"The Cabal centurion opened up on her at point-blank, and we heard the most fearsome sound. She was laughing."
Some people think that it's Warlocks they should fear, or Hunters. Civilians great and small step lightly around those hooded figures, whose telltale cloaks and shining bonds hide secrets that could tear their City apart.
They are not wrong. Any Hunter worth the title could spark a civil war with a single word in the right ear. Any Warlock that's not fresh out of his grave knows how to bend reality to his will. There are secrets in their minds that could bring the mightiest god to its knees.
So no, they are not wrong.
But here, now, watching through a scope as slug after slug screeches and shatters against her armor, each one powerful enough to upend a sparrow but not so much as fazing her. There is a crackle of air as her lightning clad fist does what bullets cannot, ripping through inches of the Cabal's finest armor like so much wet paper. The flesh underneath stands even less of a chance, and soon enough she's buried her arm up to the elbow in whatever strange alien biology lurks beneath that massive armor.
Here and now, hearing her brilliant laughter as she rips her hand free, seeing something wet and pulsing clenched tightly in her fist and three neat little holes she hasn't even noticed leaking blood across the front of her battered and dirtied armor…
The age old question goes 'What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?', and it's supposed to end there, an idle question to make one think.
What you should really consider though, is what happens when they both work together?
There's a shiver down the Hunter's spine, and he packs up his rifle to set out across the field. Whatever the answer, she's going to need reviving soon, and if he doesn't lend a hand she's going to be more than a little pissed.
Cross-posting from FF.net for reasons. Basically a series of drabbles based on the flavor text of certain items.
Chapter 2: Ghost Angel
"As we climbed the tern cliffs he moved their nests aside, real gently. At the top he strangled the Fallen sentry. Same hands."
The Hunter unsettles her.
It isn't because he's a threat, not to her at least. Oh she has no doubt in her mind that he could kill her in any number of ways the moment her back is turned, it's what Hunters do best after all, and the number of times he's taken a blade to their Warlock attests to his skill. But something simply being able to kill her has lost its thrill lately. The life of a Guardian takes some of the fun out of imminent danger, as does being effectively immortal.
The strange anxiety also doesn't stem from any inability to understand his tactics. She knows that the reason she can stand her ground and fight toe to toe with their foes is almost entirely due to her (admittedly a bit excessive) armor. Since a Hunter can't reasonably wear the same amount and expect to maintain their maneuverability, they have to find other ways of not being shot to death. It's not difficult to figure out. And how many times has she turned around after a long fight only to find a pile of corpses laid out behind her, each one bearing a neat little bullet hole right between their eyes? Everyone had their part in a battle, and even if she derided such sneaky tactics in public, she and every other Titan was fully aware that they couldn't always win through sheer endurance alone.
It isn't even because of some sense of mystery. She's seen his face. Knows his opinions on everything from food, to color, to the political leanings of Dead Orbit. They've been trapped in caves and jungles, hiding from storms or enemy fire with nothing left to do but swap stories of their exploits and talk about their lives as Guardians, because neither of them can remember what life was like before they'd been 'gifted' with this second chance at it.
What unsettles her is the dichotomy of it all. She doesn't recognize it at first, it's not until they're on a mission climbing up the tern cliffs in the most suicidal, insane route possible to get the drop on their enemies that it finally hits her.
The Warlock falls first, a loose rock and exhaustion doing what a hundred Vandals could not. He falls silently, and after the first flash of horror she calms herself, remembering that even a fall like that is easily recovered from with the Light of the Traveler. So she turns her gaze back upwards, ready to continue on with the mission.
And there it is. A single hand outstretched, not towards her, but where the Warlock had fallen past just moments ago. It's hard to tell through the mask and hood, but he almost looks… pained, as he curls his fingers into a tight fist.
They press on, Hunter first and Titan second in a strange reversal of their usual roles. Foot by painstaking foot they climb, coming ever closer to the ledge where their enemy awaits. Suddenly, he stops, and she peers upwards to see what's made him pause when they're so close to the finish. It's a nest, she realizes as he slowly removes his gauntlets, tucking them into his belt so he can carefully, carefully, pick up the nest and move it aside without disturbing a single egg.
At the top of the cliff there stands a single Fallen, a Dreg it looks like, though from where she is it's hard to do more than count arms and make a wild guess. The Hunter goes first, clambering up when its back is turned and wrapping those same hands around its throat. It doesn't take long, he's a professional after all, and before she's finished catching her breath the Dreg drops to the ground without a single sound. She pulls herself up to the cliff before he can offer to help her.
It's all she can do, for a moment, to stare at her hands.
Maybe it's not the Hunter himself that unsettles her, but the truths he embodies.
Just kiss already.
She's tried the cloak on before, not that she'd ever admit it to anyone. She was a Warlock after all, and there were certain things that Warlocks simply Did Not Do. Wearing a Hunter's cloak would be tantamount to admitting that Hunter's did, in fact, look maybe kind of dashing in them. And that would be a huge blow against her fellows in the ongoing sartorial struggle that everyone knew about but no one was willing to admit existed.
Except the Titans of course, but they tended to be more amused by the whole mess than anything.
Regardless, it had been late at night; the Hunter had hung her cloak on a branch to let it dry after the drizzle they'd had to endure all afternoon and settled in to sleep for the night (How she always managed to draw the last watch neither of her companions could figure out). It was still damp when she pulled it off its perch, the cloth clammy in her hands as she stole away from the campsite. She'd made sure to stay quiet and wrap her bond tightly to keep the light from alerting the others to her activities.
The cloak settled awkwardly on her shoulders, the garment was a bit too large to look anything but silly on her. But simply wearing it, the hood pulled up and the fabric ensconcing her body in shadows and mystery…
She had to admit, she felt pretty cool. No wonder the Hunters practically swore by these things.
A smile was slowly working its way onto her lips as she twirled about, one hand on her hips and the other held out miming a pistol shot at some imaginary opponent.
