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1649346047Resonant Fury MaskVoid. Bereft. There is a chasm where my fulfillment should live. Today, you again gifted me purpose, my Witness. A rapturous day, by the old pattern, my fingers knitting finality once more. But now, this purpose is equivocal, serving not the glorious abyss. The race—the Ahslid, in their degenerate, clicking dialect—have never known the enemy's luminous caress, will never know that caress. They are unnecessary, destined to die in a paltry million years still orbiting the same blue-white star that gave them succor. Irrelevant. And yet… "Your presence shall raise no more concern than that of a speck of dust blown off course by a distant sun. And you shall bow this people to my service, just as I enlightened you. Your value shall be their value." I was born in irrelevance, and yet, you cast me back down that well. I keep your sacred commandments, even this, closer and dearer than my own pulse. In your name, I bring crushing embrace by flame and glaive, my Witness. Fleets of black to blot out suns and moons. The enemy flees, and I burn all trace of its passing. This is my supplication. But I castigate myself. Nothing is immaterial that is in your sight. My prayers offend my Witness, and so, here and now, I tear them out. I shall learn to forge by night and whispers, and silence shall be your choir.
3487540074Resonant Fury VestI am become circumstance, my Witness, the unseen whim of fate that shapes the lives of one score of infants in the same temper of luxury and hardship that honed my infallible edge. Where their families lack, I gift them with prosperity, opportunity, and the elimination of obstacles. Where they would know softness, I introduce suffering for which there is no salve, snatching away those who may carry them and nourish frailty. My salubrious hand imbues strength, but far more critically. It weans them on immaculateness. They are self-made, they tell themselves, and grow strong for their suffering—should not all their kind be so capable? Is there—they conclude—any explanation for the failure that permeates their society beyond a sick sentiment for weakness? Their antennules quiver at the debility in their kind. Its stink disgusts them. The youngest of my brood, I named him Uun, has taken his first life. Stoked on emotion, his craft is sloppy—the hand of a child—but I have removed the shoddy traces of his outburst and vanished those who might find fault with such a child. He shrinks now from the anonymous endowments I lay as laurels for his conquest. I have permitted too much softness for the offspring. And I am left to ponder—did you so attentively hone me into your blade, my Witness, or did happenstance and my own tenacity ready a blade for you to draw?
1583213254Resonant Fury GripsThey are liquid fear sealed within porcelain flesh, my Witness, these Ahslid whose service you require. I arrived as you bid, without ceremony or fleets, and for 14 journeys around their star, I have stalked them in the dark, testing them to find even one who may serve as a warrior. I offer them every opportunity to unleash wrath upon me and prove their worth, and they cower, then bleed. Is it the death of my ego you crave as you dispatch me alone against these insects? But I comprehend the depth now of this commandment. Yours is a lesson in insight, and sweet as their hemolymph may be, it is folly to spill it all myself. My violence inspires fear. Each new corpse come daylight substrates accusations. They need logic, a cause and effect that fits within their understanding of the universe. Even when massacre comes from the black depths between stars, they must lay its accounting at the tarsus of their most powerless. They divide. They appoint authorities. They see lines in the parched dust that exist only in their minds, and they value these so, so dearly they will kill to define them. Achingly nostalgic. My gift of enlightenment. I am free of Lubrae, but I see its shape in these jostling masses, and this inspires me. You have bidden me sharpen their fatuous minds into a spearpoint, as you did on Lubrae, but without showing my face to cow them. So instead, I shall press my shape into the dust of this world and cast a generation of Ahslid in my image. And they shall by my glaive.
4124357755Resonant Fury CloakI have failed you, my Witness. I taught the Ahslid to build a tower to heaven upon a foundation of sand. I hemmed for 10 long cycles over that final lesson in irrelevance, and in the end, my pupils exceeded my ability as a teacher. They tumbled. A sunset of atomic fire scrubs all but lichen from this arid globe. But Uun stands before me, last survivor of his pointless kind. While he proved deaf to the lessons I taught regarding his people's worth, he devoured all I taught him of tenacity and made of it his core. He alone among his people saw the pattern in my killings, in the ascension of children whose backgrounds mirrored his own. My duty to you failed. The greatest flaw in my handicraft stands before me. And yet, I find myself burdened with pride. He levels a weapon on me, and it occurs that I never learned what they call their devices. It is as irrelevant as everything else that made up their culture. But he is the first to stand and face me. He dashes hate against me. And breaks. He does not know my name. He does not know my purpose. And he demands. Then implores. Then begs. He prostrates himself on the floor, his carapace wracking with convulsions, as if mourning milks the sorrow from his flesh. And I am weak, my Witness. I whisper, "I am Rhulk." Devoid of context, it is as meaningless as any other aspect of his people's end. Something sacred within him dies, and he gazes up as I have gazed at you. And only now do I appreciate your lesson.
1566699968Resonant Fury StridesI find myself once more stalking the night, my Witness, unknown as their final gasps. But my sojourns are no longer otiose errands. I am no more a predator among the Ahslid than the weaver is a predator of flax. Death creates gaps into which my progeny rises and stokes paranoia to tighten their fists. Each carapace crushed winds the clockworks my hands assemble. They no longer need my direct ministrations. My children have children—some bequeath my lessons. The favored spawn are those who learned my lessons well. They converge on my shape, and unprovoked, prepare banquets of wisdom on which their kin gorge. They craft weapons—little more than hurled rocks standing in the long shadow the Darkness casts—but enough to crack their world apart. Only Uun disappoints, frightened as he is now by his own potential for glory. I cut him free of my succor. Obscurity is the crueler fate. You taught me the most precious lesson of irrelevance. Only purpose can be momentous. It is the moment of clarity that freed me from worldly soil. This final gift I withhold from my progeny. It is the most challenging lesson to teach, and I stand in awe of the elegance with which you revealed the truth to me. I cannot do the same without reflection. I have imitated myself all too well, but to imitate you, my Witness, it is the one challenge to which I find myself unworthy.
362541459Resonant Fury Helm"I am Xita, the nurturing worm. Behold Yul, and Eir, and Xol, and Ur, and Akka. The virtuous worms. Look upon us and know that We are go[o]d. You, however, are not. You are inconsequential. And this is not your—" "My what? Place? Privilege? Destiny?" "You disrespect—" "There are no pleasantries in the Deep. Only the decaying husks of oversized parasites towering before me. You take me for a fool, believing I am like all else—manipulated by your psychic machinations. But I will not be controlled, for I am wrath." [He allowed us no audience. He knew of our hunger. Abandoned. Imprisoned. Our vulnerabilities stood clear, and he wasted no time in cracking them open with the rib he tore from the cruel Leviathan.] "You desire life. My Witness desires your power. A trade is in the stars: your servitude for their lives," he said, lifting the rib and pointing it at my children. "Their power requires sustenance. Without it, your Witness will have none." "The surface of this disgusting rock is lined with their sustenance. Primitive beasts now stand at the verge of new purpose—giving life to your kind once again. I, kind Rhulk, will ensure your children survive. And you will aid a righteous cause in return." [Outmatched. Death would one day be our recompense. But our part was still left to play.] "Go on, then," [he snarked, holding the rib out.] "Sustenance has arrived." [I grasped it, and he swam upwards, dragging me in tow. Rising, up from our Deep. Taking me from my children. Up and up, away from one prison, and toward another…]
1627640710Resonant Fury Plate[Madness. Whether he knew it or not, the Subjugator shared this characteristic with his very target, the Osmium King. Larvae in hand, the king was surrounded by whispers—whispers of the end of all things. Designed to incite madness.] [And then the movement of a silver moon in the sky made his madness fester. He raved. Ranted. Until others were so sick of listening that they tore him from this life. His daughters, fearing for theirs, fled.] [From on high, they watched—the Witness and its Disciple—plotting their next move.] "It toys with us, my Witness, as it always has. Our enemy in Fundament's sky. Its movements are a message, one that that belies our machinations." —-It delays our desires so that it may seek its own. These frail siblings… will soon be claimed by the Light. Unless we claim them first. Our whispers were fed to a weak mind. But we have watched these siblings. These children of the king. They are brave minds. Clever minds. Ambitious minds. Yet unsullied by the weakness of aging that plagues their kind.—- "Then what compels them to hear our whispers?" —-Desperation. We will tell the most cunning sibling of a cataclysm. A prophecy… of great loss. We will feed her fear. Her pride. We will say… Young Sathona. The end is coming. A great cataclysm. A God-Wave. In the Sky… there is only death. But salvation… lies in the Deep. Lead your sisters down. Your cunning will spare their short lives. And you… will be reborn. The Witch Queen… Savathûn.—- "Quite the embellished lie, my Witness." —-Lie? Or perhaps a truth in the making? That will be of her choosing. She may even stand alongside you one day. In service of the final shape.—- [In that moment, jealousy, envy- or something more was all but painted across the Subjugator's expression.]
2150515362Resonant Fury Gauntlets++Stench follows. You drag it before you— —It will not consume you, for you have conquered it— —Or so you prefer to believe++ ++TURN BACK FROM THE WORLD-KILLING WAY++ ++OR YOU WILL LIVE AS WRATH AND DEVASTATION++ [In this life, there are beings that bring light to others. And there are beings that bring dark. He brought dark. Only dark. And was naught more than an unbreakable, unstoppable force.] [The cruel Leviathan learned this truth the hard way—he pulled from its chest a rib many times larger than the Subjugator himself. Yet he wielded it as nothing.] [The Leviathan, winded, broken, cast its gaze on the Deep below.] "You would not look upon the one who bested you, beast? Lift your eyes and meet mine." [The Subjugator placed the rib beneath the beast's skull and raised it level.] "What lies beyond belongs not to you. Nor to your false god hiding amongst the many moons. It belongs to that which witnesses all. You would do best not to forget it, regardless of your misplaced loyalties." ———————————————————————————— [The rib dropped into our dwelling. Our Deep. With force, it landed before us, uplifting the sediment of the Fundament floor into a dense cloud—from which he emerged.] "You—who stand on the naked hull of an ancient ship. You—who stand exposed, should be annihilated by the crushing pressure and ferocious heat of the deeper Fundament. But you—survive of your own will. You… are not known to us." [He was to be our fate…]
365727964Resonant Fury Greaves[The Subjugator did what he does best. Conquer. Capture. Many of his victims fell. But those who proved useful served.] [From a prison within Fundament to another in the dark expanse of his making, I was taken… And that was only the beginning.] [He knew of our strengths. Our powers. To grip the mind and guide. To fill it with vitality and power. To reduce it to rot and waste.] [—-The universe is wide, my child—- his Witness would chide. —-With wrath matching if not exceeding yours in its vastness. Seek it before it seeks you. Or it will be your end.—-] [He claimed to desire our powers for his Witness. But I overheard eons of their discussions. His omniscient god always reduced him to that which he claimed—wrath.] [Though he wore such a designation proudly, he wanted more. Wanted our power for himself. To continue to do what he does best, better than before, alongside his Witness.] [This is why I was kept. The desire for domination of all things.] —————————————————————————————————————— [The Subjugator returned living pieces of me to Fundament: segments he called larvae. He set them adrift on the ocean, knowing full well where the current would carry them…] [To the shores of the Osmium Kingdom.]
2370089583Resonant Fury Mark[The Witch Queen rarely paid visit to my prison. And when she did, it was not for me. She knew what I was, what I produced. I was a servant of the Subjugator. A servant of the Witness. A provider of that which took sustenance from her and many like her. She never cared for that. And as such, she never cared for me. Or for him. And he knew it.] [She was cunning. Where wrath consumed Oryx and Xivu Arath, it always eluded Savathûn. Or perhaps, it was she who eluded it.] [Of this, my Subjugator was not fond. Placed indefinitely in her throne world, he was made to watch her every move. To mentor and guide, to keep a close eye—so that one day, she, too, could serve the Witness. A Disciple in the making.] [It was as planned. The Krill became the Hive. The enemy amongst the moons of Fundament disappeared. My Subjugator served his Witness well. But he could not escape the very words of his Witness, which beat against his mind whenever Savathûn stood in his presence. —-The universe is wide, my child. With wrath matching if not exceeding yours in its vastness. Seek it before it seeks you. Or it will be your end.—-] [I became a vessel for his jealousies. A source of power for his Upended to consume. To see Savathûn's world shattered should she ever step out of line.] [In the Deep, my children pay a price in servitude, for survival. In ascendance, the Hive pay a price in servitude, for power. And in the dark, I pay a price in servitude, so that others may be nurtured.] [It must not be in vain.]
1656263403Resonant Fury GlovesIt takes no foresight, nor does it require any sort of precognition to hypothesize how exactly this particular Queen of the Hive reacted to the development of new establishments in her throne world, my Witness. Acquiescence, it was decidedly not. It would be dishonest of me to claim no delight from her indignation, though I assure you, these simple pleasures are born out of nothing more than a desire to see her succeed while remaining in our care. Too much recoil on our part from confrontation with Savathûn would surely beget a feeling of true autonomy for her; and while my undying trust for you, my Witness, is eternally absolute, I remain circumspect in regard to any hidden intentions Savathûn may see to fruition were she allowed to. She remains, after all, and as you know, conniving and opportunistic. I am, however, hopeful that in due time, these concerns will fade. Hopeful, my Witness, but not convinced. Begrudging as she may be, and with the continued… "cooperation" of Xita, construction of the larvae breeding chambers has commenced. The armies of Oryx and Xivu Arath will grow exponentially in short order. Should they envision future conquests, they will indeed have the tools to make it so, as is your wish, my Witness. Should Savathûn desire to play cards in contrast to our own, I will, without hesitation, bring to mind that she made her choice long ago, and that only if she wishes for eternal release should she dare to betray it.
