Posts Tagged With: Valherjar

Scattered – Part 1

“Stories are Light. Light is precious in a world so Dark. Begin at the beginning. Tell Gregory a story. Make some Light.”
Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux


“Gwen, I think they’re arguing.”

Gwendolyn opened her green eyes and blinked couple of times to center herself. “Who is arguing, Anu? About what?”

Anu, her silver and green Ghost, spun its shell a couple of times. “The Valherjar Guardians. It sounds like they’re in disagreement.”

Gwendolyn rolled her head a couple times, feeling the slight pops in her neck from sitting still for so long. Then she stood up, stretched, and pulled aside the curtain to her enclosure.

Her little living space was one of nearly a dozen such partitioned spaces beneath a canopy stretched between the two “longboats”: winged troop transports that were several times the length of a standard one-person jump ship. They had been painted in Dead Orbit colors, but the paint job had been covered by branches and camouflage canvas to hide them beneath the trees. The inside of the longboats were housing the civilians, but the canopied space was for cooking fires and spaces for the Guardians to sleep. She passed one of the cooking fires as she walked the length of the longboats to their stern. A couple of teenagers hunkered over a small spit. One of them peeled off a strip of meat from the spit and skewered it on a sharpened stick, then offered it as Gwendolyn passed. She smiled and took it with a silent mouthing of “thanks.” Raised voices traveled to her ears from the stern space, muffled by the tent fabrics but unmistakably agitated. She followed the sound, Anu floating over her shoulder.

“…leaving them behind.”

“It’s been a week, Telrik. We’re not leaving anyone behind.”

Gwen pulled aside the tent wall and stepped into the weak sunlight. Four Guardians were gathered around tail fins of one of the longboats. Two of them perched on the fins themselves: both were Awoken Hunters. One was bald and relatively silent, flipping her throwing knife end to end in her hand. The other sported a bright red Mohawk and was opening her mouth as if to speak, but was cut off by one of the Titans that stood opposite her.

“We’re moving on rather than making an effort to find our people. That’s abandoning them. I won’t do it, and neither should you.”

All Titans could fill a room: even smaller, squat Titans had a presence that was unmistakable and inescapable, a part of their nature that demanded attention and respect. Still, the green-armored giant speaking was a towering presence even by Titan standards, a massive wall of muscle and metal that would give even a Cabal pause. His hair and beard were ragged from days of wilderness living, and his little green Ghost at his side was quiet. Next to the green giant stood another Titan, this one an Exo in gold-plated armor. Both Titans had their rifles out and looked ready to march on a moment’s notice, packs on their backs and blood-lust in their eyes.

“Telrik,” said the Mohawk hunter, her voice tired, “we can’t just assault the City in the condition we’re in. There’s four of us and four thousand or more them. If we had our Light we would already be moving.”

“I won’t leave our leader, Arianna. I’m going, whether or not you agree.” Telrik looked at the other Hunter. “How about you, Miranda? Want to help find Farstride and the others? Heisenberg and I would welcome the help.”

The bald hunter stopped flipping her knife. “I don’t do suicide missions, Telrik. Especially when I know that there’s no point. They’re dead. That Warlock there,” she pointed at Gwendolyn with the tip of her knife, “brought back Morc-35’s journal. Just what do you think that means?”

Telrik turned his head. “That she found a dead Exo,” he said. “That’s not proof it was Morc. It’s not proof the others are dead.”

Miranda sighed. “Warlock. That Exo corpse you found: describe him, please.”

Gwendolyn finished chewing the strip of meat she had been given and thought for a moment. “Steel and leather armor. Red cloak. Broadsword nearby. His body was damaged, but it looked like his exoskeleton was blue.”

“Blue Exo with a red cloak and a sword, Telrik. Morc’s dead. The others probably are too.” Miranda resumed flipping the knife.

The Titan sighed and looked at Heisenberg. “Ready?”

The silent Exo nodded, and both Titans turned away. “We’ll be on the frequency we established a couple of days ago.”

“It’ll be no good if we don’t set up a transmitter to get that far out,” countered Arianna. “At least wait until then. Or just wait until we hear from House and Magnus.”

“Everyday we wait it’s more likely we lose them. We’ll call you in a week.” Then the two Titans marched away, soon disappearing into the trees.

“Idiots,” said Miranda under breath.

“Can’t make a Titan do something he doesn’t want to,” sighed Arianna. She looked at Gwendolyn. “Sorry you had to see that.”

Gwen shrugged. “As you say, Titans are difficult to redirect. What is your next step?”

