Moebius's verse on the nature of time as it appears in Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver.
|Introduced in||Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain (1996)|
|Appearances||• • • • •|
|Related articles||• First timeline|
• Second timeline
• Third timeline
• Fourth timeline
- "We are hurtling toward our destinies, Raziel. What you feel is the pull of history rushing to meet us. This is where history and destiny collide."
A timeline (historical timeline), in the Legacy of Kain series, was an iteration of Nosgoth's full chronological history, or time-stream. The concept of fatalism is a reality in the metaphysics of Nosgoth; with the exception of Raziel, its inhabitants did not possess free will, and their futures were predestined. Time was therefore usually immutable, but it could be altered by historical paradoxes, when a Reaver-convergence took place.
If two incarnations of the Soul Reaver met in time and space, "a temporal distortion powerful enough to derail history" could be the result. When such a paradox blocked the time continuum, forcing Nosgoth's history to reshuffle itself to accommodate the contradiction, the current timeline effectively died, and a new one was spawned. Four distinct timelines have been observed in the Legacy of Kain series, each one subtly or significantly different to the last, and each remembered by both Kain and Moebius.
Nosgoth's temporal logic[edit | edit source]
Time travel model[edit | edit source]
The time travel model utilized in the Legacy of Kain fiction was conclusively developed and explored in Soul Reaver 2, and borrows from Terry Gilliam's 1995 film 12 Monkeys (which adheres to the Novikov self-consistency principle), but is slightly different: it includes a loophole. Series developers Amy Hennig, Jennifer Fernández, Richard Lemarchand and Kyle Mannerberg outlined its core principle as "you can't go back in time and change history because you didn't". Hennig's full interpretation of the concept was described in an interview:
- "Is it impossible to escape preordained fate? And it's interesting to layer this quesiton into a time travel story. This is really the whole crux of the time travel concept - can you change history or not? And if so, what does it mean to change history - in terms of being responsible for the repercussions? I did some research into time travel fiction, in preparation for Soul Reaver 2. For me, the most interesting approach in time travel stories is summed up with the statement: 'you can't go back in time and change history because you didn't'. That's my favorite way of looking at it. If you do go back - then you did go back. Which means that time travel is ultimately a journey of epiphanies, where the protagonist realizes the role that he already played in history. Of course, Blood Omen established that history can in fact be changed - and we'll be respecting this precedent in Soul Reaver 2."
- ―Amy Hennig
Series producer Andrew Bennett described it as follows:
- "Initially, Raziel naively believes that history is fragile and may be altered easily. He gradually comes to understand, however, that there's a 'conservation of reality' at work, and that history is essentially immutable--that it requires a kind of 'temporal wildcard' to change its course. Raziel ultimately realizes that his comprehension of Nosgoth's multilayered, twisted past is much more limited than he initially believed. He also discovers that he continues to be manipulated by others who understand Nosgoth's history--and the nature of time--better than he does."
- ―Andrew Bennett
Nosgoth's time continuum was extremely rigid and resilient, and did not normally allow for the introduction of paradoxes: the map of each individual's destiny was fully outlined and immutable, accommodating for time travel events and preventing contradictions.[SR2-C5] Even to characters who knew the future and were aware that "free will is an illusion", resisting history was usually an impossibility: they did not possess the intrinsic free will necessary to defy "the rules of fate and predetermined events".[SR2-C1] This theory of predestination was a fundamental, indiscriminate constant, and applied to almost all entities within the Material, Spectral and Demon Realms alike.
