So, here's the next chapter of Yharnam Animagus. The main story is inching closer to being published, at 7 chapters so far, but I want to write more than my usual 8 chapter threshold before I publish it, as I want more Harry/Doll fluff, and to get to the events of the game proper at least.
Still, we get, aside from Harry, the Doll and Gehrman in the Hunter's Dream, we have a rather amusing scene between Micolash and Patches at the start...
A week later…
Micolash was many things. He was the head of the School of Mensis, an immensely intelligent and resourceful man, and, though he would probably attack anyone who called him such, absolutely bugfuck insane and lacking in morals. It didn't help that his current place of residence was a nightmare realm that included buildings that once belonged to Byrgenwerth. But he felt right at home in the Nightmare Frontier, and the new Mensis, even if he was pretty much its sole member now.
"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…plant eyes on our brain to cleanse us of our beastly idiocy…" Suddenly, Micolash, in the middle of his litany, felt a twinge in his hand. He looked down at the bandaged hand. Even in a dream, he was still prey to frailties of flesh, despite his attacker being a damned raven. Even in reality, it should have healed more. In a dream, Micolash should have been able to heal it with but a thought.
And the thought made him angry. A raven, a damned beast, dared to hurt him, the greatest mind to ever come from Byrgenwerth?! His face, confined behind the Mensis Cage he wore, twisted into a snarl of fury.
And as if to make things worse, he heard an unwelcome sound. A jeering cackle, like that of a hyena. He certainly felt that appellation suited the newcomer more than what he had become. "My, my, Micolash, are you still sore over what that raven did to you?"
Micolash turned in his chair, where he had been contemplating the cosmos. "Patches," he sneered. "What an unexpected pleasure, though I am sure the pleasure is all your own."
Patches cackled once more. His head was that of a bald man, with beady eyes. But that head sprouted from a spider's body. Patches had been one of the more ambitious members of the School of Mensis, backstabbing his way to the top. His favourite method, it was rumoured, was pushing rivals off the tops of buildings, or down into Yharnam's sewers.
Patches hadn't had his brain stillborn like many who participated in the ritual. He'd become a Nightmare Apostle, with others of his number scuttling around nearby. However, he'd broken away from Mensis, allying himself with one of the more powerful members of the Amygdala Great Ones. For someone who professed to have a hatred of clerics in his past life, he had a sycophantic, worshipping nature towards the Amygdala.
"Of course it is. While it ain't pleasurable to see your ugly mug still stuck in its birdcage, seeing you in some distress is funny."
Micolash scowled. "Did you come here to mock me, Patches? Only, I believe your master's phallus needs fellating urgently."
"Goes to show what you know, Mr Scholar. Amygdala reproduces asexually(1)." The loathsome spider hybrid then looked at him seriously. "If you must know, we found out where our little birdy flew the coop to. I doubt we'll be getting him back now. Somehow, he made it to Gehrman."
"The Hunter's Dream?" Micolash asked. "How the blazes did he end up there?"
"Amygdala suspects something, but he has not deigned to share it with me," Patches said, shrugging, or as best as he could with his arachnid body.
"Sharing anything with you is a mistake, Patches," Micolash declared.
"But that's not the reason you don't share with me, is it?" Patches jeered. "Little Micolash, who wants cosmic knowledge, and all for himself. And yet, he's a failure."
Micolash snapped, firing off the Augur of Ebrietas at Patches, who leapt onto a wall with a yelp to avoid the tentacles lashing at him from a hole in space. "I am not a failure. I was on the verge of a breakthrough with that transfigured mage, and yet…"
"You got cocky, and let him fool you," Patches sneered, before he leapt onto another wall as the tentacles lashed out once more, gouging a hole in it. "Ooh, temper temper…you fail to keep a lid on your temper, Micolash."
"And you fail to keep your tongue from wagging, Patches," Micolash retorted.
"Oh, and you want to know what else you failed at? I mean, remember the Doll that Hunter told you about, shortly before you pulled us here? How you attempted to recreate her? Now, what do those prototypes you've got wandering around outside do again? Oh, right, they drive you nuts if you get too close to them. Ugly fuckers too, just like the Brain of Mensis. I mean, surely you could have made them look more like Lady Maria? I'd want to fuck them then, but as they are now, the only person who'd fuck them is you. Then again, that's probably the only way you'd lose your virginity."
That did it. Micolash whipped out A Call Beyond, using the engineered phantasm to fire off a supernova in miniature at Patches. Patches survived, scurrying out of the study in the nick of time. The study, though, got badly damaged.
Patches then stuck his head through the door. "Nearly got me that time, Mr Scholar. Better get the maid in, this room's a mess! Be seeing you!"
