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Fandom Dark Souls: Second Flame [Closed]

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Lucyfer

I'mma Die On Top
In a time long ago, the Age of Dark was pierced by brilliant flames that brought life and disparity to the world. These flames were kindled by the souls of those who loved the world, first by Lord Gwyn, and then many others after him.

Unfortunately, the Bearer of the Curse, when given the opportunity – walked away.

Untouched now by the Curse, the Age of Dark bothered them none, though as the flames died, the Age of Dark spread far beyond Lordran, to cover the whole world. Kingdoms fell, and none arose in the dark. Time itself seemed to cease with nothing to mark its passage, no growth, no decay.

Dragons rose again, bones found scales, and the beasts reigned in the skies as if they’d never left. Archtrees broke through the surface and shot into the sky. Those creatures that belong to the dark – hollows, darkwraithes, and other abominations of the abyss – flourished, numbers growing, as those which were servants of the flame began to dwindle.

And yet, the flames returned.

No one can say how, no one can say why.

Perhaps a gust of dragon wings gave life to sparks. Perhaps embers crushed underfoot moved to kindling. Whatever the case may be, life returned, and with it came death.

The Everlasting Dragons are not unfamiliar with what this means, nor those few remnants of ages before. Some will seek to destroy this fledgling flame, while others will seek to kindle its flames so it may push back the dark once more.

All of them know this: there will be new Lords in this time, created by that first lick of flame that speared the sky and announced itself on the horizon.​

~***~

Aldrin, The Living

“Go to the light, she said,” the Blade of the Darkmoon grumbled as he set his hands on the broad archtree, taking in a shaky, deep breath. A shrieking noise pierced the otherwise quiet environment, and the young man attempted not to flinch as the sound seemed to move down his spine, “Go find the new Lord Souls and bring one back for me, she said,” another bit of grumbling, before the knight peered around the archtree, “She didn’t tell me there would be abyssal dragons on the way.”

The only fortune that Aldrin had was that the dragon that was stumbling forward was not entirely coated in scales. He considered it a miracle of the golden soul he could see within the creature, pulsing like a heart through the translucent skin, as scales seemed to slide along its body, and off, as if only attached by a glue that has not been given time to dry.

Whether it was the corruption of the dark, or the curse of taking a Lord Soul into something that didn’t live, Aldrin could not say. He knew the stories of the Pale Drake, and knew that he had become powerful in time; he did not plan to allow this dragon to become so powerful, not when he had promised Gwyndolin a soul so she could bring everything to order.

‘You should have sent someone better with miracles.’

He watched as the dragon stumbled over its own muck, and he darted to another archtree to the left, steps making no sound as he came to a stop behind it. His twinblades were also impossible to see, though they were at his hips, hidden by an earlier spell. He only wished he knew how to cast that over himself entirely; it’d be a lot easier to kill a dragon if it couldn’t see you. Although, he suspected it could still smell him, as it adjusted its lumbering gait forward a bit his way.

At least amongst the trees, it couldn’t fly so easily. He’d done well to lead it out this way and hinder its movement. Flying up with the boughs in its way was difficult.

It still had a breath attack, though.

And it opted to stop its walk to spew forth a breath of heatless fire, freezing Aldrin to the spot in terror as the flames blocked his path both right and left. ‘Yeah, it can definitely smell me.’ Thankfully, the archtrees gave no fucks about dragonfire, and didn’t burn up. His only reprieve. He tried to take in a steadying breath as he heard the outrage from the dragon, and he gathered himself, aware it was going to charge.

He reached for his weapons and tried to center himself. ‘You’ve done plenty of harm to it, now you just have to finish it off.’

The dragon came rushing forward.

It came around the archtree to the right, and Aldrin rolled under its swipe and pushed his two blades up, both surprised and delighted when he realized his aim was off and instead of piercing the abdomen, he cut right through one of the wings at the start. The wing fell off, and the dragon’s balance shifted as it lost the weight there. It stumbled and fell onto its side a moment, and Aldrin was quick to jump up onto the side that was now sans wing and plunge his blades into it to tear open a bigger hole, and loose more of the scales in the process.

He could feel his blades weakening a bit with their contact to the scales, but he ignored it for the moment.

The dragon let out another one of those ear-piercing shrieks, and lifted his head, preparing another breath.

NO!”

The Knight pushed both blades out in front of himself, and a large, blue spear came out from the joined tips, shooting into the dragon’s mouth as it was opened, and coming out the other side. Its head swayed for a moment, before it hit the ground. Aldrin held position a moment, still expecting the breath to hit him, but relaxed at the sound of that thud. “Huh…?” The flesh beneath him burbled, and he fell through as it began to disintegrate, the flames of the Lord Soul licking away at it.

Those white wisps of the dragon’s soul seemed to be sucked into the Lord’s Soul as well, an oddity, but nothing Aldrin was inclined to question. Lord Souls were powerful, after all. The golden soul remained as it was, for Aldrin to reach out to and take up with a sigh of relief. The heat of it was pleasant, soothing like sun, and he’d almost swear it had a smell about it, not what one would expect. It was crisp, sharp, a smell like cold and clean places, despite the warmth that emanated from it.

~***~

Mirasol, the Unkindled

The song was soothing.

Luring.

Promising.

The area through which the Unkindled One walked was beautiful, albeit in ruins. White stones acted as bridges across the clear water, glowing blue flowers rose from those depths and cast their light around the area, which was needed. The light was dim, but that was to be expected. There was no real sun, just an endless sunrise on the horizon from the new flame that tried to brighten the world.

Mirasol had understood when she woke that she had to help that flame before it was put out by the dark, and she had stumbled from the ashes of the old flame here, drawn not by that alluring song but a far more promising presence.

It was able to keep her from falling under the sway of that song, and sitting down, content to die, like some of the fiends she saw in the water. Golden light flickered around them, but they never moved for her.

Their peace was enviable.

And Mirasol would get her answers about it as she stepped into one of the few structures still standing, only to be startled by the sight of a beautiful blonde woman, hardly prepared for this area in a dress and naught else. “Oh. I’m sorry, I didn’t realize anyone was in here.”

The stranger in the house looked upon her as if she were a wonder, “You are the second now We have seen in a long while.”

Mirasol took pause for that. “I’m Mirasol,” she offered, “Who are you? Who else have you seen?”

“We are Milfanito.” Mirasol gave a look around, but saw no one else, “You are unlike the others. You do not belong here.”

“I’m sorry – I’m just passing through, I’m looking for…for a Soul.” A very particular Soul, and not one this woman had.

Her gaze softened. “Yes. We sense it, too. We know the presence of the Great Dead One. The other who came through here not long before you bears that soul.” She sounded almost sad, “We know nothing of the outside, but We know there has been a long period without death. We wondered what had happened.”

“The First Flame died,” she said, “I’ve come to fix it.” She sounded completely confident and assured in that, despite her failures before. The flame brought her back – she would not let it down, this time. “Did you know where they were going?”

“They are still here.”

Her gray eyes lit up, “Are they? Thank you!” Perhaps she should have asked for directions, but she did not, rushing out again and hurrying along the white path, doing her best to keep her skirts out of the water, but it was a fruitless endeavor – although the skirt never did get wet.

Flames danced around her, trailing at the hems of her clothing, marking her as one who did not belong to the dark any longer – thus, did not belong in a place meant for those who were destined for Death and the Dark.

The Astoran woman eventually stumbled on the sight of someone who didn’t belong, dressed in heavy armor and hooded. More than that, there was a glow that seemed to be coming from within that armor, casting a light on her face that should have otherwise been obscured by that hood. Now the question – were they foe who had finished off one of the Milfanito’s song, or were they sane of mind?

There was usually only one way to find out, and though she recalled plenty of times where calling out had landed her on the wrong side of a weapon, she still lifted both arms in the air as she shifted onto tiptoes, “Heeeey!” She frantically waved her arms in the air above her head, “Are you hollow?”

Obviously, a hollow wasn’t going to answer that kind of question.

They couldn’t.

But an Undead, with sane mind, still could.

She was lucky the song of the Milfanito was still keeping many things in the area tamed, so her shouts didn’t seem to disturb anything around. Not that there seemed much besides those creatures in the water.
 

Monikum.

