Wild Hunt Armor (Hunter)
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Wild Hunt Mask
"Welcome, my wily new friend. Your compatriots spoke quite highly of you. Your propensity for… live capture."
"My compatriots gab." Gaelin-4's eyes flickered from Fallen, to Spider, to Fallen before lingering on a man in the back-shadowed wall to Spider's left. "I guess as long as they're all good words, it's fine."
"Better to be spoken of than not at all, no?" Spider touched curled fingers to his rebreather as if to block his tiny inhalations of anticipation.
Gaelin-4 heard shifting at his back and spotted two associates leaning against the wall behind him. They sported Wire Rifles and Short Daggers on their harnesses. "Depends… This bounty from Arrha; mark is a month in the wind."
Laughter blustered from the hulking Eliksni's mouth. "Your ilk, always so direct. Down to business. I like that… that acumen." The Spider gestured forward with his lower arms, and an associate plunked a small metal crate before Gaelin-4. "I assure you, they are still very much in the neighborhood."
The associate unclasped the lid. Two Golden Age era bottles of amber liquid nestled in padded cloth glistened in the lair's uneven lighting. The shadowed man behind Spider bent forward for a better view.
Gaelin-4 approached and lifted the craft-glass bottle. "For me?" He asked with a smirk. "This must be a crap job."
"Directly from my private selection. A motivation to return my quarry, alive—in addition, of course, to a generous Sapphire Wire reward."
"'Motivation' suggests they wouldn't cooperate if asked."
"Oh, I'm sure they would… if they were able." Spider leans forward. "You're hunting a Wrathborn."
Gaelin-4's head tipped upward to meet Spider's gaze. "Why don't you just send your Enforcer after it?"
"A man only has so many hours in the day. Attention is required elsewhere, and this is a personal matter." The syndicate boss turned each of his four hands over one after the other. "However, you will be using an invention of his. Clever, but keep that to yourself. Compliments get away from him."
"Alive?" Gaelin-4 turned the bottle in his hand.
"That's right. This particular mark caused irreparable damage to something very close to my benevolent heart. Restitutions are in order." Spider brandished a jagged, shivering smile.
"And I need your flunkies stepping on my heels?"
"I hear you folk empty your marbles when you get too close to those things."
"This particular mark has begun to wander to greener pastures. No cryptolith in sight."
Gaelin-4 bobbed his head, processing the information. "Keep your wire. I want the beast whelp."
Spider's bristled momentarily as he considered the terms. "That wouldn't be fair, but I could live with it— if you tell me who dropped you that little crumb."
"When the job's done and tender exchanges hands, I will."
"Keeping me in suspense; I'm not a patient Spider."
"I don't expect to be long." Gaelin-4 leaned toward his tagalongs, dropping words for the Fallen to pick up. "You're with me, Dreglings."
Nivviks hissed and said something in Eliksni to Vynriis before moving. She nodded to Spider and shouldered her rifle, then fell in line.
The Exo's eyes flicked to the man in the shadows. "Exile," he said, bending his head in a courteous nod.
"Mind your business, Guardian." The man's voice was even and measured. "And good luck."
Wild Hunt Grasps
"Not sure I needed you two to find this." Gaelin-4 dismounted his Sparrow. He pulled down his hood and drew Transfiguration to his eye. The cindering wreckage of an exploded ground transport was marred with dull green spinnerets of thin smoke. Warped metal littered the site, which consisted of a compacted road surrounded by craggy outcroppings of rock. The transport itself was pried open and half-full of melted slag. Cooling runs of igneous magma drooped through still-molten floor of the transport. He surveyed the frantic scuttling footprints throughout the area.
The two Fallen with him cut their Pike engines and sat waiting for the Guardian to make a move. Each Pike toted a small package of supplies: Nivviks with Lure and extract. Vynriis with Ether and extra ammunition cells. Both carrying multiple Web Mines.
Gaelin-4 slung his rifle and looked to the Fallen. Nivviks gestured forward with his dominant arms. "After you, yes?"
The Exo made his way into the site. The two trappers followed.
"Security unit." Nivviks held up a frame's head. "Bad job."
"How aggressive have you made them? Anything that would incite the Wrathborn to move away from its shrine?"
Nivviks pried an eye from the frame's socket and pocketed it. "Insight? No, recorder is broken." The Fallen chittered with laughter and let the head clunk in the dirt.
Vynriis snickered. The Exo was not amused.