The howl of Micolash, in utter fury rather than insane rapture, could be heard throughout the Nightmare of Mensis. Of course, this caused even more crying from the formless Mergo, the Great One acting as the foundation for this nightmare realm, and Micolash found himself being punished by the Wet Nurse of that being. Patches laughed himself sick when he heard of this. One had to get one's humour where one could when one was the servant to an eldritch abomination in a nightmare realm…
In the Hunter's Dream, Gehrman would not have appreciated such an attitude. He couldn't look on the funny side of being shat on from a great height while enthralled to the Moon Presence. In this case, being shat on was quite literal.
Gehrman missed many things about life in mundane reality. The sun on his face, the sounds of people moving about their business, the taste of a hard liquor on his tongue and the burn of it going down his gullet. He even missed birdsong.
What he didn't miss, however, was the croak of a raven, and the feeling of bird shit dripping down his face.
Gehrman's mental faculties were affected somewhat, not only by his advanced years, but also decades of being trapped in a dream reality with only a poor simulacrum of his crush for company. The Moon Presence didn't count. True, Gehrman played up his senility somewhat towards his charges here, and he had genuine moments of forgetfulness and vacuity. But he was still sharper than he seemed.
The damned Doll had found a pet. The fact that a raven had somehow made it into the Dream was absurd, and yet, here it was. The damn thing had befouled his favourite volume of How to Talk to Fair Maidens, and he had shot at it in response. He deserved just restitution for that, dammit! And it got worse when he berated the Doll. Then the damned bird came after him with a vengeance, to the amusement of the Doll, and of his gaoler, he was sure.
He despised them. Despising the Moon Presence was self-explanatory. It was what kept him here, when he foolishly bargained with it, with Laurence's help.
But the Doll? That had been his passion project, to replicate Maria. True, he had fetishized her somewhat, and he knew that if she found out, she'd tear him a new orifice or ten. But he would think that worth it when the Moon Presence offered to bring the Doll to life. He had expected Maria. What he got was a passive thing, little more than an automaton with Maria's face and voice, but none of her strength of will and body.
And that was before the Moon Presence told him the truth about the Doll. What had gone into creating her. And now, Gehrman despised her, completely and utterly.
For a time, he'd made a game of abusing her in many ways that would have made men and women alike blanch in disgust, had they not known her true nature. But that soon palled, and she remained loyal to him, with perhaps their mutual gaoler erasing her memories of those events. Instead, he felt that ignoring her when she wasn't pandering to his needs was the best revenge. That, and making sure that anything she could enjoy within the Dream, he would destroy. He even suggested that the Hunters who became bound to the Dream used her, if they wished. They only used her in that she helped channel the Blood Echoes that strengthened them. He remembered that woman with the dark skin, Eileen, slapping him, rather hard. Ah, she was a spirited one, like Maria.
But not like the Doll.
This defiance was still concerning. Quiet though it was, it still seemed rather out of character. Gehrman had a duty to the Dream, to the Hunters, or else he would have tried harder to defy the Moon Presence. And the Doll was his servant. If she couldn't be Maria, or anything but an abomination animating and sullying his finest work, then that's what she should be, his servant. It was what he deserved. And yet, getting a pet was bad enough. She already held too much affection for those damnable Messengers. But a pet which went out of his way to attack him?
Gehrman decided that, if he managed to catch the damn thing, he would wring its damned neck in front of her. Punishing her was what was needed. Yes…
The Doll was unaware of the dark thoughts being bent against her, and her newfound companion. Pet was not the right word. Companion sounded better. True, she knew Gehrman despised her new companion, and the feeling was, if not mutual, then reciprocated to some degree. She knew that Gehrman had taken potshots at Harry, and Harry had retaliated with…excrement. She found the latter quite amusing.
But she doubted that things would get too heated. Gehrman made his attitude towards her plain, but Hunters who passed through the Dream were spared his ire…unless they refused his demand for them to submit their lives to him. She had only seen it happen once. And the Moon Presence had allowed Harry to be here. In fact, something told her, some instinct, that the Moon Presence would be rather displeased with Gehrman if he succeeded in hurting or even killing Harry.
Gehrman was currently reading, and as he often did when doing so, had demanded to be left alone. So she went to find Harry, who usually perched in the large tree overlooking the field of flowers. And so it was, with him peering down at her with those beautiful emerald eyes of his.
The Doll was not stupid. While she knew ravens were intelligent, she was sure that this one had a human intelligence. And the Hunters who passed through the Dream had regaled her with tales of all sorts of transformations, albeit mostly caused by the Beastly Scourge. Was a human who had become a raven so farfetched?
Harry flew down, allowing her to catch him, and gather him to her bosom. "Are you well, Harry?" she said.
The croak he replied with could be considered affirmative. She also thought that, if he could blush, he was probably doing so. Her gesture was somewhat intimate, she knew, from her admittedly poor understanding of human behaviour.
She giggled. While a few Hunters who passed through the Dream had cultivated a rather intimate relationship, they always held back from more than hugs and chaste kisses. Perhaps it was the knowledge that she wasn't human, or maybe because the Hunt was a greater concern.
