Author's Notes: Inspired by the David Bowie song of the same name.
The Voyeur of Utter Destruction
To have seen it all
Of utter destruction
- David Bowie "The Voyeur of Utter Destruction"
Their sights for once were not fixed upon the Pillars. Perhaps it was a good sign, to see that vampire and human alike should live in a calm that causes them to focus on their own lives instead. Even if the humans have such trivial things in their heads; coloring their short lives with frippery.
But I, I could not help but feel that there was something off about it all.
It was the Reaver itself that gave me the unease. As of late, there had been a trembling when I clasped it, almost as if it were shivering. The grip did not feel any colder in my hand, but the near constant trembling as soon as I held it gave me a sense of dread.
What are you trying to tell me, Raziel? Is there enough of you left in there to notice?
I had no empire, this time around. I still wanted it, still loved the perversion of a throne base on the broken balance pillar... but they were again tall and white, and no throne could go there. A little anticlimactic, as it were. Yes, Nosgoth was safe, the land flourishing, and I was alive.
I was alive, and literally heartless. Poetic irony, is it not?
Now that I had finally wiped Moebius from the earth, I could not go back and undo the events that led up to now. Even if I could, however, I do not think that I would. Fate, something I both worshipped and defied, would not be forgotten. No matter that a parasite fed off the Wheel, and kept it going for that sake... no matter that I alone was left of those that had brought me here.
Eternity is a long time to think on past events. I had many thoughts to process.
Balance; what a slippery little worm it is. It was a slow process, finding vampires enough to be guardians. Some, I did not know whence they had come, but I supposed once a vampire had truly gained control as the balance guardian they would come. I had the purifying blade... how could they not be drawn to it?
With the last of the human circle destroyed, how could the Pillars not choose their successors?
Still, they did not give me ease. Shifty eyed and fairly young comparatively, they had quick tongues and little experience to back their words. It was tiresome, being the eldest amongst them. They prattled on like they were their own elite, and in some sense, they should have been.
Then why this strange feeling from the core of my empty chest and the tremble from the Reaver?
The seat of my new kingdom—that is, my retreat more than anything—lies to the north. Here, there are fewer humans; most likely due to wars fought in some timeline... the details of my earlier days have grown more opaque as the years, millennia, pass. There are fewer vampires too; little food and little company cause them to shy from this place. It matters not, for what does the balance guardian do once balance has been achieved?
So many questions... very little answers. What a tiresome age.
I had come to rather enjoy my solitude, considering the other vampires that I would be forced to associate with. The nobility would take some time to rebuild, and I was certainly not the one to do it. I could muse on this subject matter for another century, sitting here with my decanter of fresh blood as I waited for something interesting to do.
Funny, how things always seem to work out exactly as I want them.
"So this is where the balance guardian resides. A little out of the way, isn't it?" A voice, unfamiliar to me, and a little in need of refinement. A well to do peasant perhaps. But was he, for the voice was distinctly male, a vampire possibly?
The Reaver blade at his slowly paling throat suggested otherwise. Always my right hand, my sword. He did not notice the trembling of the hilt, as I fought to keep its vibrations to a minimum.
"And who are you to interrupt my solitude?" The color started to return to his face as I inquired, but it is the same calm that a man gets when he discovers that the monster he has come to seek speaks like a gentleman. It had been centuries since I had seen such expression.
"Only a messenger, sire." He said and held out a shaky hand with an envelope in it. All grand words and flourish when my back was turned... pathetic. And here I had thought that someone had actually sought me out.
I snatched it from his hand quickly, and dismissed him with a wave of the blade point. Once he had scuttled out of sight, I gently placed the blade down, and settled into my seat before tearing into the envelope.
The writing was wispy, and seemed to have been jotted down in haste. The paper smelled musty, however, like it had spent a better portion of a decade or more in a crypt. But the words... the words themselves...
I awoke with a sword buried in some man's chest.
It was then that I realized... I was in fact a man too. This identity, this existence... I knew not whence it came. I had a name once, I had... a purpose. There was something entirely... no. No.
I let go of the handle, leaving it in the man's chest, watched as he gasped for his last breath and drowned on blood and bile. The sight did not horrify me as much as my reaction to it... nothing. I felt nothing watching this man die before me.
But... I was not a man. Not human.