“Find a good place to set up our long-range transmitter,” said Arianna. “That evacuation order we heard was incomplete, and if we try to use the longboats to signal we’ll just draw the Cabal. There are too many civilians here to risk that.” She sized Gwendolyn up with a head-to-foot gaze. “We could use a third to round out our fireteam. With everyone scattered to the winds, we’ll take all the help we can get.”

“Just let me get my rifle,” said Gwendolyn.

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Categories: Gwendolyn | Tags: , , , , , ,

Epilogue – Vol. 1

“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.

“You OK?”

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.”

Categories: Volume 1: Finale | Tags: , , , , , ,

Finale – Part 1

If we do not live another day,
Say this over our pyre:
“They died like High Guard Lancers,
With their faces to the fire.”

~Regimental Hymn of the 13th Imperial Lancers, CY 4233 (The Widening Gyre, Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda)


The last pages are water-stained and washed out. A folded map is tucked into the back, along with a small data drive containing records and communications logs. With these clues and some careful study, you piece together Day 1,131…

The Twilight Gap rang with the sound of gunfire and the occasional explosion from a thrown grenade. Morc-35 perched on a stone and watched the four-versus-four match unfold. The late day was overcast and it was beginning to rain. The approaching storm made a beautiful backdrop for the Crucible match unfolding.

Farstride, Arianna, Telrik and Drake, as Alpha team, had taken the outside area of the map and peppered anyone who stepped out with sniper fire. Bravo, consisting of Magnus, Miranda, Findlay and Heisenberg-3 were biding their time, hurling explosives and cornering anyone brave enough to enter their zone.

“They’re massing for an attack,” Morc-35 muttered to his Ghost, Ebony, as he looked through a hand-held scope. “Magnus has them bunched up in the back corner. Any second now he’s going to-”

As if on cue, the sound of a great metal anvil being struck announced the charge of a Sunbreaker: Heisenberg came barreling out of the building swinging his hammer, racing for the outside, followed by Miranda and Findlay.

Farstride fell back from the charge, pulling Telrik and Arianna into his shield, and Heisenberg’s hammer glanced off the bulwark. They began to dance inside the bubble, daring them to charge.

Findlay took them up on it, running straight at the bubble of Void Light.

There was a brief, mad scramble to get out of the eager Titan’s way before he smashed the fortification. Arianna went down, but not before she had stuck a flaming knife in Findlay’s helmet: he walked a single step before face-planting into the dirt and his Ghost appeared next to Arianna’s.

Farstride and Telrik had split up, covering the others in a wide field of fire. Heisenberg was still holding his hammer and he hurled it at Farstride: the defender disappeared in a wash of fire and smoke. Heisenberg turned to attack Telrik and had his head blown off for his trouble.

Miranda skipped off the side of the building with the all the grace of a dancer and launched an arrow of Void Light at the Titan. The shot went wide but tethered him. Telrik stood his ground and sniped again, sending her spinning away. She ducked behind some boxes and ran back inside. Telrik focused on the tether, trying to cut himself free.

“Where are the Warlocks?” asked Morc.

“Coming,” reported Ebony.

Telrik had just nullified the tether when Magnus appeared above his head, spitting fire from a hand cannon. The exchange of gunfire was brief and Telrik went down. Magnus floated down to reload, and then disappeared into an explosion that rattled the whole arena as Drake abandoned his hiding place to launch a Nova bomb.

“Score?” asked Morc.

“4,325 to 4,100 for Alpha. 00:42 on the clock.”

“Gonna be close, as always,” said Morc.

The Ghosts had switched sides, leaving Bravo team on the outside. There were some cheers from Bravo: this was the favored side of the arena, giving the contestants ample room to funnel an attack. But Alpha had the lead, and didn’t need to expose themselves to win; and they had the better snipers, meaning Bravo would likely have to rush the fortified position to even the score.

There was another boom, this one louder than the Nova bomb and it made everything tremble. Morc lowered his scope and looked South into rain that was beginning to fall in sheets. Black shapes marred the skyline, coming in low and fast under the cloud cover, missiles zooming in ahead of them. “Holy crap!” shouted Morc. He leaped down from his position and ran for cover at the tram building as another explosion went off, showering him with dirt and debris. The gun emplacements began to fire, answering the attacking ships with thunder of their own.

“Match is over! Alpha team wins!” Farstride called as he ducked into the tram building with Morc.

“No fair!” Magnus yelled back.

