The centipede demon bounded to and fro, occasionally landing directly above Nak, who thrashed about at it whenever it was nearby. His footwork was stodgy, given the space limitations (four steps in the wrong direction would take Nak into the magma pit), and his bladework was panicked, given the demon’s bizarre urge to stand directly overhead.

The compact struggle sent Nak back to the nearby bonfire a few times. In the end, as always, Nak prevailed. It may have been more bull-headedness than careful strategizing this time, but an ugly victory was a victory all the same.

Nak donned his prize (an orange, charred ring) and dashed over the magma, which now felt quite lukewarm to the touch.

Lost Izalith

Nak stood on a path overlooking Izalith, a city of charred stone buildings rising out of the magma. Or, he would be overlooking it, if it weren’t for all of the legs in the way.

Lost Izalith suffered from a curious infestation of thirty-foot-tall pairs of legs of petrified bone, mounted to the lower half of reptilian spines and their tails. In short, the place was overrun with dragon asses. One of the enduring mysteries of Lost Izalith was how those dragon asses could see Nak. But see him they did (when he strayed close enough), and Nak was forced to flee from their mighty temper tantrums or be trampled into the magma.

Nak was trampled into the magma several times. One too many times.

Two hours later, Nak blasted the last one into the ashes. The dragon asses had earned the distinction of being the first species to drive Nak into a genocidal rage.

The Bed of Chaos

O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
She seems to thrash upon her lair, and smite
Like a great Goddess would her enemies sear;
With whips and pits to fall, and flames to fear!
So shows a lonesome knight tumbling below,
In trenches opened swiftly with savage blows.
The beatdowns dodged, I fled her reach of hand,
And, leaping down, found wood and safe sand.
Did my heart smile till now? forswear it, sight!
For I ne’er knew joy ‘fore I killed this mite.

The Duke’s Archives

Nak now held whatever was left of the original souls of both Life and Death, for whatever that was worth. Now, he was looking for the very last shard of Gwyn’s own soul, held by his friend and confidant, Seath the Scaleless. Seath had made his home in a great library overlooking Anor Londo, and much to Nak’s dismay, he had appointed a pair of mechaboars to door duty.

Nak edged ever so slowly to the first one, remembering all too painfully that he was only able to defeat its brother many weeks before by exploiting its inability to fit into a hallway. This hallway, on the other hand, fit the mechaboar nicely. And, unfortunately, it did not leave much room to get out of the way when the mechaboar charged.

Nak died.

The boars were not so lucky when Nak returned. Nak remembered, along with his inglorious victory, a message he had read long, long ago: “Weakness: fire.” But this time he had more than firebombs.

The boars perished one right after the other. Nak concluded that Chaos Fireball was considerably more powerful than alchemical trickery.

Need Ring

What the hell did “need ring” mean?

Nak shrugged and walked into the fog wall. He was startled to find himself locking eyes with Seath the Scaleless.

He couldn’t let his surprise last long. Seath was just out of reach, atop a cluster of crystals, and this called for some pyromancy.

Except it didn’t.

Nak threw three or four fireballs of varying strengths and even cast a soul arrow at Seath, only to find his skin impregnable, his position unassailable. Seath cast a final spell and flooded the little cavern with sharp crystals. Nak died.

Nak woke up… what? At a different bonfire? In a cage? It seems that Seath, in his studies, had found some way to exploit the link between the undead and the bonfires. Nak uttered some naughty words, finally grasping the meaning of “need ring.” A Ring of Sacrifice would have allowed Nak to keep his amassed souls and humanity with him. As it was, he found it unlikely that he would be able to find his way back to the little lair in the archives.

Oh well.

Instead of dwelling on the lost souls, Nak stood up, killed the serpentman that was so thoughtfully leaning against the rails of his cell, took its key, and left.

The Crystal Cave

The Duke’s Archives were bad enough. The collected guardians of the archives, mostly crystal swordsmen, bowmen, and channelers, seemed to make a point to kick Nak when he was down. Arrows whistled at him from all directions, swordsmen attacked in maddening tandem, the channelers hurled soul arrows at him from out of reach, and then they would teleport to and fro to avoid the bite of his greatsword. Nak was even suckered by a mimic, after killing one and letting his guard down for the next.

