My general impression has been that encountering Willem ranges from confusion to disappointment. Here we get to meet a character so integral to the game’s events, yet the moment of truth proves anticlimactic. It doesn’t help that our time in Byrgenwerth is equally short and uneventful. In that respect, I consider myself in harmony with the choir. My only caveat is that I also recognize this subdued outcome for both the provost and his school for what it is: perfectly fitting. There was no better way to end Willem’s tale, and it makes Byrgenwerth stand out from any other magic or science school in fiction.
As the eventual founder of a university, Willem was a man of means. After all, he had been accompanied by two lifelong manservants, whose loyalty extended even in madness — such adoration better fits family servants going back up to generations than newly-hired help. In the same vein, one aide wears a well-tailored top hat and coat, suggesting that he serves someone high-class. We can also be certain that Willem is a foreigner. His college was not built in Yharnam but the far end of the neighboring woods closer to foreign lands, and none of his students show signs of being native. This wouldn’t be the case had Willem been ingratiated with the locals, especially as one himself. In that case, he must be the head of a rich household who set out on a foreign expedition with his attendants — the Victorian era did see a spike in affluent members of European society taking up amateur archaeology as a hobby. Willem was born in a time when men were living through an age of discovery, and this frontier captured his curiosity.
The initial hook seems to have been in the cemetery outside Yharnam. Of all the places to build his school, Willem chose deep within the woods right next to the graves of the locals’ elder gods. One of the tombstones closest to it is encircled by the ruined foundations of stone architecture designed seemingly to encapsulate the monument. Why give added protection to this specific grave? For research. One of Willem’s attendants, Dores, ultimately becomes a gravekeeper in the woods, performing all manner of bloody rituals as evidenced by the plethora of tools and stains on what are clearly ceremonial robes. Why go to all this effort unless it somehow supports the master he so adores? Willem must have taken the short stroll to study the graves. The reason for fencing in one in particular seems to be because the site is the best preserved — the tombstones in the interim are all significantly slanted, signs of damage to the underlying graves from the elements or wildlife. Based on the current neglect of the enclosure, however, this site hasn’t been examined for some time, restricting any study to early on.
Mask of Dores, gravekeeper of the Forbidden Forest. It is said that its pallid peculiarities imitate the keepers of the ruins.
The two manservants who once served Willem of Byrgenwerth saw the mysteries of the underground ruins and with it lost their sanity. It is said that one became the password gatekeeper, and the other became the forest gravekeeper. For they adored their master and were his loyal attendants even if mad.
The burial ground, with its oversized headstones, would be the most striking feature of the region to any outsider. Therefore, rumors about Yharnam would inevitably mention the mysterious graveyard stretching alongside the capital, especially any claims that it buries gods. Word must have reached Willem, who decided to uncover the secrets for himself. In studying one of the graves, he likely also excavated its contents, putting himself in contact with a Great One and, more importantly, its blood. A corpse bowing before the enclosed headstone possesses Clockwise Metamorphosis, whose description brings up the discovery of blood. Dores’ rituals likewise suggest attempts to appease the elder gods with blood, thereby implicating his master’s own realization of its powers — especially from these dead gods. Indeed, Laurence insinuates that Willem coined the adage recognizing blood’s role in forming and defining existence. In other words, the amateur archaeologist quickly understood that he was dealing with the supernatural. This undoubtedly piqued his interest and led to further excavation.
We are the ignorant who by blood are born, become human, and also lose our humanity. Always fear blood.
In one corner of the Byrgenwerth building is a closed hatch. While we can never open it to investigate further, we can infer that it leads deep underground from how the same hatch in Oedon Chapel functions: requiring a long ladder be taken down. The Bloodborne: Design Works likewise includes a large subterranean cave among concept art for Byrgenwerth, indicating plans to explore one beneath the school grounds earlier in development. Willem evidently came across such a cave while digging and kept passage readily available for his use. There is only one reason for him to keep coming back: it connects to the underground ruins. The concept art features tomb mold much like the Forbidden Woods cave seen in the final game — the latter likely based on the former. In that case, Byrgenwerth’s cavern would have similarly served as a route in and out of the ruins. Thus, by accident or design, Willem found a way to explore the deeper history behind the forest graveyard.
