The Pillars of Nosgoth are central to the Legacy of Kain series.

But what are they? What do they do? How were they made? Why do the Pillars summon “Guardians?” What powers do the Guardians receive? How do the Guardians influence the Pillars? How were they corrupted?

Why does Kain’s decision at the Pillars condemn them to ruin?

And I don’t just mean on a narrative level, I mean on a mechanical level. I’m asking how the magic works — if someone wanted to recreate the effect, how would they do it? How many arch-mages does it take to screw up a world?

Architects Or Usurpers?
It’s worth at least mentioning that while the winged race is depicted as having “raised” the Pillars of Nosgoth, it’s entirely possible — as we’re shown time and again throughout the series — they may have “edited” this detail of history.

It’s possible the winged race merely found and claimed the Pillars for themselves, using them to engineer powerful magical artifacts — much as the humans would later lay claim to the Pillars and use them to create for example, “Dark Eden.”

In this case, it’s worth considering that the Pillars aren’t “the Binding” which keeps the Hylden locked out of the world, but instead a power source, similar perhaps to the “Warring Triad” from Final Fantasy 6.

However since the Pillars are damaged within the context of the series, it seems fair to assume they actually were created by the winged race.

The Hard Facts
Despite being at the center of the series’ action, the Pillars are more of a MacGuffin than anything — the player never uses the Pillars to accomplish anything, with the possible exception of like, maybe climbing their crumbling remains in Soul Reaver to reach a power-up (my memory is hazy).

I mean, literally nothing.

The Pillars don’t grant you special powers or anything that I know. They’re just there. You turn in your quests to them in Blood Omen, then after that they’re broken and Kain is desperately trying to fix them. That’s it.

The Pillars are different from the Blood Curse because you don’t play a Pillar — you play a vampire. The Blood Curse affects you in Blood Omen, with the dwindling hit points — and in Soul Reaver with your “evolved hunger.”

In the games, your characters are immortal — subject to harm, but effectively immortal. And you’re “sterile,” I guess. That aspect of the Blood Curse doesn’t really factor into gameplay, you certainly can’t make more vampires.

But the Pillars themselves? Not explained. Not to my satisfaction. We’re even provided contradictory accounts of their creation, powers, and importance.

What is Explained and What is Implied
– We’re told that the Pillars “cull” Guardians from the living.
– We’re told that Guardians command and influence their Pillars.
– We’re told the Guardians are linked to each other and the Pillars.
– We’re told that humans “are not competent to serve” the Pillars.
– It’s strongly implied that the health and power of the Pillars is somehow dependent upon the existence and proliferation of the winged race.
– It’s suggested the Pillars “banished” or “diminished” the Hylden.
– We’re told the Pillars are “the lock that binds” the Hylden.
– We’re told “the Reaver is the Key” to the Pillars.

The Guardians Draw Power
– It’s strongly implied that Nupraptor’s mental powers are derived from his Guardianship of the Pillar of Mind, and he “attacked” the other Guardians.
– The Guardians of Energy, Form, and Nature combined their powers to create “Dark Eden” in northern Nosgoth, corrupting animals and causing problems.
– Moebius’s command of Time enables him to see the future and manipulate time-streaming devices, which Raziel for example, can not.

It’s clear the Pillars don’t do everything they’re described as doing — for example, the player personally tears down arguments leveled against the vampires through the course of the games:

The Pillars are not tied to the health of “the land,” they’re connected to the continuation of the vampire “bloodline.”

While the winged race must be alive to “sustain the Binding,” they’re no better Guardians than humans — the winged race eventually succumbs to madness and despair, just as humans succumb to selfishness and the Corruption.

Any explanation will require a great deal of inference and speculation.