“And why, sir, I never thought of that before! We’ve got – you’ve got some of the Light of it in that star-glass that the Lady gave you! Why, to think of it, we’re in the same tale still! It’s going on. Don’t the great tales never end?’
‘No, they never end as tales,’ said Frodo. ‘But the people in them come, and go when their part’s ended. Our part will end later – or sooner.”
~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers
I fled through the woods, and the Cabal followed. The war-beasts’ snarls echoed strangely off the trees, making them sound closer than they really were. I placed my back against the bole of a tree and reloaded my pulse rifle. My hands were covered in scratches and dirt, and I suppressed a laugh at the idea of going into one of the Tower’s libraries in my current condition.
The thrum of a Thresher overhead proceeded the wind of its passing, stirring the trees as if they were in a storm. I was on their sensors – I had to be – but the foliage was thick enough to prevent a direct line of sight. Still, the hovering Thresher was a beacon to the enemy: “it’s here, the Guardian is here!” I pushed off the tree and kept running. Thank the stars for all that time in the Iron Banner, it had built my endurance up. Even so, I couldn’t outrun the Cabal forever.
I heard the first of the war-beasts crashing through the brush behind me. I spun, dropped to one knee and raised the sight to my eye. The pulse rifle bucked in my hands and the charging monster dropped. I pivoted to the left, squeezed off a few more rounds, and the next went down. The rest of the pack, seven or more, barreled forward in spite of the shots. I started running again, trying to gain more distance.
One of the beasts snapped at my robes and I hammered its skull with the stock of my rifle. I jumped over it as it fell, twisted as I went down and fired at the next war-beast. I landed hard and rolled up against a tree trunk. I raised my rifle and fired one-handed while I tried to get my feet under me. The muzzle-flash lit up their teeth and carapaces as they attacked, snarling. The smell of blood and burnt flesh was overwhelming. Three of them were on me in moments.
Well, I guess this is it.
One of the war-beast’s head exploded. The second stumbled as its rib-cage collapsed. I shot the third in its gaping maw and kicked away the corpse, aware of the sound of more gunshots filling the woods. Muzzle-flashes lit the spaces between the trees. Overhead the sky lit up like dawn, and the Thresher fell from the air trailing smoke and fire to crash half a kilometer away.
I blinked my eyes, clearing the afterglow from the explosion. A Hunter, hood drawn up and a rifle in hand, offered me a hand up. I took it: he was human, pale, long haired and was dressed in steel-colored armor with a saber on his hip.
“Thanks,” I said.
“You’re welcome. I’m House, of the Valherjar.”
“You are Valherjar?” I reached into my satchel and pulled out the leather-bound book I had found a few days before on the corpse of a dead Exo. “I think this belongs to you.”
He took the journal and frowned at it. “Hey, boss!” he called over his shoulder. “I’ve got an Awoken over here!”
Figures melted into sight out of the Darkness: Titans and Warlocks and Hunters, all bunched together. House handed the journal to one of the Titans. “She says this is for us.”
The Titan flipped through the journal. “This belongs to Morc-35. Where did you get it?”
“I found it on his body.”
The Titan shook his head. “Well, I guess we all knew. Did you see any other Guardians with his body? Any Ghosts?”
I shook my head. “No. His body was alone.”
The Titan was silent a long moment. “We’ve established a base camp nearby. You’re welcome to join us, if you like.”
“Thank you.” I bowed. “I am Gwendolyn, Warlock of the Vanguard.”
“If there still is a Vanguard, sure,” said the Titan. “But for now, welcome to The Chosen Dead.”