Author's Note: This takes place post Defiance—like way post Defiance. You could say I took the easy way out by setting this story conveniently after the sticky position Defiance left everyone in had been resolved, but I would say that I would rather not try to complete the canon story because I'm sure I couldn't do it justice. This story is more about exploring the concept of Raziel's life after being in the Reaver and the relationships between all the characters than it is about resolving the plot. So, don't think too hard about any paradoxes I might have missed (though I would still be interested in hearing about them). Hope you enjoy it!
Though he had no concept of time or place—and only a fading sense of his own identity—Raziel's existence within the Reaver was not unpleasant. He hungered—but only on the most instinctive of levels—for souls and a restoration of balance, but not out of a physical need for sustenance. Other than that base necessity, he floated thoughtlessly on a peaceful ocean of blissful ignorance, riding the relentless tides of his master's moods in companionable silence, unable—or perhaps just unwilling—to respond to Kain's fits of temper except in the very definition of his current state. He imagined that he performed adequately as a weapon, though even that aspiration did nothing to inspire him beyond mindless duty.
His weariness had mounted further with every useless delay of his unalterable destiny, and now that he had served his purpose at last he could rest. Kain had found no such rest; he had become so attached to his immortality that he was determined to unravel the very fabric of history to prevent his own death. But now that he had achieved his goal, Raziel wondered what he would do with the victory. What good was it to live forever when you had no place to belong and no one to share eternity with?
The thought might have made Raziel laugh had he been capable, but he was barely capable of even forming the thought at this point. Unlike his sire, he had chosen to finally submit to fate and discovered that the way was far easier when one simply drifted along with its inexorable flow.
The halcyon eternity he passed within the Reaver was like a pleasant daydream compared to the aeon of agony he had endured in the lake of the dead. He sensed changes in the world outside his isolated prison, knew when his Kain had left him in the cathedral for his younger self to find, and later had became accustomed to the fledgling Kain's presence, knowing that many things would go differently now that the arrogant youth had been cleansed of his madness by the purified Reaver.
But none of these events could truly rouse Raziel's interest. He slept when he was not needed, ignored his master for the most part and wrapped himself in the numb solace within the Reaver's cold embrace. Time passed and he existed only in the most ephemeral sense. Despite his outrage and dread, his damning fate and unavoidable purgatory was nothing compared to the hell he had suffered at his creator's hands or the torment the parasite had so enjoyed putting him through with his delusions of godhood. Kain had actually eased his destiny by allowing him to heal the madness of the blade before he met his end within it, and Raziel had no complaints.
Limbo was not as lamentable as he had feared. It was not painful or lonely. It simply was.
It allowed him to forget. And forgetfulness was the balm that his soul desperately required.
He ignored the call, burrowing himself deeper within his oblivion inside the Reaver like a sleeper who had no desire to wake.
"Raziel," the voice said with more insistence, and Raziel felt the tug of power shaking him impatiently, trying to rouse him from his drowsy isolation.
Pushing back against the force with childish stubbornness, he wrapped a cloak of mindless silence around himself again and restored his peaceful slumber. "Leave me alone," he muttered absently. "Go away."
He felt the touch of that familiar power again as it slipped past his defenses and brushed against him with a caress that felt like fingers against his spine. It touched him in ways that required an intimate knowledge of all his weaknesses and trigger points—a knowledge few had ever gained about him. Disturbed, Raziel stirred enough to take register that he had actually thought of the encounter in corporeal terms as he had not bothered to do in a very long time.
The distraction was all that the intruder seemed to require to take the advantage, and Raziel felt himself being pulled forcibly away from his comfortable retreat, tugged out into the cold and the light. He fought against the intruder desperately, clawing at the determined force with his spirit, slashing and biting—and again thinking of the struggle in terms that were far too much about the physical realm for his liking.
But he had become weak in his languid separation from reality, and he did not have the strength to fight against the power as it began to liberate him from the blade one thread of spirit at a time.
