Ever since Mona- the healing church hunter, moved in, our stored meat has shrunken fast. I often go out hunting, but recently it has not been very successful since the rat population has decreased quite fast. On the outside, the weather has come back to its normal state. When I was walking in the Lumen flower garden, I figured out that the snowstorm in fact warded off the secret group of Ritual Blood harvesters.
Yesterday I found a batch of onions growing wild amidst the crumbling foundation of a farm outside Hemwick Charnel Lane. I plant some in my garden, which has increased much in size and decide to use the rest for today lunch. I heat up twelve ounces of rat fat and fifteen tablespoonfuls of flour. While I am stirring the flour so that they don't turn too brown, Lizzie helps me adding two and a half pounds of onions peeled and sliced up thin and nicely by she and Mona. Following the recipe in Sophia's diary, I stir until the onions are soft and began to caramelize. Then, I add the onions to twelve quarter of rat broth, the recipe calls for beef broth but it's impossible to find a cow in Hunter's Nightmare so I have to use rat instead. After letting it simmer for about thirty minutes, I add some crow eggs and salt. To thicken the soup, I add the slices of bread we made earlier and cook until the slices of bread are softened up.
Though the smell of the rat is somewhat uncomfortable, the soup is really good. During the meal, Mona tries to suckle her child and feed soup to it. I and Lizzie look at one another in the eye and say nothing of it. I feel a bang of guilt when I observe Mona's child. Yes, the beast, they were people, too. Suddenly there is a small blue spark running through the infant skeletal remains which send me standing up immediately.
" What's the matter, Luna?" Lizzie asks between bites. " Your soup lack salt or something?"
" The blue sparks that inhabit the dark beasts. This child also has those blue spark" I calmly reply.
" I saw that, too, quite often..." Lizzie stands up too, reaches for a Church Pick and stammers " I thought it was some illusion I have when I'm not on Sedative."
Seeing Lizzie taking the weapon, Mona jumps at her feet and screams woefully " Don't kill my baby! Don't kill my baby! She's no beast. Please don't kill my baby." Tears roll on her cheeks as she screams and shouts.
Lizzie drops her weapon and hugs Mona " No, no! It's Ok, It's Ok. I was just planning on clearing the weeds in the garden"
" I guess the child is harmless," I say to Lizzie and raise Mona up then we have lunch in silence. Lizzie has to rely on Sedative to calm her nerve. People who dwell in this nightmarish realm suffer hallucinations and nightmares of all sort and fall all-too-easily to madness and thick human blood serves to calm the frayed nerves of these inquisitive minds. There is a recipe for Sedative in Sophia's manuscript, we only need to collect blood from the dead near our dwelling to concoct the medicine.
After the meal, I train Lizzie with sword fight. When I was younger, I was always bewitched by the sword dancers in my castle. And though my legs didn't allow me to had proper training, brother Louis was able to teach and keep me happy with some rapier moves. I receive most of my training from the Green Willows with a Hunter Axe, which I am skilled at, but rapier is my most liked weapon.
After several moves, Lizzie's Reiterpallasch was cut in half.
" Whoops! Seems like the blood-drunk hunters use scrap metal to forge this rapier" Lizzie says.
I pick up the broken Reiterpallasch and examine the weapon. It is in its perfect shape, if not well-preserved and the metal is solid and tough.
" No. It was the Vilebloods that forged this weapon and it still is in its perfect shape. Did you know that the Powderkeg's Rifle Spear was a simple weapon created in imitation of Reiterpallasch?" I tell Lizzie and inspect my weapon instead. My Reiterpallasch, reinforced with strange Blood Gems, radiates an eerie blue light and slowly fade as I put it down. When I pick it up, it radiates that pale light again.
" It is odd," I say while closely inspecting the blood gems and talk to Lizzie " I could not even cut through a neck with this rapier before. And... and barely cut through the finger of the enormous beast I told you earlier." Come to think of it, the rapier seems to be sharper after each enemy I have slain.
" No, it is awesome!" She says. " You have a rapier that gets sharper every day"
" More like after each kill. I read from Sophia's manuscript that Blood gems add properties to weapons when used to fortify them, as blood defines an organism." I correct her. " It seems that these abyssal Blood Gems are drawn to cold blood and take the nourishment from the sovereignless souls that inhabit the ozzing substance. And the..."
