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14 December 2008 @ 10:47 am
Praemonitus, pramunitus - Forewarned, forearmed  
Praemonitus, pramunitus - Forewarned, forearmed
Authors: serpentnine, immortal_reaver
Characters: Raziel, Kain, Elder God
Rating: NC-17 for angst, and a whole bunch of smex
Summary: Kain and Raziel have returned to Nosgoth--happens directly following this. This is the third part of the scene, directly following the last, where Raziel and Kain make some discoveries about what awaits for them....



Flying was different with Raziel in the air.
 
Kain’s batform typically fluttered relatively close to the ground, where he could watch the landscape and make certain the bats hadn’t lost their way.  Raziel, once airborne, shot up into the cool air, catching currents and jetstreams and just... cavorting.  Just as before, Raziel was difficult to detect by any normal means, but Kain could always sense that aura, the sheer age of him, burning bright and black as a dark sun rising.  
 
Abandoning the ground, Kain... followed.  Not as fast, not nearly as liberated, but free for the first time to simply enjoy the sensations of flying as he tracked the elder.  

But at last the pillars came in sight, and Kain broke off, feeling the small bats beginning to weary with the rapid pace.  He fluttered down so a place just south of the pillars, relieved to find he’d lost none of his bats in the wild flight.  Kain reformed in time to watch Raziel land with a great flurry of backwinging, white membrane snapping hard into the air as he elegantly touched down.   Clearly showing off, Kain thought, the corner of his mouth twisting up as he started forward, craning his neck up at the height of the pillars.  “It was late winter when I was abducted, so...”

With a low rumble, the very earth began to shake.  
 
Kain dropped to a crouch, reaching for the Reaver, even as he knew it would do him no good.  An earthquake?  Here?  He’d never even heard of...
 
Behind him, that aura, that black sun -- blinked out.  
 
“Raziel?” Kain gasped, turning.

The attack had been entirely unexpected. Raziel had just barely touched ground when the earth had begun to shake; then it opened beneath his feet, a huge gaping gash. His wings were still half-unfurled from landing, and he instinctively tried to fly upwards, to break his fall, but there was no room—one wing banged against the wall of the crevasse, falling dirt and stone fouled the other, and his scrabbling talons could find no purchase. Rebounding from one wall, he hit another rock with a bone-crunching suddenness. The pain made his vision white out, and it was in that moment that he felt something—something immensely ancient, and powerful—*yank* at him.

There was an instant of tearing agony, a sensation of being peeled from his own skin, inch by inch—and then he was falling again, further than any crevasse, through a blue-lit and twisted landscape, until he finally landed in a crumpled heap upon an unforgiving stone surface. For a moment he could do nothing, save shudder through the last aftershocks of agony, trying to blink the white haze from his sight. He felt cold, stiff—and he hurt as if every last fibre and nerve was exposed.

Raziel.
 
It was a voice out of the maddest of lucid dreams, a reverberation that had never even courted sanity.  
 
This realm was deep indeed.  The network of tunnels was torturous and winding, descending in places to pierce the heart of the world.  But here... here the chamber was wider, a great hollowed scoop etched beneath the pillars’ great seal.  Thick blue light cloaked every surface, the walls and stones twisted into non-Euclidian unreality.  Mist gathered in places.  Though no physical sound could be heard, the caverns were not silent; half-heard whispers and cries nibbled at the corners of the mind, shapes flitted at the edge of awareness.

And this chamber... was wreathed with pulsing flesh.  Tentacles thick as a man was tall, hourglass eyes even larger that watched and blinked and waited.  
 
Assassin; twice-failed.

That voice.

Raziel knew that voice—deep enough to vibrate along his bones, slow and ineffably smug. He despised it.

He lifted his head—and saw what he had feared. The Elder God, its coils wrapped everywhere, and himself—reduced. Reduced back to that shell of his former self—his wraithly form, his wings, gone. It was that last loss more than any other that made him want to howl in grief and rage. His talons curled inward, scraping the rock on which he lay, nothing but bone and sinew.

He pushed himself upward, feeling the cold ache of the unliving shell into which he had been thrust, the dull grinding pain of bone upon bone, unshielded by flesh. He lifted his face defiantly as he straightened. “I am no longer your tool, creature. And if you think this will persuade me otherwise, you are sorely mistaken!” Beneath the defiance, however, was fear.

You will always be my implement, Raziel, my Soul Reaver.  You are mine eternally, in this dimension and all others.
 
Great hourglass eyes blinked and flicked, thick writhing tentacles curling, coiling.  Grasping limbs vanished through the stone far above, prying into the subterranean prayer grottoes above.  Even here, when momentarily visible past the massive coils, the pillars seemed cracked and weathered.

“You are no more eternal than I am,” Raziel fired back, angry at this—*thing’s* presumption. “You set me on the path to kill Kain, claiming it was for the good of Nosgoth—but you have been the canker at its heart all along!” The lifeless and tattered flaps of skin at his back floated upon invisible currents of air, and the wraithblade’s glow was visible and crackling angrily upon his arm.

