(A note to my fans: I am very very very sorry! I know you've all been waiting a year for this series to pick up again. But I had deep personal issues that kept me from writing pretty much anything. However your continued persistence had stirred me. I am back. And so is Vorador, in this brand new story to continue my Legacy of Kain continuity. I'm releasing this prologue ahead of the main actual story which is still in development. Why? Because you guys have waited an entire year for the story and I owe you a little something to snack on before the main course so to speak. You'll notice that this prologue is also longer than others before it. I felt that it ought to be big in order to satisfy in the meantime. Thank you for listening and now on with the greatly delayed story.)
"I am a father. I am a son. I have seen cities fall and empires rise. I have avenged wrongs and stood against tyrants. I have embraced the abyss of death and clawed my way back out of the underworld. And yet, despite all of these hallmarks of my life, despite all the prodigious, titanic events that have shaken Nosgoth time and again, there is only onething that truly matters to me. It is the one thing no man, be they mortal or immortal, can do without... Family."
Legacy of Kain: HERITAGE
The Age of Men, that was what the last century had been dubbed. The liberator, Moebius of the Circle of Nine, had proclaimed this upon the victory over the black winged horrors. All of their cities had been torn down and laid to waste, and nearly every trace of their empire was destroyed. All that was left were a few dilapidated structures in isolated places in the world and were allowed to remain, left to be overgrown by the wilderness.
Men spread out across the continent of Nosgoth in that time, travelling to wherever they desired. The black winged slave masters had forbidden this before, preferring to keep their workforce in one place where they could be easily controlled. Now that restriction had been lifted and migrations took the human population out in nearly all directions.
Some went south to the dry lands past the ocean. Others went north over the mountains and became nomads following herds of wild cattle. Many went east to the strange lands past the Lake of Serenity, a land of jagged cliffs, bogs and swamps full monstrous giant insects and permanent snows. Most preferred to settle across the central plain of Nosgoth as it was the most fertile and productive land.
Villages sprung up in many locations and already established settlements were quickly becoming towns, if not full cities in their own right.
Ottmar, the descendant of one of the key generals in the old uprising, had begun construction of a city on an island in the middle of the Lake of Serenity. This he dubbed Willendorf with the intention of beginning a mighty kingdom in that region. Other regional rulers seemed to be following his example, proclaiming themselves kings of their own respective kingdoms here and there.
The Circle of Nine encouraged the growth of these kingdoms, various Guardians supporting one specific kingdom over another. It was known that the guardians of Nature, States and Mind were in favour of Willendorf while the guardians of Conflict, Energy and Dimension patronized its northern neighbour. Most of the world was in awe of the nine great sorcerers and their crusading army.
The ancient soldiers that had driven the ancient terrors away was no more, but the army itself had survived over the generations. They had adapted and evolved, adopted new tactics and mastered different weaponry in their holy mission. In this era they were called the 'Sarafan', and it was their sworn mission to hunt down the vampires, the spawn of the only remaining black winged devil, Janos Audron, and exterminate their taint once and for all.
But there was a place where no one would go; no crusader, no magician, no vampire and no king. It was a place that had since the beginning of time, as far as anyone knew, been a location where those foolish enough to venture near suffered a fate worse than death.
The complex was ancient, in so far as it could be called so. In fact, the very concept of time could not really be applied to it. When it was constructed was an impossible thing to determine as the structure itself defied causality. It was a place of endless 'now', where souls unfortunate enough to be entrapped within could live out a tortured eternity while only a second passed beyond its walls. No one knew for certain what occurred within those walls, as those who entered never came back out.
The 'Eternal Prison' as it was called, was old when the Ancients had flown through the skies of Nosgoth. It was old during the terribly destructive conflict with the Unspoken. It was even old when the prophet, Raziel-Divus, had first spread the Wheel of Fate religion, which even now persisted amongst the humans, albeit in a reduced form.
The humans, who even after a mere century had forgotten such things, never went near the prison. No one ever spoke of it directly. Sea captains went out of their way to avoid sailing past the rocky promontory upon which the prison stood. It was considered the worst kind of bad luck to even see the black fortress-like structure, and going near it was considered a horrible risk that only a fool would endure.
