@mrslittletall
Doesn't fear the old blood
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2021-06-24 16:11:52
    headcanontheshitoutofsoulsborne

    Bloodborne Chain 2

    Original prompt: The day of Laurence' transformation.

    @mrslittletall

    It was time for the usual morning mass and Laurence was feeling terrible.

    In truth, he had felt terrible for a while now.

    His body had been plagued with fevers that made him feel like he burned from the inside and he swore, sometimes it even felt like he managed to melt things he touched.

    He was suffering from intense nausea that he couldn't stave off... sooner or later he would end up in front of the toilet, or any other receptacle he could reach in time, and vomit out whatever he had eaten prior. The worse thing however, was that the vomit was uncomfortably hot and he sometimes had the feeling that he was throwing up literal lava. Judging by how red it looked, it may have been true, but Laurence still desperately hoped that it was just blood. Which was more than unsettling in its own right, but would be a lot better than what he feared it was.

    The last symptom and the one that made him absolutely sure about which sickness he was suffering from, was the hunger... the desire to bite into anything vaguely human shaped and the times in which he had wanted to dissect a corpse and found himself having stuffed a finger in his mouth... or worse.

    His hands were concealed by gloves. It was usual for him to wear gloves anyway, but in this times and days, he never removed them, because of his prolonged finger nails that reminded him very much of claws.

    It was more than clear for Laurence that he was infected with the beastly scourge, the plague that had befallen Yharnam all this years ago and he didn't know just how much time he had left.

    However, his poor state wasn't a reason to neglect his duties and so he stood up on the gallery to hold the mass like every morning and recited the prayer, until he was at the last few verses.

    “Remain wary of the frailty of men.

    Their wills are weak, minds young.

    Were it not for fear, death would go unlamented.”

    Almost done. Laurence took a deep breath and raised his voice to speak once again.

    “Bless us with-”

    A sharp pain stopped his words and he clasped a hand at his chest, where his heart was. That... that never had happened before. At the same time, the nausea washed over him. Oh no, not here, not in the open, with all the citizens and all the church ministers watching him.

    Already they stared at him, clearly confused why he had stopped. He couldn't... couldn't stay here. Clasping his other hand over his mouth, he turned around to run... only managing a few steps before his body forced him to throw up right where he was, hot reddish vomit seeping through his fingers and hitting the floor with a sizzle.

    “Vicar, what was that?”, he heard a voice next to him, one of the church ministers. More voices joined in soon.

    “Your grace, did you just...?”

    “...That looked like blood...”

    “Are you feeling alright? Should we prepare a blood ministration?”

    Laurence didn't feel ready to speak. He had the feeling when he opened his mouth, that the rest of his breakfast would make it out. He raised a hand, the one that wasn't clasped over his mouth and dismissed them. He didn't need any help. He just needed to be alone.

    Before anyone could say something, Laurence was making a beeline to his office, shutting the door behind him with a loud noise and then... vomited out the rest of his breakfast into a bucket he had positioned there just for this case. I was filled with a little bit of water, to cool down the far too hot vomit. Even now he could see how the water in the bucket started to steam.

    After he was done, Laurence wiped his forehead. The fever was back. He took a few steps back and then practically fell into his chair that was lined up with his desk. His breathing was slow and heavy and he needed a few minutes to even think about pouring himself a glass of water and washing the bad taste in his mouth away.

    He looked down at his desk, where his notes were strewn everywhere. How long had he worked last night? Desperately trying to find a cure that he hadn't managed to find for years? Laurence removed his gloves and looked at his hands, seeing that his fingernails had prolonged even more over the night.

    How much time had he left? Weeks? Days? Hours maybe?

    He raised his head and got up, stepping in front of a mirror that was standing in his office. The claws were not the only clue. He could see the fangs, when he bared his teeth, small, but they were there, as well as his left eye which had started to collapse. One of the earliest signs of the scourge.

    His gaze wandered to his door. After what happened just now, he shouldn't let himself be seen like that. He went to his door and turned the key in the lock, letting it stick before going back to his desk, where he sat down with a frustrated sigh and started to sort through his notes. As long as he still had time, he at least had to try. He wouldn't succumb to the scourge that easily.

    As Laurence sorted his notes, his hand brushed against a certain item. He picked it up and stared at it.

    A failed experiment from the early days of the Healing Church. A rune with which they had tried to control the beastly scourge, to at least let these people remain their humanity, if not their form. He knew that it was futile. The rune wouldn't help him, it would probably simply speed up his transformation.

    Why did he have it still here? He didn't know. Maybe he had tried to base the cure around it. Laurence didn't remember. His memory was often hazy nowadays and so he brushed the rune to the side, instead reading up on the notes he must have worked on yesterday evening.

    There must be a base to start somewhere. He only needed to find it. Wishing to be able to better concentrate, Laurence hooked himself up on a blood ministration. He would need the focus.

    He almost missed the knock on his office door.

    That Laurence had suddenly left the gallery mid prayer had been a cause of concern for Ludwig. He knew that Laurence hadn't been feeling well lately, as hard as he tried to hide it, but that had been the first time he had actively run away before having spoken out the adage to its end.

    While everyone else present was starting to leave after a brief confusion, either going to their shops, workplaces or starting their duties in the church, Ludwig made his way up to the gallery, where he found the church ministers in the middle of a heated discussion.

    “Excuse me, what happened here?”, Ludwig raised his voice to drown out their argument. “Where is Vicar Laurence?”

    “Ah, Sir Ludwig, we were discussing this just now.”, one of the church ministers replied, while several others stared at Ludwig, making him feel like a whole row of eyes stared at him. “He seemed to be in pain and then threw up... it looked like blood.”

    Ludwig had shouldered his holy moonlight sword as usual, but when he heard that, his grip around tightened and his eyes widened. “He did WHAT?! Why has nobody followed him?”

    “He gave us a sign that he would be fine and you know how he is.”, the church minister said. “He would have just sent us away. We were actually just discussing how we could approach him about the issue, because...”

    The church minister pointed at the ground and Ludwig could see that there was clearly a hole burned in the ground, an acidic smell coming from it.

    “Is that where he...?”, Ludwig asked and before he could finish his sentence, the church minister nodded.

    “Yes, where he threw up.”, they finished for Ludwig.

    “That's not good... it's literally burned. I will go and try to talk to him. You stay here. Don't do anything withOUT my approval.” Ludwig waited until all of the church ministers gave him a bow and then made his way to Laurence' office with an uneasy feeling in his stomach.

    As he stood in front of it, he took a deep breath and then knocked at the door. “Laurence? I am going to come in.”, he said and tried to turn the handle, only to notice that the door was locked. “Laurence? Open the door, please.”

    Laurence froze as he recognized the voice outside the door. The voice of Ludwig. Ludwig was the last person Laurence wanted to have in his office right now. He was a Hunter. He would recognize the signs, the signs that Laurence successfully had hidden from Ludwig for so long, by having him pushed away and shut out, a behaviour that he still didn't know why Ludwig tolerated it. He had been horrible to him and still, Ludwig would come and just tell him that it was alright, he would wait until Laurence felt better.

    Only that Laurence knew he wouldn't get better, not when he wouldn't find a cure. So Laurence raised his voice and said: “I am fine, Ludwig, I am busy. Just go away. Please leave me alone.”

    Ludwig couldn't come in and see him, he would notice the collapsed eye, the fangs, the prolonged fingernails. He would be forced to kill Laurence at the spot, as was the rule for church hunters, no one infected was to be left alive, but Laurence didn't want to force Ludwig to do this. Especially not when he had failed to make Ludwig hate him. Why had his boyfriend to be so kind and understanding?

    “Laurence, I have been considerate with you for weeks now.”, Ludwig said. “I know you aren't feeling well and that you don't want much company, but... you have thrown up blood today at the morning mass. Blood that was hot enough to burn a hole in the ground. Laurence, whatever it is, that ails you, you don't have to go through this alone. Please, let me help you.”

    Laurence felt a sharp stab in his chest at his words. This time it hadn't been from the scourge. He knew it was because Ludwig would be willing to stay with him and help him out and he wished so much that he could get into his arms and confess everything to him, but Laurence knew that he couldn't.

    He couldn't let Ludwig know. He had to try and use all the time he had for finding the cure. How much he wished to just tell Ludwig the truth, he could, he just had to open the door and leave him in and confess about his ailment to him, but... he couldn't. Ludwig was the most loyal hunter of the church. He wouldn't stop because it was Laurence and Laurence knew that the action would break his heart.

    “This none of your business.”, Laurence said, as cold as he could manage, even though he felt hot tears drop down his face. Not as hot as his vomit, but still hot enough to steam when they dripped on the ground. “Leave me alone. You can't help me.”

    “Laurence, please.” Oh, Laurence just hated how pleading Ludwig's voice was. “You haven't been yourself lately. Please let me help you. I want to help you, but how can I help you when you don't let me be part of your life?”

    More tears forced their way out of Laurence' eyes as he got up and walked towards the door and extended a hand, leaving it on the handle. He just had to unlock it and let Ludwig in and... no, he couldn't. He shook his head and sank down in front of the door, with his back to it.

    “I... I can't...”, he sobbed, not being able to hold his tears back. “I just... can't...”

    “Laurence, are you crying?!”, Ludwig shouted and frantically tried to turn the handle, several clicking noises proofing that his efforts were fruitless. “Let me in, Laurence, please.”

    “No.”, Laurence said, his voice coming out strained. He took a deep breath and then shouted: “Just leave me alone and don't come back!”

    “...”, there was an audible silence in front of the door. “I can't force you to open the door...”, Ludwig said and he must have removed his hand from the handle, because it went back to its original position. “But I won't leave you alone either. Just... please tell me what's wrong. Please, Laurence, just give me a chance.”

    Laurence didn't reply as he got up, gaze on the ground, wiping away the fresh tears in his face.

    If I let you in, you have to kill me.

    The unspoken words hung in the air. Laurence couldn't bring himself to say them. He also couldn't bring himself to tell Ludwig to leave him alone anymore.

    “Sir Ludwig, there have been beast sightings at the outer rim of cathedral ward!”, a hurried voice sounded, not belonging to Ludwig obviously.

    “In broad daylight?! They are getting more and more brash.”, Ludwig gasped. “Laurence, I have to go, but I will come back and then I want for you to talk to me.”

    There was around half a minute of silence before Laurence could hear footsteps that moved away from the door. Soon, they faded and Laurence took one step towards his desk, when the pain from earlier hit him again.

    With a cry, he fell to his knees, doubled over in pain. This pain certainly was worse than earlier, he felt like he got ripped apart from the inside. Alongside the pain, he felt an itching sensation on his head, so much that he wished he could move and scratch his scalp open. It continued until the itching sensation became a new wave of pain, so intense as if something, anything wanted to force its way out of Laurence' head.

    He spent a small eternity in this agonizing pain when it stopped as sudden as it had started. Breathing heavily, Laurence got up on his knees, staring at the splotches of blood on the floor, already sizzling into the carpet. He raised a shaky hand to touch his face and found blood. He couldn't remember getting injured, had he self harmed in his pain?

    He slowly got up on his feet and limped to the mirror in his office, stopping before he even was in front of it. He didn't need to come closer to see what was wrong as his hand shot upward to confirm what he saw.

    Antlers. He had grown some antlers, that now adorned his head, a thin stream of blood accompanying the place where they had forced their way through.

    “I might have less time than I thought...”, Laurence gasped as he went a few shaky step to his desk and let himself fall down on his chair.

    He could as well use this time and try to see if he at least managed to find a base for the cure. If he would transform and had to die anyway, he wouldn't just take it with his head bowed, he would scream and fight against it.

    So Laurence straightened himself up, took a deep breath and then started to work.

    An hour or two later, Laurence had scattered a variety of documents over his desk. Ideas where the beastly scourge came from. The first idea and the one he had followed the longest had been that it escaped the labyrinths. They had seen beasts down there and it felt like the most logical thing, that after they got unsealed, the sickness that was responsible for the beasts in there would be able to come out.

    Though, they never had learned how the people down there had transformed...

    Another idea had been that it was the fault of the vilebloods, but that couldn't be. As much as Laurence loathed, the beastly scourge had been there before the vilebloods had come into Yharnam and it didn't vanish once the executioners had been done with their job. The vilebloods had been beasts of their own, but that was a thing that Laurence couldn't blame on them.

