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I - Ambush
Caiatl stands on the bridge of her flagship, six destroyer-class warcraft at her flanks. Weeks of intelligence and a handful of dead spies have brought her to a single point in space. This moment of opportunity.
A massive, reinforced viewport extends from beneath her feet to the ceiling of the bridge. Through it, dead-still azure banners obscure the distant Awoken Reef. From Caiatl's perspective, it appears as a slurry of glitz and dust to be swept away at her command—an idea her advisors spoke of all too frequently. Their soft conflict with one city had left some eager for a decisive victory in another. It was a distraction.
In the space between Caiatl and the Reef, just beyond the unmoving banners, malachite-licked wisps of intent tear open the space between her and the shimmering dust. Long black spindles of Hive workmanship pierce the rift first, preceding a massive Tomb Carrier twice the size of her flagship.
Caiatl addresses her bridge officers. "Wait until they're through and cannot flee."
Her destroyers take up flanking positions opposite of her own as Caiatl orders her flagship to maneuver above the massive Tomb Carrier.
When the rift shuts, the order comes over Cabal comms: "Strike."
The six destroyers spring their diversionary attack. Caiatl feels the pressure waves from their silent cannons wash over her as their shells detonate. Tomb Carrier and Cabal warcraft exchange a harrowing gauntlet of ordnance. The diversion is working.
"Point us straight at their midsection. Launch ballista crews," Caiatl barks. "Inform me when they've taken the bridge."
Emerald flare wells deep in the Tomb Carrier's main gun like a brewing cauldron lined with obsidian teeth. The barrel: a massive column of vertebrae from some leviathan creature, ignites with ten thousand Hive runes. The Tomb Carrier belches streams of malefic flame that effortlessly obliterates two spearheading Cabal destroyers. Caiatl steps forward in horror as their hulls erupt in a series of soulfire explosions.
"Don't let that gun fire again! Protect our destroyers!" She pivots to her navigation office. "Bring the ship to minimum jump speed. Full power to the mains!"
Caiatl thrusts a finger at the Tomb Carrier. "Engage the Aries ram and prepare for impact!"
The flagship hurtles toward the Tomb Carrier, unleashing a full salvo of cannons and warheads to soften the Carrier's carapace.
Caiatl turns to a bridge crew Legionary as the Tomb Carrier rapidly expands in the viewport behind her. "Fetch my shield."
On the other side of the Reef, Queen Mara Sov watches through a Dreaming City aperture as the battle unfolds on her borders. The inscrutable expression on her face twists with each distant explosion. Petra wishes the small tensing motions would give some indication of what her queen is thinking. Instead, she sees only the cold stare of one predator assessing the size and strength of another.
Petra looks to the knife Mara is idly toying with and notices a detail she hadn't before: a pair of kestrels etched into the blade, wings intertwined, linework so fine that she has to squint to recognize their silhouettes.
Petra frowns. "My queen?" she asks, but Mara does not shift her attention from the battle.
"Caiatl's war games will keep Xivu Arath occupied while we focus on recovering our lost Techeuns," Mara says. She uses the point of the knife to trace the longest line along her palm. "Neither will be able to launch a full-scale attack on the Dreaming City while the other is at her throat."
"Savathûn first?" ventures Petra.
Mara's stoic façade cracks. She looks down at the blade, at the twin kestrels, and sees something in her own reflection that unsettles her.
"Savathûn first," she agrees, sheathing the weapon so she doesn't have to think about it.
II - The Pigeon and the Splicer
"You should not go alone, Brother Saint. The system is in a volatile state."
"Then do not ask a Guardian," Geppetto presses.
Mithrax is finishing repairs on a Shank when he sees Saint-14 transmat into the Botza District. He watches the Saint greet a pair of Eliksni startled by his materialization. He watches the Guardian bow and the Eliksni hesitantly bow back. Saint-14 catches Mithrax's gaze and extends an arm toward him, as if asking permission to enter his workshop. It is not needed.