Not even the mighty Circle of Nine, powerful though they might be, dared to go near this structure unless absolutely necessary. So the prison stood unattended, black and grim against the pounding of the sea. The land around it was untouched by the feet of man or beast. Nothing grew for a mile in any direction from it, not as much as a single blade of grass. It was a frozen place and time was suspended within and around it.
The prison had no windows and only one visible entrance: a ponderous, pitted iron door flanked on either side by a pair of strange statues, each figure strangely alien despite a humanoid appearance, and holding as their weapons cruelly curving scythes. At various points around the building's outer perimeter was a series of stone braziers, and each one burned continuously without the need for anyone to tend to the flames.
The dark figure took all this in with a grim expression as he looked out at the bleak, foreboding spectacle from his position on the cliff side, the wind tossing his long raven black hair around his angular face. He was crouched on the edge of a rocky crevice, just hidden from view by an outcropping of rock. But from there he could see everything. As he had expected, nobody came along the abandoned cliff path to approach the stone walkway that bridged the cliffs and the rock atop which the Prison stood. No one came to the Prison and no one went from the Prison.
If fortune smiled on him that would change tonight.
The sun was just beginning to set on the horizon, the light dimming and the stars gradually blinking into existence one by one. As the fiery orb finally dipped completely below the horizon, the figure moved. He dropped down onto the cliff path, slipping into the shadows like a phantom. Swiftly he moved from shadow to shadow along the path to ensure that he was not seen on his approach. He did not wish to give any potential enemies time to organise against his intrusion.
Briefly he passed by a brazier and his body was illuminated by the dancing fire. He was tall and broad shouldered, his body well developed with toned muscles. His skin, however, was odd. For centuries it had been a pale white, but by now it was taking on a greenish cast and its texture was altering, becoming almost leathery. His hands ended in three talons, two fingers and a thumb, rather than fingers or fledgling claws. He wore obsidian armour of his own design, crafted in the Ancient style and fashioned by use of the traditional, elemental Serioli fire. This consisted of a breast plate, lengthy pauldrons over each shoulder and bracers up the outsides of his forearms. Over all of this he wore a dark red, woollen cloak that reached to his calves. There was also a cowl that he had pulled up over his head. It hid most of his face from view, leaving only his mouth and long hair visible.
Darting across the bridge, he didn't slow down until he was standing right before the iron door entrance to the prison. This was the point where he would see if all the precautions and preparations he had undertaken would be enough. His armour had been specially designed to be light, tough and suited to blending into the darkness.
A century had passed since the fall of the Citadel and the murder of Ba'al Zebur, and in that time his powers as a vampire had grown. But he was not so young as to be arrogant enough to assume that he could handle all the potential challenges that lay within such a notorious place, not without careful forethought and certainly not a head-on attack. His masters had feared this place in their time and he had not one tenth of the strength, physical or magical, that they had enjoyed.
Reaching into his cloak, the vampire withdrew a small object about the size of an apple and held it up before the door facing towards it. The object was a tarnished, golden ankh-like relic made of a strange metal that even he, with his expansive knowledge of metallurgy, had not been able to indentify. Obtaining it had been a challenge as it had involved deceiving his sire and stealing it from his high mountain abode. Devoted as his sire was to his duty in guarding his treasured blade, it would be unlikely he would miss the item for some considerable time.
For a moment there was silence, broken only by the sullen boom of the rolling surf far below. Suddenly, there was a deep clanking from somewhere within the structure. It sounded like the rattling of massive chains, and the grinding noise that accompanied it seemed to indicate a certain amount of rust was involved. Then, with a loud creaking of unattended iron hinges, the door began to swing open. The smell that came boiling out from inside was appalling.
Even a human's dull sense of smell would have been overwhelmed by that rotten carnal house stink, and a vampire's nose was far more powerful. It was all the vampire could do not to gag. Vampires like the smell of freshly spilt blood as it was an indication of nearby prey. But the odour that came flowing out of this unholy place was the smell of flesh left to rot, an accumulation of death and decay that seemed like it had been building up over eons.
Once the door had creaked open enough, the vampire did not waste any time. He darted through and into the shadows, his dark clothing and padded boots muffling the sound of his footsteps, making him as silent as a shade.
