8th January – High Lord Wolnir
After defeating the Abyss Watchers (eventually), Irithyll, where I would face my old nemesis Pontiff Sulyvhan, felt within touching distance. Before that happens, I would first need to negotiate through the cold, dark corridors of the Catacombs of Carthus.
It is said that Carthus was once a great nation of swordsmen. Under the command of King Wolnir they conquered every kingdom that they came across, claiming victory after victory. However, Wolnir, with an obsession to outlive all others, eventually fell to the Abyss. To prevent its spread, the Abyss Watchers buried the kingdom and have watched over the catacombs ever since. Well, I may have broke that tradition but let’s not dwell on that…
History lesson over, in short this meant I’d be facing skeletons, and lots of them. Swordsmen skeletons, cartwheeling skeletons, grave warden skeletons and…
…High Lord Wolnir himself.
Wolnir is an intimidating sight as he crawls out of the darkness, towering over you. Fortunately I was armed with the greatest weapon, the knowledge of how to defeat him. I armed my Arstor’s Spear and immediately ran towards the two shining ‘hit me’ bracelets he was wearing on his left wrist. It wasn’t long before I shattered both of them. I just had to break the bracelet on his right wrist and…
Of course. There are times when Wolnir ‘leaks’ the Abyss from his ribcage, and it quickly envelops the room. Getting caught in it is… well, I should just avoid it. I put away my shield and two-handed my weapon. With a new strategy focusing on speed, aggression and power High Lord Wolnir was quickly banished. And more importantly…
…I had arrived at Irithyll of the Boreal Valley.
11th January 2019 – Pontiff Sulyvahn
Pontiff Sulyvahn’s reign has ended.
It has taken three nights, around ten hours of relentless battle and almost as many outbursts of bad language as fog traversals but finally… FINALLY the Pontiff fell.
Clearing the path to Ponty didn’t present too many problems, apart from his ferocious ‘pet’ that’s encountered on the bridge on the journey in to Irithyll. After several failed attempts I decided to… ahem ‘spare the beast’s life’, and run as fast as I could into Central Irithyll. After all, I wasn’t here for him.
Eventually, I found myself stood in front of the cathedral entrance where Pontiff Sulyvhan would be waiting. A few deep breaths, a glance down at my blade, and a confident stride into the breach.
The cathedral was an impressive sight. Several rows of pews aligned on each side drawing my eye towards my target. As I cautiously paced down the aisle, Pontiff ignited his two blades. One, fused with magic and the other, with fire. As I shortened the distance between us, he leapt towards me and we became locked into battle.
It was an extremely tough first few hours. I struggled to ‘read’ the Pontiff’s moves and I was unsure of how to defend myself against him, or even where to position myself for any respite. Ponty enjoyed a night of dual wielding target practice without me providing any real challenge.
I had to switch tactics. I spent a while attempting to parry the Pontiff’s strikes and was seeing some occasional success, and it was fantastically satisfying to land a critical hit after a successful parry. Unfortunately, I struggled to find any kind of consistency, and a badly timed parry would often result in death.
Instead, I started to get closer, literally rubbing shoulders with Ponty as we circled around each other. This seemed to disorientate my rival, and I found that I could get a free hit whilst he struggled to decide which blade to hit me with. It was the Pontiff’s first sign of real weakness.
Eventually, and for the first time ever, I saw Pontiff Sulyvahn‘s second stage transformation. It had taken two years to finally gain the upper hand over my old adversary and now, I faced the prospect of fighting two of them at the same time. For the second half of the fight Pontiff Sulyvahn summons… another Pontiff Sulyvahn. Perfect.
By the third night I was consistently reaching the second half of the battle. The ‘shoulder rub’ was providing plenty of opportunity to attack, and I found that Ponty’s dual-wielding combos could be blocked fairly easily by raising my shield only when necessary and therefore conserving stamina.
With every run, I could now focus on how to handle two Pontiff Sulyvahns. I quickly realised that the original Ponty was simply echoing his summon’s attacks. The summon would lead, and the original would follow a second or two later.
Using my shield in the first half of the battle had worked… just. I had invested fairly heavily into the endurance attribute throughout my journey, but it wouldn’t provide enough protection against the barrage of two Pontys. I would need to avoid them.
Although I was facing a much higher damage output, I found that the attacks of ‘Double Pontys’ seemed to be less regular. This meant I had a larger window to replenish health should I need to, and there was considerable opportunity to land heavy attacks of my own. For the first time, I felt victory was within my grasp. I needed a little luck; with so much happening on screen I was finding it hard to predict the type of imminent attack but I was edging closer.
I glanced down at Pontiff Sulyvahn‘s health bar. It was low… very low. I reminded myself “Patience. Don’t rush in, wait for the opening” …before getting caught with a heavy downward strike from the summon’s blade. This was followed with an even heavier blast of magic as I was backed away. I cringed as my health bar took a huge drop, and quickly chugged an Estus flask to recover.
Adrenaline levels were high. It was difficult to control my eagerness to run in and land that critical blow to claim my victory. I got caught again by another wave of magic. Get up. Estus. Composure.
Suddenly, the summon jumped high into the air. Pontiff echoed the move and I saw my opportunity. As the double act flew into my direction with their blades ready to cut straight through me, I rolled underneath them. They landed behind me, Pontiff Sulyvahn had put everything into his aerial strike and was still recovering as I turned around. This was the moment. This was where I would end the reign of Pontiff Sulyvahn.
It’s with some sadness that I returned to Firelink Shrine, after defeating the Pontiff. I had claimed victory against an adversary that for so long, had protected the second Lord of Cinder from my steel. Aldrich, Devourer of Gods was protected no longer.