Mithrax stands and welcomes Saint-14 as he crosses the threshold.
"Vell-ahsk," Saint manages.
Mithrax chatters. "Velask, Saint."
"May we speak alone?"
"Of course." Mithrax shuts and latches a door clearly transplanted from a Ketch. "Speak freely."
"I would not normally come to you asking for favors," Saint says, pacing.
"House Light will aid you if we are able."
Saint nods to himself. "Osiris, the real Osiris—Savathûn took his form and hid him away. Or so she says."
Mithrax bows his head. "The true Osiris is innocent? All is not as dire as we presumed."
"So it would seem. I need to find Osiris. I want to take away the Witch Queen's leverage. When she is broken, the Reef Queen can have her," Saint growls.
"Mara Sov has returned?" Mithrax drags sharply on his rebreather. "Grand pieces are in motion. How do I assist?"
"I am searching for the exact spot Sagira fell. Savathûn captured him there, I know it," Saint says.
"She is missed." Saint holds a moment in reverence. "Osiris's last transmission was from beneath the Moon's surface. But the Pyramid's interference made it impossible to determine the exact location. It is too large an area to search."
"Hive machines are without spirits. Morbid constructs a Splicer's gauntlet cannot access for information," Mithrax says apologetically. "But I wish to help the Saint, as the Saint helped Misraaks and House Light."
"Then… your company would be appreciated as I search."
Mithrax is lost in thought momentarily before his eyes sharpen. "The Vex on Europa kept records of defeated Guardians. And likely, Ghosts. It may be possible to find Sagira's gravesite using their network."
"What?" Saint exclaims.
"Perhaps it is their proximity to Darkness that causes them to do so. But Misraaks has seen such records, as I explored their network for knowledge to affix Splicer technology to Guardian arms."
"You sound like a Warlock, so I trust you. Show me how we do this."
"Europa," Saint mutters. "Could we not have gone somewhere warmer?" he asks, dismounting his Ram Sparrow on a cliff overlooking the Asterion Abyss. "I am used to the simulated sun of Mercury."
Mithrax dismounts beside Saint. "Vex apertures on Europa afford unique opportunity. We seek an invitation into that opportunity."
Saint rolls his shoulders. "We crush Vex Mind and use its brain like key. Yes, yes. This is not news to me. You forget I spent many years in Infinite Forest."
"A brutal, but apt description." Mithrax chitters to himself. "We will have to draw out a Vex Mind. The override integration here remains active. The Light provides."
"You splice computer hole. I crush the Mind." Saint starts to walk forward but then halts abruptly. "Do not drop me into computer hole."
"Misraaks will warn the Saint first."
"You better." Saint turns to the Eliksni. "I joke about the cold, Light-friend, but I am glad to have you here."
"I share in your glad, Saint."
They walk together. Swiftly, Mithrax forges the integration. As they come under fire, a violet refuge takes hold around him—he stands within the Saint's Ward, fearless and with clear sight.
The Vex are numerous. They too know the Saint. He lives up to their records. The Mind is broken.
III - Risen from Bones
Kelgorath, Knight champion of death, kneels before his shrine of bone in the fog-ridden depths of the Ascendant Plane. Soulfire recedes into the ground around him. He places his forehead against the shrine, smudging a freshly bloodied sigil of Xivu Arath. He has added so many layers, but this is the first time the blood is his own. He does so to show his devotion. To reject the heretic sister. To pledge himself anew to war.
The Ascendant sky churns around him. He breaths deeply. It is his first breath of this life. He looks to the shrine before him; every vanquished contender ground to meal and packed between skulls to cement them in place. Trinkets of conquest and old spent weapons adorn the shrine from base to apex.
He looks to them as he prepares to face his adversary.
An empty Ghost whose core he had gifted to defected Scarlet Wizards. Its Guardian had ended him many times, but he is Kelgorath, and through battle he is reborn. No Guardian can escape him, for they are heralds of death and he swims in their wake.