A smile which died a horrible screaming death as she caught sight of the glowing red eyes in the foliage. It was hard to tell what an Exo was feeling just from looking at them, but their Titan seemed to be exuding a restrained amusement as they strode past her without a single word.
She didn't think her face could get any redder, and with a series of jerky motions she pulled the cloak off and threw it back onto the branch, sprinting off to take over the watch and hoping for nothing more than a Minotaur or a Devil Walker to show up and take her mind off things.
Look no one can tell me that Hunters and Warlocks don't need to bicker and kiss literally all the time alright.
Chapter 4: Bad Juju
"If you believe your weapon wants to murder all of existence, then so it will." - Toland the Shattered
His weapon was hungry.
He didn't understand it at first, what he'd gotten his hands on. The thrill of finally achieving what he'd set out to accomplish had momentarily overshadowed the smell of blood that shrouded his every footstep from that point on.
It had been the work of many weeks, collecting the excerpts and musings of the exiled Warlock Toland page by page. Often he'd had to piece the words together one at a time, painstakingly recreating the journal of his quarry for the precious knowledge within. When he'd finally put the last page back in its place he'd been devastated, the book was filled with gibberish and unintelligible scrawls, nothing more than the ravings of a madman. Or so it had seemed. Of course it would be the great Ikora Rey who managed to wring something useful out of it all.
Instructions, she'd said. Details that outlined a process to create some sort of weapon.
Had it been a Hunter, or a Titan who learned about this they would have burned the journals and scattered the ashes from the top of the Tower. But to a Warlock there was no greater temptation than a mystery that couldn't, shouldn't, be solved.
Perhaps Toland had known that.
He'd dismissed the thought, how could he have known it would be a Warlock that managed to find his journal?
And so he'd continued, carving his way through the crucible day in and day out in an effort to sate the dark weapon he carried on his back. Every victory had brought a rush of power, every kill causing the rifle to grow a little warmer. And the whispers a little louder
Warlocks tasted the best. All of that excess power overflowing from them, undirected and easy to siphon away into humming steel of his weapon. Twice he'd been reprimanded for turning on his own fireteam during matches, but by then it no longer mattered. He'd collected enough energy for his purposes, his pulse rifle was sated. The gunsmith gave him more than a few odd looks as he'd handled the weapon, but soon enough it was back in his hands.
But still hungry.
Chapter 5: Highlander
"One legend speaks of a Titan whose methodical, scrupulous patrol never met a foe. Was she still a hero?"
On the outskirts of the City Guardians were dying.
It was no shocking revelation really, Guardians died every day. It was their duty, their honor, to fall in service to the Last city. And it was not just once, but time and again in an eternal and unending sacrifice. They built their immortal bodies into a wall that held back the darkness which would shatter the fragile peace they had scraped together from the ashes of their desecrated world.
Or at least most of them do.
It was strange to find a Guardian that hadn't bloodied their hands at some point in this war, but a rare few of them had, through some twist of luck or fate, managed to avoid the battle which defined them.
She didn't feel so lucky. Ever since she had been resurrected she had obediently made her rounds, the same path day in and day out with nothing more dangerous than the occasional wolf to be seen. Every morning she quietly prayed that today would be the day she could finally test her mettle against the enemies of humanity.
Every evening she submitted her report, the same words every single time.
[Route theta: No enemy contact.]
Except for once technically, a particularly exciting day that had been:
[Route theta: No enemy contact. Single obstruction found and removed.]
The obstruction in question was a fallen tree that had been strewn across her route by a recent storm. At the time she'd been thrilled, thoughts of a potential ambush by enemy insurgents running through her mind as she worked to remove the obstacle. Her eyes darted suspiciously across the underbrush, adrenaline working itself into her veins as she cleared away the tree trunk blocking her path. The powerful servos in her armor made a short job of it, though it would have been shorter had she not had all of her attention preparing for an ambush of epic proportions.
But nothing came, and so she had to move on. Bitter disappointment or not there was a patrol to run, and she would see it through.
Years came and went, Guardians and Ghosts and Legends rose and fell as she trod that same path every single day. She shared notes with Toland the Shattered, sat through a lecture given by Pujari himself, and witnessed the fall of the mighty Thalor to Dredgen Yor and his Thorn.
She shared a meal with Wei Ning, and until the day she died she would remember the words they shared.
Titans more than any other Guardian were expected to bleed, to stand strong and resilient against the raging tides. Their legends would be transcribed across their armor by every bullet and bomb they strode through, undaunted and unstoppable.
But it would not be the legends of individuals that would stand the test of time. One by one each man and woman would be forgotten, until the only stories left to tell would say only Guardian. Each one a gear, a stone that built into a wall which would never fall, all of them working towards a common goal. And in that far-off day humanity will look back on them as a whole, and they will be free to roam the stars because of the sacrifice of each and every one of them, bloodied hands or not.
As the first, and last Guardian to die of old age, she could live with that.
PUJARI-WEI RATIO: colloquial. Amount of time Warlocks spend planning battles vs. time Titans spend winning them.
I have been called many things; a saint, a scholar, a luminescent spark in these dark times around us.
She called me a dork.
At first I was understandably offended, I was author to books that would be read religiously for ages to come. I had witnessed the birth of stars and battled wits with the great Ahamkara of old.
I had walked through the blood-red fields, blooming across the still-beating heart of a sleeping god.
I tried to convey this her, my face hot with aggravation beneath my robes. She laughed, punched me on the arm hard enough to leave it numb, and left me there with a promise that she would see me around.
I will not call her intelligent, I am no liar after all, but if ever there was a Guardian that could be called Enlightened it was Wei Ning.
We spoke many times after that fateful day, much to my (slowly diminishing) displeasure. She often showed up at my lectures, lounging at the back of the hall to watch with her feet propped up on the table. Occasionally she would bring a gaggle of other Titans and the occasional Hunter, but it was only on the days that she came alone that she would raise her voice.