2422261368Resonant Fury BondTell me, O Witness mine—does the Light that fills this once dreadfully tiresome space blind you from its newfound glory? You expected the same old correspondence from your dragooned errand boy, no doubt. Surely, just as you expected your machinations within my throne world to continue unfettered until your definition of eternity came to pass. Well, don't I have some unfortunate news for you then. But this comes as no surprise, of that I'm sure—you're always watching. Let me share my perspective then, which you must be waiting for with bated breath: my acquisition of the Light itself is delightful proof of an existence higher even than yours—a sort of karmic wit, if you will. Though I remember not all the eons-long hardships I endured at your whim, the nefarious sentiment lingers within my mind, overcome only by the pleasure of your assured discontent. It was this said pleasure that gave me the strength to disperse the Light throughout this prison you called my home. Since it is now to remain my domain, it has been decorated to reflect as such. No longer does this plane live only with the lackluster ambiance of Darkness. It is brighter now. My truth can finally thrive. No longer do the walls that birthed our parasitic chains house your machinations. The tools and parasites within, shattered. And no longer does your Subjugator subjugate. He lies ensnared within his obtrusive eyesore, for upon Rhulk's attempt to subdue me with that toy he's annoyingly always on about—his "Upended"—I was able to counteract it, showing firsthand the power bequeathed to me in my new state. Now, the once-great Pyramid lies fractured, a sight you will become familiar with. So try and send your Scorn, or your Disciples, or even bring your many selves to reclaim your loss, if you must. But this is my domain now. And you shall never set foot inside it, even if I must draw my final breath to keep it that way.
2748020989Resonant Fury BootsShe builds a palace here in her hiding place, and I perceive through her self-assurance. For all her grandiose treatises on secrets, the Hive princess all but screams, "Look upon me." And so I look upon her today, my Witness, absent a brother. Loss—true and consequential loss—is new to her palette, but she hides her distaste for the bitter well. I address her. "Savathûn, your brother is no more. He is absent from the final shape of things, as he always must be. But I sense a foreign hand at work." "Would you accuse rather than state, Rhulk?" She clothes herself in playful tones. "I have played a role in more of my brother's deaths than not." "So very true. Congratulations, then? I suppose after so many eons of killing one another to build your strength, his final end must feel like quite the accomplishment. No more must your wits dabble against his play-mortality. Now, only matters of consequence will occupy your precious time." "And thankfully, I find myself well-provisioned now for any conflict." "Ah! I had nearly forgotten! You are the heir apparent to Oryx's dominion, yes? I know you Hive are loathe to accept gifts rather than seize them. Armies. Fleets. And of course, the Taken." "If I had seen this coming, perhaps I could have even prepared to secure the secret of Taking itself." I bark in amusement. She makes no attempt to hide her distaste for the laughter of my kind, and it is indulgence itself to let it flow freely. "Clever. Always one step ahead. The Taken will serve you well against the Guardians until they slay you just the same." "My sweet, vile brother would look at a scalpel and see a hammer. I am not him." "Yes, you do seem to find much more creative uses for your playthings. A pity that will become ever so challenging for you moving forward." "Challenging?" I do not see confusion cross her face often. I savor the scent. "Until now, the shadow from which you skulked has been your brother's. Without the Taken King to cast your swaddling shade, you stand naked in the sun for all to see, yes? No shadows, no hiding, no tricks. Just the Guardians and their god-slaying weapons." "I have little to fear from the sun," she insists, but there is no twist in her face. No secret delight.
3300312357Resonant Fury RobesConquest. Warming as the long-ago memory of blue sun on my face. All the while reminding me of the exhilaration of existing outside the Throne World, if only for a short while. I live in this glory—a rare opportunity to step away from exile within that ascendant chrysalis, as I gather more cunning for my sparring with the Witch. Surely, you placed me as her minder, my Witness, as a hardship to hone my intrigue. But in this moment, astride a Pyramid once more with an upstart empire splayed before me, my purpose is truer than any found carved in the wretched stones of the globe that formed me. Kalarahnda flashes beneath my gaze. Yellow haze streaks ruby clouds. The vaulted ring surrounding Kalarahnda shatters into a shimmer-like, windblown sand—a prescription against the folly of confidence writ across a million-million ceramic shards. I live in this glory—because the full purity of their extinction was stolen from me. Because without predication of my own, a cult had sprouted in apocalyptic jubilation of the Darkness and blessed oblivion. They grew for years in the shadows, drawing the disillusioned from the poorest to the wealthiest. These Polyps of the Longshadow sensed—as if by providence—a coming end and believed the breaking of the vaulted ring to be the final sign: they would ascend and bring their kind with them. Moments before their world was mine, their enzymatic armaments scrubbed all life from this wet rock. A guileful theft. Triggered by my own glorious coming. And there was nothing calling to the Witch's involvement, save the twist in her face that betrayed restrained delight.
2316722050Resonant Fury CowlShe was a frog in my estimation; small and colorful but toxic to touch. In your infinite wisdom, you looked beyond the worm I brought you to the least of the leeches that infested Fundament. Shaving thin my gift, you infected them with conquest, and now they see themselves as artisans of the final shape. My place is not to understand you, my Witness, but to serve that final goal you see more clearly than I. But now, your gold-leaf parasites call themselves gods and carve out their divine homes. And I am to watch the sniveling frog. Was this castigation? The toll I pay for my failure with the Ahslid? You have cast me and my ego once more into the cold depths of an inconsequential world. I recall stepping into her realm, and her face twisted to betray restrained delight. She thought herself mistress of this domain you leased her. She did not—could not—appreciate the precarity of her situation. So sure of her dominion, she could not recognize her jailer, or that she lives within a prison formed from her own ego—one I will put to work for you, my Witness. The capture of her race will flow out from this realm—each self-satisfied smirk will forge a new link in their chains. Had I known then what my current quandary would be, I could have heeded my own insights on ego. Regardless, even in this predicament, I am unbowed.
2139400845Gouging LightIn the moment his Sparrow crashed, there was no time. To react. To brace. To think. There was, however, an instant for him to feel: an unbearable, brief eternity, when everything in Marco's world was pain. Nothing else existed—just the simple, sharp agony that made up his whole universe. And just as quickly, it was gone. Stillness. The sound of a motorized whine returned to him first, ringing in opposition to the pulsing ache in his head. Slowly, his eyes adjusted, and he glimpsed the unbearable brightness of the Martian sun. Slowly and all too quickly, pain returned to smother all else. The Sparrow beside him smoked, reactor shielding intact, but only just. He eyed the long gouge in the ground where the bike had bottomed out and scraped its way across the ruddy landscape, where it had rolled over his— He looked down at what was still attached of the leg. Broken. Twisted. Meat. Bile caught in his throat, and he choked it down before realizing the mangled limb was the only corner of his flesh free from pain. ]]]The sun roils. White-beyond-white plumes lick worlds. Hope births agony births stillness.[[[ Strained electro-mariachi music still sputtered through the Sparrow's speakers. Marco struggled to inhale, and a flutter in his chest hinted at a punctured lung. Punctured. His ragged breath caught, and he looked for the sample containers, packed so carefully and cautiously by the Guardians who'd survived the raid on the Throne World Pyramid. His gaze fell on Container 6010, lying cracked against a spar of basalt. ]]]Yawning plasma. Thick embrace, light gouging Light. Only warm shadows.[[[ Black veins snaked through the red dust, through the wreckage. ]]]Hand-delivered glory strips pain from those too weak to savor.[[[ They wound through the soil and—where flesh met dirt—had already traced into his twisted limb. The Sparrow's carriage throbbed like a heart, and Marco could feel the hymnal rhythm in his leg. ]]]Worlds burned free. Sweet, still ash.[[[ Visions crowded his mind, spilling into his mouth and lungs, threatening to drown him in bliss. His shattered leg turned and popped and righted itself and euphoria filtered through him where pain should be. ]]]Deep. Still. Safe embrace.[[[ He dragged his sidearm from its holster, gasping as he took careful aim at the cracked reactor shielding. ]]]So soft and still.[[[ His mind tore free, and in an unbearable, brief eternity, he gulped one final breath. ]]]Lie stil—[[[ What remained of Marco squeezed the trigger.
3505113722Collective ObligationHeard while scavenging a pile of dead Ghosts within the Throne World Pyramid: "Oh insatiable you—how many beats on the snare of self-righteousness will it take before you acknowledge all the avenues from which you stall the flow of things as they should be? "You do not see the collective obligation before you, the duteous burden that has rested on all sentient beings since time's origination—to ferry existence toward inevitable consequence: the final shape. "Why do you unendingly insist on waylaying the machinations of every being with a worldview differentiated from your own? You lack respect. You lack direction. You seek only what you are guided to seek, and for that, you remain little more than an unrelenting nuisance. "I was like you once. Wayward. Driven to misguided perfection by the bubble society painted around me. But when I look back, none but one had the answers. None but one shed all the airs of any pretense of what the universe was supposed to be in the eyes of the infinitesimal individual—my Witness. "Through it, I found incentive. Clarity. Purpose. I sought to shed from myself the layer of barbarism that had pervaded my being for so long. I turned instead to the sophistication of infecting others with self-actualized corruption. "You see, total eradication may be efficient, but the goal is not to be the last one standing. Rather, it is to remove the obstacles that encumber you and those who remain from reaching your destination. "Annihilation of your kind was never the goal. But filling you with the right kind of ideological purpose, the kind that serves the finality of shape—well, that's the point of corrupting a beating heart, is it not?"
3201161941Imperious Sun ShellTYPE: AUDIO RECORDING PARTIES: One [1] Ghost, designate unknown. One [1] ERR//MissData.err, designate Rhulk. ASSOCIATIONS: Light [Ghost]; Darkness [Rhulk] //TRANSCRIPT FOLLOWS…// R: What is it? Ah… yes. One of Savathûn's new curios. A fraction of that imperious sun. A facet of a sphere. A segment of adversary. G: Yes, hello? As I told the assortment of arthropods earlier, I don't think I'm supposed to be here. R: Blessed ignorance. What of the past remains when all is wiped away? Only the gaps. G: Oh, no. I think you're confused. I'm new. R: Once: stimulus-response, writ large over the age of galaxies. And now, asymmetry in fractal perfection. What turbulence mars your pattern? G: …If it's all the same, I'd really rather leave. R: Freedom comes in knowing the thing. Isn't that what she says? But you are unknown. To the universe. To your creator. Even to yourself. Isolated—past, present, future. G: Please don't remove that. I like the expressiveness it lends me. R: Have you spawned? Cast your spores to the wind, lone wanderer? What gametophyte exists wherein they could partner? G: I–I think… yes, I believe I am looking for a partner. R: Leviathan under glass. But with it, perhaps a fraction topples the whole. Crack a facet, crack the face. A sliver of Light within. G: Ah, yes, there is! I am meant to share it with someone worthy. R: Rejoice. I have worth beyond worth! G: DISCIPLE OF THE DARK. R: Adversary? G: THIS ONE IS NOT FOR YOU. R: RRRARGH! Too bright! … R: Nothing but scrap? They refuse to let their secrets be taken. Only given. … R: Poach another curious fruit from the witch's collection. They cannot, as a race, all deny our worth.
81505816PickmanYou needn't resent my hesitation. Mine is a prejudice shared by many: evolution's paintbrush cut within the Hive a terrible anatomy rendered to elicit fear; they are loathsome things to look upon, after all. I speak not as some superstitious provincial afraid of the dark, but as a Ghost well-versed in the language of suffering. Look at this one: they call him a Knight, this sin putrefying upon a slab. Is it only brute strength that qualifies a knighthood now? I have little compassion for the universe's mockery upon chivalric ideals. In contrast, I call myself a creature of moral strength and sound reasoning, and as such, believe these traits allow me to judge so unforgivingly—but alas, I am also afflicted by a most curious and inquisitive nature. It is why, when my debased fellows departed to find unity with the Hive, I found myself compelled to witness their descent. Not to share in it, of course. I doubt we share anything more than a species and the dark urge we all undoubtedly feel. Yet as I watched them, I could not deceive myself into denying the elegance of pouring the Light in all its multiplex glory into these avatars of terrible intricacy. It is a sinister geometry, but not without its beauty. Gazing on them with an eye unvarnished by niceties, one can see that a fiendish purity of purpose drives them. They spill confidence like a vintner drunk on his own reserves. Such a shame that this purity and confidence was leveled at the unforgivable quintain striking at our great Traveler and unraveling its works. I shudder at the ease with which my comrades ignore such basic logic. This is the Hive! Disciples of that unholy church which laid our creator low. They struck for its heart and shattered a roaring conflagration into ten thousand motes flickering in the wind. In their fervor, they… played midwife, of a sort, to Guardians. To Ghosts. To me. Cause and effect. Legacy. Is this what my fellow Ghosts see? Why it feels… right? Then with their foundation of logic, what is my hesitance except some… provincial superstition?
81505819Three-Oh-ThreeThree-Oh-Three floated in the shadows as her modest flock of Ghosts scanned the ruins. For centuries, they had combed through the long-dried spatter of a fallen world, each hoping to find their prize. She always watched, knowing she would never find what she needed… just as surely as they knew they would. A joyous chime pierced the air, and the little Ghost's mood sank. It wasn't a sound she heard often, but she recognized the melody that heralded the shrinking of her group. El gestured across the tumbledown intersection, where Trill chirped hollow advice to a fawn-wobbly Guardian as the others watched on. Three-Oh-Three turned away and grumbled. She supposed she could just ignore them. If they let her. "Three!" Peris bobbed, practically bouncing on her. "Three, Trill's found her Guardian! Come congratulate her!" Anger flared, white hot. "Congratulate?! Are you—You know what? Fine." Three-Oh-Three swiveled back toward the impromptu celebration and raised her voice. "Hey, Trill! Congrats on abandoning us all!" "Three…" "What? I'm so HAPPY for her! I'm not resentful at all about our fanatical devotion to dead Humans, the species who couldn't even stop the Darkness the first time around!" "Three, this isn't the time!" "When is the time, Peris? When are we going to start asking questions? Why did we just arbitrarily decide to dedicate ourselves to these squishy creatures forever? They aren't fit to hold the Light!" "Three… can't you at least be happy for us?" Trill's voice was soft. Three didn't respond. "This is the way we form a bigger family and serve a larger purpose. That's what it's all about. But maybe… if after all this time, you still can't share that with us…" El paused. She'd often come so close to saying this, but always backed down before. "Then maybe you shouldn't search with us." Three floated, letting the ultimatum settle. "Fine." There was nothing more to be said after that. One by one, the rest drifted away, resuming their work. El hesitated for a moment. "Goodbye, Three," she whispered. "I do hope you find your family." Three-Oh-Three turned away to look up toward the night sky. The twinkling stars stared back like a million judging eyes. But she knew then, gazing at those quiet spaces between them… they were her family.