    A third theory, a theory that Laurence always had dismissed immediately, was that maybe the blood could be at fault. That instead of getting them closer to ascension, that humans would regress and that was the cause of the beastly scourge. Laurence had tested the blood rigorously and had been sure that it wasn't the case, but.. right at the moment he was staring at the newspaper story about Old Yharnam.

    He remembered that night far too well. Finally having acquired enough umbilical cords to summon a Great One, one of the ascended, he had stepped outside and done the ritual, seeing as the Great One came from the moon. He had stepped forwards to ask her his questions, when Gehrman suddenly appeared and said something to the Moon Presence... and that had been the last time Laurence had seen Gehrman.

    Shortly after, the worst hunt that had ever happened took place. Almost everyone in Old Yharnam had transformed. It had to be the influence of the moon, Laurence thought, as he stared out of the office of his window during that night, seeing the blood red moon in the sky.

    In the end, Old Yharnam had to be burned down and sealed shut before the beasts would spread into the other parts of the town. Shortly after it happened, the blood red moon vanished and the longest hunt ever had been over... and Laurence had come out of it as a broken man, even though he didn't let it shine through.

    Now that he looked at the article again, he noticed something. The article mentioned the sickness that had ailed Old Yharnam during that time.

    Ashen Blood... in truth it had been a poisoning caused by the church. It hadn't been exactly on purpose, but the Old Yharnam citizens had been stubborn and when Laurence had learned that the poison of their research had leaked into the groundwater, he hadn't ordered for them to stop, instead he had brought the holy blood to Old Yharnam, to cure all these people and sold them on the holy blood.

    A large amount of people had gotten the blood at the same time.

    A large amount of people had transformed into beasts at the same time.

    How could he have been so blind?!

    Laurence shot up and practically ripped his current blood ministration out of his arm, a small stream of blood running down his arm, the wound closing shortly after, the healing effect of the blood taking action.

    Laurence cleaned his arm from the blood and continued to think. That couldn't have been the only cause. There must have been a second cause. Not everyone who took the blood transformed. He himself had taken the blood almost daily for years and he was transforming only now.

    Maybe it really was the moon...

    Whatever it was, the blood certainly was one of the causes. Of course they could prevent further cases by ceasing to use the old blood, but that would be difficult.

    Yharnam was reliant on the old blood. The whole town was based around it. If he would take it away, then the whole town would collapse. He would need a lot more time to figure out who to take the blood away from Yharnam.

    The safest bet would be a cure, then they could keep using the blood without fearing the side effects...

    Laurence sighed as he noticed that his train of thoughts involved the future, a future that he certainly wouldn't live to see anymore.

    Though... with one of the causes figured out, he had a base to at least start. He leaned over his desk to search for a few more documents when the pain came back and this time it was paralysing. He fell down with his chair and convulsed on the ground for what felt like it was a really long time, paired with the same itchy sensation he had felt earlier, paired with an intense pain in his arm.

    When the pain ended, he was lying there, gasping for air. It took him a few minutes to get up again. As he looked down on his hands as he propped himself up, one of them wasn't human anymore.

    He could see long claws coming out from far too long fingers, the whole hand covered in shaggy fur and as his gaze followed his arm, he could see that it extended to it. His whole left arm had transformed into something so utterly inhumane that he wanted to retch.

    Instead he walked the few steps to the couch and flopped onto it, cursing when he bumped his new antlers and then staring at the ceiling.

    With the realization earlier about the old blood being one of the causes for the beastly scourge, his initial thoughts had been about how to handle this whole mess.

    Now that his own transformation had completed another step, he had become aware that he had doomed Yharnam.

    “All I wanted to do was help...”, he murmured, surprised that his voice still sounded human instead of beastly screeches leaving his throat. “I just wanted to help...”, he repeated, as if he wanted to convince a listener that wasn't there.

    If only he had thrown the blood away once Master Willem had warned him about it. He probably owed the old man an apology. An apology that he would never be able to speak out. Was the old geezer even still alive?

    As Laurence stared at the ceiling, he thought about all the friends he once had and had lost one way or the other, but almost all of them had left his life related to the old blood.

    Caryll, who refused to study the old blood and had stayed in Byrgenwerth for their own studies about conversing with the Great Ones.

    Maria, one of the best hunters he had ever seen, who got so disgusted with her own actions that she had chosen to take her life instead of living on with the guilt. She had been one of the most vehement defenders of the theory that the blood could have been at fault.

    Gehrman, the first Hunter that Laurence had ever employed, the one he had lost to the Moon Presence. No, he had lost him earlier even, when his heart broke into a thousand pieces after Maria's suicide.

    Micolash, his best friend and rival, who had become more and more recluse, stopped helping Laurence with the blood ministrations altogether and vanished one day to never be seen, but Laurence knew about a group that was antagonistic to the Choir and while he himself didn't fully trust them himself, the only person in charge of a group that would be able to mess with the Choir was Micolash.

    Only Ludwig was left... and Amelia, his adopted daughter and future Vicar, and he had done his best to push both of them away in the last weeks. Especially Ludwig. That Ludwig still wanted to speak to him, baffled Laurence, he had been nothing but an asshole to him lately.

    Laurence let out another deep sigh as he rubbed over his forehead, with the far too large beastly hand, feeling hot and sweaty. He could stay here and self loathe until he ran out of time... or he could get up and write down what he had found out so that Amelia and his church ministers could continue his research.

    The most important thing would be to wean Yharnam from the blood. Laurence slowly got up. He had to make peace with the fact that he would die soon, maybe he already had made it, but he at least didn't want to leave Yharnam to ride into its certain doom.

    It was difficult getting back to his desk. His vision seemed to swim and blur in front of him. Had he gotten up too quickly? No, it was the advanced transformation.

    Just as Laurence had sat back down and straightened a piece of paper, taking up a pen to write down his last will, there was a knock on his door.

    He froze briefly, asking himself if Ludwig had come back already? If, he would just send him away again. He needed to write his last will and after that... well, he probably would surrender and let himself be taken out before he became a danger to the church.

    It wasn't Ludwig however. The voice outside of the door belonged to one of the highest ranking church ministers.

    “Your grace, open the door. We have reasons to believe that you have been afflicted by the beastly scourge. As sad as this observation makes us, you know our rules and there can't be an exception, not even for you.”

    Pinpoint the cancer and rip it out of Yharnam... Laurence remembered his own words about the matter.

    Laurence opened his mouth to speak, to tell them that he would come to them later, that he needed to be alone now, but he was shaken by a horrible coughing fit. There even seemed to come smoke out of his throat... They certainly couldn't see him, when they would see him like this, they would execute him right away and he couldn't let that happen.

    Couldn't they have discussed for half an hour more? All these boring meetings and today of all days they came to a conclusion early.

    “Vicar Laurence, if you won't open the door, we will have to break it down. If you have nothing to hide, you will be able to open the door just fine, won't you?”

    Damn. Laurence glared at the door, cursing his church minister in his mind with a dozen profanities in the span of a few seconds. He cleared his throat and finally managed to speak.

    “I wish to be alone right now. I have urgent business to attend to and it can't wait only because of your outrageous accusations. I will make time for you later.”

    So that they could execute him... Laurence cringed at the thought, but the church ministers didn't take his words. Of course, what had he expected? If he hadn't anything to hide, he could have just opened the door.

    “Break the door down.”, the church minister ordered and Laurence knew that they had a hunter with them, probably multiple. He stared for a few seconds as the door got repeatedly knocked with a blunt object and only when it started to splinter he stared down at his still very blank last will.

    In his panic, he wrote down the first thing that came to his mind.

    “Fear the old blood.”

    Just as he had finished writing, the door burst open and he could see a dozen church ministers as well as a few hunters out there. They stared as much as him as he stared at them.

    His appearance was proof enough that he indeed had been afflicted with the beastly scourge.

    “Vicar Laurence, you are hereby under arrest!”, the church minister announced in a clamorous voice and Laurence could see how the hunters stormed inside his office.

    “Wait!”, Laurence said, both hands in the air, showing that he wasn't armed. The hunters stopped and looked at him, the church minister behind them having scrunched up his face.

    “Don't show mercy just because he used to be our vicar.”

    Speaking in the past of him, right in front of him. Laurence didn't had time to be offended though, he needed to tell them.

    “Please listen to me!”, he said and then his world seemed to stop as his heart skipped a beat and the pain came back full force, in such a force that he couldn't speak anymore, only scream... a scream that didn't even sound human anymore.

    From the corner of his eye, he could somehow see how the hunters started to move in his direction again. Laurence brushed over his desk... where was it.. his last will had been just in front of him, but which paper was it? It must be the one with fresh ink, but... he couldn't find anything with wet ink... instead, his hand closed around a small object.

    It was the rune. Beast's Embrace. In the back of his mind he knew this was a bad idea. It had never succeeded before, but maybe it would help him regain his sense for long enough so that he could tell them about the dangers that the old blood possessed and how to handle Yharnam after his death.

    Laurence embraced the rune with his beastly hand and concentrated on the arcane prowess inside of it... feeling how his pain eased down at first, he already was opening his mouth to speak, when his whole body felt like it would burst.

    Failed.was the last conscious thought Laurence ever had, when his bones shifted and his veins popped, rearranging his body in a way that should be physically impossible. He heard how his clothes ripped open when he started to grow, he could feel the itching sensation of fur covering his skin accompanied by a blinding pain. Laurence couldn't see anything anymore, he only heard some shouting in the distance. He wanted to open his mouth to scream, but only a garbled screech came out of it as Laurence realized that his face had twisted into a snout with a row of razor sharp teeth.

    He was crouched on the floor, with a claw on his hand... hissing because of the pain... He could smell blood... his blood... It hurt so much, so very very much... But, there was the smell of flesh... human flesh and he felt hungry... so very very hungry... maybe the flesh would help him ease the pain.

    He took a step towards a smell and felt a new pain, sharp and annoying, at his leg and when he looked down he saw his attacker. He raised his hand and flattened them in an instant, the sweet smell of blood filling the air. He raised his hand to look at it, the urge to lick the blood clean of it strong, when a second sharp pain hit him.

    Growling, he stepped forwards, glaring at the ones in front of him. He rose to his full height and let out a blood curdling screech, as he raised both of his arms into the air and then his fur ignited into fire.

    He had to feast... that would stop the pain... it would stop the hunger... he had to hunt them down! With a second screech, he lunged at the first human that was dumb enough standing in front of him.

    Once Ludwig returned to the church, it was on fire. With a gasp, he jumped off Midnight, his horse, and ran towards the entrance, stopping when he saw a black robed church hunter stare fearfully at the church.

    “Hunter! What happened? Why is the church on fire? Why aren't you helping with evacuating?”

    “Sir Ludwig, thank the blood that you returned! It's Vicar Laurence. He... turned. He had the scourge and hid it and now he is the most gigantic beast I have ever seen. He already has killed and devoured a dozen black robes! It was him who ignited the church, he's literally on fire! He's... he's out of control!”

    The church hunter took a few steps back after his rant and took a deep breath before he fell down to his knees and... seemed to pray. Ludwig could hear how he called for the aid of the Great Ones, faintly, when his own mind raced.

    He had heard them, the words of the black robe. He had been very clear about it. Laurence had turned... his Laurence did have the beastly scourge, the one he loved more than anything in the world, the one who had done his damn hardest to not let Ludwig be part of his life for the last few weeks.

    Oh!

    It had been so obvious, but Ludwig had decided to ignore him.

    Laurence always had eaten his food without saying a word, but had vanished shortly after and often Ludwig had seen him come out of the bathroom wiping his mouth.

    He did have increasingly fevers, sometimes they seemed to be getting so worse that he felt like he was on fire.

    He never had taken off his gloves.

    He had stopped to see Ludwig altogether for the last three weeks, telling him that he was busy and not feeling well and didn't want to get his ailment to spread to him because the holy blood had troubles with healing it.

    “Laurence... why haven't you told me...?”, Ludwig said, tightening his grip around his holy moonlight sword before he rushed into the church. Even though he knew that the black robe didn't have any reason to lie, even though he had seen the signs, signs that his past self had ignored, a part of him still wouldn't believe that it was Laurence after he had seen him with his own eyes.

    Inside the church, there was chaos. Smoke, flames and rubble. Ludwig covered his mouth and nose with his shawl and approached a group of black robes that tried to free a trapped blood saint from a column that must have fallen on her leg.

