IT'S FAR FROM OVER
Snape had to admit, of all the things that he was expecting to go through when that Amygdala thing captured him, having tea in a nightmare dimension with a lunatic wearing a birdcage on his head wasn't one of them. It was at least somewhat pleasant: Micolash was a raving lunatic of the highest order, on a par with the Dark Lord, but unlike the Dark Lord, Micolash had a genuine sense of hospitality. Not to mention he was a man of considerable intellect: while Snape couldn't say he was interested in dream realities until now, he actually had a fruitful discussion with the madman on the nature of reality.
Despite himself, Snape could see that he had more than a few things in common with Micolash. The intellect, and the feeling of being stifled as such, the smartest men in the room, but being treated with contempt. Being beholden to a more powerful master (Micolash, at least, was content with being the lackey of the Wet Nurse of Mergo, and Snape couldn't argue with that, what with Great Ones being near-deities). And, of course, a shared hatred of Harry Potter, not to mention Patches, who had revealed that the raven that had injured Micolash was Harry.
If only he'd stop beseeching Kos (or some say Kosm, according to Micolash) for eyes. It was getting old. As in, older than Dumbledore.
Micolash was peering out the window of his study, at the red-tinged moon hanging in the sky. "You know, I have a good feeling about tonight."
"Rom is no more. The rituals of the Great Ones she hid are bare for all to see, a paleblood moon shining down on all," Micolash said, with an air akin to religious fervour. He was deadly serious, and while most madmen were, Snape knew that Micolash was not truly delusional. "Her influence hindered my plans, and those of my masters. Apotheosis awaits, Snape. Godhood, to roam the cosmos at will. Perhaps I can persuade them to grant you such power too."
Snape grimaced. "And who's to guarantee that they will follow through with such promises?"
"I have served them faithfully, Snape. And even if they do not grant me apotheosis, then living here for eternity is a good enough reward. Immortality, Snape, an eternity to read and research…I am yet to read all the books that were brought here, to learn all there is to discover…" His eyes glimmered feverishly. "I can fill centuries with that. Most would call this Hell, a nightmarish realm, but to me, this is the best kind of Heaven!" He flung his arms wide and cackled madly. "Do you not understand? Willem, Laurence, Gehrman, Rom, Archibald, Paarl, Caryll…I will surpass them all if I haven't already! I will be the most learned man in all the world! That is an apotheosis of its own kind."
Snape actually did agree with the sentiment to some degree. But he also felt that Micolash was utterly barmy. True, many of Snape's pleasures were intellectual, but there were others that were more sensual and base, not that he'd ever admit them to be such.
Unbidden, his thoughts turned to Lily. A fantasy of bedding her, while Potter and Potter were bleeding out, came to mind. It was what he deserved, after all these years of suffering under the yoke of so many masters and expectations. He did what was asked of him, the bare minimum. He deserved more than chattel slavery.
"Still, the thought that your Potter boy is the current Hunter bound to the Dream is a concerning one," Micolash mused. "Killing him will do little good. What little I admittedly know of the process means that every time he is killed, he either comes back to life at one of a number of arcane lanterns, or can retreat to the Hunter's Dream. And I only know that much because Patches lured a Hunter here once. Eventually, they gave up and fled this plane. In addition, a Hunter can will themselves to return to the lantern or the Dream at the cost of their Blood Echoes."
"…I wonder if wards designed to prevent teleportation of any kind would work," Snape mused in his turn, trying to dissect the problem intellectually.
"I doubt it. There are levels of the arcane, and your wizarding magic may not affect the power of the Great One behind the Dream. Maybe Amygdala may know something," Micolash remarked. "Of course, being a Hunter does not protect him from mental attack, and you said that he was subjected to those Dementor things. The Winter Lanterns we have can certainly inflict madness on him, madness and derangement, as does the Brain of Mensis that acts as our sentinel. Once he's weakened…well, we can cage him. I've always wanted to vivisect a Hunter bound to the Dream." Micolash's smile, already a touch too wide and toothy, became even more deranged.
Snape would have dismissed him as insane, but it was appealing. Maybe once weakened, he was vulnerable to the Imperius too. But then, he said, "What of the Doll?"
