(-I do not own LoK, etc.-)
Two months have past since the end of..."Path of the Rightceous."
The attack by both an unknown demon and the ancient vampire Vorador upon the circle itself and the Sarafan elite was now the source of gossip up and down the length and width of Nosgoth. With the slaying of their finest warriors, their supporters in the circle of nine and the Imprisonment of Malek within his own armour, the crusade of the Sarafan came a to a grinding halt.
The Circle itself had suffered a mayor blow. Six of it's members had been killed in Vorador's bloody assault. Only Moebius, Mortanious and Malek had survived the brutal bloodbath. The pillars summoned new guardians to serve and the circle was once again healed. Although, none of them had been particularly interested in sponsoring the crusade now that it was plainly obvious what would happen to those who did.
The vampire race had been spared from extinction, but their numbers were still declining rapidly. The former Sarafan, disheartened by his new found utter digest for humanity, wandered south away from the mountains and back towards the settlements on the coast. All he knew now was sadness and grief, knowing that his fate was no longer in his hands. It probably never had been. He would die, probably at the hands of some bandit on the roads, without having accomplished anything meaningful in their damned world.
Vampire, Human; it didn't matter. Both had committed unspeakable deeds to each other in the name of righteousness. Just when was it going to stop? He sighed, realising that his thoughts were leading him down a trail that did not exist. Nosgoth was a war like world, a world were only the strong survive by preying on the weak. He began to wonder if Nosgoth had ever seen a time of peace, when beings did not have to tear at each others throats in order to live.
Ewoden wasn't keeping an eye on the roads, he just kept wandering, putting one foot wearily in front of the other. He had no direction in which to travel, only the journey itself. He knew not what he was looking for, or even if it existed. He supposed he would just keep wandering until he reached Nosgoth's borders, and once he reached those, he would turn around and march in the opposite direction.
Eventually, the cold forced him to stop and he settled himself down by a tree on the side of the road, hugging the sewn furs around him tightly. They helped to keep him warm, as the armour he wore under them did little to insolate heat. It was nearing nightfall and he would be in danger if he didn't find somewhere sheltered to sleep. The former Sarafan knight, for a moment, actually considered the prospect of remaining outside to freeze to death before whatever common sense he retained forced him back to his feet. Luckily, on the left hand side of the road, towering over him was steep mountainous ridge, a series of caves running alongside it. Eventually he found one that wasn't occupied by some form of hibernating animal and he clambered inside.
This cave had served as shelter before, quite recently too. There were footprints here in the mud, and the charred remains of firewood scattered around. Someone had even left a rusted iron bucket at the back end of the cave. Outside, the blizzard intensified, removing any chance of travelling on before nightfall itself. Sighing, his breath becoming a thick white mist, the former knight found a dry rock jutting out of the muddy cave floor and climbed onto of it.
His years with the vampire ancient Janos Audron had afforded him some adequate skill in magic. His gloved hand trailed out from his furs and directed it's palm straight at the smouldering remains of the firewood and instantly the fires sprung to life again, filling the gave with a warm golden glow. Ewoden huddled as close as he could and began the long waiting game, listening to the crackling of the fire and the howling of the winds outside.
Despite everything, despite all the fear and hatred, all the blood and violence, there was one thing Ewoden would not wish to change. Maybe death was all that awaited him in his journey, but at least he was free. And in his opinion, it was better to die free and alone than crushed under the mine charts in Willdendorf, clad in chains
The night ran on and on and Ewoden remained awake, knowing full well that falling asleep in the wild on a cold storm such as this was quite often a death sentence. The storm however had been on and off for the last three days and the former knight had missed a whole three days of sleep. He couldn't put it off any longer. If he didn't get some rest then he would probably collapse from exhaustion in the snow to be torn apart by animals. He looked up, shivering despite of the fire. The cave was quite high up and quite defendable from bandits and hunger predators, natural or supernatural. He supposed, if he kept himself close to the fire he would be safe to catch a few hours of sleep. Using the thick furs as a blanket, he made himself comfortable as best he could, his eyelids growing heavier and heavier.