" So will you give your sword a name?" Lizzie cuts my sentence
" For what?" I ask her back, quite displeased because of her interruption
" Lots of people name their sword," She says
" Lots of c*nts" I reply, conceal my blood-infused rapier and take another pair of Reiterpallasch out of the storage to continue the drill.
Later that day, after watering the crop, I set out for a hunt. The moon, which looks like a retina of a blood-drunk hunter, hangs low on the cloudy horizon. I travel in the cover of the night, amidst the shadow of the crumbling houses and dead trees. Having been in this nightmare for a month, the rottenness of the surrounding has become somewhat familiar to me. Here and there, on the gaps on the wall where windows once stood or on the crumbling, decrepit streets, furgutively walks a beast patient. I silently sneak past a pack of beast gorging on an old hunter corpse. Seeing guts gorged out of abdomen like this would make me vomit in the past, it is normal to me now. I recall the unpleasant time I had during the royal hunt in my castle in the past. As a countess, I must attend for the sake of appearance. Louis was very fond of falconry and a serious falconer himself. I decide to leave the pack alone and continue my search for food.
After few more hour of fruitless walking and avoiding Bloodlickers in the river of blood, I come to Old Yharnam and soon, in a square devoid of beasts, I spot a dead body of a choir member. I walk closer to inspect the corpse and retrieve a small silver bell, different from my Old Hunter Bell. After a few more searching, I find a bag of navy biskets and several Quicksilver bullets, a dead blue slug and a broken, oddly-looking shield nearby made out of blue glass. It's quite sad that her 'Augur of Ebrietas' slug died. Lizzie always wants a powerful arcane weapon like that. The numerous deep bullet wounds on her body suggest that she died in a hail of bullets fired by at least three assailants using Piercing Rifles. Hunt and be hunted. That's the way of the nightmare. From somewhere near, I hear a maniacal shout and quickly take cover in an overgrown scrub. A gang of four blood drunk hunters walk by and talking out loud in different languague. These old hunters, cursed to roam the nightmarish land forever, have long lost their sanity. They talk out loud to one another and yet their stories are half-mad half inhuman. One old hunter with a claw mark claw on his face and a Saw Cleaver on his hand is crying and another hunter in Executioner set is laughing. And though they seem to talk to one another, they are most likely consumed in their own lunacy as they don't even speak the same language or the same story. Amongst these hunters, only a hunter in Student Set carry a Blunderbuss so they were not the ones who kill the Choir woman.
The gang of unhinged hunters soon spot the dead choir member and they all burst in a laughter. I observe as they drag her to a nearby crumbling foundation and removing her clothes. I look away as they commit the necrophilism on the woman's dead body. I tend to walk away, but then, the guilty feelings take over me and I decide to take action. " I will jump in and channel my 'A Call Beyond' and they all will drop dead like filthy beasts they are," I think but soon shake off my killing intent. They did nothing wrong to me. They do what they animalistic instincts tell them to do in order to stay alive in this nightmare. And the woman has no objection, she's dead.
So, I lay out my smoked rat bits, which I brought along, on a stone slab, return to my hiding and shoot a warning shot. As I expected, the shot draws the blood drunk hunter to the food and they gleefully fill their hungry bellies. I, still in the bush, grab a pebble and throw at the head of one hunter. He hisses and bashes another hunter in the head. The other retaliates and soon the four hunters engage in a hand-to-hand fight. I leave them be and silently move the naked choir woman's corpse away. After five minutes of sluggishly dragging the body, I bury her in a grass grown garden. Though the Choir and the Green Willows are mortal enemies, the dead are equal to the Gods. I say a short prayer and continue my search. Suddenly, I heard cannon fire somewhere near. I run towards the source of the sound and soon catch a glimpse of a giant figure in white attire surrounded by three blood-starved beasts and a dozen of Beast Patients in a small alley. For a moment I thought it is a Church Giant but when I see its face, I realize it is a Nightmare Executioner who is trying to fend off the beasts with his massive axe. On the ground, lay two other Nightmare Executioners with smoking cannons in their hands and four blood-starved beasts with multiple grievous wounds on their bodies, perhaps they are already dead. Heaps of beast patients' dead bodies scatter the alley and their blood flood the floor ankle-deep.
