Chapter 3

The Fallen

Blood tainted the stone floor, pooling over the rough surface and cascading down the cracks and crevices. The stagnant and suffocating stillness of moments past, remained to be the only witnesses to what had happened, all others who had seen the shadow that had stalked its prey – were now dead, their bodies – what were left of them, remained discarded upon the floor. This was the scene that awaited Malek as he entered the antechamber.

The Paladin looked around the desolate room. Blood and blood and the bodies of the fallen, it was too late… There was not one single living person left within this room, none. Empty shells of former Guardians lay useless upon the hard floor, their souls long gone, and there was no single note of respiration apart from that of Malek's.

Malek took a step over the threshold; his mind tormented him by re-echoing their screams. With Moebius he had stood strong, confronting the demon that had posed a threat to the Circle. 'Raziel', Moebius had called it, though Malek was not sure why, why it was such a decrepit creature such as that would have the name of one of his elite. Nevertheless, the Paladin did not question it, one thing he never did, for you never questioned those you are in service to.

A feeling of dread plucked at Malek's soul as he regarded those bodies. This was his fault. They were dead because of him, had he come sooner then… The damndest confusion, this was the result, that through obeying one Guardian, so many more had been slaughtered. Where was the logic, and what was the result to be had by this?

What was he to have done, disobey the Guardian of Time, putting Moebius at risk? Logic and rationality was lost to him.

From the depths of darkness the shadows watched, whilst one of them moved. This silence that stirred was one of falseness, a moment that had been threatened into silence when all that moment wanted to do was scream out a warning. But any warning that could be past on, was passed on too late.

Behind the Paladin the form of the Vampire who had attacked and broken the Circle appeared, raising the hilt of his sword, only to bring it down on the Paladin's helm. Not a forceful strike, not one to cause damage, just a strike to get Malek's notice. The Vampire wanted Malek's full attention, he wanted a fair fight with this Sarafan warrior, for only then would he feel the fall satisfaction of revenge.

The strike caught the Paladin off guard, exactly what the Vampire had intended. Malek turned suddenly and with recognition, bringing his weapon automatically up in a moment of defence. Harshly, so it was their brutal murderer, Vorador, confronted him.

Vorador, Janos' child, how fitting. Though the revelation of such bit deep into Malek's mind, his pride as well as his loyalty to the Guardians, was becoming damaged. It had been Vorador who had done this, this Vampiric pestilence who had gotten into the Stronghold. The vestiges of blood upon the Vampire's sword, the cruel and disgusting thoughts that registered within Malek's mind from such, the fact that Vorador had fed from the ones he was meant to protect. Malek could not speak for his vocals had seized to function properly upon the facet of rage that he felt burn deeply within him.

Rage can make one foolish, its only final asset is to have one fall to their knees; in moments of rage a mistake can cost you the finality of the curtain being drawn.

The Vampire Vorador felt nothing at that moment, though he acknowledged his victims own fears, which only gave him the feeling of more power. The only thing he focussed upon was revenge; all other emotions were locked away. No sadness, no regret… Regret? Vorador would have laughed at even the suggestion of regret. What was there to regret? Regret the death of these? Why? Those who supported the slaughter of his kind were far from having regrets of their own, he knew this from sharing their thoughts when he had taken their life's flow. The hypocrites of pillage, the rape of Nosgoth, and murder and butchery of his own, – the Circle already had blood upon their hands; perhaps he had justly brought their end.

No, there was no regret, nothing, no emotion, just pure loathing which was fortified in every strike that Vorador unleashed upon Malek – their so-called 'protector', 'Guardian of Guardian's', and yet he could not even be there at the time of their deaths. Vorador laughed, "Pathetic" he replied in answer to one of Malek's advancements.

Derived from this was the purest of pleasures, and Vorador would have delighted in spending the majority of the night there, tormenting Malek beyond his Mortal senses.

