Ludwig, The Hunts, Father Gascoigne, and Eileen
In Yharnam, blood flows like water. You will find no bars in Yharnam, no pubs or taverns. Only blood is found in Yharnam. The Pungent Blood Cocktail tells us: “In Yharnam, they produce more blood than alcohol, as the former is far more intoxicating.” Blood is the source of pleasure, entertainment, worship, and devotion in Yharnam. Even Arianna, a prostitute by trade, introduces herself to the Hunter not by offering sexual services, but instead a vial of her blood. But it’s not just any blood that flows through Yharnam; only blood permitted by the Healing Church is allowed to flow. The Old Blood, specifically the blood of Ebrietas, is administered to the population by special doctors known as Blood Ministers, who carry on an art that was first pioneered by the First Vicar, Laurence. We’ve already discussed how Ebrietas gets her name from a species of butterfly, but she also gets her name from a latin word meaning drunkenness or intoxication. Indeed, the blood of Ebrietas not only aided to cleanse Yharnam of disease but also provided the citizens with a drug more addictive and more intoxicating than alcohol. But with the rampant spread of the Old Blood came the Scourge of the Beasts.
Once Old Yharnam had been cleansed and knowledge of the Scourge became public knowledge, a new way of dealing with the threat was required. Secrecy would no longer be enough, and so the Workshop was retired and sealed. Instead, with the Healing Church in its new position of power, the Healing Church Hunters were born. At the forefront of this new movement would be Ludwig, the new head of the Healing Church’s martial force. Gehrman tells us the following: “The Healing Church and the Blood Ministers who belong to it were once guardians of the hunters, in the times of the hunter Ludwig.” According to the Sword Hunter Badge: “Ludwig was the first of many Healing Church hunters to come, many of Whom were clerics.” Not much is known of Ludwig’s origins, but from his Radiant Sword Hunter Badge we learn that Ludwig was part of a lineage of chivalrous warriors known as the Holy Blades: “The radiant sword indicates the heirs to the will of Ludwig. These hunters, also known as Holy Blades, are what remains of an ancient line of heroes that date back to a very early age of honour and chivalry.”
Ludwig had a very different approach to hunting beasts than his predecessors in the Workshop had, which we can see from the details found in the weapons of choice of Healing Church Hunters.
"A trick weapon typically used by Healing Church hunters. It is said that the silver sword was employed by Ludwig, the first hunter of the church. When transformed, it combines with its sheath to form a greatsword. The Healing Church workshop began with Ludwig, and departed from old Gehrman's techniques to provide hunters with the means to hunt more terrifying beasts, and perhaps things still worse. -Ludwig’s Holy Blade
“A rifle typically used by Healing Church hunters. It is said that this rifle was employed by Ludwig, the first hunter of the Church. Its long, heavy barrel makes up in range for what it lacks in reload speed. Ludwig's Rifle exhibits several departures from the workshop's design, suggesting that the Church anticipated much larger inhuman beasts." -Ludwig’s Rifle
From these two weapons we can see a drastic shift in design from Gehrman’s Workshop to Ludwig’s. While the Hunters of Gehrman’s time favored agile weapons, quick movement, and easily concealable tools, Ludwig’s Hunters wielded weapons with great force. These Hunters no longer hid in the shadows, they walked openly, wielding their weapons. After Old Yharnam, it had become painfully clear to the Healing Church that only more and more dangerous creatures would arise from the Old Blood, and so more powerful weapons would be required.
Ludwig sought to deal with the Scourge of the Beast in a very different manner than his predecessors. In the time of Laurence and Gehrman, the Healing Church and the Workshop operated in secrecy. The School of Mensis quietly researched, Laurence perfected Blood Ministration, and Gehrman’s Hunters acted as a clean-up crew, fixers of problems. An individual would succumb and the Hunters would quietly remove them in the middle of the night, leaving the population none the wiser.
With Ludwig however, a new approach was taken: Do not ignore the populace; arm the populace. We see this from the Yharnam Hunter Attire: “Ludwig, the first hunter of the Healing Church, once recruited Yharnamites to serve as hunters. This hunter's attire was made for new recruits, and has excellent straightforward defense. But not nearly enough to allow an ordinary man to stand any real chance against the beasts." Ludwig would deal with the beasts not through secrecy, but through purges or Hunts. Arm the population, inform them, and work alongside the citizens of Yharnam to battle the beasts. The Church called for the Hunts.
It would, unfortunately, cause a sort of never-ending cycle. Beasts rise, in order to combat the Beasts the citizens rise up, imbibe in the Old Blood, and strike them down. Now that they’ve been tainted by the Old Blood they inevitably become Beasts, causing more citizens to rise up and imbibe in the Old Blood. Even more problematic was the fact that as the Hunts called for stronger Hunters, stronger Hunters would become stronger Beasts: “Ludwig was the first of many Healing Church hunters to come, many of Whom were clerics. As it was, clerics transformed into the most hideous beasts.”
Hunters would become drunk on blood, addled by it, intoxicated by it. The Hunters would become a threat. And so it was that we find ourselves now faced with a different group, one that seems to be particularly mysterious: The Hunters of Hunters. In Central Yharnam the Hunter encounters Eileen the Crow, who warns them sternly: “Prepare yourself for the worst. There are no humans left. They're all flesh-hungry beasts, now.” It’s the polar opposite of Djura’s warning, that the beasts are still humans. Eileen belongs to a mysterious organization known as the Hunters of Hunters, detailed in the Hunter Rune: “This red-smudged rune means "Hunter," and has been adopted by those who have taken the Hunter of Hunters oath. These watchmen admonish those who have become addled with blood. Be they men or beasts, anyone who has threatened the pledgers of the "Hunter" oath surely has an issue with blood."
