1748 - Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance

ifty years after Count Dracula's second defeat at the hands of Simon Belmont, Juste Belmont, grandson of Simon, took on the role of vampire hunter and was conferred the Vampire Killer whip.

One day, Juste's best friend, Maxim Kischine, suddenly returned from a training expedition that had kept him away from home for two years. Covered with horrible wounds that he could not explain due to partial amnesia, Maxim found Juste and told him of distressing images in his head of their friend, Lydie Erlanger, being kidnapped.

Knowing Maxim was not one to lie about such things, Juste took the whip and followed his friend through dense fog to where he believed Lydie was being held captive. Maxim led Juste to an ominous castle uncharted on any map. The duo couldn't help wonder whether or not it was the legendary Demon Castle of Count Dracula, said to rise from the dead every century. Maxim and Juste pressed on, as if welcomed by the castle itself.

Heavy rain beat down on the two as they stood outside on the bridge leading to the Castle Entrance. Though Maxim couldn't remember many details, he was almost certain Lydie was there. As they were about to enter the castle, a sharp pain sent Maxim to his knees, hollering in agony. Maxim assured Juste that he was fine, and admonished him to stay focused on finding Lydie. While Maxim took a few moments to convalesce, Juste continued, planning to meet Maxim in the Entrance.

Juste noticed an obscure heap obstructing his path, and scaled it only to discover that it was a massive armored guardian that secured the front part of the Castle. As lightning flashed, the huge, impenetrable creature ascended its full height, cutting Juste off from Maxim. The guardian chased Juste for the length of the overpass but plummeted down a chasm when the drawbridge lifted and disconnected the passageway. Juste made it safely on the side of the castle entrance, while the armored menace descended to some uncertain fate.

Inside the mysterious citadel, Juste was welcomed by nary a soul, aside from some strange creature that bore witness to his actions from the windowpanes leading to the outside woodland. In the long hallways, mindless zombies ceaselessly rose and attacked. With such hostile inhabitants, rife with the undead, it became clear that this was no ordinary castle.

Juste continued upward through the Entrance, slaying what monsters got in his way. Finally, he came upon the insipid lobbies of the Marble Corridor, where a threatening hooded figure halted him, and immediately identified him as a member of the Belmont Clan of Vampire Hunters.

Because of the overwhelming surge of power that emanated from the being, Juste deduced that he was in the presence of Death, Dracula's most loyal agent.
There was no longer any doubt in Juste's mind that he was within Castlevania. However, Death stated that the power that had restored the Castle was not that of his Lord's. Equally curious about the return of Castle Dracula as Juste, Death set off to find answers, ignoring Juste's challenge to a duel. After warning Juste that they'd meet again, Death vanished.

Juste resumed his quest for his missing friend.
Lower in the Marble Corridor, a path led the young Hunter to a dank, outdoor graveyard, roamed by aggressive, wandering spirits. Navigating his way through the crumbling cemetery and into a mysterious shrine, Juste found Maxim. Somehow, his fellow Hunter had made it within the Castle, but was apparently in a daze.

Juste warned Maxim about the consequences of lowering his guard in such a dangerous environment. Maxim exclaimed that it was because he thought he had been in the castle before. The scenery looked peculiarly familiar to him, and was recalling vague memories. Maxim said that if he were to continue a bit further, he'd probably remember valuable information to help in their search for Lydie.

Juste proposed that the two of them travel together, but Maxim declined, stating that they'd cover more ground if they split up. After admonishing each other to be careful, the two Hunters separated again.

After traversing the discontinuous Room of Illusion, Juste came upon a strange glowing portal, and couldn't help but step through.
He emerged in a room that looked nearly exactly the same as the one he had been in. . . but something was different. He wasn't sure exactly what, but he could feel it.

Juste discovered that he had been transported to a completely different part of the Castle. He found himself in dark corridors with glistening mist, and soon after, walking along balconies overlooking a hellish wasteland, seared and charred by rivers of lava.

None of this made sense. The undead inhabitants assured him he was still in Castlevania, but he was now in an area with volcanoes and lava canals…

When Juste entered that portal, something had changed, but he still couldn't explain it. He continued, locating bejeweled hallways of the Treasury, where things got even stranger.

