Kain watched the struggle between his two sons escalate, and their pain caused him no distress. Calmly, his cold ochre eyes took in the events as they transpired. The Razielim were slaughtered, and Kain still watched. Raziel plunged the Soul Reaver into Turel's body, and Kain did not blink. The two of them plummeted earthwards, crying out their souls' fury, and Kain gave no sign of unease.
Then Turel struck the surface of the Lake, and the vampire god staggered.
Raging torture fired along the nerves through his whole body. He could feel the water around him, eating away at his flesh and burning inside him, but it was nothing compared to the rupture in his soul. The confusion and agony was overwhelming, threatening to drag him into death along with his son. Overwhelmed, he sank to his knees. Kain had felt this way once before, when he had stood by as Raziel was executed in a corresponding fashion. But then he had been surrounded by his other sons, and their presence had served to alternately bolster him and warn him to show no weakness before them. He had come through that torment with no outward sign of disturbance, and his rule had continued unchallenged. In the ensuing centuries he had watched this scene a thousand times over, watched it until the shock had faded and he could weep no more. But never, in all the years, had Kain felt it as he did now, felt the pain as his son burned and drowned to death.
Almighty pain engulfed him, as half a world away the vampire prince's body collapsed under the raging torrent and was smashed into pieces. A final cry of despair, Turel's last, was heard only by his Father. Then it was over, and Kain lay on the cold stone floor alone, teeth gritted against the pain to keep from crying out. His limbs were slack, unresponsive, as the last vestiges of almost-death faded slowly. He shivered uncontrollably with the memory of it. The pain went away, but the wounds on his soul left him momentarily drained and unable to move. Helpless, the God of Nosgoth lay on the ground, a tumbled deity vulnerable to any attack. The lowliest human could have killed him now. But there were no humans here. Indeed, nothing lived in these lowest depths of the Cavern of the Chronoplast, and Kain was left to himself to heal from this experience as much as he could.
Half an hour later, Kain arose. His muscles trembled slightly, but otherwise he seemed restored to full control. The pathos effect was terrible. Kain often had wondered whether or not his own children had felt this way upon losing one of their offspring. But he had never brought it up. Something like this was much too personal, too painful to be discussed with anyone. The same thing had happened with his other children, but never to this extent. Perhaps it was because he had not been watching when they had been slain. To be sure he had felt it, but the feeling had passed swiftly, borne away along with his blessings for his sons' spirits. But he had been unable to resist the temptation to watch the fall of Turel. The event was so necessary to the fate of his world that he had needed to see with his own eyes that it was carried out.
The portal before him still reflected the world above. In it, the Tower of Turel lurched across the sky, mortally wounded. As Kain watched, the floating mountain sank slowly towards the ground. Blown off course by Turel's last attack, the Tower had drifted aimlessly, no longer guided by any hand. Without any overriding impetus, the Turelim legions had been unable to find their way to any of their familiar settlements. At length, bereft of the infusion of fresh members into their ranks, the Atlas Legions had simply given out, one by one. Exhausted, they had fainted dead away in their efforts, and with each loss the Tower felt the pull of Nosgoth's gravity just a little more.
Eventually, the remaining Legion's efforts were in vain, and the Tower of Turel settled in finally to land upon the ground, its crumbling base of desert-born rock striking the earth with a continent-shaking shudder. Two of the Tower's four sub-structures split off and toppled to the ground, and great cracks split the side of the main fortress, but other than that, the Tower held. Once again it had become a part of this planet. Turelim began to exit the structure shakily. Some of them supported the dazed remnants of other clans, former tortured prisoners now brought into the light by their captors, united in their shared distress. Amid the ruins of the sub-towers, Kain could spy the gutted wreckage of one of the four main meeting halls. Though ravaged and opened to the sky, he saw that the corresponding statue of himself still stood, miraculously free of damage. Carved from black glass, it remained in looming silence, towering with ageless dispassion over the fleeing vampires that walked in its shadow. A symbolic view, Kain thought.
The Tower of Turel was soon abandoned, its only inhabitants being the dead. In time it would become a cursed place, a thing of legend that no being ever dared to approach. Alone on the barren plain of its final descent, the entire bloody structure seemed humbled and dejected, no longer borne aloft by its creator's insane dream.
Kain stepped back, and the image in the portal faded into darkened obscurity. He turned and paced slowly down the corridor, lost in thought.