It's all Dogmatic.
Cain, The Green

The soft white metal made uncomfortable squeaks as the knight struggled to maneuver it around the arcane structures before him. God-like rods of natural wood piercing the ground and the impossible sky above, the fatigued Cain took a moment to catch breaths he didn't think he'd need. Undead to him was far more nightmarish than the reality, but the details crushed both his stamina and spirit. The hulking greatsword and crossbow for stationary use strapped to his back caused the man to huff painfully, forcing him to perch on a rock to gather his bearings.

Slamming into stone made Cain wheeze. His helmet had to be removed, to scout the area, if anything, but the knight wanted fresh air. Sloppily dropping it to the ground, Cain wiped the sweat off his brow and narrowed his sight to one of the countless arch trees around him, trying to make sense of this pilgrimage. He knew he had to fight, he knew why he had to fight, but what for? He had been walking for days, the ember-lined flask strapped to his side was starting to dry up in content, and that boundless scream he heard a while ago wasn't heard again.

"Maybe I've lost my marbles in this new life..."

Cain spoke aloud in solace, still in its presence. Staring at the helmet's slit for his vision, he saw himself looking at him, but resentful. Irises lacking remorse, eyelids welted in this cursed prison past old age. The lands said the curse had an origin in humanity, but as to why it took him, he didn't know. He barely cared anymore.

He was ready to fall to the ground and rest amongst the pale leaves and dead ground before his eyes shot up.

That scream again.

Anger.

Fury.

Fire.

Death, closer than before.

Cain rolled over on his stomach and jolted upwards, his speed still hampered by the rounded shape of his torso. He attempted to sprint across the uneven structure, the footing slippery but manageable, and the spirit of the fight spurred him once more. Strapping the helmet on loosely while he ran, another scream pierced his ears, hurting the sense but motivating him further. Cain flinched somewhat and carried on, caring for nothing but the battle that would surely reward him.

To his sides, however, there spawned a threat he couldn't see. Scale-less abominations awoken by the screams of their mother, their soft wings flapped slightly as they ran on their own, short legs hopping across the crackling branches. A few of them saw Cain and matched his speed, their pathetic attempts to glide marred by adolescence, but still helping to boost them towards the origin of the enraged shrieks.

One of the mutated wyverns failed to devote themselves to their biological architect, though, and jumped for Cain, still mid-sprint, and crashed to the ground with them. A lesser man would've been eclipsed by the wyvern's posture, still towering in youth, but the knight's build matched theirs easily.

Shaking his head, woozy from the sudden fall, Cain saw a new threat and was both humored by their size, and displeased by their distraction. The helmet dented in the struggle, His sword begged for victory once more, and the billhook blade caught mud as he unsheathed. Alive and angered, he let out a confident grunt and swiped upwards, the forged hook catching the wings of his foe.

The beast yelped, flinching before attacking the knight with a lunge attack from its mouth. Age affected both of them, as the wyvern could only just pierce Cain's gauntlets, whereas Cain lost his two-handed grip on the Server. Lunging once more, the wyvern pecked once more, bending its beak against the thick steel, while Cain prepared for a lunging spin slash.

His grip on the sword's handle loosened, two hands to one, but it was still enough for it to cause a thin geyser of blood to spit out from the weak neck of his opponent. What blood spilled onto his blade seeped into the metal, all of it forming into the handle itself, transferring energy to Cain.

Cain won. Alas, he was revitalized, but not satisfied with the victory!

The distraction bored him, and he began to run forward once more. Before he could reach the area, he could've sworn he heard a voice shout, one of human context. A savior indebted to his presence, perhaps? This is what the knights of Catarina were born for! 'Finally!', he thought. 'My legend will carry on!'. His giddiness overtook the sense of honor he was built on, and a world-famous smile cracked his face once more.

His breathless gasps audible through the loose helmet, Cain looked up and saw the wyverns continuing to converge on the position. Thin plumes of smoke emerged from a hole where this unknown beast was screeching for miles to hear. Climbing over the hill, he saw the aftermath of a messy fight.

A sole man awash in blue. Disappointed by the sight, he locked onto the magical warrior standing in the smoke. The sword stayed clenched in his hands before he bellowed out a hearty "Hello!".

~***~

Yulquen, The Nomad

"Pathetic."

Anger failed to balance well in the midst of a lullaby ushering in a comforting death. Yulquen had fallen for the trick before, these seamstresses of sound promising peace beyond life, when in reality it was the unraveling of humanity. A Milfanito was next to hear, head bowed in honor, silent despite the score that attempted to soothe the fiery witch from nearby.

Yulquen had enough, she didn't want to be in the presence of the deluders that populated this heavenly shrine. Watching as the dusty moss shaken off of the creaky door, she opened up the small room to a precarious walkway hidden under sapphire blue. Plants glowed in this vast cavern, deep beneath the once-honorable castle that dominated Drangleic. Roots hugged the stonewalls, and bark cracked and fell across the lake, greenwood flakes daintily falling into the water.

This peace was disrupted by burbles in the lake. Amphibious creatures attempted to penetrate the surface and jolt Yulquen into falling within the bottomless lake. She had no time for these limp beings, instead choosing to buckle her hand, the gold-hemmed glove now bursting with Blackfire. The flame wasn't attuned to her as well as the hexes extracted from pained flesh, but it was still enough to keep those Deep Ones in their place.

Yulquen's trousers became soggy thanks to their bagginess. Light steps became a motivated sprint as the woman felt that seamstress of sound nearby, the origin closer than ever before.

Pushing on, Yulquen felt the mist become thicker.

The dew sticking to her skin like glue.

Her breastplate glowed brightly.

The choir ringing in her head like an alarm.

A sole woman kneeled at an altar, skirt damp, body still, a voice of such clarity.

The glow became stronger.

Yulquen knew the tune, and it almost beguiled her.

She had heard enough, unsheathing the small sword strapped to her hip.

She almost believed she heard the shard beneath her armor hum in its glorious light.

A cobalt piece of steel was pointed towards the Milfanito, ready to lunge towards the still singer, until Yulquen's eyes twitched at splashing footsteps behind her. Turning around to see her pursuer, she was surprised to see a priestess of joy & fire, the embers flickering off her seemingly ceremonial dress. The blade was lowered for a moment before Yulquen was disarmed immediately by a mere question filled with heart.

"Hollow". She hadn't considered the term or its meaning for quite some time, yet it fits. The fact that she was in this deceitful shrine for personal reasons, but no, the Hierophant before her meant more physically. The affliction that bounds almost all warriors to these impossible lands, and answers always out of reach. Yulquen stared at her fingers adorned with spiritual rings and looked back up at the woman.

"Y... Yes. Yes, I am..." She could only respond in staggers, just barely being able to speak loudly, with the encounter already the most averse thing she had been a part of in quite some time. Yulquen rubbed her eyes and snapped out of the haze she had found herself in.

"Who are you?" It wasn't her most graceful response, but she was rusty. The words fell out of her mouth like unrefined brick, and she almost regretted the tinge.
 

Lucyfer

I'mma Die On Top
Aldrin had meant to tuck the soul away, and move on. He had meant to find his way back towards Gwyndolin and give her the soul. Unfortunately, his plan was disrupted by the shrieking sounds of wyvern, the scaleless children born into death by a mother who thought reproducing was a good idea. In his surprise, his hand clenched around the soul, and he felt it disintegrate. “No, no, no, no—!” But Aldrin couldn’t stop the process as the golden light of the Second Flame filled him, both with the everlasting dragon’s soul, and the newfound power of a fresh flame.

It bonded on contact, needing no bonfire to set it within as a piece of him. It twisted his own soul to make it a Lord Soul, and as those wyverns first approached to finish off the one who put an end to their mother, his magic released in a nova of soul energy, the blue tinging white, more pure than it was before, a mystery barely realized opening up in his head before closing firmly against it.

Something to be understood later, as his own shock caused him to stare at the wyverns pushed aside by that energy, before he heard someone shout down at him. ‘Are you mad?!’ It was what he wanted to say, but seeing the helmet, he supposed it was entirely possible the man hadn’t seen the wyverns. “You should find safety!” He shouted him, as the wyverns started to regroup, not put out by the mage.

One lunged immediately after Aldrin’s own shout at the Knight of Catarina, and Aldrin rolled backwards…into another wyvern. He lunged quickly to the side, got to his feet, and cast a spread of energy that launched themselves at the four wyverns that remained. The energy was too spread out to do much harm, the bane of the Homing Soulmass spell against a group, but it still kept them from getting too close at first, so he could start to prepare a Soul Spear to rip through their numbers.

