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"And in those days people will seek death but shall not find it. They will long to die, but death shall flee from them."

Cloud of Forgettingnote  is a Dark Fantasy story/ex-fanfiction conceived by the illustrious Sin Nanna, whose might cannot be matched. Originally conceived as a fanfiction for Dark Souls, the story concerns a nameless undead who has been sealed away for an untold amount of time in a lightless, underground prison, slowly rotting away and forgetting almost everything about himself, including his own name. One day, however, he is freed from his hell by a woman named Irrin, a mysterious shamaness from a distant land with the power to control fire. Irrin has freed this specific undead for... some reason, and she promises to find a way to end his suffering and finally kill him for good if he accompanies her on a journey to an ancient city where it is believed all the knowledge in the world is held. There, she believes, lies the secret to the curse of undeath that has ruined the world, as well as the means to end it permanently.

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It is not an easy journey. Before they reach the fabled city, the duo must pass through a surreal, apocalyptic landscape that is utterly inhospitable to life. Along with the mindless undead who try to attack everything they see, the two must contend with freezing cold weather, brutal sandstorms, and paranoid, fanatical humans.

As mentioned previously, the story was initially conceived as a fanfiction for the first Dark Souls game that I would mostly use just to hone my own writing skills, essentially an attempt to give the Alan Moore treatment to the first game's story. However, before I even began drafting it, I realized that my concept for a story bore little resemblance to the games beyond the basic premise, and so decided to make the story an original one. It still uses some basic concepts from the game, like the curse of undeath, the constant threat of Hollowing, and a few basic things related to the motifs of fire and humanity, but aside from that it doesn't have much in common with the games beyond the general premise and atmosphere. This story has barely even been begun and I'm using this page just to get ideas down for it, so don't be surprised if the things you read here suck really, really hard.

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Best read while listening to this. Or maybe this. Or this. Potentially even this.

Tropes displayed by this abomination:

  • Action Survivor: Irrin has little in the way of combat ability, but has survived for a long time in the desolate, hostile wilderness completely on her own and ably handles herself in dangerous situations.
  • Actual Pacifist: Zigzagged with Irrin, who never engages in violence herself, though she grimly recognizes the necessity of the protagonist's violence for the success of her quest.
  • After the End: A long time after it. It's implied that the protagonist has been trapped for at least several decades, as the world has almost completely fallen apart by the time Irrin frees him and nobody even remembers the name of the prison where he is interred, which is implied to have been located in most powerful kingdom on earth. Irrin remarks at one point that the world itself seems to be slowly rotting away into nothing.
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  • Alas, Poor Villain: Irrin takes time to mourn Osric after Vindsval kills him, though she recognizes that Vindsval killed him in self-defense.
  • All for Nothing: Despite her promise, Irrin fails to prevent Vindsval from going hollow. After that, it really looks like the story is going to end with her failing to find any answers at the House of Wisdom and then being butchered in the dark by a comrade she failed, but this is then subverted for a highly ambiguous Bittersweet Ending.
  • All Just a Dream: The protagonist states his fear that the whole story is just him dreaming and he's actually still trapped in the oubliette, saying that there's no real way to prove anything he's seeing is real. There is in fact evidence to support this, though none of it is conclusive. Namely, Irrin and Osric, along with several other characters he sees, are said to remind him of people he knew before he was entombed, and he's said to have had dreams of being freed before. Even the segments that occur from Irrin's perspective can be explained as him dreaming about her, as we never actually get to hear her own private thoughts, only the things she says out loud to Vindsval. In addition, the story itself is broken up by a couple of segments where Vindsval believes himself to have awakened back in the oubliette, which could be true or false depending on the reader's interpretation. The only things in the story that can be definitively said to be real are Vindsval and the darkness.
  • All-Loving Hero: Irrin. Osric claims to be one, but is ultimately too flawed and bigoted to truly qualify.
  • Always Night: Not yet, but it seems to be heading there. Irrin says that each night feels longer than the last, and the sun is described as being "pale and shrunken" in the sky. Indeed, after a certain point in the story, the sun fails to rise at all.
