- "History is written by the victors. Beneath the vaults of Avernus I discovered scenes that told a familiar story, but from a very different point of view. This was the work of the enemy race, and revealed what the Vampire histories had conveniently omitted – how the noble Vampires, god-ridden and righteous, had started the wars that would destroy both races – victor and vanquished alike. Their adversaries opposed the Vampires' god, and refused to submit to the Wheel of Fate. For this they were banished. I now understood the poetic irony of their curse. And my resemblance to the Vampires' enemy no longer seemed so accidental."
The Hylden were one of the three sapient species dominant in Nosgoth, along with the vampires and the humans. They were technologically-adept beings, "different in method and intention" to the Ancient vampires, but similar in power. Before Nosgoth's recorded history, they rejected the Elder God's doctrine and his Wheel of Fate, incurring the Ancient vampires' wrath; the consequent Vampire-Hylden war raged on for a millennium, and concluded with the banishment of the entire Hylden race to the nightmarish Demon Realm. When the Pillars of Nosgoth were raised to seal the Hylden in this plane, the Hylden retaliated by laying the blood curse on their vampire enemies.
After their expulsion from the Material Realm, the word "Hylden" became taboo among the vampires and the Circle of Nine; they referred to their ancient adversaries only as the Unspoken. In later eras, leaders among the banished Hylden – specifically, the Hylden Lord and the Revenants – attempted to break the Binding and escape back into their plane of origin. Many of the central events in the Legacy of Kain series, including the corruption and collapse of the Pillars, were masterminded by these militants to facilitate their goal. Members of the Hylden race physically appeared in both Blood Omen 2 and Legacy of Kain: Defiance.
The Hylden outright opposed the Ancients' God and his Wheel of Fate, which cast their souls in a cycle of reincarnation. For this heresy, the Ancients, who were prompted by the Elder God, declared war on the Hylden.
The war prompted the creation of a weapon with which the Hylden hoped to wiped out the life of the world apart from their own race. This was known as the Device, channelling the energies of a creature known as the Mass, constructed by a Hylden known practically as The Builder. The Mass was said to be able to destroy any creature with a thought, but lacked an energy source or personal sentience with which it could project its ability. Before a solution could be found, the Ancients defeated the Hylden, and constructed the Pillars of Nosgoth, which utilised powerful magic to seal away the Hylden in another, more demonic dimension.
The Hylden did not go quietly, however, and retaliated as a last stand with a final Blood Curse, turning the Ancients into Vampires. The nature of this curse was three-fold: To first impose an animalistic blood-thirst upon their noble enemies, turning them to savage beasts; to render them sterile and incapable of continuing their species, and thus, their magic on the Pillars; and to render them immortal, and thus unable to die of old age to naturally return their souls to the Wheel of Fate. As the curse became apparent, many Vampires committed suicide to rejoin their god who, in light of their new abilities, had gone silent to them.
The Hylden were thus locked away by the Pillars to the Demon Realm, wherein they slowly devolved and themselves became more demonic. They plotted from there a diabolical scheme to re-enter Nosgoth through means of manipulation of the inhabitants and of the Time Stream itself. A leader would rise amongst them, known as the Hylden general or the Hylden Lord who would initiate this invasion.
Both the Hylden and the Ancients prophesied their battle to climax with a battle between their respective champions. The Hylden champion was envisioned to stand for immortality and divinity, appear as demonic as their devolved selves and brandish a flaming sword. The Vampires told of their own champion who would enforce the Wheel of Fate, and wield the sword they had crafted known as the Soul Reaver (Informally as the Blood Reaver). The depiction by both sides, of a Vampire and Hylden champion, both coalesce in Raziel, who not only brings about the victory the Hylden required to escape the demon dimension that brought about the events of Blood Omen 2, but also became the means to which Kain could, possibly in the future, restore the pillars and balance. The prophecy also told of a hero who would restore the Pillars to vampire rule, where they would be best served. This savior was the Scion of Balance, which later in the game Defiance was realised by Raziel to be Kain, and was completely separate from the vampire champion depicted in the other murals, which referred to Raziel.
