Soul Reaver
by d_Galloway

Prologue: Execution

Kain is diefied. The clans tell tales of him. Few know the truth. He was mortal once, as were we all. However, his contempt for humanity is what drove him to create me and my brethren. I am Raziel, first-born of his lieutenants, Kain's first-born son. I stood with Kain at the dawn of the empire. We have served him for a millenia.

After several hundred years, Kain had amased a great army of vampires, and Nosgoth fell quickly. The human kingdoms were wiped away, replaced by Kain's own image. The humans were quickly domesticated, although a few went into hiding. The fools took it upon themselves to hunt us down, fighting a battle they could not hope to win. They were tolerated; they made the lives of the fledglings more challenging.

The humans think that it is a poison in our blood that makes us what we are. Fools! These bodies are merely vessels, the blood we drink is merely to sustain them. It is our souls that hold our gift. In order for a vampire to be created, its soul must be removed from the underworld and returned to its body. The underworld itself shapes the soul, giving it power beyond human recogning.

After the humans were defeated, our real work began: shaping Nosgoth to Kain's will. The first task was a shrine at the site of the Pillars of Nosgoth, twisted and destroyed a millenia before our creation. The human slaves worked feverioushly, and soon the Sanctuary of the Clans was complete. As a reward, they became a feast for us. As we passed our gift to younger generations, however, we noticed a noticible flaw; the vampiric weakness to sunlight grew ever greater with each generation, and soon the fledgings would be destroyed upon contact with any form of sunlight. To combat this, Kain had an eternal furnace built in Nosgoth's highlands, with endless smoke belching out the sky. Never before had the land known such a time of beauty.

Alas, we grew bored as the centuries passed. We allowed the lesser vampires their intrigues, as they provided entertainment to an otherwise uninspired court. As faction after faction fell, we bet on the outcome. We helped and foiled plots at our whim. We were the Council and Kain, our only master.

Over time, we became less human and more...divine. Every few centuries, Kain would enter a state of change, and emerge with a new gift. We would then follow in suit, from myself down the chain. Nothing seemed wrong with the process.

That fateful day, I entered the Sanctuary of the Clans behind schedule, after the meeting had begun. In the circle stood my five brothers: Turel, Dumah, Rahab, Zephon, and Melchiah. Each were given their own territory to control, as an appeasement for their service during the conquest of Nosgoth. Our clans rarely communed with each other; they stayed loyal soley to their masters. This was yet another area where we bested the humans. And at the end, resting on his throne at the base of the Balance Pillar, sat Kain himself. He eyed me angrily, but his eyes soon turned to curiosity, as did those of my brethren.

I kneeled before my lord, listening to the shocked gasps of my brothers with joy. I had the honor of surpassing my master; I had evolved before even Kain. I revealed my new gift, and unfurled a pair of bat-like wings on my back.

Kain recoiled in shock, then approached me. He circled behind, feeling my new wings. I did not expect what would happen next. I heard Kain shout, "Traitor!" and felt agony surge through my very being. I fell to the ground, and looked at my master. In his hands were the bloodied bones that once sat in my wings, and in his eyes were nothing but pure hatred.

For my transgression, there was only one outcome: my eternal damnation. I, Raziel, was to suffer the fate of traitors and weaklings- to burn forever in the Lake of the Dead. I was dragged, to the ledge overlooking the swirling abyss by Turel and Dumah, as my other brothers followed from a distance. Kain observed the vortex that awaited me, then turned his back to us all and started away. I looked at my brethren, hoping for sympathy or compassion. All I saw was excitment, exileration at the thought of something new. They had betrayed me, as well.

Kain stopped briefly, and uttered a single order. "Cast him in."

Turel and Dumah were more than willing to obey. They saw what had happened when I had transgressed against my master; they did not wish to share the same fate. I fell over the side, screaming until I hit the water. White fire burned at every inch of my being. I fell into the abyss. Unspeakable pain, relentless agony, time ceased to exist. Only this torture, and a deepening hatred for the hypocrisy that had damned me to this hell.

