Day 408 – Part 1

“The saying runs thus: from this race shall come one that shall be mightiest of all; he that is named Moon-Hound; he shall be filled with the flesh of all those men that die, and he shall swallow the moon, and sprinkle with blood the heavens and all the air; thereof shall the sun lose her shining, and the winds in that day shall be unquiet and roar on every side.”
Snorri Sturluson


“Again,” said House. He motioned me to rise with the tip of his saber.

I stood up and picked up my Fallen sword from the Martian sand. “What did I do wrong?” I asked.

“You do not mind your footing,” he replied. He took out a folded square of cloth from beneath his breastplate and dabbed at the sweat on his brow. “Sword-fighting is not unlike knife-work or even gun play: balance is key in all of them. You may be strong as an Exo, but balance overcomes strength in this.” He meticulously tucked the handkerchief away. “It is not a club you wield, but a blade.”

“About as useful though,” commented Magnus from his seat atop a weathered sign a couple meters away. “There’s a reason you had to have someone teach you to use a sword instead of just uploading the information. Swords have no place in modern warfare.”

“Tell that to the Hive. Or the Fallen,” I said, holding up the Captain’s saber.

The Storm Caller shrugged. “Both use blades ritualistically, or at least ceremonially. For the Hive especially it’s a focus for their power: the Sword Logic, they call it.”

“Actually, the principle behind Hive swords might be useful,” said Drake. He sat in the lotus position, his eyes shut, yet he gave off an air of awareness in spite of that, the quintessential Awoken Warlock himself.

“How so?” asked Arianna. The Gunslinger leaned against the half-buried pillar that Drake had made his perch and looked up at him. Farstride also leaned against the pillar, but he appeared to be asleep.

“Blade Dancers like House and Morc channel Light through their knives for great effect. A similar application could be used on a Sword, although the mass and volume would pose unique challenges. But if the Hive found a way to channel their magic through their swords, it stands to reason we could develop a countermeasure. Word is that the Iron Lords have experimented with it.”

“All well and good,” said House. “Morc-35, again.” He motioned me to attack. “And mind your feet this time.”

I took the Fallen blade in both hands and advanced. I feinted at House’s head, and he ducked back. I pressed my attack and lunged, shoving the tip of the blade at his chest. He redirected my attack with a flick of his wrist and my sword slid along the length of his with a shriek of metal. Then he dropped his center mass by bending his knees, seized my gun belt in his free hand and used my momentum to throw me to the ground in an explosion of sand.

“Better, but you overreached.” He wiped dust from his face once more.

I stood up again – not tiring was an advantage I had. “Once more?” House nodded, but we were interrupted.

“This is Miranda.” The voice was transmitted through our Ghosts. “I have them.”

“Finally!” said Farstride, springing to life. “Someone round up Telrik. Grab your Sparrows. It’s time to put this hunt to rest.”

“You said that on Venus, what, 3 weeks ago?” said Magnus as he jumped down.

“This time I’m right. Now come on.”

We all suited up and linked our Sparrows in. “Miranda, sitrep.”

“The Fallen are holed up in a cave. Only a few, but the baroness is definitely with them. They seem to have cobbled some Shanks back together. And I think they have a Servitor.”

“A cornered Wolf is dangerous,” I said. “We might want to leave them an escape path.”

“No,” said Farstride. “We’ve been hunting these Fallen almost 2 months. It’s time to put this to rest.”

We guided our Sparrows along the dunes, kicking up red dust in our wake, 6 Guardians in a line. We were arguably overkill, but the Wolves had proven difficult to corral. As we raced along, Telrik’s Phaeton buzzed over our heads at low altitude with a thunderous roar.

“Any word on that signal from Phobos?” Farstride asked over the comm.

“The Vanguard waved me off,” replied Telrik. “Said they have it handled. I’ll meet you at the rendezvous.” He flew on ahead.

We found Miranda standing on an outcropping of dark stone at the crest of a cliff, looking down at a windswept plain. Even here, against the dry red backdrop of the Martian surface, she looked as if she had just stepped out of a swamp. “The cave is directly below us. Their damaged Pikes are outside the entrance. No sign of the skiff.”

“You’re confident of the count?” asked Farstride. “There were more than that a few days ago.”

“Judging by the damage to the Pikes, they had a run-in with Cabal,” said Miranda. “Tracks are consistent with approximately 12 Fallen, and detritus near the cave-mouth is consistent with shank repairs.” Her tone sounded a bit miffed.

“Ghost scans?” asked Drake.

“Low-intensity interference, probably the Servitor. But motion tracker confirms movement inside.”

Farstride nodded. “All right. Morc: you’re the Fallen scholar. Plan of attack?”

I cannot deny a little //pride filled me at being acknowledged. “Send in 1 or 2 to lure them out into the open. Have the rest on standby to cut them down. The Baronness needs to be killed swiftly or she’ll escape again.”

“Variks doubled Petra’s bounty to bring in the Baroness alive,” Drake pointed out.

“She’s escaped us too often. I recommend against capture at this point.”

“Very good,” said Farstride. “You’re the lure.”

Or maybe that’s why he singled me out. I could never be sure with Farstride.


I crept through the entrance, my camouflage active. The tunnel leading into the side of the cliff was not long or even wide, and I had to step over a piece of humming Vex machinery.

“The Fallen have truly descended into a rat’s nest,” said Ebony into my earpiece. I only nodded in silent reply.

The cave widened out into a single, rough chamber. In the middle floated 3 repeater Shanks. Other than that, the space was empty. I hesitated, waiting for the inevitable trap. Then a Shank wobbled in midair, sputtered, and fell to the ground in a shower of sparks. The others turned to look at it, but otherwise nothing acknowledged the oddity.

My camouflage disengaged. A Shank lazily turned my way and its weapon wound up. I shot it and it exploded, its surviving partner falling to the ground to shatter.

“Something’s wrong,” I said. “Farstride, the area is empty. No Fallen.”

“OK, come back up. We have some movement up here.” Farstride’s tone sounded odd.

“There is low-intensity interference.” Ebony’s shell spun out in different directions. “But I am not sure-”

I turned and raced up the tunnel to the surface. “It’s a trap! What’s the interference?”

“There’s comm interference, but more. It’s Dark, Guardian…I don’t understand, I don’t even know where it’s coming from…”

I heard Telrik’s shout even without a comm set as I rushed out of the cave:

“SAND EATERS!”

 

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