Castlevania: Lament of Innocence
- Time Period: 1094
- Main Hero: Leon Belmont

- Antagonist: Walter, Mathias

Lament of Innocence for the PS2 marks the series' return to the world of 3D. Lament is different in that it deals with the genesis of both the Belmont clan and Count Dracula, in some cases answering questions that for a long period lingered in fans' minds.

The Birth of Evil

It was the 11th century, a time of knights and knighthood. As the system decayed, monarchies began to weaken as local feudal lords grew in power. The knights became their sworn protectors, the defenders of the land and those brave enough to give their lives for the lords they served. However, there remained a lack of any real order; as the chaos spread, rival families continued to contend for control, in bloody fashion, at the expense of the knights who wished only to protect them. It was one thing to defend their masters' land--it was quite another to battle against rival families' independent armies who were looking for nothing more than political gain. The disorder would ultimately call for change: The increasing power of the Catholic Church soon brought forth the Gregorian Reforms of the 11th Century; it was during this period of religious constitution that the knights were elevated to the role of "protectors of the peace and the Church." These knights valued courage and honor, and they proudly fought against heretics and heathens in the name of God. Some knights formed brotherhoods, sects that would fight together with a sacred trust bonding them. In this age, one such company of knights was said to be invincible; it was these two men, Leon Belmont and Mathias Cronqvist, who would unwittingly bring about a new order.

Leon Belmont was a courageous young man who feared nothing and whose combat abilities were second to none. Mathias Cronqvist was a genius tactician whose education made him a standout in a largely illiterate society. Together, these two men, bound by an old friendship based completely on trust, had never suffered a loss on the field of battle. One day, however, Mathias suffered a loss of another kind: Upon returning from yet another victorious campaign, he was greeted with the news that his wife, Elisabetha, had died suddenly. Mathias became stricken with grief, and over the course of one year, his condition worsened to the point where he became bedridden. In Mathias' absence, it was up to Leon to represent the company on his own; Leon's efforts proudly kept their company undefeated.

But things certainly did not become any easier for them: The reforms of the Catholic Church were a continuing theme throughout Europe, and its burgeoning focus on the Christian Crusades required an increased effort from the knights. Many fell in battle as the territorial disputes became more and more petty.

Soon after, the next threat arose. Without warning, a mysterious army of monsters suddenly appeared in Leon's domain. Because the Church had not authorized any battles that were not against its political enemies, Leon was helpless to prevent their sudden rising. When Leon asked permission to sortie--to begin a military-led assault against these terrifying besiegers--the Church had no intention of granting his wish.

One night, Mathias struggled out of bed to relay a message to Leon: He knew for sure that the appearance of the monsters was somehow tied to a vampire who resided in a castle within the forest they called "Eternal Night." The more difficult part for Mathias was informing his friend that Sara Trantoul, his betrothed, had been kidnapped and brought to that castle. With no other choice, his pledge to the Church binding him, Leon renounced his title as a lord and baron so that he could attempt to rescue his beloved without committing heresy. He would now have to hurry, braving the forest, to arrive at the site of the uninviting castle.

As he neared the outlying areas of the castle, he was overcome by an odd sensation. He curiously surveyed his surroundings and was taken by the voice of an old man: "Ah, he must really like you. You won't be able leave here now." That old man was Rinaldo Gandolfi, an alchemist who lived in this forest ruled by vampires. Rinaldo was surprised to learn that this was the Belmont he had heard about; even though he considered the youth's efforts in coming to this land unarmed to be foolhardy, he bowed with respect. The earnest Leon told Rinaldo his tale and insisted that they were now equals, both in their rank amongst men and in their plight. Rinaldo knew that it was his job to help this troubled soul, so he led Leon to the safety of his cottage.

It was here that Rinaldo supplied him with much information: This particular forest was shrouded in eternal darkness because its vampire master, Walter Bernhard, was in possession of something that afforded him a power of encapsulation. It seemed that eternal life frequently became monotonous, and Walter would entertain himself by goading vampire hunters into his inescapable forest for an inevitable duel. The fact remained that none could ever come close to defeating him. Walter would initiate the game by taking something valuable away from the hunters--in this case, Leon's beloved, Sara. Furthermore, Walter permitted Rinaldo to live here because he approved of his helping the hunters by selling them necessary goods--this made the game more fun. But how would Leon go about tackling such a foe? There were no easy answers, but Rinaldo assisted by entrusting Leon with the Whip of Alchemy, an artifact, he confided, that was more powerful than any slain hunter's discarded sword. As one of the handful of people with such knowledge, Rinaldo explained to Leon the principles behind its making in regard to the secret arts; it was Mathias, coincidentally, that taught Rinaldo about the arts, which had been handed down in his family orally.

Additionally, Rinaldo used what power he had to channel energy into Leon's gauntlet, which would allow for him to collect magic power by defending against and thus absorbing the monsters' attacks. With the whip and his now-enchanted gauntlet, Leon was all set to retrieve his betrothed. Rinaldo, ominously, had one final warning: To gain access to the upper half of the castle where Walter lay in wait, he explained, Leon would have to defeat five of the castle's supreme guardians to break its seal.

Leon entered the castle and, suppressing his fear, used its portal room to transport to its five separate areas where the guardians ruled. A Golem, Medusa, the Succubus, an Undead Parasite--they all fell, one by one, to the determined warrior. It was after the defeat of the vampire guardian Joachim Armster whence Leon learned that Walter was in possession of the "ebony stone," which was the power source encompassing the forest in eternal darkness. During his repeated visits to the cottage during this time, Leon learned from Rinaldo about the ebony stone and the two others (the crimson stone and the philosopher's stone) that when combined would allow for alchemy's goal--eternal youth to he who was their possessor. To the vampires, only two in particular were of value: The ebony stone, which Walter had, and the crimson stone, an ultimate power source that had been since lost. Leon also learned that Rinaldo's daughter was one of the unfortunate victims of Walter's game-playing. Thus, at this point, his mission became an extension of his new ally's, a quest to free more than just Sara.