  • Ambiguous Ending: While Irrin manages to break the curse of undeath, it's ambiguous as to whether or not she herself, and by extension the other living humans seen in the story, such as the inhabitants of Osric's village, survives the fire that she unleashes, as well as whether or not this is the true end of the world or just a chance for it to be reborn. And that's disregarding the interpretation of the story in which the whole thing is the wishful dream of the still trapped protagonist.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Several of the undead seen in the story are missing some or all of their limbs.
  • And I Must Scream: The protagonist has been trapped in a dark, underground cell with no food, water, or slightest hint of contact with the outside world, for probably in excess of several centuries. Amazingly, he's managed to remain mostly lucid and avoided going hollow, though he is very mentally damaged from the experience. Also, as it turns out, this is the inevitable fate of all undead until the climax. No matter how much their physical body decays, their souls will remain bonded to their physical remains for all time, unable to move on to whatever is next. This is first discovered when Irrin collapses in the ash fields, and later reveals that the reason she did so was because she could feel the accumulated suffering of all the undead who had been burnt over the years but remained stuck to their ashes, and was completely overwhelmed by it.
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: Or rather, and then Vindsval was a hollow, because he was already a zombie. At the end of the story, in the House of Wisdom, the protagonist succumbs to wounds he suffered from his Last Stand against the horde outside and, believing that Irrin had failed him and that there was no salvation to be found there, finally lets go and turns hollow before viciously attacking her.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Irrin, while eulogizing Vindsval for the last time in the House of Wisdom. It's intended in more of an All-Loving Hero way than a romantic way, but it still fits this trope as she was never able to tell him while he lived, and when he resurrects for the last time he's gone hollow.
  • The Apocalypse Brings Out the Best in People: Played straight with the protagonists, both of whom are driven to acts of extreme selflessness and determination by the end of the world.
  • Apocalypse Maiden: Irrin is a completely positive and heroic example of this.
  • Arc Symbol: Fire.
  • Arc Words: "All was dark". It's the opening line of the story, and repeated again at its conclusion.
  • Asshole Victim: Zigzagged with Osric, who is certainly a self-righteous asshole, but genuinely believes he's doing the right thing and is completely unaware of the worst consequences of his actions. That said, his death is ultimately almost entirely his fault.
  • The Atoner: It's implied that the protagonist did something terrible to warrant the extreme measure of his imprisonment. While he has forgotten (or possibly just suppressed) what the actual event may have been, he carries a great, vague sense of guilt for it, and believes that his accompanying Irrin on her quest is a chance for him to redeem himself.
  • Author Phobia: "Phobia" might be the wrong word, "existential dread" is probably more accurate. The protagonist's initial fate was inspired by my own conception of the worst thing that could possibly happen to a person; on one level there's the obvious Primal Fear of being buried alive, but the thing that makes his imprisonment truly horrible is his complete isolation and the sense that this fate is inescapable. He can't be certain that anyone or anything else is truly real, and is never really certain as to whether he ever truly left the oubliette. All this was inspired in large part by my own bouts with depression and anxiety.
  • Ax-Crazy: Vindsval, after going completely hollow.
  • Beast and Beauty: The protagonist, an undead warrior, and Irrin, an Apocalypse Maiden.
  • Beautiful Dreamer: Irrin, when the protagonist guards her as she sleeps.
  • Bedsheet Ghost: Invoked with the robes that the undead pilgrims at Osric's settlement wear to hide their hideousness from the humans, which are just white shrouds with openings for the eyes (and not even that in the case of the blind ones).
  • The Berserker: Vindsval, in the finale. He finally crosses the Despair Event Horizon and completely hollows, and then viciously attacks Irrin with all his strength, almost killing her several times. He is absolutely relentless in hunting her, and is even described as snarling like an animal several times. When Irrin finally comprehends her gift and brings out her full power, though, he abruptly stops and just stares at her reverently.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Mixed with something of a Gainax Ending. Irrin manages to finally discover the secret cure for undeath, which it turns out has been the sacred flame contained within her, just in time to save herself from being killed by a berserk, hollowed Vindsval. She manages to grant him, and all the other undead in the city, a final death by setting them on fire, which releases their souls permanently. The story ends with her fire spreading throughout the whole city, and by implication the whole world, which may or may not kill the remaining humans as well, but paves the way for the world to be reborn as Irrin's grandfather had foreseen.