The Hash'ak'gik Cult
The vampires, unable to reproduce, passed their 'curse' to the humans, turning them to vampires. Eventually, and inevitably, the humans rejected the gift, overpowered their masters and claimed the Pillars as their own. Having lost sight of what the Pillars were erected for, the humans served them themselves, unaware that humans could not adequately maintain the magic the Pillars required to keep the Hylden banished.
As the Binding weakened, a particularly powerful Hylden, known as the Dark Entity (later revealed to be the Hylden Lord), projected his soul into Nosgoth and possessed Mortanius, the human Guardian serving the Pillar of Death. Using this physical form (albeit a fairly weak one), he murdered the Guardian of Balance, Ariel. This in turn drove Nupraptor, Guardian of the Mind, and Ariel's lover, insane, and his madness thusly infected the rest of the Circle of Nine. The Circle began to corrupt, and so too did their power. The Binding weakened further.
At the moment of Ariel's murder, Kain was born, and thirty years later, Mortanius, able to momentarily break free of the Hylden's control, had him murdered and reborn as a vampire, setting in motion the Ancients' Prophecy, where a powerful vampire would restore the Pillars to Vampire Guardianship. He would achieve this by using the Heart of Darkness, a powerful ancient vampire relic, placed into the body of Kain. He hoped Kain would one day himself restore the Pillars as the Ancients had foretold.
The ghost of Ariel would direct Kain to kill the remaining Circle of Nine in order to end the corruption Nupraptor had brought on the Circle, and thus end the damage they were doing to Nosgoth. Kain proceeded to eliminate every Circle member, and learned of Mortanius's possession. He killed Mortanius, and apparently The Dark Entity with him, however, in order to full realise the destruction of the corrupted Circle, Kain would have to sacrifice himself, having been newly revealed as the new Balance Guardian, replacing Ariel. The corruption he inherited from the Circle's madness drove him to reject the sacrifice, dooming Nosgoth, the Pillars, and the Binding. The Hylden were now free to enter Nosgoth.
The Dark Entity had not been destroyed however. At the moment of the destruction of the pillars, his soul entered the body of the newly resurrected Janos Audron, brought to life by a time-displaced Raziel who'd retrieved his heart from the equally displaced Kain from the future. With the elder Kain (the saviour of the Pillars) now dead, the Pillars themselves destroyed and with the body and blood of Janos Audron in their possession, the Hylden were all but victorious.
The Hylden Lord used the blood of Janos Audron to fuel the ancient Hylden weapon, the Mass. He also recreated, or assumed control of the ancient Vampire-Opposed human faction known as the Order of the Sarafan, and wearing a mask, assumed the identity of 'The Sarafan Lord'. Under this noble guise, he imposed harsh laws and a brutal dictatorship over Nosgoth. Using an artefact known as the Nexus Stone, he was able to stand against the equally powerful Kain armed with the Soul Reaver sword. Apparently killing Kain, he began a campaign to take over Nosgoth, all the while aiding his Hylden brothers enter the world, into what became known as the Hylden City. Here, he used a gate, powered by the Nexus Stone, to bring the Hylden, and his own body, through. He disposed of Janos body by imprisoning him within the Mass, to feed it with his own blood.
Kain was not killed, conveniently, and slept for two-hundred years. Upon awakening, he was enraged with what the 'Sarafan Lord' had done with his Nosgoth, and proceeded to chase him down and retrieve both his Soul Reaver sword, and rulership of all of Nosgoth.
Kain managed to halt the Hylden invasion and destroy the gateway which acted as an umbilical cord to the demon dimension, destroyed every Hylden within Nosgoth. The Hylden Lord, however, was within the gateway itself, and Kain chased and killed him there, reclaiming his sword and then continuing to conquer Nosgoth.