And just when he thought this day couldn’t get worse.

~***~

The response of being hollow was a curious one, and admittedly, poor Mirasol wasn’t sure how to take it. She didn’t enjoy the thought of having to kill the stranger in front of her, but it had been a long time since she saw a lucid hollow. In fact, she didn’t think that she ever had. ‘Perhaps not there yet. Just on the verge….’ Something easily heard in their voice that hadn’t been used in an age, and in their hesitation before the Milfanito.

Perhaps they could be talked back to Undead.

Mirasol had always tried.

“Mirasol, of Astora,” she answered, “I don’t think you’re hollow. Not quite yet, if you’re talking to me,” she added, tone optimistic, though her hesitance to take that first step forward belayed some of her concerns that maybe the stranger wasn’t lying, and was hollow. Stranger things had happened.

Yet, she did take that step forward, and then a few more. Partially, to just be closer and have a better look at the woman, but also because she didn’t want the poor soul to have to strain anymore to speak up, “And I’m not sure what the Milfanito did to you, but I don’t think it deserves death. I don’t think they come back,” she actually wasn’t sure the Milfanito could be killed, seeing how they survived the long dark, but it was also hard to imagine the Great Dead One making anything at all immortal when he knew the high price of that.

“Oh – your eyes are like mine,” gray, lit up by that soul. A ridiculous realization, and one with some small hope of offsetting the tension. She wasn’t yet prepared to speak of the soul that the woman had, so she went on to ask, “Who are you?” She should have asked that before, and not drawn the attention back to the kneeling Milfanito with a blade threatening her. Yet, she didn’t seem to be doing anything against it. She wasn’t so much as looking up, and in fact, the song was still continuing on as if she thought singing could put off her end.

It might work with the creatures in the water, but it clearly wasn’t going to work with the woman in front of her. ‘Is it even coming from her?’ A strange question, but one that seemed apt. The Milfanito's lips didn't appear to be moving....
 
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Monikum.

It's all Dogmatic.
The sights that Cain was treated to amidst the wreckage of a powerful fight raised several questions for him. He had seen sorcery before, but the way the monster's essence absorbed into the man standing in the steam was arcane. No corpse remained but; Another curious happenstance that only seemed to confuse the man below, as well as Cain. Was the man a god, or merely touched by such greatness?

It was the wrong time to question and ponder such things-- The beasts from before had surrounded the duo, Cain none the wiser to their numbers or devilry. The man from below shouted an order, one which Cain internally scoffed at. "'Safety'?", he thought. 'I live in the fight!'. He slid down the incline as two of the wyverns began to converge on the mystery warlock, blue flame and life continuing to leak out of his body and seek inhuman targets.

They were outnumbered, but not outmatched. Whilst the wyverns attempted to circle the swordsman mid-cast, Cain slipped down the incline with his two hands feverishly gripped onto the chunk of steel. After regaining his balance from the sprint down, he let the greatsword drag into the mud, launching it upwards as soon as he was within range, causing the tail of a white beast to split in half.

A ravishing strike! One that caused the monster to shriek with ear-piercing unrestraint. It failed to deter the knight, the rush now taking full control of his actions. A couple of further diagonal swipes to lay the beast to nothingness, the sword continuing to replenish the life and fire within the knight, and it was one of many taken care of. Cain bolted his eyes towards the caster, a wyvern from behind ready to pounce and interrupt. Fearful of the safety of this seemingly stalwart prince, he threw himself past the dissolving corpse of his slain enemy and attempted to provide a distraction.

Age limiting him, even past death and rebirth, he lunged into a roll, hoping to stop the interruption before his mystery partner finished their spell, or before he met his end.

~***~

The tireless pyromancer continued to dart her eyes back and forth between the joyful woman, and the knelt miscreant from afar. Between all of this heavenly soothing, Yulquen was ready to commit entirely to a permanent state of rest, but she attempted to keep her focus on both. At least the woman answered her question: "Mirasol", a priestess of Astora, a land known for their overarching personalities; Some of bliss, some of ignorance to the world around them... sometimes both. As they edged closer towards Yulquen, the glow beneath her armor fell in-between full vivacity and weak zeal.

Her Hollow nature being doubted caused the Pyromancer to breathe a sigh of relief. Whilst the legends of the land were in literals-- The insanity building and thoughts fading-- Yulquen assumed the woman meant more emotionally. It had been so long since another being spoke words to her, let alone show humanity, certain mannerisms were lost on her sometimes. Maybe Yulquen and Mirasol already had more in common than they thought, with the Pyromancer letting a small "Thank you.." escape her lips.

The defusing Mirasol attempted to explain the context of the Milfanito. She expressed worry of their demise, concern that their demise would be the end of it all. It was a good point to bring up; to deter servants of Death was anything but a wise choice, and it was possible that whatever the Gods had in store for her had to be worse than nothingness. A risk she was willing to take in a lot of circumstances, but for now, she relented, if only to save Mirasol the sight.

"I just... don't think that their role matters anymore." Explaining it was difficult, and the words faltered in the air. She failed to believe herself, and the Astoran's knew a thing or two about Faith.

While the comment of Yulquen's eyes caused the Pyromancer to let a small smirk break out, the singing continued to infect her head, still unable to focus. Looking back down to her feet, she noticed her knees were shaking, minuscule ripples bouncing across her soles, but the glow within her grew brighter. She didn't know what to think or say, instead choosing to answer Mirasol's next question.

"My name is Yulquen." She instinctively went to shake the Priestess's hand but stopped when the embers burst in her hand. "I'm an umm... Pyromancer, of Leydia. Where I once walked, where I learned and lived is past this creature." Her senses were coming to fruition after a hypnotic lapse.

Those gray eyes juxtaposed Mirasol's, affixing to a stern glare back at her.

"I want release, no matter how small."
 

Lucyfer

I'mma Die On Top
The stranger opted not to run away, but instead, to join the fight. Aldin couldn’t say he was upset about it, when he could use the extra hand, but he also had to watch for this possible ally – and hope they weren’t really a foe intent to steal what he’d just taken from the decaying dragon that may have been related to these wyverns. The strikes of the knight gave Aldrin time enough to launch the soul spear through one wyvern, and graze a second.

The one that took the greater hit stumbled, while the second let out that piercing cry. Aldrin rushed forward, and rolled as the second lunged for him, taking flight to do so, and giving Aldrin more than enough room underneath its talons to get up alongside the first.

He was not ignorant of what the stranger had done to make sure he could do that, he had noticed the knight move at something behind him, and after slicing through the neck of the wyvern who had taken the brunt of his spear, he turned in profile so he could see that the knight was facing off with one of those creatures.

Aldrin nodded to himself.

There were two of the four down. The numbers were far more in their favor, and Aldrin grounded himself once more as the wyvern that had flown at him to help its comrade turned back towards him in rage. It lifted its head to spew fire, only to eat a great soul arrow, and for Aldrin to quickly follow it up with two more slices as it regrouped, before feinting off to the side to avoid a strike from it, and put distance again to cast as the wyvern turned once more to face him, irritated by his nimble dodging and powerful output.

He just had to hope the stranger was faring well against his own wyvern and he wasn’t in for a nasty surprise.

~***~

That small word of gratitude was like a breath of fresh air, and the pyromancer herself seemed to be beginning to come around again, recognizing what it was she was doing, and relaxing her posture a bit. There was still an air of threat, of concern, that was obvious – especially when it became obvious that Yulquen was a pyromancer, of some place called Leydia, which was apparently near here.

Mirasol knew it not.

“I think their role still matters, Yulquen. Life has returned, light has returned. The flame burns anew, and so a release may be possible, although with Undeath present, it’s going to take some work,” she offered a friendly smile, not offering her hand, given the fire around the other. She may be willing to burn, but not at the end o someone’s hand.

That didn’t quite serve a purpose.

“I’ll go with you, if you’d like company into your past. It seems to cling to you,” she added, “a new flame is here, yet you hold a piece of the old flame,” she gestured to the woman’s armor, which covered it, “The Milfanito I spoke to said it was Nito’s piece,” perhaps another odd reason to desire release so fervently, by holding to that which had given release to even the everlasting dragons. “And I’m sure you’re not going to stand in our way, are you?”

