Bloodborne’s first and only DLC pack is out, and it carries with it a ton of new bits of lore information. As a follow up to my Bloodborne - The Story and Bloodborne Stories - The Secret of Cainhurst articles, I’m writing articles exploring the storyline of The Old Hunters DLC. Major spoilers behind the break.
The Hunter’s Nightmare
Curse the fiends, their children too.
And their children, forever, true.
“Seek paleblood to transcend the hunt.” This scrap of knowledge is all you were given. It led you through the streets of Yharnam, braving the night of the hunt, and all manner of terrible beasts. It led you from the majestic spires of the Cathedral Ward, to the dark and sinister Forbidden Woods, and even to a world of nightmare itself. You fought everything from terrible beasts, to eldritch horrors. You uncovered the secret of the Healing Church, and the horrors of the Great Ones, who yearn for children.
Vicar Amelia lies dead in the Grand Cathedral. The skull you found granted you a vision, of a man named Laurence, and his Master Willem. Willem, you found, in the college of Byrgenwerth, a withered old man who pointed you to the Moonside Lake, where you fought Rom, the Vacuous Spider.
Some mysteries, though, remain unsolved. What happened to Laurence, who, with his associates, beckoned the nameless Moon Presence, responsible for the nightly hunt? What other secrets did Gehrman, the First Hunter, hide from you? What other horrors still hide in the streets of Yharnam?
Now, the messengers have brought you a mysterious item. The eye of a blood-drunk hunter. In it is reflected the fate of all hunters, the fate of yourself, if you don’t manage to break the cycle. “Its pupil is collapsed and turned to mush, indicating the onset of the scourge of beasts. … A hunter who goes drunk with blood is said to be taken by the Nightmare, destined to wander forever, engaged in an endless hunt. It is a fate that no Hunter can escape.”
On the side of Oedon Chapel, your safe haven in the Cathedral Ward, waits an Amygdala. Just like the Amygdala who transported you to the Lecture Hall, and led you to the Nightmare Frontier, this one too will pick you up, and take you away to the world of a nightmare, the world of the Great Ones. As you are taken, a woman’s voice echoes these words. “Curse the fiends, their children too. And their children, forever true.”
You awaken in Oedon Chapel. For a moment, it seems as though nothing has happened, that you’re right back where you’ve started. However, the people you’ve saved are absent. The door leading below, to where you faced Father Gascoigne, is gone. Quickly, it becomes apparent that something has indeed happened to you. You muster your courage, and step outside.
The Cathedral Ward you find yourself in is a dark reflection, or perhaps perversion, of the world you came from. Yharnam wasn’t exactly a delight to begin with, but compared to what lies in front of you, it seemed inviting, and friendly. Hunters like you roam the streets. Wolf-men, partially transformed by the beast plague, are everywhere, but they are being cut down left and right, as these hunters do what they do best.
This isn’t the kind of struggle you faced in Yharnam, though. This is a massacre. The poor bastards never stood a chance, being cut down left and right. As you pass them, many don’t even attack, instead cowering before you. The hunters you see are mad, though, like many you’ve faced in the more familiar Yharnam, and they are as thrilled to hunt you as they are to hunt beasts. You fight your way to the Grand Cathedral, where you fought Vicar Amelia, and learned to “fear the old blood.” A warped incarnation of the executioners you faced at Hemwick Charnel Lane guards the cathedral, pushing back those foolhardy enough to try and enter. Tendrils hang from its hood, reminding you of the squid-faced creatures seen in the Upper Cathedral Ward, or scattered throughout Yharnam. Still, you defeat the creature, and head into the Grand Cathedral.
On the altar, a cleric beast burns. You approach the flaming body, footsteps echoing through the otherwise empty hall. In its hand, you see something precious. An eye pendant, the sort of thing used by the Healing Church. You take it with you, just in case.
Beyond the Grand Cathedral, the terrain becomes strange. Familiar, in spots, but different from what it would be in the real world. That’s not what catches your eye, though, what catches your eye is the river of blood.
The blood-bloated creatures seen at Castle Cainhurst primarily inhabit this area, though some hunters can still be found, here and there. Follow the blood river downstream, and you discover a cave, guarded by a hunter. This hunter is formidable, carrying a modified, portable gatling gun. Even with this weapon, he proves no match for you. Who was this hunter? What was he guarding? The item’s description sheds some light on the first part. “This is a highly-customised, portable version of the stationary gatling gun operated by the old hunter Djura in Old Yharnam. It was the weapon of choice of the youngest of Djura’s three companions.”
Beyond this hunter, you find more wolf-men, like those above, and in the darkest corner of the cave, a poisoned, Blood-Starved Beast. This hunter, Djura’s Companion, was protecting these creatures, from maddened hunters above who would go out of their way to cut the beasts down, even though they pose no threat. Hunters like you.