That proved fortuitous as almost immediately within the Prison's antechamber there was a sudden greenish glow in one spot, the telltale sign of someone using a translocation enchantment.
The being that emerged from insubstantial air was human in shape, but that seemed to be as far as it went. It looked to be floating just above the floor, defying gravity and didn't appear to have any feet at all. It was clad in strange tarnished bronze plate armour that covered its entire body. The helmet was almost cone shaped, the face hidden behind a grey visor. From between the slits a pair of eyes could be seen, eyes that glowed a pale, sickly green. Carried in its right hand was a large scythe with a curved blade which was obviously not meant for the harvesting of wheat. The vampire could now plainly see what the statues outside had been modelled after. What disturbed him far more, however, was the fact that this figure had no scent. All animals, and especially humans and vampires, had a unique distinct set of smells to them. This semi-floating figure was like cold stone, smelling of nothing. Whatever it was, it was not human, at least not entirely.
"Who enters the halls of celestial correction?" It called out in a voice that rippled as if it were spoken underwater, only just understandable. "No being, be they man or god, is allowed within these walls but those in need of spiritual remoulding. It has been this way since the first race took flight in the skies of the world. Do not defy their decrees! Step forward and be known!"
The creature looked back and forth, scanning the antechamber and not just with its eyes. The vampire could feel the creature's mind searching for traces of conscious passage. It was a simple trick of extrasensory perception that most advanced minds could employ. The vampire, however, knew of a few subtle ways to erase those traces, making him practically invisible. The creature kept looking, even going so far as to venture just outside the main door in its search, but could not find the intruder.
His ability to conceal his presence from what he assumed was a prison guard proven, the vampire circled around, waiting for the right could not give this guard the opportunity to alert any others to an intruder. Shifting through the shadows, the vampire began to slowly draw the blade he had concealed under his cloak. He could have used his talons in this situation, and for any ordinary prey he might have, but they did not have a long enough reach. He wanted this obstacle silenced in one thrust. Patiently he waited, circling slowly around until both he and his prey were at just the right angle. Then he sprang, launching himself forward with supernatural speed.
The warden, sensing the motion, turned sharply around but was too late. The serpentine blade of the vampire's sword slammed through its breastplate, directly into the heart and then erupting out the back. Blood sprayed out both the entry and exit wounds, bright red splattering on the stone floor. The warden let out a gargling noise as if trying to speak, the green fire in its eyes flickering and then going out.
The vampire silenced it then and there by opening his mouth and summoning the blood out of the wound and directly to his lips. Obediently the blood came to him, siphoned away from the wounds. Its taste was strange, almost human but not quite. Still, it was good enough to satisfy the hunger and to supply a surplus of energy, a vital necessity for this mission.
The vampire drained the body dry and it went limp in his arms. Then he dragged the body outside the doors of the Prison. Unceremoniously, he flung the warden's corpse off the edge of the rock precipice. It tumbled down the side of the cliffs to the sea below, disappearing with a splash.
It would not be long before any other guards that patrolled the corridors of the prison noticed the absence of their fellow, if they had not already. Moving swiftly, the hooded vampire began his exploration of the structure. Going in blind and not knowing the layout of the prison had put him at a serious disadvantage, but it could not be helped. There had been no way to send in a spy to scout the layout of the complex in advance, so some exploration was necessary.
However, that quickly turned out to be nearly impossible. The Eternal Prison was a place where causality could be bent and time and space were fluid, shifting around almost at random. One normal looking corridor could lead to an empty chamber at one time, and yet, if one doubled back that same corridor would lead somewhere different later. In addition, there was a strange magical effect upon the complex. The interior of the prison was far larger than the outside and the twisting corridors went off into the gloom seemingly forever.
Finally the vampire was forced to conclude that relying on his sight would not be sufficient for him to navigate his way through this non-linear maze. Instead he began to rely on his other senses, such as hearing and scent. The interior of the prison was rotten with the stink of decayed and ancient flesh, but there were stronger traces of it here and there that could lead him down the correct path. Through the shifting nature of the prison his nose led him on.