The affluent antiquary certainly did explore the labyrinth, at least through his ever-faithful attendants. Dores’ later mask mimics Pthumerian features. This means that he was copying their appearance along with their practice as gravekeepers, which he could only know from previous personal experience. Both manservants did go mad as a result of witnessing the arcane reality of the ruins firsthand. If Willem led these excursions underground, it would only be from behind; his retinue took the brunt of the eldritch horrors they faced. Such horrors must have included the fluorescent flower mostly limited to the Pthumerian ruins, one such specimen apparently plucked and brought back up to nurture in Byrgenwerth. This suggests that these weren’t cursory dives. In fact, they seem to have gone all the way down to Isz at the bottom.
Great Chalices were first brought above ground during Byrgenwerth’s heyday — that this is elucidated in the Great Isz Chalice’s description betrays which kind. On top of that, Willem possesses the Eye rune encapsulating Ebrietas’ voice, implying contact with the abandoned Great One in Isz. Chests in Byrgenwerth similarly contain pearl slugs and the empty phantasm shell associated with her, while another in the Lecture Building stores her actual augur, ready for an instructor to take out and show to the class in the next room. According to the text for that Remnant of Ebrietas, this discovery is what kickstarted the study of the cosmos, something so prevalent in the Isz tomb. Various item description do make a point of “Byrgenwerth” having seen the same mysteries. The tomb prospector set further implies that the institution realized the potential to meet the Great Ones in those mysterious ruins. And that knowledge relied on researching Ebrietas and Isz. The astral maiden had her eyes trained on the cosmos, so why shouldn’t they?
Remnant of the mysteries that Byrgenwerth once saw. It summons a piece of Ebrietas, an abandoned Higher One, via the phantasm, a mollusk known as a portent of a Higher One.
This chance encounter began the research seeking the cosmos in the underground ruins, and it connects to the later “Choir”.
Death-blood of the inhuman kin, who are related to the Higher Ones. Use to acquire indescribable blood left wills.
From here on is beyond man, mysteries once seen by Byrgenwerth.
With all this comes the fact that the classroom building is another part of Willem’s university. Despite Alfred referencing it as a school building, the “Byrgenwerth” we explore appears to be merely Willem’s private residence. The first floor is one large office, the schoolmaster seated at the desk in the vision. The second is a library overlooking the office. These chambers can hardly serve as a formal school, and the only sign of people besides Willem are the circles of sofas and chairs present on both floors, clearly for important meetings and entertaining guests. Meanwhile, the Lecture Building is home to students wearing the Byrgenwerth uniform. According to the area’s key, its two lecture hall are each dedicated to history or archaeology, the perfect subjects for Willem’s discoveries. Indeed, the name Byrgenwerth itself derives from old Germanic to mean “worth of the burial place”, implying that the school was established for the sole purpose of showcasing the value of Yharnam’s mysterious graves to the world.
Byrgenwerth is an old schoolhouse.
Willem’s goals couldn’t be more transparent. Having borne witness to the supernatural hiding beneath man’s sight, the socialite immediately sought to obtain that power, not just for himself but for all of mankind. The Clockwise Metamorphosis rune links the discovery of blood with a dream of evolution. The Darwinian Theory of Evolution became a hot topic for Victorian high society, with ideological frameworks like Social Darwinism emerging out of the popular conversation. Immersed in that culture, it is easy to see Willem framing the potential of arcane blood through a similar lens — moreover, it is easy to see his dissatisfaction with the wider intellectual debate. Post-Industrialization and Enlightenment philosophy brought major doubt and conflict apropos to man’s place in society, politics, and the universe, and the Eye rune attests to his despair over the state of modern man’s thinking in its description, wanting them to transcend it. If blood was the driver of man’s evolution, then surely the arcane properties manifest in the blood of the “gods” buried in this storied land was key to their own transcendence.