Secrets of the Nightmare
You make your way upstream. You find a shortcut, back to Oedon Chapel. More importantly, you find a friend, or, rather, someone who isn’t immediately trying to kill you. A harrowed man, wearing rags like those of a beggar, who is as surprised to see you as you are to see him. Simon*, we’ll call him.
“You’re a hunter with your sanity, aren’t you? Must’ve taken a wrong turn then, eh? This is the Hunter’s Nightmare, where hunters end up when drunk with blood. You’ve seen them before. Aimless, wandering hunters, slavering like beasts. This is what the poor fools have to look forward to.” Now you see what this world truly is. A sort of afterlife for the maddened hunters you’ve encountered before. This is where they’ll end up, once they’ve been put down. No heaven, only hell.
“So, don’t be brash, turn back before it’s too late. Unless, you’ve something of an interest in nightmares?” Nightmares are fascinating, you tell him. “Ah yes, I see. You sense a secret within the Nightmare, and cannot bare to leave it be. As if the spirit of Byrgenwerth lives on within you! Such inquisitive hunters will relish the Nightmare. But beware, secrets are secrets for a reason. And some do not wish to see them uncovered. Especially when the secrets are particularly unseemly…”
Secrets. Ever since you set foot in Yharnam, you’ve been chasing secrets, many of which ought not to have been uncovered. You can’t leave this be, though. You need to see these things through. You continue your journey upstream.
Piles of bodies lie, rotting in the river. Skeletal, yet somehow still bleeding. You’ve seen awful, terrifying things on your journey throughout Yharnam, but this is something else. It turns your stomach. You don’t even notice at first, when the bodies begin to crawl. When they begin to moan. One managed the strength to pull itself up to a gate.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
It hits the gate with all the strength it has, trying to escape, and still only manages that soft sound. There is no escape. Nowhere to go. You kill it for a few blood vials.
*(Note: The actual name of this character is never explicitly stated, but he drops “Simon’s Bowblade,” so we’ll go with that.)
Ludwig, The Holy Blade
Finally, you discover the source of the river. The flow of blood originates from a massive pile of bodies, still very much aware, howling in pain, at the base of a massive cathedral, and clock tower. As you enter the Underground Corpse Pile, one of the bodies cries out to you. “Ahh, ahh, please... help us… Ah… An unsightly beast… A great terror looms! Ahh... Ludwig the Accursed is coming. Have mercy... Have mercy upon us...”
Ludwig. The name rings familiar. Perhaps you used his sword, his Holy Blade, as you cut your way through Yharnam’s streets? He was the first hunter of the Healing Church. Now he is a mad, accursed beast. A disgusting, terrible creature. You strike out against him, and find him to be one of the hardest challenges you’ve ever faced. Each blow seemingly an impossible effort. The beast that was once Ludwig is faster, and stronger, than you thought possible. Surely the most powerful beast you’ve ever seen. Your blade meets flesh. A howl of pain. Ludwig hits the ground. You are victorious.
A voice rings out through the chamber. “Aah. You were at my side, all along.” You stare at the beast, which was once Ludwig. It speaks. It speaks not to you. A glowing blue blade sits in the battlefield. “My true mentor…” Ludwig is back, or some echo of him. He raises his blade to the sky, gripping it with one hand, taking a bipedal stance. “My guiding moonlight…”
Ludwig stands with the Holy Moonlight Sword. Your battle isn’t over, it’s only begun. Now, he fights with more than sheer brutality, sheer bestial strength. Now he fights with the power of that holy sword. Redoubling your efforts, you overcome him, but just barely. His body falls to the ground. His head falls a few feet further.
Before you venture forward, you hear a voice call to you. “Good hunter, have you seen the thread of light?” The head of Ludwig calls to you, begging your attention. “Just a hair, a fleeting thing, yet I clung to it, steeped as I was in the stench of blood and beasts. I never wanted to know, what it really was. Really, I didn’t.” What light? The description of the Guidance rune sheds some light on this, albeit not much. “When Ludwig closed his eyes, he saw darkness, or perhaps nothingness, and that is where he discovered the tiny beings of light. Ludwig was certain that these playful dancing sprites offered “guidance” and emptied Ludwig of his fears at least in the midst of a hunt.”
Was Ludwig a madman, or was there some higher purpose guiding his path? It’s impossible to know for certain, though it’s not hard to imagine a man so tied to a weapon of the moon being led by something greater, at least in Yharnam. The moon has agency in this world, after all.
He begs you to tell him what’s happened to the church, and to his precious hunters. “Are my Church Hunters the honorable spartans I hoped they would be?” Tell him they are, and he can finally sleep in peace. He gives you a parting gift, the Holy Moonlight Sword, should you do so. Tell him that the church’s hunters have not, however, and he bemoans their fate, and his own. “Oh, my. Just as I feared. Then a beast-possessed degenerate was I, as my detractors made eminently clear. Does the nightmare never end?!”