The shadows remained constant, providing him with the camouflage necessary to avoid the guards of the Prison. These strange beings patrolled the corridors irregularly, appearing in various locations to survey a seemingly random section before disappearing again in a translocation spell. They at least seemed to know the secret of navigating around the prison.
Much of the complex was cold stone, blank and unadorned by any sort of decoration. It all seemed to be made of the same grey basalt. The rooms were all the same as well; completely square, full of mostly empty cell blocks and those cells that did have something in them had little more than scraps of bone picked clean by scurrying vermin. It was almost by accident that he stumbled into the first of the torture chambers.
It was a large, oval shaped room with a burning metallic furnace right in the centre. Pipes with valves channelled the flames out of this central device into four platforms set like the corners of a square. A metal harness was suspended over each of these platforms and set into two of them were roasting carcasses, fresh kills with their blackened and crispy flesh still smouldering.
Another figure was strapped into another of the harnesses, a human that was still very much alive. Alive, but damaged beyond recognition. His body was covered in deep cuts which had turned green and diseased from having not been treated. His face was awash with blood that almost obscured his features and his eyes had been sewn shut.
"No no... no...no... no... no daddy, I didn't do that." He was muttering as the vampire approached him, his voice hoarse and tinged with inner madness. "Been a good boy... been good...no daddy it was the rats... they ate him... rats... big rats...horrible rats...the rats in the walls."
Gently the vampire laid a hand across his mouth to silence him.
"Schhhhh." He whispered and then quickly dragged the talons on his free hand across the man's throat, ending his prolonged suffering.
This chamber was the first of many that he saw on his journey through this hellish maze, each one designed to facilitate a different variety of pain. Some chambers were full of tables covered in metallic needles, rotted flesh still clinging to some of the tips. In one chamber human inmates were strapped to platforms, having their legs slowly crushed by heavy weights.
Set into the walls in various places were iron maidens, coffins just large enough for a man to stand inside, the doors to the tiny compartments lined with cruelly impaling spikes. Some of those the vampire passed were open and empty. Others were closed tightly shut and the smell of rotten flesh from inside was overpowering.
In yet another room the inmates had had their arms and legs amputated and their torsos strung up on hooks, the impalement designed to miss vital organs so that the victim remained alive swinging in mid air. The cell was full of groans and moans of pain, the only sounds these torture victims could make as their lips had been stitched closed.
A few inmates were seemingly allowed to wander free in a few of the corridors connecting the cell blocks and torture chambers, but they had to do so blind as, like nearly all the captives, they had their eyes stitched closed.
The vampire, who was used to bloodletting and a certain degree of savagery, was left somewhat disturbed by all of this. At least the Sarafan impaled a vampire through the heart to make sure it was a quick death. This place was not a realm of death, but of prolonged, cruel suffering.
Stealing into the shadows, the vampire continued on his way, leaving the torture chambers behind and emerging into a large room with a high vaulted ceiling. This chamber was far different from all the others. Covering the walls were strange devices of unknown make, surrounding several large clock faces with the hands ticking away at different speeds. Alien sounds echoed through the chamber, strange and unearthly noises that no known magic or science could produce. Each sound seemed to vibrate and resonate in both the past and the future at the same time.
In the centre of the room suspended on a raised dais was an armillary of some kind, at least on first glance. In design it was just as alien as the rest of the machinery around the walls. It also seemed to survey not a globe, but rather something far more abstract and the vampire was beginning to suspect that it might be a device made to measure and pinpoint locations within the stream of time.
All of this was fascinating in a scholarly sort of way, but the vampire immediately forgot all of it when he laid eyes on the two figures standing by the armillary atop the dais. One of them was another of the wardens, instantly recognisable by the armour that covered it. The second figure was shorter, dressed in a grey and purple robe and clutching a long golden staff in one hand. Even before the figure half turned to reveal his face beneath his hood the staff had announced his identity. The staff was the height of a man, ending in a luminous and enormous pearl-like jewel on top the size of a man's head. The depiction of a red snake was wrapped around the staff, its head reaching up to the pearl with its mouth wide open as if attempting to swallow it. That staff was instantly recognisable as there existed only one like it in the world.