    Ludwig easily lifted the column and after the blood saint had been safely pulled out, he grimly said: “Where?”

    With a shaking hand, one of the black robes pointed deeper into the church. Another one added in a low voice: “Follow the flames...”

    Ludwig was doing exactly that.

    He actually did find a beast inside the church, in one of the conference rooms where it was busy trashing chairs and tables. The black robe hadn't lied, that was the tallest beast he had ever seen. Easily seven meters or more.

    Knowing how small and scrawny Laurence was, Ludwig barely could believe that the beast could be him.

    The beast was literally on fire. It wasn't because someone had ignited it, it's fur possessed a fiery quality on its own. When it screeched, a sound that made Ludwig cringe and wince, he could see burning hot magma gathering in its throat.

    The left hand was mutilated into a giant claw, far larger than the right claw. The snout was filled with a row of razor sharp teeth and a set of large antlers grew out of its head.

    In the corner of his eye, Ludwig saw two black robes approaching the beast, their weapons raised while the beast was distracted smashing and igniting another chair, but the moment their attacks connected with its rear, it stopped and turned around.

    Ludwig had never been faster to join a fight, his holy moonlight sword blocking a hit of that immensely large left claw. The force was enough to even knock him several feet back.

    “Leave!”, Ludwig ordered the black robes. “Help with evacuating the church! I handle things here!”

    The two of them were on their feet in an instant and ran towards the direction of the grand cathedral, while Ludwig eyes his foe.

    Could that really be Laurence?

    There was a glimmering of gold in front of the chest of the beast.

    Ludwig's eyes widened as he recognized what it was.

    The Vicar's pendant... Laurence would always wear it, every single day. There was no doubt.

    “Laurence...”, Ludwig choked out, feeling tears form in his eyes, tears that didn't had time to spill, because Laurence used his moment of hesitation to hurl him into the next best wall.

    Ludwig was blinded briefly by pain as one or two of his bones cracked. He slammed a blood vial into his tight and stood up again, he was the captain of the church hunters. He was used to receiving injuries like this. Nothing that the blood couldn't handle.

    ...Laurence had always said this.

    Upon seeing that his prey had escaped him, Laurence screeched and his large claw came rushing down once again on Ludwig. Ludwig stepped to the side, a technique that Gehrman had taught him. A technique that each Hunter should master, or they wouldn't stand a chance against the beasts they fought.

    “Laurence...”, he said again, now feeling the tears in his eyes spilling. “You aren't recognizing me anymore, do you..?”

    No, of course not. Nobody had ever come back after transformation. There was only one thing Ludwig could do right now.

    Give him a swift death.

    Ludwig dodged another swipe of that large claw and propelled his sword into Laurence' right leg. He screamed in pain and... what sounded like frustration.

    Ludwig removed his sword and saw far too hot blood gushing out of the wound, igniting the carpet around them.

    “You didn't want for it to be me...”, Ludwig murmured to himself as he circled around Laurence, who growled and spluttered at him. Ludwig had always thought that the beasts still looked a tiny bit human. It was no different with Laurence, as grotesque as his body had become, the way he still kept himself upright on two feet and the way he mostly used his claws for attacking... it was one of the most uncanny things about being a hunter. The knowledge that once this wretched abomination had been a human.

    It was different when it was his own lover and the head of the church though.

    “You didn't want that I had to kill you.”, Ludwig finished his thought. “I would love to make it painless for you, but...”

    Ludwig's voice trailed off as he was unable to finish the sentence. He knew that he had to strike Laurence down, he knew that he had to inflict a mortal injury on him to stop his rampage, but... it felt so hard to take the next step. Ludwig looked down at his arm and saw that he was trembling.

    That had never happened before.

    The arm holding his sword was trembling.

    Next thing Ludwig felt was an intense pressure around his chest as Laurence' claws enclosed around his body and lifted him up in the air.

    Ludwig stared at Laurence' face.. the face that wasn't his boyfriend's anymore. That was the face of a beast. A beast that would kill anything that crossed its path. A beast that was a danger. For the church, for Yharnam. A beast that had to be taken out.

    As Laurence opened his mouth Ludwig wrestled his right arm free of his grip and then drove the sword deep into the open maw of him.

    A garbled screech was to hear. Ludwig tried to shove the blade even deeper inside, but get hurled against the wall before he could even properly grab it. This time he had been prepared however and managed to endure the impact with minimum damage.

    Laurence was howling in pain, bringing both claws up to his snout, fumbling for the sword stuck in his maw. Ludwig rolled himself up and put a safe distance between him and Laurence, as he managed to remove the sword and hurled it towards the same wall Ludwig had impacted with, blood gushing out of the wound. Blood that looked a lot more like lava.

    Ludwig's feet carried him over to the place where his sword had landed. He grabbed for it and as his hands enclosed it, he could see the little lights. His guiding moonlight.

    “My guiding moonlight... are you sure about this?”, he said, but he didn't have a reason to not believe its guidance. It always had been right. Ludwig turned around and looked at Laurence, who, in the meantime, had recovered from the pain, blood seeping out of his mouth as he growled in Ludwig's direction.

    As he saw how Laurence set up for a lunge, he took the holy moonlight sword with both hands and directed it towards Laurence. He concentrated on the little lights and he was sure about it, they guided him towards a specific strike.

    As Laurence executed his lunge, Ludwig ran towards him, following the little lights, jumping in the air shortly before Laurence' large claws let the ground shake and while Laurence was open, he rushed down and drove his sword into his skull, right where his eyes normally would have been.

    He could hear the skull cracking as Laurence shrieked in pain. Ludwig landed on the ground, a hand still on his sword as Laurence started trashing around. Ludwig held on for dear life until Laurence laid on the ground, exhausted. Ludwig used that time to remove his sword, wincing in pain as far too hot blood gushed over him and made his skin blister. As long as Laurence was still stunned on the ground, he had to act quickly. Ludwig took a big swing with his sword and let it crash down on the wound.

    Laurence cracked skull broke with an audible sound and he twitched for a few seconds.

    Then, he stopped moving altogether.

    Ludwig slowly approached Laurence. He didn't appear to be breathing anymore. It was over.

    All the adrenaline of the fight left him at once. He felt tears streaming down his face. He collapsed on his rear, vaguely aware that the fire the room was coated in wouldn't stop burning and he likely would be reduced to ashes soon if he didn't move.

    Nothing of it mattered to him in the moment however. He itched closer to Laurence' dead body, hugging the giant beastly skull, not caring that his burns got even worse as his tears freely fell down and produced steam on Laurence' still hot body.

    “Oh, Laurence...”

    @palepious

    @thefatladysang

    All the Channels of the City Streets

    The sun blazes before them, its visage cracked and marred by the stark outline of the tree branches, bare of all leaves save for those foolish enough to try and cling to the long dead branches. Against the light, Ludwig narrowed his eyes, squinting at the figure before him.

    He doesn’t understand, you see?” the figure says and Ludwig nods in reply.

    I know. Were it up to Provost Willem, the Old Blood would never see the light of day.” The figure nods and lets out a snort of annoyance at the mere mention of the Provost.

    The old fool is sorely mistaken. The Old Blood is meant to be feared or restricted.” He turns, facing the woods and the city beyond them. “The power to cure the sick, heal the wounded, alleviate the suffering of others…” He pauses and Ludwig finds himself breathless at the sheer generosity and selflessness of the man’s vision. A better life for the common man, a hopeful future for those who had none… His back is turned towards Ludwig, but the other man knows that his exhilaration and hope mirrored on the other’s face.“This was a miracle meant to be shared with Yharnam. Not hidden away in Byrgenwerth for the rest of eternity. I don’t see how Willem could be so blind to the good it could do.” Ludwig nods, despite the fact that the man cannot see his agreement. The man turns, the burning rays of dying sunlight framing his youthful face and bright green eyes as full of hope and exaltation as Ludwig had imagined it would be and he finds himself breathless in the face of such beauty once again. “You’ll join me, won’t you?” There’s no hesitation in Ludwig’s answer.

    Of course.”

    You won’t betray me?”

    By your side, I will happily remain.”

    And so they left, heading westward towards the burning sun, towards Yharnam, towards their vision of the future

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    The afternoon sun climbed higher above Yharnam, occasionally filtering through the heavy clouds and into open windows to warm the inhabitants within and flitting over the hunched form of Ludwig as he trudged through the candlelit halls of the vicarage. Hunts were never easy and last night had been no exception. Whatever plague had birthed the beasts seemed to be spreading as the days went on. More and more beasts were popping up in the city and Ludwig couldn’t help but wonder if there would ever be an end to them. He and his men had found four stalking the streets earlier and they’d had to pull no less than two away from an older, obviously ill man unfortunate enough to have been caught without shelter. It was the thought of the long limbed and uncannily thin man’s gratitude, his wide smile and look of relief as Ludwig and his hunters had rallied to his aid had been worth everything; worth every sore muscle, worth every imaginary pound of weight in his limbs, worth every twinge of exhaustion after nights filled with more and more hunting and less and less sleep.

    That being said he thought as he came to a halt before a small but ornate looking door. It’s not only the Hunters who have been kept busy… His fist tightened around the medallion emblazoned with the crest of the Healing Church clutched within, It had been a token of gratitude from the older man, an attempt to repay the Hunters for their services. He’d claimed that it was the most valuable thing he owned, that he’d etched and engraved the image himself, and that it might fetch a fair bit of coin. The very idea of selling it was enough to make Ludwig scowl as he raised a gloved fist, knocked on the door and was met with only silence. He tried again. Still no reply. It was only with the third knock that the sound of irritated grumbles and the creaking sound of a body vacating a bed reached his ears. Good. He was finally awake. The heavy door inched open and Ludwig was greeted with a steely glare and tousled blonde hair that seemed to glow golden in the flickering light of the hallway candles.

    “What do you want?” Laurence grumbled and Ludwig couldn’t help but give the rumpled looking Vicar a fond smile.

    “Do I need a reason to visit an old friend, Laurence?” The man’s eyes narrowed further as the door began to close in Ludwig’s face. Apparently a reason was required. Luckily, Ludwig had one. He reached out to catch the door and Laurence sighed rather impatiently. “I met a man in the city during the Hunt earlier. His name is Alban Kent.”

    “And?”

    “He’s very ill and in great need of blood ministration.” Laurence blinked once, then twice as a shade of incredulity began to mingle with the impatience on his features.

    “You’ve disturbed my rest to tell me that?” He practically hissed the words out and while Ludwig’s smile remained tense, it remained in his face nonetheless.

    “It’s nearly noon Laurence! Surely you haven’t been sleeping all this time!” He boomed out a laugh as though the two were sharing a simple joke between friends. Laurence did not join in his laughter and Ludwig’s guffaws eventually died down as he looked, really looked at the man before him; his mussed hair, the dark circles beneath his eyes, the rumpled bed shirt, the fact that he was still wearing a bed shirt at this hour. “Have you been sleeping all this time?” Laurence sighed, closing his eyes and shaking his head as though trying to dislodge the conversation itself.

    “Very well.” He muttered. “Next time you see this “Alban Kent,” kindly inform him that he’s been granted entry through the Great Bridge to the Cathedral Ward.” Ludwig for his part, was so caught up in the state of the other’s well being that it took him a moment to realize what Laurence had said, and another moment for him to remember why he’d sought out Laurence in the first place. He nodded again and promised to promptly pass the news along to Alban Kent, eyes never leaving the Vicar’s face as Laurence bid him farewell and attempted to pull the door closed. Ludwig’s hand didn’t budge.

    “Are you feeling well, Laurence?”

    “Im fine Ludwig.” He snapped as he wrenched the door out of Ludwig’s grip with a strength that did not match his slight frame and harrowed appearance. “I only require rest. Something you seem insistent on keeping me from at the moment.” The candles in the hall sputtered and flared, deepening the shadows on Laurence’s face as he glared at Ludwig with such venom and contempt that the Hunter found himself rendered speechless. It was in this pause in their conversation that Ludwig could finally take in the other man’s appearance, the deep and dark circles beneath his eyes, the way his frame seemed almost impossibly gaunt, wondering why he had failed to notice it before now. He looked haggard, not at all like an indolent and slothful man who was merely annoyed at being disturbed from an unnecessary sleep. He truly did need to rest…

    “My apologies.” Ludwig bowed his head and turned to leave when he felt a smaller, bony hand land on his arm.