One's dreams were quite important. They showed the inner workings of the heart, mind and soul, of which most beings are often unaware. Dreams were very powerful, Kain knew. He had founded his empire on a dream, and he had let his son die for a nightmare.
He was the oldest of all vampires, the most powerful of a mighty race. Unbounded potential lay within him. Some of the changes he had experienced in his long life were obvious to the casual observer, while others were not. Kain's abilities were occasionally a mystery even to himself, skills beyond his conscious control. Over time he had developed a certain facility for them. But there was one that was ever beyond his reach.
Kain looked upon it as a presentiment, a temporal premonition, possibly due to his connection to the Chronoplast. Sometimes, when he slept, Kain would dream, and he would see things that he could not deny, whose meaning was always clear to him. After the death of Raziel and the condemnation of his clan, the Empire had gone through a massive reorganization, in which boundary lines were shifted and power games were recalibrated. As a result of this new order, his children seemed to have grown even more aggressive. Kain had watched as the political backbiting and court intrigue increasingly escalated into outright combat, if not war. These disturbances did not concern him, he was already preoccupied with far greater efforts. So long as they were available and obedient to his will, the children of Kain were allowed to do as they pleased, within limits, of course. Secure in his godhood, Kain had let matters stand.
Nearly a century later, the last of the Razielim were all but extinct. Kain had long since lost interest in the resolution of that particular edict, and could not present himself at the remaining little blood sports even if he had wanted to. At this time, he had felt a State of Change drawing upon him, and had retreated into seclusion to await the result. During the subsequent hibernation and torpor, Kain's normally untroubled gestation had been interrupted by a peculiar vision.
It was like unto a dream, except for one thing: the cold. He could feel and smell the cold. Kain had suddenly found himself atop a mountain that soared high into the heavens. The sky was open and clear above him, and stars shone down. He had not seen them for centuries, but this oddity was not what drew his attention. All around him the wind blew, shrieking with a voice that could only be described as terrified. It cut through him, leaving him trembling at its passing. From atop his perch, Kain looked down, and he could see the whole world from where he stood. The sight left him chilled to the bone, for what he saw was a graveyard.
Corpses covered the landscape, the bodies so numerous they hid the ground. Dumahim, Melchahim, Zephonim, all the clans of Nosgoth were represented in this cemetery. He could see the mighty oceans and rippling streams clogged with the bodies of dead Rahabim. The smell of blood came up to him in a stinking cloud, no longer appetizing, but befouled and long spilt. There were not even crows picking at the dead. Kain then knew that this was because his world itself was dead, deprived of every last living thing, whether vampire, human, or animal. Nosgoth had been slain. No, not just slain.
The cloud cover was back then, but the clouds were black. There were no more stars, and the world seemed dim. Kain could no longer see. Suddenly he felt something against his foot. Calling forth a light, Kain had looked down to find the body of a Turelim at his feet. Reeling back in revulsion, he stumbled over another corpse, and another. The mountain was littered with dead Turelim, ripped to pieces and scattered about in a grisly blanket of sundered flesh. Kain smelled terror in the wind.
He heard something behind him, and turned. A great black shape was moving through the darkness, panting and heaving with animal mindlessness. It pushed through the lawn of body parts, heading straight for him. Kain did not retreat, and the huge figure came to tower over him. He stared upwards into the thing's face, but could make nothing out. For some time they both stood there, facing one another, while the maniac wind whipped through Kain's hair.
Then the monster raised its arms towards him. They were long and thin, and from its claws dangled two bodies. One of them was Raziel, torn and bloodied, his beauty stripped from him in wanton brutality. He had been massacred most foully, and the look of pain on his face caused his Father to shudder.
The other body was Turel.
A gaping hole lay in his chest where his heart should have been, but otherwise he was unharmed. Unseeing green eyes stared fixedly at nothing. As Kain watched, the dead lips suddenly moved, and a word was whispered from them, a soft cold sound.
Father, he spoke, Father.
Over and over the word was uttered silently. Then the monster dropped both bodies, and Kain realized to his horror that it was now the creature itself that was murmuring the word. Father. Father. Father. He clapped his hands to his ears, unwilling to listen. Kain then rose up into the air, floating over it. The thing's unseen head swiveled up to watch him. Father, it said, and one arm gestured out over the dead world. Father, it said again, and the other arm took in the massacred Turelim nation. Then it raised both hands to him in supplication. Father.
