The Dragon gone, the two alpha males whose enmity had made it a prize worth fighting over dead, the LostCity grew quiet once more. After becoming a scene for carnage and destruction, the ruins were quickly all but abandoned. The Werewolves, which had fought for this city, had been decimated. The white Werewolves had disappeared completely without a trace. Perhaps they had all been devoured by the beast. The pitifully small remnants of their rivals, the black furred Werewolves, did not know. Their numbers had been reduced so badly there were scarcely a handful of them left.
Some chose to remain in the City, as this had been the last order of their alpha male, to defend it at all costs. Others took to the opened gateway and fled back into the wilderness of Nosgoth, surviving where they could and becoming nuisances for the settled communities of the mainland.
Decades passed as they always do, years flowing by, and the disturbed dust began to resettle like falling snow. Soon the LostCity was just that, lost and forgotten once more. Far to the west, the mighty and beloved King William the Just contemplated many times returning to the City, to find and reclaim the magnificent sword he had lost in battle there. Before he could be tempted to do so, however, he was approached by a member of the Circle of Nine, the revered Moebius the Time Streamer himself.
Moebius offered him another blade, one which despite being older than the sword Vorador had made for him was far more deadly. The Soul Reaver itself. Satisfied with such a renowned sword and bolstered in his confidence of achievable glory, William began to ponder extending the boundaries of his kingdom across the rest of Nosgoth. But before any military adventure could take place, it was then that the mighty king was brought low, struck down by a Vampire assassin in the midst of his own castle.
The people he ruled, in both east and west, loved their boy king for his kindness and generosity, his fair hand which allowed commons to have justice as well as the pampered aristocracy. His murder ignited in their hearts a righteous outrage and under the leadership and guidance of the Time Streamer, they reorganised themselves into an army of fanatical Vampire Hunters.
Over the next five decades they methodically routed out every Vampire across the face of Nosgoth, tracking down each and every one of them and putting them to the fire or sword. Such was their outrage and provoked hatred that it passed to the next generation and they almost accomplished what their spiritual predecessors, the Sarafan Order, had not: the extermination of the Vampire race.
Then the unthinkable happened. The ancient, pristine, and pure Pillars of Nosgoth began to darken, growing grey and corrupted. The Binding weakened and slowly, over the passing years, monstrosities from some other terrible place began to appear. The people called them demons and like flies to rotting meat, they began to gather around the corpse that was the LostCity. For a short time, the LostCity became a place of contention once more between whatever Werewolves remained and the demon raiders.
Then, one fateful day, the Pillars finally buckled under the weight of corruption. They shattered into pieces and crumbled, their restraining and sustaining energies discharged in one powerful, cataclysmic shockwave. This sundering devastated the land around the Pillars and began a slow decay, a creeping sickness that would spread across the entire world until, far in the future, Nosgoth was little more than a barren wasteland.
Even as the fragments of the Pillars still fell, crumbling down to the ground amongst the one whose decision had caused their ruin, the ground beneath the Lost and almost forgotten City began to writhe and buckle. The tunnels beneath the ancient place collapsed almost instantly, crushed and broken by the thick, undulating limbs that slowly but firmly encircled the very foundations.
Seized from below, the city trembled beneath its concealing dome, the arcane barrier cracking in response around its edges at such momentous movement. Suddenly the shuddering ceased and all was quiet, an eerie, pregnant silence disrupted only by the crunch of disturbed rock and stone. Then the shuddering began.
The limbs which had grasped the city from far below surged in one powerful, synchronized effort. The destruction that caused was incredible. Many of the ancient buildings and carved depictions of its reptilian, winged creators collapsed and broke into dozens of pieces. Overhead the dome shattered like a broken window, fragments cascading down and evaporating into a thick, eldritch mist before they even hit the ground, exposing the LostCity to the real sky for the first and last time in uncountable centuries. Whatever remained standing was dragged, still whole, down into the depths of the earth. The entire destructive event took only a few minutes and when it was over, the unreachable land where the city had stood now bore a large crater which descended down so far daylight would never reach the base.
Methodically, slowly, inch by inch across the miles, the Elder dragged the entire LostCity to him under the earth. Such a feat would have been impossible less than a day ago. Restrained by the Pillars themselves, his strength had been severely compromised. But as their strength had waned, his had waxed and when finally they had crumbled he had surged his galvanised energies to claim the prize he sought.
Eons ago, so far back in time the Humans had no concept of it, the weapon built by those damnable flying worms had caused him a great deal of pain. They were all but gone now and still the weapon remained, ready to be discharged, a true threat like no other. But despite their vaunted wisdom and knowledge of science and the arcane, they were not infallible and undoubtedly they never imagined their weapon could ever be used to benefit their great adversary.
Shattered, broken, and ruined beyond all hope of restoration, the ancient city of the Dragons was dragged through the earth itself until it came to rest where the Elder deemed it so, beneath the Lake of the Dead. Once he had wedged the ruins firmly in place, the long limbs of the ancient entity began to feed in and through the buildings, engulfing it like a spreading cancerous tumour. The large chamber, however, which housed the strange pyramid that was the Celestial Arrow they did not enter just yet. Putting the weapon to practical use was left to the Divus.
Asmodeus-Divus, newly appointed King of Fanum-Divus and the Scribe of God, spun as he rose up out of the pit below the Arrow, gracefully twirling until he levelled off and came down on the edge of one of the chamber's four bridges. Part of it had collapsed due to the stress of being dragged so far underground. The rest of the chamber had suffered likewise, giant cracks and crevices opened across the painstakingly carved images of elemental lore, damaging the ancient colossal drawings beyond repair.