    “No, I needn’t have snapped at you Ludwig.” All the scorn and disdain had left Laurence’s voice, leaving the man sounding only regretful and exhausted. “I’m tired. That’s all.” The fond smile returned to Ludwig’s face as he turned back towards the other man, placed his hand over Laurence’s gave, what he hoped, was a comforting squeeze to it.

    “Then I will leave you to it. Get some rest Laurence.” The Vicar said nothing, merely pulled his hand back from Ludwig and closed the door with a resolute thud, leaving Ludwig in the hallway staring after him. He hadn’t noticed the state of the other’s well-being until now. Had he been besieged by some form of illness? Were the duties of maintaining and leading the Healing Church wearing on him? Was it the threat of the Beast Plague? When had Ludwig become so busy hunting and slaying beasts to realize that Laurence was not well whatsoever? What if treatment was impossible? What if-

    Ludwig gave a shake of his head to interrupt the thoughts plaguing him. Such events were not things that he could afford to think about in that moment. As the Vicar of the Healing Church, Laurence would surely receive treatment for whatever was vexing him. He had beasts to hunt, a medallion to return, and a Yharnamite to find and bring to Cathedral Ward. With that, ignoring his heavy exhaustion and the feeling of muscles twitching beneath his skin, Ludwig turned and strode down the hall.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    It was several days later and the moon hung high and wide in the evening sky, occasionally blurred and obscured by the low hanging clouds above Yharnam. Citizens were asleep in their beds, the city streets were almost empty and peaceful. And then the shrieking howl of a beast pierced the night as it’s massive body barrelled through the streets, the Hunters of Yharnam close behind. One broke away from the group in a desperate sprint, weaving through the cobblestone streets after the monster until he lunged forward, axe digging into the muscle and fur of the beast’s leg, drawing a spray of blood that splashed against the walls and windows of the surrounding buildings. The beast made a sharp turn. Yellow eyes blazed bright with murder, its muzzle lunged forward and fangs dug into the neck of the unfortunate hunter, sending a greater torrent of red ichor into the air as it began to tear into the man. A gurgling scream rose from his open throat as the rest of the group backed away, reluctant to interfere at the risk of their own lives. All at once, a strange green glow lit the alleyways and a beam of what appeared to be moonlight made solid blazed forward and into the beast, knocking it backwards onto the stones of the streets. It did not rise.

    Panting, Ludwig rolled his shoulders and straightened, the glow of his sword dimming as though to mirror its owner’s exhaustion after the chase. This was the fourth beast they’d encountered that evening and the night was still so young. There was no telling where the other beasts were lurking, where they could be hiding or how many were holed away within the city. He rolled his shoulders again, wincing slightly as the muscles in his arms twitched beneath his skin. For the moment, his men could rest, recuperate, and-

    “Behind you sir!”

    The sound of shattering glass and splintering wood rose in Ludwig’s ears. Heeding the warning, he ducked forward into a roll, turning the second his feet were firmly affixed to the ground. The sword, once again glowing an ethereal green, swung upwards, carving through the beast’s chest and arching upwards to nearly cleave it in two. It was over in less than a second and Ludwig simply leaned on his blade and tried to catch his breath, now covered with the deep red blood of the beast.

    “Where the hell did that one come from?” He gasped, feeling muscles shudder beneath his skin from the excitement. His group of Hunters looked at each other.

    “It almost seemed as though it sprang from inside the house, sir.” It was the man who’d shouted the warning. “I saw it through the window behind you, bounding towards it like, well like a beast.” Gathering his breath, Ludwig fought against the heaviness in his shoulders and straightened to clasp the other man’s shoulder, giving him a fatigued, but grateful smile.

    “You have my thanks.” He murmured, giving him a pat before striding forward towards the body of the beast. It was thinner, more gaunt than the one they had been chasing throughout the streets. The thing was smaller overall with two legs that almost looked as though it could be bipedal. The torches flickered again and caught the glint of something silver within the fur of the Beast. Perplexed, Ludwig bent forward, trying to ignore the ache in his knees to part the coarse hair and get a better look at-

    At the silver medallion emblazoned with the crest of the Healing Church…

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    The moon, still wide and white as a smile hung much lower in the sky when Ludwig arrived at the heavy wooden door once again. He raised a fist and hammered it against the wood as though trying to knock it down with his bare hands. The reply came much sooner this time, more grumbles and noises of complaints. Ludwig heard them, but at the moment he couldn’t quite bring himself to give a damn. There was a creak and the ever familiar sight of an annoyed, somewhat sleepy looking Laurence came into view as the door opened.

    “I can accept you waking me in the afternoon Ludwig, but this-”

    “The Old Blood is causing the Beast Plague.” Immediately, Laurence perked up, eyes going wide with shock and Ludwig could practically see his spine stiffen as he was grabbed and pulled into the bedchamber. The door thudded closed behind them and Laurence began to busy himself with the tinderbox, hunting around the room for a candle. The match was struck, a weak flickering light came into existence and Laurence gestured towards the bed, silently imploring Ludwig to sit.

    “What have you found out?” He inquired, much calmer than he’d been in the hallway. “Tell me everything.” And Ludwig did. He told him about his encounter with Alban Kent while on a hunt, about how he’d been given the medallion as a form of payment and had returned it during Alban’s visit, how he’d been on a hunt barely an hour earlier only to encounter the beast wearing the pendant. The whole time, Laurence’s expression never changed. Occasionally, the Vicar would nod in acknowledgement, but there was no fear, no rage, not even a response to any of Ludwig’s statements. He was silent while Ludwig explained his findings and remained silent for several moments after Ludwig had finished. On any other topic, Ludwig would have allowed him the time to quietly think, to turn over the information he’d been given to formulate a course of action and how best to implement it. But this was a different matter altogether. Ludwig needed answers, needed some sort of plan, and Laurence just sat there, hands folded together beneath his chin, staring into the flickering candle and said nothing.

    “Well?” Ludwig demanded.

    “Well what?” Laurence’s tone was smooth, even, almost unconcerned. And Ludwig felt his blood boil.

    “Well you need to stop Blood Ministration immediately!” He roared, rising from where he’d been sitting on the bed to stride forwards towards the other man. “If the Old Blood is responsible for creating beasts, we need to stop treatments and-”

    “Ludwig.” The Vicar barely even needed to raise his voice and Ludwig found himself cut off. Voice betraying nothing about his thoughts, Laurence continued.“Are you aware of how many Yharnamites come to the Cathedral Ward for Blood Ministration a day?” The words hung heavy in the candlelit air between them as Ludwig’s jaw hung open for a moment or two.

    There was no way-

    There was no way Laurence could even think that-

    “Laurence-”

    “Almost fifty Ludwig. Every single day. And that is simply the people we treat for day to day ills and injuries.” Heedless of Ludwig’s attempted interjection, Laurence gazed over the tops of his folded hands at the Hunter. “Have you any idea how many of them have been genuinely cured of their illness and ailments?”

    “Laurence, you’re not-”

    “All of them Ludwig. Every single person who comes through the Cathedral Ward leaves in almost perfect health every time.” No, he couldn’t be thinking- “What do you think would happen to those if your little discovery were to be disclosed to the populace of Yharnam? What would happen if we were to stop Blood Ministration altogether?”

    “The Beast Plague would cease and the people would no longer be threatened!” Ludwig roared once again, muscles coiling and writhing beneath skin in his anger. He paid them no mind and continued to advance towards the First Vicar. “You can’t honestly expect me to-”

    “All the efforts and accomplishments we’ve been working towards will be undermined!” His voice had raised slightly, rage barely noticeable but for the few who had known Laurence, truly known him, for years. He stood slowly, full height barely coming up to Ludwig’s chest, but by God did he make good use of every inch. “You claim you want what is best for Yharnam? The Old Blood has ensured that the city thrives, that its people can be healed and made well no matter their standing or station. Do you truly seek to undermine all our efforts Ludwig?”

    “Of course not. But if you-”

    “And you are worried for nothing. We are already working towards a solution to the plague.” Laurence finished his rant, fixing Ludwig with an icy glare as though daring him to continue the argument. To his credit, Ludwig didn’t so much as flinch, fixing Laurence with a glare of his own.

    “What solution?” Laurence did not flinch either at the question, but there was a distinct lack of an answer as well that did not go unnoticed. “What kind of solution are you working towards Laurence?” The other man did not answer some time. Seconds, minutes, hours may have passed by before Laurence finally broke eye contact to turn his gaze out the window towards the pale moon. For a moment, he said nothing and Ludwig wondered if the two of them were destined to remain in silence for the rest of eternity. And then…

    “The Choir has made contact with Ebrietas. They’re close to a revelation regarding the nature of the Beast Plague and how best to stop it.” The reply was said to the window, Laurence still refusing to meet his gaze, as though anticipating Ludwig’s reaction and the subsequent look of distress mingled with outrage.

    Ebrietas.

    “You’re relying on that-” Ludwig cut off, swallowing around the lump that had suddenly risen in his throat at the mere mention. He’d only seen the Daughter of the Cosmos once, back when the Healing Church had still been young, back when using the Old Blood as a medium for healing and medicine had been a revolutionary idea. It had only been once, only the briefest of glimpses. But what little he’d seen had remained with him for weeks, months, and would likely remain with him until he died.

    And Laurence wanted to rely on her- on it, for help with the epidemic ravaging their city. “Your plan is to rely on that thing!?” He hissed, advancing towards Laurence, the rage bubbling beneath his skin nearly tangible. “Making deals with beings man was not meant to comprehend? Endangering the lives of the citizens of Yharnam?” HIs anger and frustration with the other man burst forth and Ludwig surged forward, gripping Laurence’s upper arms tightly and giving him a rough shake that lifted Laurence partially off the floor. “What are you thinking Laurence!?” There was no response as Laurence continued to gaze out of the window. The man’s apparent indifference to Ludwig’s outburst enraged Ludwig even further and he nearly found himself overtaken by the urge to rip the other man limb from long limb when he noticed the Vicar’s eyes, yellow sclera glazed and glassy. And Ludwig felt a cold sense of dread come over him as the pieces began to fall together. Yellow eyes, long limbs, a persistent fever, the strange way his face had grown gaunt and longer in the time since the founding of the Church... “Laurence?” The eyes closed as Laurence drew a quivering breath.

    Their lives are not the only ones at risk, Ludwig.” He murmured, eyes still glassy, still refusing to meet Ludwig’s. “The best way to study the effects of a substance on the body of humans is to experience said effects yourself after all.” Laurence smiled, gave a rueful chuckle as though the two of them were simply conversing as two old friends, as though Ludwig’s fingers and body hadn’t gone numb causing his grip on Laurence to loosen just enough for the Vicar’s feet to touch the floor once again. And still he continued speaking. “If Ebrietas is not forthcoming, then my own experiences with the plague should be rather enlightening.” He finally looked up, finally met Ludwig’s eyes and gave a rueful, almost sad smile. “Don’t give me that look Ludwig.” He gently admonished the other and Ludwig vaguely became aware that his face had contorted in a look of despair. “If all else fails then…” He swallowed, nonchalance taking on a newly unearthed fear at the unspoken certainty of his future. “Well, I’ve trained Amelia for this exact scenario. She’s a worthy successor already…” He trailed off, looked off towards the moon through the window once again and left Ludwig to stew over the night’s revelations.

    He’d been foolish really. The conclusion of Laurence’s fate should have been obvious to Ludwig from the moment he’d realized where the Scourge of the Beast came from. The Old Blood caused the Beast Plage, and Laurence, as the First Vicar of the Healing Church and pioneer of Blood Ministration itself, had naturally been partaking the blood as far back as their days as students in Byrgenwerth. Had that not been how they’d discovered its medicinal properties? Or rather, how Laurence had discovered its medicinal properties? Had Laurence known? Had he known of the Beast Scourge the entire time? Or had the information made itself known to him at a later time? Through his continued contact with that thing beneath the Cathedral? Or had Laurence simply noticed the pattern between those who contracted the affliction and the patrons of the Healing Church? Thousands, millions of questions bouncing around Ludiwg’s head, vying to be spoken, practically tumbling over themselves to be the first out of his mouth. And yet, the sight of Laurence, looking haggard, uneasy, and more scared than Ludwig could ever recall seeing him in the time they’d known each other, rendered every single question and query silent. What could he say? What words could possibly offer comfort to a man who knew he was destined for a fate that would surely be worse than death for a man sworn to eradicate plague and disease?

