the rinky-dink town of yharnam expanded upward until it was the brick and cobblestone CITY of yharnam, home of blood ministration. the hamlet where the comparatively humble church of the good chalice had been established became “old yharnam”. you couldn’t go two feet without bumping into a hunter, and when you did there was an even chance that they were some out-of-towner looking to have a little fun with the light, occasional hunts. the royalty was allegedly dead, the healing church stepped in to fill the void and simply tortured or experimented on dissidents. people were too drunk on blood to give too much of a fuck. a strange time for yharnam to be sure. i don’t think things were going well at this point, but the wheels hadn’t totally come off.
the former members of the school who formed the healing church split into two factions: the choir and the school of mensis. this initial split appeared to have been for practicality rather than an ideological split: if the school of mensis was the research department at byrgenwerth, then the choir was development. school of mensis students you encounter carry choir weapons, so its likely that mensis was an offshoot of the choir (which itself was a direct descendant of the research hall, which was based on byrgenwerth discoveries). the choir could be found high above the grand cathedral and was home to a collective of scientists focused on the study of flora, phantasms, and the pursuit of eyes on the inside. it’s unclear when mensis began its own off-the-books research, but it was after the choir had made a few fascinating discoveries.
in order to keep these next parts straight i have prepared a handy chart for you to consult when you are confused:
slugs and snails (phantasms) had turned out to be a fruitful avenue of research for the crew still researching eyes before the choir’s official establishment. one slug in particular (remember? from part 2?) retrieved from the early byrgenwerth explorations fueled a hunt for more specimens (or their remains) with similar capabilities to channel this new mysterious arcane power. church hunters were adding kos parasites to their eyes1 to draw forth meteors from what looked like a vast, dark sky. the slug tentacles and the meteors had to be coming from somewhere…but where? we;;, they all originated from the labyrinth, so that is where they continued to look.
the scholars that would go on to found “the choir” discovered, through means unknown2, the great isz chalice. to be clear, it’s the chalice that’s great3, not isz. isz is a dump. it’s full name is “isz gravestone” and every room looks like slimer sneezed on it. the alien, organic, decomposing appearance of the isz chalice4 is like no other chalice in the game and i personally would be hesitant to drink out of the rotting green cup of unknown origin. but the choir was probably thrilled to be exploring anything other than the hintertomb or pthumeru. i mean, it’s still basically pthumeru with a new coat of paint, but what a paint it is!
the unsealing of isz was cause for celebration; what a discovery! we don’t know who or what isz is, but we do know according to the eggheads at the healing church that this dungeon is “in contact” with forces beyond their ken. so as a result there’s some weird shit in here. but, as the name implies, it seems most of it is dead and decaying. the place is riddled with tomb mold and every once in a while a little puff of uh…space dust goes by. many of the lifeforms had been touched by the eldritch wisdom of what was being dubbed “the cosmos” and had, as a result of this “contact” become “kin”.
isz wasn’t completely beast free, but the handful of beasts was nothing compared to the plethora of rubbery freaks awaiting them. because the bestiary of isz is so novel, i will give you a truncated rundown of these nasty things. some information now, more later.
there are still pthumerians watching over the old tombs, but in this location it’s hard not to notice that they take bonus arcane damage. the choir was responsible for inventing rosmarinus5, a pest control solution that sings. its costly, but it works. can’t complain.
brainsuckers (name self-explanatory) are kos parasites6 living inside the stitched up skulls of…people? pthumerians? i would argue pthumerians due to the fact that these enemies replace the generic pthumerian enemies here in isz. they’re piloting their host around semi-aimlessly looking for brains to suck. some design details to note: they have an oversized left arm7, they are wearing what i’m pretty sure are just generic pthumerian torn-up shitty robes. they bleed grey kin blood. they can do two obnoxious (blue, cosmos) arcane spells that can stunlock you into a never-ending hell of being paralyzed from across the room and having your insight eaten in the longest and most frustrating animation of your life. no one likes these guys.