An eternity passed, and my torment receded, bringing me back from the precepice of madness. As I felt death begin to take me, I recovered. I now stood at the bottom of the lake; indeed, it wasn't bottomless as my brethren believed. I examined my body, unprepared for the shock. My skin had completely burned away, leaving only a skeleton and some muscle. The water had also altered my bones, leaving them a dark blue. I tried to speak, but no sound came. I felt my mouth, and learned that my lower jaw no longer existed. The only article of clothing that survived the fall was my clan banner, which I wrapped around my face like a cowl. The fall had destroyed me, and yet I lived.

"Raziel...Raziel." I looked around anxiously, and found that I was now in a large antechamber. At the far end stood the most revolting creature to have exer existed. It resembled a giant squid, with hundreds of eyes and thousands of tentacles. It was the only possible source of the words. I stared at this new creature.

"Raziel, you are worthy."


Chapter 1: Rebirth

"I know you Raziel," continued the monster. "You are worthy."

I looked once again at my loathsome body, realizing that telepathy was the only way for me to continue communication. "What madness is this? What pitiful form have I come to inhabit? Death would be a release compared to this travesty!"

"You did not survive the abyss, Raziel," said the squid. "I have only spared you from complete dissolution." My entire mind reeled from its answer. Kain had indeed killed me, although in a much harsher way than he had originally intended.

I fell to my knees in anguish. "I would choose oblivion over this existance!"

"It is not your choice to make." Whatever this creature was, it believed itself to have control over me. Only Kain ever held such power.

"I am destroyed!"

"You are reborn!" The monster's tone became much harsher and more severe. "The birth of one of Kain's abominations traps the essence of life!" Before me appeared a small vortex, inside which lay several souls. They rose above me, and dissapeared. "It is this soul that animates the corpse you 'lived' in. And that, Raziel, is the demise of Nosgoth. There is no balance. The souls of the dead remain trapped, and I cannot spin them in the Wheel of Fate. They cannot complete their destinies."

"The Wheel of Fate?" I said.

"The very engine of life," said the monster. "The purifying cycle of life, death and rebirth. Souls are spun in the wheel, cured of all corruption, and returned as life to Nosgoth. I am the hub of this wheel, the apex of all creation. I have been known by many names, but you may call me master."

"I will not serve you!" The creature's will refused to waver.

"Redeem yourself," it said, "or if you would prefer, avenge yourself. Settle your dispute with Kain. Destroy him and your brethren. Free their souls and let the Wheel of Fate churn again. Use your hatred to reave their souls. I can make it possible. I will make you my angel of death, my 'Soul Reaver', if you will only be my servant."

Something triggered inside myself. My hatred for Kain was great, having accumelated itself for what seemed like an eternity. However, he alone was not guilty of this crime. My brothers, who had not bothered to raise a finger to aid me, were equally guilty. They had taken everything, destroyed me, and left me to rot in the abyss. I had only revenge to exist for. I kneeled before the creature.

"Very good," my master responed. It parted its tentacles, revealing an exit from this enfernal chamber. I did not hesitate to take it.

In front of me stood several large stone ledges, apparantly parts of a ramp shattered during an earthquake. I leapt, and found myself grabbing the highest ledge with ease. It seemed not all of my vampiric powers had left me; I still possessed hightened strength and speed. I climbed to the top and entered a ruined shrine.

For the first time in centuries, hunger overtook me. I fell against the wall, but did not yearn for blood; now, I felt hunger for something else. As if on que, my master's voice rang clear in my head. "You are changed, Raziel. Your blood-thirst is replaced with a greater need; you have become a devourer of souls. To sustain your strength, you must hunt the lost spirits of the Underworld, and consume the souls of your enemies." In front of me hovered a small soul. Acting on instinct, I lowered my cowl, and a sudden burst of sucking air revealed that my mouth was now like a vortex. The soul shuddered against the vortex, but finally slipped through and dissapeared into myself. My hunger vanished, and I was strong once again.