Her teasing words and smile were spoken to the Milfanito, as she turned her hand to reach and brush some of the strands of hair back from what must have once been a beautiful face. Only, as she touched the Milfanito, the illusion that was around her broke. A golden light lit at her core, and as she lifted her face, she began to vanish into specks of those lights which fluttered around the creatures in the water.

The song ceased.

The golden lights flickering around those creatures vanished.

“Oh dear, I didn’t think she was that fragile….”

And then a giant frog-like creature pulled itself up from the depths, drawn up by the loss of song, as well.
 

Monikum.

It's all Dogmatic.
The current soundtrack for Cain was a cacophony of demonic screams, the throats of wyverns squealing as they attempted to slay before they were slain. With his new companion taking the weight off of the odds behind him, Cain dashed behind the background of blue fire and wrestled the beast to the ground, colliding with harsh force against the smooth body of the wyvern. His sword's hook lodged between both of their abdomens, Cain found himself in a struggle he didn't expect.

Teeth gnashed his rounded helmet. Eyes strained and focused on attempting to push against his foe. He felt the hook push deeper into the monster's stomach, a sign of victory, but not immediate.

A fang caught itself on the visor of the helmet, the bloody mouth able to pull it off with ease. Cain's once-smooth face, now replaced with a varicose scar running down his right nostril began to pulse as he struggled. His form being visible caused a relapse in restraint and controlled battle, his own teeth locked in anger. With his helmet still caught in the mouth, Cain saw his chance.

He could feel his hands on the verge of dislocating, as he attempted to cut upwards, the flesh being so easy to penetrate, but not while the wyvern tried to push Cain off of it. One last buckle from the beast wasn't enough, the knight had done enough damage, and to make sure it wouldn't return, the knight switched his stance. He grabbed the bottom of the pommel with both hands and slammed the crude part of his sword repeatedly against the vaporizing flesh.

His battle was won, and it may have been enough for now.

Cain clutched his helmet from the ground, a tooth from the match still stuck in the steel. A modest souvenir of a fight that shouldn't have been as close as it was. Ripping the tooth from the gnawed steel, he flicked it away and faced his temporary partner, his posture composed, his mannerisms respectful.

"Ahh, well-fought fight there, my friend! You showed them what for!" His voice bellowed, a joyous reprise from the maudlin behavior he had found himself in before, a far cry from the deathly still environment the pair had found themselves in.

~***~

Mirasol's educated reasoning behind the Milfanito ran Yulquen through a test of acceptance. Staring down the idle woman still unable to move nearby, she felt her emotions swing. Undeath caused her spine to tingle, the implicated nature of something she only had a passing knowledge of causing her stomach to turn. Even then, the banter between the two women comforted Yulquen. As words exchanged of peace and rickety camaraderie, the figuratively young pyromancer felt the flames inside her soothe instead of seethe.

Tensity became ease.

Anger became relief.

Ache became an aid.

The offer of help removed pressure from her own suffering, that tough smile now breaking out into something real.

"I'd be more than indebted to your help. It may have been some time since these roads held my feet, but I'll be your guide." She looked back up to Mirasol, the glare of ash reduced to a relaxed demeanor. Before she prepared herself, however, the priestess pointed to her breastplate, the glow stronger than before.

"This? Oh, it's nothing, just a... good luck charm, of sorts. I didn't know it had certain... properties." Reaching behind her chest armor, she pulled out the unnatural ceramic. Small indents marked into it, undisturbed by centuries of travel, war, and distress. Letting the shard hum gently in her hand, she let Mirasol gaze upon it before stuffing it back underneath her armor, moving on with the lass.

As the water lapped across her thin shoes, the song continued to try and arrest the pair. Yulquen's fear was trying to take over, and the knelt woman continued to sit motionless. Mirasol's joyful, almost irreverent nature made it look as if she couldn't even hear the song, let alone be affected by it visually.

Yulquen let a sharp inhale escape as her new companion went to brush the hair of the Milfanito with her fingers. The light action caused the kneeled woman to disintegrate into amber ash before her very eyes.

The song stopped, and with it, Yulquen froze.

From the water, a frog of inhuman size arose, with inhuman features. Arms seemed to painfully stretch out of its mouth, with no facial features currently present. To gaze upon a monster is one thing, but when that beast has no sense visibly present? Yulquen attempted to mentally steel herself.

Just as soon as her flames died down, they shot back up, the golden arm now surrounded by instinct.

If not to preserve her life, then the life of the woman she just met.
 
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Lucyfer

I'mma Die On Top
The stranger had not suffered much more harm, save to his armor. Aldrin felt a pang of sympathy as he witnessed the tooth being withdrawn. Armor was difficult to fix already, but on the road? It was a nightmare, really. He knew no skill to repair things such as that, so he had to be careful to retain the integrity of his armor.

Still, the stranger did not seem overburdened by this damage, for he turned towards Aldrin and offered a cheerful response. It was almost as if he liked fighting. ‘Not unusual.’ Not terribly, no, though Aldrin could do without it. “Yes, well, I suppose I did,” he couldn’t disagree, he had done what was necessary.

He supposed that meant he showed them ‘what for’.

“My name is Aldrin,” he offered, extending his hand, “I appreciate your assistance with the wyverns; I did not realize the dragon had a brood nearby,” he had caught her on her own. Or him. He really didn’t even know if dragons had genders, even if they apparently bred. Being everlasting and eternal seemed to preclude the need for genders, but one would also think it would preclude the need for breeding….

Never mind all of that. Scholarly endeavors were best saved for when he returned to Anor Londo, and could ask questions of Gwyndolin about the dragons, for she had known Seathe…who, he supposed, was male. Or identified that way. He’d learned a bit about that in Anor Londo, too.

Maybe that’s what dragons did when disparity arose – or maybe disparity gave them genders. ‘Not. The. Point.’

“Do you have business out this way? If I could help in any way, I would be willing for the aide that you offered me before I get back on my own way. I am one of the Blades of the Darkmoon, so you have no need to doubt me,” he offered. Though the Blades usually dealt with hunting down transgressors, he did not think they had a reputation for being ignoble or dishonorable. Unlike some other cults.

Admittedly, their reputation wasn’t quite as shining as what the Knightess called the ‘Sun Brethrens’, a group she apparently considered allies of a sort, but reckless allies with limited direction.

~***~

While Mirasol certainly had alternative motives for offering her help, they were not malign. That the woman held a shard of Nito was among those, and though she had no intent to relieve her of it, she was curious about it, and how Yulquen came about it. She was curious if she could talk her into the quest she had given to herself, to find the new Lord Souls, and restore the Flames.

It was a conversation for the journey, no doubt.

And at least Yulquen had a healthy appreciation of fire.

Though the way she bore Nito was curious, a ringing familiarity that nagged at her until that distraction of the beastly fiend in the waters of Amana. Yulquen’s hand lit up in flame, and Mirasol adjusted herself, pulling her black sword into hand, her talisman already dangling from her wrist – she’d tied it on long ago to make things easier.

Although she could see a sword and shield, the pyromancer’s clear choice was fire, and so Mirasol stepped forward as the fiend began to orient itself, mouth opening to reveal a skull within its maw. “I’ll keep it off you, Yulquen,” she said, “you do what you can from afar!” And with no pausing to let Yulquen argue the point, the Warrior of the Sun rushed forward.

There was a roll required in the water, as the fiend reached to grab her with its hands, but she rolled between its grip and pushed her sword through the center of its faced, before hurriedly turning around to lash the hand that attempted to grasp her from behind, embers flickering wildly around her as she moved.

She could feel the tingle of lightning at her fingertips, but did not call upon it right then, content to save her miracles for when they were needed.
 

Monikum.

It's all Dogmatic.
The stranger's ambivalent response for Cain was enough, a mood too gleeful to be decreased by anything else. At least this mystery sorcerer had a name; "Aldrin"! An old warrior's name, light, and life! With Aldrin's arm extended, the Catarina knight happily shook it, his gauntlets mittened nature forcing him to grip quite thoroughly. A small thanks headed his way, but Cain thought nothing of it.

"Bah, the brood was of no consequence, and I did not know either! Almost caught me on the raw myself!" Cain tapped his helmet, that once off-white shine now replaced with dirt and ash. While the splits and the pings in his rounded armor were the sign of a job well done, it still needed that shine to stand out!