Do not try my patience, Raziel.  I will unmake you as easily now as ever -- should I become so inclined. I am eternally present - here and everywhere, now and always.  In every world, on every plane, I am the origin and the end.  
 
Your pitiful rebellion is ended.  You have but one task to fulfill, my servant.  To that purpose, I orchestrated your captivity and your release.  You and Kain have been brought together for one reason only, yet time and again you stay your hand, lacking the courage and the strength to fulfill the act.
 
You know the wasteland wrought by the tyrant's hand.  You know Nosgoth’s fate, sacrificed on the altar of Kain’s pride.  And now your strength is immaterial.  I have placed the despoiler in the palm of your hand.


“You have done nothing. This is the work of Powers outside your grasp, and all you can do is twist their actions to your purposes, just as you once twisted mine!” came Raziel’s fierce reply. Even as he did so, he was scanning the boundaries of the world around him, looking past the cracked Pillars and twisted walls for the faint glow that might be his key to escape—a place where the living world and the Underworld touched, and through which he might escape this place. “You sent the Ancients into oblivion, despairing, all to feed your own bloated appetites. I will not let you do the same to Kain!”

My reach has always been longer than you realize, my wayward child.  The Ancients knew their purpose and gave themselves to me.  Their destiny was fulfilled, and what of yours?  Raziel -- destroyer, devourer.  You gave yourself over to your only true enemy.  And now I manipulate universes to grant you one last chance at redemption.

“And what chance is that, monster?” Raziel snapped with strained patience. “Even if I were inclined to do your bidding, to kill the Kain of this time will only create more Paradox, wiping my own self out of existence—and possibly Nosgoth at all. Even such as *you* cannot want that.” He did not want to be here; did not want to be bantering with this so-called ‘god’ once more. It was too close to his memories of entrapment and starvation, and what if the Elder God decided to imprison its errant tool once more? Here there were no conveniently new-made corpses to use as an escape....

So you enjoy your place among the destroyed, the used and the damned. Yes, Raziel, his destruction will spell your own. But this world’s restoration depends upon the end of the vampires' parasitic curse. That, and no other, is your destiny, and it can be accomplished by one means alone. 

A roil of thick coils drew back, or perhaps the floor of the chamber itself elongated. A blue-green glow rose from the stone thus revealed.

Your willfulness does you no credit, Raziel. You have embraced a serpent -- and you have mistaken the hands of the prime mover. My will prevented Kain from meeting you at the very moment required to entrap you within the Reaver, but I was not the original architect of his abduction. Go then, Raziel, and ask that degenerate the means of his arrival in Haven.

The means of Kain’s arrival? Did that mean the Powers did *not* have a hand in it? Raziel was not about to believe the Elder God was telling all the truth, not for a second ... but why let him go, otherwise, if revenge were its only motive? Keeping him imprisoned here would keep the Reaver from being fully imbued, and therefore a threat, after all ...

Eyes fixed upon that glowing font, blue-white energy spiraling into the air in the spot where the worlds of the dead and the living met, Raziel took a step—then another. When no tentacles came down to bar his way, he darted forward, towards his promised escape. The energies caressed him, taking away any vestiges of hunger as he crossed the verge, and he caught ahold them, twisting them about as he pulled himself once more towards the land of the living.


***


The Pillars’ great meadow was riven.

Once carpeted with wild grasses and new growth of spring, the plain was now ruptured by deep chasms.  It was near the bottom of one of these, captured in a cleft betwixt two great jagged boulders, that Kain found Raziel’s corpse.  
 
The body was whole, if somewhat the worse for wear.  And Kain thought that should mean the elder were simply... simply what?  He had no experience with the states of health of his kind, knew only that Vorador’s maddened fledges had crumpled into ash when slain but was that true of ancients as well?  Yet that aura of potence had vanished, and Kain’s blood upon the corpse’s lips evoked no change at all.  

Raziel’s... body was strangely light as Kain dragged it up to the remains of the meadow.  Fragile, for all the strength it had contained.  What did this mean?  What of the fate Raziel had told -- but the Reaver was whole.  Could the Powers be forced to restore Raziel, or would removing him from this world only...?
 
Kain was not so distracted he did not notice the flash of light, a strange shockwave of force.  Snarling, furious, Kain brought the serpentine blade to hand and faced the apparition.  The demon.  “What did you do to him?”

Raziel shook his head, banishing the lingering disorientation as the warm, living air of Nosgoth wrapped around him—then spun to face his accuser. As he did so, he suddenly knew that he had not discarded his wraithly form as he had the Underworld—his flesh was still dead, stripped bare, his wings still nothing more than ruined scraps. In a flash of bitter humor, he recognized Kain—and knew his sire did not recognize the thing he had become.

And beyond Kain—was his body, his vampire body, lying upon the grass like an outworn set of clothing. He took a step forward, then stopped short as the Reaver swung to point in his direction. “Put your blade down, Kain,” he snapped. “I have done nothing.”

For all his changes in appearance, his voice at least was the same ...

The tip of the Reaver dipped.
 