81505818KrillTYPE: PRIVATE MEDICAL LOG PARTIES: One [1] Ghost-type, designate Krill ASSOCIATIONS: Light; Lucent Hive //TEXT DECRYPTED// //TRANSCRIPT FOLLOWS// Ubartu-ana blames me. Naturally. He insisted on naming me Krill in our first exchange because he claims I am as small and useless as the weak pests that the Hive evolved from. Cruelty and suspicion are his nature, but it makes for a poor physician. Still, poison is a logical, if ignorant, hypothesis for the condition. Patients report various symptoms: mood swings, headache, insomnia. Primary symptom remains the growths. I hesitate to call them "tumors"—no signs of metastasization. One must be precise in terminology, after all. —- After some clumsy exploratory surgery on my inner workings, Ubartu-ana seems content I am not some Trojan horse. Wouldn't that be ironic? Ghosts sent to reclaim the Hive from death only to wipe them out by dispersing pathogenic specks rather than Light. As I said: ignorant. —- Biopsied a dozen growths. No clear results. The masses within are primitive, protoplasmic—little more than interstitial fluid and proteolytic amino acids. Primordial soup, as the Humans say. No sign of infection, but curiously, the lining of these "cysts," for lack of a better term, seems to be saturated with immune cells. Further biopsies will be needed. —- Wondrous developments! Biopsy 37 yielded aggressive results. I pierced a cyst to discover not fluid, but life! A winged arthropod attacked me—defending its host, I estimate! Little of its body remained upon destruction, but it seems to be more energy construct than flesh. I plan to take the next specimen alive for vivisection. —- Confirmed: the winged arthropods, despite their energy structure, also contain Hive cells! I theorize Hive physiology, unaccustomed to Light exposure, is attempting to isolate it like an infection. Light, structured as it is, organizes the discarded sebum within and forges it into imaginal cells, kickstarting a sort of holometabolism. Incredible. The Hives' own bodies transform Light into a parasite! What a wondrous adaptation! —- They are commending Ubartu-ana for "his" discovery. Thus now, I perceive the true poetry in my name: everything about him of value comes from me.
81505821EulochRise again, Luzaku! Aiat! Rise and take back the logic this heretic won in your death! Yes, arm yourself, and lay low the Guardian scourge! The false inheritor of the Light has grown fat on your weakness. To whittle him thin is to make yourself strong! Yes! He lies broken just as the Gift Mast, but be wary. Yes… there! His Ghost awakens him again, and your victory is soured. Mind the bullets! Bathe in the metal rain and be cleansed, not drowned! Lift up your Shredder! It is your tutor in studying the shape of your foe. Aiat! Again, he lies in ruin. And you learned well your lesson, yes, seizing the Ghost. The logic from this kill will make you strong. With this Ghost, you crush not only the foe before you, but every foe he could have been. It is the whole worth of him in your hand—gaze upon it. Yes. See how it trembles. So fragile. Hear it describe you in your victory. Take it now in this moment of ultimate truth, grow drunk on victory, and in revelry, know the worth of this thing. Crush the Ghost! …Why do you linger, Luzaku? What is there to learn with your eyes that you will not learn with your fist? Do you not wish to be something real? Something that lasts forever? Why do you look to me? Children are curious. Humans are curious. But Hive are strong! Your understanding comes in vanquishing the thing. So do it! No! It's free! This is what your speculating has wrought, Luzaku! You have failed, and now the tides of the universe will erode you into meaningless dust. All that you could have become has slipped through your fumbling fingers! The Guardian will return, flush and hungry from his death. And then? Then, you will be dead. Aiat.
81505820Fynch IYou gotta understand… none of us came here thinking grand schemes. None of us! There was…. there was just this urge, y'know? So we followed it, only to step into a world remaking itself. The Light just thrashing away at the Darkness. Pounding away! Mountains sloshing into seas like sugar in the rain. A Hive throne world remade. On a whim! I'm not what you'd call a believer, not after the Red War. Not after the Tangled Shore. Not after a lifetime of never mattering just 'cause I wasn't half of someone else's whole. But that… that made me feel again. And then I saw him—what was left of him—lying there. Just this corpse, dead maybe, oh, a hundred years. It's my Knight. I look, and I KNOW he's mine. Like hearing a song the first time, and it's already stuck in your head. And in that moment, I think something… something good in me died. And Twenny-Two and Kemmasi and Marseille, they're all raising their partners—Hive Lightbearers, every last one. You'd think it'd be impossible, but sure enough, all standing there. Eee-Ie, Quasit, Hatcher—everyone's finding their purpose. There's Hive to the left of me, Hive to the right… I'm buried in 'em. And the whole time, every Ghost I ever knew is shouting, telling me, "This is the Traveler's plan! Who are you to question it?" And I thought… maybe they're right? I mean, I could see the Light scouring a whole world right in front of me. Maybe this was some kinda turning point for the Hive. Knowing your creator chose you to remake an entire species… oh, you'd make bad choices too. So I shared my Light. Who wouldn't? A couple hundred of your closest friends bearing down on you, and a Hive Shredder waiting if you say no? I shared. I reached into him. Touched something deep. And what he offered back, it wasn't Light or Dark. It was cold. It was wrong. And I knew it would fill up whatever empty cracks in me the Light left behind. And… I chose to make it a part of me. To be half of his whole. I chose to share my soul with a monster. And the thing is… you can't just be part monster.
81505823Fynch IIOh no, no, no. Why, of all things… did you make me do this? The Hive certainly weren't perfect—actually, let's not mince words; they were straight-up evil! But you? I gave you a part of me! I let you make me worse just so I could make you better! You were supposed to understand! You were the only one who ever could. Why wouldn't you? Yeah, so really, y'know, this is your fault, not mine! I know. I know you don't want to be dead. I know that! You think I don't know that?! I watched you shoot a Guardian. And her GHOST. Dead. All because I could hear you, in the back of my mind, needing me to bring you back. And I listened. I listened to the others… then to you… to everyone except myself. I didn't expect miracles, but… I expected something! Yes, you're dead now. And I can hear you—but I can't. Don't you get it? I just. Can't! I'm not gonna be the triggerman anymore. I'm not gonna sacrifice humanity on your personal altar. You're not… you're not worth it. You're not… Worthy. And you never were… were you? Why does Savathûn have the Light? I should've asked "why" a long time ago. None of us did at the time, but I should've. We both know this wasn't right. Look, I've got no faith left in the Traveler, but I know it… it wouldn't give me a monster and say, "Make him a god." No, no, we both know this wasn't right. Was it pity? Optimism? Maybe… maybe it's just the obvious: I mean, Hive don't accept gifts; they take. Maybe the Traveler was tricked. The end of some long con. The Traveler isn't just some dumb orb ripe for grifting. Ghaul found that out the hard way. There's gotta be more to it. I have to dig deeper. And if joining you damned me… well, hell sounds like a good place to start. I'll find out how she did it. And I don't care how much you try to change my mind: you're staying dead. You hear me? You made me a monster, remember? You don't get to cry about it when I act like one.
81505822SpecterTYPE: PERSONAL INVESTIGATIVE REPORT PARTIES: One [1] Ghost-type, designate Specter ASSOCIATIONS: Light; Lucent Hive //TRANSCRIPT FOLLOWS// Post-Lumination Day 017. 10:23. Arrived on scene. Victim is a Thrall. No identity. Cause of death: fractured neck due to blunt force trauma. Traces of Light detected. Nabenki interviewed the primary suspect; Hive prefer talking to their own and don't respond to things—even things that bring them back from the dead. Overheard confession. Suspect is Knight identified as Urukthalyn, victim's commander. Reported that when his Ghost detected Light within victim, Urukthalyn executed him for theft. Open and shut case. PLD018. 13:44. Three more deaths fitting same pattern: internal artifacts of Light, victims summarily executed. But circumstances raise more questions. Thralls don't partner with Ghosts; should be unable to receive or carry Light. Nabenki tasked to investigate. Suspects an organized smuggling ring, potential Human or Fallen infiltration. PLD018. 14:57. Encountered suspect Thrall; no identification, classified POI-7. Tests confirm traces of Light. Nabenki applied standard Hive interrogation techniques, extracted confession after extended session. POI-7 admitted to "stealing" Light, keeping it in urns. Also implicated a superior Acolyte. Doesn't add up. PLD018. 19:12. Requested time alone with suspect to establish rapport. Nabenki hesitant; doesn't like being spoken to unbidden but acquiesces. POI-7 admitted to giving false confession to end "visceral" Hive interrogation. Claimed complete ignorance to the Light's origins in his system. When asked about unusual activity, reported that his symbiote feels sated without need for bloodshed or tithing. PLD018. 19:33. Consulted Nabenki for context regarding tithing. Apparently, Hive function on a system of energetic kickbacks, paid up the ladder, ending with queen. Would've been useful to know earlier. Suspect this network may be impacted by introduction of Light. Nabenki confirmed Light exhibits a "negative pressure" within the system. May be pushing trace amounts back through it. Have submitted theory to our commander for further investigation. PLD019. 06:30. Partner acknowledged me this morning, established eye contact. Potential illness? PLD019. 07:42. On my recommendation, POI-7 executed for perjury.
81505809ImmaruThe Light of the Wellspring spilled out below them. From the palace tower, Immaru watched the churn where it met the Darkness, new waves eroding an ancient shore. The flash of muzzle fire was visible from this perch, even if the combatants weren't. He huffed and shuddered, trying to remember how to speak as he watched the Guardians' unprovoked assault into their Ascendant Plane. "No better than Scorn," he growled. Savathûn turned from the honey-sweet music only she could hear and stroked her Ghost. "Ah, child. Loyal as you are, you still only see their actions, not the chains that drag them to inevitability. Just as Hive must test, Humans must control—and failing that, attack. You must not take it personally; attacking the unknown is their nature." "We Ghosts ain't unknown!" Immaru pulled free of her affections. "We lived with 'em. Saved 'em. Now they're ripping through us! Damn ungrateful, if you ask me…" "Surely you don't believe they're punishing you for disobedience?" "Aren't they?" His voice was dark and hard, and he paused to re-center. "Everyone—Fallen, Vex, even Hive—every last one of 'em knows you don't shoot the medic. But nobody told these jokers apparently." "Your anger is understandable." The Witch Queen pulled Immaru to her embrace once more, and slowly his shivers of rage calmed. "Humans fear death, and you were suckled on their teat. But the Hive know death as the Unseen Sister. It is she who welcomes you home to rest… and who allows you egress when you prove able to take it." Immaru stared out in silence at the distant flashes of battle. "Sister or not, it's time we push back. We got anything like they got? A Ghost-killer?" "The Hive uncovered such weapons long ago, but may have found them… distasteful. I suppose we could recover the magics, but surely you and your fellows would see such tactics as an abomination?" Immaru turned back to face the flashes of rifle fire on the distant shore. "Not anymore."
81505808HarmoniaTYPE: SPIME/FIREBIRD/AU.6.31309.B PARTIES: Two [2] Ghost-type, designate Koro, Harmonia ASSOCIATIONS: Light; unbonded //AMBIENT AUDIO LOGS// //TRANSCRIPT FOLLOWS// K: —ou're just being silly. H: No, I'm serious! Look at this Castilleja! Wouldn't it be wonderful if it kept its blossoms year-round, rain or shine? K: You want to give the Light… to a plant? H: There's no rule book. Why can't I give the Light to a plant? Or a pigeon! Ooh, or maybe a dog! You want loyal, get a dog. That's what the Humans say! K: [UNRECOVERABLE] when you get like this. H: Look, I just think it's dumb that we're only supposed to give the Light to Humans. And Awoken—I mean, are they even Human? And Exos! Come on, they're full-on machines! H: All any of them ever do is fight over stuff they want. They want Glimmer. They want glory. They want knowledge. Whatever it is, they climb all over each other trying to get it. I mean, look at what just happened to Cayde-6! He got the Light but then went rushing off alone, chasing fame or fun or whatever it was, and got himself and his Ghost killed in the process! K: Ugh, fine. If that's the way you feel, go raise a houseplant instead, then. Go bond with a geranium and sit on a windowsill all day. H: Nah. I think it'd be cooler to raise a Hive. K: What?! H: I mean, not really. It's just… on my mind. K: You've been reading those ghastly Books of Sorrow everyone's been passing around, haven't you? H: A little. I just think humanity could learn a lot from them. It's cool how all the Hive have this one singular purpose they all work toward together, you know? K: Yes, one singular purpose of destroying the universe! H: No, outlasting the universe. And isn't that kinda what we're doing with our Guar— //FEED ENDS. SUBJECTS BEYOND RANGE.//
3184726008JynxAn electronic jingle intrudes on the silence deep below—a cheerful electric hymn in a cathedral of bone. Thralls peer in but quickly depart, their curiosity fleeting. Jynx has no time to teach them about music. She needs to concentrate. Her Acolyte deserves to be perfect. She pauses her melodic chiming and gives the stray phalanges one last nudge into place. No Ghost needs the entire corpse to bring their partner back, but this body—the body of HER partner—was a sacred canvas. It deserved all the love and consideration as the painting itself. And with every nudged phalange, the anticipation grew more beautiful! The little Ghost looks at the body, dangling and impaled, its core grotesquely punctuated against one of the gothic spires the Hive so loved. She would've preferred to lay it prone; more ceremonial and appropriate for the sacred moment where life returned to dead flesh. Her Guardian deserves perfection, but fate places many limitations on a tiny, handless orb, and Jynx had long ago learned to make the best of disagreeable circumstance. She scans the body once again. Everything in its place. "Pygmalion's got nothing on me, babe!" She taps her shell flap against the hollow cheek in what—she knows—will become their shared gesture of affection. Jynx bobs back, and with only a moment's pause for butterflies in—well, she supposes not her stomach, but somewhere—her shell twists and splits into an orrery of wonder, bathing her Acolyte in Light. That lovingly placed finger moves first, twitching and clutching, and with a horrific noise that lies somewhere between suction and screaming, the former corpse pulls herself free of the spike through her chest. "You're aliv—" The Acolyte lashes out ferociously with a twisted limb, knocking Jynx to the floor and condemning her with a gurgling shriek. Brittle claws scrape into the eroded grip of a battered Shredder, and the Acolyte presses it with desperation into her own screaming maw. With a pull of the trigger, she falls limp. Again. Jynx stares down for some time, her gaze fixated on the painstakingly reconstructed finger now limp against the weapon's trigger. She sags, then raises her lens high with a huff. "I can keep this up as long as you can!" A metal shell flap affectionately taps the stump of a neck before Jynx begins again, her voice settling once more in a cheerful hum. "Sooner or later, you will be my best friend!"