And so, with contemporary answers proving woefully insufficient, Willem looked to ancient peoples in the hopes for mankind to become as gods. Yet to do so, he would need to accomplish two things: one, demystify the arcane; two, spread it to a world enamored with the mundane technology produced by modern science. By setting up a university, Willem could attract curious young minds into this more occult world as he then understood it while also multiplying the brain power dedicated to furthering that understanding — the school building is outfitted not only with classrooms and rest areas but also research labs, the same tables littered with beakers and flasks as in Willem’s home. It didn’t matter how much of his personal wealth was dumped into this project. By the end, it promised to present the world with yet another revolution, disseminated far and wide by his legion of followers.
For Want of Progress
Despite taking up the role as the president of a university, Willem is consistently addressed as sensei, (先生) showing that others respect him as a mentor. This may be because he personally taught the student body. Of the two lecture halls, only one has a corpse sitting at the teacher’s desk at the front, carrying a key to the classrooms. This leaves a second instructor MIA when Willem is also not be present in the area. If he is the lecturer, then his subject was most likely archaeology, having primarily been digging up and exploring old ruins. This direct guiding hand along with his exchange with Laurence in the altar skull vision indicates that Willem shared a closer bond with his pupils than a mere college administrator looking to fill a quota. In fact, with the school’s emphasis on hands-on research, they were basically colleagues working side by side. There was a shared spirit of inquiry under the provost’s guiding hand, which explains why he was so protective of their well-being.
Blood was a core part of Byrgenwerth’s curriculum at the start. The sedatives comprised of dense human blood originate from the place, confirming the inhabitants’ thorough understanding of the stuff’s effect on the mind. Considering how common it is for researchers of arcane power to go mad, the medicine was certainly necessary for their continued work, hence the students commonly possess it. But soon enough, they weren’t just using blood to combat insanity. “Beast” is the first rune recorded by the Byrgenwerth student Caryll, with many after it also dealing with blood and the transformation of men. As its description acknowledges, sedatives are the sprout from which general blood treatment sprang. The students apparently began experimenting with transfusing blood into each other. And as Beast’s text notes, discovering the effects of blood went hand-in-hand with discovering beasts, much to Byrgenwerth’s dismay.
Oral medicine of Byrgenwerth origin. Has effect that calms the mind.
Madness of the mind is a common condition for researchers of mysteries, and a kind of dense human blood calms such disturbances of the mind.
It was the sprout which has eventually led to blood treatment.
Despite having first discovered its potential, Willem wasn’t enamored with blood. Key to his adage is that blood’s radical effects on being make it something to be feared; his is a mantra of caution. He understood the dangers of dabbling with a component so core to the universe and ideally would rather not deal with the stuff at all, based on the Rune Workshop Tool’s Japanese description. Even as he was sharing his earlier findings, the provost continued researching on his own. The same tools and vessels found in the students’ research labs litter Willem’s private office, the chest containing pearl slugs proving his attempts to culture phantasms. Another such lab table can be found up a ladder from the second-floor library, just below a small observatory where the phantasm shell is stored. It seems that Willem suspected the arcane beings’ connection to the stars, a suspicion shared with his students going by the armillary spheres found around the Lecture Building. Phantasms were his prime vector for understanding the cosmos.
The copyist Karel, student of Byrgenwerth, recorded the sounds of the inhuman Higher Ones and called them Karel characters.
The hunter who recovered this workshop tool can burn Karel characters into the mind and acquire their mysterious power. That which isn’t dependent upon blood is close to Provost Willem’s ideals.