Kain had encountered exactly three auras of vampiric age before in his existence.  One of them, he’d known for less than a minute.  He’d been in Vorador’s presence for perhaps a quarter of an hour.  Kain knew only one energy signature well -- but he’d made a certain study of that one, knew the feel of the charge that suffused it.  And while he could feel something from the apparition before him... it was not the same.  Similar, perhaps -- a good charade.
 
With a swift gesture, Kain erected a shield -- not over himself, but over the body just behind.  It was a somewhat wavering defense: Kain had very rarely been inclined to shield anything other than himself, and the magic was unpracticed.
 
Kain hissed his rage.  The demon had nearly had him.  “Save effected some trickery of sound -- but your aura is not his.  Tell me what you have done, and I will spare your miserable existence.”

Kain’s accusations were met with a low-voiced growl. “You cannot destroy me, the Elder God cannot destroy me, and he will not trick me into killing you out of hand, either, no matter how provoking you may be! Stand *down*, Kain, before I lose my patience!” Raziel shifted, talons flexing impotently at his sides at his sire’s stubbornness. He had battled an elder Kain to a standstill, if not a victory, in this form. A fledgling would hardly prove any difficulty at all. His only fear was that Kain would take his body and teleport elsewhere.

“Everything can be destroyed,” Kain growled, though -- a voice might be somehow magically manufactured, but a speech pattern was surely a more cagey effect to produce.  The rhythm of the words seemed... but how was the demon even speaking?  The creature’s entire ribcage was exposed, the slender bones sheathed in raw blue muscle.  “What is your purpose here?” He demanded.

Raziel gave a bark of something far too harsh and bitter to be laughter. “My sole purpose at the moment is to regain my own body—if I even can.” Had the Elder God condemned him to a renewed existence locked into this decayed housing of bone and sinew? He moved forward, white eyes blazing with determination.

“There is much going on here that you do not understand, Kain, nor do I have the time to explain it to you. I am Raziel, whether you believe it or not. If you truly wish to see me whole, then let me pass!”

Kain snarled as he gave ground, right up to the edge of the shield.  There was nothing wrong at all with backing down from a battle -- approaching later, or from a more devious angle, after he’d had time to think the problem over.  But there was no time to think now, and the apparition was striding forward with power crackling through it, and every sense of self-preservation screamed at him to get out immediately.  Except.  Kain plunged his hand through blue shell of shield, grasped Raziel’s wrist, and hissed the words to invoke teleportation.
 
Nothing happened.

As of course it did not.  Kain had never had much recourse to use his sole teleportation spell, save for a quick escape.  And though, with practice, one could expand upon the spell... Kain had not.  He had the ability to lay but one end point.  And that was currently in Haven.
 
Kain unleashed magic to slow the creature, and then lunged.

Raziel had advanced even as Kain retreated—then he had lunged when he saw what Kain was trying to do. He was almost more surprised than his too-young sire when the spell did not work. Thankfully the paralysis spell Kain had tossed had no effect on his wraithly body, because Raziel had no chance to turn his forward momentum into a dodge. All he could do is twist frantically away from the bare blade of the Reaver—he did *not* want to see whether it would try to devour him, especially now!—and backhand Kain away from his vampiric body.

The hit connected solidly—not enough to do any permanent harm, but enough to at least send Kain staggering backwards. Taking advantage of the momentary opening, Raziel dived towards his body, intending to drag it out of reach.

Kain saw the jagged little bolt of the spell connect and then -- the demon was still moving, and extraordinarily fast, twisting out of the way of the blade with a fluid grace that seemed impossible for such a ravaged form.  Kain never even saw the backhand that struck him.  Kain was impelled back, brought nearly to his knees, and surged up with a furious scream -- just in time to see the demon reach for Raziel’s corpse.  
 
And then he was sent to one knee in truth, shielding his eyes with the back of his arm against the blue-hot flash of brilliance.  
 
The black sun -- that electric dark tide -- was back.  And squinting against night-blinded vision -- the demon was gone.  
 
Oh.

For a moment, Raziel thought had been hit by lightning—did Kain cast another spell? He managed to lift heavy eyelids, and groaned—it felt as if a massive block was sitting upon his chest. He had to move, though—had to get to his body .... wait.

He hurt—but it wasn’t the dull, everpresent ache of his wraithly form. And he could *feel* again—the prickle of rocks and grass against his skin, the awkward arrangement of his limbs—and his *wings*, pinched and half-folded awkwardly beneath his back. “...what ...?” He tried to push himself upward, but his strength had fled, at least for the moment, his limbs shaking as if palsied in the aftermath of the shock.

Nightblinded Kain might be, but that didn’t stop him from driving the Reaver to stand blade down in the broken soil.  And then he strode -- or perhaps stumbled, he couldn’t be certain, -- over to the stirring body.  Grabbing Raziel by the center clasp of his pauldrons, he dragged the elder up as much as he could.  “You,” Kain growled, furious, “had me concerned.”  He began running his free hand over the places he could reach, checking.  “Are you injured?” No less angry.

“*Now* you ask,” Raziel grumbled, but wrapped a hand around Kain’s armored forearm, trying to steady himself. “If I’d known ... that monster was lying in wait, I would have avoided the Pillars entirely.” Angry—at Kain, at himself, but mostly at the Elder God, for thinking it could manipulate them both—Raziel was nonetheless relieved. He was whole again!