Juste met a curious little man who had set up shop within the castle. He said he was a merchant, and while on tour selling his goods, he had been swallowed by a mysterious fog. The haze led him to the extraordinary castle, and after entering, he could not find his way out. As a result, he did the only thing he felt he could – open shop on the castle grounds and sell to any passersby.

Juste didn't understand the man's decision, but he respected it, and purchased useful items before departing.

The Hunter ventured deeper into the treasury until discovering an empty room that caught his attention. He found the room exquisite, but felt it could use some furniture to spruce it up. Juste had collected a few knick-knacks while adventuring through the castle and decided to place them in the room. He'd periodically return to his room to decorate it with trinkets that he found on his quest.

Later, he arrived in the Skeleton Cave, a large area at the bottom of the castle, which was constructed of giant bones, where the surreal adventure resumed its bizarre course.

In the depths, Juste met up with Maxim… but something was wrong.
Maxim looked manic, and accused Juste of trying to take Lydie for himself. He warned Belmont that Lydie belonged to him, and that Juste's inherited strength was no match for the new powers that he had discovered.
Juste knew this was amiss, and asked Maxim what he was talking about. After telling Juste that he wished death upon him, Maxim ran off with a roll of maniacal laughter trailing behind him.

Juste was left confused. He was not sure what was wrong with his friend, but the only thing he could do was carry on the search for Lydie.

He explored unrelentingly at the Castle's base, this time in the Luminous Cavern. Through the tunnels of the dusky cave he went, until finding another portal, identical to the first one he saw.

Entering the gateway, Juste was teleported from the foundation of the stronghold to the Sky Walkway and Chapel of Dissonance, an area near the peak of the Demon Castle. There, he found Maxim. Juste wasn't sure what to say after the last encounter.

Maxim was his normal self, and questioned his friend what was wrong after receiving a hesitant greeting.
Juste didn't understand. Maxim was acting as though the event in Skeleton Cave had not happened. Juste didn't press the issue, and inquired Maxim about his search for Lydie. Maxim found nothing, but remembered startling things…

Maxim asked Juste if he recalled the tale of his grandfather. The tale of Simon Belmont's voyage across Transylvania collecting relics of Dracula in an attempt to relinquish his curse from the land.

Juste remembered the tale fondly.

Maxim opened up; the basis of his training expedition two years earlier was to prove himself greater than Juste.
When Juste inherited the title of Vampire Hunter, and the Vampire Killer whip, Maxim felt like a wall had been constructed between them. He supposed they were no longer equals. Jealous of Juste's new status, Maxim set out to establish himself as the better by collecting remains of Dracula like Simon Belmont had done 50 years earlier.

Maxim gathered all six pieces, but that was the point where he remembered no more. He was uncertain what happened after the remains were reunited, but was assured that Lydie was somewhere in the Castle. Juste reasoned that conceivably, the remains were what had given rise to Castlevania.

Maxim earnestly apologized. His envy caused the Castle to return and jeopardized Lydie's life. Juste told him he owed his apology not to him, but to Lydie.
Juste still believed in his friend, and encouraged him. After the weighty discussion, the two parted ways, with Juste continuing his journey from end to end of the soaring Chapel.

Through the lofty Chapel, descending into a murky aqueduct, and into the Clock Tower, Juste searched.
At the Tower's crest, Juste met Death once again. The Grim Reaper asked about Maxim Kischine. Death knew Maxim had gotten a hold of something that contained Dracula's powers. When Juste mentioned the fragmented remains that Maxim had found something donned on Death.

Since Juste had provided Death with an answer, the dark being offered Juste enlightenment about the Castle's rising. Maxim had a split personality. One side was his normal self, while the other was a dark being spawned from possession of Dracula's remains, and the suppressed covetousness that he harbored. The evil half wished for the Castle to return.
As a part of Dracula was once again in the world through Maxim, the Castle reappeared. Because Dracula's presence was bound in the body of a man he could not fully possess, the Castle was not whole.

Juste was incredulous. He knew Maxim to be a strong man, but raising Castlevania from the dead was a feat beyond him. Death retorted that through the power of his Master, who held some influence over Maxim, many things were possible that usually would not have been.

It did explain why Maxim was acting strangely earlier, and why he seemed to not even realize it.