this stupid thing is the first boss of isz. being as its a regular, early, base game enemy by the time YOU find it, it should be no problem. to the tomb prospectors it was probably a horrifying experience to realize that their precious knowledge and favor from the gods could be taken away from them permanently.
scourge beasts, a common beast variant in yharnam rarely seen in isz. they are the only beasts present in this section of the labyrinth and are only remarkable because they have an unused skin for this area called “moon”8 in the game files. it glows an otherworldly, familiar sea green.
i’m trying not to think too hard about the celestial emissaries right now because they also have a major appearance in the base game, so i’m really just going to give you the barest highlights. they also bleed grey. their anatomy is bizarre. six fingers on the right hand, seven on the left. bulbous, glowing heads that wobble and slosh with…something. some have wriggling tentacles coming out of their heads; those with head tentacles can fire blue arcane projectiles similar to those observed in the more successful iterations of the healing church research hall experiments (some clocktower patients and the living failures have these moves in their arsenal). they tend to move in packs of three or more. very rarely, there is a big one, approximately the same size as the “living failures”.
i’m fairly certain the choir was not yet established when the research hall was in full swing, so finding working versions of their uh, prototypes probably made people flip their lid. THESE were what adeline was speaking of when she envisioned the milkweed rune. celestial attendants were intended to act as seedbeds and gardeners of the phantasms, which could be used as powerful weapons and to channel the cosmos or whatever. isz was shaking up the foundational knowledge regarding great ones; did they not come from the sea?
The Choir stumbled upon an epiphany, very suddenly and quite by accident. Here we stand, feet planted in the earth, but might the cosmos be very near us, only just above our heads?
this might seem like a too obvious observation to us worldly non-yharnamites, especially for the time period this take place in; people have known what space is since we could look up at the sky. however, have you noticed? where are the stars in yharnam’s night sky?
last, but certainly not least: the celestial child!
now, i know what you’re thinking: “what the fuck am i looking at?” well, i’m here to tell you this: don’t worry about it. even without context you can tell they’re weird little baby creatures. they inch toward you until you’re within range of their little nibble attack that makes your frenzy meter skyrocket. the four sucker bits are their eyes, apparently (its what glows when they pick up your blood echoes). and they have a mouth that opens like a tent flap filled with tiny, sharp teeth. i think they are kind of cute. like weird puppies.
hey, whose baby is this. who is responsible for these infants. i-oh.
probably. there’s more evidence we can cover later. this is the second named boss in the game that’s also in the dungeons for no reason. again, let’s take her re-appearance as a means to explain her origins to the player: she (or knowledge of how to make her) came from the chalice dungeons.
this is ebrietas, daughter of the cosmos, a name likely bestowed upon her by the choir. she is the source of the flailing tentacles that the augur of ebrietas summons. she has nothing aesthetically in common with the real world butterfly that shares her name, but it instead is a beautiful combination of several established concepts within the world of bloodborne: metamorphosis, imbibing (blood), latin existing for some reason, milkweed, and the theory of rom-as-a-cocoon. she bears a strange combination of traits we’ve seen and some that are still to come. her body, hands and fragile wings evoke the celestial child’s sluggish design. ebrietas is pale white and her profile (more prominently in the art book9) is arguably skull shaped, hinting at her more humble origins. her body bleeds grey. her head spits red blood that induces frenzy status. she too can summon a version of the arcane blasts common to kin, but hers is…something else!
ebrietas is described by the choir as “the left behind great one” or “abandoned” due to her solitary existence in the dungeons, but from my point of view this is inaccurate. she wasn’t abandoned, everyone died. hence “isz gravestone”. plus, she’s not a great one. she takes kin damage and, as we find out later on, authentic great ones bleed don’t bleed grey. she is an impressive impersonation of a great one but if “every great one loses its child”, then how could ebrietas exist as a “daughter”?