Physique and traits
Ancient Hylden are depicted in murals as being much more humanoid, having full cheeks and less skeletal structures. These may have been exaggurations of their nobility, however, as in all other media, Hylden are shown to be demonic, emaciated creatures, though this may be the result of their long banishment to the demon realm. This may or may not correlate with vampire murals which, though ancient, depict them in their modern, reduced forms, raising the question as to the authenticity of the Hylden's depiction of themselves, though the Ancient's depiction may simply be their take on the Hylden, as Janos was mentioned to say in response to "Look at what it (the demon dimension) has made of our once fair race"; "I see you have taken your true form, at last".
In addition to this, when Kain is blasted into the Demon Dimension by Raziel after their last fight, presumably Hylden voices speak to him from nowhere, claiming they will soon be free. They say "You are still fair of form, vampire. That will go first. This realm will render you hideous. You will go mad, and will not know it".
The most notable features include a head-crest, which is suspected to vary between Hylden families and small wing-like crests on their backs. The Hylden have pale, sickly skin, with three digits on each hand. Their feet have only two, long toes. Their musculature is also very different compared to humans and vampires.
The Hylden were introduced to the Legacy of Kain series as antagonists for Blood Omen 2, devised prior to the completion of Soul Reaver 2. In Blood Omen 2, they were designed by art director Steve Ross, who also contributed to the game's storyline. Ross previously worked on a proof-of-concept for an unrelated project named Sirens circa 1997, which featured a similar backstory to that of the ancient vampires and the Hylden in the final game, with the Hylden taking the role of the Daemons:
- "The City has existed since the beginning of time. Once it was a place of transcendent beauty and purity governed by five beings known as the Aeris. Then, many centuries ago, a catastrophic plague ripped through The City. This scourge cleaved each Aeris into two separate entities: A Siren, a being of light and song, and a Daemon, a dark, vile creature.
The Daemons soon overwhelmed the Sirens beginning a long reign of brutality and horror. They stripped away the Sirens' souls turning them into pitiful empty creatures who wander aimlessly through The City. The Daemons imprisoned the Siren souls in Soul Worlds; strange domains existing beyond space and time.
With no one left to challenge their power the Daemons began to feed on The City's population. They did not feed on the flesh of their victims, but on their souls, their life force. Through centuries of dark rule The City was transformed from a place of peace and serenity into a cruel, hard, twisted place. A place of horror, death and decay."
- ―The Official Sirens News Page
Blood Omen 2's storyline clashed with the plans of the Soul Reaver 2 team in Crystal Dynamics, and in an effort to resolve inconsistencies, Amy Hennig introduced backstory in Soul Reaver 2 which explained that the Hylden had conspired to alter Nosgoth's timeline. In Legacy of Kain: Defiance, she merged the character of the Dark Entity/Unspoken from Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain with that of the Sarafan Lord in Blood Omen 2, re-introducing him as the Hylden Lord.
In the cancelled game Legacy of Kain: Dark Prophecy the Hylden would have a more fleshed-out role and more information about their society in the Demon Realm would be revealed since a large portion of the game would be taking place there. It would be revealed that the Hylden adapted to the hostile realm by utilizing their Glyph network to create areas of order amidst the chaos of the Demon Realm, even succeeding in subjugating some of the native fauna there (as is evident in the main corpus of the series with demons serving as Hylden vanguard). However, their magics, although powerful, would eventually start failing. Additionally, the Hylden were even able to erect cities within the areas of stability created by the Glyph network. This feat required cooperation amongst the usually diverse Hylden clans who would put their politics and potential infighting aside in order to ensure initial survival in the Demon Realm..</ref>
- "Like any intelligent species, the Hylden have their own hierarchy, conflicts and insurrections. The demon realm would have necessitated a certain unity though, for the sake of survival. I do like to think that there would be have and have-nots, with lesser clans left to the warping as their abilities faded first."
- ―Daniel Cabuco
Within the Demon Realm, the Hylden would become stratified, with less powerful clans being left on the periphery of the glyph city where the protective bubble of the Glyph network would be the weakest, the stronger clans would occupy the central portions of the city which were the safest. This would lead to inter-Hylden tensions and skirmishes for safer space and resources..</ref>
- "...this vast glyph powered city, with its edges being warped by the demon dimension. The glyphs would keep the warping at bay, but they would eventually fail and a whole section would fall to the demon dimension's twisting. It would set up tension within the city, intense resentment, and conflict for resources. I'd really like to add dimension to the Hylden."