The King of the Divus cared little for that. Clad in regal attire, his rune-covered silver gauntlets and leg guards and a toga of the finest satins and silks, the crown upon his brow, his attention was drawn almost completely by the two objects he had retrieved from the dark depths of the pit. On one arm was the faintly luminous Shield of the Lance Lord, a fine example of Serioli craftsmanship. He could feel its strength-enhancing capacity, even miles underground and separated from the moonlight that was the source of its power.
In his other hand, however, was the gleaming blade that Vorador had forged for William far in the East, untarnished by time and just as sharp and pristine as the day it was created. In the hand of Asmodeus it gleamed in the faint light as he turned it this way and that, admiring it from every angle as William once had. A smile of smug satisfaction crossed his face as he held the sword.
"A truly excellent weapon." He said as if to himself, his voice echoing in the vaulted, cathedral-like space, turning the blade so it pointed up towards the broken ceiling of the chamber. Appraisingly he observed the elemental symbols carved down the hilt and blade and the near razor-like edge. "Wasted on such a petty, self-serving kinglet, of course." He commented dryly and then lowered the sword until it was levelled out before him, almost formally, and in a commanding tone declared;
"As primary monarch, the greatest ruler, I name you Clarent; the sword from the stone, the king maker." A grin widened superciliously as he looked at his reflection in his newly christened sword, a glint of amused curiosity in his eyes. "Perhaps soon, we shall see how you measure up to the only other blade in existence worthy of a challenge?"
Before the pyramid of arcane origin directly behind Asmodeus stood another of the Divus. The title of 'Divus', The Elevated, Blessed One, could be bestowed upon any being of any race and there were even some amongst them who were Human, such as his servant and ward, Othiel-Divus. Uriel-Divus was such a one, older than Othiel by several centuries, and his granted immortality had done some interesting if strange things to his appearance. He appeared young, perhaps no older than twenty, but his medium length, fine hair was a strange elder mixture of grey and white, leaving one momentarily confused as to how old he actually looked. He wore a toga in the style that had been popular amongst the Ancient Vampires of the Citadel, along with sandals which had straps running up his calves. The gloves on his hands were similar with buckled straps running up to his elbows.
He stood stock-still, his hands out towards the pyramid and his eyes closed. Out of all the Divus, Uriel was most skilled in the manipulation of spiritual energy, the calling, summoning, and even devouring of spirits. Amongst them all, he was the one who was most in tune with the shadowy spectral world where the souls of the dead wandered. As such, he was perfectly suited to direct the acquired ancient weapon to the end determined for it by their Master.
As Uriel communed with it, the pyramid's inner luminosity flickered as if in response. The pattern to the flickering was discordant, almost as if the relic were arguing and not willing to be commanded in such a way. Asmodeus pushed such a whimsy from his mind. The Arrow was a tool, nothing more, and it would serve the purpose of whoever controlled it. Finally, Uriel's eyes opened. As ever they were the palest blue, almost translucent.
"It is ready." He said simply, as ever a man of few words. Asmodeus nodded once and came up beside him, resting his new sword over one shoulder.
"Then let the world see the beginning of its end." He commanded. Uriel's outstretched hands rose up and then his fingers clenched almost claw-like. The Arrow's glow faded a little, the entire chamber darkening. Then with a sudden flare it burst up and out. Elemental energy surged all around them, drawn in by the relic and galvanised within its shape. Asmodeus could even feel it pulling on his own essence. Then with a sudden rift the tip of the pyramid erupted, a beam of what seemed like bright light firing upwards.
This weapon had only been used twice before. Once its creators had discharged it against their Master when he had threatened their existence. The second it had been activated by accident. Both times the Arrow had caused their Master a great deal of pain. Such was not the case now.
The beam rose up through the air and into the depths of the still, stagnant lake above. There were no settlements or villages in this region. No one lived here, save for a wandering hunter or two. As such there were no witnesses as the entire massive lake glowed fiercely bright with eldritch energies for several long moments. The waters rippled and boiled as if heated from below, but there was no rise in temperature. In fact the air around the waters grew colder and ice began to form on the wet rocks of the lakeshore.
Then, sluggishly at first, the waters in the exact centre of the lake began to circle. The swirling was nothing to be seen as it began, a mere suggestion of movement beneath the bubbling. Slowly it grew stronger, more pronounced. As time passed more and more water began to swirl and as it moved, the deeper into the dark depths it went. It descended down, passing through the very rock of the bottom of the lake and down into the depths of the maw of their Master. It was a small beginning to be sure and anyone who chanced upon the anomaly would think the whirlpool little more than a curiosity of nature. In time, however, with the passing of eons, the swirling waters would grow and consume all around it. Cliffs would rise and fall but the whirlpool would never cease. Men yet unbound for a thousand years would call this place the Abyss and Kain's Empire of Vampires would cast in their traitors and weaklings, their preferred site of execution.
Thus was the final stone laid in place, the last piece of the complex puzzle and the foundations for the culmination of their Lord's plan for the world. Asmodeus allowed himself to feel smug about that. His former sire, Raziel-Divus, had been so preoccupied with his preordained fate of utter damnation that he had failed to do much of anything to secure their Master's interests. He had been a selfish fool who had not deserved his throne and title and the Divus were better off without him.
"You have done well, Uriel. You have the gratitude of your King." He said in his best, regal, and authoritative tone of voice. "Return now to Fanum-Divus and prepare for your divine mission." Purposely he put reverence in his voice. It was pure theatrics but it impressed their followers and many of the Divus who took their devotion too seriously. "The fate of Humanity rests in your hands."
