Wild Hunt Armor (Warlock)
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Wild Hunt Hood
The Awoken skulked through dead Dregs, picking at exhausted canisters like a carrion dog. She had done this each first week, of each month, since her revival beneath the grave-heap in the bowels of the Shore's fighting pits. She was knocked down many times that day, and many more in the short year; she had borne the Light but found the ritual of righting oneself uplifting. The clawing repetition to breach unspoiled air taught that persistence rewards. Over time with the Light, panicked bloody defeats instead became swift victories and acclaim. Clumsy and unrefined, it was enough to win battles with flashy results.
Glitz drew attention to the verboten fighting ring. Its coordinators had not informed the Spider of the Syndicate's contributions to its stores of Ether, nor their discovery of another unclaimed Lightbearer. Instead, they had chosen to pocket cuts and remain silent. They sought to quiet the rumors and retain the flow. In their haste to dispatch her and trap her Ghost, they taught Trihn to devour and the Void freed her mind. Her short stint of bouts mystified in mythos over the months since her escape, but her name wouldn't fade from their memory. The ring still required dismantling.
Two days ago, she pressed beyond the Tangled Shore and its watchful baron, into the no man's land between Awoken borders and lawless drifting slag-rock. Trihn hunted vengeance, and Ether: her first nourishment; invigorating habitual nostalgia. The scattered Eliksni that remained throughout the system held little nothing as the bulk of many Houses' stores were consolidated on Europa, or less so within Spider's hold. Trihn had no ship to leave the Shore, but neither did her betrayer. She was happy to make do here.
"Proximity beacon is still picking up noise." Trihn's Ghost, Shakto, swiveled to her. "Looks like your old pit buddy's tip was trustworthy."
Trihn nodded in acknowledgement as Shakto transferred the information to her tac-band. He continued, "They're fast, but not far away. Although… there isn't much cover in that area."
The Lightbearer scanned the projection from her forearm. "Fast, yes. Must be Pikes; can't be on foot. Prepare mine. We can catch them before it gets dark."
"They'll hear us coming if we get too close."
"And?" Trihn whipped back mustard-colored robes to straighten two short Eliksni-style scabbards at her hips before mounting her Pike. A thundercrack sent her into the astral wind.
Shakto compiled into existence in a holstered seat in the chassis, set just above the Pike's maneuvering apparatus. The front scoop sloped groundward from him like a trunk, fashioned with tusks and themed of an old Earth beast.
"We're not even sure if they're Fallen, just that something moved through the trip line."
"What besides Eliksni Pikes moves that fast?"
Her voice was clear through their direct channel.
"Scorn… on Pikes."
"Their numbers are scant." She navigated connection points between drifting chunks of land. Rubble drifted against the pull of gravity. "And they don't come out this far. It's one of his crews."
"Driksys already wants you dead."
"You're making my point."
Wild Hunt Gloves
"I'm saying it's a fight we can avoid right now. The Spider doesn't give them much." Shakto wanted to say it wasn't enough to die over, but he had seen her starved husk enough times to know that wasn't true. Sustenance was always enough to die over. And for her, hurting the ring was enough to spend a hundred lives.
"Enough for us. Enough to hurt Driksys even if he isn't there. The Ether stops, the loyalty stops, the fights stop."
"He might not have come in person. Even so, Driksys serves Avrok." Shakto ballooned the volume of his voice in her comms, buzzing her helmet and sending ringing through her ears. "We shouldn't hit him directly. Not yet. It would draw attention from the Spider."
Trihn clunked the base of her hand against her helmet to kill the rattle. "If we only ever did what you condoned, we'd have half the armory and a sliver of the knowledge." She cut the Pike's engine atop a ridge overlooking a shanty encampment in the gulley below.
"It's not about that," Shakto said, dismounting.
Six Pikes were parked in a group below, engines still flexing as metal cooled. One of the Spider's spined Servitors slumped in a cornered heap near a vertical jut of rock. It shimmered hypnotically with power cutting in and out.
"That's odd," Shakto said as he floated forward. Dull atmospheric glow gave way to stars and empty space behind him. Trihn dismounted and spoke without looking at him.
"More is more."
"If there's a servitor here, it's serious."
"Driksys. That's an upper Associate's Pyke."
"It might be Avrok's, or one of the others. Okay, Trihn. If Spider gets wind you're robbing him, killing his Associates, he'll send the Enforcer. We do not want that."
"Only if they live."
"Who do you think comes looking if they don't? You're not ready for that kind of fight."
She knelt and surveyed the empty camp. "Then we wait and see who turns out."
It was morning before movement broke the droning stillness. Trihn felt her eyelids bobbing, flickering momentary dreams in zoetrope staccato between glimpses of light washing over the horizon.
