Absence of Surname
Richter Belmont had before long married Annet Renard and had continued to grow in potency the family's power via the Renard's magic potential and noted prowess. With the family splintering in so many ways, the expansion ever-growing, there came to exist many factions who were not named Belmont but had to the clan of legend a blood relation. While natural in one sense, there may have been other reasons for family members to take on new identities: Perhaps several members of the family might have wanted to quash any association with the Belmont legend, since it was bringing unto them pain (undesirables challenging them to fights, hecklers berating their children, or an all-around effort to hide from their potential Dracula-hunting destinies). Or maybe a faction might find itself unwelcome by a city or province due to certain laws or fear of its power, so it would look to escape Romania under assumed names. "No big deal," you'd think.
Likewise, while this loss of the surname was dismissed by the Church and its allies as not important, a successor being a successor under any name, there was a little matter of truth and consequence that the Belmonts and their blood relatives managed to keep secret. That is, it was only a hero named Belmont who could be considered the true successor. This is not to say that one of blood relation could not come to wield the Vampire Killer--but for one who was not a true successor, there was a price that must be paid for using such a divine weapon: The user would have to sacrifice part of his or her life and even then face a trial--an encounter with the Whip's Memory, which would manifest itself as an image of the last true Belmont successor to wield it. Only by defeating the Whip's Memory could a non-Belmont convince the whip of its commander's worthiness. Furthermore, the Vampire Killer had to it a quirk that would prevent non-Belmonts from using it past an expiration date (Dracula's defeat, which would end the current leg of the cycle): It would through continued use begin to drain away even more of the wielder's life than originally bargained until death was surely met. The Kischines, Renards and others of deviating surname were in the past aware of this and willing to take on the responsibility as they vied for title contendership.
The other part of the secret had to do with the cycle itself. Though it's a tenet largely unexplored, it's been said in as recently as Portrait of Ruin that the Belmonts are "not allowed to touch the Vampire Killer" until the period where Dracula's resurrection is expected. Due to this clause in the contract, the Belmonts would be forced to stay away and in the interim leave the Vampire Killer and the mystic weapons in the care of blood-related factions, who in the event of a years-too-early resurrection would fight in the Belmonts' place. (How Juste Belmont was able to wield it in such a short period hasn't been explained, but it could be possible if Dracula's resurrection was "predicted to be 1748" by a prophecy.) So it was in 1797 when Richter Belmont relinquished control of the Vampire Killer, which would be reclaimed by Belmont heroes, people figured, in approximately one hundred year's time.
The same people became complacent in just expecting the Belmont clan to come along and bail them out whenever a possible threat emerged. Soon their sense of harmony was shattered when humanity lost its ability to resist darkness and there continued to be no sign of the legendary family. Fearing the worst, those in position of power began to search for new ways to counter the emerging dark forces, whose very existence would surely beget the return of Count Dracula. This era produced several such organizations, the most notable of which is Ecclesia, founded by a man named Barlowe. While it was ultimately discovered that Ecclesia at some point became a front group for supporters of Dracula (a fact hidden from all of its members), it was those who believed in its original purpose who stood up to the consumed Barlowe and again removed Dracula from this world. These brave heroes were Shanoa and Albus, two warriors who faced separate trials, which at first seemed to stand in direct contrast, and through their respective actions saved the world and each other. If not for the efforts of these brave heroes, Dracula might have secured a decade-long reign--just enough time to shroud the planet in darkness, amass an unstoppable army, and decimate enough of the population to where even resistance and inevitable victory against him would be a useless gesture.