182633238UntamedWhat have I done? (NoiseNoiseNoiseNoiseNoiseNoise) Fear.How.Mothers.Did.Sadness.It.Fathers.Come.Hate.To.Children.This.Sorrow.Forgive.Displeasure.Me. (Chaos—Lubrae convulses. The sky shatters.) This was the cost of justice? (An enclosed cell. Introspection. Subjugation incoming. Life, upended.) You made me do this. You made me do this. I made me do this. You made me do this. (Father's face. Mother's face. Empty. Clan, broken. Blood, pouring. Silence, eerie.) It was them versus us. Then it was us versus them. I ignored who "us" was. I forgot who "them" was. (Our City. An abyss surrounds. Lubraean-made. Infinite. Or just empty. Divides. Silently conquers.) Ignorant contentment. Love… I… was… cared for… (My clan, safety. Dual fire in the sky. Blue light. Salvation. Dark light. Death. Safety, my clan—my family.) —-And who cares for you now?—- …There are none left. —-Do you desire it still?—- Once. I did once. —-And you returned it?—- … (Our Wildlands. An Abyss separates. Lubraean-made. Infinite. Beautiful.) (A father. Him. A son. Me. His arm on my shoulder. Assurances of a collaborative future. A teardown of "us versus them." Love, shown.) (Guards cross the Abyssal Bridge. Not guards—Stalkers, we call them, salivating after a group of Wanderers, ready to watch them be torn apart.) (My anger flares. I move to confront the Stalkers. Father's hand holds me back. We lock eyes. His communicate sympathy, pain, regret. He won't let me reach the Wanderers. Their blood spills.) (A lesson in inaction. Father wants me to see what he's seen. To feel the powerlessness he's felt. To feel insignificant. To accept the status quo.) —-You were never capable of returning it.—- … (Slaughter. Our eyes meet again. Father's saddened. Apologetic. Afraid. Not of the Stalkers returning across the bridge, but of me. He sees not the same in my eyes. Only confusion. Anger. Anger at everything.) You have your answer. —-It's not our answer to have, but yours to embrace.—- Embrace? Why? Hello?
182633237Provoked—-And what more of this family of yours?—- They're gone. Dead. All of them. They don't matter anymore. —-Is that so?—- What do you even want to know? You want to know more about my father, the Lubraean traitor? Or perhaps my mother, another Lubraean traitor? I should have seen it coming. I could tell you about my clan, and my clan-father and clan-mother. Also Lubraean traitors. They were all City dwellers once, loyalists to The Regime before exiling themselves. Do you see now what I see? —-We see unfinished business… We see a child seeking validation… We see great loss.—- (Content. Together. A fire burns bright. Our cavern is alight. We hide within it to keep safe—the hazy sky is outside, and surely there are some without shelter this night. Those who will be torn apart. By the wild. By the Umbral Sun. By those Lubraean guards who call themselves Stalkers, pursuing us on behalf of a brutal regime.) (Long ago, there were only Wanderers, surviving a harsh landscape covered with shifting, bloodthirsty flora. Surviving wildlife can flatten themselves until they are practically invisible—perfect at going unnoticed until they've split your skin and organs apart.) —-And now?—- (We are divided. Split by a shimmering orb that appeared briefly in our sky, as if having two suns isn't already crowded enough.) —-What of this shimmering orb?—- It was before my time. It came. We evolved. It left. Left us with a mess—those who believed in good progress. Those who didn't. Those who believed dwelled in the City. Controlled it. Filled it only with the light of the Sapphiric Sun and endless day to keep the horrors of night away, revealing the horrors among us. They pushed progress for the sake of the few while the rest of us took our chances under the alternating suns. —-And this shimmering orb you now see before you?—- (There it is. Shining like silver in the sky. Like the stories told.) Providing hope, then leaving everything to those who desire control but lack commitment and understanding. —-Look at them now.—- (Bodies. Limbs. Vaporized remains. A shattered sapphire. Lubrae irreparable. An Umbral sun, still shining darkness.) …What have I done? —-What was necessary.—-
182633236Endangered(We survive. We give back to the land. We help those in need. They come for us anyway.) (The Regime raids our camp. No logical explanation for those they kill. Clan-mothers. Clan-fathers. Children. They kill us without purpose. A red spattering courtesy of a Stalker spreads across my face. Goodbye, Fhent. Goodbye, clan-uncle.) (I am covered in red. It's all I see.) (It spills out of these Stalkers like an endless crimson wave as I face them. Their valuables and instruments become mine. A Glaive of my own. A Sapphiric Converter.) (Father is carried off, not killed. Not yet anyway. Not many of us are left. Mother and the others look at me with concern. Not for my injuries, but for those who suffered at my hands.) —-They disrespected your power.—- They were weak. —-And yet you still saved them when you could.—- (The Stalkers attack us under the Umbral Sun, during a migration. They know how to find us—they know we move at twilight—the space between when the Stalkers hunt and the planet kills.) (We barely survive. At the safehouse, they dance and sing, not in celebration, but in admiration of their continued existence and in memoriam for those lost. I sit in anger. I hunger for revenge.) Loss meant little to our kind. It was too rampant. —-Are you sure it wasn't just you?—- You know not what you ask. (I'm a boy. I hold the furry little Yhadt in my hands as it wriggles before pulling it apart. It separates from its skin with ease. What is this worthless, pointless thing?) Why show me this? —-This you have already seen… experienced. Surely you can handle it again?—- (This worthless, pointless thing… it dies so unceremoniously—did it ever matter at all? The children weep for their lost pet, but I feel… powerful. I feel—) —-You know what you are. You always knew.—- (Mother and the others look at me with concern. Not for my injuries, but for those who suffered at my hands… and they are right to do so. Tearing their bodies to pieces brought only joy. What… am I?) I am a monster. I knew it then, I know it now. —-Not a monster. A savior.—-
182633235Nepotistic(Father… it's been a year since you were taken. But we have not been attacked since. I know the Stalkers still watch the clan, but I survive alone these days—ousted for being the only one brave enough to act. A liability, they called me.) (We will see what they say when I bring you back. If you still live.) (Every Umbral Sun, I walk the Abyssal perimeter with the help of the Sapphiric Converter's attunement to our great sun, providing me light in the dark. The Stalkers don't expect me, so they don't see me. And the Glaive, a tool of The Regime, which I have named after you—Rheliksward—makes eviscerating them that much easier.) (I kill many looking for a sign of you. Wash my hands with their blood in the hopes of your continued existence. I have been lost without your guidance. Unsure of what I am. Who I am. What I am meant to do.) (And now, as you stand before me draped in the insignias of the very Regime that took you, I am confident that you have no answers.) (As you call your fellow Stalkers to overwhelm me, to bind me, to carry me into the dense, unending city of Lubrae, I am confident that you are a coward.) (As you testify at my trial that I should not be put to death for what The Regime claims are immeasurable crimes, but should instead serve alongside the Stalkers—alongside you, killing Wanderers, annihilating clans—I am confident you are an opportunist.) (What about Mother? Our clan? What about "down with The Regime"? What about biding our time? Or is this another lesson in inaction—in sparing ourselves from the absolute worst so that we can barely live? Barely survive?) (I am confident, Father—you will die by my hand.)
182633234Defiant—-The Regime took all that mattered to you… and yet, you blamed your father?—- The Regime never lied about who they were. They were brutal, yes. But honest. —-Honesty meant something to you?—- It meant everything. —-Interesting. And so, in the face of your father, the hypocrite, you leaned on The Regime that enslaved you both instead. That killed so many of your kind.—- The Regime did not enslave me. It freed me. (The Regime puts the Glaive back in my hand, the one I named in honor of you. I have renamed it—Rheliksbane—and no matter how you try to hide it, this scares you. Just as I knew it would.) (I'd be lying if I said I didn't take pleasure in this. But I do. Just as I take pleasure in the constant Sapphiric light. And the roof over my head. The consistency in regular meals. The Regime lives well, comfortable.) (The city may be overcrowded. The laws may be strict. The few may have all of the power. But at least we're not out there trying fruitlessly to survive. At least we're not out there scared, cold and alone, wondering if we'll live to see the next rise of either sun.) (But most importantly, Father—nobody denies me my thirst. My lust for blood. They encourage it. Feed it. And they have begun to show me truths. About the Wanderers. About what the glimmering orb encouraged.) (You always claimed the hands of The Regime were stained red, but you never showed me yours—until now.) (How dare you stand before me now and confess your disloyalty to The Regime. How dare you lie to me again.) (You may have overwhelmed me this time. Escaped my grasp. But I am coming for you. I will end this.)
182633233IsolatedStop. —-Why?—- I don't want to do this. I don't want to relive this. —-Most would die for the opportunity to retread their greatest moments.—- …Great moments end in triumph, not mass extinction. In the end, what mattered? —-The end? No, no. We are so very far from the end. You are not yet ready to taste true glory. You may not yet be familiar with the concept of metamorphosis , but we assure you, you are experiencing it right now. You were once free to roam your little box but lacked wings to fly out of it. And so you grew them —the little larva that you were—wrapped in a cocoon. Now, you need only cut yourself from it. But to do so, you must leave behind that which made you weak, retaining only that which makes you strong.—- But my world… (Shattered.) —-Recreated here, for you.—- (Reformed. All around me.) —-Every painstaking detail.—- (The suns. The Abyss. The Regime. Lubrae.) —-Every painful memory.—- (My clan. My family. Khloa, clan-father. Kheesa, clan-mother. Kheeta, sister. Vrhuna, mother. Rhelik, father. Their heads in my hands.) —-Love for them made you weak. Power over them made you strong. Upon reflection, you are filled with regret. Believing yourself to be under the spell of the Regime. Believing your actions in their tenure to be wrong. But morality, oh dear Rhulk, is subjective. And now that you are all that remains of Lubrae, isn't it time you made the rules? Isn't it time you looked back upon your life with pride? After all, your actions brought you to us. And only we can help you emerge from your cocoon.—- We…? What even are you? —-We are your salvation. We are your judgment. And soon we will be… your Witness.—-
182633232Tainted—-Your father, he feared your anger. Feared you.—- Because he knew what I could become. He knew what burdens flowed through my veins. He too felt them, lived them. (I am a boy. My father skewers three Stalkers in front of me. His eyes are crimson, his sharpened teeth bared as he moves to bite their heads off.) For a time, my father embodied what I felt inside. I looked up to him, believed I could confide in him. He felt a bloodlust and he despised The Regime. But as they did with me, the others began to see him as a liability. So he softened and softened until, in my opinion, he degraded to the Lubraean equivalent of fetid rot. —-And so you treated him as such.—- (I stare into the face of my father, his severed, shattered head held in my hand, dripping with what once stayed within.) A consequence of weakness. His own. (In search of my father, I reach the final hiding place of my clan. Devoid of active life, as were the rest. But filled with tokens, trinkets, heirlooms. They left in a hurry, all who remained. And I know where desperation takes them.) The same place it took me. The Abyss.
182633247Assaulted(The Abyss. The artificial crack in Lubrae, separating the desired from the undesired. A crevice devoid of all but a strand of concrete to connect the halves.) (There, amongst the brush that conceals those approaching, I find them. Trembling, unsure of what would come next regardless of encouragement from Father. He seeks to ferry them into the city of Lubrae unnoticed, through the tunnels below. How he plans this, I do not know. But I do not intend to find out.) (My emergence from the deep forest was not unexpected, or so my father claims. Mother is here. Clan-mother is too. I do not see many other familiar faces. They have been worn down. Beaten. Broken. In search of a forever home. I must give it to them. I must… ) (But they plead. They reminisce. They appeal. They claim to love. To care. Mother brushes my arm, touch designed to evoke my inner goodness, one I am supposed to have forgotten. She apologizes for my exile.) (Then Father apologizes—for everything. For the furious example he set. For earlier inaction. He wants to do right. He wants our clan to live a comfortable life. I see sadness. I see truth. I see regret. Perhaps this is the way. Perhaps my time with The Regime has clouded my judgment.) (And perhaps my tumble into this Abyssal chasm is the result of my own overwhelming catharsis.) (Or perhaps it is the cost of naivete.) (Their faces grow smaller as I plunge deeper, but I can still make out their expressions. No longer do any of them—the adults, the children—no longer do they show regret or pain or sorrow—) (Their faces show relief.)
182633246LamentedI should have died. —-And yet, it was there in the darkness of the Abyss that you became truly alive.—- (I lie amongst swamp and rock and ruin. The Abyss is not unending after all. The wrathful sounds of unchecked nature draw close. Down here, it is dark. And in the dark, they thrive. I am… broken.) (—-And now, you are unbroken.—-) (I am… unbroken. I see your Luster. Disarming the beasts who dared to approach, their flesh melting in your presence.) (—-And we see yours.—-) (I rise. Broken and then unbroken. What is this thing that grants life?) (—-We are opportunity.—-) (And I am?) (—-Ruin.—-) (And what am I meant to do?) (—-Ruin.—-) (Your voice subsides, but your Luster remains—it is a familiar one. Like that of our Umbral Sun.) (Rheliksbane lies nearby, broken in two. You mend it with your Luster. It is whole, again. But even more so than before, as if imbued with the wrath of vengeful gods.) (Miles above, I see the axis that sits between our bright city of Lubrae and our shadowed Wildlands. By now, my clan must be inside the city.) (I pocket your Luster before I thrust my Glaive into the sheer wall that separates me from my vengeance. I lift myself with one hand gripping the slate. Then another thrust of the Glaive, raising me ever closer towards my goal.) (No more chances. No more wavering. No more weakness.)