With that in mind, Willem must have opposed continued experiments with blood treatment. Beast also became the first rune forbidden from use precisely because of its “unwanted” transformation effect. We can similarly find the Communion rune linked to blood transfusion left to rot in storage at the Lecture Building. The provost banned any blood work that would turn the young minds under his care into mindless monsters, and the students at the time, unsurprisingly, seemed to agree. Of course, that didn’t stop the undoubtable explosion in beasts following the initial trials, a threat which academics were hardly equipped to dispatch. For this, they would need a professional, and they found one in the quaint little workshop in the neighboring city of Yharnam.
Willem is one of the two people Gehrman cries out for in his sleep. Willem likewise references Laurence not being the first to betray him by leaving in Japanese dialogue, with cut dialogue affirming this to be Gehrman. Evidently, the two men shared a close relationship once upon a time, and the one area where their vocations intersect is beasts. Therefore, Byrgenwerth likely learned of his workshop’s reputation exterminating beasts and reached out for his help dealing with the school’s own growing monster problem. This arrangement apparently led to a blossoming friendship, with Gehrman respecting Willem as a teacher the same as his students. In all likelihood, the aging hunter was taken in with the school’s research and its promise for human potential. The man wasn’t getting any younger, so he may as well become personally invested in Willem’s success and assist to that end.
Yes, I know. So you too will betray me? The same as Gehrman?
These contributions included escort work. One of the statues from the underground ruins have been erected inside Gehrman’s workshop, suggesting that he explored the labyrinth at some point. The first hunter is also responsible for making the bells discovered in the ruins a signal for hunters to cooperate across planes. With no obvious access point to the ruins back home, the old hunter most likely agreed to facilitate Willem’s subsequent expeditions from Byrgenwerth. The provosts’ servants went mad and might no longer be reliable for such a dangerous trek, whereas Gehrman had the skill and enough help back home to take an absence. This way, the school could continue studying the ruins and excavating arcane relics — no less safe than any other field trip. The location of the relic Gehrman took back indicates that he hadn’t moved to Byrgenwerth for the duration of this arrangement. Willem had more than enough chairs to keep the hunter company after class, so the latter probably made regular visits to confirm their progress or coordinate schedules.
Large old bell that was discovered in the underground ruins. Its sound crosses planes, and the first hunter made it a special signal. In order for hunters of other worlds to nevertheless cooperate across the divides.
You expend enlightenment to ring this mysterious bell with a human body, but you can seek cooperation from hunters of other worlds.
Outreach to Gehrman in the first place proves that the school didn’t simply confine itself to the local graveyard and what lay underneath. Even if hearsay, the stories still circulating within the various regional communities would provide knowledge and context which could be of benefit to the school’s research. Such was the case with the Fishing Hamlet. That the cloistered villagers even know of Byrgenwerth insinuates some form of introduction. Moreover, the hamlet’s statue of man’s metamorphosis also litter the backyard of Willem’s residence — miniatures even ornamenting his office desk. The only difference is that additional variants complete the transformation, making the figure resemble the Amygdala statues decorating the adjacent elder god graveyard. The obvious implication is that Willem recreated the Fishing Hamlet statues with his own spin, presumably to link their idea of metamorphosis to his work with the forest graves. This requires he witness the statues at that seaside village beforehand.
In short, the students and staff must have embarked on a field trip to the remote hamlet so as to study the inhuman villagers and their goddess Kos. The result of this excursion was the transformation of Rom into a Great One. Micolash proclaims Kos responsible for granting the spider “eyes”, and we ultimately find her hidden under Willem’s protection at Byrgenwerth. Most likely, “Roma” (ロマ) was originally a student who took part in the expedition, where contact with Kos provided her — and only her — with profound insight. Perhaps she somehow earned the villagers trust in order to gain an exclusive audience, or perhaps her encounter with the Great One was entirely accidental. Whatever their exact interaction, Rom’s resulting enlightenment was only partial. Her mind remained on this plane, morphing her body to accommodate her grander state. Unlike Ebrietas, however, her enlightened blood is less Great One than kin. This is presumably why the spider is uniquely called vacuous, or “half-witted”. (白痴) She is the idiot of the proverbial family.