The seal was broken, and Leon entered onto the castle's second level, the Pagoda of the Misty Moon. Walter appeared to him with Sara in his arms. Leon demanded that he release Sara, and Walter willingly complied, for she was no longer of need to him. The infuriated Leon leapt into the air and unleashed a mighty whip slash, but it had no effect on the vampire, who laughed it off and belittled the effort; Walter then challenged Leon to venture unto the castle's highest point, where they would duel under the light of foreboding moon. For now, Leon's concern was Sara's health, so he rushed her out of the castle and to the outside of Rinaldo's cottage.

Sara lay unconscious, and Leon was becoming desperate. Rinaldo exited the cottage and as the voice of reason demanded that Leon get a grip on his emotions and wait inside as he look over Sara. Soon, Rinaldo came inside to provide momentary relief for the pacing and anxious Leon: Sara was alive, having survived the encounter, and she was resting in the next room. But Rinaldo had other, graver, news: Upon investigation, the teethmarks he found on her neck confirmed that she had indeed been vampirized by Walter, and her condition would only be cured if Leon were to destroy Walter immediately. Unfortunately, Leon had not the means for defeating the all-too-powerful vampire. Rinaldo, though, had the solution, however crazed it seemed: Sara had inside of her a part of Walter, an evil sample that could be harnessed; the Whip of Alchemy's potential could be fully realized if Leon were to kill Sara by combining his hatred and the power of the whip, thereby collecting her now-conflicting energies into a package of destruction that could be used against Walter.

Sara, who had been listening through the door, realized the inescapability of her predicament. Because she knew that she would soon become a vampire, trapped within an eternal nightmare, she volunteered her life-force for what Rinaldo had proposed. If it would mean that others would live on, she would gladly accept becoming one with the whip. The overwhelmed Leon was not convinced; he was not prepared to let go, to just let her die and be alone in this world. When the emotions built to a boil, spurned by Rinaldo's pleas, Leon knew that there was no other choice--he would have to accept his fate and strike down the woman he loved. And in one sorrow-filled swing of the whip, the act was complete.

And behold: The Vampire Killer whip was born.

Emotionally exhausted, Leon swore that he would garner revenge on Sara's behalf. He raced back into the castle and fought through its last line of defense en route to the castle keep. One final staircase led him to the throne room where his target lay waiting. Leon burst through the doors with words of impending doom for the vampire. The overly confident Walter was none-too-impressed with the Belmont; in fact, he saw his own heinous actions more as having given Leon a gift, a whip of unspeakable power. What did impress Walter, ultimately, was a taste of its power, one that not even his precious ebony stone could protect him against. It was only a matter of time, then, before the determined Leon finished the job. Though defeated, Walter bragged about an inevitable return; this was only a temporary defeat, he thought. But Walter wasn't prepared for what would happen next: An unimaginable pain that saw his life-force extracted by the until-then camouflaged Death. The Reaper laughed off Walter's cries and turned to offer the devastated vampire's life-force to he whom had recovered the crimson stone, the lastest arrival to the throne room.

Mathias appeared before Leon and was very pleased. Walter's was indeed the strong vampire spirit that he had coveted. "Why?!" the shocked Leon cried. Mathias explained that Elisabetha's death had hit him harder than anyone could realize. His agony was so that he blamed God, whose name in which he had always fought, for her death, and he would thus curse Him forever by procuring eternal life. And he used Leon, Sara, Rinaldo and Walter to do it. "For if limited life is God's decree," he said, "then I shall defy it!"

Mathias truly believed that Elisabetha would have wanted it this way. Leon argued that the Mathias he knew would never marry such a woman. Still, Mathias expected Leon to understand his plight, for he, too, had unfairly lost someone he loved; maybe, he thought, his friend would join him in eternal life to also express a pained hatred. Leon contested that, yes, he struck Walter down with hatred, but he did it with the intention that others might live, which is what Sara wanted; Leon was sure that Elisabetha would have wanted the same. This is not what Mathias wanted to hear, unfortunately, so he would disappointedly have to leave his friend behind. "Death--he's all yours," he ordered, before assuming bat form and flying off into the night.

Death transported both he and Leon to a chaotic realm, where the two would see a final battle. Death, too, was overly confident, but Leon knew better--the Vampire Killer whip had the power to destroy vampires and all related to them, including a divine being such as Death. "Nooooooooooooo!" Death screamed as defeat came calling. The departing Reaper, like Walter before him, also bragged of a return, but Leon had a message for him to deliver to Mathias in the meantime: "You have become a cursed being, and I will never forgive you. This whip and my kinsmen will destroy you someday. The Belmont clan will hunt the night!"

Death's violent banishment caused the castle to shake, and it began to crumble piece by piece. Leon hurried out, each step narrowly avoiding the falling debris. He eventually escaped the castle and walked off with a quiet confidence and yet an empty heart. In his wake, sunlight finally began to shine upon the forest, an event that brought closure to at least one person. "So he did it," Rinaldo said as a ray of sunlight beam through the cottage's windows. Rinaldo's burden was quelled thanks to the Belmont's bravery. Leon, in contrast, would return to his domain, where he would try to put the shattered fragments back together.

And so the Belmont Clan's struggle against evil began.


The Stage-Setting

After leaving Leon behind in the castle keep, Mathias escaped to foreign land, where he continued to curse God. Eventually, he named himself Lord of the Vampires and King of the Night. It would be many years before the Belmonts' next battle with Mathias.

Page 2: The Legend Begins