Wild Hunt Armor (Titan)
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Wild Hunt Helm
"The worlds may be gone, but their gravity remains… in more ways than one." Zavala cleared his throat. "How can the Vanguard be of assistance to the Queen's Wrath?"
"I'm afraid my news won't improve the mood." Petra took a deep breath. "What I'm about to divulge to you is privileged information. It cannot leave our confidence."
"A separate one sent afterward, entrusted to me. I thought it best we compare notes."
"Curious." Ikora lowered her datapad. "We do not have the authority to simply deny the Consensus pertinent information." Her voice was metronomic in its cadence—each word selected with care.
"Unilateral command decisions are admissible during wartime, provided I were supplied with evidence enough to do so." Zavala glanced to Ikora before continuing. "Give me something, Petra. Why have you called?"
"The Cabal Empire is on the move."
"That is concerning," Ikora said, finally relinquishing her datapad to power down on Zavala's desk.
Indignation twitched across Zavala's brow. "How many times must we bury them?"
"Potentially once more, Commander."
"'Empire' implies their forces have coalesced around central leadership. Does the Queen's Wrath have a name?"
"Only rumors. Fully decrypting the Cabal's latest transmission cipher is proving tricky. However, a new phrase has entered their lexicon."
"What do you mean?" Zavala inquired.
"From the few sequences we've cracked, it would seem they are combating something. A disease, of Hive origin."
"Osiris can confirm increased Hive activity throughout the system." The Commander looked to Ikora, then to Petra. "Let's get ahead of this."
"Yes, I've spoken to Osiris. The Techeuns have heard the Hive whispering to each other of conquest. Corsairs push into their broodholds to investigate, but… if I'm honest, access has become increasingly difficult."
"You think this is linked to the Cabal Empire's newfound coordination?" Zavala asked.
"Descriptions of the ailment are incomplete, but align with what we're seeing on the ground here."
"An interstellar illness?" Ikora's voice was hushed. "At that distance, they would need a bridging point between us."
"Or a nexus," Zavala said.
"A throne world might do." Petra's brow furrowed in thought. "The Blind Well has been misbehaving."
"Petra." Ikora looked celestial, eyes like quicksilver. "Red-sky morning. Full of dread. Recite it to the Techeuns."
"Foreboding. I'll relay the message; does it have a meaning?"
"A dream. Maybe nothing, but…" She saw that Petra understood.
"You say the Hive are more active?" Zavala interjected. "They're up to something."
"More violent, if that's imaginable. They seek out fights when before their actions showed tact." Petra's mind went to motive. "The Darkness has them in a frenzy."
"New marching orders? Perhaps we could apply additional firepower to your investigation," Zavala offered.
"A Guardian embedded under my command?"
"To a point," Ikora modified.
"It would save many lives. May I request someone who wouldn't destroy everything?"
"Who did you have in mind?" Zavala ran a list in his head. "We're short on available Guardians."
"Did Sloane make it home?" Petra asked. "She seems capable."
"Is this agreeable?"
"The Reef is thankful for any assistance the City can offer. We stand against this together, cousin. Vanguard Rey."
Petra's image disconnected.
"You're quite fond of making friends lately," poked Ikora.
"So many brigands in our midst these days; I believe I've learned the value of making deals," Zavala spoke with subtle impact. "With what we've seen from our spearhead on Europa, what they did… strong alliances can be built on the back of honored agreements."
"We are of one mind on that. We should keep this operation between us."
"Inform your Striker of his new deployment. I would like a name and a file. It's odd for me not to know a Titan in this City."
Wild Hunt Gauntlets
A monolithic ivory tower pierced the distant horizon. Siegfried, first Striker Titan of the Praxic Order, sat across from The Queen's Wrath and two bodyguards. Their skimmer-craft glided through the dazzling amethyst architecture and swooping fog-ridden tunnels of the Dreaming City. Crystalline reflections danced through the cabin around them like rainbow-mist flares, catching sheen off Siegfried's polished Dunemarchers.
"I've never seen this road."
"That doesn't surprise me. Much of the city remains inscrutable to prying eyes," Petra Venj chuckled. "You've visited before?"
"Once or twice. Is that Rheasilvia through the fog?" Siegfried removed his helmet and hung it on the Invective slotted beside his seat. A thick flaxen braid ran down the midsection of his head, fading into stubbled sides that fed a sumptuous beard.
"It is." Petra looked the man over. "That's not a common fashion for a Guardian."
"Grew in during the Red War. It took a liking to me." Siegfried stroked his chin. "Will your soldiers be ready to move once we arrive?"
"At nightfall." Her hand was outstretched, holding field notes. "You understand what you're facing?"
Siegfried took them and slid the note packet into his breastplate beneath a Cormorant Seal. "Innumerable Hive."
"Yes, and particularly vicious ones."
