Chapter 3

Sins of the Lion

The path ahead was strewn with broken cannons, torn banners and rotted spears; the eerie reminders of the unceasing war in this cursed land. Though dark briars had already began to creep over dreadful path into Ostrheinsburg and bring it once more into anonymity, Siegfried still remembered fleeing down this same path seven years ago, as the memory of his madness still lingered on the ashen ground.

He had walked no more than a few hundred yards when he felt a strange sensation of being watched. Siegfried looked back. The forest he had emerged from was still behind him, as if he had not walked at all. Alarmed, he decided to continue towards the castle ruins, but after he had walked for a few more minutes, he realized was not getting any closer. The forest edge was still an arm's length behind him.

Siegfried looked at ground he stood on. The ashen dust of Ostrheinsburg was no longer still beneath the heavy fog that crept from the plains. It was shifting before his eyes as if a cold wind was sweeping it away.

The light in Soulcalibur suddenly flared as his surroundings began to fade. The castle ruins had dissolved in the darkness, and the trees that were once behind him now hid the overcast skies from view.

Siegfried took a step forward despite a strange heaviness that had now fallen upon his limbs. But his foot did not meet solid ground. He stumbled, and saw not the gray dust of the desolation, but a trickling stream that was not there before. What was happening?

He raised himself to his feet, still dazed. The darkness around him was slowly shifting, until a man emerged from the shadows, holding a zweihänder akin to his...

The man's armor was adorned as a general's and his stern brown eyes were fixed on Siegfried. His sword was unsheathed and graven with blue and gold runes. The figure spoke, and his voice echoed through the haze of Siegfried's mind and its familiarity tore at his heart.

"Siegfried."

"Father…?" Siegfried whispered.

The man nodded and grasped Siegfried's wrist as Siegfried swayed on the spot.

"But you can't be. You're…you're in these woods." Siegfried murmured weakly, looking at the dark canopy above him.

"Because of you I am wandering these dark woods, bound to the Earth, much like you are now," Frederick replied. "Is that why there is a curse upon your blood? Or why you have a strange blade that grows chill by the day, awaiting the day when you will meet your former self?"

The blue light from Soulcalibur blazed suddenly at these words, but power of the blade did not affect Siegfried this time; the fog grew thicker and he felt the great weariness fall heavier upon his limbs and mind.

"How can you know that?" he whispered.

"I have seen and heard many things, Siegfried. Of you and your quest, I have watched you since the beginning. I know that you seek atonement. But you must not commit anymore sins to do so. You say the rivalry between the two blades must draw to a close. But this time the world cannot stand between their powers or destinies. Neither can their wielders, if this is truly the end. That is not beyond human knowledge."

Siegfried's mind was numbed from these words. How could Soulcalibur bear the fate of the world, yet have no regard for what it protected?

Then he remembered his loss at the cathedral. The sword did not seem concerned for anything but the destruction of its enemy. Was he brought back merely as a vessel for its power? He clenched his fist, but the power that had coursed through his veins was now weaker, though still present, and clinging to his waning consciousness. The sword too, perhaps, was desperate fulfill its destiny.

Frederick spoke again, as if he heard Siegfried's thoughts. "I know your blade has brought you back from the brink of death. I have seen it. Though that blade is destined to end your living nightmare, its power also waxes with every strike. When you reach the end of your battles, its power will be too great for mortal hands; too great to be contained even in its physical form. It will be able to reshape the world or destroy it if you wish."

"I do not wish for any of that to happen. I vowed to end Nightmare and Soul Edge. I seek atonement for my sins, father. I have wronged and you know I have."

Frederick looked in Siegfried's eyes again and darkness could be seen in their depths.

"Was your first sin of the sword you are seeking to destroy or was your first sin from anger and violence towards those that you swore to protect? Your sin is in yourself, Siegfried."

His last words struck Siegfried like a death knell, and Siegfried felt the return of despair to his cold heart. The thought of failure, even with the sword of legend in his hand and Nightmare dead at his feet...Siegfried squeezed his eyes shut, trying to drown his growing doubt and the cursed ground beneath him seemed to shiver in response. But amidst these troubled thoughts, he felt Soulcalibur's anger rise, demanding him to slay this man and end his insolence―

"If you do not realize the nature of your sin, neither the light nor darkness will avail you. Abandon your doomed journey; seek your atonement without the weapons of your woe. Listen. I am your father. I will not lie." Frederick's tone was now more heated and urgent, and his hand tightened on Siegfried's wrist.

But Siegfried broke away. Frederick looked stunned, but he did not try to restrain Siegfried. Soulcalibur gleamed as it was drawn, chilling the air between them.

"You would raise your sword against your father?" Frederick said softly.

"You are no more than a phantom designed to waylay me," Siegfried replied through gritted teeth.

Siegfried swung his blade downwards at Frederick, but his strike went wide. Frederick stepped backwards and swung his sword sideways to parry Siegfried's second blow.

