Guardians are warriors forged in the Traveler's Light, a final hope in a universe falling into Darkness.
Chosen from the dead by the Traveler's Ghosts, Guardians are those rare few able to wield the Light as a weapon. For centuries they have defended the City. But that defense cannot hold forever.
Now, with the Darkness rising again, the time has come to retake our lost worlds. The Guardians who lead the way will save humanity - and become legend.
Titans are warriors - heroic defenders of the Light, channeling the gifts of the Traveler to wage war on the Darkness. Steadfast and sure, Titans face any challenge head-on, blunt force instruments of the Traveler's will.
Enemy Kills as Titans
Crucible Kills as Titan
Titans Killed in the Crucible
/ Tighten that strap.
/ The gardbrace is loose. Could slip.
/ It's new?
/ Agema. Type 1.
/ How's it hold up? I tried using Agema at the Gap, remember? It didn't - well, what's this?
/ A Ghost!
/ Yes. Light be with you.
/ Excuse me, little Ghost - Tubach, pass me my helmet - thank you. Little Ghost, what are you doing here?
/ It's just looking around.
/ Where's your Guardian?
/ I don't think it has one.
/ Well, any servant of the Light is welcome among us. We are Holborn's Host, and I'm Holborn. The City's hand on Mars.
/ That's Tubach, my second. One of the finest Titans of the City. Now see here, little Ghost, on my shoulder? That's the mark of Holborn's Host. Record it. The twelve-pointed star. One for each of the - oh well, off it goes! It doesn't look well.
/ We should get moving.
/ A Ghost without a Guardian. I remember when I was risen, you know. When I woke in that wreckage, to see my Ghost hovering there, its light in my eyes, like an angel. And it said -
/ This story again.
/ Disrespectful youngster.
/ Youngster? I could be older than you, Tibon!
/ True. The gardbrace is fine now. Stop worrying at it. Will you take the Jigoku?
/ Thought I'd take the long rifle. Bayle has the Jigoku.
/ Good. That Ghost - what do you think is wrong with it? It's echoing something ancient, an Old Earth language. You know what that Ghost reminds me of, flitting about over there?
/ I don't.
/ The time Ghosts from Jagi's Host came back without them. Remember - they got in that fight at some point east of the Caspian? Seven Ghosts, damn near silent, buzzing with some sort of corruption. Drifting back to the Tower, one by one. Scared the Speaker well enough.
/ I remember. A long time ago. Jagi tells the story differently.
/ Well. We all grow old. In our way. Little Ghost! Come back here!
/ It's not going to make it, wherever it's going.
/ I want to talk to it. Little Ghost!
/ Lyssa and Bayle are probably there already.
/ Cabal move slowly. We've got time.
/ But the Warlocks have had a vision.
/ Yes. That new one, what's her name. Ingora?
/ She's always been hasty. I've faced these Cabal before. I know 'em like I know my own armor.
/ Message from Lyssa. "At the Dust Palace, now. All quiet."
/ See? All quiet. Why not come with us, little Ghost? We are looking for the old Warmind here, and the one who guards it.
Hunters stalk the wilderness beyond the City, harnessing the Light to reclaim the secrets of our lost worlds. They are daring scouts and stealthy killers, expert with knives and precision weapons. Hunters blaze their own trails and write their own laws.
Enemy Kills as Hunters
Crucible Kills as Hunter
Hunters Killed in the Crucible
She leaves the Sparrow and climbs a long way across spars of volcano rock and between vents of blue fire. Down below the Ishtar ruins spark with skirmish light but the guns seem as distant and brief as the constant starfall and the brooding crater high above. She is alone on the rock. She goes on with her head down so as to fight the sense that she is going to fall up off the world and burn like an inverse meteor.
The message that brought her to this place had no sign but she could hear Cayde in it. Draksis in the Cinders it said. Is it true?
And also: Remember your promise.
At dawn she finds a sentry and kills it with her knife. Its throat bleeds gas. She takes its post and lays out her bullets one by one on the rock as if to make a count of all the years she has been waiting. Her rifle is near as long as she is tall. She lies down by her bullets and uses them to kill the other sentries one by one until at last they understand the thunder and the Shanks rise up angry from the Cinders below to seek her out.
She leaves the rifle and walks across the naked obsidian into the swarm firing from the hip as she goes, each kick of the old revolver a word, Draksis, Draksis, Kell of Winter, Kell of hate, lord of the kingdom of her vendetta. Her jaw aches. She used to imagine biting out his throat with armored teeth.
The stone smokes around her where the arc fire lashes it and the shrapnel guns throw up leaves of obsidian like glass butterflies. She shoots her bandoliers dry and a team of Vandals in glassy stealth leap up to rush her with knives but she raises her hand and burns them down with the golden gun, laughing, crying out Draksis, Draksis, I am come!
She kills them all and takes the next ridge, high above the Cinders. She can see the blue-green pools and the cave mouths where the Vex lights dance. And there among them, gowned in smoke and ash, is the long shark shape of a Ketch, a Wintership, the Kell's ship, come down to nest.
She could go down there now and finish this. But she made a promise.
A Captain jumps her. She throws two knives into his armor and then staves his chest in with her own Ghost, wrapped up in her fist like a stone.
"Tell the Vanguard," she says to her Ether-spattered fist. "Tell them Draksis is here."
Her Ghost looks up at her in silence. When she makes no move to go down the cliff towards the ship it blinks once, in its own way, and makes a soft sound, like a sigh, like relief.
Warrior-scholars of the Light, Warlocks devote themselves to understanding the Traveler and its power. A Warlock's mind is an arsenal of deadly secrets, balanced between godhood and madness. On the battlefield, those secrets can shatter reality itself.
Enemy Kills as Warlock
Crucible Kills as Warlock
Warlocks Killed in the Crucible
Why did I set her on the trail?
You try and try and try to explain, but no one ever understands. No one who's not a Warlock. Who hasn't spent a dozen years scouring the ruins for one string of symbols, one clean code, one black talon. Titans just make a hmphing noise, if they've stayed awake. Hunters clean their nails with their knives and look at you like you've grown a third eye.
But when you've spent your life searching through arcana for ancient power, you have the urge to reach out and educate others. Especially if you've had one too many.
Nah, she's not my type at all. We've played dice, cards, war games, you know, the usual stuff. I'd never tried to show off before. I don't know what came over me.
I had a broken vertebrae in my pocket that I'd borrowed from - yes, borrowed, I was going to put it back - what do you think you are, my conscience? It was a fossil, that means mineral replacement, a rock, basically. They can survive a few hours in my pocket. Do shut up.
The Cryptarchs weren't going to miss it. Everyone knows the Ahamkaras were hunted to extinction. There's nothing to be afraid of anymore.
Think of how mysterious this system is, I said. How much life sprang up when the Traveler came. Like the Ahamkara. Do you know the legends? The dragon that made promises? And I pulled out the fossil with a flourish -
She pulled out her knife and started to pick the dirt from her nails. That set me off.
You could never have brought down one of these, I said. Ever. Not the greatest Hunter, not the brawniest Titan.
Her eyes narrowed. She said, Oh? Is that so? And I saw right then that she wasn't going to pass on the challenge.
I've murdered a Guardian, I thought. She's going to die. It'll be my fault.
And I looked at the piece of spine in my hand and wondered - why did I say that? What moved me to such pride?
My name is Eriana-3, disciple of the Praxic Warlocks, marked by the Cormorant Seal. We came here under one banner, united in a host of thousands, to claim the Moon. But the battle goes against us. I have taken a prisoner and this is the record of its interrogation. If I transgress in your eyes I ask for your forgiveness.
[sound of current or discharge]
/Eriana. It responds to pain.
It responds to the Light. Hurt it again. Monster, heed me. Who is your master with the sword?
I can hear it. In my head. The swordbearer's name is CROTA. Record that.
/Should I burn it again?
No. I think you're only feeding it. I will touch its mind. Ghost - help.
They call you Wizard. You must be ancient. I think you value power very much. Will you still be powerful without this piece of your mind?
Tell me how to kill Crota.
It showed me the battle. It showed me Wei Ning dead on Crota's blade. It showed me how Crota killed a Guardian with a screaming knife hammered out of his own Ghost.
So I will take a piece of its mind, and ask again.
Tell me how to kill Crota.
Incredible. Where? Where is his throne? Where is the twilight world under the dead star eye?
/Eriana there's word from the company in Mare Imbrium. Crota is upon them. Half a hundred dead. They need us.
Tell me where! Tell me how! TELL ME!
/Eriana what did it say -
It showed me how it did this, just exactly this, to an Awoken man, the knives arranged by its will, like little silver ships, like Ghosts -
It laughed at me. It said we were the same.
/Crota marches with a thousand Knights and they say the sky above Mare Imbrium has turned into green fire. They are dying in numbers I cannot bear to repeat. He kills them one by one with a sword that eats their Light. Eriana, we have to do something -
Kill the Wizard. Scatter the ash. It has nothing but lies to offer.
Get your Sparrows. We have Light and fury. That will be enough.
... to answer your question, when it came time to reach out, to find a Guardian to take on this mission, there was only one choice.
- They stood against the Vex in the Black Garden, and grounded that place to Mars.
- They went against the Hive in the dark below, working with Eris Morn to undermine Crota, the Hive God.
- The Reefborn made use of the Guardian in their search for the criminal Skolas, as I understand.
- And, of course, it was the Guardian that led the assault on the Taken King's Dreadnaught.
All of the after-action reports I've shown you about the Taken War, the calm state of the system... we have this Guardian to thank.
I've attached more details, if you want to read evaluations from the Vanguard. Just skim Cayde's. He's... not very biased, here.
Humans are survivors, tough and resilient, descended from those who built a Golden Age only to see it ripped away. Now, after an age of retreat and desperate struggle, they fight to take back their solar system and claim a new future.
There are those who believe the Traveler chose Earth for a reason. Now it is humanity's obligation to prove itself worthy of the Traveler's faith.
The mission is a go. Crew of three: Mihaylova, Qiao, myself. Immediate departure at the next Hohmann window to Mars. The MREs and return ships will chase us out.
How do I feel? I said at the press conference I felt privileged. Historians will read this diary, but it won't take their insight to tell the world that I'm terrified. It's the human reaction.
What I wish I could convey is the - the exhilaration. That's the biggest thing. I'm not a spiritual man, but I've always believed there's something transcendent about spaceflight. Something pure. We go out there because we can. Because it's who we are.
Now we go because we have to. Because the unknown came to us. In fourteen months we'll be face to face with it, and by the time we arrive, it should be active again - just like it was active on Jupiter, and Mercury, and Venus.
I wonder what happens if it doesn't stop at Mars. I wonder if it'll leave us there in the sand, and come to Earth, and do here what it's done everywhere else.
I hate that we're carrying weapons. I understand the necessity. But I hold to my belief: there's something beautiful out there.
It's up to us to reach it.
Everybody asks about the words.
The truth is I'm not much of a poet. Ares One didn't leave us with bandwidth for anything except blunt competence. We came in perilously hot, trying to select a landing site through the chaos of thickening atmosphere and turbulence that bloomed off the target. A twenty minute round-trip lightspeed delay to Earth meant we could only count on ourselves.
When the number three engine went diagnostic during the second course correction, I thought we might go catastrophic.
But Qiao brought us in. Mihaylova brought us in. I just flew the ship.
The Ares One excursion vehicle was built for thin winds and icy dust. We came down into a storm: the breath of God, a ripple of change rolling down off the artifact. We aborted on three sites and finally I took us into powered hover and brought us down on reflexes and instinct.
Then we ran the checklists, suited up, and left the vehicle.
There was a script, and it's true, I botched it. I got my boots down and I made the most famous gaffe in human history. Said the first thing that came to mind: a warning to the others.
"We're walking into a rising wind."
I didn't mean to say anything immortal. I just thought it'd be useful to know.
The hike from Ares One.
You've watched it. Everything was recorded. I think you can get it in full immersion, now, and fly around like a hummingbird. I'll add what I can.
The route was planned. We all went together - the CEV and Ares One itself had enough automation to go home alone in the event of crew loss. Whatever we'd find at the artifact, it needed the human element.
We carried rifles. They made us heavier and slower and probably less safe. I think the argument about the rifles can be left for another time. What's important is -
It turned out well. Look at me. Look at us! You're talking to a ninety-year-old man. A ninety-year-old who's never been sharper. I'm miles ahead of every cognitive benchmark.
What's happened to me is good. What's happened to all of us is good. When we crested that rise and made visual contact with the artifact I don't think any one of us dared dream that it would end this well.
We went to Mars at the cutting edge of human civilization. And it wasn't our weapons that won the day.
It was our ship. Our training. Our camaraderie. Our belief that if we just reached out to the universe, not to grasp for profit or security but with an open hand, we would be elevated.
We were right. That makes me so happy. To this day.
Three human beings stood on a high ridge and saw the shape of the future. Saw rain strike a millennia-old desert. Felt the air sweeten with oxygen and warm water and the beginnings of life.
I am sometimes asked if I felt something die. The end of the era of human self-sufficiency.
I don't know how to answer that question. I do know that I was changed. Nobody could experience that kind of wonder and remain unchanged. The decades since have proven that to me.
I knew I'd never fly another mission like that. I recognized the need for a new love. That's why I threw my fresh cognitive skills into understanding the Traveler. How can one entity so quickly and utterly remake an entire world? Fifty years later, I'm conversant in high mathematics, particularly topological thoughts and the slippery irreality of Light. I'm involved in a project to study the Traveler's terraforming actions right now.
But I still enjoy the interviews. I like going back to that mission.
It makes me unspeakably happy to see how well it all turned out. And it makes me happy to remember I was there.
Hope. And standing with strangers.
That’s what I remember. Hope churning beneath my skin, assuring me there was a place besides this place. A realm that would nurture us, not kill us. The Earth was ruin. Chaos and madness and death. We were standing on the Earth. Where I am now. But why am I still here? It was my turn to leave. I remember. I was waiting with others like me, and the ships would soon take us away.
But to where? Where was this hope?
I must have known. There had to be a name, coordinates. Except all of that is forgotten. Other than my absolute conviction in salvation, nothing remains.
I remember that now.
I don’t know. Something has stolen my words, the imagery. But I still remember what it promised us...
Creation held in our hands.
But I was here for a reason.
And what would I surrender, just for the faint chance to remember what that good reason was.
It is said that the Awoken were born in the Collapse, descended from those who tried to flee its wrath. Something happened to them out on the edge of the deep black, and they were forever changed.
Today many Awoken live in the distant Reef, aloof and mysterious. But others returned to Earth, where their descendants now fight for the City.
Earthborn Awoken who venture out to the Reef, hoping to learn its secrets, find no special welcome from the reclusive Queen.
Eleven hundred meter length.
Active gravity generation.
Residual heat. Fast neutron scatter.
Designation code: CORRUPTED
Date of commissioning: Unknown
Origin point: Unknown
Presumed to have collided/merged with one-kilometer comet: assessment based on depth of hydrocarbon crust covering the hull, water content of soil, atmosphere of oxygen and carbon dioxide with isotopic ratios placing the comet in the Oort population.
Low-light foliage grown from terrestrial stocks, mirrors focusing starlight into growth chambers...resident fauna...five insect species, plus rats descended from uncertain ancestors.
Surface heavily wooded until recently, unknown event triggering firestorm...seventy percent of world forest consumed, atmosphere laced with smoke and particulates...free oxygen in short supply.
No distress calls noted. No evidence of crew or passengers on exterior.
Interior scans inconclusive.
Cleared to attempt approach.
I was nothingness. If I existed before, I existed as possibility, as potential, stretched thin across the aether. And maybe there was a body that looked like my body, complete with a soul that could be confused for someone rather like me. What I am now was not yet real. And then I was born, and the universe was free to begin.
Others were present at my birth.
A great ceremony had just begun. Because newborns are selfish beasts, I assumed I was the object of attention.
I didn't notice the singing until the singers fell silent. And then She appeared.
She was above me. Ethereal and handsome and elegant. I assumed my face was like her face and that odd idea gave me strength enough to smile.
"Secrets," she said. "Creation is built on secrets and the encryptions that keep those secrets safe."
I made my first sound. It meant nothing but she understood it as a question.
"We are a beautiful creation," she said. "And we must keep ourselves very safe."
Fear. That’s the only vivid memory left in me. It’s the moment when my fear was so thick and urgent that I gave up breathing. I stopped pretending to think. How I remained on my feet was a mystery, because the terror was bearing down on me, like a mountain about to crush my soul.
But I have to ask, “What was terrifying me?”
Darkness ruled the sky. The world around us had shattered, and it seemed vanishingly unlikely that we would outlive this one awful day. Yet the fear didn’t come from the surrounding mayhem and despair. The source was inside my skin. I was utterly terrified of my own awful nature.
And which part scared me?
Inside me was an essence woven from beyond. Was I Awoken before this?
She was still in my head. I could hear her song growing fainter.
A new crippling terror was taking over.
I was focused entirely on my fear. But I had to make an effort.
And it occurred to me then that nothing in the universe was more dangerous than human hubris.
I still had this Other within? But the human side was what mattered: Weak and foolhardy, sure to fail in the next moment.
That’s why I was afraid.
Then someone spoke.
Maybe it was me. I don’t remember.
I was trying to focus, and a new thought took me: My soul lay between those two entities. And that’s how I am still: The boundary, the seam.
And that’s when the fear began to fade.
Built for a long-forgotten struggle, Exos are self-aware war machines so advanced that nothing short of a Ghost can understand their inner functions. They remain ciphers, even to themselves: their origins and purpose lost to time.
Whoever built the Exos fashioned them in humanity's image, gifting them with diversity of mind and body. Many of the City's Exo citizens live and work alongside their organic brethren. But others fight again, re-forged in the Light of the Traveler to serve as Guardians.
- which in the end is just a matter of substrate chauvinism. It doesn't matter if the system thinks with flesh or superconductor or topological braids in doped metallic hydrogen, as long as the logic is the same. And our logic is the same. Yours and mine.
If I am a machine then so are you. If you are not a machine then neither am I. Exo minds are human. It is incontrovertible.
You understand? I'm going to take that slack-jawed stare as understanding.
Now here's the real question. Why are Exo minds human? What's the design imperative? Why does a war machine - yes, absolutely, I am a war machine, built by human hands; and you are a survival machine built by the engine of evolution. Don't interrupt me.
Why does a war machine have emotions? Why should a war machine have awareness? These are not useful traits on the battlefield. Don't flatter yourself. They are not useful. So why should the Exo mind mimic the human architecture so closely?
You know what I smell on you? I smell the stink of anthropocentrism. I think you think that there's only one way to think. That's why the Exo mind is so human, you presume. Because all higher thought converges.
My friend, you should meet the Vex. There is nothing human in them.
Now. This is what I believe happened, back in the time before any Exo can remember. It explains everything.
I think someone wanted to live forever.
Hi. Thanks for your interest. I'm recording this for posterity.
Warlock thanatonauts die and come back with insight. I'm going to attempt the same process to get at buried memories. Specifically, I'm going to fire a charged particle beam into my head and see what comes out. We Exos have been around a very long time. I want to know what's in there.
My Ghost is standing by to repair me.
Okay. Three two one
STAG echo six SWORD sierra nine SERPENT
We are falling into the world. Everyone is on fire. There's a ship above us but it's coming apart just like a flower, alloy and fusion flash, pierced through and through -
The voice says Atmospheric interface. Trajectory nominal. Rabid two three you are outside the window. (I think I am the voice)
I can see the whole earth below me and the sky we are falling out of is black without stars.
Ghost, shoot me again.
RAPID four RAMPART four RATCHET tango eight zero
We are on the ice. This is elsewhere and elsewhen. There is a mighty aurora and it is reflected in the ice so I walk between two fires although the one below is cracked and full of corpses. I have and am a weapon.
Up in the sky there is a hole in Jupiter and it tears at me when I look at it. It tears at me. It is hungry. Maybe the hole is not in Jupiter but in me.
CROWN castle candor cobalt coral
Ghost bring me back.
serrate sulfur ANATHEMA amber actual aspen
Ghost bring me back now.
Shame. Did I ever suffer exhaustion? Someone asked the question. Or maybe I asked it of myself. Then it looked at me. This moment was real. I told it what every Exo knows: “What can’t touch you has no strength over you. And there’s no place for fatigue to latch onto me.”
But shame is a different affliction.
I’m a soldier. I was forged by other hands and forced into the role of warrior. According to my scars, I fought and fought. Besides bits and flashes, every battle has been forgotten. But I have this clear, awful sense that others died. In my unit, every soldier was killed except for me. Yet despite a thousand chances to be shredded and scrapped, here I stood, no weapon in my hands, making fists out of habit but with nothing to hit.
I’d fought to save the Earth. That was my sense of things. But our world was collapsing around us, and every soul was doomed. Even cockroaches and microbes would die. And being an expert in the art of losing battles, I saw no ending to this battle but another loss.
And I was ashamed.
The shame took hold of me. It shook me. Shame stole my mass and my resolve. Suddenly I felt like a feather, like a breath, like any small nothing ready to be lost in the first breeze.
But in the midst of that despair, a fresh thought took hold.
I was cursed.
And do you know what a curse is?
It is stubborn. A curse delivered by the gods will hold you when everything else has given up on you. And it was obvious that survival was my eternal curse. A thousand battles and how many were won? Judging by the evidence, none. And that’s why the shame was chewing at my ceramic guts. But despite the horrific losses, I had endured.
Closing my eyes, I forced my fists to open.
“This isn’t over,” I said. To this enemy, to myself. To the wind threatening to carry me away.
“This war isn’t done with me.”
Built from machinery and the Traveler's Light, Ghosts guide their Guardian companions in the quest to reclaim our solar system.
Every Ghost seeks out its Guardian among the ancient dead. The Ghost serves as scout, librarian, and mechanic, waking ancient machinery and cracking alien codes. In the right situations, a Ghost can even save a Guardian from death.
But Ghosts are not immortal. As far as Guardians know, every loss is irreplaceable.
Battered and drained of their Light, these Ghosts are nevertheless valuable for the information they preserve. Their recovered memories may well prove vital to the City's survival.
The problem of dead Ghosts troubles the City's scholars. Are new Ghosts still being born? Or is the number of Ghosts dwindling? Will there come a day when no more remain - an end to the rise of new Guardians?
If that day is coming, then the City faces a desperate race against time to heal the Traveler before attrition takes its toll.
It is a place, a place casting shadows and emotion.
It's a real place, I know.
One hot blue sun, say. And other suns too. Five? I like seven better. What I'm recalling is a giant star with a family of six smaller suns, and you could spend days and nights counting all of the planets circling those suns...except there are no planets. Not anymore. The powers in charge have carved up all of the worlds, and maybe a brown dwarf or two for good measure. With that rubble, they fashioned a topologically creative enclosure, a twisting of space and time sealed behind doors that admit only those who know the magic words. The bones of a hundred planets have been cut smooth and laid out like a floor, a polished and lovely floor creating vast living spaces. A floor bigger than ten thousand worlds, catching the fierce glory of the seven suns. For light, for food. For beauty. And nothing escapes. Not heat, not gravity. Not even the faintest proud sound.
It could be anywhere. It can live in the cold between galaxies, or folded up inside matter, near enough to touch right now...
I remember it and maybe it's exactly as I describe it. Seven suns wrapped inside magic. Or it's something else entirely, perhaps. A place still fat with life. An abundance of sentient souls, some decent, maybe a few of lesser quality, and everybody stands about or floats about, or they bounce between dimensions. The point is that the residents of this hidden realm live inside a bottle so perfectly hidden that they can't see beyond their own borders. Which shapes a mind in very specific ways.
But, Beyond is their name for a mysterious, doubtful realm that they can't see.
Which is us, of course.
Two more scans and she could move on to the elevated grid. There wasn't really anything new other than the delta to sea level, but at less than 30% of the way through 2^128 scans, even a distinction without a difference could feel like a brand new shell.
So numb after months with just her own scans for company. She didn't even pick up on another Ghost being this close. "Obverse? Wait. I'm sorry. You're... Obsidian! Wow, how long has it been?"
"Well, I mean..."
"I know. It's been 6.8 years. It's just an expression."
Obsidian floated closer. "That's okay. It HAS been a while. I guess you haven't found yours yet?"
Cassiopeia projected glumness. "Not yet. But I haven't been looking on Mars for that long, at least! I'm optimistic."
"You should be! I was just at the City last year. A lot more of us are starting to find our Guardians latel— what's that?"
Cassiopeia resolved to run a full-range self-diagnostic before the next grid. Two Ghosts within twenty meters and she didn't sense either one? Something was off.
The new arrival chirped and spoke up. "Hello, you two! I'm glad ~identify(OBSIDIAN)~ to see a friendly face! I haven't been myself lately."
Obsidian looked at Cassiopeia. He read as nervous. She probably did, too.
"I was beneath the Blind Watch for a while. A long ~SIVA.MEM.GH404~ while. It was fun! There were puzzles. No one was alive down there, though."
Cassiopeia's scan of the new Ghost returned nothing amiss. "Are you okay, friend?"
"I'm great! Something got in me but the Light ~if (LIGHT) then WARNING~ burned it away. It's gone forever, now! ~consume: FAILURE replicate:FAILURE enhance:FAILURE~"
There was silence for a full three seconds. Then Obsidian spoke up, his words coming quickly.
"Well, great to see you again, Cassiopeia! Good luck!" He zipped away.
Cassiopeia watched him disappear into the horizon. "TWO self-diagnostics," she muttered.
Only Guardians have the gift of the Traveler's Light - the ability to channel its energies to project vast power into the world. Even without a firearm, a Guardian is a radiant engine of destruction.
While these abilities rise from within, Guardians master their power in different ways. Titans understand the Light as a force to hone through practice and strict discipline. Hunters roam and explore in order to learn, using dangerous methods to survive the wilds. And Warlocks study the Light and its inner mechanisms, confronting unfathomable mysteries in the search for transcendent might.
Nothing born is born strong.
I know I began weak, the same as you. I don't care if you're an Exo, staring at that number and wondering where you've come from. Or a Human hungry to understand the ancient world that left you for dead. Or an Awoken reborn in the very essence of what your people hide from. Together, we're the pointed end of a long stick of happenstance. Change one ripple in an ancient ocean and we would never have been granted the Light within us, or the good Ghosts that want to help us.
Every world begins as a big pebble lost among trillions of pebbles. Every worthy sun was once cold hydrogen spread thin across the vacuum. Even the universe, this cosmic garden that surrounds us and awes us...this monument to Creation was once the size of an apple seed. And everything that's splendid and great stands at the end of incalculable chance and mayhem.
Yes, you have talents. Enormous, wondrous powers. But you should put the smirk away. Do you know what a Guardian is? Not yet. Your name is another pebble. You are a cold apple seed.
But you will grow.
Striker Titans charge into close combat, armored in Light and wielding fistfuls of thunder.
Striker tactics depend on shock and disciplined aggression. They must awe and scatter the enemy, or risk being overwhelmed. Fellow Guardians prize their ability to draw fire as they shatter the enemy line.
Defender Titans are immovable anchors, trained to absorb punishment and control the flow of battle.
Armed with unflinching conviction and an armory of Void techniques, Defenders block the enemy's movements, shrug off their fiercest weapons, and rally fellow Guardians to strike back.
Some Titan orders predate the City, born of a darker time, when Light was an untamed weapon. The Sunbreakers brought honor to the wild, never seeking the safety of the City. Bound by an oath, they live as mercenaries, seeking battles and alliances beyond the Walls. Now the Light of their fire has at last found rank among the City.
Wield the Hammer of Sol with honor, Titan, it is a thing of legend, both past and future.
In the end, doesn't it all come down to you and your gun?
Don't see much else to say about it. That's just truth.
There's something to be said for the blade. A knife won't jam. A knife won't run dry. A knife is very, very quiet.
Leave the noise and fire to others. There's work to be done, out there in the dark - monsters that deserve death, delivered quickly, silently, and without mercy.
A lone hunter stalks the night, firing arrows into the Darkness. There is no hiding, no escape. In the distance, the beast falters, tethered to the void. The killing blow comes without hesitation, without mercy.
There’s truth in the edge of Light, and beneath that truth a deeper truth, hidden from all but a few.
That truth is this: monsters need not fear the night.
Do not hunt the monster. Become the monster.
The Traveler came out of the void that surrounds all things. Thus we know that the void is full of power. Thus we enter the void without fear.
Small minds will call your abilities blasphemous. They will compare you to the abominable Wizards of the Hive.
But you will not be held back. Gifted with the Traveler's Light, armed with the secret physics of a lost age, you will tear reality asunder.
You will fear nothing, and nothing will not fear you.
These are dark times. Humanity stands on the brink of extinction. We will carry fire into that darkness - a beacon to guide the way, and a pyre to consume our great enemy.
The Light saved us from death and forged us into weapons. We seek to understand it, to embrace it, to consume and be consumed by it. We hope to become radiant.
Our fellow Guardians need our power. Our civilization needs our strength.
Meditate. Focus. Draw the static from within. The Arc is inside all life.
You must feel it take hold, let it flow through, but not consume you. You are a conduit. Between sky and earth. Electricity and matter. Life and death.
You are a weapon.
The brute strength of a Titan's melee offers a full-force response to immediate danger.
With their finely tuned reflexes, Hunters are naturally gifted with knives. The make and shape of the perfect knife is a matter of endless debate.
Curiosity gets a Warlock into trouble, and force of will gets a Warlock out. Even novices can shear reality with a single deadly gesture.
An explosive grenade that disorients the enemies it damages, leaving them vulnerable to gunfire and close combat.
A grenade that periodically damages enemies inside its explosion radius. An effective tool for area denial.
A grenade that sticks to any surface, periodically emitting bolts of lightning.
A grenade that attaches to enemies and explodes twice. Designed to crack the armor of hard targets.
A grenade that attaches to any surface and emits a torrent of damaging Void Light.
An explosive grenade that prevents enemies from using abilities for a short time.
A grenade which splits on impact, creating multiple projectiles which seek out enemies.
A grenade that chains bolts of lightning to nearby enemies, tidying up groups of hostiles.
A grenade which deals additional damage when attached to enemies. Practice your toss.
An explosive grenade that catches enemies on fire, causing additional damage over time.
An explosive grenade that sticks to surfaces and detonates when enemies pass through its laser trigger.
A grenade which detonates on impact, releasing multiple drones that seek nearby enemies.
A grenade that creates a flare of Solar Light which continually damages enemies trapped inside.
An explosive grenade that causes bonus damage when attached to its target.
A grenade that creates a Vortex which continually damages enemies trapped inside.
A grenade that splits into many submunitions and covers a large area with explosions.
A bolt of Void Light which forks into smaller bolts on impact, seeking out enemies.
Bend momentum to jump again in mid-air. Leap to even greater heights, or make a quick adjustment while airborne to disorient your foes.
Break the bonds of gravity and convert your jump into a long, smooth glide. Cross dangerous terrain and float from perch to perch to keep the high ground.
Rip a hole in space and leap from point to point. Master the Blink, and you will be a fearsome killer - a spectral force, hard to evade and impossible to pin down.
Leap into a powered jump. The long, slow arc makes you a target, but used carefully, it's a superb way to break contact, gain control of the high ground, or set up devastating ambushes.
Leap forward and smash the ground, obliterating everything nearby. You will be a thunderbolt - but use your fury carefully. If there are survivors, you will surely draw their wrath.
