Lore:Tales of the Forgotten — Vol. 3
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Tales of the Forgotten — Vol. 3 is a Lore book introduced in Season of the Witch. Entries were acquired by exchanging Manifested Pages during Festival of the Lost 2023. It is a series of tales on Immaru, Glint, and Eido during the Last City's celebration of Festival of the Lost.
"Glint, this research on the Hall Between has me thinking about… stories. The ones that evoke fear. The 'scary' ones, as you've said."
"Like the ones about the Drowned Captain?" Glint asked.
"Exactly," she said. "My father told me not so long ago that odes are for hatchlings. But throughout our research on the Hall Between and the Headless Ones, I've discovered that people of all ages and backgrounds enjoy these tales of dread, regardless of the academic merit or accuracy. So I'd like to make something similar for people to enjoy; I want to try writing my own!"
"That's a wonderful idea. What will you write first?"
"Well, I'm not exactly sure. I need some… inspiration."
"Oh! I'd love to help. Now, the first thing to know about scary stories is that sometimes, nothing is as scary as the truth!"
The room Eris had stuck Immaru in was minuscule. There were no windows to watch the hours and days pass by. No electronics to hack. Just containers of decommissioned armor stacked against the far wall, and one small, empty crate in the middle of the room, adorned with a handwritten sign that simply said "YOU" and an arrow pointing menacingly downward. It was placed there as a warning, after he was caught lurking around the more sensitive areas of the Tower. Ikora had confiscated his Shaded Shell disguise and placed a Hidden agent somewhere outside to report on his every move. She did, however, leave some blank crossword pages for him.
Immaru stared at the crate, emitting a low-pitched growl, as a lone sweeper bot entered, surprising the Ghost. He circled, then scanned his random and unexpected visitor. It was standard issue, nothing special. Immaru was disappointed.
"I still can't believe Savathûn would do this to me," Immaru said to the bot as he flew directly into its face. "The nerve of it all, leaving me here as collateral. And then to ask for information? Hmph."
He watched the bot shuffle away and broom the open crate. "Then again, who says I have to share everything?"
Immaru swooped around, quickly hacking into the sweeper bot's systems. "Grab an empty kit bag from over here. Should be just the right size if I remove a little weight." As the bot complied, Immaru chuckled, shedding his standard Hive shell. "Right… time for a jailbreak."
After a few arduous attempts and one superbly acted sob story told to an incredibly gullible Ghost, Immaru eventually sauntered off in a new Constricting Shell. In his latest disguise, he skulked through halls and hangars and workshops, scanning everything and anything he could find on his way to the Courtyard. There, he hovered among the gnarled branches of a giant tree, nearly invisible among the colorful lanterns adorning it.
He watched Guardians meditate among candles, the flames flickering in the breeze. Others, dressed as insects and arachnids, gleefully danced or bobbed for apples, their revelry flanked by a pair of Guardians "galloping" by with coconut shells.
Amid the flurry of costumes and masks, his gaze finally settled on people sharing small, wrapped objects. Immaru gingerly floated closer to the base of the tree to get a better look.
"Hey, move along, pal. I saw that candy first," a voice sneered from behind him.
"I called dibs on that candy. Don't make me say it again."
Immaru turned to see another Ghost as she made a beeline for the candy on the ground beneath him.
"You—what are you wearing? You dipped your shell in… Human food?!" Immaru spat.
The other Ghost sighed. "It's a Caramel Apple Shell, you dolt. If you knew anything, you'd recognize how special it is."
"It's a del-i-cacy. Note the elegant ornamentation of crushed toffee bits," she said and spun around.
"If you haven't lost your self-respect yet, allow me to lose it on your behalf," he shot back.
Her iris narrowed as she fixated on Immaru's shell. "Pff. I'm surprised your Guardian didn't dress you up like a lemon," she scoffed.
"I ain't got no Guardian," Immaru sniffed.
The other Ghost bobbed toward him. "Wait, you're unpartnered too? I knew there were more of us out—"
"Happy Festival of the Lost, friends!"
"Oh no," Immaru and the other Ghost groaned in unison as they faced a cheerful Glint.
The toffee-covered Ghost transmatted away the second she heard Glint's voice. Unfazed, Glint approached the snake-covered Ghost, determined to meet a new friend.
"Hello, stranger! Are you enjoying the festival?" Glint asked.
"Get lost," Immaru snarled, and Glint jumped back in surprise.