Cain's tinkering with his armor was interrupted by this Aldrin asking him about his business, a question the knight didn't know the answer to himself. He shrugged and spoke up.

"Truth be told, sir, I don't quite know myself! This 'undying' business has left me in a bit of a bother as to what to do. I must say this land intrigues me though." He sheathed the sword back unto its cover and threw a sackcloth bag upon the ground, his new seat while he conversed with Aldrin. His breath still trying to catch up, he waved away the thought of aid, his ears pricking up once he learned of the blue knight's allegiances.

"Darkmoon, eh? Oh! Those valiant sorts, the 'Blades', the ones of impenetrable karmic influence. I must say, I've never fought by your sides, you sorcerers do confound me with your spells and such." A chuckle trailed off before he looked back up towards Aldrin. "Nevertheless, my blade, while not blue, is extended in your aid, haha!"

A purpose! Exactly what Cain needed. These stories of beast-slaying and undefeatable stances were useless if he couldn't tell the stories to someone.

While not a Darkmoon Blade himself, maybe he'd be seen as one in the future, however long it may be.

~***~

It wasn't until the choir stopped that Yulquen realized an immense pressure with her skull had dissipated. Still attempting to shake herself out of it, Mirasol had immediately reverted to a sterner position. While the body was paralyzed with fear, the priestess's courage took charge, as did Yulquen's fire. She snapped out of the disposition and darted across the water, following the lasses' flames while attempting to scout for weak points.

This sickening creation seemed to possess a softshell, battered over previous encounters, but still impervious to various forms of combat and magic. As the creature crawled out of its own skin to attack Mirasol, her heartbeat skipped as the priestess hid from Yulquen's sight, only to slash and stab the monster with surprising force. Despite an elegant garb, she was nimble, sharp, and deadly.

As the flames followed both of them separately, Yulquen saw her chance. The monster nearing the end of its recoil, her hand reacted with furious anger. The fire that once danced around her fingertips now extended into pillars of orange, ranging in shades that burst and stuck to her skin.

Yulquen clutched her chest and pushed outwards, a blazing whip wrapping around her wrist and scorching the arm hurriedly trying to crawl back into the creature's mouth. She thought she could hear the softer skin sear from the attack, as she didn't hear the creature scream.

Whether it was a lapse in senses, or maybe the sonorous singing only to be heard, she lapsed enough for the demon's tail to swipe from her left, Yulquen noticing it only too late.

She jumped but caught her foot from the high-velocity attack, her body rolling in the air before slamming into the shallow body of water. She felt the air rip from her lungs, the first few exhales after impact agonizing to draw.

From her peripheral view, she could see the monster had eyes on her. Rolling back up from her fall, she pumped her arm to reinvigorate her own soul. Seeing Mirasol on the other side of this beast, she ran forward and flicked her fingers, the embers returning.

"Priestess! On my mark, strike!" Yulquen sprinted into the monster's range, her fists clenched uncomfortably while her body arose in flames and Immolation, her own agony hoping to be subsidized by the demons.

This second skin a deathly gamble, regardless of planning and execution.
 
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Lucyfer

I'mma Die On Top
It seemed the stranger forwent an introduction, focusing on the brood he hadn’t meant to stumble upon. ‘Not here hunting, then.’ Nor did he seem to know why he was there, or what he was doing. That was usually a dangerous sign, from what limited knowledge Aldrin had of hollows. They were the sort who lost their sense of self, usually by losing a sense of purpose, or something to focus on. So long as they had that, they were usually okay.

He couldn’t help but feel some trepidation.

He did seem familiar with the Darkmoon, and Aldrin gave a small nod at the mention of ‘Blades’. Yes, he was one of those. He offered himself then to the service of Aldrin. Though Aldrin canted his head, he couldn’t really pass it up, could he? “You’re not going to try and stab me in the back for the Lord Soul, are you?” He sounded dubious. Doubtful. “I don’t even know who you are yet.”

Could he be blamed for that?

Most in these parts would absolutely kill for a soul of that magnitude. Even Aldrin felt some desire to keep it as a part of himself, but his devotion to Gwyndolin was stronger than that, and he meant to return it to her as soon as he could. Though he knew the journey was a long one, and there were still fiends out there who would now be willing to strike at him, sensing the power that rested within him.

Power was what all seemed to want in these times, to hold on themselves.

Aldrin wondered if souls really did help with that. He’d seen powerful figures with grand souls succumb to madness before, knew that the Paledrake, among others, had faltered and lost themselves.

~***~

As the whip bound itself around the creature’s arm, halting its retreat a moment, Mirasol struck out at its other arm in an attempt to sever the limb. It was not quite successful, but nonetheless, it certainly hurt the fiend who had made itself known. It wasn’t enough to end it, either, and the creature chose to be rid of both of their attempts by lifting its full body up to spin and swipe at them with their tail.

Mirasol, too, fell victim to it, landing in the water on her back.

She was also on her feet again just as quick, eyes gleaming with the challenge, even if it was an undesired one. She was not here to let anyone fall to the darkness, and this creature had damaged not just a Milfanito, but now Yulquen and herself!

The creature did not turn to Mirasol, but continued to approach Yulquen. It was something Yulquen seemed to notice as well, as she righted herself and covered up in flames, almost entirely. Her eyes widened a bit in horror at the sight, but with Yulquen’s words, she turned her attention back to the fiend, who no longer seemed so interested in Yulquen.

In fact, it was opting to retreat back into its shell to protect itself.

“No you don’t,” if lightning could strike scales off dragons, then it could tear open this shell, as well!

She drew her hand up, talisman catching the whisper of her prayer, though the story that came into her mind was not that of lightning rending dragon scales from flesh, but a vivid recollection of sunlight itself being taken into hand and melded into what lightning could only imitate. The bolt that formed took that very light from the sky, no matter how dim that sun was – no ordinary bolt, but one cast in red hues formed, and she threw it at the beast’s maw which had closed around the head, before letting out a sudden outcry as the spell seemed to have burned through her as well, and dropping to her knees, poise broken as the momentary trance left her.

It was unfamiliar, and yet, she knew it.

The sunlight spear hit hard, and did indeed tear open a hole in that shell, leaving no place for the demon to hide from the fiery target.
 

Monikum.

It's all Dogmatic.
"Ah, where are my manners, the fight engulfed me-- I am Cain of... Cain of Catarina!"

It's not like the armor would've implied anywhere else. These "Onion Defenders" of comedic pretenses were mocked by those they had not yet slain, but there was caution in his words. The man's time in Zena was one introspection, redefined indifference, and humility, but it's the land that bought him there in the first place which meant the most. His qualms over origin were subset by the fear of betrayal that Aldrin quizzed Cain over. What he rebuked the sorcerer with first was a hearty laugh.

"My lad, where I'm from, a stab in the back means two in mine! You need not worry about my planning, I am merely a blade for hire! At least for now anyway..." His voice fell through once more.

That same worry he planted on Aldrin grew on him also, shaking his head to relieve himself of it.

"In any case, these Lord Souls you speak of-- I've heard pieces from scattershot and scatterbrained individuals, it was past my time, I suppose-- I was told they were a rather copious entity, in quality." While riddled with superstition, Cain was not past intrigue. The way the soul simply entered this blue-bloods body was unnatural but spoke of a higher power. Whether it was within Aldrin's own soul or the pact he had made with the Blades, it was beyond Cain's understanding.

"Nevertheless, while this may not be my fight, it is one I'd be glad to assist in!" Another hand raised towards camaraderie.

Another joyous blast of trust he'd hope would implant itself towards a new partnership.

~***~

It was hard to see past this skin of searing torment. Whilst Yulquen felt her inner self being torn asunder by fire, over and over, it was rewritten just as quick, albeit not without its ailment of sacrificing her life. Clasping her fiery hands onto the demon's limbs, she held on with more will than strength. Staring down this selectively mute being through eyes of grey fury, she waited for the signal.

It wasn't long before a loud crack was heard, the beast's skin being burned by something other than hellfire. A well-placed shot from Mirasol opened up the monster to wider attacks, a large hole in its soft armor now visible and crackling. The monster continued to be silent, only physically recoiling at the shock. As soon as Yulquen's body was engulfed in flames, they retracted back into her hands, black beads of ash and charcoal populating the space around her.

