Deep inside I'm dying, deep inside I'm hiding

Deep inside my every word a cry (Alone I cry)

Deep inside I'm heartless, deep inside regardless

Kill for me my every word a lie.

Deep inside a child when tears and dreams go wild when

Deep inside comedian for life

The Reaver hovers before me, the skull of the hilt in between my outstretched hands, the blade pointing at the ground as I begin to sing the demon out of my body,

And into it.

Say will I die for you?

See I was always there to run

Will I deny for you?

The smiling scarecrow on your tongue

Say will I die for you?

See I was always there to run

Say will I die for you?

The demon resists, I can hear it shrieking at me, snarling and choking upon my grasp. Pain laces through my body but I force myself to ignore it. The demon tries to integrate itself once more, but I focus my mind upon something specific, a certain someone that fills my core with an emotion it cannot stand. Its web-like extensions seem to sizzle and burn away as, slowly, but surely, I am tearing it from my own body in order to fill the void within the Reaver.

But a demon will not be enough, something else must enter the Reaver as well, bind with the demon, and become the palpable core of power that makes this blade so deadly.

Deep inside I'm dying, deep inside I'm hiding

Speak to me the words of love and trust!

I feel distrust

Burn for me my neon world to dust!

It needs a wraith, and a wraith I call.

Say will I die for you?

See I was always there to run

Will I deny for you?

The smiling scarecrow on your tongue

Say will I die for you?

See I was always there to run

Say will I die for you?

I raise my hands, the blade moves onto a horizontal position, as though laying flat upon an invisible alter, and I grasp the air with my hands. I pull the wraith, almost physically, from the Spectral Realm into the Physical one, and I hear Kain's gasp of horror as the creature shrieks and struggles, writhing in the agony of having no physical body, yet existing impossibly in the physical world. This act has never been encouraged, in fact, it is highly discouraged, as is what I'm about to do next, which is something I'm not sure has ever been done before.

And in the distance I'm alive

And in the distance neon lights so far away from me

And in the distance I'm alive

And in the distant smile I'll pass on by

And cross the plans you made, the suns you burned the distance walks away

I taint the wraith with the demon that had so recently tainted me. The two bodiless entities become one, a single being of power. The wraith resists as the demon fights for control. The demon resists as the wraith fights for control. They both resist the seamless merging that I am instigating between them. Creating a being of unique properties…but much like Raziel. A core of power—Raziel the deity, and now this, the demon—merged with a wraith.

The demon tries one last attempt to break free.

Say will I die for you?

See I was always there to run

Darkness engulfs the Reaver, so densely the blade cannot be seen. The blanket is so thick, and from it, a head seems to rise. Hair like oil covers the face, the flesh of shoulders are exposed, grotesque, blueish in color, scabbed, scarred, inhuman. The head raises, hair allows room for a single, bulging eye to be seen.

Will I deny for you?

The smiling scarecrow on your tongue.

A female, and only now do I realize what this really was. A female demon. Her red eye seems to grin at me, as if she knows, as if she can sense my fears returning.

No, I will not allow this to stop me. I am stronger than this, I can overcome this. I must.

Say will I die for you?

See I was always there to run.

Say will I die for you?

I grab the demon around the neck and it lets out a choked shriek. Its mouth, so human, yet it opens far too wide for the human jaw to have accomplished without breaking. "You will fear me now." I say defiantly.

That single eye grows wide, the demon shrieks, but I push it down, down into the blade. It and the wraith merge, and the thick darkness is soaked into the blade, completing it, making it whole, and filling the void.

Raziel is no longer here, I don't know what's happened to him, and I have no more energy to worry about it. I fall, exhausted, but, at the very least, knowing that, finally, I've done something History cannot get around. Wherever Raziel is, he is safe from the Reaver, and, right now, that's all that matters. With my last bit of consciousness, I can feel history straining to reshuffle itself around this act, and I feel a smirk upon my lips, knowing, somehow, without any doubt, that this time, it will be unable to do any such thing.

"Unite me child, for my breath stokes the core of this world."

"Wh-who are you? What are you?"

"Don't be a fool! It is Mychala who is the traitor!"

"I am Nosgoth."

"The Wheal of Fate is our god! Bow to the Wheal and the Wheal will bow to you!"

"I don't understand!"

"Go. The Citadel of the Apostates awaits you."

"You may have saved your precious wraith, but in the end, it doesn't matter. You see, you were never meant to save this world, you are simply—"

I taste blood. Fresh, warm blood being poured slowly into my mouth, kept open by a surprisingly gentle claw. What doesn't reach my mouth soaks into my skin, and I feel strength from it, flowing into me. I feel…clear, clean, pure. For the first time since drinking Janos's blood, I am myself and only myself. I never knew how good simply being me could possibly feel, it'd be almost euphoric if I had the strength to experience that much emotion.