The two were conversing in low tones that the vampire could not quite hear over the grinding and ticking of the machines in the chamber. Then the prison warden seemed to be satisfied with something and disappeared, flickering out and away in the luminous mist of a translocation spell.
The vampire supposed as he continued watching that he could try some degree of stealth to get around the second figure, as he knew exactly how dangerous he was. But somehow the idea of a direct confrontation seemed far more appropriate.
He stepped out from the shadows, striding across the floor of the alien chamber towards the figure quite openly. As his boots made no sound, the robed man must have sensed the approach, turning to face the intruder. The vampire knew him of course by his features, which had altered somewhat over the years, but the sigil on his forehead was exactly the same as he had seen it before.
"This place is an abyss of pain and torment, a forgotten crevice in which exists a depraved universe comprised of the very particles of perpetual agony." The vampire said, noting with some satisfaction the look of consternated surprise that flickered across the human's face. "So of course, you would be quite at home here, Bridenal."
The human's face deepened into an annoyed frown and his grip on his staff tightened.
"My name is Moebius." He corrected the vampire flatly. "It is my true name, the name given to me by God Himself."
The vampire stopped just short of the dais, looking up towards the wizard above, his face still partly concealed by his hood.
"I would have imagined that the great Time Streamer saw everything that happened before, is happening now and ever would happen later." He remarked ironically. "And yet you seem surprised to see me."
Moebius the Time Streamer, sorcerer of the Circle of Nine, straightened indignantly, looking down at the vampire with some degree of contempt.
"Only my master sees everything." The human wizard said with some reverence. "My sight is limited to the time stream in the ordinary world and here, in this place, the flow of time is bent and screwed." He gestured with his staff around at the chamber they were in, indicating the alien machinery that continued to churn out their otherworldly noises. "Causality is in constant flux. Nothing is certain."
Then he looked down his nose at the vampire.
"Few would dare enter this complex voluntarily, son of Audron." He said. The vampire was not really surprised that he had guessed who he was. A cowl would not be enough to hide the vampire's identity from a sorcerer with such perceptive abilities. "No living being, except the invited, have ever left the confines of this prison dead or alive."
"And I suppose the wardens just invited you in to survey their work?" The vampire asked back with some contempt.
"As the Time Guardian I do have certain benefits." Moebius replied with slight grin parting his lips. The vampire kept himself tense, ready to move in any direction. Moebius seemed surprised to see him here, but not overly concerned for his own safety as if he had nothing to fear.
"Haven't the Circle members better things to do?" The Vampire asked, scowling back.
"The Circle's business is its own." The Time Streamer said and then looked reverently up towards the ceiling with a benign expression on his face. "I serve my master above and beyond my role and guardianship of the Time Pillar. I am merely waiting for more important events to unfold, so I have leisure to devote myself to unravelling the enigma of this penitentiary." He tapped his staff against the strange armillary behind him.
Somewhat amused, the vampire folded his arms behind himself in the small of his back.
"I don't suppose you'd be willing to share your conclusions?"
Moebius' expression went flat for a moment and then he seemed to relent, letting a smile cross his face again as his shoulders relaxed. He half turned to look at the alien device by which he stood.
"This prison is a construct of neither your debased ancestors nor the banished Unspoken ones." He said with some authority on the subject in his voice. "The very stones are imbued with time magic that surpasses even my own." This was said with no small amount of reluctance. With a nod he looked back at the vampire. "No one of the three races built this place."
The vampire intruder chuckled lightly.
"Perhaps the Gods placed it here to punish those who displease them?" He asked with a deliberately insulting tone. Moebius grunted sourly, his face creasing into a sneer of contempt.
"There is only one true God, blood sucker, and I would recognise my master's work if I saw it." He said firmly, turning back to face the intruder. "No, this place was constructed by a powerful race, a race with power and understanding surpassing all before them... a fourth race that predates even the Ancients and was greater in mystical might then they."
The vampire tilted his head to one side.
"My sire would have told me if such a species ever existed." He concluded after a moment of silence. Moebius shot him a sidelong look and sneered.
"Provided he knows or even cares." The Time Streamer said and his tone was derisive, even scornful. "Your sire sits alone atop his mountain perch and waits for his hero to come and save him. I doubt there is thought in his head for anything else." The grin on Moebius' face was mocking. "Only when that hero finds him, it will not be what he imagines. That will cause him much pain and I relish that."
