Disclaimer: I do not own Legacy of Kain. The OC is mine, though.
Summary: This is a sequel to The Last Winter. Nosgoth has changed. Gone is the sun, the rain, the snow. What's left in its place is a land decaying before the eyes of two Kains and a woman that should be dead. One Kain seeks it's complete destruction, another searches for it's salvation and the last is a weary observer wondering if perhaps death would have been the more merciful of her fates.
AN: When playing the original game I always remember being terribly disappointed with the Willendorf Library. So for the purposes of my story I've...ehmm...embellished a little.I hope I can be forgiven.
Tonnerre: You are quite right about there being no such thing as luck in Nosgoth. XD
Kain's patience for Ariel's answer-dodging had worn out some number of hours ago. His initial display of calm superiority had disintegrated into nothing more than snarls and disbelieving huffs at a startlingly consistent speed for the old Vampire. He'd only barely managed to keep his temper in the face of her cryptic answers and even less helpful remarks about Vampires in general, but in the end it had proven to be all for nothing. After hours of aggravating conversation he left the Pillar ruins steaming.
One thing was abundantly clear, now.
Ariel knew nothing; nothing of any value at any rate. She'd been just another pawn in the wheel. Balance guardian? Hah! More like nursemaid. Someone to pander to the whims of the other guardians and prevent them from slitting each others throats.
It was such a pity that no one had been there to prevent someone slitting hers. Hours with the woman had changed Kain's theories as to why she'd been killed. Grand plot? More like some poor servant who'd had to listen to one too many childish tantrums. If it were actually possible, the woman was even more insufferable in death as he'd no doubt she'd been in life.
Kain growled. He was frustrated, and the very fact that he allowed himself to be aggravated by the spectre frustrated him even more. He leaned back against the trunk of the tree he'd taken refuge in and took his time, mercilessly raking too-sharp claws through the thick, obnoxiously black bark.
The air was heavy today; thick with the stench of death and war and so-called progress. It was suffocating. Saturating. Kain felt it taint him. Nosgoth was beautiful once. He remembered its beauty even if his past life hadn't appreciated it then. And it was beautiful. Magnificent.
But it was so fatally flawed in its beauty. So corrupt and so easily corruptible. It needed to be rebuilt…and to do so it first had to be taken back to its foundations. Take away the pillars, take away the Hylden, take away all that would threaten it. Level those who would oppose him.
It was a great plan. As are most plans that lack the complications of details.
While watching a rather large tree snake slowly stalk some kind of rodent in the branches of the adjacent tree, Kain realized that his goal was still unchanged. As unfortunate as Ariel's uselessness was, it didn't change the fact that he needed to find that library.
With all the grace of the deadliest predator Kain slowly walked the length of the knotted branch. He reckoned it may have been about noon but the sun lay concealed behind viscous clouds and fumes. By his reckoning there was maybe little more than six months before his younger self put his hasty plans into action and ultimately sealed the fate of Nosgoth. Back then he'd been so eager to rule, he'd ignored the fact that all that would be left to rule would be little more than a noxious bog. He'd known that Nosgoth would fall under his iron hand. Yet he'd welcomed it. Embraced the hideous and warped future he'd helped shape. But as immortal as Vampires may be, they are not unchanging. And as Nosgoth fell, so too did his children. An entire world, gone. Peoples scattered and ruined. He'd damned them all.
Perhaps that was why the Hylden never sought control over Nosgoth during those dark times. Did they sense the futility in conquering a wasteland? Did they know that there was nothing left for them to take their vengeance upon?
Had they known that the fates of the Vampires were to be far more horrible than anything they could possibly conceive?
The more that Kain thought about it, the more he came to respect the threat that the Hylden posed. They were not the mindless rabble that many would have liked to believe. Wild with rage, undoubtedly, rotting time away in purgatory but by no means were they to be underestimated. There was a patience to their undying fury; an intelligence behind their actions. There was order and a collective goal. Simply put, they were a foe to be reckoned with. Kain drove the thought out for the moment. Battle with the Hylden would be a bloody affair and would need to wait till his present problems were resolved. The parasite had to go. He needed a defence to their weapon. And he needed to raise or commandeer an army. So much to do and no one he could trust to help him.
