Story Overview Razielim Turelim Dumahim Zephonim Melchahim Hunters Scouts Alchemists Prophets Vanguard

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Vanguard, The Drowning Men

Battalions of tough warriors founded by a mixture of convicts and overseers who together survived the Vampire assault on the Isle of the Dead. The Drowning Men now attract the lost and the damaged and the wicked from throughout the war-ravaged Human settlements of Nosgoth. Criminals, deserters, pirates, battle-scarred veterans, blood-soaked priests and haunted medics stand together as a bulwark against the Vampire hordes.


The city of Meridian has its darker side: wherever people gather in numbers, there will be some of their own kind to prey on them. Conmen, thieves, robbers, slavers, rapists, murderers – Humanity has always been capable of cruelty to itself in ways which can make a Vampire’s hunger look simple by comparison. As Meridian rebuilt itself all manner of villains were among those who swelled its population, and as their Vampiric former overlords busied themselves fighting among themselves, the criminals of Meridian returned to their old ways.

In time, the problem became such that the Chancellor of Meridian was forced to act. Squads of watchmen swept through the slums and smugglers dens, snatching up anyone suspected of wrong-doing. If a few so-called innocents were caught up in the watchmen’s nets, this was a price deemed worth paying.

Human lives – even those of this kind of scum – were too precious to sacrifice, so the prisoners were pressed into work-gangs to help with the ongoing reconstruction and repair of the city. However after a series of murderous escape attempts and lethal attacks on their guards, some prisoners were recognised as too dangerous to be allowed out in public like this. Chancellor Speyr needed a new solution, and the Patriarch of the Waters provided one.

The mountain ranges and the sea which protected Meridian had also in the past isolated the city from the rest of Nosgoth, and as a result unique traditions and beliefs had long-ago sprung up here. Whereas elsewhere Humans consigned their dead to the pyre-churches to return them to the embrace of the obscured Sun, here in Meridian the superstition that the dead would be desecrated by Vampires had long ago led to them being consigned to the sea instead. The ocean graveyards of Meridian, stretching between the peninsulas and sandbanks known as the Witches’ Fingers, provided a safe haven for the shrouded and weighted bodies of the city’s dead. A church of equal parts clerics, professional mourners, and boatmen - revered and yet shunned for their contact with the dead – worked in this industry. Their black barges would berth at the city’s docks to take on a fresh load of the deceased, ferry them to their undersea resting place, and then row back to their fortress-monastery on the Isle of the Dead. Here the Patriarch of the Waters could find a use for the worst of the criminals the Chancellor could provide.

Chained to their oarsmen’s seats in the black barges, or manacled in the mortuaries where the dead were ritually gutted and then wrapped in their funeral shrouds and chains, the prisoners began new lives of service to the dead. They lived, slept, and died in their fetters. Those on the Isle of the Dead never left it, and even if they had managed to break free were trapped on a rock a mile from the shore with the dark waters in-between infested with the sacred predators known as the Eaters of the Dead. Those on the barges were constantly watched by overseers, whose heavy shields formed a wall between the oarsmen and the city whenever they made landfall. Over time the convicts came to be the source of their own superstitions and have their own title – the Drowning Men.

Then came the war with the Vampires. As the Vampire armies laid siege to Meridian’s outer defences, anything that lay outside the causeways was left to care for itself and so swiftly overrun and destroyed. For a time the seas kept the Isle of the Dead safe. From its squat towers the new Patriarch of the Waters watched the fires spread along the shoreline, creeping closer to the city itself. He and his followers had been abandoned, but were safe at least: until the Razielim arrived at the siege. While the archers and artillerists of the city could pose a warding danger to these winged Sentinels, the Isle of the Dead had no such protection. A flight of the Razielim swooped on its isolated defenders.

The watching Patriarch Ancellas was plucked from his tower-top vantage point and dashed on the cliffs below. Panicking priests and scribes were easy prey for the Vampires. The overseers, led by their Marshal-at-Arms Torstein, retreated to the most defensible positions: the mortuaries carved into the rock beneath the fortress-monastery. Here the Drowning Men waited and listened to the muffled sounds of slaughter overhead. In the torch-lit vaults the overseers and convicts came face-to-face in the realization that their mutual end was terrifyingly close.

When the first of the Razielim broke through the mortuary doors he was instantly cut down by a hail of thrown hand-axes and butchers’ tools. The second was swept from his feet by a flailing length of chain swung by the tattooed mass-murderer Gerik, and his skull cracked open against the flagstones by the crushing weight of Marshal Torstein’s tower shield. The shield-wall pushed forward to drive their enemy back and block the doorway again. There in the semi-darkness the Humans and Vampires struggled and fought and died, one of the countless small battles almost lost against the grand scale of the slaughter elsewhere.

When this fight was over, it was Humans who emerged blinking from the shadows into the fire-lit fresh air. When the black barges rowed away from the Isle of the Dead for the final time, before putting ashore at a secret smuggler’s dock to let their crews creep through the sewers to meet with the defenders of Meridian, the men aboard no longer called themselves convict or overseer. They were now all equals, all survivors, all Drowning Men. In return for their freedom they would join the defenders but it would be on their terms, and they would recruit accordingly.