More of the Valherjar poured into building 3 as small ships swept overhead. “We have to call this into the Tower!” said Arianna.

“Can’t, those comm issues we’ve been having all day haven’t been patched yet,” Drake said as he loaded his weapon.

“I don’t think it matters!” shouted Telrik. “I’m sure they know or will soon. We have to get off this hill!” Then a gun emplacement exploded, and the Twilight Gap crumbled.

Categories: Morc-35 | Tags: , , , , ,

Day 1099

“My dear young lady,’ said the professor…’there is one plan which no one has yet suggested and which is well worth trying.’
‘What’s that?’ said Susan.
‘We might all try minding our own business…”
C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe


“Victory is a matter of will!”

“You ever get tired of Shaxx saying that?” asked Rill.

“It’s just a prerecorded announcement,” I replied, not taking my eyes from the screen. “Although I’m pretty sure he believes it.”

Henrik, Rill’s boyfriend, grunted and swigged from a brown bottle. “Victory is a matter of weapons and skill.”

I didn’t disagree with him and stood up. “I’m getting another drink before the match gets too far along. Anyone need a refill?”

“I’ll take another,” said Emma. The others shook their heads. I made my way to the bar, hood drawn still drawn up, and slid my glass to the frame behind the bar. “Need another of Cosmodrome IPA, too,” I added. The frame blinked and dutifully began to refill my glass.

“I didn’t know Exos could drink,” said a voice at my elbow. The speaker was Awoken, pale blue skin and jet black hair that had the slightest bluish tinge that contrasted starkly with her pure white robes. Her Ghost’s shell was gold and green, depicting a committed Iron Banner contestant that matched her shining green eyes.

“Thought you Warlocks knew everything,” I quipped.

The Awoken rolled her eyes and threw up her hands in a mock defensive pose. “Oh, you’ve wounded me, oh witty Hunter. Seriously, are you really one of those?”

“One of those what?” I asked //tersely.

“One of those guys who thinks if they’re insulting and standoffish it’s somehow endearing?”

I blinked at her, suddenly //flustered. “You’re defensive.”

“Really? Someone makes a casual observation and your first reaction is to put them down for being different from you. Which of us has their defenses up?”

I opened my mouth to retort…then rethought it. “OK, you got me. My mistake.” I drew my hood back and stuck out a hand. “Morc-35, of the Valherjar and the Erickssons.”

“That’s better.” She shook my hand. “Gwendolen, Vanguard. My friends call me Gwen.” She looked at one of the large screens in the half-empty taproom. “So that’s your unit fighting in the Iron Banner, Shores of Time match?”

“Yeah.” I glanced at the screen. Farstride, Findlay, Heisenberg and Telrik were tearing through the competition as only a team of Titans could. Magnus was holding ground near the B-Zone, and a random sixth Bladedancer, unaffiliated as far as I could see, had rounded out the roster for the match. “They’re moving up the rankings pretty well this tournament.”

“Why aren’t you with them?”

“I’ve been out of the Crucible for about a year now. The Iron Banner would eat me alive.”

“Ah. So it has nothing to do with your fear of not being able to revive?”

A host of different emotions roiled through me before I locked down the answer. “You’re the Warlock that Father Ericksson told me about.”

Gwen nodded. “He’s given up trying to convince you to see me, so he asked me to find you. He says you need help. I would like to try, if you’ll let me.”

I took my refilled glass and the bottle from the bar where the frame had placed them. “I’m not a specimen for you to study. Go ply your magic tricks elsewhere.” I turned to leave.

She placed a hand on my arm. “Morc-35, listen: if your condition is what it sounds like, you may be infected with something. Which means you might be curable. Your family is worried about you.”

I shook off her hand and walked back to the table and placed Emma’s drink in front of her. I sat down and studiously kept my back to the bar and Gwen.

“I’m telling you,” Emma was saying to Rill, “these matches are rigged. Look at that!” She pointed at the screen with the scoreboards, showing the different rankings of each team of contestants. “There is a clear bias of matching teams that are imbalanced with one type of Light against teams that have 2 of each energy type, and the teams with 2 of each almost always win.”

“That’s a load of BS,” Rill shot back. “Look at the bracket for the next match: the Fifth Circle is almost purely Golden Guns and Sunsingers, and they haven’t even lost a match yet!”

“Well sure, when you have 3 Guardians who can self-revive it’s impossible to take territory back from them. If this were a Clash tourney they would be just as badly off. My point still stands.”

“Whatever. You’re still going down. The Northern Paladins are winning.”