"Be quiet, will ya! I'm, uh, trying to… enjoy the festival… incognito," Immaru whispered.
Glint quietly stared back for a moment. "You broke out of Eris's crate, huh," he said.
"I was in a room. Not a crate," Immaru replied tersely. "I wasn't waiting to be let out again on good behavior. I'm my own Ghost!"
"Then you should join me and Eido—"
"But we're collecting inspiration for scary stories, starting with our research on the Headless Ones and the Hall Between—"
"Headless Ones," Glint chirped. "Giant pumpkin-headed enemies that the Guardians have been fighting. They're mysterious monsters filled with candy!"
"Fighting the Guardians, hmm? In that case, I'd love to hear what your little Fallen friend has to say about them."
Eido sat in the Tower's Bazaar beneath the afternoon sun, comfortably situated at a table with a full pot of tea. She gazed intently into her cup, her research and data spread out around her.
"Eido! Immaru is going to—Eido? Why are you… staring at your tea instead of writing?" Glint peered at her in confusion, Immaru in tow.
"I was going to write. But then I discovered the art of tasseomancy while following an old research lead," she said, her eyes never leaving her cup. "Apparently it's a method of discerning things yet to come by assessing patterns within the leaves and sediment. I… thought it might help."
"I was lookin' for monsters, not tea," Immaru growled. Glint peeked over Eido's shoulder, watching the leaves move in her drink.
Eido squinted her four eyes. "This pattern looks like—"
"Commander Zavala! Knitting with Empress Caiatl!" Glint exclaimed.
Eido watched as the leaves swirled around in the tea in the shape of a ragged claw, and a sharp chill suddenly settled deep within her. "No, it's—"
"Why did I think for one second this was gonna be worth my while," Immaru muttered and left.
"Forget the tea," Glint said. "I've got something better!"
He transmatted a set of objects onto the table, and Eido gasped, her heartbeat quickening. "The Deck of Whispers? You stole Eris's cards?!"
"Borrowed," he corrected, twirling around the table to face her.
"What? I left a note."
Eido shivered as she conjured the image of a Hive-altered Eris in her mind. "It's too dangerous." She quickly pushed the cards away, but Glint nudged them back.
"I heard that Eris consulted the deck to gain information or make decisions. I thought we could use it to inspire your writing! Let's just try," Glint begged. "How hard can it be?"
Eido sighed and picked up the cards, shuffling them with her four hands in the flamboyant style the Drifter taught her. "How many cards?" she asked.
"Try three," Glint said. "And when I watched Eris, she had to ask the cards a question."
Eido thought for a moment. "What kind of danger would be threatening enough for a 'scary' story?" Eido cut the deck in half, and she felt a surge of energy as she selected the first card.
"Wait I've got a better one! What kind of dangerous situation could be happening RIGHT NOW?" Glint exclaimed.
"Glint! I don't think we should—"
"We need to write based on a true story, right? This is exactly how we do it!"
Eido closed her eyes, feeling energy surge again in her hands, and continued.
THREE OF WORMS
She opened her eyes and studied the cards. "Eris can be, well, intimidating," she admitted, pointing to The Harbinger card.
"No, no, the cards aren't literal. It's a metaphor!" Glint said. "The Harbinger and The Lie! That means… the spirits of the dead are lost like leaves on the wind… and wandering the Earth!" Glint gasped.
"But The Lie is upside down. That wouldn't make sense."
"It's right side up to me!"
"Because you're on the opposite side of the table. It's my reading, remember?"
"Oh yeah." He quickly changed position. "Then… they aren't lost. They have purpose. They seek… REVENGE! Against the living! By changing us into Headless Ones. With paracausal worm power! Aaaaahhhh!"
Eido pondered the cards. "Actually, I was thinking that solitude and being isolated can evoke terror in both Humans and Eliksni. Perhaps my scary story could include that?"
Glint shrugged his shell. "Hm, not bad. I still like mine better. Maybe try it again?"
Eido nodded and swept up the cards to shuffle once more.
The colors of dusk were already painted in the sky beyond the Last City by the time Glint approached Crow, stationed on the outskirts of the Tower.
"Crow! You'll never believe what happened today! Eido and I were talking. I mean, we talk a lot. But today about the Headless Ones, and then she got the idea to write a scary story! And then Eido was going to write. But then she didn't. I mean, she did but first tea! It didn't help. So then we—er, I—borrowed Eris's Deck of Whispers. The cards are incredible! No wonder Eris…"
Glint stopped and saw Crow's gaze following a squadron's contrails in the far-off distance. The Ghost floated up and nudged Crow's cheek; the Hunter jumped in startled surprise.