  • Body Horror: Because the undead never heal from their wounds and continue rotting, all of them become like this over time.
  • Body Motifs: Hands.
  • Book-Ends: The story's first actual image is the flame from Irrin's hand lighting up the darkness of the protagonist's cell, and its last is that of the sacred fire Irrin unleashes consuming the entire city with the narration noting that it too will flicker out one day. The story begins and ends in darkness.
    "And when the flame turned to ashes, all was dark again."
  • Break the Badass: The protagonist is implied to have been a great warrior or knight before being interred, but over the course of his imprisonment he has become a pathetic shell of his former self. Throughout the story, he ultimately manages to regain some dignity and he ultimately dies with dignity.
  • Breather Episode: Osric's village is a minor one.
  • Bridal Carry: The protagonist carries Irrin this way after she collapses in the ash fields.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Downplayed, in that Osric starts out trying to convince the protagonist to die and be burnt of his own volition, and honestly believes that it's the best thing for him. When the protagonist refuses, however, he tries to force the matter. It ends badly for him.
  • Buried Alive: Essentially what the protagonist has been going through for years and years and years. It seems that when the curse of undeath first started, the initial response was simply to bury them all so that they couldn't keep coming back. This kept the currently undead contained, but ultimately failed to save anybody, as the curse only continued spreading.
  • Burn the Undead: The way Osric deals with the undead.
  • Burn the Witch!: Subverted in a strange way with the burnings of undead at Osric's settlement, as the undead are actually eager to be burnt because they think it will break their curse. They are sadly mistaken.
  • Central Theme: Guilt, punishment, and redemption.
  • The Chosen One: Irrin, as the one bestowed with "the Fire Gift", is the one destined to bring about the final fire that will cleanse the entire world.
  • Church Militant: Osric is a minor example, as while his village is fairly small, everyone in it is fanatically loyal to him and will attack anyone who doesn't follow the village's rules.
  • Condescending Compassion: Osric, towards the protagonist.
  • Contemplate Our Navels: Osric's conversation with the protagonist about sin as well as some of Irrin's monologues feature some Tarkovsky-style navel gazing.
  • Cool Old Guy: Irrin's grandfather, who recognized the nature and meaning of her gift and set her out on her quest.
  • Corpse Land: The nameless city. Many of them are still moving.
  • Crapsaccharine World: Osric's village seems to be a sanctuary and haven for the undead, with a hospice-like atmosphere for the undead awaiting their turn for ritualized cremation, but they're not too keen on letting either of the protagonists decide what they want to do once they get there. They're also unknowingly condemning their charges to A Fate Worse Than Death.
  • Cult Colony: Osric's village can be considered one.
  • Dark Fantasy: Very dark, to the point where the entire first chapter literally occurs in absolute darkness. I want it to pretty much be the literary equivalent of a funeral doom album.
  • Death Seeker: The protagonist, and implied to be the case with almost all undead in one way or another.
  • Death World: Most of the earth has become a barren, desolate wasteland wracked by raging winds and freezing cold and populated almost exclusively by the restless undead, the vast majority of whom have hollowed and become mindlessly violent.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Irrin, ironically considering her gift.
  • Desolation Shot: Pretty much every description of scenery.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Vindsval crosses it in the House of Wisdom after believing that there was no solution to the curse to be found there. After this, he fully hollows and ends up essentially becoming the Final Boss.
  • The Determinator: The protagonist managed to avoid losing his mind despite being trapped in the worst hell imaginable for an untold number of years, and after that still has enough willpower remaining to accompany Irrin on a quest not even she is certain has any chance of success. Irrin, meanwhile, walks untold miles across barren wastelands on her quest to save the earth, being almost perpetually on the edge of starving or freezing to death and knowing that, if she dies, the world is doomed continue rotting forever.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Irrin silently cradles Vindsval as he lays dying of his wounds in the House of Wisdom, and tearfully eulogizes him after he expires. It's stated that his last coherent thoughts before he dies and goes hollow are of how warm she feels.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Irrin is eerily calm and serene in the presence of some horrific sights, though this is repeatedly shaken near the end. Her almost complete silence in the forbidden city implies that this is primarily a coping mechanism.
