Events now unfold as they must on Nosgoth. Ancient forces opposed for centuries have chosen their avatars and defenders. The coming conflict is one long in the making, but surprisingly short in execution, as all great events are. The end result will determine the future of an entire world. In accordance with the vast scope of this situation, there are many attentions focused on the outcome.
In a sunken and secluded grotto in the Underworld, the being who has identified itself as the Elder God writhes with frustration as its supposed cats-paw moves ever further out of its reach.
Bound fast in the prison of her grief, Ariel, ex-Guardian of the Pillar of Balance, haunts ceaselessly the site of her death, long aggrieved but ever ready to subtly play the earthly beings who succumb to her plight. Her mission is not to be denied for any plea or misgiving.
Raziel, Reaver of Souls, stands at the threshold of his final brother’s sanctuary, secretly aided by forces owing no allegiance to anyone save him. He has found his purpose and the means to carry it out, but whether or not he will triumph in this battle is not a foregone conclusion. Raziel’s is the hardest lot to bear.
And finally, there is Kain. The God of Nosgoth watches his two eldest sons prepare to engage in fatal war, ready to take advantage of the situation no matter the result. Kain is become an entity of unspeakable force, and there is nowhere on this planet that his influence is not felt. Yet even this is insufficient. For him, only ultimate control will suffice. He must be answerable to nothing and no one, not even his own past. This spectacle of treachery and murder is the work of Kain’s careful hand.
Raziel is a powerful player in this game, but he has yet to fully realize the extent of his Father’s ambition.
The time has come. The omissions and disappointments will be set aright.
Now, read on.
At Raziel’s command, they took up their positions.
The Open Eye was the nerve center of the Tower, a vital strategic point that had now fallen into the hands of Turel’s worst enemy.
Eight Turelim stood in a circle in the center of the room. In appearance, they were of the same breed that had opposed Raziel during his entire trek through the monolith. But where once there had been a foe, now there was an ally. From out of the eyes of each vampire peered an undead Razielim wraith, newly ensconced within a stolen body. The clan of Raziel had been reborn, and their entire race now stood within this room in service to the Reaver of Souls.
Cellidane issued a brief order, and the Razielim opened their minds, reaching out to lock hold of one another in a powerful union. Beneath their feet, the floor began to shake, to rumble in distress. Moments later the crisis passed as the coven adjusted to the sensation of their new role.
Raziel moved closer to Cellidane, interested. He could feel the energy in the room, directed around the metal globe borne aloft in the center of the Open Eye. Beneath it, the basin of sand began to tremble. As Raziel watched, ripples moved across the grains, flowing in concentric rings out from the middle. Then the sand began to swirl about like a whirlpool. It thinned around the center, and the shallow bottom of the basin came into view. The hole in the sand began to widen, until the entire mass became a ring of particles surging up to the basin’s edge.
Cellidane opened her eyes and turned to Raziel. “It is done,” she said.
“And done well, my children,” Raziel responded approvingly. The other Razielim beamed at each other. Now they knew it could be accomplished. Raziel could see their sense of achievement and pride. Strangely, he felt heavy-hearted. They were together now, but when all this was over, when Turel was finally defeated, how many would be left? Would his clan continue, or would he once again be alone in this world? Sadness, a sensation of grief and emptiness, settled in his stomach and ran through his bones. But this feeling also made him aware of his resolve. He now had something real to fight for, something solid and good. He was on an equal footing with Turel, if not greater. Raziel would fight for his children, both living and dead.
“My lord,” the vampire named Oneld spoke up, and Raziel directed his attention to her. “We are now certain we can carry out our role in your plan, and we all applaud its merits. But why do you limit your own chances for success?” She moved toward the globe. “You see, if we were to…”
“I am aware of your concerns, Oneld,” Raziel interrupted her, “and while I admit my odds for victory would be greatly improved, do not assume that my reasons for discarding that solution are frivolous. We are already pressed for time in this venture. Turel is aware of us.”
“Yes,” Raziel continued as his children shifted uncomfortably and darted wary looks at the chamber’s entrances. “He has felt his servants’ deaths, especially Ellich De. And the Tower’s unexpected halt has surely not gone unnoticed. Turel will send his hordes to investigate, and that is when the danger to you becomes very real, much to my shame and regret.” Raziel turned slowly as he spoke, so that he could see them all. “They will come, and though I know your wrath against them is great, and justly so, you must refrain from provoking them to attack. To this end, you will seek to suppress the evidence of your true wraith selves. All except for Cellidane, whose body’s former occupant shared that mark.” The Razielim glanced down at their bodies, at the blue sparks of dark energy rising from their skin. They concentrated, and the effect subsided, wrapped tightly within their collective selves.
“The sight of you here will confuse your assailants, hopefully keep them from recognizing you and our design. With luck,” Raziel spoke grimly, hating himself but not seeing any way around it, “we will all see each other again when this is over. I would barter my soul for it.”
“We understand, my lord,” Thraim spoke up respectfully.
Raziel sighed. “My children,” he said, feeling a little awkward, “that is another matter. I am no longer a vampire, the head of the clan. I am not your lord. My need for honorifics is long past, and we are the closer for it. Please, if you must call me anything, I know you have all earned the right to address me as Raziel.”
The Razielim glanced around at each other uncertainly, clearly at a loss for this.
“Raziel,” Cellidane said it slowly, hesitatingly. She blinked and looked over at her father.
“Feels odd,” she said.
Raziel stared, and then threw back his head and laughed, long, loud and unrestrained. The other Razielim soon followed his lead, even Cellidane, and for a time, they forgot about their situation, heedless of the danger, and did as their hearts commanded.
After a while, the furor died down. Someone whispered, “Raziel!” and the room burst into giggles, but they were quickly hushed. Raziel chuckled and shook his head, amazed at the unpredictability of life. When he looked up, he saw Cellidane staring at him, an expression halfway between tears and joy on her face. Without question, Raziel moved forward and put his arms about her in a tight embrace. It felt strange, touching this rough body and knowing that his daughter was within it. But the unfamiliarity was dispelled by her own arms around him.
“You came back to us,” Cellidane whispered tearfully. “Thank you, Raziel.”
“I love you, daughter,” was all he needed to say.
They parted, and Cellidane wiped her eyes briefly with too-large claws. Raziel then walked about the circle, holding and speaking to each of his children for what he hoped was not the final time. They all had some words for him, and he cherished them, his beautiful clan.
Finally he came to Ikarus at Cellidane’s right hand. When Raziel looked in the vampire’s eyes he saw something there, different from the others and indefinable. The two of them embraced, and Raziel whispered, “I know you can do this.”
Silence. Then a low, fierce voice spoke in his ear, “I will not fail her again.”
Raziel stepped back to study Ikarus. There was an incontrovertible promise in his words. But there was no time to reflect on the import of this. Turel was waiting for him. Raziel walked over to the gate that would lead to the throne hall. He pressed a knob in the surface and the portal parted to reveal an empty hallway.
It had come down to this. He and Turel would face each other to settle old wrongs. Raziel felt neither exhilaration nor fear. With a final look back at his clan, he stepped over the threshold, and the doors closed behind him with a harsh boom of finality.
Razielim watched him go, and then turned to their task. Linking their power
once again, they bent their will upon the globe. The tiny obelisk floating
above it began to move once again, and the
There was dead silence in Turel’s throne room. The Turelim guards alternated between scanning the hall and staring in morbid fascination at the other end of the chamber. Far away from them, Turel remained upon his throne, unmoving. He had not so much as stretched for nearly an hour, only sat as immobile as a statue. He seemed ready to wait for the rest of eternity.
Jehamiah, however, was sick to death of waiting and showing it.
He prowled slowly through the throngs like a shadow of war. While his movements were unhurried, his eyes blazed with a ferocious intensity. Occasionally he would stop and crouch down on the floor, and when he did, he would think. These were his thoughts:
I have spent over half my life in this Tower, and much of that time I have not been allowed to leave it. I have seen these halls and trod these paths countless times. I actually remember the curves of columns and the number of steps and I am weary of it. I must get out.
Jehamiah rose and walked again, then sat back on his haunches. He clasped his hands together and squeezed as hard as he could until he felt bone snap and the pain took up most of his thoughts. Then he let go and waited to heal.
I am a warrior. Combat and death are my lifeblood. And yet I have more memories of pilasters and hypostyle halls than of battles. In the outside world I am no more than a figure in stories. I have been patient and loyal for my father Turel, even though I know he is…
Jehamiah did not finish but leapt to his feet and padded slowly about, concentrating on keeping his movements controlled and even. One must not rush, one must have patience. When he felt secure, he stopped again.
Although I am immortal, I am still aware of time. I feel seconds and days pass me by no more rapidly than any wretched human. I chafe and foam at being trapped in here while the world moves and things die outside. My lord Turel is aware of my needs and thus he has given me hope. I know when I shall finally be released, and when I am, I swear I shall never set foot in this insane Tower again.
Stand and walk. The excitement was inside him, a frenzied need for life-and-death struggle, but he suppressed it, though it cost him dearly.