    “With how much you’ve been sleeping well into the afternoon she’s practically running things already…” Though despondency did not leave his face, Laurence managed a brief chuckle and a smile at the comment.

    “That she is…” He murmured in reply. For a moment, the two said nothing, just standing in the warm, sputtering glow of the candle on the bedside table as they tried to keep their wits, tried to pretend that all their work wasn’t for nothing, trying to pretend that one of them was not only a few steps away from a horrific fate. And then Laurence looked up, finally meeting Ludwig’s brown eyes with his own, now yellow eyes. “You’ll stay with me, won’t you?” The question was softly asked, Laurence’s voice quivering with an insecurity he would rather die than show the masses of Yharnam. “Until the end?” And with a final squeeze to the other’s shoulders, offering comfort rather than consternation, Ludwig replied with his own miserable smile.

    “Of course.”

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    He’d been returning from another nightly hunt, exhausted and covered in the blood of beasts when he saw the strange glow through the spires of the Cathedral Ward. Smoke was billowing into the night air from deeper within the ward. Ludwig only had a moment to take in the horrifying sight, had only a moment to wonder what had happened, whether the Clerics had been evacuated, whether Laurence was safe or not, before another Hunter was running towards him, eyes wide and panicked. Ludwig ran forward to meet him, expecting news of the fire, what had caused the blaze, if it was an accident or deliberate. The Hunter wasted no time, calling out to him immediately.

    “There’s a Beast! In the Cathedral Ward!” Ludwig felt his blood freeze. Whatever he’d been expecting, it certainly hadn’t been to hear that they were under attack. With no hesitation, Ludwig gripped the hilt of his blade, accelerating and calling over his shoulder.

    “Where is it?”

    “It’s in the Grand Cathedral.” The Hunter called back, struggling to keep up as the two of them ascended the stone steps. The streets were deserted, sparks and embers dancing in the air around them as Ludwig could feel the air grow thicker with heat as they approached the Cathedral. Were the beast and the blaze connected somehow? A thought suddenly occurred to Ludwig and he felt his stomach drop to the stones beneath him. The blaze was visible now, even from the low level of the Round Plaza, he could see the edifice of the Great Cathedral, partially obscured by the flames that threatened to consume the entire Ward. Pausing for the first time that night, he turned to the Hunter.

    “Where is Laurence?” The Hunter paused, a look of confusion spreading across his face, likely due to Ludwig’s use of the Vicar’s given name. Ludwig however did not have the patience for such things. “Do you know where the First Vicar is?” A look of horror crossed the other man’s face and he turned his gaze towards the stone steps leading up to the currently burning Cathedral.

    “I, I heard that he’d gone to the Great Cathedral to pray but-” He may have said something afterwards, or perhaps he’d simply cut the statement off right there. Either way, Ludwig heard nothing over the ringing in his ears the news brought. Laurence had been in the Cathedral. The Cathedral that was now engulfed in flames. The burning Cathedral that a beast had last been seen in…

    With a shake of his head, Ludwig grit his teeth and clutched the hilt of his blade so tight he could feel his knuckles turn white. He had to think, had to focus. Laurence was likely-

    The Church would-

    “What about Amelia?” The Hunter’s head shot up, taken aback by Ludwig’s sudden question. “Where is she?”

    “I heard she was taken to the Church of the Good Chalice.” He replied. “Far as I can tell, she’s safe, sir.” And with that, Ludwig let out a shaky breath. Laurence may be-

    Laurence was probably-

    Even so, the Healing Church would rebuild, would rise from the tragedy under Amelia’s guidance. So long as she was safe, so long as she could lead, they would recover.

    But they would not do much with a Beast burning down the Great Cathedral.

    Gripping the hilt of his sword once again, Ludwig turned and faced the other Hunter.

    “Gather as many men as you can. We can’t let it escape!” The Hunter gave a nod and almost ran off before a look of uncertainty crossed his face, nearly making Ludwig scream with impatience.

    “Sir it- Its different somehow. I don’t think we can-” And Ludwig was gone before the other could speak any further, bounding up the stairs towards the blazing Cathedral, heedless of the flames and scorching heat surrounding him. The doors were wide open, flames licking the stone entryway as Ludwig peered inside. Even partially obscured by heat and fire, Ludwig could see that the Hunter had been right. This Beast was different, far bigger than the others he’d encountered previously. Nothing to be done about it. Clenching his eyes, Ludwig dove forward, leaping into a roll through the flame and coming to his feet on the heated stone floor before the beast.

    Steeling his eyes, Ludwig ignored the beast and cast his gaze around the interior of the Cathedral, looking for some sign of Laurence. There was nothing. No blood on the floor, no tattered pile of clothes, no blood-soaked body lying somewhere in the corner. For a moment, only a moment, he allowed himself a small sigh of relief. Either Laurence had escaped, or…

    And then his eyes fell on the Beast.

    It easily dwarfed him, nearly reaching the upper levels of the Cathedral while standing on its hind legs. Shaggy grey fur covered a body that was wreathed and alight with flames. At the sound of feet hitting stone, the thing turned its mangled antlered head towards him, drew itself up to its full height and bellowed, long and guttural. Its breath stank of rot and decay and blistered impossibly hotter than the inferno surrounding them. It was a monster of a Beast, a devil that had crawled out of Hell itself and brought damnation with it.

    And Ludwig swung his blade wide, green glowing against red and orange to slice into the open maw of the Beast.

    There was no telling how long the two exchanged blows. The Beast lunged forward and Ludwig rolled away. Ludwig rushed forward to try and cut legs and the beast would bring its heavy arm down before he could get within range. They sliced, stabbed, swung and danced around each other until Ludwig was panting and sweating with exertion. The heavy robes of the Church Hunters may have protected him against the worst of the beast’s attacks, but the warmth had become unbearable and he could feel his head swim. There was no sure way of telling how the beast was faring, but it was covered in shallow cuts with what appeared to be liquid fire seeping through them. It roared once again and lunged towards Ludwig, but its movements were slower, more fatigued. It was wearing down. Just a few more strikes, just a few more moments, just-

    And with a great burst, a beam of moonlight shot forth from the sword to pierce straight through the torso of the monster and with a great shriek of pain its upper body flew through the air leaving the legs and hindquarters to collapse onto the floor. It clawed its way towards the doors, howling and shrieking in agony and defeat. Ludwig rushed forward, sword raised high and poised to strike the final blow when the beast turned its head and roared at him, sounding almost pitiful. The blaze around them had dimmed, as had the fire lighting the beasts eyes. Without their glow, Ludwig could see that they were the yellow of beasts; lucid, clear, and bright with an intelligence that did not suit its bestial nature. Bright yellow eyes that Ludwig was certain he’d seen somewhere before in a dimly lit room in the flickering light of a candle. Eyes that had once glowed a bright, intelligent green before the blazing light of the setting sun…

    “Laurence?”

    And the beast blinked, eyes narrowing before widening as they fell on Ludwig’s form, frozen against the dying flames. Its- his- The Beast’s eyes widened in recognition and it gave a piercing, agonized. More and more liquid fire sizzled on the slowly cooling stone floor as it began to claw at its own head, howling and shrieking in a maddened agony.

    And in his mind, Ludwig could almost hear the frantic, panicked voice of the First Vicar.

    You’ll stay with me, won’t you?”

    Teeth clenched and eyes hardened, Ludwig strode forward. His sword was no longer glowing with Moonlight, but still raised, still poised to strike. Laurence- no. He could not afford to think of this, this thing as Laurence. The Beast that had never been Laurence continued to growl and shriek as he approached. Limbs thrashed across the ground, swinging wide and missing Ludwig by mere inches. He continued on.

    Until the end?”

    The Beast continued to growl, even as Ludwig drew closer, even as he came to stand right next to his- it’s head, even as the pointed end of the sword hovered above one open yellow eye.

    “Of course.”

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Seemingly hours later, the other hunter who had split from the Plaza will through the Cathedral doors, a dozen hunters in tow, each expecting to see Ludwig in the jaws of some enormous flaming beast. Instead, they will find him standing triumphant over its massive corpse, covered in blisters and burns and with a hollow look in his eyes and news of the death of Laurence the First Vicar on his tongue. They will never know what occurred during the battle, Ludwig will refuse to speak of it. No one will know how he spent the past few moments, cradling the head of the Beast in his lap, tears soaking into fur as the fire around them died, wondering how it had come to this. How had Laurence, the Vicar of the Healing Church, had fallen to Beasthood. And if Laurence had been the first to go, how much longer did Yharnam have. And no one will know until much later that as Ludwig had wept and mourned, he’d felt something foreign, something monstrous and sinister, slithering beneath his own skin…

    @dragonbasket

    @maskofconfusion

    Ascendance. This was the true goal of the Healing Church. Hidden under layers of selflessness and generosity to Yharnam’s citizens, the pursuit of godhood spun the cogs of their civilization without ever being seen. The Church stood as a beacon of hope and prosperity to the people, with it they had no fear of illness, of injury, of death. The people put their unquestioning faith in the miracle blood and obliviously trusted the Church to uphold their promises of security until it was too late.

    The moon hung in the sky above Yharnam like a blooming rose. It bathed the streets and rooftops in a blanket of crimson light and reflected off the stained windows of the Grand Cathedral like the glint in a wolf’s eyes.

    The Church had abandoned its people. While the red moon rose higher in the night sky, the upper echelons had blocked off the Great Bridge, effectively spelling the fate of anyone still on the other side. Those of the Church had closed its doors and hidden themselves away, leaving the helpless citizens of Yharnam to the claws of the beasts it helped create.

    Said beasts ran through the city like a swarm of locusts. With gnarled, matted fur and bloody claws and wild eyes they tore through people and homes like a knife through butter. It was a culling. The cobbled streets were wet with the blood of women and children and the men trained as hunters even though they never stood a chance.

    There were still those who attempted to fight, those with the hope that it was only a matter of time until they were saved. They stood fast in Old Yharnam and acted as a last line of defense. But even then, the Old Hunters too fell to the merciless strength of the beasts. On that night Old Yharnam was set ablaze as a last resort, and any hope of pushing back against the beastly scourge was turned to ash along with it.

    It was on that night that Laurence, the first Vicar made contact with the Moon Presence. In his lust for cosmic knowledge and desperation for salvation from the monsters he helped create, he too became a horrifying beast.

    It was on that night that Ludwig the Holy Blade upheld his duty to the Church and took up his sword of moonlight, slaying Laurence where he stood. No longer a man, but a beast.

    Ludwig dashed up the stairs to the Grand Cathedral. He’d already spent too much time that night fighting a losing battle. Countless numbers of his students and fellow hunters had lost their lives to the beasts roaming the streets. They’d had to give up even pretending they could protect the citizens from the vicious creatures, eventually retreating to preserve their own lives. After all, if the hunters all died here, would there be any hope left?

    He passed by whimpering children and weary mothers on his way up the stairs -he was surprised they even made it this far- with his eyes forward and shoulders squared. He knew there was nothing he could do to help them short of inviting them into the cathedral, and even that was only open to the public during the day for blood ministrations and prayer. They wouldn’t be allowed to stay there regardless, those days were over.

    So he moved on. He pushed the heavy doors open and closed them without looking back.

    “Ludwig, I see you’ve made it right on time.”

    Standing at the far side of the cathedral with his back to the entrance was Vicar Laurence, the founder of the Healing Church as they knew it. Laurence was a man Ludwig respected greatly, a man he found strength when standing beside him. It was more than he felt he deserved, for him to have found a light in the crushing darkness they all lived in. But he’d slowly been learning that selfishness was the only way to survive anymore.

    Though even in this nightmare they lived in Laurence still had not given up. He was fully devoted to his cause, so devoted that Ludwig felt compelled to stand by his side as he saw it through.

    “It’s almost nightfall, Laurence, I hope whatever you’ve got to say is important.” he sighed. “The state of things out there is getting worse and worse, it would not be wise to ignore. There’s nearly nobody left.”

    Laurence spun around away from the altar and clasped his hands together in excitement.

    “My dear Ludwig, I believe I have made the discovery of a lifetime. The solution to all of our beastly problems! The gateway to a greater self!”

    Laurence was all but vibrating with anticipation as he waited for Ludwig to approach him at the altar. He excitedly rearranged various items on the surface and motioned for Ludwig to hurry closer.