I looked deceptively like one... flesh, skin, hair... but I was not. I hadn't been for, how long had I... where had I...
The name rose from my conciousness like a reverent plague. Balance, with him came... balance. Why was this so important? What was balance as long as...
It was then that I remembered who I was. Redeemer and destroyer. I had played my part in my circular destiny, and yet... no, I did not live. This was a temporary vessel, that I knew. How temporary, I could not tell. How I came to be here... I could not think on.
A sense of urgency, of time, tugged at me. And Kain... I had to tell Kain. This figure, this legend, this fixture upon which my memories were slowly coming to me. And with them, this vessel decayed, revealing a form that I reviled and loathed while it comforted me. Soon, I would feel the hunger... it would hit me with a great force, just as it had many times before.
But I could not wait for it, I had to... where. Where was it that I sent word? And where exactly in Nosgoth was I?
I hoped I would not reach him too late, before they...
Do not be deceived. You are the last.
- Your Right Hand
Only one had ever wanted to be called that title. This chilled me, and my automatic reaction was to stand at guard position with the Reaver clasped in both hands. If this was a hoax, someone meddling far too much into my life... then there was a lout that needed to be dealt with. If not...
If not, than there was something that the tremble in my sword... that my Right Hand was trying to tell me.
It angered me. If hoax, it was injury, but if true? Was he not bound to his fate, despite his free will? And if not, what of the thoughts that swirled in my head, as I saw him impaled, fading into nothing more than a ravenous spirit to purify my vision.
Purify... yes, that must be it. It had become tainted, perhaps. And I had become lethargic in the apparent lull. Waiting, for the chance to claim, but then, where would I have gotten my army?
No matter. I had to be diligent, I had to be aware. There were dark forces that hid well in the light... a place that I had not thought to look this time around. My veins coursed, and my fangs throbbed... yes, this was what I was looking for.
A balance guardian does not do well to sit like a languorous cat.
Fittingly, I had appeared somewhere in a crypt, and it took me a day or so to fully gain my bearings. All seemed... flourishing, in Nosgoth. At least, when I glanced at it all in passing. Upon closer inspection, I could see the disease underneath the skin of the people.
Rotting corpses... all of them. Husks of once living beings that are held to this world only by the thinnest of threads... and it puzzled me. Kain had only sealed the Elder God... he still fed upon souls like a scavenger. The Wheel... was not right. Even if it was defeated, it should not have ended up like this.
Considering how loosely the souls clung to their decaying bodies, I should have felt a hunger for them... yet, I did not. As I hid in the corners, listening to the few souls that still had their basic sanity, learning the location of Kain, I still did not feel it.
Nor on the road I trod. The corpses thinned the farther I went... for the word was ‘north'. Always I had to go north. Even the half dead followed his whereabouts... Kain could never go anywhere to truly hide.
Even more disturbing was the state of the Pillars... gleaming white, like a beacon, while the humans had fallen into the plague of undeath. I felt the tingle of their loose souls... but no life. That was, until I saw them.
The supposed vampires.
I had never seen their like before. Skeletal, hideous, and a strange familiarity in their presence. They had found a way around the purification of the Reaver, which, like my hunger, simply would not come. But it was the eyes that led me to their exact nature... I had seen those eyes.
So they were...
I hastened my speed. It was more than an act of shear will that had delivered me from my prison... it was an act of desperation.
It did not take long before my first visitor came. Though, it was not who I expected. And his appearance irritated me, fueling my theories that it might just be a falsity. But I knew him, I had seen him before, but had not bothered to learn his name.
"The Circle is in need of your presence," he said before I had the chance to address him. Insolent. I despise youth.
"Then why did you come so far out of the way?" a twitch of his eye as I said that, "You are no messenger... since when did nobility stalk their way out to my sanctuary."
He smirked, an expression that I knew all too well... it was like a mirror. This was a conqueror's face. Something was unsettling in that.
"You think this a sanctuary, Kain?" a dark chuckle, "We mean for it to be your tomb." Almost too slow as he lunged... certainly the noble values have gone. Not even a proper introduction before fighting. One should always do that when fighting someone of equal, or in my case, greater power.
I detest youth.
It was amidst a particularly sweeping stroke that I noticed the trembling in the Reaver's handle had stopped. I charged ahead, feeling more confident... maybe this, this simple falsehood that Raziel might... no. This was what he was warning me for. Traitorous young snipes.