Raziel is coming. He is the key to my prison. A blood battle, here, against a son of Kain, truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. One glorious, righteous fight to begin my life anew as a warrior…unending days… for all time I will battle and slay. Let the assault (the deaths) begin…
The floor suddenly lurched beneath Jehamiah. Startled, he hastily gripped the stones for balance. For a moment his sense of equilibrium was completely shot. Confused and angry, he looked around to see some of the guards sprawled on the floor in bewildered chagrin. Jehamiah’s steely gaze traveled over them, and the royal troops hurriedly strove to find their bearings. For a time, nothing and no one seemed to move, and as Jehamiah was just about to question his sire, Turel stood up and screamed.
The guards whirled around towards the throne, shouting in consternation. Jehamiah sprang past them and ran down the hall. Turel was alone, no one else was there.
“My lord!” Jehamiah shouted. “What…?”
“Ellich De!” Turel cried. “He is gone, I felt him…die.” Turel paused, blinking uncertainly. “What?” he whispered. “What is this?!”
“Silence!” Turel hissed with a violent sweep of his arm. He leaned forward, his claws splayed on the floor, eyes staring fixedly at a point off in space. Minutes passed, and Jehamiah felt as if he must explode with fury. Why did Turel do this to him?!
“There but not there,” Turel finally muttered. “Here and gone.” He seemed equally confused as Jehamiah, but more furious by far.
“That bastard!” he slavered. “How dare he mock me? He will not reap my children, by all the pits of hell, can I rely on none of you?!”
Turel rose up to his full height and glared murderously at the quailing mob of Turelim far off. “Be gone from my sight! I was a fool to imagine you could have any impact on the outcome of this battle. Go now, while you are still alive!” he shrieked, and the bewildered guards stumbled over themselves in their haste to reach the floor gate.
“Jehamiah!” Turel roared without looking around. “The Open Eye has fallen to our enemy, but Ellich De’s condition is unknown to me. You will lead a force to regain control of my Tower, and if Ellich De is not past all means of revival then you will bring him back. Now go!”
The first lieutenant did not move.
Panting with rage, it took Turel a few moments to notice that his servant was still beside him. He turned his gaze downward, and the father’s eyes locked with the son’s.
Jehamiah stared up at his lord. It was too much. He could not keep quiet about this. His long-ingrained loyalty now warred with common sense. Jehamiah thought about what to say to his sire and how best to say it. He then decided that he no longer cared.
“Have you lost your mind?” he whispered forcefully. Turel’s eyes slowly widened with incredulity.
“If he is at the Open Eye,” Jehamiah continued, “then he is practically upon us. And you, you cast out your own guards. What is this folly? Are you set on meeting the same end as your brothers?!”
Turel licked his lips. “Be silent!” he rasped.
“I will not be silent, not with what is at stake here!” Jehamiah roared back. He was livid with fury, heedless of any danger. “I have earned the right to address you truthfully! I have lived confined, rotting away in this flying mad house for seven hundred years, because I had faith in you, in your judgment. You are the finest of us all, you are the last imperial Son of Kain! And now when the threat you have planned against and even feared for so long finally appears, you will not let me fight by your side? Sending me off to tend to that diseased slug?!”
Turel’s face was writhing and contorting in an obscene display, but Jehamiah could not stop himself.
“Are all Kain’s children bent on self-destruction?! It will not happen again! Turel, I will not leave you!!”
A massive claw swept out and slammed into Jehamiah. It tore into his face and sent him flying across the hall. He rolled to a stop and lay still, too stunned to move.
Turel slid towards him, and as he did he spoke. His voice was completely calm. “You may not address me by such familiarity, my servant. I am your lord and father, your better. I am the future ruler of this earth, and I will not be spoken to in that way ever again.”
Turel reached down and picked Jehamiah up in his huge talons. He carried the paralyzed lieutenant over to the portal. “You say you will not leave here? Then so be it; it is my decree that you never will leave this Tower. After I have overcome my insignificant elder and imprisoned him here, then you will remain as his jailor. It is a great honor, Jehamiah, and an eternal one. For so long as this world lasts. That is the reward you have earned.”
Standing over the open portal, Turel held Jehamiah up before his face. He studied him for what seemed like the longest time.
“This is the last I will ever speak to you, my son. Have you anything to tell me?”
Jehamiah gazed blearily at his sire, at the look on his face.
“You are,” he gurgled, “insane.”
Turel dropped him through the portal to land on the crystal floor below. Then he used his power to force the metal eye to iris shut, taking the time to crush the mechanisms and permanently seal it closed. Alone, Turel waited for his brother to arrive.
Beneath the throne hall, a crowd of Turelim gathered about the prone form of their leader. Jehamiah could feel his bones knitting back together. Blood flowed into his mouth from the gashes in his face. It tasted almost sweet. But the blood-flow seemed to be receding. The wounds were closing. NO!
With a snarl, Jehamiah lurched up. He dug his talons into the wounds left by Turel’s claws, ripping them open afresh. The Turelim around him shrank back in horror. Blood flowed into his mouth again, and this time Jehamiah willed the tears to stay open.
It was all over.
Turel had declared he would never leave here, and he had spent his life according to Turel’s wishes. This Tower would be his tomb.
If that were the case, was there anything he could do to make his sentence more bearable?
Jehamiah brightened immediately. That had not taken long.
He surged to his feet and plowed through the mob of vampires. Reaching the steps he bounded lightly down them. He had a mission to attend to, after all. On the way down he ran into Anhat and some of his aides. Several of them were carrying weapons. Perfect!
Anhat was saying something, but Jehamiah found it difficult to follow. He reached out and took a broad-bladed naginata spear from one of the others. Then he pushed past them as swiftly as he could, racing down the stairs. One of Anhat’s minions had for some reason gone over the railing and was falling towards the Tower’s crescent platform far below. Now why did I not think of that? Jehamiah pondered. Much faster. He vaulted over the side of the stairs and plunged hundreds of feet down. After the impact, he simply waited for himself to heal and then ran on. He had to get to the Open Eye. He had a message for Ellich De.
Anhat could scarcely believe what had just happened. Jehamiah was obviously wounded and out of control. What had transpired above? Fear clutched his stomach in its icy grip. Had Raziel breached the throne hall? Was Turel safe? For a moment Anhat was caught between his desire to pursue Jehamiah and the need to assure his lord’s safety. Eventually he came to a decision. He ordered two of his retinue to follow the first lieutenant and prevent him from coming to any harm. Then he tore up the stairs.
Upon reaching the top, he found a pack of Turelim milling about, clearly at a loss for what to do. “What is going on here?!” Anhat demanded sharply.
The presence of an authority figure seemed to reassure the vampires. One of them mustered the resolve to speak. “All was quiet, and then the Tower shook, and Turel began berating us. He ordered us to leave the throne room. A few moments later he dropped Jehamiah through the portal and sealed it shut. Sir Anhat, what should we do?”
Anhat considered. So Raziel was not inside yet. But something had occurred at the Open Eye, so that meant…
“You will remain here,” Anhat ordered, “ and force your way into the throne room at the first sign of struggle. No matter what befalls you, Turel must be defended. It is for the survival of our race. Our lives mean nothing if we lose him.” He turned then to his remaining followers. “We must aid Jehamiah in securing the Open Eye. Come!”
Raziel moved openly along the dimly lit tunnel. Opposition from the Turelim no longer concerned him. Nothing could prevent his confrontation with Turel. Only the fate of his children caused him some distress. However, as he proceeded on his way, there remained no sign of any Turelim guards, leading him to wonder if his path would be as unobstructed as with his previous brothers. They had all eschewed direct protection from their offspring. It could be Turel had succumbed to the same vanity.
He remembered this way clearly. In what seemed no time at all, the Reaver of Souls arrived at his destination.
A plain stone door stood before him. Raziel did not pause to wonder what lay ahead. The only thing that mattered at all was that Turel was in this room. He could feel it. Raziel flexed his claw, and the Soul Reaver unclenched from around his heart and flowed from his palm to form the wraith blade. Raziel scorned subtlety. His brother knew he was there. He charged his weapon with telekinetic force, drove it into the blood-red stone, and the door exploded outwards.
Raziel strode into the darkened hall without fear. The lofty chamber was much as he remembered it. There was no light from torches, not even the devices which had brightened the rest of the castle. But even through these dim shadows, Raziel could see that the throne room was deserted.
Wary now, Raziel stepped further into the chamber. Do not underestimate Turel, he advised himself. As he surveyed his surroundings, he became aware that the room was not as lightless as he had first believed. At the far end of the hall, a harsh yellow glow starkly delineated Turel’s throne. Carved from the rarest and most valuable material on Nosgoth, the grandiose seat of solid wood seemed much larger than Raziel remembered, even from this distance. The light beckoned him towards it by instinctive need, but Raziel resisted the bait. Instead he took the time to examine the layout of the throne room. The more time Turel gave him to work out the last details, the better. His brother was lurking somewhere in this area. Raziel could sense a powerful presence, but for reasons he did not care to know his brother had not yet revealed his location. Perhaps he was hiding in fear. Raziel did not allow himself the luxury of enjoying that thought. Too much was at risk here to be careless.
By the far-off light, Raziel could discern some detail to the hall’s furnishings. Huge tapestries decorated the walls. At each end of the chamber, he recognized two gargantuan banners of viridian hue with Turel’s clan symbol etched in gold, a holdover from his own time. But arrayed along the space between were new additions, rotting sails of cloth. Despite their depleted condition and the dim light, the former vampire prince could tell that these were once his own clan banners, now hung here for Turel’s aggrandizement. His brother seemed to have a habit of putting evidence of his genocidal past on display.