  • Doomed Hometown: Irrin's home village succumbed to the curse years before the plot began.
  • Due to the Dead: Irrin does this multiple times with the protagonist, after each time he dies protecting her, often assuming personal responsibility for his sacrifice and swearing to not let it be in vain. The last time she does this, in the House of Wisdom, is made even more tragic by her failure to make good on it.
    "Goodnight, and may you never have to wake up again."
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Vindsval finally dies and Irrin ends the curse of undeath, which is about as happy as you can hope for in this dying world.
  • The Empath: Another one of Irrin's abilities, which is often more of a curse than a blessing. It's what causes her to detect that the ashes of the undead are still alive in a sense, and the overwhelming pain of this discovery causes her to pass out.
  • Empty Shell: Every undead who goes hollow.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: It's already happened, and our protagonists are essentially witnessing its final breaths. Irrin is the one who brings about its final end.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Irrin's status as a Hope Bringer is neatly encapsulated by her introduction, which is simply the flame from her hands illuminating the darkness of the protagonist's cell.
  • Existential Horror: Endemic in this story, especially with the uncertainty surrounding the protagonist's identity and whether anything he's seeing is real.
  • Expy: Osric is a sort of amalgam of Petrus and Oswald from the original game and Saint Urbain from Demon's Souls. Some of the followers in his village are based on Urbain's acolytes in the Nexus.
    • The nameless city is an amalgam of Anor Londo, New Londo Ruins, the Ringed City, and Yharnam. It also has elements of ancient Rome and Babylon, being a once great city that fell to ruin through its own hubris as well as the depredations of foreign barbarians.
  • Face Death with Dignity: This is what the protagonist wants to do more than anything in the world. He and all the other undead in the city gets this wish when Irrin finally awakens the full power of her fire gift. Seeming to sense that this truly is their final end, all of the undead in the city, who prior to that moment had spent an eternity mindlessly slaughtering each other, lay down their weapons and bow reverently to her as her fire spreads forth and incinerates them.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Undeath, especially when you're buried underground or have been reduced to ash.
  • Finger Snap Lighter: One of the many small benefits of Irrin's power.
  • Fire Keeps It Dead: Osric's village burns the undead on great bonfires after a ritual baptism to prevent them from returning, believing this to be the only thing that can save their souls. Subverted, as it only condemns them to an even more hopeless form of suffering. See And I Must Scream above for details. And then it's double subverted, as the sacred fire wielded by Irrin ultimately turns out to be the one thing that can permanently kill all the undead.
  • Flies Equals Evil: Some of the only animals that continue to survive are flies and maggots, who feed on the flesh of the undead as just another of their many torments. One scene in the forbidden city has Irrin slip and fall into a muddy trench filled with corpses being devoured by maggots.
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: The tolling of the chapel bell signals when it's time to burn the undead in Osric's village.
  • Forever War: The nameless city that holds the House of Wisdom was under siege when the curse of undeath struck and both sides of the conflict turned hollow. They continue to fight each other, eternally dying and resurrecting, and becoming more and more horrifically mutilated as the years wear on. To get to the House of Wisdom, Irrin and Vindsval must pass through the heart of the war zone.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Irrin loves everything both living and unliving.
  • From Bad to Worse: Everything just gets bleaker as they get closer to the forbidden city. After days passing through barren plains of ash, Irrin inexplicably collapses and the protagonist is forced to carry her to safety in Osric's village. There, it looks as though they might find some refuge, until it turns out that Osric is a religious fanatic who burns the undead on gigantic pyres, and he's not big on letting the protagonist decide for himself whether he wants to die this way. Then Irrin wakes up and reveals that the pyres do nothing to release the souls of the undead, only condemning them to an even worse form of suffering. After this, the protagonist kills Osric in self-defense and our heroes flee into the wastes. As they get nearer to the forbidden city, the land gets colder, darker, and more barren. When they finally reach the forbidden city, they discover it to be a ruined wasteland torn between warring armies of undead, and Vindsval is killed two separate times while protecting Irrin. They eventually manage to reach the House of Wisdom and break into its interior, but Vindsval expires from wounds he sustained while fending off the undead outside, and Irrin herself is wounded in the leg by a musket ball, slowing her down considerably. As she begins searching through the enormous library, she finds that many of the books have decayed into illegibility over centuries of neglect, and realizes that the library is so massive it's unlikely she could ever find the answers she seeks. Then Vindsval resurrects, goes hollow, and begins hunting her.