I swallow what blood I can as it continues to enter my mouth. Most of it, however, sinks into my skin. I can feel the source of the blood in my mind, and my magic begins drawing it out. A human screams in pain as I pull his blood directly from the heart and absorb the vitality of his life. When there is nothing left, Kain tosses the empty shell, and I open my eyes.

"Feeling better?" Kain asks, kneeling down beside me.

"Much." I answer, "Still week, but after that simply being untainted is a definite improvement." I say, sitting up and putting a hand to my head to stave off the slight dizzy feeling I feel as my body protests my rising.

"Can all future vampires take blood through their flesh?" He asks me.

"No, that's my blood magic feeding itself through my skin. Soul Singers can gain power and vitality from live blood, but the heart must still be beating when Soul Singers take it, otherwise it does nothing but feed my vampire body." I explain. I look around, and find myself in a very familiar cave. I'm not sure how Kain managed to bring us up here, but I decide not to ask. I'm not sure I want to know, but at least we're safe from any human invasion so high up.

"I don't suppose you're going to explain what you did, are you?" He asks, producing the Soul Reaver from his back to indicate exactly what he means by 'what you did'.

"It never had to be Raziel's being that became the Reaver's core of power." I answer, "Point of fact, it was never meant to be him. Raziel has no destiny, Kain. His only destiny was to die at birth, and the fact that he didn't is what makes him so unique, along with the artifact which saved him from that fate. A treasure called the Shaman's Eye. The reason the blade was so keen to absorb Raziel is because his makeup is exactly the sort of thing that was meant to enter the blade, and he had such high potential that the blade itself seemed to consciously want its core of power to be him, when its true core was suppose to be exactly what I just used to complete the blade. A wraith to devour souls, tainted by the very demon that was inside of me. Raziel was turned into a wraith, that much is certain, but he would have risen from death either way because of the artifact that saved his life the first time. Raziel, as the…'deity', this artifact has made him, coupled with the wraith he was turned into, was twisted into the kind of being that the Reaver needed to complete itself. But it was never suppose to be him specifically. This was simply a convenient way to get rid of the creature he had become." I explain.

"A god…" Kain breathes, his eyes widening at the idea.

"That's…the kindest way of describing what he is. Deity, Undying, Titan, but, most accurately, 'Incarnate'." I say, sighing as I dip into my own stores of preserved blood and start drinking directly from my canteen. It doesn't help my blood magic, but right now I'm concerned more about my body's strength than anything else.

"And you just prevented him from ever becoming the Reaver's core?" Kain asks, as if wanting to clear this matter.

"That's right. A completed Reaver needs no core, and nothing can remove that core now, so even if you stuck the blade into Raziel again, it won't be able to absorb him, but in a way the blade is now stronger because it is weaker." I say.

Kain eyes me beadily and with no small amount of doubt, "Explain." He says.

"It's simple, really. The Shaman's Eye may be an artifact of some divine power, but you couldn't use that power to save your life. You could use what power the blade itself was able to hold, but only a Master Soul Singer would have had the ability to tap into the immense power that is the Shaman's Eye. And even then. The way it is forged makes using the Eye properly awkward and more difficult. Further more the only one capable of using the Shaman's Eye is the one chosen to be its Guardian, or, if you want to continue with the idea of a deity, it's Avatar. And the Avatar of the Shaman's Eye is the Matron of the Soul Singers, or the Matron's next-in-line, the Heir Apparent." I tell him, "So, as Raziel is, in a sense, the Shaman's Eye, you could say I am Raziel's Avatar." I explain.

"But because Raziel is not a Master Soul Singer, and could neither become a Soul Singer as he is male, he cannot use this power himself, correct? He would need you for this." Kain deduces, and I nod.

"That's what Mychala Vel meant when she said she was giving me the best tool she could making me her heir. She was verbally marking me as the next Avatar for the Shaman's Eye." I explain.

"But one question remains; how did Raziel obtain, or become, this 'Shaman's Eye' in the first place?" he asks.

I sigh, "Look, I've barely told Raziel even this much, and I definitely haven't told him that, so I'm not going to tell you. It doesn't matter how or why he's become the Shaman's Eye, because, for all intensive purposes, that was never suppose to happen. That act in and of itself likely strained History drastically when it happened, and now History is simply finding the path of least resistance, including Raziel, forcing him to fulfill some prophesy or whatnot, and then getting rid of him using the Reaver, which is a part of history. But now that this option is no longer available, there's no other real way of destroying Raziel. The only method is to simply trap him, and that's likely what happened. But not even traps can last forever. He'll get out, whether I have to dig my way to hell and back using only my teeth and nails or he finds his own way out himself." I explain, finishing off my fifth canteen and finding myself tempted to drink the rest of my stores. I resist, however, knowing that I'll have to build them back up in case something like this happens again.