Moving with studious control, Raziel reached the end of the hall opposite the throne. Where once there had been a sweeping staircase, now there was only a large circle of interconnecting metal blades. Raziel could deduce no means of opening it. Faintly, he thought he could hear noises below, and the metal shook slightly.
A tremor touched his soul. Raziel swung about, the Soul Reaver raised in defense. Nothing. He was still alone, although he knew Turel was watching him somehow. Did his brother seek to frighten him with these tactics? What are you playing at, Turel?
The brightly illuminated throne still caught his eye. Glancing about, Raziel probed the empty hall, the metal portal, the flags above him. Very well, brother. I will pretend to follow your directions if it means you will finally face me. With that, Raziel moved down the hall. Turel watched him go.
The lord of the Turelim lurked in a small hollow hidden in the wall behind his expansive clan banner. This was a secret know only to him. Such a simple trick, and yet sufficient to lend him the element of surprise. Through a hole in the fabric, he watched Raziel turn his back and creep towards the throne. Turel felt his heart racing, but his mind was clear. A simple trick, one that you would have fallen to once before, had I not been there.
Do you recall, Raziel…?
It had been late in their lives then, only a few years before what neither of them suspected would be their last Clan Meeting together. It was certainly a time for strange occurrences. For only the second time ever, a schism had developed in the vampire community. An offshoot cult had suddenly come to fruition, heretics who defied the rule of Kain and worshipped their own leader, an upstart vampire who claimed to be a survivor from the time before Kain. They practiced forbidden magics and even dared to invade a temple of Kain, sullying its treasures and feasting on its human worshippers. Their leader declared himself a God and challenged Kain to come and bow before him.
As it happened, this little rebellion came at a very unfortunate time, for Kain had mysteriously vanished. It had been his wont as of late to undertake these unannounced absences, offering no explanations upon his return. No one, not even Raziel, knew when he might be back. So the first lieutenant decided that they would deal with this blasphemy themselves, and Turel had agreed.
The two eldest brothers ordered Dumah to watch over the other clans, then mustered their armies and departed towards the temple settlement where the coven now kept its head. The two mighty forces descended on the motley array of mixed clan members with the sweeping force of a divine wave. They slew their opponents mercilessly, fighting the fanatics in the streets around the temple
Within a short while the forces of Kain had breached the hastily erected defenses. Raziel and Turel led the charge that pierced the temple gates. Swarming into the inner sanctum, butchering any who got in their way, they found the holy relics destroyed and the great altar defiled with a huge pile of filth and human refuse. Outraged, Raziel had approached the sadly disgraced altar. Turning back to his followers, he had ordered them to remove the detritus.
As he did, Turel saw something move within the pile behind Raziel. “Beware!” he cried, and dove forward. From the heap emerged the coven’s leader, an axe in his grip. He swung at Raziel’s head, but Turel had pushed his brother aside, and the blade deflected off his arm to slice down deep into his ribs. With a snarl of fury, Turel reached forward, grasped the vampire’s squealing head and ripped it from its body with a powerful twist.
Turel swayed on his feet, and Raziel rushed to pull the axe from his brother’s chest. As the wound closed, the first-born lieutenant gave his sibling a grateful smile. Their minions all shouted their praise of Turel’s valiant action.
The rebel leader was revealed to be only a Zephonim, much to Zephon’s disgrace. When Kain finally returned from his outing, he was told the whole story. In the presence of his sons, he had questioned Raziel as to his safety. Then, even as Turel grieved at being shunted aside again, Kain left Raziel’s side and approached his second-born. Looking him in the eyes, Kain had clasped his shoulder and spoken affectionately, “Well done, my son. You have my praise and thanks.” Turel had never forgotten. It was the only time his Father had ever said such words to him. All because he had saved Raziel’s life.
Now to win his father’s respect, he would take that life. Again.
Raziel withdrew further down the hall, unaware of the danger behind him. Turel drew the drape aside and floated out to hover silently on the air. There would be no mistakes. His time was now. With that, Turel swept silently down, building up speed. Raziel still had not noticed.
Turel drew back a deadly claw, soared in closer. No one to save you now…
Raziel moved warily, scanning the throne. He could see no danger. Perhaps Turel…
Raziel did not question. He dove forward, and felt something huge sweep over him, a rush of air accompanied by an inhuman howl of defeat. Raziel rolled, came quickly to his feet and cast the Fire Glyph.
A magical inferno exploded through the hall. The range of the spell caught the ancient cloth of Raziel’s clan banners, setting them ablaze and causing them to collapse in heaps to the floor. A terrible shriek tore the air, and then the effects of the spell had passed.
Unharmed, Raziel stared. Before him, the royal throne smoked and smoldered. The Turelim flag that hung above it was engulfed in orange fire. And silhouetted against that blaze, a great black shadow hung in midair.
For the first time in over 1000 years, Raziel saw his brother Turel.
Eyes tightly shut, the Razielim continued to work their magic, when a terrific boom carried down through the tunnel. Some of them paused in their efforts, casting anxious glances down the darkened passageway. They knew what it meant. The Turelim were coming for them.
“Stop that!” Cellidane hissed. “Raziel is depending on us not to falter. Come what may, we will not fail him.”
The Razielim all nodded in silent accordance, and once again concentrated on their work. Cellidane watched them strive with fierce determination and suddenly felt tears come to her eyes. If necessary, she would willingly give up her life to see Raziel victorious. But the thought of her deputies once again following her lead into death still pained her. For a moment she felt sick and unspeakably ashamed.
Warm thoughts, a presence beside her, brought Cellidane back. She turned her head to see Ikarus, a smile on his face. Grateful for his support, Cellidane smiled in return. So reassured, she resumed her efforts.
Gradually, faint noises began to issue from the tunnel. Odd sounds, snarls and scrapings, they were made all the more unnerving because they seemed to be issuing from only one throat. Then a gruesome roar sounded, closer than before, and Cellidane could not help but flinch. Whatever it was, it was coming closer. They could hear the sound of heavy feet racing towards them. With it came an odor, a taint of something wrong that Cellidane could not describe. It was unwholesome, terrifying, and unmistakably familiar. Somehow she knew that scent. But they could not be distracted. Everything lay upon their success. Cellidane breathed deeply, letting the telekinetic force flow from her hands. For Raziel. I will die for him.
Die…in this room…that scent…Oh, no….
And just as Cellidane remembered, Jehamiah burst into the room.
Monstrous, unstoppably violent, Turel’s first lieutenant brought with him the fetor of madness and slaughter, of endless death. Two crimson gashes in his face wept blood ceaselessly. His eyes burned like fiery coals, and in his claws he held a spear. As he beheld his quarry at last, gasping laughter stuttered from his throat. Then he paused. For a moment, through a blood-red haze, he could not identify Ellich De. It looked as if all of them were sending up sparks. Jehamiah blinked and the scene was normal. Ellich De was standing in his usual spot. Jehamiah growled eagerly. Slowly he stalked forward. Flicking the naginata from one paw to another, he advanced on his prey.
Cellidane felt him draw up behind her, kept her eyes firmly shut. She knew that she was dead. All that mattered was contributing as much to their cause as she could.
Jehamiah circled Ellich De, feeling the lust to kill sparking inside him, energizing him. He had to speak first, let the bastard know what was coming, but his teeth were clenched so tight that he had to force his jaws open. His breath leaked out, conveying the stench of dead things. “Well… you seem fine, Ellich… in good form. Mayhaps Turel was mistaken.”
Ellich De remained silent.
“What?” Jehamiah rasped softly, seductively. “No greeting for your superior? No bandying of sweet words? As you said previously, I have developed a facility for them, one might even say a passion.”
His claws tightened their grip on the spear. He grinned in bloody happiness. “I have a message for you, Ellich De.” Beside Jehamiah, one of the Turelim flinched, but the vampire lieutenant did not notice. “It is from Turel.” His talons scraped over the long blade with a shrill note of execution.
“He asked me to tell you,” and Jehamiah swept the spear back, “to die!!”
Someone grabbed the shaft, and Jehamiah spun about. The Turelim before him bared its teeth in his face. “KILLER!!” it roared, and its eyes glowed gray.
“Ikarus, No!” Cellidane cried.
Ikarus?! Jehamiah stared into those gleaming orbs, and recognition passed between them.
“YOU!” he bellowed in fury.
Ikarus opened his mouth and a force projectile slammed into Jehamiah’s face, ripping his wounds open even further. But Jehamiah did not release the spear. He swung Ikarus around, still clutching the shaft, and smashed him against a pillar. Struggling, they both fought for control of the weapon. The sick red eyes of the Turelim clashed with the Razielim’s gray slits.
Two more armed Turelim burst into the room and froze upon seeing the battle.
Cellidane turned her head and matching force blasts flew from her mouth, impacting with the Turelim and knocking them against the wall to land in dazed heaps. Cellidane went back to helping the others. Time was running out. But if necessary, they would fight. They had a choice this time, and no matter whether they lived or died, this time the Razielim would not lose.
The sight of Turel touched Raziel with revulsion.