Uriel, despite his eons' long life and powerful arcane skills, was one such. He bowed his head low in respect to his king.
"It will be as you say, my liege." He replied. "I will fail neither you nor our God." With that he vanished, moving back under time and space to return to the impossible city that was Fanum-Divus.
"You had better not." Asmodeus-Divus muttered to himself flatly once he had gone and then turned, looking up and around at the chamber's high ceiling.
He could not see the arms and limbs of his God but he knew they were there, twisting and writhing down through the chamber now that the Arrow was a slave to his will, not a dagger thrust to his heart. In a display of humility he descended down to one knee, Clarent out before him very much in the manner of a knight before their liege lord.
"Humbly do I ask for Your blessing, the Lord my God." He intoned almost ritualistically, his eyes lowered to the floor. The air about him suddenly grew very still and he knew from experience that he had drawn the attention of the entity he called Master.
"You find favour with me, Asmodeus my scribe." The voice of God replied, echoing seemingly from nowhere and heard more in his mind than in his ears. "Truly I have been vexed of late with servants who speak so grandiosely of their devotion and yet cannot deliver what they promise." Asmodeus could not help but smile in vindicated satisfaction at his Master's words. "I find it refreshing in the extreme to finally find amongst the faithful a slither of competence."
"Your words do me great honour, Master." He said, keeping all hint of smugness out of his voice. He was too skilled an orator to ever make that mistake.
"Still, however, I am concerned." The timeless voice admitted. "Kain and his allies continue to gain ground despite all efforts against them." At this Asmodeus did look up.
"Truly you do not fear them, Master?" He asked.
"I am beyond fear." The voice replied flatly. "They can no more harm me then they could harm the earth upon which they walk." There was a long pause. "But Kain has proved more resilient, more adaptable, more cunning than I ever would have suspected." The words were said with the utmost reluctance, scorn, and distaste. "I will not make the mistake of underestimating either him or any of those who stand with him."
"That would be a blunder to be sure, my Lord." Asmodeus agreed in a placatory tone. He stood back up to his feet, keeping his head lowered to show his submission and subservient place. "Allow me to rectify the situation." There was another long pause and this time the air was pregnant with a sense of amusement.
"Do you really suppose you are a match for the so-called Emperor of Nosgoth?" His Master asked then. The question dripped condescension and scorn, but Asmodeus took no offence. It was the tone their Master employed to any who suggested that they could accomplish a seemingly impossible task.
"I can, at the very least, sow confusion and discord amongst them." He replied in as humble a voice as he could manage. "All we need do is distract and confound them until the Promised Day occurs. Nothing they could do after that will matter." The sensation that occurred then was disturbing, even to him. Never before had Asmodeus felt the full attention of his master on him, the entire focus of that vast awareness concentrated so. It lasted only for a moment but he had the powerful sensation of uncountable numbers of eyes gazing at him. Asmodeus was powerfully reminded then of the difference between himself and his Master. A difference comparable between himself and an ant.
"Do what you deem necessary, my Scribe and High King." The voice of God said sternly and commandingly. "But do not put the onrushing Promised Day in jeopardy." Then the sensation died away as the entity's focus was drawn away to perhaps a multitude of other places. Asmodeus fully straightened, taking a moment to recover from a scrutiny he had not fully been prepared for.
"Wouldn't dream of it, Master." He said, more to himself than to his God.
Fanum-Divus was an impossible city. It was a place outside of Nosgoth, outside of the normal currents of time. It existed in a void, a slender slither of perishable reality that hung suspended between two absolutes. High above was the pure white void of everything, where all time and space existed. Below was the pure black oblivion of utter nonexistence, the immeasurable darkness of no-where and no-when. The city was a column that lanced between the two absolutes, defying both of them. Given its temporally displaced nature it was hard to say exactly when Fanum-Divus had been built. As far as any of them were concerned, it had always been here, as solid a fact as their God Himself.
Never before, however, had the city of the Divus been so deeply involved in preparations for war. In the lowest sections of the city, the golden eyed and haired Human slave race worked the forges tirelessly, hammering out the weapons and armour their masters had ordered. Many of them were being trained, drilled in martial skills, swordsmanship, and other weapon forms. Once proficient, these new warriors were given their armour; an ominous plate of black and red, covered in spikes. Slowly but surely, Asmodeus' order was being carried out and the Legions of the Nemesis were being remade.
It would not be long now before the army, supplemented by their already formidable Homunculi, would be prepared for the coming of the Promised Day and their ultimate destiny. Asmodeus fully intended that the prize would be his, the ultimate glory and an accomplishment that would forever put him far beyond Raziel-Divus' meagre shadow. But for the moment, he had a task to perform.
Thanatos, the last of the once powerful race of Dragons, was chained and bound inside a large pavilion. His legs were bound with heavy iron links and his maw was muzzled. His large wings were pinned to his sides and wrapped in thick chains, leaving him unable to spread them even a little. Around him stood dozens of black armoured guards, armed with seven foot long spears that ended in barbed points. At the command they were all prepared to sink them deep into the beast's body.
Ambriel-Divus stood atop a balcony nearby, his arms outstretched as he continually used his own powers to keep a powerful restraint on the creature, to prevent it from employing its powerful elemental control. By now, however, the strain was showing on his face, sweat running down and soaking his red toga.
Asmodeus came up to the balcony by a flight of stairs and stepped up beside him, looking down appraisingly at their captive.