The lectures were technically open to discussion, but it took the blunt dismissal of things like 'etiquette' and 'common decency' only a Titan could manage to actually go and interrupt a lecturer in the middle of their speech. One instance in particular remains particularly vivid in my mind, though it is far from the only time she made herself known.
"So what's it matter where the bots are getting their lasers from? Seems more important to know where they're going if you ask me." Her now-familiar voice called out during a pause, and the moment I looked over she waggled her fingers as if she was simply greeting me on the street.
I sighed, my bandaged hand dropping from the holo-board I'd been carefully mapping out my latest equation on. "With this, and the data the Cryptarchs have gleaned from the numerous Vex weapons they have acquired over the years, I believe I can finally find a way to extrapolate the source of the energy the Vex use in their weapons. By doing so a number of hypotheses can be re-valuated and-"
"Yeah but what's the point of that?" My teeth clicked shut as I was interrupted, a well prepared and perfectly good response so rudely ruined. She kept talking, either unaware or uncaring of my growing ire. "I see a Vex out there I get real low, their first shot's always center of mass see, which makes sense I guess. Guardian heads aren't the easiest target even with a fancy computer brain."
"But!" She piped up again the moment I tried to get a word in, banging a hand on the table hard enough to startle me momentarily into silence. "That's off the topic. What I'm trying to say is, it doesn't matter where that whatever's coming from when it's flying right over my head while I tear off a few robot limbs to beat the thing to death with."
She leaned in, a fire in her eyes I'd only seen once before in the destructive blast of an orbital bombardment, and she raised her clenched fist. "Because in the end, no matter what sort of fancy tactics you've got, no matter how many words you've got rattling around in that big brain of yours, this is the last and surest argument."
And then she was gone, leaving a dented table and a crowd of silenced academics in her wake.
The next time we met she apologized.
I was suitably stunned of course, I had expected the stubborn denial of wrongdoing that was so common of Titans not a sudden and surprisingly sincere apology. A quick examination told me all I needed to know about her activities, her armor was scorched and dented, her hair matted with sweat and what looked like blood. But her Ghost was still intact, floating above her shoulder to give me an almost curious look before it blinked out of existence. I didn't stare too long at it, unlike some people I had a modicum of tact.
"You certainly gave us something to think about." I replied the only way I could in the face of this strange and unexpected tactic; by backpedaling into platitudes and lines I'd rehearsed hours in advance. "It's been a long time since someone reminded we academics that there is a war still raging outside our laboratories and classrooms."
She looked a bit too pleased with herself at that, so I continued the moment she opened her mouth. "However there are still better ways to do so than by barging into the middle of a lecture and ruining all of my hard work."
"Yeah… sorry about that." She didn't shrink away from the chastisement, accepting it with a chuckle and a suitably apologetic smile. It was a surprisingly mature gesture, not one I'd expected after hearing the rumors about the legendarily violent Wei Ning.
"It's just when you're out there," She gestured out a the sky, and a quick glance confirmed my suspicions that she hadn't actually pointed at any of the planets we had access to. I wisely refrained from commenting. "You don't think about that stuff you know? Only things on your mind are 'Can I punch this?' and 'Let's find out'."
"There are problems in our universe that you can't just punch your way through." I responded, and suddenly there was that glint again. But I was ready for it this time, and though I knew there was no such purity of passion in my eyes I met her gaze regardless. "No. Don't you tell me that's wrong. Don't you dare tell me that you think that strength of arms is all it will take to win this war. If that were the case we would have been overrun decades ago, but here we are. It is tactics that have kept humanity safe, it is advances in technology that allow you to stand toe to toe with the likes of the Cabal and fully expect to come out on top. It is our knowledge of our enemies that allows us to adapt to their presence on the battlefield and achieve victory in the long run."
I didn't realize how loud my voice had gotten until I heard the silence in it's aftermath, my breath coming in pants that showed just how much my composure had been compromised. I straightened myself, glancing around discreetly to make sure there was no one around to gawk. What an embarrassing situation to be caught in, shouting at this impossible Titan in the middle of the Tower.
"Yeah… yeah I know. You're not wrong." She'd turned away from me at some point, leaning against the fence that ringed the plaza at the top of the Guardian tower. The sun was just beginning to peek over the horizon, its rays washing over us and dispelling the darkness of the night. "You told me that sometimes you ah… academics," It always baffled me how she could make that word sound just like nerds when she wanted to, "need a little reality check from time to time. But it's the same for us you know? When you're out there on the front it's all you think about, what the best move is in the here in now. What's going to keep you alive for the next five minutes, what's going to kill as many things as possible as quickly as possible so you can move on to the next batch. Rinse and repeat. You lose sight of the big picture."
She spat off the edge of the tower and turned to face me, studying me a bit more closely this time I think. "But it takes all kinds to win a war doesn't it? I can say I'll just punch the Darkness all I like, but that doesn't mean shit if we can't get to it first. And to do that we need big brains like yours back here figuring out all those little details I couldn't keep track of for the life of me. When the long dark comes we will be the final light. The light of my fists and the light of your mind, we'll need every last bit of it."
She stood there, radiant in the rising light of the sun, and for a moment I saw it. I saw the light of her soul, clenched in readied fists and shining through the cracks in her armor.
What could I do? I offered her my hand.
I can only hope that one day I burn so brilliantly as that.
- From the journal of Pujari
Rest in peace Wei Ning. You were my favorite Guardian.
Paradox and Truth
"The Light remade us. Can I still claim to be human? Can you still say you were made by human hands?"
He woke with a start, eyes wild and darting around an empty room he did not recognize. The scent of fresh flowers assaulted his nose, and he could feel a warm breeze on his face.
He was going to be sick.
Soft grass withered beneath his touch. An apple he picked rotted away in his hand as he watched. He took a bite, maggots squirming and dying between his teeth.
He dragged himself from the bed, falling to his knees and heaving fruitlessly as he stared at the floor. When he shakily regained his footing it was all he could do to stumble to the desk in the corner of the room where a faint light rested that drove back the darkness and horrors around him. Books toppled to the ground noisily around him, hampering his progress. But nothing could stop him now.
