Disclaimer: As soon as I secure ownership of either Buffy the Vampire Slayer or the Legacy of Kain franchise, I will throw a party. As I don't own either of them at the moment, I am not making any money whatsoever out of this. In other words, no party yet, folks.
V- Blank Slate.
The girl woke up. Daylight blinded her and she used her left hand to shield her sensitive eyes.
For some reason, she was lying down in the middle of a meadow, with a couple of cows a few meters away. She tried to remember why she had decided to sleep there, instead of looking for some kind of shelter.
She found nothing.
And it wasn't just last night what she didn't remember. With growing consternation, she realized that she didn't have any memory of her previous life. Not even her own name. There was nothing at all. No matter how hard she tried to remember something -anything- the most she found in the otherwise empty void in her mind were brief flashes of imagery, too brief to decypher.
What had happened? Impossible to know. She knew that sometimes people forgot things when they were hit in the head, but she no longer remembered the source of this knowledge and her head felt fine. It had to be something else. Something like... magic? But magic didn't exist, did it? It was something out of fairy tales, although she didn't remember meeting fae storytellers, either. But if faeries existed, then magic had to exist, so why did she...
Confused and still without answers, the girl decided to leave the mental rambling for later. The cows probably weren't going to give her an explanation. She had to find people. People meant beds and food. Much better than wet grass and an empty stomach.
But when she was trying to rise, her right hand touched something cold and hard in the grass. When she turned her head, she saw what it was.
A sword. A very big, very ugly and extremely evil-looking sword. And it wasn't just the fanged skull in the hilt. No. The whole blade exuded essential wrongness. But it also looked sharp and dangerous.
And she needed a weapon. Somehow, she knew that the world that she was going to find beyond this peaceful field would be dark and dangerous. Even more for a lone woman. She would need the protection.
So she picked the sword and found that it was surprisingly well balanced and that its weight was strangely comforting in her hand. So armed, the young woman began her journey. Upon finding a stream that flowed near the meadow, she decided to follow it. Streams ended in rivers. People lived near rivers. It was just a little logic.
The cows, the only witnesses of this strange episode, continued their daily routine, blissfully unaware of the important chain of events that had just started.
"Well done, Kain. You return to me after defeating the Planer in the heart of her power, Kain. Very well done, indeed."
"I do not serve you, Ariel. I follow your advice only because I have been promised release."
"And release you shall have, when the last of the Nine dies and the Pillars are finally restored, Kain."
Not for the first time, the vampire wondered if the ghost of the former Guardian of Balance was being truthful. The telltale signs of deception he had learned to detect in human with his enhanced senses didn't apply when dealing with the uncorporeal spirit of the sorceress. He knew that it was entirely possible that he was just a puppet in her plans to remove the corruption of the Pillars that had trapped her in a state of unlife she clearly did not enjoy.
After all, it had been Mortanius who had raised him as an undead abomination and then told him go to the Pillars, where he had first found the ghost of Ariel and been told the price of release. Clearly, the Necromancer was working in league with the spirit, but his ultimate goals remained an unknown quantity, unlike Ariel's.
Nonetheless, Kain knew one thing for sure. The gifts of the Guardian of Death didn't come cheap. He would do as Ariel instructed, because doing so was still his best bet to avoid becoming a monster like Vorador, but he didn't trust any of the Guardians, dead or alive.
"Tell me, Ariel. Have you ever heard of a land called California?"
"I had never heard of a land with such a name in all my years, Kain. Why do you ask?"
"It is the birthplace of an enemy that I will destroy the next time we meet. A demon in the form of a woman who challenged me and then fled with my prize, rather than facing my wrath."
"And what treasure did you lose to this enemy?"
Did Kain's ears deceive him or was there a bit of genuine worry in Ariel's voice?
"Only the greatest weapon in Nosgoth. The Soul Reaver itself. But the blood of the thief will cleanse the insult."
"The Soul Reaver is more important than you care to imagine, Kain. You will need of its power in the next stage of your quest and if you fail, the armies of the north will be able to burn all of Nosgoth. Without the Reaver, not even the might of the Lion Throne will be enough to stop the Nemesis."
"If the Soul Reaver is so important, why did you forget to mention it when you send me to Avernus? You might be bound to the Pillars, but you clearly know much of what happens in the land. Speak clearly now, because your cryptic warnings grow tiresome."
"You are a single pawn in a great game, vampire. You will do as I tell you or you will..."
"No, I will not. Maybe others consider me a pawn, but I am my own master. And you are not even in the game board anymore, Ariel. If I abandon you, you will be powerless, trapped for an eternity between life and death. While I am certain that somewhere in Nosgoth I would eventually find the oblivion I crave for, even if I must search for it without your help."
"You would destroy Nosgoth, you fool!"
"So be it. You put this burden upon my shoulders, but I will not bear it any longer, unless you reveal the secrets you hide. This is my last word and your last chance, ghost."
"Very well. Know this then. You must face Moebius the Timestreamer, eldest of the Nine. He is powerful in magic and great in cunning. A more crafty and devious individual you will not find in this world. You carry one of his toys, a Time Streaming Device that will allow you to follow him through the fabric of time. Azimuth had stolen it in the hopes of unlocking its secrets to learn to summon creatures from other ages and not just from other realms."
"Surprisingly insightful for once. But you still have to explain the importance of the Soul Reaver."
"The sword you lost is ancient beyond measure and its power is intertwined with these very Pillars. Only with this power will you be able to overcome the traps that Moebius has prepared in your path. You must recover the blade."
"I have every intention of doing it, Ariel, particularly now that I understand things better."
"Leave then. Find the Reaver and then go to Willendorf."
"More orders? Do not fret. I will do as you suggest, but remember that I do it out of my own volition. But before leaving I will return Azimuth's eye to her Pillar. I do not wish to carry this accursed jewel any longer than necessary."
And, after stating this, he pressed the gem against the stone of the cracked marble of the Pillar of Dimension, returning the power contained in Azimuth's Third Eye. Power that would allow the Pillar to destroy the taint that had weakened it. However, hidden amidst this magic, there was a residue of a very different power that was also absorbed.
It was so faint that neither Kain, nor Ariel noticed it. But there were other eyes watching the scene and some of these observers actually understood that the first rock of a massive landslide had just been launched.
Elsewhere, in a place that was both very close and very far away from the Pillars of Nosgoth, of of these observers, a massive being sat upon a throne in an otherwise empty room. His eyes glowed with a sickly green light and cold fire shrouded his form. He was Hash'ak'gik, overlord of the Hylden clans and ruler of a realm of suffering and madness.
The throne of the Hylden lord contained the souls of a dozen of his vassals. A dozen powerful mages that had willingly ended their eternal lives to give their lord the power needed to pierce the veil between Nosgoth and the hellish dimension of the Hylden. Now, for the first time in over a thousand years, Hash'ak'gik laughed knowing that the exile of his people was finally coming to an end.
The power of the Key had entered the Pillars and was already weakening the Binding. It wouldn't happen overnight, but soon there would be holes large enough in the wall to allow the Hylden to return to Nosgoth. "A force created to destroy all barriers" had been the words of the Vampire Slayer. And she had been right.
The day of the reckoning was coming.
Notes: Not much to say this time. This chapter was very easy to write, for some reason. Happy New Year!