AN: Thanks for all the nice reviews, everyone! Love you all!

DARK(ISH) SOULS

Orange Guidance Soapstone

It was done. The two Bells of Awakening had finally been rung. Whatever was supposed to happen wasn't immediately apparent, however. Solaire simply suggested they head back to Firelink and figure things out in stride. Of course, it was easy for a Warrior of Sunlight to journey forth without so much as a care in the world, but not having an immediately obvious goal troubled Bob deeply. That, and the thought that they had to fight their way back through Blight Town weighed his ego down further.

Something was happening to Bob too; he was becoming stronger. At first, the white wisps of souls that purged from defeated enemies seemingly had no effect on him. It wasn't until he was hitting the bonfires one after another, that he felt a surge of strength and stamina invigorating his body. He could swing his longsword about with one hand easily now, whereas before even a double-handed swing would throw him off balance. His armour too seemed to be lightening with each clattering step. Now he could jog at a decent clip for a respectable period of time, and STILL have enough energy to fight at the drop of a coin. Bob noticed Stacy was clearly improving too, but with her it was kind of hard to miss, especially as she swung her Zweihander about at the ugly fire-puking roach things and knocked them clear off the wooden scaffolding without breaking a sweat. At times, she wouldn't even use a sword, and just stomped them flat with her bare feet, laughing sadistically at their complete lack of poise.

Solaire pretty much confirmed their upgrade with cheery compliments left and right.

'Ah, Young Bob. The gift of experience is already gleaming from you. You grow brighter with each swing of your sword! And Fair Stacy, your merciless brutality against these defenceless creatures warms my very heart.'

It was a sincere gesture and one that made Bob swell with pride and caused quite a nervous stir in Stacy, who hid her face behind the hilt of her sword.

Bob had a lingering thought that maybe, if he kept fighting the way he was, he might just be as strong as Solaire one day. Of course, as soon as this thought came to him, it vanished in an instant when Solaire killed all three barbarians guarding the passage back the Valley of the Drakes with his shield. His SHIELD.

He'd just thrown it like a frisbee with such wind-shearing force that it decapitated the stinking masses of crap in one motion before boomeranging back to his hand in perfect sync.

Bob was impressed, sure, but seeing that man pull off incredible stunts was no longer that much of a shock to him.

'Captain Astora!' Stacy joked, giving Solaire a mock military salute.

Eventually, the stinking recesses of Blight Town were behind them. Bob took in a few deep breaths of fresh air as they emerged from the cave entrance to the Valley of the Drakes.

'Phwah!' He exhaled loudly with a curt Praise the Sun gesture. 'Thank GOD! That place was a laggy shit-hole.'

'Firelink isn't too far from here. Let's go back and see if anything's changed.' Stacy suggested, scanning the area for a bit before taking the lead; her huge sword propped on her shoulder lackadaisically.

Bob moved to follow, but halted mid-step when he noticed Solaire was staring off into the sky again. While it was technically day time, the sun itself wasn't visible in that canyon. The skies seemed a bit greyer since Bob had last seen it, so maybe that was bothering Solaire a little. Bob thought it best to reassure Solaire about that fact.

'Hey, Sol. You can probably get a proper look at the sun from Firelink. Let's catch up to Stace, eh?'

Solaire didn't respond. The angle that Bob had gave him a clear window through the slits in the man's helmet. His eyes seemed distant, mired in deep thought and reflection, but also holding within them a slight tinge of regretful longing. Bob was taken aback at seeing such an emotion from the normally jovial and carefree warrior.

Solaire suddenly turned to Bob, having seemingly noticed him for the first time in what had felt like ten whole minutes of silence. That warm glimmer in the Warrior of Sunlight's gaze returned in earnest, making Bob doubt for a moment if he had actually imagined what he'd seen.

'Oh! My apologies, Young Bob. I was simply lost in thought. Did you speak to me a moment ago?'

Bob didn't answer right away. The abruptness in Solaire's change of demeanour rattled him, but he quickly recovered and responded with all the cheer he could muster.