Yulquen stumbled back, the power inherited extracting more out of her than expected. She clutched onto her blade, hoping that a simple stab would be enough to incapacitate it.

The blue refracted from the gorgeous lake around them, the gleam hitting her eyes uncomfortably.

While the demon was still struggling to concentrate with its abdomen exposed, Yulquen saw her chance. With Mirasol still fatigued from such a powerful conjuring, the pyromancer lunged and stumbled for the exposed hole, the blade easily piercing this aged flesh.

Finally, the monster screamed.

No longer was that heavenly choir filling the Shrine with beauty, it was now a death rattle, an eyeless freak struggling in vain to cry out for help.

A pang of sympathy hit Yulquen like a rock. She was too tired to be drowning in pity for such a hideous freak that these accursed lands rightfully deserved, leaving the monster to blindly attempt to stealthily rip the sword out from its torso. It was a good enough distraction for Yulquen to stagger over to Mirasol, the fiery gloves now holding an ember bottle. Whilst she usually wreaked havoc with these hands, she offered respite and solace to the priestess, soundtracked by a tired sigh from the pyromancer.

"... Thank you." She couldn't say more. She didn't have the energy to say more. Yulquen placed the flask down onto the ground and watched as the beast still continued to wriggle, much to her annoyance.
 

Lucyfer

I'mma Die On Top
‘That’s where I know that armor.’ Aldrin couldn’t say he was surprised, but he was annoyed with himself for forgetting the origins of such armor. Of course, the man could have stolen it from somewhere. Not every piece of Aldrin’s armor came fully forged from the Darkmoon. His headpiece, rather, stemmed from something different entirely, but he’d never done well in the heavy metal of helmets.

“You would be surprised how many people start to forgo their homes and their old ways,” Aldrin said, but wouldn’t hold him to that, “still, I will accept you on, I could use the help getting back, it wasn’t easy getting all this way from Anor Londo,” he admitted, “I see why this land was given over to the undead.”

Although the thought of Lord Souls being in copious amounts made him snort, “Odd things they say in Catarina. Lord Souls are rare,” well, unless one listened to talk of the Furtive Pygmy, who split his into pieces, but the power of each dwindled dramatically. Gwyn had divided his, but not much. The Witch of Chaos also gave hers over to her daughters, and son. Nito, Aldrin knew of no such divisions.

Yet these were new souls.

No owners.

No splittings.

“What is your price, if I am to be hiring you? I assume the travel and adventure aren’t enough,” he had access to more in Anor Londo, and he already started to walk, assuming this Cain would fall in step and join him on the way, “Do you trade in coin still, or do you prefer souls? Weapons? There’s a great giant blacksmith back in Anor Londo who would no doubt provide you with whatever you wanted.”

He liked the Giant, although he was often sad the giant could not recall his name. It worried Aldrin at times, as well as the Giant’s general disposition of being so silent, but the Giant claimed to like to listen, so Aldrin would go and talk to him anyways.

~***~

The creature did not have a melodious voice as it screamed in agony, dying away at last. The sounds of it floundering in the water drew Mirasol’s gaze back up, and she wanted to put an end to its shrieking immediately, but resisted that urge. Her strength was not back to her yet, and Yulquen was approaching with a strange item in hand. No Lord Vessel shard, nor Lord Soul, but fire trapped in a familiar way.

She had her own flask of embers, though the amount had depleted since she’d been away from the flames. She was not certain if she needed it or not, the pain still pulsing up her arm. Whatever she had cast, she wasn’t sure she was ready to do that. The miracle had flashed before her eyes at the flames, the truth known in an instant, but she still had work to do, to master it as Gwyn had.

“Thank you,” she returned, taking only a sip of the flask before offering it back while rising to her feet. The beast itself was beginning to still, and as it did so, it began to deteriorate in a way Mirasol had seen too often in times before; rather than leave a body behind, its final death was signaled in the way that souls rent themselves free of its body, giving it a blessed ending, rather than condemning it to restoration over and over again.

Like her.

No doubt, like Yulquen.

Yet those souls floated to neither of them, exactly – they were draw instead by the piece of the Lord Soul that Yulquen bore, the power of them joining with it rather than scattering or going to its slayer entirely.

It was a curious reaction, one that drew a hum from the priestess before she would shake her head, “Well, that is new,” she admitted, “though I suppose not entirely strange,” and the distant, living Milfanito could now be heard singing once more. “At least our path should be clear now,” to where this woman wanted to go, and where they might find more curiosities with Nito’s shard – or what remained of his strength.
 

Monikum.

It's all Dogmatic.
The talk of homelands made the knight feel uneasy. It's not like Catarina was a bad place, he merely felt he squandered his childhood. Never savored, always pushing, always pushing-- He nodded aimlessly to Aldrin's ethos before the Spellsword selected him to accompany the Blade on his journey. His head shot up; Finally, a purpose! A knight of honor, working for a better cause!

Cain stood firmly and unsheathed his greatsword, slamming it onto the ground with his left hand on the bottom of the handle. With his left fist, he pressed it against his rounded chest and declared, "Sir, while our alliances may be of different paths, I extend my hand towards thee through the Way of White so that both our paths are protected beyond destiny and death. Lead the way, my lad!"

Getting ready to depart, Aldrin rebuffed the knight's statement about the availability of these elusive souls. He was right-- Despite Catarina's affinity for travel and combat, their lifeblood was introspective. He let out a chuckle in response and nodded, "You'll have to forgive me, sir, it has been a while... And Catarina, while it was my birth, it was not my home." He followed Aldrin and spent the journey recollecting.

It wasn't long before the journey began when Aldrin bought up the offer of payment, a factor which Cain had not taken into account. His status as a sword-for-hire, a mercenary of sorts, but given his death, these new lands, he wasn't sure where he'd take his money. "Gosh, sir, I must say, I haven't the--"

Weapons. A fabled blacksmith. In a city populated with regality. Cain's eyes were blinded with the possibility, and from a glance, Aldrin was equipped with flair, comfort, and elite craftsmanship. The man attempted to keep his cool and accept from a point of neutrality.

"Well, I-I mean... New weapons could never hurt. I've been in the business for a crossbow recently, I've been getting so few scratches in previous skirmishes, my sword cannot realize its full potential!"

This was it. If this blacksmith was as good as Aldrin claimed, Cain's legend could be retold once more.

"Let us make haste, regardless!"

~***~

A small nod of guiding light towards the priestess was the only thing Yulquen could respond with, stuffing the flask back onto her belt. While vigor was replenished, she slammed into the shallow puddles and buried her head between her knees. It had been a while since the pyromancer was challenged, let alone smacked around like that. She'd been used to stealth, not steel, and her affinity for self-flagellation didn't help with it.

Eventually, that high-pitched whine from the Demon ceased, another pressure swelling inside Yulquen that stopped suddenly, replaced by the song of the Milfanito once more. Thankfully, it wouldn't be long before that wretched song would be replaced by cold silence, a nihilism sorely missed. However, it wasn't the first item to draw attention; the trinket beneath her armor had reached a blinding shine.

She could barely see, replying with the potentially stupid decision of bringing it out while the demon evaporated before her eyes. A beautiful blend of angel white, deep blue, and orange swirling at a staggering speed. Yulquen expected something spiritually rewarding, an alignment between body and soul, new visions, new prosperity...

Anything but the actual result: Her charm taking the soul for itself.

"I... I don't... what?"

Yulquen was surprised, paralyzed in shock. The soul transmogrified into that small shard, that trinket with little to no context. She could only stare agape at the sight.

It didn't change size.

It didn't transform or morph.

It just grew brighter in clarity.

The explanation Mirasol had provided earlier may not have been enough for her to understand, but it would have to do for now. The priestess provided a knowing glance towards the anomalous activity before pointing to the dark cavernous hole which the Demon defended. Yulquen could only provide a small gulp and nodded with less assurance. It was a "welcome home" she had not gotten used to yet-- not with the new objective she had. A piece of history placed around her neck, she wasn't sure how to take that news, and now she'd find answers here.

The Undead Crypts. Stomping grounds that never let the dead rest. Not anymore. Not for her.
 

Lucyfer

I'mma Die On Top
‘No?’ Aldrin wondered as the man in the onion armor denied Catarina as his home. He wondered where that home was, then. He knew he was similar in a way, born just in the Delta. He knew of the Way of White, but wondered where it was Cain called home if not Catarina – particularly as he seemed to cling to all that was from such a place.