With a sudden clash, their weapons met in the middle of a flay, the blade of Vorador's sword against the midsection of Malek's halberd. Vampiric glare met that of the Sarafan; a pause for a moment as the challenges of both was passed through a silent and yet deadly element that emitted from both beings.

"Even for Sarafan you are weak."

The word 'weak' made the anger inside the Paladin rise to an extended point. He had been many things throughout his life, but he had always made sure that he was never weak.

"Weak?" Malek hissed through gritted teeth, grinding his own force behind his halberd, met in union to that of Vorador.

"And you would know all about weakness, would you not Vampire?"

Vorador snarled and forced Malek back. The Vampire's strength, forged in the very fires of anger, though he remained in a manner like the one he had had in facing the hunters within the woods – resolute, emotionless. Being that way always made your enemy anger more, for were they not angering you? Nothing more was pleasurable to see an enemy try to get at you, only to find that they could not, this Vorador knew extremely well.

Balance, Malek seized a hold of, steadying himself upon his feet once more, turning and unleashing a deadly combination of advancement – blades first, the halberd twisting within his gauntleted hands. He had been trained with his chosen weapon from a young age, advancing with his gift for fighting, at an unnatural pace. Malek had stood out from the others with his hunger to learn more, to learn the art of conflict, always striving to become the best combatant. And through the ranks he had evolved, quickly and at an unnatural young age. Though it was not surprising, Malek after all was Guardian of Conflict – though that factor had remained unknown within his early point of life. And now here he was.

Vorador, Malek saw as his ultimate test, he had trained all of his life for this moment.

One of the halberd's blades grazed Vorador's skin lightly, though it did nothing to hinder the Vampire, and in a fluid movement the Paladin naturally eased himself into an attack. He parried himself forward, whilst the Vampire stepped back, fading from view just as Malek's blades pierced the space where he had been standing.

The Vampire evaded around the Paladin, unseen to him, and then reappeared behind him once more, again slamming the hilt of his sword into the back of his adversary, snarling "Whelp…" as an insult to send Malek upon his way to the floor.

An understanding was drawn between them, the understanding that they were both bitter enemies, that they both wished to destroy each other. Either one of them would have been contented to see their weapon skewer the skin of the other. They despised each other.

Vorador would rejoice with the blood from Malek's carcass in a motion of celebration, like he had with the others, their blood flowing through him and alighting his senses. In the highlight of bloodlust he could do nothing more then laugh; laugh at their folly, at their pathetic cattle-like ways. They could run, they could hide, but he would always find them.

This moment had brought fresh sentiments to the Vampire Vorador. With the first twisted thread of this situation he had been unthinking, though his passage into the Stronghold had been easier enough… perhaps a little too easier. Though it seemed, a majority of the Stronghold seemed to have their minds set on something else, like a majority of them had been alerted to look out for something though not necessarily Vorador.

As Vorador had moved through the corridor to the antechamber he had considered this, though he was not sure what to think of it. For it was like another 'being' was working with him, and that very night it seemed that they feared something more then just Vorador.

But who was this other 'being', if one so existed… or perhaps it was only Vorador's mind working upon the damnation of loneliness, another offset caused by the loss of his creator, Janos. Maybe that is what it was, that within his mind he imagined that there was another 'being' that the Stronghold feared just to fill in that gap that his Sire had once filled. Perchance, that this 'essence', this 'creature', whatever it was that he could sense them fear, was the wrath of his Master? No, for Janos had no wrath let alone hatred within him… How different he had been compared to that of his son.

Whatever it was, the Stronghold certainly seemed to be preoccupied with something else, and strangely he had found no resistance bestowed upon him in entering. It would not have mattered if he had of done, for it would have added to the enjoyment of the situation. To see blood spill added to the factor of vengeance, though it did not seem to satisfy him. How much blood spill was Janos worth? The answer was, a lot more then what was possible, but whatever happened, Vorador would at least try to avenge his Sire's death. Though it would not bring Janos back, and it could be questioned on whether it achieved anything, on the contrary it actually helped Vorador find an answer to the situation that had unfolded.

