alright, this section contains the most “outside” information i am willing to drag into a plot analysis of a video game about werewolves that has its own internal scientific/magical logic. i am always hesitant to draw conclusions based on real world fiction and facts for this fantasy horror video game for a few reasons, but primarily its because the human brain has an incredible imaginative ability to see patterns where there are none. chasing this instinct with wanton abandon will quickly cause you to lose sight of whatever point you were making in the first place until you’re just writing paragraphs about how this thing is kinda like this other thing. so what? why would that outside information matter in this context?
that’s the line i’m trying to walk here: the real world qualities of chemical elements might have some subtle impact on the world of yharnam that is not explicitly spelled out for the player in item descriptions. this is because your character would not know this either.
i’m sure you can intuit by now that things were starting to get pretty fucked up as several calamities started hurtling toward each other. the healing church had no interest in the hunts as acts of bloodshed, sport, or as a catalyst for transformation like those other freaks. the gloves used by the healing church doctors explains that the church only “engages in the hunt in a medical capacity”‘; when the church got involved in the hunt it was for hygienic purposes, not for funsies. beasthood was a truly dreadful fate, and the clerics who were under ludwig’s’ command were, unbeknownst to them, at risk of the most gruesome transformations of all.
but until then, swag life
with the hunts becoming more and more regular in occurrence, superstitions and rumors were running rampant about the beast scourge.
Old Hunter gauntlets made of brass to protect their weapon-bearing hands.
At the time, some hunters believed that certain metals would guard off beast blood.
On a night of the hunt, it is no wonder that some resort to superstition.
A widespread belief of the period was that “beast blood crept up the right leg”, and this led to the double-wrapped belt.
(that’s the leg you inject your blood vials into)
Old hunter arm bands wound tightly to prevent infection with the scourge.
Of course, the idea that the scourge was infectious was pure hearsay.
oops. i guess they don’t know what germs are yet. but they’re on the right track in a weird way; some metals ARE antimicrobial, including copper and it’s alloy cousin brass. copper and its alloys are typically conflated with with yharnamites and hunters (see above). other antimicrobials, such as silver and gold, (like the ardeo, the thread in the surgical long gloves, or the cainhurst armor) were employed by the healing church and cainhurst to “repel” beast blood. silver was also used in the church’s righteous damage weapons1 like ludwig’s holy blade (a mundane mass market replica of the holy moonlight sword for church hunters) and the kirkhammer.
another antimicrobial is mercury, or as its known colloquially, quicksilver. if you’re of a certain age, you were instructed by one or more adults at some point not to break open a thermometer and play with the badass silver liquid inside because it makes you die horribly. unlike the aforementioned elements, iron (found in armors associated with the school of mensis) doesn’t melt when in contact with mercury(external link). look, its all very simple. like pokemon. mercury defeats silver and silver defeats dog and dog defeats guy wearing a big stupid iron hat and mr. hell-in-a-cell defeats mercury.
don’t take this too seriously. the information that actually matters is that they accidentally stumbled upon ways to protect themselves from a contagious disease and formed weapons and armors that worked for reasons they didn’t understand. in time, they would come to use another very reliable means of sterilization as a proactive means of disease control: fire.
a popular theory in bloodborne lore discussions argues that grey kin blood is composed of mercury. i was quick to dismiss this at first, but it seems like it has a lot of legs. there are select enemies that drop quicksilver bullets, which are made from only two ingredients: your blood and mercury. its not surprising that enemies with firearms such as the huntsmen would drop them, but things start to get weird when the drops start to come from the ghastly pale church servants (seen below in the doctor uniforms). maybe some of them just have a few in their pockets for safekeeping? some of them use guns after all. in fact, many of the enemies on the list have quicksilver bullets due to how the game code handles projectiles.
but the drop rates on kin enemies is noticeably higher, and no kin wield guns. the slime scholars, the garden of eyes, brainsuckers, and celestial emissaries drop quicksilver bullets. isz gravestone is absolutely drowning in the damn things. the kos worshiping snail people, the nightmare apostles (those are the giant spiders; the ones with human heads drop twice as many bullets), winter lanterns, and the merciless watchers of the pthumerian labyrinths, while not kin, clearly share more visual overlap with kin than their other pthumerian brethren. like, the merciless watchers are inexplicably robin’s egg blue instead of white. i would agree with the general consensus that there seems to be a direct connection between one’s degree of kinship and the amount of quicksilver in their blood.
there are a few other oddball enemies. first, the labyrinth madmen (the super scary guys who scream at you) drop a shit ton of bullets, they are also…beasts. they take beast type damage unlike other pthumerians. this might seems strange until you look closely; the labyrinth madman have clawed toes, fangs, and clawed hands but few other easily visible markers of beasthood. there are VERY few beasts in the pthumeru labyrinth and of the few that remain, they feel almost cultivated for a purpose.