Nonetheless, Rom’s metamorphosis seems to have sparked a rush to identify the cause and replicate the results. Back at the university, we can acquire the Arcane Lake rune from a corpse, confirmation that the institution made the connection between water and the Great Ones — their suspicions would be natural after the experience with Kos. Byrgenwerth is also where Great One’s Wisdom is first available, suggesting that the owner had contact with a live Great One at school — such as Rom. The item’s description presents Willem’s conclusion: they needed to obtain more “eyes” inside the brain. An obvious throwback to the mind’s eye, the provost believed that they simply weren’t positioned mentally to ascend to even Rom’s “halfwit” level, lacking sight of the big picture of cosmic proportions. Thus, in conveying the power to discover new things which were always there but otherwise go unnoticed due to lack of vision, Willem’s Eye rune symbolizes his research.
Fragment of the lost wisdom of they who are close to gods, all kinds of beings called the Higher Ones.
Use to acquire much enlightenment.
Once, Willem of Byrgenwerth proclaimed: “Our plane of thought is too low. We need more eyes.”
One of the secret characters of the copyist Karel, student of Byrgenwerth. It phoneticizes the voice of an abandoned Higher One, so it bestows the meaning of “eye” and brings further discoveries.
“Eye” is also the symbol of the research that Provost Willem sought after. He despaired the current state of human thinking, and aimed to be a higher-dimension thinker. For he wanted the thinking eyes inside his own head, his own brain.
As part of this obsession, Byrgenwerth areas are stacked with preservative vats filled with eyes. Cut dialogue also conveys Willem’s obsession with collecting eyes to the point of violent madness. These were materials for arcane experimentation, which resulted in products like the Blacksky Eye. True to its name, the “night sky eye” (夜空の瞳) has the infinite expanse of the dark heavens barely contained within the pupil. This is the byproduct of being infested with phantasms, bulging tentacles inside the ball making their way to dig into the iris. Being another remnant of Byrgenwerth’s arcane discoveries, this was clearly an experiment into viewing the higher plane and establish contact — the equally never-ending meteor storm inside the void conveys the Great Ones’ response to these attempts. Such attempts were nonetheless why Willem wears a fancy eye mask, blocking out sight of the physical plane so his mind focuses solely on seeing the mental one within.
… Eyes, eyes still…?… Still not enough, I can’t see it…… Give me eyes…… Oh, hurry, someone….. be they round, be they young… Give me eyes, inside my head…… Oh, more eyes…
Oh, oh… Oh, oh… Have they finally arrived…? I have been waiting for you, dear sacrifice. Now, hurry on over here… Let’s hurry up and give me your eyes… Hello, a pleasure to meet you.
Soft eye blessed by a phantasm. It is a remnant of the mysteries that Byrgenwerth once saw, but it ultimately didn’t show anything.
In the depths of its pupil , the dark night sky stretches without end and a meteor storm rages without cease. If you rub the eye a little, it will fly out.
The students, meanwhile, were not so keen to simply meditate. Rom was proof that man could evolve into higher forms of life, if a bit grotesque. And they knew the means to induce metamorphosis. We can find a brainsucker roaming the school grounds, as well as gardens of eyes. Like the name suggests, these “seedbeds of eyes” (瞳の苗床) have numerous peepers in their oversized heads, their bodies appearing human-turned-arachnid. This plus the sedatives these maddening kin possess indicate that they were once students, so the same is probably true for the brainsucker. There are also the spiders Rom summons in her boss battles. They function as her kin but possess Madman’s Knowledge, suggesting that they were humans who lost their minds and morphed into part of her being. In other words, the students began experimenting with blood treatment again, this time focused on implementing Willem’s theory so that they can become like their spider colleague. In fact, considering the nature of her kin, it was probably Rom’s blood being used for these trials.