"Glint! I, uh, didn't see you there. Did—did you say something?" Crow asked.
"Just that… I'm here. If you want to talk."
Glint leaned against his Guardian's shoulder, and Crow reached up to touch the little Ghost's shell.
Immaru materialized again in the corner of the Courtyard, not far from the bust of Cayde-6.
He continued his studies, watching Guardians obediently crowd around a Human with… more candy. Lots of candy, in fact. Her laughter pealed like mesmerizing bells as she bestowed her confections, the Guardians seeming to respond to her every command.
"Subjugation by sucrose…" Immaru thought to himself, "Much less messy than the Hive way. Heh, what I wouldn't give to try it out myself." He chuckled out loud at the thought.
An oblivious Titan stopped directly in front of him, adjusting his giant chicken mask with one hand while cradling a mound of confections in the other.
A chicken charged the Titan. He gasped and quickly dropped his bounty of candy in front of the Ironwood Tree, hands outstretched in a semblance of surrender. The chicken feverishly flapped her wings and mercilessly pecked his fingers.
"Colonel! It's me, it's me!" The Titan cried out in agony, trying to yank his mask loose. "I'm not a chicken!"
Mask wedged askew, the Titan ran and frantically barreled straight through Immaru. The Ghost slammed into Colonel with a solid thud.
The chicken focused her rage on Immaru and snapped at his shell. She found purchase on the silver snake decoration and clamped down.
"Let! Go!" Immaru yelled, wishing he had his Hive shell to swat the bird away. He sped through the Courtyard toward the Hangar. But Colonel had the strength of a Titan, the finesse of a Hunter, the cunning of a Warlock, and held on the whole way.
"Oh, Ana dear!" Eva called back and held out a small package. "I thought Archie deserved to celebrate the festival in style with his own costume this year."
Ana gasped softly with delight as she unfurled a tiny cloak. "Look at you, Archie! I always knew you were a Hunter at heart."
She bent to secure the cloak just as a Ghost came zipping in from the direction of the Hangar, a rage-filled chicken hanging off his shell.
Archie's cloak flapped over the Ghost's eye. Unable to see, the Ghost skipped and skidded along the floor of the Courtyard, landing in the abandoned pile of candy beneath the Ironwood Tree.
Colonel's beak shook loose on impact. She expertly bobbed and weaved around the candy, her pecking focused on the Ghost's eye.
Mechanical barks sounded, and among the candy wrappers, Immaru saw a flurry of feathers fly past. Eventually, the squawking faded into the distance, Immaru sat motionless until he felt the dog's nose nuzzle softly against him. Only then did the flustered Ghost emerge from hiding.
"Aww, look at that! Archie saved that little Ghost from Colonel's wrath! What a good little Hunter!" a Guardian cooed. Immaru watched in awe as every Guardian in the Courtyard simultaneously forgot about the candy, their attention devoted exclusively to the dog.
"Incredible," he mused with fascination.
Immaru eventually found Archie again, sleeping and curled on a blanket in the Annex. The Ghost approximated the guttural sound of clearing one's throat, and the dog opened one eye.
"You know, after the whole… chicken… thing, I saw what you did up there. To those Guardians in the Courtyard, the way you had them wrapped around your little, uh, paws. You've got a gift," Immaru said. "And I could really use your help."
Archie tilted his head, listening.
"Right now, those Guardians don't care about anything else besides candy—it's controlling them, and they'll do anything for it. So we gotta get control of 'it' instead."
"Not to hurt the Guardians," Immaru said, feigned sincerity dripping in his voice. "Just to help 'em. You wanna… help Ana, don't you? Keep her safe?"
Archie processed for a moment and then barked in agreement, sealing their pact.
How nervous—how terrified—had I been when they told me he was here—fragmented remains, nothing more. Even still, I nearly thought the knowledge—telling no one, no where—would drive me completely mad. But I could be trusted, they said. I could handle it, they said. So too I said, and observed in silence, emplaced.
For many nights, I kept my watch, my distance. He would not see me, sense me, know me. I was determined. But then again, so was he.
Thump, tha-thump, tha-thump.
I heard it then, the steady, softly beating. An unwavering drum, calling out, bidding me to follow. The pests, the wind, I told myself, cocooned in lackless supposition.