The figure hovering above him was huge, taller than Dumah. In place of legs there was only a massive conical trunk, tough with muscle. From the base sprouted four thick tentacles that writhed and snapped in fury. The torso was knobbed and bony, an armored shell. The head too seemed to be protected with a bony covering, almost like a helmet. Its face was a nightmare, the mouth filled with sharp teeth, and the nose flowed down into it to form a sort of beak. But on either side of its temples were two long locks of lustrous black hair, a bizarre mark of beauty from Turel’s old form.
The thing’s arms were outspread, and they gave Raziel the most horrific sight of all.
The limbs were long, abnormally so, reaching down to the base of the trunk. The upper arms were regular-sized, although bulging with hard, blockish muscles. But the forearms were a sickening counterpoint. They were lengthy, thin, and almost completely denuded of muscle. Like long spears of bone, they stretched out to end in two great mauling sets of talons. From the thing’s brow, matching pinions of curving bone swept back on either side of the skull, the oversized bat ears that distinguished all borne of Turel’s stock. But unlike the lesser members of the clan, the membranous skin of these implements stretched down, anchoring to Turel’s back and then growing out to form long flaps of skin that connected with the spindly arms. Raziel could see firelight flickering through these transparent half-wings, but his vision was altered by more than just the flames. From these delicate spans poured a constant stream of telekinetic force, rippling the air and serving as the impetus that kept Turel off the ground.
Raziel saw this thing, heard its howls, and a part of his mind knew it was his brother. But as he raised the Soul Reaver and pointed it at his opponent, all he saw was a beast, an abomination from hell. It had to be destroyed.
A ball of energy shot from the Soul Reaver’s tip.
Turel watched it come. His outspread wings kept him in perfect equilibrium in the air. They were his greatest pride more than anything else, for they were the result not of a random act of evolution, but his own determined work. Like all his clan he had developed telekinetic capabilities over the centuries, but he had learned early on that there were far more uses for this talent than were readily apparent. During his gestation periods, Turel had sought time and again to work with his gift from within the State of Change to control the course in which his own body took. Ever mindful of Raziel’s example, he had worked long and hard, under self-inflicted pain, to force his body to develop a counter against Raziel’s undeserved evolutionary gift, and he had succeeded. Muscle and tissue were stripped from his arms to become the lacy flaps of skin that could direct waves of gravity-defying power from his body, asserting his control over himself and superiority over Raziel.
His brother’s spell had caused him momentary pain in his wings, but the magic had ultimately found no purchase on his body. It was not strong enough. That was one less thing to worry about. Now there was only the Soul Reaver, their Father’s lost weapon brought against his son. It had been so long since Turel had been in actual combat. But he was still a child of Kain, vampire, warrior-born. As the energy burst streaked towards him, Turel glided easily off to one side, and the attack flew wide of its mark to dissipate against the chamber wall. My turn, sibling, he thought calmly. Turel opened his fang-filled jaws wide.
Raziel tensed. The creature’s agility in the air was remarkable. If he was to come out of this fight the victor, he would have to find some way to bring it to ground. Then the beast opened its maw with a guttural intake of breath. Raziel guessed what was coming and quickly ran beneath the thing, presenting a moving target. It turned, following his route, and then with a piercing screech, a wave of telekinetic power flooded from its throat. It was like a long sustained series of blasts, a force battering ram, and all this destructive power was directed at Raziel.
The Reaver leapt to one side, and the solid stone floor where he had stood was pulverized into dust and rubble. Raziel rolled upright and fired two force blasts of his own before continuing his mad dash about the room. Had to avoid standing still, he could not afford to be hit by one of those waves. The monster dodged both of his shots gracefully, floating like a feather on the wind, but as it did Raziel noticed that it was now flying much lower than before. Apparently those attacks caused it to lose altitude. Good to know. That meant it would have to come down sometimes. Now he had something to work towards. But all thoughts of a plan were swept from his mind as the creature once again charged its attack.
Turel launched his force ram, tearing a swath of carnage across his throne hall in pursuit of Raziel. As he did, he could feel himself sink towards the floor. He was now only twenty feet off the ground, and every movement was costing him more energy. He would have to land soon and recharge, and Raziel still had the Soul Reaver, curse it! Very well, then; let it be on my terms. And with that, Turel flew as far away from Raziel as he could, concentrated his power, and fired one last defensive salvo in a broad arc. Then he dropped to the ground with a heavy thud and began to build up his reserves.
Raziel dodged the last assault and came up again. His footing was growing more treacherous now. Through the haze of red dust he strained for some sign of his enemy’s whereabouts. Then with delight he saw it at the other end of the hall, no longer airborne and now within his reach. Time to take the offensive. With the Soul Reaver extended, Raziel dashed forward. If he could at least disable its wings, he would have a fighting chance.
Turel saw him coming, and fear numbed his heart. He raised his claws protectively, determined to keep Raziel from getting near his body. His extended reach was both an invaluable aid and a grievous weakness. Every attack left his wings vulnerable, but he had no other alternative.
Raziel approached the creature swiftly. It had seen him, and there was no turning back. He raised his wraith blade and fired a blast at its face. It lifted one arm and caught the attack on its broad claw. Raziel came in closer and swung his weapon at the thing’s arm, but to his surprise it slid over the ground out of reach. Its tentacles were what provided it with mobility on the floor, greater than Raziel had expected. This would not be easy, he thought, and as he did, a taloned fist plowed towards him. Raziel jumped lightly back and considered the monster. How much time before it could lift off again? Then, as if in answer, it spread its arms.
Turel gloated. He was now fully recovered. The telekinetic might flared through his membranous wings. They surged and billowed. Raziel lunged towards him, but Turel bunched the muscles in his trunk and sprang straight up, unleashing his collected power at the same time to send himself soaring high up into the ceiling. There he waited.
Raziel glared darkly at his hovering assailant. He had been too cautious. If he expected to gain the upper hand, he would have to try something daring.
High above him, Turel watched his brother carefully. Which of them would make the next move? Raziel was circling below him. He did not attack. What was he up to? Some kind of plan? Rest assured, I am by far the superior tactician, Raziel.
Suddenly the tiny figure turned and ran, moving down the hall towards the door from which he had entered. Escape, little one? Oh no, I think not. With that, Turel launched a rock-crushing wave of power at the open portal. The section of wall exploded in front of Raziel, and Turel saw him thrown back. He bounced along the shattered floor and came to rest in a tangled heap. Turel peered suspiciously at his still form. Was this a sham? He floated a little lower.
Raziel rolled to one side and stood up, swaying unsteadily. Turel gave a quick gasp.
Raziel had lost the Soul Reaver!
Yes! Turel crowed inwardly. Take him now, while he is disoriented! The Turelim prince arced down, his claws outstretched to grab hold. Raziel stumbled away, and Turel swooped in upon him.
Turel lashed out, and Raziel dove forward swiftly. The titan passed over him, and as it did, Raziel raised a claw, and the Soul Reaver surged forth to stab upward into his brother’s body. Turel roared in surprise.
Raziel cried out too.
The Soul Reaver had burst into pieces.
Ikarus was losing the fight, and he knew it. He had attacked Jehamiah in a righteous fury, confident that his new abilities would prove superior to the Turelim’s might. But the sheer power of the hulking warrior was unimaginable, and none of Ikarus’ attacks seemed to slow him down. There was no denying it. Ikarus was afraid.
They were still struggling for control of the spear. Ikarus opened his mouth, and Jehamiah slammed his forehead into the Razielim’s face, bloodying his nose. As the pain caused him to falter, Jehamiah hooked one leg behind Ikarus’ knee and shoved. Both clutching the naginata, they fell to the ground with the Turelim on top.
The battle-crazed warrior drove the spear-shaft across his enemy’s throat and bore down with all his colossal weight and strength. Ikarus struggled, fighting a rising sense of panic, but to no avail. He was completely outmatched, unable now to even focus his superior telekinetic blasts.
Across the room, Cellidane grimaced at the sight of the uneven conflict. But she had graver concerns. The two other Turelim were rising to their feet. Cellidane fired two more shots, and this time when they connected the vampires were sent soaring back into the passageway to disappear from sight. Cellidane swore in despair. She knew Ikarus was losing.
The cold metal crushed into the Razielim’s throat, and he flailed at his opponent ineffectively. The Turelim lieutenant was slobbering with joy, and the blood from his ruined face dripped into Ikarus’ gaping mouth. The Razielim tasted the salty sweetness, found it vaguely unsatisfying. Suddenly, through his despair, it came to him: he was no longer just a vampire, but a vampire wraith. And Jehamiah’s blood, his soul, was open. Drawing on a hunger more intrinsic to him now than strength or power, Ikarus sucked in from his very essence, and flowing pale energy poured from Jehamiah’s bleeding face.
The Turelim gasped, feeling his vitality leave him. He released the spear, and Ikarus shoved him back. Jehamiah suddenly realized what was happening, and before Ikarus could clamber to his feet he quickly stabbed his taloned foot down into the Razielim’s belly, raking along his flesh. Ikarus screamed, and the soul transfer stopped abruptly.
Jehamiah was furiously raising his arms to smash the thief, when something hit him in the chest, catapulting him across the room to impact with the wall.
Ikarus looked up, and Cellidane called, “Finish him, Ikarus! He is weakened!”
