The two double doors leading into the central chamber moved easily inward as the Seer pushed against them. She strode confidently into the room and then half turned to look back the way she had come with an amused expression, the corner of her lip turned up.

Vorador paused momentarily and then entered after her, his appraising eye taking in everything before him in the dimly lit chamber. She had brought him directly here with no explanation or hint at what to expect. He had been reluctant to leave at first, as he still worried for his sire after Janos had simply taken off after the Seer's verbal assault, but she had left him no alternative. If he was to see Umah restored as Janos was, he would have to do as she requested. There was just no way to avoid it now. He would simply have to trust that the Serioli could find Janos, provided they had time to spare now that they had the implications of flying Hylden to deal with.

When she had revealed to him the caves under the mountains and the labyrinthine complex that lay within them, he had been surprised enough. But she had kept a knowing smile on her face almost the entire time until; finally, she had sprung this room on him and was clearly waiting to see his reaction.

His critical eye and analytical mind took in everything with one sweeping glance. He saw the multi-tiered structure of the room, three levels each ringed with pulsing lamps that dispelled the natural darkness. Each row was lined with dials and switches that were as much arcane as they were technological, each one linked to interior clockwork that seemed to defy his eyes' attempts to trace their path. There were strange markings across their half-moon surfaces that the Vampire did not recognise either.

The ceiling high above was the most anomalous. It was almost like an expanse of the night sky, revealing a multitude of star patterns and astrological pictures that all circled and culminated at the centre. At the apex of this display was a massive, alien-looking construction that had the appearance of a colossal armillary. It hung there, different components slowly turning around several points of axis and emitting a dull humming sound that gently vibrated the air.

At the far end of the chamber on the highest tier there was a large, circular opening. In that opening was a churning vortex of neon blue light that looked very much like water circling down a drain. The swirl of colour was far more profound than that, however. It felt, even from this distance, that particles of the air and dust that floated in it were being pulled into that unfathomable doorway and then sucked away into some unimaginable place.

Vorador stood there, his expression deliberately blank as he silently observed the entire strange panorama. There was, to this room, a sense of complete and utter agelessness, as if the mere concept of objective time simply did not apply here. The feeling was disconcerting.

Absently he noted that there was stonework damage to a section of wall just to his left-hand side. There had been a fierce confrontation here not long ago.

After a moment of anticipatory silence, the Seer turned around to fully face him and her expression was questioning.

"What? No exclamation?" She asked with both eyebrows raised in mock confusion. "No words to express your surprise?" The Hylden woman tilted her head to one side. "I was looking forward to that."

Vorador folded his arms behind his back as was his usual custom and regarded her steadily and with complete and utter calm.

"I prefer to keep my observations to myself." He said flatly. Then, after a moment, he smiled disarmingly and made to her a mocking bow. "And I wait patiently for your assuredly tantalising enlightenment."

The Seer blinked, then tilted her head back and laughed, the rich sound echoing through the chamber despite the machine's alien humming. She continued laughing as she began to walk out around the second tier of the chamber, leaving Vorador to descend several stairs down to the floor. With some distaste he noticed that on the floor of the chamber was the twisting 'Moebius ring' symbol that in ancient times had stood for the Wheel of Fate religion and their sainted demigods, the Divus.

The Hylden woman strode up to one of the dials. She took a hold of its brass handle and gave it a sharp turn to the right. The needle shunted along several points from the centre until its tip pointed to one of the strange symbols.

There was a loud thudding sound, followed by a whoosh of light and noise. The symbol glowed pale green and the clockwork within the walls churned in response to the alteration. Vorador glanced up sharply to see that the device above him began to turn a little faster in response, its humming noise altering in pitch and volume. Parts of the elaborate, arcane machine began to spin faster and almost seemed to reflect a pale, luminescent glow. Something was happening. He could feel energies beginning to build.

The Seer turned her head to face him as she ascended a flight of stairs to the third terrace, making her way over to another dial.