I wished to be gone from here.
But they trusted me, they said. I could handle it, I said. So too were they convinced, and left me to my watch.
The sound returned for me, over and over and over, until it lost all patience and began to swell. Loud and round it filled my head, roaring and resounding—
The pulsing of a heart.
I must see him, sense him, know him. How this thought entered my mind, I cannot say, but there it stayed, eternally.
Tha-thump, tha-thump, tha-thump.
I placed my hand along his cask.
Tha-thump, tha-thump, tha-thump.
I held him there, inside my hands, and screamed into the thick, deep dark.
—An excerpt from "The Forlorn Heart"
It wasn't hard for Immaru to find candy to steal, and it was even easier for Archie to find marks willing to hand it over, for him to transmat it into his stomach cavity. The complicated part, they quickly discovered, was what to do with it after.
Immaru's room was too conspicuous, too close to his minder. Instead, he searched for hidden niches throughout the Tower. But the longer it took to find the next one, the longer Archie remained filled with candy. The extra weight slowed him significantly, and the effort to keep the candy from melting resulted in higher-function latency.
"We gotta think smarter, not harder," Immaru finally admitted to Archie. "We need to broaden this operation."
Archie responded by rolling on the floor, his belly in the air, the candy wrappers crinkling inside him.
I was a scholar once. Of vast renown among those beyond influence of the Great Machine. Here, I told my House. See the truth and speak it with me. They refused, and so I left, unable to consume the bile of their belief.
The wind was bitter, no hollowhot to warm me. The terrain full of danger, no scattercape to shield me.
I was alone, wasting beneath a blanket of snow.
But then, in deepened slumber, they came to me. Larger than life, a shadow of stars that rose up around me and whispered my name in a crescendo that threatened to boil my brain. A roar of imperious inquiry surged in my veins, and when it finally subsided, only one question remained:
What did I want?
Knowledge. Percipience. Enlightenment.
How simple. Quaint and predictable.
The words rang in my ears like a gong.
Then we will REMAKE you, to guide your path toward all knowledge, and you will be bound to a T H O U S A N D D E A T H S.
On that last breath, you will submit, claimed forever, made and unmade among the specter of the stars, until the end of time.
I did not have to think. Did not have to see or speak. All I needed… was to know.
—An excerpt from "The Tragical Scribe"
The bar of The Ether Tank was packed with the City's patrons, Eliksni or otherwise. The forlorn drinkers. The karaoke enthusiasts. The social gamblers. Spider casually listened to the fervor as he scrolled through figures on his datapad, calculating his fortunes.
Neon light reflected along the silver snake design of the Constricting Shell disguise that Immaru wore. Archie trotted beside him as he approached.
"I have a proposition for you," Immaru said, but Spider simply continued to read. "If I have to repeat myself, I'll—"
"Do it, and you'll be next in my collection," Spider replied and turned suddenly to face him, an empty Ghost shell held tight in his claws.
"You have no idea who you're messing with," Immaru sneered.
Spider bent down to look directly at the Ghost, eyes to eye. "Oh. I absolutely… do. Now get out!"
"Candy is the driving currency around here right now. For everything," Immaru said quickly. "I got the means to extract it. Adjust the economics for the City, if you will. But I need someone with access to storage. Lots of it."
Spider paused for a moment. "What's the cut?"
"Fifteen percent. I'll also need tech for Archie here to quickly transmat the goods over long distances to a big facility," Immaru promised sweetly.
"Fifty percent," Spider responded.
"Fifty percent for storage?"
"The tech, the storage, and everything that goes with it."
"You're outta your mind. Fifteen."
"Sixty percent. Take it or leave it."
Immaru narrowed his iris. "Fifty."
"Sixty," Spider said again, and then turned to Archie. "And what about you—you agree with this?"
Archie barked excitedly, and Spider steepled his fingers. "Looks like we have a deal."
"It's the cutest cloak, Elsie. You have to see it," Ana gushed over her earpiece as she tinkered in her workshop. Her computer suddenly flashed with a notification, and she frowned.
"You could dress that dog in a paper bag, and he'd still be inconceivably adorable," Elsie said.
The line was silent.
"…Ana? Are you still there?" Elsie asked.
"Hm?" Ana responded, focused on the computer screen.
Elsie laughed. "I'll call back later."