"That has always been my experience." Siegfried smiled. "I'm sure your Corsairs will allow no harm to come to me. I will do the same for them."
"They'll be relieved to have a Guardian leading the charge."
"My briefing mentioned fauna being afflicted by a pervasive infestation?"
Petra kept the worry from her face. "Recently sapient beings have begun to show symptoms as well."
"It's spreading." The Praxic Titan leaned forward. "How have you combated this?"
"Intelligence suggests the Hive congregate around some sort of relic. We believe it is the affliction's point of origin." Petra pointed to his breastplate. "Your notes provide more details."
"It is my understanding I am not to destroy this relic. Why?"
"'Whatever the Hive bow to in the dark: secure it, intact,'" she quoted. "It represents too many unknowns to discard without examination."
"That is not my perspective. The Hive exist to purge or be purged. I say we oblige them." Siegfried turned to The Queen's Wrath. "My feelings aside, you are the commanding officer of this expedition. I will comply."
"Do so with care. You alone are cleared to approach the relic. My Corsairs don't enjoy the protection of the Light, and I want them keeping a safe distance once the nest is clear."
"Very well. Still, know my recommendation to the Vanguard will only be in support of eradication or containment."
"The Reef will take note of their opinions. For now, I imagine the Vanguard are rather focused on Europa. At least, if what I hear from Eris is accurate."
"Eris Morn is a traitor." Siegfried's voice was stern, his eyes locked with Petra's.
Her lip convulsed in a silent snarl. "The information she shares would suggest otherwise." Petra turned away from Siegfried as the skimmer-craft dipped beneath the fog. She thought of Eris's last letter, the sighting of Variks. Pieces in motion. Coats turning or bisected. Wartime nuances. "Maybe this deployment will be good for you."
"Anywhere my Light can send shadows into retreat is a good deployment."
Wild Hunt Plate
Dusk set over the Dreaming City. Six Corsairs sporting Tigerspite Rifles made final checks on their gear. Movement became still salutes as Petra and Siegfried approached the staging ground. Just ahead, nestled in the Divalian Mists, menaced a fetid pit trimmed in Hive bio-growth. Frenetic inhuman whispers echoed from within like hoarse cords screaming.
Field holos displayed maps of twisting tunnelways all orbiting one central chasm. Within the nest, a point flagged their objective. Approach markers tracked the most direct path through.
"At ease, Corsairs. This is Siegfried. He is here to assist you in flushing the Hive from this nest and reclaiming our land. Inside, he is in command. My guard and I will hold this forward station. You all know what to do. For the Queen." Petra pivoted to allow Siegfried the floor. "Titan."
"Well met, Awoken of the Reef. The Vanguard stands with you. I am the spearhead. Advance on me and we will prevail." Siegfried donned his helmet. "I will not fail you."
The fireteam embarked, and in the subterranean ever-dark, the Hive descended upon them. Droves of Thrall choked the tunnels as gunfire deluge hammered from behind rallying barricades without pause. Siegfried lit the hollow with brilliant Arc fulmination, and rounds found targets. Claws drew blood and rent armor, but neither Titan nor Corsair wavered. Seven entered and seven stood. With each break in the flood, they took ground under cover of storm.
Siegfried arced through the filth like a deadly spark. Each charge scattered the opposition, leaving only crackling chitin, expended shells, and galvanized ozone.
Soulfire fumes fouled the air as reinforcements phased into ritual circles. Acolytes loped to flank the Titan only to be cut off by Corsair suppressing fire. Siegfried faced down a towering Knight with a man-hewing blade. He formed two flashbangs in his fists and lunged with a blinding combo. The Knight shrieked, narrowly missing Siegfried's head with its cleaver. The Titan launched forward, and the fiend fell to the rolling tempest. Labored breathing was the only sound that remained. The Titan looked to a blocked tunnelway in the floor before them.
Slick Hive excretion lined the chasm ahead. "This must be their sanctum." Siegfried's palm pulsed with Light. The faint silhouette of a Ghost popped in and out of existence. "Yes. This is it. Fall back and form a perimeter. If I don't return, you are to retreat."
Siegfried ripped through the mucus-seal and slid into the dim cavern. Foul fluid trickled from the ceiling in drips and spattered in pools at his feet. A monument of gore writhed before him. Soft tendrils convulsed around a jaundiced grim glow. They grew from the twisted base of an eviscerated Knight—its back and ribs pulled through its split abdomen, bending inside-out in half-completed metamorphosis.
"You vile thing." Siegfried walked slowly, his sight focused on the grotesque shrine. The Knight's eyes followed his every step. He was mere meters from the horror when the earth burst on either side of him. Two Ogres stumbled from chitin-covered sacs he had mistaken for walls. He drew his Invective and with well-placed blasts, dispatched the first. Siegfried turned to the second, but it was already upon him. It batted him into a cavern wall and wailed as energy beamed from its eye.