The six Guardians had been poised over a basin watching, when fate had brought the conclusion of what they would receive in result of Janos' death. With every action there is a reaction, and for everything you take, so it must be replaced.

The doors opened abruptly, and it was the Guardian of States who looked up from the watery image they had been watching.

"Vamp…ire…" The words barely left his lips. The others looked up at the sudden intrusion, whilst their fellow Guardian collapsed, falling to the floor. A bloody hand mark was left smearing the sides of the basin from where he had tried to grip a hold of it for support. Yet the moment his hands had reacted at his wish to grip a hold of it, he was already dead.

The Circles gaze averted from their fallen comrade and then to the figure that stood in the doorway.

"What is the meaning of this?" The Guardian of Balance had demanded an answer but Vorador had little to answer them for, except give them answers he knew they would not like, better yet, he preferred to show them.

'What is the meaning of this?' Vorador considered the question for a moment, but only for a moment, before it was he drew his blade across one of them, 'Revenge'. The Vampire smirked for a moment and then wrenched his sword from the Guardian's chest, wretched blood flowing from the fatal wound he had inflicted upon the human. The answer was simple – revenge, not just for Janos, but also for all the children of the night that had been lost at a result to their own ignorance.

That movement, as the second lay dying on the floor, separated the group, and they dispersed like a flock of sheep. Some breaking away in hope of making for the doorway, another backed away into a corner, and the Guardian of Dimension called to their protector, her voice igniting the Stronghold with powerful vocals, echoing around the antechamber – the name of the Paladin, "Malek!"

Without hesitation Vorador did away with her, if not to just purely silence her. Though she screamed as his own element of power took to work on her, her skin dissolving from bone. A painful death but one well deserved so the Vampire concluded, wiping the remains of the blood from another one of the Guardians, away from his face.

This situation could have been concluded as being madness, a Vampire walking into the Sarafan Stronghold and facing six of the Guardians. This was the element of legends, but Vorador thought nothing of it, nothing of it as he fed from the fallen and drew his blade out of the skin of another. They wielded great power, but he was unafraid, after all he was the child of Janos Audron – and he had to bring a conclusion and reason to Janos' death or Vorador knew he would never be able to find peace.

Perhaps Vorador was fearless because it no longer mattered to him; he was there for absolute revenge. If he left that hellish dwelling of humans afterwards then that was but a bonus, though not necessarily a blessing. And he took each moment as it came, indeed he was there for retribution, and if he left, he left knowing that what was left was nothing but nothingness and that element of emptiness.

That was not to say that he wished to die though, quite the divergent, he was just prepared to risk everything if it meant he could scar the Mortal world beyond belief. Take from the Vampiric world, and they would pay dearly…

Throughout it all came the calls for their protector Malek, though he had yet to respond. And as Vorador swept through the antechamber he always had his sense attuned to the room so that he could respond suddenly should the Paladin appear.

Laughter, "Call your dogs – they can feast on your corpses!"

The last Guardian had been a coward, attempting to hide and at the same time trying to build up the strength he needed in mind to build up his power.

However, just as he was harnessing the elemental flow of quintessence he needed, he noticed the fell shadow that was suddenly cast upon the floor. In a moment of fear his concentration was lost, images of what had happened to his fellow Guardians played ripe in his mind, and the harnessed power he nearly wielded was lost to him. The Guardian now knew that nothing was left but defence, and so with hands brought to his face he had faced his fate, and Vorador had finished him off easily enough.

Is this how the fledglings looked when humanity hunted them? Still young and defenceless, not ready yet to protect themselves entirely, though some tried to attack, for what little good it did against a group of Mortals. But when there was a last moment left within them, they considered it was better to at least attempt to fight, though it was done in vain.

The others that did not fight merely cowered within the corners of darkness, just hoping that they could avoid the hunters glance. Though none where spared.

