Remember when I wrote up an article on the first area of the Bloodborne DLC, and indicated I’d be continuing to do that with the other two areas, back in November? Yeah. Good times. Anyway, it’s February now, here’s the follow up. Spoilers to follow!
It would be easy to assume that the Great Ones, the Lovecraftian gods you fight throughout the game, are the villains. They are, after all, the bosses for most of the latter half of the game. One of them, the nameless Moon Presence, is the final boss, and is the cause for the hunt itself. I actually don’t think this is the case though. The Great Ones are sympathetic in spirit, and even benevolent in their intentions if not in their actions. Take for example, Rom, or Ebrietas. They don’t even attack you when you come across them. They’ll only fight you when provoked.
Perhaps the most interesting of these Great Ones we fight in the base game of Bloodborne, though, is the Celestial Emissary, high above the rest of Yharnam, at the very heart of the Healing Church’s seat of power. These bulbous blue creatures more closely resemble classic space invaders than the kind of lovecraftian nightmares we find when we see the other Great Ones. While I love that, viewing it as a nod to a different kind of Lovecraft story than what typically gets adapted, and if you’ll recall back in the day when I wrote my first Bloodborne Stories article, I said that they seemed to be literally space invaders (hence the “Celestial” part of the name), I actually take that back now. The Celestial Emissary is far stranger than that.
The second area of The Old Hunters DLC is the Research Hall. Beyond where you fought and killed Ludwig, there is a surgery altar, guarded by two members of the Healing Church. This area is less ruined, but reminiscent of the Altar of Despair, where you encountered Ebrietas. Once they lie dead, you use the Eye Pendant on the skull lying on the altar to grant it eyes, and you ascend on an elevator upward to the heavens. The first area of the DLC was a perversion of a place you’d been, a private hell for the hunters, forcing them to relive their great sin, the slaughter of innocents in Old Yharnam. This area, the Research Hall, doesn’t immediately remind you of a place you’ve been before. If it’s a part of Yharnam, it’s not one you recognize.
The Research Hall has the air of a hospital to it, but warped, and twisted. The patients roam the halls, but they certainly don’t look like they’re getting any better. Their skin has a sickly pale to it, the proportions seem oddly warped, but most shockingly of all, their heads have grown bulbous, and disgustingly swollen. They almost seem like some echo of creatures you saw in a different nightmare, the Winter Lanterns, who also had bulbous heads, though their were covered in eyes. Looking upon those creatures brought you to madness, and frenzy. Thinking about them now sends a chill down your spine.
Some of these patients are friendly enough to speak to you, though you can tell they’re completely insane. One asks you if you’ve seen his eyes, for he’s dropped them in a puddle. Another simply says the words “Splish, Splash, Splish, Splash. Plip, Plop, Plip, Plop.” Over, and over again. Most, however, are crazed to the point of violence, and assault you on sight.
Other enemies inhabit this place too, though. Members of the Healing Church patrol around, and doctors in wheelchairs, like the one who gave you the blood transfusion at the start of the game, can be found toiling away in their studies.
You ascend the towering Research Hall, and finally find your way out. You come out on a bridge, and now, you know where you are. The Research Hall is, at least in this nightmare, a part of the Cathedral Ward, a part of the Healing Church. Below you is the garden where you fought the Celestial Emissary. A great flower grows on this bridge, and enormous bodies start rising from the ground. Across this bridge lies the clock tower you could see from far below. The only thing standing between you, and whatever secrets it may hold, are the Living Failures.
These creatures immediately remind you of the Celestial Emissary, but they are misshapen, clumsy creatures. They worship the flower, and attack you with enormous strength, and the arcane powers of the Great Ones. Now, the purpose of this place makes sense.