I continued forward, and came across a deep chasm. Once again, my master's voice returned. "Your wings, though ruined, are not without purpose. Take hold of them as you leap and they will carry you across this chasm." Following its advice, I leapt into the air and unfurled my tattered wings. I suddenly found myself slowly gliding across the air, and over the chasm. The moment I landed, my wings returned to my back.

The next room overlookeed another small chamber. Inside stood a pack of small, green creatures, their furry backs forever hunched, thier mouths twisted and toothless. They were chasing and devouring several souls that resided within. My master answered my unasked question. "These are sluagh, the scavengers of the Underworld. Their feral hunger has claimed countless souls, spirits who now shall never find their rest. One of your duties, Raziel, is to destroy and consume these creatures, so that the wheel may continue."

Obeying my master, I dropped into the chamber. The sluagh turned their attention from the hunt to myself. They realized that I was the same prey they sought, and quickly lunged at me. I swung my claws out, knocking them all back with one blow. The creatures scrambled to their feet once again, and were just as quickly knocked back. Finally, one of them began to fade out of existance, screaming and bellowing in complete agony. I opened my cowl and cosumed the creature. Another tried again, but one strike was all it took to cleave it apart. With only itself remaining, the final sluagh tried to flee. I pounced upon it, tearing it apart as best I could. I devoured the few remaining souls in the chamber, and continued through the next doorway.

I emerged outside, on a large, circular platform. Before me stood a strange, purple portal, surrounded by desperate souls. "These portals are conduits between the Spectral and Material Realm," said my master. "With their aid, you may gather matter and will yourself to become manifest in the physical world. This is taxing, however, and thus you must be at full strength to properly use the conduit. You require no conduit to return to this plane; you may abandon your physical body at any time."

I devoured the helpless souls, and stood on the conduit. I felt myself slowly being distorted, as I was slowly torn and pulled from the Spectral Realm. I concentrated all my will on the Material Realm, and the sensation grew stronger. My strength began to drain, but still I continued. Finally, after what was most likely a few seconds, but felt like an eternity, the distortion left, and I fell to my knees.

I quickly realized that my senses had returned. The earth, which had been numb in the Spectral Realm, now had a kind of texture to it. I looked to the sky, and saw the glorious smoke from Kain's eternal furnaces. At last, I had returned to the world of the living. As if to ruin my celebration, my master returned once again. "Sustain your strength to prolong your manifestation in the physical world. If you fail to feed or absorb too many wounds, this fragile matter will dissolve."

Despite this revelation, I examined the small portion of Nosgoth I had reached. The ground was covered with burning sand, the darkness of the sky even dimmer than before. A rusted iron gate stood to the north, and various rockfall had blocked other paths, leaving only a small cavern.

I entered the dimly-lite corrdior slowly, anxious for any kind of contact. When I did not find any, I simply pressed on. Suddenly, a burning sensation rushed through my leg, and I jumped back. I looked, and saw that my leg was covered with cursed water. Ahead of me was a small pool. That was the que for my master. "You are still young, Raziel. You still retain many of your vampiric weaknesses. Immersion in water, while not fatal, while destroy your physical form, forcing your return to the spiritual plane. Remember that water has neither heft or lift in the Spectral Realm; it is as thin as air." I simply leaped across, and exited the cavern.

I stood in front of a small valley. A human corpse, freshly killed, was layed out in the center, and three repulsive creatures fed on its blood with long, frog-like tongues. "What matter of creatures are these?" I thought outloud.

"Do you not recognize them, Raziel?" said my master. "These are the children of your brother, Dumah."

"That's impossible! These foul, scuttling beasts could not be kin of our high blood!"

"Do you think time stood still for you? Much has changed since you left the world of men."

I had little time to think about my master's words; my outburst had caught the attention of these creatures. I jumped from my location, barely avoiding another small pool of water. The three monsters approached, their lips wet in anticipation. If these were indeed the Dumahim, the offspring of my brethren, then they, too, would have the same strengths and weaknesses of a vampire. Their strength would be great, and any wound would heal almost instantly. The only ways to kill a vampire were impaling, water, fire, and in the case of young vampires, sunlight. I examined my surroundings, and found only the water behind me, a sharp wooden spike on the cliffside, and a small shaft of sunlight emerging from a break in the smoke.