"So is that what you intend to do now?" Kain asks.

"No, not yet. I have to go to the Citadel of the Apostates. Janos Audrin gave me the key to a library where he says was stored books by the Soul Singers." I say, fingering the earring. "I think they're for me. I guess I'll find out. What about you?" I ask.

"I intend to find Raziel and whatever prison he has been trapped inside." He answers. I raise an eyebrow.

"Yeah? How?" I ask, and he smirks.

"I think Moebius may have some idea of where he is." He answers.

"Er, that's going to be a problem." I confess, and now it's his turn to raise one of those hairless eyebrows of his.

"How's that?"

"I kind of killed him." I answer.

"You 'kind of' killed him?" He repeats.

"He'll probably come back to life seeing as how he's suppose to lead that militia army against the vampires in the future, but yes, I killed him. And it, felt, good." I say. "Almost as good as killing you probably would." I add thoughtfully.

"Oh don't tell me you still hate me." He says with a sigh, "Even after I brought you to safety and everything? You are ungrateful."

"Kain, that fact is never going to change, the only difference now is that I've decided to do the mature thing and not let my personal feelings cloud my judgment. I am going to hate you until I am dead and rotting in the ground. If someone were to raise my corpse back to life, that darkling would hate you still. I am tolerating you and explaining these things to you out of pure necessity. It would be bad if you continued trying to usher Raziel onto any specific path because his ability to choose his own fate is very important to all of this." I explain.

"How is that, precisely? I understand he is significant for this reason, but you give me the impression that there is more to your words than that simple fact." He says.

"It's because…he is the first, to be free from the Wheal of Fate. And…I don't intend for him to be the last." My own voice is ominously low, even to my own ears, and I realize, even as I'm saying those words, they are the full truth.

"Do you really think that's something you can do?" Kain asks, his voice low and slightly horse, his eyes boring intensely into mine.

I find myself smirking, "If I can, I will. Though while the Wheal of Fate can't stop me, I imagine your ominous 'they' will certainly try." I tell him.

"You mustn't underestimate the Hyldan. If Raziel returns the Heart of Darkness to Janos, they'll have won." He explains. "They will use Janos Audrin's blood to build for themselves a gate into our world. The downfall of the pillars is not enough for them to be truly free, but it makes their freedom possible." He says.

I stare at him, "What? But I thought the only thing keeping the Hyldan at bay was…but is that all the Pillars do?" I demand, "Just make it a bit more impossible for them to escape!? That's it?"

"Of course that's not it you fool! The Pillars are directly connected to Nosgoth itself. They are the foundation upon which our world stands, they protect this world, nurture it. But as they were crafted by vampires, they can only be truly served by vampires, and it is the human corruption which causes them to crumble and the binding to weaken enough for the Hyldan Lord to come through. A little over 7 centuries from now I will confront this Lord and destroy the machine he built, closing the gate that allowed the Hyldan they're entry into Nosgoth. But the damage will have been done, the fall of the pillars, as well as the hyldan themselves, will curse this land." He tells me. "That is why the pillars must be restored if this land is to be saved."

"I don't understand…" I murmur, "I know that the Pillars cannot last forever, I believed they were merely a temporary fix to the problem the Hylden created…was I wrong? I don't know, I still feel as though trying to restore the Pillars is what they want us to do to distract us from some other purpose…" I say, talking more to myself than to Kain. "The vampires didn't create the pillars, they merely summoned them with the help of Mychala Vel. But if that's true, then the Pillars already existed somewhere. Were they meant to seal the Hylden away, or is there another purpose?"

"The purpose of the pillars is to protect Nosgoth and make it flourish. They kept the Hylden sealed because the Hylden are a threat to Nosgoth, but their full purpose is not solely to keep the Hylden at bay." Kain explains.

"If that's true, and if it is also true that the vampires merely summoned the pillars rather than create them, then who did create the pillars, and what purpose did they have in mind? To protect Nosgoth forever? Or to simply heal the land then return to wherever they were summoned until needed again? What if…what if the pillars were never meant to be used for this long? What if they are suppose to be temporary, but instead of being destroyed, they simply need to be banished? But they can't be banished because then the Hyldan would be able to get loose, and the knowledge of how to do it has been lost over the centuries, even by the Soul Singers?" I ask, and I start chewing on my thumbnail.