And somehow, despite having offered himself in service, the man hadn’t thought of payment. Aldrin wasn’t surprised. Cain seemed…simple, in a way, it was the only way Aldrin could think to put it when he didn’t intend to demean. He reminded Aldrin of certain Astorans with their obnoxious cheer and steadfast duties.

He couldn’t help but wonder if Astora and Catarina were close together in the world.

“You’ll have time to think on it, but if you wish something of the blacksmith, I am certain he will craft it for you. He may not be Gough when it comes to bows…but I do not believe the great Gough favored crossbows as it is,” Aldrin allowed for a chuckle as they continued through the mass of new archtrees, that already seemed centuries old.

Had it been centuries?

What did time matter when it stopped?

“You know, I heard tell this location used to be far different. A great swamp, but as you know, arch trees create land,” or he assumed that Cain knew. Either way, he knew now, “I cannot help but wonder if its earlier affinity for pyromancies is what drew dragons to this land, or the lord soul for that matter. This was nowhere near the fire,” the orange glow of the fire was still far in the distance.

He shook his head, to shake off this musing, wanting to get to the point he intended, “I wasn’t from here. I’m not from Anor Londo, either, where we are going. I was born in some place known as the Fivefinger Delta – I’m sure you’ve never heard of it, we’re famous for naught but farming and disdain for sorcery,” he chuckled, but it held bitterness to it, as he glanced to the knight, “I know what it is not to call home, home.”

A brief attempt at solidarity, and a touch of vulnerability.

Those were the things that made traveling easier.

Those were the things that made friendship easier.

And such were the things that his father would have chastised him for, just as well. It was no wonder all of his father’s friends were also toxic drunks.

~***~

Yulquen’s evident doubt and concern about the journey forward was not a deterrent to the pyromancer, and so Mirasol would follow in her footsteps. The activity of the shard was curious, but not unusual. Strong souls always drew power to them, it was known. Being in proximity to it may continue to impede acquiring such souls and power. A small nuisance, perhaps.

Mirasol had already gone toe-to-toe with Lord Gwyn, or what shattered image remained of him, and others who had come after him, to the first flame.

Still, somehow she knew it was not quite right.

She had questions that Yulquen likely could not answer, but perhaps most of all, she wanted to know why Yulquen didn’t take the soul into herself and wore it like a charm, so easy to snatch. ‘Stop it.’ She didn’t need to dwell on doing as much herself as they came to the dark mouth of the crypt, where all was indeed cast in darkness, barely a torch ahead to show the way.

“I do not suppose you would tell me of your hometown, so I may prepare myself?” Mirasol chuckled, though there was a nervous edge to it. This place seemed strange for a hometown, “I’ve never known a home away from the light of the sun,” which was certainly true, Astora had been alive with light, until it wasn’t.

“Did it help in some way with the pyromancies, perhaps?” She heard of pyromancers in places like swamps – one would have perhaps thought a desert better suited their arts, but Mirasol hardly knew.

She knew not a thing about pyromancy beyond the manipulation of fire.

And darkness would lend itself to seeing fire very clearly.

The darkness certainly lent itself to hearing the scurrying of other things within the place very clearly, though Mirasol could not say what they were, and wished the embers that clung to her attire would spark brighter to offer more light to guide their journey.

As it was, they gave enough to see the hem of her skirt and a little ahead, naught more.
 

Monikum.

It's all Dogmatic.
Cain spent a good part of his journey star-struck. These talks of legendary figures, gods amongst men and women alike, breathing, living, larger than life, both figuratively and literally. None met these criteria more than Gough, the famed giant known for his sharpshooting excellence. Second to none, the archer under Gwyn's wing, able to knock down dragons with his eyes close. The kind of combat prowess the knight himself hoped to achieve. Aldrin was right though, the giant preferred his greatbows-- One of the few who could even wield the monstrous weapons in the first place.

Still, this wasn't about Gough, and if any blacksmith had a role in the society of Anor Londo, then they'd surely be a fit!

"My lad, I'm sure this blacksmith of yours is a deft hand, and if I'm impressed, maybe I'd have to pay them!" Another small chuckle trailing off as he glared across the impossible architecture around them. Beneath fog, thick air and a miserable skyline was a glint of orange in the distance. The fire from there represented the fire in them; a fire which Cain saw dwindle over his wandering.

"Bah, pyromancers elude me. Let them practice wherever, even this hovel... whatever these marshlands used to be." The concept of magic continued to nag at Cain. "Cheating" is what he considers it, but then he's never faced a magic wielder in combat. A cynic only due to being unmatchable against them, his prejudice had to be kept under wraps. If not for Aldrin, then for the blue bolt that might pierce up should he bark with corrosion.

Aldrin's place of origin was also something that confused the man. "A delta?", Cain thought. "More swampland malarkey!" Cain knew as much as the next person about the region, but the Blueblood's talk of honest labor and their hatred for sorcery was enough to make him feel like an honorary citizen. Why, if his memory wasn't so good, maybe he could've fooled himself into thinking he was from there also! Alas, Aldrin's pearls of wisdom were enough to humble the man.

"Home is where the blade takes me, as mundane as it is to say." The knight stared at the scuffed gloving of his gauntlets, a smirk visible to no one else but him. Small bits of dry skin peeping through the torn mail.

"I've learned to love that. More than anything now."

He continued to plod along behind Aldrin, the views around him failing to provide any burning hot topics to bring up towards him.

It'd be a long walk, but in the company of friends, miles felt like yards.

~***~

One step was taken in these halls and already, she regretted it. Yulquen attempted to tuck in the shard to the best of her abilities. While her torso still glowed with passion, the buffed armoring of her person did mute the clarity somewhat. In any case, it wouldn't be a problem unless... unless he was here. With further steps, it wasn't long before the caressing blue she fought in was met with nothing.

Light didn't just fail to pierce these tombs; it was suffocated. Smothered by this void, even Yulquen's breathing felt labored once she enveloped herself in the place she once called home. A bastard child of no real fortune, miracles only being used a descriptive for her upbringing, she could hear her own heart skip beats against a cold backdrop of deafening nothingness.

Something she could never get used to.

With Mirasol following her lead-- At least what she could see of the Pyromancer in this void-- She quizzed Yulquen about this unholy place.

"It is a birthplace of unholy death. Death beyond death. While the deceased may lie in these crypts, the men and women who once populated these spots wanted nothing of this so-called heavenly passing... myself included." She clutched her hands and played with a ring on her right index finger: The Abyss Seal. A dedication to the dark arts, not just hexes, but a submission to the endless self-flagellation that she had now found herself in.

She was meant to pull strings, not be a puppet herself.

"Pyromancies were but one of the benefits, but after time, we saw ourselves be... challenged in different ways. I grew to be a wielder of darkness, instead of the flames my father mastered after years of rigorous training." A small sigh and a brief chuckle trailed off into these empty halls.

"If only he saw me now."

Soon, the silence was overtaken by groaning. Mindless undead, hollowed to all but their bones, still roamed these halls, begging for release or food. Yulquen grabbed her blade and simply skewered the ones that even attempted to walk through their path. Their bodies falling with undeserved grace before being taken by whatever abyss awaited them.

"Priestess, I must admit, your kind isn't usually welcome to wander these halls. While we pyromancers were dragged out, your sunlight would be met with more than just blades." Like Yulquen was a saint herself. A history best left for whatever gods were left to act upon, not her own self-pity. "In any case, just be glad you're not--"

"You."

A raspy voice ignited the silence from within. A voice Yulquen had not heard in years. One that never failed to raise the hairs on her neck. Protected by a trio of lesser Grave Wardens, The one known as Agdayne barked directly from the shadows.

"I disdain that light emanating from you, Yulquen. More so it's you who wields it."
 

Lucyfer

I'mma Die On Top
Aldrin could only chuckle at the way Cain viewed pyromancers. He imagined Cain must view all magic as something so far beyond him, be it miracles or sorceries. He wouldn’t bring it up, or ask. He was already too used to that kind of viewpoint, and given his own difficulties with miracles, he couldn’t entirely say he didn’t understand. He did. Some magic was just difficult, and to someone who never learned it young, he could imagine it was even moreso.

