Winged Being Shrine
The walls and pillars of this area share the same architectural style as the Inner Bastion, repeating abstract shapes with absolute symmetry. The room has a few barred windows with apparent daylight seeping in, suggesting the area is not too deeply buried in the Inner Bastion. The shrine is rectangular in shape, with a golden door acting as a main entrance at the center of one end, and two smaller golden doors near the corners of the opposite wall acting as exits. The room appears to have a second floor, though any unique features of this tier are obscured.
In the middle of the room, a raised circular emblem stands on the floor. It is the winged sword icon, which has already been seen in the Inner and Outer Bastion areas. A short distance from this is the altar itself, a semicircular series of raised steps lead to the focal point of the entire room, a statue of a female winged being in what may be a submissive pose, with wings outstretched and bindings on the wrists of her raised arms. In front of this figure, there are two winged beings of indeterminate gender on tall plinths, facing away from the central female.
There are two steps leading up to the central figure. The first is decorated with writing or runes. The second contains two recurring shapes, the first resembling a sperm or tadpole, and the second is a black abstract shape that looks like tendrils or overlapping worms.
Behind the altar is a wall display. At the top of this display, the symbol of the Sarafan order (as seen in Soul Reaver 2 and Defiance) is imposed on a circular carving of what appears to be a shining sun. Beneath this, there are slightly obscured, carvings to the left and right of the central statue. The top of these carvings appears to show the unidentified beaked creature seen in statues in the Inner Bastion, from a side-on view. Beneath these is what may be the side-view of a human-shaped creature, with a very blurry face being visible.
This room seems to tell us some of the history of the Bastion, and possibly explains the origins of some of the icons of the Sarafan order.
In the essay on the Inner Bastion area, we discussed the idea that the building is one of Ancient construction, and suggested the possibility that it may have been an outpost housing the Ancient Conflict Guardians. As the Ancients died out and the Pillars chose human guardians, the complex may have passed down through generations of human conflict guardians, with its true history being long forgotten.
Consider the presence of the large symbol of the Sarafan order in the centre of the altar, and the prominent winged beings. Could the Sarafan have discovered this chamber near the foundation of their order, and adopted the imagery and icons presented as a way of anglicising their cause, wholly ignorant of their true meaning? If there is any truth to this theory, then the emblem of the Sarafan seen in Soul Reaver 2 and Defiance is actually a symbol of Ancient origin, its true meaning unknown.
The design and positioning of the statues seem to tell a story of their own. The central figure is a female winged creature, with visible bindings at her wrists and is presented in a submissive or tormented pose. On two plinths, winged beings (possibly masculine) face away from her in a solemn pose. Is the female figure reviled or somehow shamed? Would the bindings indicate that she is a prisoner, or even a sacrifice? The mural behind the female figure seems to depict two figures facing each other, with the statue of the female figure in between them. These could be executioners, or religious figures administering the sacrifice of the female.
The first step up to the altar is covered in writing or runes, their meaning unknown. The second step contains carvings of what appears to be sperm, separated by a menacing looking black abstract shape. If we consider this as a biological diagram, the black shape could depict the disease infected upon the Ancients by the Hylden at the end of the war, robbing the race of their ability to reproduce sexually. The sperm are literally blocked from progressing by the black cells of the disease. The blackened shape could even represent deformed or infected Ancient ova.
Let us consider the entire tableau in the shrine as an ordered retelling of history. The first step, the indecipherable text, would explain what happened in the aftermath of the war. The second step would show the Ancients' discovery of the science behind the infection, the literal prevention of sperm cells from completing fertilisation, possibly due to deformed or infected ova. The statues and mural would be the third chapter of this story, and could depict the social ramifications the curse had on Ancient society, the revulsion (and binding) of certain females due to their inability to reproduce. The infection of females could have led them to be blamed for the races expulsion from their revered sequence of life and death, their "wheel of fate". This final part of the story could represents a sacrifice, the female being bound and left to some horrible fate, with the figures behind her about to commence the execution.