Ikarus saw Jehamiah slumped against the wall, blinking in confusion. He raised the naginata blade and took aim, fully aware that this might be his only chance to save the one he loved. Jehamiah’s head came up, their eyes met. The Turelim snarled in challenge, and Ikarus threw.
The spear soared through the air straight at Jehamiah’s chest, and the vampire opened his mouth and screamed out an awesome force blast. The naginata collided with the psychic blow and went spinning off to one side to land with a harsh clang.
Ikarus cursed as Jehamiah began to climb unsteadily to his feet. Again he drew upon the Limbo-born powers within his soul, and the ribbon of Jehamiah’s life began to be drawn from his wounds to feed the Razielim wraith. Outraged, Jehamiah pushed shakily against the floor, his energy fading fast. His claw came down on something. Bringing it up, he found it was a broken metal spike. With a glad cry he surged upright and threw the deadly missile at his distant opponent with all his strength.
Ikarus saw the attack coming, but his spectral feeding slowed his reactions. Unable to dodge, he raised his arms to ward his body, and the spike pierced the back of his right claw. He fell to his knees with a whimper of agony. Clutching the shaft, he tried feverishly to pry it loose, but it was lodged tight in the bone.
Meanwhile, Jehamiah had regained his footing. The mad fury that possessed him compensated for the loss of life energy. Two more spikes were lying by his feet and
Jehamiah scooped them up eagerly, ready for blood. Another force blast came from Ellich De, but this time he dodged aside. The killer vampire then flung one of the spikes at the second lieutenant, but another Turelim was in the way. The spike speared its heart and it fell with a despairing scream. Jehamiah roared blissfully, glad to be in his element again. Not caring whose blood he spilled now, he bounded towards the nearest Turelim in the circle, wrapped his arm around its throat and sank his last spike into its spine. The Razielim wraith howled and thrashed weakly in his grip, and Jehamiah laughed.
Upon hearing his clan brothers scream, Ikarus lurched to his feet. The pain was still great, but he knew he was the only one who could keep the murderous giant from butchering the entire assembly. And Cellidane. He had made a promise to Raziel, to his lord, and he would keep it unto death.
Forgetting the pain, Ikarus lowered his shoulder and stumbled forward. Building up steam, he charged into Jehamiah with all the force he could muster. The vampire lieutenant released his dead victim and staggered back, but remained standing. He grasped hold of the Razielim, planted his feet with a grunt and brought them both to a halt. Without hesitation, Jehamiah locked his fists together in a bony mass and brought them thundering down on Ikarus’ skull. The Razielim slumped down, dazed. Bellowing with rage, Jehamiah continued to club his enemy’s head and back, beating him with savage abandon. Ikarus sagged as the punishing blows rained home. The snarling Jehamiah dragged him upright with one hand and began smashing his fist into his face, pulping the nose and teeth until bone cracked and blood flowed.
Jehamiah then let go, and Ikarus sagged weakly against him. The Turelim vampire lapped the blood greedily off his talons. More, give me more, he exulted, all of what you took from me, before I send you back to the pit!
“Ikarus!” Cellidane screamed imploringly. Locked to her task along with all the rest, she could not bring herself to break away, and yet she could do nothing more to help, as both Ikarus and Jehamiah were now blocked between her by stone columns and her own furiously striving kin. Much as it pained her, their work could not be diminished further, for any reason. Tears flowed down her face as the torture continued unabated.
Ikarus raised his right arm weakly, and Jehamiah kicked him savagely in the ribs, snapping them and piercing his lungs. Then he grabbed Ikarus’ outstretched arm by the wrist, planted one foot against his back and pulled. Choking on his own blood, Ikarus tried to scream and only gagged. He was losing, still a failure. You are a failure, Ikarus, his weakness told him. He heard as much as felt the pain of the bones twisting in his shoulder and arm. Jehamiah strained even harder, panting with delight as he felt the muscles tear and the tendons start to give way. Then with a feral roar, the Turelim gave one last mighty yank, and Ikarus’ arm ripped from his body in a gory spray.
Wielding the appendage like a club, Jehamiah lifted it back and slammed it down on Ikarus’s already prostrate form. Again and again he struck the Razielim, the sick sound of flesh striking muscle only serving to goad him even further with every blow. His body crushed, Ikarus could not even muster the energy to defend himself. He had been a fool, trying to play the part of the hero. His presence had been of no consequence in one life, what had made him think he could matter in another? There was no point in resisting. At length Ikarus lay completely motionless beneath the barrage.
Jehamiah paused. Then he flung the bloody arm away. The gleaming naginata lay only a few feet from him. Swiftly Jehamiah stalked over to it, picked up the spear and returned to Ikarus. He stood over the broken form, watching it twitch and sob. A low growl of anticipation came from his throat. Then Jehamiah raised the weapon on high and drove it deep into Ikarus’ body, impaling him against the floor. The Razielim’s claws scrabbled vainly against the stone, and blood leaked from his mouth.
Stepping back from his handiwork, the vampire madman looked up, a hungry gleam in his eyes that could know no satisfaction. He sought out the target of his insane wrath.
“Ellich De,” he groaned bloodily. And then he advanced on Cellidane.
Ikarus was dying. He knew only a few moments of life remained to him. Best to just let go. Everything was growing hazy. Through blurred and cracked vision he saw the blood-spattered Jehamiah moving towards Cellidane to kill her. And that reached him. He would never let that happen. He loved her, his leader, his soul. And he had made a promise to his lord Raziel. No more failures.
As his sight began to fade, as the brutal pain in his broken body receded, Ikarus of the Razielim focused his power one final time. A few feet away, his severed arm trembled. Then it rose up into the air, locked in his telekinetic grip. The spike driven through his hand gleamed with blood. Ikarus’ heart stopped, his life fled, but with a last surge of desperate will, the arm shot through the air, and talons and spike plowed into Jehamiah’s back to burst from his broad chest.
Jehamiah stumbled, eyes wide with astonishment. He stared at the crimson points protruding from his body. There was no pain, only shock. He turned his head to see Ikarus’ corpse, a sad, dead thing. Then he looked back at Ellich De. But that was not whom he saw. To Jehamiah’s amazement, standing in the broken ring were no Turelim, but seven Razielim wrapped in a gleaming cocoon, their perfect wings outstretched in glorious wonder. They were beautiful.
Jehamiah looked Cellidane in the eyes, and the madness lifted.
Yes, he thought, this is fitting. Peace filled him, and Jehamiah, first lieutenant of the Turelim Pride, fell to the ground and died.
From out of the passageway, the two other Turelim emerged at a run, but Cellidane took a cue from Ikarus. The spears the Turelim had left lying on the floor suddenly rose up and drove straight into their bodies, and they dropped dead with surprised shrieks. Cellidane looked over at Ikarus.
“My dear child,” she whispered. “Thank you.”
From out of the Razielim’s corpse, a gray star of life emerged. It hovered over the empty shell, but instead of disappearing into the Spectral Realm, it flowed over to Cellidane’s side, taking the place previously occupied by Ikarus. When Cellidane looked over at the two Razielim killed by Jehamiah, she saw their souls too hovering above the Turelim bodies. They had never left. They were still joined in this task, set on completing it. So long as one of them still stood, they could all continue to give their support and power.
As they joined together again, Cellidane felt the love from Ikarus, the love she had never known. Upon realizing it, she knew that they had all forgiven her. She had finally found her own peace here, and she was no longer ashamed.
They continued on their way, and none of them heard the sound of running feet coming down the passageway.
The Soul Reaver burst, and Raziel stood shocked. It had felt like a rejection, a mistake of some kind. This had never happened before, not against the other clan leaders. What had he done wrong?
From the other end of the hall, the metal portal squealed in protest and bulged up slightly under the force of several concentrated Turelim force blasts. Suddenly remembering his peril, Raziel turned on Turel.
Before him, his brother floated silently a few feet off the ground. His back was to Raziel, and he seemed to be paying his elder no attention. His thoughts were only for himself.
A trick, it was a trick, he cut me! Turel thought numbly. Looking down, he saw a long gouge of skin running up his body. But there was no blood, no pain, and even as he watched, the wound quickly closed without leaving a mark. Turel stared.
“It cannot hurt me,” he whispered softly. His head slowly came up. Then he turned and looked at Raziel.
“You cannot kill me,” he said aloud.
Raziel froze. It spoke…it was…
Turel nodded, then glided towards him slowly, and Raziel did not move away. He felt hypnotized by this situation. Turel came to within a few feet of him, and this close Raziel could see his face clearly. The mask of bone was not complete. Around the sunken eyes were pockets of aged, wrinkled flesh, giving his face a miserable cast. And they were Turel’s eyes, the same ones Raziel had looked into for centuries. They were not glowing red like the others. They were green with sickly yellow sclera and black pupils, tormented eyes. It really was Turel, his brother. They were together again.
“Father… told me you would… kill me,” Turel said slowly, and there was honest confusion in his voice. Raziel could make no response.
Turel licked his lips and leaned forward, his claws twitching, and stared intently at his brother. “He told me,” he rasped. “He said I lacked…integrity!” His voice was despairing, needy.
“What did he mean, Raziel?!”