"No, wait," Ana exclaimed, her brow knitted with worry. "Sorry, I just… something's wrong with Archie."
"Is he hurt?" Elsie asked anxiously.
"No. But I just got a diagnostics report from him. The second one today. I thought the first one was a fluke." She sighed. "He must have a bad subroutine running. I'm just going to have to do a full workup on him."
"What do the reports say?"
"Lots of stuff. But the one constant is the chemical equations… formulas and compounds… carbon 12, hydrogen 22, oxygen 11. Carbon 6, hydrogen 8, oxygen 7. Ratios of crystalline carbohydrates. Amorphous ones. Carrageenan. Invertase. Theobromine. Individually, these make no sense. But synthesized in certain sequences, it's—"
Immaru was analyzing their take for the day when Spider called.
"You think I'm stupid?" Spider grumbled.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Immaru said cooly.
"The numbers don't add up. The load assessed from your canine is not what my lackeys are… calculating in the warehouse."
"I ain't skimming from you. Maybe check your lackeys."
"These numbers keep coming in skewed and the deal's off, understand? Then you can kiss your 40% goodbye. Oh, and another thing. I keep seeing Guardians going to the Tower for their candy. Fix it," Spider demanded and hung up.
"Hmm. Maybe this isn't enough," Immaru said to Archie. The dog looked at him quizzically.
"We're going to have to go bigger. And Headless."
"Hey!" Immaru called out. The walls inside the Derelict creaked and groaned in response, shuttering as if the cobbled halls would suddenly rip apart.
He was alone.
Immaru wandered through the ship until he stumbled on shelves of containment glass that lined the walls. A jar held eyeballs that roiled slowly in a viscous liquid, their stare following Immaru. There were hundreds of odd samples and organisms. Some could have still been alive, but he wasn't willing to find out.
Up ahead, he heard an impossibly low utterance. The infrasonic vibrations melded into a droning moan and swelled into something indescribable. The sound traveled toward him, closer and closer.
And then… it stopped.
Immaru turned, face-to-face with the blood-red eye of another Ghost.
"Get back!" Immaru shrieked.
The red-eyed Ghost complied. Its eye seemed to bug outward from the grotesque and malformed patchwork shell that twisted and hunched to one side. The Ghost hung lopsided in the air, as if it was dragging the weight of the world.
"Is… is Drifter here?"
The Ghost's iris rapidly flickered from red to blue in a hypnotic pattern.
"Guess I'll take that as a no. You, uh, got a name there, pal?"
The other Ghost's eye immediately went solid red, its gaze still steady on Immaru.
"Right. Uh, Drifter—Drifter has some goods on the Headless Ones. Mind if I borrow them? Anything you got."
The other Ghost floated over to a container marked "Cabal brains" and stroked the lid lovingly with its shell.
"No!" Immaru yelped. "No, uh, I don't need those brains… no, don't need those either. No, no—you can keep the eyes too."
The silent Ghost bobbed around Immaru and slid its flap down his shell. It pulled him close, until it grazed Immaru's iris.
"You're busy, I'll come back—never," Immaru whispered as he hurriedly released himself and transmatted away.
Back in the Last City, Immaru and Archie reviewed their data of the Headless Ones from a computer terminal.
"I think this is everything. Drifter was a no go," Immaru said. Archie whined in response.
"I don't wanna talk about it. He—he didn't have anything we could use. Look, we got ourselves Glint and Eido's research. And the goods I snagged from the Guardian while in the field. There's plenty here to work from."
Archie gave him a doubtful look.
Immaru donned his Hive shell and sighed. "You'll see. Now go find me some supplies. We got work to do."
"What do you think?" Eido asked hopefully as Mithrax placed her datapad on the table in front of him.
"They are… good," he finally admitted.
"Really?" she exclaimed.
He nodded. "Especially the 'Tragical Scribe.' To sacrifice one's freedom for boundless knowledge—it is a sorrowful yet troubling tale. I believe everyone will enjoy these stories. Including the hatchlings. But Eido, I must caution you."
"The descriptions can be long sometimes, I know, but I think I can—"
"No, you misunderstand. My… apprehension is for you. You are a keeper of history and a seeker of truth. By publishing these stories, you conflate your name, your honor-trust as Scribe, with untruths."
Eido frowned and considered for a moment. "…Why can't I do both?"
Mithrax sighed. "Because history may not be able to tell the difference."