The vampires charged, and I simply rolled out of the way. I slashed one of them along the face with my claws, drawing small amounts of blood. I continued my assault, nearly tearing the monster's entire face off. Before the others could reach me, I lifted the dazed creature and threw it into the water. It screamed and thrased, then fell silent as its body wasted away to nothing.

The others slammed me to the ground. They lashed out with their whip-like tongues, striking my weakening physical body relentlessly. Finally, I succeeded in grabbing one of the tongues. Confused, the creature withdrew its toungue, and I slammed it against the wall near the shaft of sunlight. It did not even have to throw it in; I simply kicked it over, and it was quickly vaporized.

The final vampire, undaunted by the loss of its companions, continued to lash out, only this time with its claws. These attacks were easier to avoid than the tongues I had endured, and I easily pushed the creature aside. I dug my claws into its skull, sending blood and brains flying. I then lifted it with my other hand and threw it into the wooden spike. It landed with a sickening thud, thrasing briefly before finally succumbing.

Around me danced three souls, no doubt those of my victims. I quickly devoured them, and my strength was restored. As I slowly worked my way out of the pit, I wondered what had happened to my kind. I was soon faced with even greater revelations.

Before me stood the ruins of the once glorious Sanctuary of the Clans. The once glorious shrine now lay in complete desolation, its very foundation crumbling before me. How long had that bastard held me prisoner in the abyss? In the moment between my execution and ressurection, centuries had passed.

My thoughts were interrupted by a massive earthquake. The very ground seemed to heave and sigh as a response, and the very sky tremored in agony. My master was, once again, not far behind. "The world is wracked with cataclysims. The earth strains to shrug off the influences of Kain's parasitic empire. The fate of the world was preordained in an instant, by a solitary man. Kain, unwilling to martyr himself, condemned the world to the decay you see before you. In that moment, the unraveling began, and it is nearly played out. Nosgoth teeters on the verge of collapse. Its fragile balance cannot stay."

I had heard of Kain's decision at the pillars. According to him, he was tricked into the situation by the spirit Ariel and necromancer Mortanious, and had chosen to preserve the vampire race rather than see it extinct. Still, the story now stank of self-righteousness, and upon seeing the results of Kain's decision, I was bound to agree with my lord. Kain had to be stopped.

My attention quickly turned to a low growl beside me. Two more Dumahim emerged, having previously been feeding on a small encampment of human vampire hunters. Desperate for some form of protection, I spied a long spear sitting on the wall by the Sanctuary of the Clans. I quickly grabbed my new weapon, spun around, and easily tore my first attacker apart. While it struggled to heal itself, I ran the spear through its entire gizzard, then devoured its soul.

I then saw the campfire set by the humans. The other vampire attacked, but I easily blocked its attacks and tore its chest apart with a flurry of attacks. I then tossed its decaying corpse into the fire, burning it to ash. Once again, I devoured its soul.

I pulled my spear free from the dead vampire, and attempted to open the massive doors leading into the shrine. However, centuries of decay had rusted them shut, and I could not enter. If Kain dwelled within, it seemed my revenge would have to wait.

I stalked down the path leading away from the shrine, and spied another Dumahim standing guard, its back to me. I raised the spear and threw it, impaling the monster through the back of the head. It tumbled to the ground, and I easily fed on its soul. I wandered down the path, and soon stood in front of the Lake of the Dead.

The swirling abyss lay below me, the very spot of my execution and rebirth. While the rest of Nosgoth crumbled, this remained constant. Now with a bearing, I decided to head to the west, towards my own clan's territory. I was anxious to see how my descendants had fared during the centuries of my absence.

Chapter 2: The Necropolis

The path leading from the Abyss to my clan territory had long since collapsed. The remaining path stood in the distance, mocking me. I jumped towards the ledge, then glided the remainder, barely making it across the gap. My claws dug desperately into the ledge, desperately trying to avoid the Abyss. After a brief struggle, I pulled myself up, escaping a second journey into the Abyss.