“Because the Valherjar are almost all Arc-types and the Paladins came with a rounded team. Rigged.”

I checked the score on the match we were watching: 8325 to 7650 with 2:31 on the clock. Although the Valherjar held only a single zone, they were closing the gap through attrition – an effective strategy for a team comprised mostly of Titans. Another screen in the bar flipped over to the match to provide an additional angle and we got a good look at Telrik rushing an enemy zone: he hit with a Fist of Havoc and scattered half the enemy team. In moments Farstride reinforced his position with a shield. A few seconds later and another rush, and all 3 zones were held by the Valherjar, turning the match into a massacre.

The final score was 10150 to 9950. The bar erupted into cheers and groans, and the Iron Banner brackets shifted with the new standings.

“Woo!” Emma slammed her drink on the heavy wood table and stood up on her chair, dancing. “Valherjar, Valherjar! Woo! Enjoy that extra delivery shift this weekend while I’m sunning myself, sis!”

Rill leaned her head on Henrik’s shoulder and shut her eyes. “Damn it. I’ve haven’t had a weekend off in almost a month.” She looked at Emma. “Double or nothing if they lose their next match.”

“You’re on!” Emma dropped back into her chair, laughing.

I risked a look over at my shoulder. The Warlock was gone, as far as I could see.

Emma noticed the look and followed my gaze. “You lose something?”

“Someone,” I said. I turned in my chair again to watch the next match.

“So did you talk with her?” asked Emma.

I glared at her. “Please say you didn’t tell that Warlock where to find me.”

Emma had the good grace to look embarrassed. “I thought-”

“Blood of the Traveler.” I kicked my chair back and stood up. “I don’t need this, Emma.”

“Morc – ”

I drew my hood back up and left the bar.

Ebony spoke in my ear. “Far be it from me to disagree with you,” he said. “But if the Warlock is right, I am in danger as well. We should talk with her.”

“Shut up,” I snapped.

“Guardian – ”

“Shut. Up.”

Categories: Morc-35 | Tags: , , , , ,

Day 797 – Finale

“We are all subject to the Fates. But we must act as if we are not, or die of despair.”
Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass


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.”

Categories: Morc-35 | Tags: , , ,

Day 797 – Part 6

“Every generation of humans that has ever lived believed they would see the end of the world, whether they called it Armageddon or Ragnorök.”
James Marquess, Stem: A Novella


“This all seems too convenient,” said Findlay. We were crouched near the coordinates the Warlocks had given us, in the middle of the warehouse district of a ghost town that had sat on the edge of a (now dry) river. “The House of Kings just happen to have a way of hijacking SIVA and these Warlocks call us for pest removal? And they have the coordinates to point us to their camps? It’s weird.”

I grunted. “You’re already developing a sense of cynicism. Good.”

“Maybe that’s my nature.”

I chuckled and sighted down my scope. “4 Vandals and a modified Servitor that resembles the one I saw 2 years ago. They’re using that warehouse as a base, though why pick a warehouse without a roof is beyond me. We can take care of these on our own.” I relayed the information to the rest of the fire-team. “Killing threats is what we do, Guardian,” I told Findlay. “You Titans have it easy on your Wall to keep you safe.”

Findlay grumbled something unintelligible.

“Speak up,” I said.

“Easy for Hunters to say, they just run.”

I laughed. “Needs some work, but good to see you’re growing teeth.” I slapped his armored shoulder. “Now, we’re going down there and kicking some Fallen ass. You ready?”


We scuttled through the blasted streets, picking our way over half-buried detritus to approach the Warehouse. “Now,” I whispered softly. “I’m going to go up top, shoot them from above. The Servitor may take multiple shots, so if I get made before they’re all dead, you charge in there and distract them, OK?”

Findlay nodded, his helmet jostling with the movement.

I began to scale the side of the warehouse, suddenly proud of my ability to move in silence after months on Mars baiting the Cabal. I wondered what else had changed since I had taken my leave of absence. At the top of the building I began to creep across an exposed beam.

The beam shifted and bent down into the open space of the warehouse as my weight torqued it out of position, making a grinding noise that could have been heard all the way back in the City. I instinctively clung to the metal, cursing when I heard the howls of the Fallen below me. Then I was falling.

I landed in the open space in the middle of the Fallen and reached for my hand-cannon, but the holster was empty. I saw the gun going flying away with a kick from a Vandal’s foot, and the Fallen were on me in a moment.