So long as Cain wasn’t going to stab him in the back or start mocking him for it, he’d be a tolerable enough companion on the way back to Anor Londo. It seemed Cain was satisfied enough to wander wherever his blade took him. It wasn’t quite the phrasing that Aldrin knew, but he wouldn’t correct Cain.

It was true enough for many undead.

“At least you can retain that,” it was all Aldrin had to say, though it was sincere. Cain was lucky to keep that sense of adventure. It would keep him from hollowing, at least for a while. This additional mission might help. Perhaps they would even have more they could send him on, if he felt inclined to stay.

If he needed them.

The journey itself was long, as it had taken a while to cross the land from Anor Londo, so, too, it took a while to get back. Aldrin was thankful that Cain never did stab him in the back in their journey across Lordran and remained a steadfast blade on their journey. He also didn’t seem to get too upset with the need to stop for food and rest, something the undead had no need of, but something which the very alive Aldrin still needed.

When they eventually came to Anor Londo across the bridge, Aldrin would at last show some relief and let out a sigh, “Thank goodness,” it didn’t look worse for wear. “Not much further now, just the castle,” which would easily let them pass, although some of the large guards seemed hesitant to let the undead pass alongside Aldrin.

They were eventually met by the Firekeeper of Anor Londo. “What took you so long?” The woman in bronze demanded, striding up towards them, before pausing as she recognized he was not alone. “Who’s this?”

Aldrin gave a gesture – he’d let Cain introduce himself.

~***~

‘Heavenly?’ It was a word foreign to Mirasol, though she imagined the cant of her head went mostly unseen. Given the context, she wasn’t sure if it was something desired, or reviled. She’d assume desired, just not by those who faced it. It seemed there was a massacre here of Yulquen’s people, and it made Mirasol’s heart ache.

Yulquen elaborated.

Her people had shifted from pyromancies to dark arts. It was enough to stiffen Mirasol, given she was an adherent of the light, and considered such things to, indeed, be terrible. ‘Can you judge so quickly? Were you not challenged by light on your journey?’ She tried to swallow down that judgment. Was it not more important how the power was wielded?

“Some would say a shadow is as much a part of the light as anything,” Mirasol murmured the words, words she’d comforted herself with as a human, a bearer of the dark mark, once upon a time. It was only humans who could link the flame after Gwyn; was it not then proper to acknowledge the place of shadow and darkness in the order of things?

Light was only restored by the passing of the dark.

Silence fell at her words and Yulquen’s reminiscing. The tomb was deafening in its silence, in its darkness. That silence shifted to the pains of the dead. They were not outright hostile, and it reminded her too clearly of what she’d seen when she first started out, of undead who never challenged their state, and simply gave into it.

Yulquen had no qualms about dealing with those who looked their way, and Mirasol held to her blade in case it was needed, but would otherwise allow Yulquen to deal with her dead. She would only take note of how the white souls seemed to continue to move towards the shard beneath Yulquen’s armor.

Mirasol’s brows lifted at Yulquen’s note of how she would be killed back in the day. She wanted to question that – to question why when she had known good pyromancers – but they were interrupted by a stranger coming forward. Well, four strangers – though one at least quite clearly knew Yulquen.

“Disdain all you like,” Mirasol found her voice and came to stand alongside Yulquen, “You will not hinder her journey nor our path, whoever you may be.”

“Agdayne,” he answered in that rasping voice, “a Fenito; you do not belong here, you are not touched by death or darkness.”

“People keep telling me that,” she noted, “but the flames didn’t want me, so I’m here instead. Let us pass.”

But he shook his head, “No…this time, Yulquen, you will stay here,” he seemed to reach for a weapon, though Mirasol saw nothing in his hand as he drew it, while the three with him rushed forward with sickles in their hands.
 

Monikum.

It's all Dogmatic.
Cain spent the entire journey pleasantly uplifted by the acceptance of Aldrin, both in his philosophies and his partnership. He couldn't stop smiling to himself that not only was this fellow journeyman a skilled fighter, but one that could help rein him in the new ways; Manners he may sorely need not just in these new lands, but Anor Londo itself. Would he need new greetings, new armor, a proper pose? He was overthinking things, of course, but a lifetime of rigorous manner would do that to anyone.

Despite this journey's length, all the time in the world couldn't have prepared Cain for the sheer brilliance he stood against. To say he felt out of place was no small understatement, he was shaken wonderfully by the impossible architecture on display. Clearly meant for those "larger-than-life" figures, he could easily scan the architecture, indents all intentional, and spotless in polish even in such a colossal magnitude.

What surprised him though, was how the weather treated his character. Anor Londo was known for its breathtaking skylines, a sun that cleanly washes over every inch of the city with heavenly rays, yet he felt a chill run through his spine. The sun seemed duller than the stories spoke of.

Still, Cain kept his currently adoring nature to himself, until he was needed, at least. He followed Aldrin's foot and gladly nodded whenever Aldrin beckoned. While humiliating for some, the knight's stance in death saw hesitant body language from the towering golden guards protecting each doorway, intimidating him slightly.

Brutes with giant wooden clubs were one thing, but the giants that roam these halls? Not an easy fight.

It wasn't long before the duo were met by a rather direct woman. A firekeeper, one of a dazzling style, a spotless brass outfit. Cain couldn't admire her long, a name was demanded of him by her. Standing upright, hands behind his back, the rounded man attempted to bow as much as he could in such unwieldable armor.

"My name is Cain of Catarina! I am of Aldrin's vehicle, with a task befitted to me by this noble blood."

"A task?" The brass woman stared him down, a potential scowl scanning his person. His preferred greatsword jutted from behind him and raised the brow of the woman. The knight kept his stance firm until the woman finally relented.

"Very well." She made her gaze back to Aldrin.

"I hope the Dark Sun allows this. For both of your sakes."

Cain checked what he could of his collar and didn't butt in. It was none of his business, he merely stood steadfast and pondered the potential of exploring these holy lands.

"Well, I suppose if I am to be outranked in regards to debriefing here, may I partake in a bit of rest, maybe even exploration?" He let his hands rest by his side, that abiding to honor getting to him faster than initially thought.

~***~

Whatever blood was left to travel through her body was left frozen in the encounter. Yulquen stared wide-eyed at the pale protector of the crypt, that same bluntness he always rebuffed with never failed to make her feel inadequate; a failed apprentice scolded. She tried her best to hold her stare down, while Mirasol attempted to challenge him.

The man's words were direct, toxic, venom-tipped. Even the sunny disposition of Mirasol seemed to be dampened by such a vitriolic voice. Yulquen quickly stepped in for the priestess and take the challenge to herself directly.

"Agdayne, I--"

"Know my role, Yulquen."

The pyromancer stared at Mirasol, rolling her eyes before looking back up to the glorified undertaker from his elevated position. "Fine. Grave Warden Agdayne, I'm not looking to clash."

"You know your life should've ended here. Not only that, but you seem to be hiding something." A long slender finger reached out from his fur-lined tunic and pointed towards Yulquen's chest. She knew the price one would pay for bringing light to these halls, but she couldn't help it, and her best attempts at muting the rays weren't enough.

"I look forward to this, Outcast. More than you realize."

The pyromancer was defeated with that same verbose he always had. She tried one last time, "Please, Agdayne, we're past the age for this, we just want--"

"ENOUGH. My role is eternal. As is yours. Or at least it should be."

As quickly as she stepped in for the priestess, Mirasol made her statement, her role fairer than Yulquens. The Grave Warden had enough, however, his right hand holding nothing, it still being enough of a gesture for his three bodyguards to attack. A slight hint of remorse came from the lack of mercy, but this was quickly subsidized. Yulquen felt rage once more, that same fire when the songstress sang.

She felt her fingers become numb as the conjuring came to mind. Two of Agdayne's bodyguards pushed onto her with rusted scythes, and the hand ached. Pushing it down on the ground, Yulquen's hand pulsed, looking up to see random pillars of fire spurt from the ground, scalding the arms of their attackers, and further bringing anger to Agdayne's disposition.

It was enough of a distraction for Yulquen to properly prepare. The odds weren't stacked in their favor this time. The size was replaced with quantity in this instance, and Agdayne's affinity for the lord Nito weaved a layer of fear through the pyromancer.

She couldn't die now though. Not this time. Her hand clutched tight to her chest, she stood by Mirasol and prepared her next cast.
 

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