"Here he is." He commented with a dry chuckle of pleased satisfaction. "What a specimen!" He half turned to the other Ancient Vampire. "You are to be commended for such a capture, Ambriel." He added. Ambriel did not even look at him.
"I merely did my duty to the Lord, to be an instrument to carry out His will." He replied, eyes fixed on the struggling creature below. Asmodeus' brow creased into a frown.
"And to your King?" He prompted, a hard edge to his voice. Ambriel either did not notice or ignored it.
"My duty to the Lord supersedes loyalty to any throne, blessed or not." He replied bluntly, his eyes only for his task in subduing Thanatos' power.
"Does it indeed?" Asmodeus' tone was decidedly unfriendly. This had been a trend he had noticed before. There were many Divus, far too many for his peace of mind, who felt that the presence of an over king was superfluous as their ultimate loyalty was to their God. Bitterly Asmodeus knew that there had been less of them during Raziel-Divus' reign and that they had only increased in numbers and volume once his administration had taken effect. To have one of their number admit this to his face now was proof that they were becoming bolder.
"No disrespect is meant by my remark, however." Ambriel added flatly as if it was a mere afterthought.
"Of course." Asmodeus was not convinced.
"I cannot hold him much longer." Ambriel said. There was no strain in his voice but he was sweating profusely. "His power has limits beyond my own." He turned his head slightly to give the King of Fanum-Divus a sidelong glance. "If you wish to make use of him, you must do it now." Asmodeus looked down at the struggling beast which even now was exerting all its strength to try and break even one of the chains that held it.
"Duly noted." He said flatly. With a quick beat of his wings he soared up over the balcony's edge and glided down, landing directly before the creature. Two of the standing guards moved in to instantly flank him, their large pikes held at the ready. Asmodeus ignored the escort, stepping forward until he was no more than a few feet away from the large muzzle.
"Greetings, mighty Thanatos." He said in as hearty a voice as he could manage, the silted, reptilian eyes of the captive turning to look at him. "A pity we have to meet under such unfortunate circumstances." The Dragon's lips drew back to reveal rows of sharp teeth the length of his forearm, a snarl of impotent anger.
-"Release me at once, you detestable little insect!"- The thought thundered out, echoing in the minds of all those within range. The guards all around, unused to such mental intrusion flinched visibly but held their ground.
"In due time, old boy, in due time." Asmodeus said. He himself had experienced telepathic communication before, although certainly not of that magnitude. He wagged a talon back and forth at the captive. "First I thought it prudent that you and I have a little chat." Thanatos glared at him, the almost downy feathers behind his crest rustling loudly in irritation and dislike.
-"I have nothing to say to any of you!"- His thought spat back. -"You who brought me so low, who serve the very cancerous being whose greedy suckling destroyed my kin!"- The Dragon's entire body strained again with the muscles beneath the hide tensing, the chains across the large body clinking as they were fought against. Somewhere there was the sound of weakening metal beginning to slowly give way. -"When I get free I will reduce you all to cinders!"-
Asmodeus stood there before the raging ancient creature, critically but calmly looking over the chains, appraising each one to try and see where the break would take place. He would have to assert his authority before that took place. He turned his attention back to the fuming beast, his expression resolute.
"Well, that's where we have a bit of a problem, as we can't have you doing that." He remarked boyishly.
-"You will not be able to stop me!"- Thanatos' thought growled.
"Actually, that's where you're wrong." The King of Fanum-Divus shook his head. "I can kill you with a wave my hand." Thanatos' head turned to look at him directly, his entire large body pausing in its struggle to be free. Asmodeus carried on. "As I understand it, your kind can only exist in Nosgoth so long as the land is healthy and strong. Here in Fanum-Divus, you will survive as the ambient power between the absolutes of Everything and Nothing will be more than sufficient." He gave the Dragon a smug, superior smile. "But from here I can eject you into any period of normal time that I please. Like say, for instance, the barren future of Nosgoth where the land has been reduced to a lifeless husk?"
Thanatos' eyes narrowed dangerously but he made no further attempt to free himself, becoming almost as silent and still as a statue.
"I hope I've made myself plain?" Asmodeus asked shrewdly. The Dragon remained still for a long moment of silence, lips pressed tight over his serrated teeth.
-"Why have you abducted me? What is it you want?"- His thought then asked and it felt and sounded much more restrained but still with an angry undercurrent.
"Your strength and power, of course." Asmodeus replied expansively. "The time is drawing close. The Promised Day approaches, the most glorious of ends and the greatest of new beginnings. It is the day Nosgoth drowns." He half turned and made a gesture with one hand. In the air before the Dragon several images, shimmering as if in heat waves, began to appear.
The first was Kain, the would-be ruler of Nosgoth, holding the Soul Reaver in one hand and out before him as if gesturing off to the horizon with it. Beside him was Raziel, the blue wraith, the burning spiritual version of the same blade erupting from his right arm. To the left of them was Janos Audron, a beaten and battered survivor with his spirit still intact despite all that had been clearly done to his scared body. To the right of Kain was the Hylden Seer, who their former ruler had been foolish to trust would keep her word and bargain with them. Beside her was Vorador, grim and implacable. At the sight of him, a deep, rumbling growl started from somewhere deep in the Dragon's throat. The five of them stood there together in the presented image, clear allies.
"But there are those who would attempt to stop this destined event from coming to pass." Asmodeus said, gesturing with a broad sweep of his arm at the arrayed figures. He gave Thanatos an almost evil grin over one shoulder. "And I simply can't have that." Thanatos glared at the flickering image of Vorador and somehow the beast seemed even more angry and oblivious to everything around him. Then he seemed to remember himself and snorted out his large nostrils.