'I was just saying we should catch up with Stace. She seems pretty sure something's happened back in Firelink, like you suggested to us in the first place.'

'Ah, yes. Of course. Best we move in tandem, then. Our journey together will be all the more rewarding with jolly cooperation!'

Solaire jogged forward and quickly moved into step next to Stacy, who had just arrived at the gate leading to the elevator back to the New Londo Ruins. He said something to her out of Bob's earshot, to which Stacy responded with a laugh.

'Hey! Let's move!' Stacy yelled out to Bob, waving him over.

Bob hurried over, putting what he'd witnessed from his mind for the moment. There was no time to worry. He was through letting self-doubt cripple him. As long the three of them continued to move forward, everything would be okay.

'What the hell were you doing back there?' Stacy asked him grumpily in her typical hands-on-hips pose.

'Just having some cheesy thoughts.'

=][=

Holy SHIT this guy reeks!

Solaire had been right. There was something waiting for them in Firelink, but not what any of them probably expected…or wanted in the slightest.

As the three of them had rounded a corner to the semi-flooded area of Firelink, Bob and Stacy had shrieked as one at the monstrosity eyeing them blearily. It was a huge grey leathery snake with a set of teeth so rank with stench that Bob wished he was back in Blight Town. The thing, whatever it was, gave a start at their reaction, also yelping out as its thick neck recoiled back in surprise. During the exchange of screaming and gagging, Solaire just stood there calmly.

'What the…oh, man! …WHAT?' Bob sputtered and instinctively clenched the grip of his longsword from its sheath.

The snake guy seemed to sense the situation could go pear-shaped, and actually spoke.

'Please, be calm warriors! I do not wish to fight.'

As it spoke, a wave of stinking breath reached Bob and almost keeled him over. It smelled like rancid fish and recently puked egg salad, with a touch of bubbling drake shit.

'My goodness. A primordial serpent!' Solaire remarked cheerfully and casually approached it, completely unperturbed by its smell. 'It is a pleasure to meet an Original such as yourself. I am Solaire of Astora, and these are my companions; Young Bob of Kerns, and Fair Stacy.'

Serpent guy clicked his over-sized teeth and drew his creepy reptilian eyes over the trio warily.

'I see. I am Kingseeker Frampt, close friend of our great Lord Gwyn. I seek the Chosen Undead, in order to enlighten him about his true purpose.'

Frampt paused his little speech for a moment, as if hesitating to say anything further.

'The two Bells of Awakening have been rung, I presume? Was this you're doing?'

Bob thought about answering, but the thought of directly inhaling Frampt's breath made a slew of bile crawl up his throat. Thankfully, Solaire answered quickly and elegantly.

'Yes. We are partially responsible. The Bell in Blight Town was rung by us. This Chosen Undead you speak of rang the other in the Parish.'

Frampt suddenly got extremely excited, retching out a disgusting throaty gargle that made Stacy cry out pull her hood over her face.

'My, oh my…you have seen him then?! I must speak with him urgently! Where did you last see him?!'

Bob was immediately aggravated by the outburst, and he had to snap back.

'What's so important about the Chosen Undead? As far as I've seen, the guy is a kleptomaniac and a murderous psychopath, along with just being a total prick.'

Frampt snorted annoyingly, fixing his glassy orange eyes at Bob.

'I will not divulge anything to those who have no part in the prophecy.' He turned back to Solaire and replied more respectfully. 'I am sorry, Warrior of Astora, but I am not going to help any of you.'

Solaire took the blatant rejection in stride.

'I see…well then, Kingseeker Frampt, may you continue to be a hypocritical pile of manure til the end of days.'

Bob did a double take, thinking maybe he hadn't heard him properly. Stacy just laughed.

'Woah-ho-HO!' She exclaimed.

'I beg your pardon?!'

Solaire just motioned with a slight jerk of his helm to Bob and Stacy to get out of there.

'Gladly.' Bob graciously complied.

The three left Frampt and his stupid exposition, but before exiting the little area he resided in, Stacy turned back for a moment and smiled cheekily as she peered out from the column at the entrance.

