I messed around with indentation in this fic, so if you want to see the original version of this, with that included, check it on on my Ao3 (I_prefer_the_term_antihero).
Obviously the lore in this game is very hidden and up for interpretation, so this fic in part has to do with my personal interpretation of things, so please keep that in mind!
I know there's a theory about the Doll being a Great One/Avatar out there (haven't read up about it much through), but currently I find there's something rather beautiful about the Doll truly just being a doll, who is genuinely kind, and just trying to help us out, because the game has little to no other characters like /
I also know whether or not we are "good" is definitely up for great debate, but I'm the kind of person who likes to see/read redemption into everything, so this is just my rather optimistic interpretation of events.
Also, I don't necessarily ship the Hunter and the Doll, but I do think it's a cute ship and enjoy content for it...So you're free to interpret the internal monologue as platonic or romantic, whichever you prefer.
This is one of the only times I've used second person, so go easy on me...I chose second person because I didn't find third or first nearly as compelling for it.
Please note I'll likely add to/edit this fic-especially the end! I wrote the end rather quickly.
I'd really really appreciate it if you could leave a review! They seriously do make my week, and give me the motivation to keep writing!
"Good Hunter of the Church,
"have you seen the thread of light?"
What is it you desire?"—
Not a greeting, nor title.
No adjectives or addendums like 'holy' or 'accursed,' 'beast,' or 'man.' Not a crow, or a wolf, or an avenger, or a knight. Nor a roar of what you hunted.
A lonely hunter without a name, or a word.
Just a hunter, who may or may not be good.
And it was a doll, a doll who had a dreamer, but was equally lonely—
Is this all in my mind? Did I dream her up?
It was this Doll who said you were good, every time you arrived in the dream, always ready to turn your desires, the echoes of a scourge, into strength.
She said it faithfully, and it was not easy to recognize when she said it, it wasn't a greeting, or a title.
It was a prayer.
Because she had watched a thousand "good hunters" walk through the dream, and a thousand fall. A thousand keep her company, a thousand ask for her to make them stronger with the echoes of their killing. A thousand become drunk with blood, trapped in a very different dream, that some might call nightmare. And a thousand become something other than a hunter…something other than good.
A thousand graves.
Graves for the ones who woke up.
So with a title she prayed to the moon that this one—this one—would be good.
That's all she needed. That's all any of them ever needed; one good man.
The title 'hunter' was meant to be synonymous with good. A force of holiness to purge the impurity. …But their name became equivalent with evil. Or maybe it was from the very start.
The spreading corruption burned.
Before the blood parched their lips and ravaged their bones. After. At the end of the day, we're all human. At the end of the day, we're all beasts.
Born of the blood… undone by the blood…
So she—inhuman, human—she prayed that one day there would be a hunter who could fight the monsters and not become one. That the blood wouldn't burn and coil and wrap its tendrils around them, twist them inside out, and make them something more than just a "good hunter"…and so much less. She cast goodness over you, as if reminding you not to give in to the beast. Not to give in to your humanity. Reminding you that though you were a hunter, though you were drenched in blood, with heart full of holes, and brain full of eyes, you could still be good.
She put her hands together and she prayed. She prayed, and she helped you on your journey, she channeled death into strength, she whispered, and she tended to frail, living flowers, and feeble, dying, old men, and she cried.
Any god-fearing man, not burdened with an overabundance of naiveté, would know that dolls don't whisper. They don't ask if you love them. They don't move. They can't help. They don't pray. And they definitely don't cry.
Dolls sit lifeless on the floors of children's nurseries, and the abandoned workshops of bitter, maniacal, old men.
Is this just a dream? Will I know you when I wake?
What's waking worth without you?
If the gods don't love me I still promise to love you.
You watched human hands twist into claws, skin into fur, faces into tentacles, tongues into snakes, and eyes into eyes, and wondered if perhaps this doll, with her porcelain skin and hair, with her tears and prayer, if she was more human than the rest. This doll—who asked about gods and love, who cared for you, who hoped even the worst hunters might be worth something in another, better world—was more human than the offspring of an old, forgotten town. More human than we, who are born and die by the blood.
How was she born, and how would she die? What caused her to breathe, to come alive? Was it just our minds, some ill-gotten, internal eyes? Was something so primitive as hope or love? Or was it the twisted will of some faceless moon without a man in it?
Is it just me?
Is it my mind?
Tell me she's more than children's toys, and old men's dreams.
