The Wheel of Fate
The Wheel of Fate was the name given to the predestined cycle of birth, death and rebirth to which all souls in Nosgoth were bound. It was presided over by the Elder God. The immortality of Nosgoth's vampires meant they were excluded from this cycle, and the Elder God told Raziel that this was "the demise of Nosgoth" and necessitated their destruction.
Initially, Raziel was happy to oblige, as it tied in with his own agenda of revenge against Kain and his former, vampire brethren. Later, he begain to question the Elder God's motivation; was it simply its hunger for souls, rather than any care for Nosgoth's survival, that made it hate the vampires so much?[2,3]
Later, Raziel would learn the Wheel of Fate also dictated the individual destinies of all creatures, immortal or not. Only he was exempt, due to his execution and "remaking" in the Abyss, and his free-willed actions could impact the fates of others.
The Wheel of Fate in Soul Reaver
The Wheel of Fate was first mentioned in Soul Reaver by the Elder God. It claimed that the existence of vampires in Nosgoth trapped the souls of the dead to animate their corpses. The Elder was therefore unable to "spin them in the Wheel of Fate". The souls could not "complete their destinies".
The Elder God encouraged Raziel to kill Kain and his former, vampire brethren. Raziel's motivation was revenge for his execution in the Abyss, but the Elder said his actions would also "let the Wheel of Fate churn again", and "redeem" Raziel (as he had played a part in building the vampire empire that kept souls from the Wheel).[1,2]
The Wheel of Fate in Soul Reaver 2
In Soul Reaver 2, Moebius referred to the Wheel of Fate to confuse and save himself from Raziel in the Sarafan Stronghold. Raziel was prepared to strike down Moebius - and armed with the Soul Reavers, conjoined - he could have. Raziel abandoned the idea after learning that Moebius also served the Elder God.[5,6]
Later, the Elder God declared itself to be "the still center of the turning wheel, the hub of this world's destiny". It elaborated on its previous description of the Wheel, saying: "The agony of birth and death and rebirth - this is the Wheel of Fate, the purifying cycle which sustains all life". It said Nosgoth's immortal vampires were "an abomination", obstructing the flow of life and death and leeching Nosgoth of its spiritual strength.[7,8]
The Elder God angirily re-iterated the importance of the Wheel, and itself, after Raziel refused to kill Kain in the Sarafan Stronghold. It said: "I am the Engine of Life, the source of Nosgoth's very existence. I am the hub of the Wheel, the origin of all Life, the devourer of Death." Raziel - who was starting to rebel against the Elder God's instructions - wondered if the Elder was simply annoyed at being left hungry for the vampire souls that never came to it.
After the death of Janos Audron, Raziel spoke to the Elder one last time. Swimming past the Elder God, Raziel could hear it say: "The Wheel of Fate howls for your soul, though its hunger will never be assuaged."
The Wheel of Fate in Defiance
In Defiance, the Wheel of Fate was referred to several times, and the nature Raziel's relationship to the Elder God and the Wheel was spelled out more clearly than before. Raziel, like the Archons he encountered, directly fed the Elder and the Wheel as he devoured souls.[10,11]
Murals in Defiance also brought a new revelation: the Ancient Vampires had worshipped the Elder God. They were driven to despair and mass suicide when the Blood Curse - in making them immortal - expelled them from the Wheel of Fate, and their god stopped talking to them. Despite their horror at the curse, the survivors felt compelled to pass it to humans to sustain the Binding. This was the origin of the immortal vampire race that was exempt from the Wheel of Fate.[12,13]
It was also revealed that the Hylden had "opposed the Vampires' god, and refused to submit to the Wheel of Fate". This probably meant they sought immortality for themselves, and this was the cause of the war between the two races: the "god-ridden and righteous" Vampires had started it. A thousand years later, upon their banishment to the Demon Realm, the Hylden inflicted immortality on the Vampires. The irony of the Hylden revenge - severing the Vampires from the Wheel and the god they revered so much - was not lost on Raziel.[14,15,13]
Raziel eventually realized the Wheel of Fate was more than a cycle of birth, death and rebirth. That was only part of it. Kain told him all souls, immortal vampire souls or otherwise, were bound to one predestined path and "shackled" to the Wheel of Fate. Free will, as Kain had said in the Chronoplast, was an illusion. However, Raziel was an exception due to his "remaking" in the Abyss; he was the only creature in Nosgoth who was in control of his own destiny. Kain needed Raziel to exert that free will, in turn impacting Kain's fate, if Kain was ever to fulfil his prophesied role as the Scion of Balance. Eventually, Raziel did exactly that, by sacrificing himself to the Reaver and healing Kain.[4,16,17]
After Defiance, Kain likely remained bound to the Wheel of Fate, but he didn't necessarily need free will to achieve all he wanted for himself and Nosgoth. All he had needed was Raziel's free-willed actions, shifting Kain's destiny onto a path that eventually led to his victory.