Raziel heard his own words to Kain echoed back at him, and it broke the spell. He looked at Turel, grotesquely pleading for understanding before him, and felt an upsurge of powerful emotions. Betrayal. Shock. Disgust and horror. Sadness. He had been wrong. This thing truly was his brother, but not as he had thought. The beast was not Turel.
Turel was the beast.
Staring at the repugnant sight, Raziel knew the answer to give.
“You should have defended them, Turel,” he spoke softly, and Turel jerked back, horrified. It was Father’s voice! Coming from Raziel, it was Kain’s lethal, soulless voice, filled with disappointment and reproach, the shame of being his father.
Raziel saw Turel’s reaction, and from the corner of one glowing eye fell a tear of pure grief. How could you… Turel…
“You should have saved them!”
The words were an accusation, a charge of failure, of a hideous crime, and Turel knew to whom Raziel referred. He drew back, cringing and shaking his head in disbelief.
“No,” he croaked despondently. “No, that… that cannot be true.” Gaping, he stared at the hideous wreck of a being that was his brother. The eyes burned into him, and he looked away quickly, shivering in cold dread. He covered his face with his claws, hiding desperately from the truth that stood before him. Impossible…he had been wrong? All he had achieved had been for nothing, to no end? Had he doomed himself?
A line of saliva fell from Turel’s open jaws, and faint choking sounds emerged from his throat. He lowered his claws and stared at them dully. His distracted gaze then traveled up, to the very heights of his Tower’s throne room. So much time, great deeds and atrocities alike committed, and he had nothing to show for it. Because of Kain. He had done it all for Kain, even going so far as to slay his own brother’s entire clan. He had not wanted to, truly. But Kain had ordered it. Surely Raziel understood that…?
I have to tell him, Turel realized suddenly. He has to understand, I have to make him believe.
“You do not understand, Raziel,” he whispered hoarsely, and Turel looked back into his brother’s glowing white eyes.
“You cannot mean to kill me for that,” Turel pleaded. “It was not my fault. Do you not see?”
“He told me to.”
The words echoed in his ears, and Raziel went cold, like a block of gray marble. The Soul Reaver shot from his fist. A roaring filled his head.
“What?!” he intoned in a strangled gurgle.
“He did, he told me to,” Turel insisted. “You understand, I was only…”
Raziel suddenly stepped forward. “And yet here you face me alone, Turel.” He advanced, and his brother slid back, raising a frightened claw to ward him off.
“No, stay back, do you not hear me? He told me to!” Turel’s voice was rising, becoming more shrill and panicked. He could not die now, he still had so much left to do!
“He has abandoned you for your crimes,” Raziel continued grimly.
“He told me to!” He could not be held accountable! It was Father’s fault, not his! Foam dripped from Turel’s lips. Father, where are you?! Do not kill me, Father!
“What’s the matter, Turel?!” Raziel’s voice grew to a shout, and his brother shuddered, eyes rolling madly in their sockets. The Reaver reached up and dragged away his face-wrap, revealing his mangled face.
“DID YOUR BUTCHERY NOT YIELD THE DESIRED RESULT?!!!”
And Turel threw back his head and screamed. It was sound without reason, the voice of insanity. He launched into the air and stared down with mad eyes that had reached their limit.
“HE! TOLD! ME! TO!!!”
And Raziel ran.
Turel attacked, his force ram ripping apart the stone. Raziel headed straight for the floor portal. As the trail of destruction followed him, the stone floor suddenly blew downwards into the room below. Dozens of Turelim screamed in panic before being smashed to pieces. The whole ceiling of the lower antechamber came down, and the crystal floor cracked horribly, spraying knife-sharp shards into the air.
Yes! Raziel exulted.
Behind him, Turel was preparing for another barrage, all the while weeping and gibbering insanely. Raziel saw what he needed. The heaping remnants of his clan flag still burned furiously. Rushing towards it, Raziel grabbed the rotten fabric and balled it up, heedless of the flames. He turned, ran forwards, and with a mighty yell, lobbed the flaming orb straight at Turel.
Instinctively afraid of fire, Turel dodged aside.
And as he did, Raziel fired a force blast straight into the fiery missile. It exploded, spattering flaming scraps about the room.
Directly behind Turel.
The vampire lord screamed now with pain as the burning pellets covered him. Unlike the Fire Glyph, these were natural flames, not to be balked by his tough skin. The moldering material clung to him, to his hair and his delicate wings. Turel shrieked and thrashed, his concentration broken. His wings gave out and he fell straight down, landing clumsily. He beat frantically at the small flames.
Raziel ran towards him. Turel was momentarily preoccupied with the immediate pain. This was his best chance. He had to get in close, it would not work otherwise. Raziel ducked beneath Turel’s sweeping arms and began to run in a close circle around him.
Just a little more time. Turel had still not noticed. Raziel was almost done with the first revolution. One more, only one more! A glowing ribbon began to unwind in his wake.
Then Turel pivoted swiftly, coming about to face him. A huge claw came up, and the Turelim prince howled in fury.
No! So close!
And Turel’s head snapped back, eyes wide and frightened. His long arms drew in and clutched his chest, and from his mouth burst a single word.
A circle of white light formed around Turel. It blazed, tightened in, and suddenly Turel’s arms were pinned to his sides by Dumah’s spectral constriction band. The glowing ring of energy crushed in upon him, but Turel was still in shock over the death of his first-born child. Raziel ran around him and raised the Soul Reaver.
He drew on his will, his determination to see this thing done, focusing all his pain and loss into his symbiotic weapon. And with a dull boom, a huge ball of purple-white power shot forth and struck Turel in the chest. It lifted him off the ground and he arced through the air, to fall through the hole he had blown in the throne floor.
Turel hit the crystal floor, and the transparent material, already damaged from his previous attack, gave way completely under the force of his landing.
With a garbled cry, Turel fell straight down the main shaft of his Tower.
The lord of the Turelim plummeted towards the crescent stone platform far below. Halfway down he finally realized his danger and strained against the bonds which held him tight. He felt the energy band begin to give, to break, but too late. The stone rushed up to greet him, and he landed on his side with a sickening shock that echoed and reechoed throughout his Tower, heralding the fall of its master.
Several of his children soon hit the floor moments later, but some missed the platform and fell straight down the rest of the way, to the Tower’s base and the main opening. Raziel watched them fall, and keep falling. They went completely out of the Tower, and were swallowed up by the clouds. Light came up clearly from the hole. The telekinetic barrier that sealed the Tower of Turel was now open. His children had accomplished that much. Unconsciously he dragged his face-wrap back up.
It remained to be seen whether the rest would go as easily.
There were now more corpses in the Open Eye than living beings. The Razielim strained their power to the utmost, fighting for every precious second. Each of them felt a disturbing turmoil within their souls, and they knew that somewhere off in the distance, Raziel had finally confronted Turel. But they did their best to ignore this sensation.
But they could not quite ignore it when over a dozen Turelim entered the room, led by Anhat.
The first things Turel’s third lieutenant saw were the two impaled corpses at his feet, and he recognized them as his own minions. He perused the rest of the chamber, but Raziel was nowhere in sight. All he saw were Ellich De and his Turelim cohorts, still actively guiding the Tower.
Confused, he was just stepping forward to liberate his expired aides, when Ellich De suddenly shouted, “Anhat! Come here.”
Anhat started, then loped obediently over to his superior. As he traversed the room, he suddenly gave a horrified gasp.
Jehamiah lay dead on the floor, a severed arm protruding from his body.
Anhat rushed towards him, but Ellich De roared, “Stop!”
“But Sir Ellich, what has…?”
“Jehamiah went mad and attacked us, Anhat,” Ellich De responded. “He slew three of my brethren and those other two before we were able to put an end to him. He has received the death he deserved.”
The younger vampire stared at Jehamiah’s body, then at his dead subordinates, and lastly at Ellich De. Something did not feel right here.
Ellich De turned his head to face Anhat, his eyes still closed. “You seem distressed, little one. There is no need for that. I will personally explain this incident to Turel, but for now, I order you to leave here, and take your rabble with you. With Jehamiah dead, I am now first lieutenant.”
Anhat hesitated, touched by strong misgivings. The enmity between his two superior officers was not unknown to him. Finally he inclined his head reluctantly. “Yes, Sir Ellich. Only allow me to revive your compatriots and my fallen comrades and we will depart.” He stepped over to a supine form.
“No!” Ellich De thundered. Anhat turned and stared suspiciously.
“Do not revive them here. The resulting spectral disturbance might disrupt our already tenuous hold on the Tower even further. We can barely manage as it is with our ranks depleted. Just take your fallen away from the premises and restore them elsewhere. They will hardly mind the wait, and I should know.”
Anhat watched Ellich De closely. The elder Turelim’s face betrayed nothing. Then he shrugged. Ah, well. Ellich De did have a reputation for bizarre superstitions. He might as well honor them.
“We will take our leave at once, Sir Ellich,” he said with a hasty bow. Gesturing to his retinue to pick up their dead fellows, he was following them out of the room, when Anhat remembered something. He paused and looked back.
“And what befell the traitor Raziel, Sir Ellich?”
The vampire magician snorted contemptuously, his eyes still closed. “Are you blind, Anhat? Do you see the renegade anywhere here?”
“But, the Tower’s halt a short while ago, we assumed that…”
“I told you that Jehamiah attacked us!” Ellich De snarled angrily. “Did you expect us to continue our work when we were about to be slaughtered by that lunatic?”
