We take as gospel Kain's statements about time in SR2. History is singular, fated, and immutable, except at those moments when the Soul Reaver meets itself. At those junctures, history can -- with great effort -- be rewritten.
We know of three such junctures: Kain's battle with William the Just in -50; Raziel's assault on Kain in the Sarafan stronghold, -30; and the Reaver's attempt to devour Raziel's own unlife, -500. (The first is portrayed in BO1; the others in SR2.)
I have included a fourth nexus point in history: Kain's choice before the Pillars in the year 0. We have no evidence that the Reaver is present twice at that event (although Moebius alludes cryptically to such a possibility). However, we must believe that Kain had a free-willed choice that day -- to sacrifice either the Pillar of Balance or himself. If so, history was rewritten in that moment; and may yet perhaps be rewritten again.
No explanation has been given. The only reasonable cause is one of the junctures of history.
The juncture of -50 specifically caused Vorador's execution, and it is unlikely that BO2 takes place in the "alternate" branch of -50 (the history in which William becomes the Nemesis, and Moebius does not lead a vampire purge).
This leaves the junctures of -500 and -30. The -30 juncture seems a better choice, simply because it is closer to the event. If Raziel slew Kain on William's tomb, what would result? Would it disrupt or ensure the vampire massacre of that era? Certainly Raziel decimated the mercenaries of Moebius's army, as he escaped from the stronghold. But we have no way of knowing the outcome.
[Footnote: The designers at Crystal Dynamics have asserted that Vorador's survival is a result of the juncture of -500 (the last scene of SR2). (See Ben Lincoln's account.) Naturally, it's no fun to ask the authors directly when you can speculate endlessly from canonical material. However, there is supporting evidence in SR2. After causing the juncture of -30, Raziel leaps forward to +100. There he sees a statue of Moebius, holding forth Vorador's severed head. Unless Time behaves more strangely than we think, we can conclude that the shifts of -30 left Vorador's execution still enacted.]The appearance of Janos Audron in BO2 is also unexpected; Kain himself expresses surprise. Audron promises to explain at a later time, and we will have to be content with that.
Moebius has been around -- so to speak -- forever. Mortanius was also active in -500; he presided over Malek's punishment after the massacre. I have listed Ariel as the third, but only out of a sense of thematic consistency. But if the third survivor is not Ariel, who is it?
Malek, perhaps. In -500, Malek was a Sarafan and the defender of the Circle. When I created my timeline, I assumed that he was not yet a Guardian -- that his investment to the Circle was part of his punishment for failing to defend it. However, in SR2, Audron states that Guardians are chosen from birth. If this is so, then Malek was Guardian and Sarafan simultaneously, both in his living form and as a spectral warrior.
[Footnote: I am vaguely dissatisfied with this explanation; I prefer the idea of a man cursed to eternally hold the place of the one he allowed to fall. And I suspect that this is how the designers of BO1 meant their story to go. So my timeline lists Ariel as the third survivor.
However, the following games were written by a different design team, and the concept may have slipped a bit. Crystal Dynamics has stated that the three survivors were Mortanius, Moebius, and Malek. You can take my continued support of the Ariel theory as determination to reason only from the published work -- or simple stubbornness.]
Early in SR2, Kain tells Raziel that when he battled William, in his brief time-journey to the year -50, both Kain and William were armed with the Soul Reaver. Moebius made sure of it, we are told. Kain's acquisition of the Reaver blade is documented: he recovered it from Avernus Cathedral in the year -1. But what of William's?
The obvious thought is that William simply travelled to Avernus in -50 -- prompted perhaps by Moebius -- and removed the blade. But this cannot hold, for the Reaver was still at Avernus when Kain arrived, fifty years later. (It is true that history diverged in -50, but clearly William acquired the Reaver before his battle with Kain. So if he took it from Avernus, it would be absent in both subsequent branches of history.)
Now, we know from dialogue in BO1 that Moebius brought weapons to William, as part of his campaign to turn William into the Nemesis. I do not recall the game imagery of that scene, but it is not unreasonable to assume that the Reaver was included among those weapons. I further hypothesize that Moebius brought the Reaver from William's future -- that Moebius took the Reaver from Avernus in the year -1, just as Kain did.
This is not as paradoxical as it sounds; for by -1, history is split. Kain takes the Reaver in the alternate year -1 -- the branch of history in which the Nemesis's army advances through Nosgoth. The Reaver of the mainline -1, the year of Vorador's execution, is unaccounted for. We have no reason to believe that Moebius did not take it. And so I have drawn my chart.
Other possibilities exist. Junctures of history occur in -500 and -30 as well; each of them presumably leads to an "extra" Reaver, which might be accessible to Moebius. We know little of those branches.
The strangest idea comes from this observation: we do not know the ultimate fate of William's Reaver. He wields it in -50, and falls, and his blade is broken. The shards are taken, with William's corpse, to the Sarafan stronghold. Raziel discovers them in -30, and the blade "heals" at his touch. Hours later, Raziel takes up the blade, nearly strikes down Kain... and then leaves it quivering in William's sarcophagus. We know nothing of it after that. (Raziel's encounters at the end of SR2 are with an earlier version of the Reaver, fresh from Janos Audron's hands.)
It is conceivable that Moebius took that blade, broken and remade, and carried it back in time to William. It would have no origin -- a continuous loop of history, entirely disjoint from the Reaver held by Kain and later Raziel.
Is such a thing possible?
I hope not. Because that would be really confusing.
[Footnote: Nightsail Cybertronia supplies a simpler explanation for all this. Perhaps Moebius did not carry the Reaver back through time from -1 to -50. Perhaps he simply found it the Sarafan Stronghold (or wherever it was left after the climactic scene of SR2.) He gave the Reaver to William in -50; Kain appeared and broke it; Raziel appeared in -30 and healed it; and then Moebius took it to Avernus for Kain to find in -1.
In this theory, there are no "alternate history" Reavers; only the single Reaver, looped through time by Kain's journey in BO1. It would certainly make my chart less confusing.
Annoyingly, I have a chart of this theory in my notes. It's a rough draft. I sketched it out, looked at it... and decided it was contradicted by the evidence. And I can't remember why I decided that. I certainly can't come up with any disproof of the theory now.
I must have just been, you know, confused. Oh well.]
This leads us to one interesting observation: that point is the end of the wraith-blade's known timeline, but it is near the beginning of the physical Reaver's history. The blade has just become ensouled; it has yet to be wielded by either Kain or William. Therefore, whatever the events of Defiance, the Reaver will not be destroyed or lost. Whatever the ancient Kain does with it, it has an appointment with the newly-turned Kain in the year -1.
[Or, by the simpler theory, with William in -50.]
All the animated cut-scenes in BO1 can be accessed with this cheat sequence: Begin a game. Play through the introduction, until you awaken in your tomb. Enter left, right, square, circle, up, down, right, left. (In the PC version, use the default "attack" and "action" keys for "square" and "circle".) Switch to the menu screen and look under "Dark Diary".
Text transcripts of the cut-scenes in SR2 can be accessed with this sequence: At the start screen, enter left, triangle, right, triangle, down, circle, cross. Look under "Extras".
My gratitude to the various Nosgoth fan sites around the net. Among the most informative:
Back to the History of the Soul Reaver
My review of Soul Reaver 2
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