It was Vorador who was now seeing it as his task to provide shelter to those Vampires, though it mattered not whether they were Fledgling or elder, if they needed sheltering, protecting they would find it with Vorador. A fledgling in need of guidance and security would find it with Vorador, for it pained him to see the loss of his own and the decline of his kind.

From the last Guardian Vorador took enough blood to sustain his thirst, though his energy was running upon pure adrenalin alone. It was as he had just finished feeding and was wiping away the remains, when he had heard the reply to what had been their calls to Malek. It seemed that only now was the Paladin responding.

Vorador turned to the doorway, wiped his blade and chuckled, his image despising and merging with the room just as the Paladin Malek entered.

The Vampire brought up his sword for one final strike, the blade launched at Malek in suddenness. There was a suspension and lull within time, the Guardian of Conflict watched the blade come deadly before him, and then he reacted. Halberd brought up in defence, Malek put all his force in that one defensive moment, diverting Vorador's blade away from any susceptible area that would result in any blood being drawn from a cut against the skin. As Malek got to his feet Vorador's sword grated against his chest plate. In result the Paladin sidestepped, the Vampire staggered forwards, whilst Malek turned brusquely and unexpectedly, aiming once more for Vampiric flesh.

Just as Malek's blade was about to go into its target, once again Vorador disappeared. This gift of teleportation bestowed upon the Vampire could have infuriated Malek to no ends; however, Malek calmed himself in being highly disciplined and patient. Besides, he had a few tricks of his own, should the Vampire remain in one place long enough for Malek to unleash them.

Malek sensed the Vampire close by and turned just as Vorador was launching another strike, though the Paladin's movement was not swift enough. The Paladin received another strike to his chest plate, a move that caught him off guard. Backwards the Sarafan moved luring the Vampire into his own deadly dance, he had fought enough in his time to know their weaknesses.

The Paladin took a deep breath and readied himself, finishing and focussing his mind to conclusions that would rally him forward in ultimate determination. Though Malek was not sure what cruel ploy fate was dealing him within this moment, he was damn well certain that this vile, murdering bastard would not escape the hold with his soul still intact. The revelation of such filled his body with more adrenaline, pushing him forwards, and two beings upon the path of revenge, both going either way, clashed.

Nonetheless, there can only be one victor and one is chosen to fall. For this moment it was clear whom fate had chosen.

Malek stumbled, though attempted to remain firm, yet balance was slipping, as was his rationality. The calm mind of the warrior that he had always tried to uphold deserted him. Throughout their battle both minds of Vampire and Sarafan had been set on vengeance. Vorador in revenge for his race and Sire, Malek for humanity and the Guardians he was meant to protect.

Protect… in revelation he staggered once more, just as the Vampire disappeared yet again. The moment of self-doubt made Malek most vulnerable, standing still for but a moment, the bodies of the Guardians still around him, lifeless upon the floor.

Not one thing made sense, that demon… Raziel… Moebius had called it. And Malek had been faithful to Moebius, always faithful, loyally obeying his orders whilst in here… In here the floor was bathed in blood. In obeying and being loyal to one, he had lost so many more, and he was faced with the death of six of the Guardians. Did their blood scar Malek's own hands? Were they dead because of him? He could not account for the moments, but one thing remained certain, he should have been there to protect the Circle.

Another blow sent Malek to his knees. The loyal Sarafan remained still; he did not even attempt to get back up. And upon the floor, the Paladin allowed his armour to become hinted with the blood from the floor, his garb soaking up parts, purple textile being eaten up by crimson essence.

Momentarily Malek's grip around his weapon tightened whilst his other hand tightened into a fist. But the moment was brief and before long the halberd slipped from his grasp.

The sudden darkness of this moment consumed him; Malek knew he had failed them. The Paladin's dignity and honour were torn apart by this pestilence that had gotten into the Stronghold and slain six Guardians... six… Malek's pride and nobility scattered, only to fall amongst the blood of the Circle. His honour was stained with their blood, a stain that he would never be able to remove, and it wounded him mentally.