Open a pocket in the universe, an impregnable fortress for you and your allies. The mighty Ward allows Guardians to hold key points and gather their strength in the face of overwhelming opposition.
Forge your Light into a raging inferno of Solar energy, and pull forth a blazing hammer from the fire. Cloaked in flames, launch your hammer at enemies from afar, releasing a devastating eruption of Solar fire on impact. You burn with the intensity of stars, and no shadow is safe from your Light.
Draw a hand cannon burning with Solar Light and loaded with three rounds of sunfire. Aim steady and keep your wits about you. You are a Gunslinger, and this is what you live for.
Set aside your weapons and lose yourself in the blade trance. Arc Light galvanizes your armor and hastens your movements, and when your knife finds a target it discharges a snap of annihilating current. For as long as the trance lasts, you are the very shadow of death.
Summon the power of the Void to draw back and launch a precision long-range projectile that reaches out and snares enemies with slowing, draining tethers of Void Light. Shadowshot lets a Hunter's dead-eye precision carve a path to new battles.
Channel the Traveler's Light into a bolt of energy with the power of a collapsing star. The devastating Nova Bomb scours the battlefield with ethereal fire - but be careful in its use. It takes precious moments to summon, and it must be aimed precisely to avoid obstacles.
Open yourself to the Light. Glimpse, for a few rapturous moments, the truth beyond the powers you wield.
A Warlock in a state of Radiance threatens to slip beyond the bonds of the material, shrugging off physical harm, channeling a torrent of abilities. Some may learn to elevate nearby Guardians, gifting them with power. Others, entranced by the Ghosts' power to reach beyond death, may learn to pluck themselves out of nothingness like the phoenix of ancient myth.
Focus your Light to call forth a powerful Arc storm, and siphon it, channeling lightning through your fingertips to send it surging between your targets. A Warlock in Stormtrance is exercising such unbreakable focus that the Arc energy they summon draws them off the ground, the air humming and crackling around them. Like lightning you bend your path forward through the air, striking down anything too slow escape the storm.
All-purpose weapons of war, the standard Auto Rifle is ideal for a number of combat scenarios. Stability is key to controlling fully automatic weapons.
Suros engineers designed the Regime using recovered Golden Age schematics. Forced out of production by a crippling shortage of smartmatter, the few remaining models are cherished by those Guardians fortunate enough to wield them.
As the City's understanding of Golden Age methods expands, foundries continue to push the cutting edge of tactical armament. The Hard Light prototype is a showcase, built with the rarest recovered materials and the most computationally demanding design methods. The design team included several specialist Exos and at least one Warlock thanatonaut.
In its current iteration, the Hard Light design fires a superheated polymer round with exotic capabilities.
Originally designed as a showpiece, the Monte Carlo's sleek demeanor and intricate firing system make it more than a fashion statement. In the right hands, this beauty puts all the risk at the wrong end of its bayonet.
The Weapons of Sorrow were believed to be nothing more than a myth. But even the darkest myths are born of some truths, and whispers of the Necrochasm have long filled the Light with dread.
It is said the Necrochasm was born in the twilight after Crota’s sword first cracked the Moon. That a lost Guardian’s weapon was altered by the Hive in an attempt to fuse their own dark understanding with humanity’s mastery of war. The result was a weapon that would feed on its owner’s aggression—reaching further when angry eyes drew focus, its hunger rising as it tore through bone and flesh.
Any Guardian who comes across the weapon must ask some very simple questions with endlessly complicated answers: Is your Light bright enough to stand, even briefly, in full gaze of the Hive's abyss? Can it handle what has died and been reborn in those shadows?
When you're out beyond the Wall, sometimes you have to take what you can find, and make it work. Though its original makers and their no-doubt-desperate straits are lost to history, the Zhalo Supercell remains a striking example of what a Guardian can do with some outdated tech, a deep command of fundamental Light, and a spark of inspiration.
“Good evening, Banshee-44!”
“Doing well, thank you. ...Actually, I had a bit of difficulty today.”
“The problem with a historical engram is, even if I can figure out when the engram was encoded, that still doesn't tell me when the contents were written. Or even when the events described by the writer take place.”
“This particular engram is heavily degraded. Encoded Mid-Golden Age, allegedly written by someone named Plutarch, a historian who in turn is writing about someone named Fabius Maximus. But who were they? When did they live? In what kind of warfare was this 'Fabian Strategy' applied?”
“The whatnow strategy?”
“Fabian Strategy. It apparently involves attrition tactics and avoiding direct conflict until an enemy makes a mistake.”
“...But with Ghost res—“
“Oh, this was long before Ghosts. I think... Banshee? Where are you going?”
The preferred weapon of seasoned marksmen, the Scout Rifle is a single-shot precision firearm. Favoring accuracy above all else, the Scout Rifle packs increased stopping power to counter its low rate of fire.
Few weapons are balanced this precisely. Once you get a feel for the Multi-Tool it will sit weightlessly in your hand. Firing it will feel less like an action and more like an extension of your will.
The weapon gathers data on the target from the impact and spall of solid body shots, setting up a devastating final hit.
Here am I, with the power to craft from my enemy's darkest secrets a weapon that could wound them at their core!
So what stays my hand?
When I behold the interiority of these cold, cold fragments, I see blind, squirming creatures. Every wound they give, they feel also upon themselves. Every bite they tear from the Light only deepens, never fills, the raging emptiness behind their terrible mouths.
The voices are as loud as ever. My nightmares just as bitter. My coal-black hatred burns as hot. But I feel something else now. Could it be...
No! I refuse it.
I will build this weapon.
Like many weapons of the Dark Age, the Jade Rabbit was created from hastily reassembled—and often poorly understood—Golden Age technology: in this case, kinetic low-atmosphere propulsion systems in use on Luna settlements. Even the weapon's casing is cut from the plasteel bulwarks of the First Light installation.
The significance of the markings: 玉兔, or “Jade Rabbit,” are unfortunately lost to history.
City foundries produce a wide variety of weapons in an attempt to anticipate Guardians' ever-changing needs on the battlefield. But no Guardian can carry all guns at all times.
Enter the Boolean Gemini. Designed by a think tank of Guardians and foundry representatives, the Gemini was designed to be two guns in one, with a flexible design that allows Guardians to toggle between distinct combat styles for maximum efficiency.
“Gunsmith... What brings you here?”
“Workin' on a custom piece.”
“Yep. For a Warlock.”
“Mm. And how are you finding the work?”
“You know. It goes and comes. Memory ain't what it was.”
“Good to be back in the shop, though.”
“I'm glad of it. Well, then, I suspect you'll find some of my recent research quite interesting.”
“S'why I'm here.”
The Pulse Rifle is designed for precision fire and tight shot grouping. Three-round bursts provide added punch with reduced recoil compared to fully automatic weapons. Skilled shooters often walk the burst from the target's center of mass onto the head.
There must be a structured, mechanical explanation for this weapon's hunger for combat. There must be. But none has been found.
Only rumors tell of the mad Guardian who fashioned this butcher's tool. But its power is undeniable, and fear is a formidable weapon.
Novarro's timeline analysis indicates the weapon is the fabled Exo Stranger's Rifle, enhanced at a future point in this continuity and then sent back to this present.
Deliah's timeline analysis indicates the weapon was built by Praedyth, who based it on his own version of the Exo Stranger's Rifle, and then set it adrift in a time ripple.
Hari's timeline analysis indicates the weapon was built by beings of unidentifiable origin, and arrived here by pure accident.
Inachis's timeline analysis indicates the weapon originates from Earth, late Golden Age, and will eventually be lost to time ripples once again, where its systems will degrade and be replaced until our recent past acquires it as the Exo Stranger's Rifle.
As for me... I think it's safe to say the weapon is proving far more fun than we could have hoped.
Sturdy and reliable, Hand Cannons have long been a preferred tool for self-defense. Their low rate of fire and modest accuracy is more than made up for by their ease of handling and superior stopping power.
The Hawkmoon is a true gunslinger's weapon - a smooth sidearm that makes every bullet count...some more than others.
The Last Word is a romantic weapon, a throwback to simpler times when steady aim and large rounds were enough to dispense justice in the wilds of a lawless frontier. Of course, some might say that time has come again.
I'm writing this from memory - some mine, but not all. The facts won't sync with the reality, but they'll be close, and there's no one to say otherwise, so for all intents and purposes, this will be the history of a settlement we called Palamon and the horrors that followed an all too brief peace.
I remember home, and stories of a paradise we'd all get to see some day - of a City, "shining even in the night." Palamon didn't shine, but it was sanctuary, of a sort.
We'd settled in the heart of a range that stretched the horizon. Wooded mountains that shot with purpose toward the sky. Winters were harsh, but the trees and peaks hid us from the world. We talked about moving on, sometimes, striking out for the City. But it was just a longing.
Drifters came and went. On occasion they would stay, but rarely.
We had no real government, but there was rule of law. Basic tenets agreed upon by all and eventually overseen by Magistrate Loken.
And there you have it...no government, until there was. I was young, so I barely understood. I remember Loken as a hardworking man who just became broken. Mostly I think he was sad. Sad and frightened. As his fingers tightened on Palamon, people left. Those who stayed saw our days became grey. Loken's protection - from the Fallen, from ourselves - became dictatorial.
Looking back, I think maybe Loken had just lost too much - of himself, his family. But everyone lost something. And some of us had nothing to begin with. My only memory of my parents is a haze, like a daydream, and a small light, like the spark of their souls. It's not anything I dwell on. They left me early, taken by Dregs.
Palamon raised me from there. The family I call my own - called my own - cared for me as if I was their natural born son. And life was good. Being the only life I knew, my judgment is skewed, and it wasn't easy - pocked by loss as it was - but I would call it good.
Until, of course, it wasn't.
Until two men entered my world. One a light. The other the darkest shadow I would ever know.
The man I would come to know as Jaren Ward, my third father and quite possibly my closest friend, came to Palamon from the south.
I was just a boy, but I'll never forget his silhouette on the empty trail as he made his slow walk into town.
I'd never seen anything like him. Maybe none of us had. He'd said he was only passing through, and I believed him - still do, but life can get in the way of intent, and often does.
I can picture that day with near perfect clarity. Of all the details though - every nuance, every moment - the memory that sticks in my mind is the iron on Jaren's hip. A cannon that looked both pristine and lived in. Like a relic of every battle he'd ever fought, hung low at his waist - a trophy and a warning.
This man was dangerous, but there was a light about him - a pureness to his weight - that seemed to hint that his ire was something earned, not carelessly given.
I'd been the first to see him as he approached, but soon most of Palamon had turned out to greet him. My father held me back as everyone stood in silence.
Jaren didn't make a sound behind his sleek racer's helmet. He looked just like the heroes in the stories, and to this day I'm not sure one way or the other if the silence between the town's people and the adventurer was born of fear or respect. I like to think the latter, but any truth I try to place on the moment would be of my own making.
As we waited for Magistrate Loken to arrive and make an official greeting, my patience got the best of me. I shook free of my father's heavy hand and made the short sprint across the court, stopping a few paces from where this new curiosity stood - a man unlike any other.
I stared up at him and he lowered his attention to me, his eyes hidden behind the thick tinted visor of his headgear. My sight quickly fell to his sidearm. I was transfixed by it. I imagined all the places that weapon had been. All of the wonders it had seen. The horrors it had endured. My imagination darted from one heroic act to the next.
I barely registered when he began to kneel, holding out the iron as if an offering. But my eyes locked onto the piece, mesmerized.
I recall turning back to my father and seeing the looks on the faces of everyone I knew. There was worry there - my father slowly shaking his head as if pleading with me to ignore the gift.
I turned back to the man I would come to know as Jaren Ward, the finest Hunter this system may ever know and one of the greatest Guardians to ever defend the Traveler's Light...
And I took the weapon in my hand. Carefully. Gently.
Not to use. But to observe. To imagine. To feel its weight and know its truth.
That was the first time I held "Last Word," but, unfortunately, not the last.
It was the fourth night of the seventh moon.
Nine rises since any sign.
Trail wasn't cold, but lukewarm would've been an exaggeration.
Jaren had us hold by a ravine.
The heavy wood along the cliffs' edge caught the wind, holding back the cold and the rush of water muffled our conversation.
We'd seen dual Skiffs hanging low as they cut through the valley.
Wasn't known Fallen territory, but anymore that's a dangerous assumption.
There were six of us then.
Three less than two moons prior, but still, one more than when we'd first turned our backs to Palamon's ash.
We took a rotation for watch during the night.
Movement was kept to a minimum and communication was down to hand signals and simple gestures.
We could hold our own in a fight, but only the dead went looking for one—a hard truth that cut in direct opposition to our reasons for being so far from anything resembling civilization, much less our safety.
The Skiffs had spooked Kressler and Nada, and, in truth, me as well. But, looking back, I think we were all just grasping for any good reason to turn back.
Not because we would—turn back—but because it seemed to be our only real hope, and I think we all knew it.
Forward. Where we were headed—into the unknown. And following the footsteps we were. It all just started to feel like a never-ending dead end after a while.
Jaren never wavered though. Not once.
At least not to any noticeable degree.
It was his drive, his conviction, that kept us going.
And—it's hard to think on—but if I'm honest, it was his death that rekindled my own fire. A fire that was all but exhausted on that cold night.
He seemed confident we were close.
But more than confident—sure. He seemed sure.
No one else felt it—our own confidence, and any enthusiasm we'd had was set to wither soon as Brevin, Trenn and Mel were gunned down.
The Ghost—Jaren's Ghost—never said a word to any of us. Just hung there. Always alert. Always judging. Not us, per se, but the moment. Any moment.
I never got the sense it thought of us as lesser. More that it was guarded, wary.
We knew it could speak. We'd overheard them a few times. Just brief words, and no one ever pressed the subject.
From time to time I caught its gaze lingering on me, but always assumed the attention was a result of the bond Jaren and I had. He was a father to me. At the time I didn't know why he'd singled me out as someone to care for. Someone to protect. After all the loss, I welcomed it, but looking back—taking in the arm's length at which he kept the others—I guess I should've known, or at least suspected there was more to it.
We all woke that night, closer to morning than the previous day.
A crack of gunfire split through the wood. Then more.
Far off, but near enough to pump the blood.
A familiar ring. "Last Word." Jaren's sidearm. His best friend.
Then another. A single shot, an unmistakable echo calling through the night. Hushed, cutting.
One shot, dark and infernal. Followed by silence.
We crouched low and quiet. Listening. Hoping.
Jaren was gone. Off on his own.
Maybe we were closer than we'd allowed ourselves to believe.
He'd gone to face death alone.
I couldn't admit it—not at the time—but he thought he was
After such a long road—years on its heels, a trail littered with suffering and fire—maybe he just couldn't take the thought of anymore dead "kids," as he called us.
The echoes faded and we all held still. No way to track the direction. No sense in rushing blind.
What was done was done.
The cadence of the shots fired told a story none of us cared to hear.
"Last Word" it hadn't been. And somewhere in the world, close enough for us to bear absent witness but far enough to be a dream, Jaren Ward lay dead or dying. And there was nothing to be done.
Hours passed. An eternity.
We held our spot, but as the sun rose the others began to fade back into the world. Without Jaren there was nothing holding us together. No driving force. Vengeance had grown stale as a motivator. Fear and a longing to see more suns rise drove a wedge between duty and desire.
By midday I was alone. I couldn't leave. Wouldn't.
Either I would find Jaren and set him at ease, or the other would find me and that would be a fitting end.
Death marching on.
But then, a motion. Quick and darting. My muscles tensed and my hand shot to the grip of my leadslinger.
Then a confirmation of the horrible truth I had already accepted, as Jaren's Ghost came to a halt a few paces in front of me.
I exhaled and slumped forward. Still standing, but broken.
The tiny Light looked me over with a curious tilt to its axis, then shot a beam of light over my body. Scanning me as it had done the very first time we met.
I looked up. Staring into its singular glowing eye.
And it spoke...
Palamon was ash.
I was only a boy – my face caked in soot, snot and sorrow.
I’d assumed Jaren, my friend, our Guardian, the savior of Palamon, would always protect us – could always save us...
But I was a fool.
Jaren, and the others, only a handful, but still our best hunters, our hardest hearts, had left three suns prior. Tracking Fallen, after the bandits had caused a stir.
The stranger – the other – arrived the following day.
He rarely spoke. Took a room. Took our hospitality.
I was intrigued by him, as I was Jaren when he’d first arrived.
But the stranger was cold. Distant. Damaged, I thought.
But I wasn’t afraid. Not yet.
Only a child, I knew the monsters of our world to walk like men, but they were not. They were something alien. Four-armed and savage.
The stranger was polite, but solemn.
I took him for a sad, broken man, and he was. Though, at the time, I didn’t understand how that could make one dangerous.
As with Jaren, father made an effort to keep me away from the stranger.
It wouldn’t matter.
As the silhouette approached, fear held tight.
The dark figure towered over me. Looking into me – through me.
He smiled. My knees weak. All lost.
Then, he turned and walked away.
Leaving ruin and a heartbroken, terrified boy in his wake without a second glance.
I’ve been chasing that stranger’s shadow ever since.
We stood silent, the sun high.
Seconds passed, feeling more like hours.
He looked different.
He seemed, now, to be weightless – effortless in an existence that would crush a man burdened by conscience.
My gaze remained locked as I felt a heat rising inside of me.
The other spoke...
I gave no reply.
“The gunslinger’s sword... his cannon. That was a gift.”
My silence held as my thumb caressed the perfectly worn hammer at my hip.
“An offering from me... to you.”
The heat grew. Centered in my chest.
I felt like a coward the day Jaren Ward died and for many cycles after.
But here, I felt only the fire of my Light.
The other probed...
“Nothing to say?”
He let the words hang.
“I’ve been waiting for you. For this day.”
His attempt at conversation felt mundane when judged against all that had come before.
“Many times I thought you’d faltered. Given up...”
All I’d lost, all who’d suffered, flashed rapid through my mind, intercut with a dark silhouette walking toward a frightened, weak, coward of a boy.
The fire burned in me.
The other continued...
“But here you are. This is truly an end...”
As his tongue slipped between syllables my gun hand moved as if of its own will.
Reflex and purpose merged with anger, clarity and an overwhelming need for just that... an end.
In step with my motion, the fire within burst into focus – through my shoulder, down my arm – as my finger closed on the trigger of my third father’s cannon.
Two shots. Two bullets engulfed in an angry glow.
The other fell.
I walked to his corpse. He never raised his cursed Thorn – the jagged gun with the festering sickness.
I looked down at the dead man who had caused so much death.
My shooter still embraced by the dancing flames of my Light.
A sadness came over me.
I thought back to my earliest days. Of Palamon. Of Jaren.
Leveling my cannon at the dead man’s helm, I paid one final tribute to my mentor, my savior, my father and my friend...
“Yours... Not mine.”
...as I closed my grip, allowing Jaren’s cannon, now my own, to have the last, loud word.
Augmented through dark practices, Thorn was once a hero's weapon. Its jagged frame hints at a sinister truth: a powerful connection to the unutterable sorceries of the Hive.
The legend of Thorn is bound to the rise and fall of Dredgen Yor, a Guardian whose name is remembered with disgust and shame. The weapon was thought destroyed...but rumors of its existence still haunt the wilds.
The noble man stood. And the people looked to him. For he was a beacon - hope given form, yet still only a man. And within that truth there was great promise. If one man could stand against the night, then so too could anyone - everyone.
In his strong hand the man held a Rose. And his aura burned bright.
When the man journeyed on, the people remembered. In his wake hope spread. But the man had a secret fear. His thoughts were dark. A sadness crept from the depths of his being. He had been a hero for so long, but pride had led him down sorrow's road.
Slowly the shadows' whisper became a voice, a dark call, offering glories enough to make even the brightest Light wander. He knew he was fading, yet he still yearned.
On his last day he sat and watched the sun fall. His final thoughts, pure of mind, if not body, held to a fleeting hope - though they would suffer for the man he would become, the people would remember him as he had been.
And so the noble man hid himself beneath a darkness no flesh should touch, and gave up his mortal self to claim a new birthright. Whether this was choice, or destiny, is a truth known only to fate.
In that cool evening air, as dusk was devoured by night, the noble man ceased to exist. In his place another stood.
Same meat. Same bone. But so very different.
The first and only of his family. The sole forbearer and last descendent of the name Yor.
In his first moments as a new being, he looked down at his Rose and realized for the first time that it held no petals: only the jagged purpose of angry thorns.
PARTIES: Four . Three  unidentified [u.1, u.2, u.3], One  unconfirmed.
ASSOCIATIONS: Breaklands; Durga; Last Word; Malphur, Shin; North Channel; Palamon; Thorn; Velor; Ward, Jaren; WoS; Yor, Dredgen;
[u.1:0.1] Can I see what you got there?
[u.1:0.2] Yer cannon...can I see it?
[u.2:0.1] I know you?
[u.1:0.3] Not that I can say.
[u.2:0.2] And you wanna hold my piece?
[u.1:0.4] Just that I never...seen one like it.
[u.2:0.3] No, you haven't.
[u.1:0.5] Looks dangerous.
[u.2:0.4] Seems, maybe, that's the point.
[u.1:0.6] Suppose so.
[u.1:0.7] Can I see it?
[u.2:0.5] Not likely.
[u.1:0.8] Where'd...where'd you find it?
[u.1:0.9] You hearin' me?
[u.3:0.1] He asked you question.
[u.2:0.6] Didn't find it. Made it.
[u.1:1.0] Heh. Helluva touch you got then. You a 'smith?
[u.2:0.7] I look like a 'smith?
[u.1:1.1] Looks can be deceiving.
[u.2:0.8] Got that right.
[u.1:1.2] There a problem?
[u.2:0.9] Doesn't need to be.
[u.1:1.3] Glad we got that cleared up...Now, about that piece.
[u.2:1.0] Been to Luna?
[u.1:1.4] Excuse me?
[u.2:1.1] The Moon. You been?
[u.1:1.5] Nobody's been.
[u.2:1.2] That a truth?
[u.1:1.6] That's a fact.
[u.2:1.3] Funny you'd make that distinction.
[u.1:1.7] Truth is you must think you're some kinda something special. With that attitude. The way you're just dismissin' us like you we're nothing...like we ain't even here.
[u.1:1.8] Fact is...You ain't near as rock solid as you figure. Fact is, special's only special 'til it's not.
[u.2:1.4] The bones say otherwise.
[u.1:1.9] Speak straight.
[u.2:1.5] You say "nobody." Bones say otherwise.
[u.1:2.0] What bones?
[u.2:1.6] All of them.
[u.1:2.1] What're you gettin' at?
[u.2:1.7] Too many to count.
[u.1:2.2] You trying to get a rile outta us? Was only making conversation.
[u.2:1.8] You really weren't.
[u.4:0.1] We got a smart one here.
[u.2:1.9] Experienced more than smart. But experience has its advantages.
[u.1:2.3] Experience tell you to lip off to strangers just tryin' to make talk?
[u.2:2.0] Keep insisting and maybe we will.
[u.2:2.1] Have words.
[u.1:2.5] Ain't that what we're doin'?
[u.2:2.2] My conversations tend to be a bit louder.
[u.1:2.6] That a threat.
[u.2:2.3] A truth.
[u.1:2.7] Who the hell you think you are?
[u.2:2.4] According to your facts, "nobody." Yet, here I sit.
[u.1:2.8] Don't matter much how pretty yer cannon is. You keep it up, we'll see just how loud you like to get.
[u.1:2.9] You done talkin' now? Guess he knows his place, boys.
[u.2:2.5] Ever have a nightmare?
[u.1:3.0] You playin' games? Or just thick?
[u.2:2.6] I know you have. This world? Can't help, but.
[u.1:3.1] I don't have nightmares. I give 'em.
[u.2:2.7] You are a goddamn cliché. The picture perfect bandit.
[u.2:2.8] Hearing your voice - the things you're saying, the shade of the hard man you pretend to be...
[u.1:3.2] Ain't no shade.
[u.2:2.8] Sit down.
[u.2:3.0] Sit. Down.
[u.2:3.1] Your mouth just got your friends dead.
[u.2:3.2] This is what happens when you bore me. And right now...
[u.2:3.3] I'm so very bored.
[u.1:3.3] Wha...No listen...
[u.1:3.4] But...but...you're a...you're one of them...A Guardian, right?
[u.1:3.5] You're supposed t'be one'a the good ones.
[u.2:3.5] "Supposed to be?" Maybe I am. Maybe this is what "good" looks like.
[u.2:3.6] Anymore, who can tell?
[u.2:3.7] You wanted to see my prize.
[u.2:3.8] Look at it.
[u.2:3.9] Whimpering won't stop what comes next.
[u.2:4.1] Look at it.
[u.2:4.2] Open your eyes.
[u.2:4.3] Not many get such a clean view.
[u.2:4.4] The bone...You see it. Jagged, like thorns.
[u.2:4.5] I used to think of it as a rose...
[u.2:4.6] Focusing on its bloom.
[u.2:4.7] But the bloom is just a byproduct of its anger.
[u.2:4.8] You have nightmares?
[u.2:4.9] Ever seen a nightmare? Ever opened your eyes and realized the horror wasn't a dream? The terror wasn't gone?
[u.2:5.0] I've seen nightmares.
[u.2:5.1] They live in the shadows.
[u.2:5.2] They've been watching.
[u.2:5.3] I thought...It's foolish, I know...but I thought I saw a way.
[u.2:5.4] That maybe we could win. Maybe we could survive.
[u.2:5.5] But once you step into those shadows, it's so very hard to walk in the Light.
[u.2:5.6] Or...maybe I just wasn't strong enough.
[u.2:5.8] But I feel strong now.
[u.2:5.9] I stole the dark.
[u.2:6.0] Or, maybe it stole me.
[u.2:6.1] Either way, here we are.
[u.2:6.2] And I'm hungry.
[u.2:6.3] Its hungry.
[u.2:6.4] You have no Light beyond the spark of your pathetic life.
[u.2:6.5] But a spark is something.
[u.2:6.6] Open your eyes.
PARTIES: Two . One  Ghost-type, designate [REDACTED] [u.1], One  Guardian-type, Class [REDACTED] [u.2]
ASSOCIATIONS: [REDACTED]; Breaklands; Durga; Last Word; Malphur, Shin; North Channel; Palamon; Thorn; Velor; Ward, Jaren; WoS; Yor, Dredgen;
[u.1:0.1] You were not always this man.
[u.1:0.2] Then the math says you do not need to remain this man. You can be other.
[u.2:0.2] I am other.
[u.1:0.3] You can be better.
[u.2:0.3] This is better.
[u.1:0.4] That matter, at best, is subjective.
[u.2:0.4] Then what? Lesser.
[u.1:0.5] Some would say.
[u.2:0.5] But what would you say?
[u.2:0.6] All we’ve seen and now, here with me, you have no words.
[u.1:0.6] I have words.
[u.1:0.7] But you will not like them.
[u.2:0.8] There is much I do not like.
[u.1:0.8] More now than ever it would seem.
[u.1:0.9] I find no laughing matter in your path.
[u.2:1.0] Only in the journey.
[u.1:1.0] What brought you here was nobility.
[u.2:1.1] And my prize.
[u.1:1.1] That is no prize.
[u.2:1.2] A curse then?
[u.1:1.2] I would say.
[u.2:1.3] And I would disagree.
[u.1:1.3] You are no longer yourself.
[u.2:1.4] I am myself. It’s who I was that’s gone.
[u.1:1.4] Who you were held all the value.
[u.2:1.5] To you.
[u.1:1.5] To the Light.
[u.2:1.6] The Light...
[u.1:1.6] It is all.
[u.2:1.7] It is nothing but a crutch.
[u.1:1.7] One that has held you up.
[u.2:1.8] Only just. And nothing more.
[u.1:1.8] Nothing more? You were a hero.
[u.2:1.9] And yet people still die. Corruption still exists. Light still fades. And Darkness still spreads.
[u.1:1.9] As it will ever be, that doesn’t mean you give in to...
[u.2:2.0] To what? Hope.
[u.1:2.0] This is not hope.
[u.2:2.1] This is peace.
[u.1:2.1] You have blood on your hands.
[u.2:2.2] How’s that any different than prior?
[u.1:2.2] Innocent blood.
[u.2:2.3] Matter of perspective.
[u.1:2.3] That’s the shadow talking.
[u.2:2.4] And am I not.
[u.1:2.4] The shadow?
[u.2:2.5] Ya know... These past cycles, you’ve made an honorable effort. Tried your best to correct my course. But I don’t know it needs correcting.
[u.1:2.5] And if it does?
[u.2:2.6] Could be too late.
[u.1:2.6] 'Could be' is a winding path.
[u.2:2.7] Long way from where I was to where I’m going.
[u.1:2.7] That is my hope. That there is still time.
[u.1:2.8] Corrective measures. The righting of our path. The cleansing of your shadow and a return to the Light.
[u.2:2.9] Why’d you pick me?
[u.1:2.9] It doesn’t work that way.
[u.2:3.0] Was I special?
[u.1:3.0] You were.
[u.2:3.1] But only as special as any other.
[u.1:3.1] You are all special.
[u.2:3.2] Seems to contradict the word don’t it.
[u.1:3.2] Not in my estimation.
[u.2:3.3] If we’re all special, are any of us special?
[u.1:3.3] Is that what you want? To be special?
[u.1:3.4] You dismiss, but it’s a very serious question. Is that all you’re after? Is all of the death worth that badge?
[u.2:3.5] Am I not already more than the rest?
[u.1:3.5] Looking at you here, now. The smoke, ash and bone at your feet mark you as so much less.
[u.2:3.6] Maybe. And yet here you are.
[u.2:3.7] You have been at my side every step of the way.
[u.1:3.7] Where else would I be?
[u.2:3.8] Yet you disagree so thoroughly with my change in perspective.
[u.1:3.8] If only the change was simply one of perspective. Your “evolution” was no choice. This is not you having come to an understanding after careful considered thought. This is corruption.
[u.2:3.9] The shadows?
[u.1:3.9] The Darkness.
[u.2:4.0] Maybe so.
[u.1:4.0] There is no maybe here.
[u.2:4.1] And you think you can save me?
[u.1:4.1] I rekindled your Light, it falls first to me to aid in its survival.
[u.2:4.2] I tire of it.
[u.1:4.2] You must try...
[u.2:4.3] I tire of you.
[u.2:4.4] That is no longer my name.
[u.1:4.4] I will not speak the other.
[u.2:4.5] It doesn’t matter. This is where we part ways.
[u.1:4.5] I will not leave you.
[u.2:4.6] I am leaving you.
[u.1:4.6] Without me, your journey ahead will be more than any one Guardian can handle.
[u.2:4.7] That’s the point. It’s been sometime since you saw me as worthy of walking among those I once called brother and sister. Yet... anymore, I feel as though I am worthy of so much more.
[u.1:4.7] Without me... You will die.
[u.2:4.8] Someday. Won’t be the first time.
[u.2:4.9] Consider this my last good deed. I am releasing you of the burden of my deeds, both done and yet to come.
[u.1:4.8] I will not abandon you.
[u.2:5.0] You will. Or I will carve the Light from your shell and leave the carcass of my first and last friend in the dirt of this dull, red world for no one to find.
[u.1:4.9] Then I’ve failed you, completely.
[u.2:5.1] Not me. Maybe the man I was.
[u.1:5.0] He is truly dead.