He might have gotten a few hours of sleep in when it happened, but at some point, he was awoken by the loud sniffing of a large animal at the mouth of the cave. He looked up sharply and saw a large silhouette in the full moonlight, distorted by the falling snow. Thick, black and brown fur danced widely in the winds. A pair of large, dog like yellow eyes fixed directly onto him. Ewoden didn't make any sudden movements, instead he slowly reached down and took hold of the hilt of his enchanted axe, his mouth going dry. Sensing this, the creature stepped inside the cave entrance itself, revealing it's true form. Very wolf like in appearance, yet distinctly humanoid, standing on two legs with it's forelimbs shaped like arms. A thick black canine tail sweeping out behind it, bushy at the end. Thick black claws that looked quite able to slicing their way through someone's gizzard lined each hand, a nasty set on it's feet as well. A huge set of teeth in it's mouth, a black tongue sitting in between the jaws.
Ewoden had never actually come across one before, but he knew what they were. Aside from vampires, these creatures were also targets of the Sarafan crusade. A rhyme used by peasant folk to describe these creatures popped into his head at once.
Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night,
may become a wolf when the wolf's bane blooms, and the moon is full and bright.
For the Sarafan, Werewolves were the second on their list of supernatural list of foes. Although not as numerous as vampires in Nosgoth, it was not impossible to find a few roaming around in the wildness. Werewolves were similar to vampires in many respects, both transferred their infection through their bite and both could only be seen at night. Ewoden remained still, but was ready for a fight if need be. He remembered from his training, when fighting a werewolf one must beware of their bite. If you're bitten, in three days you will become one of them. His armour would protect him, any creature attempting bite their way through that would shatter their teeth. At least he thought.
The werewolf growled at him, it's thick mane of black fur behind it's ears shaking as it's growl resonated from it's throat. But then, it just it's jaws and began to walk slowly past him towards the back of the cave, it's law paw like feet leaving huge footprints in the mud. Ewoden watched it closely, his sight never leaving it for a moment. As it reached the cave wall, one of it's clawed hands was raised, touching a hidden panel behind a stalactite. A loud groaning sound resonated throughout the cave as a large boulder swung to one side, revealing a separate chamber behind. The werewolf looked back over it's shoulder at Ewoden, snorted loudly through it's mussel before disappearing inside.
It was dark inside and the former knight couldn't actually see what was going on inside. There was distinct shuffling noise, followed by a long piercing howl that endured for minutes on end. During which, the moonlight filtering in through the cave entrance changed subtly into golden light of the morning. As the daylight reached the back end of the cave, the howl became more and more human like before it receded altogether, followed by a series of out of breath paintings, but not of those belonging to any hound.
Ewoden understood enough about werewolves to understand. He hoisted himself off his sleeping position, still with his axe in hand and slowly advanced over to the chamber entrance.
"Come on out." He demanded, holding his axe ready to strike should something try to leap at him. Someone beyond the darkness swore loudly. There was another brief moment of silence before a large, human figure appeared there having quickly forced himself into a pair of pants. He was strongly built, with a thick black beard running down his chin. Long black hair tied back into a pony tail ran down his back.
"Put that away." He said in a rough voice, pulling on the thin jacket he hand in his grasp. "I won't bite, at least not anymore." Ewoden glance dup at his axe, then back at the stranger who moments ago had been a dangerous animal. Slowly, he lowered his weapon. "In this form, I do not have to feed." He remarked sharply, before retreating into his chamber. As he did so, he ran his hand over a crystallised orb just beyond Ewoden's sight and instantly the chamber was bathed in light. Ewoden blinked and looked beyond, finding that the chamber itself was actually the beginning of a long stair case that lead down into the ground, lights lining the walls. A line of shelves holding spare clothes projected out from the wall of the immediate right hand side.