Then he lunged down the hall. Coming upon his followers carrying one of the dead Turelim, he grasped the spear sunk into its body and pulled it free. With a gasping roar, the Turelim came back to life. Recognizing Anhat, it clutched at him desperately.
“Treachery, Sir Anhat! They murdered Jehamiah and slew us too! They are in league with Raziel!”
Anhat’s face twisted with rage, and he spun on his heel. Quaking violently, he raised the spear and pointed it back at the ring of sorcerers.
“Kill them!” he commanded, and his minions swept forward with bloodlust in their eyes.
Throughout the colossal airshaft of the Tower of Turel, despairing cries filled the air as Turelim occupying the stairwell gazed on the sight of their patriarch cast down from the heights.
Raziel stepped forward, grasped his wings and jumped over the edge. Like an avenging angel, he began to glide silently down.
His descent was not unnoticed. Telekinetic projectiles shot through the air, following him earthwards. Eventually he became tired of dodging and simply unclenched his ragged strips to drop the remaining distance.
Turel lay in the center of the platform, unmoving. Broken stone, crystal, and his own children were scattered about. His limbs were twisted, and his eyes were closed. The energy band was gone.
Raziel walked towards his vanquished brother. The stray force blasts that followed him began to diminish, their senders unwilling to risk striking their lord by mistake.
Drawing up beside him, he stared at his brother’s face, marred as it was by pain. Raziel raised the Soul Reaver, and Turel’s eyes came open, sought him out. For a time their gazes met. Raziel expected Turel to beg. He brought the tip of the Soul Reaver up to waver before his brother’s eye. He was just about to spit his condemnation of the monster, when Turel’s eyes flashed, and without warning, something in Raziel’s skull exploded. He cried out, and the Soul Reaver was gone.
Raziel fell to his knees, clutching his head. There was so much pain, it was making him sick. Green ichor flowed into his eyes, and he could feel the cracks in the bone. A shadow engulfed him, and he looked up to find the beast looming over him.
Turel swatted him away, and Raziel went flying. The ancient vampire followed him. The watching Turelim now cheered with joy, and the Tower rang with their clamor. Raziel felt the pull of the Spectral Realm, calling him back to heal. Turel loomed over him.
“I know,” Turel grated. “I know what you intend to do. Escape into your ghost world, grow strong, and return directly to slay me? Is that your plan, Raziel?”
The undead prince reached down and enveloped Raziel in one crushing fist. He hoisted the Reaver of Souls up into the air. “Go on. I want to see you try. Fly to your refuge. You will find me there waiting for you.” Turel smashed Raziel to the floor, grinding him into the stone with relish, and Raziel bit back a scream of pain. Turel leaned in close to whisper to him. “I know your tricks, brother. I have seen the world you came back from, and I will use its laws to end your existence forever. So you can no longer die? There are worse things.”
Turel’s voice was a mad hiss. “There are rooms in this Tower, Raziel, rooms I constructed especially for you. Made just to your liking. But you may only choose one, for it is much less a domicile than it is a Cage. Each chamber contains a prison with invisible walls, my children’s telekinetic gift, rerouted through my genius. They will bind you fast. Unable to move or even speak, you will be a living ornament, in this world and the next. I have made sure that the effect travels across the void. Incapable of even moving to injure yourself, you will know, for all eternity, that you will never kill me!”
Turel swung Raziel up. From out of his mouth burst a psychic maelstrom of violence, and this time it hit Raziel fully, smashing his bones and flinging him away like a broken toy. He skidded helplessly across the floor and came to a stop only a dozen paces from the edge of the platform.
The Reaver of Souls coughed and twitched weakly. Turel slithered towards him. Behind them now was gathered a mob of Turelim, screaming for blood and goading Turel on. Heaving in his breath, the lord of vampires arched his head back and howled a chilling note of madness, and the floor seemed to quake beneath it.
“I am Turel, Clan King and lord of this world! None can kill me, neither vampire, man nor spirit. I am supreme!” He reached Raziel and once again picked him up to dangle in the air. Teeth gritted, he snorted like a deranged bull. “But he told you that you would, did he not?! Yes, I see his game. They were all arrayed against me, trying to restrain my strength. They feared the inevitable rise of the Turelim over their degenerate clans!”
Turel’s voice ascended to a shrieking pitch. “Could a weakling like you truly bring down a Dynasty? Of course not! Dumah, Rahab, they all knew it was impossible! But their jealousy of me was too great! I see through their plots, oh yes! They wanted me to die, so they allowed you to kill all of them, in order for you to have their power. But my ascension cannot be prevented!”
Turel raised his arms and stared upwards, his mind a chaotic bloom of dementia.
“I see it all clearly now! Only Turelim are pure, the other clans are corrupt! There must be no others, no desecration of my world! A purge is needed once more, until they are all dead, every one of them! “
He brought Raziel up to his face, and his hot breath washed over his brother’s broken body.
“Do you hear me, Raziel?!! I will kill them all! I will kill them ALL, and there is nothing you can do to prevent me! I will butcher this world, and bathe in its blood!!”
Turel’s screaming voice blasted Raziel’s senses, and an image thrust into his damaged brain. With it came the sound of pained shrieks and the smell of blood. He saw Razielim impaled, Razielim tortured and beheaded. He saw pleading fledglings thrown onto bonfires to cook like so much meat. He watched the last members of his clan die miserable deaths. And from every scene, every atrocity, he heard the laughter of the monster called Turel.
Raziel looked into his brother’s eyes, saw the promise of death there.
“No,” he croaked weakly. “Never again.”
His claws came up slowly before the hideous face.
“The tragedy is finished, Turel,” Raziel whispered.
The talons glowed, then flared into light. With the last of Raziel’s magical reserves, the Sunlight Glyph erupted full in Turel’s face, and the genocidal lunatic roared, blinded. He dropped Raziel and clutched his face, doubled over in agony. His vision was a burning glare of darkness and afterimages. He could hear his children shouting something. Curse you, stop that noise, I will kill you…!
Before he could complete his threat a harsh whine cut over the din, and a ring of spectral energy wrapped around him, pinning his arms to his body. With a surprised cry, Turel lurched over and fell on his side.
Raziel dragged himself step by painful step behind Turel’s back. In silent agony, he grasped the bony covering of his brother’s body, and with a titanic heave, lifted the struggling tyrant over his head. He tottered towards the edge of the platform, broken bones straining and grinding under the massive bulk. Turel snarled and thrashed. Behind Raziel, the Turelim who had been beyond the reach of his spell were rushing towards him, but there were only a few feet left.
Then a force blast hit him in the back, and Raziel stumbled to his knees. The world was fading into whiteness, and he toppled forward. But with a last convulsive spasm, he hurled his burden away. Turel hit the edge, tipped over it, and with a terrible shriek, plummeted down the chasm.
The Turelim surrounded him, and Raziel lay still, too exhausted to move.
A spear drove through Sejm’s back, and he died with an agonized wail. Another Turelim decapitated Oneld. Their spirits rose up and hovered over their bodies, still emitting support for the last remaining Razielim, Cellidane. She was almost out of time.
A Turelim raised a spear behind her.
And suddenly, the Tower of Turel rumbled, and came to an abrupt halt. The Turelim staggered, and Cellidane looked up. Floating over the metal globe, the Tower effigy had finally arrived.
They had done it.
Cellidane lowered her arms gratefully, and a spear caught her in the chest. It took her life, but it could not extinguish her soul, and as the pain went away, she spoke one last time.
“Raziel! We are coming!”
As her soul came free, the eight Razielim spirits rocketed past their destroyers and soared down the hall with lightning speed.
The Turelim drew around him, snarling in homicidal outrage. Raziel could feel his body began to disintegrate. He could not hold on any longer. He was about to pass into the Spectral Realm, when the Turelim suddenly cried out in surprise.
From out of the great tunnel burst the eight Razielim soul orbs, gleaming and sparking with unearthly power. Though invisible to the surrounding horde, the presence of their combined soul energy reached out past physical senses to strike against the slayers of their clan, and the vampires withered before them, unable to bear the divine touch of retribution. They flew forward and clustered about the Reaver of Souls.
He felt them all around him, calling his name. He knew what they wanted, and drew aside his face-wrap. With a wave of selfless delight, one of them flew into his body, restoring him completely. Raziel came to his feet instantly, his mind and body lit with the glow of knowledge. He understood what needed to be done. The other gray souls swirled around him, and a great light began to shine from within his form. It inundated the Tower, rocking it to its foundations and flooding the blood-red stone with a harsh gray luminescence. The Turelim shrieked and fell to the ground in terror.
In the midst of this celestial eruption, Raziel raised his arm. The Soul Reaver sprang straight into the air. His children’s souls surged around the weapon, and then with a great crack and blaze of light, they were absorbed into it. The wraith blade flared, sending out a keening note of joy. When the glare died down, the Soul Reaver now burned with a pearly gray radiance.
His eyes flaring with energy and purpose, Raziel leapt forwards and dove headfirst into the chasm.
Anhat frantically rushed forward. The Tower had stopped! What was going on?! He looked in the basin that controlled the Tower’s barrier, and saw the sand moving in a ring around the edge.