The Hunters of Hunters, it would appear, are an order old as the Workshop itself, tasked with disposing of Hunters who have been lost to the intoxication of the Old Blood. The Crow Hunter Badge tells us: “The badge of the Hunter of Hunters is quietly passed down from generation to generation, usually to an outsider from the hinterlands.” The use of the singular an outsider seems to imply that there is only ever one Hunter of Hunters at any one point in time, once a generation. It is interesting that it specifies that the Hunters of Hunters are typically outsiders. Eileen herself speaks with an accent unlike a Yharnamite. Perhaps, whoever the Hunters of Hunters are, it was decided that Yharnamites, blood-drunk that they were, were not to be trusted with this important task.
Where did the Hunters of Hunters come from? The Crowfeather Attire gives us a small amount of information: “Hunters of Hunters dress as crows to suggest sky burial. The first Hunter of Hunters came from a foreign land, and gave the dead a virtuous native funeral ritual, rather than impose a blasphemous Yharnam burial service upon them. With the hope that former compatriots might be returned to the skies, and find rest in the Hunter's Dream." The explicit mentioning of the Hunter’s Dream is very, very peculiar. Eileen herself appears to know about the Hunter’s Dream, as if the PC Hunter attacks and dies to her, she will respond by instructing them to “Tell the little doll I said hello.” Like Djura, Eileen appears to have at one point been a dreamer, a Paleblood Hunter like the PC.
It’s not the only link that Eileen and the Hunters of Hunters have to Gehrman and the Hunter’s Dream; the Blades of Mercy, the weapon of the Hunters of Hunters, states: “A special trick weapon passed down among hunters of hunters. One of the oldest weapons of the workshop. Splits into two when activated. The weapon's warped blades are forged with siderite, a rare mineral of the heavens.” One of the oldest weapons indeed, the Blades of Mercy are one of only two trick weapons made of siderite, a rare mineral that fell from the heavens. The other is Gehrman’s Burial Blade, the first of the trick weapons: “A masterpiece that defined the entire array of weapons crafted at the workshop. Its blade is forged with siderite, said to have fallen from the heavens.”
Exactly what connection Gehrman has to the Hunters of Hunters is unknown. It’s possible that the Hunters of Hunters were formed to police and oversee the Workshop, or it’s possible they may be a splinter faction that separated from Gehrman. Whatever their reasons, their methods are clear: find Hunters who have succumb to bloodlust and end them. Two such Hunters would be two of Eileen’s targets, Henryk and Gascoigne.
Father Gascoigne is the first official boss in Bloodborne. While it’s possible to fight the Cleric Beast, that boss is optional. Gascoigne serves as the first true boss fight in the game, and he is one that serves as a very cold wake-up call to the player. Like many Souls veterans, I walked into Bloodborne with a very specific mindset: caution. Study the opponent, look for weaknesses, wait for their guard to be down, strike once, back, watch, strike. It’s a very slow, cautious, passive playstyle that the Souls games have hardened in many players. Gascoigne seems to be placed so early in the game specifically for players like that. Gascoigne has the exact same tools that the Hunter can wield. He uses a Hunter Axe as his weapon and a Blunderbuss as his firearm. He can be staggered, and he can stagger. He’s a parallel to the player in this manner. Really the only difference between Gascoigne and the Hunter is the insanely aggressive manner in which he fights. Gascoigne charges with blind abandonment, he weaves through the fight swiftly, dodging attacks and keeping pressure on the Hunter. It’s almost a direct message to the player from the developers: “You have the same tools as him, why are you losing? He’s not being unfair, he’s not cheating. He’s just playing the game, just like you. So why is he slaughtering you?” The player very quickly learns that they must adapt to Gascoigne or they will die. Passivity is no longer a valid strategy, in order to master Bloodborne the player must be swift, aggressive, and unrelenting like Gascoigne.
But once Gascoigne’s health gets low enough, he will transform. He will succumb fully to the Scourge, becoming a powerful Beast that will relentlessly assault the Hunter. But to really understand Gascoigne, let’s start at the beginning and analyze what we can learn about him from the game itself.
From Gascoigne’s Attire we learn that:“‘Father’ is a title used for clerics in a foreign land, and there is no such rank in the Healing Church.” This would seem to imply that Gascoigne came to Yharnam, like many others, in search of the miraculous Blood Ministration which was rumoured to cure any disease. The PC Hunter was one such individual, as was Gilbert and likely many others. Like Eileen and Gilbert, Gascoigne’s voice has an accent that differs slightly from the Yharnamites. Seeing as Gascoigne wears attire similar to that of a Healing Church Watcher and wields the weapons of the Workshop, he was clearly trained as a Healing Church Hunter after he came to Yharnam. But his attire notes that: “The dingy scarf is a Holy Shawl and symbol of the Healing Church, from which Gascoigne would eventually part ways.” It’s unclear exactly why Gascoigne left the Church, but perhaps he left in order to raise a family. After all, Gascoigne’s daughters can be spoken to in Yharnam, hiding in their house. Indeed, the daughters provide the last, key pieces of information on Gascoigne: “Are you a hunter? Then, please, will you look for my mum? Daddy never came back from the hunt, and she went to find him, but now she's gone, too… I'm all alone… and scared…" It would seem that when the hunt was called, Gascoigne answered. Though he had left the Church, he still rose up to cleanse the streets, along with the rest of Yharnam. When he didn’t return, his wife Viola went off looking for him. “My m-mum wears a red jeweled brooch. It's so big and… and beautiful. You won't miss it.” When we find Gascoigne, he is hacking a corpse to pieces. He turns to face the Hunter, having finally succumb to the Old Blood.