Monday, June 3, 2013

In Which I Still Enjoy Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen

I was still a little befuddled as to how this damnable contraption was supposed to work.  It seemed simple enough; I was absolutely sure that it was a weighted plate of some sort, yet even with the combined weight of myself, Zero, and our two other traveling companions, we were not able to push it down.  It occurred to me that all three of the women with me were rather slight, but I have my doubts that four men of my weight would be able to push it down either.  It seemed a little more....specialized, but as to what, I wasn't sure.  All I knew was that it stood in my way and the way of a wayward merchant who had bid me to find a way through these mines for him.  If anyone had coin worth its actual weight, it was a merchant to be sure, so I was rather eager to see his task done.

Still, it was proving difficult and I could only think that there was something to it, something that I was missing.  Something I would have to search for.  As I looked, however, I came across nothing that struck me as different, as out of ordinary, which was still a surreal feeling.  All of this, so far, had become normal for me, for my life as the Arisen.  Yoko's magic enchanted my sword with a sheen of fire before I gutted a dead man walking, setting him ablaze and returning death's embrace to him.  Aya's twin daggers stabbed into the final of a score of bandits we had encountered that set up shop in these mines.  Zero griped that there was nothing worth our effort as she cleft a pesky bat in two with a single slash.  I shared her sentiments briefly, but recalled some of our more difficult battles, and at that moment, I did not hope to relive them.

Of course, fate had other plans for us.  Down one of the labyrinthine paths of the cave, we came across the hulking figure of an ogre, crouched over and not paying attention to us.  Granted, we could have simply left, simply ignored the beast and continued on, but I could see the desire burning in Zero's eyes and I know she saw the very same in my own.  It was not the smart thing to challenge the creature, but it was what we wanted to do and very soon, the simultaneous whine of our blades being drawn rang out through the mines.  Our partners shared in the coordination, as I already heard the low chanting of Yoko, and the similar sound of Aya's knives coming from their sheathes.  But it was brief, as I was already on the move.  We had surprise on our side, and I intended not to waste it.

He heard our approach, but could not react swiftly enough and a leap allowed me onto his back.  Fistfuls of his fur were gripped tightly in my hands, allowing me to scale the beast higher, who was already objecting to my presence.  His flailings were nothing new to me - better creatures had tried to shake me off, and some even succeeded - but they were futile, because I felt the rush of combat pumping through my veins.  I was going for the kill already.  Nearing his shoulders, my hand raised back and prepared to surge forward at the ogre's neck, eager to end things before they became trying.

The sudden movement upward was a surprise, however, as was the disorientation I felt when my eyes saw the roof of the mines and not the walls.  I had only a moment to realize what was going on and let go, a foot allowing me to kick off from his back before it connected with the hard, stone floor.  My landing was not graceful, nor was it painless, but I found comfort in the fact that I did not land with the full weight of that being atop me as he intended.  It was a strange tactic to be sure, one that I had not honestly considered he would attempt, but I cannot argue the worth of the move.  It succeeded in removing me from his back, after all and now as I struggled to my feet, I began to re-think my approach.

"Master!  Are you alright?"  Zero's eyes were on me, not the ogre we fought, and for a brief moment, I felt frustration.  I never disliked the woman's devotion to me, but at times, I wished she would show it when it was more opportune.  Still, she was not in immediate danger, as the ogre was only now getting to his feet, a fact that I thrust my hand towards to point out.

"Yes!  Worry about that for now, not me!"  Thankfully, there was not even a hint of reproach in her gaze as she gave me a single nod and turned her attention to the monster we fought.  The other two 'pawns' in our ensemble did not share Zero's concerns quite so loudly, but I imagined that that was more because they seemed to defer most of that to her, as she was my main companion.  From what I could tell, all Pawns served the Arisen equally, but they were human enough that a pecking order had been created without my input. All it meant to me was that Aya and Yoko were concentrating on felling this creature we had engaged, and that was all I desired.  I was a warrior just as they were, and I could hold my own without any of them fawning over me.