Siegfried raised a towering barricade just as the Ogre unleashed its hellish gaze. Cracks webbed through the Light wall. Siegfried braced it with both hands. The Ogre shook the ground as it bore down on him. The Titan readied himself to clash, lightning welling in his bones.
Movement in the distance. [CRACK] The Ogre's head snapped sideways from a forceful hit. Siegfried followed the sound to a figure perched in the mouth of a tunnel opposite of him. The Ogre turned and roared— [CRACK] Its head blew back, oozing from a raw wound. Three more shots followed from the figure, bringing the Ogre to its knees. The man looked at Siegfried and performed a small bow. The Titan dispersed his shield and seized the Ogre by the neck. He slammed the wounded thing to the ground and brought both fists down with a bolt of electricity and a killing blow. The Titan turned to confront his rescuer but saw only an empty tunnel.
It was early morning before Siegfried surfaced again. Petra stood stone-still in the camp.
"I retrieved your samples. You should know that anything I removed regenerated…" Siegfried lowered his voice. "…I believe this was a germinal site. Either lady luck is with us, or this was an ambitious expansion off a larger site."
"We're never lucky," Petra replied grimly. "I'll begin narrowing down options for our next strike."
"That line of thinking will be reflected in my report to the Vanguard."
"You've done more than enough for today, Sir Titan. Rest. Tomorrow we'll take the samples to the Techeuns. I'm sure they'll have plenty to say."
Wild Hunt Greaves
The night felt all too rushed, and morning so soon. Siegfried ached. He couldn't remember the last time he had been sore after a fight.
"Good morning, Sir." Siegfried's Ghost, Ogden, hovered over the samples the Titan had taken. "The sorcery these dullards are using is extremely unstable."
"I asked you to stay away from that. It's desecrated." Siegfried swiped the samples into his satchel from the gear rack in his tent. "In truth, I'd prefer you remained stowed until we departed."
"You were not so rude as a boy, you know." The Ghost squinted at his Titan. "When I express concern Master Siegfried tells me not to fret. Could I not say the same?"
"Different times, old friend. Now my body's a fair bit cheaper to replace than yours." Siegfried joked.
"Fine point, Sir."
The journey to the Techeuns was silent and uncomfortable. He met Petra in the cabin nose-deep in papers. Hoarse screams buried in the hard-blown fog. The Reef was shifting. She had requested his presence but informed him he would not be allowed inside the Temple. Ridiculous. Why was he here? Siegfried's thoughts were abuzz with distortion. Chaos. He followed Petra's march to the Temple chambers, the satchel of samples gripped tightly in his hand. She must have her reasons. Her secrets. The stairways seemed endless and Siegfried could not shake the image from the cavern. That macabre ritual. He tried to think of anything else.
"Are there any other Guardians operating in this area?" Siegfried questioned.
"Guardians come and go, but I haven't noticed anything unusual, if that's what you mean."
"Nothing you aren't telling me?"
"I have no reason to lie to you, Titan."
"I saw a man."
Petra stopped walking. The Temple door was only a few steps away. "Is there more?"
"He was Awoken. He bore the Spider's sigil—"
"Where did you see this man?"
"During your operation." Siegfried paused. "He gunned down an ogre in my defense and fled."
"Noble for a Syndicate fly."
"I know you fraternize with the Spider." Siegfried watched her.
Petra looked taken aback for a moment, then composed. "Do you know why spiders build webs, Titan?"
"I don't concern myself with such things."
"They enjoy control. Entrapment. The helplessness. Pulling strings in their small, little corners. Let them be, watched but undisturbed, and they catch other pests. Worse pests." Petra strode forward and placed a hand on the door. "Maybe it's time to check his web." The other held out for the satchel. "I'll look into it."
Siegfried placed it in her hand. "I eagerly await your findings."
"The Techeuns may need your account." Petra smirked to herself, "I give you dominion over these stairs. Stand guard, Sir Titan. Patrol if you'd like."
Kalli, Sedia, and Shuro Chi awaited the Queen's Wrath. They placed the specimens each in a sealed containment vessel. They assessed them one by one. They prepared their minds. Slipped into meditation.
Tooth, blood, and bone from the sacrificial Knight. Coagulated Soulfire. Shaved tissue of the writhe.
Communion in searching. Three voices speak as one. Noise upon noise. Eleusinia drowning.
A terrace of emerald flame above a red harborFingers reach like blades from distant hollowsTestingProddingTastingBreeding war.
A dream is offered.
RED SKY: They carry a brand in the consciousness of their tissues.
MORNING: Individual existences all touched in chorus.
FULL OF DREAD: Xivu Arath. Avatar of War.
More. So much more.
They witnessed it all.
Petra wished she had not.