  • Genre Shift: The forbidden city switches the genre from somber, tragic fantasy to outright Surreal Horror.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: Happened to the protagonist in the oubliette, though not to the extent that he goes hollow. It can even be interpreted that he never actually leaves the oubliette and that the entire story is just a delusion he has while still trapped, something he actually comments on at one point. There's actually evidence written into the story to support this, but none of it is conclusive.
  • Great Big Library of Everything: The House of Wisdom, which is partially an expy of the Duke's Archives from the first game and partially an expy of the real life House of Wisdom in ancient Baghdad.
  • Guttural Growler: The protagonist's voice is described as being a dry, guttural croak, due to how decomposed his body is and how long it's been since he's spoken to anyone.
  • Hellhole Prison: Literally in the case of the protagonist's prison cell, which is essentially a sealed hole in the ground, and is actually quite close to some Biblical descriptions of Hell wherein it is described as simply being a cold dark place away from the sight of God.
  • The Hero Dies: He's already died multiple times by the beginning of the story, and dies a few more times before it's over. The final time is for good, and Irrin herself may or may not be consumed by the fire she unleashes at the end. Even if she isn't, she was basically on death's door anyway.
  • Heroic BSoD: Irrin has one while crossing the ash fields, when she inexplicably starts to steadily grow weaker before suddenly fainting into the ash. It turns out that she was experiencing the collective anguish of thousands and thousands of people who had been burnt alive but were still bonded to their ashes.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The protagonist ends up doing this at least twice to protect Irrin. Because of his undeath, it's no big deal for him to die, though Irrin still has to retrieve his body so he can continue accompanying her when he revives. Irrin herself may or may not perform this at the end.
  • Heroic Vow: Irrin promises to let the protagonist die with his will and spirit intact, and to never let him go hollow. In turn, he promises to deliver her safely to the House of Wisdom. She fails, he sort of succeeds.
  • Homage: The final scene, where the warring undead in the city abruptly stop fighting when they sense Irrin is near and just silently stare at her in reverence, in one to the climactic scene in Children of Men.
    • The final battle, where a berserk Vindsval chases a wounded and exhausted Irrin through the House of Wisdom, is one to the climax of Blade Runner.
  • Hope Bringer: Irrin.
  • Humanity's Wake: The whole story, basically. The ending can best be described as a Viking Funeral for the earth itself.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Largely played straight. While there are no characters that can be described as outright malevolent, humanity as a whole is portrayed as a deeply flawed, short sighted species that was ultimately Unfit for Greatness. Osric speculates that the reason why only humans are affected by the curse of undeath is that humans are the only beings capable of moral choice, and thus sin.
  • Ill Girl: Irrin is described as being frail and sickly looking. Early on, she faints while walking through the ash fields and would have died if the protagonist had not carried her to Osric's settlement.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: How the protagonist chooses to deal with a mace-wielding Osric.
  • Implacable Man: Vindsval, especially after hollowing.
  • In the Hood: Irrin wears a hooded cloak while travelling through the wastes.
  • Kill 'Em All: The story ends with what is heavily implied to be the extermination of all life left on earth, which at this point is a good thing.
  • Kill It with Fire: How Osric's village deals with the undead, and what Irrin's fire gift is ultimately for.
  • Lady and Knight: The relationship between the protagonists can best be described this way.
  • Last Stand: Vindsval makes one against the hordes swarming into the House of Wisdom in order to buy Irrin time to search for the answers she needs. He ultimately falls and goes hollow, but his stand actually does give Irrin the time she needs to unlock her full potential.
  • Loners Are Freaks: Irrin has spent a long time wandering the wastes completely by herself, and so has developed a number of odd habits, such as a tendency to mutter to herself.
  • Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair!: The forbidden city was once the greatest city in the world, but is now a pile of flooded ruins being perpetually fought over by a mindless horde of violent hollows.
