Byrgenwerth and Kos
Everything begins at Byrgenwerth. An old institution of learning, Byrgenwerth was built in a peaceful, secluded area away from the neighboring city and close to a great lake. It is here that a group of individuals studied and explored the depths of human knowledge.
There were many students at Byrgenwerth. There were, however certain individuals of note other than the students, figures of importance who formed the inner circle so to speak. While not all of them were scholars, for the purpose of this analysis I refer to this group of individuals as The Byrgenwerth Scholars, or The Scholars for short. Those individuals who we can safely conclude were members of The Scholars consisted of Willem, Laurence, Micolash, and Carryl.
Master Willem was the head of the academy and a highly respected figure. All characters who refer to Willem specifically refer to Master Willem, indicating a deep respect for the figure even if they had differences in beliefs. There is also a reference found on the Rune Workshop Tool which refers to him as Provost Willem. A Provost is an administrator of an academic facility which supports placing Willem as the head of the academy and the leading figure. Master Willem's primary focus of study concerned the limits of human intelligence.
Laurence is a much more enigmatic figure, especially for a character so important. From the Beast skull in the Grand Cathedral, the PC Hunter witnesses a memory of an encounter between Laurence and Willem, in which Willem accuses the younger Laurence of betraying him. A note left on the Cathedral staircase reads: ”Place your hand on the altar's sacred covering, and inscribe Master Laurence's adage upon your flesh.” That Laurence would be revered so highly infers that he must have been a very significant figure in the Healing Church. It is well documented that the Healing Church has its roots in Byrgenwerth College.
Laurence’s title is that of the First Vicar, given to him both by the Human Skull of the Nightmare and in his boss fight, confirming this idea that Laurence was in fact one of the Church's founders, splitting from Byrgenwerth in an event that I will later describe as The Schism.
Micolash, the boss encountered in the Nightmare of Mensis, was another Scholar, as evidenced by the tattered Byrgenwerth uniform he wears during the PC Hunter's fight against him; Micolash also makes references to other parts of Byrgenwerth.
Caryll was a genius runesmith who, through unknown methods, could listen to the scratchings and utterings of the Great Ones. While she could not understand the inhuman words they spoke, she managed to etch them into visual symbols that could be identified. The Rune Workshop Tool describes Caryll as: "Runesmith Caryll, student of Byrgenwerth, transcribed the inhuman utterings of the Great Ones into what are now called Caryll Runes."
There are also two individuals whom we can believe to have been a member of The Scholars: Gehrman and Maria.
Gehrman was most assuredly an acquaintance of both Laurence and Willem. After the PC Hunter defeats Rom, The Vacuous Spider, they can find Gehrman whimpering in his sleep. "Oh, Laurence… Master Willem… Somebody help me…” Gehrman is also, as we know, the First Hunter. He founded the Workshop, located in a hidden section of the Upper Cathedral Ward, and presumably worked with the Church in its infancy. Judging from Gehrman’s combat proficiency and master craftsmanship he may have been a bodyguard for tomb excavations, a groundskeeper, or a handyman for the college at large.
Maria was Gehrmans’ greatest pupil, and judging from the fact that she takes over the Research Hall of the Healing Church it’s possible that she was a student at the College under Laurence. Regardless, her participation in the events which would take place at the Hamlet place her as a member of the Byrgenwerth Scholars prior to its schism.
We can now look at The Scholars, having explored each one individually, as a collective unit. Willem, Laurence, Micolash, Gehrman, Maria, and Carryl were individuals at the Byrgenwerth College, an institution dedicated to the furthering of knowledge and the exploration of the massive Labyrinth built underground. It was in this Labyrinth that the scholars made the discovery that put every event in Bloodborne into motion. Indeed, the entire history of Bloodborne can be traced to a single defining moment, in which The Scholars discovered something deep inside the ancient Pthumerian Crypts. The Executioner Alfred muses that ”Once a group of young Byrgenwerth scholars discovered a holy medium deep within the tomb. This led to the founding of the Healing Church, and the establishment of blood healing.” Deep inside the Labyrinth, the Scholars discovered the Old Blood. It is unclear exactly what was found, but in the upper level of the Byrgenwerth mansion we can find the Empty Phantasm Shell."Empty invertebrate shell that is said to be a familiar of a Great One. The Healing Church has discovered a great variety of invertebrates, or phantasms, as they are called." Whatever was found, it was proof of the existence of the Great Ones. It's possible that The Scholars discovered Ebrietas, the abandoned and left-behind Great One who would later commune with the Healing Church. They certainly discovered a source of the Old Blood, the tainted Blood of the Great Ones. Whether it was Ebrietas or something else is unclear.