-"Even under threat of death, you think I would ever willingly serve the Elder, the cause of the fall of Uni?"- His thought asked.
"Everyone has their price." The Ancient Vampire replied confidently.
-"You have nothing I desire that would make me even consider this farce."- The tone of his mentally projected words was haughty. Asmodeus gestured again and the image of the figures vanished. He began to pace back and forth before their captive.
"As the last of your kind, can you really afford to take that position?" He asked, arms folded in the small of his back beneath his folded wings. Thanatos had turned his large eyes away, purposely not looking at him and quite silent. Despite being deliberately ignored, Asmodeus carried on. "All the grand examples of your prime species are dead and dust and you are outcast, a stranger in a strange land and time. Are you really prepared to let your legacy and heritage die here, with you?" He raised one arm and clenched his talons into a fist. "Or perhaps you might seize an opportunity when it presents itself?"
Thanatos kept on ignoring him. Asmodeus watched him for a moment then stepped directly before his jaws. If the Dragon had managed to break free at that moment he could have simply lunged and broken the King of Fanum-Divus in half with his jaws.
"The primary weakness of your species was that if the land was not healthy and strong, then neither were you." He added in a slow and deliberately precise tone, enunciating his words to make sure he was properly understood. "But we have made advancements since your…earlier time. I can grant to you sustaining power and energy that would allow you to exist and thrive even if the world around you is devoid of life."
Thanatos' eyes snapped back to him instantly, the silted pupils dilating wide at the mere suggestion.
-"You lie."- His thought accused but there was a flicker of uncertain doubt in there somewhere. Asmodeus chuckled and tilted his head to one side, his expression highly amused that he had shaken his captive's composure.
"Of course I do not expect you to believe me offhand." He added but his expression was still quite smug. "But if I were telling the truth?" Thanatos suddenly looked far less sure of himself. His muscles even began to relax, the chains dropping out of their tautness and clanking loudly as he hunched in on himself.
-"Even if you were, what difference does that make? I would still be the last of Uni and a slave to a Master I despise."- The captive beast finally replied in a mental burst. Asmodeus had been expecting such a response. He spread his arms out in a theatrically exasperated display.
"What a stunning lack of imagination and foresight." He lamented. He had the Dragon's undivided attention and it was time to make the offer. "Your people are gone, extinct for eons, and the so-called peoples and races of Nosgoth took their rightful place, just as you feared they would." He knew something of the history of this one to add that little twist, a tug at his sense of outrage. "Perhaps for a purpose, you could simply say revenge?" He raised one hand.
"If your people cannot have Nosgoth…" Then he raised the other. "…why should anyone else?" Looking deep into those angry, liquid orange eyes he grinned wide. "Surely that is worth servitude for."
Thanatos looked at him unblinkingly. Then slowly he raised his head as far as his chains would allow, looking down at the King of Fanum-Divus with new interest.
-"You have a clever tongue."- He remarked but there was suddenly no scorn in the tone of his projected thought. -"I may be open to negotiation."-
That, of course, was exactly what Asmodeus wanted to hear.
The air was terrible. Even during the industrial nightmare provoked by the Hylden-controlled Sarafan fascists, there were at the very least fresh breezes and patches of clear sky. Here, in whatever distant century this was, the sky was a terrible grey and filled with thick, choking particles of soot. The cloud of smog stretched from horizon to horizon and cast the world under an unending blanket of darkness.
The land below was even worse. The soil itself was blasted and looked unwholesome and diseased. Many entire regions were full of ash and dust. Others were quagmires of stinking tar and bubbling mud. Here and there were the rotted remains of trees, barely clinging to life, huddling together with blackened trunks and drooping dark leaves.
There was virtually no sign of animal life. Where once the wilderness had been host to herds of deer, elk, and wild horses, there was a barren emptiness. Here and there were the signs of scavenging, carrion birds and wolves, but even they were scarce. It was a terrible, nightmarish world where only the simplest of organisms thrived, clinging to life inside muddy pools in torn crevices.
It was totally inconceivable then that what the confused and baffled Janos Audron saw as he flew had once been the rich vibrant world he had gone and stood vigil over, that this was the same Nosgoth he had known. The Nosgoth he was familiar with had had pristine lakes, endlessly rolling ancient forests, clear streams, and air so pure it was ambrosial. It had been a world worth fighting for, a world he had intended to shed blood for, a world he had stood in vigil for centuries for.
This was not that world. This was a dried out, used up, rotten husk. It was a decayed corpse of the land he had known and nothing more. The features of the land, the roll of the geography wasn't even remotely recognisable anymore. He had no way of knowing exactly how long it had been, how many centuries he had been dwelling in the depths of the Demon Realm and subject to the tortures of the perverted Hylden high priest, Ishtar, but clearly it had been long enough to turn the world he had fought and killed for into a quagmire.
The mental state of Janos Audron was questionable at best and he knew it. He could feel ruptures in his newly returned sanity already at the startling and damaging revelations he had had to deal with upon his restoration. After he had awoken from the deepest nightmare he had ever experienced, he had been met with the sight of a Hylden woman in the midst of a transformation he had never thought would happen. Before his eyes she had sprouted wings and then taken to the skies.
