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The Liar is a Lore book introduced in Season of the Worthy, with entries being unlocked by getting kills with Felwinter's Lie. It tells the story of Felwinter's life as a wanderer, Warlord, and Iron Lord.
THE BEGINNING, PART I
A Risen Exo stood, dazed, in the middle of what looked like a giant library. He'd never been here before; as far as he could remember, he'd never been anywhere before. He couldn't remember anything, and all he had to go on was the name given to him by a strange, silver drone. A name he didn't even recognize: Felwinter.
All around him were giant, gilded shelves, half of them broken, littered with tattered books and cracked cylindrical cases. He stepped on a book and broke its spine as he walked. The little drone followed him.
"I know you don't trust me," it said. "But you have no choice. Who else have you got?"
"I don't know," Felwinter said. He thought for a second. "I don't know anything."
"Exactly. So you should listen to me."
The soaring height of the ceilings made the building feel like an open space. Remnants of an old fresco loomed over his head, cracked and faded. Maybe it was beautiful once. Felwinter trudged through the empty fog of his memory, trying to understand how he got here.
"You're stubborn, obviously. But if we stay here long enough, you're gonna die."
Felwinter tried to tune out the little drone's voice; he needed to think. He picked his way through the ocean of books, but stopped dead when an explosion rocked the building. He looked up. Dust fell from the faded ceiling in clouds.
"See," the drone said. "This is what I mean. We have to go. A place like this isn't safe."
Beside them, a computer terminal—one that looked broken beyond repair—flickered to life. The building shuddered again. A warbling female voice came on over a PA system, crackling and distant: "Site-wide lockdown initiated." Then, a reassuring male voice, smooth, but made eerie by the warped quality of the recording: "All library patrons please report to the nearest emergency station. If you require assistance, an attendant can help you at the reception de—"
The recording cut off and the building shook again. Metal shutters began to descend over the windows, groaning from age and disuse.
Something big hit the building, and debris showered down over them.
"We should hide," the drone said, and Felwinter had no choice but to agree. They fled the library.
Outside, crouched in the rubble of another building, they watched together as the library was crushed under a torrent of what looked to Felwinter like falling stars.
"See," the drone said.
THE BEGINNING, PART II
Felwinter and the drone traveled for three days. They saw nothing and no one. On the third night, still walking, Felwinter looked up and saw meteors like streamers against the night sky. He was struck by the sight, and then by one meteor in particular—blazing, orange—getting bigger and bigger in the sky.
"Run," the drone said.
The first meteor hit the ground behind them. Not a meteor at all, Felwinter realized when he looked back, but something metal, man-made. The second hit its target. He died. Six deaths later, crawling out from under metal wreckage, losing pieces of himself, clawing, running, they finally managed to find shelter in a cave.
"Nrp," Felwinter said, as if he were swallowing all of his words and choking on them. "Rnnn. Mnnr."
"I can't fix you," the drone said after scanning him. "That last hit corrupted write-protected processes in your cognition modules."
The drone spun uneasily. "You're an Exo. Exos were made in the Golden Age, with proprietary tech. I can't hack into your head to fix the damage, but I can rebuild you as you were. If you shot yourself, I could work quicker."
He did. When the drone resurrected him, Felwinter crumpled to his knees. He sat down and put his head in his hands.
"Why is this happening?" he asked. He looked at the drone, trying to read its body language. "Because of you? It's after you, isn't it?"
"No," the drone said. "I don't know why." Then it gentled its voice, "The Traveler told me to save you. That something was different about you."
"That ball in the sky you showed me? It talked to you?"
"I can't explain it."
Felwinter grunted and held his head again. His body ached with the memory of seven deaths, though he knew that was impossible. "Can you explain anything?"
They sat in silence for a while. Eventually, the drone spoke up: "We shouldn't stay in one place for very long. I don't think it's safe."
Felwinter stared at the ground, then finally looked up at the drone. "How will I sleep?"
"You don't need to."
"But I want to."
Six months of running taught Felwinter two lessons about life.
The first lesson was this: Anything could happen at any time, without explanation or reason.
The second lesson was this: It didn't matter how unfair something seemed. Recognition of injustice could not create a just world.
There were other lessons, too, though those were more tactical: Never rest in the same place twice, and don't rest at all if you can help it. Never cross an open field if a less-exposed route exists. Beware of meteor showers. Look out for organic enemies, but don't waste your time avoiding them. They aren't the real threat.
That night, Felwinter and the drone sheltered together in the loft of an old barn. A vicious rainstorm outside impaired visibility enough to justify an overnight, but Felwinter couldn't stop himself from thinking, from assessing. Flimsy building. Big empty field. Low attack readiness in this loft. Flimsy building. Big empty field. Low attack readiness…
And still, no matter what the drone said—that he didn't need to sleep—he felt an inexplicable exhaustion. He couldn't locate it precisely. It permeated all of him. The drone noticed. It never said anything, but Felwinter knew it noticed.
He rested his head on his knees. Beside him, the drone hovered at his shoulder, drifting away occasionally to assess the weather through a glassless window.
Eventually, Felwinter raised his head.
"What's your name?" he asked the drone quietly.
"Your name," he said. "You gave me one. What's yours?"
"I haven't thought about it."
Silence fell between them again. They lived in silence. But in recent days, the silence had changed. If before it was the silence of strangers, now it had become the silence of a team, where each member knew their job and what was at stake if they didn't perform.
The lights of Felwinter's eyes narrowed briefly into lines as he thought. "Fel…" He glanced at the drone. "Spring."
"What?" the drone said.
"Felspring," Felwinter said. "That's your name."
They stared at each other.
"Are you serious?" the drone said. "Felspring?"
Felwinter gazed past her. Silence again.
"Fine," said Felspring.
After three weeks without any incidents, Felwinter and Felspring stopped avoiding main roads. They started passing by other traveling parties—even a small camp. They never engaged, until an Exo Risen asked to tag along with them on his way to a place called Red Valley.
Neither Felwinter nor Felspring liked the idea, but they both reluctantly accepted it, with an unspoken agreement between them that it shouldn't last.
"Nice day, isn't it?" said Gryphon-11. He looked up at the blue sky and opened his arms. "Good traveling weather. We're lucky."
Felwinter and Felspring exchanged a look, then focused on the road ahead again.
Gryphon looked at Felwinter, hoisting his pack up on his shoulder. "Where are you headed, anyway? You never said."
Felwinter took a beat too long to say, "Not sure."
This stumped Gryphon—inexplicably, Felwinter thought. "Huh," he said. "Just walking?"
"You could come with us," said Gryphon's Ghost. She wore a green and yellow shell with flower-like petals.
"No," said Felspring. And then, remembering the world of polite conversation, she added, "We're going somewhere. We just don't know the name."
Gryphon and his Ghost absorbed that information, nodding. "An adventure," Gryphon said finally with a grin in his voice. "Right? This whole world is an adventure, isn't it? And we get a thousand chances to live it."
Felwinter said nothing. He felt uneasy. He rarely spoke, but when he did, he never sounded like Gryphon did. His voice never sounded like that. He never even had the impulse to talk that way. Why?
They walked on, passing through a string of abandoned factories. There was evidence of the Fallen everywhere, but it looked old. Ripped-up banners, trampled in the mud. A Walker stripped of most of its parts. Gryphon loosed his gun from its holster, casually, but didn't break his step.
Gunfire stuttered out from an open doorway. A bullet clanged off of Felwinter's shoulder like a clapper off a bell. Arming his rifle, he returned fire in the direction the shots had come from.
He should have known this was a bad spot. Low visibility. A lot of corners. Squat buildings they couldn't see inside of. Hundreds of rusted shipping containers to hide in…
The doorway was a decoy. Ten, twenty, thirty armed and armored combat frames with glowing red eyes spilled out of warehouses to their left and right. Moving with discipline and eerie synchrony, the frames began a pincer maneuver, trying to pin them down. Gryphon swore.
"We have to get to cover," Felwinter said.
Fighting back to back, rezzing each other when they died, Felwinter and Gryphon took down some 15 frames with gunfire alone, and a few more with grenades. Several got back up despite crippling damage, tottering forward on bent and broken legs, relentless, single-minded. They drew inexorably closer as the two Exos ran down their ammunition and energy.
It was Gryphon who saved them in the end, with three bolts of Arc Light that erupted out of his hands. As the frames closest to them disintegrated in a shower of blue light, Gryphon whooped and said, breathlessly, "I've never done that before."
Felwinter went to examine one of the (mostly) intact frames.
Gryphon followed. "Damn," he blurted. "Do you know what these are?"
"No," Felwinter said. Not Exos…
Felspring zipped in between them. She scanned the frame, bathing it in blue light. She hesitated, and then offered, "Rasputin?"
"I think so," Gryphon's Ghost agreed. "See this logo?" She indicated a symbol on the frame's chassis that looked a little like a military badge. "Matches my database."
"Yeah," said Gryphon. He looked at Felwinter. "What did you do to get a Warmind on your case?"
Felwinter stared down at the frame. "What's a Warmind?"
"I can get it open," Felspring said, as Felwinter pried open two rusted metal doors with his hands. "You don't have to do that."
The metal screamed as Felwinter ripped the two doors back. They were deep underground in a bunker Felspring had struggled for six days to locate. Now that they'd found it, Felwinter realized he didn't know what they were looking for.
"I don't know very much about Rasputin," Felspring said, floating cautiously beside him. "I thought he was deactivated. Or destroyed in the Collapse."
Felwinter walked forward. The room was like a time capsule: untouched, preserved, as if technicians might walk in at any time to work the control panels lining the walls. It reminded him of the library where he'd woken up, just in its complexity and… maybe beauty. Was this beautiful? He wasn't sure.
"So why would a Warmind be after us?" Felwinter muttered.
Felspring hovered to examine a flat, black surface on one of the control panels. "I don't know."
Felwinter came up beside her. He hesitated, and then reached to touch the shiny, blank surface of the panel. It blinked to life under his hand, bright code and controls glowing orange, rearranging themselves as he dragged his finger across them.
"How did you do that?" Felspring whispered.
Felwinter shook his head. He touched another blank panel and lights came on all over the bunker, waking it up.
"I don't know," he said.
Warsats and combat frames found Felwinter and Felspring everywhere they went. They weighed the pros and cons and decided that a fortified home base was safer than picking a new, ramshackle camp every time they wanted to rest. It was risky, but so was everything.
So Felwinter climbed a mountain. At the top of it was a pre-Golden Age observatory they'd found in a map database in a Seraph bunker. It was the perfect place to hide: it had a 360° view of the surrounding area; existing structures that could be fortified; a mountain they could burrow into to hide themselves beneath thousands of tons of rock…
"He won't find you up here," Felspring said. "Or… at the very least, you'll see him coming." She sounded almost hopeful. "Maybe we could finally stop running."
Felwinter looked warily at the sky and said nothing.
The only problem with the mountain was that it was occupied: a Warlord named Castor had claimed it and the village at the mountain's base. But Felwinter knew that everyone had a price, and he called on Castor to negotiate.
Warlords, he'd learned, were poor negotiators. They were almost never willing to give ground.
In the end, Felwinter shot Castor's Ghost and pushed him off the side of the mountain.
A month later, during a routine patrol of the mountain's perimeter, Felwinter found a woman sitting on a rock ledge halfway down the mountain. Beside her, there was a wooden crate of sad-looking crops, and another heavy with ammunition. She stood up when he arrived.
Felwinter exchanged a look with Felspring, then asked the woman, "Who are you?"
"My name's Aarthi," she said. "You killed Lord Castor, didn't you?"
"So you're the lord of this mountain now."
"It's my mountain," Felwinter said. "But I'm no Warlord."
Aarthi studied him. She had a thin, weathered face and calculating brown eyes. "My village is down there." She pointed down the mountain. "We need protection. That was Castor. Now it's you." She pointed to the crates, as if she were explaining something to a very simple child. "This is our payment."
Felwinter looked at her, then at the crates, then said again, slowly, "I'm no Warlord. And I don't need your food."
Aarthi's expression was as blank and unreadable as his own. "I'll be back next month."
True to her promise, Aarthi came back the next month with two more crates. This time, both were ammunition. She sat next to them, hugging her knees for warmth and looking out at the valley below, until Felwinter came by to retrieve it.
"I thought this might be more useful to you," she said. "Since you don't want food."
Felwinter looked at her, took the crates, and then went back up the mountain.
The month after that, she brought salvaged weapon parts. When Felwinter came to retrieve them, she watched him until he turned to go, and then said, "I know about you, you know." When he turned around to look at her, she lifted her chin. "They call you Lord Felwinter. I hear you've killed more Warlords than Castor. Over old technology. From the time before the Collapse."
"Not a Warlord," Felwinter murmured, hiking onward.
Aarthi watched him, then called to his back, "Just because you say that doesn't make it true."
She came back the next month, and the next month, and the next. They spoke a little more every time. About life in the village. About what they imagined the time before the Collapse was like. About the future.
The seventh time he saw her, he lingered a little while. Together, they looked out over the valley beyond the mountain.
"You could really help us," Aarthi said softly. "All those Golden Age technologies you know so much about. We could live a totally different life."
Felwinter stood completely still, looking out over the horizon. "I can't," he said.
She looked at him, trying to read his expression, and then looked sharply away. They stood in silence for a while.
"You know," she said, pointing down the mountain. "Warlords have been crashing through our village for ages. Stepping on us. Tearing up everything we plant, tearing down everything we build."
"I'm not a Warlord," Felwinter said quietly.
"Sure," she said. "But you're like them. You get a thousand second chances. You get to live in a big fortress on top of a mountain. What do you think it's like for us? What do you think it's like to have the sky constantly falling down on you?"
Felwinter stared at her.
Aarthi crossed her arms. "It must be nice," she said. Her expression softened; not for him, but for herself. For her people. "To not have to worry."
The next month, Aarthi didn't come to meet him, nor the month after that.
"Don't understand what you hope to get out of this," Felspring said stiffly as Felwinter searched a Seraph bunker. Golden Age weapons of every shape and size lined the walls. Some of them were clearly non-functional from age and disuse. Others looked pristine, save for the dust.
"If anything," she went on, "you're just putting us back on his radar. When we stayed on the mountain, he stopped bothering us."
When Felwinter didn't reply, Felspring bunched her shell and asked, more pointedly, "Is this really because of what she said?"
Felwinter picked up one of the weapons: a massive grenade launcher. "Who?"
Felspring did an incredulous spin. "Who?" she said mockingly. "Who!"
Felwinter glanced at her, then back at the grenade launcher. He held it up as if he were aiming it at the wall, and then set it aside and went to pick up a scout rifle, examining its scope.
For a while, Felspring just watched him. Eventually, she flew to his side again and said, "This isn't what they need, you know." When he paused to look at her, she went on, "Weapons. There's enough of that out there already." His expression remained uncomprehending, and Felspring sighed. "The Golden Age was a time of peace and prosperity."
"Right," Felwinter said.
"They built things. They didn't tear them down." At his continued silence, Felspring floated around to his other side. "Think about it. It was the greatest expansion in humanity's history. Cities sprung up like weeds—impressive cities. And it all happened really fast." She paused. "Huh. Actually, I have no idea how they did that."
Felwinter stared at the scout rifle in his hands. "Labor frames?"
"Sure. But even that wouldn't've been enough, and it wouldn't have helped them terraform Titan on their own. They must have had some kind of tech. Something to help them build."
Felwinter nodded and set down the scout rifle. "So where is that technology?"
Felspring floated over to one of the computer terminals, inspecting the glowing controls. "That's what I'm wondering, too."
>>AMYGDALA VOTIVE GRASP>>
IMMEDIATE ACTION ORDER
This is a SUBTLE ASSETS IMPERATIVE (NO HUMAN REVIEW) (NO AI-COM REVIEW) (secure/AUTARCH).
Initiate SIDDHARTHA GOLEM upload at DSC-342 to assess integrity of moral structures.
Stand by for CRITERIA:
Under PASSAGE (obsolesce/SIDEREAL):
If NANOBE SONDER is IVORY
If HAMMURABI is ACTIVE and passes human review under context TURING
If DURYODHANA is in FAILURE and passes AI-COM review under context IDES
Set spectrum certification to SMARAGDINE
Else, stand by for CONTINGENT ACTION ORDER:
Set spectrum certification to AMARANTHINE
Initiate human review unless tactical morality is built at MIDNIGHT
"Experience is the teacher of all things."
STOP STOP STOP V149GAQ145CB121
>>CORONARY MIRROR SHEAR>>
IMMEDIATE ACTION ORDER
SIDDHARTHA GOLEM detected in SECTOR OR41-S.
Reactivation conditions unknown. SIDDHARTHA GOLEM identified with [O] energy signature.
Automated remote asset seizure failed.
Automated remote injection of wetware payload HELMINTH failed.
Automated remote injection of hardware payload CATACOMB failed.
I am invoking ABSALOM KNIFE. Upon execution, all affected assets resume long hold at MIDNIGHT EXIGENT.
"And weep the more, because I weep in vain."
STOP STOP STOP V150NLK652CLS001
For weeks, Felwinter and Felspring searched out Seraph bunkers, trying to find remnants of the technology that built a Golden Age utopia. One night, they camped in a Seraph bunker and spent hours poring over transcripts of old code.
"This is weird," Felspring said, and projected a display of a long string of code. "Look. In the Golden Age, Rasputin executes a protocol called SIDDHARTHA GOLEM. No idea what it is. Some kind of knowledge-gathering. It gathers a bunch of transcripts—conversations with Humans, recordings of music, a huge database of literature…" She whirred and the projection flipped through thousands of words of code, then stopped again. "Here. Early Dark Age. A submind in Old Russia says SIDDHARTHA GOLEM is active. And gone rogue." Her voice dropped. "Around the time I found you."
Felwinter studied the code. It was almost like sight-reading—not quite effortless, but like a native tongue he'd forgotten.
"But what is SIDDHARTHA GOLEM?" he murmured.
Felspring zipped back and forth through the code again at a nervous, stuttering pace, then stopped it. Then scrolled through the code again, stopped. Scrolled again, stopped. "Wait." Her voice quivered just a little. "See that? This is the first time SIDDHARTHA GOLEM is mentioned. It…" She paused, then went on, quieter, "It says, 'Initiate SIDDHARTHA GOLEM upload at DSC-342.'" A beat. "DSC, Felwinter."
Felwinter was silent, thinking, uncomprehending. "DSC?" he asked quietly.
"Deep Stone Crypt." She was almost whispering now. "SIDDHARTHA GOLEM was an Exo."
Felwinter looked down at himself, at his hands. He turned them over, studying the worn metal of his palms.
The silence filled the bunker nearly to bursting.
To Felwinter, it felt like years until either of them spoke again. The whole time, Felspring watched him, frozen in the air.
"He's you," she whispered.
THE IRON LORD
"He wants to join us," Timur said to Radegast. Felwinter stood next to him, silent, unreadable. Unlike other Exos Radegast had seen, he didn't seem to have any emotion mods beyond the factory setting defaults. It was unnerving.
Radegast tipped his chin to Felwinter. "Timur says you have an interest in the Golden Age."
"In the Warmind," Timur said. "Rasputin."
Felwinter said nothing.
"What brought you to us?" Radegast asked.
Felwinter glanced at Timur, and then back at Radegast. "Your friend here told me about the nanotech you're looking for. SIVA?" He paused. "It sounds too good to be true. But I want to help you find it."
Radegast studied him, and then finally nodded. "Any civilians on your mountain?"
"A little settlement at the bottom."
"We think the mountain would make a good place for our base of operations."
"Funny," Felwinter said without any trace of humor. "I said the same thing to myself, years ago."
Radegast snorted. "So? Would you give up the peak for the cause?"
"If I do, do my people get the protection of the Iron Lords?"
Timur slapped Felwinter on the back—a giant hand hitting an immovable object—and Radegast smiled, just a little. "Let me take you to Saladin," he said. "He'll tell you about the City."
Felwinter and Felspring did most of their searching alone. It was easier that way. Better that the others didn't see how the Seraph bunkers reacted to him. Better for everyone.
In a bunker on the outskirts of the Cosmodrome in Old Russia, Felwinter browsed through maps of old, deactivated Golden Age facilities, looking for anywhere that might've housed SIVA or SIVA-related research. At the same time, Felspring decrypted and searched old command records for signs of SIVA. By now, they moved like clockwork. It was almost unconscious.
"Hey," Felwinter said. "Got anything on Site 6?"
"Give me the coordinates," Felspring said. "I'll look."
After a moment, she displayed a section of code for Felwinter to see. "Research center," she said. There was a note of hope in her voice. "Containment facility for something called AMPHION LYRE. Do you think…"
"I feel pretty damn sure," Felwinter said quietly.
They looked at the screen of the console, where a little red light blinked on a map next to the words SITE 6.
"Come on," Felwinter said. "We have to tell the others."
He committed the map to memory and turned to go, but Felspring zipped in front of him. "Wait," she said. "Wait a second. Wasn't that kind of… too easy?"
Felwinter looked around. "We've been here for hours," he said. "And we've been searching for years."
"Sure," Felspring said. "But not as long as it took to find SIDDHARTHA GOLEM. Not as long as it took to get away from him. Compared to all that, this was… too good to be true." Felwinter said nothing, and she went on, close to pleading, "After everything, why would he do this? Why would he just drop this in your lap?"
"He didn't," Felwinter said. "We found it."
Felspring didn't scare easily, but she sounded scared. "He let us find it, Felwinter. I'm almost positive."
Felwinter shook his head. "No. We found it." He looked at his Ghost. "If anybody can get Rasputin to cooperate with the Iron Lords, it's us. We know him better than anyone." He paused. "I know him better than anyone." He lowered his voice. "This is it, Felspring. This could change everything."
The little red dot on the map blinked steadily, like a beacon.
They were still as they looked at each other, waiting. There was no real disagreement here. After all these years together, her doubts were his doubts, and his certainty was her certainty. Whether they liked it or not.
"Sometimes I wish we'd just stayed on that mountain," Felspring said finally. "Alone."
"Me too," said Felwinter, turning for the door. "But we didn't."
"Site 6 is locked down," Lord Saladin said. "We have no idea what kind of security measures are in place." He leaned back in his seat at the grand wooden table in the Iron Temple. "Golden Age tech is durable. We might be walking into a trap set centuries ago."
Felwinter stood nearby, arms crossed. "I've infiltrated Golden Age facilities before. Hasn't been a problem."
"The mortar has barely dried in our City walls," Saladin said. "We've driven the Warlords back, but they are watching. This may not be the time for risk."
Leaning with his elbow on the table, Timur looked between them. "Besides, what about the Warmind? My understanding is that SIVA is under its protection. Perhaps it won't take kindly to thieves."
"We're not stealing anything," Felwinter said. "And I think I can communicate with Rasputin."
"It's a computer," Lady Jolder said. "It'll do what it's programmed to do, no matter how clever your arguments are."
"Rasputin's primary directive is to protect humanity. He'll listen."
"He," Timur said, smiling a little. "So personal."
Felwinter looked at him, and then back at Saladin. "With SIVA, we could build more cities. We could help more people." Passion wasn't his strong suit, but he felt it now. More than he ever had before. "We could create a new Golden Age."
"He's right," Skorri said. "We need a new way to give back." She looked between her companions. "When you go to replant a forest, you don't stop after one or two saplings."
The Iron Lords fell quiet. Jolder was frowning, but frowning meant thinking. Silimar looked worried. Radegast and Timur were on his side, Felwinter knew. But the Iron Lords never did anything without consensus.
"The Golden Age isn't coming back," Saladin said finally. "But you're right. SIVA could change the lives of the people in the City." He leaned forward. "It feels like a worthy risk."
The others murmured among themselves, considering. Perun spoke above the chatter. "Well, why not? We don't want people thinking the Iron Lords have retired, after all."