With the discovery of the Old Blood and of the Great Ones, everything changed. Evolution became the goal; push the limits of humanity and become something greater. Ascend to the level of the Great Ones, push humanity into its next stage. A scribbled note found in the Nightmare Lecture Hall reads: "Master Willem was right. Evolution without courage will be the ruin of our race." However it quickly became apparent that some of The Scholars, and Laurence in particular, differed in their belief on how the evolution should be carried out. Carryl's Eye Rune states:"Eyes symbolize the truth Master Willem sought in his research. Disillusioned by the limits of human intellect. Master Willem looked to beings from higher planes for guidance, and sought to line his brain with eyes in order to elevate his thoughts." However, Carryl's Metamorphosis Runes state: "The discovery of blood made their dream of evolution a reality. Metamorphosis, and the excesses and deviation that followed, was only the beginning."
There are two different resources that the Player collects during their time in Bloodborne: Blood Echoes, and Insight. The Echoes is the method in which the PC Hunter gains power, while Insight is the method in which the PC Hunter gains knowledge. While some at Byrgenwerth believed that knowledge and understanding of the Great Ones and the higher planes of existence would lead to humanity's uplifting, others believed that it was through the imbibing and fusing with the Old Blood that would lead to humanity's ascension. This was a concept anathema to everything Willem stood for. These two fundamentally opposed philosophies would lead to The Byrgenwerth Schism.
Upon entering the Fishing Hamlet in the Hunter’s Nightmare, the PC Hunter is greeted by a Fish Kin, muttering to himself. “Byrgenwerth… Byrgenwerth… Blood-crazed murderers. Blasphemous fiends.” If the player is wearing the Milkweed Rune, the Kin will give them the Accursed Brew, a skull which states: "Skull of a local from the violated fishing village. The inside of the skull was forcibly searched for eyes, as evidenced by innumerable scratches and indentations.” Whatever happened in the Fishing Hamlet must have had to do with Kos, the Great One found at the end of the area. Kos is apparently dead, and while the Hunter battles her Orphan, the Great One is long since past. Other than the mutterings of the Fish Kin, there is only one other reference to Kos, that of Micolash in his commune with the cosmos. "Ahh, Kos, or some say Kosm… Do you hear our prayers? As you once did for the vacuous Rom, grant us eyes, grant us eyes."
Rom the Vacuous Spider
Rom is a large creature found at the bottom of the Moonside Lake of Byrgenwerth. Rom's title is that of the Vacuous Spider, and is shown to be very relatively weak. Rom's only real strength comes from the Spider Kin she can spawn to defend herself. Other than that she is barely capable of defending herself either through carelessly hurling shards of energy, or thrashing wildly at her enemy.
When the player encounters Rom, it is the defining moment in which the story of Bloodborne goes from a narrative of hunting Beasts, to a sudden understanding that we, the player, have barely even scratched the surface of a much, much darker truth. But Rom is not a fully developed Great One. Micolash, in his communing with the cosmos, mutters: "As you once did for the vacuous Rom, grant us eyes, grant us eyes. Plant eyes on our brains, to cleanse our beastly idiocy." Rom was not always a Great One. Eyes planted on her brain to cleanse her idiocy, Rom ascended to become one.
Rom is not a Great One, in fact Bloodborne causes understandable confusion in that it refers to many different species, factions, and groups as belonging to the singular group The Great Ones. But the Kin, ascended mortals who bleed a clear Serum, are not fully fledged, complete and whole Great Ones like the Moon Presence, the Wet Nurse, or the Orphan. They are merely Kin of the Cosmos. Killing Rom does not drop a Great One Coldblood; killing Rom drops a Kin Coldblood. Rom, daughter of Willem, either literally or metaphorically, born from the fruits of his research and used to ascend. Look at the way she moves, desperately backing away from the Hunter, she seems almost infantile. Unlike the rest of the Kin that are encountered, Rom has no natural defense mechanisms other than her ability to manipulate energy.