Disclaimer: All characters, locations etc from Legacy of Kain are property of Eidos Interactive / Crystal Dynamics.

My name is Althea, and I was not bred for killing.

The days of my infanthood were as those of any normal girl-child - that is to say, any human child with the misfortune to be born into these dark times. From the earliest age, it was my lot to rise in the dim light of dawn, and accompany my brothers and sisters, cousins and friends, to the cold slave pits where we would work until dusk fell - or until we did. My memories of my early years were formed under the tutelage of pain, and consist for the most part of carrying burdens too heavy for my young, malnourished frame, of walking too far before the ever-singing lash, and of crying myself to sleep amidst the low sobs of the wretched souls with whom I was damned.

It was no life for a child.

Nevertheless, humanity survives. Despite the harsh conditions, and the trials of adversity, our race continues to flourish - we have ever been a hardy and adaptive people, but now our lives are short, and steeped in darkness and premature death. Few even remember our day-star, for, since long before my birth, thick, acrid clouds have stifled her radiance, and besides, we must suffer to spend the daylight hours underground, at our captors' behest. We humans, once the masters of a fair and fertile land, have been tamed and caged, flung down to the lowest link of the food chain by men whose very existence makes mockery of the laws of nature.


It has been nigh on a thousand years, by popular reckoning, since the tyrant Kain established his Empire and condemned the land to a slow and consumptive death. A thousand years of human suffering, for which the vampire creed has yet to pay with a single drop of their stolen and tainted blood. There have been attempts at revolution, of course: uprisings without number in fact, each last one of which thinned our stock while doing little more than providing the undead with free sport. There has been no new challenge to Kain's rule in the twenty-two years of my life, and I rather think they are growing impatient with such lacklustre and resigned prisoners.

And yet these creatures are not our direct masters - they remain faceless and aloof, and are but rarely seen, a boon for which I thank my indifferent Gods at every opportunity. Though their decrees ordain every aspect of our daily toil, and likewise every minute detail of our daily punishment (or 'incentive', as they term it), the faces of our jailers and work-masters are almost invariably human. They are traitorous religious fanatics who bow and scrape before our overlords to curry favour. These heartless zealots have fewer morals than the undead themselves, for they are our kin, seduced by the allure of Kain's word, and by the nebulous promise of immortality, which will surely be theirs if they serve without question. Blind they are, these priests of Kain, and secure in their mistaken belief that their loyalty will bring them impunity and salvation.

Oh to be there when they are rewarded!

I digress - though rightly so, for it is seemly that you know of my past and that of my people before I tell my tale. I was bred not for killing, but for slavery; for drudgery, hard labour and the thousand-and-one menial tasks that contribute to the smooth running of any Lordling's lands. Unbeknownst to me, I was not fated to remain so.

As time passed and I came into my twenty-first year, it happened that one of the most senior Priests - that is, a Priest high enough in the hierarchy to merit a staff of office and obsequities galore from his inferiors, and low enough on the food chain to run the risk of death whenever he communed with his Gods - made an impromptu inspection of my own habitual work-place. He was preceded by a gaggle of over-excited adepts, who entered the wash- room where I toiled at this hour in a most comical fashion. Each one of them, unwilling to turn their backs on the Priest for the sake of ceremony, backed awkwardly into the laundry, bent double, murmuring notions of their unworthiness, interspersed with declarations of his greatness. The Priest, a great barrel-chested ox of a man, followed haughtily behind, his nose seemingly attracted to the rafters while his darting eyes took in every detail of the room.

"What is that stench? Do you not make your slaves see to their own cleanliness? If the Dark Gods only knew . . ."

The Priest's empty threat brought an instant response, sending the adepts into a minor frenzy as they fell over themselves in an attempt to chastise their charges with their ever-ready instruments of pain. The Priest watched the proceedings with amusement, allowing himself to feel superior in the knowledge that he was above such self-degrading and sycophantic acts. Bright, beady eyes assessed the room's quota of drudges, appraising and disregarding each with a sneer until at last his gaze came to rest upon me.

I instantly lowered my eyes. Submission was one of my earliest and hardest- learned lessons: one was far less likely to be beaten if one but kept one's eyes on the ground. I observed the greyish water in my wash-bucket rippling as the Priest's heavy stride brought him up onto the wooden platform where I stood, trembling in fearful anticipation. Curse my foolish curiosity! I had not been fast enough to avert my gaze, and now I was to be punished - and not for the first time that day. I quickly attempted to mollify him. If retribution was to be forthcoming, I might be able to lessen the beating by showing my compliance at this early stage. It had worked before. Shuffling around so that my back was towards the approaching figure, I slid the dun- coloured work pinafore from my shoulders, allowing my punisher easier access to my back, already lacerated and criss-crossed with badly-healed scars from years of unquenchable curiosity.

Long seconds dragged past, and the blow never came. Not wishing to compound my situation, I remained still and quiet - were I to look in his direction, or ask him why he delayed, it might give him just the incentive he needed.

"Turn around, girl," The Priest's voice, coloured with impatience, held another note that did little to reassure me. Drudge though I was, I had no desire to lose what little unscarred skin remained to me, and I shuddered at the thought of spending the rest of my days shunned like the poor wretch who had recently been plunged face-first into a vat of boiling fat. One needed to retain what little advantages one had, in a place like this.

However, the tone of his voice intimated that he would brook no defiance, and, steeling myself for the sting of the whip, I turned reluctantly towards him, my gaze ever resting on the ground at his feet. His touch was so unexpected that I had a hard time keeping my surprise hidden - but, had I jumped back, or voiced an outcry, I would surely have angered him. He used three fingers to tilt up my chin, and still I kept my eyes lowered. It was a tricky and dangerous game in which we were now engaged, and one I had seen played before. The guards, bored with their compliant slaves, would betimes play tricks on them to provoke a reaction. As soon as a minor transgression occurred, out came the lash.

"Look at me."

I closed my eyes and swallowed against the lump in my throat. I was cornered. If I looked him directly in the face, I would violate the rules set down for us slaves by the adepts; if I did not, I would disobey a direct command. Damnable Priest! With my spirits sinking fast, I dared to glance into his face, expecting a snide smirk to show me how wrong I had been to do so. Instead, I found he was regarding me with frank interest. I remained stock-still as he inspected me, turning my head this way and that as though searching for imperfections, applying a squeezing pressure to my limbs as though testing their firmness, and finally conducting a despairing examination of my back. With a sigh he addressed me once more.

"How old are you, girl?"

I told him, as near as I could estimate it.

"Have you been touched?"

Having no idea what the Priest meant, I stared at him blankly, like an idiot.

His shoulders slumped and he exhaled with exaggerated patience before elaborating on his question in terms he evidently thought more suited to my intellect.

"Have you known men? The adepts perhaps? Or-" he paused, mouth curling with distaste, "Your fellow prisoners?"

I at last deduced his meaning. Did this man who sat at the head of the vampire church, whose orders controlled our every task and duty really have so meagre a grasp of the structure of our lives? In general, we had neither the time, inclination nor the energy for such activities, and our living conditions were such that a minor infection could become epidemic in a matter of days. Where we had the choice, we abstained, and so I replied in the negative.

It was the worst decision I ever made.