Avernus Cathedral and Catacombs

Avernus Cathedral and Catacombs in Blood Omen

The main altar of Avernus Cathedral in Blood Omen
The main altar of Avernus Cathedral in Blood Omen

Avernus Cathedral and Catacombs first appeared in Blood Omen. The large cathedral was located in the centre of Avernus and was presumably the focal point for the citizens' unspecified religious beliefs.

Kain visited Avernus Cathedral in Blood Omen to kill Azimuth the Planer, who was based there as the head of Avernus' "religious autocracy". Azimuth had been affected by Nupraptor the Mentalist's mental attack on the Circle of Nine; she already had a sadistic streak, but Nupraptor's magic turned her into 'a raving lunatic that [revelled] in the pain and misfortune of others'. She summoned demons, which destroyed Avernus, but left the cathedral untouched, knowing "better than to bite the hand that feeds them".[1,2]

The hellish part of Avernus Cathedral: the Avernus Catacombs
The hellish part of Avernus Cathedral: the Avernus Catacombs

Ariel gave Kain some enigmatic information while directing him to Avernus. She told him: "Three instruments await you, to aid you in your quest, but first you must rise and you must fall and find your salvation in between."[3]

The heavenly part of Avernus Cathedral
The heavenly part of Avernus Cathedral

The "three instruments" were the Soul Reaver, the Wraith Armor and a Time Streaming Device. Avernus Cathedral held them all, but it was no ordinary building. Azimuth was the Guardian of the Pillar of Dimension, and the cathedral reflected this. There were lots of teleporters, and it was split into three very different environments. Kain had to 'rise' into a heavenly area to collect the Soul Reaver, and 'fall' into a hellish area (the Avernus Catacombs) to retrieve the Wraith Armour. In between, in the normal part of the cathedral, Kain killed Azimuth and picked up the Time Streaming device. This later allowed him to escape from the Battle of the Last Stand.

The heavenly part of Avernus Cathedral during a rain/firestorm
The heavenly part of Avernus Cathedral during a rain/firestorm

The heavenly area was mostly made up of white stone platforms and walkways suspended in black nothingness. Kain could travel between them using one-way teleporters. Some parts of the walkways were covered with slippery ice and arrows were fired across them automatically at timed intervals. A few armoured soldiers with blue, spirit blood also confronted Kain; these were similar in appearance to the warriors he fought in Malek's Bastion. Perhaps contrary to its appearance, the heavenly area was not an indoor dungeon, as proved by Kain's ability to assume Bat Form whilst there. It was an outdoor location: its lighting subtly changed according to Nosgoth's day/night cycle, and should a rainstorm occur in Nosgoth, that would manifest in the heavenly area - not as water - but as fire falling from above.

The stained glass ceiling depicting Vorador fighting Malek
The stained glass ceiling depicting Vorador fighting Malek

In Blood Omen, Avernus Cathedral was one of the most interesting places in Nosgoth. Its contents had great historical significance. In addition to its contrasting levels and the items already mentioned, it housed an impressive stained glass ceiling mural of Vorador and Malek. This illustrated their fight as shown in Blood Omen's opening FMV (Full Motion Video), following Vorador's attack on the Circle of Nine.

Malek's skeleton in the depths of Avernus Cathedral?
Malek's skeleton in the depths of Avernus Cathedral?

Also, in the depths of the hellish catacombs, there was a skeleton, suspended by chains. The stripped bones were likely the mortal remains of Malek. Blood Omen's opening FMV showed that after Malek was defeated by Vorador, he was punished by Mortanius for failing to protect the Circle. His soul was "fused to a hellish set of magical armor", and his flesh fell like dust from his body. The situation of the Avernus skeleton strongly resembled the scene in the FMV. In Malek's Bastion, the Paladin seemed to claim corpse there was his, but Prima's Official Blood Omen Strategy Guide actually refers to both sets of remains as Malek's.[4,5,6]

Last of all, there was a secret area that gave away the true nature of the cathedral, exposing its public appearance as a fa├žade that hid a darker form of worship. A second religion was observed within the cathedral: one that appeased a god's demands for blood sacrifices. Kain could find an altar dedicated to this god - Hash'ak'gik - in an upper chamber of the Avernus catacombs (Hash'ak'gik's Altar).

Avernus Cathedral and Catacombs in Defiance

Avernus Cathedral's main altar and portal in Defiance
Avernus Cathedral's main altar and portal in Defiance

Avernus Cathedral appeared again in Defiance, and although it was a very important location in that game, only a small part of it was explored this time. It also looked quite different from its Blood Omen incarnation.

Raziel travelled to Avernus Cathedral to try to find the Heart of Darkness; Vorador had directed him there, believing the heart had been taken to the cathedral as a trophy. The old vampire warned Raziel of "dark sorceries at work in the cathedral" and "an ancient evil" within, "long Unspoken among [Vampire] kind." While Raziel was there, he found the Warp Gate to the Earth Forge and imbued the wraith-blade with elemental Earth. Afterwards, he managed to open a portal to the Avernus catacombs.[7,8]

Raziel entered the catacombs and found murals that elaborated on the history he already knew: the war between the Ancient Vampires and the Hylden. However, these had apparently been painted by the Hylden, and showed things from their perspective: "how the noble Vampires, god-ridden and righteous, had started the wars that would destroy both races, victor and vanquished alike." Aided by the Elder God's misdirection, Raziel came to the conclusion that he was the Adversary (Hylden) Hero, destined to destroy the Vampire Hero.[9,10,11]

At the end of the catacombs route, Raziel opened some double-doors. Had he been a little more observant, the symbol they bore would have given him a clue to what awaited him beyond. They were marked with Turel's clan symbol (as seen in Soul Reaver).