"This is the Chronoplast chamber." She told him in a far more serious voice, gesturing up and around at the room and all its arcane splendour. "It houses the most powerful time streaming device ever created." She reached the dial and took its handle, turning it to the left. The clockwork mechanism groaned in protest at being moved but once the needle had shunted along to its new position, new and arcane energies were released.

The entire chamber reacted in response to the new setting, energies flowing and pulsing in the air and the device directly above in the centre of the ceiling began to twist and turn with increased speed in many directions all at once. Vorador could feel the very air around them twist and slip as some power he could not fathom began to stir.

"If used properly, it can deliver its user to any location within time and space." The Hylden woman continued, nodding with satisfaction up at the machine for its reaction.

The Vampire blinked at this intelligence and then cast another, more appraising eye over the strange mechanism and the chamber that housed it.

"Ah, so here is Kain's little secret." He commented, casting a glance back over the strange, vortex-like doorway at the back of the room. It had not changed in appearance but there was a centre of focalisation, as if all the energies that were building were being directed towards it. "So this is how he and his pet ghoul were able to skip back and forth through the line of events."

Now he recognised this room from the deliberately vague description Raziel had given of the existence of such a place when they had had their little chat in his castle. He supposed Kain must have found this chamber some time after his conquest of Nosgoth and, not content with dominating the world in his corrupted present, had chosen to employ this machine to affect alterations in the timeline. To what end, he could not imagine, but he did not think Kain a simple, opportunistic fool. He would have seen the potential for such a device. Vorador did, too.

The Seer paused on the edge of the highest tier and looked down at him quizzically, her hands resting on her hips.

"What do you have against Raziel?" She asked, sounding genuinely interested. "You seem more vehement against him than Kain, who you might hate more with some justice."

Vorador snorted derisively, keeping his eyes moving around the chamber to observe as the machine continued its strange work.

"His irrepressibly optimistic nature irritates me." He said flatly and with scorn. "He maintains a foolish belief in some innate goodness in people." His expression turned contemptuous and he pulled back his lips over his fangs in a disgusted sneer. "It's as if he hasn't even seen the state of the world and those who dwell in it."

The Seer regarded him for a long moment, looking at him down the length of her nose before she chuckled once to herself and began walking back along the high tier.

"You seem to border on the edge of total nihilism." The Hylden woman commented, descending down the long flight of stairs at the front of the chamber down to his level. She cast him an ironic smile as she walked past. "But you're not fooling anyone." She left him to digest that cryptic remark and its implications and went over to another dial. She didn't turn it yet but instead rested her hand on the handle.

"There is only one time where the Arrow will be accessible." She told him, once again quite serious. "For you to find it, you will have to be there at that moment."

Vorador looked at her sharply, for there could be no misinterpreting her words.

"You mean to send me back in time?" He asked, incredulous at the mere thought of such a fantastically preposterous thing.

"Well over two thousand years into the past." She confirmed with a sharp nod and gave the handle of the dial she was holding a short pat. "More precisely, eighty years before the fall of the Pillars."

He looked between her and the vortex several times, frowning with his scepticism. Despite having been supplied evidence for the existence of some method of traversing the stream of time when the elder and matured Kain had met him at his mansion and assisted in his resurrection, it was difficult to take in the implications of the reality of it before him. He tried to remember events from that far back, over two millennia into the past. Eighty years before the fall of the Pillars? At that time Moebius' mercenary crusade would not yet have begun and the Sarafan Brotherhood would have been disbanded for several centuries. It had been a mini golden age for the Vampires. Still, his frown deepened and he turned to fix the Seer with a piercing stare.

"Why then?" He asked her with heavy suspicion. "And just how do you know the Arrow will be reachable during that period in the first place?"

She met his intimidating glare with one of her own. She was one of the few beings his expressions could not intimidate. He had never seen her afraid of anything. Except for when he had rescued her from the Eternal Prison and she had seen the image of that demonic winged beast conjured up to torment her. She had been afraid of that and nothing else.

"Don't ask questions you know I won't answer, Vorador." She told him flatly, shaking her head and rolling her eyes. "Just find the Arrow for me and you will have your daughter back."

Vorador was less than appeased by her abrupt tone and lifted one corner of his mouth as if he were going to snarl. He caught himself before he could do such a childish thing and expressed his discontent by merely snorting.