Altering history[edit | edit source]
The only "unbound creature" within Nosgoth was the wraith, Raziel, who could make choices freely, unhindered by the predestination others were subject to.[SR2-C5][DEF-C11][DEF-C12] Only vague descriptions as to why he was singular in this regard were afforded: his free will was usually attributed to "his remaking into the world" at the hands of the Elder God, and his resultant liberation from the Wheel of Fate.[DEF-C11] It may also have been connected to his destiny to become the captive, soul-devouring entity within the Soul Reaver, and to later wield a future incarnation of his own soul - the Wraith Blade; the meeting and constant presence of two incarnations of the same soul-devouring entity, crucial to the timeline, in close proximity - and the very possibility that one might attempt to devour the other - may have contributed to his unique exemption.[SR2-C10]
On the rare occasions where two incarnations of Raziel's soul met, in either the forms of the Soul Reaver or the Wraith Blade, a Reaver-convergence was the result: "reality itself" would tangibly warp and bend slightly, creating a sense of vertigo, or displacement.[SR2-C5][SR2-C10][SR2-C1] At such points, there was a window of opportunity in which it was possible to create a paradox, potentially sufficient enough to derail history and rewrite the timeline.[SR2-C5][SR2-C10][BO1-C11] Kain analogized these junctures to the flipping of a two-sided coin: "suppose you throw a coin enough times... suppose one day, it lands on its edge".[SR2-C1]
Only relatively slight diversions could be triggered; most major events remained constant in Nosgoth between each timeline. If a paradox blocked the time continuum, history would always follow "the path of least resistance while admitting only the slightest alterations". Defying the force of history was always a dangerous gamble - "if events [could not] be reshuffled to accommodate the change", the irritants responsible for the contradiction would simply be expelled from the time-stream.[SR2-C5] Such a fatal paradox did not overtly happen in the Legacy of Kain series, but the concept served as a looming danger which Kain and Raziel were forced to acknowledge and remain wary of.[SR2-C5][SR2-C10]
Parallel timelines[edit | edit source]
Parallel or "forked" versions of history did not exist in Nosgoth - only the current iteration of history was considered "real". If a historical paradox occurred and a timeline was derailed, the derailed timeline was considered to be "dead", and could never be revisited. Timelines did not split or actively co-exist, and a new one could only be spawned if the current one was subject to a paradox and derailed.
Previous variations of history which were dead, however, are still considered part of Legacy of Kain's continuity; certain individuals retained full memories of previous timelines. As evinced throughout Soul Reaver 2, Kain remembered all four timelines observed in the Legacy of Kain series, likely because he was present at the point of the three paradoxes observed. When a paradox occurred, all of his old memories and experiences up to that point remained intact in his mind, but were also "shuffled aside by the newer memories that reflect the altered course of history". Kain was aware of four variations of his own past as of Legacy of Kain: Defiance.[SR2-C5][SR2-C5][SR2-C10]
Raziel, who was similarly present and conscious at two of the paradoxes, was also aware of the alterations which concerned him.[SR2-C5][DEF-C2] Moebius (and, presumably, other Time Guardians) inherently knew if, and exactly how, history had reshuffled itself, even when he was not present during a paradox; the only entity whose actions he could not account for was Raziel.[SR2-C5][DEF-C3] However, all other individuals within Nosgoth who were not present at the heart of the paradoxes - including even the Elder God - appeared to be ignorant of the changes in the time-stream, and never demonstrated the same knowledge of alterations to their destinies.[BO1][SR2][DEF]
Observed timelines[edit | edit source]
Nosgoth's history was altered three times throughout the Legacy of Kain games. As such, four timelines have been observed in the series, two or more being explored in both Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain and Soul Reaver 2. They are not formally named in official sources, and can only be identified by the order in which they came to exist.
- The first timeline: Most of Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain takes place in the first timeline. Towards the end of the story, at the very instant where Kain kills William in the stronghold of William the Just, the first paradox occurs, killing this timeline and spawning a new one.
- The second timeline: The concluding events of Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, the entirety of the Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver comic and Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, and the early stages of Soul Reaver 2 take place in the second timeline. During Soul Reaver 2, when Raziel defies history by refusing to kill Kain in the Sarafan Stronghold, this timeline is derailed by the second paradox and dies, making way for a third.
- The third timeline: The latter events of Soul Reaver 2 are portrayed through the third timeline. When Kain saves Raziel from entering the Reaver in the Sarafan Stronghold, he triggers the third paradox, spawning another new version of history.
- The fourth timeline: The conclusion of Soul Reaver 2, as well as the entirety of Blood Omen 2, the Legacy of Kain: Defiance comic and Legacy of Kain: Defiance, occur in the fourth timeline. This version of history has not observably been subject to a paradox, and remains the current "living" timeline of the Legacy of Kain series.