The vampire paused long enough for the silence between them to drag on.
"Janos did nothing to you to warrant such hate." He remarked eventually in a low tone.
"It was what he was going to do!" The Time Streamer snapped angrily at such a statement and gestured with his deadly staff down at the intruder. "Had I not taken pre-emptive action with Mortanius I would have been turned when I came of age, become one of your blasphemous kind!"
The vampire was suitably unimpressed by the defence.
"So you plunged the ancient world into utter chaos..." He said accusingly. "Killed thousands of beings both human and vampire... all because you were afraid." He paused then and studied the Time Streamer's face closely. "And it means absolutely nothing to you, does it? You'd do it again if you thought it would help you destroy what remains of the bloodline." He concluded flatly.
"The blood of those black winged abominations still flows in your veins and in the veins of every other so called 'hybrid' vampire, those who were once human but accepted the darkness." Moebius confirmed and his tone was like ice, cold and emotionless as if stating a job description rather than his own feelings. "I will not rest until it has been all been spilled. Every last drop."
"You hate us so much?" The vampire asked.
"What I feel for anything to do with your dark kind is revulsion so acute I often find myself on the point of retching." The Time Streamer leaned back against the armillary, his arms crossed over his chest and his staff still clutched in his right hand. "But all that is totally irrelevant. It's not my place to say whether or not a race dies." He looked up towards the ceiling again. "This command comes from a far higher authority. God Himself has handed down the death sentence."
The vampire snorted derisively and turned his head away, uncrossing his own arms and holding them by his sides with his palm resting on the pommel of his blade that stuck out from beneath his cloak.
"I doubt the creator of the universe is so sadistic." He said.
Moebius seemed to take this as a personal insult. He reared up, nostrils flaring and his eyes wide with indignation.
"You and all your kind are an affront to the one God." He said and his words dripped venom. "The souls locked in flesh deny the cycle of spiritual restoration that guides the cosmos."
The vampire paused again, digesting the words as they were more than familiar to him. He had heard them many times before, sometimes even from his own sire.
"The Wheel must turn…" He said, watching the Time Streamer's face carefully. Moebius grinned from ear to ear.
"Precisely!" He said with enthusiasm and there was in his eyes the unmistakable fire of a zealot, the exact same fire that the vampire had seen before in the eyes of Ancients who had thrust their own blades in through their chests in an act of self annihilation. He began to chuckle, his shoulders shaking. Moebius' smile instantly faded.
"What's so funny?" He asked flatly.
"The irony!" The vampire replied, still chuckling. "It's utterly delicious! That you would be such a devout follower of that particular macabre faith! The faith of the very Ancients you so vehemently decry!"
Moebius' expression went completely flat. He came right to the edge of the dais and looked down his nose at the vampire.
"They had their chance to show their obedience and subservience to the Wheel." He said coldly. "Yet they wasted it by continuing their grotesque existence."
The vampire went silent for a moment and his very body language seemed to radiate dislike.
"And what precisely should they have done?" He asked eventually. The Time Streamer managed a cruel sneer.
"They should have all killed themselves immediately upon discovering they had been cursed, all of them, down to the last child." He said with an appalling amount of relish in his voice.
"Most of them did."
"But not all. A few dared to survive. And Janos Audron was the worst of them all, passing on the curse to humans just to preserve their decrepit bloodline."
Another long silence endured, both participants in the conversation realising that they had reached the end of the usefulness of this verbal exchange. They were at the point now where conflict was a real possibility.
"You know I could kill you here and now." The vampire said quietly, almost as if it were only a passing casual remark. Moebius' sneer widened and he leaned on his staff almost like a walking stick.
"No, you can't." He disagreed and tapped the luminous orb on the end of his staff with a finger. "Not while I have this."
The vampire tensed. He knew that with a single unspoken command from its master, that orb could render him paralysed.
"I'd find some way around that." He said. Moebius glared down at him, then straightened and his expression softened into a confident yet small smile.