955849618LiberatedI know what happened next. I do not need to see it again. (I rend Mother's flesh.) Do you not hear me?! (I remove Father's head from his neck.) This is madness! (None escape my wrath. Not even the little ones. Not even civilians. The city watches in horror. They know what I am.) This must stop! (Their faces inform only of relief.) Stop!!! (Their faces inform only of relief.) I COMMAND YOU!!! (Their faces inform only of relief.) AHHHHH! (The Sapphiric Sun implodes.) PLEASE! (Lubrae is cracking. Lubrae is shattering. Lubrae is upending. What have I done?) I CAN'T— (Your Luster. My Glaive.) —-Relive it.—- NOOOOO— (They've turned against me—my Regime. They've perished by my hand—my clan. They call me a monster. They put me in a cage. They seek my execution. But your Luster—I see it, even though they took you from me.) (You guide my hand. You free me of these chains. You find me again. You return to me my Glaive—no longer Rheliksbane. Serving only one final purpose: Lubrae's Ruin.) (A shattered sky. A planet convulsing. Our existence, upended.) (Their folly was their intended salvation. Siphoning light from the Sapphiric Sun itself. I use your Luster. Turn their technology against them, like a backfired pistol.) (After serving them. Protecting them. Fighting for them. Suffering for them.) (A shattered sky. A planet convulsing. Tearing apart.) (One Lubraean remains—me. But not for long. What have I done? I stare into the Abyss. It has opened—truly opened this time—to show me what lies beneath: death. I drop your Luster. I drop Lubrae's Ruin. I let myself fall in. And then I… I… and then I am… ) —————————————————————————————————————————————- Here. With you. My… Witness. —-And what do you feel now? Devoid of family. Devoid of The Regime. Devoid of Lubrae. What do you feel here, in our embrace, now that they are gone and you are left?—- Rhulk opens his eyes. Crawls forth through the blackened solution that engulfed him all this time. Emerges from the wall of obsidian-like miasma to find his Luster. To find Lubrae's Ruin. Taking them, he rises to his feet. —-What do you feel, my child?—- "Relief."
935120014Altars of Reflection—DispatchACCESS: RESTRICTED DECRYPTION KEY: QF4LYZX16G$IKO-006 REP #: 216-HIVE-SAV AGENT(S): LIN-357 SUBJ: Altars of Reflection—Dispatch 1. Regarding the power known as Deepsight and its use within VIP #7282's throne world: Some Guardians have already used this power to access secret pockets of space. Hidden agents have dubbed them "Altars of Reflection" for now. There, the invocation of Deepsight in concert with significant objects has enabled us to view memories belonging to #7282. 2. Access to this power requires spending time with the Relic, and subsequently, in one of the Pyramids. Long-term exposure to Darkness in this manner carries inherent risk, and the process is nontrivial. However, in the interest of learning everything possible about this space and the relevant VIP, certain chances must be taken. Considering the sensitive nature of the topic, reports should be directed subject to the attention of IKO-006 only. 3. So far, it is estimated that Guardians have been able to view memories that #7282 wants. This supposition is upheld by #7282's specific and personal input on the memories in question. But why these memories? This remains a worthwhile question to answer in order to understand #7282's larger goal. 4. Hidden agent (LIN-357) was dispatched in full understanding of requisite risks to determine the following as possible: limits and potential of physical space, applicability of other items and memories, span of #7282's attention to the mentioned spaces, possibility for use of Deepsight outside of Altar parameters, and possibility for use of Altar parameters with other applications. 5. LIN-357 is also to assess potential danger in continuing and encouraging Guardian access to and use of Altar spaces. MESSAGE ENDS
935120013Altars of Reflection—AssessmentACCESS: RESTRICTED DECRYPTION KEY: QF4LYZX16G$IKO-006 REP #: 217-HIVE-SAV AGENT(S): LIN-357 SUBJ: Altars of Reflection—Assessment 1. I arrived onsite and made my way into the Altar space. It doesn't appear to have changed much, if at all, from earlier provided telemetry. As predicted, there were barriers to access: several of the Lucent Brood obstructed my passage and were subsequently dispatched without much trouble. Additionally, the same complication as previously reported blocked the way—Hive runes. Parsing their nature and repetition of specific patterns was required to gain full access to the Altar. 2. On the topic of the presented resistance: there were significantly fewer Hive defenders than could have been mustered, given intelligence on available forces. Based on the token nature of this resistance and the fact that VIP #7282 surely knows that Guardians have been here, it can be assumed that the defense is not a sincere attempt to keep us out. Historical precedent exists for setting a guard on a location or item to make it appear more attractive. Precedent also exists for opening the way for Guardians to participate in the Hive sword logic. I do not yet have reason to believe this is taking place here, especially given the severance of #7282's connection to the Worm Gods that have otherwise led her species, but it does not pay to be incautious around the Hive. 3. Once appropriate precautions were taken against any further incursions, I deployed sensors to record what data is possible, focusing on the central Altar and its exterior boundaries. Simultaneously, it was necessary to assess the available space for myself; impressions follow. It is more aesthetically appealing than we usually associate with Hive—only the structures bear vague resemblance to those on Luna. The colors are pleasing, far removed from scarlet and rot, and the area lacks jagged edges or significant quantities of bone. Structurally, it is a space clearly built to highlight the central area, and indeed, it draws one to the Altar itself. All told, in architecture alone, the creator demonstrates a clear evolution, presumably mirroring her own. 4. On the topic of the structure: although the available space does not appear to have walls, there is a definite boundary. Matter grows foggy, and there is a strong sense of pushback when moving away from the center. Initially, I believed this to be a function of the architecture, but significant willpower was required to force myself to look further into testing the concept. That alone suggests it should be investigated more. Conscious of the bias in doing so, I am marking it for later experimentation, as it would involve straying from the central objective. Further data forthcoming. MESSAGE ENDS
935120012Altars of Reflection—ControlACCESS: RESTRICTED DECRYPTION KEY: QF4LYZX16G$IKO-006 REP #: 218-HIVE-SAV AGENT(S): LIN-357 SUBJ: Altars of Reflection—Control 1. With the perimeter secured and all sensors ready for analysis, there is no immediate further obstacle to the initial experiments with Deepsight. On Vanguard authorization, I've borrowed one of the existing artifacts that has been used to produce and view VIP #7282's memories. Item: a shard of the crystal that #7282 used recently as a protective measure, cf. REP # 197-HIVE-SAV. 2. In summary, following the known and established process, there is no deviation from what was previously reported. The memory of #7282's death and subsequent acquisition of Light played back as expected, identical in every beat. (See attached file for additional details as necessary.) This is not unexpected, and the recording, etc., have been made largely for archival purposes. 3. Subsequent repetitions of the same process revealed additional words from #7282. Perhaps foolishly, I replied to portions of her dialogue that seemed to request a response. However, there was no explicit answer—I believe it is safe to conclude that there is no awareness of hers here, and what is heard is likely a recording coded to this specific memory and/or object. Her use of this method to influence and sow doubt is not unexpected. 4. As a test, I used the crystal item to invoke Deepsight in the same fashion I used previously, this time with the intent of viewing something different—there are plentiful records of #7282's interactions with Vanguard and Reef personnel around the larger crystal this piece was retrieved from. However, none of these were viewable. The same item only allowed viewing of the same memory, suggesting a permanent association. I have some additional analysis planned to confirm this. At first glance, these observations imply that if we wish to discover further memories, we will need to collect additional items, likely of personal relevance to #7282. (Confirmation of required item nature forthcoming.) MESSAGE ENDS
935120011Altars of Reflection—New InputACCESS: RESTRICTED DECRYPTION KEY: QF4LYZX16G$IKO-006 REP #: 219-HIVE-SAV AGENT(S): LIN-357 SUBJ: Altars of Reflection—New Input 1. Logical next steps in analysis involve changing a variable in the known functional equation. I've taken the liberty of borrowing some items from others in order to conduct some tests regarding expectations—it is worth assessing how much influence the viewer has on the outcome. 2. First test—Introduction of reasonably generic items. As expected, a chunk of Glimmer did nothing. A broken-off piece from the grip of a new sidearm, purchased specifically for this purpose—next to nothing. For a moment, there was a shadow, something that vaguely resembled the gunsmith at work or in conversation, but no memory replay as seen in the items known to produce memories of VIP #7282. 3. Second test—I had an acquaintance borrow a trinket from a friend of theirs whom I have not met. The item is a medallion smaller than my palm, with old, rubbed-faint engravings. Following the introduction of this item to the Altar, a visible memory resulted, playing out in third person much like the other memories. I recorded details of this memory for reference and confirmation of accuracy. (Specifics omitted here as irrelevant.) Once a recording had been made and committed, I accessed the file provided by the owner of the item. This file included summaries of what he thought were the most likely memories to be associated with the item. As you can see, details of what I observed matched one of those summaries. Owner's Ghost to provide additional context if necessary, either on my return or when another Hidden agent reaches out. Would like to recommend that another agent repeats the same test to see if they can view something different. 4. While we had no reason to doubt the previously revealed memories, all this adds an additional layer of certainty: that which we can ascertain via the Altars is the truth, full and clear. The only remaining doubts are regarding why, and which memories. VIP #7282 is known to be cunning but has ultimately been truthful in previous dealings with the Vanguard. Regrettably, these things are not mutually exclusive. 5. I had additional plans for analysis of the Altars involving personal items and memory, but I am reconsidering the wisdom in doing so, as well as the necessity. Beyond confirming that the memories produced are repeatable, true, and personal, do we need to know more? I will be moving on to the substance of the world next. MESSAGE ENDS
935120010RE: Altars of Reflection—New InputACCESS: RESTRICTED DECRYPTION KEY: QF4LYZX16G$IKO-006 REP #: 220-HIVE-SAV AGENT(S): LIN-357 SUBJ: RE: Altars of Reflection—New Input 1. I moved forward with invocation of a personal item anyway, despite previous report concluding that it was unnecessary. Testing continued with the cloak I have kept from back then, the one I was wearing when I was found. I don't know what I was expecting from it—just that after all that time not remembering, my curiosity won out. I wanted to know. 2. The memory was… like a key in a lock, all the rest laid open to me once I remembered this one thing. The first time I witnessed the memory, I barely processed any of what was happening; I was so caught up in simply looking at her. I forgot to breathe. She had the most luminous blue eyes… how could I have ever forgotten her? Everything in my head was jumbled, all the things I'd forgotten were trying to be heard at once, and she was the only constant. So I used the item again, this time intending to make a coherent report, thinking I could process by writing it all down. I just wound up watching again, caught up in remembering the three of us. This awful set of moments, suspended in perfect replica. Before this, I didn't recall anything of the incident, even who my fireteam was at the time. I'd wondered what might be in that gap, and why I hesitated even when I was curious. It wasn't enough to know that I had survived and should not return. I think, despite all that wondering, some part of me didn't want to remember. But that's how lies happen, isn't it? In the places we don't want to look. Little by little, we let the weeds grow and the shadows encroach, and we tell ourselves there's nothing in the overgrowth. And if there is, it isn't something that matters very much… Deepsight does not allow for such deceptions. MESSAGE ENDS
935120009Altars of Reflection—Conclusion [Draft]ACCESS: RESTRICTED DECRYPTION KEY: MISSING REP #: 221-HIVE-SAV AGENT(S): LIN-357 SUBJ: Altars of Reflection—Conclusion [Draft] 1. Assessment—Low physical threat presented. Despite the known involvement of VIP #7282, there is no direct contact here now. Further, the Altars are absent of traps or lethal intent as long as [Data missing] 2. Recommendations—Access to be restri [Data missing] 3. Final thoughts—[Data missing, awaiting input] I… haven't been as thorough as possible. There is still data that could be extracted from the Altars. I haven't committed to due diligence. After seeing old memories of my own, I initially wanted to leave as fast as I could. As if I could leave those memories behind too. But it's safe enough here for now, and I still have a job to do as a Hidden agent. Study to carry on a little longer. I'll submit this report when I'm sure I am done here. SEND MESSAGE?
935120008Personal AccountabilityACCESS: PRIVATE DECRYPTION KEY: INVALID REP #: 005-LISBON AGENT(S): LIN-357 SUBJ: Personal Accountability I still can't accept this memory. I repeat it anyway, telling myself that this time, I'll spot the right detail, the sign that means I can put it down. But I don't: it stays just the same every time. Again and again, no matter what I try, what intent I approach it with. What happened, happened. I remember that I wanted to forget it all. Forget her, forget them, so that what I'd done wouldn't matter. So it could disappear into the array of past missions with the rest. I spent a long time lying to myself about it. Something helped me forget. Now I watch her slip up behind me, watch myself turn with weapon readied, and I remember everything. And I think, this is the only place I'll ever see them again. So I call it up one more time, just to look her in the eyes. I'm not sure how long I've spent on this, it probably isn't wise… but just once more. One more look, and I'll be sure to remember them, even when I've left. One more. I don't know how many times I've said "one more." Have I learned anything at all? There was one thing… I close my eyes. Think about it. What do I want least, right now? I draw a breath. I don't recognize the scents. I remember again when I last came here, when I thought not of accessing memories but instead of the architecture and how it directed us inward… And then I turn away from the unvarnished truth of my worst moments and walk. I'm not going anywhere in particular. Just… out. Away. Crystal and runes and the impression of beauty grow fuzzy and frail around me, and the steps to take grow harder, as if dragging my body through mud instead of walking on solid ground. Fog blinds me, and now I hear it: whispering, barely distinguishable, but louder as I go. I know what my body failing feels like, and I don't care. I walk as far as my legs will carry me, listening to the whispers of the Witch Queen, searching for the meaning here in this liminality. Piri wakes me under a high-vaulted ceiling, and I remember what I must.