"There." Shakto's tone nudged above the ambient tectonic groan of the Reef.
Trihn creaked forward to peer over the ridge. In the gulley below, an Eliksni Captain adorned in bent and snapped quills dragged itself by a single arm across the dirt. Ether gas and fluid gurgled from damaged lines across its mask and equipment rig.
"That's not Driksys." Trihn's words were half-caste disappointment and relief.
"Still one of his though. I recognize the red-tipped quills."
"A subordinate. This is better for us."
"No perimeter trips or weapons discharges that I'm aware of," Shakto chirped with a tinge of befuddlement.
"Can you tell who?"
"From here? With their face in the dirt?"
Trihn stood and brushed her robes. "I'm going to get a closer look."
Wild Hunt Vestment
The encampment was several days old, formed from a few dirty tents huddled around a handful of unpacked crates and two sealed ones. The entranced Servitor had dimmed, and foul-smelling liquid spilled from punctures and rutted gashes in its plating. Trihn looked the machine over curiously. It was an oddity this far from the Shore, and to be left unprotected was even stranger.
Toppled in the dirt, an Arc spear tip drew her eye to an open case of digging tools, high-tensile strength line, and respirator filters— and just beyond: the wheezing Captain. Trihn scooped the spear from the ground and walked the few short steps to him.
"What name do you go by, cur of Driksys?" Her Eliksni was of the Shore, a crudeform result of the elegant language diluted by Sol-domestic phrases and pronunciations.
The Captain thrashed and rolled onto its back, snapping quills like kindling. It propped itself on rough-hewn fleshy stubs to extend its reach and swiped at her with its single remaining arm. Froth spilled from its cracked mask, and underneath a broken section at the brow-line, a maddened eye fixated on her.
"What's wrong with him?"
Shakto materialized at Trihn's side. "I don't know. Presenting physiology is Fallen, but altered. Something in the Ether?"
"Whatever they called you, your life is mine now." The Lightbearer drove the Arc spear into the Captain's chest with one measured thrust. "We'll keep doing this until he has no subordinates. He'll be forced to deal with us eventually."
Trihn swiped a spent Ether canister from the Captain and held it up to the light. "Shakto."
"Looks clean to me," the Ghost said after a focused scan.
Trihn tossed the canister to shatter on the ground and moved back to the unopened crates. She cracked off one of the lids with the spear and set both aside. Just short of a dozen full fragile vials containing delicate blue jostled within soft packaging. Save a few with froth percolating through worn seals, the Ether swished like plasma-fluid surf inside the glass. "They wouldn't leave this much unattended."
Shakto followed the dirt-dragged trail back from the Captain to a curve in the stony walls of the gulley. The trail led him to a narrow separation in the rock face. "Trihn."
It was enough space to contort her body through. Scrapes ran from the edges of the split into a slithering dark tunnel. Trihn took a stone from the ground and rolled it in her hands, coaxing condensed smoothness from it with palms of Void-Light. She flicked the glowing sphere into the separation and watched it roll a few meters along a line before it skipped over the edge and fell steeply out of sight.
"You think it fell straight through the Reef?"
"I'd say no. That rope goes somewhere."
Trihn squeezed shallow breaths into her lungs with each shuffling step. It was all the stone pressing on her ribs would allow. She closed her eyes to keep instinctual panic in check and lurched forward with a final step to meet the precipice. The walls opened; her lungs filled. Line dangled beneath her feet. She grabbed the line and tested the solidity of the ground-spike holding it in place.
"Shakto, I'm going down."
Several meters deep in the darkness, buzzing spelunking lights set a grizzly scene aglow. Three Vandals, two Dregs, and a Captain lay slain and lifeless and ripped agape—some residually twitching from Arc blade cuts. Near the Captain, two severed arms bled pools. A third arm, prosthetic, was pinned to an adjacent stone wall with a spear. Her breath trembled. She knew this violence. It was the only thing the pits had ever offered her.
"What did you find?" Shakto's voice reverberated down the shaft, preceding his descent.
Wild Hunt Boots
In the middle of the chaos, a lone metallic structure groaned as Trihn stood in deathly quiet, piecing together the sequence of events. The structure's form was slender, shapely, and one she had not seen before. It bent in lines that were lost within each other's paths; interconnected without sacrificing distinction. It drew her in. Trihn stepped forward and ungloved her hand. She pressed her palm to the onyx-colored metal spires. Something quivered within, and came alive.
"What are you?" she would ask, over the concerned interjections of her Ghost. The Answer, it would reply to her, alone. At least, the first time. The day had drawn long into the night and she had left the cavity, paced in the encampment, and returned many times to the onyx spires. She would prod. It would weave the riposte. Power, in many shapes. Purpose. Time. Meaning. Any trait the ambitious could muster, it would ennoble with standing. It would taper the meat. Lean the fat. Deglaze the waste to flavor the cut. A protean horror of trim. It struck awe. Glory incarnate, made tangible within the beholder.