Kain flew higher from it, shaking his head in denial and revulsion. At his refusal, the creature flinched. And then it howled, leaping into the air to chase him. Kain did not even think of fighting. Instead he fled, flying as fast as he could over the dead face of the world. Always the thing was right behind him, reaching out with its great killer hands for him. Terrified, he flew on, but there was nowhere left to go. Everyone was dead. He could only keep flying and flying, knowing that it would chase him forever, and that it would catch him eventually. And then, without warning, Kain awoke.
Shaken to the depths of his soul, Kain had at first suspected this was some kind of trick, a new diversion of Ariel's to plague his thoughts and bend him to her will. But he had then realized that this was his new gift, one that he could neither refuse nor control. He had been given a vision, a warning of the future of his planet. He knew what awaited his children. Although he had not been cognizant of it during the nightmare, he now realized what it was that had chased him so ardently. It was his son. It was Turel.
Kain stepped into the Chronoplast's cavernous interior and found that his previous adjustments had been completed. It was time to begin on the next phase of his plan. But the memories still troubled him, balking any attempts at coordination of the machine. The dream had told him that Turel would become a monster, even if he was not one already. Kain could sense that the last of the Razielim were close to eradication, and he knew that Turel was the one who would destroy them. It was a sign of things to come. He had been horrified at the prospect. Turel had always been loyal and devoted, but he had never been deranged. His second eldest had never betrayed him, had always carried out his wishes satisfactorily. How then could he possibly come to such a conclusion?
The more Kain pondered the problem, the more he became convinced of one thing: there could be only one cause of Turel's dementia, and that was himself, Kain. He took the time to review certain actions in his past, saw how his obvious preference for Raziel over all others had blinded him to the development of Turel's personality. His attempts to attract his Father's eye had grown more elaborate and grandiose. His Tower was only the latest attempt to please a patriarch who had ever overlooked him in favor of his brother. Considered second only to Raziel, it must have seemed to Turel that his brother was an obstacle to his Father's supreme affection. Had Turel, indeed, been secretly pleased at Raziel's execution? In time, would he have actually gone so far as to arrange for his sibling's death on his own? Though he did not like to admit it, Kain did not discount this as impossible. All too clearly now he saw how he had abused Turel. In all their lives together, he had looked on his son as another supplicant, a worshipper of the god that was his Father. He had not encouraged him, shown him love. The only time that he had acknowledged his son was when he had saved Raziel's life. How that must have galled Turel, to be looked on in a subservient position even in triumph. Kain did not doubt that, if allowed to live, Turel would carry out the implications of this foreboding dream to the letter.
At first, he considered killing the boy outright. After all, he had willingly sacrificed one son, why not another? But Kain immediately recognized the danger there. It was his own carelessness, his disregard for his son as a person that had given birth to this calamity's potential. If he slew Turel, would not another of his children quickly take up the call to herald the death of his world? No, Kain must have no direct part in this action. Then he wondered if maybe it was not yet past the time. If he could find it in himself to grant Turel the affection that he so craved, could he not change his son for the better, and thereby avert the apocalypse before it occurred? But in his heart, he knew it was too late for that. He had failed as a parent far too long for any kind of reparation to take effect now. No, Turel would continue on in his obsession, desperately sacrificing everything and everyone to his Father, until there was nothing left alive on this planet. Turel's mania would be the death of their world. Unless something stopped him.
For this planet to have a future, Turel would have to die, that was a certainty. That dreamt-of slaughter would ruin everything Kain had worked to achieve, for the repercussions of such an act, the death of an entire world past all hope of continued existence, would surely be an event too titanic to be corrected even with time streamer manipulation. Of this Kain was sure, having read of similar immutable time loci in the annals of the Chronoplast's records. He would have to divine some way to prevent Turel from reaching the point of annihilation. Upon further exploration of the Chronoplast's abilities, Kain had been relieved to see how the preservation of a few of Raziel's offspring could be used to insure that when their clan chief did return from the Netherworld, he would have a secret army with which to catch Turel off-guard and thereby bring about the monster's total destruction. So Kain had played upon a lingering relationship between Raziel's first lieutenant and a conniving Turelim lackey to rid his planet of a continued Razielim presence, but to also leave behind a small cadre of Raziel's spawn rendered inert within the heart of Turel's fortress. When the time was right, these long-dead vampires would rise again to strike a fatal blow against Turel within his own house. Their presence would inspire Raziel to daring actions he might otherwise not consider before it was too late, hindered as he might be by sentiment. The new Soul Reaver would be empowered with the means to slay his brother without mercy. Thus did Kain institute his long-range plans, which had finally come to fruition today.
