Blackflame

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                “I see flame. Flame, flickering, once again. Not enough blood yet shed. My flail… bring me my flail. Ahh, Friede. What stops thine ears? Please, my flail, right away…”

                I knew he’d be trouble, and now here he is, disturbing the Father. Damn Ash. I’d have killed him as soon as I saw him if he wasn’t undead. Damn Darksign.

                “Ahh, oh. Bring Friede to me, please. Canst thou not see? The flame, flickering once again. Soon it will surge. I can see it, feel it...”

                Oh well. Let’s just get it over with.

                “Fret not father, we have no need of thy flail. Tis only the flame, quivering at misguided Ash.” The scythe’s blade is cold as I run my hand across it. It won’t be for long. “Please avert thine eyes. I will snuff out these ashes for good.”

                All I do is walk forward, slowly, and the Ash comes running. I need to have a talk with Yuria about her idea of “potential”, if this is how her “Lords” behave in a fight. He comes into range, and all it takes is a few swings before he’s on the ground, fading away.

                “Return from whence thou cam’st,” I tell him. “For that is thy place of belonging.”

                He’ll be back, of course. But that’ll teach him a good lesson. It takes a few minutes – the fire’s just up the stairs, so at the very least he’s being smart about it and preparing himself. Maybe even poking at one of those white signs, as if it’d be any help.

                Sure enough, he comes charging through the fog. Now he’s got his shield up. How cute. He thinks he’s learning.

                Of course, I just walk towards him. Walking is always so much more intimidating than running.

                He thinks he has an opening, so he lunges around his shield. A jump to the side is more than enough to get out of his way, and a swing to counterattack leaves him reeling. I was really hoping that’d do him in straightaway.

                The Ash rolls off to the wall, and I stay behind. I bring the scythe up and pull it back, and then he can’t see me anymore. He takes a swig of that estus that undead are so attached to, and I jump across the hall to his side. The idiot runs over to where I just was, so I drive the scythe into his back.

                He falls, but by some miracle he manages to pick himself up again. He tries to roll off, but I hit him with a low swipe and he fades away before he gets a chance to figure out which way was up.

                “Leave us be, Ashen One.” I know he won’t listen, but at least if I tell him it makes him wrong for coming back. “Sweep all thought of us from thy mind. As thy kind always have.”

                A few minutes and he’s back again, of course, but now he’s changed into some lighter armor. Roll around all you like, it won’t help you. He runs at me, I walk towards him, and he manages to actually get out of the way of my first few swings this time. Apparently rolling is helping him. He takes a swing, and I jump out of the way, but he follows up with another and nicks me right as his attack is ending. No big deal, and it’ll be back to normal once he dies anyways.

                I jump back across the hall and turn invisible again. He hasn’t learned, so he runs at me, and I jump over his head. He’s on the floor in one strike yet again. This Ash is stubborn, though, and he gets himself out of the way before I can finish him. A dose of estus, and he rolls in for some attack. I catch him with the scythe-blade as he’s getting up from a roll, so he has to pick himself up off the ground again. He manages to lift himself directly into the path of another swing. Oh my, where did that come from? Down he goes again, fading away.

                I’ve got a few minutes to myself again – good time to think, though perhaps not the best time to notice my body making requests. But it’s no concern; this Ash has to give up some time, and I can outlast him. Especially since I’m restored to peak (almost, anyways) condition every time he dies. I’d always wondered about that – that and the fog doors, the damn things.

                He comes back, of course. This time he’s not running around, he’s rolling everywhere. I guess he figures that counts as an improved strategy. Not improved enough, though – it didn’t work last time, and it sure isn’t going to work again this time. One swing goes over his head while he’s on the ground, then a follow-up catches the back of his leg. He stumbles for a moment then lashes out, and I just take the hit and move on with a strike to the head. I don’t know how, but he survives, though he’s staggered. A strike to the ribs snaps him out of it and he rolls away, drinks some estus – they’re so reliant on that stuff these days – then he throws a knife. I can feel it fly past my head, then I jump back and turn invisible again. He runs forward and takes a jab at where he thinks I am, so I leap over him again and prepare to finish him.

                I have to give him credit – he is learning, a little bit. He rolls out of the way at the last second, either because he just happened to feel like rolling just then or he could tell it was coming, but either way the massive swing I’d just taken at him missed completely, and I almost hit the back of my own head with my scythe. He runs in for another poke while my weapon is out of the way, but I just take it and hit him around the head while he’s busy tiring himself out swinging his sword. He drops to the ground and fades away yet again.