But none of that, and nothing Nak had ever accomplished to this point, prepared him for the Crystal Cave.

The Crystal Cave was a yawning pit in the ground, and the only descent was on the slick blue faces of crystals thrusting out of the walls at aimless angles.

Except for where the only descent was by invisible walkways over the chasm.

Nak fell headlong into that chasm… certainly more times than he wished to.

By the time he made it safely to the other end of the cavern, he had wished several times that it was in his nature to cry. He thought a good cry might have helped. But alas, he was a warrior. He was simply not born to cry, no matter how good it would have felt. So it goes.

Seath the Scaleless

Nak tossed off a pair of fireballs, again, to no effect.

Nak leapt forward and drove his blade into Seath’s pale flesh, again, to no effect.

Nak backed off and watched carefully. The Crystal Cave had him furious. He was not about to get killed by Seath and be forced to traverse that horrible pit again. But taking out his anger directly wasn’t working. He rolled under a magical beam and avoided the crystal growth beneath his feet while his mind fought through the fog of adrenaline for answers. He found his answer as he backed away from a lashing of Seath’s tail. He smashed the tiny crystal pylon, which he realized must have been what Seath had swooped in to protect. Then he killed Seath. He killed Seath dead.

Nak would have preferred if that fight were a lopsided beatdown in which he punched the ageless, yet suddenly very mortal dragon repeatedly in his smug, ugly snout. It wasn’t so. It was a protracted duel where Nak managed to exercise quite a bit of restraint to ensure that Seath was unable to curse and kill him.

The details, however, mattered little. Nak never needed to return to the Crystal Caves again.

Nak returned to firelink shrine, souls in hand, to find out what final task Kingseeker Frampt had in mind.

Age of Fire

The serpent stared, mouth agape.

“Ahhh… ohh!”

That’s… it’s alright, Frampt, no need to…

“The Lordvessel is Satiated! Magnificent… You are the righteous successor to Lord Gwyn, the new Great Lord.”

… no need to gush. So that’s it?

“And I am Kingseeker no more. Your acquaintance was an honor!”

I get it Frampt. I appreciate your help, too, but…

“I must admit, I am fond of you humans…”

… okay, fine.

“May you enjoy serendipity, and may the Age of Fire perpetuate.”

Thanks for the well-wishing, Frampt. I guess I’ll figure the rest out myself.

A few minutes later, Nak trudged down a path, ankle-deep in the ashes. The Lordvessel had taken him to the Kiln of the First flame: ancient, grey, and all but completely burnt out. The air and ashes lay in complete stillness, as if the very space had been hollowed of its life… save for Nak and the last of the Black Knights. Gwyn’s honor guard, lonely in the dunes. Nak had a feeling he knew what came next. A half-crumbled coliseum could be seen from anywhere in the blasted desert, rising out of its epicenter. Nak grew closer to it with every Black Knight he laid to rest in the ashes.

Nak passed through the final fog wall and into a darkened arena. Across the field of ash shone a single streak of red light. It lay motionless just long enough for Nak to see the grey face of an old, tired king in the gloom behind it. Then Gwyn bore his fiery sword aloft and charged.

As Nak and Gwyn danced and crossed blades—and as Nak trekked to the arena between his deaths—Nak struggled with the physics of the situation, and the theology, and the politics. He had guessed that it would come to this. But what was the Age of Fire, really? What did it mean to link the flames? If Lord Gwyn had done so once, why would he stand opposed to Nak now? Was Gwyn hollow? He wasn’t undead; how could he be hollow? What right did Frampt have to declare Nak his successor? Would Nak assume custody of Gwynevere as his daughter? That would be strange. What about Gwyndolin? That would be yet stranger.

Nak finally overcame Gwyn, after hours of deadly combat. Whatever Nak had done, he had done it with dogged persistence, which, with the curse he carried, would allow him to overcome seemingly anything. Except for one thing: his doubt. His doubt, indeed, was merely made deeper. If he had any reservations, why pursue the his course with such tenacity that not even death could deter him?

Let there be no guilt. Let there be no vacillation.

Here, standing in the ashes of the world, over the lifeless body of its last guardian, those assurances seemed cold and feeble. But whatever Nak had done, he could not take back. So he reached down for the bonfire.

Nak died one last time.