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Video Game / Gray Dawn

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Gray Dawn is a Psychological Horror Environmental Narrative Game, developed by a Romanian studio Interactive Stone and released on June 7th, 2018 for PC through Steam.

In it, you play as Father Abraham Marcus, a priest at St. Mary's Church and the custodian of St. Anne's orphanage. He has been accused of a ritualistic murder of a young boy.

No relation to the 2015 Action RPG Grim Dawn.

Note: As this game is rather short and plot-heavy, reading this page beforehand may significantly impact your experience of the work.

Tropes present in Gray Dawn:

  • Afterlife Antechamber: The Paradise Father Abraham regularly visits after receiving an invitation letter from David. It's an idyllic forest setting, which he describes in a loading screen quote as "A place of peace and purity, as if imagined by those who write children's stories." However, it has plenty of creepier elements, to the point that he is eventually tasked by a divine voice with sacrificing 7 "demons", which he does through cutting out the hearts from the bodies of 7 children who recently died in his orphanage, supposedly of cholera. However, the children's bodies inside their coffins are already bloodied, implying that he really was the one who killed them with a razor, just like how the villagers claim. If so, the entire "Paradise" was likely the product of his diseased mind.
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  • Adults Are Useless: David, the disappeared choir boy, expresses this feeling during his second afterlife visitation.
    Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.
  • Anachronic Order: The story appears to start at the end, or near the end, and then flashes back to various points in the past. That's not even to mention all the supernatural elements such as the "Paradise" sequences, which further muddle the timeline.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Halfway through the story, Abraham calls in to the radio station accusing him of being a murderer, claiming that all 7 children died of cholera. However, he then receives a question about the altar boy, David. He instantly hangs up, claiming that they are now acting as demons as well.
    • Eventually, you find out that according to his version of the story, he accidentally drove over David, and kept his body on ice for a long time due to his grief, before eventually secretly returning it to his birth parents in Romania. However, the narrative is non-linear and he is an unreliable narrator, making it hard to be sure of anything. Moreover, his claim that the 7 children died of cholera doesn't appear likely, as their bodies are already bloodied when he goes down the crypt to revisit them and cut out their hearts, because a voice in "Paradise" told him it would get rid of the demons.
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  • Bear Trap: Father Abraham gets one designed to snare demons from his third visit to Paradise, after carrying out a disturbing ritual above a grave of a boy. It is made of polished gold and adorned with the likenesses of the saints around its perimeter. He then uses it to snare and kill a demonic rabbit, which he sacrifices during his next visit to Paradise.
  • Book Safe: This appears after the second Paradise visit, though Father Abraham disapproves.
    I can't believe someone destroyed this precious book just to hide a key inside!
  • Coincidental Broadcast: At the start of the game, Father Abraham switches the radio channels at just the right time to first hear about the 8th disappearance from his orphanage, and then the sudden appearance of a fellow priest, who claims to have seen him commit all the murders with a straight razor. This causes his - and yours - vision begin to fade and shake, with blood effects filling the edges of the screen, until he begins to pray to ward this off.
    • It's ultimately not clear whether or not this was real. Father Abraham claims to himself that this was a demon's voice over the radio and they all died from a cholera outbreak. However, he is an Unreliable Narrator, and later performs an exorcism over these bodies, where he literally cuts out their hearts. Moreover, their bodies are already bloodied, implying they definitely didn't die of cholera.
  • Collection Sidequest: Once the Father gets to Paradise, the child's voice tasks him with finding 8 icons of Christ and bringing them to the Great Priest there. This actually determines whether or not you get a good ending.
  • Creepy Crows: These adorn the menu screen. Then, early on, Father Markus opens a door in his church only for flames to suddenly burst out, and a small murder of crows somehow fly unhurt through it, before both fade out.