A brief, uneventful journey followed, leading directly to the great city of my clan. Before my execution, the buildings and streets were filled with my kin, the Razielim. They were the greatest of all the clans, the noblest vampires to have ever existed. Despite my destruction, I was eager to see what had happeend to them in my absence.

I was greeted with utter silence. The buildings of my clan were long-since abandoned and crumbled, the denizens having vanished long ago. The ground was littered with the lingering scent of blood, and many banners displaying Kain's symbol. I knew who was responsible for this, and my anger with Kain and my brothers grew with every passing second.

A roar broke me from my trance. Two Dumahim foolishly emerged from the top of the ruins, bearing their bloodied teeth and ragged claw. I looked anxiously for an execution spot, and found only a pair of spears on the wall, rusted but still workable. I pulled one loose, and ducked under an early series of blows. I responded in full, tearing flesh and bone from their bodies. I impaled the first with my spear, then turned my attention to the other vampire. It lunged at me, sending me flying to the ground. I climbed to my feet, grabbed the other spear, and threw it straight through the monster's mouth. It gurgled briefly, then collapsed. I quickly devoured their souls, then ventured deeper into the ruins.

The only building that remained standing was the great temple, one of the many places dedicated to the honor of myself. A different sight filled it this time, however. By a large fire on a centrer pedastal, two creatures were feasting on a human corpse. Their scent was vampiric, but their appearance was more like a corpse. Their bodies were rotting as they stood, their ragged flesh revealing yellowed bone. They turned to me, and I saw their deep, resentful eyes. In their hands were heaps of human flesh, torn off the corpse no doubt.

They threw down their catch and approached me. Their foul smell reached me before even they could, and I was taken aghast at how these monstrosities could possibly come from our bloodline. They lunged forward, seeking a meal that I could not provide. Their movement was slow and imprecise, and to test my theory, I kicked one of them in the leg. The limb shattered easily, and the creature fell forward. Disgusted, I grabbed the monster by its other leg and tossed it into its companion, sending both into the fire. After their bodies had disintegrated completely, I fed on their souls.

My quest became clear: Kain had to die. The murder of my clan was his fatal mistake in this game. However, I had no idea of his location. There was only one other clan near mine...and the thought of inquiring HIM sickened me.

With no alternative, I set out for the Necropolis, home of my youngest brother Melchiah.

I followed the still-fresh scent of the vampires to a large fortress, situated deep into Nosgoth's many mountains. I pulled myself up the many cliffs near the gate, but found no way inside. Frustrated, I did not see the small pack of monsters behind me. Before I could even react, they threw me to the ground, and began to dig their rotting claws through what remained of my body. I struggled against them, but they were too much. Soon I found myself slipping again, my mind reeling in endless torment.

My sight faded, only to return just as quickly. I recognized the blue hue of this world; I was back in the spectral realm. I returned to my feet, and noticed that a small hole in the fortress wall had grown quite larger. Seizing the opportunity, I climbed through the hole and jumped to the ground. Around me lay an assortment of roaming soals, and a few unknowing sluagh. They fell easily, and I had my fill. In what looked like the remains of a gazebo was another conduit. I entered the portal and willed myself through the realms, back to reality.

I indeed stood inside the fortress of my weakest brother, Melchiah. As I examined his ruined courtyard, noticing the long-rotted human corpses that were no doubt the previous owners of the souls, I thought about my experiences with my dear brother. As the last of Kain's sons, Melchiah had received the weakest portion of Kain's gift. He possessed all the powers of the vampires, but had an unusual malady; his body was unable to sustain his flesh. At first, this was a concern only when he was injured; as we evolved farther, however, his situation became worse, and he was reduced to tearing the flesh from his victims. It appears this weakness also passed down to his children.

I stepped through the archway and entered Melchiah's sanctuary, the Necropolis. My intrustion was quickly noticed, as the Melchiahim quickly descended upon me. I leaped over them, rebounded off a support pillar, and landed in another courtyard, this one filled with several crumbling towers and structures. I climbed onto a small structure, and jumped to a much higher tower just as quickly. I then glided over to yet another tower, jumped down to the next building, and finally climbed into what appeared to be a large guard tower. Inside sat a small metal lever.