It quickly became obvious that fire was something of a bane to him, which was fairly standard with the monsters we'd fought to this point and soon I found my sword ablaze as it had been so many times before.  Learning from my mistake, I stayed on the ground for now, slashing at his feet and his hands whenever they were available.  If I could not end this with a single strike, I would simply settle for a thousand if that's what it took.  So long as I drew blood, enough blood to kill him, it mattered not just how it happened.  It was combat for survival, not some duel for some petty reward.  This was kill or be killed, and I did not have to be fancy, did not have to be graceful, nor did I have to be merciful.

Our battle raged on for minutes that felt as days, yet we were the only ones tiring it seemed.  He was surely injured severely at this point, perhaps mortally, but there was a fight within him that was almost respectable if it was not detestable as well.  Frustration mounted as I stabbed him once more, wondering to myself why he just wouldn't die after countless stabs, slashes and blasts of fire from our group.  So it was no wonder that I finally gave in, shunned common sense, and repeated my earlier maneuver.  I climbed onto his back, stabbing with every pull before he did something much different than before.  Rather than lean back, he leaned forward, to all fours and began sprinting away from us, or rather, away from my three companions.  I still held firm to the fur of his back, only barely ducking the stone opening that passed for a doorway as he ran under it.  Once more, I let go and kicked off of his back, landing on my feet this time, as I looked around.  The room was familiar somehow, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it.


My gaze went back to the ogre and I instantly recognized the device he stood on.  I couldn't help but let out a laugh as I looked to the door behind him and saw it raise up.  His weight was certainly enough to collapse the pressure plate, and thanks to the happenstance of the scenario, the path was now open, even if it wasn't clear.  With renewed vigor, I charged even before I heard the footsteps of my group catching up.  By luck, his charge had worn him out and his head bowed close to the ground.  It was my chance.  I held the sword down instead of up and grabbed the fur of its cheek, as if I could control or limit its movement before my other hand stabbed in, sinking the steel of my blade into his face.  Not once, not twice, not a number of times that I counted, but rather simply 'enough' times, as before he could stand, before he could fling me away, he was finally defeated, and was in fact on the ground, dead, before my hand had stopped.  Only Zero's calming hand on my shoulder stopped my assault, and her gaze not on me, but on the path that had opened to us reminded me of our charge.  It was time to see if this did indeed lead to the other side.

The path was rather long, though all we encountered were overgrown spiders, thankfully.  Hideous beasts they were, they were not particularly dangerous.  I did spot a curious higher path that could be climbed to along the way, but paid it little mind and in time, we came across the wooden door that lead out of the mines.  We all heaved a sigh of relief before a heavy impact shook the very walls around us, coming from the direction we'd just been.  My first instinct was to worry that the door had fallen again - after all, I had not thought to prop it open or anything of the like - but the reality was much, much worse.  We ran back down, expecting the scenario I presented, but instead we ran into a rather familiar sight.

It was not the same ogre, but it was an ogre all the same, and it was not amused.  Wearily, we readied our weapons and entered combat with just as we had the last one, meeting with much of the same success - the lack of it, honestly - as the battle raged.  I could feel the energy draining from my body as we fought.  My vision became hazy, my head light.  It became harder and harder to lift my sword up.  It was no surprise when I opened my eyes to see a rather large hand heading in my direction and I could do nothing but watch and feel the impact of it as it sent me flying, rolling along the ground before I came to a stop.  The world was black behind my eyes shut against the pain, but the sight was hardly clearer when I finally opened them, feeling a wheeze of breath pass my lips as I did.  Perhaps this would be where my journey would end, where I would find death again.  Death from which I would not awake this time.