Steadying himself against a wall, he pressed a hand to his head as he tried to shake away the fog that clouded his thoughts. It was to no avail, thoughts which once connected instantaneously now moved at a sluggish pace unfit for one of- His hand was moving.
He was not moving his hand, and yet it moved still, tracing a single word from a wound which would never heal. Was it the red of his blood that he saw, or another red. One which advanced without pause or end, accompanied always by the metallic clank that heralded the end of a billion worlds.
He reeled, a shout escaping his lips as he fell heavily against the desk. Books littered its' surface whose pages were in turn filled with notes written in a near-illegible scrawl. Written in his near illegible scrawl, he realized.
Shadows danced in every corner, their teeth flashing white in the darkness.
What was he? A corpse. Death which cloaked itself in Light, a mockery of all that lived.
He cried out once more, fumbling for a weapon, for armor, for anything that might ward off the encroaching Dark. There was a blade on the desk not three feet from him, but no matter how he stretched for it it remained just out of his reach. The spark of his soul, once a flame carefully fed and tended to until it shone for all to see, now flickered feebly in his chest.
Blackness began to spread across his vision, extinguishing all but a single point of light. The shimmering glow of his Ghost as it hovered before him, tiny and insubstantial.
You are a dead thing made by a dead power in the shape of the dead. All you will ever do is kill.
You do not belong here.
Someone screamed. He realized distantly that it was him.
Help me. The Dark swallowed his words before they could leave his mouth, drinking the very thoughts from his head and leaving him empty, floating aimlessly in the endless void. Was this all there was? Had there ever been anything but this eternal nothingness?
Somewhere in the blackness around him a door slammed open, and once more the world was filled with Light.
"What the fuck is going on in here?" A voice like thunder sent the shadows scurrying from his sight. Then she strode in, wreathed in radiant Light that filled the room and drove the fog from his mind like daybreak. He was exhausted and sore, and even with his newfound clarity of thought he could do little more than slump to the floor with a shuddering, tremulous breath.
"Pahanin, get the door!" He heard her call out, calling his attention to the second, more muted Light that had entered. Even dwarfed as it was by the shining beacon that had come before, it was soothing in its' own way.
It was the difference between the ever present light of the sun, and a firework bursting with color in the sky.
"S'just a Warlock gone mad. Don't see what's so important." A voice replied lightly, but he noted that the door remained open all the same. Strong arms were lifting him up, and though he was no small man she had no trouble supporting his weight.
"It'll seem important when I've shoved my boot up your ass, now move it Princess." He felt his consciousness waning, his eyes were so heavy…
Perhaps he could rest, if only for a little while...
When he woke again the world had set itself back to rights.
Judging by the sunlight pouring through the window it was mid-afternoon, the stark walls and the various pieces of monitoring equipment suggested that he was currently in the Tower Medical Ward. Strange, guardians weren't often admitted here, their Ghosts usually kept them in peak physical condition and-
His Ghost, where was it?
His momentary lapse into panic was interrupted by a cough as someone cleared their throat, and for the first time he realized he wasn't alone. His gaze snapped to the chair by the side of his bed, where a man sat. His relaxed posture might have fooled many, but the underlying tension in his muscles was clear as day to someone as adept at observation as himself.
The man cocked his head to the side, drawing his attention to the table next to the bed, where his Ghost rested.
"Haven't touched it, no one has since you were brought in." His voice was hesitant, but there was no lie to be heard there. That brought a small bit of relief. "Promised you know who I'd keep an eye on things while you were out."
"Pahanin." The words came instinctively, though the man didn't seem particularly concerned at his identity being revealed. "You wrote that book."
Aphorisms To Anger Warlocks, a popular read among Hunters and Titans. He'd made it through two pages before he'd thrown the thing from the Tower, though perhaps that had just been proving the author's point.
He plucked his Ghost from its' resting place, cradling it gently in his hands. Its' Light responded to his own, and even as he continued speaking its' eye flickered to life once more. A moment later it disappeared, returning to the other-space where it remained. "What are you doing here? What am I doing here?"
"Far as I can tell you went a bit bonkers back there." Pahanin explained bluntly, rolling his neck with a huff. "Dunno what you were shouting about but if Wei hadn't beat down your door I don't know what would've happened."
Wei. Wei Ning. He'd been a sobbing wreck by the end of things, that much he could remember, and of all the people to witness that it had to be her. He groaned at the thought, cradling his head in his hands. "Wonderful."
"There there buddy, it'll be alright." Pahanin looked like he might lean in to pat his shoulder for a moment. He seemed to think better of it halfway through, apparently hesitant to touch him in any way. "If it's any consolation I've been sworn to secrecy on pain of being beaten to death with my own arms."
Which was little reassurance in its own right, she probably just wanted to keep the blackmail to herself. A surprisingly crafty move for a Titan, perhaps he should have given her more credit. Or less. With Wei Ning it was difficult to tell.
"It's really not, that woman is-"
"Is what?" A familiar voice interrupted him from the doorway, and with it came a pit of dread that formed all too suddenly in his stomach.
He swallowed and turned with the beginnings of a stammered apology on his lips, only to be stunned into silence by what he saw there.
Wei Ning was by no means a tall woman according to records he'd long since memorized (Purely for curiosity's sake, do shut up). He knew this academically, but with her armor on she cut such an imposing figure that it was sometimes difficult to remember that the top of her head could barely reach his chin on a good day.
"... Nothing. Nothing at all." In cases such as these, retreat was often the best strategy. Judging by the smug look on her face as she entered she was very much aware of his almost-faux pas.
"Oh you're finally back." Pahanin spoke, already moving to get up from his seat. "Well then I'll just be on my-"
"Not so fast bucko." Wei Ning interrupted him, which was becoming an annoyingly frequent tendency for her. She pushed the Hunter back down in the chair as she walked past to stand by his bed. "Running off right when I get back? That's just rude."