Before he had the chance to deal with such a stunning sight, he had been told that the saviour he had waited centuries for, the Raziel he had seen destroyed by his own hands when the Hylden General had controlled him, was alive and well. For some time he had been convinced that he had been forced to destroy the saviour and messiah of his people, the only hope for the world. To learn that he had not and that his enemies' efforts had come to naught was perhaps something that might have stabilised his cracking mind, had not 'she' appeared then.
He had spent centuries deliberately trying to forget she ever existed. She had been a disgrace, a dishonour to have to tolerate. She had been the advisor and consort of Ba'al Zebur and as such had enjoyed some measure of protection. Janos could not tolerate such a flagrant disregard of a holy order from their God, that the Hylden were heathens that denied the natural order of the universe and were to be put down.
He had been caught in a difficult position. His God had ordered the extermination of the Hylden but his lord, Ba'al Zebur, had decreed that the woman be left unharmed. The others had been able to turn a blind eye to her by this order but he could not. Still, he found that despite his devotion to the order of his God he could not directly disobey the word of his ruler. Finally he had come to an acceptable compromise, a way to settle the dilemma without defying either order. He had her seized and thrown into the depths of the damned Eternal Prison. Once a soul was entrapped within that eternal place they never escaped. There it would be very much as if she were dead, removed forever from the face of Nosgoth. Or at least, that was what he had believed. But here she was now, inconceivably freed from a Prison that no inmate had ever escaped from.
Despite his resolve, over the years he had come to doubt his decision. His outrage had faded and had been replaced by uncertainty, but not the sort he expected. He found himself wondering if he had been wrong to inflict such a fate upon her. She had been a member of the Hylden race, their terrible enemy and as such deserved no compassion from him. But every time the thought of what he had done to her came back, he wondered exactly what fate had befallen her. He himself had never set foot inside the Prison, so he had no way of knowing what happened to those incarcerated within, but his imagination could conjure vivid images. To find her freed and confirm all his worst mental conjuring had been yet another blow to his psyche.
As such, Janos was flying in something of a daze. The beating of his wings keeping him aloft was automatic, driven by age old instincts while he diverted all his efforts to quelling the panic and anxiety that threatened to burst his freshly returned sanity like ripe fruit. All he had ever known was gone and even his friends and family were somehow alien to him, unknown and distant. It was enough to bring him right back down into the depths of madness.
But from deep within himself there came welling up a powerful sense of denial, a rock-steady, immovable command to not submit to the descent back into darkness. The madness had been a fate consigned to him by the Hylden General, his great tormentor and enemy. To meekly submit and go back to that torture now that he was free was an admission of failure and defeat. Despite all that had been done to him and his people, Janos was not prepared to hoist that white flag.
Firmly and without compromise, he forced the spikes of fear and trepidation down and away, banishing them from his mind. The centuries of constant vigil over the Reaver Blade had done nothing if not teach him vigorous mental discipline. Finally his eyes cleared and he took stock of his situation with a deliberately cold, analytical mind.
That was when he saw them, the two distant specs that he had been following without thinking, diving back and forth on the horizon. One of them was undoubtedly the Serioli leader, Ajatar-Cadre. The other could only be the Hylden woman, who before his eyes had sprouted wings and taken flight.
As he watched, the two specs came together almost as one and then began to slowly descend, diving down towards the grey, lifeless ground. Janos watched them for a long moment, coasting on whatever passed for a breeze, then he glided forward to descend also. As he approached through the air he saw them, two winged figures settled down on the edge of a rocky outcropping, surrounded by large upturned boulders. The blue skinned figure was still standing but the other was sitting, looking worn out and lethargic. They seemed to be talking, almost arguing, but he could not hear what they were saying.
With a surge of his wings, Janos came down right beside him. The two females turned in surprise, clearly having been too distracted with their flight and their heated conversation to have noticed he had followed them. Standing there before them, naked from the waist up, he studied the weapons which lay limply behind the Hylden woman, twitching in their newness and first real exercise.
"You need not be here, Audron." Ajatar said to him in a stern voice, half turning in his direction. "Tiamatu is a guest of the Serioli and my responsibility." He ignored her almost completely he walked right up to the member of the enemy race, his expression creasing into a discontented frown.
"How many?" He asked of her in a blunt voice as she looked up at him with incredulity written on her unblemished and uncorrupted face. "How many of you can fly?" Her face twitched at the question and then rage and indignation flared in her eyes. Suddenly she was back on her feet, her new wings snapping out wide.
"I am all there is!" Her voice shook with outrage. "One and only one flyer. Just me!" She took a step towards him. "So yes, we can fly now! We can fly! Your kind can't monopolise the skies anymore!" There was real pent-up emotion there as tears welled out of the corners of her pale eyes from frustrated anger. "You don't own it! You never owned it! There was more than enough room for two!"
Then something happened that he really did not expect. That she might attack him was a given but to be simply punched in the face, like he was involved in some Human tavern brawl, was certain not the attack he had been anticipating. He had also not considered that so soon after his own recovery his body would still be weak. The punch she directed at him knocked him clear off his feet, but she was also fatigued and tired and the two of them tumbled backwards. Janos landed with a thud on his back while she rolled a short distance away onto some soft gravel.
Janos lay there for a moment, his vision blurred from the impact but her words ringing in his ears.
"Room for two…" He repeated, the mere idea a blasphemy. "God will not permit it." Ajatar-Cadre stood over him, looking down. The expression on her angular face was a mixture of pity and contempt for his words.
"Then perhaps God is wrong." She said in a flat, even unfriendly tone. Janos blinked, gazing up at her incredulously.