i have two theories for you to choose from:
one: ebrietas’ fellow great ones perished, but due to her (potential) pthumerian origins and old blood usage prior to her metamorphosis, she gained immortality like her fellow labyrinth watchers. her eagerness to work with humanity (and her later observed behavior) hints at a loneliness that otherwise might be difficult for a noodle monster to express.
two: the other great ones literally went back to their home planet like poochy but ebrietas, being a pseudo-great one, couldn’t join them. she was literally left behind to the same fate as above because she still fell short of ability to reach the “outer reaches of the cosmos”.
either way, the choir joyfully took ebrietas back to the healing church and kept her in a secret basement in an elevator only accessible via the orphanage in the upper cathedral ward (which would come to be the hub of the choir). the parasites harvested from ebrietas would turn out to be a spectacularly powerful signature weapon of the choir. a call beyond, which is a nudibranch-esque creature you punch over your head to activate, causes an explosion of blue arcane star power that will fucking atomize you if you’re in its path. this did not take them to the cosmos or help them communicate with it, as they were hoping. but it did kill everything in a 10 mile radius if personal experience is anything to go by.
struggling with “a call beyond” in ng+? there’s a subtle hint in ~*the lore*~ that could help you…or it could have, if they had translated “ceremony” to “rite” instead for the internal consistency. -_-
a call beyond description:
One of the secret rites of the Choir. […] The rite failed to achieve its intended purpose
the loch shield description:
Originally used to safeguard the leader presiding over a sacred Healing Church ceremony, and later supplied to tomb prospectors, in particular those exploring the Labyrinth of Isz.
there’s something in great isz that gets overlooked that i think would go on to be quite significant to future events. there’s a single, strange trap in the base game chalice dungeon that appears nowhere else in the entire game. nowhere. it’s a circle of lit candles that spawns messengers to grab you and teleport you if you step in it.
cool trick. but it seems like no one used it for anything. seems. keep it in your hat for now.
until now, the tomb prospecting experience had been based entirely around the eradication of a specific type of monster: basically werewolves. now, the healing church and byrgenwerth faced a new foe: basically 1950s rubber suit aliens. this presented new challenges…and new opportunities…and new disappointments.
ebrietas doesn’t know what the fuck is going on either. not a good sign.
before we move on, i have some final notes about isz that didn’t really fit anywhere else that are worth mentioning.
- compared to other chalice dungeons, there are hardly any blood vials here.
- instead, it seems that there is a surplus of quicksilver bullets.
- you can find two of the rare-ish item great one’s wisdom here. it depicts a skull erupting with ghostly slugs.
- blue elixir can be found here
- an unnamed tomb prospector wielding rosmarinus is wandering around. a choir boy!
1. when a hunter uses it in combat, their eye pops out comedically like they just saw a hot babe
2. the art book and location of ebrietas strongly suggests that isz is beneath the grand cathedral of the healing church.
3. there’s another great chalice in the game that takes you to the final layer of pthumeru, the capital city. don’t worry about it right now.
4. after much scraping and scrounging and desperately trying to find ANY context at all for the completely unique appearance of the isz chalice, an enterprising redditor watching a show about holy grail conspiracy theories found the inspiration: the so-called “magdalene chalice”. its a hoax chalice ofc. anyway i’m satisfied with the answer of “it resembles a real life catholic adjacent thing”
5. people get a little too into interpreting the name on this one when im pretty sure the connection is that rosmarinus, or rosemary, is a plant. the choir is plant themed.
7. “one big arm” is a common fromsoft enemy design, but its not clear if the implementation of it in bloodborne has any consistency or not. sometimes its the left, sometimes its the right. it doesn’t seem to matter beast or kin. some armors have extra metal protection on one arm or the other. some have lore reasons to have big arm, some don’t. the brainsucker’s big arm is a mystery to me. the only difference is a tattoo that only appears in the artbook on the right arm (that looks like ebrietas) that didn’t make it into the final design.
8. this page has a link to the datamined beast
9. picture here