    Ludwig reached the scholar and peered around his shoulder at the mess of what could only be described as things on the wood of the altar. There were what looked like masses of flesh and mummified extremities and strange plants- He couldn’t even begin to guess what Laurence had in mind for these ‘materials’.

    He carefully stepped away from the altar and drew Laurence back by his sleeve to meet his eyes. “Laurence, have you gone mad? Miracle blood is one thing, something I’m willing to believe in, but this?” his voice lowered, “You worry me, Vicar.”

    Ludwig wanted to rationalize what he was witnessing. He wanted there to be a straightforward answer from Laurence to explain the horrific things he was collecting, but he feared that there wasn’t going to be one. How could there be? And that’s what he was worried about. He was worried that Laurence was getting into something he shouldn’t be, something he couldn’t handle.

    Laurence laid a hand over the one still grasping his sleeve. “I need you to trust me, hunter.”

    Ludwig could feel himself caving. Inside, he knew he was never going to stand in the way of Laurence’s progress. While Laurence and his ideas sometimes confused or worried him, he knew that he did indeed trust him. He trusted him completely, and that thought used to scare him, but now it was a fact he was resigned to. He would follow Laurence to the very end, be it a happy one or just another nightmare.

    Ludwig nodded, letting go of Laurence’s robes and standing back.

    Laurence reached out to squeeze his hand lightly one last time and smiled. “Thank you, Ludwig. This is something I could not do without you.”

    Laurence then turned back to the altar and laid his hands upon it. He ducked his head and whispered words too low for Ludwig to hear.

    Ludwig watched, stunned, as the air around his comrade shimmered and shook. His mind could barely comprehend the way the energy in the room turned solid and flowed. The mirage-like form floated through the air around the altar, reaching down from the high ceilings of the church to ensnare the man beneath it. All Ludwig could do was bear witness as the form seemed to coil around Laurence the way a snake would its prey.

    Laurence was lifted into the air, his body silhouetted by a red halo of light cast through the stained windows behind him. In stark contrast to Ludwig’s creeping terror, the man before him looked delighted. He looked up and past something the other could not see and reached out his hand in offering.

    Ludwig broke out of his stupor to call out to his comrade, fear and confusion lacing each syllable. He could barely comprehend enough of the scene to question it, almost begging for any kind of explanation.

    “Don’t you see, Ludwig? There’s no need to be afraid!” Laurence looked away from empty air to address the frantic man below him. “Our time of fearing everything but the shadows beneath our feet is over, soon it will be our time.” He flung his arms out at his sides as the being coiled around him became corporeal. “Witness me, dear friend, for I have beckoned the Moon!”

    Laurence’s raving grew more spirited, gesturing wildly seemingly in an attempt to quell Ludwig’s fears. He tried to assure him that they would live on, thrive, even ascend together.

    Ludwig knew they couldn’t.

    He reached over his shoulder and grasped the hilt of his blade. The last thought that went through his head as his sword lit up like a glowing sea was how much he wished they could.

    @fateoftheundead

    mrslittletall

    I wrote the starter fic of this chain. Everyone did such a wonderful job! Please give it a read, like and reblog.

    Title: Warmth, Comfort and a Break
    Fandom: Bloodborne
    Characters: Laurence the first Vicar/Ludwig the Holy Blade
    Word Count: 6.323
    AO3-Link: https://archiveofourown.org/works/32155129

    Summary: When Laurence gets sick with a cold, Ludwig talks him into letting the sickness cure on its own instead of using the holy blood. Laurence isn't too happy about it... but agrees once he notices how long he didn't take a break anymore.

    (Author's note: I am gifting this to RedFox because they asked me for a LauLu sickfic AGES ago and also gifted fics to me completely unprompted, which is so cute and I really wanted to give something back.)

    When Laurence woke up this morning, he felt awful. A headache, a stuffed nose, a sore throat... and he was pretty sure he had a fever as well. All the classic symptoms of a common cold.

    He had always gotten one without fail in his youth, not a single year had spared him, sometimes he even got them more than once a year, and because of his already poor health, it meant that he was suffering a lot under them, having to spend at least a week in bed waiting for his fever to go down.

    Luckily, now that he had the Healing Blood, that wouldn't be a problem anymore. He could just get himself his morning blood ministration and would be as good as new, ready to start work for the day.

    So Laurence got up, upsetting two or three cats that had slept on his bed, with the motion, and teetered over to his armchair, where he kept his personal blood ministration equipment for his room. It would be a bit difficult to set it up with his body feeling so weak, but he would manage. Just as he put the blood vial into the structure and was about to insert the needle into his arm, his door suddenly barged open.

    “Laurence, what do you want for breakfast to- Wait, what are you doing?!”, Ludwig's voice boomed through Laurence' room and Laurence, having been startled by his boyfriend, just stood there with the needle still in hand, not moving until Ludwig had crossed the distance to him.

    “Getting a blood ministration right in the morning? Laurence, we talked about this, you really need to tone down on the blood...” The disappointment in Ludwig's voice was unmistakable.

    “I need it.”, Laurence said, his voice a mere croak. “I am sick, Ludwig. I got a fever.”

    “Oh?”, Ludwig said and felt Laurence' forehead. “Indeed, you are burning up.”

    “So will you let me have-”, Laurence started but got interrupted by Ludwig picking him up.

    “Then let's get you to bed right away to take care of this sickness and make you feel better!”

    Before Laurence could complain, he was stuffed back in bed, Mary curling herself up on his lap.

    “Ludwig, what is the meaning of this?”, Laurence whisper-croaked, apparently his voice decided to fail him completely by now.

    “You take too much of the blood.”, Ludwig said. “And you seem to simply have a cold. It won't do your body any good when you heal everything with the blood, it will stop knowing how to heal itself. Besides, when was the last time you took a break?”

    “It hasn't been that long.”, Laurence said before breaking in a cough, noticing that Ludwig rubbed his back when it happened. “Ugh, I shouldn't talk too much.”, he croaked, though with a bit more voice. “Anyway, I only took a break...”

    Laurence stopped when he had to think about when had been the last time he took a break. It wasn't that long ago, right? However, he was sure he had been able to swim during the last break and the weather in Yharnam very much was winter, with the city coated in a fine powder that looked like someone had poured sugar on the building's roofs.

    “Alright, it has been a while.”, Laurence let himself fall back into the pillows and kneaded Mary's fur absentmindedly. While he certainly felt like he should take a break, he would like for it to be a break where he wasn't feeling like shit.

    “See? Just stay in bed and let me take care of you.”, Ludwig said.

    “What about the church hunters?”, Laurence murmured, trying to not overstrain his voice too much.

    “They can live without me for a day or two.”, Ludwig said. Laurence frowned, for his sickness normally never went away before a week was over. However, the latest hunt had just been and they wouldn't need to call out another so soon. “Let's rather focus on what you need... you should drink enough.”, Ludwig eyed the jar of water on Laurence' night stand, “Yes, water is good, but tea would be better. I will send Florence in with some tea soon. You can drink it while I prepare your breakfast. Because you have a cold, a nice chicken broth should help you out.”

    Ludwig got up and smiled at Laurence. “And I will make sure to make it extra salty for you.”

    “Thank you...”, Laurence said, though he was pretty sure he wouldn't taste anything anyway. He watched as Ludwig left the room and then focussed again on kneading Mary's fur, the cat purring at the continued care. She was warm and soft and made him feel a tiny little bit better.

    When he had been allowed to have a cat back on Byrgenwerth, he surely would have managed to get over all his sickness days with much more ease.

    With nothing to do, not feeling super tired and having to wait for breakfast anyway, Laurence continued to run his hands through Mary's fur, until there was a knock on the door.

    “Come in.”, he said, figuring that it probably would be Florence, for Ludwig had told him he would send her with tea. Not much later, the door opened and Florence entered with a tablet filled with a tea can and a tea cup. “

    “Vicar, Luwig told me you are feeling unwell?”, she asked as she walked over to his bed. “Oh dear, you look like you sport quite a fever.”, she added after taking one look at him.

    “Unfortunately yes.”, Laurence replied, accepting the tea cup he gave him. The tea was still steaming which felt like a blessing on his stuffy nose.

    “I brought you some sage tea.”, Florence put the tablet down on Laurence' night stand, putting the jar of water on top of it as well. “Though I wonder why you haven't cured your illness with the holy blood.”

    “Ludwig told me that I shouldn't take it for just a little cold.”, Laurence said, taking a sip from the tea. For most people it would be far too hot, but he always liked to drink his tea as hot as possible.

    “Understandable. Besides, you got into a habit to take far too much of the blood.”, Florence said. “Not that I can't understand it. There is quite a rush whenever I have it... it's so hard to control yourself sometimes. I am glad to see that you try to be better with it.”

    Well... if Ludwig wouldn't have come in, Laurence very much would have taken the blood ministration. And even though he had promised Ludwig to not take one daily anymore, he still had done it in secret... he just... often didn't feel well when he didn't take the blood. There was this sense of longing which only vanished when he got a blood ministration.

    Alright, maybe he really had a blood problem, but regardless, as long as Ludwig would mother him, he wouldn't be able to get one in anyway.

    “Thank you for the tea, Florence.”, he instead said. “I assume you already cancelled all my appointments?”

    “Not yet.”, Florence shot up. “Let me take care of it right away.”

    “Cancel them for the whole week.”, Laurence said as she left, being sure that he would be stuck in bed for a while. Once Florence was gone, he sighed and continued to drink the tea. At least it was warm and made his throat feel a little bit better.

    Laurence drank three cups of the tea and then planned to nap, only for his body to tell him he had failed to go to the bathroom after waking up and he didn't make it any better by drinking so much tea. While he very much didn't feel like walking all the way there, he was fighting a losing battle, so he pulled himself up, gave Mary a stroke with his hand and then walked towards the door, feeling a bit like one of the infected with how much his body was wobbling. Just as he had reached the door, it opened and Ludwig stood in front of him.

    “Laurence, I brought your- What are you doing out of bed?”

    “I need to use the bathroom.”, Laurence whispered, a total contrast to Ludwig's booming voice.

    “Are you sure you are able to make it there on your own? You look like you could faint any given minute...” Ludwig entered the room and put the tablet he was carrying on the table while Laurence supported himself at the door frame, catching his breath. Before he could reply to Ludwig that he didn't have a choice, he felt himself being picked up.

    “I will carry you there.”, Ludwig said, gently cradling Laurence in his arms, who turned a bit red in the face and it wasn't because of the fever.

    “Ludwig... what if someone sees us like this...”, he murmured.

    “Then I just tell them that I'll help our sick Vicar out.”, Ludwig beamed at him. “Now let's get you to the bathroom before we need to change your clothes.”

    “It isn't that bad...”, Laurence murmured as Ludwig carried him to the nearest bathroom. Laurence half expected that he wanted to come in with him, but Ludwig waited outside until Laurence was finished and left the bathroom after having washed his hands.

    “Now let's get you back to bed and feed you your soup.”, Ludwig said and picked Laurence back up again.

    “Why are you talking to me like I am a small child?”, Laurence asked on their way back. Last time he checked, he had been an adult for almost fifteen years now.

    “Old habits die hard.”, Ludwig replied. “I used to take care of my younger siblings and whenever they got sick, I talked to them like this because it made them feel better. They were more calm when they knew what would happen next.”

    “Well, I am not five years old anymore.”, Laurence said, letting himself hang limp in Ludwig's arms. “Besides... I used to be sick a lot as a child, so I can't be surprised anyway...”

    “I am not trying to talk down to you or anything.”, Ludwig said, opening the door to Laurence' room. “But if you feel uncomfortable with it, I'll stop.”

    As Laurence got put back into his bed, he considered Ludwig's words... Actually, it was kind of comforting. “...You don't need to stop.”, he said and leaned against the backrest of his bed, fluffing up a few pillows while Ludwig prepares his breakfast. Even though he couldn't smell much, he could smell the soup, for Ludwig must have used some strong smelling herbs in it. Even the smell made him feel better... surely after the soup was inside of him, he would feel better as well.

    After Ludwig poured the soup from the pot into a bowl, putting the lid on the pot again, he dunked a spoon in it and carried it over to Laurence' bed. There, he sat down and took the spoon himself, filling it and offering it to Laurence complete with the words: “Laurence, say aaaah.”

    “That's getting too ridiculous, Ludwig.”, Laurence crossed his arms and cocked his head a tiny little bit. “I can eat on my own. How about you prevent the cats from annoying me while eating? They are already interested...”