The threat was over. Turel had been killed in the very act of devoting himself to his genocidal future. The assault to establish Turelim rule over the other vampires of Nosgoth would never arise, and once again Kain was free to orchestrate a new past and future for himself and his world. Raziel would play the part of the dutiful son as he always had, convinced of his own free will in this game. All was well. His sons were dead. Satisfied, Kain once again raised a hand to affect changes in the operating system of the Chronoplast, when he paused. He remained frozen for an instant. Then his hand dropped back to his side.
"My sons," he whispered, "are dead."
It felt strange to say it. The words made it seem so real. They tasted odd.
"Dead," he repeated. It was true. They were gone.
Kain stared off into space silently. He was remembering, centuries in the past, when all of his children had come together, not to bicker or argue, but to marvel at the architectural triumph that Turel had created. Unbeknownst to any of his children, Kain had been in attendance, cloaked in mist and shadow, his presence undetectable even by his own sons. Everywhere they had went he had followed, and he had shared in their amazement and appreciation of the Tower. It was a physical testament to his reign, to the superiority of vampires. In all of history, nothing so grand had ever been achieved by any human agency. By his children had this wonder come about, this triumph over and utilization of nature, and it was because he, Kain, had brought this world into existence. It was all due to him, and this had been most magnificently exhibited in the four colossi made in his likeness, which Kain had looked upon with no small amount of undue pride. He had reveled in this edifice that shouted to the world what vampires could achieve. Almost, he had revealed himself to his sons. When they were laughing and drinking together, he had almost manifested his presence, to show his appreciation to Turel. But in the end, he had not. He had hung back, and let them celebrate without him. Why, he had wondered? Why did I choose not to? What possible reason could there be to distance myself here?
He knew the answer now. He could not show Turel approval, could not express for him his love. If he had, then Turel would not have become what he did, would not have turned into a monster. Then he and Raziel might have settled their score peacefully and gone on to challenge Kain with the Turelim legions at their backs. Only one small act of love was needed to keep events from proceeding in accordance with his designs. Kain knew why he had not told Turel he loved him.
"Destiny," he whispered heavily.
Kain stared at his claws vacantly, curling and flexing them. Six claws, for six sons. They had even made a traditional greeting out of it. And now they were dead. He had given birth to his children only to watch them die. Where was the difference between vampire and human, then? Was it only a matter of lifespan? Did a similar irrevocable doom await even him, Kain, the God of Nosgoth?
Kain passed a weary hand before his face in thought. These problems had plagued his heart for centuries. But eventually, he had found the answer to all of them, and it had convinced him, more than the accolades and the use of the title itself, that he, and his race, were gods.
It was all a matter of clarity. Strip away the lingering remnants of humanity, and you see things as they really are. Vampires and humans could fight and die, they could love and destroy, live incredibly long lives and end with nothing to show for it. Of course they were similar, vampires were born from humans, after all. And it was in this birthing that Kain had realized the fundamental difference between them. Human beings, as a species, were incapable of surviving without one another. This was no pretty turn of phrase, it was a biological fact. Every inch of the planet's surface could be covered with humans, and if none of them interacted with one another, the entire population would be extinct in just about a century. For the species to continue, there would always have to be at least one man and one woman coming together, each aware of the necessity of the other's presence, in order for new life to be created. Humans thought of themselves in terms of duality, plurality. Their individual conception was limited by their natural inability to engender offspring by themselves. A human being was incapable of producing life on its own. This was not so with vampires. Kain had been the last of his race in a world of men. With no help from anyone else he had proceeded to give birth to six vampire sons, and they had then gone out and transformed all but a fraction of the race of man into vampires. One by one, it had been done, until the vampire race had supplanted humanity as the dominant species of this world. That was his glory. Godhood lay within it.