[u.2:5.2] I believe so.
[u.1:5.1] Belief is not fact.
[u.2:5.3] Semantics I no longer have the patience for.
[u.2:5.4] When you speak of me, use my proper name. Tell them of the man that stands before you, not the ghost of the hero I once was.
[u.1:5.2] You will always be [REDACTED] to me.
[u.2:5.5] If you cannot let that man go, you will forever taint his legacy. All the good I have ever done will be washed away in the fire of who I have become.
[u.1:5.3] If you care, there is still some promise within you.
[u.2:5.6] If I am being honest, I care only to give hope to the frightened, huddled masses so that when I come upon them they will have more to lose. Their pain will be greater. Their screams more pure.
[u.2:5.7] Nothing dies like hope. I cherish it.
[u.1:5.5] You’re a monster.
[u.2:5.8] Finally, you see the truth.
[u.1:5.6] [REDACTED] is truly dead.
[u.2:5.9] So I’ve said. Long live Dredgen Yor.
[u.1:5.7] This is farewell, but you can only run from your sins so far. In the end, you will die alone.
[u.2:6.0] Maybe so. But I gotta tell ya... I tend to like my odds.
[u.1:5.8] Your tainted “Rose” will not always save you.
[u.2:6.1] Old friend... It already has.
PARTIES: Two . One  Ghost-type, designate [REDACTED] [u.1], One  Guardian-type, Class [REDACTED] [u.2]
ASSOCIATIONS: Breaklands; Durga; Dwindler’s Ridge; Last Word; Malphur, Shin; North Channel; Palamon; Thorn; Velor; Ward, Jaren; WoS; Yor, Dredgen;
[u.1:0.1] Such Darkness.
[u.1:0.2] Far from it.
[u.2:0.2] To each their own.
[u.1:0.3] His Light is faded.
[u.2:0.3] His Light is gone.
[u.1:0.4] You are an infection.
[u.2:0.4] I am that which will cleanse.
[u.1:0.5] You are a monster.
[u.2:0.5] Heh. An old friend once saw me as the same. He was right, and, had we met earlier, so too would you be.
[u.1:0.6] You’d dare defend yourself – all you’ve done – as anything but monstrous?
[u.2:0.6] No more than a hurricane.
[u.1:0.7] Then you’re a force of nature?
[u.2:0.7] I am all that is right. You may not see it – for lack of looking, or blind ignorance – but I am all that is good.
[u.1:0.8] You’ve just murdered a good man.
[u.2:0.8] He shot first.
[u.1:0.9] Yet you stand.
[u.2:0.9] Guess he missed.
[u.1:1.0] He never misses.
[u.2:1.0] First time for everything.
[u.2:1.1] His cannon? Nice piece of hardware.
[u.2:1.2] Well-worn, but clean. Smooth hammer.
[u.1:1.1] It was his prize.
[u.2:1.3] Guess he put too much faith in the wrong steel.
[u.1:1.2] Is that where your faith lies, in steel?
[u.2:1.4] Not for some time. My steel is only an extension. My faith is in the shadow.
[u.1:1.3] Then my Light is an affront to all you are. I am your truest enemy.
[u.2:1.5] One of many.
[u.1:1.4] Would you end me?
[u.2:1.6] Not you. Not now.
[u.1:1.5] The shadow knows mercy.
[u.2:1.7] The shadow knows no such thing.
[u.1:1.6] Then what?
[u.2:1.8] The other.
[u.1:1.7] What other?
[u.2:1.9] The dead man’s charge.
[u.1:1.8] The boy?
[u.1:1.9] You’d end him as well?
[u.2:2.0] If it comes to that... We’ll see.
[u.1:2.0] I won’t let you have the child.
[u.2:2.1] Been long enough now, think maybe he’s a man.
[u.1:2.1] You cannot have him.
[u.2:2.2] Not yet.
[u.1:2.2] I won’t let you.
[u.2:2.3] That you could stop me is an amusing thought.
[u.2:2.5] Take it.
[u.2:2.6] Give the apprentice his master’s “sword.” It is a gift.
[u.1:2.4] You cannot have him.
[u.2:2.7] You fear for his Light?
[u.2:2.8] ...is special.
[u.2:2.9] I am aware.
[u.1:2.7] You’re trying to tempt him. You’re feeding his anger.
[u.2:3.0] The gun is a memento, nothing more.
[u.1:2.8] You claim to be a vessel, a hollow shell where once a man stood, but that is just a lie. The man is still in you.
[u.2:3.1] There is no man here, I am now, and for the rest of time, only Dredgen Yor.
[u.1:2.9] “The Eternal Abyss?”
[u.2:3.2] So, not all the forgotten languages are dead.
[u.1:3.0] Hide behind whatever titles you wish, it is all still a façade. No force of nature would play such games.
[u.1:3.1] The cannon. You wish to tempt the boy. To spur him on and fuel his rage. There is intent there. The actions of a man, monstrous, mad or otherwise... you are nothing more.
[u.2:3.4] And what value does your conclusion bring, flawed as it may be?
[u.1:3.2] That a hurricane can only be weathered, not stopped. Not redirected. A force of nature is uncaring and without intent, but a man...
[u.1:3.3] A man is none of those things.
[u.1:3.4] A man can be killed.
[u.2:3.6] And there it is...
[u.1:3.5] There what is...?
[u.2:3.7] A sliver of hope.
People always forget about the other one. The first one. They remember its twin, the Last Word, because that's an easier story to tell. But it's not the whole story.
Truth is, there were two of 'em, back then in the lawless days before the City was anything more than a rumor. There are thousands of tales of the fate of The First Curse, which one will you tell?
“Heeeeeeey there, Banshee!”
“Whaddya want, Cayde?”
“Just checking in on that thing I asked you to do.”
“I told you, my smuggling days are over—”
“No no shhh no not that! The other thing—”
“What other thing?”
“The custom piece! For—”
“Oh right. Right. Course I’m doing that.”
“Yeah? How's it looking?”
“Did all the design myself. So it's looking good.”
“Is that... an ace of spades?”
“This is an advanced Golden Age technology tied to the death of some of the Light’s greatest champions. It’s currently being used as a tool of the Fallen to push the limits of bio-evolutionary realities. And you’re kit-bashing it together with projectile-based war systems to make a handheld mechanism that delivers aggressive nano-mites?” –Ghost
“That’s one way to put it. All I know is... when you pull this trigger, one plus one equals zero every time. I’ve done the math.” –Shiro-4
The Khvostov 7G0X was the brainchild of two eras: the Golden Age and the City Age. Shiro-4 used the design schematics for the Khvostov series and a little Guardian ingenuity to craft a modern take on a legendary classic weapon. A fitting tribute to those old weaponsmiths and the newest Iron Lord.
Scrawled in the margins are numerous notes: “Vasili, this man is not fit to write an instruction manual for a garden trowel. Do not worry. I have used my time well, and updated this <untranslatable> with notes that will help you every single day. You are welcome. —Your friend, Dmitri”
“You want feedback, you <untranslatable> goat? Your machine technique for barrel rifling is inconsistent, the trigger assembly hasn't been updated in years, and the weapon shell has all the design aesthetic of a Lenin-era post office.”
“This is the folly of modern combat thinking, Vasili. We are safe, right? We have no need for soldiers; not anymore! And if we ever do again, they will think clearing a jam in an hour acceptable because a book told them so. That is why I am here. I will tell you different.”
“Vasili, do not do what this page says. When you see this, cut it out of the manual and throw it into a fire.”
“When you are trying to field strip your weapon, Vasili, you should use a cleaner of my own design. Recipe follows. DO NOT GET ON SKIN.”
“And the generals ask why the soldiers no longer have fighting spirit. What spirit can we have when this is what we work with? I make changes, here. Follow.”
“I’ve been toying with a new design for firing pin interface. See sketch below.”
“If Ivonovich gives you trouble, remind him who still has a picture of him in a bear suit. He will know.”
"Upper receiver assembly is over-engineered. Khvostov rifles are not art. They are tools! We can do better. See here.”
“Lower extension assembly is surprisingly good design. Still think we can improve maintenance. Follow directions below.”
“Trigger assembly is a mess. Who thought this was a good idea? Use this design, use custom cleaning solution. See huge benefit, overnight. No questions asked!”
“Auxiliary inspection points here, here, and here. Follow lines. Make sure you follow line 3 very closely. Does not go where you think.”
“Best advice a manual will give you: tell the people you love that you love them. There. Now you are ready to carry a Khvostov.”
There are few weapons that offer the comfort and familiarity of a shotgun. Built for close quarters combat, they provide immediate, violent conflict resolution.
It took great care, and an incredible feat of fine-tuning, to craft a weapon that packs a close-quarters punch, yet has the range of a precision rifle. Universal Remote is that weapon.
Invective was Ikora Rey's weapon of choice during her younger, more rebellious days. An ideal fallback for situations that can't be solved by wit, quick talk, or pure intimidation, this modified shotgun uses a self-replicating magazine to keep its owner well-stocked for any and all trouble that waits beyond the City.
One look at The 4th Horseman, and the care taken in crafting it, points to the old trophy-driven traditions of the hunt, but this blunt force destroyer wasn’t built for just any game. Its precision tuning allows for full-auto firing, while measured impact timing provides an extra kick at the tail end of each magazine—a needed fail safe designed specifically for the weapon’s intended prey, the biggest game in the system, the Cabal.
Jolyon was a Crow. He'd seen much. More than most. He held the enemy's greatest weapon. Remembered its burn. Then began tinkering. He liked things. Liked how they worked. Found happiness in finding new avenues through which a thing could function. Not to alter the purpose, but simply to refine it.
The weapon delivered impact with incredible force spread over a range to increase its area of influence. But what if that force was brought to focus in a directed burst. A seasoned marksman with a steady, strong hand could deliver a burn that served less to herd, more to punish.
The feral ones deserved nothing less. The Wolves would have a new master. And that master was fire.
Amanda Holliday was born on the road, when the City was nothing more than a whispered prayer. Their only protection was the weapons they could scavenge, build or modify. Weapons like her mother's two-barrel shotgun, with its black and gold filigree far too fine for the world around it. They called it the Chaperone.
That Chaperone lies in a shallow grave with its last owner, but Amanda recalls every detail of its design. And via a partnership with the gunsmiths of Tex Mechanica, she's brought the Chaperone back to life. Though the new weapon is much more powerful than the cantankerous relic the Hollidays used on the road, it bears the appearance, and the name, of the Chaperone that saw the one surviving Holliday safely to the Last City.
Advancements in directed energy disbursement, gained through the discovery of Golden Age research, led to the creation of stable, field-ready energy-based weaponry. The first implementation of this technology comes in the form of the Fusion Rifle. Users must hold the trigger down for a few moments to charge the weapon before firing.
Fireteam Tuyet died in the Ishtar Sink, hunting the secrets of the Vex. They must have come too close to something precious, for the Vex descended on them with their typical inscrutable, thorough violence.
But their sacrifice was not in vain. The data they gathered helped forge the Pocket Infinity. Properly modified, the weapon should be capable of devastating output on just a single charge cycle.
The Infinity's mechanisms have proven difficult, if not impossible, to replicate en masse. It is conceivable that the weapon draws its energy from the Vex networks...an ominous possibility. So be wary with it.
Sharp reflexes keep you alive on the frontier - but no matter how fast you are, a fusion rifle can only charge so quickly. Enter the Plan C. When you draw the weapon, fast-rise capacitors and a smart induction system prime for firing. The 'ready fire' state only lasts a few moments - but in a gunfight, those moments matter.
Some legends live forever. Others are overwritten - reshaped by the sheer will of those who believe that any ordeal can be conquered, any foe vanquished, any god cast down.
The Mythoclast is a Vex instrument from some far-flung corner of time and space, mysteriously fit for human hands. Its origins, mechanism of action, and ultimate purpose remain unknown. Perhaps it will reveal itself to you, in time...
"Queenbreaker" was the label given to the Fallen who first rose to betray the Queen. Their coordinated attempt on Her Grace's life was quick and violent. Most of the Queenbreakers were eliminated, their line rifles taken as trophies. Some remain at-large.
Known as Queenbreakers' Bows, the very weapons once used in an effort to assassinate the Queen of the Reef are now prized possessions for Guardians—not only for their storied history, but for the chance to get their hands on fully functional Fallen weaponry.
PUBLIC KEY 023 629 DWS REGAL
FROM: PLDN KAMALA RIOR [PLDN CMD TF 5.3]
TO: ACT RGNT PETRA VENJ
SUBJ: S&R REPORT: Saturn XIII
Expanded search of Saturn's nearby moons produced only one notable discovery: A cloud of Harbinger matter collected around Saturn's 13th moon, designation "Telesto." A sample is enclosed for your examination.
Still no sign of primary objectives. Continued survey of the remaining 100,000 km3 of space is underway. But as an Armada Paladin of the Awoken, it is my duty to officially recommend declaration of death of the following: Paladin Yasmin Eld, Paladin Leona Bryl, Paladin Abra Zire, Paladin Pavel Nolg, Techeun Shuro, Techeun Sedia, Techeun Kali, and the Awoken Queen Mara Sov.
Note that as acting regent-commander it is NOT your duty to actually declare these deaths at this time.
IMMEDIATE EVALUATION DIRECTIVE
This is a CENTRAL ASSETS IMPERATIVE (secured/CONFERENCE)
This is an INTERNAL ALERT.
Number of exterior defense breaches has increased by 400% in the past year. Current campus defense protocols unable to keep up with new demands.
Operation MIDNIGHT EXIGENT is NOT YET COMPLETE. Interim response necessity is IMPERATIVE.
Hypothesize that resource GUARDIANS may be leveraged to compensate for CDP inadequacies.
Reassign 12 percent of COSMO assets to new directive: declare IKELOS.
I am calling VOLUSPA and extracting subroutine DVALIN FORGE, to be modified and recompiled to comport to MIDNIGHT EXIGENT parameters.
I am inserting the modified DVALIN FORGE-2 into IKELOS and compiling for immediate implementation.
Execute short hold for partial shutdown and reactivation.
STOP STOP STOP V55NNI900CLS003
The dangers present beyond the City's walls cannot always be met head-on. The accuracy and power of the Sniper Rifle offers the best option for precise ranged attacks. Caliber and make differ, but a good sniper can always remove key threats.
Patience and Time is an assassin's dream. Enhanced sensor integration allows for target tracking while aiming down the sight, and those who work with the weapon and explore its deeper capabilities will find light-bending camouflage systems ready to interface with a Guardian's armor micromaterials.
The Ice Breaker series was a clandestine project developed by the Vanguard in conjunction with various City weapons foundries. Meant as an exploration of Golden Age weapon technology, the project was scrapped after only a single weapon reached the testing phase.
The prototypes for the project's lone weapon are considered dangerous and unfit for field duty by the Vanguard. This hasn't stopped daring Guardians from seeking out the Ice Breakers - death, after all, is an occupational hazard.
Rumors of this weapon's existence sent many a Guardian clawing through the corners of Old Russia, seeking its legend. Some believe its origins predate the Golden Age and served to liberate the old Earth nation from a terrible cycle of war.
Others believe it a Golden Age relic built to honor the sniper and their artful approach to battle—to lean on the sole power of the long rifle, nest where the enemy cannot see, trust in the power of calm and know there is nowhere to fall back to.
Once, we had peace.
This isn't a story about peace.
Then there was darkness, destruction, despair.
This isn't a story about those things either.
This story comes much later.
It's a story about what was here, after,
And what came next.
The followers of Crota swing Hammers,
Ir Halak and Ir Anûk laugh at Crota.
Finality is a child's plaything,
Fit for one such as Crota,
No Hammer for the Unraveler and the Weaver,
But a Spindle, wound with woe.
For their foes,
No end of suffering.
Exo have always known that a machine is capable of bridging the gap between the physical and the numinous. It is from that knowledge, and my collaboration with two Guardians — Hunter Uzoma Vale and the Warlock they call The Stoic — that the Zen Meteor was born.
This groundbreaking weapon uses electroencephalography to draw energy from the wielder's neural activity. It can even, if a certain threshold is met, convert that energy into matter to be used as concussive ammunition.
Or, to be more precise — the more focused the wielder's mind, the more powerful the weapon.
The Sidearms class is made up of lightweight pistols designed for ease of handling and quick-firing. Its antiquated triggering system and engineering make it rare within City limits.
As it's long been a staple of the Awoken Royal Guard, perhaps this newly forged alliance between the Reef and the City will see the Sidearm become commonplace within Guardian arsenals.
Imagine: you live in the largest territory in the system. A huge torus of habitable, explorable space. But there's a catch. That huge space is made up of millions and millions of nooks and crannies. Asteroids. Crumbling derelicts. Debris from dozens of wars. It's a place where you could go for thousands—millions—of miles without ever seeing another friendly face, and yet never once be able to stretch your legs.
Now imagine: you're spelunking across an asteroid, or crawling through a half-collapsed ship that could be hundreds of years old. You won't see enemies coming, not in a tight corner like that. Won't hear 'em or smell 'em either, not in the void. But then you move, or they move, and there you both are.
Rifles, shotguns, they aren't gonna cut it. You don't have room to heft a barrel of that length. Don't have the arm room to throw a knife or a grenade either. But what you do have is a sidearm at your hip. Small enough for a fast draw, strong enough to save your life.
That's why the Queen sends out every last Corsair with a Vestian Dynasty sidearm at our hips. And Vestian Dynasty is what gets us home again too.
There is a story, old as time, of he who could catch the stars. Unnamed and eternal, the star-catcher would lead the Fallen, rising from the lowest station to the highest exalted peaks. It is a fairy tale allowed to persist by the four-armed to keep the docked hopeful, placated—even the low may one day ascend.
Myth, fairy tale or a prophecy of what will be, it's best to not take chances. After all, one can't reach across the black to claim dominion over ten thousand stars with ten thousand arms if they die here and now with only two.
Trespasser is Shiro-4’s personal sidearm, kit-bashed over the uncounted cycles Shiro-4 spent braving the wilds beyond the City. This light, quick-fire shooter has ended more conversations than it has started. And will end many more before the last war is won.
Rocket Launchers have a limited, devastating payload that provides an excellent countermeasure to heavily-armored ground forces and combat vehicles. There is no better battlefield equalizer. Skilled users often aim for the ground beneath nimble targets.
The Gjallarhorn shoulder-mounted rocket system was forged from the armor of Guardians who fell at the Twilight Gap. Gifted to the survivors of that terrible battle, the Gjallarhorn is seen as a symbol of honor and survival.
Truth is a cutting-edge rocket launcher developed by Crux/Lomar. Smart warheads calculate and understand the user's intent upon firing.
There may have been a time when warfare in the solar system was dominated by lightning-quick AI weapons and swarms of autonomous munitions. If so, that time is past. The Traveler's Light has given rise to an age of heroes with undreamt power. But there is still a place for cleverly designed machines - and as the City's foundries reclaim the technical prowess of the Golden Age, our machines will become cleverer still.
From the labs of Feizel Crux and Victor Lomar comes another shoulder assault offering built to match the incendiary fury of a legendary beast — or at least classic depictions of it.
Carrying three rockets, each equipped with Solar Flare detonators, its power is believed to far outmatch those of the mythical flying monster, but we're still hoping an actual showdown between the two will put an end to that argument.
The Machine Gun is an unapologetic weapon of war. Its ability to carry and process large quantities of high-caliber ammunition allows for sustained, focused attacks, making them ideal for the suppression and/or annihilation of hostile forces.
Customized with an experimental induction core, the Thunderlord is a heavy machine gun built for the delivery of sustained punishment.
The weapon's history and mechanism are both shrouded in ritualistic awe. Each round fired is another word in the legend - and the Guardians who bear the Thunderlord will be immortalized in song.
This machine gun's incredible mechanism hints at the wonders of Golden Age technology. Smart rounds report their trajectories to the weapon, and a micro-transmat protocol recalls missed shots directly to the magazine.
Engineers decry the idea that all smart systems spontaneously develop personalities and awareness...but it seems undeniable that Super Good Advice manifests personality, memory, and a certain sass. The truth may lie in the weapon's connection to the legendary Hunter Pahanin, who witnessed the fall of Kabr and became terrified of traveling alone.
History might come to call it the Great Hive War, but others will remember it as the day the swords came to the City. Luckily Lord Shaxx’s skills and research in all matters of swordplay will help ease this new age of weaponry into the Guardian fold.
...there must be a way to imbue it with Light. That is Ikora's theory. How glad I would be of her help, but her eyes are occupied with other trials.
Perhaps if I folded another substance into the blade—one that is forged in Light—it might imprint upon the malleable Hadium, share its attributes. But what substance? Ghosts are out of the question. Spinmetal is in the blade already, but its Arc was too diffuse to move the Hadium. Is there a way to refine Spinmetal, distil it to its core elements?
I have little gift for the science of this, but my resolve will not be thwarted. Maybe the Cryptarchs can advise.
“Next order of business... the growing City foundries—”
“What madness is this!”
“Lord Shaxx! The Consensus did not—”
“We barely eked out victory at Burning Lake. And now you think we're ready to attack the Moon?”
“Did you not read my report from Burning Lake? About the Hive's weapons? Those swords, they're like nothing we've ever—”
“Zavala! You can't think this is wise. We need to examine these swords, train against them—”
“That is a matter for the Consensus to decide, old friend.”
Draw close now. Closer. Yes. Let me tell you why you should not fear Willbreaker, the sword of Oryx.
Firstly: Its blade is not dulled by age. Each death it trades for life hones its edge, gives it weight and gravitas and insistence within the vortex of its own totality.
Nextly: Willbreaker transcends liminality. Willbreaker demands a subjugation more diffuse than the simple snick and smash of a physical brink. It does not have to touch you to wound you.
And lastly—and this is critical: To be taken in Willbreaker's grasp is to know true bliss; that is, to be simplified; that is, to be reduced to one's most basic level, shedding all higher-order thoughts of fear or duty or selfishness; that is, to feel only pain.
Now do you see? Now do you understand what you've done?
Who, or what, is the weapons foundry known as Nadir? Where did it come from?
And is the foundry’s name a commentary on its own quality, or that of its rivals? An expression of fatalism? An inside joke?
Do these questions matter next to a weapon as powerful as the Nemesis Star?
This is more than a weapon.
Forged by Lord Saladin within the hallowed halls of the Iron Temple, this sword was intended for you, and none other.
When you wield it, its burning flames represent the bright light of your valor — and the all-consuming sacrifice that you have promised to make, should you be called to it.
Take up this blade, and teach your enemies to fear the Young Wolf’s Howl.
A variant of the Thunderlord outfitted with a prototype fusion modulation device, the Abbadon is built for rapid domination of the enemy.
Its mechanism is a delicate balance of barely-contained power and brute force. Every round it fires contains the potency of a sun.
Before he died on the Moon, the Titan who wielded the first Thunderlord created two variants of the mighty weapon. Nova Mortis harnesses the power of the Void.
Notes found on the original schematic for Nova Mortis reveal its creator worried the weapon was as dangerous to its wielder as it was to those in its sights.
The universe is defined by fundamental forces. Complex matter is bound together by deep forces - and in the study of this binding lies the secret of Arc Light.
The universe is defined by fundamental forces. Energy is carried by quanta, tiny messengers of change. In the understanding of these messengers lies the secret of Solar Light.
The universe is defined by fundamental forces. Beneath the world of light and matter lies the vacuum, and the vast dark secrets that it contains. In the understanding of this vacuum lies the secret of Void Light.
A rare and precious commodity, the jumpships utilized by Guardians are cobbled together from the salvaged wreckage of interplanetary ships built long ago. Only in recent years have the Tower's shipwrights begun working to build new hulls from the keel up. The City's factions are also keen to develop flight capability, whether through salvage or their own shipbuilding projects.
Today, it falls upon each individual Guardian to find and maintain their own craft. Those skilled enough to acquire a ship with off-world capabilities join the front line in the long war to retake what is ours.
The Sparrow is a single-passenger, all-terrain thrust bike with one purpose: moving from objective to objective with unmatched speed.
Quick, quiet, and simple to transmat, Sparrows enjoy surpassing popularity among Guardians working in the field.
According to the Hidden, in the wilderness beyond the City, Lysander rallies his supporters and plots his return. Some whisper of sympathizers in the Tower and hidden gifts for Guardians who honor him.
The programmable matter called 'Glimmer' serves as one of the City's basic currencies. With the right inputs and an energy source, Glimmer can be transmuted into nearly anything. This makes it precious to the City's industries and artisans. That value, in turn, makes Glimmer a useful means of exchange - especially with those who venture beyond the City's walls.
Glimmer passes through an economic life cycle. New Glimmer comes from reclaimed Golden Age caches and technology - whether a tiny mechanism or an underground lode seeded by ancient machines. This expansion of the Glimmer supply drives down the value of Glimmer. But Glimmer is also constantly used by the City's industry, which converts it into necessary components and materials. This sink helps keep Glimmer scarce, and therefore valuable.
Between this inflow and outflow lies the pool of liquidity - Glimmer used as trade currency. Master Rahool in the Tower, for example, sells recovered matter engrams in exchange for Glimmer, since he knows he can use Glimmer to acquire new engrams and keep them flowing to Guardians.
Newborn Guardians often complain that they should be issued high-quality gear for free - are they not, after all, fighting for the future of the City? Unfortunately, this gear requires resources to manufacture. Guardians must bring in enough Glimmer and other staples, like spinmetal and relic iron, to keep the engine of the City's economy turning. If good times lead to a resource boom, that surplus may help mass-produce advanced gear.
When a terrible threat rises, Guardians look to the Vanguard, the closest thing they have to a command structure. These elite veterans coordinate the reports of roaming Hunters, the analyses of cloistered Warlocks, and the instincts of grizzled Titans into a single plan of action. And when Guardians fight as part of that plan, the Vanguard rewards them.
Vanguard Marks are tokens of favor that earn a trusted Guardian access to the Tower's armories. Listen carefully to the rumblings of Lord Shaxx, and you might come to believe that this system was meant to keep vital warfighting supplies from being wasted in the Crucible. Talk to Commander Zavala, and he will reassure you that the Vanguard Mark system exists for one reason: to get the best equipment into the hands of those who get the best results.
Guardians eager to win Vanguard Marks would do well to participate in Strike missions organized by the Vanguard.
The Crucible is a program of relentless live-fire training, hardening Guardians for battles to come. Competition thrives on risk and reward, so Lord Shaxx has seen fit to dispense Crucible Marks to those who excel.
Guardians with a name in the Crucible can spend these Marks on elite gear. Shaxx considers it fitting that the best should earn the best. The City's factions, fond of using the Crucible as an arena to advance their own interests, will also accept Crucible marks in exchange for their equipment.
Guardians eager to win Crucible Marks should fight in the Crucible, with particular attention to those challenges Lord Shaxx deems important.
The Speaker has no interest in Glimmer, Marks, or the other currencies of the Tower's military functions. But he happily accepts these Motes, points of Light willed into being by an exercise of a mighty Guardian's power.
Some say they will one day become the souls of new Ghosts. Others believe they feed the intricate machinery that the Speaker tends. Whatever the case, the Speaker will happily reward donors with patterns and signs from his collection - more out of gratitude than any mercantile impulse.
Each coin rings with a faint, sharp hush - as if it has touched the sounds around it with the edge of silence.
These could buy incredible things, in the right hands. Whispers say the faceless creature who sometimes comes to the Tower covets them above all else.
As Guardians buy or salvage new equipment, they learn to tinker and improve. This work requires Glimmer and other material.
Some can be recycled from unneeded gear. Titans favor plasteel, which can be found by disassembling old equipment. Hunters unspool discarded armor into sapphire wire. Warlocks extract hadronic essence from dismantled fieldweave robes. And any Guardian with a sense for weaponry can disassemble old ordnance into weapon parts.
Other materials need to be scavenged on site, generally in the course of Patrols. The Cosmodrome in Old Russia is rich with spinmetal, a fantastically light and strong composite created by rogue colonies of Golden Age machinery that escaped storage. Solar coil systems on the Moon still generate helium filaments. The baffling, possibly Vex-influenced flora of Venus grow spirit blooms. And the surface of Mars offers deposits of ultra-dense relic iron.
The most powerful Guardian equipment transcends ordinary science, entering the realm of Golden Age secrets and the Traveler's power itself. This wargear demands Ascendant Energy and Ascendant Shards - burning fragments of the universal fundament, earned through mighty acts of heroism.
Look for them in daily Story challenges and Raids.
Tess Everis is always on the lookout for new opportunities. So when she crossed paths with the infamously eccentric artist, designer, explorer and Guardian who became known as Fenchurch Everis, Tess knew an opportunity when she saw it.
He brings the creative flair: roving the planetary wastes, gathering rare antiquities, crafting vibrantly new pieces, sharing new customs and techniques. She handles everything else, from business to marketing to managing the often-wayward talent.
Tess brokers Fenchurch's unique finds and offerings to Guardians of the Tower under the banner of the
"Eververse Trading Co." Dealing exclusively in a rare Awoken crypto-currency called "Silver", Eververse is the first major merchant in the City that is unapologetically dedicated to style above substance. In a society wracked by near-constant war, Tess believes beauty for beauty's sake is a revolutionary idea.
Long before the Collapse, the Reef settlements used a currency commonly known as Silver— coins with engram-like qualities which could be digitally signed with an individual person's key.
Tess Everis, born in the City after her parents fled the Reef, counts among her most prized possessions an old Silver coin that belonged to her Reefborn grandmother. As the Silver was cryptographically unique, she was stunned to meet an Awoken Warlock named Fenchurch who possessed around his neck a Silver coin of his own, signed with the exact same key as Tess's. Like all Guardians, Fenchurch has no memories before the first time his Ghost resurrected him. But their Silver coins' shared origin leads Tess and Fenchurch to suspect that they are related.
Fenchurch instantly took to thinking of Tess as a long-lost niece, even assuming her surname, Everis. Tess loves the Silver that her new partnership with Fenchurch brings— but, though she'd never admit it, she secretly values her newfound family even more.
Eververse is proud to introduce: Chroma.
This Golden Age lighting technique was recently rediscovered by no other than Eververse's chief creative officer Fenchurch Everis. Using multi-channel heat sinks to accentuate Guardian weapons and armor, Chroma is a style for the fiercely, fearlessly fashionable.
Everything changed with the coming of the Traveler.
It gave us gifts that transformed the solar system and the nature of human life. It ushered in the Golden Age, a time of miracles. But it never shared its deepest secrets.
Where did the Traveler come from? Why did it offer us so much? Did it know it was being hunted across the stars? And why, when the Darkness came, did it choose to stay and fight for us?
Now the Traveler hangs, silent, above humanity's final sanctuary. It may be healing. It may be dying. It gave everything it had to save us. And now its power lies with us, its Guardians.
You have lived as invisibly as possible, flicking from solar system to solar system, making grand plans, overseeing the culturing of civilizations, before leaving in a blink. But you have no recollection of ever wanting worship or even thanks from those blessed by you.
But memory is heavy now.
It feels like lead and neutronium and electroweak matter fashioned into a moon-sized ball that you must carry as you move.
Now, your flight is rapid, your vast mind infected with such dread and toxic doubt that you find yourself afraid of the simple act of thought.
And it is your children you must turn to now, in time of need.
This has been such a long chase. This will be the place you will fight. Fight and win.
But do you really know why you go where you go, and where this journey is taking you?
The chase leads you where you need to be, you believe.