Thankfully, the identities of the Vampire Killer's suitors soon emerged, which is where Castlevania: Circle of the Moon is concerned. (Like Legends, it was previously dismissed from the official timeline; it has since been confirmed to be part of the lineage though without explanation.) From gauging the events of Portrait of Ruin, we can piece together what happened next. That is, Richter and his crew left the weapons to the care of the blood-related factions Graves and Baldwin, who had grown closely together and were living quite comfortably. In 1820, the people's fear was again realized: Dracula was resurrected early. Unlike in the previous era of uncertainty, there was this time an obvious opposing force; it was the responsibility of Morris Baldwin and unmentioned Graves members to fight and defeat the Dark Lord. When it was over, Morris and friends came to realize the true potential of Dracula and the danger of future early resurrections in a Belmont-less world. Fearing a similar event, Morris took under his wing son Hugh and the Graves' child Nathan and trained them as the elders always had. (We'll assume this to entail the acceptance of "sacrificing one's life" and the battle with the Whip's Memory.) But the Juste-Maxim scenario again showed its face: With there being two warriors, which would earn the title of Vampire Killer? The choice would be left to Morris Baldwin, now the elder. Ultimately, he chose Nathan, whose skills were superb but knew a better in Hugh's; Hugh, his son, was the logical choice, which made it all the more perplexing when Nathan was chosen. What were people not seeing?
Morris' turned out to be the correct decision, because he knew the truth: Earning such an honor definitely entailed mental status, in addition to physical skill, as the most important factor, because tasking with such a mission a hunter brimming with arrogance would be to create a specimen one step removed from being directly in the mold of that which they hunted (an obvious Star Wars theme). To prove just how right he was, Hugh during the ordeal fell easy prey to Dracula's possession, which amplified the youth's hatred and almost caused his undoing plus the ruination of the trio's campaign to thwart Dracula. It was Nathan who saved Hugh from eternal suffering and met all other challenges.
One thing was certain: The Graves and Baldwins had honored their commitment and would continue to pass down the weapons to worthy suitors until the time was right for Belmont warriors to retrieve them. By 1856, the Vampire Killer and mystic weapons found themselves in the possession of another blood-related faction whose surname was "Schneider"--in this case, the responsibility entrusted to Michael Gelhart Schneider. By then the secret was out: Romania knew the Schneiders to be the heirs to the Belmont throne. It was Michael's son, Reinhardt, who was the biggest victim of this. Growing up, he was teased constantly by the other children who refused to believe that an individual such as he could be descended from such a line of warriors. Listening to their discouraging words, he almost came to believe it, within him forming a sense of self-doubt; much later, through his training, his insecurities metamorpisized into a will to prove them wrong.
The exploits of Reinhardt are detailed in Castlevania 64, in which there are available are two selectable heroes. The other hero is of course Carrie Fernandez. What you won't find out by playing the American version is that Carrie is a descendant of Sypha Belnades, the wife of Trevor Belmont. In examining the Japanese versions of Dracula's Curse and Castlevania 64, we find that the family name is actually "Verunandesu," which translates directly into "Fernandez." Among other liberties, Konami of America--either by choice or by difficulty in translation--arrived as "Belnades." What should be certain is that Sypha retained her family's surname rather than taking Trevor's, and the Belnades clan grew right alongside the Belmonts as in the case with the Baldwins and Graves; we know this to be true because there exists a Yoko Belnades, who in Aria of Sorrow is an ally of the Church and of Julius Belmont (a tight-knit alliance the splinter families came to share with their Belmont associates). The localization crew tries to completely ignore such a connection, but it should for the end player be understood that "Fernandez" is derivative of "Belnades" (thanks to SaintofAthena for this information; see the next chapter for more on how this is possible). By now of pure-blood relation to the Belmonts, Fernandez warriors are very much capable of pursuing and defeating the Count; all Belnades descendants have naturally made it their destiny, too, to hunt and kill Dracula and vampires in general, but as Carrie learns when she's forced to fight her newly vampirized cousin, not all of them have what it takes. This single instance proves that no matter under which name they appear, there are only few suitors that actually have the moxie, thus magnifying the importance of the competition in an environment where there are many. Though Castlevania 64 presents two character with two different missions, it's certainly Reinhardt who earns the Vampire Killer title and takes on the challenge, with Carrie by his side as an ally (if not, it would be Carrie wielding the whip, which in her mission she doesn't).