Eras[edit | edit source]
Following the precedent set by the official timeline included with Soul Reaver 2, Nosgoth's timelines can be divided into six witnessed eras, progressing in descending chronological order:
- The era before Nosgoth's recorded history, spanning thousands of years;
- Nosgoth's early history, spanning roughly 450 years;
- The history preceding Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, or pre-Blood Omen era, spanning roughly 50 years;
- The events of Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, or Blood Omen era, spanning less than a single year, and officially concluding with the collapse of the Pillars;
- The era following Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, or post-Blood Omen era, spanning roughly 500 years, and officially concluding with the raising of the lieutenants;
- and the events of Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, or Soul Reaver era, spanning at least 1500 years.
It is known that Nosgoth has a recognized epoch, but it cannot be properly integrated with a timeline from the limited information available. In Blood Omen 2, a building in Meridian's Lower City is accompanied by a sign reading "Hill House est. 1246". This is the only time a reference date has been presented in the series, and it is unknown where the year 1246 should be positioned in relation to the games, or how it corresponds to the timeline as a whole.[BO2-C3]
In Legacy of Kain: Defiance, the Hylden Lord declares that the collapse of the Pillars signifies the beginning of a new epoch, but this event takes place only 400 years before Hill House is encountered in Blood Omen 2 - far too soon to relate to the year 0 under the Hill House sign's reckoning.[DEF-C11]
Chronology of the series[edit | edit source]
These tabs allow the known events of each timeline to be viewed and compared in descending chronological order. They are accompanied by a default "narrative order" setting, which omits unseen details to outline only the witnessed actions of Kain and Raziel in the order the narrative of the series presents them, rather than as a historical chronology. The icons of the games and comics function as tooltips; when hovered over, they indicate which chapter of which game, or which comic, a given event can be observed in.
Almost all significant time-spans in the Legacy of Kain series consist of round numbers, usually presented as rough approximations (in terms of years, decades and centuries), so all numerical dates are caveated with a tilde (~), meaning "approximately".
<tabview> Timelines/Narrative|Narrative order Timelines/First|First timeline Timelines/Second|Second timeline Timelines/Third|Third timeline Timelines/Fourth|Fourth timeline </tabview>
Continuity between the timelines[edit | edit source]
From the games alone, it is not possible to determine the full extent of the changes incurred by each paradox (and, hence, the exact nature of the differences between each timeline). However, some facts can be ascertained:
- The raising and corruption of the Pillars, the summoning of the Guardians, the forging of the Reaver and the slaughter of the Circle occurred in all four timelines.[BO1][SR2][DEF][SR1][BO2]
- The Battle of the Last Stand and the Legions of the Nemesis were only present in the first timeline. When the Nemesis was prematurely killed by Kain in the first paradox, these elements were removed from history and ceased to exist.[SR2-C5]
- Moebius's mercenary army, its renewed vampire purge, and the execution of Vorador (which left Kain the only remaining vampire in Nosgoth) was a product of the first paradox. These elements did not exist in the first timeline.[SR2-C5]
- The events of Blood Omen 2 (and Legacy of Kain: Defiance) were "made possible" by Janos Audron's resurrection in the fourth timeline at Raziel's hands. This did not occur in previous timelines, and therefore these events could not have unfolded in the same way.[SR2-C0]
- The events of the Soul Reaver era were not changed or affected in the third or fourth timelines. Even after paradoxes, they still unfolded as depicted in Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver.[SR2]
Soul Reaver 2 establishes that history admits only the slightest alterations to the timeline possible, so it can probably be assumed that many events and elements between the four timelines witnessed are consistent between the paradoxes, even though only limited information is available to confirm the full extent of this persistence in canon. The fourth timeline is the most comprehensive and coherent version of the history of Nosgoth, prospectively including events witnessed in all of the Legacy of Kain games and media.