"No!" he cried despairingly. While the power was familiar, he knew that it was not the right one. When he left the blade, it was to be at the behest of his own divided soul, not his demanding master. "This is wrong. I can't leave yet!"
"Stop this foolishness, Raziel." Kain's voice was clearer and, much to his despair, Raziel was lucid enough now to clearly recognize it. Memories crashed back into his mind and he would have cried with the heartbreak of coming face to face with the sordid reality of his existence if he had been able.
The pain was immobilizing and he felt his hopeless grip on the blade loosen, his fractured soul finally slipping from the Reaver entirely with a dizzying rush. Spinning in a wave of nausea, Raziel felt at once formless and bound, still fighting for escape as he felt the weight of flesh pull him down and restrain him, chaining him to a form he had never thought to inhabit again.
Gasping with a wracking breath, Raziel pulled air into lungs with an unshakable sense of disorientation. He knew how to breathe, knew how to open his eyes and blink up at the ceiling, but he could not remember how he knew, could not even recall the irksome restriction of being bound by flesh and bone. Every sensation overwhelmed his weary mind, and he closed his eyes with another reflex that seemed to belong to the body he possessed rather than to him.
He shivered feverishly as a hand traced over his forehead, fingers resting feather-light against his skin but making him nearly sick with another wave of unwelcome sensation. Whimpering faintly, Raziel felt another tremor travel up an arm when a second hand—this one cool and rough with callouses—came to rest lightly on his wrist; it retreated almost before it touched his skin and a sound that his memory defined as the scrape of a chair against the floor made him flinch.
"Let him be, Janos." Though he had recognized Kain's voice before, it sounded flat and empty now compared to the multifaceted depth with which it had spoken to Raziel when he was still in his formless state. His senses might have been overwhelmed with touch in this form, but some things were thinner in the physical realm. "His unexpected freedom is too much for him to bear at the moment." Other sounds echoed into silence, and Raziel managed to define them as footsteps, a soft click the sound of a door shutting.
The hand on his forehead moved again at a deliberate pace, allowing Raziel to get used to the feeling. Opening his eyes a crack, Raziel squinted up at the kind visage of the ancient beside him. He had recognized the name when Kain spoke it, though most of his memories were still a muddle. "Welcome back, savior," Janos said with a sad smile. "Your torment is over and your terrible destiny fulfilled. You are, at last, free."
A soft sound escaped Raziel's throat—or rather the throat of the body that contained him—and he allowed his eyes to shut again.
"Rest now," Janos whispered, leaning forward to press a gentle kiss against Raziel's forehead.
Slipping into the grateful embrace of sleep, Raziel longed for the forgetful peace of the Reaver and mourned its loss with a grief that manifested itself in restlessness and the brutal shape of nightmares.
Leaning wearily against the window frame, Kain crossed his arms over his chest and listened as Janos drifted into the room with an easy grace that he found vaguely irritating.
"He is sleeping," the ancient said airily.
"That's all? How boring," Vorador pronounced from the other side of the room without glancing up from his book.
Kain wondered briefly why he had bothered to ensure their survival this time around. Of course, his younger self had done most of the heavy lifting, but he had certainly nudged the young fool in the right direction from time to time. He supposed he had been motivated more by the need for the vampire race to survive without himself as the sole progenitor than by his need for companionship, but Janos and Vorador knew almost as much about the tangled web of Nosgoth's history as he did, and that knowledge was something precious to one who knew a world that no one else had ever seen.
So much had changed now that Kain barely recognized Nosgoth any longer, but some things did not seem to be inclined to change on their own. The pillars had been restored, the world was in balance and vampires and humans had learned to coexist relatively peacefully for the moment, finally liberated from the manipulations of the parasite that had been twisting their fate to his own whims throughout most of history. But Kain had been unable to stand mutely by and watch Raziel begin the cycle of his sacrifice once again, not when his destiny had already been fulfilled several times over and the world had finally been healed. So he had taken a risk.