"It's an oddity to stray from their shrine, savvy? Something drew it out." Gaelin looked to Vynriis.
"Yes, but," Vynriis formed the words with care, "territorial expansion."
"Not so set in ways as Guardians," Nivviks said, walking passed Gaelin-4. "Age makes them bolder—it would seem."
Gaelin ignored the preceding remark. "There are newer retreads in the tracks," he said, tracing freshly overturned dirt against old torrefied patches. "It has returned before. It will again."
"Oh? The Guardian thinks this?" Nivviks looked to the transport's melted chassis.
"The Guardian does. Predators mark new territory with a kill. It'll be back; make sure no one challenged their claim. Try to keep up, Spiderling."
"I will." Nivviks craned his neck to peer into the burst transport. "Soulfire, I smell it."
"Is that what your boss was transporting? Could have caused the explosion."
"No," Vynriis's response was quick and sharp. "Exotic flora."
"You speak too freely!" Nivviks chastised her in Eliksni. He quickly contorted his face into a smile toward Gaelin-4 before switching languages. "It is private matter, yes? Sensitive. No questions."
"Motive is important." Gaelin's eyes flicked between the two Fallen.
"No. Only capture is important."
"Fine. At any rare, no flower survived this." The Exo knelt in the dirt and unfurled his fingers into an open palm. "Old blood here, but no bodies."
Gaelin turned to his escorts. "There were associates on this convoy?"
"Always…" Nivviks eyed Gaelin's Ghost as it dematerialized into the Exo's hand.
Vynriis nudged Nivviks and spoke. "They take bodies. Don't know why." She added, "Cabal oil unexpected."
"Assuredly," Nivviks said, locking eyes with Gaelin-4. "Good riddance to Scorn."
"Cabal're just as susceptible as you are."
"It would seem, yes…" Nivviks crouched near Gaelin.
"Camp?" asked Vynriis as she joined the huddle.
Gaelin nodded. "Build a fire… and plant the Lure."
"Trap instead?" Vynriis looked to Nivviks. "Why we're here. No surprise with fire."
"Let me worry about that. Just build the fire."
Nivviks stood. "Build yourself, Light-wielder."
Wild Hunt Vest
Dust whipped across the Tangled Shore as nebulous clouds rolled and torrented overhead. It wasn't clear to Gaelin-4 where exactly wind was generated in the Reef, but it howled just the same. The three huntsmen lay on tattered mats in the dirt, backs to each other and the sky, in a triad. From two of their backs: matte black quills bent in the wind. The third's back was shrouded under a faded tan cloak, tent-poled by the quiver extending from his Orpheus Rig hip plate. Their vehicles: lashed down under camouflaged covers.
Shimmering flames licked the interior of the burnt-out transport. The engine oil they used for fuel turned the blaze a violet hue.
"The Guardian does not want Web Mines? Highly effective." Vynriis gestured to her covered Pike.
"I don't need anything exploding while I'm securing the cage."
"If the Guardian says so," Nivviks replied, checking the bolt on his Wire Rifle.
"Just don't shoot me in the back."
"If the Guardian says so…"
Gaelin-4 sighed. "Enough shop."
Hours of night drift by slowly. The violet fire began to burn down.
"Does the Guardian enjoy Spider's employment?"
"I'm a freelancer. Payment is my employer, not Spider."
"Likewise," Vynriis said cheerily. "Somewhat…"
"Oh yeah? He pay you well?"
"Well enough," Nivviks replied. "Work well, pay well. Start your own work."
"And Spider supports that sort of entrepreneurial spirit?" Gaelin-4 asked.
"Payment flows upward, and the Spider looks elsewhere. All is made well," Nivviks said.
"Do you know who that man back there was, in your Spider's lair?"
"No," Vynriis answered.
"Do not care." Nivviks added.
"Osiris. You should know. Ever heard of Six Fronts?"
"Many times, from Guardians who speak of little else than their victories." Nivviks adjusted his posture.
"I think I can speak to it. I was there," said Gaelin.
"I was not," interjected Vynriis. "Vynriis knows only the Shore."
"Do they tell you all Fallen died that day? No Guardians? Convenient," Nivviks cackled.
Gaelin-4 rolled to his side to look at Nivviks. "You saying otherwise?"
Vynriis listened to the two without moving.
"You're older than I thought. I'm sure you'd agree things were simpler then. You knew who was good, and who was bad. I miss those times. Now… it's a mess."