With the struggle for Meridian acting as a beacon, fighters from across Nosgoth made their way to boost the ranks of its defenders. Ships proved the best way to circumvent the besieging forces of the Vampires, and the docks became increasingly busy bringing in men and supplies. New arrivals were picked over by the elite units for suitable candidates, but some among them would never be chosen even in these desperate times, or were already determined about where their destiny lay. The story of the Drowning Men had spread, and had particular resonance for some of its audience. Last survivors of decimated units; suddenly guilt-stricken former deserters and escapees from penal battalions; pirates and smugglers determined to protect their way of life; criminals looking to escape punishment for prior wrong-doings; initiates of militaristic mystery cults looking for new secrets; battle priests questioning their faith among the horrors of war; field medics who now heard the voices of all the dead when they tried to sleep at night… When the regimental discipline of the Iron Guard and the self-discipline of the Watchers offered no appeal or welcome, the Drowning Men drew in the lost and the damaged and the wicked and gave them a new home. Together they would be a bulwark against the Vampire hordes.

--Cat Karskens, Square Enix


Meridian, capital of Nosgoth's Human civilisation - a vast city, home to craftsmen, thinkers and warlords. While most Human settlements could boast populations in the hundreds, Meridian’s paved streets were trodden by hundreds of thousands. Its fresh running water, gilded monuments and numerous columned bridges were alien to visitors more accustomed to Humanity’s isolated towns built of straw and wood. More than just a living space, the city of Meridian cultivated learning at its universities, training philosophers and architects, alchemists and generals to shape the world in their image.

Such wonders can inspire, but they also breed arrogance. So it was that great thinkers of Meridian conceived the idea that the Humans of Nosgoth could possess the world for themselves; that they need not share it with the Vampires who lived beside them. With Vampire-kind extinct, Humanity could walk this world alone. From amongst the ashes of the world, they claimed Humanity would rise, the embers of the fire, ready to burn forth again. So, the forces of Humanity conspired to rid Nosgoth of the Vampires.

Humanity’s gamble failed, for in their way stood Kain, whose leadership swept the Vampire armies across the land until they reached Meridian, pierced its walls and fell upon the terrified population. In place of a world dominated by mankind, Humanity found itself herded into the blood farms to face a life of oppression, hopelessness and terror. Broken and smashed, the city of Meridian was now nothing more than a scar on the landscape, a monument to the arrogance of mankind.

Stone by Stone - Rebuilding

Meridian, and the forts that protected its approaches were all but forgotten by Vampire kind. For Humans, penned, chained, staring at nothing but servitude and death, Meridian was a place of legendary splendour. It was no surprise then that those few people to escape the blood farms found themselves making their way to Meridian’s ruins. Year by year, the numbers of survivors in the ruins grew.

From flight and survival, the dreams of the survivors who made their new home here began to change to a desire to rebuild all that had been lost. Stone by stone, the defences of Meridian were raised once more and when the Vampires did return to the city seeking those that had escaped, they found the gates shut against them, the walls stout and defended.

With Kain missing and a civil war brewing amongst the Vampire Clans, there was no appetite amongst the Vampires for raising the army necessary to conquer the city and take it back from the Human rabble there. Meridian was just ash and ruin, what dangers could there be when a few Humans who had escaped the blood farms began to clamber over the shattered stones and blackened timbers to hide among its shadows?

So, Humanity remained and as the city grew back from its very bones, it was not only the walls that climbed upward, but also the aspirations of those that lived there. A desire that had once been kindled in Meridian, of a world where Humanity had driven the Vampires from Nosgoth began to grow again. First they would rebuild Meridian’s walls, then they would stretch out to strike back.

Meridian is now the biggest Human city in Nosgoth. Whilst Freeport has been rebuilt, by comparison it is a collection of huts and hovels sheltering behind the city walls, whilst Willendorf has still not swelled its population to the numbers found here. Meridian has recovered many of its past glories - stone towers, houses and forges, a home to research where new weapons are designed and forged. The recently arrived Alchemists have here found fertile ground for their experiments. Other cities offer shelter and soldiers – Meridian offers a future.

With its districts split across islands linked by delicate bridges, it is defensible at many points. A city of waterways, the approaches to Meridian are defended in depth by walls, forts and deeply cut channels. Each entrance has its own causeway fort which together make up a formidable layer of defences a full half mile from the city walls. Named after the seasons, each fort has its own garrison and supplies to allow it to withstand assault unaided.

Of these forts Sommerdamm was one of the last to be repaired as it broken bridge and fallen walls had blocked the way in. Only half its defences were thus rebuilt when the new war for Nosgoth began.

The Siege of Sommerdamm

Meridian has regained its status as capital of Humanity. Once more it offers shelter, industry and education. A birthplace for ideas, this is Humanity’s crown jewel, the centre of their world. For Vampires, it is the ultimate prize. Capture Meridian, drag its population back to the blood farms and the rest of Humanity will scuttle back into the shadows. To take Meridian, first the causeway forts that stand guardian over its approaches must be seized.

Several Vampire armies have been besieging the forts that defend the way into the city. Their best chance lies at Sommerdamm. Though strong, this fort is a weak link in the chain of defences that protect the city approaches. Should the Vampires capture Sommerdamm they will have opened a chink in Meridian’s armour and, perhaps, a first step to destroying this Human uprising. Breaching the outer gates and accepting that many of their clan would fall in the attempt, the Turelim forced a way into the city and across the causeway.

Now a battle rages within the fort and whichever side triumphs will hold the keys to Meridian’s gates. 

--Bill Beacham, Square Enix

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