"Once I find this supposed 'Arrow of the Gods', just how do you propose I get back?" He asked her with some scorn. The Seer let a foolish grin cross her lips.

"You could take the long way and simply wait two thousand or so years." She told him with an amused chuckle. Vorador gave off a short derisive laugh in response.

"I'd get very bored having to relive all that again, thank you." He said and made a sharp cutting gesture with one hand, dismissing that idea. The Hylden woman chuckled, reached out and gave his cheek a pat with one hand as if she were reassuring a worried child.

"Once you have uncovered the Arrow, I will know of it." She said a little condescendingly. "I will come and retrieve you." When his hard glare did not change she actually tugged on one of his chin spikes. "Don't you trust me?" She asked mockingly.

"With the games you play?" The Vampire asked rhetorically and batted her hand away from playing with his face. The Seer leaned back against the dial and actually looked surprised.

"Me? Play a game?" She sounded mollified somewhat and looked at him with a twinkle in her eyes that came, with a flash of understanding on his part, from her own deeper knowledge of events that transpired. "Oh Vorador, I'm flattered really." Her smile was radiant. "But I can assure you that I am neither of the chief players in this game." She gestured extravagantly and laid her free hand on her chest. "Like you, Raziel and even Kain, I am merely a chess piece."

Vorador regarded her for a long moment and then smiled faintly, parting his lips to let his fangs show.

"Now who's being nihilistic?" He asked her with deliberate insult. The Hylden woman's expression turned sober and she looked back at him. Silence endured for another stretch between them, the two of them trying to out gaze the other. Then she pushed the dial she was holding to the right without looking at it.

With this third and final dial set in place, the chamber and the device it contained began to suddenly crackle with energy. High above them, the swirling armillary-like machine began to spin faster and faster until its many parts blurred. As it did it began to spark and glare with bolts of golden lightning, sparking and crackling like an arcane tempest. The energy continued to surge, growing stronger and stronger until finally it reached its peak.

Then that energy burst forth in the form of a single bolt. In that bolt was more energy than Vorador could contemplate or even gauge with his senses in the time it was visible. It lanced through the air and struck a strange sigil that Vorador had not even noticed over the top of the vortex doorway. In that moment the energy was delivered down into the vortex.

The portal moaned ethereally and a wave of ghostly light burst forth from that open doorway, pushing out like a rising tide before contracting back in on itself. The portal absorbed the light and began to change the shape of its spiralling tunnel. It began a passage made out of golden light, moving down into some strange glowing depths. It was like nothing Vorador had ever seen before. It was no arcane art he was familiar with. He turned to look at the open portal, his expression of calm and detached indifference slipping in surprise at what he sensed from the doorway. This was no working of elemental lore or some magic spell. This was something completely different, a tunnel punched through time and space.

"Go forth, Vorador." The Seer commanded, pointing imperiously up towards that awesome doorway of temporal light. "Bring back the heritage that was hidden from us all."

Vorador found he had ascended the stairs without realising it and was now standing before the portal, staring down into the depths of time itself. It was a very sobering experience. This was something that, despite his lifespan having encompassed eons, he had never done before. Kain might be comfortable with the method and implication of such temporal violation, but he was not. Surely this required more thought and consideration?

Then the image of Umah rushed into his mind, unbidden. He saw her standing there, her expression questioning and entreating. She seemed to be asking with her eyes alone 'Why are you hesitating, father?' In the face of that question he could not pause for a moment longer. With whatever small, foolish hope he had clutched in his heart, Vorador crossed the threshold.

-0-

"That one step had more implications than I could fathom, for in taking it, I crossed over not only immense distance but great time as well. For a brief moment I was suspended, one foot in the present and the other in the past. The nexus of causality swirled around me was stretched across that profound distance.

-0-

The sensation of pulling and stretching was immense. That one single movement pushed him backwards through time, causality bending to allow him to be permitted to revisit an era which had already come and gone. As he passed through that blinding tunnel of chronological mystery, Vorador had a powerful sense of warped perspective.