His eyes drift to another conquest: crystalline implants torn from the forehead of an Awoken Techeun. He hunted her through the Ley Lines for three days, tracking her by the stench of her fear. When he found her, she brought the Ascendant Plane down on him. He did not fall for this trick twice.
He caught her again with his next life. The Techeun's final words echoed in his thoughts: "I still see the flecks of scarlet in your chitin. How quickly you abandon your Witch Queen."
Kelgorath recalls the night he renounced Savathûn. The night he had scoured the scarlet from his flesh on the serration beds deep within the Hellmouth. The night Osiris slaughtered all Crota's kin. Savathûn was weak to allow their deaths. To cede ground to the Celebrant; to Guardians. Xivu Arath avenged them. Xivu Arath took Osiris's Light, and Kelgorath guzzled from it with vows of vengeance.
He would prove his allegiance by stamping out any trace of the heretic sister. Hurdru, his adversary, was a Knight who still claimed fealty to Savathûn; Hurdru would be an instrument of example. Through battle, Kelgorath would confirm his new god. Through blood, he would erase the name Savathûn and don that of Xivu Arath.
He stands. Bows. Grips the cleaver and shield he will carry until he falls again. "Hurdru," he whispers to the bones.
Tonight, he will purify himself in death.
IV - Art
Petra Venj hangs her head and examines the hilt of her sheathed knife. Transmat particles still swirl in the air around her like tiny flecks of dust as she steps forward back through the H.E.L.M. gate to answer her queen's summons.
Mara Sov's voice washes over the chamber's stone and crystal: "He belongs here, Petra. This place draws his old self out." She pauses, knowing Petra will be silent while allowing her to steep in the words. "You saw it, too. He should have never been allowed to leave."
"I wish I hadn't," Petra says with a heavy sigh. "How am I to proceed?"
Mara stands on the terrace above her. "Give him only morsels of who he could be, nothing substantial. He is a canvas on which work has already begun. I mean only to guide that work to a familiar conclusion. Such things cannot be rushed."
Petra shifts her stance anxiously. "You-you're sure?"
"Are you questioning me, Petra?"
"Never, my queen. But I do worry that he is vulnerable to Savathûn's influence," Petra offers. "She clearly has taken an interest in him for some time now. And he clearly reciprocates that interest."
"Your words hold no falsehood. You and I will mitigate this danger. If Crow and Uldren are to meet, it must be a subtle progression." Mara Sov leans over the terrace railing. "I believe my brother's recovery is possible, Petra. Will you help me?"
Without a moment of hesitation, Petra responds, "I will do anything you ask, my queen." But doubts sprout in her mind. "If he does become… problematic…" Petra trails off, searching for the right words.
"You needn't worry," Mara soothes. "If Savathûn moves to exploit him, I will put an end to it myself."
V - Wick Burnt Black
"Saint's recent reports were… unfocused," Zavala says with a sigh.
Ikora nods from across the office. She stands with her arms crossed tightly over her chest. "He suffered through an eternity of battle to keep us safe. Then he comes to the Tower and lets his guard down—lets himself care for someone—and that's when he gets hurt."
She grimaces. "Badly."
Zavala shifts in his chair and runs his large hands over his desk. His palms have memorized its every bump, every groove. "I'm giving him space, but I don't know what else I can do. I'm not sure if he even believes the real Osiris is hidden away somewhere, but he's out there all the same. He just has to do something."
"I can understand that feeling," Ikora says quietly. "That's what I should have been doing. Seeing things my Hidden missed. Out in the field, putting the pieces together."
Her lip curls in disgust. "Not wasting time in the Tower, waiting for an attack."
Zavala looks up at her and frowns. "It's not like you to second-guess yourself."
