?" the knight who has spoken earlier intoned. I guess it was Nico, since Vince wasn't too talkative if I remember right. I also wasn't too sure on how I felt to be called a tool. Even if he didn't mean it in the same way someone from my world would.
"Then its settled," Oscar said happily, "We will need a few days to prepare. Our armour needs repairs, and we need bolts to keep his crossbow fed. In addition, we should collect any information about the catacombs that we can."
"I agree entirely," Petrus noted, "We could use a few more supplies as well. I take it you know of a blacksmith, and merchant nearby?"
"I know of the merchant; however it is Alberich that knows of the blacksmith." Oscar said. "I suggest we go speak to him for more information."
"Indeed we should," Petrus beckoned to the two other knights, "Come, gather up all of our weapons, and any other equipment that has been damaged by the journey."
Like good little drones, they did as he said, then followed Oscar to where we saw Alberich chatting with Laurentius, then I'd assume to where we and Oscar left our armour and gear. I dunno for sure, I more or less stopped caring too much when they turned out of sight.
Instead, I turned my attention toward Reah.
"I trust the delays aren't going to be a problem?" Seeing as how it was her show regardless of what the knights thought, I best at least see what her opinion was, "A few days is probably an optimistic guess. We will need to collect enough souls for supplies, and that isn't even taking into account how long it will be for our armour to get fixed, or covering the cost of that either."
"I am anxious to get started," she admitted, "However it would be dangerous to proceed without everyone being ready for the challenges ahead."
"I'm not sure we can prepare for what's ahead." I said softly. I don't know what it was, but I felt that it wasn't fair to her if I didn't tell my misgivings. I guess it made sense in a twisted way; if things went south she was the one who would lose the most.
"Do you know something?" She asked sharply. I winced inwardly at the accusing look on her face.
I knew plenty, but knowing didn't fill me with this dread that the catacombs seemed to bring, but how do I get that across without revealing too much? "Nothing that I can really explain. I do have a really bad feeling about it though." I looked her in the eye. "Oscar knows, and that is why he is taking the steps he is. But I'm not convinced that any of that is going to make this dread go away."
"Perhaps it is just the dread of going into the home of necromancers?" She seemed to recall the hunches Oscar had talked about, and didn't seem convinced by her own words.
Still though, I had cast enough foreboding over this affair and I grabbed that guess happily "That could certainly be it." In fact, the more I thought about it, the more likely it seemed. Dark, cramped, tight areas were hardly my favorite places to begin with, and knowing that it was a genuine necromancer nest was none too comforting either. "It probably is in fact."
She still didn't seem convinced, even though I half was, "Yes."
That seemed to end any threads of conversation we might have, so before things got too awkward, I turned to leave her to her scripture. "I'll let you get back to your book"
Her head bobbed out of the corner of my eye, "Yes. Be well, Vereor Nox."
"I'd like to, Reah," I said behind me as I walked away, "But fearing the dark never saved anyone from what lurked within."