The whole area suddenly lit up with a flash and my vision was distorted with white snow from an EMP burst that overloaded my visual receptors. I rolled to my left, scurrying between where I had last seen 2 of the Fallen and hoped I had dived clear before turning around. My vision cleared in time to see them meet their unfortunate end.

Findlay charged in behind his grenade blast, catching the nearest of the Vandals with his shoulder. The Vandal went sailing over my head and folded into a rusted metal wall like a squashed insect, twitching spasmodically as ether poured out. The Titan seized the next Vandal in both fists, ignoring the sword that scraped against his armor, and twisted its head the wrong way round: it collapsed bonelessly to the dust. The next 2 tried to attack together. The first had its leg shattered with a swift kick, and as it writhed Findlay pivoted, jumped into the air and brought both fists down on the other’s head, crushing it into the dirt. He then hefted his shotgun and put the wounded Vandal down with a shot.

By this point I had scrambled to my feet and recovered my pistol. “Findlay, the Servitor!”

The modified Servitor groaned and began to glow with Void energy, as did the Vandals all around. Findlay charged and leaped: Arc Light crackled around his body and he hit the Fallen machine hard enough to core it like an apple, lightning and heat billowing out from the strike. The Servitor lay in its miniature crater, smoking and broken. The Titan made a show of dusting himself off and looked at me.

“I thought I said ‘distract’ them,” I said huffily, trying to recover some dignity.

Findlay gestured to the remains. “This is how Titans distract enemies.”


Our team gathered around a blazing fire pit as the sun disappeared past the horizon.

“None of the modified Servitors had any dead Ghosts,” said Arianna, summing up our reports. “And none of the Fallen wore King regalia. In fact, we found no evidence of allegiance to any House at all, or any evidence of SIVA-like tech.”

“So, different Fallen? Did the Warlocks lie to us?” asked Magnus.

“Maybe not intentionally,” I offered. “We know that these Servitor mods were originally started by a King. Maybe the Warlocks jumped to a conclusion.”

“This is all kinds of wrong,” muttered Findlay. Miranda nodded her agreement. Only Drake was silent, poking at the blaze with a branch and lifting the burning ember to his face, studying it.

Arianna stared out at the darkness, clearly thinking. “Someone is playing us,” she said finally. “Who or why is the question. At first light we’re going back to that settlement and demanding answers.”

“Why wait?” asked Findlay. We all looked at him. The blonde Titan shrugged, looking suddenly unsure. “I mean, if we’re being used, shouldn’t we get moving?”

There was a moment of silence, and then Drake stood up, tossing his branch into the flames. “The boy is right. Delay only insures that whatever end we are being used for is accomplished. We should return immediately.”

Arianna nodded. “OK. Mount up.”

Categories: Morc-35 | Tags: , , ,

Day 797 – Part 5

“What hast thou to ask? | why comest thou hither? Odin, I know | where thine eye is hidden.”
Anonymous, The Poetic Edda


I let my fingers graze the wall of the tunnel as we descended, feeling the perfectly cut surface beneath them, seeing as much as feeling the tiniest fractures in the stone. It was rare to see this level of craftsmanship in the City, unheard of to see it beyond the Wall (unless you counted the Warmind compounds). The tunnel was perfectly lit by thin light strips hidden where the seams of the ceiling and the floor met the walls, a stark contrast to our descent in its sister compound when the Fallen had attacked the other settlement. I had so many questions.

Our guide was silent. Her red robes swished from side to side with each step, and the years of dust and filth that had accumulated on them were a stark contrast with the clean spaces we walked through. Her Ghost was also silent, and their hushed behaviour had desecended over our whole group.

Eventually the sound of voices echoed up the tunnel to us, and we reached a thoroughfare that branched off in many directions. What looked like a cross between a market and a city square under a great stone dome, with a single yellow globe casting a sunlit aura over the whole space, was crowded with people going about their business. It was almost a city, albeit a small city. As we passed through the crowd of people parted to either side to let the red Warlock pass but paid us no more attention than a brief glance.

“You’d think they see Guardians everyday,” said Findlay. Our guide laughed, and the weight of silence was broken.

“Why did you call for us? For Guardian aid?” asked Arianna as we walked through the crowd.

“All will be explained.”

“Wonderful, cryptic Warlocks,” muttered Findlay. I elbowed him in the ribs and he silenced.

We were eventually led to a large circular room, and found 2 more Warlocks, similarly attired, hovering in a strange tableau. Strands of neural networking crowded the space from ceiling to floor and glowing with pulsing energy, and the Warlocks floated between them, running their fingers over the strands as if coaxing them.