"So do you agree, then, that the pillars need to be restored?" Kain asks.

"Yes, but they also need to be banished, because nothing is meant to last forever. Keeping Nosgoth 'healthy' for so long strained them, I think. So, either way, we must also find another way to solve the Hylden problem. And combat the one pulling the strings." I say.

"The Hylden are pulling the strings, I'm afraid." Kain tells me.

"No, the Hylden are tools just as Moebius is." I say, "They…" I stop, as, quite suddenly, I feel a sort of revelation bubble to the surface. "Kain, would you say that…it'd take a being of more power to get through the barrier the Pillars represent…or that, this barrier, focuses more upon subduing those with the greater power, thus allowing the weaker creatures to get through as they begin to crumble and become corrupted?" I ask him.

"I would think it'd take a far more powerful creature to get through…why?" Kain asks.

"Did you know there are two types of Hylden? There's the higher breeds and the helot breeds. The helot breeds are, or were, treated more or less like animals of labor for the higher masters. Do you also know, that a demon cannot exist in this realm without a body? The most powerful demons can create ones themselves, but they cannot enter this world through the Abyss, only the lesser demons are even able to get from hell into the abyss, because the gate is like that. It focuses on keeping the stronger ones out, the stronger, the harder. So what if the gate between the Abyss and Nosgoth is just like that? You've seen the monsters that come to ravage this land in Nosgoth's future of around 6 to 7 centuries from now, those creatures are demons, full demons that have completely taken over the bodies of their hosts and twisted them into their own shapes. But even those shapes couldn't have been human in the first place, the bodies for those demons were neither human nor vampire, and while it's possible that some other force was creating those bodies for them…I think it's likely, no, more than likely, that the demons which come to stalk these grounds…are actually using bodies of the Hylden's Helot breed. That means that, even before the pillars fell, the Hylden were able to send their helots, tainted into submission, to this land to intact their will. Of course, when first I had to deal with them, the pillars had just become corrupt. Still, the fact that they put so much effort and sent a near army of demons after me suggests I can and, probably, have poked holes in their careful plans and plots." I explain.

Kain grins. It's not a nice grin, to be sure. Dark and sardonically triumphant, but I could probably share that with him in this case. "I'd say you have." He says, gesturing to the Reaver. "When you completed the blade, only a few of my memories shifted, but those memories are slowly fading, as though they are awaiting another monumental shifting. History is trying to be rid of me, that much is certain. But I don't know that history even has the ability to rid itself of you as an irritant. If it could have stopped you from completing the blade without Raziel, it would have. But it couldn't. However, one memory of mine remains the same and I can't help but wonder why. In our past, I struck Raziel with the Reaver and it shattered due to the paradox of the Reaver being unable to strike down its own soul. The Reaver still shatters, and the spectral form of the blade still enters Raziel, why is that?" He asks.

"You think even a tainted wraith can stand up to the Shaman's Eye? Because the blade is no longer the Shaman's Eye, it can be destroyed, not easily, but it's possible without something as drastic as a paradox. Though, I'd say, only something as powerful as the Eye would be able to do so. Thus, Raziel still gains the wraith blade and…" I stop, blinking, and I start thinking hard.

"And?" Kain presses after a few moments' pause.

"And his soul is no longer twinned and bound to him. If this change has actually occurred, then the ravenous devouring soul within the blade is simply that and nothing more. Raziel now has a weapon that is not his own soul but separate from him. Of course…there is always the chance that it is." I say, considering.

"How is that? I thought you said your completion of the blade would prevent Raziel from being trapped?" He demands.

"Because I have," I summon the Reaver in my possession, "the Reaver from the past of my timeline. So now the question becomes; is it this Reaver which will strike Raziel, or that one?" I ask, laying the blade across my lap and staring down at it. The soul within reaches out and once more the power of the Shaman's Eye enters my body, as does Raziel. I feel as though he is almost embracing me as my markings appear, burning the hot blue of the Shaman's Eye itself, my eyes darkening and becoming ecliptic once more. Kain stares at me.

"Your eyes…they're like that woman's now. Why is that?" Kain asks, but I shrug.

"It has something to do with coming into contact with the Shaman's Eye and using its power. I'm hoping mine don't become permanent like hers, though. It'd kind of be hard to portray myself as a human if they stayed."

"And the Reaver? How did you get it?" Kain asks, and I roll my eyes.