As he moved down and down through the ages passing he could almost sense the lives of thousands upon thousands of people in reverse. He could feel them die, live from old age to childhood and then they were born. Generation after generation died and then they were living their lives over before the ones before them did the same. All of that seemed to pass in an objective moment for him but it was a moment he would not soon forget.

The sensation was so powerful and unexpected that he found himself deeply disoriented. His head swam and he seemed to lose his sense of balance. He no longer seemed to be walking but rather tumbling through the temporal vortex. On and on he was swept, going further and further back. Epic events in the time stream seemed to flash before his eyes like fragmented memories. He saw the rise of Kain's imperial symbol above the ruins of the Pillars as his Sanctuary of the Clans was under construction. He saw the battle of Meridian before the gates of Nosgoth's capital city and the decimation of the Vampire army. Then, finally, he saw the hunters of Moebius' bloodthirsty mob knock down the gates to his long forgotten mansion to charge in, in their pursuit of him.

Then there was a bright flash of light and the mists of the vortex seemed to finally clear, as if he had been wandering in a fog. Vorador felt solid ground underneath him but having been so turned about by the experience he stumbled awkwardly before collapsing to his knees. He caught himself before he fell on his face and crouched there, his mind and senses swimming.

After about a minute of dizziness, he felt his sense of balance return and could finally glance up and around at his new surroundings.

-0-

"When I regained my senses, I found myself in some dank, forgotten cavern. For a moment I wondered if the Seer had told the truth and I really had traversed the streams of time, or if this had been merely another cruel joke."

-0-

He was in some sort of cave. It was almost pitch black in here but a Vampire's eyes could see far better in the dark than a human's. Looking around, he made note of many stalagmites surrounding him, rising up from the floor of the cavern. Their opposing stalactites lanced down from the high ceiling above, almost giving this chamber the appearance of the inside of a colossal mouth with sharp teeth. From somewhere off in the gloom there was the sound of running water, faint as if it were only a trickle, but distinct in the otherwise silent blackness.

Vorador took a few moments to judge his surroundings, a frown creasing his face. If the Seer had been telling the truth and that machine could deliver its user to any time and physical place they wished, why had she chosen to send him into some dank cave?

Holding up one hand, he arched his talons and summoned forth a simple spell. An orb of magically induced light appeared there, hovering above his palm. Like a small moon its light was not very bright but enough to fully illuminate the entire cavern. It was a large chamber with many supporting walls running through it in various places. A short distance from him was a crack in the wall. Through this a steady stream of water was flowing, probably from some underground spring. It was running down through an erosion carved gorge and moving out through a wide opening at the far side of the chamber.

After watching it for a short while, Vorador supposed the water would have to be flowing to an outlet to the outside. It would be his best option to follow it until he came to some opening he could exit these caverns through.

While that seemed logical, it did not prevent the small stream from meandering back and forth across the path of least resistance around larger rocks that took longer to wear down. Its progression proceeded steadily and Vorador had the distinct feeling that as he followed, he was heading down further and further into the twisting cavern system.

If his hope for the stream's course did not play out, he would have to risk a translocation spell. However, that was dangerous if one did not know precisely where one presently was when using it. There was always the danger of moving oneself into a hazardous environment if both original location and intended destination were not firmly in mind. The safest form of translocation was sight to sight, meaning that it was easier to move to a location you could already see from your original position. Such was definitely not the case here.

The tunnels of this cavernous system were not made for convenient exploration. Most of them were narrow and jagged, leaving him unable to see down them, never mind venture beyond. Occasionally he came across patches of a phosphorescent fungus that grew on the walls, attracting small winged insects to it for its nourishment. Those were helpful in determining exactly where he had come from and where he was going. Vorador was no botanist but such creatures and plants he knew were deep dwellers, living down far in the depths of the earth where strong sunlight would not touch them. That did not bode well for his current geographical position.

The river almost seemed to stop following suddenly as he came to an unexpected dead end in the tunnel and Vorador paused to look. After a moment he realized that his first impression had been wrong. The river kept on flowing through a small hole in the rock wall ahead but his own way was barred.