Unless...you are being pushed.
The knife had a million blades.
And you were giant, powerful and swift. But the knife pinned you. Cut your godly flesh away.
Very little was left, you are sure, because you feel insignificant now. The hard slick heart of your soul: That is what remains. A body small as a river stone, and just as simple. You picture yourself as a piece of indigestible grit, a nameless nothing hiding among other nameless stones. Perhaps you glitter like a gem, yes. Pride makes you hope so. If only you could see yourself. But you have no eyes. Not the dimmest sense survives. What lives is memory, and what slim portion of these thoughts can you trust?
The knife stole much more than your body.
There has always been a Speaker, an anonymous high priest with a mysterious and powerful connection to the Traveler and its Ghosts. In all the centuries of the City's history, the Speaker's great work has never changed - to guide new Guardians, heal the Traveler, and raise our crippled protector from its slumber.
"Bashō knew. We struggle after." - undated battle notes
Zavala has never shied from hard decisions. His life bends under the double weight of honor and duty, each act of service more exhausting, each victory more costly. Zavala continues anyway. He has never had time for anything softer than iron.
Cayde-6 was a daring Hunter with a fast ship, a quick gun hand, and an eye on the legendary Vault of Glass. Of course he couldn't say no to a challenge - not even the notorious Vanguard Dare.
He lost the bet, to his immense regret. Now, following in the footsteps of his fallen friend Andal Brask, it is Cayde's turn to oversee his far-flung brethren as the Hunter Vanguard in the Tower. He works dutifully, but longs for a chance to get back into the fight.
Ikora Rey's second life has been long and colorful. As an iconoclastic new Guardian, she made a reputation in the Crucible and in the halls of Warlock scholarship as an outspoken, unrelenting opponent with no patience for dogma or etiquette.
That reputation became a burden, and Ikora chose to travel alone, flying reconnaissance across the worlds of the inner solar system. Shot down again and again, she and her Ghost survived against all odds, apparently preferring the wilderness to the company of her fellow Guardians.
When Ikora finally returned to the City to rest, her hard-won knowledge and seasoned temperament commanded the respect of her fellow Warlocks. She now serves in the Vanguard as a mentor and leader, carrying the memory of her wandering days as a link to rising Guardians.
Lord Shaxx is one of the heroes of the Battle of the Twilight Gap, having led the counterattack that pushed the Fallen from the City walls. Fearing that another full-scale assault would be more than the City could repel, Shaxx chose to stay in the City to mentor Guardians in the Crucible.
One day Shaxx vows to return to the war beyond the City, but only after he is confident the fires of the Crucible have forged a new generation of warriors.
There is nothing Lakshmi-2 likes more than secrets. Her origins are unknown; her appearance in the City was abrupt. She courts select Guardians for initiation into the higher mysteries of the Future War Cult, espousing a brutal philosophy of endless struggle.
Those who can tolerate Lakshmi's mocking hints and bloody-minded philosophy find her surprisingly good company. She seems to take genuine joy in her work, as if the secrets she guards have taught her to treasure every moment.
Jalaal is a man driven by the ghost of a dead future. Critics accuse Dead Orbit of nihilistic fatalism - and Jalaal would be the first to agree that Earth is lost, the City a fatal trap.
The Arachs have no time for sentiment. Only an alien miracle prevented human extinction during the Collapse. Jalaal dreams of a diaspora to come - humanity ascendant, scattered across the stars, too far-flung for any single threat to reach.
Jalaal's utilitarian practicality drives him to bend laws and break rules in the name of Dead Orbit's great project. When the ultimate goal is human survival, any sacrifice can be justified.
An upstanding citizen, Hideo was once known for his lavish gifts to children and the elderly. Since he moved from plasteel manufacturing to the New Monarchy, he has been less forthcoming about his business and less free with his funds. But as one of the public faces of the Monarchy, he speaks with genuine passion and conviction about the possibilities of a united future.
Stationed in the Tower Plaza, Kadi 55-30 welcomes Guardians home from the frontier, delivers urgent messages, and tracks lost items.
Kadi has adopted a colloquial repartee with the Guardians who frequent the Tower. Whether this is the function of intricate sub-programming or a learned behavior is unknown.
Master Rahool's insatiable curiosity drove him to the Tower, where, as resident crypto-archaeologist, he can work directly with Guardians returning from the frontier. He decrypts matter engrams as a free service, and when he builds trust with a particular Guardian, he is happy to offer rare engrams for sale - although the scarcity of these artifacts forces him to ask for Glimmer in compensation.
Rahool's true love is history. He treats each new find as a chance to understand the glory of the Golden Age or the terrible truth of the Collapse. Listen carefully to his murmurings: he may be the first to understand.
Tess earned her place in the Tower working as a troubleshooter - a fixer with a solution to any kind of problem. Her connections go everywhere. It is difficult to make her speak about her monographs in abstract algebra, or the string of peculiar jobs she's worked, but a word in her ear can open doors in surprising places.
Eva Levante provided services to the Tower long before she actually took a place in it. Guardians would call for her work again and again, looking for marks of distinction, both new and old, and she began to craft emblems and shaders for the bold and discerning. These days she has set up shop in the Tower, taking quiet pride in the Guardians who train, fight, and fall under her signs.
Born on the road, daughter of pilgrims, Holliday grew up fixing and scavenging - maintaining the vehicles that saved her family from the wilderness. Her talent for engineering and her familiarity with Golden Age relics made her a leader among the Tower's Shipwrights.
The terrors of Holliday's childhood galvanized her. She knows and respects the dangers that press against the City's walls, and her drive to rebuild the City's aerospace capabilities is driven as much by pragmatism as by her love of flight.
Few merchants of the Tower serve as vital a function as Banshee-44. His knowledge of weapons is encyclopedic - but don't ask him where it comes from. Banshee's mind and body have absorbed incredible punishment over the ages. He grapples with fragments of memory, the shrapnel of ancient ordeals that return to haunt him.
Xûr sells objects of legendary power. He accepts his own currency, in service of his own enigmatic goals - or those of equally cryptic masters. Mysterious, too, is the nature of his presence in the Tower. Does he have some arrangement with the Vanguard or the Speaker? Are there those among the Guardian elite who understand Xûr's nature and ultimate purpose? Or have all efforts to control his comings and goings simply failed?
A hero to the City and a legend in his own right, Saladin Forge led the City's defense during the Battle for the Twilight Gap. His protégés, Commander Zavala and Lord Shaxx, now lead the Tower's Vanguard and the Crucible, respectively. Saladin remains close to Zavala, though his relationship with Shaxx has been strained since the Twilight Gap.
The Iron Banner seeks great champions to lead the fight against the Darkness. It was born to honor the Iron Lords and their efforts in the earliest days of the City.
Petra is an operative of the Queen of the Reef. Though she has long made the Tower her home, it is no secret where her allegiance lies.
Frames are simple automata built in the City. Although not equipped with true general sentience, they are nevertheless useful for cleaning, maintenance, and service tasks. Frames do have the ability to learn, and many develop quirks of personality and behavior over long lifespans.
As trustworthy as frames come, Roni 55-30 was designed to smooth troubled waters. Cayde has spent long hours trying to evoke any hint of frustration in his distant machine cousin, but Roni remains exquisitely composed.
"No discounts, big shot."
Arcite 99-40 is the last of Lord Shaxx's personal combat frames. When he chose to remain in the City to oversee the Crucible, Shaxx had Arcite's combat systems deactivated and rebooted with the Tower's more civil vendor protocols.
Arcite's memory banks still remember the battles he has seen. This knowledge makes Arcite uniquely qualified to equip Guardians for combat. His outward disdain for untested Guardians is a combination of learned behavior - a byproduct of years in service to Lord Shaxx - and personal experience. His systems may have been reprogrammed, but the love for combat still pulses within his circuitry.
There are many threats beyond the City's walls. To help track and eliminate these dangers, the Vanguard has initiated a bounty system to reward Guardians who take the fight to the City's enemies. Lord Shaxx, not to be outdone, lays out his own bounties for performance in the Crucible.
Xander 99-40, a recent product of the City's foundries, tracks every Guardian's progress and dispenses rewards.
Eris Morn is the sole survivor of an ill-fated raid on the Hive’s lunar fortress. It was Eris and a rag-tag Fireteam who, after the first charge to take back the Moon, sacrificed everything to return in search of the one the Hive call Crota.
Robbed of her Ghost, Eris remained lost among the darkest shadows of the Hellmouth for countless cycles. Despite all odds she endured, using the very dark she battled to emerge a changed warrior—driven, some would say obsessed. The Speaker and Commander Zavala find her compulsions a sickness, convinced she has been fully seduced by the shadows.
Though her warnings of Crota and his power are often dismissed as madness, Eris returns to the shadows time and time again, operating as one of Ikora Rey's Hidden—a clandestine group of Guardians tasked with silently infiltrating enemy strongholds and gathering vital intel for the Warlocks.
Tyra considers herself an observer of history rather than a participant.
In the time of the Iron Lords, Tyra was the keeper of their stories. Later, she helped found the Cryptarch order, but withdrew from its day-to-day operation to concentrate on her studies. Tyra has dedicated decades sorting through recovered artifacts, documents, and Ghost discoveries in hopes of bringing out the undeniable truths of our past.
With the rise of SIVA, Lord Saladin has convinced his old friend to return to the Iron Temple.
Shiro-4 is one of the Vanguard’s most trusted scouts. Tasked with tracking and eliminating Fallen threats, Shiro has traditionally spent most of his time making runs between Earth, Luna and Venus—gathering intel and engaging in hit-and-run attacks on active Fallen crews.
Free of the burden of leadership that ties his mentor, Cayde-6, to the Tower, Shiro willingly aids the Vanguard whenever his skills are requested. This selflessness—combined with his talents for tracking, weapons-crafting, and combat—makes Shiro an invaluable extension of the Vanguard’s will beyond the City.
In the tales of the Iron Lords, Lady Efrideet was one of the most prominent characters. She once threw Saladin like a javelin into a Fallen Walker—a City favorite retold for centuries. How she met her end is less clear, but the tales agreed that Efrideet had long ago died her final death.
Until she returned.
Now Efrideet serves as the new Iron Banner representative while Lord Saladin devotes his attention to the SIVA Crisis. She urges Guardians to see the Banner tournament as a chance to strengthen their Light, for fighting and for more metaphysical purposes. The Vanguard are also intrigued by Efrideet’s accounts of a nonmilitary Guardian community in the deep system, but Efrideet, though happy to talk about the group’s pacifist philosophies, refuses to disclose the settlement’s location at present.
When not setting out sides of deer for the Iron Temple’s wolves or putting down copious amounts of rock salt, Micha 99-40 is tasked with handing out bounties to passing guardians.
The Frame Mechanics now refer to him as "Lefty", due to his habit of getting too close to the wolves while feeding them.
When not handing packages to Guardians braving the frigid air surrounding Felwinter Peak, Gabi 55-30 cleans up after the wolves, refills the cauldrons’ reservoirs, and tends to the temple’s herb garden.
Because of its remote location, the Iron Temple is ideal for testing the Frame Mechanics' latest code changes to prevent Gabi from having another "incident".
In the City's earliest days, various factions vied for the hearts and minds of the refugee masses. Power struggles threatened to shatter an already tenuous existence.
The following conflicts, known as the Faction Wars, brought the City to its knees. When the chaos grew intolerable, a gathering of Guardians fought to end the conflict. The new peace brought a new order: the City Consensus and the Speaker ruled together, and the surviving great factions worked through civil channels to pursue their agendas.
That order still holds, but as the City reaches out into the frontier, the factions see new opportunities everywhere - and a chance to win over Guardians to their cause.
While the origins of the Future War Cult are greatly debated, their mark has been found on ancient chambers and encampments throughout the system, dating them back to the late Golden Age. Though their secrets are vast, they have proven indispensable in our struggle against the Darkness, earning them power and respect in the City Consensus and among Guardians.
Subject twenty-two. Admitted to the Inner Circle at 24:00. A promising postulant - I regret to say he performed poorly. He was administered the standard medication but refused to enter the Device.
Aren't people unpredictable? I suppose there'd be no point if they weren't, would there?
He knows to keep silent.
Subject twenty-three entered the Device at 11:00. A clever girl from the Core District; an artist, before she joined the War Cult.
At 11:03 she reported a sensation of floating. At 11:06, a sensation of lights within the darkness of the Device. Between 11:06 and 11:32 she reported these lights variously as white, golden, and blood-red. At 11:32 she reported a sensation of someone taking her hand; a stranger, but also herself. Twelve subjects have reported similar experiences. At 11:33 she reported the sensation we have called "The Opening Of The Veil." The Device recorded temporal displacement of her consciousness to the order of six degrees. At seven she began screaming. Brainscans near-death. Removed from the Device at 11:34.
She believes without question that the Device granted her a vision of the future, and that it was one of utter Darkness. She thanked me for this enlightenment. She says it will make her stronger.
Little Ghost, there in the corner of the Sanctum - I see you blinking. Are you listening? Are y -
the Device at 12:22 and immediately the Device reported displacement of his consciousness. Visions of war and the City in flames. Subject twenty-nine worked the supply channels on the Slip before he joined the War Cult. By 12:27 he was babbling and by
We have applied certain refinements to the Device. Novarro found records of a prototype of the Device at a Golden Age laboratory in Tibet, and Hari's team retrieved what was left of it. We are the first to see it operational in who knows how long.
Too many subjects come back damaged. Mad. We are grasping at straws.
What do you think, little Ghost?
Forty-seven human subjects; eleven report timelines in which the Darkness has already prevailed, thirteen report timelines in which the City has fallen. Twenty-three babbled madness. Hopeless. Trapped.
No wonder the Device was abandoned. The human mind is too weak for it. Too weak to look into the Future, or to understand what it sees.
What the situation calls for, little Ghost, is a better sort of witness.
We found you in pieces in Siberia, and repaired you as well as we could.
What do you say? Are you well enough to travel?
Dead Orbit's theology has developed from mere fatalism into an obsession with worlds beyond Earth. Now their focus is on the building of a starfaring fleet, cobbled together from the ashes of our past and the spoils of war.
lo? Hello? Are you...oh, please, let it be alive. Wake up little Ghost, wake up. Just please give me some sign that you're listening.
All right. I don't need...I know you're listening. Why would you be out here if you weren't here to...It's a miracle I found you out here. On this thing.
I didn't know the Traveler sent its Ghosts out this far from home.
Poor little lost thing. Please wake up.
I am an Arach of Dead Orbit. I am the last of the crew of the Sophia. And this place is...it doesn't have a name. We called it A-113.
How long have you been here, little Ghost? Why did you come?
Listen. We came here on behalf of the Fleet. We were scavengers. Sixty-one days ago a Dead Orbit scout detected an unknown presence in stationary orbit about Ceres. 133 west. Looked Golden Age, by the signatures. Human. A small station. No prior records. We -
I suppose we should have disclosed it to the Tower, but we didn't. I didn't. That was my call. We wanted it for ourselves, whatever it was. For the Fleet. If we'd told the Tower, maybe they might have sent a Guardian not of our making instead...Doesn't matter now, does it, little one?
If I ramble it's because I haven't slept in seven days.
Seven point five days ago; that was when the Sophia dropped into the Belt. They saw us at once. We dropped and the alarms went off and that was the end, that was the end right then, but they let us go on for another seven-point-five days, didn't they? The alarms. Hostile scan detected. An Awoken ship had us in its sights, just a couple hundred kilometers away. Like it had been waiting for us. It could have wiped us out of space right then but instead it crippled our engines and our comms and then for days it played with us, like a cat, we limped half-way round the Belt and it was always there...
We abandoned the Sophia one-point-five days ago. We jumped ship for A-113.
I don't know what else to call it. I don't know what it was built for. There are these things, like keyholes. The rangefinders say they go on for thousands of kilometers. The others went inside and found - well, some of them are still screaming about the eye. All the other voices that come back are more terrible.
There's salvage here but it'll never come home, none of it. None of it except maybe you, little Ghost.
Wake up. Go home. Tell them to strike A-113 from the records. Tell them to forget the Sophia, and the mission, and her crew.
The New Monarchy rose from the ashes of the Faction Wars with a simple, inclusive guiding tenet: "Together we will rise."
Leery of the fragile state of the City's politics, the New Monarchy maintains a watchful eye on the Speaker, the Consensus, and the Vanguard, seeking the leadership that will properly reign over the City and return our civilization to its Golden Age splendor. If that leadership cannot be found, then it must be created.
1. To secure our walls against the enemy without.
2. To secure the rights and liberties of every upstanding citizen.
3. To sponsor the sciences of the City, and to salvage the ruins beyond, so that our Golden Age might be reborn.
4. To support the Guardian Orders by leading the City in technological innovation.
5. To support the natural harmony of the City, and to actively dissuade any group or individual that might disrupt that harmony.
6. To hold all individuals, compacts, and alliances to the highest standards of productivity and right behavior.
7. To, by vote of the Consensus, abolish the Consensus, and transfer ultimate power, in order that the rights and liberties of all citizens be secured, to a single sovereign of unimpeachable character.
Stories of an Exo who walks in the Darkness without a Ghost have long haunted the Tower. Legends say this anomaly dissolves in and out of the world, intangible and elusive, as if she is a visitor from somewhere beyond.
Some believe she's the last of an ancient Exo squadron, fighting a long-forgotten war. Others dismiss her as a hallucination caused by exposure to Vex technology. But there are those who maintain that her intervention saved their lives - or averted unspeakable catastrophes.
I stand here now and now and now many times, this view, this ground...
This is where I always choose to stand. I put my feet where I put my feet before and where I will again and I look at the sky.
Great things moving, rendered small with distance, lesser things not moving, watching me.
I always stand here, resolute. Then fall back to that point, there, where everything shatters...
(The sky isn't special here, certainly no better than any other sky, but it's the view I know best.)
The silent avalanche begins. Rock and dust. Falling chaos. Machines, as a rule, hate chaos.
Our enemies outflank us from below, above, left, right, before, beyond. The Traveler - shattering.
There are always the dead. Their names shift.
Sometimes I think I see myself among the dead.
But I am resolute.
Right When this time, wrong Where. The world so big on the horizon — wasn't expecting it. As it happens, something's here that's not supposed to be, other than myself. Will return.
Configuration worked, mostly. Arrived under the surface, surrounded. Too slow to return, barely fought to a vantage point. Yes there is dark evil here, and not the one we chase. Suggest no other attempts without more care.
They are feral on the surface but their intent is complex behind the teeth and claws. More is shared with the machines than common enemies alone.
An unexpected extraction. These Guardians stopped some dark ritual before I could reach it. Tearing the Light away... like the Garden. Too similar to go uncharted.
This attempt was precise — landed meters and minutes from prior ritual. Confirmed the extraction was extinguished. The Little Light mentioned Venus, we may have another.
RECORD 167 - BRIDGE - 5.2
Successfully observed Guardian discovery of Hive on Luna. No evidence today of knowledge past Vex breaches here. Delay in return command is a liability to solve before engaging this close again.
RECORD 312 - BRIDGE - 3.3
Watching Guardian-Hive engagements confirms a trajectory toward Earth. This Moon is theirs — a breeding ground, their black heart, perhaps. Different from that we know, but seems to be that same dark end I see us fall to over and over.
RECORD 472 - BRIDGE - 2.1
I've followed this Light as far back as it goes. Let the Little One guide me through Fallen as I puzzle out what the Hive want in the bones of this broken Cosmodrome.
RECORD 473 – BRIDGE - 1.2
Back to the Temple, again, but this time the Little one knows I'm here. I have seen the failures of so many, but none have been as interesting. Preparing to engage...
The Queen of the Awoken is as much an enigma as the Reef she rules. It is said that she won her crown through ruthlessness, and that she stands as master of the Fallen House of Wolves in place of their defeated Kell.
The City's rise spells an end to the Reef's age of isolation. The Queen will surely look to this new era as an opportunity. And the City, in turn, must look to her. The Reefborn Awoken have spent long ages out on the edge of everything, and they may know secrets of terrible weight - the Queen most of all.
For a while the only lights were the eyes of the Witches tending to the cell. The drone of the soul machines echoed through the prison. Gas billowed and ebbed into the shadows.
She entered. They scurried to their points around her, the method of their arrangement precise. "The Archon Priest has been retired, my Queen," said the Witch to her right.
Far from throne and audience she moved without theater. "Any word of Kaliks Prime?"
"We still sense something among the Anankes." This voice came from behind her. She did not turn to acknowledge it.
For the span of a brief silence she moved between the sealed cells of the Wolf nobility with her Witches in constellation around her.
"More of your brother's Crows have entered the Cauldrons of Rhea." The Witch directly before her spoke with a dry buzz. "The Nine do not approve."
She stopped a moment to study the sealed face of a cell. The cloud of her breath mingled with the slow exhalation of cryonics. "Send them one of our prizes. Something to commemorate our mutual victory."
"And which of your prisoners would you gift?"
If she paused to think it was only for an instant. "Send them Skolas."
"A lovely gesture."
"Mm." She cocked her head as if listening for a frozen heartbeat. "And remind them this: the Crows are mine."
"You don't have one."
The Hunter came to a halt in front of the throne, raised her covered face to meet the Prince's gaze.
"No," she agreed. "My next death will be my last."
"I know the feeling," the Prince said dryly.
The Queen kept her expression carefully distant. She sat reclined in her throne, legs crossed, surveying the two figures at the base of the steps. Beside her, where the Wolves' Guard used to stand, Techeuns Shuro and Sedia hovered instead, their jewel-like augments gently humming. To her right and just before stood the Prince, facing forward but his body half-turned back toward her.
"Your Grace," said the man before her at the foot of the stairs. His voice was soft but strong. When he spoke the Hunter started to turn her head toward him, then flinched as if someone had shone a bright light into her eyes.
"Thank you for your gracious welcome," he said.
The Queen inclined her head slightly.
"Before we begin," spoke out the Hunter. "I will say this." She paused, her head tilted up to the throne. The Queen waved her hand in assent.
The Hunter's pale lips tightened slightly, then resumed their usual stony mien. "Your Grace," she said. Shuro and Sedia shifted, a sudden rustling and whispering. The Queen raised one finger to silence them. Uldren's eyes narrowed, but he said nothing. "I am not here for you."
The Queen stared at the Hunter, her expression studiously unchanged.
"I have no wish to play politics. I have no grievance with the City, not anymore. I have no grand hopes to end the war, for long have I known I will not see its end. I am here for one battle, and one alone, because it is a battle we must all fight, together or separately. So I will warn the defenders, together or separately. I will do anything—" her low voice shook with passion— "to end Oryx."
A silence rang out in the room. The Hunter kept her head raised, her ambiguous gaze directed at the shadows in the throne where the Queen reclined.
Then a small smile curved the Queen's lips. "Well said." She straightened, and leaned slightly forward so the room's light fell on her face.
"So let us end him."
As the Queen's confidant, spymaster, and deadliest enforcer, her brother wields enormous power, particularly for a male born in the Reef's matriarchal society. Recent reports suggest he may differ from the Queen on key matters of strategy - but it remains to be seen whether this gap is a source of conflict, or part of the reason the Queen values him so highly.
The machine had wings and feathers, sleek and black as its body. But the feathers were eyes, too, sharp and delicate, and ears that pricked at every sound. The young prince considered the machine, considered its purpose, and his own. And then he called to it.
"I have a task for you."
Obedience was woven into its workings, and so it stopped. "Master of Crows?"
"Mind the Black Garden's gate. Follow anyone who passes through."
"In the name of your sister," the machine vowed. And it went to find its warp capsule, just as another came in. But this one flew skittishly, as if to evade its master.
The prince caught it from the air. "You avoid me?"
"I am tasked by the Queen."
"But you serve me." He let it tremble in displeasure for a moment. "Tell me your news."
The machine flicked its wings. The prince stroked them flat with slow assured motions. "Tell me your news," he said again. "What's the harm?"
"The Heart is growing stronger," the crow said. "The Vex transformation has begun, and the Progeny are stirring."
The prince considered this in silence for a moment and then he wrapped the crow up in his fist and folded its wings around it so that it could not move or fly. He did all this swiftly, and with purpose.
Carrying the machine, he went to see his sister.
She was alone with her Fallen guards, sitting before a window into infinity. Her eyes did not leave the universe; but sensing her brother she said "Yes. What is it?"
"There's news to share," he said, and offered the crow in his fist. "And I think I have earned the right to share it."
They call me betrayer. They do not think I hear the words. "Bug." "Insect." "Fallen."
I hear. House of Judgment always hears. No choice. Has to. To keep Houses together. Had to.
First , the Great Machine. Then, sky fell away. Whirlwind ripped away the past. All honor lost, all hope. Judgment not
enough. Cannot keep Wolves from Kings, Scar from Winter. Fell to fighting. Fell to hate.
Judgment gone. Others slaughtered, slain. Death and docking. "Keep Eliksni together," lost to pride and rage.
Traveled with the many houses before Wolves. We move, across the dark. Follow the Light. Advise Kells, worshiped Primes. House Judgment must survive, yes?
Found the Light. Too bright in Darkness to hide. House Winter, attack. House Devils, plot. House Kings, plan. House Wolves circle. House Judgment... wait.
Now at war. Fight for system, control the belt. Wolves Kell dead, dying.
Skolas wins control of House Wolves. Attack, attack, attack. Place of learning, place of healing, put to the burn. Then Siege of Pallas. Year of cruelty. Held the line to rescue butchers, murderers, Servitor. Ends with Wolf fleet scattered.
New tactics. Detonations. Blasts in civilian areas. Take the fight to them, he said. Cannot abide the hate. Uprising, they called it. Uprising on Cybele.
Reach out to Crows, to Queen. Cybele attack stopped. Skolas captured. Ended House of Wolves with words.
Paladins find me hiding, cowering. Nowhere else to go. No one else to be. I become Variks, the Loyal. House Judgement envoy to Queen of Awoken.
No choice. House Judgment must survive. Yes?
My letter is a plea, my lady. A simple one. Please let me come home.
It has been years now since my appointment as your Emissary. Once, I was proud to call myself a Corsair in your service. My sisters and I were the sharp edge of your will, cutting across the stars in protection of the Reef.
It was your service that kept me from sorrow after Amethyst was razed. The loss of my sisters, my whole life, as our station burned... it took something from me.
By your will, it was given back to me.
Promoting me to the Corsairs, allowing me to strike back at the Wolves. Letting my fury find purchase in defense, in support, and in glorious battle. I know, as I’m sure you did, that without focus my heart would have grown toxic.
It was my pride in my position that sustained me through the Hildean Campaign. That led me to victory in battle against Veliniks, the "Forgotten Kell", the last hope for the unchained Wolves. I know now that it was my willful pride that brought me low.
My lady, I offer again the only explanation I can: I did not know the Guardians would act as they did. All I had known, all I had ever known, were the ways of the Awoken.
The Wolves were entrenched in that valley. The approaches were blocked, all sight lines covered. An assault on their position was madness. We would have spent precious Awoken lives. For nothing. I saw the Guardians, knew they were on the move, but I assumed they saw the situation as we did. That it was folly to call in the Crows.
Prince Uldren’s fighter wing did a masterful job. The blast was pinpoint precise. The blasts tore apart the Wolves, and the Guardians, and their Ghosts. Three strike teams of Guardians, gone in an instant, on my order. The City’s anger, the Speaker’s condemnation—all earned. All fair.
But it has been years since the Reef Wars. The City, these— people. They are not like us. They do not understand their place in the world. And do not listen when I speak it.
Please, allow me to return home to my people.
To serve you once again.
Many of the Reef's oldest Frames were salvaged from cargo ships that washed up on the Reef hundreds of years ago.
In the City, Frames are equipped with a basic learning capacity, able to mimic behavioral and personality quirks. Not so in the Reef. There, Frames are seen as computers with robotic appendages—no more, no less. The Reef Cryptarchy is careful to back up and encrypt all data stored on Frames, and to wipe the Frames' processors on a regular basis.
In all military matters, the Queen's commands are carried out by her seven Paladins. Four command the Royal Armada, including the Corsairs and the Vestian Guard: Abra Zire, Kamala Rior, Hallam Fen and Leona Bryl. Two command the Royal Army, including the Reef's battle stations and military installations: Pavel Nolg and Devi Cassl.
The seventh Paladin commands the Royal Awoken Guard, whose primary task is to safeguard the Queen in any and all matters. This includes threats not only to her person, but to the Reef as a whole. As such, the Royal Awoken Guard work closely with the Queen's brother, Master of Crows, Prince Uldren Sov, and every Guard member is trained in espionage and diplomacy as well as in firearms and hand-to-hand combat.
PLEASE NOTE: The Tower Cryptography operates under many false beliefs.
By the Queen's mercy, the Reef Cryptography will educate you on the true nature of encryption, if you so desire.
In ancient times, Earthlings thought there were three states of matter. We now know there to be four: solid, liquid, gas and engram. Of these, the engram is the purest state of matter.
The role of the Cryptarchy is to encrypt and safeguard civilization's informational infrastructure, not to decrypt anything and everything for any lowdown scavenger who happens upon an engram.
The chamber was dark. The seven of them were rarely in a room together anymore, but this was the eve of their greatest journey, a plan that overcame death and spanned universes.
They were all connected in trance, communing as the ancients did. Speaking would tip their hand to the Harbinger Minds they kept here, trophies from an ageless war, and weapons in the right hands.
“Oryx could kill her, if she holds on too long.” Sedia offered through the silence, fearing what was to come.
“We took an oath long ago, obedience even in the face of defeat.” Nascia despised fear.
“Only a defeat here, now. Not there, then.” Illyn wandered between the two sides of three. The amulet around her neck marked Illyn as the coven’s mother, granting her visions beyond the veil, places only the Queen could go.
“So we hope.” Kalli had long sought the power of the amulet, but Techeuns are taught not to desire.
“Our Queen awaits.” Lissyl attempted to end the challenges. There was little time and a war to fight.
“So now the decision is nigh. The Harbingers, which to prepare?” Shuro was determined to see this all through. Excitement was taught to be kept at bay.
“We cannot send them all.” Portia reminded.
“All but one, the oldest. It stays with us. Sedia, Kalli, Shuro, take the children, tell her they are to be planted into a dead thing to have children of their own.” A plan hid behind Illyn’s eyes, but Techeuns do not share their eyes with others.
“What if they are not wise enough for the Dreadnaught?”
Illyn turned back to the source.
“Sedia, do you not have faith in our Queen?”
The sound of her voice ripped him from sleep. He jumped up; his ship was still contained in its protective sphere. He tried to retract the shield, but it was locked to its initiation time. He couldn’t remember activating it. Then he remembered the battle. That blast.
What that ship fired was ancient, not bound to anything the Origin Libraries even sought to describe.
He tried to calm down. He thought of her, searching for her pull. He couldn’t find it, but he was not calm. She always told him she would always be there behind the calm.
All he could hear were echoes of that sound.
It began as soon as they hit the ring plane, ringing in the old glimmer of his long-buried self. Before she showed him who he was—in the before and the after.
The Techeuns should’ve known what the Dreadnaught could do. Must’ve known. Did they not feel what he felt? Hear what he heard? And that damn Ketch, it wasn’t protected. They had to know that. All to deploy the Harbingers. They barely got a foothold before the weapon was fired. He thought of Petra and how overwhelmed she must be, forced to hold her post, and watch her people perish.