As I pulled the object, a large metal door in the courtyard pulled open, and I quickly entered the next area of Melchiah's fortress. I now stood in a graveyard, surrounded by the exumed bodies of human and vampire alike. A Melchiahim tore violently at a body, seeking to remove its flesh. I quickly ran its neck through with my claws, then tore the head from its disgusting corpse. After consuming its soul, I finally realized the body it had attacked so viciously was a vampire, long since buried. To what depths had our dynasty plumetted, if these ghouls were of our high-born brother? Were they so debasted as to resort to cannibalism? They were no more vampires than the humans were.

The next chamber was filled with more graves, as well as a collapsed wall on the other side. A gap could be seen at the top, but it was much too high to reach. I saw a pile of rubble at the side, and slowly climbed up. At the top, I saw no way to continue; the gap was too far to jump, or even to glide.

As I stood dumbfounded, I saw a strange symbol appear on the ground before me. It depicted a circle, with what looked like a mishapen eye in the center. As if compelled by some strange force, I concentrated on the Spectral Realm. I felt myself being torn from my material body, and finally emerged back in the Spectral Realm. Strangely, the platforms on the other side has swelled; I could now reach them.

After climbing onto the platform, I was filled with horror at what I saw standing beside me. A strange figure, clad in a ragged brown robe, watched me through red, faceless eyes, its rotting claws hovering like tendrils searching for blood. It had no feet, and seemed to be floating over the ground.

The monster lunged at me, sending me to the ground. As I stood, I noticed a tether of energy emitting between myself and the spirit. I began to feel weak, as the monster seemed to become stronger. Before it could continue its feeding, I plunged my claws into its tattered robes. The tether was broken as quickly as it had formed, but I felt nothing inside the robe. The creature screeched, its form beginning to fade before my eyes. Before it dissapeared completely, I opened my cown and swallowed the soul.

"That was a vampire wraith." I heard my master's voice emerge once again. "When a vampire's soul passes to the Spectral Realm, it may become accustomed to the realm and hunt for souls. Unlike yourself, however, it is mindless and relentless monster. Also, if a vampire's body is not destroyed, and the cause of its death removed, it can return to its body. Do NOT allow this, Raziel."

I simply continued on, finally emerging on the other side of the rubble. Conveniently, a conduit was waiting for me. I willed myself to the Material Realm, and found myself at the entrance to Melchiah's inner sanctum. I simply jumped to the floor below and opened the doorway to the final chamber of the Necropolis.

Melchiah's throne room was very large; too large for someone of his status, in fact. Various holding pins were placed in the corners, while a large meat grinder was placed in the center, withing a massive steel cage. Due to his disadvantage, Melchiah would strip the flesh from his victims, them tear them apart inside the grinder. Then, to finish his joyful exercise, he would present his remaining human cattle with the remains of their former kin. If he were not so patheticly weak, he might have been among Kain's favorites.

The entire chamber was eerily quiet. Not a single Melchiahim was to be found, and I highly doubted I had slaughtered them all. The pins were empty, their mighty portcullus doors hanging open. I approached the far end of the chamber, to Melchiah's throne. At last, I heard a voice from the throne, although it was too dark to see what it was clearly. "Who dares to disturb me?"

Whatever it was began to move forward. I could make out its shadow; it was neither vampire nor human. "Show yourself, creature! Or should I kill you where you stand?"

The creature finally revealed itself, and I quickly wished it hadn't. Its body was nothing more than a towering blod of decaying flesh and gore. On all sides sat vampire and human faces, twisted and contorted into expressions of pure pain and misery. The monstrosity looked at me through small, misshappen eyes, and I was forced to step back as its odour reached me.

"What is wrong, brother?" growled the demon. "Am I so changed?"

Recognition hit me hard. "Melchiah?"

"Yes, brother," said Melchiah. My brother had indeed fallen far; to be honest, however, he didn't really have far to fall to begin with. "You should have stayed where the master sent you, Raziel. You will find Nosgoth less...pleasant than you remember."