This “Research Hall” may have the vague appearance of a hospital, but it’s certainly not there to make anyone well. It’s there to make people better. This place reminds you of somewhere else you’ve been before, Iosefka’s Clinic, where the game began. Once you’d left that place, it was locked up tight, and a woman by the name of Iosefka asks that you bring people to her, so that she can help them. She can’t let someone as violent and dangerous as a hunter inside, of course. She seems kind, and so you agree to cooperate with her, sending those you find on their way to the Clinic, and to safety.
On your journey through the Forbidden Woods, you discovered a back entrance to Iosefka’s Clinic. What you found inside, however, was no safe haven. One of the bizarre blue creatures from the Forbidden Woods, and later, from the Celestial Emissary, lay dead on a table, some foul experiments performed upon them. The woman who calls herself Iosefka tells you to go no further, but should you proceed she will attack you, using the Augur of Ebrietas, revealing herself as one of the elite of the Healing Church. The real Iosefka, the woman you first spoke to, is absent, as are any of the other people you sent her way. Instead, what you can find there are these Celestial creatures, the bulbous blue aliens. How many were there? How many poor souls did you send to the false Iosefka? The true Iosefka herself was changed as well, and when one of the creatures dies, it drops her blood vial.
This Research Hall. This one of the darkest secrets of the Healing Church. They call themselves the “Healing” Church, but nothing could be further from the truth. Their goal was never healing, it was power.
“Ah, Kos, or some say Kosm… Do you hear our prayers? As you once did for the vacuous Rom, grant us eyes, grant us eyes. Plant eyes on our brains, to cleanse our beastly idiocy.”
These words were said by Micolash, speaking of Rom, hidden away under the lake at Byrgenwerth. I said, at the beginning of this post, that I don’t think the Great Ones are the villains of this story, and I stand by that. The villains of this story are human, or were human once, at the very least.
I usually try to keep away from theory territory in these posts, but so much of this next section is my own interpretation of events, that I thought I should make that clear.
The Great Ones are creatures of immense power. After the Great Ones were encountered for the first time in the labyrinth you may know as the Chalice Dungeons, Man saw that power, and lusted after it. Thus, the scholars at Byrgenwerth attempted to recreate that power, to grant that power to mankind, through Kos (more on him later). The result of these experiments was Rom, the Vacuous Spider. A Great One who had once been human, but who was granted eyes. It was a success in one sense, they had indeed ascended someone to godhood, but Rom was a failure in the ways that matter.
There are several different lore notes related to Rom, such as “The Byrgenwerth spider hides all manner of rituals, and keeps our lost master from us. A terrible shame. It makes my head shudder uncontrollably.” The lost master would seem to refer to Master Willem, who keeps watch over the Moonside Lake at what remains of Byrgenwerth, but what rituals might Rom be hiding? Another note, found within Byrgenwerth, says that “The spider hides all manner of rituals, certain to reveal nothing, for true enlightenment need not be shared.” Again, it refers to hidden rituals, and how Rom hides these things from them.
The “Vacuous” Rom. Rom, the “Vacuous” spider. That adjective is tied to Rom multiple times, but it’s a fairly obscure word to use. What vacuous actually means is, in simple terms, “stupid,” “mindless,” or “unintelligent.”
I believe that those scholars at Byrgenwerth intended to use the power of Kos to create a Great One, so that they might make contact with it, and, rather than merely worshipping or guarding the Great Ones (as the ancient Pthumerians did), become equal to them. This was a failure, as the mindless Rom had little interest in doing anything other than idly crawling around the Moonside Lake. So, the scholars at Byrgenwerth hid their mistake away, locking the school behind a gate, and forbidding entrance to the woods. Seeing what the old blood of the Great Ones had caused, they adopted a new adage. “We are born of the blood, made men by the blood, undone by the blood. Our eyes are yet to open. Fear the old blood.”
Some of the pupils of Master Willem were not satisfied with this, however, and with time, there was a schism. No longer content to merely hide away, Laurence left his master behind, and
became the first Vicar of the Healing Church. The Healing Church gained power, and soon got hunters of its own, the first of these being Ludwig, who you fought at the end of the first area.