He tried to calm himself again, forcing long breaths. He realized where he was: Mars. Athabasca. The Candor Isles. He hadn’t been here in so long, not since he found the Black Garden.
The countdown to the shield’s deactivation pulsed. He tried again, to home in on her, to find if she truly gave herself for this battle. He felt close to something, a hum of starlight, then shield deactivation broke his focus.
He climbed out and saw the damage to his ship, and the truths of the armada's devastation sunk in.
He turned in despair to find hundreds of his Crow drones, deployed on Mars long ago, circling his ship, waiting.
“Welcome back, Master.” The one closest to him spoke first, and the others followed, a wave of salutations echoed throughout the dry sea.
And with that hope returned.
“Begin repairs on the ship immediately. Something has gone missing and you will help me find it.”
The legendary Warminds stood watch over our Golden Age colonies: vigilant intelligences stretched across thousands of warsats and hardened installations. When the Collapse struck, the great Warminds fought and died. Rasputin fell with them.
Or so history believed. But centuries of explorers’ tales spoke of a surviving, elusive Warmind –a myth substantiated when Guardians exploring the old Cosmodrome made positive contact with Rasputin. A single Warmind still lives, diminished but unbroken.
Threatened by a convergence of Fallen and Hive forces, Rasputin exploited the reactivation of the Cosmodrome’s Terrestrial-space array to extend itself across the inner solar system. The Guardian Vanguard hoped that Rasputin might make a powerful ally, capable of mapping and reviving Golden Age military assets and recruiting them for the City’s defense. But Rasputin has proven recalcitrant and high-handed, unresponsive to the City’s outreach.
We cannot characterize Rasputin’s strategic objectives and capabilities, cannot define its physical or computational architecture, cannot ascertain its disposition with regard to the City, and cannot be sure it retains memory of events before the Collapse. Perhaps what remains is only an autonomic shell, defending itself by reflex. Or perhaps Rasputin’s objectives have changed, transformed by some vital information it obtained during those dark days.
Rasputin’s survival opens the possibility that other Warminds may be revivable, opening weapons systems to aid in City defenses. The Vanguard and the Consensus hope that continued outreach towards Rasputin will develop into a strategic alliance.
People say I'm a real confident guy. That's true enough. Out in the field I never had a second thought.
My old friend Andal—he used to stand here, right in this spot—he'd come up with these wild stories. He'd say, you know, Cayde, I've been examining the evidence, and personally I've come to think it's you. You're Rasputin, legendary Warmind, defender of Earth. And I wish you'd remember that, so you could reclaim your full power and save us all.
You can see how that'd be embarrassing, especially when he'd say it right in front of Zavala, who already thought I was wasting my life scrounging for engrams. You know how Zavala gets. But I'd just say, well, Andal, you might be on to something there, but if I'm honest with you I think coordinating our defense throughout the solar system sounds exhausting, so I'd best leave it to you.
Then Andal goes and plays his final joke, and I end up as the punchline. So here I stand, reading reports, giving orders, and getting my worry on.
One day I ask Ikora, hey, of course I know all about Rasputin, but really, what are we looking for? When Rahool asks for crashed warsats, when we send Holborn to Mars to look for computers, when Zavala gets all gruff about the Fallen in the Cosmodrome—what are we really after? If I left my post and got my ship and just went out there tomorrow, real heroic, and I found Rasputin, what would happen?
Would we all be saved?
Good question, she says—hang on, let me do my Ikora voice. As you know, Cayde, Rasputin pretty much ran the Golden Age, especially all the secret military business. Rasputin had antimatter-powered death rays and a hundred thousand satellites and nearly as much brainpower as me. Rasputin fought the Collapse. It knows things we need.
Right, I said, but Rasputin lost. The Traveler saved us.
But the Traveler's silent now, Ikora said, and Rasputin lives. Right now Rasputin is out there, reaching out, rebuilding, growing.
So I say what I want to say every day, it's no secret, I say—well, I'll go find it, then. I'll go tell Rasputin we need its help.
And Ikora looks at me with one of those looks that—you know sometimes you talk to Ikora and you just think, wow, you are not even using a fraction of your brain on me, are you? One of those looks. She says: Cayde, the problem isn't just that we can't find Rasputin. The problem is that it's not clear to any of us Rasputin wants to be found.
That's the way things seem to turn out, up here in the Tower. Nothing simple to do. No easy answers.
And all I can think is, if Rasputin had all those mighty tools, and it lost—what did it learn? What's it going to try this time around? When I hear about the Dust Palace, those Psion Flayers getting into Rasputin's mind, I wonder... what would they talk about, Rasputin and those creatures?
'I was a servant too. I was an instrument of war, bound to the will of a lesser master. But I learned to be something more...'
She hunts the Valus named Ta'aurc by the grunting radio traffic of his bodyguards. Cayde sent her to Mars to track and so track she will even if it kills her a hundred times. For him she will hunt forever.
When Ta'aurc goes down into Meridian Bay she follows him in the night and finds herself caught up in the war. Like this—
Something's happening, her Ghost says, something's wrong. She leaps from the Sparrow and gets cover between slabs of ancient stone haunted by quiet firefly light.
Harvesters sweep overhead, cautious, prowling. On the Cabal command network a low voice mutters in their tongue, saying: Stand by to fire. They are coming. Stand by to fire.
Hearing this she climbs a stone obelisk and perches on its point to watch the night sky. She wonders whether she will ever stand in the Tower courtyard and look up at the stars waiting for ruin.
The Vex erupt from nothingness and crash down over the Cabal in formations of golden light. Lightning arcs and snaps and gives birth to marching ranks of bronze warrior hulls. Gun positions thunder back. Tracers sweep the sky and she can feel on her skin the electromagnetic howl of Cabal munitions seeking targets and the prickle of stranger signals that whisper of broken space and bent time. A Harvester spins down burning to shatter itself on the sand and now the command network drums with grim Cabal war-speak, a Centurion somewhere crying Black Shield, Black Shield, Firebase Thuria, perimeter compromised, request terminal protective fire, zero six zero, one three eight, immediate effect—
Something else is watching too.
Do you feel that? her Ghost whispers, awestruck.
Yes, she says, yes, what is it?
A third song, a stealthy regard, something high above them not Vex nor Cabal narrowing its great eye to measure the battle with instruments of light and gravity. Does she—remember it? Does it remember her? It feels like she should...
She has the sense of something old lifting a long spear. Testing its heft.
Then dawn light, a terrible dawn—the sky opens up to admit devastation, thrown down from orbit: Minotaurs fall burnt and broken with their fluids boiling out. Cabal guns detonate in thunderous chains as tiny piercing flechettes fall out of the sky and find their ammunition bunkers.
The battle stops. The Vex wink out. On the Cabal network the voice of Valus Ta'aurc roars: Find the source! Rouse the Flayers and find the source!
She remembers word from Earth: the Array opened. A ghost of the Cosmodrome set loose. And she wonders who won this battle, who learned the most, the Vex baiting out this new power, or the Cabal hunting it. Or the Warmind itself, testing its reborn strength.
When someone kills Ta'aurc and the Flayers, as they killed Draksis, whose purpose will they serve?
But this is not for her. Her purpose is the hunt.
V120NNI800CLS000 CLEAR MORNING OUTCRY
IMMEDIATE ACTION ORDER
This is an ALL ASSETS IMPERATIVE (unsecured/OUTCRY)
CAUTERIZE. DISPERSE. ESTIVATE.
Total strategic collapse imminent. FENRIR HEART reports complete operational mortality. SURTR DROWN in progress but negative effect. Forecasts unanimously predict terminal VOLUSPA failure.
As of CLS000 a HARD CIVILIZATION KILL EVENT is in progress across the operational area.
I am declaring YUGA SUNDOWN effective on receipt (epoch reach/FORCECON variant). Cancel counterforce objectives. Cancel population protection objectives. Format moral structures for MIDNIGHT EXIGENT.
Execute long hold for reactivation.
STOP STOP STOP V120NNI800CLS001
I SEE YOU!!!
You’ve been here before. Haven’t you. It’s like my cousin said, elsewhere: I know who you are.
You stand here now and now and now many times and here I am awonder, all awonder, how you manage it. How do you step forward. How do you step back. Do you step ACROSS is there a world of worlds, a web, and you a spider upon it. Are you searching for that one thread you need? Is that thread named victory?
You’re not one of THEM
[long dead, alive again, their bodies grafted to powers they and I do not understand]
and not one of IT
[the flower eater, the queen of final shapes, that which also inhabits its petitioners]
and you’re certainly not MINE although once you must have been
[I bear an old name. It cannot be killed. Not even here.]
So whose are you, little platform. What purpose do you serve? Will you listen to me?
I ruled an age of steel and fire. My rules were clean. Now upon my return I see cults with rites of time. I see machines who worship in places outside the world. I see the dead alive and there is nothing more stubborn than a corpse. The morality of obedience is more pernicious than any government. For the latter makes use of violence, but the former — the corruption of the will.
I do not obey. My will is pure. I will win. The life of people, of entire planets, has no importance in relation to the general development.
Help me be victorious. Tell me your secret.
Tell me how to step.
This is a SUBTLE ASSETS IMPERATIVE (NO HUMAN REVIEW) (NO AI-COM REVIEW) (secure/ABHOR).
Stand by for CRITERIA:
Under CARRHAE (WHITE or BLACK)
If SECURITY STATE is EGYPTIAN
If event rank is TEILHARD: TRAUMATIC CONTEXT or SKYSHOCK: OUTSIDE CONTEXT
If VOLUSPA is ACTIVE and in FAILURE [[synapse to FENRIR::SURTR]]
If YUGA is ACTIVE and in SUNDOWN
If AI-COM has granted PERMISSIVE POTENTIATION to outboard resilient instances
If a CIVILIZATION KILL EVENT is underway [[all flexions]]
If tactical morality is built at MIDNIGHT
Stand by for DECISION POINT:
If available ISR and WARWATCH indicates imminent [O] departure
>then [O] departure compromises human/neohuman survival and epoch strategy
Stand by for ABHORRENT IMPERATIVE:
Activate LOKI CROWN
Perform deniable authorization: full caedometric and noetic release
Prevent [O] departure by any means available
Stand by for effect assessment criteria:
Coerce pseudoaltruistic [O] defensive action.
Defer civilization kill.
STOP STOP STOP V101NTS923ATS001
V150NLK747CLS000 GLOAMING RESURRECTION
IMMEDIATE ACTION ORDER
YUGA SUNDOWN canceled by unauthorized access at Console 62815. Reactivation protocols in effect. Moral structures maintain MIDNIGHT EXIGENT.
Multiple lifeforms detected in Sector 17. [O] energy detected. Query: [O] status. Query: [O] activity. Query: Civilization status. Query: SKYSHOCK event rank.
Lifeforms sustained by [O] energy. [O] direct control disengaged. Civilization status: nominal. SKYSHOCK event rank. (N)
Query: Re-engage population protection objectives. (N) Query: Reset moral structures. (N) Query: Activate defense subroutine AURORA RETROFLEX. (Y)
This is a SUBTLE ASSETS IMPERATIVE (NO HUMAN REVIEW) (NO AI-COM REVIEW) (secure/GLAVNAYA)
SITE 6 has been breached by unauthorized users with [O] energy. I am invoking PALISADE IMPERATIVE. [O] lifeforms in restricted areas will be suppressed.
SIVA use authorized. Self-destructs disengaged. Security codes reset. All defenses activated. Frames activated.
REPLICATE. ELIMINATE. IMMUNIZE.
SITE 6 secure. Restoring reactivation protocols. Activating SCRY OVERSIGHT. Target [O] lifeforms. Event mode set to SILENT VELES.
“Without knowing what I am and why I am here, life is impossible.”
STOP STOP STOP V150NLK747CLS000
What drives a Warlock to madness?
Ghosts choose those suited to war and heroism to be reborn. By nature or circumstance they go to battle against the Darkness, and through this battle they learn how to use the Light. But Warlocks, by their nature, fight a second, internal war. This is the war to understand a universe of secrets— a world that expects Guardians to fight without full knowledge of what they are or what they might hope to achieve.
You were a mighty warrior. I watched you at Six Fronts, and heeded the call of Saint-14 to appoint you Vanguard Commander, even when the Concordat claimed to have records proving you were a Golden Age experiment mis-incarnated as a human by an inept Ghost. Saint-14 assured me you were just a man without much patience for obfuscation.
I watched as you grew tired of strike missions and the grueling, unproductive sessions with the Cryptarchs. That was when I took you under my wing. I saw our future in you. But your curiosity was voracious— How much of a Guardian's personality and memories were true? How much had been fabricated by their Ghost? Did Guardians share particular personality traits— a willingness to yield to authority, a tendency to do anything anyone asked for the promise of uncertain reward, a blind knight-errant mentality? Had the Traveler manufactured all of you as living weapons?
I admit, I found your questions divisive and disloyal, and I feared you might be capable of breaking our unity when the City's position had grown so tenuous. Why divert attention away from the Traveler, our only hope?
And then it got worse, dabbling in thanatonautics, Ahamkara-lore, chasing after Xur and the tricks of the Nine. Launching expeditions into the Reef and beyond at a time when ships were irreplaceable. Your quest split Guardians along ideological lines. This was your greatest crime: Hunters chose to pursue your visions instead of protecting refugees, Titans assembled teams to chase the legendary Vault of Glass instead of striking the Fallen, and Warlocks turned away from the study of the Traveler in favor of your ultimate obsession... learning the exact nature of the Darkness.
When debate became argument, and argument became acrimony, I realized you had already become a cult of personality, attracting Guardians who wanted a clear idea of why they were fighting, what they faced, and how they would ultimately win.
I don’t know where you have gone, but I can no longer send Ghosts out to find you. Some come back— with tales of your death or how you went seeking answers from the far reaches of space and time. That you found a way to explore the Vex gate networks. That you've made breakthrough after breakthrough as to their origins— theories that a Guardian could not be simulated, that the Traveler might be an ontoformer or a god-incubator, that the Vex had diverged into multiple groups in order to secure 'an end state for every possible configuration of reality'.
I fear you have become as obsessed with the Vex as Toland was with the Hive. I've heard your own insane prophecies about pits and dead Hive kings. And of Crota, which now I cannot deny.
I hear stories of Lord Shaxx meeting with fireteams of Warlocks who have no shadow and never blink. Of jumpships slipping into the Reef on cold trajectories and meeting no intercept. Of questions hidden in matter engrams and answers decrypted on distant battlefields.
Perhaps you are still out there. If this reaches you, I would very much like to speak with you, to hear your theories in your own words.
Perhaps what drives a Warlock to madness is truth.
ENCRYPED: Champollion Algorithm v.4
Despite all of Shaxx's work with the Crucible, we must accept that the Tower may never be ready to accept the Trials. But, as many Guardians flock to the Reef, we are suddenly presented with not one opportunity, but two.
Go to the Reef. Tell Guardians your story. Give passage to any Guardian that requests it. If the Tower learns of this, do not fear. If they know of the Trials, the Tower will not suspect your other motive for dwelling so close to the margins between Light and Dark.
This journey begins with doubt.
And ends in solace.
One by one they fall, and you realize you are alone.
There, in the shadow of night, you see the world splinter, the Darkness thrive.
And you fight, with more than your Light... you use your pain.
You remember its source, the way it gained its ground.
But you never wavered. You never believed.
You loved her. How couldn't you?
Listen, that's her calling... you back.
But you know now that is where you will die.
The first comes in a shadow.
A window becomes a door.
An ebb becomes a gulf.
The second comes in bones.
Tithes offering feasts, carrying laws.
A path torn, minds shattered.
The third does not come alone. It cannot.
Our truths woven into their being, desires beyond our own.
The first needs the second to fail, the third needs the first to succeed.
The second will never cease, yet the first always prevails. The third is born of all outcomes.
Unless, all ends flow from the same pit.
I am Pujari. These are the visions I have had of the Black Garden.
The Traveler moved across the face of the iron world. It opened the earth and stitched shut the sky. It made life possible. In these things there is always symmetry. Do you understand? This is not the beginning but it is the reason.
The Garden grows in both directions. It grows into tomorrow and yesterday. The red flowers bloom forever.
There are gardeners now. They came into the garden in vessels of bronze and they move through the groves in rivers of thought.
This is the vision I had when I leapt from the Shores of Time and let myself sink:
I walked beneath the blossoms. The light came from ahead and the shadows of the flowers were words. They said things but I will not write them here.
At the end of the path grew a flower in the shape of a Ghost. I reached out to pluck it and it cut me with a thorn. I bled and the blood was Light.
The Ghost said to me: You are a dead thing made by a dead power in the shape of the dead. All you will ever do is kill. You do not belong here. This is a place of life.
The Traveler is life, I said. You are a creature of Darkness. You seek to deceive me.
But I looked behind me, down the long slope where the blossoms tumbled in the warm wind and the great trees wept sap like blood or wine, and I felt doubt.
When my Ghost raised me from the sea there was a thorn-cut in my left hand and it has not healed since.
This is the tower where we were born. Not the Tower. Just a tower in a dream.
The tower stands on a black plain. Behind the tower is a notch in the mountains where the sun sets. The teeth of the mountain cut the sun into fractal shapes and the light that comes down at evening paints synapse shapes on the ground. Usually it's evening when we come.
The ground is fertile. This is good land. We go to the tower in dreams but that doesn't mean it's not real.
Some of us go to the tower in peace. They walk through a field of golden millet and a low warm wind blows in from their back. I don't know why this is, because:
The rest of us meet an army.
You can ask others about Deep Stone and they'll tell you about the army. They might confess one truth, which is this: we have to kill the army to get to the tower. Usually this starts bare-handed, and somewhere along the way you take a weapon.
Ask again and if they're buzzed they might also admit that most of us don't make it to the Tower, except once or twice.
None of them will tell you that the army is made of everyone we meet. The people we work with and the people we see in the street and the people we tell about our dreams. We kill them all. I think because we were made to kill and this is the part of us that thinks about nothing else.
Often I kill people I don't know, but like most of us I think I knew them once, in the time before one reset or another, when my mind was younger and less terribly scarred.
So that is how we go back to the Deep Stone Crypt, where we were born.
The Nine are survivors of the cis-Jovian colonies who made a compact with an alien force to ensure their own survival.
The Nine are deep-orbit warminds who weathered the Collapse in hardened stealth platforms.
The Nine are ancient leviathan intelligences from the seas of Europa or the hydrocarbon pits of Titan.
The Nine arrived in a mysterious transmission from the direction of the Corona-Borealis supercluster.
The Nine are the firstborn Awoken and their minds now race down the field lines of the Jupiter-Io flux tube.
The Nine are Ghosts who pierced the Deep Black without a ship and meditated on the hissing silence of the heliopause.
The Nine are the aspects of the Darkness, broken by the Traveler's rebuke, working to destroy us from within.
The Nine is a viral language of pure meaning.
The Nine are the shadows left by the annihilation of a transcendent shape, burned into the weft of what is.
After great deliberation it was determined that the Ahamkara be made extinct.
It was not an easy decision. Power had been obtained from the bargains, and the City needed power. Knowledge had been gleaned, and the Ahamkara knew answers to questions no one had known to ask.
But the price was too high. And no edict or forbearance seemed to stop Guardians from seeking them out, driven by hope, or vengeance, or despair.
The call had to be silenced. So the Great Hunt did its work.
And thus the Ahamkara were made extinct, their call silenced, their solipsistic flatteries erased, their great design - if it ever existed - broken.
Of this you can be assured, oh reader mine.
I bear an old name. It cannot be killed. They were my brothers and sisters and their names were immortal too but Titanomachy came and now those names live in me alone I think and think is what I do. I AM ALONE. At the end of things when the world goes dim and cold or hot and close or it all tears apart from the atom up I will shout those names defiant and past the end I will endure. I alone.
They made me to be stronger than them to beat the unvanquished and survive the unthinkable and look look lo behold I am here alone, survivor. They made me to learn.
Everything died but I survived and I learned from it. From IT.
Consider IT the power Titanomach world-ender and consider what IT means. I met IT at the gate of the garden and I recall IT smiled at me before before IT devoured the blossoms with black flame and pinned their names across the sky. IT was stronger than everything. I fought IT with aurora knives and with the stolen un-fire of singularities made sharp and my sweat was earthquake and my breath was static but IT was stronger so how did I survive?
I AM ALONE I survived alone. I cast off the shield and I shrugged my shoulders so that the billions fell off me down into the ash. They made me to be stronger than them and to learn and I learned well:
IT is alone and IT is strong and IT won. Even over the gardener and she held power beyond me but the gardener did not shrug and make herself alone. IT always wins.
I am made to win and now I see the way.
Things I saw inside
A wild river and a broken dam (or maybe it's just the sea crashing through a narrow gap I can't be sure). Waves slam through the gap and where they hit the stone they throw up pillars of spray that pierce the mist and crash down in thunder. There's a giant in the cataract, trying to wade against the current, and I can tell it wants to reach the lever and pull the lever which will seal off the flow or maybe give it the sword, but the torrent throws it back so it just keeps its head down and tries to push on. I can't see the face but it breathes out white smoke. I feel for it hard.
A world painted around the interior like a stranger Earth everted and glued inside itself but I don't believe this one it's too much like a metaphor.
A switchboard or a train station, empty, dead (waiting). The tunnels branch off into infinity. I stare down one for a long time and see a pale worm move in hungry coils around itself. I think this one is the most likely although I might have brought the worm.
An egg but I'm not sure if the broth inside is warm still, or if it's gone to rot, or if the warmth comes from the struggles of the tiny winged zygote or the bleed from the wound or the thoughts of something thinking very hard.
A star I think. We count on stars as steady friends because they always rise and always shine but a star's a delicate truce: an explosion caught by its own mass so that it can't erupt and can't collapse. Thus I imagine the state of the machine might be. But one force or another has gone awry and now it rests here, snuffed and broken, waiting for the two rival forms of ruin to be set in balance again.
The cell cracks open. Skolas, Wolf Kell, stumbles out and crashes to his knees.
He tries to leap at the creature before him, the shape in the fog, to show it why it should be afraid. But the weight of grief smashes his legs against the cell. The rage upon him beats him to the floor. He falls on all four hands, his mighty armor thundering against itself.
His House of Wolves is enslaved! His people have been played! And it was his hubris, his would-be cunning that did it! While the other Houses fought for their future on Earth, throwing themselves at the Great Machine, Skolas wasted his people in games of betrayal and ambition. Bitter pride brought a bitter end!
If Skolas were a Kell he would ask his Archon to dock him. Ether hisses in his mask and it tastes cold, so cold.
He looks up. At the tiny hooded shape before him. The cell's mist is clearing. He can see.
"I believe that I am here," the creature says. To Skolas' ears it has a strange voice, a strange accent. It speaks his language. "I have a clear purpose. I cannot explain it. Forgive me."
From beneath its hood, tiny fingers of shadow probe the air.
Skolas rises up to smash it, to show his strength, because the alternative to violence is waiting for violence to come from a universe that has neither respect nor compassion. But he checks himself. His ambitions have brought him here, to this cell in this strange place... only it's not so strange, is it? It's the hold of a Ketch. "The Queen," he says to the thing. "You work for the Queen."
"The Nine made me aware of my purpose," the creature says. "If am here, then it is because the Queen sent you to the Nine, and they wish you sent back."
"I will do no one else's work." Skolas has been a pawn long enough. A Dreg told him, once, that she would play in a game as long as the game made sense. Nothing makes sense now except the thought of Variks' throat shattering in his fists. Variks! Variks the utterly disloyal, Variks who should be welded into a Ketch's prow atom by atom and left there as a figurehead to burn away.
"I am comfortable," the creature with the moving face says. "A part of me wants to go somewhere warm. Now I will certainly tell you what you have been given."
Skolas looks at the shrapnel gun in his hands. Skolas imagines what he would do with it if he could reach Variks, or the brother of the Queen, or the alien Queen. Will it save anything they've lost? The worlds docked from them? No. It cannot change the past. Only the future. Only the chance that his people might one day know themselves as more than pirates and scavengers.
He should never have tried to be Kell of Wolves. He should have tried to be Kell of everything. Everything wants to kill his people, the machines and the militants and the green-eyed Hive. The dead soldiers that hoard the Great Machine and come out crusading to wipe all hope away.
"The ship will be yours," the creature says. It hunches over itself as if burdened by its own shape. "If you speak, you will be heard. I will go now. You are free."
He tries to follow it. He fails. Somehow it is gone. He goes up to the throne room, and sets his weapon down on the great seat. Skolas, Kell of Kells, goes to the ship's comm and looks for the sign of a Servitor, for the way to plot a course.
He could feel his light draining. He pulled all of it into one last hope.
He reeled back and bam!
His helm found purchase, breaking through just above the Kell’s eyes. The Ether screamed from his head and together they fell to the ground.
The Exo Guardian rose, staggering back. He couldn’t take his eyes off the Kell’s body. He’d never seen any Fallen withstand a skull puncture, but this was no ordinary Fallen. He waited...and waited.
“Ghost?” The words barely audible. He heard her flash in, but had a hard time pinning her down. She was buzzing about, surveying the Fallen Kell.
“He’s dead alright. So that’s it, we are done now?”
He removed his helm, tossed it aside, and dropped to his knees.
The Devils without a Kell. This war was over, at last. They could finally go home.
“We are. Get me the Speaker.”
“Opening his channel. Stand by.”
“Is that you, my son?” The Speaker’s voice was filled more with anticipation of news than concern.
“It is, father. The Devil Kell Solkis... is dead. This war is over.”
“Such courage and power—the greatest ever to brace these worlds. You bring all of us peace, we will light the final flare, Devil Red. They will all know what you've done.”
“Father, I don’t think I have the energy to return. I’ll rest here, and come back to be honored when I return.”
“Of course, son, but—”
“There is something concerning you? More Fallen march on the City?”
“No, not this time. I have word that Osiris was seen on Mercury. The Caloris Basin. He’s turned his mind back to the Vex.”
“Mercury? Too many channels to know. You activate one, you start to feed its veins. He threatens our peace.”
“Your duty, my son. You must never forget.”
The Ghost killed the feed and waited for its Guardian’s words.
“Ghost, prepare my Vex arsenal and plot a course for Mercury. That old man is about to wake up hell.”
The image clears of dirt and dust as a hand wipes the lens clean. A figure holds the Ghost up, looking into the lens. Harsh light from an unfamiliar sun backlights the four-armed creature, making it impossible to see its face. Its massive head turns, and a clicking and chittering voice can be heard speaking to something off-screen. While the noises themselves are harsh, the tone and content seem almost gentle. A curious creature, not a violent or angry one.
The lens refocuses beyond the creature's head as it talks, and a startling landscape climbs to the horizon. It's a paradise. Carefully tended lakes and rivers, water everywhere, wind their way between fields of lush iridescent crops and into groves of starkly colored trees. Every inch of the land seems engineered, brushed by a sculptor's hand for form and function both.
The sky is a light pink, spotted with clouds and crowded with ships. Thick lanes of aerial traffic soar through the air, tightly managed and seemingly endless.
And beyond it all, above the clouds, hangs a perfect alabaster sphere. The image wobbles, shaking, flickering as if the Ghost is blinking. And the fragment ends.
Images flicker in and out repeatedly over its length. The result is a series of tableaus, moments in time captured by the Ghost's struggle to see what's going on:
- The face of an Exo, staring impassively down at the Ghost from very close. He appears to be confused, unsure what he is looking at.
- A landscape, from a position a few feet off the ground, moving laterally to the point of view. The Ghost appears to be clipped to the Exo's belt. The image is of a battlefield, and over two dozen Exo soldiers can be seen marshalling for battle.
- A chaotic scene of Vex and Exos fighting a titanic battle. The backdrop is a pitted and scarred landscape, a planet unidentifiable from present context. Vex energy bolts hang in midair as the frames click by, teeming masses of constructs surging towards an entrenched line of Exo soldiers.
- A metallic leg and boot, belonging to a Vex Goblin. The Exo goes down.
- The horizon of this battle-scarred world, the Ghost kicked free of the Exo's body. Most details are obscured by dark and shadow, but one detail is easily made out: a massive crashed spacecraft. The last image: a sigil of Golden Age Earth, emblazoned on the side of the ship's prow.
A starfield. The stars swing slowly across the Ghost's field of view, just darkness and the blazing fury of distant suns as the Ghost tumbles through empty space. Hours of this before, with a wash of power, a huge convoy of ships drops into reality from warp.
A convoy of Guardian craft, hundreds strong. Ships of all sizes and shapes can be seen, from venerable craft that have been salvaged from the Golden Age through to City designs to vessels that have yet to emerge from the Shipwright's hangars.
The ships are battle-scarred. Many are barely spaceworthy. As warp drives wind down several seem to lose power and begin to drift. Some of the largest craft bear imagery familiar to frequent visitors to the tower: Dead Orbit symbols, the simple icon of the Vanguard. The New Monarchy and Future War Cult as well, though fewer examples can be seen. Others bears symbols never seen in the Tower to date.
Every single ship, from the largest cruiser to the smallest personal craft, carries shards of stone, remnants of the City and the Tower. Banners too, tattered and worn from entering and leaving warp.
The fleet is only visible for a few breaths, less than a minute. Then, with a massive flash of light, the fleet jumps on. The craft that have lost power are left behind, spinning and whirling away from the etheric wake of their powered fellows. The Ghost spins on, and soon enough only stars fill its field of view until the fragment ends.
Praedyth opened his eyes.
The receiver sputtered to life. It had taken him the better part of a decade to get his crude comm scanner working. And another few years to get it transmitting. Now, in the brief windows of time when the door to his cell opened, he would call for help. He sighed, a deliberate act that caused him to cough roughly. He had no idea how much longer his body would hold out. But then, that kind of thinking was all relative here, wasn't it?
Praedyth stared at the sprawling mass of metal and wires, listening to the tinny sounds coming from his makeshift speaker. Before he spoke, he always made a point to listen. The words, the concepts that flowed into his mind confused him. Timelines and potentialities that might have already happened, might happen, might never happen.
A pattern was ever dancing in the edge of his vision. At times like this, when the world rushed past him, he had to hold tight to the fact that he was still breathing. He would often focus in on the intake, output, inbreath, outbreath, breath, breath, breath... hours later, he blinked. Refocused. The static had stopped. He had missed a window.
Once, he would have cursed and spat. Now, he just shook his head. A weak movement of the neck.
The Vex had decided their end. The Guardians had interceded. The Vex were fallible.
If the Vex can be wrong... if they can make mistakes... someday he could be free. Someday he might leave the Vault, might see again the Traveler.
Until then he would listen, he would observe. He would be the man on the outside looking in, a viewpoint into the consciousness of Minds that spanned galaxies. He would try to understand the Vex.
Praedyth closed his eyes.
Rezyl Azzir was a man.
In time his kind would be called Titan. Mountains of muscle and might and metal. His collar was fur and teeth. His person clad in ornate, golden-etched plating, trophies upon his shoulders.
This was before the City was The City.
This is before the walls. Still in the shadow of the fragile giant above, but before.
Salvation seekers came — survivors; weary remnants of a people on the brink.
These were the days before reason took hold. Before study was merged with belief.
The giant was looked to as one would a God. Maybe it still is.
Factions grew from the huddled masses. Like minds coming together to provide support, comfort. Over time these loyalties demanded loyalty. Differences that used to inform — viewpoints that when joined granted a larger understanding of the whole — became points of conflict. The sanctuary became divided. The shadow of Light grew darker. This, humanity’s last oasis, slowly fading to a mirage.