"Simple?" Nivviks laughed in Gaelin's face. "Life was never simple, but suffering makes the mind narrow. Changes what we see. Survival makes many enemies. We know this truth."
"Alive for so long. You killed your fair share of our people," Gaelin said bluntly.
"And you, ours," Nivviks replied. "Now we are not killing. Is this not simple?"
Gaelin thought for a moment. "Past can be hard to forget."
"Yes, but Guardians have the gift of time," Vynriis said quietly.
"Your heroes, our nightmares," Nivviks said. "Osiris. We had a different name. He is… not so intimidating now."
"I wouldn't say that to his face. You should be thanking him." Gaelin-4 rolled back to his original position.
"Thanking today, cursing at the fronts. Perspectives change, yes?" Nivviks said, rolling back as well.
"I guess. Without Osiris, we could be on a completely different timeline… or worse."
"Yes… this one is preferable. Many prosper. No problems here."
"You being sarcastic?"
"If the Guardian says so."
Wild Hunt Strides
Vynriis was the first to spot movement. Twenty meters, against the horizon. A lumbering hulk of muscle and high-density Cabal plating indolently ascended a stone column in her firing line. It huffed air deeply, leapt forward, and impacted the ground with dead-weight grace on two armored trunks. The tremor ran through her bones.
The trio swapped to close-band comms. "Beast in sights."
Gaelin-4 and Nivviks slowly crawled to her side, taking care not to draw attention in the quiet night. The beast was Cabal all right, red-paint-scraped armor of the Legion buckled against an outpouring of muscle and blistering flesh. From its back and stomach, bladed tendril mutations slithered through gaps in the armor. Its hands were fused in an ever-grip around two massive cleavers that ploughed trenches in the soil as it trundled toward the flames.
"It appears… abnormal for a Wrathborn," Vynriis noted.
"Old. Perhaps one of the first. An escapee of the Crow's?" Nivviks mused. "Preventable. Spider will be displeased."
The Wrathborn Gladiator tore into the wrecked transport. Licks of flame seared its exposed meat without notice, and remnant oil set the Gladiator's cleavers alight in patches.
"I'll handle this. Excuse me." Gaelin-4 stood and strode directly toward the Wrathborn. It lurched to face him and loosed a tortured bellow. Gaelin snapped a smoke bomb into his hand with a flicker of Void Light and flung it into the Wrathborn's mouth. After a muted pop, dull purple smoke poured from its head, and the Wrathborn reeled in the fumes; bloodcurdling shrieks cast plumes of smoke like clouds against the starry backdrop.
Gaelin knelt and shouldered Transfiguration. He sent four heavy Arc rounds that cracked splits in the Wrathborn's helm. It howled and stampeded towards him; tendrils lance-hooked into the dirt to rip its body forward faster. It tripped the Shadowshot he had set. Void Light tethered the Wrathborn, anchoring it at the core of its existence. The beast whiplashed and lost its footing; face struck floor—shattering its helmet.
The mad thing rose, smoke billowing from its nostrils like a hellion. It wrenched with every fiber of strength, veins bursting to break.
"Keep pullin' like that and you'll tire yourself out." Gaelin-4 sauntered around the Wrathborn, darting stake-points into the ground to form the Arc-cage's cornerstones. He pulled the third from his belt when he felt something snap within him. It broke the Void tether?
From the dying smoke launched a tendril. He ducked it and saw the fiery blade just quick enough to roll over it and into invisibility. He flicked another smoke bomb into his hand and struck the beast between the eyes. It flailed and sent tendrils in his direction. Gaelin rolled back and came up, rifle forward. He dropped the first two and began to reposition when the ground erupted beneath him. A tendril pierced his thigh and dangled him in the air as two more drove at his head and chest. He cracked a spike grenade against his knee. The stick sputtered and beamed with Void Light. He severed the oncoming tendrils with the beam, and they gushed soulfire like a fissured dam.
The torrent incinerated the grenade and half of Gaelin-4's right arm. His rifle fell. Before the thought to reach became action, the Wrathborn slammed the Exo to the floor and pinned his leg. Gaelin's breath tremored. It raised its horrid cleavers. He drew Lonesome from under his cloak and shot the thing in the eye. It cast him across the site and through a stony point protruding from the ground. Shards of broken rock cascaded around the Guardian. Gaelin clutched a puncture in his chest, a barb of stone protruded from it. The throw had shattered his hip. He was unable to stand, and it was getting dimmer. A shadow in his vision. Lightning wires overhead. Pressure.
