Written by G. Russell
Warning : contains details of an optional side quest in the first area of the game and details of that area’s second boss fight.
When I first started writing this post, my account of the little Yharnam girl I tried to save, I thought that things were already pretty bad. What I didn’t realise at the time was that they were going to get much, much worse.
The streets of Yharnam, the sprawling opening area of Bloodborne, are vicious. Burning bodies are being crucified in the town centre, feral creatures patrol the bridges and lunatic villagers are constantly trying to thrust pitchforks into your stomach. It’s a little bit like Leicester, but with less electricity. Anyone sane enough to hold a conversation that you do meet speaks in either muttered riddles or rasped threats. That is, until you meet the little girl.
At the top of an impossibly tall ladder and just before a towering wrought iron gate is a house with a dimly lit window. And waiting beside that window, out of sight from the horrors outside, is a young girl. Her voice cracks as she explains to you that she’s alone; her father was out on a hunt and didn’t return, so her mother has gone out to find him. But neither have returned. She asks if you’d keep an eye out for them on your travels and mentions the red brooch that her mother will be wearing. You can’t miss it, she says. If you accept her request to help she gives you a small music box that she hopes will aid you. Her mother used to play the song to help guide her father home, she tells you. There are two names written inside the lid of the music box: Viola and Gascoigne.
So the alarm bells of impending sorrow start to ring when, much later, you enter a graveyard and are confronted by a hunter whose mind has clearly snapped. His name is Father Gascoigne and it’s abundantly clear as soon as he sets eyes on you that only one of you is leaving here alive.
He attacks with a terrifying fury but isn’t too much of a match until, close to death, his body erupts and he lets out a roar as he transforms into an enormous rabid beast. His efforts to kill you double in ferocity as he smashes gravestones with his fists just to get at you and closes the gap between the both of you with a terrifying speed. The chance of victory looks unlikely but it’s at this point that you remember the music box. Darting behind a cluster of gravestones you activate it. The notes that drift from it paralyse him, he clutches his head and roars in anguish; the memories of a past life too much for him to bear. It’s not without a faint glimmer of pity that you land the killing blow. Well… it was him or you, after all.
Exiting the graveyard to continue on your quest you see the ground is slick with blood and the railings of a fence are decimated. Dropping down onto the roof of an outbuilding you find a woman’s corpse. You bend down to pick up an item that shines. It’s a red brooch. You can’t miss it.
It’s not clear whether Gascoigne himself had killed his wife. The mother of his child. Was he driven mad by the knowledge that he’d been stricken with the plague that the townsfolk all speak of? Did he do it while transformed? Or was the unfortunate soul who he was hacking to pieces when you discovered him the one responsible for her death? You’ll probably never know. Anyway, you have slightly more pressing business. You now have a duty.
I didn’t know what I was going to be allowed to say to the girl once I arrived back at her window. I delayed going back by exploring a little further and discovering Oedon Chapel which was inhabited by a pretty unnerving character who asked me that if I ever came across anyone who was in need of sanctuary then I should send them to her. Totally unsure of whether this chapel guardian could be trusted or not, I made my way back to the little girl, with the semblance of a plan in my head.
On my way back across Yharnam I checked the brooch in my inventory. It suggested that I could break it down and use it to upgrade my weapons. After thinking about this and considering my vulnerability against some of Yharnam’s deadlier foes, I crushed the brooch and extracted the materials for upgrading. I felt pretty guilty about this, but I did it anyway. My selfish impulse to survive briefly overriding any compassionate thoughts. Arriving back at her window I spoke to the girl, and wasn’t surprised to see that I didn’t have the option of giving her the brooch, or whatever was left of it. But this also seemed to remove the option to tell her about the fate of her parents. All I could say was that if she needed a safe place to go, Oeden Chapel was it. She was overjoyed, reading between the lines and assuming that it meant her parents were there. She couldn’t thank me enough, telling me she loves me almost as much as she loves her parents.
I felt devastated. I’d killed her father, destroyed her mother’s brooch and kept the truth from her about their deaths. I’d sent her off into the world to find a place that may or may not be safe and one that certainly didn’t house her parents as she assumed. I walked away from the window feeling selfish. Guilty. A liar. I hadn’t helped her. At all.
But hopefully, if anything, she’d be safe at the chapel.
And that was the point at which I put down the controller, made a couple of notes and created a quick draft of an opening paragraph for this post. My experience with this little girl, orphaned partially by my hand, had been a devastating one. But It was over, I thought. And I knew I had to write something about it.
Except it wasn’t really over. After continuing my quest a few hours later, spending some time exploring a few new locations, I checked back in at Oedon Chapel to see if she’d arrived. A miserable old hag who I’d also told about this safe haven when meeting her earlier had arrived but there was no sign of the girl. Concerned, I headed back to her window. Out of the chapel and across the graveyard where I killer her father I went. Taking a diversion, I headed down a ladder that led me into the sewers and allowed me to bypass a boulder trap, an ogre and a dozen torch waving enemies. It was here that I found the pig.
Bloodborne’s gigantic sewer pig is a sight to behold. It’s almost as big as the tunnel that it hides in and its head is covered in plague boils. Its one saving grace is that if you manage to hit it from behind you can stagger it long enough to give you the opportunity to thrust your arm up its arse and explode its heart. It’s certainly one hell of a way for it to go. By this point, I’d already killed this pig a few times before and took a certain amount of grim pleasure in giving the thing yet another rectal-examination-of-doom. As it always does upon death, it dropped an item, which I collected and found to be a handful of Blood Vials, Bloodborne’s health replenishers. Turning away to continue through the tunnel, I noticed that, for the first time, there was a second item left behind. Picking it up and examining it revealed that it was a blood stained item of clothing. “The thick, pungent red was drawn from the organs of some unfortunate victim“, says the item’s description, in a gleefully sadistic tone.
I’d already, horrifyingly, put two and two together, but I raced to the girl’s window regardless. I wasn’t too surprised to see that her light was out, and that she wasn’t there. I’d failed this little girl in some of the worst ways imaginable already, and now I’d sent her, unsupervised, to her death in the stinking, pitch-black sewers beneath Yharnam.
Much later on, when returning to Yharnam, you meet the girl’s sister at the same window. Upon showing her the clothing, she breaks down in floods of tears.
From Software’s Souls games have always been extremely dark; unforgiving and nihilistic, reeking of death and relentlessly grim fatalism. Set in the worlds of the undead, that’s kind of a given. But Bloodborne, at least so far, seems to be taking an even darker turn. This is the world of the living. There is still hope here. You just don’t seem to be able to preserve it, no matter how hard you try.