“Warn me before you go anywhere in such a fashion,” Kain demanded -- better if Raziel never went anywhere like that, in fact.  It had been difficult for Kain to determine the extent of Raziel’s injuries when he’d been... sleeping.  The wings in particular had been limp bundles of joints and membrane -- impossible to tell how they’d folded.  Kain pulled Raziel up a little more, reaching to try to press the trailing edge of one long supportive spar back into position, and sealed his mouth over Raziel’s.  

“I hardly had a choi-mmf!” Kain’s lips muffled Raziel’s snappish reply, hard and full of a possessive warmth that seemed to sink straight into his bones, to chase away the last vestiges left by the Underworld. Clarity returned by degrees, as if summoned by his sire’s nearness, and Raziel could not help but respond despite the awkwardness of his position, his mouth opening under Kain’s demands, tasting and *wanting*. He shuddered under the touch of Kain’s hands upon his wings, careful as they were, unable to protest or draw away.

Kain growled, into that severe, soft mouth, and sank to his knees where he straddled Raziel’s body, dragging the elder into a sitting position.  Roughly sitting, anyway, once he made sure none of that stretchy-soft membrane was trapped beneath Raziel.  The wing he’d touched was still not entirely folded -- was being held perfectly still, but Kain didn’t know how to move it to any better position, and at least Raziel wouldn’t be sitting on it.  Remembering the... lightness of Raziel’s body, the thinness of those spars, he was reluctant to do any more, and left the wing for the moment.  He ran his hand down Raziel’s side instead, hard, probing for broken ribs.  He pressed his tongue imperiously into Raziel’s mouth, tasting his own blood and that electric, midnight energy.  Undamaged.  Just as he’d remembered.

Raziel suffered himself to be poked and prodded and checked over, but only because it was Kain. In his dazed state, it was a familiar liberty, one owed to his sire, no matter if said sire was a bare fledgling himself. And the damnably distracting insistence of Kain’s mouth heated his blood and made him struggle upwards, holding that armored form tightly as if for support in a tilting world. He slanted his mouth hard across Kain’s, his tongue duelling softly with its intruding mate for a moment, before he nicked it deliberately against a fang, making an offering of his blood.

Kain was just running a hand down Raziel’s thigh -- the leather was torn and scuffed in places but nothing beneath seemed damaged, or at least, no longer damaged, when the taste... oh.  Something fell into place, and though Kain still did his best to keep Raziel pinned, the fury subsided.  This time the rumble was deeper than a growl, laced through with pleasure and approval.  His fist left the clasp of Raziel’s armor and he wound his arm around the elder’s back, under the wings, just beneath where they joined.  Kain clasped Raziel close, very tight.  His hand at Raziel’s thigh slid inwards, up, found the leather-clad groin.  

Eyes opening wide, Raziel threw his head back, gasping, as Kain’s fingers wrapped hard around the sensitive spot where flight muscles merged with bone. His wings flared involuntarily—almost as if he were preening, regardless of his featherless state, and Raziel could not hide his tremors of pleasure. A low, throttled groan escaped from his throat, and his hands clenched hard on Kain’s armor, talons scraping harshly against the tough surface. “ ... Kain!” The name was benediction and plea all in one as he bucked upward, into his sire’s hands.

“Oh, Raziel,” Kain breathed, and he should have thought to explore here before.  The cry hung in the still air, and Raziel’s wings arced, the white marble shafts of the pillars behind like streaks of moonlight, filtering through the thin membrane.  And he could feel -- under his hand -- the coil and bunch of muscle with the movement, thick ropes of steel-cord strength just beneath the skin.  And there were places so velvety soft, the skin felt like feather-down.  He wanted to put his mouth there.  

Spread like this, held taut, the wings were no less delicate than before, but no longer seemed so... fragile.  “Magnificent,” he crooned, fingers working upon the laces of Raziel’s breeches.  The tight leather came free, and Kain reached in, withdrawing the length that strained its confinement and stroking demandingly.  He could hardly bear to tear his eyes from the ascendant beauty of the body beneath his, but that perfect, pure line of Raziel’s exposed throat was utterly irresistible.  Kain licked there, nibbled, scraped.

Raziel’s moan was more felt than heard, a vibration rumbling low in the chest and the surface of his throat. He had barely had a chance to adjust to the change, from being *dead* and hollow and cold to—well, not alive, but something a great deal closer, with hot blood roaring in his ears and clogging his senses with its scent. Kain’s teeth at his throat were dangerous, were perfect and *right*, and Raziel let his head fall back, baring his neck with a willing submission he gave to no other, whether mortal or god.

His strength was still so much greater than this younger Kain’s, even now—but it did not feel like it, not under such a dizzying assault upon his flesh. His wings flexed and opened, much like a man might curl his fingers into sweaty skin, as bucked into Kain’s knowing touch, those soft fledgling fingers a velvet grasp around the taut, aching flesh.