Tell me she's real.
Could something made of metal and mechanics, and the puppet strings of our own minds die?
Do dreams die when we wake up?
Or, in the end when men are all either monsters or gods, would she stand in the wreckage, the only real, awake thing left…the only thing left that's still human?
When men become gods, do our creations become human?
She watched them fall. She watched them reach for bare threads of guiding moonlight with human hands, and howl at the same moon with a wolf's cry, and she still had enough hope left in her to call you "good hunter." To believe that you would be different.
Did she say this to everyone? Did she hope every time? Or was it just you? And which meant more? If she hoped despite just how many had failed, or if she saw something different within you alone?
Here you stood, steeped in the blood of beasts. Ugly thing. Killer. Cold and merciless.
And she called you good.
Did that mean she saw the blood, and the murder, and thought it was good? Or that she looked past all that and saw the good still?
How could she, a doll, an echo herself, know what it meant to be good?
Perhaps she was made by someone who had seen a world with good left in it. Or a world which was evil, but in which there was someone like her, who encompassed all the good in the world to him.
Perhaps that's what she was to you too. The good. The human left. Without her you may never keep fighting. You had no one else, after all. Your friends were either mad, or intoxicated, or destined to die, or destined for…worse.
Is she just a trick of the moonlight?
She was the embodiment of hope.
You tried to be good. For her. For the world. They all did. But most became drunk on blood, or knowledge, and lost themselves along the way.
What is it you desire?
It always starts good. Goals, on paper, always seem so noble. In practice, so bloodthirsty.
Laurence made a church. A force of holiness and healing. And he turned the city into a madhouse, a cage for monsters.
Wilhelm made a school. A place of mindfulness and learning. And he dabbled in rituals to hide the moon.
The old hunters thought stealing a child wouldn't incite the wrath of its mother.
They all thought the world could be saved, that the plague could end through quarantine or amputation.
When they cut off the diseased heads the blood only spread. When they stayed in their houses they went insane instead.
The world needed more than a simple fix to return to being "good."
The hunters thought they were fighting for a noble cause. They thought they were all good…and they turned into the very beasts they fought, awaiting another hunter to spill their blood, and start the cycle again.
The hunters only did what they could; keep killing. That was all they knew to do to get rid of the the beasts in this brick forest.
They needed a hunter who would break the cycle. Do more than just kill and give in to the call of the blood. Who would seek the paleblood, and end this dreadful night.
Transcend the hunt.
But how to eclipse the chase when evolution without courage is the name of ruin?
A hunter who would look beyond today's night, today's hunt, today's beasts. Beyond the blood. Resist its seduction. A hunter who could learn where all this started, find it. And do what hunters do best:
—(For sometimes death is freedom, at least when it's a dream)—
Seek the paleblood. Hunt the great ones.
—(And sometimes waking up is far worse.)
The formless blood wanted to have a child. Perhaps he thought he was giving those he chose a gift of a sort. Only horror followed.
Every great one loses its child.
One particular woman, long ago, held the name of this broken town. Perhaps it was only fitting that the child of blood and name was born in voice alone.
This child's formless cries echoed through more than the nightmare; through the waking world—(if you had enough eyes, at least)—calling you to comfort it, to silence it.
Could everyone in the town hear it? Is that what drove them mad? Listening to a child's endless cries, with no hope of comforting it?
Many had tried to contact it. Some tried to become gods…and misplaced their minds in the process. But you found it. Knowing it was not to be exalted, but destroyed.
You were a hunter after all.
So you killed the only thing keeping it alive, the thing desperately trying to play a lullaby and sing it to sleep.
You yourself played a tiny music box for it, from the beginning of it all—that belonged to a family ravaged by the blood, the hunt, which held a song about love and loss—just to hear it laugh, before the nightmare let out it last.
Cords of thirds. Cords of three.
One from the child of voice. One from the child of night. One from the child stolen long ago, sitting in an old, abandoned workshop.
A workshop alive now only in hunters' dreams.
You could have left your own nightmare long ago. You could have woken from this dream and believed the world was not so dark, not so strange, not so fascinating.
But this wasn't the only nightmare you had to liberate.
There was another, another for which all not-so-good hunters were destined—(and thus you too if the Doll's prayers were in vain). They sent you there with a piece of a drunken man before you yourself became, inevitably, intoxicated, in this bloody bar, so that you could, perhaps navigate sleeping minds with your sanity in tact.
