Blood Omen, Soul Reaver, Soul Reaver 2, and Defiance.">
These images show us two very different depictions of Ariel. The first is labelled by the artist as "Prefallen Ariel", and seems to depict the character before her murder. There are similarities with her brief appearance in the introduction sequence of Blood Omen, including her long flowing blonde hair.
The second image seems to be at some point after her murder, but with significant differences to her established appearance. The character now seems to have sustained burn damage to half of her face, with scarred and twisted flesh stretching down her entire body. Her damaged eye is now visible, with the pupil appearing to glow red. This contrasts her appearance in the other games, in which her damaged eye was consistently a darkened hollow eye socket. The damage seems to be on her right side, rather than on the left as seen in her previous appearances.
Ariel appears to be draped in basic grey rags. Her hair seems to be clumped into tendrils that are moving as if wind was blowing them. The backdrop for the image is pure white.
Ariel's story seemed to reach its conclusion in Defiance, in which the character was summoned to the Spirit Forge and released from her torment. United with the souls of her predecessors, the collected Balance Guardians willingly exhausted themselves to purify the wraith blade with the power of spirit:
Ariel: It is accomplished. The Forge summons the spirit of every Balance Guardian to itself for this final purpose.
Raziel: Ariel. You?
Ariel: Yes Raziel, yet I am much more than I was. The veil is lifted from my sight. My spirit, united with the souls of my predecessors, is drawn here now for the final baptism of the blade. To restore Balance, the sword must be rendered pure by Spirit. Release me, Raziel. The Soul Reaver has the power. Release us all. For this we were called. You have done well, Raziel. But there is one more trial for you to bear. You must unite what has been set asunder. Only then will the Scion of Balance be armed for his true endeavour. Only then.
The character seems to have achieved contentment, claiming to have been freed of the "veil" of ignorance and enlightened as to Raziel's identity and purpose. She seems have ascertained understanding from her fellow Balance Guardians regarding the Scion of Balance and his "true endeavour". She considers the act to be one of "release", for both herself (her binding to the Pillars is over) and her fellow Guardians (who have apparently been waiting for the Scion of Balance for a considerable period).
There is considerable ambiguity here. Which version of Ariel are we seeing? Was she summoned from the present Pillars, which are on the verge of collapse? If so, then how can she be still bound to them in the future, as shown in Soul Reaver and Soul Reaver 2? Considering that the Pillars of Nosgoth have influence over time (as shown by the considerable power and vision bestowed upon Moebius the Timestreamer), then perhaps the Spirit Forge carefully summoned her from a point in time in which her absence would not trigger a devastating fatal paradox, i.e. after Raziel's final encounter with her in Soul Reaver.
The image of a living Ariel would seem to suggest two possibilities. The first is that due to time-travel, an era is visited by Kain or some other playable character in which Ariel is still alive. Exactly how such an encounter would play out is certainly unclear. Given the already convoluted time stream of Nosgoth and no apparent motivation for Kain or any other character to go back to this era, this notion seems somewhat unlikely.
The second possibility regarding the living Ariel image is that she was intended to appear in flashback, similarly to the speculated appearances of the Young Kain(s). Such flashbacks could give us a glimpse of the dynamics of the pre-fallen Circle of Nine, Ariel's doomed relationship with Nupraptor, and Raziel's observation that the dark forces that infest Nosgoth were indulgently "invited by the Guardian's themselves". Such flashbacks could be used to juxtapose the elder Kain's actions with his direct predecessor, and perhaps lead to a greater understanding of the duties the role of Balance Guardian actually entailed.