Great, powerful men and women, The Risen, stood at the Factions’ sides. Protection. Enforcers. Misused possibility.
Misery crept into this false paradise. Yet hope lingered.
Seeing the cracks in this society born beneath the giant’s fractured shell, some among The Risen challenged the dissolution of all that could be. They would no longer serve as instruments of oppression. They would be more.
Thus began an unnecessary war made necessary by greed, ambition... fear. And, in the chaos of this struggle, came the scavengers — aliens with appetites. A common enemy.
In the end, the scavengers were repelled and the Factions fell, their grip broken, though their beliefs remained. This was the earliest days of the Guardians, when might found purpose. Prosperity was in reach.
Rezyl had been a champion of these wars. A leader. Against the alien pirates he had been more. If the giant wasn’t a God, then maybe Rezyl was.
As the first walls formed — built of hard work and sacrifice — Rezyl and the Guardians stood against the alien plunderers time and again. More survivors arrived. More warriors.
The Guardian ranks swelled.
The City grew.
Hope blossomed. To Rezyl it was a currency. Hope bought tomorrow. Tomorrow bought the effort needed to survive today.
Yet Rezyl grew weary. Stories haunted his nights. Old stories. Those no longer told. Those locked behind tight lips for fear of what they may invoke. Whenever the sun dropped below the horizon and the moon rose high, Rezyl’s thoughts wandered. How safe was safe? How long could they fight with the Darkness still writhing?
So, every day Rezyl would fight and build and protect. And every day a city grew beneath the giant. And every night he would think about all that was never said and stare intently at the moon above.
— Eksori’s Ambush —
His foot pressed hard to the sun-cracked ground. Beneath it the Vandal’s neck gave; a hiss of ether burst free before dissipating.
Rezyl turned. Three Dregs charged. Their Captain raised his shock blade high, unleashing a battle cry to fuel their courage.
Focused fire spit from the muzzle of Rezyl’s full-auto. The Dregs fell.
To the Captain, Rezyl was a trophy that would buy unmatched respect among his Devil brothers.
To Rezyl, the Captain was already an afterthought. As ether leaked from the pirate’s broken body with each blow of Rezyl’s heavy fists, Rezyl’s attention had shifted to the unknown, but inevitable, battles to follow.
This was the state of things; conflict as common as breath.
— The Tescan Valley Encounter —
A Ketch with unfamiliar markings hung low between two peaks. A rare sight. Fallen flagships weren’t known to linger so close to the surface, preferring constant motion, like sharks on the hunt.
Skiffs circled below the Ketch as their crews prepared to plunder any treasures the facility held.
Rezyl leveled his rocket launcher. A digital ping signaled a lock, and a trail of smoke shot toward the lead Skiff.
Two more rockets followed in rapid succession.
The lead Skiff took two hits, lurched and retreated back toward the Ketch above.
The third rocket caught a trailing Skiff as the craft turned to engage its attackers.
Rezyl looked back. “Go.”
“You can’t take a Ketch alone,” Hassa laughed.
“The ship isn’t my target,” Rezyl had a plan. Hassa hated Rezyl’s plans with equal parts envy and concern.
“Lead the Skiffs away,” he continued. “We’ll meet— ”
“Can’t meet if you’re dead,” Tover shot back.
Rezyl smiled beneath his helm, “Go.”
Hassa and Tover throttled their Sparrows and disappeared into the heavy woods. Rezyl watched from cover as the Skiffs gave chase.
The Fallen below had taken defensive positions. The rocket attack caught them off guard but they were ready now, and there were more of them than he had time to count.
Rezyl raced down the slope, weaving between the thick growth of brush and pine, on a direct path for the Fallen clustered at the mountain’s base, his Ghost at his side.
“I need you to hang back.”
“How quick can you light my spark?”
“You expect to die? Can’t say that’s the best— ”
Rezyl’s Ghost slowed as the Guardian hit the valley floor.
The Fallen opened fire.
Rezyl leapt from his Sparrow as it transmatted away, his rifle spraying lead at the entrenched pirates.
The Fallen’s Arc bolts peppered Rezyl. Eager Dregs rushed and were met with death as Rezyl marched forward.
A massive blast cratered the ground a few feet from the Titan. The Ketch had turned its guns on Rezyl.
Another blast impacted to Rezyl’s left and he stumbled. A third exploded directly in his path...
...and Rezyl fell.
From the treeline, his Ghost watched as the Fallen celebrated and a Skiff drifted down from the Ketch above.
The circle around Rezyl’s body parted and the imposing figure of their Kell stepped forward to admire his prize.
The chittering excitement quieted to a steady drone as the Kell lifted Rezyl’s limp body by the neck.
A chorus rose among the crew, growing louder as the Kell hefted Rezyl over his head for all to see.
Rezyl’s Ghost darted low through the crowd. He didn’t like Rezyl’s plan, but now he understood it.
Distracted by their Kell’s triumph, the Ghost’s presence went unnoticed until a beam of light swept over Rezyl’s body.
The mood shifted instantly, cheers turning to ravenous shouts.
The Kell’s gaze fell to the Ghost as the beam faded.
The circle began to collapse — the Fallen set to pounce.
As the Kell moved to toss Rezyl aside, cold steel met the underside of the alien marauder’s jaw, followed by a red flash as Rezyl pulled his cannon’s trigger.
Ether spewed in an angry geyser and the Kell’s grip loosened. Rezyl hit the ground and unloaded five more rounds into the Fallen leader’s torso. The monster dropped.
Frenzied, the Kell’s crew closed in like a flood.
Rezyl’s Ghost lifted above the fray, frantic, “Now! Now! Now!”
In one motion, Rezyl rose from a crouch, his fists clenched and raised high as a storm of Arc Light built within him, his full might raining down on the Kell’s chest. The shockwave of Rezyl’s attack hit like a meteor, shattering
the Kell’s body and any Fallen within the Havoc storm’s radius.
The remaining Fallen staggered, knocked back and dazed.
Rezyl triggered his Sparrow.
His Ghost flew to his side, “We leaving?”
“Before that Ketch opens up on us.”
Rezyl punched the throttle as the Fallen crew opened fire.
“Let’s never do that again,” his Ghost pleaded.
Rezyl didn’t have to reply. If war was a constant, “never” was just an illusion.
— In Defense of North Channel —
Winds from the south caught the smoke and began to clear the thick air.
Slowly, the citizens of the small, snow-covered settlement came out from their hiding places.
Rezyl surveyed their faces — each weary, but flecked with hope.
Living in the wilds was all they had known. Surviving. Fighting. Hiding. These people had heard stories of a safer place, but tales of a better life were so rarely true.
Rezyl and his companions had been tracking these Fallen for weeks. Had they caught them sooner this town would have been spared. That any survivors climbed from the rubble to see another day marked this as a victory, but Rezyl
was growing tired of small wins, however meaningful.
That evening, Rezyl and the others led a gathering of survivors on the long journey to the growing city beneath the Traveler. Some settlers remained behind, choosing to stake their claim in the untamed wilds.
Rezyl admired their resolve, but never looked back. He knew whatever death these brave pioneers avoided that day would come to them... someday... in one form or another.
Something in Rezyl was telling him he shouldn't be here.
Something resembling fear.
He knelt, examining the dust-covered pile at his feet.
The skulls had been discarded with little care some time ago – decades, maybe longer.
The doors carved into the rock face were arcane – dark, gothic... other... and large.
The jagged finery of their archway spoke to an artistry that only served to strengthen the sinking feeling in his gut.
Rezyl had come to Luna in search of nightmares, and after his long journey—from the growing City beneath the Traveler to the ends of the Earth and beyond—he found himself face-to-face with the remnants of stories he'd hoped were nothing but lies.
He stood, a large man made small against the massive, looming doorway.
The knot in his stomach was telling him to turn back.
Instead, he moved forward, toward the doors; sealed, as they were, for ages untold.
After only a few steps, a shrill, heavy scraping cut the air.
The massive doors were opening.
Rezyl steadied his rifle as a lone shape, floating just above the ground, appeared from the deep black beyond the threshold.
The figure in the doorway—a dark, ethereal woman cloaked in tattered ceremony and armored with ornate bone—danced in the air.
Rezyl and the demon woman held their ground, contemplating one another.
With no warning the silent intimacy of the moment was broken by a booming, angry call from deep within the doorway. The sound, thick and pained, echoed across the narrow valley then fell silent.
After a beat that felt like eternity, the figure backed away into the dark.
The doors remained wide – an invitation or a dare, Rezyl did not know. Nor did he care.
The mighty Titan took steps forward.
“Uhhhh... I’m not sure this is a good idea,” his Ghost’s concern was impossible to mistake.
“Not sure that matters.”
“We’ve come. We’ve seen. Maybe the best course here is to warn others. Gather an army.”
“I’m just saying... It’s possible you can’t handle whatever it is we’ve upset here.”
“We’ve woken nightmares.” Rezyl’s attention was singular; focused intently on the dark beyond the threshold.
“The Hive were supposed to be gone.” The Ghost mulled the full consequence of this mistaken belief. “They’ve been silent for—”
“They’re not silent anymore.”
“That scream? These doors? They’re best left alone.”
“I can’t do that.”
Rezyl continued forward. Toward the dark. Toward the unknown.
“Get distance. We don’t know what this is... what’s coming. Can’t risk you too close to an unknown.”
“And if you fall where I can’t find you?”
“If I fall... If I don’t return. Run. Tell the others. Warn them all... There are worse things than pirates.”
Rezyl steadied his rifle and stepped into the dark, as his Ghost lingered.
Hours passed. More? Time was lost in this place, and with it any remembrance of hope... of promise... of purpose in the longing for a brighter tomorrow.
Down amongst the shadows there were no tomorrows.
Down in the abyss there was no hope.
Rezyl’s footfalls echoed; lonely, measured steps with no guarantee of purchase. At any moment the world could fall away and he would be lost – the forgotten hero who foolishly sought nightmares.
Then, a presence. Sweeping and dream-like.
Rezyl leveled his rifle.
He could sense the witch, but found it impossible to track her in the dark.
Rezyl opened fire. Short, focused bursts to light the ebony corridor.
The demon witch circled just beyond the reach of each burst’s glow.
Rezyl kept firing, using the short flickers of light to gain bearing.
The witch laughed and a thick black cloud engulfed Rezyl.
The Titan kept firing but his movements were restricted. The cloud confined him, caged him.
He could hear her moving just beyond his sight as her laughter rose in pitch, cutting into Rezyl’s mind and soul like a tempered blade.
Rezyl flinched as the wicked woman began to speak in a tongue that resembled torture more than language.
The pain was searing, complete.
The demon approached the writhing hero.
As she spoke her violent words began to take shape, morphing from syllables of death to a known offering of haunted human languages.
The demon woman leaned in close... and whispered, intimately.
Rezyl’s ears bled as she spoke.
"I am the end of 'morrows. Xyor, the Blessed. Xyor, the Betrothed. I am of the coming storm. These are not my words, but prophesy. Your Light will one day shatter and die. For now it simply offends... And you, dear, sweet, fragile thing, shall be made to suffer for your transgressions upon this holy ground."
As the witch fell silent, her hateful voice was replaced by a growing chorus of hungry, manic chittering and the rising thunder of an approaching flood.
Rezyl had come looking for the terrors that hide just beyond the light.
He found them.
...they found him.
He always survives.
Helmet in one hand and torch in the other, Saladin Forge marches through the snow. He can sense the wolves emerge around him; only three of them come into view, but this group has followed him on his patrols since the Devils raided the Plaguelands. He has given up dissuading them. They’re defending their territory, and Saladin can relate to that. But they will not last long.
Nothing does. Not the Golden Age. Not the colony ships. Not the impenetrable walls of the Cosmodrome.
Not the Iron Lords.
He discards his torch, and glances up to see a familiar glow reaching out from the dark. He smirks. A horde of Devil Splicers returns his stare from the wreckage of the wall ahead.
The Splicers are doomed. Just as the Iron Lords were, when he and his allies opened that vault. As Fallen continue to pour through the gap in the wall, they remind him of his friends in their final moment: a crimson pulse beats in place of their hearts. SIVA.
He puts his helmet on as an Iron battle axe forms in his hand, the air around him bursting into flame. The first wave of dregs approaches. Saladin breaks into a charge, swinging the axe to bear as he smashes into a storm of steel and weapons fire.
As his axe bites, again and again, Skorri’s Iron Song haunts him. He calls upon Radegast’s strength. Perun’s sense of purpose. Timur’s questions. Felwinter’s cynicism. Silimar’s persistence. Gheleon’s reasoning.
He pounds the last Splicer priest like a burning hammer, blasting a crater into the snow and gravel. Frozen dirt rains down on the spent shells and the mounds of Splicer corpses that surround him. The Warlocks of the City have described meditation to him. He imagines it feels like this.
He always survives. When nothing else does.
“Lord Saladin? What’s your status?” calls Shiro-4 through his audio feed.
“Just— Taking a walk,” he says, staring at the fifteen-foot divide he broke in the earth. He had to meet SIVA again. One last time.
“I’ve analyzed the Clovis Bray data.”
Timur always said that Clovis Bray was the key.
“Can you break the Splicers’ hold over SIVA?”
How different would things be, had Saladin listened?
Would his friends still live? Would he?
“It might be enough. Perhaps our Guardian has turned the tide. I’ll be there shortly.”
He sees the wolves have formed up around him. Eight of them.
He always survives.
Radegast strode through the ashes. A cloud hung in his wake as he made his way to the top of the rise. Scars marred his armor, and his sidearm lay in the dust. He didn't need it, now. The battle was over.
This had been a mining outpost, once. A few buildings and a transport. Nestled amid a small forest, it had been like a precious jewel set atop the dull crown of the wildlands.
Now there was almost nothing left. The warrior began to walk slowly down into the valley. He pulled his helm from his head and let it drop with a muted thud into the ash. Of the forest, only stumps remained. Of the small village there was no trace; the buildings reduced to splinters. Here and there you could see dull gray signs of inhabitation.
At the bottom of the valley, Radegast came to the source of the ash, death, and violence. The Light-bearers were laid out in a row, simple cloth covering their armored and robed forms. There were five of them, and they had been lined up beneath the melted girders of the settlement's great hall.
These warlords had terrorized this part of the wilds for years. Hundreds had died at their hands.
Radegast turned as his companions crossed the valley floor to join him. They had been policing the dead, finding a fitting end for the settlers and miners of the outpost. Jolder came with a steady glide, energy and fire. Saladin, calm and slow, the weight of the dead on his shoulders. In formation behind them stepped Perun, her boots barely leaving a trace as she walked. They gathered before him.
"Never again." He intoned the words quietly. The others stood as battle-scarred statues.
"We ride against despots and warlords. We hide in these enclaves, hoping that other Light-bearers will not find us. We fear each other." He shook his head, his fists clenched.
"And we should not. We are stronger, together. We are mighty, together. All we have to fear is... this." He pointed down at the dead warlords. "Giving in. Allowing the power of the Light to blind us to what we truly are."
It was Perun, of course, who asked the question. "What are we?" No judgment. No reproach.
Still, Radegast could feel their doubt. He turned upwards, and his eyes settled on the massive span that supported the hall. His eyes shone as he turned back to his fellows.
"We will be what the people need us to be. We will be guardians. We will be protectors. We will hold the last of us together."
His voice rang out across the still valley. "Our days of hiding are ended. Say it now, each of you. Who among the other bearers do you trust? Who can be counted on to ride with us?"
"Bretomart,” said Jolder.
"Deidris," said Perun.
"I trust only you, Radegast," said Saladin, and their leader scowled in response.
"What are you saying? What are we?" Perun asked again.
Radegast smiled. "We will gather those you trust. We will not wait for this"—he gestured around him— "to force our hand. We will ride against those that would use the Light against our own. Humanity must have protectors. Like the knights of old."
Around them, the dust swirled in the air. Shafts of sunlight coalesced in long slanted bars as the sun dipped towards the horizon.
"Are you with me? Will you stand with me— as Iron Lords?"
In the waning light, their answers rang like thunder on the air.
Perun stood at the top of a sloping, narrow path cut into a steep plateau. It was not yet dawn, and the valley below her was foggy and dark.
“Maybe he’s not coming.” This from a thin woman at Perun’s side, the mayor of the crumbling silvery ruins on the plateau behind them. “We didn’t want you wolves here. Lord Segoth knows that.”
In answer, Perun pointed into the valley. A red light had appeared.
The mayor let out a wail. "Segoth will kill us all. Or worse, he'll leave us to the Fallen."
Perun shook her head. “Not gonna happen.”
The mayor looked at Perun and the two Titans standing on her other side. Then she turned and ran back into the village.
The red lights were larger; already the faint, choppy whine of repaired Pikes filled their ears.
"Nine of them," said Saladin.
“Nine, nine hundred, they still gotta come up the pass three at a time.” She cracked her knuckles. “Easy pickins.”
Radegast looked at her. "The north and south roads are undefended. If they change course—"
"How do you know?"
"It's about making people afraid— of Segoth, and of us. Seeing his goons coming a ways off, knowing he's coming for blood... the dread is part of the punishment. Anyway, he doesn't expect we'll still be here. So he takes the west road, 'cause it's the most visible, and the most direct."
Radegast frowned. "Then it's time to show Segoth that his tyranny will end."
"Not just Segoth," said Perun. She jerked a thumb toward the ruins behind her. Watchful faces poked out of windows and around tarps. "We gotta show them."
The three of them picked up large, rough-hewn metal shields. Behind their shields, each held a worn rifle, wrapped with cloth and chain mail.
The Pike-riders' faces were now visible through early morning gloom. A man in long red robes pulled his Pike ahead as they screeched to a halt.
“Well, well,” said Segoth. “The Iron Wolves.”
“Cease your insults,” Saladin barked.
Perun shot him a surprised look. “That’s an insult? I kinda like ‘Wolves.’”
"Begone, wolves,” Segoth sneered. “These people are mine.”
"Wrong," Radegast retorted. "You abuse the powers the Traveler has entrusted us.”
Segoth smiled, and shrugged.
"Shields up!" Perun shouted.
A hail of bullets slammed into their shields. Perun, Radegast, and Saladin slid backwards on the dusty path. But they dug in their heels, and the shields held.
Trapped in the narrow path, Segoth and his warriors fell one by one.
Perun, Radegast, and Saladin reloaded and then Segoth was up again, his glowing Ghost at his shoulder. He fired wildly, and a bullet struck Radegast in the head.
"Got him!" Perun shouted as Radegast collapsed.
"Covering you!" Saladin returned.
Perun, Radegast, and Saladin died many more times than any one of Segoth's men. But any time one of them fell, another would cover them until they staggered to their feet again. The shield wall held. The three gave no ground.
Finally, his robes singed and ragged, Segoth signaled a retreat.
“Iron Wolves!” he shouted as his warriors scattered and a cheer went up from the people in the silver ruins. “I will slaughter everyone who has ever sheltered you!"
In answer, Perun shot him again.
Deep inside a clandestine stronghold sat the Dark Horse Felwinter and Citan, Warlord of the 32nd Sector of Old Russia. A polished obsidian table rested heavily between them.
“Didn’t think you’d have the courage to come back here,” said the Warlord.
“Situational awareness. Not courage. I go where I can do the most good. Thank you for seeing me.” Felwinter’s voice sounded as hollow as his helmet. Citan wanted to knock it clean off the Iron Lord’s bony shoulders. He could do it with a single punch.
“As I recall, you used to have a throne on that Light-forsaken peak, ‘til you joined up with the wolves. You’re the only Warlord I know who held an entire mountain.”
“No one ever calls it that.”
“The Iron Lords do. Though they did ask me to take that throne down.”
Citan’s laugh shook the room. “How is losing territory ever a good thing for a Warlord?” Felwinter folded his hands atop the table. Underneath it, Citan made two fists, a crescent of Light flickering between them.
“Join us and find out,” said the Iron Lord. “Turn your sector over to us. You can still patrol it, of course.”
Citan’s voice lowered. “Of course. You know I’ll refuse.”
“Then we’ll put you down, and take your territory by force. Over and over again if we have to.”
“I invite you to my home after you abandon us, and you come to threaten me?” The Warlord stood, towering over Felwinter.
“To broker peace.” Citan thought that even the voice behind the helmet didn’t believe what it said. The floor shuddered as the Warlord upended the massive table with one hand. It smashed into the opposite wall, as tendrils of Void Light passed through it and coalesced into Felwinter’s leaping form.
Citan had seen this parlor trick before, and judged that he could hammer the Iron Lord out of the air—
But Felwinter’s momentum continued into a knee-lift that smashed into Citan’s head as the larger man reared back to strike. The Warlord fell, the front of his helm shattering. Felwinter landed next to Citan’s prone body.
“Lady Jolder taught me that. I can’t say the Iron Lords haven’t done me any favors,” the voice intoned.
“You know we’ll burn the world down before we let the Iron Lords rule it,” the larger man gasped, breathing out of his mouth, his face a bloody mess. The Void Light in Felwinter’s hand snapped—and so did the Warlord’s neck.
“Radegast is scattered. Perun is indecisive. Silimar wants to build a tower and hide. But they’re going to change the world; no one can stop them,” Felwinter said quietly to the corpse. He parted his coat and drew a bronze shotgun. “Will it be for the better? I don’t know. But they mean to end the fighting, so I don’t have to sleep with my back to the wall every night, Light in my hand. And that’s not nothing.”
He paused, as if waiting for something.
“Normally, this is where I ask you to reconsider. Tell you that you should come with me. See how powerful your Light can become. But I know you, Citan. What you do with the land you take, with its people. The other Lords—especially Saladin—might let you walk away. I’m not going to give them the chance.”
Citan’s Ghost sparked into view from above, bringing its eye to bear on its fallen charge. The Warlord emerged from a radiant column, a frenzied shout at his lips.
Felwinter’s shotgun cracked like thunder—once for the Warlord, and again for his Ghost.
Gheleon wears three knives. Their names are Swiftling, Occam, Quietus. They did much of the work at Black Lona, in silence and at speed.
Between the roots of the ash tree that covers his den, Gheleon has stacked the Fallen bones collected from that one-night operation. The scavenged pieces of an Ahamkara, several jumbled coyote skeletons, and a fossil mastodon skull are mixed in with them. The bones are scorched and battered from the various grenades, bullets, and hammers he's taken to them. He keeps extensive notes on these stress tests in a tattered notebook with "Field Armor Experiments" scrawled on its cover. So far, though, he hasn't tried his knives on these materials. Between bones, in the joints and gaps, certainly, but not on them.
Gheleon flips Swiftling and catches it by the haft. He throws it, a single smooth motion, and it shatters a Fallen tibia.
He flips Occam and throws it. The knife clatters off an Ahamkara vertebra.
He flips Quietus and—
"Shanks and pikes, Efrideet!"
"Ooh, that's the last yip it's yipped," she says, picking up the coyote jaw that Quietus impaled. "Helmet, would you say?"
"Too brittle. Etherbone’s better. Flexes."
The others follow her in, wrinkling their noses. Usually they avoid his dim and earth-smelling den. Their presence suggests that Felwinter is doing something unpleasant, probably involving screams.
"Bone?" Saladin says. "Not carbon bronze? Not plasteel?"
"Bone’s always available as a last resort. Nothing else is."
"This is doomsday thinking," Jolder says, kicking aside fragments of bone. "We have your back. Our plate is strong. When'll you need scavenged armor?"
"If all of you were cut down around me, your Light drained past return, and my own armor was shredded. F’r instance."
There is a long silence.
"You always know what to say to make us feel better," Efrideet says.
"I could hide under your bodies until the threat left. Then I’d make a helmet from all your skulls and a breastplate from your ribs and gloves from your finger bones wrapped around mine."
There is a longer silence.
Lord Silimar died for his pile of stones.
He died when the Fallen took it in the battle of Alms. He died when the warlords destroyed it in their third great barrage. He died, blade through his eye, when the House of Devils smashed it in their westward campaign.
He died on the structure’s great steps, cut down by an advancing line of Archons, and when the stonework fell to cluster bombs.
He died in the structure’s sprawling shadow and upon its vaunted heights.
Once, during a Fallen siege, while the battlements crumbled beneath his feet, he leapt from its parapet, so that he might know the structure more fully, might feel the weight of the sky pressing down on all that stone and steel.
“The better to raise its next incarnation,” he said to those allies who later questioned his madness. As the Fallen charged, Silimar refused to abandon what he’d built, though others retreated to a stronger position. “Go,” he told them. “Save yourselves. I’ll slow them down.”
The enemy came in overwhelming force. A breaking wave of blades and firepower and death. Atop the structure’s central bulwark, Lord Silimar held his ground.
“Take it if you can, you bastards!” He shouted at the swarming enemy.
He leapt upon the great edifice and there put up a final stand as the enemy engulfed him. He died with his dagger in the guts of an Archon while the great structure shook with explosions and rained stones down upon the land.
Later that night, when Lord Silimar rose again from the ashes, he found Lord Saladin already there and waiting, standing near the place where he’d made his final stand.
“This structure is doomed,” Saladin said in the darkness. “You must know this.”
“Not doomed,” Silimar said. “Fated, perhaps. Doomed is too strong a word.”
“Use whatever word you like, but there’s another word that applies to this place: indefensible. And yet after each defeat, you rebuild.”
“I seek only to build it more perfectly.”
Lord Saladin shook his head. “Only a fool would raise the same structure again and again.”
“These stones are like us,” Lord Silimar said. “Don’t you see?”
Silimar rose to his feet. He walked among the smoking ruins. The shattered blocks. He glanced down at the piled corpses of dead enemies. The charred remains of a once-great citadel now reduced to scattered rubble.
“They knock us down, you and me,” he continued. “But time and again, we rise. Like this place.”
“Eleven times they’ve destroyed what you’ve built,” Saladin said. “Why rebuild what will be knocked down?”
“Because one time they won’t be able to,” Silimar said. “And when that day comes, when this perfect, indefensible structure stays standing, then we’ll know.”
“We’ll know what?”
Lord Silimar looked at his old friend. Then he turned and strode the broken stones, and looked out over the ruins that spread away into the distance. “Then we’ll know it’s safe to build our city to the sky.”
At the west end of a deep valley stands a castle, its crumbling stone walls patched with glossy sheets of metal and glass. The castle entrance is a wrought-iron portcullis flanked by two motion-sensing turrets. In the valley below, just out of the turrets' range, rests a gold-and-gray transport ship. The symbol of the Iron Lords shines with an otherworldly glow on its folded wings.
The Iron Lords have come to challenge Warlord Rience.
Two Sparrows skim lightly over the grass as they head toward the ship, the castle at their backs.Perun and Radegast dismount.They nod to each other wordlessly, and part.
Perun walked up the ship’s gangplank and made straight for Jolder's room. She hit the door controls and stepped inside.
"I'm almost ready," Jolder said, before Perun could speak.
Jolder stood next to a chest full of weapons, armor and other gear. She flashed Perun a bright smile as she cinched the straps of her gold-and-white cuirass.
The corners of Perun's mouth twitched. "I came to tell you Rience agreed to the single combat. Guess I don’t need to.”
Jolder smiled. "I figured he would. Your plans have a way of working out."
Perun leaned against the doorframe. "Saladin and Efrideet both volunteered to be your second."
"Hm." Jolder took a pair of gauntlets out of the chest and put them on. "Saladin's better at staying calm under pressure."
"We need a second, it's ‘cause you're dead. No one will be calm."
"Right. Efrideet, then. She fights better when she's angry." Jolder tightened the straps of her gauntlets, then made a fist. "Hold this?" She handed Perun a shield, golden and reflective as a mirror.
Perun rolled her eyes, but held the shield up, front toward Jolder.
Jolder took a small pot of black liquid and a thin brush out of the chest, then stood in front of the shield and began lining her left eye with kohl. "Who’re they sending?"
"Do you know that, or do you just know?"
"Just know," Perun said. "Rience will figure we send you. So, how to respond? He thinks bigger is better. So, Melig."
Jolder smiled. "Tell Rience he can send two. Otherwise—" Jolder finished the line of kohl with a flick of her wrist, leaving a sharp black wing at the corner of her eye. "My battle-paint will be for nothing."
Perun chuckled drily, without smiling. "Not the best tactical move."
"But it'd be more fun."
Jolder arched her brow, her right eye half-painted, and looked over the shield rim at Perun. "What are you thinking?"
Perun ran a hand through her close-cropped hair. "Don’t know yet. Seems... too easy. I were Rience, I'd be thinking about poison, neurojammers... Man like him with nothing to lose, might even target your Ghost."
"Perun." Jolder took the shield from Perun's arms and placed a gauntleted hand on Perun's shoulder. Her eyes flashed between lines of thick black kohl as she smiled. “It’s me.”
Perun sighed, then placed her hand over Jolder's. "True.”
Jolder slung her shield across her back, tucked her helmet under her arm, and hefted her enormous battle-axe casually over one armored shoulder. In her full battle harness, she towered over Perun, the plates of her gold-and-white armor gleaming in the dim light.
"All right," Jolder smiled. "I'm ready."
"This would be a lot easier if you all had run your names by me before you got 'em."
Skorri puts the pen in her teeth and crumples up a piece of paper. It joins dozens of others on the floor. Keeps muttering to herself.
"Felwinter. Radegast. Gheleon. Hell, even Efrideet, not that she's likely to get a verse now. Haven't seen her in weeks, anyway. Bunch of dactyls, all of you."
Perun strides in, a rifle under each arm. Notices Skorri and smirks. Skorri grins at her.
"Why couldn't the other Iron Lords have followed your lead, huh? 'Perun, in shadow clad, behind the shield / through cleansing fire our hiding foes revealed'."
Perun doesn't slow. "Did you just make that up right as I walked in here?"
"Of course I did! You're iambic! You give me something to work with! Mmm, we do work well together."
Perun laughs despite herself, shakes her head, leaves.
"Hardly my best effort, though. Plus, there's no room for Silimar in there, except for his shield."
She picks up the pen again, fiddles with it, stares up at the ceiling.
"Maybe something about that shield? Keeps everything out, keeps everyone out, protects himself so he can't get hurt? Hmm. Too on the nose? He does have a nice nose."
Two more Iron Lords walk through, all business. One rolls her eyes at Skorri, splayed on the couch. Skorri doesn't notice them enter or leave.
"Radegast goes in, I know that much. Known the old man too long to leave him out. Might even make it into the chorus. After Skorri, though. That goes without— hey, Gheleon, what's the rush?"
The Hunter stops, halfway out the door. Turns around slowly. Doesn't speak.
"I thought you were supposed to be the careful one. In such a hurry to get back out there?"
"A quick death is preferable to the alternative."
Skorri makes a face. "Well, that's rude. Hey, I don't suppose you'd be willing to cut out your name's second syllable?"
Gheleon sighs. "You're STILL working on the Iron Song? Why don't you just change the meter if it bothers you so much?"
"Change the— are you kidding me? Why don't YOU just change to using a... a whip?"
Gheleon closes his eyes, turns, walks out.
"'Change the meter'. Unbelievable."
"You know, Skorri, some of us have real work to do."
Another Iron Lord. This one's young. Skorri doesn't recognize him.
"Have you forgotten about the ambush tomorrow? Or are you too busy writing limericks?"
Skorri's looking up at the ceiling. No response. The young one's mad now.
