[τόπος] duke's archives (library of seath the scaleless)

Ψυχῆς ἰατρεῖον (Psychēs iatreion) "Soul's hospital"

After whispers about the disappearance from its secret stash in the National Library of Argentina had reached her ears, an odd afflatus has drawn my long-term Dark Souls character Mila (potentially named after that Ayuhara chick that could fly like swallows over Mount Fuji, if you must know) back to the Duke's Archives, to inquire about the infamous Book of Sand. Numerous are the wondrous tomes she's happened upon while scanning the building's imposing shelves, some of which shall be presented in the form of the following, irritatingly convoluted list:
Niels Klims unterirdische Reise[1] and the Vigiliae Mortuorum secundum Chorum Ecclesiae Maguntinae[2] (both referenced in Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher as part of the protagonist's library), further on Johannes Kepler's scientific reverie Somnium Astronomicum (whose existence was brought to her knowledge while meandering through Borges' Persœnliche Bibliothek, a collection of commentaries on various literary works, specifically his introduction to Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles[3]), Alexander Wolkow's Smaragdenstadt books, quite astonishingly a copy of both Abdul Alhazred's Al Azif (more widely known under the title Necronomicon, as popularized by Lovecraft) and Aristide Torchia's The Nine Gates to the Kingdom of Shadows, Johann Agricola's Chymische Medicin, not least a copy of Tycho Brahe's Astronomiæ Instauratæ Mechanica (speaking of astronomical apparatuses, there are a lot of armillary spheres to be spotted inside the Archives and while she's taken some fancy to inspecting these marvellous devices, they've also proven to be irksome obstacles when inferiority forced her to retreat from combat with the Duke's subordinates).
To her considerable delightment, she was able to obtain a copy of Comenius' curious Labyrinth der Welt und Paradies des Herzens, succeeding a tumultous encounter with one of Seath's satellites, the vigilant six-eyed Channelers, who, heedlessly demolishing the furniture in their vicinity, threatened to bury the book under the remains of a wrecked table. Of particular interest so far has been the tenth chapter on scholars, in which Comenius likens the library to an apothecary, inspiring research on the word's etymological roots (apparently, the Ancient Greeks not seldomly used the terms βιβλιοθήκη and ἀποθήκη interchangeably, the latter simply meaning "repository, storehouse"[4]).
Es war da ein großer Saal, dessen Ausmaße ich nicht erfassen konnte. Auf allen Seiten waren so viele Regale, Fächer, Schatullen und Schachteln angebracht, daß man dies alles nicht mit hunderttausend Wagen abtransportieren könnte. Jedes Fach hatte eine Aufschrift und einen Titel. "In was für eine Apotheke sind wir da geraten?" fragte ich. Blendwerk entgegnete: "In eine Apotheke, in der man Medikamente gegen Gebrechen des Gemütes aufbewahrt. Sie heißt Bibliothek. Schau, was für eine unendliche Ablage der Weisheit!" Ich sah die Rückgrate der Gelehrten sich rings um diese krümmen und strecken. Einige wählten die schönsten und subtilsten aus, nahmen Stück für Stück heraus und nahmen es ein, es langsam kauend und verdauend. Ich trat zu einem und fragte ihn, was er da mache. Er antwortete mir: "Ich entfalte mich."—"Und wie schmeckt es?"—"Solange man es im Mund kaut, schmeckt es bitter oder säuerlich, aber dann wird es süßlich."—"Und für was ist es gut?"—"Es fällt mir leichter, es innerlich zu tragen und ich bin mir dessen sicherer. Und siehst du den Gewinn nicht?" Ich schaute ihn genauer an und sah ihn dick und fett, von rosiger Farbe; die Augen leuchteten wie Kerzen, seine Rede war bemerkenswert und alles an ihm war rege. Da meinte Blendwerk: "Und wie sind erst diese hier."
Diese stopften alles, was ihnen in die Hände kam, in sich hinein. An ihnen sah ich weder eine schöne Gesichtsfarbe noch einen schönen Körper, noch ein Zuviel an Fett, dafür aber einen aufgeblähten Bauch. Und alles, was sie in sich hineingestopft hatten, kam unverdaut aus ihnen wieder heraus—von vorne und von hinten. Einige von ihnen taumelten und verloren den Verstand; einige wurden ganz blaß, magerten ab und starben. Und wenn das die anderen sahen, wiesen sie einander darauf hin und erzählten, wie gefährlich es sei, mit Büchern, so nannten sie die Schachteln, umzugehen.[5]
However awe-inspiring the architecture and however invaluable the manifold books may appear to those ever searching for knowledge, the Archives show certain unsettling qualities and unmissable signs of corruption, blemishing the glory this place must have epitomized at some point, and one would be tempted to think the building's focus has shifted from that of a wealthy library to that of an asylum. Now's a good time to confide that perhaps, there's a bit of sarcasm or even bitterness hidden in the epigraph to this post or in the notion to conceive of the Archives as an apothecary for the soul or the mind. No more. Those sentiments were triggered by Mila's first encounter with Seath which ended in being obliterated in a deluge of crystals and imprisoned in a large tower where the cells are juxtaposed with exceptionally high, yet battered bookshelves in a most sickly manner. An unhealthy silence, which she's infrequently found to be broken by a hardly comprehensible, unnerving whispering. Further on, there's those most oddest of creatures roaming along the corridors, abominations that resulted from the experiments Seath conducted in his magical research on immortality, a quality which he was eager to get a grasp on because contrary to the Everlasting Dragons, who he abandoned by assisting Lord Gwyn in their defeat[6], Seath has no stone scales to grant him the perpetuity of his ancient conspecifics. (Apparently, there's neither νέκταρ nor ἀμβροσία in the world of Dark Souls.) But by pillaging the Primordial Crystal from them, he succeeded in reaching a form of immortality, fragile as it may be, and henceforth, set out to replicate that most sacred of treasures by obsessively experimenting with crystals, an unsound fixation that eventually saw him losing his eyesight and sanity.
Most of these details, which are presumably not devoid of speculation, she's learned by listening to the glowing monologues of Logan, a gifted sorcerer drunken with reverence for Seath, whose freeing from a prison cell Mila has developed some sort of habit for by now. Apart from disclosing the Primordial Crystal as the secret to Seath's invulnerability, Logan has also made her aware of the fact that the Channelers' helms, characterized by six eyes being arranged in two vertical columns, compensate for Seath's own lack of sight. It would be adequate to think of them as his spies, seeing as Mila's encountered them in many dispersed places throughout her wanderings in Lordran, initially inside the Undead Parish during her mission to ring the first Bell of Awakening, secondly in those foul sewers, and most prominently inside the Archives. Apparently their primary function was to snatch away innocent inhabitants of Lordran to serve as test subjects for Seath to experiment on, partially resulting in unexpected mistakes like the Pisaca, their human origin being solidified by the fact that they drop humanity when being killed; two specific Pisaca (weeping gently and remaining non-hostile even upon being attacked) yield the two miracles Soothing Sunlight and Bountiful Sunlight, leading to the conclusion that they once were maidens (WHO GOVERN DEATH--oh apologies, Mila's amanuensis was momentarily seized by Mnemosyne in a fit of NOIRstalgia), potentially serving the same covenant as Rhea of Thorolund.
The channelers' helmet is really one of the more interesting pieces of headgear she's come across, and its relation to the ocular made her recall another artifact she's read about in a mythological compendium commonly referred to as Apollodorus' Library or Bibliotheca: the Helmet of Hades or Cap of Invisibility (Ἄϊδος κυνέην (H)aidos kuneēn in Greek, "dog-skin of Hades"), which is said to render its wearer invisible. Among the characters associated with its possession are Athene and Hermes, as well as Perseus, who, after having severed Medusa's head, was able to escape her two immortal Gorgon sisters Stheno and Euryale because of the helmet[7].
When approached on the subject of the Book of Sand's whereabouts though, Logan but cryptically spoke the words "Infinity is not as fast as me". It's with some concern that, in other ways as well, she's noticed subtle changes in his behaviour towards her, mumbling incoherently, gruff at times, as if the tomes have begun to take possession of, nay engulf him in a violent maelstrom, defeating his sense of time, his studies and meditations making him aloof from the world around him, threatening himself to a fate not unlike that which befell Seath.