The concept of destiny necessitates the existence of a God, a highest power that, on its own, creates everyone else, each made with a purpose that is called destiny. Therefore God, by definition, must be alone and yet still fully capable of life genesis in the beginning. His ability to make life cannot be dependent on the presence of another being, otherwise he would not be God. He would be human, his range of choices shackled to that separate mind and body that is not his own and can refuse him. There must be no viable opposition, and when Kain had dipped his hands into the Underworld and snared the souls of his offspring, there had been none. From emptiness he had brought forth life, and each of his young godlings had stepped out upon the world to repeat the procedure. But it had all started with Kain. They could not have been reborn without him, and he had neither needed nor sought any permission to render this miracle into being. Alone, he had orchestrated the creation of the world. He had not required those specific six children, it could have been anyone. But he had made that choice, as God. He had that power. The humans, once the finest example of intelligent life on this planet, were now reduced to cattle. All plant-life, and consequently the vast majority of animal species, had perished from the dry face of Nosgoth by his decisions. He was the sole undying creator of the world and the greatest of its inhabitants. He was immortal! By his whim, life was created or destroyed, without consideration of others, and therefore he must be God! It was undeniable! KAIN WAS GOD!
And yet not totally.
He had power, yes, and the ability to make the best of choices for the benefit of his people. But were they not still chained? A vampire fledgling requires blood, preferably human, to reach its exalted state of maturity. Afterwards the necessity is not so great, but still, they are damnably linked to humans for food, and so for them to survive, they must bow to animal need and keep the humans alive. Alive in a denigrated position, but still alive, damn it all! Vampires, paradoxically, cannot exist without their inferiors, and this infuriated Kain, for while this weakness continued, they were still as incomplete as any human, and he himself was forced to make choices that did not suit his own desires. Rules not of his making still applied to his decisions. His will was not Fate, that was maddening! Who had made these rules, and when, and why must he be relegated by them, Kain had demanded of himself?!
Now Kain knew. He knew exactly what he had to do to make his people gods, with himself above them forever.
It was his fate to come this far. Kain admitted that he had no control over that. Perhaps what he had considered a simple matter of choice was really a predetermined stamp on his mind and soul. That was the agony of Fate. And yet, had he not already scored a major victory against that fathomless power? By reviving the spirits of the dead within undying flesh, the tapestry of Fate had been deprived of its basic working material, that being the souls of Nosgoth. Granted, he had not destroyed their presupposed destinies utterly, but he had at least given the hand of Fate pause. While the world remained static like this, frozen in place and rupturing from thwarted movement, could not a being of sufficient strength and knowledge play his hand and wrest control from the nameless force that had so far exercised its ultimate power unchallenged? Clearly it feared him. That was why Raziel had been reborn, invested with unearthly might and goaded to slay his Father and lay waste to his empire. The hidden soul of Fate had thought this to be the perfect solution to the vampire dilemma. Once Kain and his Dynasty were destroyed, Fate could pick right up where it left off as if nothing had happened. What matter the loss of a few millennia of time, when all eternity was available to it to correct any errors? It must have seemed an irresistibly ironic plan. But soon even Fate would bow to the will of Kain. It had unwittingly given him the one thing he could not supply for himself, the one thing he needed to triumph. The thought of this touched his cold heart, pleased him immensely. As a token demonstration of his soon-to-be superiority, he spoke the words that destiny had never allowed him to say before.
"I love you, Turel, my son," he said with satisfaction.
And that was all. His ascension could not be prevented. Each of his children had played their part in his grand scheme. Only Raziel's duties remained unfinished, and his approach was not far off. Kain could feel him even now.
"Ever the stalwart pawn of a greater power, Raziel," Kain murmured to himself. "The Sarafan, myself, Ariel and your 'Elder,' and now myself again. Whether you ken it or no, I have you under my thumb, because that is where you are content to be. You and all the rest. Only I am willing to slave for no one, not even Fate."
Did Raziel truly believe that he could kill his Father? What then, Raziel? Destroy the rest of the clans, meekly give this planet back to the remaining pitiful humans to rule, and retreat into the Spectral Realm to mope for all eternity? Is that what you call justice? If that were the case, it would have been better to let Turel murder them all and leave Nosgoth to float as deadweight on the tides of fate. But Kain would see that neither of those futures would be allowed, and the sacrifice of his children was what would enable it. He had no misgivings. He, Kain, had existed before without them, and he would continue to exist now with their passing. He had given his sons, even Turel, as much time and concern as was fitting for a God. That part of his life was now over. A new generation awaited him. Kain was eager for it.
"Let destiny's ties slip from your limbs, Raziel, to be replaced with reins of my own devising. Come to me, Reaver of Souls, and inaugurate, for all the universe to see, the true legacy of Kain!"
The God of Nosgoth laughed with pleasure, and once again began his work.