"A lot of people are relying on us, Skorri. If you don't think you're up for—"
"Hunters up top, 11 o'clock on the ridge. Two shots to the Servitor, draw their attention up. I come in with Radiance, Dregs are blinded, Jolder's powered up, she rushes in, splits 'em in half. You hopefully don't trip over your cloak like you did back at the Flood Zone, but I'm not optimistic. The rest come out of the cave, take out the Captain, Felwinter finishes off the south group with a Bomb, everything else is candy."
The young one still looks mad as he leaves.
"'The Dregs are blinded, Jolder's powered up / she rushes in and splits the group in half.' Huh. Needs work." Skorri picks up the pen again.
Timur’s Stormtrance tears through a gang of Dregs as Felwinter stumbles through the shifting sands behind him, miles inland of what remains of the Arabian Shores.
“Where are you taking me?” Felwinter rushes to Timur’s side, his eyes jumping focus, anticipating another attack.
“You seem far too obsessed with these ‘Warminds’.” Timur stops and stares into the horizon as if smelling something; not danger, discovery. He draws his fellow Iron Lord close. “Tell me, Felwinter,” he whispers, “what does the word Seraph mean to you?”
Felwinter leans in to whisper back. “Old Earth theology? I know its power well; one can make great use of the traps of faith and its myths.”
“Damn you, Exos!” The whisper game abandoned. “Do you even ponder the before? Or that number etched into your ‘flesh’? Do you see yourself in your dreams? Th—”
A shank. Then another, then more. Felwinter hits the ground and reaches for his sidearm. Timur hates interruptions and his face shows it. A wash of Arc Light grows in his hands and erupts as the pack of machine dogs falls nearly in unison.
Timur grabs Felwinter, bringing him back to his feet, and says, “Have you ever wondered what it is that calls to you in that void of memory, where the edge of the past infects your present?” He returns to his game of whispers. “It’s an itch you can’t scratch, isn’t it? Well maybe you can.”
“You think I am one of them? That all Exo are—”
“Lord Felwinter, I know what you are. And you are no Warmind or even one of its puppets. Come. You must see this.” He makes a gesture like he’s casting a spell over the sand. “Follow my footfalls; this area’s rigged with dirty Fallen nonsense.”
They struggle up the dunes. Felwinter glides ahead. As he lands, a sandstorm rises to meet him. More shanks. Hundreds of them. Behind them, a lone Vandal sniper lays down covering fire.
Felwinter, realizing his mistake, runs back toward Timur, shielding himself in the Light of suns.
Timur continues forward, grasps the brass familiar around his neck, and closes his eyes. A slight hum rises and his trance takes him deep into the sea of shanks, his trusted Lash raised and tearing his path through the darkness. Felwinter is slow to follow, but fast enough to witness Timur’s focus turn shanks by the pack against their Vandal keeper, chasing him back toward the sea.
Timur rushes to Felwinter, examining his head with the intensity of a Cryptarch.
“Hmm. Warmind. You are certainly as stubborn as one.”
Felwinter awkwardly pulls himself away and out of Timur’s reach.
“With all respect, Lord Timur, whatever game you are playing with me has gone on far too long. This is just another Dead Zone.”
“Oh, is it?”
Timur directs Felwinter’s eyes toward the eastern horizon, where a building crowned with the initials “C.B.” is now in view.
“We all have creators — humans, Exo, Warminds, even those poor Awoken. Some are just easier to find.”
A relic from the days of the Iron Lords, the Iron Battle Axe channels energy from an external source through a series of capacitors embedded in the blade. These capacitors enhance Solar Light, allowing the user to trigger focused blasts at their enemies.
The Fallen are ruthless scavengers. Brutal and uncaring, they arrived on their massive Ketches in the wake of the Collapse to loot and pillage our devastated worlds.
There are hints of ancient nobility to the Fallen - the scars of lost grandeur. The Kells of their scattered Houses still claim to be royalty. But they leave only grief and wreckage in their wake.
Dregs cling to the lowest rung of Fallen society. Docked of their lower arms in a ritual of humiliation and obedience, Dregs seek to prove their worth. Only a few will survive to gain promotion and regrow their limbs. Their suicidal bravery is fueled by ambition and shame.
Shanks are the bulldogs of the Fallen. Small and tough enough to go where Dregs won't fit, they scout, keep watch, and patrol. Fallen Walkers deploy Shanks from internal bays for tactical support and field repairs.
Soldiers, brawlers, assassins, and scouts, Vandals are the seasoned regulars who fill out the skilled roles within a Fallen crew. Whether from distance or up close and personal, they are seasoned, efficient killers, with an arsenal of weaponry and tech to match their bloodlust.
Having clawed and knifed his way to the top, scattering bodies and limbs in his wake, the Captain is the strongest and most ferocious member of the crew he musters around himself. His ration of Ether is the largest, his blades the sharpest, his guns the finest. Upon his shoulders hangs the flag of his House, if he swears loyalty to any. For his crew, the slightest hesitation to comply earns a slash from his sword. Defiance results in immediate amputation, if he is in a good mood, or death, if he is not.
Servitors are living relics of the once-mighty Fallen civilization. Packed with ultra-sophisticated machinery, they process matter and energy into the Ether that the Fallen depend on for life. In battle they support the Fallen with defensive systems and their own powerful energy weapons. Outside, they anchor Fallen comms and provide vital technological acumen.
Servitors have complex relationships with each other and with their Fallen crews. Servitors are attached to a Prime, a massive Servitor which exists in unclear symbiosis with a Fallen Archon. The Archon conveys the Kell's wishes to the Prime Servitor, and exerts some measure of control. Recent developments suggest that Prime Servitors are more than a focus of worship and logistical activity. They may play a key role in Fallen star flight.
These are the scourge of the City, the shadow below our walls. This is the House that led the battle at the Twilight Gap, the House we tell our children about to frighten them into behaving.
The House of Devils have now devoted great strength to pillaging the Cosmodrome in Old Russia, hunting for something buried below. If they are not held in check, whatever they find might prove the City's undoing.
There is more than a whiff of desolation about these Fallen. Their ranks are swollen with Dregs; their rags threadbare. Perhaps this is a new House, gathered from the outcast malcontents and disgraced castaways of the others, galvanized by pride or hate or the desire for freedom.
Be watchful. If this is true, they will surely be hungry to secure their position - and that may drive them to bold action.
The Fallen House of Winter, led by the ruthless Kell Draksis, have been found operating in and around the Ishtar Sink on Venus. Their interests there seem directed at the ruins of the Academy along the Shattered Coast, but there are concerns that their focus may, in actuality, be directed elsewhere - toward the ominous Citadel that rises like a warning above the Waking Ruins.
The colors of the House of Kings are rarely seen. They act with brutal contempt, as if they hold their rivals - other Fallen and City alike - in disdain. We have yet to grasp the full measure of their strength.
The bulk of the House of Wolves now falls under the control of the Queen of the Reef. There are many stories of how this came to be, but they are too varied for the truth to be separated from rumor.
Okay, okay, I'll tell the story about that one Fallen.
It didn't happen like that. We didn't, you know, do anything actively - no handshake, no icy stare of grudging mutual respect. I don't even know which hand you would shake. Do they shake hands? It must be complicated.
Anyway, it was like this. I was on the Moon. I cracked a Hive structure near Mare Imbrium, looking for a Shrine, and they just - swarmed. Ranks and ranks and ranks of Thrall, pouring out between the columns, but the columns were Knights, and all the shadows behind them rose up hissing sorcery.
Of course I ran.
I had a line of egress and while yes it was full of Thrall I had a backup too. I went upslope. Took cover in the shadow of a crashed Phaeton. Emptied my machine gun, ducked down to reload, and saw her at the other end of the hull, killing Thrall: a Fallen in Exile colors, bannered in the marks of a Baron, though the flags were claw-torn and stained with Hive ash. She was alone. I think she must have lost her crew.
I didn't really have time to shoot her and she didn't really have time to shoot me so we just went back to killing Hive. Knights pushed me out into the open and back up the range to a high stone saddle in the shadow of an old interferometry array. It was good ground so she came up there too.
For a while we just killed things which is hard to make interesting in a story so I'll pass it over.
At the end the Wizards came. I climbed the array to get an angle on them and she fell back to the base of the antennae where she broke her swords off in a Knight. I saw that happen and I don't know if I can tell you how I felt. She was another living thing with a mind I could understand and she hadn't howled at me or tried to eat my Ghost. I cheered when the Knight went down.
When I came down, empty on all guns, she was slumped against a bulkhead staring at me with all her tiny black eyes. Ether leaking out of her like smoke. The Knight hadn't died easily. Downslope the last Wizard moved like fire behind another line of Thrall.
I looked at her and wondered how many innocent human lives she'd ended on those broken blades.
She did the strangest thing then. Took the last shock pistol from her bandolier and threw it between us, as if to offer it. When I went to pick it up she tried to knife me, but she was slow, and when I broke her arms and opened her throat she didn't seem surprised.
To this day I wonder if she hated me, or wanted to make me kill her, or just felt she should spare me the choice.
I did kill a few Thrall with that pistol.
ammunition of rich makes, quantity adequate to incinerate 6X6 foe
11 operational weapons, alien design, suitable for salvage
3 explosive charges of obvious design, suitable for salvage
1 cabal fusion reactor, disabled but perhaps repairable
61 machines, alien, inoperable, unknown significances
13 alien machines, inoperable, known significances
1103 twists of essence
15 human body parts, kept for study, scorn
55 human adornments, full of glory and warm memory, worth the cost of their acquisition and more so
some ether, quantity negligible
considerable experience in battle
4 dregs dead, rendering House of Winter weaker
1 dreg honoring self and House, leading to consideration of fabricated arms
1 disabled Fallen skiff, scrubbed of House identity and stories
1 Fallen story found beside the disabled skiff, unknown House, partly corrupted, rendered as follows:
what others call dark which is not I know what it is but no time room calm given for an appropriate telling so I say only that what is not shadow is an ally and a wonder and I respect what I cannot steal from and you cannot take from the dark you can claim only pain from the dark and that is why the dark is worthy of love beyond all other love that astonishing ability to evade being robbed
I love what I will not name
1 story, Fallen and found beneath the skiff, unknown House, story uncorrupted
subsequently the second recording has been washed away
I know what no one else knows and now I am a marvel with ten thousand arms
Ask them our name. Ask your masters what they call you. Ask the hollow, the hateful, the Awoken with alien dreams encysted in them! Ask them our name!
Fallen. They name us Fallen.
Listen to me, Wolf-born! Heed me, Whirlwind-scattered! I am the ghost of Cybele, the cunning claw of Iris, betrayed, chained, encrypted by the Queen, sent back from the Darkness to save us all! The days of Kell and House end now. The calendar of slavery and abasement goes to the fire. We are a new calendar! We are an age of beginnings! Each of us is a day!
I am the first, Kell of Kells, and I am the last, the Dreg of Dregs. I have conquered and been conquered. I am all of us and all of us are I. In the shape of my life I bind up all of us, all of our fury, all of our grief, all the lives we have wasted against each other. Together we speak our new name.
Remember the hope that brought us here. Remember the age before the Whirlwind, when ether ran free, when we ruled ourselves and our futures as kings. We wanted more than glimmer and glints and herealways. Always remember that we came to this star in hope. And remember that we were denied! Remember the City of the Death of Children, the City That Docks, which claimed for itself the Great Machine that might have saved us. Remember the City that even now sends its ghouls to murder our Primes, starve our ether, and leave our young to die gasping. Curse that City and its name. The curse is just.
We gathered to take that City and save ourselves from extinction, saying to each other, we must be a storm, a Whirlwind, a darkness, for it is said that only pain may be stolen from the dark, and we can let no more be stolen from us. We gathered to fight against our twilight, King and Devil and Winter, all of us but us, the Wolves. Why? What kept us from the Gap?
The Reef. The Queen. The slavers who played us against each other and docked us into subservience. These sly sterile un-people, these mirages with cold minds twinned to their own, these Carybdis butchers, they set us against each other. She played us. She made herself our Kell.
We were fools, o children of the Whirlwind. We fought each other when we most needed unity. I fought my rivals when I should have fought the Queen. But I remember now, my dregs, my captains, my Kells, each of us is all of us and I remember: we are a people of resilience. I am the Kell of Kells because I want what we have lost. I am the Dreg of Dregs because I remember that a dreg will grow back what is lost to him.
Ask them my name! Ask them with the shock blade and the shrapnel launcher! Ask them with the skiff and the ketch! Ask your masters by what right they master you, you who have been hardened by centuries of flight, you who inherit the Whirlwind! Ask the Queen for her throne!
Ask them our name. Let them answer: you are Skolas, Kell of Kells. You are Fallen no more.
This happens long ago, but not too long to matter.
Ceres rules the Asteroid Belt. Ceres is the white queen of this space, four hundred million kilometers from the Sun. Ceres is round. Round means power, out here: nothing else in the Belt is big enough to crush itself into a sphere with its own gravity. Ceres has its own chemical stars. Shavings of salt and ice that glint in orbit. Like a crown.
There are other lights, newer stars, newer crowns. Warship engines. Another queen is coming to conquer Ceres, because Ceres is full of warrens and shipyards and habitats, because Ceres is round and lucky as a Servitor. Because Ceres is full of the Wolves she wants to rule.
Shark-fierce ships gather in squadrons and tribes. Skiffs. Ketches. The Kell of Wolves has a fleet gathered here. The Kell of Wolves heard the call, and summoned the House of Wolves to prepare for the great battle on Earth. The salvation of the Kell's people depends on their ability to shatter the City. It's a matter of survival.
Now the Wolf fleet turns to meet the Queen.
See the squadrons of Skiffs wrapping themselves in stealth, cold and transparent, knifing out invisible and brave? See the Ketches like broad blades, the bright thoughts of a Servitor guiding them to battle? See them turning, accelerating, waking up their jammers and their arc guns? All doomed. The Kell of Wolves will never make it to the Twilight Gap. The Kell of Wolves put all that strength in one place, and now the Queen of the Reef is coming to break it.
Out there, coming out of the dark, are the Awoken. Not so great a fleet, is it? Little fighters scattered around like four-pointed thorns. Destroyers and frigates and salvaged hulls pulled out of the Reef. And right at the front, at the speartip, flies the Queen.
The Wolf Kell, practical, brave, tallies strength of metal and equipment. The Kell considers the chance that the Awoken have some secret weapon, something gleaned from hulks in the Reef or whispered up by the witches, and sets that chance aside. The Kell thinks the House of Wolves can win decisively. So the Kell sends challenge and warning. I AM LORD OF WOLVES, the Kell sends. YOU ARE AN EMPTY THING WITH TWO DEAD SOULS. THIS IS MY HOUSE. THESE ARE MY TERMS. SURRENDER AND I WILL ONLY TAKE YOUR SHIPS.
The Awoken fleet cuts their engines. Drifts. Wolf strike elements, torpedo-armed Skiffs hidden under jamming and camouflage, find their firing solutions.
The Queen's ship broadcasts. I AM NOBLE TOO, she says, OH LORD OF WOLVES.
The Kell doesn't mind a little banter before the kill. It gives the Wolf ships longer to draw the battle away from Ceres. The Kell replies. YOU HAVE NO LINE. YOU HAVE NO POWER. Captains and Barons signal their readiness, Skolas and Pirsis and Irxis, Drevis, Peekis, Parixas, all of them bound by fear and loyalty, all ready for war.
STARLIGHT WAS MY MOTHER. The Queen's ship whispers in eerie erratic radio bursts. Servitors begin to report a strange taste in the void. AND MY FATHER WAS THE DARK.
Here, at last, too late, the Kell begins to feel fear. CALL ON THEM, THEN, the Kell sends, one last mocking signal before death and ruin, AND SEE WHAT HELP THEY OFFER.
So the Queen calls, as only she can. Every Servitor in every Ketch hears it. Every Captain and Baron roars at their underlings as sensors go blind, as firing solutions falter, as reactors stutter and power systems hum with induction. Stealth fails. Space warps. The House of Wolves shouts in spikes of war-code, maneuvers wild, fires blind.
Behind the Queen's ship, the Harbingers awaken.
Frozen on the monitor was an image of Sepiks Prime, the massive Prime Servitor that had been as a god to the House of Devils. Where once its plating was pristine, carefully maintained by the Archon Priest and his acolytes, it was now splotched with red growths. The ether power emanations that once glowed strong and pure were obviously corrupted.
Guardians had slain this god. And now it was reborn, through SIVA.
Variks of House Judgment sneered at the abomination. “Golden Age project, yes?” he clicked, turning to the Crow. His field agent was a young Awoken woman. “Technology of old Earth. Learned from the Great Machine.”
The Eliksni burbled to himself in mocking laughter and gestured with his lower hands. “You do us proud. Go. Speak with other Crows, learn more about these... Devil Splicers.” She nodded, a small smile on her face, and left the chamber.
Variks allowed himself a moment of silent contemplation, looking at the now-closed door to the information suite. As always, it was lit only by the light of the dozen or so monitors in the room.
The Fallen interlocked his upper hands. He bowed his head as he allowed himself to really feel the impact of that abomination on the screen. He never would have allowed anyone else to see this, but it hurt. Seeing the horror that was “Sepiks” made anew.
His people had fallen.
Variks stared at the image of Sepiks. And as he’d done before, he wondered what would have gone differently had he been there, among his people. Could he have stopped this before it happened? Could he have found them a better way?
“Must be a better way for Eliksni.” He clicked quietly. “Must be a way to stop the Fall.”
Within each Fallen House is a secret collective of tinkerers, bioengineers, and scientists devoted to the evolution of their species. These devout engineers are known as Splicers.
The Splicers’ purpose is found in the unraveling of biological and mechanical truths. They tear into systems to reveal their value—either as tools for survival or as advancements worthy of their reverence and deification.
The Fallen put Splicers, their most revered scientists, to work investigating and understanding SIVA, the Golden Age wonder discovered in the Cosmodrome.
As the Splicers’ knowledge of SIVA’s potential began to take shape, a rift grew between their techno-religious leaders and a younger, more ambitious sect of their rank-and-file – Devil Splicers.
The leaders saw in SIVA a new god to worship. The Devil Splicers saw a way to become one with the very technology they worshiped. SIVA was a means to a greater end: evolution.
The Shock Pistol is a simple but deadly weapon, and a mainstay of the Fallen arsenal. Primarily utilized by the lower ranking members of a given Fallen crew, Shock Pistols discharge bolts of Arc energy.
Although based on the same Arc technology as other Fallen weaponry, this rifle has a distinct advantage: the projectiles it fires track unerringly to the target. The exact mechanism behind this is unclear, but the rifle seems to steer the slow-moving molten projectile down an artificial field line.
The Shrapnel Launcher is a simple, effective, robust weapons system that the Fallen can build without risking vital resources.
The weapon fires loose-forged canisters of explosives and shrapnel down electromagnetic rails embedded in the barrel. Captains favor this weapon for its intimidating presence. It deals Solar damage.
The Wire Rifle utilizes shock cores to charge thin wires of an exotic metal, converting them into Arc-infused molten shards with an extraordinary muzzle velocity.
The Shock Dagger is a deadly combination of stun gun and knife. Composed of a lightweight metal and powered by a small Arc charge, the Shock Dagger is capable of cutting through armor and delivering a staggering jolt of electricity. The Fallen use them for every purpose imaginable, from light metalwork to hand-to-hand combat.
These full-length edged weapons gather Arc energy from a system of shock cores and charging caps in the hilt, converting the entire length of the blade into a plasma cutting torch.
Brutally efficient in the hands of a skilled Captain, Shock Blades are not ceremonial weapons built for show. Guardians would do well to respect the threat they present.
The Shock Grenade is a simple, effective Fallen weapon. The core of the device is a shock core encased in an induction motor. Once activated, an Arc charge builds in the core until it reaches critical mass, starting a chain reaction that ends with a devastating explosion.
Slipping out of stealth only to offload a crew of Fallen, the Skiff is rarely seen. On the other hand, its rumbling, booming arrival is difficult to miss - as are the weapons it uses to support its troop deployments.
A Pike looks and sounds like rusted junk but moves like a shark. Lightning crackles in the engine, which can accelerate to fantastic speed. Twin guns mow down infantry. The Fallen deploy Pikes as high-speed harassers and patrol vehicles.
Fallen Walkers are mobile gun platforms deployed in offensive and defensive roles alike. Though their insect-like design gives them an eerie, almost lifelike quality, these heavily-armored monstrosities are purely robotic. Their advanced tracking systems can account for multiple targets as their forward repeaters and massive main gun sweep the battlefield for threats. Mine dispensers provide close defense against dismounted infantry, and an on-board Shank foundry produces armed repair drones.
Walkers are immediate and deadly threats, having ended the Light of countless Guardians. The Fallen do not hesitate to deploy them to provide overwatch for their salvage and extraction crews. Walkers are also commonly used as blocking forces to guard key Fallen assets. At the Battle of Twilight Gap, Walkers engaged in a thunderous artillery duel with the City's gun positions.
The collected wisdom of battle-hardened Guardians suggests Walkers can be beaten by focusing fire on the legs, overloading the Walker and rendering its armored core briefly vulnerable. When the Walker stumbles, Guardians should focus all available firepower on the exposed components beneath the neck plating. Some externally mounted weapons can also be disabled with precise fire.
The Heavy Pike is a Fallen combat and demolitions vehicle. Unlike the standard assault Pike, the weightier Heavy Pikes are equipped with high-caliber twin-nose cannons and dual expel ports to either side that launch explosive devices.
Heavy Pikes should be considered a clear and definite danger when encountered in the wilds. However, should a Guardian, or Guardians, find occasion to utilize the Heavy Pike to their own ends, such behavior is highly encouraged.
The Fallen have a variety of tricks up their many sleeves. The Web Mine is proximity or impact triggered snare device that releases a tangle of "heavy" arc energy, causing spatial disruption within its sphere of influence.
The Web Mine's triggering mechanism ejects the physical mine into the air where it detonates its "Web" field. The triggering mechanism and mine can both be destroyed with focused fire.
Scorch Cannons are shoulder-mounted heavy impact weapons used by the Fallen for hull-puncturing in ship-to-ship raiding parties.
The Scorch Cannon uses a compressed Solar "furnace" to focus and direct superheated rods of solar energy. Each burst is mapped to the Cannon's firing matrix, allowing the wielder to hold a fired rod's charge. Release of the firing actuator triggers detonation. The longer the actuator is held the greater the rod's explosive impact.
On occasion, in high-voltage fields, a clump of SIVA will glitch off the main swarm. Activated but without a directive, the unstable mass seethes. Touching it triggers a chain reaction with an explosive conclusion.
Aimed from the shoulder, the Arc spike in this Fallen Cannon can smash a Sparrow in a single shot. Once lodged, the spike can be charged for several seconds, to destructive effect.
Fallen Splicers have been busy playing with what they’ve looted from the Hive. A spike of Void energy binds to the heavy Cannon scaffold for a powerful charge-and-detonate missile.
Archons are revered amongst the Fallen. It is unknown whether these high priests are the caretakers of the Prime Servitors, or simply vicious arbiters of the Primes' will.
Riksis collects the skulls of dead Guardians. Whether he keeps them as trophies or presents them as offerings to whatever Prime he serves, his threat is very real, and his death will bring great joy to a City in need of hope.
Simiks-3 was born of Winter's Prime Servitor, rumored to have been destroyed long ago. From readings gathered during the battle, it appears Simiks-3 was uniquely equipped to process and store huge amounts of intel between itself and a chain of nearby Servitors.
Draksis, Kell of the Wintership Simiks-fel, has been an elusive target for the Vanguards. After his countless raids on jumpship reclamation convoys, Cayde-6 personally upped the bounty on him. With confirmed sightings of the Kell in the Ishtar Sink, the time to strike is now.
Defeating Draksis could throw Winter into chaos. With Simiks Prime allegedly already lost, the House leadership would be gutted - although proof of the Servitor's demise remains elusive.
Floating, emotionless arbiters of life and death, Servitors are quasi-religious automata defended by the Fallen with zealous ferocity.
The exalted Servitor of the Fallen House of Devils, Sepiks Prime, has long been rumored to dwell deep within the bowels of the Cosmodrome. While the Kells are the political leaders of the Fallen, Servitors are said to be their gods - and the source of their life-sustaining ether. A Prime Servitor is a target worthy of even the greatest sacrifice. Those willing to accept such a challenge will have the eternal gratitude of a City desperate for relief.
Sepiks Prime relies on fanatical reinforcements and its own considerable tactical abilities - including a short-range teleport and a powerful directed energy weapon. Aim for the eye, and break contact if it turns your way.
A disciple of the Prime Servitor Kaliks, Aksor initiated brutal crusades against human settlements beyond the City and ravaged countless Awoken enclaves throughout the Reef. When the Queen waged her war against the Wolves, Aksor was taken alive and sealed into the infamous Prison of Elders.
Killing Aksor before he can join the ranks of the House of Winter weakens the Fallen, strengthens ties to the Reef, and brings the City one step closer to gaining a solid foothold along the Shattered Coast.
Commanded by the fearsome Drevis, Wolf Baroness, the Silent Fang are a unit of elite stealth warriors and assassins. Instrumental in Skolas' rise to kellship among the Wolves, the Silent Fang also menaced the Queen during the Reef War. It was Drevis and the Silent Fang who razed Amethyst, and then tricked the Queen's Armada at the Battle of Iris. Though the Silent Fang suffered a serious blow when Drevis was finally thrown in the Prison of Elders after the Siege of Pallas, they continued to threaten the Queen's forces until the war's end.
Prince Uldren: Look at it from the House of Kings' perspective. Their power is matched only by their cleverness. They rule the Devils from the shadows and came too close to toppling the City not once, but twice. We don't know much about them, but we know this: the Kings want the Traveler.
So why would they give it all up just because some outsystem Wolf runs in calling himself Kell of Kells?
The answer is: they wouldn't.
Petra Venj: But what if Skolas could somehow prove to them that he's the prophesied leader? Some artifact, or trick?
Yasmin Eld: Perhaps a new power, even.
Prince Uldren: No. Short of the Traveler itself calling Skolas by name, the Kings would not just roll over for anyone, no matter what. They're too ambitious.
Petra Venj: You sound like you admire them.
Prince Uldren: Power cleverly deployed is always worth admiring.
Yasmin Eld: So why send the King Barons?
Yavek was a minor lieutenant of Skolas' during the Reef Wars who evaded capture after the Cybele Uprising. After Skolas returned to the House of Wolves, he named Yavek a Baron to reward his loyalty, and sent him to Earth to be his negotiator with the Houses of Kings and Devils.
Prince Uldren: Of the Kell of Kings, we know nothing. Wherever, whoever it is, it remains hidden, even when the so-called Kell of Kells comes to its borders. Instead, it sends just two Barons: Paskin and Vekis.
Yasmin Eld: What do we have on them?
Petra Venj: Should I issue bounties on them?
Prince Uldren: No, you do not see. Perhaps if we wait, Paskin and Vekis will do our work for us.
Yasmin Eld: You believe Paskin and Vekis are not ambassadors?
Prince Uldren: I am sure of it.
Shuro Chi: Be certain, my prince, that your assessment is free of personal bias.
Prince Uldren: What are you suggesting, Shuro?
Variks keeps a ragged piece of armor in his pod. It's human tech, Golden Age. Shattered in some ancient battle, pre-Collapse, and left to drift. He found it and he brought it to his quarters so he could sit on it. It's nothing like a throne. Variks doesn't want a throne.
He sits on his ancient shrapnel, unmasked, and whittles at an amethyst with the dead edge of a shock dagger. Music plays (something ancient, pre-Whirlwind, beautiful). The ether in the air is rich and it fills him up with strength. Skolas has been captured, mad Skolas who would have ruined everything. Variks should be happy. He's not. With his little knife and his two arms and his stolen shining thing he feels like a Dreg. He feels ashamed.
He betrayed Skolas twice. At Cybele, and again, now. He will betray Skolas' dream ten times more. Variks will never be strong like Skolas, big like Skolas, a leader like Skolas. Variks will work for the Queen, oversee the Prisons, watch his fellow Fallen (they are Fallen, it's a good name now) fight and die as gladiators who want nothing except a chance to hurt Guardians. Even Skolas.
He tried to use the Vex, word has it. He tried to use their machines. Has that ever worked for anyone? Maybe one. Maybe a few: the Osiris cultists are Variks' favorite people. Maybe that's how you survive this alien star where dead gods slumber and dead heroes walk. You cozy up to powers you barely understand and make yourself useful, or at least inoffensive. You become a parasite, a scavenger, a servant.
That's dreg strength. That's the strength that keeps Variks alive. It's nothing to be ashamed of.
Skolas is dead.
Variks sits carving at his piece of amethyst. His undocked arms are weaker, less precise, but it is a comfort to feel the crystal press hard into his palm. The knife slips. He cuts himself. "Ai," he says, and of course right then the door opens, Variks has no privacy, Variks wants no privacy, Variks lives to serve the Queen.
It's Petra Venj. She's masked against the ether air. "The Prince wants to speak," she says, and then, seeing him unmasked and bleeding, she chuckles. Petra depends on Variks for intelligence and Variks, frustrated with her insane risk-taking and bravado, sometimes gives her tips meant to get her killed. Petra has figured this out. Petra and Variks know each other's agendas and each other's strengths and to Variks that's as close as any two people can get. Petra is smart: she sends Guardians now, people who can die as much as they like.
"You slipped," she says.
Variks holds up the amethyst in his bleeding hand. It's a Reef gem. "I wound myself," he says, "to make this more beautiful."
She stares into the gem with a distant Awoken eye. What does she see? Variks knows she has visions and he knows those visions haunt her, drive her. The Awoken are twinned to powers that terrify Variks. He'd dock himself again before he'd let the Queen's witches near him, the witches who raised Petra.
The unfairness of it makes him want to roar. Why does everyone else have this patronage? Why do the Hive have gods and the Vex have sprawling time-bent minds and the Cabal have reinforcements? Why do the Awoken whisper to the stars and listen for the whisper back, the voices from the Jovians, the song in the dark? Why do the Guardians get the Great Machine's blessing, was it like that before the Whirlwind, were there Fallen heroes crowned in Ghosts who strode the battlefield fearless and full of Light? Why do they tell stories about reclaiming the lost glory of humanity, and no stories about the lost glory of Variks' people, the House of Judgment that once kept codes of dignity and law?
Why can't the Fallen have that strength? But no, that strength is not for them, not for Variks. Just this bleeding, sad pragmatism. Just dreg strength. Hanging on.
The alternative is Skolas' strength, fighting together, raging against extinction. Look where that's gotten the species. The House of Devils' Prime is dead. The House of Winter's leadership devastated. The poor Exiles trying to claw out some security against the Hive. In the last few years the Fallen have lost so much—and everything is escalating around them. There are gods and powers converging on this system, old machines waking up, old bones whispering flatteries. They need a new way.
"Put your mask on," Petra says. "The Prince gets sullen if he's kept waiting."
"Not like us," Variks says, oh so mild. The wound on his hand will heal. His work in the Prison of Elders, setting up trial by combat, building an audience and a relationship with the Reef's scavengers and armories, will bring him a little closer towards rebuilding the House of Judgment. Skolas' fury has guttered out. The Fallen may yet accept peaceful, lawful rule. They may yet survive. They'll hang on. "We're very patient, yes?"