Naturally, Willem opposed these experiments, too. Laurence justifies his “betrayal” because the provost was stubborn, evidently still refusing to let his school dabble further with blood transformations. Even ignoring the risk of another beast epidemic, his adage warns that one should always fear blood, period, not just “old” blood like the localization attests. Rom’s blood was no less dangerous, and Willem apparently felt that it was the wrong way to go about transcendence. After all, Rom seemed to ascend without the need for blood, so man’s evolution need not be achieved by tinkering with its primal element. One note, left by seemingly the lone transformed student standing over it, acknowledges how Willem rightly believed metamorphosis to be their downfall. Using blood to force evolution was doomed to failure. We can see the old man’s resistance to this outcome in how he has maintained his own human form.
Master Willem is correct. Wretched evolution is the fall of man.
Close inspection reveals fungal protrusions growing out of the back of the provost’s hunched back, specifically at the base of his neck. The unusual color and glow suggest a connection to phantasms. Indeed, their side profile vaguely resembles the Milkweed rune, meaning that Willem has likely become a seedbed for phantasms. Clearly, he tried incorporating the beings into himself to link up with the cosmos. But he hasn’t transformed like users of Milkweed — his growths are at the same stage now as in the altar skull vision from years earlier. The only explanation is that Willem has somehow halted the transformation process, holding back the phantasms from completely taking over his body. Most likely, he has stopped it through sheer force of will, wanting to cling to his humanity above all else.
One of the descriptions to the Third Umbilical Cord suggest that Willem’s quest for eyes within wasn’t to have the Great One’s enlightened state of mind in itself. Rather, it was so that he could compete with these superior beings “as man”. His goal was the advancement of mankind. If humans could obtain the complete knowledge of the Great Ones, then the species would be basically unrivaled in this world. But, he didn’t wish to share the secrets of the cosmos so that the entire race could become like the Great Ones. He wanted to acquire these inhuman powers and make them into arts of man, much like Freke in Demon’s Souls or Logan in Dark Souls. To that end, he sought not a physical evolution, but a mental one. His aim was to acquire virtually infinite knowledge and power without the extra baggage on the body; become as gods yet be as men. It is a noble mission — and also incredibly foolish.
Great relic also known as the alias “Eye Cord”. Even with Higher Ones, only babies possess this. The “umbilical cord” is derived from that.
Provost Willem once sought this for “thinking eyes”. For the sake of harboring eyes within the brain and acquiring the great Higher One’s thinking. Or perhaps for the sake of competing with Higher Ones as man.
Willem ultimately wasn’t very persuasive. Despite his warnings, Gehrman still left along with many of the provost’s students to continue experimenting with blood. But even though Laurence parted with him on a sour note, Willem didn’t cut ties with his prized pupil. While Dores took to performing blood rituals to appease the forest gods for his master, the provost’s other attendant was tasked with being the gatekeeper to that forest, sitting outside the Cathedral Ward to keep anyone who didn’t recite the adage from passing through. In other words, so long as Laurence and others remembered to always fear blood, Willem would welcome them back at any time. In this way, the gatekeeper facilitated a back channel between the Healing Church and Byrgenwerth, allowing the core hierarchy of both institutions to regularly exchange knowledge on their individual progress.
The password gatekeeper is Byrgenwerth’s watchman. Only the cathedral’s adage will open the gate.
One result of this continued collaboration is the church giant in the students’ research labs. From his garb, we can be sure the Pthumerian came from the Cathedral Ward, only he has no weapon save for his flaming fists. Apparently, the students were experimenting on the giant, perhaps trying to save the church on silver by making them more effective beast hunters unarmed. Another result was research into third umbilical cords. Practically every lab has cages with dead, infant-like monstrosities, which the Design Works identify as “baby specimens”. (赤子の検体) This includes the provost’s office, recognized by the same desk and desk ornaments as the one in his private home but in a much, much smaller space. One student lab has a note mentioning “three thirds” between its group of cages, preceded by another noting Laurence and Gehrman’s association with Flora. From this, we can infer that Willem began seeking eye cords after learning about their immense insight into connecting man with the Great Ones from Laurence’s experience, his students helping reproduce them by synthesizing their newborns.