By 1890, there was reason to worry: It had been more than one hundred years since Richter's time as hunter had passed, but there were no Belmonts to be seen. If Dracula would soon be returning, wouldn't the Belmonts have already resurfaced? In this inexplicable absence, there was no choice but for the blood-related factions to continue housing the Vampire Killer. After the Schneiders had honored their commitment, the weapons were handed down to the Morris family, represented most popularly by Quincy Morris (the surname maybe chosen in honor of Morris Baldwin).
The story of Quincy Morris is particularly interesting because it's clearly inspired by Bram Stoker's Dracula, whose tale is assimilated into and claimed as series canon and thus continued through Castlevania: Bloodlines. Dracula arrived as scheduled, and the gritty Morris Baldwin and his pack of hunters (including Jonathan Harker) tracked down the Dark Lord. In an epic battle, Quincy felled Dracula by plunging into his heart a wooden stake. That's right--a "wooden stake" and not the Vampire Killer. Did Quincy know the secrets of the whip--that its very use by a non-Belmont could cause further loss of life? If Quincy did know, he surely didn't tell his son, John Morris. If not by then, there was no way Quincy could, for he lost his life moments after the encounter with Dracula. Therefore, his only relevance to John's training was that the youth and his friend Eric Lecarde were watching the proceedings from the shadows; his show of heroism touched them deeply, and both vowed to train diligently to become warriors and one day emulate his bravery.
Though as tough as they come, John Morris was traumatized by the incident, having firsthand viewed a gory battle and as a result his father's death. Troubled by this, John escaped from Europe and immigrated to the United States, where he settled in Texas. It's here where John reached adulthood and continued to train for the honor of being "Vampire Killer" while friend Eric Lecarde (possibly a direct Harker relative) moved to Spain and did the same. So it's in Bloodlines where we're presented another multiple-hunter scenario with two characters vying for the honor. While originally intended to tell two separate tales, either hero's slaying of Count Dracula, the official timeline tells us that Eric renounced his candidacy after he offered to take John's place (in light of events that saw his wife vampirized by Elisabeth Bartley in the name of Dracula) and the young Morris declined. John went on to defeat the hated Dracula using the famed arsenal (which included a modified boomerang and a crystal reminiscent of the one used long ago by Leon Belmont). The problem, in doing so, is that John couldn't have known what past non-Belmonts had learned: Overuse of the whip would lead to certain death. This was the case when the wounds he suffered during the battle with Dracula weren't healing--the overuse of the whip only led to their status being upgraded to terminal. It wasn't long before John had died, leaving behind a son who he had not yet been fully trained. Devastated by the loss of his friend, Eric vowed that his family would take on a special distinction: Knowing well the true consequences suffered by any non-Belmont to wield the Vampire Killer, the Lecardes would act as enforcers, a fail-safe to make sure that overuse of the whip was impossible. It would be the Lecardes, then, who would be entrusted with the sacred power to both seal and unlock the whip's power when necessary. For non-Belmonts deemed to be worthy, only the Lecardes could act as the key to incarnate the Whip's Memory, which must be defeated if they are to use it.
Eric would make true his family's promise in aiding Jonathan Morris, the son of John Morris (named after his father, of course). Though Eric had been killed by the vampire Brauner while investigating the sudden appearance of Castlevania, he cast upon himself a magical barrier and sealed his soul within the castle walls. With the ability to project only his likeness, he guided the young Jonathan and friend Charlotte Aulin in yet another campaign against evil. Learning of Jonathan's deep-seeded resentment of his father, it was Eric who explained the truth, that John had not completed his son's training in regard to using the Vampire Killer out of fear--knowing the possible consequences, John wanted his son to instead find other means of strength to battle against the forces of darkness. (Eric also spoke of the Belmonts' reclaiming of the weapons, which was estimated to be in the year 1999.) It was Eric's daughters, Stella and Loretta, who upon being saved from a state of vampirism helped Jonathan to unlock the Vampire Killer's true power. Thanks to their magical incantation, Jonathan fought and defeated an image of Richter, the last Belmont to wield the whip, and proved himself worthy. Thereafter, he promised, knowing the whole story, that he would not overuse the whip and would relinquish possession of it once Dracula were gone. This he did.