“Welcome to the heart of our settlement,” said our guide. “I am Lyra, and these are my sisters, Persephone and Cassandra.” The other warlocks descended to our level – it was impossible to tell the difference between the 3. “We have called you here to ask for your help, and provide insight if you so desire.”

Magnus reached out and hovered a hand over the strands. “Nanite constructs.”

“Constructs that the Kings have finally come to understand, thanks to the SIVA outbreak.” Lyra gestured to the nanite strands, some as thick as trees. “SIVA will seem like a rash compared to the plague that will spread if we don’t stop the Kings. That’s why we summoned you here. Help us Guardians, and you help yourselves.”

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Day 797 – Part 4

“The Fates and Furies, as well as the Graces and Sirens, glide with linked hands over life.”
Jean Paul Friedrich Richter


“So…do we knock?” asked Miranda.

“That doesn’t seem particularly wise.” I didn’t take my eye from the scope. “I can see 2 turrets by the gate and what looks like an armed patrol every 6 to 8 minutes. If they don’t like Guardians we’ll have a fight on our hands.”

“Didn’t they invite us? They sent out a distress call, after all. They asked for some of us by name.”

“Baby Titan has a point,” said Drake. I heard Findlay sigh. “We may as well ask why.”

I lowered the scope and looked at Arianna. She flipped her throwing knife in 1 hand, blade to hilt to blade, clearly thinking. Eventually the knife stilled. “Drake and Miranda, you hold here. The rest of us will go talk to them. Remember your buddy system.” She looked over her shoulder at Rill. “I could use an extra set of eyes, if Emma doesn’t need you on the ship.”

The young woman shrugged. “Sure.”

A beaten dirt path led up to the gate, and the 5 of us left our cover in the shrubs of the low dunes to follow it.

“They see us,” I said softly.

The turrets turned our way, but no shots rang out. We were about 12 meters from the gate when we were finally challenged.

“Hang on,” said Chatterbox, Arianna’s Ghost. “It’s some bastardized form of Russian. Translating.”

Arianna took off her helmet, exposing her shock of red hair. “My name is Arianna. I’m a Guardian of the Last City, and I have the Guardian Morc-35 with me. We received your distress call.”

There was some talk behind the gates. Another shout. “They said for you to raise your hands and approach.”

“Do as they say,” said Arianna. We all put our hands in the air and walked forward. The wooden gates groaned open as we approached.

Men and women dressed in brown furs and leathers waited for us inside. The ground was packed hard and dusty, and a variety of structures from yurt-like tents to wooden shacks lined rough lanes. The encampment was larger than it had appeared from outside, and there were more people than could be accounted for from just the buildings.

Ebony did a quick little pulse for a scan. “There are underground structures nearby, not unlike the one we found the modified Servitor in.”

“So, same people?” I asked softly.

We were approached by a cadre of humans and a single Exo with rifles before anyone could reply. They spoke harshly at us, pointing at our weapons.

“They said we have to turn over our guns,” reported Chatterbox.

There was a tense pause. The rest of us looked at Arianna, who deliberated. Then she shook her head. “No.”

One of the guards that I took to be the leader repeated his demand, loudly. Arianna shrugged at him. “No. Tell your chief we come in peace. And taking our weapons won’t mean anything, you know that: we’re just as dangerous without them.”

This flustered the guard, and he stepped forward, brandishing his rifle. A shout behind him stopped him in mid-stride.

“Let them pass with their weapons. She’s right: it would mean little.” A figure in long, dirty red robes strode forward. Her hands were tucked into her voluminous sleeves and her head was covered by a deep hood, but even so her Awoken eyes shone brightly in its shadow. A blood-red Ghost hovered above her shoulder. “Welcome, Guardians. Please, come with me.” She beckoned us forward with a motion of her head. “We’ve been expecting you.”

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Day 797 – Part 3

“One sibling this annoying is misfortune! What warlock has cursed me to have two?”

~Thor Odinson (Marvel Universe)


“Would you leave like a thief in the night?”

“I didn’t hear you approach, Father.” I turned around.

“I doubt that.” Father Ericksson walked up to me, his cane shuffling through the snow. He had not had a cane when I had last seen him. Nor had he been as bent as he was now, almost double, as if he carried some unseen weight on his back. Rill walked at his side, almost hovering.

“It would have been nice to have seen you before left again.”

I ducked my head. “I am sorry. The war…” I trailed off: the words sounded hollow even as I spoke them.