    It was true, Mick, Mary and Amy had come already to sniff at the bowl. Ludwig gave Laurence a sheepish smile. “I am sorry, Laurence.”, he said and handed him the bowl, then got up and scooped the three cats in his arms. “But tell me if you need help.”

    “It's just a cold.”, Laurence said, adjusting the bowl on his lap and grabbing for the spoon with his left hand. “Like you said earlier. I won't need help eating. I just am too weak to take care of myself for a while...”

    Thanks to his trip to the bathroom earlier, the soup had already cooled a bit, but Laurence didn't mind if it would have been hot. It was cold outside anyway and even though his body felt hot, he felt so cold from the inside, did he have the chills already? The warm soup was a blessing for his freezing body and his sore throat. Ludwig had kept his promise and put more salt into the soup, so that Laurence could taste quite a bit of it. It probably would be too salty for anyone else, even himself when he didn't have a cold, but for this exact moment, it was the right amount of salt. It helped to make the herbs stand out also.

    While Laurence chewed on a piece of chicken meat, he looked at Ludwig, who had decided to entertain the cats with a game to distract them from the food. All three of them were hunting a long string, one that looked like it came directly from Ludwig's boot. On closer inspection, it really came from it.

    “I have toys for them.”, Laurence said, his voice feeling much smoother thanks to the warm meal.

    “I don't mind.”, Ludwig simply answered. “My shoelaces are sturdy. They can chew on it for a bit.”

    Laurence shrugged and continued his meal. After he had emptied the bowl, Ludwig came over to take it and was in the process of filling it up again, but Laurence stopped him. “I can't eat that much when sick.”, he said. “I am already full.”

    “Well, you ate more than usual.”, Ludwig gave Laurence a smile. “I will keep the rest warm for later then.”

    “Yes, that would be the best...”, Laurence murmured. “I think I want to nap for a bit...” He already felt his eyes getting heavy.

    “Then I will look after you later.”, Ludwig promised and Laurence heard how the door shut when his eyes ultimately fell shut and his body tried to sleep through the sickness.

    Ludwig returned later to check up on Laurence... with a couple of Laurence' favourite books. While he would have liked to just sit down in his armchair and read them himself, his headache had returned and it didn't get better when a sneezing fit overtook him after waking, which turned into a coughing fit, leaving Laurence gasping for air while Ludwig rubbed his back.

    After Laurence' body had calmed down, it still told him that he better move as little as possible and so he cuddled himself in the blankets of his bed while Ludwig read to him.

    Ludwig wasn't a good reader at all. He was slow, stumbled over words and sometimes had to read the same sentence several times to deliver it right. In truth, Ludwig was terrible at reading, especially aloud and normally Laurence would have pulled his hair at this style of reading. Ludwig had once said to Laurence that it always looked to him that the words are missing letters or mixed up and that he really tried to not riddle his reports with too many mistakes. Laurence had to admit to himself one day that reading and writing just wasn't Ludwig's forte. Some of the spelling mistakes even were pretty hilarious.

    While Laurence truly had trouble with Ludwig reading so slow and snatchy, he very much admired that his boyfriend took the trouble upon him to read to Laurence, even though Ludwig knew he wasn't good at it. It made Laurence' heart feel quite a bit warmer, even though he didn't even manage to get through one chapter in an hour.

    “Maybe I should try a different book.”, Ludwig said after he finally got through chapter one of an adventure novel. He put the book aside and grabbed for another one. Laurence grabbed for the cup of tea on his night stand, for Florence must have brought new tea while he slept and it was nice and hot again, and waited for Ludwig to pick a book.

    “How to pick up Fair Maidens.”, Ludwig read. “What a pretentious title... Let's see.. Chapter one... Oh dear, are you alright, Laurence?”

    Laurence had spit his tea all over his blankets when Ludwig had picked up the book, because not only was this a book that Laurence absolutely hated, it had been Gehrman's favourite book. He had put it into his bookcase in his office one day... so that he would never forget... Ludwig must have grabbed it as well when he picked out Laurence' favourites.

    “Sorry, Ludwig, I didn't want to scare you.”, Laurence said and wiped his mouth with the sleeve of his pyjama. “That book... was Gehrman's favourite...”

    Ludwig looked down at the book on his lap and realization flashed over his eyes. “Of... of course, I remember... he was always reading this book. His copy was in a much worse shape, that is why I didn't recognize it... I normally recognize books by their cover and not their title...”

    That only further cemented Laurence' theory that Ludwig and letters had decided to be common enemies, but that wasn't the point here. The presence of the book was such a grim reminder of the fact that his friend had vanished... before Laurence could properly apologize to him.

    “I am sorry, Laurence, I know he is a touchy subject for you. I will pick a different book to read, but first we should change your pyjamas and blankets. They are full of tea. Wait here, I get a wash cloth.”

    “Of course...”, Laurence said, putting the cup of tea back on his night stand, staring at the book that Ludwig had so innocently picked out. Gehrman had been Laurence' usual care taker when he was sick, so many weeks spend on the couch in the little cottage he inhabited with his dad, so many days where he had held Laurence' hair out of the way when the latter puked out his guts (again), so many instances where Gehrman had picked him up and laid on a more comfortable surface when Laurence had passed out again, treating any wound that got inflicted during the fainting.

    If he would still be there, would he step in his old caretaker role and make sure that Laurence felt better soon? Or would he just tell Laurence to get a blood ministration and call it a day? Laurence would never know, for he never had managed to locate Gehrman (not that he didn't try to find him once and again...)

    Ludwig entered the room again with a wash cloth as well as a new cover for his blankets. Glad for the distraction, Laurence stumbled out of bed and let Ludwig take care of him, let himself undress and clean up where the tea had hit his skin and once he was in a new pyjama, he sat himself in his armchair with a woolen blanket that Florence had knitted for his birthday once and waited until Ludwig was done with changing the tea sodden cover.

    It was a good thing that no cats had been present during this small slip-up or Laurence would have had a few scratches as well as result.

    He looked down at his arms at this thought. For a cat owner having scratches was normal, it happened while they played or when they tried to climb on him or when he was a casualty when they fought. His arms were completely clean from any scratches or scars from them. Because of his daily usage of the blood... Laurence hadn't even noticed how dependent he had become on it...

    “Alright, Laurence, you can get back into bed.”, Ludwig said. Laurence got up, shivering on the short way over to his bed and was more than glad when he could cuddle himself in the comfort of his feather blanket again. “Let me read another book to you...”

    Much later that day, when the sun had long set and snow swirled outside the window, Laurence' cold had taken a turn for the worse and he just wanted to go to sleep and hope that it would be better the next day... if his cough would even let him sleep!

    Ludwig had brought some more tea to soothe his throat. He also had asked if he should bring some cough medicine, but Laurence declined... he knew what was in these things and that would completely knock him out. Besides, because of the holy blood, Yharnam barely sold common medicine anymore, pretty much every clinic had switched over to blood ministrations (of course they were under church control) and the ones that didn't only saw very few patients.

    An earlier version of Laurence may have felt guilty about this, but the Laurence that lived in the here and now was long over feeling pity for them.

    Laurence tried to drink at least one cup of tea before he would settle down to sleep, which was difficult when his body got racked by coughs again and again. Finally, after what felt like hours, probably only had been ten minutes though, his throat stopped tickling for the moment and he felt ready to just lay himself down and pass out.

    ...Maybe he should have sent Ludwig to get the cough syrup...

    Ludwig insisted on staying with Laurence for the night, so that he could take care of him immediately should something happen or should he need help. Laurence knew that Ludwig wouldn't change his mind, but he didn't allow Ludwig in his bed, for he didn't want for him to catch Laurence' cold. Ludwig probably would try to take care of Laurence despite being sick (and of course he wouldn't take the blood for such a minor illness), so Laurence didn't feel comfortable with getting his boyfriend sick as well.

    Ludwig decided to sleep in Laurence' arm chair instead, putting the woollen blanket over himself, settling in, his black hair not in a ponytail but falling upon his shoulders, looking like black silk. Ludwig had such beautiful hair, that was what Laurence thought when he looked at him and then decided to close his own eyes to get his much needed rest.

    When Laurence awoke it was still dark, still the middle of the night. He felt so hot... had his fever taken a turn for the worse? He certainly didn't feel well... laying in his bed, breathing heavily, interrupted by a few coughs occasionally. Laurence rolled from his back on his side and hoped that the awful feeling in his throat would go away and that his fever would calm down soon, when he had another feeling deep inside of him...

    The blood. He felt like he needed the blood. He hadn't been able to take it during the day, for Ludwig wanted for him to stay clear of it for a while... but he couldn't do this, he felt himself shivering and it wasn't from the chills, he felt like his body would dissipate if he didn't put the blood inside of it right now, his breath was going quicker and he just needed to get up and get a blood vial... just a tiny one... just a little drop, that was all...

    “Laurence, where are you going?”, Ludwig asked, making Laurence aware that he wasn't in his bed anymore but had started to walk towards his cupboard. Ludwig came over to Laurence and laid his hand on his forehead. “By the blood, you are burning up. You shouldn't walk away in the middle of the night with such a fever. If you need to go to the bathroom, I can help you out.”

    Laurence shook his head, that had not been the issue. He wanted... he tried to get the blood, despite him promising to Ludwig to not take it... he really had a problem apparently...

    “Felt hot. Wanted to get some cold water.”, he rasped out, his throat feeling like gravel.

    “You get into bed right away and I get you a cool wash cloth.”, Ludwig said and led Laurence back to bed.

    Laurence laid himself back down and pulled the blankets over him when Ludwig left. Now., his mind said to him. Now you can get a drop of blood. Ludwig will never know it.

    Laurence didn't move. Instead, he focused his thoughts on the cat that slept with him and pet its fur. He didn't even notice which one it was, he just needed something, anything to distract him from this need.

    When had Laurence gotten so dependent on the blood? He used to have a blood ministrant monthly, for he had to cure his chronic anemia. It turned into a bimonthly one, then a weekly and soon... soon he had done one daily, for it wasn't only the healing properties of the blood, but also the rush of it... it made him feel good, made him forget his troubles, put him on some high...

    No wonder Ludwig was concerned about him. That surely wasn't healthy. Though, how should Laurence get rid of this awful feeling, the feeling that something was missing from his body, something that he desperately wanted to replace?

    Just as the cat he had petted screamed in protest for he had struck his nails in it, Ludwig entered again and looked a bit confused at the offended ball of fur that left the room.

    “Laurence, I brought a cool wash cloth.”, he said and laid it on Laurence' forehead. “That should help you cool down, so that you can go to sleep again.”

    Ludwig wanted to leave and sit back down in the armchair, but he stopped when Laurence tugged at his sleeve.

    “Ludwig? Could you read another book to me?”, he requested.

    Ludwig gave Laurence a big smile. “Of course.”

    Even though it took ages for Ludwig to get through the one chapter he wanted to read, even though he fell over every second sentence and had to double-check on every other word, it distracted Laurence from his need. He would just focus on Ludwig and his non existent reading skills and nothing else. Ludwig would help to keep him grounded.

    He soon fell asleep again.

    Of course Laurence wasn't healthy the next day. He never had managed to cure a cold in a day without the help of the old blood. The same could be said for the day after the next day. Ludwig continued to take care of him, by giving him food (still mostly warm soup or stew), reading to him, delivering the cats to him so that they could warm him and getting tea into his system, hoping that he could sweat and flush the sickness out.

    On the fourth day, Laurence felt finally better, though now he had a different problem... now his nose wouldn't stop running and he pretty much had blown his nose with four different handkerchiefs now.

    “How are you feeling, Laurence?”, Ludwig came in with his bright smile and put Laurence' tea on the nightstand. “Here is your new dose of tea. Drink plenty.”

    “In a minute.”, Laurence replied, sniffling. “My stupid nose won't stop running... I think I need another handkerchief soon...” Just as Laurence had finished speaking, a sneeze happened. He held the handkerchief in front of him to catch the brunt of it, but the warmth on his face and the red on the handkerchief made it clear that his nose hadn't liked the constant blowing this morning at all. “Fuck.”, he growled.

    “Woah, you got a nosebleed!”, Ludwig looked rather shocked while Laurence just sighed.

    “And? That happens to me all the fucking time even unprompted. Rather give me a new handkerchief, it's all over my hands already...”