The fight now is a tug of war in which the lone Nightmare Executioner is slowly losing. His axe gives him some long reach and his fighting skill is exceptionally better in comparison to the ones I have seen before. But the blood-starved beasts are faster. They constantly try to harass him from all sides and their claws execrate deadly poison. The smaller beast patients circling around the larger ones and try to land a tricky swipe or a wicked bite on the lone executioner. Though the Nightmare Executioner was a member of the Healing Church- my sworn enemy, I feel sorry for the lone survivor and decide to help him. Digging out a molotov cocktail and an oil urn, I throw them at the beasts. The beasts quickly run from the fire and hiss at me angrily. A nearby beast patient lunge at me only to find her head swiftly severed with a clean cut from my Reiterpallasch. The executioner quickly slams his giant axe on a distracted Blood-starved beast and cut it in half. Before he can retrieve his weapon, another blood-starved beast jumps on his back and bites viciously at his neck. The giant falls to the ground and tries to wrestle with the sickly creature with his massive arms. The third blood-starved beast runs toward my direction, dodges an arcane meteor I fire at it and slash at me with its deadly claw. I barely manage to dodge the attack and can even feel the fur on its arm touching my scaly face. I duck and dash between its leg and swiftly strike at the blood vein in its ankle. The beast painfully lets out a growl and back away but as soon as its feet touch the ground, I extend my tendrils, drive my rapier between its eyes and pull the trigger. Brain and blood burst out of its ugly skull and the monster lie motionless on the blood-drenched street. A beast patient jumps on my back before I can pull my Reiterpallasch back and gives me a nasty bite. Two more jumps on me and push me down to the ground. If I die here in the nightmare, mother Kos would bring me back. But every time I was brought back, the previous death and pain burned into my head, driving me insane. If it had not been for my sheer force of will, I would have been stark raving mad by now.
" Fight back these sickly creatures! Use the left hand like a whip! " I hear a faint voice in my head.
I clapst and swing my left tendrils at the the beast on top of me and is quite surprised by my reflex and to see that the assualt from my tendril can do tremendous damage. The swing distorts its skull and its left eye are bulged out, and of course, kills the beast. The next swing sends the two oppresors smashing to the wall. The other beasts look at me with fear and despair as I get up on my feet.
"Run them down!" . I run at blinding speed at the beasts, send two flying and trample five. The other beast patients flee the carnage in extreme fear. I'm surprised by my new found strength as well. I retrieve my weapon and turn towards the beast that is wrestling with the Nightmare Executioner. Seeing it is alone and in apparent disadvantage now, the creature breaks free of the giant grip and flees into the dark. I hear a small grant and find a wounded beast patient lying on the ground.
" Smash its pitiful head! Release it from this terrible nightmare" The voice command again. And for a moment, I almost follow its instruction. I stop right before the beast let out a growl in pain and fear and am affrighted by the killing I have committed. It... It wasn't me. The Executioner painfully gets up and grab the wounded beast.
" No! Leave it alone" I shout. The giant looks at me quizzically and toss the poor creatures into a nearby bush. Despite the look, I feel a strange kinship towards the Nightmare Executioner. From his concealed tendril-grown face, he breaths out dark smoke and in it, the light of stars and the cosmos. He must be a Kin like me. I motion the wounded giant to follow me. He painfully drags his feet along the grass-grown, shadow-blighted streets.
Though the venture is dangerous, what makes me worry the most isn't the enemies but the voice in my head. It is oddly familiar to me. On a second thought, it is, in fact, my voice. And the new found strength and speed, it is both amazing and frightening. Am I changing into something else? Would it cost my sanity and humanity? The Byrgenwerth, The Choir, the Healing Church, the school of Mensis. They all seek ascension. They all want to elevate humanity. According to Sophia, the scholars of Byrgenwerth fight over the usage of the Old Blood. In the end, they split and Laurence, one of the scholars who supported using the said blood, founded the Healing Church and declared Byrgenwerth forbidden ground. It's unknown if any of the scholars are alive by now. The Church's clerics seek ascension through old blood and there are rumours that the clerics turn into most hideous beasts. Only the Choir succeeded in elevating human into Kin of the cosmos so far. And yet, if it had not been for the living goddess they contact, the Choir would fail like the others. But on battlefields, the kins deployed by the Choir, though having tremendous arcane power, fight like vacuous beasts. Am I becoming one of those mindless creatures? " We are all born from the blood. Made man by the blood. Undone by the blood. The blood made us human. Make us more than human and make us human no more." Said provost Willem. I have had a hard time trying to cut my blood intoxication and now this.