  • Creepy Doll: There's a porcelain doll of a boy. When interacting with it for the first time, Abraham comments that "I could swear this thing was following me!" Later on, he takes the dagger and points it a the doll, saying that it doesn't scare him. It speaks in reply, claiming that as a mere object, it cannot possibly harm him, but urging him to sign a blood pact to find the book. Father mocks this by cutting his finger and drawing a cross on the doll's forehead in his own blood, which still works.
  • Did I Mention It's Christmas?: The story begins in 1920, with Father Abraham sitting alone at his house in front of a fireplace and a nearby Christmas tree, scored to a carol played over the radio. However, that holds basically no importance to the story.
  • Driven to Suicide: Father Abraham receives a letter under his doorway from the altar boy who apparently chose to commit suicide, saying that he'll leave the world of the mortals tonight and asks for forgiveness in the letter. However, it seems that he's already written him off as dead earlier on, and so his reaction is a rather dull "Could this mean that you are alive?"
    • Aleksandra ultimately jumps to her death, after Abraham accidentally ran David over, and then decided to keep his body on ice in his own spell of grief-related insanity.
    • In the following chapter, he sees the vision of his own body, hanged. He then thinks he dies and goes to "Paradise" again, but then alchemises a potion of life there and returns. In the bad ending, though, he really does hang himself, while the good ending is completely ambiguous about what actually happened to him.
  • Follow the White Rabbit: The first time Father Abraham goes outside in the "real world" during the events of the game, he soon ends chasing a literal white rabbit - who burns up in fire every other minute, only to re-emerge unscathed the next. Then, Father chases it down the rabbit hole and sets a golden bear trap adorned with the likenesses of the saints he received from the previous chapter there, which instantly kills it.
    • Later on, he follows a spectral blue butterfly. Every time it stops, it reveals another still image from the last confrontation between him and Aleksandra at night outside, which eventually ended with her committing suicide.
  • Haunted House: Early on, much of the parish is very clearly haunted, with all manner of creepy and wrong things happening, but which Father Abraham is usually able to combat through prayer and rituals.
  • Human Sacrifice: Played with in a particularly disturbing manner. In the third Paradise vision, Father Abraham hears a voice telling him that only someone brave enough to crush a demon, burn it to a crisp and offer it as a sacrifice. Father wonders to himself where he could possibly find a demon. Then, the voice of David suggests that he meets his brother Alexander, and get a trap for the demons from him. Somewhat luckily, he is already dead by the time you get to him, but you still need to carry out a disturbing puzzle with the blood, hearts and lungs on top of his grave before it opens and you can get the golden bear trap from there.
    • However, that was only the prelude. In the next chapter, after performing some uncharacteristic alchemy to forge a key to the altar in "Paradise", Father Abraham is told by the voice that he must place the hearts of seven demons and a skull of a saint on the altar. There are pillows already prepared for the hearts, and all are labelled with the names of the children from his orphanage. In the "real world", he then goes down to the crypt, opens the coffins of those children (who are already bloodied, and so probably were killed by him not by cholera), and then cuts out their hearts.
  • Hollywood Exorcism: When you pick up a book named "A Roman Ritual" near the altar, Father Abraham muses about the time he uses on David to "banish a demon that tormented us for a long time." You then get to relive it later on. Eventually, though, Father Abraham acknowledges it was a mistake, as he simply interpreted his ramblings about afterlife and the other mystical matters, sometimes in Hebrew, as the sign of possession.
  • Holy Burns Evil: Played with. Father Adam takes a cross out of the fire at one point, and it certainly burns him, but only because it's hot. The voice tormenting him, however, suggests that the fire is a metaphor and he is being burnt because he is literally a murderer and so the cross repels him.
  • The Lonely Door: The Paradise has simple wooden doors standing on their own and opening to another location while shimmering orange.
  • Love Hurts: At the start of the narrative Aleksandra and Abraham are clearly tormented by their love, which is forbidden by their vows. Eventually, they get over it after they decide to be together through adopting David from Romania.
    I hate you. But, consider my hatred to be a strange kind of love that can't find a way of expressing itself other than this!
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: From the start, there's a persistent question as to whether the supernatural happenings occurring to Father Markus are truly divine (or demonic), or merely a product of his imagination.