And oh -- there were subtleties to this place that Kain had found.  The softness where the membrane met skin was so very delicate on one side, a little rougher on the other, and the base joint of the wing was heavy with tendon and bone but a firm touch just *there* made Raziel scream.  And between the wings, upon either side of the spine -- delicate little stabilizer muscles that produced no response when stroked lengthwise but when he ran the pad of his finger across them crosswise, dragging the tip of his nail just hard enough to scratch... “Beautiful, Raziel.  So receptive.  You delectate me so -- your strength, your mind, your determination, the way you writhe...” and Raziel was writhing, so hard Kain could only just maintain his grip.

Kain kissed down Raziel’s chest, laving, leaving scraping little bites, found the pebbled rise of one nipple.  Sealed his mouth there and sucked, hard, swirling his tongue over.  “Come for me, Raziel,” he breathed against the skin, scraping the edge of his nail carefully over the slick head of Raziel’s cock, and then bit, sinking his fangs in on either side of the nipple.

Small noises, little growls and half-whimpers, spilled from Raziel’s mouth without conscious thought as he writhed under the dual assault on his cock and his wings. No partner had ever paid such attention to those half-concealed areas before, and he thought it might very well drive him mad before Kain was done.

Having those black-nailed hands scraping up his back, discovering every inch of shivering and oversensitive skin was a pleasurable hell—and for the moment, at least, his wits had fled enough that there was no room left for fear. And there was Kain’s mouth, fangs nipping at his flesh, and the skim of fingers over his cock—pulling, stroking hard enough that he could feel the iron strength underneath the soft skin. Teasing the flared ridge of the head until Raziel couldn’t help but buck convulsively into that grasp, wanting more, the sudden desperate need clenching in his gut and in his balls and spiralling ever tighter until it escaped even that tenuous hold. Kain bit, and pierced his flesh, and Raziel came with a guttural cry, shaking like a dying man as he spilled himself into and under his sire’s hands.

Kain was forced to draw his fangs from that flesh, the electrically sweet taste of the elder’s blood setting his senses aflame, just to see -- “Raziel, yes, just so -- ah!”-- the sheer beauty as Raziel rose to completion.  Wings flared wider, their dappled cream surfaces bright under the light of moon and stars and the faint radiance of the Pillars.  Raziel’s skin -- so perfect, armored yet sensitive, the darker veining like fine marble.  Raziel’s talons clasped on Kain’s own armor, and the shudders rippled his frame, made his thighs tense beneath Kain’s.  And Raziel’s face, the expression so beautifully... liberated.

Kain thrummed his pleasure as he stroked harder, through Raziel’s orgasm, fingers perhaps too hard on that so-sensitive flesh, not caring.  Kain bit into his own tongue, kissed into Raziel’s mouth, just -- gripped by his own sense of satisfaction, pleasure... sense of relief.  
 
The shuddering eased after a time.  Kain broke the kiss, brought his hand to his mouth, licked the pearly, silver-clear fluid from his fingers.  He ducked his head, thrummed into Raziel’s throat.  “Elegantly done, Raziel,” he murmured.

Feeling boneless and lethargic in the wake of his reanimation and sudden climax, Raziel slowly loosened his grip, folding his wings slowly inward as he tried to overcome his dazed and overstimulated state. Still pinned by Kain’s weight upon his hips, Raziel found it hard to bring himself to care, even with the threat of the Elder God still lurking nearby.

Drawing in a breath, he savored the scent of the younger vampire, the lingering taste of Kain’s blood in his mouth. “How long ... was I gone?”

“A quarter hour -- perhaps a little over,” Kain said, sweeping the pad of his thumb across the head of Raziel’s slowly softening cock, and then regretfully enfolded the length behind the leather once more.  He started on the laces.  “I want to examine the pillars briefly, and then we are going to whence I first obtained my teleportation spell.” 
  
Despite the allure of Raziel like this, Kain could not stomach tarrying longer here.  He knew not whether whatever had kil... had sundered the meadow was now gone.  And as for the teleportation spell -- there were more scrolls and carvings, other variations of the spell.  Kain had been too hurried at the time to do more than absorb the basics, but... his current skill was clearly inadequate.  

Raziel closed his eyes for a moment, licking his lips as he fought to bring his senses back to earth. He did not protest Kain’s high-handedness, for amidst the slowly dissipating haze of pleasure, the Elder Gods words had surfaced once more, echoing in his ears.

“Kain.” The brush of those fingers against the lacings of his breeches was a distraction, but Raziel forged on. “What were the circumstances of your arrival into Haven?”

Kain finished with the laces and stood, offering his hand, unprotected by gauntlet or glove.  “I awoke in a Sarafan chapel,” he said, unable to contain the faintest trace of a snarl.  It had been one of the more unpleasant awakenings of his existence.  “Or at least, I thought it such.”  Kain raised an eyebrow.  “Why?”  

“So you have no memory of the circumstances of your—abduction?” Raziel said, clasping his hand and allowing himself to be hauled to his feet—and ignoring Kain’s question, at least for the moment.