Ikora's jaw tightens. Bitter fire flickers in her eyes. "Maybe I should." Her voice is brittle. "I brought Osiris—Savathûn—inside our walls."
"Yes, as you did with Mithrax and the House of Light," Zavala counters evenly.
But Ikora lowers her eyes. "People died for that too."
As Zavala rises from his seat, she turns away; the last thing she wants is to be comforted. She hears him lean against his desk, and a patient silence fills the room.
Finally, Ikora lets her arms fall to her sides. When she looks at Zavala, his expression is one of confusion rather than concern.
"It's been years since I've heard you talk like this," he says.
Frustration rises in her. "I looked in his eyes and didn't see it."
"Neither did I. None of us did."
Zavala's face looks almost serene, which makes Ikora want to hurl a Nova Bomb into it.
"Listen," he says. "We have conquered the Cabal in their arenas. We have chased the Hive into their Ascendant Planes; the Vex deep into their network. We have been tricked by the god of trickery, and we have fought the god of war on the battlefield."
Zavala's mouth tightens into a grim line. "When we go up against gods, we fight them on their terms. That usually means we take the first hit. We can't choose when that happens, but we can make damn sure we're the ones left standing."
He sits back down at his desk and racks a sheaf of papers, as if putting a period on his sentence. Ikora clasps her hands behind her back, then takes a long breath.
"I'll support him as best I can," she says. "Share all my intel on Osiris—anything we learned while my Hidden were shadowing Crow after he first rose. If Savathûn left a trail, I'll find it."
"I know you will," Zavala says.
Ikora allows his words to reach her. "I wish there was a way to get him back," she says quietly.
"Saint or Osiris?" Zavala asks, looking up.
The hem of Ikora's robe whispers softly across the floor as she leaves the office.
VI - Isolation
Space is loneliness. Far removed from any of the system's planets, it is at once suffocatingly dark and blindingly bright depending on which way you turn. A jumpship sits in a fixed position in the black, engines off, oriented so its underbelly faces the glare of the distant sun.
There is no true cockpit inside the Radiant Accipiter; the ship's canopy projects an image to the pilot. No frame, no obstructions, just the infinite gulf. Crow stares up at the blackness between a cluster of stars he can't identify; he wishes he were there. Where nothing is known, where everything can be new again.
Glint rests in his Guardian's lap. He's accustomed to Crow's hands cradling him as though he were a small cat—but in this moment, Crow's head is instead in his hands, fingers tangled in his hair.
Glint is silent, patient. He knows he has to be.
Crow makes a small sound in the back of his throat and the Ghost stirs. When this is followed by an unsteady hitch in his breathing, Glint floats up, presses himself to Crow's chest, and begins to hum.
Crow's hands close around him, clutching him against his heart.
And that's how Glint knows: Crow is still the same inside.
Sulfurous plumes rise from fissures in the Venusian soil. Crow marches across the planet's surface, his boots crushing thin sheets of calcium that skim across shallow, iridescent pools of water. His jumpship is perched atop a rise nearby, clear of the unstable field he now traverses.
"Crow, please," Glint pleads over his Guardian's shoulder. "Can you tell me why we're here?"
Ahead, clouds of light and geometric shapes bloom into being. Glint lets out a sharp gasp and transmats away as Crow reaches for the hand cannon at his side. By the time the first Vex Goblin manifests, Crow has already trained his sights on it.
A single pull of the trigger takes the machine's head off and sends it staggering across the field, firing blindly. Two more Goblins appear nearby and Crow blasts away their limbs like a child separating a fly from its wings. He ends them with the last bullets in the cylinder.
A shimmer of violet light within the temporal storm heralds the arrival of a Vex Minotaur. It bellows a roar across the Venusian flats and fires a volley of energized plasma through the air. Crow weaves between them, tumbles forward through the shallow pools, and rises to his feet to shake out his hand cannon's cylinder, sending brass shell casings raining to the ground.