  • Loss of Identity: Has already happened to the protagonist to a great extent, though he's managed to cling onto a few memories, just enough to avoid going hollow.
  • Love at First Sight: Stated to be the case when the protagonist first sees Irrin after she frees him.
  • Meaningful Echo: Done darkly near the end, in something of a literary version of a Dark Reprise, where the parts of the opening chapter are repeated as Vindsval finally goes hollow.
  • Mercy Kill: Irrin's mission is essentially to grant euthanasia to the entire world.
  • Messianic Archetype: Irrin.
  • Mind Screw: The story itself is actually pretty straightforward for the most part, but the setting is very surreal, running on the same sort of mythic dream logic that defined the original game's setting. And it doesn't help that the whole story might actually just be a dream.
  • Minimalist Cast: There are a total of three major characters in the whole story, one of whom dies quite quickly, and another of whom dies repeatedly.
  • Mordor: The forbidden city.
  • Mundane Utility: Irrin uses her fire powers to light campfires and as an impromptu torch, among other things.
  • Mysterious Past: The protagonist. About all that is known about him is that he used to be some sort of warrior or figure of great power, as well as implications that he did things he wasn't proud of at war and that he may have been in the oubliette for a reason. All of his other memories "dissolved into the blackness", to quote the narration. That said, it's implied that he was once the leader of the barbarian horde that sacked the forbidden city.
  • Mysterious Waif: Irrin is a bit more self-sufficient than normal for this trope, but otherwise plays every single aspect of it arrow straight.
  • Mystical White Hair: Irrin has grey and brittle hair, which is implied to at least partially be the result of Disease Bleach.
  • Name Amnesia: The protagonist. He may or may not have been named "Vindsval" in life.
  • No Antagonist: Despite being set in a Death World, the story, like its inspiration, lacks a Big Bad. The closest it comes is Osric, who is ultimately a misguided Anti-Villain who just happens to be kind of an asshole, and dies soon after being introduced.
  • No Name Given: The protagonist has forgotten his own name, and is referred to in narration simply as "the prisoner". He ultimately the assumes the name "Vindsval", which may or may not have been his name in life but seems to fit with the memories he does have.
  • The Not-Love Interest: Irrin, to the protagonist. While they are very devoted to each other, and he is even said to love her at one point, it's used in less of a romantic sense and more in almost a religious way; he loves her as his savior.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The House of Wisdom is completely dark, silent, empty and, creepiest of all, completely intact. Even worse, Irrin is completely alone inside, with only her fire, which she is increasingly struggling to maintain out of sheer exhaustion, to light the way and is constantly on guard for something coming out of the darkness and attacking her.
  • Oh, Crap!: Irrin, when Vindsval confronts her in the House of Wisdom and doesn't respond to her greeting. She almost immediately realizes that he's gone hollow, and has just enough time to turn and run before he lunges at her.
  • Pietà Plagiarism: Irrin cradling the dying Vindsval near the end of the story.
  • Playing with Fire: Irrin's power.
  • Primal Fear: The protagonist is subjected to two extremely nasty ones. The first is obviously being Buried Alive, with the caveat that he literally can't die and thus can't escape, while the second is never being certain if anything he's experiencing is real.
  • The Quiet One: The protagonist rarely talks for the understandable reason of his vocal cords having largely rotted away.
  • Ragnarök Proofing: The House of Wisdom has survived the ages intact in a strange sort of stasis that is implied to be at least partially magical.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Multiple deaths in the protagonist's case, as well as a small eternity spent in A Fate Worse Than Death.
  • Redemption Quest: What the protagonist views his quest as.
  • Resurrective Immortality: What all the undead are cursed with. It's not the nice variety.
  • Riddle for the Ages: We never find out why the protagonist is sealed away in such an extreme manner, but it's implied to be horrible.
  • River of Insanity: The final stretch of the journey towards the forbidden city is accomplished by sailing down a large river. As their boat gets closer to the city, they see more and more corpses and wrecked ships floating in the water, as well as ruined villages on the shore. Some of the corpses they see are hollowed undead who try to attack them, nearly overturning their boat. When they reach the forbidden city itself, things get even worse.
  • Road Trip Plot: Much like one of its main inspirations, The Road, the whole story is spent trying to reach a single remote destination, in this case the House of Wisdom.