“The war between Light and Darkness existed even before the first gods, Morc. Do not get so caught up in it you forget the larger picture.” He motioned me to follow and began to walk away from The Hand of Tyr. Rill frowned at me as she passed, taking a satchel to the ship.

“You’re sending her with us?” I asked as we walked.

“Emma is to be your fire team’s pilot, and I do not like when one of our people flies alone, even with Guardians. Were it not for your insistence on privacy, they would have flown together to retrieve you from Mars. They are as close as only sisters can be since the hunt that wounded you all.”

I cocked my head and looked at him. “Emma told you.”

“She did.” Father Ericksson stopped walking and sighed. “I have an entire clan to watch over, Morc-35. The health and mind of each is important to me. Even that of an Exo.”

“I don’t know what telling you can do to help,” I said.

“Perhaps nothing,” he admitted. “But I would ask you this: do not go. If your each subsequent death brings you closer to some unseen edge, then going into battle is beyond foolishness. Stay here, speak to the Warlocks, and let them help you.”

“I’ll be helped when that Wizard is dead.”

“Are you certain?” He stared at me hard. “The realm of death belongs to the Hive. Do you think destroying something that is Taken will be enough?”

“It will be enough for me.”

He studied me for a few moments more. “I see you cannot be dissuaded. Very well. But when this mission is over you will return to the family, and you will speak to a Warlock before you go haring off after that Wizard again; I know of one who is discrete and will help you without telling the Vanguard. You may take your revenge after.”

I nodded. “Yes, Father.”

He patted my arm, and I felt the frailty in the gesture. The strong warrior chief I had met 2 years before had been replaced by a feeble man. I burned with questions as to what had happened, but felt //ashamed I did not already know. Perhaps I had been gone too long.

“Be swift, Morc-35. Time is growing short. For all of us.” He turned and walked back toward the Iron Temple. I watched him go until he was out of sight, then returned to the ship. The fire team was stowing their spare weapons and extra gear on board.

Arianna whistled sharply to get everyone’s attention. “Head count. The Ericksson’s here,” she gestured to Emma and Rill, “will establish a forward base and maintain our Sparrow uplink, so we’ll have mobility.”

“I don’t have a Sparrow,” said Findlay weakly.

“You do now,” said Rill. The other Guardians turned to look at her. “Morgan gave Morc-35 an Eververse voucher as payment for the tactics assessment you dropped off for him. He traded that for a Sparrow for you.”

“Uh…wow, thanks,” said Findlay to me.

“Titans are slow enough without a Sparrow,” I told him.

“Hey!”

Arianna resumed her briefing. “After we’re in the mission zone it’s short-range comms only. If the Kings are involved we can be certain they have tricks up their sleeves, and the fact that someone out there has our names means they might be able to listen to long-range comms, so we’ll need to keep everything low-key and encrypted. No use of names and coordinates over audio: tight-beam everything between your Ghosts as much as possible and have them pipe it in. Clear?”

Everyone nodded.

“OK, buddy-system in case we get separated: Magnus, you’re with me. Drake, you’re with Miranda. Morc, you get the new-boot.”

“Why do I have to be paired with the Titan?” I demanded.

“Consider it a punishment for being so hard to find.”

“I’m a punishment?” asked Findlay.

“All aboard!” Arianna transmatted into the hold and we all followed her.

Categories: Morc-35 | Tags: , , , , , ,

Day 797 – Part 2

“I had forgotten that, while Thor hurls his Hammer from storm-clouds, Odin prefers his strike to come out of a calm sky.”
Robert Low, The White Raven


“What was in that book I gave Morgan?”

Findlay’s question interrupted my reading of the SIVA crisis reports. I hid my //annoyance. “Observations of the tactics the Cabal have adopted to deal with the remnant Taken threats. I don’t think the Cabal have ever been thrashed like this before. It has changed their approach.”

“So why give it to the Cryptarchs?”

I put the report down. “The Cryptarchs do analysis of an enemy’s language and habits and trade that to the Vanguard for help with relic retrieval. The Warlocks like it too since it helps them weaponize their use of the Light.”

“Titans and Hunters don’t care?”

“We Hunters rely on our wits and weapons, not just our powers to get things done. And Titans have never met a problem they couldn’t just smack their thick skulls against.”

“Hey…” Findlay began.

“We’re about to land at the Iron Temple.” Emma reported from the cockpit. I tucked the sheaf of reports into my satchel and stood before drawing my hood up.