Raziel’s talons were smooth and slick and scratched against Kain’s armor.  Kain made certain the elder was fully upright, then started towards the Pillars.  “Oh, I know exactly what happened,” he growled.  The very memory made him furious.  “I was seeking to use Moebius’ time-streaming chamber, using books I dug from the ruins of Vorador’s mansion.  I thought...” Kain shook his head briefly as he jumped to the Pillars’ waist-high platform.  He’d thought he could find something -- someone -- perhaps like unto Raziel, as a matter of fact.  Or the knowledge required to produce his own fledglings, though that was now out of the question.  For the moment.  “One of the Powers took me from that place.” Kain’s fist clenched.

Raziel blinked in surprise. “You actually remember a Power coming to ... capture you? Which one was it?” He knew of no other Chosen who actually remembered the transition between their world and Haven—why had Kain been different?

Kain folded his arms, gazing up at the Pillar of dimension.  Something felt... wrong? about it.  Less... strong than it had been.  He didn’t know whether that was a product of his own absence, or his imagination, or... something else.  “I do not know.  I have not met it since.”  Somewhat to Kain’s relief, truthfully.  The thing... had been old, like the way Raziel or Count D were old.  “Whatever it was... I think it will be amongst the more difficult to destroy.  If we learn that the Powers’ tale is not in verity, as you say,” he admitted.

Kain’s answer did not satisfy Raziel’s curiosity, but there seemed little point in pursuing the matter further—at least for now. After all, even though Raziel had learned the titles and functions of all of the Powers, he had met only a handful. How could he expect a fledgling Kain to know which he had encountered?

Stepping away, Raziel followed Kain’s gaze to the Pillars. He was no Pillar guardian, however, and did not have his sire’s link to them. He had to rely upon his more mundane senses, and while he had been witness to the Pillars’ sundering, this was the first time he had seen them so ... newly broken. Their surfaces, already corroded by decay, were a sooty grey, and the jagged stumps pierced skyward like knives, not yet eroded down by time and the elements. Raziel knew the wound that those stumps represented, and it was ... sobering, to say the least.

Kain reached out to the Pillar of Dimension, letting his fingertips rest on the surface, then scuffed the ground, thinking.  He picked up a sliver of marble, somehow knowing it to be part of that pillar.  “Whatever it was, it was old.  Something like you, perhaps, but... different.” Kain shook his head.  “It had me trapped for perhaps the span of a minute, before it thrust me through the portal.”  He trotted over to the pillar of Nature.  Perhaps Count D could make something of a fragment of its marble.

“What are you doing?” Raziel asked with a puzzled frown. Kain was not one for pointless sentimentality—what use could he have for such pebbles?

Kain paused, turning the two fragments over in his hand.  He could tell which came from each Pillar, of course.  But now that he effectively touched both pillars at once, the difference was... obvious.  “If this is the same year as my abduction,” he mused, looking up, “Then sometime in the past few months, the Pillar of Dimension has... degraded.  More than the others.”  He held out the stones, thoughtfully.  “Can you feel the difference?”

Raziel took the small stones, and frowned down at them. They lay in the palm of his gauntleted hand, inert. There was no sense of resonance, or of power ... only the faintest fading tickle of magical energy. He shook his head and handed them back. “No, I do not, I’m afraid.” Not that he thought Kain was lying. Far from it. He was very much afraid he knew the cause behind the imbalance as well.

Hylden.

Kain nodded and took the stones back, idly tucking them away in an extradimensional pocket.  He made one last round, passing his hand over the cracked surfaces.  Awareness that their attacker could return at any moment urged him haste, and he found his attention frequently drifting back to Raziel’s aura, just checking on him from time to time.  Finally, he rejoined the elder, having uncovered no answers.  He’d think on the matter later, someplace safer.  As fortune would have it, he knew just such a place.  “I wish to revisit the shrine where I found my teleportation spell.  It is attached to a mausoleum west of Ziegsturhl.  Can you follow me?”    

“I can,” Raziel affirmed, then glanced down and moved to more solid footing. The Elder God’s words still lurked in the recesses of his memory ... but for now he chose to let them lie. He certainly wasn’t about to destroy Kain, and therefore his future self, no matter what that old monster wanted!

Kain nodded and then took off.  The bats circled upwards in a tight swirl as Kain waited, making certain that the Raziel’s thick, black, electric aura was well off the ground before he struck out for the distant landmark of the town of Ziegsturhl.  The land was thickly wooded, traced by rivulets and streams that had made this early part of Kain’s journey so hazard-fraught.  The ancient, decaying graveyard he sought was an hours’ flight west, but the night was clear and calm.  Kain finally located the largest mausoleum and reformed atop its roof.  He jumped down and made his way towards one of the entrances.

The wind was cold around his wings, on his face, the stars shining above, concealed only by a few ragged ends of cloud. There was no one to see them from the ground—the peasants here knew well what lurked in the night, and huddled behind locked doors and feeble superstitions as soon as the sun went down. Raziel almost regretted it when they reached their destination—he wanted to continue, to enjoy his mastery of the skies even longer. But the trailing cloud of bats that he followed were spiralling downward, and he followed them, backwinging as he landed on the slate rooftop after Kain.

This mausoleum seemed ... familiar, though Raziel had seen so many that for the moment he could not place it.