Nightfall was never quite as dark when the Last City celebrated the Festival of the Lost. Lanterns cast a pastel mosaic over the people; glowing candles illuminated their offerings for the dead.
A lone Hunter wandered among the memorials and stopped to look at each one. Sometimes flowers, sometimes food. Sometimes well-loved trinkets or handwritten notes of remembrance and love. Photos, children's drawings.
He watched an Eliksni mother place a delicate scrap of eggcloth, then suddenly knelt beside her. He felt the wax of the lavender-hued candle already in his hand, the wick clean and bright. He moved to light it, to place it among the offerings. And then—
The Hunter's expression was gentle and warm as he held the candle out to the Eliksni mother.
"For your little one," he simply said. She hesitated, then thanked him in her language.
He abruptly left and continued on through the Tower, wandering past the Bazaar, into the Courtyard. Until, finally, he looked up and realized… he was standing in the one place he hated to be.
"So many feathers," he mused. He pulled back a canvas covering Amanda's belongings to clean up the broken candles scattered beneath. A container of nuts and bolts fell from a workbench. Zavala gasped as they rained down, and he rushed to collect them before they could roll away. He opted to place them in a drawer for safe keeping, and as he did, his fingers brushed against a folded piece of paper. He opened it.
A colorful drawing. Not of ships. Not of adventure. But of a large, blue Titan and a smiling little girl.
Tears welled in his eyes, and he held the drawing close.
"Can't sleep?" a quiet voice asked.
Zavala looked up to find Crow standing in front of him. "I suppose I could ask the same of you," Zavala replied instead.
"Want some company?"
Zavala nodded and gently pocketed the drawing. He looked around at the uncovered workspace. At the half-full mug of coffee. The single welder's glove. The datapads and blueprints, shop rags and tools.
"I always knew I'd have to… face this task eventually. Tonight feels, well, right," Zavala said. He lovingly picked up a spanner. "I need to find a good home for her tools. Someone who will really appreciate them."
Crow gave him a slight smile. "I think I might know someone."
In the depths of the Tower, Immaru cobbled together a prototype torso for his monster with patchwork remnants of deceased Headless Ones, fragments of pumpkin stolen while tagging along with the Guardian. Missing sections were filled in: the left arm of a deceased Ogre; the right, ripped from a freshly made Thrall. Immaru worked well into the night, wiring and welding and seaming and cutting.
Finally, it was ready.
Immaru sent a current flowing through the wires and ran siphoned Ether into his creation. The chest began to swell and heave, as if it were breathing. The eyes glowed bright blue and Ether poured from its ragged mouth. The monster torso pulled itself upright and dragged itself, a trail of seeds and fibrous orange flesh left behind along the table. The Headless One set its gaze upon its maker.
And then, it grabbed him.
The monster's Ogre arm gripped Immaru's shell with all its strength and pulled him toward its mouth as Ether vapor rolled over the Ghost's eye. Without warning, the head cracked at the seams. It split apart, splattering across the floor, the torso slumped lifeless against the table.
When Eido found Ikora, she was meditating beneath a jacaranda tree, away from the noise of the Bazaar.
"Is there something you need?" Ikora asked, amusement apparent in her voice, her eyes still closed.
"I'm sorry to disturb you," Eido said.
"Not at all," Ikora replied. She patted the ground beside her. "Glint tells me you have aspirations of becoming an author of scary stories. How are you doing?"
"It was going well at first. I had so many ideas! But now, I think I'm 'blocked' as Glint put it. I thought that writing could help me handle my fears. I've been… very scared of a lot of things lately."
Ikora looked at her knowingly. "Eris," she simply said.
Eido nodded. "But my writing is not improving in spite of my fear; it is suffering from it. When we used the Deck of Whispers—"
Ikora quirked an eyebrow, and Eido raised one of her hands. "I know, I know, Glint said he left a note. The cards made me realize that there are so many different sources of fear in the universe. A multitude of threats. Of unknowns. Perhaps that has become my greatest source of dread."
"It's important to be honest with yourself and what you're feeling," Ikora replied kindly. "You are not alone in these thoughts, these fears. But don't let the cards distract you. They are not meant to tell your fortune or future. They are meant as a guide, a form of insight into yourself. You are the one who ascertains a course of action. Not the cards."
Immaru and Archie nervously stared at their second assembled prototype on the table.
