the pale moon changed.

yharnam changed.

something was happening in old yharnam. something predictable, yet shocking.

[…] the baffling sickness that ravaged Old Yharnam long ago

These tablets only provide short-term relief. The ashen blood ailment eventually triggered the spread of the beastly scourge.

alternative translation from LastProtagonist:

A mysterious ailment once *plagued the old town (Old Yharnam)

with an interesting translation note:

*Plagued is taken from 蝕んだ – Which literally means worm-eaten in one sense. (Other definitions of the term include spoiled, rotten, eat into, destroy.)

perhaps ashen blood is not a disease spread by bacteria, but the result of a parasite infesting a host. don’t forget: the augurs of the great ones are invertebrates. until now we have only been considering the mainstream snails, slugs, and kos parasites. but there are other invertebrates as well…maggots, vermin, amoebas…

As it was, clerics transformed into the most hideous beasts.

the church had made one notable discovery during their various stupid scientific inquiries: the ghastliness of one’s beast-hood had some correlation to how much the afflicted embraced their fate. their attempts to just roll with becoming beasts failed and in the process they discovered a rune they then immediately deemed forbidden: beast’s embrace.

After the repeated experiments in controlling the scourge of beasts, the gentle “Embrace” rune was discovered.

When its implementation failed, the “Embrace” became a forbidden rune, but this knowledge became a foundation of the Healing Church.

alternative translation from LastProtagonist:

Knowledge of it has certainly become (a/the) cornerstone of the Healing Church.

the church was well aware of the seductive power of the blood. and they were terrified of it. there’s an old healing church prayer you can hear a handful of church members recite that acknowledges the temptation of beasthood.

Seek the old blood.
Let us pray… let us wish… to partake in communion.
Let us partake in communion… and feast upon the old blood.
Our thirst for blood satiates us, soothes our fears.
Seek the old blood… but beware the frailty of men.
Their wills are weak, minds young.
The foul beasts will dangle nectar and lure the meek into the depths.
Remain wary of the frailty of men.
Their wills are weak, minds young.
Were it not for fear, death would go unlamented.

yet, in the end, laurence, the first vicar became a beast. the hunter can gain the beast’s embrace rune by defeating his eternally burning beastly form trapped in the hunter’s nightmare.

ugggh alright. let’s talk about laurence. i’ve been dreading this because i hate this part of the lore being so overtly WRONG.

here’s the thing: fromsoft changed its mind after the fact for some reason. this is the least i’ve understood a creative decision in my life. i’m mad online about it. for a lot of reasons.

here are the facts of the case, your honor:

  1. objectively: laurence is a cleric beast:
    1. there is a fight with “laurence, the first vicar” in the dlc
      1. the first optional boss encounter in the base game is the “cleric beast”.
      2. the cleric beast drops the “sword hunter badge”, which explains that healing church clerics were often also hunters under ludwig’s tutelage and transformed into the worst beasts.
      3. laurence is a high ranking member of the church
      4. the laurence we fight has the literal exact same model as the cleric beast but on fire.
      5. the skull you use to initiate the fight is “laurence’s skull” with the item description: “Skull of Laurence, first vicar of the Healing Church. In reality he became the first cleric beast, and his human skull only exists within the Nightmare.”
larry the worst vicar cleric beast

pretty fucking definitive right?


remember the incredibly long and drawn out exploration of the chalice dungeons i’ve been dragging us through this whole time? prior to the burning of old yharnam, i think it’s reasonable to assume that the church tomb prospectors wrapped their exploration, but we are going to put the details aside until we experience them as the hunter; the church doesn’t stop fucking around down there for a long while. the fact that the hunter can encounter boss monsters that have been mutilated by the healing church in the past strongly suggests that hunter is not experiencing some kind of time displaced version of the chalice dungeons. they are simply empty because they are dying and there are no hunters or prospectors left to explore them. as above, so below.

the dead children collected from loran unsealed a cursed and defiled wing of the labyrinth (we’ll get back to the contents of this area later) which in turn revealed the truly final chalice dungeon: great pthumeru ihyll, the pthumerian capital. the bosses of this area (again, more later) include two pthumerians. but, by the time the hunter arrives, there’s a new addition to the boss roster: a bloodletting beast with no head. remember the headed one? it’s blind and cut nearly in half? the headless one reveals that it’s being puppeteered by massive, rapid poison spewing vermin resembling maggots.

so no head? [smashes cell phone on the ground]

the thing is: we know where the head is. the skull is sitting in the grand cathedral of the healing church being worshiped as a holy relic. before the hunter touches it to progress the plot, it glows arcane-ly through the massive gash in it’s head.

now…compare the locations of the gashes on the beast and the skull! my unfounded theory is that the church really did think they killed the bloodletting beasts. they didn’t get back up and start moving around until later either because of the undead blood or the worms.

now, my point is: this skull is laurence.

