We’ve sent our Games Editor Jake Muncy into the dark, unwelcoming world of From Software’s newest title, Bloodborne. Today, he explores the origins of the dark knowledge that courses through Yharnam’s veins—the old college, Byrgenwerth. He also realizes that he’s been misspelling Byrgenwerth for nigh on a month and quietly changes his spelling.
Check out the previous installments:
- Bloodborne Logs #1: Being Hunted With Religious Fervor
- Bloodborne Logs #2: Over My Dead Body
- Bloodborne Logs #3: The Cathedral and the Prison
- Bloodborne Logs #4: Fail, Fail Again
- Bloodborne Logs #5: Paradigm Shifts
In the Nightmare Lecture Hall, there are embryos everywhere. In jars, in cages, just scattered on desks, like a murderer’s birthing ward. Some of them are human. Some of them aren’t. As the wood floor creaks under me and the dank air—I can only imagine it hot and suffocating, like a wool blanket caked in dried blood—filters around me, I find myself constantly flinching, waiting for some payoff to what I’m seeing.
The only payoff I get is the slow-building surety that someone was doing some really bad science at this school. I don’t ever meet the people who did this work, who left their dead and fossilized failures lying around the desks and tables. I meet their students, though. They’ve practically liquified, turned into gelatinous, porous masses wearing gowns and mortarboards. They try to consume me, wrapping me in their bodies like a hug. As is routine for me at this point, I kill them as soon as I see them. I kill everything as soon as I see it.
Behind a closed door, I see the face of the man who brought me here, or at least watched it. The laugh, the one who called it that thing’s name—Amygdala! Amygdala! He just laughs at me. Says I should thank him for showing me enlightenment. The wisdom of the godhead, I was told earlier. He wanted me to see the gruesome work done here. In the name of what? To beckon the moon? To make—something?
I find a door at the end of the hall that takes me outside, to a craggy mountainside suspended in nothingness. The moon is so bright and so close in this nightmare that it seems like daylight. In the distance, I see monsters even more frightening than the ones I’m used to. Wolves with faces that are only teeth. I try to fight one, and it kills me without even trying. I decide it’s time to escape this bad dream. I still have my goal. Byrgenwerth. I place my hand to a lamp and feel the hot air fade away.
Byrgenwerth stands astride a vast lake, the full moon keeping watch. It’s rather small for such a renowned institute of learning, which reinforces my current hunch—that the Nightmare Lecture Hall is a fragment of it, pulled into another realm the same way I was. Was that their goal? It would certainly be a good reason for the Healing Church to cordon off the remains. Rifts in the fabric of reality aren’t good PR for the powers that be. Not that that matters anymore.
What I find, then, is a gutted mess of a house, made of bleached wood and strewn about with dusty, unread tomes. It’s practically empty. The only denizen is a hunter clad in white, wielding a whip. She uses the same arcane powers as Iosefka did, launching tentacles from her outstretched arm. We duel around a winding staircase, scattering dust and paper and coating it all with bits of our torn bodies. I don’t know if she’s lost her senses, or if she is just determined to keep this place from me. She may be Byrgenwerth’s final keeper. As I sink my sword into her back, her corpse falling in front of the staircase, I wonder what that entails. Fearing I’m about to find out.
Up the stairs, I find more of the same. I can almost imagine students here, chatting with wisened old professors, leafing through the library here, sitting hunched over desks to flickering firelight. The only things I find of worth here are some old clothes, and a couple of troubling notes. One of them reads, “When the red moon hangs low, the line between man and beast is blurred. And when the Great Ones descend, a womb will be blessed with child.”
The other is no less disturbing, about a spider that “hides all manner of rituals, certain to reveal nothing, for true enlightenment need not be shared.” This seems to be a theme—after all, I’ve yet to find anyone who can explain anything. Perhaps those who know simply can’t.