                Perhaps if this were any other time I’d be admiring his persistence – he’s an idiot, no doubt about that, but a persistent idiot. That’s respectable, but… right about now I’d really prefer one of those guys who comes in, dies once, then gives up and spends the next few days lurking around with a soapstone trying to figure out how to kill me without actually needing to risk anything. Those people, they’re clever. And, well, they’d give me some time alone. Not that it’s necessary or anything, but still, it would be nice. Don’t want to have any distractions when I’m fighting.

                This one, though, he’s back again, and he keeps coming back. Even on a good day I hate these types – he rolls out of the way of a swipe, and then I jump over him as he tries to counter – they get really boring really quickly. Usually – I hit him in the head with the blunt side of the scythe, but he manages to stab my leg in return – there’s a bit of a rotation. One guy dies, another comes in, then maybe the first comes back. Not with these people. These people, they just – he runs over to Father Ariandel and starts throwing knives, but I just jump back, fade away, and while he’s trying to get over here I swipe my blade across the ground and freeze the stone beneath him – well, they just don’t stop coming. Kill them once, they try to figure out what they did wrong – he tries to roll out of the way, but the ice has slowed him, so I drive the shaft of the scythe into his head while he’s down and watch him dissolve – and then they come back and try to not do that again.

                Or, well, most of them try to learn. This one not so much. They all get mad and quit after a while, though – I just have to last longer than he does, and that’s simple enough considering I almost never get tired. Sure, there are… other things that could, eh, impair my skills, but… That’s not a problem yet. Not one I have to care about, anyways. Maybe I should stop thinking about it.

                T-there are more important things. Yeah, like the fact that he’s back again. But like every time before, this shouldn’t be a problem. Just a swing and h- I fucking hope for his sake he was just flailing that shield around. Now there’s a sword in my chest and I’m on my knees because why the fuck wasn’t I watching his left arm? Stupid. Just one stupid mistake that I’m not going to make again. At least, I’d better not, because the feeling of getting run through wasn’t the only pain from that…

                Come to think of it – he’s got his shield up in front of him now, but I just hit him around it because he doesn’t understand what a scythe is – I’m rather consistently amazed that I can survive something like that. My, eh… There might be some parts of me that wouldn’t be able to last through too many of those, but I still feel fine overall. Sure, it hurt like Izalith, but I’m in good fighting condition otherwise. Barely even lost any blood.

                And, well, even if I did die, it’s not like that’s a problem. I bet he doesn’t even know I’m every bit as undead as he is – got the damn Sign to prove it, even if its location means I’d rather not need proof– and that I’ll just be back in someone else’s world, even if I might not be in his ever again.

                I’m sure he wouldn’t care. He’s just running around poking at me and trying not to get his ass frozen again. He’s actually getting pretty good at finding me when I’m invisible, so I’ll give him credit for that. I’m still beating him into the Abyss, though. He has to know one lucky shot doesn’t give him a chance, right?

                That estus sure does give him a bit of favor, if he can use it properly – he just tried to drink it a second ago, but I smacked him before it could do anything – but it’s nothing I can’t handle. It is rather annoying, though. His supply is a little smaller than we could get back in my day, no doubt a tradeoff for not needing to sacrifice bits of yourself to get more, but it’s more potent. Probably just because they ran out of Firekeepers to shove into those things so they’re using something more plentiful, and a lot of it.

                If he’s not going to drop dead any time soon, though, I’ll have a real attrition war on my hands here. He was dumb with the drinking once, but he figured himself out quickly enough. I’ve been counting, he’s had four doses already, plus the one I stopped – I really shouldn’t be thinking about drinking that stuff, though; if there’s one thing about it I remember it’s that it goes right through you, and, uh, that’s not a convenient thought right now – so he’s still pretty well-stocked, I figure. He’ll just keep dodging, I guess, so I have to hit him enough to make him run out.

                For now, though, I get out of the way and turn invisible again. A jump over his head when he gets to where I just was, then… Wow, okay, I didn’t expect the pressure to get that intense already. S-surely just from the landing. Still invisible, I press my legs together for a moment, and I’m fine enough once again, so I take a swing.