However, the stone barrier before him was not all that substantial. It was made of very loose rock that had simply collapsed down quite recently. Vorador examined the barrier, pushing out with his senses to feel what lay beyond it. The blockage was quite minimal, perhaps only a small section of rubble and merely two feet beyond he could sense an open space. One hand still casting the illumination spell, the Vampire held out the other and gestured. The spell he summoned was one of combustion, a brief explosion of force that he kept tightly under control. He did not wish to bring down any more rubble from the tunnel ceiling. The blast did its work, blowing out the obstruction in a shower of cascading pebbles and small boulders. The stream, which had been restricted by the bottleneck such a barrier had forced it to endure, was now released with one force and flowed on, bubbling happily to itself.

Vorador took two steps into the chamber beyond and then stopped, looking around at this new cavern with narrowed eyes. This chamber was very different from the natural caverns and tunnels he had just traversed. Its floor was perfectly smooth and, as the light reached the ceiling and far walls, he could seethey were also smooth and seamless like the curve of some enormous egg. There were supporting pillars holding up the ceiling in this chamber too but they were clearly not natural. They had been carved, but in an architectural style that Vorador had never seen before. They twisted around each other, wrapping tightly like a rope or taut muscle. That seemed very practical for supporting a heavy weight.

The chamber was very large, so large in fact that the light from his spell could not reach the far end and it was still shrouded in darkness. The water from the stream carried on in a groove for a short distance and then fell down into a circling pit that ringed the outside of the chamber.

Vorador opened his hand wider with the palm facing directly up, increasing the amount of energy flowing to the orb of light. It flared with greater illumination and the entire chamber lit up as if it had been opened to the light of day.

As the new force of light revealed the true extent of the cavern, it revealed a mammoth decorative image drawn right into the curving wall. It was like no mural he had ever seen, a strange mixing of conflicting colours and circular shapes that somehow brought out a cohesive whole.

-0-

"I didn't recognise the origin of these displays. Clearly not Human work, nor Vampire or Hylden - as far as I was a judge. This was ancient artistry and I was in a somewhat unique position to judge the true meaning of the word 'ancient'."

-0-

The pictures were difficult to decipher as the style was very strange and the curving surface of the cavern cave had the image at a concave angle. Holding up his hand higher so he could see it in more detail, Vorador began a critical study of the image. It had faded with time but much of it was still visible in some detail.

There was some sort of diagram to his left, showing a strange ape-like creature, bent over and balancing on its knuckles. Directly above this beast were three figures that he recognised. There was a Human, a Hylden and a winged Ancient Vampire. Carved lines connected all four images, forming a circle but what this meant Vorador did not know. There were other icons around this diagram that were more rune than drawn image and these were totally alien.

Directly above there was an image that was easy to understand. It was a map, drawn from an excellent bird's eye view of the land. The detail was superb, right down to individual rocks that jutted out of the sea off the coastline and even streams and small ponds. The entire continent of Nosgoth itself, not just the usual central plain on western maps, was detailed here as well. The expanse to the east, the mountains to the north, the cliffs to the west and the jungle peninsula to the south; all were depicted here with immense accuracy. It was perhaps the finest map Vorador had ever seen, far superior to any a human cartographer could produce. Unfortunately it did not identify where this present location was on this display.

The third piece of the decorative display was by far the oddest. It depicted the sun and the moon rising together over the world, which was depicted as an orb floating in the expanse of an immense blackness. Above this display and seeming to be moving towards the world were two images that Vorador did not recognise at all. The first seemed to be a long, snake-like creature with several rowsof long fins along its body and the head of a whale.

The second was a twisting mass, a hideous form that had the appearance of hundreds of tentacles covered with blue eyes around a large central core. Vorador paused at the sight of it. When the Seer had been goading Janos, what was it she had said exactly?

She had said that Kain had showed her the true form of the Wheel of Fate's Oracle god, the being Raziel claimed was their true adversary. She had said that it had looked like, in her own words, a disgusting mass of writhing tentacles. A deformed octopus.