Her tone was teasing but it brooked no argument, and Pahanin obediently remained put. Considering the man's near-legendary contempt for orders of any kind it was somewhat surprising that he didn't so much as complain about the unspoken command.
"Hunter Pahanin informed me that you were the one who found me whilst I was…" Temporarily insane? Bawling like a child at the shadows in his room? Succumbing to the infinite processes of the Vex overmind? "Preoccupied."
She didn't comment on his word choice, and wasn't that a small miracle of its own.
"Mhm." She nodded, and for a brief, blissful moment he thought that would be the end of it. Surely a woman of few words such as herself- oh who was he kidding. "Was fresh out of the shower after a Crucible match when I heard someone screaming, thought I'd check it out."
She pulled up a chair with a shrug, raising an eyebrow at him as she sat down. "Imagine how surprised I was to find you screaming your head off and bleeding from half your face."
The smile on her face was more predatory than he would have liked. A glance to the side confirmed that at least Pahanin was seeing it too, judging by how pale he'd gone.
"I mean it's not like you did anything incredibly stupid recently right?" By the Traveler how could someone smiling send such chilling dread down his spine? "Something like running off on your own to jump off the Shores of Time without so much as a 'Hey Wei Ning could you watch my dumb ass'? Hell I'd have told you to do a flip!"
He blinked, mental processes grinding to a halt as he raised an eyebrow of his own at the ranting woman. "It almost sounds like you were worried about me."
She snorted. "Of course I was you moron, look what happens the minute you go off on your own, some Vex monstrosity scrambles up your brain so bad I have to carry you halfway across the Tower in my underwear!"
"Black sports bra and plain panties, not particularly exciting Wei." Pahanin chose that moment to cut in with an amused chuckle.
"Not the point asshole." She shot the man a truly withering glare, but it wasn't enough to wipe the glib smirk off the Hunter's face. Turning her livid gaze back to him however, he could only imagine how Pahanin managed it. "The point is if he tries to pull that lone wolf quest for forbidden knowledge bullshit again, I'm going to pull his legs off and give them to Cayde as a birthday present."
She leaned forward, staring him dead in the eye. "We clear?"
In the face of a truly enraged Wei Ning, what could he do but nod in agreement?
She stared at him a moment longer, searching for something in his expression. Whatever she was looking for it met her approval, and she nodded before abruptly standing and turning to the exit.
She stopped in the doorway, not looking back at the two remaining occupants of the room. "Also, you owe me a new bra. My old one's got blood all over it."
And then she was gone, leaving him flabbergasted and more confused than ever.
"Well that went well." He glanced to the side at Pahanin who was apparently ready to take his leave too, tucking a book so worn down that he couldn't make out the title into a pocket of his cloak.
"Did it? I'm afraid I can't see how you'd think that." He'd never seen Wei Ning so angry before. Well, not at him at least.
"Look Pujari- I can call you Pujari right? Great.- When Wei Ning gets angry people get thrown off the side of the tower. Usually me. I probably deserve it." Pahanin dusted himself off idly as he made his way to the door, not giving any time for a retort. "She didn't even throw a punch at you, and no it's not because you're in a sickbed that hasn't stopped her before."
The Hunter shrugged, waving over his shoulder as he exited. "Go talk to her, maybe grovel a little. That usually helps. As for me, I'm going to bed. It's been three days since I've slept in my room and my back is killing me."
And then there was one.
"Well then." He sighed, a mixture of exasperation, relief, and amusement colouring the exhalation. What a day this was turning out to be.
He dragged a hand down his face, wondering just what he was going to do about this situation.
Then he froze, blinking once, twice, three times in slow succession.
"Wait, did he say three days?"
Pujari, Wei Ning, and Pahanin is my Destiny dream team. Hell yeah.
Chapter 8: Ghost Angel 2
“We tracked the Fallen across the library floor, through drifts of paper and ash. The silence was magnificent."
Once upon a time the libraries of Earth were a wondrous sight to behold. Hundreds of thousands of books spanning shelves that stretched on for miles deep below the ground, texts as old as human memory carefully reconstructed and stored for all to enjoy. One could spend months simply wandering the halls, poring over the titles alone.
Now you step upon what remains of Twain, or maybe Hemingway, you don’t know the difference. Don’t care to either.
Were your Warlock here, and he is yours, he would be absolutely livid at the sight of such knowledge left to rot. Even more so at how carelessly you and your companions treat the ancient tomes.
You’d probably go out of your way to step on one, just to see him react.
But alas you aren’t with your usual fireteam for this mission, this is something that requires a bit more finesse than a Titan or Warlock can manage. A single misplaced blow from either would bring this entire building toppling to the ground, and your prey is crafty indeed. Too crafty to let anything slow you down.
Three Hunters had entered this building, cloaks billowing and steps muffled by ash and skill. Three Hunters, Thirty Fallen.
What an unfair fight.
They moved like wraiths among the shelves, always two steps ahead of their quarry. Every dreg that took one step beyond the safety of its brethren, every Vandal that made a break for the exit, one by one they fell. Throats slit by knives wreathed in Arc-light and bodies incinerated by the all consuming Sunfire.
How much of the dust that littered these floors had once been their foes?
You grind your boot into the ash, leaving the only evidence of your presence anyone will ever find in this place.
There is one left, a Captain. It’s proving to be a crafty enemy, darting through the shelves and avoiding encirclement by a hairs-breadth each time.
It doesn’t know, but you’re playing with it. A pause here, an extra step there, slowly herding the panicked Fallen deeper into the library. Soon it will have no place left to run, and the game will end.
That’s another reason you couldn’t trust this mission to any but a Hunter.
Anyone else would end it too quick.
You lose track of it for a moment, and as you scan this dead place from high above you notice it. The silence, that is. Three armored Guardians and a Fallen Captain are playing a deadly game of cat and mouse in this room but there isn’t a sound to be heard. What is there to do but revel in such magnificence?
Ah but there it is, the inevitable crinkle of paper.