so here’s the theory: given the healing church’s history of using live subjects for experiments and celebrating the gruesome demise with sainthood, these “saints” from the sage’s hair and wrist item descriptions read like failed attempts to prevent the outbreak by using quicksilver injections. evidently, the beast plague was unable to take full hold in pthumeru due to the presence of mercury in the blood of the pthumerians. but those who WERE infected were only barely transformed. the church sought to work off of this information but were apparently willing to ignore a critical symptom of mercury poisoning: you get twitchy and weird. like a (labyrinth) “madman”. “mad as a hatter” as they say. man, there should be more evil hat guys in this game. huge missed opportunity.
the other weirdos are the two variants of the clockwork patients: the ones with the infected arms (due to being injected over and over with something…hm!) and the crawling ones, who have the dubious honor of having successfully grown eyes on the inside, as demonstrated in the art book. other patients don’t! just a smidgen of kin in these guys.
in conclusion: i don’t know. i forgot if this had a point. but you read it anyway, sucker!
oh wait, hold on. i remember now lol. the hunter has a mechanic where they’ll draw their own blood in order to generate 5 “blood bullets” if you’re in a bullet emergency. the only difference between a quicksilver bullet and a blood bullet is the name and where you get it. what the fuck did that old man put in us at the beginning?? is mercury the “tinge” of “bloodtinge”?
the appearance of ashen blood wasn’t really helping things either. old yharnam (which is right next to where the school of mensis conducts its research in yahar’gul, where they would have been experimenting in and around loran, home of exotic diseases) was getting it the worst. in response, healing church doctors were split into two categories and sent into the communities with specific instructions. black healing church doctors were used as…preventative measures, and were the most prolific. ignore the pthumerian look of these guys for now, we’ll get there.
Attire of Healing Church hunters. The Holy Shawl2, symbol of the Healing Church, flutters proudly on their backs.
Most Healing Church hunters are elementary doctors who understand the importance of early prevention of the scourge. Achieved by disposing of victims, and even potential victims, before signs of sickness manifest themselves.
Their black attire is synonymous with fear, and that peculiar Yharnam madness.
we gotta read between the lines on these and do some lateral thinking. in the same little back alley where we find the black church clothing set, we find a bunch of poison knives which are “often used for self-defense by special doctors in the Healing Church”. this class of doctor know that the best cure for a sickness is to prevent it from happening in the first place. one way to achieve that is by killing people both suffering from the scourge and those uh, made too much noise about the outbreak.
given how you find quite a few black church doctor garbed corpses all over yharnam (and i do mean, “all over”), i think its safe to assume that these guys were not popular among the masses and were met with resistance from the well armed and riled up townsfolk.
the next tier were the white church doctors, described as “specialists in experimentally-backed blood ministration and the scourge of the beast”. remember: these are the same people who came from byrgenwerth, a school that was putting slugs in its head to obtain “more eyes” to become smarter (??). in fact, the white church set can be found between the grand cathedral and byrgenwerth in the now forbidden woods. the woods became host to a small, incredibly shitty village where the eccentric locals would conduct “forbidden research” (in the forbidden woods…double forbidden), a phrase that would get you placed on a watch list in the real world. the vibes of this place are fucked, we’ll talk about it more when we get to it during the course of the hunter’s journey. just keep in mind that these doctors were doing beast-based experiments with an unusual mindset:
They believe that medicine is not a means of treatment but rather a method for research, and that some knowledge can only be obtained by exposing oneself to sickness.
that sounds kind of bad actually. i don’t think you’re supposed to do that.
there was also a secret agent class of the church stalking the streets of yharnam, disguised as beggars. the first stages of the disease would cause the pupil to collapse, revealing one’s state of “blood-drunkenness” to the world. not only did they make them targets to the church, but blood-drunk hunters had a tendency to…disappear mysteriously. to obfuscate this from nosy church doctors and as part of their continued superstitious practices, yharnamite hunters began to wear bandages covering their eyes to the point where it became a societal norm. check out the statues around central yharnam and the cathedral ward: most of the statues are depictions of people with their eyes covered by hoods or bandages. and so, in turn, these secret church hunters would don these coverings and go do evil assassin shit.
These hunters are keen to early signs of the scourge, serving as a first line of defense against its outbreak. Or perhaps, when the time is ripe, they find signs of the scourge where there are none
as long as you have even just a few eyes on the inside you can still see just fine with your eyes covered, or at least your hunter doesn’t struggle with it. cloth bandages are nothing; master willem and the choir students have no problem seeing with their eyes covered with solid gold.
so here’s the rundown:
HUNTER DREAM: exists
HEALING CHURCH: in trouble
OLD YHARNAM: sickly
BYRGENWERTH: unknown, presumed fucked
HEMWICK LANE: not important right now
PTHUMERU: nearly explored
THE CHOIR: sluggish
things became so shitty so fast. and it’s not like they weren’t trying to fix things. they were just incredibly unethically sound while doing so. whats a little human experimentation between friends. the good news is that when you hit rock bottom there’s nowhere for you to go but up.
2. the shawl’s importance is that it will appear in all attire related to the church. weirdly, there’s one outfit we can’t get that i don’t even think was programmed or made at all: ludwig’s hunter outfit. its a cross between the executioner garb and tomb prospector garb. he and the giant squid hunters in the hunter’s nightmare wear them. it’s grey.