|1833195496||Ager's Scepter||Mara Sov watched her brother imitate a swooping bird as he entertained a semicircle of children. They flocked to him as if the stories he spun were confections.
Uldren lurched to his feet—his shadow casting a heroic pose against a canopy of towering Baryon trees—and thrust a slender blade into the air.
"Straight through the storm!" he howled as Awoken children shrieked with laughter and applause. "That's right. The two kestrels were like blades sailing on the wind," he said, sheathing the fine steel. "As long as they were together, nothing could stop them."
Mara turned to survey the Awoken flotilla anchored deep within their borders, suspended around a floating starport. Soon they would disembark. This night was for revelry. For families to enshrine in their memories should loved ones fail to return. In the morning, Saturn waited.
Far-off asteroids groaned like thunder, sending the children into a frenzy of gasps.
"Sounds like Ager's having another battle," Uldren said, stepping onto a bench to get a better view. He brought a hand to his brow, as if sighting an advancing stormfront.
A young Awoken child, no older than six, stood. Uldren watched the worry well in her eyes.
"Is he okay? Can you see them fighting?"
"Oh yes," Uldren answered. "Come here."
The child stepped forward.
"If I'm not mistaken, your name is Erith, isn't it?" Uldren asked. The girl nodded, awestruck. Uldren pulled a looking glass from his belt and placed it in her hand. "Look where I'm pointing."
Erith followed the prince's direction to a spot in the sky that flashed with color.
"I see Ager!" she proclaimed proudly. "I see Rega!"
Uldren patted her shoulder and smiled. "As long as the two of them are together, nothing can stop them. Just like us. Stand with your cousins, and you'll be all right."
Mara met his eyes and stepped forward. "That's enough. The prince has a long journey in the morning, and he must rest. Run along now."
Once the children were beyond eyesight, Mara's expression shifted to a glare. "These stories…" She leaned into Uldren. "Stop filling their heads with nonsense."|
|2786418829||III - Risen from Bones||Kelgorath, Knight champion of death, kneels before his shrine of bone in the fog-ridden depths of the Ascendant Plane. Soulfire recedes into the ground around him. He places his forehead against the shrine, smudging a freshly bloodied sigil of Xivu Arath. He has added so many layers, but this is the first time the blood is his own. He does so to show his devotion. To reject the heretic sister. To pledge himself anew to war.
The Ascendant sky churns around him. He breaths deeply. It is his first breath of this life. He looks to the shrine before him; every vanquished contender ground to meal and packed between skulls to cement them in place. Trinkets of conquest and old spent weapons adorn the shrine from base to apex.
He looks to them as he prepares to face his adversary.
An empty Ghost whose core he had gifted to defected Scarlet Wizards. Its Guardian had ended him many times, but he is Kelgorath, and through battle he is reborn. No Guardian can escape him, for they are heralds of death and he swims in their wake.
His eyes drift to another conquest: crystalline implants torn from the forehead of an Awoken Techeun. He hunted her through the Ley Lines for three days, tracking her by the stench of her fear. When he found her, she brought the Ascendant Plane down on him. He did not fall for this trick twice.
He caught her again with his next life. The Techeun's final words echoed in his thoughts: "I still see the flecks of scarlet in your chitin. How quickly you abandon your Witch Queen."
Kelgorath recalls the night he renounced Savathûn. The night he had scoured the scarlet from his flesh on the serration beds deep within the Hellmouth. The night Osiris slaughtered all Crota's kin. Savathûn was weak to allow their deaths. To cede ground to the Celebrant; to Guardians. Xivu Arath avenged them. Xivu Arath took Osiris's Light, and Kelgorath guzzled from it with vows of vengeance.
He would prove his allegiance by stamping out any trace of the heretic sister. Hurdru, his adversary, was a Knight who still claimed fealty to Savathûn; Hurdru would be an instrument of example. Through battle, Kelgorath would confirm his new god. Through blood, he would erase the name Savathûn and don that of Xivu Arath.
He stands. Bows. Grips the cleaver and shield he will carry until he falls again. "Hurdru," he whispers to the bones.
Tonight, he will purify himself in death.|
|2786418826||IV - Art||Petra Venj hangs her head and examines the hilt of her sheathed knife. Transmat particles still swirl in the air around her like tiny flecks of dust as she steps forward back through the H.E.L.M. gate to answer her queen's summons.
Mara Sov's voice washes over the chamber's stone and crystal: "He belongs here, Petra. This place draws his old self out." She pauses, knowing Petra will be silent while allowing her to steep in the words. "You saw it, too. He should have never been allowed to leave."
"I wish I hadn't," Petra says with a heavy sigh. "How am I to proceed?"
Mara stands on the terrace above her. "Give him only morsels of who he could be, nothing substantial. He is a canvas on which work has already begun. I mean only to guide that work to a familiar conclusion. Such things cannot be rushed."
Petra shifts her stance anxiously. "You—you're sure?"
"Are you questioning me, Petra?"
"Never, my queen. But I do worry that he is vulnerable to Savathûn's influence," Petra offers. "She clearly has taken an interest in him for some time now. And he clearly reciprocates that interest."
"Your words hold no falsehood. You and I will mitigate this danger. If Crow and Uldren are to meet, it must be a subtle progression." Mara Sov leans over the terrace railing. "I believe my brother's recovery is possible, Petra. Will you help me?"
Without a moment of hesitation, Petra responds, "I will do anything you ask, my queen." But doubts sprout in her mind. "If he does become… problematic…" Petra trails off, searching for the right words.
"You needn't worry," Mara soothes. "If Savathûn moves to exploit him, I will put an end to it myself."|