                I miss. He decided to run away once he realized he had no idea where I was, and it just so happened that he chose the exact moment I’d decided to cut his head off. So, his neck wasn’t where it should have been, and now I look like an idiot and have to spend time bringing my scythe back into position.

                He’s actually smart this time, and he takes advantage of that opening, runs over, and… of all the things he could have done, he kicks me. Exactly the thing I needed right now, thanks… I’m sure it’s not the chance he expected, but now I’m bent over dealing with making sure various internal fluids stay internal – I’d definitely be reeling from that anyways, but this takes just a little bit longer to get under control than just getting the air kicked out of you. Whatever the reason, he’s got an opportunity, and he takes it.

                And, apparently, I greatly overestimated my condition. I get hit in the jaw with the guard of his sword, and then I just see a blur of what I can only imagine is the ceiling.

                Then there’s a horrible pain in my neck and I can’t see anything at all.

 

                But then I wake up. Two things about this situation are definitely not right. First, I am very warm and very wet. That’s… not a good sign. Second, once my vision comes back I can see that everything is fucking on fire, and there are the sounds of Father Ariandel thrashing about behind me. Then the feeling comes back, and fuck everything my head hurts. Okay, third thing not right: this is a pool of blood I’m in right now. My blood, as in all of my fucking blood is on the floor. And if this pressure coming back is any indication, this pool is just my blood. So now there are two problems. I apparently didn’t come back to life properly, or the Father’s done something, and I’m stuck here fighting this same idiot some more, and I could really use a piss that I’m not going to get to deal with any time soon.

                The pain in my head fades – that’s the worst part about dying, you wake up feeling like, well, like you died – and I move to pull myself up. Plant the scythe on the ground, push up off of it, then work up to standing again. At some point, I was apparently set on fire, too, but it’s reduced to a few embers by the time I’m upright. Then it’s just a matter of getting the scythe back into position.

                Ariandel is the first to act, and his idea of action is smashing that vessel of his on the ground. I take the opportunity to swipe up a sheet of ice, then I jump over to get behind the Father.

                The Ash seems to focus mainly on Father Ariandel, who is himself busy flailing wildly trying to crush the Ash like the bug he is. I can feel a little bit of pain every time Ariandel gets hit, like it’s me taking those hits, too. This won’t be something I can just wait out, so as much as part of me would greatly prefer that I just hid in a corner for a minute while Ariandel solves the problem, I can’t do that. Every second I waste is another second he’s left blindly crawling around trying to accomplish anything at all.

                So, as much as it pains me to, I jump around to get into position, and while the Ash is distracted I hit him with a series of winding strikes – he doesn’t roll away until after I’ve finished beating him up, and once he’s in the clear, he takes a drink. That’s six, unless he had one while I was dead.

                I throw another sheet of ice at him, but he’s already done drinking and out of the way by the time it reaches him. He’s… completely ignoring me now. Going only for the Father. Considering how much this is starting to hurt, I have to do something about that. And if I can’t distract him enough to get him to face me instead…

                A jump back and I fade out of sight, then take a knee, as much as my body would prefer I didn’t. I really don’t know how this escalated so quickly – I have to stop and work to get things under control before I search my belt and pockets for… where the fuck is this thing? I know I have it… A few more seconds of pain from within and without before I find what I was looking for. It’s just a bundle of cloth and a rock, but it’s my bundle of cloth with a rock in it, and I need it right now. I squeeze the talisman as tightly as possible and hold it up to my head, and soon enough, it’s glowing. A warmth envelops my entire body, even beyond the heat of the flames, and I feel reinvigorated.

                That is, until he runs over and slices into my arm. I’m sent staggering back, with a third type of warmth showing up now – this time only briefly, thankfully. I toss the talisman back into the depths of my robes and swat at the Ash and trip him up while he tries to run away. He falls to the ground, and I take another swing at him, but he rolls out of the way of that one and gets to his feet. He strikes me again, then rolls off, straight under Ariandel’s vessel. The Father makes a valiant attempt to crush the Ash, but the pest is too fast for him and is off to the Father’s side, where I can’t see him, but I can still feel what he’s doing.

                For just a moment, I press my legs together again – this is pretty bad now – then jump over to where I can see the Ash. I throw some ice at him and leap across the room to him, striking him across the back. He stumbles, but rolls aside and takes another drink, and I step back for a rest.