The tech knitted through the salvaged organic components had been upgraded: a Cabal sword replaced its right hand. Splicer wiring wove through its left arm. Vex milk coursed throughout its veins. The rest had been completely pieced together from carefully procured Headless One parts, reassembled into a patchwork of organic horror. It oozed a dark, gelatinous liquid from its seams and smelled of death.
Next to the body was the final piece: a perfectly intact pumpkin head. Archie sniffed and pawed at the dormant head, and the pumpkin rocked from side to side.
"Careful," Immaru snapped. "Those things don't sever easily without exploding." He shuddered. "One favor to Drifter is enough."
Immaru attached the head to the body. A perfect, mutilated fit. He opened the chest cavity, the flesh stretching and tearing as he inserted a discolored Hive crystal inside. Energy surged though the Headless monster, and a haunting red light flickered inside its head. It howled and snarled as it sat up.
"Ahahaha, it's perfect. Perfect!" Immaru mused with glee. "You want candy, huh? You crave it. Need it," Immaru said to the monster. It ambled forward and swiped its good arm at him in response.
"Then go out there and get it. All of it," Immaru said. The monster found its footing and began to hurry toward the door. Archie growled and raced after it as Immaru giggled with delight.
"Now the real fun begins."
The Headless One quickly made its way to the Bazaar. Vendors scattered. People grabbed hatchlings and children, running in every which direction.
Glint and Eido watched in horror as the Headless One lashed out and shoved a rotisserie over, quickly catching nearby booths on fire. It ripped apart a display of candy, devouring every last piece in sight. And when it was gone, the monster continued its rampage. It tore through lanterns, pulling them apart as if searching for something. It smashed fruit from one booth, threw vegetables from another. Frustrated, it began to claw at a drawing of candy on the ground, a fistful of decorations in its good hand as it shrieked with a blood-curdling scream.
"A Headless One?!" Eido and Glint exclaimed in unison as Archie raced up beside them.
"We need help. I'll go find Crow!" Glint said.
"There's no time. The longer we wait, the more dangerous this monster becomes, and someone could be killed. We have to stop it now!" Eido replied. She hastily analyzed the composition of the monster. "It's not like the Headless Ones we've studied before. Look at its appendages… is that Vex milk?"
"I think so," Glint said. "Saccharomyces cerevisiae and sucrose react with Vex milk. If my calculations are correct, the chemical reaction creates a mass in what Humans categorize as a 'toothpaste.' If the excreted gas gets caught—"
"The point, Glint!"
"The Headless One would break apart without putting anyone in danger!" he quickly shouted.
"It would have to ingest the catalyst," Eido surmised.
"Exactly. But it's not like we can force feed it bread. It eats candy."
Archie barked repeatedly beside them.
"I—don't speak dog," Glint said, and Eido shrugged. Archie growled and then transmatted a pile of candy onto the ground.
Eido and Glint exchanged a look of surprise. "That'll work," she said.
Eido raced to a nearby vendor table of Eliksni baked goods and swiped the biggest loaf she could find. Her four hands worked furiously, tearing off chunks of bread and wrapping them in candy wrappers, and she suddenly realized she was very glad to be Eliksni.
"Eido!" Glint yelled.
She looked up and saw the Headless One barreling toward them and the assorted pile of "candy" at her feet. They scrambled out of the way just as the Headless One descended on the colorful wrappers. It devoured everything without a second glance.
But nothing happened.
"I don't understand," Glint said. "That should have worked!"
"Perhaps there is a chamber inside? Something to hold the Vex milk as it distributes around the body?" Eido asked.
"We're going to find out," Glint said. He zipped toward the Headless One, scanning it as it swiped furiously at him. "The chest!" he called out, just as the monster batted him away. Glint spun through the air, dizzy but unharmed.
Archie barked and immediately rushed to action, enticing the Headless One to chase him. The dog led it toward the kettle corn stand, weaving quickly through its legs. The monster stumbled and Archie leapt forward, giving it a solid shove. The monster caught the massive cast iron kettle, pulling it down as it fell to the ground. The kettle landed on its chest with a solid crunch, pouring popcorn and hot, liquid sugar into the Headless One's body.
The monster howled in pain and pried itself free. It swayed as it stood, Vex milk bubbling from its chest wound. Crow, Zavala, and Ana rushed forward with Glint beside them, and Eido pushed them away. "Get back!" she yelled and took cover.
The Headless One screamed again, its body expanding, the edges of the pumpkin head splitting and cracking. Suddenly—the monster exploded, erupting in a rainbow of foam that rose thick and high into the sky before cascading in a sticky sea, coating the entire Bazaar.