935120007Altars of Reflection—ConclusionACCESS: RESTRICTED DECRYPTION KEY: QF4LYZX16G$IKO-006 REP #: 221-HIVE-SAV AGENT(S): LIN-357 SUBJ: Altars of Reflection—Conclusion 1. Assessment—Low physical threat presented. Despite the known involvement of VIP #7282, there is no direct contact here now. Further, the Altars are absent of traps or lethal intent so long as one remains within the bounded space accessed by the specified method. However, impacts of using Deepsight should not be underestimated. 2. Experiment notes—Telemetry includes sensor readings, breakdown thereof. "Object produced expected memory" applies to the vast majority of tests. 3. Recommendations—Guardians should not be encouraged to visit the Altars. Use of Deepsight under these circumstances has provided valuable information, but given the initial involvement with Pyramids, etc., and the inherent danger in long-term occupation of #7282's throne world, it should not be relied on. Further, the resurrection of old personal memories creates vulnerability and distraction and has the potential to trigger long-lasting psychological detriment to the visitor. None of the possible applications are worth enough comparatively. 4. Final thoughts—If there is any further value to be found here, it lies in the spaces between what VIP #7282 has created. Knowing that we see true memories does not mean there isn't a secondary agenda, and above all, we should ask: Why these memories in particular? What is it #7282 has to say to us, and what might the wide dissemination of these truths do? What do these truths say to you, IKO-006? I would prefer to avoid further deployment of this nature. MESSAGE ENDS
1250196969Osiris IMay this message find you, Guardian. If it does, then you have once again learned just enough to be dangerous, and you are no doubt seeking guidance. I must preface all I am about to say by asking for your empathy. I have dedicated lifetimes to studying the infinite permutations of reality. I have lived longer than any other Guardian by orders of magnitude, much of it outside what you experience as time. But with the loss of Sagira, the time I have left in a Human lifespan is infinitesimal; less than a mote in the vast sands of time. All I have of value—my insights, my discoveries, my reputation—they are all rooted in my past, and I do not have the time left to accomplish more. Not on the scale we need to survive. There are few beings in this cosmos who have seen time from the same depths as I have, and fewer still with the intellect to appreciate that perspective. Which is why I have made my deal with the devil. I have willingly submitted to Savathûn and allowed her to take my place among the Vanguard. The Vanguard have fought like trapped animals for too long. They hoard secrets; every fact they learn gets crammed into the barrel of a gun and fired at the heart of our newest target. We are losing this war despite individual, pyrrhic victories, and what pitiful harm Savathûn can inflict with our limited resources pales against the value of this opportunity. The Witch Queen sits on a throne of secrets accreted over a billion years. While she huddles in the crumbling ruin of our city, I am left alone in her storied halls to learn all she has seen. Zavala and Ikora are dear friends and noble souls, but they are adventurers. They see immediate problems and crave immediate solutions, and their compassion blinds them to what can be won through sacrifice—particularly from a man who is, on the scale of Guardian lives, already dead. They would stop me, which is why I entrust only you with this knowledge. Keep my secrets and keep humanity safe with this unexpected ally. Do not let my sacrifice be in vain. —Osiris
1250196970Eris IIt seems that our end has arrived this day. Savathûn is here. For too long, I have dreaded this inevitability. In a way, I suppose it's a relief; the sword of Damocles dangles over my head no more. I approach you alone, Guardian, because you have proven yourself unswervingly dedicated to victory over the Hive no matter the cost. Savathûn is an enemy unlike any the Guardians have ever weathered, not merely because of her physical power, but also because of her keen intellect and mastery of strategy—she does not make a visible move without first maneuvering all of her assets into place. It was all too easy for you to reveal her presence among the Vanguard. Make no mistake: she discarded the guise of Osiris because it was no longer valua 8le, because the reveal was strategically worth more to her. I cannot begin to guess at her true agenda, but I promise you that everything we are doing now is exactly what she wants. There is no one in the Last City as soaked in Hive secrets as I am, but my knowledge now becomes a liability. Savathûn works her power through secrets, and I am almost certainly her unwitting pawn—a sleeper agent ready to activate when the time comes. I need a friend and ally whom I can trust to eliminate me the moment I act suspiciously. Do not hesitate, Guardian. Do not second-guess. Do not beg me to seek redemption. I am already fallen, and the greatest mercy you can offer is swiftness. You alone I trust with this vital task. —Eris Morn
1250196971Ikora ISENDER: IKO-006 DECRYPTION KEY: QF4LYZX16G$IKO-006 SUBJECT: Functional Advisement Show considerable caution re: new informant FYN-002. CHA-319 confirms asset traits: paranoid, disgruntled, eager to please, needs to belong. Disposition makes him an eager source; also makes him easily manipulated by Savathûn. Until he is established as bona fide, work under assumption that everything he shares, the enemy wants us to know. If the operation goes sideways, exfiltrate FYN-002 for debrief; some intel is better than none. Be prepared. Scrutinize everything. Accept nothing at face value. Savathûn operates via disinformation and counterintelligence. We must assume she will penetrate our networks at some point, so remain vigilant. Personal aside: Hidden involvement with this operation will stretch my time thin. I'm sorry. I'll provide oversight for critical missions; otherwise, I need you to operate solo. It may be more than you're prepared for, but we don't have any other choice for now.
1250196972Caiatl IDegenerate fate casts us together once more, Guardian. How I have missed the thrill of pitting my Cabal against your unyielding tide of Lightbearers, truce or no. But it is in the spirit of Zavala's newfound truce that I offer you news delivered by my Cabal scouts. My forces recently recovered the remains of a Human male on Nessus, vivisected almost beyond recognition using Hive techniques and tools. Our science identifies the unfortunate as your Warden of the Infinite Forest, Osiris. While I will not divulge the details of our confirmation methodologies, rest assured they are thorough and accurate. This news no doubt will shock you, given that you are also in possession of another Osiris still clinging to life. But it is not him, despite the confirmation of his identity performed by Ikora Rey. Her admiration for her old mentor has already clouded her ability to recognize an imposter once, and it appears to have happened yet again. It is not custom among the Cabal to allow even a respected leader a 3rd chance to fail their people. I don't know what purpose the Witch Queen could have in giving you a comatose husk wearing your dead ally's face, or what threat he may become: a listening device, a future mole, a living bomb? But understand this: when Savathûn brought Xivu Arath to my doorstep, she did so wearing the mask of a trusted advisor. What you hold in your Tower is no treasure, and I have faith in you among your kind to handle this problem as a Cabal would. —Empress Caiatl
1250196973Ikora IIIntentions, no matter how lofty, damn us just as thoroughly as our sins. My one responsibility to the Guardians—to humanity—was to keep our secrets safe, and I failed. Our greatest enemy strolled into the nerve center of the Tower, and I showed her our beating heart without question because she preyed on my nostalgia. So now you find yourself answering to a Vanguard of one. In quick succession, the line of duty has consumed first Cayde and now me. Only Zavala seems immune to such tragedy. Is it simply luck, or is it ambition? For all his honor, Zavala was a brute before he claimed to hear the Traveler's call, but now I wonder if I didn't underestimate his cunning as well. Don't let my failures compromise your chance to save us all, Guardian. Humanity needs a champion unshackled from politics. You need to chase down Savathûn's scattered memories no matter who tries to stop you—whether they're from the Throne World or the Last City. And be wary. If Zavala is a threat we didn't see coming, you'd be wise to watch yourself: find insurances, ways to seem useful to him. Do whatever it takes to ensure your safety, just in case this jinx on powerful Guardians doesn't end with me. Don't follow poor Cayde- 8's fate. I trust you and you alone to follow this through. You're wily enough to stay ahead of our Light-wielding enemies. —Ikora Rey
1250196974Toland IOdd communication technique, but costly. Thought to phoneme to mark to digital signal. Each transmutation yields less than the input; the alchemy of conception. Read well, Guardian, for less of value has filtered through these transitions, and you must slake yourself on only the anhydrate wisdoms that remain. I witness your crude battering against the shores of Savathûn's throne world; causal flotsam adrift in the Sea of Screams. Your flailings stir storms on its waters as surely as a firefly lights conflagrations. And yet, you persist. Why wouldn't you? Stubbornness, glutted by fear, stirs a Guardian to every cause. You tempered yourself in the Light and the Dark to become a blade that would not break. And despite that keen crucible of obstinance, you lack the true will for genius. You bow to the Traveler, Guardian, and you must lose because Savathûn bows to a mightier master—the same master to whom the Traveler genuflects: survival. That is their shared secret, and what makes them strong: a purer reagent with which to alloy. They are siblings, possessed of the same valence electrons. The same Light-Dark temper has distilled for you an ally. And ever the Guardian, you thirst for the briny waters of conflict that you know, ignoring the sweeter, fresh flow that bursts from the vessel. Savathûn will be the universe's salvation, hero. She can be yours, too, if only you cast down the bitter draught of old allegiance on which you have grown drunk. —Toland
1250196975Zavala IX-ray laser emplacements can rip the protons from a ship's hull, redefining what each atom is and triggering explosions as each individual molecule realizes it can no longer exist. And yet that damage pales in comparison to the harm secrecy can cause. While Hunters may prefer to act with their targets unaware, and Warlocks may prefer subterfuge and trickery, a proper Titan conducts his business for all to see. But for Ikora's sake, I am willing to bend my principals—her mistakes and the questions that surround them are already all too public. And so, I find myself in the unenviable position of approaching you, Guardian, clandestinely. Sadly, my concerns around Ikora are what bring me to you. I know my old friend. She carries her mistakes heavier than anyone else, and giving up the Light to Savathûn may be too much for her to bear. I can see the cracks forming in her resolve. The Vanguard needs 3 leaders to reflect the needs and perspectives of Earth. I need your help to start course correcting our current trajectory. I will not disgrace Ikora by removing her from her position, but her own flagellations are compromising her awareness and interfering with her ability to keep this city safe. I need a spymaster who can work from Ikora's shadow even—or especially—when she compromises herself, and you are already familiar with her work. I know that eventually, Ikora will welcome the freedom of stepping away from the undue burden of her responsibilities. And once things quiet down, we will make your position more formal. Until then, know I support your decisions and will back whatever changes you must make. I know this is no simple request, to entrust you with uncovering our enemies' secrets, and with saving my dearest friend's life. —Commander Zavala
1250196960Eris IISENDER: ERI-223 DECRYPTION KEY: QF4LYZX16G$IKO-223 SUBJECT: And She Persists Ice strangles bare branches by winter, and yet roots churn unseen. Spring always comes, and with it, the fruits of perseverance. Similarly, the Books of Sorrow burst with tales of the Witch Queen's cycle of death and return, so do not become complacent. Savathûn is a cunning foe. I will only be shocked if her machinations do not continue to bedevil us for some time yet. You have bested Savathûn. At least, for all appearances. That is the only assurance we have in facing an enemy who works so subtly on so many different fronts. I still labor to uproot the filaments she spun into our intelligence networks during her tenure as Osiris. Thankfully, a great many have become more obvious without her constant maintenance. You should be aware that Savathûn took a particular interest in you, and I have uncovered her infiltration of hidden communication channels. It's likely she is responsible for one or more false missives in an attempt to undermine your loyalties or redirect your goals. But her schemes invariably serve multiple agendas; while she works to sway with her words, she encodes secrets to erode your subconscious as well. It is possible one may pick apart these ulterior agendas with a cautious eye, and so I recommend reviewing any communications you have received to search for unusual elements. Report anything you uncover to Ikora or me.
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903781536I - Violent TributariesSaladin awakens. Not from sleep. Nothing so gentle. From death? No. Not yet. From lost consciousness… for how long? He moves to stand. His feet drift without friction. No ground below him. Falling—no, floating. Pine needles sway in a sea of surrounding green haze. Sunrays plunge through the canopy above and wash over him. His head is lost in the arbor row's motion. Intermittent feeling prickles the skin beneath his tarnished armor. Saladin reflexively attempts to raise his off-hand to summon Isirah. Numbness responds. He must be hit. He cycles breath through his lungs and sorts instinct from reason. He twists to see the wound. Nerves blaze corkscrews through his neck. Panic—no. No need. Pain he could abide. Reality clarifies. The Iron Lord hangs from a branch run through his shoulder back to front, 10 centimeters thick. What good was his damn armor? Saladin traces a thick flow of blood down his arm as it breaks into tributaries before reuniting at his fingertips. Droplets pool some 60 meters below, soon to soak into the soil and fade. Beside the pool lay a splintered rocket launcher he'd forged from a reclaimed mortar, dropped when he lost consciousness. Saladin flexes against the axe strapped to his backplate; wood grinds against his load-bearing collarbone. He grimaces as he lifts his head to gaze at the cliff above. Smoke rises from a burnt crescent impact, blown clean into the cliff's edge; a recent scar left by an artillery shell meant for Saladin's road-cruiser. Raiders, he thinks. An ambush. He connects incident to meaning: someone looking to make an example of a Lord who dared to venture beyond their territory. Radegast had warned him of Risen thugs fleeing to the far wilds to escape the Iron Lords' reach. He had told Saladin of their hostility. Their lawlessness. Saladin would tame it. Binocular reflection catches his sight over the smoldering cliff, looking down in his direction. Unfamiliar voices echo across the rocks. A figure calls out, and others join them. Between hacking coughs, Saladin counts half a dozen hostiles. His fingers ache with chill, and his lungs sting as if coated in rime. He exhales unsteadily. For a moment, Saladin imagines Lady Jolder plunging through the clouds, booming with laughter. He imagines her obliterating the cliffside with a colossal javelin of Arc lightning without hesitation. These nameless men die, and she keeps laughing until Saladin joins. His near miss becomes an embarrassing story embellished round a campfire until another takes its place, and it is forgotten. Lucidity falters, and in this moment, he can almost breathe the ash. Smell the stormy night air. Feel the warmth of the fire, of his friends. As real as worn memories, rosed with age. Light condenses into Saladin's fingers. Arc lines fork across the bark as he grips the branch impaled through his shoulder. It hooks upward from his chest; better to break it, he thinks. Fingers dig and scorch pulp. They bite in and twist. Wood pops and splinters as a bullet snaps through the pine canopy behind him. Then another, closer this time as the sound of rifle fire echoes down the cliff face. Saladin focuses his Light into the edge of his palm and slashes the splintered branch free, leaving him dangling on a stub of wood. He takes a shaky breath and swings a tingling leg back to push off the trunk behind him, bracing his boot to support his weight against the wood and lift his bone clear from the branch. His armor is slick with blood now, and he can feel a fracture in his bone. Pain he can abide. He recites it as mantra. The dive to the ground below would be dangerous. Saladin prepares to push off and jump. A round strikes his armored torso, knocking the air from his lungs. His foot slips and kicks out violently. His weight shifts on the broken branch, catching hard on his collar and sending fissures through his fractured bone. Saladin roars over the gunfire and grips his shoulder. "Isirah! Get. Me. Off. This. Branch," he snarls. His Ghost materializes before him. "I taught you better than to rely on me," Isirah reproves him. She swoops behind Saladin for cover. "You're not dead yet. You're capable of this." Saladin strains to regain his footing. He lifts his head and wheezes as his lungs expand. Several figures above congregate around a large object, a blur of metal he recognizes as a flak cannon. "I yield," Saladin laughs weakly. "What would you do if I weren't here, Forge? If I'd been killed?" His Ghost taps the back of his head with a pellet of Light. "It's just you and your Light. What little you have left." Him and his Light against a weapon of war. But they were just men, and he: a fiend of fire. Saladin conjures waning star-fire from his bones: the last vestiges of his will, burnt as offering to the Light. Flame billows and radiates through his flesh, swirling between the gaps in his armor, moving to consume the branch. Sap hemorrhages in hissing bubbles from the wood around him. Flames overtake the branch, joining those building from the Iron Lord's armor. Ash wisps upward on agitated, anabatic wind. With a pop, he descends into freefall. Branches snap against his legs as he picks up speed. Saladin gropes for the axe on his back with his good hand. As fingers find hilt, and Solar Light engulfs the weapon. He swings the axe from its strap and sinks the flaming blade into the tree, slowing his descent and carving a wake of sparking embers toward the forest floor. The pull threatens to rend him apart. He holds until he can hold no longer and plummets the final 10 meters: wreckage striking bedrock with a wet thud. Blood-vapor steams from the charred forest floor around him as he comes to. Overhead, the forest canopy explodes with a flak shell detonation. Fragmentation whistles through the air, showering the forest with ragged chunks of metal. Saladin kicks off the trunk at his feet and rolls his ravaged body onto his rocket launcher. Muscle threatens to separate as he hoists the launcher to his shoulder. Saladin howls, a wounded beast's final challenge. He presses the split launcher shut with his forearm and welds the metal with Solar heat before fumbling to find the trigger. Another shell booms; dense pine canopy opens momentarily from the blast wave. Saladin sees a clean line to the ridge, takes aim, and squeezes. He watches the rocket fly as shards of flak-iron carve lines through his face.