The entrance hallway was broad, lined with niches and the remains of ancient corpses.  There was still a trace of the sigils that had been painted on the floor -- runes to keep the undead at rest.  Rather ineffectual ones, in Kain’s opinion, considering that he’d been forced to slay several skeletons here.  A hidden latch caused a stone wall to rumble aside, revealing the small, shrine-like space where Kain had found his teleportation spell.  Just past that was the place Kain had been interred.  

If Kain had any abode in Nosgoth, that room would be it.  There was little here anymore, for he’d grown able to carry most necessities with him.  But there was fabric enough for a bedroll or three, candles and lamps for reading, a few carvings and tapestries he’d thought interesting, as well an assortment of battle artifacts which he simply did not have room for.  There was a large, framed picture over one broken crypt -- a likeness of himself, as a human, though Kain personally thought it a terrible one.  Kain had not been here for months, even before his abduction, and the mausoleum smelled musty with moisture from the spring rains.  
 
It was, in short, a wholly inadequate place to bring Raziel.  Not that Kain had intended ever to bring anyone here at all, but.  Well.  It would have to do.  At least he had not accidentally left a human chained in one of the small cells near the entrance -- they were always such a mess when they died.

Raziel looked around, with an idle sort of curiosity. His gaze stopped short as he saw the painting, however, and his eyes widened—not in surprise, but in recognition.

“Ah, now I remember what this is ...” he said quietly, half to himself. Kain’s own crypt, the one he had been interred in as a human. He wondered what had happened to it, centuries later. Certainly none of Kain’s offspring had been invited there, as Kain continued to spread the legend of his deification.

Kain followed the elder’s gaze.  For any other, the state of this mausoleum wouldn’t really have mattered -- but then, Kain wouldn’t have brought anyone else here anyway.  He turned the idea of destroying the complex -- and that awful painting -- over, decided he rather liked the notion.  “What do you know of the magics of teleportation, Raziel?” he asked, turning instead to the ancient engravings and carvings on the wall.  Astronema had been adept at a spell similar to this -- she’d evidently not even needed to lay endpoints in order to teleport.  

“Very little,” Raziel confessed, moving to watch Kain. “It was not something ... I ever had occasion to learn.” Or you to teach. He never knew if that was because Kain wouldn’t, in order to maintain his power over his offspring—or simply couldn’t, because the talent did not run in them.

Kain drew a breath to reply, and then paused.  How very strange.  Come to think of it, had he seen Raziel use magic at all?  Well, yes.  The telekinetic blast Raziel had used bespoke a considerable amount of raw power, and there was something he had done with fire, which was perforce a hazardous element for a vampire to attempt to control.  But then... teleportation was perhaps a rather rare spell.  Kain had seen no other shrines like this one.  “It might have been a useful magic to employ, back at the Pillars,”  Kain suggested.  He found the small, square crystal -- perhaps the size of a playing card -- within which the precepts of the spell were imprinted, and handed it over.  “Can you read this?”

Raziel took the crystal gingerly, holding it in the tips of his talons and staring into it. At first the symbols seemed to make no sense, for all their familiarity. Then, as he tilted it this way and that, a stray shaft of light illumined the interior, bringing the words into sharp relief. He sucked in a breath in surprise as the symbols suddenly became words—archaic, to be sure, and difficult to understand, but nevertheless readable. “I do,” he said, wondering.

“Good,” said Kain, approving.  Human mages could learn apparently the same spell via long practice -- Kain knew not what made this method so much faster.  But something in these particular ancient constructs seemed... familiar to him, seemed to resonate with him.  He’d not known whether Raziel would be as receptive.  And as much as he disliked handing power to any creature... he could not risk Raziel to another attack, such as had occurred at the Pillars.  “The most complicated portion is the first -- the spell requires an endpoint be laid before the second half will function.  The process can be a little speeded by....”

Raziel listened intently, his sole focus on Kain and the instructions he was being given. It was a familiar formula—Kain as the teacher, Raziel the student—and he fell back into it as easily as breathing. Once explained, the spell the crystal held became clear and Raziel almost laughed in self-deprecatory triumph. How simple it was! How could he have not understood it before?

“So you can only go to one place, then? Your—endpoint, correct?” That could not be all of it, for the elder Kain was not subject to such limitations. But then, he had been granted centuries in which to refine his technique.

  “Currently, that is the case,” Kain said.  Actually, using only the instructions on that crystal, Kain had originally only been able to return to this one place.  But trial and error had loosened that restriction for Kain, and given the adeptness and speed with which Raziel absorbed the concepts, the elder should not experience such restriction at all.  “But I have seen human adepts use similar spells to lay multiple such markers.  It seems there may be more to the spell than I originally supposed, though...”  Kain spread similar crystals and clay squares of runes out across the surface of a nearby sarcophagus, and summoned a ball of light.  “Deciphering the way may take some work.  Tell me, what can you make of this one...?”  