"Come on inside." The stranger said, now halfway down the stairs. "It's still quite cold out there." Normally, especially if he was still a Sarafan, he would have just dived at him and driven his axe through his back. Fortunately, Ewoden had acquired an open mind from living amongst vampires for so long and quickly followed him down.
The stair case was surprisingly short, opening up into a second underground chamber which had all the furbishing of a rich gentleman's house. It was a single room dwelling with an oak bed at the far end, an expensive looking table and chair set standing in the very centre, a full set of silver cutlery laid out upon it. A chimney with a large fireplace and grill had been dug out of the wall on the right hand side, a bronze kettle sitting on top of it had a thin trail of steam rising from it's funnel. There were also at least two cabinets, one of which had a freshly opened bottle of Port on it and several glass cups. Tapestries made of the finest silk hung on the walls, all portraying different events in Nosgoth's history. The rise of the Sarafan order, the founding of Willdendorf and even the ascension of the current circle members, that is until Vorador took a broadsword to six of them. Around the tables were several thick rugs made from bear skin all expertly tailored. A bed lay at the far end, with a wooden chest at the end of it. Ewoden removed his snow covered furs and placed them upon a spare chair, finding it surprisingly warm inside this new chamber.
"The Order must have really gone down hill if you're a deserter." The stranger remarked, walking over to cabinet and pouring himself a drink. "You drink Port don't you?" Ewoden nodded and he poured a second glass.
"I deserted years ago." Ewoden replied as he was handed the drink, nearly downing it all in one go. It had been a while since he'd tasted such fine drink. Mead and Ale from any Tavern along the roadsides paled in comparison to it. "You're a Werewolf aren't you?" He asked, realizing that was almost a rhetorical question. The stranger looked up towards the ceiling for a minute, contemplating a civil reply as he swirled the Port between his fingers.
"Well, yes." He began slowly. "But we also have another name we're more commonly known by, one we much prefer." He gestured towards the back of the chamber and upon the cave wall was the finest Broadwword Ewoden had ever seen. It was twice the size of an ordinary blade, it's edge sharpened to perfectly. The handle painstakingly engraved with blood rune, believed by many to give strength in battle. "We are the Seroli, the legendary Weapon Smiths of Nosgoth." Ewoden had heard of their order but had believed them another group similar to the Sarafan, not a cover name for Werewolves. "Ours is a long, complicated story full of grief. I would not wish to burden you with it." he hesitated. "Oh. where are my manners? My name is Edward Simpkon, twentieth generation Smith of the Seroli." Ewoden didn't say anything. He stood here, looking at his half empty glass with almost sceptical eyes, a thoughtful look on his face. A small chuckle escaped Edward's mouth. "I see your troubled by my manner. I'm willing to wager you expect my attitude and speech from a rich noble rather than a raging beast?" Ewoden didn't answer, but his facial expression betrayed his thoughts, before a smile crossed his face.
"I'm more open minded than most Sarafan." Was his reply. Edward chuckled and sat down.
"I'll drink to that. You're the first one in years who hasn't tried to kill me on sight."
"I am Ewoden."
"Pleased to meet you." Edward downed the rest of his Port in one go. "Tell me, what brings you wandering into my home during these ungodly conditions?" Ewoden sighed and sat down at the table himself, resting his arm on it.
"It's a long, complicated story full of grief." He replied, mimicking Edward's words. The Seroli smith forged a smile.
"Why don't we each tell each other ours stories, it seems the storm could last some time and I don't get company too often." And so that was that. Ewoden proceeded to tell the Werewolf the whole story. Being a slave in Wildenforf for his childhood, then sold to Moeibus of the circle of nine to serve in the Sarafan crusade. As he spoke, he remembered the feeling of freedom for the first time, the sheer intoxicating flavour of it.
Then loosing faith in the cause, being chased out of Avernus Cathedral by a demon and then found by the ancient vampire Vorador, before living with Sally, the beautiful female vampire and Janos Audron, the father of the current vampiric bloodline. Finally, with some reluctance, the slaying of the blue skinned vampire by the Sarafan elite. Surprisingly, it felt good to talk about it. After Vorador's blood lust against the circle had subsided, Ewoden had left his mansion to wander Nosgoth by himself.