  • Mind Screw: The plot is heavily non-linear, and is full of supernatural elements to boot, at least some of which are implied to be a product of Father's mind. Figuring out what was and wasn't real, and in what order the events happened, is its own difficulty.
  • Missing Reflection: When Father Abraham returns to the parish from his second "Paradise" visit, he is disturbed to find that he casts no reflection in the mirror and asks if this could be real. Then, his reflection reappears, and a booming voice replies that only the children he killed would know this. The mirror then shatters outright, revealing religious iconography beneath it.
  • Multiple Endings: A good and a bad ending. Which one you get depends on whether you manage to collect all 8 icons in your trips to the "Paradise". The main difference is that after remembering that he kept David's body on ice, Father Abraham ultimately hangs himself, while the good ending cuts away to a vision of the stars and David straight-up quotes the final speech of The Little Prince saying that he's on one of the stars, and when he's laughing, it'll be like all the stars are laughing, and be as if he's given him a lot of tiny bells. Nothing else is said about the fate of Father Abraham himself.
  • Murderous Mannequin: A creepy, bloodied female mannequin first appears right behind Father Abraham when he picks up a ringing phone to hear a lord's prayer through it, but then fades out once the call finishes. Soon afterwards, he finds a bunch of bloodied, naked mannequins posed in a provoking manner, though these again disappear once he picks up the holy water from the hand of one of them. There are 8 of them - same number as that of the children Abraham is accused of murdering. Similarly, the female mannequin clearly represents Aleksandra, and her suicide in reaction to Father's actions.
  • Mysterious Note: As soon as Father Abraham finishes his prayer by asking God for a sign, He seemingly obliges, as a letter gets slipped under his doorway. While it doesn't exactly bear good news (an altar boy essentially sent a suicide note), he almost treats it as such, as he already thought him dead, and because the letter "emanated the scent of paradise", he felt it came from another world. As soon as he walks out of his house, he ends up transported to Paradise. It's revealed that because of the non-linear narration, this actually occurred near the start of the story, right before David jumped in front his car and died, putting much of the remaining plot into motion. Or at least, that's what Abraham's narration settles on.
  • Poisoned Weapons: In a story told by David in one of the Paradise visions, a king was challenged at the city gates by two brothers, a shepherd and a little prince, but hid behind his archers, who wielded poisoned arrows. One of those hit the little prince. The story is then continued by the angelic voice, who says that the warm blood in his fragile body was corrupted by poison. This is revealed to be a plot parallel to how both David and Alexander were vaccinated from cholera in their childhood in the Romanian Little Prince orphanage, yet the syringe used on Alexander wasn't sterilized properly, thus leading to his death.
  • Police Are Useless: The local radio openly gossips that Father Abraham Markus killed 7 children in his care and the boy he adopted. Yet, strangely, the police never shows up, and is never even referenced throughout the entire game.
  • Speak in Unison: When Father Abraham relives his exorcism, his speech of the prayer is accompanied by the indistinct demonic muttering.
    • Then, this also occurs when he picks up a note in blood written by demons asserting "We are Legion", with its text being read out by the unison of voices.
  • This Page Will Self-Destruct: In the church, Father finds a note on a door that first states a simple "You", and then, when flipped over, expands to "You will end me here", and then completely burns up once he puts it down.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Much of the story is effectively told through Father Abraham's hallucinations, so there's always a question about what really happened, and whether the villagers are right in their assessment of him.
  • Villain Protagonist: From the start, Father Abraham is believed to be this by the villagers, who accuse him over the radio of ritualistically killing the altar boy and the 7 children in his care. The entire game is then mostly about getting his version of the story through flashbacks and visits to "Paradise", which.