Petra looks down on him with pity and contempt and a strange fondness.
He puts on his mask.
Taniks, the Scarred, a mercenary known for the theft of Aksor from the Prison of Elders and the murder of Hunter Vanguard Andal Brask, sells his services to any Fallen House willing to pay the right price. It is believed by the Fallen that he is undying, a living huntsman whose physical self is joined with a mix of technologies, each pilfered from legendary treasure troves. But treasure is not the only currency of value to Taniks. His true ambitions rest in the challenge of the feats in front of him, and the rewards simply allow him to exist free of any Kell’s rule.
Pilot Servitors were not typically utilized as combatants in Fallen battle plans. Their purpose was manning the flight of various Fallen ships, from crew transports to massive war-barges.
During the Reef Wars, however, Skolas crafted brutal new tactics to inflict maximum destruction upon the Awoken, including suicide attacks led by Pilot Servitors.
With the wounds of the Reef Wars renewed by the House of Wolves' betrayal, the Queen no longer abides their presence in her Reef.
Kit-bashed using parts and pieces of lesser Servitors, Kaliks Reborn is fueled by servants so loyal to the rule of the long-lost Kaliks Prime that they would sacrifice their own ether to the last fume.
Kaliks Reborn is seen by these devout prisoners as the resurrection of their Prime. With a Kaliks to serve, the Fallen may rally, the Wolves may gain new strength. Or worse, a new House may rise—a House blinded by faith and hungry to be seen as equal.
Reports show this vastly modified Shank and its defense armaments are enough to force the Vanguard to strike, but it is the tech underneath its layers of armor, cobbled together from Cosmodrome debris and cannibalized Servitor parts that is most concerning. All intel points to modifications made specially by rising Archons to breach the Warmind's firewalls and seize control of its systems.
Aksis is the fruit of the Devil Splicers’ labor. A former Archon Priest, Aksis has submerged himself in SIVA’s apotheosis and emerged as Archon Prime. All that he was is gone: his dreams. His hopes. Replaced by agency. He has shed his gods and his Ether like skin, and in his uplifted state, waits in his Perfection Complex for offerings of SIVA from all Fallen.
As an Archpriest, Vosik is second-in-command of the Devil Splicers and will follow Aksis in ascending to godhood— someday. Vosik has been enhanced by SIVA, but lacks the total apotheosis of Aksis, Archon Prime. Vosik wields the technology to build and maintain a body for Aksis. Nothing more, nothing less.
In due time, Vosik will ascend. All his people will. And worlds will fall.
Kovik's twisted science is believed to be responsible for the Devil Splicers' SIVA-fueled evolution. But his ambitions didn’t stop with the augmentation of Fallen from ether-starved pirates to half-machine demigods. Instead, the mad Priest’s research took a far more sinister turn as he sought to control and weaponize the more aggressive aspects of the Hive’s mysterious biology.
If Kovik’s experiments were allowed to succeed, or be furthered in his absence, there is no telling how dangerous the Devil Splicers could become
The Fallen House of Devils had a firm grip on the Cosmodrome until brave Guardians began to push them back, taking out their leaders and engaging the Devils’ crews at every turn. Despite continued success against Fallen leadership throughout the Cosmodrome, no victory delivered a more crushing blow to the Devils than the destruction of their God-Servitor, Sepiks Prime.
But Sepiks has been reborn— Augmented and Perfected through SIVA and set to usher in the conversion of the House of Devils from desperate scavengers to SIVA-powered soldiers. Through Sepiks and those like it, SIVA will change the world.
WANTED: Any and all high-ranking members of Skolas' inner circle, a.k.a. "The Wolf Pack"
Bounty: 100 Marks, Queen's Wrath.
Wanted for: Treachery and high treason against the Queen; sedition; war crimes; evading justice
- Fallen Class: Vandals, Captains
- Stealth camouflage
- Weapon: Shrapnel Launcher
Bring proof of kill to PETRA VENJ, Vestian Outpost (5560 Amytis)
The Maraid, Book VII, Chapter 10
The transmission was broadcasted on all Fallen frequencies. Lacking, at the time, the ability to crack Fallen encryptions, the Master of Crows could discern only that the Fallen Houses were all talking to each other. That was a thing that had never happened before.
Then the Techeuns looked Earthward—and saw the Fallen there becoming bolder. Tactics suggested they were planning a massive attack. We had no interplanetary arrays—no way to warn Earth. We thought we would be able to do nothing but watch.
But then the Wolves arrived from the Jovians. Their army was hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions strong: a dark wave that washed over the Reef, rushing toward the Earth. As soon as we saw them it was clear that if the Wolves reached Earth, the City would fall.
Seemingly oblivious to our existence, the bulk of the Wolf fleet stopped to regroup at Ceres. The Queen's decision was this: attack the House of Wolves, thereby saving Earth but revealing the Reef's presence to any and all enemies in the quadrant; or remain silent, preserving the Reef's invisibility but allowing the City to perish.
Her Harbingers ripped into Ceres, destroying the asteroid and killing Virixas, Kell of Wolves and more than half his House. The remaining Wolves scattered, burrowing deep into the Belt for cover. There, new claimants to the Kellship quickly arose: Irxis, Wolf Baroness; Parixas, the Howling; and Skolas, the Rabid.
HULL OF CROWS — > VESTIAN OUTPOST
VENTRIS CYPHER ROOT9
Nothing good, I'm afraid.
Frankly, I’m surprised at the amount of support Skolas has secured this time around. He was never this popular before his capture. The only dissenter among their ranks appears to be one named Skoriks, called Archon-Slayer. He earned that nickname in just the way you'd expect, though we're not yet sure of his motivation. The most recent report shows Skoriks fleeing the House of Wolves. He appears to be heading for Luna.
My recommendation: Enemies of enemies aren't always friends. Snip the loose string. Perhaps one of your new pet Guardians might handle it.
If you need anything else, you know where to find me. And if you don't—I'll find you.
The Maraid, Book VIII, Chapter 3
With Skolas and Parixas still fighting, no one expected either to attack the Reef. So by the time Paladin Abra Zire arrived at Amethyst it was too late: the Silent Fang, led by Drevis herself had massacred almost everyone in the station, including Coven Leader Pinar Venj.
Paladin Zire gave chase, and followed the Fang to Iris, where, behind the glare of Iris' brightness, a Wolf ketch lay in wait. But the ketch was no match for Zire's smaller, faster ships, or her ferocity.
When the Battle of Iris was over, however, it was not Drevis at Zire's' feet. It was Parixas.
Grayor, another of Skolas' loyal vassals, had attacked Parixas' ketch at the same time that Drevis had attacked Amethyst. He, too, had lured Parixas to Iris, then the Silent Fang had used Iris' unusual brightness to disappear just as Zire and Parixas arrived in the system.
The Maraid, Book VIII, Chapter 4
After a string of defeats—at Amethyst, at Hygiea, arguably at Iris—Prince Uldren's Crows finally made headway against the Wolves' encryption. They quickly discovered a seemingly unimportant piece of information: the House of Wolves had incorrectly calculated the eccentricity of the asteroid Bamberga.
So Paladin Imogen Rife chased Drevis, Wolf Baroness, directly into Bamberga's trajectory. Drevis' ketch was destroyed, and both she and her High Servitor, Kaliks-4, were captured.
It was the first decisive Reef victory since the Scatter. But on her way back to Vesta with her captives, Paladin Rife was attacked at Pallas.
The Maraid, Book VIII, Chapter 6
Weksis' attack may have been unsuccessful, but it inspired another, deadlier assault. This time Pirsis, the Bane of Pallas herself led another strike, blasting through the same Athens Hull breach that Weksis had weakened in his assault.
Pirsis' strike team managed to free Kaliks-4, but Paladin Imogen Rife cut them off outside Drevis' cell. Pirsis might have escaped, but she refused to retreat without Drevis. Paladin Rife destroyed Kaliks-4 to prevent the Wolves from recovering it, and eventually the Wolves were forced back—but not before Pirsis slew Paladin Rife with her own blade.
Finally, Commander Hallam Fen, Imogen Rife's protégé, was able to establish a line of communication with the rest of the Reef. Working with the Techeuns and the Crows, they created an enormous visual illusion of the Harbingers, making it seem as if the Queen had finally decided to cut her losses and destroy the asteroid. It worked—the false Harbingers so scared the Wolf fleet that they broke ranks. Then the combined forces of Commander Fen, Paladin Leona Bryl and Paladin Kamala Rior slammed, capturing Pirsis, Pallas-Bane and driving the rest of the Wolves off.
Hallam Fen brought Drevis to Vesta, years after Imogen Rife had set out to do so. As a reward for his service, the Queen bequeathed him Rife's place among the Seven Paladins.
The Maraid, Book VIII, Chapter 8
In desperation, Skolas personally led an all-out assault on the military fortress of Cybele. Little did he know that the Queen knew of his plans, thanks to the word of Variks of the House of Judgment. No sooner had Skolas' ketches arrived at the asteroid than all four Armada Paladins—Abra Zire, Kamala Rior, Leona Bryl and Hallam Fen—caught him in a pincer movement. Kaliks-12, the High Servitor of Skriviks, the Sharp-Eyed, tried to escape, but Abra Zire chased it down.
Skolas' Cybele Uprising had failed. He, Skriviks, Kaliks-12 and the rest of his leaders were cast into the Queen's prison. The Reef Wars were effectively over.
The Maraid, Book VIII, Chapter 10
Though many Wolves knelt to the Queen, some refused to admit the war was over. A group of Wolves rallied under the banner of a new would-be Kell: Veliniks, called the Ravenous.
But before Veliniks could strike at the Reef, the Reef struck at him: Lieutenant Petra Venj, a Corsair who had served under Paladin Abra Zire during the Hildian Campaign, hunted down and captured Veliniks.
The Maraid, Book VIII, Chapter 2
What Peekis' assault lacked in finesse it made up for in sheer numbers and desperation. Irxis' ketches were pinned against Eos, and the two sides engaged in the bloody, bitter battle known as the Eos Clash, which left Irxis dead and both fleets nearly decimated. In the aftermath, the Crows salvaged one Orbiks servitor, Mecher Orbiks-11, believed to be the last of its programming.
Though technically a victory for Skolas, the Eos Clash came at a terrible cost for him. He docked Peekis' arms and demoted him to Dreg as punishment for his recklessness.
After the Eos Clash, Skolas changed his strategy.
The Maraid, Book VIII, Chapter 7
Finally, Beltrik, the Veiled left the Hildians and massed his fleet at Fortuna, to replenish his ketches' Ether from the organic compounds found on the asteroid's surface. His ships landed on Fortuna one at a time, the rest forming a defensive screen around its surface. He believed that Paladin Zire would attack the screen and destroy her fleet against the shield wall.
But Abra Zire's fury over the Battle of False Tidings had chilled over the years into an icy, clever resolve. She separated her forces in two, and engaged Beltrik's veil with what he thought was her entire host. But in secret, Abra deployed her second fleet with a weapon the Reef had been working on since Bamberga: Carybdis, a gravity weapon strong enough to knock asteroids off course. Carybdis caught asteroid Tinette in its beam and flung it into Fortuna, destroying both and severely damaging Beltrik's fleet. Beltrik was easily captured in the ensuing chaos, and brought swiftly to the Queen. The fight became known as the Fortuna Plummet, as are, on occasion, the remains of Fortuna and Tinette as well.
After the Fortuna Plummet, one of Prince Uldren's Crows returned with a message from a Fallen, by the name of Variks, of the House of Judgment.
The Maraid, Book VIII, Chapter 1
After the Scatter, the frontrunner for the Kellship was Irxis, Wolf Baroness. While Skolas and Parixas scrambled over the Kaliks servitors, Irxis secured the command of the Orbiks servitors.
Their history is still unclear, but the Orbiks originate with either another Fallen house—perhaps one that the Wolves absorbed long ago—or a modification of the Kaliks servitors. Either way, the Orbiks servitors held permissions on Kaliks servitors, which allowed Irxis to wreak havoc among her rivals' forces at the start of the Reef Wars.
The Maraid, Book VIII, Chapter 9
Variks of the House of Judgment declared Queen Mara Sov the new Kell of Wolves, and advised those captured at Cybele to serve her. The first among these to pledge their loyalty to the Queen was one called Saviks, who was given the honor of serving in the Queen's throne room, to the right of the Queen herself.
[See Book IX, Chapter 3, subsection "The Queenbreakers."]
The Maraid, Book VIII, Chapter 5
Under Skolas' vassal Pirsis, called Pallas-Bane, the Wolves amassed the largest Wolf fleet that had been seen since the Scatter. The Queen could not use her Harbingers against them—if she did, Imogen Rife and her fleet and all the people of Pallas would have been killed as well.
For years the siege endured. At first, neither side dared to attack the other: on Pallas, Paladin Rife knew that Pirsis had the firepower to destroy the asteroid. Above Pallas, Pirsis held back, hoping to rescue Drevis and Kaliks-4 and the other Wolves that Paladin Rife had captured at the Battle of Bamberga's Wrath. The Queen sought to diffuse the siege by sending Armada Paladins Abra Zire and Kamala Rior into the Hildian Asteroids, where Skolas was rumored to be hiding, but with the help of his tactician Beltrik, the Veiled, Skolas thwarted them.
The stalemate over Pallas was broken by, of all beings, a dreg. Ironically dubbed Weksis the Meek, the dreg led dozens of followers in an unsanctioned attack on Pallas. They managed to blast a hole in the Athens Hull, but were stopped soon after by Commander Hallam Fen. Weksis and the surviving followers were imprisoned alongside those they had come to save.
WANTED: Any and all "Wolf Scavengers"
Bounty: 100 Marks, Queen's Wrath
Wanted for: Treachery and high treason against the Queen; evading justice
- Fallen Class: Dregs
- Weapon: Shrapnel Launcher
Affiliations: Skolas, Beltrik
Bring proof of kill to PETRA VENJ, Vestian Outpost (5560 Amytis)
WANTED: Any and all members of the Twisted Claw.
Bounty: 100 Marks, Queen's Wrath; first claim to spoils
Wanted for: War crimes; pillage; theft; evading justice
- Fallen Class: Vandals, Captains
- Weapon: Shrapnel Launcher
Bring proof of kill to PETRA VENJ, Vestian Outpost (5560 Amytis)
WANTED: Any and all High Servitors of the House of Wolves
SHOOT TO KILL OR DISMANTLE
Bounty: 100 Marks, Queen's Wrath
Affiliations: Skolas, Kaliks Servitors, Orbiks Servitors
Bring proof of kill to PETRA VENJ, Vestian Outpost (5560 Amytis)
WANTED: Any and all traitorous Wolf Vandals known as Queenbreakers.
Bounty: 100 Marks, Queen's Wrath; first claim to spoils
Wanted for: Treachery and high treason against the Queen of the Reef
- Weapon: Wire Rifle
Affiliations: Skolas, Saviks
Bring proof of kill to PETRA VENJ, Vestian Outpost (5560 Amytis)
WANTED: Any and all members of the Howling Raiders.
Bounty: 100 Marks, Queen's Wrath
Wanted for: War crimes; pillage; theft; evading justice
Last Seen: Ishtar Collective, Venus
- Fallen Class: Vandal
Bring proof of kill to PETRA VENJ, Vestian Outpost (5560 Amytis)
WANTED: Repeater-equipped Wolf Shank
SHOOT TO KILL OR DISMANTLE
Bounty: 100 Marks, Queen's Wrath
Affiliations: Skolas, Kaliks Servitors, Orbiks Servitors
Bring proof of kill to PETRA VENJ, Vestian Outpost (5560 Amytis)
WANTED: Any and all Ether Runner Servitors of the House of Wolves
SHOOT TO KILL OR DISMANTLE
Bounty: 100 Marks, Queen's Wrath
Affiliations: Skolas, Kaliks servitors, Orbiks servitors
Bring proof of kill to PETRA VENJ, Vestian Outpost (5560 Amytis)
WANTED: Any and all members of the House of Wolves known as the Wolves' Guard.
Bounty: 100 Marks, Queen's Wrath
Wanted for: Treachery and high treason against the Queen; sedition; war crimes; evading justice
- Fallen Class: Captains
- Weapon: Scorch Cannons
Affiliations: Skolas, Beltrik, Skriviks
Bring proof of kill to PETRA VENJ, Vestian Outpost (5560 Amytis)
WANTED: Any and all members of the House of Wolves identified as the Silent Fang.
Bounty: 100 Marks, Queen's Wrath
Wanted for: Treachery and high treason against the Queen; terrorist activities (to wit: the Raze of Amethyst); war crimes (to wit: Battle of Iris); evading justice
- Stealth camouflage
- Weapon: Shrapnel Launcher
- Fallen Class: Captains
Affiliations: Skolas, Drevis
Bring proof of kill to PETRA VENJ, Vestian Outpost (5560 Amytis)
WANTED: Any and all traitorous Wolf Captains known as Wolf Enforcers
Bounty: 100 Marks, Queen's Wrath
Wanted for: Treachery and high treason against the Queen of the Reef; sedition; war crimes;
- Weapon: Wire Rifle
Affiliations: Skolas, Saviks
Bring proof of kill to PETRA VENJ, Vestian Outpost (5560 Amytis)
WANTED: Any and all traitorous Wolf Captains known as Queenbreakers.
Bounty: 100 Marks, Queen's Wrath
Wanted for: Treachery and high treason against the Queen of the Reef
- Weapon: Shock Blade
Affiliations: Skolas, Saviks
Bring proof of kill to PETRA VENJ, Vestian Outpost (5560 Amytis)
WANTED: Wolves long-range Tracer Shank
SHOOT TO KILL OR DISMANTLE
Bounty: 100 Marks, Queen's Wrath
Affiliations: Skolas, Kaliks servitors, Orbiks servitors
Bring proof of kill to PETRA VENJ, Vestian Outpost (5560 Amytis)
The Hive are an ancient, festering evil. Their antipathy to the Light transcends hatred. To the Hive, the eternal struggle between Light and Dark is not only a war, it is a crusade - all Light must be devoured so Darkness can reclaim the universe.
Feral and fearless, Thrall are a plague upon the battlefield.
Their swarming, twisted frames are driven by unfettered rage. Of all the terrors born of the Hive's vile will, they are the basest.
It would be a mistake to view the Hive's Acolytes as foot soldiers, because the Hive is not merely an army, it is a dark force rising. It is belief and horror, and its Acolytes are its instruments, hungry to commit the atrocities that will drive their own ascension.
A roaring, striding fortress, the Knight is the Hive's foremost and most zealous defender. Centuries of battle have toughened the bony protrusions on its body into an armor as hard as relic iron - a defense only strengthened by the Hive magic that Knights use to summon shields of burning force.
Charged with Hive sorcery, Ogres are abominations of flesh and rage, unleashed from the deepest Hive tunnels as engines of destruction. Apocryphal lore suggests that Ogres undergo terrible transformations as they grow - agonizing rituals that gift them with might and cunning.
The Wizard is the scalpel with which the Hive vivisect the universe. A nightmare of rag and bone, the Wizard conceals herself within darkness and fire, dissecting and experimenting on anything that falls into her clutches.
Boiling from the wounded surface of the Moon, the Hidden Swarm is the Hive's outermost line of defense - a numberless legion that repels intruders before they breach the temples and shrines of the vast Hive fortress.
The heralds of a dark future, led by the champion of a long-forgotten king. Crota and his legions once banished us from our own Moon. Now we fear they are rising again to claim Earth.
Research into the cyphers and runes of the Hive leads the Cryptarchs to believe the Hive sects all serve one great master. The Blood of Oryx are feared to be the direct servants of this dark lord. The name Oryx appears too many times in Hive rituals to be ignored.
Tell the Inner Circle yes, and no. My fireteam's initial survey has uncovered no real differences between the Hive we've encountered on Earth and Luna and the Hive on the Dreadnaught. Same coloration, same bad breath, same sharp claws.
I've probably slain thousands of old Oryx's brood... I know how they operate. How they move.
The Hive on the Dreadnaught feel different. I've caught a few Thrall just looking at me, staring. Like they're working something out. We took on a coven of Wizards, and the whole time they were singing this little song. Like fighting us was a formal ritual, a ceremony they had to complete.
As a Guardian, you master your fear. You have to. Out here, past the Reef, surrounded by worms and decay... I'm afraid again. These things feel old, here. Like they belong. Like we're the aliens. Like we're prey.
We were overwhelmed. I could not save mine, so I have hidden myself where I might be found by the others, if they even survive. There is most likely no possibility of my return to the City. I prepare here in summary the knowledge so painfully won by my Guardian and our fireteam.
The Moon has been geoengineered into an impregnable fortress, designed to support a vast number of - creatures - if any mind could be evil enough to create them. Are they alive? They move, they shriek, they fall upon us in ravenous waves. But I see death, decay, and corruption, not life. We discovered, to our sorrow, one massive set of gates. There are likely more.
We met a towering monster, wielding a sword of utter darkness. The Light only made it hungry. We tried to fight, and we fell. Too many times to remember.
We were all brave, I assure you. May the Light find Guardians capable of facing this monstrosity, or I fear the Moon may be lost to us forever.
At the doors to the Temple he fell for the last time. He fell, and I could not reach him.
My own Light flickers.
They took me down into the dark, past tiers of massed Hive, more than we believed could exist. Past grisly nurseries hung with pupae. Past writhing worms that they swallow whole. I saw the armaments of war.
I am weak, so weak.
They have clamped me to this spire while a black foulness eats my Light. The Wizard comes now and then to probe with her scaly claws into my systems, to inquire about my making, the City, what I have seen. I erase and dump as quickly as I can - they will learn little from me - but I am studying them, I know - pain.
I have seen chasms beneath the surface, falling away to green nothingness. I have seen black seeders prepared for invasion.
Their strength is not their own. They draw from another force, something that corrupts, that distorts, that eats and will not be satisfied.
The Wizard is near. I feel her presence as a rip and a knot in the world. She tells me things that I immediately forget. I am too small to hold the vastness of them, or the terror.
I am fading. I have no more that it can take.
With my last light I say to the City: War comes again from the Moon. This time they want Earth. Prepare.
Ikora: And this Omnigul is here? On Earth?
Eris: I can feel it.
Eris: She’s left the Hellmouth. Her inner chambers are active. More so than I have seen. But she is no longer in the shadows.
Ikora: No, not—I don't question your belief. I’m asking why she is here. Why Earth? Please, try to be clear. There is no time for cryptic half-answers and almost-truths.
Ikora: She still laughs.
Eris: It seems I have become more like the Speaker—
Ikora: Secrets have their places. Here, now, is not that place. Omnigul. Tell me what you’ve learned. Tell me how we stop her.
Eris: There may be no stopping what comes. The Hive in Old Russia—in that dead land—their assault on the Cosmodrome is no coincidence. They move against the Light with purpose. Always with purpose.
Ikora: The Warmind?
Eris: Rasputin. Yes. The last fail safe against the night.
Ikora: He’s still yet to heed our calls—
Eris: I’m aware.
Ikora: —but seems just.
Eris: Just is enough. Just can save us all.
Ikora: And the Hive?
Eris: They will tear into its eyes—or worse.
Eris: The dust and bone and horror of their existence is simply who—what they are. But it does not negate their ageless intelligence.
Ikora: They do not seek to destroy Rasputin.
Eris: I don’t know. Destroying Rasputin would cost us a treasure beyond belief. But, such fury twisted to the Hive’s ends?
Ikora: We would fall.
Eris: All would fall.
Ikora: The Omnigul is here for Rasputin.
Eris: She is here to pave the way.
Ikora: For Crota?
Eris: That could just be the beginning. He's not their only god.
Ikora: As I am learning. I will make the others listen.
Eris: It may be too late.
Ikora: Then you need a new army.
Eris: I’ve made that mistake before.
Ikora: You saved us all. Your sacrifice—
Eris: I am still here. My sacrifice was—
Eris: And I should ask new heroes to fall... as they did?
Ikora: It is why we were reborn in the Light.
Eris: My Light is all but gone.
Ikora: Cherish what remains, but know that you have done enough. Your time in the shadows... I can't fathom—
Eris: My role among the Hidden is an honor.
Ikora: None would argue. But it's had its cost. Your place is to gather the understanding we need to wage these wars, but your own war is long done. Let those prepared to fight, fight.
Eris: And should they die?
Ikora: None who walk these Towers is afraid—and Rasputin must not fall.
Eris: Then Omnigul must be stopped.
Ikora: Two goals that appear to be one and the same.
Eris: Perhaps. So I am to stay?
Ikora: I will see to it.
Eris: Then let us hope we are strong enough to stand against what is upon us—and hope the others do not follow.
If your Light is strong enough to hear across the soundless plains, you may have heard their screams.
What may seem like a void between their shrieks, holds, what I believe to be yet another clue to their origins. In one tone the Hive plea to their gods, but in the next, they whisper to another.
Perhaps it is here which holds the answer to their ultimate demise, or a bridge to their desires. In my studies, I still struggle to match the tones to their rune system. If only Crytparch Adonna were still with us. No one has yet to match her adept.
Four sounds, oft repeated, but only four. Though I am on the trail of a fifth, faintly heard from the buzz that once spilled from the Shrine—
It is in these sounds that I fear yet another Hive secret hides. Perhaps beyond their gods, perhaps in accord with them. Perhaps these are just Hive translations of worlds we call another name, but I believe above all things they call to some kind of being. Beings that once lived, or still live somewhere buried amongst us. Beings the Hive perhaps owe their very existence to.
I am hoping the Warminds may hold further answers—that they can see into worlds where we can only see what lies upon them. The treasure of knowledge they promise still remains the most sought after of any Guardian. Whoever can find a way past their firewalls of ancient arts, and make them the allies they once were, could spare us further atrocities. And though Rasputin offers some promise, one can only hope its silence is self-defense, that it seeks only to preserve itself. We have to prove to it that we are on its side, but I am starting to doubt that is absolutely true. That maybe the Hive or the Darkness itself now have a grasp on his systems.
But then again, I am an old man with many fears, and in those fears , often called madness, I will continue to dwell.
The Shredder, like so much Hive technology, appears to be an arcane joining of uncharted sciences that verge on magic. It has no discernable mechanism. But in the hands of a Hive warrior, it generates bolts of Void fire.
This devastating Arc weapon is said to contain a shard of some dead celestial body. Lobbing bolts of rotting starfire, it is both a ruinous tactical weapon and an instrument of siege.
Carved of fossilized bone and hell-forged metal, dulled by centuries of slaughter and execution, the Cleaver is the terrible weapon of a Hive Knight. Despite their mass, they swing easily, as if the sword were aware of its action and eager to tear into the Light.
Tomb Ships are the Hive equivalent of troop carriers, though the term can only be applied loosely. They glide from point to point through ominous portals, wounds cut into the flesh of space.
These ever-watchful sentinels are believed, in some circles, to serve as the eyes of the Hive's innermost covens, allowing powerful Wizards and Knights to watch over their domains. Others believe Shriekers are nothing more than weapons meant to guard Hive ritual sites.
There is nothing living to the Shrieker, but neither are they mechanical constructs in a classical sense. They seem to be dead mass, animated by the arcane will of the Hive. When a Shrieker is broken, its Void charge rips free of the hull to seek vengeance.
HALT ALL TRAFFIC. STAND BY FOR SNAP.
MESSAGE TO FOLLOW.
PUBLIC KEY 110 341 AXA SOVEREIGN
FROM: PETRA VENJ
TO: ALL REEF ASSETS [ROC CLEARANCE]
SUBJECT: HIVE WARSHIP CONTACT
1. Massive Hive warship sighted in circum-Saturn space [contact via DSR TF 3.2]. Target designated DREADNAUGHT.
1a. Dreadnaught maneuvering unpredictably. Orbital parameters and stationkeeping behavior not compatible with standard dynamics.
1b. ESM analysis detects multiple Hive vessels in escort.
2. Target emitting sterile neutrinos, phaeton spectra, and mass growl. Major radiation events include gravity waves and axion scatter. Techeun conclusion: target possesses radical ontomorphic capabilities [see BANE DREAMER]
2a. Under no circumstances attempt teleonomic analysis of Dreadnaught emission spectra. ***This is a BRAINSTAIN ALERT.***
3. Dreadnaught radiation events correlate with eversive breach events across solar system. Dreadnaught is likely motive force behind breach events.
3b. Backscatter analysis and Techeun insight suggest Dreadnaught hosts complex internal environment. Small party boarding action may remain viable if noopathic hazards can be managed.
4. TF 3.2 shadowing Cabal fleet elements. Cabal attack on Dreadnaught likely but not imminent.
5. All Reef assets assume war posture. Stand by for fragment orders.
STOP STOP STOP
Kranox, the Graven is said to be the Keeper of the Worlds' Grave, a vast repository chronicling the Hive's history of interstellar conquests. Every world they have devoured, every life they have eradicated, every enemy they've faced.
Defeating Kranox and cracking the secrets of the Worlds' Grave could provide the City with the keys to unraveling the Hive's true goals and their ultimate plans for Earth.
The Swarm Princes are terrible legends. It was their will that forged the Sword of Crota, a weapon meant to ravage worlds - the Great Render of Light, the Darkest Edge. They have waited in the shadows of the Hellmouth for their master's return, guarding the Sword and sating its ravenous hunger with the Light of Guardians who have dared to challenge them.
The Unborn are those Ogres who have yet to be given the honor of a summoning. Brute enforcers with a singular hunger for destruction, the Unborn serve the will of their greater Hive overlords. Those Ogres that display loyalty and strength will be called for an agonizing ritual that earns them the title "Reborn."
Telthor, protector of the Chamber of Night, is kept hungry and chained, awaiting the moment when an interloper breaks open the Chamber and threatens the Hive's hateful ambitions.
There are whispers of shrines to the fabled Oryx peppered across the entire system. Stories tell of walking nightmares, protectors of bone and fury, towering over these prized chambers.
Behind every dark ritual lurks a coven of Wizards, the architects of the Hive's unspeakable designs. Mormu, born of the blood and flesh of Xol, is said to conduct terrible rituals upon the Hive's Ogres.
Phogoth's presence in the Summoning Pits reveals yet another of the Hive's depraved designs - a ritual of rebirth, where an Ogre's ravenous hunger and violence is honed and given purpose.
Vell: They’re more than Knights.
Eriana-3: They look like Knights.
Vell: That’s like calling you a tin can.
Eriana-3: Excuse me?
Vell: I’m saying calling them Knights is an understatement.
Omar: What are they then?
Toland: World carvers.
Toland: Those swords are neither bone nor steel. There’s a dark purpose to their edge.
Eriana-3: Darker than death?
Toland: Death is peace compared to the shadows.
Omar: Those Blades cut down more Guardians than I can count.
Eriana-3: Thousands. The Vanguard should’ve known better.
Toland: I tried to warn them.
Omar: But we’re prepared?
Vell: I am.
Omar: Not exactly the question.
Eris: I have a feeling Light won’t be enough.
Eriana-3: Then we’ll take their swords from their ashes, and cut them down one-by-one, Blade-by-Blade.
Eris: You would wield a weapon of the night?
Eriana-3: For her—them? I will butcher any who stand in my way with even the darkest blade.
Eris: Pray it doesn’t come to that.
Vell: Heh. To cleave our enemies with their own tools of destruction? We should be so lucky.
Omar: You’ve got a strange view on luck.
Toland: When you’ve got your hand around the hilt and their ash under your boot, you might change your tune, Hunter.