Mortanius leading the Cenobites in the Avernus Catacombs
Mortanius leading the Cenobites in the Avernus Catacombs

Raziel stumbled upon Mortanius leading the Avernus Cenobites in their worship of Hash'ak'gik. Raziel wondered if this was the 'Unspoken' Vorador had mentioned, but it seemed more likely that Vorador was referring to the general Hylden influence within the cathedral. The presence of the murals (already mentioned) hinted that the Avernus catacombs may have once been a Hylden stronghold. As Raziel soon found out, they certainly had a foothold in Avernus at the present time: the Blood Omen era.[12]

The 'god' Hash'ak'gik was in fact the evolved vampire Turel, intermittently possessed by several Hylden. He liked to think of himself as a god - "greater even than Kain" - but it was their words and will that the worshippers responded to. Turel was only a figurehead, brought into the past by Azimuth, and a prisoner within a pit, surrounded by the skeletal remains of his countless victims.[12,13]

Raziel killed Turel, and had the opportunity to speak with Mortanius. During their conversation, he learned that the Heart of Darkness was inside Kain: Mortanius had used it to resurrect the human Kain as a vampire, after orchestrating his assassination in Ziegsturhl. Mortanius - misunderstanding the ancient prophecies like nearly everyone else in Nosgoth - believed that Kain, the Scion of Balance, was the Vampire hero destined to destroy Raziel, whom he thought was the Hylden hero. Kain was not the Vampire hero at all; actually Raziel was both champions depicted in the murals, Hylden and Vampire.[14,13]

Exiting the Avernus Catacombs, Raziel meets Kain
Exiting the Avernus Catacombs, Raziel meets Kain

As Raziel left the catacombs he ran into Kain, and their inevitable confrontation occurred. Raziel was victorious in their fight. He thrust his claws into Kain's chest and wrenched the Heart of Darkness out. Kain was thrown through a portal by Raziel's telekinesis, but Raziel was sure that wherever his body was, Kain was certainly dead. Raziel believed that the "madness" of Avernus Cathedral had somehow fuelled his rage against Kain.[15]

Against the expectations of Raziel, Kain survived. He awoke in Turel's pit, in the Demon Realm. Some Hylden spoke to him while he was there, promising that the Demon Realm would render him hideous and mad. Kain was not trapped there in the way that they were, however. Once he had dispatched a few demons, a portal opened that allowed him to exit the Demon Realm. Soon after, he departed from Avernus Cathedral, heading for the Vampire Citadel.[16]

Further Observations

We have never been given details of the official religion of Avernus, but there are a few clues. As Blood Omen Nosgoth seemed rather medieval-european in terms of its society, the cathedral probably promoted a male-oriented monotheistic faith. On the evidence provided, we can't clarify much beyond that, except that it incorporated ideas of heaven and hell, and angelic symbolism. The Sarafan - as warrior and sorcerer-priests - appeared to acknowledge the same religion in waging their 'holy war' against the vampires. Based on the later games in the Legacy of Kain series, we can see where the angel imagery likely originated from, and it's possible that this unknown religion evolved from the Ancient Vampires' worship of the Elder God.

References

  1. [BO1] Kain: "Avernus was a religious autocracy, with the cathedral as its dais of power. Though the city lay in ruins, the cathedral remained untouched. The demons knew better than to bite the hand that feeds them..."
  2. The 'Character Biographies' page of the Silicon Knights Blood Omen FAQ
  3. [BO1] Ariel to Kain: "You must seek Azimuth the Planer at the heart of Avernus. Three instruments await you, to aid you in your quest, but first you must rise and you must fall and find your salvation in between."
  4. [BO1] The Oracle of Nosgoth to Kain (referring to Malek): "For his failing, his spirit was fused to a hellish set of magical armor. He has allowed no member of the Circle to fall since."
  5. [BO1] Malek to Kain (when Kain finds a throned corpse in Malek's Bastion): "It is not often that a man sees his own corpse, it is a sobering experience. But I am far less interested in my own corpse than I am in yours."
  6. Blood Omen: Prima's Official Strategy Guide (ISBN 0761503633)
  7. The Defiance Script (Dialogue) (Dark Chronicle - The Vampire Vorador)
  8. The Defiance Script (Dialogue) (Dark Chronicle - Vorador's Last Council)
  9. The Defiance Script (Dialogue) (Dark Chronicle - History Is Written By The Victors)
  10. The Defiance Script (Dialogue) (Dark Chronicle - The Hylden Messiah)
  11. [DEF] The Elder God: "So, Raziel... your true nature is finally revealed. You were never the Vampires' savior - it is to the Hylden race you belong. And when Kain realizes this, what do you think he will do?..."
  12. The Defiance Script (Dialogue) (Dark Chronicle - Reunion)
  13. The Defiance team FAQ external link at the Eidos Forums
  14. The Defiance Script (Dialogue) (Dark Chronicle - Mortanius' Redemption)
  15. The Defiance Script (Dialogue) (Dark Chronicle - The Heart Of Darkness)
  16. The Defiance Script (Dialogue) (Dark Chronicle - Kain Awakes in the Demon Realm)

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