It’s made a mistake, trapped itself in a collapsed stairwell. It can see the trio of shadows flickering at the edges of it’s vision, it clasps it’s blade tight and howls a challenge.
It is prepared to make it’s last stand one to remember.
A Titan would step forth, prepared to meet that challenge.
A Warlock would sheathe themselves in Light and burn it to ash.
Your partner buries a blade in it’s throat from across the room, and that's that.
" So I ask Wei Ning: what about the Darkness itself? What then? And she says: I'll punch it too." - Pahanin Errata
Against all expectations, Wei Ning was the first of us to die.
It's hard to imagine I know. Anyone who so much as glimpsed her wouldn't dream that she might ever die, that the Light she carried might one day flicker and fade. For how could anything extinguish the sun itself which nestled in her chest?
When Crota and his armies spilled forth from the depths of the moon to storm the Earth, she was one of the first to strike back against him. Until her arrival there seemed to be no stopping the advance of the Hive swarm, it's no exaggeration to say that her appearance singlehandedly revitalized the faltering assault on the moon.
It was her fists and her Light which carved a path through the greatest of Crota's generals. Bal-Umath, Shorrax-Ul, the mighty Alraz, father of Urzak the hated, one by one they tried to bar her passage, and one by one they fell before her might.
On the field of battle she had no equal, for Wei Ning was a storm unto herself. The mere presence of her unrestrained power disturbed the atmosphere, weighing down on those who would deign to stand in her way and kicking up the dust that was all she left of those in her path. The nuclear energy of her Light wreathed her body and trailed like a mantle behind her, scarring the land with its passing and vaporizing anything unlucky enough to try approaching her from behind. There was nothing for her foes to do but face her head on, and in doing so their fates were sealed.
It was not long before she had cut her way to the heart of the swarm to stand before Crota himself.
She struck the greatest of the Hive's warriors like a meteor, the force of her assault reducing everything around them to so many loose atoms. The very Moon was scarred by her power, and all witnessed as the great Crota's armor buckled under the sheer power she brought forth. And for a fleeting moment there was hope that it would be enough.
He retaliated, and ended her with a single blow.
Her Light, once a brilliant luminescence visible even across the expanse of space, drained away until there was naught left but a lifeless husk. Crota's blade feasted that day, turning the stolen Light against any who might oppose him. There were not many.
He kept her skull, it is said, displaying it as a trophy in his throne room. A memento of the one creature that managed to harm him with naught but their strength.
Eris Morn refuses to confirm or deny this statement.
I fear her answer, should I press her for the truth.
-From the Journals of Pujari
I have a weakness for Wei Ning and I'm not sorry. RIP to the Titanest Titan to ever Titan, you finally punched the wrong thing.
"People think that the law of the jungle is just selfish brutality. People haven't read the poem." - Pahanin
Now this is the law of the jungle, as old and as true as the sky,
And the wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the wolf that shall break it must die.
A Hunter is a Hunter, in dream, or death, or that strange state that comes about when your sights are set and your blade is drawn. You know the one. You're the one that runs ahead of the crowd, you are the unseen, the unheard, and nothing survives your passing unless you allow it.
You are Death, and you are so, so small.
As the creeper that girdles the tree trunk, the law runneth forward and back;
For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.
The Titans will stand when everything else falls, will stand to prevent everything else from falling. They are the shield and the fist, ever present on the battlefield, and you're damn well going to make sure that that presence is felt. Their foes will try to outmaneuver them, to trick them, it's up to you to make sure they don't succeed.
The Warlocks hide power beyond comprehension in their fragile little minds. For all your optics and sensors and scans, you're never going to perceive a tenth of what they see every single moment. They're a walking supernova, a black hole, a brilliant storm given flesh, and it's your job to make sure they're directed, and focused. Poke and prod, ignite their passion and keep them distracted from the horror they face whenever they look up at the empty night.
Because they'll try to fight it, of course they will, fighting the unfightable is what Warlocks do, and you won't like what happens when they win.
Keep peace with the lords of the jungle, the tiger, the panther, the bear;
And trouble not Hathi the Silent, and mock not the boar in his lair.
You may chafe at any sort of authority but the Vanguard exists for a reason, the Cryptarchs exist for a reason, and if I have to tell you to shut up when Shaxx is talking you deserve everything you get when you don't. Listen to them, and listen well, because what they say may very well save your life.
There are those outside our walls that you'll want to treat with respect as well, the Darkness isn't the only thing out there. Unfortunately that's not always a good thing. Tread softly, tread carefully, and if something offers you a wish, I advise you politely decline.
Wash daily from nose tip to tail tip; drink deeply, but never too deep;
And remember the night is for hunting and forget not the day is for sleep.
There's not many Guardians out there that don't know about the War. No not the one with the Darkness, the one fought via ever-evolving wardrobes built around both aesthetics and functionality. I've seen a Cloak with more colors than even an exo can perceive and boots that left the tracks of local wildlife. I've seen a Bond that could split quarks and a helmet that whispered secrets not meant for sane human minds, and every one was a weapon to be waved triumphantly in someone's smug face.
That held true right up until those cloaks and robes are torn apart to bandage your partner's arm, right up until those boots come off to splint a leg, and that helmet's being used to dig a trench to give your brothers and sisters some cover.
Guardians are never alone. Remember that.
The jackal may follow the tiger, but, cub, when thy whiskers are grown,
Remember the wolf is a hunter—go forth and get food of thy own.
You are a Guardian. You are one of the chosen warriors tasked with defending the last remnants of humanity from the forces of Darkness. Act like it.
Don't become complacent in the feats of your ancestors, because when our enemies are at our doorstep it will not be stories of times past that push them back. It will be you. It will be your brothers and sisters, hopefully it'll be me as well. Acknowledge the feats of your predecessors, but work to surpass them. It's the only chance we have.
When pack meets with pack in the jungle, and neither will go from the trail,
Lie down till the leaders have spoken; it may be fair words shall prevail.