  1. objectively, laurence is the headless bloodletting beast:
    1. the skull is of the bloodletting beast or, as its known in japan “the host of the beast blood” [looks at u meaningfully]
    2. the skull is located in the grand cathedral, which is not accessible to the public after the events in old yharnam. it is the centerpiece of a reliquary dedicated to it.
    3. a note we can read on the way to slap his bald head invites all members of the church to “Place your hand on the altar’s sacred covering, and inscribe Master Laurence’s adage upon your flesh”.
    4. touching the skull plays a cutscene of laurence leaving byrgenwerth (your character is experiencing something similar to what happens when they crush a skull with a madman’s knowledge or great one’s wisdom).
    5. this teaches you the adage that laurence learned from willem: fear the old blood.
    6. in the dlc, the one of the nightmare versions of the grand cathedral has the same reliquary, but instead the skull on the altar is laurence’s HUMAN skull

SO??? WHICH IS IT FROMSOFT??? again, i don’t subscribe to the idea of projected consciousnesses in bloodborne (outside of micolash, a special case), there is no reason why laurence would be the only character in the entire game whose soul was separated from his body and made in to a terrible boss fight. and that’s really the kicker of all this shit: the laurence fight is godawful. the cleric beast is not a particularly fun or memorable fight and i don’t think anyone was clamoring for an encore. you have to fight the stupid cleric beast a quadrillion times every time you start a new game plus (its optional sure, but you need the EXP) and lighting the fucker on fire makes it so, so much worse. at the halfway point, laurence splits in two and starts crawling around shitting and farting all over the place and puking on your shoes. you can’t regain your health via the rally mechanic reliably because fire does multiple tics of damage, which sets the meter to 0 gains before you have a chance to get close enough to attack him.

it didn’t have to be this way. laurence a flambe is not in the fucking artbook. there’s no trace of the fucker at all. he was a last minute addition for reasons i will never be able to understand. someone at fromsoft felt really strongly about the fact that they might release a game that doesn’t have a tedious lava section and course corrected before the game could ship.

why laurence is NOT the burning cleric beast:

  1. his absence in the art book and existence prior to the DLC in the form of the skull on the altar makes his dlc appearance superfluous
  2. giving him the generic cleric beast design fails to differentiate a major contributor to the current crisis in yharnam to the player
  3. boss music not that good
  4. the fight is like trying to shoo a bat out of your house with a blanket
  5. optional fight underplays character’s narrative purpose
  6. yells too much

why laurence is NOT the headless bloodletting beast:

  1. the perspective in the cut-scene with willem is not laurence’s; you see his form briefly from afar1 so whatever is viewing him is doing so from a bunch of different angles
  2. how’d they get his ass down there.
  3. the shape of the skull on the altar doesnt match the face shape of the bloodletting beast with the head.
  4. there’s already a boss named “laurence, the first vicar” and its not this one

i hate fire laurence. i am on the bloodletting beast team here but both are, annoyingly, correct. they just openly contradict each other. pick one or both or neither and let’s move on. if we assume the laurence in the DLC is the real one, then the flames would imply that he died during the burning of old yharnam.

but how was laurence killed?

an experimental workshop of good repute, the powder kegs, (and their forefathers the oto workshop) built an armory of weapons that boomed, burned, slammed, crushed, and operated under a very simple mantra: “if a weapon ain’t got kick, it just ain’t worth it“. old yharnam, under siege by it’s rapidly transforming population, was now the under the purview of the powder kegs.

or, it would have been, were it not for the ideological freaks amongst them. djura was a famous old hunter whose reputation was such that the iconic stock standard hunter’s tri-corner hat was based on his own. he was described in his own hat description as “uncommonly kind and dreadfully foolish”. djura, bless his heart, could not separate the beasts from the people they had once been. what was happening to old yharnam was too much for him to take.

the healing church commanded that old yharnam be burned to the ground in a last ditch effort to contain the spread of ashen blood, but at that point they were asking too much. djura and his allies refused to continue to participate in any more of the slaughter. to drive the point home, they went as far as to renounce their hunter’s vows. which meant no more dreaming, no more reawakening, no more growing stronger. he broke his contract with the moon. no more endless life for you, boy!

the powder kegs appeared to have participated to some extent in the burning of old yharnam, but it’s not clear when they turned against the church. it’s unknown if they retaliated against the church in the heat (lol) of the moment. what we do know, is that the powder kegs began to espouse an extremely heretical point of view: what if being a beast wasn’t the worst thing that could happen? the unique beast man who drops the firing hammer badge from the oto workshop is using the beast’s embrace rune and irreverent izzy’s forbidden masterpiece, the beast claw. a strange contradiction: the more one fights their inner beast, the more warped and twisted they become. by contrast, the bestial hunter’s face is remarkably human and resembles a midpoint between the average hunter and the disarmingly human abhorrent beast.