Around this time, Rom left Byrgenwerth for the underground ruins. We can encounter her in Central Pthumer, with root chalices permitting encounters at even lower levels. Clearly, the spider was heading toward the bottom. But what for? Most likely, to meet Ebrietas. For all the phantasms they collected, there is no evidence of the researchers encountering the actual Great One and living to tell the tale. But while Ebrietas in the dungeon is hostile to human invaders, the abandoned maiden would have surely been overjoyed to meet another like her. And with Kos likely already dead at this juncture, she is the only possible source for natural eye cords. Therefore, it is possible that Rom befriended Ebrietas to this end. We see Ebrietas now silently staring at Rom’s corpse at the Altar of Despair, so they definitely did bond. But if it was for Willem, the spider never followed through. Perhaps Rom struggled connecting with humans now that she was the observed instead of the observer, thus getting lax with the one being who could connect with her on the same level. Either way, nothing came of this friendship.
Pursuits back home were hardly any more productive. The chest with red jellies next to one specimen cage indicates many failures to create the Great One babies, and those still in their cages don’t seem to have been much of an improvement. Their accompanying research notes at another specimen lab do imply some progress, specifically a realization about the number of cords needed to become a Great One. But that already shows a deviation from the provost’s original goal. In short, Willem soon lost control over what remained of the student body. Likely influenced by the goings-on in Yharnam, they continued to pursue metamorphosis despite their teachers’ objections.
On top of the seedbeds of eyes and brainsucker, students turned themselves into slimy goo of a kin nature. The flasks containing arcane acid which some of the students drink from betray this form to be the result of an experiment. Based on their graduation caps, this experiment was to commemorate the conclusion of their studies — evidently, the method required more testing. The note left by one student shows that at least some realized their mistake, but it was too late. All of them have lost their minds and become indiscriminate killers. Fragments of their former memory do survive, as evidenced by how they wield their flasks and behave in class; many sit in their seats, waiting for class to begin according to the Lecture Theatre Key’s description. But otherwise, they might as well be dead. Byrgenwerth was finished.
To make matters worse, the School of Mensis got involved, ultimately dragging Byrgenwerth into their Nightmare. The description for the Lecture Theatre Key details how the classroom building is “now” adrift within the Nightmare of Mensis, implying that this wasn’t always the case — and more importantly, that this is the actual schoolhouse, not a recreation from the dream. This would explain why the building is nowhere in sight when visiting Byrgenwerth. In fact, we can locate exactly where it once sat in relation to Willem’s residence. There are two exits to the schoolhouse. One is on the first floor, presumably the front entrance where people from outside the region come in from. The other is at the opposite end, strangely, on the second floor. The implication would be that there is a terrace or bridge at the back of the building, and this perfectly lines up with the layout for the provost’s private property.
Key to the door of the classroom building lecture room.
The two-story classroom building that now floats in the Nightmare is of a time when Byrgenwerth was once a schoolhouse for history and archaeology. Or perhaps, even now, the students are waiting for their teacher in the lecture room.
Despite the localization rendering it as “lunarium”, the key acquired in Willem’s home actually takes us to a “moon-view platform”. (月見台) In other words, it isn’t necessarily a place dedicated to observing the moon, and it would be odd to have an elevated stage leading only to a large lake. Except, perhaps it once led directly into the schoolhouse. Indeed, Willem’s second-floor meeting area is where we find a chest with a student’s uniform, implying that the circle of sofas primarily seated pupils who might visit to chat or peruse his private library. Likewise, just left of the schoolhouse’s second-floor exit is a ladderway down to the provost’s office, the most convenient route if that exit connected straight back to his residence. Finally, cut content confirms plans to have the Lecture Building situated where the Moonside Lake is now, leaving no doubt that their second floors were designed to link together. It would seem then that, when the developers decided to have the school area connect with the Nightmare instead, the narrative changed to reflect that “move” — fittingly meta from FromSoftware.
Key to the moon-view platform facing the lake on Byrgenwerth’s second floor.