"It's not time for either of us to die." He said in a purring voice. "So why press the issue?" He began to step back from the edge of the dais and as he did, his body was surrounded by a faint white glow. "I can be patient. You will meet your end at the appointed time and place. Everything in its proper sequence." His physical appearance began to flicker, moving in and out of view as the translocation spell took effect. "Go, do whatever you came here to do and be gone." With that he vanished completely, fading away to some other location. The vampire stared after him for a moment before snorting contemptuously.
"One day Moebius, you will meet your God in person." He said as if the other could still hear him and turned towards another doorway leading further into the prison. "I think you might be disappointed."
The inner chambers of the Eternal Prison seemed to be reserved for special captives, those of importance who were given a unique cell to be imprisoned inside and tortured in private. Many of these were sealed off completely from the rest of the prison, accessible only if the warping effect of causality the prison displayed was just right. Within these chambers were horrors specific to the psyche of the prisoner, adapting to display the trapped, doomed soul's worst nightmares. The vampire could sense the pain and horror radiating from these chambers as he passed them, even if he could not see inside.
He was almost at his destination. The ankh led him on, allowing him to sense his way through the strange non-linear architecture now that he was getting close. The artefact itself had been made by the first Time guardian, the original protector of the Pillar of Time. It gave the owner the authority to enter this prison as well as locate specific people within its walls despite the maze of time shifting passages.
The chamber he came into was a rectangular box with an extremely high ceiling. The walls were all lined with rusty spikes of various sizes lancing out towards the centre of the room. The chamber's floor consisted of a single stone walkway to a platform directly in the centre. The rest of the chamber seemed flooded with a strange black liquid, almost like oil but smelling quite different. In the middle of the chamber on the central platform was a large set of metallic gears connected to a complex series of metal cables that ran to the wall.
Walking across the stone path, the vampire observed those cables lancing out of holes in the walls, crisscrossing back and forth through other holes until finally coming to the ceiling. Suspended there by the cables was a crucifix made out of metal. Strapped across the cross section was a figure whose indentifying characteristics were lost in the darkness.
Even without seeing the person held there, the vampire knew that he had found what he had been searching for.
The contraption restraining the prisoner was not hard to figure out. The gears controlling the cables each had a valve handle attached to them and turning one would cause the suspended crucifix to swing in a certain direction. The difficult part was coordination, turning the handles each at a certain time to slowly bring the crucifix down while at the same time preventing it from slamming into the walls and impaling the occupant on the spikes.
"Words, words words... words on tongue of flame, echoing across the sky from the Elder to the Keeper and back again." The words echoed off the walls of the chamber and the voice was distinctly feminine. The vampire looked up, watching the progress of the crucifix as it began to swing back and forth, slowly descending towards the floor.
When it was halfway down, however, two spikes lanced out from the wall like thrown javelins with the rasp of metal on metal. Quickly the vampire reversed the handle he was turning and the crucifix changed directions just in time to avoid having its occupant pierced.
More and more spikes began protruding from the wall as he continued trying to lower the cross, a booby trap seemingly triggered when it was brought down to a certain height. It took a great deal of hand-eye coordination and timing to avoid the traps as they were triggered one by one.
"Rising... rising from down below...coming to eat and burn." The female voice continued, sounding closer now and the tone was tinged with the madness of one whose mind has all but slipped away. "The masters! The masters come back!"
The vampire had almost managed to get the cross down to the floor when suddenly the black liquid around the chamber began to boil as if suddenly heated from below, writhing, tossing and spitting. The vampire paused and looked around sharply, the ambient light in the chamber beginning to fade as well as if the darkness were reclaiming its territory.
"Alone, left alone, no message...no prophecy to guide... alone in the darkness, waiting for the fire." The spread female figure on the crucifix muttered almost unintelligibly, her voice full of fear. "He comes... bringer of death..."
With a surge the black liquid gathered itself up and then began to form into a shape, an elongated form like a serpent. Emitting a deep, gurgling noise, the thing encircled the platform like a constricting python. A pair of large eyes glared at them, glowing blood red from within the jelly-like head. It changed even more as it circled, growing a frill of horns across its head. A pair of curving wings spread out from its back like those of a colossal alien bat.