alternative, more clear translation from LastProtagonist:

The red moon is close, the town is nothing but beasts. There’s no end. It’s all too late now. Must it all burn?

djura keeps watch over the old yharnam from the top of its bell tower now. the church left djura and the other traitors to their fate, locking the door behind them, and covered the entrance to old yharnam with a concrete slab statue in a church of no importance off the beaten path. old yharnam is abandoned, yet years later, still burns eerily. djura and his allies wear hunter’s gear that repels flame, either by ash (perhaps replicating an old ash ceremony2 from the labyrinth) or by capes made permanently damp by the undying beast blood.

this shit baffled me for a long time. like how can old yharnam still be on fire when we get there if this happened a million years ago?? but remember the slugs the fishing village was using as oil from part 2? personally, i could buy that magic slug oil takes much longer to burn. i mean, all fire in bloodborne is magical and eternal. the labyrinths should be dark as shit but only some rooms are. the most still have candles and torches that work. the fire is magical. sure. ok. its not like this is the first or last time fromsoft would make up a plot beat about a fire that never burns out.

if the yharnam hunters refused to kill their compatriots (laurence included), then someone else with the stomach for it would have to do it. someone untethered by emotional connection. a real weird fucked up guy.

a hunter of hunters.

brador, strongly implied to be the first hunter of hunters and assassin of the healing church, came from a far away foreign land. but not just ANY foreign land; brador is from the same homeland as both the hunter AND father gascoigne (a famous old hunter who makes it out the other end of tonight’s mess). his vest is a recolored version of the clothes your hunter arrives in. you can tell which one is brador’s because it looks like he just got done talking to you about huey louis and the news.

his arm bands are just a recolored version of gascoigne’s! according to gascoigne’s garb description, “‘Father’ is a title used for clerics in a foreign land, and there is no such rank in the Healing Church”.

brador, on the other hand, was no holy man, even if he is technically a member of the healing church3. in fact, he showed up wielding something that i feel like more people should have been confused and alarmed about: the bloodletter, a transforming mace in the shape of the hunter’s rune. literally what the fuck is that. did the church give it to him? did he bring it from home? where the fuck did it come from?? for the player, the bloodletter is to the bloodtinge build what the holy moonlight sword is to arcane builds. its intended to fill a missing weapon niche. but in lore….fuck man. when you use it transform it, you stab yourself in the chest with it which “expel[s] tainted blood”, turning it into a mace made of a huge chunk of blood with frenzy spikes4 coming out of it. it’s like a truly ugly and twisted version of the vileblood chikage weapon.

the antlers are not perfectly exact but they are approximate enough to say with certainty that brador killed a cleric beast, presumably laurence.

Brador donned a compatriot’s beastly scalp and hide while still moist with blood. Most of the blood stains on this hide were from that day.

NO, I DON’T KNOW HOW BRADOR COULD HAVE SCALPED LAURENCE IF LAURENCE STILL HAS HIS HEAD IN THE DLC. IT MAKES NO SENSE. but why else would i care if brador killed some random cleric guy unless it was an important cleric guy. why else would the church wind up trusting him with a monumental task later? but brador buddy, do you know how many freaky monsters i’ve fought by the time i’ve found you. i’m not impressed by your little cleric beast cosplay. grow up bitch!

ludwig was also doing not so good.

a popular theory (that i love) suggests that ludwig fought beasts on horseback during the original hunts. and because of that, ludwig has a…REALLY unique appearance when compared to the other cleric beasts. these images have been edited for clarity. i’ve done my best to label his unorthodox features. under the same principles that lead to the fused body monstrosities in the late base game, ludwig melted into his horse.

When all is melted in blood, all is reborn.

ludwig too became prisoner of the hunter’s nightmare. goodbye ludwig. see you when the hunter catches up to you.

story time!

Once upon a time a troupe of foreign constables chased a beast all the way to Yharnam, and this is what they wore.

The constables became victims of the beast, except for one survivor, who in turn devoured the creature whole, all by himself.

moral: there was a hungry man. he was so hungry everyone died. the end.

1. they just used micolash as a stand in for laurence in that cutscene, which is pretty funny. for a character that has existed in every draft of the game, laurence has never been given a physical appearance that wasn’t beast mode, as far as i know.

2. dont think too hard about the bone ash set. its just a dark souls reference lol. like how the yamamura set turned out to be a wink to sekiro’s development

3. i literally don’t know why they bothered to equip him with it because he won’t use it under any conditions, but brador carries ludwig’s rifle, a church weapon.

4. “frenzy spikes” are physical spears of blood that occur as the hunter is taking frenzy damage. the shoot out of the hunter’s skin and retreat if the frenzy meter subsides. they are literal, physical things. you’ll stumble upon corpses in the late game who have them protruding out of them every which way. typically, unlike the bloodletter versions, they are sort of crystalline in structure, like a snowflake

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