“Let me see.” Raziel bent his head to the task. Even with both of them deciphering the symbols, it did not turn out to be an easy one; very few of the runes were in any of the common tongues of the era, and only Raziel’s familiarity with bloodscript and the symbols of the Ancients aided his progress. Kain, on the other hand, seemed to have an instinctive grasp of the symbols meaning, if not their exact nature. Raziel wondered if that was due to the Balance scion’s nature, even as ignorant of it as Kain was in this time and place—an intuitive understanding of the powers that would aid in his duty.

It took a great deal of time, and the sun was well-risen by the time they deciphered enough of the symbols to begin to understand the spell they detailed. Kain was right—there was more to this teleportation than just a simple hopping to one’s ‘home’, though it appeared that adjusting those parameters took a great deal of skill ... and no small amount of power.

“This is something that will require a great deal of practice in its effective use, it seems,” Raziel remarked.

“It does seem so,” Kain agreed, turning to look through an old chest.  There were corked flasks here, filled with spelled blood from the Ancient’s pools.  Unlike the highly magical runic vials of healing, these containers were large and too bulky and fragile to carry often; their only power lay in the liquid they held.  Some of the flasks were too old, their magic had faded and the blood within vanished.  But there were a handful of good ones left, and Kain removed two and passed one to Raziel.  

Kain worked the cork of his flask free and thoughtfully stirred the runic items with a clawtip.  He’d hoped this spell might provide an easy answer to his dilemma the night past at the Pillars -- a better way to get Raziel out of danger, should something like that happen again.  But it would take some while before either he or Raziel would be capable of that feat.  “For the present time, Raziel, I do not wish you to return to Nosgoth alone,” he said, deciding.

Taking the flask, Raziel arched a sardonic eyebrow. “Afraid of what I might do outside of your watchful eye, Kain?”

The corner of Kain’s mouth turned up, though it was with a certain self-mocking amusement.  Such an alien thing, to be concerned for any creature, let alone one as strong and self-capable as Raziel.  Certainly not something he’d admit in so many words.  “Something to that effect,” he said dryly.  “I am relatively well-positioned to make certain inroads against the Powers from within Haven.  When you return to Nosgoth, it need not necessarily be in my company -- Gaara would suffice.  Or another of your allies; though I would wish to meet them first.”

Some of Raziel’s good humor faded from his face. “Regardless of what you would wish, if I accede to your *request*, then it is only because I do not wish you to be trapped in Haven as I have been. You do not command me, Kain.” Not anymore. Or was that a lie as well? “I would recommend you do not forget that.”

Kain’s mouth tightened, nearly a snarl.  If what he knew -- or thought he knew -- of the timestream was correct, then it should not matter what strange or otherworldly creatures Raziel brought back to any given era.  They would not change history because they had not -- such was the nature of fate.  Unless, of course, one believed in free will, and frankly, Kain was becoming increasingly skeptical.  
 
But fate was an unreliable mistress.  If whatever happened at the Pillars happened again, or if that strange, ancient Power made another appearance, Kain wanted Raziel with backup to hand, be it himself or another.  And to that end, he’d even couch his will as a ‘request’.  Kain drew a breath, and then nodded.  “Very well, Raziel.  I request that you refrain from venturing to any era without a confederate.”

Somewhat mollified—he had half been expecting Kain to lose his temper completely, regardless of the disparity in their power—Raziel gave him a short nod. “As you wish—I shall take it under advisement.” Which wasn’t a ‘yes’—but wasn’t a ‘no’, either. Popping the cork free of his flask with the tips of his talons, Raziel took a cautious sniff of the contents within, then sipped. The blood was cold, of course, but well-preserved, at least.

Kain concealed a sigh by taking a deep draught of his own flask.  The long storage had not done much for the blood, but it was at least quite drinkable.  As much as he hoped Raziel saw the wisdom of keeping a powerful ally to hand while in Nosgoth, Kain could not force the elder to do anything, in truth.  As for manipulation... well.  Kain considered a few options, then decided the issue could wait.  For the moment -- “How long do you think it safe to stay?  There will be a full moon in a week, and I think you might have interest in the hidden city.”  

“I misdoubt our jailors will begrudge us a week or so, if we wish to remain,” Raziel said dryly, suddenly and acutely aware of how short that time seemed to him, if not to Kain. “And if they do, and yank us back untimely—then we shall have learned the limits of our leash, as well as perhaps gaining a new grudge to set against the Powers.” He tilted his head. “A hidden city, you say?”

“Indeed,” Kain said.  “A most strange and fascinating place, if you do not mind a little battle with resident werewolves.  A splendid place to pick up more Implode artifacts, too, though the complex is only accessible under the light of the full moon.”  Kain gathered up what parts of the teleport shrine he thought could be of some use, and downed the last of his bloodflask.  “In the meanwhile, there are a number of petty highwaymen ‘twixt here and Ziegsturhl, and past that town, a host of other old caverns and ancient sites.”  Rested and now refreshed, Kain headed for the exit.  “Care to come exploring?”

Tossing back the remainder of the blood in his own flask, Raziel set it to one side and stood up. To explore this younger Nosgoth, one for which he had only the briefest memories, with Kain at his side ... for the moment, at least, he could think of nothing better. “It sounds an intriguing prospect, Kain. By all means, lead on.”
 
 
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