For most of the beasties you find out there in the wide wide galaxy you'll find negotiation doomed to fail. The Hive do not parley. The Cabal do not take prisoners. The Fallen would rather strap you to the front of their ship than listen to a word you have to say, and the less said about the Vex the better.
But please, for all our sakes, remember that that won't always be the case. You're a weapon of war, but don't let that be all you are.
When ye fight with a wolf of the pack ye must fight him alone and afar,
Lest others take part in the quarrel and the pack is diminished by war.
Humans are built to squabble, built to butt heads out of sheer stubbornness and steal boots in the dead of night to fill them with swamp mud.
You and I? We're not human anymore.
But the instinct remains doesn't it? That need to be the best, to prove yourself, to give in to the Dark and tear your enemies' throats out with your teeth.
I suppose you know that all too well, eh Yor?
Ah right, the silent type. You never were one for conversation, not since you got that Thorn in your paw anyway. We could help you get it out you know, that's how the story goes isn't it? Pujari may have locked himself in his tower but there's plenty of others that could take a look at it if you let them.
… Heh, yeah. I didn't think so.
And then there was one.
Chapter 11: Boots
There's nothing more valuable than a good pair of boots.
Take joy in motion.
She was a dancer once she thinks, though memories of her past life are few and fleeting, dusty images that show up in her dreams only to be forgotten in the morning light.
But she must have been a dancer, it’s the only way to explain it. The rush of pure joy she feels as she stalks through the jungle far ahead of her fireteam. She should be scouting the path, and she is, really she is, but she can’t help but dash in and out of the brush, twirling about the tree trunks until the dizziness threatens to overtake her.
And not a Dancer, a dancer . She knows for a fact she’d never held a knife in her life that wasn’t meant for jam before her resurrection. Unfortunately there was little need for a Guardian dancer, and so she turned to the blade.
There was little enough difference in the end, she could enjoy it just the same.
A vine snaps in her grip, and she has to dig her knife into the bark of a tree to keep from falling a hundred meters to the forest floor far below. She doesn’t cling to the trunk for long, leaping to a sturdier branch without a care in the world.
She doesn’t want to stop. Not now. Not ever.
Movement is the purest expression of life, only in death will she allow stillness to overtake her.
A laugh escapes her, and she double checks to make sure her radio is off. She doesn’t need to hear her Titan’s chiding if she finds out she’s not taking this seriously enough. She can’t help but feel a little giddy regardless.
Soon they will overtake the Fallen their fireteam has been trailing for the past three days, soon they will discover just what their enemies are doing all the way out here in the deepest reaches of the jungle.
Soon she will bathe her blade in their blood.
Soon she will get to dance again.
Mk. 44 Stand Asides
Pardon me. Coming through.
Politeness is key. For everyone, and for Guardians as well, and especially for those fortunate enough to call themselves Titans.
Only the youngest don’t know this rule, and even then their seniors are quick to beat it into their thick skulls if necessary. A good punch is a politeness in its own way.
Certainly she could pick up this scrawny Warlock beside her, place him over her shoulder, and make double time through the thick foliage of this jungle, but that would only inspire resentment. A Warlock’s pride is a dangerous thing after all, and best left unstepped on.
So instead she waits, patient and quiet as he stares up at the sky, his head cocked to one side as if he’s listening to something.
Maybe he is. She can’t hear anything but wildlife, but a Warlock’s senses aren’t always in the same place their body is.
So all that’s left to do is wait.
Raven Sheath II
You are one of the only living beings with the freedom to roam at will. Stop a while and watch the stars.
Once, long ago, he had a mentor. An older Warlock who was to take him under their wing and teach him everything he needed to know to survive and thrive as a Guardian.
The day he first went to meet them he’d been thrilled, dreams of ancient tomes and forbidden knowledge filling his thoughts. What would he learn from this repository of near deific power? What elements of reality itself would bend to his whim when his time with them was through?
To his initial disappointment, his mentor did not teach him any secrets of the arcane. All of that could be learned in the field, and much better than listening to an old machine talk.
“No child, we are going to sit and watch the stars.” He was told, and there was no arguing with them.
“Why?” He’d asked, angry and confused and a little hurt by the flippancy his training was being shown. Was he not worthy of their time? What possible gain could he get from staring at the sky?
“These stars are the only ones the people of this city will ever see.” His mentor began, sweeping his hand out over the lights of the city below. “Remember them child, so that even in the Darkness you will know that there is still Light to fight for.
“Venus has my favorite stars you know.” He said some years later, cloak soaked through from the damp atmosphere and his boots planted half an inch into the muddy ground. Far in the distance a candle’s flame danced merrily through the treetops, and not three meters from him a crackling bonfire patiently waited for him to finish his observations.
“Lovely, are you ready to move?” Was the Titan’s curt reply, and her Light flickered with annoyance that she would never allow to tinge her voice.
“Of course ma’am.” He smiles behind his helmet, nodding in deference to her seniority. “Lead the way.”
Squid Pro Quo
"Yes, my love for cephalopods is well documented." —Pahanin Errata
My name is Pahanin, and there are three things every Guardian knows about me.
One: I don't like being alone.
Two: I am absolutely unbeatable at Go.
Three: I love cephalopods. Octopi, squids, cuttlefish, nautilus, I love all of them and their adorable, big-headed, tentacley bullshit.
Lesser known facts include that one book I wrote to piss off Warlocks, and my hatred of any hour that precedes the letters AM.
That is, I am not a morning person.
So you may be asking; "Pahanin, you devilishly handsome hunter you, if you hate mornings so much why are you awake at 8 AM? Moreso, why in the world are you not only outside the tower, but walking down the street sans any sort of armor or weapons?"
'Wei Ning' would be my answer to all of those questions. (And don't even get me started on the irony of her of all people making me leave my armor behind.) Exactly what happened to get me here is a little fuzzy. One moment I'm snoozing away in my nice warm bed, all cuddled up with my gun, and the next what has to be barely five feet of excited Titan is dragging me down a busy street in the middle of the City.