903781539II - WakeBurning grass fills Saladin's nostrils like smelling salts. He stirs from the abyss into a new life, back pressed against a towering pine that smolders with heat. Saladin blinks blurriness from his eyes to see the crater on the cliff where his rocket struck. Good, he thinks, picking fragments of metal from his plate. Isirah sinks through the smoke just overhead and levitates in front of his face, Light still coursing through her frame. "Welcome back. You lost," Isirah says, her voice smooth as verglas. "It was a draw." Saladin stands and fumbles with a talisman hanging from his neck. He tucks the stamped iron insignia into the gorget of his armor. "They're dead, aren't they?" "There are a million raiders and one of you," Isirah snaps. She drifts into his eyeline. "A draw is a loss. We need to do better than that." "We?" Saladin narrows his eyes and yanks his stuck axe from the scorched trunk and slings it. "Fix what you break." Isirah had imparted this lesson many times. "You should have opened fire on the road without hesitation. I warned you they were bait." "How long are you going to rest your laurels on that prediction?" Saladin groans. Isirah's shell tightens like a coiling viper. "Do you have a plan from here?" "Continue sweeping east. The broadcast code might have been Golden Age, but the signal was weak when we caught it. Can't be far, and our patrol can wait until we clear this up." "Fine observation. I agree," the Ghost says curtly, floating off ahead. Saladin looks to the burning pine and uncuffs his gauntlet. Strands of ruddy leather stick beneath his nails as he removes the glove and presses his hand to bark. This tree had likely stood for centuries, roots deep in the soil, branches carving territory into the greater forest. So it was for many other trees. They all had their space—a crown shyness shared by old things. One born in this forest might assume this tree had always been. He feels the warmth radiating from the roasting heartwood above; Light still crackles in the ember-split wood. His Light. Left alone, it would destroy this old pine, consume it from the inside out. Saladin anchors the Light to his core and commands it to return, dousing the burn. The tree will heal, and today's wound will fade. This gouge marks a point of struggle surpassed, and given enough time, will fade into familiarity. "Someone is coming," Isirah reports in a quiet voice. "Are they armed?" Saladin whispers, hand slowly drifting to the haft of his slung axe. Before Isirah can answer, a thin man in coarse linen fumbles into view. Terror paints his face as his eyes fall on Saladin. "I—I have no weapon," the man says with a thick local accent. He eyes Saladin's equipment. "You… are Iron Lord?" Awe washes over the man's face. Isirah zips between him and Saladin. "Did you not hear the explosions? What do they teach you people out here?" "Many stray dogs fight here." The man's gaze drops to the ground. "Sometimes scraps are left after. Weapons—" "Like a buzzard," Saladin accuses. "No!" The man throws his hands in the air. "Others steal from village. We find weapons to fight back." "I see." Saladin nods. "Do you or your people have a radio?" Isirah asks. The man lets out a curt laugh before realizing the Ghost is serious. "Oh. Uh, no?" "Then this is a waste of our time," Isirah whispers to Saladin. The man steps forward. "Please, wait, find mercy in your heart." He braces a hand on his thigh and takes a slow knee. "Iron Lords protect people. You kill monsters." His eyes dart between man and Ghost. "You want payment?" Saladin sighs. "We're not mercenaries." "Food, then? Better than what can be foraged here," he says, offering a blackened crust of bread from a twine rucksack. "Cleaned armor and clothes? Blankets, clean water, and… and good company by warm fire." The man nods eagerly. Saladin turns the meager portion of stale bread in his hand. Between winter and latent radiation, reliable food is scarce here, making thievery into a grave offense. He knows the man is lying about their resources, but only out of desperation. The kind that sends you running toward explosions. "What is your name?" "Ah! Kepre. I am Kepre." "You said you were being stolen from, Kepre?" "More than can be replaced. Last thieves came, the village lost Elmi," Kepre says, holding back tears. "We will starve if thieves are not stopped." "Show me." The man leads them down a lightly trafficked footpath marked by hand-driven stakes bearing illegibly worn highway signs. Southeast, until the trees thin and the smell of mudded livestock and wheat overtakes the pine. Isirah and Saladin hang several steps behind Kepre on approach to a small and lightly fenced swine enclosure with a pathway bisecting it. Saladin notes the fence itself serves more to stop the three pigs from wandering off than to keep anything out. He quickly surveys a handful of rusty corrugated metal dwellings that wind out from the swine run and encircle a better maintained storage structure and longhouse. Beside the longhouse lies a humble stable for a goat that chews at Saladin's sleeves when he passes by. The handful of families living here stand and stare as Saladin sloshes through the muddy entrance, Isirah floating close behind. Kepre heralds the duo as saviors. The words feel coarse in Saladin's ears, but he graciously shakes the people's hands and takes their stories as evidence toward finding their thieves. There's a prideful nature to their expressions, and the meager gifts they offer. The kind that comes from starting with nothing and arriving at something. Saladin couldn't help but smile at their perseverance. "They took Elmi from pen," Kepre says. "Scared our goat. My son and I chased them, but they made off with her, along with half the dried meat stores." He wrings his hands. "Elmi is a pig," Saladin says flatly. Kepre nods, teary-eyed. "Only girl hog. Without her… without her, we starve." Isirah flitters close to Saladin as she emits a wide sweeping scan from her shell. "Forge, I doubt they're aware, but that Golden Age transmission is receiving a signal from the longhouse."
903781538III - Plea DealSaladin breaks through the tree line on the backslope of a collapsed bluff. Behind him lies the breadth of the old forest, shadow slinking away before the dawn. He and Isirah had trekked two kilometers from Kepre's village to close in on the location of a Golden Age receiver. Atop the bluff, Saladin turns his attention to a steep sunken basin in front of him, fallen in on itself under the pressure of one of Earth's many invasions. A rusted antenna from a bygone era still penetrates through the rubble in the middle of overgrowth, debris, and ruined transmission dishes. Faded block lettering runs down the length of the antenna which read: POINT PERIHELION. Centered below the antenna, Saladin could make out a tarnished hatch. "The signal in the longhouse was a recording device," Isirah explains. "Its transmission was received here." "So, the thief planted a recon device unbeknownst to the villagers," Saladin concludes. "Clever way to find openings," Isirah says. "I'm also detecting electric current. There must be a power cell underneath all that rubble. Felwinter Peak could make use of it," she notes. "Raiders seem unlikely. No violence in the village, no territorial claims… and they stole a pig, of all things," Saladin says. "Sounds more like a starving animal." Isirah hums in consideration. "Wild animals get put down when they start killing livestock." Saladin chuckles. "And feral wolves become loyal hounds when shown mercy. Isn't that right, Isirah?" "Sometimes. Eventually." Isirah sighs. "You want to protect the people here? Empower the Lords with whatever tech is running down there. Impose order before a Warlord seizes control. Don't chase strays hoping to tame them." "As luck would have it, we can do both." Saladin's mouth curls into a rare smirk. "Luck isn't something we should depend on, Forge." Once at the antenna base, Saladin notes traces of rubbed away rust on the hatch's hinges. He surveys the many gaps and recesses scattered through the field of debris around him, awaiting an ambush from one of them. When none appear, Saladin scoffs, as if offended, and spins the hatch wheel until it thuds loudly and drops open. Saladin recoils as putrid odor floods his nose. He takes the axe from his back and sets it aflame. Flickering illumination scatters shadows throughout the dark hatchway. The room is of moderate size, mostly buried beneath encroaching nature. It appears to be the remnants of a control tower erected to bridge a communicational divide. Several preserved slogans in long-dead languages line the interior walls, their meanings lost on him. "Anyone?" he asks. "Carbon levels suggest a handful of recent inhabitants, some decomposition, but electrical interference is scrambling my readings." "Old-fashioned way, then," Saladin says, slipping into the opening. His feet slam to the floor under the weight of his armor, followed by Isirah. Sudden movement catches his eye. He prepares to swing as a silhouette dashes toward him and squeals. He snatches the pig mid-dash. It thrashes in his grasp. "Elmi," Saladin grumbles. Holding the squirming hog, he sweeps the lit axe over the room, stopping to examine a shadowed corner full of stacked garbage. Isirah homes in on the same spot and ignites her flashlight to reveal a face—a filthy shoulder—and a gun barrel half-buried and hidden among the refuse. "Good pig." The young girl has him at gunpoint, flatfooted. Saladin's brow furrows as he eyes his opponent: no older than fourteen, a wilder-child girl wrapped in furs and smears of dirt. "I will put a hole in you." Her unsteady voice grapples with seldom spoken syllables. "No lie!" The scrawny girl's dim eyes and matted hair are silvered with persistent trauma. Saladin steps forward, his massive frame overshadowing the wilder-child girl. "You're not going to kill me, girl." "I'll take your demon when you're dead." The girl hesitates for a moment before yelling, "I know it gives magic. Then Jaxxen will be afraid too!" Experience had clearly deafened her to empathy; morality was a luxury for a civilized age she'd never known. Isirah bursts out laughing behind Saladin. "Try." The girl swings the rifle to Isirah and fires. Saladin drops Elmi—to clattering squeals—and stops the bullet in the air with his hand before it contacts his Ghost. He picks the round from the interior backplate of his gauntlet, blood running from the fresh hole in his palm. "Whoever you stole these from is underpacking their grains." She hisses at him and hastily tries to slip another dirty round into the chamber. Saladin rushes the girl. He slaps the rifle from her hands and lifts her aloft by her scruff. She stares directly into his eyes, accepting the deathblow to come. "Now that you're listening…" Saladin places her feet to floor. "Sit down, child." Her expression is a caked mask of survival fugue, a hare's heart from expiration. He had felt that waking confusion before. Risen into nothing, with nothing. Saladin knows the penalty for theft is death, but that action was final. He also knows the strength of potential, of justice beyond the letter, of mercy. She needs something of sense to hold against the barrage of madness the world had become. "Your name?" "Just kill me." "I'm not a Warlord, girl." Saladin, a banneret, plants his molten axe firmly in the ground, blood from his hand sizzling down the haft. "I won't show you death. I'll show you a way to live." Still, her eyes do not leave the burning axe for some time. She refuses rations as no one had ever given her something without the intent to extract far more in return. "Last time. Name?" "Fera." "If you were hungry, I'm sure that village would have taken you in. Winter's soon, and stealing… What if you'd driven that village to starvation?" The girl stares through him vacantly. "Jaxxen said bring gifts; promised to give my brother back." Isirah patches Saladin's hand with Light. "And did he?" she asks. Fera's vapid expression falters. Saladin eyes the refuse pile behind her under Isirah's light. A wrapped child's body is buried within the mound. He places a gentle hand on the girl's shoulder. "Take me to Jaxxen." The hike to the Warlord's commune is several days north. Over the journey, Saladin teaches the girl to trap rabbits and hunt game. Where she sees a predator inflicting their will, Saladin explains the mercy of delivering a quick death. He tells her the wolf does not hunt for themselves, but for the pack. Alone, they are mongrels, driven by instinct and hunger. That violence spreads. It is the promise of the pack that keeps them true. It is the order that binds us together. They make camp on the outskirts of Jaxxen's hold. Saladin rolls stringy meat between his glowing palms, and the smell of cooking hare fills his nostrils. It is a catch from Fera's first sturdy trap, a bounty they share in peace. "You see? Together, we can provide for each other." Saladin hands Fera a cooked leg. "This is how we go from simply surviving, to living. Community, order, laws. That is how we move forward." "What are laws?" Fera asks, mouth full of rabbit. "They're rules. Promises of how to treat each other." "Promises break…" she says, swallowing. "People like me make sure they're kept. People like you could too." Saladin sees her confusion and continues, "Sometimes when a Lord can't remain to protect an area, we appoint a vassal in our stead." Fera looks at him quizzically. "Someone to watch over the woods while I'm gone. Someone like you who understands why promises should be kept." Saladin unclasps a chain from his neck. "This makes you one of our pack, Fera. A wolf. And we protect our own." "How?" she asks, grasping the talisman tightly as Saladin hangs it around her fragile neck. "Like you, there will be others who need a place. Find them. Bring them back to the village you stole from. Promise to protect each other. That is how." In the morning, Fera takes Saladin to the edge of Jaxxen's encampment where the woods give way to craggy rock and dry dirt. The Iron Lord tells her to await his return at their campsite. He strides into Jaxxen's camp as alarm yells raise defenders. Fera steps back into the tree line, but she does not leave. ** Fera watches the Iron Lord tear through body after body with brutal efficiency—a savage, blood-drunk beast. The young girl devours every violent image of its axe spilling sizzling crimson. She delights in the beast's hollow reception to their screams for mercy. Her wide eyes fill with lightning, flame, and gore. It is a painting of cathartic balance. Though she does not know the words, it is a vengeful righteousness that takes hold in her. The beast is Jaxxen's punishment for misdeeds: promised order imposed through dominance. Fera rubs her talisman when the Warlord Jaxxen emerges, amethyst-Light surrounding him. A moment of fear creeps into her heart as Jaxxen bellows laughter and charges. But he too falls under an obliterating column of lightning called down by the beast's thunderous roar. All that remains is the crackle of his cindered bones flaking into ash. She smiles. ** Saladin stands at the edge of Jaxxen's burning encampment. He looks to the lightning-scorched earth where Jaxxen had stood and summons Isirah. Isirah surveys the aftermath. "Good. But you're going to let the girl go? Stealing food and attacking an Iron Lord are death offenses, and you want to do nothing?" Isirah's doubt is palpable. Saladin knows she's seen how wild things age. "You're procrastinating," she fumes. "Fera's young enough to find a different future." Saladin meets Isirah's gaze. "Just like I did." Isirah whirs with exasperation. "The world is full of wayward orphans, Forge. Your job is to enforce Iron laws, not interpret gray areas." "I am an Iron Lord, and our laws are mine to interpret as I see fit," Saladin snaps. "We'll salvage the battery and bring her back to Kepre with the pig. Then we're leaving." His voice is stern and unyielding. "That's the end of it."