    • Ultimately, Those flashbacks don't paint a good picture of him either. The most charitable interpretation still shows him as a catastrophically incompetent caretaker, who had all 7 children in his orphanage die from cholera under his watch, then accidentally drove over his adopted child, and then kept his body on ice, which drove Aleksandra, his companion and the adoptive mother, to kill herself. Depending on the exact order of events, he either eventually does the decent thing and returns it to Romania to bury with the next of kin, or steals it from Romania after the funeral to keep on ice. There's also the whole implication that David may have been the Son of God reborn as well. Under the charitable interpretation, pretty much the only thing he seemingly succeeded at was to vanquish some demons during the course of the game. Under the uncharitable interpretation, there were no demons, and he just killed seven children and a rabbit because of his delusions.
  • Vow of Celibacy: It's revealed early on that Father Abraham either straight-up broke his vow with a woman named Aleksandra. He claims not to feel guilty about it.
    I never felt ashamed about my relationship with Aleksandra. She always had a peculiar passion about the Church. And about me. Especially me.
    • A gramophone recording then tells it from her perspective, where she says she was already grieving for someone when he approached to comfort her. However, she was disappointed that he refused to leave the church and so put his love of God over her. Thus, they ended the relationship, even though both still loved each other.
    • A further recording then implied Father Abraham killed her after she attempted to blackmail him by exposing his dabbling in the satanic rituals to the rest. However, this is a red herring, as it later turns out nothing happened, and she eventually came up with the idea of adopting a Romanian boy, David. However, he died when Father Abraham accidentally drove over him. Mad with grief, he decided to keep the body preserved in a bathtub, and this madness drove Alexandra to kill herself as well. Eventually, it seems that he has returned the body back to the Romanian villagers for a burial. Maybe. Some believe he stole the body from Romania and kept it on ice, because of the order in which the events are shown, though the logistics of this make no sense.
  • Walk on Water: Played with during the Paradise segments, where floating icons appear underneath your feet whenever you go on water.
  • Whole Plot Reference: While the game obviously has heavy biblical influences, another unmistakable inspiration is The Little Prince. In fact, at one point the game outright calls two Romanian brothers, David and Alexander, "the shepherd and the little prince." Then, the good ending even straight-up quotes The Little Prince's final speech to the narrator, where he asks him to look at the stars whenever he needs to remember him by, and promising that he'll hear his laugh from every star, as if he's been given a gift of a myriad of tiny shining bells.
  • Winged Soul Flies Off at Death: This occurs at the third "Paradise" vision, where you chase David (or his brother Alexander?) around the Rosendorp cemetery from grave to grave. At every grave where David briefly stops, an icon is placed and a small spectral soul rises from the grave to mid-air, and eventually sprouts wings. After Father picks up an icon of Mother Mary from one of the graves, all of the graves simultaneously have the souls rise up and ascend to heaven.
  • Wooden Stake: Father Abraham eventually recalls his visits to Transylvania, where the locals who suspect they are haunted by the ghost of an unbaptized child bring the body out of a grave to a crossroads and drive a stake through the heart. He then mentions others would go as far as burning the corpse and making coffee out of the ashes. He then wonders why he's thinking of this when he has God by his side. Earlier on, the game lets you interact with a cup of coffee and he says he has a powerful habit as he drinks it. This was probably a Red Herring, though, since it doesn't seem like any of the dead bodies in the game were burned.
  • Yandere: Aleksandra had shades of this after Father Abraham ultimately rejected her demands to marry her and settle down with her. It went to the point that, she ultimately blackmailed him with what she knew of his youth, which he spent dabbling in the orgies and the rituals, thus threatening to permanently soil his reputation as a priest unless he at least gets her pregnant, so that she could leave England with someone to remember him by. The game stops a recording there, implying that this pushed him over the edge and he killed her.
    • Later on, though, it's revealed that she committed suicide by jumping instead. While it's at first implied that this happened after another rejection, the truth is that she got over her tendencies and decided that they could live together after adopting David from Romania, who is the choir boy Abraham is accused of murdering. Then, though, Abraham accidentally drove him over and she was driven by disgust at his decision to keep David's body in ice that she jumped off. Or at least, that's what Father Abraham ultimately remembers.


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