The remains of the festival stands laid in a heap, everything and everyone covered in a layer of rancid, foamy pumpkin ooze.
Immaru drifted by, almost dancing through the air as he surveyed the destruction. "Did you see that? It was like a giant, foamy SCREEB!" he laughed. "Better than anything I could have imagined!"
"You did this?!" Crow exclaimed, and Immaru tipped his Hive shell toward him in response.
"I just set the events in motion. Your little friends there finished the job. This sticky substance, haha, is amazing, by the way. No notes! Definitely worth the look on your faces right now," he cackled and floated away. "Happy Festival of the Lost, meatbags!"
"What a mess," Eido said. "The destruction of the Bazaar's festival space is disheartening. The substance created in the explosion is, well, much stickier than we calculated."
"Not to mention the smell," Zavala said, covering his nose. "This is… unbearable."
Ana swiped a sample of the material from her shoulder. "Hm. It's disgusting, but still just organic material. When I was performing some diagnostics on Archie the other day, I noticed a 'clean up' protocol buried in his subroutines, but I couldn't access the code. Maybe we could ask him to try it out here."
"What does he do with it? Put everything in a pile? …Eat it?" Crow asked.
Ana shrugged. "Only one way to find out. Archie? Would you be willing to run it?"
Archie barked and got to work.
Deep in the bowels of one of Spider's warehouses, he gripped the neck of a warehouse worker. "So tell me something. When the rule 'no stealing' was explained to you, which part did you not understand?"
The worker struggled against Spider's grip. "I—I didn't steal the candy!"
"You know what's worse than stealing from me? Lying to me about it!" Spider snarled. "I'll have you—"
He stopped suddenly, sniffing the air, and immediately dropped the worker as his gag reflex kicked in. "What's that smell?!"
He looked up, only to see a barrage of brightly colored foam and rancid pumpkin rain down on his head.
As Crow and Zavala made their way through the Eliksni Quarter, they passed a cluster of young Eliksni gathered around a mechanical dog. One hatchling ran forward and stopped short in front of Zavala, her four arms full of candy. She looked up at him and chittered with delight. A chuckle escaped Zavala's lips, and he was surprised by his own sudden smile. Crow waved him on, and they eventually found themselves in front of a small but impressive workshop. A Sparrow sat suspended on a lift, thrusters removed. An Eliksni tinkered beneath.
"It's coming along," Crow called out. The teenage mechanic jerked in surprise and hit her head on the Sparrow. She muttered an Eliksni phrase under her breath.
"Itzelas, who taught you such curse-talk?" Niik chided as she rounded the corner.
"You did," Itzelas replied with a grin.
"Hm, very likely. Come. Greet our guests."
"Niik and her sister, Itzelas. This is Commander Zavala," Crow said.
"Itzelas? That's a unique name," Zavala said.
Niik slung two arms around her younger sister. "Standard Eliksni would not do for this one." Itzelas pushed her arms away, earning a laugh from Niik.
Zavala nodded. "A pleasure to meet you both. We don't want to keep you, but… well, there's something I wanted to deliver personally to you today."
He held up a small, unsuspecting toolbox. Niik's eyes went wide, and she gasped.
"Amanda's instructions were to share them with someone who 'has machinery on the brain and oil in their veins.' We couldn't think of anyone more fitting, Niik, than you," Crow explained.
Niik accepted the gift, and Zavala held out an item wrapped in cloth toward Itzelas. "And from what Crow has told me about you, I am sure Amanda would want you to have this."
Itzelas unwrapped the cloth, revealing a well-loved spanner. She tenderly touched the initials engraved on the tool, then hugged it to her chest. "Commander… I would like to know her. As you knew her. Will you share her stories?"
"There are Servitor's holo-recordings. We could together-watch," Niik said and motioned for the two Guardians to come inside. "Would you like… some tea?"
Zavala looked down into the hopeful gaze of Itzelas and recognized something he had seen in a young Human girl… so many years ago.
"I would be honored to share her with you."
The amazing stories you have just experienced are now a part of Eliksni record. You may not believe any of them to be true, but if you do, know that you are in good company with those who have lived to tell these tales.
The universe is an enigma, wild and mysterious, full of horrors and terrors and temptation. But go where others are tremulous to tread, step beyond your senses, and embrace the unknown. For only then will you discover new truths and new adventures—but only if you dare.