"You…You side with them?" He asked, struggling up onto his elbows. His body was far weaker than he had anticipated, a condition of fatigue he had only made worse with such a flight. "I knew the Serioli were heretics, but this…" She made a cutting gesture with one hand to silence him.
"Janos, for once in your life actually listen to what you are saying." The Grandmaster of the Serioli said grimly. She met his confused gaze unblinkingly. "What we did to the Hylden, however necessary it might have seemed to us…" Her eyes flicked once to Tiamatu, who was struggling to rise herself, then back again. "It was by no means just."
"Neither was the curse they laid upon us!" He retorted hotly but she dismissed that argument with a shrug.
"Chicken or the Egg." She commented dryly and stepped forward, putting herself between him and the Hylden woman. "I have seen for myself that the Hylden are no demons devoid of morality or ethics. I have seen for myself that they are as varied in their temperament as any of us." She placed her hands on her hips as she looked down at him, her manner very much like that of a mentor or schoolteacher lecturing an errant child. "And I think you've always known it, too." She added.
"The Serioli and myself skipped over thousands of years to arrive in this decayed era, but you lived through it all." He looked up, meeting Ajatar's gaze with a grim one of his own. She nodded once in confirmation. "Yes, Vorador was good enough to enlighten me." She said. Then her face softened, the harshness leaving her eyes. There was actually compassion there. "I cannot imagine what it was like for you, Janos. Century after lonely century, believing yourself to be the last of our people."
All the loneliness, the painful silence and separation from any and all society, feared and despised by all Humans across the land, came back in a rush at her understanding words. It shook him despite his discipline.
"You were devout to be certain but I wonder, over so long a vigil, did you not once have even the smallest amount of doubt?" She asked despite that. "The smallest little flicker that perhaps what we were doing, or at least how we were doing it, was not the right thing?" Her expression hardened again, once more the firm military commander. "Or are you truly so inflexible and conservative that you cannot accept that we could have been in error?"
The question hung there. The immediate answer, the one that had always come to him before, the proclamation of his faith tried to emerge but it got stuck in his throat. His faith still burned within him but he was also honest enough to admit that her accusation was correct. There had been moments over the centuries where he had wondered about the ethicality of the actions of both his species and himself. He could not deny those moments of weakness no matter how much he might want to. The silence dragged on.
"I must not…" He began into that silence but never finished the sentence. In that moment the ambush took place. From amidst the boulders they came, over a dozen dark figures in black and grey armour and cloaks that almost perfectly camouflaged them into the bleak environment. Dark hoods were pulled up over their heads and their faces were hidden behind strange masks, large, pale green circles of glass where their eyes should be. They came on swiftly, almost as silent as shadows. Indeed to have made this sudden rush they would have to have gotten close enough without being detected by advanced Vampiric senses.
They carried an assortment of strange weapons the likes of which Janos had never seen. They had strange devices attached to their forearms, some form of mechanised gauntlet. As they rushed forward then, several feather shaped blades sprouted out from these gauntlets giving each of them a deadly sharp weapon. Ajatar drew her short swords from her side in an instant, parrying the first strike made at her, sparks flying from the contact of metal on metal.
As one came at her from the front, another two darted in from the side. They did not spread the blades on their arms but rather grabbed for her, trying to hold her by her wings. Whoever these attackers were, however, they vastly underestimated the strength which was contained in a Vampire's wings. With a snarl she slung them wide, knocking the two would-be assailants off their feet. As they toppled backwards muffled grunts of pain could be heard, distorted by the masks they wore.
Janos struggled to get back to his feet, but he was sluggish and still disoriented and several of them were coming at him. He raised his arms and grappled with the first to reach him, struggling to push the dark figure away. The hands that grasped his arm were strange, encased in metal over a leather glove that had been altered to look exactly like the talons of a Vampire.
Another came at him from the side, arching his body around in a swing that would cleave the Ancient across the midsection. Even so dazed Janos could anticipate such a moment. He swung backwards, heaving the figure he was struggling with back with him and throwing him clear. As the oncoming enemy swung, he reached out and grasped his arm. Using his own momentum against him he swung the figure around and then down hard into the ground with a loud clatter of armour.
There was a sound behind him. Janos started to turn but finally his fatigue and strain was beginning to tell. He was slower, unable to react just that fraction of a second more swiftly. Even as he turned, the blow came down on the back of his head. It was a powerful strike delivered by one clenched fist inside its metal covering.
Janos lost track of exactly what happened after that, so stunned by that powerful blow that he was left disconnected from his own senses. Everything was disjointed and so blurred he could make out nothing more than smudges. When his vision finally began to clear and his hearing returning from the high-pitched whine of the blood in his ears, he became acutely aware of new pain.
He was down on the ground and his arms and legs were bound in thick rope, his ankles and wrists shackled. His wings were also pinned together and he could feel several heavy boots pressing down on them to keep them firmly in place.
"Who gave you the order to attack?!" An outraged and muffled voice was demanding angrily from somewhere nearby. "You were to wait until the crossbowmen were in position! Because of your haste, we have several wounded soldiers!" He turned his head to try to look around and then became aware of a large iron collar which had been locked firmly about his neck, restricting his movement even further.
"I'm sorry, sir, but when we arrived we saw that two of them were weakened. We had the opportunity to take them all and we couldn't afford to wait." Another muffled voice replied in an apologetic, consolatory tone. He managed to catch sight of the speakers. Standing all around him were their attackers. They had him completely surrounded. One of their number, who despite wearing a mask over his face looked abashed, was being towered over by a figure in a different type of armour. This one had his hood pulled down to reveal a chock of long, tangled, and dirty brown hair under the straps that held his mask on.
