“We are all subject to the Fates. But we must act as if we are not, or die of despair.”
― Philip Pullman,
The wind blew between the empty huts and into their doors and windows, kicking up dust and dirt. We walked through the settlement, as silent as the empty buildings.
“Where is everyone?” asked Findlay.
No one answered. We found the entrance to the underground compound and descended the slope. The light strips were dark, and our Ghosts lit the way. We found the central corridor, now empty and abandoned.
“Let’s check that nanite room,” said Arianna.
We wandered through the compound until we located the place where the Warlocks had tended their machines. The room was empty but for a large chest, covered in intricate filigree and sealed with a heavy lock.
“A trap?” asked Miranda.
“Doubtful,” said Drake with surprising confidence. He motioned to his Ghost. After a moment there was a pop of displaced air and the lid shook. He opened the chest and revealed six glowing engrams, the empty space around them covered in enough Glimmer to make a common citizen of the City comfortably well-off for the rest of their days. A scroll perched on the Glimmer next to a small amulet. Arianna picked the scroll and read it aloud.
“We thank you Guardians for the service you have rendered us and our people. Enclosed is treasure we hope is enough to compensate you. As well, we leave you a talisman: ask it a question of your future and it shall answer truthfully. Be warned, it may only be asked once, and it will bind to the one who asks. The nanites in its structure house the Light that is so precious to our kind, and will serve you well.
Again, we thank you. May your path through the Dark lead you to the Light.
We all looked at the treasure. “Equal shares,” said Arianna. “Anyone want the amulet?”
No one spoke. “Guess we’ll give it to Rahool then,” she said, and pocketed it.
We each took our share. The engrams certainly lightened the mood, and conversation picked up as we departed the abandoned complex.
Findlay sidled up to me. “So, what happened?” he asked. “I don’t get it.”
“At a guess?” I said. “They were under siege, and they sent us out there so they could have time to evacuate. I’m sure there’s more to it, but it’s all I’ve got.”
“So there was no SIVA?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I admitted. “Maybe they just told us that to get us to come out here.”
“And the Kings?”
“Again, your guess is as good as mine,” I admitted.
“That is…a really unsatisfying conclusion,” said Findlay as we stepped into the light of dawn.
I laughed. “Welcome to a day in the life of a Guardian.”