  • Room 101: The oubliette where the protagonist is imprisoned at the beginning.
  • Saving the World: Irrin's ultimate goal, though she herself has doubts as to whether it's possible.
  • Schizo Tech: Most of the setting is at a roughly medieval level, but the forbidden city appears to have reached a Victorian level of technology, including cannons and guns.
  • Sealed Room in the Middle of Nowhere: The protagonist was locked in one for a long time after it was found that he was undead. The "prison" he's in is essentially a cemetery of many oubliettes containing other undead, spread out over a large area of barren desert.
  • Ship Tease: Much of this between the protagonists, though in a non-sexual sense. See The Not-Love Interest for details.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: It really looks like this is going to happen when Vindsval starts attacking Irrin at the end, but it's ultimately subverted for a Bittersweet Ending.
  • Shout-Out: Irrin was told by her grandfather that her purpose in life is "To walk with the fire, to carry it inside her heart". The phrase "Carrying the fire" is also used in reference to her, which is a recurring phrase in the works of Cormac McCarthy, an author who's influenced this story greatly.
    • Not sure if this will make it into the final draft, but the name the protagonist eventually chooses for himself, Vindsval, is one to the black metal band Blut aus Nord. However, I'm not sure if I want that to be his name in the final product, as the main reason I chose it is just because that's what I named my character in Dark Souls before I started writing this story.
    • There are also numerous references to The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot, including direct references to certain lines in the poem (such as "hooded hordes swarming" and "carious teeth that cannot spit").
    • The Bedsheet Ghost appearance of the undead pilgrims is inspired by the film A Ghost Story.
    • Some of the story's surreal apocalyptic imagery is based on the paintings of Zdzislaw Beksinski.
    • The river leading to the forbidden city is inspired by the River Styx in Classical Mythology and The Divine Comedy.
    • In addition, there are several references and homages to Dark Souls (almost exclusively the first game), as well as a couple to Bloodborne.
      • The hooded cloak that Irrin wears is similar to the Gold Hemmed Black set in the original game, as well as the starting armor of the Pyromancer class.
      • At one point Osric tells the protagonist "It is only human to commit sin", quoting Oswald from the first game.
      • The overall design of the nameless city is similar to New Londo Ruins, with large sections of it being consumed by the ocean and littered with piles of corpses. The House of Wisdom is like a darkened, empty version of the Duke's Archives.
      • The protagonist literally parries and ripostes Osric.
      • At one point in the forbidden city, the protagonists pass by an undead soldier hacking over and over into a corpse with a large battle ax, which is inspired by Father Gascoigne's introduction in Bloodborne. Rather than turning to attack the heroes however, the soldier takes no notice of them at all and just continues to robotically hack away.
  • Sinister Minister: Osric, though it would be a stretch to call him "evil".
  • Smug Snake: Villain or not, Osric is one of these without a doubt.
  • Snow Means Death: Especially when it's made of human ash.
  • Soiled City on a Hill: The forbidden city.
  • Spooky Silent Library: The House of Wisdom. It gets even spookier when Vindsval hollows and follows Irrin inside.
  • The Stars Are Going Out: Just another one of the Signs of the End Times. Each night is longer and darker than the last, with fewer stars each time. While standing guard over a sleeping Irrin at night, the protagonist actually watches one grow dimmer and dimmer before flickering out entirely.
  • The Stoic: Irrin, who is gradually revealed to be Not So Stoic.
  • A Storm Is Coming: The weather gets worse and worse as they get closer to the forbidden city. When they finally make it there, it's caught in what seems to be a perpetual hurricane, and most of it is flooded.
  • Squishy Wizard: Though almost implacably determined and able to do serious damage with her fire, Irrin is noted to be frail and malnourished as a result of years of travelling through the wastelands. When Vindsval hollows and turns on her at the end, it's all she can do to run away from him while trying to bring out her own exhausted power, at least until she fully comprehends the implications of her gift.
  • Stunned Silence: Irrin's response to the massive swarm of undead outside the House of Wisdom.
  • Supporting Protagonist: Vindsval is ultimately this to Irrin, who is The Chosen One and savior of the world. That said, she could not have done it without him.