The whole process being depicted here may be a foolhardy and hopeless method to try and earn the attention or forgiveness of their (Elder) God. The entire sequence could therefore depict (1) the symptoms of the disease; (2) the science of the disease; and (3) the religious fervour, fury and atrocities that resulted from the disease.
From the screenshots, it appears that Kain would have discovered the Winged Being Shrine by entering a doorway in the Inner Bastion, and would have been then immediately ambushed by three Hylden Armour Wraiths in a boss battle of sorts. We can assume that this battle would have taken place upon entry as the screenshots show Kain beginning the battle with a mostly-full blood meter, and then later exploring with the blood level somewhat depleted from the damaged sustained in the fight. When explored, the room could have been an opportunity for Kain to learn the true origins of the Bastion and a less noble chapter in the Ancients' history. In the traditions of the series, this would probably have been accompanied by a monologue or moment of self-reflection.
Given that the Hylden saw fit to guard this chamber, it could be that it holds an upgrade or artefact needed for progression. The main chamber (or one of the chambers ahead of it, beyond the two golden doors shown to the left and right of the altar) could have held a puzzle to bestow Kain with new gifts.
Eventually, Kain have left this area, possibly returning to the Inner Bastion hub.
Comments From Ben Lincoln
This statue and the steps leading up to it are actually reused material from Defiance. The statue is one of those from which Raziel obtains a spear to complete a puzzle in Vorador's Mansion, and the semicircular steps are part of the main altar in Avernus Cathedral. I suspect they were used here as placeholders for original material that would have been developed later if The Dark Prophecy had not been cancelled.
Additional Comments From Divine Shadow
Complete credit to Ben for spotting that the statue and altar are transplanted assets from Defiance, I had no idea when writing the above essay. I'd still assert that my interpretation of the tableau as an Ancient historical record is valid if the final materials in the area were going to be of similar appearance. If the statue and altar were indeed placeholders, and were to be replaced entirely before The Dark Prophecy was released, then the purpose of this room may forever remain a mystery.
The images were gathered from the online portfolio of Jason Muck in November 2008, and were among the very first media discovered from the cancelled game. It is these screenshots that revealed the existence of The Dark Prophecy and prompted the search for more material.
Jason is a former Ritual Entertainment staff member, and was employed as an Environment Artist between January 2004 and September 2005. Jason has recently worked on Red Dead Redemption and its expansions, and now works as a Senior Environment Artist at Big Huge Games. His portfolio is available to view online (as of February, 2012), and relevant screenshots are preserved here for historical reference:
It is worth noting that over a year ago, Jason's website was redesigned and one of the released images was removed for reasons unknown. This image was however saved before the redesign and is included in the above screenshots.
Elsewhere on the site, Jason provides us with some insight into his role on The Dark Prophecy and its development timeline:
Environment Artist on Legacy of Kain: The Dark Prophecy - PS2, Xbox, PC CANCELLED
Ritual Entertainment - Jan 2004 - April 2004
Responsible for modeling, texture mapping, and lighting in-game environments while following art direction and maximizing target platform memory limitations.
Legacy of Kain: The Dark Prophecy: Xbox, PS2 CANCELLED
These are screen shots from the playstation 2 version of Legacy of Kain : The Dark Prophecy. It was canceled after about 3 months of production work. These are the levels I worked on including modeling, texture mapping, and lighting. On this project I was not responsible for actual texture creation but working from a library provided by our texture artists. I would then model out the level, create props, map textures, and apply the lighting. All lighting was vertex based and applied in Max.
LEGACY OF KAIN THE DARK PROPHECY: Environment Artist, Texture UVs, Lighting, 2004, CANCsELLED
The screenshots for the Winged Being Shrine area were originally published under the filenames TechDemo[NUMBER]. These filenames would suggest that the game and this area was playable in a technical demo by the time of cancellation.
Please note that the name used in this essay for the presented locale, "The Winged Being Shrine" has been chosen as a best-guess based on the content of the screenshots. Whatever official name this area may have had if any, is completely unknown.