Could this depicted creature, this revolting thing, be God? No, he decided with some odd momentary clarity. Whatever it and its snake-like partner were, the image clearly showed them as arrivals to Nosgoth. Neither of them had created it.

A knowing smile parted Vorador's lips. So, Moebius had been worshipping a giant squid. If he had known that, would his faith have faltered?

It was strange to think about this in so objective terms. Before him was evidence that proved not only the existence of gods, but also hints as to their true natures. The implications of this were astounding. Just what would his sire make of such powerful revelations? He frowned at that, losing his smile. If these images were the facts of the matter, then Janos was going to face a difficult period in his life when the truth was revealed to him.

Directly below this strange picture was another image. Unfortunately this one had suffered some damage and much of it was obscured by cracks and dulled by clogging rock and dirt. It appeared to be a picture of some sort of creature. He could barely make out the proportions, elongated with a long tail and a shorter neck ending in some sort of frilled head. Beyond that the image was simply too damaged to tell him anything more.

Glancing down from his study of the imagery, Vorador noticed that there was a large smooth tunnel exit leading away from this chamber. It caught his attention because there was clearly light coming from somewhere at its far end.

Quickly he made his way across the large expanse of this cavern and noted, as he was passing, deep grooves had been carved in the floor at regular intervals, each about the length of his arm. They had the ominously particular appearance of supremely ancient footprints.

The tunnel was quite short and opened up into another room, smaller than the first but still quite large with a curving egg shape. The light was coming from a crack in the ceiling, through which was shining a faint shaft of sunlight. There was also the smell of fresh air in this room. That crack must have opened quite recently, perhaps due to an earthquake. It helped illuminate the chamber and allowed Vorador to decrease the amount of energy he portioned to his spell.

This new chamber had a gigantic pit in the centre leading down into an abyss so deep that he could not see the bottom. Suspended over this drop was a large contraption that was made out of many metallic pipes leading in and out of the walls. Attached to each pipe was a square plate upon which was an engraved image. However, the images made no sense, as they led off the edge of their plates leaving the whole picture un-viewable. There were also four pressure plates about several feet across set around the outside of the pit, each with a different symbol carved into their surface.

Vorador's eyes, however, were drawn immediately to the large door just to the left-hand side. It was a good thirty feet high and twenty wide and made of pitched grey metal. Somehow, the Vampire sensed that beyond this door was the way up and out of these caverns.

He looked around for some sort of release mechanism. There was no sign of any switch or lever. The door seemed impervious.

-0-

"It would seem my way was bared until certain conditions were met. How tedious."

-0-

He turned then and looked back with a more critical eye at the strange contraption suspended over the pit. He approached and looked more closely at the metal plates and their engraved lines. As he took longer to observe he saw what he had missed the first time around. The images of the plate were part of a disconnected whole. Like a jigsaw puzzle, once the plates were together in the proper order they would make a single uniform picture.

Vorador glanced down to his right and looked at one of the pressure pads which he had thus far simply ignored as unimportant. Experimentally he pressed it down with one foot. In reaction there was a deep grinding sound of some mechanical device within the walls. Settled dust was discarded from holes in the wall and a set of pipes began to pull backward, moving the plates attached to them backwards and into a different position. At the same time another set moved in the opposite direction and yet even more plates were shifted.

The Vampire frowned in annoyance.

-0-

"This puzzle was clearly significant. If I wanted to progress, it would have to be solved."

-0-

Clearly he would have to put the plates back into order but the contraption required a great deal of memory and coordination. Each pressure plate moved two sets of pipes back and forth but also disrupted others. In order to put the puzzle back into its proper order each of the plates had to be pressed several times and in the right sequence. It also did not help that Vorador did not know what the image they were meant to display looked like.

Gradually, however, he worked out the process, methodically pressing each pad down and experimenting with different combinations. He learned from any mistakes he made and was adamant about not repeating them.

He perceived that this was a locking mechanism, perhaps designed to keep any but the most learned and intellectual out. Or maybe it was merely a cultural innovation with some special meaning unique to its creators.