"Well, if she ends up here, then that works too," Micolash said. "But I doubt she would join him on his sojourns, which is a shame. I'd love to vivisect her too…"
It made for a strange and surreal tableau. On a pebbled beach lay the vast, aquatic creature that was once the body of Kos. Next to it sat a trio of forms, a pale-skinned and haired woman, a young man with dark hair and emerald eyes, and a pale form that, even now, was warping and changing its form. Another trio of forms looked on from what they hoped was a safe distance.
"There, there," Kos cooed as her child finished his transformation, coaxed gently by his mother. Harry had been wary of being there, but Kos herself had encouraged him to be there. "Take it slowly, my child."
The Orphan of Kos looked up at his mother. Harry was astonished by how drastically the Great One hybrid had changed. Instead of looking like a grotesque humanoid, he now looked…well, human. An inhuman kind of human, but he didn't seem so monstrous anymore.
Like Kos and Maria, the ex-Orphan now had the pale skin and white hair of the Cainhurst Vilebloods, and framing feminine features. In fact, he reminded Harry disturbingly of the Bloody Crow, though the ex-Orphan's skittish demeanour was a contrast to the Bloody Crow's casual sadism and insanity. An odd detail was that the ex-Orphan had the same colour eyes as he did. He appeared to be in his mid-teens, and had been coaxed by Kos into transforming part of his body to mimic clothing, robes that reminded Harry of the scraps of flesh that looked vaguely like wings.
The ex-Orphan looked at his mother. A croak of some attempt to speak came from his lips. Kos gently placed a finger to his forehead. "Here, a gift from your mother, long overdue. Speak in this tongue, my child."
The ex-Orphan's eyes rolled up in the back of his head, before his gaze fixed back onto her own. "…Mother?" he asked. It sounded more like an old man's voice speaking from the throat of a teenager. He clasped his throat. "…Why?"
"Because Harry needs to listen to this too. Or do you mean why are they here?" She indicated Maria, Simon and Yamamura.
The ex-Orphan shook his head. "No. Why I speak this tongue. But that was another question. I remember that one, the woman whose mien you bear. Why are they here?"
"We want to stop the Nightmare, or at least cease it chaining you here, my child," Kos said. "I gave you the knowledge of why I could not come sooner."
The ex-Orphan nodded. "I understand. Sometimes, I hated you, that you hadn't come to save me from this…even though this was your will, and that you were dead, Mother…or so I thought." He began to sob.
Harry had to admit that he was surprised at how eloquent the ex-Orphan was once he was able to speak. True, he had to be decades old, but when they first arrived, his demeanour was closer to a skittish animal or an infant. Even when given the gift of language, he assumed the ex-Orphan wouldn't be able to do more than maybe utter a few words at a time. Then again, maybe it was a Great One thing.
Of course, his demeanour was still alien, more so than Kos ever was. There was a flat affect to what he did, seemingly emotionless and stoic when he wasn't crying. Mechanical wasn't quite the right word either.
Kos gently rubbed the back of her child, making soothing noises as she did so. Once he had finished weeping, she said, "Weep not, my child. If I was capable and had remembered you, then I would have come in but a heartbeat. But the Moon Presence's chains were too strong, and even now, I barely remember what I once was."
Harry looked at the remains of Kos' original body. They were seated closer to her head, and he saw that beautiful face, half-hidden by tendrils. Of all the Great Ones he had seen, there was an indisputable beauty to Kos' original form, even if it was an alien one.
He was then startled as the ex-Orphan crawled over to him, confrontingly close. Not aggressively so, but peering into his eyes. There was no anger or hatred in that gaze, just a bizarre curiosity. Not cold, but guarded and intense. "And what of this one?"
"He is a Hunter, bound to the Hunter's Dream. I was his caretaker for a time. Now, I'd like to think we are friends."
"…Is he my father?"
"Your father, I never learned of. But I suppose he could make a good substitute. His name is Harry Potter."
"…Name…I do not have one. I was merely your Orphan," the ex-Orphan said, and despite his flat affect, he seemed morose at that.
"…Vesmir," Kos said(1). "My name has become synonymous with the cosmos. Your name means the same thing in another tongue."
Vesmir rolled the name on his tongue, before he gave a small but sad smile. It was an alien thing, unsuited to being on his face, but Harry could tell it was genuine. "…Thank you, Mother."
"…Okay, so, what now?" Harry asked, looking at Kos expectantly.