Death mentioned two castles, which Juste questioned him about. In turn, Death questioned the Hunter's intelligence at not realizing there were two. The Castle they stood in was a transient one, awaiting completion. It was a sort of shell without its true soul. Its counterpart lay in another dimension.

The Castles represented both halves of Maxim – with the castle on the Earthly realm characterizing his normal self, and the castle in the spiritual domain symbolizing his opposite number. If Death bonded the two castles, Castlevania would return in full prominence.

Juste had no part in Death's goal. The being took leave to put his plans in fruition and disregarded the Hunter, claiming he wanted nothing to do with him. Death went through a giant inter-dimensional portal.
Juste followed.

It all made sense. When Juste had stepped through the first portal, he had emerged in the other dimension – the other castle representing Maxim's evil self. When he went through the next gateway that brought him to the Chapel, he returned to the Earthly plane.
This new portal sent him back to the Spiritual plain, an even more nightmarish depiction of the already deadly Castle that lay in the normal dimension.

Death posed a problem.
Up to that point, the Hunter and Death had not gotten in each other's ways, but Juste could not allow Death to unite the castles. He could not allow Castlevania to completely return. He would eventually have to hunt Death down and stop him, but his first goal remained finding Lydie and getting her out of the Castle. If he had to return to face Death, so be it.

Through familiar surroundings, but more demented and surreal, Juste retraced steps he had never taken, and found Maxim in the desecrated Chapel.

It was his friend's evil self. Maxim was amused that Juste realized there were two of them. Through blistering conversation, pieces of the mystery began coming together.

Maxim was the one that had kidnapped Lydie and brought her to the castle.

Maxim said that like Juste, he was looking for her. In his mind, Lydie belonged to him. The only hindrance keeping him from her was the true Maxim's forced memory loss. Maxim had somehow willed himself to forget where Lydie was as a means of protecting her from himself.
That was how his amnesia originated - to guard Lydie.

When Juste threatened Maxim, he told Juste that if he were to kill him, his best friend would perish, as well. Rather than deal with the Hunter himself, Maxim summoned a Shadow creature to do the job, while he resumed the hunt for Lydie.
After defeating the obscure beast, Juste hurried back to the Clocktower and through the colossal portal. He returned to the dishonored Chapel's counterpart in the Earthly realm, where he found a fatigued Maxim.

Lying on the ground, his best friend was worn from trying to hold onto his true self. Maxim remembered everything. He was aware of his dual nature, and that he had nearly lost himself to his other side. He remembered where Lydie waited, which meant his other self knew, too. The Throne Room at the peak of the Castle was where she remained.

Maxim bestowed Juste a sentimental bracelet that he wore, which was nearly identical to one that Juste sported; only it had a blue stone where Juste's was red, and silver band as opposed to Juste's gold. The armlet was the key to unlocking a magically sealed door in the Chapel that led to the Lord's Chamber.

Juste was reluctant to leave his friend so vulnerable, but Maxim urged him to continue. Time was of the essence. Now that he remembered where Lydie was, she was in grave danger. He was not sure how much longer he could hold back the evil influence that tainted his mind.

After promising to return for Maxim, Juste ascended the soaring Chapel, until finding a long staircase concluded by a shimmering door. Juste held Maxim's bracelet toward the door, causing the magical seal around it to relinquish.

The base of the legendary stairway linked with Count Dracula's chamber awaited beyond the door.
With the vast moon as his witness, Juste climbed the stairs and found himself inside the Throne Room where his forefathers had battled the Count. It was eerily vacant; where the throne would have been was covered in stone.

A powerful demon called Pazuzu suddenly burst through the wall and engaged Juste in battle. Apparently, it secured the throne room of its absent Master. Juste vanquished his foe after a trying battle, and continued a little further past the throne.

He found Lydie in the next room.
He finally found her, safe from harm and uninjured. Lydie could not believe it was actually Juste when she saw him. Juste was relieved that she was safe, though she was surprisingly unaware of what was happening. She asked where Maxim was, oblivious that he was the one that kidnapped her. She claimed to be blindfolded at the time, and knew nothing of Maxim's evil side. Juste decided there was no time for explanations; he had to get her to safety as soon as possible.

Death materialized before they set off, cutting Juste off from Lydie. Avowing to take her for his own purposes, Death seized the maiden in his arms. Lydie called out for Juste to save her, but Death vanished before he could act.