"You are not to disobey my orders again or I will have you thrown to the Rahabim, do you understand me?" Clearly this one was their leader. The subordinate lowered his head quickly.
"Yes, Captain Enya." Was the meek, subservient reply.
"Captain, the demon and the other winged one escaped!" Another of his assailants reported to their leader, coming up beside him and saluting. "They are out of range of the crossbowmen." Their leader made a dismissive gesture with one hand, turning around to face Janos.
"Let them go." He said and reached back behind his head to pull the straps up, allowing him to take off his mask. As it came way, Janos recognised his error. This was no man. The leader of these assailants was a Human woman, her face dirty, smudged with dirt, soot, and worse. Across her left cheek were a raking triad of healed scars which he instantly perceived as being made by a Vampire's talons. Her steel blue eyes locked on him, the only bright part of her darkened face.
"We don't have the men or resources to chase them all over the wasteland." She said, her voice recognisably feminine without the mask. "Besides, we were tasked to bring in just one of the winged beings for study and interrogation." She smiled faintly and it was somehow more chilling than if it had been worn by any Hylden captor. "And I think he will do quite nicely."
Vorador's quest for the universal heritage has come to an end. But the war with the Divus and their 'Promised Day' draws ever closer. Captured, struggling for survival in a barren wasteland with enemies on all sides, Janos Audron must face the most difficult decision of his life. Which is his greater calling, Faith or Duty? Find out in two upcoming Legacy of Kain instalments; Insurrection and Equinox. Coming soon!
First and foremost: A big thank-you to everyone who kept on wanting to know what was going to happen in my narrative over the year or more of my absence. You guys rock and it's for you that I tell this story. I do however ask that in future, reviews are not limited to simply - "this is great, keep it up." - its actually depressing to get those.
...Alright, I suppose I really ought to address the giant squid in the room right from the outset, shouldn't I? *clears his throat* Yes, your eyes did not deceive you, I really did just write Dragons, let me repeat, DRAGONS, into the LOK cosmology. Some of you are probably thinking that Dragons, creatures of typical epic fantasy, have no place in the dark brooding world that is Nosgoth. Well then, my biased readers, let me challenge that idea. Go play Soul Reaver 2. The entire game from start to finish. I want you to count how many times you see dragon iconography either in murals or stonework. The Dragon left its mark on vanilla LOK quite a bit. Besides this, in Blood Omen, under Avernus, you see a skeleton of a Dragon embedded in the wall. This is the skeleton shown to Vorador early on in the story.
In any case, I had to be very careful in order to not make their inclusion clumsy, intrusive, and obstructing the story and the overall lore. If Dragons lived in Nosgoth then they had to abide by the same rules as everybody else. I hope my ideas with Thanatos were well received. That Dragon will certainly be appearing again. As always though I want constructive criticism on how I handed it as well as opinions and ideas. Any and all constructive feedback is welcomed.
Now - this is the point where originally on this document I had written the clause that, I would perhaps or perhaps not be using elements from the cancelled Dead Sun game and the Nosgoth multiplayer being put out now - it would have all depended on what I could find. I wasn't really expecting much to be that relevant and perhaps only a few things to be useful and that the new game would be of little interest to me. I am not a multiplayer gamer. However recently the trailer came out. I watched it.
After recovering from my berserker rage I felt under no compunction to treat their game as relevant, important, canon or connected to the Legacy of Kain in any way, shape or form. This site however is not a bully pulpit for me to publically express my opinion on anything. If anyone wants details of exactly why Nosgoth is so bad, they can PM me. I do however feel myself perfectly within my rights to encourage every reader of mine and their dog to write fanfictions expressing how the Razielim really died out.
Insurrection will star Janos Audron and Equinox…well… I will let that be a little surprise. It'll be different, no doubt about that. I already have some ideas for how Janos' 'gameplay' might work out but ideas, suggestions, and other opinions always add something to the mix. So then, Janos' story will be taking place entirely in the damned future and I'll be elaborating a little more on the Human society there. What would you guys like me to go into as well? Tell me in reviews or messages.
Someone in a review asked me, just how many stories are there going to be before the end? Hmm. Good question. I've been sort of wondering that myself. There is just so much material to write about that it makes stopping and finding a conclusion a bit hard to do. As for how many stories…..well… I think Kain said it best. "Fate promises more twists before this drama unfolds completely."
Dragons - Well DUH!
Rats in the walls - I'm seriously surprised that nobody picked up on this little reference in my prologue, where the prisoner Vorador killed was babbling. This was a reference straight from H.P Lovecraft and none of the nerds picked up on it? SHAME ON YOU!
Thanatos - From mythology, Thanatos is a Greek daemon (different from demon) and a god of death (different from Hades). His rival Horkos, mentioned in the final chapters, is from the same mythology and is a God of sworn oaths.
Gáe Bolga - Enlil's little nasty weapon. This comes from Irish mythology, made from the bones of a sea monster and the weapon of choice for the hero Cú Chulainn from the Ulster cycle.
Remus and Romulus - the two alpha males of the white and black Werewolves were straight from the foundation myth of the Roman Empire. Bit of a no brainer.
Sword from the Stone - I think you need to have been living under a rock to not know where this one came from.
Vorador's threat- Remember when Vorador threatened to drip venom into the eyes of his captive Werewolf? There you go, you get your Norse mythology reference. Hoped you enjoyed.
Bane: I was Frozen today! Well done Manjimortal for being the only reviewer for realising the reference. You get a gold star.