"We spend some more time figuring out precisely what to do next," Kos said, gently reaching towards her child's body, and plucking something hard to discern from it. It rippled and warped in her hand, before she crushed it. She gasped, her eyes glowing gently briefly, before returning to normal. The landscape around them seemed to shudder briefly. "I now have control over this realm, some of my stolen power returned to me. Oedon and his lackey did this. However, dealing with them will not be easy. Or rather, dealing with the Moon Presence will not be easy."
"Why not Oedon?"
Kos shot him a look, before she beckoned over the three Hunters. Vesmir tensed, all but hissing at them, especially Maria, like a belligerent cat, but a touch from Kos calmed him, or at least had him putting a restraint on his ire. He did keep behind his mother, though. Not out of true fear, but perhaps wariness.
Simon peered at Vesmir. "How extraordinary. Will he be…?"
"He won't attack you unless you threaten him," Kos said. "But Byrgenwerth's little pogrom left scars on him."
"…I can imagine," Maria said solemnly. "But he looks like my kin."
"I look like my mother!" Vesmir hissed. "Not like your kin."
"Vesmir…" Kos said gently, before returning her gaze to Maria. "Your bloodline was descended from the Pthumerian nobility. We Great Ones were linked to them. I was fond of them, before Oedon and the Moon Presence's meddling caused havoc, starting with Loran, and culminating with Queen Yharnam's attempt to bear Mergo."
Yamamura grimaced. "Kos, with all due respect, the pedigree of the Vilebloods of Cainhurst is irrelevant to the matter at hand. While usurping control of the Hunter's Nightmare from Oedon and the Moon Presence is a laudable goal, the Church and the School of Mensis view this as a sideshow, not the main event, as it were."
"And I believe I know, or can hazard, what it is," Kos said. "Rom's presence acted as a barrier to prevent the School of Mensis from continuing their rituals. I know not what they are doing exactly, only that it centres around Mergo, and Micolash's desire for apotheosis. Perhaps they wish to find a way to incarnate Mergo, left formless by her lineage and miscarriage, into the waking world. Or perhaps they wish to blanket Yharnam, and indeed the rest of the world, in the Nightmare of Mensis. Micolash spoke little of his plans to you, didn't he, Harry?"
"Yeah, he seemed pretty vague, only begging you for eyes," Harry said. "But he did say that those he drew into the Nightmare of Mensis was only the test case."
"Then perhaps that is it. With Rom gone, he may attempt to use the entirety of Yharnam as a sacrifice to empower Mergo, himself, or both and more, and while it may take time to do, with Rom gone, their plans are advancing. We do not know enough about them, though."
"Only that they are insane and malevolent, on a par with anything my brethren at Cainhurst would have cooked up if they had any such inclination," Maria remarked. "Micolash joined the Healing Church not long before my suicide. But even then, I could see the fervour in his eyes, and the ambition. It was like that Laurence possessed, only far more intense and reckless. But for all his faults, Laurence desired nothing more than to help the people. Gaining power through the Healing Church was meant to be a means to an end. Still…I am not sure I can help either of you. While it is possible that I can move between these dream realms, I do not know for certain, and I have my charges to consider. I am responsible for their conditions, it is my duty to ensure they are kept comfortable."
"And if Micolash gains control over all dream realms, even this one?" Kos asked.
"…You have a point," Maria conceded.
"I am not suggesting that you are a coward, Maria," Kos said. "You were a valiant fighter amongst those Hunters who attacked me. In fact, for that very reason, we need you. While many Hunters act alone, we cannot afford to. Our first target will have to be the Nightmare of Mensis. Simon, Yamamura? Are you willing to help?"
Yamamura nodded. "…I fell to the bloodlust of the Bestial Scourge before I died, even if I did not become a beast. In any case, I'm already dead. I probably couldn't leave the dream realms even if I wanted to."
"Still, Yharnam may be getting worse," Simon said. "Harry, you told me that your mother, along with Eileen the Crow, are trying to protect some of those taking refuge in Oedon Chapel? I've had my fill of nightmares, or at least the more metaphysical ones. I feel more at ease fighting physical beasts, and I still number amongst the living. If I can help those still alive…"
Maria nodded. "I understand. Do you agree, Kos?"
"If he wishes to help in the waking world, then that is fine. It is not cowardice to want to help elsewhere," Kos said.
"Still, how do we get to the Nightmare of Mensis?" Maria mused.