I always loved the way the Reaver felt in battle, and as I executed another arching slice, it nearly sung in my hand. This youngling was using a knavish method of fighting... all daggers and jumping... no short swords. Used in tandem so that they were almost extensions of his own arm.
I could almost swear that I had seen that style before.
He was quick, but I, I had centuries upon whatever cheap tricks he had learned. And I had my Sword encased in the Reaver. Its glowing eyes were only the surface of it and my power. I could almost see the tendrils of energy.
I blocked, and for the first time in the fight, I noticed that the eyes on the Reaver were not lit. And that was when I realized my true folly.
I had sat, waiting for something more than the lonely centuries to entertain me, like a gluttonous ancient king. Only, I was no king... and Raziel. He, or whatever form he had ascended to must have been looking for me.
What if he had been captured, and by these foolish younglings?
I pushed roughly against my opponent, sending him straight for my cleverly stone wall; another tactic I had learned from years wandering dungeons. Quicker than he could blink, I was upon him, and the swords knocked rudely against my bare floor. The Reaver, imbued or not, against anyone's neck would certainly elicit an interesting response.
"Are you keeping him? Or is this an act of a foolish, ambitious, and corrupt Circle?" He gagged, and I pressed further. "Answer me!"
"He will never reach you... and you are too late, Kain," he spit out before leaning straight into my blade, effectively slicing his own neck. He was clever in that aspect... I would have interrogated him for days, if necessary.
And I never did learn his name.
A world full of mindless half-dead was a greater blessing than I imagined. They did not question my appearance, and some assumed me to be human. At least those that still possessed any thought of their own. That contingent grew sparser as I drew north.
Which was where my first real obstacle lay. An army.
It was frustrating to see them, more of these skeletal creatures with those eyes... eyes that I had seen on far too many murals in the old vampire stronghold. There was no question that Kain had been deceived.
The thought that truly angered me, however, was that he let it happen. Not for ambition or an empire this time... in fact, I had no clue as to what was going on in his arrogant head.
Were you not supposed to keep the balance, Kain? What has clouded your vision?
I waited until nightfall to skirt around the camps. Their night sentries were easy to pick off, especially without the Reaver armed. A blessing, and also a worry for my safety. I could not feed, nor could I summon the wraith blade that had been my weapon when last I walked Nosgoth. If not for my speed and claws, I would have been defenseless.
An indefinite amount of time passed, and I could see where the army had concentrated their forces. At a fortress, remote, and well built. A fortress for someone who did not want to be disturbed, a fortress for someone who built monuments to their own experience.
This was certainly Kain's.
If only there were not so many odd canons, bathed in a greenish light shooting at it. I feared going into the Spectral realm to pass through this battlefield untouched. And I could not wait for nightfall. Whatever fortifications he shielded himself with, they would eventually break. I did not doubt Kain against an army... but my message was far too urgent to risk it.
"What about that side wall over there?" one of their younger ranked soldiers whispered to a comrade, "With the drainage and all that?" His confidante shrugged.
"The Lord says to attack head on. Just follow orders." He hung his head with that answer.
The sewers. Of course he would overdo it and make his own sewer system, despite no real need for one. Yes, this was most certainly Kain's fortress.
They were all too focused on their attack to notice me enter through the small opening. Lack of certain flesh was useful in some occasions. As was my sense of direction... which led me somewhere deep within the base structure of the place.
If I were Kain, where would I survey an attack and gloat? The highest place possible. There would be quite a few stairs.
A vampire army raised against me? Me? I did not know what insulted me more; the very act, or the small number of them that were actually present. And those cannons... little fireballs of nothing that dissolved into my walls. Foolish. Long range attacks would not work against this place... I saw to that when it was built.
So the Circle had decided to overthrow me. How dull. How predictable. I should have known that restoring all the guardians to vampire control would only gain me further headaches. I should have left the Pillars broken. At least I would have had a good place to sit.
"Do you have any idea how many stairs are in this place?" a voice. A voice so familiar that I almost killed him immediately... for the idea of falsehood still lingered in my mind. I decided to look at the speaker before impaling him, however.
Still marked with that retched appearance. So he had not ascended after all.