"You were never one to listen, Siegfried," Frederick said calmly, as he swung his zweihänder to the right, catching Siegfried off-guard and forcing him to the ground. Siegfried leapt to his feet with a cry and charged at the older knight, Soulcalibur cutting through the fog in a gleaming white arc. The sudden blow caused Frederick to stumble backwards and Siegfried stood up, green eyes aflame. As he turned to face Frederick again, Soulcalibur blazed suddenly like a burning star that illuminated the two knights alone. Frederick, who had appeared solid not more than a few moments ago, flickered before the overwhelming light from the blade while the trees around them remained tall and dark.

And Siegfried understood at last. Wrath overcame his caution and he dived onto the ground, both hands gripping the icy hilt of Soulcaibur. At the last second, Siegfried swung the blade upwards and Frederick fell back, defenseless. Siegfried stabbed forward, driving Soulcalibur almost to its hilt. It pierced Frederick before a sound could escape from his throat and Siegfried tore him asunder with another jerk of the crystal blade. The older knight's body fell forward, flesh collapsing into dust, until all that remained was a gaping skull and an unmoving pile of bones.

Siegfried stood there, breathing heavily as he struggled to stand. The phantom's bones lay uncovered, its empty eyes staring mockingly at him under the false moonlight. In cold fury, Siegfried raised Soulcalibur and clove the skull in two, letting its halves fall on the damp earth.

The core of the crystal blade dimmed as his anger subsided. He waited, but the accursed woods did not fade like the specter; any direction he walked led him back to the phantom's remains. He was trapped in his own mind; his own past.


The thought had scarcely passed over his mind when he heard a disembodied chuckle echoing from deep in the trees. Siegfried jerked towards the sound, but could see nothing.

"Who are you?" Siegfried demanded, raising Soulcalibur once more. "Show yourself!"

Then he felt the faintest tremor in the soft earth behind him, expecting to see the phantom rise again from the dust. But as he whirled around, he saw the tall figure of a white-cloaked man standing atop the phantom's remains. From Soulcalibur's dim glow, Siegfried discerned the sharp edge of a scythe the man held and a glint of gold from beneath the hood. Siegfried's fingers tightened on Soulcalibur's hilt.

"You again…how dare you mock the memory of my father for your own goals?" Siegfried hissed, lowering Soulcalibur and moving into an attack stance.

The man did not flinch, nor did he raise the scythe he held in his hand. "Such impudence. Sheathe your sword, Siegfried. It will do nothing here," the man replied without a hint of anger.

Furious at his words and calm demeanor, Siegfried lunged. The attack was quickly parried and Siegfried was thrown aside, crystal armor gouging the dead tree bark behind him.

A flicker of amusement could be seen in the man's living eye. "Have you forgotten where you stand? These woods are my doing and the way through this spell is through me. But if you will not believe the words of those wiser than you, I will not waste my time."

"What do you know, accursed s―" Siegfried snarled, reaching for Soulcalibur which had landed several feet away.

"What I know I have already told you."

"The words of a phantom are the words of a liar," Siegfried spat as he clambered to his feet.

"But you cannot deny the truth of what it said," was the curt reply.

The scythe was lowered and Siegfried felt its cold edge on his neck. His eyes strayed upwards to meet the sorcerer's eyes, undaunted.

"Can you not see the evil that befell the world because of your sins? You cannot hide from them, nor can you disguise them. Justice is not blind. No power in your veins will save you from final despair or grant you any redemption fitting your sins. Even those you wished to save are now marching to their deaths. What knowledge you have, or have attained, will betray you in the end. A curse upon your blood indeed."

Siegfried fell silent. He remembered Saria and Burke in his dark dreams. The tremble in the proud voice of the princess of Wolfkrone. The fear in the eyes of her troops when they first beheld him, believing him to be a herald of death rather than their salvation.

Siegfried could see the hooded man's eyes narrow. "Perhaps you begin to understand."

The sorcerer vanished and the forest was leveled before Siegfried's eyes. The desolation of Ostrheinsburg was once again reality, the black clouds silent before the storm. The memory of Soulcalibur's wrath (which he was painfully reminded of when he saw it unsheathed in his trembling hand) was still too near.

Justice is not blind…

The words came as a whisper at first. Siegfried closed his eyes. But the words of the sorcerer continued to echo through his mind, stronger than before. He opened his eyes and saw the gate of Ostrheinsburg so near, Soulcalibur's core shining in anticipation―no power in your veins will save you from final despair― but he held the Sword of Salvation, he was its chosen master…he was walking towards the castle gate, a hundred yards, fifty yards― those you wished to save are now marching to their deaths― the decrepit gate was now before him, its great timbers pulled apart, and he broke into a run, but already the clamor of steel was ringing through the ancient halls―

A cry of despair rang through the darkness. Soulcalibur fell clattering on the stone steps of the castle gate.

A curse upon your blood indeed.

A/N

Today marks a year since the prologue was published. Snail's pace, I know. I'm still hoping I can finish before the next anniversary but it could still be out of reach. But for those who have stuck with me this far, thanks a lot!

Siegfried in this chapter suddenly realized that Frederick was an imposter. This is from both Frederick's advice of desertion and (less importantly and in an unsettling note) Soulcalibur's influence. And also, if anyone can guess where the chapter's title and setting came from, hooray! Reviews would be nice...they help me write ^_^