It was always the same, he realized.
During Kain's internal dialogue a small rodent like creature had ventured out to examine his claw tipped feet. Aware of the sudden sensation of tiny furry pin-pricks on his toes Kain narrowed his eyes.
"Go away!" He hissed, as poisonous as the snake he'd previously been watching.
Oblivious to his verbal warning the creature continued its exploration.
With a growl, a squeak of surprise and a sharp flick of a clawed foot the rodent was sent sailing into the dense foliage.
It wasn't all that shocking, but Kain felt a great deal better after that.
Having exhausted the easiest source of information- and it cut Kain something terrible to even consider that Ariel was still by far the easiest source- the old Vampire knew he'd have to actually venture into civilisation to find his answers. That meant a potential run in with his younger self- a head splitting argument he'd no doubt he wanted to avoid at all costs- and also the risk that due to some small act on his part, the young Kain might very well advance his plans.
That would mean the destruction of Nosgoth and the resurrection of the Sarafan knights. His first lieutenants.
As much as Kain would have gladly given to meet Raziel again, it would not be the Raziel he remembered…and the potential for Nosgoth's resident parasite to manipulate him as he once had would again return. No. There could be no duplicate mistakes. Not while Nosgoth teetered on the brink and certainly not while that creature underground still drew breath.
Suddenly resolute, his form shifted. Two sets of eyes were exchanged for the blackness of dozens. The flapping wings of a horde of bats emerged from the tree line.
All in chaotic uniform they sped their way towards the great walled city.
The library of WIllendorf was all but abandoned.
A scant few guards littered the gates and trundled their way along its hallways. Nervous. Sleep deprived. Their footsteps were as heavy as the sombre mood the city seemed to be drowning in. It had always been a somewhat lifeless and dead place to Kain's rememberance but something was different now. An air of tension that hadn't previously been there. He could taste the palpable fear on his tongue. But it went deeper than that. Deeper than the obvious. Perhaps it had to do with Kain's new perspective on the world but something felt wrong. Off. Not as it should. Not as it was. Something had changed.
He traced his clawed finger along the blade of the Reaver and felt the warm metal hum beneath his fingertips. It sensed it too. He cleared his mind and listened to it. He felt its bright core thrum through his. A faint echo in his mind that worried him.
He could have sworn that a voice had whispered to him. A warning. A panic stricken "Leave!!" had clouded his mind in a flurry of emotions, the strongest one being fear.
Raziel had never feared anything. Not death. Not pain. Not even Kain had been able to frighten him. Yet, the Reaver felt it. It sang with an almost overwhelming sense of terror and dread. It was unfortunate that his method of communication was as limited as it was. He could have very much used Raziel's council; he would have very much liked to know what it was that had the Wraith trapped within the blade so stricken.
He swallowed his foreboding. Neither of their feelings on the matter could change what needed to be done. All he could do was proceed with caution.
The solid wooden doors groaned as they opened. The loud noise in the otherwise silent expanse of the hallways made Kain wince. He peered into the darkness contemplating the need for magic. He squinted disdainfully. He couldn't see anything. Even with his superior sight the endless black was impenetrable. He muttered a few words under his breath and several torches just inside the library doors ignited.
Kain stood dead in his tracks. Unmoving.
WIllendorf libraries were a thing to behold. Of all the wonders that he had never truly appreciated, this was undoubtedly one of the greatest. The stacks of book shelves stretched across his line of vision and disappeared into a dust filled darkness that the meagre torches couldn't light. It was history, and lies, and fiction and truth all rolled into one. Each tome was handwritten. Some of them taking lifetimes of work. And there were thousands of them. Enough to keep a vampire busy till the end of all time. In the past he'd condemned them as useless works of inaccuracies and biased interpretations. But in his many years he'd found that the most solid of truths existed even amidst the most twisted of lies. WIthin these numerous books something of what he needed had to have remained.