Siegfried sat lost in thought, seated on the steps. He didn't like the idea of relying on witchcraft, especially that which he was unable to observe. If nothing else, it could at least be faster.
The door opened behind him. Petra's face showed signs of fatigue. "I'm sorry to keep you waiting. Return to the staging ground. I'll join you in the morning. There is still much to discuss here." She considered Siegfried for a moment. "Tell the Vanguard Ikora's dream had merit. I'll be in contact."
Siegfried sighed and stood. "I see my account of the situation was not necessary."
He felt lighter now, moving down the stairs. Sharp even, as he entered the skimmer. Siegfried wasn't sure if it was the peace of an empty cabin or the security of a troop carrier escorting him. The satchel he had left with Petra. None of his concern. He removed his helmet and took a deep breath. He let his mind drift as he watched the beauty of the Strand pass. The grand gateway above him. The fabled crystalline wall standing against the fog. The wall. Atop the wall. Perched like a buzzard.
It was him.
Something hovered with him, glinting in the light.
"There he is again!" barked Siegfried. He flung the door open and leapt without waiting for the skimmer to slow. The Titan soared through the air on Light, surging forward in an electrified dash before sliding into a full sprint. He crested the hill above the crystalline wall soon enough. Motion dragged into the shoreline mist. Siegfried pursued it.
Wild Hunt Mark
The Titan peered into empty mist.
"Damn," Siegfried said flatly. He turned around.
A barrel in his bare face. A hooded Awoken behind it, with features obscured by a thin shawl wrap from the eyes down. "Stop. Following. Me."
Siegfried raised his hands. His Ghost materialized. "Stay back, Ogden!" the Praxic Striker called out.
"Now see here!" Ogden shouted, "I will not watch two brothers of the Light do battle. Calm yourselves!"
A second Ghost materialized. "Glint. Be careful," whispered the figure.
"We're all on the same side here," Glint said meekly.
A Corsair stepped through the mist, rifle pointed at the hooded figure. "Lay down your arms and come peacefully."
"Oh no." Glint looked to the hooded man. "Wait, Cro—mh."
Heat flashed from the hooded man's free hand.
"'Crome,' is it?" Siegfried inquired. "Never heard of you."
"Crome" spun and threw a crude Solar blade, splitting the Corsair's rifle and slashing his hand. Siegfried moved to disarm; he caught Crome's turning jaw with an electrified fist, but missed the gun. Crome floundered back several paces and dove into the mists.
"What a disrespectful man," Ogden shouted. "That kind of conduct cannot be allowed."
"I'll put a stop to it," Siegfried assured him.
Silhouettes stumbled through fog. Ghosts dematerialized. Corsair radios muddled with chatter. Crome skulked until quiet surrounded him, interrupted by a small burst of propulsion in the mist.
Siegfried was far above him, plummeting through the mist like a coiled storm. Crome glanced upward and took off sprinting. The Striker's fists shattered the ground behind him in thunderous havoc. Crome darted away and twisted, landing on his feet with Dire Promise ready. Siegfried bolted directly toward Crome like living lightning. Each fanned shot from the man's cannon was struck down by bolts arcing from the Titan. Siegfried led with a shoulder. Crome dashed around him and brought Solar flame to form in his hand—
"Too slow!" Siegfried whipped a crackling elbow into Crome's stomach and blocked the counterattack. The Titan delivered a knee to the man's ribs that chained into three lightning-fast strikes across the Hunter's body—ending in a thundercrack blow to the temple.
Crome grunted and struggled to maintain his footing.
Siegfried stood emblazoned in voltaic fury. "You're outclassed."
"I'm pretty good at taking punishment," Crome jabbed through clenched, bloodied teeth.
"Surrender. I won't ask again."
"I can't do that. I'm here to hel—"
Siegfried charged without hesitation, but Crome was ready this time. Instead of retreating, he leapt forward with a searing blade. Siegfried caught his wrist millimeters before the blade made contact but lost his footing. They grappled in the dirt. Siegfried pried the knife from Crome's hand.
"Enjoy that," Crome said, skidding away from the Titan with a kick to the midsection. The blade turned molten and engulfed Siegfried in a fiery explosion.
The Striker rose from the blast-cloud, coughing. "Damned knives…" Crome was quickly disappearing into the mist.
"Enough running!" His voice erupted as he slammed electrified fists into the ground. The shockwave rippled through the dirt and tripped the running Hunter. Siegfried took a step forward. The Hunter rolled to face him, gun red-hot. A beam of Solar destruction sizzled through the mist, clipping Siegfried's pauldron before he could react and knocking him to the floor.
Siegfried could hear the Corsairs nearby. Disoriented and livid, the Titan found his feet, but not his foe. The Hunter was gone. No amount of searching with the Corsairs would change that, but Siegfried kept them looking all through the night just the same.
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