Wild Hunt Cloak
Gaelin-4 inhaled sharply. He sat up and flexed his limbs.
His ghost floated before him. "It was a lucky hit."
"Aren't they all?" Gaelin stood and brushed himself off. "Appreciated, Clip."
"Wire Rifles made it run before things got too bad." The Ghost dipped in a nod and dematerialized.
"Before?" Gaelin-4 turned around. Nivviks and Vynriis sat several paces away in pensive observation. "Those rifles jam or something?"
"Guardian requested to handle situation." Nivviks clacked his jaw. "Went as intended, yes?"
Gaelin glared at Nivviks, but the Fallen simply stepped forward and offered a hand to help him stand.
"Kept the Guardian's body from being dragged away. Saved pretty rifle," Vynriis said, placing Transfiguration in the Exo's hands.
Gaelin's glare relaxed as he locked eyes with Vynriis and conferred a mute look of thanks.
"Quarry is on the move. Unwise to return to an expecting Spider with empty hands." Nivviks took a long breath from an Ether canister. "What will the Guardian do?"
"How long was I out?"
"Not long… minutes," Vynriis replied.
Gaelin closed his eyes and concentrated. He felt his prey still tethered to his Light, marked by traces of the Void. Nivviks was right: it was close. "We hunt."
"Ah…" Nivviks stood. "Fortunate that we wounded Wrathborn," he said, pointing to a trail of fluid.
Gaelin-4 looked to the dim afterglow of the quenched fuel fire, to the fresh trail before them. "I defer to you, old timer."
"Good… yes. Try to keep up," Nivviks chittered. He pulled a transponder from his belt. "Tracking shot. Useful. Not far on Pikes… or flimsy Guardian bird."
Gaelin-4 mounted his flimsy Guardian bird. "By all means, lead."
They followed the trail in silence. Nivviks led, then Gaelin-4, then Vynriis. They had encircled him like a tenderfoot calf. He had underestimated the Wrathborn's resilience. Made a fool of himself to show up a couple Fallen on a dead rock—but a breakage heals stronger if it's set right.
They closed the distance quickly. The Wrathborn's lair was a small cave hovel with a bend just passed the entrance. He could almost see the creature's breath through the stone, feel its movements.
"Does the Guardian wish for Web Mines?" Vynriis held a mine out to Gaelin sheepishly.
Gaelin took it. "Let's line the entrance, Vynriis."
"All of them. We overwhelm it at the choke, then tether and spike it down."
Nivviks nodded. "Draw it out. We will keep its tails from killing you… again."
"Appreciated. Guess I'll be bait."
Gaelin-4 entered the cave and saw the Wrathborn caressing a tendril rooted in its back. Before it, a shrine of black twisted spines. They had begun to harden and gain a translucent metallic sheen, increasingly stained by drippings as his eye wandered higher. The missing associates hung impaled at their apex as tarnished crowns. The spines fed upon them, and Gaelin could see the planted stems weaving together at the base. The Wrathborn yanked the tendril from its back and planted it. They quivered. A hint of a voice. Gaelin would look upon them no longer.
He formed a vortex of Void in his palm and slung it beneath the Wrathborn. It stumbled backward as the grenade burned away. Behind it, the Fallen bodies disintegrated, but the spires remained unscathed and thirsty. The Wrathborn turned to pursue him, ripping at the ground, ceiling, and walls for holds.
The Guardian ran and dove over a line of Web Mines at the cave mouth. He cloaked as the Wrathborn was barraged by their spheres of Arc disruption.
Nivviks and Vynriis pelted the beast with Wire Rifle shots, fending off tendrils and drawing attention from Gaelin-4. The Guardian nocked a Void-Light bolt and cast his Shadowshot into the Wrathborn's chest, drawing its limbs in with crushing gravity. The trio drew Arc-cage stake-points and flung them into position around the incapacitated Wrathborn. As the last stake made connection, the Arc-cage sprung and shocked the beast into unconscious submission.
Morning light trickled over the horizon as the three finished tying down the cage for transfer.
"Better this time," Nivviks croaked. "Cave is unsettling."
"Web Mines were a good idea," the Guardian replied. He sighed. "I strongly advise you demo that cave."
"Agreed. I will call for a Ketch." Nivviks stepped away, shouting back, "Enjoy your liquor and whelp."
Vynriis checked the cage's seals and looked to Gaelin. "What will the Guardian call his War Beast?"
"A good hound."
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