There’s a locked door, and when I climb a ladder into the building’s attic, I find the key, to the luminarium where Master Willem rested in his old age. I open the door, and there he sits, rocking slowly back and forth on the balcony, overlooking the water.
Master Willem looks as if he is prepared to grow back into the earth. He is pale and wrinkled, his tiny bulbous head sunken in. I’m not sure if he can see or not; I can’t make out his eyes. He wears ornate vestments that are many sizes too large for him. Withered and weak, he clutches a gold staff against the armrest of his chair. The only sound is the creak of the chair, rocking back and forth, back and forth.
There are so many things I want to ask this man, but he seems beyond answering them. Why are we in this dream? And what horrors did he unleash upon it?
He merely gestures with his staff, a clumsy swing of his symbol of faded authority. He points to the lake. It’s the only acknowledgement he will give me. I consider killing him in this moment, but Willem’s life, I feel, has nothing to offer me.
I walk out to the end of the balcony. There’s nothing but a rounded ledge, the perfect place from which to admire the view. So I look at the moon reflected on the surface of the water, like a bright iris cut into glass. I have followed my path as far as I can. It’s taken me here, to this light, and this water. Nowhere else to go. I feel the weight of the last few hours upon me as I step out from the balcony. I fall into it. I fall through it.
Rom, the Vacuous Spider lives in a pocket of nightmare in the moonlit waters. It looks less like a spider and more like a giant, floppy slug, tiny legs spindling out from its lazy husk. Its face is all eyes, reminding me of the Amygdala, seeing and unseeing all at once. Its name, combined with its appearance, suggests mindlessness, an otherworldly blank. From a distance, it barely looks alive.
Naturally, I’m supposed to kill it, and as horrific as it is, I almost feel bad. It’s not hurting anyone. It’s not doing anything at all. But as I walk toward it, in the luminescent void—as if someone put a glass cave in the middle of a waterfall—man-sized spiders drop from the non-sky on unseen webs and begin to creep toward me. Rom’s guardians, or minions. His kin. There are more of them than I can plausibly deal with, so striking at their master seems my only option.
Rom flops and teleports around, and summons ice like lightning to rain down on me. He’s surprisingly dangerous, tenaciously hanging on to whatever sort of life he has. I dig my sword into his flank like I’m carving a piece of meat. It is ugly, ugly work, but when Rom dies, his family fades, and I’m left safe and alone in the nightmare.
For a moment, I’m relieved. There’s a satisfaction in defeating something uncanny, in making it disappear. It feels like restoring order. Bloodborne exists in the kind of world where it feels like the only order to be found is what I carry around with me.
I stand alone in the white and blue emptiness for a moment that feels too, too long. A lamp appears, a gateway back to the other dream. Then I see a pale-skinned woman standing, facing away from me, wearing a flowing white dress. She’s crying, and the front of her dress is bloodied. I walk toward her. Her sobs become intermingled with a sound like an infant crying. I look up and see the world above open up like a parchment, and the moon, which is now an angry, infection red, falls down upon me, growing until it’s massive, filling my vision and crashing over my head. The infant’s voice gets louder and louder. Everything goes dark.
When I wake up, I’m kneeling on the altar in the blood church, the one with the Amygdala clinging to its ceiling. It’s still there, tentacles writhing off its head. It looks down at me with what I imagine is curiosity. A message comes to me, from where or whom I’m not certain. I have to consider the possibility that it’s from the Amygdala itself. “The ritual seal is broken,” it tells me. “Seek the nightmare newborn.”
The door in front of me is open. So I stand up on the altar, trying to shake off the feeling that I’m the sacrifice that’s been offered on it, and walk through.
Jake Muncy is a freelance writer, editor, and poet living in Austin, TX. In addition to functioning as Loser City’s Games Editor, his writing appears on The AV Club, Ovrld, Vice, and anywhere else he can convince people to post it. You can contact him by email or twitter, where he tweets regularly about video games, the Mountain Goats, and sandwiches. He has very strong feelings about Kanye West.