'In other words, go fuck yourself.'

=][=

Frampt was furious. Never in his centuries of watching mankind had he ever met a group of people so blatantly disrespectful of the Old Ways. Part of him just wanted to go back into the depths of his abode and sleep for another decade. But his duty called. He had to find the true successor to Lord Gywn; the Chosen Undead, to link the Fires and continue the current age. He wished upon the Gods of Anor Londo that he never met those three again.

The one called Bob, utterly unremarkable and harbouring some secret vendetta against the Chosen Undead.

Solaire of Astora, a bipolar mystery. One moment, polite, the next insulting him without hesitation.

And that maiden, Stacy. What a horrible little wench with a disgusting vocabulary unbefitting of any creature on earth.

'How despicable. The Age of Fire can't return soon enough.' He grumbled to himself.

His frustrations ceased when he heard a clatter of armour coming near from somewhere in Firelink. A familiar aura engulfed the place. One Frampt was more than familiar with, that of the bloodline from centuries past, the Hero who originally brought forth the Age of Fire.

The Chosen Undead had arrived, now standing before Frampt; silent and ready to be commanded, ready to fulfil his destiny.

'Ah, Chosen Undead. You have finally arrived. I am Kingseeker Frampt, close friend of Lord Gwyn. I wish to elucidate your fate. Do you seek such enlightenment ?'

The Chosen Undead nodded, quietly urging Frampt to continue.

Before Frampt revealed the Chosen's destiny, a sudden idea illuminated in his mind. It wasn't part of his original plan, and he wasn't completely aware why he was thinking such things, but he spoke all the same.

'There is one thing you should know, afore I tell you your destiny. There is a trio of warriors travelling Lordran that put me at unease. The Old Voices tell me they are dangerous; that they seek to dismantle all that keeps this world intact. I suspect they may even be members of the Darkwraiths, the enemies of all of man.'

The Chosen Undead, listened raptly, now armed with dual Claymores, AND holding both swords with a pair of fully-upgraded pyro gloves. Tiny, neon orange cinders sparked from the gloves, illuminating Chosen's Elite Knight Armour in wicked gleaming light.

'They will try and take the Lord Vessel from you, to take your rightful place in history. You must know then, about what must be done.'

Frampt awaited a response. It troubled him slightly that the Chosen Undead did not speak.

Eventually, the Chosen just shrugged in response, as if to say 'No Problem.'

When he sauntered off elsewhere with both large swords braced on his shoulders in a V-shape, Frampt clattered his teeth excitedly.

'Go forth, Chosen Undead…' He then paused, waiting until the Chosen's armour's rattles died out in the distance. 'Go forth and fuck them up.'

=][=

Bob, Solaire and Stacy were beside themselves in uproarious laughter. The tight elevator corridor echoed out their glee to every corner of the Parish. A few Balder Knights chuckled at the sound, not wanting to be left out of the joke.

'Sol! The HELL was that! You tore that stupid carpet snake a new one!' Stacy exclaimed with tears of hilarity welling up.

Bob had laughed himself to the limit. As funny as that display was to him, he had to ask Solaire just what it was all about.

'That was something else. But what brought that on? That was totally out of left field.'

Solaire sighed deeply after a riotous belly laugh, and caught his breath before answering.

'I can judge one's merit and sense of justice with but a few words.' He explained with a knowledgeable twinkle in his eye. 'I knew the moment that creature spoke that it harboured a most unsound air of deceit and lies. Whatever his agenda might have been, we'll all be the better for having no part in it.'

'Wow. You're so perceptive.' Stacy smiled, then pointed at herself. 'What did you think of us when you first met us?'

Bob awaited the response too, curious as to what Solaire's first impression had been.

'Hahaha! That is a secret, Fair Stacy. Perhaps one day I'll divulge, but for now, such things are best left unsaid.'

Bob should've expected such a vague answer. Then again, Stacy was being a little too intrusive in his opinion. The Parish elevator creaked open as it reached the top, Solaire stepped off first and turned back to them with a beaming expression.