    Indeed Laurence' battered nose had already bled through the already sodden handkerchief he had held and now the blood dripped all over his fingers and down on his pyjama. Ludwig handed him a new handkerchief which Laurence pressed against his nose where blood and snot intermingled. A fairly unpleasant sensation.

    “At least all the snot gets out.”, Ludwig said as he steadied Laurence, making him hold his head slightly downwards, so that the nosebleed wouldn't clog his respiratory system and would hopefully stop soon.

    “Could have done without the blood...”, Laurence said. “Wait, don't I have to pay into the swear jar?” He remembered the two swears that had slipped earlier.

    “I wanted to give you a pass because you aren't feeling well.”, Ludwig said. “But for the next one when you are healthy you have to pay double.”

    “What even is the point then?”, Laurence murmured, folding the handkerchief so that the bloody side would point away from him and catch the rest of the blood with the clean side.

    “Once your nosebleed has stopped... I wanted to ask you away, would you like to take a bath?”, Ludwig asked as his hand went through Laurence' hair which made the latter extremely relaxed, forgetting to catch the nose bleed and bleed all over the blankets. “Ah sorry, I forgot that happened to you...”

    “A bath sounds fine.”, Laurence replied. “I need to get one anyway, I have blood all over my face and hands...”

    Not only that, Laurence hadn't got a proper bath for a few days now and he felt all sweaty and gross because of the fever. At least it had gone down today, even though it wasn't completely gone. Why were his colds always so persistent?

    Ludwig helped him out of bed, but didn't carry him this time, for Laurence made it clear that he would like to walk on his own, now that he was better. Ludwig still laid a hand around his shoulder and walked with him towards the bathroom, the small little personal one, which housed a sink, a toilet and a bathtub, which was big enough for two people. Laurence unlocked it with his key and stepped in, Ludwig closely behind him.

    “I already let the water heat up.”, Ludwig said. “It should be nice and hot, like you enjoy it.”

    “Thank you.”, Laurence sat down on the closed toilet and waited while Ludwig filled the tub with water. While he waited, his nose started to run again, so he pressed his sleeve against it and wiped it. He would need to put on a new pyjama anyway.

    While Laurence and Ludwig waited for the tub to fill, Ludwig organized a new pyjama for Laurence, locked the door behind him when he returned and got towels from the shelf in the bathroom ready. Once the tub was completely filled, Laurence got up and fumbled with the buttons on his pyjama. Ludwig was over in an instance and helped him undress. Once Laurence was completely naked, he entered the bathtub and sighed when the warmth, heat even, engulfed his body and soothed his aching nose and chest.

    Laurence didn't expect for Ludwig to get into the tub with him, so a surprised noise escaped him when his boyfriend entered as well.

    “How can you sit in this heat without batting an eye?”, Ludwig asked, fanning himself with his hand. It seemed to be a little too hot for him.

    “Because I love the heat.”, he replied and leaned himself against Ludwig's large frame, closing his eyes when he felt his boyfriend's embrace. He could stay in the hot water like this forever...

    However, Ludwig didn't let him enjoy the moment for eternity, for Laurence had to get cleaned up, especially the blood that was still smeared over his hands and chest. The water hadn't managed to get rid of everything, for it already had crusted and was now caked over his body.

    Though, it was very nice to get washed by Ludwig as well. Ludwig didn't talk much, just sometimes prompted Laurence to give him a certain limb or move in a certain way. He was gentle and with each stroke of the wash cloth, Laurence felt cleaner and a lot better, watching as the red streaks of his blood appeared in the water before fading and settling at the ground. While it felt a bit weird basically sitting in his own blood, there was so much water in the tub, it was diluted enough.

    After Ludwig was done with cleaning up Laurence, he got his earlier wish fulfilled and was allowed to just sit in the bathtub, leaning his head against Ludwig's chest and get his hair stroked by the man he loved. Only shortly before they had to leave the tub did Ludwig intervene again, by washing Laurence' hair.

    It had been so relaxing that Laurence even forgot about his cold while in the warm water, but once he was out, heavily shivering because of the cold air, he got reminded about it. Ludwig wrapped him in a towel immediately and helped to dry Laurence' body and hair, then helped him into the fresh pyjama he had brought.

    “Stupid cold.”, Laurence murmured. “When will it finally leave me in peace?”

    “Soon probably.”, Ludwig said as he let Laurence back to his room. “You look a lot better already. And this was all your own body and not the blood. Besides, you finally took a break again, so I am not exactly mad at your illness...”

    “It is nice to spend so much time with you...”, Laurence had to admit. He was really working too much. He should make sure to take at least one day off each week to spend with Ludwig entirely.

    After Laurence was tucked in bed again, Ludwig left to prepare his meal. Expecting some more stew or soup, Laurence poured himself another cup of tea and entertained the cats that gathered around his bed with a string that was knotted to a wooden stick. They surely had fun with this game, even though two of them had a little quarrel when they hit each other instead of the string.

    All three of the cats present turned and ran towards the door though when Ludwig returned. “Woah, you guys better get out.”, Ludwig said and pretty much banished the cats from Laurence' room, blocking the cat door as well. “Or they won't let you eat in peace.”

    Laurence' ever running nose was a blessing when it came to the food, because for once he could actually smell it and it smelled so good, his mouth actually started to water.

    “I thought you must be tired of stew or soup.”, Ludwig smiled. “And since you feel better today, I made you another dish. Baked salmon with mashed potatoes and peas on the side, all topped off with a sauce hollandaise. Enjoy.”

    “Thank you, Ludwig.”, Laurence said as he dug in, amazed at how well he could taste again and that Ludwig had put the exact right amount of salt he liked into the dish. It was truly wonderful and made him feel a lot better.

    Laurence mostly took a nap for the rest of the day until Ludwig came back to him. With him feeling better, Ludwig decided to come into bed with Laurence and join him while Laurence read one of his books, being well enough again to read on his own.

    Laurence smiled as Ludwig cuddled against him, soon falling asleep probably from the exhaustion of taking care of Laurence and having to keep up his job. Laurence purged the light not much later and decided to sleep as well.

    Three days later Laurence woke up and didn't feel sick at all anymore. He checked his forehead and he surely had no fever anymore, he didn't feel the need to cough and while his nose felt sensitive, it was neither stuffed nor running without pause.

    He got out of bed and walked over to his wardrobe, putting on his usual church robes. No sense laying in bed anymore, he could get back to work.

    As Laurence put the church robe on, he noticed something in its pocket. He felt for it and found a blood vial. He held it between his fingers and stared at it.

    He... wasn't sick anymore, so he wouldn't need it anyway... but... hadn't he been off the blood long enough for now? Though, should he take so much of the blood anyway?

    Maybe later, Laurence decided, putting the blood vial back into the pocket. He had survived without daily blood ministrations in the past, he had survived this week. Maybe he should try and really tone down on the blood... even though he didn't feel strong enough to put that particular blood vial into his desk and lock the drawer with the key.

    The door opened and Ludwig came in: “Laurence, what do you want for breakfast today? Oh, do you feel better?”

    “Loads.”, Laurence answered. “I will get back to work today.”

    “That's great.”, Ludwig came over and ruffled his hair, making Laurence melt in his touch. “See, it was just a cold, you did survive it, even without the blood.”

    Laurence winced at the mention of the blood, thinking about that blood vial he would carry around with him. Time for an experiment... if he would manage to go a whole day without using it, he would consider it a success. For now, though...

    “But I still would like that breakfast of yours.”, he said. “Can you make me a rice omelette?”

    “Gladly.”, Ludwig said and left the room, leaving Laurence' alone, who sat down on a chair and felt the blood vial in his pocket.

    “Only one day...”, he said to himself, hoping that he wouldn't fail. (Author's notes: Spoilers, he fails.

    Ludwig has so much trouble reading because he is dyslexic, they just don't have a word for it in Yharnam.

    If you want to know more about Laurence' cat, check out my “The Crazy Cat Vicar” fic.

    The cough medicine is a reference to the Victorian cough syrup which is filled with alcohol, cocaine and other drugs.

    I hope you enjoyed it. Please leave me a comment with your thoughts.)

    Whump Tips: Chronic Sleep Deprivation Edition

    I’m back again, this time with some sleep deprivation. One thing I see a lot of is chronic sleep deprivation (two+ months) being written as similar to acute/short-term sleep deprivation (24-200 hours). It’s not! It’s actually very different! Don’t ask me how I know this, you don’t want to know. 

    Now, down to business: what to keep in mind when writing a character with chronic sleep deprivation. 

  • Chronic sleep deprivation can be hard to detect, especially if your character thinks of themself as “not having it that bad,” “being a wimp,” or “needing to suck it up.” Five or less hours of sleep a night over two to six months can have hellish effects on your character’s physical and mental health.
  • Fever symptoms with no fever: your character might be baffled to discover that they’re not feverish, seeing as they’ve been cold and achy for days, suffering from hot flashes and waking up in the middle of the night confused and sore. Maybe they’re even running a low-grade fever, but most of the symptoms seem to be without cause. 
  • You know the thing when you’ve sat for too long and you stand up and your vision goes black? That will happen to your whumpee all the time. They’ll need to be careful, as sudden movements could cause them to pass out or feel as if they might pass out. 
  • This can also happen when climbing stairs, running, or otherwise exerting themself. “I’m about to pass out,” is a common thought of the chronically exhausted. 
  • Changes in appetite are also common, either leading to under or overeating. This can be accompanied by weight gain/loss. Your body has no clue what signals to send you. 
  • Headaches. This is pretty typical, but sleep deprivation makes you prone to constant headaches. Your character might also get tension headaches of the sort that originates at the back of the head and burns under the skin. 
  • Nausea is common, especially when your exhausted character is running on even less sleep than usual. 
  • Confusion or brain fog that intensifies as the exhaustion goes on. 
  • Insomnia. Yes, insomnia. If your character hasn’t had enough sleep in months, the sleep they do get will start to degrade, both in quality and quantity. 
  • Inability to stay awake/falling asleep at inappropriate times. Your character might fall asleep any time they sit down, be it in the classroom, on the job, or behind the wheel. For extra Whump Points, have other characters get mad at them for this. 
  • Sudden decline in mental health. Exhausted characters will likely experience acute anxiety and depression, up to and including frequent (3/week or more) panic attacks and frequent thoughts of suicide. These thoughts may be idle/intrusive thoughts, or they may be along the lines of, “I don’t want to die, but death would be better than living in this hell.”
  • Panic attacks upon waking up. If your character isn’t sleeping, there’s likely a reason and it’s probably that they’re too busy to sleep. Waking up is hell if you feel like you shouldn’t have fallen asleep in the first place.
  • These mental problems will isolate your character and exacerbate feelings of inadequacy. Feeling as though they are at fault, your character may push themself more, take on more tasks, and sleep less in an effort to prove themself. 
  • Sleep deprivation isn’t always obvious from the outside and can cause enough irritability and personality changes to drive people away. Your character is alone, exhausted, and extremely mentally ill. This cannot be rectified with a night of sleep. 
  • Sleep deprivation of this sort can take months to recover from and can, given the proper context and cause, be traumatizing.
  • Basically, your whumpee is in pain, anxious, depressed, and isolated for months at a time, and will probably begin to think they deserve it. Chronic sleep deprivation is so much better than acute. Use it. 

    Your comments on AO3 are more powerful than you know.

  • A comment on a fic more than once gave me the idea or inspiration I needed to add another part to that fic. It helped me to produce even more of the content that the reader who left it enjoyed so much.
  • A comment on an older fic reminded me that my fics don’t get lost 24 or 48 hours after posting. True, that’s when most fics get the majority of their hits, kudos and comments, so a writer sometimes feels like if a fic hasn’t done well in that time frame, it’s as good as gone. But some people discover and love such fics later on and that’s incredible.
  • A comment once stopped me from deleting my AO3 account. For reasons, I was feeling really low, like I had no talent and nothing to offer. Like everything I was posting was banal and worthless. And as my finger was hovering over the ‘delete account’ button, a mail notification let me know that someone left a comment on one of my fics. I went to read it and it was absolutely lovely. And it complimented not just that fic, but my writing overall. It helped me get through a rough moment.
  • Your comments can mean so much more than you know. You have more capacity to do good and help content creation in the fandom, that you and others enjoy, than you realize.

    So this is my little note, as an author, to say THANK YOU to all the people who take the time to leave a comment on AO3 or send an ask on Tumblr or write kind words in the tags of a reblog. It all means so very much! <33333