He pressed the pressure pad down one final time and watched as the last of the plates shunted into their correct positions. The plates now fit tightly together and, whole in the light from the crack in the roof, Vorador could see that once they were united they formed the image of a colossal spider. All eight legs pushed out to the edges of the combined rectangle.

There was a deep groaning noise from the walls and hidden mechanisms responded to the completion of the puzzle. Vorador could even feel the turning and contracting of the machines in the ground beneath his feet. A loud grating sound began from directly behind him and turning around, Vorador watched as the large metal door which had barred his way began to slide down to the floor. It moved slowly as if the device which operated it was rusty from lack of maintenance, but soon the way beyond was revealed and his path now unimpeded.

-0-

"With the spider now whole again, the way out of these dingy caves had finally been opened."

-0-

Beyond the doorway there was a third chamber, but this appeared to be the last one. The room was a shaft, rising up high in a jagged spire full of lancing rocks and precipices. Through these obstructions the sky itself was visible, although the top of the shaft was covered by a thick metallic grate which at this distance was hazy and blurred by the flare of the light.

Vorador, however, ignored all of that, despite having found the way out. His attention was taken completely by the central pillar that rose up from the floor before him in a pool of sunlight. He walked towards it, dismissing his illumination spell. With so much natural light there was no need for it.

The standing stone was about three times his own height and made from a strange grey material and sharply angled, like a cut fruit. Engraved onto its surface was the icon of the same spider that he had seen on the plates in the last chamber.

-0-

"This obelisk was no ordinary stone erection. There was a subtle power that I could faintly sense; a dormant energy that must have been locked within for centuries. It was totally unfamiliar, an alien galvanism."

-0-

The Vampire stopped a short distance away from the stone and looked up, examining its strange dimensions and subtle cravings. The stone itself was clearly not natural either for there was a deep energy, a sort of pocket of magical power sealed within. He could sense that whatever it was, that power had lain there slumbering for a great amount of elapsed time.

Slowly Vorador reached out and laid one hand against the dark stone surface. As soon as he did he felt a sudden and jarring jolt. It passed down his arm and directly into his body, leaving him paralysed for an instant. In that same moment and following just behind that jolt came a shockwave of insight and power.

The trapped energy he sensed within the pillar was feeding directly into him, filling his body with new energies and his mind with instructions.

-0-

"As I absorbed the energy I could feel it change me, filling my body and mind with the encapsulated information. In a flash of insight, I understood fully a different form."

-0-

It was like employing all the training necessary to understand and learn a new ability within the space of a heartbeat, a fast and powerful education that forced from him a gasp of surprise and even alarm. With an effort of will he tore his hand free of the stone and he staggered back a few steps. But it had already been done. The energy had passed onto him now and had merged with his own powers seamlessly.

Vorador stood there, letting himself feel the new power flow through his body. He already had the ability to turn into a carrion bird and a wolf and the stone had now imparted to him a new form, a third to stand with his set of different shapes.

Without pausing to think, he pictured the new animal in his mind and let himself flow into it. It felt different, having been so used to only the two forms for all these years and the different and superior number of legs were definitely harder to coordinate.

His new form resembled a colossal, pale green wolf spider, about the size of a large dog. Each one of his new eight legs was covered in sensitive hairs that let him feel out the vibrations in the air, sensing movement instantly. In this body he was far more acutely aware of his surroundings than he had ever been before.

Acting on instinct, he began to scuttle across the floor and then up the wall. He effortlessly clung to the surface with his hooked feet and began to climb, moving higher and higher until he reached the first ledge in the shaft. From his vantage point he paused to consider his new form and all of its benefits.

-0-

"As unpleasant as it was to adopt the form of a scuttling insect, the spider had abilities that were useful to me. In this form I could scale sheer surfaces with ease and traverse tight, dark corners. I could spin webs to cross large crevices and ensnare enemies from the safety of the shadows. Repulsive, but convenient."

-0-

Just what beings had constructed this underground place and then been able to seal away the essence of a creature within stone for him to later absorb? Regardless of the answer, this was most fortuitous as it gave him the ability to ascend the shaft to the outside world. Dancing around on his long legs, Vorador began to ascend the shaft towards the daylight above.