'Let us go, my friends. I have an idea of where we should head next.'

=][=

'Hey, it's Zeus!' Bob remarked at the huge, grizzled old man clanging away with his smithing hammer. After tagging the bonfire and resting up for a little while, Solaire directed them towards a long, narrow path leading to an ominous fortress. It seemed like the right way to go, and Bob wasn't going to argue. With his and Stacy's newfound strength and Solaire by their side, whatever lay in wait there didn't stand a chance. But before heading off, Bob curiously investigated the endless hammerfalls that made relaxing at the bonfire an exercise in annoyance.

'Well, I'll be. Another visitor.' The old guy said gruffly, but with an earnest kindness that belied his fierce appearance. 'I'm afraid I don't know any "Zeus", my name is Andre of Astora. I'm a blacksmith.'

Who would've guessed, Bob thought sarcastically, keeping the comment to himself naturally.

'Nice to meet you, Andre. I'm Bob. There's two others nearby. I'll call them over—'

'ANNNNNNNDRE!'

Solaire had violently emerged from the other end of the room, already barrelling through the air towards Andre. Bob was too close to his flight path and flailed out of the way, stunned and speechless.

Andre reacted in an instant; flipping his smithing desk over and sending all manner of tools and weapons flying every which way in a deafening cacophony of metals.

'SOLLLLLLAIRE!' Andre yelled out in reply, launching himself into the air; missiling right towards the man who's name he'd just bellowed out at the top of his lungs.

Stacy had appeared at the top of the staircase in the room just in time to mouth: 'THE F—'

Then the two men collided into one another, shaking the very concrete at Bob's feet at the impact.

It took a few seconds for Bob to realize what had just happened. He still stood there, stunned, watching Solaire and Andre share the manliest hand-shake he had ever witnessed.

'My old friend! What a glorious fortune to see you again!' Andre roared, grinning ear to ear and clasping Solaire's hand with such force that Andre's arm muscles bulged incredibly.

Solaire returned the handshake with gusto, seemingly matching the much larger man's strength.

'Andre! Such a dazzling treat to meet you once more!'

The two broke their handshake and erupted into a hearty laugh that threatened to crumble the foundations of the room atop their heads.

After a few more heartfelt words between the two men, Andre and Solaire settled down a fraction to the point where Bob and Stacy felt safe enough to approach them.

'Sooo, you guys know each other, huh?' Stacy asked warily, keeping her distance.

'Yes. Andre is a dear friend of mine I met in Astora. Most of my battle techniques were gleaned from his marvellous example.' Solaire exclaimed with pride.

'It's good to see you in such high spirits, and with trusted companions no less. ' Andre commented cheerily. 'I was worried when I heard you left Astora on pilgrimage, just as this Age of Fire nonsense swept up Lordran. But all the same, you've been taking good care of yourself. And who is this pretty lass tagging along with you?'

Stacy frowned at the innocent remark. Bob knew her bitter resentment and bipolar nature made it incredibly flaky for strangers to compliment her looks.

'Ah, where is my cordiality? This is Fair Stacy. She may have the visage of a beautiful, innocent maiden, but her merciless combat prowess is astounding. And to my recollection, she once asked me to become her husband.'

Stacy was flush red in a heartbeat. Andre raised any eyebrow at her and pried further.

'Oh my, and what say you of that, Solaire?'

Stacy's face lit up like a Great Chaos Fireball. Bob wanted to ease her embarrassment by doing something stupid but he honestly wanted to hear Solaire's answer.

'Well—'

'AIIIEEEE!' Stacy shrieked shrilly as she pulled her cowl over her face and dashed upstairs as fast as her equip burden allowed.

'Stace!' Bob called out, chasing after her. He'd just reached the top of the stairs when he spotted a flash of white zipping by; most likely heading towards the Fortress.

'Where is she going? It's dangerous by herself!' Solaire yelled, appearing suddenly at Bob's side. With a wordless nod of understanding, they broke into a run in unison; already sprinting across the bridge-way to the Fortress just as the white speck that was Stacy already recklessly bolted into its dark, ominous maw.