The Minotaur revises its place in history, appearing to teleport forward as it shifts to a more advantageous future. It closes in on Crow before he can finish reloading and grabs him by the head, hefting him off his feet. The Minotaur raises its plasma cannon to Crow's chest and—
Crow sucks in a sharp breath and his eyes open to winged serpents circling in the cloudy Venusian sky. He coughs violently, rolling onto his side. The Vex are gone.
"That was stupid," Glint chastises suddenly, and Crow remembers where—and when—he is. "Why didn't you use your Light?"
"I wanted to test something," Crow says on sharp exhale. He pushes himself to his feet, only to find Glint an inch in front of his nose.
"What could you possibly be testing all the way out here?" the little Ghost asks, looking around the desolate landscape. Then, the question Glint doesn't want to ask: "Were you trying to hurt yourself?"
"No," Crow seethes. He nudges Glint to the side and starts to head back for the jumpship, but Glint persists.
"Then why?" he demands, blocking Crow's path.
"Because I wanted to know I was still me!" Crow snarls, his teeth bared in a display of fury. "Uldren Sov could defeat a Minotaur without the Light." His hackles lower. "I needed—I need to be sure that I'm not him. That you could still bring me back. That I was still—worthy of this !"
Glint's monocular eye bobs down to look at the ground. He is silent.
This time, Crow doesn't try to push past him. He stands still, listening to the blast of distant geysers, to the call of serpents in the sky.
"I'm sorry," Glint whispers.
VII - Interpolation
"I hate you."
It's the first thing Mara says on reaching Savathûn's crystalline prison. Her words lack heat but echo through the cavernous chamber nonetheless. "I just want to be absolutely clear on this: I hate you, and I wish nothing but pain and suffering for the rest of your miserable existence."
The crystal shimmers, and Savathûn's gentle laughter ripples through Mara's mind. "I know," the Witch Queen murmurs.
"I could have you jettisoned into the sun," Mara says coolly, "but unlike some creatures, I uphold my word when I give it."
"But we're the same creature, are we not?" Savathûn wonders. Although Mara can't see her smile, she has no difficulty imagining what it looks like.
"I am nothing like you."
"No, of course not." Savathûn's voice is easy and languid. Some might mistake her for being sincere; Mara has taken the same tone too many times in her own life not to recognize it for what it is.
"I thought you were a powerful, competent woman plagued by a difficult relationship with her family," Savathûn says. "Someone who weaves complicated, long-spun schemes across the arc of time's bow. My mistake."
Mara stares at the crystal, clenches her jaw, and turns her back to leave. But before she can take even one step toward the door, she feels Savathûn's consciousness brush like silk against hers.
"I thought you were someone who believes herself to be so smart," Savathûn purrs, "that she is easily blinded by her own ambitions and self-appointed genius. Someone who is so certain of her solutions that she fails to see the inherent peril in her plans, and yet too embarrassed to ever admit she may have gone astray."
Tension knots the muscles in Mara's shoulders and back. Over the years, she has trained her face to remain a mask, but she is not always as skilled when it comes to the rest of her body.
Savathûn continues. "I thought you were someone so afraid of being vulnerable, that you'd rather fail than—"
"Enough." Mara rounds on Savathûn's prison with the precision of an angry viper. She does not raise her voice; instead, she lowers it. "That might work on him," she says, the last word like fire on her lips because it still pains her to refer to Crow by any name, "but you'll find my armor has fewer gaps."
Power surges around her hands as she slams them against the crystalline surface. A lattice of radiant energy winds itself around Savathûn's prison, and Mara hopes that the furious drumming of her heart and intermittent flare of her nostrils will be mistaken for exertion—not a different kind of weakness.
When the spell is complete, Mara steps back. Her glowing eyes dim. She wavers with fatigue, listening for the psychic echo of Savathûn's voice inside her skull.
There is only silence.
"Shut up," Mara breathes—a strange marriage of relief and loathing.
VIII - Correspondence