Laurence, and the Healing Church, continued the experiments in attaining the power of the Great Ones, and to make contact with them, which began in Byrgenwerth. Let’s talk about lore notes, once again.
“The nameless moon presence beckoned by Laurence and his associates. Paleblood.” The Moon Presence, final boss of the game, is clearly associated with paleblood here, and it is also clearly stated that Laurence and his associates summoned this Moon Presence. Meanwhile, the lore note found in Yahar’gul, “Behold! A Paleblood sky!” associated the blood red moon with the Moon Presence return. Meanwhile, two other lore notes, “The red moon hangs low, and beasts rule the streets. Are we left no other choice, than to burn it all to cinders?” and “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.” tie the summoning of the Moon Presence to the very night Old Yharnam was burned to the ground, and the hunt began.
Despite the massacre that occurred that night, the Healing Church continued experiments to create a Great One artificially. I believe Ebrietas, the Daughter of the Cosmos, is another one of these artificially created Great Ones, and that the “Cosmos” to which her name refers is Kos, or Kosm, the same Great One whose power was used to create Rom. Whether she’s a natural Great One, or an artificially ascended one, I think that they then used her power to perform experiments on people in the Research Hall, which is connected to the very area you fought Ebrietas in the Nightmare. Many of these experiments were horrific failures, such as the bulbous things you saw in the Research Hall, which resemble the Winter Lanterns you fought in the Nightmare, or the imperfect echoes of the creatures they sought to create, the Living Failures.
Eventually, though, they succeeded, and created the Celestial Emissary. Using the same process the false Iosefka did to create those creatures in the clinic, the Healing Church ascended some of its members to being kin of the Great Ones. “Emissary” being the key word here, those they ascended acted as a way to make contact, between mankind and the Great Ones, like Ebrietas.
They got what they wanted, but the actions they took were unforgivable. Now, a reminder of their greatest sin remains in the Nightmare. The experiments in the research hall were hardly their only crime, though. The Healing Church was in charge of blood ministration, which itself led to the beast plague.
Don’t think Laurence lies unpunished for his crimes though. The beastly skull which lay on the altar behind Amelia was indeed that of Laurence, who warped into the first Cleric Beast himself. Now he too is trapped in the Hunter’s Nightmare. The altar which elevated you up to the Research Hall holds a secret compartment, within which lies the human skull of Laurence, that now only exists within a dream.
If you return it to the Grand Cathedral, where you found the Eye Pendant to begin with, the flaming Cleric Beast awakens, and you discover it to be Laurence himself, who became the first Cleric Beast of all. Whether he warped on that fateful night that the lines between man and beast thinned, and Old Yharnam burned, or at some point later on, he now lies dead, eternally burning in agony, as those he and the church ordered burned alive in Old Yharnam experienced before death.
This place is a hell for the true villains of the story, the Hunters, and the Healing Church itself. Only the only questions that remain are, what could be creating this place, trapping these hunters in this dreadful nightmare, and why?
You slay the Living Failures, and see what lies at the heart of this nightmare. You head into the Astral Clocktower.
Whew, that was a tough one to write, hence why it took me so long to actually finish. I partially wrote this thing up in several different ways over the past few months before completely scrapping them, and starting over. Part of the problem with writing up this one is that, taken on its own, the Research Hall simply doesn’t *contain* much lore, at least in terms of dialog and item descriptions. Simply describing the journey through the area would be tedious, and so I finally decided that I would delve into what I believed the area to mean, and how it helps contextualize a lot of the events of the game’s backstory.
All that’s left now is to write up something about The Old Hunter’s third and final area, the Fishing Hamlet. Maybe I’ll actually get the next one done in a reasonable time frame this time! (Probably not.)
The previous post in this series, Bloodborne Stories - The Hunter’s Nightmare, can be found here.