The following table attempts to outline which of Nosgoth's major events remained constant between the timelines. "No evidence" suggests that there is no information to determine whether an event occurred or not in a timeline.
|First timeline?||Second timeline?||Third timeline?||Fourth timeline?|
|The vampire-Hylden war||No evidence||Depicted ✔||Depicted ✔||Depicted ✔|
|The Genesis of the Pillars||Occurred ✔||Depicted ✔||Depicted ✔||Depicted ✔|
|The summoning of the Guardians||Occurred ✔||Depicted ✔||Depicted ✔||Depicted ✔|
|The forging of the Reaver||Occurred ✔||Depicted ✔||Depicted ✔||Depicted ✔|
|The human revolt||No evidence||Occurred ✔||Occurred ✔||Depicted ✔|
|The vampire purge||Witnessed ✔||Occurred ✔||Witnessed ✔||Witnessed ✔|
|The slaughter of the Circle||Witnessed ✔||Depicted ✔||Witnessed ✔||Occurred ✔|
|The third paradox||No juncture||No juncture||Kain fails ✘||Kain succeeds ✔|
|The first paradox||Kain fails ✘||Kain succeeds ✔||Stable event ✔||Stable event ✔|
|The corruption of the Pillars||Witnessed ✔||Witnessed ✔||Occurred ✔||Occurred ✔|
|The second paradox||No juncture||Kain fails ✘||Kain succeeds ✔||Stable event ✔|
|The Battle of the Last Stand||Witnessed ✔||Altered or expelled ✘||Altered or expelled ✘||Altered or expelled ✘|
|The collapse of the Pillars||No evidence||Witnessed ✔||Occurred ✔||Witnessed ✔|
|The Purification of Kain||No evidence||Altered or expelled ✘||Altered or expelled ✘||Witnessed ✔|
|Vorador's resurrection||No evidence||No evidence||No evidence||Occurred ✔|
|The vampire-Sarafan war||No evidence||Altered or expelled ✘||Altered or expelled ✘||Witnessed ✔|
|The Battle of Meridian||No evidence||Altered or expelled ✘||Altered or expelled ✘||Witnessed ✔|
|The Death of the Hylden Lord||No evidence||Altered or expelled ✘||Altered or expelled ✘||Witnessed ✔|
|The raising of the lieutenants||No evidence||Occurred ✔||Occurred ✔||Occurred ✔|
|Raziel's execution||No evidence||Witnessed ✔||Occurred ✔||Occurred ✔|
Notes[edit | edit source]
- The Complete Guide To Legacy of Kain, written by Silicon Knights (before the introduction of Crystal Dynamics' time mythology and principles to the series), mentions a "previous timeline", prior to those observed in the series, in which "William the Just was exactly as his title suggested", exempt from Moebius's influence. Hints as to this "previous timeline" continue through the series as in Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, Kain accuses Moebius of "going back in time, and altering the past".[BO1-C11] In Soul Reaver 2, Kain infers that both the first and second timelines are "artificial" destinies, and that his original, unaltered fate was always "to assume the role of Balance Guardian in Nosgoth, while [Raziel was] destined to be its savior".[SR2-C5]
Gallery[edit | edit source]
Appearances[edit | edit source]
- Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain
- Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver comic
- Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver
- Soul Reaver 2
- Blood Omen 2
- Legacy of Kain: Defiance comic
- Legacy of Kain: Defiance
See also[edit | edit source]
- The time-stream
- Soul Reaver 2: Historical Timeline at Dark Chronicle (by Marie Tryhorn).
- Timeline at Legado de Kain (by Alfonso Ruzafa and Marie Tryhorn).
- The Legacy of Kain Timeline at aradiel.co.uk (by Joseph Dowland).
References[edit | edit source]
- Question and Answer with Jen, Richard, and Kyle at The Lost Worlds (by Ben Lincoln)
- GLoK Interviews with Amy Hennig at Nosgothic Realm (by Raziel Fan), post #4 (by RazielFan)
- Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 2 Feature Preview at GameSpot (by Miguel Lopez), page 2
- Answers to questions from the Defiance team at the Eidos forums (by Chris@Crystal)
- Question and Answer with Amy Hennig at The Lost Worlds (by Ben Lincoln)
- Miscellaneous Questions & Answers at SK: The Complete Guide To Legacy of Kain (archived at Dark Chronicle)
- Moebius' Museum at Dark Chronicle (by Marie Tryhorn)
- The Players at SK: The Complete Guide To Legacy of Kain (archived at Dark Chronicle)
- Legacy of Kain: The Plot at SK: The Complete Guide To Legacy of Kain (archived at Dark Chronicle)
- My Visit to Crystal Dynamics at The Lost Worlds (by Ben Lincoln)