The reason for my being here returned to me. "What have you done with my clan, little brother? Speak, or I'll beat the answer out of your horrid lips!"

"Everyone is afraid, sibling," said Melchiah. "You awoke to a world of fear. Do you think I have no issue with my new form? Do you think the master would have gambled his empire on an upstart inheritance?"

The answer was slowly becoming clear. "Enough riddles- what are you saying?"

Melchiah let out an earth-shaking roar. "You are the last- TO DIE!"

The creature I once called brother crawled forward, struggling to move, much less attack me. I simply ran alongside it and plunged my hand into its decaying mass. I felt nothing inside, no blood, no organs, nothing. Melchiah laughed it off and swung me aside, knocking me hard into the bars of the grinder. I had only one possible plan now: run.

I ran to the other side of the meat grinder, but the exit was now sealed by large steel bars. Then I saw the pin, and remembered that Melchiah had guards and the door switch placed inside, in case the humans became too much of a nuisance to torture. I ran to the pin and grabbed hold of the switch. Melchiah slithered towards me, proving that his mind had indeed degenerated along with his body.

As he was halfway through the portal, I threw the switch. The steel bars tore through Melchiah's body, at last causing phyiscal harm to him. I stared at the monstrosity, confident in my victory, when to my horror, Melchiah recovered himself and shattered the steel bars. I clambered through a small opening at the top of the cage and ran to the second holding pin.

I stopped briefly before entering, and turned to face Melchiah. To my absolute horror, I saw him pass through the bars of the meat grinder as if they were air. He continued his slow crawl, and I took my position at the switch. Not one to learn from experience, Melchiah crawled through the portal, and I slammed the portcullus down on him. This time, I escaped the pin before he shattered the bars. Unlike before, however, I now had a method to destroy my former brother.

I returned to the other side of the cage, by Melchiah's throne. Foolishly, my brother phased through the meat grinder's bars. When he was at the center of the device, I lunged to his throne. I remembered how Melchiah himself delighted in activating his little toy, and placed the switch by his throne so he would not have to exert physical effort. I grabbed the switch menacingly in my hands. Melchiah saw me, and stopped.

"Tell me, Melchiah," I shouted. "Where can I find Kain?"

"The master is beyond your reach, Raziel," said Melchiah. "He makes himself known only when he sees fit." I was not going to get anything out of my brother. I simply pulled the switch, and the grinder's blades descended.

Before the roar of the machine enveloped him, I heard Melchiah scream his last words: "I am released!" The blades then tore him apart, sending his flesh-strewn body parts splattering against the bars. Finally, it was over, and the blades rescended. The weight of my actions began to fall upon me. I had murdered my own brother.

A strange blue mass of energy exited the cage. I was soon enveloped by the strange power, and felt my body heave and turn as I gasped in pain. My master's voice echoed in my head. "You have done well, Raziel."

"Is this what I've been reduced to?" I shouted. "A parasite? A ghoul?"

"Elevated, Raziel, not reduced." My master seemed contempt to end it at that. "By absorbing Melchiah's soul, you have gained a new gift. Like your brother, you may now pass through insubstantial barriers while within the Spectral Realm. Simply will yourself through, and you shall pass."

I then noticed a barred gate blocking a tunnel behind Melchiah's throne. I passed into the Spectral Realm, and approached the gate. I concentrated on the other side, using every bit of my mind. Finally, I felt myself gliding, tearing through matter of all sorts. Finally, the sensation ended, and I was on the other side.

I climbed through the tunnel, and finally reached the surface. A conduit laid nearby, and I quickly returned to the Material Realm. I now recognized where I was; I now stood by the Abyss, on the side leading to the Sanctuary of the Clans.

My master's voice returned yet again. "With this new gift, return to the Sanctuary of the Clans. Within you shall find Kain, as well as other secrets." My master's words puzzled me, but I began my march to the Sanctuary of the Clans anyway. I would show Kain my "gratitude" for my new form.

(to be continued)

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