The Nightmare never does end. The Hunter’s Nightmare is a hellscape to which hunters are damned, eternally facing madness, and horrible beasts. Roaming the hostile land isn’t the true punishment though. The Nightmare is much more than that, it is a reflection of the sins of hunters past.
During your time in Yharnam, perhaps you ventured below the Cathedral Ward. The streets of Old Yharnam lie below the grand new city. Old Yharnam is charred, and destroyed, the streets echoing a tragedy which occurred there. As you enter, you find a note telling you to turn back, that the beasts remaining in Old Yharnam are harmless to those above, and that they have no need for hunters here. Venture forth, and you’ll find not only wolf-men, but a survivor who remains human, Djura. The same Djura whose companion you faced in the Hunter’s Nightmare.
Djura was once a hunter, but after seeing what transpired in Old Yharnam, he chose to stop hunting beasts, and protect them instead. If he deems you a threat, he’ll try everything in his power to kill you. Cutting you down with his gatling gun, his words echo through the charred streets. “I should think you still have dreams? Well, next time you dream, give some thought to the hunt, and its purpose.” He knows you’ll awaken, your memories of death nothing more than a mere bad dream. He wants you to realize what he’s realized. He wants you to face what he’s faced. He’s seen the true face of the Healing Church, and of the hunters.
If you manage to kill him, he’ll tell you what his time as a hunter taught him. “It’s you…” He chokes out, with his dying breath, “You’re the beast… Can’t you see what you’re doing? It’s madness…”
If you manage to convince Djura of your noble intentions, instead, and swear not to harm the beasts of Old Yharnam, he’ll explain himself to you. “Yes, very good. I no longer dream, but I was once a hunter, too. There’s nothing more horrific than a hunt. In case you’ve failed to realize… The things you hunt, they’re not beasts. They’re people. One day, you will see...”
Old Yharnam lies long dead. It was like that well before you showed up. When blood ministration was young, when research into the Great Ones was just beginning, a sickness, ashen blood, ravaged the town. Before long, perhaps from blood ministration itself, the sickness began to spread. The inhabitants of Old Yharnam are still filled with this disease, this infectious poison. At the heart of Central Yharnam, there even lies a Blood-Starved Beast, a powerful, fully transformed, very infectious creature. For you see, the ashen blood was the beast plague. It took men, and it created monsters.
The Healing Church couldn’t let this happen. They couldn’t let this beast plague jeopardize their own people, not when they were so close… So close to the cosmos.
Scraps of lore still lie around Yharnam, telling the tale. “When the hunt Began, the Healing Church left us, blocking the great bridge to Cathedral Ward, as Old Yharnam burned to the ground that moonlit night.” “The red moon hangs low, and beasts rule the streets. Are we left no other choice, than to burn it all to cinders?”
The story of Old Yharnam is the story of the first hunt. Old Yharnam was threatened to become overrun by beasts, so the Healing Church turned its back on the people who trusted it. Hunters entered, and razed the town. Their destruction was so brutal, that it is possible this night was what led to the work of the Powder Kegs, who created volatile, explosive, and inflammatory weaponry, becoming heretical. Most of their gear is found in Old Yharnam, after all. Djura, a Powder Keg, was so wracked with guilt over what had transpired there, that he dedicated his life to protecting the survivors. Items created by the Oto Workshop, precursors to the Powder Kegs, are scattered throughout the Hunter’s Nightmare.
That is how this Hunter’s Nightmare punishes the Old Hunters. This place is a constant reminder of their sins. They cut down the same wolf-men, who don’t stand a chance, don’t have any power to defend themselves. A river of blood, running into a cave, where Djura’s companion guards the same wolf-men, and the same Blood-Starved Beast.
And at the source of the river. A mountain of bodies of the innocent. Victims of the Healing Church. People who only wanted to get away. The Healing Church closed the gates on its people. It sent in hunters to cut down beasts, and those who would or could become beasts, alike. People burned alive, as they only wanted to escape the inferno. Pounding against the gate in their final moments.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
That’s it for the first part of my series on the lore of the Bloodborne DLC, The Old Hunters. While the first area in the expansion doesn’t add a ton of brand new lore, I think the story, and the way it expands on the tragedy of Old Yharnam, is pretty neat. This also gave me a chance to go back and tell the story of Old Yharnam, which I skipped over in my original article, and I didn’t think really had the material for an article all on its own.
The Old Hunters is a pretty great expansion pack, and there’s a lot of cool lore coming up in the next article or two, as we delve further into the secrets of the Healing Church, and their dark past. This article was surprisingly low on Lovecraftian terrors, but don’t worry, Bloodborne is still a weird love letter to the works of H.P. Lovecraft, and there’s a lot of cosmic horror coming up down the road.
Until next time, and to those of you making your way through what might be the most challenging Bloodborne content yet (except for Cursed Watchdog), good luck. A hunter is never alone.
The next post in the series, Bloodborne Stories - The Secrets of the Healing Church, can be found here.