In his later years, Provost Willem loved this place and comfortably rocked in his chair. And it is said that he hid a secret in the lake.
As to why build the schoolhouse in a lake, they didn’t. The location might look like an ordinary “lake before the moon”, (月前の湖) but one dip in its waters prove an arcane connection through Rom. The spider is implicitly what Willem hid in the lake according to the Lunarium Key’s description — the one event where the lake is mentioned at all. In that case, did it even exist before then? The spider appears to have come above ground to the Altar of Despair with Ebrietas, where she learned what had transpired in her absence and agreed to cooperate in counteracting Mensis. Creating a lake serving as gateway to a dream dimension wouldn’t be difficult for a Great One, and the Rom hiding within is clearly just her spirit, the physical dead back at the altar. All Willem needed to do was offer the vacant space where his schoolhouse once sat as the site; the location might have even been ideal considering that it was where part of the physical world became part of the dream worlds. Regardless, Rom transferred her consciousness into a dream encapsulated within the new body of water.
Since then, the spider has used her new position to keep Mensis rituals hidden from Flora, accomplished by having her lake dimension act as a barrier between the two planes. When we first encounter Rom, she is passively loitering without so much as acknowledging our existence, likely focusing fully on the barrier. Once we attack and break her concentration, she summons her kin and defends herself, with the red moon appearing almost immediately after her death; this is also the point where we begin hearing Mergo’s crying even without exceptional insight. A note at Oedon Chapel indicates that its worshipers similarly lost contact with their god thanks to Rom’s efforts. The spider is a blanket roadblock on the “sight” and “sound” for Great Ones, though this doesn’t inhibit movement between planes at either end. Her and Willem’s cooperation in this matter likely sprung from a sense of responsibility for what had transpired. They were the root from which metamorphosis became such an obsession, so the least they could do was hold it back until Mensis, and maybe Flora, were dealt with.
Time has not been kind to the provost, however. There he spent his last years rocking in his chair, “gazing” out at the lake where his schoolhouse used to be; up at the moon which remained tranquil. And when we arrive, he is unable to do more than groan while pointing us to jump in. Willem is still lucid, but certain motor functions of his are not. Having been behind a locked door for years without food or drink, he is obviously no longer human. But since the old man has been resisting metamorphosis through sheer force of will, the phantasms might only be transforming his insides. If not, the very act of holding back change may be itself denying his body entropy. And in either case, the stagnation of the body logically would extend to the brain. Indeed, if we have acquired his Eye rune in a previous playthrough, killing him instead provides Madman’s Knowledge. Long-term, Willem has been turning himself into a vegetable, the precise opposite of his idea for human evolution.
In that case, it is no surprise that the provost aids us in finding and ultimately killing Rom. All his dreams have vanished; his ideals, proven folly. He could never stop the pursuit of evolution, and the situation has gone far past salvaging at this point. The gatekeeper’s corpse is surrounded by the beast-warding incense pots provided by the Healing Church, suggesting that it was responsible for keeping him safe and fed. But even after the supplies stopped coming, the madman continued to sit and wait, dedicated to performing his duty even as his body starved and inevitably began to rot. Dores has also died in the forest, his mask or robes on one of two corpses practically next to each other — most likely, the locals killed the mad gravekeeper and divided the spoils before facing their own end in those wilds. With both his manservants gone, there is now truly no one left.
How many more years must this limbo drag on? How many more innocents will suffer in the meantime? Who stands to benefit from this now? Why bother trying to hold back the inevitable collapse? Willem has had plenty of time to ruminate on such questions. But he cannot stop Rom in his current state, so he relies on someone, anyone, who might be able to end this farce. If we have good intentions, then Rom’s death won’t be for nothing. If we have bad intentions, then maybe the resulting chaos will let this land have a clean slate. Either way, one thing is for sure: Willem’s dabbling in forces he didn’t understand has been a net negative on mankind. His greatest contribution to his race now would be removing that stain on the way out.