"You gave it to me. How do you think I got it? The you of my past-future time from which I absorbed your blood thought it might be the key to changing the fate of this world. But I wonder if he, or you, was right. Perhaps this Reaver shouldn't exist at all, perhaps it's the Reaver, completed the way it was meant to be done, is the key instead. But, at least with this, I have another Shaman's Eye at my disposal, even if it is awkward to use." I explain. "But we have to figure out whether this one or that one strikes Raziel, and if the outcome of it being that one would be any better." I say.

"Perhaps you will find your answers in this Citadel of yours. For now, however, I will be keeping this blade. I hope that is acceptable." Yeah, like he'd tolerate it if it wasn't.

"That f(beep)ing demon was tainting me, you really think I'd want to have any more to do with that blade than is strictly necessary? So far as I'm concerned it's yours. If History really is going to find the path of least resistance and force us along that path, it may just be this blade that will have to strike Raziel…in fact, that may just be the best course of action to take." I say. The Raziel in this blade would be able to rejoin himself in a sense, and if the blade was un-forged somehow…could the two souls become one again? Could the Raziel in this blade be freed and the duel Eyes become a single? But…perhaps I'm thinking too far into this. At the very least, this Raziel would no longer be a sword and would be closer to himself. "Where does the Reaver need to end up for it to play out its role in history?" I ask Kain.

"Avernus Cathedral." He answers.

"When?" I ask.

"Sometime in this era I believe. You may have a window of a few years." He tells me.

"Then," I say, "when all this is over, I will take this blade to the Cathedral, and it will play out its role as the Reaver, without the Raziel of this timeline. It may even be best if I returned it to the Sarafan sooner rather than later just in case. What?" I demand as Kain shakes his head at me.

"I cannot see how it is possible that you could simply give up such power." He tells me.

"Simple, I'll be getting it back as soon as I find Raziel again." I answer.

"And if you become separated again?" He questions.

"As long as I don't get freak'n tainted again it shouldn't be a problem." I sigh and cross my arms over my chest, "I'll likely be reading up on summoning and banishing demons while I'm in the Citadel as well." I say, biting the inside of my cheek. But, strangely enough, the irrational fear I once suffered at the very thought of a demon…it's been blunted, perceptively. The thought that I will, in fact, be facing more…it doesn't make me panic like it use to. I suppose facing such a powerful disembodied female like that makes all the lesser males using helot Hyldan bodies less intimidating than before. I will, however, be forever disturbed by the tainted stalks of grass that were tromping around the swamp, but at least I feel I can face them on my own for once. Well, even if I can't, I'll have to. I don't have Raziel to fall back on anymore, and I won't have the Reaver once I somehow 'accidentally' drop it back into the hands of the Sarafan. But perhaps that can wait until I've brushed up on my demonology.

Of course, I could always find Mychala Vel to help me.

"Will that prevent another tainting?" He asks me.

"Hopefully." I answer, my brow furrowing, "I just wish I knew how I got tainted in the first place. So far as I can tell, I was weakened dramatically by drinking Janos Audrin's blood, which shouldn't have effected me anyway since the Cardikamon so that's a mystery all its own, but just being weakened isn't enough for a tainting like that unless a gate had opened up right next to my ear or something." I begin to pace back and forth within the cave. "But the pillars should prevent that from happening. Gates to the abyss don't open on their own, not in this time, and even in mine there's got to be a lot of negative energy congregated for that to happen. What's more, the demon that was tainting me was exceptionally powerful." I say.

"Is it likely to happen again?" He questions.

"Well that depends,"

"On?"

"Just who, or what, was trying to get me out of the way, and just how desperate they are. Unfortunately, the fact that the tainting was even attempted means whoever it is, is very desperate indeed. And very, very powerful. How they got to me like that, I have no idea, but I intend to find out." I tell him.

"I do have a theory if you care to hear it." He says, standing up.

"What's that?" I ask, believing I already know what he's going to say.

"The Hyldan." He states. I roll my eyes.

"This is human magic, Kain. A vampire couldn't have done this to me and neither could a Hyldan. They'd have to have had a So—" I stop dead. Color leaves my face as my eyes widen, becoming unfocused as my attention is drawn inward and the realization sends a stab of horror through my very bones. The Reaver drops to the ground and clatters upon the hard, stone-like surface.

I remember now, clean as I am of the demon, I am able to remember without any present crisis to focus my mind upon. The numbness of mind induced by the Shaman's Eye, a defense of some kind, as if there were something there, something worse than the demon inside me. Some violet light, and a voice, a voice I heard in my dreams as well as in that moment.

"It's futile, child. Give in now, and you will be as my daughter. Resist overlong, and you will be little more than the mindless slaves you have been fighting against."

The one who tainted me,

Was Klossa Vel.