"Thanatos!" The crucified prisoner gasped and writhed on the cross, panting in the sudden grip of terrified anxiety. "Thanatos! Thanatos!"
The imitation winged beast turned to look straight at her and roared, opening a gapping maw wide to display a mouth full of metallic spikes in the place of teeth.
The vampire, however, had decided that this had gone on long enough. Raising his hand he channelled a cleansing spell into his palm. Clenching a fist he released the magic, dispelling the illusionary sorcery that held the creature together. The shockwave of magic passed through the beast and it promptly fell apart, the liquid that made it up splashing back down to the chamber floor. The beast had been simply an illusion projected by the cell to torment the occupant, perhaps a vision of some irrational fear.
"Enough of this nightmare." He said and lowered the cross all the way back down to the ground, finally turning to look fully at the occupant. As he had expected going in, the woman tied to it was not human. She had a very different muscular system and a tripod-like arrangement of toes on her tridactyl feet. A crest shaped like large ears swept back over her hairline and bony protrusions sprang from the backs of her elbows and shoulder blades. She was in terrible shape, having old and new deep cuts covering her flesh along with thick black bruises. Lumps covered her in various places that suggested her bones had been broken and healed wrong. Her hair was thin as large patches of it had been torn out. She was strapped to the crucifix by rusty iron chains that were causing her wounds to become savagely infected.
The worst part was her eyes: sore, black and bloodied and stitched closed with rotten string.
"No...no more voices!" She began in pain as the vampire approached her. "I can't take the pounding inside my head!"
"I am no illusion." The Vampire said.
"Lies lies! I can trust nothing of what hear!" She gasped, shuddering in her torment. The vampire snorted and marched over. In both hands he grasped the chains binding her to the cross and using his enhanced strength, he tore the links open. Loop by constricting loop fell away and with a sudden startled gasp, the woman fell forward off the cross and onto the floor. She stayed lying there, straining for breath.
The Vampire knelt beside her.
"Are you Damkina, the seer of the Unspoken race?" He asked softly. The woman struggled to summon the strength to push herself up to her knees. She was horribly gaunt and clearly had not been fed for some considerable time.
"Y...you are not a phantom of my mind?" She asked, turning to face him. With her eyes sewn shut she could not see where he was but could guess by the sound of his voice. Tentatively she reached out and touched his face with a shaking hand, tracing the outline of it with the tips of her fingers. "But you are not a warden... then...you came from outside...you..."
"Are you Damkina?" He asked her again, holding her hand with his. She twitched, feeling the strong talons around her fingers. No doubt from the shape of his hand she could tell what he was.
"Yes! Yes, yes I am!" She breathed in a voice almost too low to hear. The vampire nodded.
"Hold still." He told her. He reached out and held the back of her head in one hand and then using a talon on the other, he delicately and very gently began to pry the string holding her eyes closed away. The woman gasped and froze rigid, not moving a muscle as the vampire continued his work. It took only a moment and soon the string was removed.
The woman paused, and then for perhaps the first time in years, she opened her eyes. Her eyes were bloodshot and sore looking, with unhealthy puss rimming their edges, but they were able to see again. Shuddering, the woman looked down at her hands and tears came unbidden to her, thick tears that washed away the yellow puss.
"Please, I beg of you... take me away from this place!" She said looking up at him. Her eyesight must have still been poor as, after having been deprived of it for so long, she was terribly unfocused. "Take me outside these walls! I have barely held on to whatever shred of sanity I have left but it's slipping away in here! Please!"
The vampire looked down at her for a long moment, then he reached and, taking her by the arm, he helped her back up to her feet.
"Janos did wrong by putting you here." He remarked slowly and there was actually a kernel of sympathy in his voice. "What I need you for can wait. Come." She could barely support her own weight. Her muscles had weakened considerably and the infected wounds on her body were leaking puss. For the sake of expediency he picked her up and slung her over his shoulder. She could cling to him and he could support her with one arm.
"W...who are you?" She asked and as she hung on to him, she inadvertently pulled his hood back to reveal his head. Over the centuries the evolution of his dark gift had given him alterations unique from the Ancients. His ears were larger and spike-like protrusions were beginning to sprout from either side of his jaw line.
"I am Vorador." He told her. "The first one."