- ―Daniel Cabuco
At the very center of the city, the true lord and master of all Hylden would reside - the Hylden Queen who, with her immense power, would keep the Demon Realm's corroding influence at bay. Beneath her in terms of hierarchy, would be the seven Hylden Lords, leaders of various hylden guilds.
- "Now I put an idea out there that the Hylden Lord wasn't the absolute ruler of the Hylden, just one of their Seven Guild Leaders (like the Lieutenants) and there were more of the Lords out there, with a supreme Queen who is extremely powerful and literally holding the demon realm at bay with her powers, so she's hampered... but if they come back to Nosgoth, it would press the Elder Kain to the very limits of his abilities."
- ―Daniel Cabuco
Finally, the dynamic between the Hylden and the Demons would also be revealed in a greater light. The Hylden would realise, tho their shock and horror that, much like their Vampire adversaries, they have been rendered sterile (and immortal while in the Demon Realm). This sterility coupled with the eroding and corrupting effects of long term residence in the Demon Realm would quite obviously spell the eventual downfall for their race, however protracted it may be. In order to avoid this, every and any means, including the employ of Demons would be considered. Lesser Demons would simply be enslaved, while more powerful ones would would make uneasy pacts with the Hylden.
- "The Hylden appear in the demon dimension, obviously intruders to that realm, which causes immediate conflict. For the Hylden it would have been like being damned to hell: they fought and carved out their place in the world. Preserving what civilization and technology they could. The more damning realization came later when they realized the entire dimension was warping and twisting them. They used their sorcery and Rune technology to create bubbles that kept them safe until those too started to twist and fail. Further still they realized that they could not die from old age, essentially freezing them in time and space (I think unable to raise children as well. Realizing their eventual fall was due, they reached out to their old enemies and forged alliances, finding ways to breach the thinner passages to the Material Realm of Nosgoth. (Entropy has a way of making strange bedfellows) Lesser demons would have been enslaved, greater demons would have been in an uneasy alliance with the Hylden."
- ―Daniel Cabuco
- It is unclear exactly what the 'natural abilities' of the Hylden actually were. Janos comments that they were "different in method and intention" to the vampires, though what this entails is not yet revealed. Though they are said to be immortal, it is unclear whether this is a 'benefit' of the Demon Realm, or if they naturally had this ability. Ultimately Daniel Cabuco stated: "The Hylden aren't immortal, they just live in a dimension where time is warped and they age differently in relation to the material realm. Remember that Vampires weren't immortal until the Hylden cursed them so. How much they know and cooperate with the Elder God was still a mystery."
- There are also at least two concept arts (of the Seer in Blood Omen 2 and the 'Hylden Sisters' in the Dark Prophecy) which depict winged Hylden; these wings are inconsistent with each other and though many Hylden appear to have small wing-like crests on their backs, they have never been depicted as flying in any other media.
- Stephen A Ross Website, depicts concepts for Blood Omen 2 which appear to show five different Hylden subsets; only the 'regular Hylden' and the 'Hylden Warrior' are seen in Blood Omen 2. The other three are yet to appear in the series, though one could be interpreted as an early design for Revenants.
- Comments made by Hylden Scientists in the Hylden City may suggest that the Hylden have been taking Slaves from the human populace since a very early stage in their evolutionary history and may have a large influence on human history.
- Questions about EG & misc at DCabDesign (by an ancient), post #2 by Daniel Cabuco.
- (A Hylden menaces a human slave in a research station)Human Slave: "It’s not possible! I beg you!"//Hylden Scientist: "When you were but hairless apes cowering in caves, we gave you all that you had. And now, we take it back."//Human Slave: "No!" Crystal Dynamics. Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen 2. (Eidos Interactive). PlayStation 2. (March 19, 2002) Transcript.