Sally had wanted to go with him, he had seen that in her eyes, but she could not. She could not bear the sunlight and she had obligations of duty to her sire and the vampires who survived the crusades. Edward listened intently, hung on every word. He either believed Ewoden the unluckiest man alive or the greatest storyteller in the land. "I see." He replied when a long pause of silence spread itself out over several seconds. "Sarafan." He said before cursing into the air. "Janos didn't deserve that. Tearing out his heart was barbaric, even for them." He folded his arms in his lap. "It just goes from bad to worse." By Ewoden's expression, it seemed he required further explanation. The Seroli looked up, catching his gaze. "I believe it is now time for my story. Living with Janos, I presume you know of the war between the Ancient Vampire race and their rivals?" Ewoden nodded briefly. "Well, to explain the story, let me tell you what I know of it. You see, those rivals were another race known only as the Hylden. Both were extremely advanced peoples, with power and technology had surpassed anything convinced by even the greatest engineers or architects in Meridian." A saddened look suddenly came over his face. "But with that, came an arrogance that I believe lead to their downfall." And so began a story that spanned hours and it was the former Sarafan's turn to listen intently to every word. "The Ancient vampires, wise as they were had been lulled into the worship of a deity they referred to as the Wheel of Fate." Ewoden paused, that sounded familiar from somewhere but he couldn't place it. "I don't know the exact details of their faith or the rules of their religion, but whatever factors were involved, the winged ones were completely devoted it.
At the time, The Seroli were the chosen servants of their race, taken from the prehistoric-era man to live amongst the gods of the age. It from them we learnt our now legendary weapon smith capabilities. They taught us much but like black sheep, we had our own deity. A moon goddess, who my predecessors believe brought the strength of the hunt to them.
The Hylden on the other hand had renounced all gods, choosing to embrace their science, creating new and sometimes unpredictable technology. I believe it was this that angered the vampire's deity."
"I can see where this is going." Ewoden began. As a former member of the order, he knew exactly how seriously some would take their religion. Even to the point of war. Edward nodded grimly.
"Commanded by their god, the vampires attacked the Hylden and with the sheer arrogance of righteousness in their hearts; decimated them, committing unspeakable atrocities to their people. Some, which I do not describe here, as they are too evil for me to put into decent English.
As we did not follow the vampires god, we did not want to get involved, but we had little option. We owed a lot to their race and to pay this debt, we sided with them." A saddened tinge came to his eyes. "It was a mistake, one from which we still feel the consequences." Ewoden hesitated, before asking…
"Why is that?" He asked slowly, unsure of whether he really wanted to hear the answer.
"Because the Hylden were sour losers." The Seroli replied. "With their victory, the vampires cast the Hylden down into a demonic plane of existence to dwell forever in a pit of madness. Once this was done and as the lock that kept them prisoner, the vampires raised the pillars of Nosgoth. As long as they remain standing, the Hylden can never return.
In retaliation, the Hylden cast two curses upon the races that had damned them, each unique to the race they cursed. To the vampires, they gave the blood thirst to that that may never again be such close relation with the humans. To them they also gave the vulnerability to sunlight, so that they could never fly in the pure sunlight of Nosgoth. But this was not their true revenge, it was something far more ironic.
They gave them Immortality." Ewoden blinked in confusion.
"I'm struggling to see how that can be seen as a curse…" He stated, looking puzzled.
"It has something to do with the vampires religion." Edward explained. "I don't know the exact details, as I wasn't around. But apparently, the vampires believed that death would return them to their god and giving them immortality denied them access to their divine circle of life. Many of them committed suicide, unable to bear it." Ewoden paused to consider it.
The ancient vampires, the people of Janos himself, were the first vampires. Simply a people, cursed by both their enemies and their own devotion. In that instant, he felt more sorry for them than he ever had before.
"And your kind?" He asked, looking up from his thoughts. Edward leaned back in his chair.