                Things aren’t going my way at all. First I die, then I come back and everything’s worse than it was before, and now the Father is very likely going to die and there’s nothing I can do about it. Not when I’m in this condition – I plant the scythe between my legs for a moment, hit by a sudden, powerful wave, but fortunately nothing else comes of that – and certainly not if the Ash is going to ignore everything I do and try to strike the Father down anyways.

                If only I coul-

  “Aah…”

               

 

                When the Ashes are two, a flame alighteth. Thou’rt Ash, and fire befits thee, of course...

                Alright, no, I’m mad now. Kill me, kill Ariandel, you’re going to get what you deserve. I pick myself up and draw the extra scythe I’ve had on my belt the whole time. I’m still dying inside, now more than ever, but nothing matters right now besides killing this bastard. Glorious abyssal flames are at my feet as I rise, and then I immediately jump into action. Wave the scythes and spin just so, and a swirling pillar of dark fire propels me upwards, then a downward strike has me crash down into the Ash with yet more flame.

                He’s gotten himself out of the way, but no matter. One scythe and then the other, an unyielding assault on the Ash. These blades are quickly polluted with his blood, and still he fights on. He rolls back and drinks in the moment I take to rest, but I immediately resume the assault and leave him running. No openings. He’s not going to get a chance.

                The second assault finishes, and I immediately drag one scythe across the ground, and when I lift it, a great wall of dark fire erupts and consumes everything in front of me – the Ash, unfortunately, not included.

                 Let’s see how good he is at dodging what he can’t see. A step back, then I fade and jump over him. He keeps getting close, but every time he does I move farther back and fade away again. Then another jump, a deep breath, and the larger scythe carves into his back. He falls flat on his face, and yet he refuses to die. He gets up, rolls away, drinks, and then covers his sword in golden tree sap or whatever the fuck that is. I don’t give a fuck. I just want him dead.

                His weapon is sparkling with the Great Lord’s gift, and he charges at me. One strike I deflect with the smaller scythe, but he attacks again faster than I anticipate, and I feel the sting of the blade and the surge of lightning through me. I’m sure that’s made things a little warmer downstairs, but I still don’t care. A strike to the face with the blunt side of the larger scythe gets him to back off, and I unleash another assault on him. He takes a hit, then another, then gets himself out of the way to drink again.

                Then he pulls his sword up by his head with two hands, moving into a great lunge. I try to deflect with the smaller scythe, but still the lightning on the blade hits me, even if I’m not pierced by the metal itself. Another surge of pain and another involuntary release, and I’m right back to throwing fire at him. Swipe a scythe across the floor for a fire wall, slam the other onto the ground for a burst of flames.

                And yet he keeps running, while I run out of time.

                I’m not going to win this, not if I keep trying things the way I have been.

                There is one thing, one weapon he couldn’t possibly have seen coming, but I only have one shot at it.

                By the Lords, I hope I still remember how to do this.

               

                I drop the smaller scythe, then the larger one, and charge directly at the Ash. He puts up his sword to run me through, but it’s too late for him.

                I swat the weapon aside with my left hand – fortunately, the enchantment has worn off – and then grab him by the mouth. My right hand grabs his neck, and as he falls to the ground in my grip, and I fall to sit on top of him, I feel him struggling. I press harder with my left, and the resistance slows, until it stops altogether.

                I’m breathing heavily as I sit up and pull away from him. As soon as I lift my hand off of his mouth, he starts to dissolve again, and I’m holding a black sprite – I can feel it writhing for a moment before I crush it. It makes a satisfying cracking sound as I absorb its power, and I’m overcome by a great, soothing warmth. I let my hands fall to the ground, shut my eyes, and take a deep breath as I let the humanity flow through me.

                When I look again, I see a pool on the floor below me, and as the humanity’s effects fade, I can still feel a lingering warmth down my legs. I’m left staring in disbelief for a moment – truly, I have no idea how this actually happened, but I don’t have much of a choice but to surrender to it, so I just watch the pool grow until it reaches my hands. Then the warmth in my legs starts to fade, and I move so that I’m sitting on my feet.

                This wasn’t exactly how I’d intended for this to happen, especially considering I’m either going to have to find a way to get new clothes without leaving this room, or just surrender to the concept of fighting either half-naked or half-soaked.

                The one consolation is that I’m fairly sure the Ash won’t be back any time soon.       



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