Although the Elder God was connected to the Wheel of Fate, it didn't clearly have any power to alter individual destinies, and may have been bound by the same rules of predestination as everyone else. That may be why it resorted to threats when Kain confronted it. The Wheel of Fate may have been in place since the world began, as a natural cycle, which the Elder God only came to exploit later.
We do know that the Wheel, and the process of birth, death and rebirth fed the Elder God, but if souls were reborn into new bodies, they couldn't have been devoured entirely. Perhaps the Elder was feeding on the experiences of an individual soul's lifetime? The Elder called the Wheel and its process "purifying", but Raziel saw it differently:[10,8,17]
"All the conflict and the strife throughout history, all the fear and hatred, served but one purpose - to keep my master's Wheel turning. All souls were prisoners, trapped in the pointless round of existence, leading distracted, blunted lives until death returned them - always in ignorance - to the Wheel."
Raziel understood that the Elder encouraged Nosgoth's races to butcher each other, as their deaths delivered them back to it. They spent their lives distracted from any higher pursuits, and when they died, they fed the Elder, before being reborn to repeat the cycle.
If the Elder was leeching all the experiences from each soul upon their death, there was no opportunity for souls to grow, or improve themselves with each lifetime. In Soul Reaver, the Elder God said that immortal vampire souls could not "complete their destinies" as they could not be spun in the Wheel of Fate. However, a soul existing in an immortal body could gain experiences far beyond a human lifetime, and if anything, it was the Elder God who was stopping souls completing their destinies, and reaching their full potential. If so, Raziel was right: the Elder was "the biggest parasite of them all".[1,3]
- [SR1] The Elder God: "The birth of one of Kain's abominations traps the essence of life. It is this soul that animates the corpse you 'lived' in. And that Raziel, is the demise of Nosgoth. There is no balance. The souls of the dead remain trapped. I can not spin them in the Wheel of Fate. They can not complete their destinies."
- [SR1] The Elder God to Raziel: "Redeem yourself. Or if you prefer, avenge yourself. Settle your dispute with Kain. Destroy him and your brethren. Free their souls and let the Wheel of Fate churn again."
- [SR2] The Elder God: "I am the Engine of Life, the source of Nosgoth's very existence.
I am the hub of the Wheel, the origin of all Life, the devourer of Death."
Raziel: "... or maybe you're just hungry - could it be as simple as that?
Wouldn't that be poetic irony? The great adversary of the vampires turns out to be the biggest parasite of them all."
- [DEF] Kain: "It doesn't matter, Raziel. Listen to me - you must understand that every creature is bound to one predestined path. We are all shackled - "
Raziel: "To the Wheel of Fate. Believe me, I know that even better than you do."
Kain: "All but one. Because of your remaking, you are the one unbound creature, the one among us all that truly has free will. You have a choice, Raziel - "
- [SR2] Raziel: "As you said, Death comes to us all..."
Moebius: "Yes... the Wheel of Fate demands it."
Raziel: "What did you say?"
Moebius: "The Wheel of Fate - the inexorable cycle of death and rebirth to which all men are compelled.
We serve the same God, Raziel."
- [SR2] Kain to Raziel: "The Reaver is the key. Two incarnations of the blade meet in time and space... a paradox is created, a temporal distortion powerful enough to derail history."
- [SR2] The Elder God to Raziel: "I am eternally present - here and everywhere, now and always.
I am the still center of the turning wheel, the hub of this world's destiny."
- [SR2] The Elder God to Raziel: "The agony of birth and death and rebirth - this is the Wheel of Fate, the purifying cycle which sustains all life.
Vampires are an abomination, a plague which leeches this land of its spiritual strength.
They obstruct the flow of life and death - their souls stagnate in their wretched corpses.
But the wheel must turn; death is inexorable and cannot be denied."
- [SR2] The Elder God to Raziel: "The Wheel of Fate howls for your soul, though its hunger will never be assuaged."
- [DEF] Raziel: "I must feed you before I depart this place."
The Elder God: "You must feed yourself, Raziel."
Raziel:'The Wheel must turn...'"
- [DEF] Raziel (referring to the Archons): "Like these mindless hunters, I existed only to fuel him with souls, siphoning their energy to feed him and his Wheel of Fate."
- The Defiance Script (Dialogue) (Dark Chronicle - Mural: The Wheel of Fate)
- The Defiance Script (Dialogue) (Dark Chronicle - Return To The Vampire Citadel)
- The Defiance Script (Dialogue) (Dark Chronicle - Mural: History Is Written By The Victors)
- [BO2] Janos to Kain (referring to the Ancient Vampire/Hylden war): "The wars between us flamed for a thousand years, but we prevailed at last, and we banished our enemies from the face of the earth by powerful magic, sealing them into another plane of existence."
- [SR2] Kain to Raziel: "Our futures are predestined -
Moebius foretold mine aeons ago. We each play out the parts fate has written for us. Free will is an illusion."
- The Defiance Script (Dialogue) (Dark Chronicle - Vengeance And Sacrifice)
- The Defiance Script (Dialogue) (Dark Chronicle - The Fall Of The Ancient God)