He had failed them all.

Vorador lingered for a moment over Malek's fallen form; he could have finished the Paladin there and then but decided for his own enjoyment, against it. And so the Vampire withdrew, leaving his echoing threads of laughter to mock the fallen.

The Vampire's reasons for not finishing off the Paladin were simple. Malek was a proud man; nothing would be more of a punishment then a mortal such as him living on knowing that he had failed those he had sworn to protect. Death for Malek would be too much of a release; it would be too easy for someone like the Paladin. No it was best to let him live on and suffer in torment knowing that he would always been too late to save the Circle, that no matter how fast he would run down that corridor, he would always be too late.

Amongst the disarray so was Janos' child, the one who had spawned Chaos upon them. Unseen, he lingered for just a brief moment in the corridor as the first guard discovered the massacre within the antechamber, meanwhile not far away, other parts of the Stronghold were also in pandemonium. The Vampire could sense it, rioting throughout the structure, and then sudden peace… He knew that this was the lull before the storm, and now was the time to leave.

The deed had been done, revenge concluded.

Vorador withdrew to watch in satisfaction of how the Sarafan Stronghold reacted to this stratagem. Six members of the Circle, six of them destroyed, for a while at least the Vampiric race would find peace, at least for a while whilst the Circle remained broken, at least until it was a new one rejoined. He only hoped that the newer members would be a lot better then the old; perhaps they could change the ways of Nosgoth. Although that was questionable, for how could they, when three of the older remained? Three older members to corrupt the minds of the younger, and no doubts the Time Streamer would want his say in matters.

A shrug, Vorador did not care, his link to the Circle had been always through Janos, and now that Janos was gone he had no need to concern himself with such matters. Janos had wrapped his whole essence around the Pillars, around his own duty, he had been fiercely loyal… and what had the loyalty achieved him in the end? Oblivion. Vorador was certain he would not fall sway to that, nor would he become the slave to fate.

The lull remained obsolete, in a matter of moments so much had taken place, the wheels of fate had been set into motion, and history had been placed upon the paths of yet another revolution. Time remerged and altered itself to fit the new alteration, whilst everything else around it continued to act out what had already been written.

A bat descended next to the Pillars, for a moment Vorador switched back into Vampiric form. No one was about, and the Pillars seemed peaceful, like they were resting in some eternal slumber. Though he would not openly admit it, he could not help but admire their beauty. Of course Mortal hands did not work such fine structures, not even they could craft such beauty.

He stared at the structures, this being his last link he had to Janos, yet he felt distant from them, and although he admired the Pillars he did not like them. They had always kept him from his Sire, his Sire always upholding his duty. In that aspect Vorador resented the structures, and now he resented the structures because instantly the Mortals thought that they were theirs… They had already begun to forget their history. And now their Guardians were Mortal; their Guardians were the ones that stood by the destruction of the Vampiric kind, their Guardians were the ones that had stood by the death of Janos Audron, they had stood by the death of one of their own…

The quietness of the night was a strange contrast compared to that of the entire melee that had happened within the Stronghold, the clash of weapons and before that the call for help. And now, outside there was peace. He regarded the Pillars once more, though he did not like them, they strangely brought him peace, enough peace for him to put aside the turmoil in his own mind and consider the moments.

Indeed revenge had been concluded though it did nothing to quell the loneliness. And the moments had passed, and he had acted upon what he had thought was right, though he had also acted out of anger. Whatever had been the catalyst to his reaction, Vorador cared little of it, and all the emotions of earlier returned, and loneliness was more powerful then before. There was no one to share this conquest with. A majority of his children had become lost to Nosgoth, and now his Sire, the latest victim. Not that his Sire would have entirely approved of his actions within the Stronghold, though it had been done for him.

Something was needed for this loneliness…

Vorador turned his back on the Pillars and began to walk away, renouncing the affairs of mankind and damning all those caught up in it.