The stronghold was open to assault!
He did not know how to control the Tower’s movement, but he could at least do something about its vulnerability. “Over here!” he commanded, and the other Turelim clustered about the center of the room.
“Push the sand back into the center with your powers. Do it now!”
In unison, they all responded. A barrage of force blasts struck the swirling lines. They shuddered, paused, and then, their course broken, the stream of sand poured back into the center.
Anhat sighed with relief.
Turel fell, and as his vision cleared, he could see that the Tower’s base was no longer shielded. He was going to be cast outside, into the world, where Kain and his brothers plotted to kill him!
“Help me!!” he screamed and struggled against the energy bond, when suddenly, a force buffeted him from all sides. Not painful, but disorienting, it was like being caught in an invisible blanket. Turel looked around him blearily. He had stopped. He was floating in midair over the Tower’s opening. The barrier had been turned back on.
He could feel the telekinetic pressure as it gradually drew him upwards. The spectral band around him was beginning to fade, and his arms were coming free. Turel began to charge his own power. He had won!
Turel opened his mouth to laugh, looked up, and caught a glimpse of Raziel just as the Reaver of Souls streaked in and drove the Soul Reaver into his gut with all the strength and inertia he could muster. The gleaming blade, imbued with the spirits of vampires Turel had slaughtered, pierced the constriction band and tore through his body to come bursting out the other side.
Turel’s eyes bulged, his mind made contact with the telekinetic barrier, and the whole thing exploded.
Within the Open Eye, Anhat felt his racing heart slow. The Tower was secure. Now to attend to its movement.
Something caught his eye. Glancing over, he saw the body of Ellich De crumbling into dust.
Amazed, he stared for a few moments. Before he could take a step to investigate, the sand rippled. Anhat blinked and peered down into the well.
An eruption of telekinetic backlash blew up from the basin. Standing directly over it, Anhat and his minions were torn to shreds. The blast hit the ceiling, the roof caved in, and the Open Eye was buried under tons of rubble.
The Tower of Turel hung in the sky above Nosgoth, a dark red menace from the heavens. Clouds drifted lazily below.
Without warning, the Tower’s base exploded.
A giant plume of red dust billowed forth, and great blocks of rubble trailed long ribbons of it earthward, like dirty comets.
The haze around one of these streaking balls dissipated as it fell, revealing Raziel and Turel.
The Soul Reaver was still buried in Turel’s body, but the glowing gray energy had passed from the weapon into the weakened spectral band, revitalizing it and locking the vampire monstrosity in the grip of long-delayed justice. Unable to fly, Turel plummeted headfirst through the clouds, the wind whistling and roaring past him with ever-increasing speed. Shocked, he saw the brown cloud cover of Nosgoth, the surprisingly bright light, for the first time in centuries. The filthy ocean of smog was all around him, and then it was above him. Turel suddenly heard voices, the voices of Razielim whom he had executed 900 years ago.
<Look down, monster. Look down and see where we brought you>
Turel did look down, towards the ground, and what he saw there drove him completely mad. He screamed.
It was there, waiting for him. It was the beginning of all his woes. And it had a name.
The Lake of the Dead.
Far below it churned, a natural formation of intersecting rivers draining down in an endless whirlpool. The touch of water was deadly to vampires, as Raziel well knew. He had realized within the Open Eye that Turel was too well defended, that there was practically nothing in his Tower that could be counted on to kill him. But outside the Tower was another story. And so he had ordered his children to guide the fortress here, to the closest large body of water in Nosgoth. It just happened to be the very same spot where Turel had killed him.
The two brothers dropped straight towards the Lake, and Turel was transfixed by it, wailing mindlessly. Raziel withdrew the Soul Reaver from the madman’s body. Lunging forward, he grabbed a handful of Turel’s wind-blown hair, planted his feet and yanked hard. The vampire prince’s head snapped up, his terrified eyes met Raziel’s, and the sight of the two glowing pits forced him back to sanity.
For several seconds they only stared at each other, locked in this moment as the wind rushed by and the earth rushed up. Then Raziel spoke, in a harsh, grating snarl that carried his hatred clearly to Turel’s ears.
“Do you remember my clan?” His voice swelled to a roar. “DO YOU REMEMBER THEIR FACES?!!!”
“NO!” Turel shrieked desperately. “NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!”
“YOU THINK ABOUT THEM,” Raziel shouted, releasing Turel and lifting his wingstrips, “AND BURN IN HELL!!!”
The wind filled his pinions, he shot up into the air, and Turel watched his brother rise above him.
His muscles bunched, and Turel heaved outwards. The spectral constriction band stretched and then snapped with a wail of protest. The Razielim swarmed around him, and Turel bellowed victoriously, spreading his wings, his lovely wings that would now save him.
As he did, the up-rushing wind caught hold of them. The flimsy flaps bulged, filled with air. And then, stretched past their strength, the wings ripped to ragged pieces with a wet tearing sound. Turel roared.
And hit the water.
The current swept him along and under. Water poured into his open mouth, gushed into the gaping wound left by the Soul Reaver. The caustic fluid ate at his eyes and his tongue, burned away his vocal chords and his organs. The raging torrent tossed him around, stripping him of all sense of balance and direction. Blood leaked out in a gory cloud. And then, weakened by centuries of forced telekinetic manipulations, finally at its limits, Turel’s body caved in on itself, imploding from the internal and external pressures. Scraps of bone and flesh were carried away, sucked down into the lightless depths of which no man may speak.
In the world above, the ravens circled over the Lake, cawing out in hoarse tones.
It was all the funeral dirge Turel would receive.
For a split-second, everything on Nosgoth was still. And then life resumed, gratefully. It was as if a great threat had been removed, and everywhere it seemed somehow safer, more hopeful.
Raziel was exhausted, emotionally drained. He drifted slowly downwards, and the wind blew softly now against him. Only one final duty remained.
The Reaver of Souls released his wings and dropped down into the center of the Lake of the Dead. It pulled him to the bottom, and with a disorienting flash, Raziel once again found himself in the chamber of the Elder God.
The great winding tentacles still sprouted from the ceiling, and the cone of swirling immaterial water bore down from the center, but the Elder himself made no acknowledgement of Raziel, which was fine by him. This had always been a personal matter.
What he sought was not here, but he could sense its location. Without another glance at the Elder, he turned and left the chamber.
Raziel made his way up the corridor and past the Warp Gate. A soft susurrus of disturbance came from ahead, the room of the Soul Fountain. Raziel entered it calmly.
A few green globs of soul energy flitted through the ether, and then departed quickly. They seemed bothered by what was going on here, in this normally peaceful place. In the center of the room hung a monstrously large soul, a flaring supernova of angry red, sickly yellow, and white. Whirling around this brute were seven balls of gray light. They harried it, hindering its movement and slowing its escape. Striving desperately, the great soul could not dislodge its assailants.
Raziel called out to them, and they streaked away to gather about him. From each of them came a hushed plea. They were tired, and wished to rest. Understanding, Raziel accepted their decision without question. He lowered his face-wrap, and the souls of the Razielim sped joyously into his mouth. Each intake shook him, and he shuddered, their life force tingling with recognition through his spectral form. Then with a long-suffering sigh of release, it was done. Their task was over, and they were all free.
Raziel looked around for the pulsing mega-soul, and found it bobbing clumsily towards the exit. Its inept flight almost filled him with pity. But at last he raised his arms and sucked inwards, catching the taste and feel of the soul. It swung towards him, resisting, but ultimately helpless. The soul thundered into his astral body, and Raziel fell to his knees, power coursing through him like lightning. He felt his mind and consciousness swell, broadening with an undreamt of panorama of new existence. A reordering was going on within his soul, and an expansion. He felt powerful, yet also frail. This was different from the other times. It felt like something was trying to impress itself upon him. At first he resisted the intrusion, but then he recognized it was not malignant. It offered no harm. He accepted the change, and felt an outspreading infusion of something new, before it settled in and became part of him.
For the briefest instant they touched, and each knew the other one completely.
TUREL: <I’m sorry>
RAZIEL: <I forgive you>
When Raziel awoke, he was alone.
But there was something different. He had to find out what. So he ran.
Leaping up rises and clambering over walls, he sped through the ancient grotto. At last his racing feet brought him out of the drowned catacombs, into the perpetual half-light of Nosgoth’s shadow-self. There he found what he sought, a planar portal. Raziel stepped over it, exhilaration and anticipation surging through him. He cast the Shift Glyph.
The physical world welcomed him in, but not as he was. What materialized from out of nowhere was not what had stood in the Spectral Realm.
Raziel raised his arms in wonder. From his forearms now stretched his wings, but no longer the ripped tatters he was accustomed to. Now they were whole, smooth and perfect, running from his back to his arms. He knew how to use them. Raziel concentrated, feeling it build up quickly within him, and then let it out. A stream of telekinetic force pushed downwards. He shot straight up into the sky, not just gliding or hovering, but flying, actually flying!
As he had only once before in his life, Raziel soared and swam through the air, sometimes against the wind, other times with it. He laughed and shouted, exulting in his newborn freedom, born aloft on the gift of his new wings. What had been stolen by his father was now returned by his brother, a last act of contrition and love.
And so the world of Nosgoth turned, with creatures scampering or swimming over it.
But Raziel flew.