"I think that's obvious." He stated wearily. "As we worshipped the moon, at the sight of a full one now forces us to undergo a terrifying transformation. Like the creatures we pretend to be during our hunts, we become feral and wolf-like, consumed by a terrible hunger. Not for blood like the vampires, but for flesh. Beasts, demons, men; in that state we aren't picky."
"And that was that huh?" Ewoden asked sharply. "Until the present day."
"Yep." Edward replied, pouring himself another glass, before offering one to the former Sarafan, who snatched it up and down it all in one go, silently annoyed at the entire world for being so unfair. He found, despite his best efforts, that he couldn't be mad at the Hylden. They had suffered just as much as anyone. "Of course, there was the one thing that kept Janos going that we all look for. Something, I suppose we all need."
"And what was that?"
"What hope is there? The Seroli, Hylden and the vampires are caught in a never ending nightmare, with the humans right in the middle."
"The Scion of Balance." The former Sarafan looked up, blinking in confusion, the name unfamiliar to him. "A few years after they were cursed, the Vampires highest seers predicted the coming of two heroes. One to be their saviour and the other to be the Hylden's. Inevitably, these two champions would meet in battle and whoever won would be destined to remove the plight of their people." He gestured up towards the ceiling and Ewoden followed his gaze, to see another tapestry stretched over the cavern roof. It depicted two beings in the heat of a duel, one a blue skinned winged vampire and the other a strange creature with insect like, white skin and glowing green eyes. Each was armed with a unique sword; the vampire hero had a curved blade with a skull hilt while the other had a weapon that looked like it was forged out of fire. "The vampires hero is referred to as the Scion of Balance. The Hylden called theirs, the Messiah. This remained the soul thing that kept Janos in this world, his safe guard of the Reaver, the weapon forged to be wielded by their saviour."
"That's the name of that sword. It acts, very much like a vampire, draining it's victims completely dry of blood."
"It's supposed to be. They also created something else for their champion, a set of armour I believe, called Wraith Armour. But it's presence interfered with their visions and it was sealed away so it would never upset the chain of destiny.
But that's beside my point. You see, the ancient Seroli also had seers. And they foresaw that the events that the vampires yearned for, would not turn out the way they envisioned. They saw that the two champions, although they would fight as predicted at once time, would join together to free all races from their nightmares." Ewoden was silent. So silent; that for a moment, Edward thought that he had fallen asleep with his eyes open. Thoughts began running through his mind, thoughts that rekindled something that Ewoden had thought lost. A sense of curiosity, and a strange idea began poking itself into his mind.
Logically, he rejected his brains strange proposal. But the more he thought about it, the more it seemed more appealing. It wasn't as if he had business else ware and it certainly seemed more appealing than wandering Nosgoth until he died. "Of so soon?" Edward asked as Ewoden stood up, sighing as he reaching for his furs.
"I want to thank you Seroli." The former Sarafan stated. "You've given me back some purpose." Edward narrowed an eyes sceptically.
"And that purpose is that?" For the first time in a while, a real smile crossed Ewoden's face.
"I'm going to find the Scion of Balance." Edward widened his eyes, was silent for a moment, before he burst out laughing. He rolled back in his chair, his head pointed towards the ceiling.
"Oh, you're serious." He added when Ewoden didn't laugh with him. "You wouldn't be the first you know, and for all we know, the Scion won't be born for thousands of years."
"I'll find him." Ewoden replied simply, his heart now set on it. "One way of another, I'll find him." Edward leaned back into his chair, shaking his head with an impressed look on his face just the same. It was clear to him that nothing was going to deter the former Sarafan from his new quest.