  • Surreal Horror: Occurs all throughout, especially in the opening pages, which are essentially a detailed description of the absolute mental torment of the protagonist as he is imprisoned in complete darkness with only his own thoughts to keep him company for many, many years. It shows up in the rest of the story too, with apocalyptic scenes that could be ripped right from the Book of Revelation or the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch. The height of this shows up near the end, where we get to witness what is essentially a literal hell on earth with the wartorn city, filled with thousands and thousands of increasingly mutilated and unrecognizable undead mindlessly tearing each other apart for all eternity. The horror reaches its height with the large plaza outside the House of Wisdom, filled with thousands of dismembered undead crawling over and ripping at each other like maggots.
  • Talking to the Dead: Irrin does this each time the protagonist is killed, as well as with several other corpses scattered about the forbidden city.
  • Tender Tears: Irrin cries while eulogizing Vindsval for the last time in the House of Wisdom.
  • Tentative Light: Played for suspense and horror in the climax, as Irrin is struggling to maintain her fire in the darkened House of Wisdom while being pursued by a hollowed Vindsval.
  • They Killed Kenny Again: Done seriously with the protagonist, who ends up dying at least 3 times throughout the story.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: The protagonist has spent countless years languishing in absolute darkness, and spent much of that time either slowly succumbing to dementia or having vivid hallucinations. He repeatedly doubts that anything he's seeing is real, noting that he may just be having "a hopeful dream", as this would hardly be the first time he dreamed of being freed from his cell. Furthermore, there are at least a couple instances where he suddenly finds himself in complete darkness and believes for a split second that he's back in the oubliette, which causes him to hollow near the end when his hope is completely shattered. And really, the whole premise of the story, especially the character of Irrin, can be interpreted as exactly the sort of wish fulfillment that someone in his situation would come up with. For a man condemned to an eternity of cold and darkness with nothing but his own guilty thoughts to keep him company, what could be better than a beautiful woman, who expresses unconditional love and forgiveness towards him regardless of his wretched state, coming to redeem and release his soul?
  • Took a Level in Badass: The protagonist takes several over the course of the novel.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Irrin's ring, which was a gift from her grandfather. It doesn't have any special powers, but serves as a source of comfort for her when times are hard.
  • Unkempt Beauty: Irrin, despite appearing disheveled and half starved from years wandering the wastelands, is described as possessing an angelic beauty.
  • Urban Warfare: The forbidden city was in the middle of being sacked when both sides of the conflict turned hollow, and at present the city resembles a cross between the Battle of Stalingrad and various medieval depictions of Hell.
  • The Very Definitely Final Dungeon: The House of Wisdom.
  • Walking the Earth: Irrin has been doing this ever since her village fell to the undead.
  • War Is Hell: Almost literally. The nameless city is the site of an eternal battlefield where legions of undead endlessly butcher each other without rest among the shattered remains of the city. If one believes what Osric says, that the curse of undeath is a punishment for sins the undead have committed in life, then this trope is used literally.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Osric genuinely believes that his pyres are saving the souls of the undead, and is utterly oblivious to the fact that even after being burned to ash, the undead cannot pass on. Far from being a typical Sinister Minister, he's a true believer in the virtue of his actions and has genuinely altruistic motives.
  • What Beautiful Eyes!: Irrin again, whose eyes are described as being a luminous green. For some reason looking into them causes the protagonist to feel guilty, as if they bring up a painful memory that is now lost to him.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Because of his long imprisonment, the protagonist is utterly terrified of dark, enclosed spaces, and there are even a couple points where he's in such a space and thinks he's back in the oubliette. The last time this happens, it's implied to directly trigger his hollowing.
  • World-Healing Wave/World-Wrecking Wave: The fire Irrin awakens at the end is both of these at the same time.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Irrin's home village is many years and miles behind her, and has likely faded into the wastes by this point.
  • X Meets Y: Dark Souls meets The Road meets the first three books of The Dark Tower meets Angel's Egg. There's also a bit of Stalker and Silent Hill 2 mixed in.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Just like in the original game, civilization has just about collapsed to the undead. Somewhat subverted in that most of the undead are not actively hostile and pose no threat to anyone.

"I have fought against it. But I can't any longer."
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