this period of time in the canon is a big fat question mark as a result of reshuffling ideas one million times behind the scenes. how long it took the first red moon to recede is unknown. its not known if there were other red moons between then and now. it is not known if the first moon ended organically or because of external factors. we don’t know how the church got on or what yharnam was like before we arrive. we don’t know what’s normal at all (this is a frequent position to be in when it comes to fromsoft storytelling. often times you realize in hindsight that the person you were talking to is bloodborne equivalent of homer simpson.
the history of yharnam between now and the arrival of the hunter is unrecorded by the game, either because it was uninteresting, cut from development, or intended to be an in universe secret that is so mysterious that even the people doing it don’t really seem to know what they’re doing or why they’re doing it. yharnam makes a lot more sense if you imagine everyone has been inhaling chemical fumes from the burning of old yharnam for the past 50 or whatever years. or that they’ve been licking mercury off their fingers or whatever.
any remaining old hunters who participated in the fishing hamlet massacre were imprisoned by the healing church in order to maintain the control of the narrative it had over what few yharnamites it had left roaming about what remained of yharnam. the power of the red moon, the origins of the scourge, the defilement of kos, and that awful thing laurence called forth from the sky; all of it had to be hidden away. but the remaining, active members of the church hierarchy (at this point, mostly a bunch of nobodies) were not capable of anticipating how devastating the wrath of kos would turn out to be. her long-simmering curse plucked the hunters succumbing to the moon’s power and their own blood lust off the streets of yharnam on the night old yharnam burned. that night, specifically, was a catastrophe for public safety.
One day, the hunters disappeared, and Yharnamites began to whisper of the hunters’ sin.
Drunk with blood, chasing after beasts, they would pass on to the Nightmare, every last one of them
the old hunters, who would once retreat to the dream and then return good as new, disappeared permanently from yharnam. hijacked from their trajectory either to or from the dream, they were funneled into the hunter’s nightmare to engage in a bloody, endless, purposeless hunt.
brador, whose loyalty to the church appeared to be based entirely on the fact that they let him kill people with no repercussions, continued his work as a church assassin in the hunter’s nightmare. it was, after all, the only remaining proof of what happened at the fishing hamlet with the whole “baby mutilation” thing. brador’s job was to prevent overly curious hunters from reaching the nightmare’s darkest secret, and god he loved his job. he’s locked up in the same cells as the other old hunters, but apparently voluntarily. brador does not have to leave the comfort of his embarrassing NEET nest to do his job.
after this, as far as one can tell, the hunts returned to a normal ebb and flow. sort of. various characters will casually mention that they’re experiencing an unusually long night the night the hunter arrives, which a really strange thing to say so casually. that’s normal for yharnam, i suppose. not so much for people who should know that the sun and moon are famously predictable entities. its not like they go wandering off around the galaxy.
as a precaution, the church would lock its gates for its own protection on the night of the hunts; without any hunters of their own, the church was forced to depend on uhhh. slave labor. they started sourcing their own church servants by pumping pthumerians from the labyrinth with blood, dressing them in doctor uniforms, and kicking them into the street. the ones walking around the cathedral ward look much more hydrated and cleaned up compared to their peers in the labyrinth, but they’re still a little…wild. the church opted to just put bells on them so any yharnamite knows to run the other way, like a rat would with a belled cat.
this enemy type drops blue elixir, a strange goo that hunters can use to turn invisible (and, therefore, avoid enemies). but for the common folk (and pthumerians), the elixir “numbs the brain”. as for the origin of the goo, consider this: the celestial minions in isz gravestone (and ONLY the minions in isz, not the over-world!) have a chance of dropping blue elixir. you can buy elixir from the hunter’s dream once you obtain the choir related “cosmic eye watcher” badge.
there are other places to get it too.
and time passed. god knows how long. long enough that the remaining old hunters have turned grey with age. gehrman has been aging this whole time into a withered old bitch. more people died. coffins began to pile up in the streets. it has to smell so fucking bad in yharnam. between the blood and the dogs pooping wherever they please and all the dead things…AND it’s fake-victorian england so you’ve got the usual english odors mixed in there (open sewers, fish head pies, piss, tesco, etc). dreadful.
anyway, there’s something i’ve been keeping to myself until now that it’s time to talk about. let’s review what we know about the old blood, objectively:
incoagulable blood was found in the mysterious pthumerian labyrinths beneath byrgenwerth. this blood was used in medical treatments on a day to day basis and by hunters in the heat of the hunt. the effects were immediate, intoxicating, and addictive. there is a “substance in the blood that hardens” that results in the formation of coldblood, beast blood pellets, blood shards, blood gems, and pebbles. but why does the blood never dry?
the blood does not coagulate because it is not dead. it is animated by the collective strength of the willpower of its previous owners. this “will” (as its called in japanese, LastProtagonist describes them as “the unfulfilled hopes and desires of one who has passed away.”) of the slaughtered accumulates in one’s blood through the process of blood ministration or the blood spilling in the hunt; when you receive “old blood” you are also receiving the ancient will of the “blood echoes” of all the previous recipients as well.
hunters knew what blood echoes were, how to get them, and sought them viciously for strength. this is the in-universe explanation for why those assholes hit you and pick up your blood echoes. i mean, it’s a gameplay thing too but like. they’re also being assholes.
Hunters sustained by the dream gain strength from Blood Echoes. They imbibe the blood with thoughts of reverence, indeed gratitude, for their victims.
remember when i suggested that the “holy medium” the byrgenwerth students found was ritual blood in part 1? the deeper you go into the labyrinth, the stronger the ritual blood becomes. this is communicated by its visual transformation in the item art: it bubbles with life and slowly forms itself into one and a half pthumerian-esque skulls.
When all is melted in blood, all is reborn.
a hunter’s spilled blood becomes part of an unfathomably old collective collective consciousness united in death and used to “embolden [the hunter’s] sickly spirit”, as a old friend would say. but blood echoes are not simply limited to the wet blood in your veins. don’t forget about the animated bones of the darkbeasts, or the powers inherent in a blood gem, or the art of quick-stepping hidden in the bone of an old hunter? what about…ah. well.
just keep it in mind.
then, one day, a foreigner arrived.
Perhaps its wearer had to stay out of sight, and travel by cover of darkness.
It is said, after all, the traveler came to Yharnam from afar.
Without memory, who will ever know?
and that foreigner…was you!