"Very well then." He stated, before rising out of his chair and marching over to the bed and the wooden chest at the end of it. Opening it, the Seroli reached inside and withdrew a pair of large battle axes. Ewoden stared, having never seen such superb craftsmanship. Even his enchanted axe paled in comparison to it. Edward handed them to him and he discovered that each of them was extremely light, despite being made of such dense metal. The curved edges were razor sharp and looked capable of cleaving five men in half. "My masterpieces, I call them Havoc and Malice. If you're serious, then your going to need these." Ewoden tested their swinging capabilities, finding them greater than any battleaxes currently being used. They looked like two handed weapons, yet the former Sarafan could hold each of them in each hand and swing them easily. "I do hope you're more successful than the last few hopefuls that tried."
"So do I." he replied, placing them in the leather straps across his back. "Here, I wouldn't feel too good taking these without giving you something in return." He added, handing over his old Sarafan axe. Edward took it, testing the weight of it, before examining the magic within.
"A good enchantment. Good sir, you have a deal." The two of them shook hands. "And good luck to you."
The storm had subsided and with some food and drink inside a leather bag around his shoulders, Ewoden set off again, this time with a very firm direction in mind. A wide smile on his face as he began his journey back northward. He didn't know, exactly how he would do it, only that he would succeed given enough effort. Whether or not he actually believed in this whole, Scion of Balance and Wheel of Fate stuff was another matter. The fact of the matter was, something inside told him that the Scion of Balance did exist and it was his job to find him.
Peering over the tops of the evergreen trees, the former Sarafan could see the sun beginning to rise in the cold winter morning. Another being could see that exact same sun, and once the very sight of it would have driven him into the darkness. The cold air upon his skin, the cool strong breeze blowing his long white hair back, Kain forged a grin.
He always though Nosgoth seemed the most spectacular in this period of history. A far better change from the dead wastelands that was once his empire and much more inviting than the age of Moebius' cutthroat army. But with the Time Streamer finally dead, permanently this time, the vampire ancient did not have to worry about his interference.
The Soul Reaver, the blazing sword containing the power of the elements and the soul of his first son, burned bright blue as it lay strapped across his back. Despite Kain's best efforts, Raziel had offered up his own freedom so that the vampire might finally see the true enemy. The cancer that hide behind the guise of god himself. A strong, hideous tentacles life form that had been feeding on the agonised souls of the underworld for centuries.
Kain still maintain the belief that once he had for filled his destiny, it was still possible for Raziel to live a normal life as well. After all his suffering, it was profoundly unfair that he should have to remain inside the sword in a paradoxical circle for all eternity. There was a way to shatter that wheel, Kain was sure of it.
"Into the depths of hell I go…again." He muttered to himself. His next course of action was clear, he had to find a way to lift the curse from the vampires. Restore every last one of them to their original, winged forms and if anyone had a cure, then it would be the Hylden. The original creators of the vampire condition. He doubted very much however, that they would be in a sharing mood.
He had been in their dimension once before, a shadowy reflection of Nosgoth itself where the demons dwelled. If the cure existed, then it had to lay there. The Hylden would never risk keeping such a valuable item on the Mortal plane. The question had had faced the vampire when he first thought of his new plan had been how to gain entrance. There had been portals existing in the Avernus Cathedral, maintained by the link between the worshippers of Hash'Ak'Gik and the Hylden themselves. In the era after the corruption of the pillars, these portals where too heavily guarded by worshippers and fire demons.
But in this Post Crusade age, their cult would still be relatively weak, unable to summon help from the other side. "I certainly hope you're up to some bloodshed son." Kain laughed, tapping the hilt of his blade over his shoulder. The glow spewing from the eyes of the intensified hungrily in response.
Avernus, the towering Cathedral towering over the city itself lay just in the distance, outlined white by the early morning glow. Even from this distance, Kain could see Sarafan banners flying from the top. The order dying, this was one of their few strongholds left. Disheartened by the bloodshed and death of their elite, a lot of them were abandoning their grand fortress to the south.
Kain rubbed his claws together in relish, the nagging hunger once again over him. His figure rippled and began dissolving into the illusion of an entire flock of bats, each carrying with them a little bit of himself. Before long the figure standing on the cliff side had gone, and only the bats remained, flying off into the distance.
Coming soon...Path of the Rightceous 2, to be written in the new year....