"Help me!"  The exclamation hit my ears and sent a power through my body, power enough to allow me to stand and look over at the battle.  In one of its gigantic hands, the ogre now held Yoko tightly, much too tightly, as if he were squeezing the very life out of her.  I felt myself gripping my sword tighter, setting my jaw with energy that I simply did not have.  While I did not fancy myself a hero, Yoko was fighting for me and I was not about to let that be one-sided.  I was not about to let this beast take her from me, take anything from me.  It's arm was too high for me to simply slash at, so my eyes went beyond the creature, to the ledge that I only now realized it had come from.  There was no time, so I sprinted towards it and climbed up the rock face.  As I turned around, I could almost see the last of Yoko leaving her body and that alone sent me forward.  That brought my arm up and, more importantly, down on the ogre's arm, causing him to drop her to the cold stone floor with a thud that sent a shiver through me.

I wasn't sure how, but she was not dead.  More surprisingly, as I touched her, I pulled her up slightly, she smiled to me, pleased that I was paying the attention to her that I was.  What I was not prepared for, however, was to see the color return to her cheeks, and to feel her moving to her feet with a strength she should not have had at that moment.  She spoke appreciation to me and instantly turned her attentions back to the beast, to vengeance, leaving me momentarily baffled.  It seemed these Pawns had more secrets to them than I thought, but I simply shook the thought from my head, just in time to see that Zero was carrying in my stead, bringing steel to the skull of our quarry, and bringing a smile to my lips when I saw that it lay still, indicating that it was finally over.

Our path was secure, we learned, as we moved back towards the entrance through which we had come in initially, what felt so long ago.  Yet, I found surprise in the fact that the sky was dark when we exited.  Night had fallen while we fought within, and that fact drew a groan from my lips, knowing just how dangerous the landscape became when the sun set.  Still, the merchant we had talked to was here and he would likely be glad to know he could enter the mines now, instead of stay out here and have a run-in with any sort of creature.  At least, that is what I had thought his opinion would be, but his response drew an ire from me that I didn't know I possessed.

"There were monsters in there, you say?"  He sneered a little at that - he knew as well as we did what lay within the mines, and I cannot fathom why he played stupid - and looked us all over for a moment.  "Well, I'm glad you opened the door, but I'm a little worried that it's still dangerous.  Best not to leave the job half-finished, hm?  Why don't you go back in and clear out the rest of the monsters so I can go through in peace?"  A growl rumbled low in my throat as my blood boiled.  My gaze was smoldering, I'm sure, yet he never shrank under it, which angered me even more.  After what we had gone through to ensure he would be able to pass, and he had the nerve to suggest that our mission wasn't complete?  After I explained to him that he could move from one door to the next unmolested?  This would not do.

It was a different feeling, pulling out a blade against man who did not have weapon drawn.  The fact didn't even seem to register to him that he was the target, not some goblin nor some corpse granted movement.  I am not sure why, and I don't think I will ever know how he didn't realize what was coming before it happened.  Perhaps he simply was that daft.  All that I know, all that I remember is the pure look of surprise in his eyes as I ran him through with my broadsword, clean to the hilt.  He screamed, or tried to, but it was much more of a gurgle than anything else.  There were only a few twitches from his form before he went limp and I brought a foot up to banish him from my blade, looking on with disgust as he crumpled to the ground in a dead heap.

It overreaction.

Yet, as I looked at my companions, I saw no judgment in their eyes.  They understood.  They wished the man as dead as he was now; I was simply the first to draw steel and see the deed done.  It was only then that our injuries caught up with us and we looked around to take stock of our situation.  The dark of night surrounded us and the scent of rotten flesh wafted to my nose.  I could see the fires of goblins on the horizon.  This was not a place to be in right now, especially not after the battles we'd fought.  The irony was that now the mines would serve as our refuge until morning, when I briefly considered they would be the place that would keep me from seeing a blue sky ever again.  Yet it was the danger we knew very well at the moment, when put against the unpredictable nature of the night.

As we settled in on the crates just inside the mine, to catch the slightest bit of respite, nobody spoke of the merchant that lay just outside.

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