When I'm at the base entrance, I let it rest in a nearby house for my house is too small for it to fit in. Seeing the giant from afar, Lizzie shows up with a Piercing Rifle and a worried face.
" That.. That thing. It's harmless isn't it?" She stammers when looking at the Nightmare Executioner.
" It's wounded and quite harmless" I reply " And I thought you would do the same."
She rolls her eyes at me for a second and smiles weakly" Yeah, I would do the same. Oh, I found a wounded giant killing machine of the Healing Church. I should nurse it back to health. What could possibly go wrong?"
" It will be Ok. I promise" I wrap her my tendrils around her neck and give her a hearty hug.
" Are you grievously wounded, Luna?" She asks while noticing blood-drenched attire.
" Just some scratches. The blood is from the beasts." I tell her and we walk inside.
Tending a wounded Nightmare Executioner is hard. He cannot speak and he eats two-thirds of our smoked rat for dinner.
The next day I come back to the battleground yesterday for crystalised blood only to find that the bodies of the blood-starved beasts have been drained of blood. Draining five beast bodies in ten hours is a hard work and must be done by a group of hunters- the Ritual Blood harvesters! Then, the nightmare executioners and the beasts must be lured into the smae area to fight to their death. And perhaps my appearance wasn't expected. I quickly duck and after casting my gaze around a few times to make sure I'm not followed by anyone, I decided to traverse the unexplored abandoned farm houses outside Hemwick where I fought the giant Abhorrent Beast in the waking world. After two hours of walking in plain sight, I'm quite pleased to find that these farmhouses aren't there and nobody follows me. Perhaps the farms are built later than the time this nightmare was conceived. I search the nearby grassland and luckily find some wild dandelions. I fill my backpack with the harvested greens and uproot some to grow near my dwelling. Dandelions don't require much care so I plan on having them growing in abundance around the Dry Dock- where I live. A perennial plant, its leaves will grow back if the taproot is left intact. I found some blooming dandelions seed heads and tuck them in my backpack as well. Another hour of walking and I find a scene of carnage. Many bloody messes and broken weapon lay here and there on the decrepit street. The carnage was done by a giant beast for the footsteps are huge and the loot are intact. The flesh and the blood are still fresh. On a dead tree, lays half a body of a hunter. It seems he jumped on the tree to avoid the jaw of the beast but it was too late. I do a quick search and find three pounds of biskets, some medicinal bottles that are lucky enough not to be smashed, five sun-dried Labyrinth Rats and a broken Gatling Gun.This amount of food isn't enough for the giant to make a decent super let alone the girls. I should find something for the giant to eat or else we would starve.
" The flesh! The tasty-looking flesh!" I pick up a severed limb and wonder if the wounded giant home could eat this meat. To think, the Nightmare Executioners that roam this land are huge, they must eat a lot, and what can be found in abundance here are blood-thirsty and flesh-hungry beasts. I heard that a scholar in the new world, whose name might be Darwin, claimed that mankind evolves from apeman which in turn evolved from certain kind of anthropoids. His research was declared heresy by some Catholic churches but the scientific proof is undeniable. I heard that it is acceptable to eat monkeys in the eastern land. So, could it be acceptable to use human as food for a higher ladder of evolution? That thinking sends a shiver down my spine, but I pick the limbs up anyway, tie them behind my back and return home.
On the way back to home, I'm lucky enough to find bushes of low-growing sea buckthorns or seaberries growing in a semi-desert hillside. Sophia wrote that in ancient times, leaves and young branches from sea buckthorn were supposedly fed as a remedy to horses to support weight gain and appearance of the coat. I carefully uproot the bushes and wrap them in my coat to bring them home. Now being quite over-encumbered, I try to avoid the blood drunk hunters and the beast by travelling in the River of blood and sluggishly drag the loot back to my garden. The rest of the journey is uneventful save for the cursed-stench comes from the blood in the river. Before I go inside, I bring the dandelion seed heads out and blow them to disperse the seeds. Some see the plant as a weed, some see it as a wish.
I watch as the dandelion seeds being carried away by the wind, over the dead willow trees, to the sky above our head where the cosmos lies.