The image of the scarred, red-eyed Ariel also lends itself to two similar possibilities. This image could be a flashback to Ariel shortly after her murder, perhaps in some limbo state between life and oblivion. The white background could be a holding plane, in which the guardian Mortanius has suspended her soul immediately after she was killed. We know that Mortanius has the capability to do this as in Blood Omen he manages to suspend Kain in a fiery domain, though in Kain's case perhaps the diabolic backdrop was an illusion designed to prompt him to accept the necromancer's offer. Mortanius, immediately after his body was used to murder Ariel, may have summoned all of his dominion over death to preserve her in this limbo, and the inconsistencies in her appearance could be reconciled with her spiritual form still settling following the trauma she has endured. Mortanius may have instinctively chose to try to bond her soul to an object or place (as he did with Malek centuries ago), and failed to complete the process in time, resulting in a successor Balance Guardian being chosen. Perhaps in this limbo state, Mortanius proposed a similar choice that he would later offer Kain, for Ariel to choose to come back to the living world in order to stop the forces that led to her murder. The acceptance of this choice would see Ariel pulled out of the white limbo realm, and bonded to the Pillars of Nosgoth.
As a flashback, this would create parallels in Ariel and Kain's tragedies, and further expand on the benevolent motives of the haunted Mortanius. It would bookend the character by showing the origins of her role in the series, and would provide a stark contrast to her finale in Defiance. Perhaps such a flashback would be triggered in a scenario in which Kain visits Mortanius' domain, an area so far not represented in the series. Alternatively, the memory could have been somehow passed to Kain by Ariel following her absorption into the wraith blade, and the blade's absorption into him.
The other theory is that this distorted ghost of Ariel is a literal being, somehow still existing in Nosgoth following her apparent resolution in Defiance. How could this be? Perhaps the process of summoning her to the Spirit Forge was only able to take her purer qualities, leaving a bitter remnant of all of her deranged aspects that have built up over her millennia of imprisonment. The process that bound Ariel to the Pillars may have interfered with the function of the Spirit Forge, leaving the structure incapable of completely liberating Ariel's soul. Therefore, a mad and vengeful echo of Ariel's past self could remain, a red-eyed ghost still bound to eternal torment, a monster completely removed from her former quiet eloquence. This tragic creature could be an adversary of Kain, and may need to be mercifully extinguished using the Soul Reaver blade.
Such an encounter would also bookend her story, which started in Blood Omen with a corrupted Kain being manipulated by a pure Ariel, only to end in The Dark Prophecy with a pure Kain destroying this corrupted version of her.
Regardless of how Ariel may have appeared in the game, the possibility of understanding her role further in both life and death, could have prompted some fascinating revelations and backstory. Does she feel guilt of corrupting the Circle, indirectly through her relationship with Nuprator? Does she understand what exactly is happening to her ally Mortanius? What was her role in tempering the machinations of Azimuth, Anarcrothe and the rest of the Circle of Nine? What was her bound spirit doing for the thirty years in which Kain matured to adulthood? There are still significant questions regarding her role, and The Dark Prophecy may have addressed them.
The concept artwork of "Prefallen Ariel" comes from the portfolio of former Crystal Dynamics staff member Daniel Cabuco, who worked on Soul Reaver, Soul Reaver 2, and Defiance, as well as several of the Tomb Raider games produced by Crystal Dynamics.
During the writing of these essays, contact was made with a source who has asked to remain anonymous, but has been confirmed to have worked on Defiance and The Dark Prophecy. The source was not at liberty to give too much information, but did share Defiance's NPC (Non-Player Character) list from its initial design document. This list confirms that at no point in development was "Prefallen Ariel" intended to appear in that game.
We know from Isabelle Lemay's portfolio (another former Crystal Dynamics staff member), that some of Crystal's staff worked with Ritual Entertainment on the initial stages of The Dark Prophecy, supporting the idea that the work could have been from the cancelled game.
The image what may be a ghostly Ariel is from the portfolio of artist Richard Gray.
Richard is credited in numerous Ritual Entertainment games, including Star Trek: Elite Force II (the project immediately before The Dark Prophecy) and 25 to Life (developed immediately after The Dark Prophecy).