He had thought he was due a bit of selfishness after all the sacrifices he had made over the years, so he had allowed Vorador and Janos to fetch him from his self-imposed exile and had even agreed to their ridiculous scheme. They had not wanted their precious savior to live out the rest of his days imprisoned in a weapon, and though Kain had not been eager to toy with the linchpin of his freedom, loneliness was a powerful motivator.
He didn't know how Janos had managed to wrest the Reaver from the young Kain's grip, but Kain had been too occupied with his own task to care. He had traveled halfway across the countryside to find the only shell worthy of holding his firstborn's soul, and needless to say, his younger self would find one coffin already empty when he went to the tomb of the Sarafan to raise his lieutenants. As far as Kain could tell, that discrepancy would matter little since his Empire would never come to fruition in this new Nosgoth. Too much had changed to make such a thing feasible.
"Something is wrong," Kain muttered, staring out the window at the dark courtyard below and voicing the concern that had been nagging at him since he left Raziel's side. "Raziel fought me every step of the way. Perhaps this was a mistake."
Janos shifted on his feet. Kain could see the flutter of his reflection in the window. "He was disoriented. Can you blame him?"
"It was not disorientation. He was furious. He would have torn my throat out had he been able. We should have left him in the sword."
"How can you say that?" Anger was stirring in Janos' placid voice. "Do you truly feel no remorse for what he has been through?"
Chuckling, Vorador turned a page. "You forget, Janos. The only heart Kain has ever had beats within your chest."
"Raziel's destiny was always a twisted loop," Kain continued as if they had not spoken. "Have we untangled it only to damn us all to the fate we worked so hard to avoid?"
With an annoyingly perceptive reading of his reaction, Janos said with reassuring serenity, "You know as well as we do that the Reaver's purified form is no longer needed in this world. But that is not what is truly troubling you, is it? Are you afraid that he still blames you for the role you played in his cruel fate?"
"Whether Raziel forgives me or not is irrelevant." Kain's teeth ground against each other and he refused to meet Janos' eyes when the willowy vampire come to stand beside him. "I am more concerned that we have meddled once too many times with Nosgoth's already strained history." He flinched when Janos touched his arm.
"He deserves this," Janos said firmly, startling Kain with his resolve. His eyes burned with something Kain could not quite identify as he continued, "I will do whatever it takes to mend any ripples within the timestream caused by freeing him, but I will not allow that child to continue suffering. You will not doom him to that imprisonment again while I am still alive." Grasping the Reaver where it rested on the windowsill, he took a step away. "I will return the blade to its current master so that you will not be tempted by it any longer."
Sighing in frustration, Kain rested his forehead against the cool glass of the window as Janos' feet whispered across the room and out the door.
"I swear, Kain, if you upset him like that again, I won't hesitate to kill you." Vorador said, clearly disturbed by Janos' quiet exit with the Reaver. "You'd better hope he comes back in one piece."
A small smirk tugged at Kain's lips. So that was how Janos acted when he was angry. How utterly disappointing. The ancient could have at least managed a small outburst or raised his voice a fraction. Chuckling softly, he pushed himself away from the window with a hand against the glass and blinked blearily across the room at Vorador.
"I have saved his slender blue neck before," he grumbled. "But he is tempting fate with this—we all are. Being separated from the path of history as I am, I am no longer sensitive to paradoxes. I truly don't know what we have done by liberating Raziel."
Vorador snapped his book shut and tossed it on the table next to his chair. "You're fretting almost as much as Janos," he said as he rose to his feet and stretched. "And that's quite an accomplishment." Shoving Kain's shoulder roughly as he crossed the room, he grunted, "Go get some rest. You used a lot of magic tonight—enough to have an effect even on you. And you're insufferably cranky when you're tired."
Author's Note: This is going to be a multi-chapter story. This chapter was mostly exposition, so I'll try to get the next one posted shortly to give you a little more to sink your teeth into. I have a lot of the chapters partially written, but I always look to feedback to fine tune the story as I go, so feel free to let me know what you think—good or bad.