12th January 2019 – Aldrich, Devourer of Gods
And so my journey continued. With Pontiff Sulyvhan finally disposed of, I soon found myself in familiar territory. The sprints across rooftop parapets avoiding arrows the size of men, the gigantic spiralling staircase mechanism that revolved and raised with the pull of a lever, and architecture that could only be designed for the gods. I was back in Anor Londo, the name alone burnt into the memories of many a ‘Souls player, and it was no less inviting.
I would come to realise that Aldrich, the second Lord of Cinder on my list was to be found in another familiar location; the infamous cathedral where Dragon Slayer Ornstein and Executioner Smough were fought in the first Dark Souls outing. I could only hope that the battle against Aldrich would be a little less stressful.
Aldrich himself was formerly a holy cleric with an insatiable appetite for human flesh. He founded his ‘Church of the Deep’, providing him with a steady stream of sacrifices to satisfy his hunger. A process overseen by Archdeacon Royce and Pontiff Sulyvhan. Aldrich‘s power eventually consumed him and he became a Lord of Cinder. As such, his appetite grew and he travelled to Anor Londo to consume a god. With Sulyvahn’s help, Dark Sun Gwyndolin was captured and Aldrich earned the title of ‘Devourer of Gods’.
So basically, I needed to defeat Aldrich so that his ashes could be returned to the throne, but also because he’s a disgusting cannibalistic son-of-a-bitch.
I entered his sanctuary. White silk sheets hung from the rafters above, waving in the breeze. The floor wriggled beneath my feet, the sludge created by Aldich‘s putrid habit. Aldrich himself was ahead of me, his upper torso taking the form of his recent meal, Gwyndolin. From my recent boss battles, I decided to close the distance quickly, and circle behind my opponent. Below Aldrich‘s inherited upper body, was a sludge-like tail that writhed amongst the similar looking floor. Suffice to say, I immediately started hacking away at it.
It was a technique that I could tell was working immediately. This was very different to my battle with Pontiff Sulyvahn, where for the longest time, victory felt unachievable. Aldrich had a few spells in his repertoire, but he telegraphed them so much, he may as well have drew me a diagram on a whiteboard before casting them.
It took a couple of hours to defeat Aldrich, Devourer of Gods but compared to the previous three nights embroiled in combat with Ponty, this felt like a cakewalk. It was nice taking a short day trip back to Anor Londo, but it was time to return to Ithiryll. The third Lord of Cinder would be waiting for me on the other side of Ithiryll Dungeon…
13th January – Yhorm the Giant
It was very much a relief to escape the Ithiryll Dungeon, and the inhabitants found within its confined walls. From infested corpses to human stick insects (or ‘man-grubs’ ), and a whole host of disease-carrying vermin, the dungeon isn’t a place to outstay your welcome.
Eventually I escaped to the fresh air and openness of the Profaned Capital, on the other side of the dungeon. The Profaned Capital was once home to the Profaned Flame, a flame that could never be extinguished and therefore resolving the struggle between dark and light. However, the flame was almost impossible to control and incinerated every human inhabitant of the Capital. Yhorm became a Lord of Cinder to put the Profaned Flame to rest, and over time has lost his mind and secluded himself. In Dark Souls, Giants are often portrayed as sombre and troubled creatures, and it seemed that Yhorm was no different. It was my job to free Yhorm of his misery and return the ashes of the third Lord of Cinder.
I took a large step through the fog wall. On top of the ornate floor were huge piles of human bones, mixed with an assortment of golden chalices and other ornate treasures. A sure sign of the luxurious lifestyle that the people of the Profaned Capital led before their cremation by the Profaned Flame.
Yhorm immediately started striding towards me, holding a machete the size of an elephant. I rolled around him and noticed an item pickup at the other side of the room; a weapon of some description. Yhorm was a traditional Dark Souls ‘big boss’. He was slow and cumbersome and it was quite easy to stay behind him. I confidently started hacking away at his ankles… but my Sharp Uchigatana was barely scratching him.
As I watched Yhorm‘s health bar barely moving, his machete caught me with a massive strike and I was back at the Profaned Capital bonfire. I took the time to examine the weapon that I managed to grab moments before my death;
Greatsword with a broken blade, also known as the Giantslayer for the residual strength of storm that brings giants to their knees.
Yhorm the Giant once held two of these, but gave one to the humans that doubted him, and left the other to a dear friend before facing his fate as a Lord of Cinder.
Skill: Storm King
Assume stance to imbue sword with storm. Most effective when facing giants.
Armed with the knowledge provided by the not-so-subtle item description, I headed back to face off against Yhorm again.
My victory wasn’t immediate. It took a few attempts to learn how to use the Storm Ruler correctly. I learned that the sword would need a few seconds to be ‘charged’, and I could do this from a safe distance. I could then run behind Yhorm and unleash the power of the storm. On his heels. Not only did the sword look amazing when doing this, it also afflicted a hefty chunk of damage.
Before long, Yhorm the Giant had fallen. I had defeated three Lords of Cinder but before I could return Yhorm‘s ashes to Firelink Shrine, I was immediately teleported back to (yet another) cathedral at the High Wall of Lothric, near to where I had fought Vordt.
I was instructed that I must ‘save the soul of Prince Lothric’ before another boss, the Dancer of the Boreal Valley, dropped down from the ceiling. Err… nope! Sorry Dancer, but this update isn’t for you. I used a Homeward Bone to quickly warp myself back to the safety of Firelink Shrine.