We transmatted into a blizzard: the world was nothing but blowing whiteness, and the sun was near setting. Darkness was rapidly descending.

“Where’s the meeting point?” I shouted.

Findlay waved me to follow him. The snow obscured everything past a few meters, but his Ghost gave off a little halo of light that made a decent beacon. I saw other Guardians pass us: in spite of the weather there was a sense of activity and movement all around us, muted orange light here and there I took to be torches or fires.

Findlay guided us across a bridge made of wood and rope.

“Blood of the Traveler, what is this, the dark ages?” I demanded, clinging to the icy ropes that kept me from being blown off the side.

“In a manner of speaking,” said Ebony helpfully. “The Iron Temple was built centuries ago. It’s older than the City.”

“Wonderful,” I said. The walk across the bridge seemed to take forever, but I caught up with Findlay at a huge set of doors with a great axe carved into them.

“Push!” shouted Findlay. I complied, and orange light streamed out of the enclosure along with a semblance of warmth. Once inside we turned and the pressed the doors back into place, and they snapped close with a heavy crunch.

“Look what the new boot found.” Miranda was sitting at the edge of a fire pit that dominated a small room with a high-ceiling that I took to be the base of a tower. She had her hood drawn up to cover her bald head, but her Awoken eyes were shining bright in the firelight.

“Throw him back out,” said Magnus. He was huddled in his black robes and almost sitting in the fire…no, he was sitting in the fire. “He let the cold in.”

Drake laughed and waved me over. “It is good to see you again, Morc.”

I sat next to the other Warlock and punched his shoulder. “You as well.”

“Is this all of us?” asked Findlay.

“Arianna’s on her way over with M and a briefing,” said Miranda. “Be patient, kid.”

“Where are the others?” I asked.

“Out being Titans,” said Magnus. “You know: beating their chests, smashing things, the usual.”

“Where’s House?”

The others frowned. “No one knows,” admitted Drake finally. “He went after something in the European DZ on assignment from Dead Orbit. Not sure what they wanted out there, but he was eager to go. No one’s heard from him in 8 weeks, and both Dead Orbit and the Vanguard are being tight-lipped about it.”

“We know he isn’t dead,” said Magnus. “Farstride would have been told. But whatever he’s up to, he’s even harder to find than you.”

The doors cracked open and 2 Hunters, Arianna and the fiery little M, ducked inside from the blizzard.

“Close the damn door!” shouted Magnus, and thrust out a hand. The doors snapped close before the Hunters had even begun to push them.

“This place and its lack of tech is unbearable.” M took her hood off and shook her short blonde hair free, sending snow all around her.

“Back in the day this was practically a palace compared to what we lived in,” said Magnus.

“You say that like you were there,” I laughed. Magnus looked through the flames at me. I gaped at him as the implication dawned. “Were you…?”

“Briefing,” snapped M. “The faster I’m done here the faster I can get back to the Tower.” She looked at Arianna. “This your whole crew?”

“This is us.”

“You scrounged up a Titan.”

“Can’t leave a stray puppy out for the Devils to eat,” said Arianna.

Findlay frowned at all of us. “What did I do to deserve this?”

Drake guffawed at him. “You will get used to it, kid.”

“This will be familiar territory for 2 of you,” said M. “We’re sending you south of the Cosmodrome.”

“What? Why?” I asked. “The reports I read said the SIVA plague lands are north of here.”

“And our Titans will do a wonderful job smashing up SIVA: it’s a simple task, but I need brains and skill, so I got Warlocks and Hunters for this.”

“I am sitting right here,” muttered Findlay.

“As I said, this will literally be familiar territory.” She looked at Arianna and me. “You remember that little Fallen experiment you broke up a couple of years ago when the Devils attacked that settlement?”

“Yeah,” I said. “I still have that Captain’s sword hanging on my wall.”

“Well, your reports got cross-referenced with reports coming out of the plague lands: we think the Kings might have had some of SIVA all along.”

Magnus sucked in a breath between his teeth. “No, not possible. They wouldn’t have been able to keep it quiet. You saw how fast it spread once it was out of containment.”

“Not actual SIVA mites, no,” said M. “But specs and enough tech to get the gist of it. We’re confident now that the Kings were trying to replicate their own kind of SIVA, and it’s possible that has something to do with how the Devils sniffed out its existence. There are too many parallels.”

“What does it matter?” asked Drake. “The Devils have it now. Why send us south?”

“Because a settlement we didn’t know existed has been sending out a distress call…and they mentioned Arianna and Morc-35 by name.”

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