"How better than to survey Nosgoth from a distance? You should know, it was one of your old tactics that inspired this tower in the first place." It felt strange, this conversation. Like the shadow of an empire, or like meeting a lost old friend. Except, there are more times I can remember him trying to kill me in recent centuries than the opposite.
"You are a fool, Kain. A blind fool." Straight to the point, complaints aside. This was no imposter. A pity that he did not remember much of his Sarafan self... I imagine that part of him has crept in more after his trials.
"Are you referring to that prattle outside?" I returned, tearing my eyes away to look out the window. Still more cannons. Still these tiresome long range tactics. After I destroyed them, I would have to make and train proper vampires. War simply could not be fought this way.
"What do you see?" he countered, eyes darting to the window in a way that almost caused his whole body to move. Always so jumpy, so spritely. A fine lieutenant, but a terrible leader. What news of woe does your coming foretell this time?
"A pitiful attempt of youngling vampires trying to overthrow a weary with inactivity balance guardian," I paused, thinking for a moment, "Why... what is it that you see?"
He sighed, as if something had pressed against his chest. "Those are no vampires. They are our enemy, but not our kind." Hylden. I did not need to hear their name to understand what he was trying to say. So, cutting off their gate in the past had not deterred them. Interesting.
"And I suppose that the guardians I appointed were also Hylden?" No, I had not been a fool... I just had not thought over things enough. Eternity takes some time to process. My assumption must have been correct; however, Raziel had not yet thought of that.
"We are damned, you stubborn old fool. How else could I be released from my cycle?" His voice did not hold the same anger his words did. Apathetic about Nosgoth this time around?
Around and around the wheel we go, where it stops...
That was when it struck me. This, like any other pivotal event in my long and tiring existence was orchestrated... but this time, maybe there were not two factions plotting my demise. The enemy of my enemy...
"So much like a little dog, running to his master. I have to thank you, Raziel, for leading me here in such short time. The sewer was a brilliant stroke on your part." And so the talking head speaks.
I turned to the speaker, whose satiny feminine voice was one that I had not heard since before the empire, before even Raziel existed. The betrayer had returned. And she still looked the same, but as I had learned recently, appearances can be deceiving.
I ignored her, and instead turned to Raziel. "The humans, Raziel, what of them?" He hesitated, eyes fixed on this woman he did not know or trust. Clever fledgling, so much you have grown.
"Undead corpses, what of them?" he replied hastily once he registered my question.
"It is too late, Kain. Your little messenger was summoned too late. You cannot escape this time... not since I have evolved." She prattled on like she was the Sarafan Lord again... but... wait. Now that was certainly a thought.
"Did the Elder God raise you too, Uma, while he hid in the depths of the earth?" I finally addressed her, having the information I needed. She was interesting once, but I had killed far too many just to have them return because of the giant squid's meddling.
She laughed, a shrill thing that echoed throughout the tower. Raziel looked ready to pounce. I had to think on all the knowledge I had gained, I had to find what little knowledge I had...
What really was the spoke of the Wheel? And if Uma was raised... had she even been a vampire at all? Was her death just another...
"Are you ready for the end of the world, Raziel?" I was certainly ready. I had been for millennia now. I did not doubt the messenger... I was in fact the last. The last. The humans were undead, the Hylden were the guardians... my negligence had let this happen.
And in utter destruction, I would wipe the slate clean.
"My whole life has been for my annihilation. I would rather go now, than spend the rest of my fate a voyeur of time." Just the answer I wanted to hear. Such brief conversations we have... pity that it will have to stay that way.
With one hand, I tore the puppet's heart out... and as its unnatural blood spilt on the floor, I realized it had never been her in the first place. Just as well. With the other, I set asunder the one advantage that allowed me to be the guardian... that allowed Raziel to play out his fate.
It also allowed the false god to assert his only control over the races he could not consume.
The ground responded immediately as it broke, shattering into glints of near alive metal. No longer Raziel's prison, nor my crutch. Yes, we would most likely be destroyed along with it. But we were both ready for the end of the world.
And as the Pillars shattered, fracturing the earth underneath it, I was satisfied that I had left the false god deep underground. That I had triggered the messiah, that I had refused the sacrifice the first time.
As for this time? I was taking everything with me.
"Your tendency towards theatrics is rather tiresome." Raziel muttered, looking out as the landscape swallowed the army below.
"And your lack of vision bores me. Does it really matter?"
"Watching the apocalypse with you... how fitting."
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