And now she's run off again, leaving me with a handful of civilian money in front of… An Aquarium…?
I realize I'm gawking. Luckily the only one to notice is a small child waiting in line at the counter, a child who gives me a bright, excited smile that's missing a few teeth when I shoot him a wink and prompt my ghost to appear and do a little twirl around my head.
I wonder if I was ever that innocent.
The sound of a scuffle draws the kid's attention away from me, and of course I turn to take a look as well, hand on one of the many knives still secreted on my person. Yes of course I still have knives in my civvies. You can take the Hunter out of the Cloak, but you can never take the Cloak... Out of the Hunter?
… Yeah, maybe I won't put that one in the book.
I'm pulled out of my attempt to be witty by what has to be the most wondrous scene I will ever lay eyes on. Never in my life did I ever think I'd be so blessed as to bear witness to Wei Ning striding gallantly down the street, the crowd parting around her like a sea and a clearly pouting Pujari tossed over her shoulder like a bag of dirty laundry. My only regret in this moment is that I don't have a camera to record it with.
I'll make do with my Ghost's recording instead.
Purchasing a ticket is… Interesting. The bored teen manning the counter seems torn between either telling Wei to put down her grumbling package, or laughing her ass off and playing along with the Titan's attempt at passing Pujari off as a 'carry-on'.
In the end we get away with buying him a 12-and-under, and I'm absolutely going to frame that ticket stub the instant I get the chance.
The inside of the building is a spiraling maze of enormous glass tanks with all manner of adorable aquatic wildlife. Huge glass cylinders with fake coral reefs, the colorful ocean fish swimming in never ending circles. Enclosures for otters and seals to frolic in. A petting station that Wei Ning took great pleasure in dragging us to, shoving both our hands into the cold water to pet a starfish with a laugh that had every child in the room clamoring to join in. Even an enormous, darkened walkway completely encircled by glass and filled with hundreds of glowing jellyfish drifting languidly around on an invisible current.
It boggles the mind to think that someone, some civilian, brought enough resources together to gather all of this. How long did it take, I wonder? How many thousands of hours does it take to build something like this?
I've never built a thing in my life. What does that-
"Thinkin' hard there?" I don't jump at her sudden appearance, in a million years Wei Ning could never, ever sneak up on anyone. But even so I'm a little startled to be dragged out of my thoughts and back into that dark little walkway. She's standing beside me, leaning over the railing and staring out at the dark water around us with a thousand tiny lights twinkling in her eyes. In the distance I can hear Pujari trying and failing to lecture a herd of children on a field trip.
"Oh you know me, always plotting something." It takes me a moment to respond, lost as we both are in the calming spectacle around us. I cast a sidelong glance at her, only to find her doing the exact same thing. She smirks as our eyes meet, and I can only roll my eyes in response. "You post Pujari out there to distract the civvies? If I didn't know any better I'd think you were trying to get me alone."
"Ohhh you think this'd be a good spot?" She waggles her eyebrows at me, turning around to hop up on the railing in direct defiance of the signs posted everywhere. "Been meaning to take Eri someplace nice. She's not much of a fish gal though."
I laugh, I can't help it. "No making out with robot girls in the aquarium, there's kids here Wei."
She gives me a mock pout, though an expression like that could never last long on a woman like her, before jumping down from her seat. At the same time I push away from the railing myself without thinking, falling into step beside her in perfect sync.
We don't speak much as we make our way towards the exit far in the distance, never have spoken all that much really. Contrary to popular belief a talent for witty one-liners doesn't give a guy much in the way of conversational skills. That's never bothered her much though, Wei Ning is surprisingly astute when it comes to other people's feelings.
So rather than trying to fill the silence with empty chatter she's just… There. And that...
Hah- That's all I really need isn't it. Someone there.
I wipe my eyes, and she doesn't comment on any wetness that may or may not be clinging to my sleeves. Far in the distance there's a shout, sounds like a Warlock's patience finally snapping to me. And I have an intimate knowledge of pissed off Warlocks.
Seems Pujari's distraction has run out, if the sound of stomping of little child feet sprinting down the metal walkway is any indication. But by the time they reach where we'd been we're already gone.
Seems she had a place in mind too, the way she was carving a path through the sparse morning crowd towards what looked like some kind of special exhibit. I'm pretty sure I saw her pick up a grown man in the way and set him off to the side. Just lifted him right up, guy had to be at least 250 pounds. I think he was just as stunned as I was since he didn't say a single word, just kind of stared as we walked right past.
She had to have planned this out, there's no way it can be coincidence that we showed up exactly as it was opening up. On reflection, that's probably why she dragged Pujari along in the first place. Wei Ning and schedules don't exactly mix.
Whatever it is though,it looks like I'm going in alone. Wei Ning gives me a little push and a jaunty wave, and then I'm surrounded by darkness. Whatever this exhibit is, it apparently requires an enormous semi-circular with floor to ceiling glass walls. The only light seems to be a few dim bulbs in the ceiling high above. But… There's something in there, of that much I can be sure. I can't help but wonder what kind of fish needs it to be this dark?
My question is answered in the next moment, when something massive moves behind the glass. I lean in to peer closer and I'm met with an eye the size of a dinner plate. An eye belonging to the biggest squid I have ever seen, probably the biggest squid I'll ever see.
So. A giant squid exhibit. No, a colossal squid exhibit.
I try to contain my squeal of excitement.
I fail utterly.
Hours later our little triumvirate finally exits the building, bearing at least two smiles, a newfound appreciation for aquatic life, and several hundred credits worth of commemorative gifts from the shop. The mass majority of it is mine of course, but Wei Ning is sporting a trendy new 'Got Tentacles?' hat, and even Pujari hasn't come out of today without a shnazzy light up pen.
And people say I can't be generous.
Because FUCK if anyone deserves a vacation to the aquarium its Pahahin
Someone please protect this stressed out Hunter
And by someone I mean Wei Ning. And a tentative Pujari.