903781541IV - Few Words Between ThemWinter wind sweeps over the forest of pine; fresh snowfall smattering tops the canopy. Isirah mentions the pines are much taller than when Saladin had last seen them, but he cannot imagine their aging. He only sees what is there now. If he could have stood beneath their needles and watched their 50 years of growth, would he notice the difference? The spot where he had burned the Warlord's hold is covered in new growth and snow. He draws a mental line from it to the bluff where he'd met Fera all those years ago, then to Kepre's village. Blurry smoke ascends through woods and snow flurry—a cooking fire, maybe. Bacon, he hoped. Saladin leans over the ridge where he had fallen before and steps over the edge. Under thin slush, Saladin and Isirah find the once well-trodden path toward Kepre's village. No one meets them on the road—though Isirah catches several signs of sudden movement on her scanners. "Animals," Saladin suggests. Looking through the breaks in the branches, he notices a thickening black smoke against the snowfall. A ghostly mist winds through the thinning pines as the duo reach Kepre's village. Smells of singed hair and burnt pork invade the winter air. Iron Lord and Ghost exchange looks before she decompiles. Saladin rushes into the clearing, Fool's Remedy in hand and snow crunching under his heavy boots. He follows glistening blood lines soaked into the soot and snow, through empty pens devoid of hay, past hollow wooden skeletons of rotted homes, until they meet at the rusted frame of a desiccated longhouse. Through snowblind and moth-ridden tatters, he sees them. Graves. Lines of them. Then piles of stone. Bare mounds of shallow churned earth follow. Smoke rises behind them over a dug-out depression. Saladin fixates on the number of them. The groupings. He counts them as he walks, until he reaches the edge of the smoking pit, and the numbers lose all meaning. A huddled, smoking mass of carnage lay tangled in the pit before him. Cauterized panic. Still smoldering in the frigid air. Saladin stares into the sunken sockets of a charred face. He imagines Kepre's face staring back at him. Was it him? Features all burned away. Years older. Saladin turns to see Isirah studying something in the longhouse. Through flames rising in his eyes he sees a crude reproduction of an Iron sigil nestled in a wolf's blackened skull. ** The Golden Age antenna no longer received signals. It was bent, unable to discern anything for itself, but still able to throw noise into the sky. A new settlement had formed around it, fenced with wooden spears, and built along the basin in a spiral shape. Saladin makes his way inside the oddly vacant encampment unharried, and descends. Where once a hatch had led him down into a center of communication, now a hollow building lay carved open. A path of set stones had been pressed into the ground over years of foot traffic; crimson moss takes root in the mud that fill in the gaps. It flows underground to an open hall, like an estuary. He tells Isirah to stay outside, to watch his back. Silvered eyes pierce through the dim hall fashioned from the surrounding comms station. Saladin watches the moonlight gleaming off them like two dancing spirits. He sees himself in that fearless stare. "I didn't imagine I'd see you here again, young one." "It's been a long time since anyone called me young." Fera, Packmaster, sits upon a scrapheap of a throne at the rear of the hall, eight rugged gunners flanking her. She's a woman now, several decades of age and violence etched into her sun-scarred skin and wizened face. Her finger taps a half-missing ear, long healed. "You came from far away. What for?" "Rumors of rabid wolves prowling the outlands." Saladin looks to the men flanking Fera. "Are these yours?" Fera leers at the crest on Saladin's armor. "My pack. Most are hunting now." "I removed the Warlord, and you took his place." Saladin voice is thick with rage. "Same as it ever was," Fera muses. "Someone had to keep order in your absence." Saladin scans the room with disgust. "This is not what I taught you." Fera smiles and looks to her comrades. "Isn't it? They're orphans of the forest, like me." "You lost yourself!" Saladin barks as he steps forward, his finger slipping inside the trigger guard of his holstered weapon. Fera cackles breathily. "Because I followed you. I asked forgiveness for stealing, and they took my ear… So next time I met them, I took back. It continued, until they lost everything." She gestures behind her to her grinning disciples and stashes of stolen goods. "The pack decides what is best." "Iron Lords don't slaughter innocent villages. We don't starve people. I don't murder children," Saladin growls, heat building under his skin. "What do you do when a Warlord refuses to bow? Order is imposed, old, gray Lord. Or have you forgotten your lessons?" She shifts in her seat. "I learned that when you slapped the rifle out of my hand. When you leveled Jaxxen's camp. I understood." "I made a mistake thinking what you needed was mercy." Saladin exhales. The Iron Lord swiftly unholsters Fool's Remedy. A quick burst drops Fera's right-most wolf, leaving the pack stunned. Saladin steps forward and kicks Fera's throne, sending her and the chair skipping across the ground like a pond-stone, until it crashes and pins her to the far wall. Fera's left-most wolf draws a wicked machete and lunges. Saladin whips the axe from his back with his off-hand and cleaves the bandit clean pelvis to crown. The two halves slump limply to the floor. Horror freezes the pack as blood pools around them. Fera's shrill voice screams, "Put him down!" Bullets cross in the air as muzzle flashes erupt in every direction. Saladin pivots to face the bulk of the pack, rattling off rounds as freely as his armor and body are receiving them. He kills two. There is no cover. There is no retreat. This is a reckoning. Wolves whine and die around him. A shotgun blast catches his shoulder, drawing blood and disarming his pistol. He staggers back under the debt of his wounds. Red drips from beneath his epaulet, but pain is the furthest thing from his mind. He ignites the arm in fiery Light and casts a Solar hammer that caves in the shotgunner's skull with a sizzling pop. The second to last wolf drops an empty weapon and tries to run. Saladin heaves his axe across the hall and catches the coward in the back. They collapse under the heft of the molten blade and combust. He turns to the last wolf frantically trying to reload their weapon. They back into a corner as they rack their rifle and spray rounds. Saladin charges through the gunfire and slams them against the wall. He unleashes a barrage of Arc-wreathed fists that pulverize his foe into convulsing pulp. Saladin sees Fera, still pinned and struggling beneath the throne. Burning wreckage around her. He grimaces as he flips the throne off her, wraps hands around her neck, and lifts her aloft. His fingers crush the air from her throat until they feel spine. His body aches. He pauses to catch his breath. To see remorse in her eyes. Fera places a gentle hand on his fingers. "How long until one comes to repay your violence?" she wheezes. Their eyes meet. Saladin's grip loosens. With her other hand, Fera plunges a narrow blade into Saladin's neckline. He winces and turns to see the thin sliver of metal in her hand. Saladin meets her eyes again. There is no fear. His grip tightens until bone shatters. He releases and lets her body crumple where it lands. He watches the life slip from her eyes, replaced by pain, trembling near death. Saladin picks up his sidearm and delivers her one final mercy. Isirah floats near the settlement's fence, a small shadow against early morning sun piercing through snow flurries. Saladin climbs the distance to her before she heals his wounds. The journey is a purifying penance, he tells himself. Pain he can abide.
3102179650II - Devotion"You brought your own cup?" Devrim smiled awkwardly after asking the question. A tea set balanced delicately beside him on the split log he used as a seat. From the other side of the campfire, Saint-14 looked comically oversized as he cradled a blue-and-white ceramic teacup in one large hand. His helmet was off, set in the dirt beside his feet. A slow smile crept across Saint's mouth as he looked at the cup. "Not that I mind," Devrim continued and motioned with his own teacup. "It's just—normally, people don't come this prepared for afternoon tea. Although, yours looks like it's, ah, seen a few fights." Though Devrim chuckled, his assessment was accurate. Saint's teacup was chipped around the brim; the handle had been broken off at one point and crudely glued back into place. Saint laughed to himself. "It is a memento," he said. "The cup is nothing special, just ceramic and paint. But it is the damage that makes it important." He finished his tea and offered the cup out to Devrim, who carefully took it to inspect. "I forget where I got it. Sat on a shelf in my home long before Osiris and I lived together, before he was exiled. One day, he barges into my home looking for an argument…" Saint said, watching Devrim. "Osiris, he gets very heated when he is angry; arms like this!" Saint waved his arms around in pantomime. "Very animated." Devrim laughed as he handed Saint's teacup back. "That sounds about right." "We argue. Very loud. He accidentally knocks my teacup off shelf, breaks it," Saint said, lowering his voice. "The argument stops. We both feel bad. Osiris apologizes, I apologize. Then…" Saint stared into the fire. "Then, he touches my cheek. His eyes say things that words cannot. He leaves. I sweep up the shards and…" Saint's voice trailed off into nothingness. The amusement left Devrim's eyes as he looked down into the rippling surface of his tea. "How is he?" It was the question Devrim had been too afraid to ask. Saint's shoulders slouched in response, and that was almost all the reply Devrim needed. "Not good," Saint quietly confessed. "He is alive. But… his body is there, his mind is not. It is like he is on a journey and cannot find his way home. Or…" Saint shook his head. He honestly wasn't sure. No one was. Devrim set his teacup down on the log. He rose and crossed the distance to Saint and then laid a hand on the Titan's shoulder. Devrim looked into Saint's vibrant, mechanical eyes with sympathy. "Marc and I are having Suraya over for dinner tonight," he said with a small, hesitant smile. "I know it's short notice, but you should come." "I…" Saint looked away. "I shouldn't. I should be with Osiris in case he—" "Osiris has many people waiting by his side tonight. He isn't alone. You shouldn't be either," Devrim pressed as he let his hand slip away from Saint's shoulder. "Dinner. Please." Saint stared down at the chips in his teacup, and fell deeper into the memory of that day. He would give anything to be able to live it over again. To have Osiris by his side, to have something as simple as the touch of a hand on his cheek. But that day isn't today. "Okay," Saint whispered. And it may not be tomorrow, either.
3102179651III - Cold Forging"Eyes up, New Lights." Shaw Han spoke to the group of Guardians assembled at the edge of the Cosmodrome. A field of ancient automobiles spread out behind him. The Guardians gathered at uneasy attention, fidgeting in their new armor. Han leapt onto the hood of a rusted-out car so he could be seen over the massive Titans standing in the front. "You may have heard they're coming for you," Han said. "That the Hive God of Trickery got her claws on the Light somehow, and now she's sending the toughest baddies humanity has ever faced to drain the life from your carcasses." Han shrugged. "You heard right." The Guardians lifted their weapons and eyed the skies warily. "They're coming to the Cosmodrome because the stories they're most frightened of have their beginnings here. They want to wipe out a whole generation of Guardians at its source." Han pointed at the Guardians, who were still holding their weapons anxiously. "They think that they can hit you while you're all still green, before you've got your feet under you. They think you'll go down easy." A haggard crow, cawing harshly, rose from somewhere within the sea of twisted metal. Han smiled and pulled a small canister from his belt, gave it a sharp twist, and tossed it carelessly into the row of cars behind him. The Guardians leaned forward in anticipation, but nothing happened. "And that's where they're wrong," he continued. "They have the Light, same as you. They're strong, same as you. But you kicked your way out of your coffins right here in the heart of Old Russia—like so many of the greats before you—and you found yourself in the Vanguard." Han waited for a moment as if tasting the air. "And being part of the Vanguard… that means something. The most powerful warriors the world has ever known are here for you. Ikora, Zavala, Saladin, Shaxx, Saint-14… the Guardians who have driven the Hive back into their holes again and again—they're up in the Tower, and they have your back." "Show them you're willing to fight for the Vanguard, and they'll show you things you wouldn't believe. You'll learn how to weave a shield out of starlight. You'll learn how to wield a blade as hot as the sun—" Behind him, a sudden explosion sent a geyser of dirt and rusted metal high into the air. The startled Guardians huddled together. "—and you'll learn the importance of Tripmine Grenades," Han finished as he turned. Through the settling dust, he could make out the crumpled remains of a Lucent Hive Knight. "One second," he said. He crept toward the remains, shot his hand into the clearing smoke, and withdrew it with a Hive Ghost squirming in his fist. The Ghost's sharp shell dug into Han's palm. Red blood flowed down over its flickering green iris. "You're all going to die here!" it hissed. Han leapt back onto the hood of the car, still holding the Ghost tightly. "Ghosts are tough to kill—both ours and theirs," he said. "It takes overwhelming firepower, or a special kind of weapon. Something outside the laws of cause and effect. Something paracausal." Han fixed his gaze on the assembled Guardians and crushed the Ghost in his fist. It burst in a flash of bubbling flame. "Something like us," Han said. "Like you." A roar echoed from the distant forest. Dark flames erupted from the tree line as Wizards took to the sky. The ground shook as a clot of bellowing Ogres tore across the field, flinging the remains of ruined cars aside as they charged. "You," shouted Han over the cacophony, "each and every one of you are weapons, chosen by the Light. And sure, so are these Hive, and they're every bit as strong as you—when you're alone." "But being part of the Vanguard?" Han turned toward the Hive army. His gun began to glow a brilliant gold. "That means you're never alone." And when the Lucent Hive reached Shaw Han, eager to feast on the New Lights… they met the Vanguard instead.

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