We, the offspring of an old, forgotten secret. Destined and bound by the chase.
So our forefathers sinned?
Ludwig thought he was holy, fighting for a noble cause, and he stood, accursed, in a bath of the blood he spilled, trampling the ghosts of those he killed.
Is it possible there exist moonlight in even the darkest nights?
When we reach for the thread of light, none of us ever want to know what it truly is. Hope can be so vicious that way.
The church turned their eyes from their hands.
All too often, when men try to become gods—or something akin—they become monsters. There's a reason the moon is out of our reach.
Laurence thought the blood would heal. That the gods wouldn't mind a little thievery. He thought they could keep their humanity in tact, as long as they prayed hard enough.
And he watched the world burn. Watched his hope turn his universe into a waking, walking nightmare. And he burned in his own broken Neverland, ever searching for his own lost, rotted humanity.
Maria, beloved apprentice Maria—
…Is that you, my dear Doll?
Who was there from the beginning. Who vowed to forsake the blood—including her own. Maria, so sickened by her actions, who threw the hunt down a well. Who vowed to in death to be the hunt's secret keeper, and sat, alone, a lonely princess at the top of the clock tower, alive by the puppet strings of a nightmare—
She sacrificed herself, her values, to purge you from the plague of wild curiosity.
A corpse should be left well enough alone.
And at last, behind time, was a quaint, sad, little village, that lay dripping with secrets, ransacked for its eyes.
A quaint little village where it all started. Where the sky wept, and sun collapsed in on itself, and the great lake held too soft and depraved a secret.
Every great one loses its child…but this one lost his mother.
A quaint little village where a sympathetic mother fell from the stars. Where her child was ripped from her, dissected for parts, by the very people you once thought were good.
The wrath of an angry god is to be feared. But the wrath of a sympathetic god is far worse.
And the wrath of a mother is a lasting curse.
Death is freedom, at least in a dream. But when waking up is far worse, we rewrite the past within our dreams.
This was an orphans dream, pulling the hunt into a nightmare, as he waited to be freed from reality, as he waited for a hunter to rewrite the sins of their ancestors.
As he waited for a good man.
And the spirit thanked you. And the hunt thanked you.
And the Doll thanked you, for a shackle she never even knew was there had been lifted. She thanked you on behalf of the first hunter, for he slept a little sounder.
But there was one last dream that needed slaying:
You could have woken long ago. You could have forsaken it all for the sunrise, and left someone else to find the answers, left someone else to be good.
It would have been nice to believe the world made sense.
It would have been nice to believe the dark side of the moon wasn't made of blood and bones, haunting a poor, old man.
Few dreams offer you the choice to die before the bad part starts—(or perhaps simply to put an end to all the 'bad parts' you've gone through, to negate the possibility of more). But you would not bow to a happy, false reality.
Neither would you allow yourself to be taken captive by the nameless presence of the moon, made to perpetuate this hunt endlessly.
You understood the word "hunter" was never synonymous with good. They lost that title before the hunt even started. They lost that title when a little orphan was stolen from his mother.
You understood at last. It was her. Maria. The one who threw her weapon down the well in protest. She—(or at least, a version of her)—stood by your side, trying to guide you back all this time. Trying to guide you back to the beginning, where perhaps her sins could be atoned for. Where perhaps there could be good still.
So in a lonely field full of flowers, it was not you who were released from the dream.
You had enough eyes to see and slay the presence of the moon, who had orchestrated this all.
We're all just puppets of the moon.
…But a cord of three strands is not so easily broken.
So in the end you neither woke nor dreamed, but saw the world as it was—though through newborn eyes. A child of the hunt. A child of the dream. Not destined to create a nightmare…but perhaps a better reality.
When the Doll picked up your small body, she smiled at last. She knew you'd succeeded, for this was unlike any hunter's death, or transformation, she knew. She knew you'd atoned for the sins of your predecessors. She knew you'd freed the children, the nightmares, and the men.
And she called you "good hunter" still. For she knew the gods listened to her prayers after all. She knew that though you were a hunter no more—
You were certainly good.
Once again, if you'd consider commenting, I'd really appreciate it!
I've been thinking about writing a couple more fics similar this (for Amelia and Djura...maybe a few others), and then a more plot-based, multi-chapter fic about the Great-One-Hunter's life post-game...Would anyone be interested in those? Please let me know! Considering I'm almost done with the game, I can feel my obsession dwindling again XD So if you want any of those written, please tell me!