"I've been there," Harry said, having thought about the problem. "I've managed to Apparate before, so if I can visualise part of it, I think I can take us there."
"Apparate?" Yamamura asked.
"Teleport," Harry said. He looked around, and noted a lantern, which he activated. "Okay, let's get Simon to Oedon Chapel and touch base with Eileen and my mother, if she's there."
"…I'll stay here with Vesmir for now," Kos said gently, cuddling her child to her. "Go, Harry. We will be waiting for you here."
Harry nodded, and touched the lantern, holding onto Simon. They had definitely entered the endgame, and whatever Micolash's plans were, they needed to be stopped…
"What a marvellously macabre tableau this is," remarked Rookwood, as he peered around the chamber of mummified corpses, each with what looked like a birdcage on their heads. He'd come in here, trying to avoid the horrific amalgamation of corpses, and had barely succeeded. Unfortunately, the libraries were either mostly bare of anything barring smut, or else their entrances were blocked by debris, possibly from Lily's rampage, he wagered.
But this was fascinating. "A large scale ritual that not only created a dream world, but forced those within the ritual space into said dream world," Rookwood mused out loud. "But to what purpose? To meet and treat with a Great One, I wager. Well…no use standing around doing nothing." He approached the most prominent corpse, which he had used a charm earlier to determine that it was a portal of sorts.
"Carpe diem," Rookwood said, before touching the corpse, and vanishing in a strobe of light. All that was left to witness his departure were mummified corpses. But if any had been still living, they would have told Rookwood that his sojourn would be a bridge too far, even for an unscrupulous Unspeakable…
CHAPTER 26 ANNOTATIONS:
So, I got this out earlier than I thought. I was taking a break from this fic for a few reasons. I needed to recharge my batteries for one thing, and for another, I needed to get my head wrapped around the endgame. In order to do so, I needed to pin down the motivations of the two enemy factions. On one side, you have Formless Oedon and the Moon Presence, and on the other, you have Micolash, Snape, Patches, Mergo's Wet Nurse, and the Greater Amygdala. After that, figuring out the plot of the endgame was easier, so hopefully, more will be coming.
In the interim, I finally finished the first Dark Souls game. I'm now grateful I managed to finish the Solaire sidequest, as having his assistance in fighting Gwyn was a great help. So, that's two Soulsborne games I have conquered. I'm resting before I try to finish the other two Dark Souls games, though.
In addition, though I haven't played the game itself, I was inspired by VaatiVidya's lore videos to do a Demon's Souls crossover with the Potterverse, albeit as a oneshot. Given that the Doll and the Maiden in Black share a voice actress, it's fitting that I bring that oneshot up here, especially as the Maiden in Black plays a key role in said oneshot. It's called Paved With Good Intentions.
Now, it's worth pointing out that Micolash may seem philosophical about losing out on godhood, but if he does, he'll actually chuck a major tantrum. He seems more than a little childish in canon. His last words sound like a sulky child, FFS! Rookwood would be more philosophical in actuality.
Speaking of children and tantrums, I wonder how my characterisation of Vesmir went down. We don't see much beyond him sobbing and then fighting you in one hell of a tantrum. Because Kos is with him, he's calmer. I actually viewed him as not unlike Frankenstein's Monster, the literary version, hence his intelligence and eloquence when he's calm and has been given the ability to speak English by his mother. He's still childish, but like a mature child. He's wary and suspicious of Maria and the other Hunters, and very much a mummy's boy. But he doesn't really have much of a personality, partly due to my shitty writing, and partly because, honestly, I don't think he's had much interaction with any other person other than smashing them into the shoreline with his own literally bloody placenta!
Review-answering time! Dragon Man 180: For now, Vesmir is confined to the dream realms. This is not just the Hunter's Nightmare, but the Nightmare Frontier, the Nightmare of Mensis, and the Hunter's Dream. For now, he will remain in the Hunter's Nightmare.
Guest: I don't think Gehrman ever told Harry who he based the Doll off until Harry learned it himself. He brings up Maria and the fact that she was his student, but never told Harry that she was the basis of the Doll, as he thought Harry would call him out on that.
1. In Czech, 'vesmir' means 'cosmos'. Given that Kos or Kosm's name evokes the word 'cosmos', a running theme throughout Bloodborne, I thought it fitting.