Further expanding on the theme of sight, traversing the delusory Crystal Cave (which leads to Seath and his abditory for the Primordial Crystal) is, in some way, an exercise in blindness or impaired vision, not unlike fumbling about in the dark or "walk[ing] across that invisible thread that you do not see there,"[8] while being threatened to fall into a river of savage and voracious crocodiles, a sacred present given to Caesar by Cleopatra (feel free to click on the image for a lengthier sequence):
A note attached to one of the books says: "The Moonlight Greatsword can be obtained by severing Seath's tail, tee-hee! Don't ask me how I would know or how that would even be possible. Moon Prism Power, Make Up!" All jesting aside, I want to conclude by apologizing for this post's incoherence and general dearth of substance, alleging as a pretext that I wrote it mainly for myself, with the purpose of becoming a bit more acquainted with the lore aspects of this particular level and boss in the game.

1 Ludvig Holberg, Niels Klims unterjordiske Rejse (1741), considered the first novel to explore the "hollow Earth" concept, in which the protagonist, during a cave exploration, ends up on a subterranean planet inhabited by sentient trees.
A .pdf of the German translation is available over here, while Project Gutenberg offers an English ebook version as translated by John Gierlow. When I bought my antiquarian copy a while ago, I was delighted to find that the cover artwork on some editions of Arno Schmidt's Zettel's Traum actually originates from Niels Klims, it's one of Johan Clemens' etchings depicting a tree citizen from the kingdom of Potu.

2 Vigiliae Mortuorum secundum Chorum Ecclesiae Maguntinae (Vigils For the Dead according to the Use of the Church of Mainz), a Roman Catholic book referred to by Roderick Usher's friend as "the manual of a forgotten church," a scanned copy of which can be found over here.

3 Jorge Luis Borges: Persönliche Bibliothek, S. 34. Fischer, 1995.

4 Karl Dziatzkos Artikel Bibliotheken, in: Paulys Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, Neue Bearbeitung / Unter Mitwirkung zahlreicher Fachgenossen hrsg. von Georg Wissowa, Bd. III,1, Metzler, Stuttgart 1897.
Via: Dirk Werle, Copia librorum: Problemgeschichte imaginierter Bibliotheken 1580-1630, S. 271.

5 Jan Amos Komenský, Labyrint světa a ráj srdce, 1631. In deutscher Übersetzung unter dem Titel Labyrinth der Welt und Paradies des Herzens im A+O Verlag erschienen, S. 50f.

6 "With the Strength of Lords, they challenged the dragons. Gwyn's mighty bolts peeled apart their stone scales. The witches weaved great firestorms. Nito unleashed a miasma of death and disease. And Seath the Scaleless betrayed his own, and the dragons were no more. Thus began the Age of Fire..." (Dark Souls prologue/opening cinematic)

7 Apollodorus, Library, Book 2, Chapter 4,2-3

8 René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo, Les Douze Travaux d'Astérix (dt. Asterix erobert Rom, en. The Twelve Tasks of Asterix), 1976. Spoken by Caius Tiddlus as he's explaining to Asterix and Obelix the particulars of their next task.

No comments: