Lore:Voices of the Haunted
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|“||Echoes of the past refuse to be silent; those who listen are forever changed.||”|
Voices of the Haunted is a Lore book that was added in Season of the Haunted. Entries are unlocked by progressing the Ghost in the Machine seasonal Triumph.
Crow drops a wet canteen at Eris Morn's feet. "Water."
"You made your return quickly." Eris crouches, hunched over bundled splits of pine arranged atop a thick log and resin-rubbed moss. She strikes a well-worn flint with her knife, and flame ignites.
"You're not hard to spot at night." Crow averts his gaze from Eris's sideways glare and looks up to the haunting glow of the Dark Shard of the Traveler. Shivers convulse down his vertebrae, and his eyes drop to the freshly popping wood.
Eris breaks the silence. "Why did you volunteer for the severance operation? For… most operations?"
"To make a difference where others can't. Same as you."
She shakes her head. "No," Eris mumbles.
Crow watches her deftly coax the fire, considering the answer he'd given. He looks up to the distant tree line and changes the subject. "There are still a good number of Hive here."
"But no Nightmares," Eris remarks.
"Is that why you brought me here? This… isn't a place I want to revisit." Crow steps back from the growing flames.
When Eris doesn't respond, he asks his real question:
"Why did I fail?"
"You didn't fail. Our strategy was flawed." Eris stands, stowing flint and blade, then steps in front of him to meet his gaze. "We will attempt the severance again, soon."
"Yeah," Crow replies in a clipped tone. Eris tilts her head, and he can see the green orbs narrow beneath her blindfold.
She points to the ragged, mountainous shard twisting in twilight roil. "Even that toxic piece, separate from the Traveler's purity, can be wielded for good."
The fire roars. He kneels to break her stare and warms his hands. "I know what it can do. I used it—"
"When the Red War left Guardians Lightless, there were some who reclaimed their callings here. They re-forged their bond to the Traveler through a scar. A lingering trauma," she continues.
Eris sits beside Crow and drinks from her canteen. Crow braces for her to continue, but she does not. The bundle of burning kindling collapses into a heap of cinders. Flames spit between the gaps and ash drifts on heated air.
"I'll get more wood," Crow says, hastening to step out of the fire's glow.
"Crow. Small fires like this kept me alive in the Hellmouth. I did not have the luxury of more wood." Eris grips a piece of rusty rebar taken from the Sludge and thrusts it into the sputtering fire. She stirs the cindering wood, opening new gaps and concentrating the larger pieces over a pile of glowing kindling. The flame surges, and heat intensifies. "During these long nights, we must make use of what is available to us."
She knows he understands her but hasn't accepted the lesson.
She hands him the bar, shows him how to maintain the fire's heat, how to find worth in remnants. How to rebuild from ash.
The pair converse as they take turns keeping the fire alive long into the night. The warmth soothes, their shoulders lighten, and Crow pulls back his hood.
When the fire finally dies, Eris gestures to the embers. "Now, you can fetch some wood."
Crow smiles and gets to his feet. "Eris… did you ever try to get your Light back?"
"The past is not for dwelling."
Crow nods and sticks out his hand. She looks at it inquisitively.
Eris stands next to Crow; he clasps her palm and ignites a Golden Gun between their hands. Solar flame dances across Eris's fingers. Crow guides her arm and lifts the gun to the sky. He inhales sharply and howls before cracking a shot through the clouds.
"You're up, Hunter."
Eris depresses the trigger, slowly, doubtful that it would fire. A second Solar streak pierces the atmosphere. Crow laughs. They send round after round skyward, howling pent tension into the night until finally, even Eris finds herself smiling.
II. Death and Desertion
"How many, Taurun?" Caiatl asks wearily.
An air of palpable tension permeates the room. in the time since the Imperial fleet had formed a blockade around the Leviathan, three separate frigates had defected to Calus's side. A fourth has just followed suit.
Caiatl began this campaign with fire in her heart. Now, she feels only cold and tired.
"A total of 250 soldiers, Empress," Taurun answers.
"We must strike!" Ca'aurg shouts suddenly, slamming his fist on the table. "Anything less will be seen as a sign of weakness!"
A clamor ripples through the rest of Caiatl's advisors. Only Valus Forge remains silent.
"Inaction is anathema," says Tha'arec. "Our warriors long for the glory of battle, not the dormancy of a blockade."
"Even if it means fighting for Calus," sneers Ca'aurg. He spits the name as if it were made of bile.
A bitter fury builds in Caiatl toward her father. He had ushered in an era of decadence that left the Cabal military dull and complacent; she had sought to be a different kind of leader. But her people remain adrift—this time, among the stars. Perhaps her defectors prefer the pleasure of certain death over the agony of uncertain survival. Or perhaps, she is merely the next in line to lead the empire to ruin.
"The Leviathan reappeared with no warning," Caiatl declares. "We do not know what else lurks beyond our sight. Our blockade may soon see more battle than we bargained for. Until then, we hold the line."
She speaks in a tone that brooks no argument. Her advisors leave the room, wisely keeping any further misgivings to themselves. Saladin nods to her, as if to say he and he alone agrees with her decision.
Caiatl can only wonder if she agrees with it herself.
It's quiet in Zavala's office, save for the sound of clicking as the tiny steel pendulums on his desk swing back and forth, hitting against each other. Rahool once told them that they were a "Newton's Cradle"; a pre-Golden Age relic named for one of humanity's greatest scientific minds. The trinket is all that remains of a life's work lost to time, consumed by the Collapse and the ensuing Dark Age.
Like so many other things.
As he stands at the window, brooding in shame and guilt as he silently contemplates the Traveler, Zavala hears a knock on his door.
"Come in," he calls over his shoulder.
A moment later, Amanda Holliday steps into the room. Dark circles frame her eyes, and her shoulders slump with a weight unseen. No Nightmare hovers behind her, hounding every step, but she seems haunted, nonetheless. Zavala is certain that, given his own ordeals, he must look much the same.
"Hey," Amanda says quietly as she crosses over to his desk. She leans against it and joins him looking out over the City.
They stand in silence for a long time and watch a small fleet of civilian ships weave its way between the buildings. The clicking of pendulums marks the time as it drifts past them.
"The Last City," Amanada murmurs. "Wish my folks had lived to see it."
"As do I," Zavala solemnly replies.
"You would've liked them," Amanda says with a sad smile. "As stubborn as they were kind. They gave everything to make sure I reached the City. Bravest people I've ever known."
"Devotion inspires bravery," Zavala says, almost absently. He turns from the window and glances at a low shelf, where a cracked white mask is displayed under glass. "Bravery inspires sacrifice. And sacrifice..." his voice quavers as it trails off.
"...is worth it for the ones we love," says Amanda. "My parents didn't have the Light. But they had me."
She meets his eyes, her own filled with a light all their own. "We can't all live forever. But being remembered? That's the next best thing."
Amanda laughs and sniffles at the same time. "Didn't mean to talk your ear off. Sorry about that."
"Don't be," Zavala replies with a small smile and a sigh of sadness. "I just wish I could return the favor."
He moves from the window and leans on the desk next to her, gazing out at the Traveler and the Last City as they settle into a comfortable silence. The pendulums on his desk continue to click and clack, the echo of a life lived long, long ago.
IV. To Forgive or Forget
"Niik tells me you have a question in need of an answer," Mithrax begins. "Please, sit."
Amanda nods as she pulls up a folding chair next to the fire. She hadn't been back to the Eliksni Quarter since the Vex invasion. The light from the flames casts flickering shadows across the building's cracked concrete and exposed rebar.
"Yeah," Amanda says quietly, "I, uh… it's about Saint. Sort of."
She takes a deep breath before continuing. "Everyone in the Last City knows the stories. Hell, we used to call him 'Kellbreaker.' And Cr—" she stammers, avoiding the name. "I've heard what your people used to call him too."
Mithrax hums a gruff assent as he settles into his own chair. Amanda wrings her hands together.
"How did you all forgive him?" Her voice sounds small, but her words pierce the cool night air.
"Not all of us did," Mithrax replies solemnly. "To this day, there are some in House Light who avoid him. Those who lost loved ones to his rage. Though he would give his life to protect them, nothing he can do will ever erase their pain."
"So, they'll just… go on hating him? Forever?"
Mithrax exhales deeply into his rebreather. "One cannot choose who forgives them and who does not," he answers. "That is the decision of those who were wronged. A choice each must make for themselves."
Amanda nods to herself. "Was afraid you'd say something like that," she remarks sadly.
As she gets up to leave, she turns to Mithrax one last time.
"What made you forgive Saint?"
The Kell of Light leans back in his chair and stares into the fire like he is looking for something amid the ashes.
"Because," he says quietly, "I want to be forgiven too."
"Your regrets will follow you, Empress."
The words grate on Caiatl like sand beneath her armor. The Vanguard could keep their wretched Hive witchcraft; she had sworn to defeat the Nightmare of Ghaul in single combat and cremate his memory on the pyre of victory.
That choice had become yet another regret.
A gravelly voice cuts across the room. "You called for me?"
Caiatl turns to see Saladin Forge step onto the bridge of her flagship. Her honor guard salutes him and steps aside, making way for his approach as she greets him with a nod.
"What are your thoughts on Eris Morn?" Caiatl asks him.
Saladin raises an eyebrow. "She's endured horrors I can scarcely imagine. And she survived. She clawed her way out of that dark pit and back to the Tower."
"And what do you think about her use of Hive sorcery?" Caiatl seethes.
"Many initially distrusted her for it. But were it not for her… expertise, the Last City would have fallen to the Hive long ago," Saladin replies.
"That justifies consorting with such foul power?"
At first, Saladin says nothing. Instead, he turns his eyes to the viewport; to the Cabal fleet, arrayed in a blockade surrounding the Leviathan.
"None opposed allying with your empire more than I did." His voice is measured, almost introspective. "I hated the Cabal. Now, I serve on your War Council."
His eyes meet hers once again. "Your soldiers wield the same weapons that slaughtered Guardians in the Red War. But that does not make you my enemy. Nor does Hive magic make Eris yours."
Caiatl glances at her honor guard. When Saladin first joined her War Council, her soldiers regarded him with equal parts suspicion and contempt. Now they show him the deference and respect befitting the title of Valus. Ghaul would have never condoned it.
But she is not Ghaul. And that is something she does not regret.
"Open a channel to the H.E.L.M.," she orders. "I have matters to discuss with the Vanguard."
//RECORDED TRANSMITION VIA: HDN-SPLICE-332410205// //SIGNAL ORIGIN: UNKNOWN// //SIGNAL TERMINUS: WIDEBAND_OPEN_CHANNEL// //FROM THE AUSPICE OF CALUS, DEPOSED CABAL EMPEROR//
My loyal subjects. The Guardians believe they have defeated your glorious emperor. How foolish.
They look at the bodies left in their wake and assume victory, at the blood and oil that runs from the battlefields they have ravaged and assume the territory conquered. They are like the old Cabal, sweeping over planets with no mind to the subjects that resist them.
But I am not so cruel. The worlds I brought into our fold were showered in riches, given everything for their service as Cabal… as you are now. As you will be each time you serve me.
Some of you were born here. You are young, blessed by my hand with a life of celebrated battle and luxurious feasting. You fight with the voracity of veteran gladiators. You fight for your home—our home. I swell to call you my children.
Others came to me from my traitorous daughter, who calls herself empress even while I still draw breath. Such arrogance. Such disrespect. You've seen her tuskless plans fail Torobatl. You've watched her cast aside Cabal tradition to bow to the City and their Light. She fights alongside the very soldiers who slaughter your brethren, while I bend them to my will. Who is the true leader? The answer is clear. If only she had followed me as you do.
Finally. Exalted most of all, you elite few who have stood with their emperor from the beginning, who grew fat with strength in exile: we are blood. As you have shed for me, I will shed for you. My flesh, my riches, my goblets of royal wine. They are yours. You are honored above all, and when our new Cabal stands before eternity, you will be among the first.
I have heard the rumors whispered between you, my subjects. Rumors fed to you by our enemies. Your hope that I have not been vanquished is well placed, for I am so very much alive. You fear that we are defeated, but nothing could be further from the truth.
You wonder if I am a spirit, if I have become something beyond Cabal, if I have ascended like Acrius did when he cradled the sun in his grasp. Allow me to soothe your curiosity: yes, I have become all you have imagined, and so much more.
The Guardians believe they hold victory, but soon, they will see the truth they have ignored with such determination: this road is long, but it only has one end. They served to set my plans solidly in the foundations of the universe. Their petty attacks, while tragic in their costs to my dear crew, cannot halt our purpose.
So, my soldiers… I leave you this task: hold the Leviathan. Show no quarter to those who would walk the halls of your home as invaders. It is your final task before you may be uplifted to sit beside me at the end.
I do not promise that every Cabal standing on the Leviathan will survive this journey, but under my loving watch, you will live and die in nothing less than greatness. What more can a warrior desire but an exciting life and a good death? Have I not given you both?
-From the mouth of Amsot, High Scribe to the unbound emperor, Calus, who none can contain: Rejoice! Praise Calus, who ascends. For he keeps you in his mind, and there you will never die.
Calus sees her as he remembers her. Young and precocious, energetic and ambitious. A mind full of dreams larger than his own.
Her intensity intimidates him. She imagines accomplishments he dares not entertain for fear of failure.
The Nightmare knows this fear. Its adolescent eyes meet his and bore into his soul, laying all his embarrassments bare. It sees him for what he is: a deposed ruler, entombed alive in a golden sarcophagus and left to rot in exile, replaced by one more beloved than he.
"Always seeking the adoration of others," seethes the Nightmare wearing his daughter's face. "Even from the Witness."
"Silence," Calus grumbles. He instinctively reaches for his chalice, but it has long since left his side.
"It will abandon you. Just like the Cabal, just like the Ghost Primus."
The Nightmare of Caiatl smiles, sweet and crimson and full of hatred. "Just like your daughter."
"I said be silent," Calus sputters.
His daughter's laughter is a knife between his ribs, as it always has been.
"No one hears your edicts. No one obeys."
Her voice fills his chamber and seeps into every crevice of his mind.
"She is empress now. You are nothing."
"I made her," he bellows. "I, Calus, the greatest emperor since Acrius. All that comes before me is a prelude. All that follows is my legacy. I am the sun itself!"
"A dying sun for a dead world. A legacy of ashes, soon to be swept away by the wind that is Caiatl."
"She will never surpass me!" he roars.
"She already has," the Nightmare sings. "And soon, you will be forgotten."
Calus's withered face contorts in anguish and angst. The Nightmare is wrong, he thinks. Caiatl will never be a greater leader. He will make sure of it.
Even if all that exists must pay the price.