It showed her the heap that she clawed life from. It showed her the betrayal Driksys coated her opponent's blades with. It showed her tools they meant to rip apart her Ghost with. It dug out the many beatings her bones still remembered, and the blood ran red into her eyes. The anger. The validating need for vengeance. It showed her a head set upon a pike.
That night she dreamed of the pit. If this living metal thing could lead her to Driksys, the way forward was clear. Shakto said it was taller now. A head above its previous size. She had thought that metal does not grow; it is only reshaped or reduced, but upon reflection, had come to accept aggregation was growth. Trihn returned with tools retrieved from her Pike: some gifts, some collected from marks that no longer needed them, all worn from extended use. Dilution fluid ransacked from the parked Pikes would steady the process. Three canisters of Ether swiped from the encampment dangled around her neck in a makeshift sling while the rest were left stowed in her vehicle's saddlebags. Shakto didn't need to warn her of the danger. It had killed her before. Her first victory, her first reward. It would give her the strength. It would focus her mind. The Ghost would await her return above ground.
She laid the tools before the spindled onyx structure.
Fine silk rolled in soft leather kept them from the dirt.
Traced the cloud-chromed instruments with steady pupils.
Wiped clean with oil and cloth.
Prepared Light to staunch her invigoration should it turn grisly.
Connected the pitted dispersal gauge with transparent clean line.
Capped line with a fine and untarnished gold barb.
Drew thick sapphiric fluid, appropriately diluted.
Pinched skin at the thigh beneath fresh wraps.
Flesh to onyx.
Cold prickling stung her veins. Muscles tensed and bulged against the sheaths of Light she had bound them in to keep from bursting. Her bones creaked under Ether-bolstered thew. She licked away flavor from her lips, exhalent tinged of briny nitrogen, and shivered. As her body stabilized and the tremors climbed, Trihn's head reflexively craned upward and outstretched her neck. Her mind electrified. Her spine bent at the brim of buckling.
Wild Hunt Bond
Her spirit awakened from dull normality; she saw the glistening maelstrom engulfing the living onyx before her. She heard clarity in the purring mirth emitting from the stone. Three times she had done this, the last leaving several fractures in the bones of her hands. The stone played out her vengeance in a thousand different ways. She studied each path that left Driksys dead and forgotten. She studied those that showed her failure. But there were gaps, and she always needed more. Trihn drew upon the second vial with her golden needle.
It struck as if bottled lightning. She peeled back the layers. She witnessed it, knew now that the onyx stone had not risen, but was thrust into the floor like a plunging blade. A bannerette in claim. A needlepoint finger. It sold the simple answers in exchange for mental frippery, the unused space between thoughts. A buried name to be revealed.
It tore her consciousness across the cosmos to a grand terrace of onyx Swords, hilted in emerald flame and overlooking darkened systems. A glint in the distance. A world? A name? A promise offered and dragged in Sisyphean humor as voices from the black edges of space converged in laughter. A lone figure stood on the terrace aside two empty thrones. A host of mouths split down the centerline of its form. They screamed with countless voices. Their harmonious epiphany dragged the buried name from the depths, from the pit, from the heap, to the surface.
It was the only truth before her, and with it, Trihn drowned in regret.
Trihn opened her eyes to Shakto nudging her head. It took every ounce of restraint to keep her blade sheathed. It was the fright, she thought. She hadn't expected him.
"You were muttering a name." He waited for her response.
She sat up in the dim cavern before the cryptolith and quickly scooted back several paces. Her muscles ached and every small motion splintered pain through torn tendons and micro-fractured bones beneath her skin.
"What?" A pulsing irritant was raging inside her head. It wasn't the Ether. This was different.
"Do you remember the name?" Shakto moved back to her side and began restoring her injuries.
"Something is coming here." Trihn turned to her Ghost. "I don't."
"Xivu Arath." Shakto saw no recognition in his Lightbearer's eyes, but Trihn felt the name nestle into the small unused crevices of her mind. It had taken hold.
In the day's journey back to the mainland of the Shore, the name would spread, making war on her thoughts. Trihn would dream of Driksys, always, only to awaken with dug-in fingernails drawing blood from her palms or to find herself alone wailing into the night on some desolate mote of rock. She had been separated from Shakto twice like this before they found a remedy: death. Revival kept the name at bay, but only for so long. She came to know the name through its persistence. Xivu Arath. It would knock her down many times, but she had always found the ritual of righting oneself uplifting. This would not bury her, for she still had much to do.
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