Kain stalled in his thoughts. There were thousands of them. He felt suddenly weary.
"Let's hope I didn't kill the librarian on my way in." He grumbled to himself.
"What you seek will not be easy to find. When your Ancestors buried the great Hylden library they destroyed all written record of its very existence. Only stories now remain; passed down through the generations from librarian to apprentice."
Luckily for Kain, the old Librarian was still alive. Living in the corner of the library itself on a makeshift cot, he'd found the guardian. He was welcomed much to his shock with a smile and a laugh. The frail Human greeted him like an old friend. Even in the dim lighting the old man looked every day as ancient as Kain. All but a few fine threads of his hair had fallen from his wrinkled and spotted scalp. He walked slowly and with the aid of two sticks. Wandered seemingly incoherently between topics and appeared to have trouble remembering Kain's name.
But he was forthcoming with his knowledge. There was no deception in his words. No fear. No hatred. He didn't seem to care what Kain was. Years of solitude and silence had obviously taken their toll. He was perhaps just glad of the chance to speak and be heard.
"What do the stories say?" Kain questioned eagerly.
The old man coughed out a laugh.
"Riddles and nonsense and hidden meanings. Out of fear of your ancestors what you seek was hidden in rhyme. So much fear in those days. Vampires afraid of Hylden. Hylden afraid of Humans. Humans afraid of everyone. Nosgoth almost tore itself apart." He told Kain.
The vampire's sharp mind lapped up the information.
"Why would the Hylden fear Humans?" He asked curiously.
"Why does anyone fear? We had weapons and minds for war…and the numbers to obliterate them. They were already at war with the Vampires. If we'd struck against them then they would have been crushed." The old man coughed a lungful of dust and phlegm into a dirty cloth concealed up his sleeve.
The old vampire could already fathom a number of reasons why the Human's hadn't struck. They'd probably hoped that the Vampires and Hylden would kill each other off.
Kain was filled with a knowing chill. He didn't know how but in his gut he knew that Vampires and Humans would need to work together to destroy the Hylden. He added that potential problem to his ever growing list.
"Where is the library?" He asked. Suddenly focused on the task at hand.
"Where the Sun meets the Stars on the traveller's path,
And the Earth swallows all who tremble past,
The moon lights the way to the descending stair,
Where the burden of knowledge rests on a liars chair." The old man muttered.
Kain blinked stupidly for a few seconds.
"Is that it? That's everything?" A few minutes ago he was all but ready to congratulate himself on his seeming good fortune. How quick things change.
"That is what I was thought and what I thought my old apprentice before he left to fight. It is all that remains of the Hylden's history." He intoned solemnly. It wasn't the destruction of the books that saddened him, but more so the attempt to cut them out of the history. The Hylden's past was linked to the Human and Vampire's. By destroying those records the Vampires had taken something from their own histories, too.
"Do you know what it means?" Kain asked somewhat desperately.
The old man shook his head.
"I'm sorry. I only keep the records. The words of the rhyme are meaningless to me. My apprentice might have had more insight but I fear his time has long since past. I am truly sorry I have not been more useful." The old man inclined his head and Kain felt himself do the same.
"You have been more than helpful. I thank you." Kain turned on his heel but only got a step before he realized he'd another question.
He turned back only to be assaulted by the sharp smell of sulphur and a face full of hot ash.
His mind barely managed to process what was left of the old librarian before he was almost hit with a white hot blast of the same energy that killed the Human.
He rolled to the side and rose steadily. Eyes sharp he sought out the practitioner.
"Show yourself!" He roared into the darkness. In the distance he could see the torches flickering out one after another; creeping their way towards him. The Reaver burned against his back. It produced no light; no flame, but it burned nonetheless.
Kain narrowed his eyes and readied himself. In his younger days he might have laughed at this, perhaps even reveled in it.
He really had been a fool.