"…I wish you were human, perhaps like you once were," the Doll said. "Actually, once, I heard an intriguing tale from a man who became a Hunter here. Yamamura, a man from the East, he once told me of a parable of a land he passed through. There was once a philosopher who dreamed he was a butterfly, and when he woke, he wasn't sure whether he was a man who dreamed he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming that he was a man(2)."
The raven twisted in her embrace to shoot her a look. The Doll shrugged. "I am merely offering an interesting philosophical point. Are you a raven that dreamt that he was human, or a human that is stuck as a raven? Sometimes, I too have dreams of being something else, someone else, graceful, nurturing, powerful…but I wake, and the illusion is shattered. Or perhaps this is the dream, and my other life is real. This is a dream, after all."
Another croak, apparently reassuring in tone. "Hmm…oh, how I wish I could speak to you properly. It's…lonely here. Gehrman…I respect him, but he does not enjoy my company. And the Messengers…they do not speak. They are sweet, even if they do not appear so to most, but…great conversationalists, they are not." She looked around the cloudy sky of the Dream, and muttered, "Though I fear that subjects are lacking here. But what stories could you tell me? Every Hunter that passed through this Dream told me their stories, of their lives. But their stays, while long, were also so fleeting. Is that not strange? I would like a friend who could stay. No…I wish I could have such a friend…but…"
Suddenly, the Doll felt something. She couldn't tell whether it was within her or the raven…or both. The body of the bird began to flare and glow in her hands, and soon, everything went white…
Gehrman didn't know what that blast of light was that he glimpsed while he was trying to read, but he knew that the Doll, that damned bird, or both were to blame. Wheeling his chair out of the Workshop, he carefully navigated the garden with it, heading towards the field of flowers, where he had given mercy to a number of Hunters. "Doll?!" he snapped querulously. "What in blazes was that?!"
"That was me."
Gehrman blinked, as someone approached the gate, someone who most definitely was not the Doll. He was thin, lanky, haggard, dressed in tattered rags that reminded him of the Byrgenwerth uniform. The boy, he realised, appeared to be in his late teens, with a messy shock of black hair, emerald eyes glaring at him from behind thick glasses. A lightning bolt-shaped scar marred his forehead just above his right eye.
With a start, Gehrman realised some things. Firstly, the boy's eyes were like those of that damned bird. And secondly, glossy black feathers stood out haphazardly from his scalp amongst his hair. The Doll was hurrying up behind him, looking to apparently head off any conflict before it started up.
"…Who the devil are you?" Gehrman asked, less querulously than before. He got the distinct feeling that pissing him off was a bad idea, and while he could win any battle coming up, he didn't fight unnecessary battles.
"I'm Harry Potter, the one you kept taking potshots at. Now…I want to know where I am, and how I can get home…"
CHAPTER 1 ANNOTATIONS:
Oh dear. Harry's regained his human form, and is PISSED. Looks like Gehrman's going to need every last one of his diplomatic skills to avoid a stoush. Plus, Micolash and Patches trading verbal barbs.
Now, a lot of you may be taking issue with how I am treating Gehrman and his relationship with the Doll. Leaving aside my plans for the Doll (which will throw his attitude towards her into a new light), the lore of Bloodborne and how much of a relationship Gehrman has with the Doll in particular is vague, though that's par for the course for any From Software game, isn't it?
Even at its best possible interpretation, I view the relationship Gehrman has with the Doll as an unhealthy one. He created her as basically a replacement for Maria (the game specifically calls it a mania), and his line of the Hunter being able to use 'the Doll, if it pleases you', has rather unpleasant connotations, especially given the rather sly and lascivious tone he says it in. The possibility that the Doll, one of the sweetest characters in the game, may have been raped by a past Hunter or even Gehrman himself, is an unpleasant one to say the least.
The TV Tropes page on the Doll pointed out her similarities to Rei Ayanami, my favourite character from Neon Genesis Evangelion, and I compared Gehrman to Gendo. Even in this incarnation, though, Gehrman is better than Gendo. He's far less selfish, and actually rather selfless, as he more or less tethered himself to the Dream of his own free will, even if his pact is a Faustian one. And he does have a fairly good reason to despise the Doll in this story, but it's been blown out of proportion. And it's not just because she's a failed copy of Maria. You'll learn why in good time.
That being said, the next chapter will show Gehrman in a better light, towards Harry at least.
1. This is my riff on a line from Dragonball Z Abridged, specifically Episode 12. When Cui asks where a newly-healed Vegeta is off to in a hurry, Vegeta snarks that he's off to plough Cui's mother, with Cui retorting that Vegeta knows nothing, as his species reproduces asexually. And for all we know, given that we see multiple Amygdalas (Amygdalae?) in the game, who's to say that isn't actually the case?
2. The Doll is referring to the real anecdote related by Zhuang Zhou, and an interesting story about existentialism and dreams.