Juste panicked. He had nearly rescued Lydie, only for her to be snatched away before his very eyes. He did not know what Death wanted with her, or what she had to do with any of this.

Death had forced Juste to act. At last, the Hunter was going to locate Death and destroy him. He had no idea where the creature could have gone, especially being that there were two castles to hide in, but Juste would never stop searching.

Frantically, he explored both castles, looking for Death. He was unsure of what had happened to Maxim, but could not spend time worrying while Lydie lay in Death's clutches. Juste finally found Death in the water grotto at the Castle's foundation.

The Hunter demanded to know what he had done with Lydie. Death assured him that she was with Maxim. Tired of the mysteries, Juste asked what she had to do with this whole debacle.
Why was she kidnapped?
Why did both Death and the evil Maxim hunt her?

Death unveiled that Maxim and Lydie were the means of uniting the Castles, which was his fundamental goal. If the normal Maxim were fully overtaken by his evil side, the Castles would fuse into one, as there would be only one Maxim - the one that wished for the castles to begin with.
The one that personified the powers of Lord Dracula.

If Maxim partook of Lydie's blood, it would augment Dracula's power within him, giving it enough strength to wholly engulf the good Maxim.
Lydie would be killed, in turn.

Juste could not allow that to happen. He was not going to stand by and lose his friends to this creature's evil plot. When Juste posed a direct threat to Death's dealings, the being decided it was time for the Hunter to die.

Juste defeated the creature in the most trying battle he had up to that point. Death was not troubled, however. He told Juste he was too late, before dissipating. Maxim had Lydie in his grasp, and Castlevania would be whole. The creature mockingly laughed as he exploded into dust.

The victory over Death did little to encourage Juste. The Hunter arrived at the one place in the Castles he had previously not been able to access - the very center of the demented Castle.

Along his journey, Juste had collected all six pieces of Dracula's Remains. When he arrived at the Castle Center, the remains glimmered, opening a secret passage.

Down Juste went, to meet his best friend in whatever form he may be.

At the center, he found Lydie lying unconscious. Maxim stood arrogantly above her, arms folded in triumph. He had taken her. Juste checked the maiden's delicate neck and affirmed the bite marks. Maxim had defiled her, giving the evil inside him the strength needed for full control over Maxim's body.

Mocking Juste, Maxim flaunted his newfound powers he had attained at the cost of Lydie. Enraged, Juste attacked.

At last, the Hunters would know which was the better of the two.

Maxim's abilities were great. He proved an adept fighter, using many of Juste's own techniques and much more, giving the Belmont the most arduous confrontation he encountered in the Castle.

After dealing a crushing blow to Maxim, the young man's true self shined through, if only for an instant. He noticed the bracelets Juste wore on his arms.
The bracelets the two heroes wore that were nearly identical to each other.
The sight of something sentimental urged the true Maxim back. The opposing minds of Maxim wrestled for domination over the body of the young Hunter, while the good half urged Juste to deal the finishing blow and destroy both sides.

Unexpectedly, the remains Juste carried began floating in the room. The evil Maxim claimed that with all six pieces present, he no longer needed that body as a vessel. Lastly, the dark influence was free from Maxim and took form outside his body. While Maxim lay unconscious, Lord Dracula himself materialized, albeit in wraithlike form.

The vampire phantom was not whole, but could achieve completion through the blood of Juste Belmont. Juste was without intention of surrendering. As such, the final battle came into play. Juste knew Dracula would return to the world of the living and plague mankind if he were to fail.

The Belmont proved more than a match for the weakened Dracula, and sent him back to the dead, warning the Vampire to never underestimate the power of the Belmont bloodline.

Juste, Maxim, and a still unconscious Lydie escaped the Castle before it was destroyed, and rested in a Transylvanian meadow.

Maxim came to, disoriented. He immediately inquired of Lydie's well being. Juste comfortingly revealed that her bite marks had faded when Dracula was slain, and she was free of the taint.
Once again, Maxim asked for forgiveness. Juste assured his friend that everything was behind them.

Lydie awoke, unsure of what was going on. She thought she had a dream of Maxim biting her. Deciding to save the story for when they return home, the three friends enjoyed their reunion, reassured that Dracula and his castle had been held at bay for at least one more time.

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